Interlude 7.A

03/06/2016

My name is Thuy Kwan.  Bill is being rather insistent that I start a journal.  He says that we need to leave a record in case anything should happen to us.  He’s right, and I know he’s right, but it wasn’t until he told me that Jason had asked him to do it that I gave in.

He knew Jason before, back on the old Earth.  I didn’t know anyone.  To be honest, nobody else knew anyone.  Three years ago, curiosity got the better of us, and we all stepped through those damn portals.  In a weird way, it feels like a lifetime ago.  I’d kill for even the dumbest comedy right now.

We aren’t even sure if Scion did betray the Earth.  It seems so hard to comprehend, but we don’t have any way of confirming it or denying it.  All that we can do is push forward.

Reportedly, we aren’t alone.  There’s supposed to be other villages.  We haven’t seen any actual people, though.  We found one that once had people in it, but they all seem to have died.  Another village, nothing was even unpacked.  We still took all of their supplies, though.

I’ve set myself up as Bill’s assistant.  We both have backgrounds in science, but him more than me.  He apparently was taking a year off from college, working on his masters in chemistry and physics, but it was mostly hypotheticals.  He came from a very mechanically-minded family, though, so he has that going for him.

I hadn’t even gotten my BA yet, and that was for Geology.  Yes, I have a little chemistry in that, but not enough that I can really help.  I just wanted to help him.  Everyone else seemed to be focused entirely on themselves, but he was working so hard to help the rest of us.  I tried to help, thinking that I’d do farming or something when we were on our feet.

Three years later, and I’m still helping.  He’s put me in charge of so much, and I have no idea what I’m doing at all.

My job, usually, is just simple stuff.  Learning from him by helping, and then doing experiments.  Soak this, heat that, add this to that, then call Bill when something happens.

The Earth that we’ve ended up in is pretty nice, but odd.  It’s nice that we’re close enough to the ocean to see it, but far enough away that we don’t have to worry about flooding and stuff.  We’re next to a nice stream.  To the East, there’s mountains a few days away.

It’s the plants and animals that are weird.  They’re close enough to our versions that we call them the same thing, but different enough that they’re weird.  You look at a mouse and you know it’s a mouse, but the head and body are just wrong enough that it’s a little unnerving.

Tomorrow, I leave on the trek to go to the mountains.  We’ve had people there before, trying to mine, but I haven’t made the journey myself.  I’ve been too busy this entire time.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Until next time.


 

03/07/2016

We’ve stopped for the day.  This vehicle is good for hauling, but it really isn’t very comfortable to ride in.  It’s also extremely slow.  Last year, we made a trail up to the mountains, but it’s still very rough going.

The team of miners tell me that we’re halfway there.  I’m glad, because then we can set up and cook real meals.  The MREs are alright, but I’m a little burned out on them.  They’re mostly what I’ve eaten over the past three years, except for bread.

I’m camping in a tent tonight, but most of the miners are sleeping in the wagon.  The mountain is near, and I’m hopeful for a good day.


 

03/08/2016

We’ve arrived at the mine.  They’ve made depressingly little progress on it.  Men chipping away at the rock with the pickaxes we made doesn’t get much done.  Tomorrow will be good, though.  We’re going to test Bill’s gunpowder and see if we can make more progress that way.

MREs again tonight, unfortunately.  By the time that we got settled and I checked the mine, they told me that it was too late for real food.  Tomorrow, they promise.


 

03/09/2016

We didn’t do as good today as I’d hoped.  We’re still learning how to use the black powder and detonator that Bill made.  I’m worried that we’ll run out of wire, but the guys tell me it’s going to be alright.

The structure of the mountain doesn’t quite make sense, but I’m still trying to put my finger on it.  There’s a lot of limestone, but it comes in layers with other things that I’m not sure about.  I’m not sure what to think of it.  We’re supposed to bring back as much limestone as we can, though.  Bill wants to try and figure out a way to make cement.

Still, I wish that I knew more.  I can’t do a proper assay at this point, so I’m lying a lot.  I have no idea if that yellow rock is sulphur or arsenic at this point, but I’m telling them that it’s alright.  I won’t know more until we get back and I can run some tests.  Or, more accurately, fiddle with it and make educated guesses.

I’m not sure how I feel about the food we’re eating.  We brought meat packed in salt, but they didn’t let it soak long enough before making the stew.  The taste of salt overpowered pretty much everything.

What surprised me, though, was when they broke out the hard tack.  A bit after the water began to boil, they broke up the hard tack and added it to the water.  A whole lot of it.  It made the stew extra thick and filling, a welcome relief.  Still, I would have preferred to taste everything else a little more.


 

03/11/2016

Progress stalled again today.  The men found some berries and quite a few of them ate them.  Within an hour, they all were having horrible gut cramps.  I don’t think that they’re going to die, but we’re keeping an eye on them, and keeping them hydrated.

I feel kind of silly just leaving it at that, so I’ll let whomever reads this know about how we’re doing things.  We take a bar with a chisel head on it, and then begin drilling with it.  Basically, you hit the bar with a hammer, then turn it, and repeat the process.  When it gets difficult to turn, you pull the bar out and remove the debris before continuing.  This is known as single jacking.  Eventually, you get a hole that we then pack with gunpowder.

We attach two wires to the gunpowder, then head back outside.  The detonator creates a charge which sets off the explosion.  After that, we have to wait for the dust to settle, then begin removing rocks.

What is surprising is that we hit a cave system.  I’m guessing there is a fissure that let water into the limestone.  That’s actually a bad thing.  Sinkholes and possible cave-ins are a worry now.

Yesterday I surprised them by going out with an axe.  They thought I was chopping wood, but we need to shore up the mine if we don’t want it to collapse on us.  I like to think that I impressed them.  Now that they understand that I’m trying to keep them alive, and am willing to work as hard as them, they’re more accepting of me.

