Dilemma

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey, Pathfinder, Hilton Head Island, June 2016

Hilton Head Island, was not what I expected. Its nothing like Sullivan with its sparse tree cover and military fortifications. Hilton head is more modern than Sullivan and a lot more spread out but they could afford spread out, the island is 65 square miles of forested land with plenty of oaks and pines and has sweet water sources at least according to the brochures I found at a shop.

I doubt I will see any good looking women lounging on the beach or shopping in tight little sun dresses like the brochure shows, damn the bad luck.

Getting to the Island wont be easy, I have spent the last week scouting the mainland shore. The bridge from the main land is packed full of abandoned cars, climbing up onto a power pylon allowed me to see that where the bridge finally drops onto Hilton head there is a national guard road block still in place. Built out of deuce and a halves, M113’s, sand bags and razor wire, and its manned by at least twenty armed people.

For several miles up and down the mainland coast, some one, probably the folks on Hilton head have sunk or burned every boat that could possibly be used to bring people across. In fact the only boat, ship, vessel what ever you want to call it, that might still work and that hasn’t been sunk, had the bottom shot out or burned to the water line was a ferry and with no fuel it wont be going anywhere for a long while. Unless I build one hell of a giant gasifier to power it. .

Thank god Ori insisted I carry a canoe, since that seems to be the only way to enter the island with out being shot at or turned away on the bridge.

I plan on leaving Henry to guard the truck and the bulk of the supplies that I am leaving. I will put in around 0300hrs in the morning to lessen the chances of being spotted by any possible look outs and hopefully reach shore before first light. after that I will play it by ear.

 

June 10th , 2016 Hilton Head island.

Outside the windows of the cluttered office, the sun was setting flinging bands of orange, red, honey gold and deep blue fading to black across the horizon. Erin Brinn stood at the window, watching a bird fly slowly across the Marina before settling in a tall tree and began to preen.

Harbor Town Yacht basin lay spread out below her, it’s almost circular basin was surrounded by stand of trees and quaint buildings that had once been full of boutiques, restaurants and home décor business’s. most of the boat slips were empty, their owners had used them to flee the dead in the first week of Armageddon.

It had been a mad house then, with the guard fortifying key points on the island trying to create safe area’s for civilians who were supposed to have been evacuated to some safe area.

Harbor town had been one of those evacuation centers. They had erected fences and palisades to encircle the yacht basin and the buildings immediately around the basin. The plan as she remembered was to house the civilians who had been in the nearby resort, hotels and homes in the area around the basin after they had been medically checked and cleared.

She remembered clearly having to strip in front of a hard faced doctor so he could examine her for bites while three soldiers stood ready to put her down if she had resisted or had been bitten. she could never forget the fear she saw in their eyes but as scared as they had been they did their jobs when every one else was trying to find a place, any place to run to.

She turned her head slightly to gaze at the sun washed hexagonal red and white lighthouse, golden bars of sunlight spilling across the features of one side of her face making her skin appear to glow and lending her an ethereal beauty. “how bad is it Bob?” She asked the man who sat behind her in a battered chair that had seen better days as she looked towards the south of the Marina where there was an old golf course right off the water, its new incarnation as a farm was not doing as well as they had wished or expected.

“Its not good Erin, we are losing to much food to rot, more than half the fish we bring in goes bad before it can be eaten and with no way to irrigate or water the gardens, most of the plants wilt and die or just don’t produce anything add to that the canned food and stuff might last another two or three months if we ration. In short we don’t have enough.” Bob replied hating telling this woman who had done so much, fought so hard for this group of survivors who had taken her in and accepted, no demanded her leadership during their darkest hour and refused to let her go.

she had only been 22 when the leadership role had fallen on her, and god how she had protested, he thought gazing at her. she was built like a runner, all lean and solid, yet curvy and feminine. her long dark hair was habitually pulled back into either a pony tail or french braid. she was so much stronger than she looked and somehow managed to hold on to her compassion and that held the enclave together more than anything else could have.

She didn’t respond for a long moment, one long finger tapping idly on the window frame, the once perfectly manicured and painted nail, now short and natural. “I guess I could complain, curse god and fate. But that would be pointless, the food the guard supplied and what we have scrounged around here has carried us through five years so we have been lucky when its all said and done” she said in that soft velvety voice, with out a trace of bitterness.

“Something I think you should consider, something others are talking quietly about is the number of pregnant women in the group. They need twice the food as men and the non pregnant women and when the babies are born.” Bob said his voice trailing off. He was only passing along what he had heard like he was supposed to but that didn’t make him feel any better about it.

