Ozark Retreat - Part II - Chapter 2 & Chapter 3




Ozark Retreat - Part II - Chapter 2

Joshua went to the dining room for breakfast the next morning. There weren’t that many eating in the dining room. The buffet had been busy when he passed it on his way down. Joshua started to take a bite of his Eggs Benedict when he heard something. He put down his fork. He knew that sound. It was an F-18 buzzing the ship.

Like most of the others in the dining room he left his breakfast behind and went out on deck. A second F-18, or more accurately, A CF-18, the Royal Canadian Air Force version of the aircraft, flew by at ship’s stack height.

The two aircraft joined up in formation, made a wide sweeping turn and came toward the ship from the side, well ahead of the bow. When they were close, the lead plane fired a burst from the 20mm cannon, which was part of its armament.

People screamed and dashed away from the bow as the aircraft cut across it. Joshua couldn’t believe it. The Royal Canadian Air Force was warning them off. They weren’t going to be allowed to disembark on Canadian soil.

The Captain confirmed Joshua’s thought just after the jets took to a high altitude watch flight pattern. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I regret to inform you that we are not going to be allowed to make landfall on Canadian soil. A boat will be sent out for our Canadian passengers. They will be allowed to disembark the ship and go home. I will advise you of our next course of action soon. Stay calm and do not despair. We will find a safe place to put to shore.”

There was pandemonium throughout the ship, passengers and crew alike. People were yelling epitaphs toward the unseen shoreline. Some people were just screaming. Others were crying. A few were trying to calm the others down.

Joshua turned and helped break up a fight. Two men had taken umbrage apparently with a Canadian passenger that was trying to defend Canada’s actions. Members of the ship’s crew rapidly hurried the Canadian away.

It was an hour before a Royal Canadian Navy patrol vessel rendezvoused with the motionless Elite. Many of the passengers and even some of the crew yelled more epitaphs and curses at those leaving the Elite and the crew of the patrol boat picking them up.

Joshua thought he was going to have to defend himself when he commented that he could understand why the Canadians were doing what they were doing. “Can’t really blame them,” he said. “Over two thousand people all in one place in the aftermath of a nuclear war? I don’t think I’d want them coming to my home, either.”

He made himself scarce as the ship began to move again. He wasn’t about to get into a fist fight over his opinion. Joshua started to head for the Smoking Parlor, but shook his head. “Jerry is right about quitting smoking. He might as well give it up now as later. Instead of the Smoking Parlor he went to the library. Canada was out. The New England states were out unless he really missed his guess.

Hopefully the Captain would announce where they were headed soon. For the moment Joshua would do a little general research on the south east coast of the US. He found what he could on the area and then went down for lunch.

Things had changed on the ship after the episode that morning. Joshua noticed it as soon as he left the library. People were talking in whispers, grim expression on their faces. There had been worry before, of course, but now it was worse. Before there was a safe destination in mind. Now there was only speculation.

Another change was the meal. Much more limited menu and the serving sizes were smaller for the most part. Passengers complained.

Some of the crew were becoming less polite and ready to please. More passengers complained. Joshua had a feeling the ship’s officers were running into some employee relationship problems.

He had taken for granted the quick, courteous service of the officers and crew. Joshua quit doing that. He asked for little and expressed his thanks sincerely. He began tipping with ones for the little services he did get. He had a feeling that the crew might not be getting the accustomed tips at the end of the cruise. And that they knew it.

Joshua was right. There was full blown mutiny by dinner time. At least half the crew was refusing to work, from the looks of it. It was obvious in the dining room. The servers and bus people that were in evidence were covering twice or more their regular stations.

Many of the passengers made it worse, complaining to every crew member coming into earshot. Joshua noticed Sue and her new beau were some of the loudest of the bunch. Joshua quietly asked his server if there was some way he could help. She shook her head. “No, sir. Not now, anyway.” She hurried off when someone at another table called for her loudly.

Joshua was at a loss. He went on deck after dinner, trying to sort possibilities in his head. They were traveling southeast now. Away from the North American Continent at an angle. Joshua assumed it was to avoid fallout and the ship would turn back to the west when the Captain was sure there was no more fallout. When he went to his stateroom he had to make up the bed.

He woke up to an announcement that the dining room was closed. The other various daily options for meals were being discontinued, as well. Meals would only be available at the buffet and portions would be limited. No seconds allowed.

When Joshua went up it was a mob scene. He saw Jerry standing in an out of the way corner, watching. There was a woman with him this time. Joshua noted her wan appearance, and jerky movements. Her eyes were never still, darting here and there as people moved about.

“Won’t hurt me to miss a meal,” Joshua said, patting his stomach, trying for a little levity.

