In The Name of Lynch

-Chapter 15: Younger Father, Older Son-

For the better part of the morning, Ai had been helping her brother Oliver in the milking barn. They took the milking machines off the cows to clean off any dried milk crust that would irritate the cows' udders.

"While I'm doing this," Oliver told his newfound sister, "take this udder balm and ... here, I'll show you." He took a bit of the balm and rubbed it onto a cow's udder, being careful not to get any on the teats. "You want to make sure not to get the teats," he pointed out, "or it'll affect the taste of the milk."

Ai got the hang of it quickly. As she soothed the cows' tender udders with the balm, she noticed the pregnant cow relaxing in the corner. "Is she okay?" she asked.

"Mattie," Oliver replaced the first machine and then went to tend to the next. ""Yeah. She's good. But its her first pregnancy so we want to keep a special eye on her. "When you're finished with the balming you can help me brush her coat. We'll be able to get things done faster if we each take a side."

"Do the others need brushing, too?" Ai asked.

"Yeah, but Mattie needs it more," Oliver explained. "She's off her hooves a lot so she gets dusty more than they do. Aunt Sadie and Jack will be out to brush the others after they finish scattering the hay for the cows who are outside today."

As if on cue, Sadie Eccleston came into the barn at that point. But the young man accompanying her wasn't Jack.

"And this is the milking barn," she was saying as they walked in. "Not as fancy as the technology you're used to, but I suppose it still is technology in a way."

"Fancy does not necessarily equal elegant," Bryce replied, earning a smile from the older woman. "Some of the equipment I used at Network 23 was stuff I'd cobbled together in school. I even had an old fashioned typewriter for a keyb- " He fell suddenly silent as his eyes fell upon the young man brushing a very pregnant animal that Bryce was unfamiliar along with the help of Bryce's daughter, Ai.

"Oh, hello, father," Ai smiled. Seeing the bewildered look on his face she added, "it's a cow."

"Oh is that what they look like," Bryce laughed. Curiosity getting the better of him, he approached Mattie tentatively.

"Oh go ahead, she won't bite," Sadie laughed. "You city boys. Always think the cow's gonna sprout bull's horns and go charging after you."

Bryce decided rather quickly that cows were as good for petting as they were for getting milk and other products from. But also decided that they weren't really great listeners since they seemed a little too detached.

"She seems to like you," Oliver told him. He'd been a little too busy to notice how Ai had greeted Bryce.

"Some people do," Bryce shrugged. "Bryce Lynch, by the way."

"Oliver Bur..." Oliver began automatically, then faltered. "You're kidding, right?"

"I'm afraid not," Bryce grinned. "Must be a bit of a surprise having a dad who's still a teen when you're already in your mid twenties."

"How about you," Oliver inquired. "Must be a little intimidating having your kids be almost twice your age."

"Not really," Bryce told him. "I was head of my entire department when I worked at Network 23 before I went into stasis."

"And the only one who worked in the entire department," Jenny added from the door.

"Hey! Don't give away all my secrets!" Bryce protested, though he was smiling as he said this.

Sadie looked around for a bit, then wrote something down on an old-fashioned pad of paper. After seeming to consider it, she wrote down one more thing and handed the list to her nephew.

"Would the two of you," she said, indicating Bryce and Oliver, "head into town and pick up the things on this list. We need a few more vegetables and I'm out of homemade bread, sadly. So you'll have to pick some up at Martin's Bakery. Don't get the kind at the grocer store. The bread at Martin's is better."

"Sure thing, Aunt Sadie," Oliver said.

"This feels very familiar," Bryce remarked as he followed.

"I think she just wants to give us time alone to get acquainted," Oliver smiled as they got into his pickup truck. Grinning broadly, he turned on the radio. "I find the best way to bond with someone is through music," he said over the song that was playing. "It might take a few tries, but eventually you find something that everyone just starts singing along to."

"Well, just keep in mind that I've been asleep for about twenty-five years," Bryce reminded him.

"Don't worry, country music's been the same for the past hundred years." Oliver tapped the steering wheel in tune with the new song that had just started.

Bryce rolled his eyes. "So people are still losing stuff and singing about it, then?"

"Yup," Oliver laughed. "Some find stuff. But it usually turns out to have some kind of curse upon it."

"Which causes them to lose everything else," Bryce concluded.

"Doesn't just happen in country music," Oliver said giving three distinctive thumps on the top of the dashboard to make his point.