I don’t think that most people realize just how hard I work with Bill.  He tries to do everything himself, but he can’t.  We both know it.  Sometimes, he needs an extra pair of hands, and that’s where I step up.  I helped with building this truck and the wagon that it pulls.  I couldn’t build it on my own, and I’m sure he could have done it by himself eventually, but it was better for everyone if I helped out.

It wasn’t gentle work, either.  These past three years have been back breaking for the two of us.  When I flex, my biceps are rock hard.  Nobody would have ever believed it back in the day.  Now, it’s kind of normal for people.  We’re all working hard in our own ways.

The stalling of the progress means that we won’t get much done at this mine.  There’s a second mine, one dug before the road was made, that I’d like to get a good look at.  The miners tell me that there’s different things there, and I need to take some samples and get a look at the mine itself.  We only have a couple of hours to work before we leave for the other mine tomorrow.

Hopefully, this all will be enough.


 

03/12/2016

We made it to the second mine.  I’d hoped that we’d get here sooner, but the truck isn’t moving as fast as it did on the way up.  They tell me that’s normal; we’ll have to leave earlier than I’d expected to get home on time.  Damn.

Still, I got a few hours of daylight before I had to stop poking around.  They weren’t kidding — the composition of the rock here is vastly different than the other mine.  Incredibly different.  I’m not even sure what kind of ores I’m looking at here, or even if they’re actually metal.

I’m beginning to think that the mountain range might be fairly young, geologically speaking.  Looking at it from the outside suggests that it’s been here forever, but once you get inside, you begin to see signs that it’s only recently pushed up out of the earth.  This is somewhat different than the other mine which does show signs of advanced age.

The layering of materials is still strange.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I’d give anything for my textbooks.  They’d make life so much easier.


 

03/16/2016

I wish that we could spend more time there, but the miners tell me that if we’re going to get back on time, we had to leave today.  I argued that we could make it with just a few more samples, but I’m willing to go with what they say — they’re more of the experts than I am.

And they’re right.  This vehicle is good, and almost fuel efficient, but it’s also slow now.  I don’t even want to think about how much the load it’s pulling weighs, and it’s pulling it all without complaint.  Slower than the trip up, but without complaint.  I’ll count that as a win, even if I wish it were faster.

I’m pretty sure I could power walk faster.

Until the road was finished, everyone had to haul their loads back on foot, so they only took what they were pretty sure we could use.  I can’t blame them, but from what I’m observing, I think that we have a lot of good materials here.  We maybe hit a good, rich vein of cinnabar.  I won’t know for sure, though, until we get everything analyzed.


 

03/17/16

We had a quake today.  It was bad enough that there’s a part of me that wants to turn around and check on the mines.  It isn’t as big as the part that wants to go back home, though.

The miners thought that maybe our explosives set it off.  I had to explain to them several times that our explosives aren’t nearly powerful enough to make a dent in the overall stability of the area, but they’re worried.  I’m not sure how to convince them.  I thought they all were a fairly sane and rational lot, but it almost sounds like they’re getting superstitious.

That’s worrying to me.  That’s how religions get started, and I don’t want a cult that sacrifices people to the land to crop up.  On the other hand, I can understand why they might think that.  This is the first quake that we’ve felt, and it happened right after we set off a whole bunch of black powder charges.

Hopefully, Bill can assure them.


03/20/16

I wish that I would have updated yesterday, but getting back into town has been crazy busy.

When we got back, one of the first pieces of news was that we missed a tsunami.  It got a decent ways up the hill, but not nearly enough for us to have to worry about it getting up to town.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt in the earthquake, either.  That’s a good thing.

Now I understand why we were set up so far away from the beach.  It’s a hassle, but I’ll take a hassle that leaves us safe any day.

We got the truck back to the shop, and I thought Bill was going to hug me.  He looked like hell.  To be fair, he still looks that way.  Apparently he’s been pulling double duty since I left, surviving on naps alone.  Idiot.

Honestly?  He hasn’t looked this bad since…  Then.

Still, we’ve only got a little over twenty-four hours before folks want to take the truck out again, this time to clear the way to the ocean.  We’re going to have to do some more fishing soon, and before then we’ll need to clear out all the debris from the tsunami.  Which means that despite the fact that all I wanted was a hot shower, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work on the truck.

It was nice to just talk with Bill as we worked.  You’d think that with his education, he’d be full of all sorts of big words, but he speaks pretty plain.  I have a larger conversational vocabulary than he does, and he makes me look like a dunce!  It’s really weird, but I’m not complaining.

Apparently, he refined our latest batch of lye even further while I was gone, and worked on the plow from the tractor.  The tractor we built is better than our truck in every way except for fuel efficiency.  That’s actually really important, because we don’t want to run out of gas on our way back.

The tractor broke down while working the sorghum field, but it apparently wasn’t bad.  He was able to machine a replacement part within a day.

He also tells me that we found another settlement with about twenty people in it.  They were so thrilled to find other survivors that they asked if they could join us.  We agreed, and they came bringing anything that they could carry.

That makes three settlements found so far, and our first one with people in it.  After we get the way to the ocean cleaned up, they’re going to coopt the miners to help go to the settlement and bring back everything that they can with the truck.  Tommy’s glad to have more food and medical supplies coming our way, but Bill’s eager for more gear and equipment.

Bill also has a theory.  These settlements were set far enough away so that they could have plenty of room to grow, but he also thinks that they were put this close for a reason.  Each settlement has had a slightly different setup and loadout.  Each one also has things that the others don’t.  He thinks that we’re supposed to trade with each other.  Which would be great, except we don’t know where all of the settlements are!

I think that we closed up shop about eleven.  I wanted to take a shower before bed, but I was too exhausted and just passed out.

