A Clockwork Boy part 5
As brainstorms went, this one, Gerald thought, was a doozy. He had authorized the moving of Lourdes to the clinic using one of Tuckers electric carts once the every bit of the items he had asked for had been set up.
Tucker you might just have saved her life, Gerald thought as he glanced at the brightly lit light box and the x-rays clipped to it. Jack Fry and his crew had worked all night modifying a generator so that it could be powered by one of two Steam engines that had recently been completed. Once the modifications were finished it had been towed here to the clinic and wired into the electrical system.
Every breaker but two in the building had been shut off, so that only the operating room had power. Granted the room had been designed with operating on animals in mind, but that was a small thing, easily fixed when Ramo’s people had scrounged up an operating table, and other portable devices from a hospital, as well as everything they could find in the Guard stores.
“Should have done this a long time ago” he said aloud as he washed his hands in steaming hot water, then applied an anti biotic cream before pulling on the sterile gloves. “Of course we didn’t have a way to get power till Tucker got a steam engine built that was big enough.” He was just talking to hear himself talk, pre-surgery jitters and all that.
Ready to get to work, he told himself as he turned and smiled at the small group of volunteers who would be assisting him, hoping that the smile looked calm and reassuring. Because he damn sure didn’t feel that way. he had told each of them exactly what to do, most all of it was easy, turn this dial, push that button and hand me stuff when I ask for it, he thought. They seemed to have the hang of it but they aren’t experts by any means and neither am I. He thought still smiling to hide his worry and fear, .I would rather be delivering a calf!
‘We know where the bullet is,” He had told Ben just half a hour ago, ‘it wont be easy, but its fairly straightforward.’ With all this stuff, he thought looking at the assembled supplies, the odds of her surviving were much higher than before he hadn’t been lying either, they were higher. But he was also scared as hell, his experience operating on people was limited, twelve surgeries and all of them minor. I wonder if they know how to do this in McCaffrey’s Zone, he asked himself
From things that McCaffrey had said it sounded like they did, but who really knew. Well if this deal goes through, I am going to go there and find out, assuming they can send some one here to cover my absence, some one who can prove they know what they are about.
Lourdes lay on the table, her face pale, her skin clammy. She hadn’t woke up since being shot and that worried him a lot. He had no idea what could be causing it, and that made him want to delay. But he had already delayed as long as possible. Her BP was down, way down and that wasn’t a good sign. Her heart rate was erratic at least from what he could tell and he wasn’t going to bet her life that he was mistaken about it. of course your betting her life by even operating, he thought as he gazed at the items neatly laid out ready to be used.
The IV’s had probably saved her life, but he didn’t have a lot of them. He did have people making more of the saline solution as fast they could, if he was lucky they wouldn’t need the extra’s but he wasn’t going to count on luck either.
She was strapped down tightly in case she woke up in the middle of surgery , with out anesthetics and pain killers the last thing either of them need was for her to wake up in the middle of the surgery and start thrashing around. No matter what it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience for her.
He stood besides the surgery table gazing down at her face for a moment lost in a what if moment then nodded to the man who stood across from him. “Lets get started” he said. The man didn’t reply other than to pull the sheet down to her waist. Gerald picked up a scalpel and bent to make the first incision.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey
The Gullah, and by that I mean the actual Gullah not the others who live here with them, speak their own language in addition to English. Sometimes it sounds like Pidgin English, but other times there’s not a word I hear that I recognize. Franklin explained to me that its actually a Creole language based on English with strong African language influences, he listed off the various languages none of which I recognized and most I don’t remember. The few that I do remember are Ewe, mandinka and kongo.
Their language is their anchor to the past, ‘if you don’t know where your going, you should know where you come from’ Franklin told me, and I agree the dead helped show me that the past does matter.
The Broad Creek Township, or Enclave is an interesting place. there’s nothing fancy about it, no men and women struggling to rebuild technology, or much of anything else from the old modern world.
With that said, they have a good and varied supply of food, an efficient way to store the food, they have smoke house for meat, practice canning, and have at least two community root cellars.
They also are weaving their own cloth and making their own clothes, not a lot at the moment but the people I talked to this morning on the tour pointed out, optimistically I might add, that they have plans to expand their limited cotton field so that they can make enough cloth to store for future use.
In addition some of the folks here have established business’s, They use a barter system and I’ve seen a few IOUs being exchanged. Certain items like bullets and dyes for leather and cloth are considered worth more while other things like gold, diamonds and other once precious items are almost worthless. I asked about that and the answer was ‘you can pick that stuff up anywhere, off of bodies, in homes, banks and business. I found me a pile of gold bars in a truck. its all worthless at least for now, cant eat it, wear it or shoot it.’ good enough explanation as far as I am concerned.
Business’s can you believe it, I mean we, Sullivan, are pretty much at that point but there wasn’t more than two open business on Sullivan the last time I was there. Just a list of a few of the business’s here are a boat maker, a general store, an actual bar, a fishery, shoe maker, Herbalist and a custom musical instrument maker.
Music is the past time here from what I can tell that and monopoly, they are even holding a monopoly championship tonight. I guess it beats candy land.
Personal note. One day I will find a place that plays baseball. There is no way that all the ball players died and monopoly players survived, unless of course I didn’t survive and this is actually hell. Which might explain the cat.
And on that note: When I get back I am filing formal charges against Stephanie who threatened to break my legs if I hurt her cat, the damn thing attacked my ankle this morning. yeah I know Jared and Eric both would laugh their asses off if I went and complained about that. so just venting ha ha.. yeah…
After our little tour, we returned here to the guest house they gave us and I got another hint that all might not be well between the Pines and the Township. I don’t think it’s a major issue how ever, Wells does seem to get along with the people here so its not personal. Well not personal between the Township and the pines, but Wells does seem to have a history with Teague and Coates, Which I think is why he wanted to come along on this little jaunt.
As far as the problem between the Two groups, the feeling I get from various comments is that it has something to do with when the Raiders were last here.
Anyway the others are outside eating breakfast and I need to go eat myself, before my meeting with Franklin Coates and getting out of here gets me away from that cat who is laying on Stephanie’s cot staring at me with beady blue eyes, no doubt plotting an attack.
Oh she is calling it Jay, Jay the frigging pony sized cat. I wonder if Lourdes likes cats.
0800hrs, the Township.
Franklin Coates paused at the door to the meeting Chamber turning his head to look at Carter Teague. As infuriating as he could be at times, Teague was a good man, whose passion to protect the People who lived in the Township, all of the people not just the Gullah drove him and made him a force to be reckoned with.
Teague was a solid man of middling height and with a hard planed face of oynx that was just starting to show the lines that age bestowed on any one lucky enough to have lived as long. Silver was starting to make inroads into his tight curly black hair.
“Promise me that you wont push them to hard” Franklin asked. “I know you have reservations Carter, but I do believe this is for the best”
“I promise I will try” Carter said with a lopsided grin. He had a deep voice, that matched his barrel like chest. when he spoke it was in a slow and measured tone. “You know I don’t trust em, any of em. But I will try to keep an open mind, that maybe this McCaffrey fellow and his Zone are not assholes who will end up destroying our culture and way of life.”
“And Keith Wells?” Franklin asked. Carter frowned, but nodded firmly.
“I’ll watch myself where he is concerned” Carter promised still frowning.
Wells had once been a frequent visitor to the Gullah and even supporter. That had changed; the visitor part, as had many things when Teague’s niece had been raped and murdered back in 2008. Wells had tried to be the voice of reason urging them to let the authorities handle it, ‘trust in the system’ he had urged. But the system had never been their friend and it damn sure hadn’t been fair. His own perceptions and the others perceptions might have been biased, but if they were biased, there was a lot of history to support that bias.
