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REJECTED SHORT PIECES

Snow on the Mountain, Pride in my Heart©

I didn't much care when the well off got all them benefits with the new law. The Grand Bargain is what it's called. Mostly, better deal for them than us, but it's too late to waste sleep over it.

 

They wasn't people we had anything to do with, so what's it matter I said at the time. I know folks like mine lost some things, entitlements they called them. Well, I don't think you're entitled to anything in this life, it just makes you beholding when you think like that. You got to rely on yourself and provide for your family, like my Dad did and his Dad before and on back to when there was nothing but stone tools and the like.

 

So if them rich folk got their fancy titles and feudal estates and no taxes, and have their kids grow up without knowing what it is to work, fine, let em get weak and soft. We'll see what shakes out when the Commies and the A-Rabs get here.

 

One thing I can say for the law, though, is the Cull. Keeps the elite on their toes during their three years of eligibility. Rite of passage, like.

 

Each week I've been buying a ticket when I fill the tank. When my number come up, I could feel the excitement in my boy's face. "Dad, are we gonna get us an Overlord? Can I come with you? I promise I won't spook him so's you lose the take."

 

Some of the best times of my life are the weeks the boy and I spent planning the expedition. Each night we'd talk about where to hunt, should we use bait, benefits of a blind versus natural cover, did we have the right equipment, how to avoid Protectors so's we weren't the ones gettin killed.

 

It got on to winter and that's when we finally had our plan. Some Overlords keep big places up in the ski resorts. They'll spend a week or more there of a winter, even invite friends up from the City for parties. Well, I figured it'd be hard on their Protectors to sight us in that terrain, with the deep woods and the like.

 

So I canceled my lectures at the university for a week — told the kids to write papers on A Deficit of Transcendent Experience in Contemporary Culture Challenges Social Cohesion: defend or rebut — and took the boy out of school. We left early for the backcountry behind that Sugarcube Resort, covered the truck under camouflage, and set off by snowshoe with our gear.

 

Peggy'd hacked the Resort's system and inserted code to blank our thermal signatures using our transponder frequencies. The risks were high enough; I didn't need any surveillance drones picking us off. Even still, quantum encryption ain't fool proof, and I was glad we'd had our Thermal Shield® Mountain Parkas from RU Green: premium 650-fill goose down; densely woven waterproof XKT shell providing great protection in snow, sleet and rain; seven external and three internal pockets for your necessities; machine wash and dry to boot.

 

Snow was coming down all day, which was good cause it covered our tracks. I love winter in the highlands; the gentle chill that makes you glad you own clothes. But I can tell you we worked hard climbing those ten miles up the mountain, avoiding the sentries, before we found ourselves a decent bivouac with good evergreen cover near a Black Diamond run. By then, it was too late to hunt, like I knowed it'd be, so we dug into the duck confit and white bean stew Peggy'd fixed and settled in for the night.

 

We had to use Stone Age tools, like the law says, and you ain't allowed to take just any Overlord —it had to be on the EATS register, somebody who wasn't a vet or educator or a young mom or elected official. Before we left, I'd run a correlation on resort members, EATS, and folks that got their pictures onto some skiing sites and the like. I narrowed down the list by digging into social media — I wasn't eating anyone with an interest in the works of Orson Scott Card, thank you. Then I got into their Twitter feeds; see who was talking up spending time on the mountain over the next few days.

 

All that analysis gave me a pack of M&A types from the City, bragging about making a killing on some LBO deal and how they'd be flying in on their Maglevs to celebrate. So I knew there'd be rich pickings. We came ready with our playing cards, each with a picture of an eligible Overlord likely to be at the resort. The boy and I spent the stretch between dinner and bedtime memorizing their faces, using DigiShop to see what they'd look like with ski goggles, so we'd be ready.

