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MIRKA, by John Blackwood.
 
I got my three-day foraging pass at the Penn State border without any
problems. In those days, soon after the war, the locals numbly accepted
the terms of the treaty. There had been some incidences of retaliation
against lone Coasters but these had been dealt with and their Manners
Police kept things pretty well under control.

Even so, we only went on these foraging trips in large high sided rigs
with plenty of protection on the outside and in the cab. At the border,
they slapped da-glo identification stickers, color coded for the period
of the permit, all along the body work and on the back doors. There was
also a special panel in front of the grille with a place for a sticker
there. It made us as conspicuous as hell and the rigs were a pig to
drive down some of the country roads but it kept their Road Police at a
respectful distance and allowed us to ignore their local speed limits on
the highways.

Don't get me wrong.  When I say I felt a  certain pity for the Staters,
this has got nothing to do with them losing the war. I just don't know
how they can live in those small one street towns or out on those farms.
The silence deafens me. It's pretty, sure enough,  but so's the city at
night, or a lit-up cracker plant, and I know which brand of prettiness I
prefer.

On this trip I'd parked the rig on the forecourt of the gas station
where the interstate comes into J....ville. It's a town I usually avoid;
it's very provinciality - prissy correctness straight from some
out-of-date tourist brochure - gives me the willies. We meet hostility
everywhere we go in the State and we are trained and prepared for that,
but in J...ville, even the modest small town architecture accuses. I let
Jumbo out of his hutch behind the cab, gave him a bit of a fuss and made
sure the pump boys got a good look at him before he crept back into the
shade under the front train. I left him on a nice long chain, buckled on
my mace stick holster and went on down the main street to see what the
farm produce market had got. I quite like to walk down these streets and
let the hostility bounce back off the sidewalks; it sets things up
nicely for the business end. The locals, mainly fair-skinned, light-eyed
Dutch look at me from under their peaked caps and I don't need to know
Dutch to know what some of those looks are saying... but they wouldn't
dare; I know it, and they know I know it.

As I say, most of  the locals thereabouts are fair or of a nondescript
mousy color and the women keep their hair pretty well out of sight.
Lord knows why -  with all that sunlight and fresh air, even straight
blond flax should get a shine to it.  Maybe they just don't like to
attract attention when the foragers are in town. So that's why it was
quite a shock to see her behind the market stall. She was as pale
skinned as the rest with grey or green eyes - I couldn't make them out
in the poor light of the market - but she had a head of tumbling black
curls that would have graced one of my own race. It fell down behind her
ears onto good strong shoulders. The upper part of her body - all I
could see above the table behind which she was standing -was neatly,
demurely even, encased in starched white linen in stark contrast to that
wonderful crop of curls. As neat and proper as her dress was, it was
clear to me that under that blouse, dwelt a bosom of magic proportions.

I don't allow myself to get distracted by these things so I spent the
usual two or three hours extracting from the unwilling provisioners the
best of their meat and vegetables. When I'd had it all packed away in
the rig, given Jumbo his food and a bit of a run, I walked back down to
the paging office, described the girl to the clerk and told him where to
send her. He looked hard at me but didn't say anything. I didn't expect
him to. In the meantime I put the rig at the back of the motel alongside
Lorna's and a new natty black job I didn't recognize, and got myself up
to my room to wait for her to arrive.

I was in the kitchenette so I didn't hear the door open or close. When I
looked up from  the drink I was mixing she was already standing there,
framed in the doorway. She had a simple way of standing, legs slightly
apart, toe pointing outwards, hands held in front of her lap. The chitty
was lightly held between forefinger and thumb, as if it attached no
great importance.

"You wanted me?" she said, devoid of inflection or expression.

"That is the way of it," I replied guardedly. "Give me that. I'll sign
it now."

It was then I noticed the name. "You're not Dutch, then. What are you,
Polack ?"

"Czech," she replied (and proud of it said the grey-green eyes).

Although she had give me the chitty, she hadn't stirred so we now faced
each other in the kitchenette doorway.

"What do you want me to do?" she asked.

Without touching or getting near, I motioned her back into the sitting
room  where she occupied the center of the floor with that same patient
stance. I moved around and past  her and  sat back on the settle with my
back to the window so the late afternoon sun caught her as in a flood
light. She was a beauty, all right, but images came to me of trains of
cattle trucks and other Mirkas who stood in line waiting for the grey
soldiers to make up their minds.

