America The Dead: The Fold 2 Apple Books

EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: THE FOLD TWO

Copyright 2020 Lindsey Rivers

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Additional Copyrights © 2010, 2012, 2015 by Wendell Sweet.

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

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NOTICE: This material is not edited for content


THE FOLD TWO


Prologue

Rochester New York

Leaving

While Jimmy searched out Hank Nelson, one of his ex-police buddies who had been helping to coordinate things, Frank set off with Gary to find Jessie. Jimmy could fill Hank in, and Jeremiah had gone over to the television station to set a plan in motion, that they had all agreed upon. Frank needed to find Jessie. He couldn’t leave without seeing her, even if it only made it harder for him, and she was also part of the plan they had come up with, and, she needed to know about the children, Frank reasoned.

He found her with Lisa and Connie, in the old County Court House building, setting up the make-shift Red Cross kitchen for lunch.

“Frank,” she asked when she saw his red eyes, “what’s wrong?”

“Nothing is,” Frank said, mildly, “but I need to talk to you…” he looked over at Bessy, the formidable woman who had run the kitchen on her own for three days, “Bessy?” he asked.

“Go on ahead,” Bessy said, “we’re just about finished here anyhow. Jessie, go on ahead, Lisa and Connie can help me serve.” The old gray-haired woman nodded her head sternly at Jessie as she spoke.

Frank waited until they were outside before he spoke. Gary had followed them out, but walked a short distance away. “First,” Frank said, “I love you, Jessie, I do with all my heart, and I should’ve already said it.”

“Jessie, we, Gary, Jeremiah, Jimmy and I have to leave. I can’t tell you all reasons right now… it has to do with something I know about those caves, but we have to go, Jessie. We have to.”

“Okay,” she said in a low voice, as she brushed tears from her eyes, “just come back, Frank…” she burst into tears as she finished. Frank took her chin in his hands, and gently lifted her face to his.

“Jessie, do you trust me?” Frank asked.

“Of course, Frank!” she was crying harder but her voice had taken on a rough edge, a panicked pleading was mixed in with it.

“Jessie, trust me, it’ll be okay, I swear it,” he said.

“I believe you, Frank, and believing will help me hang on,” she replied.

“I… I wanted to say something else, Jessie… Something.”

She put one finger to his lips and stopped his words.

“Frank… Not at a time like this… I don’t trust emotion in a time like this.”

He looked at her for a second and then nodded. He turned to Gary and nodded decisively.

The three of them walked quickly toward the television station, meeting Jimmy along the way.

“All set?” Frank asked.

“All set,” Jimmy answered, “Hank, will see to things here.”

They walked in silence to the station, and Jeremiah met them at the door. “Think it’ll work?” Gary asked him.

“No way to know, but it can’t hurt,” Jeremiah responded.

Two hours later, Frank, Jeremiah, and Jimmy, as well as Gary, were standing at the village of Fairport’s main dock.

“Several to choose from,” Gary said, as he stared out over the muddy banked channel.

“At least they’re not all in the mud,” Frank agreed. “Makes me wish we had John with us. I’d feel a heck of a lot better with him steering us out to the lake.” They had gone to John before they left to find out which was the quickest way to get to the lake, without chancing a trip through the north side of the city. John had suggested Fairport, because of its man-made channel that served the lake.

“Well, let’s do it, Gentlemen,” Jeremiah said, as he walked across the concrete lip of the channel, and out onto a short pier. A length of yellow nylon rope was still bound, although it was pulled tight, around a wooden piling, and Jeremiah followed the rope to its ending, at a fairly good sized fiberglass speed boat about three feet below them. Lilac City Baby, was stenciled just below the port side in script. After carefully untying the knot in the nylon rope; holding it tightly against the wooden piling as he did, allowing the tension to slowly bleed off, Jeremiah jumped down the three feet to the deck.

“Well?” he said looking up, “you guy’s gonna just let me float away?”

The remaining three men jumped down to the deck, as Jeremiah made his way back to steering console.

“No keys,” he said frowning.

“I can fix that,” Jimmy said, “lemme see…” he reached his hand under the panel, and emerged with three pig-tail ends of wire. “I learned this at the jail,” he said, as he slid two of the wires together, “listening to a kid we had in one night, talking about how he did it.” The small red indicator light to the right of the switch lit up. “Now,” Jimmy said, as he touched the remaining wire to the already connected two. “Presto-chango,” he finished as the electric starter began to whir, turning the in-board motor over. He reached to the throttle and edged it forward slightly, while still holding the wires together with one hand. The engine caught, and the low burble of the motor came to him from the exhaust that bubbled up from the rear of the boat. “No probleemo,” Jimmy said, as he released one of the wires. “I don’t however, know how to drive this thing,” he finished sheepishly.

“I do,” Gary volunteered, “I owned one like it.” He took over the controls and slowly backed the boat away from the dock, turned it around, and headed down the channel toward the lake.

“Owned your own gravel pit,” Frank said, “I guess you were pretty well off if you could afford a boat like this.”

“That I was,” Gary said, “but I ain’t sorry I don’t have it all still, Frank… In fact I’m glad I don’t. It was too much of a headache. When this is over I’m retiring.”

Frank chuckled. “Me too, Gary, me too.”

Twenty minutes later they were leaving the channel and entering the lake. The sun rode high in the warm air, and Jeremiah asked, “How long did John say it would take to get there, Frank?”

“Two, maybe three hours tops,” he replied.

“Gee, Frank, how come we didn’t think of this?” Gary asked, with a smirk on his face.

“Dunno, should have,” he said laughing. It felt good to laugh, he thought, and he was pretty sure none of them would be laughing once they got to Fort Drum.

“How are we going to do it when we get there?” Frank asked, to no one in particular.

The laughter died down quickly, making Frank wish he hadn’t asked.

“We’ll see when we get there,” Jeremiah said, “all we kin do, Frank.”

“How close you think you can get us, Gary?” Jeremiah asked.

“Well, if the town’s flooded like I think, we’ll probably be able to take it right into Watertown, and probably most of the way to Fort Drum. From there I guess we hoof it, guys.”

Frank checked the clip in the nine mm machine pistol, before he spoke. “You really think we’ll need these, Jeremiah?”

“I’m ‘fraid so, Frank, we can hope this Jeffery’s guy ain’t there, I doubt he is, but there’s the other guy to contend with… He may know we’re coming, he may not. Hopefully Jessie and Hank can fool ’em for a while… No telling, Frank, but I’m sure we’ll need ’em,” he checked the clip in his own weapon when he finished.

The machine pistols were fully automatic, and each held a two hundred round clip. Jimmy had liberated them from the evidence room of the Rochester Police Department’s downtown office, along with several spare clips, and more than two thousand rounds of additional ammunition. “These will do the job,” Jimmy had said, “if anything will.”

The machine pistols had been taken in one of the many raids on drug houses on the city’s north side, Jimmy had told them, as he had pointed out a room that to Frank looked as if it could hold a small banquet.

The room had been filled to overflowing with weapons of all types, including what looked to Frank to be an Army issue fifty mm anti-aircraft gun. “They use those?” Frank had asked, incredulously.

“Those and anything else they can get their hands on,” Jimmy had answered solemnly.

I wonder if we should have bought the anti-aircraft gun, Frank thought now, as he watched the calm blue-green water of the lake slip by. “I hate the thought of having to use this,” he said, as he slipped the gun into a leather side holster that had been with it. The holster had obviously been custom-made for the previous owner of the weapon and included a long slit in one side that allowed the weapon to be holstered with the clip in place. The initials A. S. were burned into one side of it.

“So long as you use it when the time comes, Frank,” Jeremiah said. “Don’t hesitate, just do it, it’s us or them.”

“Oh I wouldn’t hesitate, Jeremiah,” Frank said, “I just won’t like it while I’m shooting it.” He frowned, but in truth the weight of the gun against his hip was comforting.

Gary pushed the throttle forward as they left the shallows of the lake, and began to move across the dark blue waters toward Fort Drum. Frank relaxed back into one of the vinyl boat seats, and let the wind flow through his black hair. Had it ever smelled so sweet, or felt so good, he asked himself. Probably not, he told himself. He wondered if maybe that was the way it was though when you were about to die. If suddenly everything began to look a lot better, he supposed it was. He couldn’t rightly say that he felt as if he were going to die, but he couldn’t say he didn’t either. He looked around at the others. Gary had a grim smile plastered across his mouth as he leaned into the rush of wind, piloting the speed-boat. Jeremiah was sitting in the seat across from Frank, idly picking at a loose thread in the cushion, a worried look on his face, and Jimmy was leaned back in a backwards facing seat directly in front of Frank, with his hands clasped behind his head and his eyes shut. Frank tried but he could not shake the doomed feeling that had clutched him. It wouldn’t let go, no matter what he tried to think of besides where they were going, and what they were going to attempt to do. He couldn’t shake it, the grip was too tight.

Jeremiah turned and spoke. “Seems like the end don’t it, Frank,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice.

Jimmy opened his eyes and leaned forward as Frank spoke. “It does at that, but I’ve never had much that I cared about in life except my kids, and now Jessie; and now God. I don’t want to die, but it isn’t something I’m afraid of anymore.”

“I feel about the same,” Jimmy said, “no kids, no wife, I thought being a cop was all there was,” he shook his head, “I’m in no hurry to die either…” he shrugged his shoulders, “It won’t make me avoid it though, or walk away from it, I’m in it to the end.”

They both looked at Jeremiah as he spoke. “It ain’t so hard to die. It ain’t something I want to do again though. At least I know there’s something there, and it makes a big difference far as I’m concerned.”

“What’s it like, Jeremiah?” Jimmy asked, echoing the same question that Frank had been thinking.

“I don’t know as I kin explain it well enough…” Jeremiah replied, “It’s sort of like what you think it is. Like…if you think it’ll be hangin’ around in a cloud all day, and talkin’ to angels, I guess it could be that for you,” he paused. “For me it was playing checkers. It was something I used to like to do, and never had time for. I played a couple of games with my dad…” his voice broke softly, “he hadn’t changed a bit, still cheated’. It also means spending time with God, talkin’ to him if you want to. I played checkers with him too, beat him on occasion, course I think he let me. It’s everything you think it is, that’s the best I kin say toward explaining it,” he paused, and sighed. “One thing is life does have a bit on it. The taste of a cold beer, food, Maggie, feelin’ hungry even, life does have something on it. But death ain’t a bad place at all, you kin live there and have it agree with you.”

“That’s a good thing to know, Jeremiah,” Frank said quietly, “if it’s what you say, I guess it isn’t half bad then.”

Jimmy had once again closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat. “It’s a damn sight better than I thought it would be,” he said softly.

“What the hell you worrywarts talking ’bout now?” Gary called out, over the sound of the wind.

“Just life in general, Gary’,” Frank answered. “How you doing?” Frank asked of Gary’s back. “Why can’t you put this thing on auto pilot or something?”

Gary stared over his shoulder at Frank, a look of disgust mingled with a smile on his face. “This boat doesn’t have it, that’s why, mister smarty-pants,” Gary yelled above the wind. “The throttle will stay open, but the steering won’t lock, we’d go around in circles.”

“Gee, so touchy,” Frank said with a smile, as he got up and steadied himself. “I’m gonna watch the water go by, I guess,” he said to Jeremiah as he walked away. He moved slowly up to where Gary stood, and stared out over the water. The waves were choppy and Frank could feel the boat skipping over them. They were hugging the coast line, about a mile out, he figured, and from here the world looked beautiful, he thought, it looked like nothing at all had happened. The vast expanse of water was entirely empty though, and that shattered the illusion. “Worried, Gary?” he asked.

“Nope, I ain’t,” he replied. “I’m ready as I can be, and I ain’t a bit afraid,” he added. “You?”

“We talked about it…” Frank said.

“Heard most of it,” Gary returned.

“What do you think, Gary?”

“Same as you, Frank, it’s a big comfort to know.”

Frank nodded his head, and the two men fell into a comfortable silence as the boat skimmed over the water toward Fort Drum.

Rochester

Jessie

In Rochester, Jessie sat in the small studio, staring intently at the television. Beside her John was silent, watching the recording that Frank and the others had viewed earlier.

She had never promised Frank she wouldn’t, and she wanted to see for herself what kind of a monster they were sent to deal with. They watched it all, and as they did the paleness that had crept into Jessie’s face turned red, and her eyes reflected the anger that was building within her. John reacted similarly, and Hank who was also with them refused to watch after the first few minutes, preferring instead to stare idly at the ceiling, as if inspecting it for damage, until the recording finished.

Willie Lefray

In a small run-down apartment on Hudson Avenue, on the north side of the city of Rochester, Willie Lefray sat talking to Alfred Harding.

Al had been with Willie since the day he had arrived in Rochester. Al was devoted. Totally devoted, and Willie knew he would balk at nothing he asked him to do. He stared at the slight red-haired pimple-splattered young man that was Alfred Harding, thoughtfully, before he spoke.

“Today, Al, today. Take three or four of your guys with you. Do you think you can handle it, Al?” Willie asked.

“Oh yeah, Willie, sure, sure I can,” he responded.

He’s like a fuckin’ puppy dog, Willie thought, before he spoke. “Okay wonder-bread, it’s on you. You get that bitch, and you get her alive, understand?”

“Sure, sure I understand, Willie, what’re you gonna do to her, huh? Gonna kill her or something, Willie?” his eyes shone with adoration as he spoke.

“Don’t worry, Al, tell you what, you want to do her first, Al? Before I do what I have to?”

“Oh sure, Willie, that would, you know, that would be cool, I think,” Alfred answered fairly drooling with anticipation.

“Okay, Al, calm down. Now tell me what you’re gonna do,” Willie asked.

“Sure, Willie,” he answered. “We’re gonna sneak in, and we ain’t gonna kill nobody unless we hav’to. We’re gonna get this Jessie and we’re gonna bring her back to you… Not hurt,” he added hastily.

Willie took a long swig from the bottle between his legs. “Good, Al, very good, now get the fuck out of here and get ready, ’cause in just a few, you’re going,” Willie said.

“Sure, I’m gone already, Willie,” Alfred said as he got up and beat a hasty retreat out of the living room, and through the front door.

Willie listened as the door slammed shut behind him, and took another long pull on the bottle.

He had run out of the white powder. He could settle for cocaine, he supposed, there was a virtual glut of it just laying around waiting to be picked up, but after the magic white powder that Luther had given him, cocaine was nothing.

He had fully expected to be dead by now, and it baffled him that he wasn’t. He hadn’t eaten in ten days or better, and he’d had nothing to drink that didn’t contain alcohol in at least as many days. He sighed. “Fuck it,” he said aloud, as he took another swig from the bottle.

The phone on the coffee table suddenly burred, and Willie nearly choked before he managed to swallow, and then quickly snatch the phone from the table.

“Yes,” he said into the phone, in a small voice. “Yes, today, Luther,” he set the phone back down and got serious about killing off the half empty bottle, “No place to hide, nowhere to go,” he muttered as he drank.

