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Thread: Calderas

  1. #1

    6 Calderas

    ..... Prologue

    There was a time that I didn’t have much effect in the World. Nothing depended on me, and no one looked to me for leadership. Most people would have called me a loser back then. I had never lived any other life; so I didn’t realize just how blessed that I was. Apparently God never planned for me to live my whole life that way though.

    The Bishop watched a show on TV about Cauldera eruptions. He said that right then, the Holy Ghost started moving him to prepare for one. He was skeptical though. The Scenario the show had presented had predicted a catastrophe so all embracing and so bleak, that preparation seemed beside the point. The Bishop decided to follow a time-honored tradition. He set out a fleece.

    He called his key Elders together, and asked them if any of them had any Survivalists in their congregations. Elder Howard was my Pastor. He thought very highly of my abilities, even though I’d been trying to get him to appoint me a Minister for several years—without any conspicuous success. The Bishop summoned me to Louisville.

    Now although I’d heard the Bishop speak, and I’d even shaken his hand a couple times; I couldn’t claim that we’d ever met. I hadn’t a clue what he wanted to talk about. All Elder Howard would tell me was that I wasn’t in trouble for anything. Of course, I didn’t have to go, but I was intrigued, if nothing else, so I went.

    I was an ex-Survivalist—emphasis on “ex-“. The predicted Socio-Economic collapse hadn’t came anywhere near on time. I lost a large part of my Gun collection to a burglar. I never really felt like starting another battery. It was too discouraging. Then I had a minor scrape with the Laws. It wasn’t a felony, praise God; but it made it difficult to impossible to get a carry permit—at least without beaucoup bucks for a liar…er, lawyer. So I picked up a Gun every now and again, when the price was right and the spirit moved me—but I wasn’t preparing for anything.

    I’d never ceased to think about survival preparations though. When I discovered survival forums online, I had come to realize that my own preparations had been very shallow and incomplete—though undoubtedly better than nothing. I think my main survival prep was arguing the imminent and inevitable collapse of the Hive. I seemed to think, quite unconsciously, that the more people that I could convince, the sooner and more certain the collapse would be.

    Someone might question why I wanted the collapse. I felt that a total collapse was a very efficient, perhaps the only way, to cut the Gordian knot of rules and restrictions multiplying everywhere. I also believed that if government ever collapsed, that surely this time around everyone would go to some pains not to let another government take root. We could nip each new attempt at tyranny in the bud—so to speak.

    It turns out that I was naïve on any number of counts. What can I say? I was young and ignorant once. Now I’m only ignorant—but hopefully a bit less ignorant.

    The show that the Bishop watched hadn’t been terribly specific. They’d said that the ash-clouded sky might mean no Summer anywhere on Earth, for two or three years, with temperature rising gradually thereafter, although the long cold might have jump-started another ice age. Even an ice age would be warm compared to the first few post Cauldera years.

    Artic weather? Does that mean here in Middle America? Certainly. Does it mean Artic weather on the Equator? I hope not. Things look pretty bleak for life on Earth, with the whole world an ice ball from pole to pole.

    We agreed to make some simplifying assumptions. We would try to prepare for two years of Artic winter, followed by three or four more years where little or no food could be grown. Although much worse scenarios were possible, ours was about the worst case that we could possibly hope to survive.

    Building a few shelters and stockpiling enough food to keep a fair-sized group of people tolerably warm and well fed for six years wasn’t exactly child’s play. It gets worse. You have to look at the larger picture. Could bees; earthworms; ants and flies survive such a long Winter? Possibly, but I rather doubt it. Agriculture would be very hard to practice without them. Would any trees survive? While it is conceivable that a few small burrowing rodents might survive, certainly no livestock or draft animals would survive without human intervention.

    Life without draft animals would mean perpetual drudgery. Life without animals would mean no meat; dairy; eggs; or leather. Without weeds ready to rapidly advance on all four points of the compass, followed eventually by forests, a small enclave of spade cultivating, brush pollinating survivors would rapidly be washed away by erosion—not to mention that they’d soon miss firewood and lumber.

    Long-term survival called for forests. Forests demanded a certain minimum diversity of life. In short, what we needed was a minimalist form of Ark. It would need to house many more people than Noah’s Ark, and it would have to shelter them far longer. We didn’t need pairs of everything, but without the assurance of Devine intervention, we’d need way more than a pair of the breeds that we did decide to keep.

    Secondly, we had to make provision to protect what we had, or someone would snatch it away from us very early on.

    Thirdly, while we couldn’t hope for complete secrecy, we really needed to stay on the good side of those fun-loving fellows who burned Waco down and shot half of Randy Weaver’s family—just for chuckles.

    My main solution was multiple use compounds. The Church could use a Summer camp for children. It was a good thing, in and of itself. The Bishop was wealthy in his own right, and could put the squeeze on other wealthy contributors. We built a Summer camp for the church. We just built it way bigger and stronger than it needed to be, with a weather eye to using it as a retreat.

    I designed the five barracks; cabins; dormitories—whatever you want to call them, in the shape of regular pentagons. People aren’t used to five-sided buildings. I figured it would make it less obvious exactly how much square feet were inside. The first floor of each dorm was Earth sheltered to about mid-chest height. They were billed as being large enough for eighty-eight campers each—which they certainly were. However, the bunks could be arranged to accommodate almost twice that number comfortably.

    Each dorm building had a basement—not a drippy ugly swamp of a basement, but a nice basement. Each building also had a sub-basement. The five pentagonal dorms were laid out in a fairly large pentagon themselves. Here’s the good part: each basement and sub-basement was connected to every other basement and sub-basement by a system of twenty-four foot wide, two story tunnels—with occasional connecting stairs between basement and sub-basement tunnels, and access to the surface. There was way more square feet of tunnels than there was of dorms. Much of the tunnels were intended as emergency quarters too.

    There was a big two story pentagonal building in the center of the dorm pentangle—with a sanctuary big enough to seat twelve hundred people. You guessed it; it also connected to every dorm by dual level tunnels. There was a big rectangular garage building for necessary grounds maintenance, and so forth. It had a very well equipped and stocked tool room. Then there was a barn for the ponies and goats. It was rectangular too. Both the garage and the barn were Earth sheltered and connected to the rest of the superstructure by tunnel—though the tunnels, while sound—were a bit less elaborate.

    It helped a great deal that many church members had their own construction companies. They gave us many breaks in price, and helped keep a number of unique features at least semi-discrete.

    I decided early on that it made no sense to wrap all our baskets around one egg. Phase two was setting up a number of smaller satellite retreats. I wanted them far enough away to spread the risk somewhat, but I wanted them close enough to actually put some assistance into “Mutual Assistance Groups”. Ideally, that meant no more than ten miles. Twenty was the very outside limit. Imagine trying to cover twenty miles in Artic conditions…

    Eventually though, we had fellow travelers as far as a couple hundred miles away—though if things ever got really bad, we probably wouldn’t be able to do more than lend moral support over the radio. Our efforts also made a lot of “spade cultivate, brush pollinate” operations viable, because with us around, there was always hope for improvement.

    My second grand idea was for a small group of investors to buy a dairy farm. They’d install a dorm, small houses, or whatever on the place. They’d do shakedown occupations for a few days occasionally, but leave the day-to-day management of the farm to a manager. Several groups of our churchmen set up retreats like those—and in the end, several non-church affiliated groups followed suit. The only way that I can explain it is to assume that our Bishop wasn’t the only one warned by the Holy Ghost.

    The Church of God in Christ plays a very large role in the history of the PE (Post Eruption) era. My memoirs will almost certainly make more sense if I devote a few words to describing the Church.

    The Church was founded in 1897, and chartered in 1907. Bishop Charles H Mason who led the Church during its formative decades founded it. It was one of the Holiness Pentecostal Churches that resulted from The Great Pentecostal Revival that happened in Los Angeles, back in 1906, at the Azousa Street Revival.

    The Church has always been all-inclusive, and there have been white members from the beginning—but historically it has always been a black church. In our Church, Minister is a position between Deacon and Elder, though closer to the latter. One generally has to be a Minister at least three years to be elevated to Elder, though the Bishop appointed me an Elder at our second meeting. He put me in charge of the Summer camp Ministry on paper, and in charge of a great deal more, in fact.

    Missionary is a position for women—roughly equal to Minister. Women don’t become Elders in the Church of God in Christ. “Church Mother” is another position. They are addressed “Mother So-And-So”. The only other Position we have is Bishop. Since scripture doesn’t specifically authorize the offices of Archbishop; Cardinal; Pope; etc., we don’t use them. It means that higher up the organizational charts, you see several Bishops aligned one above the next. One final peculiarity- in common with many other black denominations- the Pastor’s wife is addressed and referred to as “The First Lady”. (A Pastor is an Elder with at least one congregation under his control.)

    Here’s my place in the scheme of things. I’m white. I wear my hair down around my shoulders—contrary to Church by-laws, at least back then. I didn’t mind dressing up; but I wouldn’t do the tie trip, or the tucked shirttail thing. Then I dressed in solid black whenever possible. I also firmly believed in Eternal Security, contrary to the doctrine of the church, and I was never shy about defending my theological positions.

    My Pastor told me that we could skate around the tie and tuck issue. He insisted that I quit wearing black- said that it would cure my depression. He never once asked me if I’d consider abandoning my black wardrobe an acceptable price to be rid of depression (No). He never debated theology with me, but he seriously did not groove on my hair. That’s what had kept me on the slow track to the ministry for so long.

    ..... Chapter One

    “I’m Elder Trueblood—Trueblood Hawkins. Yeah, that’s really my name. What can I tell you? My father had a sense of humor. Really, it’s an old name that’s been in my family for several generations, but I’m not here to talk about my family or my name. I’m here to tell y’all about our summer camp for children and teenagers.”

    Public speaking has always been fallin’down the stairs easy for me, as long as I don’t have to be overly brief. I paused for a moment to study my audience. Eye contact is an important part of public speaking, and one that’s difficult for many speakers to implement.

    It was a medium-sized crowd—maybe a hundred and fifty adults, give or take. The church was in good shape, indicating a relatively prosperous congregation. Some of the churches I spoke at were pretty ramshackle.

    “Years ago, I made a casual remark to our Bishop. I told him that the Kentucky Church of God in Christ needed a summer camp. I went to YMCA camp when I was a boy, and it was fun. It would also be an excellent venue to teach basic doctrine to the little ones.

    “You mothers, do you want your children to go to college someday? Well, being away from home at summer camp is an excellent way to prepare them for dorm life. You father’s, do you want to take your sons—or daughters—hunting in a year or two? We teach archery and marksmanship, and we teach it well.

    “Now make a mental note. Elder Trueblood did not say the children would shoot firearms. I’d like to have real firearms, but in today’s world it would just be too controversial, and raise too many questions of liability. We use top quality air rifles. They’re excellent trainers.

    “Now I know that some of you parents are asking how that you can know that your children will be safe? Well rest assured; first of all I don’t want anything happening to a child for the child’s sake. But almost—and note, I say ‘almost’—as important, I don’t want Satan to torpedo my Ministry that way. We check all our staff very carefully. Nothing is every one hundred percent safe in this world, but we take every reasonable precaution. Truth be told, we try to aim to exceed reasonable to some degree.

    “You children, we have a lake and a swimming pool. We have rowboats and canoes. We have ponies for you to ride. We have goats for you to pet and milk. We have goat drawn wagons for the little ones. We have leather working classes—and I ain’t talkin’ about no silly ‘arts and crafts’ nonsense. We have a seven-week course that will teach you to make your own cowboy boots. You’ll have made three new pair of boots to take home with you, if you successfully complete the class. All our tack for the ponies and goats is made in our leather shop.

    “Of course, as I’ve already said, we have archery and marksmanship. We also have judo, boxing, and wrestling lessons for those who want them.

    “Money? It always comes up doesn’t it? Our camp is a non-profit organization, but it does take money to run it. We think our fees are reasonable, in view of the value received. Nonetheless, in fifteen years we’ve yet to turn anyone away for lack of funds. We’ll find someone to donate the fee, or failing that, we’ll waive them completely.

    “Children can go to camp for a week; any combination of weeks; or all summer.

    “One last thing: I don’t think that there’s any parents like that here, but in case there is one—or two…”

    I paused for effect and gave the crowd a long searching stare.

    “If there’s anyone here who is thinking about sending your kids to my camp for the summer, simply because you’re glad to be rid of them…

    “Go home. Get down on your knees and pray. You don’t get up ‘till God has blessed you with a right spirit towards your children.”

    I finished up, and hung around to answer questions personally. Several people gave me money. I made sure they understood that it would be used for the camp. I drew a generous salary as camp manager, taking donations while promoting the camp seemed like “Double-Dipping” to me. If I preached a sermon in the winter, that was different. A workman is worthy of his hire. In spring and summer, while boosting the camp, I didn’t take personal donations.

    I was just finishing up when Minister Sean walked up to me. He looked concerned, but then he was always fretting about something. He was tall; relatively thin; and shaved his head. He’d been one of my assistants since being elevated to Minister three years before.

    “Elder, there’s increasing numbers of tremors in Yellowstone. It’s too early to tell, but they’re taking them seriously enough that they’ve mentioned them in the mass media”, Sean said.

    “Sean, you went to my summer camp as a boy. It was a good thing wasn’t it?” I asked.

    “Of course Elder Hawkins. Why do you ask?”

    “Well, if this is the send-off, it will mean the end of the summer camp, as a summer camp. As I say goodbye, I’d like to think it was a good work—in and of itself. Activate Condition Yellow.”

    Condition Yellow meant that all key personnel should pack their bags and head for their designated post; other personnel should start packing. Condition Orange would mean everyone pack (briefly) and head to their post. Condition Red meant drop everything and go—never mind packing.

    We’d been careful to have plenty of everything, but how much is enough? If I, or anyone else showed up unarmed and empty-handed, we’d be glad they made it. If they could bring along a Gun or three; a few hundred rounds of ammo; and a trunk full of canned goods—hey, that was better yet.

    I took my briefcase and went into the restroom briefly. I had my Custom 1911A1 .45ACP on, and was backing it up with my .32ACP Walther PP. I only had three spare magazines for the .45, but I had a six-pack of Walther magazines. I threaded a six-pack of .45 magazines onto my belt. Then I put on my shoulder holster with the 8 3/8ths inch Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44Magnum—pre-lock; pinned barrel; recessed chambers, of course.

    The .45 six-pack and the 29 weren’t that uncomfortable to wear, but they were a bit much for concealed wear on a daily basis. If things started going to hell in a hand basket though, conversational range concealment wouldn’t matter much, and they were reassuring to have.

    Most folks wouldn’t rate the .44Magnum very high as a combat weapon, but we’d be on the road for a few hours—might need the .44’s penetrating ability.

    Minister Matthew—my other aide—drove. Minister Sean rode shotgun, and made a number of important calls as we traveled, to implement Condition Yellow. There were a number of redundancies built into our notification procedures. As the best shot, I sat alone in the back, free to bring my fire to bear on either side, should that be necessary.

    If you’d ever seen the considerable pistol-shooting prowess of either of my aides, you wonder. They acclaimed me the best largely because of respect—though I wasn’t half bad myself.

    It was both too late, and too early to make any major revisions to my plans. But as we traveled down the highway, I went over each and every contingency. It beat any number of other anxiety coping schemes I’d heard of. At least this way I got ever more familiar with my strategy.


    Miranda watched the news on the television. They mentioned the increased seismic activity in Yellowstone Park. There wasn’t much reason to think that it was anything more than a mild rumble. Still, this degree of activity was unusual. In fact it exceeded anything since they’d been keeping records. No cause for concern though.

    She sat and brushed her Saint Bernard Badger, as she watched a show on Discovery about Calderas Eruptions. It was an old show, and although Miranda had no way of knowing it, it was the same show that had galvanized the Bishop of Kentucky to stat prepping over fifteen years before.

    Miranda loved Badger more than any other thing on this Earth. She thanked God for giving him to her several times a day—and then she’d also say a quick request to make sure that she never loved Badger too much, and put him before God.

    Badger was big, even for his breed. He weighed close to two hundred and twenty pounds. The vet said that he was too big, but he wasn’t fat. Nowhere on Badger could you find any fat. She had him taken on a long walk every day, though she was bound to a wheel chair, and couldn’t take him herself.

    She wondered what would happen to Badger in the event of a Calderas erupting. She wasn’t afraid to die. She had lived at the point of death too long to fear it. In many ways it would be a relief. Also, she had her faith in Jesus to comfort her. She stopped and said a brief prayer to God, that if he called her home and left Badger alive, that he’d watch over him.

    So far as that went, Badger already had better prospects of surviving than many dogs. She had a gravity fed feeder and watering system that would keep Badger fed and watered for a couple weeks or more. She’d had the system put in partly so she didn’t have to deal with feeding Badger everyday, and partly as a rebuke to her thankless children. Although she was only in her sixties, she was subject to sudden heart failure. She didn’t want Badger to go hungry or starve in the two to three weeks it took to have someone come check on her.

    In reality although her children visited rather rarely, she wasn’t that isolated from the outside world. But it sounded good when you set it to music.

    Thinking about the aftermath of a giant eruption, she made sure that Badger’s hoppers were completely full. Then she made a nice dinner for her and her dog—roast beef; potatoes; carrots; onions; and pie for desert. As always, she had one serving and badger had three. He was a growing boy after all.

    ################################################## #####

    Travis had only been out of prison for a few weeks. His Pastor had donated a small thirteen-inch color television. It worked real well, or it would, once he could afford cable. At the moment, the reception was a bit rough. They were talking about Calderas on the tube. Travis reflected that he had little enough to lose. The thought sent him into another fit of downward spiraling melancholia and general hostility towards everyone and everything. He fought to rid himself of the berserk fury without losing the strength and determination it brought.

    Travis’ phone rang. He didn’t care for phones and would rather not have one. This phone however, came part of a package deal—and he was kept on edge by the constant nagging worry; because he hadn’t yet gotten to the bottom of the package yet. There might be peanuts and a prize, but more likely there’d be more aggravation—or much worse.

    It was Ronnie Vowels, his ex-brother-in-law. He owned the apartment complex and lived downstairs. He asked Travis to come talk with him.

    Ronnie was Travis’ ex-wife’s Sister’s husband. Travis had very little use for him. He was a hemophiliac who’d lost his legs to complications, and picked up HIV somewhere along the line. He got his kicks watching his crack-head wife do everything that moved. He always wore sweat pants tied off like sausage links where his stumps ended at mid-thigh. Given the man’s constant stream of dirty talk, the fat little sausage stumps always seemed distractingly phallic to Travis.

    Ronnie had once threatened to slap Travis’ then fiancé. Travis had barely controlled his fury as he made Ronnie a promise:

    “My dear departed father always told me that if a man was any type man at all, that he’d respect women and children; cripples and old people.

    “Everyone has a purpose and a place under God’s blue sky—however, an old person or cripple; child or woman who strikes an able bodied man has stepped out of their place. They need to be physically reminded just how far out of place they’ve stepped.

    “Strike my girlfriend, and I’ll beat you to a bloody pulp—legs or no legs.”

    Yet it had been Travis’ wife who’d helped the ATF to railroad him into prison. And it had been Ronnie Vowels who’d heard Travis was eligible for parole, but unable to find a sponsor. Ronnie had given Travis a sleeping room to live in; a part-time maintenance job around the apartment house; and gave him a rather generous salary for what work he did. In fact, he paid Travis enough to live on, if he was willing to live simply.

    Guns had been Travis’ life. He wasn’t willing to give them up just because he was a convicted felon in the eyes of the Law. On the other hand, he wasn’t ready to have his parole violated over some penny-ante crap either. While he plotted his next course of action, he was willing to live simply. He could think better that way.

    “Travis, I was just listening to the news about the Calderas. It kinda brings to mind some things that I’d like to discuss”, Ronnie said.

    All the while, his obscene little stumps strained the fabric of his sweats as much as ever. Travis grimly resolved to ignore Ronnie’s stumps, and hear his proposal. He did owe Ronnie. There was also a limit to how far he’d go to pay the debt. It wasn’t as if he’d asked for Ronnie’s largesse.

  2. #2


    Chapter Two

    “You’re wondering why I helped you get out of prison. There’s no love lost between us. You don’t trust me, and you’re more than half afraid that I’ll ask you to do something kinky and perverted in payment—which you’d refuse to do in a heartbeat; leaving me with no recourse than to have you violated. Is that pretty much in line with your thoughts?” Ronnie quickly summarized.

    Travis was just a little stunned by how well Ronnie had summed it all up. Ronnie chuckled briefly at the look on Travis’ face.

    “Don’t sweat it. I’m good at reading people. That’s one of the main reasons I’m rich.”

    Then he astounded Travis by breaking into tears.

    “I’m dying, and I’m all alone. The only people who’ll have anything to do with me are parasites and perverts. I know you. I know your kind. You’re totally honest, and you wouldn’t hesitate an instant to jump into a lake of fire for a friend.”

    The little man sat and sobbed inconsolably for a few moments. Travis watched in confusion and embarrassment. Finally he leaned forward, almost against his will, and put his hand on Ronnie’s shoulder.

    “I need a friend Travis. I know it’s not supposed to work like that, but would you? Listen, I’ll put you on my payroll as my personal assistant. I’ll pay you three salaries—money isn’t an object. All you have to do is drive me around; keep me company; lend the occasional hand. No sex, in any shape form or fashion. You won’t even have to drive me to it. I’ve lost the pleasure that I used to take in that sort of thing anyway. I’ll even go to church with you—though I tell you up front that I don’t believe any of that stuff.”

    Travis sat and considered carefully.

    “Ronnie, I can’t promise to be your friend. That has to come from the heart. I can promise to try to be your friend, and to make it a point of honour to always treat you ‘as if’ you were a friend in the interim. Will that satisfy you?”

    Ronnie nodded happily and grasped Travis’ hand. Travis resisted the urge to pull his hand back. He hadn’t quite gotten over a feeling of physical repugnance for his new “friend”, and the little man’s desperate clutching unnerved him somewhat.

    “You know you’ll be accused of all sorts of perverted things if you become my companion”, Ronnie said.

    Travis laughed aloud. Very few things in the world concerned him less than what other people thought.

    “They made false accusations against Jesus when he walked the Earth—and even today. Why should I be exempt?”

    “Listen Travis, you hear all that talk about giant volcanoes? That sounds like science fiction to me, but if the crap ever does hit the proverbial fan, I have some preparations that you would not believe. Things get rough you hang with me. That way we’ll both survive.

    ############## ##################### #####

    Elder Brown got the Condition Yellow alert, and received the upgrade to Condition Orange about thirty hours later. Elder Brown was not a member of C.O.G.I.C. He was a Baptist. Many of his congregation had family in one of the small local C.O.G.I.C. churches though. If the Pentecostals had a revival; a special event; or a chicken fry, his flock attended freely. He knew that the favor would be returned, and it was all to the glory of the lord.

    With all the cross-pollination going on, it wasn’t at all surprising that Elder Brown caught wind of Bishop Pruitt and Elder Hawkins’ “secret” disaster preps. He’d had some serious consultations with Elder Hawkins, and done some research on his own. He’d decided to follow Elder Hawkins lead.

    Now Elder Brown didn’t have the deep pockets of a sympathetic Bishop to draw on. His church didn’t even have Bishops. Although his church camp/retreat was on a much more modest scale, it was impressive in it’s own right. He called his camp “Baptist Town” as an inside joke. (In bygone days, black sections of town were often referred to as “Baptist Town”—apparently the stereotype was that virtually all blacks were Baptist.) And it was a “Baptist” Town in fact.

    Elder Brown had done a tour in the Marines right out of high school. Then after a couple years on the block, he’d enlisted in the Army and ended up doing a two-year stretch in the Army Rangers. He was an avid hunter who got at least one deer, and a turkey every year. He was also an excellent marksman. His refuge might be small; but it was well thought out.

    Elder Hawkins had prevailed on Elder Brown to be the tertiary ark for a couple breeds of songbirds; bees—of course—all the compounds had bees, they were just too important to long-term survival; and a breed of milk goat.

    Elder Brown’s main area of specialization though, was fish. He planned on farming catfish, more or less along the lines of the “New Alchemists”; and he was intent on saving many breeds of fish; turtles; and frogs.

    He sent a call to five people on his list. Each of them was schedualled to alert at least five more. Everyone in the group was on at least three people’s call list. After he completed his five official calls, he continued to call group members. Like Elder Hawkins, he believed in as much redundancy as possible.

    ############### ################ ##################

    “All right people, you know what to do. The infirmary and the day care center have priority. Try to get one floor set-up for residency before moving onto the next. With any luck we’ll have a few floors ready to take the overflow, while you set the others up”, I told everyone.

    “Remember people. It wasn’t raining when Noah started the Ark. Monitors—side arms; keep a long Gun handy; and don’t open the armory just yet. Now that I think about it—I want a five-man guard detail assigned to the armory doors at all times. Get enough folks to set up a four on, eight off schedule with a couple substitutes.

    We needed weapons, of course. There was no way to keep the Laws from knowing that we were stocking—and arming—a retreat. There were ways to try to keep the fact from stinking in their nostrils. After much soul searching, I’d decided to go with the .303Enfield. There were too many of them, for too little, on the market to ignore them. The downside was that they were all old. Never mind that. We had some really good Gun mechanics—ranging from amateur gunsmiths and armorers, all the way up to Master Machinists. We had several well-equipped machine shops and we had beaucoup spare parts.

    We’d had a few designated buyers stock up on Enfields; Enfield ammo and Enfield loading dies. They were to tell anyone who asked, that the Enfields were an investment—which they most certainly were. The rifles were stacked in a hidden underground armory connected to our tunnel system. They were maintained on a regular schedule, but left alone otherwise.

    They were also segregated by buyer. We figured that in a worst-case scenario, we could claim that I was simply offering storage space to the buyers—which it was.

    It never became an issue for a number of reasons. Enfields didn’t arouse the same fear and loathing as some semi-auto rifles. We tried to be discrete. We didn’t run around making provocative public statements. Our groups contained more than a few of the local Laws, that helped too. Also, we scruptiously avoided any illegal weapons.

    Thing is, the Enfields weren’t our primary weapon of defense anyway. We were placing our faith elsewhere.

    At any rate, once we pulled the Enfields out of storage and started issuing them to everyone qualified to use one, the cat would be permanently out of the bag. I wanted to wait just a little while longer to commit. As I heard the news reports though, I decided that it was time to update to Condition Orange.

    The whole concept of an Ark meant that some would necessarily be left out. Mowing down the human waves of starving refugees as they attack is rather hard to reconcile with Christian doctrine. Resisting brigands; raiders and thieves is easier to rationalize. We figured that the ash clouds would largely take care of the problem.

    While we hadn’t included most of the members in our plans, once we got to Condition Orange, each of our participating Pastors was to extend the invitation to his entire congregation. If all of them promptly packed up and left, we’d end up with about five times as many as we could support. However we had every confidence that most of them would delay until it was too late. Once the ash fell, it would rip apart any running engine within minutes. It would be very difficult to breath, let alone bug out on foot. Our camp was in the Northern part of Breathitt County, and I didn’t expect too many starving hordes to find their way to us—particularly once the temperature started dropping.

    ################## ################## ############

    Missionary Debra called her children together. She had a boy who was seven; a four year old; and a three year old. She had never been married, but when her long-time boyfriend had overdosed, it had scared her into a more spiritual way of life. It was funny though, how much more relaxed her life was, without the stress added by drugs; partying and illicit sex. Looking back, it was hard to believe how much she’d prospered, even in a material way, since deciding to live for God.

    “Y’all remember Elder Hawkins?” She asked the children. Even the three year old—he was almost four—nodded and answered in the affirmative. Children liked Elder Howard. He had a way with them. “Well we’re going to pack up our station wagon, and go see Elder Hawkins.”

    Missionary Debra thought a lot of Elder Hawkins. He had a number of quaint mannerisms. He always wore black. He insisted that one only presumed to address a woman by the honorific “Miss”, after long acquaintance qualified one to take such familiarities. When he listed perverse or shameful acts, he always added the act of putting ketchup on hotdogs. She sensed that he was only half joking about such things.

    She’d worked up her courage onetime, to ask how he’d come to join a black church. He’d shrugged, and explained that for some reason he’d never been attracted to any women, but black ones. At first he’d thought that might be offensive, but in Elder Howard’s, and later Bishop Pruitt’s eyes, it was not a sin—just another of Elder Hawkins’ numerous and harmless eccentricities.

    He’d told her that one of his great regrets was never having children.

    “Never could find a woman that would have me!” He’d said laughingly.

    He’d also told her that he’d lost interest in women sometime back, and that it was a relief, because it let him concentrate on his Ministry full-time. She reflected that she was still young enough to bear several more children, and although he was thirty some odd years her senior…

    She shook her head clearing out such flighty and irrelevant thoughts. She carefully but thoroughly packed her and the children’s things. Dayton was big enough to help a little. Natasha and Natalie just watched.

    Just as she finished loading her station Wagon, the ground shook. Thankfully it was only a very minor tremor, but along with everything else, it was very scary. She checked he revolver. Elder Howard had helped her select it; told her what modifications to have done to it; and then shown her how to shoot it.

    It was a pre-lock S&W Model 19 .357Magnum. It had a four inch barrel. It had been Mag-Na-Ported and had the hammer bobbed. It had been ground to round butt configuration and it had buffalo horn grips. He’d told her that custom grips were not really necessary, but strongly recommended.

    The Gun had been a bit of an investment for her, but Elder had insisted if it was worth buying one gun, it was worth buying a spare. The only thing different about her second .357 was its stag grips. Today she was glad that she had it. She put her first Gun on her strong side and put the second into a shoulder holster. Then she loaded her six-and-a-half inch Ruger .357 Blackhawk. She’d recently picked it up cheap and had only taken it to the range a couple times. She didn’t have a holster for it; but she agreed with Elder Hawkins that more potential firepower was always a prudent thing to seek.

    Her only other firearm was a short 20Gauge Coach Gun—a short double barrel. She’d given the good old boys at the skeet range had a laugh at her shooting the odd-ball Gun (for skeet) on a number of occasions.

    “Listen up guys. We need to hurry” Missionary Debra told her children. “We’re going to need to stop once for gas. That is the one and only stop that I intend to make. If you have to go bathroom, and you can’t manage any other way, you’ll have to go in your pants. That won’t kill you. Getting to the retreat too late very well might. Understand?”

    With that final bit of instruction delivered, Missionary Debra put her station wagon into gear, and pulled onto the highway.

  3. #3


    Chapter Three

    Missionary Debra was facing a three hundred mile drive. She felt that she was in pretty good shape so far. The volcano hadn’t even erupted yet—assuming that it was going to erupt at all—but something told her that this was the real thing this time. At any rate, even once the volcano blew, it should be several hours before the ash could travel this far. Hopefully it would take at least that long for people to realize just what the eruption meant, and to start panicking big-time.

    She was just out Elizabethtown when her car died. She barely restrained herself from cursing. Elder Hawkins said that all the curse words were actually magic gunsmith words, meant to coax recalcitrant Gun parts together. He discouraged cursing first of all, because the words, properly speaking, belonged to the gunsmith guild and shouldn’t be worn-out by non-guild members; and secondly because Christians were admonished not to practice magic anyway. So she didn’t curse. She even suppressed a smile at the memory of Elder’s quaint proclamations—nonetheless, it was a very close thing.

    She looked under the hood and immediately identified her problem, though she didn’t have the wherewithal to fix it. The belt going to her generator had broken. With no generator, the car had run ‘til it had exhausted its battery. Then it had died. She got on her cell-phone and quickly lined up a tow truck, and informed the group of her situation.

    It was a knuckle-biter, but she still wasn’t too badly off. If she could get on the road again before the eruption, she’d still be well ahead of where she’d be if she’d only started from home at the eruption. She offered the mechanic a five hundred dollar bonus if he could have the station wagon ready to travel in two hours. Putting on the belt shouldn’t be that time consuming, but she wanted to be sure that her car was his first priority.

    The two Boxers in their respective cages had been so quiet that she’d largely forgotten them. She made sure each dog got walked; fed and watered while they waited. There was a small grocery store within walking distance of the garage. She strolled over and bought a few things that she felt would be very precious in days to come. She loaded up on batteries; disposable lighters; spices; salt; and various sundry things. Money was no real object, since if this was the real thing; money would soon be useless anyway.

    She got back with her purchases just as the mechanic was finishing her car. One hour and thirty-five minutes, not bad. He didn’t want to take the tip, but she forced it on him, along with some earnest advice about eleventh hour preparations. She couldn’t tell if she’d convinced him or not. She filled her tank up to the brim and stopped by a drive-through, and ordered enough roast beef sandwiches and French fries to last her and the children and the dogs for the next few days, if need be.

    As she pulled onto the highway with a roast beef sandwich in her hand, and her big Ruger .357 once again on the seat beside her, she started to feel in control of the situation once again.

    ################ ######################## ##############

    Travis was just hanging around in his room, ruminating about his future, and the ways of the wicked world in general, when the phone rang. It was about seven thirty at night, yet he hadn’t planned to go out again, and the phone annoyed him. Doubtless it was his new “best friend”. He felt sorry for the little man, on the other hand, he flashed on a whole new world full of irritation and bother. Ronnie was just too clingy. Ronnie’s words cut through any irritation Travis might have felt however.

    “The volcano is erupting. They don’t know how bad it’s going to be yet. We need to talk strategy.”

    When Travis had entered Ronnie’s apartment, Ronnie told him to follow him to his bedroom. Travis put away any misgivings and followed Ronnie’s wheelchair. There was a bookcase all along one wall. Following Ronnie’s directions, Travis swung out a section of bookcase to reveal a door with a combination dial on the front. Ronnie gave him the combination, and had him open the door. Behind the door was a hidden closet chockfull of expensive firearms; ammo and holsters.

    “I want those two nickel plated Tokarevs, and the double Jackass Shoulder Holsters”, Ronnie said. “I also want the .30M1 Carbine. Take your pick of what’s left.”

    Travis hesitated momentarily.

    “Are you trying to get my parole violated, Ronnie?” He asked.

    Ronnie looked genuinely hurt. He started to marshal a series of arguments in terms of right and reason, when Travis cut him off.

