It Makes no Sense
IT MAKES NO SENSE
I just had that damned dream again. I keep having bits and pieces of a dream, like lots of little dreams along one theme. It was my last mission, things went wrong and guys got killed. That was the one when my back and knee got screwed up.
This one, I was trying to sleep but couldn't. I was shivering with cold but didn't dare light a fire. Someone might see the light. I was in a barn or garage; something like that. I was on a mattress over two shipping pallets, covered with blankets. I knew I had made a smaller room in the large one out of cardboard, using paint as a glue to hold it together.
Six layers of cardboard with a tarp drape to hide it from casual view. It just looked like a pile of crap in the corner. I slowly faded into sleep. I had a hard time deciding whether or not I really wanted to wake up the next morning. All I had to do was to pull a plastic bag over my head and sleep...
With that I sat bolt upright, gasping and sweating, my chest heaving, my arms trembling.
The night before, I saw myself scavenging canned goods from a cafeteria. Was it in a high school? Grade school? Church? I have no idea. I was packing cans into a wheelbarrow. I wore a stocking cap, parka, jeans and military boots. I had on fingerless gloves. I was filthy. I stank. I was still rational, though. I packed away a gallon of bleach for disinfectant, and appropriated a medical kit that hadn't been pilfered. It was getting dark, so I could move out soon. I hadn't seen the sun in months and the cloud cover was depressing. I remembered the months of rain before the freeze. Now it was just cold.
The night before that was a different dream, and the night before that and the night before that.
I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I had the shakes. My boss looked at me as if I had rabies. I probably looked as if I did have 'em. I tried to shake it off. I dressed and headed for the kitchen for some coffee. I turned on the radio for some noise. After two cups I found myself mindlessly scribbling at a pad of paper, making lists.
Something snapped. It was--an epiphany. I had to move. Fast. Somewhere with elevation. I calmed down immediately. I washed the china, turned off the radio and light and went back to bed. The dreams didn't come back that night.
Wednesday morning, bright and early I was taking notes from the phone book. I needed a truck or van and supplies. A van and a trailer. I didn't want to buy supplies where I was going to hunker down. People would know I had food and such, making me a large target. Something headed me West, towards Wyoming. I had some dealing to do first.
Later that day saw me with a two-year-old Chevy 3500 panel van and a 12x20 hard top trailer. I realized that I couldn't put much weight in the trailer, but could I ever pack in the paper and cloth goods. And boy, did I! As well as charcoal, tarps, rope and, well, enough said. I remembered the Y2K scare and went to the library to look up some of the magazines of the time. There were a lot of web sites out there, some still active. Long-term storage of food had gotten to a science and I was going to take advantage of it. Nitrogen packed grain was pretty cheap, and water storage was easy in 50-gallon food-grade drums. I bought military surplus whenever I could, specially the long term ration packs, ponchos, poncho liners and boots. I remembered the dreams about the months of rain.
Two weeks later I was on the road to Laramie, Wyoming. It was an easy trip, taken in stages. I was still wincing at all the stuff I'd left behind. The trouble was, I didn't know when the event would occur (and deep down in that worrisome place in my mind, even if it would occur). I just knew that to keep my sanity I had to make some changes. At 7500 feet elevation, Laramie looked like a pretty good bet. Warren AFB was 50 miles away in Cheyenne. I didn't know if there were going to be any "heated exchanges", so sitting in the lap of a military base didn't seem wise, but being able to raid one if things worked out for the best looked good.
I lucked into finding an old, 1950's era grade school on the market. It was going cheap due to the outmoded HVAC plant. I snapped it up and had a long talk with local city building inspector. The second floor was shaky, but the first floor was in excellent condition. The gym needed some work, but it had a garage door. I applied for a renovation permit to convert the place into secure storage, got a loan on the property and went to town. I bought a big welder, cement mixer and a concrete saw. I installed rebar in the windows and filled them full of concrete. All but one door saw the same treatment.
I spent a long, harrowing two weeks chopping up and pulling down the second floor. I bought 2 tons of concrete premix on skids and 1/2 ton of rebar.
Eight thousand dollars gave me a reinforced concrete slab roof secured by construction adhesive. You could land a Sikorsky skyhook on the damned thing. (and later did, much to my surprise) I lined the entire place with six inches of pink construction insulation board.
Winters got cold in Wyoming. As a finishing touch, I had a very secure garage door put in, a hydraulic lift dock and a Generac generator. I would play with putting in an apartment and such later, but for now I had to get the supplies in. Something was pushing me, hard.
I bought vitamins by the case, as well as vegetables and fruit. Canned meats and butter. Dried milk and sugar. Soap and bleach. Medical supplies. Baby food in cans and formula. Even diapers. Lots a trash bags. Everything was going to get wet. I bought everything.
I made four trips to Cheyenne to fill up on bulk foods and barrels for water. The building inspector really didn't like my inside bulk propane tanks until I arranged for external venting. Four thousand pounds of security; all mine.
To keep my head above water, I actually advertised and got business as a secured storage site. The fact that there was a 24/7 on-site guard (me) sold several clients. It gave me an excuse to buy weapons and ammo, too.
Now, Wyoming being the land of the free, home of the brave and the number three militia state in the union, I'd had my pick of toys once I let a few guys know I was serious.
I bought a couple of 12 guage street-sweepers for up close and personal, a half-dozen H&K .308s, four.357s, a mixed batch of S&W and Colt, a bitchin' .50 cal with bipod that took 11 rounds in a magazine, an M79 40mm grenade launcher and 77 pounds of Semtex. He threw in 20 blasting caps when he saw the size of the order. Ammo? My god, I bought ammo. If that end of the building went up they'd think it was world war three. I'd never know it. My connection grinned like a fool when he showed me the mortar. An honest-to-God US Military 4.2" mortar commonly refered to as a four deuce. I damned near creamed my jeans. I took out a second mortgage for that load and ammo, but it was worth it. I invested in starlight goggles, seven scopes (one for the .50 cal cost over $1700.00) and seven spotting lasers.
The pistols and shotguns got lasers, scopes and passive lasers for the rifles. I told him that if he ever got hold of any anti- tank killers or stingers to give me a ring. I think I bought him out.
I took delivery from a fully loaded semi with a very nervous driver. I did have to buy some cleaning kits, holsters and slings locally. I picked up a nice stabilized low-light spotting scope too. Ranging in the scopes gave me pause. A certain 'Welcome to Colorado' sign took a lot of shit one night. I wonder what they thought of the .50 cal holes.
I still had rebar and concrete, so I poured a few interior walls for my apartment. I began to think I'd really made a mistake before they set. It seemed to take forever to set up and dry... I lived with a dehumidifier for a couple of months after that. The quiet seemed a nice tradeoff.
I loved the walk-in refrigerator and walk-in freezer from the old cafeteria. A little under-the-counter Freon recharge and I was in business. The refrigerated fur storage business, to be exact. I was actually paying back the loans at an accelerated rate when it hit. Holy shit, did it hit. A nickel-iron asteroid the size of a large ocean liner splashed down in the Mediterranean sea 40 miles South West of the boot toe of Italy.
God hated Sicily and gave Mt. Etna an enema. The Israeli's problems were finally over. Christ, the entire Mideast was gone along with most of Europe and North Africa. The tidal wave rolled up France and Germany. Only the Alps stopped it. The Netherlands were gone. The Scandinavian Peninsula was almost unharmed. Then the rains started. The impact caused a crustal fault under the Italian peninsula to open up. The inrushing seawater of the Atlantic went straight up into steam and lava bombs. At least, that's what the satellite pictures showed. There were no onsite witnesses. It's funny, though. At the time all I could think of was "there's a new name for Hezbollah-- Chum". Not so funny now, though. Despite the shock, people carried on as usual. The school shut down, sending all the students home. Some had no home to return to, as the tidal waves had wiped out most of the eastern seaboard. The sea levels were rising. All that geothermal energy was gradually driving the global temperature up past the critical point--the ice caps were quickly failing.
I spent the next week eating salads, mushrooms, fish and steaks. I pigged out, realizing that I may never eat these foods again.
