Getting By
Chapter 19

Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B

"I wish I could lay out a step-by-step plan that will assure you that I have our future well mapped out, but the truth is that there are too many variables for such precise planning," I told Amanda as we sat looking out over our little valley. "All I've got to offer is an idea of what we may have to work with and what we can do with it."

"Okay," she said, leaning her head upon my shoulder. "That's better than what I've got now."

"All right," I said, taking a deep breath. God, I hoped she was ready for this. "For the foreseeable future, we live in a land of plenty. That is to say that the society that just died left us a whole hell of a lot to work with. Granted, there are expiration dates on some of it. Processed food, fuel for the vehicles, ammunition for the weapons, and medicines, to name just a few. For some of those, we have backups. The horses we can use for transportation, but we need to do as much heavy hauling as we can before the fuel runs out. For now, we can grow our own food, and in the future we can either make a deal with farmers in the valley west of the mountains, or grab some of that San Joaquin Valley land for ourselves, to do our own farming. We have a lot of ammunition, but with all the automatic weapons we've got, one big campaign can deplete that, so let's hope we don't have to do much fighting. When that's gone, we're reloading brass, then using bows and arrows, unless we learn how to make our own gunpowder, cartridges, and bullets."

I paused and studied her face for a moment. All I found there was interested attention. That was a good sign.

"We also have some assets that maybe no one's thought of, if we can take advantage of them. The biggest is all that scrap metal that's just lying around out there."

"Scrap metal?" Amanda started to ask, before comprehension dawned, "Oh yeah! All those abandoned vehicles..."

"Yep," I nodded. "At first, we may only be able to make stuff from the pieces by cutting, bending, sharpening, etc., but it means that, at least, we're still in the Iron Age. On the other hand, if we work it right, we might actually be able melt it down and make new stuff from it. Stuff that's more appropriate to our emerging society."

"That's going to take fuel, and most of that's going to be gone or deteriorated beyond usefulness in a couple of years," Amanda returned.

I was glad she was thinking along those lines, but I had something else up my sleeve.

"Fuel," I nodded, "or electricity..."

"Electricity?"

"You do realize that we live a few miles from three enormous hydroelectric dams, don't you?" I watched comprehension dawn over her lovely features before continuing. "Hoover Dam alone can generate two gigawatts. Add 120 and 240 megawatts from Parker and Davis Dams, and you have enough electricity to air condition the entire Mojave Desert. More to the point, if we can control it, we would have enough power to operate a number of carbon arc smelters."

"Damn!" Amanda exclaimed, hugging me a bit tighter, "I was thinking in terms of how to feed a bunch of kids, and here you are planning how to get us back to the twenty-first century!"

"Well, the twentieth century, anyway," I smiled, returning her embrace. "We've got a long way to go to catch up on developing semiconductors and modern battery technology. That's why I want to collect as much technical literature as we can, and store it in the mine. We may not need it immediately, but our children and grandchildren might."

"Hell, at this rate, we won't have to drop back far in time at all," she mused. "If we can keep electricity going and find enough spare parts, we can probably keep computers up long enough to help us design their replacements."

"There are several races we're going to have to win for that to happen," I told her, nodding in agreement. "We need to learn how to maintain the power plants and dams before they break down. We need to develop an alternative to petroleum fuel before it runs out, or at the least make sure we've got everything in place to do it before we have to use horses and burros for hauling. If the additives we picked up at that truck stop near Westley work, we might be able to use refined fuel for ten years or so, but we'll need to find more additives, and frankly, I'd just as soon develop alternatives instead. If we can avoid building another petroleum dependent society, we'll be better off in the long run. Oh, and we also need to make sure the water keeps flowing in the pipeline we're stealing it from."

"Stealing it from?" Amanda asked quizzically.

"The water coming down the mountains is not from an artesian source, and these mountains aren't high enough to accumulate a snow pack. Since that water is so vital to our existence, I wanted to know where it came from, and asked Matt to do a little investigating."

"I still don't get the connection."

"Patience, my dear. Matt found where the water was coming from the mountain and draining down into the catch basin, but something about it didn't look right, so he did a little digging near the source, and found a pipe. He followed it back down the southeastern slope of the mountains and found a camouflaged pump, but..." I held up a hand to forestall her interruption, "instead of pumping water out of the ground, it was connected to another piece of pipe. Following that, he came upon one of the water mains that feed water from one of the dams on the Colorado to points west, presumably LA or Palm Springs. Apparently Archie tapped into that pipe in a place where the diversion wasn't likely to get much attention."

"Oh, well, that explains a lot, but what's powering that pump?"

