This is the continuation of Chuck Versus the Daemon – Revised and Daemons and Dragons – Revised. For anyone starting here it as a rather extremely AU steampunk Chuck story set in the 1870s.
Usual disclaimers, no rights to any characters portrayed and this is neither the real world nor a Disney Princess tale. There will probably be changes in the first hour or so as I proof read it as well.
The others had come out from Los Angeles for their homecoming, and Jane raced down the gangway the moment they had it in place to get to her Elana. Her first agenda was to hug her, but then she stepped back to look down at the size of her belly. They'd been told she was pregnant, but after the voyage, that pregnancy was so very obvious on her lithe frame, even more so over the past month, she was so big!
Chuck could tell that the glare Jane sent his way as she said "You did this to her!" was more than a little serious, but Sarah took the wind out of her sails when she laughed and said.
"Of course he did Tante Jeanne! What sort of girl do you think I am that you think I'd be pregnant to anyone but by my husband?"
Jane's aggravation melted as she smiled and embraced her again, then embraced Chuck too before helping Sarah up the gangway.
Once Sarah was safely on the dock, John shooed Chuck after her as Sarah needed her husband. He didn't want to say anything to them, but he was worried. Sarah was getting too big, too fast, there was something out of the ordinary about this pregnancy, and he was afraid that it may have something to do with what both of them had inside of them.
John smiled as he looked up at them though, as when he caught up with Sarah Chuck greeted her with a kiss, and she leaned into him contentedly as he put his arm around her to help her up to the big house. He could tell the moment that they caught sight of Goliath and his ladies as they both stopped, with Sarah pointing at them excitedly as they gallivanted about in their paddock. He still didn't understand what Chuck was planning with horses that big, but knowing Chuck, it would be something worth waiting for.
Sarah and Chuck's time up to the welcome home dinner was primarily spent catching up with everyone that they hadn't seen in over six months, so much so that they hardly had time to freshen up. It didn't take long for Chuck to get the story about how his erstwhile mentor came to be there. Jim Green had known where to find Major Banner because he had caught up with him after the war and he'd quickly realised that he'd bitten off more than he could chew with the job of getting the pound gates working, so as soon as the telegraph was active he'd wired Joshua about the problem and Joshua had come straight over to help get them freed up and working.
Unfortunately, Jim and his Engineers had been ordered to go back soon after that, but Joshua had stayed on and worked with the people of the hacienda to get quite a few other things working around the hacienda. Joshua was a widower with nothing to keep him back east as when he came home from the war he'd found that his wife had succumbed to Influenza. He was also well enough off that he didn't need to work, so it hadn't been a difficult decision for him to stay on and do what he could to help out the young man who's always been his favourite apprentice. Joshua and his wife had never had children, and Chuck had become.. well if not like a son, at least like a favourite nephew to him in their time together in the war. When Chuck asked Jerry why he hadn't told him that Joshua was there, Jerry said that the Major had wanted it to be a surprise for him when he got home. Chuck wasn't overly pleased with him but accepted that.
While they were doing that, John and the others got the stock offloaded from the Memphis Belle and settled into their paddocks (or ponds in the case of the catfish), and Scottie and his team shut down the Belle. With that done, everyone got cleaned up and came up to the house for the feast, as the rest of what was on the Belle could wait.
Over dinner and afterwards, most of the talk was about the adventures they'd had in South America (leaving out what the girls had had to do in Brazil and their little naval battle, of course). The others had a hard time believing what they were being told about the jungles of South America, taking weeks to steam up and down the Amazon River, the wild ride through some parts of the Straits of Magellan, or the strange beasts they'd seen, but they accepted the stories on faith. They'd had come to accept that with this group, one just had to expect the extraordinary, as that was what they were. It didn't hurt that they had lots of photographs of this adventure to share as well (excluding the ones of the naval battle and the like).
While the others were sharing stories and laughing though, John, Mei, Ellie and Jane had gone off for a rather more serious discussion. Ellie and Mei already shared John's concerns about Sarah's pregnancy, and Jane did as well, now that she'd seen how big Sarah had gotten. Hattie, Zondra, Tom, Andy and the men, they knew little about babies or their development, so they had no idea of how unusual this was. They left Adele out of this as they knew she would share anything said with Sarah and Chuck.
