Barbaras Legacy


Barbara’s Legacy - Chapter 1

Scott was getting ready to go home. After three weeks of near daily terrorist attacks across the United States, including some that affected other colleges, the university Scott was attending closed down for the duration.

It didn’t take him long to load his truck with the few necessities he kept in the room he rented off campus. He had one last stop to make before he left town and headed for his family’s home in the Ozarks of Missouri. Though one side tank and the cross bed fuel tanks were full, the left side tank was almost empty. He wanted to fill it before he left town and headed east.

He pulled into the Chevron Station just off I-80 that was the last station just before leaving Reno eastbound. Much to his surprise, he saw Barbara Wadsworth at a pump fueling up. Though he waved, she didn’t seem to have seen him. That wasn’t much of a surprise, Scott knew. They had three classes together and they had not exchanged more than three words.

Scott was a bit intimidated by her. She was breathtakingly beautiful. She was also New England Aristocracy. A liberal. As opposed to Scott Toomey. All six foot two of him was diehard Midwestern conservative.

Despite the differences, seeing her always brightened his day. Even if it was not directed at him, her unintentionally seductive smile brought a smile to his lips. Things seemed especially bright when she laughed that throaty laugh she had.

Barbara had gone in to prepay as Scott drove up. The automatic pay system didn’t seem to be working, so Scott took his debit card in to pay. Barbara looked exasperated. “But it is a platinum card! I’ve never had anyone refuse it.”

Scott heard the clerk respond. “Sorry, Miss. Only cash and debit cards are being accepted. It’s the terror attacks. The owner doesn’t know when he might collect on credit cards and checks. He gets the money in his account immediately with a debit card.

“Do you have an ATM machine,” Barbara asked.

“Sure do. But it isn’t working.”

Barbara said something rather unladylike and turned around, almost stepping into Scott. “Excuse me,” she said and tried to go around him.

“Here,” he said, touching her arm. “Let me pay. You can owe me.”

Barbara didn’t have to look up very much to look into Scott’s eyes. She was almost six feet tall. Scott had seen her long auburn hair swish majestically when she turned around.

“I certainly will not!” she replied. Suddenly recognition gleamed in her eyes. “Wait. I know you. You’re in a couple of my classes.”

“Scott Toomey,” Scott said, holding out his hand. She took it in a firm grip and shook it a couple of times. “Just until this mess is over. I know you’re good for it.”

“I’ll give you a check,” Barbara said after a pause where she agonized over accepting help from nearly a stranger. But she needed to get back to Delaware. Hopefully the whole trip won’t be the same as it was starting off.

“Sorry. No checks,” Scott said automatically.

Barbara cut him a sharp glance and then reddened. “You won’t get anything else from me,” she said harshly, having dealt with very forward young men before.

“No strings,” Scott quickly said, turning red himself when he realized what Barbara thought he was suggesting. “Just cash when you have a chance.”

“I insist that…”

“Lady, take the offer and get the gas, or get out of line and let someone with the means pay for their own.”

“Oh, very well!” Barbara replied, hating the fact that she did.

Scott gave the clerk his debit card. “Hundred fifty on twelve.” He looked at Barbara.

“Oh. Just…”

“You’d better fill it up,” Scott said. “While you’ve got the chance.”

“But it is over five dollars a gallon and I’m empty.”

“Can’t be more than a ten or twelve gallon tank on that thing.”

“That ‘thing’ is a new Honda Civic Hybrid!” She stared at Scott for a few more moments and then told the clerk, “Sixty dollars. I’m on empty.”

The clerk made the transaction and handed Scott his debit card back. He and Barbara went out to their vehicles, much to the relief of the long line that had developed behind them. Barbara put exactly sixty dollars worth of gasoline in her Civic. She pulled forward and over out of the way and waited for Scott. While she waited she wrote out a check for sixty dollars. When he put the nozzle of the diesel fuel pump back she walked over to him before he could get in his truck.

“I insist you take this,” Barbara said, holding out the check to Scott.

Barbara could tell Scott was going to refuse again, but suddenly he relaxed and said. “I’m sorry. Of course I’ll take the check. I should have before without a fuss. I’m sorry.”

It startled Barbara. “Well… Okay. Thank you.”

Scott took the check and waited until Barbara was walking away before he tore it into tiny pieces and put it in the trash bin beside the pump. Smiling again he got into the truck and pulled away from the pumps. Barbara was pulling out into traffic and he was right behind her.

