“Out of the sound of the ebb-and-flow,
Out of the sight of lamp and star,
It calls you where the good winds blow,
And the unchanging meadows are:
From faded hopes and hopes agleam,
It calls you, calls you night and day
Beyond the dark into the dream
Over the hills and far away”
The wind off the water was chilly, September was counting down to October. Jared typed out the last of his notes onto his laptop. finished he sat quietly rereading the entries While he absently stroked Nibblers head .
One Day Jill would read this and she would probably get pissed at him, he thought ready to delete the whole thing then stopped as he turned his attention to the two thick books that waited to be carried on the next step of the journey to be placed in the hands of the Trinity.
No like those books, this journal needs to be here, for who ever comes later. Jared decided as he saved the document then closed down the Laptop. he rose not as fast or as fluidly as he once had, that would, hopefully, come back with time. But for now his wounds, healing as they were, kept him from moving to fast.
He took the books and placed them inside a waterproof bag and sat them aside, as he made his way to the propane powered fridge and fixed himself a glass of Tea. One of the many things they had found in abundance as they swept homes and business’s, was Tea lots of Tea. So much in fact that they had decided to set up a couple of Vacuum sealers to seal as much of its as they could, the fuel used to run the generator would be well worth it to have Tea sealed and stored for future use.
Outside the grey clouds piled up and the first fat drops of rain fell, drumming softly on the roof of the RV. Jared sat back down, looking out the window where a few people still moved back and forth going about what ever business they had. it was such an odd site to see after the last year and some odd months.
Nibbler scooted over and place her head back in his lap, sighed and went back to sleep. He smiled as he rubbed the dogs head, his thoughts drifted to Simms who had turned out to be a halfway decent guy, a hard ass, but decent. The meeting had gone smoother than Jared had thought it would, thanks in no small part to Jill who had insisted Jared keep his ego out of it. She had been right, as usual, Simms hadn’t led them to the Terminal, Simms hadn’t killed Steve that had all been Sheamus and Williams. Out of the two hundred plus men that Simms had led to the terminal, Twenty one survived. He had been used and screwed by bowler hat worse than Jared’s people.
In the end Simms had agreed to work with the Islands people, but on his terms. in three weeks the surviving family members of the men who had followed Simms to the Terminal would be arriving to live on Sullivan. Hanson and ten men had gone with the Detachment that Ashton had organized to lead them to where the familys were hiding. The food, water and fuel going along with the detachment, courtesy of a FEMA Dump would help those people get here to the island.
Simms and his people minus the Big Norwegian had left three days ago, with a list of parts, equipment and tools to keep an eye out for. Simms had felt that for now, he and his would remain separate from Jareds group. But he would scout out locations to salvage the things the island needed as long as Jared helped Simm’s group with the things they needed, like Brass, weapons parts, and setting up power when Simms finally found a place his men could call their own. Come Spring time Simms was going to start looking for Fuel dumps and see if he could find any refineries that they might be able to use, assuming they could figure out how to run the damn things.
Getting past the undead at the Bridge had ended up being Childs play, they had pulled the Ferry off the beach at high tide, made sure it wasnt leaking and pressed it into service, where it would head up along the coast line carrying vehicles to the out of the way fenced in dock and ware house they had camped at before arriving at Sullivan.
There was a loud knock at the door before he could say come in Eric threw open the door and climbed inside, rain sliding off the poncho he wore and dripped onto the golden stained laminate floor. “its not fit for man nor bumble out there” Eric said with a grin. Jared smiled back that line was from Eric’s favorite Christmas show.
“So how are you feeling idiot” Eric asked.
“About normal, partly stupid with a chance of lunacy” Jared replied. “runs in the family don’t you know”
“you were adopted, so I don’t have to worry about it” Eric commented as he stripped off the poncho and hung it on a hook by the door then sat down across from Jared. Nibblers head popped up over the edge of the table, her soft brown eyes fixed on Eric as she considered whether it was worth moving to get more attention or stay in place. after a second her head dropped back into Jared’s Lap.
“so what brings you to our humble home” Jared said leaning back in the seat.
“well partly to spend time with my older brother and partly to tell you that as soon as my men get here, we will be heading out, Bedford isn’t going to stop and there are still plenty of Caches that we establishd early on and that we need to empty out and hide again, in case he has the files that list the locations. I have no idea what resources he does have, but he will want more and I don’t plan on Giving him any.” Eric said, as he pulled two thumb drives out and sat them on the table between them. “That’s the lists of Government Caches we recovered off that plane in Elizabethtown, all the locations and inventories of what’s stored inside them. the closest one to here, West Virginia, the Green briar hotel, theres an old Cold war bunker under the hotel that was put there to protect congress in case of nuclear war. “ Eric explained. “and at least Bedford wont have this list.”
“I thought……” Jared said then fell silent with out finishing his thought.