“I’ve got to get June something to eat. She hasn’t eaten anything since yesterday morning.” Jerry turned appealing eyes to Joshua. “Would you wait here with her while I go try to get her something? She won’t go up to the buffet with all the people there. I’m afraid they’ll stop serving before she’s willing to get something herself.”

“Sure, Jerry. No worries.” Joshua tried to engage June in conversation, but she just ignored him. She stepped behind him when someone came near them.

Jerry worked his way up the line and was able to come back some time later with a plate of food. “You’d better hurry,” he told Joshua. “There’s not much left and they said there won’t be any more until dinner. No lunch.” He took his wife over to a vacant table and sat down beside her. Joshua thought he was going to have to feed her, but she finally picked up the fork and began to eat.

When Joshua went over after the line had thinned out, he found that Jerry was right. There were only a few odds and ends left. He took what he could get, considering there wouldn’t be anything until evening. Of course, there was still the items in the stateroom dispenser.

After he ate, Joshua tried to corral an officer to offer his assistance if they would take it. But they all seemed to be on missions of their own. He finally got one stopped long enough to make the offer. “Sir, the Captain will be addressing that issue this afternoon. Please wait until then and follow his lead.”

“Will do,” Joshua said. It sounded like the command crew was ready to let some of the passengers help where they could.

That was exactly what the Captain announced. He didn’t address the fact that some of the crew weren’t working, only that there had been offers of help from passengers and he would allow it in specific circumstances. People would need to keep up their staterooms on their own. That staff was needed elsewhere.

Joshua was one of the first ones to sign up. They put him to work with a vacuum cleaner, cleaning the common areas. The Captain was determined to keep the ship clean and orderly, Joshua decided. He finally noticed that he wasn’t seeing any crew that wasn’t working. He wondered where the mutineers were, but didn’t ask.

Sue and her beau walked by and she laughed at him delightedly. “And to think I used to go out with you. I must have been out of my mind.” She was still laughing as they walked away.

Though he hadn’t expected it, Joshua found out there were a couple of perks for helping out. Those that worked that day were served meals in the crews mess. Nothing fancy or excessive, but a good filling meal.

Jerry, when Joshua ran into him that evening, said it had been another mob scene at the buffet. June wasn’t with him.

“Were you able to get June to eat again?”

With a sad smile on his face, Jerry shook his head. “Only what she ate this morning. I don’t know what to do. She won’t go see the doctor. I hate leaving her in the room by herself, but I just have to get out and get a cigarette every once in a while. I can’t stand being in that stateroom for hours on end.”

“I understand,” Joshua told him. There wasn’t much else to say. They each were lost in their own thoughts for a while and then Joshua said he was going down to his stateroom to go to bed.

“This early?” Jerry asked.

“Used muscles today I haven’t used in years. I’m beat.”

“You volunteered?”


“I think I may do that tomorrow. For something to do.”

“It would probably help. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night.”

Joshua was up bright and early the next morning, having gone to bed as early as he had. He was a little sore and decided a run on the deck would be good for him. He made a couple of laps and then saw Jerry and June near the stern of the ship. Just before he turned to go to a stairway and go down and join them, he saw June say something to Jerry and Jerry leave.

When Joshua got down to the deck, he met Jerry coming out from inside the ship. “June wanted a cup of coffee. I was able to finagle one.” Jerry looked around. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know,” Joshua said. They each walked toward opposite side of the ship to look down the length of the decks for her. “You see her over there?” Joshua called.

“No. You?”

Joshua shook his head. “Maybe she went back down to the cabin for a sweater. It is pretty cool out and I noticed she was wearing a sleeveless dress.”

“Yeah. That’s her favorite dress.” Jerry handed Joshua the coffee. “I’m going to go check the stateroom.”

A few minutes later he came running back, panic in his eyes. “We have to stop the ship! She’s jumped!” He was waving a piece of paper. “She left a note! How do we stop the ship?”

Joshua ran to find an officer. Jerry was staring at the white wake of the ship. It was ten minutes before the ship began to slow and turn. Jerry ran to the furthest point he could go forward, and began to scan the ocean in front of them as the ship lined up with the wake.

Afraid Jerry would do something stupid, Joshua stayed right with him. A ship’s officer came up to them and began to question Jerry about his wife. Jerry showed him the note. “She just couldn’t handle what happened,” he said. He was crying now. “She can’t swim.”

The Elite came to a stop and lowered several of the life boats to search a wider area and then the Elite began searching again, too. It was almost dark when the lifeboats were recalled. “I’m sorry, sir,” said the officer. “We have to consider your wife lost at sea.”

“No! Jerry groaned. He collapsed to his knees, sobbing. Joshua and the officer got him up and down to the infirmary. Joshua stayed in the infirmary while the doctor talked to Jerry and gave him something to calm him and help him sleep. Joshua walked him back to the stateroom, made sure he got into bed and then went up see if there was any food left from the buffet dinner. There wasn’t.

