Haven Page 40


“Because she never had anything nice to say about anybody. She was angry that she got turned away from here and the treehouse. She was bitter about being rejected.”


“It was her own damn fault,” said Paci.


“Yes, but she never saw that. She thought that everyone was stuck up. That’s what she always said. So when you sent her to the Amazons, I think she worked to get in with the birds there, too. See that entry?”


She pointed to another line a few above the messages I’d just read.


Greasy flea on the birds. Pest. Got any remedy?


“Greasy flea?” I asked.


Jenny shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. “You know how her hair is always greasy and stringy … they call her a greasy flea, I guess.”


“What did you answer them?”


“My answer?” She shrunk down so that her head was practically resting on her shoulders, her neck disappearing.


“Yessss …,” prompted Paci.


“I told them: Trial by error.”


“Oh boy,” I said, smiling at the cleverness of it. “I hope she never read that.”


“If they translate their messages like we do and keep them in a book, then she did. But whether she’ll know there’s a code in a code is another thing. Looks like she doesn’t.”


“Why do you say that?” I asked, looking down at the book again.


“That second message wasn’t sent by the regular code-keeper. It’s too plain. In regular English. We never send codes like that or they’d be too easy to figure out.”


Paci took the book from me and studied it for a little while. “You’re right. All these are just a bunch of goofy stuff if you don’t have the context.”


I put two and two together. “So that means if the code says ‘friends are coming welcome them in’, and it wasn’t the code keeper who sent it …”


“And it was Gail or one of her friends who sent it …,” added Paci, sounding just as sickened as I felt.


“Then you’d better get ready for someone not very friendly to be coming to the gates very soon,” finished Jenny. “Someone you don’t want to let in.”


Paci and I took one look at each other and ran for the front of the building.


I yelled as I went. “Jenny! Send a message to anyone you can! Tell them you think the EWS has been compromised at the Amazon point!”


“I can only send there!” she yelled. “The birds only go one place!”


“Send it anyway! Maybe someone there who’s on our side will get it!”


“Wait!” she yelled.


I stopped, letting Paci pass me by.


“We have an alert code for this situation. Should I use it?!”


“Yes!”


I left Jenny to her messages and ran for the door to the compound, getting there just behind Paci.


He threw the door open for me. “Where are you going?” he asked, breathing heavily.


“I’m getting Peter and the City Manager Group. We need to get our defenses up and ready. Everyone needs to get armed.”


“I’ll sound the alarm,” he said.


“Good. See you out front.” I turned to run to the hallway.


Paci grabbed my hand and pulled me back, spinning me in his direction.


“What?!” I asked, freaking out as I imagined a whole army of canners descending on Haven while we were all peacefully hanging around, building bathrooms and sheering sheep.


“Just this,” he said, pulling me to him and pressing his lips to mine.


We’d both been running, and our upper lips were sweaty. The salty droplets pushed down to our lips as they smashed together. His hot, slippery tongue came out to invade my mouth before my brain even had time to compute what was happening.


Maybe I should have complained or shoved him away, but I didn’t want to. I’d missed him, watching him all this time being stoic and strong and good to everyone around him. Happiness was in such short supply and life was so damn unpredictable; I had to grab the bits of it I could when they presented themselves.


I turned my head and deepened the kiss, pulling him tighter to me.


He moaned and wrapped his arms around my back, going so far that his fingers rested around the edge of my ribs and touched the edges of my breasts.


“Whoo hooo, somebody get me the fire extinguisher!” yelled Fohi, coming out of the nearby hallway. He was clapping his hands. “Check it, Fuzzybeans. Those are called lo-vers. Maybe someday you’ll have one.”


I broke off the kiss, leaving Paci with a stormy look on his face. “Later.” I smacked him lightly on the cheek. He released me so I could run over to Fohi.


“Whoa, what? Am I next?” A huge grin split Fohi’s face and he opened up his arms. “Come to Papa.”


“Canners on the way. I need you to arm everyone up, now.”


“Is this a drill?” He dropped his arms at his sides, his game face instantly in place. He’d been practicing for this event three times a day, every day since he was able to walk again.


“This is not a drill. This is the real deal. They’re on their way, and Gail is coming with them.”


“That bitch.” Fohi reached behind him and pulled out a big white canister.


“What the hell is that?” I asked, totally confused.


Fohi wiggled his eyebrows at me. “Got my own little early warning system.”


He lifted the device above our heads and pressed a button on the top of it.


Three things happened simultaneously:


A very loud air-horn blast ripped the air around us, sending my eardrums into painful spasms.


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Fuzzybeans immediately decided that Fohi’s shoulder was a very dangerous place to be and detached a section of his back skin in her hurry to leave.