Fresh pizza--yum. That's where I met Jackie. She walked into the pizza parlor looking jittery. I was the only one there. I suppose that's what drew her eye. She walked up to my table and grabbed the chair opposite me with white knuckles.
"Hi. May I sit down? I need some company."
I motioned for her to sit down and dished her up a couple of pieces of heaven. (OK, so sue me. Heaven in the form of a sausage, pepperoni, black olive and mushroom pizza).
"Here. eat this. It's already happened, so we can afford to live in the minute."
We polished off the pizza. I ordered a pitcher of beer for us and another pizza to take home. We talked. Jackie was an athletics coach for the school. With no one to go to and no one to talk to she was quietly going mad. I guess I was some sort of lifeline that night. We discussed what life would be like during the next few years and scavenging would be all that we could do until the global weather stabilized again. We also discussed the fact-to-bullshit ratio that the news was spewing, and which stations tried to advise calm while others were in full shit-your-pants panic mode. Where's Geraldo Riviera when you need a good laugh? I invited her back to my place. That got me a wry little grin.
"I don't even know your name!"
"Umm, I'm Art. Art James. I run a secure storage place across town."
"Jackie Moser, aerobics instructor." "So much for dinner and a handshake on the first date."
I just whistled tunelessly and inspected the ceiling for flaws. She took my arm, I grabbed the pizza and we headed out into the rain.
Everyone wore boots. There had been a torrential downpour for days. Some of the newer houses had slipped their foundations and surfed downhill, smashing other houses and blocking roads. Some roads were just gone the interstates were impassable except the high line up into northern Montana and across into Oregon, and up into Canada. Somehow the railroads were still operating. Nobody could even guess as to how long. The water in the ravines had already surpassed the five hundred year flood levels.
We were lucky that the electricity was still operating. When it went, the fresh water went. I was collecting rainwater in barrels, filling all available food-grade barrels.
I had traded in the van on a black seven-year-old Jeep Cherokee with lug tires and an eight-inch lift kit. The trailer bought me a used snowmobile, which I mothballed. I had 450 gallons of gas stashed. I knew that it wouldn't last for spit, but I had to make the effort.
The Jeep got us to my home, wet but safe thru the flooded streets. Wyoming is like North Dakota--they expect flash flooding and design the streets accordingly. Everything flows downhill. Just don't get caught downhill!
The electric door opener got us inside the semi-sized security bay I'd constructed out of more concrete and rebar. I unlocked a second, heavier door at the end of the bay and invited my guest inside.
I'd invested in a low-voltage lighting system to be driven off of batteries. Along with the bright paint I'd used it softened up the feeling of the concrete walls immensely. The apartment took me a while to build out, but I'd taken my time and done it right. The coffee table separated the couch from a fireplace I'd built and vented to the outside. I threw the pizza in the fridge and sat beside her.
"Doing better? You were looking a little shaky, back there."
"Lots! I guess I just needed to vent, and have someone listen. I've hardly seen anyone for days."
"Some of the dorms are crammed full. They've nowhere to go. The poor kids have moved in together for company and, I'd guess, commiseration."
Jackie took my hand and laid her head on my shoulder. I shifted closer to her and put my arm around her shoulder. She took that hand and sighed.
"This is what I needed. The personal touch" she said into my chest.
"Trust me," I said. "I've been missing this too."
We simply sat like that, smelling each other's scents, relaxing in each other's touch. We fell asleep like that.
I awoke with hair in my face and an arm over my chest. I was on the couch. Oh hell! I had company! I turned my head and there she was, sleeping the sleep of an innocent.
Last night's beer wanted out, and I wasn't about to pee on my new couch. Carefully I shifted out from beneath Jackie and stumbled off to the necessary. Hmm. I need an elevated tank to catch rainwater, say 500 gallons. A bulk dairy tank would be perfect. Easy to do--the place started out with 10-foot ceilings. Then I could keep using the shower and toilet without worrying about a composting toilet. I could store more gasoline that way, too.
All right, so I think way too much in the toilet.
I started breakfast, hoping that the smell would tempt her into consciousness. It worked. A tousled young lady soon appeared.
"Bathroom?" or something like it came from here direction. I took her by the shoulders and guided her to the right door. A moment after the door closed I heard "Yessss". I guess beer is universal. Oops. Burning bacon.
By the time Jackie showed up I had coffee, eggs, bacon toast and tomatoes ready. We both showed our appreciation by silently worshiping the food. Hmmm. Happiness is a warm belly. Snoopy was right.
"So," I said, "You wanna do this again tomorrow?" Gawd, I love puppy-dog eyes.
"Really. If we fall into something, that's fine. If you want, we can pick up your stuff today. I need to get some stuff, too. Want to help?"
"Sure! What's up?"
"I want to put in a cistern to hold rainwater for when the city water gives out. When the electricity goes, the water will go within a day or two."
"Well, we're using deep-well water. Once the power goes, whatever's in the water tower is it."
"What about this place? Won't it be real dark when the power goes?"
"Naw. Let's take a tour-- I'll show you."
I started with the old gym/garage. The generator and LP tanks removed most worries. I showed her the charging array, stash of low-voltage bulbs and extra batteries. That took care of the lights. I had solar cells too. The rain couldn't last forever.
The larder impressed her, along with the walk-in freezer full of frozen meat, fruit, veggies and butter. I had cases of frozen fruit juices.
I showed her the crane and grill to cook over the fireplace, and how the doors and windows were secured. We cleared out my "office"--read junk room--for a bedroom for her. There wasn't much room in the jeep, so we rented a van for the day. We picked up her apartment goods and stopped at a resale shop for another chest of drawers. I arranged for the milk bulk tank to be delivered the next day. I had to buy pipe and MIG sticks to weld the stainless tank in place and cap the top for pressure. I had to figure out how to pressurize the system but that could wait. One damned thing at a time.
She moved in with hardly a ripple. I just suddenly had a lot of "girl stuff" in my bathroom. You win some, you lose some. That night...
"Umph. Wa. Yumpf. What??"
"Can I sleep with you?"
silence... "Uhhh, sure. Don' expect much. Mmm. sleepy."
Did I dream it? Nope, I guess not. I woke up with a female teddy bear again. She couldn't have messed the bed if she'd tried. You see, she had this big plug up against her back end...
I woke up with an arm full of something soft and nice. My pecker was buried between, well, you get the idea. Careful extraction was definitely memorable.
I decided on a cold breakfast that morning. I was eating my cereal in between sips of coffee when she eased up onto a stool.
"I had the nicest dream last night."
"Hmm?" You can't say much with a mouth full of cereal.
"I dreamt I was a horse on a merry-go-round. The pole was just about to push into me when the dream ended. It left me kind of let down."
I spit cheerios all over the table. "Well, about that. You almost did get spitted last night due to a case of underwear failure. Mine."
She just sat there looking innocent at me, until one corner of her mouth started to twitch. I realized that I'd been had.
"Moving kind of fast, aren't you?"
"Hey, that's usually my line."
"Well, if the underwear fits..."
She looked down at her lap and got serious. "You don't mind, do you?"
I sat back and thought a minute. "No. It's just that I've been down that road before. It's narrow and nobody ever showed me a map. And after a couple of crash-and-burns you start to twitch and drive reeeal defensive."
She nodded in complete understanding. Things were quiet for the rest of the day.
I remembered to buy into more gasoline. The Jeep would only handle two 50-gallon drums at a time. That's 100 gallons at 12 bucks a gallon. I did that twice. I picked up a case of Stabile at a car parts store, too. I avoided the tank pressure problem by mounting it high in the gym. A 40-foot ceiling gave me all the head pressure I wanted.
We managed to not offend each other the rest of the week. We heard that four Semis had re-stocked the local grocery. We got together Saturday and raided the Safeway to top off the freezer. The prices were thru the roof but they were almost sold out by the time we got there. I managed to grab six pre-frozen roasts, six chickens and some fruit. She got flour, eggs, shortening; stew beef, canned tomatoes and case of white wine. We tried to buy case lots. I noticed that we caught some looks when we were loading the jeep. It made the hair on my neck stand up. I was gonna start packing.
