By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 72

Shane kept what Oblio revealed to him to himself and only shared with his mate what really happened to Coyote John.  Shane was somewhat concerned about it, but his partner thought it was more amusing than conspiratorial.  Cole, who was usually the more conservative of the two, thought if anyone needed to be taught a lesson it was Coyote John.  He reminded Shane of Jesse Watkins and Utah.  The ancients sentenced Utah to be Jesse’s companion for however long it took to make him a better soul.  Cole stressed Monty’s actions held precedent with the ancients.  Of what could Shane accuse Monty?  He neither aided nor abetted Coyote’s escape.  He really didn't go anywhere.  Monty solved his conundrum by keeping someone he loved and cared about from foolishly losing his testicles without jeopardizing his own integrity, and Shane knew, without a doubt, Angus wouldn’t hesitate castrating Coyote John.  He may be living his life as a coyote, but at least he still had his nads.  How could he be upset with the young man?  Besides, as far as Cole was concerned, Angus set him up.  Shane decided to take his pa’s advice and keep his mouth shut; however, they did decide to sit down with the young boy and discuss it.

Cole thought Shane was going down another one of his obtuse explanation byways when he told Oblio what he discovered about John Tin Penny had no parallels in children's storys.  Coyote John was not a good and handsome prince who, through no fault of his own, was arbitrarily changed into a coyote by Monty the wicked, evil sorcerer.  Shane told Oblio the whole story of Coyote John, his history with John's own family, Little Bear, his crime, his sentence and slavery, the Grange, and what Monty's connection was with him.  He neither tried to whitewash his explanation nor talk down to the boy.  He told him the cold, hard, brutally unvarnished truth.  Shane explained they didn't think Monty was being mean to the man.  In a manner of speaking, he was trying to protect John Tin Penny from himself.  He carefully outlined a precedent for Monty's actions and stressed he didn't think his dad would ever use his powers to hurt anyone.  In fact, Shane declare he personally knew Monty cared deeply for John Tin Penny or he never would've taken such drastic steps to see to his well being.  Surprisingly, the boy seemed to understand and felt as long as Monty could reverse Coyote's condition, perhaps after the man learned his lesson, there was no foul.  Shane assured Oblio, Monty could reverse Coyote John's situation, but ask him not to mention to Monty he knew anything.  It was just one more of many secrets the gifted child was asked to keep to himself.  Shane wondered protectively if it was too much for the kid to handle, but an older and wiser parental figure, assured him it bonded Oblio to them and was character building for the boy.  Cole also told Shane he was proud of him for being brutally honest with Oblio.  

* * * * * * *

Monty and his crew began weekly reconnaissance flights to the Moon.  They would take numerous high definition photographs of the traffic on the surface and compare it with the previous week’s photos to see if their was an increase or decrease in activity.  There were only increases.  The ships began to almost completely cover the surface of the dark side of the Moon.  It was a perfect place for them to base their operations as it was completely hidden from the Earth at all times.  Earth didn’t keep up with its public space program and couldn’t get a ship around the Moon if they tried.  Besides, even if they built one and headed for the Moon the aliens would blast it out of the sky.

The grays and reptiles were getting increasingly bold with their abductions.  They were no longer cooperating with Scudder’s government nor any of the other governments of the world to keep their abductions under wraps of secrecy.  Their hunt for food was increasing.  Monty and his crew discovered they weren’t just feeding on the Moon, they were slaughtering, freezing and sending animal and human carcases back to their home world for the equivalent of our supermarket shopping.  Monty had Maxine instruct the evolved intelligence on board the Gopher Bay, whom they named Cecil after Sideshow Bob’s brother because he sounded like David Hyde Pierce, to scan ships they passed in route to see if any abductees aboard had DNA recognizable to their files.  Monty downloaded all known DNA files of every member of the Grange and those of the colonies.  They made sure the grays and the reptiles couldn’t detect their scans.  The scans of the Gopher Bay were so advanced and sophisticated there was no way their sensors could detect them.  On their fifth trip Cecil scanned one of the reptilian ships and a small tone went off as a warning for the captain and his first mate to pay attention.

“There are five recognizable DNA signatures on board the craft just ahead of us, Captain Monty.” Cecil said.  “Their identifications are coming through now.  I have confirmation, Sir, they are five children of the Ong family.”

“Oh, my, God!” exclaimed Monty to Maxine. “My little brothers and sisters.  What are we to do?” Monty froze in horror.

“Don’t panic, Captain Montana.  We have the technology to get them back.” said Maxine.

“Yes, but the Admiral told us ‘no heroics.’” he challenged.

What do you think the Admiral would do?  Think, big brother!  It don't apply to this situation.   We must act now and worry about the consequences later.  We may not have much time.” Maxine barked at him to add emphases, then she continued to speak, "To save the children is worth far more than the worst rebuke we might incur because we decided to override a command.  Besides, the Admiral couldn't have foreseen a situation like this.  If he had I'm sure he would tell you to use your own best judgment.  You let me handle the Admiral."  She added with all seriousness and two more strong barks.

“You’re right, number one.  Cecil, are the abductees mostly children?”

“I’m sensing thirty-five children and fifteen young adults.  A total of fifty humans, Captain.”

“Jesus Christ, what a haul!  Are they being guarded?”

“Yes, there are four reptile guards with stun guns standing over them.”

“Can we beam the lot of them into our cargo bay?”

“Yes, Captain, but we can’t discriminate.  We can take only the Ong children because we have their DNA on file, but the rest we have to take en mass and that will include the four reptiles.”

“Ben, Rocky, Cody, Pearl!” Monty barked at his crew. “I need you for a special mission.”

“I’d like to go, too, Captain.” Dexter spoke up.  Monty smiled at him.

“Very well, the more, the better our chances of success.” he told Dexter.

“Me, too, Captain.” spoke up Bobby.

“Not this time, Bobby.  You don’t have resistance to their stun guns like the bio-droids.”

“Awww...” Bobby complained.

“Do you folks think you can overpower them snakes?” Monty asked.

“No problem, Captain.  Their stun guns won’t work on us.  As small as Cody and Pearl are by comparison to me, Rocky and Dexter, they are still ten times stronger than them.” Ben spoke. “They should have no problems.  Rocky and I will take out ours, Dexter can handle the third, and together, they should be able to handle the fourth.”

“Fine.  You have my permission to take no prisoners.  You will handle them with extreme prejudice, understood?  I know you bio-droid’s respect for life, but remember Rocky, Pearl and Cody, these critters are the ones responsible for your physical deaths and the deaths of your loved ones as bladder whales.  Show them no mercy.”

“Understood, Captain?  We will obey your orders.” they replied.

“Good, then you men and Pearl get to cargo bay A on the double.” Monty ordered and they were on their way.  Rocky notified Monty when they arrived at the cargo bay, and Monty told Cecil to place holograms of the reptile's positions to show  them where to stand to be directly behind the snakes when they beamed aboard the Gopher Bay.

“Cecil, when I give the order, empty their holding bay and bring them aboard the Gopher Bay.  Let’s leave them a calling card; a small but thoughtful gift.  Send one of our small thermite bombs we can detonate from our ship.  We’ll wait until they get right above their landing area then blow them snakes out of the sky.  The debris should take out several other ships.  If we’re lucky it might cause a chain reaction.”

“How about a larger bomb to make sure, Captain?”

“Make it so, Cecil.” he commanded.  “In for a penny, in for a pound.  We might not get another chance.”

They followed the ship and got as close as they could in its wake so’s not to be discovered.  Just when the reptile ship was making its turn to make a landing Monty gave the order and everyone in the alien ship’s cargo bay disappeared.  Monty’s plan went off without a hitch.  Rocky, Ben and Dexter grabbed the three largest reptiles and instantly broke their necks.  They didn’t know what hit them.  Cody and Pearl struggled a bit with theirs, but they were much stronger and easily dispatched their foe.  None of the four were breathing.  A couple were still flopping about in the throes of death.  When the kids and young adults saw they were with humans again, who were obviously rescuing them, they started cheering and weeping.  They knew they were saved from becoming snake food.  Rocky, Ben and Dexter quickly disposed of the reptile’s bodies and shoved them into the matter, anit-matter redistribution units for breaking down into their basic molecular components.  Monty told them not to feed them into the replicator system, but feed them directly to the drive system.

The captain of the snake ship didn’t have time to realize his cargo was pinched.  He was too busy preparing for a landing on the dark side of the Moon.  He was about six hundred yards above the surface when Monty gave Maxine the order to detonate the bomb they beamed on board.  When it went off, it lit up the entire surface of the Moon as bright as day.  It certainly had its desired effect.  It caused a horrendous explosion.  Other ships around the area started exploding until there was a huge area of gray and reptilian ships going off like Chinese firecrackers on a string.  The explosions started moving outward like ripples on a lake when a big rock is thrown onto a still surface.  It was awesome.  Monty could swear Maxine had a big smile on her face.

“We can go now, Ensign.” Monty said quietly.

“Get us out of here, Cecil.” Maxine barked to the evolved intelligence.
“Right away, Ensign Potter.” Cecil replied, and they were away.

Monty ran down to the bay to speak with the kids they rescued.  The Ong children saw him and ran to his arms.  He held them and kissed each one.  They were sobbing and crying.  He did his best to comfort them.

“Oh, Monty, Monty!  I told my brothers and sisters you would come for us.  They didn’t believe me.  They told me to shut up, I was crazy.” said the youngest little girl. “I never lost faith in you, big brother.” she told him.  Monty broke into tears in her small arms.

“I knew you wouldn’t, princess.  None of you have to worry.  We’ll get you back safely.  We’ll try to unite you other kids with your families if we can.  Those we can’t, we’ll find a place for you in our Grange.  You will be safe.” Monty finished and a cheer went up from the fifty abductees.

They returned to the Bandersnatch.  There was a group of men waiting for them including Granddad Ong, Mister Ong and his two oldest sons whose kids were abducted.  They were with the Admiral and his staff.  The Ong children were thrilled and overjoyed to see their family.  Monty was really worried.  He went against a direct order.  Maxine wasn’t worried.  She insisted the Admiral would listen to her.  She was right, he did listen to her and Monty, but Lazarus was a gentle man and knew extraordinary situations call for extraordinary actions.

“You and your crew done the right thing, Captain Montana.  I’m proud of you.  Ensign Potter displayed exceptionally sound reasoning under stress, and I think she deserves a commendation and a raise in rank, Captain.  What do you think?” Lazarus smiled.

“I agree, Captain.  She was the one what assured me we should take action.  I was hesitant.  I'm afraid I froze up.  I’m glad I listened to my number one.” he allowed.

“Ain't that’s why you made her your number one?  So’s she could give you her best advice.  That’s what you want in a number one.  Let’s get these folks to sickbay and get them checked out.  We got our work cut out for us to locate their families and get them returned.” Lazarus said.