“Exactly what am I supposed to do about it Bob, order them to stop being pregnant. Maybe order all the men to start sleeping with each other so no more women get knocked up. Personally I like that idea, what do you think”

“I think possibly that idea might be almost more palatable than another one I’ve heard lately.” Bob said, Erin raised a delicate eyebrow fixing bob with a questioning look.

“And what would that idea Be?” she asked, knowing that it had to be a doozy to make Bob so uncomfortable that even being ordered to be gay was more acceptable.

Bob muttered something looking acutely uncomfortable, “what was that Bob? Please tell you didn’t just say what I thought I heard” Erin said in disbelief, anger lending her words a hard edge.

“A few people have been talking about Abortions” he said again loud enough that she could hear him clearly.

“As in some of the men” She said angrily only just barely able to keep her self from rising out of her chair and breaking something.

“And a couple of women too” Bob added unhappily. “Look they are right about one thing, we can not feed the extra mouths. We are already looking at having to ration which will have some effect on the mothers to be, how bad that effect will be I’m not prepared to say. but it wont be good I’m sure. But once those kids are born, what do we do to feed them Or rather what do we do to make sure their mothers are healthy enough to breast feed them.

Erin, I hate the thought god knows I do, but we don’t have the luxury to oppose the idea of abortion not like we used to when there was food every where, charities to help and even families that would lend a hand.

Now we are faced with having to limit our own population to what can be supported by the food we can grow and catch and at this moment we are running out of enough to support the people we do have, add in more mouths to feed and a lot more people will die before its all over. And historically its always been the very young and the very old. Which means the lives of the newborns will till be at risk of dying once they are born.

I have to be brutally honest with you Erin, if we embrace the “they are our future” attitude for the unborn, the amount of food we will lose to the mothers and the kids will cause us to end up losing adults who have the skills and knowledge we need, to starvation and illness brought on by poor diet. And when we lose them, the kids are going to die anyway.

I would rather slit my wrists than make this decision Erin and I hate that you have too. The only thing good I can say is we have a month maybe two before this becomes a major problem.” Bob said, looking away as he wiped at his eyes. Damn me if he is serious she thought. and Damn me for what ever decision I end up making. I need an alternative, anything that will extend the time we have.

“Is there anything else?” she asked her voice tightly controlled.

“On the food side no not really. But there is another issue that’s related, I’ve heard a few people talking about seizing Salingers groups supplies,” Bob said wondering what her response would be to that. It was a low thing to do, stealing another groups supplies, but it was an option that would give them more food, not to mention that Salinger was slime.

“I do not want to murder anyone by stealing their supplies, and that’s what we would be doing if we stole their food. is there anyway Harry and Steven can lower the amount of fish they catch a day but keep a steady supply coming in weekly basis.” She asked thinking that if they could spread out the catch over the week, it would actually increase the amount of food they had overall. It might not be much more but ever little bit would help. “Or is there a way we can store what we have so that it wont Rot or go bad. what about Daniel and his hunting party.” She said absently tucking a strand of honey blond hair behind her ear.

“Harry and Steven are doing the best they can, but neither are real fisherman and Erin fishing isn’t like going shopping. You can catch fish in one spot one day and then not catch a thing in the same spot the next. Sometimes you cant catch a thing for days at a time. As far as storing the stuff, give me a generator with fuel and I can get a deep freezer or a couple of walk in coolers working but we don’t have fuel. Everything I can think of, any one I’ve talked to can think of requires fuel.

With enough time we might be able to find an alternative way to store it but time is something we just don’t seem to have a lot of.” Bob said. “As far as hunting, there isn’t any real game on Hilton head. Not any more at any rate. And what few birds there are, don’t have much meat on them and we would run into the same problem with the meat as we have with the fish. But if we want to try the only real choice we have is to take the hunting party over to Pinckney island or onto the mainland.” Bob said.

She sighed wearily, though her exhaustion was more mental than physical. This was one of those times she felt far to young to be leading this group of survivors.

“Which leads us back to Raiding Salinger’s group” Bob said after taking a deep breath. “we don’t have a choice Erin, if we cant grow enough food and the fish situation is not going to get better. We have to get extra food from somewhere, or we have to accept that people we know and care about are going to die till we reach a population level we can support. To be honest even if we raid Salinger’s supplies we will probably end up losing people anyway.”

