Island Mine - Cover

Island Mine

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Chapter 10


The Truong brothers helped their mother down the airplane's stairs, followed closely by Arman's wife Rava. The family gathered at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Waylon. The new arrivals looked around at the different buildings. The combination field tower and reception building wasn't very elaborate. It was about the size of a modest house and the 'tower' portion was only two stories tall. They could see the large hangars at the other end of the airfield, but little else of the island from their vantage point.

Waylon changed his mind about what they needed to do first.

"Rava, can you take Deni inside and find her a seat? The reception building is unlocked. I'm going to take Arman and Felix with me to bring back some transportation."

"Yes, Mr. Waylon."

Waylon led the men through a gate and directed them to an electrically powered, four seat utility vehicle parked nearby. The vehicle was like a golf cart on steroids, complete with roll cage. The brothers were familiar with the type from their previous employment.

Waylon gave an abbreviated tour on the way to the vehicle barn. "We've got one main road. It runs from the airfield to the port and from the port out to my place on the other end of the island. There are smaller paths connecting the different buildings. You can just see the roof of the community building," Waylon said, pointing with one hand. "I want to get the produce and frozen goods unloaded and stored. The building has two big walk-in refrigerators, a big freezer, and a full kitchen. We can set your mother up with a comfortable seat until we're ready to take a look at the houses."

Arman grabbed for a handhold as Waylon make a sharp turn and screeched to a halt at a point overlooking the bay.

"You can see how the port has been laid out. Well, I call it a port. We've got a nice pier anyway. Next to the community building is climate controlled storage space, sort of a mini-warehouse. The building just down slope from it is temporary guest quarters. There are a couple of bunkrooms that will sleep four apiece, and four single suites. The suites are more like small apartments.

"Resident housing is on the other side of the bay. It's a short walk or an even faster trip with these vehicles. We've got enough for everybody to have their own wheels. There are charging stations at the houses."

"Mr. Waylon, no boats?" Arman asked.

Waylon thought quickly, "They're being stored in one of the hangars. I didn't think I'd fill the staff positions this quickly."

"Mr. Waylon, what are those things?" Felix asked.

Waylon turned to see what he was pointing at.

"They're called radomes," Waylon said, with glance back toward the airfield. "The white ball covers an antenna, keeps the weather and the critters out."

The handful of white geodesic domes were clustered a short distance behind the twin hangars and another newly constructed building. The entire area was surrounded by a double layer of razor wire topped fencing. Between the two hangars, the windowless building, and the radomes, Waylon couldn't blame Felix for being curious.

"It's not safe to go near them," he said. "The hangar and the fenced area are the only off limits portion of the island."

The brothers mumbled their understanding.

Waylon hit the accelerator and the vehicle sped down the hill. Arman held on for dear life and did not appear to have much confidence in the boss's driving, but Waylon smiled at him anyway.

The vehicle barn was open sided, the keys to each vehicle hung from a peg board. One great thing about a small island, vehicle theft wasn't going to be much of an issue. Arman and Felix quickly hitched cargo carts to two of the larger vehicles and Waylon followed the brothers back to the airfield.

Android Bob had already unloaded the personal baggage from the cabin, so Waylon and the brothers went to work unloading the cargo hold. As soon as they were clear, the copilot restarted the engines and taxied the aircraft down to the hangar at the other end of the taxiway.

Waylon and the Truong brothers managed to get everything, and everybody, relocated to the community building.

The building was comfortably furnished, but not decorated. There hadn't been time in the rush to get the island completed. Wide verandas provided terrific views of the bay and their immediate surroundings.

Rava got a pot of coffee going while her mother-in-law supervised from a nearby chair. The brothers again tried to get Waylon to take a seat while they did the work, but he quickly disabused them of that notion. They were good workers and it didn't take long to get everything stored properly.

After a short break, Waylon gathered the family around one of the tables. He handed each a printed map of the island and talked them through the highlights. There was a lot more island than buildings, so it didn't take long.

