From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
It been a busy three days here at the Pines, these people are incredible and are much like the people on Sullivan as far a their drive and determination to rebuild as much as they can and to get back some sort of semblance of normal life. over the last three days I have been meeting with the various Council members. Their congress if you will. Though no one has committed to any sort of trade with Sullivan I feel confident that they will eventually come around.
On the political side of things, they have established an interesting political system here. they have a presidential office occupied by Mark Chapman and Waylon Tucker. They are permanent unelected members. How ever in their political charter they have included a rule that in thirty years or upon the death of both men, the office then becomes an elected office.
In a sort of prime minister position, is Lourdes Green who is like a president and speaker of the house. Her position is filled by an appointment of their council.
Their council or Congress as I call it is composed of twenty seats, ten of which are permanent appointed seats one from each of the craft unions.
The craft unions are the Guard, bricklayers, the metal workers, farmers, Beekeeper/candle makers, glass makers, etc.
They way I understand it is that during the time of the dead, several of the craftsmen like Tucker began to provide things that help out, as time went by they took apprentices to spread their knowledge out. Though they use the word union, I would apply the word guild. The current leaders of the unions are seated in congress to represent the union interests. Which actually means that Tucker and Chapman both are officially seated in the congress since they lead their respective unions, but to avoid conflicts of interest they appointed some one else from their unions to act as representatives.
The other ten seats are up for election every two years, instead of districts each seat is more like the head of a party.
There are a series of primary elections over the course of two months, where each candidate runs on his or her own platform. The primary’s cut the field down to twenty. Then there is a three and a half week wait before the actual election; during that time there is a scramble by the remaining twenty to pick up votes from those who supported a candidate who lost in the primaries. To paraphrase a movie I loved. “there can be only ten”
I am not really sure of the divisions of power, checks and balances stuff like that, but it seems to work for them so far. I suspect that some of them will be hesitant to join or support the zone, if they think they will lose personal power. But that might be unfair to them as well. Till I have a better idea of their lines of thought, I will try to keep an open mind.
The real question now is do I tell them the truth, or do I misdirect in an attempt to keep the zone safe in case they prove belligerent. Of course Erin might have told them in her letters to Tucker and Chapman about the zone, the radios and the sat phone. So if I lie about it and they know it will negatively impact our chances of a deal.
I think because of the size of the Enclave here, the population is at least double that of Harbor town, and its obvious advantages over most any other band of survivors I’ve seen or heard about that being open and direct is probably the best choice.
Oh so I don’t forget… I mentioned they had power here, well after spending a couple of nights here, I can say that Sullivan is better off in that respect, only a few places have interior lights, and of those most only have a one or two lights that burn. Outside, in front of Tuckers workshop and several other places they have strung up, string lights most are the multi colored Christmas lights, some are the straight white Christmas lights and the rest are the old party string lights. It adds a festive air to the place but doesn’t really provide much real light to do anything.
The small new built homes were built out of old world brick and newly made brick from the Brick union. I gather the first few batches of bricks didn’t work out so well, they finally made good brick last year and started building homes for people so they could move out of the old stores and offices that had housed them for so long.
Each of the homes has a skylight using glass removed from other buildings and at first were sealed with caulk and other products recovered from local stores, the last few homes built used things like wax and horsehair to seal the skylights.
I have to say I am impressed, they accomplished most of this in the last three years, and given the resources to keep going I have no doubt these people will be back at the 1940s level of technology in thirty years or less.
1000hrs The Pines Council meeting room.
Chris sat quietly listening as the council discussed various minor issues while he waited to talk to them about his trade offer. It was an interesting insight into the Pines, he thought, and I bet that’s exactly why they are discussing all this first. Though what kind of advantage it might give them in talks, he had no idea.
From the sound of it, they had plenty of vegetables thanks to the greenhouses, red meat was in short supply and their composting efforts were paying off big time which answered the question of how they fertilized.
Most of the rest of the discussions were about resource allocation and the state of resources in the Pines, and it appeared they were starting to run short of several things. It wasn’t critical yet, but it would be in a year maybe two. Most were things that Tucker needed to keep his small micro foundry running, and to continue to produce batteries.
They were either trying to be very open about their situation and what they needed or this was a very elaborate game. What they didn’t mention was their medical situation, assuming they had any kind of doctor or supplies and he suspected that if they did have some thing, it was going to be like Harbor town, a former physicians assistant, or maybe a nurse the best they could hope for would be a Guard medic.
It didn’t really matter, Medical was the big thing for the survivors. Sullivan had gotten damn lucky with Doc Winston, and Blaine. Not to mention the couple of nurses and paramedics they had found along the way.
Another thing that was not discussed at all was the Guard, Lt. Ramo, a muscular, olive skinned man with hair so black it had a blue sheen to it, sat quietly his dark eyes drifting to Chris more often than not. ‘well that doesn’t surprise me, Chris thought, they don’t know me, or where I am from or what threat if any I might pose. I suspect this whole open talk situation is for my benefit. God they should have sent Dummond, he at least was a Sociologist and Anthropologist. Me I am just a country boy who became a forest Ranger.
Finally, they finished with their normal business and turned to Chris. The council meetings were open to any one that wanted to attend, and there were several people in attendance today, here apparently to find out what Chris was doing here.
“Mr. McCaffrey, you have a proposition for the Council of the Pines Enclave?” Lourdes asked.
He nodded and rose to his feet feeling decidedly out of place. “my first bit of business involves trade between you and Harbor town who seeks to trade smoked fish for fresh vegetables.
Erin Brinn also asked me to tell you, that she has other items that you might be interested in trading for up to and including a couple hundred tons of bunker fuel. My only involvement in Harbor Town business is to bring the message to you and I can answer some basic questions, but Erin expects you to send an official messenger to begin real negotiations with her.”
“you realize that as a stranger here we have to view anything you say with skepticism.” Lourdes said.
“I do, and I think the word you were looking for is suspicion, and I don’t blame you, as long as you aren’t so skeptical you refuse to consider any offer I make. If you have no interest tell me and I will be on my way.” Chris replied, it wasn’t diplomatic but if Sullivan wanted a Diplomat, they should have hauled one out of Mount weather and shipped his or her butt here.
“A moment please” Pastor Wells asked as he rose. He was a thin man with a mop of unruly brown hair that looked like it was about to rebel any moment now and try to leap off his head like Don kings hair on LSD.
“The floor recognizes Councilman Wells” Lourdes said. Wells smiled politely his eyes never leaving Chris.
“Over the last three days all of us have met and talked with Mr. McCaffrey. I at least have been impressed by his candor and apparent truthfulness. This idea of trade between his Free zone and the Pines, sounds reasonable. Will it lead to more and closer ties to this free zone? In addition as a pastor and representing my constituents beliefs, what if any religion is practiced in this Free zone Mr. McCaffrey?” Well’s said his brown eyes locked with Chris’s. over the last three days, Chris had gained quite a bit of respect for Wells. The man was quick witted and nothing like Chris had expected for Pastor and a man elected because of his beliefs. Quick witted enough to guess that the zone wanted more than just trade.
There were deep sighs and even a few groans around the table, Chris ignored them he could respect Wells for addressing what was upper most in his mind. “ I will address the religion question first” Chris said. “We have no official religion and will never have an official religion.” Chris said trying to think of a flowery diplomatic way to proceed then shrugged, he would just speak plainly and they could like it or not. “the truth is, we believe in the US constitution. We are determined not to play word games with it. People can believe in what ever they want or not as they choose. But there will no forcing any one to believe any particular religion. As far as personal beliefs, I can only speak in general terms for the others, yes after seeing the dead rise most of us believe in something higher.”
“And yourself” Wells asked gently.
“I believe in good and Evil, and during the war against the Dark and the undead, War is what we call it, I chose the light. It may not be the answer your looking for you Pastor. But it’s the truth.”
“It might surprise you to learn Mr. McCaffrey I am less concerned with people following my personal beliefs than I am with people seeking the truth and personally I don’t think God cares which road you take to find him, as long as you make the journey.”
Tucker cleared his throat, then chuckled. “Pastor Wells can and has expounded on that point at length several times before this.” he said almost fondly.
“When you heathens decide to listen I wont have to explain myself.” Wells replied with a smile directed at Tucker.
“Well, I for one would like to know what if anything your safe zone has to trade with us besides the lack of a organized religion.” Ernest Barker, the rep for the Agriculture union said.
Its now or never Chris thought, “I am authorized to establish trade with any group I come across at my discretion of course.” If it sounded formal to the assemblage it was meant to, he wanted them to understand he wasn’t talking for a few survivors but an actual polity. “First off to show our Good will and intentions,” Chris said turning to Henry who pulled a thick binder out of the bag he carried and passed it to Chris.
He placed it in the middle of the table and stepped back again. Wells being curious pulled the binder to his seat and opened it. He looked down at the first page then up at Chris with surprise before went back to thumb through the binder.
The title page, clearly printed by a modern computer printer read “Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, medical, Economical, and Agricultural. Being also a Medical Botany of the Confederate States; with Practical Information on the Useful Properties of the Trees, Plants, and Shrubs” he read on the first page, further down the page he saw that it had been printed in Charleston in 1863 on 3rd broad street.
He slid the Binder to Amy Carter focusing intently on McCaffrey. “where did you get that?” he asked.
“We found a copy in a University Library during an exploration. We scanned it then printed three hundred copies. Figuring any group we came across could use the knowledge in it to help themselves.” Chris replied. “ I was given to understand that it was written when the blockades during the War of northern Aggression was finally starting to really impact the South and medicine and other things were running low. It was supposed to help the people, especially Doctors could find alternatives to the things they needed.” Chris said, almost smiling as he realized he had called the civil war by the older common name for the war between states that his grandparents had often used..