The lizards and the gray insects were stunned by the explosion, but they didn’t know how it happened.  There was no evidence of firepower from a nearby ship.   Even if it was cloaked they could sense where the blast came from and trace the movement of the ship.  There was nothing.  It was like a great accident happened upon the landing of the reptilian ship causing a chain reaction from the impact of the blast and the heat.  It was difficult to tell the difference between an anti-matter reactor breach and a thermite bomb.  They produce the same type of bright explosion, but once the anti-matter chamber was breached, the resulting explosion or implosion hid the initial cause of the blast.  They were angry as hell, but there wasn’t a lot they could do about it.  They lost a large number of ships and personnel, to say nothing of the harvest of meat they stole from Earth, but they didn’t have anyone to blame.  They didn’t take their wrath out on the Earth because they chalked it up to an accident.  When the Admiral watched the videos he laughed at the amount of destruction Monty and Maxine caused.

“Nice job, gentlemen.  Great planning on your part, Captain Montana, to let the ship get close to the others before detonating the bomb.  My compliments to Cecil for suggesting the use of a larger bomb.  It all came together perfectly.  You may have bought us more time.  They’re going to have to do a massive clean up and rebuild part of their station.  It may take months.  It gives me an idea.  We might be able to schedule several more ‘accidents’ without them knowing.  If they can’t prove something was caused by an alien source they won’t come after the Earth.  Next time, it will be a bomb of mass destruction.” Lazarus allowed.  Everyone liked the idea the Admiral was finally making an effort to fight back.  Fighting an invading plague like the snakes and insects was not one of Lazarus’ priorities.  He would leave the fighting to the very end when his ships would be leaving Earth.  He was counting on his superior scout ships, the Banshee, several of the new Venusian ships, and the jewel in their crown, Monty’s Gopher Bay to protect the larger ark ships.

The Venusians were slowly coming back as major players in the solar system.  With the androids help at Mars Port and having access to a gate between planets, their fleet of ships was growing by eight every six months.  Even the older ones were gutted and refurbished with new interiors, yoking, and the latest in advanced engine technology.  Neither the grays nor the reptile’s ships couldn’t touch them.  The snakes and grays were the superior technological races in several galaxies for thousands of years, but they let themselves become complacent.  Without their knowing, other races caught up with them and surpassed them.  They were looking down the barrel of a loaded gun and didn’t have a clue.  The building of the Venusian ships was being done under such secrecy the reptiles didn’t have any knowledge the Venusian were well on their way to becoming a major power in the galaxy.

The only difference was, the Venusian were a peaceful race.  They only wanted their ships for peaceful exploration, the protection of their planet and the creatures on the surface who had come to add so much to their lives.  Before the Earth people became interested in the bladder whales they never paid them much attention.  Their world was below the surface and the whales were left to their own devices in the thin atmosphere of the planet.  They knew they were there but had very little interaction with them.  Since the Earth people, banding with Admiral Long and the Grange, gave so willingly of themselves and put their lives in jeopardy to save their world, a strong bond of friendship was established.  They made a solid pact with the Grange they would do what they could to help see they got away from Earth to begin their voyage to another world.

Since the gray’s slaughter of so many of the whales and the heroic efforts of the Earthmen, the Visallians, and several of their own citizens to save them, the Venusians came to look upon the bladder whales as a neglected world treasure.  They were a species to be studied, protected and admired.  The recorded songs of the bladder whales became a hot selling item on three worlds.  Naturally Darryl was behind the recording which only increased his wealth.  Darryl was so wealthy he became almost a government unto himself, but he never intruded on the world government of Venus as such.  He was consulted regularly but he only gave his opinions.  He backed up his ideas and opinions with public works to benefit those who were not so well off.  The people loved him and looked forward to anything he did.  When Darryl put his stamp on any project the people of Venus and Mars knew they were in for a treat.

* * * * * * *

Washington, H.C. (Holy City) The White House

“I don’t want none of them doctors here when I have my baby!” Scudder yelled at Austin Taycious.  “Get me Jesse Watkins and his dog Trey or whatever the hell his name is.”  he bellowed.

“I believe it’s Utah, sweetie.” Austin grinned.

“Yeah, you’re right!  That’s it!  And don’t call me ‘sweetie.’  I ain’t sweet!” he growled walking up and down holding his hands under his extended belly like it was a watermelon.

“Commander Jones told you he would ask them to come to you when the time comes.  He’s said he will ask his cousin who is a doctor from Utah to assist you.  He says he has similar powers comparable to Jesse and Utah.” Austin reassured.

“Listen to me, Austin!  I think I just about got them folks talked into taking you along with them.” Scudder told Taycious.

“Me?  Why me?  I certainly ain’t worthy to take up room someone with a better track record than mine could fill.  I’s jes’ planning on going with you, sport.  I’ve had a good run, and I don’t particularly want more of the same I’ve had to deal with all my life.  I don’t want to be an outsider looking in.  I’m tired of being an old faggot.  Been there, done that.  No thanks.  If there’s another life after this, you think I’m gonna’ be welcome there?  Not too damn likely.  I ain’t straight enough or neo-con religious fanatic enough to make it where most of them bastards think they’s going.  I certainly wouldn’t care to live an eternity as a second class citizen to them vile bible thump’n asshats.  That wouldn’t be no heaven for me.”

“Look!  We both know the probability there ain’t no such thing is better than the platform I been preaching all these years.  Bottom line, fag boy, you been good to me over the years.  That’s the closest to a statement of affection you’re gonna’ get from me, ya' dumb shit.  You, this baby I'm carrying, and Brett Jones is all I care about, and I know damn well they ain’t got no room for me.  They done told me so.  Besides, I gotta’ stay here and fight to the very end.  A captain’s gotta’ go down with his ship; in my case, the ship of state.”

“Well, I ain’t gonna’ hold my breath, one way or the other.” Taycious said with disgust.

When the time came Jesse Watkins, Utah and Basil Troubadour were beamed into the infirmary in the basement of the White House.  Scudder insisted only his closest Temple Guards be on duty.  He wanted Commander Jones, Olafson and Hawkins present.  Of course, he wanted Austin Taycious there as his closest family member.  Since he couldn’t nurse the baby the men brought along a big lummox from Mars who was originally rescued on Earth from a band of Bigfoot hunters who had him cornered.  He became interested in integrating with humans and the Grange in particular.  His name was Droon.  He made it no secret he thought he might like to bond and have bairns with a male human.  He had a human male playmate when he was a small bairn whom he loved very much.  He was a handsome lummox; a young, fully mature, male.  Scudder was a bit taken aback when he first saw him appear with the men.

“What the hell is that thing?” he asked between contractions.

“The baby’s wet nurse, Norman.” Jesse smiled. “Or better known on your world as a Bigfoot.  With their species, the male carries the baby for the last six months of maturation and feeds it from his large breasts.  Lummox milk is the purest, more nutritionally healthy food in the universe.  Your baby will thrive on his milk.”

“Damn.  You people got some strange ways, but if my partner says it’s okay, it’s all right with me.” Scudder allowed.

“It’s fine, holy father.” Jones assured him.  “I drink lummox milk quite often when I’m offered some.  It helped me develop some of my more unusual abilities.”

Scudder had his baby amid much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Basil asked Brett Jones if he wanted him to dematerialize, go up Scudder’s dark hole and lead the baby out in a dematerialized form.  It might be easier on Scudder.

“No, that won't be necessary.  I’m sure you would be successful.  While it’s most charitable and terribly brave of you to suggest, just like I wouldn’t send you, alone, into the dark hole of Calcutta, I wouldn’t put you through that either.” they shared a laugh together, “I think he needs to experience the joy but mostly the pain of childbirth.  After he’s had his pussy stretched tighter than a drumhead, it just might change his politics on abortion rights.” Jones smiled.  Basil nodded his head in agreement.

“What what will happen with the baby, Brett?” Jesse asked.

“We’ve discussed it, and we’ll take the baby back to the colonies with us.  Norman can’t care for him here.  Can you imagine Austin Taycious playing nanny?  We’ve decided an immediate split will be easier on him and the boy.  I can always bring little Brett back to visit his mom, or Uncle Jerry.”  they looked at each other and laughed at the thought of Jeremiah Scudder being a mother.  Brett Jones continued, “Droon, Basil, Lyle and Strom will look after him.  He’ll be living with Basil and Droon in an all male commune.  They call themselves the sons of Knute, from Lake Wobegon, which, according to Garrison Keillor, comes from an old Indian word meaning "the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you]." they shared another laugh.

Jesse, Utah, and Basil took care of Scudder after he gave birth to the child.  Beyond holding the baby for a minute, and noting the boy was the very image of his daddy, he didn’t seem to be terribly interested.  He was far more interested in pumping Jesse for information about their people and could he have a meeting with the leader of their group?

“We don’t have an official leader, Norman.  What do you want to talk about?  I can represent our group as well as anyone.  If you ask something that needs a further answer, I’ll get back to you.”

“Can you help us?  There seems to be no weapons we can use on them.  We need to buy time to organize.  We can’t figure out where they have their base of operations.  We suspect the Moon, but we can’t send a rocket or a satellite around it.  We’ve tried and they shoot them out of the sky.” he implored Jesse.

“We discovered, quite by accident, their major base of operations are taking place on the dark side of the Moon.” Jesse confirmed.

“Do you have ships that can deliver a large payload— say, fifty megatons or bigger?” Scudder fished.

“We do.  We don’t have any devices that large or nuclear based, but it would only postpone the inevitable.  Furthermore, we run the risk of being discovered and them coming after us.  It would be like stirring up a hornet's nest.  Why would we do that?” Jesse asked rhetorically.

“Well, you know, I could put my men onto finding you and forcing you out into the open.” he challenged.

“You could try, but do you really want to chance starting a war on two fronts.  Not even Napoleon would do a dumb thing like that, Norman.  Bush did, and he got his ass whipped.  Besides, we’re not warlike.  We’re a peaceful people.  We won’t fight you other than to protect ourselves.  We’d know about it long before you could get a plane in the air.  You can’t keep an order secret from us.  Our people are scattered throughout your cabinet and administration.  We know when you sneeze.  If we heard you were planning an assault, we’d simply pack our bags and leave.” Jesse spoke firmly, but with confidence.
“C’mon!  Have a heart.  We need help, Jesse.  We’re losing this war because we can’t get organized against them.  If we could destroy their base of operations, it would buy us the time we need to get the major players together to defeat them.”

“We do have hearts.  Big ones.  We’re saving the human race from annihilation, for Christ sake.  What are you doing?  Get off your dead ass and get organized.  Use your power to bring the nations together to fight them, Norman.  What you’re asking is for us to fight your war for you.”

“No, not for us, with us.  They don’t have to know we had help.  I don’t have to be specific with them.  I can give them an ultimatum, if they don’t cease and desist, we are prepared to strike back with a major assault.  I don’t expect them to capitulate.  Then if you could make a major strike against them it would be a bluff, but they won’t know.  It just might buy us the time we need.”

