Dilemma Part 3
“Darker—still darker! the whirlwinds bear
The dust of the plains to the middle air:
And hark to the crashing, long and loud,
Of the chariot of God in the thunder-cloud!
You may trace its path by the flashes that start
From the rapid wheels where’er they dart,
As the fire-bolts leap to the world below,
And flood the skies with a lurid glow.
What roar is that?—’tis the rain that breaks
In torrents away from the airy lakes,
Heavily poured on the shuddering ground,
And shedding a nameless horror round.
Ah! well known woods, and mountains, and skies,
With the very clouds!—ye are lost to my eyes.
I seek ye vainly, and see in your place
The shadowy tempest that sweeps through space,
A whirling ocean that fills the wall
Of the crystal heaven, and buries all.
And I, cut off from the world, remain
Alone with the terrible hurricane.”
~William Cullen Bryant, 1854
2035 hrs Erin Brinns Condo, Harbor Town Marina.
Shadows danced and flowed across the walls as lightening flashed outside. Windows rattled as thunder boomed and the wind gusted. Erin blinked her eyes dazzled, fear surging through her, who ever was in the living room would surely attack her right now.
She backed up a step, fear flowed through her as the almost forgotten smell of the undead washed over her, and something else, some thing that smell of rotting blood and spoiled meat.
A figure flowed into the hallway, all long limbs and oddly shaped head, dead eyes flickering with hatred under the rim of an old fashioned hat. Its mouth opened in a shark toothed smile of welcome. She screamed and pulled the trigger as a cold almost skeletal hand grasped her pistol.
“Honey it’s okay” Noel said as Erin’s eyes snapped open, Noel, one hand on Erins pistol, gently pressed the weapon down. “You fell asleep, you were having a nightmare.
Erin took a deep shuddering breath feeling Noels body heat against her back and that helped ground her. She blinked a couple of times and saw she was still in the hallway, sitting with her back against Noel. The thing from her dreams had not followed her into the waking world of storm and darkness.
It had only been a nightmare, She told herself firmly as her thudding heart finally slowed. It hadn’t been the all to real dream world that she and others had experienced during the time of the dead. That seemingly alternate reality haunted by the dead and something dark that reeked of rotting blood and decaying meat. The bowler hat-wearing thing was truly only a nightmare now but that made it no less terrifying.
“I’m okay” she said as the last wisps of the nightmare finally gave up their grip and slipped away.
It was still pouring down outside, the sound of the rain like a steadily beating hammer on the walls only the wind was louder and both were drowned out by the steadily rolling thunder. Not what she would have wanted to wake up to, but it beat suffering through yet another nightmare.
The Storm was a real danger unlike her dreams and being here in the hallway was the only real safe place she only hoped that every one else realized … what if they didn’t? she asked herself.
She twisted around in Noels arms and kissed her on the lips then climbed to her feet. “Baby I can’t sit here, I need to go make sure every one is okay, and get any one endangered to move to some place safer.” She said angry at her self for not having thought of that before. Another reason that some one else should be in charge, any one but Mathias.
“you’re not going out like that and you’re not going alone” Noel said “and don’t argue with me.”
“Yes Mother” Erin said meekly real amusement glittered in her eyes for a second. The two women donned rain gear, not that either of them felt it would do much good considering the severity of the weather but it might help. Erin added a old Guard combat Harness over her rain gear so she could add things like a coil of rope and a few other things they might need.
“we start by checking the condo’s in this building, make sure every one is safe and see if we cant get them all to gather in stairwell, which has to be safer than in the apartments.” Erin said as they walked out the door. “if this is a hurricane, it could go on for hours.”
“a day or longer” Noel said agreeing with her. “You know when this is over Mathias is going to have something else to scream about.”
“He will be right Noel I should have had some sort of plan in place, but at the moment I don’t care about Mathias, only making sure every one makes it through this storm.” She said knowing that after the storm there would be other problems like whether the farm survived and its survival rested on answered prayers, because there was nothing they could do to save the crops they had planted.
As they left the apartment, Erin paused in the doorway looking back into her apartment half expecting to see a figure capering in the corner, knives flashing as it smiled like the damned, Satisfied there was nothing there she shut the door.
Together they worked their way through dark building, knocking on doors and asking every one to gather only what they needed and cluster in the stairwell away from windows that could shatter and injure people with flying shards. If a wall or the roof went there probably wouldn’t be any where safe in this building anyway, and no one wanted to think about massive waves, like those during Katrina that might sweep across the island ripping buildings free and scouring the area down to only foundations.
Finally Erin stood in the lobby looking out into the storm, during the flashes of lightening she could see the trees were swinging wildly in the wind gusts that sometimes ripped away limbs and leaves to send them swirling madly through the air.
“we have to make it to the next building Noel, there’s a hundred people living in there.” Erin had to yell over the storm noise, hoping that Noel would stay here where it was safe, or at least safer than being out there. .
“I’m not staying behind so lead on,” Noel shouted back determine to go regardless of the danger. .
“Your both idiots” Chet Stoutmyer shouted as he joined them, he had no desire to sit in a dark stairwell no matter how safe it might be, and he liked both women and couldn’t just sit back in safety when they were both willing to go out there, risking their lives to make sure others were safe. “Someone has to keep a eye on you so I’m going with you.” he had been one of the top ranked salesmen for a Custom Yacht company before the dead, and to his surprise he had found during the time of the dead he was far tougher than he or any one around him had ever imagined.
Erin looked at him for a moment then nodded her agreement. Even now, despite a poor diet, Chet was a bull necked, barrel chested, thick limbed man with looks chipped from Granite.
“Here” Erin said passing Noel a coil of rope. “ tie this around you, keep ten feet free between us, then pass the rest to Chet.”
Outside the wind tore at them but it wasn’t strong enough to knock them down, but combined with the standing water and the rain she was glad she had insisted they rope together. Erin slipped and fell with a splash into the water rushing over the ground and swept her along till the rope brought her up short.
She struggled grabbing a hold of a large cement planter and got back to her feet then fighting for every step, stubbornly headed for the next building.
Heddy Gutter road.
Travis fired his weapon the sound of the gunfire was swallowed by the wind that gusted at just that moment and almost knocked Travis off his feet. He couldn’t see if he had hit his target.
The wind howled pushing at him and in the darkness, something darker than the night flew past him then something struck him in the back and almost took the weapon from his hands as he pitched forward letting his weapon go as he landed on his hands. Holy crap, he thought as he fought to stand. The two men he had been aiming at were gone, lost behind the curtain of rain and wind.
Another branch slammed painfully into his arm and side, the wind tore at him. We need to get to shelter, he thought fearfully. This is insane! He swore as something else struck him in the face, scraping skin and drawing blood.
