It's getting complicated Ben,“ said Celeste as an aerial photograph of the city appeared on the vid. The yellow outlines are warehouses and the one that's blinking is where the staffs are currently. The red dots are women with coins, and the ones blinking are our ten leaders. We can't have a thousand women converging on one warehouse to get their staffs, and some tractors will start to fail starting in two more days making this more difficult. I should have thought of this before. I'm using the Eaulander computer system to order a transfer of nine loads of 100 staffs to different warehouses. I'm canceling other transfers of theirs to make sure ours happens. My question now is which warehouses?”
“There is another thing to consider Celeste. They are going to have to get into those warehouses early in the morning to get their staffs. What if they are locked up? Can you access the warehouse's inventory?” “Wait for a second Ben. Yes, I can. What do you think we need?” “Remember those long chisels and hammers that were used to free Davin? Can you find those or something like that they can use to break into the buildings?” “Yes, that's an excellent idea, Ben. I will locate them and transfer them to the women's warehouse.”
Ben closes his eyes, “This is a scenario I see in my mind. Ten team leaders get up very early in the morning. They have to walk to the warehouse they're using and all get there at about the same time. The door must be already unlocked, or someone could spend the night there and let them in. One stays, nine leave and go to the other warehouses to open them. I think they should travel discreetly in a group to help each other. It would be a help if they had bags to carry stuff in, cloth with a shoulder strap. If you give them stunners, they can take out any troopers, and any other obstacles they might encounter. Hopefully, most troopers will be sick. Each warehouse gets opened. When done each team leader returns to their now open warehouse, waits for their 100 women, and gives out their staffs.”
“That works for me Ben, here are images of warehouse options all close enough to work.” “That will work. Nope, this looks way to secure. This is a good one. Too open and exposed....” “Okay, that does it. I'll put together a couple of drone runs to the women's warehouse roof, and send the women the delivery schedule along with the photos and locations of the warehouses to their tablets. I will assign each of a warehouse based on how far away from them they live. How about dinner Ben?” “Sounds good to me as long as none of the food has teeth.”
In the middle of dinner, the vid lights up with Lyn's face filling the screen. “Celeste?” “Hello Lyn, how are things going?” “We got Ungar settled in a bungalow. Casi is nice and very embarrassed about her hair. We keep reminding her it will grow out, and Ungar misses his carriage. To his credit, he's stoic about having to walk everywhere. Nona and Lycia's mother were voted off the council the day after the trial, and Susi is the new head Counselor. The council also voted men can say no to a woman if they choose at the Gatherings. Most of us think this will make for happier joinings. Your message was a bit cryptic. Can you tell me more, especially about the no contact with Eaulanders? We have a market day on the Eaulander's border tomorrow.”
Celeste thought for a second. “I can tell you some, but you shouldn't repeat it to others. A very large number Eaulanders are going to be ill for a few days, but no one should die. The bug is intestinal and will require being very close to, if not ever seemingly leaving the jakes. This will provide a messy, well remembered, and needed distraction. The hopeful end result is the Elder's will prudently decide to retire and move to their new home in a mostly abandoned mining town deep in the mountains. To put it Gaian terms, the Mother abhors a power vacuum, and this void will be quickly filled with people who are better equipped than the Elders for the role. The Oneness as a religion will come to an abrupt and most welcomed end. This will be good for the citizens of both Eauland and the Gaia. Lyn you really don't want this bug to cross over into Gaia. You need to do whatever it takes to ensure Gaians have no contact with anyone from Eauland for about the next six days. After that, it will be safe for all.”
“You are a force of nature Celeste, I will have the market day canceled and will make sure all Gaians stay away. Does Ungar know about this?” “Yes to a degree. He is one of about a thousand who is protected from the malady. Things got too dangerous for him and it's important we keep him safe. He will play an important role in putting together a better Eauland. I will keep you informed of any important events so you're not caught by surprise.”
Late that night Celeste's eyes snap open, and she rolls over on her back staring blankly at the ceiling. The ship's lift descends and a drone rises up, hovers and then slides to the side out from under the ship. It pauses for a few seconds and then shoots straight upwards disappearing from sight. A few minutes later it quickly descends and lands next to the other drone on top of the cathedral roof. A small hatch opens on its side and a swarm of small insect drones flies away.
For several hours the large drone looks like a beehive. Tiny drones leave and fly or crawl into barracks, offices, homes, and carriages. Each time they spray a fine mist and then return to the drone to fill back up. Well before sunrise, the last tiny drone finds its high purchase point, lands and positions itself so it can look down on the city. The women's ten tablets start to blink, Celeste finally rolls over on her side facing Ben and looks at him for a few minutes. With a small smile, her eyes gradually close.