“If we help you there's a possibility our intervention could postpone the Armageddon you Christers have been praying and working hard to bring about for centuries.   If it don't occur because the aliens force your hand you'll eventually do it to yourselves.  You'll shoot yourself in the foot.  I'll tell you what I will do.
I’ll discuss your idea with our council of elders.  My best guess is it will only mean a longer period for us to remain on Earth to gather more to save, but we’re getting ready to leave even as we speak.  We ain’t shifted into high gear yet, but if things get worse, we will.”

“How much longer will you be here?” Scudder probed.

“Hard to say, Norman, the way things are going.  We may have to pull the plug sooner than later.  My personal best guess would be two to five years maximum, but that’s being generous.  Many others, not so optimistic, might argue one to three years.  How do we know you won’t use the bomb against us?” Jesse asked.

“Don’t be silly.  You have my son.  Why the hell would I want to kill my own flesh and blood?  You think I went through the pain of giving birth to him only to kill him or have him on the menu for them snake bastards?  I want him to survive.  Beside, you get the bomb and a detonator with it.”

“I’ll take it up with the elders, Norman, but I ain’t promising nothing.”

“That’s okay.  I understand.  Just consider it.  Wouldn’t it buy you more time?” Scudder asked.

“It might, but a fifty megaton bomb is one hell of an explosion.”

“We got bigger.” Scudder urged him.

“Any bigger and you might do permanent damage to the Moon’s orbit or trajectory.  You should also be careful of tossing them around down here.  The isotopes you use have a half-life of three hundred thousand years.  Nothing would be habitable on the surface.  You couldn’t live underground long enough to reclaim the planet.  That’s why we’re leaving.  After the final dustup happens, it won’t be worth salvaging.” Jesse did his best Michael Rennie impersonation.  You could almost see Gort standing by his side.

* * * * * * *

The men returned to the colonies with Brett Jones’ new son.  Everyone wanted to see the new baby.  Lazarus was more interested if Scudder got any feedback about the explosion on the far side of the Moon.

“Naw, Sir, he didn’t say a word.  I don’t know if the aliens would say anything to him.  If they think it was an accident, they wouldn’t take the chance of alerting Scudder to the whereabouts of their base of operations.”

Jesse told the Admiral about Scudder’s offer to secret a fifty megaton bomb on board one of their ships then remotely setting it off.

“No!  Absolutely not!  We'd have to carry it to transfer it to the alien ship.  Not in one of our ships.  It’s just too damn risky.  If something can go wrong, it will.  Dealing with Scudder is like dealing with a Jackal.  The more contact we have with him, the more he learns about us.  We don’t need an extension of time.  While it would be nice to hang around for a while longer to collect more, we can leave almost overnight if we have to.  What about his ships?”

“I don’t think they have any viable spaceships, Sir.” Jesse said.

“Don’t kid yourself, Son.  Of course they do.  They have, at least, eight reptilian ships they’ve captured over the years, and they know how to fly them.  Many UFO sightings have been alien craft piloted by Earthmen.  Last count, they had close to sixteen operable Gray ships.  Let them sacrifice one of their ships to deliver the bomb, we can follow along and beam the pilots out before the explosion if they want our cooperation.”

Jesse returned with Utah and told Scudder the Admiral’s offer.  He didn’t use the word ‘Admiral.’  It sounded too militaristic.  Jesse said the council of the elders discussed it and told Scudder what they decided.  Scudder claimed he didn’t know of any alien craft.  Even though the major members of the clandestine, secret space program left the planet years ago, they left behind the alien craft they managed to recover.  They were able to piece several together and learned to fly them.  There were still pilots assigned to the top secret base who flew them on a regular basis.  Jesse laughed at him and accused him of lying through his teeth.  He told him to forget the whole thing.  His people didn’t need any more time.  They were ready to go at a moment's notice.  That wasn’t quite true, but it was a powerful bluff on Jesse’s part.  He thanked Norman for his time, and told him he and his partner were leaving.

“No, wait!  All right, we do have several.  I just hate to sacrifice one.  We might need it to fight them off when they make a full invasion.”

“By then you will have lost your advantage to use them effectively, Norman.  They have the same technology.  They built them ships, they can take them out.  They can’t take ours out.  They ain’t reached the technology we got.  Ours work on a totally different principle, and they can’t touch us.”

“How the hell could you be so far advanced?  You can’t even speak proper English.  You talk like an ignorant cowboy hick.” Scudder said viciously.

“Goodbye, Norman.” Jesse grinned.  There was a great flash of light and they were gone.

“Goddamn it, Jerry!  Why the hell did you hafta' go and insult the man?  Language ain’t important.  Look at you.  You can barely read or write.  You certainly can’t claim to be no paragon of proper English; yet, you made it to become the leader of the free world,— or what used to be the free world.  Let’s face it, you need them.” Austin blasted him.

“Aww, fuck him and his dog, Spot!” he exclaimed.  “He acts like he’s so damn much better’n me.”

“Well,...” Austin grinned.

“Well, what?” Scudder demanded.

“He is!” Austin nailed him.

* * * * * * *

The Ongs were horrified their children were kidnaped by the aliens so easily.  It brought home to them the necessity of the Grange and made them even greater supporters.  The long shot was working on the elder Ongs and they couldn’t be more happy.  The younger men were reverting to an age in their late twenties and had more stamina than they had in a long time.  They respectfully requested the shot for all their children and young adults.  Lazarus mentioned to Monty they should consider lifting the Ong’s property onto his ship before much longer.  In the meantime, the Grange had a meeting and discussed things a family could do to prevent other kidnapings.  The kids, who were taken, were so traumatized they refused to leave their homes.  The two older brothers, an older daughter and her husband were talking about selling their properties and asked about buying property on one of the ships.  Since the Bandersnatch held three hundred ships in its docking bay exactly like the Buttercup, Lazarus decided to start filling them up.  He had the perfect ship for the Ongs.  He gave it to Monty and Maxine as an additional scout ship.  Since most of the scout ships were named after flowers, it was appropriately named ‘The Lotus Flower.’  Or simply the 'Lotus' for short.  It contained the notorious evolved intelligence Anna Mae Wong.

The Admiral had Waco and Lucas teach Monty and his crew everything they needed to know and had Monty sitting Captain’s chair and Lieutenant Junior Grade Maxine Potter in the number one position within a week.  They were both amazed at how quickly Maxine learned her job.  She never forgot a thing and would sometimes remind Monty what he was suppose to do.  If they ever had any doubts about a dog sitting first chair to a captain of a starship, they vanished quickly while working with Lieutenant JG Maxine Potter.

Anna Mae Wong had been sitting idle for sometime and was thrilled to be brought into service again.  She was in top form and wanted to prove her mettle.  The other ships laughed and said she was on her best behavior.  For a couple of weeks they took the Lotus on their weekly runs to the Moon and back for photo reconnaissance.  The photos showed the destruction wasn’t total, but it blew up about two thirds of the ships.  Working in low gravity and in spacesuits in a vacuum is difficult.  They could see they were beginning to clear away the debris, but from Kyron’s best guess, it would take them from eight months to a year to get the place back to fully functional.  In the meantime, the demands on the governments for a steady supply of fresh human flesh diminished.  Scudder asked the representative of the snakes why this was happening, but he refused to tell.  When he asked Jesse he got a different answer.  

“As far as we can tell from photo reconnaissance, one of their ships anti-matter drives imploded as it was coming in to dock at the port.  The resultant implosion caused violent shockwaves and set off about two thirds of their ships in a chain reaction.  Those it didn't destroy haven't moved in weeks.  We can only assume they have been rendered inoperable or tainted for use from radiation.  From our photos it looks pretty bad.  We guestimate it will take anywhere from eight months to a year to be fully operational.  They don’t have the facilities to process the meat, so demand drops.  The accident poses only a minor setback for them.  Why should they worry?  You’re like a sure thing; beef on the hoof.  You’ll still be here grazing in the pasture when they’re ready to come harvest again.” Jesse explained.  Naturally he wasn’t about to implicate his people in the destruction of the base so he just left out a few details.  He continued, “Now you don’t have to worry about sacrificing your ship.”

“Yeah, that’s great news, but it’s like you said, it’s only a matter of time.” Scudder lamented.

“Exactly.” replied Jesse.

“Look!  I’m ready.  I’m trying to get people on board to fight against them.  This will give us a reprieve, but we still need more time.  In the meantime, they notified us they will be taking everything from small pets, sheep, goats, and human children as they please to feed their people.  It won’t be as many or as much.  That means they won’t be demanding such large quotas from the government, but they will continue.  Oh, yes, and we have to continue our baby program.  They lowered the number, but human babies are still their number one preferred food.”

“So what are you saying, Norman?  Will you be willing to sacrifice one of your ships after they rebuild and are fully functional again?”

“I am.  You sure you can beam the pilots out before the damn thing goes off?”

“We can, but you have to let us inspect the ship on its way, to satisfy us there's no more tonnage in the bomb that fifty megaton.  If we find you’ve lied to us and plan to use a larger payload we will extract your men and blow it up.  Fifty megaton is more than enough to wipe out the dark side of the Moon.  It will cause its own eclipse.”

“You have my word and you may inspect the ship in route.  I don’t want to damage the Moon, I just want to put off their invasion as long as possible.”  Scudder insisted.

“Also, if we decide to help you with this project we want something in return.” Jesse said.

“What’s that?” Scudder asked.

“We ain’t real sure how their beam system works.  We need to find out the technology behind it so’s we can better protect our people.  We’re losing people just like you are, and we can’t very well rescue them without blowing our cover.  Once they’re taken, there’s little we can do about it.  As much as we hate to, we have to abide by the old saying the sacrifice of the few outweighs the survival of the many.”

“We don’t even have that luxury.” lamented Scudder quietly.

“Now is your time to shine, Norman.  If you ever imagined yourself a great leader, now is the time to step up to the plate and knock one out of the park.  May I suggest you listen a little more closely to your associate.  He’s the only one between you what’s got a lick a' sense.” Jesse laughed.  Austin nodded his head and grinned.

“Look!  I want an answer.  Will you consider taking Austin when you go?” he demanded.

“Jerry!” Austin exclaimed like he was embarrassed.

“I’ll make you a deal, Norman.  You cooperate with us, give us what we want and make damn sure you don’t try to do an end run on us, I'll let him come with us under one condition.”

“What’s that?” Scudder asked.

“He agrees to live the rest of his life as a woman and swears never to become involved in religion or politics again.” Jesse grinned.

“Is that all?” laughed Scudder, “Hell, he already is a woman.  He just ain’t got no cunt.” he bellowed.

“Yes, I do!  She’s standing right in front of me!” Austin countered.  “I have no problem with Jesse’s offer, but if I’m gonna’ look like I do now with a cunt and tits; thanks, but no thanks.   Hell, I already got the tits, but there ain’t nothing more unattractive than man tits. 
I'd look like an old sow what's had one too many litters.  What man would wanna' take a second look at me?” Austin lamented.

