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About this City Journal

Set in the distant future in a world far, far away...This is the story of the planet of Haven, a world devastated by what is known as the Great War with the Eartheners...

Entries in this City Journal

nedal2001

The fires were nothing more than a flicker now – although they had subsided, they had still gotten the best out of the Town Hall and Ray Black’s offices. More importantly, they had taken the life of Brett Bion, the young man that worked in the office. Ray lay crouched on the floor, holding his lifeless body, weeping uncontrollably. The townsfolk had begun to gather around their leader, hoping to ease him and comfort as he got up and began carrying the orphan down Cross Street. This was a black day in Wildbank.

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Tiberius had stormed into Ray’s home late in the evening and told him that the radar sensor was picking up fast moving objects that were racing towards Wildbank. They both feared the worst; ever since they had started mining the Starium, they had been preparing for an attack because, inevitably, word was going to get out. They were as prepared as they could be – they had developed five AA-Ones, Tiberius’ heavy artillery vehicle comprised of armor made of Starium, which was almost impenetrable. Three of the AA-Ones were stationed alongside the northwest watch post, and Tiberius had already informed them to take their positions.

Sheriff Turner Tower had gathered up his troops, and was waiting on the command from Ray to start heading over to the watch post, which was equipped with missiles that were capable of packing quite a punch. The objects were coming towards Wildbank were not many, but they were moving very fast. So fast, in fact, that Tiberius starting thinking they were flying objects.

It didn’t take long for the men to reach the watch post, but Ray had stayed behind and called back the remaining two AA-Ones from the Starium mine to help protect the town if the first defenses were breached. Tiberius and Sheriff Tower had both headed up to the watch post and were setting up their defenses there – the initial scouting reports suggested Tiberius was right; at least two of the objects were air motors, and only two forces had such technology: the Earthen Alliance, or the Haven Republic. Ray had a feeling it was the latter.

Whoever was coming at them had not done their homework – it was as if they did not know about the watch post or the weaponry Wildbank and its people possessed. As they advanced closer and closer to the northwest watch post, Tiberius gave the signal to fire the first batch of missiles. The AA-Ones were kept out of the first round, however; he wanted to save them for whatever was coming at them from the air. As the approaching motorcade got into firing distance, the missiles fired directly into them, blowing up the ground below them and bringing back memories of the successful battle they had against Jim Benstrike and his men. This time, however, when the dust settled, there was still movement; a lot of it.

Tiberius again gave the signal for the second round of missiles to fire, and just like the first time, they hit their targets dead on, but again, out of the dust came the invaders. The missiles had dealt some blows, but they were not strong enough to stop them. As they got closer, they saw two jetcopters flying towards. Starting to get nervous, Tiberius ordered his men to bunker up and prepare for a gun fight, and gave the go ahead for the AA-Ones to launch their missiles at the jetcopters. If they were able to get past the watch post, the jetcopters would need less than a minute to get to Wildbank, were they could lay waste on the town. They had to be stopped.

The AA-One missiles screeched into their air and headed directly to their targets. At the same time, heavy gunfire started being fired at the watch post. The invaders had gotten close enough to use their guns, and bullets were ringing everywhere. As Tiberius took a closer look, he noticed what he had feared all along: on the side of each of those armored vehicles lay the emblem of the Haven Republic.

As the AA-One missiles hit their flying target, Tiberius looked on desperately, trying to see if they were successful; he was half right. One of the jetcopters flew straight down, crashing into the hard desert ground beneath it – the other, however, zoomed past the watch post and headed straight to Wildbank. He scrambled to inform Ray that their defenses had been breached, and was eased slightly when Ray told him he had brought back the AA-Ones that were stationed at the mine. He brought his focus to the matter at hand, the gun fight that was ensuing in front of him.

Sheriff Turner had made sure his troops were fortified and heavily armed, and it was paying off. While the Republic troops were firing at will, they were not getting through to any of the defending soldiers, who were bunked up in the watch post and behind their vehicles. However, the Republic troops did not have that luxury, and the longer the battle lasted, the more of their troops started falling. Seeing that, the Sheriff asked Tiberius for one final round of missiles – the last batch available at the watch post. Tiberius nodded, and gave the signal.

The last hit took the fight out of the Republic soldiers – clearly, they were not expecting a fight of this proportion, and definitely were not expecting one they were going to lose. They had no idea of the type of weaponry that Wildbank possessed, or its will to defend itself. Their retreat was hasty and without warning as they loaded back into their vehicles and drove off as quickly as their tires could take them. Tiberius gave them the order to drive back into town, keeping a few soldiers and the AA-Ones stationed at the watch post.

The jetcopter was shot down to the north of Ray’s farms, but not before it had let off two of its own missiles, specifically targeting the center of town, Ray’s offices and the Town Hall. Brett Bion was trying to gather up Ray’s important documents and take them away to hide them, but he was too late leaving the premises. The missile hit the building head on, exploding it into a ball of flames and igniting a fire that scorched on for over an hour.

When it was all said and done, Wildbank had suffered the death of six of its young men, including Brett. It defended itself with pride and honor, but it came at a cost. The Haven Republic had been fought back and defeated, and surely it would be downplayed in Janneh City to avoid humiliation, but the tears of Wildbank would not be washed away easily.

18fire.jpg

The fires that raged after the missiles hit.

18construction.jpg

The construction afterwards.

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I am still seeking more participants for The Dunya Project, SimCity's RPG! Have a look, and let me know if you would like to participate and become a member of the game that allows you to LIVE SimCity :)

nedal2001

This is the latest update from my new project, The Dunya Project! Have a look, and get involved! All personalities are real people who are leading their characters through this new frontier!

Turn Three

Population: 350

GDP: $1,400,000 ($4,000 per person annually)

Education Level: Lowest

58112447.jpg

3overviewofland.jpg

As you can see from the pictures above, the population has nearly doubled in Rawa’a in the past 6 months as more people make their permanent homes in the capital city. King Edward Ezamsi gave permission for people to reside to the west of Edward Ezamsi Street, and even gave the approval to Nick Terrell to acquire a 4x4 plot of land just north of the Royal Residence.

Terrell was not the only one to invest in Dunyan real estate – trader Michael Areameder bought the piece of land his home is located on, and as a reward for buying the land, King Edward decided to gift him the home situated on his land, saving him from having to pay rent on the house, which he now owns.

The Khassem Inn also opened for business. The land, and the inn constructed on it, are owned by Chris Khassem. The inn features 12 basic rooms and a restaurant/pub that opens every day of the week from 6PM onwards.

The government has also given the approval for further paving of roads, with focus being on extending Drift Lane eastward and Corner Street north. There has also been preliminary approval for the construction of a small school to the east of town, possibly alongside the new extension of Drift Lane.

nedal2001

They did not have to wait long for Graham Coronus to come back into town, and Sheriff Turner did not waste any time letting him know that Ray Black wanted his services. Coronus was a middle aged man who had settled his wife and two children in a small town called Trucker to the west of Wildbank, and made his living from buying up fresh produce from Ray’s companies and reselling them back in his home town. His experience developing a Tilkan gas extractor and refinery was exactly what Tiberius and Ray were looking for, and they were not disappointed.

After explaining to Coronus what they wanted to do, they offered him a package he could only dream of: free housing, free education for his children, a salary that almost tripled what he brought in a month, and a chance head a team of eight men in developing the Starium ore mine. Although gas and ore were two completely different components, their extraction from underground would be similar. In fact, Coronus suggested that getting the Starium would be much easier than extracting the Tilkan simply because it was found relatively close to the ground.

With the plans and blueprints drawn up, Ray and Tiberius turned to Sheriff Turner to start organizing his men and set up the defenses to protect the mine. The outpost was to be constructed simultaneously with the mine, and by the team the mine would be ready for use, the outpost, along with its missiles, would be operational and ready to serve their purpose. The final step was making sure the mine never fell into the wrong hands, so Tiberius and Ray registered it in the Wildbank Town Hall as the second company owned by the town after the Bank of Wildbank, calling it the Wildbank Mining Company.

Wildbank’s population now eclipsed 700 people, and small homes were starting to pop up outside of the town, alongside Ray’s farms. They were doing their best to try to employ everyone in town, but the growth was starting to overwhelm Ray and Tiberius. They were happy that so many people were finding refuge from the tyranny of the Haven Republic in their little abode, but they needed help.

17stariummine.jpg

The Starium Redstone mine northeast of Wildbank.

17wildbankaerial.jpg

An aerial shot of Wildbank, looking north.

17wildbankriver.jpg

An artistic shot of the Wildbank River, looking south.

nedal2001

Three responses thus far, that's a good start!

I was looking through some of The Towne's files, and there are some pretty good ideas there that I could definitely use, like the random event calculator. Overall, there is alot of similarities to go by, but with one key difference: The Towne was really, really detailed, so much so that you had to buy a latern (!!). I dont think I will delve into that much detail. I thought the best example would roleplay a character myself:

So its 2011, and Rawa'a has just been founded. John Doe has decided he wants to move to this new country, so with $20,000 in his hand he sets sail to Dunya. The Dunyan monarchy/government has already set up a couple of buildings: The Rawa'a Pier, to receive incoming boats; the Bank of Dunya, and ofcourse, the Royal Residence. In addition, the Dunyan authorities have set up a small generator/power plant and a water pump for running water, and have constructed a few small houses for newly arrived people who need a place to live (plus the NPC of the game currently).

John Doe has to pay $200 a month rent ($2,400 a year - all rental figures are paid by year), so that leaves him with $17,600. Dunya is a completely barren, unexplored desert, and because he has limited savings, his choices are limited to start with: To make a living, he has to do one of these things: Fish, Farm, Work for the Government, or Trade.

If he decides to fish (A profession which requires NO education), he would have to invest in a small wooden boat, which would cost $1,500. Since his boat is small, he can only benefit from one plot. So if one plot can produce $100 a day, he's only going to get $100 income a day.

If he decides to Farm (also a NO eduction profession), he would need to invest in a small plot of land and the required start up capital for underground irrigation set up, etc. The land per plot is $300, and a plot is 100 square meters, so a 5x5 plot, or 2,500 sq. meters, would cost him $7,500, and another $5,000 ($4,000 to set up the irrigation, $1,000 for the products). Thats $12,500 to plant some apples. The return, ofcourse, would be from 25 plots, so if each plot delivers $10 a day, thats an income of $250 a day. That is the normal number - the random event calculator could both reduce this number or make it higher depending on how its rolled.

If he decides to work for the government, he gets a bank job, doesnt need to put any capital, and gets a fixed salary at the end of each month. Depending on his education, his job could range from errand man (NO education) to Branch Manager (University Graduate).

If he decides to go the Trader route, he has to set up somewhere to sell his products first, so he buys a small covered stand and places it right next to the Pier. The stand would run him $2,000, and he would have to wait for imported products coming in by boat to buy (this is where the random event calculator can help), and then sell them at the fixed market price. The boat will come in with $30,000 worth of LIFE NECCESSITY products (LIFE NECCESSITY products are products that each character has to spend a specific amount on each month in order to survive. Presumably, these include water, food, bath and care products, etc. As the character's house, family, expenses get larger, so does his LIFE NECCESSITY bill.) John Doe decides to buy $10,000 worth - the market price will allow a mark up of 20%. Using a formula of current population, wealth of population, product, and competition (for example: current population is 50, wealth is LOWEST level, and product is LIFE NECCESSITY, meaning everyone HAS to buy it. If we say each person has to spend $200 a month on LIFE NECCESSITY products, that is $10,000. Given he is the only trader in town and located in a HIGHEST level area for RETAIL, he will sell $10,000 a month, leaving him with $2,000 worth of goods. When the boat comes in the following month, he buys $8,000 worth, which the government will allow him to sell for $9,600, so it 2 months he would've sold $20,000 from the $18,000 he used, and still have $1,600 in assets left).

I know this isn't exact science, but I feel it works. Again, I want realism to be a big part of it, but I dont want to delve into mundane details. Obviously, this time of project will be forever evolving with new ideas and inputs, but that is the general idea. Sooner or later, John Doe might decide to buy a second boat and have an employee, or expand that farm, or open up a bigger storefront that covers more than one plot, or decide to further his education when a new school opens up in order to become a HEAVY INDUSTRY ENGINEER and open up a STEEL FACTORY. He could even follow a political career and become involved in the real life desicion making (the more money you have, the more you can spend on increasing the character's INFLUENCE, which is what is needed to become a politician) of the project.

Ofcourse, this cannot work without the input of the participants into making it the type of game you want. As I said, it is Turn Based - so each turn, you make your desicion, and see how it plays out over the following terms. Building a factory would take 2 years IG (4 turns in RL) for example. You could be building the factory in what you hope would be the future industrial zone of the city, where sales and value would jump through the roof, or you could totally have been wrong in your prediction that industry would move alongside that new road and your sales and value would stagnant, not reaping the benefits you assumed you would have. Its all part of the fun!

So what do you guys think? Obviously, there is more to the game, such as LUXURY products, different type of houses, etc. You may even choose to own a sports team in the newly formed Football League - Who knows!

Most importantly at this point while Im fine tuning the concept, I need input!

nedal2001

I wanted to start a new interactive CJ that would follow in the footstep of "The Towne", where it would be more like and RPG and Turn Based Strategy game.

Below is the general outline of what I'm thinking:

Concept: Starting out with 5 to 10 readers that will present me with their character's requested information, the MD will be a turn based strategy game, basically, where the reader controls his character's move every turn. Each real life day will represented a specific time IG (in game), maybe 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. That can be decided later if this idea takes off on what the best timeline would be. The game will start in the modern era (2011), and although the game will jump ahead of real life in terms of time and years, technology will stay true to the real life timeline.

Location: The location is a desert island in the Indian Ocean. Filled with nomads, it has never been occupied. The government (or monarchy) has decided to open the island up to the world. It is called Dunya, and the capital city is called Rawa. A completely blank canvas whose development will be decided by the characters. At the beginning, no resources will exist – as the game progresses and the government gets money, it will issue exploration campaigns to discover resources, of then which the characters will fight over, if they have enough power and money!