“you thought I was just going to follow orders and hand this over.” Eric said with a smile. “If I knew there was a government still running I might, but Bedford, assuming the man is really military, which I doubt. Has already shown he has no problems trying to find ways to kill Americans who stand in the way of his getting what he wants. I want this stuff to go to Americans to rebuild their Nation Jared. and I can trust you to do just that.”
Jared picked up the thumb drives and placed them in a Drawer. “I will, as soon as we can” he promised.
“take a look at the inventory lists Jared, Trust me you will want to hit them sooner rather than later.” Eric said Rising to his feet. “I have a date, and no not that kind of date, Ashton and I are meeting to decide which Vehicles the team can take.”
“I’m surprised you don’t just use a Helo” Jared said as he too stood, still favoring his leg.
“fuel Brother mine, Fuel. “ Eric replied ignoring the speculative look Jared sent his way.
“I suspect Eric, that Fuel is the one thing your not lacking, but Ill let it drop” Jared replied. “ and don’t forget your Books” Jared added pointing to the bag.
Eric reached for it then hesitated, “are you sure about this Jared?” He asked, not sure if he really believed the books had any real value or use. But if the books did, Eric thought they should be kept here.
“I know your not big on the supernatural aspect of all this, even though your like super nerd” Jared said with a smile. “but yes, I..” he paused, “your supposed to carry it on, but I don’t think you’re the one that takes it all the way.”
Eric shrugged. “had another dream?” he asked. Jared shook his head, and a broad smiled spread across his face.
“I havent had one of those since I passed out, and I don’t miss them in the least” Jared said happily. “just call it a gut feeling.”
Eric scooped up the bag, “ Ill be back tonight, Need to spend time with my favorite Sister in law. I only have a few days left to convince her she has poor taste.” He said with a grin and headed for the door.
“don’t worry, she already knows she has poor taste” Jared assured him with a laugh.
Once the door shut behind Eric, Jared stood watching out the window as Eric trudged across the rain slicked grass, the wind tugging at the Poncho he wore. “yes I’m sure Eric, I made a copy of both books, because there is still something in those books we need to know.” Jared said aloud, if he had told Eric that, he would have had to explain why he felt that way. And that meant sharing details about the last dream and that was something he couldn’t do, not even with Jill. Some things were just not to be shared.
Rob eyed the large copper tank, then turned to Ori who was smiling happily. “ what the hell is that for” Rob asked, having a lot of projects on his plate being dragged away from his work was enough to get his goat up.
“That is going to be the primary component for the first product of the Sullivan Island Brewery, Tennessee Mountain Whiskey,” Ori said proudly.
“um Doesn’t Brewery imply Beer, not whiskey.” Rob said as he walked around what he realized was a still, a huge still at that.
“yes but theres the beauty of it, Lance one of Cross’s soldiers, used to home brew Beer. So we scrounged around and found the stuff to make Beer, and he will put out a seasonal Batch, Summer beer. The whiskey will be available all year round.” Ori said proudly.
“how does Beth feel about you making shine” Rob asked, Beth always seemed so prim and didn’t strike him as the type to condone drinking.
“I think if it keeps me here on the island for a while she is more than happy about it” Ori said. Something in his face changed at that, Rob understood. Neither of them enjoyed being out on the mainland, but at the same time things on the island were starting to be just a bit to normal.
“I plan on setting up ten stills, able to produce four hundred gallons of shine at a time.” Ori said smiling at the look on Robs face. “no I’m not trying to make every one an alcoholic. I was thinking Fuel, we can expand the capacity as time goes by to provide more fuel. But we have to start somewhere. And I think four hundred gallons is pretty good start, since we don’t have to use it right now, we can store it, and by the time we start dipping into it, there will hopefully be a few thousand gallons.”
Rob nodded, thinking about what would be needed to make Ethanol burn better with out causing problems in the motors.
“so what do you need me for” Rob asked, “ I’m not being an ass, but I have a lot of really important projects to finish”
“I want you to do two things in your spare time, or when ever you have a chance. One I’m going to give you the plans for the still, see what you can come up with to improve it. if you cant no big deal. Two depends on if you can do it, but I want a custom Knife made, figure you can use the CNC for the hilt and maybe even the blade.. “ Ori said. “and I wanted you here to see my baby in person.” Ori grinned from ear to ear.
Rob eyed the still, already seeing a few things he would alter, assuming he understood exactly what each piece’s function was. Then turned to back to Ori “ as far as the Knife, I can turn out a blade, a pretty good one too, but if you want it etched or a really decorative hilt I think you need to talk to Carol.”
“why carol” Ori asked puzzled.
“you mean you never asked her what she used to do for a living” Rob said surprised, considering how much time Ori had spent around Carol he should have known.
“she worked in an office part time, never really said where or what she did” Ori said almost defensively.
Rob grinned “Ori she worked part time in an office, but her real job was at home where she did custom Jewelry. If any one can make a intricate hilt and etch a blade or what ever it is you want, I’m betting Carol will be the one” Rob Explained.
“well I be damned” Ori muttered.
Ilyana stopped on the sidewalk that led down to the dock that jutted out behind the Fort. Amy stood at the end of the dock staring out over the water towards Fort Sumter, and Charleston.