Getting the reference, Bryce laughed aloud.

'Gotcha!' Oliver thought to himself. 'It may not always work in the way you expect it to, but music is a wonderful way to bond.'

They went into Martin's first. As they walked into the door, they were welcomed by the aromas of freshly baked breads, the sweet smell of cookies and brownies, and the savory scent of carrot and spice and gingerbread cakes.

"Hey, Marty!" Oliver waved at the man behind the counter who was just finished putting the fresh carrot cake cupcakes he'd made onto their display plate.

"Ollie! Good to see you," Martin waved back once his hands were cupcake-free. "Who's the kid?"

"Remember how I told you a few years ago that I found out I was adopted?"

"I seem to remember something about that," Martin recalled cheerfully. "Found a relative, then?"

"My dad," Oliver replied. Seeing Martin's skeptical look he added. "He was in cryosleep for about twenty five years or so."

"That was some beauty sleep," Martin told Bryce.

"I'm not sure I'd call it sleep as such," Bryce confided. "Sure my body got plenty of rest, but my brain was busy assisting the Network 23 computer mainframe through a two-way bio-technical interface."

"I'll just pretend I understood that to save time," Martin said to Oliver in a happily conspiratorial tone as he picked up a still-warm loaf of bread and placed it in a bag for him.

"Good idea," Oliver agreed.

"Tin cans and string," Bryce whispered to them as he passed behind them while looking at the carrot cake and wondering if he should pick some up.

"Got it," Martin replied. "So you've really been asleep for the past twenty-five years?"

"Give or take a day or so," Bryce replied.

"Then I guess you didn't hear about the whole fiasco with that new upstart company that tried to take on both Zik Zak and Zlin about ten years ago? Really gave the big guys a run for their money. Really high quality products at very competive rates. Nobody knew how they could afford to stay in business."

"So what happened?" Bryce asked, genuinely curious.

"Well, a few people in Zik Zak quality control decided to see if they could figure out what materials they were using," Martin explained. "Turns out they were taking parts from Zik Zak products and gluing them to parts from Zlin products and then passing off the results as their own. So, naturally, in a rare show of camaraderie, Zik Zak and Zlin joined forces long enough to sue this other little upstart right out of business before cheerfully going back to screwing each other over in the ad markets."

"I wonder why the Network 23 mainframe didn't tell you about it," Oliver remarked.

"It wouldn't be in the Network 23 mainframe," Bryce pointed out. "Advertising contracts are the kept in the advertiser's mainframe's. Makes it easier for them to switch networks if they don't think they're getting enough coverage."

"We'd better hurry," Oliver said, noticing the clock on the wall. "Sorry to cut you short, Marty."

"No problem," Martin told them. "Come back tomorrow if you've got a moment."

After paying for the bread, and deciding to buy the carrot cake after all, Oliver and Bryce left the bakery.

"I'm afraid you'll find very few people here who have a lot of technical savvy," Oliver told his father, "there are some, but not like you have in your big cities."

"There aren't as many in the city as you might think," Bryce confided. "In fact the people there are pretty much the same as those here as far as how smart they are. I bet if you took anyone here and gave them the stuff we have to play with in the city they'd be able to figure it out pretty fast."

"Maybe, maybe not," Oliver replied. "I mean they'd get some things straight off, sure. But some stuff can't really be rightly identified outside it's proper zone."

"Parts of an elephant," Bryce remembered as they put their first purchases into the back of the truck and covered them to keep the sun off of them.

Oliver frowned for a second, then remembered as he and Bryce walked down the end of the road to the little grocery store. "Right. Each of the blind men touched a part of the elephant and thought it was a wholly different animal. Same is true in this case. If you give a spark plug to someone who's never seen any of the machines that use one, they will speculate many uses for it and none of them will be what it was intended for."

"Olly!" a voice called from one of the registers.

Oliver and Bryce turned to see a man standing there with three bags already prepared at the otherwise empty counter.

"Hey, Pete. What's all this then?"

"Your Aunt had me pack up these for you," Pete told him. "She said she'd figured that the two of you had probably been at the bakery for a bit longer than intended."

"You know Marty," Oliver said, paying for the three bags of groceries. He picked up two while Bryce got the third. Then they both walked back to the truck and put the bags with the bread and the carrot cake.

Then, they got into the cab of the pickup and headed back to Eccleston Farm.

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