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Stories and Fiction • Re: The Mulberry Tree

June 21, 2017 brucearmstrong65 0

Welcome back & thanks for an outstanding addition. Hope you’re doing well, or at least doing better. I don’t do too bad with Australian English, though I’ve had to search a few words & phrases; I guess reading a lot of Nevil Shute over the years helps!

Statistics: Posted by brucearmstrong65 — Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:16 am


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Jerry D Young Fiction • Re: JDY Fiction – This Can’t Be Good

April 23, 2017 brucearmstrong65 0

Here is the missing section of Jerry’s excellent story, This Can’t Be Good. It consists of the prologue, Chapters 1 & 2, and the first half of Chapter 3. In his PDF file, it covers the first 32-33 pages.

This Can’t Be Good – Prolog

It was August in Southeast Missouri. And it was hot. And humid. Steven was lying in the shade of the huge John Deere four-wheel-drive tractor, waiting for his boss to show up with some fuel. Herschel was supposed to have been there an hour previously. But Herschel, Steven knew, was a real windshield farmer. Probably still at the coffee shop discussing the weather and crop booking prices.

It was interesting to watch the patterns the highflying jets made with their contrails. As he watched he wondered if it was true that some of the jets were spraying boron or something into the atmosphere. It was funny, they all always looked the same on any given day. Either broad and spreading like on some days. Other days they were all straight and thin.

Suddenly, all four of the contrails toward the south being formed dead ended. Steven got a quizzical look on his face. He‟d never seen that happen before. He could see the sunlight glinting off the planes, but it was like the engines had all just shut off at once.

“This can‟t be good,” he said aloud, climbing to his feet. Because, if their engines had stopped, that meant the jet he‟d seen coming from the other direction might have stopped, too.

Steven turned around to see where that aircraft was. Just in time to see the silent 737 close up and personal, before it plowed into him and the John Deere.

This Can’t Be Good – Chapter 1

“I remember that August day that year well,” Grandpa Joseph told his grandson and granddaughter. “It rained airplanes that day. All over the good old USA. All over the world. The Powers That Be have said that of the 672 commercial flights in the air over the US at the time, only 99 of them made safe landings. Don‟t really know how many in the rest of the world. Probably thousands.”

“Wow!” said thirteen-year-old Joseph the third. “That‟s not very many safe landings out of all those airplanes.”

“It must have been terrible,” added fourteen year old Jenny. “All those people killed. Tell us the story, Grandpa. Tell us again what really happened?”

“Well, kids, what happened was…”

Alexander Haskell didn‟t think he was God. Of course not. Just godlike. He had the power, position, wealth, looks, and manners to prove it. There is a difference between being a god and being godlike. A small difference, but a difference.

And Alexander Haskell thought the world was going to Hades in a hand basket. He was just the man to do something about it. Time to get rid of the riffraff. Go back to simpler times. Force the species to improve itself. Survival of the fittest.

When you had money, most things were available and doable. Especially when you knew the rules didn‟t really apply to you. It helped if you also had remote locations available in which to work. And transportation companies of several types. And many, many resource businesses, too. All around the world. And contacts that could be used to acquire skills and materials normally available only to governments. Large, powerful governments.

So Alexander decided to build a time machine, with a riffraff eliminator. It developed into a three-part device. The first part was in the form of sixty-seven three-megaton nuclear devices and high altitude delivery vehicles.

The second was the construction and deployment of a thousand medium sized remote piloted vehicles with aerosol spray tanks filled with VX.

The third part of the triad was another thousand of the RPV‟s loaded with a biologically enhanced influenza virus.

All around the world the devices were sent and set up ready to execute his master plan. People had begun to notice the recent fire in Alexander‟s eyes, but then, he‟d always been something of a dreamer. His eyes often looked… different.

So it was one fine August day that Alexander pushed the little red button that set into motion the launches of the sixty-seven EMP devices, the thousand war gas sprayers, and the thousand virus dispersers.

A super computer had calculated the most effective detonation points for enhanced EMP devices to generate the maximum EMP over the maximum land area, plus some heavily traveled sea routes.

Likewise, the release points of the VX were calculated to ensure the maximum casualties. Ditto the virus. It was targeted to spread through populations as rapidly and widely as possible.

The attacks were magnificently successful. Not a missile or RPV malfunctioned or was destroyed. Each did its job admirably well. Alexander had demanded the best. He got the best.

Alexander lived just long enough to know the attacks had been carried out. He was rather astonished, that in the excitement of the occasion, his heart reacted in a most un-godlike manner. It decided to quit. But of course Alexander‟s compound had all the most modern equipment, including a defibulator. There was even a doctor in house that could use it. Of course, it didn‟t work anymore. Houston had just gone back in
time, in many ways, to the mid-eighteen hundreds. Back then, when you had massive heart failure, you pretty much just died. Like Alexander did. Of course he died knowing his plan was working. Tens of millions died around the world that August day.

The death toll was increased when nations realized they had little to lose and much to gain by trying to settle old scores, and a few new ones. The short wars were mostly regional in nature. Some were country versus country. Others were civil wars. Every type of known weapon was used. The nuclear powers expended many of their stocks of nuclear devices. Many nations and many peoples‟ bore a grudge against the United States and decided that if their own country wasn‟t going to survive, then neither was America.

