From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
I hate being injured, especially with that damn cat riding beside me staring at me with its big green eyes.
So if we make it out of this alive, which is questionable at this point. I want, no I demand that you make Henry a fully trained Pathfinder. I’m not kidding here Eric. I know that the whole program isn’t official, YET. But it will be and I want Henry a part of it.
Currently we are back in the Township, Waiting for one of the fishing boats to return. Teague who is in Charge while Coates I gone, wants us to take the message straight to the Summit meeting. Which is already starting, Coates and Snow left this morning
I cant walk, or rather I can, but barely. Twisted my ankle and got shot in the arm. Henry is butt shot, got that saving my worthless ass. Stephanie not a scratch and Hercules Secord got a through and through in his side and a couple of grazes.
So here is what I think, I think the Astoria is about to be attacked and I think the group that’s going to do it is large, Ryan spotted men scouting the area around the Lighthouse, which is north and a little west of the Airport, then we were ambushed by a larger group south of the Astoria. I suspect that group was part of the same group and scouting the approaches to Astoria.
1500 hrs July 10th, Broad creek Township.
“You think these people are going to attack the Township?” Carter Teague asked gazing calmly at Henry.
“I would bet money it, But I cant guarantee it no” Henry said. Teague looked towards the Dock where McCaffrey was sitting on a cart with his leg propped up.
“some of my people thought they heard a gun fight earlier. Figured it was just imagination.” Teague said.
“wished it was, or my butt wouldn’t have a hole in it” Henry said. Teague’s eyes widened then he gave a deep belly laugh.
“That’s it yuck it up” Henry said then something suspiciously like a smile flitted across his face.
“That’s a good thing to see” Teague said gently. “a smile, four years ago I wouldn’t have believed people would smile again. I wouldn’t have believed we would have all this either” He waved a hand at the buildings and people working around them. “don’t you worry about raiders Henry, we are not about to lose what we’ve built and that includes being able to smile again.” Henry didn’t know what to say for a moment as he decided on a his response Teague looked towards the docks. “looks like your rides here.” Teague said and Stepped past Henry heading for the boat. “Bernard, don’t get to comfortable, as soon as we get these folks gear stowed on board, I need you to make a run down to the Palmetto.” Teague called out to the man at the Tiller.
Bernard didn’t look happy, no doubt he had but in a long day already. But he also didn’t protest. His crew all three of them, tied off the boat then proceeded to load the gear and supplies that Chris approved from the cart.
“Good luck” Henry told Teague as they shook hands.
“Thank you, and Henry when you get tired of wandering around out there. your more than welcome to come back to the township and make it your home.” Teague said looking directly into Henry’s eyes with an earnestness that was almost endearing.
Surprised at the offer, at least the fact it was coming from Teague, Henry didn’t know what to say for a moment then nodded. “thank you, I will remember that and when I show up, you aint doing no takebacks.”
“You have a deal” Teague said with a bark of laughter.
Ten minutes later their gear was loaded and they were aboard the fishing boat. The line were untied, the boat was pushed away from the docks, with deft precision Bernard got a sail full of wind and the boat surged forward on a bow wave of shining foam.
1520 hrs, Broad Creek, Palmetto Bay Marina
The Marina was one that Gideon had been familiar with back before the dead, though it was much different now than before. He had chartered a sail boat here several times and even spent one summer living on a boat docked here. But today there were no friendly greetings on the docks from other Boaters, no women lounging in bikinis, no smell of BBqs in the air or glasses of wine being sipped on the veranda by men and women who discussed stocks, sports or their last vacation. .
The Condos across the way from the yacht club were empty of life and he would attend no more parties there. and your being morose, Gideon told himself as shook hands with Waylon Tucker. Tucker looked a little older than the last time Gideon had seen him, with a couple of lines at the corners of his eyes.
There was hardness about him that hadn’t been there the last time they had talked two years ago. He was dressed as usual in some old fashioned clothing but Gideon had to admit that Tucker looked natural in them the majority of men would have just looked like they were wearing a costume.
“Good to see you again Waylon.” Gideon said as Tucker motioned for him to sit at a table where two very attractive women sat.
“Erin Brinn and Her wife Noel. “ Tucker said introducing them. “Erin, Noel this is Gideon Snow and Franklin Coates.”
“Wife?” Franklin said surprised then recovered his composure. “it is a pleasure to meet you both” he said.
Snow only shook both their hands seemingly unfazed by the revelation. He sat heavily and sighed. “its so good to be sitting on something that isn’t moving. But I have to admit taking Franklins boats cut a lot of time off my trip.” He said with a smile at Franklin. “not that your kindness will stop me from trying to make the best deal I can for myself and the Astoria”
“If it did, I’m am sure the world would probably end at you acting so unnaturally.” Franklin replied.
The entourage that had accompanied both men were settling themselves in at other tables on the Veranda hesitantly getting to know their counterparts from the other Enclaves.
“I had hoped to see Pastor Wells here” Franklin said looking around.
“He should be joining us later,” Tucker replied silently praying that he was right.
“Good, I would value his opinion on our talks.” Franklin said as a servant appeared with glasses and a pitcher of water. “I see you went all out.”
“This is Carl Bruno,” Tucker said gesturing at the Waiter. “he was a chef at one time and insisted on putting together a staff to so that this little shindig could be properly done up. I have been informed that I’m an uncultured bore and need to learn about the finer things in life.”
laughter rippled around the table for a moment. Bruno flashed a white smile as he poured their glasses then silently left them to talk.
“I appreciate both of you bringing supplies,” Tucker said, almost drooling at the thought of the goats and Chickens and other supplies that Franklin had brought.
“it was the least I could do. I knew your offer to provide food all our food during the summit would probably impact your people and that could cause hard feelings later.” Franklin replied. “I think your Mr. Bruno will find much in the supplies I brought that he will love, including Tea.”
Erin Brinn brushed a lock of hair back behind her ear, and Tucker wondered if she knew how sensual she looked with just that simple motion. She probably wouldn’t care, he thought glancing at Noel who if anything was prettier than Erin. I really need to look into one of those women Ben wants me to meet.
The conversation drifted into something that wasn’t all that common since the dead, small talk. It was another sign that life was getting back to an even keel. The next hour passed quickly, but pleasantly and despite their differences they found they enjoyed each others company. Even Franklin seemed to move past his almost instinctual dislike of lesbians as he talked with Erin Brinn and Noel.
“excuse me Waylon” Ben Ramo said appearing at Tuckers side. “the Representatives of the US Safe zone has arrived.”
1530hrs, July 10th, The lighthouse.
“I am not leaving my home, Young man” Jimmy Dooley said stubbornly his old lined face set like stone.
“Jimmy, those guys will be back and they wont be nice” Ryan said just as stubbornly. He had come to like the old man and didn’t want to leave him to face danger alone.
“don’t you worry about me, I can take care of myself. Besides son, I’ve already live a good long life. Lived long enough to see every one I knew die. I’m not worried about dying not any longer.” Jimmy stated crossing his thin arm over his chest.
Ryan knew when arguing was pointless, being married to Stephanie had taught him that early on. “All right, All right. You stubborn ass” he growled, then gently patted the old man on the shoulder. “you stay out of sight, and if they come back you hide. You hear me.”
Jimmy placed a cool hand over Ryans and gave him a crooked smile. “I hear you Ryan. Don’t you worry I got the blue lady looking after me, I will be fine. Now you and your friend get on out of here. when you come back, bring that wife of yours to visit. I haven’t seen a good looking young women in a lot of years now.”
“Horny old goat” Ryan said with a laugh.
“I’m old not dead” Jimmy replied with a grin.
“Lets go, we have to get in position” Garret said as he shook hands with Jimmy. “take care of your self old timer. I want to find you safe and sound when we come back. you do that and I’ll round up six of the best looking women I know back home and bring them to visit.” The two men slung on their backs and headed down the stairs.
As they crossed the over grown green, Ryan looked back half expecting Jimmy to be standing up on the walk way around the light room. But it was empty. “nothing you can do about it, let it go” Garrett said softly. “besides maybe that ghost lady is still looking out for him.”
