Ozark Retreat - Chapter 6



Ozark Retreat - Chapter 6

Getting out of the Suburban Brady walked over to the gate and gave a password. The gates began to open. Brady drove through them when they were wide enough apart and they began to close again. There was a concrete parking lot off to one side of the gate opening and Brady pulled into it. Star looked back at the gate. Where the circle was on the outside of the gate was a pipe sticking out at least three feet from the wall. Some type or rod or pipe was centered in it.

Star suddenly noticed people walking along the top of the walls, behind the parapets. They were all carrying rifles on slings over their shoulders. Every so often one or another of them would stop and look out at the forest encircling the place with a pair of binoculars.

Brady saw Barbara running over toward the Suburban. She came to an abrupt halt when Star opened her door and stepped out. She regained her composure quickly and hurried up to Brady to give him a big hug. Brady had to lean over for her, since she was seven months pregnant.

“Who all has made it in?” Brady asked.

“Only about half,” Barbara replied. “We haven’t heard from anyone since the EMP.”

“Barbara, this is Star. Star Barbara. She’s number two in command here.” Brady introduced them to one another as he came around the front of the Suburban. “Any hard news?”

“Nothing was announced before we lost communications. No activity on the radiation meters. But the airways are just screaming with static. Occasionally we’ll hear a burst of it. Dwayne doesn’t know if that is just natural for an ionized atmosphere or an indication that more warheads are hitting.”

Star blanched. They were talking about it so matter-of-factly. She was terrified, but she stood there and listened.

“Okay,” Brady said. “Get everyone not already in the blast shelter inside. I’ll take the watch for a while. No need to risk any more people outside than necessary. Take the Suburban over to the women’s dorm and get Star settled there, then into the shelter with the others.

“I’d rather stay with you,” Star said.

Barbara looked on, fascinated.

“Of course not,” Brady said.

“I can help. I owe you for bringing me. Better me at risk than people that have planned this. They deserve the best chance possible to get through it.”

Brady could tell she was scared, but she offered anyway. And she was always adamant about carrying her own weight. “All right. But don’t make me regret it.” He turned to Barbara. Have one of the sentries give Star their binoculars and radio as you send them down. Star, you’re on sentry duty. Just walk the parapets and scan the forest methodically in each direction. You see anyone coming, sing out.”

Again he turned to Barbara. The GMRS radios did come through all right, didn’t they?”

“Yes,” Barbara replied. But with the static they barely reach across the compound.”

“That’s all we need at the moment,” Brady replied. “Get me one, too.”

Barbara hurried off. Star followed behind. Each of the sentries that came down protested, but Brady sent them to the blast shelter. The compound was where it was in part because there were no perceived targets close. But Brady had never trusted to the fact that all the missiles would hit their intended targets. It seemed likely to him that at least some would malfunction and that meant they were as likely to hit nearby as far away.

Brady watched Star for a few moments. She was doing as he asked. He had barely walked back to the Suburban to take it to his housing unit to unload his stuff when the radio in his pocket squealed.

“Someone coming up the road,” Star said. He looked over at her and she pointed toward the road.

Brady hurried over to the gate. He opened the spy panel in one of the gates. It was Dr. Amos. He opened the Cadillac’s door and put one foot on the ground raising his head above the roof. He gave the password and Brady operated the gate controls. They could be opened by hand, but it was a struggle. They’d tried to EMP proof as much of the key electrical circuits as they good. Apparently at least some of the methods had worked.

Brady spoke into the radio, calling for Barbara. “Dr. Amos is here. Send someone out to help. Not you. You’re restricted to the blast shelter for the duration. And no arguments.”

Barbara didn’t protest. She had the unborn baby to worry about. She sent one of the men.

When Brady checked, Star was making her rounds. She hadn’t stayed to watch.

Brady let three more sets of people in when Star called him on the radio and said she had to go to the bathroom. “Okay,” Brady said. “I think it’s time to get into the shelter. Anyone else that comes up will have to use the alternate signal to get one of us out of the shelter to let them in. We’re just taking too big of a risk. It’s been two hours since the EMP. Maybe the war is over now. Maybe not. Just come on down.”

When she reached the bottom of the nearest stairway up to the ramparts, Brady joined her to show her the way into the shelter. As Brady took the first step the sky lit up behind them. He grabbed Star’s hand and began to run without saying a word. Terror lent wings to Star’s feet. She stayed up with him as he headed for the exterior entrance to the blast shelter. The heavy door was already closing. It should have already been closed, but Brady never said anything about it. He and Star would probably have been dead if they had not delayed closing the door.