After unpacking the jeep Jackie started cooking dinner while I wandered around with an eye towards beefing up security. There was enough room inside the remaining door to construct a pass-thru lock, and I wanted firing points on all four sides of the building. The old gym ceiling was higher than the rest of the building. I REALLY had to reinforce that wall section. Hell, a firing point there would be nice, too. I wanted weapons ready at each firing point. No sense getting there with nothing but my dick in my hand.
Jackie made a very nice goulash with garlic bread with a frozen berry shortcake for dessert. I decided that whatever she wanted that night, she got. Wow. I lit a fire in the fireplace and we curled up with a little wine.
"Your momma taught you well."
"The way to a man's heart is through..."
"Oh, yeah. Well, um, did you like dinner?"
"Consider me bought and paid for." She crawled into my lap and I wrapped my arms around her waist. She hugged me back and squirmed in my lap.
"I'm ummm, "
"Yeah, that'll do. Needy. I need a little attention."
"Here?" I palmed her right breast and nipple. "Umm, yeah, but,"
I laid a palm over her mons and squeezed gently. The air went out of her like a deflating tire.
"More yeah. More?"
We held a nice, long discussion that night. We argued several points and came to a mutually satisfactory consensus. Several times. I'm still trying to figure out how to re-cover those couch cushions to this day.
And I'll have to re-glue the coffee table. It developed an odd squeak. Next time, Scotch guard everything. Did you know that you can use a fireplace brush to... naaw. YOU figure it out.
We stopped going outside. People were starting to get goosy.
I welded, mixed and poured myself silly that next week. Our poor little Radio Shack had a half-dozen B&W CCD cameras and a monitor. I opened 'em up and replaced the IR film with polarizing glass from a pair of sunglasses. Instant IR cameras.
I drilled out holes under the roofline and epoxied 'em into place, then ran cables to what became our ready room--a corner of the living room--so that we could always look over the system with a glance. It took a lot of work, but eventually I figured out how to make a rolling cast-concrete door that sealed with a big hydraulic press I stole from a foundry. The movement ram had a 6" barrel and the locking ram had a 20" barrel bracing an 18" thick door in a 20" thick wall. It was a real bitch to cut the firing point.
The human-sized door got anti-personnel mines at the rear corners of the entry lock. I didn't feel confident in waterproofing any mines, so everything stayed inside the perimeter building wall. I did weld up some car-killer caltrops out of 2" rebar and tack 'em down around the building late one night. It was starting to look medieval out there.
I got a couple of calls from my clients who wanted to check on their stored goods. They were impressed with my stepped up security measures. They thought it was for them. Idiots.
Finally it happened; our first confrontation. A crowd of young punks from the college wanted to scare up a party and had decided that we were fair game. They had bolt cutters, wrecking bars and Molotov cocktails. We spotted 'em down the road a bit. I popped the latch on the outer door and we sat back to watch the fun. They found the door quickly enough, and tried to push their way in. Each wanted to be first. Four were still outside when I touched off the first Semtex load. The nuts and bolts in wax facing the explosive made a hell of a mess. The whole place echoed like someone in a big truck had hit a corner of the building. When I opened the inner door it looked like someone had put raw hamburger in a blender and left the top off. I tried to remember if I had any garden hose and where the nearest spigot was.
Lesson number one. Remember to provide for cleanup. Lesson number two. Keep a high sash between the killing floor and the rest of the place. Blood flows. It took two hours with a squeegee to get it respectable, and I had to patch the walls. The hardware had bounced around a few times. I guess I used too much Semtex.
I called the Sheriff in the morning and explained about the mess. I got a nice house call by a very polite man. He looked around, fingered a few of the wall divots and accepted a cup of coffee. We shook hands—
"Karl Andresson, county sheriff."
"Must have been a hell of a mess. By the way, we've kept it out of the news to prevent panic, but martial law's been declared. Looting and attempted looting is a shoot-on-site offense. You saved me some work. Thanks. Now, hold out your hand."
I slowly reached out a hand to him... He slapped my wrist.
"Bad civilian. Bad. No biscuit. There. You've been chastised."
"Um, on that note, I'm short detonators. Anybody around got 'em?" He puckered up like he was sucking lemons, then grinned.
"Semtex, right? I know the smell. Since you seem to know what you're doing, within reason, I've got a bomb disposal kit that nobody seems to know how to use. It's got 12 kilos of Semtex and 50 number 8 blasting caps, as well as a magneto. Can do?"
"Oh yeah! Semtex, primacord, AMFO, firing straws, you name it, I'm happy."
"Where'd you learn?"
"Started off building fireworks then joined the Navy to see the world. Went EOD then put my chit in for SEAL. Finished my 20 with the SeaBees."
" It was a lotta fun.”
“Oh, any place around here use bulk epoxy? I need about 400 pounds of 2-part."
If I had that much Semtex, I was going to set up some housewarming gifts.
"Jackie, would you take this clay and roll it out thin between two sheets of waxed paper? Try to make the edges square."
"Sure. What's it for?"
"It's a surprise."
I cut 1/2 inch plywood into strips to hide the cables. I anchored one end of the 22 cables to the edges of the roof slabs, laid out the Semtex sheets, then the cables surrounded by plywood. Epoxy covered it all. Inside that ring went the Semtex covered by nails, covered by epoxy. I kept 14 inches between each load to keep 'em from chain firing. The buried detonators had wires leading down to the ready room. The roof door got the Semtex/nails/epoxy treatment, too.
Jackie bugged me so many times about what the hell we were doing that I figured I had to show her. I made a 'welcome' mat for the front door, just like the roof. I showed it to her, and had her jump on it. Fine. We went inside and I offered her a glass of wine. I snuck back out and put a box of phone books on the mat, then went back in.
"You wanted to know what all that work was for? Watch this."
I wired the leads to a door buzzer.
"Ding dong, Jehova's Witnesses!" I pressed the button. Whumph!
"Go take a look."
Fucking confetti everywhere.
Poor Jackie didn't know what to think. She thought we were insulating or something. I opened my arms and she hugged me. I held her and talked gently into her ear.
"It's a new world out there. It's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. Now, what do you say we lay out a new welcome mat?" Damned if she didn't giggle.
"Nasty man. You scared the piss out of me."
We set out the new "welcome mat" and set mines at the other corners of the entry lock, then started to do the same for the heavy door.
"Whoa. If we set these off, we'll blow the outer door. That would be bad news."
"What about shotguns? BIG shotguns?"
"Pretty girl, you're smart, too."
I went scavenging for plate steel and found enough 1x1 foot by 1-inch sections to keep me happy for a while. I welded four-inch diameter, four-inch high rings onto the plates, and bored a blasting-cap sized hole near the bottom of each ring. We loaded two ounces of Semtex in each, covered that with ball bearings and poured wax over the mess. I epoxied the detonators into the bottom holes, and viola--two dozen crowd reducers. I tack-epoxied them to the side walls of the back bay and ran the control wires back to a common point at the back wall, each run thru a 1/2 inch gas pipe. I ran the wires to a switch box with a nice, new 12-volt battery and hung moving blankets over the walls. When I fired 'em I could pry 'em off with a wrecking bar and replace 'em. There's nothing like a cottage industry to warm the heart.
Well, it finally happened. The power failed. I woke up in the middle of the night to dead quiet and total darkness. The clock was out. No juice. No big deal! I bumped and fumbled my way to the dresser, grabbed flashlight and headed down to the garage. I popped the breaker on the city panel so that I wouldn't be trying to energize the grid, then started the Generac.
LP gas burns clean and quiet. When the motor smoothed out I kicked in the Generac's breakers. Instant home. Within three minutes I had two arms around me and a nose buried in my back.
"What happened? I woke up and it was DARK!"
"The grid finally died. We're on our own power, now. We're on non-renewable resources for real, now. I'll be pulsing the system to keep the batteries up and the freezer within tolerances. That'll stretch the LP gas. We'll sleep together to keep warm if that's all right with you."
