By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 11

The only sound in the RV was the soft drone of the air-conditioning as it pumped out cool air like a holy blessing on such a hot evening.  JR had Hank Morgan’s rapt attention as he carefully described his previous evening.  Hank listened in awe to what his son was telling him.  Even with a prior admonishment from his Master, what his son would be telling him was true, Hank had a hard time believing, but in the back of his mind, it all made perfect sense.  It better explained the mystery of Lazarus Long.

“But the best part, Hank,” JR looked up into the big man’s eyes he was now leaning up against, “Captain Long said with slaves being given the option of living much longer lives their sentences must be reconsidered accordingly.  If a man knew he could live for ten to twenty times longer than the normal life span, who would want to live as a slave for that length of time?  He said they had to make it worthwhile for a man to want to choose a longer life span.  So that means you might not have to be a slave forever, Mr. Morgan.  Knowing Master Charlie’s a good Master, he would honor a decision made to grant you freedom after a decided period.”  

“That would be an incentive, but you’ll forgive me if’n I don’t get my hopes up, Son.  I been a slave too damn long to believe in pie in the sky.  And you chose to take the longevity gene, young Master?”  Hank asked.

“Yes, Sir.  My brother and his slaves were all gonna’ take it,— I didn’t wanna’ be left out, Hank.  Mr. Goodnight said he’d tell ma for me.  He said he’d tell her he made the decision to allow me the choice.  Captain Long didn’t force none of us to take it.  As fearful as ma was about Ox’s milk maybe we shouldn’t tell her about it right away, but look what it done for me, Hank?  I ain’t had me no headache since I been drink’n it, and what I experienced with my brothers on Captain Long’s ship, I would a’ had a split’n headache for sure.  I think whatever was wrong with me is gone.  It’s like a miracle, and I’m so thankful not to have them damn headaches no more.”

“We’re happy for you, Son.”  Hank told him, “I think I’ll talk with Master Goodnight about what and when to tell yore’ ma about all this.  Master Goodnight has a way with yore’ ma nobody else does.  He can git her to see reason when I cain’t sometimes.  So you say Master Long, my new ramrod, is the Captain of a space ship what will take us away when things git bad here on Earth?”

“Yes, Sir.  I know there’s a lot more, and we all got a part to play in all this.  It’s jes’ so exciting to me, I had to share it with somebody I love and who I know understands me.  I couldn’t think a’ nobody better’n you, Hank.”

“I’m glad you did, Son.  I love you, too, JR, more’n you’ll ever know.  Just the idea I might git to be around to watch you grow up, have a family of yore’ own, have little ones,— why, that’d be incentive enough for me to wanna’ live longer.  I have a feeling this all may work out to everyone’s benefit.  I wonder when Master Long will ask us slaves if’n we want the shot?”

“As soon as you let him know you’ll volunteer, Mr. Morgan.  Captain Long thinks you’re a good man, Sir.  It was him what told me he thought I should tell you about my evening on his ship.  Oh, Hank, I hope you do decide to volunteer.  I want to see you walk as a freeman one day.  I’ll do ever’ damn thing in my power, Sir, to see it happen; I love you that much, Hank.”

“You think this old slave could have me another one a’ them sweet cowboy kisses, Son?”

“You can have all you want, Hank,— anytime you want ‘em.”

The men kissed another sweet and gentle kiss, but this time the emotion was too great for them.  Hank enfolded JR in his big arms and started weeping.  JR was sobbing with his head resting on Hank’s broad shoulder.

“God, I love you, JR.”  Hank spoke as he held the boy tight.

“I love you, too, Hank.”  JR replied quietly.

* * * * * * *

Their talk over, JR turned off the air-conditioner and the men slowly walked back across the compound.  This time Hank reached down and took JR’s smaller hand in his as they walked together.  As they reached the middle of the huge area they saw Charlie and Lazarus come out of the big house and walk down the porch steps toward them.  Charlie raised his hand to acknowledge the men and have them wait for a minute.  JR gently squeezed Hank’s big hand to let him know it was all right with him to be holding his hand.  Hank looked down at him and smiled.  He squeeze his hand back and they stood there waiting for Charlie and Lazarus.

“Two mighty fine look’n men, wouldn’t you say, ramrod?”  Charlie asked his new foreman.

“Right handsome, Boss, right handsome, indeed.”

“You men have a good talk?”  Charlie grinned at Hank and JR.

“We did, Master Goodnight, and thanks for yore’ warning.” Hank responded.

“You’re welcome, Hank.  If’n I hadn’t a’ seen it with my own eyes I don’t think I’d believe Waco if’n he’s to come to me and told me a tale like ‘at.”  

“How much do you think we should tell Ida, Mr. Goodnight?”  Hank asked.

“It might be easier coming from you and JR, Hank.  Tell her you done talked with me, and I confirmed ever’ thing JR told you.  You plan on staying with her this evening?”

“She’s invited me, Sir, if’n you don’t mind.”

“You know I don’t mind, as long as it’s all right with Ida.  Lord knows I wanna’ keep that woman happy.”  the men shared a laugh, “We’ll see ya’ll for breakfast in the morning, then.  Come, we’ll walk that way with you.  I’m taking our new ramrod down to look at the foreman’s house.  I ain’t been in there in a several years.  We ain’t had us no foreman since old man Dobbs and his wife decided to retire right after my daddy died and moved in with their family down Harlingen way.  Ida keeps it clean and dusted once a month, but I thought we’d take a look at it.  Maybe Lazarus would like to use it.  After all, it comes with the foreman’s job.”

“Sounds like a fine idea to me, Sir.  Looking forward to working with you tomorrow, Sir.”  Hank spoke to Lazarus.

“Won’t be much different from the way we been working, Hank.”  Lazarus chuckled, “Don’t expect no big changes.  I’d like to speak to the men in the morning after Mr. Goodnight, talks with them.  I wanna’ assure ‘em things will continue as normal, and I ain’t out of make no radical changes.  There will eventually be some changes, but they won’t be nothing what’ll upset nobody.”

The men reached Ida’s cottage and said their goodbyes.  JR held the door for Hank as they strolled into the cottage hand in hand.  JR only dropped Hank’s hand to go to his mother to give her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.  Ida Wallace could tell something powerful happened between her men.  Women are that way.  They know about their men.  She could tell they’d been crying, but they had the biggest damn smiles on their faces.  They were laughing and joking with each other like they always did, but she never saw Hank and JR holding hands before.  That really peaked her curiosity; however, Ida was satisfied they had a good time together.  Ida invited Hank and JR into the kitchen for some left over chicken and other stuff from the big dinner.  JR begged off saying he ate so much at dinner he was still full.  He asked if he could be excused and go to his room to watch T.V.  Ida told him he could.  He hugged and kissed his mom goodnight.  Then he went to Hank and threw his arms around him to hug him.  Hank blushed but slowly put his big cowboy arms around JR.  JR gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Mr. Morgan.  I meant ever’ damn word I said this evening, Hank.  If’n you need me, I’ll be in my room.”

Hank went weak in his knees, but he managed to give JR a quick peck on his cheek.  “I meant ever’ word I said, too, young Master, and it’s good to know you got my back.”  he smiled and winked at JR.  JR giggled and left the room.  Hank sat down in one of Ida’s kitchen chairs and looked at her with tears in his eyes.

“Thank you, woman, for him.  I could never do enough for you nor give you enough to show you how much you and him mean to me.”

Hank put his head in his hands and began to sob.  Something he never did in front of any woman let alone the woman he loved.  Ida went to him, held him and comforted him.

“There ain’t nothing you could give me, Hank.  There ain’t nothing we want from you but yore’ love, sweetheart.  I think our little man is growing up.”

“He is Ida Mae.  He’s beginning to wake up to things he’s jes’ accepted before.  He know something ain’t quite kosher with his relationship with you, me, Master Charlie and Waco.  He gimme’ a big hug and a kiss this evening and told me he thought on me as his pa.  He like ta’ ripped my old heart out, Ida.  He looks just like I did at his age.  H’it ain’t gonna’ be long before he puts two and two together.”

“I know.  I been noticing him watching you and trying to do ever’thing jes’ like you do it.  He’s even got chore’ walk down pat.  He looks like a little you when I see him walking across the compound.  I know I told you to let me tell him one day, but I changed my mind about that, Hank.  If and when he asks, I jes’ know, after tonight, it’s gonna’ be you he comes to for the truth.  It wouldn’t be right for you to lie to him.  He might think you was trying to deny him, and you two have grown too close for that.  If he asks you, Hank, I want you to tell him the truth.”

“Oh, God, I don’t know if’n I can, Ida Mae.”

“Of course you can, Hank Morgan.  He’s your son.  Don’t matter to him none you’re a slave.”

“I know, he told me this evening he didn’t care.  He was so loving and sweet he had me in tears, Ida.”

“He’s coming to an age he’s gonna’ need his daddy more and more and h’it ain’t right we put it off on Mr. Goodnight.  I know he’d do it without a thought about it; however, he’s been too damn good us, Hank, to have to give him extra worries.”