Characters: Each reader will choose from one of the professions available for his or her character, and, like real life, the objective of the game would be to make money, attain power, and procreate. Given the timeline that will be followed, a character will sooner or later have to perish, so readers will follow their empires, successes, failures, etc. through their character’s family. For example, I choose John Doe to be a trader. Starting up with a small stand, he makes enough money to rent out a new showroom on Main Street. Given the recent boom in town, his location becomes prime, and his customer base grows substantially. This allows my character to earn IG Dollars (more on that below), which I then choose to invest in a second location for my character. At my liking, I can decide for him to get married, and again at my liking, I can give him a child. However, with a new wife and child, comes expenses, so I have to take that in to account before I decide to procreate. Lets say John Doe perishes at the age of 75, allowing his 30 year old son to continue his legacy. John Doe’s worth is passed on down to his son, who starts the process all over again. Obviously, this is just a rough example, as there are some things that need fine tuning, but that would be the basic premise.

In Game Dollars: A lot of the game will revolve around the concept of money. Lets say each character starts with $10,000. Taking the example above, I decided to invest John Doe’s $10,000 into a stand, which was assigned to him for $5,000. Let’s say John Doe starts off making $300 profit a day from his stand, and lets say every real life day amounts to 1 month IG. That would mean John Doe would make $9,000 a month. Now we have to take into account his expenditure: Each character has to spend a minimum of $1,000 on himself/herself per month IG to cover food, petrol, electricity, water, etc. John Doe also has rented an apartment for $500, so that would leave him $7,500 that goes into his account per month IG. After a year IG of saving up, he would have $90,000, and I can finally buy him that piece of land I was eyeing at the edge of town alongside the newly constructed but still empty road. I take the $90,000 and buy the land, so now John Doe has his business and owns a plot of land that may rise in value. He may even choose to develop it. Again, a lot of this needs fine tuning, but that’s the basic premise.

How the Game Works: Basically, the game will be a lot like real life, except I will be Master of All! What I mean is this: I will have a plan for development, laws, etc. that will NOT be revealed to anyone. For example, the city is getting crowded and congested, so I, acting as the government, decide to construct a new avenue. The plan is told to the public (i.e readers), and then development begins. Land on the small stretch of unpaved road cost $10,000 a plot right now, but given that the new avenue is sure to bring development, like in real life, the price starts to jump. Now lets say I bought John Doe land there right after the plan was revealed and it was still $10,000 a plot. After the construction of the avenue, and development by the government owned construction company, prices begin to jump. Soon, John Doe is sitting on a $200,000 property. It’s the same premise for nearly everything. Lets say John Doe owns a tile factory – I, as the government, plan a new Police Headquarters, and need 70,000 sq. meters of tiles. Obviously, John Doe will benefit as those will be extra to his 5,000 sq. meters of tiles he sells a month. Not everything could be a success, however. As the government, I will also have a specific budget to work with. For example, maybe the new avenue made the prices hike, and John Doe decided to invest the rest of his money in developing a new retail store on his property. He pays $600,000 for the retail store, and has running expenses of $30,000 a month (that’s right, business have expenses too!). Because of constraints in the budget, I decided to construct a hospital in another area of town and leave this area without a close school. Development does not pick up as expected, and John Doe makes only $40,000 profit a month, of which $30,000 go off as expenses. Instead of returning his money in 2 or 3 years, he’s investment will only return his money in 6 or 7 years. Maybe he doesn’t even break even.

This is important because although as the government, I will decide all, I will be using a formula to decide money issues such as sales, worth, etc. I will be following real life as close as possible in everything I do and in everyway I make the government work. That’s basically the general premise. Please let me know what you think, and lets judge the interest level and see if we can get this thing off the ground.

Now for the teaser!

randomn.jpg

nedal2001

Since the destruction of Cedar by Prop Pox, I've been wanting to get back to developing a modern time MD based in Earth. Don't get me wrong, I love writing Haven and dreaming up my futuristic world, but there is also the urge to deal with real world problems and real word economics :)

This time, however, I wanted to do something different - basically, I wanted to bring this MD to life by including you, the readers. Now this concept has already been tried atleast once before (to my knowledge), with the RP journal "The Towne", although that died out rather quickly, it was a very captivating idea and premise for me.

Below is the general outline of what I'm thinking:

Concept: Starting out with 5 to 10 readers that will present me with their character's requested information, the MD will be a turn based strategy game, basically, where the reader controls his character's move every turn. Each real life day will represented a specific time IG (in game), maybe 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. That can be decided later if this idea takes off on what the best timeline would be. The game will start in the modern era (2011), and although the game will jump ahead of real life in terms of time and years, technology will stay true to the real life timeline.

Location: The location is a desert island in the Indian Ocean. Filled with nomads, it has never been occupied. The government (or monarchy) has decided to open the island up to the world. It is called Dunya, and the capital city is called Rawa. A completely blank canvas whose development will be decided by the characters. At the beginning, no resources will exist – as the game progresses and the government gets money, it will issue exploration campaigns to discover resources, of then which the characters will fight over, if they have enough power and money!

Characters: Each reader will choose from one of the professions available for his or her character, and, like real life, the objective of the game would be to make money, attain power, and procreate. Given the timeline that will be followed, a character will sooner or later have to perish, so readers will follow their empires, successes, failures, etc. through their character’s family. For example, I choose John Doe to be a trader. Starting up with a small stand, he makes enough money to rent out a new showroom on Main Street. Given the recent boom in town, his location becomes prime, and his customer base grows substantially. This allows my character to earn IG Dollars (more on that below), which I then choose to invest in a second location for my character. At my liking, I can decide for him to get married, and again at my liking, I can give him a child. However, with a new wife and child, comes expenses, so I have to take that in to account before I decide to procreate. Lets say John Doe perishes at the age of 75, allowing his 30 year old son to continue his legacy. John Doe’s worth is passed on down to his son, who starts the process all over again. Obviously, this is just a rough example, as there are some things that need fine tuning, but that would be the basic premise.

In Game Dollars: A lot of the game will revolve around the concept of money. Lets say each character starts with $10,000. Taking the example above, I decided to invest John Doe’s $10,000 into a stand, which was assigned to him for $5,000. Let’s say John Doe starts off making $300 profit a day from his stand, and lets say every real life day amounts to 1 month IG. That would mean John Doe would make $9,000 a month. Now we have to take into account his expenditure: Each character has to spend a minimum of $1,000 on himself/herself per month IG to cover food, petrol, electricity, water, etc. John Doe also has rented an apartment for $500, so that would leave him $7,500 that goes into his account per month IG. After a year IG of saving up, he would have $90,000, and I can finally buy him that piece of land I was eyeing at the edge of town alongside the newly constructed but still empty road. I take the $90,000 and buy the land, so now John Doe has his business and owns a plot of land that may rise in value. He may even choose to develop it. Again, a lot of this needs fine tuning, but that’s the basic premise.

How the Game Works: Basically, the game will be a lot like real life, except I will be Master of All! What I mean is this: I will have a plan for development, laws, etc. that will NOT be revealed to anyone. For example, the city is getting crowded and congested, so I, acting as the government, decide to construct a new avenue. The plan is told to the public (i.e readers), and then development begins. Land on the small stretch of unpaved road cost $10,000 a plot right now, but given that the new avenue is sure to bring development, like in real life, the price starts to jump. Now lets say I bought John Doe land there right after the plan was revealed and it was still $10,000 a plot. After the construction of the avenue, and development by the government owned construction company, prices begin to jump. Soon, John Doe is sitting on a $200,000 property. It’s the same premise for nearly everything. Lets say John Doe owns a tile factory – I, as the government, plan a new Police Headquarters, and need 70,000 sq. meters of tiles. Obviously, John Doe will benefit as those will be extra to his 5,000 sq. meters of tiles he sells a month. Not everything could be a success, however. As the government, I will also have a specific budget to work with. For example, maybe the new avenue made the prices hike, and John Doe decided to invest the rest of his money in developing a new retail store on his property. He pays $600,000 for the retail store, and has running expenses of $30,000 a month (that’s right, business have expenses too!). Because of constraints in the budget, I decided to construct a hospital in another area of town and leave this area without a close school. Development does not pick up as expected, and John Doe makes only $40,000 profit a month, of which $30,000 go off as expenses. Instead of returning his money in 2 or 3 years, he’s investment will only return his money in 6 or 7 years. Maybe he doesn’t even break even.

This is important because although as the government, I will decide all, I will be using a formula to decide money issues such as sales, worth, etc. I will be following real life as close as possible in everything I do and in everyway I make the government work. That’s basically the general premise. Please let me know what you think, and lets judge the interest level and see if we can get this thing off the ground.

nedal2001

The meeting was set up for late at night, when the town of Wildbank had gone to sleep. Only a few select men were invited: Ray Black, Tiberius Driver, Sheriff Turner Tower, and three others who served under him, directly involved in the security of the town and its people. They were to meet at Ray’s office behind the Wildbank Town Hall, ready to discuss how best to handle Tiberius’ discovery.

Retrieving the Starium ore was not going to be easy. In fact, no one in the town had the expertise or the know how to develop a mine sophisticated enough to handle the extraction of it. Most of the ore was not found on the side of Redstone Hill as first believed, but beneath it, which complicated matters much more. Given the sensitivity of the find, Ray and Tiberius were trying to keep it as tight lipped as possible, as they knew that if word got out, people all over, including the Haven Republic, would start rolling in the cavalry trying to retrieve it. It was extremely rare to find ever since the Great War decimated everything on the surface of Haven, but before the war it was one of the most traded and exported resources on the planet. Light and extremely strong, Starium was a natural replacement for Iron and Steel metals on Earth, and was used in relatively the same manner all over the universe. For Ray, it was an answer from God, given Tiberius’ latest machine, the AA-One, was built using the Starium metal. If they could get a few more of those built, some equipped with anti-ground missiles and other with anti-air, they could rest easier at night knowing they had the capabilities to at least put up a fight if an army came. They had already fended off Frontier’s Jim Benstrike, who had disappeared since his defeat, but that was a motley crew of untrained goons. The Haven Republic was whole different animal, and while both Ray and Tiberius knew that Drake would not send it a large contingent to retake Wildbank, simply because he could not afford to pull away troops from his battle in the north with the Eartheners, he could and would try to retake the town by force at some point.

Ray was already waiting in his office, having dismissed both Pristine Homestead and Brett Bion hours ago, but did not leave behind them as he usually did. Tiberius arrived first, followed by the Sheriff and his men a few minutes later. Sheriff Tower had been briefed about the find, but he did not know the details nor did he know what Ray and Tiberius had planned. A similar outpost to the ones constructed outside of town was to be built, but it was also to be protected by missile launchers to both sides of it. It was to be manned by four men at all times, and four more men were to take rounds protecting the mine on the outside. What was still unknown to the men was how to construct the mine itself. Tiberius estimated that they would have to go about fifteen meters below the mountain, but extraction would require machinery he had no experience in constructing. That’s when Sheriff Tower spoke up.

Sheriff Turner Tower: I know someone.

Tiberius Driver (looking up): Who?

Turner Tower: A middle aged man came through not so long ago, stayed over at the Wildbank Inn. I struck up a conversation with him at the bar, and he told me he was an engineer for the Republic before he ran off. When I asked him what his position was, he told me he was part of a team that developed a Tilkan gas refinery that also extracted it.

Ray Black: Sounds interesting. He’s still in town?

Turner Tower: Naw, he left. But he brought some of your agricultural products, said he was heading west to sell them. Said he’d been to Wildbank a few times already, he’s making a pretty penny from your products. He’ll be back.

Ray Black: Alright then. When he comes back, I want to see him. We’re going to need him. And gentlemen, this goes without saying, but not a word to anyone about this. No one.

16farms.jpg

16overview.jpg

16wildbank2.jpg

16wildbank.jpg

nedal2001

Tiberius was standing at the foot of Redstone Hill, a small mountain that rose to about three hundred meters above sea level northeast of Wildbank. It got its name from the unusual maroon colored rocks that were prominent all over the side of it, rising above its rocky base. Ray’s heart was beating fast from his anxiousness; Tiberius had messaged him about twenty minutes ago telling him to come urgently, and he had no idea what to expect. By nature, he immediately assumed the worst, but when he saw Tiberius standing and in no apparent harm, he eased up.

Ray Black (getting out of his motor): What in the world is goin’ on, Tiberius? You scared the crap out of me.

Tiberius Driver (excited): Come here, cowboy. See these red rocks?

Ray Black: Yeah, they’re kind of hard to miss.

Tiberius Driver(smiling): Its Starium, cowboy.

Ray Black (shocked): What?

Tiberius Driver: Starium. My reader is off the charts. It’s all over the mountain, right underneath the red rocks, and most probably beneath it, too.

Ray Black (still processing the information): Wow. You sure about this?

Tiberius Driver (nodding): Positive. I’ve been trying to crack away at the red rocks all day, and I broke through about an hour ago. Took a sample out of the rocks underneath it, polished it up, and there it is.

Tiberius handed the small Starium ore to Ray, cleaned up and gleaming. The ore was one of the most sought after resources in all of Haven, but that was not what he was thinking about. Recently, Tiberius had made the AA-One; a motor machine that was equipped with missile launchers, heavy artillery gatling guns, and most importantly, armored by Starium that was bought from a trader who had come into town. The metal might be light, but it was the strongest metal found on the planet, almost impenetrable against conventional weapons and guns. The AA-One was Wildbank’s strongest defense, something that was sorely needed now that the Haven Republic had apparently branded the town as an outlaw refuge. Sooner or later, someone was going to come and take the town away from its people, and the AA-One was going to be what stopped them. One of them, however, was not going to do much.

