tagSci-Fi & FantasyDan and the Bottle Ch. 05

Dan and the Bottle Ch. 05


Mike Jimson shifted the dust mask on his face as he and Tom carefully wet-sanded the '71 Mustang that was the latest project to come out of the paint booth. With the attention to detail they'd put into the Hunter green beast, they fully expected it to bring at least twenty five grand at the next auction, doubling the money invested in it and then some.

Considering the fact that it was a refugee from a Montana junkyard, the transformation was startling. What had come in as a battered, rusty hulk, with an engine that was barely there and no transmission, rolling on mismatched tires and factory stock steel rims, was now a gleaming, numbers matched shagnasty riding on a nice Centerline rim/Goodyear Eagle tire combo, with an all new light green leather interior, pushing nearly five hundred horses.

It was definitely no cookie-cutter hot rod, and that was what collectors wanted these days.... a car that could be driven, and driven hard. It would be retaped, masked off, and given another coat of the green before being buffed out and given a coat of clear to give the finish some depth. After twelve hours under the heatlamps, it would be given a final inspection and polish and be moved to the 'sale line'. Tom Never cut corners on his paint jobs, and it showed.

In the forest chamber, Mark Miller was putting his current 'class' through their paces, challenging them each to set up a shelter, using only natural materials and whatever tools they had in their small backpacks, that would keep them warm and dry in the rain.

What he didn't tell them was that at the end of an hour, his wife, Abby, who was in the computer control room for this room of the Cave, would use the override to give them a short shower.

The kids impressed him; there were domes and what appeared to be pup tents, and one young boy had used a long line of parachute cord to join four trees into a boxlike configuration, covering the top in light branches before piling on big handfuls of leaves. The half-open sides gave him a full field of view, which he had taken advantage of, shooting a rabbit with the silenced .22 semi-automatic pistol his dad had given him, and had a low fire going, not big enough to threaten the roof over his head, but hot enough to roast his prize, which he was cutting well cooked strips from when Mark walked up to inspect his handiwork.

"Rabbit, Sir?" he asked as Mark walked up, offering him a slice on his knifepoint.

Mark grinned, accepting the offering. "If not for the fact that this doesn't do much to hide you, young man, you'd get top marks.... but I've gotta give you points for creativity."

"My Dad taught me, Sir.... said I was better off relying on my camo and being able to see all the way around."

"Your dad is Jimmy Jackson, isn't he?"

"Yes Sir." The young boy replied proudly.

"Well, you tell him you passed with colors... he'll understand what you mean."

"Thank you, Sir."

The former Delta force warrior chuckled as he went on to the next 'dwelling'. He knew Jackson was a former Recon Marine, and knew all about the ritual 'Calling of the Colors'.

It was the day young men graduated basic training, and could honestly call themselves Marines.

Marlene drove back from the package delivery shop, several small bags of mail and a number of boxes in the restored minivan's cargo area. She sighed as she thought of the rest of her day... first the mail would have to be sorted, all of the boxes would have to be opened, their contents sorted, and sent off to the places it was going, then she would have maybe an hour before her next trip outside. The bulk of the boxes, she knew, were DVDs and books, most of them destined for the library, though some would go to the school rooms, and a few, mostly repair manuals and catalogs, would go to the auto and woodworking shops.

Charlene, meanwhile, was in the food dehydrating room, taking dried fruit out of the food dehydrators, vacuum sealing it in plastic, then doing the same with mylar bags, labeling each, and sending them off, by the small wagonload, to the storage rooms. As they were packaged, they would last for a good ten years. Looking around, she realized she still had a good two hour's worth of work ahead of her. With a deep sigh, she opened up the next machine.

Clark Constantine watched intently as the senior kids fired the M4 carbines at the two hundred yard range, using his binoculars to guage the progress of the trainees. Most of them were making good progress.

"Johnson! You're aiming too low!"

"I don't think so, Sir!"

