Percy's Mission Chapters 15 - 19


Enter subhead content here

Chapter 15

It didn’t take all that much convincing. The terrorist attacks and the resulting earthquake had scared them. They were closer to town, but agreed to head for the estate if things got worse. He gave them a hand held radio and charger for it. “We’ll be monitoring that most of the time. If you need one of us, just keep calling until someone answers. It would make me feel better if you called just to check in so I know the radio is okay. A couple times a day would be fine, if you don’t really mind doing that.”

“No. That sounds like a good idea,” Jock said. “Will it reach all the way to the city? We may have to take Judy Franks in. She’s had some labor pains, off and on, the last few hours. It’s probably false labor, but we’re not about to take a chance, considering the circumstances.”

“It’s on a repeater system. As long as commercial power is on it should work. On the direct link, only about halfway to the city.” Percy hesitated a moment, then asked the doctors, “Do you want me to take her in using the Suburban? There’s plenty of room, and I do have an errand I need to run there, anyway.”

“No…” Jock said slowly, after looking at Melissa for a moment. “It’s not like the weather is bad or anything. But… If you’re going pretty soon, we might just tag along with Judy and her family. Just in case. You know.”

“Sure thing,” Percy said with a smile. “I have a few things to do in town, and then I’ll be ready. Meet me at Rosie’s when you’re ready.”

“Okay. I’ll call Judy now and make the arrangements. She thinks it’s false labor, too, but it is her first and she’s a little apprehensive. Her mother will take her in and we’ll take the Bug. We need to do a couple of things ourselves.”

“You know, I have a Jeep I don’t use, if you want something besides the Volkswagen and the Taurus. Winters can get pretty severe here, you know.”

“I don’t really like Jeeps,” Melissa said. “I had a friend roll one, one time. We’re thinking about trading in the Taurus on something like an Explorer before winter.”

“That would do you a good job. Okay then. I’ll be on my way and see you in a little while.”

The trip went well, until Percy stopped to see Sara. Percy tried to convince her to move out to the estate. He even offered to supply all her fuel to go to and from the city every day to go to work.”

“Are you asking me to move in with you, Percy?” she finally asked.

“Of course I am. I thought that was clear. Oh.” He turned slightly red. “Not like that… Just stay in one of the extra rooms. I’m not… Sara, I’m just not ready for that next step.”

“I understand, Percy. And that’s okay. I just want to be sure. And I appreciate you offering to provide my gasoline, but it’s not quite proper, don’t you see?”

“Yes. I guess I do. But you will promise me to come out if things get worse. How did your apartment fare, by the way, during the quake?”

Sara frowned. “One of the plates my mother left me broke. I had it on a stand and it walked off the shelf and broke. It’s not as if I was all enamored of it, but my mother loved Elvis and that plate was her favorite. I hate to have lost it.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could replace it for you. And I’m sorry if I upset you. I just… Well… I guess I’ll be going, then.”

“Okay, Percy. And Percy I’m not mad at you or anything.” She stepped up to him and gave him a long hug. “I appreciate you trying to look out for me, but I’m a big girl. And I will come to the estate if something worse happens.” She leaned back, her arms still around him and looked him in the eyes.

“I care about you, Percy. A lot. I want you to promise me you won’t do anything stupid if things do get worse.” She brought her face forward and kissed him lightly on the lips before he could protest.

“I… I care about you, too, Sara.” Then he frowned. “I don’t do stupid things. What made you say that, anyway?”

Sara stepped away from him and smiled. “Oh, Percy. Don’t worry about it. I was just teasing. Sort of.”

“Well… Okay. I guess I really should go. I want to stop and get a couple of things before I go back to the estate.”

“’Bye, Percy.”

“Good-bye, Sara.”

Percy brooded about the exchange a little, but quickly put it behind him when he went to the medical supply shop. There were no delays this time when he picked up several more medical items. They were glad to help him load them into the Suburban.

When he met the Bluhms at the hospital again, they told him they were staying in the city to have dinner and thanked him again. Judy was doing fine, but was going to stay in the hospital overnight, then stay with a cousin in the city until the baby came.

He made another stop, at the larger of the two shopping malls the city boasted. He spent much of the early afternoon there and left with a dozen shopping bags. He’d made three trips out to the Suburban to take things out, he’d bought so much.

Percy didn’t particularly like firearms, though he did use them like the tools they were. He’d ordered a few items almost three weeks before. There’d been a waiting period and this was the first time he’d been in since the waiting time was up.

The clerk helping Percy carry out the ammunition and the reloading supplies and equipment asked Percy, “How’d you know so far ahead this was going to happen?”

“Know?” Percy asked. “I didn’t know. I just… like to be prepared.”

“Yeah. You’re definitely prepared now. You know good stuff when you see it. That is a cool Suburban.”

“Thanks. And thanks for helping me load. I need to head back.”

“Sure thing. Come back any time. Ask for me. I made a nice commission on this sale.”

Percy waved politely. He didn’t like that clerk much. He wasn’t bloodthirsty and out to hurt anybody. It was just prudent to have the most effective means available to protect himself and those in his care. The clerk was of a mind to just go out and shoot someone for sport, using the situation as an excuse.

With the Assault Weapon Ban not having been renewed for the moment, he decided to get a few things he couldn’t get while the ban was in effect. A pair of the old pistol grip, collapsible stock Heckler and Koch HK-91 .308 rifles and thirty twenty-round magazines, plus thirty thirty-rounders. The two collapsible stock versions would give him six of the HK-91s, including the four HK-91A2s he already had in the gun safe at home. He’d had those since well before the ban, along with four of the very rare, and very expensive, 75 round dual drum magazines.

He’d picked up some thirty round Ruger 10-22 magazines. He had three of the .22 rimfire rifles. The shop had two Mossberg Model 590 12-gauge riot guns and a Remington 11-87 semi-automatic. He’d taken all three of the shotguns and an extended magazine tube and folding stock for the Remington. They brought his total combat shotgun count to six, including two more of the 11-87s with extended magazines and a Remington 870 with pistol grip folding stock and extended magazine.

Again, since they were available once more, he’d added another thirty AUG thirty-round magazines to the order for the four Steyr AUG carbines he’d picked up when he got the original HK-91s. That gave him a total of a hundred AUG magazines.

He hadn’t ordered any additional handguns or hunting rifles. He had plenty of both, including five Para-Ordinance P14s, 3 Glock 21s, a Browning Hi-Power, three Ruger 22/45s, four HK-4s with all four conversion kits each, and an assortment of Ruger single actions, some with interchangeable cylinders, to handle a variety of other calibers.

His hunting rifles included Remington 700s in .223, .243, .270, and .350 Remington Magnum. He had a pair of the rifles each in .308, .30-’06, and .375 H&H Magnum. Percy didn’t really count what he considered his fun guns. He’d grown up watching re-runs of the 1950s and ‘60s westerns and had Marlin lever action rifles in .45-70 and .45 Long Colt. He had a pair of Stoeger 12-gauge coach guns and three Ruger Blackhawks, also in .45LC. He also had companion American Derringer Corporation derringers in .45LC and .45ACP.

Also mostly for fun, though they did have serious uses, each of his highway vehicles carried a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45ACP with half a dozen spare magazines.

As far as ammunition went, this order included ten thousand rounds each of .308 and .223 to bring his total up to fifty thousand rounds each. Also included two thousand rounds each of 12-gauge slugs, 12-gauge #4 buckshot, and a thousand rounds of various numbered shot. He already had similar amounts for the .45s, and over a thousand rounds each of the other handgun and hunting calibers he used.

When it came to .22LR he was just as well supplied. Another fifty thousand rounds, ten percent of which was BB caps, CB caps, and shorts.

Since he only expended a few rounds a year for practice and to do the little hunting he did, Percy had never really done much reloading. The twins were in to it and provided him with some specialty ammunition he liked to keep on hand. They had pretty extensive reloading equipment and supplies and he’d just bought a complete set of reloading tools and components to reload every cartridge and shell he used, except the rimfires. He counted himself lucky to have found another three hundred 12-gauge brass empty shells. He’d ordered two hundred fifty of them once before and paid the twins to load them for him.

His errands accomplished, except for getting Sara to agree to move out to the estate, Percy headed back. He wanted to get there in time to help take care of the animals. He didn’t want Susie to have to do it on her own, though she was perfectly capable of doing so.

Percy smiled when, at four o’clock, he heard Jock’s voice on the radio mounted in the Suburban. “This is Jock. Radio check. Percy, are you there?”

“I’m here,” Percy replied, picking up and keying the microphone. You’re loud and clear.”

“We’re just going in to get something to eat and thought it’d be a good time to do the radio check.”

“Consider it a successful check,” Percy responded.

“We’re checking in, too,” Susie said. “Everything is fine. Have you seen the news?”

“Negative,” Percy replied. “What’s up?”

“Korea is looking worse,” Susie replied. “Oh. And we moved. I went ahead and moved the rest of our stuff to one of the rooms in the utility barn. That way the cottage is available for someone else to use if you need to.”

There was a hint there that Percy didn’t take to let them know if Sara was coming out to the estate. “You didn’t need to do that. But it might not be a bad idea.”

