Cathy sat uncomfortably on a fold-up chair on the front veranda of her house. It was a glorious late March day. The sun cut through the air and rested on the earth like a knife. Cathy was glad she was in the shade. She took a sip of coffee and waited for the familiar wave of nausea to rise and settle in her throat. She let out a long sigh as the coffee sank to her stomach, and the expected nausea failed to follow. She smiled and looked out over the small community. As a First Nations person, she was happiest on her own traditional lands, her country. She held the coffee mug in one hand and rubbed her belly with the other. Her belly was growing a little each day, and she felt both relaxed and glad. She was also very tired but relieved that her two boys and the other Indigenous people had been rescued. Her ankle was still bound and rested on a small stool before her. She had walked to her seat with some pain and with the aid of a walking stick. She had also broken a rib or two in her fall onto the deck of the Boston, which caused some difficulty breathing even as she sat.
Two weeks had passed since their chase to Sydney, the battle to rescue the captives and her children, and all her injuries were mending well. Jack also recovered quickly. His leg wound was not serious, and while he hobbled for a few days, he was soon striding about as usual.
Jack came and stood next to her. He was limping only a little now, and he rubbed his injured leg as he stood. He was tall and in his late twenties, but his hair was going grey, and his pale skin looked battered and scarred by his efforts fighting the ambos, the community’s word for the turned.
He smiled and looked down at Cathy. “Nice day. Hot one coming.” He bent and kissed her cheek. Then he placed his hand over hers as she continued to rub her belly. “I still can’t believe I’m going to be a father,” he said softly.
Cathy smiled. “I can’t believe it either.” She squeezed his hand and cheekily winked up at him. “What was I thinking?” she jested.
“Hey,” Jack said, pretending to be hurt at her joke as he drew his hand away quickly. They each giggled like high school children in love for the first time. “Will you talk to Wyatt and Noah today?”
The giggles stopped with the question, and Cathy was drawn back into the seriousness of their situation. She took a sip of coffee. “Yes, it’s time.”
Cathy could see many of the community members going about their work. They had been busy since their return, but she knew there were still some important things to do.
Deepak and Darren saw to it that the fence line, especially near the sally port where the marines had broken into the community, was improved and guarded by one of the community members at all times. They had only ever seen the sally port gate as an escape or exit, but the incursion of the marines and their abduction of the Indigenous members of the community had convinced everyone that the eastern side of the fence line needed greater protection.
Laurie and Bert had supervised the construction of a new lookout tower near the main gate and on the eastern side of the boundary fence, and soon they were able to observe the approaches to the community from the south, east, and west. While they were building the sally port tower, Laurie had found the small tracking devise abandoned in the dirt. Art the American marine lieutenant, had thrown it there on his retreat with the Indigenous captives before they had been taken to Sydney. He took it to Cathy and Jack, who recognised it as the same sort of device that Jack had removed from his leg in Sydney and that Laurie had found in Roger’s Global Rest Consortium’s (GRC) leather bag. They showed it to Rose, the American female marine sergeant who had stayed with them after the battle in Sydney, and she advised its immediate destruction. Jack used the hilt of his knife to destroy the small silver object.
Once it was in pieces, Jack said, “That should be the end of our troubles with the GRC.” Rose looked sceptical but didn’t say anything.
Trees obscured the creek line to the north of the community, and the deep creek bank to the north of the compound remained their primary weak spot. Jack and Laurie decided this should be a priority once the new tower had been completed.
Rose had been slow to embrace her new surroundings. Like Jenny, the Chinese pilot, she had never been to Australia before, and the gum trees, kangaroos, dry paddocks, long, slow sunsets, and peacefulness of the bush were all new to her. She struggled to comprehend it all after growing up on the busy, noisy streets of New York City. There were other new sounds to adjust to: the sound of kookaburras calling the day into being and the screech of red-tailed cockatoos and their cousins, the sulphur-crested cockatoos. At first, they alarmed her as they flew low overhead, squawking loudly. There was also the constant mooing of the cattle and the sound of the wind as it blew through the gum tree branches at the creek and the watchtowers near the gates. Soon they were a welcome reminder that she was in a new land. She felt safe here, away from the continuing zombie war in the United States and the global reset being played out by the rich assholes she had once served. She moved into a cabin of her own, and after a few sleepless nights, she slowly became accustomed to her new world. She felt genuinely happy and thought she really was in a “lucky” country.
The community too soon adjusted to having new members. Noah and Wyatt had come from Darwin. Noah made friends with Maurice, the Aboriginal Elder who’d come from Port Augusta, and the other Aboriginal men, and he saw Wyatt less, although they remained strong friends. Noah and Cathy spoke at length about the situation in Darwin, where the Indigenous community leaders had taken control of the city and locked up all the non-Indigenous people. Cathy also wanted to speak with Wyatt, but she was waiting until she felt rested and ready. Cathy wanted to understand why things had deteriorated in Darwin and what, if anything, they could do about it.
Julie and Barry continued to live in the little house in front of their growing chicken stock. Barry, an ex-soldier, was becoming frustrated as his slowly healing broken leg kept him away from the action and prevented him from fighting to save Ironbark Creek. He had been with the others in the fight at Sydney, but Julie could see that he was feeling restricted and unable to help as much as he’d wanted to, and he could see Rose and Jenny contributing more than he could.
Cathy asked Julie, with her increasing technical knowledge, to examine the two solar-powered vehicles and see if she could replicate the technology and build other vehicles or motors that used the power of the sun. Cathy hoped that they could save their limited fuel supply. Julie jumped at the opportunity, and she spent hours each day exploring and testing the solar panels and the power they generated. Julie had announced to Cathy that she suspected she was expecting a baby, although she was only in the early stages of the pregnancy. But Cathy thought something didn’t sound right. Although Julie put on a happy face, Cathy wondered if being pregnant were something Julie was pleased about. It must be the added stress of these challenging times, Cathy concluded.
As Cathy rested and the day wore on, Noah and Wyatt joined her on the veranda. Wyatt reluctantly explained the situation in Darwin, how he had escaped and how he and Noah had survived by helping each other in Camooweal. Their use of solar-powered cars intrigued Cathy, and she asked how efficient they were. Wyatt and Noah had found them at Elliott in the Northern Territory and used them to travel to Ironbark Creek.
Wyatt said, “Finding the solar cars was more a case of good luck than good planning, but the car saved my life.”
As he spoke, he was reminded that Noah had been trying to catch and maybe even kill him when they had met in t
Ironbark Creek: Home, Land and Country is the third book in the Ironbark Creek trilogy. In it, Cathy, Jack and others resolve to travel to Darwin and try to rescue the captives there. The community at Ironbark Creek though face other challenges as the Global Reset Consortium seek their capture or destruction. However, their biggest threat comes from closer to home as they all fight to survive in the dystopian new world after the ‘turning’.
About the Author
David has lived and worked in rural and remote parts of Australia and Africa. He has an extensive academic publication history and this is his 5th fiction novel. He also writes and performs Australian bush poetry.