Tiberius had been searching high and low for traders who had access to the ore, but had no luck. It was by pure chance he had stumbled across his find; he was at Redstone Hill studying if it was feasible to mount a transmitter to catch satellite feeds at the top of it when his laser ore finder started blinking and beeping wildly. He had inspected the red stones at first, but nothing came of it, so he figured whatever ore the finer was blinking at, had to be underneath it.

Now came the hard part; making sure they were in full control of mountain and the precious metal it possessed. Both men knew what had to be done; Redstone Hill had to be defended at all costs.

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The Bank of Wildbank, looking south. It was immediately a success, with people even coming from neighboring towns to become clients.

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Ray Foods latest venture - a vineyard to the northwest of town.

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An overview of Wildbank, looking north.

nedal2001

Ray looked out towards the town as he cast his line into the river. Although he had employees to fish out his catches for his business nowadays, he still enjoyed taking one of his boats out into the Wildbank River every now and then for some relaxation. It still amazed him how, in only three short years, what the town had become from its origins as a single hut Ray Black had built to distance himself from the world. Now, the legend of Wildbank was stretching through Haven, and Ray Black was becoming a mythical hero – a freedom fighter in times of great tyranny.

Things had become much easier since Derek Light opened his fueling station on Cross Street – since almost every type of machinery relied on Tilkan gas, a reliable and continuous source was needed, and that was exactly what light was providing. His supplier would usually come in twice a week, and the gas was rumored to be coming from the north, in Earthen territory, but Ray did not look too much into it. What was important was that the gas continued to come, because Wildbank was starting to rely very heavily on it.

Ray could see the construction of the new bank the Wildbank Municipality was opening up. That’s what they called it, Tiberius and Ray, the “Wildbank Municipality.” Since the growth of the town went through the roof, they organized a form of government to handle the town’s affair and defense, and called it the Wildbank Municipality. Of course, it only had three members: Ray Black, Tiberius Driver, and Sheriff Turner Tower. In order to protect the town’s wealth, their first order of action was to sanction the construction of a town bank, which was now well underway.

The contractor was called Gratt Bond, a young man who had come with his wife from the west after the Haven Republic demanded he go to Janneh City and join the military. He ran away that night, and headed east until he found Wildbank, where he had been ever since. Ray was impressed with his work, so much so that he registered Bond Construction for him, and has been giving him jobs around town ever since. He now had about twelve employees working under him, and he was scheduled to hand in his latest project in no more than three months.

Just as he was about to throw in another line in the river, hoping for better luck this time, his communication device went off loudly, throwing him off course. He groaned loudly, and picked it up from the side of his hip where he had it stored. It was from Tiberius, and when he read it, Ray immediately became worried.

***Very Urgent. Redstone Hill. Come now***

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Wildbank, looking north.

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The foot of Redstone Hill.

Note: Anyone who has a City Journal will tell you that the main motivating factor is the comments :) So if happen to stroll by this CJ and liked what you read, please leave a quick comment. It would be much appreciated! Thanks!

nedal2001

It was almost ready – just a few more touch ups, and Tiberius would attempt to turn his armored moving artillery vehicle on. It came equipped with two automatic heavy guns on each side, and a missile launcher equipped with space for three of them on the top. It was not a big machine (comparable to a pickup truck), but it was armored with the strongest metal Haven had to offer: Starium. The metal was one of the most exported resources from Haven before the Great War, but since the end of the war, it was extremely rare to come across it. Its mining required laser sight technology, which could spot Starium underneath its rough exterior, which made it look just like any other brown rock found across Haven, so finding it was usually expensive.

A man came into Wildbank a few months ago carrying with him a caravan of cleaned up Starium, and Tiberius immediately bought the entire shipment from him in return for some plasma ray computers and other electronic devices. It was obvious he did not know the true worth of the caravan he was carrying, claiming he got it from a dying man near the coast who had traded it all for some medicine he was trying to sell. The metal was not heavy; in fact, for all its solidity and strength, one would have expected it to be at least three times heavier. Tiberius had been working on this new war machine since receiving the Starium in his workshop, and with a refueling station opening up soon on Cross Street, he would have no problem getting the Tilkan gas needed to get this thing running. The only problem was, Tiberius had used almost all the Starium making the AA-One, as he called it, so if it proved to be a success, he would somehow have to find more of the metal, much easier said than done. That was a problem for another day, however; today, he was about to see if the vehicle actually worked. He contacted Ray Black and told him to come down to his workshop, and to bring a couple of beers with him. Ray had been very concerned about the security of the town since the repelled attack of Jim Benstrike, and his worries expanded further once the Haven Republic sent their men to collect tax and enforce their new laws, which of course Ray refused to do. If the AA-One worked, then Wildbank’s defenses would become just a little bit better.

Ray walked in, and stood at the doorway of the workshop.

Ray Black (stating at the AA-One and smiling): That thing looks beautiful, Driver.

Tiberius Driver (wiping his hands): Don’t get too excited yet, cowboy. We still have to see if it works. You get the beers?

Ray Black: It’s going to work.

Tiberius Driver: Yea, we’ll see. You want to do the honors?

Ray Black: Of course not. It’s your baby, Tiberius. Show me what it’s got.

Tiberius climbed up to the driver’s seat, and took out the key. He was a bit nervous – he might have been a technological and mechanical whiz, but he had never constructed something on this scale before. He placed the key inside, and turned the knob. A strong growl came from the AA-One, and its motor began to rumbling. A smile crept on Tiberius face, and when he looked towards Ray, an even bigger smile was on his. Ray came towards the vehicle, and extended out a beer to his friend.

Ray Black: Cheers, you magical genius. You just made me a happy man.

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Tiberius Driver's workshop, looking south.

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Wildbank, looking west.

nedal2001

Ray took a sip of water and sat down on his chair, fidgeting a bit with the height before getting fully comfortable. He felt good – his new office had gone a long way in helping control his businesses. He had two employees in his office; Brett Bion, his assistant, and Pristine Homestead, his accountant. The latter was the sister of Bartlett Homestead, one of the few educated people in town, whom Ray had now given the task of handling his accounts. He had three businesses: Ray Farms, Ray Fisheries, and Ray Properties, all consolidated under the Ray Black Group. He was the biggest employer in town, and owned all the land the town was situated on. He was also the leader of the whole movement of Wildbank, and Tiberius Driver was his right hand man.

Pristine had not been working at Ray’s offices long, but she already had the respect of the man, and truth be told, perhaps even more than that. She was a relatively tall woman, standing at about five foot and ten inches, and could be explained as having a curvy body. She was widely considered the prettiest woman in Wildbank, as well as one of the most well-mannered people, period. She was positive and possessed a very calm aura about her, which was probably what attracted Ray to her. He was a man haunted by all the negativity he had faced in his life, and to feel such a positive vibe left him longing for it more. He had not made any official moves of courtship yet, but Pristine felt his interest, and was waiting for him approach her. She saw potential in him for greatness, and saw beyond his trouble exterior and into his sweet, caring heart.

Brett walked in, catching Ray off guard staring at Pristine, and presented him with a folder.

Ray Black: “What’s this?”

Brett Bion: “It’s the proposal from Derek Light.”

Ray Black: “For the fueling station?”

Brett Bion: “That’s the one. He figures most of the traffic comes from the north down onto Cross Street, so his proposal asks for the land to be given just outside of town on the road to the north.”

Ray Black (eyeing Brett): “You opened it and read it?”

Brett Bion (realizing what he said, then gets nervous): “Y…Yes sir…I’m sorry, I was just curious to see what he had laid out in his plan.”

Ray Black (sighing, and continues to eye Brett): “So tell me, what do you think, then?”

Brett Bion: “I think it would be great for the town. I’ve been noticing a large increase in the number of motors and vehicles that have been rolling in. I think we need it.”

Ray Black: “Ok then, give me the paper to sign the approval. He’ll get his land, and tell him he can begin construction tomorrow, on one condition – he employs men from inside the town.”

Brett Bion: “Got it, sir.”

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The land before the construction of the fueling station, looking north.

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After the construction of the fueling station.

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An aerial view of Wildbank.

nedal2001

Tiberius knew Ray was right. What they had started had become much bigger than they could ever imagine. Wildbank wasn’t only a town, it was a legend amongst the folk of Haven, the last bastion of freedom in a desolate world. The war between the Haven Republic and the Eartheners was engulfing large parts of the north of the only landmass on Haven, a large continent that was about double the size of the continent of Asia back on earth in terms of landmass. (Wildbank was situated on the southern end of Haven, with only the Wildbank River and some desert separating it from the Blue Ocean, named for its strikingly rich navy blue color.) The little towns that scattered the Great Barrens, which covered almost the entire landmass, all were run by crooks and gangsters, smaller versions of Hans Drake, but with the recent surge in rediscovered technology, people were getting rich fast. The official currency of Haven, the Kosmo, or “K”, was the currency of all the Earthen colonies and Earth itself, a united currency for all humanity. It was highly sought after in Haven, and it was coming in a lot more thanks to the increase in trade out of New Liberty City.

Tiberius had heard that Hans Drake was stockpiling all his Kosmos in Janneh City and was using it to buy black market weaponry from space pirates, as well as luxury goods for himself. He couldn’t confirm it, but he had heard that Drake had opened up a space station for pirates and black market traders in the city, something which the Earthen Alliance would not take lightly at all. If they didn’t control it, then it had no right to exist, and anyone caught trading with the Haven Republic was to be punished by a life sentence on the prison planet of Coron.

A fair number of traders had begun passing through Wildbank on a daily basis, mostly interested in Ray Black’s fish, vegetables, and fruits – a rarity in what was now the desert world of Haven. Tiberius’ underground irrigation system had worked wonders for Black, even managing to grow a few farms away from the river bed and its lushness. There were a few smaller traders who had built up some stores alongside Wildbank’s Main Street, but they were mostly barterers – they’d trade something for something else, and try to sell every other item. The Homestead family, however, had developed their own profitable business, selling livestock and separate meats to guests of the town. As for Tiberius, he owned Driver Energy, a company he registered which owned the solar towers that provided electricity and energy to the town. He would collect revenue every month from each household depending on how much energy they had used, and it had become quite the profitable business for him. On the side, he spent his days developing weaponry for the men of the town, and they had come in handy when they repelled the Benstrike attack.

Ray Black now wanted to construct two outposts to the west and north of the town, fully equipped with the latest of Tiberius’ guns and machinery. Although Tiberius had told him that his satellite radar could spot any movement up to two hundred miles from Wildbank, Ray was still nervous. The outpost would require men to man them, and Ray said they would offer jobs to some of the unemployed men of Wildbank as guardians of the town. Each outpost would hold four men, and they in total Ray would hire twenty four men, with daily shifts being taken between them. Sheriff Turner Tower would be put in charge of the defensive operations, and all the new men under his command. While Tiberius didn’t think the outposts were necessary, he was not about to argue with a man who was clearly passionate about the town and all it meant to its people. He was right about one thing, though, and that was that Wildbank was on its own. Although he doubted the Haven Republic would send troops to occupy Wildbank and enforce its law on it, there was no one left to defend it but its people. The town was founded on the principles of freedom and escape from tyranny, and he knew Ray would do all he could making sure those same very principles would stay alive in these times of darkness.

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nedal2001

Ray looked up from his small plasma-ray computer at the door. He breathed out a huge sigh and bellowed for whoever was knocking to come in, and in walked in young Brett Bion accompanied by two other older gentlemen. Brett was a young orphan who Black had employed as an assistant of sorts, mostly running errands and little jobs he couldn’t be bothered with. The two other men, however, were not from Wildbank – in fact, it was the first time Ray had seen them before. He tensed up a little at the sight of them, and signaled to Brett to stay in the room. They were in Ray’s new office, right behind the newly constructed Wildbank Town Hall, where all the town meetings and functions took place.

Ray Black: How may I help you, gentlemen?

Randolf Cross (Introducing himself): Howdy, Im Randolf Cross, and I hear you’re the leader of this here town.

Ray Black (Agitated): How are you, Mr. Cross. You didn’t answer my question, though. How may I help you?

Randolf Cross: We’re from the Haven Republic. Here’s our credentials if you’d like to see them. We’ve come to make sure everything’s in order and to inform you that starting next month, we’ll begin collecting tax on income and a general fixed tax. Furthermore, the Haven Republic is claiming back all land, and will also become a majority shareholder in all private businesses. Please fill out this paper work and make sure everyone in the town does the same.

Ray Black (Looking over the papers, then calmly hands them back): I ain’t filling out anything, Mr. Cross.

Randolf Cross (Eying Ray): Mr. Black, it is not a matter of choice. These are laws that have been implemented by the Haven Republic under approval of His Excellency, the President Hans Drake. This is going to happen. Not filling these papers and signing them will be a breach of the law, which is punishable by jail sentences and even death.

Ray Black: What you are proposing is basically taking away all of our income and profiting more from our businesses than we are.

Randolf Cross (Yelling): Mr. Black! I am NOT proposing anything. I am ORDERING you by the power given to me by the Haven Republic government to fill out these forms or so help you…

Ray Black (Jumps over his desk and grabs Cross by the neck): Listen here, boy. Where the hell was the Haven Republic when we warded off attack after attack from crooks like you, and where will you be when, inevitably, someone else comes in to cause us harm? I’m not signing anything, and neither is anyone else in this town. I bought my land fair and square from your government, and I have worked my ass off making sure these businesses provide for me, and the people I employ. You are not taking anything away from us. Now get the hell out of here before I get angry.

Randolf Cross (Choking): You have just attacked an employee of the Haven Republic, and you have just made the biggest mistake of your life refusing to sign these papers. We will get what we want, a lot sooner than later. Good day, Mr. Black.

-----------------------------------------------------

Tiberius Driver: I doubt the Haven Republic has the resources or the interest to send troops so far out from Janneh City to collect a little bit of money from such a small place. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, cowboy.

Ray Black (nervous and antsy, walking around the room): Say they did…then what? We gonna attack the army? This ain’t like dealin’ with Benstrike and his goons.

