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December 2017
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Lumberjack’n

Cutting wood up here is a year round pastime.  In the case of Adrias' hide out, we try and cut down trees upriver and then float a group of them down to the remains of the old dam. At that point its all about sawing them into shorter lengths, getting them inside, then cutting them into proper rounds, and splitting them.  It's one of those chores you frequently forget about because it's ingrained into your daily routine, like breathing.  You get up, feed the animals, split some wood, and end your day in the reverse order. In fact, it's amazing how much work there is to do that isn't about Adrias's teachings.    Living requires a substantial amount of daily effort.  Those not strong enough to meet the pace died long ago during the long dark. To make the time go by a little easier and to test our skills, we frequently set challenges for ourselves and bet against one another.  For instance, the last person to fell a tree picks the next one.  Then the person who has to cut it down picks where it will fall and the betting begins.  The general rule is it has to fall towards the river, not away.  Depending on the lean and location of a tree, it can be a real challenge to get it to even fall towards the river, much less pick the spot for it.  We also do the obligatory log rolling.  That is always a favorite once all the trees are cut down. The real challenge is guiding the log jam down the river.  In some spots there are still old pilings from where this was done centuries ago.  I guess some things never change.  In order to guide the logs, we float down alongside the jam.  It's a bit tricky, to ride a log down a river with a long pole to keep you standing upright on it.  All the while trying to prod other logs and keep them moving in something like an orderly fashion.  It's when we are in a big slow section of the river that we start trying to knock each other off the logs with our poles.  You don't want to come too close as some people will jump onto your log with you and then rush you to push you off.  We usually do this in teams of two, that way you can surround a person and knock them into the water.  Of course there's the occasional minor accident, like today when I accidentally brained Reyn with the end of my pole leaving a huge welt on his head that is still there hours later.  I'd do the nice thing and take him his dinner, but he's a bit dim-witted around women at the best of times and I'm afraid he would take it as a sign of affection. The last thing I need is that big oaf hanging around all puppy-eyed and stupid.  Like I said, I have enough work to do without that. We found the foundation of an old house today hidden under the leaves and loam of gods knows how many years. There  was an old trapdoor that still looked sealed, if not entirely rusted shut.  We were all excited about what might lie in that dark cellar.  We dug down around the foundation and found the old concrete extended a good many feet down, more than enough for a cellar.  Rather than break in crudly, and unprepared, we thought we would return tomorrow and do a proper job of exploration.  That will also let Adrias know what we are up to as sometimes he takes an interest in the relics of the past.  These things are usually a whole lot of rusted old cans and moldy stacks of what looks to be paper, but you never know.  It's easy to get excited about these things, as they are little windows into our past and we can find anything from small mirrors to functional old tech. I'd be happy to find a good old world steel double axe head.  It would make cutting down these trees go all the faster.

Corrections and Clarifications

Lots of little things to talk about today. First, let's do a few updates. Pow Wow: I will be leaving in a few days for the Pow Wow and be gone for some time.  In my absence, I have been working on getting some extra entries into the system that can be dispatched in my absence.  I have asked the Caretaker, old Elias, if he would go through the transmission process while I was gone.  Over the next couple days I will get him trained up on what he needs to do.  I have to warn you, between mechanical and human error, there's a good chance things could get messed up.  Don't worry, I will be back. Younglings: There definitely seems to be more Younglings coming down out of the mountains to the north.  Nothing to be concerned of, yet, but I worry what we might return to after the Pow Wow.  We won't have Adrias with us either as he will be taking the new Guardians and the winners of The Test out on the Challenge.  Adrias is sort of a distracted, goofy, absent-minded, and terribly kind man.  Not at all the sort you would normally think would make you feel safe.  Having seen him fight, I can't imagine a safer place to be than at his side.  I will be in charge upon our return until Adrias completes the Challenge.  Thoughts of Kal continue to haunt me and it seems that there is no end in sight for that. Clarifications: Adrias said I should correct a few of my "inaccuracies."  That's his way of saying mistakes. Mreen: We use this term to mean any formally trained soldier who does nothing else but fight.  This can be in a standing army, as it was said Mreens were used in the past (or so we believe) or as mercenaries as they are frequently used now.  Adrias says the correct old world word is "Marine" pronounce "MAH-reen."  That just sounds weird and nobody, outside of Adrias, says it that way.  I have clarified the word, but I will continue to use the one commonly used. Faraway Cage: Evidently I got this wrong too.  It's called a Faraday Cage and, if properly constructed, it stops electronic signals from going in or out. I guess it doesn't matter if you are faraway or not.  Supposedly Faraday was an old world tech priest.  I wonder if he new St. Tesla? Ranger School: I mentioned a school only Mreens could use.  Adrias says while Mreens could use it, as could Rangers, it belonged to something called the Air Force, a group that controlled the skies.  Doesn't the air belong to everyone?  Seems arbitrary to let someone control it.  I will have to add this to my ever growing list of questions for Adrias.

