Getting By
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B

Garcia branched off at the tunnel to the lower door, saying he was going to get to work rigging some sort of booby trap.

"Hey Gav," he said, "How about sending that Nguyen kid down here to help me. I think I'm going to have to do some heavy lifting for what I've got in mind."

"You sure one guy's enough?" I asked skeptically.

"Probably not, but I don't know who else I can call on, and you've got enough on your plates."

"Hmmm. I think I know somebody. I'll check them out and send 'em down."

"Thanks, Gav. Now if you don't mind, I've got to figure out how to stop the bad guys without hurting the good guys." He made a shooing motion.

"You and I are gonna have to have a little wall-to-wall discussion about that mouth of yours as soon as Amanda gets done teaching me how to take you down a peg or two, Gunny!" I joked.

"Well, Amanda hasn't taken me down yet, so you might want to wait for the outcome of that contest before you decide to take me on!" He winked in Amanda's direction.

"Hey, anytime, jarhead!" Amanda bristled.

"Now, now, we're all supposed to be on the same side here!" I said.

"Well, he started it!"

"Actually, I started it, and I shouldn't have. I wouldn't mind seeing a friendly bout between you two, just to see how you match up, but I was joking about kicking Gunny's butt, and I believe he was doing the same."

"Naw, I was serious as a heart attack ... Of course I was joking, Amanda. I've been watching how you teach these folks, and whether you can beat me up or not, you're a hell of a lot better instructor than I am. If you want to spar a few rounds, we can do that, but I don't worry about whether my friends can beat me - I just want all of us to be able to kick the bad guys' asses."

"Guy humor!" Amanda shook her head in disgust. "Will men never grow up?"

"God, I hope not!" I laughed, taking her arm. "Come on, Number Two, we have other work to do."

As we made our way back up the tunnels, I asked Amanda, "What do you think about Carmen Sanchez?"

"She comes out of the East L.A. gangs, same way Colby ran with the Vietnamese. If she identifies with us as her 'gang, ' and I think she does, she'll be loyal. The biggest difference between her and Colby is she put that stuff behind her and worked her butt off to get an education. To be able to do that without getting popped by her own or a rival gang would have to take guts and savvy."

"Good," I mused, half to myself. "I guess I should be honest with you - I'm also trying to do a little matchmaking here."

"Oh? Who do you want to match her with?"

"Garcia."

Amanda stopped and gave me a hard glare, but it didn't come off very well in the dimness of the reflected light from our flashlights. "You want to match the Mexican Marine with the Mexican accountant? Whatever happened to all that 'race doesn't matter' bullshit?"

"It doesn't matter," I told her. "I have reason to believe that Garcia might be interested in her, and that she might be receptive, that's all. It has nothing to do with their ethnic origins, at least not from my point of view. I don't know about theirs."

"You want to share those reasons with your partner here, cowboy?"

"Yes, I do, but I can't because they are from personal conversations, and I need to keep those confidences to myself or I'll lose the trust of those who shared them."

"Ah. Hmmm. Okay, but keep in mind that some personal confidences can be about things that affect all of us."

I gave her a 'give me some credit' look as I answered, "In that case, I would tell you - after I clued in the person who told me. If I've got to betray a trust, I don't want anyone blindsided by it."

"That's fair enough. So what are your plans today?"

"I want you and me to go over my draft of rules of conduct for our community. We also need to plan the next foraging mission. We've got three fairly large population centers - or what were population centers - within a day or two of us, plus the military bases that we haven't yet looked at. I think we need to plan on picking up a few more people and figure out what kinds of armament we want to acquire, and what to do with what's left after we get what we want. Then there are the foods and other supplies. Once those needs have been filled, I want to start acquiring knowledge. UNLV is not far away, and its bookstore and library can provide us with a great deal of printed material, much of it in instructional formats."

"Why do you want to bring that stuff here? Surely scavengers aren't going to bother with books and such."