“And you’re giving us this, free of charge?” Wells asked.
“Yes sir, in addition to any trade agreement, we have a complete up to date medical library, and two Doctors who are training students in everything they know. If you wish to send one ore more people there to study we wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
“You have Doctors?” Lourdes said wonderingly.
“Yes, as well as several former nurses, a couple of army medics, one SF medic/trauma doc, and two or three paramedics we found over the years.” Chris replied. “and medical supplies. If you look in the back of the book, you will find instructions on how to make Penicillin and IV bags, amongst other things.” Chris explained then added the final stroke. “ In addition to any trade deal, we will provide limited medical services, with in reason of course and as long as the Zone wont be left with out a doctor, and we will provide medical training for any one that you choose to be trained.”
There was stunned silence then Chapman chuckled, “you really do not have a clue on how to negotiate a trade treaty do you.” He said amused. “Giving away something like that is like giving away your ace in the hole, that knowledge is priceless.”
“Yes it is” Chris stated. “Its also something we decided was to be given out for free for several reasons, one of them being we are all Americans and we help our own and in some ways more importantly it helps us build healthier communities which can then rebuild in their areas.” Chris stated.
“You’re assuming there is still an America to be part of” some one muttered further down. Chris thought it sounded like Dan Fisher the Rep for the Glass blowers Union.
“I noticed you didn’t answer the first part of my question Mr. McCaffrey and I have another question to add to it, where is this zone located.” Wells asked with a sharp glance down the table.
Chris had reached that moment, tell them the truth or misdirect for the good of the zone. It was a no brainer, at some point they would find out anyway from Trade with the Zone or with messages from Harbor town as Erin got to know the Zone. “The safe zone reaches from Charleston to D.C into parts of West Virginia. Virginia, south and north Carolina and Tennessee,” Chris replied. “Granted we don’t actually control the land in between the communities that have joined us, but we claim it anyway. As to your question about closer ties, I will be honest we hope to have every community we come across eventually join the zone, not controlled by the zone,” Chris said stressing that last part. “the only thing we require is for each group to ratify the US Constitution and agree that at some future point, we meet and elect a president, senate and congress. you would have to talk to Jared and the Council about the details. I only know the bare bones plan.”
“You people think big, I will grant you that” Tucker said not sure how to classify his feelings hearing the word Communities and for the first time really knowing that there were other organized survivors beyond the Island. .
Chris smiled, if they only knew how big Jared and the Island were thinking. Jared’s idea of a University was becoming a reality, it was taking time but it was coming together. At some point the Library and School would equal or surpass the almost legendary library of Alexandria. And as a security precaution, copies of many of the most important books and documents were being hidden away in places like Mt. Weather, the Green briar and others just in case.
He began to outline what Sullivan had to trade and what it would initially want to trade for, and unlike Harbor Town, the Pines did have things that Sullivan not only wanted but needed, especially the variety of knowledge.
“I have a question?” Clint Tanner said rising as the House recognized him. “How does this zone feed itself and what kind of industry does it have. Other than what you have already said and hinted at I would like details.” The Brown haired Tanner held one of the elected seats, and considered himself a businessman with a ready vapid salesman’s smile and an ability to see angles. .
Chris already had instructions on how to answer questions like that, he took a breath cleared his mind of distraction and began to talk. “First our manufacturing base is small but growing, food is provided by a growing number of farms and is—“ Chris said diving into his talking points.
1600hrs. the Pines meeting room.
“I don’t like this” Hercules Secord stated his dark eyes flashing angrily. “you want us to form an alliance with a group of people that are training children to work and to fight wars.” His anger was not feigned, he had two children of his own and in his book children were as precious as life itself. So the idea that any one could use children in such a cold blooded way angered him far more than most anything else could.
Tucker sat in the high backed chair, that had been salvaged from god knew
Where, with his legs out and crossed at the ankles; he was here primarily to listen not to argue but it was hard to hold his tongue. Besides he thought watching Zoe Shaw bristle, he had his allies on the Council. When she had first been elected, most of the men had taken one look at the raven haired, petite copper skinned woman and her expressive open features and thought she would be easy to manipulate and probably not all that bright, they had been wrong. Behind her delicate features was a mind as sharp as a scalpel and as compassionate as she was, she could make hard Pragmatic decisions when a situation called for it.
“Wake up Hercules,:” She said her tone just barely this side of sounding insulting. It wasn’t a secret the two didn’t get along.
Tucker still wasn’t exactly sure of the reasons, but rumor had it Hercules had been pressuring Zoe to have sex and she had so far rebuffed him. Depending on who was telling the story, when Zoe had, had enough of telling him no, she had cut him down to size with well chosen words that called into question Hercules intelligence, parentage, sexual habits and exploratory missions involving his head and butt. or so the story went.
Tucker knew Hercules pretty well and he rather doubted that particular rumor was true. The man loved his wife a lot.
“we and they do not have a choice in this.”Zoe stated harshly. “aside from the fact you were not listening closely enough to actually hear what McCaffrey did say. We no longer have the luxury to let kids sit around and diddle their thumbs till they hit eighteen, not if we are really serious about surviving and rebuilding. What the zone is doing is exactly what we are doing by taking kids into apprentice ship programs to pass on the knowledge that we have as fast as we can pass it along and I think you are mischaracterizing their military training program, at least according to what McCaffrey has told us. “
Hercules stirred, his lips thinned even more but he held back what ever comment he had been about to hurl at her.”
“ No children are serving in what McCaffrey calls their defense force. They are only being training. Personally I find nothing wrong with their training 14 year olds, considering what happened to the world six years ago and left god knows how many thousands of pampered children orphaned in a world of flesh eating walking corpses with no skills to help them survive.”
“But that’s the problem!, we only have McCaffrey’s word that they aren’t raising armies of children to fight.” Secord argued.
“So you don’t like what he did say and decided to add your own words to his comment” Zoe said acidly.
Others around the table leaped in for one side or the other, when the angry shouting began Tucker slammed his hand down on the table, the sudden explosive crack silenced the argument long enough for him to intrude before it resulted in am actual fight.
“I would like to expand on a point that Zoe raised so that you can consider her point in historical context.” Tucker said rising to his feet so that he could pace. “she pointed out how many people have passed away here in the Pines from just the common cold, and none of you gave it much thought.” He paused sweeping his eyes across the council.
“So let me explain the significance, its only been since the late 1800s that the life expectancy rate begin to really rise due to the better medical knowledge and new drugs till it culminated in an life span around 75 years of age that we were used to.
But back in the 1860s, any one that reached 35 was lucky, living till forty five was almost a miracle and if you some how managed to live to 60, most every one you had grown up with had been dead for three decades. We, our society and culture, had the luxury of treating kids as kids all the way up to the magical age of 18 because of modern medicine. But back in mid to late 1800’s you were middle aged by 15.” He paused to let that sink in, Hercules wanted to argue, but like every one else on the council he knew what when it came to history at least during the 17 and 1800’s Tucker was the go to man.
Tucker continued after a heartbeat “ around 1840 in Victorian England the average age of death was 29, and one in six children died before the age of one and something like a third of all children born back then died before the age of five. And England was better off than most places back then with little in the way of severe problems like plagues, wars, bad harvests and other things that increased the rate of mortality.
I think the Average death rate for England at that time was twenty three out of a thousand died every year. Before that, in the late 1700’s up to 1820 or so it was something like eighty out of every thousand died.” He said “and there were slums in some of the cities in England around 1840 where the average age of death was thirteen and England was doing better than most places back in those days. hell England lost twenty three thousand to TB back in 37 and they had medical services, something we lack. Which I would like to point out, that not counting what drugs we can salvage, we medically are not even close to England of 1840.” Tucker stated flatly. Think about that you idiots, he thought angry himself.
Zoe nodded and continued with Tuckers line of thought. “With out our modern medicine, all of us who were adults when the dead rose will begin to die off from infections, the flu and diseases we rarely if ever saw in the modern age, and when that happens, every bit of knowledge, every skill we possess will be lost to our kids.
Which is exactly why we started apprenticeship programs and allowed any one over the age of 14 to pick a trade!. So that knowledge could be passed on to as many people as possible who could carry on if a large number of us die off in a short time.” she stated almost daring Hercules to argue that point with her. “So how is what the zone is doing any different?. Face it, we have few trained soldiers and in a decade we might not have any trained soldiers if we don’t start teaching our kids how to defend themselves, their homes and their families. Moaning about lost innocence sounds morally great,” she said locking eyes with Hercules, “till the raiders are raping and killing their way through the enclave because no one left has the skills or knowledge, or the courage to keep them out of the Pines.
And before you scream that wont happen I urge you to head to the library and leaf through a few books that cover the last four thousand years of History. We don’t have to like it and I don’t, but we and the zone have no choice if we hope to have any chance of rebuilding and getting some of our society back.”
The shock on their faces as they confronted a historical fact that had never really had any real impact on their modern lives was almost amusing. They were so used to thinking about living seventy plus years that it had seemed like a law of nature even though they all had heard at some point in their lives that people hadn’t used to live that long.
“Now you’re starting to get it” Tucker said sadly. “I’m thirty years old now, and I still have not married and don’t have kids yet. but the kids I end up having will probably have families and jobs of their own at sixteen and be dead by forty.”
“Surely it won’t end up that bad” Pastor Wells protested. Whether he was unable or unwilling to accept that things have changed so drastically Tucker couldn’t have said.