Joshua got a can of nuts out of the self-serve dispenser in his stateroom and went to bed himself. He was exhausted mentally. Jerry’s wife’s suicide on top of the worry about his daughter was getting to him.

He went for a run on deck the following morning to work some more of the kinks out. Joshua noticed that their course was now to the south west.

He was first in line for the breakfast buffet and then for the work details. It seemed to Joshua that there were a few more of the crew at work than there had been. It was the same for the next three days. Jerry joined him on the work details, saying it kept his mind off of his wife.

Joshua looked up from the deck as he was running the next day and saw a roughness to the horizon in front of the ship. They were approaching land.

After breakfast the public address system chimed and the Captain began speaking. “Ladies and Gentlemen. I am pleased to announce that we will be making landfall in the morning at Savanna, Georgia. We have had contact with amateur radio operators that say, though the city was hit with a nuclear missile, it missed the port. The radioactivity is down enough to allow a small volunteer crew to go in and look for fuel and food. We will not be able to remain. Everyone will be transferred to the life boats, which will remain offshore to avoid the radiation until the ship can refuel and restock if fuel and provisions are available.”

There were loud protests all around Joshua. Seems most of the people wanted to go to shore as soon as possible. Jerry looked over at Joshua. “What do you think? You going to try to get to shore?”

“Are you nuts? Right into a radiation zone? No way.”

Someone behind them had heard Joshua’s comment. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, fellow. He said the radiation was low enough to go in. He wouldn’t be doing that if there was any real risk. He just wants to get us off the ship so they can get the food and fuel and for themselves so they can go back to England.”

“If there is no risk, why don’t you ask to go in with the ship and disembark? Head out on your own.”

“I think I’ll do just that, smart guy!” The man stomped off, looking for a ship’s officer.

“You sure, Josh?” Jerry asked.

“Sure as I can be. I think the Captain and most of the crew have done everything they could to keep us safe. I’m not going to start questioning them now.”

“Okay. I’m with you, then.”

Apparently quite a few of the passengers and crew had the same idea as the angry man, for the Captain was on the public address system only a few minutes later with another announcement. You could hear the anger in his voice. “Ladies and Gentlemen. This is not a game. Several of us, all volunteers, will be risking our future health in trying to re-supply the Elite in order to get to a place that is safe enough for us all. No one will be allowed to disembark from the ship at the port. That is all.”

There were more outcries. Joshua and Jerry got out of the crowd, suddenly fearing that violence might break out. They found a corner out of the way and watched the crowd warily. The ship began to slow and the report-to-lifeboats alarm sounded. Joshua and Jerry headed to their respective staterooms to get their life jackets and report to their lifeboat stations.

Joshua was amazed at how few people were coming out to the lifeboats. More people began to show up, but not nearly as quickly as they had at the lifeboat drill just a few days ago. It was almost twenty minutes before they began boarding the lifeboats. Joshua was sure not everyone had shown up by then. But his boat was full and being lowered to the water below and he lost sight of the activity on board the Elite.

As each lifeboat was filled to capacity, it was lowered, and motored out a little ways from the ship. They gathered together, keeping enough distance to avoid bumping into each other from the gentle wave action. The Elite began to move toward the opening to the harbor.

Suddenly a fight broke out in Joshua’s lifeboat. Two men were trying to drag the helmsman down from his perch. One of them was another crewmember. Others were fighting to keep them from doing so. But more people joined those trying to take over the lifeboat. Joshua was sitting well away from the helm and was unable to influence the fight.

The helmsman was dragged down and passed hand over hand and thrown out the door of the lifeboat. The other crewman climbed onto the raised helmsman’s perch. “We’re going in,” said the man that had helped drag the original helmsman down. “Anyone don’t want to go can just get out now.”

There were loud protests. Joshua was one of the first to head for the door of the lifeboat. He had to climb over several people to get there, but he did, and dived out into the water. He was followed by several more, but the rest that had protested fell silent. They weren’t going into the water.

The new helmsman set off toward the shoreline. Everyone in the water began swimming toward another lifeboat. It started happening all over the small fleet of lifeboats when people saw the other one leaving the group. A couple more lifeboats broke away. There were people leaving other boats, swimming toward those departing. All but the first lifeboat stopped to pick up those that wanted to go to shore.

When it was obvious what was going on, people began to shift from lifeboat to lifeboat when one indicated the majority wanted to stay and another wanted to go. Joshua was amazed that a full three-quarters of the lifeboats headed for shore.

The lifeboats staying behind regrouped and redistributed people to ease over crowding. It was getting dark when the Elite returned to the group of lifeboats. The crew aboard the ship reconnected the lift cables and pulled the lifeboats up to unload.

