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Tinker’s Plague

Starting over doesn't meen escaping the past.

by Stephen B. Pearl

Tinker's Plague - Stephen B. Pearl
Part of the Tinker's World series:
Editions:Paperback - 2nd: $ 14.99
ISBN: 1933157305
Size: 5.00 x 8.00 in
Pages: 352

Oil reserves depleted. Society collapsed.
A few places cling to modern technology. For everywhere else, there are the Tinkers.

In southern Ontario, Novo Gaia uses sustainable energy to support its citizens in comfort. From there, Novo Gaia sends Doctors of Applied General Technology, tinkers, into the Dark Lands to install everything from solar stills to televisions—and make a profit.

Brad Cooper is a tinker on his route in Guelph when he finds himself at the epicentre of a plague outbreak. Stranded without support in a tenuously-held quarantine zone, he must use his limited medical training in a desperate search for a treatment against an insidious relic from an age of excess.

Meanwhile, fuelled by panic, other townspeople caught within the quarantine zone conspire to sabotage relief efforts. Distrusted by the people he's trying to help, hampered by political rivals, under-supplied, over-worked, and with his own risk of infection increasing, Brad seems to be fighting a losing battle as the casualties mount...


Chapter One


THE BOY SPRINTED along the crumbling asphalt road, his twisted left arm flailing in his haste. He scrambled over a wooden gate and ran to an ancient van sitting in a field. A tower of interlocking pipes topped with a windmill rose from the van’s back corner. Thin-film solar panels covered its roof and sides. Gasping, the boy wailed, “Tinker!

The van’s backdoor opened to reveal a man dressed in light, hemp clothing. His blond hair peeked out from under a wide-brimmed hat.

“What is it?” he asked, donning a pair of mirrored sunglasses.

The boy tried to explain, but all that came past his cleft palate was a babble.

“Slow down. I can’t understand you,” said the tinker. Stepping from the van, he touched the boy’s shoulder. “Take some deep breaths and try again.”

Trembling, the boy obeyed.


“It’s me maw, she’s a dyin’. Meb says she needs a doctor, like in Gridtown, but we ain’t got none. Youse a tinker, Meb says maybe youse can ‘elp. Da says ‘e’ll pay. Please, Tinker, save me maw.”


“Meb, the midwife from the village sent you?”


“You’re Greg Thomson’s boy. I remember you from last year.”

“Yeah. Please, Tinker, youse gotta ‘elps me maw.”

“Is your mother having a baby?”

“Yeah. Meb ses it’s what’s killin’ ‘er.”

“Damn it, I told Thomson to stop having kids. All right, run to the James’ place. Have one of them hitch my team and bring my wagon to your house. I’ll grab my med kit and go straight there.”

“Thank youse, Tinker, thank youse.” The child sprinted toward the main road.

“Damn Thomson! How many monsters will it take for him to accept the obvious?” The tinker entered the van emerging seconds later with a pack on his back and a laptop computer in his hand.

Could be a malpresentation, or an umbilical tangle. Probably a foetal malformation knowing Thomson’s seed, he thought as he started down the road.

Five minutes later he approached the farmhouse of the Thomson clan. Its worn, vinyl siding had torn from the walls in many places, exposing the styrofoam beneath. Boarded-over windows made its two stories seem taller. The outbuildings looked ready to collapse. Despite the warm, spring day, smoke flowed from the chimney.

“Tinker,” called a well-shaped girl with delicate features standing on the porch. She wore a homespun shirt, leggings and leather sandals.

“Where’s Misses Thomson?” asked the tinker.

“I’ll take you.” The girl led the way into the house. Dim light entered around the boards covering the smashed windows, highlighting years of filth and neglect. Deformed children stared at the tinker as he passed them.

“I’m Meb’s granddaughter, Carla. Thanks for coming. Grandma said Misses Thomson’s in a bad way. She said it’s a malpresentation, but she can’t find an arm or leg to turn the baby.” The girl pulled a strand of her long, ebony hair away from her dark-blue eyes.

“I’ll do what I can. By the way, I’m Brad.” He removed his sunglasses to reveal piercing, blue eyes.

Carla led the way up a creaky staircase to a room containing a narrow bed and a birthing stool. A woman, with grey-streaked, black hair and a distended belly, lay naked on the bed. Her body was covered with bruises. She screamed, displaying that she was missing several teeth. A handsome, grey-haired woman, dressed in a cream smock, massaged the pregnant woman’s abdomen and spoke soothingly. A fat man, in a tattered suit, sat on a stool in the corner. He chewed on the end of an unlit pipe and scowled.