“it can and it most likely will” Zoe said reluctantly. “the Medications that where stocked here in the Pines are mostly gone, and most of whats left has lost potency, or become completely useless. Think about this as well, we have lost four women during child birth and seven children died at birth in the last two years, with out proper medical training and medications the numbers will only go up. The one thing we have going for us is Hygiene. We bathe, we have a system to remove human waste and both of those things will help keep us healthier but sadly its not that big of a help but every little bit counts” Zoe said.
“Which is why this” Tucker said tapping the binder that McCaffery had given them. “is so important and why we need to seriously consider trading even joining the zone if there is any chance of having some of our people becoming real doctors and gaining access to their resources and knowledge.”
“Not to mention the fact that we are going to need resources from the mainland that we just do not have the manpower to spare to go out looking for.” Chapman said speaking up for the first time.
“You’re assuming that McCaffrey wasn’t exaggerating what they have and their capabilities.” Secord said stubbornly.
“I have to agree that I am hesitant to fully trust that McCaffrey is telling us the unvarnished truth.” Shane Rictor, Tucker’s appointed Rep for the metal workers and Engineer Union said with an apologetic glance at Tucker. Tucker didn’t hold it against the man, Tucker hadn’t picked Rictor because he would do what ever Tucker wanted. But because Rictor was his own man with a wide streak of integrity. He and Tucker might agree on many things where the Union was concerned but on other issues Rictor had his own views and wasn’t going to compromise them to make Tucker happy.
“But I have to say if even half of what McCaffrey told us was true this is something we cant pass up” Rictor added. Secord scowled no doubt he had expected Rictor to support his view.
“I find myself in full agreement with you ” Lourdes said softly, the conversation about life expectancy rates dropping hadn’t surprised her, she and Tucker had discussed it many times over the last couple of years.
“well we cant just tell McCaffrey that we are running out of critical supplies, or he and his zone will try to use that to get more out of us.” Hercules said his tone bitter as he latched on to what Chapman had said in order to change the topic of conversation to something that he might actually win.
“no we cant, but at the same time we cant just pretend everything is fine and get glass beads and hammers when we need Medicines, bandages, Lead, acid, brass and bronze stock and what ever else.” Tucker pointed out keeping his tone light. .
“I’m more worried about you trading the Pines away for porn than glass beads,” Lieutenant Ramo said knowing that Tucker was trying to keep Hercules and Zoe from getting into another nuclear confrontation. Ramo was tall and broad shouldered and was cursed with a to young looking face that kept people who didn’t know him from taking him seriously.
“I do need to complete my porn through the ages collection, particularly the Prince Albert Victorians at Play special edition centerfolds.” Tucker laughed.
“Can we stay fucking serious for ten minutes,” Hercules grated, then cut his eyes towards Wells. “Sorry Pastor” he said apologetically.
Wells chuckled “accepted Mr. Secord, though I have to say I have heard the word a few times in my life and so far hearing it hasn’t killed me.”
There were a few polite laughs around the table then Tucker paced to the head of the table. “Personally I urge you to vote yes for trade both with Harbor Town and with the Zone, but I would also like to tie any real trade agreement with the zone to our callously using McCaffrey to broker talks with the other Enclaves.”
“I take it you want to push for acceptance of Gideon Snows Proposal.” Lourdes said with a chuckle, of course she already knew that was exactly what he wanted. But there were appearances to be kept.
“Guilty as Charged” Tucker said with a smile. “It’s a good idea even if Snow came up with it and our new friend gave us the perfect thing to leverage the others into making it happen. So lets get down to brass tacks and hammer out what we want in any trade agreement so that I can present it to McCaffrey tomorrow.”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
The thing that continues to amaze me is how accurate that old saying is. The more things change the more they remain the same.
Tucker dropped by and presented me with a list of things that the Pines would be willing to trade for. But the pine requires something from me before they will negotiate with the zone. Namely I am supposed to broker a meeting between the top five enclaves where tucker hopes to form a unified island or as he calls it the first real State post dead.
I gather there is some opposition both here at home and in some of the other Enclaves, color me surprised. Chapman met with me privately to warn me that at least one of the Enclave Leaders was not a fan of the idea and might be tempted to interfere. The hint was I could be killed. Dying just isn’t that big of a fear any more, especially after having eaten some of Eric’s cooking in the field.
What I love about this idea is that its right in line with what Jared and the Zone are trying to do. I don’t get the sense that there is a huge political divide here, definitely not like the Mathias, Brinn thing in Harbor Town but there is a divide all the same and I suspect it will grow as time passes and life falls into what ever will become the normal pattern.
Okay a bit of important news they are producing turpentine, apparently they gather sap or resin from a native pine tree and run it through a still the distilled resin is turpentine. I know that doesn’t sound like much but turpentine can be used as an antiseptic, solvent and the base for many other product, like furniture wax, camphor and Carnuba wax, lemon oil, Rosin Varnishes, citronella, think about that it’s a mosquito repellent and that will cut down on mosquito transmitted diseases, some medicinal uses and can even be used in lanterns like kerosene, but the smell restricts its lamp use to outside. And to who ever reads this later on.
No I am not a know it all, I learned that and many other things from Albert Detwieller who runs the distillation system for the Pines. Apparently this too was another of Tucker and Chapman’s ideas, apparently the two men are fonts of information and that is one of the key reasons the two men were made Co presidents. God knows what else I am going to discover that these people are doing and I can only hope we can convince them to join the zone.
I did find out something interesting, there was another enclave here on the island I’m not exactly sure what happened to it and no one really likes to talk about it. Tucker mentioned it in passing then clammed up when I asked questions about it and the few other people I’ve asked since just look uncomfortable and change the subject. That of course only makes me more curious. I gather from Tuckers comment it was on the north end of the Island up in Hilton Head plantation. I think the next time I check in with Ryan and Garrett I might get them to move their scouting mission up north and see what they can find.
Its time to get some sleep, tomorrow I get to check out the process they use to extract the Resin from the trees, and then meet with Tucker. The day after I will probably be heading out to another Enclave to get the ball rolling.
Hercules strode down the main drag as golden sunlight spilled across the Pines burning away the mist that still lingered. He wasn’t a happy man not in the least, the final vote had left it painfully clear that even those who had reservations about the Zone would support a Trade Agreement in the hopes that the Zone would give them the world.
I bet they will use medical care like a club to get other things, he thought bitterly picturing some overweight diplomat wiping his greasy hands on his pants as he stared hungrily at a woman like Lourdes and said ‘give me that women and I promise your kid will get his medicine. He also didn’t doubt that Tucker was correct about how the past had been, but could the future be as bad. we need their knowledge, and their medicines but can we afford in the long term to deal with them.
No Hercules didn’t trust the strangers, he was honest enough with himself to admit he could be wrong, but if he was right the Pines would be doomed.
That’s assuming this idiot idea of unifying the island that Tucker loved so much didn’t destroy the Pines before the Zone did.
No one wanted to talk about how crazy Baker was, the man ran one of the largest Enclaves and was unstable as hell. Any one that could thump a bible that hard and call Wells a Servant of Satan wasn’t stable and should have had his ass kicked.
He turned up the path that led to his new home, a small brick building with few windows that was a quarter of the size of the house he had lived in before the dead. Of course that house was two hundred miles away and might as well be on the moon.
The Peach trees, supplied by Chris Chapman, in the front yard would produce a lot this year he thought as his daughter, rushed from out the door and threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his waist. His bad mood abated as he smiled and picked her up. He knew he was luckier than many to still have both his wife and kids, unlike Tanner who had lost two kids to the dead, then another to the flu, then his wife to a stupid accident.
He scooped his daughter up, his thoughts returning to the bomb that Tucker had dropped about mortality rates. Holding Beth tightly he carried her into the house, hoping that the Zone was exactly what McCaffrey claimed, for his families sake.
His wife as fixing breakfast, nothing fancy of course, there were no eggs, and no bacon in the Pines or any where that he knew of. “tell me you were not out all night with those idiots from the your party.” She said.
“No Alicia, I actually spent half the night in a meeting with the Council and the other half the night walking around thinking trying to decide if my position is the best for…” he almost said his family, “ the Pines.” As he gazed at the women he had been married to for sixteen years, he could hear Tuckers voice once more, tolling like a doom laden bell about kids dying in droves before five and adults dying off if they were lucky around thirty five.
He ate his breakfast quietly listening to his kids chattering away about things they found interesting, he smiled and made polite comments as his mind trying to grapple with the possibility they might not live even half as long as he had so far. As soon as breakfast was over he sent them out to gather vegetables from the Garden beside the house.
As soon as the girls were out of the house, Alicia’s smile slipped replaced by a look of concern. “what’s wrong Hercules?” she asked quietly. “is it the strangers”.
“in a way yes” he said before popping the last strawberry into his mouth. Not even tasting the fruit as he swallowed. “Its like this” he said and laid the whole thing out. She listened silently, fear glittered in her eyes as he reached the information that Tucker had shared with them. She remained quiet till he finished. Like him she had not even considered the possibility that life could change that drastically
They had grown up with people living long lives and had never really considered that those same long lives had more to do with medical care and good diets than some law of nature. Oh sure they knew that medicine saved lives, but people didn’t die from the flu, or from not washing their hands. At least that’s what people told themselves. The truth had been far different.
I didn’t, Hercules thought. He had not even given much of thought to Tuckers asking for workers to get a section of the sewer system up and running last year, other than if it worked the smell would go away, now the health benefits slapped him in the face.
Thank God Tucker had developed that water pump system that supplied limited water to the showers and public bathrooms.
“Tell me you aren’t opposing this” Alicia finally said.
