Allen stood silently watching as the boats were beached. Six hundred men and women milled around chaotically their leaders trying to get them moving to set up camp. They were five days early, the idiots were so eager to plunder and pillage that they jumped the gun. The whole point was to keep the bulk of our forces safe till we knew if the attack on Harbor Town was successful. If a warning gets out to the other Enclaves we could end up screwed on the other hand. if the other Enclaves decided to do something about the reports of the attack it was possible they would send what ever forces they had south to try and intercept the attackers of Harbor town before those attackers could reach any other enclaves and if that happened the enclaves would have reduced forces inside making my job a lot easier, he thought with a cold smile. A smile that fade as he considered that his forces here would have to remain hidden till the last minute and that was going to be hard with the numbers that had arrived.
He glanced at his wrist forgetting he no longer wore a watch and shook his head amused at himself. The Harbor town assault should launch tonight or tomorrow night, if he could convince the other leaders to wait two more days instead of rushing in he could turn this change in plans into a positive. If not he would kill the son of whore who ruined his chance for revenge.
He pushed the thought aside for the moment, to often lately he found himself wondering what his wife would think of the man he had become and wasn’t pleased with the answer. But she wasn’t alive and revenge was all he had left.
“it’s a regular cluster fuck” Georgina said walking up to stand beside him at the balcony rail. He nodded in agreement surprised at the changes he had seen in the few scout leaders, as he had come to call them. Well all but one at any rate, Carlton Mueller and he and his men had stayed out in the field for most of the last few days delivering his reports by runner.
The scout leaders were becoming far more disciplined and polishing the rougher edges off of their respective scout teams. They were still not even close to what the old US army would have considered competent but they were better than mere rabble now.
The only one that came close to what Allen thought of as Military discipline was Franklin Dieter’s men. It was a small unit, its men grim, quiet and from things that Franklin had said, they had a past. They were the ones who had brought back reports of scattered bands of scarred people that lived in Hilton head plantation. They seemed crazed and were cannibalistic but no real threat as long as the scout teams kept up a good watch. Other wise the scarred folk could and had slipped silently into camps. That’s what had happened to one of Muellers six man teams and there had been no survivors from that team only blood rags and the well gnawed bones of six scouts.
“I would have thought you would be down there talking with Alicia by now” Allen said. Alicia Miller was the leader of the Gang that Georgina and her scouts were part of.
“She sent a runner to find me, We will talk over dinner later.” Georgina said with a smile. She was one of Alicia’s lovers and Allen figured she was looking forward to a little fun tonight. At least she has some one, Allen thought as the image of his wife floated up in his minds eye. It was like a punch in the gut, every time he thought of her. She would still be alive if the Damned Government hadn’t been so busy protecting the rich here on fucking Hilton head from the undead while my family was left out in the cold to be ripped apart and eaten alive. “ She did send me a message about this” Georgina said waving a hand at the men and women down below. “Essentially Bragga, Thompson and their hangers on decided they were going to take their people across, pretty much forcing Alicia, Dyers and Gunn to come along or risk losing out.” She looked down her pretty lips twisting into a mue of distaste that smoothed out quickly. “don’t worry, Allen she will back you one hundred percent, she likes you.” Georgina assured him. “its Bragga and Thompson that I, we don’t trust.”
I don’t either, Allen thought, but he kept that thought to himself. He was supposed to be in overall command and running down the leaders of the other groups wasn’t the best way to go about staying in command. Oddly he trusted some of the scout leaders more than he did their bosses not that he expected them to buck any command to break the alliance. It was a dog eat dog world, he thought almost angrily.
Mueller’s boss, Jackson Bragga was the archetypical raider, he loved everything about it. The chaos, the violence, and rape. He had probably been unstable before the dead, and the end of the world had only made him worse and the men and very few women who had joined him were no better. Zachary Thompson wasn’t a wildling like Bragga, but he was a mean and violent man who had probably been in and out of jail since he was a teen ager. His loyal inner core had all been in the same gang before the world had ended and they all had a mean streak a mile long.
But as mean as they were, Franklin Dieter and his men were meaner and with out all the swagger and loud threats. If you pissed off one of Dieters men, you either woke up to a beating or never woke up at all.
Mac Gunn led the one truly odd group which was a collection of survivors ranging from single mothers to down and out fast food workers who had all ended up together at a refugee camp established by some now dead do gooder in the Florida panhandle. Every member of the group had had been turned away, shot at and told to starve by every one they had run across till they had found the camp and each other.
When the Camp had been attacked by some Prepper group, whose only goal was to drive out the resident, they had banded together under Gunn and driven off the assault then followed the attackers home and reduced the place to ash. They knew they didn’t have the knowledge to farm, or to do much else. And since no one was willing to take any of them in to teach them, the group had decided taking what they needed was the only option they had and set out to do just that. Any pity they might have once felt for leaving people destitute and starving was gone after the treatment they had endured. You reap what you sow, and Gunns people spread that message far and wide as they moved into southern Georgia where they linked up with Olivia Byers two year ago to raid some big survivalist compound after that they had headed north.
Allen gazed down at the mass of raiders and shrugged almost angrily. dealing with other raiders was turning out to be like herding cats “I guess I need to get down to the Command post, I am pretty sure Bragga and Thompson cant wait to share what ever lie they have come up with to explain this.”
“Watch your back Allen.” Georgina said as she headed inside before he could.
Allen stood there gazing at the Door she had vanished through, wondering where She and her group really stood. He was an idiot if he really expected allies, but stranger things have happened. Take it as it comes and make no assumptions, he told himself.
The Boat House Allen’s scout force had been using as a Command post and Barracks was jammed full of newly arrived men an women. The noise level was almost deafening outside the tarps that had been strung to isolate the Command section. Inside it wasn’t much better but even a little was better than none.
The scout leaders were standing along the back wall, including Mueller. Which was curious, how had Mueller, who had remained out in the field for so long known that the main force would be arriving today.
That Prick Bragga had planned this from the start, Allen thought as he kept his face impassive.
Bragga and Thompson sat at the head of the table, with Bragga sitting where Allen normally sat. It was a calculated petty slight and Allen knew it but that knowledge did nothing to still the surge of anger that he didn’t dare show.
Gunn, Olivia Byers, Jesus Seguin and Alicia Tremont sat along side Dietz, while the remaining leaders sat opposite them.
“Glad you could join us Allen” Bragga said with a smile that might have been just a touch mocking. “We were just about to discuss how to work together for the assault tomorrow.”
“Really, tomorrow” Allen said keeping his hand away from his pistol. “I think we had a plan and a deal.”
“that was yesterday Allen, things have changed as you can see. Today we are going to make a new deal one where your not in charge. We no longer feel that your cautious approach is necessary the sooner we attack the sooner we can seize the supplies we need from the rich Targets you have provided and be on our merry way.” Bragga said as Thompson nodded in agreement.
“I see, so you think you’re the best person to plan the raid. Even though you have no idea what you might be facing.”
“Carlton has supplied us with a map and all the information gained by the scouting mission. I’m pretty sure we have all we need to come up with a good plan of attack” Bragga said confidently.
Carefully now, Allen thought say the wrong thing and it will end in gunfire or assassinations in the night. Gunn and his cliché did not look happy, no surprise there Gunn and his people were not a fan of violence for violence’s sake. What they wanted was to survive and the years of struggling had taught them that the only way to do so was to take what they needed. Thompson and Bragga’s cliché were nodding in agreement though two of them looked unhappy.
“Did your scouts tell you that the largest concentration of pre dead military is inside the Astoria Enclave. Did they also tell you about the huge amount of military supplies that were taken into the Astoria in the final days before the dead rolled over the island.
I only know that because of the men who we captured or the few who slipped out of the Enclave to join us during the first attempt. Allen thought.