“I agree, hon.  I think when he does discover I’m his pa, he’ll be able to keep it quiet.  I’ll jes’ impress on him the necessity of playing a role to keep him from being enslaved.  I’ll tell him how wonderful a man Master Charlie is to have done what he done for him and us.  I don’t think he’ll have no problem.  He don’t even have to give up being Waco’s brother.  I think Waco would have some’um to say about that.  He idolizes JR.”

“They been awful good to him, Hank.  I’ve noticed he ain’t had no headache in almost a month.  I was wrong, I apologize.  You were right to want him to try Ox’s milk.  Still hard for me to think on.”

“He won’t have no more problems, sweet heart.  He was exposed to some critters what healed him the rest of the way and removed every blemish and wart from his body.  I didn’t believe him at first, but he showed me his hands and feet.  Honey, he ain’t got a mole or a wart on him no wheres.  His skin is flawless.  That big wart what was on the back of his neck that give him so much problems is gone.”

“What,— how, Hank?”

Hank told Ida about his conversation with Charlie Goodnight and his conversation with JR.  Ida sat there stunned.  She would shake her head like she didn’t know if she believed it or not, but she knew neither Hank or JR were prone to make up stories.  Each was about as down to Earth as you could get.  JR inherited that quality from his dad.

“A spaceship, huh?  Flew ‘em to Mars and Venus you say?  I know’d there was some’um different about that man.  For all his cowboy ways, Mr. Long is too intelligent and understanding a man to be a drifter cowboy.  I remember that big ship flying overhead the evening of Waco’s birthday and Mr. Long and them critters walking up.  It all makes sense now.  I don’t know’s I like the idea of him giving JR that shot.”

“Do you think he’d hurt JR, darlin’?  Besides, he gave all the men with him the shot.  Master Charlie said to tell you JR asked him, and he gave his permission.  We’re gonna’ be offered it as well, darlin.’  I’m gonna’ take it.  If what Mr. Long says is true, they can’t keep me as a slave for thousands of years.  Even if I have to work as a slave for another fifty years, it’d a’ be worth it to know one day I could ask you, as a freeman, to be my wife, Ida.”

“Oh, Hank, that would be wonderful.  I’ll have to think on it some.  The idea of not growing older has a lot of appeal, especially to a woman.”  she smiled.

“According to JR, he ain’t gonna’ force nobody to take it.  You’n me,  how many times we talked about spending eternity together in the afterlife, Ida Mae?  You know I’d walk by yore’ side for an eternity.  That ain’t no cowboy bullshit neither.  What if we had the possibility dropped in our laps in this life to spend a thousand or more years together?  Do you think you’d grow tired of me, woman?”

“God, Hank,— I can’t git enough of you now.  After a thousand years we’d jes’ be warm’n up.”  Ida giggled. “I spend all week thinking about us being together on the weekend.  To be able to lay in the same bed with you, as my husband every night, would be heaven itself, my love.”

“Would you really make me your love slave and make me run around without no clothes on?”  Hank chuckled.

“Bet chore’ sweet ass I would!  You don’t know how close I come to asking Master Charlie to play a joke on you and order you to stay naked all weekend and be my slave.”  Ida howled with laughter.

“I would a’ done it, too.”  Hank shot back.  “I’d worship at yore’ feet, woman.”

“Aww, Hank, I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, Ida Mae.  You made me a man again and gimme’ the greatest gift a woman could give a man.  You gimme’ a fine son, who I’m so proud of and love so much I could shout it to the heavens.  I git down on my knees ever’ damn day after work and thank the good Lord for Master Charlie, you, and my boy.”

* * * * * * *

The door to the foreman’s house wasn’t locked and Charlie held the door for Lazarus to enter.  There were three other houses in a row next to Ida Mae’s cottage but the foreman’s house was the biggest and at the end of the four.  The men walked into the living area and nothing was out of place.  It was exactly as the former occupants left it.  The furniture was covered with old sheets and Charlie took off a few to show Lazarus it was old but clean and serviceable.   He led Lazarus into the small kitchen and showed him a pantry back of the kitchen.  There was a hallway that led to the back porch.  Right behind the pantry on the porch was a washer and dryer.  They were covered, too.  Charlie pulled the sheet from the washer.

“These are brand new.  I bought ‘em the year the Dobbs left.  Ain’t been used since.”

“Nice.”  commented Lazarus.

Charlie took him back into the hallway and opened a door on the other side that opened onto a large room with a full bath attached.  It was a maid or cook’s room.  Lazarus was surprised the house was completely furnished.  There was a nice double bed, dressers, and high-boy; one overstuffed wingback chair and an old rocking chair.  It had a huge braided rug on the floor.

“Everything’s immaculate.”  Lazarus commented.

“It’s Ida Mae.  She keeps it this way.  I don’t think she spends more’n one day a month in here, but when she does she make a full day of it.  I always pay her a little extra for it though.”

The house was two stories and Charlie led Lazarus to the stairs; however, before he did, he opened another door under the staircase and there was a huge area for storage.  Directly across from the stairs was another door.  Charlie opened it and flipped a light switch.  He led Lazarus down into a basement the same area as the house.  It was huge.

“Wow!”  exclaimed Lazarus.  “Even the damn basement is clean.  I don’t know how that woman does it.  It’s spotless.”
“Why do you think I do ever’ thing I can to keep her happy, brother?”  Charlie laughed.  It was the first time he’d ever called Lazarus ‘brother’ but he like it.

“There’s still jars of preserves and food down here and what looks like wine.”

“Yeah, the old man had some grape vines and made wine ever’ year.  No tell’n how old some of them bottles is.”

“I’ll bet he labeled each bottle with the date.”  Lazarus picked out one and sure enough, it had a handwritten label showing the date of bottling.  It was ten years old.  “This one’s just coming into bloom.  Jes’ ripe for pick’n.”  Lazarus chuckled. “This is fantastic!”  he exclaimed again.

“H’it gits better.”  Charlie laughed.

They left the basement and climbed the stairs.  There was a long hallway and to the right was the master bedroom with a full bath.  The bedroom was a big room, took up half the upstairs area and was on the front of the house.  Once again it was spotless and the huge four poster bed was a beautiful antique to behold.

“They just walked off and left all this?”  Lazarus asked.

“Most of it.  Dad helped them buy most of the furniture for the house and it was their way of thanking him and me for their stay.  It weren’t no agreed upon thing, they just chose to do it.  Besides, I don’t think they’re kids wanted any of it.  They got their own stuff.”

“It shore’ is comfortable look’n, Boss.”

“I thought you might like it.”

Charlie showed him the other three upstairs bedrooms.  The bedroom next to the master bedroom didn’t have a bath.  It was obviously meant to share the bath at the end of the hall.  The bath had three doors.  One entry from the hall and two on each side entered into the larger bedrooms on either side.  Each room had it’s private entrance as well off the hall.  The two end rooms were obviously meant for siblings who would share the bath.  The final thing Charlie had to show him blew Lazarus away.

There was another stairs between the master bedroom and the smaller quest bedroom that went to a huge attic.  Like the rest of the house everything was in order and it, too, was spotless.  There was all sorts of furniture and old trunks that called out to be rummaged through to discover their hidden secrets.

“Unbelievable!”  exclaimed Lazarus in a hushed voice.

“E’aup, I’ve always been kind a’ fond of the house myself.”  said Charlie.  “It sort of has a ‘lived-in’ kinda feel about it.  Like it just wraps its arms around you and says ‘welcome home.’”

“I agree, Boss.”  Lazarus allowed.

“You interested, ramrod?”  Charlie asked as they walked back down the stairs.

“Very much, but let’s take things one step at a time.  I don’t wanna’ overburden Ms. Wallace.  I don’t want her think’n she’s gotta’ clean my quarters as well as take care of yore’ house, you, Waco, her own house, and all her other responsibilities.  For right now, I’m comfortable in my little bedroom off the kitchen.  Would you mind if I bought me a slave for a houseboy?”

“Not at all, but I thought you was pretty much anti-slavery?”

“No, I ain’t.  At least not the way you and yore’ brother treat your slaves.  The problem with slavery is the unchecked mean spiritedness and senseless brutality that can arise from such a system,— where one man has unlimited power over other human beings.  I don’t care how the Theo-cons legislate slaves to be considered livestock or non-human, the bare-ass truth of the matter is, they’s still human.  You can’t legislate a dog into a cat no more’n you can a human into livestock.  You know masters who take their positions to the extreme, Boss.”  

“Unfortunately, I do, ramrod.”

“What I want is a young boy, about yore’ boy’s age, what can be easily trained and will work hard to keep me happy.  I ain’t interested in sex from a young’un.  I ain’t no pederast.”

“Could I volunteer for the job, ramrod?’  Charlie looked Lazarus in the eye and grinned.

“Ah, hell, Boss, you already done got a good position with me.  We jes’ gotta’ be careful we don’t git no Jesus-patrol freaks stick’n their noses into our bedrooms.” Lazarus said softly like they might be overheard as they walked away from the house. “I’ll check out all the houses in the morning for bugs, but I’ll check yore’s out tonight.  Anyway,” Lazarus continued, “it’s just a matter of time.  We’ll put the word out with your brother, his foreman, Cotton, and Hoot, and we can tell Mr. Gibbons tomorrow evening.  We can even alert the sheriff and Mr. Tennent.”