Scott was still behind her when she merged onto I-80 east bound. He half expected her to really take off, but she kept it at the reduced speed limit through the canyons. Even when they hit the 75 mph zone Barbara kept her speed at a more economical 70 mph. Scott regulated his speed and stayed about a mile behind her.

He kept a Sirius news radio station on and listened to report after report of the aftermath of terrorist attacks and the speculation of where the next one would be. It wasn’t long before Scott found out. In a breathless voice the newscaster announced that the Las Vegas Strip had been hit with a series of radiation bombs. Scott began to wonder if he would make it to the family compound in the Missouri Ozarks before being caught in one of the attacks.

So far it had been individual incidents mostly on the coastal states on all three coasts. Houston refineries had been hit. Drilling platforms off the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. A terrorist flying a light plane had tried to crash into the Discovery Shuttle, which was on the launch pad, loaded with fuel, ready to go. An F/A-22 Raptor blew the Cessna 172 out of the sky only moments before it could hit the Shuttle. There was minimal damage to the Shuttle.

The same could not be said for some of the other iconic targets. The Golden Gate Bridge for one. The section of bridge between the west shore and support pier and tower was down and the tower was leaning alarmingly. The Statue Of Liberty was in hundreds of pieces, most of it in the water around Liberty Island.

Icons were not the only things being targeted by the terrorists. Major electrical power distribution points had been hit, causing blackouts over several regions of the US, mostly on the east coast and areas of the west coast.

Scott made the same rest stops Barbara did, making no effort to avoid her. At the rest area just east of Dunphy, Nevada, Barbara walked over to him just as he was getting into the truck. She was obviously angry. “I do not appreciate you following me! If you keep it up I’ll notify the police that you are stalking me.”

“Just happen to be going the same way,” Scott said calmly. “I’ll be on I-80 until I pick up I-29 south. You travel at a nice, steady pace. So do I. We’ll probably be seeing each other until you turn off where you’re going, or I do.

“Well… I don’t like the sensation of being followed.”

“Consider it traveling together.” Scott was amazed at the audaciousness of his remark.

Barbara turned red. “I assure you we are not traveling together!”

“Of course not,” Scott said, slightly amused at her intensity. “But don’t be surprised to see me from time to time.”

Barbara just huffed and spun around and headed back to her hybrid. Scott climbed into the truck and pulled out of the rest stop, feeling a bit guilty. Maybe he was following her. He had no right to do so. He put Barbara out of his mind as he continued to listen to the news reports.

He was very surprised to see the Honda Civic pull in the same motel parking lot he was in, even before he got out of the truck. She didn’t see him until she was right up to the truck. She stopped, and Scott thought she might go to another motel. But she didn’t, walking past him without looking at him.

Scott followed her into the motel lobby. He was glad he had. Barbara was having essentially the same conversation with the desk clerk as she’d had at the Chevron station with that clerk. The motel was not going to take her credit card or check. “Things are just too uncertain,” the clerk told Barbara.

Scott felt for her. This time she didn’t seem angry, just disappointed and hurt. Scott doubted Barbara had ever had any money issues in her life.

“At the risk of suffering bodily harm, let me offer my services again,” Scott said softly to Barbara when she stepped away from the check-in desk.

“No! Absolutely not! I won’t hear of it! I’ll just go and find a branch of my bank and get money that way.”

Scott really had no right to try to dissuade her. Under normal circumstances it is what he would do himself. “I’ll be here if you change your mind,” he said, stepping up to the desk. He handed his debit card to the clerk.

It was a large, self-satisfied smile that lit Barbara’s face up when the clerk said, “We aren’t taking debit cards, either, sir.”

“Not a problem,” Scott said immediately, putting the card in his wallet and taking out a hundred dollar bill. “I assume you are still taking cash.”

“Yes, sir! Of course.”

Barbara’s smile faded. She turned and walked out of the motel office. Scott turned back to the clerk after Barbara had left. He told the clerk, “Two rooms. Hold the second for the lady.” Scott gave the clerk the additional money for the second room. With the check-in completed, Scott went out and parked his truck in front of the room. He took a small pack into the room with him.

It was nearing seven and he was getting hungry. There was a Red Lobster just across the road from the motel and he planned on eating there, but was waiting for the off chance that Barbara would be back. If she didn’t have cash for the room, she might be so short she couldn’t afford a decent meal.

Scott watched the news while he waited. Things were getting worse. There was speculation that it was being orchestrated by one or more of several different foreign governments, plus some copycat incidents by small groups on their own taking advantage of the situation.

