With the power restored, the group was able to get back to pilot training. After a week away from flying, most of the students needed a couple of days to get back into it, and there were several close calls. Finally though, everyone seemed to be back to where they were before the power problem.
After everyone soloed in the Tomahawks, Robin moved up to instructing in the Greyhound as Jack pulled Mel and Pam to check them out in the C-130’s. After a week of practicing in the big cargo plane, they were ready and took over training of the others, freeing Jack to continue teaching rotary craft to his two students.
By the end of June both Mike and Donald had soloed in the Huey, and Jack decided to ferry them up to Gowen field and try to acquire more helicopters. Flying over to the army reserve area, they landed and went to make a thorough examination of the hangars so they would know for sure what they had to work with.
Most of the hangars had been used to house craft down for maintenance, or small fixed wing planes, but the last one they looked in had two Black Hawk’s inside.
“Oh man, will you look at that! Beautiful!” Jack exclaimed upon seeing them.
The Black Hawk didn’t have the range of the Huey, and was about as fast, but it could sling load four times the weight, or carry twice as many passengers. Knowing they could really use these ships, the men went to work getting them ready for flight.
“One problem with these is they were meant to be flown by two people.” Jack informed the others. “That means we can only take one back at a time. Mike, why don’t you fly the Huey back while Donald and me grab one of these?”
“Suits me,” he replied.
Climbing into the right seat of the Black Hawk, Jack started the engines and brought the rotor up to speed. When Don was belted in and ready, they took off and followed the Huey back to the complex. Landing and shutting down, they jumped aboard the Huey and returned for the other one.
Jack realized they’d need two more pilots if they were going to use both Black Hawks, and asked the others who else wanted to learn to fly them. He wasn’t a bit surprised when Mel and Pam volunteered, but was a bit taken aback when Robin did also. He still wasn’t used to the new assertiveness of the young girl, but saw that she was determined. Taking her aside, he said “Robin, I’m delighted that you’re interested in getting involved in everything, but I’m concerned about the twins. As young as they are you won’t be able to devote much time away from them for training, you’re already extending yourself to the limit training the others in the Greyhound. Would you be too upset if I suggested waiting until next spring to learn to fly the choppers? That way the kids will be old enough for you to take the time you’ll need to learn.”
Looking at him for a moment, she replied “I guess so Jack, I just don’t want to get left behind here.”
“I understand, we’ll try not to let that happen, ok?”
“Ok,” she said, looking slightly embarrassed.
With that handled, he returned to the others. “All right, as soon as everyone has soloed in the C-130’s, we’ll begin training in the Huey. Until then Mike and Don will build air time in the Black Hawk and handle any short range jobs that are needed.”
During the winter they had put together a list of the groups around them that wanted to be moved to their area. Not all the groups wanted to join them, and that was fine with Jack. He offered assistance to all of them, whether they wanted to join or not and as a result had fostered goodwill among their neighbors. As the first crew was formed for the cargo plane, Jack started sending it out to bring people in. he also got the others to go back to Gowen and bring in three more planes. That way, even if all three crews were out, they’d have one plane in reserve.
By the middle of July people were beginning to come in, and the group got them settled in the shelter to begin with. Jack was well aware that the shelter couldn’t hold too many, and already they had tripled the number of people living there. He proposed to the group that they retake and settle Mayfield, twenty miles to the north. It would have to be cleaned up to begin with, he explained, including disposing of the bodies of the former residents, but it would allow them to move into ready made houses, at least for the first few hundred people. After that they would have plenty of room for expansion.
One of the new people asked how they were supposed to get power and water up there, and Jack suggested they extend the power lines from the shelter to the town. “Once we have power restored up there, we’ll work on getting wells dug and pumps installed.”
This seemed to satisfy people, and they agreed. Jack explained that they’d need to plant crops next year (they had planted a large garden for the complex that year, but it wouldn’t feed all the newcomers), but for now they could ship in food from the grocery warehouse in Boise to feed everyone. This was agreed upon by all present, and they made plans to go the next day and start cleaning up the town.
The next morning Jack, Mike and Don used the choppers to shuttle in thirty three of the new people to begin the clean up. They had left the young children at the shelter, and taken anyone twelve and older to help with the task. Mike had trained Allison, his daughter, to use the radios and the girl was maintaining contact with folks all over the country. Everyone that wanted to join the group was told that first they had to agree to the rules, but no one had a problem with that. Everyone understood that kids in this new world had to grow up fast if they wanted to live, and they all saw the wisdom of living by the morality of the Bible, even if they weren’t all believers.
That first day they spent cleaning up enough houses for the group to live in while they completed the job. Almost every house had mummified corpses inside, as people naturally had stayed home as they got sick, and had died there. The job was gruesome, but they soon got over it. One of the good things was the bodies were light, as most of the moisture had evaporated out of them. As the bodies began to pile up in the street, Jack and Mike flew back to the complex and got the Skycrane in order to fly up to the site of the power line repair and retrieve the backhoe and dozer to facilitate the digging of mass graves. By the end of the day they had cleaned up five houses and buried the bodies in a vacant lot nearby, and were ready to stop for the night. Jack flew back to the complex and picked up a hot meal that was waiting for him, and brought it back to the town for all the workers. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, despite the nasty job they’d done, and as soon as they’d eaten, they found places to bed down for the night.
Knowing they’d need a watch posted, Jack had asked James and Susan to get some sleep during the day and fulfill that roll during the night. He wanted to give the new people a good night’s rest as he knew the next day would be a hard one.
With new groups coming in daily, the job of removing and burying the bodies was over sooner than expected. By the end of the second week it was done, and there were more than a hundred people living in the town. With the job now completed, Jack got crews together to string power lines. In town they were usually able to use existing power poles, but in areas they had to simply mount insulators on trees. He knew this wouldn’t hold up forever, but it would give them the time they needed to build better supports later. This part of the country didn’t have many trees however, and outside of town was mostly open plains. Instead of trying to build supports for the power lines, they decided to find a trencher and conduit if they could and put the lines underground. That presented problems of its own, including the fact that the frost line was about four feet deep in this part of the country, and the line would have to go in below that point.
At the heavy equipment lot in Boise they found a trencher that was capable of digging as deep as eight feet and got it running. Sling loading it to the town with the Black Hawk, they started searching for suitable conduit. That proved to be easier said than done, and they couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for. What they did find was six inch PVC water pipe the city had stored on their lot, and decided to thread the lines through that. It wasn’t the best solution and sure was a pain in the butt to work with, but it sure beat building and installing hundreds of power poles.
On the day that power was finally restored to the town’s power grid, there was a celebration. There were almost two hundred people living in the town at this point, from all over the country. Most had been without electricity for the entire year and a half since the plague, and many had been hungry and sick as well. This return to civilization was a welcome relief after so long, and everybody went all out.
During that first night however, there were three houses in the town that caught fire. No one was living in them at the time, and they simply burned themselves out, but the people were afraid, fearing that someone might be trying to attack them. After investigating the fires they realized that the cause was electrical appliances left on when the lights went out. With the restoration of power some of these had come back on, eventually overheating and starting the fires. With their new understanding, the people shut off power to all but the neighborhood they were living in at the moment, and formed a crew to go through all the houses and turn off every appliance until such time as the house was again occupied. This seemed to solve the problem, and there were no more unexpected fires in town.
By early fall the town had grown to more than seven hundred people. As winter was approaching, Jack’s people ended the exodus flights for the year and helped the towns people get organized for the winter. So far crime in town was unheard of, but they insisted that all of the residents be armed and formed some of them into patrols that roved the surrounding area, watching out for trouble. The towns’ people also organized a town counsel to make decisions. At first they tried to get Jack to run it, but he declined. He had no desire to get involved with other people’s daily lives, although he was honored that they trusted him enough to ask.
Sitting with Pam in their apartment, her belly big with their first child, Jack confessed to her that he wasn’t sure whether this town was God’s will or not.
“I’ve been praying about this for the past year, and still I get no answer hun. In my mind I know that genetic diversity is required to have a growing society, but in my heart I’m still not sure it’s God’s will.”
“I understand your concern Jack, and I’m not sure what to tell you. I know the Bible says that God filled the world with people from just Adam and Eve, and that He could do it again if He wanted, no matter how many people we had here.”
“But the difference Pam is that Adam and Eve were created perfect by God, genetically perfect. There were no bad genes to cause trouble if brothers and sisters married and had children. After sin came into the world and brought genetic problems with it, that changed, and that’s when God changed things and said that incest was wrong.”
“But that doesn’t explain away Noah and his family Jack, scripture says that there was so much sin in the world that God destroyed everyone with the flood. Even if Noah were perfect genetically, what about his wife? Or his sons’ wives? Surely there were genetic problems in them, yet God still repopulated the world from just those eight people…couldn’t He do it again?”
“I guess so hun, but all I have right now is science. Anyway, I can’t see anything wrong with gathering folks together, whether for diversity or just to help each other live. There’s no doubt about it, the more people you have, the easier a job is.”
“I guess you’re right Jack, I don’t see where bringing everyone here will cause any problems either. I guess you should just do what you feel is necessary, at least until God tells you one way or another.”
With that, they got up and headed for bed.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
During the month of October Jack helped the new town get things set up and running. Among the new projects that needed to be handled was the need to arm so many new people. There had been guns in the houses, and a local pawn shop had a few rifles and shotguns as well, but not nearly enough for everybody.
The town council was comprised of two older men and one woman. They were well aware that they weren’t capable of providing for the needs of the growing community like the old US Government had, so they pretty much left everyone alone and only got involved when the people asked their opinion. Still, they weren’t very knowledgeable in this whole ‘running of a community of survivors’ thing, and consulted Jack often. For his part, even though Jack had said he didn’t want to be a politician and run for office, he was more than willing to give advice and help out in any way that he could. Without his being aware of it, the council had put him in the position of leader, only without the title.
When the question of arming the community came up, soon after they had stopped bringing new people in for the year, Jack was quick to come up with a solution. He explained to the council about the several armories in Boise, and mentioned that there were many gun stores and pawn shops there as well. They were already making runs there for food, and with their blessing, he put together a team to acquire the needed weapons. As he was about to leave one of the council members spoke up and said they might as well inventory other things in the town, and that he may want to consult with one of the medical people that had arrived to determine what was needed to outfit the new clinic they’d set up. Thinking that a good idea, he agreed and left to get things set up.
Two days later a group of twenty six people headed out towards Boise. In the lead were Jack and Don in the Mog, to provide protection for the group with the Browning machine gun. Following them were two tractor trailers they’d gotten running, along with three straight frame box trucks. Overhead Mel was providing cover in the Huey gunship, scouting ahead of the group and alerting them to any potential problems with their planned route. The convoy traveled the short distance quickly, even though their top speed was only twenty-five miles an hour. Along the way they saw no signs of life, but as they neared the airport Jack again got an uneasy feeling that someone was watching them.
When they arrived at the airport he asked Mel to scout around, explaining his feeling to her. A few minutes later, as she was circling over the interstate to their north, she reported that she thought she saw movement in a building about a block from the highway. Asking her to return and pick him up, he asked Don and two other men, both armed, to accompany him.
As they boarded the helicopter he said “every time I’ve come here, I’ve gotten the feeling we were being watched. We’ve never had any trouble, and I don’t want to go in guns blazing, but I’d like to resolve this today if possible.”
Nodding their understanding, the men got settled for the short hop over to the building where Mel had seen movement. Landing in front of the building, they got out and carefully made their way inside. It was an old three story brick business, apparently a carpet store and warehouse. There were no signs of life downstairs, except for a path through the dust that led to a staircase. As they slowly mounted the stairs they called out, not wanting to startle any resident and cause them to shoot out of fear. When no one responded to their hails, they proceeded. As they neared the top they could hear the sound of scuffling feet, and a moment later that of a door slamming.
Gaining the second floor they caught a glimpse of a lone figure running away from the structure. Apparently he had gone down the fire escape when he realized they were coming up. From what Jack could see it was an older man, and he seemed to be dressed in rags. That in itself was strange, as the stores were full of clothing for the taking, if anyone were simply willing. Looking around the room, they saw that it was apparently the home of a vagrant. There were empty wine and booze bottles around, along with old food containers and a few ratty blankets. There were no signs of weapons of any kind, and the figure hadn’t been carrying a rifle, so they decided the guy likely wasn’t any sort of threat to them.
“Well, I don’t think we need to worry about this guy. Why don’t we leave some of our blankets and some food here, in case he returns, and a note or something offering help if he wants it, then just leave him be?” Jack said.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” one of the others, a young man in his mid twenty’s who went by the name of butch, asked. “What if he wants to cause trouble?”
“I’m afraid we have no right to bother anyone based on what they might do sometime in the future.” Jack said seriously. “So far, although he’s obviously watched us every time we’ve come here, he’s never given us any grief. As far as I can see, we have no cause to bother him, we need to simply be willing to live and let live.”
Agreeing, the group went back out to the helicopter. After getting some food and supplies from the group, they returned, being just as cautious as before, and placed the items in the main room downstairs, along with a note that said they’d leave him alone from now on as long as he didn’t attack them, but that he could contact them by flying a white flag from the top of the building, if he ever needed anything.
The first order of business after their little excursion was to establish a permanent base of operations. The inventorying of the city would likely take a good portion of the winter to complete, and they’d need a comfortable and secure place to live while it was being done. The first place they tried was the National Guard Armory, but they decided quickly that, while it was a great place to house weapons, it lacked a little in providing creature comforts.
“Well I sure don’t want to live here for months.” Don said to Jack as the two walked along the wire cages looking at weapons. “Bare walls and concrete floors just don’t do it for me.” He said, grinning.
“Nope, this would be the pits. But while we’re here we can load up the rifles and ammo and send it back to town. Also, I want our mechanics to check out some of those Hummers and see if they can get them running, they’ll help us get around without people having to ride in the back of the panel truck anymore.”
Walking back outside he told the group what he wanted, and while most of them pitched in to load the truck, several who had mechanical experience from before the sickness went to work on the vehicles. Within an hour both jobs were accomplished, and they had six more vehicles at their disposal. Five of the hummers had Browning machine guns, and one had a TOW anti-tank missile launcher. When they finally got the TOW equipped Hummer going, Butch let out a yell. Calling out to him, Don asked “what are you so excited about?”
“Man, I used to drive one of these during the Gulf war…they’re great!”
“I take it then,” Jack called back, “that you know how to operate that weapon?”
“Yes sir! No problem. Now we have a weapon to be reckoned with, for sure!”
Smiling at his enthusiasm, Jack said “just make sure it doesn’t go off while pointing at any of us.” Seeing the look that appeared on the young man’s face, he laughed out loud, then told everyone to get ready to go, they were going to check out the terminal building next.
Boise was a good sized town, and their new terminal reflected that. Jack knew the building had just been completed a couple of years earlier, and everything was nice and new inside. After exploring the structure, the group decided the third floor conference area would be perfect for their base. The building was fairly defensible after the ground floor had been sealed off, with the only access then being the raised roadway to the passenger drop-off area. They parked Browning equipped Hummers at either end of the building on that elevated section of road, posting personnel in them to act as sentries and provide defense if necessary. The Huey was parked on the roof, and a pilot would be available at all times if heavier firepower was needed.
With that accomplished, Jack sent the truck of weapons back to Mayfield with two Hummers to provide an escort. They returned a couple of hours later with a message from the council that weapons training would begin the next day. Jack was aware that they were still several hundred rifles short, not to mention having virtually no pistols or heavier weapons. He decided to spend the rest of the day with a crew of eight and one of the trucks looking for more while the others got the conference area set up for long term occupancy.
Their first stop was the army reserve armory where they’d gotten the SAW’s. Searching the building they counted two hundred thirty M-16’s, and eighty-one M-249’s. Loading these up, along with several hundred cases of ammunition, the group decided to try one of the large gun stores in town to look for pistols and shotguns.
Heading into town, they made their way to ‘Shooting World’, a dealer Jack had visited before the sickness. Arriving at the store they saw that the front windows had been smashed out, but when they got inside they saw that although the glass cases were also broken into, most of the guns seemed to still be in place. Looking through the mess, they found that exposure to the elements hadn’t been kind to most of the weapons. The Glocks looked to be in the best shape, although Jack was loathe to carry one, as they had always felt like power tools in his hand due to the plastic outer construction. Still, they were better than nothing.
Thinking about it, they decided to simply collect everything left in the store. It would have been nice if they could have stuck to one caliber and make of pistol, but they needed so many that this was impossible. They also took every box of ammunition, no matter the caliber. Among the rifles, they selected personal guns, each according to his taste. Butch walked out with a SPAS-12, an Italian made combat shotgun that held nine-twelve gauge shells and had a sling that had twenty-five more. It was a heavy, mean looking thing, all black and with a folding stock, but the grin on the young man’s face as he walked out made everyone chuckle.
Heading back to the terminal for the night, they knew that at least one shop in town didn’t need to be inventoried now, but there were still many more that did.
After the town of Mayfield had been armed, the next thing on Jack’s list was medical supplies. One of the people he’d hand picked for this trip was a middle aged registered nurse named Louise. Out of the people they’d brought in over the summer, they had five paramedics, a handful of EMT’s, one man who’d been a first year intern in an emergency room, and Louise. Talking with her, Jack had learned that most of her experience lay in pediatric medicine and she’d spent three years in the maternity ward as well. This was good news to him, as Pam was due to give birth in the next few weeks, and having someone with experience there was a great reassurance.
Making their way to the nearest hospital one morning, the group was overcome by the sight of so many decomposed corpses. Bodies lay everywhere, some on gurney’s and beds, others on the floor. From the remains of clothing they could tell that a few were medical personnel but the vast majority were ordinary people who had come seeking help as the plague swept through the area. Some of the people who had come with Jack and Louise weren’t able to take it and had to return to the vehicles, but most were able to ignore the sight after a fashion, and help conduct the search for useful items. They took instruments from the emergency room and surgery, and portable equipment of all kinds, including X-ray machines. Finding the pharmacy they discovered that, while some of the drugs had gone bad, the majority were still useful. They also were able to get lab equipment that Louise said she thought they might be able to use to make their own penicillin, as well as use for running tests and such.
When they were finished they’d loaded both tractor trailers and one of the panel trucks, and Jack sent them back to Mayfield, along with an escort.
After the experience at the hospital, nowhere they went bothered them anymore, and the group made quick work of identifying useful items and recording their locations. After two weeks of this, Jack got a call from Robin at the complex, saying that Pam had gone into labor. Quickly gathering Louise, he had Mike fly them back immediately. After checking to see if she were all right and to assure her that he was there, Jack again took up position in the dining room to wait while Louise and Mel attended to his wife.
As he waited, Jack got down on his knees to praise God and thank Him for the blessings He had given him. His first marriage had been childless, which was the main reason it had failed. His wife blamed their inability to have children on him, and eventually left him for another man she hoped would be better able to produce. As he prayed, Jack asked God to help him be a good father to his children, as well as help him lead them well by loving their mother. He was aware that actions spoke louder than words to one’s children, and resolved to always walk his words, whether they could see him or not.
Finally, after what seemed years of waiting, Louise came out and announced to everyone present that he was the father of a healthy baby girl. Grinning like a fool, Jack rushed to Pam’s side and looked upon perhaps the most beautiful sight in the world, his beautiful wife holding their precious daughter in her arms. Leaning over to kiss Pam he told her how much he loved her, and how proud she’d made him. He then gently kissed his daughter, and was overcome as joy filled his heart.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
The team completed the inventory of Boise by the middle of January. In all they’d found three food warehouses and several grocery stores. Most of the non-perishable food was still good, and even after Jack siphoned off enough to completely restock the complex, there was more than enough food to feed thousands for at least two more years. They’d gone through agricultural warehouses and had enough seed and fertilizer to plant close to half a million acres, along with brand new tractors and farming equipment at farmers co-ops. As there was plenty of arable land around Mayfield, all of this would be useful in getting crops in the ground as soon as winter was over.
The group had also been able to find several hundred new diesel vehicles, mostly trucks and pick-ups, along with many that were used but serviceable. The tanks of stabilized jet fuel at Gowen field were down to fifty thousand gallons, but Jack believed those at Mountain Home AFB would hold a considerable amount as well. This meant the new residents of Mayfield would have transportation and fuel until the enlarging of the garbage converter was completed. That converter was producing around five thousand gallons of oil a week now, which provided just over three thousand gallons of usable diesel fuel after refining. But that was already being used up as the community expanded, and they all knew it would never handle all their fuel needs at its current size. The community was also considering building another converter plant in town, partially to reduce the distance they had to haul the garbage.
Every one living in town now had at least a combat rifle and pistol, but few felt the need to carry guns anymore. This was due in part to the fact that crime was non-existent, and in part to the perceived lack of an outside threat. As most people saw it, the security teams were armed, and people were, for the most part, used to looking to others to keep them safe. In fact, many in the town had not been exposed to guns much before, and if they were asked, would likely say that they didn’t see the need for anyone to have them now.
The next project that the council had approved was the moving of flight operations and training to Gowen field. Jack’s team, along with construction volunteers from town, spent a month building permanent apartment style housing on the second floor of the Boise terminal. These apartments would house flight crews as well as students, and provide a place for incoming refugees to get cleaned up before moving on to town. Jack had been aware during the previous summer that the constant take-offs and landings by the big transports had killed the grass and torn up the ground above his buried landing strip. Worse, the heavy planes had started to break up the runway itself, as it had never been designed for so large a craft in the first place. Moving everything to Gowen would greatly relieve the problems at the shelter, not to mention the constant flow of people through what was essentially his home.
The three flight teams they had going had been run ragged the year before, and as radio contact with other groups had increased, the prospects for the new year looked even worse. They simply needed more pilots and flight teams to keep up. When the council announced that flight training would begin in February, and volunteers were needed, they got more than they knew what to do with. Realizing that this could easily become a full time operation, Jack proposed that his pilots become instructors, and that they be the ones to run the school and train pilots. This was met with enthusiasm, and he was told to go ahead.
With that problem taken care of, the salvage team proceeded to Mountain Home AFB. Primarily looking for aircraft to expand their fleet along with fuel and maintenance facilities, they were startled to find such a modern hospital on the base. Inside, as with the hospitals in Boise, they found the remains of many people, but by now had grown so used to the sight they hardly noticed. The supplies and equipment available there far surpassed anything available elsewhere, and after careful consideration they decided to set up operations there instead of trying to move everything back to town. For one thing most of the best equipment was permanently mounted, and for another the bed space and building infrastructure would be welcome. Setting aside two Black Hawks as air ambulances, the ER intern and several paramedics moved to the base to clean it up and get it set-up, leaving Louise and the EMT’s to handle non-emergency cases at the clinic.
Moving on, the salvage team did find aircraft, but mostly they were F-16 fighters and B-1B bombers. The planes were nice to look at and fun to fly, but not very useful for moving people around. They did find some transports however, including two C-17 Globemasters, and quickly got them running and transferred to the operation in Boise. They also found several mid-air refuelers and toyed with the idea of trying to refuel aircraft in flight. Deciding for the moment that this was simply too risky, and of no real benefit to them right then, they put the idea on the back burner, concentrating on more pressing problems.
At the tank farm they discovered the base had approximately half a million gallons of treated jet fuel, enough to keep them supplied for years. It would probably be usable for three to four years before going bad, which would give them time to get their additional garbage converter up and running. Also by that time, everyone who wanted to join them should already be there, greatly reducing their need for fuel.
Completing their work at the base, the crew spent a couple of days in the town of Mountain Home, but found little that interested them. With the job done, Jack disbanded the salvage crew, and returned to the complex. Several of the crew, led by Butch, requested his permission to move into the shelter permanently. This pleased Jack since he had developed friendships with many of them. Giving his permission as there was now plenty of room, eleven of them moved in, increasing the total in the shelter to forty-one. The rest returned to town, with a few going on to the flight school to try and become pilots.
By the first of May the exodus flights had resumed. Anywhere from twenty to a hundred people a week were arriving. One of the first groups to arrive was from Long Island, NY. Among the three adults and two teenagers was a woman in her mid forties named Sylvia. When the town representative had asked if she were a Christian, the woman had looked down her nose at him and said in an arrogant tone “of course I’m a Christian, I’ve been involved in the church my whole life. Why, right before the sickness I was leading the church in forcing the pastor to resign, as his old style preaching was bothering some of our new members. Can’t have someone running a church who scares off people, just because they’re different, can we?”
Hearing the arrogant tones, the young man just kept his mouth shut. After the woman passed on he looked at her, shaking his head.
Back in Long Island, Sylvia and her group had been slowly starving to death. The others had found her locked inside her home earlier that year, hoarding the little bit of half spoiled food she’d been able to collect. Together they’d managed to find enough to get by on, but just barely.
This was a completely new experience for Sylvia, she’d grown up the daughter of a wealthy Christian family. They’d gone to church since she was little, but never seemed to have any time for her or her brothers and sisters. Desperate for recognition she’d eloped at age sixteen with a guy who was close to thirty. He’d been a small time businessman who was able to grow over the years to be fairly prosperous. Prosperous enough to allow them to move to Long Island, but nowhere near as wealthy as her family. Seeking any way she could find to prove to everyone that she was important too, she’d joined the local Episcopal Church. There she’d found the ground fertile and the congregation open to influence. This was one of the more traditional branches of the church, and Sylvia soon realized that there was a growing movement to modernize it. Getting involved, she discovered she had a surprising ability to sway others to her point of view and used that to establish a base of supporters who would vote her way. That was how she was able to get enough leverage to oust the current pastor.