Joshua saw the Captain talking to one of the officers that had been with the lifeboats. Joshua could tell that he was both angry and disappointed. Many of those that had deserted had been crew. Joshua found out a little later from a talkative crewmember that several passengers had indeed stayed aboard in hiding and exited the ship when it docked and the gangway was lowered. As with the lifeboats, some crew left the Elite, too.

He found out why they hadn’t moved after everyone was aboard. The Captain sent a select team to shore in one of the lifeboats to recover the others. Joshua went up on deck to watch. He saw the string of lifeboats coming back near midnight. The group had recovered all but three of the lifeboats.

When they were hoisted up and locked in their brackets the Elite got underway again. It wasn’t long before the Captain was on the public address system. “Ladies and Gentlemen. I am pleased to announce that we are now fully fueled and have added significantly to our food stores. As you are all aware, I have lost many of my crew to desertion. Any passenger willing to help in the operation of this ship will be greatly appreciated.

“I am also pleased to announce that we located records at the harbor that a regular supply tanker load of diesel was inbound to the harbor from Houston, Texas. I plan to find that ship. That is all.”

Joshua found many of the crew that had gone into Savanna Harbor, including a few of the officers, were more talkative than in the past. He got most of the story of what had gone on in the harbor and in the recovery of the lifeboats.

There was a great deal of damage in the harbor from the blast and ground waves of the device that hit on the western edge of Savanna. Those on the bridge of the ship could see the devastation extending to the limit of their line of sight. The tanks in the tank farm for the harbor all seemed to be standing. There were several empty berths available and the crew docked the ship and then went ashore to see if they could get the fueling system going so they could re-fuel the Elite.

It took most of the day for the work crew assigned to the fuel to find a generator and hook it up to the pump feeding the fuel line to their berth. Though the tanks had appeared undamaged from a distance, when the crew got there they discovered quite a bit of damage. But there was some diesel fuel suitable for the engine in the Elite available in one tank. They transferred all they could get out of the tank to the ship.

While the one team was working on the fuel, two more were sent in search of useable food, with the caution not to venture too far from the harbor. They were able to get a couple of forklifts running, as well as one semi-truck.

They scoured the harbor area for delivery trucks. Much of the food they found had been fresh and was now a rotting mass. But there were canned, bottled and packaged foods, as well. They gathered up all they could find. Like the fuel, there was a limited amount. But it would feed the ship’s compliment for at least two weeks, they decided, if it was rationed carefully. And they still had a week’s worth aboard. They loaded everything aboard, including the forklift that ran on diesel, after strengthening the boarding ramp to the cargo hold. Just in case it was needed in the future.

When it was discovered that three quarters of the passengers and half of the crew had deserted, and the Captain had decided not to try to force those that had left back aboard the ship, he received updated estimates on their situation. They had food for a month for those left aboard, and the fuel tanks were almost full. Since the ship was equipped with desalinators, they didn’t have to worry about water, as long as they had fuel.

Joshua was watching through the windows on the lifeboat deck when those that were going after the other lifeboats disembarked. He noticed that two of the men carried shotguns. They were the ones used for shooting trap off the aft deck. The Captain was not playing games with the deserters. They could leave, but they weren’t taking any more of the ship’s property than he could help.

It didn’t take long to find the lifeboats, bright orange that they were, clustered together near the south shore of the harbor. Apparently those in three of the lifeboats had decided on another location. The recovery crew was able to transfer helmsmen to the other craft and left, without ever seeing anyone ashore, not even a campfire. No one was even standing a watch on the lifeboats. A couple of them weren’t even tied up to the shore, but were drifting free, a quarter of a mile away.

Ozark Retreat - Part II - Chapter 3

The Captain headed the Elite south, keeping the ship just within visual range of the coast. A constant radar watch was kept to try and locate the wayward tanker if it was still at sea. Every time they saw signs of life ashore they halted and checked it out. Carefully. Twice the launch was fired upon before it got close to shore. The other times it was small bands of people eager to get aboard the ship.

Joshua was curious why the Captain wouldn’t let anyone else aboard. He overheard two of the officers discussing it. It was because of the reports they were getting of the levels of fallout along most areas of the coast. Most of those people that weren’t staying in shelters were going to die, most sooner, some later.

They tried stopping at a couple of the small towns and cities, to try to find additional food, but were rebuffed each time by the residents. Armed residents. Seemed that if the place was habitable, then the residents didn’t want any more drain on their resources and if it was abandoned it was still too hot to enter. As it was, those that had gone into Savanna Harbor suffered mild symptoms of radiation poisoning.

There were cruising slowly, just passing Hobe Sound when the sentry on binocular duty called into the bridge. “I see something. It’s definitely a tanker.”

