Getting By
Chapter 12

Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B

I awoke the next morning to the sight of Amanda standing, already dressed, beside the bed.

"Wow!" I murmured, studying her face for lingering emotional traces from last night's session.

"Hi!" She smiled, jumping onto the bed beside me.

Her small frame seemed to weigh about twice as much as its size implied, but I welcomed her with open arms as she crawled on top of me.

We kissed warmly for several long moments. As our lips parted, Amanda looked down at me from only inches away and said, "Well, I guess that answers one question."

"Which one is that?"

"I guess I'm not exclusive to women. Seems I'm just a plain old, garden variety, bisexual submissive."

"Lose the 'plain old, garden variety' and I'll agree with you. Last night was anything but 'plain old, garden variety, ' at least for me. I hope it was a bit more than that for you, as well."

"I've had women who treated me worse," she mused, a half-smile on her lips, "which, of course, I enjoyed, but women always want to get into your head. With them, dominance is more a mental and emotional game. With you, it's just a convenient way to get what you want without having to ask or worry about my feelings. Since my feelings are all about being used by someone else, it works out pretty well."

"Hmmm. I get the feeling I haven't converted you away from women entirely."

"Hey, fun's fun. I'm happy to know I can have it with either sex, but why give up chocolate just because I've discovered I like vanilla?"

"Sounds reasonable to me."

"That's me, reasonable as they come."

"Speaking of which, you should know that it has been years since I have been able to perform that many times in one night. Didn't expect to see this old body doing that sort of stuff anymore."

"Glad to be of service, but you need to build up your strength. If the little strip doesn't turn blue, you're gonna have to do it all over again."

"Why wait to see if the strip turns blue? Let's just keep trying until it does..."

"Once in a while, maybe, but Cora isn't likely to give us the room every night, especially after the ruckus we kicked up last night."

"Guess I can't blame her. Certainly, nights when we're on watch, we'll need our beauty sleep. Seriously, though, I want to make sure I wasn't too rough on you last night, especially that last time..."

"Are you kidding? Face down, wrists tied to ankles - that's one of my favorite positions!"

"Still, I was pretty rough on you."

Amanda smiled and kissed me again. "Yes, you were, and it was wonderful! I think I'm going to have to beg off of the riding lesson today, though."

It was my turn to smile as I said, "Remember what you told me the other night, about being a leader to these people? Well, guess what? It applies to my second, as well. If anything happens to me, you're going to have to lead them, and you can't wait 'til then to earn their respect."

Amanda groaned and rolled her eyes skyward. "You are a sadistic bastard!"

"Yeah, but you like it that way, remember?"

"Only in the bedroom, baby. Only in the bedroom."

"Well, suck it up, we've still got a lot to do here."

"Gladly..." Amanda said, reaching for my waist.

"Not that!" I laughed, "Though I'm awfully tempted. C'mon, let's go get some breakfast."

"That's what I was trying to do!" she complained, grinning impishly.

"You're going to need a lot more nourishment than that," I replied. "Now please get off of me so I can get dressed."

As we came into the kitchen area, I saw Crystal looking peeved and glaring at Cora. As she saw us, she turned to the nurse and said, a little too loudly, "Good! They're done! Can I take these out now?"

Without waiting for an answer, she reached up and pulled a wad of cotton out of each ear.

Cora gave us a reproachful look and said, "Next time you two decide to play those games, you might want to consider using a gag, too. Crystal is far too young to be exposed to that, that... !" She threw her hands up, at a loss for words.

From the flush I felt, I imagined my face had gotten as red as Amanda's.

"Oh, don't listen to her!" Crystal pouted. "It's not like I don't know about sex. I mean, my mom and dad didn't exactly invite me into their room, but they didn't always remember to lock the door at night, either. Tell her I don't need the earplugs, ple-e-ease, Gavin?"

"Sorry, Crystal," I told her. "I'm afraid I have to agree with her on this one. If we're not going to let you have sex for the next couple of years, we probably shouldn't be flaunting it in front of you, either. That's not fair to you."

"I knew I should have brought my mother's vibrator!" She ranted, stalking off down the hall.

Amanda and I both apologized to Cora, promising to keep the noise level down in the future, and then Amanda took me by the hand and led me back to the Guest room.

