Muleskinner Blues
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2022 by Joe J

Posted: July 25, 2011 - 12:54:54 pm

Before I could reply, Coleen squeezed herself between the guards and stood in front of me.

“No he doesn’t,” she said angrily. “He needs to stay right here until Sonja returns from meeting with the Pleiad.”

“We won’t harm your savage, Doctor O’Neil, but he is too dangerous to be allowed to roam loose. This project is my responsibility, and I’ll not have it jeopardized because you three decided to pick up a pet along the way,” Mendez said.

Old Doctor Mendez was wearing on my nerves about then, as I did not especially appreciate being called all those names. I had met many officers like Mendez during the war. They were men full of themselves and the authority they had been given. They were small minded men who rigidly followed the rules, even when it led them to defeat. The two guards Mendez had with him had moved up close to my sides as Mendez was speaking. The women were even taller than Sonja and one was quite a bit stouter. They were dressed in black trousers and black knitted shirts with a folded over high neck. I stood still and kept my expression open and non-threatening while I attempted to reason with Mendez.

“That is not a very neighborly way to treat a guest, Doc. Especially one who means you no harm,” I said calmly.

Mendez snorted and replied, “I seriously doubt a Neanderthal like you knows enough about civilized conduct to correct me, Brock. When I report to the Pleiad what we found sequencing your DNA, you’ll be out in the dead lands with the modern version of your ilk before the sun sets.”

I surreptitiously checked the guards on either side of me as Mendez spoke, as I figured their attention was on him and not me. In a move I had perfected disarming dozens of drunken cowboys, miners and railroad men, my hands shot out from my sides and grabbed both of their stunners. I pivoted on the balls of my feet and snatched the small weapons out of their grasp. Before the stunned doctors or guards could react, I reversed my grip on the surprisingly light-weight weapons and pointed them both at Mendez. All of that was well and good, but as I stood there, I realized I was still just as trapped as I had been only a minute before. I mean I was in a strange place hundreds of years in the future. Where could I go?

I took both weapons into one hand and grip first, handed them to a wide-eyed Coleen. She took the stunners and I turned to Mendez.

“Find me some clothes and lead on, Doctor Mendez. I will wait to see what your council says, as long as you understand that I am your guest and not your prisoner,” I said with as much braggadocio as I could muster.

Mendez gave me a fearful, angry look, but nodded his head curtly.

“Lawson, see to some clothing for Mister Brock,” he ordered the stouter of the guards.

Lawson nodded her head, walked to the door, fiddled with something beside it at about chest level, pushed the door open and slipped through it. We all stood there in an uncomfortable tableau until Lawson bustled back in with an outfit for me just like the one she and her partner wore.

I dressed with as much dignity as I could muster, slipping the trousers on before tossing off the ill-conceived nightshirt. The clothes were of a texture and weave that was beyond anything I had ever owned. The clothes were clearly utilitarian, but very high quality. The trousers were slightly too short, but the waist stretched accommodatingly. The shirt fit as if it was a second skin, but it was not uncomfortably tight. Lawson handed me a pair of cloth slippers, but even though they stretched, they were not even close to fitting on my big plowboy feet. Coleen giggled at my vain attempts to stretch the slippers over my feet, but stifled it when Mendez shot her a disapproving, schoolmarmish frown. I gave up on the slippers, told Mendez to lead the way, and we filed out of the room. As we walked down a long corridor, I could not help but notice that all four women were walking close to me, while the two men acted as if I did not exist.

We had only walked about forty feet when Mendez stopped at a door that had the words ‘MEDICAL QUARANTINE SUITE ONE’ painted on it. Mendez took what looked like a playing card from his shirt pocket and stuck it in a slot by the door. As soon as he did that, the latch made an audible click and he pushed the door open. Mendez stepped aside and gestured me through the door, I walked in with Coleen close on my heels. Coleen still had one of the stunners in her hand and the other one tucked in the waist band of her trousers.

Mendez did not like the idea of Coleen joining me in the room.

“You are jeopardizing your career with your actions, Doctor O’Neil,” he said warningly.

Coleen shrugged, handed him the stunners and said, “Someone has to show him how things work and keep him company until Sonja returns. I am partly responsible for him being here, so it is my duty to make sure he is treated properly. You don’t seem to realize that if it weren’t for Jeremiah, neither we nor the Hawkingium would have made it back. He deserves much better treatment than he has received so far.”

Mendez snorted derisively.

“He might have helped, but I doubt if it was for any reason other than his own gain. Think about it, doctor, he embodies everything we are struggling to overcome. His kind are what almost destroyed the human race.”

Before Coleen could respond, Mendez stalked out of the room, slamming the door emphatically as he departed.