“That’s a good idea.  You know if’n we travel over to Ranger’s tomorrow we’re gonna’ have to take the posse with us?”  Charlie asked.

“I expect to.  I think Mr. Gibbons needs some cheering up and Travis needs to visit his folks in their home.  They also have something important to tell him.”

“Do you know what it is?”  

“I didn’t at first, but ma’ boy and Waco put me on to it the fourth of July, and shore’ ‘nuff there’s an extra heartbeat in Elsie’s body.”

“Oh, my God, how wonderful.  Ranger asked me what I thought about allowing Bobby and Elsie to have another kid.  I told him to go for it.  Travis seemed to bring so much happiness to everyone over there.  Even Mary Gibbons loves Travis.  Well, damn, I’m glad he decided to do it.  Bobby and Elsie didn’t wanna’ raise another child as a slave.  Ranger done promised them this child would be raised free.  I hope it’s a little girl.  I know Elsie wants a little girl so bad.  Speaking of children, Father Long, what about your two servants on the ship?  Do they have enough to do or could you set up a portal and have them take care of the house for you until you find a slave?”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not.  When the house is shut up, no one can see what’s going on inside.  Besides, I might get to look at them occasionally.”  Charlie smiled. “Would the electronics be easily detected?”

“Naw, Sir, it works on an entirely different scientific principle them suits ain’t got no concept of.  It works on harmonics, and they ain’t looking for no music.  Lemme’ think on it.  For a while, until I git settled in ma’ new job, I got enough on my plate.”

“I agree.  I guess I jes’ wanna’ see my ramrod happy and comfortable.”

“‘At’s ain’t nothing to be ashamed of, Boss.  It’s what makes you the man you are.  Besides, staying in the big house for a while makes it all the more easy for me to help you with that itch you got.”

“Sounds good to me, ramrod.”  Charlie smiled.

* * * * * * *
Lazarus checked the big house that night and found bugs in every major room including the bedrooms and baths.  He even found a sub-miniature video camera with sound chip in the kitchen where the men ate.  He disabled everyone.  There was nothing the suits could do about it if their plants malfunctioned.  Ida Mae asked him if he would check her cottage, but he found only one in the living area.  Charlie and the boys went with him and couldn’t believe the places they found bugs.  Lazarus put a sign on each phone to remind whoever was using it their conversation was being monitored.   
The next morning at breakfast, Lazarus once again warned the men of guarding most of what they say and then speak in soft tones.  If they wanted to talk about something sensitive, turn on a radio or TV loud enough it could drown out their whispered conversation.  Either that, or in the boy’s case, use their minds to communicate.  They all agreed they were sufficiently shocked by what they found.  After breakfast the men found several bugs in each barn and tack room.  They found a couple in the slave quarters even though the suits claimed they didn’t believe a word a slave says.  Lazarus checked the RV but found nothing there.  He then checked all three of the extra houses and found several in each house including the foreman’s house.  Fortunately, he and Charlie didn’t say anything incriminating.  Lazarus told Charlie he’d make another sweep after work that evening to make sure.  He would take Ping and Pong with him.  They could sniff out any device that shouldn’t be there.

Before work, Charlie formally announced to the slaves Lazarus was their new foreman.  They all knew it already, but it was just a matter of formality.  They all cheered and applauded for Lazarus.  He spoke to them next.  Lazarus’ speech was short and to the point.  He told them pretty much what he told Hank.  Things were going to continue about the same and any changes would be made slowly and over a period of time.  He did, however, want his men to come to their crew leaders if they had a problem, and they would come to him.  He expected them to follow protocol.

The first day went smoothly enough.  The slaves were astounded when Lazarus worked right by their sides, and at the end of the day, he was as dirty as they were.   They were even more taken aback when he still ate his lunch of slave chow and a biscuit with them.  They thought that was pretty neat.  It said to them he wasn’t going to get all high and mighty with them and become aloof.  They had the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas with him.  Once in a while someone would say something about work, and he would tell them they must take that up with their crew leader.  He made a separation of being one of them and being their boss.  They knew to show him the proper respect his new position was due and called him Mr. Long, ramrod, or straw boss.  He wouldn’t let them just call him boss, because he explained to them Mr. Goodnight was the ‘boss.’  They respected him for that.

They couldn’t have been happier with him, and at the end of the year, Charlie’s profit margin was fifty percent higher than in past years.  He could only attribute it to Lazarus’ leadership and work ethic.  He couldn’t have been more pleased with his decision to make Lazarus his foreman and felt it was money well spent.  It also gave him more time for other things and to be with Waco and his slaves.  Charlie enjoyed the boys and Rabbit became a regular bunk partner for him; however, Charlie was as adamant as his brother, he wouldn’t do anything with the ‘Chief’ until he was a little older.  Angus and Charlie agreed to set a date,— the Chief’s sixteenth birthday.  

Chief was getting all he wanted and could handle from his young master.  He only had to say the word and Waco was only too happy to plow his lower forty for him.  Waco learned to divide his time equally among his slaves.  Once in a while, he had to be alone with his lummox and give him his undivided attention.  Those were the times Waco could relax and enjoy himself to the max.  His beast took good care of his young master.

* * * * * * *

The work day was over around noon in the summers, due to tropical hours.  The men were up several hours before the sun came up and put in a full eight hours by the time the sun was highest and hottest in the sky.  Lazarus cleaned up and later, in the cool of the evening, joined Charlie, Waco and his posse, including JR, in the barn.  They decided to go on horseback to the Gibbon ranch rather than drive over.  By truck it was a twenty minute trip, but on horseback it was about and hour.  Ox walked along side his young master in his new outfit.  His high boots offered him much needed protection from the choya cactus.  Choya had hooks, almost like fish hooks, that embed themselves into the skin and can only be gotten out with a pair of pliers; however, many times the hook will break off in the skin and has to be dug out with a small penknife.

They called ahead and Ranger Gibbons, his slave-foreman and his wife were expecting them.  They arrived about six in the evening.  There was much rejoicing, hugs and kisses.  Mary, Ranger’s wife, was quite ill and couldn’t have many visitors, but after Charlie explained why they were there he consented to let several folks come into the room.  He wanted Elsie to be with her, because she had a calming effect on Mary.  Ranger told Mary about Ox but he didn’t know how she might react to him.  He also allowed Charlie and Lazarus into the room.

The men paid their respects and Charlie introduced his new ranch foreman to her, Mr. Lazarus Long.  Mary could see the lummox standing behind the men with the most gentle orange eyes with gold flecks in them.  He was looking at her with great sympathy.  She wasn’t the least afraid of him.  She held out her hand to him.  Ox slowly moved next to the bed, leaned over and took her smaller hand.

“So you’re the giant I’ve heard so much about.”  

Ox smiled at her, but continued to hold her hand.  He almost got tears in his eyes, but choked them back.  He could feel everything in her frail body and knew it was almost hopeless.  He was in contact with the Kryscellians and he was feeding them all the information they needed to make a decision whether she could be saved or not.

“He don’t speak, Mary.”  Charlie told her.

“Yes, he does,— you just can’t hear him.  I hear him loud and clear.  He has a good heart, and he knows how I’m feeling.  He’s in contact with some life forms I’m unfamiliar with.  They aren’t from our planet.  Neither, is he.”  she smiled at Ox, and he returned her smile and nodded.  He carefully dropped her hand, bowed to her and moved away.  The men excused themselves and wished her well.  Charlie promised to get over more often to visit.

“What’s all this about aliens and Ox not being from our planet?”  Ranger asked when the men were out of the room.

“It’s a long story we’ll tell you about, but for now, what does Ox say, ramrod?”  Ranger smiled when he heard Charlie call Lazarus ‘ramrod.’

“He says she’s eaten up with Cancer and no amount of chemotherapy or drugs are going to help her; not even a bone marrow transplant.  The Kryscells tell us they could only postpone the inevitable for possibly three to four years, more or less, but she will finally be overwhelmed with the disease and succumb rapidly  to it.  She will appear to doctors and you like her Cancer has gone into complete remission; however, it won’t be total.  It has damaged her bone marrow to such an extent and will continue to remain dormant until her immune system can’t support her any more.  Then, she will have to go through the suffering and loss of strength a second time, but she will go more quickly.”  Lazarus told Charlie and Ranger.  Ranger looked devastated.  Everyone felt bad for him.

“Now for the alien part, brother.” said Charlie gently.  “My ramrod, here, invited us all to the desert to ‘camp out’ for the night after the fourth of July party at my brothers.  He, also, invited my big brother, his ramrod and my youngest brother, his slave.  We didn’t know we were being taken to his spaceship, the one we saw fly over on Waco’s birthday.  It’s currently resting inside the blue granite mountains in the Northern portion of my property.  He took us for a short trip through our solar system.  We orbited Mars and Venus; came back and spent the night on board.

Turns out, my son’s slave, our fine looking lummox, is Captain Long’s Godson.  Ox has a stateroom of his own on board Captain Long’s ship, the Bandersnatch, and in his room he keeps silicon crystal life forms called the Kryscells.  Ox was in communication with them as he examined Mary a minute ago.  They have remarkable healing capabilities to repair carbon based life forms like us.  There’s a possibility they could bring them here to expose Mary to them or perhaps it would be better to take her to them through a portal Captain Long could open in Mary’s bedroom.  You could go with her, of course.  We all would.  They could prolong her life, but the decision is up to you and Mary.”