“I am insisting that we consider that this zone might not be what we have been told it is.” Hercules replied wishing that he could just hold her in his arms and kiss her and ran his fingers through her thick honey blond hair and forget the nightmare that Tucker and Zoe had given him. “I want to say hell yes Alicia, I want to Demand a boat and go pick up a doctor and medicines right now.
But I have to consider these people might just be very smart raiders, and this whole trade idea is a honey trap designed to get us to open our doors and invite our killers inside. But I cant just ignore the fact that they might be exactly what McCaffrey says they are and because of that I don’t wont to risk losing what they are offering. For yours and the girls sakes.”
“you met with this McCaffrey and his friends the other day, what impression did you get about him” She asked quietly.
“the woman, Stephanie, is intense, almost scary sometimes. Very self possessed and Iron self control or so it seemed.. the black man, Henry, plays the comic sidekick routine well, but its an act I don’t think he misses a thing that goes on around him.” he replied, then nodded as if confirming a thought.
“McCaffrey, now he is a hard one to read. He comes across as very honest and full of integrity.” He said slowly.
“but you still suspect he might be lying.” She asked.
“it just seems to good to be true Alicia, Doctors, power, plenty of food, clothes, medicines, Fuel” he said shaking his head, “ fuel for gods sake.”
“you don’t think that some one hearing about the pines might think it was too good to be true do you?” She said “limited power, home made electric cars, Food, limited running water, and all the other things that we have. Do they have that in this Harbor town or up in the Astoria Hilton Spa and Resort” she said using the old title for what was now the Astoria Enclave run by Gideon Snow.
“no” Hercules admitted. “But the possible dangers Alicia”
“ are just that possible, all you need to do is insist that the Pines take precautions to ensure our safety till we can be assured they are what they say they are.” She said placing a small hand on her husbands thigh and gazed into his eyes. “you know I trust you to get it right. You always do”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey
I met with Tucker the day after the big meeting, they have agreed to trade with the Zone with the proviso. God Dumont would love to see a word that big in my journal and Eric stone would laugh. Anyway the proviso is I have to Broker Talks between the Enclaves with the express intent of forming Island government, where each Enclave would effectively be considered a town with its own leadership etc.
This should end up being a blast, amazing how sarcasm is not readily conveyed by the written word.
During the conversation he mentioned a sixth Enclave again as in “as long was we don’t end up like the sixth” that kind of reference. Doom and Gloom stuff, I asked him about it and told me that there had been a sixth Enclave in the beginning, but it had failed. And that was it, he didn’t like talking about it, even went so far as to tell me people in the Enclaves thought it was bad luck to talk about the place.
I have to admit that really, really makes me curious the only reference to a location was on the North end of the island, so I am thinking of sending Ryan and Garret up that way to scout things out, and since the airport is up on the north east side might as well kill two birds with one stone.
And one last note, I have been asked to Meet with Lourdes this morning. I almost said no, the reason being is that I like her. A lot. And that makes it hard to concentrate on doing my job correctly when all I can see, while we talk, is her naked and me exploring every inch of that lush body. I bet she knows that and plans on using that knowledge to get me in a dazed state so I agree with anything she wants.
Don’t worry Eric, I will be able to resist long enough to escape so I wont sell Sullivan for trinkets.
0700hrs, Arrow road, the Pines Enclave.
Chris walked slowly down the street taking in the sights, his meeting with Lourdes Green wasn’t for another half hour and he wanted to see normal life here in the Pines. He had left Henry and Stephanie back at the guest house going over the gear and repairing anything that needed it and repacking.
He also wanted some one with the gear at all times, just in case Tucker or his people decided they wanted to snoop through Chris’s supplies and discovered the sat phone or the short wave radio and the portable power supply for it.
It wasn’t a big thing but those two communication devices were the most important thing Chris carried and he doubted that most people raised in the old Modern world really appreciated how big a game changer Instant communications were.
Just like back home, the people here were out already working their gardens, or heading to their jobs. He smiled at the thought, just a few years ago no one would have thought they would have job again. And like Sullivan the one thing that allowed the Pines the luxury of not only jobs but technical innovation and invention was a decent food supply that didn’t require huge amounts of people to provide it.
Chapman and his green houses had been their saving grace and he wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the Pines was probably the best fed Enclave on the island. Of course if the Guard hadn’t decided to put the Pines around a lumber yard and not one but two fresh water supplies they would have ended up as hungry as Harbor town.
Once past the old lumber yard and some of the new built tiny homes he turned right onto a street that ran north east, passing through an area that had been thickly wooded before the dead. Now the lots had cleared, the trees had been carefully picked and harvested leaving behind any that produced anything that might be used by the Pines, Like the Loblolly pines used for Turpentine production, or apple and Peach trees that the long dead former property owners might have planted in the yards of the Homes that had once been tucked away between the trees.
Those homes, he assumed had been torn down and removed like the trees.and in their place, more of the small homes had been built just like the ones along Arrow road, the gardens were smaller but well tended and a few of the homes had grape vine growing on trellis placed on their brick walls. None of the vines held grapes but he was sure that in a year or two that would change.
Finally not sure exactly where Lourdes house was, he had assumed it would be easy to find, he stopped and asked directions from a rather attractive woman in bikini top and shorts. She had laughed when he explained his predicament and pointed with one dirt covered hand, further down the road. “her place is at the very end, at the old motor court. Just take the court street that curves towards the lake and you cant miss it. What we like to call that the affluent section of town”
He had thought she was being derogatory no matter how friendly she had sounded till he saw the place and understood. When she had said motorcourt he had pictured an old Drive up Motel and he had been wrong.
It had once been an RV camp, a VERY upscale RV campground, each RV pad and camping area looked like an expensive patio area for a very upscale home. Complete with fancy fire pits and expensive lawn furniture. Only ten or so of the pads he could see had the now ubiquitous tiny homes on them.
Lourdes place was actually a little different than the normal box like home, in fact, though made of brick, it reminded him of a small tudor style house complete with decorative box planters used for an Herb Garden. The grassy, once landscaped sections that separated her place from the pads to either side had been tilled and now hosted a vegetable garden. From her covered front porch he could see a small lake where the steadily rising breeze was kicking up white caps.
Thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance and the light was starting to dim as he knocked on the door of the house.
The door opened and he found himself smiling stupidly at her. the breeze tugged a lock of her dark hair free and her altogether kiss able lips gleamed with lip gloss as she smiled back at him.
“Thank you for coming” she said holding the door open. “it’s a bit lonely up here, we just started building here last fall so not many people here yet.” she said as he stepped inside a very comfortable and well decorated home. though using the term decorated implied objects scattered around the room with no use other than to be looked at and that was not the case here. an old fashioned clock hung on the wall of the small living room, ticking softly as its pendulum swung back and forth.
There was a small book case with glass doors stuff full of books, at a glance he could make out titles like “gardening for the beginners”, “a thousand home repairs you can do yourself” and to his surprise at least four volumes of the Fox Fire series.
A manuel coffee grinder and accessories sat on a shelf above the wood burning stove where a tin coffee percolator was starting to perk. Seeing the direction of his gaze she smiled. “sadly its only Tea, I have some coffee substitutes but they only taste good with whiskey in them.”
“Tea sounds fine” Chris said as he sat on a leather couch.
“good, have you eaten breakfast?” she asked and if she noticed the slight hesitation before he answered he had she paid no mind. where his mind had gone with that question was not any place he wanted to verbalize.
“yes thanks.” He said instead as he tried hard not to notice how her brown, hip hugging skirt really showed him more than enough to fire up his imagination.
“those are pretty popular in the zone” he said pointing to the coffee grinder, trying to find a conversation that didn’t start, end or some how include how shapely he thought she was, which was about all the thoughts going through his mind at the moment were about.
“well I, and I suppose all of us, use things like that for grinding up our coffee substitutes. But the one plant here on this island that I give thanks for every day since the dead fell over is Sugar cane. Tucker, bless him, designed a small press for us to use in our homes or where ever we are living.” She said a bright smile appearing on her face. “you would not believe, or maybe you would just how much difference a little sugar can make in day to day life. not to mention all the herbs we’ve been growing. God it was like a miracle to taste food that had actual flavor again.”
He laughed in agreement as she handing him a cup of tea and as he took the cup from her, his hand touched hers far to briefly and at the same time the contact seemed to last forever. Their eyes met and then he looked away breaking the contact that might have led to more than it should.. “I had read that sugarcane used to be grown here, along time ago.” he said instead of telling her just how much he would love to pull her into his arms and kiss those beckoning lips.
Good god, I know its been awhile but still Chris, get your mind on business. This woman is the third most powerful and important in the Pines. You have no business even thinking about how good those long golden legs of hers would look around your….. stop that. he told himself and mentally began chanting Dead puppies cold water over and over again, which didn’t seem to do much to stop the flow of images that brief touch had set off.
“Tucker has plans on getting some one to start making rum out of it. Which should be interesting, though I think if we got a boat and went to San Juan we could probably find enough Rum to last us two or three life times just sitting there.” she said, then shook her head slowly. Chris sipped at the tea and found it was pretty good, probably out of package, he didn’t think any one was growing tea plants yet. which was something he might look into for when he retired from being a pathfinder.
They sat in silence for a moment then she spoke again, and he really loved the sound of that soft velvety contralto voice, and the slight Hispanic accent that gave her words an exotic flavor.
“I guess we should get down to business Mr. McCaffrey”
“Chris please,” he said. Followed by the thought, you really shouldn’t have done that, its to personal and you don’t need any encouragement department. Maybe she will refuse and stick to formalities.