The residents of the blast shelter felt it move as the ground wave hit. Sounds of blast valves closing on the air intakes told of the presence of the blast wave arriving seconds later. Brady was glad they worked. They should already have been closed manually.

Everyone looked around at everyone else. All knew that the nuclear blast had to have been relatively close. Several people called out to Brady and Star. “What direction? What direction?”

“South East,” Brady said. Many people let out sighs of relief. The wind was blowing from the north at the moment, but was usually from the west. They should miss much of the fallout, though certainly not all of it, as close as they were to the blast.

“Hey! Hey!” yelled the man manning the communications console. “There’s someone at the gate!”

“I need two people,” Brady called. Half a dozen men stood up or moved forward.

“I’ll go,” Star said, stepping toward the blast door.

Brady didn’t feel he had time to argue. The remote reading radiation survey meter was still silent and still. No radiation yet. But that nearby blast would be dumping some on them soon. Brady pointed to one of the men and turned away. He, the man, and Star ran out when one of the others opened the blast door. “Close it,” he ordered. “Open it only on the password.”

The three hurried to the main gate and Brady checked the peep hole. “Geez! It’s Holly Hamston! And she’s hurt.

George, the other man, worked the gate controls and Brad and Star ran out. Holly was lying on the ground, covered in blood. Her car was upside down, resting against the wall near the gate. Brady took a quick look at the nearest forest. There were lots of trees down from the blast wave and ground shock.

George ran over to check the car. There was another person in it. A child. But George could tell he was dead. He ran back to help Brady with Holly. They would have to get a stretcher or risk further injuring her.

“Brady,” Star said, reaching behind her to touch him on the shoulder. “Several people are coming. On foot.”

He took a quick look. They were still too far away for Brady to recognize any of them. But they made their identity known. Those in the forefront of the group raised rifles and began to run forward, firing as they came.

“Criminey,” Brady said. He drew his Glock and pumped several rounds toward the group, not expecting to hit anyone, but hoping to slow them down. “Come on, George! We have to get her inside.” Both men reached down and grabbed her under the arms. Brady steadied her head as they drug her toward and through the gate.

Star was firing her PPK at the still approaching crowd as she backed toward the gate. George and Brady gently put Holly down and both jumped toward the gate controls. They were almost closed when Star yelped and fell down. Brady pulled out his radio and keyed the mike. “I need a medical team and a security team on the double.”

Star sat on the ground, groaning, her hands wrapped around her left thigh. Blood was oozing from a hole in her jeans. Brady ran for the steps to get up behind the parapets to see where the advancing group was.

As soon as he showed his face between the merlons he had to duck back. Someone had taken a shot at him. He picked another spot and eased he head around for a quick look. The group was milling around, a hundred feet away, apparently trying to decide what to do.

“Hey!” Brady yelled and ducked behind a merlon when he saw one of the group raise a rifle. A shot rang out. Brady had no idea where it went, but he stayed behind the merlon as he called out again. “What do you want?” He realized how ridiculous the question was even as he asked it.

“Let us in! We know you have shelter! We want in!”

Brady took another quick look. They were still milling around, several of those with weapons had them trained on the parapet. He changed positions again and then directed the dozen armed men and women that had joined him to spread out. He sent three to keep an eye on the rest of the area surrounding the compound.

“We don’t have room for all of you,” Brady called down to the group. “Send in your women and children and then go look for shelter elsewhere. I suggest you hurry.”

“It’s all or nothing!” screamed one of the men. He fired at the parapets again, and there came a fusillade of rounds as his companions did the same thing.

“Open fire,” Brady called to his group, resulting in a flurry of shots from both sides, with half a dozen of the group outside falling down. The rest scrambled for the concealment of the trees. Brady’s group continued to fire until there were no more targets in sight. Three more men went down.

“Everyone okay?” Brady asked, moving down the line. They had sustained nothing more than some concrete dust in the face of one of the women from a ricochet. Dust began to fall from the darkening sky.

Brady’s radio buzzed and he keyed it. “Brady.”

“We’re getting radiation readings now. Low, but climbing steadily. You’ve got to get everyone inside.”

“Okay.” Brady signaled the others and directed them to head for the shelter. They scrambled to obey, the dust coming down more heavily every second.

“Brady! Hurry!” came Barbara’s voice from the radio. “The radiation just jumped to 5,000r!”

“Last chance!” Brady yelled over to the tree line. “Send the women and children!” His answer was another fusillade of shots. Brady headed for shelter.