The girl had changed a lot since the Terminal, and not all of it was what Ilyana would have called good back before the zombies. In some ways she was still a friendly girl, no lets be honest shes a woman, the old world thing of being a child till you were 18 died with Civilization. There were 8 to 13 year olds who had fought off their own parents and hordes of undead just to survive.
Amy was determined to never become a victim again, and had joined the martial arts Self defense training, and had been spending time with a couple of soldiers learning how to shoot, and had even talked Lany into Teaching her how to use a bow. But to many times since they had arrived on the island, she had found Amy alone and staring off into space. She worried about the girl who was just as much her little sister as her friend.
Ily walked down, her feet thudding on the dock, alerting Amy to her presence. “hi, I was worried about you” Ily said, Amy remained silent her gaze never leaving the water.
“I think you need some one to talk to” Ily said after a moment.
Amy finally turned to face Ily who could see the girl had been crying. “I have some one to talk to Ily, Anne, the girl that was held as a sex slave for three months before Jared and the others rescued her. she went through more hell than I did.” Amy said, wiping at her eyes.
“So what’s wrong” Ily asked, hoping to draw Amy into a real conversation.
“Today, was my Dads Birthday, he would have been forty seven today. I just wanted to remember both my parents for a little bit, I’m sorry didn’t mean to worry you and honestly I’m not suicidal or brooding. At least I don’t brood a lot. whats done is done, that thing is dead, and the man who helped it is dead too, so I don’t have to worry about them.” Amy said “ besides, I just got a boyfriend”
“really?” Ily asked floored at the idea.
“really, he is a soldier, Tim Mears, the cute one with the tight butt.” Amy said.
“aah the blond one, he is what twenty” Ily asked.
“and. I’m seventeen, Ill be eighteen soon, not a big difference in ages.” Amy commented.
Ily leaned against the railing the wind tossing her long dark hair around her face, “just be careful Amy, you know how guys are”
“sure do, all penis no brain.” Amy said so matter of factly that ily burst out laughing. “I also noticed some one slipping out of your room this morning.. Id swear it was Mike”
Ily blushed, but nodded. “ good,” Amy said “only he had better stop sneaking around in the shadows and just come out and be honest about the two of you.”
“It was me that asked him to keep it low Key” Ily admitted. “but only for a short while. And it was stupid I know, especially since he asked me to marry him last night”
“WHAT” Amy’s shout rolled across the fort, as did her shrieks of joy and the wild laughter.
Beth set down the box of books she was carrying on a table, and turned to Jared and Rob. “ I’m not sure if I know where any particular book is Jared. we haven’t even started cataloging yet, and unless some one hooks up a generator so we can keep laptops charged, we are going to have to do it all by hand and that means lots of time.” She gestured around the room at the all the shelves most about half of which were filled with books.
“five rooms will contain the medical books you recovered from Fort Campbell, we took all the books from the Edgar Allan Poe Library and set it them up in the Gymnasium, we have boxes of books recovered from the homes and business’s that we still have to go through and that’s going to be a while, theres only four of us.”
Jared had to agree it was a daunting Project for four people, but this was one of the most important projects outside of food and fuel on the island, every bit of knowledge they would need would reside here on the shelves. Gary was already talking about setting up a server at the school once there was a steady power supply, so that all the books could be scanned in and accessed from the net he was talking about building on the island using Radio packet systems. All that depended on power, and if Jared had anything to say about it, no one would ever again dive onto the computer, digital storage band wagon again.
A whole worlds worth of information still sat on computers and servers across the planet, unavailable to a single living being now. no his way was hard copy, you can still read books when the powers off. only a fool would go for a total electronic civilization again.
Assuming that they got the power back on, they learned to build computers and all the other toys of society. Personally he only wanted Communications, washing machines, dryers, hot water heaters, Tv’s and DVD players, the rest was really unneeded.
“I think I can get you some help some of the kids who have been helping get the ground ready for the crops having nothing to do just now, I can have them come over and help. maybe get them to unpack and get the books on shelves, and you and the other three women can start cataloging.”
“that would be excellent Jared, I have plans on turning the each old classroom into a specific category of literature, Fiction in one, Self help in another…. “ Jared let her talk, though his mind wanted to shut down. Beth had gotten excited when the whole Library Idea had been floated past her, it was more or less a natural extension to her love of teaching. As much as he loved to read, he wasn’t interested in the nuts and bolts of a library, just put up a card catalog, and let me be he thought mildly amused at his own reaction.
But as Beth talked, something else occurred to him, something that could change the world eventually. It might not speed up the return of civilization appreciably, but it would go a long damn way to helping.
The sudden silence as Beth finished speaking snapped Jared back to the present. “sorry something you said got to me to thinking” he said, “and I think your going to love this idea” he added with a smile that would have gotten her to give him her phone number in the old days. he started talking , and she was hooked two sentences in.
