By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 31

Moe couldn’t fight off a stiff sedative, and all the mental and physical stress he experienced during the day.  Even though he was still just a pup he had a rough day.  He was fast asleep by the time his family and all the cowboys returned to the ship to visit and wish him well.  Strom volunteered to stay with him for the night in case he woke up and was disoriented or hungry.  He did wake up once during the night and found himself in the big arms of his hairy man friend, Strom.  He moved closer to Strom and started whimpering because he hurt so bad. Strom enfolded him in his arms and began to sing to him.  He offered Moe one of his teats and the pup gratefully accepted.  He didn’t suck more than a half dozen times when he was fast asleep again.  He slept the rest of the night.

Cable warned him; Moe was really sore the next morning and couldn’t move without yelping.  Cable gave him another sedative which relaxed him and let him rest some more.  Cable decided he would keep him on the ship for another day or two.  This time Moe didn’t voice any objections.  Everyone came to visit him, but he felt too bad to be glad to see them.  He kept asking about Stan and the Blooms.

“Now, don’t chu’ worry none, we’re gonna’ take care of them.  You just get better, little buddy.”  Waco told him.  

The Kryscells floated in and parked next to his bed for a morning and sang to him.  They were wonderful, and he could feel their healing rays working wonders on his hurting little body.  He was grateful for their help.  After the second day he began to feel a little better and was able to enjoy his visits with his family and friends.  Strom stayed with him and fed him all the lummox milk he could drink.  That helped a lot.

Jesse stayed at the ranch for several weeks.  He was curious about a lot of things and how the boys interrelated with each other and their adult counterparts.  He became fascinated with Blue, Keekepata, and the Kryscellians.  He had never run across their species in his many years of travel throughout the universe.  He heard of them, but never knew anyone who knew whether they were a real species or a myth.  He spent long hours conversing and singing back and forth with them.  He was able to teach them things, and they taught him many things.

He was allowed to come and go and had free run of the ranch and ship.  He was respected and honored, but he was not put upon to join in or do anything he didn’t want to.  He and Utah felt more comfortable on the ranch than they had any place in a long time.  They found a home in Parson on the Mighty Bee.  He visited a number of times to be with Blue and Keekepata, but he would roam the country and visit with the folks.  They came to love him, and he loved them in return.  He traveled frequently between all the colonies on the ship.  He was welcome anywhere he went.  He came to be known as a healer and a hard worker who wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get dirty.

Lazarus and Charlie were taking care of the Bloom ranch until they could figure out a plan that would be reasonable for everyone.  The next meeting of the Grange was an important one and explosive.  There were several hot-heads who were immediately ready to take up arms and storm the halls of the powers that be; however, they knew in their hearts it was all for show.  Lazarus knew and understood and allowed them to vent their frustrations and settle down.  

“Our main worry ain’t the Blooms.  We got their DNA on file, same’s we got everyone else in the Grange.  We got Stan’s, too.  We can get Ole and Hattie back in a day or two and give them a plot of land to ranch on the Mighty Bee.  They can become colonist like the Olsens and many other folks.  Our main worry is about Stan.  What to do about him?”  Lazarus threw out for the men to discuss.

“We can’t just leave him with that monster.  I think we’re growing into a strong community, and Stan is one of us.  Though some of us keep slaves, it’s more a correction and work ethic thing than what he’s up to.  It don’t justify some of our own practices, but it’s a damn sight better’n what he’s up to.”  said Angus.

“Ole and Hattie know enough to talk up ‘rapture’ as a cover wherever they’ve been sent.  Them fundies really believe in that shit even though it ain’t mentioned anywhere in the bible.  If the Blooms disappear before their eyes, the folks who witness it will swear they been ‘raptured.’” Charlie said.

“You can do that?” asked Sonny Steele incredulously.

“We can fly over your ranch tonight, and because we got yore’ DNA in our computer, we can beam you up in seconds.  It works on the same principle as the gates.  One minute you’re there and the next you’re here in the blink of an eye.  We can locate you wherever you are on the planet.  Don’t matter how well hidden you are, we’ll find you.”

“Amazing.” said Zoltan Kodaly to his son.     

It was decided to strike back at the federal government, but do it in a manner that would leave them scratching their heads wondering where it all fit into what was going on.  Rather than scooping up the Bloom’s small ranch, which might cause some suspicions, Lazarus and Charlie picked out an area within the boundaries of Ft. Hood, Texas, outside a small town that once existed called ‘Ham.’  It was land the government  confiscated years ago to run military maneuvers on, but it might have some unexploded weapons.  Lazarus set the computers to excite and detonate any remaining shells or bombs on the property one evening with a fly over.  After it lit up the sky one night, they waited for a week and lifted the area and caused it to look like an enormous sink hole.  The funniest thing about it was,  the property was less than half a mile from one of the largest detention camps in the country and no one saw a thing.  They managed to capture some wonderful ranch land with a creek running all the way through the property.  They miniaturized it and installed it on the Mighty Bee.  Then they went after the Blooms.

Not surprisingly, they discovered Ole and Hattie were in the same detention center on the Ft. Hood military reservation.  They were scheduled to go to different centers for re-education and had been attending nonstop religious education classes.  Whenever they were asked to pray they made sure they prayed to be raptured from the camp in which the were imprisoned.  Of course their counselors frowned on that, but couldn’t say much because, after all, it was what they taught; however, they highly objected to the Bloom’s insistence they were being imprisoned illegally and against their will.

Lazarus and Charlie’s timing couldn’t have been better.  Lazarus and Kyron had three invisible robo-cams on Ole and Hattie and could tune in to what was going on as any given time.  They kept close watch on them to make sure they weren’t being mistreated.  Ole was in the middle of a particularly moving prayer oration and had just started asking God to rapture him and his wife from the despotic clutches of this false God religious group when they suddenly started to glow in a brilliant white light, then just disappeared.  Lazarus and his crew couldn’t have planned it better.  Their timing was perfect.  The folks left behind were stunned.

There was much awe and disbelief from their captors; however, they saw it happen.  They couldn’t deny what they saw.  They would be branded hypocrites if they said they didn’t see the Blooms ‘raptured’ right before their very eyes.  It gave great hope to other poor souls who were having to listen to the same slanted religious crap day in and day out.  It also ruined the re-educator’s position of authority.  If God raptured these folks because they believed the people running the camp was worshiping false Gods, who were they to think otherwise.  Much to the dismay of the self-righteous Evangelicals running the camp, those left began to pray for their rapture and salvation from the false religion.  

Hattie was in tears when they arrived on the ship and found themselves greeted by Lazarus, Charlie, the boys and a couple other members of the Grange.  Ole was a bit misty eyed himself.  They were so glad to see their friends.  The first words out of their mouth were about their boy.

“Is Stan all right?”  Ole asked.

“He’s fine.  We have the robo-cams operational.  He’s on his way to Washington to be processed.  We don’t know how long we’re going to leave him with the government people.  We’ve learned a great deal from having him among them as an insider into what’s going on.  We wanted to give you a chance to get settled in your new home and then we’ll talk about what to do.  We can lift him any time we want.”  
“What about Moe?  The poor little thing.  He was so brave.”  Hattie asked concerned.

He’s been patched up.  Cable and his staff took good care of him.  He suffered some cracked ribs, and it took Cable and David one afternoon to get all the cactus stickers out of him.  He’s still taped up.  He was really feeling bad several days ago, but he’s much better now.  All your livestock has been relocated to Charlie’s ranch and will be transferred to your new property on the Bandersnatch as soon as you’re able to take care of them.  We didn’t take your land, we took some not far from the detention center where you were being held.  Did you hear us exploding the weapons that were duds?”

“Was that you?  We heard there was huge sink hole nearby.  They thought the weapons explosions cause it.  They were worried it might encompass the camp.  They said the sink hole came about after weapons accidentally exploded and the creek decided to run underground.” Ole laughed knowing otherwise.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property, Ole.  You and Ms. Hattie are gonna’ love it.”  added Charlie.  “It even has an old farmhouse and a couple of barns to get you started and Lazarus plans to bring in his cowboy-slave carpenter crew this summer to get you up and running.”

“It won’t be the same without Stan.” said Hattie.

