Chapter 5. Sherwood
The phrase “no one could have seen it coming” is almost never true. For every unlikely event there are dozens to thousands of people prescient enough to either try to prevent it or adapt to it. Martina Lamartine born in New Orleans in the summer of 1974 was one such predictor. She moved to from Louisiana to Greenwich CT in 2006 after her family home had been wiped out by a storm. She wanted to be as far away from levees and high water as she could while still being near the water. Greenwich and the long island sound seemed safe to her.
- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, line 154.

The Boston Post Road was empty of the usual foot traffic around lower Sherwood as Marto arrived from the Cross County. The day’s ride had been lonely and uneventful. He encountered a few travelers and caravans of autonomous containers making their way along the regular trade routes. Marto, like the well Merited, traveled light. He wore his new shirt, a skull cap, and a woolen kilt. In his single pocket he carried some seed bars for the first leg of his journey. He knew that everything else he would need during his trip would be offered. The last time Marto had peddled his way through here, there were pop up shops up and down this stretch of the BPR. This time, they were sparse. The unicycle hummed beneath him moving at a modest but easy clip. He was thirsty.

The BPR, as its travelers and carriers call it has remained the best kept up travel route along this part of the coast. Marto liked to think, thanks to his own publication, his first serious one in fact. The Merritt, heading off to the north, used to be the popular way to go, due to it’s size and name, but in recent years the BPR had risen in popularity. Since the tide, large lengths of old 95 had been washed out next to the eastern corridor tracks. Up ahead, even the BPR dove into the ocean, making Sherwood Hill a logical first stop on his tour.

Marto teetered on his neural connected powered unicycle a moment, before heading off onto a webbed dirt road to the north, in search of the local population. Some queries ahead showed that they were all locked in a MUC (multi user construct) of some sort. Further inquiries came up blank which was odd. Could be something tactical or a local private game. 

Then a grey bearded man in a green flannel shirt, walking a big brown dog appeared. Marto’s uni went out from under him.

“Don’t go up there, dude.” The old timer said aloud. He was a phobic, certainly. Marto could not ping him. “They don’t want to be disturbed.”

“Interesting. Why not? What’s going on there?”

“Sherwood tribe. They are locked in some kind of a group activity thing. I don’t know enough about it and I want to respect their privacy.”

“Well, I’m on my way to see them, and need a place to stop until they are ready. Do you have any water to share? I’ve been on the road all day.” Marto asked and looked around the path for homes. Nothing intact. They were too far from town.

“Yeah, I got some at my place. You’re welcome to join me. I was just going to have some dinner.”

[“Who is this guy? Ask him where he’s from.”] LalaUbriay thexted. The chatterers who had been following Marto from the start of his journey that morning had been quiet, with nothing eventful happening on the road, now began to debate the situation in earnest. This was a good sign for success of his trip. Intrigue cannot be manufactured, and when it happens, it’s always good for followership, which in turn is great for Marto’s Merit.

“Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.” Marto said walking with the man and the dog into the spindly woods. “What shall I call you? I’m Marto.”

“Gene Hernandez” the man replied over his shoulder. “I’m originally from a long way south of here. Used to be Kentucky. Just outside of Louisville. Whole state went mad. I was lucky to get out of there with Nero here.” he nodded to his dog.

[“be careful M.”] Dizzy chimed in. [“He might be a shooter. Definitely looks phobic.”]

“I walked all the way up here through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Now I guess most of it is called The Jersey. Long, lonely walk. We stayed clear of most people we saw until we got to a spot north of here. Found some of your friends I guess. They helped us out. I’ve been living here since the locals set me up.”

Marto could see a couple of homes up ahead. They were aiming for a red saltbox colonial style home fit with printed structures where storm damage hit. It was off on it’s own near the top of a hill, and looked inviting, if a bit desolate. Marto still felt some apprehension. He wished a tribal delegation had met him instead of this outsider.

“When I came through here last, I was met by a contingent of the local tribe. I don’t understand why they are not here.” Marto said, sounding a little nervous. Gene could tell.