Today was a busy day for me.  Performing an assay of the stuff we brought back is important, even if I don’t really have a good idea as to what I’m doing.  I’m trying, though.  A bunch of experiments until I get a reaction, and then grab Bill to ask what’s going on.  He gives me some follow-up tests, and then we make some guesses.

My first was on the cinnabar.  That wasn’t hard; I had Bill make a pipe with threaded ends that I could cap, and then I bent the bar.  I ground up the cinnabar, added a little bit of zinc, put it in the pipe, and heated the higher end.  I’ll admit, I was pretty worried that it wouldn’t work, or that the pipe would explode.

Bill was ecstatic to see the results, though.  Elemental mercury!  This is something that we’ve been quietly hoping for, as it opens up a few avenues for us.  He did tell me, though, that the other end of the pipe can be put in a water bucket without a cap, which should eliminate my worries about the pipe bursting.

I thought he was thrilled over that, but it wasn’t anything.  Just a wide smile as he pushed up his glasses.  When I confirmed that the yellow deposits were sulphur and not arsenic, though, he went crazy.  He was positively bouncing around like a little kid, grinning from ear to ear.  Sulphur, as it turns out, is something that he’s been anxiously wanting.

When his excitement wore down, though, he made a suggestion.  He thinks that we should write down our processes for everything, in case something should happen to us.  I asked what the point of the journal was, then.  He did that whole “grow silent and put his hands on his hips” thing before saying that it was to document how we came to our discoveries, and to keep a record of our lives.

It’s odd, but I’m going to go with him.  He made an excellent point when he said that we couldn’t be expected to remember everything, just like we can’t remember everything from school.  If we need to remember a formula or process after we haven’t used it in a while, it’s better to have a quick reference to look up.

It makes sense, I suppose.

Anyway, the showers will be empty soon, and I’m looking forward to a long one.


 

04/16/2016

Today a bunch of things came together almost all at once.  But let me back up.

During my assay work, I idly noticed that we go through a lot of fuel.  More than the rest of the village combined, in fact.  This is both wood and from the gassifier.  Bill quickly made up some heating coils for me, it only took him part of the day, but you could see that his mind was churning.

Tommy’s been leaning on Bill pretty hard for things.  Almost everything, in fact.  Tommy shows up for an hour or two, sometimes two or three times a day.  He wants Bill’s opinions, to know if things are feasible, or just to know what we’re working on.  It’s a huge distraction, but I understand why Tommy does it.

Jason was right.  Bill would make a good leader.  Whenever someone comes to him with a problem, he either puts his fists on his hips or folds his arms and thinks it over.  No matter how trite it is, no matter if he immediately knows the answer, he always thinks about it for a little bit.  He’s also so subdued; I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a bad word about anybody, even when Zach lied about living on a farm.  I don’t think it’s possible to piss Bill off.

Anyway, Bill’s been pretty busy, so when the miners returned with the last load of stuff from the settlement we took in, I went out to help take stock.  I could tell that Tommy would have rather have Bill there, but he didn’t say anything.  Everyone accepts me as Bill’s assistant, and my word is almost as good as his.  Especially since I’m willing to say that I need to check with Bill.

Though, I think some people take advantage of Bill a little bit.  We’ll see.

Anyway, I came back and Bill was in his giddy mode again.  You can tell because he has more energy to his step, breaks out the fancy words, and smiles so broadly.  He finally finished two of his projects.

The first was the water splitter that he was working on.  It uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.  I wasn’t sure why he was getting at it, but I was willing to let him go.  He’s also been making tanks, like propane tanks.  That was a lot of hard work on his part to finally get it right, so that there weren’t any leaks.

Now I understand.  He was making a torch.  The hydrogen and oxygen burns pretty cleanly.  Too clean in my opinion, because I can’t see the flame.  Still, we should be able to use this to help remove some reliance on our gassifier.  Pretty crafty.

I’ll be honest, I thought he was making something like the ozone machine that’s part of the water purification system we rigged up.  This is far cooler.

The second bit is that he’s been quietly working late on a secondary project that finally paid off today.  He’s successfully used the resin from one of the local plants to make dioxoanthracene, which he’s used to make, of all things, hydrogen peroxide.  It’s not in very strong concentrations, less than what we used to buy back in the day, and it takes quite some time to make any worthwhile amount, but it’s enough.

He pulled me off to the side where he had a little device rigged up.  It burned sulphur, pushed the resulting gasses into a hydrogen peroxide bath (Is that the right term?  I don’t know.), which made sulphuric acid.  He’s very, very pleased by this.

I grabbed Tommy, who’s thrilled that we have hydrogen peroxide.  It took a little bit before Bill could finally explain that while, yes, it could mean that we can reduce our reliance on scavenged medical supplies, we can also greatly advance our ability to make other things with the sulphuric acid.  That, in the end, it was the sulphuric acid that was more important in the long run.

Of course, Bill’s using all of our ammonia to make the hydrogen peroxide, so we’ll have to make some more.  He admits that there’s probably other ways to make the sulphuric acid, but he doesn’t know them offhand.

I will admit, even if the cement isn’t coming out right, we’re making huge headways.  Bill apparently has a ton of stuff that he can make now, so hopefully we can move forward.


 

05/22/2016

Yesterday, Bill suggested that we both go through today making notes as we go so that we can address everything that we do in our working day.  We both took even more notes than usual so that we can write in our individual diaries.

I got into the shop a bit before six in the morning, only to find Bill already there.  We always meet up before our day officially starts, and the first person always makes the peppermint tea.  We use this time to review the previous day, make bets on what’s going to go wrong today, and discuss our plans for today.

Once we got our plans together that we both know will be shot to hell and back, we separated to do our own things.  Bill was going to try casting more parts for alarm clocks.  We’ve yet to have success in building one, but we’re still trying.  Clocks are both amazingly easy and hard, and I’m thankful for the electric one we have on the wall.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when my watch runs out of juice.

