This is Sacagawea. Here, the Mormon Church is a superpower.
Ah, the lands that fortify Butte, Montana... They just as much aestheticize this place. Or rather, they aestheticize the lands that surround the town. If Butte was a major city at the time of its founding...it will never outcompete Billings's relative sheen.
The Big Butte is still here; like this town's Statue of Liberty. Sadly, it's not an actual butte. Or rather, it's hardly the most aesthetic butte in this part of Deseret. There are more than quite a few buttes south of here that could put it to shame. For the time being, though, most of the natives would rather die than have the town's name changed. Many already have; and the town's name didn't change in their time, either.
The flag of Deseret flies high over this town...just above the Montana one. The skies over the city are near-polluted with California gulls. Some of them have parcels tied to their legs. All parcels are branded with the Mormon trumpet.
Anyway, enough about Butte. This story is mostly set in the wilds of Silver Bow County. The county is hardly the biggest in Montana; THAT would be Beaverhead County. Like Beaverhead Co, though, Silver Bow Co is in the Rockies. Beaverhead Co, by contrast, is farther south...and on the border with Idaho...a state which is also under Deseret's protection.
This is a ranch. Naturally, it's run by conservatives. Whether it's run by Christians or not is more debatable. It's certainly not run by Mormons. It's a land of goats, sheep, poultry, mules, boars, and bulls. There are also a few gardens that grow crops...what few crops will grow in this rocky soil...where winter often doesn't know how to end.
The dawn of spring has passed. And hence, may lambs, goat kids, hatchlings, mule foals, and hinny foals have been born. One day, their appendages will be in high demand. Some of them already are. And it's only a matter of time before their wardens learn the tragic news.
At some point, a few bullocks are brought to the ranch...as are a few lesbian heifers. Some of the bullocks are still calves. MOST of them are still calves. Elsewhere, in other corrals, some piglets and shoats are dropped off. They're all either male or lesbian. (The ones that are lesbian are shoats; otherwise, if they were still piglets, no one would know.) With respect to the lesbian shoats, one day the rest will become boars.
Initially, it happens slowly. One morning, the ranchers go to work. They do a head-count on the mule foals and lesbian hinny fillies...and discover that one's missing. His dam was a mare, of course. She was moody before...but she's even moodier, now that her baby's missing. She's now charging anyone and anything that comes near her.
There are bear tracks, near the trough where the mule foals and lesbian hinny fillies go to water. Clearly, someone's on the prowl. And they might not be taking prisoners. The ranchers here would be surprised if they were.
Next, a bullock calf goes missing. Lucky for the ranchers, his mother isn't here to try to avenge him. Some bulls are, though...as are a few lesbian cows. The lesbian cows have horns. Lucky for the ranchers, the lesbian cows don't charge anyone who comes near her. She does, however, keep a red gaze locked on anything that comes near her...
Once again, there are bear tracks near the bullocks'/lesbian heifers' drinking trough. Clearly, this bear has learned how to attain an easy meal in the past three months. And clearly, he can't keep getting away with it.
So, one of the ranchers is sent into the mountains, to do some moonlight work. In a way, it's a reconnaissance mission. In another, it's a stakeout. One way or another, the ranch is going to corner this son of a sow, and kill him before he kills anymore mule foals, lesbian hinny fillies, bullock calves, or lesbian heifers.
Meet Maurycy. He's a Polish Catholic migrant farmer. Or rather, he was. He's since settled on this ranch. He's not sure how he feels about bear-hunting, though. He knows he should; Poland, after all, has no shortage of brown bears. The Poles should be less ashamed of this. The Russian Oblasts, after all, take NO shame in their bear infestation. It's virtually their national mammal.
With him, into the Rockies, Maurycy takes a diverse team: a mule, a lesbian hinny, a jackass, a lesbian jenny, and a stallion. The stallion is sire to the jenny. The jackass is sire to the mule. The lesbian jenny prefers to remain anonymous. It takes a big lesbian, after all, to admit that she can't reproduce without a jackass's sperm...or a stallion's sperm, if she's trying to yield a hinny. Thank the fertility gods for artificial insemination.
The hinny is named Aldrif...after Odin's lesbian daughter, in Norse myth. She's got the right coat color for it, too; she's a sorrel. The jenny's name is Rūna, and she's named after one of the Valkyrior; angel-like creatures that ferried fallen warriors to the afterlife in Norse myth.
For this job, Maurycy's ranching partner has supplied him with a .45-70 Government lever-action rifle. It's the ideal rifle for hunting bear. Out here, they can get big; MUCH bigger than the black ones in Georgia. (And no, I don't mean the heavy-set black gay men in Atlanta.)
