Friday, June 29, 2007


At dinner Miguel was introduced under his code name, Cid.

"Unitas asked me to come out of retirement for the winter while they regroup and elect new leaders for this area,” he explained. “I've been charged with keeping the southern forces combat-ready and in contact with each other through the winter. That's why you've been brought here."

"I was wondering why we were stuck at this boring place," Boeing muttered.

"You're in luck," Miguel said. "There's been a bridge collapse a day's ride south of here. The bridge is on a road that will be critical to our spring operations, so we need to get it rebuilt quickly. We have some engineers and workers on it now, but since I had to come through Ferrous Springs on another matter, I'm asking Harley if he can spare some of you to go with me."

"To build a bridge?" Boeing asked incredulously. "We're soldiers. Can't you find some refugees to do it?"

Harley was about to put the young man in his place, but Miguel motioned for him to let it go. "We've recruited workers from the area, but civil engineering is a skill that all great armies have needed, even back in the days of the Roman legions. I'm not asking you to haul stones; I'm looking for young men who are intelligent enough to learn some of the science behind the construction of critical infrastructure. Of course, Boeing, if you don't think you're smart enough, I'll understand."

While Boeing affected indifference to this slight, Coyote leaned forward. "So you're saying if we go with you, we'd be learning how bridges are made, and maybe learn how to build them ourselves?"


"Big bridges? Like what the trains--"

"Hold on," Harley butted in. "I think I know where this is going."

"No you don't," Coyote said innocently. "Don't you think we could blow them up better if we knew how they were put together in the first place?"

Before Harley or anyone else could comment, Miguel held up a hand for silence. "All nations go through cycles of building, maintaining and collapse," he explained. "We've seen the collapse and are now fighting over who will lead the rebuilding. When these battles have been decided, those of you who know how to build and not just destroy will have an advantage. So yes, Coyote, knowing how a bridge is built will help you understand how to bring one down. But if you live long enough, there will come a day when there will no longer be a call for your expertise at destruction. If you know how to build, you might find yourself in a position to be one of the leaders of a new nation."

Coyote leaned toward Will and whispered something. Will nodded. "How long would you need us?"

"If the weather holds and we don't lose any of our core crew, we’ll likely be done in January."

"Can girls come, too?" Dell asked from the corner where she was sitting with her Lone Star turncoat Magnolia, who had changed her codename to Juniper. "I wouldn't mind knowing how to build a bridge."

Miguel hesitated. "There will be a lot of physical work involved. I won't deny you the opportunity. Women are just as smart as men and in some cases, smarter. But we're moving fast and can't use anyone who isn't strong enough to do a man's work." He nodded respectfully at Dell and the other young women in the room. "There are opportunities to learn on jobs that aren't moving so quickly. Tell me if you're interested, and I'll work with Harley to see what we can find for you. But for this particular job, if you don't have a man's strength, you will likely be in the way."

"I can work like a man," Dell said.

"Is that true, Juniper?" Boeing asked.

Before the little brunette could fire back an answer, Harley interrupted. "Let's see a show of hands who wants to work on the bridge."

Dell, Juniper, and most of the young men raised their hands. Boeing hesitated at first, but finally raised his hand as well.

Amalia frowned. "I don't know if it would be wise to let so many people leave camp."

"It's only for a few weeks," Diana said. "This area is safe. We can defend the mine if there's trouble."

"They'll be close by. A day's ride is nothing," Sachi pointed out. "I bet a skilled rider could do it in half the time."

"Work out the details however you think appropriate," Miguel told Harley. "I'm glad we have so many volunteers."

"It's something to do," Boeing muttered.

Coyote grinned. "I think it sounds interesting."

"It’s something different," Will said. "No one's ever asked us to build anything before. It'll be a nice change from blowing things up and shooting people."

Boeing shrugged. "Like I said, it's something to do."

"Figure out a plan and vet it with me in the morning," Miguel said to Harley. "I'd like to leave tomorrow."

"So soon?" Amalia looked hurt.

"I'm afraid so. Why don't you ride back to town with me tonight and we'll finish getting caught up? I'm sure Libby and Sputnik would like to see you." He glanced at Diana and lowered his voice. "Bring your girl with you. Sputnik could use some cheering up."

"Go on," Harley said. "Just be sure and take at least one male rider with you for the return trip."

"It's okay," Miguel told him. "I've got guards I can send back with them. I don't let women ride alone at night when there might be hostiles in the area."

"Thank you." Harley smiled at Amalia. "You and Diana go on, now. It'll be a nice outing for you."

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Alice Audrey said...

Now and then the ingrained chauvinism in this gets to me. It's certainly appropriate to the area, but I still want to slap Miguel.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I can see how you'd feel that way. As I was imagining how a world like this would operate, though, it seemed like the logical outcome.

Regarding the bridge project, Miguel's only objection to having women is because of how quickly the work has to be done. He doesn't deny their intelligence and he's willing to find similar projects where physical strength won't be such a factor. It's not like they have cranes and power tools.

As for sending a guard with Amalia and Diana, it's courtesy as well as caution. Amalia isn't a fighter and if they ran into any kind of serious trouble on the way back, Diana might not be able to get them out of it. If it was a group of trained female soldiers, his attitude would be different.

The older men in this world typically are less chauvinistic than the younger ones. It's the coming generations that worry me. They'll have no memory of a time when women did everything men could do and they'll believe women are naturally inferior, instead of simply disadvantaged in this world.

Alice Audrey said...

I'm not convinced women are disadvantaged, though I'll give you the need for men over women when doing bruit construction quickly. I hadn't realized Amalia wasn't able to hold her own militarily. Nor, in my younger years, would I feel safer in the company of a man while out after dark unless he happened to be a close personal friend. If I were a warrior, I would be insulted by the suggestion that I needed a man's company just because the sun set. Even in a low-tech world, there will be some women who are stronger, faster, more dangerous than most men and some men who are not as capable as most women.