Jared pulled his Van to a stop in front of the single story brick building that served as the Islands Council building. he shook his head at that name, with the Island virtually cleared of undead, people couldn’t seem to wait to move out and set up the trappings of civilization.
The building like most on the Island sat on a lot surrounded by trees unlike most the lawn was mowed. At least they had found one of those old mowers that the blades were turned by just pushing the mower. So no fuel had been wasted for mowing, it would be a long time before people mowed lawns just to have a mowed lawn again.
As Jared slid out of the Van, Rob shook his head “ Ill just stay here and wait, every time I go in there, someone tries to pile yet another project on my plate” He said.
“don’t blame you in the least, take a break, hide in the back so no one can see you and start asking you questions” Jared said, almost laughing as Rob climbed into the back of the Van and out of sight.
The council building had been some sort of business, Jared didn’t know what, but it smelled like an old Library to him as he walked in. the cubicles had been removed from the central area leaving the space wide open for the tables and Chairs that had been set up facing a conference table, where the Council met. The Row of offices along two walls, had been emptied, but Jared suspected in a year or two, barring undead, the council members would establish an office for themselves, where they would while away the day doing meaningless paperwork, while the rest of the island worked the fields and did the other necessary jobs to keep the island running.
Just past the front door was a desk, where a Pretty teen aged girl was writing in a journal. She looked up and smiled at him then returned to what she had been doing It seemed that the job of receptionist had already been revived he thought as he walked past her with a smile heading straight for Ashton who sat at the conference table, maps and papers spread out around him.
“whats up, you do realize I’m still technically injured right so no asking me to play soldier” Jared said lightly as he sat heavily across from Ashton, who looked tired as hell and had a lot more silver in his hair than Jared remembered.
“you must be bored to come visit me” Ashton said with a tired smile.
“just have an idea to bounce off you and I wanted to know if you had gotten anything from that skank that tried to kill Jill” Jared replied.
“The Skanks name is Kylie, and yes she has been singing like a bird. She likes to brag, thinking we will be so scared of her leader we will let her go.
I think she is finally starting to realize I’m not impressed. She has become a little more cautious about what she saysm the last few days. To be honest Some of what she has said does bother me”
“That bad is it” Jared said, seeing the worry that lurked in Ashtons eyes.
“Worse really.” Ashton said. “ assuming our guest isn’t lying, Kronnen has an Army, plenty of ammo and supplies and thinks we are going to be a threat to him. Apparently he gained control of a Classified military base out west , and ended up in contact with a General Bedford, who warned him about us, apparently we are Traitors, seeking to carve out our own little kingom. According to Kylie, Bedford offered Kronnen supplies, and ammunition if Kronnen would serve his country and check us out and deal with us if needed. Kronnen, took the aid and decided to check us out for his own benefit, in case we are going to be a threat to his little empire building.” Ashton said, sliding an atlas at Jared, “check the bookmarks”
Jared flipped it open and as he studied the first map, “ you would think that with all the undead and supernatural crap going around, people wouldn’t be so worried about setting themselves up as a King.”
“Think about it Jared he is doing the same thing we are, He stays mobile, finds the people that are still alive and sheltering in place, promises them food and comfort, takes them back to where he has set up base for a while. Unlike us, the people he saves become slaves in all but name and are well treated for the most part according to Kylie, but those who refuse, he destroys. he has secured places scattered from St. Louis to some Air base in Nevada.”
Jared studied the maps, with out comment for a little while. “ he made good time to go from Nevada to St. Louis, taking over towns along the way” he commented. “ and why if if he is in St. Louis, is he so interested in us.”
“Kylie says its because of our activity in Nashville and Fort Campbell, how he knew about that is beyond me.” Ashton said. “ as to how fast he crossed that kind of distance, he didn’t stay long in any one place and left a lot of bodies behind.”
“Bedford told him about Nashville and Campbell, I would bet money on it. Eric said the man has been keeping tabs on us by Satellite.” Jared said feeling a bubble of anger.
“Satellite, good god, why even bother” Ashton said then fell silent as he rubbed the bridge of his nose “ its more likely Kronnen had people in place in one or both areas, and they Id’d you.” Ashton added. “ either by talking to some of those that Stayed behind and set up in that old nuclear weapons storage and research place on Campbell, or by slipping someone like Kylie into your group with a means to contact Kronnens people to report in.
“God its so much easier dealing with zombies and the supernatural” Jared said shaking his head and closing the Atlas. “But this is your problem for now Colonel, I’m out of the game for the time being. Ill help clear the last of the buildings, Ill fight if the undead or Kronnen shows up here, but I really don’t plan on leaving the island for a while.”
“I know Jared I’ve already heard, that’s why I asked your brother to do a bit of scouting for us, so we can find out the truth. We cant even make a decent plan with out knowing what we face, assuming we face anything more than some small gang of Raiders,” Ashton said calmly, Eric had expected Jared to blow his top, but all he did was sit there looking thoughtful.
“so when is his team getting here” Jared asked.
