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The Wall - Chapter 1 of "WATER GOT NO ENEMY"

Hey, Oortistes! Here is the first chapter of the book that will eventually become "Water Got No Enemy." I actually got enough feedback on that story from here and others that told me I ought to expand it more. So here's chapter 1. Let me know your thoughts and of course detailed conscious critiques get the biggest cookie!

- Chang

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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WATER GOT NO ENEMY - Chapter 1: The Wall

One day soldiers from the Water Department came to the lake to build a Wall with their nano. They arrived in five of their white armored trucks with the PWD wavy, wavy water logo on the sides, sleek machine guns mounted on the roof. Overhead, two white helicopters with the same logos covered them, wary gunmen with their legs dangling out the doorway, their hands resting at the controls of enormous cannons mounted on the landing struts of the helicopters. Out about fifty yards offshore sat the Acadia, the PWD gunship. Its white hull bore the same enormous PWD insignia, her decks bristling with artillery guns and men with binoculars, watching the shore. The day had finally come.

In between the convoy of trucks were two white SUV’s, not a speck of mud on them like the armored carriers. From out of these came nervous men, not built like the burly younger men sitting in the payloads of the pickups with their guns and leering smiles. These were thinner, older men. Smaller men. Scientists. These men were nanotechnicians, my father said.

We stood on the other side of the road about a hundred feet from the shore. Across the street the PWD men gathered, surrounding the nanotechnicians as they took their equipment from out of the back of their SUV’s. The cool fall weather blew leaves around them in the chill October air. It blew the cigar and cigarette smoke of the soldiers around, spreading it into long swirls that disappeared into the crisp fall sun. My father pointed to the boxy gray machines the technicians were unloading. “Those’re the activators. The little creatures live inside there.”

I held my father’s hand tightly and stood on tiptoes. We stood in the skinny doorway of the attic office of my father’s tavern, Peg’s Keg. From the door we looked down upon the scene unfolding below us. My father had told me about nano. How it was these little tiny machines, more like creatures, that could build anything quicker than men or things men couldn’t even build. They lived inside machines called activators and when the men pressed the right buttons, the creatures came out and went to work. I was excited to see all the activity, but scared because of what my father had told me they would do.

A crowd of local men gathered on our side of the street in front of the tavern. They shuffled nervously, stomping their boots, tugging on home-rolled cigarettes and growling at the soldiers in the PWD trucks. The big guns the soldiers held loosely but alertly at their sides kept them at bay. Barely. One of the local men stepped forward. I recognized him as Mr. Skelly, the father of my friend Jimmy.

“Hey, Micoleau! How the fuck’re we supposed to fish or get around on our lake with your fuckin’ nanowall ‘tween us’n the water?” I felt my ears pull back and open further when I heard Mr. Skelly swear. My dad cleared his throat loudly and Mr. Skelly looked up at us.

“Uh, Sorry, Bill. Sorry, Wiley. But what’re we gonna do about this? We can’t just let them do this!” Mr. Skelly pointed behind him to the activity at the shore.

“Not much from the looks of the guns on them trucks,” my dad said. “Seems the time for doing anything’s a bit behind us now. You and I been reading them PWD signs up’n’down Route 114 for months, now.” My father nodded at a faded sign tacked to an old pole, and another fifty feet behind it. All down the road and off into the distance you could see the faded white, vibrant against the dark wood of the poles. Dad said the poles once carried voices over the dead wires. I though he meant ghosts but he laughed and said not ghosts.

“Aw, Christ, Bill! This’ll kill us! What’ll we do now without bein’ able to get to the lake?” Mr. Skelly shouted. He whined just like his son.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something, Skelly,” said a voice from the soldiers gathered at the shore. I looked into the group and saw a tall man in gray field gear stepping out from the others. His white hair blew slightly in the wind. He was clean shaven unlike most of the older men I’d seen. A large right hand rested on his holster. He stood kind of like Superman, but his face wasn’t nice. It looked mean in places. The men behind him unslung their weapons, less relaxed when their leader spoke. “You seem to be able to come up with some ridiculous schemes when you put your mind to it. Let’s see if I remember correctly – oh, yes: robbery of the stores at Sebago Station, theft of pigs from Baldwin’s Farm, arson at the Rockcraft Lodge. I’m not saying those were smart things to do but they were certainly… creative.” He smiled at this, his wide mouth visible under the brim of the PWD military cap he placed on his head. The men behind him laughed with him. No one on our side of the street did.