“Now, don’t give up on Stan.  We ain’t.  We don’t know we’re gonna’ leave him there.  We gotta’ talk with Stan.  We can do that.  Them robo-cams got two- way communication devices on them.”  encouraged Lazarus.

* * * * * * *

There were few secrets within the Grange.  Naturally Ranger Gibbons and his wife, Mary, discovered the Watkins man was staying at the Goodnight ranch, and he helped several people; however, Ranger never asked for him to come to them.  Ranger understood Lazarus and Charlie knew about his inquiry on his wife’s behalf.  Lazarus was honest with him, he didn’t know how much or what Jesse could do.  They met Jesse at a couple of the Sunday afternoon Grange meeting, but they didn’t say anything to him about Mary’s illness.  The third Sunday Jesse was at the ranch the Gibbons didn’t attend the meeting.   Neither did Bobby and Elsie Jessup.  Elsie called Ida Mae to say Mary was too sick and under the circumstances they didn’t feel like attending.

That Sunday morning Jesse announced quietly he and Utah would be gone for the day.  Lazarus and Charlie smiled at each other to see him and Utah take off in the direction of the Gibbons’ ranch.  They reached the ranch house a little before noon and knocked on the backdoor.  Ranger came to the door and smiled to see it was Jesse.  He invited him in and asked if he would have Sunday dinner with his family.  Jesse accepted his invitation, but insisted he could only eat whole-grain bread and a bit of oil.  Ranger saw to it Elise took care of his needs.

Jesse doted over the Jessup and Gibbons’ babies.  He thought they looked very much alike.  They were a little over a year old.  They were already walking and talking.  They were fascinated by Jesse and Utah and knew he was someone special.  They asked intelligent questions and Jesse didn’t talk down to them.  He answered them honestly and openly.  After dinner Ranger sent the boys off to play so the adults could talk.  Mary was able to join them and Jesse spoke to them.  He was blunt and to the point.

“I can’t cure the form of cancer you have, Mary.  I’m sorry.  Your exposure to Cable, the Kryscellians and the advantage of lummox milk has prolonged your life much longer than they estimated.  No one can fully cure you of the dread disease.  I know Lazarus has even given you the Longevity shot in hopes it would give you more time, but it will only fully work if your DNA is functioning perfectly and yours isn’t.”

Mary looked very depressed and shed a tear or two, but she was stronger than Ranger.  He broke down, much to the distress of Elsie and Bobby who loved them both dearly.

“Is that why you’ve been reticent to come to us?”  Mary asked quietly.

“Mostly, Mrs. Gibbons.  It breaks my heart to have to tell someone bad news.  I try to live my life for good news and to bring hope to folks; however, what I have to say is not all bad, I bring you some hope.”

Jesse let that sink in for a moment before he began again.

“I can’t save you, but the Goodnight boys can extend your life for another period.  I can’t say how long, because I just don’t know.  There is such a thing on Earth as the waters of life.  Some folks call it Aqua Vita.  There was an early Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, who tried to find such a thing in Florida.  While there is a spring of such water in the State of Florida no one has ever found it.  It’s at the bottom of a very dense swamp area and feeds directly into the brackish waters of the Okefenokee swamp.  It’s a shame, it does no one good because it immediately becomes contaminated upon mixing with the other waters.

In our travels, me and Utah, we discovered another source.  To be honest, it weren’t me what discovered it, it was ma’ buddy, Utah.  He chased a rabbit into a cave on the bank of a river we were camping by one evening and discovered it by accident.  Dogs have a much better sense of hearing and smell than we do and he recognized the importance of his discovery immediately.  He forgot all about the rabbit he was chasing and came to tell me about his greater discovery.  The supply Utah discovered is an underground supply and may never surface.  It may go into a thermal zone and finally come to the surface through steam or a geyser.  If so, it becomes chemically altered so it’s no longer useful for the purpose of healing.  

It is the purest form of the water I’ve ever discovered.  I can give the boys a map to the cave.  They can go and bring back several gallons of the water.  Now, I must warn you, the water smells like rotten eggs; however, once you drink a little it don’t taste too bad.  It has a high sulfur content, but that’s a good thing.  There is a strict regime you must follow if you want to see results from this healing water.  You must drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of the water, evenly spaced, within a twenty-four hour period.  That’s one glass every three hours.

Now, here’s the hard part.  You may have no food for seven days and nights.  On the eighth morning you may have one cup of boiled white rice with one cup raw lummox milk, and you are to have only that plus the eight glasses of the water for seven more days.  The third week, you may have two portions of the rice and milk twice a day.  The fourth week, you may have three portions, three times a day.  Do you think you can do that?”

“I’d certainly be willing to try, Sir.”  Mary replied like she was desperate for any hope.  Ranger perked up a bit, but Elsie frowned and shook her head. It sounded like torture to her.  Bobby didn’t respond.
“It’s important for you to know before you begin, if you fail to follow my instructions to the letter, you risk sliding all the way back to where you were.  Another thing is, I don’t know how effective it will be or for how long it will last.  I have never worked with or prescribed Aqua Vita to anyone.  I ain’t known where a supply was before last summer.  Cancer is a strange disease.  There are so many varieties and permutations, and as you’ve been told, yours is a particularly virulent form.  We can only try it and hope for the best; however, you have a leg-up on most other folks who might try a new or alternative cure.

If you decided to do this, I would also suggest you do it in sickbay on the Bandersnatch for several reasons; they can watch and monitor your progress; you won’t be so tempted to cheat just a little as you might at home; and those with the experience and powers to help you will be close at hand around he clock.  You have an excellent medical staff on Captain Long’s ship, and several known healing potentials available to you.  You have several Lummox available to you who are known to have certain healing powers; lummox milk,  one of the purest, most nutritious, and healing food sources in the universe; you have the wonderful Kryscellians who have powers to heal carbon based life forms we don’t fully understand yet; you have Ping and Pong who can provide you with pheromones which will curb your appetite and alleviate any feelings of hunger and depression you might have; and, you have the combined healing resources of me, my companion and the Grange to back you up.  Never underestimate the healing power of the combined thoughts and prayers of your fellow men and women.  You have a wonderful chance of defeating this disease, but it would be wrong of me to promise you such a thing.  Like I’ve explained, I have no way of knowing your chances, but even a small percentage is better than no chance at all.”

Mary Gibbons agreed and the evening ended on a note of cautious optimism.

* * * * * * *

Jesse returned to the ranch and had a meeting with Lazarus, Charlie, Hank and the boys.  The school year was almost over and the boys would be out for summer vacation.

“Where is this river?”  Charlie asked.

“It’s the Paluxy River that runs through Glen Rose, Texas.  I can give you and the boys geo-positioner stats so you can find it or Utah and I can go with you if you like.”  Jesse volunteered.

“That probably would be best.  How much do we need to bring back?”

“One gallon would equal two day's treatment.  So for thirty days she’ll need fifteen gallons.  It probably would be good to bring back a larger supply  for emergencies; perhaps as much as thirty or fifty gallons.  It has to be stored in amber or dark green glass vessels with no plastic tops.  It can’t touch anything plastic or it with null its healing and restorative properties.”  Jesse told them.

“What about a fifty-five gallon, light-weight titanium storage drum?”  Lazarus asked.

“That would be perfect.  Any non-ferrous metal container would work.” allowed Jesse.

“Okay, we have plenty sterile containers for just such a purpose on the Mighty Bee.  Cable, David and Jonathan can get them for you.  Waco, I can give you another gate post.  Take it with you and when you get into the cave, post it and walk through to sickbay and get the containers from Cable.  Fill them on an anti-grav gurney and float them back through.”

“Okay, but there’s one small detail I ain’t told you men about.”  Jesse smiled.  “There’s another life form what inhabits the cave and you may want the containers  placed in an isolated area so you can control it.  If not, you run the risk of having them all over your ship.”

“What sort of life-form, Jesse?”  Waco asked.

“A form of arachnid; what you folks call daddy-long leg spiders.  The ceilings are covered with hundreds of thousands of them.  If you bump into them you run the risk of stampeding them and you’ll have spiders crawling all over you.  If you’re very careful, they won’t bother you.  They won’t hurt you, but they’ll make you hurt yourself unless you can control the urge to brush them off.”

