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.
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. (