Meanwhile, I went back to the part of the shop that we call the lab.  The first thing was that I was making a mash.  Not like the kind that we use for beer or the tests we’ve been doing with harder liquer.  There’s a tree that grows legumes, and people have been commenting that the flavor is oddly familiar.  So I’m trying to extract as much as possible out of it to see what we can come up with.

The cement samples from a few days ago had cured, and I needed to do some tests.  In all honesty, it’s good to my eye, but all the samples were below the tolerances that Bill wrote down.  Admittedly, we both only know the basics for building, but he has an idea as to how strong it needs to be.  I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong, but it needs to be stronger before we start dedicating to the roads.

All of my assays are done, so I took a half an hour to start a reaction.  Bill and I know a bit about chemistry, him far more than me, and he knows things that we’re going to need.  Sometimes we know the chemical composition, but we have no idea how to do it.  We’re stumbling around in the dark.

Good news, I made a sticky, tar-like substance out of some of the plants.  Bad news?  I have no idea how good it is or what it’s made of.  I was working with native plants, and sometimes they have really weird properties.  I decided to run it past Bill later.

After I got some more mercury made, I headed out to do a swing by the town.  Every day, I have rounds to take.  The first for today was to take our latest batch of glycerine and dye to Tanya so she can work on some more laundry soap.  We have tons of regular soap and shampoo left, but Cauldron didn’t see fit to give us laundry detergent.

After that, I dropped by to see how Lucas was doing.  Since he hurt his leg, he’s been working on a little project for us ladies.  We only have so much hygiene product, and eventually we’re going to run out.  We need a replacement.

Unfortunately, it’s been a bust again.  The cloth that he’s producing is of decent enough quality for a shirt maybe, but he claims that if he wouldn’t use it to “paint the town white,” then he doesn’t feel comfortable with us pressing it down there for hours on end.  While a little awkward to talk to him about it, I can’t fault his spirit.

I watched him work for a little bit and asked a few questions, taking notes on ways we might be able to improve the loom.  He’s actually suggesting a new fabric, but I think it’s just his skill level.  Still, I brought up the notes to Bill during lunch, and he’s going to see about modifying the loom later.

After that, I swung by the bakery.  More than anything else, it’s perhaps the most important thing to the village.  Every day, we can have fresh baked bread and that alone is worth damn near anything.  It’s not like sandwich bread, but it’s still worth it.  Our little village would probably revolt without it.  So needless to say we make sure that everything’s running well and pick up some stuff from the shop.

Today, though, was a secondary reason.  She tried using some of our refined lye along with some bread sour.  We’re trying to make a decent leavener, even if the idea of using lye in bread is kind of goddamn scary.  She didn’t even try the small loaf, she was going to make us eat it before trying anyone else.  Right, brilliant.  Still, I took it, and one of her circular loafs.

She’s a crafty one though, I’ll give her that.  She cooks the circular loaf with a string around it so that she can hang it up, and so that you can carry it.

I got back to the shop around noon to find Bill working on… something.  Look at his diary.  I just know that it was something neither one of us expected.  Today’s heavy syrup gets added to tomorrow’s bet, then.

To say we were both scared as we tried the bread would be an understatement.  The butter was a welcome addition, but it was still a touch sour.  Just a touch, better than it would have been without the lye, and our throats didn’t burn.  Soon, hopefully.

We each had an MRE with our bread.  I may be getting firm, but Bill is getting buff!  I’m surprised more girls aren’t drooling over him.

Bill checked the bug trap we made out of some sorghum water and a plumfruit peel.  A thick mucus film had formed, and he was going to throw it out, but we both recognized that smell — vinegar!  Since March, it had turned to vinegar!  We’ve tried and failed so many times to make vinegar, so this is wonderful to us.  We grabbed some beer and added the mucus to it.  We’ll check again in a couple of months, but if we’re right, we should be able to make more starter, and then we’ll be good.

Vinegar opens up a whole new world to us, from cleaning to cooking to even more reactions.

Then Tommy swung by to talk to Bill.  I took the time to go check on the mash.  I’m not sure how long I should let the water soak everything up, so I went ahead and strained it.  An initial taste test showed that it still had that strange flavor, but more pungent now.  So I began the tests.

I started by isolating the acid, but also keeping back some of the salts.  Basically, I added calcium carbonate, then I added calcium chloride after it had finished bubbling.  Bill says that this is a double exchange reaction.  Once the reaction was done, I filtered it and added the sulphuric acid.

That’s complicated, and at that point, Tommy had swung back through to talk to us about Lucas and the loom, and specifically why he wasn’t making much cloth.  Bill pulled me into the conversation.  He thought a woman would be better for explaining than a guy.  It took a little work, but Tommy agreed that while it might not be important now, it would be.  If we could have a surplus on hand, it would save everyone a lot of trouble.  Plus, if we could get some good material made, new, nice bedding could eventually be made

With that, though, came some bad news.  Tommy said that we’d start looking for new sources of fiber for cloth.  We have goats, sheep, and cotton now, but he knew that natural cloth wasn’t made from just those three.  Of course, figuring out what we could use would be tricky, so it’s up to us.

But at least we’re planting cotton next spring.  Thank you, newcomers.

They’re settling in nicely, by the way.  We had some difficulty finding jobs for all of them, but we figured it out in the end.  We now have such a huge surplus of electricity that Bill went ahead and set up another power station.

After that, I went back to recheck my solution.  I filtered the liquids from the solids, but it was a little late to be running more tests.  Instead, I went to help Bill with some of his work.  He’s actually trusting me with welding on my own.  I’m being extra careful, though.  It’s still pretty awkward to me.