“Listen, I don’t want to creep you out. We’re harmless, Nero and me. Sincerely. The tribe… they’re just locked in a thing. I can’t say that I fully understand it. I don’t have any goo in my head. They told me you would be coming through most likely and I was supposed to meet you until they’re … finished.”

Now Marto could see some chickens, goats and a horse near the old man’s house. Then he noticed the children. They were playing around the back between the houses, now visible from the approach. They registered as Sherwood tribe and thexted him bright hellos with pictures and invitations to games. They did not seem to be in any kind of distress. Some of Marto’s followers connected with them and sent light happy messages and greetings. Some even joined them in their games.

“As you can see,” said Gene, “I’m sort of baby sitting here today.”

“What brought you to this area?” Marto asked, enjoying the back and forth between the children and his followers.

“Well, I would have headed south, but it’s just dry and hot there. I’ve heard there were peaceful tribes around Texicohma and further west, but I was tired of all the hard scrabble feuding that came with the bikers and the Neofeudals. It’s a young man’s world and I really wanted some peace and quiet. I heard that it’s really quiet here in the northeast, so I thought I would go see for myself.”

“You didn’t want to head up to GreatLakes? Lots of peaceful tribes there. I’m assuming you don’t mind living on the outskirts of tribal life if they allow it.”

“It was more or less a coin-flip.” Queries came in regarding the meaning of the term. Marto let his other followers answer them. “I may not be connected to the network here, but I earn my way regardless. The others keep score for me. They don’t seem to mind. Some of them actually talk to me - I’m grateful for that.”

[“A phobic with Merit? That’s a new one!”] Trixie « Elizabeth « Catherine « Bonny « etc chimed in. [“I wonder if we should allow that here in Barrington?”]

This was succeeded by a heated debate on the pluses and minuses of opening a tribe up to those who were not connected. Security issues, integrity of the community, the back and forth was too quick for Marto to track while maintaining verbal communication with his host.

Gene’s home was tidy, and rustic. Inside were several infants dozing in cribs, 7 printed and one hand made, likely by Gene himself. One was sucking on a bottle filled with what Marto assumed was goat’s milk. They too were in no distress, tended by some of the older children present.

“Do you like eggs? I have plenty.” said Gene. “I also have some fresh bread from a local baker named Yisa if you like. Real good. No bacon though. I really miss bacon.”

“Eggs and bread would be great.” said Marto, concealing his distaste at the idea of pig bellies burning on the stove. His followers launched into diatribes at the barbarity of eating dead animal flesh. “Do you implant your livestock?” he asked Gene.

“Not me, but the tribe insists. We get some predators here and it’s safer. Plus some people like to ‘inhabit’ them for fun.” he said this with a slight shudder.

“What about Nero?”

“Well, that’s where I drew the line.” said Gene firmly. “The dog’s mine and I don’t want any of that goo up in his head. Doesn’t seem right,” he chuckled a bit “I mean he’s already smarter than I am, I don’t want him getting the upper hand, or else he will end up taking me for walks…. Come to think of it, maybe he already does.”

[“clearly pretty phobic.”] thexted Jin « Sara « Lisa « Susan « etc [“the man is still living in the dark ages. An old world name and old world habits. How does Sherwood allow him to invade their space like this?”]

Gene poached the eggs, and served them on top of toasted slices of yellow bread, with a dollop of habanero salsa. He had some roasted dandelion tea and served that along side. After a day’s travel with nothing to eat but honey seed bars, Marto found these offerings delicious and he said so. They ate on the back deck watching the children playing their invisible games. Gene had prepared some snacks for the children as well, and they would stop by and smile before digging in.

“So, what brings you here to Sherwood? You come far?” Gene was leaning back in his chair, preparing to light a pipe.

“Well, I …. Say, what are you smoking there?” asked Marto, indicating the wad of light green crammed into the old meerschaum. Unlike many of his stay at home friends back in Reverside, he had seen many people smoking before. Making a point of bringing it up was a just a tactic to whip up his audience, most of whom would find this exotic. He dimmed the inevitable storm of thexts expressing alarm and disgust, so that he could enjoy the moment with Gene.