    “Can’t say that you’ve ever lied to me”, Travis began. “And you’re supposed to be my friend. I’ll trust you until such time as you prove yourself untrustworthy. Anyway, you got me out. If you got me sent back, we’d be no more than even.”

    Then dubiously, with the attitude of a man who only half believes that the water he’s been asked to immerse his hand in, really isn’t boiling, Travis picked up first one, then the other nickeled Tokarev. Travis paused to examine them before handing them to Ronnie. They were both fully loaded; safetyless; and on half-cock. (The Tokarev being perhaps the only pistol on God’s green Earth meant to be carried at half-cock.)

    “They’re 7.62x25s”, Ronnie said.” Retro-fitted with a safety to meet import standards; unretro-fitted by my gunsmith; smoothed; fitted; and nickel plated—and yes, that’s real ivory.”

    Travis handed him the Guns and the holster. The little man donned the shoulder harness; and checked each pistol in turn, before holstering it.

    “They’re just the hardest hitting pistol that I can handle” Ronnie told him in reply to Travis’ unspoken question. I usually carry a little Smith Model 31 in .32S&W. If we’re in a survival situation, maybe I need a little more firepower. If I became a liability, you might leave me behind.”

    “You know better than that”, Travis told him.

    Travis looked at a nickeled Springfield Armory .45. It was a custom Gun with all the bells and whistles: High profile fixed sights; ambidextrous safety; very light trigger pull—lighter than most authorities recommended; a Commander hammer and beavertail grip safety; and Travis smiled with delight to find that contrary to current custom, the grip safety had been pinned. He then found, of all things, an old but well-preserved Chapman High Ride holster.

    The Gun was a little too perfect an approximation of everything Travis would have wanted in a pistol. He looked at Ronnie quizzically.

    “I have an excellent memory. There was a time you were quite verbal about your firearms preferences. I ordered those two pistols three months ago, when I first decided to sponsor you. Never though that I’d live to see a Calderas eruption; but I knew something was going to hit the fan soon. I just had a feeling. The holsters were harder to locate than the Guns. They don’t make them anymore.”

    “GUNS? As in plural?” Travis asked.

    “Yeah, there’s another full-sized .45 in there, along with one with an Officer’s Frame with a Commander slide—in case you ever need a hide-out. Check out the Longslide .38Super.”

    Ronnie mainly wanted to get a few key Guns, and some gems out of the bedroom safe, in preparation to moving into his basement blast shelter, where he assured Travis that there were beaucoup more Guns, along with plenty of ammo; food; water; and medical supplies and other nice things.

    ################ ##################### #################

    Miranda had her last supper with Badger and lay down for a late afternoon nap. She started thinking before she lay down, and moved several containers of food onto the table and shelves, where if worse came to worse, he could reach them, and tear them open. He was too well trained to steal things now. If he was starving though, she was relatively sure that his manners would go by the wayside.

    Miranda died peacefully that afternoon, without ever awakening to hear that the Yellowstone Calderas was actually erupting. Badger could sense that something big was seriously amiss; but the thought was buried in his more immediate concern. He knew when Miranda died. He could not understand death the same way a person would; but he could feel loss, and grief. He felt them both as he pointed his nose towards the heavens and howled deeply and mournfully again and again.

    ############### ############################ ############

    We got word at the retreat, that the Calderas was erupting, though it was still too early to see how big an incident there might be. It was enough to convince me. I gave the order to go to Condition Red. Rifles and ammo were handed out. Crash familiarization classes both for adults who’d never shot a rifle, and for those unfamiliar with bolt actions in general, or Enfields in particular, were started.

    I broke out the pistols too. We’d had designated buyers lying in all sorts of bargain pistols—CZs; Makarovs; Tokarevs; Nagants and old police Smith and Wesson .38s. However, our main go to handgun, was 1911A1s laboriously constructed from eighty percent frames by a dozen dedicated armorers. An individual could make a pistol from an eighty percent frame, but couldn’t transfer it. I figured once the crap hit the fan, all the old rules were on hold. In the meantime, the completed firearms were stored according to maker. Once again, the presumption was that I was simply furnishing storage space.

    I went to some trouble to make sure that we had far more than enough pistols—though arguably, most of them were less than essential—because of the golden rule. I would be one very unhappy camper indeed, if the end of the world as I knew it was taking place, and I didn’t have at least a pistol or two to wear in anticipation of the historical event. While I understood that most people wouldn’t be that focused on the issue, some might come to be in the days and weeks ahead. I would not curse anyone to a handgunless future if I could avoid it.

    I’d heard from Missionary Debra about four in the afternoon. She should have been here by now. Hers was one of the few families that lacked a man, and wasn’t scheduled to meet up with a male led caravan somewhere along the way. I’d been persuaded that it was safe, because she’d been one of those scheduled to come in on Yellow, but Orange had come so quickly on the heels of Yellow, and she’d have car trouble. The situation was becoming worrisome.

    “Minister Matthew, get on the horn and see if you can raise Missionary Debra. When you’ve finished that, start the straggler sweeps,” I said.

    Whereas Minister Sean was tall and wiry, Minister Matthew was a relatively short, heavily muscled man. It was a bit hard to believe at first, that the two men were brothers. At any rate, I could put my full confidence in either of them—or anyone else on my staff. When I gave an order, they carried it out if at all possible.

    It had always been part of our plan to send scouts out looking for anyone who might have gotten stuck within seventy-five or eighty miles of the camp. That’s why we had carefully designated routes to cut down on the number of highways to search. Anyone stuck much farther out, would require a special rescue expedition—if it were even possible. There was no guarantee that a rescue effort would be feasible for those stuck too far away, thus the emphasis on getting everyone into the shelter in good time.

    We had a big situation board keeping track of as many of our key convoys as possible. At the moment, Missionary Debra was our main cause for concern.

    ############## ###################### #####################

    Missionary Debra was just outside of Barbourville when she got a flat tire. She hissed in frustration, but she wasn’t terribly put out. The volcano hadn’t erupted yet, and she was almost within walking distance of her destination—not that she wanted to lose the station wagon full of gear. She’d discussed and studied things enough, that she knew things were going to be very tough for the next few years. The station wagon contained many things that would ease the hardship for her and her family—at least for the first few months, maybe even a couple years. She wasn’t going to leave her auto unless it was unavoidable.

    Just as she turned on her turn signal, and started turning onto the shoulder, they interrupted the music to say that the Calderas was actually erupting. She got on the cell-phone to the camp and gave them her location and situation. Elder Hawkins took her call personally.

    “I’ll have a sweep team come by to help as soon as possible. Stay safe ‘til they get there”, he told her.

    She wanted very much to save the station wagon—or at least its contents. She resolved to start changing the tire on her own. Every moment she could save would be that much. She put the emergency brake on, and started the process of jacking up the car. Just as she had gotten the lugs broken loose, and the car jacked up, she was startled out of her frenzied one-point focus by a voice behind her.

    “Looks like this isn’t your lucky day” Came from over her left shoulder. “Or maybe it is lucky for you too. What with the world coming to the end, and all, Guess we might as well party like it’s nineteen-ninety-nine” he said, grabbing obscenely at his crotch as he did so.

    He looked big, and mean, and dirty. He had rotten teeth and wore a black leather motorcycle jacket, though apparently he’d come from the pick-up truck parked just behind her station wagon.

    Elder Hawkins had told her, that when the time comes to shoot, it is past time for talking—nothing remains but draw; front sight; trigger press. He’d taught her that when the chips are down, and someone threatens, to take him at his word. If a jesting threat gets someone killed, so be it. People shouldn’t jest in dire straights. She took the man’s word that he intended, at the very least, to rape her.

    Even as she stood to her feet, her right hand was pushing her jacket to one side, and grasping her strong side .357. As she started to clear leather, she saw the man’s eyes start to widen in surprise, and realized that by looking him in the eye, she’d committed herself to the much more demanding headshot. She decided to go with it, as she brought her sights to bear on the bridge of the man’s nose, at a distance of about four yards.


  4. #4


    ..... Chapter Four

    As her sights lined up with the bridge of her client’s nose, Missionary Debra pulled the trigger smoothly. While the trigger-break may not have been a complete surprise, the muzzle blast certainly was. She’d never fired a Gun without earplugs and earmuffs. She managed to maintain a good hold on her weapon as the client’s brains sprayed out behind him.

    Tunnel vision—she’d been warned against it—but it was quite another thing to experience it first hand. The second client, that she hadn’t even been aware of, had to shout at her three times to get her attention. When she finally noticed him he’d already dragged Natalie out of the station wagon, and he had a knife to her throat.

    “Cowards take hostages”—she’d meant to say that firmly and calmly, but it came out a shrill shriek.

    “Throw down the Gun, or I’ll cut her throat”, the client said.

    Debra wasn’t stupid. If she disarmed herself and surrendered, there would be nothing to keep the man from killing all of them. On the other hand, she had another revolver in her shoulder holster. She decided to play for time.

    She bent over slowly and laid the .357 well off to one side. Then she took a long step forward and slowly went to one knee. She didn’t trust her voice, but she hoped the kneeling would look like an act of supplication. In point of fact, she had shortened the distance and was going to one knee to further steady her aim. She’d practiced hostage shots at much longer ranges. This one was difficult only inasmuch as there was so much at stake.

    She’d meant to draw as soon as she’d settled onto her knee and take the hostage shot. However, the instant that the client saw her start to kneel, he pushed Natalie viciously to one side and charged her. The charge threw her aim and concentration off enough that her first shot hit him in his pelvis. The second shot took him in the stomach and only the third hit him within a palm’s breath of his sternum. He hit her hard, but went limp on the way to the ground.

    Missionary Debra hit the road hard. She come up with a bloody nose and covered in road rash, but she was alive.

    Ordinarily a call to 911 would be in order, but with the volcano erupting, getting detoured through interrogation, and perhaps having to post bond could cause a fatal delay. She hurried to get the new tire on so she could leave. Just as she was getting ready to lift the spare onto the rim, here came the Laws in a seven-car caravan of red and blue flashing lights.

    Obviously this was what Elder Hawkins meant when he spoke of “Gambler’s Ruin”. Even when the odds favored you heavily in the long run, an atypical run of bad luck could still wipe you out and take you out of the game—or at least give you a massive deficit to make up.

    A man in civilian clothes got out of the first squad car and approached her.

    “Are you Missionary Debra?” he asked.

    When she nodded affirmative, he continued. “Elder Hawkins asked us to be on the lookout for you.”

    Two Laws got out of the second squad car, and started putting the spare on with a vengeance.

    “My name is ‘Polk’—Sheriff of a nearby county ‘till recently. I still think that the election was rigged, but never mind. I agreed to help Elder Hawkins keep the wrap on his survival preparations—in exchange for billets for me and my deputies, and our families. As far as post-apocalyptic survival, I’m still in Commander of this bunch of one-time deputies.”

    Missionary Debra thought the man talked too fast—too compulsively. She realized that he, like everyone else, was scared. Talk about the end of the world, as we know it was one thing. It was something else to experience it.

    “Why aren’t you already at the camp?” Polk asked. “They put out the Yellow a couple days ago.”

    “Mix-up, I only got my Yellow notice about three hours before they put out the Orange—and I’ve had car trouble every step of the way. About these corpses…” She began.

    “Corpses? What corpses? I don’t see any corpses,” Polk said.

    They were all safely in camp within the hour—long before the ash-rain began.

    ################### ####################### #################

    Larry sat in the gunstore and talked to his best friend Dave. Dave owned the store, and he lived in the apartment upstairs. Dave hated nearly everyone with a venomous loathing; but for some reason, he seemed to like Larry. Larry, for his part, admired Dave’s cutting cynicism; malignant misanthropy and general cussedness.

    Larry knew himself to be soft-spoken; kind and considerate—and he had a Victorian sense of chivalry towards womenfolk, which often ended up costing him. He felt that if he wanted to be strong, that he should try to emulate Dave’s nihilism; but he never could. He wasn’t weak, but he counted himself weak because he wasn’t cruel.

    He and Dave did have some things in common. They both liked big bore pistols and big fighting knives. They were both better than average shots and they both went for speed and volume of fire as opposed to pinpoint accuracy. They didn’t miss a torso target, but their shots under time pressure, were likely to be all over the target.

    Dave was in the middle of a long misanthropic diatribe when a bulletin came in over the radio. The Calderas was erupting after all. Larry could hardly believe it.

    “Have all that I need in my bug-out bag in my truck” Dave said. “And I have a place prepared to go to. I’m not even going upstairs to get anything. Time is of the essence.”

    Larry wondered if time were that precious, why Dave didn’t mosey on, instead of talking—but Dave had one last largesse to deliver before he left.

    “Feel free to help yourself to anything in the shop. You might as well have it, as some looter.”

    “You’re sure?” Larry asked.

    He had no desire to be blown away because he’d misunderstood. When Dave smiled and gestured broadly at the shop; he was reassured. He lifted a booted Corcoran boot, and smashed in the back of one of the cabinets.

    “Damn dude! I’d have given you the key,” Dave said.

    He followed suit and tossed Larry the master key. First of all, there was a pair of custom .357s that Larry had admired for many years, but had never had the money to buy. They’d been Dave’s father’s, but Dave wasn’t sentimental.

    They were both Smith and Wessons, but they weren’t a matched set. One was a big N Frame Model 27. The other was the much lighter weight K Frame Model 19. They’d both had their barrels cut to five inches and Mag-Na-Ported. Both had their frames round-butted. They both had bright hard chrome finishes and stag grips.

    Dave’s old man—who’d been even more surly and reprobate than Dave—had felt that the N Frame offered significant advantages over the K Frame, but that it wasn’t worth the extra weight in a back-up. They’d been the old man’s bug-out Guns ‘til cancer had gotten him.

    Next Larry picked up the old man’s .30-30 Marlin lever action. It had ghost ring sights; three point sling attachment and had been converted to takedown. It too was Mag-Na-Ported, but it had a frosty textured hard chrome finish. While he was at it, he picked up the old man’s ivory handled Colt SA—in .45ACP.

    The only other thing that Larry truly coveted in the gunstore was a trio of .32 Smith and Wesson Hand Ejectors that were in mint condition. They were nice, but they’d been on consignment for over a decade, because the old burnout that owned them wouldn’t come down in price.

    Satisfied with his Gun haul, Larry concentrated on grabbing ammunition. There wasn’t much food in the Gunstore, but he quickly cleaned out the snacks: Snickers bars; M&Ms; Slim Jims and Skittles.

    “If you’re through, lets walk out together,” Dave said.

    Larry nodded assent, and slung the ALICE Pack that he’d requisitioned over his back. He had some modest preps. He might survive. Then again, he might not. Either way, he’d be happy with his new Guns ‘til death parted them.

    They were ambushed as they stepped out of the building—so pointless. Another moment and the looters could have had what was left. They however, had no way of knowing that; so they died.

    Dave took a hit to the torso right off, but it didn’t put him down. He turned through a tight semi-circle, working the slide on his Remington 870 the whole while. Every time he shot, he hit another client. Larry drew his carry Gun—a four-inch Smith and Wesson .44Magnum. He pretty much took down the ones that Dave left standing.

    Larry’s ears were aching as he looked at the devastation.

    “The knob-gobblers might have had a chance if they’d taken cover before they ambushed us, instead of standing around like department store dummies,” Larry babbled.

    Then he saw that his friend Dave was down and bleeding all over the sidewalk.

    “Oh sweet Jesus,” his abortive prayer went up.

    He ran to his truck and got his first-aid kit. He wasn’t a Doctor, but he had a fair grasp of anatomy. He was afraid that the wound might have severed Dave’s subclavian artery. If it had, it was already hopeless, yet Larry knew the blood verse. Even as he frantically pushed a pressure bandage to Dave’s wound, he recited it.

    “Yea when I passed by, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, LIVE.”

    Either the bandage, or the Bible verse worked. The blood slowed to a trickle.

    “Listen,” Dave murmured weakly. “If you can get me to my survival group, they can help me. There are Doctors and an infirmary. You owe me…”

    “How would I find it?”

    “Get me in my Humvee. There’s a GPS. I’ll give you a code and it will guide you right up to the front door. Try not to waste any time, once the ash starts to fall, it’ll be all but impossible to travel.”

    “Never mind that. We need to get you to the hospital ASAP.”

    Dave became agitated.” No! Take me to my friends!”

    “That’s what I meant—your hospital.”

    ################## ################## ################

    Come a crisis, those who made no effort to prepare, may very well try to steal from those who have. Since preparation includes stocking weapons and ammo, and acquiring the skills to use them well, the advantage is generally to the survivalist. However, there are other people besides survivalists who have skill at arms. A big part of being a successful raider is being feral, ruthless and homicidal. That would be a very big adjustment for most. Given a little luck to take them through the first couple of times—when they’d still be a bit tentative and timid—almost any able-bodied man, and many women, could be dangerous foes though.

    People who’d actually made some effort to prepare—had stocked food and ammo, Guns and medicine, but had found their preparations fell short, were potentially even more dangerous. There will be precious little time and supplies to devote to learning marksmanship and small group tactics during a major upheaval. Those who already had the skills would be far ahead of the game. Now certainly every group running short of food well before they ran short of crisis wouldn’t take to Viking—most would not. Still, some certainly would.

    The most dangerous raiders though—with the possible exception of remnants of the police and military—would be Mutual Assistance Groups formed; organized and armed well in advance of any crisis, intending from the beginning, with malice of forethought, to survive solely by pillage and plunder.

    Surely there can’t be too many of these groups, though if they were at all serious about their stated intentions, they would be secretive. On the other hand, there’s almost certainly a few.

    The War Hammers was just such a group. While they were all more or less normal and law-abiding citizens in peaceful and prosperous times, they planned on being pirates after the collapse. Some of them had simply despaired of being able to afford a real survival set-up. A good number of them were more into role-playing than actual bloodshed.

    Nonetheless, they started practicing small unit tactics; marksmanship; lock picking and espionage. They started making serious attempts to infiltrate other survival groups. They practiced rappelling and martial arts and compromising security systems. They practice fire and maneuver drills with paintball Guns. Their skills were first rate, and they had the very best of weapons; plenty ammo—cached all over and as much food and other supplies as they possibly could afford to cache. Even though most of them probably didn’t “really mean it”, when the Calderas erupted the will to live chimed in; and it was too late for any of them to back down—especially since no one wanted to be the first.

    They planned to hit their first target right on the heels of whatever crisis was the precipitating event—which in this case, was the Calderas erupting. Take them out before they had a chance to firmly settle into emergency mode. Then the War Hammers would have a permanent base of operations.

    Their first target was Elder Brown’s Baptist Town. They took their assigned places and prepared for the blitz attack. They weren’t expecting too much resistance from these church-going black folk—many of whom were past middle age. Yes, they thought, this should be a cakewalk. Nice of these chumps to gather all the victuals and ammo in one place for them…

    ############## ##################### ###################

    As the ash started to fall, I was as satisfied with the course of affairs as I could be. People were going to die. Almost everyone here would lose friends and family. We’d issued an alert and an invitation while there was still time. Most had chosen to ignore it—even as I knew they would—had banked on most of them ignoring it, in fact. Still, the choice was theirs.

    As soon as Missionary Debra made it in, we had all our key people safe, and lots of others too. We’d picked up a few more Doctors; Dentists; Nurses and Veterinarians than we’d planned on, at the last moment. That was all to the good.

    I got on the intercom and addressed my people.

    “This time tomorrow, we’ll assemble in the sanctuary to talk about our course of action over the next few days; weeks even years. Right now, I’m dead tired from getting you all into the shelter in time and I need to rest.

    “People, I have just one thing to ask of you right now. I didn’t ask anyone to choose between keeping your pets, and coming here. I believe that people’s pets are family—but if your dog ain’t housebroken, or people broken, put him in the kennel until we have someone show you how to train him. All our dogs are going to have to be well trained, if we’re going to survive. And do not put your buddy in the kennel and abandon him.

    “That’s all that I have to say ‘til tomorrow.”

    I was looking forward to crashing so much. It just wasn’t to be, just yet though. Sean came walking up to me, looking concerned as always.

    “We have eighty five volunteers,” Sean said.

    “Volunteers” was our word for people who showed up uninvited.

    “What’s the problem? We have more than enough berths. Thank God that we can save some more.”

    “These guys came in a convoy with several trucks, and three Bradleys. They have several truckloads of ordinance. They’re National Guard, commanded by a Major Lermontov.”

    “Well then, I’d guess that I’d better go have a serious talk with Major Lermontov, make sure that he agrees to our by-laws before we let him join our group.”


  5. #5


    ..... Chapter Five

    Larry had felt a certain sense of unreality ever since he’d gotten into the Humvee. Dave had been silent for a couple hours—either sleeping very soundly, or passed out. They’d gotten a good jump on the ash fall, but Dave’s refuge wasn’t that close either. According to the GPS, they should be within twenty miles of the retreat, but it was darker than Larry had ever seen it, and the first tentative bits of ash had just started to fall like a black snowfall.

    For some reason Larry felt more washed-out and tired than he’d ever felt in his life. It was like a bad dream, wherein he couldn’t get fully awake. He just wanted to pull the vehicle over and take a good long nap.

    He slapped his own face viciously. Once the ash-fall thickened, it would be much harder to drive through than an equivalent thickness of snow. Never mind that all the grit would tear the engine up in no time. He wasn’t up to carrying Dave anywhere through the ash—particularly without a respirator. He had no reason to think that Dave’s mysterious friends were apt to welcome him, if he showed up sans Dave. Hell, they might not give him much of a welcome if he showed up with Dave.

    Larry felt something wet in the seat. Surely he hadn’t urinated on himself without knowing it… No, as he looked at his hand, he saw that it was covered with blood. For one brief instant, he thought that Dave had opened up. Then he realized the blood was his own.

    He’d been shot and hadn’t realized it. No wonder he’d felt addled, and once the adrenaline started to wear off, he’d felt exhausted. He spat out one curse word, and stopped the truck. He found a hole in his side and applied a pressure bandage. It was a bit late. On the other hand, he probably didn’t have much blood left to spare. He used the hummer’s seat belt to cinch his bandage a bit tighter.

    He reached over and pulled the “First Blood” knife out of Dave’s sheath. He knew that Dave kept a virtual cornucopia of drugs in the handle of the knife. He found one of the tiny Dilaudid Tablets—two milligrams of sulfonated Morphine, and two of the five-milligram Benzedrine tablets. He swallowed them and washed them down with almost a quart of Gatorade. He’d always been good at chugging things.

    The pills would take about twenty minutes to get into his blood stream and start working for him. He wasn’t at all sure that he had twenty minutes of unassisted consciousness left. He cast around ‘till he found an old envelope and a straw. Two more Benzedrine tablets and another Dilaudid went into the envelope. He used the butt of Dave’s knife to pound them to a fine powder inside the envelope. Then he used half the straw to insufflate the powder. He’d never snorted anything before, but he was well acquainted with the theory. The snorted drugs should be in his system within two minutes.

    He sat and watched his second hand sweep his watch face twice. He didn’t feel anything. He shrugged. He couldn’t afford to wait any longer. At least the shocking knowledge that he’d been shot had taken away most of the sleepy mental cobwebs. He’d driven perhaps two hundred yards when something slapped his consciousness with a long two-by-four. It was exactly the same sensation he’d get—just for an instant after someone had struck him in the face—that instant of extreme clarity before the berserker kicked in. Only this moment of clarity hung on and on.

    He was still surfing a chemical high when he pulled up to the guard shack and laid on the horn. Just about then, the pills he’d ingested started to take effect. His consciousness turned kaleidoscopic as two strong men took him out of the seat. One look at his pale face, and they had him on Ringer’s Lactate and plasma. They ran a blood typing, and sent out solicitations for donors within the first half hour. He would live, and so would Dave; but it was a close-run thing.

    ################## ################### #####################

    The War Hammers had seventy some-odd men. They based their organization on an idealized infantry platoon. There were four squads of thirteen men. Each squad could break down into two six-man groups and each group could further divide into two three-man fire teams. Each squad had a Staff Sergeant to go wherever his fire could be the most help, or simply to watch and give orders. The platoon also had a Platoon Sergeant and a Lieutenant. The platoon boasted a Captain; XO; four or five staff and a half-dozen supernumeraries to fill in any vacated berths. They weren’t set up to absorb multiple casualties; but their study of history had convinced them that they wouldn’t have to.

    The Alpha Squad Sergeant gestured and a half-dozen men advanced surreptitiously on Baptist Town. Meeting no resistance and encountering no sentries, or any sign that anyone was even peripherally aware of their presence, they signaled for the other half of the squad to join them. Their Squad Sergeant also moved up to join them.

    Bravo and Charlie squads advanced to the edge of the property, with Delta; HQ and the replacements held in reserve. Just as one of the brigands was moving up to one of the doors, all hell broke loose.

    Three dozen aimed shots, and Alpha Squad was down to three men. The Alpha Squad Leader realized that the “Baptists” were using very well hidden firing posts. Fifty or sixty shots later, and Alpha Leader had lost another man. Bravo and Charlie had each sustained almost fifty-percent casualties. The War Hammers weren’t doing much firing back, because they hadn’t yet located the source of the hostile fire.

    The Captain screamed into the microphone for the War Hammers to retreat. Alpha Leader spotted a firing port. He decided that it was up to him and his one remaining man, to do their best to cover the War Hammer’s inglorious retreat. He pointed at the opening, and signaled for covering fire. As the last remaining soldier of Alpha Squad sent a veritable hail of .223 bullets through the hidden firing port, Alpha Leader managed to get close enough to lob one of the black market fragmentation grenades—bought at great expense—through the opening. It was the only qualified victory that the War Hammers scored.

    Elder Brown hadn’t bought any black market grenades or claymores. The downside to getting caught with such things in the pre-eruption world had been too daunting. What he’d done instead was to lay in a large number of .22 LR Barrel liners and a chambering reamer. He’d put up literally hundreds of the barrel liners—each one loaded with a high-speed .22 LR cartridge; pointed at a likely place to seek cover and set to fire electronically in batteries of one hundred or more. They wouldn’t have been any more legal than claymores in the pre-eruption time; but they were much easier to put together on the spur of the moment.

    He set off a fairly large portion of his charges just as the War Hammers were fixing to retreat. No one from Alpha Group escaped. Of the twenty-six men and one Platoon Sergeant in Bravo and Charlie Groups, only five men escaped—only one of them untouched by the fusillade of .22 bullets. And one of Baptist Town’s long-range snipers managed to take out the XO. It was pretty much the end of the War Hammers as an effective fighting force.

    As Elder Brown’s people counted their losses, they found that they had two dead and one wounded—all from Alpha Leader’s grenade. They also found Alpha Leader and his lone soldier alive, though sorely wounded.

    “Save them, if you can,” Elder Brown instructed.

    “Going to put on trial? “ One of his aides asked.

    “Is that what Jesus would do?” Elder Brown asked cryptically. “ Where would you and I be right now, if he’d dealt with us like we deserved?”

    ############# ########################## ###################

    I resolved to spend at least two or three hours walking around the compound every day. Some of the people were already suffering hardship. My position isolated me from much of the hassles. I was the leader. If my judgment was off because I was hungry, everyone stood to suffer. Or if the lack of peace and quiet robbed me of my serenity, it could bode ill for everyone. Therefore my needs had a high priority. However, if I didn’t share all the hardships, at least I witnessed them firsthand.

    Ministers Sean and Matthew generally accompanied me, along with Missionary Debra and at least a half-dozen other minor functionaries. Major Lermontov had also taken to following along on my morning constitutionals—like some kind of overgrown bumptious lapdog. I told him repeatedly that he had no official status in our organization, but he insisted on throwing his two cents worth in about almost everything. The morning was one time that I couldn’t dodge him.

    I didn’t really think that I’d be called upon to defend myself, with all my aides—not to mention my two oversized bloodhounds; Renoir’ and Courbet—continuing my family tradition of naming the dogs after famous painters. Nonetheless, I remembered how Patton’s Guns had become such a powerful symbol of the man; so I packed a six-inch longslide .45 Auto, one on either hip. They were cocked-and-locked, of course—the way the Good Lord and John Browning meant for an autopistol to be carried.

    Many of our people arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. We had all sorts of clothes, and other items cached away, of course. Otherwise we’d have been foredoomed from the start. Nonetheless, it would take a little while for our quartermasters to get squared away.

    I think Missionary Debra must have given away at least thirty of those miniature-sewing kits that she’d picked up at the last minute at a Dollar Store. She also had a lot of other odds and ends that made things much nicer for many, the first few days. She gave me all the credit. I truly wished that I had thought to prepare “Care” packages of such things.

    Lermontov was raising hell, as usual. He thought we should cut back on the livestock, and try to save more people. I tried one more time to explain to him that our livestock was pretty bare-bones to begin with; that it would accomplish nothing to take twice as many people halfway through the crisis; and that it really wasn’t any of his business anyway.

    The Major got beside himself at one point. He drew his 9mm service Berretta and pointed it at Renoir’s head.

    “If I shot that beast, it would make room for another child,” He proclaimed.

    “Lermontov, if you shoot my dog, I give you my word as a Holy Man, that I’ll shoot you in both feet, and both hands, and let you lay. I’ll forbid anyone to lend you the slightest assistance, on penalty of being exiled. Do you care to find out how long you could survive, crawling along the tunnels, and eating garbage?”

    He thought about that for a moment, and started to hand me his pistol.

    “Keep it. Everyone has a right to be armed—even you. But the next time you try to threaten me, I’ll kill you. Understood?”

    He wouldn’t look me in the eye, or answer me. I didn’t press the issue.

    I got word that Baptist Town was under attack, and that the Bishop wanted to see me, both at once.

    “Did you want to see me about the attack on Baptist Town?” I asked as I walked into the Bishop’s ample living quarters.

    “Can you help Elder Brown?” The Bishop asked me.

    “No. By the time help could arrive, it would already be decided.”

    Even as I made my reply, a note was thrust into my hands. It told me that Baptist Town had beaten off the attack with minimal casualties—thus proving my point.

    “No, I wanted to assure you, that I won’t interfere with your day-to-day management of the camps. Think of yourself as a Captain of the ship, but with an Admiral on board. You have many hard decisions to make. I don’t envy you.”

    “Thank you Bishop.”

    “But I want you to ask yourself: if we did have a falling out, who would end up in charge?”

    I didn’t like to think of it. It seemed disloyal. Yet the Bishop entreated me to humor him.

    “I have a much larger percentage of the key personnel answering directly to me, than you do. If I gave the order, they could effectively preempt any coup your old guard might make. The longer the crisis goes on, the more the people will look toward me for leadership. I grow stronger, while you grow weaker.”

    “Exactly! Now you have my word that I won’t try to unseat you. But if you’re going to be the leader—a real leader, like Moses, or Bishop Mason, you have to learn to think in terms of politics. I wasn’t always Bishop. There were times when people plotted against my Pastorship. I sought peace with all men, but I also always kept track of who could cause me problems, and how much. Your ministry is too important for you not to be taking all threats into account.”

    “I suppose you mean like that clown Lermontov?”

    “Especially Major Lermontov.”

    ############## ##################### ####################

    Ronnie had a full basement and a sub-basement under a reasonably large apartment complex as his emergency shelter. His security was excellent, inasmuch as no one had any idea what the two underground floors contained. Ronnie had been far wealthier than most people, Travis included, had ever guessed. He’d poured much of his wealth into his hidey-hole.

    “I can’t believe that you have an indoor swimming pool in your blast shelter!” Travis exclaimed.

    “It’s just a modest one,” Ronnie Said. “Have you ever read ‘The Masque of the Red Death’?”

    “Yeah, spooky old story by Poe. It echoes ‘The Havamal’:

    ‘A coward believes he will ever live
    if he keep him safe from strife:
    but old age leaves him not long in peace
    though spears may spare his life.’ “

    Travis quoted from memory.

    “Yeah, except those folks didn’t live long enough to experience the dissatisfactions of old age. Anyway, at one time I planned to bring a fine harem of pretty boys, and even prettier girls down here to party into the unknown—sort of the ultimate send-off…only”

    “Only what Ronnie? Why is it just me and you down here?”

    “You know that I haven’t been—shall we say, ‘capable’, for a very long time. But you know I used to really get off on watching. That’s all gone now. All that’s left…well, there’s just one thing left,” Ronnie let his voice trail off to nothing.

    “What Ronnie?”

    “I can’t stand to be alone and…”


    “I’m so very afraid to die.”

    “Ronnie, that’s one thing that I can guarantee. You will die someday. But I’ll do everything in my power to see that you’re never alone in the interim. So what amusements do you have here? A shooting range, I hope? I haven’t went swimming in years, mind if I try out your pool?”

    Ronnie pushed away his dark fears, and strove to be upbeat.

    “Sure, take a swim. There’s not only a pistol range, but also an archery range—a bowling alley too. We have not only necessities, but also enough luxuries to keep several-dozen pleasure-gluttons sated for decades. Feel free to enjoy yourself.”

    ################# ############################ ###############

    It turned very cold rather quickly. Badger had his bed, and he was bright enough to drag several blankets over to make him a nest. The dust wasn’t nearly so bad inside the house. Badger lay with his tail covering his nose—mostly in reaction to the cold, but it also filtered a noticeable quantity of dust out of the air before he breathed it.

    Almost any person would have fretted in Badger’s situation—thus wasting precious nervous energy, and many good chances to sleep. Badger ate sparingly when he was actually hungry. He was burning many calories just to stay warm. But he conserved energy every way that he could. He waited patiently for events, which given his circumstance, was about all he could do.


  6. #6


    ..... Chapter Six

    Travis had been relatively poor all his life. Now he and Ronnie were co-inheritors of a veritable wonderland. For the first few days, he did little but enjoy the retreat’s marvelous facilities. Ronnie was too feeble to do much, though Travis did manage to coax him into the pool a couple times, and got him to work out in the weight room semi-regularly.

    Ronnie had long been relegated to the realm of spectatorship; but now he found pleasure in watching his new friend enjoy wholesome activities. Travis loved swimming in the pool. There was a very ample library; a home theatre system that included luxurious stair-stepped seating; a huge projection screen; and an almost all-inclusive selection of tapes and DVDs.