“Oh, Lord, I hate spiders.”  said Charlie with a groan.

“You don’t have to go in, Dad.”  Waco allowed.

“That’s why I suggest you send in the boys.  They have a better tolerance for such things than adults.”  Jesse smiled at a grimacing Charlie. “Also, boys, you can’t allow one of them to fall into the water you’re storing.  It will contaminate it immediately.  Just the act of transferring the water from the ground to the containers will cut down its effectiveness by ten percent or more.”

“Cable can provide you with an aluminum-glass pump with flexible hose of the same material.  The opening of the containers are of such a size to exactly accommodate the tubing.  It doesn’t have to be touched by human hands.”

“That would be ideal, Lazarus.”  Jesse said, “Then all the boys would need to do is break through the back wall and create enough space to pump what we need and seal the wall back when they’ve finished.”

“You want to hide the source?  Why would you wanna’ do that?”  asked Little Bear.

“To preserve it.  It’s been undiscovered for thousands of years, maybe millions.  If we leave the gate-post there we can have an instant source if we need it.  If we leave it open, it would soon become contaminated and worthless.”

“Makes sense to me.” said Blue.  “How many of us get to go, Master Charlie?”  Blue asked.

“Well, let’s see.  I guess it to be a couple of day’s drive from here in the motor coach; so, me, Jesse, Utah, Blue, Waco, JR, Travis, Little Bear and Lucas will go.”

“Uh, what about us, Master Charlie?”  asked Bronc and the others joined him.
“You men better speak with your parents about that.”  Charlie smiled. “Besides, we only have so much room in the motor coach.  As it is, we’ll probably have to have some sleep on the floor or sleep in shifts, but since it’s only gonna’ be a couple of days trip, I think we can manage.”

Bron hadn’t told his boys, but he planned to take Bronc and T’sgan back to the wilds for the first two weeks of the summer.  He wanted them to have a chance to reconnect with their roots.  After becoming fully acclimated at the ranch, he didn’t know how they were going to react.  Bron knew he had to return for a while.  He missed the freedom of roaming around in the deep forest of Canada and the U.S. with his brothers and sisters.  Captain Trong and Commander Fielding wanted Gavin and Jerry to return to the Archimedes for a couple of weeks to be with their family.

“What about Ox, Dad?  You know how upset he gets when we’re separated for any length of time.”

“We ain’t gonna’ be gone that long.  He can better serve you here by him and Strom checking on Keeke and being around the ship if they’re needed.  Besides, I got one more man in mind to go with us.”  Charlie didn’t elaborate.

The man Charlie had in mind to go along as Sergeant-at-arms to ride herd on the boys was his slave-cowboy brother Shane.  He contacted his older brother, Angus discussed it with Bill Birdsall and they agreed it would be a great chance for Shane to get away and be with his beloved nephew and uncle.  Shane had come to love and appreciated Blue, Lucas, Travis and Little Bear as his brothers as well as Waco.  Whenever the family was together, he got permission from his mate and master to hang with the boys.  They were essentially Shane’s peer group for a second adolescence; one he never could seem to get right the first time around.

* * * * * * *

The drive to San Antonio was long and unpleasant.  Stan sat in the rear of the huge limo with the big man who arrested him.  Brick didn’t give Stan any time to get much together.  Stan packed one small suitcase with his newest pair of Wranglers and a couple of nice Western shirts.  He put on his best pair of boots he only wore to go to church.  He started to take his notebook computer Waco had given him but instead hid it under the mattress of his bed.  Brick’s men handcuffed him, but Brick took pity on him in the limo when he saw his wrists were beginning to swell from them being too tight.  

“If I take them cuffs off you, you promise you won’t try’n do something stupid?” Brick asked him sincerely.

“Naw, Sir.  I promise, I won’t.  I’m smart enough to know when I’m licked.  Being a slave from birth you learn when to give in and not get back up when you been knocked down.”

“You ain’t had it too easy, have you, boy?”

“I can’t complain.  I had it easier than most, Sir.  I was raised by a poor family who treated me more like their son than a slave.  I lived and worked for them because they were good to me and I loved them, not because I was a slave.  It ain’t gonna’ be easy for me to adjust to becoming a slave again.”

“No, I don’t suppose it will.”  Brick commented empathetically as he removed the cuffs.

“Thanks.” said Stan rubbing his wrist to get the blood flowing.

“Just remember what you promised.”

“I will.  I won’t forget.  Where we going, Sir?”  Stan asked quietly.

“We’ll drive to San Antonio where I have a private government jet parked and we’ll fly back to Washington; however, it’s late and we won’t make it all the way this evening.  We’ll stop and stay at a motel for the night, and I’ll get you something to eat.  We’ll be up early and drive the rest of the way to San Antonio.”

“I ain’t never been on a plane before.”  Stan said.

“You’ll enjoy it.  Our plane is more like traveling in someone’s living room than just having a seat on a commercial jet.  If you relax, kid, and go with it, you can have a good time.  I ain’t hard to get along with.  All you gotta’ do is listen to what I tell you and obey me.”  Brick said as his reached for his brief case to do some paperwork.

He noticed Stan looked bored.  He reached over and grabbed a remote.  He pressed a button and a big LED video screen rose from the wall of the limo before them.  He tossed the remote to Stan.

“There’s over three hundred movies stored in the memory of this machine.  Pick one if you want.  Reach in that compartment next to you for headphones.  I need to get some work done, but you can watch a film if you like.”  Brick explained.

Stan seemed to appreciate the gesture more than he really wanted to watch a dumb movie.  He thanked Brick and like any kid with a new toy, played with it more than watched a movie from beginning to end.  It was just as well, it wasn’t long before the limo pulled off and they parked in front of a set of motel rooms.  Obviously, they never checked out from their travel to Reason county.  They figured they’d be back after they picked up Stan, and they were right.

They went into the room and one of Brick’s guards came with them.  Stan learned the guard named Jim was his babysitter.  Jim brought with him some hard, light weight, plastic hobbles of some kind and threw them in one of the top drawers of the dresser.  He didn’t bother to hide them from Stan.

“Don’t worry, kid,” he mumbled to Stan, “they’re for when you go to bed so you won’t try to run.”

Brick walked into the room and heard what Jim told him.

“I don’t think we’re gonna’ need them things, Jim.  He gave me his word he wouldn’t try nothing.”

“He’s just a kid, Brick.  How do you know he won’t do nothing.  It’s our ass if he don’t get delivered to processing.”

“You don’t know these country folks like I do, Jim.  They don’t have much, but when they give their word, it’s like gold to them.  You ever hear of the cowboy code?”  Brick watched Jim shake his head, “Trust me, he won’t try nothing.”   Brick asserted as he handed Stan a menu from the motel restaurant.  “Here, Son, order anything you wan’t on the menu.  Don’t be shy.  You want their best steak, order it the way you like it.  You want a cheeseburger, get it.  Whatever you want.  Also be sure you order some dessert for yourself.  If you don’t eat it right away, you might get hungry later on.”

Stan decided on an expensive burger with salad and a glass of milk.  He also asked for a piece of German Chocolate cake for dessert.  Brick told Jim what he wanted and Stan couldn’t believe the amount of food the big man ordered.  Jim got on the phone and ordered the food.

Stan couldn’t believe the amount of food Brick packed away.  The big man ate like it was his last meal.  Stan finished his burger and even ate his cake and Brick was still eating.  They talked a little during their late supper, but not much.  Jim didn’t eat with them.  He and his buddies wanted to go to the restaurant.

“Are the rumors true about you guys, Mr. Brick?”  Stan asked.

“What rumors?  That we get clipped in the life of service for our Holy Prophet?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Yeah, they’re true enough.”  Brick paused to take another bite of his steak, “Now you wanna’ know if I been clipped?”

“I wouldn’t ask, Sir.”

“No need.  I’ll tell you.  No, I ain’t been clipped.  I ain’t never been asked to join the Holy Order.  I worked hard to get to where I am, but I’m beginning to have second thoughts about it.  Not about God or the Holy Prophet, but about my own motivations.  I just wonder if I’m really worthy of such an honor.”