Thompson suddenly looked wary, Bragga didn’t seem to care, not that Allen was surprised. Bragga probably planned on letting every one else take the casualties and thin out the defenders before he fully committed his own men.
“those very facts make it the best prize to take Allen.” Bragga said with a casual wave of his hand. “Besides we have a few surprises of our own” Bragga said with another mocking smile.
“Which would be?” Allen asked doubtfully.
“We found a military depot a few months back and recovered have a half a dozen mortars and plenty of rounds for them.” Bragga replied his eye narrowing as he gazed at Allen as if he were daring Allen to keep being difficult it was obvious that Bragga was starting to tire of Allen’s resistance, which could lead to bad things.
“I think that My people will back Allen on this” Alicia said before Allen could respond. All eyes turned to the platinum blond. There was a hard no nonsense look in her Sapphire eyes.
“Mine as well” Gunn said with a razor edged smile of warning directed at Bragga. The tension in the room rose as men and women edge closer to the respective leaders and hands moved closer to weapons.
Bragga’s face darkened angrily and Allen saw Mueller’s hands close into fists by his side but the man remained otherwise motionless and quiet.
“I fail to see how your men could use mortars with no training” Dieter said conversationally. There was a edge to his voice that was like a rind of ice. “I personally have some experience with the things, and they are not point and shoot weapons. You would be lucky to land a shell on what you were trying to hit, and more likely to blow yourselves up. No I think in this instance I will myself side with Allen.” Dieter said locking eyes with Bragga who didn’t appear to be happy at the idea of Dieter being on the other side in this confrontation. The expression on Dieters face spoke volumes about how stupid he thought the idea was. “unless of course you have some military experience and training that can tip the balance into our favor. Do you have such training or experience?” Dieter asked, his voice taking on an odd cadence at odds with his Midwestern accent.
“I refuse to sit around here waiting while Allen plays at being a soldier. We will hit the Enclave with numbers after the mortars have softened them up. The decision was made before we arrived.” Bragga snarled.
“you failed to ask my opinion or whether I was willing to risk my men in what is bound to be the biggest fuck up in history.” Dieter said still as calm as a winter day and just as cold.
“No such decision was made to my knowledge, or I would have told you to go fuck yourself.” Gunn said with a nasty smile. “
“you will…” Bragga choked off what ever he was about to say as a pistol appeared in Dieters hand pointed at Bragga’s chest. Mueller reached for his own weapon but Dieters second in command already had him covered with a sawed off shotgun.
“I will do nothing you want. What I will do is shoot you dead if you utter one more demand of me or my men.” Dieter said. For one instant it looked like Bragga was about to leap over the table and go after Dieter, there was a hard light in his eyes and his lips so much they were almost invisible. Somehow he restrained himself and Allen really didn’t think it was fear of Dieter that did the trick though it might have played a small part in a really wise decision.
“please give me a reason to kill you Bragga,” Dieter said a cold eager smile on his face.
“You will pay for this” Bragga snarled.
“I have no doubt that one day I will pay for a great many things one day, but killing you will not be one of them.” Dieter said with that same cold smile then turned his attention to Allen. “I think you have the floor. Since Bragga and Thompson have screwed the time table we had set up we need to figure out the best way to modify your plan.”
I wonder what his game is? Allen asked himself. He just asked for Bragga to focus all his hate on himself and away from me. I am not the most popular person in the room but Dieter is disliked even more than I am. Allen thought as he moved to the Map he had taped to the wall. He must have planned on taking out Bragga from the start if he had people in place to take over. No way he did that on the fly today.
Or if he did set it up today before the meeting , A shiver went up Allen’s spine, he is one formidable bastard. Be very careful around him, Allen told himself as he began to outline his plan.
2130hrs, a home outside the Pines.
For two days, Herman had been laying low on the orders of Jason and Amy. They had returned from the scavenging trip to find that Herman’s house had been searched and that Ramo and the council wanted to talk with Herman.
At Jason’s insistence Herman was hiding in a small home a mile from the Pines that Jason’s people had cleaned up and stocked as a private meeting place. they were pretty sure that no one outside the group knew about the hide away if its location was known they had a lot more to worry about than just the guard showing up to search the place.
There had been a few of Isaiah’s children, as the group called itself, who had wanted to use the safe house to build the device and to store weapons in, but Jason had insisted they had to keep the traffic down or someone might eventually notice. Herman suspected Jason had wanted to make sure that if some one noticed people coming and going from the safe house, he didn’t want any one finding the device there linking it to the group. though that was a pretty stupid idea since the moment it detonated no one was going to doubt who was responsible.
He paced across the old living room once more only half paying attention to the conversation coming from the four men playing poker at the rickety old table they had set up in the middle of the room. He was really to busy trying to sort out his thoughts and emotions on the whole thing. In the beginning he had been buoyed by the elation he had felt at serving Gods will to really question. It had been so simple to listen to Jeff House, Amy and Jason talk about the messages God had seen fit to send them. Modern prophets sent after the plague of the dead to guide men to a better life.
But then Jeff had attacked Tucker and almost killed Lourdes, and Jason had started work on the Bomb, the Device as every one called it hoping that no one would tumble to what the device really was.
“….I wonder if Jason got the thing delivered with out problems” Samuel said as he slid chips out into the pile. “Ill meet you and raise ten”
“we would have heard about it, if Ramo had found the device” Les said with a glance at Herman, who seemed not to notice.
Ramo was at the summit, Herman thought with out breaking his stride or showing any reaction. Some of the group were beginning to doubt his fervor and reacting in any way that didn’t show excitement and idiot approval would only place him in dangerous waters. That’s what Jason was up too, Herman thought remembering how cagey Jason had been this morning. The Son of a bitch moved the bomb to the Summit and didn’t want me to know about it. he was right to keep it from me, My faith in the whole damn thing is teetering on the edge and know this. He didn’t need an expert to tell him what would most likely happen if the Bomb went off at the summit. Even if it killed no one any chance of the leaders working together was probably shot to hell and if it killed one or more of them… … God please do not let it happen, Herman prayed silently as he paced the room.
“Sit down for Pete’s sake Herman, your driving me nuts with all that pacing” Bridger Tourme snapped as he folded and tossed his cards down on the table.
“Sorry, you know I pace” Herman said with a sincere looking friendly smile.
“yeah, all the damn time and it drives us all nuts.” Samuel said chuckling; he still seemed to like Herman. Amazingly, Herman thought.
They have to be insane to send the damn thing to the Summit, Snows people would burn the Pines to the ground if Snow or any of his people are killed, hell Coates’s people would probably react the same way. his thoughts circling back to the possible death and destruction. I’m sorry I cant believe this is the will of God any longer, and to my shame, I helped them get to this point.
He settled himself on to the ragged couch, with its large faded blood stain, praying nothing of his thoughts showed on his face. Tonight after every one was asleep he had to get out of here and warn the council. God forgive him for being weak, but as much as he believed Technology was a danger to their souls, Killing Innocent men and women wasn’t something he was realizing he couldn’t condone and if it was Gods plan then God would understand his weakness and forgive him. But he no longer really believed that it was gods will and he had a really good idea whose will the plan had come from.
He picked up a tattered, dog eared book and began to read, anything to pass the time because he knew in his state of mind, the hours would drag past before he could get away and he had to hope he wouldn’t end up being to late to make a difference.
July 9th, 2200 hrs Harbor town.
Pete Regan knelt on one knee studying the wall, the men of his raiding party were spread out to either side of him waiting for his signal. Luck was on their side, the walls enclosed such a large area that apparently there were not enough men to guard them. Judging by the lack of any patrols he had seen in the last couple of hours.
He smiled to himself, they would be up and over the walls, using the ladders they had spent half a day gathering, and inside the Enclave in minutes. He had studied the only map they had found of the area, an old tourist map that showed every hotel, bar, restaurant and yacht related business on this side of the island. None of that would help him or his men, but at least they had a general lay out of the buildings inside the Enclave.