Franklin didn’t have to be a mind reader to know at least in General what Carter was thinking where Keith Wells was concerned. Wells had tried to be there for them, for Carter, Franklin thought, but that damned history and all its baggage had stood between them and in the end Wells had regretfully stepped away but had never stopped finding ways to help them. Regardless of what had happened to sour the waters, Wells had been a good friend and Franklin hoped that he would be again.
“At least we know that Keith wont try to shaft us, no matter what the Pines leadership might want.” He said. Carter nodded in agreement trying his best to put aside his feelings. But this was his home and he wasn’t going to let anything happen to it not if he could help it.
“I know there are several issues that we need to address today Carter, but lets keep it on track and stick to just the trade agreement for now.” Franklin said.
“Dog got four feet but can’t walk but one road.” Teague said quoting an old Gullah proverb.
“Exactly, Shall we” Franklin asked motioning towards the door. Teague nodded in agreement.
Franklin opened the door and stepped into the room, it wasn’t fancy very little here in the Township was, no one put on airs here. Simplicity had its own elegance, he thought. A wood-burning stove sat in one corner, ready to ward off the chill of winter. Three tables sat in the middle of the room placed in a U. McCaffrey, and the others sat to the right, the Board sat to the left, leaving the head table for Franklin, Carter and Ellen.
His boots thumped hollowly on the wooden floor as he walked across the room stopping to shake hands with McCaffrey, Henry and Wells before he sat down in the plain wooden chair. Silently wishing the damn thing had a cushion for his bony butt.
“As you can see there is a little more to the leadership of the township than you had believed” Franklin said with out preamble. Most of the board had spent time mingling with McCaffrey and Wells last night. “ I regret the minor deception but the others wanted to meet you with out any kind of official setting getting in the way.” he said then quickly introduced every one before he motioned for them to sit at the tables.
“I wish meeting all leadership was as enjoyable as last night” McCaffrey said when Franklin had finished. Franklin started to respond when he noticed the largest gray cat he had ever seen in his life sprawled across Stephanie Bronsens lap. It was easily the size of a small child, he could hear its deep rumbling purr from where he sat.
McCaffrey seeing where Franklin was looking barked a laugh. “she tried to leave it behind this morning but its large enough to get its way.”
“I believe that” Franklin said then smiled for a moment. “I need to explain something before we get started, so there will be no misunderstandings. We had over two thousand Gullah here on Hilton head when the dead rose, we have barely over twelve hundred now, men women and children, and for all we know we may be all the Gullah that’s left in the world. I will do anything to keep our history and culture alive I will not leap into anything and place them or the others of any race who have joined with us in Danger.”
“Thank you for being candid, and a good man could do no less” McCaffrey said. “I propose that we start with the issue of trade between the Pines and the Township, I will act as negotiator if needed, Pastor Wells and Hercules Secord speak for the Pines.”
Keith Wells, who looked a little older and lot wiser rose to his feet. “First the Pines wish’s to establish not only friendly ties with the Township but become real friends.”
“Sure, you do” Carter Teague muttered, unable to help himself.
Franklin tossed a glare at Teague that silenced his muttering. “We do wish to have the Pines as friends, Pastor Wells.”
“Thank you,” Wells said, looking unhappily at Carter Teague, but this was too important to let personal issues get in the way.
He concisely outlined the initial deal that he and McCaffrey had worked up after breakfast and the real negotiation began. Anything more concrete would have to be approved by the Pines Council, but the deal he was offering now was a good start.
A few times Teague tried to work in recognizing official boundaries, but Wells waved that off saying that, that issue would be discussed at the Summit and he wasn’t authorized to negotiate with the Township or any one else at this time over territory.
Which was true enough, I wasn’t sent here as an Ambassador either, But once McCaffrey snookered me into the position I have to agree it makes far more sense and I wonder why no one on the council thought of it. Maybe we are not as smart as we like to think we are.
He hadn’t been really surprised to find that Board of the old Historical society ran the Township, not knowing that Franklin ran the place. He knew most of them personally from his years of visiting and supporting the Gullah. They were good people and highly dedicated to keeping their culture alive and he didn’t doubt that like Franklins warning, they would not accept anything that they thought endangered their people and their culture.
That same drive had caused problems when the raiders had been active, the Gullah had refused to send any one to fight. Other than to protect their own place, they had not been willing to fight and lose any more of their people. But they had provided stores and still sent food stuffs to the Blocking force at the bridge. Even still there had been some rather harsh comments from both all sides that hadnt been the proudest moment of diplomacy in history.
His mind came back to the present as Teague snapped at Hercules who looked ready to punch the other man. Negotiating looked so easy in the movies, he thought, in the movies there was always a buffet table waiting and fully stocked bar, to relax around when not hammering at each other. The reality was both sides worked to drag out each issue, hoping that as each hour ground past as slow as an advancing glacier the other side would get tired and have a misstep. You became hot, sweaty, and god knew you didn’t want to take a break to run to the bathroom and give the other side time to confer with out your presence in the room.
He had to smile listening to Hercules going at it with Carter Teague over calculating the cost of items and calculating a fair price in what was barter on a grand scale, he knew that in the end it would be a comprise of weight and need. But listening to them going nuclear was almost entertaining in a twisted way of course. As a Pastor I should be ashamed I find it amusing, as a man, well I have faults and this is apparently one of them.
And lets face it there is no way Franklins people are going to pay equal weight in food for say a steam engine, he thought so I might as well enjoy the show for a moment before injecting a quiet word to Hercules.
The exchange was growing heated, when Wells noticed Franklin quietly talking with Ellen and Daemon. When Ellen rose with out comment and stepped out, Wells felt a stir of curiosity, which only grew when she came back and handed Franklin a box.
“Gentleman I think I have a solution to this problem. At least an eventual solution that needs to be considered” Franklin said as he opened the box and removed something that he tossed on the table in front of Hercules. It was a gold colored coin that glowed in the light from the windows.
“Recently, by that I mean in the last two weeks, we have been working on establishing a currency.” Franklin said with a smile.
McCaffrey actually looked stunned, Wells noted. “We have used a few things over the last year or so, as a substitute once we had a few business’s but till now its been mostly barter.” Franklin said as Hercules picked up the coin. “Essentially it’s a unit of credit,. Though its officially called a commodity currency, with its value based on rice, since its our largest crop. And before you protest or call me daft, historically some early currencies were based on commodities, like wheat, rice or even obsidian.:” he smiled at the looks he received. “There is, or was libraries and encyclopedias on Hilton head, I’ve done as much research over the last year as possible” He explained.
He quickly outlined the history of currency and how they reached a value for each of the three sizes of coins they had began to cast just days ago. “Face facts, we either adopt a medium of exchange for both towns, or its going to take a lot of wheel barrows to haul produce and goods to pay for stuff. We can issue a letter of credit that can be submitted for payment of coinage or even Rice when presented.”
“So if you’re basing a unit on a pound of rice, which is enough to eat for three days or so.” Wells said, quirking an eyebrow.
“depends on your appetite” Ellen said dryly.
“Then we can base the cost of our products on how many days of work it takes to make.” Hercules mused.
“That will work for our side, but exactly what will you pay us with, and what will its value be.” Franklin said with a smile. Hercules looked at Wells who shrugged, it wasn’t like he could just make up a currency out of whole cloth, Even if he could, he wasn’t sure the council would accept. He glanced at McCaffrey who gave him a don’t ask me look.
“I suggest that we stick to establishing a barter agreement for the moment, then see if we cant hammer out a common currency at the summit” Hercules said interrupting. Wells hide a smile, I am very glad he came along, he thought as Hercules and Teague got back to arguing, excuse me, negotiating an agreeable outcome for both sides Wells thought dryly..
Finally, a hour later Franklin rose to his feet and called a break for lunch, there was sense of relief in the room as every one including one bored Main Coon cat rose and filed out of the room.
1115 hrs, Hilton Head airport.
A shadow drifted across the tall grass between the Taxi way and the aircraft parking ramp as Ryan rose into a crouch still invisible, to any prying eyes, covered by the waist high weeds. .