“I pray you ain’t worthy.”  Stan said quietly.  He didn’t know where that came from.  What did he care what the man chose to do?  If he wanted to sacrifice his cock and balls for some crackpot preacher’s ideas of holiness, what was it to him?

“Why would you say something like that?”  Brick asked but not in a challenging tone; more like he was curious.

“If God wanted you to lose them for the Holy Prophet he would cause them to drop off naturally.  It’s just like circumcision.  It’s loony to think a God who created you would want you to have your protective covering hacked off because of his religion.  It’s just plumb crazy to think that way.”

“You shouldn’t say things like that, boy.  Them be blasphemous words.”

“Since when is truth blasphemous.  My words are only blasphemous to those who think that way and as far as I’m concerned, they be crazy people.”

“You’ll change your mind after you’re re-educated and see the miracles our Holy Prophet can perform.”

“I’ve already seen miracles your Holy Prophet could only dream about.”

“Yeah, right!”  Brick scoffed at Stan and grinned sarcastically.  “If your folks loved you so much, how come they didn’t set you free?”

“You told me you was raised in a religious orphanage?”

“That’s right.” replied Brick, “That’s why I’m where I am today.”

“Then you have to know the minute they set me free, it would involve the State and Federal Government raising their ugly heads.  The first thing they’d do is take me away from the Blooms and put me under their custody because I weren’t no blood relation to them.  Then I’d be placed in a Government orphanage and put up for adoption.  You know the percentage of kids what get adopted who are over one year old?”

“Damn few.” agreed Brick.

“Less than damn few— almost none.  Even if the Blooms wanted to adopt me as their own, you know the government would never let them.  ‘At’s just the way things is.  Then what would happen to me?”

“After so many years, if you didn’t get adopted you’d be sold for indenturement to pay back the money you cost the government.  Then, most likely, you’d remain a slave for the rest of your life.”  Brick conceded.  

“You do know the ropes, then.” Stan said with surprise.

“I guess I was more fortunate than most kids, I was raised in a religious home.  They didn’t have the same policies the government run homes do.  They took care of us up through the end of high school and college if we wanted to go.”

“Did you go to college?”

“Yeah, they helped me and I got a football scholarship to Baylor.  I majored in Physical Education, Religion and Politics.  The day after graduation I went to work for the Holy Prophet and been with him ever since.”

“Are you going through with it if you’re offered the position?”  Stan asked with no disrespect.

“I don’t know.”  he answered truthfully.  Stan recognized it as such without pressing further.  “Something’s happened I didn’t count on.” added Brick.

Stan just looked at him.  He didn’t ask.  He figured if Brick was going to lay a loaded gun on the table it was for a reason; he needed to tell someone;  someone who wasn’t a part of the holy infrastructure.  Stan waited.  Brick looked at him like he knew what he was waiting for and was a little hurt Stan didn’t respond.
“I fell in love.” said Brick.

Stan smiled.  “E’aup! ‘At’ll do it.”  he said like a wizened sage, and sat back after his last bite of cake.

“What do you know about love?”  Brick asked sarcastically to the young man.

“Enough to know I didn’t want to leave my family.  Enough to know I didn’t want to leave my brothers, whom I love very much.  Enough to know I didn’t want to leave my little buddy I love, you and your men wanted to destroy.  Enough to know I feel sorry for you.”

“Why would someone like you, who has nothing, feel sorry for a successful man like me?”

“Because I had more love around me every day of my life than you will ever dream of in all of yours.  You’re willing to sacrifice that which you most want from life for your perverted idea of success and happiness you’ve allowed others to convince you should be your dream, but in your heart of hearts, when you’re alone, in the wee small hours of the morning, there’s a nagging little voice way down deep inside you that says, ‘I don’t want that.  I want this instead.’  Is she very pretty?” Stan asked.
“Yes, ‘he’s’ quite handsome.” Brick responded without emphasis.

“So are my brothers.” confided Stan like he shared Brick’s secret.

“I thought you were the only slave of the Blooms.”

“My brothers are my football teammates who live on the ranch down the way from ours.  They were there when you came for me.  We were planning to leave on horseback through the badlands to their ranch.  They would’ve hidden me and helped me get away, but I made them leave and take my pup with them so he wouldn’t be hurt no more.  Your man really hurt him bad, and he was only trying to protect my mistress.”

“I’m sorry.” said Brick.  “I didn’t know how attached to him you were.  So you sacrificed yourself for the love of a dog?”  Brick asked incredulously.

“He weren’t just a dog.  He was my friend, my buddy, my pal, and I miss him.”  Stan’s eyes started to tear up.  He turned his head and wiped his eyes with a paper napkin.  Stan quickly regained his composure.  “Ain’t being in love with another guy kind a' forbidden in your world, Mr. Armstrong?” Stan asked.

“Not if you’re as high up in the socio-religious food chain as I am.” he tossed off with a chuckle.

“I can see parallels with the Holy Prophet’s tastes.  How can he condemn something for his associates he practices himself— right?  So, I’m to become one of the Holy Prophet’s toy-boys— a temple whore.”

“You shouldn’t look at it that way.  You’ll be greatly repaid for your dedication and services to our Holy father.  You’ll be guaranteed a place in his kingdom in heaven.”

“No, thanks.  Don’t I get a choice?  What if I’d rather take my chances being a good cowboy?”

“You been living with folks who don’t treat you like a slave.  You keep forgetting.  You’re a slave, and slaves don’t get no choices.  You will become what the Holy Prophet tells you, and you will worship him for his love for you.”

Jim came back in the room with the other three men.  They started tidying up the place and throwing away the trash.  There was a busboy from the restaurant with a cart to pick up the dirty dishes and take them back to the kitchen.  They were soon gone and Brick and Stan were alone.

“It’s getting late.  You get into the shower first and clean yourself.  When you get out, I’ll get in there.”

Stan did as he was told.  He didn’t have any modesty undressing in front of Brick.  He was proud of his young athletic body and although he wasn’t any where near as large as Brick, he knew he was attractive.  He carefully arranged his clothes on a chair and walked naked into the bathroom.  He left the door open.  Brick couldn’t help but see everything.  He was undressing and putting his clothes in the closet.  

Stan enjoyed the shower and took his time.  When he finished he toweled himself dry and walked back into the room.  Brick was doing one handed pushups on the floor.  He had a routine he did every night and every morning.  He was completely nude.  He didn’t seem to be showing off.  He was just doing his normal routine.  Stan watched him and smiled to himself.  His own dick was larger than Brick’s.  Stan sat on the edge of the bed until Brick finished.  Brick didn’t say anything to him right away.

“Pick a bed, Son.  I ain’t got no preferences.” he told Stan.

“Thank you, Sir.” Stan responded.

Brick went into the bathroom with his overnight bag.  Stan tried not to pay attention but Brick’s body was the stuff young men dream they want their bodies to look like.  He looked like something off a bodybuilding web site Stan knew about and would call up to ogle the bodies with his brothers.  Stan saw Brick get out a hypo of some kind and fill it from an individual vial of some chemical.  Then he watched as Brick emptied the hypo into the toilet and flushed it afterward.  Was that the steroid shots the Temple Guards were suppose to take every day?   Why was Brick not taking his?  Waco told him how destructive steroids could be to the body when Stan asked about ordering some from Mexico.  After what his brother told him, he didn’t want them anymore.  Stan didn’t let on he knew anything.

Brick finally got into the shower and was in there for quite a while.  Stan wondered if he could get his clothes on and get out the door before Brick got out of the shower.  Then he thought about several possibilities.  What if Brick had an internal lock on the door Stan didn’t know about, and he was testing him?  What if there was a guard outside the door all night?   Besides, the man said he trusted him.  He gave Brick his word.  How could he go against him?  He decided it wasn’t worth it and got into his bed.  When Brick came out of the bathroom he wasn’t wearing a towel or robe of any kind.  He was buck naked.  Stan guessed when you have a body like his, who would want to hide it?

Brick sat on the edge of his bed, folded his hands between his legs, bowed his head and began to pray silently.  Stan knew what he was doing, but didn’t interrupt him.  When Brick finished, he looked up an saw Stan studying him.