Upriver – The Test

It won't be long before we head upriver for the big Pow Wow at the Lake.  All the tribes in the River Clan gather together with the tribes of the Lake Clan for a huge meeting, competition and festival.  It is quite the elaborate show.  It starts off with the graduating team  of each tribe leading the way as honor scouts.  Not every tribe has a graduating team every year. In fact most don't.  The cycle tends to be every 2-3 years as birth rates are still horrible and teams are formed that spread 2 to 3 years of age.  This serves as a warm-up for The Test and teams from rival tribes frequently have brief playful skirmishes during the trip to the lake. The tribes tend to use canoes to make the trip fast, but the teams have to cover the distance on land so that they can ceremonially ensure the banks are clear of enemies.  They leave a few days early for this reason. Each year all of the new teams take part in The Test.  This allows them to win honor and bragging rights for themselves and their tribe. It also allows each tribe to see how well they are training their young compared to the rest.  This helps keep aggression between tribes in check as teams gain respect for one another's skills via the competition.  It's also used to gain preferable bargaining positions in trade and alliances. The Test is broken into two parts, individual and team. The individual part is broken into main skill sets: Bard, Hand-to-Hand, Ranged Weapons, Kit-Bashing, Medic, etc.  This allows people to show their stuff as individuals and win some pretty cool prizes.  Last year my team mate Kyuzo won in the hand-to-hand competition for his brilliant sword work.  Among other things, he got a brand new blue tarp that was still in it's original wrapping!  That's a princely gift for a young man.  Those old world tarps are much prized as they are everything from raincoat to tent.  Give one of those to a talented craftsman and there is no end to what you can make.  Anyhow, the "solos," as we like to call them, are fierce competition but with rules to keep everyone safe.  The Bardic event is probably the best attended as the finals have the best singers and musicians vying for the title.  Since any good Bard will have accompaniment, both light and sound, from his personal rig, these can be quite elaborate and are considered one of the highest forms of art by our people.  To become a Guardian, you must make it to the finals of the Bardic event.  Obviously I am a complete bad ass as I won last year.  I must say I destroyed my competition last year and I look forward to being able to sit on stand next to the Clan leaders and Adrias as the defending champion. The team test is where they separate the Rangers from the boys. Each team is given a set of objectives.  For any given objective, you share that with another team, but you don't know which team.  That means you are never sure who you are competing with on any given objective.  Spread the competition over three days and what seems like a thousand miles, and you have a competition that makes you give your all to survive, much less win.  Did I mention the only rule is that you can't share info about your objectives (or lack of same) to the other teams?  Lethal force is an option and does get used.  It's a double edged weapon (pun intended) as once you start dealing it out hot and heavy, people tend to team up to put you down.  It's not entirely because you are being lethal, it's also because as lethality grows, so does the tech signature and that is bad news for everybody.  During my brothers Test, some idiots actually intentionally made their tech sig big enough to call the attention of a HK unit, right down on my brother's team.  That would be where the story about Bear and the tree came from. Not cool to do that. Nobody from the team that did that made it through the test alive.  Because of things like that, most people tend to fight tough, but go for disables, impairment, mobility kills, etc.  You might have to work with that tribe's team in the future and you don't want to be looking over your shoulder the whole time because you decided using force was better than brains, guile and misdirection. This will be my first "adult" Pow Wow and I am looking forward to it.  While The Test is the big thing, there's tons of other competitions out there for the rest of us and, honestly, it only gets tougher.  Since I am the new champion on the block, you can bet I will get called out by many of the previous champions.  Such is the way we measure our own skills.

