From the files of the Dark Hunters (Hudson Walter X’s Reports):
Since the crisis occurred, I have kept as accurate a record as possible of the changes that have taken place within the greater society and the world as a whole. Notably, I have seen the worst possible behaviour in my neighbours and friends and responded by trying to bring a level of sanity and decency back in our lives, with or without assistance. Naturally, this has been a very difficult task, especially for a man who once was responsible for nothing more challenging than guiding high school students towards a brighter future through discussion, reviews of transcripts, and stating the plain facts about their skills. But we have made it this far with many successes, more than I could have imagined. The only difficulties that remain lie with utilities, plans for our return to the cities, clean-ups and hunting, and, of course resources.
Yes, resources… I am not sure how many will remember the incident of the past year and how it completely changed the way we handle food and other supplies. Many people in our community still wonder why we managed to survive both the attempt at bartering with the Devil’s Reach, why we thought we could even mention the deal to them, or how we saw our way through it. But we did, and I admit to a great deal of pride in our behaviour and negotiation skills.
It began on a day like this, quite late in the year when the snow falls in great grey piles. A troop of our finest men decided to explore an unknown sector we knew would be quite far from our settlement on the off-chance that they would discover fresh supplies. With limited radio contact and constant messaging through horses and dog runners, we found an old military outpost that was well stocked with weapons, clothes and plenty of food. A few mutants had to be taken down and we lost a volunteer due to bites and a lack of common sense – rest well in the other world, John X – but we did have more good luck than bad this time. But there was a problem and it was one that I never thought would become such a setback.
The first set of dog couriers was very promising. The weapons and ammunition would take some time to transport, but the fuel could be rationed for the vehicles needed for such a mission. We were pumping out as much as we could with a skeleton crew of workers (I oversaw their efforts myself). The clothing would also be quite handy. The only problem was the food.
I thought that I had misread the messages written out and attached to the poor animals, but there it was, clearly noted in black marker on both horses and dogs:
Roughly 10000 kilograms of beans available (Baked, Fava, Kidney, Black, Soy, Pinto and Navy)
That was Jackson, so I did trust the message. I thought that it was very fortunate to find this particular staple, but I began to wonder about the difficulties involved in transporting it. 10,000 kg. of anything would require more than the group of people already sent.
I called a meeting of the main council to consider our next move. Some were not so eager to take a risk on transporting such numbers; others could not wait to volunteer their particular communities to haul the supplies. And this was also the moment when I knew that there would be particular people – i.e. the Millers and Fields, and others – who were not taking this seriously. ‘Operation Musical Fruit’ began to be used in both written and oral communications in our community. At first, I posted notices mentioning how seriously I took the discovery of the military base and its supplies; soon, it became clear that this was not worth the effort. ‘Operation Musical Fruit’ became the unofficial name of our mission. Still a little confused as to why it was the title, but I did not pursue the issue.
It was a long haul. I led the first group of our volunteers to pick up as many of the supplies as possible. Most of the trucks and jeeps were filled with clothes and weapons before any of the beans could be shipped. To my endless regret, I decided that I would send out the weapons and clothes first so that the same vehicles could be returned to pick up the food. My regrets were based on the encounters we had with some isolated mutants – most were quickly dispatched by Jackson’s crew (citations noted in the ‘Awards File’) – and an emissary of the Devil’s Reach.
Usually, we had nothing but trouble with the D.R., but this was a period of détente. We had developed a set of agreements with them to ensure both of our communities had food and other supplies when needed. And yes, I did plan on sharing this latest discovery with them…as soon as the material goods had been catalogued, stored and shared by rank and need.
But they did not want to hear it.
Their leader, Filer, was here personally. In that confined space, I should have smelled him before I saw him. Once again, the same motorcycle jacket and black jeans with his dirty series of t-shirts (I mean the state of his clothes, not the disgusting things written on them), black boots and chain around his neck. It seems to be a uniform that all the members of his group – male, female; young, old; mutant and near mutant – wear when we have to deal with them.
-Hudson… I am so disappointed. Here we are, in the middle of trying to find some peace, and you hold out on me. Why? Did I offend you?
-Filer, we just discovered…
-Ah, and you are now going to share your discovery?
-If you give us a chance…
He smiled through blackened teeth. He would often joke like this when trying to make serious points, if he was at all capable of being serious. I knew that he had to feed his people and I was concerned, despite our differences. I did not want another war. So, with some of our foot soldiers, we brought a contingent of his men over to the supplies.
The beans were sorted in cans, bags, flat packs that had to be boiled in water, and barrels.
We showed him everything we found.
And he gave a very weird and unexpected response.
-It’s all yours.
In retrospect, I thought that he had misspoken and wanted to have us haul all that food to our compound so that the trading would be easier. But no, he actually did say that.
-Wait a minute. You don’t need food?
-Not this stuff. We’ll be fine.
-If you don’t have enough…
-Listen, when all of this started, we were desperate for food. Luckily, we found our own little supply depot and it had nothing but lentils and garbanzos. That was a lucky break and we were happy – and this was long before we met you, so don’t get jealous.
-But the problem was, that was all we had to eat. Lentils and garbanzos, lentils and garbanzos; on and on forever, like it was The Twilight Zone.
I was not familiar with that sector (will research). I was told, in writing by a colleague, that it was ‘submitted for your approval,’ whatever that meant.
-No, I cannot go back to that. It’s all yours. You can keep the musical fruits to yourself.
Jackson heard that. It was his laughter and sharing of the joke that suddenly turned the room into a free-for-all. Both sides were now laughing. Filer and his people were doubled over at the response to his comments. Our people, mostly young men and a few women, were weeping with pain at the jokes. I did not interrupt any of this. My feeling was that any sort of levity brought to this meeting would be beneficial to both sides. In my observation, they needed this. I myself did not laugh. I was just thinking about how fortunate it was that they had not discovered the weapons. They would probably have no use for the clothes.
The beans were brought to our own supply rooms and many of our citizens felt happy to have them available. However, it must be noted that they also began to complain about the constant digestion of such roughage. Therefore, I have arranged to have a trade with another community that we have only recently been in radio contact with in the last month.
A scout who did locate the source of the signal did note one of the leaders who arranged the meeting. A most interesting person, from the report.
Our scout had never seen a black woman with dreadlocks and a samurai sword before (a katana, I believe it was). Reasonable to be surprised by this.
I hope they can be trusted.
Thank you for reading!
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