I got the batteries and charging panel wired in and added the acid. Twenty minutes later I put the low voltage system in circuit and started it charging. I figured eight hours for an initial charge, then once a day for an hour or so. I wanted to take advantage of the extra amperage during that day. I figured on a nice, hot bath for two...
"Hon? Which would you rather have, a sauna or a hot tub?"
Silence. "I guess a sauna because it would be easier to heat when we needed it and we wouldn't have to keep it hot all the time."
"Sold. We'll start building one tomorrow."
"Good. Remember, plug the screw heads. They’ll get HOT!"
"Hon? Wake up. We're lobsterizing."
"Oohh. This is so nice."
"Think of the dorms. Cold, dark. Soon, no water. No toilets. No sanitation."
"You think diseases?"
"Yep. And fires. It's going to get very nasty, very fast now. You know anybody you really trust and want to get out of there?"
Boy, it was quiet. "It's not so much what we want as what we need, you know?"
I hugged her tight. She was getting the message. We had to survive, and every resource expended was a resource lost for several years to come.
We talked it over during pancakes at breakfast. We needed a medic and another shooter, preferably one with mortar training. I wanted to keep the gender balance even or a little towards female. We knew we couldn't advertise, but we could go 'hunting'.
We went to the hospital to check out the staff board. There was a pharmacy and full staff of doctors, some female. A phone book matched some of the names. Now we had locations. The streets were pitch black. Our engine sounded loud in the night. We geared up and parked on a street near the hospital. We were going lion hunting, but we really wanted the antelope. Eight o'clock, shift change. They came out of the hospital mostly in groups, but a few singletons walked quickly away. It may not be that night, but it would happen. There were still too many in the dorms. It didn't take as long as I thought it would.
It was only the second night. Six guys stopped a young female doctor that we'd been staking out and started herding her up a driveway between two houses. Both Jackie and I had night vision goggles, street sweepers and .357 revolvers. That little Chiquita was small at 5'5, but had enough muscle to out-wrestle me!
We broke up the rape party one shot at a time. They'd cut themselves off next to a house. The only way out was past us. None made it. Our target, though, was down. Carol was on the ground with her clothes half ripped off, half covered in blood and nasty bits. Her eyes were huge. I could tell she was in shock.
"Jackie, go get a blanket and a poncho, would you?"
I stared at her a minute, considering how to talk her down. I guessed that the truth was the best.
"Carol, I'm Art and that's Jackie heading back with something to cover you up with. We've been staking out a couple of you from the hospital the last couple of nights waiting for something to happen. The kids at the college are turning feral. We're sorry to say that we expected something like this."
Jackie had returned with a blanket and poncho by then. I expected Carol really didn't want me touching her then, so I backed off. I needed to get her attention again.
"Carol, do you have someplace secure to stay? Warm? Something to eat?"
I could see her start to cry as she violently shook her head. Jackie hugged her, probably the best thing she could have done at the time. After a while Jackie got her on her feet and we took her home with us. We got her cleaned up and warm. I cooked up steak dinners on the fireplace and everybody got stuffed. I figured it was a good time to sacrifice another bottle of wine. We all got a little laid back. We found out that Carol was a GP, but everyone took ER rotation. We all were tired and a bit enervated, but managed to get some sleep.
In the morning, I made like a hero--refrigerated pints of eggs taste pretty good as scrambled eggs if you butter 'em. We had bacon, toast with butter and jam and coffee. It was like a silent prayer service.
I explained my philosophy to Carol and got some weird looks from the both of them when I talked about the dreams that sent me West. I told 'em I figure I can take a hint and didn't care much about its pedigree when it was proving out like this one was. We talked about survivability. We talked about pandemics and population die-outs. The hospital only had planned on a two-month fuel supply for its generator. That was almost full now, but that was it. I wondered if the LP gas reservoir outside of town still had any load left. What about abandoned farms with bulk tanks? We were talking about planning for ten-year survival. I had about three in local food.
The dorms were no longer tenable as shelter. The first floors were flooded due to backed up sanitary and storm sewers. Several had had room fires that killed most of a floor due to smoke inhalation. We hadn't heard about that--it had been kept quiet. The satellite weather predictions were looking like several more months of rain--there was no break in the global forecast. We were going to have to talk to the sheriff about someplace larger, harvesting remaining beef and securing more fuel.
Well, we were too late. The sheriff got called into the mess at the air force base. Some idiot panicked and pulled the plug on something biological and nasty. The base went to lockdown status and took all the regional police and sheriffs with 'em. We figured it out from the dispatch notes in his office.
Boy, things were going to get rowdy. I called a quick conference with the women. Stopgap measures just went out the window. We had to start a policy of denial. I harvested all the weapons and ammo I could from the Sheriff's station, then we went on to do the same for the police stations and the National Guard arsenal. I finally got my tank killers, AT-4s, which had replaced the old M72 LAW. I locked the place up as best I could and took all the keys. I wanted to keep track of the two Abrams tanks, four Deuce-and-a-halfs, the water buffaloes and the two crew-served howitzers. All we were missing for a hard point was a phalanx missile system. I took everything portable plus the ammo. I had to break some contracts to clear the room. It was too bad. The Arsenal building was in the middle of town. It was too approachable.
Carol wanted a pharmacist (read biochemist), a pathologist and a nurse/EMT to join us. She was going to do a little recruiting the next few days. I was going to inventory the neighborhood. I took a plat book and started driving. Wherever I found an empty farm and cattle, I made a note. I also laid down hay. Thank God most farmers around there had switched to roll bales--all I had to do was lay 'em out. The rains had forced the cattle to whatever shelters they could find. That was usually their winter blinds and mangers. It was easy to feed 'em. I counted over three hundred head before I stopped. It was getting to be all I could do to feed the ones I had under control. I found twelve farms still operating and talked some ranchers into helping me out. I talked about co-opting the air force base and got a lot of nods. They got a little goosy when I told 'em about the loose biologicals, so I told 'em I'd investigate so nobody would get hurt that already hadn't been. I told everyone I could on the farms about the feral kids and that the law was gone. There were a lot of blanched faces until I started talking ditches, defenses, razor wire and how to set up a field of fire and ranging stakes. I distributed M-16s and ammo packs. We had ourselves something between a co-op and a militia.
I realized that if Uncle Sugar didn't bless this mess we could be in trouble, so I took a little trip back to the Sheriff's station to see if I could stir up a little trouble. I found a two-way base station and commenced calling. It wasn't too long before I was talking to a very alarmed person who wanted to know everything at once. Once I got him calmed down and let him know I wasn't going anywhere, we swapped ID's and started horse trading. Boy, let me tell you, all that bullshit took me back. He wanted a Sitrep and all that shit.
I let him have it with both barrels, starting with the feral kids at the college, lack of power and water, and the condition of the dorms. I started asking hard questions of him, like when an un-suited person could expect to walk thru the air force base and live.
He got all paranoid about that until I explained about the notes on the Sheriff's desk and where all the cops went. He'd get back to me on that. I beat on him about that one, letting him know that the damned base was the only defensible place with concentric perimeters in strength within 400 miles. And that I had farmers and ranchers out there that wouldn't last a year on their own. The fact that I'd gotten them together for defense and gotten them to harden their farms earned me some bunny points. I told him about what I had and my idea about collecting all the bulk LP gas we could in a tank farm at the base. There, we'd have a collection point for food, medical care, bunking, distribution and communications. We cold collect any heavy construction and agricultural machinery we needed to keep running and store 'em in the hangars for mothballing and maintenance.
We decided to get back together in three days once he could get approval for some of what we talked over. It took a load off my mind--I had tacit approval.
That night I got invited out for more pizza. Pickings were awfully slim we went to a house I'd not been in before. We had canned mushroom pizza on hand made dough cooked over a fireplace. I met Tim, Lisa Tracy, Pete and Zeena. Tim was an EMT, Lisa a pharmacist and Tracy was a pathologist with oncological training. Pete was the head of a maintenance shift at the hospital and knew enough about diesel engines to just about grow one in a garden. Zeena was a fully qualified surgical nurse, just out of training. Carol had given 'em the gist of what we'd decided that weekend and they wanted in. I told the group about what I'd been doing and the talk I had with the army captain, including my ideas about taking over the air force base. Everybody liked that, but agreed that for the interim we'd better hunker down and wait for the screaming to blow over.