"Come on, Amanda," I protested, "I'm not going to build up my strength..."

"Keep your pants on, big boy. I've got an idea to help Crystal out. We can't, after all, expect her to go from modern teenager to cloistered nun without some support, can we?"

"Well..."

Amanda reached in the drawer of the nightstand and pulled out a vibrator. In response to my raised eyebrow, she shrugged and said, "I put it there, just in case..."

"Yeah, but are you sure it's wise to give that to a thirteen year-old? I mean, look at the size of that thing!"

"It'll still buzz her well enough to relieve some of the itch, and if she decides to use it another way, well, at least her first time with a man won't be a bloody mess."

I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do, but we had to re-think a lot of the notions we once took for granted, so I shrugged and stepped aside as she headed for Crystal's room, then fell in behind her.

"Go away!" Was the immediate response to Amanda's knock.

Instead of answering, Amanda turned on the vibrator and let it buzz against the panel. Sure enough, in a few seconds, a puzzled teenager opened the door.

"What the... ? Oh my God!" Crystal's eyes widened at the sight of Amanda standing there waggling the vibrator in front of her face.

"I-is this supposed to be some kind of bribe?"

"Your spelling is atrocious, dear," Amanda chided. "That's spelled with a 'v' and there's no 'r' in it. Do you want to use it, or not?"

"You - you'd let me?"

"We don't want you getting pregnant too soon, dear. It's a safety precaution, not a punishment. If this will help, then you're welcome to it. Just remember that batteries are going to be harder and harder to find, so use them sparingly."

The young girl's eyes then turned to me. "You're okay with this?"

"I have no objection, Crystal. It's not what the society we knew last month would consider proper, but that society no longer exists. If this will help you wait until the proper time to have sex, I'm all for it."

Suddenly, she was thirteen again, as Crystal threw her arms around Amanda's neck, hugging her tightly, then jumped up and wrapped all four limbs around me.

"Oh, thank you!" She squealed. "You guys are so cool!"

Just as suddenly, the teen and the vibrator disappeared behind the slamming door. Amanda and I exchanged amused glances. I wondered if this was how parents felt.

I spent most of the day jury rigging a simple telegraph system from telephone wire and some old speakers Archie had stored in a shed. I removed the paper cones from the speakers and used the coils and magnets. Attaching a metal arm to the magnet and securing one end gave me the basics. With a metal stop placed under the unsupported end of the arm, I ensured that when the arm went down, it would make a tapping sound. I made up several of these units and wired them in such a way that when the arm on one end of the circuit was 'tapped, ' it closed a circuit to the coil on the other end, which drew the magnet down, causing the arm on the other end to repeat whatever pattern was tapped. I didn't have parts to create interlocks so that the same tapper could be used as both sender and receiver, so I made three sets of three units consisting of one sender and two receivers in each set.

I put a transmitter and two receivers each in the tunnel near the bottom exit from the mine, in the living area of the mine, near my tent and Amanda's, and in the command post at the house. When all the wires had been strung together, and they had been hooked up to a 12 volt battery, we had rudimentary communication between the fire control room, the command post, and the living area of the mine. It wasn't perfect, but it would do until something better came along.

Thinking of something better coming along, I went back to the 'shopping' list and added something I remembered from my days on board a ship, hoping to god the Navy still had them, and they could be found at the Naval Weapons Station. Yep, you guessed it - sound-powered phones. These little marvels of early twentieth century technology were still the best choice for certain situations. The Navy had used them even after all the fancy electronic stuff came along, simply because they didn't depend on shipboard power or any external power source, and could be rigged from point to point in minutes, if enough wire could be found. In a battle, even with extensive damage to the ships electrical and electronic systems, the sound-powered phones would still work.

If they were good enough for shipboard battle conditions, I figured they ought to let people in the mine communicate with key points in our encampment quite handily, despite the fact that the walkie-talkies didn't work in the mine.

Heather Billingsley continued cleaning the stables.

I stopped in to check on her and noticed a smear of blood on the handle of the shovel she was wielding.

"Let me see your hands, Heather," I told her. She meekly showed them to me. There were several popped blisters that had begun to bleed.