The orders were simple, get in kill any one that got in their way, detain the rest, seize and secure their supplies. Once the place was secured, he was to take half his men and move north to link up with the main force for the attack on the Sea Pines Enclave. It was a good plan, he thought as he gave the signal to his men to start the attack.
His men raced forward, ladders were slammed down and men rushed up and over the wall. Pete hit the ground on the other side and found himself in an overgrown area, weathered condos and even a few old homes looming up out of the tree’s like dead sentinels of a dead world.
Fuck the old world, he thought crazily taken by the moment. he was a wolf loose amongst the sheep.
It was a good plan as plans went, it adhered to the KISS principle, keep it simple stupid, which was the hall mark of good plans, or so he and his friends thought and it came apart with in minutes.
Watch Sergeant Elgin Winters, of Guard post 32, spotted the first man coming over the wall from his position on the roof top. He had gotten lucky when the man had crossed in bar of moonlight across the roof top..
With the discovery that Mathias and his goon Tolman had been using this section of wall to come and go undetected, Morgan had ordered two new guard posts set up to watch the area and it was paying off tonight.
As he lifted his radio, he saw more indistinct man like shapes cross the top of the wall then vanish again as they dropped down off the wall on the other side.
Oh you boys are not going to like what’s coming, Eglin thought as he reported in, counting off as many Raiders as he could see. In minutes Harbor town’s security forces were converging on the area. “Roger that, Winters you and your men keep to your station and wait till further orders” Morgan replied. Eglin could hear the crisp professional voice of one of the dozen trainers from the Zone in the background and smiled as he signed off.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
I had an odd dream last night, not really sure what to think. It was probably just a regular dream but still. yeah I feel really stupid taking the idea of Dreams being more than dreams, but I used to think the same thing about Zombies too.
Anyway the dream. I was back home sitting at the kitchen table with my Cousins talking about stuff, when I see My uncle standing outside the kitchen window. I’ve mentioned him before, the scum bag.
Well he just gives me this cold smile and waves before walking up to the window that was suddenly opened.
“hey ya pecker head,” he says leaning forward but stopping before he can actually stick his head through, it was like he was pushing against glass. Odd…
I ignored him, Never liked him in life and wasn’t going to start chit chatting with him dead and gone in a dream now.
“Thought I would just stop on by and jaw a bit boy, but I can see your about as screwed up and misguided as your Pa. Mark my words boy, you go round messing with the mud folk and the lord aint going to take kindly to it.”
I was about to beat him half to death with a chair, when my old dog strolls in and asks for Bacon. Then wants to know if He can rip uncle Racist’s nuts off. Okay yeah it sounds like a normal if screwed up dream so far.
Well the Dog sits down at the table with his plate of Bacon and is talking to Jay the friggen cat. Yes it turned into a nightmare and this is when it gets odd.
Well I look back at Uncle Crap bag just in time to see the old bastards face start flowing like wax, the flesh dripping off to splatter on the grass below the window. which turns black and begins to spread. The sky begins to cloud over getting darker and darker and a cold wind rattles through the hot summer day like an arctic blast.
He is speaking and his voice is changing, not just tone but in a more fundamental way, the cadence, the word choices weren’t his any longer.
“you fail to understand, Nut licker, Your meddling and there is a price to pay for meddling Chris. Oh yes sir there is, last warning boy…” the voice continued to speak but now it was like the sound of three or more voices all saying the same thing, twisting and twining maddeningly together making the actual words unintelligible, it was just a rushing roar of noise that clawed at my nerves and made me sick to my stomach. It was kind like the way old pre cable Tv channels would flicker and have bursts of static and snow getting worse and worse before the channel just fades into nothingness. Then suddenly the dog offers me a pancake and Jay slaps my hand when I go to take it. Like I said weird dream.
I wake up and Jay the friggen pony sized cat is laying there staring me in the eyes, its claws sliding in and out of his paw sheathes, probably trying to threaten me. If he had thumbs he would be really dangerous..
So any way its going to be a long day, we are going to cut up north to see if we can either establish contact with Ryan or find that lighthouse where they were staying with along with Jimmy Dooley. Hercules Secord is not thrilled with going any deeper into the Hilton head Plantation than necessary, between the horror stories of the Sixth Enclave and its ghosts and the all to real horror stories of the Scarred one’s he like the others would rather avoid the entire area. Ill give him that he is brave enough to face down his fears about the whole idea. He even asked for a better weapon than the one he is carrying. Lets hope he wont have to use it.
0800hrs, Broad Creek, Palmetto Bay Yacht Club, Summit meeting place.
The heavily loaded electric cart on the last leg of its battery life rolled up to the yacht club and stopped. The driver smiled and waved at the approaching guard detail, “Food supplies and other stuff that Tucker wanted delivered and we need to switch out the battery before we can head back. “ he called out as his partner, a slender woman with shoulder length brown hair leaped down and began untying the lash downs.
“Your going to have to wait till the next cart gets here” Sergeant Jack Omalley said shaking his head apologetically. “We have a bicycle charger you can use if you need it, but the spare batteries haven’t been delivered yet.”
The Driver grinned “Don’t mind taking a quick break, then if you don’t mind I would like to use your charger, got a lot to do today when I get back and I have a date tonight.” He said handing over the hand written invoice.
O’Malley glanced at it, then passed it to another guard who began to inspect the cargo. “What do you think of all this?, the summit and such” The Driver asked.
“To be honest I hope they work out something, the more people we have the more hands we have to plant food, hunt, and rebuild.” He said glancing at the driver’s assistant. “And the more single women that become available” he added with a wink at the Driver who grinned back at him.
“if you want I can show you right now where the bicycle charger is or you can wait for the next cart and hope some one loaded the spare batteries on it.”
“lead the way, the sooner I get back the sooner I can get finished and get ready for my date.” The driver said with a quick smile, watching as a two of the guards began to carry boxes towards the yacht club. If his eyes lingered on the battered black box no one noticed, nor did they notice the gleam of satisfaction that flared in his eyes.
0930hrs, The Pines.
Pastor Wells sat in his study, a mere cubicle in his living room gazing at the man who had woken him up at six this morning. Herman Coterie looked exhausted, his strong featured face pale, his eye lids drooped his eyes dull. But he had an air of singing tension around him that was enough to make any one near him uneasy.
He mentally went over Hermans story, the story he had heard five times since Hermans arrival, it still shocked him. yes he had known about Jeffs dreams, but to find out that others had been having them too was disturbing to say the least.
The first thing he had done after hearing Hermans story the first time was to send for Master Sergeant Garza who had listened to the story silently, then sent twenty men to the church the children of Isaiah used as a meeting place. They had searched the place floor to ceiling and found nothing, no people no device, the bomb had truly been moved. A search of the Pines was underway, but like Herman, Wells didn’t think the bomb was still here.
Herman had given them the location of the safe house as well and they were waiting for a report from the platoon that had been sent to secure it and seize any one still there.
“I’m sorry Pastor, I truly thought I was doing the right thing. At least till the bomb, then I started thinking about all the people it would kill, Jason keeps swearing that it will only be used to destroy something like Tuckers workshop when’s its empty, but I began to doubt that no one would get hurt especially after some of Jason’s friends attacked Walt. I think he wants to kill people Pastor and god help me I helped him reach this point.”
Every one gets tested, Wells thought, for some its as easy as just saying no to a minor temptation. For others like myself like Herman here, we have to rip away a life times worth of indoctrination and belief to finally hear that gentle voice that’s been talking to us the entire time. it’s a hard thing to listen to, that voice, it’s a thing that can destroy a man who refuses to face it and fails the test. And that Test never ends unless its failed because once you’ve started down the path you find its a journey of growth that lasts for what ever measure of life you still have.