“You’re a damn son of a bitch, Micoleau. You and all your fucking water-pixies. You can all go to Hell as far as I’m concerned. Sons o’ bitches all of ya.” Mr. Skelly stepped into the middle of the cracked paved road towards the PWD men. The click and shuffling of metal came back at him as fifteen PWD issued guns were trained at his person. A few guns were weakly produced from the side of the civilians, who were far outmatched and knew it.

“Chuckie, get the hell back over here and calm down. Martha’ll have a fit if me or anyone else let’s you git shot up over this. Now step back’n calm down!” My dad’s voice maintained calm while he spoke, but a bit of earthiness crept in. When he was dealing with the men from the hills, he told me he liked to get down on their level verbally. “Dumbed down is better sounding to them than stuck up,” he’d say to me.

Mr. Skelly slowly stepped back and the PWD men lowered their weapons in response. Loose, nervous and angry murmurs rose from either side of the road.

“You’d do well to listen to Bill Sabatini, there, Chuckie. Probably the best way you’ll keep the head on your shoulders in one piece. And not spread out over 114. Or PWD HQ.” Mr. Skelly said something under his breath and Micoleau smiled again. “I bet you’d like that. Be like fucking your sister again, right?”

Mr. Skelly shouted something and turned back towards Micoleau. The crowd behind him shouted to either get back or get him, I couldn’t tell. He was almost across the road when a burst of machine gun fire shot out over their heads. My father pushed me down and lay on top of me. I could hear his rushed breathing in my ear. “God damn it, Chuckie!” he said hoarsely to himself. When the gunfire stopped my father peeked up. Then he let me up and looked out.

The crowd on our side of the street had also flattened in response to the guns. A man stood in the back of one of the PWD trucks, the barrel of his machine gun still smoking. Crows flew off, indignant at the blast of noise. PWD men had all crouched down, their weapons pointed into the crowd.

“Damn it, Chuckie!” Micoleau echoed my father. “Now stop behaving like a child here. You’re damn lucky my men have orders to kill you on the second attempt. And you are even luckier I agreed to warning shots. Now, you had all summer to get your sorry ass over to the PWD HQ and file formal complaints with us. You’ve known the Wall was going up for months. But you just sat back there in Peg’s Keg, bitchin’ and moanin’. Just like your father and his father before him. And nothing ever went the way your kind wanted it because no one got off their sorry asses to do anything about it. Well, the time has come, Chuckie. People want to abuse the water and they don’t want to take up arms to protect it. Fine. All they get to do is drink it and fish in it when we say so. Well here it is. The Wall. Your wall. You left us no other choice. Suck it up.”

Micoleau turned back to confer with his men. Skelly sulked back to the surly group and conferred with his friends in harsh whispers. Some of the men spat in disgust, aiming it to the ground towards the group across the road at the shore. They wouldn’t dare move now that they knew the PWD would take aim next time. They stood at the side of the road like nervous, cornered bulls.

The nanotechnicians brought the activator box down to the shore. From where my father and I stood we could just make out what they were doing. They set the box down on the sand just by water’s edge. One of the technicians took a scoop full of sand and poured it into a slot on the machine. The others stood and waited, looking down at the oddly shaped box. After a few moments they stepped back.

The box rose up on fat stubby legs underneath it. Something was happening as it squatted there. A golden egg-shaped orb dropped from the bottom of the box. I watched as the box got up, walked south along the shore and then squatted down, producing another egg from inside it.