The only chance they had was the house that lay off the road, the house those men had been watching. To hell with the raiders and warning any one they were out here, this storm was only gaining in strength, he told himself as he fumbled out that LED Police light he carried and turned it on. The light was dazzling, reflecting off the rain, and could probably be seen for miles he thought, shining his shoot me now light around.
In the beam of the light, he could see broken tree limbs, leaves and even bits of old trash flying through the air around them..
He finally spotted Tiembo and jabbed the light towards the house, then started walking forward, though if he wanted to fairly describe it, he was leaning into the wind and pushing against a wall instead of walking.
The rain driven by the wind, stung as it hit the bare skin of his face. Goggles, we need goggles in our kit from now on, not that realizing that right now helps a damn bit, Travis told himself angrily.
There are times that several things can happen at once that change the course of a mans life, and Travis might not know it but he had just reached that point. He had with out knowing it moved just far enough away to be in a safer spot. Safer not immune. The hairs on his arms and head rose stiffly and painfully as his entire body began to tingle. A loud buzzing and hissing noise filled his ears and he had only a second to see a soft blue white glow through the rain and then the world exploded in light and fury around him.
Lightning smashed down into the tree that Travis had been moving away from, the sap in the tree a poor conductor heated explosively into steam that blew the tree apart throwing bark and bits and pieces of burning tree through the rain. The lightning not satisfied with just a tree as a victim arced out striking Travis and those closest to the point of impact.
Travis only felt a searing pain like a thousand wasps stinging him all at once and then nothing.
Tiembo was a lucky as a man could be, as he realized later, he had been trailing Travis through the rain following the flashlight and praying no one shot at them, when all hell broke loose. Through the rain he saw something that made him blink in puzzled astonishment, Travis suddenly outlined in a soft blue white light, as was a nearby tree and the two men Travis had been aiming for and then there was an explosion of light and sound that rocked Tiembo to his core.
Travis cartwheeled through the air landing with a splash water face down in the mud rainwater beside the now burning tree. A thick limb from the destroyed tree fell on Travis’s back pinning him in place.
The two men who had been watching the house were not as lucky; they were closer to the tree that had been struck, and kneeling in three inches of water. They jerked and twitched, skin blackening and splitting, mouths opened in silent screams then they fell over into the water and lay still as the light faded. .
Tiembo shook his head as if that would drive the ringing noise from his ears, he blinked rapidly trying to clear the water and black spots from his eyes even as he rushed forward to grasp the tree limb that lay across Travis’s back, he strained at the limb barely moving the thing then suddenly Jones appeared beside him and with Jones help they heaved the limb off Travis.
With only the flickering light from the burning tree and the lightning to see by, Tiembo pulled Travis out of the mud and checked the mans pulse, “He’s alive” Tiembo shouted over the wind. “Let get that house cleared so we can get out of this storm.” he pointed hoping that Jones would understand, since he probably couldn’t hear a word of what Tiembo said over the wind.
Jones nodded in understanding, shouting at Tiembo motioned to the area around them, the only word Tiembo heard was “men” then Jones vanished into the storm to gather the rest of the squad.
Tiembo lifted Travis and slung the man, gear and all, over his shoulder. He had the strength thanks to Erin insisting that the Guards and scout parties have more food since they were vital to the enclave’s security, Teimbo had understood the resentment some felt over that decision but it had been a wise one and tonight it was proving its worth. What little Guilt Tiembo had felt about that policy vanished in the face of storm.
He staggered through the woods fighting the wind for every step, only able to see his destination with each flash of lighting. This was by far the wildest storm he had ever experienced he thought as he approached the dark house where Jones waited in the doorway. Driven by the wind, branches, leaves and debris blew past him.
“We found two men inside, didn’t give us a fight in fact they seemed relieved to see us” Jones said as Tiembo pulled Travis from his shoulder and together the two men carried him across the room and placed him on a musty smelling sofa.
Tiembo used the flashlight he carried to quickly inspect Travis, the mans clothes were ragged and singed looking like he had been through a bomb blast. “his boots are gone” Tiembo said “ he got knocked right out of his boots.” Tiembo shook his head noting the spidery looking red marks that ran up Travis’s arms and across his chest. it almost looked like a branching web of lightning bolts Tiembo thought.
Travis was breathing well so would probably be all right, of course if some thing was wrong there was not a thing Tiembo or any one else here could do about it.
“I can’t believe he lived through that” Jones said looking down at Travis.
“Neither can I” Tiembo replied loudly to be heard over the sound of the storm. “we aren’t going anywhere till this storm is over or the house comes down around us. So lets make sure some one is always watching Travis in case he needs help or some thing” he added to Jones who nodded in agreement.. “now what about the two guys you found.”
“Murphy and Sal, two of Tuckers men” Jones said shrugging in the darkness. “you can talk to em yourself.” Jones said then yelled for the men to be brought into the room. Tiembo turned of the flashlight to save the batteries, and lit a stub of an emergency candle he carried with him. The candle only provided enough light to make him realize just how dark it was.
hearing the tramp of boots in the hallway, he looked up as two men were escorted in,
Tiembo had them sit on the floor, where he sat as well while the rest of the squad stood around them. “Mind if we have some light” One of the men asked. “that candle isn’t worth crap.”
“We have a single flashlight, and the batteries are damn near gone, so no, the candle will have to do” Tiembo stated not about to waste resources if he had a choice.
“We have a light we can use” the man said. “in my pack.”
Tiembo might not want to waste the precious batteries he had but he didn’t mind these guys wasting theirs. “then by all means go ahead.” He said, as one of the men got his pack off and opened it up.
The man hooked up the light working more by touch than sight, since the only light in the room was the sporadic lightning but a moment later light spilled from a LED lantern. Tiembo could see wires ran from the Lantern to two bolts set in the top of a ten inch tall brass tube. Tiembo had no idea where they had come across a battery like that. he gazed at it in wonder for a moment then looked up at the two men.
“I’m Murphy,” the pug nosed Dark haired man who had set up the lantern said. And that’s Sal” he added gesturing to the thin blond man. Both looked better fed than any one in the Enclave.
“I’m Yance Tiembo and I guess I’m more or less in charge right now” Tiembo said glancing over at Travis who was still out. “So what were you doing hiding in here and why were there two men watching this place.”
“We are from the Sea Pines Enclave, Tucker and Chapmans people,” Murphy said, his eyes flicking to the living room windows that rattled under another gust of wind. “Ran into some Raiders earlier today. Tried to lose them and thought we had when the storm rolled in, but then they showed up outside. I think we killed two of them, I know we badly wounded a third and were trying to figure out what to do about the others when you folks showed up.”
“You folks led raiders across half the island to our front door” Tiembo said angrily.
“Not on purpose! hell we didn’t even know where we were at till one of your guys told us. We don’t know the island all that well.” Murphy shot back. “ I had only been here for two days, a dream vacation, when the dead rose, after that I haven’t left the enclave enough to really know the island.