The pastor had been a very traditional Christian. He didn’t accept the churches new view that unrepentant homosexuals should be accepted into the church, and was even against allowing women to preach. Using his values against him, she had convinced most of the congregation to get rid of him in favor of a more ‘progressive’ leader. What many at the church weren’t aware of however, was that the man she had in mind to fulfill this role was also having an affair with her, which would give her a position of power ‘behind the throne’ as it were, if he was selected.
But then the plague had come, killing her lover and the rest of the church. Amazingly she seemed to be immune, and at first that made her feel superior to the rest of them. But within weeks of their deaths she’d realized that surviving was more torture than anything. Food was scarce, and there was no one around for her to control. Feeling worse than at any time in her life, she had almost given up entirely when Steve and his friends found her.
Now, thanks to Steve’s goofy old friend who’d always been wasting time with those silly radios, they were again among people. Looking about herself as she arrived in the town, she felt there was something here she could work with, and that maybe life would be worth living again soon.
As the summer progressed the number of people in town swelled. Surprisingly, many of the newcomers were young people, most were still teenagers. The reason for this soon became clear however, as they all seemed to have stories of older folks getting into fights over dwindling resources, and killing each other off. Many had also survived as slaves and sexual objects of larger groups, before they’d died attacking each other. Often the younger people were held in secured areas, effectively protecting them from most of the fighting. These young people, once they arrived at Mayfield, had quickly taken advantage of their new status as adults, arming themselves and taking positions in security and among the pilots, intent on never allowing anyone to enslave them again. Many of these new people had gotten to know the instructor pilots as well as the earlier security people. These people were more friendly with Jack and his bunch than many others in town, and the newer youth were able to get to know them as well. They often went to the complex and associated with the people there, having picnics and parties, and simply hanging out.
The pilots had taken a long time to get familiar with the huge C-17 cargo planes, but by early August they announced that they were ready to attempt trans-Atlantic rescue flights. One of the first places they traveled to was England, where they were able to pick up close to five hundred survivors. They were also able to use the island nation as a fueling stop, and from there proceed deep into Europe. By the end of flight operations for the year they’d added close to four thousand people to the town, mostly from Europe.
During the summer and fall, Sylvia had made a tremendous effort to get to know as many people as she could. The younger people from the continental United States hadn’t cared for her and her ideas too much, but those from Europe were much more willing to listen. She had volunteered early on to help get newcomers settled, often meeting them at the airport, and in this way became a representative of sorts, as she was the first person most people met as they arrived. She had bent over backwards to be gracious to them, offering every bit of help she could, ingratiating them to herself. By the time they were done for the winter, she had met nearly half of the people currently residing in the town, and had most of them convinced that she had their best interests at heart.
Getting together with several of the new arrivals, along with some of her older acquaintances, Sylvia commented “what is the deal with that Jack?” she said the name as if it were distasteful.
“What do you mean?” April, an older woman asked.
Sylvia had found she had much in common with April in the past few weeks, they’d both been church matrons and both felt that changes were needed in the town. “Well, for one thing, he’s living with that child. You know, the one that had his baby?”
“Oh, you mean Pam. She’s his wife Syl, there’s nothing going on there.”
“Who says she’s his wife? There isn’t even a proper pastor here. I’ll bet he just shacked up with her and told everyone they were married so no one would say anything.” Sylvia said, with a look of disgust. “And what about that other one, the one with the twins…oh, I know people SAY she was married, but she’s so young. I’d be willing to bet he knocked her up as well. After all, they WERE living all alone in that…that dungeon he likes to stay buried in, for a whole year. Not only that, but have you ever noticed all the young girls living down there with him? I’ll just bet he’s sleeping with all of them.”
April had been living in town for more than a year now, and had never personally seen Jack doing anything inappropriate, but that didn’t mean anything. What Sylvia said made sense, and she DID wonder about a man who’d want to live underground in that old army base…it just didn’t seem right to her. “Do you really think so?” she asked her friend. “You don’t suppose he thinks of them as a harem, do you?”
“Well, I know one thing for sure, no one would make such an effort to bring so many kids here unless he had some unusual reason for it.” Sylvia said, sure that she had the attention of everyone now. She also knew that the things said here would spread rapidly, and before you knew it, rumor would become ‘what everybody knew’.
One of the new people spoke up, “I heard he brought everyone here for some sort of breeding thing, something about needing thousands of breeding age people or something.”
“That’s just what I’m talking about,” Syl said, “he’s bringing all the young girls here to sleep with him. Having ten or twenty wasn’t good enough for him, he wanted as many as he could get. Probably wants to fill the world with his children…like he was God or something…what a pervert!”
The others nodded their heads, surely there must be something to what this woman had said. After all, she was practically a representative of the whole community and all, having greeted each of them personally when they arrived. If she believed something strange was going on here, then likely there was…she was in a position to know, after all.
As the gathering broke up, Sylvia considered the evening’s events with satisfaction. The seeds were planted now, all she had to do was water them and they would grow strong, and soon enough they’d all beg HER to take over the town and run things right. Happily, she made her way home.
Over the next weeks Sylvia heard more and more bizarre stories about Jack and everyone who lived in the complex as the rumors she’d started mutated like she knew they would. As things progressed she started mentioning to all who would listen, which was most people, that it was such a shame that someone like that was in charge of what likely was the last civilized place on earth. The fact that it was Jack who had started gathering everyone together didn’t matter, as long as ‘that pervert’, as people were beginning to refer to him in whispers, was going to act like that with young girls. Some of the rumors had gotten so strong that it was difficult for her to believe there wasn’t some grain of truth there as well. After all, if there weren’t, wouldn’t they simply die out? At least this was the way she reasoned things, and how she justified herself.
Near the end of September, at one of the town meetings that was becoming increasingly popular among the older residents of the town, Sylvia stood and addressed the crowd “ladies and gentlemen, it has come to my attention that the current leaders, both the town council and the position of Mayor, were appointed by a very small minority of our current population. This flies in the face of the way we do things in America, and I propose that we take action to correct the situation.”
“What do you propose we do?” April spoke up from the crowd.
“I propose we hold an election, let everyone have a vote and let their decision stand.”
Immediately April seconded the proposal, and most everyone in the room agreed. The attending council members conferred, then announced that they’d hold elections on October first.
Not being satisfied with that, and acutely aware that most of the young people seemed to have some misplaced loyalty towards Jack, Sylvia continued. “One more thing, when you say everyone should have a vote, surely you don’t mean those children as well?”
One of the council members spoke up, “well, no one below the age of twelve I should think, but for the rest, if they act like adults then we treat them like adults, so yes.”
Looking at the man as if he were obviously either senile or crazy, she said “oh come on now, where did you get such a foolish notion? I mean, it’s obvious that those children can’t vote, they don’t take anything seriously. Look around you, there aren’t any here, and this is where all the decisions are made, right?”
At this, several people looked around themselves. There weren’t any young people there, which seemed to confirm what this woman was saying.
“We are older, and that makes us wiser. We understand the needs of this community far better than children are capable of, and they obviously feel the same way, as they are willing to leave the decisions up to us even now. I propose that no one under the age of twenty-one be allowed to vote. They can be adults if they want, but voting is a serious matter, and takes wisdom to get right.”
Several of those attending spoke up to say “I agree”, or “Hear hear”, or “She has a point”. A few weren’t so sure, but mostly these were new arrivals, and the whole idea of children being equal to them was strange to begin with. After more than an hour of debate, a vote was called for. When hands were raised it was obvious that three quarters of those in attendance were in favor of the measure, and it passed as well.
Finally satisfied with the results of her efforts, Sylvia sat down, smiling smugly to herself.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
The election went off without a hitch, and Sylvia became the new mayor with nearly eighty percent of the vote. This was due in part to the fact that the community members under the age of twenty-one weren’t told until the day of the election itself that they were to be denied their right to vote. Oh, they were outraged to be sure, but by then there was nothing they could do about it. Also, Sylvia had been sure to mention to them that Jack was behind the idea of excluding them, and that his idea that they be considered adults had more to do with encouraging them to carry the bulk of the workload, than allowing them such privileges as voting. She knew that these people looked to him as their leader, and by telling them this they would be less willing to start trouble over it. For their part, while a few of the young people, those who had been there the longest, didn’t believe that Jack could ever do such a thing to them, many didn’t know him that well. These considered this to be the final betrayal and, unwilling to be forced to carry the responsibilities of adulthood without being allowed the authority to go along with it, began to make plans to get away on their own. Better to be an adult by yourself when your work would go to taking care of you alone, than to stay there and be practically enslaved by the people around you, they reasoned.
Of course, the main reason Sylvia had won was that Jack had never wanted the job to begin with. While she was quietly campaigning, and spreading as many rumors as she could, he’d been staying at the shelter ignoring the whole thing. Although so many people were starting to accept the rumors as fact that it’s doubtful he’d have been able to win if he’d tried.
Although the position of mayor was hers, according to the charter they’d agreed to the year before she could be over ruled by a unanimous vote from the council. This had never happened before, the council usually only went to Jack when they didn’t know what to do, and always agreed with his decisions, but now it was a major sticking point for the new mayor, and one she realized she’d have to deal with. One of the first problems she’d had was when she tried to enforce her beliefs that everyone under twenty-one should be treated like children. Oh, they could still work, after all without them who would grow the food or fly the planes, but as far as getting married or carrying guns, there was simply no way she was going to allow that. But no sooner had she announced her decision, than the council declared it null. Each of them had seen enough over the past year to understand that these people were a valuable part of the community, and they deserved to be treated as such. Returning them to the position of mere children would undermine their whole town, as they each felt the young people would refuse to act like adults if they weren’t treated that way.
Having been stymied over her very first ruling, Sylvia was determined to find a way around the problem. The best way she knew of, and the way that had always worked before, was to get the other council members to step down quietly. This would allow her to appoint someone else in their place, someone who would be willing to go along with her on issues. Knowing it would require careful planning on her part, she had to find or create an embarrassing situation for each of them, present them with her evidence, then convince them to step down, all without the others finding out. She knew that if anyone ever learned what she was doing the game would be over, and she would probably be run out of town. Fortunately she was good at this sort of thing, and it was also good for the town, as they needed her very badly in her estimation. Like everywhere she’d ever been, she realized the people here were sheep, and they needed a good shepherd. Well, according to the vote they wanted her to be their shepherd, and she was more than willing to take on that role.
Over the next several weeks she watched all the council members closely. One, she noticed, had an eye for the ladies. He was always letting his attention stray whenever one walked by, and she knew she could use that against him. She talked to one of her most staunch supporters, and the woman agreed to seduce him. A few days later the woman led him to one of the unused offices in the old police station/city hall they were using for a council building, and a few minutes later Jim, another of Sylvia’s people burst in on them. They hadn’t actually been in the act of doing anything, but they were both half undressed when they were interrupted. The woman immediately claimed the councilman had assaulted her, and Jim decided to bring the matter directly to the mayor. When they were all in her office, Sylvia got the story. As soon as the woman had finished she asked her and Jim to allow her to handle this, and to keep quiet about it. They both readily agreed (of course), and left the room. Smiling sweetly at the councilman, she said “well, this is an interesting situation, how do you think we should handle it?”
Looking at her darkly, he said “this is an outrage! I didn’t assault anyone. Maybe we shouldn’t have picked such a public place, but it was her idea, not mine!”
Smiling at him again, she calmly said “of course it was, but if we were to bring this out in public, who do you think the people will believe?”
Stunned, the man sat back. He hadn’t thought of that.
Continuing, Sylvia said “I think they might just believe her, especially when the one who caught you backs her up.” At this he realized he was being set up, and anger began to replace his outrage. “Of course, we could keep it quiet. And you could simply resign your position on the council.” She said, trailing off as he began to see the real reason for all of this.
“Resign?! And allow you to fill the position with someone of your choosing?!”
“It’s either that, or we go public. I’ll bet we could even convince everyone that execution was the only way to keep us truly safe from such a monster as yourself…what do you think?”
Realizing his very life could be on the line, the councilman sank back into his chair. Hanging his head he said “you win, but you must be the most evil person I’ve ever met. How can you sleep at night?”
“Oh, I sleep very well, thank you. Here, I took the liberty of writing your resignation for you. All you have to do is sign it, and everything will be forgotten.” She said, sliding a piece of paper across her desk to him.
Understanding that he had no choice, he signed the paper, vowing to get as far away from that town and her as he could.
As soon as he’d signed the paper, Sylvia convened the council and presented it to them. She said the councilman had confided in her a personal reason for having to step down and, while she agreed with his reasoning, she couldn’t divulge the details to anyone else. Shocked at this turn of events, the other two council members could only accept what had happened, and ask who she was going to appoint to take his place. Acting like she had forgotten that she had to do this, she took several minutes, apparently trying to make up her mind. Finally she turned back to the others and said “how about Jim? I’m not sure he’ll agree, but I think he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and would do a fine job. The others saw no reason to oppose him, and agreed with her choice. And later that day she had her first ally on the council.
One of Sylvia’s friends was Jean. He’d been a colonel in the French military before the plague, and she’d recently appointed him head of the towns’ security department. The rest of the security personnel had already taken a dislike to him, and already there were whispers floating around that he’d been seen inviting young boys into his home in the middle of the night. Going to him now with the problem of removing the other two council members, he was enthusiastic in his willingness to help.
The next day, while most people were off performing various jobs, Jean first went over to the house of Margaret, the only female council member. Her door wasn’t locked as, without a crime problem, most of the homes weren’t secured. Careful not to disturb anything, he went into her bedroom, and from the closet selected one of the council woman’s high heeled shoes.
Making his way from there to other homes in the neighborhood, he proceeded to break into several, knocking out window panes with the shoe. Going inside he looked around for personal items. Money wasn’t being used in town yet, and most possessions people had were items found in the town and free for the taking. However, almost everyone had some personal item they’d brought from wherever they’d come from, and these were what Jean was looking for. Finding one or two valuable items in each of the homes, he carried them with him as he went. At the last house he did the same thing, but this time, after breaking the window, he broke off the heel of the shoe, tossing it to the ground underneath the window.
Finally he returned to the council woman’s house, going inside and hiding his found items in an obvious place. Returning the shoe to the closet he closed up the house and returned to his desk to await the festivities.
Several hours later, as people returned to their homes, a commotion started outside the community center. Arriving with several security people, Jean asked what was going on. A heavyset woman spoke up in English, heavily accented with german, saying that her home had been broken into and a precious family heirloom had been stolen. As she finished others spoke up also, claiming the same thing. Jean announced that they needed to get to the bottom of this, and asked several witnesses to accompany him, along with the homeowners and his security detail.
They went to each house, looking at the damage and getting descriptions of the items missing. At one house a security member found the broken heel Jean had dropped outside the window, and he took it as evidence. Finally, he asked the crowd if anyone had seen anything unusual during the day, such as people messing around the area, acting suspicious. One of them (another friend of Sylvia’s) spoke up and said she’d seen council woman Margaret messing around the homes, but didn’t think anything of it since she was an important person and all.
Upon hearing this, the crowd demanded Jean and his security team go immediately to her house and do a search. When they arrived and pounded on the door, Margaret answered and demanded to know what was going on. Ignoring her, Jean, followed by the crowd, pushed into the house, and quickly found the items in question. Calling for the security team to arrest her, he continued the search and finally found the shoe in the closet. When the heel matched the shoe, he declared to the crowd that they had found the guilty party, and ordered her brought before the mayor, as they didn’t presently have a judge.
A judge wasn’t the only thing they lacked, there was no courtroom in the town, nor was there a jail of any sort. Until they were able to gather the town to an impromptu town meeting, they simply held Margaret in one of the unused offices, under guard. Later that night she was brought out. Protesting her innocence, she was forced to sit as the ‘evidence’ was presented. When her turn came to speak she claimed ignorance to the whole thing, but the crowd obviously didn’t believe her.
Finally, Sylvia called for silence in the room. Looking straight at Margaret, she said “as the Mayor of this town, I find you guilty of stealing from your neighbors. Obviously you can not continue on as a council member now, and the only question left is what to do with you. As I see it, we have only two options, as we have no jail. They are execution or banishment from the community.”
At the mention of execution, Margaret’s face turned pale and she felt faint. She knew she was innocent, but had no way to prove it. Wondering how she had gotten into this, and whether she’d get out alive, she looked with horror at the embodiment of evil before her.
“Execution seems to be too great a penalty, even though you stole items greatly valued by those to whom they belonged. Therefore I sentence you to be exiled from this town, effective this very night. You will be given water and food for one day to take with you, along with the clothes on your back. If at any time you attempt to return, no matter the reason, you will be shot. Do you understand?”
Unable to believe what she was hearing, Margaret simply stared at her. Finally the security team was brought in, and they escorted her from the town. Later that same night, April became the second council member to be appointed by Sylvia.
The third member was easy. The two new people simply voted with Sylvia on everything, effectively making him unable to oppose her. Although he argued with her and them, they simply ignored him, at the same time pressuring him to step down. During this time, Sylvia passed several rulings, making the changes that would ensure the community would become exactly the way she thought it should be. The first thing she did was declare anyone under twenty-one to be a child, and to effectively have no rights whatsoever. Young community members with houses of their own were forced from them and made to live in ‘child dormitories’, which were homes overseen by older people the Mayor had appointed for the purpose. One of these people was Jean, and he was given charge of a dorm where preteen boys were forced to live. This gave him access to the boys at all hours of the day and night, and soon horror stories were floating around of the goings on in that house.
Also, marriages between young members of the community were absolved, and the people concerned were forced apart. The only time this didn’t happen was when one partner in the marriage was an adult, as seen by the community, and from then on marriage of young people was allowed only with the permission of the Mayor, and only if the person requesting the marriage were an adult. Many older men were soon to be wed to some very young female community members, even if the girl in question didn’t want to. She had no say in the matter, as she didn’t have any rights. Every one of these marriages that occurred just happened to be with older men who were in good favor with Sylvia, and in this way she maintained her position of power.
Another ruling that was quickly passed was the confiscation of all firearms, except from the security people. Explaining to the community that, with the exception of the stealing Margaret had done, there was no crime in town, there was no reason therefore for anyone to be armed. Most in the town had thought for a long time that this was needed, and gave up their arms willingly enough. A few however, were resistant to the idea, and held out. Knowing who was most likely to be resisting the new law, Sylvia announced that anyone who still possessed a gun would be considered an armed criminal from that point on. Further, she said that an armed criminal was a danger to the community, and that if caught, would be executed, since they couldn’t be trusted to live peaceably with their neighbors. Many refused to believe she could really be serious, and still refused to turn in their guns, until Sylvia carried through with her threat and actually executed one of the residents after his neighbor reported he’d kept back a shotgun. After that no one opposed her order, and soon the only people who had guns were the security people.
During this time the people who had started out working as security either drifted away from the town, or were fired for various trumped up reasons. Jean was systematically replacing them all with people who would be loyal to him and Sylvia, no matter what. Still concerned that they might rebel at some later time, he locked up all supplies of ammunition and only issued five rounds to the people who were on duty. Their rifles would be passed from one shift to another, and all others would remain locked up along with the ammo. In this way, he figured, they’d have enough ammunition to enforce the Mayor’s directives, especially among unarmed people, but wouldn’t be able to rise up against him. Most of the new people had never shot the rifles to begin with, and few had even been shown how to operate them. In short order they became corroded as the different guards refused to take care of them, preferring not to even have them.
Finally, the Mayor announced that being a Christian wasn’t to be encouraged among the towns’ people anymore. As she said, there were many ways to get to God, and it wasn’t right for them to claim any one way was the only one. At this many who had said they were Christians suddenly announced they were atheists, and others who had never made such claims even began practicing such things as pagan rituals.
Finally, the time came that Sylvia had been fantasizing about, biding her time. She had the support now to pull it off, and saw no reason to wait any longer. This was the day she’d rid herself of that pervert who’d started all this! Today she’d get Jack and force him to stop his perversions with everyone in that bomb shelter. Calling for her security detail, she announced her ruling that Jack be declared an outlaw, and told them to go at once to his shelter and arrest him, bringing him before her to be sentenced.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
Over the summer, Jack and his people had stayed either at the complex or the airport in Boise. For some time, Jack had been wanting to back off the multitude of projects that had been consuming his time, and spent more of it with his wife and daughter. With flight operations moved to Gowen field and radio contact with outlying groups being handled by the growing town, he now had the time he wanted. Spending about half his time with his family, he and the other pilot instructors used the remainder to teach flying skills to anyone who wanted to learn. They’d also found time to repair the runway at the complex and re-sod the field, but had held off bringing in any more large aircraft until the grass had grown in.
One of the things Jack had noticed that was funny was that it seemed mostly young people had an interest in becoming pilots. The security and farming interests also seemed to have more than their fair share of teenagers, which made it appear that only the young community members were willing to do any actual work. He knew this couldn’t be true, but it sure was odd. What were all the older people doing, he’d often wondered, there wasn’t really that much necessary work in other areas.
Still, he loved teaching and associating with those young people. For the most part they were honest and hard working, and they wanted to learn. They hadn’t developed the cynicism that comes with age, and were a true joy to be around. They were also willing to just jump in and help when they saw someone doing something, which few of the adults seemed willing to do. For the most part, except for seeing new people occasionally as they arrived, Jack didn’t associate with the others from town at all. His job was pilot training, and he was happy to leave the greeting and settling of newcomers to them.
He’d seen Sylvia around the airport on several occasions, and she appeared to be different from most of the older citizens in that she was willing to help get new people settled. Each time there was a flight due in she’d be there to greet them, and in fact had taken one of the crude apartments in the terminal itself just so she’d be available if others needed her. Seeing this, he’d wished more of the older residents were like her.
By the end of summer all of the new pilots were trained. They had even checked out on the huge C-17 Globemaster. With training completed, there wasn’t much need for Jack and his people to remain in Boise, and they returned to the complex. The new flight crews would be living at the terminal permanently, but already the number of people coming in was starting to decline. Some of them, with fewer flights to crew, had decided to see if they could figure out how to fly the A-10 warthogs based at the field. They’d soon found the training manuals and before long were taking the planes up, learning just what they were capable of. It wasn’t all that unusual to see them practicing bombing and strafing runs that fall, honing their newly learned skills.
The announcement of the elections to be held had come as a relief to Jack. He’d been aware that the council considered him the town leader, and he had absolutely no interest in political office. He was more than willing to help out when he could, but had no desire to be held above others as something special. As far as he was concerned, politicians were for the most part useless feeders off other people. When Sylvia announced her intention to run for mayor, he’d silently wished her well and stayed away from the whole sordid affair. He was confident the people had enough sense not to elect someone who would harm them, and figured the town could take care of themselves. Besides, he had a project he’d been wanting to work on, and it would mean that he’d be absent for long stretches of time, something he couldn’t do if he had to play at being in charge.
As soon as the election was over and he knew he didn’t have to worry about running things anymore, he gathered up his salvage team plus anyone else from the complex who wanted to go, and headed out to several of the larger cities around the state to see what was there and what could be used by the town. Taking both Black Hawks as well as the Huey, they were able to carry twenty two people, plus enough supplies for a week. The first place he wanted to check out was Twin Falls, and after that the towns of Pocatello and Idaho Falls. If they still had time afterwards, he planned on going to Salt Lake City as well.
The flight to Twin Falls was short, it wasn’t much farther than Boise, and they arrived a couple of hours later. Flying over the town, they scouted for a good place to set up a base of operations. Finding only a few office type buildings, they selected one that had a heli-pad on the roof, and set down there. The building was several stories tall, and with access to the ground floors blocked off, it was secure enough. Next they flew one of the Black Hawks over to a nearby motel and began ferrying mattresses and bedding back to the office building. They were finished about an hour before nightfall and, having a quick meal, the group turned in early.
Over the next week they searched the town. Always aware of the possibility of running into people who were hostile, they assigned one of the helicopters to orbit an area in support of ground teams, and scouted any place they wanted to search as if it were already confirmed to be hostile. After determining the area to be safe, they then began exploring to see what was left that the town could possibly salvage.
Twin Falls was a small town, not much bigger than Mountain Home. As such, there wasn’t too much of interest to the group. They did find several food warehouses with dry goods that were still in good shape, and they marked these on their map in case the food was needed. They also found a good deal of construction material, and decided they should be able to build a good number of houses from what was available.
Cruising over the town one day, Jack spotted a mobile home dealer’s yard that contained a variety of single and doublewide trailers that appeared to be new. In the back of his mind he’d been aware that so many wanted to live at his complex that it was beginning to get cramped. He’d been trying to come up with a solution that didn’t involve kicking anybody out, and the idea of bringing in trailers seemed to be a good one. Already they had put in two used trailers from the Mountain Home area for use by the animal handlers, now they’d be able to move several others outside as well.
Back at their base of operations that night, he laid out his plans to the others. They saw the benefits to the idea right off, and began making plans to move a number of trailers back to the complex. The next day was spent selecting trailers and getting the trucks that pulled them running. The yard had two trucks, which would allow them to move one double or two single trailers a day, without pushing themselves. Deciding to call off further exploration until the trailers were in, the group hooked up to two single trailers and headed back, with the helicopters flying above them in case of trouble.