He gazed at Herman with out pity, but in understanding and gentleness “You stumbled, but you came around in the end Herman and before any one has been killed. It was the right thing to do.”
“But if any one dies now, its still my fault.” Herman replied
“No Herman, it wont be. But you will feel that guilt and it will drive you for the rest of your life because you’re a good man deep down inside and you’ve finally heard the whispered word of god that’s shown you the truth. That’s a hard thing to face Herman, I’ve faced it myself and I hated what I saw in myself when I did and it changed me just as it changed you.” Wells paused then leaned towards Herman. “I will stand by your side to the end so you will not have to share this burden alone.” The simple quiet sincerity in Wells voice almost brought Herman to tears.
My Sermon will have to wait, Keith Wells thought sadly this was too important. “I think we should start by heading to the Summit, I know the Master Sergeant has his doubts but like you I believe that is exactly where the bomb has been taken.” He said rising from his desk.
July 10th, 1000hrs, Broad Creek Palmetto bay Marina
A light wind blew softly across the water of the Broad creek as Tucker stepped out of the old Yacht club onto the deck that had once hosted diners and party guests. He leaned against the rail gazing across the overgrown lawn to the docks and water below smiling as he saw a large fish leap out of the water snapping at an insect before falling with a splash back into the water.
The majority of the boats that had once been housed here were gone, taken by desperate people trying to escape in the early day of the Dead rising. About half to those that had been left behind had sunk by years worth of storms or been beaten and battered against the docks by the same storms and of course years of neglect and were barely more than floating wrecks. A handful were still salvageable if some one who knew what they were doing got to work on them before to much more time had passed.
It was peaceful here, at least for the moment and he hated to admit that he felt more comfortable here than back in the Pines where the Luddites were waiting for him. he wished Lourdes were here, but she wouldn’t be able to travel for another couple of days if then. At least according to the Doctor that Harbor Town had sent.
He heard some one walking heavily behind him but didn’t turn around. “Makes me think we might want to get a fishing crew together and base some people here.” Ben said after a moment.
“Might be nice” Tucker said noncommittally, to be honest a part of him like the idea because it offered him a place to set up shop away from the Luddites. Of course if he gave in to that fear, it wouldn’t be long before he began to worry about the Luddites following him here too.
“Cheer up Waylon, your about to change our lives and make history.” Ben said coming to stand beside Tucker.
“I know,” Tucker admitted. Gideon Snow and Franklin Coates would be arriving tomorrow, Erin Brinn was due in this evening and then they would proceed to either go forward together or give up any notion of being Americans and all that implied. Instead they would become little city states on a small island, going their own way till one day they went to war against each other. The island was to small for anything else to happen if they didn’t work together. “It feels weird.” He added after a second.
“I bet. You spent over ten years making Clock work art and other things, a no body in the grand scheme of things, even on the local level and now look at you. Co President of the Pines responsible for the lives inside and helping to forge a new state.”
Other things, Tucker thought half amused. I used to make custom Victorian lamps, locks, door knobs, hinges and damn near anything else that had been in use back in the 1800’s for renovators, historical home restoration and Home remodels, that was my steady income and kept me doing what I loved.
“Do you really think that’s what we are going to do.” He asked some what surprised at the idea. He hadn’t really thought about it from that perspective.
“Either a new State for the New America or a new country. I guess it could go either way.” Ben said with a shrug. “I think you know which way me and my men want it to go.”
Tucker nodded he did know, They wanted their country back, the country they had been loyal too all this time, its ideals and values the glue that had kept them in uniform and protecting the Pines instead of splitting up and heading out to find friends and family once the dead had fallen over. Tucker had even overheard a few of the conversations that Ben and some of the other Guardsmen had with the Soldiers from the Zone and saw how excited they had become as they once more felt like they were a part of the Nation they had long loved and served. Lets be honest, You miss the US too, oh sure not the idiots who had run it, or any of the warts and imperfections but the core values and ideals, he told himself
After the chaos he had seen as the world died and after, the raiders, violence and fear of the future he wanted some of the old world back. He didn’t want to be a king and he didn’t want to have to fight warlords and would be Kings but sure as hell that was coming down the Pike.
“How’s the security preparations coming?” he asked Ben. Who turned to face Tucker.
“Not bad, its an easy place to defend and patrol. We will be set up before Brinn and the Zones representative arrives.” Ben said. “The Soldiers from the Zone have helped a lot too, since they are here to set up protection for their own rep and those men know their business.”
“Aren’t they special forces?”
“Yeah, the real deal too” Ben confirmed. “They were running missions long before the dead rose.”
“Kind of makes me nervous, if we choose to go our way, I have to worry they might just decide to force us to do what they want.” Tucker said turning to lean back against the rail, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“They wont” Ben assured him. “I know they wont but I have made a few plans just in case.”
Tucker nodded, their opinions of the Soldiers and the Zones intentions and possible reactions didn’t matter as had often been pointed out they had to assume and plan for the worst.
Ben stood there for a moment eyeing Tuckers sleeve “What do you have up your sleeve?” it could have been a joke, but it wasn’t.
Tucker grimaced slightly in embarrassment. “I was hoping that no one would notice” he said as he extended his arm with a quick sharp motion and a small pistol appeared in his hand before he had even finished. “I refuse to be caught unarmed again if I can help it” he said slightly embarrassed.
“Good idea” Ben said not sure how much use something like that gadget it might be. But if it made Tucker feel more confident he wasn’t about to dissuade him from wearing the thing.
Tucker reset the device, tucking the pistol back out of sight and smiled. “well I am sure you have work to do, and I have position papers to work on the rest of the staff wont be here till tomorrow morning and I really want to be ahead of the game by the time Snow and Coates arrive.
1030 hrs, July 10th, Arthur Hills Golf Course.
“Think they noticed us” Garret asked Ryan who sat on a box in the Light room at the very top of the lighthouse, watching the ten heavily armed men sweep slowly across the old Golf Green. Ryan, Garret and Jimmy had almost been spotted returning to the old Lighthouse, only barely spotting the men in time to avoid being seen and slipping into the lighthouse.
“Not so far” Ryan said passing Garret the Binoculars he had been using.
Garret peered through the Binoculars studying the men. They wore dirty civilian clothing under what llooked like new combat vests and ammo pouches on their web belts. They carried Military grade weapons as well, he wasn’t an expert but had been taught enough to recognize the M16’s and the M-4s the men carried and they were not soldiers at least not judging by the way they were scouting the area.
“Raiders” he commented.
“Seems like” Ryan said pulling the Sat phone from his back and unfolding the antenna. He checked the charge and frowned, he needed to charge the damn thing again. these days the battery didn’t hold as much of a charge as it once had.
With all the running and dodging hunting parties from the airport the last day or so, he hadn’t had time to hook the phone up to the small solar charger he carried. With another shrug, he dialed the number tapping his foot softly hoping the battery would last through the call.
“About damn time” McCaffrey said into his ear after the second ring. “your wife was just about to threaten my nuts with a spoon.”
Ryan snorted in amusement even as he watched the distant men down on the green. “First the battery is almost dead on the phone.” Ryan warned McCaffrey. “Tell my wife I’m okay. We had a bit of a run in out at the Airport. I thought they would leave us alone once we left the airfield but they were already hunting some one else they must not like a lot. I guess they thought who ever they were after might be with us so they sent a team after us or they might just not like visitors.
It took a while to lose them and we just got back to the Lighthouse.” Ryan said. “where… we discovered what looks like Raiders scouting the area and heading east.” He didn’t need to point out that the only real target to the East was the Astoria Enclave.
“How many men?”
“Ten that we’ve seen”
“How sure are you that they are raiders.”
“Pretty sure, they look the type at any rate.” He said and there was a type, you could see it in the way they acted, dressed and carried themselves. Modern Barbarians with delusions of being an action star soldier.