"The power grid. We've been pretty busy, but have you noticed that Archie's backup generator hasn't kicked in yet? According to Sandeep, the dams on the Colorado are still generating power that's feeding the grid in the area around them. If we can keep them operating, and learn how to operate the distribution equipment, we should have power for the foreseeable future."

"Wow! I've been dreading the time when we'll have to depend on fire for cooking. The prospect of using cow chips for fuel just didn't appeal to me. I think I'll make it my personal mission to see to it that we keep those power plants running."

"Well, as I said, that's what we have to work with. As a backup, we might also look at the big solar generation plant that's somewhere near Palm Springs, but that's a secondary source."

"Do you suppose we could use that power to trade for stuff from other groups that might form?"

"I think that if we can keep it going, we ought to provide it for free. It's hard to defend and trying to keep it to ourselves would tend to piss people off. I think if we make it available to anyone who wants it, we generate goodwill and avoid making enemies we don't need. Not only that, it becomes everyone's best interest to keep it going, so we shouldn't have to expend much energy trying to protect the dams, power plants, transmission lines, substations, etc."

"Well, okay, but if we're going to be trading with other groups, what have we got to offer?"

"Ourselves," I answered. "If we succeed in our efforts to become the power no one wants to mess with, we can trade security to others. I don't want to be in the business of supplying arms to anyone, since you never know when they might turn against you. I know we've done that with the People, but the way we're going, they'll be integrated with us in a few years. Once we start getting a handle on developing new stuff, though, I think we keep it to ourselves. We should be able to get what we need from the old cities before the scavengers get too organized and become a serious threat, but as things start to run out, others are going to want what we make, and rather than providing it to them, we should use it as incentive to get them to join us. That makes us stronger, even as we expand, but we expand only into places that aren't claimed by someone else, or into which we're invited. Which reminds me; we need to get started planning our next shopping trip."

"Not tonight, okay?" Amanda said softly, leaning into me. "We've got this beautiful view, and this lovely starlit night, I'm sure we can think of something else to do..."

"Hmm," I answered, nuzzling her ear as her hand slipped into my pants. "What did you have in mind?"

My libido already knew what she had in mind, or at least had its own ideas.

"Well, I was kind of hoping to get a little more of this tonight," she purred, nipping at my Adam's apple as her hand caressed me intimately.

"I'm more than willing, but if we do it the way you usually like it, the whole valley's going to hear us." My own hand had slipped under her shirt.

"I don't really care what people hear," she sighed, arching her back, "but I had something a little softer in mind tonight, a little gentler and more appropriate to the occasion."

"Oh, well, in that case," I said, working at the buttons of her fatigues, "I know just the thing!"

Fatigues are not the best choice of clothing if you're planning on having sex, but I managed to get them off of her, exposing her pale, deceptively frail-looking, body to the moonlight.

"Beautiful!" I couldn't help but whisper as I lowered her to the blanket. The moon- and starlight seemed to give her body an ethereal glow that only enhanced its loveliness. I removed my boots and stood to get out of my own clothing.

"Are you sure about this?" I asked, kneeling between her slender legs. "The last time we tried making love..."

"The last time," she answered softly, "I didn't know you, and I didn't know I loved you."

Without another word, I took one small foot in my hands and kissed the delicate ankle. Using tongue, lips, and teeth, I worked my way slowly down the silky skin of that slender limb.

The urgency of our bodies did not allow for much foreplay, however, and soon I was on top of her lovely body, both of her wrists trapped in my grasp, her arms outstretched above her head.

Tonight was not to be the same as our previous couplings however, and with a deft movement, the slender young lady slipped from my grasp and wrapped both arms about me.

"Make love to me, Gavin," she said softly into my ear. "Tonight, I need a lover, not a master."

I again sought her lips. Softly, tenderly, we kissed as our bodies entwined.

Long minutes passed as we moved together in the age old dance, lips seeking tender spots on ears, necks and throats, in between deep, soulful kisses. Our sweat ran together onto the blanket, making our bodies slippery as time took its toll and the urgency grew. As the fever built within us, I hooked an ankle behind hers and rolled us over until she was mounted on top of me. Every woman I had ever been with had seemed to enjoy this position, simply because it gave them more control over their own stimulation. Amanda was no exception. It had the added benefit of relieving the pressure on my wounded arm.

We collapsed, finally, panting and sweating in the cooling night air of the desert. After a long, basking soak in the aftermath of our love, I finally rolled her to my side, slowly.

Since we had first met, both of us had shown ourselves to be rather pragmatic, no nonsense types, so the soft touches, smiles, kisses, and gentle gestures that replaced words as we donned our clothing seemed a little out of character, but right for the moment.

Still silent, we folded the blanket and made our way back down the trail. One or two couples were still enjoying each other in and around the pool by the falls, but the music was no longer playing as we made our way back to the house.

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