Hundreds of millions died during the few days after Alexander‟s initial action. Then billions more as the deadly influenza spread geometrically and a largely unprepared world suffered the consequences of widespread nuclear radiation. Nations with extensive civil defense programs that were prepared to deal with nuclear war carried the deadly virus into the shelters with them. Few came out alive.

The attacks and their aftermath killed over ninety percent of the world‟s population. More in countries with areas of high population density. Slightly less in nations with small populations spread over large areas.

The one group of people that survived the outcome of Alexander‟s in the best shape were one of the most reviled groups of modern society in the United States. Survivalists. But they lived up to the name. They survived in droves, for they had the preparations and mindset to do so. So did the more mild mannered preppers. Unlike the main stream media depiction of Survivalists, preppers had no agenda, other than to protect their families, and live through the worst that humans or nature could throw at them.

That’s not to say that every survivalist and prepper survived. Many did not. Some were at the ground zeros of the various events. Others, through happenstance or bad luck, didn‟t make it. And the other side of that coin was true as well. There were people, not well prepared, that through intelligent actions or sheer good luck, managed to survive those horrible first weeks.

But right, wrong, or indifferent, Alexander‟s plan had at least part of the effect he was seeking. Humanity was getting another chance to evolve. Only time would tell if it improved itself, worsened itself, or simply remained the same, only in smaller numbers.

“Joe! What was that?” asked Mike Johnson.

Joe was looking up at the sky. “I… I don‟t know. Thought I saw a flash or something. Probably the reflection from a plane.” Joe looked thoughtful, and up at the sky again. “Though it wouldn‟t have been that bright.

“Wait a minute,” Mike said. “My computer just went blank.”

Joe looked down at his. It too, was showing nothing but a blank screen. He felt a chill go down his spine. “HEMP!” he said.

“Hemp what?” Mike asked. He was looking at Joe like Joe had just gone crazy.

“High altitude electromagnetic pulse!” Joe closed his computer calmly, put it in the case and stood up. “Check!”

The server at the little outdoor coffee shop came over. “Something is wrong with the power. It‟ll have to be cash. Joe gave her enough money for both his and Mike‟s lunch and walked over to his truck. He stopped with one hand on the door handle. “Mike, I suggest you go on down to the city hall right now. They have a big shelter. Wish I could bring you with me, but family takes precedence. Good luck.”

With that, Joe got into his truck, a highly customized Chevy 1-ton crew cab pickup, said a prayer, and turned the key. The truck started right up. Joe chirped the wheels when he pulled out, avoiding one of the many cars sitting without moving on the street.

Mike just looked blank. He never quite got Joe. But he was a sharp cookie, none the less. Mike headed for city hall at a brisk walk.

Joe continued to check the sky as he drove home as fast as he could, considering all the stopped vehicles in the way. Twice he used the heavy front bumper of the truck to push aside a vehicle to make way for the truck. One guy screamed at him and waved a fist, but Joe paid him no mind. Push come to shove, and he‟d pull the .45 he was wearing under his jacket in a shoulder holster.

He added a prayer to the one he‟d said when he saw the first of several airliners come crashing to the ground all around the airport in the distance. Again he closed off a section of his mind, the way he had with Mike. He couldn‟t save everyone. His family came first. He lost sight of the airport when he turned onto the county road that led to his private road to his home. And family.

Making sure the gate was locked behind him, Joe went up the last stretch of driveway yearning for the sight of his wife and children. The house was in lockdown, with the security shutters on all the doors and windows closed and latched. Joe sighed in relief. There had been no real reason to doubt their safety, but seeing the house ready for whatever the worst might be was reassuring.

Before he tried to unlock the main door, Joe used the intercom, his fingers crossed. The EMP protective measures he used when building the house apparently were successful. Trish answered almost immediately.

“Oh, Joe! I‟m so glad you got here. Come on in.”

Joe closed and locked the shutter after he went through, locking the heavy entry door, too. He made a beeline to the shelter entrance in the basement. Again he used the intercom, giving the all clear code word so Trisha would unlock the shelter door from inside.

Without the code word, even if she was sure it was Joe, she wouldn‟t have opened the door. It would mean Joe was compromised and to go to one of the alternate plans to deal with such situations.

The shelter blast door locked up again, Joe hugged and kissed Trish, feeling the pistol she wore in a shoulder holster under the light jacket she invariably wore when in the shelter. It could be a bit cool for her.

Joe knelt and the children ran into his arms. “We did just like Mommy said, Daddy,” said the oldest one, Joseph Junior, aged seven. He avoided the kiss on his cheek and let Mandy in to get her hug and kiss. Mandy was six.

“Daddy, are we going to be okay? Mommy said this wasn‟t a drill. That it was real. Something bad has happened.”

“Your mother is right, kids,” Joe said, still on one knee. He looked at his children in turn, and calmly explained what he knew about what had happened.

Both listened solemnly and nodded when he was finished. “Any questions?”

“When can we go back outside and play?” Mandy asked.

Joe smiled. Mandy was a real outdoor oriented child, taking to their camping trips and emergency preparedness bug-out drills like a Trojan. Junior was no less enthusiastic, but he liked his inside time, too, while Mandy was always wondering when she could get back outside.

“I don‟t know, yet, Sweetheart,” Joe replied. “Maybe in just a few minutes. But you need to find something inside to do for a while until I can find out more about the situation.

