Amanda laughed the first time she saw the place. "Pierson's Salvage" with the name done up in neon over the shop-repair section, and a living/lookout tower behind clearly labeled 'safety first'. She wasn't sure if that was meant to be a motto, irony or warning. Knowing Methos, it was all three. The great rounded mounds of the fallen ships formed a kind of shelter for the building, too regular for rocks, but a very similar color with the low sun reflecting off the rusted surfaces. The evening mist rising from the ground made the entire scene all the more surreal.
Even more oddly, it looked like sanctuary.
No-one now knew if the piece was sculpture or happenstance or some kind of statement (or some combination thereof), but whatever the origin, it was certainly eye-catching and thought-provoking. Was it a tree with a piano outgrowth around it, like bark or branches become a shape of music? Or had the instrument been manifested in the field-becoming-forest (placed, abandoned, lost, accidentally teleported) for whatever reason or means, and the tree grew into it: a sylvan crab in a wood-and-metal shell? Or had perhaps it had been a deliberate marriage of like and un-alike, both tree and instrument cloven and cleaved, split and spliced.
Methos had a threedee holo of it, full size, gracing one corner of the space he used as a wood-shop (as opposed to the machine-shop, the rummage room and The Forge. Which was more a kitchen, really, than a smithy, though it did have two different types of furnace, and several things that produced heat, light, fire, or other means of manipulating material. More than one of them looked like they came from the fallen ships, and several were new versions of very old designs and technologies. Amanda hadn't seen a clockwork spit in centuries, but it certainly made sense now, with regular electricity a more chancy thing than it had been. The Piano-Tree made Amanda laugh, though, and that alone was a good thing.
The ships had landed without warning, just like all the alien invasion tales had said, and no one believed. It was an apocalypse both more and less horrifying than those same tales and movies had speculated, and a good deal more mundane. Great parts of the invasion were just boring. (Methos was not at all surprised by that. It didn't matter that the invaders were not human, the creeping advance, the siege, the slow attrition of resources on both sides was the same as it ever was.) Humanity fought back - of course they did - and Immortals found themselves as caught up in the struggle as anyone else.
In the end, it was Earth herself that stopped the invaders. Over time, the trace chemicals and compounds in the air and water proved damaging to parts of their machines, built up and combined into poisons that did more damage to the invaders themselves than all the bullets and incendiaries, booby-traps and simple application of sharp edges to soft parts that the combined forces of the world inflicted on them. (It was never entirely determined whether the invaders were people (for some definition of people) with metallic 'skins', robot-android-AI things (self aware or distantly directed somehow), or some hybrid-cyborg thing like Daleks or Cybermen. They were usually called 'Screamers' for the sound their ships made as they landed.)
But once the last of the Screamers was gone, the world was a very different place. Like a firestorm, much had been destroyed, but not everything, and the hulking remains of the machinery from the invaders remained scattered about the landscape, wearing slowly, immovable and inert.
But as Methos knew how to survive an invasion, he knew even better how to salvage the needful in the aftermath. As, in fact, did Amanda.
In the back of the warehouse that went deep into the hill was an even odder sight. Salvaged walls from different buildings, interiors and exteriors both. Each was striking in its own way. Some for the type or quality of the architecture — examples of Georgian elegance, Tudor linenfold, an Imperial Russian wall that looked like it had been carved from solidified honey. Other walls were more disturbing: one looked for all the world like a dragon was coming through the cream paint and gilded ornamentation, brilliant blue scales and gleaming claws making the stolid grandeur of the formal panels seem a fragile curtain indeed between one world and another.
Amanda spent hours wandering among the walls, making her way deeper into the labyrinth. She wondered how Methos had managed to transport the walls from their original buildings to this deep place. Eventually she realized, with a shiver, that it hadn't been Methos who'd done the transporting. This was a collection made by the Screamers, possibly an attempt at understanding the world they were invading. They had never taken people, as best Amanda could tell: they had killed, but never attempted to kidnap. But buildings, towns, ships at sea, the hurriedly launched sky-fortress, those had vanished, sometimes in pieces and sometimes wholesale. Destroyed, vaporized, demolished had been the assumption. But here some of those vanished bits of building were, carefully kept.
What did it mean, that the Screamers had collected them? What had they learned? When she asked, Methos had no idea either.
Amanda went with Methos on one of his salvage expeditions, after she'd been there for awhile. Rumor of a ship that had last been seen in the war sailing into a glittering mist that had reappeared came to their ears, and it was odd and interesting enough to pursue. Now it seemed the thing was sailing in dry ground, hundreds of miles from any body of water large enough to hold it. It was a trove of material, and while they were by no means the only salvager-scavenger-prospector teams to assay the challenge, they had skills and knowledge between them that meant they were able to do more than most, and came away with some real treasures — including a quantity of wood that looked to have been kept in stasis since the ship had been stolen.
The wood was alive under his fingertips, the scent of summer and sunlight and the memory of rain in the workshop air. This board had been a part of a tree not all that long ago, not as Methos or trees measured time, and it remembered roots and leaves, moonlight and the cold glitter of winter stars, the painful, wonderful push upward of the first sap of spring and the promise of the coming sun. Now it was the tree that was memory, held in each board and shaving, each long curl spiraling down from the plane. What might these boards become, sawn and dry and ready for the workman's hand?
Anything was possible.
Methos knew well the value of symbols, of objects that carried weight of memory, of significance, of time and place; objects that in themselves were not necessarily valuable — made of common material, of indifferent quality, mediocre skill — but by association with particular people, places or events gained immense worth thereby. Things that survived nature or humanity's great wrath and destruction. Relics, reminders, symbols-made-manifest. Things of value for what was or had been once, what could be survived.
Methos also knew even better the value of mundane things that made simple tasks of living easier in a less-technical and convenient world. Tools that retained their use over time, handles that fit the hand. Simple, useful, practical things that had fallen out of favor or need, but were now needed again.
People came to him, and sometimes they found things to take away again, going on with their lives. Sometimes they brought him things that could be repaired or made into new tools or objects of use. He did a fairly brisk trade in treadle sewing machines and parts thereof, for example. Amanda surprised (really, he should have known better) by being not just adept at using a treadle, but repairing or even making new ones out of pieces of old.
And that kind of said it all, what they were doing, mortals and immortals both in this new world: Making new things, new lives, out of what was left of the old. Going forward into the future. That both he and Amanda could certainly do.