“Grandmother, the tinker’s here,” said Carla.

“Brad, thank all the Goddesses you came. Damn lucky I spotted your windmill on my way here. I’m in over my head,” said the grey-haired woman.

“Carla told me. Let me have a look.” Brad set his laptop on the floor and removed his pack.

Mister Thomson rose from his stool and moved to stand in front of the tinker. His harsh features reflected hatred and distrust. Brad noted the discolouration spreading over the shorter man’s bald scalp.

“I’s don’t trust youse, Tinker,” snarled Thomson. “Youse save me Emily, and I’ll pay. Youse don’t and I’s don’t. And no funny business.”

“Get out of my way. This wouldn’t be happening if you had half a brain.” Brad pushed past the shorter man. “Okay, Emily, I’m going to check some things.”

“It hurts, it hurts. No!” She screamed as a contraction ripped across her belly.

“Meb, my stethoscope, please. Thomson, rip the wood off the window, so I can see what I’m doing.” Brad gestured to a sheet of plywood nailed to the wall.

Muttering, Thomson complied.

Minutes later, the examination was complete. Brad returned his portable sonogram to his pack and prepared a shot.

“This will knock her out and stop the labour. The foetus is already dead.”

“Youse got to save me child, Tinker,” snapped Mister Thomson.

“It’s dead. I doubt that it was ever really alive. It looks like a lump of flesh, more tumour than child. I told you, Thomson, your seed is poisoned. The water from your well is a mess.”

“Tinker lies. Water’s water, youse drinks it. All youse tinkers wants is to sell them phoney stills. I’ll not—”

Thomson’s tirade was cut short by his wife’s scream. Brad pressed a needle into the woman’s vein. Seconds later, she was unconscious.

“Thomson, bring in a table. The only way to save her is to remove the growth.”

“She’ll still be a woman when youse done, won’ts she?”

“If by that asinine statement you mean, will she be able to have children? No!”

“Youse lie, Tinker. ‘ealers cleans out growths and women ‘ave babies. I’s knows a woman from Brookville ‘ad it done. Alls youse want is to take away me manhood. Make it so’s I’s can’t ‘ave no more children. Youse won’t.”

“Listen to me, Thomson. Maybe a healer could leave her womb strong enough that she could deliver normally next time. I’m not a healer, I’m a tinker. It’s going to push what I know to the limit to save her life. Get me that table, or your wife is as good as dead. As soon as that sedative wears off, she’ll start pushing again.

It won’t take her long to burst her uterus.” “‘Er whats?” demanded Thomson.

“The sack the baby’s in,” supplied Meb.

“The growth’s in,” corrected Brad.

“I’ll get youse table,” snarled Thomson as he stamped from the room.

“What are her chances?” asked Meb.

Brad pulled a data cube from his medkit and inserted it into his laptop. “With a healer, ninety-nine to one she’d live. With me, maybe fifty-fifty. If I’d taken an extra surgical elective at the Academy, she’d be better off. Get some blocks and ropes, so we can elevate the table’s foot. Boil some towels, and see if there’s a clean sheet in this place. Also, check that my wagon’s arrived. I’ll

need a power cable from it for my instruments.”

“I’ll have Carla throw it to me.” Meb left the room. Brad pressed several keys on his computer and began reviewing texts on surgical technique.

Fifteen minutes later, Meb returned and, leaning out the window, caught an electrical cord and pulled it into the room.

Shortly after that Thomson entered, carrying one end of a battered table. Carla carried the other.

“The towels are boiling, and Jeremy is bringing up a clean sheet,” announced Meb.

“Good. The blocks and ropes?” asked Brad.

“I’ll fetch them.” Carla ran from the room.

“Thomson, you’re with me. I need a pack mule.” Brad snatched up his laptop and left the room.

Thomson followed, stopping at the door to Brad’s wagon. A heavyset, older man, dressed in homespun, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses, waited by the battered van.

“Hello, Tinker, Greg. How’s she doing?”

“Not well, Mister James.” Brad scanned the pasture where his four mares grazed.

“I locked down your windmill before moving her and loosed your team while I was waiting. Do you need anything else?”