Coleen started apologizing for Mendez’s conduct as soon as he was out the door. I shushed her and told her I had seen plenty of his type when I was in the glorious Army of Northern Virginia, and that I took no offense to it. Coleen seemed much relieved by what I said. She gave me a big hug, then led me by the hand through my new digs. I was much impressed with the indoor plumbing and the flameless cooking stove. Coleen tried to explain to me about something she called electricity that made the stove and bright lights work. Except for the fact that electricity somehow came from windmills and the sun, her explanation went in one ear and out the other with nary a stop in betwixt. I had much less trouble grasping how to operate their simple controls. Turn a knob one way and a burner turned red hot, turn it the other and it was off again. Same with the handles for water, except one handle was for hot and another was for cold.

I was also impressed with the thick mattress on the large bed in the bedroom. I do not know what it was ticked with, but it was the most comfortable I had ever felt. It felt as if it would be too soft when I first laid on it, but after my body sank into it, it firmed up just right. Coleen was smiling as I luxuriated on the fine mattress, until I grabbed her hand and pulled her down on top of me. She squirmed in my arms as I kissed her, and freed herself enough to move her lips near my ear.

“Someone is watching and recording everything that happens in here, so behave,” she whispered sternly.

I did not like the idea of being spied on one little bit, but I nodded and let her up.

We adjourned to the sitting room and took seats on the couch, while Coleen told me more about every day life in the future. Helena had been correct when she said that I would see enough similarities with what was commonplace in my time, to be able to function in theirs. We had been chatting for an hour or so, when the door swung open and Sonja and Helena swept into the room and made a bee-line to me. Both women had changed clothes somewhere along the line and were now wearing the same black trousers as I. Instead of a black shirt, however, Sonja wore a blue one and Helena’s was yellow. When they stopped in front of me, I could plainly see the concern and touch of anger in Sonja’s eyes.

“Are you okay, Jeremiah? Someone called me and told me that idiot Mendez had you locked up,” she said.

I tried to downplay what had happened, but Coleen kept butting in with details I had glossed over. Sonja’s expression steadily became stormier, until Coleen came to the part of the story where I disarmed the two guards. When Coleen relayed that tidbit, Sonja’s eyebrows tried to climb onto the top of her head.

“He disarmed Lawson and Habib? I’d have paid to see that, I’ve seen them both best three opponents at one time in the gym.”

I did not know where this Jim’s place was, but it dang sure did not cater to cowboys, miners, or railroad men if those two could whomp three of the customers.

Before I could say anything about that, Coleen butted in yet again.

“I think that they were distracted, being in Jeremiah’s presence for the first time. I need to run a few tests to confirm my suspicions, but I am beginning to have an inkling of why that might be,” Coleen said.

Before anyone else went off on another tangent, I asked the question that was foremost in my mind.

“So anyway, what did the council decide, Sonja?”

Sonja smiled for the first time since she arrived.

“Oh, them. They were ecstatic about the 15 kilos of Hawkingium we brought back, and they are most appreciative of your efforts on our behalf. The other idea is going to take some debate as to how we might best utilize your talents.”

Sonja stopped talking for a few seconds and frowned before she continued.

“Our big problem is the quarantine order Mendez has you under. He told the Pleiad that he had good reason for it, and asked to see them privately later this afternoon. Of course the council is not going to overrule the Chief Medical Officer until they hear his story. What caused him to do that anyway, Coleen?”

Coleen had a ready explanation.

“When Doctor Pierce ran Jeremiah’s DNA, he found the gene that modern men are missing which prevents the formation of the protein molecule for sexo-social aggressiveness. That was probably enough for Mendez’s action. Then Pierce discovered that Jeremiah’s DNA had one of the other two genes in that codon, out of sequence. Mendez felt justified in taking extreme action. I think that the out of sequence gene is the reason women of our time seem drawn to Jeremiah. My theory is that Jeremiah’s aggressiveness gene has mutated in a way that expresses itself as a pheromone that attracts women.”

I could not follow most of what Coleen said, but I understood that it had something to do with how I smelled. I know it was a simpleton’s action, but I could not help raising my arm and taking a cautious whiff.

After Coleen said her piece, Sonja asked her a few questions about whether anything about whatever I had different about me would be a danger to the community. When Coleen assured her absolutely not, Sonja walked across the room and opened a small cubbyhole door I had completely missed. The open door revealed a device that resembled the machine that counted down our time until departure back in the cave. Sonja tapped a sequence of the buttons with letters on them and a few seconds later, the face of a handsome older man appeared on the black slate-like portion of the machine. My curiosity got the better of me, so I asked Coleen who was the man in the picture.

“That’s the chairman of the council. Sonja is the council’s lead troubleshooter, so she has great credibility with them.”

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