    Travis watched some of the Paladin Press martial arts videos that he never could afford. He watched some of the Armorer’s and machinist’s training videos; and of course he watched many of the adventure movies. He didn’t want to see any of the numerous triple “X” films that Ronnie had. That was okay, because Ronnie didn’t seem to want to watch them anymore either.

    In his obsession with completeness, Ronnie also had a number of Christian tapes: Billy Graham; Jimmy Swaggart; David Wilkerson; Jack Van Impe; Jed Smock; MC Hammer and other well known and obscure evangelists. Travis set-up “Church” every Tuesday and Friday night, and Sunday morning, and held Ronnie to his promise of “attending” with him. It wasn’t too hard. It was hard to get away from the little man long enough to take a good dump.

    It worried Travis a little, but he was persuaded that there was very little—if any—sexuality involved. The little man had simply formed a very strong phobia of being alone—even momentarily.

    Ronnie had operated on the assumption that he was rich enough to be pretty much above the law. That often turns out to be a rather dubious assumption; but it had worked for Ronnie. Consequently he had a large selection of black market Guns for Travis to try out.

    Ronnie regularly gave Travis gifts of Guns, and other things. He’d never had a friend before, and while he knew that Travis appreciated the gifts—who wouldn’t? —He also had every confidence that Travis cared. And Travis was no sycophant. When he thought that Ronnie was whacked, he told him so.

    Travis soon owned an MP-40; a PPSh-41; an M-3A1 Grease Gun; a 1928 Model Thompson marked “Property US Border Patrol”; Roadwarriors and Witness Protection shotguns in both Twelve and Twenty Gauge; and other nice playthings. One good thing about the end of the world as we know it, was the elimination of the ATF.

    Things were just too idyllic to last though. Early in the second month, Ronnie became very ill. There was almost every type of drug—legal and illegal—in the retreat, along with plasma and clotting factors. There wasn’t any whole blood though; since it had a rather limited shelf life.

    Travis studied the medical books and DVDs that he had on hand. That reinforced what Ronnie had already told him, based on past experience, that only transfusions of whole blood would make Ronnie better. Fortunately, Ronnie was blood group AB+, universal recipient.

    “Ronnie, I told you that I didn’t feel right about keeping all this to just us. Now it’s coming back to bite us in the rear. I’ve given you a pint of my blood. I’ll give you another before I leave, but then I’m going to be tapped out for a while. If you want to live, I’m going to have to round you up a few donors…”

    “Don’t leave me alone Travis. Please don’t leave me alone…Please!”

    Travis grabbed Ronnie’s shoulders and spoke urgently to the little half-man.

    “Listen to me Ronnie! You can’t die. You can’t! You’re not right with God. I don’t want to think about you backstroking across the fiery lake. I love you. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. Here, take this walkie-talkie. I’ll call you every half hour. I won’t be gone very long. It’s twenty degrees below zero out there. Stands to reason that I won’t be going too far.”

    ################ ####################### #####################

    Alpha Squad’s leader’s name turned out to be “Aryan”. He had “SS” lightning bolts tattooed on his neck, and several swastikas tattooed on his arms and other parts of his body. Yet here a cadre of black people was nursing him back from the brink of death. If there were any white folks in Baptist Town—except for him and Private Nash, he’d yet to see them.

    Aryan looked up from his book to see that Pete was there to see him again. He wasn’t quite sure just what role she played in the overall scheme of things. She wasn’t a doctor and she wasn’t a nurse—or nurse’s aide. Yet she spent at least two or three hours with him every day.

    When the pain had been very bad, and he’d been semi-delirious with pain; and fever; and morphine Pete had held his hand; bathed his face and given him cold water—and other fluids to drink. As he’d gotten better, Pete had read to him. She’d brought him a slinky and then later, a socko paddle to help the physical therapy on his arm. When he was able to read for himself, she brought him books.

    She kept him up on all the Baptist Town gossip; as well as talk about a place called “Bishop’s Ark”; “Boyz Town”; And several lesser compounds. She expounded on each of Elder Brown’s sermons, and the “Freedom Talks” of an Elder Trueblood Hawkins.

    Elder Hawkins, he learned, was white; but he ran Bishop’s Ark and several of the smaller satellite enclaves. He was more or less considered the nominal leader of all the survival compounds connected to churches, all through Kentucky; Western Virgina; Southern Indiana, and parts of Tennessee. He gave brief messages of encouragement over the radio, along with all sorts of useful survival tips. Pete told him that even the heathen Boyz would be reluctant to alienate a major force like Elder Hawkins.

    While most of the folk in Baptist Town were, as the name suggested, Baptists, Pete had told him that Elder Hawkins’ group was Pentecostal. Pete was seventeen, and she confided to Aryan, that when she was eighteen years old, she was going to convert to Pentecostal.

    “Elder Brown said that you’re getting well enough to walk around. He thought that you might appreciate a brief tour of the compound,” Pete told him.

    “Wouldn’t that make me more of a threat, if you ever turned me loose?” Aryan asked.

    He experienced an abrupt sinking sensation

    “They’re never going to turn me loose, are they?” He asked.

    Pete regarded him in puzzlement.

    “Turn you loose? You’re free to leave any time you want to. I’d think twice about it though. You have been given something may people would pay a great deal for, or even risk their lives for—and it is extremely cold outside.”

    “Just exactly what have I been given?” Aryan asked.

    “Didn’t they tell you? This is a major oversight. You and your partner Nash have been voted into the Assembly, with full rights and privileges. You can go to meetings; vote; use any of our facilities—whatever.”

    “Pete, that doesn’t make any sense. I came here to rob; rape; and murderer. Why would you make me one of you?”

    “Poor Aryan. Have you ever heard of ‘Forgiveness’? It’s one of the key concepts in Christianity. We’ve forgiven you.”

    “Do you forgive me, Pete?”

    “I especially forgive you, Aryan. One of the people your grenade killed was my brother, and you wounded my father. I argued hard against accepting a wolf like you into our fold; but the others prevailed. Elder Brown asked me to look after you—as a special favor to him. He said that would be the quickest way to learn to forgive you. He was right.”

    “Pete, I’m sorry about your brother.”

    “It’s alright. We’re all murderers in God’s eyes; but he forgives us—if we’ll only ask. Have you asked God to forgive you?”

    Aryan was most uncomfortable—particularly since the talk had become religious. He searched for a change of subject frantically.

    “I don’t suppose they’d ever trust me to bear arms?”

    “Haven’t they returned your weapons to you yet? I’ll check into it. In the meantime, take this,” She said, as she bent over to remove an ankle holster. “This is a two-inch Smith and Wesson Model Twelve. It has a round butt with buffalo horn grips. It has been Mag-Na-Ported; had the hammer bobbed and been hard chromed. It’s loaded with 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points. There’s a single dump pouch with six extra rounds. That’s a Buck Lockback on the opposite side of the holster.”

    “Pete, I can’t leave you unarmed.”

    For some reason, Pete found that hilarious.

    “What makes you think that giving you that pea-shooter leaves me unarmed?” She said between fits of giggling.

    ############### ##################### ##################

    Larry looked around the cafeteria. Although it was a part of a private concern, it looked very professional. There were steam trays with glass sneeze shields; easy to clean tile floors and glaze-block walls; plenty of lighting and stainless steel everywhere. They had a large selection of different foods too—in this case, breakfast food.

    Larry had battled a tendency toward morbid obesity all his life. He was sitting down to a very Spartan breakfast when Dave walked by. He stopped just long enough to make a brief remark to Larry about a book they had once discussed.

    In “Methuselah’s Children” Heinlein had written that whenever he ate, Lazarus Long always tried to top off his reserves, in case of future deprivations. Dave quoting it to him just then, seemed like a warning to load up on calories while he could.

    Larry abruptly switched programs from “Eat Moderately” to “Pig Out”. He piled a half-dozen large pancakes onto his plate, and covered them generously with maple syrup. He stacked several sausage patties; big hunks of link sausage; bacon and ham onto his plate. He picked up several oranges and some boiled eggs.

    He’d managed not only to eat almost four thousand calories worth of breakfast; but he’d also managed to secrete several ham and sausage sandwiches; two oranges; a dozen boiled eggs; beaucoup sugar packets; two table spoons; a fork; knife and salt shake under his clothing, and in various pockets.

    As he started to leave the mess hall, the head cook gestured for him to come over. Past experience had taught Larry that in any institution that had cooks; it was excellent politics to get on the good side of the cook. It had never proved too difficult to ingratiate himself with the cooks. He always said “Please” and “Thank You”. He was a hearty, but undemanding eater, who seldom failed to find something that he could honestly congratulate the cook for.

    “Were you ever a booster, my boy?” The Cook asked.

    Larry was not at all embarrassed. His survival was at stake. He smiled shyly.

    “No, but I‘ve blocked for some good ones and seen them work.”

    “Forget it. I think you’re getting a crappy deal. Here take this,” He said while handing Larry a modest sized leather shoulder bag.” There’s eight pounds of very compact rations in the bag—and a couple of my favorite hide-outs. I used to be a cop.”

    As Larry walked down the hall, he stopped to pet the Irish Wolfhound that seemed to have the run of the compound. While he was talking to the dog, Dave walked up to him.

    “Boss Bragg wants to talk to you,” Dave told him briefly.

    As Larry walked down the hall, a man named Lloyd walked up to him.

    “I really think this sucks,” he said. “Dave told me that you really like .32s. Take this.”

    Lloyd handed Larry a shoulder holster with a Ruger Single Six in .32Magnum. It had mother-of-pearl grips.

    “They say that the pearl grips are fragile. If they ever break, there’s a spare set of stags in the pouch.”

    Lloyd also handed Larry an elaborately beaded possibles bag and a wool blanket bedroll.

    “Thanks,” was all Larry could think to say.

    When Larry walked into Boss’ office, he saw the man’s face cloud momentarily when he saw the gifts Larry was lugging.

    “Do you know why you’re being expelled?” Boss Bragg asked.

    “I just flashed on it as I was eating my last breakfast. Every one of y’all done been gay. You’re not going to ask me if I want to join your church?”

    “Would you?”

    “No,” Larry told him.

    “Doesn’t matter. The type people we want are far more aware of their social surroundings. If you have to have it spelled out for you, you’re not our kind of boy.”

    “You know that you’re putting me out to die?”

    “Not necessarily. You’re only about thirty miles from Bishop’s Ark. If you can make it there, they have agreed to take you in. We’re going to give you your bug-out bag; food; warm clothing; maps and a GPS. It’s well within the possible, that you’ll make it—with a little luck. “

    “And these folks are?”

    “Black Pentecostals—real Bible thumpers.”

    As Larry turned to walk away, Boss Bragg said to him, “Why don’t you leave most of your Guns with me? You’re very unlikely to come across anything that needs shooting. Quite frankly, the extra weight is a handicap that you don’t need.”

    “Sure Boss, you can have my Guns—all you have to do is kill me, and they’re yours. Otherwise, I think I’ll hang onto them.”

    Dave and a half-dozen of the other Boyz followed Larry to the edge of the property line.

    “We ever see you on our land again, we assume you’re here to steal. No trial—just a brief hanging,” One of the more militant guards told him.

    “If I came to steal, you wouldn’t see me, Sweetness. The first you’d know of it would be your blood running down your neck.”

    Everybody waked a discrete distance away, except Dave.

    “Do you think it’s wrong Larry?”

    “Why ask me? I’m not God. Talk to him about it. Read your Bible.”

    “You were my best friend. I NEED to know. You OWE me.”

    “One of the wrongest thing there is.”

    As Larry started to walk away, the Wolfhound went to follow him. The dog’s owner grabbed his collar. The dog turned around and viciously savaged the man’s arm. Several of the Boyz pointed Guns at the dog.

    “No! Don’t shoot him! If he wants to go with Larry that badly, let him. I told y’all that this wasn’t right,” The man said. “Larry!” he shouted. “His name is ‘Prince”. Take good care of him.”

    ############## ################# ####################### #####

    Badger heard a man’s voice. It was distorted, but it was recognizably a man’s voice. Badger had no way of knowing that the man was using an electronic bullhorn to magnify his voice. He had no way to know that the man’s name was “Travis”, and that he was fervently searching for survivors. He did recognize his main chance when he saw it.

    Badger exited the doggy door; went into his backyard; and barked frantically at Travis. After assuring himself that the house was vacant, Travis let himself in. Badger swarmed him; jumped on him; and licked Travis’ hands enthusiastically.

    It only took a moment to find Miranda’s body. Almost by instinct, he checked the bedside table drawer. He not only found a nice nickel-plated Colt Diamondback .22 LR; and a box of cartridges, he also found a journal. He didn’t feel like standing and reading in the bitter cold, but he took the journal to read later. Perhaps it had the dog’s name in it.

    He said a brief prayer for the repose of the unknown woman’s soul. Then he prepared to leave. It was almost dark, and it was very cold. He’d resume the search for donors tomorrow.

    He hadn’t backtracked more than three blocks, when Badger insisted they make a detour. He followed the frantic dog a couple of blocks to one side, when he spotted a smoking chimney. In less than fifteen minutes, he’d uncovered a small group of five teens, several children and three big dogs—a Great Dane bitch and a pair of German Shepards. They were hungry and cold. He didn’t have to extend his invitation twice, to get them to come back to Ronnie’s retreat with him.


  7. #7


    .... Chapter Seven

    It was time to have a major meeting at the Ark. I’ve said that the sanctuary at the main building would hold about twelve hundred people. That was in ordinary circumstances. With a real need, we could shoehorn in three or four hundred more.

    The Ark was designed to accommodate twenty-five hundred people over a seven year period—though we had every intention of growing, and to start moving people into alternate, and far roomier housing, once the first three or four years of artic weather started to moderate.

    We only had a bit over twenty-two hundred people, so we weren’t quite filled up to capacity. I liked it that way. It gave us a little more “wiggle-room” on both food and accommodations. It allowed us to accept the occasional volunteer. We were getting into the time period where anyone who knocked at our gates had already demonstrated toughness and survival potential far above average.

    There wasn’t enough room in the sanctuary for everyone. On the other hand, we couldn’t afford to pull everyone of his or her duties at one time anyway. We needed guards at all times. Our maintenance people were working hard to keep up; along with our armorers; and even the cooks. We had closed circuit TV for those who couldn’t attend—with the exception of the guards. They didn’t need the distraction. They could watch later, on tape.

    Anyway, I was set to give a “State of the Confederacy” address, but first a few of the others had a few things they wanted to say.

    First Elder Bates stood up to raise hell about the boyz.

    “It isn’t natural! God is going to smite them like he smote Sodom. We need to do something about these foul Sodomites,” He finally concluded, with sweat dripping down his face, from the heat of his passion, and the vigor of the nonverbal components of his rhetoric.

    I stood to answer his concerns.

    “First of all, do we have anyone from the Boyz compound here to speak for them?” I asked. “Well, Elder Bates’ hearty welcome may have made them a bit shy. Everyone look around. If you see any of the Boyz, direct our attention to them.”

    No one responded.

    “Well then, it looks like to me, that the Boyz are content to leave us be. I think we should reciprocate. Did God smite Sodom? Well then, He is perfectly capable of smiting the Boyz with fire and brimstone anytime he chooses, with no help from me, you, or Elder Bates—who I might note is way too old and feeble to be expected to take part in any war we might hypothetically declare on the Boyz, or anyone else.”

    I paused to let that sink in.

    “Doesn’t the Bible say that the evil man is engaged in laying up riches for the righteous? Y’all figure it out. Five or six hundred Boyz, and no Grlz—how are they going to do the hibbiddy-dibbity and reproduce? They ain’t. In a long generation, or so, the Boyz will be a happy memory—like the Shakers. One of our groups stands an excellent chance of inheriting. In the meantime, who knows what useful genetic lines of stock, or trade goods they might have, if we’re only willing to trade with them honestly.”

    “What if they recruit enough members from our ranks, to keep them going?” Elder Bates demanded angrily.

    “Statistically, I don’t think there’s enough of us for the Boyz to find and recruit enough militant homosexuals to remain viable—but I could be wrong. Fact one: anyone who wants to go and join the Boyz, is someone we’re well rid of. Fact two: as long as they’re alive, there’s some hope, however slim, that some of them may get saved, and abandon that lifestyle.

    “Killing them outright kinda puts the kabash on that hope. You know, I don’t like to limit God, he can reach some folks in spite of every obstacle; but treating the Boyz like lepers won’t make converting them any easier. Enough about the Boyz, the subject is giving me a headache.”

    Sheriff Polk stood up. I had put him in charge of my arms factory, and he wanted to give an early production report.

    Although we’d carefully avoided all illegal weapons during our preparations; I had laid in plenty of seamless 4140 and 4340 tubing and rods; lots of long 9mm; .40 Caliber; and .45 Caliber barrels—many surplus Sten magazines; along with a few others; chambering reamers; and lots of good wood. I also had several copies of each of Bill Holmes’ books. The day after the ashfall started, my mini-factories started turning out Holmes style machine pistols and suppressors; also his blowback pistols; and bolt-action rifles—including some of the big .50 Caliber BMGs.

    We didn’t really need the machine pistols, with all the Enfields we had; but they wouldn’t hurt. I’d lain in enough pistol ammo to give us more than enough to thoroughly train anyone gifted with one. Some folks groove on the term “sub-machinegun”; but I agree with Jeff Cooper’s definition: if it shoots a pistol caliber, it’s a “machine pistol”—with or without shoulder stock—or even in a Gatling conformation, needing wheels.

    I had a little over two-dozen deputies, small-town Laws, and even a couple of state troopers. They were drawn from three or four counties. I was tempted to get them special uniforms and form a Praetorian guard. As with the machine pistols, although there was no real need for one, I liked the idea, and thought that it would be fun putting it together.

    I restrained myself. All but two of my Laws were white. Sooner or later someone was bound to try to use the race issue against me. I didn’t need to be seen as the white man who surrounded himself with a Praetorian guard of white human Pit Bulls.

    Instead I distributed the Laws where I thought they’d do the most good. As I said, Sheriff Polk was in charge of the arms factory. He stood up to say that they were turning out twenty to thirty machine pistols a month; ten to twenty pistols; a handful of bolt-action rifles and a .50 Caliber every couple weeks. At that rate, by spring everyone capable of carrying a Holmes Gun would own two or three—give us something to trade too.

    “But I have a surprise for Elder Hawkins,” Polk said. “You know that the thrice-cursed Hughes Amendment outlawed the manufacture of new automatic weapons for sale to civilians. However, Law enforcement agencies could still order most anything they wanted.

    “Elder Hawkins was always very adamant that he didn’t want any illegal weapons; nor did he want any of his people involved with illegal weapons. He didn’t want to give the hobnails the slightest excuse to Waco us.

    “Yet he did confide in me onetime that there was one weapon that he particularly coveted—not because it was terribly useful, but because it intrigued him. He had some special ideas just how he wanted that weapon customized.

    “Well when I was the Sheriff, I ordered just such a weapon—perfectly legal for me as a Law. I had it modified just the way he wanted it—again perfectly legal, though offbeat. I had always hoped to present it to him, if stuff ever did hit the fan, and the despised and hated ATF was no more.

    “Now when I lost the last election, I could have ‘lost’ this pistol, and hidden it somewhere myself—but that wouldn’t have been true to The Elder’s wishes. Instead I trusted a couple of deputies to keep it buried far enough back in the equipment locker, that no one was likely to come across it accidentally. It was a calculated risk, but it worked out okay.

    “Elder Hawkins, this is a CZ Skorpion in .32ACP. It comes with its own leather holster. I have ten ten-round magazines for it, and over two-dozen twenty-round magazines. It has been bright nickel-plated. The grip has been replaced by a custom grip of Birdseye Maple. It has been Mag-Na-Ported. Since the porting would bollix the regular suppressor, it has a sleeve to screw on to cover the ports, and adapt it to our custom suppressor—very high efficiency, and also bright nickel-plated.

    “This is just a portion of the thanks we all owe you for the selfless work you’ve put into creating a refuge for all of us.”

    The applause was thunderous. I didn’t ever think it would end. A couple of Polk’s Deputies carried the pistol to me. Another had the magazines. They also had two more carry a footlocker onto the platform. It was all two men could do to carry it.

    “This is plenty of .32 Ammo. Wouldn’t want you to run short,” One of the Deputies said to me.

    I was feeling pretty good at that moment. I had to wait a long time until it got quiet enough to be heard—even with the microphone.

    “I thank you all. If you want to thank someone, thank Bishop Pruitt. I couldn’t have done a thing without his backing, and his, and other peoples money; time; labor and discretion.

    “For that matter, thank God for speaking to Bishop, and the others. You know that we have quite a bit of food; fuel; and warm blankets and clothing stored here. We have plenty of Guns and ammo; knives and swords to protect our stockpile. But we mustn’t fall into the trap of trusting to ourselves, or our worldly preparations. True security comes from God.

    “I just happened to be at the right time and place, when God decided to use me as a figurehead. Look to him with your praise; your thanks and your trust. Also, nothing I’ve ever done was ‘selfless”. I serve the Lord because he’s worthy; but also because he pays much better, and far more reliably than Satan—over the long haul.”

    I took a moment to look down at my new toy. At that moment Lermontov decided to pitch his tizzy. He blew a boson’s whistle. It was loud enough, even in the large space, to set my teeth, and my nerves on edge. Finally he let up on the whistle to speak.

    “I will be heard,” he shrieked.

    I gestured for one of the sound hands to lower a boom mike to Lermontov. Might as well get his itches into the open. I was sure that some could be found to agree with him.

    “You have dogs and cats; chickens and pigs; cattle; horses; and ponies put up here. I see dogs everywhere I look. Yet there are people dying outside…”

    “Major Lermontov, we’ve been over this time and again. You yourself deserted your assigned duties. Instead you came here, on the strength of an unsubstantiated rumor, because you wanted you and your men to live. Y’all will live, God Willing, because we know what we’re doing.

    “You don’t know Jack Chat, and you’re trying your best to rock our boat. If we let you turn it over, we’d all drown. I’m going to explain one last time. Then I don’t want to hear anymore about this. I doubt that any large group could make it here in any large numbers, even now. Every day that becomes less likely—so what you’re talking about is largely academic anyway.”

    Lermontov screamed in rage, and fired his pistol into the air for emphasis.

    “I’m declaring martial law and taking over as of now. I have been in contact with a large group of both military and civilians. They will be here within a day or two. In the meantime, I am in charge.”

    “Lermontov, it is like: how many effectives do you have? Eighty-nine on paper. Thirty some odd of your men are black. I daresay that most of them have seamlessly integrated into our group by now. I’ll bet many of your white guardsmen don’t have any particular desire to live under martial law—or to see their chances of survival ****ed away by a dimwit like you.”

    I gestured and two-dozen sharpshooters were drawing a bead on Lermontov and his men, from the balcony.

    “Any of you guardsmen who doesn’t want to be cut down by our men, please step to one side.”

    After a few moment’s worth of anxious shuffling, Lermontov was left with a little over thirty men—and some of them looked like they’d wished that they hadn’t become involved. They held their M-16s and M-4s nervously, a little closer to the shoulder than a true port arms.

    “We still have you outnumbered,” Lermontov stated with some satisfaction.

    “Lermontov says he has me outgunned. How about a display of arms?”

    At least four hundred people drew everything from .44 Magnums and .45 Autos, to .32 Derringers and tiny .25 Autos. Some even had sawed-off shotguns; short barreled assault rifles and machine pistols. As everyone pointed their weapons at Lermontov’s loyal cadre, the guardsmen raised their weapons to their shoulder.

    “The only reason that I don’t give the command to fire right this minute—excepting the unnecessary slaughter of your men—who I can’t really blame for being loyal, is because of all the collateral casualties that we’ll suffer from friendly fire.”

    “I have seven of my best ordered to take you out, whatever else happens. The one certainty is that you won’t survive,” Lermontov hissed.

    I’ve never heard such hatred in a voice before.

    “I hold no weapon Lermontov. I won’t attempt to draw one. If you force a bloodbath, I won’t directly contribute to the body count. It is always a good day to die. The way of the Warrior is the way of death. Whenever a choice exists between life and death, the Warrior chooses death.

    “Are you a Warrior Lermontov? Some of your men may be Warriors. Let me interject that a true choice exists only when there’s something worth dying for. If you feel that Lermontov is a fool, and you think his leadership would bring this organization to ruin—then there isn’t an honest choice of death. Look what a poor attempt at a coup he’s mounting. At this point, his only slender hope is that I’ll be so afraid to die, that I’ll order my men to surrender to him; and that they comply. Ain’t gonna happen.”

    Some of his men wavered.

    “I really don’t like the idea of disarming anyone. However, if you men will surrender your weapons, you’ll be given a choice of signing on fully with us, or leaving. If you choose to leave, we’ll be very generous with the supplies we’ll let you leave with. Either way, you’ll have your weapons back by this time tomorrow night.”

    One by one, Lermontov’s men raised their rifles overhead in surrender. Every convert meant even less justification for the others to hang on. Finally Lermontov raised his hands in defeat.

    “Bring Lermontov up here,” I commanded. “I made you a solemn promise Lermontov. I told you that the next time you threatened me, that I’d kill you. There is one thing that would release me from that vow. If you’ll stand up in front of God and everyone, tell us that you were wrong, and that you’re sorry, I’ll let you live. I’ll even let you stay here, if that is your desire.”

    “I wasn’t wrong. You wait ‘till the Army Gets here. They have over a dozen tanks you Puke. You won’t stand a chance against armor and trained infantry,” Lermontov hissed. Then he spat on the carpet.

    “That may very well be Lermontov. Either way, you won’t be here to see it. Two of you, take good hold of his arms,” I commanded. “Hand me his pistol.”

    I made sure that the pistol was fully loaded. I placed it in Lermontov’s holster still cocked. Then I divested myself of my pistols, laying each on the pulpit as I drew it. Since I had several pistols, it took a few dramatic moments. Finally I stood gunless before Lermontov.

    I drew my Bowie—a custom knife with a thirteen and a half inch blade—razor sharp, with Walrus Ivory for handles. I tested the edge gingerly with my thumb. I let Lermontov have a good long look at it.

    “That’s the knife that I’m going to kill you with. If I were you, as soon as my hands were free, I’d do my best to draw and fire my pistol. At least that way you can die as a Warrior.”

    I sheathed my knife, and took a half-step back.

    “When I nod, I want you to give a slow, even count of three. On three let Lermontov go, and get as far away as you can, as quickly as you can. Don’t do anything to throw off his balance. I don’t need that kind of help. Are you ready to die, Lermontov?”

    He glared insanely at me. I could understand his wanting to take over. What puzzled me was the outright hatred he seemed to have for me. I nodded to my men.

    An instant later, Lermontov’s hands were free. He laid his right hand on his pistol, and extended his left like a traffic Law signaling to stop.

    “Wait! Can’t we talk about this…?”

    He drew his Gun. As he cleared leather—or nylon, in this case—I stepped close to him. I caught his right wrist in my right hand. I slashed across the outside of his right wrist, with the Bowie in my strong left hand. Then I made a vicious backhanded slash to his right forearm, just below the elbow. Then pulling him on past me with an arm drag, I ended up behind him. I thrust the knife through his throat, left to right, well behind the Sterno-Mastoids. Then I brought the edge forward, severing Jugulars and Carotids; Sterno-Mastoids; Trachea and Esophagus all with one cut.

    I didn’t figure that he was much of a threat anymore. Just to be sure that he wouldn’t manage to shoot me somehow, with his last breath, I slashed his right trapezious muscle down to the bone. I made a similar deep cut to his right deltoid. He dropped the Gun somewhere around then, so I thrust deep into his back, around the right kidney: kicked him in the back of his right knee; and let him fall to the ground.

    I turned to face the crowd.

    “That may have seemed cruel ands unnecessary to some of you. Examples have to be set though. The Army is on the way here with armor. Lermontov has jeopardized all of our survival—including the children’s. Now maybe the next fellow will think twice before trying to take over.”

    I gasped for air a few times, and said,” The meeting is cancelled. Go to Red Alert Security status. All security leaders report to the strategy room.”

    We were about to face one of our sternest threats so far.


  8. #8


    ..... Chapter Eight

    Larry trudged grimly along. He wasn’t particularly cold. The Boyz, whatever their other failings, had been quite generous with cold weather gear. He wasn’t too terribly cold, but he was bone weary and hungry. He had food, but he was carefully rationing it—but he felt that he could easily eat all his rations at one time, and still have room for more.

    One of the Boyz had read an article about how the nomads in the Himalayan region dressed. He liked to make clothing, and it had sounded like a plan to him. The Boyz were pretty much all-purpose survivalists, but there was so much talk about Calderas eruptions, that they thought it behooved them to lay in some Artic gear just in case.

    Larry’s coat was sheepskin. It had a hood and it reached to within a few inches of the ground. It was fairly long in the sleeve, and it didn’t have any buttons or closures. Instead it overlapped generously and tied with a long belt—like a Judo Gi. The sheepskin still had the wool on, trimmed to an even four inches thickness and worn on the inside. Larry’s boots were of similar construction. The outside of the coat was elaborately embroidered, and had many Indian beads and porcupine quills sewn on.

    The nomads often wore no more than the coat; boots; and mittens—occasionally adding a silk or cotton shirt if they were well to do. (They stripped the coat down to the waist indoors—either exposing a bare chest, if poor, or a shirt if not.)

    Not being a nomad, Larry was wearing jeans; woolen socks; woolen long johns, T-shirt; sweatshirt and wool sweater. He had a wool sock-hat on his head, and an army cold weather cap over that, covering most of his face. What the cold weather cap didn’t cover, the wool scarf and the tinted skiing goggles did. Larry even wore a pair of ultra-thin goatskin gloves inside his mittens. The mittens came off fairly regularly—they were firmly tied to each sleeve, so losing them would be difficult. About three times out of five, he could accomplish his purpose without taking off the gloves—thus keeping his hands warmer.

    He was almost undoubtedly warmer than one of the high pasture nomads would have been in his place, but he was carrying more bulk and weight of clothing, without even counting the weight of his pack. The nomads had sense enough to ride horses. Larry was challenged just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    The ash had fallen fairly thickly the first few day after the eruption, but then it had snowed rather heavily, covering the ash under two or three feet of snow. Larry didn’t have to contend with ash, and the snow was packed tightly enough that he didn’t need snowshoes either. Nonetheless, the going was hard enough that he mentally allowed himself ten days to travel the thirty some odd miles to Bishop’s Ark.

    Prince padded contentedly beside him. If the dog was cold; or hungry; or tired, he gave no sign of it. Larry carefully checked his feet every night for any sign of undue trauma or frostbite. He knew, in principle, how to make sled dog booties, but was relieved that it wasn’t necessary. (Only used occasionally, when a dog gets sore feet.)

    It never got real bright, but it was starting to dim a bit. Larry found a fairly good-sized tree sticking out of the snow, and decided to camp on the lee side of it. He pitched his tarpaulin and made a reflector for his fire. He thought about making a platform to keep his fire out of the snow, but that approach hadn’t been working too well for him. Instead he picked a relatively shallow patch of snow, and dug down to frozen ash with the Special Forces shovel from his bug-out bag.

    If he hadn’t had matches, he would have been very glad that he knew how to start a fire by primitive methods. But the fact was; he had a generous supply of matches; balls of cotton sodden with Vaseline and a magnesium fire starter. It was too cold to be clowning around. He built the fire as quickly as possible.

    Larry ate a frugal supper. The food he’d boosted from the Boyz cafeteria had fed them the first day. The plain leather bag that Cookie had given him held eight self-contained packets. In each packet was a small squeeze bottle filled with honey, a generous handful of jerky-jerky, and a double handful of parched corn. There was a final packet full of parched corn, for when the first eight day’s worth of rations had been exhausted. There was also a small bottle of aspirin; a small bottle of One-A-Day vitamins and a medium sized bottle of caffeine tablets.

    The two hideouts that Cookie had mentioned were a two-inch Model 60 S&W Chief’s special in .38Special, and curiously, a four-inch barreled S&W Model 64—a J Framed .22LR. The .38 had a set of Eagle ebony Special Agent grips. The .22 had a pair of fancy walnut Special Agent grips. Even more curiously, the .22 was Mag-Na-Ported, but the .38 was not. Larry hadn’t seen a single blessed thing to shoot at. He’d loaded both the revolvers, but left them in the bag.

    The main content’s of the bag Lloyd had given him had been five half-pound bags of peanut M&Ms. It was a good choice for a high calorie emergency food ration—maybe not the very best, but good.

    He’d been saving his concentrated grub for later, when he might need it more. Besides, eating the unconcentrated grub that the Boyz had given him—three times a day—lightened his load more.

    Larry cooked himself a generous supper of Navy Beans; bacon and some bannock he made from his flour. The bacon was sliced rather thickly, and Larry cooked almost a pound of it. The Wolfhound watched him prepare the food with keen interest, but never attempted to snag any.

    The bacon and the bannock were done first. Larry gave Prince half the bacon. He poured a little of the bacon grease into the beans, and mopped the rest up with the bannock. He tried to make sure each of them got an equal share of the life-giving grease.

    While he waited for his beans to get done, he fixed himself some Tang. He fixed it very thick and syrupy. He liked Tang, but he wasn’t drinking it for the taste just then. He craved the calories in the sugar.

    Some dogs are much less picky about what they eat than others. But Larry had only known of a couple of his dogs to eat oranges or grapefruit. He took it as a sign of the big dog’s hunger, that he anxiously lapped up his share of the Tang syrup.

    Larry abruptly decided that while he might die tomorrow, or even later tonight, that right now he and Prince were going to have enough to eat. He started a second, larger batch of bacon and bannock, and added more beans, and a really big slab of fatback to the simmering pot.

    ############ ######################## ###################

    Four of the five teens had donated a pint of blood, by the time Ronnie’s sickness went into remission. Travis had been debating the prudence of tapping a couple of the larger children for a half-pint (unit) of blood each. Thankfully, Ronnie’s recovery had made the decision unnecessary.

    Wonders of wonders, three of the teens were the children of an Assembly of God pastor. He’d fixed his basement up as a sort of youth club. Fortunately the youth club had lots of snacks bought wholesale, and stockpiled. And while the preacher wasn’t a survivalist, he did tend to keep a rather generous pantry, with maybe two or three months supply of the staples.