“Remember them make-over reality shows at the turn of the century?” Jesse asked.

“Yeah.” agreed both men.

“When we get through with you, you’ll be a ravishingly beautiful, attractive woman.” Jesse promised.

“Where do I sign up?” laughed Austin.

“Ah, it won’t make no difference.  No offense, Jesse, but knowing him like I do, he’ll marry some dumb hick of a cowboy who don’t have two nickels to rub together and they'll have fifteen kids.” Scudder laughed.  

“That’s all right.  If he loves me and keeps me well fucked, I’ll be happy to have his kids.  Fifteen sounds about right.  With fifteen kids I won’t have time to even think about politics and as far as religion is concerned, God never answered any of my prayers.” Austin smiled.

“Remember, Norman, your good faith with us will determine whether your friend survives.  Cross us and he perishes with the rest of you Christers.”

“You people are none believers?” Scudder sneered.

“No more than you, Norman.  You never did believed all that crap.  You were just lazy and saw an easy way to make a buck without breaking the law.  Maybe if there were laws against god and Jesus hucksters like yourself, your planet might not be in the fix it’s in.  We believe in the goodness of people to do the right thing and take care of their neighbors without the hate and evil hypocrisy of superstition and myths.  We still have a few who believe.  They’re allowed to practice their religion in small groups without a figurehead to bend the scripture to their way of thinking to spread hate an ultra-conservative  ignorance and intolerance.  Their numbers will die out over time, or they'll come to see the light until there’s no longer a need for religion.  We teach in our schools the danger and ridiculousness of such myths.  Besides, we live much longer lives than you folks and don’t fear death the way you do.  Your religion is little more than a cult of death.  It reads like a bad script for a cheaply made vampire movie: eating the dead body and drinking the blood to rise again from the dead to become zombies for Christ to go out to convince the ignorant and fearful to eat and drink to create more zombies.  So they can worship some jewish prophet who was sent to Earth by his heavenly father to die a grizzly death nailed to a cross to die for their sins.  Gastly stuff.  There was never such gratuitous sadism in gay porn flicks than there was in that two-bit closeted Aussie actor's movie "The Passion of Christ."

Think about your greed brought about by your so called faith.  All those poor sons of bitches out there who are barely living by the skin of their teeth and still sending you money over and above their excessive personal taxes, while the rich and fat cats in your society keep them uneducated and stupid to control them so they might garner all the wealth for themselves.  The poor bastards think they’re buying their way into a better life after death.  What greater crime is there than to be a peddler of lies and false promises while at the same time scaring the crap out of them with threats of burning for an eternity in a lake of fire.  Religion has to be the single greatest racket invented by mankind.  Bottom line, those who have the genetic predisposition to reject mythology will be saved.  It’s called evolution.  Survival of the fittest.  Unfortunately for you people, the fittest turned out to be the folks what had the brains and fortitude to turn their backs on superstition and greed.  They will survive.  Austin just happens to be one of those people.  Nevertheless, his salvation will still depend on your good faith.”  

“I’ll admit I lost my faith a long time ago, but I have to keep teaching it to be the holy prophet.  I promise I will abide by my word to the letter if you will agree to take Austin with you.” Scudder promised.

“Agreed.” said Jesse.

“I don’t suppose having another child would make a difference for me?” Scudder smiled.

“You mean, you get pregnant and we have to take you to save the baby?” Jesse grinned.

“Exactly.” smiled Scudder.

“We don’t need you to save the baby.  If it’s over three months old we can beam it out of your body and raise it the rest of the way using a lummox's pouch as a suitable incubator.  We don’t hold your hypocritical views on abortion.  If it’s younger than three months, it will perish with you.”

“Man, that’s cold.” Scudder whinged.  

“No, it’s pragmatic reality, Norman.  Someone has to draw the line, and you ain’t got the best track record in that department.  Just look at the number of good people who were sent to your Cheney camps and died simply because they donated to a Democratic progressive candidate.  Where did you get the information?  By violating their fourth amendment rights; illegally wiretapping their Internet traffic.  Bush’s government did away with the FISA laws and managed to grant immunity to the major communications networks to spy on its citizens, while the public dished out top dollar for their service no matter how poor it was.  How is that any different from abortion?  Killing is killing no matter the circumstances.”

“All right, I agree, but what can I do about it now?  I don’t need your preaching.  I’ll meet your demands.  I’ll make sure you have full access to the files and what alien ships we have.  Do you need to see the Gray’s ships?”

“Yes, we need to compare, or if your people already have data and can provide us with copies, which we can substantiate through testing and observation, it will suffice.” Jesse agreed.

“If you have any problems, have them contact me or Austin directly.  Let me know when you want to visit?” said Scudder.

“As soon as possible and remember...” Jesse trailed off his sentence.

“I know!  I know!  No double-crossing.  I have no doubt if I did you’d win, and I’d still be up a creek without a paddle.” Scudder lamented.

“Yes, and you know the name of that creek, don’t you?” Jesse grinned.

“I know it well.  I’ve been there many times lately.” Scudder sighed.

* * * * * * *

Scudder was good to his word.  He allowed a party of twelve, Lazarus, Lucas, Waco, Shane, Monty, Maxine, Ben, Rocky, Ping, Cable, Jesse, and Ox to beam into area fifty-one.  When they just appeared inside the main building there was a great deal of scrambling and panic by the guards.  They didn’t know what to think.  Among the intruders was a beautifully colored racoon-primate critter, a dog, and a huge creature what looked like a Bigfoot.

“Easy men, we’re here under the direct orders of your president.” Lazarus spoke quietly to them.

“Why would you bring a monkey, a dog, and whatever the hell that big furry things is?” a guard demanded.

“Hey, watch your mouth, asshole!  Ping and Ox are my friends and I assure you, they’re a lot smarter than any of you lesser developed primates.” spoke Maxine.

“Oh, fuck!  That’s all I need, a talking dog.” said one of them sarcastically.

“Get over yourselves!  Do your damn job, if that ain’t too much to ask, and get your people in charge up here on the double!” Maxine barked at them.

They turned and bolted to the phones.

“Good one, sweetheart!  Glad we brought you along.” said Lazarus quietly.

After the receiving party got over Ben Johnson and Rocky Lane look alikes, and adjusted their thinking to Ping and Ox they led the group to an elevator.  They took them nearly thirty stories underground where the alien vessels were stored.  They could move them to another enormous elevator and take them to the surface for flying when needed.  The non-military team met them and were much more receptive and fascinated by the strange critters and a talking dog.

“How did you people come by talking dogs?” one asked as if he was amazed and wanted one himself.

“Advanced genetic modification.” was all Jesse said.

“Why is she wearing a collar with Ensign bars?” another asked.

“Cause we ain’t got her the JG bars she earned yet.” chuckled Lazarus obviously having a good time with their lack of acceptance.  He thought to himself he’d much rather have Maxine for a junior officer than one of these clowns.

“A dog?  An officer in the Navy?” asked another incredulously.

“No, an officer in a fleet of starships.” Monty allowed.  “We have no military.” he added.

“How can she pilot a spaceship?”

“Very well, actually.” said Jesse.

They were suspicious but cooperative with Lazarus and his party.  They provided them with all the scientific data they requested.  They showed them a brief but thorough video on how to pilot both crafts.  They demonstrated the beams on both alien ships.  They were almost identical in design and execution.  They were far more primitive devices than the ones on Lazarus and Trey’s ships.  Monty’s ship was more advanced than either.  Lazarus, Ping, Monty, Maxine, Ben, and Cable went over the documents to make sure everything they needed was there.  It was, and they were certain they could duplicate it with little problem.  They took the documents and were going to leave with them when the personnel insisted they leave them behind.  

“Our understanding with your president was you would provide us with all documentation for the beam devices on both ships.” challenged Jesse, then added, “I was the one who made the arrangements with him.  You better get him or Austin Taycious on the phone immediately to clear this up.” he sounded perturbed by their lack of cooperation.

“We have provided the documents.  We just weren’t told to provide you with copies.” the manly woman in charge insisted.

“Get Scudder on the phone, I wish to speak with him.” Jesse demanded.

“You mean our Holy Prophet don’t you, Sir?” one little lickspittle sneered.

“No, I said exactly who I wish to speak with, Jeremiah Scudder.” he said without backing down.  Someone came running up to the lead she-male in charge and whispered something to her.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” she apologized, “but it won’t be possible for us to get President Scudder on the phone.  He's much too busy.” she said like her word was the final word on the matter and there was no appeal.

“Kyron, what is President Scudder doing at the moment?” Lazarus spoke.  A booming voice-of-god voice replied,

“He’s in an important meeting with his cabinet and several foreign dignitaries, Sir.” The lackeys looked around to identify from where the voice was coming.

“And Austin Taycious?” Lazarus asked.

“He’s eating a sandwich in his room, Sir.”

“Is he alone?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Bring him here, please.”

“As you wish, Admiral.” Kyron boomed.  There was a great flash of light and Austin Taycious stood before them with a dumbfounded look on his face and a half eaten sandwich in his hand.

“What the fuck!” he said, “Where the hell am I?  Jesse?” Austin looked at Jesse and Utah.

“You’re damn near thirty stories underground at Area 51 in Nevada, Mr. Taycious.  Sorry to bother you, Son, but we’ve run into a bit of a snag with your people.  These folks tell us we can’t take the documentation with us we asked for.” Jesse explained briefly.  As befuddled as Austin was, his heart melted when Jesse called him ‘son.’

“What?  What the hell are you people doing?” Austin yelled at them, “It was agreed upon by your president.  I was there at the meeting, and I can assure you if you don’t let them have what they want, there will be hell to pay.  These people are trying to help us.  If you morons don’t want to find yourself out of here overnight, out of a job and on the streets, you best do what the man asks.  Any questions?” he looked at them like they better not have any questions.

“Sorry, Mr. Taycious.  It wasn’t made clear to us they were to take the documentation.” manly woman said meekly.

“What part of let them see or take anything they want don’t you understand?  Well, now you know.  Give them what they want, and let them be on their way.  Is everybody clear on that?” he demanded.

“Yes, Sir.  They can take the documents.” the woman agreed.

“Good.  I’m sorry you had problems.  I promise you won’t have any more.  Now, how do I get back to D.C.?” he looked frustrated.

“Thanks, Austin.  Kyron, send Mr. Taycious back from whence he came.” said Lazarus.

There was another flash of light, and Austin was gone.

“It’s been nice meeting you gentlemen.  Without further ado, we’ll take our leave.  Kryon, bring us home, please.” Lazuras spoke.

“By your leave, Admiral.” There was another bright flash and they were gone.  The technicians looked at each other in disbelief.

“Well, at least they were polite about it.  They could’ve just taken the documents and ran.  There's nothing we could've done to stop them.” said one of the brighter dolts.