Erin nodded slowly as she thought about all that Bob had told her. Salinger’s group was the closet to the Marina that Erin and her group called home. The slimy toad’s people had occasionally attacked some of Erin’s scavengers, running them off caches of food and supplies so he could claim them. There had been exchanges of gun fire and even a few deaths over the last few years, but she had tried to live and let live, something that Salinger took advantage of every chance he got.

Salinger, she thought was a total slime bag and the fact that he claimed to have once been a cop just didn’t ring true to her, regardless his past before the dead didn’t matter only what he had done since and that said all she needed to know. He was a danger to her people.

Salinger and his people were starting to feel the pinch of starvation, of that she was almost certain, and they had lost a lot of people last winter, so she could understand their motivations no matter how much she disliked it.

In a way she felt Salinger was a better leader than she was, he didn’t have any qualms about using force to survive. Even now, after all she had been through when the dead were walking, she didn’t like using force unless she had no choice.

She continued to believe there was always another way if she only looked hard enough, but she was realistic enough these days to know that sometimes force was the only answer. But not yet, not till she had exhausted every option she could think of, she did not want to die knowing she had ordered the deaths of not just people she cared for but strangers because she failed to see another way.

“What about Tucker and Chapman’s group, they have green houses.” She asked thoughtfully. The two men led one of the larger groups on the island and from what she had seen and heard on the occasions they had met, their group was doing better than most. She actually got along with Tucker and Chapman, well more so with Chapman than with Tucker. Tucker was a strange man, smart but strange given his obsession with a Victorian Era that had never existed.

“I’m not sure they would even listen if we sent some one to talk to them and even if they did listen. what could we trade for what ever amount of food they might be willing to part with?” Bob said. “assuming they have any to part with in the first place.”

That Erin knew was a very valid point. Any thing she had to trade were things that Tucker and his people could find for themselves and with out a means to store the fish, they didn’t have that to trade with either. And if we had that we wouldn’t need to trade in the first place, Erin thought.

“I would prefer we don’t start a war with Salinger even if we do outnumber them, Talk to Daniel about taking some men over to Pinckney first then to the mainland. I don’t see any reason to starve to death when there is probably game on Pinckney which was a nature reserve before the dead, according to what I’ve read at any rate.” Erin said, wondering how long it would take for the other groups to do the same and the fighting over resources would start again.

“I will Erin, but you need to prepare yourself to fight the other groups if this doesn’t work out.” Bob said, not any happier than she was about the idea but if no one could or would trade they had no other choice if they hoped to survive. “sooner or later there will not be enough for every one and the shooting will start.”

“Its too bad the one group I wouldn’t feel to badly about hurting is the one group that’s worse off than we are.” Erin said only half joking, Greg Staton and his group of formerly rich and privileged parasites were annoying and potentially dangerous. She had grown up poor, and had never been impressed with the rich and mostly useless wastes of human flesh called the rich. She had known slum lords first hand, and business owners who had paid her and the other employee’s very little while making millions themselves all the while slashing pay and increasing hours so they could make more. They were parasites that sucked the life out of hard working men and women. And the end of the world had done nothing to improve her opinion of them either.

Was she being unfair, Noel her girlfriend said she was, and on an intellectual level tarring a whole group of people based on three men wasn’t right and she knew it. But she had a hard time accepting that on an emotional level.

She idly picked at the worn and faded shirt she wore, calming her mind. Clothing was something else that was starting to get scarce on the island and probably on the main land too. “Tell Daniel, that if he has the time to look around for some clothes too” she told Bob. “If we have to start fighting I think most of us would prefer to have pants on at least.” Bob chuckled harshly while nodding in agreement as they moved on to the next topic that needed to be discussed.

June 10th, 0400 hrs, 2016. Intercoastal waterway, just off the shore of Hilton Head island.

Stars glimmered overhead as the large canoe glided across the dark water. the light of the quarter moon shimmied and rippled on the surface of the water. the only sound was the soft swooshing of water gliding along the hull and a soft drip of droplets falling back into the waterway as the Paddle slid out of the water before dipping back in leaving a only a ripple that couldn’t be seen more than five feet away.

Chris McCaffrey sat in the middle of the canoe leaning forward, peering through the night trying to spot land as he worked the paddle. The wind picked up creating a bit of chop, making the canoe’s speed drop.

Canoeing on open water like the intercoastal was different in many ways from the rivers and lakes he had traversed for years. his gear was packed and spread out forward and to the stern of his position in the center to improve balance. Lashed down it wouldn’t move even if the canoe rolled and the added floatation devices would make sure the canoe stayed on the surface even if took on enough water to fill the interior.