Tiembo shook his head and throttled back his temper, besides he doubted any of the raiders would make back it through the storm, much less attempt a raid on the Enclave on a night like this. “well since you’re here, and we’re here and no place to go till the storm passes, might as well spend the time with out killing each other.” Tiembo said. “Jones, you still got that deck of cards”
“Sure do Yance” Jones replied digging out the deck of bicycle cards and tossing them to Tiembo.
Tiembo smiled as he opened the pack of cards while looking at the two Sea Pines men, “either of you know how to play Texas Hold em.?”
0100hrs, Harbor town Enclave,
The wind shrieked outside, a fitting echo of Mathias’s emotions. That damned Lesbian bitch had one upped him again, no she had blindsided him. who would have thought she would have gone from building to building in this weather moving people that had need to some place safer as well as, and annoyingly, checking on every one including himself. Oh she had been nice enough with Chet that simple minded ox tagging along behind her. secure that her pet ape would protect her as she stood there mocking him with her presence as she asked oh so kindly if he were all right and did you need to be moved to safety.
Mathias could see the political calculation behind each word and the triumph in her eye’s and she had not tried very hard to talk him out of staying in his own place.
She would love to get him out of his house, so she could send that Fool Bob or more likely Morgan in to search his rooms while he was away. Well piss on that Miss high and Mighty, he thought angrily then made himself calm down for becoming angry would do nothing but cause him to make mistakes and he was positive that when this storm blew through Erin would have several problems that any one of them would cause her to lose her position.
He smiled to himself then glanced at his watch, he had time for a little more scotch, then maybe something sweet, he still had some Swiss chocolate stashed away, then Tolman was going to have to go take care of a few errands.
Water, over ankle deep, washed over the decorative walkway making walking difficult. The wind that tore at Erin only made it worse, she leaned forward barely able to move forward. She had managed to reach two buildings so far, and only having Noel and Chet along had made that happen. She had convinced the majority of the people inside those buildings to shelter in the Stairwells in the central parts of the buildings. It was the best she could do and was no guarantee of safety but it was better than nothing.
The rope around Erin’s waist suddenly went taut almost taking her down, and only grabbing a light pole kept her upright as she looked behind her. As more lightning crawled across the sky, she saw Noel on the ground, water pouring over her body as she struggled to get back to her feet.
Erin wanted to run to help but knew if she let go of the pole things would only get worse, and in that flash and flicker of light she had seen Chet moving towards Noel. Please, she prayed not even sure if any one was listening. Please help her.
Chet, eyes slitted against the cold rain, fought the wind and the water to reach Noel. The wind shrieked and bellowed around him, bringing back memories of Katrina which had struck while he had been visiting his grandparents down on the gulf, They had barely escaped with their lives that day and they had been the lucky ones.
Over the years he had gotten angry hearing all the whining and crying about New Orleans which had not been all that badly damaged by the storm compared to towns like the one his grandparents had lived in. Where the only thing left of the town of two thousand had been the foundations of the old courthouse. Nothing else remained and it and many other small towns that had vanished from the face of the earth during that storm and to this day no one really knew how many had died in the small towns, vacation cabins, and boats along the gulf that had been swept away.
He finally reached Noel and hauled her to her feet. he leaned in close and shouted almost in her ear. “We need to get out of this storm, Hang on to me.” She nodded in agreement. With Noel hanging on to his belt, he waded forward following the rope to Erin who clung to a pole.
“We have to get inside” Chet shouted and pointed in the direction of the nearest building, the one they had started calling the Market due to the number of stores it had once contained, it was only shadow on the wall of rain as lighting flashed but that was enough to ignite the hope of sanctuary from the storm. Beyond the Market, unseen in the storm lay the Lighthouse.
She never knew how long it took to reach the building, it had been one long nightmare of ripping wind, flying debris and driving rain that felt like it was slicing through her clothes and skin.
Then suddenly she was in the shadow of the building, she felt around her anxiety growing, trying to find a door handle. Chet cried out in pain, Noel screamed and something slammed into Erin’s leg, sending jagged bolts of pain roaring through her body.
Off balance she fell and hit a planter, despite the pain she pulled her self up, only to be driving against wall as something else slammed into her. The pain was incredible, and she almost slumped against the wall and gave up, then angrily made herself keep searching for the door handle.
Her hand brushed something metal, please, she begged silently as she gripped it and found the handle, she pulled and the door opened maybe an inch but the wind was to strong. “Help” she shouted at Chet, but her words were ripped away by the wind and went unheard.
Suddenly the door moved and Hands reached out and dragged her inside. Noel and Chet followed and as the door finally closed blocking off the worst of the noise, a small oil lantern was lit.
“Damn Erin, what the hell were you doing out there” John Meristal asked worriedly as some of the others who lived in the building crowded around.
Soaking wet, and freezing cold, she began to shiver uncontrollably. “We were going from building to building trying to get every one out of their condos and into the stairwells or some place in the center of the buildings and away from the windows that can shatter.” Chet said in a pain filled voice as he cradled his left arm. .
“That can wait John, look at them. They look like drowned rats and are wet to the bone, and if you were paying attention they are hurt. You men get them into my place” Myrtle Banks said in the tone Grandmothers everywhere used who wanted dense male grand children to get the lead out. Even today, she somehow gave off the impression of a plump jolly Grandmother, despite being rail thin from near starvation. “I swear if things were left up to you lot, we would all be dead from something stupid like running with scissors” she said in a scolding, yet amused, tone of voice.
“Let me put down my scissors first” John said half smiling, but his eyes kept cutting over to the door nothing was going to be able to make him stop worrying about the storm raging out there. Myrtle smiled faintly then lifted one of the lanterns and led the way.
Myrtle was one tough old bird, Chet thought watching her. She had been one of the last to reach the Enclave before the gates had been sealed. The final Guard patrol outside the wire had been returning and had come across Myrtle standing on top of a Mini van swinging a piece of rebar like it was the sword of god crushing the skulls of the undead that had surrounded the vehicle.
When the patrol pulled up along side the van, and got her inside they found she had a minature dog stuffed in her blouse, the little terror of the enclave still lived, and was not very happy to find its den invaded by three new people.
“get your furry little behind in your bed” Myrtle told the dog as it darted out from under the couch and tried to nip John on the ankle. It skidded to a stop and gave her a disgusted look at being balked then turned and strutted over to the dog bed in the corner, no doubt plotting its next attack.
Gazing at the dog, Erin was hit by the realization that not one person had ever suggested that the dog be killed because of the amount of food Myrtle shared with it. Funny how some of them show more humanity for an animal than they do for other people, she thought.