Tiberius Driver: Relax, Ray. I’ve been doing some work with our radar, and we can track anyone approaching the town from two hundred miles away. That fool was bluffing. He just wanted something for his own pocket.

Ray Black: You sayin’ that Hans Drake didn’t issue all those new laws?

Tiberius Driver: I didn’t say that. From what I know, he did, and he’s been upholding them, violently even, all over Janneh City and its surroundings. He’s trying to fund his war with the Eartheners. He’s got hold of some tilkan gas rich land and he’s been selling them in the black market to Earthen traders stationed in New Liberty City. From what I hear, he sends his men in there and sells the gas for dirt cheap. They take it back to Earth, to other colonies, but he’s making a fortune. Problem is, the Earthen forces have been bombing the crap out of him in the north, and he needs all the funding he can get, because obviously he ain’t paying nothing out of his own pocket. But like I told you, he can’t afford to send the type of force that you’re thinking about out here. He needs them on the frontlines.

Ray Black (sighs, then looks at Tiberius): You realize we’ve developed our own frontline to the west and north. We need to protect our borders.

Tiberius Driver (laughs): You’re talking like we got our own country.

Ray Black: Well, we don’t belong to the Eartheners, and we sure as hell don’t belong to no Haven Republic. We’re on our own, Tiberius.

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Cross Street leading up to the ferry that crosses the Wildbank River, looking south.

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Cross Street, looking to the west.

nedal2001

AD 33 (Three Years After the Founding of Wildbank)

Sheriff Turner Tower sipped his freshly brewed cup of coffee and looked out on to Main Street. It was your usual weekday morning – a few motors and bivans driven by out of town traders coming in for supplies, a few locals on their way to work, and children being taken to school by their parents. It had been around two years since he came to town, escaping the raging war that was taking place in the north between the Haven Republic and the Earthener with his wife and two children, and it was Ray Black and Tiberius Driver who took him into Wildbank like so many others before and after him. After the population started to increase rapidly, they assigned him as the new Sheriff and head of the Wildbank Police, a group consisting of four men tasked with keeping order within the town. That was just about a year ago – since then, his stature within the town had grown, earning the trust of both the two men in charge and the townsfolk.

Serving under him were Vern Harman, Chris Danube, and Storm Sol, all honest, good men who truly had the good of the town and its people at heart. Braxton Stone used to be the 5th member, but he was banished from Wildbank when he tried to use his newly given power for personal gain. Their leader, Sheriff Tower, was a family man with high morals and ethics, which was the primary reason why Black had given him the title. Ray Black had become something of a hero, his story spreading throughout Haven as protector of the weak and provider of the needy. He owned most of the land around the town, including all the farms he had set up. He had the two biggest companies in town, too – Ray Farms and Ray Fisheries.

Tiberius Driver was the local genius, and the glue that kept the town together. He had registered Driver Energy as his own, and had bought solar powered towers that gave electricity to the entire town and its surroundings. Not only that, but he had built two water mills that pumped water to the town as well, and although the piping that was laid out about a meter underground was primitive, it still got water to the houses and farms. Between them, Driver and Black employed almost all the town. There was the odd trader here and there, the biggest of which was the Homestead family, who owned livestock that consisted of earthen cows and chickens to the Haven indigenous animals like woodlets and grats. The rest were minor traders who made their currency the usual way – trade and barter.

Wildbank was not the only town that was growing and advancing, however. Almost all the towns that were once isolated from one another in the Great Barrens were now progressing. In Frontier, for example, the town “chief” Jim Benstrike had constructed a cement factory that was supplying to the entire region. Still, Wildbank was a success story, and the freedom and peace that the town afforded to its residents was not found anywhere else. Ray Black was initially skeptical of accepting people to live on his land, but he has since embraced his role as a freedom fighter who was giving the good people of Haven a second chance at a better life.

So far, the war that was going on in the north between the Haven Republic, which had amassed large amounts of weaponry rumored to have been manufactured in Janneh City itself, and the Eartheners had not started making its way south. It was primarily being fought on the coast, where large reservoirs of Tilkan gas were recently discovered, a resource both sides valued dearly. For what it was worth, Black had registered all of his land in accordance to the Haven Republic laws, and he even had a couple of visitors come in from Janneh City, but his loyalty did not lay with them. He was just delaying a conflict for as long as possible. For now, however, the Sheriff was on high alert – Black had informed him this morning that Benstrike had sent word that he had not forgotten the incident of three years ago and was time for him to come and “collect.”

----------------------------------------

“We’re almost there, boss. Just a few more minutes.”

Jim Benstrike nodded his head approvingly. It was a long trip from Frontier to this “bastion of freedom”, as he heard some of his townsfolk call it, and he was getting grumpy. The Great Barrens were a very hot place to be driving through in broad daylight, and it had taken them almost twelve hours at high speeds from his town to Wildbank.

The nerve of these people. Benstrike still had not forgotten what had happened three years ago, when some upstart cowboy called Ray Black shot and wounded a number of his men. He had come down to offer his services of protection, as he liked to call it, but the foolish cowboy and his friend, Tiberius Driver, had made the biggest mistake of their lives. That fool Tiberius used to operate the motel back in Frontier, and Benstrike had allowed him to work there and make a living for so many years. That ungrateful bastard thought he could just up and walk away and resettle just like that, well, he had another thing coming.

He had heard all about Wildbank’s “success”, how the people lived tax free, and how everything was so rosy, colourful, and peaceful. He had heard how Ray Black had established several companies based on some farms he had, and how his influence and name had spread way beyond the borders of Wildbank. He was almost like a mythical hero to the people of Haven and Benstrike just did not get it. What was so special about a nomadic cowboy who had stumbled onto a river and decided to call it home? Better yet, what made that shanty town Wildbank so special? A few vegetables and fruits? Because it was near the water? Frontier had a cement production facility that was the envy of the entire region, with people coming from as far as the Hebert region to buy the product. THAT was a success story.

Truth be told, Benstrike had gotten sick from hearing about Wildbank and how it is the “beacon of light” in this dark world. Frontier was less than a day’s drive away – after destroying Black and Driver, he was going to own the town. He had a few loyal goons he could trust to run his day to day affairs, and honestly speaking, he always wanted to live near the water.

“There it is, boss. Wildbank.”

Ray Black could see the motorcade through his binoculars, finally. They had appeared from the northeast as expected, and he could count around nine vehicles, probably all manned with weaponry and armor. Tiberius had been informed from his people in Frontier through satellite communication twelve hours ago, at the break of dawn, that Jim Benstrike and his little army had headed out of Frontier and were planning an attack on Wildbank. They had known about this for a while, but they did not know when it was going to happen. Today was the day, apparently. Black looked towards the setting sun; it would be atleast another hour before complete darkness. The battle would be over by then.

He climbed down from the post, and handed the binoculars to Tiberius Driver. The men were all in position; with any luck, the motorcade wouldn’t get close enough to Wildbank to cause any real damage. Driver was a genius with machinery, and lately he had developed missiles that would hit targets five miles away. They had a few of them all readied up, and the men were just waiting on instructions to fire them. If they failed, then it was going to be a real battle. Black had about thirty men ready to fight, all armed to the teeth with automatic shotguns and extra bullets, but they were still outnumbered.

Ray Black (talking to Tiberius): So everything is ready to go?

Tiberius Driver (nodding): They won’t get anywhere near your northern farms if we launch them right.

Ray Black: Alright…give the order.

Tiberius nodded, and started speaking on his communication device to each launcher. They both climbed to the top of the post to watch the action. Ray Black was worried; there was a lot of children and women in Wildbank, and there was no telling what Benstrike and his goons would do if they managed to break through the defenses. The countdown had begun, and in less than thirty seconds, six missiles will launch directly at the motorcade that was approaching the town. There were going to be casualties, of that there was no doubt, but they had no other option. They had to hit them before they got too close.

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The missiles screeched from their launched and headed directly towards the motorcade. Watching from his binoculars, Ray Black saw the explosions, one after the other, followed by a sand cloud that covered where they used to be. No one was advancing towards Wildbank anymore; they were stopped dead in their tracks.

The men who had prepared themselves to defend their new home and families all looked completely shocked. They had no expected their weapons to deliver such a powerful punch, and as the fire blazed to the north of them, some were visibly shaken. Ray mentioned to Tiberius with his hands to form a group to head over to the motorcade, and Tiberius nodded. Few minutes later, they arrived the site.

Ray Black: Look for survivors. Take the wounded back to Wildbank and tend to them. Bury the dead.

Tiberius Driver (pointing towards a specific car): I recognize that one. That one is Benstrike’s personal vehicle.

Ray Black (nodding): Search it.

Sure enough, there was Jim Benstrike, bloodied and bruised from the explosions all around him, but still alive. Apparently, the missiles had not hit his vehicle directly, and his companions in the car were also alive, albeit in much more serious condition than he appeared to be.

Jim Benstrike (coughing): What…in the world was that? What the hell have you people been doing?

Ray Black: Making sure we can defend ourselves from people like you.

Jim Benstrike: You’re an animal, cowboy…

Ray Black: We’ll get fixed up, don’t worry. Once you’re strong enough, we’ll put you on a bivan and send you back to where you came from. Although I suspect you won’t be welcome in Frontier, anymore. Tiberius got this whole thing recorded and pretty soon, everyone in Frontier is going to see your little army getting blown to pieces.

Jim Benstrike: Frontier is mine!

Ray Black: Well, that’s for the people that live there to decide.

With that, Black mentioned to his men to start clearing up the mess and tending to the wounded. The dead would be buried the next day, after they were cleaned and bathed. As for Benstrike, as Ray promised, he was taken care of, then put on a bivan with some food and water and set off. As they watched him ride off into the sunset, Tiberius and Ray both knew this was the beginning of a dark period. War had gripped Haven, and it was only going to spread. They were able to protect themselves against a tiny militia, but what happens when a real army comes rolling in? Lawfully, they were part of the Haven Republic, but would the Republic’s army protect them if the Eartheners came? More had to be done. Much more.

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Where Jim Benstrike and his men were struck down.

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Some of Ray Black's farms.

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Wildbank town.

nedal2001

Chapter Seven

Ray looked over at his time-piece: 5:14 AM. He groaned loudly and placed his pillow over his head, hoping to drown the sound of the Homesteads' rooster beckoning the arrival of the morning sun. Their latest business plan was herding chickens for their eggs and meat, but given how loud their rooster was, Ray wished they would all perish, even if it meant no more of their delicious cooked chicken meat.

Seconds after the rooster started crowing, the Homesteads’ guard dogs, the ones which watched over their hens, began barking loudly. The rooster racketing was normal – the dogs barking, however, was an oddity. Ray didn’t waste any time jumping out of bed, and barely a minute had gone by when he stepped out of his front door, ballistic automatic weapon in hand. Instinctively, he looked towards Tiberius’ home, and as expected, he was there, having taken the same steps as Ray. They both started running towards the Homesteads’ land, fearing the worst. Had they been attacked? Did some of the laborers turn on their employers in hopes of making out with some currency or livestock and running? Tiberius and Ray did their best trying to run this small settlement they had, keeping everyone safe and sound, but there was no telling what these relative strangers were thinking.

The dogs, however, were not barking at someone trying to steal some livestock – it was at sight of a slow rising dust in the distant. As they got closer to the outskirts of the settlement, it became visible to Ray and Tiberius, and there was no mistaking it – it was people, in a relatively large number, making their way to Wildbank. They were too far to make out, but the worst was already assumed; someone was coming in to attack the village. Tiberius had already contacted through the communication device the heads of almost all the household, and had told them to bring their weapons.

As the men gathered around Tiberius and Ray, the intruders were also getting closer. Ray estimated around 50 to 60 people approaching them, an army much larger than the ones defending the settlement. Well equipped, yes, but outnumbered by almost three to one. Tiberius had assumed they were riding on motorized vehicles, but after realizing the pace of their approach was too slow to be on motors, it was decided they were riding on horses, or perhaps bivans, stronger and faster indigenous animals that had six legs and were utilized much of the same way as their Earthen cousins. More concerning to the two, however, was what kind of weapons the intruders might be carrying. Tiberius had done a very good job of organizing and amassing solid and strong weaponry for exactly these types of events, but there was no telling if the enemies they were facing were going to be any less capable. Nerves were rattled, sweat was breaking, and the anxiousness was barely contained.

On Ray’s orders, the men took positions inside buildings, near trees, and behind large rocks, anticipating the attack and ready to fire the first hit. Their aims were locked directly on to the intruders, and at a single command, they would open fire. From the looks of it, they would commit a massacre, too. The intruders did not look like they had a single defensive unit around them, and this was starting to make Tiberius think. Who would attack any position head on without anything to take cover behind? It did not seem logical or right. Ray, however, overcome with rage at the mere idea of anyone coming in to take over his bastion of peace, was not willing to second guess their initial assumption. He had given the order for the men to take direct aim at them, and everyone was locked and loaded, waiting for the enemy to get close enough before unloading a barrage of bullets and rockets onto them. Shoot first, ask questions later. If they got close enough to return fire, their sheer number would overpower them, and Ray was not about to let that happen. His hand was raised, ready to be dropped and signal for the rest of the men to start shooting when he heard a scream from his side.

“STOP! DO NOT SHOOT! They have children!”

It was Tiberius. Ray looked to his right, and sure enough, Tiberius was signaling for the rest of them to stand down, running towards him.

Ray Black: Children? Are you sure?

Tiberius Driver: Yes, look for yourself. That isn’t some invading force, cowboy. Those look like refugees. And look close, too. They’re either carrying dead bodies or that’s their wounded. Somethin’ happened to them, cowboy.

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War had come. Just when things were starting to get better, and hope was starting to revive in the human spirit all around Haven. Just when the planet itself had begun to show signs of healing from the atrocities committed on it by the Great War. And just when a shattered world was beginning to revitalize its economy and inventive spirit, war had come.