The Elite made a sweeping turn and headed for the sound. The ship lay at anchor some distance from shore. The ship’s launch was grounded nearby on shore. There were no signs of life on shore or aboard the Giuseppe when Elite crew checked each one out. There were signs of heavy fallout, though rains after the fall had washed most of it off the decks of the ship.

Captain Bainseborough-Smith sent a team from the engineering section to see if they could get the ship in operating condition. It didn’t take long. Essentially it had been parked and the key turned off. Everything fired right up. With a couple of engineering crew aboard the Captain brought the others back and transferred enough operations crew to handle the ship.

Fearful of the radiation, the Captain took both ships back out to sea. While it wasn’t a super tanker by any means, the Giuseppe’s cargo tanks could keep both ships sailing the area for several years.

It was obvious, from both direct observation and reports from amateur radio operators that had survived, that the peninsula of Florida was a washout as for as replenishing the ships food stocks. With fuel not a problem, the Captain set the ships’ course south to the Caribbean.

They were able to replenish food supplies about as quickly as they consumed them. Those that had stayed aboard were committed to staying aboard. Those that had it contributed money and belongings to the Elite’s bank to purchase what wasn’t just lying around as they visited island after island. It was usually from small farmers away from the regular port cities.

They were not welcome in many places, especially those that already had a cruise ship or two at berth. The Giuseppe was always left out of sight of land with guards on board armed with shotguns when the Elite went in to shore try to bargain for supplies. It seemed many of the cruise ships were doing the same thing. Pickings were slim. And the demand for the Giuseppe fuel was high when it was discovered to be traveling with the Elite. The Captain headed them toward South America to stay out of harm’s way.

Stops were made every few days all along the Central American east coast. Additional food stocks were purchased from the locals, using anything and everything not tied down to the ship, including the clothing and possessions the deserters had left behind. When they reached Brazilian national waters they had more success, stocking up heavily on fresh food, including a great deal of meat that went into the ship’s freezers. People quit asking what they were having for the next meal, when they got the answers to the questions the first time.

It went well until the Brazilian authorities found out about the Giuseppe. It was ordered into shore. The Brazilians sent a patrol boat out for it, but Captain Bainseborough-Smith ordered it to head due east fast as it could go. He turned the Elite to follow.

Though the patrol boat caught up with the tanker it only circled it a few times and left. The only thing Joshua could think of was that the Brazilian’s still had some infrastructure up and wasn’t willing to spill blood over the tanker. But the Elite and Giuseppe were no longer welcome.

It was winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The Captain turned them back north. They were able to pick up food again along the northern shores of South America and the eastern shores of Central America. When they got to Mexico it was a near repeat of Brazil. They were ordered in, but when they didn’t go, they were left alone.

They had accumulated three month’s worth of food. They headed for Texas. They found a good source of beef in one of the little Texas towns near the shore. This time the Captain had to trade diesel for it, but they got more than a years worth of beef and pork.

They’d taken on live chickens and goats when in South America, along with a great deal of feed, so had on going sources of chicken, eggs, and milk, to go along with the beef and pork that was butchered and frozen.

With those stocks of food, and the fish they were catching with tackle they’d traded for, they were good for well over a year. Now they needed a home base.

They found it in Louisiana near the Texas border. Houston and Galveston had been hammered with nuclear weapons, and with the other targets hit in Texas, the area received a great deal of fallout. But that was fading. There were very few residents left in the area. With the Captain’s permission, most of the passengers and crew opted to stay aboard the Elite. It had everything they needed, except for an actual source for food.

With the two ships in a small, safe harbor, The Elite survivors set up a presence on shore. It took days of exploration on foot to locate a working vehicle. When they found one it allowed them to scavenge in the surrounding area. They found what they needed to prepare gardens, including seeds. The Captain took the ship back to Texas and got more beef. On the hoof this time, to start their own herd.

Joshua fretted, wanting to go look for Precious, but not willing to leave immediately. He felt a responsibility to help get a permanent presence set up on land. With the fuel they had they could live aboard ship as long as they had food. Joshua did what he could for the rest of that year and the next. During that time he bought a whole head of beef with his Rolex watch, and made arrangements with one of the chefs to cut it up for him using the ship’s equipment, for the last of his cash.

He turned nearly an equal amount of the weight of the steer into beef jerky, trading other people specific cuts for more suitable cuts of meat to make into the jerky.

There were boats all along the coast for the taking.

Joshua couldn’t believe his luck when he ran across a sunken MacGregor 26 power sailor on one of his first exploration journeys. Every once in a while, in his past life, he went through a phase of wanting a boat suitable for the Missouri lakes. He’d been impressed with the MacGregor. It was a decent sailor and very good under power. Though it was down to the gunnels in the water, the boat was unsinkable.