Maurycy rides up into the hills...seeking out the path that the bear is the most likely to take from his refuge to the ranch. (In doing this, he also finds the hole in the fence that the bear exploits to do this.) Alas, there's no sense in worrying about the fence when the bear already poses a threat to livestock everywhere. Once the bear is dead, only then can the fence start to matter.
Maurycy also doesn't want to make it too obvious that he's up there to snipe the bear. Otherwise, the bear will sense that something's not right, and he'll spook, and he'll run off to become a problem for another ranch. Or worse yet, he'll infest a ranch in Beaverhead County...or Idaho County, in the other state. This ranch does a lot of trade with the ranches in those two counties. The ranchers there would be tempted to change their minds, if word got out that this ranch let a bear get away, and become a problem for them. Hence, it's clear that the ideal camping spot lies somewhere between the bear's abode and the ranch fence.
If the bear were a human, Maurycy would have to camp at the ranch fence, to avoid breaking the law. But then, good thing for this time, the threat isn't human. And God-forbid if such a threat ever is. It probably will be, one day... But then, that would've been more likely 150 years ago.
There's a lake in the mountains. Mountains surround it...as does the taiga. A waterfall feeds it, from the northwest. The bear would expect to find campers here. But hopefully, he wouldn't hunger for them if he thought he could get livestock even farther downhill.
Here, Maurycy sets the horses loose, and pitches camp. Here, he loads his .45-70 Government...via its side gate. Here and there, the horses march patrols.
Alas, the stallion isn't very big. The mule is...and while he has inherited his sire's habit of protecting livestock, it might take more than him to take that bear down...or to stand his ground against a bear that big during a defensive. Maurycy might be surprised... But then, it's just too bad he's just brought along one mule.
Now, night starts to fall. Out there, the waterfall still flows. The horses are on patrol. The camp is pitched. The rifle is loaded. At some point, that bear is going to try again. And this time, the ranch is ready.
Tonight, Maurycy roasts some swine appendages...and feasts upon them. He's also brought some Polish vodka; not too much, just enough to ease his nerves. His ranching partner, O.T.O.H., is MUCH less self-restricting, when it comes to liquor. He sure can't seem to get enough of those Icelandic ales...or those Icelandic stouts, even.
Out there, owls hoot. About now, Maurycy's finished eating. So, he does his dishes. He hoists the grub bag into the air, between two trees, via rope. He scatters the fire's ashes. With a trowel, he shovels the ground some, where the fire burned.
Now, he crawls into the tent, and rests. He keeps his rifle close...and the muzzle pointed towards the door. It's...a bit harder to grab, that way...but at least he's less likely to shoot himself in the head in his sleep.
In a way, this is familiar. As a Pole, Maurycy realizes that this must be how a lot of his ancestors felt, on the night of August 31, 1939...the night before the Nazi-led Hessians, Saxons, Westphalians, Bavarians, and whoever else not brought WWII to Poland. But then, it seems more likely that at THAT time, at least, not so many Poles lived in tents. A few might've, though; after all, the last of WWI was only two decades old, at the time...and hence, Pomerania, for sure, was still recovering. But of course, Poland didn't really exist during WWI; hence, the Germans and Russians probably did an equal amount of damage to it...right up until 1917, when the war on the Eastern Front ended when the Russians withdrew to finish fighting their own civil war back home... In that war, the Poles were conscripted by both armies, and forced to fight each other. Maurycy still has no way of knowing if his ancestors fought for the Germans or the Russians in WWI...but then, it's probably fair for him to assume that his kin fought each other.
No surprise, Maurycy can't get to sleep. But of course, he's expecting to get attacked by a bear. Or rather, he's expecting his ranch to get attacked by the same. He hates to think that his partner would fire him, if he failed. But then, depending on for how much longer the bear gets away with this, it'll stop being so much a matter of getting fired as it'll start being about not having a job to do. Plus, if the bear eats all of the ranch's stock, he won't stop there. The neighbors' ranches will be next...assuming the bear hasn't raided those ranches already.
Hours pass. Maurycy doesn't sleep. Still, he lies still. He tries to exploit whatever peace he can feel in these war-influenced times...
He surrenders to his fear. At that, he starts to feel a bit like Scarecrow, Sinestro, or Psi from DC Comics...
It's all shattered, by and by, when he hears what he's come for. Something big approaches. And it's not the mule, or the stallion, or Aldrif.
Maurycy listens, as the bear lumbers down to the lake. He wades into it, until he's about chest-deep. There, he laps it up. He makes a lot of noise, while doing so. But then, bears are kin to dogs...