Perhaps the last point was the most crucial – power hungry throwbacks from a prosperous era now seeing an opportunity to regain the wealth they had lost. As Ray sat listening intently to the refugees, his mind drifted back to when he first saw the live feed of Hans Drake, “President” of the Haven Republic, in Boulder and how he hoped it would not come to this. He knew sooner or later he would roll his armies out of Janneh City and into the wilds of Haven to reclaim what he believed was rightfully he his. Sure, he did it in the name of the Haven Republic, but he knew the truth. It was for him, for his greed, and perhaps most importantly, for his sons.

He had 2 of them, Hans Drake the Second, and William Drake, the younger of the two. Hans Drake II was the next in line for the Presidency while William was known more to handle the financial aspect of things. Janneh City was under their tight control – nothing entered or left Haven’s largest city without their knowledge, and from what Ray had heard, you could not so much as earn a single currency with a cut of it going to the Drakes. Obviously, their greed was not being satisfied in the capital city, where financial institutes used to be plenty but resources are scarce, and these days, currency was in the raw resources, the basics.

Ray’s mind continued to drift until he heard something from the man speaking on behalf of the refugees that immediately caught his attention. He spoke up.

Ray Black: What did you say?

Brent Jinso (Man speaking on behalf of the refugees): We were caught in the crossfire between Drake’s forces…and the Eartheners.

Ray Black: You have to be mistaken. The Eartheners decimated this planet and left.

Brent Jinso (shaking his head): Ain’t no mistaken them, sir. They flew in with their jets and bombed the living hell out of Drake’s forces…and we were caught in the middle.

Tiberius Driver (intrigued and shocked): Where did you say you folks came from again?

Brent Jinso: A city called Port Serene, on the coast about four days ride northwest of here. Drake’s forces rolled up from the south just a few hours before the Eartheners attacked from the north.

Ray Black: What were they after? Why Port Serene?

Brent Jinso: A few months ago, a man claiming to be a scientist uncovered large reserves of Tilkan gas all around the city, and even on the islands just of the coast. He had come in with a team from Janneh City, and they left just a few days before the Haven Republic troops came in.

Tiberius Driver (confused): I thought it was announced that all traces of Tilkan gas was evaporated during the Great War. This is incredible.

Brent Jinso (sighing): Not for us. Port Serene was relatively large city…I’d say we numbered about hundred, maybe two hundred thousand people. After we were caught in the crossfire, everyone evacuated, but most didn’t make it. We’ve been on the road for a few days now, carrying our injured. About half of our wounded have perished, and none of the towns we passed through would receive. The last town we were in, Boulder I believe, there was an old innkeeper who told me that there was a settlement to the southeast that was a sanctuary to all refugees. And that’s how we’ve ended up here.

Tiberius (looking at Ray, nodding back as Ray nods at him): You and your people are welcome here. We’ll attend to the injured and help who we can.

It was happening all over again. The Great War, at its core, was fought over resources; the Haven Republic, led by Mercen Stormwind, father of the rebellion, fighting for its freedom while the Eartheners fighting to keep hold of the incredibly valuable resources. The end result was nothing for neither – no freedom and no resources. This time, however, the two sides were fighting to reclaim land they believe was rightfully theirs. It was like they were both waiting for the planet to heal before planning their next move, and they both struck at the same time. It was obvious the Haven Republic was capturing land, and it was also obvious that the Eartheners had their eyes fixed on Haven the entire time, and the two were set for a head on collision of epic proportions.

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Bivan: The bivan is an indigenous animal of Haven, featuring two front legs and four powerful back legs. It is about thirty percent larger than a horse, and is utilized in much of the same way – for transport and heavy duty labor. It is a plan eater and a generally calm animal, even wild bivans, which made them ideal for early human colonists. They can travel at speeds of about sixty kilometers per hour for reasonably long distances. They mate once a year, and the female bivan is typically pregnant for about six months, commonly birthing one child per pregnancy. They tend to live for about twenty to thirty years, although they become very weak in the last few years of their lives. The bivan is not genetically modified in any way, and cannot breed with horses or other similar earthen animals.

Tilkan Gas: Tilkan gas was discovered by scientists on Haven roughly twenty years before the actual colonization by humans of the planet. It is a light gas that packs a very heavy punch, and it is used the same way that oil and natural gas are used on Earth. Although it is called a gas, its natural form is a very light, cream colored, liquid that still holds all its strength when evaporated to a certain level, although it loses all form of itself if it surpasses that said level. A barrel of Tilkan gas is equal to the same consumption of roughly 14 barrels of earthen oil, and omits almost untraceable amounts of pollution upon use. It is the primary reason Haven was colonized, and also the primary reason the Eartheners would not give the Haven Republic control over the planet.

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Tiberius: What's that you got there, cowboy?
Ray (Fidgeting with some currency): Hey Tiberius...Listen, I want you to connect with them Janneh City folks. I'm buying up all the land surrounding my piece of property.
Tiberius (Surprised): Wow. Didn't think you wanted anything to do with them after what we saw in Boulder.
Ray: I ain't stupid, Tiberius. All these small settlements...they don't have a chance when those Janneh City boys finally get their act together and start rolling out the cavalry, claiming these lawless lands. They will, and they won't be nice about it...that Drake, he doesn't play nice.
Tiberius (Bit confused, but nods): I don't know about all that, but alright, cowboy. I'll set up the link. You got the fees? I assume they're going to ask for the same as last time.
Ray (Hands over the currency): It's all there.
 

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                Ever since the Homesteads' opened up their store, the movement into the small settlement had begun steadily increasing, almost to the point where they would be someone coming from out of town nearly every day. Most of the travelers were from Frontier and Boulder, but every now and then, someone from a more distant town would show up. Tiberius had given some of the more frequent visitors from both Boulder and Frontier satellite com-devices, so every time they wanted to come down to Wildbank, they would let him know and he would tell them what to bring with them for trade.
 
 
                Wildbank: that is what they were calling the small settlement full of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and whatever Tiberius was creating. Ray had bought all the adjacent lands around his original plot, and even though he had offered Tiberius to go half, he had respectfully declined. Ray was spending all his currency on fees for all the land he was buying, but secretly, Tiberius felt he was just throwing it away. The only way to mark you territory these days was with a gun and some ammunition - he could not ever visualize a day where there would be an operating central government.
 
 
                Ray, however, thought otherwise. All these little settlements scattered across Haven were almost a carbon copy of each other; each run by a small time crook who had a few henchmen around him to scare the local population into submitting. In other words, not exactly fearful armies. Hans Drake, however, controlled the largest and most prosperous city in all of Haven - one which had a population in the millions and most of the Haven Republic's wealth. He was a greedy son of a $%&^!, and Ray was certain was already fantasizing about seizing and controlling power over Haven once more. He was not a young man, which gave him all the more reason to do things quicker, before his eventual death. He had no doubt in his mind that Drake was amassing an army to start rolling out of Janneh City and begin "reclaiming" the land belonging to the Haven Republic. When they do come, Ray would have all his legal documents in order - land officially signed off to him by Republic officials themselves.
 
 
                While Ray was the owner of all the land that comprised of Wildbank and its immediate surroundings, Tiberius was the unofficial acting mayor. He had already allowed, with Ray's approval of course, for a few families to settle on the outskirts, and organized paid labor for the heads of the households on Ray's farms. Given Ray's fondness for keeping things legal with the Republic, he got Ray business licenses for his farming and fishing activities - Ray Food Co. and Ray Fisheries Co.  He had quite a few people working for him on the farms and fishing in the river, and Ray insisted they all get official employment contracts notarized by Republic officials.
 
 
                It was not only Wildbank that was developing, however - news out of Frontier and Boulder suggested more trade activity than ever before. It seemed for the first time since the end of the Great War, people were venturing outside their habitats and exploring their surroundings. Currency was being exchanged at a greater rate, re-discoveries were more common, and lots of the olden machineries and equipment was being fixed to work again. In Frontier, for example, Benstrike had fixed up a primitive cement mixer and was constructing a new town hall using the product. Not only that, but he was selling it at a premium to outside traders who were interested in the product. It seemed, finally, the human race on Haven was ready to put the hardships of the last 30 years behind them and begin the process of rebuilding.
 
 
                Ray both embraced and feared this thought - with rebuilding would come a better life for people if done right, but if corruption and greed were to take hold, it would only mean oppression. It was a scary thought, and although Ray would not publicly speak it, he felt the whole process was going to come a lot faster than anyone would ever expect, and given Hans Drake's character, there would be a lot of the latter going on.

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                The sun was beating down so intensely the world around had a yellowish hue, scorching the soil and making it nearly unbearable to be outside during day hours. It did not make taking care of the farm easy for Ray, and the sweat was falling off his forehead so fast he could not keep them out of his eyes, so on top of all the heat, he had a stinging sensation to deal with. Still, it was rewarding, especially now that he had begun developing his new wheat farm, thanks to the new automatic irrigation system Tiberius helped set up for him. It was not complete, but it was getting there.
 
                He looked up, squinting his eyes in the distance, trying to make out what the murmuring sound he had just heard was. It was the Homestead men, Bartlett and Vick, who had been gone on a trip to Frontier. He put down his utensils and headed towards the edge of the farm, waiting for them to come back with the currency from his apple load. It was a good set up - every time they headed to town, he would give them as many apples as he could gather, and they would sell it as a favor to the man that had founded this little piece of heaven. As they approached, Ray greeted them with a wave, of which they replied back in the same form. They were using a new motor they had acquired from their last trip to Frontier, and Tiberius had done one heck of a job juicing it up. As they reached Ray, they slowed down, and Vick jumped out of the car - instead of currency, however, he had the batch of apples that Ray had given him.
 
 
 
Ray (Disappointed): No buyers this time? Guess people sick of apples.
Vick (Shaking his head): It's not that, Ray. People want the apples, but Benstrike turned us back.
R (Surprised and agitated): What?
Bartlett: Yep. He confronted us just as we stepped into town.
R: You didn't pay the tax?
B: We've been payin' his tax and then some, but he said that we were corruptin' his townfolk or somethin', talking about how if we show our faces in Frontier again, he'll make sure they'll have bullet holes in them.
R (Confused): Wait, so he knows who you guys are? That you live here with us?
V: Na, he just accused of spoilin' the people of Frontier with our fresh meat, fish, and fruit, and said he didn't want us trading in his town again, and then went on to threaten us for about 5 minutes.
R (Dejected): Guess he doesn't want the people to have their eyes opened to the possibilities this world has to offer.
B (Looking at Vick, then smiles at Ray): Well, we don't have to worry about that. On our way out of town, a man rode up to us, and said they were interested in buyin' from us no matter where we were. So...we told them they can start comin' down here.
R (Shocked): You did WHAT?!
V: Hold on now, cowboy. People are hearin' about us and this set up we got goin' here regardless. Hell, that's how we got here! And if Boulder is anything like Frontier, I can only presume that most of that place knows about us there, too.
R (In disbelief, blinded by anger): You have no right! I accepted you here as GUESTS, and now you're treatin' this land like you own it! I swear on my unborn children...I can't even think right now. GET OUT OF MY FACE!
B (Hesitant): Ray, listen to me. There is no way we can support ourselves or our families without trade and currency, you know that. We might have the necessities, but that's all we have. And we're not gonna sit by and let you be a busboy for our products, tryin' to sell them in Boulder.
V: He's right, Ray. Whether you like it or not, word about this place is out. And all this travelin' up and down to Frontier is not only costly, it is dangerous. The Barrens are filled with outlaws, you know that.
R (Grabs Vick by the neck): I'm only going to say this once. Leave.
 
 
 
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The sound that rang out, followed by another, louder version, was unmistakable. Fearing the worst, Tiberius grabbed his Hardon shotgun and ran out, instructing his wife Joelle to hide herself and the kids. Expecting to find a pool of blood with someone lying in the middle of it, his heart was beating at what seemed like a thousand per minute. He opened the door with his weapon pointed to whatever was going to be in front of him, but he there was nothing but the warm sun beating down upon the green grass. He looked towards Ray Black's house to his left, but there was also nothing. Just when he thought that it was starting to look like a false alarm, he heard shouting coming from Ray's farm, behind his home.
 
Running as quick as he could, Tiberius found Ray with his gun pointed to the air and the two Homestead brothers, Bartlett and Vick, cowering in front him, pleading for him to calm down.
 