“maybe” Ryan agreed. Garrett was right he needed his head in the game, they had a ways to go before they could rest. He smiled wolfishly, those raiders had no damned idea what was coming for them. But they would find out soon enough. All he and Garret had to do was track them back to their base, get a good count and call it in after that keep the bad guys under observation till the Calvary arrived to deal with them.
The raiders were not woodsmen, Ryan decided half an hour later, they had left a blind man could have followed. He and Garret ghosted through the ruins of a once upscale neighborhood, the driveways and streets littered with faded, storm battered luxury vehicles.
“Down” Garrett said as he looked around the hood of car, motioning for Ryan to go prone.
Ryan instantly went prone, as silent as the wind. Garret slithered around the front of the Mercedes. A second later Ryan followed.
If there had been any question that more Scarred folks lived, it was answered now, Ryan thought seeing the small group in front of a house. Three of the men clutching rough spears moved into the shadows under the oaks in the lawn, while four women dragged a corpse out of the house and began to butcher it, handing out chunks of human flesh to the three children first.
Ryan felt his gorge rise as he saw a kid of about five take a bite out of a human hand, oh jesus, he moaned silently as the kid ate. He tried not to watch, but couldn’t drag his eyes away from the kid. The child had lost an ear some how and the thin patchy hair did nothing to hide the pink shiny scar tissue on his skull. His face looked like some drunk had carved it up with a exacto knife.
He started to bring his rifle up and into position; he needed to put an end to the horror in front of him. Somehow, he stopped himself, there was no telling how many more might be inside that house or in the area and he had a job to do. he slipped backwards behind the car and scanned their back trail with worried eyes. He knew that it had been sheer luck that they hadn’t been spotted by the group of Scarred ones, well that and training he and Garrett had been moving quietly and low but any kind of movement could draw the eye.
A moment later Garrett joined him, Ryan signaled that they needed to keep moving ignoring the almost pavlovian need to wipe out the scarred folk. There was just something to fundamentally wrong with the scarred folk to be considered human or to even want to live in the same world as they did.
He and Garrett moved forward cautiously, the training they had been through and years of experience coming to the aid now in remaining unseen as they moved through the neighborhood, spotting six more small breeding bands of scarred folk. Ryan kept careful count they would need to know those numbers later, when some one came through to clean them out and hopefully burn the entire area to the ground to make damn sure they got those things. Sixty four scarred folks, less than half were children.
What worried him was there might be more that they hadn’t seen, and it was obvious that the raiders passing through the area had stirred the scarred folk up, what that might mean for to the future he didn’t know but it probably wasn’t going to be good.
1600 hrs, Skull creek marina.
Allen, furious, strode out the open doors of the large boat storage building. Where a small crowd of people had gathered to watch Bragga and his men head out. Allen glowered silently at the armed and motly armored group of raiders as they passed. I bet his scouts reported exactly what he wanted them to report to me, and now he is heading out to attack a nice juicy target that is probably not an Enclave.
“ Any idea where they are going?” He asked Tommy Franklin who stood beside him.
“A friend of a friend heard they were going to take the airport, there’s supposed to be a small band set up pretty nicely in there.” Tommy replied sounding as angry as Allen felt.. The airport, Allen thought that was close, to close to the Astoria if he remembered the maps correctly. A smile appeared, one that lack any amusement and was clearly predatory.
“oh, Mueller hauled ass out of here about half an hour ago, him and his boys.” Tommy said his hand falling on the butt of the pistol he wore.
“Really” Allen commented almost absently. If he hadn’t been lied to about where Meuller had been during his scouting mission, then Mueller had been scouting the old main roads up to the Astoria, which had kept him to the south for most of his mission before the roads he was supposed to scout had swung north.
That route would have taken him past the airport, but his other team led by Fred Stubbins had swept across the north side, through housing strips, across some old golf course and right into the airport and Fred had gotten back here just after Muellers squad. The question in his mind was why had Mueller rushed out of here so fast. He didn’t have any answers but he was certain that what ever the reason it was important.
“Get every one ready, we are moving out in half an hour” He told Tommy. “that Jack ass is going to draw out the Guards at the Astoria when he attacks the airport, and I hope they wipe his ass out. But when it happens I want to be close enough to take advantage of the distraction.” Travis flashed a matching smile, a cold hard light in his eyes as he watched the last or Bragga’s men disappear down the road.
1615 hrs, The Summit, Broad Creek, Palmetto club marina
Wells feeling tired sat down on a stone bench to take a breather, he and Herman had scoured the yacht club and found nothing. he tilted his head back and sent a quick prayer winging up to god. He wanted to believe he was wrong, but that wouldn’t make the situation any better it just meant innocent lives were at risk back at the Pines of the bomb wasn’t here.
But it was, he could feel it. Like a weight on his chest, pulsing slowly in time with his heart beat. Help us find it, he prayed then shook his head. Help yourself then you might get some help up top. he told himself as he rose to his feet again. I will not fail, this is my test and I will do what I can and the rest is out of my hands.
“Ready to try the condo’s” Wells asked Herman who was watching the side door to the yacht club where people were coming and going carrying in supplies from the Pines.
Herman didn’t respond, his eyes were focused on a Brunette who was walking back to the pile of boxes that had been offloaded. Something about her, He thought as the Pastor repeated his question. As she passed a man carrying a large black case, the man spoke to her, she only nodded. Herman’s gazed dropped lower and he it hit him like a ton of bricks, her left hand was absently rubbing her pocket.
Amy Stout always carried a necklace with a ring on it, usually in her pocket because she was scared of losing it. The ring had been her fathers, and she constantly rubbed it when worried or nervous. Just like this woman.
As casually he could, he lifted his gaze to her face then looked away as she picked up another crate to carry inside.
“Pastor as casually as you can, look at the woman heading back to the door, the brunette. Its Amy Stout.” Herman said.
“Are you sure?” Wells asked,
“She dyed her hair, and did something to her face but yeah I am sure Pastor.” Herman said as Amy Stout entered the building. He continued to watch the line of people that were taking the newly arrived supplies into the building, unobtrusively studying faces. Minutes ticked past in silence, then he grunted as one man exited the building and headed back to the pile of boxes and bags. “that’s Sean, he grew a mustache and shaved his head but that’s him. The one in the faded jeans with the Metallica t shirt.”
No one in Coates group would have reason to suspect that the helping hands from the Pines might not be who they claimed to be, Wells thought it was smart and the only reason he could see for Amy and Sean to risk being caught was to either get a look of the inside or to actually plant the bomb.
“Herman I want you to go find Lt. Ramo, tell him exactly what you’ve seen” Wells said.
“What are you going to do Pastor?” Herman asked worried that the man, was going to take the bull by the horns.
“Nothing Herman. Just go tell Ben, if they just planted the bomb we wont have a lot of time.” Wells said. “hopefully if she makes a run for it I can see which way she went.”
Herman hesitated for only a second torn by indecision. He didn’t want to leave the Pastor just in case the man was planning on doing something idiotic like confront Amy by himself. But if he didn’t go tell the guard they might be able to find the bomb or capture Amy and get the location of the bomb. He nodded once sharply, not asking the Pastor to promise to stay put. He didn’t want to force the Pastor to lie to him, and The man would if he thought he had to, to do the right thing.
Wells sat , slowly back down on the bench. He hadn’t had much sleep last night and had been up and running since early this morning. As he rested he watched the group of workers, but was unable to spot any of the others associated with Jason Karig.
Minutes passed, then twenty minutes. Wells as just starting to think that he needed to do something himself when the the line of men and women flowing in and out of the building become discordant almost confused, as if something were going on inside the building. Then Guardsmen appeared outside converging on the remaining supplies and men.
Wells rose to his feet turning to face the Condos. Jason had to be hiding nearby. He would want to watch as his bomb detonated. Would he be hiding there, It seemed unlikely, the guard had searched the building and should have found him and the others.
“Pastor” Herman said striding up. “They got away, the guard is going to search the Yacht club again for the bomb. Amy and Sean had to be doing something inside to risk being caught.”
