AFTER THE DAY: Timothy's History, the dispute, the travellers: Eavesdropping.

The next morning Sophie woke the 'travellers' and ate breakfast with them in the big hall. Lilly had been awake for two hours cleaning and searching the room from top to bottom, and end to end, convinced that it was possible a listening device might be hidden somewhere. She had turned all the tables over and scrutinised every chair. And though she had found nothing was still convinced the effort was worth it

My first act of the day had been to hunt down James. I found him sitting under his favourite tree. (the one he used to hide in as a child.)

He smiled at me, "I know what you want." He said.

I sat down next to him saying, "Normally I think I'd be scolding you, 18 or not I don't really approve of eavesdropping, but I think these are special circumstances."

"I learned my lesson a long time ago: like you told me eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves, it took me a year to firgive Leanne. But like you say these are special circumstances."

I looked at his broad grin, "Go on then, I can tell your dying to tell me."

"Well," he said, "There's a big tree at the back of the farm, and the branches rest against the wall. In one spot the wind moving the tree has knocked out some of the mortar, and just so long as there is no wind you can hear just about everything anyone says in the room, so long as they don't whisper too quietly. Which is why I hinted to Sophie that they should be in that room for the night."

This really surprised me, I had been convinced that room had been my idea. A part of me decided that I would have to watch what James got up to even more closely. For now I just said, "and what did you hear.

"Well they started off whispering, so I couldn't hear much at first, but like most people the whispers got lower after a minute or so, until they were almost talking normally. The 'old one' was complaining that he couldn't make us out. Everyone else they have offered electricity to has snapped it up straight away." James paused, he was tearing off little tufts of grass as he spoke, and he threw the hand full he had collected in the air and watched the wind take it away from where we were sitting.

Then he continued, "It certainly sounded like there were at least three other communities they have contact with. I think they call the smokers, Wilson town, but I might have misunderstood. They called their own community, 'The mountain." And they talked a bit about 'the doors,' but they seemed particularly nervous about being overheard when they did. But that's when the old one said, we were the oddest group he'd met, since 'the doors were opened.' One of the 'others' said that they wouldn't have any leverage if we were not buying coal from them. And then the second 'other,' said that the General would not be happy." James paused again, and another handful of grass went up into the air.

He went on, "The 'old one', didn't seem to think it would matter in the end, we are apparently just 1 community, we will join the 'federation' eventually, or. ." He paused again, with a more serious look on his face.

"Or what?" I asked, suspecting I knew the answer.

"Or we would be destroyed." James said.

"By the people of the mountain?"

"I don't know, I think the 'old one' just meant, such a small group would be destroyed one way or another." Said James throwing another handful of grass in the air.

I knew James might not have all the answers to my questions but kept asking anyway "Did they say anything else about the general?"

"No, but one of the others did say he thought it was odd we hadn't contacted other groups. But they seemed to think we were unusual in lots of ways. The wall surprised them apparently."

"Did they say why?"

"Usually groups have wooden defences, because they are easier to build, they also said it wasn't there before." James looked at me meaningfully.

"Which means they have been here before and we didn't see them."

"They seemed impressed by it, the 'old one' thought it would prove an obstacle for what  he called 'the locals.' I don't think it would stop the people of 'the mountain' though. They made a joke about it not slowing a tank down much. One thing seemed to really bug the 'old one'. He couldn'r figure out who was 'in charge'. It seemed like he thought, one of us must be the 'bossman' here, but he couldn't figure out which one, and he thought it was a rude of none of us to tell him."

We chatted for a little longer but there was not much more James could tell me. Lots of my fears had been confirmed by the conversation. This was a group from before 'the day' with advanced technology.

James told me John had asked him to quietly follow the travellers when they left. And I found myself wondering if the 'old one' knew James was listening, and the 'Tank' was just a way to try and scare us.

I tracked down John at the wall. It was indeed an impressive structure: on the low side of the hill it was about 12 feet high, on the up side about 5 feet high. I remember Terry explaining how he was going to build it: basically a retaining wall holding up the soil behind it, vertical on the hill side, and leaning backwards about 15% on the low side. 'Just a dry stone wall,' I remember him saying. But dry stone walls keep livestock in easily,  if built properly, so should at least slow any attacker down. Chang and Mark had helped him and they had taken stone from all the walls lower down the hill, it was neatly a mile long, and so far it had taken them 16 months to build. They were now 50 meters or so from finishing it, and today after the gathering had sensed Terrys dispair it seemed that half the community had joined in to help finish it off.

John was helping dig out the last of the foundations when I found him. I told him about my conversation with James. He rubbed his forehead with a somewhat pained expression on his face, and then held his chin as he thought for a moment.

"That pretty much settles it then," he said eventually, "we need to give the impression that we want an alliance of some kind, but without making ourselves clients of the 'people of the mountain.'

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