After that, we paused for dinner, a rather tasty soup.  I’m not sure if MREs were even used in it.  Either way, it was one of the better things that I’d had in a long time.  We sat in front of the shop, talking about this and that.  We’re going to try and make some fireworks for this year.  Bill made some when he was a kid, so we’re hopeful that we can do it with what we have.

June 20, when we came here.  It’s a weird thing to celebrate, but I’m right there with him that we need some sort of celebration.  We don’t have a lot of really good stuff, and everyone needs a few days a year to kick back and enjoy themselves.  We’ll talk to Tommy tomorrow.

After dinner, we did a little more work before calling it a night.  Only two or so hours.  I’ll be honest, I can’t even tell you what we did.  I’m having to fight to keep my eyes open right now.  I’m going to hit the sack.


 

o5/25/16

I know, a short rollover between updates, but something a little different happened today.  One of the kids from those people that we added to our community showed up at the shop.  He’s maybe twelve years old, I’m not sure.

We don’t have any teachers or anything.  Almost everyone is busy doing other things.  Maybe once winter comes, but until then, we’ve been plopping a book in front of him and having him read.  Needless to say, he’s been getting pretty frustrated by that.

Bill asked him what he was doing here, and he said that he wanted to help.  Learning things was fine and dandy, but he wanted to be doing something more, and that he figured that he could help us.

It’s one of those things that I knew the moment that he said it that it would turn out bad.  By the way Bill looked at me, I knew that he was thinking the same thing.  We didn’t think that the kid would mess things up or anything, but we have experience with this.  Bill spent forever teaching me what I needed to know to help him.  If I would have known off the bat, we’d be a lot further along than we are now.  Teaching a kid who has no background like I did, would only make it harder.

Still, Bill got the kid’s mom and asked her, and she said that it was okay.  Bill has the kid, Chase, following him around and helping out while he works on stuff, mainly getting tools and the like.  When Bill is knee deep in some of our daily work, he forced Chase to study.

I don’t like it, but I get why Bill did it.  Idle hands and all that.  And let’s be honest here, until we’re set up to the point that we know that we can survive on our own, we need all hands on deck.

If he gets annoying, though, I’m going to make him regret ever being born.


 

 

05/27/16

We have confirmation!  That acid that I came up with is tartaric acid.  Bill used some of his purified lye, made salts from the acid, got some goods from the stores, and made up some bread.  It wasn’t very good bread, but that’s more of Bill than anything.

I took some of it to Cassie and had her make up a loaf.  She was hesitant until I ate half of it in front of her.  It’s not quite like homemade bread from back in the day, but it’s close enough to make us happy.  We declared it official: we have baking powder.

That said, everything isn’t perfect.  It foamed up a little much when we added the water, so we’re going to have to find some way to balance it all out.  There needs to be a longer-term reaction.  And it also won’t completely replace beer bread as we’ve taken to calling it.  We can only make so much tartaric acid with what all we have, and we need some of those chemicals for other things.

I was going to leave it at that, but when I reread it, I realized that I said something interesting.  Back then, instead of back home.  I talked it over with Bill, and he agreed that this is home now.  He misses stuff about the Earth we came from, but we’ve put too much into this place for it not to be our homes.

He also admitted that if he could go back in time, back to then, he’d focus on getting things for now.  I think that I agree with him.

Naturally, Chase doesn’t agree with us, but fuck him.


 

 

06/20/2016

Happy Founding Day!  (Tommy came up with the name.)

Tommy went all out organizing everything, and put a lot of work into it.  I don’t think that people really appreciate what all he does; I’ve heard people say that he doesn’t really work.  He does, and this showed it.  He made hamburgers for everyone!  Sweets for all!  All those little projects that Tommy had been doing in the background finally came to the forefront.  We probably gave out too much beer, but it was worth it.

When it got dark, we set off the fireworks.  We were insanely paranoid about it because we hadn’t tested them.  Bill had only made fireworks that went a good twenty feet up before popping, but these…  These still felt like real fireworks.  They may not be the same compared to back then, but to me they seemed to go high, with such huge explosions!

There weren’t a lot of them, and they weren’t as colorful as I remember fireworks being, but I don’t think anyone cared much.  We all were in such awe over it.

Farkas would have really liked all of this.  Hell, he would have been leading all of it, making us laugh and sing and enjoy ourselves.  He really wou

I miss him so bad.  People thought that he was useless, but he wasn’t.  Not to me.


 

06/27/16

I should have been writing everything before now, but it’s been insanely busy!  Right now, there’s so much to do, but Tommy ordered us to write everything down.  Poor Chase is running around trying to do so much, I feel bad for him.  But I agree, this needs to be recorded.

Two bits of news regarding the loom — first, we have a new type of thread.  I was messing with the rancid old flax stalks from last year, and I stumbled upon the fact that we can make some pretty good thread.  Familiar thread.  I took it to Lucas, and he whipped up a small towel.  We both were scratching our heads because even though it didn’t feel the greatest, it felt eerily familiar.  Naturally, Bill feels it for one moment, smiles brightly, and congratulates us on making linen.  Like it was the most casual thing in the world.  By the end of the day, we’d improved the loom.

The second loom-related news is that our first real try at linen failed.  Out of frustration, Lucas tried again with cotton, since we’re running low on flax.  We didn’t save that much of the stalks from the harvest, which is going to change this year, believe me.  So we switched to cotton.  The first attempt was too loose, since Lucas is still learning the new controls.  But one of the newbies mentioned that it was a lot like cheesecloth, and that if the calves weren’t so needed, we could make cheese.

I hate to admit it, but we butchered a calf for that.  We’re still learning the finer details, but we have made cheese!  Not the best cheese yet, but it’s still there.  The newbie (whose name escapes me for reasons you’ll understand soon) only worked with store-bought rennet, so there’s some trial and error.