“There is no way Tucker will be able to keep this from the others” Wells said thoughtfully. It could doom the summit.
“I don’t think they are going to try, not from what Lt. Ramo said.” Herman replied. “Hard to hide a lot of men tearing the building apart.”
Wells turned back to the yacht club, thinking of all the places a bomb could be hidden, especially one the size that Herman had described and realized it could be anywhere, in places that people might not even think to search.
“We have to find Jason, keep him from detonating the thing” Wells said with a shake of his head.
“Pastor, unless you plan on killing all of them, I don’t think your going to have much luck talking them out of setting that thing off.” Herman said shaking his head. “Assuming we can find them before the bomb goes off”
“We will Herman and You came around to see the light. .”
“But I am not like them Pastor, I think they want to kill and destroy.”
“Maybe, Maybe not” Wells said
“Besides were would you start searching now. We have been over every place either one of us could think of and nothing. They must be hidden pretty well if the Guard hasn’t found them” Herman pointed out. “there are three old stores here, Three old restaurants, one is being used for the Summit. Two multi story condos, laundry rooms, offices and storage buildings for the all the boat rentals, fishing charters, the paragliders and what not.” Wells said, “not to mention the old stores and business across the street there.” he added looking thoughtful. “we have to assume that Amy and Sean didn’t wander through areas where the guards are heaviest because the odds are too good they would have been spotted.
So that knocks out the docks, that Hexagon building down on the quay and the Condo’s closet to the Club and the business in and around it.” Wells said trying to picture the lay out of the Marina.. “Hiding in the Club itself is pretty much out, unless there is some space that no one really knows about that could hide people.
“ There is an old restaurant down on the quay,” He said softly, looking off into the distance that only he could see. “It has a pretty nice patio. But there were guards posted near it, so any one coming and going from the building would probably be noticed and there was a good view of the Veranda from the restaurant patio, where the Summit is being held so it had to have been searched and under observation.”
“a chapel” Herman said softly. “they always used a church outside the Pines to meet in, is there anything like that around here.”
Wells looked around thinking about what he had seen since his arrival then shook his head. “I haven’t seen one.”
He turned and looked at the further set of Condo’s, thinking. “I think I know where he is, and if I am right, he already knows we are here and looking for him.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised Amy and Sean had to have seen you sitting here, Me they might not have recognized, but they couldn’t miss you..”
“Herman, I think that who ever it is in the Guard that helped Jason get those explosives is here and helping Jason and his people. It’s the only way Jason and the others could manage to stay out of sight while the place has been searched not once but four times now. Its just not possible to hide a small group of people like jasons group in such a limited area and not be caught by search parties, regardless of the old movies” he said.
“I take it you have a plan then.” Herman said.
“Yes, Yes I do, so let me explain it to you. First thing I need you do…”
Herman listened, arguing only for a short while. But Keith Wells had made up his mind and he wasn’t going to be swayed from doing what he thought was right. It took a lot of guts to make himself a bigger target. But Herman had to agree with his overall logic. They were running out of time and like the Pastor he didn’t think Jason would have him killed out right at least not yet.
1625, Palmetto Bay Marina.
McCaffrey sighed with relief as the small sail boat nudged up against the quay. His ankle, swollen and techno colored, was hurting badly. Stephanie leaped out holding a line and quickly secured the boat to the quay as heavily armed National Guardsmen came tromping down the quay, followed by Tucker and… He blinked then grinned as he saw Eric Stone and Ori McBride with Tucker and Ben Ramo. So that’s who they decided to send to the Summit, he thought.
Henry and Hercules Secord helped him Climb out of the boat, where he leaned against Stephanie. “be with you in a minute” Henry said as he and Hercules began to unload the gear Chris had refused to leave with the cart in the Township.
“Let them through” Tucker called out. As the guard spread out as far as the quay would allow, Tucker walked through the ranks polished knee high boots flashing in the sunlight. Chris hid a grin at the sight. Tucker looked like some Byronic romance dream come to life with his elegant old fashioned clothes, carefully tailored to his athletic physique.
“Good to see you again” Tucker said shaking hands with McCaffrey then Stephanie. He noted the worried, pensive looks they wore for a moment. “Before you get to what ever brought you here. I want you to know Chris that Lourdes is stable and going to pull through.”
Chris closed his eyes for a moment, sending a heartfelt thanks silently winging up to who ever was looking out for her. “thanks for that” He said gratefully as Eric and Ori came to a stop behind Tucker. “I would love details but we don’t have a lot of time.” he said, as if on cue, Henry moaned in pain as he moved the wrong way.
“two of my men have been scouting the north side for a few while now and encountered a band of raiders scouting from west to east.” Chris said. Instantly Tuckers expression tightened and a thousand questions danced behind his calm façade. “I ordered them to follow the raiders back to their camp. With that news, we,” he said gesturing at Stephanie, Henry and Secord. “headed immediately back to Astoria and warned them, as we were heading back here, we were ambushed by a pretty large party of men. We didn’t get off unscathed, but the grenades we carried turned the tide in our favor.:” He quickly laid out the ambush and the area it occurred in. and Tucker instantly grasped that it was to far south to have been the same band that Ryan and Garrett had encountered.
:”it never rains but it pours” Tucker muttered. “I have several questions, but most can wait for later. First and foremost Mr. McCaffrey I know you’ve kept it a secret from the Pines, but your Radio’s would help speed things up a lot if you were willing to be more open about them.”
Chris gazed innocently at him then grinned. “I suspected you know about them” he said almost laughing. “I have an extra short wave set that can be set up here or at the Pines, it might even work on some of the same channels as your guard radios, the few that you have at any rate.”
He didn’t even so much as look at Eric or Ori for permission, he was a pathfinder and it was call on how much to share if anything unless specifically ordered not to and no one had given him any such orders.
“thank you.” Tucker said as Eric stepped up beside Tucker.
“You look like crap” Eric Stone said with a smile. “lets get your whole sorry looking team looked at by Captian Hermes medics, and you can give me a readers digest report. At the same time.”
“you brought Hermes and his A teams” McCaffrey asked surprised. The A Teams when not at Camp Stone training volunteers for the defense force, the Army and SF candidates was usually out in the field running patrols and dealing with Bandits and raiders on the convoy corridors and the few remote settlements like the farm and Cherokee.
Hermes and his Teams, were real honest to go SF who had been based out of Erics FOB and managed to survive more or less intact after two years of being in the field dodging undead and contacting groups of survivors then training them in how to survive. there were others of course, SF candidates, retired SF and detached SF all of which had been assigned to Robin sage and had survived to be gathered up after the dead had stopped walking.
Eric and what was left of his own team were the core trainers on Sullivan and for the zone, his old Medic now the top Doctor and medical instructor on the island.
“as the official designated rep for the zone, I get to have a security team. I chose Hermes and his men, one team is assigned to harbor town to train their security and their medic. The other came with me and Shorty over there” Eric said jerking a callused thumb at Ori.
“he got to bring his wife, and after what she accomplished while kidnapped by Kronnen’s men, he doesn’t really need a security team..”
“I am not short, your just freakishly tall” Ori replied, then looked at Eric and shrugged. “come on that was funny.”
“it might have been if I was actually pretty tall.” Eric replied. Though at five eleven, it could be argued that he was tall.
Ten minutes later Chris and the others were sitting under an awning that had been set up in the grass at the entrance to the quay being examined by a hard faced, Hispanic SF Medic and his, Assistant Chris supposed he was called, but had no idea. On each team of twelve every position was duplicated, or usually where, so you would have a senior medic and a junior, or a senior weapons sergeant and a junior, same thing with Comm, Engineer etc. and most if not all the men on a team could do the jobs of at least two others in case the need arose..
“I bet that hurts” The junior Medic, a white guy with acne scars and a detriot accent said as he examined Henry’s butt wound.
“it should, did you know he dove for cover and the only thing the enemy could see was his butt.” Chris said with a grin that turned to a wince as the medic checking his gunshot would pressed down. Chris turned to look at Eric who was standing quietly to one side. Holding that damn cat and stroking its head, like some muscular Doctor Evil with a full head of hair. “in all seriousness, I have a demand to make.” Chris said ignoring the cat who had somehow wormed its way into being liked by another gullible person.