His arms ached and his back burned across his shoulders but that was a pain he was used to. finally he spotted the island dark buildings looming against the sky. To his right, maybe a mile away a dark shape rose up into the night sky. Resting his paddle across his knees, he got out his binoculars and checked it out.

The Harbor town light house, he thought, seeing the hexagonal shape that soared up above the two story building between it and the waterway, its light room dark as the rest of the island and… wait.. he adjusted the binoculars and realized he was looking at a very dim light coming from a window in the building. Yes! there are people other than around the bridge to the north, he thought mentally cheering. Of course that makes this even more dangerous. He thought as he replaced his binoculars and paddled towards the shore, where he could just make out a beach in the moonlight, or shore what ever you wanted to call it, he thought as he turned the canoe a little north and glided into a channel that curved towards the east the water smoothing out.

He beached the canoe just west of a bridge that crossed the channel, . Climbing out he grabbed the bow and pulled the craft further up the bank so there was no chance of the canoe somehow ending up back in the water and drifting off. Now all he had to do was find a place to hide the bulk of his supplies and the canoe and then get to work.

June 11th, 0545hrs Harbor town yacht club.

Erin woke instantly at the knock one the door, escaping from a dream of parched barren earth where skeletal looking babies wailed with hunger, their cries followed her into the real world. she shivered and pushed aside the dream image of dying chilren. it was amazing how living through the undead could make a person hyper vigilant and aware of their surroundings she thought as she rolled out of bed. before the dead it would have taken a bomb to wake her up that quickly. of course her nightmare might have helped to wake her this time. “just a moment” she said slipping into a pair of shorts and a tshirt then padded over to the door, raking a hand through her tangled hair. as if that would make the slightest difference to her appearance.

Noel sat up, pulling the sheets up to cover her chest as Erin opened the door to find Stan Fairchild, hand raised to knock again, standing in the hall. she felt a tremor of dread, her first thought was that Salingers group had mounted another raid. “what is it?’ she asked, ignoring the fact that Stans eyes darted down to her chest, then over her shoulder to Noel.

“I.. uh..” stan said then his tongue primed got out his message. “the look out in the Lighthouse, thought he spotted a small boat coming in, it seemed to head into heddy gutter creek.”

“Did you report it to Morgan” She asked testily.

“yeah, he has the sentries alerted but wants to know if you want to send someone out to check this out. It could be raiders, or scouts for raiders.” Stan said as if she wasn’t bright enough to figure that out for herself.

stop, she told herself, Stan was telling her exactly what he should instead of assuming she was thinking along the same lines.

“tell him to send out who ever he thinks is best. I will meet with him, as soon as I am dressed” she said, knowing that if she showed up wearing what she had on at the moment, it would be a major distraction to every man in the room. Back in the day, some women might have gotten upset at the very notion men might actually look at them sexually. Erin was smart enough understand it was just the natural reaction of men, and she might as well get angry at the wind for blowing since it would do as much good.

Stan stood there a second longer, his eyes darting down then back up, then he blushed and left at quick pace. Damn this shirt, she thought knowing she was headlighting as the men called it.

Ten minutes later she entered the room that the guard had set up as the command center, back before the dead wiped out most of the world. There was still a large map of the island, and of harbor town and its fortifications, on the wall three solar powered LED lanterns were still on. It had once been a very nice conference room, but today the wood paneled walls were dinged and faded. The beige carpet was threadbare in places and the prints of Hilton head landmarks had been taken down and stacked against one wall.

Morgan seeing her enter walked over, light shining off his shaved head. a worried smile of greeting on his face. “sorry you had to get up so early” he said “I sent travis and Reed out to check where the boat landed.”

As if she didn’t have enough on her plate to deal with already. “if it is raider or scout for a raiding party do we have the ammunition to deal with it.’ she asked.

“possibly, if they have few to no firearms of their own probably.” Morgan replied, not happy with the situation in the least. “we wont know till we hear gunfire or the men return with a report.”

“Great” she said as she dropped into a seat to wait, wishing she had coffee.

The minutes ticked by slowly, giving her far to much time to think about the problems they faced. Morgan and the other men on duty manned the radios, nothing more than rechargeable walkie talkies that the Guard had used.

“This is Travis, we are returning with one guest.” A mans voice said abruptly, Morgan who had been deep in conversation with another man looked at her for a moment then went back to his conversation.