When he didn’t elaborate, Susie said, “Okay, Boss. I can take care of the animals if you’re running late.”

“Nope,” Percy said, activating the gate opener remote. “Be there in a minute. I’ll help with the animals.”

“Mom didn’t argue at all when I said you wanted us to move into the house for a while,” Susie said when she met him at the animal barn.

“I didn’t think she would, actually,” Percy replied as they worked to bring the animals in and get them fed and bedded down. “Your mother is a very practical woman. She knows I’m going to be pretty active till this is all over and it’ll be easier for her to just be there around the clock to keep me out of trouble.”

Susie laughed. “She did actually mention something to that effect.”

They were silent after that, until they’d finished. When Susie went to help him move the things from the sporting goods store, she exclaimed, “Geez, Boss! You expecting a war?”

“Yes,” Percy said quietly.

“Oh,” Susie replied softly. “Maybe you’d better teach me to shoot something besides a twenty-two,” she added after a moment.

“I don’t want to do that unless you really want to. I don’t want you to feel like you have to defend the estate. That’s my responsibility.”

With a ferocity that surprised Percy a little, Susie replied, “This is my home, too. You’ve said so, Mr. Jackson. I’ll do what’s needed to protect it.”

“Well, if you’re sure, we’ll get you started at the first opportunity.”

Susie was grinning at him suddenly. “You didn’t say after we checked with Mother.”

Percy grinned back. “You’re a big girl now and can make your own decisions. Your mother said that herself. I should treat you more like the woman and lady you are, rather than the girl I tend to treat you like.”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a lot easier being a little girl than it is a woman.”

“You can handle it just fine. Are handling it. You obviously got Andrew headed in the direction you wanted.”

With a fond smile Susie responded. “Well, not completely, but… yeah… I think he might just ask me to move in with him soon. Maybe even marry him.”

“He’s a fool if he doesn’t.”

“That’s so sweet, Mr. Jackson. You sound just like a dad.”

“Yeah? Well…” He let the words trail away, slightly pink. “I’ll get the rest if you can help your mother. I’d like to eat in the dining room. I can see the TV in the living room from my chair in the dining room.”

“Okay,” Susie said. “I’ll set the table for Mother.”

Percy moved the things he’d bought at the mall to his suite of rooms in the two story seven bedroom, eleven-bath earth sheltered dome home. He had a large bedroom with attached bath and large walk-in closet. The suite also included a small den slash home office. It was as nice as the estate office in the big den down stairs, just smaller. What was once intended to be a nursery adjoining the bedroom Percy used simply as a storage room. That’s where he dropped his recent purchases. He’d put them away later.

They were all a bit subdued as they ate. The stalemate in Korea seemed to be heating up. China was making noises about the fallout coming from Pakistan caused by the Indian nuclear attack. One report indicated that India was warning Pakistan to withdraw from the disputed area and acknowledge India’s sovereignty or they would renew the attack, the implication being with nuclear weapons again.

“This is bad. It might be all the excuse China needs to invade India,” Percy said. “I saw a report last night that indicates China is massing troops along their common border.”

“If China gets involved directly, there or in Korea, do you think the US will respond?” asked Mattie.

“Yes. Other reports are linking China and or North Korea with the terrorist attacks here. I think they might have been trying to keep the US at home with the disasters to take care of, plus put the UN out of easy commission. Not like they can’t meet at The Hague or something, but most of the ambassadors and their staffs died in the attack. Lot of embassies put out of commission directly or due to radiation. The UN is not going to be effective for some time to come, if ever.”

Suzie looked at Percy and said, “I’m afraid if North Korea uses a nuke in South Korea, the US will have to respond. Our troops are directly involved in that fighting.”

“Carolyn Mathew’s boy was killed over there yesterday, apparently. They got word today. I talked to Helen today and she told me,” Mattie said.

“Too many people are dying in too many places,” Percy said quietly. “Let’s just hope and pray it doesn’t come any closer to us than that. Uh-oh.”

The news channel changed to a shot of another mushroom cloud. There was no audio at the moment, but the words Seoul, South Korea were superimposed over the cloud.

“That tears it,” Percy said.

Another news channel was reporting that China was again warning all nations to stay out of the troubles in the Far East. The station showing Seoul now had another mushroom cloud on screen, this one listed as New Delhi, India.”

Yet another channel now had a translation of a Chinese announcement that due to the attacks in Pakistan by India, China was receiving fallout and therefore considered the attack by India on Pakistan an attack on China and had retaliated in kind. There were reports that the Chinese were massing an amphibious force on the coast facing Taiwan. Again China issued warnings to leave the Far East to deal with its own problems.

“No way is that going to happen,” Percy said. “Okay. It’s time to batten down the hatches. Susie, do you think you can use the Bobcat to move straw bales in front of the barn doors?”

“Sure, no problem. But why?”

“I want to put up a dirt berm in front of all the doors of all the barns. We’ll use the straw as a vertical backstop. I’ll use a Unimog to move the dirt from the stockpiles I had Reynolds build. This is the future construction I was talking about. Mattie, I want you to keep an eye on the news and fix us something to eat about midnight. It’ll be that late by the time we get finished.”

It didn’t take quite that long. Percy picked up speed on each circuit from the stockpiles to the barns. It was the same with Susie. She was good on the Bobcat anyway, but her speed picked up significantly as she took straw bales from their stack near the storage barn and stacked them in a curve in front of each of the barns where the doors were located. They didn’t need to do the houses. Susie realized that one of the design elements of the houses was a berm similar to what they were building, but as part of the total design of the structures.

She thought they should go higher, but Percy pointed out that any radiation coming over the berms from ground level would only hit the roof projection that covered the space where the doors were located. Susie had never seen the need for the awnings Percy had put on the projections. They seldom extended them. There’d been a few times when they’d worked under them in the heavy rains when they needed to work on a piece of equipment.

Their use in this situation became obvious when Percy finished the first berm. He’d taken one of the rolls of plastic from the shop barn and tucked one edge under the top layer of straw bales before he started piling dirt. Susie thought it was just to protect the straw. When he piled the dirt on the slope the tiered straw created, then brought the plastic up and over it, to tuck under that top row of bales again she realized that the awning would direct any fallout that would have fallen between the berm and the building onto the plastic covered slope of the berm.

There was enough room to allow the Bobcat 5600T to get through and into the barns. The only one they did differently was the equipment barn. They had to leave enough room to bring out the equipment. On that one, Percy had Susie build a row of bales two high about where the berm was on the other barns. He laid down a sheet of plastic between the berm and the short wall, forming a channel that would catch anything from the awning. With the slight slope he put on it, he would be able to wash any accumulation of particles to outside the area of the berm.

“Clever,” Susie said when she saw what he was doing.

“I’ve been thinking about things like this for years. Let’s just hope it’s a big waste of time,” Percy replied.


Mattie had the snack ready, despite their having finished by shortly after eleven. “Things still the same,” she told them as they ate and watched the news. “Just more posturing on everyone’s part.” She sighed. “And aid efforts. Everyone that can is sending teams and equipment. Or at least getting them ready to go. No way they can travel at the moment.”

“What’s the US response to the nuke on Seoul and the activity on the China coast?” Percy asked.

“Nothing,” Mattie replied. “At least nothing on the news. I can’t believe they’re just sitting there doing nothing, though.”

“They aren’t. Have there been any shots of the President’s helicopter landing or taking off from the White House?” Percy asked then.

“Why?” asked Susie after Mattie had indicated there had been.

“Probably means he’s headed for an airborne command post or a bunker. I’m glad we got things ready. I guess we might as well go to bed. Nothing we can do and tomorrow may be a long day.”

When they got up the next morning they saw the reports. Japan had asked for help, since some of the islands were in the fallout path of the detonation in Seoul. Two carrier battle groups were headed that way to support the one normally stationed in the area. There’d been three communist coups in the Russian republics and more seemed likely.

The Germans were demanding the US turn over the nuclear arsenal within their borders to them so they could protect themselves against the newly communist Russian Republics. France was rattling sabers at everybody. Great Britain had finally ordered her subjects to come back home, rather than the strong suggestions given before. Brazil warned all the involved nations to leave them out of the mix. They all but said they had nuclear weapons and would use them if attacked.

Little additional information came to light that day. The next day was different. They woke up to reports that the US Navy had used a nuclear cruise missile to hit Pyongyang and issued an ultimatum for North Korea to withdraw from South Korea and for China not to interfere further. The ultimatum included a warning that the US would help defend Taiwan if there was an invasion.

Percy was debating on whether to call Sara and try to talk her into coming out to the estate again. He didn’t have to. Sara called him. She was excited.

“Percy, have you heard? The federal government has announced a new Sheltering Plan. Information and instructions are in the process of being issued to implement it. It just came in a little while ago in the state offices. We’re supposed to start distributing as soon as we can. From the little I saw, it looks like they are following your advice.”

“That’s good,” Percy said, quickly adding, “Not that they’re following my advice. The fact that they’re doing anything at all. Let’s just hope it’s in time.”

“I know. Percy, would you have Mattie prepare a room for me? I’d like to start coming out there the way you suggested. I’m scared of what is happening.”