“I pray twice a day.” he said meekly. Stan didn’t respond. “Look, kid, we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.  You’ve been placed under my supervision for your initiation.  Believe it or not, I know what you’re going through and where you’re coming from.  I would’ve given anything to come from a background like yours.  What’s happening to you and your family ain’t your fault.  You’re just a pawn in the game.  I can’t tell you all I know, but you’re small fry compared to what the Holy Prophet wants from that community.  I’m praying he has a change of heart, and it don’t blow up in his face.  I plan to talk with him about it when we get back.  I’m sure I don’t have much influence on him, but on occasion I have his ear.  He listens to me whether he likes what I have to say or not.   Anyway, try to understand the position you're in, the position I’m in and we’ll get along fine.  I don’t wanna’ make it tough on you, but I will if I have to.  It’s just my job, Son.  Do we understand each other?”

“Yes, Sir.  I promised I won’t try to escape, and I ain’t.  I won’t.  You can trust me; however, I won’t lie to you none neither.  I’m praying to my God he raptures me and takes me away from you and the Holy Prophet.  Not because I don’t like you.  You been pretty damn nice to me, but because I don’t belong with you and him.  There is an order in the universe, and I’m a part of it.  Some day I hope you can understand it.”  Stan said quietly.

Brick had no idea what the kid was talking about and passed it off as pseudo new-age mumbo-jumbo don’t-kill-a-butterfly-‘cause-it- just-may-be- somebody’s-reincarnated-mother crap.  Brick smiled at him and turn down the covers to his bed.  He crawled into his bed, said ‘goodnight’ to Stan and turned off the light next to his bed.  

The motel was on the back of a lot, and there was no freeway traffic to keep a person awake.  It was very quiet and Stan found himself drifting off to sleep.  He awoke and had to go to the bathroom to take a leak.  When he came back he looked at the mountain of man laying in the other bed and wondered what it would feel like to lay next to him.  He had no idea what made him do it, but he found himself crawling in next to Brick Armstrong.  He imagined the big man might become incensed and throw him out immediately.  That’s not what happened.  The mighty Brick rolled over and threw his huge arm over Stan and snuggled close.

“You get scared, buddy?”

“Naw, Sir.”


“A little.  I’s just wonder’n what it would feel like to lay next to a man’s big as you.”

“How does it feel?”  Brick whispered.

“Big.” chuckled Stan.   

Brick moved his crotch in closer to spoon Stan.  Stan relaxed and backed into him.  He could feel Brick growing strong, but he was no longer smaller than Stan.  Somehow, he managed to grow quite a bit larger.

“You sure you know what you’re doing, Son?”  Brick asked.

“Not really, but I’m willing if you are, Sir.”

“You ever been fucked before?”

“Yes, Sir, a couple of times this last year.  I begged my brother Waco to come home with me after one of our football games.  Since I’m a slave, it was legally all right for Master Waco to take me.  I got my master’s permission before I invited Master Waco over for the night.  I was honest with him, and he told me if I had to learn to be taken I couldn’t have me no better partner than Master Waco.  He knew what we was up to and wished us well.  He loves Master Waco and all them Goodnight boys.  They be ma’ brothers, Mr. Brick.”

“I figured as much.  Has Mr. Bloom ever taken you?”  Brick asked.

“Naw, Sir, but I wouldn’t mind if’n he wanted to.  After Master Waco broke me to the saddle, Mr. Ole is looking better’n better ever’ day.  I even thought about offer’n  ma’self to him.  I love him so much, but I don’t know what that might do to Ms. Hattie if she found out.  I’d have to discuss it with him.  I think Mr. Bloom is a sexy older cowboy.  I’d shore’ ‘nuff ride his old cayuse.”  Stan grinned real big.

“Who was your second?”  Brick asked.

“My second time was with Master Waco’s cousin from Alaska.  Master Blue looks almost like a double for Master Waco, but he’s a lot quieter and introspective.  He confided in me he ain’t never fucked nobody, but he wanted to try.  I invited him home with me after a game one Friday evening.  He was almost as good as Master Waco.  I done it with him a couple more times.  He got better each time.”

“You clean?” Brick inquired softly.

“Yes, Sir, I brought along my hygiene kit, and I cleaned myself in the shower.  ‘At’s what took me so long.”

“I just thought you was enjoying the hot water.”

“That, too.” Stan laughed.

“You sure you wanna’ do this?”

“Yes, Sir, I think I need it from you, Officer Brick.”

“Do you need some lubrication?”

“No, Sir, I done took care of that.  Master Waco taught me about being a good slave to a master.”

“Sounds like you had some good, loving folks to break you in.  I don’t think you’re going to have any problems serving the Holy Prophet.”

Brick took Stan gently but firmly.  He stopped taking the drugs the doctor for the Temple Guards was providing after his miraculous time with Tim.   Brick saw it as a message God wanted him to stop taking the drugs.  He figured he was big enough as he was.  Why carry more coals to Newcastle.  After he’d been off them for a while, he not only became more potent, he began to feel better over all, and noticed his penis began to grow to its normal size again.   He was raging hard as he took Stan.

He was taking Stan from behind and enjoying every minute of it; however, he wanted more.  He withdrew and ordered Stan to lay on his back with his legs up.  Brick then mounted him from the front and sunk his newly engorged penis to the hilt in Stan’s waiting ass.  Stan was in heaven.  He could only imagine what having sex with a man of Brick Armstrong’s proportions were like.  Brick was not stingy with his love making either and the two were entwined in passionate embraces to compliment their sex.  Somehow, one of Brick’s big succulent tits found its way into Stan’s waiting mouth.  

Brick groaned like Stan had found his magic spot.  He reached his huge arm down and wrapped it lovingly around Stan’s head and locked him to his tit urging the young man to suck more and harder.  When Stan seemed to get the most from that tit, Brick placed his huge hand on the back of Stan’s head and transfer him to his other tit and urge him to enjoy that one as well; all the while, steadily fucking his young partner closer and closer to climax.

“I can’t hold back much longer, buddy?” Brick whispered. “My tits are so sensitive, and you’re doing a wonderful job making love to ‘em.  How do I feel inside you?”

“Wonderful, Officer Brick.  I can’t hold it much longer neither.  You’re hit’n my come spot inside me over and over again.  It feels so damn good.”

“Let’s do this together, cowboy.  Here we go.”  

Brick started fucking Stan really hard and the young man opened to him like a flower.  The harder Brick fucked him the harder Stan sucked on his massive, luscious male tits.  The flavors from Brick’s tits was an overwhelming sexual turn on for Stan.  He arched his back to let Brick take his deepest thrust into him and let out a loud groan.

“I’m coming, Son!  I’m shoot’n my load in your hot little ass, boy!  Take it, Son!” Brick moaned.

“Oh, God— oh, God!”  Stan shouted softly as he shot all over himself,  Brick’s muscular chest and abs.

They collapsed into deep spasms of heavy breathing.  Brick rolled Stan onto his side so his weight wouldn’t crush the boy.  They were still coupled together, making fierce love to each other, enjoying the twilight ecstacy from the afterglow of their love making.  They were equally drained.

“Thanks, Son.” Brick whispered between kisses.

“My pleasure, Officer Brick.  Thank you.”  Stan complimented the big man.  

They uncoupled and Stan went to the bathroom.  He got a face towel and dampened it with warm water, then returned to the bed to gently clean his partner.  Brick lay back enjoying the young man’s attention.

“Did young Master Waco teach you this, too?” he smiled.

“Naw, Sir.  I just figured it would be a nice thing to do for a man what provided me with as much pleasure as you just done.  The young man you fell in love with is a lucky young slave.”

“I’m the lucky one.  His name is Tim and he’s opened new worlds for me.  I’m having doubts about my future.  I’m having doubts about everything.  I guess I just need to pray harder and have more faith in the Holy Father.”

Stan returned the towel to the bathroom and returned to share Brick’s bed again.  The big man greeted him with open arms, and they slept the rest of the night holding each other close.

* * * * * * *

The next morning, Stan woke to the sounds of water running in the shower.

“Stan, can you hear me?”  he heard a small voice.

“Master Waco?”

“No, it’s your brother Waco.”

“Where are you?”

“Back at the ranch.  We’re using the speakers on the robo-cams.  Bet chu’ forgot all about them— didn’t chu’?”  Waco laughed.

“Shore’ did.  Damn, it’s good to hear your voice.  How’s Moe?”