Rava raised a trembling hand.


"Your house there," she pointed at the north end of the island on the map, "you work here." She pointed at the hangar complex.

"That's right," Waylon answered, trying to figure out where this was going.

"We never clean work area. After settling in, we start cleaning house maybe once a week."

Waylon was uncomfortable with the idea of having anybody clean his house, but it was part of the program. "That's also right."

Rava's face scrunched in concentration. She pointed to the cluster of five houses. "And we should also clean these once a week?"

Waylon looked at the faces of the family in front of him. Somehow, something had been lost in translation.

He pointed at the map and counted the houses. "One house for Deni, one for Felix, one for Arman and Rava, or one for Arman and one for Rava if you prefer, and one for Remy when he arrives."

Rava looked at him and blinked, as did the rest of the Truong family. She bent toward her mother-in-law and a furious conversation ensued between the family members.

Waylon sat back. AI Barry had offered to translate, but he quietly shook his head and opted not to listen in on their private conversation.

"Okay," Rava said. "How much you charge for electricity or cooking fuel? Groceries?"

Most of these questions Waylon could answer easily. "The island makes its own power with more than enough to spare for domestic use, so there is no charge for any utilities. Do you understand geothermal? We also have a very powerful desalination system, so fresh water is not an issue."

"Géothermique," Arman explained to the others.

There was a multi-million gallon fresh water reservoir buried underneath the island along with a lot of other things the Truong's would never know about.

"As far as groceries go, I'll purchase basic staples as part of a community pantry. We'll have to set up some sort of system for ordering and bringing in additional perishable goods. If you have ideas about how to manage that, I'd like to hear them. I suspect it may be our biggest logistical challenge. I'd also like explore how much of our own food we can grow."

Deni perked up a bit at that last part, and got a thoughtful look on her face. The Truongs finally started to loosen up, and asked a number of questions that Waylon had to put some effort into answering.

Arman raised the issue of their salary and how it would be paid.

"Is electronic deposit okay with you?" Waylon asked.

"We will have access to computer?"

"Yes, but I'll warn you that we don't have a multi-user contract for phone and internet service. We've got an offer out, but it could take several weeks before we're connected to the world. Until then, if you need to make off island calls or access the internet I've got a satellite phone that can be used."

Waylon had the Truongs follow him to the storage building. Inside were almost all the items the Truongs would need to furnish their homes. The AIs had manufactured the furnishings, along with the homes, during the night.

Just as he requested, there were house warming gift bags for each family member. Waylon handed them out. They contained a tablet computer and cell phone that would only work locally until they got connected to the outside world. Felix turned out to be the computer expert in the Truong family and assured Waylon that he would take care of any questions the family had about the gadgets.

"Your phones have my number and the number of the switchboard already programmed into them. Remember, they'll only work locally for now," Waylon said. "If you have any questions, call the switchboard day or night. Penelope runs it and she can help you out with just about anything."

"Mr. Waylon, where do Penelope and Bob live?" Felix asked.

Waylon wondered when somebody was going to ask. Mentally crossing his fingers, he delivered the lie they had practiced. "At the hangar facility, we have a small group of people who are working on some sensitive technology. While they are working, they live there. When their work is done, they will fly home and new people will arrive to take their place."

Arman quickly explained to his wife and mother about the fenced in area.

That ended the matter, but Waylon knew more questions would eventually be asked.

He gave the five house keys to Rava and instructed the family to visit each house, and pick where they wanted to live.

Waylon had no success with his attempts to help the Truongs move into their new accommodations. Arman and Felix were insistent that he had absolutely no business moving furniture for them.

Being the boss was going to take some getting used to.

The drive to the north end of the island was his first. If everything went belly up, at least the AIs could have second careers working for a highway department somewhere. The road was glass smooth and followed the contours of the land with a gentle ease.