He checked under the water for damage and found none. He salvaged a small gasoline powered pump and pumped the boat out, and began refurbishing it in his spare time between his work assignments for the community. The outboard motor that had been on the boat was ruined, but he found a brand new Mercury four stroke 15 hp outboard. It would do until he could get the boat to a good marina and find a 50 hp to up engine the boat. The 15 hp would be moved to the tip up mount for emergency use.

Joshua was able to find dozens of the standard 6-gallon and 12-gallon marine fuel tanks on other boats, but gasoline was scarce. He made sure there were a couple of siphons on board the boat.

With the boat and jerky ready the spring of the third year after the war, Joshua was ready to start his journey to find his daughter, Precious. Having said his good-bye’s Joshua set sail eastward, headed for the mouth of the Mississippi.

He steered clear of any place that looked inhabited, but checked every place along the shore that looked abandoned. He was looking for gasoline, guns and ammunition, and a water purifier. He had water for a week or more on board, but he wanted a way to treat more.

It took a great deal of time, but Joshua’s searches along the Louisiana sea coast, and then the Mississippi River banks finally paid off. He found gasoline here and there, and at one river marina, found an almost full case of 16-ounce bottles of Pri-G.

When he first saw the product he didn’t know what it was, but when he checked the marina’s fuel tanks there was a sign that suggested the Pri-G or Pri-D be used with all the marina’s fuel. He went back into the marina store, got the one bottle they had on display and searched the back room until he found the rest of the case. He grabbed a couple of first-aid kits on display. He didn’t have one.

Though he didn’t need it for the MacGregor, Joshua intended to be traveling by land vehicle at some point and took all the Pri-D he could find, too. There was no telling what he might find that would run.

That marina was a treasure trove in other ways. He found a Mercury 50 hp outboard on one of the boats docked in the marina. It was a struggle, but he got it mounted on the MacGregor, with the 15 hp on the tilt up emergency motor mount. It worked.

The marina store also catered to campers and hikers in the area. They had a small selection of water purifiers. He took all they had, all the replacement filters he could find, and all the accessories. Also some camping equipment.

He began to find more gasoline along one stretch of the river. From what he could see, it had residual amounts of fallout. He saw nothing moving except for fish jumping in the river. With the small chance of someone being around, he searched a little more thoroughly for firearms when he came to nice looking properties facing the river.

Joshua found what he assumed was a World War II vet’s house. It too, like the one marina, was a treasure trove. Joshua found the partially eaten human remains sitting in a chair in the living room of the house, an issue model Colt 1911 pistol in his hand. Propped nearby was an M1 Garand and a Winchester 97 12 gauge trench gun. Both the Garand and the shotgun had long bayonets attached.

The man had all the accoutrements. Cartridge box web belt and suspenders, with ammunition, holster and knife sheaths, a pair of canteens, and two double pouches for the 1911 magazines. There was also a butt pack, and a combat pack with entrenching tool and a machete strapped to it. The two packs were empty. A full dozen 80-round bandoleers with loaded ammunition in the Garand en-bloc clips where at hand. Joshua was doubtful that they were issue, but there were two fifty round leather bandoleers of 12 gauge 00 buck hanging on the top spindle of the chair.

Joshua searched the rest of the house. He found more ammunition for all three weapons stashed in a closet. There was also quite a bit of canned and packaged food. Joshua took it all. He made five trips from the house to the MacGregor, worried each step that he was staying in one place too long. But sill he checked behind the house. Sure enough, there was a restored Willys Jeep. It had a D-handle shovel under one door opening and an axe under the other, and a spare tire and fuel can on the rear. Joshua took the tools and fuel can. It was full. He checked the shed. Six more cans of fuel.

He debated taking the jeep, but it was on the wrong side of the river, and he doubted he could make as good of time northward in the Jeep as he could the boat. Not to mention finding enough gasoline. He was in good shape now, with all his marine portable tanks full and the seven cans from the vet. A dangerous amount, in normal circumstances. He had fuel stashed all over the boat.

After he had loaded everything aboard, Joshua motored away at high speed. The place was giving him the willies.

Joshua was stopping in the heaviest cover he could along the banks for his night stops. He saw the occasional boat out, mostly rowboats, but none showed an inclination to contact him, other than a casual wave as he sailed past. He picked up sailing skills fairly rapidly, though he was far from being an expert.

He was motoring along a stretch of the river with many twists and turns when he met a big jon boat coming down stream under paddle power. The two men in the boat were as startled as Joshua. Joshua looked back. The jon boat was going around the bend. But then he heard the motor that was mounted on the boat fire up and the boat came rushing back around the bend, under full power.