“Chris then,” She said, and like he had expected hearing her say his name touched him in places he wished it didn’t. “ I think I should start by giving you a short brief on the other Enclave’s and their leadership, starting with the Disney Enclave, which as you can guess had once been a Disney resort, located on an island in what is called Broad creek, its essentially a bay that almost cuts Hilton head island in half. Its Leader is a man named Baker….” She said starting the lengthy explanation of the what was where and who was who. Chris listened closely thankful for anything that kept his mind from picturing her in something slinky and made from lace.
0745, Target Road, The Pines Enclave.
Tucker hurried down the Street as a cool wind whipped around him, thunder rumbling in the distance as the purplish black clouds on the horizon advanced towards the Pines like the curtain of night swallowing the world as it came.
He wondered idly if McCaffrey had shown up at Lourdes place yet, and he wondered if either one of them would at on the attraction he had spotted the first time they had met. If any one acted on it, it would be Lourdes, McCaffrey struck him as a man who wasn’t going to push or say a word till he knew where he stood and of course there was the little niggling thing about Trade talks that might interfere, he told himself with a smile.
The Guard Encampment was back off the main streets surrounded by woods on what had been a large cleared area, that had once been intended to hold a new business and its parking lot. The construction forever put on hold now that the contractors and developers were dead. .
In the beginning the FOB had housed far more than the 250 men and woman who lived there now, like the rest of the pines its inhabitants had dwindled due to Death, illness and some leaving the Pines and the island to seek out lost family.
He slowed as he passed through the gate in the chain link fence that enclosed the encampment, watching as two squads of men practiced advancing through a veritable Maze of old cars and any other junk that had been collected and placed to create a street. He knew nothing about tactics and training he only knew that they looked skilled, highly competent or would if not for the screaming sergeant who seemed determined to hurl every insult and criticism he could think of at the men for mistakes that Tucker couldn’t see and didn’t understand.
It was amazing that some one didn’t shoot the man considering how vocally he questioned some of the soldiers Intelligence, sexual habits and probable parentage, which seemed to include a lot of sisters and Grandmothers.
He found Ben Ramo sitting in a covered sand bag position watching the exercise and cleaning the old 1911 .45 pistol he carried. “I hear you had quite the bit of excitement this morning” Tucker said sketching a, in his mind, Dashing salute.
“you could say that” Ben stated, his lips twitching with amusement. “McCaffreys lady friend stopped by to practice her hand to hand.” He said calmly knowing that Tucker was eager to hear the story straight from the horses mouth as it were.
“and?” Tucker said pulling up a metal folding chair and settling down to listen. “I know she wasn’t your favorite person”
“That is the most diplomatic way to express my feelings about her, I have heard” Ben said actually chuckling.
“Apparently you’ve had a change of heart.” Tucker said half surprised at Bens amusement.
“In a way yes,” Ben replied. His biggest problem with Stephanie or that Woman as he had referred to her when he acknowledge her existence at all, was the fact that she had worn the SF Badge, that had rubbed him raw for reasons that Tucker still didn’t really understand but it seemed to be a military thing.
“Rodrigo offered to spar with her fully expecting to take her apart in short order” Ben said shaking his head at the memory. Rodrigo Hernandez had been a self defense instructor and martial artist for over twenty years before the dead had risen.
He had offered his services to the guard not long after he had been placed in the Pines Enclave and had been their hand to hand instructor for the last six years. The man was good according the soldiers who all respected the short Hispanic man that most described as a short wide shouldered fire plug with arms and thick dark hair.
“and I take it, it didn’t go quite as well as you expected?” Tucker asked his face giving nothing away about his thoughts.
“Not in the least, at first she just dodged and weaved avoiding most of Rodrigo’s probing attacks. She launched a few of her own and looked mostly inept at it. Then, well lets just say she exploded into Rodrigo with flying kicks, punches and acrobatic moves that made Hollywood fu looked almost tame. They spared for almost half an hour, even using sticks and staffs. It was pretty brutal to be honest, she ended up with a black eye, a couple of scrapes and scalp wound from the sticks and Staff, and Bruises in colors I’ve never seen before. Rodrigo’s pride took a pounding as well as two black eyes, a dislocated finger, bruised ribs and jaw, and a series of almost as colorful bruises up one side and down the other.” Ben said, then nodded towards the Barracks trailer where Rodrigo had just appeared. He waved the other man over as he continued.
“it was like watching a bad kung fu movie in real life with out the lip syncing” he said and actually laughed.
“Talking about our visitor” Rodrigo said as he entered the position and settled himself gently into a chair wincing slightly. calling what he sported black eyes was an understatement Tucker thought, mostly amused at the situation.
“She was good, not master class by any means, but good. It was a Chinese style, probably Wushu its almost perfect for a woman. it relies on speed, agility and endurance not brute strength and its pretty to watch, at least when your not the one on the receiving end. A few of her moves were from other styles but her foundation was Wushu.”
“So your saying that she is some kind of super Shaolin?” Tucker said trying not to laugh.
“Laugh if you want, She played me like an expert to get a good feel for my abilities while hiding her own skill there at the beginning then used what she knew to the best effect possible. Trust me when I say give that woman another couple of years of dedicated training and she will be a holy terror.” Rodrigo said in the first ringing endorsement Tucker could ever remember him giving.
“she took two hits for every one she landed and still kept coming on him, soaking it up to close and attack” Ben said respectfully. “tell him about your conversation with her after the match Rodrigo”
“Well?” Tucker prompted.
“ First she didn’t bitch at all about her injuries, she looked like a kid who had just enjoyed one hell of a good game. Second she was either a really accomplished liar with a script or she and her people don’t care if we know the truth.” Rodrigo stated by his tone he believed the latter comment.
“Their Leader, Jared Stone, is a former Soldier who apparently gathered and organized a band of survivors that trooped from some where in middle Tennessee all the way to the coast and set up the zone, during the first six months of the dead rising. That says a lot right there about what kind of people they and he are. Along the way they encountered others including quite a few soldiers and a SF team that joined up with them.
Now here’s the fun part, the SF folks set up a training program to replenish their numbers and when this leader of theirs wanted to send out scouts or pathfinders to explore update maps, and make contact with other groups of survivors he turned to the SF to train them.” Rodrigo said shaking his head. “apparently she was the second woman to make it through the course and one Major Campbell gave her his own Badge in recognition of a job well done.”
“So she is special Forces then?”
“no not according to her, shes damned proud of that badge, but insisted that she isn’t SF and that much of her and the other pathfinders training is standard SF skills, like endurance training, land nav skills and basic CQC stuff, and the rest are things like diplomacy, history, survival and back country skills.”
“so they teach all their people to kick ass like a shaolin monk in case talking fails?” Tucker said half goading the other men because he found it funny, almost as much as it worried him.
“no” Rodrigo said with a laugh. “the SF men, according to her, teach MAC, which stands for Modern Army Combatives, to the regular soldiers and a more advanced version to the Volunteers trying out for SF.. Apparently, Stephanie has been training for almost six years under two women and the Zones Leader. One of the women, A Mai Linn has been her primary instructor.”
“Well I guess that we weaker men can rest easy knowing that at least for now there are only a few super shaolin amazons loose in the world” Tucker said trying and failing to hide a grin then grew serious. “I find it interesting that she didn’t mind sharing that some of their people were former soldiers”
“Not former, they still consider themselves soldiers, American Soldiers at that” Rodrigo said. “and she mentioned that only in the last few years has the civilian population grown larger than that of the soldiers. For a while the soldiers were half or a little more of the population and they have fought a few battles against raiders, militias and some war lord and slaver.”
“I see what you mean about her possibly lying with a script.” Tucker said thinking over what Rodrigo had said. “At the same time if they meant to lull us into compliancy with a trade deal which gathering Intel on us then attack us, that story would be the last thing they would want spread around.” Tucker said trying to see all the angles and knowing he couldn’t.
“Probably,” Ramo said, “But I do not plan relying on assumptions, I have already ordered more training time and exercises, as well as patrols immediately around the Pines just in case.”
Tucker nodded in agreement “good and if there are more scarred ones out there beyond the two that McCaffrey encountered the patrols should keep them away from the walls”
“The problem is ammunition Tucker, our supplies are limited if we do end up in a shooting war we are going to need more of the stuff.” Ramo told Tucker.
“I know a little about making gunpowder, but nothing like the kind of knowledge that I would need to actually make the stuff.” Tucker said. “I do wonder if that huge stock pile that the Guard had stored at the Airport is still there.”
“I doubt it, Snows Enclave is close to the airport, they probably stripped the place bare years ago.” Ramo said.
“McCaffrey hinted that the Zone might be making small quantities of ammunition.” Tucker pointed out.
“Yeah he also mentioned fuel production and modern manufacturing but I have my doubts. Probably a case of playing them up to sound better.” Ramo said.
“You might be wrong Lt.” Rodrigo interrupted. “that’s the kind of lie that would be easy to disprove, the moment we offered to trade something they really want for fuel and they don’t deliver, and cant deliver ammunition either, when asked to trade for it the game is up.”
“True enough,” He acknowledged with a nod of his head. “Also as the Commander of the Guard I have to take seriously the idea that they might pose a threat and plan accordingly and whether they are a threat or not it worries me that the scarred ones might still be out there in numbers and that’s a threat that we don’t have to guess at. If there is still one alive our people are in danger.”
“Its not like dealing with Dracula” Tucker pointed out. “but your right its still a serious threat, we need to find their nest and burn them out.” He stopped and looked embarrassed. “That sounded like a line from a 1950s horror movie.”