Arriving back at the complex, Jack was aware of many more people than normally lived there. After they got the trailers set up he went below to find Mel and see what was going on. Mel had elected to stay behind this trip and take care of the children so their mothers could go on the salvage operation. Besides Pam and Robin, several other women had given birth by this time. Among them was Don’s wife, Wendy. She’d delivered a healthy boy near the beginning of summer, to the delight of all. Already, Pam and Wendy were conspiring to get their two hapless children together, figuring it would be the perfect arranged marriage. Jack knew they weren’t serious, but kept an eye on them in any case. If the kids grew up and decided to marry, great, but he wasn’t about to let HIS daughter be forced into a marriage no matter how well intending her mother was.
Finding Mel, he asked what was going on and why so many people were at the complex.
“You’ll have to get the details from them Jack, but the gist of it is, apparently they weren’t allowed to vote in the election, and were told it was your idea that they couldn’t.”
“What!? When was this decided? And by who? I never suggested they couldn’t vote, why would I, it was MY idea for them to be treated as adults in the first place.”
“I know that Jack, but that’s what they said. Why don’t you call them all together and discuss it, they are also talking about some kind of rumors floating around about you.”
Deciding that was a good idea, he went to the intercom and pushed the button, saying “can I have your attention please, this is Jack. I would like to have all the people not currently residing here to meet with me in the dining room in fifteen minutes, thank you.”
Determined to get to the bottom of this, he headed for the dining room, with Mel at his side.
Calling the meeting to order, Jack saw that not only the non residents, but most of the residents were there also. In fact, the only ones not there were those who were getting the mobile homes set up. Looking around the room at all the people, he said “Mel informs me that some of you weren’t allowed to vote. Can anyone fill me in on the reasons why not?”
A young man in the middle of the group stood and spoke “they told us on the day of the election that we were too young, that no one under the age of twenty-one was allowed to vote.”
Someone else shouted from the crowd, “yeah! And they said it was YOUR idea too!”
“You didn’t really do that, did you Jack? You said we were all adults, did you say that just so we’d work like adults, but not intend for us to be real adults, like the council said?” a young lady asked, coming close to tears.
Several more spoke up, saying about the same thing. Finally Jack got control of the meeting, and said “no, I never said anything like that! It was my intention that EVERYONE who worked would also exercise authority as well, including voting. Whoever told you that I was in favor of this was lying to you…I never said anything even close to that, and the council knows it!”
“I told you he’d never do that to us.” One person said to his friends. “Jack has always been for us, it was that new Mayor’s doing, she’s been behind all the bad things happening.”
Hearing Jack’s profession of innocence in the matter, the crowd settled down. They were sure he’d never lie to them, he never had in the past, even when the truth had hurt. Finally getting quiet, they allowed him to speak again.
“Ok, I’m going to look into this, but I also want to hear about these rumors…what are people in town saying about me?”
Suddenly everyone seemed to get embarrassed. No one wanted to say what was being said, and there was a hush over the gathering. Finally a teenage girl spoke up quietly from one corner of the room, “they call you ‘the pervert’. They said you and Pam aren’t really married.”
Someone else said, “yeah, they said you were just living with her, and that you were the father of Robin’s kids as well.” At this, Robin looked up.
“They say she was never married either, that you just said that to hide what you did” Still another said. “They say you have a bunch of young girls living here and that you’re sleeping with all of them.”
Everyone in the room was nodding as more rumors were revealed. “That you brought everyone to town to have sex with.”
“That you were messing around with the little children also.”
“That you even were having sex with little boys.”
“Everyday there’s a new one, and people are accepting everything being said as if it were the truth, they don’t even bother to question them anymore. And if any of us does question, they all look at us as if we’re crazy and ask if we’re defending you because we are doing the same thing. It’s getting so bad there’s no way to live around them anymore, so we all decided to come here instead.”
Shocked and disgusted at what he’d been told, Jack shook his head for a moment. “I can’t believe this, why would anyone say these things about me? I haven’t done any of those things, you all know that! Who’s saying this?”
Someone from the middle of the room spoke up, “everybody. At least, all the older ones. At first it was just the new people, the ones who never met you, but now a lot of the ones who know you are saying it too. The young people, the ones who weren’t allowed to vote don’t believe any of it, and a lot of them have started to leave, but not even a lot of them know you real well, so they aren’t coming here, they’re just leaving.”
Stunned at these revelations, Jack ended the meeting by telling them they were all welcome to stay as long as they liked. He said he had to think about this and decide what to do about it.
Before they left, one of the people from town said, “I don’t think you should go to town Jack, I’m not sure what would happen, but most people there don’t like you anymore. I don’t want you to get hurt, if something happened to you, what would the rest of us do?”
Looking at her, he paused before answering. “I’ll consider it, I really don’t want to have anything to do with them anyway. This whole idea of bringing people together was a bad one…I never should have gone ahead with it without God’s approval.”
With that, he made his way to his apartment, he had some praying and thinking to do.
Realizing he needed to be left alone, Pam got their daughter, Sarah, and went over to Mel’s apartment. Neither woman could believe what was being said in town about Jack, and they were sure that the trouble over all this was just beginning.
After several hours, Jack knocked on Mel’s door. Entering, he announced “I realized that I have gone against God by building this town and community without His blessing.” Turning to Pam he said “remember when I told you that I didn’t see what it could hurt to bring people together, even if I didn’t feel it was what God wanted?” she just nodded. “Well, now we know. I have been on my knees repenting of my sin of rebellion towards His lead, and seeking His forgiveness. I’ve also asked Him to lead me now, to let me know what if anything He wants me to do to try and fix this mess. As of right now, He hasn’t led me to do anything, therefore I’m not going to try and change things in town. Instead, we are going to focus on getting enough homes set up above us so anyone who wants to can live here. As for any other action, we’re just going to wait and see what God has in mind before doing anything.”
Seeing the turmoil on his face and knowing how remorseful he felt, Pam stood and went to her husband, holding him in her arms and comforting him. “It’s ok Jack, we all get off the path occasionally, even the people we think should be above such things, like pastors. We all fall down, but the important thing is that we get up again. Everyone thought it was a good idea to gather people together, and now we all see that the mistake was in trying to do something without God. We’ll get better as we go on, just don’t feel as if you’re the only one who made a mistake.”
Holding his wife, Jack was amazed at her words. She truly was a gift from God, and he silently said a prayer of thanks for her.
Over the following weeks the group brought in many new homes. They had needed escort vehicles to stay with the trailer trucks, and at first used the Mog and Eric’s Toyota. They mounted one of the M-249’s on the Toyota, but Jack wanted more firepower than that. Going up to Boise was now out of the question, as the people there worked for the town and he didn’t want them aware of how many people were now living at the complex. Getting hummers from them might lead to questions he really didn’t want to answer.
Instead, they went to Mountain Home AFB and found plenty of vehicles. The problem was, none of them were equipped with weapons. Finding a couple that had mounts installed, but no guns, they brought them back to the shelter and mounted Brownings from spares they had on hand. Now they were able to send two escort vehicles with each truck, giving them adequate protection in case there was anyone around who wanted to stop them.
By the end of the month they had cleaned out the yard and had more than forty homes set up above the complex. Between them and the shelter itself, they now had more than a hundred and twenty people living there. They’d also heard more rumors from town, including some about Jean, Sylvia’s new security chief. News was brought to them by people on their way to find somewhere else to live, and said that the council members had been replaced in a way some citizens said was suspicious. Also, the Mayor had recently announced that all people under twenty-one had no rights, and were virtually slaves of the town. One person bringing news said they’d even split up married couples, taking their children and giving them to people who were ‘older’. Another report was about the new security chief and a dorm for young boys that he ran. According to the rumor this man was doing bizarre things with the boys, sexual things.
Upon hearing this, many at the complex were enraged and wanted to go over there right then and attack them, especially they wanted to kill the security chief. But before they were able, Jack spoke to them. “Hold on everyone, you can’t just go attacking anyone on the basis of rumors, those are the same rumors as are being spread about me. Without evidence, we have no more right to go attacking them than they do attacking us. As much as I hate saying this, until we have something more concrete, we simply have to wait and see what happens. If these stories are true, then action will be taken, but we all have to trust God and leave this in His hands for now.”
They knew he was right, and even though they still wanted to do something, everyone settled down. Jack could commiserate with them, he too wanted to do something, but he held off until he had clear evidence to act on.
More stories kept coming in, including something about Christianity no longer being allowed to be preached. Jack was amazed that everything had happened so fast, but at the same time he knew many of those in town had been from Europe, and weren’t used to having Christianity preached so openly. Still, he was alarmed to learn that other religions, including pagans were starting to practice their beliefs openly, and hoped it wouldn’t be long before God acted.
One day, as they were sitting down to lunch, Allison called him into the control room. When he got there she told him there were people at the gate from town, and they said they were there to arrest him! Pushing the button for the gate intercom, Jack said “what is this, what do you people want?”
On the camera he could see one of the men step forward and reach out to the intercom. “This is town security, we have a warrant for the arrest of one Jack Mitchell, issued by the Mayor. Please don’t make things hard on yourself and come out peacefully, we don’t want to have to use force unless we have to.”
Amazed at the audacity of this idiot, Jack looked at Allison and chuckled. Finally he pushed the button again and said “that’s nice, but I’m afraid the mayor has no authority here, and you have no jurisdiction. Now, if you’ll kindly turn around and go on back to town, we’d appreciate it. We don’t want you’re kind anywhere around here. Thank you.”
Unsure what to do, the sergeant turned from the intercom and looked at his men. This wasn’t going as he’d expected. He’d been sure that Jack would simply submit to their demands, as the people in town did. It had never occurred to him that he’d act any different. Feeling he needed advice on this matter, he got back in the hummer and they went back to the town.
When Sylvia heard that her security force had turned back just because that criminal TOLD them to, she was incensed. Calling for punishment for the entire detail, she was practically frothing at the mouth. How dare anyone oppose her!? After all, she was the Mayor! Finally, Jean was able to get her calm again. He said that he’d personally take charge of this, and there was no way Jack wouldn’t be in their custody by evening. This seemed to calm the woman, and she concentrated on planning his execution, after she had found him guilty in court.
Gathering every security person he had, Jean went to the armory and outfitted them all with rifles and plenty of ammo. They then got aboard trucks and made their way to the complex, Jean riding in the lead vehicle. When they arrived he told his driver not to stop, but to knock the gate open and keep going. The driver complied and hit the gas, but the effort wasn’t entirely successful. As the truck hit the gate, one side popped free, but the other held. Wrapped around the front of the truck, the fence held it tight as it pivoted on a fencepost that hadn’t given way, pulling the truck off the road. They hit the ditch, stopping abruptly. The force of the impact drove the driver into the steering wheel, and his face into the windshield. Jean fared better, only hitting the dash and crushing his nose. After sitting there a moment trying to recover, blood gushing from his shattered nose, Jean climbed out of the vehicle. Not bothering to see if his driver was even alive, he made his way to the second vehicle in line and climbed in, ordering them to proceed with the assault.
Hitting the gate set off the sensors, which sounded an alarm. Mike was on duty in the control room and, seeing what was happening on the monitor, ordered general quarters. This got everyone inside the shelter and all the doors closed and locked. By the time the trucks were approaching the main entrance everyone was inside and ready, and Jack had appeared at the control room. They watched on the monitor as the first vehicle pulled up to the entrance. A security guard got out and went over to the doors, but couldn’t figure out how to get them open. After a few minutes, Jean ordered one of the vehicles with a Browning on top to open fire and try to shoot their way through. At this, Jack realized these people could be a real danger, and went over to the defensive controls. Raising the closest flamethrower, he aimed off to their left a few feet and fired a two second blast.
When Jean saw the stream of flame shoot from a previously hidden turret and land a few feet to the side of his group, he suddenly believed they were all dead. Without even being aware of it, his bladder let go, drenching his pants and running down his legs. After a second the flame stopped, and a loud speaker somewhere spoke in booming tones “THE NEXT SHOT WON’T MISS. GET OUT OF HERE AND DON’T EVER COME BACK. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING!” realizing there was no way they could compete against such firepower, and scared out of his mind at the thought of burning alive, he screamed “RETREAT”, then climbed into the nearest vehicle and drove off at high speed, leaving the other passengers of the truck behind.
Finally all of the assault force managed to get away, even the driver they’d left at the gate, although many of them had no intentions of returning to the three ring circus the town had become. Deciding that staying would only get them killed, they headed in different directions, hoping they could manage to get by on their own. Returning to Sylvia, Jean convinced her that Jack was as good as in prison where he was, and all they had to do was keep him there. She wasn’t convinced and still wanted to kill him, but she also realized they’d need more people and better equipment to do it, and decided to do as Jean said, at least for the moment.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
When the majority of the security force failed to return, Sylvia called an emergency meeting of the council. She sent for Jean and told him to be there also, determined to get to the bottom of this. When everyone had arrived and settled down she turned to the colonel and said “it appears that your security team has deserted, what do you intend to do about it?”
Looking exasperated, Jean responded “I don’t know what to do. I can’t bring them back by myself, even if I did know where to look. I need more men to be able to do anything.”
“You know,” Jim said, “they’re not the only ones to leave either.”
Turning to face him, Sylvia said “what do you mean?”
Seeing the suddenly serious look on her face, Jim hesitated before continuing. “Well it seems that since the election most of the children, those under twenty-one, have simply picked up and left. Also many of the older people are gone, leaving us with almost no pilots, and very few people to work the farms.”
Staring at him icily and speaking in low tones that made the councilman nervous, she asked “where did they go?”
“Uh…we don’t know…they seem to have just wandered off. They didn’t take much with them, no more than they could carry, and it doesn’t appear they left in a group…no more than two or three at a time at the most…”
The rage grew within Sylvia at this news. She waited a second to make sure she was in control of her voice as she knew it was more intimidating if she remained outwardly calm. Finally she spoke “and WHY didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”
Beginning to get nervous, Jim replied “I-I thought you knew…”
Turning to Jean she said “Colonel, hand me your pistol.”
Caught off guard by the request, Jean paused before complying. The look in her eyes convincing him that he didn’t want to get on her bad side just now. Unstrapping the top of his holster, the colonel withdrew the pistol and handed it to the woman.
Taking the gun loosely in her hand, she looked off into space and said to no one in particular “I consider withholding valuable information from me a traitorous act.” Then she turned quickly, bringing the gun up as she did. Before he could even voice a protest she pointed it at Jim and fired. The sound of the shot was deafening, it echoed off the walls of the large room. Looking at her in growing horror, the others decided the woman before them must be evil incarnate. They also decided that upsetting her would not be a good idea, and resolved to do whatever she asked, no matter what.
At the sound of the shot one of the few security guards that had actually returned rushed into the room. Stopping and staring in confusion at the sight of a dead councilman on the floor and the gun in the Mayor’s hand, he was unsure what to do. Seeing him arrive, the mayor ordered, “guard, get a detail together and clean this mess out of the council chambers immediately.” Hearing the tone of her voice, the guard turned away to comply.
Sylvia had expected the reaction she’d gotten from the others in the room, what she did not expect was the feeling of ultimate power the killing of another human being had given her. She decided right then that she would always keep a gun on her, and even get Jean to show her how to really use one. Turning to him once again she ordered him to go out and find more people to replace the men he’d lost. She didn’t care where he found them, or what they were like, as long as they were willing to take on some…extreme jobs…and would remain loyal to her.
Backing nervously out of the room, Jean already had an idea who he’d get. Over the summer they’d brought in a number of rough and tumble characters from Eastern Europe, along with some American criminals. They had spent their time in town getting into trouble and fighting, and would be the perfect replacements for the security force, if his suspicions about the mayor’s plans were accurate. He’d noticed the look in her eye when she’d shot Jim. He’d seen it many times before, and always before, destruction had followed.
After the colonel had left the room, Sylvia looked at April. “As soon as he gets the new security force together, I want you to take charge of directing them to secure the town. You will issue the passes to allow people to leave, and you will be responsible for them coming back. If anyone else disappears, your life is forfeit…do you understand me?”
Looking at her with horror, April only nodded. Inside she was thinking that, if she were smart she would join those who were leaving. But she had always craved power, and this position would be more power than she’d ever had in her life. Now she only had to figure out a way to keep anyone else from escaping.
Next, she spoke to the newest council member, Richard “and I want you to begin organizing patrols to bring in more outsiders. We’ve had contact with many groups who’ve refused to join us, isn’t that right?”
“Y-Y-Yes ma’am, there are a lot of smaller clusters who said they were just fine and didn’t want to come here.”
“Good. Well, that is no longer an option for them. I don’t care what you have to do, or what means are necessary to accomplish your mission, but I want this town full again, and you will take care of that.”
Richard looked at her nervously. When he’d agreed to join the council it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to get his own agenda passed, but the events of this evening made him realize that the only agenda that mattered was Sylvia’s. He’d always been a liberal. His biggest concerns were to get the town to understand the evils of burning oil for electricity and hurting trees. They had a chance as he saw it to start over right this time, and not hurt nature anymore. One of his most secret desires had been the legalizing of relations between people and animals. He’d always had a few pets he’d been involved with, and felt there was nothing wrong with it. But now, with the way Sylvia was acting, he was afraid to even mention it. Who knew if she’d get upset and shoot him also if she found out what he liked to do with animals.
Thinking about his desires, he told the Mayor he’d take care of it, but that extreme measures might be necessary. He was well aware that, if he could get their inhibitions down in other areas, they wouldn’t care so much about his particular fetish.
The Mayor told him to do whatever was necessary, but that she wanted people willing to work, not beaten down. He said he understood, and with that, the meeting ended.
Jean had good success, and over the next few weeks was able to recruit more than fifty ruffians to act as the core of his new army. These were men without conscience, men who delighted in inflicting pain on others. Most had some fighting experience of one sort or another, and several had been in various military organizations. Three were pilots and they were assigned the job of training others to fly as well. Since the departure of the teens had stripped the town of qualified pilots, replacing them had become top priority.
Checking out what kind of aircraft they had to work with, the pilots were delighted to find the A-10’s. Quickly mastering the craft, they started training others in their handling as well, knowing they would be useful in forcing other groups to bow to the will of the town. One of the pilots had experience in helicopters, and had workers start prepping one of the remaining Black Hawks for his personal use. This particular craft was the armed ‘Pave Low’ variant, and had stubby wings which held additional weapons. It was equipped with .30 caliber machine guns and carried eight ‘Hellfire’ anti-tank missiles. The pilot thought they were the most beautiful things in the world, and almost wept as he caressed them.
Jean had also recruited other guards to work with April as town patrols. The people he looked for didn’t have much if any experience, but he could tell instinctually that they were willing to do whatever was asked of them. April had immediately conscripted several hundred citizens to begin putting up a fence around the town. She figured it was the only way to ensure that no one else escaped. Her work force didn’t have any experience in things like this, but she didn’t care. How hard could it be? All they had to do was put in poles and string barbed wire, right?
When they were done with the project it sure looked impressive to her. Sylvia even commented that no one would be able to get through it. The fence was ten feet high, and had wire running along every six inches, all the way up. On top there was what Jean had called ‘razor wire’, and if you even touched it the stuff would cut deep. What she wasn’t aware of was, you could still lift the barbed wire between two posts enough to slip through, but they wouldn’t learn that until later.
The fence did stop most people from simply wandering off, but as the weeks went by and only certain people were allowed out, more and more citizens managed to get through the sloppy excuse for a barrier, as there weren’t enough guards to watch the whole perimeter, the migration away from town hardly slowed. April was aware that not everyone was being stopped by her fence, but she made sure Sylvia never found out. After all, she valued her life.
What she did do was increase patrols in town and institute a curfew. Anyone caught out at night was severely beaten and many were raped, both men and women. If that indignity wasn’t bad enough, they and anyone else caught doing anything the new government said was wrong were forced to work the farm as punishment. The people left in town had for the most part never done hard physical labor in their lives. But with the loss of strong young people to work the fields, someone was needed to plant and harvest. Few of the new laborers protested the treatment either, not after seeing examples of what happened to trouble makers. The first few were hanged, but after a while the patrols simply beat or raped them to death. This served to thoroughly cow the people who hadn’t have the courage to escape and soon protests ceased entirely.
During this time Jack and the others in the complex had been virtually cut off from news of what was happening in town. The flow of refugees had stopped, and they had no way of finding out what was going on. At the time of the assault he’d considered torching the security team, but his Christian morals wouldn’t let him do it without issuing a warning first. To his surprise, they had heeded that warning, preventing him from having to kill them. Jack was well aware that sometimes fighting and killing were necessary, but he hated the thought of it. Only if he had solid evidence of wrong doing, or if he and his people were in imminent danger would he consider taking such action. As it stood, besides the rumors and stories, and the arrest attempt, he had nothing firm to base an attack on the town on, and the last thing he wanted to do was start a war. He was well aware that while he did have some weapons, to get into a shooting war with outsiders was pretty close to suicide. After all, they had the whole world around them to use for resources, while all he had was what was within the shelter itself.
Praying that everything would work out, and feeling a leading to stay put and rest in God’s presence, he and his people tried to get on with their lives. Hopefully soon either God would act Himself, Jack thought, or at least give him guidance as to what to do to make things right again.
After six weeks the new assault teams were ready for their first raid. Looking around the town, Sylvia was impressed with how far they’d come. The fence was up and seemed to be keeping people in, and her patrols were roaming the streets. The people were obviously frightened of the patrols, and that delighted her. She knew that the secret of control was fear, and felt the town was well on it’s way to becoming a great seat of power. Now they were reaching out, and soon would control a much larger area. Looking ahead she could imagine every person in the whole world bowing before her, worshipping her as a god and doing whatever she commanded without a thought. The idea filled her with an almost sexual excitement, and in that mood she watched as the team boarded two helicopters in preparation for the start of her conquest of the world.
The team consisted of nine men, more than enough for the job ahead. Besides the pilots there were six troopers and Richard, who was acting as commanding officer and would be conducting the negotiations. The troops were aboard the slick Black Hawk, with the Pave-low along for fire support. They quickly flew to an area about seventy-five miles away, where there was supposed to be a group of eleven people trying to run a small farm. Arriving within the hour, they flew low and assessed the situation. The farm wasn’t very big, there was a small single story house and a barn, with about thirty acres planted. As they came in over the place they saw a couple of people running into the house, and after that, nothing. Instructing the pilot to land in the front yard, Richard got ready to negotiate with the leader of these people.
As soon as they touched down he got out, walking to a point about halfway between the ship and the building. After a minute an old man appeared in the door, and called out “who are you and what do you want?”
The man appeared to be past seventy, and Richard decided this was going to be easy “we’re here to let you know that by order of the United States government, you and your family are to be relocated to an area where you can be supplied with assistance. This area is now restricted and that’s why we’re ordering you to move.” The idea to claim authority of the government had been his, All his life he’d looked to the authorities to provide everything he needed, and the thought of anyone actually not WANTING the government to get involved was foreign to him. That was why he was so shocked when the man refused.
“We don’t need anything, thanks. Now, if you’ll be on your way, we have to get back to the fields.”
“Maybe you didn’t understand me,” Richard tried again, “but you don’t have any choice! You and your family will immediately get on the helicopter or we will gather you up by force!” maybe a little intimidation will work, he thought.
As he finished, the man raised his hands above his head. Unknown to Richard, that was a signal to the people inside that these visitors were hostile, and they opened fire immediately. Shocked beyond belief that anyone would actually shoot at what they thought was the US government, it took Richard a second to realize that he needed to get back into the helicopter before he got killed. Fortunately the shooting had been poorly aimed, and he made it back safely. Getting on the radio to the other chopper, he ordered the pilot to destroy the house. As his bird climbed into the air, the Pave-Low came in behind them, lining up on the front of the house.
As soon as he was in position the pilot fired one of the Hellfire missiles at the front door. The explosion was huge, lifting the roof right off the house. As the shooting stopped, he held off on firing anymore, and they waited for the smoke to clear. After a few minutes the first ship landed again, but this time it was the strike force that approached. In the rubble that used to be the house they found seven survivors. Four of them were teens and one was a boy of about six. There was a woman in her early twenties, and she was holding an infant. Everyone else had been killed in the blast, and these were shell shocked and bleeding from multiple cuts. The woman was holding her baby tightly to her chest when the men got to her. One grabbed her arm and tried to drag her to her feet, but she resisted, trying to shield the child. Angered, the man ripped the baby from her arms, dropping it on the floor. Drawing his pistol he shot it through the body then turned to the woman and said “if you resist anymore, you’ll get the same…now let’s go!”
Screaming hysterically, the woman clawed the man in an effort to get away and return to her murdered child. Clubbing her on the back of the head, the blow stunning her, the trooper dragged her to the waiting helicopter. On the ride back to the town, the man leered at her and said “don’t worry about the brat pretty thing, I’m sure some of us will be more than happy to give you some more.”
Overcome by grief and horror at the situation she and the rest of them were now in, the woman just sat there weeping for her dead child.
Over the next several weeks the town sent out raiding parties every day. The people they brought in were usually in bad shape, having tried to put up a fight before being captured. When they got to town they were immediately put to work as slaves, first at the farms, then later at other jobs no one wanted to do. The young women and the children were often claimed by citizens of the town, with the raiders and town officials getting first choice. Most of these became live-in mistresses and the children playthings of those so inclined, but others were simply forced to act as household servants. When they invariably acted up or tried to escape, they were abused severely, a few even being killed either through beatings or intentionally, for sport among the citizens.