“What is Mr. Long doing here on Earth?”

“It’s all good, but would you trust your brother to answer your questions  as we go?  You and Mary have to make a decision.  Lazarus tells me he can have a Gurney here instantly to transport Mary to his sickbay.  It should be little or no trauma for her.”

Bobby Jessup was listening to all this with his mouth open.  He had his arm around his boy and looked down at Travis as if to ask if he was with them.  Travis smiled and nodded his head.  He raised his shirt to show his dad his flawless skin.  There was no blemishes of any kind, and being a ranch kid, he had his problems with warts, too.  Bobby was stunned.  Waco, JR and Rabbit raised their shirts to show the men their bodies were also free of any blemishes.

“How can he take her to his ship from our bedroom?”

“Magic, brother, trust me.  I’ll explain later, Ranger.  It’s all very Star Trek stuff,— advanced technology.  Go in and talk with Mary.  Tell her what we said and give her a choice.”

Ranger Gibbons just shook his big cowboy head, looked worried, but he knew his brother wouldn’t lie to him or put him on, especially about something as critical as his Mary’s health.  He turned and walked into the bedroom.  Elsie was sitting there holding Mary’s hand.

“Mary, darlin’— them men have the most outrageous proposition for us to make a decision about.  The life forms you spoke about are on a space ship that belongs to Captain Long.  According to them they have the power to heal some illness we have; however, as you probably know, they examined you through the giant lummox.  They said the Cancer was too much with you to cure you completely.  They think they could give you three or four more years; however, eventually you will relapse as your immune system weakens and you will go more quickly.  Depending on our decision, they can take you to them immediately through a portal Captain Long will set up in our bedroom.”

“I know about them, sweet heart.  I was just telling Elsie I’m not crazy.  I heard the giant beast talking with them.  I heard what they said.  They didn’t try to hide or whitewash anything.  I trust Ox and I trust them.  They say the Cancer will go into remission for several years but return with a vengeance.  If it means I’ll have a several more good years with you, Ranger, I want them.  My only regret about leaving this world is, I love you so and can’t bear the thought of you being alone.  Do you want me to hang around, sweet heart?”

“Oh, God, Mary, you know I do,— with all my heart.  I’d give them anything they asked of me just to have you with me a couple more years.  I would if they only gave me six months, darlin.’”

Ranger started sobbing and held Mary’s hand tight.

“Tell them we’d like to do it, sweet heart.  Elsie would you go with me?”

“Of course, Mrs. Gibbons, you know I will.”

Ranger leaned over and kissed Mary on her sunken cheek then left the room.

“She wants to do it.”  was all he said when he returned to the men.

“Good.  Three,— four years is better than losing her right now.” said Lazarus, patting Ranger on the back.  Okay, I need to contact my ship and open a portal directly to my boy’s stateroom.”  he pulled a tiny box out of his shirt pocket and spoke into it.  “Cable,— Son, send me the coordinates for Garron’s stateroom.  Forgive yore’ old man, I’ve forgotten them.  I need to open a portal.  We’re bringing a sick woman to see the Krycellians.  Get David and Jonathan to accompany you through the portal and bring a anti-grav Gurney as soon as I open the portal.  The men heard a reply like someone was in the room with them.

“Right away, Father.  I’ve sent the coordinates.  They are in your remote.  I have David and Jonathan with me.  We’ll being in Garron’s stateroom when you open the portal.  We have no clothes, Father.”

“Don’t worry about clothes time is of the essence.  Thanks, Son.”  Lazarus.   

“Your son, Captain Long?”  Ranger Gibbons asked.  Charlie chuckled.

“You might say so, Mr. Gibbons.  Prepare yourselves, gentlemen, they will be nude.  When we don’t have guest, my son’s are always nude.”

“No problem.  Mary and I are used to naked slaves.”  allowed Ranger.

“We’ll that’s good, but these men ain’t no slaves.  It would be hard to classify them.  I’ll let your brother do that for you.”  Lazarus winked at Charlie and laughed and the boys laughed with him.  Bobby Jessup didn’t have a clue.

“Now, if you’ll show me into the room.”  

Ranger motioned for Lazarus to walk into the bedroom.  Lazarus went to the far wall of the room, far enough away from any major furniture there was room for maneuvering a Gurney.  He took out of his pocket a small button that looked like a butt end of a rifle cartridge and pressed it into the floor.  There was a small ‘whump’ sound that vibrated the floor and rattled bottles on Mary’s dresser.  He pressed a button on his remote and a door sprang up that wasn’t there before.  It had a bluish tint to its surface, but you couldn’t see through to the other side.  All the men gasped including Charlie and the boys.  It was like magic to them.  Mary smiled knowingly.

“Stand back, gentlemen.  Boys, you and Ox wait outside for a minute.  I’ll come get you to go with us when we’re ready.”

He no sooner got that out when a naked Cable came through the portal pulling a Gurney with no wheels.  It simply floated in the air about waist high.  He was followed by two more naked men, David and Jonathan.

Everyone gasped again at the sight of the men.

“My, God, these men are your sons, Captain Long?”

“Yes, they are, Mr. Gibbons.”  Cable, David and Jonathan smiled real big to be called Lazarus’ sons.

“Amazing!  They’re so perfect.  They’re the most handsome men I’ve ever seen.  They look like what I would imagine angels to look like.”  exclaimed Ranger.

“Why, thank you, Master Gibbons." spoke Cable for the three men. 

"Now, I ain’t gonna’ be able to live with ‘em for several months.”  Lazarus laughed and slapped Ranger on the back.

Lazarus had the men leave the room while his androids got Mary onto the Gurney.  They covered her with a couple of lightweight blankets and were ready to go.

“Mrs. Jessup, will you come with us.  She will need an attendant to remove her clothing so the rays from the Kryscells will do the most good.”

“Yes, Sir, Captain Long, I’m ready, Sir.”

“Mr. Goodnight, please get the men, I think we’re ready to go.”  Lazarus spoke.  Charlie hollered out the door.  Cable and his men were already going through the portal as the men returned to the room.  Lazarus motioned for Elsie Jessup to follow the Gurney and she did.  He motioned for Ranger and Bobby to follow next.  The boys were veterans by now and followed their lummox through without fear.  Lazarus bowed slightly and motioned for his boss to pass through.

“Thanks, ramrod.”  was all he said.

“You’re welcome, Boss.”  Lazarus followed him through and closed the portal.  They were all in Ox’s stateroom.  Cable and David moved Mary over to the glass where the Kryscells were and adjusted the Gurney height to be level with the bottom of the case.

“Us men will leave you now, Mrs. Gibbons.  Mrs. Jessup remove her clothing and let her lay flat on her back on the Gurney.”

“Can my husband stay with me, too, Captain.”  Mary asked Lazarus quietly.

“Sure, won’t hurt him a bit, Mrs. Gibbons.  They won’t hurt you either, Mrs. Jessup; however, they’re going to ask you to remove your clothes, too.  You can leave your underwear on.  Just let them have maximum exposure to your skin.”

The men left though another portal and found themselves in the galley.  Cable, David and Jonathan had treats and coffee for the grownups and fruit juice for the boys.  Bobby Jessup didn’t let go of Travis’ hand for a minute.  He was fascinated by what he was seeing.  He couldn’t take his eyes off Cable, David and Jonathan.  The boys were pretty taken with them, too.  Charlie still couldn’t believe how beautiful they were in every detail.  He had to give it to his straw boss.  They man had good taste in men, and he tasted good himself.

“Daddy,— ” Travis spoke quietly to Bobby, “Cable, David and Jonathan are, for lack of a better term, androids.  They are bio-mechanical men Captain Long had created by an advanced race of people, but they are so much more than simply an artificial creation.  They are sentient beings.  Like us, they have intelligence and they reason.  They have feelings and emotions like we do.  They know what it is to hurt, and they know the meaning of love.  They live and work for Captain Long because, in a greater sense he is their father, and they are his sons.  He loves them and they love him.  That’s why it was difficult for Captain Long to explain his relationship with them.”

“You mean they’s robots.”  Bobby asked softly like he didn’t want to insult the beautiful men serving them.

“No, Dad, the ranch truck is a robot.  You get in it and tell it what to do.  It has no intelligence of its own.  It will never decide it’s hungry, and drive itself to a gas station for a fill up.”  The men smiled at Travis’ simple but accurate explanation to his dad.  “You may be fond of it, but h’it ain’t never gonna’ beep its horn to tell you it loves you in return.”  Travis smiled.

“I understand, Son.  I’m afraid yore’ old man’s just an uneducated hick slave.  I didn’t mean no disrespect to the men.  I admire them too much for that.”

Cable leaned over and spoke directly to Bobby Jessup, “No disrespect taken, Mr. Jessup, we’re happy you find us pleasing to look at and to have raised as fine a young man at Travis, you couldn’t be a hick, Sir.”

Bobby blushed.