Jessie

Jessie was angry…No, she corrected herself, pissed off big-time, not just, or only mad, pissed off big-time, in big capital letters. She envisioned it in her mind, PISSED OFF BIG-TIME, that’s what she was she told herself, as she sat at the small table and stared at the blank screen of the television monitor.

John spoke. “You okay, Jessie?”

“No, I’m not,” she said, “I’m Pissed off… Big-time,” she said vocalizing the thought. “What a rotten piece of shit he is,” she said, referring of course to Luther.

“Yeah, he’s a piece of work all right,” John agreed with a sigh, “you’ve got to let it go though, Jessie, we have things to do, and you can’t allow your anger to get in the way of it.”

“I know that, John,” she said, still angry, “I’m trying to get a handle on it, okay?”

“Okay,” John said soothingly, as he got up. “Want some coffee?”

“Yes,” she replied, a little bit calmer, “that might help.”

“Be back,” John said, as he walked off.

Hank had stepped out a few minutes before. When Jessie had finished watching the recording she had been steaming, and it had scared him.

Hank liked things nice and straight forward, and in his mind women didn’t get that mad. Why, women were kind and soft and gentle, like his mother, he reasoned, things like that. But they were never angry, they never swore like Jessie had, and men were never afraid of them either, he had told himself as he left the room. Maybe it would be a good idea if he just took a short walk, he had convinced himself. In fact it was time to take a walk… A long walk. Time to lay low maybe, he told himself.

Jessie drew in several deep breaths, as she sat at the table, and once she felt she had herself under control, she snatched the disc from the machine and forced herself to set it down instead of throwing it across the room, which is what she wanted to do. “Prick,” she mumbled under her breath, as she sat the disc down. She reached across and picked up the disc that Frank, Gary, Jeremiah, and herself, as well as Jimmy, had made before they left. She slid it into the machine and hit the play button, then leaned back into her seat to watch it.

ONE

Watertown

Frank

Frank turned from staring out over the water and asked, “How much longer you think, Gary?”

“Twenty minutes, maybe less,” he responded, after checking his watch.

Frank turned. “Almost there guys,” he said. Jeremiah and Jimmy walked forward and stared out over the water.

“It’s changed a bit,” Gary said, “we should already be on dry land, and, as you can see, we ain’t.”

“That bad?” Jeremiah asked.

“Not if we want to save time it ain’t,” Gary replied, “the closer the better, I just gotta be careful is all, don’t know how deep it is here.”

“Seems pretty deep to me,” Jimmy said doubtfully.

“Seeming deep, and being deep, is two totally different things,” Gary said, as he dropped the throttle to a low idle. They coasted slowly up what looked to be a wide and calm river.

“This is new,” Gary said, a trace of wonder in his voice “looks like it might be what used to be White creek. If it is, we’ll be coming in a lot closer than we figured to be,” he finished.

“How’s that?” Frank asked, feeling foolish.

“White creek comes right into Fort Drum, is why, and if this is it, we’re coming straight into… Damn if it ain’t!” he said pointing ahead. “That’s the water tower, and soon as we get through these trees, I’ll bet ya dollars-to-donuts it says Fort Drum on it,” he finished excitedly.

“Well, how far from here to that Jeffery’s place you figure?” Jeremiah asked.

“Mile, maybe mile and a half,” Gary answered, smiling. Jeremiah started to turn to Frank. “Be about forty hours left,” Frank answered, before he could ask.

The boat coasted through the trees, and they all read the lettering on the water tower, slapping Gary on the back as they did.

“Good navigating, Gary,” Jimmy said.

“Fine, that’s for sure,” Jeremiah said also. They all knew they were trying to hold the lighthearted mood that they had just acquired seconds before, they knew as well that it was no use. It was time to be serious, lives, not the least of all their own, were at stake.

Frank jumped to the grassy shore, caught the rope Jeremiah threw to him, and pulled the boat in closer, tying it off to the thick trunk of a nearby tree.

“Think that’ll be okay, Gary’?” he asked as he knotted the rope, and the remaining three men stepped ashore.

“I take it you were never in the Navy, Frank,” he said, as he looked over the three square knots, Frank had used. “It ain’t going nowhere I don’t think. The rope’ll break first, Frank.”

Frank put one more knot in the rope to be sure, before he looked up and then followed Gary, who was shaking his head, away from the boat.

“What?” he asked, as he caught up to him.

“Nothin’, Frank, I was just bustin’ your chops is all,” Gary replied smiling. They walked up to a vine covered road. Or at least it looked like it had been a road, Frank thought, as he joined Jeremiah, and Jimmy.

“What’s with the vines?” Jimmy asked.

“Don’t know, but they’re everywhere, Jim,” Gary replied, “started the same night the bombs fell… Jeremiah?”

“Don’t know any more than you do, walked over a whole bunch of them myself. Wasn’t something He thought to let me in on,” Jeremiah replied. “Which way, Gary?” he asked, as he looked up from the vines, and down the road in both directions.

“Left,” Gary replied, and started away. The others stood for only a second, and then fell in behind him. 

Jessie

Jessie watched the recording that was due to be transmitted in little over four hours. It was an old ruse, probably wouldn’t work, she thought, but it had been the best they could come up with on short notice.

The six of them, John included, stared grimly at the camera. Their reasoning had been simple. If Luther was aware that they could transmit, then he had probably been, and would probably continue, monitoring their broadcasts. The recording was set up to appear live, and the speed with which they had recorded it heightened that quality.

Frank stared grimly into the camera and spoke…

“…We felt we needed to inform you of something that developed earlier today,” he began. Behind him a large screen lit up and began to replay carefully edited parts of Luther’s recent broadcast, as Frank spoke. The clock behind Frank read 6:00 PM, and the hope was that Luther would buy it as a live transmission. If not it would all be for nothing…

“…Think it will work?” John asked from behind her as he re-entered the room.

“No,” she replied, “I don’t, at least not entirely. Can somebody like him even be fooled?”

“I don’t know,” John said tiredly, “if he can’t be fooled, maybe he can be confused. I mean he can’t be all seeing, and all knowing… he’s not God.”

Jessie’s eyes brightened. “Maybe then,” she said hopefully.

“Maybe,” John agreed, “just maybe.”

They watched the rest of the short ten minute recording in silence. It consisted of showing the edited recording, while Frank talked about their need to discuss it with everyone else, and a short plea for more time at the end. They made no mention of Luther’s demand to turn over five of the assembled group. It had been Frank’s suggestion to leave it out, but Frank did say they were considering his demands, which left it open to Luther’s interpretation. At the most, they knew, it would only buy them a few extra hours if Luther went for it, but those few extra hours might allow Frank, Jeremiah, Gary and Jimmy, to get to Fort Drum.

They also knew that once Luther realized that he had been tricked, he might push the button right then. The whole thing’s a crap shoot, Jessie thought, as the recording ended, and she turned off the machine.

She looked at John. “No way to know,” he said, as if reading her mind, “but it beat’s doing nothing.”

“Jeremiah thinks they’ll come at us today from the north side,” she said.

“When did he say that?” John asked, surprised.

“After Frank went for coffee, he told Hank, I guess. He didn’t want Frank to know. Hank told Jimmy too, and Jimmy told him to make sure that I was aware. Jeremiah told him to tell me I should make myself scarce,” she said, “wonder why?”

“No telling with him, but… If it was me he had said that to, you can bet I’d be making myself scarce,” John said thoughtfully, and then continued. “Odd though that Jeremiah didn’t tell you or me directly,” he shrugged. “I believe I’ll just keep an eye on you today, if you don’t mind,” he held up his hand when she began to protest. “I’m not saying you can’t handle yourself, Jessie, but two is better than one any way you look at it,” he favored her with a stern look. “I mean it, Jessie, if he said it, even if he didn’t say to us directly, he didn’t say it to hear himself speak.”

“Okay, “she said, “you win. You can babysit me, John.”

“That makes me feel better,” John said. “I’m an old man, Jessie, but I spent a lot of years in this city dealing with the bad elements of it, I can hold my own, and then some if I have to,” he patted the .38 that was holstered at his hip as he finished speaking.

“I intend to stay right in here today anyway,” Jessie said, “I want to make sure nothing goes wrong when we broadcast that recording.”

“Well in that case,” John said, getting up from the small table, “I guess I’ll go get us some more coffee,” he walked off as he finished speaking.

“Thanks,” Jessie called after him.

Willie

Willie Lefray leaned back into the worn old couch in the living room of the house on Hudson Avenue. The empty bottle lay in shards in one corner of the room, where Willie had flung it. He had drained the last drop from the bottle, and then flung it against the wall when he realized there was not another bottle to replace it. He had of course called Mike in from the front porch, and had him dispatch someone to liberate a new supply from one of the many liquor stores that dotted the avenue. Whoever he had sent would be in hot water when they returned though, Willie promised himself, they had already been gone for more than three hours. How long does it take to follow simple fuckin’ directions and go to a damn liquor store, Willie wondered. Probably forever, he told himself. Especially with this bunch of morons he was saddled with.

He debated calling Mike back in to find out what was taking so long, but rejected it. Mike was dumber than Alfred, he knew, and Alfred was a frigging moron. A creepy moron, but still a moron. Actually, Willie thought, the guy scares me a little. He looks like a little kid, and even acts like a little kid. Sort of naive, maybe even innocent-looking to someone who didn’t know better. Willie knew, however, that it was nothing but an act. Alfred was a straight out nut-case, and the calm kid-like demeanor could change in an instant, without warning.

The kid was also loyal. Well, not loyal, he reasoned, more like devoted, or fanatical. Alfred embraced evil and death, more even than Willie himself did.

The day Willie had arrived he had dismissed Alfred out of hand, simply because of that kid-like quality. Alfred had begged Willie to make him one of his right hand men, the friggin’ kid had been in tears over it, and Willie had jokingly told him that all the positions were filled, and that if he wanted in, he would have to kill his way in. Willie had figured that would satisfy the kid. Either he would be killed trying to take out someone, or he would simply walk away, and Willie would have bet ten to one on the walking away. Either way Willie didn’t have the time for him.

But, no sooner had the words been out of Willie’s mouth, than the kid had turned quickly, cat-like almost, Willie thought, and slit the throat of one of the guys Willie had bought with him. The guy had been standing there laughing at Alfred. At how pitiful he looked, and a second later he had been gagging on his own blood, and trying to hold his neck together, before he crashed to the floor.

Yeah, Willie thought, Alfred was a nasty little bastard all right, and he had no doubt that he would manage to bring the woman back.

The phone call from Luther had been short and to the point. Get her, but get her alive. “It should be easy, even for a no-brained fuck-up like you, Willie,” Luther had said. “After all, Willie my sweet, I did the hard work for you, I lured their big shots away, I opened the door and left her alone, and I think you should be able to handle one old man, hmm, Willie, think you can handle it?”

Luther had an inside man over there, Willie correctly guessed. He had no idea who, and hadn’t asked, but whoever it had been had told him that the four men, who in Luther’s estimation held everything together, were gone. While Alfred went for the woman, Willie himself would lead a small army right into their midst. There wouldn’t be anyone, or anything, to stop them, Luther had assured him.

Willie planned to be sneaky about it though, he already had snipers stationed close to the roadblocks. They were so stupid that they didn’t even try to hide behind their barricades. They just walked back and forth, like they were on guard duty at a friggin’ factory somewhere. Apparently, Willie thought, they didn’t take a threat from the north side seriously. After today they would though, Willie promised himself, and smiled as he did.

He got up from the worn sofa. “MIKE, where the fuck is that little bastard you sent to the liquor store?” he yelled, as he opened the front door. If the little prick didn’t get back soon, there wouldn’t be time for another drink before he’d have to leave.

Jessie

Jessie stood up from the small table. It was nearing 6:00 PM, time to play the tape. John had left ten minutes before to get them some fresh coffee, but hadn’t returned yet. What’s keeping him? She wondered, as she walked toward the hallway. She was almost to the door when a red-haired wild-eyed looking kid came running through it, nearly knocking her over.

“Ma’am…Miss Stone, ya gotta come quick, ya gotta, they’re coming through the barricades, and they got John, Ma’am, they got… you gotta come quick!” the kid said in a panicked voice.

The kid was clearly scared witless, Jessie realized. “Calm down, calm down,” she said as she grabbed him by the shoulders, and shook him. The kid was carrying what looked to be a machine gun, Jessie saw. What the hell are they doing putting a young kid like this on guard duty? Jessie thought angrily.

“Miss Stone?” the kid asked still sounding panicky, “you are Miss Stone I was supposed to come get, right?”

“Yes, now calm down,” Jessie said sternly, turning away from the kid and heading toward the table where she had left her gun, “just let me get my…”

“Good,” the kid said from behind, cutting her off. “Real good.”

Bright stars exploded in her head, cutting off the rest of what she had been going to say. WHAT… she thought, as she crumpled to the floor. She was dimly aware of the sound of gun fire, before she passed out.

Hank Nelson entered the room just as Alfred clubbed Jessie in the back of the head with the machine gun. Alfred quickly reversed the gun and aimed it at Hank.

“Hey!” Hank yelled in surprise, and then looked fearfully to the gun in Alfred’s hands. “Hey, don’t kid, I’m on…”

Alfred didn’t let him finish. He squeezed the trigger and in a split second Hank was cut in two by a hail of bullets.

“Fuck you,” Alfred spat, as Hank fell to the floor. Two men appeared in the doorway behind him, Alfred whirled around cat-quick but lowered the weapon once he recognized them. “Pick her up, let’s go,” he ordered. The two men quickly did as ordered, and followed Alfred out into the hallway. They passed John’s lifeless body in the corridor, where Alfred had let it fall, after he had snuck up behind him and clubbed him in the back of the head as he had Jessie. He had slit John’s throat, almost before he had hit the ground, and so he had made no sound whatsoever. Alfred kicked an empty paper coffee cup, resting by one of John’s outstretched hands, out of his way as they trotted by.

Outside, in the late afternoon air, the sound of gun fire reverberated through the Streets. It was audible now, even inside the building. Alfred mowed down a group of seven people with the machine gun, who had been crouched fearfully just inside the doorway to the building, as he came upon them. None of them had the chance to return fire, or even turn around, and Alfred, followed by the two men, trampled over their bodies as he pushed through the doorway and out into the street.

The South side of the city was in the grip of a battle that had begun two blocks away, when Willie himself had taken out the patrolling guard, and then quickly rushed through the barricade, toward the War Memorial.

All was not going as planned however, as a heavily armed group in the County Court House building had pinned them down before they had been able to take the War Memorial, and that had allowed the people in the War Memorial, to react.

As a consequence Willie’s group was rapidly falling in numbers, and although he did not wish to, he would have to drop back, or risk losing all of his men if Al didn’t show soon. He had just started to draw back, when Alfred came trotting out of the television station, in a deafening roar of gun fire. The kid had done it, Willie realized, as he saw the two men running behind him, carrying a slumped form in their arms as they ran. He could see even from the distance of the two hundred yards that separated them, that the form was female, and he was quite sure that Al knew better than to bring him the wrong woman.