By this time, anyone who had any decency had managed to escape and the town was full of people who’s only desire was the pain and degradation of others. Although this had united the town in depravity, it hadn’t really served their main purpose, that of getting more people. All told, they had brought in less than a hundred people from the local area, and more than half of these had died since arriving. What they realized they’d have to do was travel beyond the range of the helicopters, and to do that they’d need to figure out a way to get fuel where they needed it.
Faced with the problem, the pilots informed the council that there was a C-130 equipped with the army’s drogue refueling system. The helicopters already had refueling nozzles installed, and it should be simple enough to learn to refuel while in flight. This would extend their range to more than a thousand miles, and bring within range several larger groups that had been beyond their abilities to deal with before. The council gave their approval to the plan, and the next day they started training.
Refueling a helicopter in flight was easier said than done, they found out. With the chopper flying at full speed, the airplane going so slow it was close to stalling, and the prop wash knocking both the drogue and the chopper about, trying to stick the needle like probe into the tiny drogue basket seemed impossible at first. After several near collisions and failed attempts, they finally figured out the trick, and then spent a couple of weeks perfecting the technique.
Among the larger communities now within range was one village in northern New Mexico. The group had reported having more than a hundred people when contacted by radio, but had admitted that half were children. From what they had said, their defenses consisted of rifles and a few light machine guns, and the raiders were confident they would be easily overawed at the sight of the Pave-Low. Apparently the raiders still hadn’t learned anything.
The flight down to the village was uneventful, the refueling going off without a hitch. After more than seven hours in the air they arrived and the large plane landed at a local airport. Leaving it, the choppers arrived at the village, now well used to seeing people scurrying for cover upon their arrival. Landing, the representative was sent toward what appeared to be the main building. They no longer risked their own people on such dangerous duty, and instead sent one of their slaves. As the man approached, he was hailed by someone from within the building. Stating that the town was supposed to be relocated north and everyone here was going to be taken prisoner, the slave quickly dropped to the ground as the villagers opened fire. Of course that wasn’t what he was supposed to tell them, but by this time he was beyond caring what happened to him, simply wanting his wretched life to be over.
The shots from the buildings weren’t unexpected, but their accuracy was. As the first ship lifted back into the air the gunship circled around and prepared to launch a missile. But this time, as he was lining up to take the shot, someone from within the buildings fired a single round from a salvaged .50 caliber high powered rifle. The well aimed shot penetrated the wind screen of the helicopter, hitting the pilot and nearly severing his neck.
Immediately the ship went down, exploding into a ball of fire as it hit. No one from the crew survived, and the pilot of the other bird quickly became aware of the serious trouble he was in as the same .50 caliber opened up on him. Finally moving outside the range of that gun, he tried to assess the situation. His co-pilot was dead, along with the leader of the raider squad. Several of the troopers were injured also, and the helicopter was handling roughly. Climbing above the surrounding hills, he raised the people left to stay with the plane on the radio. Informing them as to what happened, he felt the ship lurch, then become uncontrollable as all power died. Going down, the pilot had never been taught how to auto-rotate, and therefore could do nothing to prevent a crash. They hit the ground hard, stunning everyone aboard. Before any of them could get his wits back, the craft caught fire, exploding seconds later.
Seeing the smoke from the crashed chopper, the pilot of the C-130 made his decision. Starting the engines he quickly took off, headed back towards Mayfield.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
The pilot climbed to altitude quickly, heading home as fast as the plane would go. When he was within radio range he called the town and reported what had happened. Waiting while the message was relayed to someone else, he was distressed to hear the radio operator inform him that Sylvia had demanded that he report to her as soon as he landed. Suddenly breaking out into a cold sweat, he wondered if he were in trouble.
A couple of hours later he landed at Boise. There was a hummer waiting for him at the end of the runway, and when he got in he became even more nervous as the other occupants looked at him as if he were an insect. They refused to answer his questions or even speak, and in silence they rode towards the town. Twenty minutes later they arrived in front of the building, and he was told by one of the guards to report directly to the council chambers. Walking into the room he saw that several people were already there, waiting for him.
Sylvia was in rare form, actually foaming at the mouth. The pilot suddenly knew this was going to be bad, and hoped he’d live to walk out of that room again. The mayor had been screaming at anyone she could since finding out the assault team had been killed. As she got worked up, spittle began to fly from her mouth with every word she spoke. Everyone present had been showered as she ranted on, her face blood red with anger, the veins popping out and pulsing along with her words.
Turning and directing her considerable wrath on the pilot as he walked into the room, she screamed at him “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE ASSAULT TEAM WAS KILLED?” Continuing in a slightly lower tone, she said “how could you let this happen!? Nobody does this to me, do you understand! Don’t they know who I am!? Don’t they know I’m the leader of the civilized world!? How DARE they attack me like this!? YOU! It’s YOUR fault! You’re a traitor…a rotten TRAITOR!”
Suddenly she drew her pistol. She’d spent a considerable amount of time each day practicing with it, and was now quite good. What’s more, she was completely comfortable with it, it was almost a part of her now. Raising the gun and resting the sights on the forehead of the pilot, she pulled the trigger. Again and again she fired, until the gun was empty. The face of the man was practically gone by the time she’d emptied the weapon, and all his blood had poured out, covering the floor behind his corpse. Finally, she lowered the weapon, quickly changing the magazine and re-holstering it, her rage spent. Turning to Jean she said in a more normal voice “I’ll show them. I’ll show them all! The whole world will see what happens to those who oppose me! Get your pilots ready. I want those planes they love so much to bomb those people into oblivion. I don’t want a single one left alive…DO YOU HEAR ME?!
Nodding quickly, Jean said he’d take care of it immediately. He didn’t point out that, without radio or TV services anymore, there was no way anyone would know what they did to the village, and therefore no one else would learn anything. Considering her mood, he thought it best to keep that tidbit to himself. One thing he did realize now however was that his leader was crazy. More than that, she was stark raving mad. Deep down inside he’d always known that, but her actions lately had made it obvious. He didn’t know when it had happened, if it was the plague and the deaths of everyone that drove her insane, or the sudden rise to power that had done it. All he was sure of was that she was getting worse, and if someone didn’t do something, and soon, she’d be the death of them all. Of course, he also knew she had the loyalty of the raiders, as she had taken pains to give them anything they wanted, ensuring that they stayed true to her. Because of that it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to get close enough to remove her, not without forfeiting their life in the process. Thinking these things, he thought for the first time that the idea of just leaving maybe wasn’t so bad after all.
Quickly calling the raiders, he told them what she had ordered. They, as opposed to himself, were delighted with the idea. They were tired of bombing empty buildings, and longed for real, live targets for their weapons. Getting together, they discussed just how to pull this off. After a bit they decided to take six A-10’s, loaded out with an assortment of bombs. The problem was the range was too great. They’d barely have enough fuel to get there, and none at all for the return trip. What’s more, the air refueling set-up for the planes was configured for the Air Force system, and wouldn’t work with the drogue refueler they’d used with the Black Hawks. As there wasn’t time to find an Air Force refueler and they had no experience with that system anyway, they decided to simply load a couple of large fuel tanks into a C-17 and fly it to an airport close to the village. After they refueled they could attack the town, then easily return home.
Deciding on how to pull off the raid, they contacted the airport and ordered the planes readied for the mission. An hour later they arrived and found everything ready to go. Getting into the planes they were soon in the air headed southeast, looking forward to kicking some butt.
A couple of hours later, with very little fuel remaining in the tanks of the attack planes, they landed at the airport in Santa Fe. They were now less than a hundred miles from their target, and this was a perfect place to refuel. As the crew of the cargo plane got out and brought out the fuel tanks, the A-10’s taxied up one at a time and were refueled. As soon as the last plane was full they took off again, the C-17 remaining to top off their tanks on the return trip, before they headed home.
Forming up, the attack group turned toward the village, and a few minutes later they spotted it. Coming in at treetop level, they made one pass to get an idea of which buildings were likely to contain people. The site looked to have been some sort of industrial park before the plague, and there were a dozen or more large metal buildings clustered together. Also the flight leader noticed there were a bunch of mobile homes in the parking lot of the main building, likely housing for some of the villagers. Deciding on how he wanted to hit the place, he ordered his group to attack in pairs. The first two planes were loaded out with five hundred pound general purpose bombs. As they circled the area, the first two leveled off and made their run. The bombs dropped in salvo, and the effect was more than they’d hoped for. The trailers were flattened by the concussion, and all of the metal buildings were severely damaged, collapsing in on themselves. As he’d hoped, the leader saw that the effect had been like kicking an anthill, the occupants, those that could anyway, were running out of the buildings into the open.
Calling to his wingman to follow, he started in on his run, these two planes were loaded with CBU’s. CBU’s, or cluster bomb units, were thin walled bomb casings filled with hundreds of small bomblets. About the power of a hand grenade, they were scattered in a cloud by a small bursting charge within the casing, raining the bomblets down to explode on the ground. The shrapnel produced was devastating, and after dropping his load he looked back and saw that nothing moved anywhere in the target area. Climbing out again, all of the aircraft began strafing runs with the big GAU-8 30mm cannons on anything that looked as it might hide a living person. Finally, as the guns were exhausted, the leader told the final two aircraft to drop their load. These planes were carrying napalm, jellied gasoline. As the planes crossed the remains of the village he saw the tanks of napalm drop free, tumbling to the earth and erupting in massive balls of fire. That last run started a firestorm over the target, ensuring that nothing could survive. Happy with the results of their work, the flight gathered up and returned to Santa Fe to refuel, before heading back to Boise.
Landing several hours later, the raiders made their way to town, having already calling in and announcing their great victory. As they arrived they found a huge party already underway, and the people treating them as conquering heroes. As they entered the community center, they were greeted by Sylvia. Smiling and congratulating them on a job well done, she informed them that tonight, the rules were off. Usually the raiders were restricted to raping and abusing only those groups who resisted when they went to bring them into the town, but tonight they were free to do anything they wanted, with anyone in town. Grinning with anticipation, the raiders looked forward to the nights’ festivities. Before they left however, Sylvia had one more job for them. “In the morning I want you to load those planes up with every bomb they can carry, and go up to that Jack’s place and bomb him to oblivion…do you understand me…I don’t want ANYONE coming out of his place alive. Now go and enjoy yourselves, you’ve earned it.”
Deep in his underground shelter, Jack and the others were aware that the town had attacked somebody, having heard the reported victory on the radio. They had no idea of who, or why, or where, and he was now in the dining room discussing the event, although he also had a deep sense of foreboding. Coming to the door of the control room, Robin, who was on duty there called to him and said there was someone on the radio asking to speak to him only. Surprised, as he’d not gotten any direct communications from anyone outside the complex since before the election, he got up and went to see who was calling.
Sitting in front of the computer screen, he acknowledged the call and identified himself. On the screen typed words began to appear.
“Jack, before I tell you who I am, let me first warn you. The people of that town near you attacked us earlier today, and the survivors here have retaliated. They found a bunch of cruise missiles at an Air Force base not far from here last year, and a couple of them had tactical nuclear warheads. They went to try and launch them at the town, and I just heard them fly overhead a minute ago. You only have about an hour, so get all your people inside that shelter of yours right now! You don’t have any time to lose, I’ll wait here until you come back.”
Staring at the screen in amazement, Jack suddenly reached over and hit the panic button. As the sirens went off, he spoke into the microphone “ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ALL PERSONNEL, GET INSIDE THE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY, A NUCLEAR ATTACK IS UNDER WAY. I REPEAT GET INSIDE IMMEDIATELY, WE’RE ABOUT TO BE NUKED!”
Turning to those around him, he began issuing orders to get everyone inside immediately and make sure no one was left on the surface. Then get the doors closed and make sure the air filters were moved into place. Reaching for the short range radio, he felt obligated to warn the town. At first no one responded to his calls, but finally an old man answered, though he sounded drunk. “Yeah…wha’da’ya want. And who is this, anyway?”
“This is Jack, there’s an attack on its way. Get all your people to safety, you’re about to be nuked.”
“Jack? Oh yeah, the perv. Listen, why are ya calling us Jackie, are ya ready to surrender yet?”
“Listen to me, the people you guys attacked today have launched a nuke at you. Get everyone under cover now, there’s not much time!” Jack ordered, exasperated.
“Huh? Them folks we bombed to h*ll today? Don’cha worry ‘bout them none, they’re all dead. Now, if’n ya wanna come on into town, we’re havin’ a little party. You might even get to have a drink before one of us shoots you!”
They could hear the man laughing in the background, until the sound suddenly ceased. Calling again, Jack wasn’t able to raise anyone, and figured the guy had turned off the radio.
“Well, I tried. I don’t know what else I can do.”
“Nothing that I can think of,” Robin said, “you did everything you could and more than they deserved.”
Saddened at the loss of life that was coming, he turned back to the long range radio and contacted their mysterious friend again.
“Thank you for the warning, all of our people are now safe inside. Now, if you don’t mind, would you tell us who you are?” he typed.
A few seconds later, more words appeared on the screen “it’s good to hear that you took me serious, warning you was the least I could do after what you did for me. Right after the plague, you took me into your shelter. You fed me and gave me a bed, and were kinder to me than anyone I could remember. And I repaid you by attacking a young girl and trying to kill you all and take over your shelter. You had every reason in the world to kill me for what I’d done, and no reason to let me live, but you did anyway. You flew me a long ways off and told me about God on the way. I didn’t want to listen and my heart was filled with hate for what you were doing, but that didn’t stop you. Finally you landed, and put me out. Before you left you gave me food and water, and something that became even more valuable to me, a Bible.”
Stunned at this revelation, Jack typed “Doug, is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me. I walked for weeks after you dropped me off, dreaming of getting even with you. But I was too far away to really do more than dream, and eventually finding food was more important. After a while the things you said to me began to penetrate, and my anger finally left me. I started reading the Bible you gave me, and before too long asked Jesus into my heart. I repented of all the terrible things I’d done, and from then on have tried to make up for some of them. Before I go on, I’d really like to apologize to the young lady I tried to rape, is she still there?”
“She’s right here next to me, she’s been reading along this whole time.” He typed
Robin was shocked when she realized who this was, remembering the attack like it happened the day before. But finding out that the man who did it was now a brother in Christ, and was asking her to forgive him, her heart went out to him. Turning to Jack, she said “tell him there’s nothing to apologize for, I forgive him.”
Typing again, he told Doug what she’d said. There was a pause, then the words started again. “Pardon me, her words brought tears to my eyes. From the time I finally realized the truth and turned to God, I have wanted to ask her to forgive me for what I did. Now that she has, I’m overcome.”
“Please go on Doug, tell us what happened.” Jack prompted.
“It was funny really, I guess God was keeping people away from me until I turned to Him, because as soon as I did I found a couple of others. I told them what happened to me, and what I’d done, expecting them to leave when they found out what kind of man I was, but they didn’t. Instead they wanted to know more, and soon both of them wanted to come to God as well.
After that more and more people showed up. We’d taken over an old factory and converted it into a home, and eventually we had to bring in trailers to house all the people here. We never bothered anyone and tried to just do what we felt God wanted us to do. When that town contacted us, I was afraid you’d kill me if I went there, so we turned down their offer to join them.
All was ok for a while, until a few days ago when a couple of helicopters showed up, and someone got out and told us they were there to take us all prisoners. Well, the folks didn’t take too kindly to that, and fired some warning shots. The guy that brought the message just hit the dirt, and didn’t try and get back to the helicopter, so we left him alone. Then the other helicopter attacked us, and we were forced to shoot them down.
After it was over the man got up and surrendered to us. He said he was a slave in the town they were from, and told us where it was, and all kinds of stories about what was going on there. He also said that, although he’d never met you, he’d heard that the leader of that town hated you with a passion, and had you trapped inside that shelter of yours. He said they were trying to figure out a way to get you out, but hadn’t come up with anything yet.
At first the others here wanted to attack the town and stop what was going on, but I stopped them and said that we didn’t have anything other than one man’s word to take. We couldn’t justify attacking a whole town on the testimony of only one, and should just wait and see what happened. I guess I was wrong to tell them to wait, but really there wasn’t time to do anything anyway, they returned before too long and bombed us really bad. The attack killed more than eighty people outright, and wounded about everyone else. I happened to be at the radio, which we kept in another building down the road from the village, which is why I survived.
When I heard who was attacking, and especially when I talked to Mark, the ex-slave, I knew you couldn’t have had anything to do with it, so I decided I had to warn you. I’m sorry this had to happen Jack, I hate that more people have to die, but the survivors here figured that if they didn’t do this, that town would be able to come back, or even do this to someone else.”
“I understand your reasons for launching the missiles Doug, and I don’t blame you.” Jack typed. “Thank you for the warning brother, we all forgive you for what happened before, and would be happy to meet you again someday, if we survive this attack, that is. I need to get the antenna down now so any electro-magnetic pulse doesn’t fry the radio. We’ll try and contact you again, as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
With that, he pushed back from the screen and reached over, flicking the switch that retracted the antenna. Shutting off the radio and disconnecting the wires to be sure, he got up to walk through and check things out, making sure they were really as ready as they could be.
In the town, while taking a break in the cool night air from the noise inside, one of the women heard the sound of a jet engine above her in the sky. Wondering who would be flying over them at night, she looked up. Seeing nothing at first, she was suddenly blinded by a flash of light that filled her world. A split second later, she and the rest of the town ceased to exist.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
The tactical nuke exploded at an altitude of a thousand feet. It was detonated high to extend destruction on the ground to its maximum distance, and was high enough that the fireball didn’t touch the ground, virtually eliminating fallout. The ground shockwave, traveling faster than the speed of sound, reached the complex about two minutes later, causing the floor to jump slightly and startling some of the people there. Almost immediately the lights went off, due to the electro-magnetic pulse from the bomb, and a second later the generator started up. A couple of minutes after that the complex jumped again, though not as severely as the first time.
In the control room, Pam was confused and asked Jack, “how many bombs did they send, and why did the power go off?”
“Doug said a couple, I sure hope it was only two. We won’t know how bad the damage is until we can get out and inspect it, but I’m not allowing anyone to go up to the surface for at least two weeks, even if we don’t detect any radiation. That way, if our instruments are faulty, we still should be safe enough. As for the power, likely the EMP from the bomb blew out the circuitry in the power plant. It also may have fried the transformers, but we won’t know for sure until we can get out and inspect them also.”
“I thought the radiation would last for years, how could we ever go out there now and inspect anything?” She asked.
“No, that’s a myth. There’s a great deal of misinformation about the effects of nuclear weapons, but the experts at the US Atomic testing facility at Oak Ridge Tennessee have spent years researching the subject, and their findings were available to the general public on the internet before the plague. I studied the information in detail since nuclear war was a very likely scenario that would require us to use this shelter.
“When a nuclear bomb explodes it releases X-ray radiation that doesn’t travel very far through the air, but changes the air so it doesn’t transmit heat very well. Then the heat from the blast along with the great pressure of the explosion compresses the air, heating it to white hot temperatures. This heat burns up the radioactive material not used in the explosion, rendering it almost harmless. If this was a ground burst, the dirt and ash from the blast will be sucked up into the fireball as it collapses and get irradiated. It doesn’t stay irradiated very long, usually not more than a few days, but during that time it can give off lethal amounts of radiation wherever it settles downwind. The good news is, the concrete this shelter is made of is sufficient shielding against that fallout. Not only that, but the dirt alone is enough to block it. With a minimum of six feet of dirt most of the radiation is blocked, and there’s at least twenty-two feet between us and the surface.
“Of course, the maximum amount of damage comes from an airburst. Groundbursts are only used to destroy underground targets like command centers. If this was an airburst then no dirt will be sucked up into the fireball and all we’ll have to worry about is a slight increase in certain radioactive materials that’ll condense after they cool. Most of that will be in the upper atmosphere, and will stay up there for a long time, possibly years, settling out slowly all around the world. That’s ok though, because it’s the accumulation of material that’s deadly, the trace amounts that settle from this blast won’t even be noticeable.”
“But what about the blast? Shouldn’t it destroy everything for miles around?” the girl asked, although she was already feeling better since he’d explained things.
“I’m sure it did in town. It really depends on the size of the warhead, but Doug said they were tactical weapons, so I doubt it was bigger than a hundred kilotons or so. A hundred kiloton bomb will destroy everything for a mile or so in all directions, and do some damage to structures several miles away. More important though is the thermal wave. The heat from the wave can start fires several miles away from the blast, and those fires can get fierce. They can actually suck the air out of shelters, unless their ventilation pipes are equipped with special valves to prevent it. We have just that type of valve in place here, but anyone in a shelter in or near the town won’t, and may survive the blast only to suffocate or burn to death in the fires.”
At the thought of this, Pam started to feel sick. She now realized they were safe enough, but she felt bad for the people in town, no matter how bad they’d treated Jack, nobody deserved to die like that. Turning to the radiation detection equipment, Jack noticed the reading was elevated slightly, but not enough to worry about. The probe for the device was mounted on the surface near the entrance elevator. There were several others at various heights above the ground around the property, and he slowly scanned them all, looking for a sign that fallout had started to arrive. After several hours without an increase he finally decided they weren’t likely to get any, and called the other residents to the dining room for a meeting.
After everyone gathered he told them what he’d already explained to Pam, emphasizing that they were completely safe and could go back to the surface within a few weeks. He also informed them they were far enough away and, if the weapon exploded over the town and not between it and them, their trailers and surface buildings should be ok as well. Those who lived on the surface were relieved to hear this, and were in better spirits after the meeting as they prepared for the lengthy stay in the now crowded shelter.
All told there were close to a hundred and fifty people in the complex, and only enough beds for a hundred. They solved that problem by assembling cots that had been in one of the storage silos, setting them up in the recreation room and chapel. Also, people who had apartments took in others, including Jack and Pam. With everyone having a place to sleep, Jack set a schedule that allowed everyone to eat in shifts, ensuring everyone room in the dining room for their meals. Air and water weren’t a problem, as the complex had been designed with multiple redundancies, and Jack had expanded on these when he’d had the restoration done. Also food wasn’t a problem, they’d restocked the place during the summer and there was more than enough for everyone present for more than a year. All in all, he was satisfied that all their needs were covered.
Over the next two weeks he went to the control room several times a day to check the radiation monitors. They never changed, but he still checked. The outside cameras and electrical equipment, including the fence sensors, were out due to the EMP effect so he was unable to see the surface, but he figured the five foot thick doors should prevent anyone who might be out there from bothering them. The interior electronics were still ok, as the ground effectively shielded them from the pulse, and as soon as they were able to go out they could replace what they needed to from storage. Jack just hoped that the C-130, as it was a military plane, had been shielded from EMP or else it’d just be so much scrap metal sitting there. The same went for the Black Hawks, as there hadn’t been room for them in the underground hangar. Unfortunately the Global Express, which had been parked above instead of being returned to the airport in Mountain Home definitely wasn’t shielded and likely was worthless now. That was too bad, he’d really loved that plane.
After fourteen days, he decided it was time to take a look around outside. After letting the core members of his group know what he planned to do, he made the decision to take every precaution as if they knew there was deadly radiation out there. His precautions included donning a ‘Tyvek’ suit, a white lab suit that had a hood and elastic at wrists and ankles. Along with these went a pair of gloves and booties, and an N-100 respirator. He was aware that this outfit wouldn’t stop radiation from penetrating his body, but then again neither would the ‘MOPP’ suits the military used. Radioactive particles would go right through the charcoal liners they had, as there wasn’t enough mass there to stop them. All the outfit was for was to keep the dust particles off his skin and out of his hair. After he returned from the outside he could wash most of the fallout off himself in the emergency shower, and then discard the clothes which would remove the remaining fallout from his body. When Mel asked about the danger of exposure, he told her that the main danger was due to length of exposure. A small amount of radiation was safe unless you were exposed to it continuously over a period of time. The effects of radiation were cumulative, and therefore short exposures to low levels weren’t dangerous.
“It takes about a hundred rads of total exposure for the first symptoms to appear, and around 300 rads before it becomes incapacitating.” He told her. “According to the instruments the level outside is around 1 millirad an hour, which isn’t that much above normal ambient levels. If the instruments are off and it’s a lot higher, a few minutes of exposure won’t hurt me as even a thousand rads an hour isn’t too much with an exposure of only a minute or two.”
Even though she still wasn’t convinced, she saw he was determined to go. Backing off, she helped him get into the outfit, reminding him to take his pistol just in case, then walked with him to the elevator. Jack knew that Pam would have put up even more of a fuss, and had asked her to stay in the control room to prevent it. He was glad Mel had backed off also, as he was nervous enough doing this without having to answer so many questions. It was one thing to believe what you’d read in books, he thought, but actually going out into what could be high levels of radioactive fallout was something else entirely. Leaving her outside the door to the elevator room, he pushed the button to open the overhead doors. Stepping on the elevator pad he began to rise to the surface, delighted to see the sun and sky again after so long underground.
As his head rose above the edge of the open door he was surprised to see a tent set up a few yards away and several people standing there, apparently they’d seen the doors open and were waiting for him. Resting his hand on the butt of his .45, but not drawing it, he addressed the nearest one “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
The person he spoke to appeared to be in his mid twenties. Seeing this guy appear decked out in what looked kinda like a space suit made the young man nervous, especially when he noticed the gun, but he spoke in a clear voice “I’m Reggie, we’re looking for a man named Jack Mitchell.”
“I’m Jack, where did you come from and how did you get here?”
“We’ve been staying down in the Air Force base, at least up until a couple of days ago. We all bugged out of town when things started getting weird.”
