Sung Home: Chapter Thirty Three. {fiction}

Frank spoke again, “That’s when it became a little sketchy. We walked slowly through the forest, away from the road, checking for signs of people.

We had to backtrack and find another way several times because we kept coming to places that looked like people lived in them.

All we knew up to that point is that Tochuku had some idea where he might find some electronic gear. Stuff for the solar systems, maybe computers, stuff like that.

The monks had told us how to get to the university, which did have people living there. The monks call them Uvies. They said it was pretty well-defended. I had thought many times since before we even left that anything of value must have long since been found by others. I honestly didn’t think we had much of a chance of coming back with anything we could use.

But he seemed so sure, and I thought it would be good to see what was going on anyway, since it’s the nearest populated area.

Anyway, lucky for us, the place that Tochuku wanted to go was an old maintenance shed at the far northwest corner of the University property, away from the dorms and bigger halls.”

At this point in Frank’s tale, our normally aloof genius, Tochuku, smiled like the Cheshire cat. Ching Shih had a bemused look on her face, shaking her head slightly. Everyone else looked at Frank in silent, rapt, attention.

“We sneaked over there in the dead of night,” Frank continued, “after holing up for the day in an abandoned house on the north edge of town. Tochuku takes us to this grey cinder block building not much bigger than a double garage. He pulls a key out of his pants, sticks it in the doorknob, and turns. Then he uses the key on the dead bolt. And it turns too.”

Frank paused to look around at our astonished faces. Tochuku looked like a kid who had gone around to the same houses twice at Halloween and had scored the mother lode of all candy stashes in the process. I had never seen him grin so broadly, white teeth sparkling in the sunlight.

Frank resumed, “We go into the building and it looks just like any other maintenance shed you’ve ever seen in your life. Weed-eaters, shovels, rakes, clippers, garbage bags — stuff like that. But there’s one more thing. There is a big wooden panel in the cement floor at the far end of the shed, with a handle on it. Tochuku lifts this panel, and what do you know! There’s a wooden ladder leading down beneath this stupid shed.

Tochuku, you gotta tell this part… ,” said Frank.

Looking ready to burst, Tochuku said, “Yes, okay. Yes. Well… you know I was going to school in Las Cruces, right?” We all nodded.

“Well, before that, I went to Western New Mexico University, in Silver City. In fact, I had just moved to Cruces, to start my PhD work. I had come back to go camping with my friends, yes, but I had also planned to go to the shed to get the rest of my things to take to Cruces. But I never got the chance, of course.

I found out about this place under the shed because I had gone there to ask the maintenance man to borrow a shovel one day and I saw a guy coming out of that hole. I asked what that was for, and he told me that it was where they stored some hardware and that there was a workbench down there as well, but they didn’t use it much.

See, I had been having a hard time because I wanted to do some things that required special cutting-edge equipment, but things got stolen a lot in the dorms. So, I asked the maintenance guys if I could use that place to store some things and to work there. And they said yes.

I had been learning to use a couple of 3D printers, had some solar projects I was working on, a new compact wind generator, and I had bought a ham radio like I had as a child. And a brand-new computer. A really good one. With good engineering programs and other design programs installed.”

Turning to me, Tochuku continued, “And something for our librarian.”

“Huh?” I said, baffled. What could he possibly be talking about? What does a librarian need besides books, except for maybe pens, ink and paper to make more?

“I have two hand-held scanners that I bought on a whim. It’s the newest technology. You just press the device against the center of the front of a book and it scans and saves every page. They came with readers too. I have two sets, one for you and one for me to keep, maybe to replicate if I can.”

The implications of what he was saying sank in bit by bit. He had a computer to design things. He had 3D printers to make things. He had solar equipment, and a wind generator that could be replicated by the 3D printers. And a way to expand my library, if I could find books to scan. I felt thunderstruck by the possibilities.

“What’s a ham radio?” Hallie asked.

“It’s a kind of radio that you can use communicate with people anywhere in the world if done right, and they can communicate with you,” said Gary in an awed tone, also processing the possibilities implied by Tochuku’s new equipment.

“You mean…” I began, then stopped.

“Yes,” said Gary, “it means we can communicate with others. All over the world, possibly. We can find out what has happened elsewhere, not just nearby. At least places where others have ham radios.”

An animated silence settled upon us all as the potentials percolated through our astonished brains. We could increase our electrical output through improved solar and by adding wind-generated electricity. The 3D printer could make things that we need, or even just want. And we could find out what was happening in the rest of the world with the ham radio.

In one short, strategic, trip into town, Tochuku had dramatically increased our community’s long-term viability.

Later that evening, after Kate and I had put Ben to bed, Kate asked, “Kind of interesting, isn’t it? What Ben said about the Mongolian tents, the yurts?”

“Yeah. Interesting, for sure. Has Ben ever been known to have intuitions like that?”

“Not that I’ve ever heard.”

The next day, we all gathered again, taking most of the day off our usual work to discuss the prospects that our new capabilities might afford us. There was a lot of excitement about what we could do with more electricity, Tochuku’s engineering programs, the 3D printers and the ham radio. I was the only one excited about the book scanner.

On top of all of this, the monks had told them about another group, the Makers, towards the south end of town, who had a lot of technology.

“We could trade with them, information for information, technology for technology,” Tochuku observed. “The monks said that it would be hard, because the slavers were constantly hunting for new slaves,” said Frank. “Although, they did say they didn’t go out as much at night. Maybe we could sneak our way over to them. It’d be risky, but yeah, it could be worth it.”

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.


Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home’ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.


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