The man in the front of the boat lifted a shotgun and began to fire at the MacGregor. Joshua slammed the throttle of the Mercury 50 hp and sped away. The jon boat, though up on plane, couldn’t keep up with the MacGregor at full speed, as the jon boat’s engine began to sputter and then died, leaving them languishing in the MacGregor’s wake.

Joshua wiped the sweat off his brow and thought to check himself, the boat, and the engines for damage. From the looks of the pellet marks, the man had been using small shot. There were indentations on the motor housings and marks on the back of the boat. It was only when he turned back to face forward that he realized he taken a pellet in his left arm.

He waited until he found a place with a lot of overhanging vegetation, lowered the mast, and eased under it. Then he tended the wound. It wasn’t bad, but Joshua didn’t want it to fester. After sterilizing the blade of his pen knife, Joshua dug out the pellet. It hurt like the dickens, but Joshua managed to get the pellet out without screaming, but it was a near thing.

Wishing he had some alcohol, to wash out the wound as well as to use as a painkiller, he put a band-aid on the little hole and then extricated the MacGregor from the foliage and headed north again, at speed, until he decided he was far enough ahead of the jon boat that it wouldn’t be able to catch him, even if they got there outboard going again.

Joshua kept his vigilance up as he traveled, keeping to the center of the river. There were places where people were on shore, and long stretches with no evidence of anyone. He had two more incidents of being shot at, but he was able to motor away with no damage.

He kept stopping at abandoned places along the river and continued to find small amounts of gasoline, and even some food to supplement his jerky. He used the sail whenever he could, to lesson fuel consumption, but he was fighting the downstream current all the time.

Joshua couldn’t figure out the apparent huge amounts of fallout that seemed to cover the ground in many places after he passed the southern border of Arkansas. It just didn’t look right to be radioactive fallout. Finally, somewhat against his better judgment, he pulled ashore at a place that was covered in the material. He picked up a handful. It wasn’t radioactive fallout, it was volcanic ash. Their shipboard amateurs had mentioned that Yellowstone had blown, but he hadn’t given it much credence at the time. He was a believer now.

Finally he got close to St. Louis. His initial plan had been to stop below St. Louis, a probable target in the war, find a useable vehicle and go over land the rest of the way. But the more he thought about it, going past St. Louis and taking the Missouri upstream was seeming to be a better idea. The MacGregor was doing well. If he could get past St. Louis on the Mississippi, and then take the Missouri River, he could go all the way to Kansas City by water. Another potential nuclear target was Jefferson City, Missouri, the state capital. It was right on the Missouri River.

Joshua decided to at least try to get to the Missouri. He searched for more gas, and managed to fill his containers again, this time from abandoned cars on the highways adjacent to the river. His siphon hose worked like a charm. All he had to do was punch through the anti-siphon block in the filler necks of the newer cars, and siphon the fuel into cans.

He began to see an oily sheen on the surface of the river the closer he got to St. Louis. He began to see damage to the structures near the river. He brought the MacGregor to a halt, using the engine to just hold him in place against the current. It took a couple of minutes to make up his mind. Joshua switched to a full 12-gallon fuel tank and ran the throttle up to full speed. He stayed on the east side of the river, though well away from the shore.

He had to slow down to navigate across the fallen river bridges. Every one in the St. Louis area was down. Joshua saw no one as he motored past the destroyed city. He saw the tanks right on the bank that were leaking diesel into the river. There was probably plenty of gas in one of those tank farms, but he was afraid the radiation levels would be too high for safety.

Joshua had a tense moment when he came to the Alton, Illinois Dam and locks. If they were closed, he didn’t know if he would be able to get past them. But his worries faded when he saw clear passage. He motored through and past, and then into the mouth of the Missouri. He felt ill after traveling two days up the Missouri and laid low for a couple. He couldn’t keep anything on his stomach for the entire two days. Most of his nausea resulted in dry heaves after that.

But he felt better after another day, though rather weak. Joshua admitted to himself that he’d received a pretty good radiation dose passing St. Louis. A week later he began losing some of his thick shock of hair, but it didn’t last long. He was seeing more people now, despite the evidence of the heavy ash fall.

He began to approach people, his acquired weapons at hand. He was able to trade for some fresh food at one place, for some of his jerky, and another place some gasoline for jerky. He sheared away quickly from anyone that showed any signs of aggression. He was a tempting target and new it. Most of the other boats he was seeing on the river were much smaller.

If Jefferson City had been a target, it had been missed. He sailed past without a problem. He was on the last leg of the journey. Joshua was dismayed when he reached the northeast corner of the city. It was as close to the city as he could get on the boat. It wasn’t looking good and he began to worry about radiation.

He found a good spot and unloaded the boat onto shore. He buried the fuel and most of the food in several caches, including one that contained the Winchester 97. Then he hooked up the pump he’d used to raise the MacGregor and used it to sink her again.