The Globe Master sat glittering in the sun, as the shadow swept towards it. Ryan under Eric Stones and the other SF trainers had learned patience. He crouched there for almost twenty minutes scanning the area for any sign of life before he was finally satisfied and committed to action.
He slipped out of the high grass and weeds and moved silently across the tarmac keeping the plane between himself and the Hangers, till he was in the shadow of the massive plane. He didn’t look to see if Garret had followed, he didn’t need to. They were a team, were used to each, and more often than not knew exactly what the other was going to do and automatically fell in to whatever role would support that action.
He gazed up at the gray painted aircraft, wondering how far it could fly when it was running. Ronny would probably be able to spew out facts and figures like range and airspeed of the thing, but Ryan had never been interested in aircraft at least not till after the dead had risen.
All Ryan could say was it was close to two hundred feet long, and its wings from tip to tip were as long as the fuselage, at a guess he placed the length around 170 maybe a hundred 180 feet. the wings carried four engines and were high up on its back a tall T Tail rose up from the tapering flat bottomed rear of the fuselage. It was wide enough to hold a tank of a freaking Semi that much he was certain of. Now that would be cool, A tank, he thought with a smile before his mind slipped back into the operational groove.
He moved up to the hatch in the fuselage just back from the cockpit section, finding the hatch release was pretty easy, he grabbed and pulled. but it refused to move. “I wonder if these damn things can be locked from the inside or if it is just stuck”
“if it doesn’t open I guess knowing why doesn’t matter much” Garret whispered.
Ryan crouched again and moved up to the front gear peering up into the body of the aircraft. A skull grinned back at him, probably a zombie had crawled up in here and gotten stuck, Ryan thought as he climbed up inside to check for a hatch. Supposedly, aircraft had a hatch in the front gear well. a minute later he climbed back out, dirty and annoyed. “guess it was only in movies and books or I am not recognizing it when I see it” Ryan said as he studied a panel on the outside of the craft just below the flight deck.
It stood to reason that there would be some sort of emergency access to the aircraft but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out where it might be.
“That window is open” Ryan said looking up at the cockpit again..
“Windows can open on an airplane” Garrett asked sounding surprised. Weren’t they supposed to be sealed, he wondered.
“it looks like its cracked open,” Ryan replied. “Here help me get up there so I can take a closer look.” he said as he dumped his pack beside the plane. “if its only a trick of the light and the window isn’t cracked open, I can try to break out one of the larger window and get inside.”
“how am I supposed to help you… oh you want to stand on my shoulders again.” Garrett said. “that is so unfair, and your not even a woman wearing a skirt”
“I bet you taped mirrors to your shoes before the dead, You’re a pervert you know that. you need help” Ryan said quietly as he looked around his gaze falling on a power cart. “Here help me get that over here,” Ryan said pointing to the power cart “ you can stand on that, then I will get on your shoulders.” If any one was walking around out there or watching the plane from this side, they couldn’t help but see Him and Garrett. The minute they moved the cart they might as well have been singing and shouting. Six years of sitting out in the weather had taken its toll as they shoved hard and the half rotting tires moved and the axle close to freezing up, squealed like a gut shot pig.
They both stopped and dropped down, looking around and listening. During their ten minute wait they heard no shouts of alarm and no pounding of feet across pavement. with a grimace they got back to work moving the protesting cart into position.
Several unsteady minutes later Garrett grunted trying not to shift around. “well is it open”
“it sure the hell is. Who would have thought you could open a window on an airplane” Ryan called down.
“Well then could your tubby ass open it so you can get off my shoulders” Garrett said.
Ryan slipped his hand through the crack and pulled. over the years crap had built up in the window channel and caused resistance, but as Ryan applied more pressure it ground open leaving just barely enough room for him to worm his way inside.
As it turned out it wasn’t exactly that easy, Stephanie who was double jointed and enjoyed contorting herself could have done it easily, Ryan had to struggled to pull himself up twisting himself into a pretzel; to get into the window and where he found a skeleton in a flight suit sitting in the chair. “Sorry buddy” he said wincing as he knocked the body out of the chair, the skull fell free and rolled on the cockpit floor.
That explains it, he thought the crew must have holed up inside when the dead hit the airport. They locked it up and sat here waiting for help. He carefully placed the body, back in the seat, feeling bones fall away as it was moved for the second time. “Lt. Col. Whitmore” he read on the leather pull away tag on the flight uniform., had shot himself Ryan saw as he placed the mans skull in the chair with the rest of the body. “hope you don’t mind” He said as he pocketed the .45 caliber pistol he found on the deck by the chair. As far as he knew of Air Force had been issued 9mm’s which made him wonder where the .45 had come from.
He made his way down to the outside hatch and got it open with out to much effort, Garret climbed inside whistling in surprise at the size of the plane as Ryan pulled the hatch closed.
It was too dark to really see, so they grudgingly got out their flashlights and moved slowly down the length of the plane through the cavernous bay.
They found bodies, thirty of them sitting on chairs along the walls of the aircraft. But it was the pallets of boxes, and three vehicles in the cavernous bay that drew their attention.
“man even with all this stuff in here there is room to live in here” Garrett said as he picked up an M16 that lay beside a skeleton. He jumped back in surprise as a rat scurried out from behind the body and raced off into the darkness.
He recovered quickly feeling sheepish. Then examined the weapon he held before ejecting the magazine to check and see if there was ammunition in the magazine. “empty” he said, then quickly checked several more weapons that he could see beside the various corpses and stacked against a pallet. “ most of them are empty, there’s a few shells in this CAR 15, and in that Beretta.” He said after a moment laying the loaded weapons out on top of a pallet.
Ryan nodded silently as he checked a M1014 combat shotgun; the body he had taken it off of wore a uniform he had never seen before. He had no way of knowing that the uniform in question was from the Israeli Defense Force and if he had, it would have raised more questions that he couldn’t have answered.
“Three rounds left in the thing,” he said then searched the corpse and came up with twenty more rounds. “Awesome” he commented as he slung the shot gun over his back and continued searching the plane.
“looks like more than half these folk committed suicide” Garret commented. .
“Can you blame them trapped in here, undead outside and no place to go even if they could take off, which I’m betting they couldn’t or the plane wouldn’t be here” Ryan said.
“Sherlock holmes has noting on you” Garret said with a chuckle. “What is all this stuff” Garret asked as he shone his light at one of the many pallets loaded with boxes strapped to the deck by cargo nets, or what ever they had been called. He looked closer and read the print on the side of one box “looks like, parts, tools and assorted mess hall junk” he said.
“This isn’t” Ryan said jabbing his light at the pallet he was looking at. “Four Generators, the top notch kind.”
“Think they still work?”
“Give em some gas or hook up a gasifier and they probably should” Ryan said. “come on lets finish looking then write up a list. Chris will probably want to use this stuff for something.” Ryan said. Assuming that someone else didn’t come along and take the stuff now that the plane was open. “and I don’t like Jimmy sitting out there alone and waiting for us”
an hour later they had the list compiled, had recovered another sixty rounds of .45, another dozen 12ga rounds. Searching the dead men and womens rucksacks, they took a variety of equipment and supplies as well as two MSS sleep systems which were superior to the sleeping bags they carried.
“not much in here worth anything” Garrett said as he and Chris wrote down the names of the people in uniform, gathered dog tags and collected the letters some of the dead men and women had written to family members to say goodbye. All of that would be taken back to Sullivan and added to the historical Archive that had been started.
“Not to us, but its not worthless to the right people” Ryan said gazing at the Three black Land rovers chained down in the back ready to roll off the plane when the ramp was down. there were four barrels of fuel on a pallet behind the vehicles, and the vehicles probably had full tanks as well. he toyed with the idea of taking one, but had no clue how to get that ramp down.