“and that would be?” Eric replied still stroking the cat. .
“I want Henry trained and promoted to full pathfinder after this mission is over. He has been a good man to work with, has saved my butt more than once, is sharp in the field and doesn’t miss much.” Chris stated.
“you know that if I do that, he has to go back to… Home for the training and wont be available for any mission you go on for at the least a year maybe longer.” Eric said squatting down beside Chris.
“I don’t care about that, he deserves it and I think its time he was rewarded for the help and hard work instead of tagging along with my butt while I steal all the glory.” Chris said. Then fell silent for a minute waiting for some kind of response for Eric. Finally he sighed. “ Well?”
“I’m debating on whether to refuse just to see if you will hold your breath till you turn blue.” Eric said with a smile. “McCaffrey, consider your request granted. If Henry agrees, he is in.”
“I…” henry said then fell silent, loyalty to Chris and his desire to move forward at odds with each other.
“say yes, or your going to be stuck as my sidekick for a long while to come.”
“good point, you just aint smart enough to be left to run around on your own, but still I think I will say yes” Henry said making up his mind as Chris grinned at him. “that means of course you will be stuck with Stephanie and Jay the Cat.”
`1630hrs, Sunrise boutique, outside Palmetto Bay Marina.
Pastor Wells moved slowly through the store, glass and debris scattered over half the store tossed there by one of the many storms over the last four years. only one window out front was intact, the glass doors and the rest of the windows had been shattered and scattered over the interior.
Hearing the crunch of glass as someone entered the store, Wells turned to face the front, and smiled as he saw a National Guard Sergeant, A man he knew well from church services and if this was the traitor he really didn’t know the man at all. “Good afternoon Sergeant Gilmore, I was just looking around hoping to help find the bomb in my own inept way.” Wells said then shrugged. “ I am not having any luck, to be honest I’m not exactly sure what I am looking for, But I feel I should be helping.”
“hello Pastor” Gilmore said easily. Sounding as friendly as ever but today there was something in his eyes that didn’t seem friendly at all.. “Its got every one on edge I guess, I think Tucker is going to call off the Summit on safety grounds.”
Its him for sure, Wells decided as a calmness settled over him now that the moment had come. “I suppose that The children of Isaiah will be happy about that.”
Gilmore only shrugged, “I suppose so, but who can tell what those nuts would approve of.”
Wells ignored the flutter of nerve in his stomach as he stood there, people had always said that anticipation of something was always worse than the actual experience, they were wrong he decided. The question he faced was simple was Gilmore here to kill him or to take him to Jason. When he had come up with his hair brained scheme he had bet on the traitor taking the bait and delivering him to Jason to be dealt with. But standing here facing Gilmore he had to wonder if the traitor wouldn’t just kill him outright. He should have stayed out side where he was in sight of others.
Play stupid, he told himself. “well since you are here Sergeant, want to help me take a look.”
“I can but it’s a waste of time Pastor, we’ve searched this building three times now. Nothing here but trash, and old clothes and stuff like that. there is still a thousand dollar in the register. “ Gilmore said then fell silent, his hard flat gaze fixed on Wells.
Just get to the point and stop wasting time, Wells told himself. “I have to ask Randy, why did you help them” Gilmore sucked in a lungful of air his gaze never leaving Wells face. His lips thinned, his eyes narrowed then he shrugged.
“Because I believe like they do Pastor. I only wish you could see the truth too. Since we are being honest here, alone. I might as well fess up. I knew you were fishing when I heard that you wanted to talk to the Lt. because you knew who the traitor, was.”
“But you couldn’t take the chance I might actually know it was you.”
“no I couldn’t. But understand Pastor, I am doing what I believe is right”
“so what happens now?” Wells asked, his stomach lurching with fear. When he had concocted his little plan of having Herman go looking for Ramo, ‘accidentally’ mentioning to guardsmen he stopped to ask where the Lt was, that the Pastor thought he knew who the traitor was, had sounded like a good idea.
Now well, it didn’t seem all that bright of an idea. It had worked though. He had counted on the almost famous gossip network of the Guard, where rumor moved between guardsmen almost faster than light.
“We take a little walk, Jason wants to have a word with you”
“I see, and I suppose that if I refuse you kill me?”
Gilmore slowly nodded, looking upset at the idea but what ever indecision he might have felt wasn’t apparent as his hand fell on the pistol he wore. “if you would step outside with me Pastor, I really don’t want to hurt you but as they used to say on Tv shows, you will leave me no choice.”
“We all face Gods test at some point Randy, but make sure that what you believe is in fact what God wants.” Wells said sounding as calm and gentle as any time he had stood behind the pulpit delivering a sermon.
“Keep that in mind Pastor.” Randy said motioning towards the door. Wells hoped he hadn’t imagined the flicker of doubt he saw in Randy’s eyes.
He stepped outside and took a deep breath of fresh cleansing air, the sky was incredibly blue today with soft wisps of clouds scattered across it. A few gulls wheeled over head, riding the thermals and if you didn’t look around at the abandoned buildings and cars, or the Guardsman who was ready to shoot him, you could think that all was right in the world.
But nothing was really right in the world was it, Wells asked him. Not since the dead had risen and even now with the walking dead gone, the eternal stuggle still rages. What was it McCaffrey called it, The Dark, a fitting title really, still worked to destroy man to cast us down into oblivion. To wipe us from the face of history as if we had never been.
Ghosts and dreams, undead and who knew what else might be lurking out there now. the dreams were the key of course, Some, like Henry, were just tormented, where a seed of doubt was planted and hopefully took root. But for others, the dark chose its tools well, it let men destroy the very things that made him strong like faith, and love.
It had limits of course, it could only cajole in dream, whisper suggestions and let a man doom himself through free will. It turned the world upside down, where Love became dark and controlling , where faith in good was twisted into Death as good and mercy as weakness and the hellacious irony and beauty of it was that Man, with just a little prompting, did it to himself. How weak we really are, he thought as he walked Beside Gilmore, with out complaint. Give me strength for whats to come, he prayed as he looked back towards the group of Township folks who were sitting outside the Yacht club eating an early dinner.
“don’t even think about it” Gilmore said and urged him forward, losing sight of the group of men an women. They reached a overgrown driveway, here the trees and the shrubs were thick. They turned and started towards a building that sat in the midst of the greenery. “he cant wait to see you Pastor” Gilmore said as they climbed a set of shallow steps to the doors.
Jason Karig paced across the dirty carpet stopping at the balcony doors then turned and paced back towards the couch where Amy sat. “it looks like the only way we are going to get the device close to Tucker is going to kill other people.” She said. Sam who sat beside her frowned unhappily but remained silent while Jason thought.
“Stop Frowning Sam, If we have to, then its what God had chosen to happen.” Jason said absently.
“is Sean in position?” he asked Amy who nodded.
“He is, unless this newest search sweeps him up.”
“Good, I don’t think we will have a problem with that.” Jason said with a smile, God worked in mysterious ways, but often times he provided help from the most unlooked for of places like Sgt. Randy Gilmore.
Every one looked reaching for weapons as the door opened, Jason smiled as Pastor Keith Wells stepped into the room, followed by Gilmore.
“Hello Jason” Pastor Wells said. The older man looked around the room and greeted each person as if it were any other day.
“You wanted him, you have him now. I need to get back before some one starts wondering where I am at.” Gilmore said. “he didn’t give me any trouble either”
“of course I didn’t, Randy I wanted to be here.” Wells said. “and I forgive you.”
“you wanted….” Gilmore said then shrugged in dismissal. “he is yours now Jason, remember our deal” The sergeant said then turned and left the room.
“it appears Pastor we have a lot to discuss” Jason said with a broad smile that held no warmth.
“Maybe more than you think, Jason” Well said, seemingly unconcerned that he was no a prisoner.
Jason nodded, the vapid smile never leaving his face as he turned to look out the window again. “Videte ne turbemini: oportet enim hæc fieri, sed nondum est finis” Jason said as he gazed out the window.