“Daddy, why is it laying eggs?” I asked, but my father shushed me. The PWD soldiers nodded to each other and walked back towards their SUV’s. They conferred with Micoleau for a few minutes, with him turning and pointing to the lake and gesturing up and down the shoreline. When they finished talking, they all got back into their vehicles and turned back on the road, heading south towards Standish and the safety of PWD HQ.

From the roof of the second truck, Micoleau stuck his head out, shotgun visible in his left hand inside the cab of the truck. He turned towards the group of angry men below us. “No sense in trying to stop it now,” he said. “The boys out on the Acadia are looking at you guys so close they could tell you when Bath Day is. Or was. If any of you take one step toward Little Lulu there,” he pointed back with a thick right thumb towards the box, which was now waddling its way up the shore, dropping eggs every fifty feet, “and they will drop your mountain cornpone asses so quickly there will be a halo of flies where you stood. So don’t interfere and make it worse for everyone. You’ll only prolong the inevitable.” And with that he drove off, waving as his driver sped down the road.

My dad reached out and closed the window. He turned back to me and said, “Get back to your reading, Wiley. I’ll come on up and check on your homework in a bit.” I sat on the couch, and took my book into my hands. I watched him walk down the iron spiral staircase to the main floor of the tavern. When I knew he was all the way down and heard his footsteps, I got up and crept back towards the door. I opened it a crack and peered out through my left eye.

I heard my father’s voice as the tavern door squealed open. “Awright, c’mon in fellas. No sense grumbling about it outside. First round’s on the house. After that it’s gold or be gone.” The crowd of broken men shuffled in like disgruntled sheep, annoyed but too tired or stupid to care. I looked further out to take one last look at the activator and then closed the door. I returned to the couch and my book, listening to the sounds of the tavern as it filled with men and their sullen sounds of drinking and talking.

The next day the eggs were gone, replaced by short, thick walls that grew out of the sand. The day after that, the walls were four feet high. The day after that they were almost eight feet higher.

By the end of the week, a smooth, gray wall one hundred foot high and four feet thick rose up around the shore of Lake Sebago. It separated the people from a lake that had supported families for two dozen generations and been home to people for almost four hundred years. And in one week they would hardly ever see it again.

Then things got really bad.

Looks like hard times ahead

Looks like hard times ahead for Bill, Chuckie, and the rest.

I think the only comment I have is in regard to Micoleau's language. If he's also from around those parts, his speech patterns make sense, but he might be even more intimidating if he was harder-edged in addressing the people around the lake. And a little formality in his speech might make him seem even less concerned about what the Wall will mean for them (though I like the fact that Micoleau knows them by name).

And, just a thought, but I think I'd steer clear of a word like 'doozies'. Seems a little too casual to use with men you're fully prepared to have shot dead.

Otherwise, a very good start. At this point, it's hard to see how the community can do anything about that Wall, so you've got me curious about what's going to happen next.

Thanks, Richard!

Firstly, I really appreciate your comments. Especially since you're half of the Oort-Cloud team, you have enough on your plate to actually read stuff here! So, thanks!

If you can, read it again. I made some edits. I haven't read it since I first blurted it out over the summer.

I read this over - after posting it and seeing your comments - and I have to say I agree with you. I think Micoleau developed a great deal in my reading to over just now. He does have an air of formality about him that the others resent more and more. Putting on airs, as it were.

Doozies. Hmmm. I took it out, after some careful thought. Like I said, as I thought about it, he developed alot in the course of my re-reading. I like his development as a shady guy in authority.

The overall nature of the wall will develop, too. You'll see. ;)

Thanks again!

- C R T
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http://www.crtdot.com - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads!
"you know, once you've been to fucking detox, the prospect of lolling around talking shit about post

You're very welcome. I'm

You're very welcome. I'm glad my comments are helping!

Yeah, I have to say, Micoleau strikes as quite a bit more intimidating now. I can believe he's ready to shoot (or have shot) anyone who really gets out of line.

So about that wall.... =)