It probably needed power to open, he mused. Maybe if one of the power carts around the airport worked he could hook one up to the plane, or even find a way to hook one of the genies into the planes electrical system, but he was no tech weenie either and had no real clue how to do any of that. better leave it be, maybe Sullivan would send Rob out or that Woman Logan married she used to be an Air Force pilot she would probably know how.
Before they left, Ryan returned to the cockpit and searched the body there, inside the leg pocket of the flight suit he found a piece of paper. It crackled as he unfolded it, the ink was already faded and the small size of the neat script made it hard to read.
“I am the last one alive Jenny, I helped Lt. Stevens OD this morning then put a bullet in his head so he wouldn’t come back. “ Ryan read “ He was a good man and deserved better I guess none us will be getting together for another BBq. Considering what the world has become, I hope that your dead, and that it was peaceful. Your to kind and compassionate to deal well with this crap. But if you are still alive and this letter some how reaches you, Know that I love you, and that here at the end the only wish I have is to hold you one last time.
I will see you on the other side, even if I have to wait a lifetime.
To who ever finds this, I have written down the names of every one that was onboard. They deserve to have their names in death. They were good people who just had bad luck there at the end.”
Ryan scanned the list of names. There had been too much death since the dead had risen to get to emotional over it anymore but it did depress him a little.
He looked out the cockpit windows and saw no one outside then rejoined Garrett by the hatch. With their packs back on He opened the hatch and they moved quickly down the stairs built into the hatch then closed the plane up again.
They were just about to start across the ramp towards the closest group of hangers when they heard some one shout and then a gunshot.
1215 hrs Broad Creek Township.
It was a warm day, but not hot, thanks to the breeze, there under the trees where tables had been set up while they were meeting. Some one had laid in a good spread of food for every one. There was Okra gumbo in large pot, red rice and sausage with shrimp, and deep friend chicken.. Cups, Hand made wooden bowls and old chipped china plates were stacked at one end of the table next to a large metal urn that held Tea.
“You know you don’t look half as intimidating with a cat shaped pony following you” Chris commented as he sat down with a plate filled with some kind of rice and sausage dish. The cat draped over Stephanie’s feet, lifted a paw and meowed demandingly as she lifted a chicken leg.
“You don’t like cats do you” Stephanie asked.
“I love cats, roasted, buttered, toasted even sautéed” Chris replied.
“Well I love cats, I used to have one named Mr. Puddles” She said with a fond smile then glared at Chris who burst into laughter.
“Mr…. Puddles…” He managed to gasp, just saying the name sent him into another fit of laughter.
“I like you so do not make me have to kill you “ Stephanie warned waving the chicken leg at him like a weapon, ignoring the laughter from the rest of the people eating around them.
“Mind if I help,” Henry asked. “he dies I get a promotion”
“E tu Henry.” Chris said acting wounded.
“Don’t act surprised, you know how I feel about being placed in danger” Henry said “and this is damn good food.”
“So how does our Township compare to where you’re from” Ellen asked casually as McCaffrey regained his composure. Chris grateful for being dragged out of having to really explain why he wasn’t fond of cats smiled.
Ellen was one of those big boned women that would never look slim in the classical sense. In fact, Chris thought she was more manly than womanly. Oh she had all the right curves, and reminded him of the kind of woman that was like every ones favorite grandmother. But she had large hands better suited to manual labor than anything you could call dainty work like needle point and a wide face, that usually like now sported a open infectious smile and bright intelligent eyes.
“Depends on how you look at it, Most of our people would say your well off, but some would argue that zone is better off because it has power, running vehicles and other things.” He said pausing. Not to mention real military, planes, fuel and a host of other things that most people thought were important. All that was true, yet The Township was, special, was the only word he could come up with. There was vibrancy here under the slow current of daily rural life. In a way life here was almost idyllic and it called to him.
“Seriously, I love it here. Granted I haven’t been here long enough to really get to know you well, but what I have seen I like.” He said. “In the zone we are using modern technology to keep things going while trying to learn how to build an industrial era tech base and agro society before the modern stuff craters, all so we can work our way back up to the modern era.” he said actually sounding amused.
“But your people lost the modern world and overnight established a working township using common knowledge from the 1800 and early 1900’s. Your not living in the ruins of the old world, but building a whole town with your hands and living off your own work and about to establish the first pre dead currency in the world. while we are just finally getting a handle on farming and supplementing it with food supplies from the old world.” he shrugged “My honest opinion is that we have a lot to offer you, medical training, and other sciences and technology but you have even more to offer us.” Chris said with something that sounded a lot like sincerity to the surprise of many of the people around him.
There was silence for a moment, the board was probably trying to figure out just how much of that was sincere and how much was political calculation, Wells thought..
“For starters, I’d would love it if who ever cooked this came home and opened a restaurant.” Stephanie said then emphasized that by taking another bite. “then start teaching people back home how to cook.”
“Exactly what do you think we have to offer you” Carter Teague asked, frowning.
“Cooking aside” Chris said with a smile. “Farming techniques for one, clothing for another, skills that is one of the most important things any one has to offer in today’s world and looking around here your people have a lot of skills we need to learn. ”
Teague sat back in his chair, his gaze steady as he studied McCaffrey. That answer had honestly surprised him. He had expected to hear ‘Food’, but not a trade in skills. of course that didn’t really change his opinions it would take far more than this to get him to change his mind.
“And what exactly would your people offer, Mr. McCaffrey? Soldiers, Lawyers, Well meaning do gooders who would want to show us a better way of living regardless of what we may want or believe?” Teague asked. either having missed what McCaffrey had just said or pointedly ignoring it.
There was something about the way Teague had said that last bit, Chris thought. like it was directed at some one else. He didn’t look around to see who might have reacted to that barb, he was certain it had bee meant for Wells.
Just ignore that, you do not want to get in the middle of a personal fued, Tact is called for and that’s something my Dad would never have associated with me, I think he mentioned bulls in china shops where I was concerned.
“No to all of the above, we don’t have lawyers, thank god. The only time we send soldiers is when asked for help. What we offer is fuel, parts, education in things like medical, engineering, chemistry and other things. We are trying to rebuild, and hopefully do a better job of setting up a society that wont fall apart or devolve into idiot political games and confusion. but I guess that’s what every one in our position thinks in the beginning.”
“I think Hitler said much the same thing.” Teague said picking up his glass, as a brittle silence fell over the group.
Chris sat there for a moment; unable to believe Teague had just gone there. Franklin Coates looked ready to explode.
“Do you have a problem with me Mr. Teague” Chris asked head on instead of finding a politically nice way to ask the same question. He at least sounded calm which was something. “I can assure you that we have nothing in common with Adolf Hitler.”
“With you personally no I do not. But I admit to being suspicious of the group you represent Mr. McCaffrey. A group we know nothing about. There is a lot of history to back up my suspicions.”
“Carter” Ellen said angrily, afraid of where Carter might be going and not liking where he had already gone.
“No its all right Maam, I think every man and woman has the right to voice their thoughts. I would rather hear plain truth than not.” Chris said. “Seeing the condition the world is currently in, I can well understand caution and suspicion.
I have to think that way every time I approach a new group or community. Most times they are neutral, just people trying to survive and rebuild something familiar out of the ashes, other times they are hostile for one reason or another And on rare occasions they are evil.” He said keeping his voice mild. Teague said nothing only crossed his arms over his chest and gazed at nothing. “Believe it or not, we have no desire to launch a see our tanks World tour, force any one to deal with us or claim to be Aryan supermen.”
There was and uncomfortable silence for a moment then Ellen cleared her throat and gave Chris a smile of apology. The look she sent Teague was far from kindly, Chris thought.
“I know we have not reached the portion of the meeting where we discuss your Safe Zone and the possibility of trade with it. But I have to ask a few things that I personally want to know, what is it like there, how far have you traveled and, outside of your comment a second ago, what is the world like on the mainland.” Ellen said.
Talking about the state the main land was not the kind of conversation Chris wanted to have over such a good lunch, of course any meal was better than an MRE, he reflected. But talking about what the zone was like he didn’t mind.