“He’s better.  Still a bit sore, but we can’t keep him down.  He sends his love.  He’s heartsick they took you away.  Look, I can’t talk long.  We don’t wanna’ be discovered.   We heard rumors Ole and Hattie done got themselves raptured.  They prayed and prayed for it, and one night, it happened.”  Waco chuckled.

“That’s great news.”  Stan spoke barely above a whisper.  “We’re flying back to Washington today from San Antonio.”

“Listen we ain’t forgot about you.  Don’t lose hope.  Don’t worry.  God will get you out of this.  If you need to contact us, git to someplace where you can be alone and ask.  Kyron is monitoring you constantly.  He’ll put you through to me or Captain Lazarus.  You done good last night, buddy.  Great show!  Nice going!”

Stan groaned.  He forgot the cameras were on 24/7.  He thought he’d play along.

“How’d I do, Master Waco?”

“You got straight tens across the board from your brothers, cowboy.  Way to ride that big man!  Do I have your permission to send the footage to my Captain and his crew in deep space?”

Stan fell out laughing and slapped his leg.

“Of course you do.  I suppose everyone will review it before it’s sent.”

“Count on it, brother.  On the big holo-screen in the auditorium of the Mighty Bee.  I’m think’n about renting kleeg lights and advertize it as another cowboy grand opening.  I promise you, there won’t be a dry crotch in the audience.  Don’t know what it’s gonna’ do to my shy Visallian warrior though.”  They shared a laugh.  Stan knew Captain Vinceeth was anything but shy.  Waco heard the water turn off in the shower.

“Gotta’ run.  We’ll keep in touch.  Make sure you pray to be raptured.”  

“Do me a favor, Master Waco.  Get my computer from under my mattress on my bed at our house.  Keep it for me.”

“Will do, brother.”  Waco was gone.

Brick returned to the room with a towel wrapped around his waist.

“What were you laughing at?”

“I had the TV on for a minute and something struck me as funny.  It was some silly animated kids program with vegetables talking about the rapture.  Then I turned it off.”

“Oh— ”  responded Brick.

* * * * * * *

The trip to Glen Rose took a little longer than Charlie guesstimated, but the boys were out of school, their birthdays were coming up and they were in great spirits.  They got there just in time to pay the fees and park the motor coach.  They decided to stay on board the coach for the night and start out for the river the next day.  As it turned out there were a lot of tourist.  Many knew about the cave and were eager to explore it.  They could see it might not be as easy as they planned.

“No problem.” said Jesse, “We’ll just camp out down here nearby and do what we need to do at night.  No one will be down here at night.”

They did just that, and it went off without a hitch.  The boys came out and related to Charlie the ceiling of the cave looked like they were covered in black hairs, but upon closer examination you could see each hair was part of an individual spider and they were constantly moving.  Charlie had no interest in going in to see such a phenomenon.  They spent half the night pumping two fifty-five gallon stainless titanium drums full of the cold water and then carefully capped them off.  They pushed them through to sickbay on the Bandersnatch with an anti-grav dolly.  When they were finished they carefully sealed the hole back up.  They disguised it so no one would think anyone was excavating anything.  They left the gate-post embedded about a foot into the dirt where no one would ever find it.  Even if they did, they wouldn’t know what it was or know how to activate it.

The boys spent the next day resting as the adults and their Sergeant-at-arms drove them home.  The trip did wonders for Shane and he really seemed to enjoy himself.  He and Charlie had a lot of time to talk about things.  Shane only had another three years to go on his indenturment, and Charlie planned to set Blake Tindall free the following summer.  His time was nearly up.  He discussed with Shane his and Lazarus planned to make Blake an offer he couldn’t refuse.  They didn’t want to let go of him and were willing to pay him handsomely to keep him working for them.  The return trip seemed to take less time.  Lucas allowed it was because it was downhill from where they were.

 * * * * * * *

The water was tested on the Mighty Bee under the strictest sampling methods and found to be almost pure Aqua Vita.  There was little, if any, contamination.  Jesse commended the boys for their care and expert handling of the water.  He was very impressed with their professionalism.

Mary Gibbons was ready.  She came on board the Bandersnatch and was treated like visiting royalty.  Cable, David, Jonathan, the boys and the androids on the ship had gone to a great deal of trouble to make her a private room with all the comforts of home except no access to a food source.  Ping and Pong stood by to provide her with pheromones which would elevate her mood and curb her apatite.  She started her therapy June first of that year amid much well wishes from friends and family of the Grange.  The boys expressed their regrets she would miss their birthday celebration; however, hopefully this would provide her with many more years of celebrating with them.

The first week was the hardest for her.  Mary lost a lot of weight.  She was always slim, and it just seemed to accentuate her thinness; however, Jesse assured everyone she would began to look better as the second week progressed.   It wasn’t as hard on her as she thought it might be, but sometimes she had a hard time gaging down the water.  She came to look forward to the mornings of the second week when she could have her cup of rice with a cup of lummox milk.  She ate it all mixed together as a sweet pudding.  Her color began to return and she began to show signs of overcoming the disease.

The Kryscellians came to see her a couple of times every day and would sing to her for a couple of hours.  She loved their visits and came to know them quite well.  They were encouraged by her progress and related to Lazarus and Jesse she was doing much better than they expected.  Blue would come and hold her hand for a while almost every day.  He never missed a day, and he became very close with the Gibbons.        

* * * * * * *

The Grange was growing by leaps in bounds.  The Sunday afternoon get togethers almost became so large to become unmanageable; however, the overall work and organization came through a lot of volunteer hard work.  It just seemed to become necessary to everyone involved for them to become a part of something bigger than just their immediate families.  Since there was so much food consumed, the raising of chickens and cattle for the private consumption of the Grange became a cottage industry of the colonies on the Bandersnatch.  There were a couple of large chicken farms sprang up and many of the ranchers were running larger numbers of cattle.  Some of the poorer ranchers like Ole and Hattie Bloom began to make more money and afford a few luxuries for themselves.  Newer standards of agriculture were enforced so the raising and slaughter of animals became a humane practice and they were not grown in cramped, closed quarters where their brief existence wasn’t one of misery.

The boys fifteenth birthday party proved to be one of subdued celebration.  Everyone was worried and praying for their beloved Mary Gibbons and still more worried and equally concerned for Stan Edmunds.  The Grange counsel put it to a vote what to do about Stan.  They were in touch with Stan, and he seemed to be getting along all right.  He was learning a lot about the inner workings of the Holy Prophet and his circle of sycophants.  Stan relayed these things back to Waco and Captain Lazarus.  They even had videos of him meeting with the Holy Prophet and aside from having to strip for him to admire, he hadn’t suffered anything sexually demeaning, in which he didn’t care to participate.  Stan decided he didn’t care to have anything to do with Scudder and particularly his Holy-fabulous Aide-de-camp, Austin Taycous.

Stan made it a point to stand up to Scudder and tell him he had a strong faith and his God would not allow him to remain in the clutches of such men.   He would pray for his rapture from among them.  It didn’t play particularly well with Scudder, but he thought the boy’s faith was charming.  He felt he could work with Stan.  While he hadn’t managed to get the big fish from the pond, he had to admit, Stan Edmunds wasn’t exactly small fry.  He was pleased with his catch, and like any sociopath could care less about the damage he might have done to Ole and Hattie Bloom or their associates.  As Holy Prophet and Decider-in-chief of the greatest nation on Earth, he had lobbed a big one across the bow of the Grange as a warning: Don’t fuck with me!  He would teach Yates and that damnable Grange a thing or two.  Scudder forgot one small thing:  Hubris and arrogance have a much greater height to fall from than a cowboy with his boots firmly planted on the ground.

* * * * * * *

Everyone tried to have a good time.  Cable, David and Jonathan dressed up in their cowboy clothes and got Mary Gibbons bundled up into a wheelchair.  They made a surprise, unscheduled visit to the party for a while.  Everyone was pleased to see her, and she seemed to be in good spirits.  She didn’t want to stay long and put a damper on the boy’s day so they soon left.  She insisted Ranger stay and enjoy himself.  She would see him later in her room.  Elsie was in charge of both babes, but she had help.  She had Strom to act as guard and extra food source for the boys and they took full advantage of him.  So did the Long twins.  They were not to be left out when there was lummox tit afoot.