"Maybe they won't, but I don't know that. For all I know, somewhere down the road, they'll start using them for firewood, and I'd rather make sure as much of that knowledge survives as possible."

"What about the basics? Numbers, alphabet, reading, writing, arithmetic, on through elementary and high school - we'll need those to educate our own kids."

"Good point! There I go thinking too far out again. I was thinking of archives for future generations, but we'll need to educate them so they can understand that other stuff. Thanks for keeping my feet on the ground."

We continued on in silence, partly because the slope of the mine shaft demanded that we save our breath if we were to continue at our present pace. When we emerged into daylight, I asked Amanda to round up Colby and bring him up to the house. I saw Carmen weeding a vegetable patch with a hoe and asked her to take a break and come up to the house.

When we had both of them together, I led them into the study, followed closely by Amanda.

"Either of you got a problem working down in the mine for a little while? Claustrophobia? Problems with the dark? This isn't a test. I just need to be sure you can do the job I'm sending you to do. If you have any problems related to tight spaces, darkness, being underground, or anything else like that, let me know now."

Neither of them spoke. I raised an eyebrow in Amanda's direction but she had no questions, so we equipped them with lights and instructions on how to find Garcia.

With that out of the way, I lit up Archie's computer and showed Amanda my draft:

Rules of Conduct

1. Each member of the group must obey the commands of its leader and/or his designated representative. An individual may question an order if: The order is not time critical or: The order has already been carried out.

2. The group consists of a civil component and a military component. Unless expressly ordered otherwise, each individual is a member of both components, i.e. each person will have both civil and military duties. Failure to fulfill the required duties of either role will result in punishment for the individual as deemed appropriate by his/her superiors.

3. Duties and tasks, civil or military, may be 'traded' with another individual provided that: That individual is capable of performing said duties adequately, and the 'trade' is approved by both parties' superiors. If 'traded' duties are not performed satisfactorily, the original assignee will be held responsible for any malfeasance.

4. All property except items which have value only to the individual (e.g. Personal/family photos, personal hygiene items, undergarments, etc.) belongs to the group. Disputes will be resolved by the group leader or his designated representative.

5. There is no prohibition, express or implied, against any consensual sexual act or domestic union between humans of age 15 or older, subject to the following conditions: Each individual, regardless of birth gender or sexual preference, must, if medically able, contribute at least three healthy offspring to the group. (In this context, 'healthy' is defined as surviving, with all physical and mental functions intact) until the age of fifteen years.

6. No one over the age of 15 shall engage in any sexual activity, consensual or otherwise, with any individual under the age of 15.

7. Non-consensual sex is expressly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to:

a. Use of physical force

b. Coercion by threat of bodily harm

c. Coercion by extortion

d. Coercion by abuse of power

8. Anyone caught providing unauthorized information to any group or individual outside this group will be banished from the group.

9. Punishments up to and including public flogging may be issued as deemed necessary by the group leader. The greatest punishment allowed is banishment. While killing enemies of the group may sometimes be necessary, there shall be no death penalty for members of the group.

10. Disputes between individuals shall be settled between those individuals. Fighting without weapons is encouraged in the settlement of such disputes. The use of weapons in such conflicts will be dealt with severely. This provision is made to encourage each individual group member, regardless of gender, to learn and practice hand-to-hand fighting techniques. Any such conflict which results in death or disability of one of the combatants will be investigated, and if the uninjured party is found to have deliberately or negligently injured or killed his opponent, he will be punished severely. No individual or subgroup shall use this provision to gain unfair advantage over other members of the group. Any such attempt shall be dealt with severely.

Amanda read over the list, then turned to me.

"You sure you want to let disgruntled people just wander off? What if they take up with some of those 'enemies'?"

"If they become the enemy, then we will treat them as such, but frankly, I'd rather find non-lethal ways of dealing with enemies, too. The scarcity of genes to get us going again gives me the willies already, and I don't want to deplete the gene pool anymore than I have to."