Questions

There are times when I wish I could get answers through this rig.  For instance, every New Years Day, which coincides with the winter solstice, we all watch and tell the Tales of the Vader.  How he was born to humbleness, lifted up, fell into temptation and wickedness and betrayed by his favored. Then  he was redeemed by his only son, forgiven and risen anew and eternal.   My words come straight from the scripture the priests read every New Year. We watch the old vids, so carefully preserved and we tell our own tales of Vader, of his pitfalls and victories.  The priests use his trials as lessons to us all.   The tales show the power of man at it's full height among the stars and show how far we have fallen.  When was man so powerful and great?  How did we get from there to here? Why oh why can I not have a lightsaber? Sometimes I have to wonder if we lack the bigger picture and important information that would put all this into a proper light.  Was Vader just an ordinary man we put too much importance on, or was he really a hero raised up to the gods? Living in my world means living with a lot of questions.  Questions like these are great for talk around the fire or putting yourself to sleep, but they don't put food on the table or furs on your back.  Perhaps one day we will have the time to devote to such idle pursuits.

The Tunnel

While the Bunker is a good place to use technology, sometimes we have the need for a location that's a bit bigger.  That's when we use the Tunnel.  It's part of the old iron highway about 3 klicks north of Homestead along the river.  At that point, the old path goes directly through a hill composed mostly of basalt.  It's roughly 75m long and one end collapsed so long ago that parts of the old iron rails are still trapped beneath the rock.  Everywhere else the iron has long since been scavenged and used for a variety of purposes.  With thick rock all around, all it took was for the entrance to be properly shielded and you have a large area that allows you to test all sorts of things and it makes a great shelter when you really need a mountain to protect you. Trust me, sometimes you need that around here. What we usually use it for is as a firing range to try out our personal systems at something close to full power.  It's good to know that your new rig isn't going to cut out on you, or worse, blow up leaving a smoking crater where you used to be.  Don't laugh, it happens.  There's always someone willing to take a risk with some salvaged tech that they don't understand properly.  Usually when someone is testing a bit of tech for the first time, it's only them in the tunnel.  Nobody understands how most of the things we use work at an intimate level.  We just read the old signs marked on the tech and hope they hold true.  Priests have the old scriptures that help with some things, but it's usually more about experience and luck than a thorough grounding in science.  I couldn't tell you how anything in my own personal system works other than it needs a power source, raw materials on occasion, and the occasional cleaning.  Once you know how to read the old symbols, you can usually make things work. Personal systems are the gear we use when lo-tech isn't enough.  I will have to explain this more at a later date, but I can give a short explanation here.  Adrias says computers were commonplace back in the old world.  Before things went "dark" and the world went to shit, the first generation of personal combat systems were introduced.  They are computers, after a fashion, but the difference is staggering.  Its like saying a sniper rifle is a projectile weapon, like a bow.  There's truth to the statement, but it doesn't do justice to the difference.  Personal systems allow you to fight harder, longer, wield energy and use magic.  The system itself is so stupidly simple that almost anyone could use it.  The reason they don't is because the systems are rare and hard to keep working.  You also have to be a person who can take the Merging without freaking out.  Not many can.  Even many that can choose not to.  It's not the most pleasant experience ever and it's one of the reasons why the systems get passed down.  There comes a time in one's life where the burden of using a personal system is greater than the benefit.  Guardians, more than most, tend to use their personal systems until old age.  Well, old for this world, perhaps not for yours.