Wells, surprised to hear Jason speak in Latin, stared at the man for a heartbeat. The line was from the book of Mathew, he realized as his mind dredged up a translation, he had learned Latin long years ago in school. Jason was apparently acting the intellectual these days, quoting the bible verse ‘See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet’ in Latin no doubt to impress me.
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Wells replied, wondering if perhaps Jason was going to engage in a quote off which was incredibly juvenile.
“Though that Barb was directed at me Pastor, it still holds truth about the world. And Tucker is blind as well as foolish. You are right Pastor, the world has changed and God has set up new rules, but his world can not be built while people like Tucker try to take us back to the corruption and evil of the old world.”
“is that what the Dreams have told you, while you blunder from one dark room to another, where voices whisper and something dark hunts you.” Well asked. “where was the light of god Jason.”
“it was God Showing me the evil that could come back,” Jason replied still gazing out the window.
“it wasn’t god at all Jason. It was the enemy, The devils minion. What ever name you want to call it.” Wells said then added “ it was the Dream walker.”
“this is the real world Pastor, I’ve heard the stories too. Its no more real than Luke Skywalker.”
“people said that about zombies too Jason.” Wells replied. “the religion we follow, is one of love. Despite the fact that some people twist it to suit their own bias’s, bigotries and dislikes. Murder is not our way.”
“Our way Pastor, you don’t speak for me. Your way is believing in nothing at all, you embrace what ever fad and heretical idea that is sent your way. You used to be a good god fearing man but now, now your lost.”
“Accepting, loving and forgiving those who do not share my faith or beliefs is part and parcel of our beliefs Jason. But I will not debate religion with you. Murder is wrong, for any reason.”
“This is not Murder” Jason shouted. “with technology gone, this world will become what god had intended it to be.”
“Really, assuming you can erase all signs and knowledge of technology. What’s next, killing people like me because we don’t agree with you, Maybe killing the handicap for being cursed, what new cause will call up the cries of god wills it Jason. A perfect world will not be created by murdering people.” Wells replied.
“When the New world is born….”
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Wells quoted flatly.
Jason wheeled around all composure gone. “what do you know, You abandoned God, I should shoot you right now.” his face red with anger, the veins in his temple pulse with the angry beat of his heart. His scarred and callused hand on his pistol.
“Then do it Jason, I came here willingly. I will die for those people down there and for what I believe in. All you talk about is killing.” Wells took a step forward. “so show me your faith.”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
I guess I should start with we reached the Summit. Our news of Raiders was only surprise that they were operating to the north, since they had already found out there that Raiders had attacked Harbor town and been wiped out.
Apparently they had some help, from an A Team that had been sent to train the Harbor town forces as part of the trade agreement. I can almost feel sorry for the Raiders who attacked Harbor town while Eric Stone and Ori McBride were visiting along with a platoon of soldiers and two SF A teams. It must have come as a hell of surprise to be met by highly trained professionals as well as the Harbor town security forces.
From what I gathered the platoon was there to bolster the Harbor town defenses. It must be something to see, to see the American flag flying over the Platoons camp there in the Enclave, I bet its done incredible things for Moral there too.
Anyway, Stephanie and the cat from hell are over joyed to be here. That damn cat seems to like Eric too, the traitor was actually petting the feline from hell while he talked with me earlier. The good news, I have been assured that Henry will be placed in training as soon as this mission wraps up and be made an official pathfinder.
The First official pathfinder at that. since the program was just made official and brought online. I will miss having him along with me, but I am glad he will be getting his own team and the recognition he deserves.
Okay so shortly after our arrival, Tucker drops a bombshell. Nut jobs are planning on setting off a bomb at the Summit and wants to put the summit on hold. I think every one could tell he didn’t want to do any such thing but he was more concerned with their safety. They all voted to stay and work together, and that includes adding their security forces to Ben Ramo’s to help find either the bomb or the bombers.
In addition, Tucker has sent a messenger back to bring up more of the Guard, and some other little items he wont talk about but smiles widely ever time He is asked what they are. The plan as I understand it is simple. Tucker plans on pushing through the Summit while waiting for his men to arrive. Once they have arrived, they will figure out the best way to support the Astoria.
When I asked why he didn’t just have his forces head east and go around the Broad before heading north to Astoria, he pointed out that by having them at the Summit they could also protect the leadership or be sent across the bridge to launch an attack on the Raiders base if it was found, strike the raiders in the rear or have a short march to support the Township if needed. Scouts have already been sent across the bridge so we will have some kind of warning if the raiders do decide to head south.
Since Eric Stone thinks it’s a good Idea, who am I to argue. Besides if those raiders attack here, they are going to be facing two of the best shots and fighters three if you count Stephanie, that I’ve met.
Eric to show how much the Zone wishes to not only work with the Islands Enclaves but to have them eventually join the zone, had the A team split in half and with Tuckers permission took the three electric carts, in half an hour half the team will leave with Henry to guide them and willo go the long way around the broad to reach the Astoria to help in the defense. They will set up a radio there so that the Astoria can keep in contact with Snow while he is here, Harbor town already has one so we will know if another group attacks there again.
A bit of bad news, now we were not blown up, not yet at any rate.
Pastor Wells is missing, along with the man who was supposed to be watching out for him. There is something fishy about the whole thing but Ben Ramo is not willing to give me any real details about it. But I think he knows more than he is telling. I just hope that Pastor Wells is alive and well. I’ve come to really like and respect the man.
Now heres odd, Hercules Secord and Stephanie seem to have become close. And no I do not mean in that way. Apparently, they bounded during and after the ambush, and he treats her like a rude little sister. He even likes the damn cat.
Hearing that Wells was missing and that Me and mine might be heading back across the bridge, hopefully to link up with Ryan and Garrett, he asked me if I would mind if he goes with us, he plans on approaching Tucker about the idea. I don’t mind to be honest, I’ve gotten to like him. I still think he has a stick up his butt, but he has mellowed. So if he wants to come along to see this raider thing through and Tucker doesn’t mind I’m game.
So here I am barely able to walk, about to head back into danger with the shaolin Amazon, her cat from hell, a politician named after a demi god and nothing else but a prayer. To be honest, I’ve never liked killing people. I didn’t even like killing the undead. But I am almost looking forward to killing raiders, most of whom are murderers, rapists and thieves. Almost.
Right now the leadership is eating dinner and talking shop, trying to reach some sort of consensus before everything falls into the crapper or a bomb goes off. Who would have thought before the dead that a bunch of politicians would sit down with their lives at risk and do their jobs. It wouldn’t have happened back before the dead.
1730 hours, Wonderland Enclave
Baker tugged a comb through his thinning brown hair as he stepped out onto the balcony and gazed out over the Broad Creek. The Summit had already started, and the other leaders were no doubt wondering where he was. He smiled at thought of how irritated they must be, it was amusing in a childish way but still amusing. Butnone of that really mattered.
He would attend the summit, probably tomorrow maybe the next day. Once he was sure that they understood he wasn’t going to bow down to their whims. Of course he had other plans, ones that the other leaders would no doubt be upset about.
He would have to take the boat since the ground route would either take him all the way around the Broad creek to the north side then back south across the bridge, or west through the Territory the Pines claimed and to be honest he had no real desire to set foot in their territory.
At least he would not have to enter the Gideon Snows territory. Bakers mouth turned down in a frown, if there was one man he detested more on this island, he hadn’t met the man yet. Gideon Snow called himself a god fearing man, but he wasn’t. He was a greedy, whoring low life. Who mistook making millions in the world as a godly thing.
And he had dared to tell me, I was wrong about the word of God. He doesn’t even understand that the good book is a living book, where God shows you what to read to answer questions and to drive away doubts. How dare he call it cherry picking. Baker drew a deep breath calming himself. Soon enough Mr. Snow will be paying for his arrogance, he thought with satisfaction. The Lord certainly moves in mysterious ways.
He turned as the door opened and his wife, who had slimmed down to a svelt 110 from the 240 pounds she had been pre dead, stepped out onto the balcony. It was amazing how attractive she looked these days and she is all mine, he thought knowing how envious other men were.