With the shake of his head, Scott shut off the news and got up from the bed. Apparently he’d underestimated Barbara and overestimated the severity of the financial problem. He was walking along the sidewalk, headed to the motel office to cancel the second room when he saw Barbara pull under the gazebo at the office.

When she got out of the car Scott noted the totally dejected look on her face. “No go, huh?” he asked when she joined him at the office door.

“No. I don’t know what to do. I can’t keep going, and I can’t sleep in the car. This smog is playing havoc with my allergies.”

Scott took the card key to the second room out of his shirt pocket. “I got a second room, just in case.”

Barbara hesitated to take the key, but then snatched it out of his hand. “This better not be the key to your room!”

“It’s not. I’m in one thirty seven. You’re in one eighteen. You want to freshen up and then go get something to eat? I was just about to go over to the Red Lobster.”

“I’ve only got a few dollars in cash. Thank you, but I’ll just get a burger or something.”

“You sure you want to spend any of that cash? Once I’m gone it will be all you have. Believe me, I’m just extending a hand to a fellow UNR student. You can always give me another check to cover the additional expense.”

“I don’t want to run you short, if they aren’t taking debit cards now.”

“You won’t. I have enough cash to see us through to I-29 without any problem.”

Scott saw the hesitation in Barbara. Pride versus practicality. “Okay. But you have to take my check for the entire amount.”

Scott nodded and Barbara said, “Give me a couple of minutes to get settled in the room.” She got back into her car and moved it to the room. Scott walked down and waited at his truck for her to do what she needed in the room. He checked a few things on the truck, just to kill the time.

Barbara came out a few minutes later and she began to walk beside Scott as he headed for the entrance to the parking lot and the crosswalk to the other side of the street. “This smog is terrible,” she said, to make some conversation. “I had to take a Bendryl.”

As they waited for the light to change, Scott replied. “Got a really bad inversion right now. It’s holding everything down in the valley.”

They were silent the rest of the way to the restaurant. When they got there they had a short wait for a table. There was more silence. Only when they were seated and had given their orders, did Barbara again speak.

“Thank you, Scott. This is above and beyond the call to help a fellow classmate. I won’t forget it.”

Scott shrugged. “It really isn’t that big of a deal.”

“It is for me,” Barbara said, slowly picking apart a cheese biscuit and eating it as they talked. “I’ve never needed to ask for any kind of help like this. It is… unnerving. My family contributes thousands of dollars a year to charities. Never thought I’d ever be one.”

“It’s not like that,” Scott replied. “You’re just in a rough spot, due to circumstances. It is quite probably happening to many people.”

“I sure feel for them. This is not a pleasant situation to be in.”

Barbara had ordered a fairly light meal, but Scott had ordered a combination starter plate and she found herself taking an item or two when it was obvious Scott wasn’t going to eat it all. They talked a bit more, about what was happening all over the United States. Though Scott offered Barbara part of his dessert, she declined, having only a cup of coffee after the meal. They parted on the walkway at the motel.

The weather was oppressive the next morning when Scott went out do a short run. The inversion was worse than the day before. The smog was visible as a tan tint to the atmosphere. Scott didn’t run far. He turned around and went back to the motel room to take a shower to get the ugly feeling washed off.

He was tempted to wait for Barbara, to see if she wanted to get breakfast or coffee before they both left, but decided he was pushing his luck. He decided to just turn in his key and take off. She’d mentioned the night before that she would probably stop at a Western Union and have her father wire her some money to continue the trip.

No need for him to wait around for her. But he did run into her in the motel office. She was turning in her key, too. They exchanged good mornings but that was the extent of the conversation as they each walked toward their vehicles. Barbara had unlocked the Civic when Scott looked up at the sky, a droning sound becoming loud in his ears.

He saw several small aircraft, flying well apart, but going in the same direction. Each had a fog trail behind it. They were agricultural sprayers. And there was no reason for them to be spraying over the city. It suddenly struck Scott what the probable reason was. A biological or chemical attack on Salt Lake City. The weather was perfect for it.

“Quick!” Scott said, grabbing Barbara’s arm just before she could sit down in her car. “We have to get to my truck!”

Barbara protested verbally, and when Scott scooped her up in his arms and ran to his truck she began to pummel him with her fists. “Put me down! Put me down!”

Scott set her on her feet at the passenger door of his truck. She tried to run, but Scott spun her around and said, “Look!” He pointed at the aircraft, which were almost overhead, all still spraying.

“It’s a terrorist attack with biological or chemical weapons. Now get inside!”

“My car…” Barbara started saying, but Scott cut her off.

