ARCPOINT CHARACTER | JARDEN ~ James Arden-Merrick was a product of the Procurement department. At the age of twelve he began assisting his father, James Arthur Merrick III, as he delivered produce from the hydroponic gardens. His mother, Olivia Arden, was a cook in the central kitchen. She would often send little Jimmy back to the garden to get something her husband forgot to bring. He soon learned to question his mom about her needs—and remind his dad—before they left Hydro, as they called it.
At the time, there was no official Procurement department. There were electricians and plumbers, gardeners and chemists, metalworkers and woodworkers. There were those who sewed and cooked and mended clothes. Occasionally they’d all come together are build a house. Some of the trades were organized, many were not.
At the beginning of the 22nd century, Lee Franklin passed away. His son, Leeland Jr., did not want to arbitrate between the people as his father had done since the beginning. He approached Norm Ashford and his son Lars about an idea he had. “What if we organize the people under certain lines of work? They can designate someone to discern their upcoming needs, so the Community can work together to meet those needs.” They took the idea to the remaining Founders, and then the Community as a whole. There was resounding approval, and the Procurement department was formed. It consisted of a representative from each line of work, now called divisions.
James Merrick Sr. was the representative for the Gardening division. Providing food for the Community was a vital and never-ending responsibility. His one constant demand at the Procurement meetings was for more water. Many times, he sent Little Jimmy to check the water levels in the ponds, the reservoirs, and the storage tanks. The water division sent Jimmy to the plumbers, who would hand him a pump to take to the mechanics or the electricians.
At one of their regular meetings, representatives from various divisions approached James Sr. about using Little Jimmy as a liaison between the groups. When James agreed, they developed a plan to give Jimmy training in every job performed in the Community, so he could understand and translate the terminology each group had. Even though Jimmy was a quick study, it took years for him to learn the tricks of every trade. When he was done, everyone knew the young man who was at the heart—but not the head—of the Procurement Department.
Jimmy was twenty-six years old before his father let him join the salvage crew. Every fall a group of men traveled to a farming area near the Rift. They towed a short-sided trailer behind an old John Deere tractor to scavenge building materials from the long-abandoned farms there. They traveled down the broken up Crucero road to the empty I-40 freeway. It took a full day to travel each way with the slow, old tractor.
One of the crew, Roy Griffin, owned the tractor and had donated his own farm over a decade earlier. He and his family lived on that farm when the Rift formed, cutting off access to Los Angeles on I-40. In exchange for living in ArcPoint, he took responsibility for any trouble that might come about from taking materials from the other farms. They had long since stripped his.
On this trip, Jimmy helped the men remove flooring, roofing, hardware, and lumber. Especially precious were windows. Sadly, many had been broken by vandals. His father, James Sr., scoured the grounds, looking for plants and seeds to relocate to the Community. They spent five nights in the empty homes, carefully removing only the best materials, leaving what they couldn’t take well protected from the elements.
Before they left, they hiked to the edge of the Rift. Jimmy was mesmerized by the sight. Looking down into the canyon, he saw the carcass of an animal on a ledge. “It’s a desert burro,” said Mr. Griffin. “You can tell by the horns. Probably chased over the edge by wolves.” His father explained how that sort of thing happens in the wild. Then he pointed out buildings in the distance, and told him when the sun hit them just right, they would light up like a blow torch.
When they got back to ArcPoint, Jimmy asked his dad to show him on a map where those lights were. He saw they were due west, near a place called Calico. He climbed Lookout Tree early the next morning with his father’s binoculars. He soon realized the timing wasn’t right, the direction would never work, and there was a hill in the way. He would have to find a higher tree, farther south, later in the year. Or, he could wait for the next salvage operation.
Climbing trees proved futile and the salvage operations were never timed right. After four more trips to the abandoned farms, the tractor broke down. His hopes were dashed of ever seeing the lights of Calico. Loss of the tractor brought other problems. No longer could they haul logs for new homes. No more hunting excursions to ten-mile meadow—the closest place to find burro deer and bighorn sheep. They would have to be content with rabbit meat.
For years, Jimmy had climbed the ArcPoint trees and walked it’s branches to pick fruit for the Community. The need doubled after loss of the tractor. There were a number of productive trees too difficult to get to because of the encroaching needle-brush. One day he took a chance. He jumped from one tree branch to another. He picked fruit
from that tree, then realized he couldn’t jump back with his arms full. He reluctantly tossed the armload of fruit, and devised a plan.
The next day, he brought a heavy braided hemp rope with him. He tied it to the first branch, jumped with the rope to the other tree, and connected the branches. After some practice, he walked comfortably from tree to tree. He soon taught other fruit gatherers, and a new industry was born. Rope making.
Years later, he was setting up to connect two more trees. With one end connected, the other end in his hands, and the rest of the rope dangling, he leaped. He didn’t land right. As he slipped, he gripped the rope tightly, hoping it would break his fall. He swung through the air, and as he passed another branch, he landed on it. He got another idea. His best.