“You have a guest” she told him her voice soft making her sound shy.
“Thank you” he replied politely. After twenty one years of marriage it had taken the dead for her to finally see his beliefs were correct. Though she had balked at first at the thought of assuming the traditional woman’s role, but she had shed her semi feministic ways and fully embraced his beliefs. It never occurred to him that she had done so out of love not belief.
She held the door open for him as he stepped into the lavish suites living room, sniffing in disdain at the sight of his visitor’s ragged state of dress. He had been expecting the man for most of the day after the initial contact.
“ I do hope you came in the back way” Baker said calmly as he walked to the bar, he wasn’t a tee totaller, though he insisted that most of the inhabitants here were. Unlike the others he could drink a sip or two here and there and no more for he had self control.
But the mass of people here would drink themselves into a stupor, if they could, till they were naked and rutting like wild animals. “I wouldn’t want any one to know you’ve been here. it could have consequences that neither of us would like.”
“No one saw me,” the man assured Baker with a tight smile. No doubt he considered himself important enough to warrant using the front door. But the truth was Baker was playing a dangerous game here and wanted no one seeing the stranger enter the Enclave.
He poured himself exactly two fingers of scotch, neat as they used to call it, he used to prefer ice but there was no more ice and it was a luxury and luxury made men weak.
“Would you like some” Baker asked indicating the bottle. It never hurt to be polite in situations like this one.
“Yes thank you” the man replied politely. Licking his lips as he eyed the bottle. I would bet in the old days he was a drunk and whore master, Baker thought as he poured two more fingers of scotch and had his wife serve the stranger. At least he is being polite which was more than I expected. The hungry look the stranger gave Elisa confirmed Bakers opinion of the mans moral standing.
The stranger sipped the scotch for a moment, letting it sit in his mouth as he savored the taste for a long second before swallowing. “thank you that was good,” The man said setting the glass on ornate wooden table in front of him. “I am Carlton Mueller, what my leader want is simple, Intelligence on the Astoria Enclave and for you to keep your people out of the fight.”
Baker smiled piously at the Raider. It had been a stroke of luck that one of Bakers scouts had spotted the raiders and been smart enough to not shoot the messenger who had given him the note to carry to the leader of the Enclave of God. Of course it the Raider had called it by its old name. But that was of no matter either. it hadnt taken long for Baker to receive the message, and he had quickly replied setting up this meeting.
“I am sure you can understand why my leader cant be here in person,”
“Of course, so lets get down to details.”
“the details are simple President Baker,” Mueller said with out smiling at the stupidity of the title. “ the Enclave of God is to be left untouched,” he said using the name that had been in the final message this little bastard had sent him. “if you provide us with a much information as possible over the Astoria Enclave, its defenses, number of defenders. Who its leader is, what kind of supplies they have inside and of course to for the Enclave of God to stay out of the fight.” Of course, we don’t plan on keeping that promise, and seeing your wife and this scotch is more than enough to get me to come back with men at my back and rip this place apart, especially if there are any more women like her in this place. .
Baker didn’t consider himself a bad man, he tried hard to follow his beliefs no matter how hard. He knew he was an arrogant man, it was one of his failings. But despite the anger that many of his people had for him he did want the best for them even if they didn’t see it that way and the simple truth was the Enclave of God couldn’t survive an attack that was one reason he had worked with Gideon Snow and the Pines. But now that there was a huge force of Raiders, at least according to the message he had first received, and with in striking Range of his home and people, he saw no choice but to cut a deal.
“what assurances can you give me that your sincere” Baker asked.
“None Mr. President, I can give you nothing but my leaders word” Mueller responded. Which only mattered when it was given to his men not to dump ass bible thumpers like this moron. Did your god warn you about the undead? No.. you’re an idiot.
Baker paid no attention to his wife as she stood behind and to one side of him. she was just a comforting presence as he faced the murderous heathen. “why did you come to My enclave with this offer.”
“Because My leader felt that after our initial recon that a religious leader such as yourself would be trustworthy and see reason..” Read as stupid and gullible, Mueller thought acidly. “. We only have a grudge against the Astoria” he added figuring there had to be some tension between the enclaves, it was human nature after all.
“ I see” Baker replied then smiled, took that bait hook and sinker didn’t you Mueller laughed silently.
“I hope so President Baker, We have no wish to attack you.” Mueller asked, his eyes sliding back to Elisa then snapping back to Baker. Yes when we do take this place, I am claiming her, I bet with a real man she would loosen up and be a handful in the sack.
“ Well then I am sure that your in a hurry to get back to your leader so let me begin…” Baker said as he sat down across from Mueller. “The Astoria is probably the strongest of the Enclaves, led by Gideon Snow.” Baker said, and found that it was surprisingly easy to share the knowledge he had of the Astoria.
“ I will take this back to my Leader, but I wont be able to get back to you with an answer before Midnight tonight possibly tomorrow.” Mueller said then picked up his glass and tossed back the last of his scotch before he rose to his feet. Baker rose too, he was ready for this meeting to be over with. “She’s a very pretty woman, is she your wife” Mueller asked suddenly almost shuddering with evil amusement to see what reaction he got from his question..
“She is my wife!” Baker said putting just a little rebuke into his words. He wondered if the man was going to ask for Elisa as a condition to keeping the Enclave of God safe from the heathen. He felt a little shame as he considered the fact he might be tempted to hand her over to a life of sexual slavery and pain to keep the Enclave and himself safe.
“you’re a lucky man Mr. Baker.” Was all Mueller said, but the look he gave Elisa spoke volumes. Baker breathed a little easier that he his fears had proven groundless.. “Elisa show our guest out, if you would. Make sure he isn’t seen.” Baker said. His voice was nothing but polite and conversational but she knew an order when she heard one.
She motioned for Mueller to follow as she walked to the door then held it open for Mueller to pass through. She paused in the doorway to look back at Baker who felt something inside wither as he saw the look of utter contempt on her face, then she turned and followed his guest out. Leaving Baker to stand there wondering why he felt like such a shmuck and worried that Elisa might not come back and even more worried that she would.
Elisa Baker ignored Mueller as she led him through the back passages of the Enclave, avoiding every one. It wasn’t hard since this section of the Enclave was off limits to all but those closest to her husband.
How could he, she thought for the hundredth time. He has to know he just signed the death warrants of the other enclave leaders. She had seen the hard deadly light in Muellers eyes, when Weldon had told him how easy it would be to take the Astoria since Snow and his Guard commanding officer along with a sizeable guard detail were off to a summit meeting with the other leaders and the fool had even told them where.
I’ve put up with his nonsense for to long, I’ve sat and watched him lose it slowly over the years. I’ve seen how the power of being in control has eaten into him and heard him cry while caught in his nightmares and I have experienced and seen what its done to every one else here, especially the women, no mostly the women.
She knew what had to be done, but could she, she knew that there was already a sizeable group that had been quietly talking about removing Weldon and the others. She had kept that from her husband because she knew the women and men behind it and had convinced them to give it a little more time. convincing them that the Summit would change things for the Enclave of god and every one in it. But that hope was over with Weldon’s betrayal. Now she had no real choice, the real question was could she make Weldon see reason.
Leslie Scranton who had the most sway with her husband wasn’t going to let anything change his position in the enclave, more to the point he wasn’t going to lose the power and control he had in the enclave and he wasn’t the only man who served her husband that would resist. Not of the first time she wondered how men who had once been decent and kind had ended up becoming the abusive, corrupt, misogynistic cretins of today. was power truly that corrosive and corrupting.
“Here” She said reaching the door that would let The raider leave with out being seen. First thing she would do would be to seal the damn thing so he and his friends couldn’t use it to sneak back in.
Mueller nodded and stepped up beside her, then cupped a breast with one hand and smiled at her. “if you leave with me, I can promise you will be taken care of.” He said, his breath smelled like scotch and garlic. He squeezed what he considered to be gently.
“I am not interested” She said through gritted teeth.
“I can treat you better than your husband, I can protect you, give you anything you want.” He said.