The house was too much for him. It blended with the steep slope it was built on. The side facing the ocean looked like it belonged to a mansion on the Malibu coastline. It had a wide, curved, all-glass first floor facing the ocean. The smaller second story also provided breathtaking views. There was a stairway off the large deck leading down to a private beach.

Waylon wandered around, listening to his footsteps echo in the empty rooms.

Eventually, he found himself out on the deck overlooking the ocean where there was a large infinity pool. He thought briefly about going for a swim. The AIs had even added a massive outdoor grill to the deck. It was one thing he was looking forward to trying. He hadn't had a grilled steak or burger in ages.

"Do you like the house, Waylon?" AI Barry asked.

"It's spectacular, but too big for my needs. It's awfully empty."

"We barely had time to finish the rest of the island, but we can add furniture tonight if you wish."

"I guess. How are our new guests settling in?"

"They are very industrious and have moved all the large items. It may take some time for them to 'settle in' as you put it. Felix has elected to stay with his mother while her health is an issue. Arman and Rava are living next door. Perhaps Felix will decide to room with his brother, Remy, when he arrives next month?

"Perhaps," Waylon replied. "I think extended families living together is pretty common in these parts."

"They are very eager about the opportunities here on the island. Would you like a translation of what they are talking about? They have some interesting speculation about you and the activities at the hangar complex."

Waylon held his tongue while he thought it over. "It's an incredible temptation, but I can't see any good coming from it."

"As you wish."

"You're going to monitor them anyway, aren't you?"

"Yes," the AI replied.

"Keep it to yourselves unless there's something that might endanger the island or another resident."

"We do not think you would abuse the information, but will honor your wishes. Do you have plans for the night?"

It was a strange question coming from the AIs. They knew his options were limited. "I thought I'd drive back to the hangar and sleep in my old quarters."

The AI was amused, and directed him to a hidden access door in the basement of the house. They had built a transport tube between the house and the underground base.

"Where else does this go?"

"Only to the underground site."

Waylon entered the transport car and looked around. It wasn't much different than a tram he'd once ridden between airport terminals, except it didn't have any windows or stink of urine.

As soon as he'd taken a seat, the car accelerated. A monitor on the other wall showed that this was going to be a quick trip.

"Were you planning to get much sleep tonight?" Barry asked.

"Like I'm going to sleep after you say something like that. What's going on?"

"We need to pick up the boats we purchased."

The transport car came to a halt and the doors slid open before Waylon could formulate his reply.

"What do you mean, purchased?" Waylon said as he walked into the cavernous lock area, "and where the heck did everything go?"

The lock had been crammed with all kinds of raw materials the last time he'd seen it.

"We've used or relocated everything but the precious metals. Your car is in the garage at the house, and the front end loader and pickup are parked in the new hangar.

Waylon didn't even remember seeing a garage at the house. A few tons of gold and other precious metals were in a corner of the lock, looking forlorn. The only other thing in the lock was one of the large black transports hovering above the floor.

AI Norm spoke, "We considered constructing the boats. With more exposure and new personnel, a purchase is the more prudent course. Boat purchases can be easily traced. Having witnesses to the purchase will add a nice layer of deniability if an anomaly elsewhere is uncovered."

At least somebody on the island was using their head, or his head, Waylon thought. "I take it that you've planned a little trip?"

"If you do not mind?"

The big black transport sunk toward the floor and a dark portal opened in its side.

He boarded the strange craft and followed the passageway. The black on black material made it easy to lose his bearings despite the helpful light strip. The passageway ended at a familiar looking arrangement. He'd had the same setup in the escape pod out of Texas.

He strapped in and brought up the monitors and instruments he wanted to observe.

"We're already moving?" Waylon said.

"There is a time factor with this operation. We need to be at the shipyard before it closes for the evening. Full stealth mode, as you have put it, is engaged."

"This is an insane velocity!"