“get those clothes off, Ill get blankets you can wrap up in, then see if I cant get people to donate some clean dry clothes for you to wear and it might do you two young ladies some good seeing a handsome naked man. I know if I were twenty years younger it would do me some good.” She said with a wink and a smile at Chet who looked suspiciously flushed like he might be blushing.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
Ever seen a Hurricane, well I think there is one blowing outside now. the storm began to blow in around 5 or so, just a lot of wind and some light rain that came and went. Nothing big, but by 7pm it was getting nasty, and its only grown in strength since then. The house is creaking and moaning around me, the walls actually looking like they are moving in and out like the house is breathing.
I’m sure that Jared would have some quote or old story to add that would emphasis how bad it is out here at the moment. I can only say, I would rather be facing a horde of the walking dead while being naked smeared in Bbq sauce and armed with only a ladle than to go through this storm.
Now on to what brought me here, I was trying to get back to the Enclave with my load and the storm was just getting worse, and the wound in my hip was really starting to hurt badly, when I saw a man in the middle of the road, he pointed into the trees and then started walking. To be honest I didn’t have a thing to lose, if he had been a raider or a thief he could have attack me right then, and if he had friends waiting, I figured being robbed was worth getting out of this storm.
I couldn’t find the man, but the house is only a short ways off the road, and the garage door was standing open, so I pulled the cart inside and got the garage door closed.
After that I went through the house searching for the man who had led me to this place and didn’t find a soul inside. I know what some folks would say, and I’m not sure I disagree with them but at the same time despite all that’s happened in the world I still have trouble believing in ghosts. I guess I don’t want to believe but honestly why would some one lead me to a shelter than vanish into the storm. Unless of course I didn’t see a man but a bunch of shadows in the storm that just looked like a pointing man to me. Oh hell I don’t care, I could go around and around with this and still get no where.
So back to the important stuff, as bad as this storm is I don’t think the Enclaves crops are going to make it through it, and they aren’t alone on this island. If their farm doesn’t survive, I think my plan is the best option they have now, but I really hope to be able to contact Sullivan and get some suggestions. If I cant I will muddle through as best I can.
As long as the man I hired to sail over to the mainland is safe, I think I can promise I will be able to muddle through this mess to the outcome we need.
Anyway, I’m turning off the tablet and the lantern now, to save juice. Might as well sleep if I can, besides I would rather be asleep if the storm tears the building down around me.
The storm raged most of the night finally dropping in intensity till at sunrise only scattered showers and light winds remained, an hour later only a gentle wind was left and the sun shone down from a sky that only a storm can make it appear that blue. T
he storm damage would remain for years to come, a reminder that man may have survived the undead but it still had Mother Nature to deal with.
Chris woke wrapped in his sleeping bag, in the back of a walk in closet.he had used for shelter during the night. he lay there for a moment trying to figure out what was different before it finally sank in that the noise of the storm was gone.
Taking his pistol he stepped out into the bedroom and saw light through the dirty window. Feeling his spirits rise,. He walked carefully through the house and out the front door.
It smelled of water and damp earth outside, he noticed as he stood there gazing into the light mist that swirled slowly through the area. He stepped down into the sodden grass, water squelching up around his boots. A tree had fallen during the storm taking out a guest cottage beside the house. He looked around but saw no one and no bodies, wondering once again who or what might have saved his skin last night and where they might have gone. .
He walked around the house, enjoying the quiet early morning, rain water still dripped from the tree branches, occasionally something in the distance would crash to the ground.
He circled the house once, then went inside and fixed himself a quick cold breakfast, before hauling his cart outside and setting off for the Enclave.
He reached the road which was covered in leaves and small limbs and turned towards the Enclave. A pall of smoke hung in the sky to the east and north, something had burned during the storm Chris thought as he trudged down the road, the pain killer he had taken only blunting the pain in his hip. He had to work the cart around several fallen trees which only added to the strain on his hip. But that pain was nothing compared to the apprehension that gnawed at him about the fate of the Enclave.
Just before the bridge across the now flood swollen creek, he saw a group of men trudging slowly towards the Enclave. two of them carried a door with a man strapped to its surface.
They stopped and waited, weapons ready as he approached. Drawing near he saw the man being carried on the door was Travis.
“McCaffrey” one of the men, a blond said. He looked familiar to Chris, and for a moment, he couldn’t place the man then recognition dawned. “What the hell are you doing out here? and what happened to Travis.” Chris said nodding in gretting to Tiembo and Jones.
“we went looking for you yesterday evening and got caught in the storm.” Joe Greely, the Blond stated.
“what happened to Travis” Chris asked gazing at the unconscious figure on the door.
“he got hit by lightning,” Greely said, glancing towards Tiembo who didn’t seem to care that Greely was passing along information.
Chris had seen a few people hit by lightning over the years while he was a ranger, most had died instantly, those that managed to live through the strike had usually died on their way too or at the hospital. In his experience only a few lucky ones survived.
Greely looked past Travis to the cart the trader pulled, he was very curious where McCaffrey had gotten the cart and even more curious about what was under the tarp that covered it. But at the moment he had more pressing concerns, “do you think you can make room on that Cart for Travis” he asked. and if McCaffrey said no then Greely would use force, Carrying Travis might do more harm than good.
“I don’t mind, if one of you doesn’t mind pulling the thing, I thought I was a bit more healed than I was.” Chris said “at the very least one of you can help me pull it.”
“I think we can do that, “Greely said sending the other man back to the house where the others waited. “and if you don’t mind my asking what do you have in that thing”
Chris gave him a half smile, “all kinds of things, I will let you take a look when we get back to the Enclave, you might want to trade with me after you see some of this stuff.”
“don’t you feel guilty doing this sometimes” Greely asked,
“what trading, No I don’t.. think about it this way, I find stuff other folks might need or want and they trade me things I might need or want. People like you don’t have to go out digging through old buildings to find the stuff, wasting time and energy when some one like me is more than willing to do it.”
“any one ever tried to take your stuff” Greely asked.
“a couple of times, I gave them free lead samples and they declined to continue their bargaining position.” Chris said. A cold light flickered in his eyes for a moment then he shrugged. “Its not a mistake to many make” he added.
The Two men carrying Travis gently got him on to the cart and with Chris’s help got Travis strapped down as gently as they could.
Travis looked like crap, Chris thought looking at the man once more.
“Lets get him back” Tiembo said when they finished. “they are probably going to need our help cleaning up too.”
0700 hrs, Sea pines Epicurean Market
Salinger pushed aside pieces of fallen drop ceiling and tin that had once been part of the roof. Finally, he could see the dim gray light of dawn as he pushed aside the last piece and took a deep breath of fresh air.
He was tired, god he was tired but there was a lot to do still. he began to pull away pieces of debris trying to help those trapped underneath. The brilliant idea he’d had about the using the shelves had at least worked some, the larger pieces, like the beams and large sections of roof had fallen and struck the shelves keeping them from slamming into the people underneath.