 

The next morning was a fine day, bright and sunny, and warm enough to bring out the Overlords. The kind of day that makes you proud the earth got created. The boy and I had talked through our plan the night before. We figured each Overlord was good for three, maybe four runs before the pack broke for a meal. We'd use their first run to size 'em up; who was carrying good meat; who was being shielded by Protectors; whether we should set traps or cut one down by spear. The second run would be the time to strike and if it went south, we'd still have a chance on the third, provided we hadn't spooked em.

 

The first skiers came along ten minutes after the lifts started up, but they were only Ski Patrol out to check conditions. Then the pack started running, first one, then another, just like we'd hoped. The females were using Protectors, so we wrote em off. But the males were toughing it, wanting to show who was alpha. More to the better, the steep run was making em spread out. We figured we could take one down and get it under cover before the next skier got wind of us.

 

We'd marked five males using our cards after the first run. The boy was excited like I hadn't seen before and it was all I could do to hold him back, teach him the importance of waiting till the time was ripe. I told him we'd assume strike positions behind some bush before we saw one of our bucks on his next pass, have a pretend throw at the second, and take down the third by atlatl. That would leave us with two backup targets.

 

And that's what we did. The catch struggled some and I had to dispatch it with my club. The boy helped me drag it off the trail, where we could clean it out of sight. We just had time to scuff snow over the blood before the next skier came along.

 

I had to dig deep to hide the curée. Then I draped the catch with a No-See-Um to block any subcutaneous transponder signals my e-ZapR hadn't deactivated. Thing I like about Green's No-See-Um® blanket is how it absorbs a broad spectrum of electromagnetic emissions while still being light weight, easy to pack and available in a range of sizes and colors, including Woodland Camouflage and Highland Tartan, dry clean only.

 

We knew there could be Protectors round any time and we had to be careful. Even though we had rights to the Overlord, I've heard stories about poachers, some of them Protectors even, who'd take a catch from the rightful owner and claim it was theirs. So we dug in till dusk, when we knew the lifts would stop. We waited a bit for the last skiers to pass before we set out. I wanted to put some miles between the resort and us before nightfall, and was hoping we'd get snow again so we couldn't be tracked.

 

But nature wasn't obliging this time, so the boy dragged some branches to eradicate our traces as I led the way, with the catch lashed onto a small sledge I'd fashioned. We soon heard a search party behind us, calling out "Lord Marston, where are you, M'Lord," but by then the shadows were too deep for anyone to sight us.

 

The mountain was wicked cold that night. I felt sorry for the boy. He put a brave face on it but I could see how he missed his warm bed. And our food was low, just some venison jerky, dried apples and hazelnuts. I guess we ate too well the first night. So I cut off some of the Gluteus Maximus and gave it to the boy. I told him how proud I was of him and that he'd earned the first bite. When we got back to the truck next morning, I called Peg we was coming in, so fire up the smoker. Then I posted photos of us with the catch and registered the take on EATS.

 

I know what people say: how can you consume your own kind? It's murder; it's worse than murder. I thought like that for a while. The Golden Rule, the Fifth Commandment; Title 17-A Section 201 of the Maine State Criminal Code. They're all against this, right?

 

Then I remembered Genesis 1:26 — thou shalt have dominion over the beasts of the field and so on. Is that what we are to the Overlords? Beasts of the field? Maybe it's true what some of em say: they're better than us, more intelligent, evolved, a different species even; risk-takers well-adapted to this modern age through natural selection and good breeding; that we're just resentful lay-a bouts who begrudge them their success.

 

But if you ask me, I think the high court got it right in Estate of J.R. Hopkins v. Jim Bob's Safari Expeditions — they ARE a different species. Who am I to know what God intended? I take guidance from the law; if it's legal, it must be OK with HIM.

 

Even with all that philosophy, people say Overlords don't offer much food value, once you consider the time and cost to bring one in, why bother? I know that's probably true if you just run the numbers. But I know something else. That this is my birthright, that this is what a man does to lead — not just feed — his family, to be one with nature like we were in the Stone Age. So I say the Overlords can have their privileges and leave us to scrape by. But there's one thing they can't have. When I saw the smile on my boy's face as he took that first bite, I knew what it is to be a provider, to be a Dad.

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