“Okay, Daddy,” was the sighed answer. Feeling responsible for his sister, Junior took her hand and they went off to play. Junior even let her play with his favorite truck, a rough toy duplicate of Joe‟s real truck.

Joe stood up and went over to Trish. He hugged her again, for a long time. When he released her, she asked, “Is this it? The big one?”

“I don‟t know, Honey. It could be. You made the right choice to lock down and take shelter. I‟m going to go up and see what I can find out. I don‟t want to risk the shelter gear, so I‟ll use gear in the study. I think my laptop is fried, but I want to check it out, too. I won‟t be long. Emergency Operational Procedures are still in effect. Lock up behind me.”

Trish‟s eyes searched Joe‟s face. She finally nodded and followed him over to the shelter main door and let him out.

Joe took a good look around the basement. The finished section looked like the average basement family room, though it was a bit larger than most, with two exit windows on the south side. The windows were now covered with security shutters. If need be, he‟d stack the bricks that made up a seat and acted as a step to get out the window, in the window to reduce fallout radiation.

A full bathroom served the play room, and there was another in the large unfinished section. That area was almost filled with shelves. And the
shelves were filled with home canned foods, and large volumes of paper products, primarily toilet paper and paper towels. Additional shelves supported box after box of other items, all commercially produced.

Satisfied that everything was as it should be, Joe went upstairs and into the study, picking up the computer case he‟d set down just inside the front door. Aware that another EMP could fry some of the equipment, Joe worked quickly. The computer was dead, for a fact. But the hard drive was fine, he decided, after pulling it and putting it in an external drive case and trying it with the laptop in the study.

That laptop had fared just fine, being kept in a faraday cage when he wasn‟t using it. Joe activated one of the remote cameras and connected it to the computer. A quick scan of everything outside showed nothing of importance. He disconnected, grounded the camera cable, and put away the computer. The external drive he took with him to the shelter. Though it was mostly business information, he didn‟t want to lose it, or the preparedness information stored on it as well. It was all duplicated times two in computers in the shelter, plus hard copies of much of it.
“Drive is okay,” Joe told Trish when she let him in the shelter. I looked around with one of the cameras. Everything is copacetic.”

“Did you try the shortwave up there?” Trish asked.

“No. Didn‟t want to risk it. I‟m sure of the one HEMP, that knocked out things. I‟m worried about another one. Can‟t risk too much too soon for too little benefit.”

“I understand. It‟s coming up on supper time. You want me to fix something down here?”

“No. As long as there isn‟t any radiation, or outside disturbances, I think we can go back upstairs. Keep all the shutters down except the kitchen and the one we can watch the children playing in the back yard.”

“You think that is safe?”

“I think so. For the moment. Let them get some of the energy out of their system. We‟ll sleep in the shelter for sure, until we know more of what is going on.”

“Okay,” Trish replied. She rounded up the children, not as easy as it might sound, since the shelter was actually a small complex, with several interconnected rooms.

Joe put the hard drive in the faraday cabinet that housed the shelter electronic equipment. All the lines were protected and grounded, and being underground in the shelter, which had grounded wire mesh incorporated into it, there was little risk. But Joe and Trish considered the communications and data storage equipment extremely important and wanted the redundancy of protection.

A quick look at the battery status panel, to check the status of the charge, and Joe followed Trish and the children into the basement and then upstairs.

Once they had permission, Junior and Mandy headed for the patio and back yard, waiting while Joe lifted the shutter on the French doors. “Stay in sight,” Joe admonished, his parental voice obvious to the children. They‟d had drills before, and knew that their father was very serious.

Joe helped Trish prepare a nice meal for the evening, using only fresh ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry bins. He lingered for a few moments, looking over the pantry, much as he had the basement, earlier.

The pantry was the size of a large walk-in closet found in luxury homes. Not only were there shelves, there were ventilated bins for root vegetables and the like. Two large chest type freezers and a large upright took up floor space, but the chest type freezers had shelves above them, just clearing the doors of the freezers when they were open.

Like the basement storage shells, the shelves in the pantry were loaded with home canned meats, fruits, and vegetables. There was enough food and other consumables to keep the family fed and provided for in excess of two months. There were some commercially canned and bottled foods in addition to the home canned items.

Joe went to get the children when the meal was almost ready and supervised their clean up for supper. The family was well into the meal when the above ground, earth sheltered house vibrated for a long minute.

“Another earthquake, Daddy?” Junior asked. The family had felt them before. But circumstances were different now and he wasn‟t sure it was an earthquake. He‟d been trained to understand the effects of a nuclear blast.

“I don‟t think so, Junior,” Joe said, sitting very still and listening carefully. Another shock, this one larger rattled the glassware in the kitchen.

“Too big of a coincidence,” Joe said. “Let‟s finish up supper and go back down to the basement for dessert.”

“Oh, boy!” Mandy said. “Root beer floats!”

Joe smiled and nodded. Both children hastily finished the food on their plates and cleared them while Joe and Trish finished up. Trish kept looking over at Joe as they worked side by side to get the kitchen cleaned up and the dirty dishes and pots in the dishwasher. Joe closed the shutters that he‟d opened and followed Trish to the basement.

He hesitated on the stairs when the house shook again, this one the worst by far. Trish, Junior, and Mandy all looked at him, concerned, but not unduly frightened.

“I think we‟d better consider that the “Big One” we‟ve talked about before.”

“Which one, Daddy?” Mandy asked. “The Big Earthquake like on the Weather Channel?”

