This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show, which belong to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.

Author's introduction:  Progress can be slow in coming, and they may not yet have gone "high tech" in 1880's Montana, but thanks to a few insightful, inspired and determined individuals, the modern age is destined to arrive -- even in a place like Curtis Wells!


Thoroughly Modern Montana
by Tieranny

"Please, gentlemen! Try to be careful." Cleese reached up to help the stage coach driver and his partner unload the large container. He hadn't spent the last few weeks worrying about this special delivery, just to see it damaged on arrival.

"Take it easy, Doc. No sense havin' a conniption." The driver watched Cleese embrace his long-awaited cargo as if he thought someone was about to grab it away from him. "What's so dang special about this thing, anyhow?"

Cleese glanced up at the two men, then back at his prized parcel. "This is a very sensitive piece of machinery – not meant to be mishandled."

"Well then," the driver huffed, "you better get somebody to help you 'fore you drop it yourself." Strange little man, he thought as he climbed back up to his seat on the coach.

"You need a hand with that there box, Dr. Cleese?" Unbob's eyes were wide with enthusiasm as he hurried over to help.

"Thank you, Unbob, that would be very kind of you." Cleese steadied himself as Unbob gingerly placed his hands under the package. "Just be careful now. It's quite fragile."

"Sure is heavy for somethin' so fragile. What is it, if'n you don't mind me askin'?"

"You'll see." The doctor's eyes sparkled with anticipation.

Luther emerged from the entrance of the Ambrosia Club. "Hey there, Doc. Looks like you got your hands full. You need me to carry that for you?"

Cleese shuddered. That was all he needed – the clumsy oaf stumbling and falling on top of it. "Thank you, Luther, but I believe we can manage it from here."

"Yeah, I can see that." Luther grinned as he easily removed the box from the hands of its struggling purveyors. "Now don't go getting' your longjohns in a knot. I ain't gonna drop it."

True to his word, Luther scaled the stairway to Cleese's office with the agility of a mountain goat, and placed the container on the examining table. Cleese had barely exhaled a sigh of relief when he caught his breath again. Not content to simply leave after completing his good deed, Luther had begun ripping the box open to investigate its mysterious contents.

"For God's sake!" Cleese cried out. "That's not a buffalo carcass! Now please, Luther, stand aside and let me do that."

He removed a scalpel from the drawer and began, somewhat nervously, to slice through the sealed openings – slowly, meticulously – first the top, then down each side, continuing with surgical precision until, finally, the last disengaged sections of cardboard fell away to reveal … more boxes.

"This is gettin' a little tiresome, ain't it, Doc?" Luther was impatient to see what his efforts had yielded, but there was still more unwrapping to do. The procedure continued as a second box was released from the packing material. This one was constructed of metal, and one whole side appeared to contain a window of dark glass. Opposite that side was a curious arrangement of holes and protuberances. Cleese stepped back to assess his new acquisition.

"Well, there it is," Luther announced. "Now, what the hell is it?"

"That there's a computer!" Unbob piped up as a broad smile lit his face.

"O.K." Luther stared at the box. "What the hell's 'commuter'?"

"A computer." Cleese scowled at Luther over his spectacles. "It's a very important innovation."

Luther wasn't impressed. "Looks like a box full of junk to me."

"I'm sure it does," Cleese replied. "Now, if you don't mind, I have some work to do."

Luther wasn't satisfied. "What'r all them cords stickin' out of it?"

"Oh, those are called 'cables'," Unbob chirped. "You gotta plug 'em into keyboards and speakers and hard drives and stuff…."

"Never mind all that now." Cleese was anxious to get the apparatus assembled and running. Come to think of it, Unbob might be useful in that endeavor. The poor man could barely button his shirt properly, and had only recently learned that is wasn't necessary to fire a gun just to see if it was loaded, but like many savants, he had an uncanny understanding of gadgetry. "Would you care to observe?" he asked.

Unbob nodded enthusiastically and removed his hat to prepare for the serious task at hand.

Cleese eyed his new assistant with simultaneous sympathy and fascination. Strange little man, he thought to himself as he considered the best approach to the assignment.