Of course, we make it sound easier than it is.  If we’re going to make cheese, we need to make enough for everyone.  So while others are figuring out how much of the calf gut to use and all of that, Bill, Chase and I have been hard at work building a vat.  We have to be able to drain off the whey and all of that.

I will admit that Chase is actually showing himself to be useful.  And Bill is so very patient with the boy.  He’ll make a good dad some day, if we can ever get someone to actually approach him.

Anyway, I needed to get into our stores of iron ore and help show Chase how to use the rollers for the stuff we’ve already smelted.  We actually have a pretty decent bunch of ores saved up by now.  We didn’t really have much use for the silver and gold, so that’s been stockpiling.  The lead’s been more valuable to us than the gold, go figure.  While he’s been doing that, I was working on getting everything smelted, and Bill was helping to cover my job while I focused on that.

Then Bill finished another project, using all the mercury that we’ve been making.  Since we aren’t quite ready to start making thermometers for everyone’s houses, he went ahead and made “activated mercury “ (whatever that is) with salt water, and with that he made chlorine.  I don’t even know how he comes up with this stuff, but I’m thankful that he does.  Whiter whites, safer water, and…  Well, all sorts of stuff.

Everything changed yesterday, though.  Imagine our surprise when people are working on the wall and start going crazy. A ship!  An honest-to-damn ship!  A little worse for the wear, but still there!

So we all hop in the wagon of the truck (and I do mean almost all of us — probably half of the village went) and took it as fast as it would go down the hill to the river’s edge.  The boat’s strange, and I’m not the one to describe it.  Read Bill’s, he’s probably better at it.

Another community!  A live one that isn’t in trouble!  They somehow heard our fireworks.  How, I don’t know, but I don’t care!  Cauldron gave them a boat to use, and they’ve been looking to the South for more communities.  They thought they were in Oregon for some reason.  Whatever.  But we had a grand feast to welcome them.  Then they started asking all sorts of weird questions.  Do we have capitalism?

That’s the one that made Tommy switch gears instantly.  He said that we had a thriving economy, all serious-like.  It didn’t take long for him to make them admit that they wanted to trade with us.  Tommy said that it would take a little time for us to ramp up our production enough to really start trading with them, and asked what they needed.  They asked what we had for trade.

Tommy said that currently we had nothing.  I thought people were going to revolt.  Everyone just looked like they were going to start yelling, because there’s so much that we still need, and we could probably do without a lot of the stuff that we have in surplus.

Then Bill quietly asked how their bread was.  They said it was fine, which made Bill shrug and casually mention that it was a pity, because in less than a month’s time, we could have baking powder for them.  They played it smooth, but it was still a 180 as they said that they could definitely take baking powder, since our bread was better tasting than theirs.  (They don’t need to know that it’s our beer bread.)

Tommy started in on that, but then Bill spoke up again, asking how they were doing on chlorine.  Then vinegar.  I figured out real quick what he was doing — he was mentally going through everything that we could produce quickly in bulk with what we currently had set up.

In the end, they stayed the night, but we had a list of things to do for when they left.  Bill, though, grabbed me and dragged me back into the shop.  Remember that silver and gold?  We spend all night getting things set up to make coins.  Tommy dropped by to help us, and he said that we’re going to have to actually make a full economy.  The coins won’t just be for trading with the other village, but will be for everyone here as well.

He expects Bill to help him come up with how we’re going to go from how we are now to free enterprise.  However, he said that Bill will own the shop and everything in it.  Bill’s earned that much.

That man, though, just looked at me and said “equal business partners.”  I don’t really do that much, I’m not the brains behind the operation.  Almost everything that I do, I can only do because he taught me how to do it.  But he wants me to be equal in this business.  It’s freakish.

I tried to argue, I really did, but neither Bill or Tommy were listening to me.  Weird.  Apparently Yost-Kwan Industries is a thing.

Anyway, we worked through the night, but it wasn’t done by morning.  Tommy eventually passed out in a chair, but we didn’t wake him until the sun started to rise.  When Chase showed up, he said that he could help us design the coins, and Bill agreed.  We’re going to put a pattern on them, sort of like a starburst on one side, with a face on the other.  It won’t be the prettiest, but it will also let us cut them up into bits so that we can have smaller denominations without having to mint more coins.  Tommy’s idea, and it’s a good one in my opinion.

But we collected up some beer (which they’re also interested in) and some other stuff for them to take back with them.  Since we were offering them enough beer for the trip back, they broke out some bottled root beer.  Bill instantly took an interest in the bottle and brought up that there was no way that they could have made the stopper.  It isn’t a bottle like what we used to buy at the store, but it…  Look at Bill’s journal.  I don’t know how to describe it.

Anyway, they confessed that they have a slow trickle of people entering their village (though they call it town, whatever) from Earth Bet.  Gee, they couldn’t have mentioned this?

Things are bad over there, though.  People are fleeing as fast as they can, and they got a portal set up by a couple of parahumans.  Scion really pretty much destroyed Bet, and they’re pretty much in twilight all the time.  People are going to other worlds as fast as they can.  Our new friends asked if we wanted any of the refugees.  Tommy said that we could take about ten right now, until we got ourselves more situated.

According to our new friends, New York City got attacked by some alien critters earlier this year, killing a few hundred people before the Wardens (apparently the new and improved Protectorate wankfest) finally put them down.  People don’t care, they’re running.  Then because the Undersiders made a move against him, Teacher launched an attack on New Brockton (basically a Brockton Bay that sweeps into other realities) that killed precisely a thousand people.  Yeah.  So people are fleeing Bet, ASAP.

Apparently, though, someone brought a ton of root beer that they’d bought, so when they came here, they brought some.  A full hundred bottles being some!  For if we wanted to trade.