“Well, why don’t you all come on inside, we’ll get you warm and fed, then you can tell us your story.”
As they were getting their things together, Jack replaces the probe on the entrance radiation sensor with a new one from inside. Now they’d know for sure that it was working. He also did a quick sweep with his handheld radiation meter and found nothing registering.
When the group was settled in the dining room after stowing their stuff and eating a late lunch, Jack asked them to tell him what things were like outside and how they’d come to be camping out at his front door.
Reggie wiped his mouth after taking the last bite of his sandwich, then began to speak. “Me and Cindy over there left town about two months ago. Things were getting too flaky for us and we made a break for it one night, barely even slowing down at that stupid fence they put up around the town.”
Jack didn’t know about the fence, and decided to ask about it later, not wanting to interrupt the story.
“We headed south, and followed the road until we came to Mountain Home. There wasn’t too much there, but we did meet the others here, including Eddie, who had left months before us. He wanted to come here and find you at that time, but none of the rest of us knew you and after what happened at town, didn’t feel very trustful if you know what I mean. Eddie said he’d seen you around when he was training to be a pilot, but had never actually met you. He said you were a real stand up guy, and everyone who knew you always had good things to say about you. Still, most of us didn’t want to trust anyone then, and finally we decided to move down to the base and see if there was anything we could use there. We kinda had the idea of attacking the town and freeing the others, but couldn’t figure out how to get most of that stuff to work. It was while we were messing around with some of those bombs and missiles that we saw the flash, and then heard the sound of the nukes going off.”
“So there was more than one,” Jack said, “where did they land?”
“As far as we could see, there was two of them. One appeared to be over the town, and the other one was off to the northwest. Eddie figured it was in Boise, at the airport. We sorta figured whoever nuked the place was trying to prevent a counter-attack, and that’s why they bombed the airport.”
“Actually, that was the counter-attack.” Jack informed them. “The town sent their A-10’s to bomb a village in New Mexico because they refused to join the town, and the survivors launched the nukes in self defense.”
Surprised, Reggie said “you mean that crazy b*tch actually attacked some folks because they wouldn’t join her?!? That’s nuts! Tell ya what, I’m glad they launched the nukes, that town was just full of every sort of pervert and sadistic kind of person you’d ever wanna meet. In fact, so many were leaving that I doubt if there were too many there who didn’t want to be there…I think those folks in New Mexico did us a favor!”
Jack could see the passion with which the young man spoke, and wondered again how things had gone so badly so fast. Again he vowed never again to do anything that he wasn’t SURE God was behind one hundred percent…it just wasn’t worth it.
“Anyway,” Reggie continued, “after the nukes went off we hung around there for a while. Ronald found some equipment in one of the buildings and we were able to tell there wasn’t any radiation around us. I thought the stuff must be broken because the movies always show fallout after a nuke, but there were a whole bunch of the things there wrapped up in plastic, and none of them showed any radiation.”
Jack quickly briefed them on why there was no fallout, as well as giving them other useful information on the subject. Afterwards Reggie and the others felt better, they’d all been worried they were going to die.
“Finally, after Eddie kept on telling us that you’d help us and since there wasn’t anything else we could use at the base, we decided to take a chance and come here. We tried to get a car or truck to run, but none of them worked, I guess they’d sat there too long. So instead we started walking and got here the day before yesterday. We tried to call you from the gate, but no one ever answered, so we set up camp at the entrance, figuring someone would come out eventually.”
After the meeting they got the newcomers settled for the night. The next day they began cleaning up the surface, getting ready to move the excess people back into the trailers. Since there had been no radiation in their area, all the animals had survived as well. They’d left enough feed out just in case, and it was a good thing as they didn’t have to work to replace them. As it was now early March (close to the four year anniversary of the plague), they considered letting the stock out to graze. But Jack advised them not to, at until after the first good rain, as he wanted to make sure any fallout dust was washed away. Besides, he knew they had enough feed still in the bins to feed them for months, and it wasn’t worth the risk in his opinion.
As soon as the mobile homes were again occupied and the shelter returned to its less crowded state, they organized everyone into crews and assigned jobs. Neither the C-130 nor the Global Express would run, their computers fried by the EMP. Therefore, one of the first jobs was to salvage as much as they could from the craft then move them off to one side of the property where they wouldn’t be in the way. Jack intended to eventually chop them into small enough pieces that the Black Hawks could sling them out of the area, but the thought of chopping up the GE bothered him to the point that he put the project off. When room for operational craft got scarce then they’d go ahead and do that, he thought.
A few days later, wanting to know for sure what the situation was in town, as well as at Gowen field, Jack and Mike brought the Huey out of the hangar and got it ready for flight. Taking off, the two men flew north toward Mayfield. A few miles from town they started seeing damage caused by the blast wave, and it got worse the farther they went. Jack was surprised to see little sign of a firestorm, and figured they’d gotten off lucky. Over the downtown area nothing was recognizable, everything had been turned to rubble. They circled the area several times, looking for signs of life, but found none. Finally they decided to land near the outskirts and look around.
Among the equipment they’d brought was a radiation survey meter. As Jack stepped out he brought the devices’ probe near the ground and wasn’t surprised to detect radioactivity. As the box began to click, Mike asked “how bad is it Jack?”
“Near the ground there’s about three rads, but the level quickly drops as I raise it up. I’d say it’s likely some leftover Beta radiation, as it can only penetrate about a foot of air. It’s safe enough for a few minutes exposure, but I don’t think we need to stay around here very long. The chopper’s downdraft scattered what little dust there was here, but I don’t want to track any back. Let’s go over towards Boise and see what’s there, they go home and wash ourselves down good.”
“Suits me.” Mike responded.
Climbing back aboard, they rose into the air and turned towards the city. Both men were depressed at the loss of life represented by the destroyed town, but they were aware that most of the people had gotten what they deserved. In a few minutes they were over the downtown area of Boise. The damage here wasn’t as extensive, but increased south of town, as they neared the airport. One thing they both noticed was that the food warehouses where the town had gotten their food were gone, flattened by the blast wave. Little that was recognizable remained at the airport, and the armories were in the same shape. Seeing nothing worth investigating, they soon turned towards home.
After parking the helicopter the men went in the main entrance. They removed their ‘Tyvek’ suits and booties, then one at a time got in the emergency shower and washed down thoroughly. After getting dressed again they used a sensitive radiation meter to see if they’d missed any of the fallout. Jack was clean but Mike still seemed to be hot. Stripping, he again showered thoroughly, then stepped out as Jack ran the meter over him again. Coming up clean this time he got dressed and both men headed to the dining room to let the others know what they’d found.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
Rodney had been a sophomore in high school at the time of the sickness. Since then his life had changed dramatically, swinging back and forth between horrible and wonderful. During the past four years he’d gone from starving and alone to living with another group of survivors, decent people who had taught him a great deal about surviving in this new world. Not long after joining the group he’d met a young girl named Jill. They soon became friends, and eventually more than that, finally even sharing a room. Then the group he was with had been contacted by some folks in Idaho who said they were trying to rebuild civilization. They decided together to join the folks out west, and at first things there seemed ok. No one cared that he and Jill were still teenagers, at least not at first. They had gone to work on one of their farms, and even made some new friends. But after a while things started turning bad in town, and soon a new law was passed making him a kid again in the eyes of the older people in town. No longer allowed to live together, he and Jill talked about the situation often, and soon decided they’d be better off somewhere else.
They waited for a good opportunity to leave, hoping to be able to put some supplies together for their journey, and ended up waiting too long. Before they knew it there were guards all around and a fence was put up around the town. Several of their friends had been beaten or raped by the patrols just for being out after curfew, and a couple had died trying to get through the fence. Realizing that they were nothing more than slaves being forced to work for the adults, they did only as much as they had to in order to get by, still hoping for an opportunity to get away.
One thing Rod really felt they would need outside the town was some sort of weapon, but by this time only the security patrols had guns. Then one day the entire security force left town to carry out an attack on somebody, he didn’t know who and didn’t care, but almost none of them came back. This looked like the opportunity they’d been waiting for and the young couple made the decision to take their chances. Getting to the fence was easy as almost no one was on patrol, and the fence which had looked so intimidating from far off turned out to be simple to get through. Once through they made their way away from town easily enough, and for the first time in a while truly felt free.
Hoping they wouldn’t be discovered gone until morning, Rod doubted there would be a search, as several people he knew had disappeared, and the people in charge of the farm hadn’t reported that fact for fear of being blamed. This was fortunate for them, and once they were well clear of the town they made their way to the highway and began traveled along it, as the walking was easier. They’d been able to put back enough food and water to last a few days, and were ok for the time being, but he knew they’d have to find more supplies quickly or they’d be in trouble.
The first night out they’d slept in the brush, each of them staying awake part of the night to watch for trouble. Near the evening of their first full day of freedom they spotted a house off the road and decided to check it out, as they were now many miles away from town.
The building appeared to be an old farmhouse, but it obviously hadn’t been lived in since the sickness. Going around to the back they broke a pane out of the back door window and reached in to unlock the door. Once inside they quickly checked out the house and found the shriveled up bodies of two people in one of the bedrooms upstairs.
“I guess these were the owners,” he said to Jill, “and it doesn’t look like anyone else has ever been here. I think we’ll be safe enough for the night, you want to stay?”
“Yeah, you’re probably right, and I don’t want to sleep outside again unless we have to, it’s still too cold out there.” The girl responded.
Looking around the rest of the house they found another bedroom with a bed big enough for the both of them. When they’d first gotten to the town they’d shared a room at the farm, but then came the law that had forced them to separate. Still, they felt fortunate, as they hadn’t had any children at the time. Friends who’d had kids had them taken away and given to older residents, and the separation had been traumatic. If that had happened to them Jill didn’t believe she could have just left like they did, even though she knew it would have been nearly impossible to get children back. Some of those who’d left had had kids and were unable to get to them, but she didn’t think she would have been strong enough to do that.
Looking through the closets, Rod suddenly called to her. Walking through the cold and quiet house, dust being kicked up from the floor with each step, she found Rod standing before a closet in what must have been an office, as there was a computer sitting on a desk on one side of the room. In his hands was a dusty pump action shotgun, and in the closet she could see several rifles as well.
“There’s some handguns in the drawer also Jill, and plenty of ammo. At least now we don’t have to be completely defenseless.”
Brightening up immediately at the sight of the guns, she vaguely remembered back to the time before the plague. She’d hated guns then, having no experience with them besides what she’d seen on TV. But four years of having to learn to survive without civilization had changed her, and now she saw guns not as dangerous killing machines but as tools that would ensure her ability to take care of herself. Reaching out for the shotgun she saw that it was a Remington 870 12 gauge, a lot like one she’d had before the town had taken guns away from everyone. Working the action she saw that, although it was dusty and had some rust, it was definitely serviceable.
“Is there any ammo for it?” she asked her husband. They’d never actually stood before a preacher and said vows, but in her heart she considered them to be married, no matter what anyone in town thought or said. Rodney also considered them married, and had never even looked at other girls, even when there had been many around and even though he’d been forcibly separated from her. As far as the couple was concerned, they were married for life, and nothing that happened to them would ever change that.
“Yep, a whole bunch. You want buckshot or slugs?”
“Slugs. I’m accurate enough and I want to make sure anyone I shoot won’t get up again. There’s no way I’ll let them take me back to town, not alive anyway.” Her husband felt the same way she did and said as much, handing her a box of ammo for the weapon.
As she stood there loading the gun, the girl thought back to the times people in town had forced her into their beds. Several of the older men who’d been given the job of running the farm had forced her to sleep with them, and a couple hadn’t been too gentle about it. At first she’d resisted, but after one of them nearly killed with a piece of two by four, she’d made a conscious decision to let them have their way. It was better than dying, at least that’s what she told herself afterwards.
But now that she was away from them and free she decided she’d been wrong. Now no one would ever force themselves on her again, not while she was alive anyway, and if it was at all possible she’d take several of them with her. Working the action of the shotgun she jacked a shell into the chamber then topped off the magazine and engaged the safety. That done she slung it over her shoulder and looked at the selection of handguns.
While she’d been inspecting and loading the 870, Rod had been looking over the remaining selection of weapons. Unlike his wife, he knew all about guns as his dad had been a gun dealer. There wasn’t too much selection, mostly hunting rifles, but on one side of the closet he found a cheap cloth rifle case and, opening it he pulled out a Chinese made SKS. This was one of the older versions and had a spike bayonet. The previous owner or someone had also replaced the original ten round fixed magazine with a twenty round version. In the pockets of the case he found stripper clips with two hundred rounds of ammo for the rifle, along with a rolled up ammo belt. His find delighted him because he’d shot his father’s SKS several times and knew the rifle to be durable and accurate. After he loaded the magazine and charged the rifle, he put the rest of the ammunition in the belt, then put it on. Next he reached into the drawer and pulled out a Colt .357 magnum revolver along with its holster. It wasn’t his first choice for a handgun, but it would surely do the job! Threading his belt through the holster he loaded and secured the pistol. Jill had also picked up and loaded a handgun, hers a Russian Makarov in 9X18mm. apparently, Rod thought, the owner of the house had been into military surplus guns, that or he hadn’t had a lot of money to invest. Fortunately, the ammo for the different weapons had also been cheap and he’d bought a goodly supply.
Taking their new treasures down to the main floor, the two started searching for something to eat. There wasn’t too much left that was still good, even most of the canned food having rusted through by this time. Finally they had to settle for a bag of rice they found in one of the kitchen cabinets, cooking it in a pot over a fire they built in the back yard. They both knew it was risky to have a fire, if anyone was looking for them they’d be able to see or smell the smoke, but they didn’t have much choice in the matter. They had to eat after all, and besides, life was full of chances one just had to take. While the food was cooking, Rod watched for signs anyone had spotted them. After nearly an hour the rice was done and they’d been able to put out the fire, greatly reducing the chance of someone realizing they were there. Still they kept a sharp lookout all the rest of the day, and that night one of them was awake and alert every minute.
The next morning they mixed some sugar they found with the rice to make a halfway decent breakfast cereal. Sugar keeps forever as long as it stays dry, so they had no fear that it had gone over. After eating they filled their water containers from the well out back. Fortunately, the well was nearly two feet in diameter. If it had been one of the more modern six inch wells they’d have been out of luck. They also packed one of the cooking pots along with a few pounds of rice and sugar and set out, wanting to put more distance between themselves and the town.
Walking along the highway later that day, Rod suddenly stopped. Distracted by her own thoughts, Jill almost walked right into him. “What’s wrong, why’d you stop?” she asked.
“Shh…listen.” He whispered.
After a second she heard it too, the sound of an engine. Quickly the pair got off the road, moving several yards away and looking for somewhere to hide among the sage bushes. About sixty feet from the road they found a depression and hunkered down behind the bushes there. After a few minutes they saw a vehicle coming. Keeping quiet and not moving they waited, their guns at the ready in case it stopped. As it got closer they saw that it was a hummer, likely one from town. The vehicle didn’t even slow, but continued past them at around forty miles an hour. After it had passed out of sight the two got up from their hiding place, slinging their weapons after making them safe once again. Looking down the road in the direction it had gone, Jill said “do you think we should stay off the road?”
“I don’t know, there’s not much in the way of cover out here. Besides, we should be able to hear them if they come back, and hide again. If we get too far away from the road we could get lost, and most of the houses will be near it anyway.”
Nodding in agreement, but still nervous, the girl picked up her bundle and the two began making their way again, but this time they stayed closer to the brush so they could hide quicker. About two hours later they heard the vehicle coming back and hid again. This time when it passed they could see it was piled high with stuff. They decided the passengers must have been out scavenging, and weren’t likely to have left anyone behind anywhere. Getting up again once it was safe, they kept going, finding another house off the road as the sun started to set.
Rod had an old habit of counting his steps as he walked. He knew his length of stride was right around a yard, and was able to do the calculation and figure out that they’d come about twenty-two miles all together since leaving the town. The house they’d found this time had a propane tank that still had fuel in it, and tonight they’d be able to use the gas stove inside to prepare their dinner. After looking around and finding the well in the backyard had a windmill on it to provide water to a trough he supposed used to be used for livestock, Rod decided to see if he could set it up to provide water inside the house. He looked over the set-up carefully, and after a few minutes figured it shouldn’t be that difficult. There was even a plastic tank in the yard that held at least a hundred gallons, and he figured that if he could get it up on the roof and use the windmill to fill it, they might even have enough pressure to take showers.
Considering everything the place had to offer, he said to Jill “you know, this might not be too bad a place to stop for a while…at least until winters over.”
“I don’t know Rod, we’re still awfully close to town, do you think that’s such a good idea?”
“Well, as I see it, here we have propane for cooking and heating, and with that windmill I think I could fix it so that we could get the water in the house working again. We’d still have to scavenge around for food and keep our heads down, but I think it’d be ok. Besides, we’re back away from the road a good piece and I doubt if the town’ll ever get around to going into homes, not with empty cities all around us.”
“Well I guess it’d be ok, we can try it anyway.” She said.
“And if people from town do show up, we may be able to get the jump on them. There were only two people in that hummer today, and we’d have the element of surprise.”
With that settled, the couple prepared a meal of sugar and rice, then got ready for bed.
They’d arrived at this house near to sunset, and hadn’t had enough light to more than make sure it was empty. The next morning they corrected that and did a careful search. The house was a treasure trove, the original owners must have either been Mormons or at the least preparedness nuts. In the basement were cases of preserved foods in big cans and there were also several fifty gallon drums of water. There was all sorts of equipment including a siphon pump for the water barrels and even radiation detection stuff. Looking through the stuff Rod found several kerosene lamps and a container that held at least twenty gallons of fuel. After lighting one he began going through various books and found that they were mostly on how to get by without electricity and such.
In the shed out back he found all sorts of PVC pipe, more than enough to plumb the water tank once it was on the roof. Surprisingly, he didn’t find any guns, and that’s what led him to suspect that Mormons once lived there.
With Jill’s help he was able to secure the tank to the roof. After that it was only a matter of running pipe from the well to the tank, then into the house. They got done before the sun had completely set and went inside to prepare dinner, tired but satisfied with what they’d gotten accomplished. The windmill seemed to have a hard time filling the tank, and they figured it might be trying to push the water too high, but by the end of the next day the tank had about thirty gallons in it and they decided it was good enough. That night they enjoyed a hot shower for the first time in ages, being happy to discover the propane fired water heater hadn’t rusted out as they had feared. Lying in bed that night holding the love of his life, Rod felt at peace for the first time in a long time.
As the days passed, they continued fixing up the house to their satisfaction. The food stored in the basement was surprisingly good, especially after they found a book on how to prepare meals from storage food. One of the things they’d decided on was making the house more defensible, and to that end had stacked lumber they found behind the shed under the front windows inside the house. They figured the extra mass would likely stop any bullets that got through the brick wall, giving them something to hide behind while returning fire. They also cleared several bushes from the front yard so they’d have a clear field of fire and to take away hiding spots from anyone who might try and attack them.
One morning, several weeks later they were startled to hear a vehicle pass by on the road outside. It sounded like it kept going, but they didn’t take any chances. Getting to their fighting positions at the front windows, they saw a few minutes later that the hummer had returned, going much slower this time. As it turned into the front yard they got ready, watching as it slowly made its way up to the house. Finally the vehicle came to a stop just a few yards from the building and the driver’s door opened. As soon as the driver got out Jill recognized him as one of the men who’d forced himself on her. Seeing him in the clear she raised her shotgun to her shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The gun bucked in her hands, and she saw her shot had been true, the man staggered and fell back, half his face now missing. Rod was startled at her shot but quickly recovered. He lifted his rifle and began shooting also, as the people in the yard ducked behind cover and returned fire.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
As the three men drove slowly up to the house, Jimmy told them his plan.
“I’m going to pull up nice and official like, and get them to trust me. I’ll tell them we’re with the government or something, and we’ve finally getting into the area and starting to help folks recover. I want you two to hold back at first, then once I get inside move around to cover the back. When the shooting starts come in as quick as you can and finish off anyone who’s left. Remember, don’t shoot any of the women or children unless you have to, we’ll have uses for them later.”
At this, the other men laughed. Oh, they’d have uses for them all right, ever since they’d left the town there hadn’t been anyone else around to ‘play’ with, and all three were craving a little raping session. They had been on their own since the fiasco at Jack’s place. On the way back to town they’d decided that crazy Frenchman would get them all killed, and they would be much better off striking out on their own. They’d be kings, Jimmy said, but things hadn’t worked out that way. The first problem was the lack of any other people around they could rule, and the second was the lack of food that was still fit to eat.
But it looked like they had hit the jackpot today. They had passed this house several times over the past weeks, but today they saw that the shrubs had been cleared out of the front yard. That told them someone was there, and now whoever it was would give them their first bit of action in a long time.
But as Jimmy stepped out of the vehicle, the unexpected happened again. Suddenly they heard a booming roar and saw Jimmy’s head almost explode, his body falling backwards against the truck. Realizing they had been ambushed, the two men quickly got behind the vehicle. Ricky was fumbling with his rifle, trying to figure out why it wouldn’t shoot. When they’d joined the town’s security team they’d been given the guns, but no one bothered to show them how to use them. Ricky had never liked guns much, but the new power they gave him in town had changed his mind. With only the security people armed, the rest of the town had been at their mercy, not that they had much. But now, with someone shooting at them for real, he realized that learning at least a little about how the gun worked would have been smart. Giving up on the gun as he still couldn’t get it to fire, he dropped it and stood, preparing to run away. Just as his head appeared above the rear of the Hummer Rod, who’d been watching that area, fired a shot, the bullet penetrating the bridge of Ricky’s nose and continuing on through his brain to explode out the back of his skull. He never knew what hit him, the lights simply went out as his body fell backwards to lay unmoving on the ground.
Seeing the other two go down was too much for Vince. He’d managed to empty his magazine at the house, but was having trouble getting a new one in the gun. As Ricky fell he made his decision, throwing down his weapon and calling out towards the house. “DON’T SHOOT! I SURRENDER!”
Inside, Rod cautiously called back, being sure to watch for any tricks. “Ok, drop your weapons and come out slowly, with your hands on your head.”
After a minute Vince appeared, hands on his head and no weapon apparent.
Calling again, Rod asked “are there any more of you?”
Vince trembled but spoke up “no, I’m the only one left.”
“Ok, slowly walk away from the truck. Come up on the porch and then face the road.” Vince did as he was told. When he was on the porch Rod said “now, get down on your knees, then lay down, keeping your hands behind your head.”
When the man had lain down, Rod carefully went out to him, being sure Jill had him covered. He quickly patted the man down to make sure he had no other weapons, then told Jill to watch him and shoot him if he moved. She acknowledged him, walking up and pointing the shotgun at the man’s head. When she was in position Rod moved slowly towards the vehicle, watching for any sign of movement. After moving to the back and seeing the other two were definitely dead, he returned to the porch and told Vince to stand up.
“Ok, who are you and what do you want?” he demanded.
Sure that they’d kill him if they knew he was alone, Vince said “we’re with Mayfield security. You two are in a lot of trouble! You attacked the legal law enforcement for this area and our back-up will be here soon to see what happened to us! If you know what’s good for you you’ll turn yourselves in to me right now, before things get even worse for you!”
Rod didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but decided it would be smart not to take chances. With Jill watching the guy he went into the house and got some cord. He then tied the man’s hands behind his back and told him, “I’m not going to just kill you in cold blood, so I suggest you start walking. If you’re telling the truth someone will find you soon enough and cut you free. If you’re lying…well that’s your problem. Not get!”
With that he pushed the man forcefully off the porch. Tripping on the top step, Vince fell headlong down the steps, landing on his face. After a moment he managed to get to his feet and start off, unsure what he was going to do now. As he reached the road he turned and began cursing at Rod, until a shot from the house ricocheted off the roadway near his feet, prompting him to run for all he was worth.
At the house Rod spoke quickly, “grab everything you can, we may not have much time. We’ll load the Hummer with the food and weapons and get going. Maybe we’ll even find some fuel along the way. I don’t know if he was telling the truth but I’m not going to take a chance. We need to get far away from here as soon as we can.
Nodding her head in understanding, the girl hurried inside the house to start packing. She hated the idea of leaving, especially after all the work they’d done fixing up the place. Still, not everything they had done had worked out like they expected, the water tank on the roof had frozen and split, reducing them to carrying in buckets of water from the well by hand. But despite the problems, she was really starting to like it there. Grabbing a case of food, she made her way up from the basement and out to the truck. She had no remorse inside her for her actions, that b*stard deserved to die for what he’d done to her, she thought. In fact, she didn’t feel anything at all, not since being raped repeatedly by the people in town. She hoped that one day she’d be able to feel again, but that day hadn’t come yet.
After he fit the last box of food into the back of the vehicle, Rod turned to look at the guns they had captured. All three were M-16’s, but none of them had been taken care of. Of the three he figured only one was worth keeping, and he decided to give it to Jill. The M-16 was a poodle shooter as far as he was concerned, not really much good against people. He would stick to the heavier bullet used in the SKS for now, and hopefully soon he would be able to exchange that for something in .308. Looking around he gathered up magazines for the rifle. Each man had apparently carried one in the gun and two more on them. That wasn’t enough for a combat mission, and he wondered why they didn’t have more. Still, eight mags were enough for one rifle, at least as long as they didn’t get into an extended fight. Taking the gun apart he cleaned it as best he could, then reassembled it and loaded it. Calling to Jill that it was time to go, he handed the gun to her when she appeared, showing her how to work the controls.