She gazed at up at him, he was handsome in his own way she thought. she had been overweight most of her life till the dead came and food became scarce. No man had ever paid much attention back in the days before the dead not till Weldon and now with all the pounds shed, this knock off Brad Pitt was acting like she was the most desirable woman in the world.
How many had he raped, she wondered. Did he have or had a wife. That he probably only cared about sex and saw her as an object wasn’t much different than her husbands feelings towards her. To him she was like a toy, or a sculpture to be molded into what he wanted. Not a single man gave a damn what she wanted or who she was and for the first time in her life she felt real anger, not the watered down emotion she had used to feel about slights and insults or when something went wrong, real anger, Righteous anger.
She managed to keep the white hot fury from showing, if by some miracle this man and his boss were being honest she didn’t want to bring them down on the Enclave by telling this man what she really thought of him and his friends and she didn’t want him to assault and rape her right here. So she bit back the hot flow of words that might have burned the flesh from his bones. “I am flattered Mr. Mueller, more than you can ever know” She lied. “But I am married, like it or not, better or worse.” She said biting off the last sentence like she was chewing glass.
“I can only ask” Mueller said with a smile and a caress. “when you go back upstairs take a long look at your husband and if you change your mind. You can come looking for me.”
“do you have a wife” She asked for no real reason, trying to ignore the hand on her breast and the urge to rip his testicles off and shove them down his throat.
“No, not any more” he replied. He was enjoying this, oh she was pretty, but it was her innocence that he liked and wanted to take. She had been one of those prissy types who kept her legs tightly closed and dreamed of the things she had denied herself, he could see it in her and he wanted to show her what she was missing.
Oh he had raped a few women a time or two during raids but that was todays world. But this one he wouldn’t mind leading to water and getting her to drink once she got over her uppityness she would probably dump him to get in bed with as many men as she could find. he didn’t mind by then he would have taken what he wanted.
“Then I suggest bathing in the Broad to cool off” She said tartly, opening the door to the passage that would allow him to leave. .
“You think about my offer” he said with a smile as she stepped back away from his fondling hand. “When your tired of El Presidente, let me know.” He said then winked at her, wishing he had grabbed handful of that beautiful butt too, but I can do that later once we take this place and she will be begging for me to keep her safe from the rest of the men he thought as he stepped through the door and hurried down the passage.
It had been over an hour since Elisa had left to show the messenger out and Baker, a little worried had forced himself to sit down and work on his autobiography, something he wanted to be able to leave behind after he had died. It always helped to sit down and put the wisdom he had gained through his faith on paper, knowing that future generations of his people would benefit from it. He wouldn’t admit it but it also helped him forget, at least temporarily, the contemptuous look on his wife’s face when she had left.
She didn’t understand of course, being a woman she couldn’t’t understand that the hard choices couldn’t be avoided and the motherly instinct to keep the peace wouldn’t allow her to see the full range of choices and consequences when dealing with people like Mueller.
He was just editing a particularly complicated monologue in the section he liked to call the wisdom of the ages, when he heard shouting down the hall. He closed the notebook he had been writing in and was half way out of his seat when he heard gunshots.
Surprised he snapped fully upright, knocking the chair over. Those Bastards lied and are attacking right now, he thought. He was halfway across the living room where his pistol sat when the door opened and Elisa stepped inside.
“stop right there Weldon,” she ordered lifting the pistol she held a tendril of smoke rose from the end of the barrel.
“what?, put that gun down. What is going on Elisa?” He demanded, Stunned badly enough at the sound of gunshots and his normally placid, obedient wife pointing a pistol at him he stumbled to a stop. Eyes wide with surprise, there was nothing meek or fearful in her stance. He was even proud that his mind was working well enough to note the steadiness of her hands.
“what are you doing, what’s going on out there.. Put that pistol down.” He demanded again. and if his voice cracked a little bit, who could blame him. His wife appeared to be having some sort of break down. He wanted to tell her how unseemly it was for her to even touch a pistol, how unladylike it was and more to the point a proper wife did not hold her husband at gun point. A small part of him managed to keep those words unspoken so as not to push her completely over the edge and where were his guard? He wondered.
“Do you have any clue what you’ve done?” She asked contemptuously. He flinched despite his attempt to remain strong in the face of her ridicules threats. The pistol she had pointed at him seemed argue that there was very little humor in her act.
“What are you talking about?” He asked wondering if she would seriously try to shoot him or talk this out of her system till she was calm again. A part of him, the very angry part wanted to grab his pistol convinced she would back down and beg forgiveness in the face of his resolution and if he didn’t he would shoot her in the knees that would teach her.
But he knew despite the tough thoughts, that couldn’t shoot her. She was his wife, the woman he had chosen to marry that he had wanted kids with. No he couldn’t shoot her but he would have to punish her later when she had worked this out of her system and returned to her sane old self and accept the rod willingly.
“You told that man about the Summit, you told him where it was at. What do you think they are going to do Weldon?” she snapped coldly. .
“Attack the Astoria of course, a den of ungodliness and corruption.” Weldon replied calmly. Ignoring the use of the name he hated and had refused to use here in the Enclave. his mother had given him that name and he had never liked it, it had been the name of his great grandfather who had been a godless man who had liked the ladies and the bottle a little to much.
So that’s what this was about, he was right, women just didn’t need to be involved in leadership. They just couldn’t move beyond their emotions to see clearly the choices and decisions a leader must face. Once this was over he would have to make sure she was someplace else when he acted in his leadership capacity.
“No, which is bad enough you idiot.” She snapped. Wondering if he had even considered that people, kids would die when the raiders attacked the Astoria and all because he didn’t like Gideon Snow. ”Did you stop to think about the people in the Astoria, the kids? What happens to them.” She asked acerbically. “No bad as that is, The raiders are going to attack the summit to kill the leaders of the enclaves ending any effective organized resistance, or worse capture them and use them to force their people to surrender and they are probably going to put men out side our enclave to keep us from warning them. If they don’t just attack us the second they capture the other leaders, since there will be no one we can ask for help at that point.”
The fury he felt at her insult paled as her words sank in and he realized she might be right. He had let his dislike of Snow and the Astoria enclave blind him to the other repercussions. There was nothing he could do to stop it not now, and not with out revealing he had given the Raiders all the information they had wanted. Even in the face of his stupidity, he fell back on the instinctive cover your ass mode compounding his earlier stupidity with more of the same. “there is nothing we can do now, I am sorry” he said giving her a patient smile that looked a lot more like fearfulness. :”You didn’t have to be rude, but you are correct. I shouldn’t have. But now we have to figure out how best to keep our people safe from both the raiders and retribution from the others if the raiders should fail and it gets out that I made this mistake.” He said soothingly. Hoping that she would come to her sense’s and put the pistol down.
She stood there staring at him, like she had never seen him before. what had happened to the man she had married. Had he always been a gutless worm who passed on responsibility for his own actions? She shook her head, no once he had been a good man, mistaken maybe but good. The pistol in her hand never wavered. “you really are not the man I loved and married” she finally said. “or I never really knew you.” She paused and took a deep breath gesturing angrily with the pistol for him to remain quiet as he opened his mouth to say something. “you asked what was going on out there.” She said. He nodded having almost forgotten about it, while dealing with his gun wielding wife. “its called a Coup, the shots were Leslie and Johan being shot. I think they are both still alive or were.” She said almost laughing as her husbands jaw sagged down.
“you shot them.” he said stunned.
“no I shot Johan, Debbie shot Leslie, She was tired of being beaten on and cheated on.. You never had good taste in friends Weldon” she chided angrily and to make it worse she was right. “Leslie had become an animal Weldon, drunk on the power and he used you for his own ends.” She said then pointed at the couch with her left hand. “Sit, you need hear what’s going to happen now and your place in things to come.”
“you cant do this Elisa, No one will accept you.” He said angrily. Tired of this, she had gone to far. Wife or not she needed to controlled and punished, he thought then saw the look in her eyes and the still surprising rock steady pistol. finally seeing the core of steel that had finally been exposed to the world, whether it had always been there or not didn’t matter any more, she had it now and he was dimly starting to realize the enclave and his life were not going to return to the comfortable world he had known and ruled over.