 
 
 
Tiberius (panting): Ray! What the hell are you doing!?
Ray (Angry): I told you I didn't want these fools here!
Tiberius: What happened? And for God's sake, put your gun down!
Ray (Aims his gun towards the brothers): They've just come in from Frontier, where they have conveniently told everyone there about our settlement here.
Tiberius (Confused): What?....Why would you do that?
Bartlett Homestead (Struck by fear): It's not like that! Tiberius, you have a family, and you know you have to provide at any cost. We were kicked out of Frontier by Benstrike, so we figured instead of travellin' to sell our goods, people could just start comin' here. It'll save us the trouble and we could potentially be makin' alot more currency.
Tiberius (Shaking his head and frowning): That was a very stupid thing you've done, Bartlett. (Looks at Ray.) Put your gun down, cowboy. (Looks back Bartlett.) I don't know what to tell you, Homestead. We accepted you and your family here because you said you had no hope anywhere else, and now you've gone ahead and ruined it for all of us.
Ray (Pointing at Vick and Bartlett): Get out of here. Leave. When whoever it is comes lookin' for you, we'll send them away.
Tiberius: Hold on, cowboy. Let's think about this. No matter what kind of punishment you inflict on them, they did what they did. Instead of sending them away, let's see how we can make use of this situation.
Ray (Looking angrily at Tiberius): Nothing positive is going to come from this. I'd rather take my chances and hopefully people will stop coming when they realize there's nothing here for them since those two idiots are gone.
Bartlett: Ray...Tiberius...what can we do? We didn't think you guys were this protective over this place. We actually thought you would be happy at the convenience. We were wrong, and we'd do whatever it takes to make it up to you.
Tiberius (Thinking): Tell you what, I think I've come up with something.
Ray (Interrupting): No! Whatever it is, NO!
Tiberius (Signaling at Ray to calm down): Just hear me out, cowboy. This irrigation system of yours, it's not going to come cheap, and neither is its maintenance. You need resources in order to keep your farms going. At the rate you're going, you're not shipping out enough of your fruits and wheat to be able to keep up.
Ray (Starting to listen, but still furious): I don't want their money!
Tiberius: Hold on and let me finish! I'm not talkin' about some lousy one time payment. This here is your land, and you've been gracious enough to let us live on it, so everything built on it belongs to you. This is what I propose...the Homesteads' here build a store, through their own currency and materials, to use as their base of operation and sales. Now, even though they've built it through their own currency and expense, the store will belong to you, cowboy, and they're going to pay you rent accordingly. On top of that, you'll get to sell your products at your own prices with no income to them whatsoever inside the store.
Bartlett: So we build the store, with our own currency, for him...and then we pay him rent on it. He also gets space in the store to sell his products, which we will be selling for him, at no additional income or profit to us.
Tiberius: Yes, and in return, he'll allow you to stay in your new homes.
Bartlett (Looking over at his brother Vick, then slowly nodding): If the cowboy can agree and forgive us, we accept.
Tiberius (Looking over at Ray): What do you say, Ray?
Ray (Throwing his arms up in the air): Bah! Whatever. But let's get one thing straight, either one of you pull a stunt like that again, I'll escort you off this land myself. And arm yourselves. Mo' money, mo' problems. ( ;) )

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"Vince! Sandra! Break-time is over! Get in here now!"

 

     The two children looked up at Ray with sad eyes and let out long sighs, no doubt trying to get him to sympathize. He smiled, signaled towards their mother, and raised his eyebrows slightly.

 

"Your mother wants you, and you have to hit the books! Don't worry, I'll still be here when you're done."

 

     Joelle Driver, Tiberius' wife, had begun teaching the kids in their little village every day a few weeks back, educating them on the history of Haven and how it came to be, as well as important skills such as reading and writing. These days, it was a rare to find anyone with actual formal writing skills, and reading was almost a lost art. With fourteen children around, Joelle had made up her mind that this was going to be a fresh start in every aspect, and as much as the little ones moaned and groaned, the parents all agreed it would be a great idea to get them some basic education.


     Given her husband's wizardry with technology, Tiberius managed to pull up some e-books on his last trip to Boulder, using the primitive but working satellite feed just outside the town to link up with the stored archives of Haven, probably stored on a database on one of the thousands of satellites orbiting around the planet. They had records of Haven's history and happenings, as well as bits and parts of Earth's history, and with no centralized protection system against such hacking in place (presumably all were destroyed during the Great War), Tiberius had a field day, gathering all types of manufacturing recipes, technological information, and even farming methods for his good friend Ray. He was careful not to bring any attention to himself, however, only accessing the satellite feed connector at night, and only for the nights he was in town so he wouldn't start getting questioned for lingering. It was during one of those hacking sessions that Tiberius got the recipe on how to build his own solar energy tower, something that would stimulate thousands more EP (Energy Particles) than their beat-up generator. Automatic irrigation systems would be possible, powering motors would be easy...the possibilities would be endless with more EP at his disposal. Tiberius had already started on his project, but it would take a bit of time since he was the only one with the technical expertise to be able to build such a tower.


     Tiberius frequented Boulder because he could not go back to Frontier, and Bartlett and Vick Homestead would be shot on sight as traitors if they ever returned to that town. Instead, they did the opposite - they would head to Frontier, where no one knew who they were, to handle their trade and business. They had managed to capture the small herd of cattle (cows to be exact, whose origins on the planet, like horses, can be traced back to the original colonists who had brought the species with them), and were raising them. They were taking diary from them, and as soon as they were of a large enough herd to be able to handle losing a few of their healthier additions without stunting the growth of the herd, they were going to start selling the meat, too. Throw in a little fishing on the weekend, and the Homesteads were turning a nice, tidy profit every time they went into town.


     As for Ray, he had his apple farm, which was coming along quite well, thanks to a little help from Tiberius. He had taught him the secrets of manual irrigation, which really blossomed the trees. Before Tiberius had told him what to do, a lot of his trees would simply wither away despite a good amount of rain falling. That was a sad part of life on Haven - no matter how much it rained, the ground was simply incapable of supporting life, it seemed. The space missiles had obliterated the planet, and not even rain and sun could bring plants to grow back, at least in most places.


     While Tiberius would head to Boulder, and the Homesteads to Frontier, Ray would stay behind with the women and children as protection. He had no interest in going to either town - in fact, he was more than happy avoiding them all together. Once in a while, he would give a stock of fresh apples to either traveler, and they would come back having sold them all for a bit of currency, of which he would just place in his dresser and save up. It was a quiet sort of life; exactly the type of life he longed for.

 


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     Ray moaned - this was the third time this month the generator had died out and the power had gone off. Lucky it was still afternoon time and the sun was still out, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to see anything, let alone get to his front door. He stepped and looked towards the generator, waiting for Tiberius to get there from his home - this time, however, Tiberius had beaten him to the punch. He looked up at Ray, and signaled for Ray to come towards him.

 

Ray (Walking towards Tiberius): What went wrong this time? Overloaded again?
Tiberius (Smiling): Nope, I disconnected it.
R (Confused): Now why in the world would ya want to do that? Repair work? Didn't you just repair it two days ago?
T (Fidgeting with the generator): Cowboy, this here generator is never goin' to have to be turned on again. No more loud noises, no more break downs, no more expenses tryin' to keep this piece of junk running.
R (Silent for a few seconds, then smiles): You got your solar tower thing to work, didn't you?
T (Laughs): Well, we're about to find out! Come with me, ol' friend.

 

     Tiberius had been working on what he called an EP Solar Tower for the better part of the last three months, slowly constructing it from absolutely nothing. Given how much power Tiberius claimed it could give out, Ray expected it to be larger, much larger than what was currently in front of him. Still, he knew better than to question Tiberius on these sort of things. He had claimed to Ray that once his tower began working at full capacity, it could give out enough EP to power Frontier and Boulder combined, and more importantly, open up a lot of possibilities in terms of development for the little village. He had told him about something called automatic irrigation, some kind of method where water would be forced to flow through a small underground network powered by EP, directly to his apple farm. Ray didn't mind the idea of expanding his farm, or even growing a new one, maybe banana or wheat. He didn't have the man power, but with that automatic irrigation, he would not need it.


     Ray stood idly by Tiberius as he fidgeted, pulled, and plugged at what seemed like the central motherboard of the tower, down near its base. Finally, Tiberius got up and turned towards Ray.

 

T: You ready, cowboy?
R (Joking): How do I get ready? Is there some kind of ritual?
T (Noting to Ray that he had sensed his sarcasm): You'll be thankin' me soon enough.

 

     Tiberius pushed the lever protruding from the side of the tower up, and Ray turned and looked towards his house, then smiled. His light was on.


Note: I didnt realize until after I posted the pictures that the gravel  trial was missing in the 2nd picture. Dont know how that happened! Apologies, and I'll make sure to pay more attention next time :(


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                Although he was completely against Tiberius Driver moving his family down to the Wildbank River and becoming his new neighbor at first, doing his best to keep to himself and not involving himself with the family next door. That didn't last too long, however, and being the person that he is, inevitably he gave them a helping hand finishing up their new home. It wasn't too long before relations between Black and the Driver family became warm, with Ray having dinner at the Drivers' nearly every night.

 
                Things were certainly easier for Ray with them around, especially as Tiberius was quite the handy man. Using frequency electricity receivers, he removed Ray's age old cable wires, and also reduced the chance of something going wrong. The solar generator needed maintenance every few days, and again it was Tiberius who took care of the matter thanks to his previous experience. They caught twice as many fish, and Ray's plan to start a small farm of apple trees started to become a reality now that he had Tiberius helping him with his little project. The kids, Vince and Sandra, ran around all day, and the wife, Joelle, did the household chores. Life was good.
 
                It happened during the evening, as the Drivers' and Ray gathered around the dinner table. What started out as a low murmur grew louder by the second, a rumbling that could only be man-made. Ray and Tiberius looked at each other, both knowing what the other was thinking. They had never said it, but both men had expected this day. Joelle, seeing the look in her husband's eyes, immediately got off the table, gathered the kids, and headed to their room. Before she slammed the door however, she came back outside carrying two automatic shotguns, handing one to each man, and giving her husband a light nod. Tiberius looked at Ray, and proceeded out the front door. At this point, the rumble had gotten loud, and was right outside the house. It was Jim Benstrike, with his pack of goons, in two all-purpose armored vehicles, parked outside of Ray's home. He began laughing as both men stepped out, weapons in their hands.
 
JB (Laughing menacingly): Boys, boys, boys! There you are! We missed ya in town Tiberius. You know I heard a rumor in town saying you had deserted us to join the cowboy, and I just HAD to see for myself. Where are your manners?! Leaving without a word?
TD: You have no business here, Benstrike.
JB: That is where you're wrong, Driver. I didn't drive down for hours because I don't have any business here. This here is my land, and I'm here to collect.
TD: I believe you're a far way from Frontier, and I recommend you head back. There is nothing for ya here.
 
                Benstrike threw his cigarette on the ground, losing patience with the resistance Tiberius Driver was putting up, something he had rarely faced before. He signaled to his team to advance towards the men, but they didn't get far before a round of shots rang out, and Benstrike's men began falling one by one, very quickly.
 
RB (Holding his gun): I aimed for their legs. Let that be a warning. Pack your troops up and go, Benstrike. Don't come back here again.
 
                Ray Black had fired at the men without warning, and blood was gushing out of their legs along with screams from their mouths. Benstrike took one look at his fallen men and hastily retreated back to his vehicle, calling out for the rest of them to carry the wounded back to their rides. Ray didn't flinch; he kept his gun aimed at them the entire time. They might have had weapons, but they did not have two Hardon 55 Automatic Shotguns capable of firing over 200 bullets per minute aimed at them, and they certainly were not expecting a gun fight. Benstrike was shook; his men, even more so. No one had ever dared fight back since he took over the town and declared it his property some 20 odd years back. All he could mutter was "This isn't over, cowboy!" as they drove away like dogs retreating, licking their wounds.
 
                Watching the two vehicles drive away, Tiberius relaxed his aim and brought his shotgun down towards his waist. He turned his head towards Ray, staring at him dead in the eye without flinching.
 
TD (Agitated): You know I have a family in there. This could've went a lot worse.
RB: Don't think it could've gone any better. (Shifts his shotgun off his shoulder and hands it back to Tiberius.) Them boys won't be coming back anytime soon.
TD: You need to think of the consequences of your actions! Where the hell we gonna go to sell our products, to get things we need! Where -
RB (Shouting over Tiberius): Hey! I didn't ask ya to come here! I ain't bowin' down to no man anymore! That SOB Benstrike can go to hell for all I care. You don't like the way things are going down, I suggest you pack yourself up and leave, because if they come down here again, it's gonna get a whole lot uglier. I'm aimin' for heads next time!
TD (Shaking his head softly): Damn cowboys, never thinking past their nose. (Looks at Ray for a few seconds, then hands the shotgun back to him.) Well, what's done is done, and at least you're right about one thing - they ain't coming back anytime soon. But...they WILL be back sometime. (Starts walking back to his house.) I've heard about a small town that's supposed to be west of Frontier called Boulder. I'm going to try and pull up its coordinates on the computer I got with me - if it can locate it, I suggest we head over there first thing in the morning and buy ourselves some supplies. We'll take my motor, you can leave Rusty here munchin' on grass. Shouldn't be gone more than a few days, and after the stunt you just pulled off, can't risk leavin' the family here alone. They'll be coming with us.
RB: Alright then, I'll prepare myself.
 
                Ray was not sure if what he had done to Benstrike's men would come back to bite him, but he was done playing his game. He had built up a home far away from "civilization" so that he could avoid the corruption and complete lack of morals and ethics that was so evident in men, only for the epitome of all he despised to come to his home and try to steal his peace away from him. He was not going to take it anymore, and when he shot at Benstrike's goons, it was more out of blind frustration than strategic thinking. He would rather not live another day if he had to put up with how things worked in towns like Frontier in his own home.
 
                A few meters away, Tiberius was making sure his family was alright. It wasn't that he disagreed with Ray's actions, it was just that such recklessness could place his family's life in danger, and he was not willing to let anything do that. He had left Frontier because of threats to his wife, and he was not about to bring danger down to his new home. What Ray had done was brave, but he was not going to fool himself into thinking this situation was over. He knew Benstrike, and he knew that a criminal like that was not going to rest until he got his way. He had to stock up, and if what he heard was right, Boulder was going to be the place he did so. His solar powered motor would get them there in about a day's time of continuous driving. Boulder was most likely not going to be any friendlier than Frontier, so he made sure the motor had the two shotguns packed and loaded before the trip got started.
 

 

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                  There didn't seem there was much to distinguish Boulder from Frontier, or any other dusty town that existed in the Great Barrens for that matter, at first, except for the paved road that served as the center of the place. Apparently, the formerly unpaved road was too rocky for the vehicles that came in through town and there were complaints, so the town decided to actually listen to them and paved the road with asphalt. Driving to the Boulder Motel, one of two inns/motels in town, the first thing noticed was the bustle and activity - people were coming and going, buying and selling, and although it didn't seem too much bigger than Frontier, it certainly was much more alive.

 
                Ray and Tiberius had taken turns driving, so both were reasonably rested. It was the first time for them in Boulder, and for Tiberius' family, the first time they had seen a town other than their former home of Frontier. What was obvious was that whoever was in charge here was attempting to make the town a better place, for whatever reason. Both men, however, knew there had to be more to the story.
 