We’re going to be a little low on beer for the next few weeks, but we have more brewing.  We’re going to work on another vat as soon as we can.  But we gave them as much beer as we could, and we got a hundred bottles of root beer.

They’re going to come back next month.  I don’t know what all Tommy arranged for them to bring, but he said that if we couldn’t trade outright for it, we’d at least pay for it in gold and silver.

Anyway, we’ve got another more modest feast here in a little bit.  We’re going to vote on the name of our community and discuss ideas on how to split up the businesses and the like.  How to handle ownership and everything.

I’ve got such a great feeling about all of this!


 

We’re fucked.  It’s been three days now, and unless things get better, we’re going to be completely screwed.

The meeting was going pretty well, all things considered.  Arguments, of course, and we all knew that we’d have to have more discussions before everything’s sorted.  We also decided to name the village Angel Grove.  It’s a shitty name, but it’s less shitty than the others that were suggested.

Bill was weird, distracted the entire time, but I didn’t think anything about it.  I mean, we had a lot on our plates, and he had a lot to think about, so it was only natural.  But he spent most of his time just staring at the bottle of root beer, turning it in his hands.

Eventually, I jokingly asked him what he was thinking about.  He had this tiny, quiet voice as he said that when he was little, his dad would drag him into the shop to help him as he fixed cars.  His old man would get out one beer and one root beer, and they wouldn’t be opened until Bill showed that he’d learned something, or that he was good at working on something.  Ever since then, root beer had been his favorite drink.

Serendipity, he called it.

I’ve never once heard Bill talk about his family.  We’ve all talked about our families, and he’s listened to me talk about mine plenty.  Hugged me while I cried over them.  But he never said anything about his own.  I don’t think they got along very well.  I think that it might have been one of his few good memories of his father.

I didn’t think about that at the time, though.  I really just heard favorite and asked him what he was waiting for.  He just gave me a grin, worked the top off, and took a swig.

And then he started crying, just repeating that it wasn’t the same.  It wasn’t right.

It’s really weird.  Bill’s been a rock for all of us.  When we were so sick that we were dying, when he was sick too, he made antibiotics for us.  Whenever we’ve needed anything, he’s put in longer hours than anyone into doing what needed to be done.  He’s never once complained.  He never once said that it wasn’t fair.

When I was still so torn up over Farkas, I remember him being so gentle with me.  Talking with me, trying…  I remember when he made me laugh that first time, he just looked so happy and relieved.  It’s part of what made me get through it, get to the point where I could live again.

But he’s been like that for everyone.  No matter how bad the storm, he’s been the rock of stability.  We’d look at him, and he’d put his hands on his hips, think for a few moments, and then say that we could do it.  He’d get to work, and we’d get through it.  Or he’d hug us.  Or… whatever.

He’s always been a little awkward, but that’s part of who he is.  Part of what made him reliable.  You knew that he’d be a little humble, a little bashful, a little out of place as he dealt with you.  But it was so honest and reliable that you knew he’d pull you through.  I never would have imagined him as someone that everyone could look up to and respect if I’d met him before.  But for three years, we’ve all known that he’d find an answer.

For the past three days, he’s been listless at best.  Sometimes he’ll start to do something, and then just stop and stare into space.  If we were lucky, he’d suddenly stop doing whatever it was and slowly move to do something else.  We haven’t been lucky often.  There’s been a lot of crying.

He’s carried us on his shoulders for so long, taking our survival and well being as a personal task…  It’s no wonder he finally collapsed.  All because of a bottle of root beer.

We can’t do this without him.  He’s got so much in his head that we’ve come to depend on completely.  We can’t do it on our own any more.  How do we repair the ACs in people’s houses?  How do we fix the power station?  There’s so much that he’s done for us, and now that I’m watching him like this…

I don’t know if we’re going to get Bill back.  I’m worried that he might be completely gone, that one day we’ll all be woken up to the sound of a gunshot.  If that happens…

I don’t think we’re going to make it.

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5 thoughts on “Interlude 7.A

  1. Thank you for reading this interlude.

    I’ve been keeping this one in reserve in case I had a problem, and it paid off. I got about 800 words into the chapter that I wanted for today, and that includes over 12 hours of trying. Fortunately, I think ahead.

    Welcome back to our intrepid journal makers! People seemed to like the last one, so I tried another one. As usual, I tried something a little different, not just to change her voice from Bill’s, but to try and see what else I could do. I’m reasonably happy with it.

    In case you don’t remember: https://setantaworm.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/interlude-5-a/

    One of (admittedly many) the appeals to zombie fiction is that we like to believe that we’d be one of the smart ones when everything goes down. It isn’t the physical badasses who are awesome in it, it’s the smart ones who try to keep everyone alive. I’ve seen this trend in other forms of apocalyptic fiction as well.

    And yet, my favorite piece of zombie fiction is World War Z. Max Brooks did a wonderful job of showing that it can be completely random who makes it or not. When I was trying to figure out how I should end it, my mind went to Sergeant Avalon from that book. I felt that it was appropriate, though for completely different reasons.

    You can see some heavy influence from Cody’s Lab in this chapter as well. Truth be told, he was my main resource here, but I don’t think that he’d complain. I wish that I had his email address, so that I could thank him for the wonderful wealth of research material done so enthusiastically. Search for him on youtube.

    The tsunami was a random thing that I included on a whim — it’s very easy to bash on Cauldron, but I wanted to do another “Hey, they aren’t completely stupid” moment when it came to these communities. They had a thought process in place for as to why they did certain things. I’d previously mentioned that the community was between the sea and the mountains, so I thought that I’d run with that. I vaguely remembered seeing something in passing on TV about Alaskan homesteaders.