“Of course I will. She’ll have a room ready for you tonight. The gold room.”

“Not real gold, I hope,” Sara said, the humor evident in her voice.

“Just gold colored trim and accessories like the one we refer to the green room has green accessories and the…”

“I know, Percy. I was just making a joke.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, we’ll see you when you get here. You still have the gate opener I gave you? I’m keeping the gates closed now.”

“Of course I do. I should be there about seven. Do not wait supper for me.”

“Okay,” Percy agreed, fully intending to wait to eat until she got there.

“I heard,” Mattie said, after Percy put the telephone receiver down. “I’ll get that room ready shortly.”

“Okay. Good. I…” The phone rang again.

It was Melissa Bluhm. “Is that offer still good about coming out there? Jock and I are both worried.”

“Of course it is, Melissa. Figure on supper about seven. Bring anything and everything you want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I love my new house, but we didn’t put a shelter in it the way you suggested we do. We were foolish. And I’m pregnant.” She was crying now.

“Don’t think about that now. Just bring what you need tonight, and we’ll take a truck over and bring everything else you want, tomorrow. We’ll put you in one of the houses here. You can stay until this is all over.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jackson. Thank you.”

“Another room. For the Bluhms,” Percy said. “Plan on supper at seven.”

“I heard,” Mattie said.

“It sounded almost like she was crying,” Susie said.

“She was, there at the end. She’s really worried.” Percy didn’t feel that it was his place to announce Melissa’s pregnancy. She could tell the others when she wanted.

Brian Epstein called and said he wasn’t going to be able to pick up the milk and eggs again. Percy decided to take the goods in. He was fairly certain there would be plenty of days in the future where he wouldn’t be able to do so. They held out enough for their own use for several days, not just the one day they usually did, bringing their stock up to a two-week supply of fresh, rather than the week supply they normally kept. Percy took the rest into town to the dairy.

He didn’t stay long. He did stop at one of the grocery stores and pick up a few things Mattie wanted. Then he stopped at Jimbo’s place. He was glad he did. Jimbo was closing up shop and headed to the hills the way Smitty had. Only Jimbo was heading for the Ozarks.

“I was going to keep it up for you,” Jimbo said, “using my current stocks. Prices have gone through the roof. I’ve had more business in the last three days than I have the last three months. Gold and silver, anyway. The other stuff isn’t moving. How much do you want this time?”

“All of it,” Percy replied.

“All of it! But that’s most of my stock!”

“Jimbo, you knew this day would probably come.”

Jimbo sighed. “Yeah, I guess so. I should have done a little better keeping my own stocks. Yours has been like the reserves in a bank for me. It’s yours, and of course you can have it, but I sure need to figure something else than what I had planned.”

Percy suspected Jimbo had quite a bit more stashed than he was letting on. Jimbo had a habit of making things sound rather worse than they actually were, at least when it came to his finances. His little so-called coin shop dealt with a lot more than coins. Legal things like alcohol. His was the only source of anything except beer and a tiny selection of wine the grocery stores carried.

He had a thriving business of cashing checks. Doing that wasn’t illegal yet. Only the banks were restricted to the ten percent rule. He charged a minimum of a dollar and it was one percent on checks over one hundred dollars.

There were no feelings of guilt for Percy when he took the tubes of gold and silver coins. “Just keep the fractional ounces left and keep trading for me, if you will. We’ll settle up when this is over,” Percy said. “And just to say thanks for all your help, here’s a tenth ounce gold coin and a roll of silver dimes as a tip.”

“Well, thanks, Purse. You didn’t really have to do that, but I’ll sure take it. These are worth nearly eighty bucks now.”

“Take care of yourself, Jimbo. We’ll see you after this is all over.”

“You bet, Purse. I have a good little thing here. I’m stashing my tinkers stuff out back, just in case. Uh… Don’t tell anyone, though, will you?”

“Of course I won’t,” Percy said.

“I tell you what. If you kind of keep an eye on things for me, you can take a few things if you really need them.” Percy was probably the only person alive he’d trust with the secret of his stash. Jimbo showed Percy how to get down into the room off the basement of the small shop. It was filled floor to ceiling with all types of household goods. It was obvious why Jimbo had called it his tinkers stuff. They were all items an old time tinker would have dealt with in the historic past.

“Okay, Jimbo,” Percy said. You’ve got a deal. Anything I use, or if I think it’ll help someone and I can do a trade, I’ll get the best deal I can. If you don’t want me to do that, I’ll just promise not to let anyone know anything it.”

“I wasn’t figuring on you moving the stuff for me. I guess that’d be okay. You’re almost as good a horse trader as I am. Whatever you want to do. But I want gold and silver only. I trust you to make the best deals possible.”

“I will,” Percy said. “Or, better yet. How about I just buy you out? What would it take to buy everything you showed me? You still have time to convert.”

A crafty look came onto Jimbo’s face. “I’ve probably got ten grand tied up in that stuff. And to convert to gold, with the price what it is right now…”

“I’ll give you a check for twenty thousand, right now,” Percy said.

“Done,” Jimbo said immediately. The two shook hands and Percy wrote him the check before he left the shop.

He stopped at the clinic on the way back to the estate. Jock and Melissa were both there, getting ready to load some items into their small cars.

“Why don’t you just throw that stuff in the back of the Suburban? I’m headed back right now.”

“I guess it would be easier,” Jock said, looking from their two cars to the Suburban that dwarfed them. “We’d still like to take the cars. We’re going to need to get back and forth. And I haven’t had a chance to thank you, yet. This means a lot to me, you taking us in at a time like this.”

“Think nothing of it,” Percy said, opening the rear hatch of the Suburban. “You’re a valuable addition to this community. If things get worse I want to keep it that way.”

“You don’t really think they will, do you? They’ll stop this madness some way. Someone will. They have to.”

Percy didn’t respond, except to say, “I hope so.”

He was leading the way toward the estate, listening to the news on the radio. The radio went dead and he saw the two cars following him begin to slow. “This is bad. Really bad,” he muttered aloud as he stopped, and then backed the Suburban up to the Volkswagen. He realized that the vehicle that they would have met in a few seconds coming toward them on the highway had stopped, too.

“I don’t know what happened,” Melissa said, having popped the hood of the small car before she stepped out. “It just died. The radio went off, too.”

“EMP,” Percy said when Jock walked up, telling the same story. “Hurry. Let’s get them moved onto the shoulder and get to the estate. There’s nothing we can do about the cars at the moment.”

“What’s EMP? And can’t we at least try to get them running?” Jock asked.

“Come on, Honey,” Melissa urged her husband. “I think Mr. Jackson is right. Electromagnetic pulse is what an atomic bomb does when it explodes up high. It zaps electronic stuff like computers. Like the ones in our cars.” She looked at Percy. “You must have a different kind of electrical systems.”

Percy didn’t try to correct the small mistakes in Melissa’s explanation to her husband. It was correct enough for the circumstances. “I do,” Percy replied. “I switched when I converted the Suburban to three axles and installed the diesel engine. Let’s get these moved. Melissa, you get behind the wheel. We’ll push.”

It took only a minute or so to move each car. As they were hurrying back to the Suburban, Melissa suddenly stopped. “Oh, my God!” She moaned. “I just realized! We’ve been attacked with atom bombs!”

Again, Percy didn’t try to correct the errors. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s get to the estate and into shelter. We’re not near a target, but you never know what might happen.”

They’d barely settled themselves in the vehicle when Melissa looked down at her stomach and wailed. “My baby! What will happen to my baby?”

“Your baby will be fine,” Percy reassured her. The houses at the estate… barns, too, are earth sheltered, as you know. A protection factor of well over a thousand. Any radiation we might get would be less than one thousandth of that we’d get out in the open. There are several places inside the houses double that protection factor.

Percy held up a meter so Melissa could see it from the rear seat. “We aren’t getting anything and I have it on the most sensitive range. That occasional tick is background radiation we get all the time. Normal.”

Percy put down the meter and put both hands on the wheel. The driver of the vehicle ahead of them was flagging them down by waving his arms in the air. Percy stopped and rolled down his window.

“My car just quit and I guess we’re out of range of the cell system. My phone doesn’t work. Could you call someone for me when you get where you’re going? You are local, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Percy said. “Normally I’d just turn around and take you to town, but this lady is ill and I need to get her home. What’s the name and number? I’ll try it when we get home. Can’t promise anything. We lose the phones out here occasionally.”

The man gave Percy the number of a hotel in the city and a room number. “Ask my wife to call Triple A and order me a tow truck.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Percy said.

“Why didn’t you tell him what was going on?” Jock asked.

“I doubt if he’d have believed me. And I’ve never tried to save the world, just my little piece of it. Your wife is more important to me. I’ll come back after I drop you off and take him into town.”

“Oh,” Jock said, looking at his still distraught wife. “I’m not thinking too straight right now.”

“I don’t like leaving someone like that, but I have my priorities. You two come first. You three.”

“I’m not going to argue your priorities. I’m not sure what we’d be doing if it wasn’t for you.”

“Don’t worry about it. Things are going to be fine. Don’t you worry. Either of you.”