“We are maybe six miles to the south of your position.” McCaffrey said. Ryan could hear Stephanie say something in the background. He didn’t have time to talk with her at the moment as much as he wanted to.
“well you might want to head to the Astoria and warn them” Ryan said. “you can do that faster and easier than We can. Just be careful there could be another group of these guys down your way, or this group could end up down your way. ”
“Roger that, Listen I think you need to contact Ash…..” McCaffreys voice cut off. Ryan grimaced and shook the phone in frustration as the battery finally caved in and the unit powered down.
“Damned battery is barely lasting a full day now” He muttered.
“its time to set up the Short wave and report in to Sullivan” He told Garret. It would only take a five minutes to unpack the small unit and set it up.
“Calling in the Calvary?” Garret asked.
“Not really sure, But if those raiders figure out all the Enclave leaders are gathered in one place and some of our people are along with them what do you think they might do.”
“I hope Jared sends the Marines”
“I hope Jared and the Dirty Dozen come with the marines” Ryan said with a grim smile.
1230 hrs, Broad Creek, Palmetto Bay Marina
Tucker stood on the newly swept path watching as Erin Brinn and another woman that he assume was the girlfriend McCaffrey had told him about, approached, their security detail unhappily falling back a few feet leaving the women exposed.
She was certainly as pretty as McCaffrey had said. Tucker thought half surprised that McCaffreys description of Brinn was so accurate, and her wife was attractive too. Which was putting it mildly, Tucker thought, But I am not here to drool over ample bosoms and long legs. Judging by her letters, Erin was at least as smart Lourdes and that was more than enough for Tucker to like and respect the packaging was just a plus and a distraction to boot.
He said nothing about the pistol on her hip, but the bandage around her upper arm that peeked out from under her sleeve made him curious.
“Welcome to the Summit” Tucker said stepping forward and extending his hand. “Waylon Tucker, Co President of the Pines” he said formally since they hadnt ever really met.
“Erin Brinn, and this is my wife Noel.” She said with a soft friendly smile.
“nice to meet you both” Tucker said with a smile.
“Lets get inside and have a late lunch” He said resisting the urge to gallantly offer his arm.
“that would be fine. I haven’t eaten since five this morning” She said.
“Well lets get you fixed up with food then, and your men of course” Tucker said as they started up the path. “mind if I ask what happened to your arm?”
She gently touched her upper arm wincing slightly then nodded. “Its part of the News I wanted to share with you while we eat. But no reason I cant share while we walk, you see last night Harbor Town was attacked by Raiders.” She said, Tuckers eyes widened. “It started around ten last night and…”
Half an hour later they were sitting at a table on the veranda, Tucker was picking at his salad. “…. If it hadn’t been for the advisors the zone had sent to help us and their security team off their ship, we probably would have been overrun.” Erin said shaking her head. “I think we’ve all seen the movies about Special forces guys, but in reality they are better, Not all Hollywood flash and style but determined, well skilled hard fighting men.” She lifted her shoulders in a minute shrug then smiled. “they went through those raiders like a hot knife through butter Tucker it was incredible.”
“so you trust the zone enough to let their soldiers into Harbor town?”
“yes,” she paused twiddling her fork for a moment looking beyond the room to something in the past. “I met their leader you know, There’s something about him, integrity, decency, I cant really describe it. Don’t get me wrong he isn’t some charismatic leader type at least not in the way we would normally think of it. But you know when he gives his word he will keep it if its humanly possible. He talks about Honor and duty not as a abstraction but like its something essential to who he is.” She laid aside the fork. “I know people don’t talk like that any more. But I think we might start again if more men and women like him put in an appearance. As far as the others I’ve dealt with from the zone, the more I work with them the more I trust them.”
Tucker considered what she had said. This Jared Stone sounded more like some archetypal character than a real person but Erin Brinn believed it about this Jared Stone so who was he to argue. He blinked as he realized he had been so caught up in her story he hadn’t even asked the important question yet. “How many Raiders were there?”
“A hundred, possibly more but we cant be sure about that. The survivors of the attack aren’t saying much but what little they did say makes us think there are more on the island.” Erin said. She picked up a cloth napkin and wiped at the corners of her mouth. “They landed on the south end of the island a few days back and scouted us out before attacking, that much we do know. ”
“A hundred? Damn” Tucker replied shaking his head. Where in the hell do these people come from and why not ask for help instead of trying to steal and kill. How many more could there be on the Island and where could they be. well where ever they might be, Ben needs to know, he decided.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
We managed to get back to the Astoria and pass along the warning, with out meeting any bad guys. Snow must have been really serious about the summit, he had already left before we got back. Snows second in command was going to send messengers to wonderland and Harbor town to warn them, and asked if we would pass along the warning to the Township, to the leaders at the Summit and the Pines.
What I really want to do is head north to make sure Ryan and Garrett don’t need help, but passing along the warning will benefit the mission. Eric warned me that Duty is a bitch and he was right.
The truth is we need this island as an ally at the very least. But having them join the zone would push us much further along in rebuilding than we can do on our own.
I have no idea how many possible raiders there might be, but even a small number led by a halfway decent leader can do a lot of damage before they are stopped. On the upside it could push the Enclaves into uniting the island.
Our quick lunch is over, and we need to hurry.
1300hrs Broad Creek, Palmetto bay Marina
Ben Ramo found Pastor Wells and the most wanted man in the Pines waiting for him inside the office behind the front desk of the yacht club. He felt his temper rise seeing Herman dressed in a Guard uniform, the bear he had worn was shaved off and even his hair had been cut down almost to the scalp like most of the guard wore theirs. .
“I need you to listen and not talk” Wells said before Ben could say anything. “Herman came to me telling me about a bomb the Anti Tech, the Children of Isaiah, built. The Pines is being turned upside down for the thing, but Herman believes that Jason Karig had it sent here so that he could kill Tucker and possibly the other leaders. I offered to carry the message to you and brought Herman to tell you the story himself. Master Sergeant Garza suggested that Herman go disguised.
Garza has also arrested eight of the Children of Isaiah, but six are missing, Jason Karig, Amy Stout, Sean Winton, Sam Botin, Crystal Rogen and Alec Cooper.”
Ben watched Herman, who fidgeted nervously under the stony eyed look but remained silent. “mind if I ask how Karig got access to the explosives.”
“I don’t know exactly, he claimed to have gotten a set of keys from a friend. I think he stole them, but it doesn’t really matter. All that matter is stopping him.”
I think I believe him Ben told himself. “how is the bomb detonated? And how did you people learn to make bombs”
“Jason got the design out of some radio shack electronic science project book, I’m not really sure what the original project was, but Jason modified the design and made it so the bomb can be detonated by hand, timer or radio signal.” Herman met Ramo’s gaze taking a deep breath. “I think Jason will set it off by radio with the timer as back up. He thinks he is chosen by god and I don’t think that he will let any one else do it.”
“Where would he have hidden it.”
“ I don’t know, he had started to realize I wasn’t fully with the program and cut me out of the loop before he made his plan. The only reason I know the bomb is here, was something I overheard.”
Ben summoned two men and quickly explained to them what was going on and then sent them to quietly organize a search of the premises. Once they had left he turned back to Herman. “Why are you betraying your friends.”
“I came to my sense’s, it took a while but I finally did.” Herman said. “I want to help in the search.”
“No, if your right and Jason and his friends are close by, you might be spotted and he might set the bomb off and hope he gets Tucker.” Ben said as he sat on the desk.
“Ben, waiting here isn’t going to keep any of us safe. I would like to look for the bomb myself and Herman can go with me.”
“And what if Karig spots you pastor and decides taking you out is just as good as taking out Tucker.” Ben asked almost but not quite rolling his eyes.
“Then it’s my time to go Ben, and if it is, nothing I do not even sitting here in this office will stop it.”
“Your not going to listen are you?”