“Oh, sorry, my home, you know. It’s a mix of marshmallow and some cultivated hemp. Packs a bit of a punch. Calms me down. Want some?”

“Cannabis. I’m familiar. No thanks. You grow it here?”

“Actually, the tribe does. You have to keep the females separated from all the other hemp plants, and those are everywhere you know. They have a series of glassed in gardens. Grow it for medicinal use. I get some as part of the deal I have here.”

“I would love to hear more about that deal in a bit, but to answer your question, I have just come east from Reverside by the Tappan Zee Bridge, down the remains of the Cross County and up the Post Road where you met me. I’m a travel writer of sorts. This is the first day of my new book tour.”

“Wow” said Gene, exhaling into the evening sky, “An actual journalist. I love it.”

“Actually, I think of myself as more of a traveling historian. I like to tie the present to the past.”

“Hmm, mostly I just try to forget the past and stay in the present. But I’m intrigued. Do you have anything I can read?”

“Well, not with me, but if you have some printer bots and some paper, I can export some of what I have so far. The thing is a work in progress.”

“Oh, I don’t keep too many bugs around. But I would really enjoy reading a copy of what you got. Maybe when the tribe wakes. Shouldn’t be too much longer.”

Gene Hernandez reclined back in his hand made rocker and puffed away, blissful. Marto decided to write a bit in the quiet of the early evening.

Martina ran a successful catering consulting business in Greenwich CT for a decade before signs that the rising tides were coming again, this time to everyone. She was distraught and alone in her perception, as real estate prices skyrocketed and the wealthiest continued to build sea-side palaces. She thought about moving inland, even though her home was above the eventual flood rise for the coming decades. She poured over topographical maps and knew that the ensuing chaos would reach her home on Sherwood lane before the water ever would. Facing a choice between moving her business and family to a new location, or digging in where she was she chose the latter. Her children thought she was crazy.
She expanded her basement and stockpiled cans of food, water, guns and supplies. Her husband humored her. They could afford it, and he knew he could not dissuade her from this new hobby, knowing her history. Before long, they lived atop a stocked bunker. Complaints from the neighbors and township poured in and threatened to remove them. The lawn turned brown, the pool stayed dry during the summer, and the paint peeled off their cheerful dutch colonial home.
Though Martina was prescient, she failed to anticipate some important details as events began to unfold. Disease and a drastic decline in birthrate quelled the wave of violence that she had so carefully prepared for. The onslaught that thinned out her part of the world was microscopic and Martina underestimated her own response to these catastrophes. When times got tough, she found she was more inclined to help than hide, and those who witnessed her kindness remembered it in kind.
- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, lines 158 to 162.

Marto could now hear Sherwood Tribe. He had some idea about why he could not hear them before. The children immediately started running off to the east along with the older kids carrying the infants, followed by the old man, and Nero. Gene was shouting “hang on now, slowly, slowly, wait for Gene!” Marto hopped on his uni and chased after them, down the path in the direction of the main community.

Sherwood was a walled town. This was neither usual nor unusual. Tribes had different defenses against the marauding phobics and feudals that raided the communities of New New England. Raiders came from the Gaplands between The Jersey and Great Lakes. Towns like Reverside have natural choke points like the Tappan Zee and bot-eyes north south and east. Other towns choose manufactured fortifications. Printed or fiber walls are not so much impenetrable as they allowed a 360 degree view of anything coming. Attackers stalled while the tribe prepared countermeasures. For Sherwood, a hilltop position gave them another advantage in any sort of skirmish. Their dark grey walls were sturdier than average, curving outwards like a gigantic black crown 5 meters tall.

Climbing the hill, the walls parted for the herd of children and one dog, closing before Marto and Gene arrived, out of breath.

"Nero?" Called Gene. “Hey! Gimme back my dog!”