The Austin/Daniels contingency was a little late in arriving.  When they pulled into the compound they were pulling a huge horse trailer behind them. They were followed by the sheriff, his family and several of his deputies who were members of the Grange.  Blake drove the Stamper boys over with several of their cowboy-slave saddle buddies.  It was mass confusion for a while.  The Stampers were all over the Goodnight boys and wishing them happy birthday.   The Olsen boys were already at the party.  They spent the night on their family ranch on the Mighty Bee.

“Y’ain’t gonna’ believe what them men got for you men for your birthday.  Especially, you, Master Waco.”  said Burt.

Burt graduated high school the year before.  He was working full time with Blake Tindell.  Phil, the next oldest just graduated and would join Burt and Blake in their role as builders for the Grange.  They were making good money for their masters.

“I can’t imagine.” said Waco.

“We know’d about it for sometime.  We damn near had to cut our little brother’s tongues out to keep ‘em from spill’n the beans.”  added Phil.

The Sheriff walked up with a big grin on his face.  The boys lined up to shake hands and receive a hug and kiss from Don Lassiter.  He saved Lucas for last.

“I never get tired of saying ‘hello’ to you, young man.” he said sincerely.

“You make my day a little brighter ever’ damn time I see you, too, Sheriff.”  Lucas replied.

“You men’s birthday present is in that trailer.  I won’t tell you what it is.  Just go on over and see for yourselves.”

The boys ran to the trailer and opened the rear door.  They couldn’t believe their eyes.  Inside were four beautiful, if not well kept, fully grown Shire horses; three mares and one stallion.  It didn’t dawn on them at first, but Angus walked up to explain.

“Remember the man I bought Ranger from?” he asked rhetorically, “He lost everything including his ranch because of the government hounding him.  These horses were left behind to fiend for themselves and they damn near starved to death.  Sheriff Lassiter got a call from a neighbor who fed them during the past winter out of the goodness of his heart, but they were costing him too much to keep on feed’n ‘em.  He didn’t have any use for them anyway.  He was going to call the rendering plant and sell them, but the three mares were just too beautiful for him to see destroyed.  He called the sheriff of Reason county.  He knew there were some larger ranches in his county.

The Sheriff, Cotton, Hoot, Chief Tin Penny, his boys, me, Bill and Shane drove down there and picked ‘em up and brought ‘em back to Hoot and Cotton’s place.  Your Stamper brothers have been taking good care of ‘em for the last month and they look a damn sight better’n they did.  This is Ranger’s dame and sire, and two extra brood mares the man bought.  We didn’t think the stallion would make it.  If’n it weren’t for a miracle from Mr. Watkins, he wouldn’t be alive.  Them boys’s been feeding him lummox milk and good oats.  So, it was a concerted effort to get them to you as a birthday present.  Ya’ll got a whole passel of folks to thank for these critters.” Angus laughed.

The boys were stunned.  Little Bear, Travis and Lucas were already inside the trailer getting them loose so they could get them out into the fresh air and sunshine.  The boys could see the big stallion was in poor shape, and he look like he didn't feel very good.  He saw them and became frightened when he didn’t recognize them.

<< Steady, big fellow!  We’re friends.  We mean you no harm.  We just want to help you out of here. >> Lucas sent to him.

<< How can I hear you speak to me?  Only one other man knows how to speak to me.  He gave me the strength to cheat death. >>

<< Mr. Jesse?  We know him.  He’s a good man.  He’s our friend.  He’s here.  Let us help you out, and you can speak with him again. >>

<< I’d like that.  I’d like to thank him for my life. >>

<< Come then, we have another surprise for you.  Your son is here. >>

Ranger was over grazing on the football field with Jack and Jill playing on his back.  They were jumping around, swinging from his neck, and his tail chasing each other.  He didn’t seem a bit concerned.  It was natural for his little buddies to be playing all over him.  Life was good.  He looked up when he heard his name called.  He wondered what was in the big horse trailer the boys were gathered around, but the fresh grass tasted too good to bother investigating.  

“Ranger!  Buddy!  Git chore’ big butt over here!”  Yelled Waco.  The crowd laughed.  

Ranger began to mosey over until he caught sight of the first huge Shire to back out of the trailer and stand there in all her glory.  ‘Could it be?’ he wondered.  He began to break into a gallop.  Jack and Jill forgot their play and hung on for dear life.  He slowed before getting to the crowd.  They made room for him as he slowly approached the big mare.

<<  Mom? >> he asked.

<< Son? >> she asked in return.

<< It’s me, mom.  They named me Ranger. >>

<< I never thought I’d see you again.  Your father is coming out of the trailer now.  He almost died this past winter.  If it hadn’t been for a kind man on the next ranch who fed us and a man who saved his life, he wouldn’t be here today.  I’m so glad to see you again, Ranger. >>

The big horses stood muzzle to muzzle and no one had to interpret what was passing between mother and son.  Everyone knew and felt it.  It was a powerful moment to see Ranger reunited with his family.

<< Are these mares my sisters, Mom? >>

<< No, son.  They’re two mares the rancher bought separately. >>

Ranger walked slowly up to the older stallion and greeted him.  He welcomed him to the Goodnight ranch and told him he would be honored and well taken care of on the ranch.  

<< Are you my son? >> he asked.

<< I am, Sir. >> Ranger replied.

<< You turned out handsome enough. >> he allowed.

<< Thank you, father.  I can see where I get my good looks. >> Ranger said.  The old stallion snorted.

* * * * * * *

The day came to an end and the boys had to say ‘goodbye’ to Maxine.  She was going home to live with the Lassiters.  They hated to let her go, but they knew they’d see her almost every Sunday and holidays.  Laverne went home with the Olsens, and they were thrilled to have her come live with them.  The boys could see her almost any time they wanted.  Moe went home with Ole and Hattie.  He was still taped up.  While he felt perfectly fine, he was milking it like he was the last of the invalid pups.  He had Hattie right where he wanted her; until, one of the boys got out the frisbee and threw it.  Moe managed a miraculous on-the-spot recovery, forgot himself, and made a spectacular leap and catch in mid-air that would make the best of the canine frisbee catchers green with envy.  His cover was blown.  He went home with the Blooms anyway.  Hattie didn’t care, she spoiled him rotten.

Patty, Shep and Larry stayed on at the ranch.  They were working out fine as extra cow dogs for the Goodnight cowboy-slaves and they loved having them around.  They made their work a lot easier.  Lazarus found a great deal of pleasure in them.   Patty was becoming a young lady though and thought she needed her space from her rough and tumble brothers.  She asked Master Long if she could live with him and Lucas.  Lazarus talked it over with Lucas and he agreed to take care of her.  He made a bed for her in his room.  The other two pups stayed first one place, then another.  Shep and Larry were always together.  Sometimes they slept in the boys rooms and other times they slept in the barns with their lummox buddies.  Just like two brothers, they  argued with one another a lot.  They never fought, but there was always something they didn’t agree on.  When it came to work they worked perfectly as a team, or if one was threatened his brother was always there to back him up.  By the same token, if there was mischief to get into, if one was involved you could bet the other was, too.  That’s why Patty chose to distance herself from her brothers.  She worked well with them, but when the day was over she chose to be with Lucas and Lazarus.  They grew fond of her, too.

* * * * * * *

“You just had to dip into that ranching community— didn’t you?”  Austin accused Jeremiah Scudder.  “You never asked me; and, we both know why you didn’t ask me about it— don’t we, poopsie?”

“Calm down.  He’s small potatoes.  I took him and his owners just to show them hicks not to fuck with me.”  

“I doubt seriously they’re the least interested in fucking with you.  I don’t think you impressed them very much.  Either that or they’re praying to a God you don’t represent.”

“What da’ ya’ mean?”

“Haven’t you heard?  Oh, yes, that’s what you have me for, ain’t it?  Seems like young Stan’s owners were raptured several nights ago at one of your religious re-education centers.”

“What are you talking about, you cow?”

“Can the cow routine, Lara, honey!  You’re no poster child for Jenny Craig.  They just disappeared in front of a room full of people.  You’re people have been too afraid to tell you about it.”