“No, this is too important Ben. I promised Herman I would help and that I would stand by him through this. I can not sit back and while he is worried people will die because of the part he played in all of this. Not when I might be able to make a difference.”
“you realize Pastor that this isn’t a movie, that its very possible you could die.”
“I do, and its that important to me and to Herman.”
In addition, if Herman is actually playing you to get you into Jasons hands. Ben thought then dismissed the idea. He couldn’t see any reason Jason would cook up a plan that got his group arrested in mass or pushed into running just to get Pastor Wells into his sights when he could have just waited till one of the three sermons Wells gave every week.
“who the hell am I am to stop you. Besides, I need to talk to Tucker about this too. We might have to delay the summit to keep every one safe.” Ben said as he got to his feet again and headed to the door. “as a Officer of the Guard I can not allow you endanger yourselves. But I have to go talk to Tucker and I sometimes forget to lock doors, so I would appreciate it if you would refrain from checking the door after I leave.” Ben said then strode from the room. Let this be the right thing to do, Ben prayed silently as he went to find Tucker.
1325, Mathews Dr and Business 278, Port Royal Plantation.
McCaffrey stopped in the middle of the road gazing at the Northridge Cinema 10. there were times that the end of the world and the loss of all the old familiar things was felt more strongly than other times. Standing there in the open might not be the smartest move but he was lost in the swirling chaos of was more than grief for a dead world and a dead culture.
There were movies I wanted to see that week, he thought feeling the ragged feeling of loss well up like a geyser. That new Carmon Diaz and Tom cruise movie for one, and Jonah Hex too. I remember hearing folks say it wasn’t worth the money, but I would have still liked to have seen it for myself. I even wanted to see that animated movie that was so supposed to come out in July, Despicable something or other.
Now I will never have the chance. Never have a chance to do a lot of things. People always think they have all the time in the world to do things later but its just not true.
“Chris?” Stephanie asked worriedly as she and Henry scanned the area for threats.
McCaffrey pushed away the depression that was trying to sweep over him, he gave a shaky smile then nodded. “yeah fine, lets get a move on”
Henry completely agreed, he felt completely exposed out here in the middle of the empty street. He started forward taking point, leaving Chris to pull the cart and Stephanie to bring up the rear and guard Hercules Secord.
He wished they had just hidden the cart so they could move faster and have more options over their route, but it carried equipment they might need especially if they ended up in trouble. And no way would he want Raiders to get their hands on some of the stuff in that cart.
The road curved towards the south west, past old storm damaged homes that sat in the middle of old lawns where the weeds were thick and the woods around them were slowly reclaiming its rightful place.
There were more abandoned vehicles here, than in other places on the island making the going slower for the Cart, but it affected Henry very little. He liked having something between him and any possible attackers.
The breeze shifted bringing the smell of green growing things, dirt and hot metal. He saw a flicker of motion, and a fleeting glimpse of something red to his left. He dropped to one knee putting the bulk of an abandoned SUV between him and the movement. It saved his life. gunfire rang out and bullets smashed into the vehicle and shattered the remaining windows. Glass rained down over his head, gravel and small rocks on the road dug into the knee he knelt on.
He leaned out from the font side of the SUV and fired towards the house where he had seen some one move.
This was not the kind of life he had ever thought he would live, not by a long shot. he had always had some vague ideas of being successful, of making it. What ever that actually meant. But like others had discovered, the end of the world had brought him to what he was meant to be, or at least shown him his true character and he was proud of how he had overcome not just the problems of the past and moved on but met each and every test since the end of the old world head on and not flinched.
Not, that I enjoy killing people any more than I enjoy people trying to kill me, which is to say not at all, but I can at least say with total honesty I can do what it takes despite the gut wrenching fear and cold sweats that come along with it.
The thought was quick and random as he ducked back behind the SUV. It felt like at least five minutes had passed and No one was helping him out. He looked back and saw Stephanie gliding through the abandoned vehicles, the rifle in her hands up and engaged as she advanced. She fired off two bursts covering Chris who dropped the straps to the Cart and together the two of them advanced towards the enemy, leap frogging forward covering each other, only to be greeted by more fire.
This is not going to be fun, Henry thought as he moved up adding his own weight of fire to covering his partners.
Chris, his hear hammering in his chest, fired short controlled bursts. He hated combat, hated the nausea that came with it. The fear he could deal with until the fight was over and the shakes set in. he reached the edge of the road, kneeling behind the truck of an Honda accord only for as long as it took for him to pull out his second to last grenade. “Grenade out” he called out as he pulled the pin and threw the thing at the house.
His aim was good, he had always been pretty good at baseball. The grenade arced up and then fell back towards the earth passing through a broken window that at least two men had been using. He was up and moving towards a fallen tree before the grenade detonate with a crump. A screamed warning, from inside the house, chopped off abruptly as Light flashed, black smoke rode the shock wave followed by the expanding cloud of shrapnel that chased after it, ripping and tearing at everything in its path.
Take the initiative and keep the momentum, Eric’s voice said in his mind. keep the enemy on the defensive and off balance. Surprise and speed are the key to Violence of action. Well the Grenade gave him the edge of surprise but only for so long, he thought as he slid into his next piece of cover then leaned into low spot and fired covering Stephanie as she ran forward and five meters past his position.
How much damned ammo can these trigger happy idiots have, chris asked himself as Stephanie reached position. He had already chosen his next bit of cover and sprang to his feet as soon as Steph fired. He was halfway to position when gunfire rang out from the left of the house. A bullet passed so close it knicked his ear drawing blood. Stephanie lobbed one of her own Grenades in that direction but in an important way they had just lost the momentum.
He didn’t stop, but put on a burst of speed chosing to leap over a brush and the log behind it. he landed and his foot twisted sharply. Pain flare racing up his leg causing him to stumble. He hit the ground and rolled behind a topple ornamental fountain. Bullets slammed into the thing, stone and cement shards flew from each bullet struke.
“Oh damn that hurts” Chris thought as he pulled out his last grenade and darted his head out to pick his target, he pulled the pin and let the spoon fly. “batter, batter, batter” he changed for a second. “Grenade out” he hollered and tossed the green sphere up and over the fountain where it took out one of the remaining glass panes in a window as it passed through. The grenade detonate and the fire slacked off.
Ten raiders rushed forward taking Stephanie under fire. Chris face pinched with pain, rolled onto his side and fired at them. The men in the house seeing his distraction took Chris under fire.
Henry could see three more men moving out from behind the house to the right, he didn’t have time to do much more than pull the only grenade he carried, pulled the pin and tossed it at them. Realizing at that moment he fully shared Chris’s fear and dislike of the things no matter how useful they might be.
The grenade hit the ground and bounced landing three feet from a slack jawed raiders who eyes widened in horrified recognition of the object at his feet. That was all he had time to do, the grenade detonated, sending shrapnel ripping out through four of the men who were closest. They were in fact inside the five meter kill zone and learned quickly and once why they should avoid grenades. The others were outside the immediate kill zone, but two more died anyway, three were wounded, two of them badly and one actually closer to the detonation but still outside the kill zone escaped with out a scratch. His relief died with him as Henry cut him down with semi accurate rifle fire.
Stephanie was only dimly aware of Henry’s actions, she was to busy trying to clear her jammed weapon as three raiders raced towards her. The man leading the pack drew a wicked looking knife, and from the look in his eyes she was pretty sure he was thinking about raping her.
She cleared the Jam, her weapon snapped back into position. She put five rounds into the man on the right swiveled fired a burst at Knife boy, she was pretty sure she hit him twice and then he was diving at her, Knife raised.
She blocked him at the forearms using her weapon, the knife still managed to cut a shallow furrow on her forehead. She pivoted left. twisting and lifting the rifle pushing knife boy’s arm up and away. His breath flowed over her, rotted meat and cabbage, he stank of stale sweat. The third man unharmed leaped in grabbing at her rifle.