"This craft is capable of maneuvers that can be detrimental to cargo and passengers. We have neutralized the effects of gravity for your safety."

"Of course you did. You just neutralized gravity," Waylon said. "Hey, how come I don't have this on my airplane?"

"It was important that you learn piloting skills within the influence of a gravity well," the AI replied.

Waylon didn't know how to reply to that. He was still trying to wrap his brain around the whole neutralizing gravity thing. According to the navigation screen, their destination was Panama City, Panama. They'd be over Central America is less than forty minutes. The transport made the Rapid X seem like a slow prop job in comparison.

Barry explained that AIs had successfully bid on two boats seized from a would-be drug warlord. The man had an ambitious idea. Smuggle his product aboard small boats marked as the maritime branch of the Panamanian Public Forces, their version of a national military-police force. The venture had been discovered before it could get off the ground and the drug dealer's assets were sent to auction.

The AIs displayed detailed information about their purchase. They had done well.

The smaller craft was a rigid inflatable boat, or RIB for short. It was a type that Waylon had seen often around Pearl Harbor. The Navy used them for port security. Twenty-seven feet long with a deep V hull and an open console, the small RIBs could really move. It was powered by twin outboard motors. The larger boat had an overall length of thirty-seven feet. It featured three monster outboards and a partially enclosed cockpit. It was a boat that begged to go fast in the waters surrounding Freehold. Both boats were equipped with all the bells and whistles, including radar and law enforcement lights and sirens. Trailers were included in the auction price. All they needed to do was retrieve them from a small commercial boat services company storage lot.

Waylon got a good look at the Pacific side of the Panama Canal on the way to the landing spot. It was located a couple of miles west of their destination. The transport hid behind an abandoned building and unloaded two heavy duty diesel trucks.

The AIs configured two androids for the mission, their skin and features were altered so they would pass as locals. AIs Barry and Norm would be running them remotely. Waylon's job was to keep his mouth shut while the two AI controlled androids did all the talking. Waylon's presence didn't make much sense to him, he didn't speak Spanish, but the AIs thought it was important so he was willing to play along.

It took almost as long to have their paperwork acknowledged, and to get the boat trailers hitched up, as it did to fly back to Freehold.

Back at the island, Waylon explored the boats carefully. They were as new as the auction had claimed. The two boats and their trailers made an odd sight in the empty lock. The AIs were going to give them a complete checkout and remove all the Panamanian military markings before moving them to one of the hangars.

Waylon would even get a full night's sleep. Maybe that was the lesson the AIs had wanted to teach him. With their technology, he could go anywhere in the world.

Fort Belvoir, Virginia

The Agency Executive's office was quiet. The man who ran the Defense Logistics Agency read through the report on his desk. The men standing before him were a study in contrasts. Nathanial Woollcott was an Army man, and stood quietly. Woollcott's boss, the head of Strategic Materials, was breathing unevenly and couldn't keep his hands still.

Good subordinates were hard to come by and the executive hated to lose Woollcott. He could have gone far at DLA. The head of Strategic Materials had been a damned fool to have let this disaster go as far as it had. It was the man's responsibility to reign in hard chargers like Woollcott.

Now, the mess was in his lap and the executive's decision was easy.

"This is a cluster fuck of the first order," he said, breaking the silence. "You two will probably spend the next year in front of one oversight committee or another. Even if they don't hang you, you'll be broke by the end of it."

The soon to be former head of Strategic Materials almost cracked. The Agency Executive dismissed the man while he still had some dignity left.

"Woollcott, I need a minute."

The executive waited until the other man had left. "Nathanial, you were right to take the actions you did, but you'll never hear that again. Too bad you got caught."

"Yes, sir."

"We don't have a dammed clue who the leak is. The investigators have uncovered some petty fraud, and one division head who was working his way through the secretarial pool. If we can keep the payout for that mess under seven figures I'll consider it a victory.