We did discuss the issue of communicable diseases and what would happen if a cholera or mumps; much less chicken pox or encephalitis epidemic took hold. We needed immunizations and a future source of media.
I started making another list. Medications and replacements for their aging out, especially short-lived ones like immunization media and insulin were pretty high on the list. I wanted to be able to gather and train a militia under the auspices of the US Government.
I wanted to be able to seize goods and materials without fear of reprisal. I wanted to be able to relocate civilians without fear of reprisal. I NEEDED to be able to shoot to kill within adjudicated reason, that going up before a review board, not the courts martial.
I needed help with decontamination, decommissioning the base, decommissioning any NBC munitions and training in quartermaster and fixed position defense considerations I used to build 'em, not defend 'em. I couldn't even operate a crew-served weapons platform. Our ten-year supplies and rebuilding picture looked bleak, too.
Well, three days rolled around Captain Miller must have sent up a flare, because there were a hell of a lot more that one person on the other end of that radio Saturday morning. I had the base commander for Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a brigadier general and god only knows who else as staff. Those are the three I talked to.
We discussed the bug at Warren AFB. It would definitely be dead in two months after initial exposure. That was a month and a half from current. We could hold out that long. We discussed the re-commissioning of the base and disposal of any NBC and/or ‘special’ munitions. The militia issue was side-stepped by re-commissioning ME as a Colonel, reassigning my service from Navy to Army with a mission of recruitment and training of a minimum of one company in strength and providing for the safety and succor of all civilians in a 100 mile radius of Warren AFB, my new base of ops as of two months from current date. They would helo up a decontamination crew and two squads to help clean up the base and subdue any students alive at that time. The base commander brought up the power issue, bless his heart. He mentioned a modular pebble-bed reactor and I brightened up right away. We were just sending some guys out for training in installing the modular reactors when I retired. That would solve a lot of problems if there was a coolant supply. There was. There was an open sweet water lake at Warren. We were in business.
With my newly minted virtual eagles, I grew another set of balls. We went scavenging with a vengeance. We found tractor-trailers all over town. We got 'em fuelled up at the armory and started raiding. We cleaned out every drug store and warehouse we could find. I started a long-term project of cleaning out the college libraries. I wanted all the oxidizers carefully lifted out of the chem. lab supplies, too. There wasn't a chemical supply house in town, but there was in Cheyenne. That puppy got a bookmark from me.
I also used my welder to put barred windows and bench seats in two semi trailers to transport the ex-students; my new troops.
I started a house-to-house campaign explaining what was going on, what we were doing and why. Winter was coming on, and I really didn't get much opposition. I even got a few retired swabbies and former marines to join up. Hey, three squares were getting damned hard to find.
My place was warm and dry, so I converted the whole place to bunks, and we activated the armory. We had to rig cisterns to fill the water buffalos, then 'commandeer' another generator and LP bulk tank, but we had another safe haven in a matter of days. I talked the cafeteria staff from the college into helping out so we wouldn't poison ourselves or (shudder) waste food. We knew that we couldn't keep them fed for long, so we started butchering the standing beef stock. The ranchers identified the various strains and reserved out a representative breeding stock for each. We discussed the long-term viability of frozen sperm, in vitro blastocyte storage and bovine sera cross-contamination. We ended pulling in a couple of biologist head cases over the radio to plan out a way to keep the strains alive after the hay was gone. This was going to get complicated. Anything complicated fails. We were going to do it in triplicate. We--that is our site--were going to do it for beef, horses and pigs. Other sites would duplicate our efforts and expand to local strains and avians. Mighty technical folk, these modern ranchers.
We were getting optimistic. I know, I know. Hubris.
Setting myself up for a fall. We thought we had everything covered, moving the remaining 6,000 or so souls from Laramie to Cheyenne. Bullshit. Our goddamned bunch of rowdies discovered the Laramie airport and a couple of 'em knew how to fly. At least one knew rotary. Remember those four idiots that didn't get pureed on the first attack at my place? Well, they had big mouths. I got trick-or-treaters and it wasn't even Halloween yet.
One idiot tried to land a helo on my roof. I wired up my little cable surprise and let him have it. What happens when a rotary propeller intersects twelve vertical half-inch steel cables? Even I didn't expect that much mess. When I blew the base charges under the cable around my roof, they stood up straight for just a second or so, then started to drop under their own weight. I triggered the charges just as he was coming over the wall. To say it was brutal was--so innocent. It was like a firefight, car wreck and earthquake wrapped up in one. It was dead silent for long minutes after that. Then, it was like mooning a rabid dog. It looked like a cut scene from Mad Max. Some climbed the wreckage to the roof, some fought the doors. I popped the latch remotes and let 'em force their way in against the weight of the doors without the benefit of the lift motors. When they were in, I locked the doors.
First, to get rid of the roof rats I triggered phase two--the screws embedded in wax topping the Semtex. Imagine a 30’x120’ flat claymore mine I think I overdid the Semtex again, even though we rolled it out paper-thin. When I looked out, they were GONE. I looked around and everyone was looking at the building with their mouths open, or lying flat.
There was a red fog, almost mist-like, hanging in the air, starting to come down. Screws were coming down like steel hailstones. Phew. Gotta remember that one. Fuck the screws. Shaped explosion front. Hmm. I wonder. If you made a 10-foot concrete dish on bearings, lay two layers of thin semtex in the bowl separated by an inch of wax or clay and ran a 7 ms delay fuse between 'em, and popped the back one first. What would you call it? Fist of God? Hmm.
Oh well, time to put the shock troops to bed. I went back inside the roof access and buttoned it down. In the living room I wired and keyed the front access cell mine number one and triggered it. Thump. Nice. Much nicer than last time. The resonance in that small chamber must have pulverized things nicely, though. Now let's wire the back bay, key it and... WHAM. One and a half million steel ball bearings roughly the size of 00 buckshot in a concrete room the size of two semi trailers wide and two semi trailers long. Shit. I bet I overdid the Semtex again. Crap. Well, let's go look.
I unlocked the back bay door and looked in. I had to take pictures of this one. Yep, overdid the Semtex. It looked like a rave gone reaaaly bad. I cranked open the back door and started in with a squeegee, then a hose, then a pressure washer. I had to spray down the place with bleach to get the raw meat smell out of the concrete pores.
The front access was pretty much the same with less spraying. Bits still clung to the walls, kind of like meat pudding. I love resonance effects. I can do more with three pieces of primacord and some timing straws than most can do with a kilo of Semtex. And a Kilo is a hell of a lot of Semtex! I took pictures of that one before cleanup, too.
On reflection, I should have saved the mess in drums for fertilizer, but then who wants to keep slurry of idiot around for ten years?
I'd drawn quite a little crowd by then, some my people, some city folk. I guess I had to say something.
"I guess their irresistible force met a better immovable object. Hmm. It's an object lesson here, somehow."
One wit came up with a good one.
"Prior Planning Proves Piss Poor Performance in oPonents?"
"Hey! Not bad!"
"How about enough concrete will stop anything?"
"Hmm, fair. You need something about a rabid water buffalo in there maybe."
Things got spirited for a while as people unwound. A big sword was gone from over their heads. The worst of the ferals had just taken themselves out of the gene pool.
I didn't sleep much that night. It wasn't my fault, I swear it. It just happened that way.
I ate with the group, showered and went to bed. I relaxed, figuring a good job done. I was almost asleep when...
A different voice, also female.
"Hey, there's no room over here, now. Move over."
I started to wake up. Someone was pulling the sheet down to my feet, then I felt someone crawl up the bed over me.
"Hey, Art. You did good. You know what heroes get?"
Silence, then giggles. Honest to god giggles.
I heard "That'll do." The rest is, um historical, er, history.