    Also, very fortunately, the basement club had a wood fireplace, and it was a youth night, the night the eruption occurred. Not so fortunately, the preacher had gone to check on some shut-ins, and had never returned. His wife had never made it back from a pizza run, begun just before things went to hell.

    Food they had in plenty, and blankets, and warm clothing. Firewood had been more of a problem, but they’d gotten by burning wood furniture, at first their own, then later from some of the other houses, until they’d found one deserted house with a coal bin full of coal.

    The preacher’s two teenaged sons and daughter were fairly well trained in the use of firearms. They insisted on going on salvaging operations. They particularly wanted to save their church’s library; their father’s personal library and every public library that they could. They also wanted to check for survivors, especially fellow church members, and salvage what they could before the elements ruined them.

    Travis made sure that they were fully versed in the use of firearms; knives; and hand-to-hand fighting—and that they were convinced of both the propriety and the necessity of caution and self defense; then he armed them and turned them loose. The last account he had, they were going to hit up the hardware store, so they could add more shelves to Ronnie’s library—there was plenty extra room, but a shortage of shelf space.

    They were amazed when Travis told them to check and see if any of the library shelves bore transporting. Some of the older ones were well made of good hardwood, and probably nicer than anything they might build. They hadn’t thought of that.

    Ronnie thrived on all the company, and attention. He spent a lot of time with the children. At first Travis was a bit dubious about Ronnie around children. Finally he’d solemnly warned them about Ronnie’s past—the youngest was seven, quite old enough to understand, then he’d turned them loose.

    The two oversized German Shepards invariably went out with the teen hunting parties, but Badger—Travis had extracted his name from the journal by now, and the Great Dane, who’s name was “Lee-Ann” followed Travis everywhere he went. Ronnie desperately wanted a dog of his own, but while they Lee-Ann and Badger liked Ronnie, they were very plainly Travis’ dogs.

    Travis got a great deal of inspiration from Miranda’s journal. She had a keen insight into the scriptures. He was also amazed at how her prayers for Badger’s welfare had been answered semi-miraculously. He didn’t hanker to go outside much, but he asked the gleaners to check out Miranda’s home for further writings. They found several bound books, as well as beaucoup spiral notebooks filled with Miranda’s thoughts; meditations; and prayers. If there was ever a civilization again, Travis resolved to try to get some of Miranda’s writings published.

    Now Travis had some people coming to his thrice-weekly church meetings. He started to give brief exhortations. Ronnie would have had a hissy fit if he couldn’t have attended; but he hadn’t taken the leap of faith yet. He did enjoy the music and seeing all the people.

    ############ ########################## #################

    Pete had asked Aryan to come eat supper with her and her family. Aryan had been most uncomfortable, but he’d gone. She had an older sister, and two younger brothers still alive, as well as her father—who was still limping from the Grenade Aryan had lobbed at him. Yes, it started out very inauspiciously.

    “So, you’re the man who killed my brother,” Pete’s fifteen year old brother Thomas asked Aryan.

    Aryan started to lower his eyes, and thought better of it. He looked the young man in the eye, and said,

    “Yes, I did. I wish that I hadn’t, but I can’t take it back. That’s the nature of such things.”

    “It was well executed, and bravely done,” Pete’s father said. “Your friends were all fleeing; but you and your buddy covered their retreat. It’s just a pity that me and Robin were on the receiving end of your strategic retreat.”

    “If there’s ever a way, I’ll try to…”

    “There’s no way that you can pay it back. What would be fair compensation for a son? You can’t make it right. You stand precisely in the same relationship to us, as we all stand toward God. We—every one of us, is responsible for the crucifixion of God’s only son. He’s forgiven us. We forgive you. God will forgive you too, once you ask him.”

    “Aryan did look down and mumble then.

    “Let’s eat!” The old man said enthusiastically. “That ought to put a better complexion on everything.”

    Aryan was a bit surprised that his dinner beverage was a six-ounce glassful of Bourbon.

    “All of us ain’t tee-totalers,” The old man chuckled.

    Before they were half done with their supper, someone knocked to tell them that Bishop’s Ark was facing eminent attack.

    “Could aid be sent to them,” Aryan asked.

    Pete’s father, who’s nine was Walter, gave a brief shake of his head.

    “It’ll be over before any real help could arrive. Anyway, they have three times our manpower. Any aid that we could afford to give them would be largely inconsequential. If they take out Bishop’s Ark, not only will we all suffer materially, but we’ll all be vulnerable as well.”

    Aryan placed his hand on the old man’s shoulder.

    “Baptist Town asked me to be one of them, after I came to despoil them. I am one of y’all now. I’ll protect this place with my life.”

    The old man clasped Aryan’s hand.

    “I know that son. That’s why you’re welcome at my table. Whatever your other faults, you are loyal.”

    Pete’s two brothers also clasped hands together, as they made a silent Warriors pact. Finally, Pete broke the silence.

    “Since we can’t give Bishop’s Ark any worldly aid, let us join together in prayer for them.”

    ############### ################# #######################

    The remainders of the guardsmen were all firmly on my side now. They could see our survival machine taking them safely into the future. They couldn’t see the hodgepodge army that had been raised in response to Lermontov’s radio ravings, accomplishing anything but ruination of us all.

    I hadn’t committed the Bradleys to the defense of the compound so long as they were under the control of Lermontov. I hadn’t trusted him. Now that they were under my direct command, I planned on using them to the fullest.

    “Get out three backhoes. Enfilade the Bradleys here, here, and here.”

    I got blank stares from the Guard Sergeants as well as my personal Lieutenants. I grabbed a piece of chalk. I quickly sketched an enfiladed tank—not that a Bradley is a tank, but it’s a turreted vehicle, so the principle was similar. Basically, you bury most of it, to make it a harder target.

    “Do those vehicles have TOW missiles? Are they operational?”

    “So far as I know, yes,” A Master Sergeant told me. “Get on it. Lermontov claimed a dozen tanks. My scouts say that they’re down to nine, and they’re running very roughly. Those TOWs could reduce that number considerably, right at the beginning. Those twenty-five millimeter chain guns are really light to attack tanks, but they should be good anti-personnel weapons. Worse comes to worse, and the tanks are advancing, I don’t reckon that being hosed with twenty-five millimeter fire will do them any good. Got LAW Rockets?”

    “A few.”

    “Get them in position to do some good.”

    “They’re not very effective against modern armor.”

    “Well, they’re bound to be more effective than the next-best thing—otherwise it wouldn’t be next-best. Besides, I don’t know that we’re facing top-of-the-line armor. Maybe at least some of it is old obsolescent crap they palmed off on the Guard, or the Reserves. One might hope.”

    I called Minister Matthew close.

    “Go check on each Dragon’s Lair emplacement personally. Call if there’s the slightest problem. Otherwise, come back here and report to me personally. Take what time you need, but try to get back here as soon as you can.”

    Yes, yes, we’d harnessed the power of the Dragon. I just hoped that it would perform as well as advertised. It should be a nasty surprise for Lermontov’s Raiders.


  9. #9


    ..... Chapter Nine

    Larry woke feeling strong and rested for the first time since he’d started his journey. He credited the extra rations that he’d consumed the night before. Nonetheless, he was loath to climb out of his warm bed, into the artic cold.

    He shook Prince gently, to get him out of the bed. The big dog not only wanted to sleep with Larry. He wanted to get beneath the covers with him. His body heat contributed more than a little to the comfort of the bed.

    Larry had two wool blankets and a ground cloth in his bug-out bag. The blanket bedroll that Lloyd had given him had contained another wool blanket and a nine-by-ten foot Tarpaulin, lined with reflective aluminum on one side. There were also two three-sectioned poles. The cloth and the poles made a handy tent—open to the fire in the front, and the metallic lining reflecting the fire’s heat back at him.

    Also curiously, the bedroll had a couple ordinary cotton sheets. Larry couldn’t see much purpose to them; since they had such a tiny insulating ability compared to a wool blanket. Nonetheless, as cold as it was Larry used the sheets too—one beneath, and one beneath. They probably didn’t help much. They sure weren’t hurting anything though.

    He decided on a hearty breakfast. He made oats, stirring in plenty of powdered milk when it was done, to make it richer. Then he added plenty of sugar and a dash of cinnamon. The spice was from his bag. It added nothing to the nutritional content of the oats, but a half-pound of carefully selected spices could add much to a survivor’s dining pleasure for months.

    Prince eagerly ate his half of the oats off a large piece off bark Larry had poured it onto. He smiled thinking of how his father used to let his Bulldog take a lick off his ice cream cone, and how his mother would feed one of the dogs a bite off her fork or spoon, and then continue eating with that same piece of silverware. Larry didn’t mind sharing his bed with the big dog, or whacking fair, and splitting all the grub fifty-fifty. He drew the line at eating after the Wolfhound though.

    With the oats out of the way, he started to fry some bacon, and make coffee. He split the bacon with Prince. He doubted that the big dog would drink coffee. At any rate, dogs didn’t metabolize Caffeine very well. Larry had some instant hot cocoa envelopes. He poured one into his canteen cup, along with plenty sugar, and then filled the cup with hot coffee.

    He wasn’t much of a coffee drinker ordinarily, but on this hike both the warmth and the caffeine were welcome. Caffeine for now, he thought, the Theobromine in the cocoa—which would metabolize to Caffeine in his body—for later, he told himself.

    There was enough coffee in the pot to fill the cup again, with a little left over. He drank the second cup with sugar, but no cocoa. After a moment’s hesitation, he popped a couple caffeine tablets along with the multi-vitamin and the four aspirin that he’d already decided to take. Gonna ching, might as well ching big-time, he thought—as much as anyone could ching without real speed.

    He got out one of the half-pound sacks of M&Ms. He put it in a pocket where he could reach it fairly easily. He was satiated at the moment. When he started to feel hungry, he’d eat the Peanut M&Ms a few at a time. He had five bags of the candy.

    That meant that he could continue the practice for five days—and lighten his load an additional half-pound per day. If he wasn’t within a day or two’s march of Bishop’s Ark by the time the M&Ms were gone, he’d be hurtin’ for certain anyway. He’d still have a few days worth of regular food left by then. He’d also have Cookie’s iron rations untouched.

    Larry felt bad that he couldn’t share the M&Ms with his companion. The Theobromine in chocolate or cocoa was fairly toxic to dogs. Given the big dog’s size, he could probably eat one of the half-pound sacks of M&Ms by himself, without getting sick. On the other hand, taking the big dog to the vet if Larry turned out to be wrong about his tolerance might prove an interesting challenge. Larry strongly preferred boredom to challenge at this juncture in his life. He’d give Prince some extra bacon and bannock at supper.

    ############ ########################## #################

    I sat deep within the bunker, watching the attack force arrive on closed circuit TV. I was connected to the front by radio, field telephone and an ample supply of runners. I’d have liked to be on the front line along with my people, but however bold and picturesque that might sound, it wasn’t sound strategy. Modest as I tried to be, I knew that the Confederacy could ill afford to lose me. Besides, while in bygone days it may have been necessary for commanders to make decisions with cannon balls whizzing by every which way; it was not necessary now. And it did not contribute to serene calculated decisions—though nothing about this whole situation was conducive to calm emotionless reason.

    First, I really needed to set one of my hooks. If I knew for a fact that the opposing commander was sane and competent, I wouldn’t have to point this out to him. On the other hand, there was no guarantee of that. I didn’t intend to suffer for his stupidity.

    They stopped a good half-mile away, and sent an envoy to negotiate. The Big Cheese didn’t come, but he sent a couple of his trusted subordinates, along with several aides and secretaries with no obvious function.

    I wanted them to go back and tell their boss, and his profilers; astrologers; augurs and strategy makers that I was burnt; psycho; space cadet deviant ranger material. I’d had a room prepared especially for that purpose, and I dressed up a bit for the part too.

    The décor of the faux ready-room was neo-hippy. The walls had psychedelic murals. The only lighting, beyond a few UV lights, was red bulbs. There were also several stands of red Christmas tree bulbs. There were lots of mirrors, and we had odd abstract stainless steel mobiles hanging from the ceiling.

    The only furniture was beanbag chairs, low coffee tables, and beaucoup pillows of all sizes and descriptions. There was background music—some of the oddest stuff that I could find. The band composed of about equal numbers of Appalachian hillbillies and East Indian immigrants, trying to fuse bluegrass and traditional Indian sitar music—without any particular success, I might add—though that’s my opinion.

    My aides lead the Colonel, the Lt Colonel and their entourage to a rather large round table, with a burning hookah in the center. There were beanbags and pillows circling the table. There was a big mirrored disco ball hanging directly over the table, and over a dozen red laser pointers from various positions targeted it.

    Once the military dudes were seated, I made my entrance. I was dressed I black, as always. I had a black turtle neck and mirror shades. I had a double shoulder rig, with a highly polished, four inch, stag-handled Ruger Redhawk .44Magnum in each holster. I had my six-inch custom 1911A1 longslides on either hip. I had my long custom Bowie riding cutting edge up, on my right side—above the right-side .45. I had it positioned for a Samurai-style quick draw—left-handed.

    A nickeled 20Gauge Roadwarrior rode low on my right thigh. I’d tucked my pants into my black cowboy boots, and I had a Cold Steel Natchez Bowie ostentatiously tucked into the inside of each boot. Almost forgot—I had a Wakazashi sticking up over my right shoulder. I carried a Bull’s penis swagger stick.

    I walked up to the seated dudes, climbing to their feet, and offered my hand as they rose to greet me. I shook hands with the old-fashioned thumb-grasping “Soul Shake” from the sixties.

    “It is like: really man…be for real!” I said in my best nasal hippy accent.

    I sat. I didn’t expect an assassination attempt—and even if there were, each one of them was in the cross-hairs of at least three hidden expert marksmen, armed with pistol caliber suppressed bolt action rifles—every moment. The weapons were props.

    “It is like: heavy; solid. It partakes of reality and is not hindered from its appointed rounds—or squares…or ovals…”

    I paused momentarily, and then jumped slightly as if something had jarred me back to the present moment.

    “What can I do for you fine gentlemen?” I asked.

    “Martial law has been declared. You can stand down and surrender this facility to the proper authorities,” The Colonel said.

    “And you are like…? I must have missed introductions. By the way, I done been Elder Hawkins—Trueblood Hawkins. My daddy had a sense of humor. Around here, I done been The Dude What Dood.”

    “The Dude What Dood—what in hell does that mean? The Colonel asked irritably.

    “’Dood’ encompasses all possible meanings of the verb ‘to do’ simultaneously: do; did; done, will do; should do, didn’t do, could never do—all at one time.” I said in a David Attenburough PBS narrorator type voice. I switched back to a burnout voice. “Gotta be a BAD dude to dood, but I is. And you are, little Miss Sunshine?”

    “I’m Colonel Benson. I represent Brigadier General Malcolm Hillary and the full power and authority of the US Government. I’m ordering you to surrender. We have twelve tanks and over three thousand men. You don’t stand a chance.”

    I slowly drew my Wakazashi, and balanced it on my head. Then I removed my mirror shades, turned them upside down, and put them back on. The bridge balanced precariously on my nose. Then I carefully resheathed the short sword. Shortly afterward, the shades tumbled off my face. I caught them, and put them back on correctly.

    “Dagnabbit! I never can get them to stay on that way. Do you juggle, Major Benson?”

    “That’s ‘Colonel Benson’ you moron! Stick to the topic at hand!” He shouted.

    “That you’re rude, and that you’re a ****-poor juggler? Nah, I think we done exhausted that topic. Oh yes, I wanted to point out that while you may have started this ill-conceived adventure with a dozen tanks, you’re down to eight at the moment—and they’re running awfully roughly.

    “You may have three thousand warm bodies—or in this case, chilled and almost universally frostbitten bodies. At least half of them are unarmed, and no better than refugees. They’re tagging along out of hopes that you’ll feed them.

    “You might have six-hundred trained soldiers. Even they haven’t had a good night’s rest, or enough to eat for the last few weeks. And you’ve marched them here in twenty and thirty below zero.

    “The rest of your ‘Army’ is an untrained mob with a hodge-podge of weapons. I’d imagine that anyone among them with a hundred rounds of ammunition, or more, is a very rare exception. Hell, most of their rifles are probably frosted shut in this temperature.

    “Do yourselves a favor. Go back where you came from, while you still have some rations and some transport to ease you way.”

    “These people are dying!”

    “They’re already dead,” I said sadly. “Even if I gave you everything that we had, you’re people would be starving again in a few months—those that hadn’t died of exposure beforehand.

    “The difference is that then all of us would die too—along with one of mankind’s best hope for survival.”

    Now came the golden moment: the idea that I wished to plant in his mind, over all others. He needed to carry this idea back to General Hillary. Still, I wasn’t sure that anyone who’d mount such a cluster-bump of an invasion would be able to understand sound strategy. It was like telling Kentuckian jokes to native Kentuckians. You have to go slow and explain occasionally.

    “I don’t think your men will charge my emplacements. If you decide to hang back, and shell us with your tank and mortar rounds, you’ll make such a hash of the compound, that it won’t be worth diddly-squat to you, us, or anyone else.”

    “Did it occur to you that we could shell your emplacements while sparing the buildings? Once we take out your defensive perimeter and your strong points, it should be easy enough to force our way into your compound with minimal damage.”

    I had a ranting screaming hissy fit. I picked up the hookah and flung it across the room. I kicked the table over. I screamed out a long stream of magic gunsmith words that ill become a Holy Man—though I was most careful not to take the God Lord’s name in vain. Then I snatched a .44 caliber Redhawk, and fired three rounds into the ceiling.

    I had carefully rehearsed the scene in my mind. My ears are very sensitive to loud noises. I very rarely shoot without the double protection of plugs and muffs. I had plugs in my ears, hidden by my long hair. Nonetheless, a .44Magnum in an enclosed space like that was very loud.

    My natural reaction was to grab my ears anyway. I let the revolver drop on to a cushion. I fell to the floor, holding my ears, thrashing around like a beached dolphin, and screaming; whining and crying. Early on, I shrieked for to get the envoy out.

    I thrashed around for a moment after the door closed behind them, and then let out a very loud string of curses.

    “Are they good and gone?” I asked Minister Sean.

    “Yeah, what exactly was the purpose of that?” He asked.

    “I want them to underestimate me. More importantly, I want them to realize that destroying our infrastructure benefits no one. It won’t be much of a prize for the victor—which I fully intend to be us—if half our buildings and facilities get ruined in the process,” I explained.

    ################# ####################### ##############

    They attacked at dawn the next day. Our TOW Missiles took out three tanks right at the beginning. One of our LAW squads managed to take out another within the first few minutes.

    They shelled us for a few moments with mortar fire, while the troops hosed us with rifle and machinegun fire. We were dug in, so our casualties were rather light.

    Then they charged. I had at least three hundred men with Enfields, who’d been diligently studying the principles of marksmanship since the age of nine or ten. At least half the riflemen who were left, were better shots than the average soldier.

    I had fifty two-man sniper teams in the field with seven-millimeter magnum rifles, and high-powered scopes. I also had a dozen three-man .50 BMG teams in the field. They shot the hell out of the opposing forces trucks; fuel carriers, and mortar and machinegun teams. Some of the snipers were hunting officers too—very bad for command morale.

    The three Bradleys fired short five or six round bursts at the highest concentration of enemy skirmishers. Our Guardsmen also had a few mortars and machineguns. They held back until the human wave was close, and then cut loose.

    The attack broke, and they made a ragged, disordered retreat. They pulled all their people back, and stated shelling the beejeebers out of our line—especially the strong points. I hated to loose every single man and woman who died; but even though we wanted them to force us back, we had to make it appear genuine. Finally I gave the order to fall back.

    There were minor strong-points around each entrance to the tunnels, as a sort of ‘better-than-nothing’ second line of defense. They weren’t really adequate though. There were too many entrances and no good way to really protect them—at least not for very long.

    The enemy sent their four remaining tanks in, using them as both battering rams and as mobile machinegun nests. Their infantry supported the tanks. At long last, our Bradleys and our fifty caliber teams started aiming their fire at the tanks. It wasn’t having much visible effect. Once they were fully committed, I gave the signal to unleash the dragons.

    Flamethrowers aren’t that hard to make. Ragnar Benson once wrote an excellent book about how to build three different sizes of flamethrower: personal sized—and he conceded that one was more than a bit dangerous to the operator; Vehicular-mounted sized and the full-sized one for defending fixed emplacements. He called his flamethrowers “Dragons”.

    Any of them had the potential to take out a tank. The big ones could throw a stream of napalm over six hundred yards. Ours were tested out to a quarter mile. The tanks were less than half that distance, when we opened fire.

    First we took out the armor. Then we turned the flames on the infantry. I’ve never had a weak stomach, and the idea of killing a fellow man when necessary, has never unduly bothered me. But watching the fiery inferno—a ringside peek into hell—and then smelling the burning flesh a bit later, as it thoroughly saturated the air everywhere in the compound…

    Well, I was down on my knees throwing up into the toilet, and praying that God would understand.

    Judging by the tracks in the snow, perhaps four hundred people lived to flee. We could afford to absorb that many, particularly in view of our casualties—though they had been very light, comparatively speaking.

    I gave the order to track down the survivors, and bring them in. Most of them had frozen to death, or died from their wounds, or other causes by the time we found them. We saved sixty-three.

    It had been grim, but necessary. That would be our only encounter with starving hordes. Other crisis would threaten our survival in the future, but the possibility of large scaled battles was remote—at least for a couple of generations, at least.


  10. #10


    ..... Chapter Ten

    Things had changed around Ronnie’s compound. Joshua and Esau, the deceased Pastor’s teenaged sons, and his daughter Tabitha had found a half-dozen families shivering and half frozen. Over half of them were survivalists of one sort or the other. That was why they’d survived as long as they had. While most of them wouldn’t have been able to survive long term; nonetheless they brought some good gear and useful skills to Ronnie’s Retreat.

    Travis now had a congregation of over thirty people when he had church. Some of his congregation were gifted musicians and singers. Curiously, the very best voice for gospel singing belonged to a big—six-eight—biker dude named Nick, who had tattoos covering most of his body.

    All of Travis’ congregation were saved and Baptized in the Holy Ghost, with the exception of Ronnie. That would have seemed a massive coincidence—if Travis had believed in coincidence. Travis saw the hand of God in it.

    Then one night Ronnie came forward to be saved. Lo and behold, the little man received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost the same night that he was saved. He fell out of his wheelchair and went rolling across the floor, speaking in other tongue. Now Travis wouldn’t have to worry about the little man going to hell, if he had another crisis.

    A few days later Nick brought Ronnie a six-week old Bullmastiff puppy. The little fellow took to Ronnie right away; thus fulfilling his wish to have a dog of his own. That was also the beginning of a deep friendship between Ronnie; Nick and Nick’s wife Helen—who was black.

    Ronnie had a plan. He discussed it with Nick, and Nick became an enthusiastic coconspirator—not that either tried to keep things the least bit secret.

    Nick stated spending a lot of salvaging time hauling in big touring bikes of all makes and models; as well as small engines; trucks; auto supplies and the makings of a few stills. Ronnie spent lots of time reading his Bible; and studying his religious tapes and videos—especially those by Jed Smock.

    One day the weather would break. His people were well blessed with dogs; cats; chickens and rabbits. Nonetheless, he planned to trade for some larger livestock when possible. That would entail travel. Ronnie’s plans didn’t stop there though. He’d determined that once travel became possible again; that he was going to hit the Revival trail.

    After all, Ronnie reasoned, if God could save a worthless pervert like himself, he could save anyone. He felt that many folks, who thought their sins too great to allow redemption, could draw encouragement from his example.

    He had vehicles and gasoline. When the gas was gone, he could run his caravan on alcohol. He figured he’d establish a yearly circuit—and if he could set up some worthwhile trades along the way, or if some merchants wanted to travel along with him, for their mutual support and protection, that would be all to the good too. Such things should help speed the recovery.

    ################# ################ ######################

    We had a meeting of Elders; Ministers and Missionaries. Elder Bates took the floor. I figured that he was going to raise hell about the Boyz again, or some other niggling thing. I found however that he had his eyes on bigger game this time around.

    “I want to know precisely who put you in charge, and why you give the rest of us orders? Who died and left you in charge? You’re no better than any other Elder. I say that we should elect a leader,” Elder Bates said.

    The situation was bound to occur sooner or later. I was tempted to simply put a bullet into Elder Bate’s cranium and end the problem right then and there. But an evil desire suppressed, gains strength and allies, and devours the minds on which it feeds. Better to let all this come to a big head—then lance it deep, and clean out all the corruption at one time.

    “Elder Bates. This is not a democracy. This compound is the private property of Bishop Pruitt and a board of partners—Bishop being legally entitled to run the place at his sole discretion for life. Bishop appointed me as his sole manager, leaving most of the day-to-day decisions to my discretion.

    “Now if you want to talk about some of the small farm refuges surrounding us—I own one of them myself. I could be running it more effectively right now, if I weren’t always tied up here. Bishop owns three of them outright, and is a partial owner of a few more. The ownership is varied. Whether they are bound to follow my suggestions would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

    He switched topics, from the authority for my leadership, to my performance.

    “You killed Major Lermontov right on the pulpit. Does that strike you as a Christian thing to do?”

    “Understand, I am the ruler here: President; Czar; Prince; Field-Marshal And High Potentate. I have the authority to impose the death sentence at my discretion—and how I choose to implement it is my business. Lermontov was guilty of high treason and sabotage. Everyone who died in the battle was a result of his kibitzing. And he had been warned—and was even offered a pardon.”

    “You fried all those people alive. You didn’t warn them that you had giant flamethrowers,” He railed at me.

    “If I hadn’t fried those people, we wouldn’t be here debating it right now. Revealing our strategy would have decreased its effectiveness drastically—as you’d know, if you had the brains of a Jay Bird.”

    “Well then, if you’d already decided to fry them, why wait until they’d killed so many of our people first?”

    “Talk on! The more you speak, the more you display your abysmal ignorance. They wouldn’t have been so willing to rush in, if our defense hadn’t seemed sincere.”

    He tried to shout me down. I lay my hand on my Bowie handle, and barked,

    “Shut up! This meeting is adjourned. We’ll meet again tomorrow at this time. Bishop will be here, and we’ll settle this matter once and for all.”

    Elder Bates started to speak. I drew my Bowie a hand’s breath out of my sheath, and gave him the dirtiest look that I knew how. He reconsidered, and held his peace.

    ############ ######################### ##################

    Larry started covering far more ground per day. Partly it was because he’d become somewhat accustomed to the trails demands. Mostly it was because he’d started consuming enough food to tip the balance between catabolism and anabolism. He thought he’d be at the compound by midway through the day after tomorrow.

    He was thinking how good it would be to get to the compound when he should have been watching his trail. He stepped into a small camp with three men clustered miserably around a small fire. They wore Army clothes, and all of them had singed clothing and minor burns.

    The fellow in the center stood up smoothly and pointed an Army Berretta at Larry. Larry could see that half his face was covered in large blisters.

    “I am Lieutenant Brodie. I am confiscating any food or other supplies that you have, in the name of the United States Government. Consider yourself impressed into military service,” The man said hoarsely.

    Larry had his .30-30 takedown taken down, and stored in his pack. The rifle probably wouldn’t have been in firing shape, if it had been exposed to the Artic cold. Larry had every confidence that the K Frame .357 in the shoulder holster, inside his greatcoat would fire; but reaching it inside the bound coat would be a two-step operation.

    He studied his situation critically for several heartbeats. One of the soldiers had an M-16 at port arms. The other seemed to be armed only with a long Bayonet in his right hand. Surely that wasn’t an army issue bayonet, Larry thought. Well what the hell? He wasn’t going to turn the man in to a superior officer.

    He had spent some thought into what he’d do, if he encountered this situation. He raised his mittened hands slowly overhead. He grasped the .45 caliber Star PD that he’d created a holster for—inside the elbow high left mitten. He grasped the tip of the left mitten in his right mittened hand, and tugged.

    He fired one-handed as the sights lined up on Lieutenant Brodie’s torso: BAM! ; BAM! ; BAM! He made a quick headshot to the lunging knife man and wheeled to target the soldier with the rifle. The man hadn’t even got it to his shoulder yet. Larry treated him to a three-shot burst to the sternum.

    While Brodie and the knife yielder had both dropped abruptly upon being shot, the rifleman stayed on his feet for a good long while, though he’d dropped his rifle; and he seemed oblivious to everything around him.

    Larry watched the three dubiously. Any one of them might turn out to be a continuing threat, and he only had one round left in the Star. He covered them all while he dropped the empty magazine; shook the mitten off his right hand and fished a spare magazine of his right side—inside the coat.

    With the Star in his left hand fully loaded once more, he saw no need to waste ammo. He dropped his pack and managed to extract his Special Forces shovel while covering the men. He walked around and hit each man in the head with the shovel; making sure that the cranium was penetrated in each instance.

    A shot rang out, and a bullet passed by Larry so close that he could feel the breeze from the near miss. He dropped prone, and then he heard growling and some heartfelt screams. He ran over to find Prince busily savaging a man who was wearing a ghillie suit. There was already blood all over the snow.

    Prince had the man’s right forearm. Larry stepped close. One modest swat from the Special Forces shovel put the man down for the count. The second swat made sure that he never woke.

    Larry examined the man’s gear with interest. The ghillie suit was a very good example of the homemade variety. His rifle was one of the set-triggered SSGs that he’d never been able to afford. It had a big variable powered scope that adjusted up to eighteen power. It was mounted on quick detachable mountings. Inside the man’s pack were a spare optical scope identical to the first; and a low-light scope. It looked like a Starlight scope.

    The fellow looked to young to be toting the thirty year old gear. He was little ore than a teen. To further Larry’s puzzlement, the man had a Colt New Frontier single action with five and one half inch barrel, and a six inch Colt Python. He had a special belt that carried over a dozen Safariland speed loaders for the Python. Larry shrugged. He’d have swapped them off even for half as many HKS loaders. Either way, he couldn’t see any use for so many loaders.

    The dude had been stalking either Larry or the soldiers. He could have backtracked to find out for sure; but it seemed immaterial to Larry. The dude shouldn’t have missed at fifty yards—although it wasn’t beyond imagining some complete chucklehead going afield with top-notch gear. The second possibility was that Prince had spoiled the man’s aim at just the right moment.

    Unlike the soldiers, the sniper had a fair amount of grub in his pack—mostly MREs. Feeling grateful, Larry whacked more than fair with the big dog, giving him about two-thirds of the rations as a special treat. The Colt’s And the SSG were too valuable to abandon—especially this close to the goal; but Larry managed to cache the M-16; Berretta; bayonet and a few other things, so he could pick them up later, should he ever feel the need.

    ############### ######################## ###############

    Bishop Pruitt stood behind the podium and addressed not only the Elders and Ministers, but also everyone in the compound.

    If I live to see another birthday—and I very well might, God willing—I’ll be one hundred years old. That’s too old to be babysitting y’all. I am retiring as Bishop. The congregation will have to elect a new Bishop. Any ordained Elder is eligible. We’ll have to work out some sort of absentee ballot system for church members in the satellite communities.

    “I want to throw my support to Elder Hawkins. I think he is the only reasonable choice for Bishop. If you elect Elder Hawkins as your Bishop, it will make things very simple. If not, I am not giving up ownership of “Bishop’s Ark”. The new Bishop can move his headquarters somewhere else, as soon as the weather allows for it. Whatever your choice for Bishop; Elder Trueblood is still my camp director. That is all for now.”

    I was absolutely amazed. Of course I’d daydreamed about being Bishop one day—who hasn’t. I never truly thought that it might happen. Even if I wasn’t elected, at least I’d been close once. I had to use a lot of will power not to pray for the victory, but only for God’s will to be done.

    ############# ######################### #################

    “Did you hear the news? They’re going to elect a new Bishop! Oh how I hope they elect Elder Hawkins. We have to go to Elder Perkins’ meeting tonight!” Pete gasped breathlessly to Aryan.

    “Slow down. Why do we need to go to Elder Perkins’ meeting?” Aryan asked.

    “Elder Perkins is an ordained Elder in the Church of God in Christ. He can offer us the right hand of fellowship—then we’ll be eligible to vote in the election.”

    “The Baptists aren’t going to vote,” Aryan asked in some confusion.

    “Why would Baptist vote on a Pentecostal Bishop?” Pete asked him in exasperation.

    “Anyway, I can’t join the church. I’m not even a Christian,” Aryan reminded her.

    “Aryan, if you’d get saved and join the church, I’d marry you—if you proposed to me,” Pete said in a rush.

    “And what makes you think that I have any desire to marry in general, or to you in particular.”

    While the idea of marrying Pete had—quite frankly—never so much as occurred to Aryan, he saw that his flippant answer had hurt her. He put his arm around her shoulder.

    “I’ll take it under advisement,” he temporized.


  11. #11


    ..... Chapter Eleven

    Before Larry even came within sight of the compound, he saw a veritable junkyard of burnt out shells of vehicles. There was a fairly large number of men working diligently to clear the debris. Larry lifted his right hand in greeting. He walked up to the closest group of laborers.

    “I’m Tony,” a young black man with a big smile, told Larry. He seemed genuinely cheerful. “I take it that you’re here to join the Ark?”

    “Yeah. A strange group that calls themselves ‘The Boyz’ put me up the first few weeks. We couldn’t see eye-to-eye, so they pointed me towards y’all. They told me that you had a place for me.”

    “Well, right now we’re excepting just about anyone who walks in—with or without the Boyz recommendation. Just walk over to that sentry post over there,” Tony pointed, while tilting his head, and sighting down his extended arm, as though his index finger was a weapon that he was aiming.

    “They’ll take care of you. Just tell them you’re seeking political asylum.”

    Seeing the confused look on Larry’s face, Tony explained.

    “It’s an ongoing joke that we never get tired of. Don’t fret. They won’t even ask you to surrender your weapons. That is a big dog.”

    “His name is ‘Prince’. He goes where I go,” Larry said, with just a touch of challenge in his voice.

    “That’s cool, dude. You get inside, and you’ll see a bunch of big dogs; and some little dogs—medium sized dogs too.”

    The guards at the gate ushered Larry and Prince through immediately. A trio of guards escorted them to a small cafeteria that doubled as a reception center.