                After checking in and making sure Tiberius' family was comfortable and safe, they headed down to the main, paved road in Tiberius' motor, packed with buckets of fish and apples. Both were delicacies that fetched pretty high prices, so they could barter supplies pretty easily with traders for them. While Ray was after certain tools to help him with this farm project, Tiberius was looking for more technological advanced gadgets to help him reconnect with the rest of the world. Both were silent about their respective goals and projects, although both knew what the other was up to. Truthfully, they made a good team, with one man in touch with the world around and a real blue collar type, while the other was a technological whiz who could pretty much figure how anything worked. What they both needed, however, was more ammunition, a perhaps another gun or two just in case.
 
                After a reasonably successful few hours of trading and negotiating, they headed back to the Boulder Motel's bar to grab a quick drink before going upstairs to retire for the night. The bar itself was buzzing with people, and they could barely get in, having to bump through people just to reach the bar. It was uncomfortably full, and everyone seemed fixated on the blank plasma screen that hung over bar itself. Confused as to why people where staring a black screen, Tiberius asked the bartender.
 
TB: Hey, can you get us two beers, and make sure they're cold! Tell me, why is everyone looking at the plasma screen? Ain't nothing been on any television since the Great War.
Bartender: Guess you haven't heard then. We received a warp this mornin' sayin' that the Republic has recovered the frequency of an old satellite orbiting Haven and has promised to start broadcastin' today.
TB (Startled, and somewhat taken back): Wow, ain't that something.
Bartender: Yeah, people been in here since mornin', considering this is one of the only televisions available in town. We're still waitin' though - some folks have even started callin' it a lie.
TB: I doubt the Republic would go through the trouble of warpin' messages if they didn't have it all figured out. Anyway, how about them beers?
Bartender: Coming right up.
 
                Listening intently to the conversation was Ray, and although he never publicly stated it, he wished for the today the Republic would be strong enough to force some law and order unto the lands. He was in the middle of his thoughts when the black screen turned white, and then a few seconds later, began broadcasting live from Janneh City.
 
Man on Plasma Screen: Welcome, brothers and sisters, and thank you for tuning in to Station One, the Republics' one and only network station. We are pleased to announce that starting today, we will be on this frequency twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The Great War may have destroyed our world, but it did not destroy our spirits, and slowly but surely, we will rebuild. It is only fitting that this momentous occasion be topped off by a speech from the Republic and YOUR President, His Excellency Hans Drake.
 
                Hans Drake - the supposed right hand man of the champion of the rebellion, the deceased Mercen Stormwind. A lot of stories had circulated through the years as to what had transpired, but the end result was Drake stationed in a safety bunker in Janneh City while Stormwind died like the billions in Haven as the space missiles struck. After the end of the Great War, Drake named himself the President of the Haven Republic, although his influence did not reach outside of the Republic capital city.
 
                Drake began talking about how this was an era in the history of Haven, and how, under his leadership, the human race to become united again. It was to be his guidance that will push them forward, he said, after which both Ray and Tiberius stopped paying attention. The latter's mind was spinning, however, as he thought to himself of what this could mean. If they had figured out how to get the frequency beamed up to the satellite to broadcast, that meant there was a way to collect data from the satellites and broadcast frequencies himself. All the former was thinking about was having another beer before going to his room to sleep.
 
                The crowd that had assembled in the bar, however, was hypnotized by the plasma screen, and hearing their apparent President talk had made them very confused. A lot of people did not know the Republic still existed, let alone had a President who was talking about unity. The whole thing had begun to bore Ray, and he was ready to leave, both the bar, and Boulder. But something made him sit right back down before he had a chance to get up: a bullet right through the plasma screen.
 

 

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                The bullet zipped right through the projectile picture and hit the mainframe of the screen, disabling instantly. Shocked by the sudden events, a few people let out screams while the rest instinctually ducked their heads.
 
"The only government you all need to be listening to is ME!" screamed a voice from the back of the room. Ray looked back to see a bulky man, surrounded by four even bulkier, borderline scary men. "The Republic died when them Eartheners bombed the hell out of this planet, and we've been putting in work ever since tryin' to make this place a livable place for all of you. I demand your loyalty, and believe me, I WILL get it."
 
                That must've been the sheriff of the town, Ray thought to himself, and he was not mistaken. Casey Farman had been in charge of Boulder since his father passed away nearly twelve years back, and although he was not the oppressive dictator that Jim Benstrike of Frontier was, he still kept his own version of a stranglehold on the town he controlled.
 
                Ray watched him as the man and his companions made their way to the bar as people began returning to whatever it was they were doing before the "incident", secretly hoping that was all the drama for the night. Tiberius was already on his way out, and Ray was not going to be too far behind. Just a few minutes ago, Ray was a man who wished to see the Republic bestow some order onto a chaotic world; now, he wanted nothing to do with a central government led by Hans Drake. He was an old man, but he did not look it, and as far as Ray knew from stories of the Great War veterans, his corruption and greed knew no bounds. If he wanted to unite the world, it would not be because he cared about improving the livelihood on the broken people, it would be because he wanted to feed his thirst for power and currency. At this point, Ray just wanted to rest his head, get some sleep, and have the morning come as quickly as possible so he could get home.

 

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TD (Tiberius Driver): Wake up, Ray! RAY!
RB (Awoken startled): What the hell is it?! You know better than to scream at a dreamin' man!
TD: Get it together, cowboy. I need you outside now!
RB (Gets out of bed and starts putting on his clothes): You're worryin' me, Tiberius. What the hell is goin' on?
TD (Already out the door): Just get out here, for heaven's sake!
 
 
                Ray had barely finished putting on his boots before he stepped outside his front door, anxious about what Tiberius was up in arms about, and dreading what he might see. Was Benstrike back from Frontier? Maybe his horse was dead, savagely attacked by an carnivorous animal that laid waste to his carcass? His thoughts were running a mile a minute, but after blocking out the powerful sun shining directly in his eyes, he saw why Tiberius had awakened him the way he did.
               
                In front of him stood eighteen people, six of the adults and the rest children of which the eldest looked about fifteen. Next to them were two wagons, each attached to two horses, no doubt their means of transportation. The wagons were something you would see out of the old Earthen western movies that were based on an ancient civilization called the United States and its wild western area. They had become popular in Haven after the Great War by the nomadic types because of the relative ease one could build one. They were used to protect the wanderers from dust storms, rain, and other weather inconveniences, and made quite the comfortable resting place as well.
 
                Looking at each other, one of the male adults finally stepped forward and began talking:
 
BH (Bartlett Homestead): Greetings. I'm Bartlett Homestead and this here is my family. That's my wife Francetta, my brother Vick and his wife Caroline, and my two sisters, Janice and Pristine. These here are my brother's children and my children.
RB (Confused): Howdy. How can we help ya, Bartlett? Tryin' to find your way somewhere?
BH (Drawing out a long sigh): Actually, we found it. We are where we set out to be.
RB (Getting annoyed): Listen fella, let's stop with the idle chatter and the obnoxious vagueness. What are you doin' here and what is it that you want?
BH (Tensely signals to Ray to calm down with his hands): Easy now, cowboy. We're not here to make any trouble - quite the opposite. We heard rumors back in Boulder about a new settlement set up by the Wildbank River, so we headed south and then east once we hit the river. We've been out in the wild for a few days now.
RB (Getting more agitated): You didn't answer my question. WHAT are you doing here and WHAT do you want?
BH (Pauses for a few seconds while looking straight at Ray): We're here because we want to start a new life, and I would be very grateful indeed if you let my family and I become your neighbors. You know it's a rough place out there in the Barrens and-.
RB (Interrupting Bartlett): Excuse me? For the love of God, can't I just be left in peace!?
TD (Chuckles silently, then leans over to Ray and whispers): You know you don't have a choice in the matter, right?
RB: What the hell do you mean?
TD: Even if you turn them away, they're just gonna settle somewhere close. They can't go back to Boulder - they know it, and you know it. Besides, we could use some neighbors. You're quite borin', you know. And truth be told, I wouldn't mind if Joelle and the kids would get some company of their own kind. Most importantly, Ray, we would have strength in numbers. You know Benstrike and his goons aren't gonna be quiet about what happened, but if we got them boys over there with us, he would think twice about startin' any type of attack.
RB (Grunting, then sighing): I know you're right, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Does the generator have enough capacity to power more households?
TD (Smiling): Yes, and I'll fidget around with its capacitor and see if I can give it more juice.
RB (Shaking his head): Too damn early in the morning for this crap. You talk to them. I'm going back to sleep. (Walks back into his house and slams the door.)
TD (Smiling, then whispers to himself): You got a good heart, Ray. (Looks up to Bartlett and his family, still smiling and speaks up.) Welcome.
 

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               The folks in Frontier were surprised to see Ray back, and so soon. It took him a few days to get down to the Wildbank River from Frontier, but the way back was much simpler now that he knew how to guide himself. The trip took 2 days on horseback, with very little time given for rest. He figured he would check into the small inn on the corner of the town's main road in exchange for some of the apples he brought with him. He had come into town dragging buckets of apples and fish along with him, ready to do business with the traders of the town. Food was a valuable commodity, especially rare meat like fish and tasty fruits like the apples he had on him.
 
                By the time he finished checking into his room at the inn, word had spread around town that the cowboy was back, and had brought with him some pretty sought after goods. It didn't take long for Jim Benstrike, leader of the gang that ran Frontier and its so-called sheriff, popped by for a small visit. Ray hadn't paid his visiting tax yet, and by the looks of it, it seemed he would have to put up more than the required amount. Ray knew the name of the game, so it was not a surprise to him hearing a knock on the door, with a voice behind it shouting, "Open up, cowboy! Sheriff's here to collect!"
 
                About 15 minutes later, Benstrike walked out of Ray's room with a small bucket of fish and apples, satisfied at the "token of appreciation" given to him by the visitor. It did not take long for him to follow the sheriff out, ready to do a bit of his own business. He wanted to get done with it as soon as possible, disgusted by the blatant disrespect and corruption that reeked throughout the town. He had come for that solar generator and some electrical cables and tools to power his new home; as soon as he had acquired that, he was not going to spend another minute in this god-forsaken place.
 
                The old generator was just outside of town, being sold by the same man who had the electrical supplies on offer. The man did not know much about the products he was selling; all he knew at that point, however, was that Ray was being extremely generous with the offer presented to him. Buckets of fish and apples for some cables, lights, sockets, and a beat up generator he had no idea how to work seemed like a fine deal to him - especially as he could head into town and turn those produces for even more profit. He was curious, however, as to what this cowboy wanted with these electrical supplies.
 
 
 
"What is it you need them for?"
"I would have guessed them apples and fish would also make it so no questions came my way, old man."
"Hey, what you do is none of my business. Just asking out of curiousity."
"Ain't nothing to be curious about. Just need these supplies for a little project of mine."
 
               
 
                It would take Ray a while to load the generator on the small trailer he had bought in town, and the way back was certainly going to be rough on Rusty, so he figured he'd stock up for at least a week just in case things got rougher than expected. After a little bit of sleep, he checked out of the inn, and headed south. On the way out of the town, however, Benstrike rode up next to him with a few of his goons and singled for Ray to stop. By the looks of it, he didn't like the idea of Ray shipping out of a town with a bulky generator.
 
 
 
JB: "So where you headed then, cowboy?"
RB: "Oh, down to the next town, you know."
JB: "That's some item you got carrying on you. Wouldn't want you stirring up any trouble."
RB: "No trouble at all, sheriff. Just an old man who was talking about this very type of generator in the next town. Going to turn me a small profit."
JB: "There ain't no town after this one, cowboy. We ain't called Frontier for nothing."
RB: "New settlement, sheriff. Don't even have a name yet. If you'd allow me, I'd like to get my trip started. Have a long way to go."
 
 
 
                The frustration in Ray's voice had become obvious, but the last thing he needed was this old fool to cause him some problems. Surprisingly, the "sheriff" nodded his head and stepped aside, averting what could of turned out to be a messy situation. Ray's shotgun was in the bag, away from hidden sight, and he was not looking forward to using it now. He had a home to get back to, and some more fish to catch.
 
 
 

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                The sight of Ray's shack still standing was a good of a welcome as any, especially after a few difficult days under the harsh desert sun. Even more welcoming was the fresh water from the river that was gulped down by both Ray and his horse. Poor Rusty bore the brunt of the difficulty of the trip, having dragged the trailer holding the solar powered generator along with some primitive electrical supplies, probably the type used in the 21st or 22nd century by humans when they were still confined to Earth. Given the destruction of the Great War, however, he would not have been surprised if those very humans were considered more technologically advanced than the humans of modern day Haven.
               
                Back in his early teenage years, Ray spent a couple of years in Blessing, the coastal settlement where he learned how to fish. The settlement was the largest he had seen after the war, and it was filled with educated residents of all fields. It was an engineer called Henry Hayes who taught him about electricity and how to get it working, showing him the works of how the large solar generator powered the entire town. Ray became like an apprentice to Hayes, and it was the death of his mentor that led him to abandon Blessing and travel into the Great Barrens. Having set the generator about 10 meters away from his shack, he began wiring it to the house, where he would install light bulbs and sockets.
               
                The process took him nearly 4 hours, and by the time he was done, the sun was starting to set. Rusty, resting near the river, looked on lazily, not knowing quite what was going on, but happy he had gotten that huge machine off of his back, figuratively. Given that the generator was pretty much under the sun for the past 5 days, Ray figured it would have enough charge in it to work throughout the night. Hoping for the best, he turned the red button and waited for the rumbling of the generator.
               