As Willie watched, one of the men carrying the woman was cut down by gun fire, and Alfred quickly picked up the fallen mans’ burden and continued forward. Willie was torn, Alfred had to make it through in one piece with the woman, or Luther would have Willie’s balls, he had told him as much, and Luther didn’t bull-shit.

The gunfire from the Court House, and the War Memorial was restrained somewhat, but they apparently had more than a few shooters who could aim well enough to miss the woman. When they were less than a hundred feet away, the kid went down, and the remaining man struggled to get the woman over his shoulders and continue on. Willie hesitated, only an instant longer, and then leapt up and sprinted for the man. Chips of asphalt flew all around him as he ran. The War Memorial crowd was trying to stop him from reaching them, he realized. But gunfire was nowhere near as bad as Luther, so he kept on, marveling that he hadn’t yet been hit, as he ran the last few feet and grabbed the woman’s body along with the other man.

He felt the man behind him go down just ten feet from the safety of his small band of disciples, and he felt as well the ripping of his flesh, as three rounds caught him in the back. He stumbled the last few feet pushed forward by the impact of the rounds, fully expecting to finally drop dead as two men rose from behind the barricades to take the woman’s body.

He had done it, he had reached safety, he realized, and he had also caught three solid rounds in the back doing it. That made him happy, as he wanted nothing more than to lay down right here on the pavement and die, it would feel so good, so right, he thought, as he began to ease toward the road. His hands were clasped across his stomach. What’s left of it, he thought. He could feel his insides trying to squirm out through his fingers.

Good, he thought, very fuckin’ good. Very, very, good. So, how come I’m not dead? he asked himself.

Takes longer, his mind whispered, this ain’t a friggin’ movie.

Okay, fine, he reasoned, this ain’t a movie. But how come it don’t hurt even, huh?

Shock, his mind told him.

Well fuckin’ fine, but…

Two of his men squatted and quickly picked Willie up, just as his eyes slipped shut. “His gut’s is hanging out, Tommy,” one complained, gagging.

“Shut up and get going, we ain’t leaving his body here, no way.”

The two men ran off down the street, and deeper into the north side of the city, carrying Willie’s body between them as they ran.

Frank

Frank crouched low, looking over the layout of the Jeffery’s farm along with the others, from a thick stand of trees that came up to within one hundred yards of the rear of the house. The barn and the twin silos were even closer, maybe two hundred feet, he estimated.

A heavily bearded, biker type stood on the rear porch of the farm house, casually picking his nose, while simultaneously, drinking a can of beer. His machine gun resting against the porch railing less than two feet from where he stood.

“That guy’s got to go three hundred pounds,” Frank whispered, as he watched him.

As if he had heard him, the biker suddenly tossed his thick greasy hair out of his eyes, and looked out toward the woods, directly, it seemed to Frank, where they were hiding. Frank held his breath and waited, mentally kicking himself as he did. If he had heard him though, he certainly didn’t act like it. He suddenly crushed the beer can in one fist, threw it out into the yard, where it joined countless others, turned heel and walked to the opposite end of the porch. Once there he lowered his wide bottom into a rusted green metal deck chair, and propped his feet up on the rail of the porch as he lit a cigarette. The machine gun still rested against the rail on the opposite end of the porch, perhaps twenty feet away, Frank saw.

“Piece a work, ain’t he?” Gary whispered, to no one in particular.

“That he is,” Jeremiah whispered back.

A foggy belch, along with the hiss of an opening carbonated beverage, could be plainly heard from the rear porch in the quiet mid-afternoon air.

“Real pig too,” Jimmy whispered, “if he drinks enough we might be able to just walk over to those silos.”

“That’d be nice,” Frank whispered back.

“Gonna have to try for it soon,” Jeremiah said, “maybe now’s the best time, he ain’t got his rifle. Might not get a better opportunity.”

They had spent over an hour crouched down in the trees hoping for a good opportunity. Trouble was, Frank thought, we still don’t know if there’s anyone inside the house. The biker was the only one they had seen so far, and he had not ventured into the house once while they had watched him, so they had no idea what to expect if they tried to move on the silos. There could be, Frank thought, a whole house-full of re-enforcement’s just waiting to come out of the rear of the house. Jeremiah was right though, he realized, they had to make a move soon, either that or wait for night fall, and none of them wanted to do that.

“Lets’ do it,” Frank grunted decisively as he slowly stood up. The other three men stood up with him.

At first the biker type seemed not to notice them as they slowly walked from the woods. The way his feet are propped up, Jeremiah thought, he might not be able to see us. Two steps later though, the biker suddenly jumped up and began to sprint for the machine gun at the opposite end of the porch. All four of their machine pistols chattered at once, and before he had made it more than ten steps, he was cut down. Frank ran as hard as he could toward the silos behind Jeremiah. Jimmy and Gary brought up the rear. They all dropped to the ground once they reached them, and scurried around behind them.

Although the silos protected them from the gun fire they expected, they also blocked their view of the house. They heard nothing, no doors suddenly slamming open, no footfalls, but that didn’t mean they weren’t already closing the distance to the silo, Frank knew.

“Gonna check,” Frank grunted, as he belly crawled around the side of the silo so he could see the house. No one was in sight, and he could make out the prone body of the biker behind the spindles of the porch railing, where it had fallen. Frank stared at the house for a few minutes longer, before he crawled back around the silo.

“Looks good,” he whispered, “can’t be certain, but nobody’s come out yet.”

“We have to check it though,” Jimmy said, “no telling for sure until we do.”

“Yeah,” Gary agreed, “I don’t want to get inside this silo and then find out that we were wrong, that there is somebody in there.”

“It don’t make sense,” Jeremiah said, “that they’d put the guy out here alone… Not if it’s really important anyhow.”

Frank looked at the silo. It looked like an ordinary see-it-any-day-of-the-week sort of silo. He had seen hundreds just like it back in Seattle. He looked down at the base of the silo. The base was just concrete. Could be Peter’s lied, his mind whispered. It might be just an average ordinary silo, and he didn’t feel like getting his ass shot off for an average ordinary silo. The door however, was around the front, and like it or not, they would have to be reasonably sure the house was empty before they entered, or they would be trapped, he realized, like fish in a barrel. “Lets’ go,” he decided, crouching low as he ran around the silo toward the house.

The house was empty. The house was completely empty. No people, no furniture, no nothing. The only thing that was in the house were three cases of beer piled just inside the rear door, that matched two on the rear porch, apparently to keep the biker type happy. Along with a deep midnight blue Harley sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, its chrome winking, even in the muted light falling through the windows of the kitchen. Other than that it was completely empty. They searched the attic, basement, and found nothing. After the quick search they trotted past the body on the rear porch, and back out to the silo.

“Here goes,” Frank said, as he shot the padlock off the silo door they had hidden behind. He turned the knob and the door swung open. The door was not lead lined, Frank noticed, the pristine interior of the silo was empty. No silage, and definitely no missile, and no false bottom either, the floor was solid concrete, they crawled around the perimeter and checked on their hands and knees to make sure.

“Other one,” Frank said, “it must be in the other one,” he finished, and bolted toward the other silo, with the others close behind.

The second silo had a small key-pad installed into the solid metal door, with both a green and a red indicator light. The red indicator light was pulsing steadily.

“Bitch, what do you make of it, Gar’?” Frank asked.

“Looks almost like a simple house alarm type setup,” Gary responded.

“I wouldn’t try shooting it off, Frank,” Jeremiah cautioned, “could be maybe it would set off some sort’a warning.”

“Believe me I wasn’t entertaining the thought,” Frank responded dejectedly, even though he had been thinking of doing just that. “Does anyone have any idea on how we can get in?”

The silo was connected to the barn, or at least to Jimmy, who had been looking it over, it appeared to be. “Through the barn maybe?” he offered, “looks to be connected to me.”

They circled the entire barn twice, before they came back to the double sliding front doors. From a distance they had appeared to be ordinary doors, but up close they could tell that they were not. They looked to be better than ten inches thick, and that was only what they could see. The sliding mechanism was only for show, the doors either swung inward, or outward, it was hard to tell, but they definitely did not slide. The windows were likewise fake. Within ten feet they had been able to tell they were nothing more than painted replicas. The weathered wood siding was also a sham, Gary discovered, after he kicked the side of the barn in frustration. One rotting board had fallen to reveal the thick concrete shell of the building beneath.

“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Gary said, “there’s something in there, or they wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of disguising it so well.” He stepped back and stared up toward the roof of the deceptive building. “Might be maybe another way in though,” he said, gazing upward.

The other three men stepped back and looked up as well.

“Through that air vent you thinkin’?” Jeremiah said.

“Might work,” Frank agreed.

Jimmy’s eyes flew open. “I saw a ladder, one of those aluminum jobs around the back,” he exclaimed.

“I saw that myself,” Frank agreed, as he followed Jimmy around the building. They were back in a few minutes carrying the long ladder between them. Jeremiah helped set it up, and then began to climb it toward the top.

The others were positive, at first, that Jeremiah would come tumbling back down the roof to the hard ground.

The roof pitch was steep, and once he had left the ladder he’d had a bad moment or two before he gained his balance. “Don’t worry, I ain’t goin’ to fall,” Jeremiah assured them once he regained his footing, “I climbed my own barn roof more times than you could shake-a-stick-at, and this one ain’t near as steep.”

Still, the three remaining men on the ground were apprehensive, until Jeremiah gained the top of the roof, and the large turbine-type air vent. He seemed to test the solidity of the mounting once he reached it, and then called, “Look out boys, she’s comin’ down.” He twisted the round steel top, the muscles in his arms standing out, crouched down, and let the top fall free, as it came loose with a high squeal of metal against metal. The top tumbled end over end to the ground, the turbine still spinning, until it hit the ground and burst apart, no longer an air-vent, but a small pile of shiny scrap metal.

“Well, what you waiting for?” Jeremiah called down, a smile on his face. “She’s open straight into the loft, come on.”

The others wasted no time in climbing the ladder, and they dropped the six feet to the loft floor, as Jeremiah had, once they had crawled through the now open vent.

The interior of the old barn had been as extensively modified, as the exterior. The entire upper loft area still resembled an actual barn, but below that was where the real renovations had taken place. The entire one hundred foot by forty foot space was completely open, and steel girders now supported the weight of the structure, instead of the massive hand hewn beams that had once done the job.

Excluding the small loft, that had been left intact to facilitate easy access to the roof vents, heating ducts, and electrical conduits, eighty feet of the structure rose unobstructed to the ceiling from the concrete floor thirty feet below. There was no sign of equipment, military or otherwise in the building, it was empty, and the pristine off white of the concrete seemed to bear out the feeling they all had, that the renovation had been fairly recent, and whatever equipment that had been destined to be installed in the structure had not been.

“Looks more like an aircraft hangar than a barn,” Jimmy said, as he stared down into the well-lit space. The building was obviously powered by some electrical source, but no tell-tale sound of a generator could be heard within the structure, and they had heard nothing outside that would indicate the presence of a power plant either. In fact the only sound in the building itself, was the low buzz of the florescent lights suspended from the steel girders.

“You think it’s powered from the caves?” Gary asked.

“Has to be,” Frank responded. “Unless there’s a sound proofed building close by that we missed, and I doubt that,” he finished, and shrugged his shoulders. The empty building echoed their voices, seeming to amplify them as they spoke,

Has to…has…Be…be, and that tended to make them speak in whispers, to avoid the eerie echoes of their own voices.

The barn was extremely oppressive to Frank. He had the feeling that a full scale war unfolding directly outside the building would not be heard, and it was almost as if the building ate the sound of their voices, or absorbed them into its walls after it bounced them around.

“I really don’t like this place much,” Frank said, vocalizing his apprehension.

“Me either… Lets’ see what we got, and whether we kin get into the silo,” Jeremiah said, as he began to climb down a steel ladder to the floor below, “then lets’ get out of here.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Frank said, as he followed. Jimmy scrambled down next, and Gary followed at a slightly slower pace nervously clutching the steel rungs as he did, as though they would suddenly disappear.

“Hey, you comin’, or what?” Frank called up teasingly, as Gary slowly descended. He regretted it a few seconds later as Gary turned his sweat slicked face to him. “Scared a heights a little,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Sorry, Gary, take your time,” Frank said apologetically, as he mentally chastised himself.

To Gary the thirty feet to the concrete seemed more like a mile, and until he finally set one foot on the cement floor, he had been convinced that the ladder would either suddenly fall away, or his own fear would cause him to lose his sweaty grip on the iron rungs, and he would plummet to the cold concrete far below. “Unreasonable, I know,” he said with a shaky voice once he was standing beside Frank. “Unreasonable or not though, I never been able to shake it. Goin’ up ain’t much of a problem, but comin’ down…” He finished, shaking his head, with more than a trace of embarrassment.

“I wish you’d told me, Gary you could have stayed up there, or outside, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have kidded you about it, I feel like a real ass,” Frank said, concern in his eyes.

“Oh sure, I stay outside and get my ass shot off, while you guys get to do the fun stuff,” Gary said in a serious voice. “No thanks, we’re stickin’ together. I’ll deal with the ladder, it ain’t so hard going up, only comin’ down,” he finished smiling. They walked toward Jeremiah and Jimmy at the rear of the structure.

The silo did have a connecting hallway to the barn, but another key-pad, complete with a flashing red indicator light, protected the steel door of the silo, just as the one outside had.

“Any suggestions?” Frank asked.

“Maybe you’ll have to shoot it off after all,” Jeremiah said, a frown settling on his face.

“Maybe I can take it apart,” Jimmy said, as he bent and began to study the key-pad, “gimme that pocket knife of yours, Gary.”

Two slotted screws appeared to be all that held the small black device to the wall. Using the edge of one of the smaller blades Jimmy carefully unscrewed the key-pad, and gently started to ease it away from the wall. The mounting screws were apparently an intrinsic part of the alarm system, for as soon as Jimmy lifted the key-pad a loud braying siren began to wail in the building. “Damn!” Jimmy yelled, and dropped the key-pad as though it had burned him.

“So much for surprise,” Jeremiah yelled above the braying of the siren, panic in his voice, “We better take out the door if we’re going in.”

Luther

Eleven miles away, Luther sat mesmerized by the pulsing message on the monitor. He was replaying for yet another time just exactly how he would enter the remaining codes, and launch the missiles from wherever they were buried in the huge underground complex.

He had men searching them out, but there were miles of underground roads, tunnels, corridors, and natural rock passages to search, and it would take forever for them to search them all. He could only hope that they would stumble upon them in their searching. After all, the law of averages must be tipping in favor of it, he thought, they had already searched better than half of the complex itself.

It still made him angry that their location had not been known to him. He had known several other things. He had known of their existence, hadn’t he? So why was it he didn’t know where they were? He supposed it didn’t matter, not really anyway, as everything was close to being over, and regardless of where they were, they would still do their intended job.