    “Do you have any wounds; frostbite or other physical problems that need immediate attention?” A nice young woman asked him. “ That’s good. You can leave your gear here. No one will take it. Go through the line, and get you something to eat. Grab one of the soup bowls, so you can water your dog.”

    Larry dropped his pack. He took off his sheepskin greatcoat and mittens and headgear, and laid them to one side as well. He hesitated to lay down the Steyr-Manlicher SSG. He was afraid the rifle might prove too much of a temptation for someone. His pack was quite literally weighted down with guns; but they were out of sight.

    Larry had his five-inch K Frame .357 in a shoulder holster. The companion five-inch N Frame Smith and Wesson rode in a custom holster on his right hip. His four-inch Smith .44Magnum was in a cross-draw position, on his left hip. He had a nine-inch Western Bowie in a custom left-hand speed holster, worn behind and hanging below the Model 29 .44. His rifle was slung muzzle-down, on his left shoulder.

    And no one looked twice at him! In fact, many of the staff seemed to carry medium-sized machine pistols of an indeterminate make, slung in a variety of ways, or simply carried casually in one hand. Multiple handgun carry seemed to be the norm, rather than the exception.

    After he and Prince had eaten until they were completely satisfied—and were whole-heartedly urged to take enough sandwiches for a snake later on, they were taken to the processing room.

    “We’ll need to do a brief interview—find out what useful skills you might have; assign you a bunk; get you issued some clothing if you need it—that kinda thing,” the smiling young lady told him before she left.

    Larry looked around. He saw an oddly matched couple sitting together and conversing quietly. The girl was black. She was young and pretty, though she was muscled a bit like a female bodybuilder. The man was white. He looked big and tough. He also had ‘SS’ lightning bolts tattooed on his neck. Larry could also see a swastika; a skull and a spider web tattooed on his hands.

    “I’m Pete. This is my boyfriend Aryan. Don’t let the tattoos bother you. He used to be a white supremacist. We came from Baptist Town, to join Bishop’s Ark. Are you a Christian? If you are, you need to join the church ASAP, so you can vote in the election. Where do you come from?” Pete said in one long burst.

    “Yes, I’m a Christian. I don’t know anything about an election. I came from a bizzarro place they call ‘Boyz Town’. Hell of a place. Not a woman in sight—then you find out that none of the Boyz has any use for a Grl…”

    “You’re Larry aren’t you? We’ve all been praying that you’d make it here safely. The Boyz are reprobates!” Pete exploded.

    “Well, to give credit where it’s due—they did nurse me back to health from a gunshot wound. They were quite generous with food and cold weather gear, and they did call ahead, to reserve me a place here. That seems an unnecessary formality though.”


    “He doesn’t mean that kind of friend,” Aryan interjected. “If he did, he’d still be at the Boyz compound, being friendly.”

    A six-foot tall black woman in a long dress walked up to them. She was on the stout side, but fit. She was built somewhat like Queen Latifa. She also carried a machine pistol nonchalantly, and had one stag handled K Frame Smith on her right hip, and another in a shoulder holster.

    “I’m Missionary Debra. I need to make a note of any essential skills y’all might have, as well as any special needs, or problems. We should have another volunteer here for the interview…”

    Just then the door opened up, and the woman from the cafeteria escorted in a skinny middle-aged white man, in—of all things—a long white lab coat. The man’s snow-white hair stood upon end, as though he’s stuck his finger into a hot light socket. He seemed to quiver with barely suppressed nervous energy. Larry thought that the man looked like he might take flight like the cartoon Koko Puffs bird any moment.

    “Now that everyone is here, we can begin. Any problems?”

    No one spoke. After a moment’s pause, she continued.

    “What skills do y’all have?”

    “I was about to finish my third year in college, studying Mechanical
    Engineering,” Pete said.

    “You were a junior in college at age seventeen?” Aryan said.

    “I graduated early,” Pete explained.

    “Well, I’m a certified mechanic. I also know diesel and small engines. I’m an A-1 welder. I’ve also done some carpentry and painting,” Aryan said.

    “I’m an apprentice Tool and Die Maker,” Larry said.

    “You’re a bit old to be an apprentice,” Missionary Debra noted, without sounding skeptical.

    “Tell me about it, “ Larry said. “I really wanted to get into the field badly. Have you heard about the Gingery Machines?”

    “You’d be surprised what all I’ve heard of; but yes, I have heard of them. Read the books, actually,” Missionary Debra told him.

    “Well I’ve made improved copies of every one of the Gingery machines: foundry; Lathe; Shaper; Mill; dividing head; Drill Press… I used that, and a lot of string pulling by my cousin, to land a position as an apprentice. I’d have been a journeyman in a few more weeks.”

    “I take it that y’all like Guns?” Missionary Debra asked.

    All three of them nodded their enthusiastic approval. Missionary Debra removed the magazine from her Holmes Machine Pistol. The weapon fired from an open bolt, so she didn’t have to clear the chamber. She let each of the three examine it.

    “We make these here,” She said. “Along with some other weapons. How would you like to work in our armory?”

    All three readily agreed to that idea.

    “Three down, one to go,” Missionary Debra said. “What can you do, Mister…”

    The man rose to his feet. He spread his legs fairly widely. As he spoke, he would alternately shift his weight from one leg to the other, in sideways lunges reminiscent of the Japanese deep knee bends that Judokas often did. He spoke in a staccato rhythm, as if he were rapping. The beat that he measured with his voice and his flailing arms, however, had no obvious connection to his side lunges.

    “I am Doc-tor, Doc—tor … BING-BIIINGGG!”

    Both his volume and tempo went way up when he shouted “ Bing-Bing.” Larry assumed that was the old cracked-pots name. However, it soon became evident that the sound effect was not his name, but an uncontrollable ejaculation that the man had frequently when he tried to speak.

    “I am Doctor BING- BINGGGGG! I am Duhh…BEAING-BING!!! I’m a Professor. Doctor of Chemistry—BING-BING! Professor BING-BIIINGGG!

    “I can synthesize almost anything that you might need. BING-BING!

    “Drugs: Sulfa; Amphetamine; Hydrocodone: Explosives; Plastics…

    “I mean like: I aim a chemical impresario. Carry all the formulas in my head. BING-BING.”

    All the while the bizarre man talked, he moved his hands all around like an actor in a bad Kung-Fu movie—and did his sideways deep knee bends. Although he eventually calmed down enough to be able to talk at least partial sense, and his involuntary exclamations became less frequent, any attempt to speak his name invariably bought forth a big attack of the “Bing-Bings”. Inevitably he became known as Doctor Bing-Bing. Despite his abundant eccentricities, he could indeed figure out how to safely synthesize almost anything—including a great many things that weren’t considered economically feasible to manufacture before the eruption.

    #################### #################### #################

    Joshua had rescued a HAM radio operator named “Gib”. The man was a positive genius with radios—and anything else electronic for that matter. Ronnie had lots of HAM; and other radio communication gear lying around; but no one in he retreat had been particularly interested.

    Gib had five times as much electronic gear as Ronnie, and he made a point to clean out several electronics stores before he even settled down to make a communication system for Ronnie’s Retreat. Pretty soon the inhabitants found that there were more survivors around than they had figured.

    There was a group of Engineers and Veterinarians at Purdue University. They had elected to stay put when most of the faculty and students had fled. Not only had they survived, they had built Geodesic dome over the Ross-Ayde Stadium, and turned it into a greenhouse. They were salvaging far and wide to get more construction materials, to build more giant greenhouses. They had hopes of having the whole onetime campus under glass within a decade.

    They talked with a large compound called “Bishop’s Ark”; and a smaller compound Called “Baptist Town”. There were lone survivors and small groups in North and South Carolina; Georgia; Mississippi and Alabama. There were groups in the Ozarks and Appalachians. There was a big compound in Montana. Surprisingly, there were a large number of survivors in Alaska, presumably because they were used to severe Winters.

    Ronnie and Gib had some long and serious talks over the radio. The upshot was that two black men who were extraordinarily good hackers rode to Ronnie’s Southern Indiana compound, on four wheeled Hondas. Several electrical engineers came down from Purdue.

    Interestingly enough, the engineers came down in two vehicles with eight articulated legs each, looking for all the world like giant spiders. Most of the engineers went back West Lafayette eventually—scouting for salvageable construction material all the way. But three engineers decided to stay on at Ronnie’s Retreat, along with one of the spiders.

    It wasn’t too hard to put in a radio system; broadcasting on several commercial wavelengths; at a power level that put the old mega-station at Del Rio to shame. But Ronnie wasn’t satisfied. He had his technicians hack into the communications satellites still in orbit (many of which would stay usable for decades) so that Ronnie could have a worldwide Television Station.

    He only broadcast a few hours a week. Many folks had to listen to Gib’s radio instructions, so they could build a satellite dish to receive it. They broadcast tapes of Billy Graham; Jimmy Swaggert; Jed Smock and Ronnie’s own increasingly impassioned messages. They also had tutorials on everything from knitting and macramé’, butchering pigs, tanning hides and building green houses.

    Purdue wasn’t Exactly in competition with Ronnie; but they weren’t happy until they had a radio and TV station of their own—and the airwaves were far from crowded. Bishop’s Ark managed to get the world’s third Post Eruption worldwide station into operation.

    ###################### ################### ###################

    But I race ahead of my story. First came the election.

    Bishop Pruitt got up to speak.

    “Almost twenty years ago, the Holy Ghost spoke to me. He said, ‘Bishop, I want you to prepare a refuge of safety, where I will preserve a large number of your people. Call it an “Ark” you will no that the man that you have picked is the right one; because he’ll mention animals, and an Ark, with no prompting from you. Elder Trueblood wasn’t even a Minister then, but the Holy Ghost led me to him. He told me that Elder Trueblood was the leader for the Ark. He tells me today that Elder Trueblood should be your next Bishop. That’s all that I have to say.”

    The Bishop sat down to thunderous applause. Nonetheless, everyone wasn’t on my side.

    Then Missionary Debra stood up. She spoke from the lower pulpit that women used in the Church of God in Christ.

    “A few weeks ago, a strange man was holding a knife to my daughter Natalie’s throat. Without the instruction that Elder Hawkins had given me, I wouldn’t have been able to take the shot that saved Natalie’s life.

    “Without the forethought that Elder Hawkins has shown, we might not be here. If we had managed to make it this far, we’d be missing many of the amenities that we have today.”

    She also got a thunderous round of applause. As one of the chief troubleshooters for people problems, she was very popular, and carried a lot of influence.

    Several other people spoke on my behalf. Then it was Elder Bate’s turn.

    “Elder Hawkins is a man of Guns and knives,” He started. He is a man of hatred and violence. He has shed man’s blood in this very sanctuary, not five feet from this podium. He is a white man, in a black church. Does he come as a respectful guest, grateful to be here? No! He comes in as an interloper—as a conniving schemer, conspiring to take over. We don’t need the likes of Elder Hawkins playing ‘Massah’.”

    Next we had a few people speak on behalf of Elder Bates. Finally we had a couple of the other Bishops—from other jurisdictions beside Kentucky, largely without a congregation now—throw their hats into the ring.

    “I have been a Bishop for fifteen years now. Experience should count for something…” Bishop Monty started.

    Brother Jason stood up. He was Missionary Debra’s brother. He was given to relapses into drinking whiskey, but he was outspoken, and known to be brutally honest.

    “Do you have any experience running this camp? No, I thought not. Do you have any experience leading men into battle? You’re a greedy old parasite, and a hypocrite to boot. Sit down, and shut the hell up!” Jason Boomed. He didn’t need a microphone to be heard all through the place.

    “You’re out of order Brother Jason,” I said. “Let the old hypocrite…er, the Bishop have his say.”

    Two Bishops ran for the office. Two of them supported me, with one undecided.

    Elder Brown from Baptist Town was there as well. He’d indicated that he wanted to be heard. He was a major player in the area, though he wasn’t of our denomination. I had no idea what he’d say.

    “We don’t have Bishops in our denomination, but there’s no reason that the by-laws couldn’t be amended to allow for a Bishop. The title is Biblical. We’re surely the largest group of our people left anywhere on Earth. If y’all don’t have the sense to elect Elder Hawkins as your Bishop, I’d like to invite him to come be the Bishop of Baptist Town,” Elder Brown said.

    That brought down the house. I won the election by over ninety percent of the votes. As the results came in, Bishop Pruitt asked me to come to his quarters. He handed me a small box. Inside were two rings. The first had a very large brilliant cut ruby.

    The protocol said that a ruby ring on the right index finger was one of a Bishop’s badges of office—but I’d never seen a Bishop wearing a “Bishop’s ring”. I’d made the remark to Bishop once, that if I ever became a Bishop, that I wanted a Bishop’s ring with a big round ruby. He’d remembered that whimsical remark all those years, and had gotten me the ring long ago, in anticipation.

    I carefully slipped the ring onto my right trigger finger. It fit perfectly. The other ring had a big round amethyst the same size as the ruby, but it fit my ring finger.

    “Think of it as a birthday present, Bishop. If you don’t know, that’s your birthstone.”

    “I know, but how did you get my ring sizes?” I asked.

    “That is a secret.”

    “Thank you Bishop,” I said.

    “You’re a Bishop too now. Maybe we should use our given names”

    “Forgive me but you’ll always be ‘Bishop’ to me.”

    ############### ################## ######################

    A couple hours after the Bishop gave me the ring; Missionary Debra came and spoke to me for a few moments. I told her to bring in the two young people.

    “How old are you Pete?” I asked her.

    “Eighteen Bishop,” she replied.

    It took some getting used to, to hear myself addressed as “Bishop”.

    “And how old are you Aryan?”


    “Are you both Christians? Both Church of God in Christ?”

    They indicated that they were.

    “Aryan, I’ve been told that perhaps your conversion was influenced more by your desire to marry Pete, and to vote in the election, rather by a true desire to be saved. What do you say to that?”

    “Bishop, I was raised in the Church—the Christian Church, I mean. I know that God is nothing—no one—to play with. Outside considerations weighed on my decision, but it was a genuine decision,” He told me.

    “That’s well spoken. Jesus asked the man if he believed. The man replied, ‘I believe, but help my unbelief.’ That’s all that’s necessary—that you be sincere. If you have doubts, well we’ve all had doubts. If there are things that you’re not quite ready to leave behind—nonetheless, if you can sincerely say, as that man did, ‘I believe, but help my unbelief.’ If you have that faith of a mustard seed, you can be saved. Do you believe that you are saved?”

    “Yes, I do,” He stated confidently.

    “Well nonetheless, I can’t marry you two at this point in time.”

    “Why not Bishop?” Pete asked respectfully.

    “Because it will take a few hours to get a ceremony and a celebration organized—and it’ll take awhile to get enough wedding cake baked for everyone. We haven’t had a good celebration since this whole end-of-the-World trip started,” I replied with a smile. “Y’all’s wedding will be a perfect excuse. I’ll see y’all in the sanctuary in about seven hours”


  12. #12


    ..... Chapter Twelve

    The first year PE (Post Eruption) was very cold. There was a noticeable warming during the Summer of the following year, but it only rose above freezing a little, on a scant handful of days. The snow covering progressively shrank each Summer after that, but it wasn’t completely gone until early in the Summer of the fifth year.

    We started building greenhouses during the second year. I had not taken the greenhouses into account at all in my food storage program, because I had no idea how long it would take to start harvesting a reasonable amount of food from them. There was a limit to how much heat that we could pump into them, and if the dust blocked too much sunlight; they wouldn’t produce very well—or possibly at all.

    Nonetheless, we got a fair amount of produce from them the first year that we used the greenhouses—mostly tomatoes; carrots; potatoes and a few other things easy to grow hydroponically. The first season, we got mostly a garnish to go with our stored food, and a little fresh browse for the rabbits. That was okay. A little variety was most welcome.

    Every year after that, we added more greenhouses and perfected our techniques of cultivation. The fourth summer a little green grass started showing here and there, and we were able to graze our stock sparingly. No one had known for sure that Summer number five would completely melt the snow cover, so we weren’t prepared to plant much in the ground—just a few quick-growing crops. We were planning on planting a big crop the following Summer though.

    My father used to have a saying: “They were doing fine until prosperity hit them in the ass.” I guess that’s what happened to us.

    #################### ################ ########################

    “Why don’t we sow all our pastures with clover, and put all of our land into cultivation? We could be able to stop using stored food completely by this time next year. I for one, am powerfully tired of stored food,” Bishop Monty said.

    There was a scattered rippling of agreement through the meeting hall. Bishop Monty had been sniping at me every since I’d been elected Bishop. He and Elder Bates were always murmuring and complaining about something. Still, many of our people were asking the same questions.

    “Why couldn’t we plant more food? Why didn’t we start building homes, so folks could move out of the compound? Why didn’t we do something about the Boyz? Why this? And how come that?”

    “Dudes, it is like: think about this. The weather is getting warmer, year by year; but it is going to be colder than it used to be—and perhaps even more significantly, it will be much more unpredictable for many years. We don’t want to risk losing too much of our resources to an unseasonable frost; a hailstorm; locusts or crop circles. We have to play a conservative hand,” I tried to explain.

    Elder Bates stood up to put his ignorance on display.

    “We don’t have to play a conservative game. Bishop Hawkins CHOOSES to play conservatively. We all suffer for it. If he’d let himself be truly led by the Holy Ghost, he wouldn’t have to worry about crop failures,” Elder Bates chanted.

    “Well by that logic, we shouldn’t even have to plow—just go out in Mid-Winter; throw a handful of seeds on the ground; and viola’! We have a giant beanstalk…

    “No wait! I remember. Scratch the giant beanstalk. That was another story. We wait, and God does all the rest. Come harvest time, the fields are ripe with grain. No wait, why should we have to harvest it? Maybe a big cyclone will winnow all the grain for us, and set it gently down in our silos. Really man, be for real,” I said in disgust.

    “I have another issue that I want to raise in the council. How long are we going to let people walk around armed to the teeth? We aren’t in a war zone anymore. Just the other night, Rasputin was shot arguing with his old lady. These Guns are a danger,” Elder Bates continued.

    “Rasputin was a sociopathic crack-head before the eruption. I’m not entirely clear who invited him, but he showed up. He works for Doctor Bing-Bing now, largely in exchange for all the amphetamines that he can consume.

    “Hey, that’s okay. If we didn’t have a few burnouts willing to work around some potentially harmful chemicals, then we’d have to come up with much more elaborate protective procedures. Point is: Rasputin is no poster child for respectability.

    “Jamilla has been separated from him for several years—since before the eruption. He tried to slap her around. She shot him. The only down side is that she shot him with one of the Holmes .380s, and he recovered. I’ve sent one of my personal aides to make sure she has a major caliber weapon, and instructions in its use—as well as adequate range time. That should handle the problem,” I said.

    “You shouldn’t let Boom-Boom make crank. It’s a shame and a disgrace!”

    “You shouldn’t drink our pure corn liquor. It is intended for medicinal purposes. But if I made a real effort to stop the flow, I’d have a bumper-crop of the maimed; the halt; and the blind—from drinking pop-skull. I don’t have the time, or the energy, to try to impose prohibition. If you really think it’s bad, preach against its use—and stand ready to offer your addicts an alternative. That is, just as soon as you stop drinking and fornicating in secret,” I said.

    “You can’t accuse me that way! You can’t talk to me that way! I’ll…; I’ll…”

    “You’ll what? You wouldn’t have had the nerve to challenge me to a fistfight when you were in your prime. I’m not exactly young anymore myself; but I’ll tell you what: I’ll spot you a handicap. I’ll fight you blindfolded. Is that a big enough handicap?”

    “You are a barbarian.”

    “Well you’ve got that part right.”

    ##################### ################## ################

    “I noticed your tattoos,” Derek said to Aryan.

    Aryan laughed and said, “Remnants of a long-lost, and misspent youth.”

    “No seriously, I groove on where you’re coming from. There’s a meeting tonight—a meeting with our kind of people. Would you like to come?”

    Aryan reviewed what he knew about Derek. The man had drifted in last Summer. He claimed to hail from parts West. He didn’t seem to want to talk about his past. Lots of folks found their memories too painful to dwell on. And some had used the dawn of a new World as an occasion to recast themselves in a better mold. Either way was fine with Aryan. But the man’s hushed remarks started a new train of thoughts in Aryan’s mind.

    ############ ####################### ####################

    There were a half-dozen of them, and they met outside, about a half-mile from the clearing. Aryan, who was fairly sure the meeting was a waste of time, reflected that they were unlikely to hang around very long in the cold. He rethought that idea, when he was led to a concrete block garage that was still standing, and was furnished with an old double fifty-five gallon barrel heater.

    He’d heard talk that lots of folks had similar getaways. There was an almost compulsive need to get out of the compound. The meeting place wouldn’t have been against the rules—or even frowned upon. There were remarkably few rules at the compound anyway. Even so, Aryan wondered at their exaggerated air of secrecy. A simple sign on the door saying: “This place claimed,” would have kept folks away as effectively as any amount of secrecy.

    They started the meeting. They took attendance; read minutes from the last meeting and all the other time wasting maneuvers that a club with less than a dozen members could conceive of. Then Derek stood up to speak.

    “Do you notice how all the bosses at the armory are black? Most of the bosses everywhere nowadays are black. They’re hogging all the good positions,” Derek stated.

    “Bishop is white,” Aryan interjected.

    “Don’t tell me that you’re so naïve that you can’t tell that their ‘so-called’ Bishop is mixed breed?” One of the others said contemptuously.

    Aryan sat and pondered the implications of what was being said. He didn’t speak again.

    “Well, what can be done about it,” A fellow named “Jackson” asked. He had a mouthful of rotten brown teeth, and he was always scratching himself.

    “I’m coming to that. But first I want to make sure that you’re all on board. I want you to go back to your bunks. I want you to lie there for a few moments before you go to sleep, for the next few days. When you’re sure that you truly want to be a part of the final solution, let me know. Come to the next meeting prepared to take an oath, and be initiated,” Derek said.

    ################## ################### ##################

    Doctor Boom-Boom stood doing his odd kinetic dance. It made concentrating on his words rather challenging at times.

    “Sure you have Guns. You make Guns. Hell, a smart baboon could make a Gun, if he had a Drill Press. In fact, Goodal recorded her chimps making primitive zip-Guns in the middle of the Belgian Congo, back in ’83,” Doctor Boom-Boom rapped.

    He exaggerated sometimes, in order to make his points.

    “Ammo, now that’s a very different thing. Without the capability to make ammunition, the day will come when you’re unarmed.”

    Truth be told, explosives have always scared me. I have no fear of dying; but who wants to lose an eye, or half his fingers? Hell, on a bad day, you could lose both eyes and all your fingers—and have the rotten luck to live through it.

    I was persuaded that the modern arms companies had come up with some reasonably safe ways to handle explosives. The only kind of primitive ammunition making enterprise that I could conceive of, would be one where the disaffected were placed in danger of losing life and limb to the occasional, and inevitable industrial accidents.

    Everything that I have already said would apply double to priming compounds. All of them are notably less safe than smokeless gunpowder. They have to be, or they wouldn’t go off.

    Boom-Boom claimed to have a way to make our gunpowder and priming compounds safely—partially through his unique formulas and partly as a result of his brilliant low-tech means of automating things.

    I’m not sure whether Doctor Boom-Boom’s bizarre eccentricities were the result of too many hallucinogens; the emotional stress of the eruption; or combinations of that, and other things.

    He stopped his crazy movements when he sat down to work on a project. They came back when he stood and they got worst of all, when he tried to communicate.

    I always had a knack for communicating with oddballs—largely I think, because I respected them, and took the time to learn about them. I had found that the best way to talk to Boom-Boom, was to catch him at his desk working out something. I would ask him a question. As long as he multi-tasked, he could write me two or three sentence notes. I found out that his given name was “Wayne” that way. If he devoted too much of his attention to talking to me though, he went bananas again.

    Point is, I’d found him reasonable sane, and I didn’t ever remember him promising something that he couldn’t deliver.

    “Start the planning stage, Wayne,” I told him. “But before you actually synthesize so much as a microgram of explosive, we’re going to set you a factory up, well outside the compound—like several miles. Got that?”

    “SH-SH-SURE!” He managed to say through gritted teeth, before going on about his business.

    ############## ##################### ####################

    “Are you sure that you can breed a Clydesdale to a Shetland Pony, Bishop?” Tony asked.

    “Well, you have to artificially inseminate them. Otherwise they’d have all sorts of trouble coupling their chassis together. Read about it in an Animal Science book at Purdue. They crossed them, and they said that while the ones that had a Shetland for a mother were born smaller—they purtin’near have to be, beings the womb is so much smaller—that they eventually grew to be about the same size as the hybrid horses with Clydesdale mamas. At any rate, that’s where I found out that it could be done.”

    “But to what purpose?” Tony asked.

    “When we were staying inside, and buttoned down, those little pony mares ate less, and took up a lot less room than full-sized riding horses, much less draft horses. Now that we have pasture again, and can grow grain, we should be able to breed them back up in no time—at least to reasonable riding size.”

    “Why do we have so many dairy farms?” Tony wondered.

    “Well for one thing, dairy farms can produce a lot of protein and calories per square acre. Secondly, it will be a generation or two before there’s truly enough horses to go around.

    “ About half the cattle will be born male. Nowadays instead of using most of them as vealers or feedlot steers, we can use them as oxen—pull a plow, or a cart. With the right saddle, you can even break them to ride—though I’d want a bull for a mount. Hell with riding castratos.”

    “Aren’t bulls mean?”

    “Some of them. Depends on the breed and the training.”

    #################### ################ ###################

    Aryan came walking up to me in the field, as Tony and I were watching the livestock graze, and discussing animal husbandry. After all those months of white snow, seeing the stock graze on green grass was a moving sight.

    “I need to talk to you right now, Bishop,” He said without preamble.

    Aryan was one of the very few close friends that I’d made after being appointed Bishop. The title seemed to overawe many who hadn’t known me before. There were also a fair number of sycophants who wanted to lay hold of my coat tails and ride their way to prosperity. Aryan had always been simply Aryan.

    I thought he needed something from me, and I asked Tony to excuse us. It turned out that he wanted to do me a good turn. He warned me that a conspiracy was brewing, and promised to keep me informed—if, as he allowed, he didn’t simply lose his patience and religion, and simply shoot all of them.


  13. #13


    ..... Chapter Thirteen

    We were having a staff meeting. Missionary Debra was there, of course. While it is undoubtedly true that no one is irreplaceable, Missionary Debra was the closest facsimile that I’ve ever seen. She had a hand in everything. Ministers Sean and Matthew—now having been elevated to Elders Sean and Matthew were also there, along with Minister Tony. Minister Tony, who had a special gift for raising livestock, had recently been made Minister at the age of nineteen. There were also a few other key staff, but it doesn’t bear going into.

    Sean was frowning and obsessing as usual. Matthew was implacable, and Tony found reason to smile and be cheerful in almost any circumstance.

    “I’m telling you Bishop, people are getting powerfully tired of dormitory living,” Elder Sean said ominously.

    “Okay. I want to start a block of about fifty residential houses. We have enough construction materials cached to build about four times that many. Nonetheless, I want our salvaging of construction materials to shift into a higher gear. There’s concrete; lumber; insulation; glass—beaucoup kinds of good stuff that may not be any good much longer. We’ll need it eventually,” I said.

    “There are cases where we’d get a much bigger return on our efforts cannibalizing existing structures,” Minister Tony pointed out.

    “Oh by all means. Triage everything. Triage, Triage! But what I started to say: put ten percent more laborers on the construction crews. Get volunteers for overtime—both construction and anyone who wants to work OT out of department.

    “People won’t like the extra work,” Elder Sean groused.

    “People want more housing, but they don’t want to build them. Do they think that I can make houses spring up like mushrooms?” I asked.

    I thought for a moment.

    “Could we raise two houses ready to move into, during a weekend—if we had a ‘cabin raising’? “

    “Yes, if people would participate,” Missionary Debra said.

    “Okay, I want a cabin raising every weekend, for the next twelve weekends. Make it fun. Make sure that a reasonable amount of our medicinal pure corn gets there; good food; a party when it’s finished.”

    “If the people work on Sunday, they’ll miss church,” Elder Sean objected.

    “It might be a news flash to you, but lots of our people skip church anyway,” I pointed out.

    “That’s true, but we don’t want to be seen as encouraging impiety,” Missionary Debra said.

    “Cool, we’ll appoint a Minister or Elder to have a brief Sunday service on site. Will that suffice? “ I said.

    “Could I volunteer to preach?” Minister Tony asked.

    He was new, and never got enough chances to speak to satisfy him.

    “If you can constrain yourself to be brief. Anyway. In a month or so, we could have the block of fifty built. Figure four folks per household—that’s two hundred people, probably a bit more, removed from the dormitory—plus the weekend built houses. Two hundred is close to ten percent. That should make a noticeable less crowded situation for everyone.

    “Let’s say that the weekend houses are awarded by lottery, but to be eligible, at least one family member has to have participated in the building. That will add a nice bit of incentive.

    “We also need another pentagonal multi-purpose structure built. It and the accompanying tunnels will allow us to spread the remainder of the folks out some.”

    “It will be late Summer by the time the block of fifty gets built. Depending on a number of factors, we may commit to another twenty to thirty unit block of houses then. In the meantime, make it work people.

    “With the resources we would expend on building a new pentagon, we could build fifty or sixty more houses—more,” Elder Sean objected.

    “True, but we need the building. People are just going to have be patient. There hasn’t been any law passed to prevent anyone from scrounging up their own materials, and building their own house.

    “On to other things—I want a factory building built to these specifications, at this location. Doctor Bing-Bing is going to do something interesting.

    “Oh Tony, the Boyz have some of the extra large donkeys they’re willing to trade. I want at least one stallion, and three mares—along with an agreement in principle, to sell us stud services when we want some new blood. They also have llamas. Feel them out, but we’re not looking to go into the llama business anytime soon.”

    “People won’t like trading with the Boyz,” Elder Sean objected.

    “By the way,” Elder Matthew weighed in. “We have a couple of defectors from the Boyz compound. They said they’re tired of that lifestyle, and want to repent. One of them used to own a gunstore, and he claims to have caches of Guns and ammo galore.”

    “Welcome both of them to the compound. Feel them out, see if they’re ready to commit to Christ and join the church—but don’t pressure them,” I ordered.

    “Oh really now, are we accepting homosexuals into the church?”
    Elder Sean sneered.

    “No, we’re accepting former homosexuals as candidates for membership. Why the issue? I guar-an-tee that we already have homosexuals and lesbians in the church. They are simply deceitful about it. Remember the parable of the wheat and the tares? Let them grow together. God will sort them out on judgment day.”

    Staff meetings were beginning to give me headaches. It is so wearying to have to think for other people; or to refute arrant nonsense.

    ################# ################## ####################

    Aryan made his way surreptitiously to the concrete block garage. He knocked on the door; whispered a password and was hustled in. There were almost sixty people crowded into the garage. Someone had located and liberated a bunch of folding chairs and they were arranged in rows and columns—just like church, or any one of a number of otherwise benign organizations.

    There was an American sign on one side of the makeshift podium. There was a Nazi flag on the other. Derek stood up to speak. Once he had everyone’s attention, he introduced someone Aryan hadn’t seen before. He said that he was Comrade Hearst from Georgia.

    Comrade Hearst was a powerfully built man of about fifty. He was about six foot tall and close to three hundred pounds. He looked like a man who’d spent many years doing heavy squats; deadlifts and bench presses. He shaved his head and eyebrows.

    Aryan thought he looked malevolent and reptilian—like an aged bellicose snapping turtle. When the man spoke, his voice sounded strained and hoarse. It was a bit too high, and it broke frequently. He only gestured with his right hand as he talked. The rest of his body seemed turned to wood, or stone.

    “How did a bunch of white folk like yourselves, end up being flunkies for a bunch of black folks,” Comrade Hearst asked rhetorically. “Now I represent an outside organization that could help you folks to set things right.

    “I say that we ‘could’. The question is: are you folks worth our effort, or are you so far gone in your black loving, race mixing ways, that we’d be better advised to shun you—consider y’all as part of the problem? As I say, it’s a question. It is you folks place to convince me.”

    Aryan was astonished at the man’s words and attitude. He watched him carefully, trying to spot any sign of humanity behind the reptilian face. He had seen evil before, many times. Comrade Hearst didn’t seem so much evil, as he did empty. Gazing into his eyes, Aryan thought that he was the most exquisite example of an empty human shell that he’d ever encountered.

    The man droned on interminably. Aryan felt the hypnotic cadence of the man’s voice, and summarily brushed it away. There was something else though—something dark and spiritual that enveloped Aryan in vain. It sought frantically for an opening, but Aryan was indwelt by the Holy Ghost. There was no opening for the unclean spirit, and no room for him inside; even if he could have forced an entrance.

    The spirit had encountered this situation before. He was forever barred from entering into Aryan. Nonetheless he could fasten himself on the outside—slowly drain Aryans energy; blight his spirit; deceive him and lead him into error. But there weren’t even any external handholds for the demon to cling to.

    Aryan experienced the assault as a momentary and minor irritation. He shrugged it off, never being consciously aware of it. If the thing couldn’t get into or influence Aryan, it still had a season pass into Comrade Hearst’s spirit. It whispered to him. It told him things about Aryan.

    The demagogue was finishing up a long riff about “the good of society” and the brotherhood of man. Aryan pondered momentarily. Even if he believed in the fictitious entity known as “society”, he still couldn’t imagine how putting Baldy in charge of anything might accomplish any good purpose. But as he sat, carefully keeping his face expressionless, he noticed that the speaker spent more and more of his time glaring at him.

    Aryan gazed blandly back into the man’s eyes. As the fellow put more and more hostility in his gaze, so did Aryan. He’d never backed down from anyone. He didn’t intend to start now. The old bastard might have thirty pounds on him, but he’d go out and dance with him right then, if the Nazi thought he could hang.

    “I have spent many years perfecting my powers of observation. I can pick up on the slightest cue—something that none of y’all would ever notice. I can tell that you have a traitor in your midst. That man there,” He said, pointing to Aryan. “Grab him”.