I really didn't want to get up the next morning. My arms were sore. My back was sore. My legs were sore. My dick was past sore. My jaw and tongue were so sore I couldn't move 'em. But I had to piss. Damn. I just PROVED I wasn't 18 anymore.
I sat down to piss. I didn't care. Phew. No blood.
Looking back into the bedroom it looked like a naked bar fight. There were bodies everywhere. One, two, three, four... Where the hell did the other three come from? I didn't feel so bad. Six innies against one outie and I was the first one up. Not so bad, old man. I snuck over to my dresser and found my camera. It took a while to get the right angle, then... FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! I had evidence! I started running. Damn, I paid, but it was worth it.
After that night, I started talking to the vets. We needed to get the kids under control. Some good ones could be getting killed by the scum and we'd never know it. It was time to take charge.
We got three squads of 14 men and women, mostly combat vets, some farmers and ranchers. We all got into fatigues and combat boots, ALCE packs, MOLLE harnesses, helmets and weapons. Half with shotguns, half with M-16s. All those spotting lasers from the shotguns looked positively intimidating. I also was packing a Colt .357 Python in a belt holster. Fuck it, if Patton could carry, I could too.
Itty-bitty little Jackie went Cro-Magnon on me. She was packing an M79 grenade launcher and a 40-round grenadiers vest. I think she was an adrenalin junkie. I purely didn't want to know what would happen if she fired that thing, but I wasn't about to try and take it away from her. I think she'd been practicing mean.
I found out that our mechanic, Pete, had watched too many Rat Patrol shows. He showed up in a WWII Jeep with a pintle-mounted .50 ‘Ma Deuce’ M2 and an ammo load-out that almost flattened the tires. One of the vets was his ammo man, and another drove. Shit, they looked absolute badass.
Tim was on hand in a fully configured field ambulance, with Carol and Zeena attending.
We had another vehicle, a hummer with a mounted .30 patrol the back of the building so nobody would slip away. Then, o'dark thirty (that's four thirty AM to you civilians) I had Pete lay down a strip of .50's across the first floor windows. Only lookouts would be there as the rooms were flooded anyway. That was to get their attention. I keyed my bullhorn.
"All you in the goddamned dorm! Listen up screwheads! I am the local military commander, and you will comply with my demands or you will die, no second chances, no bullshit.”
“Everybody, repeat everybody will stand against the wall farthest from the door of your current room with your hands extended fully above your heads and wait for a troop to evacuate you. If you do not comply you will be shot. If you give the troop shit you will be shot. If you attempt to harm the troop you will be shot multiple times. If you open your fucking mouth a barrel will be forced into it and will be discharged. You have one and only one chance to comply."
I turned to my squads.
"From the top floors down, two squads. Third squad keep 'em coming downstairs and push 'em into the cattle cars. Any needing a medic I expect to see a red banner out the window. Any troop down, I expect to see a white banner. Any white banner or sound of gunfire, third troop reinforce with two troop. Any standoffs, HE grenade. No bullshit. GO."
We took out one slaver and a couple of wannabe militia. They got the WP grenades. The slaver tried to take hostages. Fucker didn't know that a pintle-mounted fifty can single shot a quarter mile.
Heh. I guess Pete liked his new nickname-- Rat patrol!
Some of the girls had really been badly treated--little or no food, raped, beaten, you name it. We had way, way too many red banners.
We had sixteen documented firing squads backed by photographic evidence and testimony. I am disappointed to say that they were all gut shot, but admit I would have done the same, seeing the condition of the girls and knowing that minimum care could have been provided. Ten of those shot were women.
What do you do with almost 180 displaced teenagers under martial law? Simple! Conscript them! We used the high school as barracks and cafeteria as mess hall. Uniforms were hard to come by, but we made do. First, everybody, repeat everybody, including me, got immunized. All health care workers got immunized. Hepatitis, Cholera, Yellow Fever, you name it.
The armory had a globulin freezer and we used it all before it went bad. All vets, cadre, everyone I could justify before the globulin ran out. We kept shot records, too, in case we could be restocked by our upstream command. It seemed brutal, but I had everyone's blood type tattooed inside their wrist along with their serial number. When you can't talk seconds count. Then I got smart. Instead of depending on military staffing models and ASVAB tests, we sat everyone down and found out what they'd done.
Naw, not their criminal records, WORK records. Who'd poured concrete? Who had done summer construction work? Who did summer road crew work? Who rebuilt cars? Who helped Uncle Ed rebuild a tractor?
Who sewed? Who baked? Who enjoyed cowboy action shooting? Who hunted for the table? Who had butchered cattle or elk or deer or moose? We found plumbers, electricians, shoemakers, tailors, draftsmen, toolmakers, press men... the list went on and on. We asked everybody to do what they could when it was needed. We got near 100 percent compliance.
The kids were in a locked down barracks except for the ones under medical care and six others-we had a small ROTC group! They were mostly juniors and seniors. Instant cadre! That helped. It also helped that they knew most of the others and could identify the assholes immediately. It saved us a lot of tears down the line.
Soon enough, the day arrived that a small fleet of Sikorskys landed at the local airfield.
I bunked everyone the first night willy-nilly, then got things cleaned up the next day. I needed more staff for this shit. At least everybody got bedded down in a warm, dry bunk with a hot meal in their gut. Just ask any ground pounder--happiness is a dry everything and a warm meal. Ooh Rah be damned. After an "are we on the same page" meeting the next morning, the decontam/decommissioning team headed east, while I talked things over with the two 'gift' squads left over. It seems that I had made a lot of waves.
If this project went over it could be repeated elsewhere. If I asked nice, I might be able to get nice things, hint hint. Example, the reactor was due to be installed in a week. To get organized, I asked for and got a current high- definition satellite map of the Warren AFB and ten miles in all directions.
Now, Cheyenne was a city, with everything from slums to swank neighborhoods, libraries, art galleries and museums. I wanted to preserve it all. Pthppp. I know, no way, no how. Well, I wanted to survive. I also wanted to survive as better than a cave man. I wanted to stay in the 20th century if possible. External combustion engines worked perfectly fine.
They were just a little less efficient due to more mass. I'll bet they'd last longer, though, with modern alloys. If we went back to horses it would be a shame. Enough of that. We started with the phone book. I started our meeting with the troop--
"Remember, Rape, Rob, Pillage, THEN Burn!" I almost got a laugh out of that.
"Our goal is to first, decommission the base, second, move the Laramie civilians and troop, third, move the Laramie resources, fourth, notify and consolidate the Cheyenne civilians, fifth, identify and request the recommissioning of the Cheyenne troop, sixth, consolidate the Cheyenne resources, Seventh, consolidate our perimeter to support and succor any we can to the limit of our resources. Repopulating any ranches and farms within 100 miles would be a very good thing. Remember, the ranchers and farmers are our friends. You piss them off, you piss me off. Don't piss me off. That's our six-month plan. We may be here for ten years before we can plant a crop. We just don't know. We have to preserve anything and everything we can. If something looks like a seed, SAVE IT. Even if it's weeds, we'll need ground cover to keep the soil from eroding.
Damn, it was hard. It was scary. But in the long term, it was satisfying.
I asked for, and got another powwow with the general.
"Boss, I've got to let my hair down. I know that Warren's primarily an ABM site. I don't expect that to change. I need zone maps so that we can fence off the dangerous parts and assign permanent guards to any sensitive, read launch, facilities. We're going to have civilians, children and teenagers out there and if they can get into anything by god they will. Help me out here, hoss."
"Okay. You can stop twisting that arm. You'd better razor wire off everything but the southeast quadrant of the base."
"I'll need about six boxcar loads of razor wire. I'm gonna put in a triple defense perimeter with five to seven hundred feet between the lines, then mantrap and tank trap the inner perimeter. I'd like to run a 5 KV eight foot fence down the middle of the whole mess."
"You don't fuck around, do you?"
"Nope. Do you realize how long it could be until we can plant a viable crop?"
"I've heard five to six years batted about."