“Yeah.” agreed the rest.  “Wouldn’t you love to get a look into their bag of tricks?” said another.  “Wonder what you have to do to join them?” said another. “I understand they won’t take anyone who believes in religion.  That leaves us out.  Do you think maybe we bet on the wrong horse?” the first one asked rhetorically.  No one dared answer his question, but it sure made them think.

* * * * * * *

Lazarus and his team felt confident they could duplicate the snake’s and gray’s beam system.  With a great deal of help from Kyron, after feeding him all the specifications, Ping, Monty, Maxine, Cable and Lazarus worked on the calculations and tolerances for an alien beam device.  When all was done Kyron fabricated a unit to their exact specifications.  It worked like a charm the first time.  It didn’t even need adjustments.  Their next step was to find a material, with which, they could cover a potential abductee to keep him from being taken.  They tried several things until Lazarus reminded them of the material he ran off to line the cowboy slave’s hats to keep the Gray’s from reading their minds.  It was called Velostat and sold in Canada as Linqstat.*  

Unfortunately, Velostat, as it’s manufactured for sale to the public, had to be used in multiple layers.  It was fine for the roofs of homes and cowboy hats but to adapt to children or animal protective clothing would prove too bulky.  Ping had Kyron analyze the molecular structure and worked closely with several chemistry professionals who lived in the colonies to produce an equally effective woven cloth.  For their first test they made a small Rocky Racoon hat and a saddle blanket-like device that covered most of Maxine’s body and tail, yet allowed her feet to be free to run.  Waco flew over with the alien beam mounted in the Buttercup and tried to beam her up, but couldn’t.  It had no effect on her.  It seemed like the beam just bounced off the material and couldn’t get a grasp on her.  The test was successful.

Lazarus had Kyron run off several bolts of the fabric in multicolors and patterns.  They made the same basic outfit for Oblio, except they made him a Western looking jacket and chaps out of a heavier material that looked almost like leather.  They made him a small Rocky Racoon hat as well.  Lucas lined his cowboy hat.  They tried again and couldn’t pick him up.  It didn’t seem to matter which hat he was wearing, the beam still couldn’t pick him up.  Everyone was thrilled.  While it meant a bit more clothing to wear, it would be worth it to keep them from becoming snake and insect food.  Lazarus and Gil explained to Bobby he couldn’t run naked with the ponies anymore.  They stressed he was coming to an age when it might not be appropriate for him anyway.  He resigned himself to having the savannah on Mars to run naked with the animals.

* * * * * * *

The men ran tests on the bio-droids, but they didn’t seem to be affected by the alien beam.  It couldn’t recognize them as warm blooded mammals.  Lazarus told the other ranchers to reexamine their cowboy slave’s to make sure their hats were protected.  He suggested they have Western vests and chaps made from the heavier material.  Since they wore stuff like that everyday, it may as well be made of an alien resistant material.  There was no worry about people on the mothership or the scout ships.  The were fully protected by the hull of the ships.  They couldn’t be sensed by the alien probes.

Monty even made a hat and cover for Jenny Bottom.  She complained bitterly and refused to cooperate with his nonsense.  He told her it was up to her.  She had the choice of cooperating and living to a ripe old age or if she chose not to wear the outfit she might end up on the supper table for some aliens to eat.  She didn’t believe him.  She wouldn’t believe Maxine when she saw her wearing her protective outfit.  It was hard for her to except the concept of a big ship flying through the air and taking her up inside with a beam of light.  Monty made a point to fly their ship, the Lotus, over their area.  They had a newly outfitted alien beam installed for experiments.  They beamed her up as they silently hovered overhead.  She was frantic.  She could see herself being served on a huge platter, medium rare, with a nice, light Bearnaise sauce, until she saw it was Maxine and Monty who were behind her deception.  She scolded them bitterly, but she decided she would wear the silly clothes if only to please Monty.

* * * * * * *

Scudder was sitting at his desk in the oval office after his afternoon meeting with several representatives from the major nations of the world.  He reported the intelligence he received of the accident at the alien Moon base.  He expressed his hope it would give them a window to set old grievances aside and work closely to come up with a plan to rid themselves of the alien plague.  Austin told him about his brief trip to Area 51 and back within two bites of his sandwich.  Scudder laughed at his telling.  Austin could always make any story hilarious.  As amazing as it sounded to be teleported from Washington H.C. to the middle of Nevada, it didn’t surprise Scudder.  He just accepted Austin’s story knowing every word was true.  He wouldn’t doubt Jesse and his people could do almost anything they wanted, but they wouldn’t save Earth.  Could their rejection of religion and things spiritual be that much of an anathema to them?  Austin told him he chewed the area 51 people's asses out for not cooperating with Jesse and his party according to Scudder's instruction.  It was late in the afternoon and Scudder was alone.  He tried something.

“Jesse?” he waited for a minute.

“I’m here, Norman.  What can I do for you?”

“Are you watching me all the time?”

“No, we have evolved intelligences to do that.  They notify me if someone is trying to contact me.  What’s up?”

“Did you get everything you needed from them geeks at Area 51?”

“Yes, thank you.  I had a copy of our mutually agreed points I showed them, but they wouldn’t budge.  Austin graciously came to our aid.  He made a quick side trip to Nevada.  He straightened them out, and we left peacefully.”

“Good.  Just so you don’t think I was trying to pull a fast one.  I didn’t know anything about it.”

“I know you didn’t.  If I thought that I would’ve been in touch with you before now.”   

“Can you join me for a drink?”

“Sure.” there was a bright flash of light and Jesse and Utah were standing before his desk.  “Unfortunately, I don’t imbibe anything but pure water.” Jesse smiled.

“Fine.  I have that.”  Scudder poured him a glass of water and poured some in a dish and set it before Utah.

“Thank you, Mr. Scudder.” Utah said.

“You’re welcome, friend.”

“You got something on your mind, Norman?”

“Yeah.  My information gatherers and social researchers gave me some interesting statistics on animal abductions in certain parts of the Western states.  They found those ranchers and farmers belonging to a new order of the old Grange organization are almost never picked by the aliens to have their livestock abducted, and that's all livestock including slaves; however, those who are not members of a Grange are being hit on an average of ninety percent more often.  The social profiles of those being most picked on by the aliens are those of strong religious beliefs who have been denied membership into the Granges.  Would you care to offer an explanation before I order a deeper investigation?” he smiled, raised his glass of bourbon and took a sip.

“Ain't no conspiracy agin' the Christers, Norman.  Ain’t no rocket science to it; no high falute’n, super-dooper technology neither.  It’s a group of concerned ranchers and farmers getting together to discuss their survival without the god fear’n Jesus freaks trying to turn ever’ damn meeting into an fundigelical tent revival prayer meeting to save ever’ body’s soul.  The Grange members are dedicated ranchers.  They’re simple, uncomplicated men who have worked hard for their place in the sun.  Most are mature men what don’t need their souls saved by no religious lunatics and ain't interested in their crazy ideas of being born again, 'cause they done got it right the first time.  Them religious nuts got a loose knit organization where they get together and pray for the aliens to vanish and stop taking their livelihood, their livestock, and food away from them.  Well, we both know how much good praying does.  The Grange, on the other hand, goes to work and gets things done.  They’ve been pretty successful for a good while now.”

“How do they do it?”

“It’s simple.  Some a’ them old boys was in several wars.  They just took a tactic from the Navy.  They mine their cattle.”

“Mine?  What do you mean, mine?” Scudder looked puzzled.

“You know what a mine is in the water.  When a ship unwittingly runs into one it detonates, blows a hole in the ship and it sinks.”

“Yeah, but I don’t see the connection.” Scudder looked puzzled.

“That’s because it’s so simple.  Neither do the other ranchers who ain’t members of the Grange.   Ranchers in the Grange strap a large chunk of plastic explosives to the underbelly of every one in ten of their cows.  The bombs have an altitude switch and a small solid-state timer chip they buy from Radio Shack for three ninety-eight plus tax.  Once the animal is lifted off the ground and rises into the air more than a hundred feet, the altitude switch turns on the timer chip which is set to detonate the bomb exactly two and a half minutes afterward.  According to their observations it takes about that long to get the animal on board and the hatch closed.  Actually, we don’t really care whether they get their hatch closed or not.  They’re still dead bugs or snakes.  They've blasted both type ships out of the sky.  It's sort of like that old 'Raid' commercial.  They check a cow in, but they never get a chance to check it out.  The Grange likes to call it 'alien roulette.'" Jesse grinned.

Scudder set for a minute and then started laughing.  He laughed so hard he got a smile from Jesse.

“But the Grange must loose a good number of cows before they take one with a bomb.” he mused.

“Not that many.  The law of averages is on the side of the aliens, but to be honest, I think them aliens are lousy gamblers.  It seems like out of ten cows they’ll invariably pick the one with the bomb.  It's uncanny.  They wouldn’t make it in Vegas.” Jesse chuckled. “Some ranchers place as many as three out of ten.  They figured the extra investment will pay for itself in the money saved not losing cows, and they're right.”

“Leave it to a cowboy to be resourceful.” grinned Scudder. “Why ain’t you shared it with the other ranchers who aren’t in your Grange?”

“Why?  They think because we don’t cotton to their religion we’re not as good as them.  They think they’re better’n us.  The Grange members refuse to put up with their damn nonsense, and they get angry with us.  Besides, the aliens don’t care who believes in what.  They steal from bible thumpers the same as all the rest.  They don’t give a shit about what them crazy people believe.  They ain't influenced by no prayers.  All they want is their cattle.  So they get what they want from them and leave the Grange members alone.  Once they get a ship blown up over a ranch, they won’t return.  And believe me, they know the area boundaries of every ranch in the Southwest.  They won’t take from a ranch where they lost a ship for a long time.  If they come back to test the water, and they do from time to time, they get another ship blown up and they stay away for another long while.”

“Why ain’t there no debris found?  Our people go out and check out every strange explosion, and there’s been a lot over the last several years.” he asked.

“It’s simple.  That’s where the membership in the Grange comes in handy.  If a rancher has a ship blow up over his property, all his neighbors, dogs, wives and kids, cousins, granddads, grandmas, everyone pitches in, gathers it all up in baskets, rakes the area clean and goes over it inch by inch with numerous metal detectors.  They load it all on the back of a huge, heavy duty hydraulic compression truck.  It’s all compacted into a manageable cube like an old car in a scrap metal processing yard.  In fact, the average Gray ship compacts to about the size of a small Chevy truck.  They take it to a scrap metal place where it won't be found.  Some have been buried in landfills.” Jesse sort of stretched the truth and riffed on how they really cleaned the areas.

“What happens to the bodies?” Scudder asked naively.  

“If they find any, they’re thrown on the truck and compacted along with the metal.  They never touch either specie of alien.  They are known disease carriers what can be fatal to humans.  The gatherers always use gloves, wear masks and throw them away afterward.  They wear old clothes and burn them when the job is done.”

“So them hicks are smarter than we thought, and they been lying to us all along.”

