Title: Lost Sheep
Characters: Beck, Heather and Others
Disclaimer: No, still don't own Jericho and hoping we're going to get a movie and/or a Season 3 on Epix that includes all the characters and actors I love. Anyway, just having a little fun - not profit. No characters or fluffy plot bunnies were harmed in the creation of this fic. Non-fluffy plot bunnies, on the other hand, are on their own. ;)
Unbetaed. All mistakes are my own.
Camilla arrived after breakfast, and turned out to be a strikingly beautiful African-American woman in her thirties. Beck's jaw literally dropped when she walked in the room, much to Heather's surprise, and, she had to admit, amusement. It wasn't often that she saw Beck knocked off balance by anything, although he quickly recovered.
Camilla pronounced Beck fit enough to get out of bed, praised his hard head and warned him that he'd have a headache for a few more days.
"I'm impressed that you stayed in bed," Camilla teased gently as she checked the wound on his arm. "You were unconscious the last time I saw you, but you certainly don't strike me as someone who would be a good patient."
"She hid my clothes," Beck muttered, shooting a speaking look at Heather where she was standing by the window. Heather stared serenely back, thinking that there had been an evil glint in his eyes when they were arguing that told her he would have walked around in the borrowed boxers and nothing else if Camilla had withheld her blessing to leave the bed.
Camilla chuckled lightly. "Good thinking," she complimented Heather. "You can let him get dressed now, though. And welcome to Antelope Wells." With those words and a grin, Camilla left them alone.
Heather went out to the car and brought in their gear and Beck left the bedroom to get showered and dressed. Frankie assured her that there was plenty of water, and that Heather would be able to wash her clothes whenever she wanted, so she took the opportunity to change into her spare set of clothes.
"Ready to go?" Frankie asked after Beck met Frankie and Heather in the livingroom, At their nod, she led them out the door.
Beck and Heather blinked in the sun, and surveyed the place. It was a tent city with the tents seemingly pitched wherever there was room and without any apparent rhyme or reason. It was somewhat reminiscent of a Renaissance Fair as each tent had something unique and colourful flying from it for ease of identification.
Upon closer inspection, however, Heather realized the tents were arranged in a rather haphazard semi-circle around the only permanent buildings in the settlement - two identical double-wide trailers, one of which they had just left, on either side of a low-slung, one-storey building. The end result was an ad-hoc town square, although there was nothing "square" about it, and definitely nothing "town" about it, either. It was bare, hard dirt with a fire pit in the middle and nothing else. Heather thought Jericho was a small town, but it was a bustling metropolis compared to this place.
"Our intel said there were 10,000 people here," Beck said, his voice carefully neutral.
"Well, I think that 10,000 people have passed through, but we certainly couldn't support that many for any length of time," Frankie replied. "Right now, we have 113 people who have decided to stay here, and 43 people who are currently passing through - not counting you two. Anyway, the people passing through will stay here until they rest up, and decide where they're going to head next. Some of them may decide to settle here permanently, although it's too soon to tell."
"Passing through?" Heather asked curiously.
Frankie nodded, then gestured for them to follow her. "Antelope Wells is...was a border crossing. After the Attacks, and after the cities erupted into riots and violence, a lot of people headed south towards Mexico, hoping they could find help and sanctuary there. I was one of them, and among the first people here. The customs employees had left at some point, and really,who could blame them?
"Anyway, Mexico had already closed their borders, so we ended up with a huge number of desperate people with no place to go. Our standard operating procedure now, which started as a whim more than anything else, is to have everybody fill out a customs form - just so we could later say they had been here, and with any luck, say where they had gone next. We hoped it would help families find each other, when things finally got back to something approaching normal."
"What happened to them all?" Heather asked.
"Well, it depends. Right after the EMP, which sent Mexico into its own tailspin, quite a few people slipped across the border. The Mexican customs officials across the way there," she gestured to the south, where Heather and Beck could see an identical set of permanent buildings, "were kind enough to look the other way; even suffering the effects of the EMP they were still in better shape than we were. Most people headed into Texas, though, and some went north." Frankie shook her head as she opened the door to the one-storey building.
