Shades of Pocahontas, by Bruce Corbett



Copyright  2005  Bruce Corbett


Smashwords Edition






For me, there are few better escapes from the stress of work and life in general than my pen - okay, actually my word processor. For a few hours at a time I escape into the past or the future. I have written several novels set in the future, and an entire historical series. I have only ever written one story set in the present. When an idea lurches out of my sub-conscious, my eyes glaze over and I shamefully ignore my loving family. For a few hours, reality only intrudes gently and the pressures of work are far away.



Some nights I would camp out on the southern shore and gaze north toward the city across the river. I could see the glowing lights even from that distance. They lit up the sky so that there was a glow that partly obscured the stars. It always seemed incredible that the city folk had so much power to burn that they could do that.

Sometimes I even saw a jump-jet descend from the heavens. I would see great towers of flame supporting it as it gently dropped below my horizon. I was awed. I know the theory of how planes fly, but it always struck me as incredible that such a big piece of metal could land as lightly as a feather. I often lay on the beach and dreamed that someday I might actually fly in one of those giant metal birds.

It was safe enough to cross the river, although I was always nervous when I was out on its open waters. I felt helpless and vulnerable; my canoe paddle against all the advanced technology the mysterious city folk could conjure up.

In spite of all their vaunted science and hydroponics, however, the city dwellers apparently still needed to supplement their food supplies. Thus they had need of us 'hewers of wood and drawers of water', whatever that meant. It was a line I took from one of the three precious books that resided splendiferously in our school room. I'm not sure what that means either, but my teacher liked the word a lot.

 The western tip of the island was not fenced against us. A special market had been set up on the ruins of a college where once hundreds of students had studied and partied. The Townies let us land there to sell our fresh produce.

Sometimes they brought their families to gawk at us as we squatted in the dirt and tried to bargain with them. Armed young bucks kept an eye on us, and when we grew too obstreperous, a couple of the thugs would beat the seller unconscious.

Such were the financial constraints of our little market. We had no chance to follow the Townie vehicles back into the City territory however, because just to the east stretched a gate and the first of the barricades that were designed to keep us out of their precious city.

The fence itself was relatively innocuous, being not more than three meters in height and made of wire mesh. The lethal voltage that surged through it was by itself not a serious deterrent to the younger and more adventurous amongst us. A shovel, a long pole, or an overhanging tree easily neutralized its feeble defense.

The fence was only meant to be symbolic, however. There was almost a kilometer of open land on the other side, after which there was a second fence, and another gate. The open land was the real defense. As incautious villagers had found to their family's great sorrow, the Townies had a variety of other perimeter defense systems.

Armed human patrols were infrequent, but randomly timed. Francois, our village smithy and electronics genius, had come with me to the Trading Gate once, and he easily identified several electronic systems. He told me about infrared and seismic sensors, motion and electrical field detectors.

He said he wasn't sure, but he figured that there might be other systems also, that he didn't know about. In any event, any intrusion into the open area brought a rapid response from Eyespies.

The glass and metal balls floated on anti-gravs. It seemed to me that they were the eyes of the defense system, and more. Under each Eyespy hung an energy or projectile weapon.

We enjoyed tossing rabbits over the fence when no Townies were present. Within seconds after they started scampering across the open ground, one or two Eyespies would appear from the east and quickly vector in on them. A burst of flame or metal ended their lives mercifully quickly. We used to put bets on which one would be flamed first.

I suspect it made the Townies annoyed that we would play with their defenses, but it was also a powerful lesson to us. Each of the village children was brought, when they were old enough to make the journey, and given a demonstration.

For most, the lesson was plain. For a few like me, it was a challenge. Francois tried to dissuade me, but when it became obvious to him that I was going in with or without his help, he gave in and agreed to help me. He actually grew quite enthusiastic. I think he saw it as a challenge to his skills.

At first I was baffled that the Townies could cross the security strip in complete safety, when even a small rabbit only survived for seconds. I noticed that the Townies all wore similar necklaces, however, and my comment twigged Francois on to the trick.

The next time I made the journey to the Trading Gate, he came along. He brought some of his precious electronic equipment. He kept it well hidden from the armed goons who watched over the trading, but I could see a triumphant look cross his face when he fiddled with his bundle. I could hardly restrain myself, but I forced myself to wait until we were both in the canoe and back on the river.

"Francois, you looked like you swallowed chocolate! Just what did you find out?"

"Just keep paddling, boy! You want to go through the rapids down river?” I knew when to move the paddle instead of my mouth. I shut up and stroked.

At last he relented however, and gave me a great grin.' It's simple, 'petit chou'! Each one of the Townies was broadcasting a radio signal. Each seemed to have a unique signal, so I suspect that it is an electronic ID. Warplanes used to do that back in the Twentieth Century. An Eyespy could just check its data banks and not only identify friend or foe, but even know precisely who is there."

"Merde! That's that, then!"

"Not so fast, 'petit chou'! Let me make a transmitter, and we will send in a special bunny the next time we visit."

It took a few tries, but eventually he licked the problem. After that, the Eyespies was easy. The Townies were dumb. Just because we didn't have their precious fusion power, and were locked out of their stinkin' cities, they thought we were illiterate. Francois showed my people how to build a dam across the stream that bisected our village, and we had always had electricity, 'cept of course when the water levels were low, or the stream froze in winter.

Our smithy might not have been good enough for the Townies, but as far as I was concerned, he was a genius with electronics and 'puters. He had made me a dandy little ID scrambler, and we put it on a bunny. It kept randomly changing ID's, and the stupid Eyespies got all confused. Every once and awhile the scrambler would hit a valid ID, and that confused the hell of the stupid little electronic brains. They just floated overhead, an easy target for a quarrel dart.

Once I put a metal quarrel into 'em, they just short--circuited and flopped on the ground. Sometimes, when I had the inclination, I would cart home the pieces. Francois would take it apart and disconnect the flamer. The flamers were neat to play with, until the cells ran down. What they did to the bushes I aimed them at, though, sure made me grateful that Francois's ID scrambler worked!

What we figured out after a few experiments and quite a few dead bunnies, was that the multiple sensor system could not be bypassed. That was not the big problem that it at first had seemed, however, because an alarm signal was apparently downloaded to an automated computer system that reacted by sending out an Eyespy or two. There seemed to be no human follow-up. I guess that they thought we could never defeat their precious alarm system.

They were right. I could, however, beat their Eyespies. The first few times I shot one down, I fled under the fence and waited in hiding for some massive retaliation. Nothing ever happened. Francois guessed that the Eyespies had a limited life span, and it was probably easier for them to just replace them than to go look for the ones that ran out of fuel when out on patrol. I liked his thinking!..........................This story is available for purchase at, Apple eBook store, from Sony, Diesel, Barnes and Noble, and, soon, Amazon.