"Have you ever been paged before, Mirka ?" I asked.

"No."

"You know what paging is about?"

"Of course. Everybody does."

" So why haven't ... "

"Because, until yesterday, I was too young."

I glanced at the chitty again and saw what I should have noticed before.
She was one day over legal availability.

"Did you go with a boy, yesterday?" I probed.

A little bead of sweat had formed on her upper lip, which she licked at
minutely; the expression in her green grey eyes turned a duller pewter.
"Perhaps."

"All the way?" I asked as kindly as I could.

The quirk of smile played with the idea at the corner of her mouth and
the eyes went off down a little tunnel of memory.

"Not ... all the way." Then after a pause that was neither
theatrical nor rehearsed - a simple statement of fact, " I wasn't ....
ready."

"Then we must be careful, mustn't we?"

I could, of course, have sent her back to the paging office with an
"exonerated" note but I doubted the wisdom of that in this tight hostile
community and only two other foragers to hand. We have learnt to our
cost that taking from a defeated people is one thing - the protocol
allows and expects that. But to return requisitioned goods unused is a
provocation that no protocol or local provost can guard fully against.
Besides, this odd quiet patient Czech girl was wondrously attractive to
me.

I told her what I wanted and told her she could use the bathroom if she
cared to. When she came back undressed into the room and took up her
same stance, I had a feeling of unwrapping a much awaited birthday gift
- not daring to believe - only to find precisely what I had asked for.
She wasn't pale rosebud pink like the Dutch, but alabaster white. The
top of her shoulders were lightly dappled with the tiniest of pinprick
freckles as were her lower legs. The profusion of her curls was repeated
where I would have expected and her breasts .... I am not unfortunate in
that department myself - far from it as many a lewd glance from these
dull Dutch tells me - but Mirka was fashioned in a way that went beyond
the erotic to a sublimity in a white woman I had not minimally conceived
possible.

I repeated my instructions which she performed prettily without fuss and
when I had finished doing the things that I like to do, I lay back,
holding her head to my stomach. Slowly, as if coming to the end of a
long swim, she changed position and started things of her own
initiative, tentative at first and, meeting no resistance from me,  with
greater authority and skill. She opened my door and found me at home in
a way I didn't  think whites capable of. Later, just before the chitty
ran out, she did it again and there was the hint of a smile as Mirka
tucked herself back into the neat constraints of her blouse and skirt.

J ... ville wasn't on any of my quotas for the next three months but
just as soon as  it came up, I was over the border and on the gas
station forecourt not long after the markets had opened. I didn't bother
with the paging office but went straight down to her stall. At my voice,
she stopped what she was doing and followed me at a sensible distance
back to the rig.

I should have known better, of course. And so should she. You cannot
truck with anything as sensitive as the protocol and expect to come away
unharmed. We were lucky in a way.  We had settled down in the back part
of the cab for a little early exploration when Jumbo started to beat his
hutch door down. I covered myself up a bit and raised my head above the
level of the glass when it was hit by a volley of tomatoes and eggs and
the cab started rocking. Now there is no way even twenty very strong and
determined farm workers can tip over a forager's rig but they can make
it uncomfortable for the occupant. I sat up which gave one or two of the
more intrepidate a sight of my bare top, dived into a tee-shirt and
scrambled over into the driving seat, my uniform trousers still
uncomfortably round my thighs. The first thing I did was to slip the
catch on Jumbo's hutch. He still had his safety harness on but that
allowed him enough play to move people back five yards or so. There were
attackers on both side of the rig so he had to dart back under the train
and I could see, sooner or later, his harness was going to get caught up
under one of the wheels and then he'd be at the mercy of the baseball
bats and fencing mallets the local vigilantes had provided themselves
with. I hadn't spared a thought for Mirka but she'd tidied herself and
was in the seat alongside, strapping herself in.

"The mace is there," I said pointing to the stick clipped to the door on
her side. "Fire it  through those vents. I'm going to start this thing
up."

I doubt very much whether Mirka had ever seen a mace stick before,
except hooked onto a forager's belt but she cottoned onto the procedure
and was soon poking the stick through the variously directed defense
nozzles sending puffs of the nasty stuff out into the faces of those who
still thought they might be able to get the door open.