They two took one last look at the house, then got into the truck and pulled out onto the road. As he started down the road he saw they only had about an eighth of a tank of fuel, and he was aware that it wouldn’t last them long.
“Well, it doesn’t look like they left us with much fuel, we’re almost out.” He said.
“Can we get some out of a car? There are plenty of them at the houses around here.”
“I doubt it, most cars use gasoline, but this is a diesel, it takes a different kind of fuel. But come to think of it, maybe we can after all. A lot of tractors use diesel, and if we found one we might get lucky.”
Suddenly Jill pointed to a building off the road. “There’s a barn, why don’t we try there?”
“I want to put a few miles between us and the house first babe, just in case that guy was telling the truth. We’ll start looking in a little bit.”
Ten minutes later he said “that’s probably far enough, let’s see what we can find now.”
A minute later they came to another driveway. Slowing, they both looked the property over carefully. There was a barn near the house, and they decided to check it out. Pulling in to the drive, they stayed well back from the house, remembering not to make the same mistake the security patrol had. Stopping, Rod stepped out, leaving his rifle on the seat next to him. Holding his hands above his head in a non threatening manner, he called out “HELLO, IS ANYONE HOME?” There was no answer.
Waiting a few minutes he called out again. After not receiving a response to his second hail he got back in and drove slowly up to the house. This time when he got out he brought his rifle with him, figuring any friendly person would have answered him. Going up to the door with Jill covering him from the truck, he turned the handle and swung it open. The house was as quiet as a tomb, and soon he determined that no one lived there anymore. The pair quickly looked through the house for anything they thought they could use, then proceeded to the barn. The tractor within had been old and worn out when the plague struck. The past four years hadn’t helped it any, and Rod doubted it could ever be made to run again. That was ok, all he wanted was the fuel. Opening the tank he sniffed, then turned away, disappointed.
“Not the right kind?” the girl asked.
“Nope, it’s old gas. Let’s look around and see what else we can find, maybe there’s a container of kerosene around here or something.”
“Hey Rod, what about that?”
Turning towards her, he saw the girl pointing to the fuel oil tank behind the house. Quickly walking over to it he climbed on top and opened the cap. Sniffing the liquid, he suddenly turned to her and smiled, “Perfect! What would I do without you?” then he jumped down and gave his love a hug.
“Ok, we need a hose. Why don’t you look for one while I drive the Hummer over?”
When he returned with the vehicle he saw Jill had found a length of garden hose. Opening the truck’s filler cap he stuck one end of the hose into the fuel oil tank and began to suck on the other. A second later he yanked the hose out of his mouth, spitting out the fuel that had squirted in. “Yuck! That tastes nasty!”
“Then don’t drink it hun, duh!” she replied giggling.
“Uh huh, whatever.” He said, sticking the now flowing hose into the vehicle’s tank and filling it all the way up. He knew the fuel oil wasn’t the best thing to burn in a diesel, after a while it would probably clog the fuel lines. But it was a lot better than nothing, and both of them were tired of walking. After it was full he pulled the hose out of the oil tank and replaced the cap, figuring they might want to return someday and get more. Then the couple returned to their searching, making sure they didn’t leave behind anything they might be able to use.
With a full tank they were able to get far away from Mayfield. By the end of the day they’d traveled to Twin Falls, the next decent sized city on the highway. As it was starting to get dark Rod began looking for some place to spend the night, settling on a house on the outskirts of town. Quickly checking it out and finding it deserted, they got the Hummer hidden around back and went inside to fix something to eat.
They spent the next few days going through the town, scavenging for the things they needed. Fuel was the first priority, and Rod knew it would have to be treated before they could use it. Finding a phone book and map, they started out their search with an auto parts store. He was looking for a product called ‘Pri-D’. It was a fuel stabilizer for diesel and could even make old fuel usable again. They found a couple of cases at the first parts store they came to, along with several gas cans and assorted other supplies he figured they could use. Now that they had a working vehicle he intended to keep it running as long as they were able. Next they drove around until they found a gas station that sold diesel fuel. The problem they ran into immediately was how to get the stuff out of the underground tank. The station’s pumps were electric, having been run off outside power, but that didn’t help them all that much now.
“I guess we could look around for a portable pump.” He said after a bit. “I don’t know what else to do.”
“What about finding a generator to power the station pumps?” Jill suggested, hoping the idea didn’t sound dumb. People usually made fun of her suggestions, although Rod never had. Still, she hesitated to offer them, not wanting him to think she was dumb.
“Actually, that’s a great idea! The problem is we need a diesel powered engine as gasoline this old can’t be made usable again, and diesel powered generators will be more common than the small engines that run pumps.” He said as he gave her a hug. She was thrilled with his response as he was the only person who’d ever taken her seriously about anything.
Rod grabbed the phone book out of the truck and flipped through it until he came across hardware stores. He saw there was a Sam’s club in town and remembered they usually had all sorts of things, including automotive stuff. The store wasn’t too far away, and the couple loaded up to go check it out.
They arrived in front of the warehouse sized store quickly. The parking lot was deserted as were those of most businesses in town, undoubtedly due to the fact that most people had died in their homes. Walking up to the front doors they saw that one of them had been broken out, and there were signs that someone had been going in and out. Realizing there might be a danger they returned to the truck for their weapons, then proceeded cautiously into the dark interior of the store.
They cautiously made their way into the store, past the registers, taking pains to be as quiet as possible. As they advanced they could hear the sounds of scuffling feet from the far side of the building. Stopping, Rod called out “is there anyone here?”
The noises immediately stopped and all was silent for a moment, then there was a sound as if a box had been knocked off a shelf somewhere off to the left.
Speaking again, he said “we don’t want to hurt anyone or cause trouble, please answer us.”
From the shadowy isles in the same area the sound had come from, a timid voice spoke. “Yes, I’m in here, please don’t hurt us.”
“We’re not going to hurt anyone, if we lower our guns will you come out where we can see you?”
Nodding to Jill, they lowered their guns so they pointed at the base of the shelves, ready to bring them up quickly again if necessary. A moment later a figure stepped out from between the isles about a hundred feet away, looking nervous. Seeing her, Rod lowered his rifle even more, and stepped forward. Jill stayed a few steps behind him to cover him in case this person turned out not to be friendly. As they got closer they could see it was a woman, apparently in her mid thirties. Finally moving to within a few feet, Rod slung his rifle and stuck out his hand.
“I’m Rodney, and this is my wife Jill.”
The woman relaxed and took the offered hand. “I’m Vicki, but the folks here call me Miss Vic.” She said with a small smile.
“How many others are there Miss Vic?” he asked.
“Eight. We all used to live in a town west of here, but left because things were getting bad there.”
“You don’t mean Mayfield do you?”
At her nod he said “we’re from there also, I think a lot of people are leaving. How long have you been here?”
“I’ve been here almost two months, the others have come along since then.” Suddenly she spoke louder, “its ok guys, they’re not going to cause trouble, come on out and meet them.”
At her call the couple could see and hear several people coming towards them. They also realized they were all armed, and could have cut them down in an instant if they’d been hostile. Glad they hadn’t done anything to make these people nervous; they moved forward to greet them. Everyone besides Miss Vic seemed to be close to Rod’s age, if not younger. That had always seemed strange to him, but he had also come to expect it now. Finally, after he and Jill had met everyone Miss Vic invited them to the back where they had some food prepared. As they walked in the direction the group had come from they could see that the shelves had been moved out to create a larger area. The ends of the shelves had been left in place however to give the illusion that no one was there. Rod noted that fighting positions had been erected to give cover to the residents in case they had to fight, and he approved.
In the far corner the group had a couple of propane barbecues going, cooking some sort of meat. Thinking that the set-up wasn’t as safe as could be, due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the barbecues, he asked “how do you keep the air fresh in here, those propane grills put out deadly gases that could kill everyone here.”
“We cut holes in the roof. They let the gases out and give us fresh air.” Miss Vic replied. She seemed to be the spokesperson and leader of the group. “We used to run the diesel generator until the fuel ran out, so we had to find another way to cook.”
“But there’s plenty of diesel around, all the gas stations have some.”
“I know, but we couldn’t get it out. Besides, we don’t have a way to move stuff about; we really need a car or truck.”
“Well, we have a truck,” he said, “and I know a way to get all the fuel we need. Tell me; are there any portable generators here? Preferably new ones?”
“Yes, there are several, but we don’t have fuel for them either.”
“Show me,” he commanded.
As the woman walked towards the other side of the store, Rod followed. Rounding an isle they entered the automotive section. There in front of them were several construction style generators, and looking them over he was happy to see several ran on diesel. Grabbing the handle of a five kilowatt unit, he began rolling it towards the entrance. Back at the truck he asked Miss Vic to get one of the other men to go with them to get some fuel. A moment later they were joined by a man in his late teens, who said his name was Mike. Together they wrestled the generator into the back of the Hummer, then got in along with Jill to return to the gas station.
At the station it didn’t take long to get things hooked up. Using a little fuel from the vehicle they got the generator running, and soon had the station’s diesel pump working. They filled all the fuel cans they’d brought, then found a twenty gallon drum in the garage that used to hold motor oil. They washed it out and filled it as well, treating all with the Pri-D.
Returning to the Sam’s club they went around to the back of the store to where the generator was kept. Filling its tank, they left the rest of the fuel next to the unit and cranked it. After a minute it ran smoothly, and they could see lights on inside the building and hear cheering from within. When they got back inside the others treated them like Heros, making the couple feel at home.
They made the decision to remain at the store for the night, first moving the Hummer into the service center garage attached to the store to keep it safe. The group showed them to an area where they could have some privacy, and Rod and Jill settled down for the night, happy to be among other people again.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
In the cab of the old semi tractor Billy hit the starter again. This time after turning over a few times, the engine cranked, running rough after years of sitting abandoned.
“Give it a few minutes to warm up.” Rod said, walking over to talk with Vicki. “Now all we need to do is fill the tank and stabilize the fuel, then we’ll be all set.”
“How long will it last?” she asked, looking mystified at the idling truck. She knew she was in over her head; she’d never paid any attention to things like this in the past and didn’t know the first thing about how to do things like get the power up again. What’s worse, none of the others knew much either. The oldest of them was Mike who was nineteen and had only been fifteen when the plague struck. The only experience these kids had was with video games…hardly what was needed in this new world. The arrival of Rod and his wife was a blessing from God, and she was thankful for their knowledge.
“Hard to say. I have no idea how much that generator burns a day, but it should last a few weeks at least, likely not more than a couple of months. But the important thing is, we’ll be able to finish out the winter with light and heat. After things start to thaw we can look for a better place to live.”
Vicki saw no reason to leave the Sam’s club, everything they needed was there, wasn’t it? But she trusted this young man. He’d only been with them a week and had already started making great changes. If he said they needed to move, there certainly must be a good reason for it, she thought.
After a minute more the truck smoothed out, and Rod walked back over; taking Billy’s place behind the wheel as the boy had never driven anything before, much less a rig such as this. As he settled into the seat he reviewed the shifting pattern. His dad taught him to drive a stick when he was fourteen, and he figured out how to drive a truck similar to this one before his group had joined itself to the town.
Depressing the clutch he slipped the stick into what he hoped was first gear. Slowly easing up on the pedal the truck began jerking forward, then smoothed out. Shifting into second was easier, and soon he was moving, driving like he’d been doing it all his life. He figured it was like riding a bike, once you learned you never forgot. After a minute he checked his mirrors and saw the others trailing along behind, staying back and looking watchful. They didn’t know if there was anyone else in town, but the incident at the farm had taught him to always err on the side of caution. They had two pick-ups they’d found at a dealership in town. Both ran on diesel of course, and getting them going had been easy. In the backs were a couple of machine guns they’d found at the local armory, held in place by bungee cords. The trucks took up positions on either side of the rig, offering cover in case of attack.
They arrived at the gas station within a few minutes and, as he stopped next to the tanks, Jill pulled up in the Hummer with the generator and cases of stabilizer. It took several hours to get everything done, but in the end they were successful, returning to the store with eight thousand gallons of fuel ready to be hooked up to the generator.
The morning after their arrival Vicki had approached him. “Rodney, none of us knows much about ‘survival’, and we’re kinda lost here. Could you help us? It’s obvious from the way you got fuel for the generator and from the story you told that you know what you’re doing; we really could use some guidance.”
Seeing the desperate look in her eyes, he said “yeah, it’s kinda obvious. You folks did ok once we got inside the store yesterday, but in truth we never should have even gotten close. You need better security first thing, along with ways to slow down an attacker.”
“Will you help us?” she repeated.
“Of course. We wouldn’t have been very well off just the two of us, the larger a group is the better the chances for them to make it. Let’s see if we can work together to make this place safer, ok?” He was aware that this woman really didn’t know him or Jill and he wanted to reassure her he wasn’t going to just take over.
Relieved, the woman smiled and began to relax for the first time in weeks. The burden of being responsible for all the people here, especially when she had no idea what she was doing in the first place, had been weighing heavily on her. “Sounds good to me. Now, where do we start?”
Looking around for a moment, he said “first we need a way to see what’s going on outside. Now that the power’s on, let’s check out the security office. These cameras must have monitors attached to them somewhere, let’s see if we can find them.”
Vicki called the rest of the group together and explained what they were doing and why. Having someone taking charge reassured the others and they eagerly began searching for the security office. They found it a few minutes later. When he entered the office, Rod saw immediately that at least half the monitors were dead. Looking over the controls, he soon found out how to switch between them, and determined that it was the cameras that weren’t working, not the monitors themselves. Those that were working showed the store below, along with the parking lot out front. Rod knew it was a start, and told the group they would need to remove some of the interior cameras and use them to replace the dead ones outside.
It took the better part of the morning to accomplish. First they used motorized man lifts to retrieve the interior cameras, than they took them to the roof and replaced the ones that were out. Finally they wrapped plastic sheeting around them, as they weren’t water proofed and it would help them last longer. When the final one was installed they returned to the security office to find that everything worked like they expected. At this point Rod told them that one person needed to stay there at all times, to alert them in case anyone approached. Vicki spoke up and asked one of the younger kids to do it for the moment, and she said she’d have a schedule made up by the end of the day so everyone would take a shift.
“Actually, I’ll need some here for other jobs,” Rod said, “and I’d like them excused from the schedule if it’s ok.”
Agreeing, the woman pointed to Mike and two other boys, asking Rod if that were enough. He said it was and everyone left the room except for the kid assigned to stay there.
Indicating that the selected people should follow him, Rod stepped away from the group with Vicki and Jill. “Next we need better weapons. I want to see if there’s a National Guard armory in town. If there is we may be able to find some heavy firepower.”
Going to the manager’s office they found a phone book. Looking through it they found the location of the armory, along with several gun stores. Rod then asked Vicki to stay and get the others organized, and he and the rest of his work group would see about finding what all they needed.
For the most part the armory had been a disappointment. Besides a dozen .50 caliber machine guns and some M-16’s, there wasn’t much there. The group loaded what they could into the Hummer and headed back. One of the Brownings had been mounted on a tripod, and he figured it would be perfect on the roof as a sort of exterior support weapon. On the way back to the store they passed a Dodge dealer, and Rod quickly swerved to enter the lot. He explained that they needed more vehicles and the group got to work, following his instructions. After they got two pick-ups running the real fun began, as none of the others had ever driven a car before. Fortunately the trucks were automatics, but the next few hours were harrowing as he gave them crash courses, so to speak. When they had the hang of it he led the way back to the store. From then on he told them, they’d have at least two vehicles together when they went anywhere, and each of them would have a machine gun mounted in the back.
The next step in securing the building was to limit access to the interior. They did this by dragging abandoned cars in front of the doors. To prevent anyone from just pushing them out of the way they jacked them up and removed the wheels. Rod explained that, with them sitting on the frame, they would be next to impossible to move quickly. Two of the cars they didn’t remove the wheels on, one for the front door and another one at the back door they planned to use as an emergency exit. At the front they placed the cars in a ‘sallyport’ forming a zig zag path between them wide enough for two people to walk side by side, but not big enough for a vehicle to get through. He told them it wasn’t a straight path to prevent the door from being rushed. An attacker would have to negotiate the turns, which would slow them down a bit. That would give the folks inside time to shoot them. The car with the wheels still on was placed so it could be moved, giving access to the doors to a truck. That way the group could get one of their trucks into the building if they needed to. Everyone saw the wisdom of these measures, and several commented on how much safer they were now. Rod disagreed, he felt they would not be safe until they found a more defensible place all together, but he didn’t say anything. He also knew morale was important, and he didn’t want to say anything to hurt that.
Finally he formed his team into a quick response force. While everyone might be called upon to fight if they were faced with an all out assault, this force would respond quickly anytime there was a threat to the group. To that end he made a trip to a local gun store to get something better than the M-16 pop guns they’d found at the armory. Inside they found that apparently no one else had ever been there, and everything they’d ever need was on the walls. They each selected rifles they liked, the only stipulation Rod made was that they use the same caliber. They settled on .308, getting two FN Fal’s, a CETME and an M1A. Jill was the only one in the group to continue carrying the M-16, as the recoil wasn’t severe and she could handle it. They also loaded up on cases of ammunition, supplementing what they’d gotten from the armory.
Back at the store parking lot Rod began teaching everyone the basics of shooting, only being satisfied when they could consistently hit a man sized target at a hundred yards. He explained to his response force that they should continue to practice every day until they could hit a man at three hundred yards. The reason being, they were the back-up group and therefore needed to be better than the others.
The next issue in need of attention was drinking water. Of course the water mains had been dry since the plague and without an outside source the group had been consuming bottled water from the stores’ shelves. Their supply was nearly depleted, making a replacement supply a top priority. When first told of the problem Rod suggested they hit the supermarkets and get what was there. That seemed the logical step until they got to the first one and found many of the gallon bottles had ruptured. Vicki mentioned something about the plastic ‘milk’ style jugs being biodegradable and that over the past years they had apparently begun to break down. Lifting a jug off the shelf only to have the bottom come off, spilling the contents all over himself, Rod realized she probably was right. In the end they did find a few of the five gallon bottles used on water coolers still in good condition. They reasoned that the reusable bottles must use another kind of plastic. The group loaded up what they could find, but they all knew it would never be enough to get them through the rest of the winter.
Rod took the next day with Jill and Vicki to consider their options and try to come up with a solution. Vicki asked if they could drill a well nearby, but he didn’t think that was possible. First off he had no idea how to do such a thing, and second he didn’t know where to find the equipment. Jill suggested they find a water tank and fill it from somewhere. The others thought that a good idea and they searched the phonebook, but had no luck. Finally Jill asked about fire trucks.
Rod sat up straight and said “that’s an excellent idea! Let’s see where the nearest fire station is, most have pumper trucks that have a tank as well. And they have the pumps and siphons we’d need.”
They quickly found the nearest fire house and then called the team together to check it out. When they arrived they found two trucks. Both were dusty, but otherwise in excellent condition. Rod figured it was due to the tendency of firemen to always be cleaning and maintaining their equipment. Looking over the trucks they found the pumper had a twelve hundred-fifty gallon tank, along with pumps, hoses, and siphoning equipment. Figuring the system out proved to be a job, but after a while Rod felt he could run the thing. The team got the truck running and they drove to the town’s municipal swimming pool. The pool was green with algae and covered with a sheet of ice. Breaking through and dropping the hose into it, they turned on the pump and soon had the tank full.
Delighted with their success, the team returned to the store. Rod had an idea he could attach a hose from the truck to the buildings’ sprinkler system through a hydrant and use the truck’s pump to pressurize the system. They found such a connection around in back of the store, close to the generator. It took a standard four inch line, the same as the truck, and within a few minutes they had it connected. Rod engaged the pump and brought the pressure up to sixty pounds, but within minutes the tank was empty and they began to wonder where all the water had gone! Rod shut down the truck and the group went inside to see if they’d flooded the store from an open faucet or something, but nothing inside had changed. Finally it occurred to him that the water main to the rest of the town was still open, and they would have to close it if they wanted to maintain pressure in the store only.
Disappointed, the crew spent the rest of the day looking for the main water valve, finally finding it by tracing the sprinkler pipes to where they entered the store. With it finally shut they quickly returned to the pool for more water, not wanting to be out after dark. When they’d once again gotten back and reattached the hose they activated the system and this time it stayed pressurized. With the truck set to idle they went inside and tried a faucet in one of the bathrooms. It sputtered and spat and finally brown water came gushing out. After a minute it cleared, and everyone cheered. Rod cautioned everyone not to drink it until they could purify it, but said it was good enough for showers. There was an employee shower in the break room bathroom and, after giving the store’s water heater time to warm up, everyone took turns getting clean for the first time in months.
Vicki luxuriated in the showers’ hot water for her allotted five minutes. She felt wonderful to finally be able to wash the dirt and stink off her body. As she stood there she thought about having to get out all clean just to put on dirty clothes again and wondered if they could get one of the washing machines going as well. After she got out she asked Rod about it. He felt like an idiot for not thinking of it first, but said sure, it would be easy. They got one of the units from the sales floor and hooked it up, glad to have a large supply of detergent on hand as well. As the first load of clothes was being washed they got an electric dryer set up and going also.
Having a way to clean themselves and their clothes had an incredible effect on the group’s morale and that evening there were smiles and laughing late into the night.
After breakfast the next day the crew got together for their morning meeting. Vicki asked Rod how they were going to purify the water for drinking.
“I figured we could look around for some filters, maybe a sporting goods store would have some.” He said.
“What about distilling it?” Mike asked.
Rod was thoughtful, “do you know how?”
“My dad had a still at the house; he was into making his own alcohol.”
The others looked at him in amazement, and one of the younger boys started to giggle.
“No, it’s not like that, the government used to let people make that stuff as long as they didn’t sell it. My dad made wine and beer and gave it to his friends, and even built a still and played around with it for a while.”
“Do you think you could build one too?” Rod asked.
“Sure, my dad let me and my brother help him build it, he said it was a good science experiment. In fact, he helped me build one for school, but it was only for water. I still won the science fair with it though.” Mike said with obvious pride.
“Cool! So, what do we need?” Jill asked.
“Well, we need a container. It doesn’t have to be strong because it won’t be holding pressure, just a big pot with a tight lid. Then we’ll need some copper tubing and some fittings to attach it to the lid so the steam can go through it. We’ll need another tub or pot for a condenser and it should have water in it to cool the steam.” The boy felt important when he realized everyone was looking at him for the answers. For the first time he felt like a real team player instead of just a strong back.
The team covered the store and found the pot and tubing quickly, but there wasn’t much in the way of plumbing parts so they made a trip to a near by hardware store to get the fittings. They assembled the still in the back storage area, just in case something went wrong and it exploded. Mike assured them it was safe, but everyone else was skeptical. They brought out a large propane burner and hooked it to one of the grill propane bottles to provide the heat source, and filled the pot half full of water. After lighting the fire, Mike stayed with it and the others went to lunch as he’d said it would take a while.
After lunch they returned to find the fresh water container had about a gallon of clean water in the bottom. Rod dipped out a cupful and tasted it, pronouncing it good. After that everyone had to taste it and all said it was wonderful, praising Mike for his abilities. Mike just stood there blushing and embarrassed, loving the feeling.
By the end of the third day after solving the water problem, the fire truck tank ran dry. Vicki asked a couple of the guys to go back to the pool and get some more, and while they were gone Rod decided they needed a larger stock, not only of water, but fuel for the generator. He got with Vicki and the team and they decided to go on a scavenging run around town, looking for a tractor-trailer tanker for fuel, along with a larger water tank.
They found the tanker quickly enough, but it was partially filled with bad gasoline. Rod didn’t want to just dump it on the ground but he didn’t see any alternative. They stretched out the hose as far from the tractor as they could and opened the valve, letting the gas run down the parking lot and into a sewer. When it was empty they closed the valve and went to look at the tractor.
Once the tanker had been dropped off at the store they proceeded to look for a suitable water tank. The city’s municipal garage had a water truck that held several thousand gallons that they’d used to wash the streets. This time however, try as they might, they couldn’t get the old engine to run. Finally they attached a couple of tie-down straps from a flatbed trailer between the truck and the tractor, using them like tow straps. In this way they dragged the water truck back to the store and parked it next to the fire truck. They used the pumper to fill it, having to make several runs, and by the end of the day had nearly five thousand gallons to draw on.
With everything accomplished, Rod figured they’d be ok until spring. He hoped they’d be all right until then, but he knew Mayfield was still there and would likely be a problem in the future as they continued to expand. All he could do at the moment however was hope they wouldn’t be found, and in the spring they could look for a better place to live.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
The greyhound lifted into the sky just as the sun was clearing the horizon, climbing to twenty thousand feet. Jack set the course and engaged the auto-pilot, then got up and walked back to the cabin. Seated there were Louise and her two assistants, Susan and Ellen, who she’d been passing her nursing skills on to over the previous winter.
Along with the destruction of the town had also gone the entire medical staff, except for Louise, who’d been in the complex. Fortunately for all of them she’d decided that others there could benefit from learning her trade and had selected the girls to become students.
Across from them were Robin and Mike, going on the trip to help Jack figure out just what and how much assistance the group could afford to offer Doug’s people in New Mexico. Tied to the deck of the craft were piles of supplies, food and medical gear to help the devastated village recover after the attack on them by the town of Mayfield. Jack and the others felt guilty about the attack, they felt the town had been their idea and therefore whatever actions it took were their responsibility.