Amanda thought about that, nodded, then, in a new computer window, started typing her own list. When she was finished, she turned the computer screen to show it to me. It read:

Rules of Conduct

1. Do what Gavin says.

2. Don't shirk your duty.

3. Get permission before swapping work with someone. You're responsible for the outcome.

4. Everything except 'personal' items belongs to the community. Check with somebody if you're not sure.

5. The age of consent is 15.

6. Everyone above the age of consent makes babies.

7. Don't rape anyone.

8. What happens in the community stays in the community. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT IT!

9. If you screw up, you will be punished, including being whipped in public. If you screw up really bad, you'll be kicked out.

10. We may kill enemies but not each other.

11. Everybody must learn to fight. You can practice by resolving your own disputes, but don't use weapons to do it.

12. No bullies or gangs allowed.

I held up both hands in surrender. "You're right. Let's keep it simple for now. The group is still small and we don't need courts and lawyers."

"Well, you'll note that it's essentially what you said, but by putting it in less formal language, it becomes more accessible. I think it's a good start. I just wanted to make it a little easier for people to internalize."

"I agree," I told her, "We can read them to the people as they gather for dinner, and post copies around the place..."

I stopped mid-sentence as Amanda held up her hand.

"I think we should post one copy in an easily accessible place, not all over the place. We want to make it available, not shove it down their throats. This mini-dictatorship is going to be tough enough for them to swallow as it is, so let's not be too confrontational about it."

I stared at her in wonder, wishing I had had someone like her to help me run my company before the sickness made the whole thing a waste of time.

"I'm sorry," Amanda said, misinterpreting my silence, "I guess I got carried away. It's still your ball game."

"No, no, no," I replied, trying to back out her apology. "You are, once again, exactly right. I was just thinking how your talents complement mine perfectly. In fact, at least in private, I insist that you speak your mind on anything you think needs addressing. I am coming to depend on you to keep me real. Now, about the shopping list..."

We spent the next hour or so working on supplies we needed and trying to plan a route for the first scavenging expedition. When we had what we considered a good plan, we began hashing over who we could afford to send, and who needed to stay behind, finally concluding that we needed Gunny's input before we could finalize that list.

When Garcia appeared out of the depths of the mine, late in the afternoon, he asked "Hey, didn't you hear me calling on the walkie-talkie?"

Amanda and I looked at each other, shrugged, and checked our sets. Both were on, charged and functioning.

"Crap!" I said, "I forgot. Radio waves aren't going to travel far through the mountain. We'll have to rig some other form of communication if we're going to be working down there. What was it you wanted?"

"It wasn't really important. I was going to ask for a pick, but Carmen found one in an alcove."

"Well, grab something to eat. There's something we want to go over with you."

We only gave him time to get a sandwich before dragging him into the study with the door closed.

"I'll take Colby and Sanchez, and put Smiley on the last truck as tail gunner," he said immediately, once we had laid out our plans.

"Not Sanchez. I'm sorry Gunny, but I don't want to expose any of the women like that just yet. Pick another man. Preferably one who's already been with one of the women."

"Hmm. Let me sleep on it. That leaves only three possibilities, and of the three the only one I know who's been with a woman is Jamaal."

"Make him your last choice, anyway. Ruth is leaning on him pretty heavily right now, and I don't think I want to make him leave her for a while. Let me know tomorrow. By the way, are you making any progress in the 'being with a woman' area?"

"None of your business, boss," he grinned, "but thanks for sending Sanchez down to help out."

"Hey, I don't need to know, but if you do get anywhere, do us all a favor and let Cora know. She's trying to keep genealogical records."

"Right. Well let me go see what's up with Matt and the German guy. See if one of them wants to go for a ride."

"Before you go," I said, "There's one more thing that needs to be decided. Being this close to all that military hardware is a double-edged sword. We get to pick and choose what we want for our own defense if we get there first, but we can't possibly use everything we find. If we leave it behind, however, someone else might use it against us. Any thoughts?"

"I guess we could try to collect it all in one place and blow it up," Amanda said.

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