Six years ago she would have screamed for help, begged for mercy, and tried to curl up and black out to escape but that was then. Today she only grunted when her rifle was ripped away, and a fist struck her in the side. She recovered and slid back stamping down on the mans instep shattering bone she was already slipping d to one side avoiding knife boy as he tried to bring his knife into play again.
Beyond them she could see three more men racing towards her, but they were eighty feet away. She blocked and deflected the knife, spinning and launching into a kick that struck Knife boys jaw, she wasn’t as big as Jared so she didn’t have the weight to do massive damage so she had compensated by wearing steel toes. There was a sharp crack of breaking bone, and Knife boy staggered back dropping his knife and clutching at his jaw. she grabbed his ears and pulled his head forward to meet her rising knee, breaking his nose and almost knocking him out. She spun to face the other man who suddenly remembered he had a pistol. He was to slow; she flowed towards him like a mad dervish.
A bullet cracked past her face as the second man went down, his arm dislocated and neck broken. She dove for her rifle as more bullets ripped around her, a round struck in front of her throwing dirt into her face, she blinked trying to clear her eye sight and then suddenly an AR began to fire from behind her. Hercules Secord had stood up from behind the vehicle she had told him to shelter behind, the weapon looking ridiculously small in his large hands as he swept his fire from side to side sending the ambushers advancing on Stephanie, scattering for cover.
“Got your back” he shouted, his ears ringing from the gunfire. She rose into a crouch, bring her own weapon into play once more.
Henry, seeing Stephanie was safe ran forward firing at anything that moved as he tried to reach Chris. He found it wasn’t hard to remember the basic training he had been given on Sullivan, at least not when he was being shot at. he kept in a crouch moving side to side to make it harder to hit him.
Reaching Chris’s side, he grabbed the older man with his free hand while firing with his other. He didn’t care if he hit the attackers, he only wanted them to keep ducking. If they are ducking they are not shooting, his trainer on Sullivan had said and he was right.
“Come on Chris,” Henry said as he lowered his rifle long enough to use both hands. He lifted Chris up and slung him over his shoulders, then snatched his rifle back up before turning and running back for cover back the way he had come.
“way to go Batman, Break an ankle” Henry grunted as he crouched behind a shot up car and lowered Chris to the ground. “you know why they always killed off the plucky black side kicks in movies” he said as he checked Chris over. “Because they were always smarter than the white hero. See what happens when you play with guns.”
“At least this time I had my rifle” Chris pointed out was Henry bandaged his wound. “and who is stupid, you’re the one that rushed out to save me.” Chris said trying to flex his blood covered left arm.
“couldn’t let you get killed it wouldn’t look good on my side kick resume” Henry said with a shrug. . “besides I didn’t get off scott free, got a few grazes but I was lucky. Which is more than I can say for you.”
Chris using his right arm grasped Henry’s forearm . “Henry, You aren’t a side kick and never were” he said.
Henry squatted there silently then smiled. “I know. Now shut up, sounds like the ambushers are hightailing out of here. Stephanie and Hercules are giving them hell.”
“You know something, your butt is bleeding” Chris muttered.
“What?” Henry said reaching down and back, his eyes widened. “I don’t believe it I got shot in the ass.” He exclaimed and then the shock began to fade and the pain made itself known. “oh hell.”
By the time Stephanie reached them Chris was laughing, and Henry pants around his ankles was demanding Chris bandage his butt.
“you two need a room.” She muttered relieved that who ever the ambushers were they had ran away after taking too much damage. “Jay thank god” She said as the Large cat slid out from under the vehicle and sat beside Chris, eyeing him like he was a mouse.
From the journal of Stephanie Bronsen
I hate writing in Journals, reminds me of the diary I used to keep, filled with all kinds of stupid and really pointless things that preoccupied me back when the world was a different place.
Chris is injured shot in the arm and twisted his ankle. We were ambushed just outside of the Astoria Enclave by a band of Raiders. They are much closer than expected, while Henry moaned about being shot in the butt and Chris was giving him crap about it. I ran all the way back to the Astoria told them what had happened then ran all the way back here. Like I had thought they had heard the gunfire and were on high alert. The patrol they sent with me barely kept up on the run back. They are going to sweep the area when we leave and make sure the Raiders are gone. Personally I think this is just the beginning.
Now on to the important stuff…
Henry is one tough guy, He John Wayned during the ambush. Chris went down and Henry leaped up in the middle of the firefight, raced out slung Chris across his shoulders, while still firing at the enemy then ran back, zigging and zagging like some pro football line backer. He got grazed eight times, and shot once in the butt but he made it. Me, Not a scratch on me well not from a bullet at any rate.
Hercules is pulling the cart for us, I have to say I didn’t much like him in the beginning. Oh he is a big strong, good looking guy and all that but he was real stand offish. But today He proved himself.
At the moment we are south of the Astoria and are heading to the Broad creek, where I hope to find a boat we can use to cross.
Jay is okay, He hid during the fight and during the chase, but showed up again at the Astoria. That’s one great cat, right now he is curled up beside Chris on the cart just staring at him. I can hear Chris’s teeth grinding from here and I think its funny.
A couple of notes, during our trip towards the Lighthouse, we ran across signs of small bands of survivors living in the ruins outside of the Enclaves. I don’t think they are the scarred ones, at least none of the places we found looked like a nest to Chris or to me.
We also found Gas, almost three hundred gallons in a tank at a construction yard. It passed the burn and smell test so if worst comes to worst I might head back that way and find a vehicle to fill up. People used to swear fuel went bad inside of a month or two, but experience since the end pretty much proves, depending on the conditions fuel is stored in, it can last for a long time especially if some one used that Stabalize stuff that Jared and the others always used.
Lets see, survivors and gas, there’s something else I need to add to that list. I found chocolate, a lot of chocolate, sealed and stored along with other things in the crawl space under a house. As soon as this is over I plan on eating every bit of it even if I end up in a Diabetic coma, and if some tubby kid or another woman thinks I am going to share they can keep dreaming.
Well break time is over and its time for us to get back on the road Later Journal reader.
1325hrs, Broad Creek.
Gideon Snow sat in the small boat enjoying the wind that ruffled his hair listening to the sound of water sliding along the hall and the whistling wind through the sparse rigging of the small boat. Seven other boats were spread out behind this one, carrying Snow and Franklin Coates’s staff and small security teams for the Summit.
“thank you for taking us by boat” Gideon said turning to look at Coates who leaned against the low rail one arm wrapped through the rigging. Going by water cut almost a day off the trip and the sooner they could get the summit launched the better.
“When you asked to move up the dates, I agreed and thought it would be speed things up if we could all reach there about the same time. Going by boat cut off much of the distance you would have traveled.” Coates replied echoing Snows thoughts.
“I used to like sailing” Gideon commented. Though it had always been on much larger and much more expensive vessels then this small sail driven fishing boat.
“Really, if you were any good at it you might be able to help my people build and operate bigger and better boats.”
“I don’t know how much help I could possibly be, I sailed them, I didn’t build them.” Snow replied, though inwardly he liked the idea.
“Maybe so Mr. Snow, but you now what works and what doesn’t on a sailboat and your input could be very valuable. My people are good at making small craft, something this large was a challenge and we will end up needing even larger craft than this. At the very least you can teach others how to sail. Assuming of course you want to and you can take time off from running the Astoria Enclave.” Coates said.
“if you can send a few of your boat builders to Astoria to build us a couple of these and one larger one I will pass on as much as I can to them so that they can bring it back to your, ‘Township’, wasn’t that what you called it.”
“it is indeed Gideon.” Coates said using Snows first name for the very first time.
“May I ask you a question Franklin?” Snow said seeing the old Marina appearing in the distance ahead.
Coates nodded slowly. “Why did you refuse to supply men to fight with us when the Raiders were marauding across the island.”