“You ain’t uneducated neither, Dad.  You taught me so much I couldn’t a’ learned no wheres else.  I’m proud of my ole man.  These men are the product of an advanced technology we ain’t got much concept of.  Believe me, we’re just as baffled and amazed by them as you are.  They are incredibly handsome men, and any man should be proud to call them his sons.”  Waco and the boys agreed with Travis.

* * * * * * *

 The Kryscellians began to glow and radiate their light.  Ranger and Elsie stood there behind the Gurney and clearly heard the Kryscells in their mind invite them to remove their garments.  Ranger looked at Elsie and she shrugged her shoulders.

“Well, I am ya’ll’s slave, Master Gibbons.  You and Mistress Mary’s seen me naked many times.  Let’s go for it.  If there’s anything wrong with me having this pregnancy so late maybe they can correct it.”

“You got a good point, Elsie.  Is it all right with you, honey?”  Ranger politely asked Mary.

“It’s fine, dear, we're all family here.”  she smiled at him.

“Okay, let’s do it, Elsie.”  They quickly removed their clothing and stood close to the Gurney.  Somehow, it just seemed right to the three of them.  There was no reason Mary should be naked or be embarrassed by herself.  They felt it was the right thing to do.

The rays from the Kryscellians got stronger and stronger penetrating every inch of their bodies.  It was beginning to feel wonderful.  Mary was holding on to Ranger’s hand and squeezing it gently from the ecstacy she was feeling from the penetrating rays.  Each light spectrum seemed to be doing something different.  The blue crystal seemed to be the most healing and comforting.  He, seemed to be uniting and directing the others.

“Do you hear that?”  Mary asked.

“I do, Mistress.”  Elsie smiled at her. “They’re singing to us.”

“My, God, I hear them, too.  I just thought it was my imagination.  This is too fantastic to be believed.  They are such beautiful creatures.  They’re filled with love.”

After being exposed to the warm, healing rays of the Kryscellians for over an hour, they began to subside until the lights in the cabin came up again.  Ranger and Elsie rushed to put their clothes back on.  Ox notified Lazarus the Kryscells told him they were finished and the men could return.  They returned to Ox’s stateroom and found Mary fully dressed in her nightgown covered in the light blankets Cable provided for her.

“How’s she doing?”  asked Lazarus.

“She seems fine.  Probably a bit tired”

“I’m fine, Captain Long.”  Mary held out her hand for Lazarus to take.  “This has been a wonderful experience.  I’m glad to have had a chance to meet the Kryscellians.  They are wonderful creatures and very beautiful.  Thanks for sharing them with me.  I already feel stronger.”

“That’s what we were hoping for, Mrs. Gibbons, and you’re very welcome.”

“Please, call me ‘Mary,’ Captain Long.”

“Thank you, Mary, it would be an honor, ma’am.”  Lazarus gently squeezed her small hand and released it.

He pressed the button on his remote, the portal opened again and he had Cable, David and Jonathan take Mary Gibbons back to her bedroom.  The men followed them through in the same order they arrived.  After the androids helped Mrs. Gibbons back into her bed Lazarus thanked them.  Ranger was a bit more demonstrative and had to hug and kiss each one.  It didn’t make any difference to him they were naked; however, all three androids popped a boner at Ranger’s display of unbridled emotion.

“We were just doing our Father’s bidding, Master Gibbons.  Glad to be of service, Sir.”

Bobby Jessup shook their hands and Elsie kissed each one on his cheek.  They left through the portal pushing the anti-grav Gurney before them.  Lazarus clicked a button on his remote and the portal was gone.  He reached down and picked up the small metal button and put it back in his pocket.

It was his turn to receive Ranger’s thanks and affections.  Lazarus assured him it was his brother who suggested it to him.  Ranger had a big hug and a little more than brotherly kiss for his neighbor.  He was in tears Charlie loved him enough to think of him in such a giving way.  He would always be in Charlie’s debt.  The men said their goodbyes to Mary.  She was exhausted from the ordeal and wanted to sleep.  She dismissed Elsie and thanked her graciously for her concerned help.  They left her alone to see the men off.

Bobby Jessup didn’t want to get very far away from Travis, and Travis was eating up his dad’s attention.

“Son, yore’ mother and I have something to tell you.”

“I already know about it, Dad.  Ox knew the fourth of July there was another heartbeat inside ma.  I’m so happy for you and ma.  I’m gonna’ have me a baby brother.”

“We were kinda hoping for a little girl, Son.”  his mother said.  Everyone laughed.  “Ox can tell what gender the baby is?”  asked Elsie.

“Yes, ma’ma, ma.  Like I say, I’m gonna’ have me a little brother.  Oh, and by the way, Master Waco and I are bringing you some special milk every week to drink.  You must drink it all and not share it with dad.  Well, you can let him have a little, but mostly it’s for you.  It will help you through the pregnancy and the baby won’t have no problems.”

“You certainly have grown in the last month, Travis.  You’re growing up way too fast, Son.”  said Bobby Jessup.  “We love you, boy.”

“I love you, too.  We better be git’n on back to the Goodnight Ranch.”

Ranger and Bobby followed them to the barn to get their horses.  Lazarus turned to Ranger.

“You mind if I leave a portal marker here in yore’ barn, Mr. Gibbons?  ‘At way we can be here in minutes if there’s an emergency.”

“Really?  That would be great, Captain Long.”

“I’m only captain on my ship, Mr. Gibbons.  Away from my ship I’m ramrod or straw boss of the Goodnight Ranch.”

“I understand, Sir.”

Lazarus put another brass button down into the ground next to one of the end stalls away from the main entry.  As he pressed it into the dirt, it made the same ‘whump’ sound and the ground shook under the mens’ feet.

“Will it get lost or swept up when we clean the barn, Sir.”  Bobby asked.

“You couldn’t git that thing up with a bulldozer without my remote tool,  Son.  It’s embedded in bedrock hundreds of feet beneath us.  H’it ain’t go’n no wheres.”  Lazarus smiled at Bobby Jessup.

“Let me guess.   Now, we can jes’ walk the ponies through to our barn.” Charlie commented.

“I done told ju’ you’s a smart man, Boss.”  Lazarus laughed with Charlie.  “However, it’s such a beautiful evening, it think we deserved to take the time for a leisurely ride back through the desert in the moonlight.  I know the boys are up for it, and ma’ boy needs the exercise.”

“I agree, ramrod.”  Charlie smiled at Lazarus’ romantic notion.  

The men said their goodbyes and left Ranger, Elsie and Bobby waving as they departed.  Bobby filled in Ranger and Elsie on the parts they missed he learned about when the men were waiting for the Kryscells to complete their work.  After experiencing what they just did, it was easier for them to accept;  however, Ranger refused to believe the handsome naked men were androids.

* * * * * * *

The men were mostly quiet returning to the ranch.  There wasn’t much to say.  They felt good they were able to help someone they all loved and cherished.  Charlie and Lazarus lagged behind the other men and talked quietly.

“You know why Mary was so willing to try something unknown, don’t chu’?”  Lazarus asked Charlie.

“Hell, I would if’n I knew I was looking death in the face and could have a few more years with somebody I loved.  I would’ve given anything to had a few more years with my wife.”  Charlie said sadly.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mr. Goodnight.  Mary has in mind giving Ranger the son he thought he would never have with her.”

“But how, ramrod?  Wouldn’t that take a lot out of her?  Would the child be born with Cancer or a genetic propensity for it?”

“Damn, you really are smart, Boss.  I would’ve never thought of the genetic thing, but it ain’t so far from a possibility.  The fetus acts like an invading parasite.  It takes over the functions of the host body like few parasites do.  It makes a woman’s body produce what it needs to survive, and yes, it can be very hard on a woman and her immune system.  It all but cancels out her immune system so it won’t see it as in invading organism and reject it.  If she tries it, I doubt she’ll live very long after she gives birth.  She might even die in the final trimester, or giving birth may be just too much for her.  Either way, she’ll be cutting off the possibly of perhaps two more years she could spend with Ranger; however, the urge to procreate is sometimes stronger than the urge to survive.”

“But what about the baby, Lazarus?”

“With Ox’s milk and another visit to the Kryscellians, they can insure the child’s safety.  If she can keep it through part of the final trimester, we can keep the child alive without her.  We have some advanced techniques on board the Bandersnatch your doctors can only dream about.”

“Oh, Lord, do you really think that’s what she has in mind?” asked Charlie.

“I have no doubt about it, Boss.”

* * * * * * *

Mary sprang back to health in no time.  The doctors couldn’t believe the miraculous change in her condition.  They could find no trace of the Cancer.  It seemed to have gone into total remission almost overnight.  They were dumbfounded.  Only Mary and her family knew the truth; however, Mary was not one to sit around and worry about details or the future.  She was given a second chance.  She was going to make the most of what time she had left with her beloved husband,— her highschool sweet heart, the Captain of the football team,— the only man she ever loved.  Mary had big plans.  After only six weeks of ever increasing strength and well being, Mary was pregnant with Ranger Gibbon’s son.   

* * * * * * *

Charlie and Lazarus put out the word in the community he was looking to buy a young slave for a houseboy.  Lazarus was flattered a couple of the younger slave-cowboys offered to take care of his house for him on their off hours.  He couldn’t help wonder if there was more than generosity in their motive.  He often looked upon them as attractive and stimulating; however, he graciously declined and told them he wasn’t moving into the big house until he could make sure it was taken care of properly.