"Your shots are hitting in the knee area of your target! You're supposed to be killing, not wounding!"

The fourteen year old girl shook her head. "Something my father taught me, Sir! Shoot their legs out from under them, somebody has to help them off the field.... then I can shoot him, too!"

Constantine chuckled. "Tell your father I approve, Johnson.... but next time, share this bit of knowledge with the rest of the class, 'eh?"

Clarice Johnson nodded, returning her attention to the target. Switching the selector to three-round burst, she fired off the quick burst, obliterating the forehead of the target.

"Is that an acceptable kill shot, Sir?"

The former Green Beret chuckled and nodded, moving on to the next of his students.

All around the complex, life went on; two women gave birth, one elderly gentleman succumbed to a heart attack and passed away peacefully, in his sleep, kids went to school, and all the other day-to-day activities people engaged in went on, as usual.

Dan and Barb spent some time in the casino, her playing dollar slot machines, him in the poker room, playing Texas Hold 'em. He folded most of his hands, deeming them not worth the risk, but finally came up with wired kings, a decent starting hand. Betting a quick fifty bucks, he was called by three players.

The flop came out, another king, a four, and an ace. Three kings, he decided, was good enough for a raise; the man across the table had already bet out with a hundred, so he doubled it, and was called.

The turn card was a six... no big help there, so he slow played it with a straight call. One player shook his head and folded. Another player raised again, to a hundred. This was one of the stronger players at the table, and Dan figured him for an ace in his hole cards. He raised right back at him, and was called.

The final card, the river, was another ace. When the bet came around to him, he raised again, to two hundred. The guy across the table raised back at him, to four hundred. Dan tried to show no emotion as he doubled the bet, to eight hundred... forcing his opponent all-in, which the other man swiftly called.

The guy across the table, being all out of chips, flipped his cards over..... a pair of sixes. "Full boat!" he declared triumphantly.

Dan grinned as he flipped over his kings, replying "Really? Me too!"

He flipped the dealer a ten dollar chip, gathered up his winnings, and headed to the cashier's cage to cash out, then wandered the floor for a while, looking for, and finally locating, his wife.

Walking up behind her, he leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek, saying "Doing any good, Babe?"

She nodded enthusiastically. "I hit a ten thousand dollar jackpot a little while ago.... but this damned machine seems to be dead set on getting it all back!"

"Well, M'Dear, I think that's our cue to call it a night.... I won, too."

"Really? How much?"

"On the last hand, a couple of grand.... over all, though, I think I'm up about seven or eight thousand, total... I sent four players to the rail."

Mary Coltrane, once again minding the store at the warehouse, called back to the cave, and Tim Carter picked up the line.

"Hi, Mary.... what's up?"

"Get the flatbeds warmed up... I've got three truckloads of metal unloading right now, and four truckloads of lumber right behind them. We need to get it all hauled to the Cave."

"Oh, cool.... must be the quarter inch plate that Tom ordered."

Mike Jennison led the small group of kids out of the concealed tunnel and over the sprawling meadows to the outside lake, gunning the engine of the ATV for a few miles until the lakeshore came into sight. Most of the older kids driving the other ATVs behind him had at least one passenger, and most were towing light trailers with small wooden rowboats, built in their own woodshop. All had five gallon plastic buckets, big deep-cycle batteries, and small electric trolling motors, along with each child's fishing gear.

The big lake was home to numerous panfish, large and small mouth bass, and more than a few big pike and muskies. Dan had considered getting a few truckloads of walleye fingerlings dumped in, but thought better of it. He had, however, gotten a dozen truckloads of small minnows, giving the larger fish a boost.

Dan and Barb came home a few weeks later, quite a bit poorer, but happy and feeling renewed. Dan immediately sent out a mental call, which DJ answered swiftly.

"I know your time is almost up here..."

"Not quite true; I've only been in your service for seven months."

Dan stopped for a moment, counting back.... had it only been that long? Well, he thought, might as well make the most of it.