"Try almost twice that. The soil has to thaw and stabilize, the ecology has to ramp up and the weather has to stabilize. I don't know how the hell we're going to make it, and quite frankly, I'm terrified. We might have food for three or four years. Most of Cheyenne is going to have to die off, and that means local war. We're going to be the bad guys, make no bones about it."
"I can get you train car loads of grain and canned goods, some dry goods and processed foods. I can definitely get you the razor wire, and with a little logistics work the equipment for the 5Kv fence. I'll get logistics on it right away."
"Great. I heard from a little bird that this is a test site. Make 'em all hard sites. We're gonna lose a lot of people in the freeze. A lot. Speaking of, how are you fixed for insulation? Corning pink construction foam should be easy to get. Four boxcars of that would be appreciated."
"Anything else? A brass band?"
"Naaw. I play a mean harmonica. We'll strip the local concrete plant for a ton or two of stock and I'll be happy. Oh, I'll definitely need a Julie map."
"Julie map? What the hell is that?"
"It tells me where I can dig without cutting pipes and cables. We're putting in some sub-grade barracks and blockhouses. Eventually, I want to hide or hard-point everything and range mark all access routes. We're going to trench and cut to minimize access routes as soon as the rain stops. Not much sense, now. Is anybody still brewing immunization globulin? How about that bio process for creating insulin I read about out of Canada?"
Dead silence. "Jesus God. We forgot about immunizations. Oh, Christ."
We took possession of the base bright and early Monday morning. The CO's safe was empty and open. Hmph. So much for temptation.
The power was on and I was happy. I sent Jackie out to find a house for the tribe. We marked out the site for an LP gas farm and tasked the pilots with scavenging tanks from everywhere I'd marked. I got some of the new troop to drive around Cheyenne with a platt book and either make friends or mark resources to scavenge. We drew the line at one hundred LP bulk tanks rated at 1000 pounds per.
We used underground pipe to link 'em and kept ten feet between the rows. Then we stole all the bulk propane trucks in town and all the gas we could get. We drew the line at siphoning it out of people's home bulk tanks. We had to stop somewhere.
We had a caravan of Semis tootling back and forth between Laramie and Cheyenne for a couple of weeks. I had Lisa Knight lead the team to strip the college labs for anything that could synthesize anything we could use, and secure any and all feedstock’s we could get. Then, I had her attack any pharmacies, chem labs, diagnostic labs and the big chem supply house in town. It was kind of a take no prisoners thing. You know, for a pharmacist, she did a hell of a Genghis Khan impression. The base had a class 4 isolation lab and a hell of a chem lab to start. Our decon team led the way and gave everything the green light, then our chem and bio people started working on antibiotics, per my request.
We dug and poured and dug and poured until we had over six acres of underground real estate over twenty feet deep. They thought I was crazy when I started the troop confiscating manure piles. We went far and wide, stealing shit. Yes, shit.
While that was going on, I had another crew wiring the underground space with halide lights in banks. They started to get the idea when the sand went into the concrete boxes and drilled pipe into each box, fed with a water manifold every twenty feet. We were going to have the biggest damned truck garden this side of the California valley. It really wasn't enough, but it was a proof-of-concept. By Christmas we had lettuce and green onions. That was enough proof of concept for me. By the January hard freeze we were quadrupling the size of the operation. The general called me a fucking genius. I just shrugged and pointed to the reactor. We couldn't have done shit without it, much less scaled up.
We got the rail cars full of grain. We sent 'em back full of lettuce, tomatoes, corn, peas and onions. Damn, we made some happy Canadians.
You know--everybody volunteered for field duty. The halide lamps gave everyone nice suntans and kept people's attitudes waaay up. It got kind of risqué down there-- people didn't like tan lines.
Somebody liked mushrooms. I got a request for a dark field.
What the hell, I liked mushrooms, especially on pizza. So, we grew mushrooms. Shitakes, Morels, you name it, we grew it. I had to draw the line at psilocybe cubensis, though. Nice try, guys.
I did put the word out that I was looking for a few fertile cannabis seeds though. It was a cheap non-narcotic. I guess you could call it a pain reliever. After a few years overseas I had come to the conclusion that Uncle Sugar was a bit anal-retentive when it came to the killer weed. Nuff said.
We ended up with cannabis oil in the pharmacy, hemp wallpaper, hemp rope floor mats and hemp rope. We included a wider definition of intoxication for being intoxicated on duty and got along fine.
Some square footage got special treatment. We planted flowers. We traded Denver for lambs, cats, dogs and ferrets. We had a petting zoo for the kids. A lot of grown up kids seemed to enjoy it, too.
The freeze finally came. One October the rain stopped and things just got colder. I knew the climate break had come. Now the population shake out would come. We dug more underground shelters. This time it was for housing. We buried the base. Nobody wanted to go outside, so we dug tunnels connecting the zones. We went from using surface digging methods like cranes and backhoes to rotary boring machines. We just had to evacuate the exhaust fumes. We undermined the golf course and the sports complex. We spread off the base and undermined the Cheyenne country club, poking into our section. Nobody ever noticed. Who the hell was playing golf at 20 below?
Spring was coming. It was the hungry time of the year. We'd butchered the last of the beef on the hoof. We knew people were dying of cold and hunger and couldn't do a damned thing about it. It hurt. They never bought into this. I sat down with our supply staff and went thru the numbers, long and short term. As long as our reactor would hold out, we could expand. We already carried 2200 warm bodies. There was no reason we couldn't double it.
We could go on short rations for a while, and my old freezer in Laramie still had about eight tons of meat, and should have never thawed. Fuck it. I called a base-wide meeting and laid out the issues. It seems I wasn't the only one with a deep bellyache about the whole issue. We were going to go out and salvage as much as the town as we could, kids first. I was a hero again.
We made a run back to Laramie to scavenge anything at my old strong point.
My helo pilot saw the mess left by the last attack of the feral kids and asked what caused it.
"Fifty foot steel cables, 1/2 inch thick with an explosive assist to vertical. I read about it in an old science fiction book. Sure works."
I've never seen a man turn that shade of green before. Interesting.
I made it a point to hit the hospital first. Some of the staff were hanging on. I adopted them. We went from house to house. It was tragic. That's the only word I can use besides horrifying. Over and over again I saw parents curled up over their children, all frozen to death. We took in whomever we could. Some had gone to the schools and churches as warming centers. They were starving. The youngest and oldest were already dead. We couldn't feed them much so we made soup. To my dying day I will remember spoon-feeding soup to a little boy that didn't have enough muscle mass to pick up the spoon. This happened over and over. God, the nightmares. I cried. I still cry. I can't help it.
We dug tunnels and stole furniture from the hotels and old base housing. We raped the old base housing for materials. We dug tunnels and planted clover. Clover grows like a weed. (humor there, folks.) We raised rabbits for protein on the clover, and later goats and sheep. Then chickens. We were four thousand eight hundred and thirty souls distributed among four stories of underground warren. Warren Air Force Base finally lived up to its name.
Come July the temperature almost got up to freezing. We came up into the frozen white of a glaciation summer and looked around. Cheyenne was a ghost town. Nothing moved. I put in motion my plans for the long haul. We held an activation ceremony for the company. We were now up to double a normal company in strength, but that still didn't match a modern company's T/O when it came to support. We made it up with civilians. Everybody worked, everybody ate. No problem.
We destroyed the city. It was a total denial policy, similar to what the Russians had left Napoleon with. We evacuated the ranches and farms into the base. We dug and blasted trenches, cut access roads and mined the rest. We established defenses in depth. We established go-nogo zones and false redoubts. We ran razor wire everywhere to channel killing zones and placed Semtex mines everywhere an invader may seek shelter. We deliberately set up bait houses with epoxied floors that were gigantic claymores. I expected visitors but didn't know from where.
I talked to the general about survivability and final denial. He assured me that they would take care of things in a worst-case scenario. I asked him if he were a religious man.
"Son, at times like this we all get religion."
I think that's when I made a friend.