It was almost half an hour later when the door opened and Travis Gardener entered the room followed by a man dressed in Jeans and a muscle shirt. He was a few inches taller than Travis, and very fit. His dark hair was cut an inch short, with side burns that came down even with the bottom of his ears before turning 45 degrees and ending in points.

Travis grunted as he lifted the pack and other gear he carried and placed it on the table, Reed stepped into the room, and placed two belts on the table, one held a scabarded sword the other a pistol.

The stranger watched her closely as she examined the odd looking quiver and unstrung bow on his pack. his rifle was well maintained, and worn with use. She picked up the bandolier that held thirty rounds of ammo for the rifle, then placed it back on the table.

“That’s a lot of weapons, what are you a commando?” she asked only half joking.

“since I’m sitting here that seems unlikely” he replied dryly, she was unable to place his accent other than it was southern and it wasn’t as heavy as some peoples had been.

“He asked to meet the leader and offered to give up his weapons” Travis commented.

“Some one had to show some trust. So I got the ball rolling. The names Chris McCaffrey, and I am a traveler, trader and news broker.” He said then grinned. “I would have followed trader up with another t word but the only thing that came to mind was tramp and that was my sister.”

Behind him she saw Travis’s lips twitch as he almost smiled, “Amusing” she said coolly.

“Okay switch tracks, no jokes.”

“Oh I enjoy jokes as much as anyone, I just haven’t heard one yet.” she replied. “I would like to know where you’re from and what you’re doing here and more to the point why you wanted to meet with me.”

“Well to answer in reverse, I wanted to meet with the leader because I might have some things to offer you, I am here because I spotted smoke from some cooking fires and being a trader and news broker it seemed like time for business, and I am from southern Kentuck, near Monticello. Close to the Tennessee state line.” He said with a smile some used car salesman somewhere had to have patented.

Erin tucked a lock of hair back behind her ear as she gazed at the man who returned her gaze calmly with out a seeming fear in the world. he was well fed, she thought, there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him that she could see but something about him screamed he ate far more regularly than her people did.

The silence held between them, as she debated on what to do next. “ can I offer a suggestion” he asked suddenly.

“depends on what you suggest?” she replied

“I would suggest we sit down, talk about what your may or may not need, while having a cup of coffee. Then we can haggle, I promise not to talk you into selling your firstborn or the shirt off your back for some glass beads.”

Behind her, Morgan, a history buff, snorted a laugh. “more than one woman has given the shirt off her back for some cheap beads at Mardi Gras” Erin said surprising herself and every one else in the room. And it felt damn good to actually feel something other than fear of failure, stress and worry for once.

“I would expect a trader would have a bit more than a backpack, even if it is the heaviest loaded pack I have ever seen.” She said.

“May I” He asked gesturing to his pack,

“by all means, show me your wares” She said almost laughing as she suddenly felt like a b actress trapped in a cheap Porn. She was tempted to let him go just because her depression had lifted just a little, don’t get to excited girl, he is just a man after all, she told her self.

She watched as he opened his pack slowly fully aware of the weapons pointed more or less at him in warning. He ignored them and got out several items, including a small camp stove. With a smile he lifted up a small metal container and unsealed the lid.

“Oo Damn that smells good” the unflappable Morgan said as the smell of ground coffee filled the room.

“how… where… “ Erin started and stopped, her mouth watering. Chris just gave her a lazy smile and fired up the stove to fix a small pot of coffee.

“I know its unfair to tempt you this way, but I am a trader. And if it knocks you off balance to get me a better deal I am not above cheating” he explained as he set Coffee pot on the stove. “it will only take a moment to finish” he said.

As the smell of hot coffee filled the room drifting into the hallway, she began to believe he might actually be what he claimed. But he hadnt always been a salesman, he wasn’t polished or smooth enough, but then again she hadnt always been the leader of a rag tag group of survivors holed up in what had been the flagship Marina of a Rich Island town.

“what did you do before the dead” She asked, wondering if the smell of roasting coffee would start a riot.

He gazed at her for a moment then reached into his bag pocket and pulled out a badge, he had been a cop, she thought seeing the shiny bronze looking, “I was a US Forest Ranger for ten years” He said closing his hand over the badge and squeezing it like a good luck charm. “it was all I ever really wanted to do, but things change and so does the world.” he said then picked up the pot and poured coffee into a small cup and passed it to her.

Every one in the room watched, a few licking their lips as she lifted her cup up, for a moment she wondered if they would leap on her like a pack of Hyena’s the second the cup touched her lips. Determined to have that one sip before being ripped apart by maddened deprived coffee drinkers she took a drink. Her eyes closed as pure pleasure flowed through her. “oh my god, I had forgotten” She said softly.