“The Zone,” Chris said after swallowing another bite. “is the zone, as I explained to Franklin during our talks, one of the things that we did right off was make sure every one in our community knew we planned on upholding the constitution.”
Teague snorted derisively, but held his tongue as McCaffrey began to describe the zone and its people. Oh, the constitution was a good thing on paper, Teague thought with out rolling his eyes, but to often, in his opinion, people had waved the constitution only when it suited their purpose’s and had ignored it the rest of the time.
Just like the finest Justice system money could buy and its dedication to both the constitution and ‘THE LAW’. He thought coldly, only just barely keeping the anger he still felt over the callus and uncaring response to what had been done to his niece, under control.
No it wasn’t a ‘Race thing’ with him, he had seen the system in action and his belief in the system had shattered with the murder of his niece. But that, as Franklin said, was in the past.
That system was gone with everything else man had built and anything that Carter Teague had a say in building to replace it wouldn’t end up being the monolithic, corrupt system that the old one had been. For the first time in forever, they, not just the Gullah but every one in the township had the power to decide things for themselves and he wasn’t going to risk that by casually welcoming in strangers who might have other ideas.
Its easy enough to say the past is the past, but its a lot harder to actually slip free of the hold its got on a man, he mused as Chris McCaffrey continued to talk about life in the Zone.
1230 hrs, The Pines. Watson’s animal clinic.
Ben paced around the small waiting room that had once held anxious pet owners, waiting to hear news, good or bad, on Lourdes condition. .
He looked up as the old bell on the door jingled, his mouth turned down as Waylon Tucker, looking pale and drawn stepped inside. he moved slowly, still in plenty of pain which should have been his first clue to keep his butt in bed, Ben thought. “what are you doing here?”
“Same thing you are” Tucker said as Chris Chapman and Jack Fry followed him inside. Fry hovered beside Tucker ready to help him if he needed it. “and don’t start on me Ben, I have to be here. not laying in bed staring at the dust on my ceiling.” He said as he slowly lowered himself into a chair. “so have you heard anything?”
Ben glowered at him for a moment then gave up, there was no moving Tucker when he got stubborn and Ben knew it. “not for awhile now.” he admitted. Gerald had thought it might only take an hour but here they were four hours later.
“I was told that Jeff House was killed” Tucker said after a moment.
“Right after he shot you and Lourdes,” Ben replied with a shrug.
“Any idea why?”
“You’re kidding, you have no idea why he wanted you dead. Tucker don’t be an idiot, I’ve been warning you, Lourdes warned you that people wanted you dead for what your doing. The man was against technology, he thought that god had picked him to strike you down before all your technology brought the dead back.” Ben said angry and exasperated.
Tucker was silent at that, he stared off across the room at the pictures of pets of that decorated a bulletin board, they and their owners long dead. “I never understood people like that Ben.” He said softly, still trying to figure out what had pushed Jeff House to the point that trying to kill him was the only response allowed.
“Join the real world Waylon, no one understands them, I don’t even think they really understand themselves.” Ben stated. “I think some of them will calm down, having seen first hand what their beliefs caused. But there will be a small core, there always is that will be encouraged by Jeff’s actions.” Ben stated then fell silent.
He didn’t want to tell Tucker what had been suggested to the council this morning while Tucker was till out of it.
“I guess there are already cries to arrest the Anti tech folk or even worse expel them from the Pines.” Tucker said. I guess he has been thinking about it, Ben thought. It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out how people were going to react.
“Yes, and before you ask I am opposed to it.” Ben said. “but only in a way. we cant just go around arresting people we don’t agree with no matter what happened and we cant arrest people based on what they might do in the future. Besides the fact its just wrong, if we do arrest the anti tech people we do know about then it might stir up the ones we don’t know about and have more deaths on our hands. And throwing them out wont solve a thing other than letting them band together outside to survive giving them plenty of time to brood and get really angry and bring the fight back to us.”
“There is no real way to handle them, with out risking more people being killed then?” Tucker asked looking pensive.
“Jeff was the only one killed, and I personally think that when Pastor Wells gets back he can put the lid on it, and given time we can defuse the situation.” Ben replied. How he had no idea, fighting men was one thing, fighting a belief or an ideal was a lot harder.
“Okay so what do we do?” Tucker asked shifting in his seat. he stopped wincing in pain.
“I think for the moment, we let Brother Malcolm and who ever he trusts to do their best to get things calmed down, and we get Pastor Wells back here as soon as we can.”
“But what about our..” Tucker paused searching for the right word or phrase “diplomatic mission to the other Enclaves.”
“Do you really trust McCaffrey?” Ben asked as he shoved his hands in his pockets then grimaced and pulled them back out.
Tucker started to reply then stopped. He hadn’t thought that any one would actually try to kill him so his judgment wasn’t exactly the greatest But Lourdes, she was a damn good judge of character and she had fallen for McCaffrey and that said volumes. “Yes I think I do” Tucker said.
“Then I think we send a messenger off to the standard meeting place we have with the Gullah asking Pastor Wells to come home and leave Secord with McCaffrey and the two of them can just deliver a message asking Baker and Snow to meet with us at the Marina to figure out the future of Hilton head. Either they show or they don’t.
we can attempt to negotiate the trade agreements there or even after the summit.
Personally, the only two I have doubts about attending are Coates and Baker, and Coates is more likely to attend than Baker. Even if they don’t, we can set up something with Brinn and this new government can control everything south of Broad creek with out stepping on any one’s toes to the north of it.
Tucker started to point out that Bakers Enclave lay on the south side of the Broad, but before he could say anything, Gerald stepped through the door that led to the back of the clinic and its surgery room. There was blood on his scrubs, Tucker noted as his stomach did a slow roll as the worry that he had been feeling, grew stronger. .
Gerald looked exhausted Ben thought as his own nerves tightened as he tried to steel himself for the worst.
Gerald looked surprised to see Tucker, but said nothing about his orders for bed rest being violated. “I…” he began then stopped to take a breath. “she came through it” he said not wanting to waste time. “She’s still unconscious and I don’t know why,” he said seeing the relief on their faces. “But I expect that will pass, I will be honest with both of you, we almost lost her three times. Her BP crashed and if not for the IV’s and one of my assistants have a universal blood type, and willing to donate blood we would have lost her there.” he didn’t mention the fact that one of her lungs had collapsed and if not for all the gear that had been found and brought here and his having read as much as he could last night, she would have died then too. “She will recover from the bullet wound and I suspect will come around soon.” He added, feeling worthless as hell. These people trust me to help them and I don’t even know what the hell I am doing. Give me a dog, Cat even a horse to operate on I am golden, but people I just do not know enough to risk it again. .
“Thank you” Tucker said struggling to rise to his feet, not even protesting when Chapman and Fry helped him.
“Don’t” Gerald said harshly “Don’t thank me, We need a Doctor, a real Doctor. Because from what I read this was a pretty basic procedure and I was barely able to pull it off. If we have anything like this again or worse…” he fell silent and shrugged. “I want to travel to this zone and see if I can get some help.”
Ben looked thoughtful as he gave a sidelong glance at Tucker who nodded in agreement. “If we can find some one to fill in for you.” Tucker said.
“A three year old with a razor, could do better” Gerald commented then grimaced and shrugged. “I’m sorry I realized during this that I am totally inadequate for this job. Maybe Brinns group has someone that can fill in during an emergency while I am gone.”
“You’re going to go, regardless of what the council says aren’t you?” Tucker asked.
“Yes, I am. Tucker under stand please, I am not trained for this. I had to spend most of yesterday and last night reading everything I could find just to try this and that wait almost killed her. and it wasn’t like there were tons of books for me to read either. So if I am going to actually be of any help other than setting broken bones and cleaning and bandaging scrapes and cuts, I have to get the knowledge we need.”
“and what if the Zone doesn’t really have that knowledge?” Ben asked. “I am not saying they don’t, but it’s a possibility.” Stress brought out a hint of his south Carolina accent, something that Tucker rarely noticed.