He buried the pump, using a piece of tarp he’d scavenged one day, with no particular use in mind. It just seemed a boat needed tarps. With the camping equipment in and on the combat pack and butt pack, and food and water inside, Joshua holstered the Colt and picked up the Garand. He didn’t get very far. From the looks of the destruction, one of the detonations had not been very far away. And in that direction were the remains of his home. It might even be at ground zero.

There was nothing there for him. He turned back, tears in his eyes. If Precious was alive, there were no clues on how to find her. In the four days he’d been on foot, nothing had changed where he’d stashed the MacGregor. He raised the boat, dug up his gear and loaded it back aboard, and then set sail.

Several times Joshua thought about stopping and trying to make a life for himself in one of the communities he was passing for the second time. But the weather was extremely cool for the time of the year and Joshua knew the cruise ship encampment on the gulf was going to be the best chance he had of long term survival.

He wasted no time going back. The current was with him all the way He picked up a bullet in the shoulder from the Louisiana side of the Mississippi when he was about halfway down the state. Joshua was in bad shape when he grounded the MacGregor at the cruise ship encampment and waded ashore three days later.

The next thing he remembered was waking up in the ship’s infirmary, with Patricia holding his hand. He became an expert fisherman, with the MacGregor his fishing vessel. It looked a bit puny next to some of the other, diesel powered boats that had been salvaged. But they were on rationed amounts of diesel from the tanker. Joshua could go out anytime he wanted, under sail, which was often.

He was able to keep his fuel tanks full, trading fish. Someone somewhere close was rumored to have found a gasoline tanker and pup. Joshua didn’t care where the gasoline came from. He filled every container he could find, treating the fuel with Pri-G, to have the fuel for a rainy day. Despite the warnings from those that knew about the amount of gasoline he had onboard the MacGregor, he continued to store it on the boat.

Another thing that Joshua did was get married to Patricia. The Captain performed the ceremony, for them and three other couples that had formed. Two of the other brides, and one of the grooms were locals.

Joshua settled in with Patricia in the same stateroom he’d had on the ship, and while she tended garden and helped in the kitchen and with the children, Joshua fished. He lost track of time, except for what season it was. And wondered about his Precious. He just knew she was alive somewhere.

But the tranquility came to an end one afternoon. Joshua was well out into the gulf. Patricia had come along for the ride that day, with the garden in good shape. But the fish weren’t biting, no matter what bait or lure Joshua used. Even the mascot porpoise that often traveled with the boat for the occasional piece of fish that Joshua would toss to it was nowhere to be found.

“I think we might as well go in,” Joshua said, reeling in first one line and then the other three. Patricia got behind the wheel and Joshua began raising the sail.

Suddenly Joshua felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. Apparently Patricia had the same feeling. “Did you feel that, Josh?”

“Yeah. But what was it?” Joshua had the sail up and they began to head for the distant shore. They hadn’t gone very far when their radio came alive. “Tsunami! Tsunami! Can you hear me, Joshua? Tsunami!” It was Tom Jones, one of the radio operators on the Elite. A communications watch was always kept when anyone was away from the group.

Joshua keyed the mike of the radio when he got to it. “This is Joshua. I hear you man! Are you sure?”

“Oh, yeah! The sea just started flowing away. We’re trying to get the ships to deep water. Let us know if you experience a surge. How far out are you?”

“Twenty miles,” Joshua replied. “We felt something, but it wasn’t like a surge. More like a drop.”

“Holy cow!” exclaimed Tom. “If you’re getting it out there already it must be huge!” There was silence for a moment. “But that doesn’t seem reasonable, if it doing it there and here at the same time. But never mind. Just keep an eye out.”

Author’s note: Please excuse my butchering of Tectonic Science.

It was generations before scientists pieced together what had happened that day and several subsequent days. A tectonic movement of epic proportions had snapped the North American Tectonic Plate in two from deep in the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River Valley and over to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

For eons the bedrock deep under the center of the United States had been stretched thinner and thinner. The surface would have sunk with the bedrock, except billions of tons of eroded rock coming from the Rockies and the Appalachians, and even the Ozarks, had filled the sunken land in, just slightly slower than the ground was sinking.

When the plate separated magma began to stream upward in hundreds of places. But it was still deep in the earth and much of it cooled and hardened quickly, sealing the crack except for here and there. A new line of volcanoes arose along the length of the split.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico flowed northward over the sunken ground, stopping only when it reached Cape Girardeau, Missouri in the north, the Ozarks in the west, and the foothills of the Appalachians to the east. The Gulf of Mexico was now the American Sea.

Water flowed from the Atlantic into the new sea, and the Pacific flowed into the Atlantic. It took years for the oceans to equalize. In that time old currents disappeared and new ones were created.