“Ok, we should be there in about three hours.” Jack announced as he entered the main cabin.
Robin looked up at him and said, “thank you for agreeing to take me Jack, it means a lot that I can let Doug know that I forgive him in person, even if the idea of seeing him again makes me nervous.”
“Just make sure you keep your pistol on you and watch for signs that he’s trying to deceive us, even though he warned us about the nuke, all we really have to go on that he’s changed is his word. That goes for everyone, stay armed and watchful, but don’t be obvious about it. I sincerely doubt it, but this could be a trap, and I don’t want any of us getting hurt.”
Everyone nodded their understanding. A few days earlier, right after Jack’s reconnaissance flight over Mayfield, they’d raised the communications tower again and tried to contact someone on the radio. They hadn’t been sure the equipment still worked after the EMP from the nuclear blasts, even though the effect hadn’t been very powerful. Jack knew it was because they were detonated at such a low altitude and was grateful for that, if they’d been higher, the damage to their electronic equipment might have been worse.
Within a few minutes of their first transmission Doug answered them. In the conversation that followed, after assuring them he was happy they’d survived, he had asked them if there was any way they could help his people out. He’d said that all their medical people had been killed, and their supplies destroyed in the attack. Jack had been hesitant, not wanting to get into the same situation as before by going against the will of God, and had told him he’d have to discuss the request with the others. Doug had said he understood and would contact them the next day for his answer and ended the conversation. Jack felt the need to pray and confirm that this was what God wanted him to do, even though it was in his nature to help others in need.
Walking out into the dining room he conveyed the information he’d received to Pam and Mel, then said he needed to pray about this and asked them to pray also, that God would guide their decisions. Going up to his apartment, he got down on his knees and opened his heart to God. After an hour he felt confirmation that this was indeed what God wanted and, reassured, got up to go discuss it with everyone else.
Entering the dining room again, he went to the intercom and announced a meeting of the leadership of the group in the recreation room in fifteen minutes, then proceeded there himself. When everyone else had arrived he filled them in on the details of his conversation with Doug and gave them his decision to proceed with the idea of trying to help him out. Asking for comments, he looked at his people, people he’d come to trust implicitly over the past few years.
Mike had spoken up first “are you sure this is a good idea, after all, we all thought gathering everyone to the town was a good idea and look what that led to.”
Several present had nodded their heads at that.
“Well I can’t be one hundred percent certain Mike, but I have prayed about it and I believe this is God’s will.” He had replied.
Mike considered that for a moment then said “ok, as long as God is for it, that’s all I was concerned about. As long as God is in favor of us helping them, there’s nothing any of them can do to hurt us.”
“What kind of help do they need?” Louise had asked. “Ellen and Suzy are ready for some hands on action if they need medical help.”
“In fact they do Louise; Doug said their medical people are all dead. They also need food, medical supplies, and decent clothing. I figured we’d load up the greyhound with everything we can spare and fly it down there along with a few people to assist them. The greyhound is the only plane we have that can make the trip and return without having to refuel, and I’m not sure there is anywhere down there we could get fuel if we took any other aircraft. Doug said they could meet us at the airport with a truck if we could get the stuff there.”
The others accepted the information and soon began discussing the details among themselves.
The next afternoon Jack had made contact with Doug again, letting him know their decision. Relieved, he told Jack they would be expecting them the next day, and he thanked him profusely for their help. After breaking the connection he had gone to the hangar to oversee the loading of the plane.
Early the following morning they’d taken off, heading south for the long flight to New Mexico.
Three hours and fifteen minutes after taking off, they arrived at the small airport. Circling the field they spotted a flatbed truck at one end of the runway, with several individuals around it. Lining up on the runway, Jack extended the landing gear and gently set the plane down, taxiing to the other end to where the truck waited. Turning the plane so the loading ramp was pointed towards the vehicle, he set the brake and shut down the engines. Leaving the cockpit he told his people to get ready, then hit the switch that opened the door.
He noticed that Robin looked nervous and put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you out of my sight.” He said. Raising his voice he told the rest of them, “that goes for everyone, no one is to be left alone, at least not for this first visit. If everything goes well this time, we’ll be able to relax later on.”
As the ramp finished opening the group got up and exited the plane. Jack went first and walked up to Doug immediately. Extending his hand, he said “Doug, it’s good to see you made out ok after all, when we left you here I was afraid we were handing you a death sentence. I’m glad to know you made the right decision to turn to God.”
“When you dropped me here I thought the same thing,” he said with an embarrassed grin, aware of how close that statement had come to being the truth. “But I guess God had other things in store for me.” After a second he added “I only wish that hadn’t included losing so many good people…but His will be done.” He finished in resignation. Jack understood completely, they would never fully understand God’s motives for doing what He did until they were in heaven, until then they just had to accept that He had a plan.
At this point Robin came up to them. Doug immediately turned to the girl, apologizing profusely for his previous behavior. “I don’t even feel worthy to ask for your forgiveness young lady, all I can do is let you know how ashamed I am of my actions and work to show you that I really have changed. One thing you will find here is that I have been completely honest with everyone about what I did and tried to do to you. I didn’t hold anything back to save my reputation but let them know everything so they would see what God was able to do with me.”
“Doug, there is nothing to forgive. The past is over, we can’t change it. There are things I did before I was saved that I wish I could take back. All we can do is lay it all at God’s feet and go on. I am just really glad you found forgiveness also.” She said graciously.
A look of intense relief washed over Doug’s face at her answer, and the burden he’d carried since their last encounter became obvious. As tears began to form in his eyes, the girl’s heart went out to him and she opened her arms to give him a hug.
Watching without staring, Jack tensed slightly as they embraced, ready just in case the man tried anything. After a moment Doug, who’d been crying freely, broke the embrace and backed away. “You have made me feel clean again for the first time in a long time…thank you.” He said.
Feeling everything was really going to be ok and that Doug had been honest with them after all, Jack suggested they get busy loading the supplies, then get to town so Louise could begin treating the people who still hadn’t recovered from their wounds.
An hour later they had the plane empty and secured, and everyone loaded onto the bed of the truck for the ride back to the village. As they traveled Jack and his people looked over the area. At first everything looked the same as it had in every other town they’d visited, deserted but undamaged. After a few minutes however, they passed several buildings and houses that were just blackened remnants, obviously there had been a fire. That in itself wasn’t all that unusual, but still Jack asked about it. One of the villagers spoke up and said “that was where the second helicopter crashed during the first visit by the town. We shot one down as it tried to line up its guns on us, but the other got away. But before it made it all the way back to the airport it also crashed, so I guess we hit it pretty good too.” Looking over the area again, Jack could vaguely make out the frame of the craft amid the wreckage of the buildings.
The trip to the village took close to an hour as the airport was more than twenty miles away and they were going slow in order to have time to react if there was trouble. Finally however they entered an area of obvious damage, many of the buildings completely destroyed and others heavily damaged. Looking around, Jack was amazed that any had survived and gave thanks to God for protecting those who had lived through it.
They stopped in front of a partially repaired warehouse like structure, which Doug informed them now housed everybody that was left. Like most places they’d been to, there was an unusual number of young people present, at least three quarters of those there were under twenty years old. The group from the complex climbed down and began greeting everyone, and introductions were made. After a moment Doug took Robin and Jack aside to introduce them to his wife. Surprised to learn that he’d married, they went with the man deeper into the building.
Even inside there was evidence of the attack, and crude repairs had been erected, obviously in haste. Indicating the bare plywood and two by four construction Doug said that they were planning to move to a better location as soon as the wounded were able to travel. The repairs they saw around them weren’t meant to be permanent, but simply allow them to stay in the building for a few more weeks. Finally they entered a room with several people laid out on cots. Doug told them this was the infirmary, then led them to a young woman in a cot on the far side of the room. She was dozing lightly but awoke as they approached, smiling as she saw Doug.
“Jack, Robin, I’d like to introduce my wife, Linda. She was wounded in the attack, one of the bombs went off near her and the concussion destroyed her hearing. She was buried under the rubble of the building for almost two days before we found her.” The man was crying as he spoke, “but she’s a fighter, that’s for sure.”
The young woman, who looked to be about eighteen, never took her eyes off the man, obviously in love with him. After a moment the group left her bedside, walking back out of the room. Once outside Jack asked, “how bad is she? Will she be ok?”
“I was hoping your people would be able to tell me that. We bandaged her wounds and set her broken arm, but aside from the surface healing she still can’t get out of bed.” It was obviously difficult for the man to discuss this subject, his love for her was obvious, as was the fact that he was barely holding himself together. The thought of losing Linda was too much for him to bear and he felt that if she died, he would too.
That evening, Jack got with Louise to assess the situation. The nurse had examined all those who remained in the infirmary, along with several others who had been able to go back to light work. As she and Jack discussed the situation, she confided in him that there were only a couple she wasn’t sure would make it, one of them being Linda. Jack asked her to do all she could, especially for the girl, and told her they would get anything she needed even if they had to cross the country to get it. The only thing the nurse said she really wanted was a competent doctor, she was in over her head with all this.
Doug had prepared a place for the group to sleep and, after everyone enjoyed a good meal, they settled down for the night.
After breakfast the next morning, Jack addressed another problem the villagers had. Doug had informed him that one reason they hadn’t moved already was that they had almost no fuel left and only two running vehicles. That was also why they’d needed food, they had no way to travel to look for supplies or transport them if they found any. Besides the flatbed the villagers had only an old diesel Isuzu pick-up truck that had seen better days.
Deciding to leave Louise and Robin, along with the nursing assistants to care for the wounded, he, Mike and Doug headed out to take care of the problem. First they siphoned out all the fuel left in the big truck, which turned out to be only about a gallon. Jack realized the drive to the airport the previous day had been a chance thing for the villagers as, if his group hadn’t showed, they would have wasted all their fuel for nothing. As it was they’d barely made it back to town.
They added the gallon of diesel to the half gallon already in the little pick-up, which Jack knew should give them at least fifty miles range, as the Isuzu diesel was known for high mileage. Loading up the other two he headed out towards the airport again. When they arrived he first got out a hose and siphoned ten gallons of jet fuel from the plane, filling the trucks’ tank. Next he retrieved the portable pump and hoses from the plane and loaded it in the pick-up.
The group then headed, at Jack’s suggestion, for the Air Force Base from which the town had launched those cruise missiles at Mayfield. The base was close to sixty miles away but after a couple hours of driving they arrived. Pulling onto the flight line they started searching for containers to fill with fuel, finding several fifty-five gallon drums in the back of one hangar. They loaded two empty drums into the bed of the truck and then proceeded to the bases’ tank farm. Like every other military base he’d been to, Jack found the fuel to be stabilized and still usable. Using the portable pump they soon had both drums filled, and had topped off the fuel tank of the Isuzu as well.
Next they cruised around the base looking for other vehicles the villagers could use. Finding a motor pool they selected a couple of five ton 6X6’s and got to work trying to get them to run. After an hour only one truck would run so they took it and gave up on the other one. After filling its tank with fuel they went back to the hangar and loaded up on drums and eventually were headed back to town with more than seven hundred gallons of fuel between the two vehicles.
Now that they had plenty of fuel, Doug was in better spirits as they could move the wounded to better accommodations. As they arrived in front of the communal building that good feeling evaporated as he saw Louise standing there in tears. With a sudden premonition of trouble, he leapt from the still moving truck, stopping short in front of the nurse and asking “what is it?!?” with panic in his voice. Louise just looked at him for a moment, sadness in her eyes. Then she said “I’m so sorry Doug, Linda passed away while you were gone.”
Suddenly it felt as if a huge weight had settled on him. He fell to his knees, the very live seeming to be crushed out of him. “Oh God, no!” he cried. Breaking down completely and sobbing. Several of the villagers gathered around him, trying to consol him, and slowly he composed himself. After a long time he rose shakily to his feet and asked to be taken to her. As the group arrived he again collapsed next to her bed, holding her hand and crying uncontrollably. The others backed out of the room, wanting to give him time alone with his wife. Outside they asked Louise what happened.
“I really have no idea.” She said. “I guess she had internal injuries, but without a proper hospital and doctors there wasn’t anything we could have done for her. I really hate it for Doug though, I wonder if he’ll be all right. He obviously loved her so, I hope he’ll be able to move on.” She hung her head sadly, saying a prayer that God take care of the man. The others said ‘amen’, then moved away to take care of putting the fuel away.
By the end of the day Doug had pulled himself together enough to handle the arrangements. Knowing he would be unable to handle the service he asked Jack, who he said was the closest thing to a pastor he’d ever had, to perform the funeral. After discussing it with the rest of the group they all turned in early, planning the service for the next day.
When it was all over the group gathered in the communal building to comfort each other. Doug hadn’t said much to anyone all day, but now he spoke up.
“Jack, the kindness and grace you showed us all by coming here is greatly appreciated. We will never be able to repay it. I would like to thank each one of you for all you’ve done, but for now I think we as a town need to see about setting things up in another area. If we were able to keep in contact with you I would be grateful, and I would love to continue having dealings with your group. Maybe someday we can begin to repay you for the things you brought us.”
“Don’t worry about repaying us Doug,” Jack replied. “what we gave we gave to God, it’s Him that you should thank. Yes, I too would like to keep in contact, maybe God’s will in this new world isn’t for men to get together, but instead to gather in small groups and simply get along with each other. I hope we will be able to get along with you and others across the country for a long time to come.”
With that he signaled his people that it was time to leave. Reboarding the plane they bid a final good bye to Doug, who’d driven them to the plane.
“I’ll call you in a few days and let you know how we’re doing.” He said.
“I’d like that Doug, I really would.”
As the man got in the truck and drove away Jack made his way to the cockpit and soon they were in the air, headed home.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
CFI, here's hoping you get over your writer's block soon. You know I don't have a lot of patiance LOL!
I know inspiration will hit you any time now, and the result will be terrific!
I'm so glad I dropped into Member's Stories that day. I found your wonderful story and I've gone on to read several more. Hours of great entertainment, and learning!
Have a good evening CFI, all kidding aside, take your time and relax, the right words will come.
Rod and his group spent the next couple of months getting better acquainted. During this time Jill realized she’d gotten pregnant. The news delighted Rod, but he was concerned as well since they had no doctor and no one there knew anything about birthing a baby. Still, he’d always wanted a family and he hoped things would somehow work out.
The group had come together well during the winter, becoming a family of sorts. Mike and his wife Barbara were also expecting, and she was pretty far along. None of the group really knew when she was due; they figured the baby would come whenever it was ready. But the idea of delivering healthy babies weighed heavily on Rod, as he was in nominal charge of the group and felt responsible to make sure everything turned out ok for them. He simply had to figure out a way to get someone with medical training to join them, not that there were many chances available. They’d seen no one at all since he and Jill had joined the others.
Another problem was figuring out where to move the group to when the snows melted. They’d need a place that was secure and easily defended, yet had enough land to allow them to farm. He had only a vague idea of how to go about planting crops, only what he’d picked up in school and from TV, but he knew it was imperative if the group was going to live. The food in the Sam’s club was mostly unfit to eat by that time, and what was still good was running low.
He was thinking about the problem of land while snuggling with Jill atop the store one evening in mid march when he was startled to see a sudden flash in the sky to the northwest. A few moments later they heard a low rumbling noise, followed quickly by another flash. Realizing something extraordinary must have happened, he and Jill got up quickly and went downstairs to let the others know what they’d seen.
“But what could have caused it?” Billy asked.
“I’m not sure,” Rod said, “an explosion of some sort I guess. It came from the direction of Mayfield, maybe someone attacked them.”
“Wow.” Vicki said. “I can understand why someone would do that, but who is there left in the world that’s strong enough? The town had a big defense force when we left.”
“Yeah, and they added several A-10’s before we took off.” Jill added.
“I don’t know,” Rod continued, “but I can’t imagine what else it could be. If it was just the one I’d think it may have been an accident, but there was another flash as we were coming downstairs, which seems to mean more than one blast.”
“Well,” Vicki said, “whatever happened I think we’d all be better off to keep under cover for a few days, even if it was an accident or even if the people who may have attacked them were friendly to us, I don’t think we can afford to take any chances. From this time forward, no one goes outside for any reason.”
“I agree Miss Vic, we all need to keep our heads down for at least a week. We can see what’s going on outside with the security cameras anyway.”
The others voiced their understanding of the directive, even though a few grumbled about it. The weather had finally improved enough for them to enjoy going outside and they were reluctant to remain indoors anymore after the long winter.
After two weeks there was still no sign that anyone knew they were there and Rod decided they could lift the restriction on going outside. He warned everyone to take precautions and remain alert when they were in the open however, as they had no way of knowing who might be out and about. Several of the young people cheered at this announcement and he grinned, as sick of being cooped up inside as anyone.
The first day out was spent taking care of needs. Both their water and fuel supplies were low and had to be topped off. After they finished Rod got with Vicki and Mike and discussed a plan for finding a new place for the group to live. They discussed the requirements for such a place and agreed that each of them should take one other to help provide security and cover a different section of the city. That way they’d cover the town more quickly and wouldn’t overlap each other.
The next morning, Rod and Jill took the hummer and began their sweep of the western portion of town. Vicki and Billy took the northern part and Mike and Eddie took the southeastern section. The groups had agreed to return to the store for lunch so they could report on their progress, as well as to let the others know they were ok. They also carried GMRS radios they’d found in the store. But they weren’t sure of the range so they didn’t rely on them.
One thing Rod failed to take into consideration was the possibility that other people may have moved into town during the several months his crew had been forced to remain inside because of snow. In fact there were two different groups that were new to town and both were refugees from Mayfield, but only one of them was peaceful.
Spike and what was left of his gang had been on a wild ride during the past year. They’d taken over an improvised shelter in Albany, New York from a bunch of idiot townspeople led by some politician. The politician hadn’t seen the need to arm the group, being one of those liberal types spike had always found so useful back before the sickness. When the gang discovered the shelter they’d simply stormed in, guns blazing, and overwhelmed the townies, eventually killing all but the youngest women.
It didn’t take long for even those prisoners to die, although many wished they’d been killed outright before it was over. One of the last to die was a girl of only fifteen or so who had hung on despite being raped repeatedly by most of the gang. Pleading with them to kill her, she offered them information in exchange for her death. That information had to do with a town of thousands out in Idaho where the gang could have everything they wanted.
Spike had promised to kill her quick if she’d contact the people and arrange for them to be picked up, which she gladly did. Once arrangements were made she asked them to shoot her but he said that was a waste of ammunition and instead ordered her raped again, only this time they weren’t to stop until she was dead. It took over twelve more hours for her to die, screaming and cursing them the entire time.
Arriving at the town they found things to be a lot like the world before the plague. There were security people around keeping the peace, and the water and lights were working. Still, it didn’t take long for his people to get bored and start causing problems, but unlike before the sickness they weren’t arrested or jailed. Instead, they were approached with an offer of becoming security personnel themselves, an offer that baffled Spike.
It was explained to him that most of the old security force had abandoned their posts and other people were needed…stronger people. He was also told that he’d be given free reign to allow his men to ‘enjoy’ themselves on occasion, as long as they restricted their activities to people outside the town itself. He’d agreed immediately, still barely able to understand how they’d gone from being criminals to being in positions of authority so quickly.
For the next few months life had been good. The town sent them out to fight and enslave smaller groups in the area, and even gave them some of the outsiders for their enjoyment. That mayor, Sylvia, had been sure to let them know it was her decision to let them enjoy themselves, and they were loyal to her because of it.
Then, while out looking for more outsiders to exploit, they’d been shaken by the attack on the town. Spike didn’t know much about nuclear weapons, but he figured they didn’t need to stay too close by, especially as the town looked to be pretty much destroyed. Making a snap decision, he called his gang together and told them to get their stuff and move out, they were going to put some miles between themselves and the remains of the town.
To their surprise their vehicles wouldn’t start. They didn’t know why but the fact that every truck they had was now dead scared them. Motivated now by fear of the unknown, the gang had headed out, moving along the highway toward the southeast. It took the better part of two weeks to make it to Twin Falls but upon their arrival they’d immediately seen signs of other people around. They took that as a sign that their fortunes had changed for the better, and settled down in a deserted motel to plan their next course of action.
“I don’t see why we need to move anyway.” Eddie griped. He had developed the reputation of being a complainer, a reputation that was well deserved in Mike’s opinion.
“For one thing that store is too big to defend.” Mike began for the third time that day. He wished again that Rod had stuck him with someone else; Eddie was more of a pain than he was worth. “And it’s a prime target if anyone comes along, heck that big sign out front can be seen for miles.”
Rod had mentioned to the group that they should knock down the big “Sam’s Club” sign as it was an open invitation to anyone who saw it. As he’d said, no one would know everything inside was mostly used up and they would be drawn to the store with dreams of everything they might find there. Following his reasoning the others had agreed, but that was as far as it had gone. They’d tried to knock it down, but no one knew how to use a cutting torch, much less where to find one. And without a torch there was no way to move it as it was mounted atop huge steel pipes. In the end they’d agreed that the store just wasn’t suited to their needs anymore and planned to look for someplace new as soon as they could.
“Maybe, but moving is so much work!” the boy complained again, making Mike sigh.
“Look, there’s gonna be a LOT of work in the world from now on. If we have to do everything ourselves then we’re all gonna have to pitch in and help.”
As the two continued to argue they almost didn’t even see the young man standing outside an old rundown motel. As they passed him Mike did a double take and hit the brakes.
“What’d ya do that for!?” Eddie chimed in.
“Look! Did you see that guy? He ducked around the corner when he saw us!”
“What guy…what are you talking about?” the younger boy whined.
“Wait, I’ll show you.” With that, Mike slung the vehicle around and headed into the parking lot of the motel. Once past the office the two of them saw they’d entered an effective ambush. From nearly every window on the bottom floor and several on the top a rifle barrel protruded. And there was no place to go, the driveway they’d entered being the only way in or out. Realizing they were trapped, Mike stopped the truck and got out, raising his hands above his head. A minute later Eddie joined him and mike could see the boy was close to tears.
As the two stood there unsure what was about to happen a door opened in front of them and the same guy Mike had seen before stepped out, a rifle in his hands, pointing at them.
“Who are you and wha’da’ya want?” the guy shouted.
“I’m Mike and this is Eddie…we uh, we didn’t know anyone else was in town. We were surprised, that’s all. If ya want we can leave.”
“Not just yet. Are you armed?”
“No, our rifles are in the truck.” Mike replied, mentally kicking himself for getting into such a predicament.
“Good, leave them there. One at a time I want you to walk over here. Go slow and don’t make any sudden moves, we don’t really wanna kill anyone.”
Mike nodded his head and started walking slowly towards the man. When he was a few feet away the man told him to stop and turn around, then shouted to Eddie not to move or he’d be shot. Mike could see the boy now and thought he looked like he was about to run. He hoped these people wouldn’t take that as a bad sign and kill both of them, but there was nothing he could do about it right then.
The man had come up behind him and patted him down. When he was finished he called for Eddie to come forward as well, still pointing the rifle at both of them. Eddie hesitated for a moment and looked even more like he was about to run away, but finally gave in and walked forward as well.
After patting him down also the man told them they could turn around and put their hands down. After a minute Mike began to relax, apparently these folks weren’t going to kill them just yet.
“My name’s Dave, we just got here about a month ago. We’re from a town about a hundred miles west of here.”
“You mean Mayfield, right?” Mike spoke up.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“We’re from there too, all of us.”
“How many of you are there?” Dave asked, looking more relaxed as he learned that these guys were the same as his people.
“About a dozen…how many in your group?”
“Close to twenty. Where are you all staying?”
Mike really didn’t want to give away such important information, especially to such a large group, but he didn’t know what else to do. “In the Sam’s club. We’ve been there about five months.”
“Wow! The Sam’s club! I bet you have everything you need there, huh? We don’t have much at all here, in fact we were wondering how long the food would last.”
“Well, if ya’ll don’t want to cause trouble, we’d be happy to take you in. most of the food’s gone but we have electricity and water and we’ll share everything we do have.” Mike saw this as an opportunity to increase the group’s numbers. Rod had said several times that they needed more people, and here were a bunch more! He only hoped these people weren’t dangerous, they sure did have a lot of guns. But then again, he thought, so did his people.
“Oh, we don’t want no trouble, believe me. We just want to keep on getting by. How do we know you won’t try to take us prisoner once we get there though? You know, force us to work for ya?”
Mike thought about that for a minute. “I guess you don’t. All I can do is tell you that we wouldn’t do that. After that you’ll just have to trust us.”
Dave thought about it for a moment, then decided he’d have to take the chance. “Tell ya what. I’ll go with ya and meet the rest of your people. If everything works out I’ll come back and get the others. If not, you’ll only have me and these guys will fight ya if you come back here.”
“Sounds fair enough, Rod will probably want to talk to you anyway.”
“He’s sort of our leader, I guess.” Mike replied.
Dave went inside the room and talked with several others for a moment, and then a young woman came outside. “We want one of you to stay here, in exchange for Dave.”
Surprised, Mike knew he should have thought of that himself. Answering quickly he agreed, thinking to himself that, even if they lost Eddie, it wouldn’t be that bad, at least the whining would stop. Grinning to himself as he thought this, he and Dave got in the truck. Dave noticed the grin and wondered about it, but didn’t say anything, resolving to simply remain alert for possible trouble. Once back in the truck, Mike reached for the GMRS radio, explaining to Dave that he was supposed to call in if anything unusual happened. Holding the button in he tried several times to make contact with someone, to no avail.