Ellie pointed out that Chuck and Sarah must know, so they must be putting on a brave face, or trying to pretend that it wasn't so.
They all jumped when they heard. "Of course we know! We're just trying not to panic, because that won't help Sarah or the babies!" behind them.
Ellie rushed to Chuck and embraced him. "Oh Chuck, I'm sure Sarah and the…." She stopped. "Babies?"
Chuck nodded "Yes, Sarah can sense them, and they communicate to a degree with her, but she's confused, as she says that sometimes it seems that it's a boy and a girl, sometimes that it's two girls, and sometimes that it's two boys. I can feel them too but not as strong as she can, which makes sense, given that they're in her body not mine, so can Adele sometimes."
(He didn't bring up the fact that they'd thought that Adele was pregnant too until Ellie examined her and determined that the only physical evidence was the fact that her breasts were growing larger. From the Daemons' memories they discovered that this was what was called a phantom pregnancy, when another woman is so close to the mother-to-be that they can start showing signs of pregnancy themselves.)
Ellie nodded distractedly, and then went on. "As I was saying, I'm sure that Sarah and the babies will be fine, in fact we'll make sure of it!"
Chuck looked at her. "Yes, that's why you're out here, talking about how worried you are!"
John stepped forward, grasping his shoulder. "Of course we're worried! Sarah, both of you, are going through this and it's not normal, the way it's going, you know that as well as we do. But Ellie's right, we'll do everything that we can to make sure that they get through this OK."
Chuck nodded resignedly. "Yes, I know you'll all do whatever you can. I'm sorry, I'm just worried, terrified really, about the chance of losing her. All I can do to stop her seeing my fear is bury myself in work."
At that moment, they heard another voice behind them. "Do you really think that I didn't see it?"
Chuck let go of Ellie and turned to embrace her, Adele stepping back to give him room. Sarah kissed him and went on.
"Of course I could see it, but confronting you about it would have made you lose control, which would in turn would have made me lose control."
Tears streamed from Chuck's eyes as he tried to apologise, but she kissed him again and said.
"Shush, it's OK, I knew that you weren't trying to ignore me. I knew why, I just need to have you there with me, not somewhere else trying to hide your fears from me."
"Sarah? Chuck said something about you not being sure whether the babies are boys or girls?"
Sarah nodded. "Yes, sometimes they feel like girls, sometimes like boys, and sometimes one of each. There's a possibility that they're both, and that frightens me, it won't change the way that I love them" (Chuck squeezed her and whispered "We love them!" in her ear and she kissed him quick before continuing) "the way that we love them one little bit, but it could make life difficult for them, and I don't want to see that, so I wish that they could settle into one or the other."
Ellie looked stricken and reached out to squeeze her arm. "You know that I will love my nieces or nephews just as much, no matter what they are, don't you?" Sarah nodded with a smile.
Ellie, Jane and John hugged and kissed Sarah then, and Ellie and Jane hugged and kissed Chuck as well (John settled for squeezing his shoulder), before they all went back to the welcome home dinner that they'd slipped out of to talk.
The next morning, Chuck and Sarah had a private talk with Joseph, Scottie and Tom.
Something that they'd brought with them from New York on the Belle was the Daemons' chests with the ancient manuscripts, treasures and weapons that had been in their vault in Memphis House. These helped convince Joseph and Scottie just how it was that Chuck and Sarah knew so much that they shouldn't be able to.
At first, they had as much trouble as everyone else, believing what they were being told, but the ancient manuscripts and artefacts helped convince them. This was an eye opener to Tom as well, because he'd never seen most of these before as they'd been stored away in the vault and Chuck hadn't shown them to anyone but Ellie and Sarah.
They did get side tracked into discussions about the great library of Alexandria (and Pergamum, which was almost as large), which both of the Daemons had spent considerable time in, and Joseph and Tom were excited to see a few of the scrolls that the Daemons had taken from the libraries. Scottie had been more interested in Aristotle and Leonardo Da Vinci's notes and drawings that Chuck's Daemon had kept (even if Chuck had to translate them for him).