As soon as Waters was free, he would send him off… Waters! He was, had been outside the shelves. Salinger turned then scrambled over the debris calling out Waters name, he reached the spot he last remembered Waters being at and began to heave aside the steel beams and roof material.
Lifting up a section of tin that still had foam and the black roof covering on it, he stopped and looked down, Waters lay in a puddle of water that had seeped under the debris, a beam had fallen across his chest. Waters wouldn’t be helping Jacob Salinger ever again, he thought gazing at the still, pale body.
Waters wasn’t the only death in the small party, out of twenty men and women, five had died, and four others were injured.
Salinger viewed each body, and then silently walked outside where he stood gazing at the downed trees and snapped power poles. He turned west where the Enclave lay, wondering how they had fared and was there any point to raiding the place now. Or should he do what Waters had suggested a couple of times and speak directly to Erin Brinn.
For once the anger and other emotions he usually felt when thinking about Brinn were absent. Only grief at the loss of Waters and the others and the crushing realization that he had failed kept his anger at bay.
Waters had never trusted their man inside, and Salinger had been on the same page, but the inside man had been useful. But What if the scenario that Waters had spoken of several times was right and that the Enclave did not have the food supplies they had been told about and that was the reason the Enclave had not been willing to help, they couldn’t help.
Yes I enjoy being in charge, I will admit that and any one that’s ever been able to order men and women into harms way knows it the biggest power trip you could ever have. But to waste their lives, god tell me I haven’t wasted their lives for a fools quest.
He had eleven people left to raid the Enclave, Eleven, six men and five women, even if he brought along every one that was left in his group there wouldn’t be enough now, not even with the weapons and ammo.
What was it he had told Waters, every person killed was one less mouth to feed, God how stupid I was to say that, He thought as a parade of dead faces flowed through his mind. What was the price he was willing to pay, what was the price his people were willing to pay and in the end would it be worth it.
He had to do something or they were all dead anyway, he just hoped that what ever he came up with by the time they reached the Enclave would be the right thing. He faced the morning sun where it shown through a ragged gap in the cloud cover then headed back into what was left of the store calling out. “lets get our dead buried, then we are going to pay a call on the Enclave.” he turned to look towards the Enclave, unable to see it for the distance. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he got there, but he was seriously thinking about talking because it’s what Waters would have suggested.
The people of the enclave emerged from their homes and shelters to find downed trees, shattered windows and three boats sunk. The Ground was covered in branches, old leaves, even older trash and some human bones.
Erin already exhausted and sore got search parties organized and moving the moment the storm faded to a drizzle that dropped off to nothing shortly after. Despite her best efforts last night, the search parties discovered ten dead, one of them Charley who had drowned when the yacht he had been living on had sunk. Hardest of all, Walter had fallen out a storm shattered window just before dawn and died.
Like Bob she was suspicious about Walters death, but she couldn’t just go accusing Mathias of murder or ordering the murder of Walter with no proof. So she ignored it for the moment and as soon as things were in hand around the Marina she headed for the Farm.
0730 hrs The Enclave Farm
Trees were down along the edge of the Farm, branches, leaves and other debris from the collapsed building to the east lay scattered across the ground.
Erin slogged across the muddy ground, tears streaming down her face at the sight of the ruined crops. It was gone, at least most of it and there was no way to get it back. what was left probably wouldn’t feed forty people much less the now five hundred and forty people of the enclave.
Bob was quiet, wrapped in his own feelings facing the possibility of starving to death. A silent crowd as forming as the survivors of the Enclave slowly gathered to stare at what had been their source of food, but a source of pride that they were overcoming the odds against them.
The corn was gone, the wind and rain had bent it over bruising and breaking the stalks, more than half the bean plants were gone, the ones that remained were the vining bean plants as well as the vining spinach.
The tomato plants were battered but looked okay, hopefully the onions, potatoes, Garlic carrots and other root plant’s would survive. She could feel the others eyes on her, wondering what if anything she would or could do about the situation. Why they hoped she had an answer to this disaster was beyond her. no one could fix this even if the plants had survived their problems wouldn’t have gone away.
And now Mathias had even more ammunition to use against her, but did he have a solution did he even care or was becoming leader the only thing he really cared about and hadn’t thought any further than becoming top dog of the Enclave. Well he might be out of luck, there might not be an Enclave after this.
And speak of the Devil, she thought seeing Mathias walking towards her. Dressed as neatly as ever, she noted in disgust. All ways making a statement aren’t you, she thought acidly. She said nothing as she watched him leave the path and walked carefully across the muddy ground a look of grave concern on his face.
“I see the Damage was far worse than I had anticipated” Mathias said as he came to stand before her, shaking his head with a carefully calculated amount of sorrow in his expression.
“Between this and the deaths last night, we were hit hard” Erin said neutrally.
“Its sad that after all the effort you put into trying to save others last night that so many still died, including Walter.” Mathias commented his eyes sweeping the ruined crops before coming to rest on Erin again. “I hope you have a plan Erin, many think you’ve wasted time and resources on fools errands, like feeding and treating the traveler.”
So that was one of the angles he planned on playing, the bastard was slick, she would give him that. She shouldn’t be surprised he would try to use peoples natural suspicions of strangers to his advantage.
Mathias let the silence play out, completely aware of the people standing nearby and listening. After a minute he cleared his throat. “am I correct in assuming we do not have the necessary amount of supplies in storage to see us through.”
“We have more than enough to see us through the next month or two, enough time to gather more supplies.” Erin replied.
“gather them from where Erin, The Sea pines Enclave maybe, they supposedly have greenhouses that are supplying them with food. Because we both know the buildings around here are empty. Oh we might find a can of beans under some debris if we look hard enough Or are you pinning your hopes on the so called trader who is playing you and the Enclave for his own ends.”
“Mathias, I have to ask do you actually have a plan to help. Because these people cant eat words. If you have a way to supply food for them, I will gladly let you feed them. But if you don’t have a plan..” she trailed off looking at him with a questioning gaze. A silent put up or shut up moment if there ever had been one.
“I have a few ideas?” Mathias said evasively. “first I believe…”
“Mathias, I do not have time for your shit” Erin said cutting him off. “We have problems to deal with, real problems that need solutions not just words. And as the person in charge I have to deal with them till a vote removes me from office or I step down.”
Mathias smiled his eyes blazed with victory. Erin knew she had just stepped right into the trap he had been waiting to spring. “No I am not in charge Erin. But after this debacle I think all of us might want to consider our future and whether we hold any confidence in our current leadership. Your brave, and tough Erin but the walking dead are gone and the threats we face now are not something you seem to be able to deal with.”
“I find it interesting Mathias, that you had no problems cowering behind me when the dead were walking and your spine only seemed to appear when Tolman and the others began to work with you.” Erin said acidly no longer caring about the politics of speaking out. ‘Exactly where is Tolman at the moment” She asked not seeing the toad in the area. Tolman was Mathias’s shadow and it was rare that he let Mathias out of his sight.