“Then I can go search hospitals and even colleges to find the books I need and then come back here and study my ass off.” Gerald stated.
“I think he is right” Tucker said softly, seeing in his minds eye the blood blooming on Lourdes bodice before she crashed to the ground. “the knowledge even with out experience is better than nothing, but if there is any chance that he can learn something in the Safe zone then we need to do it.”
“I guess I can send a Messenger to Brinn, since Harbor town has already signed a trade agreement with the zone, maybe the Zone will be willing to pick Gerald up on that boat they send down and take him back with them. I also think that we should send some one with Gerald, not a spy,” he added. “But some one that can speak for us and see first hand what the place is like. Maybe even get them back in time for the summit to share what they saw with the others.” Ben said.
“Since there is an emergency session of the council tonight, which I cant attend, discuss that part with them and make sure we have something from Brinn about emergency help if needed too.” Tucker said then turned his attention back to Gerald. “if she wakes up I want to know about it as fast as possible”
“Of course” Gerald said.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey
The cat and I are at war, though tactically I think its got the upper hand. It peed on my boots. Luckily, they are waterproof but still. I take back every glowing recommendation I might have made about Stephanie, she laughed.
Anyway, the meeting with Franklin Coates and his board, more on the board in a minute, went better than I expected. Wells and Secord were able to hammer out a pretty fair trade agreement with little help from me. Though a few times Carter Teague seemed willing to derail the progress with what I am now certain is a personal problem with Wells.
I get the impression that they are all on board with the proposed summit though I think they also share Teague’s caution about dealing with any one outside the Township. Franklin stated that he believes that long term survival for the Township and the Gullah in particular was tied to become part of the wider world. He believes, rightly, that if they don’t move out into the wider world, then they lose any say in decisions that could ultimately affect the Township and his people. Teague I think agrees, I wont swear to that. In fact I suspect some of his comments and attitude are politically calculated, something to see how we react. Others were barbs aimed straight at Wells or occasionally the Pines.
I also think that they will hold off on a decision regarding trade with the Zone till after the summit, that’s just a feeling but I think I am right. There were plenty of comments about wanting to meet with who ever the Zone sends to represent them at the Summit, knowing their reluctance I think they want to meet with our rep and talk with Brinn before they decide anything. Remember when I pointed out I wasn’t ambassador material.
Here is a fun fact, Franklin Coates unveiled the Currency they are about to start using. I will write up a full explanation later.
The Pines might be incredible in many ways, but The township is, formidable. Coates and his people have taken the long view from day one. Lets face it Sullivan has only started basically using letters of credit and barter, and the Township is moving right into currency system that will only increase commerce and trade. Coates even offered to help the Pines establish their own Currency and suggested that it would help the Pines immensely if a few stores opened up there, it would damn sure speed up acceptance of Currency and increase trade.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, we in Sullivan have seen first hand how many people like Rob, or Gary have come into their own after society died. I sometimes wonder what it was about the old world that people like them never managed to rise above wage slave but soared when the world ended. I guess some expert some day will have an opinion on it.
Okay, now for something completely different as Monty Python used to say. there is no elected government of the township at this time. Apparently back when the dead were first getting going, The Gullah and many others that lived here were reluctant to just ditch their things and go to an enclave. So Franklin Coates who chaired a Gullah Historical society, I gather there were a couple of them, societys that is. Gathered the board of his society and got the Gullah into motion.
He got into contact with the Guard Commander a General Delaney and laid things out for him, the Gullah essentially could be self sustaining, some already had livestock, others gardened and farmed and had home canned supplies as well as canned goods from stores laid in as a matter of course.
Delaney decided that he could cut some men, equipment and supplies loose to help, so they walled off part of the down town area of Hilton head for the Gullah and as a over flow station for survivors if necessary.
The Gullah moved in and thanks to Coates and the other, who believed that if the dead overwhelmed the island they could be stuck for a long time, put in gardens every where they could squeeze them in. Set up chicken coops, and what every else they thought they needed. The extra time Hilton head before being overrun was a life saver for so many.
Well it worked out more or less, the dead arrived, the guard did their best to hold the tide back. Coates and his people kept their gates open as long as they could letting as many people as possible get inside their enclave to escape the dead before they finally had to close up.
Thanks to Delaney planning for even more people to be housed there if needed, there were plenty of supplies laid in for more than the Gullah actually had. if it hadn’t been for the fire they might still be there too.
Anyway, Apparently, the people here have never asked for or wanted any one else to lead them, and so Coates and the Board are in control. Though Coates has commented to me that they have things already set up to hold elections if asked or when one of the board wants to step down. It might be naïve but I believe him. The man is very dedicated to these people, all of them and would die before he screwed them over. But as its recently pointed out, it’s a new world and almost anything is possible.
Update on the war with the cat, the little furry ass tried to take over my sleeping bag, when I tried to remove it, it dug in its claws then when that didn’t work went boneless, that four footed, waste of flesh has to weigh a good forty pounds.
Stephanie laughed, again! I hope it pees on her pillow. First dog I find I am adopting. My luck it will be a toy Chihuahua and that cat will eat it for breakfast.
1400 hrs, Tuckers Studio, The Pines.
“Damn it” Tucker said tossing the pencil he held across his study. He couldn’t concentrate, hadn’t been able to since the shooting. He just kept seeing Lourdes, falling to the floor, blood all over, her eyes wide with fear and pain, over and over in his mind like some damned movie stuck on repeat. He levered himself out of the chair and began to pace..
It’s my fault, he told himself. If I hadn’t agreed to that damn meeting, hell If I hadn’t begun building my Great Marvels, I should have built rube Goldberg machines instead and none of this would have happened.
But he had been doing good and he knew that too, which only made it worse. He knew he wouldn’t stop, and he knew that others might end up hurt for that matter he could end up dead.
What I am doing, is too important, he thought. Its not arrogance it’s the truth, we need this stuff and Lourdes would agree with me. Let it end with Jeff House, he prayed but deep down he knew that the opposition was going to continue till it erupted once more into blood and violence.
“I’ve been a fool, I thought after four years of so many different types of peoples and believes getting along so well and peacefully that we were special and it would last for ever. But like bloody Eden, its ended now.” he said aloud as he paced. “So what can I do to change things, to stop any more violence from occurring”
you cant, he thought, its that simple. You personally can not find any magic words or do anything that will stop them. Even if you stopped building things, the guild wont stop, Jack fry wont stop and some one else will end up wounded or dead.
He hated feeling helpless, he hated the surging hate that boiled at his core now, that made him want to hurt every anti Tech Dimwit he could find for what they had done to Lourdes. He could almost taste the violence wanted it, needed it. it was everything he had been against back in the old liberal days of his life.
“the truth is, I cant see a way to stop them from” he said aloud again as he stopped pacing and leaned against the wall hoping the pain would ebb just a little. Not a single way, but there has to be something, there has to be.
again he saw Lourdes fall, angrily he shook his head as if that would make the image go away.
The door opened and Ben Ramo walked in, he looked haggard, his clothes wrinkled. “what in the hell are you doing up?” Ben asked striding towards him. “your supposed to be resting.”
“Cant” Tucker said as Ben helped him stand upright then guided him over to the chair. “its only a gunshot wound.”
“like you get those every day” Ben said gently . “What’s wrong Tucker?”
“Nothings wrong” Tucker replied, just a bit to quickly. Ben stood there quietly gazing at Tucker as if to say he knew Tucker was lying.
Ben for his part was pretty sure he knew what was wrong, Tucker had never had to deal with people trying to kill him before, or seeing a close friend shot. he might not now exactly what was going through Tuckers mind, but he could come close.
“Ben you saw combat before right. I mean before the dead and the raiders.” Tucker said.
Ben nodded, “Afghanistan, two tours.” He replied.