They spent a couple of hours talking about what had happened, and the breadth and age of the memories that they'd acquired. With Joseph, it helped him to be able to put together what they were being told now with what Chuck had told him about almost being de-masted while rounding Cape Horn in a clipper, as that could not have happened without this being true. At the end of it, Joseph and Scottie were dazed, but they accepted the truth of what they'd been told.
With that out of the way, they went for a walk to show them around the hacienda, as they and their wives would have to choose whether they would live in the 'big house', or in the rows of married peoples' houses outside. Both men said that they believed the decision would be to go with their own houses, but they'd leave that up to their wives.
They brought the other men who had agreed to be the core of the Memphis Belle's on-going crew into these discussions too. These men were Scottie's three best engineers, and of course George, Edward and Daniel as the First, Second and Third Officers, or rather First, Second and Third Mates as they were going to be as civilians.
There were another half a dozen of the seamen staying on as crew, and a dozen of the Marines would be staying on as well, joining Tom's platoon. The fourteen who made up the Belle's main crew could run her by themselves easily, but on the voyage around South America the Marines and Tom's men had worked with the crew and learnt how to perform most of the duties on the ship quite ably, so they would be trading off with the seamen to crew the Belle when she was doing her runs (Scottie had already claimed Moses and Weed as apprentice engineers). They were also planning to let any of the girls or others on the hacienda who were interested get trained to be part of the crew to give everyone a chance to be involved.
This was why eight of Tom's men were going with the Belle as crew when she steamed up to San Francisco to deliver the crew who were going back east, along with Joseph and Scottie to the train. Bill and seven troopers were also going with them to serve as escorts to bring Beatrice, Annella and the other wives back, along with their things, the rest of the vapor carriages, and everything else from Scottie's engineering workshop at Paterson's (plus the equipment and materials for building aluminium hulled boats).
They would have a fairly sizeable freight train bringing all of this back to the west coast, and they weren't certain that the Belle would be able to carry it all when it arrived, if not the troopers would stay on in San Francisco to guard the rest until she returned.
One job that took priority over all other work was installing an elevator to take Sarah upstairs to their suite, because it was quite apparent to everyone that it wouldn't be too long before she would be in no state to climb the stairs to their rooms on the first floor. The elevator that went in would be replaced with something more elegant when time permitted, as it was rather rough and ready, but Chuck's only priority at that point was to look after his wife. Using materials he and Scottie had brought to set up new workrooms at the hacienda and a spare clockwork engine and other parts for the Belle's elevators, with help from Scottie, Joshua and some of the men Chuck had the elevator installed and working to his satisfaction the day after they arrived. When Chuck pronounced it safe and workable, they knew that it was, especially those who remembered him testing the elevator in Memphis house with over a ton of gun safe in it!
Chuck and Sarah's suite upstairs was laid out similar to the best of the suites in the hotels they'd stayed in over the past couple of years, two bedrooms, a well appointed bathroom and a large sitting room. They'd chosen these rooms because they liked the view and the breeze they got up there in summer (which in Los Angeles was as good as all year 'round). So with the elevator for Sarah, she and Chuck (and Adele, as she'd hardly left Sarah's side since she started to show. This was nothing new however as she had been sharing rooms and cabins, and beds too when the nightmares from her previous life struck her and she needed comforting, with them since she came into their life. Adele in turn provided a sounding board, willing ear and shoulder to cry on for Sarah, and Chuck too when he needed one. She and Sarah had become very close, and she felt more comfortable and safe with them than she did, or ever had, with anyone else) were quite comfortable there. Adele was making Sarah whatever she had a hankering for, and if she didn't have the necessary makings at the hacienda, someone would be sent racing into Los Angeles to get them. The kitchen's pantry got expanded in many interesting ways as Adele added to it in her attempts to anticipate what Sarah might want.
One thing was certain, they were home for a while, because neither Sarah or Chuck were going anywhere until after their children were born and Ellie, Adele, John, Hattie and Zondra were just as determined to be there for the babies' birth.
It took over a day and a half to offload everything from the Belle, because they had a hard time getting Captain Stevens and his men away from the Belle so that they could offload the guns and ammunition in private. Captain Stevens obviously believed that something was going on and he wanted to know what it was, even though he'd been specifically ordered not to try and look into anything at the hacienda without Colonel Barton's permission. Chuck, John and Tom were trying to work out how to keep him away from the lake when Joshua caught Chuck's eye and let him know a way to do this via the old hand signals they'd used on missions for the regiment when they couldn't afford to be heard. Chuck relayed the message to John and Tom with the hand signals they used, and Tom announced that they were doing an inspection of the work that had been done while they were away. Stevens tried to leave some men behind to watch what was going on but Tom ordered him to bring them as his commanding officer.