“Seems only fair, Norman.  Your administration never did anything to protect them.  They did what Americans have done for generations, they took matters into their own hands and solved the problem.  When your men came sniffing, trying to push them around and intimidate them, they planted their boot heels, grabbed a hayseed shaft to suck on, and played dumb slack jawed, tobacco spit'n, local yokels.
  Beside, when it comes to lying, you and Bush ain’t done nothing but lied to the American people your entire time in office."

“Yeah, I guess so.  It’s too damn late to worry about it now.  In a way, I kind of admire them folks for sticking up for themselves.”  

“Then leave them alone, Norman.  You unwittingly got a lot invested in them whether you realize it or not.  Them men are hard working son’s of the Earth, some have been at it for generations, and they’re working their collective butts off to survive.  They ain’t no threat to you or your regime.  They will be the ones who will see to your son’s survival, the survival of your commander and your friend.  If you keep your word, and that indirectly includes not messing with the Grange, I will keep my promise to you and see that Austin Taycious makes it to the new world.  If anything, you should be as protective as possible of the Granges.  They’ve been the ones providing you and your Holy City with most of your food products for the last forty years.  They are the strongest financially and pay enormous sums in taxes and other backbreaking revenues.  You don't get squat from from them Christers compared to the Grange.”  

“My word is firm.  I just wanted to see if you’d be up front with me.  I already figured out the Grange was something different and there were too many things pointing in that direction.  I’ll drop all investigations and see to it all future investigations of explosions or crash landings of alien ships comes to an end.  Other than to capture a complete craft to use against them we know about all we need to know.”

“Then why ain’t you mass producing them damn things?  Why all the goddamn secrecy?  The public knows about them.  They know there’s something very unusual going on.  People are disappearing in large numbers all over the planet never to be seen again.  The ones we ‘rapture’ or save are minuscule to what them alien parasites are taking.”

“Why?  You know why.  Their power modules are an unlimited source of power and the oil and energy companies have all the money.  Kennedy was going to reveal everything and look what happened to him.  If they got wind I planned to reveal to the world an inexpensive power source it would collapse our economy.  It would plunge the world into total chaos.” he stated seriously.

“Total chaos?  What the hell do you think you got now?  What a clown you'd make if your act weren't so sad.  You make a stupid statement like that and have the nerve to call me a hick?  You really believe that bullshit?  So what’s the alternative.  There ain’t gonna’ be no world to support them fat bastards no more.  Two to three years max, Norman, and they go down like every other man.  Their trillions and trillions in money won’t buy them a seat on one of our arks, and them fucking bugs and snakes don’t accept green stamps.  The only thing they got what’s worth a damn to them is the meat on their bodies.  That’s the bottom line.  If you got the power I think you do, have the military take them out.  Create your own bank.  Refuse to deal with the criminal banking commissions anymore.  Lock them out.  Take their money if they try anything.  Take over their assets, freeze their accounts, put it back into your country.  Use the money to build plants and start mass producing the alien designed ships.  Empty them Cheney camps and put them folks to work in decent paying jobs.  Rebuild your middle class.  Give the world the gift of a cheap energy source.  You still have the power to do it, Norman, if you take the bull by the horns and make that first step.  The destruction of their moon base has given you the reprieve you so desperately seem to need. ”
“It’s far more complicated than you think, Jesse.”

“Like hell it is!  That's just more bullshit and you know it!  You really believe what them energy czars feed you?  Tell me, what does bullshit taste like?  It must be delicious.  You sure eat a lot of it.  It can be far less complicated than it is, Norman, and you’re the man what can make it happen.  If you perish, it won’t be because we refused you passage, it will be because you didn’t do what you need to do to protect your country, your world and yourself.”

Scudder set for a long while as the room darkened.  Jesse motioned to Utah.

“We’ll be around if you need us, Norman.  Until then, if you can’t do what needs to be done, at least be good to those who love you.  I think you will.” Jesse smiled at him.  It was the first thing Jesse ever said to Scudder that was of a less than business attitude.  He was almost friendly.

“Thanks for coming, guys.”  Scudder raised his glass and watched as they disappeared into the bright light.  He set for a while longer until he heard Austin’s voice approaching the door and heard him knock.

“C’mon in, I’m by myself.” he hollered.

“I could swear I heard voices in here a while ago.”  Austin declared.

“You did.  Jesse and Utah spent a while with me.  I thought I’d never say this, but I think I like the man.  I like both of them.  The dog don’t say much, but he don’t have to.  He worships Jesse.  Jesse speaks for both of them.  Sometime I get the feeling Utah is feeding him lines like he’s a ventriloquist.”

“I like them.  I’d like to know them better, but that never seems to happen for me.  You’re about the only person who could ever put up with my shit, Jerry.  You’re the only one who really knows me.”

“Ah, jees Louise, you ain’t gonna’ break into song, there, are ya,’ Edith?” Scudder did his best Archie Bunker routine.

“Fuck off, old man!”  Austin grinned.

“Now, that’s my fairy princess I know and love.” Scudder laughed.

* * * * * * *

The two Ong families of the children who were abducted were traumatized.  Even though Shane, Monty and Dexter promised them the new protective clothing material would prevent them from being abducted again, they completely rearranged their lives.  They took the kids out of school with the idea of home schooling them, but Shane suggest they go to school in the colonies.  The school curriculum in Parsons was the finest in the state if it was a part of the Texas school system.  It far exceeded the public schools.  It had no classes on religion and actually taught hard science and evolution.  You never heard the phrase "intelligent design" unless it was in wood shop.  Shane and Monty installed separate gates for each farm.  The children could walk through and be at school.  They agreed to try it for a while, but Monty and Dexter could tell the older Ong boys, the fathers of the two families were nervous wrecks.  The mothers weren’t much better.

The kids confided to their big brother Dexter, their parents insisted they wear their protective clothing to bed.  They were so afraid they might be abducted during the night.  They had good reason to fear.  Their houses weren't reroofed with a protective covering of Velostat.  Most of the Grange buildings were completely protected.  The Samper boys just completed a new roof on the Crandall place with multiple layers of the material.  Monty spoke with Shane.  They decided no one should have to live with such fear, real or imagined.  At breakfast in the big house one morning when the Admiral was visiting they spoke with Lazarus about the problem.

“I told you a couple of months ago to use the Lotus and take their farms.  That’s why I gave you a separate ship to house them.  That way you can continue to use the Gopher Bay for your reconnaissance flights, and they won’t be in any danger.  Let them live as part of the colonies.  Their children are already comfortable in the Parsons school.  We know we’re going to take them eventually.  May as well get those two out of the way.  I agree with you men.  No one should have to live with that kind of fear.  It’s new to them, but we live with it every day.  We’d do well to make sure we protect our own.  You and Maxine helm the ship as Captain and first mate, but let Captain Waco and his first mate, my boy Lucas, back you up.  I know you know how to make a land grab, but until you’ve had a couple more under your belt, I’d feel better if you had support.” he advised.

“Thanks, we’ll be glad to have their help.  With you and my master’s permission, I’ll make arrangements with the two Ong families.”

The two Ong farms were installed side by side on the Lotus Flower without a hitch.  Monty and Maxine had the family watch on the observation deck.  They served food and drink from the ship's replicators.   It wasn’t great, but it was appreciated by the family.  They were amazed at how quickly the two large farms were miniaturized and the giant holes they left in the ground.  The Ong men couldn’t thank Monty enough.  Now they could get a good night’s sleep without worrying about their children being abducted and becoming a happy meal for some lizard family.  They found it easy to go from their farms directly to the colonies or their family’s farms through the gates.  They took up permanent residence on the Lotus Flower.  As time went by, all the Ong's farms and ranches were taken and stored aboard the Lotus.  One of the older daughters and her family decided to open a Chinese restaurant in Parsons.  It was a great success and Monty could be found a couple of nights a week cooking in the back with the family to help out. 

* * * * * * *

One morning early, Sheriff Lassiter came to the ranch to see Shane and Boss Potter.  As he drove up, Mr. Ong, the younger, and the elder Mr. Ong came walking up through the meadow from the barn.  They came through the gate.  They shook hands with the Sheriff, Shane and Boss Potter.  They all went into the house to sit down.  Judge Potter asked Essmee Fay to make some tea.  When everyone was served the Sheriff nodded to the Ongs and spoke.

“Mr. Dundee is dead.  Mr. Ong and his dad didn't see him around for several days, so they went over to check on him.  They somewhat befriended him over the last several years and took him food from time to time.  He never really thanked them, but he ate it and left their dishes on the back porch.  They knocked several times, opened the door, and the smell hit them.  They knew he was probably dead.  They called us, we went out and together we entered the house.  He was sitting in his favorite chair.  The coroner said he died suddenly of a stroke.  We looked around and Mr. Ong found some papers.”

Mr. Ong handed them to Judge Potter.  They looked like legal documents.  The Judge opened them and motioned for Shane to read over his shoulder.  He turned to his partner and smiled.

“Damn, I didn’t see this coming.  Did you, Son?”  Potter asked Shane.

“Naw, Sir.  Totally unexpected.  Thanks, gentlemen, I’m stunned.  I don’t know what to say.  We should call Montana in.”

“I’ll get him for you, if you like Captain Shane.  He’s out to the high pasture, but I can have him here in a minute.”  Maxine volunteered.

“That would be nice, Maxine.” Shane smiled at her.  She was away in an instant.  Maxine ran down through the pastures as fast as she could onto the Crandall ranch.  She saw Monty and her sisters in the distance already herding sheep for the day.  As she passed a big boulder she heard a voice in her head.

<< Where ya’ going in such a hurry, sexy lady? >> she recognized the voice.

<< To get my Captain.  Ain’t got time to chat, Coyote.  See ya’ later. >> she brushed him off.

<< Hope so. >> he sent to her almost as a lecherous comment.

<< Don’t even think about, Coyote, I’m having Monty’s pups. >> she giggled.

<< Damn it!  I never get the pretty girls. >> he lamented.  Maxine laughed at him.  Criga overheard him and was hurt.  That day the Earth almost came to a halt on its axis, Coyote apologized to his mate.  He went out and found her favorite food and brought it back to their den as a peace offering.

After Maxine told Monty he was wanted at the big house, he asked Dexter to take over, and he’d be back as soon as possible.  He picked up Maxine and they disappeared.  They reappeared by the backdoor to the big house.  He set her down, she ran up the stairs and through her special door.  Monty knocked politely.

“Come!”  Boss Potter hollered.   Monty took off his hat and walked into the room where the men were gathered.  He knew something was up.

“Sit down, Son.” offered Judge Potter.  Monty set in a wood chair and placed his hat in his lap. “Your granddad passed away, Son.  The Ongs called the Sheriff and they went into his house and found him.  He left this on his desk.” Judge Potter handed Monty a folder of papers.  Inside was a letter for him and deeds to the old man's properties in Monty’s name.  The old man converted everything he had and left it to his only living relative.  He had a competent attorney draw up documents which said Shane Goodnight would be the official owner of trust until Monty was granted his emancipation.  He left Monty the farm they lived on and an enormous ranch adjacent, Monty didn’t even know his granddad owned.  There were two bank books, one checking and the other a savings account.  Each account held over a half a million each.  Monty began to read the letter.  It was typed on a good quality stationary.