"I've arranged a lateral transfer for you. If you can keep your head down, you might just ride this thing out. Something will leak from congress. It always does. Maybe then you can get revenge on our anonymous songbird."

"Thank you, sir."

"Good luck, Woollcott."

Weeks later

Waylon's morning was off to a good start. He'd gotten another email from Marylee Walker. She'd sent the short note via a satellite connection from one of the southernmost islands in French Polynesia; crewing aboard a luxury yacht had its perks. He didn't know where the fledgling relationship was going, but he looked forward to her notes.

The arrival of the Truongs had triggered many changes on Freehold. The best from Waylon's perspective was that the family matriarch, Deni Truong, insisted that during the work week they have a community breakfast, followed by a morning staff meeting.

Waylon parked his truck and walked to the front door of the community center. The pickup hadn't gotten much use recently, but it had been volunteered to help with a planting project. He decided that he was going to turn the truck over to Arman since he really didn't have a use for it anymore.

Breakfast was in full swing inside. Waylon could get a full American style breakfast if he wanted, but he was enjoying some of the fresh fruit offerings their last grocery run had provided. He exchanged greetings with the new faces and found a place at the big table.

Deni bustled around the table and filled Waylon's glass, "Bacon and eggs this morning, Mr. Waylon?"

"Tempting, but how about grapefruit and some toast, instead?"

She checked on their guests and Waylon smiled at the change in the woman. Her face had started to fill out, easing the gaunt lines that had been there before. Her first week on the island had been pretty rough, but since then her energy had rebounded. The AIs reported that she should make a full recovery.

After a relaxed breakfast, the plates were cleared with a clatter of silverware while fresh coffee was poured. The morning meetings may have been Deni's suggestion, but they were being run by her son, Arman.

Waylon's only contribution to the meetings was a chalkboard that he had 'found, ' much to the AI's amusement. The low tech item had been quickly embraced. Normally, it sat out in front of the community center listing meal times, upcoming menus, or other important notes. The AIs couldn't understand why the island residents didn't use their computer tablets for a virtual meeting place.

Arman stood in front of the chalkboard, which was propped up on a chair, while he discussed the day's tasks. He'd improved greatly in a short period of time. For the first couple of meetings he'd been a nervous wreck. Most days the meeting was over in minute or two. This day was a little more ambitious.

Signaling his desire to speak, Waylon stood and grabbed Arman's arm to keep him at the head of the table.

"Arman's done a great job as manager," Waylon said, pausing as everybody smiled when Rava, Arman's wife, clapped, "and every manager or supervisor I've ever known drove a pickup truck. So, these are for you."

Waylon handed the truck keys over to Arman who looked genuinely shocked.

"So, what now, Mr. Manager?" Waylon asked.

"All hands on deck," Arman said, echoing a phrase he'd learned from Waylon. "Omo wants to get started on the garden."

"Well, what Omo wants, Omo gets," Waylon replied.

Freehold desperately needed a master gardener, or so Deni had informed him. The solution was Omo. Waylon and Arman had been sent to the island of Moorea to fetch the man. He was a Tahitian of advancing age. Seventy-something, he claimed, but Omo couldn't remember exactly when he had been born. They'd found him at his home, a ramshackle, two room hut on the west side of the island. Arman talked to the elderly man while Waylon waited outside. He didn't know what they talked about, but twenty minutes later Arman and Waylon were hauling boxes of gardening implements to the taxi they'd hired.

It was clear that Freehold was going to look a lot different because of his efforts.

The pickup, driven by Arman, was followed by a convoy of utility vehicles, each pulling a cart. The destination was the new hangar at the airfield. The island construction plan had called for native greenery, but neither the AIs nor Waylon had given any thought to color. To rectify this, Omo had a lengthy shopping list. Android Bob had made several flights to fetch supplies and plants. In reality, Bob had flown circles in the sky. The AIs had conducted several night raids to acquire new plants. Waylon hadn't asked where and he'd long since stopped asking if they were careful.