“his Team is coming in today sometime. They will leave tomorrow or the day after.” Ashton said, a slight smile on his face as he glanced towards the Desk near the doors. “ it sucks being a hero” he commented, Jared looked up and saw the Teen age girl staring at him, their eyes met for half a second before she tore them away and went back to writing, acting as if nothing had happened. “if only you were sixteen” Ashton laughed.
“I was a shit at sixteen” Jared said with a grin, “ just ask my brother. Or the clown that got me arrested”
“one day you are going to have to tell me or some one about the whole clown thing, this is getting cruel Jared” Ashton said as Jared rose stiffly to his feet.
“one day maybe I will, Jill keeps digging away at that too” Jared said with a crooked smile. “where you ever stationed in Germany” Jared asked changing the subject with out warning, Ashton nodded,
“Kaiser Kasern, then at the Fulda Gap.” Ashton replied, puzzled at the turn in the conversation.
“Fulda I hated that place, well not the town the base, I was there TDY a couple of times.” Jared said more relaxed. “Ever get to Mainz or Stuttgart?”
“Stuttgart yeah for the beer fest a couple of times” Ashton said. “why?”
“ I was just thinking that one day, our kids or grandkids will listen to us talk about our life, and to them places like Fulda and London will be like a myth. And in a century or two, most people will not even have a clue that places like Fulda or London even exist, or existed really.” Jared answered, looking out the window at the green lawn under the lead grey sky. Jared didn’t even seem to doubt that humanity would be around in two centuries Ashton thought, even though at times Ashton harbored doubts about making it a few more years.
“Stories our kids hear will be handed down and in a century or two they will be legends, back when men could travel the world in ships that floated through the air, when man could travel between towns in carts with no horses in an hour where it takes days by horseback. All the things we lost a year ago will be myths or lost to time. Every thing that makes us, who we are, our foundations will be gone. Art, philosophy, music, Religions. The Golden age we lived in with even realizing it will have vanished into dust.”
“I hate to say it Jared, but I haven’t really thought about it the present is more than enough to occupy my thoughts.” Ashton replied. “Besides what can we do about?”
“We can save as much of it as we can Ashton. That’s about all we can do, not just save a few pieces of machinery and the knowledge to use them, but all of the stuff we can lay our hands on, create something like the Library of Alexandria, combined with the worlds largest museum. So the kids who come after us, can look back and see where they came, see what mistakes we made, and what heights we climbed to. so they can look up at the moon and know that Man walked there.” Jared fell silent then smiled awkwardly. “I just want to make sure we don’t condemn our grand kids or their kids to hunting naked with sharp pointy sticks in the ruins of a world that is completely lost to them. we owe them a better future than that.” Jared said softly his eyes resting on the Teenager as a gentle smile crossed his face.
“This is your big idea” Ashton asked, not sure what to say.
“That’s it in a nutshell, yes” Jared replied leaning back in his chair for a moment. “ I wanted you to think about it, you’re the one that is going to have to come up with the man power to pull off the operation.”
“Jared, if you hopped up and said you were going to loot the Smithsonian or where ever, a hundred men and women would volunteer to go with you. but Me, I have to deal with the council. No one on the council will agree to this, other than Jeremy Foster.” Ashton said.
“You’ll figure it out, I’m not going anywhere for a long while.” Jared said.
“Jared Ill bring it up, Even toss your name into it. but I can tell you that Crops, power and fuel are the top of the list. Setting up a huge library and Museum will not impress them.” Ashton said shaking his head.
Jared rose to his feet and smiled. “you’ll get it done Ashton, I think you understand how important it is. Anyway I’m going to get back to Jill, she is supposed have a surprise for me, and I have it from reliable sources this surprise involves lingerie and candles.” Jared turned and left Ashton to think over the Idea that Jared had come up with.
Ashton had never met any one that thought that far ahead. And what a damned audacious idea it was. In fact if they committed to this, and succeeded, it would be on par with the seven wonders of the world. he sat there his mind showing him teams scouring the world for knowledge art, and treasure. He laughed aloud, slow down Indiana, I think there is more than enough just here on the east coast to keep us occupied for several lifetimes, he told himself. but it was an Idea he was going to bring up to the council, Jeremy Foster, who had been a local historian and school teacher would love it. and could probably brow beat the rest of the council into supporting it if he could get more than half the island to approve of it.
And if the council didn’t go for it, he suspected Jared would talk about it publicly till there was a line of people waiting to go out to secure all of it and to hell with the council. He smiled at the fits that would cause especially with Jared when he realized the supporters would want him to lead the op.
Eric, with Jared by his side, made his way down to the dock as soon as the call came in that Eric’s men were inbound. they didnt have long to wait before Eric saw the black hulled Sailboat coming in, its sharp lined hull sliced through the water with ease.
“that’s a frigging Yacht” Jared commented watching with interest, that was the kind of boat he wanted to take out and find a nice tropical island to spend the rest of his days on.
As it approached the dock, the sails lowered and were furled by a very attractive woman in shorts and a bikini top when she finished with the sails she stood and stared at the dock filled with people.