When you start up a forager's rig, various things happen. Acoustic
signals go off to alert two and fourlegged crew members of the imminent
"off", lights flash on and off, the rig lifts and, if you haven't closed
the vents, the gas from the freezing plants sprays an area round the
wheel base, giving nasty ammonia burns to anybody caught in the jet. My
attackers had read their newspapers or had, at any rate, learned from
the unfortunate experiences of other overzealous
Staters who'd tried to attack a rig. At the first sound of the acoustic
signal, they backed well away, giving Jumbo time to jump back onto the
train and get back in his hutch which immediately clicked shut on him
and withdrew him and his hutch into the protective cowling behind the
cab. Keeping the ammonia hissing at intervals, I edged the rig out of
its slot and nosed it toward the exit onto the main  road. Here Dutch
providence and obstinacy had been at work. Instead of blocking the way
out with trucks, cars or tractors - obstacles my rig would have shrugged
aside - they'd parked the gasoline tanker right in my path. I had no way
of know if it was empty, half full or bursting at the seams. What I did
know was,  that if any spark from lacerated bodywork found a drop of the
stuff, tanker, rig and half the township would go up in one great
bonfire. Cursing my own stupidity, and patting Mirka reassuringly on the
knee, I fired off the rescue signal and waited for the local gendarmerie
to come and escort us to a place of safety.

When a rescue signal goes off, other rigs within a radius of a hundred
miles, register it and get co-ordinates; so does our Rapid Action Force
at the border crossings. Depending on how deep we are into the State, we
usually have company within a few hours. That hasn't always been soon
enough, so the protocol has been amended so that State Gendarmes have to
provide cover (like it, or not) until sufficient of our people arrive.
So that is what happened. A Gendarmerie helicopter hovered closely
overhead while the tanker was backed out of the way and a phalanx of
ranger cars escorted the rig back to the motel. Here, there was a wait
while staff and management were read the riot act and guests packed off
to alternative and probably less comfortable accommodation. When there
was no obvious threat to Mirka or myself, we walked back through the rig
and dropped down onto the steps outside the bungalow  that had been set
aside for such occasions. I had to tug Jumbo off the tailgate; his
training told him to stay with the rig but when I gave him the hand sign
"no immediate danger" he relented.

Unlike the other rooms in the motel that opened out onto verandahs and
balconies, this formed the two sides of an internal courtyard with no
architectural feature to betray its presence other than a flush
electronically opened door which Jumbo immediately stationed himself
behind once he'd made sure there were no other ways in or out.

The Commandant had come in with us and was eyeing Jumbo nervously.
"You'll stay here until your escort arrives," he announced. Your RAF
should be here in the early morning. Two other rigs are in the vicinity.
I don't expect any more trouble."

"Then you can go." I answered evenly in the voice of Occupying Power.

"Madam. You can dismiss me. That is your privilege. My duties end here.
You have - forgive me because I know I speak out of turn - committed a
grave indiscretion. This incident will not close with simple
forgiveness. I fear - not for your safety;  that is not at risk and it
concerns me no more than the protocol demands - but for her and the
temper of this community. She is not one of them. There is no family or
brother to quieten the harsh words she will hear or to quell the
insolent looks. She faces great difficulty."

"I can relocate her; import her if necessary. She has nothing to fear
from me."

"I fear not, Madam. There is no quota for relocation or absorption from
this area of non-Dutch. She is here by chance and here she stays until
this ...." he struggled briefly for the right word. "Until this
administration is changed." He lifted his shoulders in an unhappy,
futile gesture, an honest policeman unable to do what he knew would be
for the best.

"I know what I must do," said Mirka quietly. "How long will it before
Madam has to leave? An hour, two?"

"More than that, child. Four at least. What is it you think you can do
that I cannot do for you?" I think he realized the crassness of this,
no sooner had he spoken because he looked long and hard at me with grey
nordic eyes that did not like what they saw.

"Send us the Manner Police, Meinheer, to keep us company until Madam
leaves. I will arrange it that no further harm comes from this ... affair."
Her grey eyes met his and I don't know whose had a greater depth
of understanding, sorrow or determination. "In an hour's time. Please."
"If I am to do that, Madam, you will have to keep your animal under
strict control." "Jumbo can go back in the rig," I replied.