“And we all know you are solidly grounded in the modern world” Ramo said with a chuckle. “I am going to shake loose Sergeant Williams and a squad to do a sweep for a mile out if there is any sign of the scarred ones, we will locate their hiding place and burn it to the ground with them inside.”
Thunder cracked overhead, heralding the first fat drops of rain that loudly struck the tin roof over their heads. The Temperature was dropping steadily and Ramo shivered despite himself as the light already weak faded as the black clouds and the rain it carried swept over them.
“Damn I knew I should have taken the car” Tucker yelled over the sound of the sudden heavy rain fall and the crackle and boom of thunder that shook the area. “tally ho” he called out as he rose and ran out into the rain and raced towards the trailer that Ramo used for his CP and private quarters.
“He might be weird but he is a genius” Rodrigo pointed out as he and Ramo rose.
“Roger that” Ramo replied with a grin then both men raced after Tucker.
Thunder boomed overhead rattling the old world windows, as rain pounded against roof and windows. McCaffrey sat in the bed his back against the head board listening. It was nice not to be out in the stuff, he thought then glanced at the woman beside him. Lourdes lay on her side head propped up on one hand as she gazed at him. Her sweat damp skin gleamed in the candlelight. The sound of the storm outside was soothing and added a touch of romanticism to their tryst.
. She had invited him over to discuss details thinking that an informal setting would make the discussion a little easier. Being completely honest with herself, she had known she was attracted to him and she should have kept a few dozen people around while he was there. But she hadn’t. So when the conversation had turned to things they enjoyed and missed from the old world, she should have expected it would end up here..
and I should have never accepted the three shots of Tequila from the bottle in his bag, she told herself. The moment she had heard him mention how much he missed real long hot showers and heard her own voice offering the use of her shower that did work, thanks to Tucker and his plumbing system. She had faced the fact that she had lied to herself about the reasons she had wanted to meet with McCaffrey here of all places.
“At least you don’t fall asleep immediately after the first two times” She said then laughed.
He really shouldn’t have fallen for her pick up line Chris thought, this could screw the whole deal. But damn what a woman, he thought his mind replaying the whole satisfying incredible morning. I hadn’t expected this, dreamed of it, wanted it and been determined to go out of my way to avoid it and I knew even as I climbed into that shower exactly where this was going to go. I had been half as serious and strong of will I would have been dressed and out of there before she joined me with a bar of soap and her slippery skin, he told himself. No I would never have even climbed into that shower in the first place.
“Stop worrying, Tucker and I are not married or even dating. What ever that means in the this new world.” Lourdes said chuckling. “From something he said last night, I think he expected this to happen” she said indicating bed and its still sweat damp sheets.
“He likes you, that’s bad enough” Chris pointed out. In truth he too was basking in the aftermath of a morning spent with a woman he was rapidly coming to respect and a like that might edge into something better and greater if they ever had a chance to explore it.
“Yes he does but not in the way you think, we have been casual lovers since the beginning. We do have a lot in common, more than with any one else around here. But we are only friends and if both of us were so inclined to make this more than it is, we couldn’t because of my position as Chairman of the council and his as Co president” She told him as she slid upright tucking her legs under her. Long dark hair spilling down the soft silky skin of her shoulders and half covering her breasts. She used a slender finger to push a lock of hair away from her eyes. The move was so sexy that he almost piled on top of her again. With effort he ignored the unspoken offer and that was exactly what it was too, he thought. She could say more with just a little body language than most women could dream of.
“Like Steam punk” Chris asked.
“Exactly, though my interest in Steam punk was nothing like Tuckers. I loved the romance of the Whole thing. The idea that men and women could travel the world, exploring as they went finding lost cities and civilizations and no one would say but your just a girl, so get me a beer.. I guess I watched far to many movies and read to many adventure books as a girl.” She said with a smile. “that was my dads influence. My mom wanted me to be a princess, date and marry, preferably a doctor, like it was a job you got paid for.” She gave a mock shiver then laughed. “I always found that idea revolting. I wanted who ever I married to be my equal and treat me as his.
You know You and Tucker are close to my ideal man. Of course there was no spark with Tucker.” She said placing a very warm hand on his thigh. His involuntary reaction made her smile demurely, “Pardon me sir, but may I have another” she said with a British accent as she looked up into his eyes and batted her lashes at him, he was pretty sure she was quoting from Dickens.
“Give me a minute woman, you’re a succubus is what you are.” McCaffrey growled playfully. She laughed and leaned against him.
“ You know I am thinking there are probably rules about a de facto ambassador sleeping with the speaker of the house of a group he is negotiating with.” Chris said suddenly then laughed
“My official title is Chairman of the council” she told him as the hand on his thigh moved and closed on its target.
“Truth is this place, the whole island confuses me” Chris said ignoring her hand and what it was slowly doing.
She sighed in frustration “I would think we could forget all that for say, another hour maybe.”
“Sorry my mind gets a hold of something and wont let it go.” Chris apologized his gaze drifting down the breasts beside his arm. Later he told himself. She frowned pensively her hand never leaving the object of her desire.
She regretfully released him then slipped from the bed to walk across the small room and pull a crystal decanter filled with an amber liquid from a cabinet. H couldn’t help but admire her as she did so. she was shorter than he had usually dated, slender with a dancers curves and moved with the same liquid grace as a professional dancer. Not to mention silky soft skin and eyes that a man could drown in. She had classic features and that somehow came off strong and gentle at the same time an totally exotic to his eye’s.
She poured two glasses and then carried them back and rejoined him in the bed, making no move to cover herself. She was as comfortable naked as she was clothed and that was something that Chris liked, how comfortable she was in her own skin. He took the offered glass and waited while she sipped her whiskey.
“What exactly is it that you want to know?” she asked after a moment.
“Lots of things like how could all these enclaves exist with limited communications between them and yet keep apart from each other. What about this almost legendary Sixth Enclave that people talk about in whispers like its some fireside ghost tale and the one thing that has me curious as hell, the Scarred people?” Chris said watching her. at the mention of the Sixth enclave and the scarred ones, something that looked like fear flickered in her eyes.
“Not the conversation I would normally have being all naked and trying to enjoy the after glow from a rather pleasant morning.” She said trying to sound light.
“No one I’ve talked to even wants to discuss the last two things, other than some pointed warnings straight out of old Hammer films.” Chris said. Lourdes laughed for a moment.
“That’s about right, in some ways both the Sixth enclave and Scarred folks are Horror stories straight out of the Movies.” She said her amusement fading.
“ I guess what I told you earlier wasn’t as in depth as I had thought.” She said. “I was a little distracted at the time.” she said with a soft smile. “The reason the five enclaves have never really come together and in my opinion we should have, is that by the time the undead stopped being a threat, each enclave had set up a system to govern themselves, we had to you understand. I know that the Pines has considered the idea even before Gideon Snow suggested it to all of the enclaves. Our biggest fear was that we would end up with leaders who hadnt been part of the Pines and wouldn’t care how we felt or what we needed.
Some of the other leaders Like Baker, well the man enjoys being in charge and isn’t going to risk losing that power. He might claim its out of concern for his people but that’s bullshit, he is only still in charge over there because he has an armed group of core supporters who wouldn’t hesitate to put down any dissent who opposed their god ordained right to determine the moral fate of the Enclave and on the island to boot.” Lourdes stated angrily. “Thanks for killing my afterglow. You will have to help me get it back when I am finished spreading all the gossip, I mean telling you the information you want to hear..”
“Deal” Chris agreed with a quick smile.
“Don’t confuse Baker with Pastor Wells, Wells is a good man and at least really seems to have the welfare of the People here in the pines in his thoughts. I would bet money that Baker was a misogynistic, intolerant, pompous, vacumn minded over bearing ass before the dead, and is worse now.” She stated.
“now that’s a ringing endorsement” chris said. The Zone had run across a few like her description of Baker, like that idiot Landry and his cult
“it is, now understand that some of the things myself and others opinions of Bakers are based on came from people that left, though they used the term escaped, from his Enclave and I don’t doubt that there might been some, exaggeration of events that I and others were only to happy to accept since it backs up our own opinion of the man.
But apparently the only punishment he hasn’t used is burning at the stake. He’s had people stoned to death, tortured and hasn’t shied away from kicking in doors to make sure people aren’t doing things he has condemned like Premartial sex or having sex in ways he doesn’t approve of.”
“Your kidding?” Chris said shocked but he shouldn’t have been, his own group had encountered more than one nut job who had gone off the religious deep end, Brother Landry came to mind almost immediately.
“So we have been told, I like to believe it after having met the man but the truth is, when I try to look at it fairly I have my doubts.” She admitted. Chris knew that some deeply religious people had been pushed over the edge by the rising of the dead, something their religious doc trine before the rising would have sneered at. The whole dead rising had shaken up doctrines and dogma.
Many of the deeply religious had been unable to cope with shattering of the beliefs they had been comfortable with and with no prophet and no word from god that they recognized at any rate they were adrift and the result was either total rejection of any kind of Religion or the kind of casual angry lashing out against things their old beliefs condemned was the result
And of the ones prone to violence, they believed that shed enough blood, kill enough heretics and God might turn the world back to its old familiar place where they knew, not believed or hoped, but knew they and only they held the truth of reality.
Luckily those kind of people seemed to be a minority, no matter how it might feel on occasion, people like Wells appeared to be growing in number.
“any way Baker hates the idea, and Harbor town was split politically and wouldn’t support the idea, Here in the Pine many people didn’t trust Gideon Snow because he and most of the survivors in his Enclave had been rich, like that really matters today, and people were suspicious of what Gideon and his buddies might be after. Like global domination,” she said in a wry tone. “and that brings us to Franklin Coates. He wasn’t really in or part of an Enclave. which you can bet only made him and his followers feel like yet again they had been left to hang because of their skin color.