Bear Talk

While I was at Homestead I got to visit with Bear.  He and my brother were in the same team and were friends since childhood. To me he was always like a big brother.  Bear isn't so much part of our family as we are part of his.  If Bear took a liking to you, you were part of his family. It took some work to get that status and not everyone can do it. Once you do it, however, you were there for life. We jokingly call him Mother Bear because if you are dumb enough to hurt one of his "cubs," you would find yourself facing the biggest, meanest creature this side of a Rancor.  More on that later. Bear is a medic, or a priest, depending on how you look at things. Religion and healing are closely intertwined in our world. It's a generalization, but religion tends to be about memorization of the scriptures.  Scriptures tend to be about gods and legendary deeds, both good and bad, but they can also be about healing and how to do it right.  While they are out memorizing why Jesus was crucified, or the miracles of St. Tesla, or the teachings of Mohammed, or the rhetoric of the Late Great Buddha Hawkings, or whatever explains your place in the universe for you, they are also memorizing how to use the medic kits and how to treat different ailments.  They learn everything from the 17 steps to recharge a nano-kit to which herbs can be used in a tea to break a fever.  This is perfect for Bear.  Bear isn't stupid, but he isn't the quickest blade in the armory either.  He's what my dad called a "plodder;" he gets there in his own time.  Bear is an awesome medic because his instincts and reaction time are great.  So once he knows it, he knows it forever and never hesitates in an emergency.  If you have to know a Priest, Bear is the kind you want to know.  He doesn't try to convert you and he doesn't preach at you.  He lives his life according to his beliefs and sets the example.  He is awesome like that. Bear is also a mean close-in fighter, like his namesake. Bear is just a nickname given to him because he could be easily mistaken for a Grizzly in the dark.  Like the rest of his team, or myself, he has a complete personal system that has been upgraded and kit-bashed over the years.  Handed down from medic to medic.  Bear's focuses on personal and group buffs and melee combat.  This allows him to make himself as strong as a pack of rabid Grizzlies intent on mayhem. He carries old slug throwers to get the range if need be and he's not a bad aim with a bow.  My brother, who was the Coyote to his team, told me he once saw Bear cut down a tree with a single swipe, then beat a hunter-killer into submission with it.  Now my brother, taking a nickname associated with the Trickster and being a bard, was not above exaggerating a bit for dramatic effect.  When I asked Bear about it, however, he just said, "I had to, it was hurting Coug." In case you were wondering, everyone in my bro's team had an animal nickname.  Not just any animal mind you, but a local animal you might see out in the forest. Every team has nicknames for each other and they almost always follow some agreed upon theme.  It can get pretty comical, weird and obscure at times, but that is half the fun.  It's what makes you a team, rather than a bunch of strangers. I will tell you about my nick and my team another day.

Homestead Visit

I got back this morning from a trip upriver to Homestead. It's nice being home, even if only for a few days. My main reason for going was to do some updates to the network in the bunker. The bunker is really more of a glorified root cellar. It's buried into the side of a hill. It's also shielded in different ways so that the hunter-killers can't detect the tech being used within it. There's something called a "Far Away Cage" that is built into the walls. Evidently it keeps the bunker from being detected by a hunter-killer that is far away. Since the HKs are rare and have to sweep a lot of land, the chance of one passing directly overhead is very low as they avoid coming in close until they have a confirmed tech source. Just the same, it's another reason so many people shy away from technology. In some locations, its a death offense to possess it, even something as simple as a flashlight. Fortunately we aren't one of those groups. We use the bunker for testing and using tech safely. It gives people a place to kit bash new gear out of whatever wreckage they come across. It also gives strike teams a chance to do practice simulation with their gear. It's also where the tech priests hold their services and the tribe holds its community nights where they watch the old vids. Sometimes its one of the Tales of the Vader, but we were lucky this week and someone had traded for a vid of old mershals that most of us had never seen. Of course, such luxuries assume they have collected enough power. They can pull some current from the creek, but they get most of it from sun and wind. The wind is a bit flaky, but the sun is pretty reliable. Outside of the bunker, it's unusual to see anyone using tech. The energy sources are just too precious. Energy sources and ammunition are used as money. I was also able to take some of the children out to the old beaver pond for some fishing, training in tracking and storytelling. We found some black bear, cougar, raccoon and badger tracks. Even better we caught a creel full of rainbow trout. If I have time this week, I will recount for you one of the tales I told the young ones.