The plants in their various containers were carefully lined in front of the newer of the two hangars. The large hangar doors were open, and the two androids from the mission to Panama City were lugging the last of the materials. Waylon waved, watching the reactions of the others but they gave no indication that they had noticed anything irregular about the 'workers.'

The two androids still had their Panama City faces and were wearing coveralls with 'Freehold' stitched over the breast. Waylon made a mental note to have some coveralls made available to the human residents of the island.

With the extra hands, it didn't take long to get the first batch of planters and supplies loaded.

"Mr. Waylon," said Felix.


Waylon turned to see Felix standing next to his brother, pointing at the front end loader parked inside the hanger next to a stack of building supplies.

"Do you have a use for it?" Waylon asked.

The brothers nodded. Waylon wasn't the only one who liked big equipment.

"You're going to need a bigger vehicle shed."

"We could rig an awning," Arman said.

"Tell you what. Go ahead and take this load back. The boys and I will put the potting soil and fertilizer bags in the bucket and I'll drive the front end loader to you. Save us another trip."

After the other humans left, Waylon and the androids loaded the front end loader's bucket attachment. The androids handled the heavy bags four at a time.

"That went well I thought," AI Barry said.

"It did, the latest modifications you guys made are really good. Still, I don't think we should let them mingle much."

"Agreed," replied the AI.

Waylon drove the large front end loader to an area above the port and paused to get a look. A large patch of level ground was in the process of being converted into an elaborate vegetable garden. He continued on to the vehicle barn. To one side, they had erected a temporary greenhouse covered in plastic sheeting.

That wasn't the only change. At Omo's direction there were also plant beds being added at an alarming rate all around the living areas of the island. Arman and Felix had even spent a day at Waylon's house measuring and sketching planting diagrams.

Waylon and the Truong men unloaded the soil and fertilizer under Omo's watchful eye. They were joined, at least in spirit, by the second recent addition to Freehold.

"Mr. Dalgliesh, come to help out?" Waylon asked.

"No, sir. I'll leave the manual labor to you young folks."

Rowen Dalgliesh wasn't old. In his mid-50s, the man had been hired on a three week contract to teach Arman and Felix the finer points of power boat handling. As they had informed Waylon, they were fine crewmen, but the powerful boats that Waylon had acquired for the island were beyond their skill level.

After a week of phone calls around the islands and beyond, they got a cautious suggestion that they inquire after Mr. Dalgliesh. Retired from the British Royal Marines, the Scottish expatriate was something of a boat bum bouncing around from port to port racking up a slew of alcohol related arrests.

Waylon had been skeptical, but the man had the qualifications they needed - twenty years of service in small boat operations. He had parlayed that experience to work as a military contractor for a few years before his itchy feet, or taste for drink, took him wandering around the South Pacific. At their first meeting, Rowen explained that he didn't have a problem with alcohol while on the job. His only problem was that he was so infrequently employed.

"Mr. Dalgliesh, will you be joining us for lunch?" Arman asked.

"Aye, if your mother is cooking. I'd be delighted," the man replied.

Waylon tried to decipher the undercurrent he'd detected in the brief conversation, but lost the thought as his phone started playing some obnoxious music. AI Penelope had discovered ring tones, and delighted in changing his as frequently as possible.


"Waylon, Rusty Lightner's office has called twice this morning," AI Penelope's pleasant voice informed him.

"Okay, I'm on my way."

The control room buried deep beneath the hangar complex was buzzing with activity, at least on the monitors. Two wide shots showed activity around the port area. Waylon tolerated it because they didn't zoom on any one individual. It was casual surveillance. Another screen traced the track of an ocean surveillance flight being conducted by one of the drones.

"Good news, do you think?" Waylon asked to the empty room.

"We are not going to spoil it for you," AI Barry replied. "We would like to have a discussion on another subject when you have the time."

"Is this a conversation I want to have before, or after, I call Rusty?"

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