“Not that I can think of. Thanks for bringing my wagon, but for now you’ll have to forgive me.” Brad climbed into his van.

“Certainly.” Mister James started toward the road.

Brad emerged carrying a toaster oven, spotlight, electric razor and portable respirator. “Take these to your wife’s room. Tell Meb

to prep the gear. I’ll be up in a minute.”

With a grunt, Thomson moved to obey.

Reopening his laptop, Brad sat on his rear bumper and continued to review his data cube. When he returned to the impromptu operating room, his surgical tools were in the toaster oven, and Meb was shaving Emily.

“Meb, you are a wonder.” Brad lifted the unconscious woman onto the table and secured her in place with the ropes.

“Do you think she’ll come to?”

“No, but once she’s open, we’ll have to tilt up the table. It will make her guts fall up out of the way. Tell Thomson to put a rag over his ugly mug and get in here. We’ll need Carla to slide the blocks in place when he lifts the table.”

“I’ll tell them.”

“Good. I’ll intubate her and set up the respirator while you do that. Last thing I need is her puking into her lungs.”

“I wish I knew how to intubate. Who would have thought a tube down the throat could save so many lives?”

Minutes later Meb returned with Thomson and Carla.

“Youse ready to do somethin’ now, Tinker?” snarled Thomson.

“Once you’ve tied a cloth over your mouth. There’s no point in saving her with an operation to have her die of an infection.”

Thomson snorted but tied a damp, clean handkerchief over his mouth and nose.

“Meb, scrub with me. You’re my sterile nurse.

“Carla, you’re my grunge nurse. That means you deal with any dirty stuff. Clear?”


They scrubbed. Meb moved to stand between the instruments in the toaster oven and Brad.

“Here we go,” said Brad. “Bloodless scalpel.”

Meb passed him the end of the fibre optic tube. Setting it against Emily’s abdomen, he pressed its button. A flicker of laser light pierced the flesh, which peeled back to reveal the fat beneath. Brad extended the cut to just above the mons Veneris.

He cut through other layers of flesh, dragging them aside with retractors.

“Carla, shine the light into the wound. Meb, a regular scalpel. I don’t want to risk burning the intestines when I open the peritoneum.” The knife cut clean, and the uterus bulged up from the incision.

“Taweret! It’s huge,” swore Meb. “Worse than that. It has to come out.” “What? Why?” demanded Thomson.

“Those white things piercing the muscle wall. They’re claws. The foetus is a mutation. I can’t separate it from the surrounding tissue. Meb, I’ll need four clamps to seal the uterine arteries.

“Thomson, lift the foot of the table.”

“Youse can’ts take ‘er... ‘er... the sack baby grows in!” snarled


“I can and will. I pray the creature in there didn’t do any more damage than I can see. Now lift this damn table!”

Teeth gritted, Thomson obeyed while Carla placed the blocks.

“Carla, wipe my brow. I’m sweating like a pig.” With hands held steady by an act of will, Brad clamped the uterine arteries and separated them with the bloodless scalpel, cauterizing the wound. Two more cuts and the fallopian tubes separated. Drawing the bloated uterus to one side, he cut its connection to the bladder then the cervix and lifted it out.

“That has it.” Brad glanced around the room. Thomson leaned against the wall, white as a sheet. “Get out of here Thomson, before you faint!”

Silently the farmer shuffled from the room.

“I have to close now. Curved needle, with the white thread.

That’s the one the body will absorb.” “Good work.” Meb passed him the needle.

“I’ll believe that when she’s back on her feet.”

When the operation was over, they returned Emily to the bed and removed the intubation tube.

“She’ll probably sleep for a few more hours, but she mustn’t get up for at least a week,” explained Brad as they moved his equipment into the hall. “Can you get one of her kids to watch her until she wakes up?”

“I’ll see to it. I tossed your power cable out the window.”

“Thanks, Meb. Did you save the uterus?”

“Yes. Are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?”


“I want to be there.”

“What are you two talking about?” asked Carla.

“I’ve been after Thomson for years to stop fathering children. His seed is polluted.”

“He tries to spread it around enough. He’s been after me since

I turned thirteen.”

“I can’t fault his taste,” remarked Brad.

Carla blushed.

“Now, Brad. Carla is my granddaughter. Have the decency to seduce her behind my back,” interrupted Meb.

“Grandmother!” Carla’s blush deepened.

“Tell me, Meb, are all the women of your line beautiful, or does it skip a generation?”