"Ok... well, I want to make some additions to the shelter, here."

"What do you have in mind?"

"Well, first... something we don't have.... a saltwater 'lake', of sorts.... filled with small fish, lobster, shrimp, and crab. I want to be able to have those for dinner, from time to time. In it's own seperate chamber, obviously, added on to the area the forest chambers are in. Fully stocked, with an accelerated growth rate for everything in it. Completely self contained, self aerating, enough seaweed and such to sustain the cycle of life. Five, maybe six acres should do. Come to think of it, make three of them, just to make sure we don't run low. Second, I want you to send some of these folks to their hometowns for a few weeks.... just put the idea into their heads to visit some relatives or something. While they're there, give them the idea to buy lottery tickets.... winning lottery tickets. We could use an extra infusion of cash in here, and I don't want it all on me."

He paused a moment in thought. "I also want a few more chambers added on for storage.... Big chambers.... like about ten million square feet, total. Freight elevators for up to five ton loads, connecting corridors big enough to handle full sized pick up trucks, the works.... oh, and we need something added to the motor pool chamber; storage tanks for gas and diesel fuel, twenty thousand gallons each, that refill themselves automatically, set up so that the gas is fresh, no matter how long it sits in them, complete with connected gas pumps, the works. Oh, and living quarters for about another five thousand people. Upgrade the geothermal power and heating systems accordingly, and have the dwellings ready to move in to, all the appliances, lighting that never burns out, the whole bit."

He stopped for a minute, knowing there was something else that had occurred to him a few days before, but unable to recall it right now.... then it hit him.

"Is there any gold under my land?"

DJ smiled. "There is, indeed."

"How much?"

"When I built this place for you, I displaced about six hundred pounds of it....including a small crate full of gold coins, buried here, long ago, by a previous owner."

'OmiGod!' went through Dan's head as he thought about the implications.

"OK..... can you retrieve it all, turn it into ingots weighing, oh, about half an ounce each, and store it in a new room, attached to this one? Oh, and alter Barb's memory, make her think this room's been here all along."

The Djinn's eyes flashed a deep purple hue for a moment, and a new door appeared on the wall of the living room. Dan stepped over, opening the door to see rows of heavy shelves, groaning under the weight of hundreds upon hundreds of small golden bars. He grinned as he stared at the treasure. 'Oh yes' he thought.... 'I can do a LOT with this.'

Doc Michaels, the resident surgeon, looked Patty Richards over worriedly.... she was definitely in the final stage of Appendicitis. He called for his nurse, telling her to get the young woman down to the O.R. Now, and page the Anesthesioligist to the O.R. immediately. This operation wasn't going to wait for anyone.

Within three hours, they were finished.... and barely in time.... the Appendix was close to bursting even as they removed it, but it saved the young woman's life. Michaels cursed the fact that he was, basically, the only surgeon in the place. He would have to have a talk with Dan about that.... he knew a few colleagues who were not happy with the new 'National health care' that had been shoved down their throats, and would likely be quite happy to turn their backs on the world to come here and escape the land of bureaucrats and other bumbling idiots.

He wondered, idly, if Dan would object to building a golf course on the land outside.

Dan and Barb set out for an afternoon drive into town, her in her Mustang, him in the Hemi Superbird, to do a little shopping. She, naturally, wanted to pick up some new clothes; he was headed for the local speed shop, to drop off a list of parts for the auto shop.

After he made arrangements to have the small truckload of parts, mostly cases of oil filters, radiator and heater hoses, spark plugs, belts, and other 'consumables' as Tom called them, delivered to their warehouse, he drove over to the open air cafe where he'd arranged to meet his wife.

Barb pulled into the parking lot of the little cafe ahead of her husband, not seeing his car, and got out to get a table for them. As she was walking through the seating barea, her arm was grabbed by an unkempt, overweight punk in his twenties who had a beer on the table in front of him.

"Hey, sweetheart, why don't you n' me take a little ride in that ol' car o' yers?"

"I've got a better idea.... how about you take your hand off me before things get ugly." she replied, hearing the distinctive rumble of a certain Hemi pulling into the parking lot.

"Bitch, you need to listen to your betters!"

She reversed her hand, catching his and turning his elbow while kicking his legs out from under him.

"Betters? When I find one, I'll let you know."

The punk jumped to his feet and reached into his back pocket, grabbing out the folding knife he kept there... but before he could fold out the blade, something cold and hard was pressed against his temple.

"I'd suggest you drop that." Dan growled at him.

"Who the fuck are you?"

"I'm the husband of the woman you're trying to fool with... and the guy who has a .45 automatic pressed to your head. You've got two choices.... go home and sleep it off, or see how your little brain likes the sunlight. Which is it gonna be?"

The punk almost wet himself, and stumbled in his haste to get away, landing face first on the blacktop of the parking lot.

"Thanks, Honey.... your timing was perfect." Barb told him.

He holstered his weapon, nodding, and put his arm around her.

An older gentleman in blue jeans, a western style shirt, and a Stetson got up from a nearby table and walked over to the couple, holding his hand out.

"Well done, young man... Nice to see someone stand up, in this day an' age... Might I ask your name?'' He said, in a bit of a southern drawl.

Dan accepted the outstretched hand, replying "Dan Archer, and this is my wife, Barb. Pleased to meet you."

"I'm Mark Lewis.... Deputy sheriff. Do you have a permit for that hand cannon?"

"I was told I didn't need one for open carry in Wyoming, Deputy."

The older man chuckled. "Relax, young man, just checkin'. You're right, you don't. Hell, even if you did, I'd never arrest a man for defending his wife. I'll warn you, though.... watch your back. That idiot was Timmy Cooper.... his daddy owns a lot of properties around here, and holds the notes on a lot more.... he's the local banker."

"Andrew Cooper?"

"That's him... he's a powerful man in this county."

"I've met him.... I kinda doubt he wants to piss off his biggest single depositor."

"Oh, shit... you're That Archer?"

"I suppose I am.... I'm the guy who bought up that forty miles of land on the county line. If you see him, you let him know.... if I ever see his useless excuse for a son grabbing my woman again, he's going to need to make some arrangements.... with the local funeral home." He finished, in an icy tone.

The Deputy looked at Dan with a new respect... he hadn't met him, but he knew Dan was the wealthiest land owner in the county, and his property taxes were paid from a savings account, automatically, in an amount that paid off the entire Sheriff's department payroll.

For the entire year.

He now knew, as well, that Dan was a man who stood up. He didn't back away from a fight... Lewis knew, without a doubt, that Archer would have pulled that trigger, consequences be damned; that alone earned him respect.

He nodded towards the parking lot.... "Nice... that's one of those Superbirds, isn't it?"

"Yup... number six, of a hundred and thirty five built in that particular set up."

"What size engine?"

"That one has the Hemi.... dual Carters and a four speed. Bought it at an auction, down in Scottsdale, about a month ago. All original... she's a runner."

Lewis' eyes almost bugged out of his head. He'd seen that auction on the speed network, and knew he was looking at a million dollar car.

Ron looked over his class, mildly amused at their antics. Someone, and he had a pretty fair idea who it was, had decorated the chalkboard with a seal, wearing a Navy hat and blouse, and holding a silenced MP-10. The artwork was quite well done, and extensively detailed. He turned to face the classroom full of teen agers.

"Samuels! Is this your handiwork?"

"No sir." The young man in question mumbled.... but he wouldn't meet Ron's eyes.

"Uh huh.... your Dad's been tellin' tales again, hasn't he?"

The boy gave him a sheepish grin and nodded.

"Well, remind him that much of what he's probably telling you is still classified, will you?"

He turned his attention to the rest of his American history class. "Now.... who can tell me the date of the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord, and the reasons the British were at those two places?"

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