He had to wait for his turn in the decontamination room off the main entrance to the blast shelter. When he was decontaminated and in clean clothes, Brady hurried over to the communications station. He checked the AMP-200 high range survey meter. Already up from 5,000 to 6,000 and the digital readout was scrolling the numbers higher as they watched.

“Geez!” Brady said softly. There was nothing he could do for those outside. Even if he did let them in most would die from the massive doses they were receiving now. He would undoubtedly become sick himself, though he didn’t think he’d received a deadly dose. He felt like kicking himself for not having clipped on a dosimeter before he went outside.

Brady suddenly remembered Holly and Star. He went over to the area set aside as the infirmary. One of the nurses that were part of the MAG stopped Brady. “Dr. Amos is attending to Star.”

“What about Holly?” Brady asked.

The woman shook her head. “The injuries were just too bad. I don’t think we could have saved her with a full trauma ward.”

Brady waited, rather impatiently, until Dr. Amos came out from behind the curtain that delineated the infirmary.

“How is she, Doc?” he immediately asked.

“She’s resting. I gave her a pain killer and antibiotics. It was a through and through so I didn’t have to go in for the bullet. She should be okay in a few days.”

Brady breathed a sigh of relief.

Dr. Amos continued. “I’m sorry about the other woman… Holly, wasn’t it? We tried, but…”

“The nurse told me. Did you take care of it?

Dr. Amos nodded. “Body bag is in the designated area for burial when we get out.”

“Can I see Star?” Brady asked.

“She’ll be a bit woozy, but okay. Don’t take too long.”

Brady nodded and stepped behind the curtain. Star was on a cot, a blanket up to her chin. Her eyes were a little dull as she turned them to Brady. They seemed to brighten slightly at the sight of him. “You okay?” she asked, her voice a little slurred.

“I’m fine. The doctor said you were going to be fine, too.”

“I know. He told me. I’m kind of tired. Could you sit with me for a few minutes?”

Brady hurried to get a chair and bring back to her bedside. She reached out her hand and Brady took it gently in his. It was only a minute or so and she was asleep. He sat there and watched her for several more minutes and then Brady eased her hand back onto the edge of the cot. He got up and went to check on things in the blast shelter.

He found Harry. “What’s the inside reading?”

“Under 0.05.


“Filters are working good. On battery right now.”

“Any signs of damage from the blast wave and ground shocks?”

“Not in here,” Harry replied. “How about Topside?”

“Didn’t notice anything in the compound. Quite a few trees down. Didn’t really notice if the antenna towers were still up or not. How about comms? The faraday cage work?”

“Don’t know yet. Wanted to wait a bit, just in case of another EMP. We’re thinking about hooking up a broadband to an external antenna once in a while to check for a few minutes and then unhook and ground the antenna lead again. Minimal risk.”

“Good idea. Do it.”

“When do you think we can disperse to the other shelters? Even without full occupancy we’re crowded.”

“I want to give it a day. Wait for the radiation to begin falling and wait out a second attack. Everyone get potassium iodate?”

“Yeah. Doc Started handing them out as soon as he got here.

Barbara came up to them then. “Boss, we’ve got a census and set up sleeping and eating schedules.” She went over the list of names of those that had made it to the compound. And those that had not. Brady could only hope they’d found expedient shelter and would be able to make it to the compound after the radiation faded.

“What do you think is going on out there?” Barbara asked, nodding toward the entryway.

“I’m sure some of that group are trying to get in. Probably will with no one defending the place. I just hope they don’t do too much damage. Everything is locked up. I doubt they have any tools except for their weapons. What I can’t figure is how they survived the blast wave.”

Barbara thought for a moment. “If they were in that low spot just before the turn into our road, they might have been fairly well protected. Think they’ll try to break in here?”

“Possibly. But they won’t be able to without explosives. And then we can destroy them in the entry airlock as they come in,” Brady said grimly. He would have helped as many of the group as he could, the women and children, if they’d just tried to cooperate. But they had decided to try to take over the place. That wasn’t going to happen.

The group settled in for the duration. Brady had planned well. They had everything they needed in the shelter. After the radiation had peaked at nearly 10,000r and then dropped rapidly to under 1,000r, Brady decided to let the primary investors move to their own basement shelters if they wanted. He felt the risk of another nearby burst was very unlikely. As it was, even the basement shelters provided significant blast protection.

So the hatches to the tunnel system were opened and people used the automotive crawlers Brady had purchased to move to the other shelters to ride out the rest of the wait time until they could go outside.

All those that had been outside when the fallout started showed the early symptoms of radiation poisoning. Nausea and/or vomiting the first day or so, with Brady suffering the most. Some became lethargic and lost some hair in the two weeks following, again with Brady having the worst of it. Everyone else was fine.