“I can be convinced to take your Marina off your hands for a cup of coffee” Chris said with a laugh.

“Don’t tempt me” She said sounding almost serious about the issue.

He poured five more small cups, one for each of her people and passed them around . “the one thing we need is food, and I don’t see you having enough food in that pack to help us out.” She said as he refilled her cup.

“no not in my pack” He said, and something about his tone piqued her curiosity. “ but there are other things I might be able to trade that would be almost as important.”

“like what” she asked, watching him closely.

“I notice your using a solar cell to power those walkie recharge systems over there. I can show you how to build a small system that can power a few lights using a bicycle and a few other things.”

“unless it can run a Freezer I’m not really interested.” she said sounding disinterested.

Something flashed in his eyes at her comment, she wasn’t sure what it might mean and before she could dig a little deeper, he pulled out several unopened packages of batteries, both double and triple A’s and placed them on the table, then several black plastic boxes about three by three by six inches. Two threaded metal nubs with washers on one end.

“these cant run a Freezer but they can run flash lights,” he said holding up the Batteries. “and this can run all kinds of things” He said holding up a black box. He reached into his pack and extracted what looked like a stainless steel tube inside a perforated metal cover with a yellow box attached to it. he flipped open the top of the tube the opening about the size of her fist. “this can recharge anything that has a USB connector.” He said holding it up for her to see.

She felt a flicker of excitement at seeing the batteries, those could come in handy. But the man had to realize that if some one wanted them badly enough they could and most likely would just take them and leave him dead in a ditch somewhere.

“I don’t see how that can be of much use” She commented “or those” she said gesturing at the black boxes.

“okay let me point a few things. You can adapt a say a rechargeable flashlight to be recharged by this” he said holding up the Tube, “this is a camp stove, you burn wood inside of here and the heat is converted into a power source. These” he said holding up a black box “are Super caps, or Super Capacitors. You can run a Cd player or other things like say CB off of one, the charge can last several days down to a few hours depending on what and how many things are hooked up to hit. Then it can be recharged by bicycle charging station. Consider it a battery for all intents and purposes. “

he continued to talk, explaining what a bicycle charging station was, and she felt like a complete idiot for not having thought of something like that. Especially when he made an comment that sounded like it was just tossed out, about how using a bunch of car batteries could power a bunch of lights or other things. She wondered if he was purposely making suggestions. But why, what would he get out of it.

she realized that sometime during his sales pitch, they had both sat down at the table beside his pack, and bob had entered the room standing quietly by the door listening as the man removed item after item from his pack for display. If he hadnt been a salesman before, he had learned well enough sense the dead.

Finally he was finished, and she was impressed not only with the amount of useful gear and Items he carried to trade but with how he had completely taken control of the situation and conversation.

“I realize that you need to think about this, since it came at you cold. So why don’t I head outside your compound and make camp and come back tomorrow to give you time to figure out what if anything you might want and what you have to trade for it.” he said rising to his feet. If he felt nervous that she might just have him killed and take his stuff it didn’t show on his face.

That he didn’t ask for food to get him through the night surprised her, but then again he hadn’t emptied his pack and she was sure the what ever was left in that large pack was his food and gear.

But the thought that had occurred to her half way through his spiel as he removed item after item was that he was far more than he seemed.

“that will be good” she said standing. “I doubt we have much if anything that you might take in trade,” she said chewing on her bottom lip for a moment. “you said you passed on news as well” She asked, he nodded. “whats it like out there” she asked, “and what would you take in trade for information leading us to something like a warehouse full of food.”

His lips twitched in amusement almost so fast she might have missed it if she hadnt been watching him closely. “depends on where out there your talking about, there are some places trying to rebuild. But most towns and cities are empty of life, out in the country, in mountain valleys and other isolated spots, there are people still. Whole towns survived, granted most of them only had a few dozen to no more than a hundred or so to begin with and were not on main roads so they lucked out. But even those are rare.” He paused looking deep in her eyes for a moment.

“there’s a couple of places I’ve been to where there are a lot of people, over a thousand. They have limited power, water, and fuel for vehicles. One place even has Doctors and Medicine.” He said watching as her eyes widened. “I think I could even get some antibiotics for you, assuming I can find something to trade them for it.”

they had lost so many people to infections, the flu and go knew what else, because the only Doctors on the island had died, and the drug were long gone and this man was telling her that all of that existed someplace else. he had to know that the chance of some one betraying him for Medicine had to be high.