"What the hell's goin' on up here?" The irritated protest rumbled from across the room as Call stalked through the doorway. "Can't a fella get some shuteye without all this hootin' and hollerin' goin' on?" His eyes scouted the room, then fixed on the metal box that nested in the center of a pile of cardboard and straw. "Where'd that contraption come from?"

"All the way from Seattle," Cleese announced proudly. "It's a very complex device. You'd be amazed at its capacity for storing and assimilating information."

"What the hell for?"

"Yeah, what the hell for?" Luther chimed in.

"For a great many things, none of which I have the time or patience to explain at the moment."

Cleese gazed at the small group of onlookers which, for the moment, comprised a very attentive audience. "However, if you insist…."

He turned to Call whose expression reflected both suspicion and fleeting interest in the new-fangled technology. For once, his curiosity seemed to be edging out his natural belligerence. "You could, for example, log onto the sports information center and see who's ahead in the bronco riding and cow roping, and general head-busting competitions at the Calgary Stampede."

Call was skeptical. "All the way up to Calgary? That's a mighty far piece."

"Not as far as you might think." Cleese glanced at Luther. "And you could see who's the winner in the WWF. I believe there's something called a 'SmackDown' on one of the web sites."

"And they got these things called 'chat rooms'," Unbob added. "Well, they ain't exactly rooms … and they ain't exactly real … they's just places out there in space where you can go and imagine you're sittin' there talkin' to somebody."

Luther chuckled. "Hell, Josiah's been doin' that for years."

"Or," Cleese continued, "you could tune into some sites which feature a variety of nighttime entertainments – for gentlemen only."

"Oh, yeah!" Unbob beamed cheerfully. "He's talkin' 'bout the Playboy channel. They got all these nekkid women – some of 'em are real perty – and they do all these fancy things with whips an' chains an'…."

"All right, all right," Cleese interrupted. "We get the idea."

"Yeah, you could say that," Luther agreed. Ideas weren't all he was getting. He could feel a happy sensation stirring below his beltline as his manliness responded to the "idea." Luther glanced down where his mischievous male member was beginning to put a strain on the front of his trousers. Strange little man, he thought as he placed his hat over his nether region and waited for the images, as well as his involuntary reaction to them, to subside.

"Sounds like fun," he chuckled as he studied the diminutive doctor. For all his quiet, reserved manner, Cleese seemed remarkably well informed on certain subjects.

"My, my," another familiar voice resonated. "What have we here? You're not harboring some kind of conspiracy right here in your own office, are you, Doctor?"

Discovery, it seemed, was inevitable. The Colonel's charming demeanor barely concealed his obsessive need to know everything that went on in Curtis Wells, and it was only a matter of time till he came calling. Perhaps it was just as well since the persistent and ever-inquisitive Mr. Mosby was one of the few people in town, and possibly all of Montana Territory, who actually welcomed signs of progress.

"Well," Cleese sighed in resignation, "you may as well join the party. I wouldn't want anyone in Curtis Wells to feel left out." Despite his irritation with continuing disruptions, Cleese couldn't help feeling pleased with all the admiration and recognition his scientific acumen had brought him. "You'd be astonished at what all this machine can do," he went on. "Why, your can program it to handle all your banking arrangements, to oversee your investments – to manage virtually all your financial needs."

Clay stared at the box. Then at Cleese. The good doctor must have been munching on some of his own painkillers. Who would be reckless enough to hand over such sensitive and personal information to an unknown source? The bank had proved unreliable as well as inconvenient at times, and even the safe under the piano had been hacked by thieves.

"Frankly, Doctor, I'm rather disinclined to trust my financial affairs to such an untested mechanism. Surely there are better and safer methods of organizing one's private papers."

"Oh, it's perfectly safe, I assure you. No one can possibly gain access to your personal information. There are a number of safeguards that guarantee one's privacy, and the manufacturers have promised me that every detail is kept totally secret and secure. In any case, why would anyone want to interfere with another person's private communications?"