They settled in for the long haul. Based on the seven ten rule, which the actual radiation readings were confirming, it would be five months before considerable time could be spent outside, with it being a full year before they could expect to leave the shelter permanently. However, after a month Brady sent out a team to check on the compound.

The team suited up in Tyvek environmental suits, rubber boots and gloves, and Millennium CBRN respirators. They were on a fifteen minute time limit as the radiation was just below 5r.

All the faces were ashen when the team came in, and gave their report after they decontaminated. Brady, Harry, Barbara, and Dr. Amos listened as the team described what they’d seen.

The gates were still closed, the power having been cut off during the attack. Some men had been able to scale the walls and gain entrance to the compound, but they had not been able to open the gates manually. There was a hidden braking system on both gate panels.

There were bodies everywhere, singly and in groups, both inside and outside the compound. Dead from the radiation it looked like in most of the cases, plus a few shootings that had taken place after the compound residents had taken shelter. There were signs of the people having tried to enter the primary housing units, without success.

“There were women and kids all in a group, just outside the gates,” one of the team said, and then broke down, crying. It was a near thing for the rest. Dr. Amos took charge, leading the team over to another of the doctors in the group that had a lot of psychological training.

“Should we send out another team to do something with the bodies?” Harry asked.

Brady shook his head. “Not now. It won’t make any difference to the dead, and we have to save radiation doses for more important things, just in case. The command group broke up, going their own ways. Brady was staying in the blast shelter while the others in the command structure, all primary investors, had gone to their own shelters.

Brady spent a lot of his time talking to the recuperating Star. She was able to get around on crutches. The wound was healing nicely, but it itched and she had a tendency to scratch at it without thinking about it. Brady himself was recuperating from the radiation poisoning. He was very weak and lethargic. Talking to Star raised his spirits. She was full of stories about her life growing up wealthy in Kansas City.

The first five months passed and groups began going out, fully suited, and for limited times. Only those in the lowest potential risk category went out. Those that were older, mostly, for the residual effects would probably not show up in them until late in their lives. The young, and those that had already received doses, were exempted until the radiation fell to lower levels. Brady chafed at not being able to go out, but he was high risk now, with the exposure he’d had and the resulting depression of his immune system.

Fortunately they were well stocked with medical grade masks. The doctors ordered everyone to wear one when they were in the blast shelter among the large group, to reduce the risk of spreading any infections. Even given that, mild cold symptoms spread through most of the population of the blast shelter. Those that were staying in their own shelters were for the most part spared that.

The teams began the cleanup and decontamination. The decontamination was made much easier with the designs of the building and compound, and the equipment they had on site. Because of the limited times each group could be out it took some time to do the decontamination, even as easy as it was with what they had.

Using the light construction equipment Brady had provided the MAG a mass grave was dug and the bodies of the dead were buried out near the trees where most of them had died. Holly and her son got individual graves in an area Brady had set aside for such cases. No one had known about it until Brady brought it up.

The farmers stripped a thin layer of soil off the garden area and began putting in the garden when spring arrived. They didn’t have much hope for it. The sky was cloudy more often than not, and the temperatures were not coming up the way they should, even for early spring. They did get quite a bit of spring rain. It carried a tiny amount of fine fallout particles, less and less with each rain.

Juan Mendoza moved back to his farm. People had been making trips to see about the animals. Some had survived in the shelters the MAG had had built. Juan had left plenty of feed and water for them. But there were still heavy losses. The compound’s own animals came through without a problem in their earth sheltered barn.

The communications people had to replace a couple of antennas, though the heavy duty free-standing towers had come through with shining colors. The amateur radio operators in the group kept the command team informed on what was going on in the rest of the world. It wasn’t much. It had been global nuclear war. Even the southern hemisphere had taken some hits with nuclear weapons, including Australia, Africa, and South America, though not nearly to the degree of the Northern Hemisphere.

The Swedes and Swiss had come out the best, with their extensive Civil Defense Preparedness Program. Russia and the Republics had managed to shelter much of their population, but had lost almost all of their infrastructure, including many of their underground factories.

China had attacked Europe as well as North America and the Russian Republics. She had been hammered in return, by the US, Russia, Great Britain, and France. The Republics had also hit Europe hard after an initial delay, and Great Britain, France, and the US had responded.

The Middle East became one huge battlefield. Nuclear weapons from both sides flew, but when all were gone, ground forces began battling. It was ongoing. Just as it had been for the past many centuries. Essentially the same thing happened in Africa. Not that many nukes, but all the old tribal rivalries came to the fore without the interference of United Nations Peacemakers. Most of Africa actually did revert to near the Iron Age.