Chuck didn't have to pretend to be angry when the usual answer to how much of the work that had been accomplished in the past six months was done by Captain Stevens and his men was 'nothing'. The excuse given was that they had been assigned to guard the hacienda and that was what they'd been doing, but Stevens didn't like it at all when Joshua asked how they were guarding the hacienda when his men were at the hacienda itself trying to make time with the Chinese girls? That made Chuck explode, and he called Anna down to get the details of what had been happening. When she confirmed that the soldiers had been trying more and more to interfere with the girls even though Stevens had been given strict orders to make sure his men left them alone, Chuck told Tom to get rid of them and Tom told Stevens to tell his men to pack their bags, because they would be going back to San Francisco on the Belle!
Stevens tried to protest and say that his men weren't doing anything wrong, but just then one of the Belle's crew came up to give Chuck the pre-agreed signal to say that all the guns and ammunition had been locked away, so they went back to the hacienda to wire the President and inform him that Captain Stevens and his special team had failed to fulfil what was required of them in regard to their duty and behaviour, so they were hereby being ejected from both Major Paterson's command and Colonel Barton's land. Chuck added a message to say that if any of them were seen anywhere near the hacienda or their people again, they were like to be shot on sight, and John added that if any of them told anyone anything about the hacienda and its people, he'd personally track them down and deal with them and the ones who let them. They made sure that Stevens saw both these messages.
The only way the President could respond to that was to confirm that Captain Stevens and his men were being recalled, and say that someone would arrange for train tickets for Captain Stevens and his men when they arrived in San Francisco. By that stage the Belle had been unloaded and the ship's water topped off (they had plenty of supplies left for the few days it would take to go to San Francisco and back), so Stevens and his men were given fifteen minutes to be at the boat with their belongings. As he was by now realising how much trouble he was in, they were there inside fifteen minutes and were sent straight to the hold, being told to stay there and that the crew areas aft were off limits.
This was made clear to them when they were given a day's rations and toilet buckets and told not to leave the hold, but what they didn't know was that a dispatch pouch with records of everything they did (as well as the detailed reports and photographs from the voyage, which included a number of pictures that showed exactly what had happened with and to the two Brazilian warships) would be delivered to the President before they reached Washington. By then everyone else had said their goodbyes, so the Belle pulled away from the dock as soon as the gangways were aboard and secured. As before, it took about half an hour to open and close all the pound gates to let the Belle out onto the river. They left one of the ship's boats behind at the hacienda, so that it could be used for transport to and from Los Angeles if required.
Before they left, the crew members who were going back east were reminded (in a rather more friendly tone) about the agreements that they'd signed which stipulated that they would never say anything about anything they witnessed on the voyage on the Memphis Belle but the warning wasn't necessary as none of them would go against the Commodore, or this group now. They had shared an epic voyage (and an epic battle) with these people so they were all crew now, and they did not betray their crew! The main reason most of them were going back was that they had responsibilities back east that they could not neglect any longer.
The trip down to the mouth of the Los Angeles river took less than half the time that the trip up river had as they knew the state of the river now, and the Belle was riding higher without a load. The Memphis Belle was starting what was to be her normal duty, passages to and fro between the hacienda and San Francisco.
Once the Memphis Belle had departed, they hitched a couple of passenger trolleys up to Diablo and Bruja so that the core group could go for a proper tour of the hacienda (Sarah was in no state to climb into Bruja's saddle, especially when she hadn't been regularly ridden for six months, but she wanted to have Bruja near her).
The developments that had been made at the hacienda over the past six months were remarkable, much of what they'd planted just before they'd left had grown, been harvested and replanted two or three times now, most of their broodmares and cattle, pig and goat stock were pregnant, and the poultry was expanding quickly so all in all, the hacienda was in a pretty good space.