“Possibly,” Joe replied.

“I think it was nukes,” Junior said firmly.

“You could be right,” Joe replied. “And we‟re going to assume that, for the sake of operating until we know for sure.”

“Shouldn‟t we get in the shelter?” asked Trish. She was more concerned than the children, with her adult understanding of the ramifications of nuclear war.

“I think we have plenty of time,” Joe said easily, moving behind the custom bar along one finished wall of the basement. “Root beer floats all around?” he asked.

There were loud cries of “Yes” and “You bet!” from the children and a much quieter “Yes” from Trish. It took only minutes to prepare the floats with the professional class equipment the bar boasted.

Joe and Trish limited the family‟s consumption of overly sweet and/or carbonated beverages. They were considered a real treat. Some of the supplies in the store room sections of the basement contained boxed syrups for their favorite drinks. The syrup would last far longer than the canned or bottled drinks. And Joe had the knowledge, research material, and ingredients to produce additional drinks when the syrups ran out.

“Can we watch a movie?” Mandy asked, taking a seat at one of the two booths near the bar.

“It‟s a little late to start a movie, Hon,” Trish said. “How about some word games?”

Joe, and especially Trish, believed that home schooling went on all the time, not just during „classroom‟ time. Every chance to teach something was used. Building vocabulary was one of those things they often did while relaxing.

“I‟ll get the dictionary out,” Junior said, leaving the table across from Mandy to get the pocket reference from a shelf against another wall. There was a complete Oxford Dictionary of the English Language on the computer, but Trish and Joe kept the current vocabulary to what was contained in the pocket version.

It was a fun time. Joe and Trish had already instilled a love of learning in the children, and to them, learning was fun. And it lasted „til well after they had finished their Root Beer floats.

“Can I go to bed now, Mommy?” Mandy asked. It was a later night than usual for the two children. Junior was having trouble keeping his head up and eyes open, too. Neither had wanted to miss anything.

“Yes, you may. We‟ll be sleeping in the shelter. You two go get cleaned up and ready for bed. Your father and I will be in to tuck you in shortly,” Trish told the children. She moved to help Joe clean up the bar area.

There was a weather panel at one end of the bar, and Joe nodded toward it. Trish took a look. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then she looked at the set of instruments mounted below, and separate from, the weather center. She bit her lip and turned to look at Joe, more than a little fear in her eyes. One of the remote reading radiation meters was showing more than the normal background radiation of the area.

“We‟re getting fallout,” Joe said quietly. “Nothing to worry about, even upstairs. Not here, either, and certainly not in the shelter. But we aren‟t taking chances. We‟ll be in the shelter for the duration.”

“What about… What about the rest of the family? What do we do?” Trish asked. Her sister and her sister‟s husband were not preppers, though they knew that Joe and Trish were, to a limited extent.

And Joe‟s brother Matthew also had a standing invitation to come to the house in case of trouble.

“Speak of the devil!” Joe said when the intercom buzzed and he heard Matthew‟s voice. “Hey, man! Let us in! There‟s fallout out here! Hey. Who are you? Ow! Jeez, man! Lay off the hitting!” The intercom went silent for a moment, and then came another voice that Joe and Trish knew. Their next door neighbor to the north by a good mile. Rick Sullivan.

“Let us in, Masters! Or I wring this guy‟s neck and his friend‟s.”

“Friend?” Trish mouthed the words to Joe.

Joe shrugged and then told Trish, “We go to the security plan. You lock down in the shelter and I‟ll go deal with this.”

“Oh, Joe! Be careful! You know how violent Rick is.”

“I know,” Joe said. He was checking the pistol from the shoulder harness. It was ready. So were the three spare magazines and boot knife under the other arm. As Trish headed for the shelter, Joe went upstairs.

“I‟m telling you! I‟m going to hurt someone if you don‟t let me in!” Rich was bellowing, his voice carrying to Joe from the various speakers in the house. Joe stopped in the attached garage and moved a cabinet out of the way. He slid through the gap between it and the wall, going into a small hallway. He worked the lock on the door at the far end and then pushed heavily.

The door swung open slowly and silently and Joe slipped out. It was dark. He could feel the grit on his skin when he left the protection of the secret exit. Joe had a flashlight, but chose not to use it. There was light coming from the main entrance of the house. One or more people had flashlights.

Joe eased closer, until he could make out the situation. There was his brother, Matthew, an unknown young woman, Rick, and coming up the driveway in the darkness, another small group, also with flashlights.

Afraid those approaching might be of the same ilk as Rick, Joe made the decision to resolve the Rick situation immediately. He took careful aim, as Rick leaned to speak into the intercom again, one hand wrapped around Matthew‟s back, keeping his arm in a painful behind the back hold.

It had to be a head shot. Anything else would endanger Matt. Joe squeezed the trigger slowly until the gun went off. The woman jumped, but didn‟t scream. Matt, spun around and tried to give Rick a shove, but Rick was already falling to the ground, dead.

Joe ran forward and opened the outer shutter, stepping over the body to get to it. Matt was shaking, holding the woman to his chest. It looked more like the woman was holding and comforting Matt than the other way around.

“In! In!” Joe said, “Just wait for me!”

“The inner door is locked!” Matt said when he went inside. But Joe ignored it and closed the outer shutter of the airlock entryway. He looked toward the group down the drive. They‟d stopped and there was murmuring that Joe couldn‟t make out.