For Montana Polaris Dundee,

I never had much to say to you when I was alive.  I don’t know why I bother to write this, but what shred of decency I have left in me forces me to do so.  I won’t apologize for your life.  To do so now would be disingenuous of me anyway.  I neither knew who or what you were nor who you are now, but you might argue it was my fault.  You would be right.  You never fit into my idea of a normal world, but somehow you managed to succeed beyond my wildest expectations.  For that, you earned a modicum of my admiration and respect.  Nevertheless, I feared you all these years, but now realize, the fear I had was irrational.  I see the fear and dread I suffered all those years imagining I was living with a demonic spirit on my property was not healthy for you or for me.  There comes a time when every man should accept his weaknesses and confront his demons.  I waited too long, but now, it’s too late.  There will be no salvation for me, boy.  I lived in my dark hell too long to even consider asking for forgiveness.  I accept my fate for what might come.

I am leaving you all my worldly possession including all household furnishings.  Why am I doing this after shunning you all these years?  A couple of reasons.  No matter what you are, you carry my name, or at least, you have.  Secondly, I have no one else to leave it to and to forget you would be to deny that portion of you which is my beloved daughter.  She loved you very much.  Thirdly, her ghost paid me a visit and told me she would torment me throughout all eternity unless I did this for you.  One final reason was because you had the courage to stand up to me for what you thought was right and brought that damnably awful jenny back to life after I shot her to death with my rifle.  She never let me forget it and tormented me for years with her accusations and condemnations.  Many times I wanted to go out and kill her again, but she became a symbol of all the good things about you and all the bad, terrible, dark things that were growing inside me.  After you took her away, I bitterly missed her, you and your companion.

Then, to lose the old barn and any trace of you was almost too much for me to handle.  It weren’t your fault, boy.  Neither was your relationship with Shanna Ruggles.  I heard all about what happened directly from that asshole Ruggles, himself, and the son of a bitch had the unmitigated gall to brag about how he railroaded you into slavery to keep you away from his precious daughter.  What he done weren’t right, boy.  I checked further and heard from several folks you were doing well, thriving under a fine master and living with good people who can offer you care and support.  I understand you will not always be a slave and in a few short years can enjoy these gifts I couldn’t bring myself to share with you when I was alive.  Do with them as you will.  There are no strings attached including changing your last name to be that of your father Scott Hayden or his alien clone.  No tears, boy.  No apologies.  No forgiveness asked.  Live your life to the fullest and never look back.  You have my sincere best wishes for a good life.

Bernard Paul Dundee

Monty slowly folded the letter, returned it to the manilla folder, handed it to his master and broke down in gut wrenching sobs.  The men in the room were devastated.  They knew what the young man must be feeling.  Shane took him in his arms and held him.

“Come, Montana, walk with me.” Shane spoke quietly.  Monty followed his master outdoors.  Monty walked him down to the fence with his arm around his shoulder.

“Take the rest of the day off, Son.  I’ll call my brother and see if yore’ ramrod can come spend the afternoon with you.”

“Naw, Master Shane.  I don’t need no day off.  I’m all right.  We got a lot of work to get done before spring, but I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to finding my ramrod waiting for me when we finish for the day.  I need to sort all this out in my mind, and I'd appreciate his guidance.  Then I’d like to talk with you after I’ve spoken with my pa.” he smiled at Shane knowing he would understand what he was talking about.  Shane grinned.

“I’m happy you men got each other, Montana.”

“Me, too, Master.  Don't know's I could handle this right now without my ramrod to lean on.”

Monty walked back inside with Shane.  He thanked the men for coming.  He even had a hug for Sheriff Lassiter.  The Ongs told Monty and Shane when his granddad’s funeral would be.  Shane assured them they would be there.  They left and Monty walked back through the meadows to the Crandall ranch and his job.  His ramrod was waiting for him when he got back to his quarters that evening.  Maxine ran and gave Jimmy Joe several wet sloppy kisses and greeted him.  He was equally glad to see her.  Jimmy Joe handed Monty a card.

“‘S’from my bossman.” he smiled.

Inside was a nice sympathy card with no sickly sweet poem.  It was just a picture of a cowboy riding off into a beautiful sunset.  Angus wrote at the bottom: Happier trails, Buckaroo.  Your buddy, Angus.  Monty broke into tears and Jimmy Joe held him.  

“That sentimental old son of a bitch.” Monty said with a smile. “That was nice of him.” he added.

“He thinks the world of you, Montana.”

“What the fuck’s going on?  Why is everyone calling me ‘Montana’ all of a sudden?  I been called Monty for years, now it’s Montana?” he asked

“You’re growing up, boy.  ‘Monty’ is a kid’s nickname.  ‘Montana’ is a man’s name.  I don’t know about them others, but it’s my way of showing you jes’ a teence more respect.  I think you deserve it, Son.” Jimmy Joe declared.

“Thanks, pa.”

Maxine kissed Monty goodbye and headed for the big house.  She wanted to get in before dark.  Rarely did the bugs or snakes go gathering until dark.  Sometime, if it was a dark and cloudy day they might be on the prowl, but not often.  Their vision was impaired by the clouds as well as hide them.  Essmee Fay would help Maxine on with her shielding cap and blanket each evening, and she would wear it until she went to bed.  Essmee told her she looked like a doggie version of Amelia Earhart with her little Rocky Racoon flying cap.

* * * * * * *

Old man Dundee’s funeral was on a dark, dreary day, the last day of the winter solstice.  It was held in the evangelical church paid for by the Grange with Preacher David Yates officiating.  The parking lot was full.  They had to park at the gas station across the street.  People came in cars, trucks, motorcycles, buggies, and on horseback  There were folks gathered outside who couldn’t get inside.  They respectfully parted so Monty and his people could enter.  Flowers were everywhere.  The church smelled wonderful.  Monty thought what a feast it would be for his and Gil Morris' bee buddies.  He would have to tell them where to find this banquet when he got back to the ranch.  He was stunned his granddad was so well known and popular.  He had no idea.  He mentioned as much to Angus who was walking with him into the church.  Angus looked at him and grinned.  He looked at Shane and Angus’ baby brother nodded his head.

“You don't really know, do you?"  he grinned real big at the bemused look on his young friend's face,  "They ain’t here for your granddad, boy.  No one could stand him.  I’m sorry, I don’t mean no disrespect to the dead, but he was a meanspirited old buzzard.  They’re here out of love and respect for you and Dexter.”  Angus assured him.  Monty couldn’t believe it.  Jimmy Joe was on his right side, Dexter on Jimmy Joe's other side.  The church was packed to overflowing.  The Ongs took up almost a quarter of the church.  The major players in the Grange took up the rest.  Everyone had to have a hug and a kiss.  People were there who rarely went out in public.  Even the reclusive Miss Estelle Potter attended out of respect for Montana and Dexter.  Shane let all his lead cowboy slaves come.  Monty insisted there be no division between slave and freemen.  Everyone was to sit together.  Maxine was at his feet.  Her brothers and sisters were there including their ma and pa.  Many from Charlie’s ranch were there.  The preacher hadn’t seen such a crowd in his church in several years.  If only he could take up a collection.  He wondered if he could get away with it.  Fortunately, he thought better of it.  After all, Shane Goodnight paid him handsomely to say only good words about the old man.  David Yates couldn’t help get in a few references to hell fire and damnation for everyone’s soul if they didn’t come to his church, become washed in the blood, accepted Jesus as their personal savior, give him their money and allowed him, an impotent, closeted cross-dresser, to tell them how to live their lives.  Such was the way of the fundamentalist.  At the grave side service, there was a young woman all dressed in black with a heavy veil holding a bible clasped to her bosom.  You couldn’t see her face, but there was one young man who knew who she was.  Monty was touched when Oblio pushed his way between him and Shane and took both their hands.  He looked up at Monty, smiled the sweetest smile and gently squeezed his hand.  Oblio knew who the dark lady was.  He looked directly at her.

<< Hello, mom.  I know you can hear me.>>

<< Is that you standing between your daddy and Mr. Goodnight, sweetheart?  How did you grow so big so fast? >>

<< Lummox milk, ma.  How are you? >>

<< Barely surviving.  I’m lonely.  I miss you and your daddy.  He looks so fine standing there in his dress cowboy clothes.  What a strikingly handsome man he’s become.  Why do you look like Shane Goodnight, darling? >> she asked.

<< It’s one of my talents, I can change my appearance, mom.  Master Shane thought it would be easier if I look like him.  My dad don’t know I’m his son yet.  Master Shane don’t wanna’ tell him until he’s emancipated in a couple more years.  It’s fine with me.  I’m with him almost everyday.  We spend a lot of quality time together.  He’s amazing, mom.  He’s kind, smart, funny, and knows a lot of stuff.  He builds people out of nothing and gives them brains from dead whales from Venus.  See them two big cowboys what look like two old cowboy movie stars behind me.  They ain’t human, but you’d never know it.  They’s bio-droids, but they’s good people.  They watch over and protect me, ma' dad and the rest of his crew.  Dad treats me like a little brother, and I think I like it that way.  Master Shane and his pa next to him— well, he ain’t really his pa— that’s another story, anyway, they’s my daddies.  They gimme’ the name Oblio Arrow Goodnight to keep my daddy from putting things together.  Dad thinks I’m the illegitimate son of one of Master Shane’s brothers.  Master Shane considers dad his slave brother so he ain’t lying to him. >>

<< You look well fed and happy, Son. >>

<< I am, ma.  I couldn’t be happier except I could be if'n you give up your religion and come with us.  If you don’t, you won’t survive the final holocaust, mom. >>

<< I’ve been working on it.  I talk with Ping a lot.  She’s been very good to explain things to me.  She told me about you skipping infancy and changing yourself into a one year old.  I didn’t believe her, but she's been good to send me pictures of you. >> Shanna said.