He is a locally born Black man who organized the Gulla community and set up their own Enclave, The man was the right man in the right place and time, he got them organized, stocked up with everything thing they needed with out any help from the Government or the guard.. Then ignored the rest of us for the most part once the dead were gone.
I wouldn’t call him a bigot, more like he is cautious dealing with any one outside his group and who can blame him. Baker would screw them over in a heart beat, not because they are black but just because Baker thinks he is the right hand of god, so either give him what he wants or he will take it because God gave him permission.”
Chris shook his head at that, he might be from the woods of Tennessee, but that didn’t mean he was a bigot or racist in fact he had been raised to believe color didn’t matter, you judged people by their actions. ‘Boy Trash comes in all colors and if you don’t believe that you take a good long look at your Uncle Cyrus’ His grandpa had told him once. And it was true. Hell little kids wouldn’t even rake leaves for the man he was so mean and disliked around the town Chris had grown up in. .
Cyrus had been the worst human being that Chris had ever had the displeasure of knowing. The man could, and had beat a woman down then pounded on his bible about the evils of society. His family had put up with him, till the day he had taken it into his head to beat Aunt Peggy into unconsciousness. Cyrus had called one of his buddies to tell him about showing Peggy the Lords will and thankfully the wife of the buddy in question had quietly called t Chris’s dad, Cyrus’s Brother, at that point He and the family had finally had enough.. and in his dads own words, to hell with the law, it aint stopped that SOB yet. His had raced over and beaten Cyrus to with in an inch of his life while waiting for the ambulance to pick Peggy up.
The Sheriffs department had disliked Cyrus so much that they had left him laying in the yard for two hours while Peggy had been rushed to the hospital and treated before sending another ambulance to pick up the trash as they had called him. No charges were filed against Chris’s dad for beating Cyrus and Cryus had been officially left alone after spending two days in jail after a week in the hospital, because Peggy had asked that he be left to rot alone out there on the farm.
But that hadn’t cured Cyrus no sir it hadn’t, he and his half dozen friends had started raising hell out there, then in a fit of rage at finding two dead chickens, Cyrus had gone and shot four neighbors dogs, one he had shot in front of the dogs six year old owner. The same girl had ended up shooting Cyrus in the knee years later when he had tried to slap some sense in her as he called his beatings.
All the while, he had screamed verses from the bible, Drank, whored, out of town because local whores wanted nothing to do with him. People in Town, who were not Amish or Mennonite shunned him, he would enter the grocery store or Delmars pharmacy and people would exit till he was finished shopping and left.
He hadn’t cared, in some ways Cyrus had found it funny. Then Brother Bill of the Baptist church had taken the unusual and very public opportunity at a Town meeting, about Cyrus and his crazies latest rampage, to do something that was as close to Excommunication that Baptists could get and denounced Cyrus, Cyrus’s beliefs and ban Cyrus from ever entering his church again. stating that only God could love the man and forgive him because Brother Bill couldn’t.
The other ministers in town followed suit. All but two of Cyrus’s hell raising friends stopped coming out to the farm after that, who knew why. The years had rolled on and Cyrus had only gotten more angry, but he had gotten far to old for randomly assaulting people who pissed him off and the new sheriff was not about to let him get away with it if he had tried. Chris had often thought that Cyrus had realized that most of the people he wanted to pound on were young, and stronger and could put a hurt on his now old and more easily damaged ass, the man was as much a coward as he was mean. the last few years of his long and miserable life, Cyrus had spent alone on his weed infested, crumbling farm. Outcast and hated by every one in a hundred miles, the focus of more kids stories about the boogey man than any other living person in history had been.
He realized that Lourdes had fallen silent waiting for him to say something. “sorry, that got me to thinking about my Uncle, the meanest piece of shit that ever lived, or at least I never met any one worse.” He said then quickly told her the story.
“I would have shot him in the balls instead of the Knee” Lourdes said when he was finished. “and all because she told him off about shooting her child hood dog.”
“my people knew how to hold grudges” Chris said, meaning his town, with a laugh. “She loved that dog, cant blame her. And as far as Coates goes, I cant blame him. At the best of times there were far to many assholes who saw color and not character, with the way so many people have been acting since the world fell apart he has reason to expect people to be even worse now.” Chris said. “which is what got me to thinking about Cyrus.”
It felt odd to have shared that story with her, in fact he hadnt told more than a handful of people about his uncle Cyrus in his entire life. face it she’s the first woman you’ve been with in a long time and its been almost normal, a real bed instead of in a ditch on the side of the road surrounded by a dead town and abandoned cars, a real conversation and not discussing where you might find the next can of pork and beans to stave off starvation for another day. So I guess its natural that I feel so comfortable sitting here beside the best looking woman I’ve seen in years. or at least the best looking naked woman I’ve seen in years, he silently amended.
“Now about this sixth Enclave” Chris prompted.
“the real story, not the one that’s grown in the telling is pretty bad and straight forward. It was up on the north end of the island, in the Hilton head plantation. Twenty thousand vacationers and residents, I think more than half had been brought in from other islands and resorts on the mainland. They got so confident that the situation was under control here on the island that the leadership had some of the barriers removed from around the Enclave.
Most of the residents in the area had already returned to their homes abandoning the Enclaves, and most of them really believed that things were finally starting to turn around and that US Army and the Government were going to come driving up any day to announce that life was back and the stores would be opening again.
Trophy wives could go back to the important things like Having Sugar daddy spend a fortune on their clothes, hair and nails all of that being important again instead of actually thinking about the situation and what was going on out there off the island.” She said, angry at herself for being so petty and bitter. She knew she was being unfair with the trophy wives comment, but she couldn’t stop herself. “Affairs could start up again, and wasting money on stupid shit like replacing cell phones with the newest versions every three months and blowing a quarter of a mil on redecorating the house they had redecorated a year before could begin again and god I wish they had been right” She said, the anger of the absurdity of the world flowed out of her, leaving nothing but grief for all that she and they had lost. She leaned against Chris again, this time seeking human contact and comfort instead of the ardor she had possessed earlier.
“I’ve heard it was cruise ship and a Ferry,” she said after a moment continuing the story. “ I am not sure if any one knows exactly any more, but what ever kind of ship it was, it ran aground up on the north end out of sight so the story goes. And the first warning was when several hundred of the undead rolled over a group of little kids playing at a park. Yes people were that convinced by then that they were safe here, that this place was protected by the hand of God, Fate, or luck.
No one really knows how many of the things there were from the wreck, some say hundreds, others a couple of thousand. But they tore through the north end of the island in a matter of hours, a couple of hundred or couple of thousand became several thousand, then tens of thousands and they swept across the island. Realize Chris this place had slightly over thirty seven thousand residents before the dead and if you count tourists the population could swell to over two hundred thousand or more at the height of summer which as you know was when this crap started.” She said shaking her head. Chris already knew about the thousand that had been evacuated, no one really knew how many, just like no one really knew how many undead the guard had put down in the first week which had been what made the island look so deceptively safe.
“At the Enclave, the Guard troops assigned to protect the place died to the last man to keep the undead out while the barriers were put back up.
We didn’t know about what happened there till after the dead had fallen over, we had been in contact with Snows Group up in the Beach side Enclave, and Bakers Disney Enclave and Harbor town by then, so we got curious and sent people up to the Hilton head plantation Enclave and found only ten survivors. Ten out of the nine to ten thousand that had still been living there when the dead arrived.” She said shaking her head sadly. “Filthy human shaped animals, so traumatized they could barely speak. We pieced the story together from notes, journals and what the survivors finally were able to tell us a year later.
They went insane Chris, they killed each other, rape and murder were as common place as cannibalism, It could have happened here, and I guess that’s why no one here likes to talk much about the Sixth, hell we don’t even use its name, we just say the sixth or the Hilton head plantation enclave. Like saying its name could curse us. And that fear that disquiet is because bad luck could have put us right there with them. It could have happened here too.
Can you imagine being trapped inside the Pines or Harbor town, with the undead pushing up against the walls on the outside and on the inside, Cannibals, murders and serial killers are running wild. I can, and apparently some of those people chose to commit suicide or throw themselves off the wall into the undead to end their lives instead of living another day in that hell hole. “ she stated horror shining in her eyes.
Chris felt sick at the thought, Sullivan had been spared that kind of madness at least it had under Jared and the council but the man who had ruled the island before Jared and Company had arrived, had been as mad as a hatter himself. But not as bad as what he had just heard.
“Part of the problem” She said after a moment of silence “was the food stored there had been spread out to the people returning to their homes in the plantation. In fact every one thought that more would be sent in by the Government. Which didn’t happen of course, so when the dead arrived there just wasn’t enough food left inside the Sixth to get them through and after the gates were closed it just went down hill.
Our medic, who has since died thought it might have been something in what they ate or in their water that sent them over the edge. Others think it was a curse, or some night mare creature they call the dream walker.” She saw Chris twitch and something flashed in his eyes at that name. “what ever caused it, it wiped out the enclave and we think that it might be responsible for the Scarred people too.”
“What are they?” Chris asked as she finally reached the thing he was most curious about.
“Crazed cannibals” she stated. “or at least that’s our best guess because we don’t really know. The first time we encountered them they attacked a salvage team we had out gathering supplies, the team members that didn’t escape were stripped, raped then eaten. They don’t talk, at least not to us and probably not to each other. A few seem to remember how to use weapons and tools, most of them don’t, or at least never use tools or weapons. Our Medic believed that they were infected by the same thing that wiped out the sixth enclave, or and later began to believe that the cause was from eating the meat of the undead.”