One tooth at a time, Maurycy starts unzipping the tent fly. Soon, he's made a little hole through which he can attempt to spy on the bear as he drinks. Alas, it's hard to do. The moon is not bright. Otherwise, Maurycy would be MUCH loonier than he is.
As much as bears love water, Maurycy's half-shocked that this bear isn't having a ball out there, right now. But of course, Maurycy's seen nature shows about this; and in such situations, there's often more than one bear to speak of. In a way, that makes sense; parties are more fun when multiple guests arrive. Clearly, this bear is all-business-and-no-family. But then, Maurycy also knows, from research, that bears trend towards solitude...contrary to how they often inspire gay men. Them, and the chickenhawks...and roosters...
By now, the hole in the fly is big enough for Maurycy to stick his arm through. So, he deviously reaches for a flare gun. It's loaded. He's been waiting for this.
Slowly, he protrudes his arm through the hole in the fly. He aims the gun into the trees, and gently pulls the trigger.
On the upside, the bear is so deafened by the sound of his own drinking, he doesn't hear the gun go off. On the downside, he does hear the explosion of green sparks in the sky. For this, he stops drinking, and freezes.
Maurycy takes this moment to reel his arm back into the tent. He'll need both hands, after all, to keep unzipping the fly. He softly blows the smoke off the flare gun's muzzle, after he's reeled his arm back in.
Outside, the bear sneezes, and keeps drinking. Soon after, Maurycy hears his horses whinny, from a distance. Perfect; they've seen the signal.
Now, Maurycy resumes work on the zipper. He's getting close...
Alas, he has to slow down even more, once the bear's had enough water. He makes a lot of noise, wading out of the lake. Once his paws are surfaced, he drips water, as he lumbers past the tent. For this, Maurycy freezes. By now, the tent fly is mostly open. Lucky for him, though, the bear's nose is so diluted by the water's essences that he doesn't smell what's inside the tent. He lumbers right past...but gets scarily close, while doing so.
With the bear away and opening, Maurycy can finally open the tent flap at a secure speed. Still slow, though, he grasps the rifle, stands, rises from the tent, and falls in step behind the bear. At any moment, he expects the horses to close in behind him...
They do better than that. They surround the bear, cutting him off. Aldrif takes point in a spearhead...that also consists of the mule and the stallion at the right and left flanks, respectively.
At last, Maurycy's in a spot, from where he can take the shot. Meters behind the bear's ass, he reloads the .45-70 Government, via its lever-action...
This, of course, causes the bear to hear the noise behind him. He lumbers about, stands on his hind legs, and takes a terrifying pose.
At this, Maurycy lowers his rifle, with a terrified expression on his face. Behind him, Rūna and the jackass both seem just as terrified...as they both inch back, away from their master...
Through the forests' trees, a California gull flies, bearing a Mormon alarm trumpet. He drops it, and flies off.
Throughout the mountains, the trumpet's noise can be heard. At the same time, someone gets mauled by a bear.
Back at the ranch, there's a house. Inside, there's a master bedroom. Around its bed, all over the floor, there are liquor bottles; mostly Icelandic ales, and Icelandic stouts...along with a few Irish whiskeys.
Einar, Maurycy's partner, sits bolt upright in bed. His eyes are bloodshot. He nearly hurls, and belches, as he rises. Clearly, he drank a lot last night. He shouldn't have. He knew, after all, that his partner was going up into the mountains to have words with that bear that's been raiding their stock's nurseries...
He stumbles about, while dressing. It's not even a full moon, and he's already had enough liquor to make Keith Whitley envious. He kicks the empty liquor bottles around, while dressing.
Soon, he's riding a lesbian jenny bare-backed, into the mountains. He struggles to stay aboard. This jenny sure is fast...if she even prefers to be called a jenny.
It takes her a while, but she gets Einar to the right place. By then, the bear has mauled Maurycy very badly. Nearby, some of the horses have been injured.
The alarm trumpet lies nearby. It's been mangled to uselessness. Clearly, it wasn't kosher. But then, Deseret is no Jewish state.
With a lever-action pistol, and drunk, Einar takes a shot at the bear...and hits Maurycy instead. He yells in agony, inadvertently begging the bear to maul him even more.
In his primitive mind, Einar throws the pistol away, and pulls a whistle out. He blows it.
Now, the bear freezes, just as he's about to finish Maurycy off. He seems skittish. So, Einar blows it again. Spooked, the bear runs away.
Shit; the bear got away. Hence, he's still a problem. Alas, that's not relevant right now. What's relevant is that Einar's got injured livestock, as well as a fatally injured partner, who needs medical attention.
What's almost as bad, another alarm trumpet of Deseret's Mormon regime has been totaled. That's surely going to cause a state deficit, to replace...