Percy dropped them at the estate, leaving them in Mattie’s capable hands and headed back to where he’d left the man on the side of the road. The car was there but the man wasn’t. Percy assumed he’d been picked up by someone with a car that hadn’t been disabled by the EMP. He’d tried the phones at the estate and they weren’t working.

He tried the radio and told Susie he was headed back. He stopped in the act of turning around when he saw a yellow and black dirt bike approaching, the rider wearing the same colors. Percy was sure it was Randy Phillips on the bike. He’d seen him race at the Forth of July Picnic.

“I’m glad I caught you, Mr. Jackson,” said Randy. “I was on the way out to see you. Look. I’m willing to give you free welding service for life if you’ll help me dig in my shelter. I converted an old tank into a shelter, but Reynolds is booked solid and can’t help me. I don’t know anyone else that can. I’d never get it done with a shovel. I’ve got to get my family into shelter, Mr. Jackson.”

“Calm down, Randy. I’ll help you. You go back home and get everything ready. And don’t worry about that for life welding thing. I’ll be in with one of the Unimogs to take care of it. It’ll take me maybe an hour to get there, but I will be there,” Percy assured the young man.

Percy radioed Susie and had her go out and mount the backhoe to the Unimog Percy had used to build the berms. The front bucket was still on it. He told Susie how to swap out the computer with a spare if the Unimog wouldn’t start. He breathed a sigh of relief when Susie radioed back and told him the truck started all right.

He had EMP protection on all his electronic equipment and it seemed everything had survived without damage at the estate except for the tower mounted camera and a couple of other minor items.

Susie was almost finished with the attachments to the Unimog. Percy checked with the Bluhms. They were settled in all right. Melissa was calm, cool, and collected now, all signs of her previous moments of panic gone.

“I’ll go with you,” Jock said when Percy explained what he was going to do.

“Your skills,” Percy said, “are too valuable to lose if something were to happen. I’d rather you stay here and help Mattie and Susie. You are a free agent and I won’t say no, but I’d like you to think about it. If things go they way they might, doctors are going to be of prime importance.”

Jock looked at Percy for several long moments. “Okay, Mr. Jackson. I’ll stay here. But I have to be doing something.”

“I expect you to lend a hand here, in ways that won’t jeopardize your ability to be a doctor. Susie knows what she’s doing on the estate. Just follow her orders, and speak up if she asks you to do something you can’t do, or shouldn’t do.”

He turned to Susie. “I don’t expect many, if any, people to show up at our doorstep. If it is someone we know, or someone with important skills, let them in. Unless it’s a really good vehicle, have them park in the field across from the gates. We can take up to thirty additional people. But we are not a public shelter. If this goes the way it might, this place is going to be very important to the community and I intend to protect it.”

“Yes, sir,” Susie replied. “I’ll do my best.”

“I know. I need to get going. Randy is good people. There’s a chance someone else will want some help. I have my dose and rate meters. I’ll work as long as there is no radiation. If we do start getting any, I’ll head home immediately. Mattie, you know where the meters are. Keep an eye on them and let Susie know if we start getting fallout.”

Mattie nodded.

“Doctor Bluhm,” Percy said then, looking over at the young woman. “If you could help Mattie, I would appreciate it. The same stipulation that I gave Jock goes for you, too.”

“I understand,” she replied

“I’ll see you all later. Oh. Mattie, Sara should be showing up around seven. I doubt if I’ll be here. Make her comfortable and reassure her I’m okay. She should be able to get me on the radio. I’ll have one of the handhelds with me when I’m out of the truck. Keep an eye on the news and let me know of anything important.”

“I will. Good luck and take care of yourself.”

Percy was just pulling up to the gate when it opened. He’d added the circuit for the opener to the ones the generator for the house fed. Sara had opened the gate with her remote. Percy hopped down out of the truck. “You’re here. Thank God. I’m off for a little while. Mattie will see to your needs. I’m really glad you came out early.”

“When the power went out they sent us all home. There was no reason not to come on out. Where are you going?”

Percy was holding Sara’s hand through her open window. “Help out a couple of people. I’ll be back… when I’m finished.”

“Oh, Percy,” Sara almost pleaded. “Be careful. You like to help people. Don’t let that get you hurt.”

“I won’t,” Percy replied, “I promise.”

“I love you, Percy,” Sara said softly, looking into his eyes.

She saw it there before he said it. “I love you, too, Sara. I’m glad you decided to come. If you want, have Mattie put your stuff in my rooms. But only if you want. I want to marry you.”

“I want to marry you, too, Percy, but let’s wait until things calm down before we jump into anything.”

“I guess you’re right,” Percy said. “But the question, such as it was, stands. Will you marry me?”

“When you ask me again, after we know what’s going to happen, Percy. Now go help someone. I want to get settled so I can help Mattie.”

“Okay. Bye. I love you.”

“Bye. I love you too.”

Despite the slight delay, Percy made it to Randy’s within the hour he’d specified. It took only a few hours to dig the hole, place the converted set of tanks, bolt them together, then backfill and mound them over with three feet of earth dug from the trench.

“I owe you for life,” Randy said. I would never have got this done in time. It’s only a matter of time before we get some fallout from somewhere.”

“You don’t owe me for life. Just trade me some labor sometime in the future for this. That’s all I want. Do you need help getting your stuff into the shelter?”

“No. You’ve done enough. We can handle the rest. Thanks again, Mr. Jackson.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be on my way, then.”

He’d barely hit the edge of town on his way back to the estate when someone was flagging him down. “Hey! You for hire? I’ll give you five hundred bucks to dig some dirt and pile it around my basement walls.”

“No money but you’ll owe me twenty hours of labor on my farm sometime.”

“Sweet. You got it. Just knock down the fence. You’ll have to pile some dirt at the one corner after you move what you can, and I can move it the rest of the way on the back of the house with a shovel.”

It took less than an hour. The man and the rest of the family stayed busy shoveling some of the dirt into emptied out dresser drawers and cardboard boxes to stack over one corner of the basement.

Neighbors were coming over to see what was going on. It was close to midnight before Percy got back to the estate. He’d done various excavations and earth moves for a dozen people.

Mattie and Sara were waiting up for him. They had insisted the others go to bed. “Any additional news?” Percy asked as Mattie handed him a sandwich.

“Not really. Just snatches here and there. The satellite seems to be working, but only a few channels are up, and that is intermittent. All we know for sure is that at least one device was detonated almost right over us.”

Before Mattie could say anything else they felt the dome vibrating. It was different from the quake caused by the nuke on the New Madrid fault line. It was enough to bring the Bluhms and Susie running into the kitchen. They were all in their nightclothes.

Percy hurried to the den and the others followed. He flipped a switch and a hollow rumble sound filled the room. The room began to shake even more and everyone crouched beside the heavy desk until the shake passed.

“Was that an earthquake, a bomb, or what?” asked Jock.

“Earth tremor, I think. But it’s different from the others. The roar became louder for a moment then faded away. The TV screens were all tuned to the same channels as they had been for the last several days. All were blank.

“I don’t know for sure, but it kind of felt like the movement was from the west. “I’m going to take a look outside. He checked the radiation meters first, then went to the front door and stepped outside. The others followed. All they could see was the night sky.


Chapter 16

Calvin had been a bit worried about trying to cut his hours at the bank, but there were no problems. The bank actually welcomed it. They needed additional tellers with the heavy traffic due to the new banking laws. There were less of other types of bank work, so mid-level staff were being cut back, anyway.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays Calvin would work at the bank. At a significantly reduced salary, of course. But he did still receive enough to cover what few monthly payments they had with that salary. Everything they made with the equipment was available for anything they wanted.

The Stubblefields essentially took over the equipment based portion of Andersons’ businesses. It was easy to just continue getting many of the jobs through the Andersons and give them a cut. They got business on their own, too. Even Herbert was amazed at the additional work they were able to do with the new equipment.

There seemed to be a backlog of work that had accumulated, due to the fact that Anderson simply didn’t have the equipment needed to do the work. Fortunately, Anderson was willing to teach Calvin and Nan how to do most of the work that he had not been able to do due to lack of equipment.

One thing Anderson wouldn’t do was use the aerial bucket. One of the beds Calvin had purchased for the Unimog was a utility bed with a forty-foot reach aerial lift with material winch. Herbert didn’t like heights. He would direct the work from the ground, but refused to get into the bucket.

“Okay, Nan,” Calvin called up to his wife. “That looks good. You can ground.”

Nan let the hydraulic powered chainsaw rest on the edge of the bucket as she lowered the boom to bring the bucket to the ground. She unhooked the chainsaw hydraulic hoses and the safety cable and handed it to Calvin.

“This is cool, Calvin. I like the high work.” Nan parked the boom and bucket on the rack and climbed down.

Calvin grinned at his wife. “I know. You’ve mentioned it a time or two. But there is ground work, too. Come and help me with the chipper.” He walked over to the Toolcat. A limb chipper was mounted on the front. He fired up the machine and began feeding the limbs Nan had trimmed from the tree into the chipper.