The fish in the lake had also given them the idea to create additional dams for fish farms (they'd known about this and thought it was a good idea, so Jerry had brought back quite a few blue catfish when he and his men brought the horses and carriages to the hacienda, and they'd caught some of the giant catfish of the Amazon live and brought them back as well to stock their fish farms), so while they were still a ways off making the hacienda into a profitable concern, they were getting closer to producing all of what they needed to feed their people, which was the more important issue to them. If they had been worried about money, Jane had sold the rancho for a handy profit after everyone moved to the hacienda, and that would have covered their costs for a while.
After they'd done the tour of the estate, Chuck and Sarah started going through their business matters with Jane (she'd been handling this on their behalf for the past six months), and catching up on other issues with their law firm and Uncle Sam. Having a telegraph station at the hacienda made things a lot easier, as they could send or receive messages at any time without any interference or delays from anyone else.
For all of her mobility constraints though, Sarah was determined not to be idle, and there were a couple of tables in their sitting room that were constantly strewn with paperwork, one for their own business, and one for Uncle Sam's. Chuck had also ran the wires into their rooms to install another telegraph station in there. Both he and Sarah were quite capable of sending and receiving messages so this was more convenient for them, though he did add a switch in the line to allow the telegraph equipment to be disconnected so that it wouldn't disturb Sarah when she was trying to rest.
Uncle Sam only began to understand that there was something out of the ordinary with Sarah's pregnancy when he called for them to come to Washington to explain their findings and the events of the South America trip and Chuck, John, Hattie and Zondra flat refused. When he read the message that Chuck had sent 'Travel to Washington is not possible, Black Widow's condition makes travel unsafe for her and I will not leave her in this condition. Doc, Bear, Blaze and Belladonna (Zondra) have also indicated that they will not leave. Elder', Uncle Sam grew extremely worried, as he knew they wouldn't take this stance if Sarah's condition weren't serious.
That prompted him to send a message to say that he was sending his best doctors, but when it was pointed out that they couldn't know more than Doc, Black Widow and Elder, they compromised and Ellie spent a lot of time at their main telegraph station with one of the men to operate the telegraph, explaining the situation to Uncle Sam's doctors and answering their questions.
Meanwhile, Chuck had been thinking about the fact that the boat was the smoothest and fastest way for Sarah to be moved if needed, but for the delays added by the pound gates, so with Joshua's help he modified the mechanisms to wind them open and closed faster to speed up that process. What he used for this was large clockwork engines to open and close the pound gates much faster. With these clockwork engines, it was possible to get through the locks in less than twenty minutes, instead of the thirty it took with people winding the cranks. That made him feel a little better, as he was dearly worried about Sarah and her pregnancy.
Through all of this, they had a considerable amount of work to be done, because as well as the telegraph (which was going most of the time), dispatches were coming and going daily between them and Uncle Sam's offices, and Sarah, Chuck and the others were working through the dispatches. While this didn't reap the results that they did when they were in the field the sad fact was that, even under these constraints, they were still the most effective team that Uncle Sam had at his disposal.
Sarah didn't miss the fact that between Chuck, Adele, Ellie, John, Hattie, Zondra and Mei (and Jane too when she was out there), she was never left alone, there wasn't a moment that there wasn't someone no more than a room away. Normally this would have aggravated her, but as she knew that it was because they were so worried about her and the pregnancy she let it go, because truth be told, she was worried as well.
Even though Sarah's mobility was limited, and she definitely couldn't ride, she just had to get out of the house sometimes. One thing she'd been happy to confirm soon after they returned home was that Bruja remembered her, so whenever Sarah wanted to go out for a jaunt, they'd hitch Bruja up to one of the passenger trollies for her.
Now that they were using, and relying on, the tracks and cars so much, Chuck was coming to see two things. The first was that, quite aside from freeing up all the pound gates, Joshua had done a hell of a lot of work around the hacienda. For a start, he'd gone around and ensured that all the rail switches on the levees were working freely and properly, which was no small feat, as most of the track intersections had four, three way stub switches to be freed up (to allow the cars to go straight ahead or turn to left or right when approaching from each direction), while the rest 'merely' had three switches, as they were 'T' intersections. (Joshua had actually enjoyed this, as his roots were in railroad engineering, but after he lost his leg in the war, he'd branched out into civil and mechanical engineering. These had given him the knowledge and skills needed to create the dams etc on the hacienda and build the house and dock in town.)