“I can and I have. It took me less than an hour to organize a coup Weldon, every one but your soldiers in God joined up the minute they heard. And your soldiers, all but a few, surrendered with out a fight. That’s how much they love you out there Weldon and god forgive me I stood by for to damn long before I did something. You didn’t even have a clue half the things that Leslie and Johan have done in your name. All of it despicable.” What was it? she wondered, that had brought on such twisted behavior. They had survived the horror, they had begun to recover and then, this, this twisted world view that had pushed the Enclave almost to the breaking point as it teetered on the edge of starvation.
“you have no clue how hard I had to work to talk them out of killing you.” She added and amazingly it looked like a tear glimmered at the corner of her left eye.
He started to protest, started to demand she put the pistol down and accept her punishment, the spanking would be severe but it was deserved. But he didn’t, maybe it was a glimmer of the man he had once been, maybe it was sanity, maybe it was the love he had all ways felt for her despite his dreams, despite his rules.
He sat slowly, folding his hands together. “I just sent off a messenger to the summit warning them that about the raiders and that the Raiders know about the summit. I also told them you are no longer in charge and that I would be sending as many men as we could spare to help defend the summit.”
How long had she been planning this, how man nights had she lain beside him after lovemaking and plotted taking over their marriage and the enclave. had things changed so much, how many actually supporter her? Far to many he decided, The Enclave of god, was one of the rare places on the island and probably the world where there were slightly more women than men and Baker knew that only half the men had been dedicated to his way of doing things. For the first time in a very long time he had no idea what to do.
He just sat there listening; his world had crashed down around him, his beliefs no longer comforting him. There was no going back from this she had destroyed him and all he could do was sit on the couch and listen as she outlined the new Enclave government she was setting up, a quick and dirty council that she held Veto power over, all the names she listed on the council but one were women. Which grated, but he didn’t tell her that women had no place outside the home. She wouldn’t have listened if he had and somewhere deep in side, he knew what he had done to her was beyond wrong. .
“I still love the man I married Weldon, I do, I love the man who carried me on his shoulders into this enclave because I had been hurt, kept me safe from the undead. and because I do I am going to give you the chance to bring him back” She said softly. Out in the hall way he could hear people moving around and talking and someone calling for Charlie who acted as the enclaves Doctor.. “We, women, are not property, arm ornaments, or pieces of ass when you need it,” he was shocked at her vulgarity, but she kept right on laying out all the wrongs she and the other women had endured. And under the relentless hammer of her words, the rightness of his actions, of his beliefs began to crumple as he heard the pain and anger in her voice, pain and anger she had carried for four years now. “I did what you wanted out of love, and because the world had ended and I was scared and confused. I hoped that you would come to your senses. I endured it for all of those reasons till today, because when that Drooling rapist kept eyeing me I realized, I saw it in your eyes, that you would have handed me over to him if it meant keeping you safe and in power here. I finally saw, that you didn’t really care about me only what I represented.” She said angrily then pushed the anger back. She had to be clear headed not give in to the sick fury born of disgust at what her world had become.
She took a deep steadying breath. “Its over Weldon your no longer in charge of the enclave or in our marriage. All of us are tired of the men here ruling our lives and it will not happen again. As of Today, Men are no longer in charge here. you will be fairly treated, and the men who never embraced the idiocy you and your juvenile buddies concocted, and we know who they are, will still have the ability to lead and affect the outcome of the Enclave once we get the new laws set in concrete that will protect all of us from that kind of stupidity. But the rest of you, not a chance. Not till all of you can prove you’ve changed and can rejoin civil society.”
“you.. your …” he was at a loss for words, it was preposterous she couldn’t mean what she was saying. It would turn reality upside down, men were in charge of marriages and communities, they were the breadwinners they took care of their families. It, it was…wrong, his thoughts tumbled around wildly.
God had spoken to him in his dreams and shown him the way to build a proper society. He didn’t know what to think, he had never meant to hurt his wife. He remembered his thoughts while talking with Mueller and whether he would have used her body and soul to seal a deal, and she had seen it on his face, and with that thought again came shame. He didn’t want to face himself, didn’t want to admit that maybe the small voice in the back of his mind that kept agreeing with every point she made was right. He wasn’t a bad man, he wasn’t.
“We are turning the tables Dear. We are going to run things now Weldon till you men can prove your no longer idiots. You might say we are re inventing the ancient amazons.” She didn’t smile she didn’t like beating a man or woman when they were down. She didn’t know how many of the women were going to do the same thing she had decided to in regards to her marriage, a part of her hoped all of them would. “But look at the bright side honey, you always said that being a leader was stressful, from now on the only things you will have to worry about are keeping the house clean, following my rules and keeping me happy and along the way I really hope the man you used to be comes back. I really loved that man and want to see him again..” with those words her anger began to recede. She did love him but if he wouldn’t change, wouldn’t see the light it was over.
“And if I refuse” he asked in one last attempt at defiance almost as if he were reading her mind..
“Then you and every other man who refuses will be given food and some clothes and put out of the enclave, I’m sure that the Astoria or the Pines would take you in.” She said “ and if you think I will waver or you can attack me to force this issue, I will shoot you, I will hate it, I will cry over it and I will regret it for the rest of my life, but I will do it..” she said in a voice like steel that he had never heard from her before and he didn’t doubt she would shoot him if he tried to use force on her. .
He felt himself wilt his anger starting to give way to confusion and doubt. She means it, I cant believe she means all of it. That realization was shocking but the second one that came hot on its heels was that no matter how perverse this New government of hers might be or what she wanted to turn their marriage into. Despite all he had done to her, she loved him and still believed that he loved her and was trying to offer him a second chance and something finally broke inside. .
“What’s your decision Weldon?” She asked silently praying he did the right thing and reveling in her new found strength , determined not let it turn her into what it had made of her husband.
“I will stay” he whispered as the small voice of his long ignored conscience wondered if he really deserved the kind of love she had for him. .
She stood there for a moment then nodded, a small familiar smile crossed her lips then was gone. “Thank you Weldon, Thank you. Now please go wait in the bedroom, I have a lot of things to deal with before we leave for the summit with the relief force.” She said almost gently as she finally lowered her pistol and tucked it into the belt around her narrow waist.
Baker rose from his seat and slowly made his way into the bedroom as the door closed he heard his wife calling in Several women who had waited in the hall and began barking a long string of orders. What ever had changed her, she wasn’t indecisive any longer, he thought as he sat on the bed a broken man whose beliefs were in tatters and no real idea what lay in his future. His only comfort was his wife still loved him.
In the end it hadn’t been a completely bloodless coup, four women had been killed and ten men. Over forty men refused to follow the new rules and were confined on Elisa’s orders not wanting to risk throwing them out where they might join and help the raiders attack The enclave.
Over all the vast majority of people had backed the coup simply to escape the system they despised. Like most coups, no one had any real clue how it was all going to turn out in the end. But as far as they were concerned anything was better than what had been.
Elisa Baker with her husband in tow, set out with a hundred men all that she dared to take from the Enclave and headed for the Summit hoping that she wouldn’t be late and hoping that Weldon would redeem himself some how.
Tucker stood on the quay watching as the first stars appeared overhead, a spankle of shiny jewels against the gathering night. behind him the assembled enclave leaders were talking quietly, discussing the message that had just arrived from wonderland. Baker had been deposed by his wife, which was surprising but the confirmation that there were raiders on the island and that they knew about the summit and were poised to attack Astoria had done more to galvanize the other leaders into wanting to work together.
He had hoped to unite the island peaceful, but now it seemed that War was going to unite them and once they had dealt with this band of raiders, what about the next and the one after that.. the scavengers, the wanna be rulers, and parasites would just keep coming, was peace just a dream. No its not, America had peace in her own borders once. Towns and groups didn’t wage war and raid each other back then.
Pastor Wells is gone, Raiders are running loose, it seems like things are falling apart. But we are coming together too. I think, I hope we will come through this.