Since the homeowner wanted the chips for mulch, Calvin had aimed the discharge to form a pile just inside the property line. With hardhat, face shield, and earmuffs on, Nan began to help. Calvin was likewise outfitted, including similar gloves to those Nan wore. It went quickly with both of them working.

“I love these toys!” Nan said, her enthusiasm obvious. They had loaded the Toolcat onto the trailer now attached to the Unimog. When they started to climb into the cab of the truck, a car stopped beside them. Nan walked around to join Calvin.

“Hi. My name is Joe Brenderman. I live on the other side of town. I was wondering… Do you install fallout shelters?”

“I’m sure we could,” replied Calvin, without hesitation. “Do you need one buried?”

“Yeah. Stubby said he could reinforce a shipping container and equip the inside. Now I need someone to dig it in. I was going to get Anderson with his backhoe, but he recommended you guys. He told me you were working over on this side of town.”

Calvin looked at Nan. She nodded. Turning back to Joe, Calvin said, “Let’s go take a look.”

They followed Joe back to his house. There was a forty-foot long shipping container sitting in Joe’s back yard. “Stubby said it would be better to wait to fix up the inside until after it was buried. He just finished the reinforcing yesterday. Can your stuff handle the thing?”

“I’m sure we can,” Calvin said. “How deep do you want it?”

“Two-thirds. We can use the dirt out of the hole to mound it over.”

Calvin shot Joe a price and Joe eagerly accepted. When Nan and Calving were headed home, Nan asked, “Are you sure the truck will handle it?”

“Sure,” Calvin replied. “The material hoist won’t, but the crane will be here tomorrow. It’ll handle it easily.”

“Oh. I’d forgotten the crane. I’m glad we ordered it, too.”

“This has gone a lot better than I ever imagined,” Calvin said. “Thanks for encouraging me for us to do it.”

Nan rested her hand on Calvin’s shoulder for a moment. “No need to thank me. This is good for me, too.” Her hand slid away. “It’s been helping me keep my mind off the world situation. Until today. That fallout shelter. I never think of our home that way, but it is, I know. We planned it that way. But it’s just home to me.”

“We are lucky ones, I guess,” Calvin replied. “Being able to do the things we’ve wanted.”

“Luck played a part, I admit. But it was our hard work and foresight that put us where we are today. I feel sorry for those that simply can’t see what’s really happening.”

“I know,” Calvin said. “The people around here have been good to us. Maybe we should thank them in some way. Say special discount rate for anything survival related. Like digging the shelter in for Joe. Other things. I’m not sure what. But there are bound to be things people will be doing. You’re right. The way we did things, I don’t think about individual aspects.”

“We can’t make people do things, but we could print up flyers say something like ‘for your preparedness needs.’ We could even order food and supplies for people. Where we’re getting the stuff we could even buy retail and make a little on it and it’d still be cheaper than what little you can find around here.”

“That’s true. Retail is a lot of work. You sure you want to take that on with the woodcutting and the equipment work?” He chuckled. “Of course, you don’t have to do much at the Andersons’ anymore.”

Nan smiled. The job hadn’t lasted very long, since they had started doing most of the work almost immediately after Mrs. Anderson had hired her.

The day didn’t start at all well. Pakistan nuking India was all over the news. They talked it over, and Calvin and Nan decided to go ahead and do the job they had scheduled for the day. When they got there, they kept the radio on all the time, to get updates on the situation.

They were stopped often, by people anxious for them to help with getting a shelter dug. There was plenty of work lined up for the next several days now. They were tired when they got home, both mentally and physically.

The next day was better. No additional bad news, just the ongoing situation with Pakistan and India. Not all the work was preparedness related. Most of the septic tanks had been installed at about the same time, as the area developed. There was a lot of heavy clay, and those that had not taken good care of their septic systems were needing new drainage fields.

Shortly after they sat down to have their dinner Nan looked up and asked, “Did you feel something?”

Calvin responded questioningly. “What? Feel something? No, Did you?”

“Yeah. Something… I don’t know.” Nan got up and turned on the small TV in the kitchen. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. Calvin hurried in to join her.

Supper out of their minds, they hurried to the living room to watch the reports of the terrorist attacks on the larger screen TV it boasted. They looked at one another. Calvin said, “It must have been the New Madrid quake you felt.” Nan could only nod. They watched the news coverage late into the night.

They were up at their usual time the next morning. The phone rang as they were having breakfast. Calvin opened his cellular phone. “Yes. Yes. We’ll be there this morning to take a look at it.”

“We’re getting the crane delivered today at the Andersons’ yard,” Nan said.

“I know. That was Audrey Blankenship. She wants us to berm up around their house. They’re going to build a shelter in their basement. I told her we’d take a look.”


Calvin’s cell phone rang again. He had a conversation almost word for word like the first one. “That was one wanting a hole dug to build a shelter.”

They didn’t need to print any flyers. Calvin and Nan stayed busy in the area helping people prepare shelters. From digging trenches and cutting timber for people to build expedient shelters as illustrated in Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson Kearny, to setting factory and home built shelters from the simple to the elaborate. The library had a copy of the Kearny book. The librarian was kept busy copying the various plans for people. She wouldn’t let the book out of the library.

After a short discussion, they took half of their assets and converted them to gold and silver, and bought a huge order of LTS food. They had planned to sell most of it to those who were having difficulty getting ready for whatever might happen. Only the fact that they’d been a regular customer did the company they used agree to send even a fourth of the food they wanted. The company wouldn’t guarantee delivery, but would not charge them if they didn’t ship.

Every other company they contacted refused the order. Like the company Calvin and Nan used, the other companies were only filling orders for regular customers. There were vastly more orders wanted than all the LTS food companies combined could now fill.

Nan was on the backhoe on the A300 digging a pit for Harley Jacobson to bury a septic tank he was converting to a shelter when the ground began to move. She saw Calvin and Harley both fall down then try to climb back to their feet, without success.

With the bucket curled and resting on the ground, Nan clambered down off the hoe. She wished she’d stayed on the Bobcat. The ground was still shaking and it was making her nauseous. The Bobcat had been moving, but somehow feeling the earth move under your feet was worse. She almost fell, but managed to keep her feet as Calvin and Harley finally scrambled back onto theirs.

“Crimeiny!” exclaimed Harley. That was a hell of a…” The words faded, either because he quit talking or they were drowned out by the massive sound that throbbed in their ears.

All three covered their ears with their hands, the sound was so intense. It seemed beyond loud. Almost like a living being. And it lasted, like the shaking had, seemingly forever.

But fade it did, finally. Calvin took his hands from his ears, and when Nan did the same he asked, “Can you hear me?” He was worried he might be deaf, the silence was so total.

When Nan responded in a normal sounding voice, he was relieved. “I can hear, but that was loud enough to hurt. What was it? A nuke?”

Calvin was looking around. “Felt like it could have been, but I didn’t see any kind of flash and there’s no mushroom cloud. A nuke would have been close to cause that much shaking. Try the radio.”

Nan ran to the Unimog and climbed into the cab. “Nothing. Not even static.”

“Nuts!” Calvin called out. “See if the engine will start!” He breathed a sigh of relief when the engine turned over and started with nary a grunt. He looked over at Harley. “Harley, try your Ford.”

Harley went to his pride and joy. A brand new Ford F150. He tried to start it. It didn’t start, even after several tries. There weren’t even any clicks you’re prone to hear when a battery is just weak.

“EMP,” Calvin said. “There was a nuke.” He continued to look around. “But there is no sign.”

“Oh, my God!” Nan said quietly. What if it was a nuke at Yellowstone?”

Nan saw Calvin blanch. “That wouldn’t account for the EMP. But if there was a general attack there would be at least one high altitude blast as an EMP bomb.” He’d been staring off into the distance as he’d talked. Now he looked at Nan. “We need to get home.”

“But what about my shelter?” wailed Harley. “I’ll die!”

Husband and wife looked at one another. They’d read up on fallout and studied the possibility of Yellowstone blowing. “We have time. But that’s it.” Nan said. “We do this, then go home.” Calvin nodded.

Working quickly but carefully, Calvin and Nan set the two piece septic tank into place. They took enough extra time to help Harley knock a hole in one end to act as the entrance. With the dirt from the hole mounded over the septic tank and the used railroad ties that were leaned against one end to make the right angle entrance they were finished.

Again, working quickly but carefully, they loaded up the A300 and Toolcat onto the transport trailer and headed home. Both were tense, afraid that someone would want them to stop and help. But no one did. They’d barely left town when dust began to rain down.

“Had to be Yellowstone,” Calvin said. He slowed down even more than usual. Volcanic ash was highly abrasive. He didn’t want any in the engine through the filters. He even preferred stopping occasionally to clear the windshield by hand rather than run the wipers and risk scarring it.

They began to breathe a little easier when they got to the section of road they’d improved. They’d be home in a few minutes. A few seconds later the NukAlert on the Unimog key ring began to chirp. Just one chirp, then another a few seconds later. But then the chirps came much more rapidly.

“Fallout, too,” Nan said softly.

“We’re almost home,” Calvin said, equally softly. “We’ll be okay.”

They were silent the rest of the way. It only took a few minutes. The NukAlert was chirping continuously when they pulled around the circle drive and stopped. Both jumped from the truck and ran to the house.