    Aryan was lightly armed, but most of the fellows in the garage weren’t packing at all. He drew and fire one round at Comrade Hearst before someone grabbed him from behind. The rude shaking that the back-grabber gave him, kept him from aiming very precisely. Nonetheless he managed two center of mass hits, on two other clients, with the Mag-Na-Ported two-inch Smith and Wesson Model twelve that Pete had given him. They had to break two of his fingers to pry the Gun from his hand. Then the World went black.

    Aryan wasn’t out very long, but when he came to, he was bound hand and foot. Comrade Hearst was holding a rag to his face. When he took it away momentarily, Aryan saw that the 158-grain lead semiwadcutter hollow point +P had struck a grazing blow, which had nonetheless done an excellent job of completely evacuating the fascist’s right eye socket. One of his other clients was dead. The last client was gut-shot, but hanging in there for the moment.

    “Drag him up front,” Comrade Hearst commanded. “This man is a miscegenist. He has a black wife and three hybrid children. He’s a good friend to the mixed-breed Bishop. What kind of conspiracy are you idjits running?”

    “Yeah well,” Aryan told him.” Didn’t whoever told you all that stuff, while he was riding you barebacked—no doubt—tell you that the Bishop is one of the purest examples of Scots-Irish that you’re ever likely to find—with a generous dose of Indian blood thrown in? Even Hitler himself once remarked that the American Indians were ‘Brown-skinned Arians.”

    Comrade Hearst struck Aryan a backhanded blow across the face.

    “Shut-up!” He screamed. “I am going to kill you very slowly, but first, I’m going to let you watch your wife and your hybrid children die horribly”

    Aryan laughed at him.

    “I have an appointment with death and it is not within your power to either speed, or delay it. Jesus loaned everything that I have on this Earth to me. That includes my wife and children. When he needs them back, he’ll call for them. In the meantime there is nothing that you can threaten me with. I’m through wasting words on you. You aren’t worth speaking to.”

    ############# ################# #########################

    Larry received a summons to go see Minister Tony. When he got there, he was delighted to see Lloyd and Dave there. He grabbed each of them in a hearty embrace.

    “It’s good to see you guys again. What are you doing here?”

    “We’re defecting,” Dave told him. “It just kept weighing on our minds, how they threw you out into the cold that way. We talked it over and decided to come here as soon as practical—if they’d have us.”

    “You two aren’t like...”

    “No, no!” Lloyd laughed. “The Boyz don’t believe in emotional attachments. We want to find a better way.”

    “Well you’ve found a very good place to find better ways,” Larry said.

    “You don’t have to acknowledge us in public. People knew we were friends, they’d look at you funny.”

    “Nonsense! I’ve never turned my back on a friend—for any reason,” Larry declared.

    “We both turned our backs on you,” Dave said sadly.

    “Then you’ll have to learn to forgive yourselves. I’ve already forgotten.”

    ############### ######################### ###############

    Ronnie stayed busy with his television and radio stations. There had been a small influx of people into the retreat. A disproportionate number of the new members were teens and youths. Ronnie; Travis; Gib along with two of the three engineers from Purdue, were the only inhabitants over twenty-five years of age.

    Most of the inhabitants were extremely gifted with at least one special talent. Many of them were multi-talented. Nick led the choir—that was seen and heard all over the world, due to Ronnie’s TV broadcasts. Miriam liked to play with the computer. At the age of seven, she’d started doing her own animation. At the age of nine, she was frustrated by the limits of her computer system.

    Gib and the three engineers from Purdue had helped her both to scavenge the hardware, and to wire it together to make her a massive Beowolf system. With no economic restraints, and with several of the best electronic and programming minds of all time working on the design, they soon had something orders of magnitude more powerful than any previous animation system.

    At the age of eleven, Miriam had attained the Holy Grail. Her graphics were good enough to be mistaken for live filming. She had made several short features, and three full-length movies to broadcast worldwide. Most of her work had a Christian theme, and all of it was Christian-friendly.

    As she said, it would be generations before they could once again have “Casts of thousands”, or even hundreds again. She was making much of the apparatus of movie-making unnecessary.

    One of the engineers named “Jake” had made Ronnie a set of prosthesis that surpassed anything yet made. Ronnie said that they were almost as good as his original legs.

    There were numerous other projects going on—some trivial, and a few grandiose—but all of them ingenious.

    Then the plague hit. They had heard about the sickness over the airwaves, but so far as they knew it had been confined to Europe and Asia until The young people of Ronnie’ Retreat started getting sick.

    There had been speculation that the virus could be carried for hundreds of miles on the wind—perhaps across oceans. Certainly, they hadn’t had a newcomer for several months, and none of them had been overseas, or even within a state of the ocean since the eruption.

    The plague seemed to perversely prefer the young and the healthy, though no one was exempt. The first sign was itching festering pustules that continued to grow in size and number throughout the course of the illness. The sickness was deadly, but it didn’t kill particularly quickly. Indeed, the victims often suffered for weeks. Death usually came from kidney and sometimes, liver failure. The disease seemed to Cram-jam the system with toxins.

    Several veterinarians and chemists from Purdue came down, along with a couple Doctors. The veterinarians and chemists were all PhDs; accustomed to research. They had every confidence that the plague would get to them eventually, and they elected to meet it head-on. If there was a cure, they aimed to find it—quickly.

    ################# ################### ###################

    Aryan had given the barest outline of his plans to Larry. Larry only knew approximately where the meeting place was—and it could very well have been moved. There might also have been alternate sites. He did know that Derek was a ringleader in whatever had happened to Aryan. He talked it over with Pete. The three of them had become fast friends since in processing into the Ark at the same time.

    Larry didn’t tell Bishop what he and Pete were going to do. Their actions would not be terribly Christian. Bishop had enough troubles without being implicated in their harebrained schemes. Pete made arrangements for one of her sisters to watch her children for however long was necessary. Larry went to see Doctor Bing-Bing and returned with a small leather pouch.

    Before they left Pete’s apartment, Larry started tying his arm off.

    “What are you doing?” Pete asked him.

    “Well I’m sure not getting high. This will make me immune.”

    “To what?”

    “Some of the stuff Bing-Bing gave me.” Larry said a brief prayer aloud. “Lord, when I had gas gangrene and they wanted to amputate my arm, I promised you that if you’d save my arm, that I’d never shoot dope again. I kept my promise. You know my heart. This isn’t dope. It’s not to get high and it’s to help a friend. I hope you understand.”

    Larry spent an extra long time swabbing his arm down—first with alcohol, then with Betadine. He might get an infected injection site, but it wouldn’t be through not using proper sterile technique. He hit his vein, and injected himself with an ease that astonished, and also reassured him. Despite the fact that the antidote wasn’t for getting high, it had a kick that made Larry think he was going to pass out for several very long minutes. Cocaine had never done that to him.

    Pete demanded a complete explanation. Once Larry explained, she turned to him and said,

    “Do me.”

    “I had one syringe for me, and one for Derek. Oh well, if I give Derek something, tsk-tsk is all I gotta say.”

    ############### ################## ######################

    They found Derek running a Lathe in the armory. Larry placed a large gelatin capsule in his mouth. He walked up behind Derek and chewed the capsule several times quickly. He tasted the foulest thing that he’d ever had in his mouth. Then the capsule started effervescing. He grabbed Derek’s shoulder and spun him around. He opened his mouth wide and blew the thick green smoke into Derek’s face.

    Derek faltered, but staggered past him. Antidote or no antidote, the gas stunned Larry. He paused to quickly puke his guts up. Pete had grabbed a hold of Derek. Instead of opening her mouth wide, she pursed her lips and blew a steady stream of the gas into Derek’s face. He fell. Pete fell an instant later.

    Thankfully, Larry didn’t much trouble reviving Pete. They wrapped Derek in a blanket, and carried him nonchalantly out of the compound.

    When Derek came to, he was bound hand and foot. Larry had a booming headache from the drugs he’d been exposed to and was feeling even more merciless than usual.

    “My good friend Derek, Aryan has disappeared. I believe that you know something. You will be here until you tell me what you know—or until you convince me beyond the smallest shadow of a doubt that you know nothing.”

    “Tell you nothin’“ Derek spat out.

    “Do you see this syringe? I used it earlier, and I didn’t sterilize it. You might catch something from me. That’s life.”

    Larry quickly injected Derek straight into his jugular vein.

    “Always wanted to try that,” Larry remarked conversationally.

    “Truth serum won’t work on me.”

    “Maybe not,” Larry said indifferently. “That wasn’t truth serum. It was a chemical Doctor Bing-Bing came up with. It resembles both black widow venom and some of the nastier jellyfish toxins. It will stimulate every single pain nerve in your body to the max. At the same time, it heightens your brain’s capability to feel pain. Pete has the antidote in that syringe over there.”

    He paused and turned Derek’s head towards Pete.

    “You get the antidote when she’s convinced you’ve told her everything you know about the disappearance of her husband. You know the neatest thing? The drug takes a few minutes to take effect. Isn’t anticipation gratifying?”


  14. #14


    ..... Chapter Fourteen

    The night air was chill, but Derek was sweating profusely. He writhed in pain, and could only speak in tortured gasps forced between tightly clenched teeth.

    “I knew that deep down you were really on our side, Derek. You just needed some proper motivation,” Larry said to him.

    Derek was too preoccupied with his agony to argue the point.

    “I’ve told you everything—time and time again. I don’t know any more. Please give me the antidote,” He pleaded.

    “There’s a problem with that,” Larry said. “There isn’t any antidote. Doc says that it will probably wear off within forty to fifty hours. If either of us survives our rescue attempt, and we’re feeling extra charitable, we may come back to untie you. In the meantime: enjoy.”

    ################# ####################### ####################

    Larry had a bunk in one of the unmarried men’s barracks. He stopped outside the door to have a hurried consultation with Pete. Pete left to go get her gear, and to ask her cousin to watch the children for her. Larry stepped inside the barracks to get his gear.

    He decided to take the companion K and N Frame five-inch Smith and Wesson .357s. The Guns seemed almost alive to him. The next Gun he planned to take was a Holmes Designed machine pistol that he’d made at the armory. It was the same size as the .22LR, but chambered for the .32ACP.

    Larry had meticulously crafted thirty-two and seventeen round magazines for it. They were essentially downsized Sten magazines. The pistol was a foot long and Larry had made a foot-long screw-on suppressor of his own design. It was more or less a standard monoblock suppressor, except that it had a smaller auxiliary expansion chamber welded onto the bottom of the tube. He’d also added a Skorpian style folding wire stock.

    He hesitated. His natural tendency to load himself down with all the Guns that he could carry warred with a desire to travel light. He compromised. He strapped on a 1911A1 style .45auto along with enough magazines to shoot an IPSC match, grabbed a trio of small hideouts, and decided to stop there.

    Dave and Lloyd met him at the door. They too looked like they were on their way to a gunfight. Dave gestured him to one side where they could talk.

    “I overheard you talking to the warrior princess. It was her husband that disappeared a couple days ago, wasn’t it? You’re mounting a rescue operation, aren’t you?” Dave asked.

    Larry shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something intended only to be vague gibberish.

    Why not go to the powers that be?” Dave asked.

    “There’s a conspiracy. Don’t know who might be involved—or monitored.”

    “Well count me and Lloyd here in.”

    “Guys, it’s not your fight. You could get yourselves killed.”

    “I might get killed, but I’m never going to turn my back on a friend again.”

    ############# ############################# ##################

    “Doc, these boils seem an integral part of this illness, yet from everything that we’ve been able to glean from the airwaves, no one has made a concerted effort to lance them. Why is that?” Travis asked the Doctor.

    “There are so many, and even if you got rid of them, more would probably form,” The Doctor said.

    “Well Doc, figure it this way: ninety percent of them are going to die anyway and those boils ache and itch something fierce. At the very least it would give them some relief. Besides, this thing seems to progressively poison the body. I can’t help but think that all those boils contribute to that,” Travis told him.

    “I think you may be right. It’s worth a try. Nothing else seems to help. Are you a Doctor?” The man asked Travis.

    “No, but I’m perfectly capable of playing one on TV,” Travis said with the smallest of smiles.

    “Pity, you’d probably have made an excellent Doctor.”

    ############## ######################### #####################

    The veterinarian and a radio technician sat sending a long stream of code over the airways, to Purdue.

    “That seems a time consuming operation. What are you trying to accomplish?” Miriam asked.

    “We need to sequence the genes on this cursed virus. We got lots of computer power at the University, but with no hard connection it’s slow. Faster than courier, but not by much.”

    “Well if you need numbers crunched, you could use my Beowolf. It has more gigaflops than any other yet built.”

    ############### ##################### ########################

    Travis went to find Ronnie. The little man spent many of his waking hours in the chapel, down on his artificial knees in prayer. He wasn’t particularly little anymore though, with his new legs.

    “The death count still stands at three. Lancing the boils has proven to slow the progress of the disease considerably, but it’s no cure. We now have eighteen sick. The scientists say that they’re ripping the genome apart with Miriam’s computer system. The question is: will they find a cure fast enough to do any of us any good?”

    “Travis, please stay and sit with me awhile.”

    ############# ######################## ######################

    They were holding Aryan in a small concrete block garage similar to the meeting place; only this one was a smaller one-car garage. The concrete buildings had stood up to the ash fall and the snow better than some of the wooden buildings. Also, it was far more likely to find some sort of wood stove in a garage.

    There were two guards inside. One of the guards decided that getting Aryan to speak was a personal challenge. The other sat at a table reading a book, and largely ignoring the other two.

    Finally the man tired of verbal taunts and started to slap Aryan’s face repeatedly.

    “That’s enough of that. We’re supposed to keep him alive,” The other guard said.

    Aryan was bound to a straight-backed chair. The man tilted the chair backwards and laid it on its back with Aryan still strapped in. He covered Aryan’s mouth and nose with a small terrycloth towel and poured water on the towel.

    As long as Aryan kept his head, and breathed very slowly, it was endurable—though he had a constant feeling of being suffocated. Whenever he lost his composure and tried to breath fast though, the towel would cling tightly to his face, shutting off all air. The towel would dry, and just as it got dry enough to give some relief, the guard would wet it again.

    #################### ####################### #################

    There were three guards spaced along the building. Lloyd, by his own admission, was no great rifleman, or stalker. Dave was a consummate sniper though. Larry and Pete went to take out the sentries. Dave watched through the scope of his .308 Savage Scout. If they were discovered, it was his job to take out the remaining sentries as quickly as possible. Lloyd stayed with Dave as a spotter.

    Larry focused every ounce of his rage on the sentry ahead of him. Some folks said that if you looked directly at a client you were stalking, or focused on him too much, that he’d sense you somehow. Larry was convinced that the idea was BS.

    Larry wrapped his right hand around the client’s mouth and nose to stifle any outcry. He had a Cold Steel Corsican Dagger in his left hand. The dagger was okay, but it wouldn’t have been his first choice for any other purpose than assassinating clients surreptitiously.

    After he’d cut the client’s throat from ear to ear, the only thing holding the man’s head on was his spine and some spinal erector muscles. Larry was a good butcher with a razor sharp blade. It only took four gentle slices to sever the head. He put it into his shoulder bag. He was going to use it for a psy-op in a moment.

    Pete beat him to the third sentry. He had no idea how she’d handled her first client, but she was grimly strangling the third one with a wire garrote.

    Larry was more than a little disappointed in himself. While the act didn’t bother him in the slightest, he hadn’t taken any pleasure in it. He thought of himself as less of a Warrior; since the sight of the enemy’s blood didn’t thrill him to the marrow.

    ############### ####################### ######################

    Aryan’s guard had added a new twist to the torture. This time instead of dropping water on the towel, he stood urinating on it. Just then a knock came at the door.

    “Get that for me, Will you?” He asked the other guard.

    The second guard walked to the door. He gave a sign and Larry gave the counter sign. As he opened the door, Larry hit him in his eye-sockets with a five-round burst of silenced .32s. He shoved the client back, simultaneously tossing the head into the garage.

    An unmuffled blast of gunfire would probably have galvanized the client into furious action. However, all he heard was an odd subdued coughing sound, and then something rolled into the room. He never identified the object as a human head; but it distracted him momentarily nonetheless. The man died in a hail of .32bullets with his Gun undrawn, and his business still in his hand.

    Aryan was unable to walk right off, so they propped him up on either side. Others might show up at the hideout any minute. They didn’t intend to stay to welcome them.

    ################### ##################### ####################

    Elder Sean walked up to the sentry outpost with a small crowd of brethren along. He was a high-ranking official, and the sentries were geared to guarding against outside threats. So when Elder Sean asked them to have a few words with them, they readily complied. Within seconds they’d all been knocked unconscious and handcuffed.

    “That should do it,” Elder Sean said into the microphone. He added a short string of alpha-numerics to prove his identity.

    ################ ##################### #######################

    One of the few places the five friend’s could meet privately to discuss their current state of misery, was Pete and Aryan’s little apartment. They were lucky to have any private space at all. Bishop had sacrificed a Janitor’s closet to give them their own space. It was a large closet—about twelve by eighteen—but it was a small apartment.

    Larry had left Prince at the apartment and the big dog was thrilled to be reunited with Larry. They were very seldom separated. While Larry talked to his dog, Dave tended Aryan’s wounds: Pete fixed them all something to eat and drink. With the immediate needs of the flesh attended to they discussed their options.

    “Bishop needs to be told what is going on as soon as possible. I’m not sure that his bodyguard would get him out of bed to speak to us at this time of night, or not,” Aryan said.

    “They will if you told them what’s happened,” Lloyd said.

    “Unless they’re part of the conspiracy,” Dave pointed out. “Then not only would they not summon Bishop, but we get vanished.”

    Larry thought that for once Dave’s cynical paranoia was justified.

    “Tell you all what,” Larry said. “Lets all stick together ‘till we talk to Bishop in the morning. I understand that he start’s his day rather early.”

    “Well before dawn,” Aryan supplied.

    “Anyway, if we hang together, we’ll make a harder target for them in the meantime. I’m beat. I can sleep right here on the floor.”

    Dave busied himself propping a chair against the locked door, and hooking up a small alarm to the doorknob.

    ################### ################# ####################

    Missionary Debra and I had been up all night going over some of the plans. We had figured out a way to get another thirty or forty houses built before cold weather set in. Every house lowered the population density somewhat. Crowd too many, too closely together for too long and they start acting neurotic.

    We tried to get the people outside into the open as much as possible, but many of them had more or less become mole people. Strangely enough, the one’s that you could hardly drag outside, were the most vocal in demanding housing.

    Somewhere along the line, I got to reminiscing about the World I knew as a child. That was back before personal computers or cell phones. Part of my childhood was even before they passed the cursed GCA 68.

    What I remembered were ice cream trucks and swimming pools; screen doors and summers that were so hot and seemed to last for centuries. I grooved on little corner grocery stores where people would loaf and talk. I talked about Double Colas in returnable glass bottles, and buttermilk that still had flakes of butter in it.

    “We had made such a mess of things before the eruption: Wal-Mart’s; the Brady Bill; plastic handguns. Everything had become cheap; uniform and disposable. Tool and die makers were being replaced by CNC. People were compromising their creativity by giving up Drafting for CAD. It was a screwed up world.

    “Maybe the World that we remake together will be better—God willing.”

    “I hope so,” she said.

    I started feeling very sad.

    “My father died twenty years ago. I don’t know. I still miss him every day. I miss my mother too, but we weren’t as close. Most of my family was gone, even before the eruption. Our parents and grand parents tie us to the past.

    “I mean, even if you never knew them, they existed—like a tree’s roots anchor it to the ground. It doesn’t matter that you can’t see them.

    “But without children, there’s nothing to anchor you to the future. You’re like a one-wing dove trying to fly. If it really tries hard, it can rise a few feet, but then it just falls to the ground again.

    “Vanity of Vanity, all is Vanity—and chaseth after the wind…”

    “Why didn’t you ever have children?” Missionary Debra asked.

    “Takes a woman. I never met one that would have me. I suppose it wasn’t my geas to have children.”

    Somehow, we’d gotten to sitting too close together. I know that there could be no excuse or justification for what I did next. Even as a Bishop—with my own Bishop’s ring—I found out that deep down inside, I was still a carnal man. I put my arm around the Missionary, and started kissing her.

    I can’t answer for what evil I might have gotten up to next, because at that instant the door opened. Aryan; Pete; Larry and Prince, and the two new guys from the Boyz compound were all there. Aryan looked like he’d taken a good beating recently.

    “Bishop,” Aryan said without any preamble. “There are folks plotting to take over the Ark.”

    They weren’t halfway through telling me about their experiences though, when the alarm started ringing. That particular code meant that the outer defenses had already been breached. We scurried to battle stations.

    ############### ######################## ###################

    “While you’re praying, say a prayer for Bishop Hawkins and his people. We’ve just received word that they’re under attack,” Travis told Ronnie.

    Ronnie rose, and sank wearily onto a bench.

    “Hasn’t there been enough bloodshed and dying to satisfy everyone?” Ronnie wondered.

    “It would seem not,” Travis said. “We need to stay focused on finding a cure for this virus. It will wipe us out, even if the chuckleheads spare us.”

    ############ ############################## ##################

    Travis went looking for Badger. He felt a need for the big dog’s company. Later, he’d help himself to five or six ounces of Ronnie’s single malt Scotch, and read some of Miranda’s journals—but he had a few duties to attend to first.

    He found Badger in the infirmary. He was busy licking a little girl’s arms.

    “Badger, I don’t think that you ought to be doing that,” Travis gently chided him.

    “It’s alright Travis. Badger loves me and his kisses make my sores feel better,” Suzy said

    “Does it really make you feel better? Maybe I can get them to bathe you in some warm water. Thing is, I don’t know if dog’s can get the virus. I don’t want Badger to get sick. Besides, he might cause them to get infected—well, more infected than they are.”

    He sat by the little girl. An idea came into his mind.

    “So you really like Badger?” Travis asked.

    “He’s my favorite of all the dogs,” Suzy said.

    “Do you like Lee-Ann?”

    “She’s okay, but Badger’s my favorite.”

    “Well, Badger and Lee-Ann are going to have puppies soon. To be precise, Lee-Ann will have them, but Badger is the father. They’ll have a little of both in them. You get better, and I’ll let you have your pick of the litter.”


  15. #15


    ..... Chapter Fifteen

    My main command post was within a few yards of my quarters. I’d set it up that way for convenience sake. I told my friends to stick with me rather than trying to fight their way to their assigned posts.

    I figured that with conspiracies brewing, I might need a few extra bodyguards. Besides someone might still be stalking them. Whatever they could tell me was probably a moot point by then, but maybe not. We could watch each other’s backs, just in case.

    I was vastly encouraged to note that both my main Lieutenants were already there. I sat in my chair and grabbed the “Pickle”—a kind of super remote control, though it used a fiber optic cable rather than radio or infrared. I went through a quick survey of the key closed circuit monitors throughout the compound.

    Long practice let me get an excellent overview of the tactical situation in moments. Things were bad. Not only would the casualties be much worse fighting at close range like this; but also vital equipment and livestock were at risk. It was quite possible to win the battle, only to find that our survival machine was destroyed in the process.

    Elder Sean was having a hurried exchange with someone on the other side of the door, but I only noticed in a peripheral sort of way. Then he opened the door wide, and a couple squads of uniformed men walked into the command post. That got my full attention.

    “I’m in command now!” Sean shouted.

    Then he leveled his pistol at me. My command chair was many things, but being a good platform for a fast draw wasn’t one of them. I knew deep down that I couldn’t save myself, but with a little luck, I might take the traitor with me. I saw the muzzle of Sean’s Gun. Then Missionary Debra stepped in front of Sean’s Gun to shield me. Sean hit her with a triple tap to the body, then a shot to the head. I could clearly see the impact of each shot.

    As I’ve said, the Missionary was no fragile flower—six foot, two hundred pounds, and built like Queen Latifa. Although she could have been put to any number of better uses, she made an excellent shield. Not a single bullet penetrated.

    I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed—part rage at what had just happened to Missionary Debra—part kiai to speed my draw, though I’d never teamed a kiai with a Gun draw before.

    Before I cleared leather, Dave had swung his Savage Rifle around in a vicious butt stroke to the face that sent Elder Sean careening back with a ruined nose and quite possibly a broken neck.

    In a moment the room was filled with dead bodies and the debris of smashed monitors, and so forth. Most of the bodies wore the quaint uniforms of the invaders. The uniforms weren’t that different, but they had a camouflage pattern that I’d never seen before, and the uniforms were cut differently as well. Sadly, there were several of our folks down as well.

    I drew my thumb across my throat, signaling Pete and Aryan to make sure that all the enemy who were down, stayed down. I had just gotten back to my monitors when I saw a much larger wave of the invaders heading our way.

    “Tactic: Way-Way-Alpha,” I spoke into the microphone. I repeated it twice. Then I turned to my remaining friends and said,

    “Time to bug out.”

    We went down the corridor a few yards then I unlocked a door and waved everyone into a small circuit breaker closet.

    “We’re sitting ducks in here,” Larry said.

    “No we’re not,” I told him.

    I opened a small hidden panel revealing an escape tunnel. I’d also had the forethought to lay in some knee and elbow pads—though unless someone was too incapacitated to high crawl, the elbow pads were largely unnecessary.

    “Come on dudes, we got about a quarter-mile crawl ahead of us. Hope y’all done been in shape,” I said.

    The panel could be put back into position to hide the entrance, from the inside—if you knew how. I did; so I remained behind to close it.

    We came out of the tunnel in what appeared to be a small shed—all run-down, and unlikely to contain anything worth looting.

    Pete and Aryan went towards Baptist Town. Although radio warnings sent out to our allies the moment we were attacked were part of the protocols, I had no way of verifying that they were sent. Anyway, Elder Brown needed to know just how deep the rot went. At any rate, Pete had sent her cousin to Baptist Town with the children. Her and Aryan wouldn’t rest until they were positive that the children were safe.

    Larry, Dave, and Lloyd were to come with me, along with Elder Mathew and a few others. Larry had Prince along, and I had my Bloodhounds. Courbet, Renoir and a nine-month-old pup named “ Manet”.

    Minister Tony said that he had kin homesteading a couple miles away. He knew where we were going, and promised to rejoin us as quickly as he could. Although go-it-alone homesteaders were a small minority, there were still more than I could keep track of. Many of the families lacked radio communication gear. I couldn’t rightly keep the man from trying to warn his kinfolk—not that I wanted to.

    We hadn’t been parted from Minister Tony very long when the dogs started to whine quietly. They were warning us that someone was stalking us, and doing an excellent job of it.

    ######################## ################ ####################

    Minister Tony approached the house cautiously. Wouldn’t do anyone any good to get himself shot by mistake. His brother Brandon was a hard fellow to sneak up on. Brandon’s wife Theresa was also his second cousin, so he’d known her all his life too. He was about to give a signal, when he noticed that something wasn’t right.

    He could see from where he stood, that the house had been ransacked. He watched silently for several minutes. He asked himself where he’d be, if he wanted to ambush someone coming to check out the house. He stalked each spot making little more noise than a tomcat.

    He had been hunting coons and possums and running a trap line since he was seven years old. He’d been taking some of Bishop Hawkins’ marksmanship and martial arts classes almost as long. He was a dangerous man in the woods—or most anywhere else, for that matter.

    When he’d satisfied himself that it wasn’t a trap, he gave a low warbling whistle, and went in. The fact that there weren’t bodies and blood on the ground outside meant that the perpetrators had to have been accompanied by someone that Brandon trusted.

    He found Brandon inside. He’d taken two or three shotgun blasts to the mid section and his guts were all over the floor. Apparently even that hadn’t put him down, because he also had a head wound. They must not have had any fear of the children, because they’d taken the time to shoot each of them once, to the bridge of the nose.

    There were four of the soldiers wearing the same unique uniforms as those who’d invaded the Ark. These had been stripped of any gear or weapons that might have had any value, but they’d left them lay. They’d probably be back to claim their dead once their takeover of the Ark was complete.

    Tony went inside the bedroom. He found his cousin lying in the bed naked, with a hole in her head. It was obvious that she’d been gang raped before having her brains blown out.

    He felt an almost curious lack of emotion. Tony was a black man, and a Minister in a Pentecostal Holiness Church, but he’d grown up a few miles outside of Harlan, Kentucky. He was no less a hillbilly than the people that Hunter S Thompson had once referred to as: “The in-bred Anglo-Saxon Tribes of Appalachia”. In fact, if it could have been traced back that far, there was more than one of the dour Celtic mountain men in his family tree.

    He knew the call of kin. He had the way of the blood feud in his very bones. He was capable of actions that would have caused the staunchest Mujahadeen to lose heart. Yet he kept his temper and his blood lust under control at all times. This was the first time he’d ever encountered a situation where there seemed no good cause to hold back. And instead of raging and frothing at the mouth, he felt calmer and more in control than he’d ever been.

    It wasn’t hard to follow the tracks. They’d had multiple vehicles—some of them tracked. Even when they’d taken the pothole-strewn road, they left a trail of torn-up asphalt in their wake.

    Tony had a Springfield Armory M-1 Garand in .308, and plenty of enblock clips to feed it. He also packed a 1911A1 styled pistol, with plenty of loaded magazines and a six-inch Ruger Security-Six .357Magnum with a Colt Python barrel custom mounted on it. Some folks used to call them “Cougars”. He also had several blades and a Cold Steel Norsehawk.

    He had no thought of surviving. He just wanted to take as many of the enemy with him, as he possibly could.

    ############## ############################ ##################

    We took cover and waited to ambush whoever was following us. Lo and behold, it was Doctor Bing-Bing. He had a couple of his right-hand lab techs with him, and his four Warlocks.

    Doc seldom went anywhere without the Warlocks. A Warlock is a cross between a Pitbull and a Timber Wolf—to what end, I’m not sure—perhaps to give the Pitbull bigger teeth, and even more jaw strength. It should beef them up a bit too. Doc’s Warlocks all weighed well over a hundred pounds.

    Dogs can be hierarchical and territorial, but wolves have these traits much more strongly. If someone who isn’t a wolf specialist tries raising a wolf, there is the constant danger that he’ll steep across some invisible line, or violate some lupine taboo, and get the living daylight savaged out of him.

    Thing is, a hybrid either inherits wolf psychology or dog psychology. There doesn’t appear to be any middle position. The folks who’d traded the Warlocks to Doctor Bing-Bing claimed that they’d been hybrids for a minimum of seven generations—more on some branches of the family tree; and they claimed to have been weeding out defectives, and selecting for proper attitude all along the way.

    The people he’d gotten the Warlocks from were odd nomads who wandered by every year or two, to trade. They were very reticent to talk about themselves, but my best guess was that they were the result of Gypsies joining forces with a gang of outlaw bikers. They traveled in old-fashioned looking gypsy wagons—that were nonetheless recently made—drawn by oxen with well-made tack. Most of the men rode horses, but some rode choppers, and there were more bikes stowed on the wagons.

    I was glad that Doctor Bing-Bing had survived and escaped, largely because I wanted as many of my people as possible to survive, but also because he was a personal friend and an invaluable resource.

    We quickly compared notes, and continued to our destination.

    ############## ########################## ####################

    When Minister Tony caught up with the small convoy, they’d joined up with a much larger group. They were parked just out of sight of the outermost fence around Bishop’s Ark. There were scores of big trucks with dual M-2 .50 Caliber Browning Machineguns. There were a couple of tanks and at least a dozen Bradleys—along with all sorts of miscellaneous vehicles, some military, some not. There were maybe two thousand men.

    Apparently they’d parked outside so they wouldn’t trip over each other inside. They already had an overwhelming force inside, thanks to Elder Sean, and undoubtedly a few other traitors.

    The number of enemies didn’t daunt Tony, but he did see a way of expanding his client list considerably. They were parked within a couple hundred yards of one of the Dragons.

    The Dragons were diligently kept in working order, but only a few of them were manned nowadays, and they’d let a bit of brush grow up around many of them, partly through neglect, but also partly because it made good camouflage.

    Tony’s master key let him inside. The napalm couldn’t be made ahead of time. It would become too thick to pump. The jelling agent had to be tired in, and agitated for about twenty minutes before it was ready to use. If it wasn’t used in two or three days, it would form big thick ropes of gelatinous resin, and have to be discarded.

    The vengeful Minister spent the longest moments of his life waiting for the napalm to form. When it did, he checked and all the other systems were on line. He said a prayer. He prayed for his deceased brother and cousin. He prayed for the children. He prayed for all his friends and kin still living. Then he prayed for himself.

    He knew that he hadn’t yet forgiven those who’d despoiled his home and his family. Nonetheless, even if he had forgiven them, tactics and justice would still guide him to do what he was about to do anyway. He just wouldn’t have gotten such a thrill at the thought of all the agony, death and destruction he was about to unleash. As it was, he felt like a little kid preparing to open his Christmas Presents.

    He fired up the dragon and started spraying napalm. He sprayed the tongue of afire back and forth among the bivouac tents. He paused to make sure the two-ton trucks got a healthy dose, and covered the armor even thicker. He traversed the flame slowly, making sure that he laid down plenty of fire.

    As he saw the occasional burning man running frantically, he cried aloud in delight. Many more were simply swept away by the burning stream, never to reappear. He saw that he had less than a third of a tank left.

    About this time, the clients began to figure out which quarter the attack was coming from. Several of the twin .50s were still operational. They started tearing up the hillock the Dragon was buried under. The Dragon was protected by four courses of brick, but it couldn’t hold out against the .50 caliber bullets indefinitely.

    Then a couple of mortars got the range. A tank shell struck a glancing blow. While it didn’t penetrate, it tore up the earthworks and the bricks a good deal more than they had been earlier.

    Minister Tony felt the end coming an instant before the second round of tank-fire hit.

    “It is always a good day to die!” He shouted. Just as he finished his declaration, the second round both blew the emplacement sky-high, and turned it into a blazing inferno. Tony was torn into tiny burnt pieces before the realization that he’d even been hit ever reached his brain.

    ######### ################################### ################

    “Suzy is improving dramatically,” The Doctor told Travis. “ I only wish that I knew what to credit the improvement to.”

    “Doc, it sounds crazy, but I think I know the only treatment Suzy got, that none of the other patients did,” Travis Said.

    “Well don’t keep me in suspense. Tell me!”

    “A couple days ago, I caught Badger licking her sores. It looked like he’d been working on them for sometime.”