He was anticipating word from Willie later on this evening, concerning the woman. Her capture was assured though, he knew, and Willie would not really be telling him something he didn’t already know, rather just confirming it for him, and once he had the woman, he would have them all.

Another thing that really pissed him off was that he was not positive of where the four men were. He had been able to see them leave Fairport he had even been able to glimpse them briefly as they sped across the lake. After that though, he had not been able to track them, and had no idea where they had gone. But they would have to come here eventually, wouldn’t they? After all they were seeking the missiles, and they had left Rochester.

So far they had not been spotted trying to enter the caves. They would be, he assured himself, and the orders he had issued concerning them were to shoot to kill, on sight, no fucking around. He had no doubt that he would be in possession of their bodies by night fall, and once he was, he would punch in those codes, and send the fools in Rochester a little present.

He didn’t question why in his mind it was so important to him that their top people were dead or at least captured, before he sent the missiles. It was just part of The Plan. His Plan and he had thought it out carefully. Plans were important, and once a plan was devised it was even more important to stick to it. Follow it. See it through to the end. He wanted their deaths to be more personal, he wanted to look at their dead bullet-riddled bodies, and maybe stomp what was left of them, or order their remains torn to shreds.

Yes, he decided, as he watched the screen, torn to shreds, ripped limb to limb. “Yes indeedy,” he said aloud, and shuddered with delight.

He was still thinking of how much he would enjoy the little scenario he was playing out in his fevered mind, when the screen suddenly went blank, and then a split second later began to flash a new message. The wide grin that had been plastered on his face, suddenly slipped as he looked at the screen.

SECURITY BREECH ZONE 7…….

INITIATING POWER DOWN SEQUENCE IN TEN SECONDS.

ENTER COMMAND CODE SECTOR SIX, ZONE SEVEN TO

ABORT POWER DOWN SEQUENCE NOW __

A small cursor blinked, waiting for the requested input.

Now what the fuck did that mean exactly? Luther wondered, and where the fuck was sector six, or zone seven for that matter? And just what the fuck was going on, he asked himself. Power down what? Sector six and zone seven? Did it mean that the four men had somehow managed to enter the underground facility undetected? If so, Luther assured himself, somebody’s balls would be hanging from his belt. They would join several others he had skewered, that now hung suspended from a leather thong at his waist. Fucking-up was not allowed, and the punishment he had devised for it, was a powerful deterrent. As he watched, still puzzled, the screen changed once more.

INITIATING POWER DOWN NOW.

ESTIMATED TIME TO POWER DOWN SECTOR

SIX TEN MINUTES.

ABORT COMMAND ON STANDBY.

A small computer generated digital clock appeared in the upper left hand corner and began to track the time second by second.

Slowly it began to dawn on Luther that the termination might be referring to the missiles. That maybe sector six, zone seven, might be where the missiles were located, and that possibly the four had not only broken into the underground facility, but that they may also have found the missiles, and that maybe, just maybe, they were trying to disarm them, and if that were the case, it couldn’t be allowed, it just could not. Because, he told himself, well because it couldn’t, because…Well, because that wouldn’t be fair, that would be cheating, and even that old bastard who was passing himself off as God wouldn’t cheat, would he? Could he?

No, Luther decided, he was too much of a goody-two-shoes, for that shit, and besides, he didn’t know how to cheat, that was… Well, that was just the way it was, he reasoned. Only I can cheat, it had always been that way, and… and… Well, anything else wouldn’t be playing the game fairly, it would be… cheating, and cheating was no fucking fair, no fucking fair at all, and… So, it couldn’t be, it was against the rules. Not allowed, but… Just in case he was thinking of cheating, not that he could, he assured himself, but just in case, just in case that old bastard was trying to be crafty, hadn’t he better try punching those codes in right now? Hadn’t he better? He glared at the computer screen. Yes, he decided, just in case, not that it was possible, but… “Just in case,” he whispered, as his fingers deftly punched the terminals keyboard, and entered the final codes. “Just in-fucking-case,” he whispered again. He was rewarded with a new screen for his efforts, as the old one blinked away.

TERMINATE POWER DOWN SECTOR SIX ZONE

SEVEN? Y/N __

The screen asked, as the cursor blinked, waiting for input. He quickly punched Y on the keyboard and was rewarded with yet another screen.

CONFIRM ACTIVE LAUNCH STATUS Y/N __

He pushed Y once more.

ENTER LAUNCH COORDINATES_________

Luther referred briefly to a small blue book he had liberated from the base commanders safe. He punched in the specified code for an in-country launch, and then entered the required coordinates.

SPECIFIED COORDINATES INDICATE

10% SURVIVAL RATE THIS FACILITY.

TERMINATE/PROCEED T/P____

Luther pressed P, and the screen went blank. 

Frank

Frank emptied the full clip of the machine pistol into the steel door, which seemed to absorb the bullets rather than bounce them back at him which had been his concern. The heavy steel lock-set blew apart and fell to the floor. Smoke and the smell of burnt gunpowder hung heavy in the air. Jeremiah wriggled his fingers into the bullet-warmed opening that had once contained the lock-set, and tugged sharply. The door swung slowly open, and they stepped inside the silo.

Luther

Luther had begun to panic. A new screen had not appeared, and just what did that mean? He wondered. He refrained from touching the keyboard, or the monitor, although he would have liked to, he was too afraid he would not be able to control himself, that he might just rip the keyboard from the station and smash it to bits, and if it didn’t respond soon, he was afraid he would, and what would that do, and… The screen blinked back on, interrupting his thoughts.

CALCULATING SAFE-FLIGHT STAND BY.

The screen blinked.

Now what the fuck did that mean? Luther asked himself. What was safe flight, and how come it had to calculate anything, and how come it wasn’t just launching the fucking missiles, and this is really beginning to piss me off, and… The screen changed. 

Frank

Frank stepped into the silo behind the others. The smoke was heavier inside the room, and the stench of sulfur dioxide was almost gagging in its intensity. The room however was not so obscured by the smoke, that he could not see that it was empty.

“There ain’t a damn thing in here,” Gary said, echoing their thoughts, “now what d’you make of that?”

Frank was examining the walls of the silo. What had appeared to them to be solid brick on the outside, was not. “Fiberglass cast,” Frank said, “it’s fake, this isn’t a silo…” He had been about to say more, when the floor beneath his feet suddenly began to tilt. “Out!” Jimmy yelled in surprise. “Its’ under the damn floor, get out!”

Luther

Luther stared at the new screen.

SAFE-FLIGHT INSTALLED.

DESTINATION.EXE INSTALLED.

SYS LOC.EXE INSTALLED.

INS.EXE ACTIVE.

24:12:06 TO LAUNCH.

The clock-like entry began to run backwards second by second, as Luther watched in anger.

“NO!” he screamed into the room. “Right fucking now, not twenty-fucking-four-fucking-hours, RIGHT NOW!” He fought to control his temper, and forced his hands to release the key board.

NOW,

He typed out with a jab of one finger, and pressed enter. The terminal beeped, but other than the small beep, nothing happened. He forced his anger down, typed,

TERMINATE,

and again pressed enter. Other than the same small beep, nothing happened. His hands spasmed and he once again grasped the keyboard. One finger jammed the enter key, and a rush of beeps issued forth from the terminal.

NO, he told himself, as he ripped the key board loose, and rocketed it into the screen. The screen imploded with a bright orange shower of sparks.

“NO, NO, FUCKINGFUCKINGFUCKING,” he screamed as he pummeled the monitor with his fists.

Frank

As the four men watched from the relative safety of the hallway, the concrete decking tilted to one side, and a slim white missile glided out of the abyss below the silo. Before it was entirely out of its dark prison, the fiberglass silo began to tip and then crashed to one side. All obstructions removed, the missile, along with its launch mechanism, glided out of the dark socket, and rose majestically into the late afternoon air. Once fully extended the launch assembly swiveled, and canted the missile to an almost flat trajectory, then the hydraulic machinery fell silent. The missile was aimed to the southwest, Frank saw, directly at Rochester.

Ten seconds later the same heavy thudding of hydraulic machinery, came from the direction of a field behind the barn. All four men sprinted to the outside, and around to the rear of the barn. A second missile was rising out of the field, impossibly white against the back-drop of the deep blue afternoon sky.

They watched in silence as the missile swiveled, and assumed the same nearly flat trajectory as the first had. When it was finished the silence seemed deafening in its intensity. Frank broke it.

“We’re screwed,” he said softly, a defeated look on his washed out face, “it was all for nothing.”

“What about trying to find the wiring and cutting it?” Jimmy asked, with no trace of hope in his voice.

“Never get to it time,” Gary said softly, his eyes locked on the missile that had magically risen from the field. “And where would we look?”

“Why ain’t it launching?” Jeremiah asked, Shouldn’t it oughta?”

“We’re screwed,” Frank repeated, as if he had heard none of the other men speak, as if he were totally alone, and really only speaking to himself. “We are screwed.”

Jeremiah’s hand shot out, and smacked loudly against Frank’s cheek. “We ain’t screwed, Frank, so don’t say we are, we ain’t,” his eye’s flashed with anger. “It ain’t launching, Frank,” he repeated as though he were speaking to a child. “And if it ain’t launching,” he continued, dropping his voice to a calmer level, “we ain’t screwed.”

“He’s right, Frank,” Gary said, with a note of hopefulness in his voice, “there ain’t no steam, or whatever that stuff is you see when a rocket gets launched. There ain’t none of that comin’ out the bottom… they ain’t launching, least ways not yet they ain’t.”

Frank shook his head and looked at the missiles, first one, and then the other. “Can we disarm them somehow? Turn them away from Rochester somehow?” he asked.

“We kin try,” Jeremiah said, “but we don’t want to get too near ’em. In fact maybe this is too close, anybody know?”

“If they’re nukes, we’re way to close,” Gary said, “but who gives a shit, I don’t. If they launch they’ll kill a hell-of-a lot more’n just us four. I vote we try, if it kills us… so be it. I’d rather die trying,” his face was grim and determined when he paused and looked around at them. “Well,” he asked, “what’s it gonna be?” 

Luther

Luther was standing in the Main Operations Room. His mangled hands dripped green fluid onto the white composite top of the partition he was leaning against, as he watched the wall of screens. The fluid bubbled and hissed as it ate its way through the top and ran down the sides.

The room was nearly empty, save Luther himself, and some of the computer jocks. He had sent everyone else searching for the four men he was convinced were somewhere in the facility.

All of the screens were in countdown mode. They had switched automatically as soon as the last sequence of numbers had been entered.

If Luther had been in the operation room before the change-over, when the screens were still monitoring outside cameras, and if he had been looking at one monitor in particular, he would have seen the objects of his wrath, as they had stormed the Jeffery’s farm, and killed the biker that had taken up residence there.

Luther knew about the biker. He had been informed by Willie himself two weeks before when the man had moved himself into the farm house. “Willie,” he had said, with a sneer, “who gives a shit about a farm house?”

Willie, who had thought at first that it might be important, had immediately dismissed it, and told the control room personnel not to keep track of the farm.

Steve Iverson, however, had kept track of the man in spite of being told not to. The biker seemed to be up to something, and Iverson hoped that he would be the one to figure out what. Today the watching had paid off, and Luther would have known what had transpired, if he hadn’t ordered one of the men in the control room to shoot Iverson, who now lay dead on the floor by Luther’s feet. Iverson had watched the whole thing, and had been in such a hurry to tell Luther, that he had forgotten to ask permission to speak.

Luther had been far to consumed with anger, to listen to someone who did not even have the courtesy to wait until he was asked to speak, and so had ordered Iverson shot, without ever knowing what sort of information he was so eager to depart.

Far better to nip disobedience in the bud quickly, Luther thought, as he gazed down at Iverson’s crumpled body.

Once he had been able to calm down, he had wondered briefly what Iverson had wanted to say, but only briefly, and then his attention had been drawn to the screen-wall, and the count-down clocks that they showed.

He knew for sure now, that he had been cheated, but it was still salvageable, he told himself. He had called Willie, to make sure that they would get the woman, impressed upon him how severe the penalty would be if he didn’t, and then had allowed himself the joy of watching the screens count down.

It could have been worse, he reasoned, the missiles might not have set at all, the old bastard might have jinxed that too. But he hadn’t, and if he had to wait a few hours so what, hadn’t he already waited for thousands of years? What was a few more hours compared to that?

“Nothing at all,” he whispered calmly into the quiet room. “No big deal.” No sooner had he spoken the words out loud, when all the screens in the Operations Room went blank.

Frank

“We do it,” Frank said, as he stared at the missile in the field and sighed. “Gary’s, right, four of us, or all of them.”

“How come there were no warnings,” Jimmy asked, “shouldn’t there have been those triangular warning plaques inside if they’re armed with nuclear war-heads?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Gary said, “but what else would they be? I don’t have a clue, ‘less they’re chemical war-heads could be some sort of regular war-head. Maybe even CFP’s. Trying to figure out what it is, ain’t gonna help us at all,” he said, as he turned and started toward the missile behind them. The others followed, and when they reached the missile, they began to circle it. Taking their first real look at it.

They had been too panicked before to notice much of anything, other than, it was white, it was big, and it looked like death, and it was the last thing they had really wanted to see, even though they had come here to find it.

The launching mechanism was almost as big as the circumference of the silo had been, and the massive steel girder-like arms that protruded upward, cradling the missile securely, also held two thick cables of wires that entered the body of the missile about twenty feet from the ground.

“What happens if we cut those wires?” Gary asked, as Jeremiah and Frank left to get the ladder they had used to climb onto the barn roof.

“Wouldn’t it blow up?” Jimmy asked.

“It ain’t like a bomb, like you see defused on TV,” Gary answered. “Least I don’t think it is. But I ain’t sure if cutting those wires will do the trick. It might not. I think though, that they might be to guide it… I wish to hell I knew for sure, but I don’t, I’m guessing. But it’s a place to start, I suppose.”

Frank and Jeremiah came back around the barn with the ladder, and leaned it up against the smooth surface of the Missile, adjusting it so it fell just below the cables that entered the body.

“I’ll go,” Jeremiah said, as he started up at the ladder before anyone could protest. He gained the top of the ladder, and gently pulled at the bundle of wiring, after first peeling back a protective rubber hood that shielded the wires where they entered the missile. The wires did not budge.

He looked down at the upturned faces of the other men. “Looks to be a special sort of plug-like thing can’t see how it releases though.”

“Probably don’t ’till it launches,” Gary said gloomily, “cut the buggers, Jeremiah, if she blows, she blows, we got nothin’ to lose.”

Jeremiah began to cut, and as he cut each wire all of them cringed, expecting the missile to suddenly explode. When the steel blade of the knife grounded out one of the wires that was obviously hot, the resulting shower of sparks caused them all to cry out. The shock nearly knocked Jeremiah from the ladder, but he managed to loosen his grip on the knife and hold on. The knife fell to the ground below, the blade distorted and notched where the high voltage from the wire had arced into it, the plastic handle smoking.

Frank was up the ladder quickly, and only half way up did he remember that the ladder was metal, and if… If nothing, he told himself, as he continued to climb.