There was one major piece of work that stood out though, a thirty two foot wide ramp with log retaining walls like the levees that had been dug across the lake from the pound lock. This ramp led up to doors just as wide on one of the larger outbuildings and three sets of rails, well over a hundred yards long, had been laid from inside the building down into the lake. When asked, Joshua explained that he'd needed to rebuild the hacienda's ferry in order to use it as a working platform to build Casa Memphis's dock. He needed special equipment for that, so the easiest way to do the job was to haul the ferry up into the engineering building. He'd waved at the rails and said. "The slipway was the best way to do that."
These gifts from Joshua had made things a lot simpler for their people, as they now just had to link up a few trolly cars and hitch up the mules to haul them out to their work sites. (They also had a number of hand cars that they could use when the load wasn't enough to justify hitching up the mules.) When they came up to a track intersection, so long as both switches were already set to the track that they wanted they'd just drive the cars straight on through on the way to where they were working, if not they'd stop, throw the switches to the correct track and then proceed.
This also meant that Sarah could get a break out of the house when she needed to without much bother. When she wanted to go out, someone would go to the roundhouse, push one of the passenger cars out onto the turntable, turn that around to line up with the doors, hitch up Bruja and drive her and it on out of the roundhouse and up to the house. Of course, if the passenger car and turntable had been left in the correct position as they were supposed to be, they'd just have to hitch up Bruja and drive her straight on out. Chuck, Adele or someone else would always go with Sarah to throw the stitches and unhitch Bruja and move her around to the other end of the car if required to come back.
Joshua had had less trouble freeing up the turntable in the roundhouse than he'd had with the switches on the levees, as the roof of the roundhouse had remained intact, so the turntable, rails and cars inside had all been kept out of the weather. The roundhouse also served as the carriage house and stables for the hacienda, as the hand cars, flatcars/gondola cars and passenger cars took up rather less than half of the available space in there.
The other thing that Chuck had come to realise was that whoever it was that the original haciendo had got to create the levees, irrigation and navigation canals and locks and lay the network of two foot gauge tramways that criss-crossed the farming areas along the tops of the levees (not to mention building the lightweight wooden trolly cars to run on those tramways) had been, and hopefully still was, one hell of an engineer. Everything he'd created had been well planned with the optimal layout, and the construction was so solid that after over twenty years of being left to fall apart, most of it had still been in good enough shape to be workable.
Anyway, thanks to the original builder and Joshua's efforts, not only did they have a ready transport system to that helped them effectively work the farming areas, but Sarah could get out of the house and comfortably tour the estate, something she felt she desperately needed to retain some semblance of sanity whenever she'd been cooped up inside for too long. As it was usually Chuck who went with her, this also gave them a chance to relax together.
Before Chuck had discovered any of this though, he'd started work on the only other job that he allowed to take him away from Sarah (and then only when she was asleep), he built Joshua a new leg with all the improvements that he'd come up with for them after the war. Joshua tried to tell him that it wasn't necessary, as the one he built him in the war was better than any other he'd seen, but when Chuck finished it and fitted it to him he swallowed his words, because the new leg was as much of an improvement over his old leg as it was over any other he'd seen.
Ever since they moved out to the hacienda, they'd been working to establish a base in Los Angeles itself for the group, as they really needed to have someone in town to handle their deliveries and business. Mike and Al had been handling their deliveries and Jane had been handling the business side of this for them, but they weren't really part of their team, so there was much that they couldn't know about. Through Jane, they'd acquired a large block of land that was suitable for their purposes, sitting above a wide and deep part of the river atop a big enough rise to be well clear of any floods and with a steep drop to the river, so that they could to put in a long and solid private dock right across it for their boats and still use most of the block up top. Chuck had drawn up all the plans, but they'd hardly started the work before they were called back to New Orleans. This was why Chuck had been so surprised to see the house and dock when they came through Los Angeles, because unbeknownst to him, Joshua had taken over the job and had finished most of it with men and girls from the hacienda and the equipment he got in to do it by the time the Memphis Belle arrived.