“Hey! Joe! Is that you doing the shooting? It‟s Danny and Sally and the kids. And some people we don‟t know.”

“Okay,” Joe said. “Come on up. Slowly. Show your faces in the flashlight beam.”

Danny quickly illuminated each face for several seconds. Joe frowned when he saw who the other people were. Rick‟s family.

“Okay. Danny, you come up and help me for a minute. The rest of you wait where you are.”

Danny hurried forward after handing the flashlight to Sally.

“Jeez! You killed a guy!” Danny said, staring at Joe after seeing Rick on the ground.

“Yeah. He threatened us. Help me move him out of sight. That‟s his family with you.”

“Oh, Man!” Danny protested. But a look at Joe‟s face in the dim reflected light was enough to convince him to help.

They dragged Rick‟s body away from the entrance and then Joe called for the others to come up.

They didn‟t waste any time. “Okay. Everyone wait right here. I‟m going inside to start the decontamination process. Anyone gives any trouble and you get left out.”

“You can‟t do that, Joe!” protested Sally. One of these other women is pregnant and there are two babies plus…”

“Shut up, Sally!” Joe said sharply.

“Hey, Man!” Danny said. “Watch how you talk to my wife.”

“You shut up, too. It‟s my way, or the highway.”

“My sister will have something to say about this!” Sally cried.

“You can discuss it when we all get inside. But that won‟t happen until I know everyone is decontaminated. That‟s radioactive fallout you‟re receiving.

There were gasps from several, including Sally. She hugged her three children to her, despite two of them being teenagers.

Joe opened the outer shutter. Matt was standing there and he wasn‟t too happy. “Hey!”

“Shut up, Matt. Back up.”

Matt did so. Joe had the pistol out again, though he wasn‟t pointing it at anything in particular.

Joe went to a small access panel on one of the side walls. “You two strip down. Put anything from your pockets in one of the trays from that cabinet.” Joe indicated a rather out of place cabinet in the entryway. “And take out one of the cotton coveralls to put on after your shower. They are marked for size.”

“Man! We‟re not stripping in front of you!” Matt said angrily.

The woman had yet to say a word within Joe‟s hearing. “Yes, we are, Matt,” she said as she unbuttoned her blouse. Joe turned back to the access panel. Matt yelped when water began to cascade from large shower heads in the ceiling.

“Scrub down good,” Joe said. “What you need is in the cabinet. Joe kept his eyes averted as best he could while still maintaining a watch on the two. It wasn‟t that he didn‟t trust his brother, it was… Matt could do some crazy things. He had in the past.

As soon as Joe was satisfied the two were cleansed of any fallout particles, he opened the inner security shutter and ushered them out with a towel and coverall. “Stay near the entrance. You know where the powder rooms are.”

It went much the same with Sally and family. Only when he put Danny and their son Tucker outside, at gunpoint, did Sally and the two girls follow his instructions. And Sally railed at him the entire time. The two teenage girls just cried.

But, finally they were decontaminated and sent into the house.

It was down to Rick‟s family. Joe hurriedly used the intercom to explain to Trish what the situation was. Her decision was to let them in. Joe couldn‟t bring himself to protest.

Joe brought them all inside the airlock together. “Rick‟s dead, isn‟t he?” asked the oldest of the three women. It was a very matter-of-fact question.

“I‟m afraid so,” Joe said. “He threatened my family.”

“No big loss,” the woman said. “He left us behind. We didn‟t know what else to do. You always seemed to be a decent sort.” She was stripping as she talked, not even trying to keep Joe from seeing.

She helped the other women deal with the babies and took care of the two older children. Joe estimated their ages as eight for the boy, and nine for the girl. Both the babies were boys.

“Stay here by the entrance,” Joe told them. There‟s a powder room on each side of the entry.” He ushered them into the house and then stripped himself, decontaminated, and dressed in one of the coveralls, strapping the shoulder holster back on before he went inside.

Matt and Danny were standing face to face, arguing.

“Okay, you two! Knock it off. I‟m telling you. You don‟t cooperate, and you‟re out of here. I‟m not risking my immediate family because of any of you.”

“I want to talk to my sister! Where is she? Trish!”

“She can‟t hear you,” Joe said. “She‟s in a safe place, with the children. Now, come down to the basement.”

“Trish! Trish! Where are you?” screamed Sally when they were in the basement.

Joe went to the intercom behind the bar as the others spread out around the room, taking seats. Joe heard several of the children say they were hungry and tired. He keyed the intercom. “Trish?”

“Yes, Joe. Is everything all right?”

“Sort of…”

Sally pushed Joe out of the way. “Trish! Where are you? Come get us away from your madman of a husband!”

There was silence for a long time. Sally keyed the intercom again. “Trish?”

“What is the problem with Joe?” Trish asked.

“Well… He‟s just… He‟s being mean! He made us women strip in front of him. He keeps threatening to put us out if we don‟t… Well… He‟s threatening us. With a gun. Where are you?”

“I‟m in the shelter,” Trish replied.

“Shelter?” asked at least four people. Joe winced.

“Let us in! If you‟re there it must be safer than here. You have to lets us in!”

“Calm down, Sally,” Trish told her sister through the intercom.

“Calm down? Calm down? We‟re in the middle of a nuclear war and you want me to calm down?”