The crowd of people drew closer, drawn like Gawkers to a car wreck. No one would admit it, but there had been a betting pool going around on how long it would take Erin to finally blow up and tell Mathias off. Some one had just won big in the Enclave.
The smile of triumph on Mathias face curdled at the insults, “how dare you” he snapped angrily. “With Walter gone, I represent his faction, how do you think we will respond to threats, insults and abject failure Erin.” Of course he would use that to dodge answering the question of where Tolman was, she thought angry at her self for handing Mathias that out.
“Since the rules allow for any one to call for town hall meeting at any time, then we will have a town hall meeting and you can ask for a vote of no confidence at that point if its seconded then a straight up or down vote can be held.” Erin said not even looking at the people around her. But all to aware that many of them agreeing with Mathias, not because they liked him. but out of fear of what was coming down the pike with the farm all but destroyed. “Think long and hard about this Mathias, if they vote to put you in as leader you will have to actually do something, words will not feed them or protect them and they will throw you out on your ass the moment they figure out you have nothing but words.” She said, Mathias’s look of contempt did not faze her at all. “as per the rules, Town hall meetings when called for will occur at the end of five days, to allow every one a chance to think over the issue and bring new issues to the table.”
“Except in an emergency Erin, and I think this qualifies as an emergency.” Mathias replied.
Erin could have argued that nothing decided today or in a week would change the problems they faced. “as you wish then, but I think we need at least two days, to recover, bury our dead and have some time for clear headed thought.” there was a rumble of agreement from the crowd.
“I am not the power hungry man you paint me Erin, and I too grieve. So I agree to Three days wait.” Mathias stated, as if he were being magnanimous. “ Good day Erin, I am afraid I have my own errands to attend to.” Mathias turned and walked proudly away. The nasty side of Erin hoped he would slip and fall face first into the mud
“Three days then” Erin said seeing Chris at the edge of the crowd with some of the security force with him. “all right lets get the debris cleared, we might be able to save more plants if we move fast.” She said addressing the crowd.
As the people moved out, she walked over to Chris. “I’m half tempted to have you escorted out of here. Tell me you can help me provide some kind of food for the Enclave”
Chris gazed calmly at her as if thinking, then nodded. “I can but it will take a while,”
“we have three days Chris, that’s it. No one likes Mathias, but with whats happened here, I think he stands a chance, and he obviously thinks he does as well.” Erin said. “after that, unless he really isn’t the man I think he is, the Enclave is dead and you wont be able to do any trading here, assuming you don’t suffer an accident.”
Chris smiled grimly “I don’t think Mathias or his people will enjoy what follows after killing me, but for now we have another problem to deal with. I think you might want to talk to your fishermen, you might find a little help you didn’t expect.” He said then looked over at the ruined farm. “did you know back in the early days, the people that lived here grew rice and made Indigo ink.” He said thoughtfully. “Rice grows in water or so I’ve heard, and it might still grow wild around here.” he added, with a glance in her direction.
Rice, she thought, feeling a flicker of excitement. Was he telling me it grows wild so we can gather it or is he hinting about something we could grow that would be safer from storms than normal crops.
“I get the feeling Mr. McCaffrey, your more than you seem” Bob said breaking the silence that had held him in its grip most of the morning.
“No, not really” Chris replied with a shake of his head. “now if you will excuse me, My hip is hurting like Hell and I am going to find a place to lay down for a while.”
Erin looked at the men with Chris, “take him to my place, he can sleep there. Maybe Mathias will spread a rumor about my sleeping with him.” she said with an angry smile. “ and tell Travis, I will need to talk with him and Morgan in a couple of hours.
“Yes Maam, and Erin, Travis is in the clinic. He was struck by lightning last night. He is alive but unconscious” Tiembo said.
Erin looked ill, so many had died or been hurt last night. Hearing that Travis had been hurt as well hit her hard. “will he be okay?”
“ Sandy thinks so, he said that since Travis was still alive he would probably pull through. But he would probably have problems for the rest of his life.” Tiembo said. “there are also two men from the Sea Pines waiting with Morgan to talk with you. I would have told you first thing but…” He said glancing at Chris for a moment.
“I understand, thank you. Now if you would escort Mr. McCaffrey to my place, I will go talk with our new guests, god knows what Mathias will have to say about this.” Erin said
“if you want we will stand guard outside your place, just in case.” Tiembo said with a casual glance at
Erin started to say no, but she hesitated. If Mathias had, had Walter killed, would he hesitate to kill Noel and Chris if it furthered his plans. Exactly where was Tolman?, she wondered. “I think that might be a good idea” she said after a moment. “A very good idea.”
1200hrs, Harbor Town Marina.
Erin covered in mud and tired as hell, walked towards the dock where the fisher men were busy. The volunteer crew were hard at work, half of them working on repairs to the fishing boat and the other half working something on the edge of the walkway above the dock.
Steve Darnell, and two others wrestled a fridge off a cart and placed it with the other five fridges they had hauled down. Some of the men were stripping the insulation from the fridges while others were cutting holes in the tops and bottoms. Steve, with his round face, thick lips and unruly black hair wasn’t a good looking man by any stretch of the imagination, but he was a good man. He had been working hard to try and help the food shortage problem, unlike Mathias and his cronies.
Steve, spotting Erin, waved and walked up. “Woman you need a bath and some sleep” Steve said gruffly after greeting her.
“I do, but it can wait. There’s to much to do after the storm” Erin replied watching the other men behind Steve. “what are they doing” she asked.
Steve smiled broadly “those are going to be smokers for the fish” Steve said. “I don’t know why I never thought of it, Used to read about people smoking meat in the books I enjoyed. Doing this, and if we store it properly the fish we bring in and don’t eat immediately can last for a week or longer.”
“you just thought of doing this now, after all this time” Erin asked, trying not to sound angry. That he was doing it was all that mattered regardless of what happened to her.
“like I said I didn’t think of it, not till after that Trader fellow came by yesterday morning with a deal. He would show us how to build a good smoker out of old fridges in exchange he wanted Ten pounds of smoked fish when he left and every time he came back to the Enclave. after talking with him for a few minutes I agreed. The only odd thing was he made us swear we wouldn’t breathe a word about it to any one but you for a couple of days, said he had a few other deals he wanted to make before word got out.” He said then shrugged, “I figured why not, since it would take us a couple of days to get the things set up. And its going to make a difference Erin, god will it make a difference. especially if we can increase the haul, and I’ve been thinking about how we can do that.”
Erin stared at the fridges, and the pile of pipes and other items stacked beside them, then looked towards the building where her condo was. Why? What is McCaffrey up to, she asked herself. “ will it offset the loss of the farm” she asked.