“You okay?” he asked, once he had gained the top of the ladder, and grabbed Jeremiah’s jeans to steady him. “Come on, let’s get down from here, come on, Jeremiah, back up, I’ll hold you.”

Once they had reached the ground, and Jeremiah had shaken his head several times, he began to feel somewhat normal again. He didn’t remember Frank climbing the ladder, and he didn’t remember coming down either. He picked up the knife, which was still warm to the touch, and looked at it. The blade was curved, almost hooked now, and he could clearly see the notch that the wire had burned into it. The plastic wood grain of the handle was nearly smooth too.

Other than a small burn in the palm of his right hand, and a slight vibrating sensation in that same arm, he felt okay, he guessed, and he certainly looked a lot better than the knife did, he reasoned. “I think I’ll live,” he stated matter-of-factly, as he let the knife fall back to the ground, “anyone have another knife?”

Gary pulled one from his front pocket, and Frank grabbed it before Jeremiah did, turned, and quickly climbed the ladder up to the bundle of wires. “Don’t be a friggin’ hero,” Gary called after him, “for God’s sake be careful,” he warned

Frank had no intention of being anything but careful. He slowly pulled each wire apart, making sure it couldn’t touch any others, as he finished cutting all but the last wire. “Now what?” he asked, “if I cut the last one the cables gonna fall, and if it hits the beam, or the ladder…?”

Jimmy scrambled up the ladder and supported the cable as Frank hacked through the last wire, then they carefully backed down the ladder. About ten feet from the ground the cable came up short, and Jimmy was forced to let go of it. They both jumped, as he released the cable, and landed in yet another shower of sparks, as the cable swung against one of the steel girders support rods. It stuck fast, at first, welding itself to the rod. But its own weight pulled it free within a few seconds, and it swung out and away, ending up far from the girder, where it slowly swung to a halt.

“Lets’ do the other one,” Frank said, as he and Jeremiah carefully pulled the ladder down.

Twenty minutes later they were finished. Frank had taken a great deal of care with the second cable, to be sure there was no repeat of the first incident. They had taken the ladder down, and left it in the field.

“I wish I knew for sure if those wires being cut will stop ’em from launching,” Gary said glumly, as they walked away from the missiles. They sat on the long rear porch of the old farm house and stared out at the missiles that sat gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.

“I don’t see why they haven’t launched already,” Jimmy wondered aloud.

Frank pulled a case of the beer close to him, opened it, and they each took one, sipping quietly, as they stared glumly at the two slender white needles that rose from the farm.

“I’m going back,” Frank said at last. “If they launch on the way… fine. If they don’t, maybe I’ll be able to see Jessie once more before they do. I sure don’t want to just sit here and die, or wait to die,” he finished solemnly.

“How long before radiation can kill you?” Jimmy asked in a resigned voice.

“Maybe a couple of days at the outside,” Gary replied. “But, we’ll probably wish we were dead long before that,” he paused. “Might be that they ain’t nukes,” he continued hopefully, “but if they are, I guess we’ll know soon enough. Maybe within a few hours, as close as we was to ’em.”

“Well,” Jeremiah said, “seems to me that if they were nuclear warheads, that silo would’ve been lead lined. Don’t that make sense?”

“Yeah!” Jimmy said enthusiastically. “It should’ve been and it wasn’t, just fiberglass, and that wouldn’t have been any protection from radiation, and the Army had to have had guys working here, right?”

“Okay,” Frank said, “maybe so, but if they aren’t nuclear, then what are they?”

“Maybe conventional,” Jimmy said, still enthusiastic.

“Probably chemical,” Gary followed, “and if they are, it probably won’t matter where we go, or what we do…The wind will spread it everywhere. I ain’t so sure we killed ’em. I ain’t so sure they ain’t gonna launch.”

They sat in silence, sipping at the warm beer, staring at the missiles.

“Then we have to do more,” Frank said, a determined look on his face. “We have to make damn sure they don’t launch.” Frank looked around at the farm.

Besides the barn, silos, and house, there were two other outbuildings. Both were falling down sheds really, they didn’t look to him to have been converted for use by the Army. “Listen,” he said “farms have tractors, right? You ever see one around here, Gar’?”

“Always used to be,” he answered, “what’re you drivin’ at, Frank?”

“I think he’s thinkin’ about pushin’ those babies over,” Jeremiah answered. “That about right, Frank?”

“Yeah, it is. I mean they look as though they’re only resting in those launchers, don’t they? It shouldn’t be too hard to tip them up and over, would it?”

Jeremiah was already up and walking toward one of the sheds. “Could blow ’em though. You think, Gary?” he asked, as he walked away.

“Could, but you’re gonna do it anyhow ain’t you,” Gary sighed, as he got up and followed.

“I am at that. Course it’s been a while since I was on a tractor. I hope this time ain’t like the last,” Jeremiah said.

Gary looked over at Frank. “Beats me,” Frank said as he shrugged his shoulders.

The first shed was empty, but the second yielded the tractor, and not the old International that Gary remembered, but a new-looking John Deere model.

Jeremiah started the tractor, after locating the keys on a peg just inside the shed door, and drove out into the field, coming to stop underneath the slim missile. He raised the bucket slowly until it clinked softly against the metal underbelly, then slowly gave the up-lever little nudges, until the missile lifted about a quarter inch off the launch cradle. He jockeyed the tractor forward, and carefully lifted the bucket simultaneously, raising the missile higher as he did. The tractors front tires began to sink into the ground once the full weight of the missile was on the bucket, and the missile screeched as it swiveled up from the launch mechanism. Jeremiah cramped the wheel full right, as he backed slowly away, and just cleared the launch arm with the forward most part of the missile. He lowered the bucket as he continued to reverse, transferring the full weight of the missile onto the front of the large tractor, and dragged it the remaining few feet, up and over the launch assembly. The rear of the missile reached the edge of the launch arm, and they all held their breath as Jeremiah slowly reversed, and the missile came free, crashing rear first into the ground.

The impact buried the rear of the missile a good foot into the ground. But it did not explode, or start ticking, or whatever the hell it was that missiles did, Frank noticed with relief.

The second one was even easier, due to the concrete pad of the silo, and the much harder ground surrounding it. Less than an hour after they had begun, they were finished, and once again seated on the rear porch of the old farm house.

“That was nut’s,” Gary said, “nobody would ever believe it if we told ’em. In fact if any of you guys had told me I’d help do something like that, I would’ve told you, you were soft in the head.”

“Yeah,” Frank said smiling, “but we did do it, didn’t we? Can you believe it?”

“Only ’cause I did it,” Jeremiah said.

“Surprising what fear can make you capable of,” Jimmy said softly.

“I’ve read stuff like that though,” Gary said, “people lifting” cars off loved ones, things like that, fear is a mighty strong motivator all right.”

“Well if you ever write a book, you can add this to it,” Frank said, “chapter seven four scared men dismantle two nuclear bombs. Should sell like hot-cakes.” He stood as he finished speaking. “I’m going back, how about you guys?”

“Only thing to do, we’re done here,” Gary agreed.

Jeremiah and Jimmy stood, and the four men began to walk back toward the road, away from the farm.

“If it kills me; if it was a nuclear job,” Gary said, as they walked away, “I don’t care. It was worth it.”

“Is it a good idea to go back?” Jimmy said, suddenly alarmed, “could someone else… Well, could someone else catch it, are we, like, contaminated or something?”

The question brought them all to a sudden halt in the middle of the vine covered road.

“Don’t look at me,” Gary said, as they all turned toward him, “I don’t know, I really don’t,” he paused for a second. “He’s got a good point, and I ain’t got a clue, ain’t that a bitch?”

“Lets’ not go jumpin’ to conclusions,” Jeremiah said calmly. “If we are, going back ain’t gonna make a real big difference. Nothing saying we gotta leave the boat once we get there, especially if we take sick along the way. It’s a good three hours back, and as close as we were I think we’d be feelin’ it by then. If we’re sick… We just stay on the boat in Fairport, we don’t get off, so we can’t make anybody else sick, if it is catchin’,” he finished.

“If we aren’t sick?” Frank asked.

“We play it by ear, I guess,” Jeremiah replied. “But staying here ain’t gonna help us at all, is it?”

“No, it sure ain’t,” Gary agreed.

Jimmy seemed calmer, as he agreed, and Frank nodded his head as they struck off down the road, back to the boat. Silence descended between them as they walked. Even once they had started the boat and Gary had piloted them out into lake, the silence still held.

We’re waiting to see who gets sick first, Frank thought, as the boat plowed through the water.

When darkness finally descended a few minutes later they were all relieved. The darkness was good, Frank decided, they didn’t have to look at each other as they waited.


America The Dead: The Fold 2. The Fold begins to grow from discontent and becomes an enemy #iTunes #Horror #Survive https://books.apple.com/us/author/w-g-sweet/id1156638419


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America the Dead on Apple Podcast, Episode 16

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/america-the-dead-new-york-podcast-wendell-sweet/id1495878572

Episode sixteen of the popular America the Dead series: He lay for a few minutes thinking about how much he loved Candace, wondering how funny it was that he had lost so much yet gained so much, something he had never had and had been in no hurry to go out and find. He wondered how he had ever managed to live his life without her in it. He wondered over how deep his love was in such a short period. It seemed like it was just yesterday when he had first met her. He had remembered how he had never really found tattoos attractive on a woman, but she had this tribal thing that started on her left hand, wrapped around that wrist and then sleeved her arm, disappearing under her shirt sleeve. It was one of the first things he had noticed, and when she had been reaching for something he had seen another piece of the same work that came down across her flat stomach and slipped below the waist band of her jeans. While he had been wondering if it was a second piece or part of the same piece, she had caught him looking. Her eyes had settled on his own and the next thing he knew he was thinking about her in an entirely different way. Thinking about making love to her, about being with her. Thinking that could never happen, Tom was obviously interested. And then she had walked over and changed his entire life. He couldn’t be without her now. The man he was becoming had a lot to do with her, probably would have never existed without her, and he had never even known she existed, never even known that love could be like that. The entire world was destroyed, but he had found himself. And she loved him too. He could feel it, see it. It was every bit as strong as what he felt for her. Not clingy, just real. Total. “Hey,” Candace said. His eyes had slipped closed; he opened them to see her standing over him, a cup of coffee in one hand. “Coffee,” He said. “Good,” she said. “It’s alive. Were you going to sleep the day away?” She handed him the coffee carefully as he sat up. “Something wore me out,” He grinned. “You okay?” “More than okay,” She answered. She leaned over and kissed him.


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America The Dead: Zombie Fall Apple Books

EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: ZOMBIE FALL

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Zombie Fall is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons’ places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

NOTICE: This material is not edited for content


PROLOGUE

Before The Plagues

New York: Rochester

John Simmons

The sidewalks below him were crowded. John stood at the apex of the steps that led up to the old court house. It was impressive. He looked down at his hands, shifting the small silver canister from hand to hand, rolling it across his palm, treating it as though it were just a small fascination to occupy his mind, when in fact he knew it was something more. He didn’t know what, exactly: He wasn’t paid to know what. Maybe someone up the ladder knew what, he didn’t, and it was likely he never would, but it was something more than just a shiny little object to occupy his mind.

He had done hundreds of these small jobs. Little things. Little things that probably meant nothing in the scheme of things, at least that’s what he had always told himself. A little mental salve to prevent an infection of the larger truth. Little things he never heard a single thing about later on. Little things, but he suspected this time, this job was not a little thing at all. He suspected this was a big thing. He suspected he would hear about this one down the road. He suspected this one would come back to bite him in the ass.

The trouble was, in for a penny, in for a pound. It all mattered. He had taken job after job where he might leave an item on a park bench. Drop off a set of wheels in the middle of the desert. Switch a suitcase at an airport. Little jobs. Little jobs and he had never said no. Never complained about them. Never turned one down. And so here he was about to press the activator on a small, silver canister that might do anything. Anything at all. And was he worried about that? Yes, he was.

It was not so much worry for himself. He didn’t really believe the thing would blow up. He didn’t truly think they would take him out that way, if there was ever a reason to take him out, that was. He quickly shut down that line of thought. He had too much to worry about right now without starting a whole new avenue of doubt.

So, no, he did not believe it would blow up. He believed it would hiss and release a giant cloud of some sort of toxic gas: Gases even, he amended. Waste, poison, something, but if that were the case how could he safely set it off and not be contaminated himself?

The instructions were to walk to the top of the courthouse steps, depress the red button, and then toss it away. No specific direction, just away. It apparently didn’t matter. And, he thought now, wasn’t this exactly the way some terrorist would do it? Do an attack? A poison gas attack? An unclassified viral attack? He had seen a few movies, this was the way he would do it if he was writing the script. The girl beside him spoke.

“If this is going to take much longer you’re gonna have to pay more. I know I said I would be cool, a fifty, I mean, but standing around here is wasting my time. I got places to be. I got…”

He cut her off. “And you ain’t got no money yet. And if you do want the money then you need to shut the fuck up.” He went back to his self observation. A second later he looked back at her. “Hey, hey,” he soothed. She had begun to pout. Just another street girl with a habit and too much time on her hands to feed it.

“Look…” He waited for her to look at his hand. He held the small vial upright. “Do me a favor, okay? I was looking around because, well, because I want a picture right here. Now all you have to do is push this little red button… Aim at me, it’s got a little camera in there…You can’t see it, it’s one of those new ones… Like them spy ones? So all you got to do is point it at me and then press the button.” He held the canister and looked around. She tried to take the canister from his hand and he snatched it away.

“Goddammit, Dude, You want it or not?” She stamped her foot exactly like the spoiled child she was and was destined to always be.

“Yeah… Yeah I do. Just… See that corner over there? The top of the stairs? That little what-do-you-call-it hollow between those two pillars? Wait until I get there and take the picture.” He handed her the silver canister and started away.

“Hey! How the fuck am I spos’ed to tell? There ain’t no screen thingy, what-the-fuck-it-is?”

He turned back and smiled. “Just face it to me and do it. It’s not supposed to have a thing, screen, just do it.”

She turned the canister to her face. It was only about four inches long, maybe an inch thick. It didn’t look like a camera at all. She turned it back to John and clicked the button. Nothing, not even a click. It didn’t work. It was bullshit just as she had thought.

John froze when he saw her push the button, but nothing happened. Nothing at all. She had pushed it just a few inches from his nose. No odor. No vapor he could see. No anything. He pulled it from her fingers and flipped it back and forth. The red button was depressed now and although he tried to work a thumbnail under it to pull it back up he couldn’t do it. He bought it closer to his nose, nothing. No odor. He pressed it to his ear. No hissing. It was dead. A dud. Whatever it was it did nothing at all. Maybe it had even malfunctioned. He hefted it a few times and then let it drop from his fingers. It hit the stone step below him with a small metallic clink, and then rolled away to the edge. It dropped to the next step, but it didn’t have enough momentum to find its way across that step to the next. He turned back to the girl.

“You broke my camera,” he told her.

“Did not, and that ain’t no fuckin’ camera anyway. You think I’m just stupid?”

“I do think you’re stupid. You broke it. You broke it and so I ain’t paying you. In fact, you should pay me for breaking my camera! Besides which, you pressed it before it was time. You fucked the whole thing up. I shouldn’t pay you shit. Not a fuckin’ dime.”

“Yeah?” she asked. Her eyes were wet, but they were also hard. She looked around at the crowd. “That’s okay, because you know what?”

“What?” John asked. He smiled. She was stuck and he knew it.

“What is, I’m fourteen. Fourteen. And I bet you if I was to start yelling right now, oh, something like rape. If I was to say Rape!” She raised her voice a little and a nearby couple flashed their eyes at the two and slowed.

John flinched and drew back from her.

“Yeah, see? So, now if I was to do that I bet your tune would be different. I just bet it would.”

“Twenty,” John said. His smile was gone.

“You said fifty. Fifty is what you said, and it should be eighty.” She picked eighty out of a hat. It was three more dimes, and three more dimes was a lot better than five. “It is eighty. It’s eighty because you tried to rape me!” She raised her voice once more and John’s hand plunged quickly into his back pocket. He flipped a fifty and three tens at her from the wallet he had quickly pulled free, and she had to scramble to catch the money. Two of the tens fluttered to the stone step below her and she flashed a hard smile at him. The couple that had cut their eyes at them were now stopped and staring at the two of them. A cell phone appeared in the woman’s hand and when John met her eyes there was something there he didn’t like at all. The girl scooped up the money, muttering as she did, and John headed down the stairs two at a time. A few minutes later he had blended into the crowd and was making his way away from the downtown area.

ONE

September 15th year one

Mike sat quietly on the stone ledge, feet dangling over the edge, watching the sunrise. Patty and Candace were both on post and Mike expected them to come down from the top of the pass in just a few minutes. He sipped at his coffee as he waited for them.

He was midway up the ledge, just below the wider ledge that fronted the cave, before him the valley spread out in all directions. You could see the mountains where they blocked one end and sent the valley into a long right hand curve, but even that was several miles distance from where he sat. It was a huge expanse of land, and it was only a small part of the land that was available to them.

There were three large metal barns within sight, constructed from the steel buildings they had bought in with them. There were two smaller steel structures, one that housed the school, the other their small power plant.

That building sat next to the stream, further down the valley, and held the power generator they had bought, and two large diesel engines from two of the flatbed trucks.

It had taken three days to get the trucks down there. Using a winch on the pickup and the third stake bed as an anchor, but, they had done it. The two diesels were soon to be hooked into the main power supply line so that when the wind power was not enough they could run the diesels for supplementary power. The stream itself generated power, but the current was not fast enough, or strong enough to fill their needs. Coupled with the wind power it was more than enough. Backed by the two diesels to turn the generators, they would be fine year round

They intended to add solar panels eventually to provide on demand power and to take the load off the water turbine on sunny days. The power that wasn’t used could be stored in a bank of batteries. Another item that was needed. Items, Mike corrected himself. Plus wire, lots and lots of wire. Because, although the power plant was working, there were only a few lights here and there and only very close to the plant, most of the other dwellings, and the cave, were without power.

The other dwellings were made of stone. Like the power plant, they had Tim’s remarkable mind to thank for the stone and concrete walls. He had read about the power plant and put it together. He had read and understood the formula for cement and made it.

The first few batches were not the best, but they worked well enough, and after that he had shown Ronnie, Patty, David and Mike how to mix the batches. The stone buildings had gone up fast after that.

It took the longest to build the roofs, they were nearly all wood and they had not thought to bring a sawmill, although Bob was sure there had been a fairly large portable one at the farm equipment store.

They had remembered chain saws and oil, and Tim had used an illustration in a project book to build a small Sawmill using one of the larger chain saws. It worked well enough, but ate into their gas supply, which was very low. Even so it had allowed them to build dwellings, another barn, milk house, and slaughterhouse.

The concrete had allowed them to build a long stone wall that sat at the edge of the ledge that fronted the cave and the sheer drop off to the valley below. They had built a chimney for the smoke hole, as well as another wall at the front of the cave to close it off and protect it from the rain and snow they expected. Rain for sure, they had already seen that. They would know more about the snow in just a few months. Mike hoped to be back by then.

He pulled a small notebook from his pocket and wrote… “Base type radios.” He then tucked the notebook away. The notebook was the only way to do it, otherwise he would forget too many things and…

“Hey, babe,” Candace said. She and Patty walked side by side down the pathway from the top. They were both showing, at nearly six months along, and that was the main reason that he and Ronnie would be going along with Nell, Molly, Tim and Annie on the re-supply trip, and Candace and Patty would be staying behind. He stood quickly so she would not try to bend to kiss him. Candace was even larger than Patty and already uncomfortable. He kissed her and held it for a moment.

“Any more of that coffee,” she asked.

“At home,” he smiled. “All you want… Patty?” He offered.

“Nope,” she stood smiling. “I’m going home to my man. With you two leaving tomorrow I have forbidden him to go anywhere else today or tomorrow. I don’t want him to forget me,” she said. She smiled but couldn’t quite hide the worry in her eyes.

“I had the same idea,” Candace said. “Believe me,” she said, kissing Mike again. “He’s not going to forget about me.”

Patty laughed, “You guys,” she said. The three of them continued down the path to the valley floor, past the pool and on down the flagged pathway to the stone houses.

They left Patty with Ronnie, and headed to the next house in line. The inside was still only sparsely furnished and smelled of the fresh cut pine that had been used to build the roof and wall studding. They had to make everything they owned, and it took time. Another thing they had not thought of, furniture. A few simple chairs or beds. They would remember this time though; they were on the list.

Candace stayed on the front porch while Mike went in and started the coffee. The flowers in her little garden were in bloom and the fragrance was strong on the morning air. Mike came back out to find her sitting on the long porch swing he had built for her, fashioned from heavy rough cut planks and sanded smooth with sandstone, watching the sun continue to rise.

He handed her, her coffee, and then carefully sat down beside her so she wouldn’t spill it. She was quiet.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Mike said.

“You don’t have a penny,” she said smiling.

“Well, you know, if I did,” Mike said.

“I’ve been thinking about you leaving. I wish I was going, but I’m also glad to be pregnant with our baby, still I’m going to worry about you while you’re gone,” she took his hand and held it.

“A month, month and a half tops, and we’ll be back. I wish you were going too, but to be honest I’m glad you’re not. Bouncing around those trucks, you and Patty both? No, not at all. Sandy was right to say no. So, I’m gonna miss you, but we’ll be back with a bunch of stuff to keep you busy through the winter and probably the next few years.”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Which reminds me, computers.”

“Computers,” he asked.

“Yeah, it would be so helpful to have a few. For the farm, school, teaching the kids. The power project, but also for my music. You did that right… Computers? Used to program them,” she asked.

“Yeah, and I didn’t think I’d see them again, but you’re right they would be useful,” Mike agreed.

“Can you program,” she asked. “You said so, right? Can you write a program like Tim wants for the powerhouse?”

“Well, I’m okay with HTML, C, Java, but not so hot with C++. But, I don’t have to be, Janet is,” Mike told her.

“Janet,” she asked.

“Yeah, she worked as a data processor. But she wrote several data base programs to do specific work. Not like macros or scripts you write for databases, but real programs,” he said.

“Babe, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but will you get them?” Candace smiled.

Mike smiled and pulled out a notebook. “How many were you thinking,” he asked.

“A few dozen. A little more maybe and the stuff to hook them together?” She said.

He wrote it down and then re-pocketed the notebook. “You got it, Babe. And I’m sorry for the tech-speak,” he smiled and kissed her. “Now, didn’t you say something about spending time with me, before I left?”

She leaned over and closed his mouth with her own. “Come with me,” she said softly, pulling him from the porch swing and into the house…

There was no head of what they had named ‘The New Nation’ and then immediately abbreviated to just ‘The Nation,’ instead they had chosen nine members from among themselves and formed a representative panel. There were also no formal meetings, but when something needed to be decided or discussed the nine of them got together and hashed it out.

They would be down to six, losing Mike, Ronnie and Nellie to the expedition, but they decided there was no real reason to appoint someone to take their places while they were gone. It was so rare for them to even meet that there should be little reason for that to occur while they were gone. “And if it did?” Patty had asked.

“Well,” Bob had said. “Six could decide every bit as well as nine could.” And that had been the end of it.

Instead of remaining in the dark ages as some had been concerned about, Bob and Janet had been all for nearly any and every modern convenience they could find. Bob had balked at telephones though when Tim mentioned how easily it could be done.

“We have radios. I for one don’t want to have to answer the phone so young Tim here can sell me a subscription to the local paper,” he had joked. But the point had been made, even with Tim, and he had immediately turned his attention to radios. Base radios. More power. No Batteries. Radios, Phones, they were the same thing to Tim’s mind. A cell phone could fit in your pocket. The clunky radios they carried now could not. Bob would come around once he saw how much easier a cell phone would work. They were nothing more than a glorified radio anyway. Tim decided not to mention his argument to Bob though. Maybe later.

One of the first decisions the panel had made was to use the cave for a meeting place, clinic, and storage. There were several dry, cold storage areas. The passages went on forever it seemed. The ridge that lead away into the distance, and formed a natural border for the valley, was honeycombed with caves. Most of them connected to the main cave. At least the ones they had explored. Probably, Mike had opinioned, they all did. It was just a matter of exploring them and mapping them out.

There were also underground rivers, steep narrow passages that went deep into the ground. They had blocked off anything truly dangerous within the first few months.

Sandy and Susan had decided to build their own home into the stone overhang. It only made sense, Sandy had said. The clinic was in the cave. The herb racks. The medicines. They were both working their way through several books to learn as much as they could about herbs and the natural healing properties of the trees and plants around them.

Tim and Annie had chosen to live in the cave too. Tim needed the space for the projects he had going. He moved from one thing to the next. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on a few computers, and he was sure he could easily learn whatever Mike and Janet were willing to teach him.

Sharon was learning to nurse from Sandy. She was also finding her background as a veterinarian’s assistant in demand. She was fascinated with plant and herb medicines and was as eager as Sandy and Susan to learn it.

Cindy had stayed in the cave because of Sharon. She was like a mother to her. Whatever had needed to click had. Cindy was impressed with the veterinarian skills Sharon had, and eager to learn from her.

Cindy’s other hero was Molly, who could do just about anything to a motor or any other mechanical thing. She was learning mechanics from Molly and animal husbandry from Sharon. It filled her days up. Made her feel useful. And she rarely thought of her old life any longer.

The large main room in the cave was used as a gathering place by all of them whenever they wanted to get together. It was this space that had been closed in with stone, and a heavy, solid plank door protected the interior from the elements.

Down in the valley, two of the barns held most of the animals, several head of cattle and bison grazed in the valley. They were still fed grain to keep them dependent and close by. The others, mothers who were through nursing their calves, were moved to a separate part of the barn and joined the milking team. They now had twenty-four milkers, and a steady supply of milk, cheese and butter.

The other half of the barn held chickens and rabbits. They had separate areas in the same space, and both reproduced very quickly so they had a constant supply of fresh meat. Some weeks more than they could use. But It was easy to use the far, colder reaches of the caves to keep the meat cold. The cold storage was not enough to keep the meat frozen during the summer but it did keep it cold enough to keep the meat fresh a few weeks at a time. A permanent smoke house existed farther down the valley and took all the excess meat and turned it into dried meat. Highly concentrated protein that could be stored for months. They were working on pemmican so that it could be stored indefinitely, as long as it was kept dry.

The egg supply was also constant with fresh layers coming along all the time. The beef cows were free to graze the valley floor. A short section of stone wall had been erected to close off the exit at the far end of the valley where a second, longer valley ran for several miles, eventually opening into untold miles of grazing lands past the mountain range.

That closed in several miles of the main valley. The sides of the valley climbed to ridges that were far too steep for any animal besides a mountain goat to climb. The area that held the houses and the ledges that led up to the caves was fenced off.

The horses shared the valley. They tended to prefer the closer proximity of people. Several horses were stabled in the second barn along with oxen teams. Some of those horses were used for field work along with the oxen, but there were about a dozen horses that were used for riding and herding the beef cows.

Spread out in the valley there was a small herd of moose and another of deer. Both by-products of the cow chow they had used to lure the cows and horses. An even smaller herd of Bison had stayed in the valley. The question in everyone’s mind at first was whether any of them were cross mate-able. Because the moose bulls were constantly chasing after the cows when they came into heat. They took the questions to Sharon.

“Moose and Cow, No,” Sharon said. “Cow and Bison, yes.” She had laughed it off. But soon after that they were blessed with the first Beefalo calf, and more, she suspected, were on the way.

The third and fourth barns in the valley were used for storing grain and hay they would need to get through the coming winter.

Angel was pregnant, but not by The Dog. The Dog had no fear when it came to chasing off the Wolves and Coy dogs that came down into the valley on occasion. Even the occasional mountain lion. They usually came for the deer, the cows were too large for them. But the calves were not. And they had lost five calves to them. The Dog may have had no fear but at fifty pounds he had been no match for the wolves.. The smallest coy dogs were close to eighty pounds, the smaller wolves closer to a hundred, and the larger ones bigger by far. Most often The Dog ended up on the bad end of things. Torn up, but still game for the next fight. The problem, as Sharon saw it, was that they needed a much bigger dog.

Angel was also a mix, but a much bigger dog. Some sort of Saint Bernard mixed in, Sharon thought, and then crossed with either a Malamute or a wolf. Malamutes were close to wolves in size, some even bigger. They had been bred as freight dogs in Alaska back in the early 1950’s, and had actually come from breeding domestic dog breeds back to wolves.

Sharon had not come up with the solution, Cindy had.

They had both been present when one of the larger male wolves had tried to take down one of the nearly full grown calves they had bought into the valley with them. They were nowhere near as big as a full grown cow, but they were very nearly.

The wolf had been no match for the calf or the calf’s mother who had been nearby. The mother had hit the wolf from the side and broken its spine. She had also delivered a few well placed kicks before herding the calf off. They had checked the calf over and used some antiseptic cream on its belly where the wolf had tried to rip it open, and then let it return to its anxious mother. That was when Cindy had noticed that the wolf was still breathing. Very shallowly, probably not for much longer, but it was alive.

They had, had Angel tied up to keep her away from The Dog who was making a general pest of himself because she was in heat.

“Too bad,” Cindy had said, “We didn’t get him to mate with Angel first.”

Sharon had smiled. “Cindy, you’re a frickin’ genius!”

“How so,” Cindy asked.

“Well. He’s not dead. Everything is working… We can make it work.” Sharon had said.

Cindy looked down at the wolf. “Hold him up?” She was trying to imagine how it might work.

Sharon laughed. “Okay. I take it back. You’re not a genius… How did I show you to do it with the bulls?”

“Oh…” Cindy smiled as it came to her. “You think it will work,” she asked.

Sharon shrugged her shoulders, but continued to smile. “Go get the gloves. Let’s find out.”