"You'd be surprised." Clay picked up the instruction manual and leafed through it. There appeared to be a great many applications in addition to financial management. With a computer, he'd be able to order new Winchesters and supplies for his men with speed and efficiency. He could keep closer tabs on the inventory at the Ambrosia and compare his sales and prices to competitors' statistics. In fact, he'd be able to stay updated on the latest economic news and political gossip from all over the country. And there was something called "on line gambling" – including poker games and horse races. That might be worth investigating. He studied the odd-looking machine. No question about it. He'd have to have one for himself, regardless of the cost.

"It may sound strange," Cleese warbled on, "but I predict that one day everyone in the country will want one of these in their own homes – even people in Curtis Wells."

Perhaps sooner than you think, Clay thought to himself. He could buy several machines and set up an additional gaming room in the Ambrosia. People could gamble all day – for a nominal fee – possibly without fighting and breaking up the furniture. And a modest user tax would enhance the town coffers considerably. The possibilities were far-reaching indeed.

Unbob was like a child with a new toy. "And one day we'll all ride around in wagons that don't need no horses to pull 'em. And somebody'll build a machine that can carry folks through the air so's they don't need to worry about runnin' into each other on the ground. And maybe one day we'll all be able to sit up there on the moon and look down on everybody here…."

Unbob's visions of the future were met with rolling eyes and a few amused smiles -- all tinged with pity. Fascinating, Cleese thought, that a poor, simple-minded individual could possess such a fertile imagination – as if, in compensation for his intellectual deficit, he'd been gifted with extraordinary powers of creativity and inventiveness. These quirks of nature were surely deserving of further study, but not just now….

"All right, Unbob, let's not wander too far from reality. We have a lot of work to do, so I'm afraid you'll all have to excuse us, gentlemen." The doctor politely ushered his uninvited audience to the door, hoping that for the moment at least, the discussion was over.

"You will keep me informed of your progress, won't you, Cleese." As usual, the Colonel's request took the form of a direct order.

"Of course," Cleese reassured him. "Now, if it's all right with everyone, I need to check my onscreen display setup and my progressive scanner connection, so if you'll pardon me…."

"By all means," Clay intoned, smiling to himself. He'd let the doctor work out the kinks in the system and make sure everything was performing properly. Then he'd carefully investigate the market for the upgraded version and locate the best buy. He might even be able to use the thing to record his memoirs, although that would probably require the purchase of some extra memory. "Oh, and uh …come over for a drink when you're finished, why don't you – on the house."

"Thank you, I may just do that … when I'm finished." Cleese nodded uneasily as he accepted the invitation. Of course, Mosby only wanted to loosen his tongue with liquor so he'd divulge more information about his new innovation. No doubt, he wanted to find out what secrets were being stored there, and how he could gain access to encrypted messages. Knowing Mosby, he'd find a way around the tightest security measures. And he wasn't above breaking into other people's databases or surreptitiously reading others' e-mail. Strange man, that Mosby, but then, with communication becoming so widespread, there were a lot of strange people around these days.

Meanwhile, that Internet Explorer System wasn't going to program itself. At least his new assistant could be trusted with the password. In fact, Unbob might be very helpful with filing and formatting documents. As avid a student as he was, he'd have no trouble developing his word processing skills – as soon as he learned to read.

"Dr. Cleese…."

"Yes, Unbob." The handyman seemed puzzled as he studied the strange assortment of parts.

"I got a question."

"Yes, what is it?"

"Uh, don't we need some place to plug everything into?"

"Oh, well … yes, of course." Once more, the quiet little man had proven his worth. "Remind me to speak to Josiah. We'll probably have to call a town meeting to see if we can get some electricity installed. That would expedite matters considerably."

The road to success was always strewn with impediments. In any case, they'd come too far to allow a mere technicality to slow the wheels of progress. He adjusted the lamp as he checked over the components list.

"Uh, Dr. Cleese…."

"What is it now?"

"I, uh, got me an idea."

"Then let's hear it, Unbob."

"Well, I was just thinkin', if folks had some of that electricity, they wouldn't need to fuss with kerosene lamps. All's they'd have to do when the sun went down is to reach over and turn a light on, and they could see what they was doin' at night."