Franklin stood there silently gazing out over the water watching a gull wheel and dive. “Because we couldn’t risk losing any more of our people Gideon. Every person that died during the years of the Dead and at the hands of the Raiders, meant another little part of our culture was gone and every death robbed of us of the skills they possessed. I’ve spent my life fighting to preserve our culture, our traditional way of life I wasn’t about to risk it then. But because I wouldn’t, I made sure we supported you with food and other items the men fighting needed.”
“if They had beaten us, you would have had to fight in the end” Snow pointed out.
“and we would have then. I am sorry if it seems like we didn’t care what happened to your people. It might have looked that way but it wasn’t the truth.”
Snow was gazed at Franklin then nodded. “I think what you did will end up saving us all Franklin. At least if your willing to have your people teach those skills to others.”
Snow had met Franklin several times back when the Raiders had been rampaging and had not really disliked the man he hadnt really liked him then either. But because of the notes they had exchanged over the last couple of days and the time he had spent with Coates since this morning he was growing to respect if not like the man.
“I suspect you have figured out the angles to profit from it” Coates said with a small smile.
“Considering you’re the one that’s brought currency back, I suspect you will be the ones making a big profit. But yes, I see the potential to gain wealth again.”
Coates looked amused as he sat down beside Snow. “Always the Yankee Trader”
“guilty as charged Franklin. Let me be honest here, Trade, that is business was the force that drove society out of the dark ages and into the modern age. Yes there were bumps along the way and more bottom feeders than you could shake a stick at who only cared for making money and not with doing the right thing, over all it brought us to a point in history where people lived better, with more security and peace than any time in history.” He could have talked for hours about the historical impact of business on cultures and in particular, Western Society but he was usually the only one who found it interesting.
He was well aware of how some had been denied access to the system, or had roadblocks placed in their way, and that wasn’t even counting indentured servitude and Slavery two institutions that he loathed. . Immoral, evil and wasted lives and potentials. “I also believe in making myself rich using ethics and morality to guide me. I don’t cheat, I don’t abuse my work force and I despised the CEO’s and business owners who did. To me its a contest that pits me not just against others but myself. Sometimes I won, more often than not I broke even or outright failed.” Snow said rubbing his hands together like Scrooge McDuck contemplating his hill of Gold and gave Coates a Goofy boyish smile that oddly didn’t seem out of place for a man like him. “since we are talking about Wealth and Business, let me run my assessment of where we might be in five years if your people pass along their skills to the rest of us. First if your farming practices are spread, we will see an increase in food production, coupled with the Aquaponic production we have established and are going to expand we should see food supplies here on the island approaching pre dead levels in five years. With the introduction of currency, there will be a rise in demand for goods that will increase production and encourage skilled workers to start their own business’s which in turn will increase the supply of goods to the market….” He was still talking when the boat docked at the Marina.
1400 hours, Skull Creek Marina
“Son of a bitch” Allen snapped angrily as he glared at the scout who had just finished reporting. He was one of Muellers men and had been out scouting to the east for the last three days.
this morning they had spotted a rather large group leave the Astoria heading south west, two dozen men dressed like soldiers escorting two carts and ten men and women dressed like civilians. it was the much small band of four with the cart that his people had tried to ambush, thinking that smashing a small group to get at the fully loaded cart would be okay.
“You realize that the Astoria is now aware of our presence, RIGHT?” Allen asked acidly.
“So what we are going to attack them any day.” The man replied.
“We needed surprise, we needed them relaxed and feeling safe you dumb ass, and you start a fire fight on their doorstep, a fire fight that cost you ten men and a thousand rounds of irreplaceable ammunition..”
“They were tossing Grenades like they were candy, I think they had a lot more on that cart of theirs.” The man protested. “it was the grenades that killed so many and you try firing accurately when your busy ducking and trying not to be shot.”
“I will sob later, you dim witted, ass. If you had followed orders you would never have have had a group of people tossing grenades at you.” Allen took a deep breath and got his anger under control. “get out, go get some food and report to Bragga I’m sure he will enjoy your report. “ he will probably laugh himself silly knowing he still managed to screw up my plans.
This was just the icing on the cake, Allen decided as the scout stalked out of the CP. There had been another report of the scarred up assholes, who had attacked another scout team, this time they had been killed but not before killing two scouts. At this rate the entire raiding force would be out of ammunition in two weeks.
He shook his head and stalked over to study the map taped to the wall. two more days and Astoria would fall. Just two more days.
Behind him unnoticed, something stood in the shadows watching him silently. Its lips spread into a shark like smile then it faded from view.
Martin Hayden Knelt in the mud hoping the men around him and the other prisoners didn’t just shoot them out of hand. They had come sweeping out of afternoon rain storm and taken the old fort in a storm of gun fire. The women and children were still inside the fort, under guard of course. The surviving men including Martin had been dragged outside the fort and dumped in the mud.
They might be from a rival gang of survivors who had waited till Allen had led the bulk of the gathered raiders away. But Martin wasn’t so sure, these guys acted like soldiers and they damn sure didn’t seem to mind wasting bullets, which was a scary thought, because he didn’t think they were idiots so that suggested they had enough ammunition to not worry about wasting it.
At least three of the men spoke French which seemed odd to Martin but he supposed even French tourists trapped in the US when the dead rose and the airports had shut down, might turn to raiding as easily as any American had.
Martin looked up in surprise as a warbling tone from an electronic device broke the silence. How, where did they get anything with a working battery, he asked himself as the man pulled on a slim low profile headset.
“Oui” the man said then fell silent listening to who ever was on the other end of the call.
“Le fort est fixé. Debout près.” the man said his voice crisp and professional sounding. “Nous vous attendons.” he pulled off the headset a hard smile on his face as he announced. “il est sur son chemin, les amener sur leurs pieds” then “Aint got long to wait, he is on his way.”
that wasn’t the last of the surprises of the day either, Martin realized five minutes later as he heard the sound of engines and then watching slack jawed as four sleek, predatory six wheeled military vehicles rolled into view. the lead vehicle had a sharks mouth painted on the front of the slope bowed vehicle like one of those flying tiger airplanes back in WWII he had seen pictures of..
the vehicles came to a stop splashing mud over the nearest of the prisoners then two doors in the back of the shark mouthed vehicle. the first man out must have been cramped in there since he had to be about six foot tall. He was wide shouldered , thick armed and looked to be in his early forties and carried himself with confidence like a man used to being in charge. .
He carried an odd looking military rifle, something foreign Martin thought as three more men dismounted and walked over to stand by radio man talking in French.
The frogs survived the dead and being the only countries to survive are now invading us, that’s got to be the only explanation.
The leader, as Martin thought of him turned to face the prisoners his face hard. “Listen up. You are Prisoners of the Legion, and are about to be given an offer that you need to seriously consider. But first” He said in calm measured tone that still sounded like each word was chipped out of ice. He pointed to the body that had been removed from the pole where it had been crucified.. “that was a Path finder from the Safe zone, you screwed the pooch when you killed one of ours”
Martin shivered, like many he heard a few tales over the last six years of some quasi mythical place called the zone where there was power, airplanes, women who went naked, and food, lots of food and fresh water. He had never believed it, but it explained the radios, the military vehicles and… his thoughts trailed off as the Man pointed up to the sky that was clearing off.
Martin should have been used to surprises at this point, but the sight of two helicopters flying in formation sweeping into sight then hovering over the old fort while men fast roped down into the interior was both wondrous and terrifying..
“I am Adjutant Calvin Simms of the French Foreign legion, and resident of the Safe zone of the United States. You and yours attacked a Safe zone pathfinder, and for that you are going to pay.“ The French foreign legion is the Safe zone, Martin thought. it was like sliding into some twisted alternate dimension. It just wasn’t fair that the French were taking over the world. Damn the undead.
“today is your lucky day, I am going to make you an offer that you should seriously consider.” Simms said.