Ida Mae volunteered to take care of it for him, but Lazarus saw what she was responsible for and wouldn’t consider it, even if he paid her good money.  Lazarus decided for her, she needed her time with her family more than she  needed the money.  After all, life shouldn’t be lived for the quantity you can accumulate, but for the quality of your life.  What does it mean to gain the fortunes of the world only to die a lonely old man or woman.  It is a far greater gain to be honest and love your neighbor than to cheat him out of a grain of wheat.

Sheriff Lassiter, who’s boy Ox and Waco saved from the Thunderbird, was a wise man.  He was a free thinker, but he also knew his political base was the extreme religious right who elected him.  He knew all the words and sited scripture and verse to their delight; however, underneath all his participation in the dog and pony show organized religion had become, his heart longed for something more simple,— something that didn’t require him to feel like a hypocrite.  The truth was, he hated all the unbending, rigid dogma and ignorant beliefs of the common folk.  It wasn’t that he felt he was more intelligent than them or felt himself or his family better than them,— well, maybe just a little better because, he felt some of their beliefs and practices were just short of pagan or even barbaric.   Therefore, he tried to conduct himself as a man of understanding and mercy rather than one misguided by evangelical beliefs.

Being sheriff he could get away with a lot with no fear of being put under the watchful scrutiny of the Jesus Patrol,— sometimes known as the Righteous Rangers.  They were a local neo-nazi S.S. type organization who were like bulldogs sniffing out nonbelievers and heathens in the name of God and Jesus, only to promote and gain encouragement for their nefarious purposes.  They mostly left Sheriff Lassiter alone.  They tried one time to topple him from his lofty position as Sheriff of the county only to find themselves on the opposite end of the nefarious stick.  Sheriff Lassiter could be ruthless when his world (i.e. his family) was threatened.  The Jesus Patrol members who tried to do him in found themselves facing charges of treason, distortion, character assassination and terrorism.  The five of them were actually glad to have gotten off with lifetime slavery, and only got that because of a last minute plea from the sheriff himself for mercy.  They were looking at the death penalty.

Lassiter had eyes and ears in all parts of the county that had little to do with his fundamentalist political base.  He was kept in power by the fundies and kept safe from their insanity by those folks in the community who were more rational and liberal thinking.  To say he was Machiavellian wasn’t quite fair to the sheriff.  He was far more concerned to do good where he could and protect good people no matter their religious beliefs.  He fought a constant battle against the extreme right for trying to decide for him how he should do his job.  Naturally, like all extremists, they wanted him to throw the book at their enemies and over look their glaring foibles.  He became an expert at walking a tightrope.

By far, his favorite folks were the ranchers and farmers.  They responded to him in kind.  They helped him out of more tough spots than all the extreme right put together.  They offered him encouragement and gave him emotional succor when he didn’t think he could take another day of the Jesus freaks.  They were unrelenting.  The Jesus Patrol made the early settlers of Salem, Mass. look like flaming liberals.

A strange cultural phenomenon occurred shortly after His Holiness G. W. Bush the first was crowned Supreme Deacon of the newly formed Theocratic Republic.  Farmers and ranchers in rural areas began to secretly withdraw their support from the right wing loonies.  It suddenly came crashing down on them, they bet on the wrong pony.  They always had been middle of the road liberal Democrats until the Republican party came along with their sound bites and endless prayer meetings.  Now they saw their country was no longer the strongly democratic nation it once was and was now a despotic theocracy ruled by a little man who had lots of power but very few brains.  Unbeknownst to them, it had been planned and carefully executed since John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Kennedy’s death was the beginning of the end of the great country formally known as America.  

The sheriff had a young boy in his custody he was trying to find something to do with him.  He was the youngest of six brothers who lived with their parents on one of the largest farms in the county.  For all its size and capabilities, it was not very successful because the old man was a drunk, and he didn’t know how to control his sons.  He let them do pretty much what they wanted, except lately he started threatening them with selling them into slavery if they didn’t straighten up and fly right.  The boys were putting up a front of making a conscious effort.

The old man caught his youngest son sucking his other son’s dicks.  Sheriff Lassiter explained to Mr. Long the boy was born with a cleft palate, but the family never bothered to have it corrected.  He's almost blind in his left eye because he needed an operation to repair the muscle that held the eye in correct position.  It seems one of his brothers hit him up side his head with a baseball bat as a sports accident when he was just a toddler.

The sheriff said he was sure the boys raped and made a sex slave out of the boy from an early age, but when his dad caught him sucking the others off, it wasn’t them he became angered with.  He took it out on the young boy and beat the crap out of him.  Consequently, the boy has a broken arm; a broken ankle; three of his ribs are broken and he has a massive contusion on his head.  The old man tried to take the boy to the slave dealer Mr. Tennent, but he refused to accept him, and for a scum bag like Tennent you know the boy has to be pert-damn bad, Mr. Long.”  the sheriff laughed at his description of Mr. Tennent, “He said the most he could get for him was to sell him for dog food.  They would sell him by the pound, they would remove all his teeth and hair, throw him into a huge grinder and in less than two minutes he would be dog food being squeezed into small tins to be automatically sealed and heated to sterilize the contents.  

“How old is he, Sheriff?”

“He was twelve years old the fourth of July, Mr. Long.”

“What’s the going rate for a slave sold for dog food, Sheriff?”

“Tennent mentioned ten bucks per pound.  We weighed him and he only weighs about eighty pounds.  He ain’t real big, and I think he’s slightly retarded.  We can’t git nothing out of him.  He jes’ keeps rocking back and forth.  We can’t even tell if he’s in any pain.”

“So the most Tennent could git for him is eight hundred bucks?”

“Yes, Sir, I think that’s the price he mentioned.”

“Has he been taken to a doctor or a slave vet?”

“Naw, Sir.  His dad didn’t wanna’ pay for either.  He says he don’t care what we do with him, he just wants some money for him.”

“Is Tennent gonna’ handle the sale for the old man?”

“That’s my understanding, Mr. Long.”  

“Can I see him, Sheriff?”

“Of course, Mr. Long.  You and Mr. Goodnight are welcome here anytime.  I heard Ox is your Godson.  Any friend of that big man is a friend of mine, Sir.  My family worships the ground Charlie and Waco Goodnight walk on, Mr. Long.”

“They’s mighty fine folks, Sheriff.  I tell you what, I’ll get Mr. Goodnight to drive me in to see the boy.  If’n I want him will Mr. Tennet trust me for his money until tomorrow?”

“I don’t see why not.  You ain’t going no place, and besides, h’it ain’t that much money I couldn’t float chu’ a loan for a couple of days.”

“Naw, it ain’t nothing like ‘at, Sheriff.  I just gotta’ get my money out of another bank.  All I’m interested in is git’n some medical help for the boy, and I have a fine slave vet in mind to take care of him.  You think Tennent would take a thousand dollars for him?”

“Sounds like a fair price to me, Mr. Long.  More’n he’ll git selling him for dog food.”

“I tell you what, offer him fifteen hundred so Tennent can make a few bucks on the deal.”

“That’s more’n fair, I’d think, Mr. Long.  I’ll be here all evening.  If’n I ain’t, have my desk Sargent page me.  I’ll be here as quick as I can.  Either way, he can show you in to see the boy, Sir.”

“Thanks, Sheriff Lassiter for think’n ‘bout me.  I can’t say for sure I’ll buy the boy.  I’d like to examine him first.  I might bring Waco and his slaves with me.  Will that be all right?’

“Oh, hell, yes!  Them boys is welcome here anytime.”

“See you this evening, Sheriff.”

“Look forward to it, Sir.”

Lazarus talked with Charlie, and it was decided they’d all travel in after work that evening.  Lazarus hurried and showered.  He put on his best cowboy duds and was surprised to find the boys and Ox all decked out in their finest.  Charlie looked really sharp, but then Lazarus was beginning to think Charlie looked good in anything he wore.  They made the forty-five minute drive into town.  Charlie took his check book.  He told Lazarus he would buy the boy if he wanted him, and he would take it out of his pay a hundred a month.  The men shook on it, and it was all they needed to seal the deal.

When they got to the Sheriff’s station the sheriff was there.  He made over Charlie, Waco, Ox, Travis and Rabbit.  He knew Rabbit well and knew his father and grandfather.  He told Rabbit his granddad was doing well and had a message for him he’d tell him later.  The Sheriff welcomed Lazarus and shook his hand.  He led them to the single cell where he was holding the boy.  He wasn’t laying on the bed, he was rolled up in a ball in the corner of the cell as far away from the bars as he could get.  He wasn’t asleep, but he had a dull look on his face, like the lights were on but no one was home.  Lazarus was afraid the boy might be in shock.

Lazarus knelt beside the boy.  He didn’t move.  Lazarus reached out with his mind and touched the boy’s.  He felt pain all over his body.  The kid was in agony.  Lazarus spoke gently to him in his mind.