Joshua had had the same problem as Charlie, in that he didn't have the time or resources to build the engines and equipment they needed to do all the work at the hacienda, but he had the advantage of knowledge that Charlie didn't have. He knew through his contacts in the Corps of Engineers that after the war the army had mothballed most of the traction engines and steam donkeys that they used for major engineering works in the war, and Jim Green had been directly assigned here by the President, so he had a way to pass the request through him. They talked this over with Jane, Al and Mike and Jane told them that she had access to accounts to pay for the equipment that they needed, so Joshua decided that as he really only had one shot at this, he may as well aim high.
He put together the request to obtain mothballed army engineering equipment, the primary item being one of the last and biggest model of the engineering road locomotive traction engines with the triple expansion engine, superheater and feedwater heater (these were the size and power of a powerful railroad locomotive), with everything that came with them, extension chimney, full-length canopy, dynamo, ploughing engine winch drums, front and rear cranes, steam shovel, balance plough with ripper and scraper blades, pile driver, drag excavator buckets, steamroller conversion, sawmill equipment and road and Dreadnaught endless rail wheels, plus the sleeping van and wagon trailer to carry the water tank and all the attachments, both with road and Dreadnaught wheels too. He added to this with another smaller single driver road locomotive traction engine with the extension chimney, full-length canopy, dynamo, ploughing engine winch drums, front and rear cranes, drag excavator buckets and wagon trailer, with both road wheels and Dreadnaught wheels on the locomotive and the trailer. The list was rounded out bya few high capacity pumps, a big cement mixer and at least seven or eight of the later model steam donkeys.
Jim Green's eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw what was being requested, but he submitted it to the President with Jane's note that she could authorise payment for the items. He was even more surprised when the quick response came back to say that the request was being processed and the items would be shipped to Los Angeles before the week was out.
The traction engines and everything else were there within a month, and their first jobs were to dredge the lake and canal, dig the ramp and build the cofferdam and retaining walls for the slipway at the lake, and dig the dams and build the retaining walls for the fish farms. Then they went into town to do the excavation work and drive the pile driver and saw mill at the Casa Memphis site.
They dug into the embankment to build the dock, and to protect it from the floods they'd added a solid log retaining wall, high enough to handle any expected flood levels and well anchored into the face and river bottom. This retaining wall also extended far enough up and downstream to stabilise the embankment. The face of their dock was built the same way (it had originally formed a cofferdam to let them empty the space behind it out and build a solid base for the dock with the rock that was excavated), while the deck was made of Portland Cement a foot deep, so it was rather solid. Access to the dock was via retractable stairs across the face of the cut (using the derrick to lift them up above the floods and stop people getting in via the dock), and there was also a lifting cage that was hauled up the face of the cut on a pair of rails.
Andre's Creole townhouse in New Orleans had brought back happy memories of their youth for John, Sarah, Chuck and Ellie, so the house Chuck had designed was largely inspired by that. Two and a half storeys high, built around a courtyard, they'd even sent the wrought iron railings and the like that were popular in New Orleans back to Los Angeles to finish it off properly. The name also came from New Orleans, as it was called Casa Memphis after their base behind Andre's house. Joshua had mainly stuck to Chuck's plans, the only changes he made were those which resulted in a significant improvement (like the retaining wall, lifting cage, retractable stairs and storerooms under the house).
On one side of the house, a carriageway went down to the level below the house, where they had the stables, carriage house, quarters for the men stationed there, and storerooms, all built around the rear courtyard, with some beneath the house.
The derrick that had been erected for the dragline excavators and pile drivers out on the terrace that filled the remaining space between the buildings on the lower level and the top of the retaining wall could reach out far enough to move cargo (or whatever) to or from ships tied up at the dock, so it was left in place when that work was finished. The steam donkey that Joshua installed to drive the winches for the derrick and lifting cage would probably be replaced by one of Scottie's quicker starting vapor engines, and the steam engine could go back to the hacienda to power equipment there. They also added a telegraph station to the house, to communicate with the hacienda and everywhere else.
Building the house, retaining wall and dock had taken up until the end of the six months they'd been gone, and the house took a few more weeks to finish after they returned, but now that it was done Sarah and Chuck talked John and Mei into moving in there and handling that side of their affairs just before they left to get Kathleen and Alex. The reason for doing this was that both John and Mei were shy and private people, and because of this their relationship wasn't moving forward while they were always under the eye of the others. They did need someone with authority to handle things at the town end for them, and John was perfect for that, but it was more to try and give them the privacy that they needed.