Lauren couldn’t stop staring, a little over a week and a half ago, she had been alone, had believed she was it, the last person left on the planet, and then a Hurricane had changed her life by tossing Casey’s old sail boat up on the lawn in front of her house. Tears streaked down her tanned cheeks as she saw kids on the dock and that raced along a sandy beach below the old fort Kids waving at the sail boat as they raced towards the dock.
She could see people walking the walls of the fort, a man stood on a platform on the top of some kind of tower scanning the water with binoculars. To the north of the fort between a huge concrete battery and the beach there was a huge tilled tract of ground at least a few acres in size she thought.
The small hope that Casey’s arrival had inspired in her, rose in leaps and bounds that people might actually make it through the undead. She found her self sobbing with joy unable to control the emotions that surged through her at the sight of a semi normal life with no undead, not a single one in sight.
And she had Casey to thank for talking her into going on this trip just to check out the coastal towns and cities. With out him she would still be sitting in that old mansion believing she was all alone in the world till one day she put the barrel of her pistol in her mouth and ended it.
An arm went around her shoulders and she buried her head in the mans chest, not even realizing it was one of the soldiers who held her gently as she sobbed with joy and the pain of all the loss she had endured, finally facing the emptiness she had tried so hard to hide from.
Castor stroked the woman’s hair trying to comfort her as she cried, his eyes moving to the Casey the Captain of the boat, who didn’t seem Happy but he didn’t appear to be angry either. “your safe,” Castor said to Lauren, his own voice full of wonder at the sight of Sullivan. By the old worlds standards there wasn’t much to look at, but he hadn’t seen this many people in one spot since the dead had Risen. His respect for Jared and the others went several notches higher as he finally realized why they had been so intent on hitting semi truck trailers, and whole sale supple warehouses as well as the terminal. They needed every bit of the material they had taken for this many people.
The Boat glided up to the dock and Casey left the wheel to toss lines to the waiting men on the dock who quickly tied off the yacht. Lauren pulled away from Castor looking embarrassed. “ I’m sorry, I don’t usually break down like that” she explained.
“Its okay, but you had better go talk to Casey, before he decides to shoot me for flirting with you” Castor said with a grin shooing her towards Casey her first boyfriend in a year. Those two are perfect for each other he thought as he gathered his gear.
Jared watched as Eric shook each of his mens hands as they disembarked from the sail boat. he knew Eric wished they had actually gotten back on the Rescue boat with its diesel motor. They could have been here two days ago. but from what Eric had told him about the situation with moving the FOB, the crew of the rescue boat was needed else where which had left Eric to work out a Deal with the Captain of the Yacht to bring his people all the way to Sullivan.
“when you talked about this place, I never thought it would be like this “ Bare ass Baily said looking around at the people who had gathered to watch the arrival.
“oh you haven’t seen the best yet” Jared said with a grin. “ we are floating out a few homemade tidal Generators tomorrow, and we should have the large solar array that we scavenged set up by the end of the week, which will provide enough power for the rooms we need in the fort and several of the critical buildings. by the end of October we should have power supplied to the occupied homes, well limited power. Enough for an appliance and lights but that’s better than nothing.” Jared explained.
As they started to walk towards the fort Eric stopped and looked back, “ hey Casey, you and Lauren had better hurry up if you want the grand tour” He called out, grinning as he saw they were holding hands and talking intently to each other. Finally Casey had stopped being cautious, life was to damn short and brutal these days to waste time.
After a moment they both leaped off the sail boat onto the dock and joined the Group of SF Men, looking nervously back at the Yacht, as if they might not see it again. Jared seeing the concern on their faces smiled. “I Promise it will still be there when you decided to leave.” he said.
Lauren looked embarrassed at being so obviously untrusting, but smiled back at Jared who seemed friendly enough. Her smile grew wider as six kids ran up chattering a mile a minute at Jared asking questions about the boat. One of them a ten year old kid wearing Camouflage overalls with hiking boots, clutching a puppy to his chest couldn’t take his eyes off the sail boat. Casey seeing the interest stopped by the boy, “ if your parents agree you can come on board and look around.” Casey looked puzzled as the boys face fell, and tears gathered at the corners of his blue eyes. what had he said… oh, oh no he thought.
“he lost is Parents in the first week” Jared, who had come to a stop waiting for them explained softly, then ruffled the Kids hair in a friendly fashion. “Tommy go find Sally when I come back, Casey here can show you kids around the yacht.” Tommys face brightened instantly and he darted off to look for his friend or partner in crime as most called Sally.
“I should have realized, before I opened my mouth” Casey said feeling like an ass for bring up the boys loss, but there was no way he could have known.
“No way you could have know, about half the kids on the Island have at least one parent who survived. But theres a large number who are orphaned.” Jared said, from the anger that lurked in jareds voice, there was a story there, but Casey didn’t ask what that story may have been.
“I havent seen or heard a dog since that June” he said instead.