    Few communities got as big of a leg up as Angel Grove did. Even if they had a CCK to base their community around, they were blessed with the right people there. Without Bill, they’d be stuck with what was in the CCK, fumbling for years before they got anything else. Without Jason, the community wouldn’t have banded together. Tommy helped them accept loss and steel themselves for the future, putting a huge effort into not only the daily details, but to morale as well. Without Thuy, Bill would have literally worked himself to death. Time will only tell if she and the others can help him work through his problems.

    There’s even more people who are necessary than just them, too, but I’d like to hold off on them for the time being. We’ve caught a glimpse of some of them, but I may want to do another chapter from their POV, so I don’t want to delve too deep. This is a community, though, not a one-person band. Everyone has had a role in their survival, some better than others.

    When Cauldron placed these communities on alternate Earths, they’d create small clusters. With a target goal of 250 people per community, and 20 communities per cluster, they hoped to create a stable initial population of 5,000 people for a good genetic variance. (Truth be told, the numbers are fuzzy on how many people are necessary for that, but Cauldron lowballed it.) Each community had at least one thing to offer that the others didn’t in order to encourage trade. By spreading them out, they hoped to keep Scion from just wiping out one Earth.

    Nothing ever works quite as planned, though. A pity. But that’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoughts

    Cheese: I hope they weren’t using junket. that crap’s pretty bad for making cheese, although it’s workable if you double the typical amount.

    Cement: I’m wondering if it’s just a matter of bad ratios & technique, or if they haven’t actually been using a viable process to begin with. To my recollection: calcinate the lime and clay together, driving off carbon dioxide and water and fusing the ingredients together to make clinker. Grind the clinker to a fine powder and add gypsum as a buffer.

    The Limestone actually opens up a bunch of possibilities, including glass, refined lyes, and rawhide, which can be processed into leather.

    Making glass is dependent on using Salt, lime, and some ammonia to make washing soda. The soda though, can also be used to make soda lye as opposed to potash, used as a detergent on its own, or be made into actual baking soda, all of which should be relatively cleaner and more scalable than leaching potash salts from wood ash. Glass can probably be used to scale up lab work, but having windows is also nice.

    Power: I’m just speculating, but I wonder if they’ll work with HVDC for transmission, since once you get that far, it’s actually got advantages over AC (no need for frequency matching or those brick adaptors to convert to DC). AC’s major advantage was that they built an efficient way to step up voltage without losing power earlier than DC.

    Ore: I wonder how they’re refining iron? if they’re going to scale up production of steel, Bessemer would be pretty efficient. rebar for concrete buildings, woohoo.

    Bill: poor bill, hope he makes it through this okay.

    Like

    • The issue with the cement is that they don’t have the right ratios yet. They know the basics on how to make it, but they don’t have a good formula yet. One of the downsides to the way that they operate is that they make a test, and if it doesn’t work, they have a discussion about it. Then Bill thinks, and eventually they try again.

      If they were to run their tests in parallel, they could better study the properties of each sample, allowing them to hit upon a good ratio rather quickly.

      They have been using limestone for an awful lot, including making the new baking soda. However, the issue is that all of that was on Bill’s side, and Thuy mostly focuses on her own work unless if something really stands out to her. Using limestone to make lye isn’t a big concern for her, since they already know how to make lye.

      One of their issues is that while they stumble across a lot, they’re also rather task-oriented. For example, they’ve made an epoxy and used that to make carbon rod electrodes, but haven’t even thought of many other practical applications of the epoxy. Bill has essentially come up with a tech tree, which I allude to in this chapter, given how much they’ve been desiring elemental mercury. (I should note that they also used the elemental mercury to make lye during the process to make chlorine via salt water.)

      Glass is definitely something that they can make, and was on the list of things to do. However, it kept on getting pushed lower on the list due to Bill having to constantly repair things. Having one person who can maintain most of the equipment used by the village, who is also in charge of materials production and scientific research, is a huge problem as it spreads him too thin.

      Another problem is that both he and Thuy have begun to stagnate. I don’t address it here, but Thuy originally would ask him a lot of questions (which is how the tea routine started) and would then go from there.

      “We have a lot of wood ashes here, and it’s doing funny things to the ground.”

      “Oh, well, wood has a low pH. If the soil is too acidic to grow something, we could probably add the wood ash to lower the acidity.”

      Which is exactly how Thuy came up with the idea on how to make wood ash lye.

      However, as time went on, she stopped asking so many questions. Their work load increased, so she focused on what she’d already learned from him. She’d follow procedures on how to do certain things, which began to limit their growth. She may not think much of Chase, but he would be extremely useful in that regard, kickstarting the process all over again.

      As for the cheese, they’ve made some junket, but they’ll get it worked out soon enough. Even junket is nice to them right now, after three years of MREs and what they’ve grown. I wanted to include the cheese partially due to its strong history with civilization, but also because I wanted to help establish that different people have different skills within the village, and everyone has something that they can contribute, be it mining, working fields, hunting, or whatever.

      That said, I’m glad that you seemed to enjoy this chapter! The last chapter in this vein had some good likes and comments on it, and I got a few positive emails. I’m glad that people seem to enjoy this little side story!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It looks like a lot of these processes could be delegated, though. There should be a split between R&D and manufacturing, but also training people.

        Are they making glass with potash? You said just now making baking soda with the lime, but most wood ash lye is potash, not soda.

        If they’re baking with it, it sounds like Bill & Thuy are mostly purifying carbonate/bicarbonate salts from the ash, but either calcining and hydrating it, or reacting it with quicklime (probably safer) should yield hydroxides.

        Heck, plain ceramic might be fine. For now, but calcining carbonates is a decent way to get your hands on better refractory material, which is a must if they’re to make high temperature kilns and furnaces.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like this chapter. It’s the most realistic post-apocalyptic survival scenario I’ve read, but maybe that’s because of the struggle to rebuild society, and the reliance on knowledge. I really, really hope that they succeed in spite of the hardship and tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

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