"Take those hands up to the house and have Cora take care of them, then report back here."

"It's okay," she said. "It's just part of the punishment, right?"

"No," I told her. "You suffered enough physical pain the other day. This is just to finish out your original punishment."

"Well, if you say so," she said, and started toward the house, then stopped. "Why did you say those things? I mean, why were you nice to me while you were whipping me?"

"I wanted you to succeed, Heather," I told her. "But I couldn't do it by going easy on you. You had to find the courage to do it yourself."

"You did?" she asked, surprised. "After the way I acted?"

"There aren't enough people left that we can afford to just discard the ones we've got, Heather. I thought that if you could find a way to understand what was really going on that you would come around, but after the way you acted, it had to be a real commitment. You showed a lot of courage, young lady. I expected you to be begging me to stop after the first stroke. When you didn't, you gained my respect and that of the others that were watching, too."

"Really?" she asked. "Wow! Thanks, Mr. Thompson. For that, and for your support the other day. It - it helped."

As she left, I turned to Matt who was hovering nearby. "Do we have any work gloves around here?"

"I was about to ask you about that. Wasn't sure if it would be allowed." He grinned, "There's some in stores, and a couple of well-used pairs in the shed over there."

"I've noticed you've been hanging around Ms. Billingsley maybe a little more than is needed to show her what she needs to do. Anything you want to tell me."

"Not particularly. I mean, we've got some things in common. I did some stunts for her old man when he was doing westerns, and we know some of the same studio people, but that's about it."

"You think I'm being too hard on her?"

He shrugged, but looked me in the eye as he replied, "I figure that's your call. I probably would have done it differently, but I'm not responsible for all these people, and I'm just as glad I'm not. If I get to disagreeing with you too strongly, I imagine I'll head out on my own, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. There's somethin' about the way you just kinda took the bull by the horns and decided to rebuild the human race all on your own that makes me want to stick around and see how it turns out."

"I can't even begin to think about doing this all on my own, Matt," I snorted, "but I appreciate the vote of confidence. By the way, if you decide you'd rather sleep in the stable some nights while Heather's up here, there's nothing in her punishment that goes against it, long as you're not doing her work for her."

"Yeah, I was kinda wondering about that, too. Thanks."

"Don't mention it - at least not to me. One of you might want to mention it to Cora if you do, though. She's trying to keep genealogical records," I told him.

"It's kinda weird to be told to 'kiss and tell'," he shrugged, "but I guess it makes sense, and a lot of stuff we used to take for granted is going to have to be re-thought."

He shook his head and walked off to find Heather some gloves.

The trucks, driven by Ramon, Colby, and Gunther Schmidt, with Smiley acting as tail gunner, headed out on the first 'shopping' trip a week and a half after we first got to Archie's place.

I had an eight hour shift that night to fill in for the Gunny. In fact, Amanda and I would both be pulling double shifts until he got back. After checking in on the watches topside, I headed down into the mine to check the lower entrance.

I was about to return when one of Garcia's tell-tales jingled quietly. I looked at the wall where the two washers still swung and the label above them said 'Lower Wash'. I remembered him telling me he had rigged things so that certain bushes that were likely to get moved by someone coming up the wash would yank the cord without cluing in whoever was coming. The tell-tale would be repeated up in the mouth of the mine, but I tapped a quick message on my little telegraph anyway.

Without waiting for a response, I started taking off my boots.

In my socks, I took only a sidearm and knife with me as I slipped out of the cave opening.

Using all the skills my old mentor taught me - feeling for sticks with my toes before I put my weight down, making sure my clothes didn't rub against the brush, and staying to the shadows, I positioned myself about a hundred yards from the cave entrance, about ten yards from the direct line up the wash.

I waited patiently, allowing my eyes to adjust to the dim light, and using my peripheral vision to tell me if anything moved. It was several minutes before he showed up. He was being cautious, but not really expecting to run into anyone.

As he came closer and I saw the figure in the moonlight, a sense of familiarity grew within me. It couldn't be, but I knew that stoop-shouldered crouch, the way the head turned to use ears as well as eyes, the hawk-like profile. How many nights had I stalked beside that very figure in my youth?

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