“Tommy found him in the woods, almost died too.” Jared said “ He and Sally, heard the puppy and went looking with out telling anyone, they found the puppy and a group of undead found them, Tommy grabbed the puppy stuffed it in his shirt, sent Sally running for the camp, while he tried to lead the zombies after him. we found him in a tree with the puppy still in his shirt and a bunch of undead with their bibs on and holding forks below the tree. He is one brave kid” Jared told him.
“how did so many people survive here” Lauren asked, “ I lived on Hatteras and I was the only one who survived” she was amazed to say the very least.
“ there were some people hiding in the fort when we got here, not many I think about thirty, there had been over a hundred at the beginning. The rest of us are from all over, we found them as we traveled from up around Nashville to Sullivan.” Jared explained as he led them into the Fort and into a cafeteria, where they sat down to a lunch of Mac and Cheese, shrimp and fish. While they ate, Jared and about twenty other people told the story of how they had all ended up on the island.
By late afternoon, a party for the Yachts arrival was being organized, by pre zombie standards it wasn’t going to be much of a party, there was little booze, rumor had it, that Ori started a still to address that particular problem. While they waited for the party to kick off at sunset Casey and Lauren had found themselves the center of the kids attention, giving tours of the Yacht, and answering questions. The whole thing felt so weirdly normal to them that it was surreal.
Lauren had to laugh as the kids had questioned Casey about how many Pirates he knew, and was Jack Sparrow one of them. Casey in the full swing of the situation had sat down on the deck and to the amusement of Jared and the two women who were teachers and watched over the kids, he wove a wild tale about pirates, battles at sea and sea monsters that ate ships especially zombie filled ships. By the time the tour if that’s what could be called was over, it was early evening and the party was about to start. Lauren had been hauled off by a couple of women who had set her up with a shower, a dress and make up for the evening, leaving Casey to fend for himself.
The party was held in the quad, where the garden lights and the string lights on some of the Rvs lent it a festive air. After the recent attack and the losses they had suffered a party was really what they needed.
Though Party was not exactly what you would call this get together. There was food and some booze, and there was music. There was no real dancing, just people discussing what they had been through and what the future might hold. The gossip line had already spread the Idea that Jared had discussed with Ashton and it seemed a damn popular idea judging by how many people were enthusiastically discussing looting every Museum and library along the east coast and in particular those in DC, New York City, Philly and Boston.
Jared sat in a chair in front the RV Jill by his side, Nibbler lay at his feet, springing up every time some one passed carrying food. tail spinning in a circle, ears perked up expecting every one to love her enough to give her their food.
“How’s if feel to be the father of a nation?” Jill asked suddenly. Jared gave her the bird.
She laughed for a moment. “don’t even joke about that, I’m nothing of the sort. And do not say that around any one else. I’m no George Washington. He couldn’t lie I damn sure can. These people created this place, ever one of them, I only got them here” Jared commented “and this is the US, and its going to stay the US not the Kingdom of Skippy the clown killer”
She didn’t say anything to that, the rest might agree about being Americans, but many of them had started to refer to the United States 2.0. and lay the responsibility of its creation at Jared’s feet. Oddly no one ever said a thing about it around Jared. They knew he would have raised all sorts of hell over that idea, and he would have, till Mary would be forced to spank him into silence, she smiled at that mental image but said nothing.
“Hey did you hear the news I pro created,” Ronny called out as Mary pushed him up to the RV in the wheelchair Linda had confined him to till his wounds healed more.
“God help the rest of the world, the undead are doomed now.” Jared replied with a laugh. “Lets hope the kid takes after Mary”
“Yeah yoke it up, now, but just wait, my kid will be the best looking baby ever born” Ronny said proudly.
“As long as it looks like Mary” Jared insisted as Mary laughed. “ I cant wait to see you convince Bridget and Sharon of that” Jared said as the two women walked up carrying their kids.
“Convince us of what” Sharon asked suspiciously.
“Oh Ronny here was just explaining how his baby, will be the best looking kid ever born” Jared said almost gleefully as Bridget and Sharon descended on Ronny.
“You Jared are an asshole” Ronny shot back as he held up his hands as if to ward off the two women. “ And me crippled in a wheel chair”
Jared sat back letting the women deal with Ronny and smiling. They all deserved this, they had fought and some of them had died for this moment, this peace. When Ori and Beth, Carol, Anne who shocked Jared by having a date arrived, Ronny was completely chastised. Chris and Shelly showed up shortly after. Jared looked around then flipped open the cooler by his side, to reveal dark brown bottles that glittered with frost.
“I don’t know where or how you get beer, but god bless you” Ori said pulling out a bottle.
“ You had better have some of that shine with you Or I’m cutting you off “ Jared said, smiling as Ori pulled his silver hip flask out and passed it to Jared.