“Look, Sis, you either calm down and get reasonable or you‟ll be out on your own with Danny. Joe and I will look after the kids. But you are going to have to change your tune real quick.”

“I‟m your sister! You have to help me!”

“We will help you, Sally. But it‟s by our rules. We tried and tried to get you and Danny to prepare but you blew it off as a waste of money. Now, do what Joe says… or leave.”

Sally and Danny were too absorbed to hear the catch in Trish‟s voice. But Joe heard it and knew what it had cost her to say those last words.
Sally started crying and Danny put his arms around her, glaring at Joe. “Okay. You get your way. What do we do?”

“You and Sally will stay out here in the basement unless the radiation gets too high. The pregnant woman and the children will go into the shelter with my family. Matt, you and your friend are out here, too.”

“That‟s not fair!” Danny said. “We‟re family. We should get first chance. You‟ll let strangers take our place in the shelter?”

“Yes, I will,” Joe replied firmly. “The children are at higher risk for future cancers. The pregnant woman, too, could face complications. They deserve to get the best chance at keeping their exposures low. Besides, unless the radiation gets a great deal worse, there isn‟t going to be much difference between the basement and the shelter.

“Mom! I want to stay with you and Dad.” It was the oldest of Sally and Danny‟s children, Melissa, fourteen.

“Me, too,” said her sister, Tammy, thirteen.

Their youngest child, Tucker, nine, was busy at the TV, playing a video game, oblivious to what was happening around him.

“You‟re risking getting a cancer when you get older. It is safe here, relatively speaking, but there is a higher risk.”

“Mom? Dad?” asked Tammy. “I don‟t want to get cancer.”

“That‟s okay, Tammy,” Danny said. “Mom and Dad won‟t let you get cancer. You, your sister and brother will go in the shelter with Aunt Trish.”

“I won‟t!” stormed Melissa. “I want to stay with you. Uncle Joe is mean to split us up.”

“You‟ll do as your father says,” Sally said, calm for the first time.

“Tucker, Tammy, Melissa, you come with me. He looked over at Rick‟s family. “You two and the children,” Joe said. “You‟ll be out here, Mrs. Sullivan.”

“It‟s Elisabeth. Rick and I weren‟t married. This is Cinnamon and her baby, Vince. Candy, Amy, and Winston. The baby‟s name is Julian.”

“Come along, then. Matt, Miss, Sally, Danny, you all stay in here until I get back.” The designated group followed Joe into the unfinished portion of the basement. Joe thought he might have to pull the gun on Matt, when he insisted on trying to see what was on the other side of the heavy steel door.

“You‟ll see what I want you to see when I want you to see it, Matt. Now back off. There is still the front door available.”
Matt looked ready to fight, but the woman took his arm and led him away. “I‟m sorry,” she told Joe. “By the way. My name is Stephanie.”

“Okay, Stephanie. Thanks.”

Joe locked the dividing door and then used the intercom to give the key phrase that told Trish it was okay to open the door. He ushered the women and children inside and followed them inside, making double sure the shelter door was secured.

The two Sullivan family women quickly followed Trish‟s instructions on where they and their children would sleep, and where the things they would need for the baby were located. Winston would join Tucker in the boy‟s bunk room with Junior. The girls would share the girl‟s bunk room.

The two women and babies would share a third bunk room. Trish looked at the fourth bunk room and then at Joe. There was enough room for the other five people, but it would be crowded. And with the attitudes shown by Danny, Sally, and Matt, it would be a miserable existence with them inside the shelter.

Once away from their parents, Tammy and Melissa quieted down and even helped Trish get a quick meal ready, and then went to the girls‟ bunk room afterward.

With everyone settled, Joe left the shelter. He was glad he had not waited any longer. Matt and Danny were squared off, ready to fight when he entered the play room. Stephanie was pleading with Matt and Sally was urging Danny on. Elisabeth was sitting calmly, a bowl of ice cream in front of her, watching the activity.

“One last time,” Joe said coldly. “Any trouble and out you go. Family or not. We‟re here for the duration of the fallout. Consider the fact that there will be a time when we will leave the shelter and the basement. Continued help from my family is dependent on what happens while we‟re cooped up here.”

“You‟d put your own brother out, wouldn‟t you? I‟m tempted to just go and fend for myself. Stephanie and I can make it on my own.”

“Hold on, Sport,” Stephanie said. “Leave me out of the equation. I‟m here until Joe evicts me for cause. And I do not plan on giving him any cause.”

Matt was stunned. “Stephanie!”

“That‟s the way it is. Survival now, here, won‟t be too bad. The afterwards is what scares me. I intend to be a very productive part of this extended family. So I can stay, even if you choose to leave.”

Her eyes cut to Joe and he nodded. Stephanie relaxed. Matt could do whatever he wanted. He seemed to shrink slightly and went over to the other diner booth and sat down, putting his head in his hands.

“Okay, Danny. It‟s up to you. You going to follow the rules and cooperate, or do you leave?”

“It‟s just not right. Taking in outsiders when family should get priority.”

“That‟s not an answer,” Joe replied. “Talk to him, Sally. Your place here is partly dependent on his.”

Sally dragged Danny over to the couch in front of the entertainment system and began to talk urgently to him.

Joe went into a large walk-in closet and returned with his arms full of sleeping bags and self-inflating sleep pads. “There‟s more in there,” he said, handing off what he carried to Stephanie and Elisabeth. The two quickly staked out places to lay out the bedding.