<<  Don’t be afraid, Son.  The voice you hear in your head is coming from the man squatting down next to you.  Can you hear me, boy?” >>

<< Ye, Yes, Sir, I can hear you fine.  If I don’t move it hurts less. >>

<< Can you let me see yore’ face, Son? >>

<< I’m ugly, Sir.  My brothers call me ‘catfish’ because my mouth cain’t never close like a catfishes. >>

<< I don’t care about yore’ looks, boy.  I’m interested in buying a young boy for my slave. >>

The boy managed to slowly turn his head slightly so Lazarus could get a good look at him.  He was badly beaten up.  His face was bruised and swollen.  It didn’t look like much of a face.  It looked more like a lump of raw meat with what once might have been a nose.

<< Why, you ain’t so bad look’n, boy, a' tall.  Way you was going on, I expected to see me a monster.  I done already got myself a monster for a Godson.  Can you see that big man standing there? >>

<< Yes, Sir.  He be huge.  He don't look like no man I ever seen. >>

<< Yore right, Son.  Now, I gotta’ know some’um.  I’m looking for a young boy what will keep my house clean.  I’m foreman on a ranch, and I live alone.  I ain’t got me nobody to clean house for me, so I’m looking to buy a slave to do it for me.  Are you interested?  Do you wanna’ be my slave, boy? >>   

<< I ain’t good enough to be no man’s slave, Sir.  My daddy tells me I’m stupid and ma’ brothers call me a retard.  Hell, I don’t even know what a retard is. >>

<< Do you think you could be taught to change sheets on a bed, make my bed in the mornings, make coffee for me, run a washer and dryer, keep my boots cleaned and polished, learn to run a vacuum cleaner and clean a bathroom? >>

<< I already do them things for my brothers.  That’s all I’m allowed to do is be a slave for them.  I guess I got me,— what chu’ call,— on the job training, Sir.   I can do them things, but wouldn’t you want a better looking slave than me? >>

<< Naw, I ain’t look’n for no pretty slave.  I’m look’n for one who’s willing to be trained and do what I tell him without question.  When I give an order, I expect it to be carried out swiftly and to the best of your ability.  Besides, your daddy is selling you cheap. >>

<< I ain’t got me no daddy no more, Sir.  Ain’t got me no brothers, neither.  They all been so mean to me.  I don’t want nothing more to do with ‘em.  I’ll be your slave if’n you want me, Sir.  I’ll be a damn good slave for you.  Hell, it’s gotta’ be a better life than I’s living at home.  I’ll take good care of you, Mr.— >>

<< Long, Son, just call me Master Long.  Okay, I’m gonna’ give you a shot that’s gonna’ make all the pain go away.  My Godson, that big monster of a man, is gonna’ carry you out of here, and I’m gonna’ take you to a slave vet to fix you up.  Do you understand, Son? >>

<< Yes, Sir, Master Long, I understand, and thank you, Sir.  You’re the first man what’s ever been nice to me in a long time.  The sheriff is a good man, but he’s all business. >>

"Don't never underestimate Sheriff Lassiter.  He called me about you to see if I'd be interested in buying you as my slave.  He jes' may have saved yore' life, Son.  Your daddy was gonna' sell you for dog food."   The boy let out a painful sob.

Lazarus gave the boy a shot that would put him in a twilight sleep.  It took effect instantly.  Ox scooped up the boy like he was a feather and began to sing to him as he cradled him in his huge arms.  The boy relaxed and a small smile came across his face.

Mr. Tennent said he would be happy with fifteen hundred for the boy.  He promised Charlie he would tell the boy's old man he couldn't find a buyer who wanted to spend the money to fix his son up and had to sell the kid to the rendering plant.  So Lazarus and Charlie reckoned the old man got eight hundred and Mr. Tennent took the rest.  Lazarus allowed it was just as well.  He didn't want the family, who treated him so horribly, coming around looking for their little brother anyway.  The sheriff said he'd go along with Mr. Tennent if the old man asked him where the boy went.  He didn't blame Charlie and Lazarus for wanting to keep the boy's whereabouts secret.  It made perfect sense to him.  Tennent slipped the sheriff a couple of hundred bucks to make sure their stories were the same.  Charlie wrote a check for Mr. Tennent and left it with the sheriff and his staff.  The men left the sheriff's station and rode back to the ranch.  Charlie knew without asking Lazarus would take the boy to his ship to his med-bots and androids.  He also knew Lazarus had once been a doctor himself.  He would supervise the boy’s care and recovery.  He only wished he could be by Lazarus’ side to see him in action.

“Would you like to accompany me and Ox to the ship when we return, Boss?”

“Were you just reading my mind?”

“Naw, Sir, just thought you might like to see what I plan for the boy.”

“I’d like that very much, ramrod.”

“We need to leave the boys behind this time.”  There were groans from the posse.  Ox was still cradling the boy in his arms in the camper shell of the truck.  He had him wrapped in a blanket the men brought with them.

“Now, cut that out, guys.” said Charlie, “You’re included in everything.  With fewer men there's less confusion.  I agree with our ramrod.  I’m sure he’ll take you to visit as soon as the boy comes around.  He’s gonna’ need  encouragement and understanding from men his own age.  You can help out then.”

“On this receipt we got, it says his name is Caleb Stamper.  Caleb ain’t a bad name, but I think I want him to have a new name.  If'n his family thinks he went  to the dog food factory, I don't want him keeping the same name.  Besides, when I git though with him, he won’t look like he does now.  He certainly won't look like no 'Stamper' boy.  He’ll look like Ramrod Lazarus Long’s slave.”  Lazarus chuckled.

“I’ve always liked the name Lucas.” said Charlie.

“Lucas?  Lucas Long.  I kinda like the sound of that.  Thanks, Boss, for his new name.”

The men arrived at the ranch, and Ox carried the boy to the barn.  Lazarus took his remote and open the portal.  Once again Cable came through without clothes pushing the anit-grav Gurney.  Ox gently laid Lucas on the Gurney and Cable slowly moved the boy’s arms and legs to their correct position.  The android looked at the boy and his condition.  Charlie gasped when he saw a tear run down Cable’s cheek.  Cable looked up at Charlie, smiled and winked at him.  Charlie chuckled at his own stupidity as he followed Lazarus and Ox though the portal.

The med-bots were ready for the boy.  They didn’t take X-rays.  The ship had advanced systems that showed everything wrong with boy.  What they discovered amazed even the med-bots.  They claimed, by rights, the boy shouldn’t even be alive.  Almost every bone in his body had been broken at one time or another and there was no evidence he was ever taken to a doctor to have them set.  Some set naturally, others didn’t.  To make the boy whole again they would have to do major reconstructive surgery on him to say nothing of the corrective surgery required for his face and mouth.

“Okay, everyone.  We been up against as big or bigger problems.  Remember how bad my boy, here, was when your other father and me brought him to you?  Let this boy be a challenge to you to do two things, to test your skills and increase your knowledge base.  We’ll just keep him in twilight sleep until we have him where he can start to heal.  Then we’ll ask the Kryscellians if they will be gracious enough to help us with him.  They’re due another exposure to the sun soon, and then they’ll have even more power.

As far as his face is concerned, Ping, Pong and I will do a digital work-up of how we want him to look.  Take skin and bone samples immediately and start growing them.  I want some bone added to his chin.  I think I want a dimple in there, too.  I want his jaw more square and his forehead raised.  I’ll get a digital picture to you by tomorrow.  In the meantime, lets start on his immediate needs.  Let’s wield his bones back together and start them healing.  I don’t see any internal organ damage.  Check out his testicles and make sure both are working.  His penis will probably grow more as he matures, but what the hell, you got my penis on file.  Make him look like his new Father.  He ain't got no foreskin so grow him one.  We got the Dalek's technology on file.   We got more surgical talent on board this ship than the whole of the Dalek world.  We can do this, gentlemen.  We can rebuild him.  I want this boy as perfect as my other sons on this ship.  From what he's been through, don't you think he deserves it?"

All the med-bots and androids agreed.  Charlie stood with his mouth open watching and listening to Lazarus take charge and tell his staff what he wanted.

“After you correct his mouth and face, check his teeth as you go.  If they need any work, do it during his period of twilight sleep.  I don’t want him going through the trauma of dental work.  If he needs teeth, take a DNA sample and start buds to grow him some new ones.  If some are beyond repair, replace them, too.  With his bone that ain’t healed properly we will surgically correct each one.  I don’t want him walking with the slightest limp.”  

On and on Lazarus continued with his staff.  He made sure he had plenty of pictures of the boy’s face to have Ping and Pong do digital work-ups of just how Lazarus wanted Lucas to look.  Ping and Pong appeared in the sick bay.  Charlie could tell, they were both distressed by the look of the boy.  Lazarus motioned for Charlie to follow him, Ping and Pong.  They went through another portal and were in a huge processing room with giant screens all around the room.  The whole place came to life and a giant face of a fine looking man looked down at them.

“That’s my partner, Arlen, Boss.  The processor decided to take his appearance for his own.”

Charlie was impressed.  It was the face of a man who was a great bear of a man, but had the most disarming ice blue eyes.  He was very handsome and rugged looking.

“Good day to you, Kyron.”

“Good day to you, Father.”

“Kyron, this is my boss on the ranch where we are staying.  I’m his foreman.  His name is Master Charlie Goodnight.”