South Korea was overrun by the North, and China managed to take Taiwan, despite the efforts of the US Carrier Task Forces. They ran out of munitions and had to retreat. Both Task Forces were nuked, causing the loss of one of the carriers and most of the support ships. Only the submarines operated with impunity. Those on the high seas, anyway. All known US submarine support bases were hit with multiple warheads. Several subs were caught entering and leaving the area and were lost.

The American hunter/killer submarines had several field days. They were taking out opposing subs and surface ships right and left until they too ran out of munitions. The subs that the hunter/killers didn’t get the ASW destroyers and frigates did.

The information came to the compound in bits and pieces over time. Initially they only knew what happened locally.

As the radiation levels continued to fall those in the compound began to make excursions further and further from the compound, using the small fleet of vehicles Brady had provided. Of all the vehicles brought by MAG members only one ran after the EMP attack. A young single man’s diesel converted Jeep Wrangler.

Branson was almost deserted. Most of the surrounding farms were as well. The group managed to corral surviving stock animals and add them to Juan’s herds and flocks.

Three more MAG members and their families showed up after the local radiation level had fallen to less than one. They’d agreed to run together. Car trouble for one of them delayed their arrival long enough that they had to take local shelter. Fortunately they were far enough away that the local blast didn’t affect them. They received minor fallout from the west and northwest, but managed to shelter safely in a small town city hall basement.

When they began to travel after their local radiation dropped below 0.1r, they would stop if they hit an area with higher radiation levels until it fell to a safer level, or they would try to go around.

All three families had been avid campers and were able to carry all the supplies and equipment they’d had in their vehicles on bicycles. Some which one family had brought with them, and some scavenged.

Every member of the small group suffered serious radiation poisoning symptoms, but only one of them died after they got to the compound. The others had to stay in the primary shelter unit they were sharing most of the time. They were just too weak to contribute to the work and would be for some time. Dr. Amos and the other medical people watched them carefully and treated them the best they could without a hospital.

Star, on the other hand, as soon as she could get about without the crutches and too much pain, threw herself into work. Brady had to sharply limit her outside access in the early days, much to her dismay. Even when inside she was usually helping the two teachers the MAG had as members with the children while their parents were working or taking some time for themselves.

The garden didn’t do well at that summer and fall. Most of the plants were disked into the soil. The three green houses, with grow light augmenting what natural sunlight there was did very well. Every inch of growing space inside was being used.

Juan had moderate success with his oil crop, but he managed to make over a thousand gallons of biodiesel over and above what the farm and the compound used that year. It was set aside for trading purposes.

They did some trading with some of the other local survivalist compounds as contacts were made with them through radio communications and exploration trips. There had been quite a few similar groups in the area. Not all of them had fared well, Brady learned.

One of the first Brady’s MAG checked on was the one to which LaRhonda belonged. They had made it through the heavy fallout, but one of the members had been ill when she arrived and severe flu ran through the entire group. LaRhonda was one of only a dozen members out of thirty that survived it.

Brady set up an agreement with Sam Fellows, who had also survived the flu. Their animals had come through without a problem. Sam’s MAG had a barn very similar to Brady’s. They needed manpower and fuel. They had run their generator almost constantly when everyone was sick and dying. Brady’s MAG would get additional firewood, animal food products, and propane. One of Sam’s MAG members ran a propane business and had brought a semi-load and two delivery truck loads with him when he and his family bugged out to their compound.

Another compound went through the same thing as Sam’s. They joined forces, the other camp moving lock, stock, and barrel to Sam’s.

One of the main reasons for the excursions, besides making group contacts, was to find as many delivery trucks as they could and recover useable supplies. Branson was a tourist attraction and didn’t have all that much useable goods, compared to its size. But they did need constant re-supply of consumables, so Brady and his group were able to scavenge quite a bit.

Brady’s MAG was light on people like truck drivers so more agreements were set up with Sam’s MAG and some of the others to share the resources found with the other MAG’s providing the drivers and mechanics while Brady’s group, with the most fuel and operable vehicles did the scouting and much of the labor. They also provided for the health care of several of the MAG’s that didn’t have medical personnel. The doctors and nurses made their own arrangements for trades and barters.

There had been no city, county, or state government left to speak of, and the feds were staying in the cities and just outside to try to get some semblance of infrastructure going again. Remote communities were left to their own devices. Which suited most of the MAG’s in the Ozark mountains. They were doing okay for themselves for the most part. The weather was still crappy, and Brady’s MAG’s greenhouse goods were in great demand.