“Brad, if I were twenty years younger.” Meb grew serious. “We should confront Thomson. I worry about his oldest girl, she’s just entering puberty, and with Emily infertile...”

“He’s that twisted?”

“Yes, he is! Nick wanted the town council to take his children from him, but we don’t think anything has happened yet. Even if he fathered a child on his daughter, how could we prove it without gene testing?”

“If we can scare Thomson off long enough, he won’t get the chance.”

“What do you mean?” asked Carla

“That rash on his scalp. Skin cancer. Not breeding wasn’t the only advice he refused to listen to. He doesn’t wear a hat in the

sun, and he refuses to get a still to clean his water.”

“I saw it too. My guess is in six months, Emily will finally have a proper chance to heal.” Meb shook her head.

Brad stared at the floor. “I noticed the bruises. Men like Greg make me embarrassed for my gender.”

Meb looked at Carla as she spoke. “Fortunately, they are the exception, and women can be every bit as bad.” Carla rolled her eyes.

Brad shrugged. “Carla, if you would move my gear to my wagon, your grandmother and have an unpleasant task to perform.”

Reviews:Jason (the Germ GUY) Tertro on wrote:

In Tinker's Plague, Stephen B. Pearl takes us into a post-apocalyptic world where medicine is performed by engineers, public health is a matter for the military and the denizens of a small community begin to die as a result of a mystery plague. The story follows the efforts of one engineer, a Tinker, as he struggles to find not only the cause of the infection, but also how to cure it. His only help is an 18 year old girl who is willing to do anything to support him. As the Tinker races to find an answer, he is hampered by a discordant response that is rife with political interference, socioeconomic divide and undertones of racism and distrust of the government. A roller coaster ride from start to finish, this book will hold you with its fast pace and tense tone leaving you with memories that will both haunt and inspire you long after you put the book down. Jason (the Germ GUY) Tertro

Faye's Reviews on wrote:

Wow what a gripping story, loved every page. Andromeda Strain crossed with the Postman with a little bit of I am Legend thrown in ( no zombies ) .... This book is worth getting if you love PA sci fi

The Tinker Song.
Tinkers can, oh tinkers can.
Wandering the roads.
A lethal shot.
A healing hand.
An Engineer that roams.

Light the way, the tinkers can, in a dark-some land.
Restore us to, our squandered past, yes the tinkers can.

With sun and wind and wave you stand, first dawn in a dark night.
Healer to our wounded Earth, our mother set rights.

First glimmer of fair, precious hope, in a land trapped in despair.
Clean waters from the poisoned streams, bring the tinkers fair.

Face the horrors of yesteryear, and wrestle them to ground.
Fearless gainst the toxic filth, our ancestors did found.

From the foulness of the collapse, our forefathers did bring.
The tinkers like a shaft of light, do a new age bring.

Learned in so many things, they walk a shattered land.
Save the best of everything, and healing bring to man.

And so mankind shall phoenix like, rithesist from the flame.
And tinkers shall the first spark be, our future for to claim.

As I was writing Tinker's Plague this song came to mind and it really did seem to establish the role of the tinkers in the post-apocalyptic world I was generating.
Tinkers represent the vanguard of a new age growing from the ashes of the old as such many moral tropes we hold are questioned. The idea of small u eugenics has been kicking around for years. Things like making the genetics of people of proven achievement available on request to infertile couples. I also strove to show that there were people of good heart at all social economic levels. The fact that I didn't pander to an 'the present is perfect or a big business is great' model will undoubtedly cost me some readers then again I feel it will garner me more from thinking individuals that see that the world of today is not sustainable and maybe just want to avoid the future I have writen about.

About the Author

Stephen B. Pearl is a multiple published author whose works range across the speculative fiction field. His writings often incorporate real places and focus heavily on the logical consequences of the worlds he crafts. He follows advancements in science because good science fiction is based on good science. His life-long association with cats has given him insights into the species.

Stephen’s Inspirations encompass H.G. Wells, J.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Jim Butcher, Anne McCaffrey, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Homer among others. He strongly believes that good fiction is based on good fact, so he can often be found researching elements of his next book. He also holds that to write one must read and that there is greatness in all forms of literature. One could say he pursues the great-- then to the best of his abilities tries to distil it down and express it as his own original work.
Stephen currently resides in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and can be reached through his website: or e-mail: