Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 30

This is week 30 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

The last six weeks had been a whirlwind of activity not experienced since before IT happened. The information flowing in and out of the camps was flowing steadily now. The intricate web of supplies and locations of camps for the U. N. was being unveiled more quickly now. Liberty’s Teeth had people everywhere.

The full extent of the horror of details in the United Nation’s plan to “save humanity” was something right out of a movie script. Brainwashing of children, using women for breeding stock, killing any child with deformities, not to mention taking them from their parents at such a young age – it was too much.

Tori at Plymouth, Indiana met a woman who had been crying behind one of the work buildings. She said she was suffering from postpartum depression, having a child five weeks prior. She was told it had died and that she had an infection that required her to have a full hysterectomy.

Tori was shocked, angered, and sad for her all at once. She glanced at the woman’s identification band and saw she had a high clearance. When she asked, Tori learned the women was in Development, specifically agriculture. She was a scientist in her former life, studying plants with multiple degrees in botany, horticulture, and environmental studies.

It wasn’t until later that Tori put two and two together: The woman told her that she had a child before who had down syndrome that had been killed shortly after IT happened. The second child must have also had some deformation and they killed it. Due to her expertise, they chose to sterilize her instead of killing her. They ensured she wouldn’t dirty their gene pool again. The realization had made her physically ill.

___

Shannon at Reed City, with her new position overseeing the entire water and sewer systems of this camp, had learned and confirmed some of the worst rumors. She learned that Reed City was a propaganda spot, the location chosen specifically for the high level officials and officers within the U.N. military machine to safely conduct business. The helicopter was making at least two trips a week now, always with new people coming in and out. None traveled into the main town. Instead, supplies were brought out to the building that was heavily secured. Sensor, cameras, and regular patrols of select soldiers now kept the area clear of any unauthorized personnel.

Any ideas of religion, cultural heritage, and the forming of groups was discouraged. Posters had been created and sent out from a printing place somewhere back East. It encouraged people to remember their “part in the restoration of the human species” and to always “consider how their decisions affected humanity.”

Then there were the rules put on relationships, sex, and procreation. Even now, the system to be tested and approved for having a child was being finalized. People couldn’t just have children anymore as they chose. They needed permission. Given the nature of how things were already, it was expected that those who violated the rules were killed, or the child aborted, or the parents sterilized. There were rumors heard about some camps that were more like jails, the people living there treated horribly and literally worked to death. Working on what was anyone’s guess.

Some of the biggest accomplishments in the last few weeks included Liberty’s Teeth taking over a couple U.N. supply distribution facilities and the creation of a way in and out of each camp. They were added upon and soon, routes had been charted in, out, and all around U. N. camps. Called Liberty Trails, people wanting to escape the camps, get information in and out, and move troops now had a safer way. They also provided ways to get key people in when the time was right.

Shannon dreamed of taking one of them out of the hell she was in. The only thing that kept her in place was the ability to get vital information needed by those who wanted to see the thumb of the U.N. on humanity severed. Where she was would do the most good and for that, she stayed.

The attacks on supplies kept the U. N. on their toes but the leaders of Liberty’s Teeth were cunning: they chose locations that weren’t too big, erring on the side of caution and going after smaller distribution stations. Not only were the supplies they looted valuable, the psychological warfare that was being accomplished was just enough to have people talking about it three hundred miles away and more.

Roger overheard a couple soldiers talking about it. He had befriended one of them, slipping the guy little bits of candy or other bits of food on the side. His position as a laborer in the supply area had paid off in spades. He asked the guys about what they’d heard, nodding when expected, feigning outrage at the barbarians living like animals out in the “wastes” as the outside was called by many.

___

In the area East of the Mississippi River and North of Kentucky and Virginia, LT members were working on getting bits of supplies out of the U. N. camps in preparation for the battle to come. It was close now, a mere month left before the big day. So far, there was no indication that the U.N. had any idea what was coming. Not even a hint or whisper and there were many ears listening.

Safe houses were well equipped, well used, and well guarded. Plans for homemade munitions were sent out via runners that were chosen for their hardiness and speed. They were to be made out of common items that weren’t of real value now: vases, stuffed animals, old pipes and ‘trash.’ People began making way to the locations they would be joining the fight. Word was sent out that it needed to be done quietly and slowly, with no more than five people to a group.

Though hundreds and thousands were gathering, it was still easy for them to keep spread out.

Those traveling the furthest distances left first. The safe houses kept track of the general idea of where people were and how many were in each location. This information was conveyed back to the powers that be, though the time it took to get information back and forth made for some frustration. The key to the success of eradicating the United Nation’s presence and goals was surprise. Without it, the resources the U.N. had could take out enough of the resistance to squash it for generations to come.

 

 




Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 29

This is week 29 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

Jimmy read the message a third time, just to be sure. He looked up at Terry, Jessica’s husband, with wide eyes and half a grin. Glancing at Al and Jessica, he let out a laugh of disbelief. Amie came in just then and stopped, looking around at everyone’s expression.

“What is it? I heard there was a runner that came in. Good news?”

Jimmy laughed again and said, “The track just got laid to our station.” He passed over the hand written note and waited for her to read it, exchanging smiles with the others who already knew.

“They made it! They already found Liberty’s Teeth people inside the camps and there are communications already in place?! That’s amazing!” Amie suddenly frowned and narrowed her eyes. “Has this been verified?”

Jimmy chuckled. “Turn the page over.”

She did so and saw several symbols and crudely drawn animals that she recognized as codes, much like the emojis that were so popular before IT happened. They essentially served the same purpose as the millions of tiny icons to convey various messages, emotions, and other information.

Amie took in a deep breath and then smiled as she passed the letter back to Jimmy.

“Well, what’s the plan now?”

*************

Pako’s backside was sore from being tossed around in the truck so much in the last week. Once he had heard about the mention of liberty in a quote by a founding father, he had insisted that they all head over to meet the newcomers and wish them well. Of course, Pako had an entirely different agenda.

It hadn’t taken long before Pako was able to confirm beyond any doubt that these people were part of Liberty’s Teeth and, astonishingly, from a camp a mere twenty or so miles away. On top of that, they all personally knew Jimmy Walker and spoke of him with respect and fondness. They’d talked for about an hour before Shannon pointed out that they might draw unwanted attention. They parted ways, with Shannon and Sandi promising to get together the next day.

Pako decided that he would put in for going on the run to Plymouth to drop off three of these people and pick up supplies. He would use his position of overseeing the mail system in the area as his excuse for needing to go with and had promised Shannon he would hand deliver her letters to Edgar and Joli. He’d expected to be gone 48 hours or so.

As luck would have it, by divine intervention or just dumb luck – he wasn’t one to question good fortune – Pako ended up traveling to yet another U. N. camp. He was ordered to set up and train people there on the regulations for the mail system. The trip to Norfolk, Nebraska had taken two days of bone jarring driving. They’d been shot at and had to ram an attempted roadblock on the way there. Once he’d gotten there however, he thanked whatever lucky stars were shining for him.

Not only was the location a storage facility and hub for moving goods, it was roughly 60% filled with people loyal to Liberty’s Teeth. He learned that over the last eight months, people had been steadily moving in. This was the first warehouse and goods location they’d discovered and a great deal of intel had come from this location. It was a treasure trove!

With key people in trusted positions higher up, it hadn’t taken long to learn of other supply warehouse locations nearby and so the spiderweb began to reveal itself. It was estimated that there were 5 super warehouse locations that fed 20 larger locations, that then fed hubs like this camp, and so on. It both shocked and angered Pako that there was that much food out there, in the hands of the United Nations no less, and people starved unless they submitted to being slaves, breeding stock, military drones…

Ultimately, he’d taken comfort knowing that it seemed Liberty’s Teeth had done well in infiltrating the United Nation’s system and were putting things in place to take it down. He reached down into the wrist of his jacket and itched absent mindedly and looked down, feeling something against the back of his fingers.

He smiled, recalling one of the ladies at Norfolk stitching an “LT” into the inside without any hint of it showing on the outside. Apparently, many of the people had taken to doing so as a way to help more easily identify each other. Sometimes talking wasn’t always possible. Too many mentions of ‘liberty’ all the time could also cause suspicion. Pako liked it and promised he would pass it and everything else along, too.

The truck lurched to the side as it slammed over another large pothole and Pako sighed. Just a couple more days… He would end up staying overnight in Plymouth again and he would be lucky if he could catch a truck heading to Reed City outside of schedule. He thought he would be on the supply run going back up but the diversion to Nebraska had changed all that.

At least I will be able to pass the information along to the rest up there. He knew that the Canadians had all but wiped out the United Nation’s presence in their country, minus a few larger installations on the eastern and westernmost borders. Rumors were confirmed of them moving south and getting into position, many already in place on the north east coast.

He jerked awake, not realizing he’d dozed off, when the truck slowed down. Sitting up and looking around, he was surprised to see it almost full dark and they were at Plymouth again. He thanked the driver for getting them there safely and got out. He stretched the kinks out of his body and turned when he heard his name being called.

“Hey, Pako! How was the trip?” Edgar was walking toward him with a woman he didn’t recognize.

“Someone needs to do something about those roads. I swear some of the potholes are so deep, you lose the light of day for a moment before you’re over it!”

They shared a laugh, agreeing that the worst roads before IT happened were almost brand new compared to how it was less than two years later without maintenance. Pako glanced at the lady before looking back at Edgar questioningly.

“Oh! My apologies. Pako, this is Tori.” He lowered his voice. “She came from up north, where the apples are bitter?” Edgar gave him a knowing look. Word about the apple password had spread throughout this general area and was now used as a way to identify the people in the area north of Idlewild.

“Nice to meet you. In truth though, we voted not to use the apple thing anymore. In fact, it was wholly agreed on to never, ever use food for a code word again!” Tori smiled at Pako and winked playfully at Edgar. The men laughed amiably.

Tori handed a small stack of folded papers to Pako. “Can you please get these to Sandi or whoever that can pass them on?”

Pako took the notes and nodded. “Of course! I will, of course, have to read them.” He grinned.

Tori laughed. “Of course. The difference between you and someone else reading them though is you will likely understand what they’re really saying.”

That made him chuckle and nod. “Very true, very true. How’re you settling in here?”

Tori exhaled a breath rapidly and put her hands in her pockets. “Well, at first, it was god awful. Now that I know the right people, it’s not too bad. Knowing there are people who have my back is good. Plus, with the other three, it’s almost bearable.”

Pako smiled sympathetically. “I’ll be here a few days and have some of my own information to pass along here. Cheer up! This will all be decided one way or the other in a few short months.

Tori scoffed. “How, exactly, is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Edgar spoke up. “Well, either way, you’ll be out of your misery!”


*Sorry it’s short this week. I figured better something than nothing, right? 🙂



Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 28

This is week 28 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

The group of volunteers heading to Reed City had been traveling for two hours, mostly in silence. They were heading into the unknown though thankfully, since Kace’s arrival from Liberty’s Teeth, they had a solid plan going in.

Kace had spent the last five days filling Jimmy and the other leaders in on details for the upcoming battle. Jimmy, in his usual manner, let everyone else know about it, too. The battle to get rid of the United Nations presence everywhere this side of the Mississippi River was scheduled to take place in less than three months. That had caused quite the range of reactions.

In the letter that Kace had delivered from the group that left to Plymouth, he’d learned of Sticks’ death. When he shared the news, it was felt by everyone. Roger and Sticks had become part of the family. Jimmy had used it to remind people how serious what they were doing was, and the potential consequences. “No one has the right to make the choice for anyone else but themselves on whether or not they wish to volunteer. No one has the right to judge their choice. We are free men and women, so long as we remember that!”

Once word had gotten to the other camps about what happened and what Jimmy had said, volunteers had doubled for patrols or whatever else was needed.

Kace had gathered all those going out on patrols and volunteering to go to Reed City and taught them several quotes about Liberty that were used as code to identify ‘friendlies while out there.’ He also gave valuable information about creating markers for information drop off spots and how to spot ones left by other people. The use of rocks and sticks placed in one of three ways was also shown.

“When you don’t have paper and pencil to write, or a way to keep it safe from the elements, these markers are basic ways to convey safety, danger, and in which direction. They can also show the way to resources.” Kace explained how people all over the world had been using systems like this for millennia. “And it still serves us well today.”

It was clear that several different styles of warfare tactics were being used by Liberty’s Teeth. Kace said different areas used different methods but there were certain things, like communication, that needed to be more universal.

“Sometimes, the way you get a job done doesn’t matter as much as the results. It’s a judgement call but when it comes to communication, that needs to be something solid and reliable. With all the codes we use, one wrong word said in the wrong sentence can ruin everything.”

The last thing Kace had said to them was that it was imperative that at least one person remains at Reed City at all times. It was agreed that it was of some importance, especially with no one really coming in or out. The helicopter hadn’t been seen again, either.

Henry from South Camp, Ryan and Sandi from Center Camp, and Tanner from Main Camp were the ones chosen out of the dozen or so volunteers. Though Ryan and Tanner were young, it was hoped that their age would be an advantage. Young, healthy people were valued among what was left of the human population.

Denise hadn’t been very happy about her son going into danger and the argument had left them both red faced and fuming. After a talk with Captain about it, Denise had to concede that her son was grown up, by all definitions, and had the right to make his own choices. They had a meaningful conversation before he’d left but her crying had put a damper on the whole group.

After another hour of travel, they decided to take a rest. They would make their destination tonight, before it got dark. If anything delayed them, they would wait until it was light again before approaching the camp. No one wanted to get shot in the dark.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but my guts are twisted with nervousness. If those are butterflies, I think they’re duking it out,” said Sandi. The silence broken, everyone seemed to relax a little.

“The closer we get, the more I feel like puking,” commented Tanner. “I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid. What will they do to us? I mean, it’s not like we look like we’re starving here. The clothes are a nice touch and lack of anything useful but honestly, would you believe us if we came up to the camps at home?”

Henry grunted. “Good point. One thing we all have is a lot of nervous energy and a healthy dose of fear at what’s coming. That will help give some credibility.”

Ryan looked around. “For one, we’re too clean. Even though these clothes are torn and badly patched, they are clean. That would set off a red flag for me.”

The others agreed and immediately started getting dirt and mud, sprinkling it in their hair, on their clothing and rubbing it on ankles and arms. They sat a bit longer, letting things dry out so they could wipe it off to make it seem like older dirt and discussed other things that might give them away.

“We have our back story covered. We are from up north, near the lake, and were raided by cannibals. There was a camp there and out of the seven that made it away, we four survived. We saw the camp there, watched it a couple days, and decided to approach.” Sandi nodded her head. “As long as we stick to it, we are good.”

“Ya, but what are the names of the others who didn’t make it? How many people were there at the other camp? How did we get there?” Tanner grimaced. “My mom has taught me many things and one of the biggest ones was about the devil and details. The wrong answer to any one of those questions could blow it all.”

The others looked around, wide eyed. No one said anything for a moment as the realization of how complicated this might really be set in.

“Hey, guys, let’s not unravel here. The group that went to Plymouth made it in, remember? Yes, we lost Sticks, but we all made our choice. Let’s make the best of it.” She smiled at Tanner. “You may have just saved the whole show. Let’s work out some more details and keep things straight. We will drill each other on the way, too.”

________

Later that afternoon, the group were watching Reed City with Olaf Havhausen, who had been the one to discover it in the first place. He knew, better than anyone, the schedules and details of the place.

Before he took them to the best spot for making contact, he showed them a few places where information could be dropped off. Two of them had paper and pen inside a plastic bag. Though he’d only seen one person leaving the camp on a regular basis, he wasn’t sure how often any information could be gotten out.

“We’re working on loopholes to get you out of here if needed. There are some weaker spots in their patrols and surveillance but we need to be 100% certain before we try it. You’ll need to last at least a week in there.”

He took them to a stand of trees about half a mile from the edge of the camp. Taking out a set of travel binoculars, he let everyone look through them to see the area he thought had the best chance of safely making it in.

“A jeep will come down that road within the next hour. There are no functioning cameras that I’m aware of on this side of the camp. There’s no infrastructure or anything of importance, so you will likely be seen as less than a threat if you make contact there.”

Everyone nodded and fell silent, waiting. They had spent the last several hours ironing out details and drilling each other on them, making up fallbacks in case something slipped, and were about as ready as they could be.

All too soon, the sound of a vehicle could be heard as a low rumble in the distance. Olaf scoped the road and saw the jeep driving slowly along the road. There were the usual two uniformed and armed soldiers who rode with the look of boredom. They didn’t even bother checking anything out.

Olaf wished them luck and promised that if it looked like they were in danger, there were eyes on them and sights on the soldiers. Shooting U.N. troops would be an absolute last resort as it would give away any advantage they currently had by being off the radar.

The group moved forward at a trot, intending to catch them when they looped back around. When they were within a quarter mile, they began running with their arms out to the sides to show they were not armed. The jeep came back into sight and down the road. As the two groups got closer, Henry called out and waved his arms.

The jeep swerved a bit as the soldiers perked up and pointed. They regained control and turned sharply in the direction of the ‘survivors’ running at them. Jumping out of the truck, they pointed weapons at the people but no one stopped.

“Help us! Please!” The only female said in an anguished voice. Her hands were stretched out imploringly. The soldiers looked at each other, uncertain.

“Pretend we think we are being chased! It will fit in and these two don’t look like the smartest apples in the bunch.” Sandi said it quietly enough not to carry but loud enough for those with her to hear. They fell into their roles and called out or looked back, seemingly in fear. The sun was just beginning to get low in the sky. The timing was perfect.

One of the soldiers called out. “Halt right there!” His voice cracked a little, belying his nervousness. When the people kept running, he licked his lips and called out again.

“I’m warning you! Halt where you are or-” he was cut off by his partner who was saying something too quiet to be heard.

Henry made a noise and started to slow down, looking warily at the soldiers who were now in an animated discussion. The others stopped behind Henry and waited. They didn’t need to fake any of the emotions showing on their faces.

Finally, the soldier who spoke first turned to them and said, “Welcome to the United Nations Camp at Reed City. Are you seeking refuge?”

Sandi cried out, “What do you think?! We came running to you, didn’t we? Can we please come in? There are bad people out there and I am so tired of running!”

The quiet soldier was pulling things out of his pockets, looking at them and then dropping them to the ground quickly.

“Yes, Ma’am. One moment, stay where you are.” He looked at the other man impatiently.

“Aha!” the man said triumphantly, holding up what looked to be an index card. He started to read from it.

“Welcome to Reed City, Michigan, United Nations camp. You are welcome to seek refuge here, survivors, but must understand a few things first. By entering, you agree to follow the rules and regulations of the United Nations. You will be subjected to a medical and psychiatric examination by our staff to make sure you are not diseased. You will be quarantined for three days, where you will also be questioned on your work and education experience so you can be properly placed in a settlement camp or wherever else your skills may be needed.

“This camp is not meant to house many survivors. Instead, it serves other purposes in the efforts of the United Nations to save the human race. It is unlikely you will remain here longer than seven days. There are other camps not too far away that you will likely be relocated to.

“Until then, you are not allowed to leave the designated areas set out for you. You will be under supervision and are not to ask any questions about what you may see or think you see here. Failure to follow any of these rules can and will result in death. If you refuse to seek refuge and return back to this camp, you will be killed. Is that understood?”

The shock that rocked through the group was not faked. This was anything but what they’d been told to expect. If they couldn’t stay here, how were they going to get any information back home? If there had ever been question as to this place being something other than what it seemed, it was squashed now.

Realizing they were not saying anything, Sandi spoke up again. “If we try to make it out there, we’re dead anyway. Better to try and help than die for nothing” She stepped forward and broke the spell that had kept the group frozen in place. They stepped forward too, nodding agreement.

They were told to get into the back of the jeep and were taken to the main building. As they got off the truck, they were surprised when they were surrounded by more soldiers and taken inside. A puckish man sat behind a desk and heaved a long suffering sigh when he saw them. “Oh lovely, just when I’ve caught up from the paperwork of the last people to come in. Of course, bring me more!” He sighed again and waved the soldiers off.

“Where are they going to go, hmm? Honestly, just stand outside.”

They were asked their names and general information such as age, ethnicity, where they were born and last lived before IT happened. They were given clean clothing and hygiene items to wash up with before going back to the same room to await their physical exams. They dared not say anything for fear of the wrong ears listening and jumped when the silence was broken by a door opening.

To men walked in. The first was dressed in a doctor’s coat and the other in more casual attire. The second man looked at each of them and smiled when he saw Sandi.

“You’ve taken us by surprise! Amazing you look so well after getting cleaned up. No lice or anything! I’m sure you have some fascinating stories to tell us about how you ended up here but I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Eugene. Eugene Rupert.”

***********

Shannon couldn’t believe what she was reading. She read it again and looked up at the soldier for confirmation.

“Is this for real? I’m to oversee the entire water system for the whole camp?” She looked up at the sky as if to ask, “Why me?”

“Yes, Ma’am. You’re to be provided with an assistant who will help you keep things in order, along with supervising all water and sewage system staff.” He smiled. “Congratulations.”

Though she was used to being in charge, she wasn’t used to being at the top. She’d learned long ago that when you’re at the top, you were also the first target when things went wrong. Realizing she hadn’t replied, she thanked him. He saluted her and left, leaving her standing there, holding the paper. She was, effective immediately, in charge of all water and sewer systems for the whole camp. She was now required to be at planning and organizational meetings, along with making regular reports to the mayor about the state of things. She almost groaned at the thought of all the political muck she was going to have to wade through. The kicker is she couldn’t refuse, and she couldn’t move to another city to get a different job. She was stuck.

As the day wore on, she busied herself with checking the main lines leading from the water reservoir. After a while, she had to admit that the promotion would put her in a good position to get additional information that might help them break out and join the free people outside U. N. control. She wasn’t about to voluntarily get branded, not after what she had read about it and how people were treated once they were.

Later that day, she was heading home when she heard her name called. Looking around, she saw Pako and Dale waving at her and stopped. She waved back with a smile, waiting for them to catch up.

“I heard an interesting rumor today, Ms. Grand Empress Overseer of All Things Liquid. Care to enlighten us poor peasants?”

She laughed and assumed the posture of royalty. “Yes worship my all knowing waters of clear, gray, and black. Give sacrifice that ye may be blessed.”

The men laughed at her theatrics and fell in step beside her. The hadn’t seen each other in a couple days, what with the sudden arrivals. It was funny how completely off guard the camp had been taken by survivors showing up at their front, or rather side, door. The mayor had ordered that all critical infrastructure be checked for possible sabotage, video footage checked and rechecked, and everyone’s whereabouts accounted for over the last three days. It reeked of paranoia or, at the least, ill prepared for people seeking refuge. The oddities just kept adding up.

“I hear they are getting shipping out to Plymouth the day after tomorrow. Three of them, anyway. One is being kept here but for what, I’m not sure. I know they were in with Eugene for quite a while.”

Shannon snorted. “Of course they were. You know how he was with us and we’ve been in the system for almost a year. Imagine how he would treat people who were on the outside this whole time!”

The others nodded in agreement. “The good news is this will be the second run of mail from here to there and we should be getting something back from Plymouth this time,” said Pako.

“Ohhh, I hope I get a letter from Joli and Edgar. I miss them.”

“I heard on the waves that a shipment of fuel made it to Plymouth and they are sending barrels up here, too. A nice big shipment is expected, actually. Not only that, but some veggies and eggs, too.” Dale licked his lips and grinned.

Shannon laughed. “Dreaming of a nice quiche?” She laughed harder at the grimace on Dale’s face.

They continued enjoying each other’s company on the walk to their respective homes. Dale went off first, leaving Pako and Shannon to walk alone.

“You know, I will have more knowledge of the inner workings with this promotion. It could help, right?”

Pako smiled at her with affection. “Yes, but please report only, no heroics.”

Shannon made a most unladylike noise. “Ya, I’m just naturally prone to all sorts of heroic deeds. Please, what are you worried about?”

“You.”

The way he said it made Shannon skip a step. She recovered quickly enough and switched the subject. “I’m supposed to be getting an assistant. Hear anything about that?”

Pako gave her a quick frown before answering. “Nope, nothing has been said about it. Just your promotion. The overall feeling is pretty good, actually. People like you.”

“I hope I like my assistant. I wonder if they will be some kind of spy though. How will I know if I can trust them?”

“How did you know you could trust me?” Pako asked.

Shannon considered that for a moment. Finally, she shrugged. “I went with my gut, I guess.”

“Then I’d say go with your gut again.”

Shannon nodded. They made small talk the rest of the way, Shannon ignoring the white elephant walking alongside them. Since they had come here, Pako had been dropping little hints off and on. She wasn’t sure how to take them and hoped that if she didn’t acknowledge it, the problem would solve itself.

_______

Today was the day they would be released from quarantine and learn of their fate. They had been through the medical exam that showed they were healthy, if a bit underweight. The ‘counseling session’ they had endured had taken more than one of them to the edge. Eugene had turned out to be a nightmarish man who alternated between kindness and paranoid insanity. During Tanner’s session, the man had taken to ranting as if to someone else in the room. Tanner was unsure whether or not to respond at first but when he heard the name Walker, he abruptly kept his mouth shut.

The group was taken out of their rooms and back to the building they were first brought to. Left alone, they were quiet for a few minutes before Ryan asked if everyone was OK under his breath. The others made various responses to the positive before the door opened and a man walked through. His features were sharp and though he dressed as a civilian, his gait and posture said military.

“Hello. I am Mayor Jeffrey Miller. I am here to let you know where you will be sent and what to expect.” He smiled, though it looked like it strained him.

“I apologize for the way you have been treated here. We weren’t ready for any survivors just yet. You caught us a little off guard but, because of your arrival, we are now up to par so I guess thanks are in order.” He gave another strained smile.

“Now then, I’m sure you’re wondering what’s next. We have need of every human we can get to help us rebuild the race and world. Therefore, the three of you, “he pointed to Tanner, Ryan, and Henry, “Will be sent to the camp at Plymouth to assist in the efforts there. You leave tomorrow morning.”

He turned to Sandi. “As for you, Miss, we have need of your clerical skills here. Don’t worry, there is a mail system recently set up between the camps and you will be able to stay in touch.

“Until tomorrow, you will be taken back to the quarantine area. This time, however, you will be free to come and go outside in a two block radius. Meals will again be brought to you. For those leaving, you will be provided a jacket and better shoes. You will also be given a pack with some basic items inside.

“I trust you will all fare much better within the U.N. system than you did outside. Best of luck.”

Without waiting for any response, Miller turned and went back through the door he’d come in from.

The vacuum left behind made the group look at each other with wide eyes. Sandi whispered, “What the hell are we supposed to do now?”

“At least you will still be here,” replied Henry under his breath. He reached down, seemingly to scratch his leg. “Stick to the plan and it will work out.” He fell silent as the door opened again, a soldier motioning them to follow.

They were dropped off in front of the quarantine building and reminded not to leave the two blocks designated as safe for them. They looked around, unsure what to do next and too paranoid to be the first to say anything.

Finally, Ryan simply sat down on the side of the road and laid back in the tall grass growing on the greenbelt.

“What are you doing?” Asked Henry.

“I’m enjoying the sunshine and considering what to do next. No sense in panicking and we’ll never achieve our goals without a plan.”

The others looked around, seeing no reason not to do the same and soon all four of them were soaking up some sunshine, talking quietly. They agreed that the mail system would be a good way to get information back and forth. They would use the code system that was shown to them by Kace before they left. It was hard to believe it had only been 5 days.

The sound of a vehicle made the group raise their heads to see what was causing it. A golf cart, of all things, was coming down the road, being driven by a woman. When she saw the people on the grass, her head tilted as if to make sense of it. She turned slightly and headed for them. As she neared, the group sat up and she smiled at them.

“Hello! I have to admit, both my curiosity and boredom got the better of me. Since I haven’t seen any of you before, you must be the survivors that came in a few days ago.” She looked them over and stopped when her eyes met Sandi’s.

“And that would make you Sandi, my new assistant.”

Sandi’s eyes widened and she scrambled to get to her feet. The woman laughed. “No need to get up on my account. It’s good to see people enjoying the little things in life, you know? Keeps us sane. I imagine you’ve earned a bit of rest after being out there in the wild world. How’d you survive?”

No one answered, most having a deer in the headlight look. This was the first person they’d met that wasn’t a soldier, not to mention friendly. The woman laughed.

“Perhaps if I introduced myself? My name’s Shannon. I run the water and sewer systems for the whole camp here at Reed City.”

Tanner suddenly spoke up. “We survived the best we could. Some cannibal religious freaks drove us away from our home up north and we ran.”

Shannon’s face showed surprise at the casually given story. “Sounds like you’ve been through the ringer. Religious and cannibal hmm? I’d hoped all the really scary people had died off by now.”

Tanner laughed harshly. “Some of the scariest people survived because they are scary. “In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty.” Religion has done more harm than anything over the ages.”

Shannon’s eyebrows raised up. “Who said that?”

Tanner looked her right in the eye and replied, “Thomas Jefferson.”

Shannon laughed. “Figures. A founding father. Well, I need to get going. Good luck on your trip to Plymouth. It’s not too bad there. That’s where I was before here.”

She looked at Sandi. “Your first shift is the day after tomorrow, ok?”

“My name is Sandi. Nice to meet you. If you need me before then, I’m sure you’ll know where to find me.” Sandi smiled, realizing that this woman was going to be her boss for the foreseeable future and wanted to make a good impression.

Shannon returned the smile. “Hard to keep secrets around here. Enjoy the sunshine!”

She turned the golf cart around and took off toward the main building.

The others looked around at each other, not sure what to make of the encounter.

_______

At dinner that night, Shannon ate with Pako and Dale. She told them about meeting the newcomers and the interesting conversation she’d had with them.

“They looked healthy enough but were so skittish, I think i could have made them jump if I’d just said “Boo.” They didn’t talk much.”

“Well,” replied Dale, “From all accounts, they’ve had it pretty rough out there. Kind of makes sense they’d be jittery. Plus, remember how we felt with our group being broken up? All the uncertainty that goes with it is enough to make anyone act odd.”

“Odd is one thing. Quoting Thomas Jefferson is another.”

Pako stopped, a bit halfway to his mouth. “Thomas Jefferson? Do you remember what the quote was?”

Shannon looked at him in surprise. “Why?”

Pako looked at her almost pleadingly. “Do you remember?”

Shannon sighed. “Not word for word, but it was something about religion not liking liberty or something.”

“Are you certain? The quote had the word “liberty” in it?”

Shannon nodded and then jumped when Pako smacked the table with a loud whoop. “You have to tell me where they are! I need to speak to them right away!”




Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 27

This is week 27 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

 

Roger heaved a 50 pound bag of flour off the pallet and threw it over his shoulder. He passed his ‘co-worker,’ Russell coming back out of the storage room to get another bag. It was freight day, Roger’s first, and he was stunned with all he was seeing.

The amount of food packed onto the two cargo trucks was staggering to see, especially for someone who hadn’t seen such a thing in well over a year. He didn’t think there was even the possibility of this amount of packaged and processed food still in the world.

Passing through the double doors, he entered the large storage area and turned toward the second aisle on the left. The first time he’d come in here, his knees had almost given out from under him. Russell had laughed good naturedly and explained that a lot of people had the same reaction. He’d seen people break down and cry, to screaming and running to hug the food, and one person had even passed out. When they’d come to, it was clear that their mind had snapped.

“He kept asking to be returned to his dimension, where there was no more capitalism and factories, running vehicles, or stores. It was kinda creepy.”

Russell was a 23 year old kid who had the auspicious title of “Storage Supervisor.” What he supervised was beyond him, he’d said with a shrug and a smile. The guy was just happy, and thankful, to be alive. He said so often.

As they passed each other again, Russell told him it was break time after the next pallet was done. Roger was grateful. Though he wasn’t in bad shape, per se, he certainly wasn’t used to such long hours of non stop hauling, cooking, and scrubbing. There were a lot of people here; he’d heard well over a thousand now, but had yet to really see that many. He’d been here sixteen days now but was still playing it safe, along with Tori, Kory, Bret, and Richard.

The pallet unloaded, he joined Russell outside and sat down on the sidewalk next to him.

“Whew! That’s quite the haul today. I just don’t understand where it all comes from!” He didn’t have to fake the wide-eyed look he gave the younger man.

Russell smiled and puffed up a little. “Well,” he replied self-importantly, “I can tell you that there’s a huge warehouse in Wyoming. It’s underground and well protected. See, the governement has huge caches all over the place for some huge disasters. ‘Course, the population drop across the planet was far fetched but that’s just better for those who survived, right?” He punched Roger playfully on the shoulder.

“I’m lucky to be one of them, and here. I can move up in the ranks and be running the whole kitchen someday!”

Roger masked his reaction at that statement. The kid is so blindly caught up in it all. He’s bought the whole illusion hook, line, and sinker. Not even fighting as they lure him in. Instead he smiled and lightly punched the kid back.

“That’s true! If they had so much stashed away, it’ll go longer for us on this side of the fence.”

Russell nodded excitedly and replied, “Yes! That’s what I’m saying! And it’s not just Wyoming, either. There’s at least one within three states, no more than 750 miles from each other. There was plans made with the United Nations decades ago to lend aid with those supplies if needed, “but not at the expense of our own well being.” I heard a colonel guy say that at dinner one night when the camp first opened.”

Roger again covered his reaction, this time of shock. He realized he was staring at Russell was looking at him in the eye, studying him. There was a calculating glint in his eye that caught Roger off guard and he realized he’d better reply quickly.

“Um, Russell…” He lowered his voice and glanced around. “Maybe you shouldn’t repeat what officers say? What if there are people who aren’t as thankful as we are to be here!”

The calculating edge was replaced with amusement. “Ya, right. They have ways of rooting people like that out. There are ears and stuff everywhere.” He tapped his nose and winked. “Besides, I wouldn’t be alive if not for the United Nations. They stepped in where our country couldn’t.”

Roger nodded and looked thoughtful, as if he was contemplating something troubling. “How do I know if I run into one of them? What if I didn’t know and they thought I did….”

Russell put his hand on Roger’s shoulder to reassure him. “Don’t worry. Why do you think you were questioned and live in shared housing for so long? Why do you think you don’t get full status to shop at the store or earn any camp leave? They have to make sure you’re legit before you get full resident rights.” He sat back, letting his hand fall with a grin. “Anyway, I’ve already filed my report on you. I think you’re just another person trying to survive and will do good here. I hear you know a lot about old war tactics. That would be cool stuff to learn…” he left the question unasked.

Roger’s smile was both for Russell’s benefit and his own. The kid had just opened the door for Roger to get some incredible intel. The trouble was, how in the hell was he supposed to get it back out into the right hands?

*************

It was another day at Center Camp, the last couple weeks or so had been pretty quiet. Jimmy, for one, was both glad for it and wary. He sometimes felt like there was a sword hanging over his head and one wrong step would have it taking him out. He didn’t know whether the quiet was good or the calm before the storm. He’d decided to work out his frustration on the wood pile that had been steadily growing as groups went out further and further to find the dead, down, and dying trees.

Patrols had been going out further. Just like when we first started. Reports from Reed City reported nothing other than work being done on utilities. No one came in or out and there was nothing heard on the waves, though the huge antenna that had been erected showed that they had an impressive range for listening in.

Jimmy just stripped off his threadbare t shirt and was putting another impressive dent in the pile of rounds when his concentration was broken by a wolf whistle behind him. He split the round in front of him and turned to see his wife walking up. Smiling, he grinned and flexed his muscles. Wiggling his eyebrows, he asked, “Like what you see?”

Amie laughed and nodded. “Yep. Sure do!”

Jimmy grinned and replied. “I knew you needed glasses.” He looked pleased all the same and asked what brought her over.

Amie eyed him up and down a moment before replying. “Oh, there’s a messenger here to see you. Came in with Tanner from Main Camp.” Her eyes sparkled they met his. “He’s from the safe house at Grand Rapids!”

Jimmy’s jaw dropped a moment before saying, “Why didn’t you tell me from the start? You know how much it’s been driving me crazy! I was thinking about making the trip myself!”

Amie’s eyes narrowed a moment. “I didn’t tell you from the start because I was enjoying my eye candy, thank you very much. That is, until you decided to tell me about your completely impossible idea.”

Jimmy warred between being referred to as ‘eye candy’ and wanting to argue that at some point, he would likely have to leave when the confrontation came and decided against all of it. He wanted information more than anything else.

“Fine. Whatever, you win. Now can we please go talk to this messenger? Are they in The Hall?”

Amie eyed him again before relaxing and saying that they were at the Comm Shack at the moment, sending a message out to let those who needed to know that they had made their destination.

Jimmy said he wanted to get a fresh shirt and would meet her over at the Comm Shack, thinking that was a better place. Before he could ask, she told him that Al was already over there and they would wait for him.

After hastily cleaning up, Jimmy half jogged his way across camp. That feeling of both dread and hope for good news came back with a vengeance. He steeled himself, ready to face whatever happened, and walked through the door.

He recognized Tanner right away. The young man had aged handsomely though the strain around the eyes was a common feature on both the old and young these days. The other person could only be the messenger from Grand Rapids. He nodded his hellos to everyone else there and offered his hand to the newcomer.

“Jimmy Walker, pleasure to meet you.”

The man shook his hand and replied, “And you. I’m Kace. First, I have a letter for you from your people who went to Plymouth.” He reached into a well worn, often patched satchel slung over his shoulder and pulled out a plastic bag with folded papers inside. After passing over the one for Jimmy, he went on.

“I have a lot of information to pass on to you and your people. We have intel that directly affects this area. Are you aware of the camp at Reed City?”

Jimmy glanced at Tanner who met his eye and nodded firmly. The man had been verified at Main Camp, and likely South Camp before that; he could be trusted.

“Yes. We’ve been watching it for a couple weeks now. There was a helicopter and a drone sighting, too. Tracks were found by some outlying homesteaders who told us about what they found after following them. We’ve made plans to protect home as much as possible but, as you can imagine, we are rather cut off from any real information. I hope you have some answers for all the questions we have. After taking in Roger and Sticks and setting things up, and then they leave, it’s been frustrating as hell.”

Kace listened closely, without scorn or judgement showing on his face. When Jimmy was done, he nodded. “That is one of the reasons I’ve come. We were going to send some other people but when we learned about Reed City, we had to get someone here now to learn more. There are too many unanswered questions, as you say.” Kace smiled reassuringly.

Jimmy eyed the man again and found no trace of mocking or cockiness. It was hard to get a good read on him.

“So, what’s the plan, then. I suppose you’ll want to give you report, get information and head back? How long do we have?”

“With your permission, I would like to stay at least two weeks, perhaps a month. As I said, I have a lot of information to share with you and your people. I was told you were the leader of these camps and your name has been known to us for some time, largely due to the rantings of one Eugene Rupert.”

Jimmy’s teeth ground together. “What is it with that guy! The CIA, FBI, Homeland Security…all of it is gone and he is still hell bent on ‘getting his man.’ The kicker is, I wasn’t even doing any of the things they suspected! “Homeland terrorist.” I served this country!”

Kace suddenly laughed, throwing his head back. “Don’t you see, Mr. Walker? All he had was his job before and, as long as you live, he still has a purpose – a job. Though he doesn’t realize it himself, you are likely the reason he’s still alive now.”

That through Jimmy for a loop but he knew the ring of truth when he heard it. He ran his fingers through his hair. What a twisted web, he thought.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time to worry about that nut job.”

“Actually, you might need to make time. He’s reportedly moved to Reed City.”




Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 26

This is week 26 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

For all the camp at Plymouth had seemed like a pretty prison, Shannon now thought about it with something akin to fondness. On some days, she actually missed the place.

From the moment they got to Reed City, they were on a schedule that had them up and going fourteen hours a day. This was day five and she was exhausted. The day before had been even longer than most, due to the interrogation she had endured.

She had been summoned to meet with a “counselor” to supposedly help them with “adjusting to society,” but after the first five minutes, she knew it was something else entirely. The man alternated between friendly and suspicious. He would latch onto the weirdest things and question her incessantly about the smallest details. “How long did you sleep on the ground? How many other people did you have contact with before you came to the U.N. camp?”

It was enough to make her tell him where he could shove his questions. How the hell was she supposed to know that she would be expected to count the people she came in contact with since IT happened?

When he started asking her thoughts and opinions about the U.N., the way things were being done, and if she’d ever thought about leaving to live “outside,” the look in his eyes set off warning bells. Tread carefully, was the first thing that popped into her head when the line of questions had turned.

She’d told him the truth about everything, except how she really felt. She figured the man had some sort of training to tell when someone was lying so she told versions that were close enough to the truth for her face to remain earnest.

“Where else would I go? What would I do? I have no wish to be alone out there, thank you very much. I hear people have turned savage and cannibal. Why would I ever want to be out in something like that?” He seemed satisfied with her answers , switching back to being friendly before dismissing her with a greasy smile.

She asked Pako this morning if he’d also been to see the guy, which Pako confirmed. He told her that the man’s name was Eugene when she’d realized that she hadn’t been told his name before he had launched into the questions.

“It’s a mentality check, a loyalty check. They want to see where your head is, if you can be trusted or not,” Pako told her under his breath.

Shannon smirked. “Well, you know what that means, don’t you?”

Her question was met with silence as they walked to their respective shifts. She glanced at him and saw him shake his head slightly.

“It means, there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. We need to find out what it is and get word back to Plymouth. When can we send a letter?”

“You could write one anytime but there won’t be a run until next week. They want to make sure things are in place,” Pako replied. They slowed down at an intersection that would take them in opposite directions.

“You mean they want to make sure they have things secured and locked down,” Shannon commented.

Pako grinned and nodded. “Sharp as ever! Meet me for dinner tomorrow? Get the others, too.”

They had agreed and went their separate ways. Now, though, she was so tired that all she wanted to do was sleep. She wasn’t sure food would be worth the effort at this point. That must be how they plan on keeping us in line, working fourteen hour days so that we’re so tired, we just want to sleep. Shannon pursed her lips in irritation at the nut she was trying to tighten. Though she’d been given better equipment to work with, there were still little things that she’d had to be imaginative with. Making the nuts from whatever smaller metal pipe she could find, which wasn’t much, had proven to be the only way she could secure the sections of pipe together. She had bolts galore, but had run out of the right sized nuts on the 3rd day.

She stood up straight and arched her back, trying to work the ache out of it and looked around. It was always so quiet, no matter where you went, that it seemed she lived in a library. At Plymouth, at least there were always people around with at least a friendly smile and wave. Here, people looked at you with reserved expressions and though polite, the body language gave off a clear “Don’t get close” message. If not for Pako and Dale, she would likely lose her mind. Wouldn’t that please Mr. Counselor, she thought snidely.

Glancing at her watch, she realized she was getting behind if she wanted to be done with this section today, plus have any energy for dinner that night.

***********

Jimmy woke up to the sound of the rooster and glanced out the window. It was still dark but he could tell that dawn wasn’t far off. He laid there a moment, listening to the sounds of his wife and children’s steady breathing. He took comfort knowing they were safe. As soon as the thought entered his mind, he felt his body tense up as the weight of what was coming, whatever that was, and the role of leader settled on him again.

It had been two days since they’d gotten back from the Gathering and Jimmy knew he had to get groups organized, have meetings, make decisions, and try to make it all look like he knew what he was doing. The lack of information was driving him crazy.

Thinking about the gathering and how it had gone on the last day, he briefly smiled as he recalled the lively suggestions people had made for the new code word used to identify each other as friendlies. Though most everyone knew each person from the other camps already, it was still a good practice to keep.

The choices had come down to using a bird, a robin since it was the Michigan state bird, or talking about a dog. That one had taken a good half hour as people tried to say their favorite breed should be the codeword. In the end, Jimmy had decided to compromise. He felt rather clever that the ‘compromise’ also added a layer of security, too.

He had said they would use both. The mention of a robin would be the opening code word, with the mention of a dog as a reply. The reaction was everything he had hoped; enthusiastic and full approval of those gathered.

I’m going to have to get word about the change to Liberty’s Teeth people. How the hell am I supposed to do that?

Unable to fight it anymore, he eased himself out of bed and tended to the necessary before putting water on to boil and stoking the fire. He drank some tea made from leaves Amie had gathered and dried, wishing for coffee as usual. It had been some time since he had even a sniff of coffee. Though he knew this was the way things were now, some things were just too hard to give up.

Amie got up and made a quick breakfast of greens and a couple boiled eggs. Now that the chickens were fully done with the molt and warm temperatures, the eggs were plentiful. One change he was surprised with was how many people in the outlying area around Center Camp had chickens of their own and didn’t bother with trying to get any. That left more for those who lived “in town.” The thought made Jimmy chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Amie asked.

“I was just thinking about chickens, eggs, and how Center Camp could turn into a town someday. Like the places before: Dodge City, Kansas or Deadwood, South Dakota. They were rough and tumble frontier towns that eventually became huge cities.”

Amie grinned at him. “Thinking to leave your mark on history, Mr. Walker?”

Before he could respond, one of the twins started fussing as they woke up. Of course, that woke the other one up, too.

Amie laughed and said, “There’s your mark on history. At least, your legacy.” She went into the bedroom to tend to the kids.

Jimmy grabbed another handful of greens to finish with his egg and he headed out the door.

_____

That afternoon, Jimmy was laying out specifics with the volunteers who would be doing larger patrols when Ryan came running up to him. “Jimmy! You need to come to the Comm Shack. Jess said you don’t want to miss this!”

Jimmy’s stomach sunk into his feet as he nodded to the group in a dismissal before jogging with Ryan back the way he came. As they walked through the door, the sound of music…The National Anthem! was playing, making him stop dead in his tracks. The look on Jessica’s face was one of shock, hope, fear, wariness, and disbelief.

“What…..?” Jimmy tried to ask, but the sound of the music hit him so hard, he stopped and simply saluted as it played. Jessica’s eyes were filling up as she reached for the volume and turned it up as loud as she dared go without blowing the speaker.

The increased sound spurred Ryan into action. He turned and opened the door wide, letting it spill out into the main area of camp. People stopped and stared. Gasps were heard across the clearing. A few started moving closer, which broke the spell on the others who followed suit. Before the song was over, everyone within earshot were close but word spread fast and, in the silence that followed after the song, people were running up.

Jimmy didn’t even try not to cry. That song, one he had heard literally thousands of time and vowed to defend with his life gave him both pride and a bitter sense of loss at what had once been. It was a completely different life, and lifetime, ago, never to be known again by him or any other person alive.

The thought hit him just as hard but had a hardening effect. He would do whatever it took to get rid of the U.N. presence here, along with protecting what they had all built. After what seemed an eternity of quiet, a voice crackled over the speakers. Jessica moved to lower the volume but stopped at a gesture from Jimmy.

“We play this as a reminder to those who hear us. Though painful, hearing it reminds us that there are those who have gone down the same path we are now: that of free people fighting to keep their right to govern themselves and make their own choices. Liberty is everything for without it, you have slavery. Find like minded people, work together! We gather, even now, to overcome and claim our right as free men and women of this new world!”

The speaker went quiet again for a moment before the scream of an electric guitar was heard. At first, those gathered were stunned. As the next few notes began to play, it was clear it was the Star Spangled Banner again only this time, it was the classic rock rendition played by Jimmy Hendrix. People whooped and hollered, clapping, laughing, and crying all at the same time.

Jimmy was among those laughing. To play the classic style, followed by the rock and roll style had to really tick off all the right people at the U.N. It was cheeky, to be sure, but the morale boost that was going across the waves right now should make the enemy listening pucker up just a bit.

The song ended with a lot of cheers and smiles. The group quieted down quickly when the voice said that there would be transmissions at least one day a week. They wouldn’t always have music, or be from the same location “To keep the enemy on their toes,” but that if there was a transmission in the morning, there would be one in the evening as well.

Cheers went up again as they signed off, encouraging people who wish to be free to work together and join forces. Jimmy and Al shared a look that said volumes. Through mutual agreement, they went to The Hall and sat at their table in the back, discussing what had just happened.

“At least it’s good to hear something, I agree. The trouble is, what does it really mean? We still don’t know if our people made it all the way to Plymouth, let alone how we will get information in and out of Reed City and to Liberty’s Teeth. I feel like someone built a train station here but forgot to lay the track.” Jimmy sat back, rubbing a hand over his face in frustration.

Al nodded and glanced out the window at the sound of laughter. “Still, you can’t deny the effect it’s having on everyone. Imagine what the U.N. thinks.”

Al and Jimmy shared a smile before falling silent, lost in their thoughts.




Saturday Survival Serial – Volume 3, Week 25

This is week 25 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

The crowd cheered wildly as the jugglers finished their routine with a flourish. It was the last full day of the Gathering. Tomorrow morning would see the majority of the people leaving before dawn, back to their respective camps.

Jimmy plastered a smile on his face and clapped along with the rest but he couldn’t help feeling guilty. Soon, the news and topics they had to discuss with the group at large would wipe away the merriment that was thick in the air.

As if reading his thoughts, Amie squeezed his hand and looked up at him with concern. He widened his smile and winked at her before turning to listen to Arturo announcing the last act before they broke for lunch, after which would be the big meeting.

“For your listening pleasure, I shall recite for you, “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.” He smiled at a few gasps among the crowd.

Behind him on the makeshift stage was a raised mish mash of blankets and tattered sheets where the sound of wind came suddenly. Arturo spread his arms wide as if gathering everyone in closer. With the slightest turn of his posture, he seemingly moved forward as if speaking to everyone there only a few feet away instead of hundreds. His voice was clear and carried out, as if on the sound of wind from behind the curtain. He began.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
        Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.”

The sound of a horse running at high speed twined with the sound of the wind. Amie gasped, looping her arm through Jimmy’s excitedly. Her eyes sparkled when he looked down at her and he couldn’t help but smile. As Arturo went on, it was easy to get lost in the story and spell he was weaving.

He recited the entire poem from memory, skillfully taking on the part of each character. The sound effects came perfectly on cue, giving as much life and breath to the performance as Arturo himself. Though he barely moved three feet in any direction, it seemed as if he were the one on the horse, flying across the land.

Tears were on more than one face when the heroine of the poem died to warn her love. Though the tale was sad overall, the talented way it was performed brought deafening cheers from everyone gathered and calls for an encore.

The other members of Merry Muse came out from behind the tent and took several bows before clearing the stage, promising more entertainment that night.

Everyone broke for lunch and there was laughter heard everywhere. Children chased each other while the adults talked over food or the bartering tables. There was already a line at the blacksmith cart.

Jimmy and Amie were joined by Marian and Al on their way to where Denise and Captain would be having lunch. It had been agreed that they would go over everything one last time before making the camp announcements.

They said their hellos and sat down, accepting plates of food. After a few minutes of eating, Captain broke the silence.

“We know I can’t give the speech, voice won’t carry far enough. Jimmy, you’ve got to be the one. We’ll be behind you, helping to keep things calm. Any questions about the announcements?”

Jimmy sighed heavily, feeling the weight of leadership settle on his shoulders more so than any other time in his life. His camp was one thing; addressing almost the entire population of all three camps was another. When he glanced up at Captain, the appraising look the man gave him made him sit up straighter. There was the slightest of nods from the man before he took another bite.

“Right. I don’t have any questions but, to be clear, we are going to tell them everything. There was talk about leaving certain things out, due to the possibility of other U.N. spies in our camps. We can’t let suspicions guide us or our actions. If I’m the one called on to speak, then I will do it the way I run my camp.” Jimmy nodded once for emphasis, the matter resolved.

He was met with silence, though as he met everyone’s eye around the room, he found nothing but acceptance. Jimmy took in a deep breath, nodded again and finished his meal.

He had just taken leadership of the entire group of survivors gathered here and had the backing of the other leaders.

It seemed he barely had time to process any of what just happened before it was time to have the meeting. He knew what he had to say, just now how. When he asked Amie her thoughts just before he took place on the stage, she smiled and kissed him on the cheek and said, “The way you would tell anyone else.”

He frowned at the reply until he was standing before 300 plus pairs of eyes, all looking up at him. Taking a deep breath to harden his nerve, he began.

“Thank you to everyone for your work to make this Gathering the best one yet!” Cheers went up from the crowd and smiles were seen everywhere. Jimmy put his hands up to quiet them down.

“This last winter brought us a lot of tragedy and hardships. Still, we pulled through! I’m sure you know that there is a lot of U.N. activity going on out there in the world. There are a lot of rumors going around. Today, right now, I am going to tell you everything we have learned. What I tell you will be only facts that we have verified.

“I am certain that there will be numerous questions. I’m sure you will understand that with a group this size, there is no way we could answer them all. To be honest, we simply don’t have answers to give for some of the more pressing questions! Let me reiterate: You will be told everything we know. Though there is much we can only guess at, be assured that we have a plan, too.”

Jimmy paused, letting the introduction sink in. He was about to unload a lot of information on these people, some of which could be their worst nightmares. Rumors were easy to ignore and pretend weren’t real. He was going to be shattering a lot of illusions of safety tonight.

People started to murmur amongst themselves. Before Jimmy could speak again, Captain stood up from the side of the stage and walked slowly over to the stairs. People moved to help him, which he angrily swatted away. The crowd was as quiet as they had been during the performance earlier – seemingly more, as if the very air stilled.

“We all know that life is a fleeting thing. Time moved forward, no matter how much we wish it otherwise. I’m unable to do the duty you all trusted me to over a year ago. I can think of no other person better than Jimmy Walker to take the helm. I, and the other leaders of your camps agreed and support his decisions. I expect you to give him the same trust and loyalty you gave me. He has ever served us as best as he possible can. It’s a little known fact that if not for this man, absolutely none of this – or us – would be here.”

Captain’s breath was coming hard now, and he turned to walk back off the stage. This time, he didn’t shoo people away as they helped him down the few steps. A seat had been brought close and he sat gratefully.

When Jimmy turned back to the crowd, he could physically feel the shift in attention. They were paying attention before, but now they seemed to be listening.

“The rumors regarding the U. N. settlement camps at Plymouth, Indiana and Reed City are true. There was a drone spotted, as well as a helicopter. We believe both items to be part of the Reed City location. As with the Plymouth location, we will be asking for people to volunteer to go to Reed City, infiltrate, and get information back.”

He expected there to be outbursts, gasps, some kind of reaction. What he got was an eerily quiet group, listening. He went on.

“We are part of the group Liberty’s Teeth. All camps. All of us. We have been working with them for awhile now, as most of you know. It was never formally announced before, so I am right now. If you wanted to live with the United Nations people, you wouldn’t be here now. There may be spies among us, though doubtful! We’ve all known each other for more than a year now, with few exceptions. While I will be as cautious as possible to limit the risk of all, I will not let suspicion drive my choices!”

There were a few cheers scattered across the group at his last statement. He put up his hand and went on.

“Liberty’s Teeth will let us know what the overall plan is. Until then, our plan is to get as much information as possible and set up the relays to get information in and out of the camps. Already there are plans set in motion that will come together for a final showdown to drive the threat of a would-be “New World Order” from taking over the human population! Until then, we will all need to work on keeping our homes and property safe.

“Patrols will be going out and volunteers will be needed for them, too. Make no mistake and tell yourself no lies – this is a battle in the war of freedom that has lasted among humanity for as long as humanity has existed! The battle for freedom from slavery, the battle for rights, the battle to earn the right to be left alone and live how you choose! This is how our battle has come about, and We.Will.Meet.IT!”

The roar that erupted from those gathered seemed to make the trees shake as the sound bounced off them. After a few more details, he turned to the last topic that seemed an oddly fitting way to end the meeting.

“One last thing. It has been said many times that we need a new password, preferably something not food related. What say you?”

He was met with a stunned silence at the abrupt switch of topic that quickly turned into laughter. It was plainly obvious that the majority agreed and he promised a new one would be chosen and everyone informed. When he ended the meeting with some final information, he was worried that he had just ruined the last night of merriment.

To Jimmy’s relief, though people were a bit more thoughtful looking, most didn’t let all that had happened during the meeting to stop them from having fun. In fact, he thought, I think they’re trying to make sure they have as much fun as possible. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

Merry Muse was making the rounds again that night and the line following two of them as they played their folksy music was the longest he’d seen yet. People laughed and smiled, waving as they whirled past him.

He decided to follow their example and went to find Amie. When he found her, he took her by the hand and, ignoring her questions and light attempts at getting free, led her to where people were dancing to a flute being played by Henry from South Camp.

“I want to dance with my wife and live in the moment for all it’s worth. That OK with you ma’am?” He grinned at her roguishly.

Though she tried to maintain an irritated look, it didn’t take more than a few seconds before she returned the smile. “You’re lucky you’re cute.”

He chuckled, pulling her close. “I’ll take it!”

***************

Bret slung the coil of wire over his shoulder, grunting at the weight. It’d been 10 days since he and the others presented themselves at the checkpoint, ‘seeking refuge.’ The transition had been hard on him; he was so used to being able to come and go where and when he had pleased for so long, having a strict schedule again grated at him. That, and the fact that they were no closer to having any idea how they were supposed to get information out.

They’d learned that radio access among the residents was prohibited. When he’d joked about tuning into a country station, he was told that all communication was under the jurisdiction and control of the United Nations. It was only to be used for information, not entertainment.

The group from the camps in Michigan were rarely alone together and talking without being overheard proved to be difficult with their current living situation. Most of the people in Temp Housing kept their doors open, likely in an attempt to show they have nothing to hide. Of course, he and his group did have something to hide but they also left their doors open to give the impression of fitting in.

Nodding to the armed soldier standing guard, Bret walked into the main communications room. It was covered wall to wall with all manner of radios, wires, and speakers. Almost every flat surface had a map spread out on it showing various areas with pins marking locations all over them. He barely had a moment to register what he was seeing before someone called to him.

“Hey there!” An older man spun around in his chair, smiling. He stood up and offered his hand. “I’m Edgar, nice to meet you! That my coaxial cable?”

Bret nodded, shaking his hand but not wanting to trust the friendliness in the man’s face. “Yep. Wish it was Cat 5 line instead. At least it’d be lighter, but I expect that we’re a long way off from using that again.”

Edgar chuckled and took the coil from him. “Well, these U.N. boys are resourceful. I’m sure there’s still some being used somewhere on the planet.”

Bret barely contained a derisive snort, trying to turn it into a cough at the last moment. Edgar eyed him a moment before commenting, “Ya, it gets dry and dusty in here,” as if explaining away the cough.

Bret eyed him back and when the man didn’t flinch away from his stare, he gave his first genuine smile since arriving at Plymouth.

“You’re one of the newest arrivals, right? What was it like out there? Were you out there long?”

Bret nodded at the barrage of questions. “Ya. Got here a little over a week ago. Been out there running around on my own at first, then met up with some others. We managed, barely, to make it through the winter and then heard the call on a hand held radio and started making our way here.” He shrugged like it was no big deal.

Edgar ‘hmph’d’ and said, “Sounds like a helluva story to me. A story is worth a lot these days. I’ve got a bunch of friends I came here with, too. Maybe you’d like to come have a dinner with us and we can swap tales.”

Again, Bret was wary of trusting a person who seemed overly friendly. His gut told him the guy was OK but he’d been misguided before. The look the man had given him could be interpreted several ways. Not being able to know which, without outright asking the guy which side he was on, put him in a precarious situation.

Edgar smiled again. “Hey, no pressure. I’m sure you’re still adjusting to all this. The offer’s open, if you change your mind, any time.” He sat back down and patted the main radio. “You know where to find me!”

Bret thanked him before leaving. His thoughts whirled as he went to his next delivery.

___

Across the camp, Tori was walking from house to house, knocking on doors. She hadn’t known what to expect when she was told she would be teaching people about maintaining health, but it sure hadn’t been what she was doing now.

She felt like some vacuum cleaner salesman, except if someone was home, they always answered. That’s something, I guess, she thought to herself. She carried a clipboard and a pen in her hands. In the pack on her back was a digital scale, an oximeter to test heart rate and oxygen levels, and digital thermometer with disposable sheaths. She wasn’t thrilled with the questions, either. Having people get on the scale was bad enough. Asking about what they ate and how much they drank weren’t so bad. It was the questions about menstrual cycles and sexual activity made her feel like a creeper.

Moving down to the next street, she was surprised to hear…music? Like a moth to a flame, Tori walked to the townhouse whose door was wide open with music pouring out. She stopped on the sidewalk, her mind recognizing the fast pace of the classic rock song, “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne.

The scene took on a surreal feel to it as a woman’s voice joined in on the chorus.

Tori looked around the street, trying to see if anyone else was around and what their reaction was. She knew that radios weren’t allowed and it was unlikely someone had revived a radio station. Her curiousity got the best of her and besides, she had to ask the person all about their personal life anyway. The music might serve as a good icebreaker.

She walked up to the doorway and knocked loudly on the frame, calling out. “Anyone home?”

Laughter came from the back room and the reply, “As if anyone would dare let music just play and waste precious energy here!” A trim woman came into the main room, carrying a bucket with soapy water.

Tori laughed. “That’s true. I have to ask, though….how did you, where could you have possibly gotten that music?”

The woman chuckled again before picking up a slim silver mp3 player the likes of which Tori hadn’t seen in over a year. Attached with thin cords were two speakers that seemed far too small to put off as much sound as they had.

“You can get them on loan from the main building. ‘Course, the waiting list is a killer as there’s only three of them available. All you get is 48 hours and the way I figure it, the louder the better.”

Tori laughed again at the woman’s attitude and nodded her approval. She offered her hand to shake and introduced herself.

“Aha! I’ve heard about you. I’ll save you the question: I haven’t had sex in a looooong time and don’t have that time of the month. Thank goodness…Oh! Sorry, I’m Joli.” She shook Tori’s hand.

“You don’t?” Tori asked bluntly.

“Nope! Before, I felt such a loss that I could never have kids. Hysterectomy. Now, though, it’s a serious blessing.”

They both fell silent. Tori was unsure what to say next and was about to just launch into the rest of her questions when Joli asked, “So, you want to hear some more music? You can ask your questions at the same time.”

Tori’s face brightened up immediately and she nodded.

Two hours later, Tori left with promises to come back. She couldn’t remember the last time she had clicked so well with another female. Joli was tough, snarky, and smart. She didn’t take shit from anyone but also knew when to play the passive. Tori appreciated the duality of it. Much like herself, she was tough when needed but could be diplomatic when it served her purposes.


This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 27-01-2017 00:00:00
End date 02-02-2017 12:00:00
Poll Results:
What should the new code word be for identifying friendlies from other camps? (NO FOOD!)




Saturday Survival Serial – Vol 3, Week 24

This is week 24 in volume 3 of the Saturday Survival Serial. To learn more about what the Saturday Survival Serial is, click here. To start at week 1, click here.

“It’s a mess, no question about that. The only thing we have any control over is how we’re going to handle it. We need to get some things in place immediately after the gathering here. Twenty miles can be covered in a day, even at a speed walk and breaks included.” Captain wheezed the last few words out and coughed.

Jimmy, Al, Sarah, and Amie, and Marian were all gathered in Captain’s livingroom. Denise was out, enjoying some time among the barter tables and visiting friends.

Amie’s expression was one of concern for her father. He had lost so much weight that his cheeks were sunken in. She’d hoped that he would recover from his heart attack more quickly and be back to his usual robust form by now. As it was, she was worried about him making it through the next winter.

Jimmy waited for the coughing to subside before speaking. “Agreed. Should we send another group to infiltrate over there, too? We’ll need to keep close eye on the movement of those coming in and out. That means supplies will be needed for those patrolling, schedules for rotation, et cetera.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment, considering the resources that would be needed, let alone the risk involved.

“I think,” said Al, “that it would take at least three groups, minimum, to accomplish that. Four would be better. You’ve got one group on the way to observe, one coming back, one to patrol the areas, and the last in reserve. Three people to a group, just in case. Better chance of at least one making it back if something goes wrong. More like when something goes wrong.”

Marian nodded. “And they’ll need a story if they get caught, too. We’ll need to consider that all the supplies, and especially weapons, they could be lost, too. The catch is, they’ll need good weapons to survive with.”

The silence was broken only by the sounds of laughter and cheers outside, in stark contrast to the somber mood in the room. They all knew a war was coming, but there were so many unanswered questions that they were almost stuck in indecision. When the thought struck Jimmy, he knew what needed to be done.

“The bottom line is we need information. We have no idea if Liberty’s Teeth will make it here or if the Canadians really are coming south across the lake. All we do know is that there are now two settlement camps, one of which is a day’s travel away and they have a helicopter. It’s only a matter of time before they discover us.” He sighed.

“Of course, according to Walter, I have a ghost from my past who is hell bent on killing me for a suspicion of being a terrorist threat to a country that no longer exists. Personally, and I really mean that, I am not going to tolerate any threats to what we’ve built here and how we live. Sure, it’s hard, but I’m free to succeed or fail. The report from Olaf made me think this Reed City location is a lot more than just a settlement camp. With a helicopter and high ranks in play, I’m thinking it’s some sort of special forces camp.”

“But why Reed City? It’s pretty much nowhere,” asked Amie.

“Precisely because it’s ‘pretty much nowhere.’ There’s no major city too close, it’s at a higher elevation, likely for signal strength and viewing distance, too,” answered Captain. “I’ve been wondering why that location since I first heard about it.”

“Me, too, and I think you’re spot on,” said Marian. “I know that there will be a full group’s worth of volunteers from South Camp. Maybe more.”

“I don’t think it’ll be hard to get a dozen people together for this and you’re right, Jimmy, we need information. We need to hope that there will be help but plan as if we’re on our own.” Captain looked at each person in turn. “Make no mistake, this will likely be a battle for our way of life and there will be people killed. We need to make sure to prepare people for it as much as we can.”

“Not until after though. Let people have their fun and make memories,” said Amie.

Captain sighed heavily, his skin looking ashen. “We can’t wait until after, Amie-girl. We need to tell people so they can start to prepare.” He softened his tone at the look on her face.

“We can’t afford to be lazy about this but how about we tell everyone on the last night instead.”

Amie and the others nodded their agreement.

*************

The sound of the engine turning off made the quiet seem almost deafening. Kory got out of the driver’s seat and stretched. They’d managed to find a van and enough fuel to fill the engine to just under half a tank. From there, they had driven steadily without stopping until they were roughly ten miles out from Plymouth, Indiana.

The trip had been uneventful with regard to human interaction but during one stretch, they’d been chased by a pack of feral dogs. Seeing collars on a couple of them, rib and hip bones sticking out had put everyone in a melancholy mood. There hadn’t been much talking; between seeing the once loved family pets turned wild to getting within striking distance of their target, everyone was lost in their thoughts.

It was agreed that they would stop ten miles out and start walking. Knowing their gear would be stripped from them when they got to camp, a plan was made to stow the extra gear five miles out from Plymouth.

They walked the five miles easily and though it was still light out, decided to make a camp and enjoy their last night of freedom for a while. A spot was found that would give good cover and they set up camp. Everyone took all of their supplies out of all pockets and bags, laying them out.

“We should try and make sure each pack has similar stuff. If one of us needs to grab and go with the closest one they can get to, it would give a better chance of survival,” commented Roger.

The others agreed and began divvying up the gear. Kory almost cried as he took his K-Bar buck knife off his hip and stowed it away. All of the food was put into the middle. Tori reached deep into her pack and looked forlorn as she pulled out a small packet covered in shiny foil.

“Is that…chocolate?!” exclaimed Bret.

Tori sighed. “Yes, it is. I’ve been holding onto it for some time now. I don’t even know if it’s any good anymore.”

Bret laughed. “I don’t care of it’s five years old! Can I have a piece? Pllllleeeaaasssseee?” His plea made everyone laugh.

“Might as well. It’d likely just rot out here anyway,” replied Tori. She opened the specialty candy bar wrapper and was surprised to see the contents weren’t all dried out. Breaking the pieces up, she split it all evenly between everyone and sighs of bliss were soon heard.

“Oh ye tiny gods, but that’s good,” said Richard. “I was never one for sweets before but this is the best chocolate or candy I’ve ever had in my life!”

The others laughed in agreement. Eventually, the packs were ready to be cached. Though it was tempting to make a feast of a meal, they figured they would get a good meal when they made it to the camp. The dry goods they had left had been carefully stored in wrapped plastic as a water barrier.

They enjoyed each other’s company, though it wasn’t long before the subject turned to the next day. They hammered out their cover stories again and discussed different strategies for getting information safely to one another and eventually out of the camp.

“We need to carefully find the people from LT in the camp and work with them. That is the easiest and most direct route. Of course, it’s also the most dangerous. We need to have some kind of Plan B to fall back on,” said Kory.

“Plan B is to get out of camp, run for it basically. Get information out, whatever it takes.” Richard said it so matter of factly, he could have been talking about the weather.

“Have any of you considered what we may go through when we get in?” asked Tori. All eyes turned to her.

“I’m talking interrogations and maybe even some kind of torture. Are we really certain that we aren’t walking into some kind of death trap here? Like a Nazi camp from World War II? It’s completely possible and something we should try and mentally prepare for. Get caught off guard at the wrong time and you may slip up and blow the whole thing.”

The stunned silence that met her statement told her all she needed to know. “Sorry to be the one who puts that in your head but it needs to be there for two reasons: First, if you can steel yourself to the idea a bit, your chances go up and second, a bit of genuine fear and wariness will go a long way to making us believable.”

“Well, there goes any sleep for me tonight,” said Bret.

___

The next day, everyone was up before the sun came over the horizon. A morning fire and meal were quickly made and cleared before they concentrated on making the caches of gear and supplies. Instead of putting them all in one spot, they spread the locations out and left little markers only they would recognize.

They started out for the final stretch of the long journey. Without their gear, they felt vulnerable and almost helpless. Kory suggested they make some crude walking sticks with semi sharpened points.

“It’ll help with the facade, too,” he pointed out.

An hour later, everyone had some kind of stick. Tori had tied a ratty t shirt on hers like a hobo pack that had a couple snares, some tinder, flint and steel. Kory had made a spear of sorts. The others made walking sticks and had little else with them, except for the broken radio they’d brought with them. Bret held onto that since he was the most techie of the bunch and had the best chance of fooling whoever they ran into at Plymouth about hearing the message.

Whether it was the anticipation or wanting to just get it over with, they made excellent time and it wasn’t long before they saw the sign that read “Welcome to Plymouth, Indiana.” Down the road a couple miles, a road block could be seen.

Tori took a deep breath. “Well here we go. Everyone good with all the hand signals?” Everyone nodded. They had made up an expanded version of signals that would seem casual to most people. A glance in a certain direction, the step of a foot…it was a simple and effective.

Everyone turned together and began walking down the road. All too soon, they could clearly make out the barricade across the road and checkpoint shack. Four armed soldiers stood there, watching them approach. At first, they’d been quick to move but by the time the group got there, they had the look of boredom. One of the soldiers stepped forward when the group was about 500 feet away.

“Welcome to Plymouth, Indiana, United Nations settlement camp.” He sounded like he was reciting a script.

“You are welcome to join this camp, survivors, but must understand a few things first. By entering, you agree to follow the rules and regulations of the United Nations. You will be subjected to a medical exam by our staff to make sure you are not diseased. You will be quarantined for three days, where you will also be questioned on your work and education experience so you can be properly placed into a work rotation.

“Once you’ve been here a month, you will be a gain full Resident status and begin to earn time away from camp. Rules and procedure for leave is detailed in the manual that will be provided to you. You will also be able to choose your living accommodations among what is available. Anyone may leave at any time through the proper channels. Should you try to leave any other way, you will be shot if seen or caught.”

The infiltrators looked at each other with wide eyes. Tori didn’t have to fake the waver in her voice as she asked, “Will we be able to see each other and talk or will we be separated?”

“After the three day quarantine, you will be allowed most of the freedoms all residents enjoy, including time to socialize and recreate.” He looked at them all closely.

“Do you accept the terms of the settlement camp?”

Before anyone could answer, Richard spoke up. “Do you shoot us if we say no?”

All eyes shifted to him, then back to the soldier who replied, “No, but your presence and descriptions are being noted now in the logs that will be distributed to all check points.”

Richard looked surprised and releived. He scratched his jaw, the signal to the others that he was putting on an act.

“Well, that makes sense. Have to admit, I’m relieved to hear that we wouldn’t be targets. Truth is, we heard the transmission on the radio and have been traveling a long way to get here.” He looked around at his companions and nodded, smiling wide. “We made it!”

The others smiled with him and then back to the soldiers. The tension lessened considerably and a soldier back by the shack got on the radio.

The soldier who had spoken to them waved a hand toward the jeep parked behind the barrier. “If you’ll get in the jeep, we will bring you to the intake area.”

“Ohhhh! I haven’t been in a running vehicle in over a year!” exclaimed Tori as she walked toward it.

They piled in and were taken to a medium sized brick building that was next to what looked to be an elementary school. Other people could be seen walking around, talking, sitting and playing cards, and even working here and there. They were ushered inside where they were asked to fill out a generic employment form and medical questionnaire by a man behind a desk. He was dressed in a long sleeved t shirt and jeans instead of the uniform they’d expected.

Tori cracked a joke about forgetting how to do paperwork and was shocked when the person behind the desk laughed and nodded.

“Ya, but it’s like riding a bike. You’ll remember, just take it slow.” She nodded again mutely and turned to sit back down.

Once completed, they were taken one by one and put into separate rooms where they were given shower supplies and hospital scrubs. They were to shower and then get a physical exam.

A doctor and nurse, or at least people dressed as such, did a full physical after asking questions about what was on the medical history sheets. Hair and blood samples were taken, along with two vials of blood to be tested for diseases.

Tori always hated her annual exams as it was but this felt sinister and really wrong. What would they need hair for? She felt dirty and a little violated. All the questions about her reproductive health and history, plus the examination, left her feeling like she was being sized up as breeding stock.

After the exam, they were given simple clothing and taken to yet another room where they were fingerprinted. Finally, they were taken to a simply furnished room where they would spend the remainder of their quarantine. Each of them were told that there would be food brought to them three times a day. They were also given the manual that the soldier had talked about.

The next day brought both boredom and a visit by a ‘therapist.’ They were asked about their family histories, relationships, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, political views…much like the physical examination, they were getting a mental evaluation.

Kory had the hardest time with it. His previous military experiences had included similar experiences and he had a hard time with the walls that seemed to close in. After so long living free and out in the woods, he had to fight hard to stomp down the panic and keep his composure.

Finally, their quarantine was over and they were brought together again in an old conference room. They were happy to see each other but after spending so much time together, it was plainly obvious that being there had changed them some.

After about ten minutes, the door opened again and a man who looked like a greasy car salesman came in smiling. He spread his arms wide, a folder in one hand.

“Welcome to Plymouth! I’m the mayor and wanted to personally meet each of you, as I do with all new potential residents. I am happy to let you each know that you’re all disease free and in fair health. Some minor vitamin deficiencies but that’s to be expected! In truth, you look better than most people who’ve come home.”

The way he said “home” made Tori squirm a little.

He clapped his hands together as if he had something wonderful to tell them. “Well! Let’s get on with getting you all settled.” He pulled some folded papers out of the folder and looked at them.

“Impressive. Seems you have skills with survival skill training and a degree in physical education Ms….Tori Schleber?”

Tori nodded. “Yes, Sir. I taught middle school gym for ten years,” she lied.

The Mayor chuckled. “Well, not many middle schoolers here. None, actually, but you could certainly help with teaching people how to maintain their health. Everyone has a responsibility to take care of their bodies and minds to help rebuild humanity!” He passed her a piece of paper that had a wristband stapled onto it.

“Let’s see here…” he went on. Bret was assigned to utilities because of his understanding of electronics and networks, Richard was tapped to work with maintenance, and Kory was set working on machinery.

“And lastly, we have Roger. Very nice indeed; We always need more who understand the military side of things. Now that we’re thrust almost back to the stone ages, civil war tactics could really help us defend from the barbarians who refuse to rejoin society. Of course, until we have real need for that, you’re assigned to kitchen duty.” He gave a rueful smile as he handed over the paper and wristband.

“Well, it was great to meet you all! You’ll now be shown to where the other pre-Residents stay. They should help you adjust and get acquainted with the way things are around here. All things considered, I’m sure you’ll not only find this a good place to be, but a satisfying life, too!”

He walked out as quickly as he’d come in and it took all Tori had not to laugh. The whole thing seemed so comical to her.

That’s the mayor?” she asked under her breath.

Richard snorted, just as the door opened and he tried to turn it into a cough. The guy who had given them the paperwork on the first day poked his head around the door and said, “Follow me, please.”

They were taken outside to a jeep where a driver sat waiting inside. He turned to them as they approached and gave a friendly smile. “Hello! Come on in and let’s get you to your temporary home! How about a little tour first?”

The group returned the smile and enthusiastically agreed. Before long, they were cruising down the roads at a slow pace, the driver talking up a storm.

“Over there is where utilities meet in the mornings. 7:30am sharp! They run a tight ship, especially water and sewer. Down that road is the store where you use your ration points however you want. Of course, you’ll have to wait until you earn full Resident status…”

After thirty minutes, they pulled up to an 8-plex apartment building. On this side, there were balconies with large windows and a sliding door. As they pulled up, the few people standing outside waved. One of them spoke up as they got out of the jeep.

“I heard we got more people in, good sized group too! You must be them! Welcome to Temp Housing.”

The group waved uncertainly and looked back to the driver. He waved them to the door on the ground floor.

“Go on in. Your names will be on the list. No keys to worry about – who’s going to steal anything and get away with it here? Don’t worry about anything, just get settled in and try to adjust. You’ll be told when you need to report for your first shifts and stuff.”

He smiled and said he’d see them around before backing up and leaving.

The group looked at each other questioningly at first and then the smiles started to spread.

“We made it!”


**Please note that these are 100% first rough drafts. As in, I’m up the night before these go live, writing them. They are not edited nor proofread. This is the rawest possible form of what will end up being book 3 in the trilogy and things may change between this version and the final print.**