Through the sky, an air ambulance flies. Its white side bears the roundel of the Red Trumpet. (This, of course, is the Sacagawea equivalent of the Red Cross.)
This is the county hospital. As the medical center of a small population, it's never too busy. Every now and then, though, there's a natural disaster. Just as often, there's an armed robbery or a shooting.
Lucky for Maurycy, though, this is not one of those nights. Now, he lies in a hospital bed. The sheets are free of blood...although they might become urine-stained in a few hours. His arm is in a sling.
Half of his soul has been damaged...as has one of his chest muscles. The doctor says he'll need heart surgery. The bear also broke one of his femurs; hence, he'll be limping for a while, after he gets out of here.
He's had the heart surgery. For him, a very long night passes, as he recovers. On the upside, he's made peace with death...hence, this feels like bliss. On the downside, this would be awkwardly convenient if...
He wakes. And the lights of the hospital room hurt, as he opens his eyes.
Einar sits in the room. He stands, and approaches his partner's bedside, as he recovers. Maurycy manages to smile. At least the bear didn't damage his head...too much. Even so, he's got a few head bandages to speak of.
"Hi boss," Maurycy whispers.
"Don't call me that," he demands. "We're partners. You might be a Pole, but at least you're a good one."
"Did the bear get away?"
Einar frowns, and nods. "They've caught him. He's in a cage now."
"Somewhere in Beaverhead County. They've got him locked up. He's a star attraction over there, now." He sighs. "He might escape, and try to come back for more of our sons and lesbian daughters... But it's too early to say."
"Well, for our sake, I sure hope not." He gasps, while catching his breath. His heart trouble, it seems, has made it harder for him to stay aerated.
"So sorry," Einar admits, "that you don't have a wife to care for you."
Maurycy shakes his head. "I don't need one. I'm a man, and I intend to prove it to the county...and to Beaverhead County, too, if they ever judge...and to the Mormon regime, too, if they ever judge. I wouldn't blame them. I'm a Catholic, after all," he pants more.
Einar sighs. "Ah, you're probably right. I once had a brother. I begged him not to, but he once eloped with some Latina. She did not keep good company. But then, from what I've seen of them, they tend not to." He scoffs. "The Christian ones tend not to, even. Anyway, they were together for about a month and a half, before my brother was in an auto accident. She was job-hunting, when he died...and he was dead, by the time she got the news he was in trouble."
Maurycy shrugs. "Shit like that happens all the time. It isn't always the girl's fault."
"I know." He sighs. "Even so, you can understand why I'm not marriage's leading advocate. My brother's gone, and he's irreplaceable." He pauses. "But for what it's worth...you've been a great rebound brother, Maurycy."
He shrugs. "I try to be. It's good to know that for once, I'm doing something right."
Einar nods. "I'll let you rest. I trust that someone will alert me, if you get worse."
Einar takes his leave. In his void, Maurycy rests. Soon, he's asleep. His soul is still broken...but at least the pieces still have value.
Back at Wolf Butte Ranch, much has fallen silent...especially at the house. Both of its owning partners are absent.
The hole in the fence is still there...but the bear hasn't used it. A few coyotes and kit foxes have been bold enough to forage around the hole, now that the bear's scents are older. For now, the ranch's livestock is safe. With luck, the bear won't escape and come back. Or in the very least, he won't kill Maurycy.
By now, those bullocks and boars have grown more. Now, a bear is less likely to make off with them. Alas, these are the Montanan Rockies. There's no shortage of bears. And in the Idahoan Rockies, it's even worse.
The master bedroom, back at the house, looks better than it did. The liquor bottles have been picked up, and disposed of. Alas, new ones have been ordered.
In this bedroom, there are pictures. Most of them are of Einar and his brother Gunnar, when they were younger. As any fool can see, they were a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of sorts. In this way, Einar has moved on from him.
As the brother-in-law of a Latina, though... Well, that's a different story. It also might have more to do with why he drinks, than the actual void his brother's left; one that Maurycy has done more than fill, ever since the day he wandered up to Einar's front door, applying for work...and in Polish, at that.
The comforter on Einar's bed is salmon-themed. They're Pacific salmon, of course. They might as well be. If Einar wanted the real thing, he'd have better luck in the streams on the other side of the Continental Divide.
Just above the foot of the bedding, a tiny portal of energy opens. Through it, a Latina falls. She's been reduced to a thousandth her normal size...courtesy of an unexpected stay in another reality. She lands on her bum, while falling. Above her, the portal vanishes.
Meet Gina. She's a long way from Latin America...if not from the red nations. But she's not necessarily a long way from home...because as of now, her host is none other than her long-brokenhearted would-be brother-in-law.