“Eww,” Cindy said. “I’m not too good with that part.”

“Time to get better, my dear,” Sharon laughed.

As it turned out it did work, an unconscious wolf or not. A little help from a turkey baster and a few weeks later Angel was pregnant.

The lions were another problem. Sharon had no doubt that a few more crossbreedings would produce dogs big enough to keep the wolves at bay, but they would be no match for the mountain lion, or lions, whichever it turned out to be. Bob had done some tracking and he was convinced it was at least three different lions they were dealing with.

And the problem with that was the children.. The lions seemed only to come around at night, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t come around during the day. So they had set a trap, leaving the fresh remains of a beef cow, and Candace along with Tim had sat up most of two nights in a row. The second night had been the payoff.

Two of the big cats had come down to feed on the cow’s carcass. The cats had been nervous and so they had let them both settle in for a few minutes before they had brought both of them down. They had had no other trouble since then. The furs along with all the other game they shot went up to the cave to be cleaned, stretched and turned into usable leather and fur.

Janet had both Tom and David learning how to prepare and tan the hides. She herself had only ever done it on a small scale, so it was somewhat of a learning process for her too. But there were already some wearing leather vests, pants. Janet herself wore nothing but leather now. Tom and Lilly both had begun to wear only leather, and that had convinced Annie, who was very close to Lilly to try it too. Arlene had already been wearing leather and Janet opinioned that in a few years they would all probably be wearing leather.

Candace and Patty were hoping to build a loom or a spinning wheel long before that. Or have someone build it for them if they couldn’t do it themselves. But both of them had already begun wearing leather. In all truth, Candace told Patty, she liked the way the leather felt on her. It was completely different from cotton, and she wasn’t so sure that Janet was not right. Patty had laughed, but a few days later she had been wearing a leather shirt top that Janet had made for her, and extolling the virtues of leather herself.

In a little over five months they had made the valley into a home. All the prejudices that some had had about living off the land, going back to nature, or simply staying alive, had gone by the wayside. The fields they had cultivated would be ready to harvest in just a few weeks. Corn, beans and other vegetables. And there were acres upon acres of wheat fields to harvest.

The power station, although doing nothing more than powering a few lights right now, would soon be powering their homes and the main meeting area in the cave. Lights along the pathways. Once they had wire they could make it work for what they needed. The hard work to wire it all would willingly be given as it had been to build what they had so far built. They were all behind what they were doing. They were behind each other.

They had found that the gradual slope of the stream down to the pool made an excellent water slide. Children and adults alike enjoyed it. It had been used daily through the long, hot summer months.

Candace and Tim, along with Molly, Lilly and Cindy had put together a little band. Guitars and hand built drums as well as a flute that Lilly had gotten Ronnie to make for her from a pattern in a book. They got together a few times a week and provided music for the shared evening meals on Saturday and Sunday.

The shared weekend meals had been organized by Lilly. She had also set apart an hour on Sunday morning for a church service. It had started with just she and Annie, and now encompassed most of the people. It was like no service in the old world. Lilly would simply read something from her bible or something from some other spiritual book she had. Bob, Sandy and Janet would speak a little about the Creator and the Great Spirit. Ronnie explained a little about the Qua-ran and the Muslim faith. Not really sermons, they would point out, just food for thought.

Janet would make a huge group breakfast that just happened to coincide with the end of their service. That had been the beginning of their day together. And it turned into a weekly service.

From there it had seemed natural to Lilly to plan an afternoon community meal together. It was simply easier for everyone than planning many separate meals. Everyone was so busy throughout the week that they rarely had time to sit down together and talk. Sometimes they didn’t see each at all.

Not everyone made it to the community gathering every week, but no one missed more than one week unless something unusual was going on. It was the one time where no one had to do anything except relax and talk. Enjoy each other’s company. Catch up on projects and ideas.

The musicians played, or sometimes Annie, Lilly and Tim would play music they had collected and bought with them. But with the power as yet not hooked up and batteries getting scarcer and scarcer, most often it was live music.

A dozen groups of people had found their way to the valley and joined them. They monitored the CB, FM and VHF bands and spoke with other groups on a nearly daily basis. They also kept up with the news in the outside world. How bad the cities had gotten. The plague of the Un-Dead that seemed to have swept what was left of the country. It made them grateful for their growing community and the safety they had within the stone ridges of their valley.

Time was flowing by, and everyone was beginning to find their place in that flow once more. The community they had envisioned was becoming a reality and evolving as it grew.

Mike and Candace lay in the big bed in their bedroom. He had one ear up against her stomach listening, trailing his fingers lightly across the swell of her stomach he did.

He had felt the baby move a few times in the last couple of weeks. It was something that choked him up inside. So much emotion he didn’t know how to express it. But that was only his thoughts. Candace could see the love spread across his face and color his eyes. It showed in his smile, in the way he touched her, in the way his eyes misted over.

The baby kicked him in the ear.

“Holy cow,” he said lifting his head up quickly. “Did you feel that?”

“Yeah, Baby, I did.” She laughed and smoothed one hand across his hair as he lowered his head back down to her stomach again.

“That was so… Cool… This is one of those times, Baby, that you never forget,” he told her in a voice that was hushed and filled with awe. He went back to lightly trailing his fingers across her belly, over the swell and back down the other side. It was something Candace had told him relaxed her. And it did this time too. She fell asleep stroking his hair.

Nellie lay with her head on Molly’s shoulder. She rubbed her flat stomach with her palm as one finger drew imaginary circles around her belly button. “I’m trying to imagine this with a bump,” she told her.

“Well it will be soon, Honey” Molly told her.

“Are you afraid? … Nervous?,” Nellie asked.

“A bit. They say you forget the pain right after. So…” Molly said.

“I’ll bet it was a man who said that,” Nellie said.

Molly laughed. “Janet says it’s like that. But you want to kill every man in the world for a little while… While it’s happening,” she said.

“She said that,” Nellie asked.

“Yeah. Just like that. Said she would have kicked herself in the ass for letting Bob do it, but she wouldn’t have been able to get up to do it.” Molly told her. They both laughed. “But afterward? She didn’t care. Like right afterward too. She saw her daughter and she said the rest just didn’t matter anymore. You know?”

“I can guess… I can’t get pregnant… Or, I never did,” Nellie said.

“It’s our last night alone,” Molly said. Her hand slid down the length of Nellie’s body.

Nellie let her own hand trail off of Molly’s flat stomach and onto the bed. She pushed herself up, straddled Molly’s stomach and kissed her slowly.

“I love you so much,” Nellie told her. She kissed her again.

Ronnie pulled Patty to him and held her as they both allowed their breathing to slow and their hearts to quit pounding.

“I don’t think pregnant ladies are supposed to be… Uh… To be that… Active,” Ronnie said.

Patty smacked him on one arm. “You… This one is,” she said.

“Are you going to miss me…? Really miss me,” he asked.

She smacked him again, leaned her head down and bit him lightly on the chest. “Do you want me to show you again,” she asked.

“Jesus! You’ll kill me, Patty,” Ronnie told her.

She rolled off him and curled into his side. “How did you feel about becoming a daddy?” She asked him. His hand was tracing patterns across her stomach.

“Babe, you know how I feel.”

“No, you… The other child that will be yours… Molly’s?”

“Oh… I… I guess I feel kind of weird. I don’t know exactly how I should feel. When they asked I wasn’t sure. But when you were okay with it, I was okay with it. But it was an abstract, you know? It wasn’t really real until I did the thing for Sandy and she did whatever she did with it… Then… Then it was different… That’s part of me, Babe. I mean really part of me. I don’t know how I feel… Proud? Nervous times two? Looking forward to it? Wondering how I will feel when I see that child and know that it is part of me,” he finished quietly.

Patty rubbed one hand across his stomach. “They said the baby will know,” she said. “It probably won’t feel so weird once you’re used to it.”

He nodded and touched her belly. “But this baby? This one will be spoiled rotten… A man who had nothing just a short time ago, and now, soon, I’ll have two little people who are part of me to love and be loved by.”

“The babies,” Patty said.

“That makes three. I was talking about you and our baby. We’re one, you’re part of me and I’m a part of you. Old Testament, New Testament, Qua-ran, they all say the same thing. We become one. So, there’s you, a part of me… And the baby, a part of us… And the other baby that is part of us as well… A lot of love for a man who had nothing at all.” He let one hand travel over the swell of her stomach and downward.

“And what exactly are you doing now,” Patty asked.

His mouth planted little kisses on her stomach as he worked his way down.

Arlene’s Journal

It’s the night before the six will leave to go back to the outside. I think of it that way… The outside. This place is something I have never had. So much love, so much caring, it overwhelmed me for the first little while. That and the other. Having to kill a man. But it was worse for those who stayed behind when we made our way to this place. If they had not stayed to fight the rest of us would not have been able to get away. David told me what it had been like for them. They had to kill too. They had to kill children that were controlled like puppets. Deadly puppets to be sure, but a puppet is a puppet… a slave.

And now we’re sending them back out again into a world that can’t be any better than it was. It’s worse in some ways. We didn’t have to deal with the dead. The radio tells us they have taken over most of the bigger cities. I just can’t imagine it. But we’re sending them out tomorrow, and all so that we can live a little better. Nothing that we absolutely have to have. We have everything we could ever need right here. But to live better.

To live better we need other things. It makes me wonder if we have changed all that much after all. I hope it is not a move toward the old society. I really hope not. Enough negativity though. They’re going. I voted yes too, and there are things they will bring back that I asked for too.

On a lighter note I think almost every woman in the Nation is pregnant. I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Me, Patty, Candace, Lilly, Annie. Jane, Alice and Amber are pretty sure. There are so many more people here. It seems almost like we grow every week. Maybe we do, come to think of it. Oh and now Molly too, and I wonder who the father is? But how would I ask Molly without sounding too nosy or even insensitive? Babies and more Babies, and thank God for them. They are our real crop. We joke about that, how in a few weeks it will be time to bring in the corn and that’s our crop, but our real business, our real crop, is babies.

Sandy and Susan are thinking about it too, only they both want to get pregnant. They’re trying to decide who goes first. God bless them.

Sometimes I think I am a long way from my roots. In another respect it seems to me that I have spent my entire life trying to get to this place… This condition… And I am so glad that I am here.

May God go with ours tomorrow as they go back to the outside. Keep them safe. Bring them right back to us.

Lilly’s Journal.

I am as big as a house. Seven months, two to go and I cannot really believe it because I am so big. How much bigger can I get?

Tom dotes on me bad. I mean he waits on me hand and foot. I am still teaching day times, but I take it easy late afternoon and evenings.

I would have never believed that anyone would want to leave this and go back into the world. I think of this place as set apart. Out there is the other world… The old world with all of our garbage still there. I only hope and pray they have a safe trip.

Ouch! This kid kicks like a football player!

Our life here is good. So good. Thank you, God.

Watertown, New York

They came from the hill. They came from the many graveyards that dotted the city where they had hidden in fear. They came from the surrounding countryside and made the journey to the small northern city. The wolves followed them from the tree lines, shadowy alleyways and doorways of abandoned buildings, but they kept their distance. More and more they turned and made their way out of the city, leaving it to the dead.

He led them, his limp was gone entirely. His body had finished the major changes that being un-dead bought with it. He had come from the barn outside of the city, looked down at the blackness of the valley that the small city lay in, and he had known it was time.

Miles away another lead a similar group, beyond that another, and another, across what had been the United States and beyond. Across the lands, the oceans, the continents. The living were through. The dead were the inheritors of this world now, the living squatters hanging on to something they had no claim to.

He scented the air while his gathered around him. Over one thousand, and nearly that on the other side of the city waiting for his command. He knew the numbers exactly, eighteen hundred seventy-three, but the numbers were unimportant, the time was important. Their time. The end of the old time. It was on the air. In the air. He took a step forward and those behind him surged, only to stop once more when he stopped, careful to leave him space. Careful not to bump or jostle him. For such a large crowd they were nearly completely silent.

He scented the air. There where hundreds of the breathers hidden away. Hundreds that believed they were safe. He knew where they were. He knew what they considered safe. But it was safe because he had allowed it to be safe. The time of safety for the living was at an end though.

He knew he would lose some of his own, but he knew those he took would raise to join him. It was ironic really, if the breathers could only look at it that way they might be able to see it in an entirely different light. A gift. And a gift was really what it was. How often did you wish you could live forever? How often had he wished it? So, here it was and they were running from it. Afraid of forever or afraid of passing through death to get to forever?

He looked over the dark city. The breeze that passed his face told him about those hiding. It also told him winter was on the way. Bad for the breathers, but not for them. Cold was life. Heat was the enemy. Cold was something to be embraced, longed for, fought for, striven to attain. Heat was the destroyer of that life. The coming winter would be good for them, they would come together and move to the larger cities.

He took a step, another, and began the walk down the hill toward the darkened city. The thousand behind him moved as one, following him down the hill. No fires burned. No lights shone. He could smell the stink of the breathers. It repulsed him and yet it drew him at the same time.

He could smell smoke on the air. The breathers needed their warmth, but it would only lead his to them more easily. They had their fear of fire, but they had a bigger fear of him. A fear of what he would do if they did not succeed. There was another death. Another death that was permanent. He had set examples, and he could set more, but the deeper into the process they were the more in tune with him and his needs they were. They did not need examples. They knew the consequences and they understood them completely.

The walk down the hill was pleasant. The air became even cooler as they descended into the valley that held the small city, the scents of the living clearer. He stopped near a crumbled store front on the outskirts of the city itself. A crossroads, or what had been a crossroads. The others stopped behind him. Waiting.

The main road stretched away into the city itself. To the left and right the buckled and overgrown blacktop stretched away, finding alternate ways into the city. He said nothing, but those behind him began to divide into groups, some to the left, some to the right. A few minutes later, the cold blue moonlight shining off the cracked and tilted roadway, they started on their individual ways. A few minutes after that the intersection was empty, as though they had never been there at all.

She ran from the doorway of a falling down building, one of the several that sat at the crossroads, the children under her arms and pressed closely to her. They were really too big to carry, and she would not be able to run for long, but she had to put as much distance between herself and the dead ones as she could, and the kids could never keep up with her…

She had not heard them come but she had sensed something wrong, the way any mother will, and she had crept to the front of the crumbling building and peeked out the shattered window, hiding herself in the shadows as she did. They were everywhere. She had nearly screamed aloud in her fear, but managed to reign it in because she knew it would lead to discovery. They would come for her, and if they came for her whether the kids hid or not they would be finished. They couldn’t survive without her. She had clamped one hand across her mouth and faded back further into the shadows.

At first she had refused to look. Afraid that they would somehow know she was watching. But she couldn’t stand not knowing where they were and what they were doing. Were they, even now, creeping toward the building? Was one peering through the shattered glass and into the shadows where she was hidden? Her eyes flew open. No. But, she had nearly convinced herself that it was true. They had stood motionless in the road. A vast group. Several hundred. Maybe more than a thousand. Maybe more than that.