“No, no it wont” Steve said after a moment. “but combined with the food we do have stored, we will have a little while longer to figure out a solution to making it through the winter.” Steve said, ever the optimist.
“ I hope so Steve,” Erin replied as she gazed at the empty slip where Normans Yacht was normal tied up too. “Any idea of what he talked to Norman about”
The boat owners and fisherman were their own clique in the Enclave and there was little that happened in the Marina they didn’t know about.
“All Norman said was the man had asked him to sail somewhere and check something out, offered him a five pound can of coffee to do the job” Steve replied then licked his lips with subconscious craving. “The Trader probably had Norman promise not to tell any one about it like he did me.”
“I hope Norman is okay” Erin said, looking towards the mouth of the Marina and the water beyond. The storm had been hellish, and she got sick just thinking about being on a boat during last night’s storm.
“I’m sure he is, Norman is sea wise and probably knew that storm was coming in a couple of hours before it hit the area, probably found a cove to shelter in.” Steve said giving her a confident smile. She felt a surge of affection for the man who had been so loyal to the Enclave and to herself.
“I think its time I got Mr. McCaffrey to tell me exactly what he is up to” Erin stated, “thanks Steve,” she said, wondering why Chris would want it kept secret for a few days. The only thing that kept her from thinking he was working with Mathias was his telling Steve that he could tell Her about this.
“ Erin, I got the impression that he was worried about how certain people might react if they knew the food situation was about to improve.” Steve said.
Surprised she barely managed to restrain the impulse to pace back and forth, it wasn’t hard to figure out how Chris might have found out exactly what was going on here in the Enclave, he had spent a couple of days with Sandy, and Travis and his men, then talked with Norman, Steve and who know how many others. The real question in her mind was why not just wait till who ever was in charge after the fall out settled and make a deal with them. Oh she could assume its because Chris had the hots for her, and he might, but she rather doubted it. No Chris had his own agenda and it seemed that helping her and the Enclave was part of that agenda. So how far would that help go, because she really hoped it would go beyond comments about Rice, yes the smoker was a great thing but by itself it wasn’t going to change things. And more importantly was his final plan something that would help or hurt the Enclave. “Do you think we can trust him?” she asked aloud.
“Couldn’t say Erin, but I think he is a petty good guy. I might be wrong of course.” Steve said. “but I think he had a pretty solid point about some one not being thrilled over the smokers, for now though me and the boys will keep an eye on them.”
She nodded in agreement, whether she was right about Mathias or not, she couldn’t take the chance that something would happen to the Smokers. She would have Morgan assign some guards to the area just to be safe.
1215hrs, south of St. Phillips island, The Lady Catherine.
The sleek 99-foot yacht Lady Catherine sliced through the choppy water with ease. She was cutter rigged and built by Royal Huisman, her keel laid in 99. Norman had bought her in 2000 for a steal. Named for his wife who had thankfully passed two years before the dead rose, she was more than his home, she was a part of him.
Up on the bow, the young black man he had picked up along with the Cargo, stood holding onto the rail and staring across the glittering water.
Last night had been hell on the water, but Norman had watched the clouds building and the Barometer falling and knew to find a good sheltered bay. Henry Thomas Jackson, the young black man had been white as a sheet and held on to the rail for his life while he hurled up his stomach and other bodily organs during the worst of the storm.
Even with Normans years of experience on the water, he had never weathered a storm like last nights. To be honest he had usually avoided them like the proverbial plague.
“There it is” Henry shouted. Norman shaded his eyes and gazed ahead, there on the horizon were radio masts and part of a superstructure. Sure enough McCaffrey had been right, there was a wreck right there on St. Phillips island.
St. Phillips had been one of those private islands, rumored to be owned by Ted Turner the founder of CNN. Norman had no clue if that were true. All he knew was he had never had a reason to put in there before today.
“we will have to anchor off aways, Cathy draws 10 point 3 feet of water. I have a zodiac forward the Salon, its in a white barrel looking container.” Norman called out. He doubted the Cargo ship had been under power when she grounded any experienced crew would have known the water here was to shallow for them. Unless it wasn’t an experienced crew or they had wanted desperately to get off the ship, he thought.
I bet she came down from the north, through Trenchards Inlet before grounding, personally I would have gone out Deep and came down the Barriers and landed at Fripp Island, or on Hilton head, not here there wasn’t crap on St. Phillips at least not on the maps or that he had ever heard of.
He double checked to make sure that Henry was wearing his line then altered course. The wind was a little to light to run out the Yankee, so he would have to use just the Genoa and main and began to tack.
The minutes ticked by as the Yacht zigged and zagged across the wind, but finally the wreck he had come to find lay before him. She had been a cargo ship, a good sized one that had run aground here on St. Phillips sometime over the last six years. Henry gave him a thumbs up as the anchor dropped into the water with a splash and the line played out.
“I have to be honest Mister, I thought your friend was full of shit, and you folks might just be after my boat.” Norman said shaking his head as he gazed up at the wreck that loomed over his smaller vessel.
“So why did you say yes?,” Henry asked as he dragged the deflated zodiac to the rear and tossed it into the water, where it began to inflate. Which was pretty cool, he thought like in those Navy seal movies.
“Needed a bit of excitement, I guess. I haven’t taken Cathy out for a while now, and the last few trips I only went around Hilton head, sailing along the coast seeing all the dead towns and cities kind of eats at a man.” Norman said. “got to the point I just wanted to stay close by where I knew there were people.”
“Well we do want your boat, and you, and any one else with a boat that wants to help out” Henry said. “I’m kind of new at this, Chris is the expert I guess. We only met last November.”
“So your traders that give away the things you should be trading” Norman asked.
Henry laughed. “Something like that I guess, see we don’t have a way to reach this old wrecks, you do. you need supplies and things to trade. We set up routes and make a little along the way. So we show you where there are things to salvage, we get a cut of the salvage and we set you up to run a trade mission to the nearest ports. Which we will get a cut of.”
“What nearest Port?” Norman asked curiously. He was excited at the thought of other groups of survivors, especially survivors who were sailing the waters and trading like the days of Tall ships and buccaneers. Only he could do with out the Buccaneers and pirates.
“a place called Sullivan Island, they call themselves the Safe Zone, or just the Zone.” Henry said, that much was okay to say. “They got organized even before the dead stopped walking, there’s a lot of people there and on the mainland now.” Henry didn’t say how many, which was one of the rules. But Norman would probably find out soon enough
“Sullivan Island, by Charleston” Norman asked in surprise, people that close he’d had no idea, the few trips he had made early on were down south, Savannah, and places alogn the coast of Florida. He had planned on sailing north, but the south had been so dead and mentally devastating he had never gone north.
“yeah that’s the place, I found out about them last Christmas when Chris headed there to do a little trading and rest up over the holidays.”