And Fohi’s recently regained balance abandoned him. Rocketed forward by the unexpected sting of kitty claws, Fohi fell into me, sending us both into a pile of arms and legs on the floor.


***


Paci helped me to my feet, nudging Fohi farther away with his foot once he had me up.


“Idiot,” Paci said. “Put that damn air-horn away before you destroy everyone’s hearing.”


People were pouring out of the hallways and in through the front door.


“It worked, didn’t it?” Fohi was on his knees, trying to regain enough balance to get up.


Rob came striding in with Winky at his side. Both of them had pink, flustered faces and stopped to help Fohi.


“What’s up?” asked Winky, letting Fohi go when he was standing.


“Canners are coming, we think. Everyone needs to arm up,” I said.


I caught Peter’s eye as he came into the room.


The crowd was getting louder and louder as the word spread across the room.


“Listen up, everyone!” yelled Paci.


The room went dead silent.


“We think we have a group of canners coming. We don’t know how many people or the exact details, other than they’re coming soon. We need everyone to get armed and in position. We could be in position for a day or several. It’s hard to say as you can imagine.”


“How do you know this?” asked Trip. He was standing next to Peter.


“We got two messages from the Amazon contact today. We’ll discuss it with you in a minute. But we think Gail is behind it and will be coming with them. She is not to be trusted, no matter what she says.”


Before it could get loud again, I spoke up. “Peter and his city crew, come with me. Derek’s crew meet in the armory to get armed first. The rest of you with Paci and Trip. Do it like we practiced.”


There was a crush of bodies for a minute or so while everyone headed in different directions and tried to move around the lobby to get there. Eventually, I had the whole city corp with me in the corner. There were about fifty kids there in all.


“What’s happening?” asked Peter, coming to stand next to me. Winky was right behind him.


“We got two messages, very mysterious. First one said Gail is with the canners and did something to the bird feed, and the second one said some friends are coming and to welcome them in.”


“What’s so alarming about that?” asked Winky.


“Whoever sent it didn’t know the code. So we have to assume it’s someone faking it.”


“Gail.” Winky’s face got red. I sensed the berserker coming online.


“I think so. What do we have ready to go?” I asked Peter.


“Well, we have the pits dug, if they decide to try and get past the concrete barriers that are already out there. Of course, Gail knows where most of them are. Remind me to poke her in the eyeball for that if we see her. And we have several trip wires in place with grenades, but I caution against using them at all because they could breach our gate if something doesn’t fly right. You know it was Fohi out there directing traffic most of the time.”


“But Rob was there too, so we’re good,” said Winky.


I nudged her with my elbow but said nothing. We’d be girl talking later about her little love triangle.


“We have the watchtowers and all of them have a full stock of rifles.”


“Which Gail also knows,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Why did we have to let her in here? Someone remind me.”


“Because you’re not evil, that’s why,” said Peter. “Now, one problem … we have the long stretches of fencing where someone could cut and get through. We need to have people all along the edges. I’ve got several barriers up inside the fence line for those watchers to hide behind, and we have the dogs.”


“Do we want to risk the dogs?” I asked. “We use them with the animals and everything else.”


“How about Buster?” suggested Winky.


Peter hit her lightly on the arm. “You aren’t suggesting we use Buster as a watchdog are you?”


“Why not? Everyone has to pull his weight. Even the naked poodle.”


“Buster’s going to get involved even if we try to keep him out. He always finds a way to be a pest,” I said.


“I’m putting him in my cell,” said Peter. “They’ll shoot him to shut him up. Or poison him or something.”


“Keep all the dogs inside,” I said. “We can’t afford to lose the workers.”


“Not all of them are workers,” mentioned a kid who worked with the cattle.


“We have a shepherd and terrier that aren’t worth anything for that.”


“Fine. Take those two out and keep them behind a barrier outside, one on each side of the compound.”


He nodded and left to do what I asked.


I pointed to several other kids. “You guys go get armed and then find spots along the outside to protect the fences. Make sure every barrier has at least two kids behind it. Bring some water and food packets.


They took off running through the lobby to the far hallway that housed the armory.


I shook my head. The size of this place had seemed so ideal when it came to dreaming up what we’d need to house a lot of people. But it was suddenly much less ideal when it came to defending it. There were so many weak spots.


“What do you want the rest of us to do?” asked another kid.


“Go get armed up and come to the lobby when you’re ready.”


Winky, Peter, and I stood in the corner alone.


“What do you think’s going to happen?” asked Peter, looking out the front windows.


Everything was calm and cool outside. The sky was blue and the clouds puffy and white.


“Defend our home. What else can we do?”


“Let’s go get some guns and flak jackets,” said Winky. “I don’t like standing here by this window knowing some asshole canner might be looking at me through some binoculars.”


“Someone in the watchtower would sound the alarm if they saw someone.”

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