“Now, I‟m going back into the shelter. There‟s a little food there in the bar cooler and in the cabinets. Remember that we aren‟t going to be going to a grocery store for a long time, if ever again. Stay in the basement. Don‟t go roaming around the house. If you do, you‟ll not only be risking future cancer, you‟ll be risking your immediate life if I catch you or find out. Now I suggest you get some sleep and try to think things through. Decide which side your bread is buttered on. And who has the butter knife, butter, and bread.”

With that said, Joe went back through the door into the second section of the basement and then into the shelter. He held Trish and comforted her as much for himself as for her. After checking on all those in the shelter, Joe and Trish went into the bedroom set aside for them and got ready for bed, wondering what the next day would bring.

This Can’t Be Good – Chapter 3

The next day didn‟t start too well. While Trish took care of those in the shelter, getting Junior and Mandy acquainted with the other children that showed up after they went to bed, and preparing breakfast for all, Joe went to check on those in the basement. He took a look at the remote reading radiation meter in the shelter as he passed it. The radiation level was up higher than when he went to bed.

When Joe went through the connecting door from the unfinished portion of the basement to the finished Danny and Matt were arguing again, over politics. Joe couldn‟t believe it. Sally was off to one side, crying. Only Stephanie was doing anything productive. She was gathering up the bedding and stacking it out of the way. Elisabeth was reading quietly in a corner.

“We‟re going to go upstairs and fix breakfast for you. I checked the radiation level. It will still be safe in the main part of the house.

“I‟ve been watching the meter here for a while. It is still climbing, but slowly,” Stephanie said, nodding toward the information center at the end of the bar.

“I know,” Joe replied. “But the main part of the house has a protection factor of over five-hundred. Down here it‟s over one-thousand, and in the shelter it‟s ten-thousand. At the level the radiation is now, it‟s still safe above. I was expecting a higher level, but either the winds are right for us, or they didn‟t hit the city. It is due west and we would be getting some heavy radiation if the winds were right and it was hit.”

“Oh. That sounds okay then.” Stephanie moved toward the stairs. “Matt?”

“I‟m telling you that you are way off base, Danny,” Matt said, getting in the last word before he joined Stephanie.

“Come on, Sally,” Danny said to his wife.

“I want my babies!” she said, still crying.

“They are better off in the shelter,” Joe said, gently as he could. He understood the need to be with one‟s children. The drive was in him, too. But he wasn‟t going to turn the shelter into a battlefield with this group locked up inside the shelter, as large as it was. They were perfectly safe here.

Danny finally persuaded Sally to go up the stairs. Joe and Stephanie were already in the kitchen, getting food from the refrigerator and pantry.

“Want me to help?” Elisabeth asked.

“We have it,” Joe said. “But thanks. Means a lot.”

Stephanie carried out a couple of items from the pantry, saying, “Geez! You have a ton of food in there!” Stephanie said.

Joe nodded. “We keep a good pantry for things like this. Well. More for short term situations. But we‟re not too bad off for long term needs, either. Sorry, but I won‟t go into details.”

“I understand,” Stephanie replied. “Hey. I‟m surprised we still have power. I thought it would go out when the attack started.”

“I have a PV system and a pair of generators. I felt the main genset kick on right after I got up this morning. It won‟t run the entire house, but it will keep the lights and major appliances on. Won‟t run the AC, but we seldom need it, anyway.”

“You‟re very well prepared.”

“I admit it. We‟re preppers.”

“Not survivalists?”

“No. Not the way Main Stream Media depicts them. Or did. I‟ve got a feeling more than a few people that hated quote, survivalists, wished they knew a few right about now.”

“I‟ll say. I guess I just got lucky.”

“How long have you and Matt been seeing each other?”

“Not long. Couple of months.” Stephanie looked over at Matt where he was again arguing with Danny. “I‟m not sure it is going to work out. May not have any other option, now, though.”

“There are always options,” replied Joe.

“You‟d let me stay even if I cut things off with Matt?”

“I‟ve got a feeling you‟d be more of an asset here than Matt, as much as I hate to say that about my brother. You‟d have to clear it with Trish.”

“I‟m anxious to meet her. She the jealous type?”

“Not really. But this situation could bring out the… uh… lest than best… in people.”

They both looked over at the dining room table. Sally was now involved in the discussion between Matt and Danny.

“Yeah,” Stephanie replied. The two were silent the rest of the time the breakfast preparations took. The other four fell silent when the food was put on the table. There was no further discussion.

Joe was a bit amazed, and more than a bit annoyed, at the speed the food disappeared. Only Stephanie took a reasonable first serving. The other four heaped their plates and began to eat ravenously. Joe could kind of understand it with Elisabeth. She was a big woman, used to eating well. It was as if there would be no more food.

Joe wondered if they might be thinking that. But it still didn‟t excuse the fact that there was barely enough to be called a serving left for Joe. He didn‟t say anything, but Stephanie offered up some off her plate, which Joe refused. The others didn‟t seem to notice.

And again it was Stephanie and Joe that did the cleanup. The other four went directly back to the basement without a word or offer to help.

“I‟m sorry,” Stephanie told Joe. “About Matt.”

“Not your fault. At least his taste in women has changed.”

“You were expecting something different?”

“Wasn‟t expecting anyone at all. Much less someone of your obvious caliber.”