                It did not come quick, but after about 30 seconds of choking and gasping, the machine started operating the way it was intended to work, and with another switch in the small electrical board he had built in the shack, the lights came on inside. It had been a rough week or so, but as he relaxed just outside his shack and watched the sun set, Ray knew it was all worth it. For the first time, he had an actual home. There was supposedly a central government that was apparently still operational, although their influence did not stretch out any further than borders of Janneh City, the capital of the old Haven Republic, situated on the coast south of where Blessing was. Ray had never been there, but he had heard stories about how the Haven Republic government had appointed a new president who intended to reunite Haven the way it was before the war. If there was an operational government, Ray thought to himself, he would like to at least get a land deed to legally claim the land he now called his own. Frontier had a small tech-store next to the inn that would have all the information he needed, so he figured the next trip back into town, he would send his claim through the electronic warp (a machine of relatively old technology that uses plasma sensor to register recorded information at another location. Paper had become obsolete a long time ago - instead, electronic records were used.) From what he had heard, a small payment was enough to get the legal claim he was after, not that the government cared - they would probably never step foot anywhere near the land.
 
 

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                A few weeks went by before Ray began preparing to head back to Frontier. By this point, the solar generator was running smoothly, his shack was lit up, and he had begun taking the apple seeds from the fruits and planting them in the soil, hoping they would bear fruit (no pun intended), making him the caretaker of a small apple tree farm. The fish in the Wildbank River were plentiful, although there seemed to be only one type of fish, thoughtfully called by Ray the Wildbank Trout. Good old Rusty was enjoying his days by the river, munching on grass and just generally being lazy. Sometimes, they would go for a walk down the river, and they always seemed to run into the same herd of wild cows. They always made Rusty uncomfortable, and it was generally then they would turn around and walk back to their home. Ray could not imagine a better way to live - he was already dreading the next trip north to Frontier.
 
                The dusty town seemed to be trapped in a time warp - nothing had changed, even though the first time Ray came through the town was years ago. No new building, no new technology, no new people, nothing. It was just as depressing as it ever was, and the self proclaimed sheriff, Jim Benstrike, wanted it to keep it that way, under his control and oppressed. Ray had not even been one hour in Frontier before Benstrike came looking for him, chasing after the "tax" levied on visitors. He did not like Black, and the feeling was mutual. Still, Benstrike figured he was getting currency every couple of weeks from him, so he was of better use alive than dead. He found him in the same inn room as his last trip.
 
 
 
JB: "Back so soon, cowboy? I figured you were gone."
RB: "What can I say, great little town you got here, sheriff."
JB: "Dont mock me, boy, or I'll make sure your tongue gets cut off so you can't say another word for the rest of your life."
RB (Shrugging, keeping his hand close to his bag which was carrying his plasma shotgun): "Didn't mean no disrespect, sheriff. Think this is a mighty fine town you got yourself here." (He reached down into his pocket and took out about 250 Currency Notes (or CN), handing them over to Benstrike, who just eyed him menacingly before finally speaking up.)
JB: "This time, it is 250, but next time, you better find a way to fork over 100 more. You're comin' over an awful lot, I think that warrants a higher token of appreciation."
RB: "No worries, sheriff. You got it."
               
 
 
                Ray was in no mood for a fight, but Benstrike seemed to want one. The sheriff took the CNs from Black, spat on the floor, and walked out of the room. He sighed and shook his head, reminded of why he hated these little towns and why he had started to cherish his lonely abode next to the river. He had a feeling that it was not the end of his troubles for the day, however...
 
 
 

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                Walking down the main road of Frontier was like something out of an old movie they used to show about a place on Earth called the "Wild West." The usual businesses could be found - couple of bars, brothel, cinema, and a few stores selling objects that has use before the Great War but probably no one knew how to use anymore. Things like shadescreen computers, ray televisions, frequency electricity receivers, plasma and carbon guns, and the like. Ray always had an interest in technology and such, but it was not anything he could afford, so he would walk by rather not looking at them. No use in wishing about something you cannot have, he though, continuing down to the tech-store to process his claim through the electronic warp.
 
                The tech-store is what they called a place with computers, sort of a business center that people without access to the Internet 5G could go to get stuff done. Nowadays, that was nearly everyone. The tech-store in Frontier was owned by Tiberius Driver, a man of about 50 years old who had a wife and 2 young kids. He was not a big man by any means, but he was quite stocky, and also a veteran of the Great War, when he fought with the Haven Republic forces against the Earthen Alliance. He was part of the battalion that drove the alliance out of Liberty City, which at the time was their last stronghold in Haven. He had met his wife there, after staying as part of the occupying force while the alliance retreated their people from the city, and it was there they took cover in the bunker of the former Parliamentary Palace from the space missiles that destroyed Haven. Although they were married for several years, they did not add to their family until they settled in Frontier a few years ago, when both were in their early 40s.
 
                Ray always wondered how a good man like Driver could put up with the corruption that ran rampant in Frontier, but then again, it was not like anywhere else was better. Driver had made a decent amount of currency after opening up the tech-store in Frontier, and had even gotten official confirmation from the Haven Republic government in Janneh City as a representative office for all legal matters of state, such as the one Ray was coming to him for today. He smiled as Black entered the tech-store.
 
 

TD: Well howdy, cowboy. Back again so soon?

RB: Yep, just need to handle some legal business and be on my way.
TD: Alrighty then, straight to the point. How can I help ya?
 RB: I need to apply a claim for a land I've settled on. You know, make my settlement legal.
TD (looking puzzled): Hmmm, never had a request like that before. A land claim? Let me see, here. (Pulls out a book and starts looking through it.) Ok, here we are. Says here you gotta present the exact coordinates of the land, and then fill out the application form, and finally, pay an administrative fee. Ofcourse, you also have to transfer over the amount to the owner of the land of which you agreed.
RB (Smiling): I doubt it has one. Anyway, I have an old location grapher which stored the coordinates for me. As for the application form, you give me the form and I'll fill it out. And finally, you let me know what the application fee is, and let's get in contact with our so-called government and figure out how much extra I gotta pay.
TD: Alright, let me pull up the contact information, and we can talk to them through the plasma feed.
 
 
 
                About 15 minutes later, Ray received an official land deed from Janneh City confirming that he was the owner of the said land. The contact was just as puzzled as Tiberius was, never having heard of such a request since before the Great War, and gladly told Ray that if he can cough up the application fee, then the land was his for free. That suited Ray just fine, storing the land deed on his hard drive device. Before he gave leave to the tech-store however, Tiberius, who had been quiet and observing him the entire time, grabbed him by the arm.
 
 
 
TD: Cowboy...this land of yours...well, this is the second time you come into town carrying a whole lot of fish and fruits. You living by yourself?
RB (Taken back and cautious): Hey now Driver, I don't ask you about your business. Let's leave mine alone. Good day to you, sir.
TD (Still holding Ray's arm tight): Listen, I didn't mean to offend ya. Truth is, I don't know how much of Benstrike I can take. They came in the other night, drunk as usual, telling me they wanted my wife for the night as "token of appreciation." They got called in to go rough up some poor fool who was not paying up, but I've had enough.
RB (Sighing): The river's stretches for miles, Driver. Make your way down there and do what I did, I don't care. Just don't go about announcing this to anyone else.
TD: Cowboy, I want to go with you, and I want to build my home near yours. You're a good person, and we could use each other. I already know you've acquired yourself a solar generator.
RB: You coming in to take my property now? You tryin' to be like Benstrike? Cause I got a rifle that says you should stay put.
TD: Easy now, Ray. I'll pay half of whatever you paid for that thi - you know what, I'll give you the full amount of whatever you paid. There isn't another one in town, and I don't have any idea where I can buy one. Everyone who has one is making money renting out electricity to other people - no one is going to sell. All I want is to share it, and I know it has got enough capacity to support to houses.
RB (Quiet for a few seconds, then looks at Tiberius): I don't want your money, and I ain't gonna be taxin' anyone. Give me half, and if you make your way down there, you can the generator as well.
TD (Smiling): Well, alright then.

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                Ray Black lay his pack down, and splashed warm water on his face. His horse was already drinking, no doubt enjoying the liquid as it smoothly went down its dry throat. Placing his container in the river, he pulled it out and began enjoying his own refreshing portion of the Wildbank River's fresh water, thankful for the blessing. The desert was a cruel place.
               
                It was not always like this. Back when Ray was a child, Haven was a beautiful world filled with lush forests, crystal clear lakes, dazzling oceans, and breath-taking mountains. Peace was universal, crime in the well-designed urban areas was non-existent, and prosperity seemed to come without effort. After the Great War, everything changed. Everything.
               
                Now, it was hunt or be hunted. The world was filled with outlaws, gangs, and cowboys, and you were no safer inside a town than you were out in the barrens. Haven was now one mega desert, at the center of which was the Dead Barrens, of which Ray now found himself in the center of. That was why the growth of small vegetation alongside the Wildbank River, one of the last known bastions of uncontaminated fresh water, was all the more surprising to him. Flora was like the diamonds of old, rare and hard to come by, and apart from his memories of pre-Great War Haven, when he was just a child, he could not remember the last time he saw a living green organism in front of his eyes.
               
                Ray Black lived the life of a cowboy, travelling from town to town, buying from this one, selling to that, and making himself some currency in the process. There were no more huge urban centers or cities, just tiny dusty towns, usually run by a gang, scattered across the wastelands. Everything had been obliterated, and human life had become nearly extinct. It was almost 30 years now, or in the calendar of the almost primitive human race that remained, AD (After Destruction) 30. He had been travelling like this for the past 20 odd years, and as he lay by the banks of the river, he was ready to give it all up. This was no way to live. Life had become too hard, too depressing. Life was not worth it anymore.
               
                The Dead Barrens was an unforgiving place, and with the sun setting, he had to prepare for the perils of the night. Usually, he would hunch up next to his horse, and hold his shotgun tight throughout the night, but tonight, he could at least be able to cozy up under one of the taller trees near the bank. The light grass under him cushioned up the ground a little bit, as well, and for the first time, he actually looked forward to putting his head down for some rest. He was days away from the last town he visited, and he had no idea where he was going next. He heard rumors in town about a river to the south, so that is exactly where he headed, with some food and water to last him about a week's time. The Wildbank River, they called it. In these times, this was as close to paradise as one could get on Haven.
 
 
               
                Ray woke up to the sound of leaves swaying in the wind, a completely unfamiliar sound and feeling to him. Confused at first, his memory came back to him and remembered falling asleep on the shores of the Wildbank River next to his trusty horse. Around certain towns, you could still see a few motors running, some on two wheels, some on four, but Ray preferred the company of a live animal through his treks in the Great Barrens. Besides, there was no way a car or motor could handle the rough terrain found here, not by a long shot. Good old Rusty could, however, and he made a great head rest some nights when the ground was too hard to sleep on.
               
                After he had cleaned himself off a little bit and taken a bite of the little food he had left, Ray sat next to his trusty friend and started to think of his next move. The last town he had left behind, Frontier, was supposedly the last known human settlement north of the river, not that these settlements ever communicated with each other. For a while after the Great War, every small settlement thought themselves to be the only, before cowboys like Ray started braving the desert. Even now, however, things were not much better; news about other settlements was very scarce, and was always restricted to the closest ones to the said town. In Frontier, however, very few had been as far south as the river, and no one had been across it. When he mentioned to the folks there that he intended to see what the river looked like, most told him to he must be looking for a death wish, and for the most part, they were not far off.
               
                He had lost all his family in the Great War as a child, saved only because his school had a bunker which he was in at the time the space missiles were launched, obliterating more than 99% of life on Haven. Cities disappeared in a matter of seconds, rubble crushed beneath the surface, and human life was lost in the billions. Animals, vegetation, all was gone - almost nothing remained. In the years after the Great War, the world became a mortifying desert, and all the technology and advancement by humankind was blown away with the rest of the world. It was in this dark, lifeless world that Ray learned to fight for himself all alone, becoming a cowboy trader. All alone. Nothing to live for, nothing to die for. Every day he lived with the pain of a lost family, and every day he hoped he would join them. When he decided to head down to see the river for himself, perhaps he wanted to write himself a death wish.
               
                He did not want to go anywhere else. Every town was more depressing and lawless than the next, filled with gangsters and posers, all look to steal and collect. The gang that ran Frontier, for example, levied a tax on all visitors, not only its own citizens, and demanded additional payment for the "protection" they were offering during the night. Funnily enough, it was those same protectors that caused trouble, drunk and belligerent during the early hours of the night. Ray was sick and tired of it all, having to work and travel so he could find himself something to eat. At least here, by the banks of the river, he could get his own food, by doing what the coastal settlements called fishing. He was taught how to by an old man during his early teenage years in a town by the sea called Blessing, although there they had built floating objects called boats to head into the ocean. Here, however, Ray just had to find himself a solid branch from a nearby tree, a worm or two from the grass under his feet, and hope the river had some fish in it ready to be eaten.
               
                It did not take him long to get all the necessary ingredients for a fishing pole, and using a rope he had on him to attach the worm to, he cast it into the river and waited. About a minute in, he felt a sharp tug, and began reeling in the rope. To his amazement, at the end of the rope, which he had attached a sharp curved bark to which the worm was inserted, was a fish! It was about 2 feet long, and was going to serve as one heck of a lunch. The even better part was that old Rusty seemed to be enjoying the grass, having been munching on it since they arrived yesterday afternoon. Using a lighter he had acquired a few months back in a trade, Ray began cooking the fish, enjoying perhaps the best meal of his life.
 
                   Ray Black had quite enjoyed the last couple of days by the river, as he fished away his afternoons and sat by the warm fire cooking and relaxing during the hard desert nights. He even found an apple tree not far from his resting site during a morning walk with Rusty, and ran into a small herd of wild cows that had seemingly also called the river shores home. He had began constructing a small shack of his own, and as soon as he was done, he was going to gather up some fish, and head north to Frontier to sell them for a small solar powered generator that was on offer last time he was there. While he was there, he was also going to get some electrical supplies so he could have some light on during the night inside his new shack.
               
              The truth was, he had not felt this alive since coming out of the bunker that fateful day as a child. For once, he did not have to trade or sell anything to survive, with the river providing all the fish he could eat, and the apple tree providing the dessert. This was the most comfortable, and happiest, Ray had been for as long as he can remember. This was to be his new home.

Ray Black's new home.