“think about it, I’m pretty sure I can get some, might even find out how they make it so you can make your own.” He said as he strapped on his weapons then pulled on his pack, no one even tried to stop him, like her they were all thinking about what he had just said, and some one like Morgan whose, wife was sick would think long and hard about McCaffreys offer.

“Travis escort our guest to the gate,” she called out. “And Mr. McCaffrey Id like to see you first thing tomorrow morning and please do not wander around to the east of the Enclave, there is another group over that way that would not hesitate to kill you and take your things if they see you.” She warned him. he thanked her and then followed Travis out of the room.

Erin turned to Bob, again feeling ridiculously young to be leading this group and making decisions. “so Bob what did you think about our guest.”

“I think he gave away far more information than he should have” Bob said thoughtfully.

“You noticed that too did you” she said as she gestured for Bob to follow her out into the hallway. “I got the distinct impression he wanted us to think about some of those…Technologies and how they could be constructed.”

“the real question is why?” Bob said.

“now that is a very good question Bob,” she replied, but they had much more important things to discuss at the moment “..now what do you think we might need out of the things he showed us and what do we have to trade that he might accept.” She asked as they headed down the hall. As she and Bob discussed a possible trade she mulled over the reasons Chris McCaffrey might be handing out ideas.

June 11th 1700hrs, Madielanes Art Studio

Jakob Salinger, ignored the growl of hunger as he paced around the room, glaring at the ruined art work that had been piled up in the corner. At least one good thing came out of the end of world, idiots couldn’t just splash point or make boxes on a piece of canvas and call it art anymore. People were such fools, he thought. He had never been an art fan, but the crap he had seen on TV and at the Museum the two times he had wasted money to go had not impressed him, you could see the same stuff for free in a Day care center finger painted by four year olds and that applied to sculpture work as well.

He was an angry man, he always had been and he didn’t mind admitting it. he had been optimistic once, before he got out into the real world, but exposure to people at large had show him that people, at least in the old world were idiots and fools. It hadnt gotten a lot better since the dead had eaten most of the world but it was some better.

And not a one of his thoughts was helping with his current problem, Erin Brinn and her Guest. Tom Waters leaned against a painting that was covered in dried blood. He had just returned from meeting with their friend inside the Enclave, and supposedly Brinn had met with a man who claimed to be a trader and brought coffee as well as other things. Coffee, no one had coffee any more it was as long gone as a rib eye steak or chocolate.

Salinger wanted to believe it was just a rumor, but their friend insisted he had seen the man and his huge pack himself and smelled the coffee out in the hallway as he walked by hoping to hear what was going on.

Supposedly this man had access to food, or something as well coffee, a warehouse full of the stuff he was wiling to trade. He could probably fly too, Salinger thought, but what if its not just a rumor blown all out of proportion. What if this man truly had a ware house somewhere full of food.

“I think we might want to find this man and get the truth for our selves.” Salinger said. “if nothing else he has food in his pack that we can use and if he really does know where a huge supply of food is, we might be able to convince him to tell us where it might be. I am sure he wouldn’t mind sharing the details if we are convincing enough” Salinger told waters who nodded. To get food to save his people and of course himself he would use a blow torch if that’s what it took.

Not one person in his group knew how to grow anything, or how to fish or hunt, they had been Joe six pack type folks, work, go home watch movies, rinse and repeat the next day. That they had survived at all was a testament to how strong they were mentally but being strong mentally did not give them magical knowledge on how to live like Peasants in the old movies. And with the prepackaged food scattered around the island almost gone, they were on the edge of dying out if they didn’t figure something out. Brinn had fisherman, Brinn’s people had crops they were growing on that old course. Brinns people had all sorts of things they had inherited from the Guard who left it all behind when they died or fled. Salinger’s people were out here in the ruins, trying to eke out an existence.

But now that they had found a cache of weapons and ammunition, hidden by the guard things were a lot more even than they had been. “I want you to pick a good team to send out and see if you can find this guy, be nice and lets see if we can use sugar to get what we want, if not we will do it the hard way.” Salinger said with a nasty smile. “maybe, just maybe we can even get him to talk about what he saw inside so we have a good idea of what we might face once we get inside.”

“are you sure you want to delay the attack” Water asked, Salinger knew he had been looking forward to raiding the place. Every one knew that the enclaves had been well stocked there at the end, a government plan to ensure long term survival so that people would be alive to rebuild. It hadn’t worked out well for the government but it had worked out well for the Enclaves of the rich here on Hilton head.