Whoever was watching these things must have started cloning our site. We got a lot of questions as to how we built the tunnel coring machines, foot-candles per square foot for each crop in the field bays, pH balances, nitrogen versus phosphate balances... After a few minutes of that I sort of made myself invisible and went home for the day. Oh, did I mention? All I've got to do is step foot in the door and sing out "Lucy! I'm home!" and I hear "Ricky!" from six directions. Gawd, I'm glad I picked up that "I Love Lucy" boxed set over the Honeymooners!
I got a call from the General letting me know that the Mongols were coming. The crew of an aircraft carrier had mutinied, blown the hell out of Victoria, BC, pillaged it blind and started East on the TransCanada One rail line. They'd heard about the fresh food coming out of Wyoming from a rancher they'd taken captive in Calgary and tortured to death. They were on a rail line headed south as we spoke. Well, that's all the warning I needed. Have you ever seen a railroad caltrop? It's the size of a baseball dugout and has to be dug into the ground. We had time. We had crew served howitzers and two Abrams main battle tanks. If worse came to worst, I would test mount a Nike backwards and light it off. Come to think of it... we buried more munitions and shit around those rail lines than ever came close to the Maginot line. When they came blasting into the base it was almost anticlimactic.
The first engine got speared with a modified "end of line" detent. The next engine got thrown into the air by the first levering the detent. The Nike engines pointed at the rail lines for the next half-mile down the track slagged the cars. They sure as hell melted the tracks and fused the rail bed.
The general tried to give me a ration of shit about the mess. I just sat there and grinned. When he wound down I asked a simple question.
"What's rule number one?"
"Always operate within your mission parameters."
"What's my mission?"
"Protect and preserve."
"Nuff said. General, nobody fucks with me and wins."
We found out later that the only reason he was pissed off was because the control lines for a wing of ICBMs used to be under those tracks. We ended up digging a new comms tunnel for his wiring guys, 20 feet sub-grade, before he dropped the attitude. I resolved to be very Jewish about it. Never to forgive, never to forget.
It took four more years to see blue sky again. The young kids actually freaked out, ran back down the access tunnels and hid. We had to hold them and talk them down, then talk them thru the experience. Everyone else just stood in awe. It was still cold as hell, though.
It could have been brutal without the airlifts of vaccine and vitamins We'd had to isolate and flame sterilize entire fields seven times when fungal infections took over the fields and destroyed the roots. We then sacrificed a clover field after harvest and strip-inoculated the burned field with the rootstock, then watched to see if the clover and bacteria population would survive or if we had to do it all over again.
We grew to over 5100 souls. We ran 16 percent children. That was the best confidence test we had. I tried to live up to that confidence. We brainstormed what could happen and war gamed out the decisions. Our worst potential enemy was a mutated plague or a nut with an ICBM launch code. "That's 'icky-boom' in third grader parlance. Everyone contributed.
We ignored the UCMJ fraternization laws. It contradicted our mission. The general agreed. We got more diad, triad and quad marriages. I was getting to need a Viagra prescription for those evenings I got ganged up on.
We got better batteries--Fuel cells, really, from Missouri. We traded new testing procedures for infectious diseases and several simplified antibiotic synthesis algorithms. We traded deep frozen seed stock and live animal ova. We were getting ready for the thaw. We found out that our neutral clover conditioning was a big hit. We found out that there were over forty bases like ours, all sub-surface with self-supporting greenhouse fields. Hmph. We had bragging rights.
It was almost 9 1/2 years to the day since the impact that we noticed weeds growing. A whole lot of us got religion that day. I passed the news upstream. Everyone was on pins and needles. The kids listened to us argue and bicker, sweat and wail about the chances we were taking with our precious seed stock. You know what the kids told us? The same thing we told them when re-inoculating a field. "Trust the clover. It never fails."
We tried a trial planting and got away with it. I knew we only had so much seed and held off planting another month. I couldn't help it any more--we planted.
We got lucky. We reconditioned the discs, harrows and planters. We didn't know how long the growing season would be so we pushed ourselves mercilessly. For two solid weeks all we did was plow, harrow, plant, eat, and sleep. Sixteen-hour days were common. We did it, though. We turned over the clover and fertilized with slurried septic compost.
Then it occurred to me. Oh, shit. Where would we put it all when we went to harvest? We'd solved half the problem. The produce from the underground fields was eaten as it was harvested. We needed to replant the trees, too. Some would come up wild but I wasn't holding my breath after ten years. Without trees, what would we build housing with? Well, we were going experimental. We tried spray insulation over a form. Too expensive. Nasty out-gassing. We tried foamed concrete over a form. Not strong enough. We finally hit on it-- Teflon spray an inflatable form, spray it with insulation, apply foamed concrete, dry and cover with inflatable foam. Spray paint it and deflate the form, paint again, move on. We did 1/4 mile blocks at a time. After berming them the kids nicknamed 'em--hobbit holes. Cute.
We combined 'em for nurseries and schools. Industry and stores were relegated to the old base buildings near the golf course.
We stuck with tried-and-true low voltage systems. They were easier to build and cheaper. We could use bulbs from old autos as a ready pre-made supply, or source of filaments.
Near first harvest I got a surprise. A visit from the general. We were first to get breeding stock for the frozen ova. And then, he told me something that made no sense.
He was taking it all away from me. I just sat down in the dirt. I couldn't believe it. They were taking away my commission. I just looked him in the eyes.
"But why?" I whispered.
"Because you can't hold both civil and military rank. Congratulations, Governor."
Governor? Governor? What the hell was I supposed to slow down? My mind had shut down. I just walked away from him, into the fields.
I realized it was getting dark. I was watching a sunset. All the land in front of me was desolation. What nightmare was this, and when would I wake up? I rolled up into a ditch and forced myself asleep. It was a long night. The next morning I got up and kept walking. The mud and gravel had dried hard, into a kind of high plains desert. There was an occasional weed, pushing hard to grow and reproduce. I slept that night near a stream I found. The water was sweet. I heard noises during the night but went back to sleep.
I drank my fill the next morning, crossed the stream and struggled up the bank on the other side. I kept walking. I came upon a copse of dead brush next to an old railroad embankment. I checked my pockets for a lighter. I found my butane lighter. I gathered some firewood and leaned back against the embankment waiting for dark. At least I'd have a fire that night. I heard the noises again. Nothing made sense. I woke up with the sun. There was someone there. I didn't care who. I got up, crossed the embankment and kept walking. I could feel my feet striking the ground. They were real. I could trust that. I heard more noise. Then I felt a pain in my shoulder. I reached and found a hand with a needle. I put them down hard. I heard them cry out. Then--I fell forward. It was good to sleep. I wasn't hungry.
I woke again. I was inside. Why wouldn't these fuckers let a guy die in peace? Damn them all. I wept. Where did that come from? I didn't care. Nothing makes sense.
I went back to sleep.
I woke to the sound of an argument. A woman's voice.
"Well, there he is, you bastard. You shithead. Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you. Fucker! Climb into your bird and leave before I shoot your ass. You've done enough damage here for the rest of your life."
Who cares. I slept. Sleep and wake blended together. Sometimes people were there, sometimes not. I looked at my hands and could do nothing. It made no sense.
I woke. I got up from the bed, shaky. The door was locked. The drawers weren't. A broken scalpel makes a decent screwdriver. I was out within an hour. It must have been night shift. The halls were empty.
The outer doors may or may not be guarded. I carefully approached the outer doors--no guards. I walked outside, naked as a jaybird. It was chilly. I rooted around in a few deserted cars and found suitable clothing, then picked a direction and started walking. My feet hurt, hadn’t found any shoes or boots. Tough. The stars and moonlight were beautiful. I could understand them.
"Mister? Would you help me? I'm lost and I don't know where mommy is."
I looked down and saw this little kid, couldn't have been more than three or four. I sat down and we were eye to eye, talking in the moonlight as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
"Hi. I'm Art. Who are you?"
"My name is Sandy Baker. I'm lost."
"Well, honey, I'm kind of lost, too. Why don't you sit in my lap? I'll keep you warm until someone comes to find us."
She crawled up into my arms. I hugged and rocked her to sleep.
I watched the stars.
We both waited for the dawn.
Last edited by slashmaraud; 12-12-2006 at 12:06 AM..