Throwing the handheld back on the seat in frustration, he said “well, I guess they’ll just have to be surprised.” And pulled out of the lot.
They arrived at the store just in time for lunch and consequently the others had returned as well. When Mike informed the others of what he’d found they were excited, and Rod and Vicki took Dave off to have a talk with him in private. Half an hour later they returned and ate lunch, informing the rest that his group would be joining them that afternoon. The two groups merged easily, with several from one group finding they knew people from the other. By the end of the day they’d settled down and gotten comfortable with each other.
Spike’s people had decided they needed information first and foremost, and to that end he’d sent them out in two man patrols to try and learn where other people might be holed up. They continued to see signs of people everywhere and by the end of the second day one of the patrols announced they’d found them.
“We heard what sounded like an engine running and followed the noise.” One of the men reported. “You wouldn’t believe where they’re at, the Sam’s club! They got the generator running non-stop, and have a whole tanker of fuel next to it.”
“How sure are you that it’s them?” Spike wanted to know. He figured the guys wanted to get into the store and see what was inside, and he didn’t want that to happen until they made sure no one was going to bother them.
“Positive. They’s got cars pulled in front of the doors an’ I saw one of them go out the back to a fire truck they’s got and start it up.” The man said.
Spike thought about that a moment, then said “ok, first I want you to go back and watch them for at least a day. Be careful and don’t let them see ya, and if everything’s as you say it is, we’ll hit them the day after.”
The gang was eager to get in the store and looked forward to some more ‘fun’ with whoever was inside, but they saw the wisdom in Spike’s decision. Getting themselves killed by attacking a superior force wouldn’t get them what they wanted. Still though, every one of the gang was looking forward to the coming festivities.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
By the time they landed back at the complex, Jack was convinced. It had occurred to him during their time in New Mexico that the purpose God had for him wasn’t to rebuild nations, but instead to simply carry out his first calling, that of helping others. He remembered a verse from the bible, paraphrased to better fit himself, that basically said God was the builder and people were the objects that were built. Whatever God’s purpose was in building us, we needed to embrace it, whether it was a glorious job or a simple one, and do it to the best of our ability. Instead of being led by our pride into trying to perform the glorious position, we needed to submit ourselves to our God and perform the job He had given to us.
In his case the glorious job was the vain attempt to rebuild civilization, and it had led to disaster. The simple job was to just walk in love towards others, helping them when and as best he could, and when he did that it led to peace and contentment in his heart, not to mention good will from those he helped.
As these thoughts were coalescing in his mind he busied himself with putting the plane away. Louise and the others had already gone below and he was alone with his ruminations. When he was done he looked around himself and, seeing that no one else was there, decided this was as good a place as any and dropped down on his knees to pray.
As he sought the face of God, he again repented. This time he named the sin, that of going against the will of God and pursuing the glorious position instead of submitting and fulfilling the role the Lord had for him. While he was praying he felt the Holy Spirit come upon him, and a feeling of intense peace filled him. Suddenly he knew he was right, and he resolved at that moment to strive to do his own job and leave the rest in God’s hands.
Standing up again, he wiped the tears away and made his way into the heart of the complex. Everyone had been wondering which direction they as a group would take now, and he had a good idea of where they were meant to go. Walking into the dining room several people stared openly at him, and Pam looked up, startled by his appearance.
“Jack? Are you ok?”
Still mildly surprised at the power of the experience, he shook his head to clear it. “You bet I am hon, I’ve just been praying. I now understand how God wants to use us, and it has nothing to do with rebuilding society. He wants what He’s always wanted, for us to help each other and walk in love.”
Pam realized that what she saw in her husband was real peace, as if all cares and troubles had been removed from him. Suddenly she knew he was right, that was the job God had for them. Going to her husband she put her arms around him, whispering in his ear her conviction that he was right.
When they parted, Jack, with supreme confidence now, looked at Mike and said “get together a list of every group we’re in contact with. I want to know who needs help and how we can provide for them. I don’t care how far away they are or how hard it may be to help, whatever we’re able to do we will, and nothing else will stand in our way.”
Smiling, Mike stood up, feeling in his heart that they were now on the right track. “I’ll have it for you in a few minutes Jack, I know there’s a whole lot who’ve asked already and I’m sure we can start to make a difference right away.” With that he left the room to get everything together, feeling at peace with their situation for the first time in a while.
As he walked out, Heather, one of the kids who’d come to them from the town spoke up “you know, there were a lot of people that bugged out of town when things got bad. I bet there’s lots of them living pretty close by who could use help also.”
Looking at the young lady in surprise, Jack said “I hadn’t thought about that, we need to offer to help them most of all, since they’re here primarily because of me. But how would we go about finding them? They don’t likely have radios anymore.”
“We could start patrolling around the places people would likely gather, the towns and cities nearby.” She offered.
“That sounds like a plan, why don’t you take charge of it and start getting people organized.”
Flattered that he had taken her seriously and even thought enough of her to put her in charge, the girl smiled and left to do as he’d said.
The group Dave brought with him to the Sam’s club was mostly made up of people he’d known since first coming to Idaho, and a few he’d known even before then. Even some of the kids with Rod he’d at least met while in Town, even if he didn’t know them well. A couple however, had joined them recently, all having known someone already there except one, Joseph.
Joe had come asking to join them just a couple of weeks before. He was kind of strange, a loner, and Dave had been watching him carefully. The boy kept to himself mostly, and he hadn’t made any friends in the group, but that wasn’t enough for Dave to ask him to leave. Still, every once in a while he did something that seemed to be just a bit more cruel or violent than necessary, and Dave suspected that, before long, he’d go too far and they’d have to get rid of him.
In the security office Barbara was staring sleepily at the monitors. The others had told her she didn’t have to pull sentry duty because she was so close to delivering her baby, but she’d insisted saying it was the only useful thing she was able to do, and it would relieve others for more strenuous work. As she sat there almost hypnotized by the unchanging images on the screens she failed to notice the figure making its way from shadow to shadow, moving across the parking lot and away from the store.
The past few weeks had been hard on Joe. Since joining this group of simpletons he’d been forced to restrain himself more than he liked. Several times he’d had the opportunity to kill Dave and take over the group, not to mention have his way with the women, but he’d been sent there to watch them instead. He was just afraid enough of what Spike would do to him if he messed up not to go against his orders.
But now that the group had joined others and everyone was holed up inside what he figured was a palace filled with everything they’d ever need, he decided it was time to make his way back to the gang and report in.
Sneaking out had been simplicity itself. He pretended to go to sleep with the others and waited until he was sure they were all sound asleep. He never saw any guards posted and therefore decided they didn’t have any, a mistake that was going to cost him in the end. Getting up quickly he silently made his way to the back door, quickly going through it and propping it open so the others would have easy access.
Once outside he moved from one concealed spot to another, not so much because he thought anyone was watching as out of habit. After clearing the lot he move more quickly, headed towards the motel where Spike had told him they’d be staying.
An hour later he arrived, staying out of sight so he wouldn’t be shot by mistake and calling out to the sentry. The man on guard duty brought up his rifle when he heard the shout, ordering the person into the light. When he saw it was Joe he brought him to the lobby and sent for their leader, who’d told all of them to wake him whenever Joe returned.
When Spike appeared Joe quickly gave him a rundown on the situation.
“Man! They’s got everything we ever wanted in there! Not to mention the women. There’s at least fifteen of ‘em and they’s all pretty young, but there’s this one old bag as well who seems to be in charge. They’s got lights and food and everything we need, and no one’s on guard either.”
“How many are there and how are they armed?” Spike demanded. If things were as his patrol had reported, this should be easy.
“There’s thirty at least, and they all got’s guns, but mostly they’re huntin’ rifles and hardly any of ‘em knows how to use ‘em.”
“Good enough. So, how do we get in?”
“I left the back door open. We can all get inside before they’s know we’re there. After that we can kill the bag and maybe Dave, the leader of the ones I was with, and the rest will do anything we tell ‘em.”
Joe knew he was exaggerating about how easy it would be, but he had been going nuts being around so many women and not being able to do anything. He really was looking forward to going back there and taking any of them he wanted, and therefore glossed over any problems they were likely to find.
Spike added Joe’s report to that of the patrol he’d sent out during the day and decided this would be easy. Gathering his gang together he went over the plan.
“We’ll wait ‘til just before the sun comes up, that way we’ll be able to see what we’re doing. Joe’s left the back door open so we’ll go in real quick and follow him to where they all sleep. Don’t kill any of the women unless ya have ta, or ya might not get any if there’s not enough to go around.”
With that taken care of he had the group move out and an hour later they were all set up across the parking lot from the back door.
As the sky lightened just before dawn the gang made its move. There was just enough light for them to be able to see where they were going and they crossed the lot quickly, stopping near the door to regroup for the assault. Inside, in the security office, Barbara saw the movement this time and quickly ran into the main room to warn the others.
Everyone was slow to get up at first, until her words at last penetrated their sleep sodden brains. Then they were quick to grab their rifles and get behind cover, just as the back door burst open and the gang members filed in.
Vicki was closest to them and was secretly hoping they could resolve this without having to kill anyone. Standing up she raised her rifle and pointed it in the general direction of the closest gang members, calling out “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! Drop your guns, we have you surrounded!” they didn’t really, but she hoped these guys didn’t know that.
Spike was knocked off guard by the sudden appearance of the woman holding a gun, having expected everyone to still be asleep, but it didn’t take him long to recover. Just as she made her demand he brought up his AK-47 and sprayed half its magazine at her. She dropped immediately and everything was quiet for a moment, then several people opened up at once, both among his own people and the group in the store. Thirty seconds later it was all over; Rod stood up from behind a section of shelving and looked over the scene. All of the gang members were dead, as was Vicki. He could tell that even at this distance as half of her chest was blown away and the pool of blood under her was several feet across. Looking around at the rest of the area he saw that two others of his people were down, as were three of Daves’ group. Though his ears were still ringing from the noise and it was hard to see due to the early hour, he began to organize the group to begin tending to the wounded.
None of his people were seriously hurt, most of the wounds needing stitches, but nothing major, but one of the women from Dave’s group had been hit in the stomach and was unconscious. He wasn’t too sure they could help her, and again wished they had someone who had medical training, but they made her as comfortable as possible, after getting the bleeding stopped.
Finally, after taking care of his wounded Rod made his way over to the gang members. Looking closely at each of them he recognized Joe and called Dave over to confirm his identity.
“That son of a b*tch! I knew he wasn’t any good, but I never suspected he was spying on us. Rod, man, I’m sorry. If I’d had any idea I’d never have let him in here with us. I guess I should have told you that I was suspicious anyway.” Dave raged, hanging his head in shame for bringing this trouble on these people, especially after they’d been so good to his group.
“Don’t worry about it man, you couldn’t have known. Go see to your injured people, I’m going to take a couple of people and scout out the parking lot and see if they left anyone outside.”
Calling to Mike to grab someone else and follow him, he went to the back door and carefully opened it. Seeing no one there, the three moved out, looking for any sign of movement. After half an hour they were sure they’d gotten all of them and went back inside. When they arrived Dave walked over and told him they didn’t think the girl with the belly wound would live as no one there knew anything about doctoring. Hoping for a miracle, Rod went to see if there was anything he could do to help.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
i'm afraid i'm suffering from writers block...i've lost my direction and am trying to find it again. hopefully i'll have another chapter up soon.
sorry if i got anyone's hopes up with this post.
I just finished "Mountain Home" last night, and felt that your story was excellent.
You may be suffering from writer's block, but don't stop writing. The biggest problem that I saw was that after Mayfield was nuked, your story was pretty much complete. Thus I think the story of Rod and Jill should be an entirely different book or even books. Think about it, you could tell thier story before going to Mayfield, while in Mayfield, and now thier escape from Mayfield. That's three books right there. If you wish to reintroduce Jack later on, that would be fine. As for writer's block, I see multiple paths that Rod and Jill could take. For instance, where will they go next? This could be a large city, small town, wealthy suburb on the outskirts of a large city, or even a resort. They still need to prepare for winter, and design and train a defensive force wherever they go. Also, you could delve into why some are so violent after the plague. Thus setting up good vs. evil throughout your series. I hope I'm not coming across as being critical because it's to the contrary, I feel you have very good writing instincts and should be encouraged to continue.
Finally, I think "Mountain Home" could easily be published with very little work. Hope you keep writing as I enjoyed the story immensely. If you get resistance, you might want to contact Matt Braxton, author of "All Enemies Foriegn and Domestic."
CFI, the story is good -- I think American Rage's advice is excellent. I do have one nitpick, though. I guess it's a man thing (teasing ), but you have a whole lot more in your story on guns and other equipment than you do on the at-least-equally-important issues of raising food, or learning to raise it. They need to be figuring out what to do about clothing when current stocks are exhausted, and learning to build houses for when present houses are no longer inhabitable, or useful. There are a whole lot of other things that your survivors are going to need to know, as stockpiles of stuff are either used up or rot or whatever. You did include livestock, gardens, and farming in your story, but they seemed like afterthoughts. I know it's a lot to ask in one story! Anyway, I think I've figured out why history books focus so much on wars, intrigues, weapons, and so on, rather than the nitty gritty of daily life: it's because most of them were written by men!! I do like that you got some family life into your story, though.
thank you both! AR, i'm not to sure about a series, i'm just gonna deal with getting this one done first, lol. btw, i think you're right, i SHOULD have stopped it with the nuke (that's where i intended to stop originally). thank you so much for your comments.
kathleen, i agree 100 percent. in fact, i intend to bulk those areas out in the rewrite (as soon as i figure out how to end this, lol). but if you think i focused on guns a lot, you should read some of the stuff on frugal squirrel's site!
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
CfI, really there's no particular reason why you have to end the "Jack" part of story. You could just leave it alone for awhile and maybe come back to it later after you've received some more inspiration. For the time being you could just go further in fleshing out the new characters and their particular story.
brutus, i almost chopped off everything after chapter 34 and ended it there, but this morning, inspiration struck! here's the next chapter...enjoy.
The girl hung on for two days, but finally succumbed to her wounds. Her death saddened everyone, but also further strengthened their resolve to never allow something like the attack to happen to them again. The entire group had been traumatized, but as they recovered they looked as one to Rod to lead them.
For his part, Rod didn’t really want to be the leader, but the others hadn’t asked. All he really wanted was to find some place safe to live and finally be able to stop worrying about the safety of everyone else. But he also knew they needed a leader, and finally came to grips with the fact that he was the one chosen to fill that role. His first official act in this capacity was to post armed sentries on the roof to augment the security cameras. The others weren’t too happy having to pull this duty, but they understood the need and took the job seriously.
he also decided that they needed to keep a watch on the rest of town, in case there was anyone else out there who wanted to cause them problems. Soon four man patrols were covering all parts of the town on varying schedules, both in vehicles and on foot. These patrols not only watched for signs of other groups around, they also kept a look out for items the group could use. Since many things produced before the collapse were starting deteriorate and rot, and a lot of what was being lost would be useful to them in setting up a workable community, they decided to salvage as much as they could.
When he was satisfied that no one could easily sneak up on them again, Rod got with Dave and Mike and they began looking for some place to move the group to.
“First and foremost, we need someplace where we can grow food.” Rod said. “It has to be defensible and accommodate all of us, but mostly it has to have plenty of open land so we can grow crops.”
“Well, I guess we could take one of the trucks and drive out to the country around town. We may even luck out and find a farm all set up that we can use.” Mike suggested. “we might have to build our own defenses though, I doubt many farms anywhere are set up to fight off hordes of invaders.”
“What about housing? There are twenty six of us left, way too many to share one farmhouse.” Dave spoke up.
“What about mobile homes?” Rod asked, “we could drag some to wherever we settle and set them up. My best friend’s dad did that before the sickness and we went with him sometimes. I’ve seen how they set up and it’s not hard to do. If we could find some, all of us could have a place to live.”
Mike smiled, “that’s a good idea. We lived in a mobile home when I was a kid. But if we got into another fire fight they wouldn’t be very safe, the walls are really thin.”
“Maybe we could shield them with something. Steel plate or dirt or whatever. Just something to stop bullets from hitting them.”
“Well, sounds like we have a plan, sort of. Why don’t we get going and see what’s out there and then we can decide what we need to do?” Dave said.
“Agreed. You and Mike get one of the trucks and load it up with some supplies. I’ll get a radio and meet you at the front entrance in ten minutes.”
As the others went to carry out Rod’s directive, he went to find Billy. Rod had put the boy in nominal charge of security and he wanted him to know they were leaving and when to expect them back.
“You’re in charge while we’re gone, Billy. Other than the patrols, keep everyone close by until we return, just in case. We’ll be taking a radio, so make sure someone’s monitoring it here in case we need help.”
The boy told him he understood and asked him to be careful, then went off to let everyone else know that they needed to stay close the rest of the day.
With that taken care of, Rod headed for the front door.
Heather had been thrilled to be put in charge of searching for survivors locally. As soon as she’d left Jack she went to the hangar to talk to some of her friends and ask them to help her. Her idea was to use the helicopters to search locally, and the fixed wing planes to check out the towns and cities farther out. She figured they could take a convoy of vehicles, with air cover of course, and go out to whoever they found and drop off supplies if they were needed. If no help was needed or wanted, at least they could begin to open relations with their neighbors.
Her friends were all from Mayfield and therefore would hopefully know many of the people they might encounter. She hoped this recognition would help them make friends and not enemies of whoever was out there. After discussing her ideas with her friends, they came up with what they figured was a workable plan. This she presented to Jack, who asked a few questions before telling her to go ahead with it. Calling together the pilots, she explained what she intended them to do, stressing that they weren’t to over exert themselves. This was going to be a long process so they shouldn’t try and get it done all at once. Several had questions about the details of her plan, but after a while they all understood and agreed to get started the next day.
While this had been going on, Jack and Mike had been discussing the larger assistance operation. They’d agreed that they needed a real airport for any sort of operation that involved large cargo planes and, since the Boise airfield had been nuked, they decided to set up operations in the Air force Base. Besides, as Jack pointed out, there were still a bunch of usable planes and lots of fuel there, not to mention storage facilities and the hospital. Heck, there was even housing for the people who would be doing the bulk of the work for this project, not to mention for anyone who really needed to move from their present location.
The important thing however, was not to encourage anyone to move there. The last thing they wanted was what had happened at Mayfield. The two men agreed that, while they’d freely offer to accommodate anyone who wanted to move, they’d make an effort to help them set up where they were first.
The expedition to Mountain Home AFB found the place much as they’d last seen it. There were still several cargo aircraft sitting on the ramp, not to mention fighters and bombers galore. The hospital had been cleaned up by the medical people from town, but since there had been no emergencies, the people themselves hadn’t been there. That was unfortunate because the only ones left with medical knowledge were Louise and her apprentice nurses, and they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to handle major trauma. What they really needed was a doctor or Veterinarian, if they could just find one still alive somewhere.
The expedition set up shop in one of the hangars near a couple C-17’s, and got to work securing the area and setting it up for relief operations. While they did that Jack and Robin walked out to take a look at the planes. Robin was one of the few people Jack had that was experienced with the C-17. she had been one of the instructors before the town took over flight operations. Jack took a moment to consider the girl. At first she’d been so timid he’d wondered if she’d ever come out of her shell, but since the death of her husband she’d seemed to be on a crusade and had excelled past just about everyone, especially when it involved flying or shooting. For this trip she’d left her children with Pam back at the complex. For her part, Pam wasn’t going anywhere as she’d given birth to her and Jacks’ third child, a healthy baby boy, a month earlier. This worked out well for Robin because she was finally getting back into the action after being held back for so long by motherhood.
As they looked over the aircraft, the first thing they noticed was the tires were mostly flat from sitting for so long. Upon further inspection however, Jack realized they were in fact dry rotted, and would have to be replaced before the planes could be flown. Looking over the rest of the craft he saw they’d need to take care of some other maintenance problems as well, and realized they wouldn’t be flying it anytime soon. he knew this was a problem they would run into more and more as civilization aged without the support that used to be available to keep everything maintained, and resigned himself to the repair job ahead. In the back of his mind he also realized that things would soon get to the point that repair would also be impossible, and that, if they wanted to continue to do things like fly, they’d have to build new systems from the ground up.
Calling the others together he explained what they were faced with and what would be necessary to accomplish their goal. The rest of the team was disappointed, but determined to forge ahead as best they could.
High above the town of Twin Falls, the little Viper circled slowly. Ellen had only soloed a few weeks before, and still got a thrill out of flying the nimble craft. She’d been over the town, part of the area assigned to her by Heather, for less than half an hour when she’d seen what she thought was movement on the roof of a large warehouse of some sort. Coming around again, lower and slower this time, she saw that the warehouse was in fact a Sam’s club, and there definitely were people on the roof moving around. What’s more, they had spotted her as well and were milling around, obviously surprised and unsure what to do.
The question of how to open communications with anyone they found had been debated before the first flights had taken off. What they’d come up with varied by aircraft, but for the Viper it entailed mounting a small container under the fuselage and working out how to release it when the pilot wanted to. The ‘bomb’, as they jokingly called it, was simply a metal canister packed with a small parachute and loaded with a few luxury items including instant coffee and sugar which would hopefully reassure their good intentions to those it was dropped to. Included was a note that let the recipient know that help was offered, and no strings were attached. It said that all they had to do was create a large X out of whatever was available, visible from the air, and the plane would leave and not return. Creating a triangle instead would bring a visit by ground units within 24 hours, if contact was desired and or help was needed.
Lining up for a second pass, Ellen slowed to just above stall speed and came in low over the roof. She’d made sure no one had been pointing guns at her the first time, aware that it wouldn’t take much to knock the light jet out of the sky. Just as she crossed over the edge of the roof she released her package, knowing it’s momentum would carry it a ways before the parachutes slowed it and softened it’s landing. After it was released she increased throttle and banked slightly, watching the reaction of those below. As soon as they saw the object detach itself from the belly of the plane they’d scattered, obviously thinking she was attacking them. But as the package landed and failed to explode, one individual cautiously made his way over to it. Opening the case he studied the contents a moment before waving to her, then made his way to the roof entrance and disappeared inside.
Ellen continued to circle the area for half an hour, but there was no more activity. Finally she realized an answer wouldn’t be forthcoming soon and, as her fuel was getting low, turned the plane towards home and left. After she landed she reported to Heather what had happened. Heather decided they should probably give this group time to decide and asked Ellen to return the following day to see if there was an answer. That evening she called Jack on the radio and reported the contact in Twin Falls. She also advised him of their plan to return the next day and voiced her hope that the people there would be receptive to them. Jack told her she’d done well, then signed off for the night.
Driving out of town had sounded easy enough, but after years of neglect the streets were littered with debris. After several hours of stopping to clear the way however, Rod and his crew finally managed to get away from the built up area.
Once outside town they began their search in earnest, following a gas station map and looking for a suitable place for the group to live. The going was slow as they really couldn’t see much without driving up and checking out each placer individually, and by the end of the day were no better off than they had been before. They’d driven up to three places that looked to be real farms, but two of them were only equipment storage barns, with no signs of the residential area associated with them. The third had been an actual house, but it seemed to have been abandoned long before the sickness and was practically falling down.
Disappointed, they returned to the store, realizing that simply finding a place was going to be a bigger job than they’d first thought.
As they approached within a mile Mike called on the radio to let the others know they were coming in, and not to shoot. Proceeding into the large parking lot, Rod was surprised to see several people out front waiting on them, Billy among them. He wondered if everything was all right, but didn’t sense anything amiss, so he pulled to a stop near the doors and got out of the truck. As soon as he got out Billy walked up to him excitedly and began telling him about the events of the day.
“Man, you should’ve seen it! A fighter plane flew over and dropped a note saying they want to help us!”
trying to calm the boy down, Rod asked him to start over from the beginning and go slow. Finally the boy got control of himself and started again.
“Around noon the sentries on the roof saw a fighter jet circling over town. Before they could decide what to do they said it came in low, obviously seeing them. As they stood there wondering whether to try and shoot it down it came back around and dropped this bomb like thing, but instead of exploding it had a parachute and landed on the roof. Eddie was one of the ones up there and after waiting to see if it would blow up, he went over and picked it up.”
Rod shook his head at this. That Eddie never seemed to learn. It was a wonder the boy was still alive after some of the dumb things he did. Setting the thought aside, he turned his attention back to Billy.
“…and there was coffee and sugar in the can, along with this note.” The boy finished, handing the note to Rod. The coffee and sugar wasn’t needed, they still had more than they could possibly ever use, but it was a nice gesture, one not lost on him. Looking the note over he felt some anxiety over trusting these people who flew in dropping things on them. But after thinking about it for a bit he realized they could have simply blasted everyone there to bits if they’d wanted, and he and the whole group could never hope to even put up a decent defense. Still, the thought of putting his group under the control of someone else went against his instincts. Maybe, if these folks were on the level he'd consider contacting them later on. In the end he didn’t see any other thing to do but reply to the note and hope these people were as peaceful as they implied.
Reaching a decision he instructed Billy to display a large X on the roof, then went inside to tell the others to stay inside for a few days until they saw whether they would be attacked again.
That night, as he lay with Jill, he kept going over in his mind anything they could do to get these airplane people to let them alone. His intentions were peaceful, of course, but he wanted to ensure that theirs were as well. Worried for the safety of his family, it was a very long time before he got to sleep that night.
"Peace is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading."-Thomas Jefferson
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