“Welcome, Master Goodnight.”

“Thank you, Kyron, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Have you received the pictures from sickbay of the face of our patient?” Lazarus asked the processor.

“I have, Father.  Putting them up for you now, and may I say, Sir, he looks awful.”

All around the room huge pictures of the boy’s battered and misshapen face came on the many screens.

“You may, indeed, say that, Kyron.  We hope to correct that for the boy.   We need to create a new face for him, but I need a composite work-up from you for the med-bots as a guide for them to remake him.  You know my preferences of male facial types, Kyron.  I think you have files of men’s faces I’ve worked on or thought were attractive.  Would you put them up for us, Son?”
“Done, Father.”

 Immediately there were hundreds of men’s face on the screens, each one more handsome and attractive than the next.

“Help me pick one as a templet, Boss.”  Lazarus encouraged Charlie.  Charlie chuckled.

“How?  They’re all good looking men; however,— the more I look at them several begin to stand out.”

“I agree.  Kyron, please remember the ones we pick.”

“Of course, Father.”

Lazarus and Charlie picked out almost fifty faces, and they were displayed on fifty separate large screens around the room.
“I don’t see your face up there, ramrod.  Kyron, would you please add your Father’s picture to these.”

“Certainly, Master Goodnight.”

It took Lazarus and Charlie the better part of an hour discussing the merits of one facial type over another.  Charlie wanted to start with a templet of Lazarus’ face.  His argument was, if the boy was going to have his dick he should resemble him.  Lazarus humored his boss, but added he didn’t think he was handsome.  Charlie laughed at him and assured him he was quite handsome.  They finally arrived at a composite they agreed on and turned it over to Ping and Pong to overlay the face onto he boy’s and determine how much surgery and how it was to be accomplished.

Lazarus left the boy in good hands with Cable in charge.  He would see his father’s every order was carried out.  Charlie and Lazarus said their goodbyes and left the ship.  As they walked across the compound to the house the boys came running out to greet Ox and ask about the boy.

“How long do you anticipate for his recovery before he can begin training, Mr. Long.”  Waco asked.

“Humm,— probably about three months.  He has a lot of surgeries to undergo, but you won’t recognize him when he returns.  You may start to visit him in about a week.  He still will have a long way to go, but your encouragement will mean a lot.”

“Have you decided on a trainer, Mr. Long.”

“I think so.  I was going to contract with Master Birdsall, but I don’t know I agree with his ‘baby slave’ technique, especially for a young boy.  I’ve talked with Master Austin, and I think he and Master Daniels will do well by the boy.  I think when they git through with him, he’ll be able to hit the ground running.  I’ve contracted with them to train him for three months.”

“Gosh, that’s six months before we have a new brother, Sir.”  Waco sounded sad.

“I don’t know’s you should think on him as a new brother; however, I do plan to have him attend school with you boys.  I know you’ll look out for him.”

“We will, Mr. Long.  We won’t let nothing happen to one of our men.”

“You wanna’ take another shot at that, ramrod?”  Charlie put the back of his hand to his face to cover his grin.  Lazarus shrugged his shoulders and grinned real big.  

“What the hell, of course you men got chore'selves a new brother, but his first duties are to his Master.  You must impress on him you understand he has to take care of me first.  We can always work around schedules.”

Charlie almost laughed his ass off at Lazarus.  He was beginning to know the man and knew from his dealing with his androids and crew members he acted like a benevolent monarch.  He was firm, but he was loving.  The new slave didn’t have a clue what a fine man and Master he now belonged to.  Charlie imagined the boy would look better than any of their boys.  He was right.  Lucas turned out to be a stunningly handsome young man.
* * * * * * *

While Lucas was being remodeled,  Lazarus was content to stay in his small room and entertain his boss a couple of weekend nights per month.  He also started arranging to get away from the ranch and back to his ship at least one weekend per month.  He didn’t want to appear to leave the ranch too much it might arouse suspicion.   Those weekends he would relax in the arms of his bonded mate and they would sate themselves with each other.  

Arlen was a big man.  He was a foot taller than Lazarus and his fine, chiseled body was covered with hair.  He looked like a smaller version of their Godson Garron.  He had a dark, ruddy complection with piercing ice cold blue eyes.  They were startling when you first met him and once you did meet him you never forgot him.  He was also raised as a cowboy in the old tradition.  Lazarus rescued him three hundred years before when Texas was little more than a frontier.  He was being chased by an outlaw gang.  Somehow, he managed to come upon their camp when they weren’t there, found their stash of money and gold and made off with it.  They had him cornered in a box canyon when Lazarus spotted him with one of his bot-cams.  He was immediately attracted to the man and thought he was too good looking a man to die at the hands of the robber scum who were sure to kill him.  When Lazarus tells the story he emphasizes he never believed in love at first sight until he laid eyes on his cowboy partner.  

All shooting stopped as a huge air ship, the likes of which none of the men ever saw before, hovered over them.  The robbers watched as their loot and the man who stole it from them slowly rose into the sky and into the belly of the ship.  They fired their guns at him only to have their bullets bounce off the shield that surrounded him.  To say they were pissed was an understatement.  Lazarus gave the man a choice.  He could stay with him and be his partner, or Lazarus would beam him back to the rocks, and he could take his chances in a shoot out.

Arlen was no dummy.  He didn’t have enough cartridges left and at least with the tall man he had a chance to live.

“Hell, yes, I’ll be yore’ partner.  For save’n my cowboy butt like ‘at, I’ll bend over, grab my ankles and whistle ‘Dixie’ like a pig fer ya,’ Mister.”

Lazarus roared with laughter at the man and almost lost his concentration.

“Okay!  Good,— but first you gotta’ return the money to them folks it was stolen from.”

“Aww, do I have to?  They ain’t gonna’ miss it.  Besides, they’s gonna’ think I’s one of them robbers.”

“No, they won’t, and yes, they will miss it.  That money represents the holdings of poor folks as well as rich who expect a bank to protect their money.  They ain’t got no guarantee their life saving is safe in a bank and if they lose it, they’ll all suffer.   They’ll be so glad to get their money back they’ll believe you.  Just don’t tell ‘em you expect a reward or accept one if’n they try to give it to you.  Insist you were just doing yore’ Christian duty.  You won’t need no money with me no ways.  You’ll find out there’s more to life than money or wealth.  If’n they lock you up in jail, don’t you think I got the power to git chu’ out, cowboy?”

“I don’t know, Sir,— I’s jes’ a dumb cowboy.  I ain’t never had me no school’n.  What the hell do I know?”

“It’s your choice, cowboy?”

“Okay, I’ll do it.  Ain’t nothing good ever happens to me no how.  Jes’ once in my damn fucked up life I’d like to fall into a bucket of roses instead of cow shit.  I thought I already done done it ‘til you come along.”

“Jes’ remember, cowboy, when God closes one door, he usually opens another.”

“He don’t care nothing ‘bout no worthless cowboy, Sir.”

“You might be surprised to find out yore’ net worth, cowboy.  Here, put this coin in yore’ pocket and don’t lose it.  It might be your only means of git’n out of another tight spot,— understand?”

“Yes, Sir, I think so.”

Lazarus flew over the town, from which the money was stolen, and in the wee hours of the morning, set Arlen down on the main street within a hundred feet of the bank.  Arlen waited until the bank opened, walked in set the money on the counter.

“Here, I think this belongs to you, Sir.  I found it roaming around out in the badlands and come upon an outlaw camp out there.  They was all down to the creek, butt naked, bathing themselves.  I found their loot, decided to do the Christian thing and bring it back to you.  They tried to follow me and shot my pony.  It died, and I had to walk the rest of the way into town.”  Arlen didn’t say anymore and turned to leave.

“Thank you, young man, what’s your name, Son?”

“Arlen Jones, Sir.  I’s just a two bit cowpoke who believes in the cowboy way.”

“Well, Mr. Jones let me give you a reward,— at least for your pony.”

“Thank you, Sir, but I don’t want no reward.  A man ain’t suppose to be rewarded for doing what’s right.  Lot’s of poor folks need their money.  I’s jes’ think’n on them.”

Arlen poured it on, all the while his heart was killing him to give the money back.  He walked out of the bank and down to the end of the street.  The banker rushed from the bank to offer to buy him breakfast and watched as the cowboy slowly rose into the sky with his arms lifted up to heaven.  He watched as the cowboy disappeared into the clouds.  The banker hit his knees with tears running down his cheeks.  He was sure he just witnessed an act of God Almighty and his angel was a young, hairy buckaroo with the most unusual eyes.  The banker never denied any cowboy an account at his bank after that and became known as the most fair and honest banker in the West.  He became a wealthy man, all because one young cowboy returned his stolen money.

Years later when they followed up on the story and investigated the man’s life, Arlen and Lazarus shared a laugh about the man relating how a cowboy angel returned his money when he was going to have to close his bank.  He only came in that morning to see how many accounts he could set right from his own money before he announced bankruptcy.  His name was Jessie Fargo.

Unwittingly, by his acceptance of Lazarus’ offer, Arlen Jones finally fell into his bucket of roses and became a man worth far more than all the money in the state of Texas.

End Of Chapter 11 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2006 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
E-mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com