“you lost men right?” Tucker said, it want a question not really. Tucker had heard a few of the stories. Ben rarely discussed it, but he had talked with Tucker on occasion. Rare occasions to be sure. .
“Yes” Ben said walking over and rummaging around in a cabinet till he found a bottle of scotch and poured them both shots. It was going to be that kind of day, he decided. He returned to Tuckers side and handed him the glass. Sometimes dealing with this kind of thing was better done over a glass of something hard than any other way.
“How do you deal with it, being responsible for it.” Tucker asked taking the glass and staring into the depths of the amber liquid. “I keep seeing her get shot and falling Ben and I know it was my fault and I…” his voice trailed off.
“It was Jeff Houses fault Waylon, not yours.” Ben said wanting to reach out to Tucker seeing the anguish in the other mans eyes. That wasn’t the right response, not really. but it was also true.
“She was there because of me Ben, and if I had acted earlier, been more open to every one maybe they would have understood and it would never have happened. “
“Tucker, you asked how I dealt with it, I had to face that I couldn’t control everything involved. I had to accept that I did everything I could to keep them safe, and that was true, but sometimes you can dot every I and cross every T and people still get hurt or killed. That took me a while to accept Tucker, It really did. But it’s the truth.
There was nothing you could have done to stop Jeff House, and there is nothing you can really do to stop another idiot like him from trying to kill you or hurting some one else.
Nothing till you reach the point that you accept that all you can do is to keep on keeping on.
Even if you stop being you, stop building things it wont end Tucker. It wont end till they either change their mind, they are killed or every bit of technology they hate is destroyed and then they will try to force places like the zone to do away with their technology, all to save the world.
That’s why that kind of belief is toxic, it never ends there’s always some one doing something they don’t like and they believe they are working on gods behalf and have every right to force others to follow their beliefs.” Ben said
Tucker nodded slowly, he could see that, Hell he agreed with it, but that didn’t change a thing. This was his fault and no solution he saw could absolve him of that or save any one else that might get in the way of the idiots. But that was only part of the fear, the guilt that wracked him.
“Did you see their faces Ben, the men who were wounded or died, afterwards in your dreams” Tucker asked looking down at the floor . he had to ask, needed to know if he was alone in this or not.
Ben never talked about that but Tucker needed help and he needed it from some one that had been through something similar and he was too a good of a friend to tell him to screw off.
“Every night Waylon” Ben said softly, “Every damn night even now.” truth was he could still see each mans face, tell you how their bodies had been laying, where their wounds had been. He could tell you their wives and kids names, all kinds of things about them from what movies they had liked to some pretty personal details, Soldiers talked and they talked about everything and anything.
“ I keep seeing her face Ben, the shock, the fear in her eyes. I keep seeing her fall over, blood ever where and she just laid there blood leaking out of her. I cant stop seeing it Ben even when I am awake. Tucker said almost plaintively, his voice hitching there at the last.
1400hrs Hilton head Airport.
With the shouting and the gunshot, Ryan and Garret had slipped back into the weeds between the ramp and the Taxiway, slowly moving back towards where they had left Jimmy.
They were maybe a hundred yards out from the cinderblock building where Jimmy waited when they heard more shouting from back towards the Hangars. Not a good sign, Ryan thought as he scanned the area around the building with his binoculars. He took his time to carefully check the area around them, ignoring the distant sounds of people no point in rushing only to find that you missed a group of people who were just waiting for you to come walking up all fat dumb and happy.
He motioned for Garret to move towards the building, then turned and focused his binoculars on the distant hangars and parking ramp. It only took him a moment to spot the small group of people, six men with rifles sweeping across the ramp as if looking for someone. He was pretty sure they hadn’t seen him or Garrett of they would be heading towards his current position, not checking the ramp.
He watched for a moment as they looked into the C 131’s with their lowered ramps, then moved on past to check two other cargo planes that stood open, but not the globe master. I bet they’ve tried to get inside in the past and figure its locked up tight, Ryan thought. the group moved further down the ramp, looking under the few scattered and abandoned vehicles on the ramp and even inside a few of the wrecked aircraft. Definetly looking for some one, and they are armed so its not a friend. I’m thinking now is not the best time to be visiting, Ryan decided.
He placed his binoculars back in their pouch then headed towards the Cinderblock building. By the time he got close, Garret had gotten Jimmy outside.
“Give him a weapon just in case” Ryan whispered, Jimmy almost leaped to his feet, not even aware of Ryan’s presence till he had spoken.
“Keep that up and I am either going to need depends to keep from ruining my pants or I will drop over dead of a heart attack” Jimmy murmured keeping is wits about him enough not to talk loud enough to draw attention. “and no guns, I would just end up shooting my self in my Johnson or something.”
Ryan didn’t bother to argue, the old man had survived this long with out a weapon. “Lets move out before those men start sweeping the weeds.” He said then flashed a quick message in sign to Garrett. Keep an eye on Jimmy if anything happens you get him out of danger.
Garrett nodded in reply and started forward leading Jimmy towards the fence line. Ryan looked back and saw the searchers were just starting to move out into the overgrown area between the ramp and the Taxiway.
They were moving to fast to be making a good search of the area around them, but slow enough it would take them twenty minutes to reach the old light control building.
It was obvious that they were interested in checking the building out there, it was an obvious hiding place for who ever they were hunting.
Just great, Ryan thought as he stayed low and followed after Jimmy and Garrett, with barely a ripple of the weeds a he moved through them.
They moved as fast as Jimmy could manage, which wasn’t all that fast and not for the first time Ryan wished they had left the nice old guy back at the lighthouse.
The searchers were drawing closer, and occasionally Ryan could hear snatches of conversation. They seemed angry that who ever they were hunting had escaped them and were hoping to find him in the building so they could get back eating and their women.
Sloppy field work Ryan thought almost grinning. Who would have suspected I would end up knowing crap like this. From Gears of War to super special, pathfinder in six years. Twenty yards from the Fence, he heard a man call out “looks like some one went through here”
Keep moving, Ryan signed, thankful that Jared and Eric had insisted that Pathfinders learn the modified sign language they had used. It might not work in the dark, unless the other person felt your hand as you signed, but it was far better than trying to whisper and giving away your position.
Garret had reached the fence, and was carefully moving on his belly along the fence searching the broken section of Chain link they had used to enter. Jimmy lay in the weeds waiting.
Ryan turned to face the now distant building, rising up to his knees to peer through the weeds, rifle at the ready.
The small group of men had reached the building, and as he watched one of them pulled the door open and the others raced inside. it would take them all of five minutes or less to look around in there, he thought looking back at the fence to see if Garrett had located the gap then turned his attention back to the building watching through the scope on his rifle.
A man emerged less than two minutes later, and pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes out, extracting a battered looking cigarette, that was probably stale after so many years, and stuck it in his mouth, cupping a hand around the cigarette the man lit the end then sucked in the smoke before slowly exhaling a cloud of blue smoke.
Slowly and carefully Ryan lowered his rifle, sudden movements drew the human eye almost as easily as a waving red flag. He looked back and saw Garret had found the gap and was pulling the chain link back. Good, Ryan thought, we can lose our selves in the abandoned cars and put some distance between us and them.
Jimmy his back and knees on fire crawled up to Garret and took hold of the chain link keeping the small gap open, while Garret slipped off his pack and shoved it through, then followed it. Once Garrett had a hold of the fence from the other side, Jimmy made his way, slowly, carefully and very painfully through the gap himself.
Ryan checked the building one last time and saw two more of the men were outside, talking quietly, one was motioning towards the fence. He slung his weapon and slowly lowered himself down till he could crawl on his hands and toes towards the fence. It only took him a minute to get first his pack through then himself. Then the three of them vanished into the long double line of cars that filled the road that ran along the fence to the Gates of the airport.
1440hrs, The Broad Creek Township, Guest house.