“Wait!” Nan said. “We need to decontaminate. The hose.” They stripped and took turns holding the hose for the other to thoroughly wash off the small amount of ash and fallout that had accumulated on them during the dash from the truck to the house. Leaving the clothing where it lay, Calvin unlocked the door and they entered the house, shivering slightly.

Nan went to get them some clothes. Calvin turned on the TV. The power light came on, but it wasn’t working. “Crap,” he muttered. “The EMP.” He put on the robe that Nan handed to him, then hurried to the garage. There was the box.

Calvin took down a storage box from the shelves lining one side of the garage. He opened the box and took out a 5” battery operated television. Carrying the TV he returned to the living room. Nan was using their survey meter to check areas in the room for radiation.

“We’ve got radiation coming through the door. Not much, but we need to stay out of the line from the front door to right here by the door out to the garage.

“Okay,” responded Calvin, going over to the big screen television. He swung one edge of the entertainment center away from the wall. It took only moments to unhook the antenna cable and connect it to the portable. “Get me some D batteries, Nan.” They didn’t have an AC cord for the little TV.

Nan hurried to, then back from the kitchen, carrying the batteries. Another few moments and the TV was on. It had been a waste of time. Calvin ran the dial up and down. Not a single channel was working. Nan went back to the kitchen and tried the radio in there. Also nothing.

Calvin joined her in the kitchen and they looked at one another for a few moments. “Finding out what is going on will have to wait. I could be wrong, but I think Yellowstone has blown, maybe because of a nuke. That’d be the ash. And the missile silos have probably been hit. The winds are right for them to be the source of the fallout. We in for some rough times, but if we’re careful, we’ll be all right.”

Nan stepped over to him and put her arms around him, her head on his shoulder. “I know. Thank God we’ve done what we’ve done. Let’s sit down a minute and think this through.”

Nan’s hands were shaking as she got water from the refrigerator for both of them. She had to hold her glass with both hands to be able to take a sip.

“Okay,” Calvin said. “You do what you were doing before. Survey the whole house and find where we’re safest from the radiation. We built this house with this in mind, so we have a pretty good idea where those spots are. Just confirm them.

“I want to go ahead and disconnect all the antennas from everything in case there is another big EMP blast. At least we’ve been keeping the other gear disconnected. I’m afraid to hook up the Shortwave receiver and other monitors. I think the one scanner we have hooked up is dead. It’s not scanning. Neither is the weather radio. I just hope some of the antennas are still okay.”

“We do have the back up antennas,” replied Nan, sipping her water as she tried to calm herself.

“True, but we won’t be going out for some time. Not with the radiation and ash coming down the way they are. I suspect we’re going to be cooped up in here for some time to come. You up to continuing? I want to check the rest of the communications gear and the power system. We’ve still got electricity, but I want to see if the rest of the gear is okay. At least we had thyristors protecting the power systems.”

Nan nodded and stood. She picked up the survey meter from the table and headed for the living room again.

Chapter 17

Buddy didn’t waste any time. He wasn’t fearful someone else would buy the property. Buddy wanted to get to work on it. Every minute he wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping he spent on getting the place ready for whatever might come. The news seemed worse every day.

The plan was to build a nice place in the large clearing, to take advantage of the view, but he wanted something to live in while he was working there. So Buddy bought a thirty-foot fifth-wheel travel trailer. He thought about paying cash, but decided on the spur of the moment to finance it in order to conserve his cash. Besides, he got a zero-percent-interest loan on it.

He was a little worried about there being enough topsoil for an easy septic system, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. Buddy went ahead put in the system so it could be used for the house when it was built.

For the things he was concerned with, living in the trailer as is would not be adequate. It was far too vulnerable to nature’s ravages and human kind’s efforts. He was going to need a garage and shop, anyway, so he built one to house the trailer and his truck.

Before he started work on the building, he contacted a well driller friend he’d worked with a few times on rural homes. He cut a deal with him to add a basement bathroom in the driller’s home to offset a portion of the cost of the well. The well was rather marginal at only five gallons per minute production, but the driller assured Buddy that, though low producing, the wells in the area were steady producers. He could pump five gallons a minute all day, every day, if he wanted.

“How is this going to work again?” Charlene asked when she got out of the truck and stood beside it.

“Okay. These arched pieces I brought up last week will be bolted together to form a Quonset type structure. I’ll build walls on each end, and then mound earth over the whole thing.”

“That’s a lot of dirt!” Charlene said. She followed him over to the stacked arch panels.

Buddy laughed. “I’ve got a lot of it! I just have to pull it from several spots on the property. It’s pretty thin in spots.” He’d had a loader delivered to the gate and roaded it to the site the previous week. It had taken a week of evenings to prepare an area the way he wanted.

The footings and floor were poured and cured enough to erect the structure. Getting the concrete truck up had not been difficult, though he did have to cut a few trees to widen the track. The cut up wood was stacked handy for the woodstove that would heat the building.

Like the loader, a small truck crane was rented and sitting ready for use. Buddy had used it and a trailer to tow a man lift up to the site as well. He gave Charlene a hard hat and showed her how to use the crane. It would all be simple work. Buddy was sure she could handle it.

Charlene wasn’t as sure as Buddy, but when he helped her lift the ends of the first two arch panels into place so he could bolt them together at the top, she realized she could, in fact, do it. And do it safely. She merely had to be careful and take her time.

They shifted the bases into place on the foundations and Buddy fastened a timber to it to act as a brace when they lifted it up. Charlene lifted the center of the arch into the air. Buddy spotted the brace, fastened it to the ground with a stake, then quickly added nuts to the bolts now projecting up through the base plates of the arches.

It took a while, but they had all the arches up by the time they finished that day. Buddy used the man lift each time they erected an arch panel to connect it to the previous one. When they were done they had a fifty-foot long, thirty-two foot wide, sixteen foot high tunnel.

Buddy drove the crane truck and towed the man lift back to the rental place while Charlene drove his pickup.

Over the next few days Buddy erected reinforced concrete block walls at each end of the tunnel, using scaffolding he had rented for that reason, and to do the high interior finish work. Charlene helped him when she could. She even took a few turns in the loader, when the task was simply moving dirt or gravel. When the end walls were done, Charlene helped him install the drain system consisting of perforated pipe laid in a gravel bed and covered with more gravel.

It took well over a week of loader work to do the mounding. Buddy didn’t want the berm too steep, so the berm was very wide. Though he lacked huge amounts of good dirt, he had plenty of rock available. There was one bench he had a powder monkey come up and blast. That provided more than enough fill rock.

The actual soil was only used next to the arches, on the roof section, and to fill in gaps between broken rock. The mounded structure then had sod laid on it. He’d built a four-foot wide tunnel with a right angle turn in it as a rear entrance and exit.

He did the same with the person-sized door on the front. The windows on each end of the garage he had heavy steel shutters made, and a shelf inside on which he could stack solid concrete blocks to provide radiation shielding. The garage door was different.

The trailer he simply parked inside before he put up the front wall. But he wanted to be able to bring the pickup inside, too. Buddy framed and built a heavy steel sliding door for the opening. Next he built a five-foot high concrete block wall, the width of the structure including the earth berming. It was out ten feet from the edge of the berm against the front wall. Then he built a thick berm in front of the wall.

The section between the wall and structure berm was a concrete slab with a shed type metal roof covering the section in front of the garage door. Between the wall, the half-inch metal door, additional solid concrete blocks to stack inside the door, and the sloped roof, which could be sprayed to keep fallout away from the door area, Buddy was sure he had made the structure as radiation resistant as was practical.

There was still plenty of room to get the truck in and out. Though he didn’t attempt it, Buddy was pretty sure he could actually get the trailer out, if he wanted. He wasn’t sure about getting it back in.

Buddy breathed a sigh of relief when he put the finishing touches on the building. There was time to get some shelving built to hold the extensive supplies he’d ordered earlier.

“Holy cow, Buddy!” Charlene exclaimed when she saw the rental cargo trailer hooked up to Buddy’s pickup. “You say that thing is full of food?” The trailer was a sixteen-foot tandem-wheel box trailer normally used for moving.

“Well, almost. There’s some water barrels and some other bulky stuff, too.” Buddy looked over at her as they belted themselves in for the trip up to the property. “You sure you want to help with this? We’ll be getting back late.”

“I’ll help. But you’re sure going to owe me a major dinner at Red Lobster.

Buddy smiled. “Sure thing. I’ll be getting a bargain.”

“Don’t be so sure. You know I love lobster.”

They talked companionably after that on the way up to the property. Buddy had picked up the load at the trucking terminal that morning. He wanted to get it into the shelter as soon as possible. The bed of the truck was filled with additional material he wanted to get up there as well.

There was plenty of room on the shelves for everything, with plenty of room left over. They stacked case after case of long-term storage food. Food grade fifty-five-gallon barrels were lined up on the wooden deck Buddy had made when he built the shelves. He’d bring up the generator and fill the barrels with water the next time he came up.

Charlene had brought a picnic lunch up and they had it sitting on the wall berm, watching the city. But it was a light lunch and they more than made up for it at the restaurant that evening.