    A few hours later, the Doctor told Travis: “There is definitely something in Badger’s saliva that attacks the virus. However, beside the puppies, he’s the only dog that seems to have the anti-viral agent. We can harvest a reasonable amount of saliva from badger to treat all of our sick. We’re going to use what small amount of saliva that we can get from the puppies, to try to isolate the anti viral factor.”

    “I hope that too many more don’t get sick all at once. As long as Badger’s saliva is the only source of the cure, there’s a major limit on how many we can treat at one time.”

    ################### ######################### ################

    Aryan and Pete, with their firsthand experience with the Horde, had been asked to listen in on the talks between Baptist Town and the new proprietors of Bishop’s Ark.

    “So what I’m basically proposing is that we share the burden of capturing the smaller compounds, and split their resources between us,” Comrade Hearst concluded. He wore a black leather eye patch over his right eye.

    Elder Brown pushed a hidden button, asking Aryan and Pete to come in.

    “Do you remember me, you fat toad? I’m the dude that shot your right eye out. Elder, I wouldn’t trust a word this lying piece of pig doody says,” Aryan nearly shouted.

    “You needn’t worry. He’s just trying to use a strategy on me, that’s as old as the Ancient Greeks. It’s called ‘Divide and Conquer’. I’m neither that stupid, nor that greedy,” Elder Brown said.

    “You came here under a flag of truce. You’re free to go,” Elder Brown said.

    “Maybe I’ll take your little jerk-water compound next,” The one-eyed man threatened.

    “Oh please do try,” Elder Brown said.” I’ll give you a taste of what you’d have gotten attacking Bishop Hawkins, if you hadn’t used treachery and deceit. Remember The Alamo.”

    “Just one thing,” Aryan said. “I see that you’re wearing my revolver. My wife gave that revolver to me. It means a lot to me. I think you might want to give it back to me.”

    “Why would I care to do that?” Comrade Hearst asked arrogantly.

    “Because if you don’t, I’ll kill you and all your underlings. Then I’ll simply take it, along with whatever else that any of you have, that I fancy.”

    “I’m here under a flag of truce.”

    “It’s Elder Brown’s truce, not mine. I’m sure that he’d be justly upset with me for breaking it. However, he’s forgiven me for worse things. Elder Brown, I’m going to shoot Toady first, then his three henchmen. In the unlikely event that one of them gets me, then hold him blameless. “

    “For God’s sake, give him the Gun,” One of the others urged him.

    Aryan drew his 1911A1 style .45 and pointed it straight at Hearst.

    “Do it nice and slowly,” Aryan said, mocking the tone of someone it a dirty movie.

    When Comrade Hearst left, he left without a custom Smith and Wesson Model Twelve .38Special, with a two inch barrel.


  16. #16


    ..... Chapter Sixteen

    When Missionary Debra awoke, she had a booming headache. She had no idea where she was, or how she’d got there. Even so, there was a sense of urgency overlaying everything that caused her to frantically try to get to her feet.

    “Please be still! You’ll tear out your stitches,” a disembodied voice told her.

    Something about the voice convinced her that it was in her best interests to relax. She lay back and struggled momentarily against panic. A few seconds later the pain medication sped through her bloodstream, and she drifted back into pleasant oblivion.

    When she next awoke, she awoke with all her faculties. She could tell that she was in the infirmary. She knew that she had an IV in her arm; that her body ached; and that there was a bulky bandage on her head. Her head was still a bit tender, but the booming pressure was gone.

    “Have you rejoined us?” The nurse asked.

    “Charlotte, how long have I been here? What’s going on? Where’s Bishop? I want to see my children…”

    “Peace, you were shot. You were wearing a bulletproof vest, but it was very light, and somewhat worn. It didn’t completely stop any of the three bullets that hit you in the torso—but it slowed each of them down enough that they had rather minimal penetration,” Charlotte told her.

    “Yeah, that was an old Level II vest that I picked up second hand, before the eruption. I liked it because it was thin enough, that it would fit under clothes that a regular vest wouldn’t, and it was comfortable.”

    “Well, it saved your life. You were also struck in the head. The bullet struck at an angle. It didn’t penetrate the skull, but it did fracture it badly enough that we had to operate, to take pressure off your brain.”

    “Where is Bishop?” Debra asked.

    “Listen to me!” Charlotte hissed urgently. “ Archbishop Sean is in charge of the Ark now…”

    “We don’t have Arch-Bishops…” Missionary Debra began.

    “We do now.”

    Charlotte grabbed both of Missionary Debra’s hands before continuing.

    “Sean took over with the backing of some skinheads from Georgia. Bishop Hawkins escaped, but he captured the five old Bishops and got them to declare him a Bishop first, and then Archbishop. Two of them refused, and he shot them. Oh, I’m so glad that Bishop Pruitt didn’t live to see this.”

    “How could this happen? Why didn’t more people fight?”

    “They were inside our lines before we knew it. They took all the strategic strong points. No one was prepared,” Charlotte said sadly.

    “Well, lets grab our Guns, and take the Ark back!” Missionary Debra said.

    “They took everyone’s Guns. They haven’t gotten all of them, of course. They did get most of them. Most of our folks in singles barracks either carried their Guns, or had them in a locker. Either way, they were easy to take.”

    “Well by damn, lets storm these knob-gobblers with our bare hands. There can’t be too many of them.”

    “I still haven’t told you the worst of it. They’ve put all our children together, and the Georgians are holding them hostage.”

    “Cowards take hostages. Georgians?”

    “That’s what they call themselves. We have folks from Georgia that bristle every time they hear the name, but that’s what they call themselves.”

    ################ #################### ########################

    The Georgians had surprisingly sophisticated ideas how to manage a slave labor force. They moved into all the best lodgings and appropriated all the best furnishings for themselves. They demanded the best of the first fruits for their tables. And excepting the occasional outraging of womenfolk (and in the modern World, a few men folk as well) they pretty well left the peons alone.

    Most of the day-to-day decisions on how to manage the place were left to “Archbishop Sean”. That meant when they had to work longer hours, eat less or rougher food, or abide by various curfews, it was the “Archbishop” they cursed.

    The Archbishop sat glumly on his throne. He’d been more or less the unofficial second-in-command to Bishop Hawkins—though he’d been co-equal to Elder Matthew and Missionary Debra. But back then everyone had liked and respected him. Even Bishop had treated Sean with respect. Now he was sandwiched between people, who addressed him as “Archbishop” with the same tone of voice, and facial expression they’d have if saying “dog turd”, and white supremacists that made a point of calling him “boy” and “dinge”.

    Like the Spartans before them, the Georgians made a point to keep their martial skills honed. They also kept a number of guard posts manned—both against external, and against internal threats. They used Sean’s new police force (the Ushers) to maintain a vast and complex web of snitches, informants and double agents.

    ################### ############### #####################

    The Georgians feared me. They had pretty much disrupted the whole countryside looking for me, and they were keeping it stirred up. So I decided to go to Ronnie’s Retreat. Not only did it put me well out of the range of the Georgians, it gave me a chance to talk on their worldwide radio and satellite television stations.

    The television appearances in particular, demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that I was at Ronnie’s Retreat, and not still in Breathitt County. I put more store in the radio broadcasts though. There were undoubtedly more than a hundred working radios for every working television—and even if someone had kept a television up and working, they’d still need a satellite dish to groove on our broadcasts.

    “People, you don’t need me to tell you that we’re in rough times. We’ve been through bad times. Things in general aren’t bad anymore for us—the survivors; and for those who did not survive, it’s a moot point.

    “No, as a general rule, times aren’t bad for most of us. They’re not bad, but they are exacting times. We have very little margin for error. We don’t have any resources that we can afford to waste. Nonetheless, if we persevere things should improve, gradually at first, and then ever more rapidly.

    “However, there is one force that can send us all back to the dark ages—or the stone age—or it could wipe mankind off the face of the Earth, though I personally don’t think that God will let things deteriorate quite that badly. That force is a combination of greed—greed for the unearned; Stupidity—the stupidity of a man in a glass boat juggling anchors; and arrogance—the arrogance that causes folks to think they can get away with something.

    “No one ever gets away with anything—not even on this Earth. You may steal, and not have to bear man’s censure; but you can never escape the fact that you are a thief. Men may not catch a clever enough liar; but the liar cannot escape the reality that he is a liar.

    “I am not talking about conscience. Many folks have consciences that are seared by a red-hot iron, and have grown as hard and dead as a piece of steel. I am talking about the fact that if you are a thief; or liar; or idolater—or whatever—it will inevitably become a part of everything you are and do.

    “You Georgians think that you’re getting away with something. You’re not—not even momentarily. You hold the people’s children hostage. That’s clever, but it’s cowardly. Not only that, but it won’t keep you safe indefinitely.

    “Well that was more or less the message that I wanted to give; but it’s behind the times now. There is a plague in the land, which may very well wipe us all out in spite of our best efforts. We need to find a cure, but instead many of us are forced to waste time and resources clowning around.

    “So, you people who didn’t want to stay on security alert—do you see now why I wanted to keep more sentries? You morons that wanted to disarm everyone—you are disarmed now, are you better off? You folk that thought you could advance your own agendas by bringing in foreign powers—how’s y’all’s agendas doin’ now? Do you hear me, Elder Sean?

    “Oh, and just to let everyone know—while I am still the legitimate ruler and Bishop of Bishop’s Ark, I am a ruler in exile. But I have also been appointed Bishop of the Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church denomination—and I have another Bishop’s ring to prove it. Good thing that I have two trigger fingers, what say?

    “Right now my only advice to everyone is to pray above all else, and keep your eyes open for any opportunity to improve your, or everyone’s situation.”

    The speech had drained me. I hoped that it would give at least some of my people some inspiration.

    ############# #################### ######################

    “Good news,” Travis told Doctor Bing-Bing. “The Wolfhound and all of your Warlocks have the anti-viral agent in their saliva. It will help the scientist immensely. They say that it’s going to be a wooly bear to synthesize though.”

    Doctor Bing-Bing started to get excited. He started going through maneuvers that would have done a Shaolin monk or a break-dancer credit—all to his weird disjointed staccato rhythms with his characteristic “Bing-Bing!” liberally distributed throughout his outré dance.

    “I’m a…I’m a…I’m…I’m a chemist—BEAINGGG-Bing!!!!!!

    “Mighty…mighty good chemist—BING-BINGGG.

    “They call me Doctor Bing-Binggg; Beeingggg-BINGGG!!!

    “I can…I can…I can synthesize anything. Got a…got a structural diagram? Beeeing-Binggg!!!” The Doctor spit out like a psychedelic rapper.

    Travis looked at me curiously. I told him that while the Doctor generally acted somewhat demented, that he was a chemical genius and he had was a virtuoso at improvised synthesis. Travis wasted no time in getting him seated at a computer monitor. As Bing-Bing studied the three dimensional molecular diagrams—both of the bizarre virus, and the canine anti-virus, his hyperactivity gradually subsided.

    Travis wasn’t a chemist or Doctor. So far as I know, he’d never taken a single college class—but he picked up stuff fast. As Bing-Bing stared at the diagrams, Travis would point out first one, then another oddity that made the cure extremely complicated to synthesize. They kept at it until the wee hours. Eventually I went to bed, and left them to their odd collaboration.

    ################## ################## ###################

    I had Larry and his friends Dave and Lloyd along with me; as well as Aryan and Pete; Elder Matthew; and a handful of others. I tried to get Pete and Aryan to stay with their children. They argued that they were some of the best Warriors available; and that I represented the best chance that their—or anyone else’s children had to survive, in the long haul.

    We all gathered to have a strategy session. There were a couple engineers from Purdue, and one history professor who’d taught military tactics for the ROTC. No matter how we looked at it, the situation seemed hopeless.

    Even if I had overwhelming force at my disposal, they held the children hostage. Even if it weren’t for the children, it wouldn’t do any good to take the Ark back, if we destroyed it in the process—and we faced the double jeopardy of ruining the Ark through damage to the equipment, or through too many casualties to our people.

    One thing that we did have in our favor was the fact that Minister Tony had taken out about sixty percent of their personnel and much of their armor in his brave Kamikaze attack. Also, they’d been invited to leave their compound in Georgia—not because of differences in doctrine, but because they’d backed the wrong players in a failed coup attempt. They weren’t likely to seek support from that quarter. Still, for the moment it seemed that they had all the advantages.

    ############### ######################### ###############

    Natalie had had her consciousness level raised when she was seven years old, and she’d seen her mother shoot two would-be rapist. She could also remember very clearly the sensation of having a knife at her throat as one of the men had attempted to use her as a hostage. Now seven years later, she was a hostage again.

    This time though, she had just recently turned fifteen. She’d seen many examples of violence over the years. She’d watched on the monitors, as the breath of Bishop Hawkins’ Dragons had roasted the army that had come to try to take their home. She’d saw friends killed during the Georgian’s takeover.

    At fifteen, she’d already absorbed years of martial arts and firearms training. She also had a Seecamp .32ACP automatic pistol, along with an extra magazine, and a small, but razor sharp Buck Esquire—all hidden deep in her panties. She also had another, even stronger weapon in her unwavering faith in God.

    The Georgians hadn’t bothered searching the children too thoroughly. Despite their other faults, the overwhelming majority of the Georgians were not pederasts. Also, they had discovered early on, that it wasn’t particularly prudent to rape the women of a Warrior race.

    Most of the women weren’t Warriors, of course. Neither were most of the men. However, there were enough Warriors scattered around, that taking a woman by force was not a particularly safe endeavor. Throats had been cut. Eyes had gotten gouged out. Soft body parts were bitten with rare ferocity and a will to hang on that would have done credit to an English Bulldog.

    During an occupation, there will always be a certain number of people ready to prostitute themselves for necessities, or even better, luxuries—even in a religious enclave. The vast majority of the Georgians limited themselves to the willing.

    One of the Georgian guards slipped Natalie a sandwich—thick slices of home made whole wheat bread, with an extra thick chunk of pork steak between them.

    “Thank you, but that won’t buy you any sexual favors from me,” Natalie told him defiantly.

    The man, he was barely a man at the age of nineteen, was highly embarrassed by the suggestion. Actually, he had only give Natalie the sandwich because he felt sorry for her. The children were on half-rations, and while that was a modest hardship to the small one’s, Natalie was hungry all the time.

    “I’m just trying to be nice. You don’t have to be hateful. I really enjoy listening to you sing and tell the little ones stories,” He said.

    “Well then, since you’ve shown me kindness, I’ll repay you by praying for your soul. You do know that what y’all are doing here is wrong—don’t you?”

    “You don’t see the whole picture. Unclean races have to be brought under subjection. It’s the will of God.”

    “Do I look unclean to you?” Natalie demanded, while holding a forearm up for him to inspect.

    “No,” He said miserably. “Look, I don’t want to fight. I want to be your friend. I’m lonely. Do you play chess?”

    “Some,” Natalie allowed.

    “I’ll bring a small set tomorrow, and I’ll bring you something else to eat. My name is ‘Alan’; but they call me ‘Art’.”

    “That’s curious. I’d have thought they would call you ‘Al’.”

    Natalie resolved that the first time that the opportunity arrived, she’d turn Art into a corpse, and escape over his dead body.

    ############ ##################### ######################

    Missionary looked at Archbishop Sean and smiled. He though that maybe she’d finally decided to loosen up a bit.

    “I can’t help it,” She said without the slightest trace of remorse. “Every time I see what that Homosexual did to your nose, it makes me truly happy. I love it! You weren’t anyone’s idea of handsome before, but now…”

    “I’ll catch that pervert someday, and your precious Bishop too. Then it will be pay-back time.”

    “Yes, someday it will be pay-back time. What are you going to tell Jesus on Judgment Day? ‘Well Jesus, I got jealous of your anointed—so I sold your people into slavery, so I could be the head slave. That is okay with you…’” Missionary Debra taunted him.

    “Are you going to help me, or not? You said you would.”

    “I said it and I will—wherever I can cut down on wasted resources. On the other hand, I never promised to like you—or to show you even the smallest possible amount of respect. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a shin-humper. You need to be neutered without anesthetic and then gut-shot and left to die—and I’ll do it, if the opportunity ever arises.”


  17. #17


    ..... Chapter Seventeen

    Art proved to be an avid chess player, though not a particularly good one. He was on guard duty almost every day. Since he was both low ranking, and was younger, and thus less experienced than most of the Georgians; he drew most of the second and third shift watches.

    Natalie almost always played the King’s Gambit if Art answered 1) P-K4; with P-K4. Occasionally she’d play a Danish Gambit just for the hell of it. As often as not, Art chose to play the Sicilian or the French Defense and bypass the hectic pace of the blistering Gambits. Natalie always played the French Defense when she was black.

    Natalie had told Art flatly, that there was two games that could be played over a chess set: “chess” and “1) P-Q4”. She said that since they were playing for fun, they should play chess. If Art wanted to play Queen’s Pawn openings, he could go play them with someone else.

    She did loathe the tedious limp-wristed Queen’s Pawn openings, but she was also attempting to be the one setting limits on their interactions. She had a fair grasp of the psychological games that could be played with captives. Happily though, the Georgians had little interest in winning the hearts and minds of the children.

    “Back in Georgia, I had a mule and a couple Bloodhounds before the eruption,” Art told Natalie over the chessboard. “I used to like to hunt coons.”

    “Bishop Hawkins had two Bloodhounds that followed him everywhere he went. He always named his dogs after famous painters,” Natalie said.

    “Did you ever have a dog, Natalie?”

    “Yes, we had a couple Boxer dogs when I was young. They’ve both passed away now. They may very well have been the last two Boxer dogs on Earth—though I like to imagine that the breed still exists somewhere.”

    “Why didn’t your Bishop save some?”

    “I asked him that once, when I was still a little girl. It was right after Pinky had to be put to sleep. He said that he was sorry, but choices had to be made. He said that Boxers were good dogs, but so were the other two or three-dozen breeds that didn’t make the list. Do you have a dog, Art?”

    “Not anymore. Command Central didn’t classify dogs as essential materiel.”

    “What was essential ‘materiel’?” Natalie asked, putting emphasis on the unusual word.

    “Humans; Rabbits; chickens; pygmy goats and Dorsett sheep. The goats give milk and meat. The sheep give wool and meat. The rabbits and chickens grow and can be harvested quickly. Chickens provide feathers and eggs. Anything not ruled essential was excluded.”

    Natalie explained Bishop Hawkins’ ideas for a mini-ecology. She told how he’d carefully preserved honeybees and ants and bumblebees—along with earthworms. She told him how they’d saved a half-dozen species of songbirds. They’d even cached many kinds of weed seeds—though there had been a definite bias towards edible weeds.

    “Bishop said that we couldn’t survive long term without forests and meadows. He said that even if we could, it would be a mighty barren existence. He said that if nothing else you’d need lumber and the ground cover that wild forests maintain.

    “We had people going out year after year, establishing small groves of trees, and/or small meadows every few miles—complete with their own beehive and complement of worms and soil starting compost.

    “We were fortunate, maybe twenty percent of the trees survived somehow. The ash has made the soil very rich. Nonetheless, the ‘gardeners’—that’s what we called them—didn’t expect to see much result in their lifetimes. They were doing it for their children, and grandchildren—and for life itself.

    “That’s one of the things that stirred up many of the shortsighted to discontent,” Natalie finished. “In their minds Bishop was wasting resources that could have raised our immediate standard of living.”

    Art sat and studied his game carefully. He usually won, because Natalie made slashing attacks for their own sake. Bishop often quoted a champion Judoka from Egypt that he’d once trained under: “Attack, attack, always attack.” He always imitated the man’s pronunciation and accent when he quoted him. Bishop hadn’t been talking about chess, but nonetheless Natalie applied the dictum to her game rigorously.

    “You see we have Bloodhounds. We have coons and possums both—if y’all haven’t sacrificed them already, for being ‘counter-revolutionary’; or ‘nonessential materiel’; or some such foolishness.

    “We were planting forests. You will probably be able to go coon hunting again in your lifetime—that is you would have been able too. You hobnailed knob-gobblers are doing your best to throttle the goose that lays golden eggs. But then geese aren’t essential ‘materiel’, are they?”

    Art sighed. Natalie had managed to work herself into a temper again. She’d finish out the game, though she’d be glowering angrily at him the whole time. She’d even play another game, if he’d set up the board—that is, if he could stand her silent but withering scorn. At least his double watch was almost over.

    They were giving junior soldiers double duty to leave the senior ranking ones more time to bollix around. Not only did that smack of unfairness, but also the chronic lack of sleep was giving Art a temper almost as waspish as Natalie’s.

    He couldn’t afford to rail at his superior officers the way she railed at him—or anyone else who came within the sound of her voice. He had no desire to yell at Natalie. Though he hadn’t yet organized his impressions, he’d come to think of Natalie as his one and only friend.

    ########### ########################## ##################

    Natalie told herself that she’d have to quit riding Art so hard. She wasn’t really mad at him anyway. She was mad at the whole situation. She hadn’t seen or heard from her mother or her sisters for several weeks. She didn’t think there had been any conscious attempt to separate her from her sisters. They were holding the children at numerous locations and it had simply worked out that way.

    She’d heard several tales about her mother from Art. Art hated the Archbishop as much as any of his parishioners. Many of the Georgians felt the same way about the traitor. They loved to pass tales about the latest verbal outrage Missionary Debra had committed against her new boss.

    She understood why her mother was working for the occupation forces. She was in a position to influence the Georgians not to throw out all of Bishop’s long-range programs, and to avoid needless waste.

    The Lieutenant coming into the enclosure cut her ruminations about her mother and sisters short. He’d been eyeing Pride for the last couple weeks. Pride, despite her name, was an unassuming girl of twelve. Unfortunately she’d developed a large pair of breasts rather early. The large bust line made her stand out. It made her a target.

    Natalie could see tears come into Pride’s eyes as the lieutenant whispered something in her ear. Natalie weighed her options. If need be, she’d shoot the porker through the head—but that strategy was not without its drawbacks.

    At best, she might kill the officer—maybe even one or two of the guards before they killed her. It was always a good day to die, she kept telling herself. A Warrior chooses death.

    Worst-case scenario: she’d fail to inflict a lethal wound with the small Seecamp .32ACP. The guards wouldn’t kill her, but they’d disarm her and watch her much more closely in the future. She held her sanity largely through thinking about the capacity for retaliation or escape that her small weapons gave her.

    She assumed a saucy pose straight from one of the music videos her mother had tried to discourage her from watching.

    “Pride is just a little girl,” she said. “I’m sixteen. I’d be legal, if there was such a thing anymore. Anyway, I’m much more ‘experienced’ shall we say?”

    She licked her lips and stoked her thighs, and rolled her hips suggestively. She had never dreamed that she was capably of such a performance. Her face flushed with shame, but that was okay. It would pass as excitement.

    “But not here. I need some privacy to let myself go,” She purred.

    Well that was her gambit. It would either be accepted or declined. After a momentary pause, the Lieutenant nodded assent and hollered for his guards to come let him and Natalie out.

    Natalie hadn’t expected Pride to understand until later, but the little girl mouthed “Thank you” as Natalie was hustled out the door.

    ################# ################### ###################

    Nick had as many tattoos as Aryan, and they’d both rode bikes. The two big men hit it off from the start, though at six-eight, Nick was a good five inches taller than Aryan. Nor did the coincidence that both of them were married to black women escape them.

    Nick had done a lot of exploring since the weather had cleared, both alone and with others. He casually mentioned a huge weapons cache he’d come across serendipitously one day. It hadn’t seemed particularly important to Nick at the time.

    They had more than enough weapons and ammo at Ronnie’s Retreat. Traders brought all the cheap but well made machine pistols anyone could want—made to the Holmes Pattern. Finding enough ammo to do much shooting was much more problematic for most, but as noted, not at Ronnie’s retreat.

    Nick had simply made a made a mental note, should changing circumstances ever make the cache important. What intrigued Aryan was the large quantity of expensive weapons and gear—enough to stock a small army. So they came to me with a rather odd plan. It all hinged on whether there were any more War Hammers around, and whether Aryan could locate them.

    In the meantime, Doctor Bing-Bing and the scientists from Purdue had created not only a cure, but also a vaccine for the virus. It had proved remarkably simple, once they got Bing-Bing on board.

    I sat down beside Wayne as he set staring at a monitor studying some sort of molecular diagram. We’d worked out the stratagem of sitting at adjacent monitors, and typing messages back and forth. As long as Bing-Bing multitasked and didn’t get too wrapped up in what we said to each other, we could carry on a reasonably normal conversation. It beat him using hasty asides and crude scribbled notes for his end of the dialog.

    “We’re working on growing chitin,” He texted me.

    “What for?” I typed back.

    “Do you know what chitin is?”

    “It’s similar to both cellulose and cartilage, in that like both of them, it’s based on big collections of glucose molecules. Insects use it in their exoskeleton,” I said.

    “Not just insects—lobsters, crabs, spiders. It’s very strong. A big sheet—oh, say one-foot square would be a bit lighter than the same amount of Aluminum, and way stronger than an identical plate of steel. They’ve been able to grow it in the lab for a while—just not in large quantities and in useful shapes. That is about to change,” He told me.

    ############## ################## #######################

    “I never was a homosexual,” Ronnie told Dave and Lloyd. “I was more of an omnisexual pervert—tending more and more to voyeurism as time went on. The point is, I know about unclean, unnatural urges. They’re very strong.”

    “So when you got saved, did God take away those urges?” Lloyd asked.

    “Can’t rightly say so,” Ronnie said. “I’d pretty much lost those urges before I started coming into conviction. Maybe that was by the grace of God. Maybe it was simple satiation. Point is: if God could save me, he can save anyone.”

    “You know how some people really enjoy smoking, and other folks smoke largely to fit in? Well, I think that’s how I felt. The Boyz were a family. I wanted to belong to that family so badly…”

    “Not for me,” Lloyd said. “I know what you mean, but for me it was different. I craved it. Still.”

    “This is a hard point to get across,” Ronnie said. “You can’t get saved thinking, ‘I’ll get saved, then I can do anything I damn well please.’ It doesn’t work that way. You have to get saved knowing that there are certain things you won’t be able to freely indulge in anymore. BUT once you decide to make that step, your salvation isn’t determined by how well—or how poorly you follow through.

    “You don’t say, ‘ If I give into that urge, I’ll lose my salvation.’ You won’t. You have to say, ‘If I give into that temptation, I’ll grieve my Lord, my feelings of guilt will come between me and the Lord for some indeterminate amount of time and I’ll damage my testimony—and set a bad example for others.’ There are Earthly consequences too—like my AIDS.”

    “I have to think about it. No one ever explained it to me like that,” Lloyd said.

    “Me either,” Dave agreed.

    ############## ################## #######################

    Larry walked in on Wayne and me “talking”.

    “The Georgians have threatened to take the Boyz compound if they don’t surrender.”

    “Set me up for a broadcast. Then I need to send some encrypted messages,” I said.

    A few moments later I was broadcasting over the Worldwide radio station.

    “I know that you Georgians can hear me. Any attempt to take the Boyz, or any of the other smaller compounds will be met with all the forces at my command. Let me speak plainly, I have quite a few resources left. I haven’t attacked y’all in the Ark—yet, because you are holding both my equipment and my people hostage.

    “Step outside and let me take a clear shot at y’all. I dare you! Go ahead, make my day.”

    “Why?” Dave asked me.

    “Number One: the Boyz are my neighbors. A man doesn’t stand by and watch his neighbors robbed, butchered, or killed—whatever you may think of your neighbor. It ain’t neighborly.

    “Number Two: each smaller compound they annex strengthens their hand.

    “Number Three: I just don’t like them,” I explained.

    “They wouldn’t help you, were your situations reversed,” Dave said.

    “Probably not,” I said. “I ain’t them.”

    Shortly after my freedom talk, Aryan came bursting into the radio station with a broad smile on his face.

    “I’ve located the War Hammers. They’re supplying security for a small compound near Falmouth, Kentucky. They’re back up to platoon strength—and they still have about twenty original members.”

    “I thought that they planned to survive by raiding,” I said.

    “I guess the battle of Baptist Town cured them of the notion.”

    “Take as many folks as you think you’ll need. You have the codes and frequencies to get in touch with any of our units in the field—or in the smaller compounds. This could work.”

    “Do you think they’ll still attack the Boyz?” Aryan asked me.

    “Not at first. Cooler heads will prevail. Then after a brief interlude, they’ll realize that they really don’t have any choice. That should give us three or four weeks to get ourselves into position.”

    “Why don’t they have a choice?”

    “They need to be on a wartime footing all the time, or their organization goes to hell. That’s why their home base had to expel them. That’s why they took the Ark. They have to expand or perish. It’s the nature of such things.”

    ########### ################### ###################

    Art had come back to the enclosure to retrieve his forgotten chess set. He overheard enough of Natalie’s words to get the gist of what was going down. He felt a red-hot shower of rage run up and down his spine.

    He was an idealist. He’d thought that Natalie was a nice girl. To hear her talking like a filthy whore was enough to unhinge him to the point of physical illness, but his rage ran deeper.

    He hadn’t wanted to have sex with her. However, if she actually was the type girl to give it up for little favors; then he’d done her more than enough such favors to earn the right of first refusal.

    She hadn’t offered him her charms, but she had to the Lieutenant. To his mind, that could only mean that in some way, she found the Lieutenant superior to him.

    Art understood very well why Cain had killed Abel. When someone judges another superior to you; it isn’t the judge who has dishonored you, but the judged. He felt a surge of rage toward the Lieutenant. Such an insult could only be washed off with blood. He intended to kill the Lieutenant and wash his hands in the man’s blood. Then he wouldn’t have to be ashamed at the judgment.

    He would have felt that way at any time, but without the chronic lack of sleep; gobbling the odd amphetamine-substitute capsules that the Georgians used in place of speed and the attachment to Natalie that he wasn’t yet fully aware of—well then, maybe he’d have kept his rages to entertain himself. Now though, he was cocked, primed, and loaded—and he had a hair trigger.


  18. #18


    ..... Chapter Eighteen

    Art followed Natalie and the Lieutenant with rage in his eye and murderous intent in his heart. The Lieutenant led her to a private room. Then he turned to the two soldiers who had accompanied him.

    “She thinks she’s up for a little one-on-one, but when I’m finished, you can have what’s left,” The Lieutenant told them with a sneer.

    The soldiers laughed at the remark. They knew that the officer liked to play rough, and it struck them as a hilarious practical joke to play on a young black girl.

    Art heard and understood too. The rage washed over him in waves. It made all his body hair stand on end, with the warmest and most powerful goose pimples he’d ever experience. Blood would flow, he promised himself.

    ############ ########################## ######################

    Natalie saw the aside to the guards. She only caught a few fragmented words, but nonetheless she guessed the import. She’d left herself open to a bigger downside risk than she’d imagined. She rehearsed one of the Bishop’s favorite combat axioms:

    “Concerns with ‘Good or Evil’; ‘Right or Wrong’; ‘Success or Failure’—these are the delusions of a sick mind. The wise man acts purely for the sake of action—without regard for consequences.

    “What does this mean? To me, it means you settle your mind about such things before you decide on a course of action, but once you commit yourself, you block anything but the pureness of action from your mind. Second thoughts will get you killed in combat.”

    She was concentrating on the Bishop’s dictum when she was grabbed by the arm and thrust rudely into the room. There was a mattress on the floor, a chair and a small table in one corner. Obviously this room had been used for this purpose more than once.

    Her ruminations were cut short when the lieutenant slapped her hard across the face. Tears started from her eyes.

    “What was that for? I haven’t done anything,” She protested.

    “That was because I like it—and you can’t do a thing about it! Here let me show you.”

    He cradled her chin lovingly in his left palm, and slapped her even harder with his right hand again. Then he switched and slapped her left-handed; and then he slapped her right-handed again.

    “Do you like that?” He demanded.

    Natalie’s left eye had swollen almost shut. Her mouth tricked blood from a busted lip.

    “No,” She told him quite frankly.

    “Isn’t it wonderful? You don’t like it, but you can’t do a single thing about it. I love this!” He exclaimed.

    He slapped her again and again, while repeating words of the same general meaning. After a half-dozed slaps, he seemed satisfied for the moment,

    “Take your clothes off,” He told Natalie.

    Natalie said a brief prayer of thanksgiving. She was afraid that the chucklehead would rip her clothes off of her himself—causing her to loose her Gun. She kicked off her shoes and removed her pants.

    She managed to reach deep down inside her panties and gripped the Seecamp .32ACP. She flicked the pocket holster loose. Now she had the .32 hidden in her right hand. She had her panties half removed when the Lieutenant impatiently cut them free with a big blade, and shoved her roughly onto the mattress.

    Natalie managed to turn and land on her back. As the Lieutenant cast the knife to one side, and jumped upon her, Natalie wrapped her legs around him in a manner that would have made a Gracie proud. She didn’t intend for him to get away.

    She shoved the tiny muzzle of the pistol, as deep into the Lieutenant’s left ear as it would go and pulled the double action trigger. The report was rather muffled, but the effects on the Lieutenant were instantaneous. He went limp as every muscle in his body went slack.

    Bishop always said that anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. She pressed the Seecamp against her client’s left eye, and pulled the trigger. Some of the vitreous humor flowed back into the little Gun, jamming it momentarily.

    ########## ############################ #################

    Art took a moment to still his breathing. The guards had no reason to suspect. If he could only act nonchalant, he could walk right up to them. There was no reason that he shouldn’t be walking down the hall. It took him a few more moments to calm himself.

    He leaned his rifle against the wall around the corner, out of sight. He didn’t want to be encumbered with it. He walked up to the guards.

    “What’s up guys?” He asked them in what he hoped was a normal voice.

    “Lieutenant is in there beating one of the black girls half to death. Stick around if you like it bloody and half dead. Myself, I like it anyway that I can get it,” The guard told him with a smile.

    Art smote the guard on the right side of the door with a powerful sucker punch to the middle of his nose. It might very well have put the guard down for the count, even if Art hadn’t been wearing the brass knuckles.

    He plunged the curious curved dagger in his left hand deep into the right abdomen of the guard who had spoken, and ripped it across.

    “Isn’t that special!” He replied to the guard’s comment, as he ripped the man’s intestines to shreds.