“oh that’s sick, even for cannibals.” Chris said turning pale. “so how do they get so scarred up.”
“best guess’s so far, Necrotizing fasciitis , coupled with something like Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which is caused by eating the undead, who knows exactly how it might operate or affect people. At least some of their scars are because they cut off and eat pieces of themselves..” Lourdes replied. “they are worse than the undead, they can think and plan, they can open doors and scale walls. They might not be as smart as a normal person another indicator that prions are probably involved, but they can still think enough to figure out the best ways to get to their meals, which would be us. It took six months to wipe out every one of them we could find last time and till you showed up we thought we had gotten them all.”
“Jesus” he muttered no longer relaxed himself.
“They raided us several times once they knew we were here, came right over the walls and were in homes and housing shelters before we knew it. sometimes they would haul away after dinner snacks, usually kids and pretty girls.
And what really scared the hell out of us, was to see those same kidnapped people running with a pack of scarred folk a month later, just as insane and sporting fresh scars and bleeding wounds as the others, that’s when we knew it was contagious, what ever it is. Maybe it’s a new version of the undead only this time living and smarter than the alpha model.”
“or maybe it’s a combination of things that created them and is highly contagious and adaptable.” Chris said wrapping an arm around her and kissing her on the top of the head he wasn’t sure what had fired that impulse but he didn’t mind it either..
“spontaneous Evolution, I’ve heard the term used a couple of time around here.” She muttered. “who knows, it might be supernatural too, might be the dream walker, designer drugs or a secret government bio weapon that’s created the undead then mutated to a better form and created the scarred folk.” She said then shook her head and forced herself to smile. “ considering I seduced you to get information I seem to be the one spilling all the secrets” she said impishly determined to get back her good mood..
“You make a poor mata hari” Chris joked wondering how he could feel so comfortable with her when he had only known her for a week now. “ask what you want, If I can answer I will. We both know that there are some things we don’t know each other well enough to share. Sad but true”
“There is something I wanted to ask, a lot I want to know what happened every where else, how many survivors there are. But the things I want to know about your Zone are ones that I am sure you cant or wont tell us until you know you can trust us.” She said seriously.
“we had a man who did the math, and his best estimate and others reached almost the same conclusion when they tried it, was that somewhere around two million people in the US survived. He admits that the numbers could be much greater or much lower depending on more variables than he can count in any given area of the country. But the basic numbers with what we know is around two million.”
“Two million” She said shaking her head slowly in disbelief. “how its so empty out there.”
“there were 330 million in the US before the dead rose, most concentrated here on the eastern seaboard. New York city had Eight Million all by itself. Most groups are not as large as the Pines, or even Harbor Town. So two million people in small groups of two to a hundred people on average spread across two million nine hundred thousand some odd thousand square miles of land, leaves a lot of empty land between groups.
IN fact this island has more survivors closer together than any where else we have been.. You people were luckier than any one else that we know of.” Chris said, he didn’t mention that Mount Weather had survived with a couple of thousand, which till Hilton head had been the largest group of survivors they had encountered up to that point, or that several moderately large groups of a hundred or so had survived in D.C.
Some places and people had been lucky, while others like Boston or Myrtle beach were dead, not a single survivor still lived in the old city limits. He had passed through miles of roads that went through dead towns and cities, then one turn on a gravel road and he had stumbled across fifty survivors.
The truly amazing thing was the people that just kept arriving on Sullivan, some had headed east following the planes, others had stumbled across the signs that Eric Stone and others had posted as they traveled telling people to head to the zone. They had started arriving even before the dead fell over and the numbers had gone up once the dead were gone.
“I grew up in Puerto Rico,” she said suddenly not questioning why she wanted to get personal with him. after all he had shared some of his personal life. “My dad was from Texas, some where north of Houston with a ridiculous name that sounded like it came from a cheap western movie, My mom was from San Juan.”
Chris smiled “you will be happy to know that there are people still alive there, Puerto Rico that is, last thing I heard was that most of the survivors, at least in San Juan had moved into Old San Juan. There are supposed to be survivors in Fajardo, and Ponce too.” He told her.
“Thank god” she said with feeling. “My dad was stationed at Rosie roads, which is next door to the Fajardo, he retired there and went civilian contractor so I could finish high school and graduate there. I moved to the states for college. So its as much my home as any place can be. how do you know about that, have you or others from the zone been there.”
“No, not yet there’s plans to send some one but so far all we know is from the few contacts we have made using HAM and Short wave radios.” Chris told her. “we use a lot of things that most people don’t.” he told her. She gave him a suspicious look and got only a smile in return.
“You said you went to college, what did you do for a living before all this” He asked curiously.
“I was a Forensic Pathologist, and I had quit two months before the dead rose, to find myself.” She said. “I got lucky or I would have been ground zero like so many of my friends and co workers”.
She lifted her arms and stretched languidly. Purposely arching her back to thrust her breasts out for his admiration. It was tactic women had used since the dawn of time and it rarely failed to work. It had better work because she really didn’t want to talk about death and destruction any more today. His eyes drifted down, then back up to her face and he smiled. once more a million years of feminine wiles worked their charm, she thought as he pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her.
1400 hrs Savannah Georgia.
Across the inter coastal and south, the storm wasn’t as bad, it did little to hamper the work of the men who were preparing boats for launch. Allen Crestwell, stood on the steps leading down to the docks, a cold wind pushing against him as he stared out into the rain that beat down on Savannah. . It had taken over a year to regroup after they had been driven from Bluffton after their attack on Hilton head island, not only regroup but gather other groups to their cause. Seventeen hundred men and women, with a fighting force of nine hundred and ten under his command who would be making the trip..
At least he didn’t have to worry about the women and children he was leaving behind, along with the hundred and ten men, they would be perfectly safe inside old Fort Jackson. He silently thanked Thomas Jefferson for having it built, General Sherman for not destroying the place and last but not least the coastal Heritage society that had restored the old fort and kept it in tip top shape right up till the time the undead had eaten the tourists who had been visiting the place.
Yes his decision to retreat to Savannah had paid off with big dividends, between the scores of still loaded cargo ships, and the warehouses, to Hunter army airfield they could be set for life. In fact, Allen thought, his mouth twisting down into an angry frown, the leaders of the groups that had joined his own band had suggested just that. But once Allen had really gotten into nut twisting mode, pushing the facts that at least one of the Enclaves on Hilton head had power, and that each of the Enclaves had been fully stocked by FEMA in the last week of the United States life. They had slowly become more interested in taking the island mostly he thought because of the power. .
He had not really lied when he had suggested that the Leaders on Hilton head would at some point seek to gather more materials and supplies and the first place they would look and turn their soldiers loose on would be Savannah, No one had even thought of much less mentioned Charleston to the North of Hilton head for which Allen was thankful.
Even that might not have worked to keep them interested in Seizing Hilton head, but for the Stranger who had appeared in Savannah. He had claimed to be a Traveler and part time trader but something about the man had seemed off to Allen. To well fed for starters, and the gear he carried was to extensive and in too good of shape for some one that had been surviving and traveling the Ruined US.
Allen had, had the man seized and what he found hidden in the strangers gear had been more than enough to get his New men fully into the mission.. the working Sat phone, Lap top and other electronic gear was like gazing at the holy grail. Claire Morgan, who led one of the new small bands had picked up the phone, turned it on and then hit the redial button, when some one had answered she had dropped the phone in shock.
He had turned off the phone quickly, Hadn’t he told them the Enclaves had power, at least one of them, hadn’t he told them about the FEMA caches and all the medicines and goodies they contained. He had ordered the stranger hung as a Hilton head spy and with the visions of high technology and all the toys and gadgets that could be used with the power plant or what ever on the island they had finally buckled down and were deadly serious about taking the island, no this wasn’t going to be a mere raid. He thought with satisfaction. When it was over with Hilton head and every thing on it would belong to them and Allen would finally have his revenge for the men he had lost and his family being abandoned and left to die so that the rich bastards could live comfortably behind their Enclave walls safe from the damned undead.
I have plenty of ammunition now and gear that the military left behind, I have enough manpower, he decided looking out over the storm lashed water, not even noticing the cold water that blew in under his poncho hood and rolled down his face. “ I am going back and this time you wont win.” He told the island as he stared off in the direction that the Island he hated lay..
Tommy Franklin, placed a sealed crate of supplies into the boat to be lashed down by the crew an turned to go get another one. Allen was staring north east, even from here Tommy could see the angry light that flickered in Allen’s eyes. The man hated hard, he thought, He had no real love for the Enclaves either he had lost friends during their attempts to raid the place. He personally thought it was stupid to try an go back, but allen had a point about their now having enough in the way of weapons and ammunition that they stood a much better chance of overrunning the enclaves with the manpower they now had.
He started back to get another box and blinked in surprise as he saw a figure standing up there on the street. it was misty and indistinct standing in the rain, its shoulders hunched and what looked like an old hat was pulled down low to shed the rain water. there was something really odd about that figure, it’s the arms he thought, they look too long. he shivered and not from the cold, he knew he had seen the man some where before. the wind gusted and time seemed to start again, who ever it had been was gone.
He looked around and no one else seemed to have spotted the figure and as he debated on telling Allen or some one else about the man, he realized where he had seen the stranger before and knew he would never tell a soul about it. Who in the hell would believe that the thing that haunted his nightmares for so long now had been standing in the rain watching them. In Tommy’s mind he could see that sharp featured almost skeletal face with its ghastly shark toothed smile and hear the desert dry laughter of the damned echoing in the dark corridors of his mind..