The next morning Buddy was on the way to the driller’s home when the first news report came on the radio about Pakistan and India. A few minutes later Charlene called. She was obviously frightened at the implications. He was able to talk to her for a few minutes and she was calm by the time they hung up.

The driller kept a radio on all day as they worked. The driller was acting as Buddy’s helper on the job. When the report came in that India had retaliated, Buddy called Charlene.

“Charlene. Yeah, it’s me. You know that bug out bag I helped you put together? Yeah. I want you to go get it and keep it with you all the time now. Okay?”

Sure now that if something worse happened, Charlene had the means to get to the shelter. Buddy had insisted on giving her a set of keys to the locks that secured the place. If need be, she could get there and into the safety of the shelter on her own.

That evening he went over to her house and helped her select things to go ahead and take up the first chance they had. He added a few things to her bug out bag and went over a few procedures in case she did have to go up by herself.

Buddy sweated out the next couple of days. He’d ordered a windmill generator and a solar photovoltaic system. With the things going the way they were, he wasn’t sure if he’d get them before something else happened.

People were postponing jobs on him right and left, though there were a couple of rush jobs. Buddy had the time to do a little more shopping himself. Stores were running out of many things, but he was able to pick up most of what he wanted. Most of it was things that he would wind up using anyway, even if nothing more serious happened.

Charlene wasn’t getting much business so she took the day off when Buddy was ready to take another load of things up.

On the way home that evening Buddy was explaining the whys and wherefores of some of the items that Charlene had helped him shelve that afternoon when the radio station they had on, low, announced a special bulletin. Buddy quickly pulled over to the side of the road when the first announcement came of the tremendous earthquakes in California and Missouri and Illinois. Buddy turned up the volume and they listened to the report.

Charlene gasped when the reporter stated that terrorists had used nuclear weapons to create the earthquakes and destroy the United Nations building. She looked over at Buddy, her alarm obvious in her face. “Buddy…” she asked tentatively.

“It’s okay. Doesn’t sound like it’s a general attack. Just terrorists.” Buddy shook his head. “Did I just say that? Just terrorists? I want to get home and see what the news networks are reporting. I’ll drop you off so you can…”

Charlene cut him off. “Buddy, I don’t want to be by myself. What if there are more attacks?”

“Okay. You can stay at the house tonight. I’m not sure how much sleep we’ll get. Because you’re right. This could be the start.”

Buddy took Charlene home the next morning when there were no reports of further terrorist activity. He made her promise that if something really bad happened and she couldn’t get hold of him she would go up to the shelter by herself.

Buddy was finishing up a job, literally putting the final polishing on the sink he’d just installed when the lights went out in the house where he was working. Suddenly the room was flooded with light. When he hurried out of the room he yelled for the lady of the house to get away from the windows, but it was too late.

He dove back into the bathroom, into the bathtub. He heard the glass breaking and the woman’s scream, then the loudest sound he had ever heard. He gave it a few seconds, and then carefully made his way out of the bathroom.

There was nothing he could do for the woman. She was obviously quite dead. The blast wave from the nuclear explosion had shattered the window through which the woman was staring. The broken glass literally shredded the flesh from her bones before it threw her against the far wall. Buddy heard the house creaking. The blast and wind had damaged it severely. Buddy hurried out.

The mushroom cloud was still glowing with heat. None of the houses seemed to have been destroyed, but all looked like they had received moderate to major damage. Buddy tried to start the plumbing truck, but the starter wouldn’t even click. “EMP,” Buddy muttered.

It took only a couple of minutes to get out the mountain bike he’d taken to carrying in the truck. The bike was equipped with a handlebar bag, and panniers hanging on either side of the rear tire from a stout rack. On the rack was strapped a medium size duffle bag.

There was enough equipment and supplies on the bike, Buddy hoped, to get him to the shelter. However, when he climbed on the bike he headed for home, rather than the shelter. The bike would get him to the shelter, but if he could get there with the truck, and more supplies, so much the better.

Buddy cut his eyes toward the mushroom cloud. It was still growing. He stopped long enough to feel the wind on his face. It was from him toward the cloud. The weather pattern should keep it that way. But Buddy was unsure how the nuke blast itself might affect the local weather pattern.

It was a good bike, with good tires. Despite the occasional plea for help from those milling around outside their houses, Buddy knew that if he stopped to help anyone, much less everyone that might be helped, he’d never survive. He changed to a higher gear and sped up, weaving around obstacles.

It took a while, but he was only six miles from home. An hour later he was at the house. Buddy crossed two fingers of his left hand, and turned the key of his truck with his right.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the truck started right up. The EMP had not destroyed the ignition components. He wasn’t worried about any of the other electrical components. As long as the truck would run he was happy.

Buddy quickly set the bike into the back of the truck. It took only a few minutes to add the equipment cases he’d packed and stored in the garage. Just in case. He added the fuel cans from the shed, along with a few other items he kept there.

He heard the survey meter sitting on the seat of the truck began to tick occasionally. He saw some activity at his neighbor’s house on his left. Buddy ran into the house for the last few items he was going to take to the shelter and ran back out. He was glad he had. When he came out his neighbor was just starting to get into Buddy’s pickup.

One of the things Buddy had retrieved from the house was a Stoeger double barrel Coach shotgun. “I don’t think so,” he said forcefully, striding up and blocking the man from closing the door of the truck. “Get out!”

Hands in the air, the man slowly slid out of the truck and stepped away. A few steps, and then he turned and ran back to continue loading his car with what looked like to Buddy, totally useless household items.

Buddy took another moment and strapped on the UM-84 holster rigged tanker style for his primary handgun, a Colt 1911A1. He set the shotgun and the rest of his small collection of weapons in the cab, along with a musette bag with ready ammunition for the pistol and rifles. He added four fifty-caliber ammunition boxes full of additional ammunition to the truck.

He tried to reach Charlene on the FRS radio. No response. Buddy put the truck in gear and pulled out of the driveway, headed toward Charlene’s shop. It took only a moment to read the note taped on the front door. “Gone to the house to get Big Bob.”

She done the identical thing that he had done. Her car wasn’t in her regular parking slot so Buddy assumed the EMP hadn’t damaged it. He drove over to her house and found another note. It was simple. “Shelter.”

Wishing she were with him, instead of own her own, at least Buddy knew she was alive and heading for the shelter. He headed that way himself. The survey meter was still clicking, but Buddy took a moment to glance at the meter. Still under 0.5 R. If it didn’t get much worse for a bit he would be okay.

The roads were jammed. Like quite a few others Buddy put his rig in four-wheel-drive and left the pavement. He’d made careful observations on several different routes out of different parts of the city toward the shelter. He knew where he could stay off pavement and get somewhere and where he had to use the regular roads.

Once he had to use the truck to help push three vehicles off the road that were not working. He didn’t ask if it was lack of fuel or EMP damage. He and another man in a pickup just used their front bumpers to get the vehicles out of the way.

Buddy did a double take when he saw Charlene’s car up ahead. Charlene was taking a bike similar to Buddy’s off the rear rack where she carried it when Buddy got up to her. As horns honked, Buddy stopped and jumped out of the truck to help Charlene load the bike into the truck.

It took less than a minute and Charlene was climbing into the passenger side of the truck and Buddy was moving again. Traffic on this section of the interstate was moving well, but Buddy saw what was shaping up to be a major traffic jam ahead.

“Thank you, Buddy!” Charlene finally managed to say. “I wasn’t sure if I would make it on the bike. My car just quit as I was driving. I was having trouble keeping it running since this all started. I thought I was going to just have to take the bike up from the shop, but I finally got it started.”

Buddy reached over and squeezed Charlene’s hand for a moment. “Yeah. I had to bike from the job home. I’m glad I started unhooking the electronics in the truck. If you’ll notice, it’s mostly really old vehicles still running.”

Charlene looked around at the traffic. Buddy was right. There were a few new models, but the majority were older models.

“Time to take route B,” Buddy said and took the next exit. Traffic was backed up almost to the interchange.

“What do you mean?” Charlene asked.

“Road ahead is blocked. We’re taking the railroad right of way past the blockage. If we can we’ll get back on the Interstate. If not, the railroad will take us all the way to the county road. I know we can get off there. Just keep your eyes peeled for an oncoming train.”

Instead of crossing the tracks that paralleled the Interstate and crossed the intersecting road, Buddy turned onto the tracks. It was something of a rough ride as the tires went over the ties supporting the track, but Buddy was afraid to try to run on the tracks themselves. It would be hard on the tires, for one thing. He didn’t think he could keep on the tracks, anyway. At least not at speed.

Apparently someone had seen what he was doing and tried to emulate his actions. Unfortunately they were in a car. The width between the wheels was enough to get the tires on the tracks, but as soon as a little twitch of the wheel bounced them off the track onto the ties the car slid to a stop. The car underside was resting on the tracks. The tires were touching the ties, but there wasn’t enough traction for the car to move.

Buddy kept checking the rearview mirror, to make sure a train didn’t come up on him unexpectedly. He was sure that the car would be moved off the tracks by someone else wanting to use the tracks the same way he was.