<< Ping is one of my favorite critters in the Grange.  She helps me a lot and teaches me stuff no one else will take the time.  Listen to her, mom, she is a creature who is hundreds of years old.  She knows about the universe and things.  I know you’ll do the right thing.  There’s nothing left for you here.  You can’t have dad.  See the cowboy on his other side.  He’s dad’s pa like Mr. Cole is Master Shane’s daddy.  I think on him as one of ma' grandpas.  Dad's bonded pretty tight with him, but in our world you could meet someone who will love you and be good to you.  We have to go now, ma.  I love you. >>

<< I love you, too, sweetheart.  I always will.  It was wonderful seeing you again, if only from across the way. >>

<< Bye, mom. >> Oblio gave a small wave so the others couldn’t see.  Shane saw it, looked down at Oblio, winked, gently squeezed his little hand and smiled.  He nodded to Shanna and smiled as he patted Oblio on his head and pulled him close to his side.  Oblio reached up with his small arms, Shane picked him up and stole a kiss.  Oblio threw his small arms around his huge master's neck and returned his kiss.  Shanna was deeply touched by the palpable love which passed between them.  She knew her child was in the right place and her heart felt at peace.
The funeral was over, but there was to be a reception at the Goodnight/Potter ranch for those who wished to come.  It was another Grange happening and almost everyone was there.  It was a more subdued event, because they were all concerned for Monty, but they had a good time.  Oblio stayed close to Monty all day.  He didn’t try to intrude, he was just there.  Shane noticed but said nothing.  He could swear Cole could read his mind without the lummox milk.  When he thought about calling Oblio away, Cole gave Shane the cowboy evil eye.  Late in the afternoon, when most of the guest left they were down to immediate family.  Everyone was sitting out under the big oak trees which shaded the cowboy slave's bunkhouse.  Oblio was standing next to Monty.  He put his hand on Monty’s shoulder just to touch him.  Monty felt him, took his little hand, gently pulled him around, picked him up, and set him in his lap.  He gave him a big hug and a kiss.  Oblio giggled like any kid might, hugged and kissed him back.

“Thanks for being there for me today, honcho.  You were quiet and well mannered, but I could feel your presence.  I could feel your love.  I knew you were there for me, and it meant a lot.”

“I love you, Captain Montana.” Oblio hugged and kissed him.

“I love you, too, Oblio.  You know what?”


“If I was to ever have a son, I’d want him to be just like you.” Monty gently placed his forefinger on Oblio's muscular little chest.

Everyman there looked away.  Dexter almost lost it he was so touched.  He felt empathy for the boy.  Shane put his arm around him and held him close.  There was a stillness in the air you could cut with a knife.  The tension was palpable.

“You know what, Captain Hayden?” Oblio put to him.  Everyone held their breath for what was coming next.

“What, honcho?”

“If a boy had you for a dad, he’d be one hell of a lucky kid.” Oblio said.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  Shane didn’t worry anymore about Oblio spilling the beans.  He took his responsibilities to his master/dad seriously.  Jimmy Joe looked on with pride, but he didn’t have a clue.  Angus and Shane thought it might be better to keep it from him as well.  There would be no temptation to tell Monty what he didn’t know.  The men began to go their separate ways.  The cowboys made sure the dogs made it through the gate to return to their homes safely.  All small critters were brought in for the night.  Monty and Jimmy Joe said goodbye to everyone.  Everyone wished them well and they walked through the long meadow just as the sun was going down.  Off in the distance miles away from their ranches they could see a couple of gray ships slowly meandering across the sky.  They were hunting on the next couple of ranches over whose owner wasn’t a member of the grange.  As Jimmy Joe and Monty passed a large clump of rocks, they ran across Criga and Coyote John taking the pups out for a walk.  They stopped and watched for a few minutes, waved and walked on their way.  Monty sent to Coyote.

<<  Nice family you got there, old friend. >>

<<  When in Rome...”  Coyote answered, nipped a pup in the butt to correct him for something, then continued, “... you make puppies. >>

<<  Still mad at me? >>  Monty asked.

<<  Naw, jes’ don’t never sleep out in the open by yourself at night. >> he laughed.  Monty chuckled. << Actually, it ain’t a bad life.  In someways I’m more free than I ever been in my life.  Beats the hell out of being a slave.  Criga’s good for me.  She don’t take no shit off'n me.  I always liked strong women.  I work hard and do my best to provide for her and the pups.  Life could be worse. >>  Coyote allowed.  << How you doing with your old man? >>  he asked.

<< We’re happy. >>

<< Was I right about him make'n a good daddy for you, boy? >>

<< You were right, John.  He's all I could wish for in a good pa.  I come to love him very much. >>

<< You love him more'n me, pup? >>  Monty smiled at Coyote calling him his pup.

<< Not more, just different.  Although you might not think so, I think I done proved my love for you, John.  >>

<< Naw, you ain't right about that, kid.  I know'd what you done for me, and I don't hold no grudges.  I still got ma' balls, and my love for you is solid;  sometimes, rock-solid when I think back on the good times we had together.  >> Coyote chuckled at his sexual innuendo.

<< Glad to hear it, Pappa Coyote.  We did have us some damn good times. >>  Monty agreed.

<< Sorry to hear about chore’ grandpap, son. >> Coyote said with remorse

<< We weren’t close, but thanks for the thought.  All joking aside, you know I still love you, don't chu', John? >>

<< I know.  You always will. 
I won't speak of love again.  You'll only think I's try'n to mind fuck you.  I sometime think I got me a hold on love and then it slips away; vanishes into thin air.  Nevertheless, I done fucked you good, both ways.  I made my mark on you like I define my territory now.  I wish't I had your faith and belief in love.  Speaking of which, you still love me enough to change me back? >> he laughed like he knew his question was rhetorical. 

<< Not right away, but you’re gonna’ live a long while.  When I think you’re ready, I’ll change you back.  I think you’re doing fine.  I’m proud of you. >>

<< Before you go, thanks for the meat you drop off near the den from time to time.  It comes in handy.  Don’t know’s we could a’ made it this past winter if not for that.  I think we'd a' lost the littlest pup for sure.  >>

<< You’re welcome.  I’ll always be looking out for you and Criga.  Goodnight, John. >>

<< By the way, does he fuck you better’n me? >> Coyote jabbed.

<< You know cowboys don’t never kiss and tell, John. >> Monty laughed as he heard Coyote howl in the night.

Jimmy Joe knew when Monty was conversing with animals, he would get very quiet.  He learned not to speak to him until he finished, then Monty would return to him.  He figured Coyote John and him were exchanging words.  They walked into Monty’s quarters and closed the door.  Monty turned into Jimmy Joe's strong arms and kissed him with a gentle passion. 

“Can I get you anything, pa?”

“Not a thing, Son.”  

They set down on the leather sofa and Monty made a fire so they could warm the place and have hot water for the shower.  The fire was going well, but it was still chilly in the room, so they set close together.

“Oblio, what a funny name for a kid.” mused Jimmy Joe.

“He sure was attentive to me today, were’nee?” Monty replied.  “I was sad for my grandpap; sad he lived in such darkness, but t’weren’t nothing I could do for him.  I weren’t really in a bad place during the funeral; yet, the kid seemed to want to comfort me more than anyone.”

“There’s some’um mighty strange about that boy.” Jimmy Joe said.

“How, Pa?  I work with him ever’ day.  I give him a job to do, I only have to tell him once what I want, and he does it right the first time.  I take him to my quarters and have him lie down for an hour in the afternoon or he gits a little cranky, but he’s just a kid.  He minds me better than them coyote cowboys and never talks back.  He’s always willing to do the least job I give him with a good attitude.  I was a little put out when Master Shane asked me to include him in my posse.  I thought we's jes’ gonna’ be glorified baby sitters, but it ain’t worked out that way a’ tall.  He’s smart and learns faster than any kid I ever met.  Ping and my crew have invested quite a bit in him.  He’s become the unofficial mascot of our team.  I can’t imagine being without him.  I come to love him a lot, Pa.  I was comfortable with him around me today, like he belonged by my side.  It seemed like the most natural thing in the world for him to take my hand at the funeral.”

“Yeah, I noticed.  It’s almost like he’s too good to be true.  I know someone else like that."  he smiled at Monty, then continued, "Have you noticed he’ll crawl up in every cowboy’s lap but mine.  It’s like he’s either shy of me or don’t want me to touch him for some reason.  Of course I ain’t never really invited him, but he never waited for one a them cowboy slaves to invite him neither.  It’s hard not to love the little shit.  He’s the spit’n image of Shane.  You ever seen a kid that young that built up before?  He looks like a smaller version of Dexter, and them two's got something going on between 'em what transends friendship.  Have you noticed how him and Dexter is all the time off some'mers with Bobby and Maxine jes' a' talking up a storm with each other?  I tell you some’um ain’t right.  When I sit across from him and look into his eyes when we’s having breakfast up to the big house, it’s like I seen that look before.  It’s like I done know’d him from some’mers else; another time or place; kinda like deja vu.  It’s almost like he knows what I’m thinking, and he purposely avoids my eyes.  He’ll look away like a gay man so’s you won’t catch him check’n you out.  He won’t return my look; like he’s afraid I’ll put the pieces together.

He’ll keep his eyes down looking at his food and rarely looks up.  If he looks up and catches me looking, he’ll immediately drop his head again.  I jes’ thought he was a shy kid at first, maybe he had a secret boy-man crush on me, but that ain’t it.  He ain’t a bit shy around yore' posse, and he’s bat-shit crazy about them cowboy slaves.  He loves ever’ damn one of ‘em, and they think he's about the best thing since sliced bread.  I asked Angus why the boy has to be a slave, and he gimme' some mumbo-jumbo about the legality of his adoption.  Come to find out, them religious loons recently passed a law what says all illegitimate children must be sold as slaves for life no matter if another family member is willing to adopt them.  Something about bastards being an abomination in the eyes of their god; as if they worshiped a god what was worth a plug nickel.  You know a man like Shane Goodnight ain't gonna' let the fact the boy's his blood nephew out of wedlock stand in his way of doing the right thing by the kid.
  I understand Oblio was raised by a wet nurse until he was about a year old then released to his new master and owner who just happened to be his uncle.  Uncle, hell, that boy loves the captain and his ramrod like they's his daddies.”  

“I ain't noticed them things about him, Ramrod.  I ain’t say’n you's wrong.  I know’d you too long.  You got a cowboy savvy about people, slaves and critters what’s rarely wrong.  I seen you match up a lost calf with its momma jes’ by looking in his eye and then looking in the eyes of a large herd of milling heifers.  I ain’t never seen you miss.  You’s all the time moan’n and groan’n about how old you are, but I think this is one time age is on your side.  I also think you’re developing your own set of powers as you grow older.  Do you have any idea where you might have seen the look in his eyes before?”

“Yeah, 'air’s another cowboy on this, here, ranch what looks at me the same damn way.  He never fails to send shockwaves down to the bottom a' my boots, he makes the hair on my neck and arms stand on end and makes ma' dick get hard ever' damn time I think on him.” Jimmy Joe said quietly.

“Who's 'zat, Pa?” Monty asked innocently.

“You, cowboy.” Jimmy Joe replied quietly. “When ‘nat boy looks deep into my eyes,” Jimmy Joe paused for a moment and shook his head, “I could swear it’s you looking out at me from behind them eyes of his and ma’ old dick starts to grow.  He knows it, too.  I watched him blush a couple a' times when he caught me.  I swear to you, he looks on me the same damn way you do.  Now, you know damn well I ain't no pedophile.  I ain't interested in no kid.  My mind may play tricks on me, but my dick don’t never lie, Son.  H'it's try'n to tell me they's some'um about him I don't know.”

End of Chapter 72 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com
Proofed: 12/20/09

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