Joseph's train with those moving across the country was back in San Francisco a little over four and a half weeks after they went east and the Belle was sent up to San Francisco to get them.
At that time, there was a shake-up to their plans, because while John had been adamant that he wasn't going anywhere until after Sarah's babies were born, as soon as Kathleen and Alex heard about how things were going with Sarah's pregnancy, they were adamant about to being there for the babies' birth. Kathleen said that they'd just come across on the train themselves and meet them in San Francisco, but John reject that idea. Sarah saw how worried and conflicted he was about this, so she told him to go and collect them, him and Mei both.
That was why John, Mei and four troopers came to San Francisco on the Memphis Belle when she came up to collect the others. To save time, they'd made arrangements to take one of the Pullman's Hotel cars that had been on Joseph's train back east, even though it was much too large for them.
Behind them, as they headed east, it took a day and a half to unload everything from the train and load the Belle, but they managed to get everything into one shipload, just. She was the most heavily laden she'd ever been, riding quite low in the water. The First Mate and Second Engineer were happy to hand the Belle over to Joseph and Scottie for the voyage home, but Beatrice and Annella were not impressed with their husbands' excitement about having the chance to properly test the Belle's handling at sea with such a heavy load as this.
The passage to Los Angeles was markedly slower than the passage to San Francisco had been, and even slower as they were making their way up the river to Los Angeles itself. The boat they left at the hacienda was tied up at the dock when the Memphis Belle arrived, but it was up at the top end of the dock, so there was plenty of room to bring in the Belle behind it (they could have had all three of the boats there and still fitted the Belle in, as they'd made the dock 300 foot long in case they needed to have things shipped from San Francisco or the east coast on a full sized steamer).
They had to offload some of the cargo at Casa Memphis (mostly the heavy engineering equipment and materials from Scottie's workshop) to make her ride higher, as there wasn't enough water in the river to safely take her upriver with that load. Another reason for pulling in there was to wire the hacienda so that they'd be expecting them.
About six hours later they sent the message to the hacienda and received confirmation that the locks would be ready for them, and with that they cast off and headed up river.
When they reached the canal into the hacienda, Joseph was shocked to see that Charles and Joshua had installed extra lock drop gates in the pound lock in the five weeks that they'd been away, obviously they weren't finished yet, as the main pound gates were still being used, but he could see that they were largely complete.
When the Belle was all the way into the lock, the outer gates were wound shut behind them (rather quickly with clockwork engines, Joseph noted). Once those gates were shut, more clockwork engines wound the inner gates open, and with that they took the Belle through to the other end of the canal, repeating the process there, and they were passing through the dock to the lake in two thirds of the time it had taken a month ago!
As soon as the gangway was in place, Joseph, Beatrice and Annella rushed up to the dock to see Sarah (and Chuck, but Sarah had priority, as Joseph been as worried about her as the rest of the 'family' had been). Scottie of course wouldn't be up until he'd supervised shutting the Belle's steam plant down. When Beatrice and Annella saw Sarah though, they were shocked by the size of her, as she hadn't been showing at all when they last saw her about five months before.
The other crew member's wives were introduced to Chuck and Sarah, then they headed up to the house. They had one of the passenger cars with the back to back seating down the centreline hitched up to Bruja, so Beatrice, Annella and the other wives joined Sarah in the passenger car for the ride back to the big house.
The festivities were quietly proceeding when Scottie and the rest of the crew arrived. The Belle had been shut down and their main luggage had been offloaded. Everything else could wait, but they knew that it would take one or two more trips to retrieve what they'd offloaded at Casa Memphis.
As they knew that they'd have a fair crowd there that night, and the Memphis Belle would be arriving late, a few of the rows of married quarters had been readied for the couples. They had explained that this was only for the night and everyone could make their own choices in the morning, but Beatrice, Annella and the other wives had a quick look around and said that this would do them nicely then and there, just as their husbands had said they would, over a month ago.
While everyone all enjoyed catching up though, Sarah was tired and the new arrivals were quite ready for a good night's sleep, so it wasn't a late night. They all wandered off to their beds, with the promise of seeing everyone in the morning.