    He struck the client a couple of times in his right temple with the brass knuckles, then grabbed the back of the client’s head and yanked it into a vicious head butt. He released the man, quickly cut his first client’s throat, from ear-to-ear. Then he did the same for the second client. Making absolutely certain that each client was completely satisfied, before moving on to other pursuits was a mark of the professional.

    He used the butt of one of the guard’s rifles to bash the door open. The door, like almost everything in the Ark, was substantial. The makeshift lock that the Georgian’s had added wasn’t. The door flew open with a crash.

    Art entered just in time to see Natalie fire the second shot into the Lieutenant’s eye. It hurt his eyes just to see the mess it made of the man’s eye socket.

    ############### ######################## ################

    As Natalie tried to clear the viscous liquid off of her tiny .32, Art came crashing through the door. In his left hand was the odd dagger that most of the Georgians carried. The knife was double edged; had a thirteen-inch blade, and a pronounced curvature.

    She aimed her Gun at Art’s eye socket.

    “Drop the knife,” She demanded.

    Art seemed to be only peripherally aware of Natalie.

    “In a minute,” He said.

    He grabbed the corpse with his right hand, and rolled it over. I was the work of an instant to rip the abdomen open. He laid the knife to one side and plunged both hands into the cavity. When both his hands were red up to the elbow, he rubbed blood onto his face.

    Natalie took advantage of the interlude to thoroughly clear her pistol.

    “Are you through?” She asked him.


    “What in hell was that about?” She demanded.

    “Do you believe that blood washes away sin?”

    “Jesus’ blood—not just any blood.”

    “That’s okay. I wasn’t trying to wash away sin, just the disgrace he’d placed upon me.”

    “Is that something they teach you? And how did he disgrace you?” Natalie asked.

    “No, washing my hands in blood was something I figured out for myself. I thought that he’d disgraced me, because you liked him better than me.”

    “Gosh Allen, I didn’t know that you cared, but if you’re jealous, I could shoot you though the eye socket too.”

    “I think I’ll pass,” Art said as he wiped his blade clean on the Lieutenant’s clothing and resheathed it.

    “Well, I think we’ve both pretty much overstayed our welcome here. If you’d like to go with me, I’ll show you to the nearest hidden escape tunnel.”

    Art was so thrilled and surprised that he grabbed Natalie in a big bear hug and lifted her clear of the floor. After a moment, he set her down in some embarrassment.

    “You had better put your pants back on, before we go anywhere,” He said.

    ############### ################## ######################

    People have told me that I’m paranoid. I don’t think that some vague syndicate composed of “Them” is out to get me. However, for a long time I’ve assumed that in the course of a long life, more than one person will try to get me at some point. When he does, he probably won’t make a formal declaration of his intentions.

    So I had plenty of weapons and ammo and food cached in various semi-secret locations. Only a few battle leaders new where each hidden compound was. Strategy “Way-Way-Alpha” meant drop everything. Get out the best that you can and go to pre-assigned rally points—where your group leader will tell you where to go next.

    In the new World, all I had to do to keep my back-up compounds reasonably secret was to locate them about twenty miles away. Who was going to walk twenty miles on a whim? Working vehicles were few and far between; and few who had them would waste alcohol joy riding.

    We used surviving structures wherever possible and it was surprising how much useable material we were able to salvage.

    So when the Georgians made the mistake of attacking the Boyz, I was in position to slash them to ribbons.

    First of all, I had many graduates of my summer marksmanship program. Grown men who’d been training to be excellent rifle shots from early childhood. I managed to put over one hundred three man rifle teams into the field as sniper/spotter teams. They were all armed with the excellent Holmes designed, round receiver bolt actions chambered in .308.

    Then we had almost three-dozen five man .50 caliber sniping teams, armed once again, with the excellent Holmes designed bolt action—though these were single shot.

    The light rifle teams had dirt bikes so they could continue to leapfrog along the convoy’s route. The heavy rifle teams also had four wheelers equipped with small trailers.

    The Georgians started out over a thousand strong. By the time they traveled the thirty miles to the Boyz compound, they were already down to less than nine hundred.

    The Boyz could field about thee hundred effectives, and that was what the Georgians had counted on. We’d put enough men inside to double that number, and that allowed them to throw up a larger first line of defense.

    It wasn’t anywhere nearly as strong or well made as the original, but the Georgians suffered quite a few casualties forcing them to fall back, while the defenders suffered relatively few casualties—almost none, in fact.

    When the Georgians tried to storm the original perimeter, they already had much less of a force than they’d counted upon. And they faced much heavier fire than they had anticipated. My snipers continued to chew away at them from a distance; and once they were inside the first line of defense, we started lobbing mortars in on them.

    Then when they desperately tried to take cover in the first line of trenches, we set of the combined explosives and pyrotechnics that we’d lined the outside trenches in—compliments of Doctor Bing-Bing.

    From then on it wasn’t so much of a battle, as a rout. My snipers followed the ragged survivors right up to the outer perimeter of the Ark’s compound. A few of the more excited snipers were gunning down folks inside the compound itself, when the Georgians got on the PA and threatened the children. I ordered them to break off, and return to their respective bases.

    I doubt if three hundred Georgians got back to the compound—and they’d lost beaucoup vehicles.

    When I got on the radio for my Freedom Talk that night, I invited the Georgians to please attack another compound—any compound. I knew they wouldn’t. They barely had enough folks to keep control of their serfs as it was, since the Battle of Boyz Town.

    ################# ################## ####################

    Nick and Aryan marveled at the huge underground cache of weapons.

    “Bishop told me that he once seen an ex-KGB agent on TV, talking about how they’d cached arms in America for fifth column use, in the event that they ever went to war against us. He said that it was easier to buy Guns in America than to try to smuggle Soviet arms in. Said that they were so hush-hush that some of the locations were forgotten. This may be what we have here,” Aryan speculated.”

    “Could be,” Nick agreed. “Makes as much sense as any other explanation I’ve thought of.”

    They loaded a little over a hundred of the .308 H&K 91s. They loaded that many H&K .9MM MP 5s; about fifty of the VP70’S with the detachable buttstocks; a couple hundred of the .45ACP P9Ss pistols; and a couple hundred of the Walther PP .32ACPs with their screw-on suppressors.

    They piled the trailer high with ammunition and magazines. Aryan helped himself to a few of the pistols, as did Nick. They also loaded boots, uniforms, knives, bayonets, web gear, and other soldierly gear. Finally they were ready to go.

    “We hardly made a dent in the inventory,” Aryan said in amazement.

    “If you ever want to come back—take enough stuff to outfit a few caches—that’s cool. Just don’t be hoggish and take more than you can really use,” Nick said.

    ########## ################### ##########################

    Nick, Aryan, Pete and Private Nash, along with Natalie and Art, all pulled into the big “U”-shaped drive at the front of the building.

    The Captain—who’d since promoted himself to Major, walked up to meet the group. He was overcome with emotion when he saw the two friends that he’d long since given up for dead. He threw his arms around Aryan first, and then Private Nash.

    “It’s good to see you guys again. I thought you were dead,” Major Keith told them.

    “Well, like I told you, they’re Christians. Instead of punishing us, they adopted us. This is my wife Pete. Nash’s wife is back in Baptist Town.”

    Despite Aryan’s tattoos—which were more of a fashion statement at the time, than anything else, the War Hammers weren’t overtly racist. Major Keith greeted everyone with enthusiasm.

    Once they were inside, and they sat down to a nice meal, Aryan started the conversational ball rolling.

    “What’s the deal here? This is a nursing home—or was,” Aryan said.

    “Well, after the Battle of Baptist Town, we really weren’t in any shape to be brigands anymore. Do you know what drove a lot of these smaller towns,” The Major asked.

    “Not really, “ Aryan said. He could have made any number of educated guesses, but he wanted to find out where Major Keith was headed.

    “People who farm all their life, ‘till they get too old, often move to these small towns. A lot of times a town with a population of five hundred will have three hundred retirees living in small houses; seventy or eighty in a nursing home and the rest of the people will be in service occupations—grocery clerks, gas station attendants, nurses aids, town Marshal, etc.”


    “These people are tough. They know how to farm, and how to survive. We combined resources with a couple small Mutual Assistance Groups that we knew would be under capitalized to survive a Calderas eruption, and we tried to save as many of the old time rednecks as we could.

    “They are a priceless resource. We were doing greenhouse farming from Summer II,”

    “I expect that most of your old folks are dying off by now,”

    “Some,” the Major said sadly. “ But we have a surprising number in their nineties, and still able to help garden. We’ve got five over a hundred years old. I don’t know what’s up with that.”

    “I don’t either, but now that you mention it…” He let his voice trail off. He had more important things in mind.

    “Listen, do you still think that your men could still do the old “Trojan Horse” thingy?”

    “I have every confidence. I hate to sound crass, but what’s in it for me?”

    “Well for one thing, if the Georgians aren’t stopped, they’ll eventually make problems for you. On the other hand, I have quite a bit of weapons and ammo to give you—gratis. We want you to look like a successful mercenary army for rent. You’ll like these weapons.

    “I see that you have rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs and hogs. We’re willing to give you oxen, dairy cattle, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, sheep, turkeys, etc. We’re trying to reclaim a lot of fallow ground. If you’re one of our trade partners, we’ll run a corridor right up to your doorstep.

    “We got lots of nice things to offer you,” Aryan concluded.

    “What about security while we’re gone? “ Major Keith asked.

    “Did you hear what happened to the boarding party that attacked the Boyz?”

    “The airwaves are humming with the news.”

    “Well the same force is willing to protect your old folks while you’re gone. Art here is a defector, he can tell you a lot about the organization of the Georgians. Natalie is an escapee. She can also provide some insight.

    “I’m already burned, but Private Nash—soon to be Lieutenant Nash—will be your liaison. By the way, do you have any black War Hammers?”

    “A half-dozen, or so.”

    “Well leave them here. The Georgians are white supremacists. Oh and by the way, there are beaucoup secret rooms and passages. This will be dangerous. It’s deadly serious—but it should also be kinda fun. Y’all get to dress up and play secret agents after all.”


  19. #19


    ..... Chapter Nineteen

    Major Keith had been summoned to Comrade Hearst’s office. He’d heard rumors that there had been a few cases of the new plague in the Ark. One look at Comrade Hearst confirmed the Major’s worst fears. The Georgian leader’s face was covered with red angry abscesses—some as big around as a golf ball.

    The pudgy little man half sprawled across his desk. A single stream of drool hung unheeded from the corner off his mouth, and sweat ran into his remaining eye.

    “I accepted you and your War Hammers into our organization because I thought you were squared-away soldiers. Feh! You ought to call yourself the ‘Wimp Hammers’,” The Commander raved.

    The Major was feeling a little smug about the vaccinations he and his men had been given before they embarked on this assignment. The smugness allowed him to shrug off the insult to him and his men—just barely.

    “What seems to be the problem Comrade?”

    “Last night forty of our hostages, and four of my guards disappeared—just vanished into thin air. They didn’t go out through any of our guard posts. They just left.”

    “Were any of my men guarding them?” Keith demanded.

    “Well no but…”

    “Were any of my men involved in any way?”

    “No, not that we know of.”

    “Well then, why are we having this conversation?”

    Keith wondered idly how many of the guards were now POWs, and how many were defectors. He decided to speak the obvious. Surely the fool in front of him had already thought of it. He was a bit slow, but surely he wasn’t that thick.

    “Seems to me that there must be at least one secret passage—maybe more,” Keith said.

    “Good luck finding them, you pestilent POS,” The Major silently added.

    “Take a half-dozen of your best men and tear that room apart,” Comrade Hearst ordered.

    Major Keith gave a mental shrug. There weren’t any secret passages in the room where the children had been held. He knew that for a fact. He was more than willing to lead the Georgians on a merry goose chase though.

    However, before he left the room there was a minor matter to take care of.

    “You have the plague,” He told Comrade Hearst.

    He leaned across the desk and pulled the fat man close enough that he could have kissed him—had that been his intention.

    “More than likely, you’ll die slowly over the next several weeks. It gets worse as the disease progresses. On the other hand, you may live. About one in twelve do.

    “My point is, if the suffering ever gets too bad; if you ever want someone to put you out of your misery—just speak to me in that tone of voice again.

    “When you do, there’ll be sad singin’ and flower bringin’.”

    ########### ########################## #######################

    The plague had struck the Georgians. There was no help for it. They were short-handed and everyone who possibly could stand guard duty, had to. The sight of a feverish Georgian covered with boils; gasping for air; sitting or leaning against a wall while trying to play sentry became a common sight.

    The Georgians who weren’t sick were worn to a frazzle. They had to stand double and triple shifts to replace those completely incapacitated. They took plenty of the Georgians’ odd sleep surrogate tablets and drank large quantities of coffee to wash the pills down.

    Later when the lack of sleep; fatigue and drugs had weakened their judgment sufficiently, the locals became very generous with an endless supply of Benzedrine tablets; Methedrine powder and Ice crystals. It didn’t occur to the Georgians to wonder how all the drugs came to be in a religious compound, nor to question their supplier’s motives.

    The War Hammers had all been vaccinated against the plague. They brought enough of the vaccine with them to secretly vaccinate all the children. Once that was accomplished, they’d managed to vaccinate a large percentage of the Bishop’s people—everyone that they were reasonably sure could keep a secret, and who wasn’t known or suspected of being a sympathizer.

    With much of the compound in a drug and virus induced fog, the War Hammers started moving out anything of value that wasn’t nailed down. Cattle and horses went out to graze, under the watchful eyes of both shepherds and guards; and none of them were ever seen again.

    More children disappeared. Workers disappeared. Lab equipment; precision measuring tools and caches of valuable chemicals vanished. Much of the losses were unnoticed in the confusion. Sometimes the feverish guards choose not to notice, because it was easier to play dumb than to get a dressing down from their superior officers. Pretty soon almost everything irreplaceable had been spirited out of the Ark.

    ############### ################### #####################

    I pulled my army up in sight of the compound. The War Hammers had made sure that all of the Dragons were inoperable. They’d made sure that all the alarms and electrical systems were down. They’d captured a few key personnel, and ushered a couple hundred of our best close range fighters into the compound.

    The takeover was almost an anticlimax. Scarcely a hundred rounds were fired. There were less than a score of casualties—all but three of them theirs. We never actually tried to storm the place. Our infiltrators opened the doors and welcomed us home.

    A couple of weeks later, we all met in a meadow outside. A hill formed a natural amphitheater. Our people had gathered to witness the judgment. It was the largest gathering we’d had since the eruption. It may have been the largest meeting held on Earth since the eruption.

    The first order of business was Archbishop Sean. My assistants dragged him out. They put him into a special harness that I’d had made especially for this occasion. Its purpose was to hold his head immobile.

    “Archbishop Sean, you’ve endangered the Ark. You endangered our livestock. You endangered your brothers in Christ. Worst of all, you endangered the children,” I said.

    I took a red-hot brand out of the fire. I’d had it custom made for the occasion. It was an elaborate cursive “A” about two inches high. Sean got a brand on each cheek. They removed his shirt and he was branded on both shoulder blades.

    “While I’m sure that hurt, it wasn’t intended for torment. The archbishop had a generous dose of Morphine, and local anesthetic applied to the brand points. He wanted to be Archbishop. So I want to make certain that everywhere he goes, people will recognize him as the Archbishop.

    “Archbishop, this is your sentence. My people are commanded to treat you with the utmost respect, kindness and generosity. They will address you as “Archbishop” at all times. When you hunger, they’ll feed you their best—even if it means that they do without. When you lack for clothing, they will clothe you in their best.

    “The only restrictions that I place on you are these: You may not take part in any productive work or project. You may not own land within our borders. You may not stay in a particular household for more than a month plus three days. You may not own more than you can carry. Should you acquire horses, you may own what your mount, and one packhorse may carry.

    “You will be as the lilies of the field. You won’t sow; neither will you reap—yet you’ll never lack for good food and fine reinment.

    “Someday you may find a woman who’ll have you. The one-month rule will be waived in that case. However she can evict you at any time, simply by telling you to leave.

    “When you have endured more than you think is possible, feel free to come petition me. Someday I may feel merciful—just not anytime soon.

    “Oh yes, emotions are running high at the moment. Therefore you are to be comfortably detained for six months, to defuse the situation. As with the brands, that’s not intended to be a punishment.”

    I looked at the two score or so of the Archbishop’s collaborators—our own people who’d turned against us. I paced back and forth in front of them several times. I couldn’t quite quit shaking my head in wonderment.

    “I’ve known many of you since you were children coming to my Summer camp,” I paused. “What possessed you? Have you no loyalty? Y’all are jackasses. To hell with it, turn them loose. They’re pardoned.”

    Next they brought out the Georgian.

    “Those of you that were sick seem to have made a fairly good recovery. Y’all can stay here; go back to Georgia or go somewhere else. We’re going to get y’all’s weapons back to you, along with a going away present—or a welcoming present—however you want to look at it, within a week.

    “I will say this: if you are going to stay, I expect a whole different attitude out of most of you.”

    Finally they brought out Comrade Hearst.

    “You, I am not going to pardon. You were in charge. You started this whole messed up situation. Good people are dead because of you. Equipment is ruined because of you.

    “Worst of all, you put the children at risk and stood by while some of them were abused and in some cases, murdered.

    “I sentence you to death. Strip him down to the waist,” I commanded.

    I borrowed an Enfield and gave the Comrade a half-hearted butt smash to the cheekbone, just hard enough to drop him to his knees. I didn’t want him unconscious.

    Elder Matthew brought me two leather blacksnake quirts. They both had a three-foot long lash. I threw one at Comrade Hearst’s feet.

    “I’m going to beat you to death. You can try to fight back. I’ve given orders to turn you loose if you should kill me. Fight or give up—it’s your choice.”

    “I’ve just gotten over a debilitating illness. I’ve never used a whip and you have a shirt on. Hardly seems fair to me.”

    “It isn’t intended to be. However, I am seventy years old—and I’m supposed to be non-violent. Maybe there’s an edge for you.”

    I brought the lash down hard three times across his back. Then he screamed and lurched to his feet clutching his whip. I knew the right distance, and I cut him repeatedly.

    I avoided his eye, because I didn’t want things to end too quickly. I’d shown enough mercy, that I felt compelled to make an example of someone. Otherwise people would think they could attack us with impunity. I did use feints to his one eye, to keep control of him.

    He finally got in one good lick. It cut my cheek to the bone. I have the scar to this day, like a Prussian schmeis. He tried to rush in after his attack. I let him come. I reversed the quirt in my hand, and coshed him over the head with it.

    The handle was filled with several ounces of lead shot. That’s largely what a small blacksnake whip was for. Back when towns first started passing laws against blackjacks and saps, a lead-filled quirt was a discrete and legal way for a gentleman to carry a cosh.

    I’d counted on Hearst not knowing that. If he had time for any reflection at all, he must have been astonished at the power in the whip’s butt as I smashed him over his head. He dropped to his knees again.

    I gave him two more saps across his skull. Reversing the grip, I lashed him across his bare back twenty-five or thirty times. He cried and begged at the end. Finally, I thought I’d made my point. I drew my .32ACP Walther PP and shot him twice in the back of the head.

    I’d learned a lesson. I started decentralizing as quickly as possible. Since my secret bases weren’t terribly secret anymore. I used them as the nuclei for many smaller satellite communities. That’s not to say that I didn’t have other retreat spots put back for rainy days. I have no comment on that.

    The weather turned positively balmy. Something seemed to have supercharged both the soil and our plants and animals. Horses; cattle; sheep and goats started having twins as a general rule. So did our women—when they weren’t having triplets. Litter bearing females started having much larger litters. Everything seemed to be literally exploding.

    I hoped we might have at least a few years of peaceful growing. Three and a half years later, just when it seemed that I might get my wish, we faced another war.


  20. #20


    .....I wrote this for another Forum; then said: "Why not paste and save beaucoup typing. Ignore the minor irrelevancies please.
    ..........I know several of you(at the very least) have enjoyed this story; and have come to be really fond of some of the characters.

    .....I've become fond of them too. Nonetheless, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that the story is very near its natural end.

    .....Nannygoat, and some others said: "Oh no! Not another War!"

    .....Yet it is controversy that creates drama. But we've already done TEOTWAWKI; Several battles; and pestilence. Anything else would tend to get repetitive.

    .....You don't--as a general rule--say "They lived happily ever after..."; and then add fifteen thousand words describing exactly how their happy life went.

    .....Nonetheless, at the end of Chapter Nineteen, I commited to one more war

    .....Someone on another forum asked me what happened to the government. Just for the record, I imagined somewhat less than one hundred thousand survivors in Canada; The US; and the Northern two-thirds of Mexico.

    .....Anyway, in the next and last--or at most, next-to-last chapter; I intend to deal with two very minor skirmishes; show a few gubbmint folks; and try to tie up the loose ends.

    .....Sequels? Perhaps, if something really good and non-repetitous occurs to me. However, writing about a hypothetical crisis happening fifty years after TEOTWAWKI would almost of necessity, be too far out on the Science Fiction limb to find a happy home here.

    .....If Some of you read "Darkness"--a definate SF story; or perhaps Phantasy--you'll note that I really got my word-count up.( "Darkness" weighed in at about 35 000 words; technically a "Novella"; and hard to find a publisher for nowadays. "Calderas" is around 50 000 words.)

    .....If anyone wants to read "Darkness"; google "RVM45 AND Darkness". It's around.

    .....Thing is, much of "Calderas" was composed as I went along. I might decide--sometime in the future--to rewrite it with an eye to maintaining a little beter plot continuity; bulking the word count a bit more; as well as polishing it a bit.

    .....So y'all tell me; if I do such a rewrite; does anyone think it is publishable? Worth bothering?

    .....I have another story incubating already--probably another Novella--if that.


    ..... Chapter Twenty

    In our histories, the small group of white supremacists who briefly seized control of our main compound will always be referred to as “The Georgians”. It turned out though, that there were five other fairly large groups of survivors in Georgia. (Since it had turned out—to no one’s great surprise—that the farther South you went, the more survivors there were—as a general rule.)

    Representatives from four of the groups turned up on our doorstep, wanting to talk about joining forces against “The Bund”—which is what the Georgian’s parent group called themselves.

    “My name is ‘Lynx’ and I represent The Cherokee Nation,” The young man said.

    He was about six-three, blond-haired and blue-eyed. He looked Arian enough to have satisfied an SS recruiting officer. I don’t think I gave any overt indication what I was thinking though.

    Nonetheless, he followed up by saying, “No, I’m not Indian. You’re not black either.”

    This was addressed to me.

    “I don’t really care, one way or the other. However we don’t call ourselves ‘The Black Nation’. Matter of fact, there ain’t much ‘We’, period. ‘We’uns’ been mostly a rather loose Confederacy,” I said.

    “Anyway, my point is, The Bund is looking to expand. If you let them knock us off one at a time, and give them time to assimilate our resources, they’ll be very formidable when they finally make a move on your territory. We thought that you might want to be proactive,” Lynx argued.

    “That’s assuming that The Bund is strong enough to conquer each of you in turn; and that y’all don’t band together for your mutual defense. That is a couple of rather dubious assumptions. Nonetheless, I’m sick to death of all this fighting; so I tell you what I’m going to do…”

    There wasn’t much more to that story. When The Bund started to march on The Son’s of Dixie’s compound, we treated them to an impressive—but bloodless—demonstration of two-dozen our new “Tanks”—if that’s what you want to call them…

    We’d taken the basic “Spider Vehicle” design from Purdue—vehicles with eight articulated legs; blown them up to tank size; hardened them with the new sheets of chitin Doctor Bing-Bing had perfected; and equipped them with big-bore Guns and/or Dragons—along with plenty of machine Guns.

    They weren’t the fastest things around on a straight of way; but they could turn on a dime—or step abruptly to one side or the other. Bing-Bing had also formulated a hotter, longer burning “Napalm” for the Dragons; and he’d come up with some improved propellants and explosive charges for the big Guns.

    The chitinous armor plate was almost impervious to most conventional weapons—and it was far lighter than an equal (and far less efficient) thickness of steel would have been. And in a real pinch, the Spiders could attack by lashing out with their legs.

    Our little demonstration caused the Bund leaders to back down. Eventually they wanted to trade. We fed their black market all the drugs that it could possibly absorb. Drugs don’t seem to cause many big problems, in and of themselves. We’ve never had much of a problem with them.

    The logistics of a black market causes all sorts of disruptions though. It seems that the more authoritarian a government is, the more its authority is undermined by a thriving underground economy.

    Then we also had our propaganda broadcasts. Propaganda isn’t necessarily false. We were very careful to maintain our reputation for total honesty. Propaganda is data, and a certain amount of subjective emotional appeal, with an agenda. Our radio and television shows, as well as our contraband literature, definitely had an agenda—or agendas. Propping up Fascist States certainly wasn’t one of them.

    The fact that we welcomed any defectors who could find their way to us, also weighed heavily in our favor. The Bund government fell apart within a generation.

    Which brings me to another point—people are living a lot longer than they did before the eruption—animals too. They are also able to have children far later in life than was formerly the case. No one knows exactly why, but it has been a big factor in repopulating the Earth.

    For instance, I was seventy-three years old when I married Missionary Debra. She was Thirty-eight. I had some serious misgivings about marrying so late in life—though truth be told, I neither felt nor looked my true age.

    Thirty-eight years later, I’m one hundred twenty-one years old. I could still pass for fifty. Missionary Debra and I have had a dozen children together. She had the last one at the age of sixty-nine. Judging by her appearance, I wouldn’t be astonished—though I would be mildly surprised, if she got pregnant again.

    I suppose the longer life spans, and the extreme fertility of the land is part of God’s plan to refurbish the Earth. It has been a most interesting time to be alive.

    ################ ########################## ##################

    Josiah looked up from his plowing to see a large cloud of dust on the Eastern horizon. He took the small set of binoculars from the pouch on his belt, and gave the phenomena a long look. He saw a huge convoy traveling down the ruins of the old interstate.

    He finished the row, and then pulled his oxen to a stop once more. They could use a break, and Josiah’s full attention was on the wonderment steadily bearing down on him. He’d never seen so many wheeled vehicles in one place before. He thought that they must have an impressive distillery to produce enough alcohol to feed so many vehicles.

    The caravan halted when it pulled even with him. Several men got out of the fourth vehicle and walked toward him. He could see three men dressed in suits like people had worn back before the eruption. Josiah’s memory didn’t go back that far; but he’d seen pictures.

    Four of the men wore uniforms. One of them had four silver stars on his shoulder. The other three all had lesser numbers of stars, and walked a bit behind. They were joined by a couple squads of riflemen who formed a sort of camo entourage’.

    The first man in a three-piece suit stuck out his hand.

    “Hello. My name is ‘Stanley’. I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” The man introduced himself. He had a very broad smile that seemed contrived to show as many of his upper teeth as possible.

    “Frankly, I don’t rightly need any help; but thank ye for the offer,” Josiah said.

    “Once we’re running things, we’ll fix up these roads. You’ll be able to trade freely, without fear of bandits. We’ll build modern hospitals, and grocery stores, and police stations,” Stanley boasted.

    “Yeah well. We have hospitals and groceries. The roads are good enough to serve their purposes. We don’t need a police station,” Josiah objected.

    “Nonsense! You need government—how else could you get by?”

    “We been getting’ along just fine. Anything requires large-scale cooperation is handled by the Council of Bishops, headed by Archbishop Hawkins.”

    Stanley was outraged. He was so scandalized that he stuttered and stammered.

    “You can’t be ruled by a religious denomination. That would violate the separation of church and state. Really, you must leave it to us. We’ll set up a legitimate government—with taxes and everything.”

    “I don’t think we’re quite communicating. The Counsel of Bishop’s doesn’t ‘rule’. As free men, we have no ruler but God. The Council sometimes organizes group efforts. Anyone who agrees with their goals and desires to participate does. Them that don’t—don’t.

    “Nor is the Council composed of one denomination. They’re composed of over a dozen denominations. Archbishop Hawkins happens to be a Bishop in two different denominations.

    “Now as to taxes, we don’t have any. The Council has considerable resources. When they want to do a public work, they rely on that, plus voluntary donations.”

    “Who protects you?” Stanley asked incredulously.

    Josiah placed a hand on the grip of his .44Magnum, and said,” Mostly we protect ourselves.”

    “He’s got a Gun Sir!” One of the riflemen shouted.

    Another rifleman screamed, “Gun!” And tried to grab Josiah.

    As Josiah smacked the first soldier in the eye with the butt of his revolver, over twenty men leveled their rifles at him.

    “Drop the Gun!” a Captain commanded him.

    Josiah had his revolver pointed in the general direction of the soldiers, without pointing at any of them specifically.

    “I’m afraid not. I’m on my own property and I’m a free man. A free man doesn’t surrender his Gun. Get off my property! Leave! You are no longer welcome!”

    “One more time, drop the Gun, or we’ll shoot,” The Captain barked arrogantly.

    Josiah gave a small mental shrug, and started shooting. The first double action shot hit the screaming Captain right in his brainpan. The second shot blew Stanley’s brains all over his partners in crime. Then he headshot the four-star General.

    His first three shots were well within his client’s reaction time. As he fired a quick double-tap into the center of mass of one of the other Generals, enough rounds of .223 to almost cut him in two hit him.

    All the commotion hadn’t been lost on Josiah’s wife. She was watching from a window in the house, a couple hundred yards away. She couldn’t follow the words; but when they shot her husband into pieces small enough to hide, she didn’t need subtitles to draw the right conclusions.

    The new napalm that Doctor Bing-Bing had invented didn’t need twenty minutes to prepare. Josiah had hardly hit the ground when Josiah and Emily’s home Dragon hit the soldiers.

    She was too young to remember her Uncle Tony; but his brave stand against the Georgians was a family legend. She’d been brought up to believe that sometimes in life, it is necessary to remember the Alamo; and die bravely.

    A few moments later, the small house was blown asunder by the Eastern Army. Emily and her eight-month-old daughter perished. However, at the last possible moment, her thirteen-year-old son escaped through a hidden tunnel. He had one of his father’s best long distance rifles—a scoped .30-06; a trio of handguns; and plenty of ammunition.

    The way he saw it, his first responsibility was to tell Bishop Hawkins what he’d seen. Then he’d be free to take his vendetta to the caravan. There was a fast trail bike hidden at the tunnel’s exit.

    ############### ######################## #####################

    They’d flown in replacements for the Generals and the Ambassador; Henchman; Viceroy; Commissar—or whatever his proper appellation was. They’d headed fairly straight for the Ark to parley.

    “Archbishop, I don’t think you realize what you’re facing here. The May Day celebration is an old tradition. I’m going to have my Army parade past a grandstand for you, so you’ll see that resistance is futile,” The Ambassador said.

    I sat in the blazing hot sun, and watched three hundred and twenty tanks go by. There were five times as many Bradley troop transports. A slew of wicked half-tracks and more Ma Duce trucks with twin .50 calibers mounted in the back than I could readily count. There was also about five thousand Infantry troopers who marched by between the massive armor.

    “Well, you sure have more infantry than I could muster anytime soon. I’ll grant you that. Most of your tanks are old M-1 Abrams. Surely they must be obsolete by now…” I said.

    “The crisis pretty much halted our arms development program,” He said rather snidely.

    “Maybe where you come from. I watched your little parade. Now I want to return the favor—because I don’t think you realize what you’re facing here.” I threw his words back at him.

    I had managed to raise fifty-two hundred of the Chitin armored Spider tanks. There were also whole battalions of Infantry; Horse Cavalry; Mule Cavalry and Motorcycle Cavalry.

    I was afraid that he wouldn’t be too impressed by the Spiders; so I put on some lengthy demonstrations for the Ambassador.

    “How in the hell can you field that many of your Spiders?”

    I shrugged.

    “They’re far less expensive than one of your tanks. The body and chassis are largely grown. They can also heal; given proper infusions of ‘nutrients’. We have a population of over forty thousand. Almost eighty percent of families choose to purchase and maintain a tank or two.”

    “What for?”

    “To defend their land from foreign invaders—what else would they be good for?”

    “And you trust everyday ordinary people with that kind of firepower?”

    “You just don’t get it, do you? I have no authority to tell free men what they can or cannot own; but to answer your question, yes. I not only trust them to own main battle tanks—I do everything that I can to encourage them.”


    “Case in point, knob-gobblers from the East show up and try to take over. Isn’t that obvious? Just go back across the Appalachians and rule your original thirteen. We’re tired of that game on this side of the mountains.”

    “Call off your snipers then.”

    “Not ‘Snipers’; ‘Sniper’—singular. Y’all done killed his father, mother and his little sister. You raised his house. You shot his oxen. He’s declared a vendetta against you. You will have to negotiate with him to get it removed. It isn’t my business.”

    “So just anyone can declare a vendetta anytime?” He asked in amazement.

    “Well, you’d want to take into account that his kinfolk might declare a counter-vendetta; and if someone declares a frivolous vendetta, he could be embargoed. No one would ever deny anyone arms or ammunition for any reason; but they might refuse to sell you food, fuel, clothing, seed, livestock, etc.

    “No, we ain’t had a real vendetta in almost twenty years.”

    The Federals decided to take our advice, and take their freak show back over the mountains—minus the fifteen or twenty percent that decided to desert and stay here in the land of the free.

    I never got around to telling the Ambassador that that was the just Kentucky Militia. Then there’s Bishop Ronnie’s Indiana Militia; and The Cherokee Nation; along with the Militias from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri.

    That was a couple years ago; and we haven’t heard from the “Government” since. Maybe we can enjoy some peace for a while. While I hope so, I sure ain’t countin’ on it.

    @@@@@@@@@@@ @@@@@@@@@@@@ @@@@@@@@@

    I hope everyone thinks this a worthy ending for “Calderas”. Let me know what y’all think.

    Robert Victor Martin


  21. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    My beloved SW Missouri

    Nicely Done, RVM45

    Thanks for your writing, "Calderas" was most enjoyable.

    Again, Thank-you, Sir.

    OA, out...

  22. #22
    An excellent read, enjoyed it very much.
    Follow me to for all my craziness
    So say we all. . . .
    "If you value your lives, be somewhere else." Ambassador Delenn.

  23. #23
    An excellent read, enjoyed it very much.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    nw mountains
    Just saw this, didn't want to stop till I finished. Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin


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