“Delay yes, call off no. I think we deserve to live in the enclave.” He said his smile hard and hating. “and we will, but this guy might be able to help us so I am willing to wait a few more days. and I have a trade he wont be able to say no too.”

Water nodded in agreement. He had known Salinger for years, even before the dead and knew that the man had always been jealous of people who were better off than he was. It wasn’t that Salinger was lazy or stupid far from it. But things just had never really worked for him no matter how hard he tried change his circumstances.

Not when he had been a cop, not when he had tried real estate, not in his two marriages or not in anything he had put his mind to. and then the dead had come and Salinger had come into his own, it was almost like he had been born to be a leader in desperate times. He was dispassionate enough to do the hard things with out flinching like so many other including Brinn. He was excellent in getting people to do what he wanted, he could get them fired up or calmed down whether he had to lie to do it or not.

But that jealousy that had driven him before the dead, still had a firm hold on him and the fact that he had the hots for Brinn, whether he wanted to admit it or not, who despised him only made the situation worse.

Not that Waters cared about that or not. He had lived a rough life before the dead, this new life was only different in the fact that there were no cops or Government agents enforcing Laws that kept Men like Waters and Salinger down.

Waters smiled at Salinger, then turned on his heel and left his boss and best friend to his pacing and rapid fire thoughts.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey, Pathfinder, location Hilton head Island.

Well I am here. I crossed the intercoastal around 0300hrs or so, and landed in what the map I picked up calls heddy gutter creek, it looks more like Marsh to me with a channel in it.

I made contact with what is locally called Harbor town enclave, their leader is Erin Brinn, she seems young for the job,around 23 or so, but not a single one of the older men in the room with us interrupted or corrected her once so they seem to like.

Let me describe the enclave, it’s the Old Harbor town Marina, and some one went to a lot of trouble fortifying the place. The Guard from I what I hear. Anyway, the marina is circular with an added basin, surrounded by walk way that has Condo’s, shops and other business’s. there is a wall in place along the water that looks like it was built before the dead and extends on one side that I have seen, along the water and up along the creek to the bridge I beached at. The Guard erected a fence including using those expandable palisade things that are filled with dirt, that finishes enclosing the entire area. essentially leaving a large area on the north side and the ring of buildings around the walkway to the south that are completely enclosed with an elaborate three gate entrance. At a guess the place could hold several thousand people living there, the building on the north side of the marina mouth where the light house is, could easily house a thousand. The building just past that could hold twice that number and all that is before we start talking about the actually condo’s and villas.

Granted I only saw twenty people the entire time, I know there are more people there than that. For starters I casually mentioned to Erin and her people that I had been somewhere that had a thousand people living there and none of them batted an eyelash at the number, no exclamations of surprise, nothing. which tells me they are used to large numbers of people. and I saw signs of large numbers of people to support my idea.

To contrast that the first time I told Thomas Payne Jefferson and his family about seeing two hundred people, they damn near went through the roof they were so excited.

Anyway, I dropped a lot of info just to see what they do with it, when Abraham Dumont suggested that tactic I thought he was nuts, but its worked twice now so third time is the charm.

What she did say at one point is that food is scarce, okay it was implied. I saw no gardens, but there some kind of activity to the south of the Enclave, around what is marked as a golf course on the map I have. I was unable to see it from where I was, so I will try to scout the area in the next few days.

Another note, no power, other than a military solar rig to power some radio’s I saw no other power production devices. I also noted smoke columns to the east and north of the Enclave seemingly indicating more people.. And Brinn used the plural a few times during our conversations, things like “the Enclaves were started as Evacuation centers and emergency shelters” things like that. with a island this big, I’m not really surprised that more people might have survived here and by all indications the island held out against the dead for far longer than a lot of places.

Tomorrow when I meet with Erin brinn, I will also try to find out what exactly happened here.

Oh I’ve set up camp in a pretty ritzy looking house, if there was power I would be in heaven. The only thing that would make it better aside from power would be if the woman in most of the pictures in this place was actually sitting here. frankly its been so long I might have forgotten what to do with a woman. Need to look for the instruction book and refresh myself on the subject.

So for now, I will bring this to an end. I have dinner to cook and it takes time to open an MRE, and I need to set up the Short wave

 

Dilemma part2

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3 thoughts on “Dilemma

  1. The Drought has ended in a Deluge!
    I missed my ‘fix’ for weeks and can’t thank-you enough.
    Nicely done.
    Hope your story runs for months.
    I’m greedy and I admit it.

    Like

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