Holidays, Norman thought, other than his setting up a small tree in the salon on the Cathy, no one in Harbor town had celebrated anything since before the Dead had rose. But as interesting as the holiday thought was, he was more interested in what kind of Cut Chris and Henry would be getting. “so are people still using money?”
“Maybe to wipe their butts with or start a fire. But not in the zone, or the other places we’ve been to”
“So how do you get paid.” Norman asked.
“Well Fuel, food, parts, other items we take and trade to people like you.”
“Fuel? Your telling me there is still fuel out there”
Henry didn’t hesitate, but that was a topic he should not have mentioned at least not yet.
“Yeah, sometimes people discover a little gas or diesel that’s still good. Mostly we trade it or use it in a generator.” Henry said, except he saw the truck and saw you unloading things from the truck. “The truck we use can run off of used motor oil, its not great for the motor, but it runs and there’s plenty of it out there.” Henry replied telling the truth but only to a point. “and we still don’t use it often. Chris likes to walk, Me Id rather ride around in style. Which the truck isn’t, but it’s the closest I can come to style these days.”
Once Chris and the people he worked for explained why they didn’t want to advertise the fact they were making their own fuel, he completely understood. Some groups might not want to trade at all but would be interested in attacking Sullivan to take what was there.
And until Sullivan had worked with a group for a little while Sullivan preferred to keep others from knowing just how far along they in rebuilding. Henry had never been the best educated person in the world and that he admitted was his own fault, to busy chasing girls and acting cool, and his nose in books learning things like history had not been cool. But he didn’t need all that book learning to understand some people just loved to take what others worked hard for.
Norman looked a little disappointed at the answer, but as he turned his gaze back to the wrecked Cargo ship his excitement returned. “and your sure about the cargo on this thing.”
“yes I am” Henry replied. “the guy that found it, was a friend of Chris’s. He doesn’t have the manpower or the time to salvage her, but I guess Chris thinks you do.”
Norman nodded absently, if he got a few of the others together, got more boats out here, posted some guards on board they could salvage her in a few months time.
Standing her looking at the wreck and knowing what McCaffrey believed was on board he completely understood and agreed with the McCaffreys desire to for Norman to keep this silent till he could prove what was on board and get the wreck secured. With a silent prayer and hope he got busy he wanted to finished by night fall, and if McCaffrey and Henry here weren’t full of crap Erin was going to be happy as hell when he came back.
1230hrs, Lighthouse road.
The small ragged group shuffled down the street, stunned by the devastation. It looked like some massive bulldozer had veered from one side of the street to the other, tearing up trees and houses. But leaving every other building on either side of the street intact.
Trees, crushed autos, furniture and all kinds of crap littered and blocked the road forcing them to go around the obstacles.
“ I think we got hit with some Tornado’s last night” he said to Waters before he remembered Waters was dead and buried. The grief that Salinger had kept bottled up surged up threatening to drown him. They had made it through so much together and Waters had died by being crushed to death by falling debris, it wasn’t right, it just wasn’t right.
He forced himself to focus on what was around him, he refused to lose it in front of the others. No one told him that tears had been sliding down his cheeks with regularity since he had buried Waters himself.
“what are we going to do when we get there” Miguel Arturo asked, the former Gardner was thin and on the ragged edge of exhaustion after last nights storm and digging out and burying the bodies of friends this morning.
“we aren’t doing shit, I am going to talk to Erin personally and see if we cant work something out.”
“she stole our food and you want to talk to her” Miguel asked in shock. “how many of our people has she ordered killed.”
“How many of theirs have we killed,” Salinger asked, then stopped and turned to face them . “Here’s the truth, we don’t have the manpower, or the physical strength to raid that place, especially after last night. Waters…” he said his voice trailing off for a moment then he rallied. “Most of you know that we have been talking with a couple of men inside the enclave who pass us info and even help us on occasion. Well Waters had come to believe that one or both of these men have been playing us and that some if not most of what we’ve been told about Erin and the enclave might be horse crap.
So I am going to meet with her, because what matters is we need food and if meeting with her will get us food or one step closer to a little more food then I will try it.”
“and if she has you killed like the last messenger we sent” Miguel asked angrily.
“Then I screwed up by going and you folks can do what ever you decide on.” Salinger said, and it means I wont be there to screw it up, he added silently.
He turned and started walking again, wanting to get this over with. It was possible that the firepower he had might cow Brinn into giving back, no lets call it share, some of the supplies she stole. But he wasn’t counting on it, not anymore not if what Waters suspected was right. Even with all the ammo, he just didn’t have enough people to take on six or seven hundred well fed people that lived in the Enclave and Brinn would know that as well as he did.
With out food we are dead and if we attack and lose we are dead, he told himself. I will talk first and if that fails I live through it, then we will attack but not with just eleven people I will bring up the entire group and we will go in together, win or lose. He hated the taste of failure, but it was something he was used to by now. he only regretted that the others were paying the price for thinking he was a leader. Funny it takes, not the undead, not all the other crap I failed at before, but this to make me see clearly.
Well better late than never I guess, he told himself as he rounded the curve and saw the Enclave fence and its gates. “you people wait here, if I’m not back in four hours, you head back to the others and then do what you have to do.” Salinger called back to the others who were staying out of sight. ignoring the rising fear that knotted his belly and made his palms sweat He slung his rifle and began to walk forward hands in the air. Waters I hope your right, but if not I will be seeing you shortly” Salinger said softly as Enclave guards appeared at the gate and on the roof top of the a nearby building.
The approach was covered in downed trees and debris from the storm and if he had wanted to attack his people could have gotten with in twenty feet of the gate with plenty of cover.
“I am Jacob Salinger, I want to talk to Erin Brinn” he called out. I am not their favorite person, I only hope they hold off shooting me till after I speak with Erin.
Tolman watched Salinger approach the gate through the scope on the hunting rifle he held. The asshole was supposed to have attacked last night, not walk up and announce himself at the gate, Tolman thought. last night he could have killed Salinger and his second in command and people would have called him a hero, and Mathias would have gained even more popularity for spotting the attack and getting Tolman and his other men in place to foil the raid. But that Storm had rolled in and stayed making every one hide. Now if he shot Salinger, it wouldn’t be fending off a raid, but killing a man who approached openly asking to talk.
Some would still consider him a hero for it, but others would scream about killing a man who was going to surrender. But lets be honest, you cant let Salinger and Erin talk, because if they do they will find out kinds of things Mathias didn’t want them to know about. Like none of the Messengers that Erin had sent had ever made it to Salinger and vice versa. Tolman had let Waters through because the man was carrying threats, and that could only help. But it wouldn’t take Salinger long to notice how under fed the people of the enclave were and that could lead to thoughts and comments about who might have stolen the food Salingers people had stored up.
No! the man has to die, Tolman said as he placed his finger on the trigger.