“Disappeared?  How could they just disappear?  That don’t make any sense.  They ain’t no such thing as the rapture.  I preach that shit to make them yokels think any day now God could come knocking on their door.  The more I keep ‘em stirred up the more money they contribute.  Thank God for them two damn fools what wrote them Left Behind books.  They weren’t nothing but fairy tale fiction; however, them Jesus freaks believed ever’ damn word like it was the second writing of the Gospels; like it was a damned addendum to Revelations.  It was insanity of the first order; yet, them looneys think it’s coming.  Unless there really is such a thing as pantheistic solipsism then there ain’t gonna’ be no rapture.  It’s just a bunch of hooey.  Besides, if God was to rapture anybody, it would be me and not them penniless fools.”

“I don’t know.  Jesus said the least among you will be first.  That’s pretty clear to me he weren’t talk’n about you, sweet-cheeks.”

“Awww, blow it out chur’ ass, Meg.  You’re the last one what should be quoting scripture to me.  If it weren’t for me, you’d be on the fast-track midnight train to hell, and if I remember correctly you spell that G-e-o-r-g-i-a.  Ain’t that your old stomping ground, darling?”

“Fuck you, Jerry.  So, I’m from the backwoods of Georgia.  I’ve come a long way, baby!  I’m warning you, Katherine Kuhlman, if you don’t give up on that small ranching community providing you with new talent for your semi-vestal virgin pool, they’re gonna’ give you a one way ticket to vulcan-city.  You’re playing with fire with them old cowpeople.  They could take this national in the press and cause you all sorts of embarrassment.  Besides, I’ve heard rumors there’s a good bit of doubt brewing among your Temple Guards you might not be the prophet you claim to be.”

“That’s why I pay you the big bucks, Meg.  What have you heard?”

“I ain’t pinned it down yet, but I have my suspicions.  I’d keep my eye on that big one— Armstrong, I think his name is.  Have you had him clipped, yet?”

“Naw, I talked with him about it, but I ain’t got around to offering him a position in the Holy Order.  He’s the one I sent after the Edmunds boy.”

“Yeah, I know.  I wouldn’t count on young Stan being a virgin.”

“Why?  What do you know, Meg?”

“You know I have my ways, sweet-cheeks.  I had my men sent along with him.  They’re tried and true.  They’re already members of the Holy Order and clipped.  I checked ‘em myself.  They’re cut high and tight.  They got to squat to take a piss.  My ex-men planted some well placed micro-cameras in his motel room.  I got video’s of Armstrong flushing his meds down the motel toilet and him fuck’n the snot out of your new slave-boy on a stopover on their way back to San Antonio airport.”


“You wanna’ see ‘em?”

“No, I’ll take your word.  Son of a bitch!  I was gonna’ offer him a place in the Holy Order and he goes and does something like that to me.  I don’t particularly mind him fuck’n the kid.  Hell, he’s been sleeping with one of my favorites, little Tim.  I think he’s in love with him, but if he is, why would he sleep with the Edmunds boy?”

“He ain’t taking his meds, May-Ling.  He’s getting horny.  He didn’t seduce the kid, the kid seduced him.  Stan crawled in bed with him and offered himself to Brick.  I wouldn’t be too harsh on the man.  He ain’t done nothing to really bust him for.  I would take him to task about his seriousness about being a Temple Guard.  Is he serious about wanting to become a member of the Knight’s of the Holy Order?”

“I asked him already, but he never answered me.  He said he wasn’t sure, so he didn’t lie to me.  He was being honest.”

“On the other hand, he could be a good tool for you.  You know he’s honest and won’t lie to you.  You also said he told you honestly what he thought about things.  He might be good to keep around to keep your head out of your ass.”

“Why, when I got you to do that?”

“That’s my point, you don’t always listen to me!  Sometimes you shut me out altogether and do exactly what you damn well please.  You know what that gets you!  Admit it, every damn time to do something like this behind my back it blows up in your Gotdamn face and you end up running to me to get your out of it.  You might try listening to me this time.  Just listen to the man and see what he’s got to say.  I’d certainly listen to him about that slave-boy.  I got a feeling about him, Jerry.  He may be only a slave to you, but I got sources what tell me he’s well thought of in his community and a member of the Grange.  You just robbed that community of one of their favorite football heroes.  You could be in deep do-do already.”

“What can they do against me?  I am the Federal Government of this country.  I could go in there and claim they’re all seditionist and throw the lot of ‘em in re-education centers.”

“Yeah, you’ve tried it in the past and what has it gotten you?  A lot of unnecessary bloodshed and the economy takes a nose dive.  The last time you pulled one of your bitch-fit tantrums we almost didn’t recover from the recession it caused.  One more and you're looking at a military coup.  You put all them uber-conservative Jesus Nazis in the Pentagon.  They’ve been tolerant of your extracurricular activities so far, but they’re so tight assed they can’t fart without screaming in pain.  They’d just love to take your place.”

“They wouldn’t dare.  I’m the Holy Prophet.”

“Don’t make me laugh, Mary Magdalene.  You walk a thin line in your position, and it’s even gotten thinner over time, because you keep clamping down on the big corporations; wanting more and more money from them for your useless little wars to keep them Jesus Nazis happy and earning more money for all the blood sucking industrialist war profiteers.  The rest of the world is weary of your shit.  The only reason Russia and China ain’t blasted us into the stone age is because we owe them so damn much money.  If they did, they’d feel bad and have to send more aid because they lit the firecracker.”

“All right!  All right!  What will it take to get you off my ass?”

“Talk to me before you do something rash.  If you go down, I go down, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I’ve got twenty years of my gloriously, fabulous life invested in you and your ministry.  I got a feeling you’re gonna’ do something that’s gonna’ cause us a world of hurt.  Whatever you do, think before you act.”

“Okay, I promise.  You know I love you, don’t you?”

“Yeah, like a dog loves his fleas.” Austin tossed off.  He wasn’t in the mood to make nice.

* * * * * * *

Lucas recited a chapter from Peter Pan for the twins before tucking them in for the night.

“Another, Lucas.  Read us another.”

“No, I’ve got to get to bed.  Your daddy is already in bed and he’s waiting for me.  Now, be good and go to sleep.  I’ll come get you in the morning.  If you mess yourselves during the night tell Patty, and she'll come get me.  I’m gonna’ leave the night light on.”

“We love you, Lucas.”  said Bo.

“I love you, too.  Both of you.”

“I love you, too.”  said Jubal.

“Goodnight, Patty.  I love you, too.”

“Goodnight, brother Lucas.”

Lucas left and went to Lazarus room.  They already discussed sleeping together.  Lazarus was awake reading when he came into the room and undressed.

“Them boys is a lot of work for you, Son.”

“I don’t mind, Dad.  They’re ma’ brothers.  Is Captain Jones and Bryce gonna’ take them for a while.”

“We talked about it, but they’re in the heart of the Amazon jungle and the boys are really too young to be wandering around in that place.  I told him he could lift some ranch land and store it on his ship and have them visit there, but so far he and Bryce ain’t had the time.  Maybe when they get a bit older.  Are they getting to be too much for you?”

“No, they were a lot more work when I was in school, but we left them with Ox and Strom, Ping and Pong every day.  I just took care of them in the evenings.  Most of the time ma’ brothers help me.  They’re really growing fast and they’ll be easier to take care of soon.  They’re working really hard on becoming potty trained.  All I have to do is remind them, warriors don’t shit their drawers.”  Lucas laughed and Lazarus joined him.

“Think they’ll forget the warrior thing as they get older?” Lazarus asked with a grin.  “No, wait!  You don’t plan to let ‘em forget it.” he threw back his head and laughed again.

“We’ll see.” allowed Lucas.

“You were fifteen today.  I was as proud of you today as I’ve ever been, Son.  You got one more year to sixteen.”

“You still gonna’ keep your end of the bargain?” Lucas asked.

“You still want me to?”

“Would you be hurt if I chose someone else?”

“Not at all.  It’s yours to call.  You gonna’ share with me who you’re think’n on?”

“No, Sir.”

Lazarus knew he wouldn’t get more out of Lucas.

“Goodnight, Son.”

“Goodnight, Dad.”

End Chapter 31 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com