The honest Commandant had no more to say to either of us and left with
the minimum courtesy that my rank required and I had no sooner settled
Jumbo into his hutch and shot the last electronic stud  home before
Mirka leapt at me tearing her own clothes and mine. "We have an hour."

It was an hour that raced by, made up of seconds so filled with pleasure
that each one itself seemed an eternity.

We were still earnestly engaged with each other when the three Manner
Police let themselves in. If you have seen those old North American
films where the County Sheriff is the local bully boy, backed up by a
bulging belt, a bristling arsenal and a bevy of sycophantic sidekicks,
you will not be much surprised by my description of these three. Like
many police forces throughout the world, their name belies their function.
The Manner Police are not on the streets of Penn State to educate. They
establish a rude balance between excess and lawlessness on the one hand
and excessive zeal on the other. They are the instruments of a
defeated  people's self-inflicted martyrdom.

On spotting Mirka and myself on the bed through the half open door, the
Sergeant called to his henchman in a thick, joyful voice. "Look here,
boys. Have we struck gold this time." His eyes on our two naked forms only
partly released from great pleasure led to only one scenario in his
mind.

Mirka rolled off the bed away from the bed and slipped into her shirt and
when she turned back to face them, they were left with fleeting memories
of her glorious outline. I, caught by surprise by her deft movements,
was left fully displayed for these three wheat-haired oafs to ogle and
clearly this was the first time that they had sighted a tall, well
endowed black woman, naked on her back, her breasts alert and her sex
open. The effect on their trousers was immediate and my hand reached
under the pillow.

"Your job is to is provide us safe-keeping until Madam's people arrive."
Mirka intoned. "Do more or less than that, and grave grave consequences
will apply. Is that not so, Madam?"

The quiet authority of her tone had brought me marginally to my senses and
the shredder was firmly in both hands and aimed at the large one's
crotch, even if this meant they were able to see more of my naked body
in motion than I might have wanted.

"Grave, .... or worse," I managed, waggling the shredder towards the
Sergeant's manhood.

"You two, keep watch in the yard, please. You," pointing at the
youngest whose distended blue eyes were fighting a battle all of their
own to find a safe point to rest their gaze on, "You can stay."

She was very gentle with him, eased him out of his uniform and helped
him overcome both embarrassment and urgency. I frightened him I think,
but he did his best with me, poor under equipped white lad that he was.
Mirka got the best out of him,  though and before long, I'd dressed,
gone into the kitchenette,  made a drink for the slobs outside and sat
in the cool garden smoking, shredder in hand, listening to Hans'  (that
was his name, it turned out from the other two) occasional shouts of
pleasure. There was no more pleasure for me that night and when the RAF
turned up, I was in the rig on the road without a further look at Mirka.

My supervisors saw to it that J...ville didn't show up on my quotas and
I got involved in runs further to the north into orchard country. Here I
formed a very pleasant dalliance with a large red-headed girl from
Apeldoorn. Collecting her crop and tumbling with her in her hay became
my chief sources of pleasure until the troubles in South State led to
open rebellion.

I did manage just one more trip to that area before that happened and
persuaded my section chief that no harm would come if we went into
J..ville on a simple revittal and drive through mission. We are good
friends back in the city so, reluctantly, she agreed.

I went into the market shed flanked by Elaine and one of our male
troopers and spotted the old Dutch who worked at the stall next to
Mirka's.

"Mirka? She's OK. Lives in the Manner Police House. Married the young
one. You know the youngster, Hans. She's OK." He might have said more,
but Elaine guided me away and made sure our convoy did not not pass the
MP House on our way out.

We don't go foraging into Penn State any more. Far too dangerous. We use
boats - ex-Coast Guard frigates - and fast motor boats for runs into the
Georgia and Carolina coastline. Everything is much more organized now -
foragers don't travel alone but in well coordinated boarding parties -
and so the opportunities for getting myself into the sort of mess I got
into back in J...ville don't crop up. We get what we are told to get
and are rewarded accordingly; a fair crop, I must say, some fair, some
dark and some of the traitor black but none as white skinned and dark
haired as Mirka, none with that marvelous helmet of dark curls,  with
pin-point freckles on the top of her shoulders and none with that simple
way of standing, legs slightly apart, toe pointing outwards, hands held
in front of her lap.

Our forces razed J...ville to the ground in a reprisal raid yesterday.
Survivors?  too early to say and my boat leaves in an hour.
 
 



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