"The Mexicans want to provide more help but by the time they were in a position to do that, the ASA had come into existence, and basically told them their assistance wasn't welcome except through strictly official and tightly controlled channels. Of course, the ASA didn't know about us until a couple months ago, so we didn't know the borders had been closed. I've always suspected our colleagues across the border knew, but just ignored the directive. Regardless, we have some established...unofficial channels to get supplies and help. That's where Tomas comes in."
As she spoke, Frankie led the way to a back office, nodding hello to the two people who were working in the office and the three or four people who were waiting for service. Frankie knocked once on the open office door and led the way inside. The man behind the desk stood as they came in. He was of medium height, mid-forties, Hispanic and stocky with black hair, chocolate-brown eyes and a broad, open face. He wasn't exactly handsome, but he radiated vitality and charm.
"Ah," he said, "our wounded soldier."
Beck and Heather stared at him.
"I can recognize a military man when I see one," he shrugged, "especially when you're standing." He came around the desk and shook Beck's hand. "I'm Manny. Nice to meet you when you're conscious." He smiled widely, and something about that grin reminded Heather of Stanley, and she felt a sudden sharp pang of homesickness.
Beck gave his quirk of a smile. "Glad to be conscious this time around," he replied.
"And Heather, good to see you again."
She smiled and shook his hand. She had been too worried about Beck and his unconscious state to be very sociable with Manny and Booker the night before.
"Has Frankie given you the ten-cent tour?"
"Not yet," Frankie replied. "I brought them straight here."
Manny nodded. "Camilla told me you're looking for Simone and Maggie Beck. You know they're no longer here?"
Beck and Heather nodded.
"Gregory isn't due back for three weeks - he's off hunting. But if they're still in New Mexico, he'll know where they are, or he'll be able to find them."
"How - " Beck started.
"Gregory is the last of the mountain men, I think," Frankie replied, affection in her tone. "He roams all over the state, and I think he knows, or knows of, every pocket of survivors around. He makes this his home base, but he goes out every month or so, and spends three to six weeks hunting. Not for us," she clarified, "for them."
"Anyway, you just missed him," Manny said. "There may be people here who know where Simone, Maggie and the others were headed, so feel free to ask around. We can also get Tomas to ask questions when he heads north later this week. But it will take him about three weeks to make his circuit - he has people depending on his supply runs." Manny shook his head. "Quite honestly, Gregory is going to be your best bet."
Beck nodded. "Okay," he sighed. "We wait for Gregory, if we can't find anybody else who knows something. We do have a tent; where would you - "
"No, no," Frankie interrupted, "I have room. Manny and I each have three bedrooms which is why we act as hotels when necessary. And it's only for three or four weeks at most."
Beck assessed her silently, his head cocked to one side. He wondered what was behind the hospitality, and just how far he could trust the people in this place. They had heard of him, after all, and he was sure the ASA, J&R and Ravenwood would pay handsomely for information about someone asking about his family, even if they didn't know it was him.
"You'd be doing a good deed," Frankie added persuasively, and Beck frowned. He glanced at Heather, and saw that she was frowning as well. And then she glanced at him and nodded.
"Okay, okay. We'll stay with you, Frankie," he sighed.
"Good," Manny said, rubbing his hands together, "that's settled. Now, let's show you two around, and see what we can find for you to do while you're here." He grinned at their expressions. "You didn't expect a free ride, did you? Come on, we'll give you the tour and get you settled."
As Beck followed them out the door, he wondered just what, exactly, they had gotten themselves into.
A/N: Antelope Wells is a real place in New Mexico. It really is a border crossing, and the only people there are the customs employees. I intended to be very accurate in terms of geography but couldn't read the maps well enough to describe the geography. So, for the purposes of this story, everything other than the place name and location is all made up. :)