Jared took a sip listening to his friends talk, as the crowd slowly gathered, Rob and his boyfriend, Gary, Kevin and Mattie, Logan, Stephanie and Ryan, Jeff Sloan and Vickie, their kids playing with Tommy, Sally and several other kids just in front of the RV. Jared had to laugh as a little blond girl tried to ride Nibbler who looked put upon but walked a few feet with the girl on her back, the girls little feet dragging the ground. Tommys puppy, named Mr. spots, was having a grand old time playing with the kids, yipping and running in circles as the kids chased him shrieking happily.
He couldn’t help but smile at Anne who seemed to be very interested in her date, God that girl had come a long way since Seth. Amy was off to one side talking with Tim Mears, and Jared was pretty sure there was another romance building there.
He spotted Lany and damned if Ori hadn’t been right when he described Harald Grimmson as looking like a Viking, Lany looked tiny beside the wide shouldered, thick armed, six foot blond with the braided beard, a Troll Axe no less, strapped across his back.
Sometime during all that Ed and paddy arrived, along with many others who had made the first Trek to Sullivan, Jeb and Mai linn looked happy together, Mr porn star seemed happy to be off the market Jared thought.
Mike and Ilyana seemed to be working things out between them, Judging by the hand holding, the beaming smiles and the quick kisses they stole when they thought no one was looking, and as far as Jared was concerned if any one in this entire group deserved a little Happiness after Anne, it was Mike after the screwing he had been handed by bowler hat. He spotted Cole and some of his people including Ty and Frank with his trophy wife as Cole called her in the crowd that had formed in front of the RV. Cole was a good man, Jared thought, a man who had come into his own after the world ended.
So many people that had become good friends bonded by shared dangers, and a will to survive, not only survive but thrive. And god had they paid for that, losing so many along the way.
Faces floated through his mind, Henry laughing at some joke, Steve being hauled out of the mud after sinking his first custom truck in a eight foot deep mud hole, Mark dancing naked on a table top in Heidelberg after one to many shots.
An image of Pappy chasing trick or treaters with a skillet one year after the kids had set a bag of dog crap on fire on his porch in retaliation for Pappy giving them advice instead of candy. The advice of course was the kind that only pappy could give and had been as polite as he could manage for kids. Jared had laughed his butt off listening to the incredible stream of profanity laced threats that spewed from Pappy. That much cussing should have struck every one of those kids dead as Pappy chased them into the darkness dressed in only a t-shirt and a pair of boxers. His skinny white legs glowing in the dark, bright enough to bring a plane in for a landing. There were other faces and other memories that flashed across Jareds mind, to many, far to many.
He rose suddenly slipping an arm around Jill’s waist, “A toast” He said as His friends old and new fell silent, their silence rippled across the quad as others turned curiously towards Jared’s RV.
“To absent friends and loved ones lost along the way, with out them we wouldn’t be standing here.” he said holding up his beer, the toast was passed around the quad till every man and women on the quad held up their drinks and a moment of silence fell across the quad. Jared’s eyes fixed on the group of kids playing front of the RV, and smiled.
Jill’s eyes widened as she saw where Jared was looking, a chubby blond kid, was petting Tommy’s puppy, a set of Dog tags dangled around his neck, Billy Thornton smiled waved and was gone.
Sullivan Island many years later.
Things couldn’t be much better, he thought as he shoved his hands deeper in his pockets, watching the waves roll in. gulls wheeled over head, occasionally diving into the water to snatch a meal. He watched as a three masted Schooner cut across the harbor, returning from its patrol along the coast, heading for its anchorage.
He smiled then turned and walked up to the path that cut through the woods along the edge of the beach, it was quiet there cloaked in early evening shadows. Stepping from the trees he found himself just outside the new cemetery, well not so new know, but it hadn’t been part of the Island before the Undead had come so many years ago.
He walked slowly between the graves, wishing he could have met so many of the people buried here. but most had died when he was very young, or before. his parents grave was something his Dad would have hated, a monument full of praise, and gawdy. Caleb wouldn’t have changed it for the world; the monument was really for the people who had placed it there not for his mom and dad. It made the people here on the island feel proud and that’s what mattered. His eyes lingered on the single epitaph that one of his dads friends had insisted be placed there.
“Friend, Brother, Family, Rest in Peace Soldier you will be missed” Caleb felt tears well up, but wiped them away. Below that had been added, “ Rest in peace Sister you will be missed” That inscription was the only thing on this monument that would have meant a thing to his mom and dad.
As the fires of sunset swept across the horizon in bands of red, gold, azure and purple, he knelt and placed the flowers he carried on his parents grave. “you would have loved today Mom and Dad, Kelly found out she is pregnant, you are going to be grandparents. and we are getting married at the end of the month”
Tears trickled down his cheeks for a moment then he grinned at his own emotionalism. “and I wanted to come out here and thank you, with out you. I wouldn’t be here, and I would never have found Kelly and these people would all be dead. Rest in Peace okay” he said softly looking around at the gently swaying trees that dotted the cemetery as if listening for an answer.
Caleb Stone rose to his feet and headed back towards town, where lights were flickering to life and the fishing boats were returning from a long day out on the water. he smiled and waved as he saw a Battered old black Van coming down the road towards him.