Henry sat cross legged on the floor beside his cot going through his gear, actually enjoying himself. Chris sat on his cot, playing a tune on his guitar. Henry wasn’t sure what style of music it actually was, but it sounded nice. Of course damn near any music sounded good these days, what with Music being unavailable the majority of the time.
It had actually come as surprise to find out that Chris had any kind of musical Talent, his singing wasn’t the best but it wasn’t bad either. Tolerable was the word, as my Dad would say. I wonder what other skills and talents he has that he never bothered to mention, Henry thought glancing across the room.
As the music flowed through the room, Pastor Wells sat writing in a notebook one hand resting on his bible. Now there was a man who had turned out to be a better man than Henry had expected. . Hercules Secord, who was actually doing push ups, wasn’t as bad as Henry had thought either, quiet for the most part, rarely smiling, no scratch that, Henry thought, Never smiling I think he gave a weak grin once.
Stephanie sat on her cot, painting her toenails the huge Cat sprawled on its back beside her, one leg over its eyes. I am so glad I am not a woman, Henry thought. But I guess it makes her feel better so who am I to complain. Make fun of her, give her shit till she wants to kill me yes, complain no.
Nothing in his old life had prepared him for what he found himself doing now. If some one had suggested that he would find himself wandering the apocalypse with a former Forest Ranger, and a martial arts trained, gun toting Prom Queen turned sorority girl, while carrying his own gun trusting both of them to cover his back just like they trusted him to do the same.
Knowing that Chris and Stephanie would risk their own lives to save his if needed, he would have laughed. No way in hell back then would a poor black boy whose only job experience involved brooms, cleaning cars and pushing carts end up being an unlikely hero helping to rebuild a country. Aint life grand, He thought with a smile as he began to repack his backpack.
“Why do you still do that “Pastor Well asked gazing at Stephanie.
“Same reason I carry a straight razor to shave my yoo.hoo” She said trying to shock him. “ A girl has to look her best even when having to kill bad guys.”
“I see, “Wells said blushing slightly and almost managing to keep from smiling. “May I ask why you are doing this, helping to rebuild I mean.”
“As opposed to what, Getting knocked up once a year” she asked with an arched eyebrow..
“Stephanie” Chris said in warning.
“I suppose I had wondered why a beautiful young woman like yourself is wandering around what’s left of the country putting her self in danger.” Well said.
“The short answer Pastor,” Stephanie replied calmly. “Is that Some one close to me risked their life for me and ultimately died because of it and that woke me up and I vowed to do what ever it took to keep my new friends and family safe.”
He and Stephanie had talked many times but rarely about her past or her reasons for working with McCaffrey. He honestly liked her, though in his old life he would never have been fair enough to look past some of her faults and beliefs to realize that there was a good woman inside of her. Thou shall not judge, there is true wisdom in that he thought. Wisdom we should all practice every day of our lives.
“And the long answer?” He asked pushing slightly.
She frowned slightly “The long answer is too long and would ruin my mood today. I will tell you some other time. I promise”
“She was a stripper with a heart of gold, worked soup kitchens and gave free lap dances as charity work” Henry said, Chris chuckled and Stephanie rolled her eyes.
“Why I keep talking to either of you is beyond me” she said going back to her nails. The Cat rolled over and stared across the room at Chris its tail swishing back and forth.
Henry laughed half hoping that cat would try to attack Chris again; it had been pretty funny the first time around. He finished packing his gear, but the cat seemed content to give Chris a go to hell look.
“don’t glare at me cat, Henry said it” Chris said glaring back at the feline.
Henry rose as some one knocked on the door, “I got it,” he said striding to the door, enjoying the soft creak of floorboard with each step. Opening the door he found Franklin Coates standing outside with another man. A slim white guy with strawberry blond hair, dressed like he ready to spend a year out in the wilds.
“I hate to disturb you, but it appears that we will not be meeting again this afternoon” Coates said, his voice neutral. “You have a messenger from the Pines, I thought it would be best if he delivered the message in person.” He said stepping down off the steps and motioned at the man who accompanied him .
Henry stepped back and let the man enter the guesthouse. The stranger headed straight for the Pastor, who looked very surprised.
“Afternoon Bill” Wells said rising to his feet, a worried look in his eyes. For Coates to put off the meeting later this afternoon meant that the message had to be important and for the Council to have sent a messenger at all wasn’t a good sign.
“Pastor Wells,” Bill Massengale, said by way of greeting. He looked nervous and upset and it wasn’t because of being allowed into the Township of that Wells was pretty sure.
“What’s wrong Bill?” Keith Wells asked, keeping the trepidation he felt from his voice. Hercules looked worried as well
“I guess I shouldn’t beat around the bush, The Council needs you to return to the Pines as soon as possible.” Bill said his eyes cutting towards McCaffrey for a second. “Jeff House tried to kill Waylon Tucker and Lourdes Cross.”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
I finally understand Jared a little better. When I heard the news about Lourdes, I was floored and my first impulse was to rush off to be with her. Which pretty much tells me I like her a lot more than I wanted to admit. But then as the Messenger handed over the letters from Tucker and the council and told us what the council wanted and what he knew of the situation.
I had to face the fact that no matter how I felt the Job, the Mission as most every one else calls it, to bring the Island into the zone was to important too put on the back burner. I don’t even know if she feels the same way about me, but I do know that she would say this is too important and that I should keep on.
Ben Ramo made sure that the Messenger, Bill Massengale knew as much a possible before sending him, anticipating all the questions Wells and Secord might have, and lets face it myself too.
A little detail. Apparently a younger man, Jeff House was the one that shot Waylon Tucker and Lourdes, then was killed by the guards. Apparently his father had figured out was about to happen and tried to get there in time to stop and instead got there just in time to see his son, the only family he had, shot down. the boy died in his arms.
Since then the father has been babbling about young Jeff having nightmares about the undead coming back because of Tuckers machines, not just the undead either but a shadowy form in an old fashioned hat that stalked the boy through out his dreams. Now that I admit could be just nightmares spawned by things that happened back when the dead were walking.
And that might still be my feeling if Bill hadn’t mentioned that Gary House had told any one that would listen. That a couple of times, he woke to the sound of Jeff shouting and screaming and went to go check on the boy and as he opened the door to his sons room, smelled something like spoiled meat and old rotting blood. Sound familiar… I don’t want to believe it, but couple that with Nana’s message to Henry about the Boo Hag and the smell and all the other experiences during the war of the dead and I really think we might have a problem here. I really want to be wrong. Hell I would love to be wrong.
Don’t ask me to how to fix it either. We can only try to keep moving forward and hope to overcome what ever obstacles that bowler hat wearing freak of super nature can throw at us. In a movie, some psychic would appear right about now with the ability to fight the thing.
Anyway, Franklin Coates, once he ‘officially’ heard the news, has promised to take Wells across the Broad creek on a boat cutting time and distance off the return trip and the same boat will carry the rest of us up the Broad to Bakers enclave.
The Pines council asked that Secord and Myself deliver the news of the Summit to the Astoria and Bakers enclave. They don’t want us to try any negotiations preferring to leave that to be dealt with during the summit or afterwards. So just a message answer any questions then on our way again.
So that simplifies things alot we should be able to get this out of the way in the next three to four days. Maybe less if we don’t take our time and there are no problems.
Franklin has assured me that they will attend this summit, and that they will wait to hear back about the trade agreement.
More news, Ryan and Garrett have not reported in. That probably doesn’t mean a thing, but its got me worried when added to everything else that’s going on.
I can only hope that a boat trip will encourage Shamu the killer kitty to stay behind knowing Stephanie she will make it a life jacket and floaties to wear. Who knew she could be so domestic at least where cats are concerned.
As far as Lourdes, I hope that I get the chance to find out what the feelings I have really are. But if she doesn’t wake up soon, well they don’t have a way to feed her intravenously so she could possibly starve to death. At the most she has three weeks as long as they can keep her hydrated but I knew enough to realize that there is a point that the body consumes so much of itself that there is no coming back.