“Why, thank you. Let‟s wait until your wife passes judgment before I put down roots.”

“That would be best.”

Stephanie went back to the basement. Joe took a turn around the house, checking the windows and doors and their attendant shutters. Everything was secure. He checked the cameras from the study computer and was satisfied that no one else had been around since he‟d taken in the others.

When Joe joined the group in the basement he was pleased to see that everyone was sitting around, not arguing. Elisabeth was back in the corner she‟d staked out, reading.

“Anything you need me to do?” Stephanie asked immediately.

Joe shook his head. “Not much to do but wait for the radiation. There are books, movie discs, video games.”

“Any books you can recommend that will help us after we get out?” Stephanie asked then.

“If you‟re interested, I have a pretty good prep library on the computer.” Joe went to the small desk next to the entertainment system. “I keep it in a faraday cage I built into the bottom drawer of the desk. It‟s my second line back up.”

“What is a faraday cage?” Stephanie asked, walking over to join Joe at the desk.

“Metal or fine metal mesh enclosure, grounded, to protect anything inside from outside electrical or electronic interference. All our important electronics are double protected with faraday cages, though the entire home is also wrapped in welded wire fencing that is grounded, to create a faraday field as first line of defense. It seems to have worked. The HEMP didn‟t seem to affect any of our electronics. The remote cameras and intercoms are hard wired, with the wire in grounded metal conduits, but I still expected to lose some of that stuff.”

Joe had the computer open and turned on. He showed Stephanie the set of prep files and left her to her own devices.

He was ready to strangle Matt when he turned around and saw him pouring a huge shot of liquor into a water glass.

“No you don‟t, Matt. I don‟t mind you having a drink. But you‟re not going to get drunk in my house. Pour most of that back.”
Joe could tell that Matt wanted to argue, but he did as asked. Joe made a point of letting not only Matt, but Danny and Sally see him put the liquor on the back bar into a base cabinet and lock it up. “Anyone wants a drink, ask me. Just remember that until someone gets a still going, this is all there is.”

There was no way Joe was going to tell them he had a lot more liquor stored, and that he already had a still stored so he could make liquor for medicinal uses, fuel, and for drinking. Matt could easily have an alcohol problem, if Joe let it get out of hand.

Nursing the glass carefully, Mat went to the entertainment center and began to play a video game. Stephanie reached over from the desk and turned down the volume by sixty-percent. Giving him a challenging look, Matt decided the volume was all right and continued to play.

Danny, without Matt to argue with, picked a book from the bookcase and began to read. Sally, never one to talk to Joe if she didn‟t have to, finally did the same.

Joe sighed in relief. Things would be quiet for a while at least. He eased out of the room, into the unfinished part of the basement when no one but Stephanie was looking. She gave a little nod when Joe looked at her.

When he was in the shelter he was surprised at how quiet it was. “How‟s it going?” he asked Trish.

“Better than I thought possible, with having strangers in here. Cinnamon and Candy are doing their best to help.” Very quietly she added, “I don‟t think either of them are very… well… bright. I have to explain everything. But they follow instructions well and keep quiet, talking to themselves, each other, and their children.

“Melissa and Tammy have really surprised me. Once over the initial shock, they are doing just fine. Helping with the younger ones and not complaining too much. I had to negotiate between movie time and video game time, but so far they are enforcing it fairly, and even keeping Tucker, Mandy, and Junior occupied.”

“Good. I wish I could say the same for the group out in the basement. Quiet for the moment, but I don‟t expect it to last. Danny and Matt are arguing about anything and everything. Sally cries. Elisabeth sits and reads, though she did offer to help with breakfast. Stephanie is the only one with a mindset similar to ours.”

Surprised, Trish asked, “She‟s a prepper?”

“I don‟t really think so. I think she‟s just smart and understands the situation.”

“How did she get hooked up with Matt?”

“She didn‟t say. She did say it was a mistake. She‟d like to stay on based on her own actions, not those of Matt.”

“One more mouth to feed. But we could sure use a willing set of hands to help when we go back outside. Is she pretty?”

“Would Matt be with her if she wasn‟t?”

“Good point. Just mind your manners until I have a talk with her.”

“Yeah. I kind of mentioned you‟d want to help decide if she stays or goes.”

“Good.” Trish took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “And what about the rest? Do we let them stay and take care of them, or make them leave?”

“I don‟t know, Honey. I just don‟t know. We have additional supplies for just this situation, but they aren‟t limitless.”

“It really is going to come down to productivity, isn‟t it?”

“I think so. I better get back out there. Matt will tear the cabinet door off to get to the booze if I‟m not there to ration it out slowly to him.”

“Any idea yet on when we can leave the shelter and be outside?”

“I think I have enough numbers to back track on Tired Old Man‟s spreadsheet and get a valid number. Matter of plugging in possibilities until the numbers I have match those in the program.”

“I wonder how he and his family are making out?”

“He‟s sharp as a tack. I suspect if it is possible to survive where he is, then he is doing okay. Okay. Back into the fray.”

Again only Stephanie noted Joe‟s return to the family room. Very much to Joe‟s surprise, she said, “I found this spreadsheet in one of the files. It‟s a time until exit calculator. I‟ve been plugging in numbers to try and match the readings I‟ve been taking. Things aren‟t matching very well.”

Statistics: Posted by brucearmstrong65 — Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:59 am