Fortunately, the only time they did have to get off the tracks to allow a train past, there was a good place in which to do it. From the looks of the front of the train someone else had been on the tracks and didn’t get off them in time. There were pieces of an automobile hanging from the front coupler of the engine.

The next train was still some distance ahead when they reached the county road and turned off the tracks. The top of the mushroom cloud had broadened significantly. There had been a bit of very fine dust coming down, with the survey needle slowly creeping up from 0.5 R/hr to 0.6 R/hr during the time they’d traveled.

The railroad tracks had been a much more direct path toward the shelter than the roads they normally had to use. It was fortunate because much heavier fallout began and the survey meter jumped up to 200 R/hr. “Hang on,” Buddy said. “I’m going to speed up. It was only another mile to the gate.

Charlene started to get out to get the gate, but Buddy said, “The radiation. Stay inside. I’ll get it.” She didn’t argue, just hopped over and drove through the gate when Buddy opened it. She noted that he took the time to close and relock it. He brushed off as much of the fallout that had accumulated on him as he could, then climbed back into the truck.

Charlene held on tight as they bounced over the rough terrain that was the road to the shelter. Buddy pulled onto the concrete under the roofed area between the barrier wall and the shelter. This time Charlene got out of the truck before Buddy could protest. She ran to the entrance of the shelter and went inside to open the garage doors.

Buddy hopped out as well, and as Charlene struggled to open one half of the sliding doors, he pushed open the other. As soon as there was clearance, he got back into the truck and backed it inside.

When they had the doors closed again Buddy called over to Charlene to get a water hose. He washed down first Charlene, then himself. Then he, with Charlene’s help, washed down the truck and its contents. The contaminated water ran to a floor drain near the garage door and ultimately to the gully.

It was cool in the underground shelter and Charlene and Buddy were both shivering by the time they were finished. Buddy hustled Charlene into the trailer, grabbed a robe from a closet, handed it to Charlene and pointed to the bathroom.

When she’d had a hot shower and had changed clothes, she went out and continued stacking the concrete blocks in front of the windows and doorways that Buddy had started. He hurried inside the trailer and got his shower and changed clothes. He came back out carrying the damp clothes, holding them well away from his body.

“I’m quarantining these till we have a chance to decontaminate them better.”

Charlene nodded. Buddy got the survey meter from the truck and went over to Charlene. “Hold up a minute. Lets see how we’re doing, radiation wise.”

He ran the survey meter all around Charlene. There was the occasional click and the needle of the meter would wiggle, but it was doing that anyway. There was no appreciably greater intensity of radiation on either of them than the background radiation.

Charlene rested as Buddy checked the rest of the shelter for radiation leaks. Only at the big door and the windows was there any appreciable radiation. Buddy helped Charlene finish stacking the solid concrete blocks to increase the shielding at the big door and the windows. The personnel entryways, with their shielded right angle turns and heavy lead lined steel doors were fine.

When all the additional shielding was in place they took another break. Charlene just looked at Buddy for a moment, then stepped into his arms. He held her for a long time as she cried. He shed a few tears himself. How was his brother and his brother’s family faring?

Chapter 18

Charlie was only able to stay in the stacked concrete pipe for another few days. The ground was excavated and the pipes placed and buried. But that wasn’t such a bad thing, it turned out. Though the piping was installed, it would be some time before the pipe would be in use.

As it was, Charlie had access to one end of the line. He also had access to the freshly poured basement of the building. He was cautioned about being caught in the building, but Clyde didn’t run him off when he started using both places. With the work at the golf course, and the occasional clean up job there at the building site, Charlie was doing okay.

He was able to get a package of disposable razors to replace the single one he’d been using for a couple of weeks. Though he didn’t need it at the moment, he found and purchased a nice woolen overcoat at a thrift store nearby. He used it as extra padding for his bed, which was still primarily discarded newspapers, of which he had a good supply.

The previous winter had been a rough one on him. Something else he stocked up on was some extra food. Like the coat, he didn’t particularly need it at the moment, but one never knew. Ramen noodles were light and didn’t take up all that much space.

He bought another bottle of vitamins and some protein bars, too. All in all, he was feeling pretty good. He always read the newspapers before he added them to his bedroll and the reports he was reading were the only thing bothering him at the moment.

Several of the workers were leaving partial lunches behind, which he scavenged every evening. He was getting more than enough food. He checked the dumpster carefully for things other than food, and found a few more items it contained from the construction site to make his life a bit easier. He’d need to move on before winter, as the building would be mostly complete by then. The dumpster was emptied every morning for the next round of cleanup from the site.

Since the dumpster was outside of the fence, some of the locals had begun using it to get rid of trash after the construction shut down each afternoon. Charlie was able to cull a few useful items from those things that had come from other than the construction site.

When Charlie went down into the basement that evening he noted the tiny trickle of water leaking in at one of the joints of the drainpipe. He’d told Clyde about it and Clyde had asked Charlie to keep an eye on it. If it got worse, Charlie was to let Clyde know.

Clyde wasn’t concerned with the water coming in the drainpipe. He was worried about where it was coming from. There was a twenty-inch main water line running just four feet from the drain tile. If it was leaking, the construction company was going to wind having to pay for the repairs. They’d be blamed for sure, no matter what actually caused the leak.

Charlie shook his head and smiled. The leak wasn’t bothering him. Actually it was to his advantage. It had not been hard to work a soda straw from a discarded fast food cup into the crack where the leak was. It didn’t divert all the water to the container he placed under the end of the straw, but it did catch most of it. He wouldn’t drink it, but he did use it to wash with.

He counted up his money. He had more things now than when he’d first got to this part of town, and even had more money left than when he’d arrived. Charlie was tempted to go back to the thrift shop and get a suit, shirt, tie, and shoes to try to find a job in the area. But it would take all the cash he had at the moment and he was reluctant to do that. Things were just too uncertain.

He might have to leave at any time, if those having the building constructed found out he was living here. Charlie sighed. Things were definitely better than he’d had it in a long while, but they were far from perfect. He hadn’t had a drink since he finished the bottle when he first got here.

Charlie went out the following morning, to take a long walk as was his usual practice now that he wasn’t walking most of the day, dumpster diving. He studied the building as he walked back toward it. It was definitely coming along. When finished it would be five stories. They were working on the second floor steelwork now. Upon seeing the group of fancy cars parked at the gate, Charlie changed his path and skirted the construction site. The bigwigs were there to do an inspection.

Charlie stayed out of sight, out of mind, for most of the day. He wound up making a few dollars helping clean out a burned out store. He’d gone past and seen some men working and asked if they needed help. They hired him on the spot. He was soot and ash coated when he got back to the construction site late that afternoon. Clyde was just locking up the gate.

“I was a bit worried about you. That chintzy banker was here today, looking things over. You’d think the building was his. He is going to have a small branch facility on the first floor, but he acted as if the whole thing was his. You doing okay? You’re a mess.”

“Helped clean up where they had that fire last week.”

“Oh. Come on over to the truck. My wife was cleaning closets and was giving stuff to Goodwill. I thought you might want a few of the items. What you don’t want I’ll drop off down there.”

“Clyde, you don’t have to do stuff like this. I still think it was you started leaving those partial lunches behind.” But Charlie went over to the truck. He was a practical man. There were several items of clothing he could use, but that was about it. Charlie thanked Clyde and headed to what he was referring, at least to himself, as his lair.

It was cool, as always, in the drain tile, but Charley stripped, washed himself thoroughly, shaved, and put on some of the clothing he’d received from Clyde. Feeling a new man, he sat down to work on a project. He’d been accumulating pieces and parts to construct a handcart to carry his stuff. He had quite a bit more stuff than would fit in just two buckets. He had several more, now, but there was no good way to carry more than two. Unless he had a cart.

Chapter 19

Edward really didn’t need to be at the meeting, since they wouldn’t even start on his part of the building until much later. But he wanted to be there. It was exciting to be involved in the construction of a new multistory building.

He definitely would be here often when they started constructing the vault. It would be a small vault, but it would be brand new. Both the banks he now owned had all been built before he acquired them. They were nice, of course, but even though this was just a branch facility, it was new. And he loved new.

Just as the ten-person shelter was new. He’d been a little surprised when Emily had not put up a fuss about digging up the back yard on the other side of the pool. When he found out how big the hole needed to be he threatened to sue if excavation of the hole for the shelter damaged the pool. It hadn’t. They’d even done a decent job of restoring the lawn damaged by the equipment.

He’d only been in it a couple of times. Once to check out the installation when it was completed before he signed off on the bill. The other time was to show it to Doc Cutter. He’d picked a time when Emily was off to a seminar of some kind. No need to have a scene with Emily unless it was needed.

Doc had been ecstatic. Edward smiled at the memory. He’d transferred a third of his assets to each of Edward’s banks. Those thoughts faded as he pulled up and stopped at the fence of the new building.

He was careful of his clothing, but he made a show of questioning everything he could about the construction. The others might not care, but he intended to be in one of the best new buildings in the area.

The construction foreman calmly answered each question. He satisfied Edward that he knew what he was talking about and what he was doing. Edward was looking forward to that evening with Courtney. This building was exciting.

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here