Moonstrike

The idea of a moon falling out of the sky and impacting the earth has always intrigued me. If you dig down far enough into the ground, you can find this gray layer of "ash" that they say is the remains of that moon, now scattered all over the earth. So one could argue that the moon and earth combined themselves into a new whole. Does that make this the Mearth, or maybe Mirth? Hah, I slay me! The trouble with this is that no one has been able to find any solid evidence for this second moon. Any old vids we have only show the one moon, at least on Earth. Sure there's the moon thats not a moon that The Vader inhabits, but that doesn't seem to be near Earth, but rather some faraway place. Adrias has even showed me a map of the one moon that we now have, but no one has ever seen any map or image of this supposed second moon except for the Earthfall vid. It's a short 30 second vid that supposedly dates back to the crash. Its some guy from what Adrias says is a news show. He is talking about people needed to seek shelter immediately and then the camera pans up and there's this immense...something, in the sky. It's not the moon either as you can see it faintly in the background in the corner of the shot. The shot is so rushed, panicked and jerky and then degraded from compression and time, that I suppose you could see anything you want in it. What's indisputable is that people are running around madly. Tons of people, more than I have ever seen in one place in real life. Also, there are real working kars, or maybe its cars, but I digress. The reason its called the Earthfall vid is because the guy talking keeps saying over and over, "It's going to make Earthfall in 24 hours, seek shelter." It's basically all he says over and over in a quiet voice for the full 30 seconds. So what we know is that supposedly something big hit the Earth. The vague shape in the vid is immense. If that hit the Earth, I'm surprised any of us are still around. The myth says that the impact caused such an explosion it knocked out the sun and the world was black for a long time until it re-ignited. I cannot imagine a world without the sun, but then again I can't imagine a world being hit by a moon either.

Youngling Recon

Adrias sent us back out, with myself in lead, to do a recon of the Younglings. They were further south than they normally roam and we needed to determine if this was an isolated group that had wandered far from home or if the larger tribe was moving towards us. This time we used the river to get us further north and cut back in a south easterly direction so if we did come across them, we would be approaching them from behind, giving us the ability to (hopefully) observe them. We found nothing other than the very cold trail of the party we ran into. I suppose that is some relief, the last thing we need to do is have multiple groups of these freaks causing havoc up and down the river. This also gave us some time to adjust the way we behave as a team. Since I was team leader (again), I made everyone do it by the book. Nobody so much as grumbled, no matter how cautious I was. I think everyone learned something from our last experience about what happens when you get sloppy and relaxed. After awhile it was going very smooth and polished, like it should be. Just the same, it wasn't the best time anyone has had. The search for the Younglings served as a constant reminder of Kal's death. Multiple times I saw people starting to enjoy themselves and suddenly they would grow quiet again as they were reminded of why we were out here. Still, I think this outing let us exorcise a few demons and we will be able to avoid some future problems now.

Aftermath

Adrias took me to task for Kal's death. It's not like he sat me down and yelled at me, or even scolded me. He doesn't have to do that. He has this way of asking you calm quiet questions and you sort of find yourself at the conclusion he wants you to reach. I don't disagree with his points, but its never as black and white as he makes it appear. What's painful about it is that he makes you realize that it wasn't what you did that was wrong, it's what you failed to do, or chose not to, that leads to your downfall. I was in charge of the hunt. By default that makes me responsible for what happens. I can accept that. It is the burden of leadership and responsibility. Adrias' questions seemed simple, but were loaded with hidden meanings. "Did you tell everyone to stand still?" "Did you tell them to attack?" "What did you tell them exactly before, during and after?" There was no judgment in his questions, just a simple questing after the facts of the situation. By answering I realized I had done nothing. I hadn't led them at all, we had all sort of just "gone with the flow." We have only been together as a group for a couple of moons. We had taken it in rotation to be leader and been very friendly about it all, so our group didn't have the tight organization and years of working together my team at Homestead operated with. In the end, all of us had grown sloppy and Kal had paid the price. It wasn't a lack of training or experience. Our years of training had allowed us to survive. It was a lack of teamwork and pure leadership that had been my failure. Looking back at how my old team would have handled it, we would have been using our Comms to manuever, make plans, and set ourselves up for both defense and offense. Instead we expected the Younglings to retreat because we knew we were bad asses and when they did not, Kal paid the price. I went up onto the ruins of the old dam after talking to Adrias so nobody could see my tears. Nobody blamed me, I think they all feel the same as Adrias talked to them as well. All I know is that when I'm in charge again, I will be a leader first and a friend second. As Adrias likes to say, "He who hesitates is lost." It's embarrassing to have to re-learn this lesson as a Guardian in training. I am better than that and Kal certainly deserved better.