Some did not look dead at all, they seemed almost as alive as anyone else. The differences were there though. You could not put that many living people in one place and maintain absolute silence. Humans… Living humans, she had amended… Were these still humans, she had then asked herself? She pushed her own question aside. She didn’t really care. The point was humans… Her kind of humans, would not be that silent. Would not be able to be that silent.

This crowd had stood stock still. Hands dangling at their sides. They looked stupid, but she knew they were far from stupid. She had been watching. They were not smart, far from it. She had watched them stand still and wait while someone lined up a rifle or pistol and shot them. Wasn’t that stupid? To her way of thinking it was. But when she had thought about that she realized it had been some time since she had actually seen that happen. No. They were smarter than that now. Not as fast or smart as a human… There was that word again, but didn’t it mean that there was something about them that she didn’t consider human? Something in them that bothered her so much that she could not look at them as humans? Something…

She had watched, careful not to make any noise. The children were in the back, in an old freezer room. A heavy steel door closed and locked with a padlock. Even now they could be calling out to her and she would not know. But, that meant that the Zombies also would not know. Could not know. She hoped that they were not upset. Not worried. That they had not missed her. But she had been relieved that she had thought to close and lock the freezer door. It had occurred to her though, that if anything happened to her they would die in that freezer. No one would know they were there. No one would come for them. They would be frightened, scared… She had pushed it away and watched the dead where they stood, hands dangling, and faces blank. They looked stupid. They looked stupid, dammit, and they should be stupid! But they weren’t.

She had watched from the shadows as a few minutes later they began to move away. No words passed between them. They made very little noise even in their leaving. Feet scuffing against the roadway, their clothes rustling slightly. No more than a whisper on the wind, and she had wondered what it was that had bought her from her steel prison in the first place… Intuition. Had to be.

She had waited a few moments after they were gone. The moonlight was cold. Her breath fogged lightly on the air. She was terrified, she found. Still terrified she corrected. She had taken to doing that. Correcting her own words as if she was someone else. She had worried at first that it could mean she was going crazy. But she had decided that it didn’t matter if she was crazy or not, didn’t matter in this world because the entire world was crazy. So what was the problem with a little more crazy? None, she had decided. She could go on correcting herself forever. Her heart still hammered in her chest. Hard… Bam… Bam… Bam… it’s a good thing they had not been able to hear it.

She had looked out at the roadway. Empty. Not a sound, but something bothered her about it. If they knew she was here they would come back. They would. And if they were gone it would be best to leave right now. Not wait until they came back and found her… Killed her, she modified. Yes… Killed her. And the kids… Or leave them to starve to death in the old freezer… Or… Could they figure out the lock mechanism? Could they? They were smarter, but were they that much smarter? Maybe they were. Maybe…

She had turned and ran to the freezer. Panicked. Knocking aside a stack of boxes as she went. The sound loud in the silence. More than loud. Overwhelming. Sending her into a frenzy. She nearly snapped off the key getting it in the lock. Her breath coming hard and fast. Creating pain behind her rips. That sharp pain she associated with running too hard for too long. And her breaths were unsatisfying, she couldn’t seem to get enough air. And then the key had slid home, she had twisted the padlock, shot it from the door and let it fall to the floor.

The kids had been sleeping, but they had come awake quickly as she pulled them from the floor and began dressing them.

“But mommy, I’m sleeping… I’m tired,” Danny had complained.

Jessie had just stared blankly. Blinking her eyes and looking around.

“Honey,” she had told Danny, “We got to go… We got to… Don’t fight me, Baby. Give me your foot.”

“Is it the dead guys,” Jessie had asked quietly, her eyes serious. She had held Jennies eyes and refused to let them go.

“Yes, Baby. Yes. Now come on. Get yourself dressed for mommy… I have enough with your brother. Get dressed, we got to go.”

Jessie had nodded and began to dress herself. She had turned to Danny as she dressed “’member them dead guys?” she had asked him.

He had stopped squirming and looked seriously at his older sister. “Yeah,” he had breathed.

“Well they might get us if you don’t hurry up… Making mamma take too much time… They eat little boys first too.” She had turned away and began to tug on her sneakers. Danny had stopped fighting and had actually began helping.

“Wrap your arms around Mommy and hold tight,” Jennie had told them. She had been a big woman just a few months ago, now she was maybe a hundred pounds. Maybe it would make her faster, but she didn’t believe her own words, and the little voice inside her head continued to chatter along about running in boots, and she should have changed to sneakers, and… She had shut it down, peered out through the shattered window at the still and empty street. Jessie had reached down and turned the knob on the door for her, and she had stepped back and the door had swung inward. A minute later and she was running through the shadows at the edge of the road. A deep stitch in her side.

He came from the shadows and chased her down. It was so easy. One of the things that had been slow to change but amazing once it did, was strength and endurance. There seemed to be no real limits or end to his energy. Something in the way this body used energy as opposed to the way the old body had. It was exhilarating, and thrilling too, as he nearly instantly outpaced her and came up alongside her. The fear, the stench of living flesh. It was overpowering. It could drive him crazy if he allowed it, but he would not allow it. He reached out, enfolded her in mid stride, and threw her to the ground.


America The Dead: Zombie Fall. A trip into the outside world proves disastrous for the Nation #iTunes #Apocalypse https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-zombie-fall/id1096254189?mt=11


America the Dead on YouTube Episode 18

Two minutes of easy climbing, and they were in the scrub brush at the back of the parking lot.

From the square side of the parking lot it probably looked as though there were nothing at all at the back of the parking lot. Fine, Mike thought. He only hoped none of them knew what was below the parking lot, but he didn’t believe it. Anyone who grew up here knew what was at the edge of this parking lot. Anyone here now knew they were in the cave down on the Old River Road. Mike believed it was only a matter of time before they came for them. When they did, he would be here waiting.

Before the thoughts were completely formed in his head, three people came running straight toward them where they stood within the scrub brush. Four heavily armed men were pursuing them. Firing as they ran. The three runners appeared to be unarmed. Mike stepped from the screening scrub. He had given it no thought at all. He stepped nearly into the path of the lead runner. Her mouth flew open in surprise; a small spatter of blood tattooed one of her cheeks. Mike stepped easily around her, took aim at the first of the four chasers and shot him just as he was slowing down to bring his own rifle up. To his side Candace crouched and began popping off at the other three as they continued running, perfectly aimed shots. She took out two. Lilly dropped the last one. The lead man’s momentum carried him forward another fifteen feet before he realized he was dead and fell end over end onto the blacktop.

One of the remaining chasers managed to pop off one last shot before he went down. The last runner collapsed in a heap. It was over in less than a second. Five people lay dead.

As of this coming Monday, there will be 18 FREE episodes you can watch/listen to on YouTube, Dell…



America the Dead on YouTube Episode 15

Lilly ~ March 20th I decided to write this for the baby. Tom knows, and he’s okay with it. It must have happened with David just before all of this happened. I don’t even know how I feel about it completely yet, but it’s a baby. A baby needs a home, security. I talked to Tom about that. My baby will have a safe home, Tom said so. I guess Tom was with Lydia before. I hear others make comments, mention her name. She looked like me. Tom says only a little. I say it doesn’t matter, not really. He’s with me now. He says he loves me. I believe that. He knows about the baby. He says he won’t leave me; what more is there to need, or ask for? I just don’t want my baby to be unneeded or unloved, abandoned like I was. I know how that feels. I don’t know about Lydia. I’m sorry she was killed. So much has happened. I’ve seen people killed right in front of me. I guess I need therapy… That’s supposed to be a joke… Not a good joke, I guess. We’ve all seen a lot, but there are no shrinks left to talk to. Another poor joke, I have a million of them, all stupid. I guess the real stuff is Christ. Christ is what gets me by. Christ is what I believe in. Christ is who will help me to take care of my baby. I mean, if there ever was a time to lean on Christ wouldn’t it be now? I was not religious before this happened. I didn’t go to church. And I’m not religious now, not really. I simply believe in Christ. That’s a belief, not a religion. A belief can last, religion fails sometimes, and I can’t afford to be part of a failure. I need absolute. I need something sure. I need belief, and that’s what I have. Don’t get the idea that I’m fanatical, I’m not. I guess if we’re keeping this for the children then this will be for you, my baby, my girl, my boy, someone who I have not yet met. That gets so deep. I don’t want you to misunderstand who I am or what I believe in. Eventually there will be all this space between us and this night when I sat down, thought about you, how much I love you before I have even met you, and how I want things to be for you. I know things will not be as I see them. I know that time changes everything so easily. I just want you to see who I am right now. Not a crazy; not a fanatic. I am just a young woman who believes that all that is left is Christ to see us through. I’m going to tell Sandy about the baby. Tom agreed. She’s a nurse. She knows things, and I’m a little afraid of how it will be. We are going to leave April 1st. That’s not long. I can’t wait, really. Nothing, almost, nothing good has happened here except the baby and Tom. I don’t mind going… As of this coming Monday, there will be 15 FREE episodes you can watch/listen to on YouTube, Dell…

Do our cats eat better than we do?

Have you ever been on your way to the kitchen to make a peanut butter sandwich, with jelly of course, at 1:30 A.M. and of course you just get the bread out and the noise of the plastic wrapper alerts the cats, and they are on you like… Well, cats on people with food.

So, you managed to get the bread out of the bag, whole wheat, if you are going to eat P&J at 1:30 A.M. you need to be health conscious: So, you leave the bread on a napkin on the counter, if you have ever been married you know this is not like the bad old days, the single days, you can’t leave crumbs on the counter and hope the dog gets up there and cleans them up before breakfast; because if the wife sees them you are in for it. She buys napkins for a reason, after all. Ask her, she’ll tell you. Screw up and leave crumbs she’ll also tell you.

So, bread on the napkin and off to take care of the cats, because cats are not like dogs. Dogs wait to be fed, cats demand to be fed at any time they choose. If a dog wants breakfast they will wait patiently until you get up and then accept the breakfast, and maybe a few bites of whatever you are eating, that they knew would be coming. A cat, on the other hand will jump up onto your face at 2:00 A.M. and smack the crap out of you until you get up and feed them.

So, bread on the napkin and off to the cat food bag, a handful on each plate because cats cannot stand to eat together, they must have their own plates so that they can then shove the nearest cat out of the way, eat all their food, and then go back to their own plate. Then you have to get the wet food, because a cat will surely kill you dead if you think they are going to simply eat dry food. With a dog you can run a little warm water over the dry food and tell them it is gravy. Don’t try that with a cat.

So, wet food interspersed with the dry food, set down both plates and then go back to the sink to wash the cat food smell off your hands, and on the way you notice that the cat food doesn’t smell as bad as it usually smells. Not fishy, more… Well, tasty smelling. Like it could be something gourmet, like that coffee Jules’s friend Mister Tarantino serves in Pulp Fiction. So, because you are a man you stop and sniff your hands. No, women don’t do this, just men, it is a cave man thing, evolutionary in origin, probably came about because some cave wife yelled at her cave husband for having stinky hands. Most cave men probably did. After all, there was no antibacterial soap back then, in fact Dial had not even been invented, so your hands were going to smell bad on occasion: It only makes sense that a cave wife wouldn’t stand for that too long.

So, you sniff your hand, and Whoa!!! It is some gourmet stuff! It smells really good, like it might make a much better sandwich than that P&J you were about to build; way better. It smells as good as that sandwich you got out a vending machine that time you were drunk and hungry and happened to be at the hospital. That good; of course you can’t really remember how good it was exactly because you were drunk and in the hospital after all, and really the whole night was a blur, but the sandwich, the sandwich stood out, and you’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with your vomiting later on, that was just too much drink, that’s all.

You look from your hands to the bread, then you think… There are a few more cans left… Maybe… But, you are civilized and so you continue on to the sink and wash your hands, even though you don’t even have a wife anymore, and so if you wanted to have stinky hands you could, but no, civilized, and so you wash your hands, make that P&J and spend the next few minutes eating it and hating the cat for having better food that you do…

Has that ever happened to you? … Me either… AA

America the Dead Apple Podcasts Episode: Ten

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/america-the-dead-new-york-podcast-wendell-sweet/id1495878572

Episode ten of the popular America the Dead series: The survivors have gathered a few together, lost one of their own, and now will have the opportunity to bring more survivors into their circle…


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Unused Diary Entries: Earth’s Survivors-14

They had seen me from quite a way off, crossing the square as they were heading back. It looked to them like I was heading for the north side, maybe crossing one of the bridges, but by the time they got there I was gone. They even began to wonder if I had seen them and hidden on purpose, maybe out of fear. They had searched for awhile and then, just when they had been about to quit for the day, James realized that he could smell smoke. As soon as he said it, everyone else realized they had smelled it all along as well. It didn’t take long after that to find the factory. They just followed the smell of smoke down to the lower road and found it.

So that was that, and now we are six. Jake, Jake Light, he was their leader as I said. He’s an older guy, in his late thirties. Used to be a truck driver.

Candace Lee (Don’t call her Honey. I don’t know why, except she made a point of saying that.). She’s nineteen. I thought she was with Jake. I think Jake thought so also.

James and Jan Adams. James is a little older than Jan, in his fifties, and he said he is a mechanic. Jan does, did, data processing.

And Lydia. Her real name is Marcia George. Lydia is her middle name. She said she always liked Lydia better. She was still in school, local college. I guess she’s the same age as Candace, nineteen.

And last but not least, me.

We spent all of yesterday getting their stuff from across the river and bringing it over to the factory. I thought that was weird. Why go get stuff anyway? You can have anything you want. It’s all free. But in another way I guess I understand. We’ve lost everything. We want to hang on to what little we still do have. We’re all going to stay here. And we talked about what’s next, and what we know about what happened.

I said I had been kind of planning to leave once spring came. Head south or west, somewhere where I wouldn’t have to worry about winter. Jake said it may be that, where it would normally have been warmer, it won’t be any more. He said it depends on what happened. None of us really know. He thinks it might be smarter to stay here. We could stock up this factory. We could even hunt. He said he’s sure there are deer around. James agreed with him, at least on there being deer around.

I told them about the footprints by my house. They said they had seen footprints as well. They had gone out Coffeen Street and saw tracks of three or four people going in and out of a small store there. They had called out, but no one had answered. They had had second thoughts about calling out too. They weren’t armed. What if someone shot at them?

That brought my original thoughts to mind about a weapon. I mentioned the sporting goods store, and we all agreed to make a trip out there soon.

We talked about cars and trucks and agreed it would be good to get an SUV or truck of some kind if we could find one that will run, as they might be the only vehicles that could drive around as bad as things are torn up. They have also tried starting a few vehicles with no success. I mentioned my electronic brain idea, and Jake said he had thought of the same thing. Turns out he’s also a mechanic. I guess I can see why they chose him to lead. I feel kind of useless around the guy though. We agreed to try finding an older vehicle. Jake thinks our chances of getting one running are good. We’ll see what we can find.

The first night together was good. The best I’ve slept since this thing started. Just not being alone, you know?

I guess I’ll end on that note…