"Well, hmm, that's an interesting suggestion, Unbob, but I seriously doubt it would be a priority." Few people in town took that much interest in what they did during daylight hours, much less what they did in the dark.

Unbob was undeterred. "You know what – if everybody in Curtis Wells was to get themselves some electricity, we could light up the whole town!" Once the spirit of inspiration took over, there was no stopping him. "And they could use it to heat up water real fast – maybe a whole tub full without fetchin' a big pile a wood every time. Then they could soak in a tub at home 'stead of havin' to go all the way to the bath house." He gazed outward, his eyes rounded with excitement, and his face brightened as if it was lit from within. "They could even fix up a little shed and nail it right onto the house, and put their tubs in there. And maybe, if they made it big enough, they could put the outhouse in there, too. Thataway they'd have themselves an outhouse close by so's they wouldn't freeze their privates in the wintertime. 'Course they couldn't call it an 'outhouse' no more, on account of it'd be inside…."

"Now, now, let's not get carried away." How could he explain the impracticality of such notions to someone as dull-witted as Unbob, let alone understand the sort of mentality that fostered his fanciful concepts? "In the first place, the system would immediately be overloaded if we tried to light up an entire town. It's simply not possible. And as for incorporating an outhouse into one's actual living quarters … well, there are sanitation concerns that I can't begin to describe." It was evident that the poor man was spending entirely too much time with his pigs lately. "I know you're trying to be helpful, but I can't concentrate with you chattering like a magpie and popping up with one wild idea after another. I think it would be wise if you gave your imagination a rest while we attend to more practical matters."

Unbob couldn't be blamed for indulging in fantasy, especially since his day-to-day existence was so dreary and his prospects for anything better were so limited. Meanwhile, he could make himself useful by cleaning up the empty boxes and straw that littered the office.

"Now, if there are no more burning issues to be resolved, I suggest we get back to work."

Cleese looked down at the amazing new invention that sat before him, waiting for his attention, inviting him to explore its secrets and to learn from its amazing store of information. This machine had the capacity to actually change a person's life. It could organize reams of data and document correspondence of all kinds, as well as provide up-to-date information on the latest scientific discoveries. In short, it could offer him all those advantages enjoyed by people who inhabited that distant realm called "civilization."

Cleese sighed. Sometimes he wondered what had drawn him to this remote Montana backwater town that seemed content to stagnate in its own cesspool of mud and ignorance. At the moment, Curtis Wells was sorely lacking in the most basic amenities, and downright bleak in terms of cultural enlightenment. It would be years before the town fulfilled its growth potential – if it ever did – and in the meantime, the opportunities for social interaction remained sadly limited.

He'd exhausted himself trying to improve the situation, investigated all the resources he could find and written stacks of letters, but despite his best efforts, his research had yet to produce a single positive result. It was time to cast a wider net, he'd finally thought in a moment of quiet introspection. He'd spent too much of his time feeling isolated and alone, and discouraged by the grim prospects for the future. In addition to everything else, he wasn't getting any younger. Now, thanks to his new computer, all the disappointments and frustrations of the last few years were about to be reversed. At last, there was hope in the form of another ingenious invention.

And a subscription to Match.com would be helpful in addressing at least one dilemma.

As soon as they got the whole apparatus assembled, they'd be in business – that was, as Unbob had pointed out, as soon as they had an outlet to plug it into – that was, as soon as someone invented one.

Technological advances never came easily. But then, nothing came easily in Curtis Wells. Still, it was a beginning, and a damned good one at that. Whatever else people said about him, no one could accuse him of lacking foresight. In fact, time would prove that his ideas represented the highest level of man's intellectual capacity.

A leader in scientific achievement. A pioneer of the future. A true visionary. That's how people would describe him … years from now.

He gazed at the miraculous machine whose wonders lay no further away than his fingertips, but whose components were now strewn from one end of the office to the other. There was a great deal to be done and no more time to waste.

"Come on, Unbob." He smiled with gleeful anticipation. "Let's get busy while we still have some daylight left."

~ THE END ~

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