“You car won’t protect you. Mine will. I have a filter system. Now get in or get prepared to die horribly.”

Scott had the passenger door open and ran around to the driver’s side. He wasn’t going to die because of her stubbornness. He closed the driver’s side door and started the engine. He was reaching over to close the passenger door, but Barbara was climbing in. “Close it! Close it!” Scott yelled.

She did and Scott put the truck in reverse, backed up and turned the truck toward the entrance of the motel. There were a few people in evidence. One by one they looked up when they felt the light mist touch them. Several headed for doorways to get inside, away from the mist.

Barbara watched in horror as person after person fell to the ground. Several people had climbed into vehicles, the way Scott and Barbara had, and were copying his movements to try to get away from the falling mist.

But, like those in the open, the cars began to move in erratic patterns as the mist was drawn inside by the vehicles’ ventilation systems.

Barbara turned frightened eyes on Scott. “Even those in cars are dying! Why aren’t we?”

“I have a CBRN filter system mounted on the roof of the truck. It’s that white rectangular unit. Provides filtered air to the cab.”

Whatever the terrorists were using, it was quick acting. The planes had come from the east, and Scott was heading toward the east. He didn’t like tracking through the stuff, but decided it wasn’t that much more dangerous than trying to flee to the west. He and Barbara both wanted to go east. There were vehicles all over the road, with one occasionally still rolling out of control. Scott put his foot down and drove the truck like he was in a slalom race.

Using the wipers and washer occasionally, Scott kept most of the windshield clear of the mist. They ran out of the falling mist about the time I-80 curved northward on the east side of Salt Lake City. But there were constant signs that the mist had already fallen in the area. They were well away from the city before they began seeing vehicles and people on the move.

“People are going to drive right in to it,” Barbara said, watching the oncoming traffic.

With little in the way now, Scott reached down and picked up the mike on the CB. It was already switched to Channel 19. “Breaker! Breaker! Breaker! Gas attack on Salt Lake City. I repeat! There is a gas attack on Salt Lake City. Do not go into the city! All westbound traffic turn around and leave the area.”

“Get off the radio, you puke!” came the first response. “That ain’t funny! You know what is going on all around the country.”

“Someone should shoot you,” came another reply.

“I think he’s right!” came yet another reply. Suddenly there were screams coming out of the speaker, but they didn’t last long, thankfully.

Several more excited calls to turn around and go east came through over the next several minutes, but then they were out of range in the canyons on the east side of Salt Lake City.

At the first town they came to, Scott got off I-80 and drove around until he found an automatic car wash. Being extremely careful, and holding his breath, Scott opened his door, fed the money into the control console of the car wash, and then got back into the truck, closing the door after him.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Scott relaxed a bit as the truck went through the automatic car wash. He looked over at Barbara and discovered her huddled up against the far door, shivering. She met his eyes and whispered, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Acting quickly, Scott reached behind her seat and got the small trash container he kept there. He handed it to Barbara. She immediately started throwing up into it. Scott had a bottle of water and a bandanna ready when she finally quit.

He took the bag from her, having a hard time not throwing up himself, and closed the trash bag the hard case contained and tied it tight. Barbara was wiping her face with the dampened bandanna.

“I’m going to die like the others, aren’t I?” Barbara asked, her voice barely audible.

“I don’t think so,” Scott said immediately. “I think you just are a bit overcome with the scenes of death we’ve just experienced. Try to drink a bit of the water. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be on the road again, away from all this.”

Still huddled against the opposite door, Barbara did as Scott suggested. They were back on I-80 before she straightened up and looked over at Scott. “You saved my life,” she said softly. “All those other people…”

“I know…” Scott said, concentrating on the road. He was beginning to catch up with east bound traffic and slowed down. “I hope they find some of these people doing this!”

“I still don’t quite understand how we were spared. You said a special filter?”

“Yeah. An American Safe Rooms vehicle CBRN filter unit. Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear. It’s part of a preparedness package I put on the truck.”

“You sound like you were expecting this.” It was almost an accusation.

“Not this specifically. But I’ve been preparing for all sorts of disasters, natural and human caused, for years.”

“You’re a survivalist!” Barbara drew away from him.

“Not like the mainstream media portrays survivalists. I’m a prepper. Every one of my extended family is a prepper. We prepare for disasters. We aren’t out to overthrow the government. Several of us are CERT members and volunteer for rescue work during problems. I suspect my family is gearing up for that right now.”

“But you own a gun, I suppose,” Barbara said.

“I do. Several.”

“Guns kill people, you know.” Barbara’s voice was cold. She seemed to be regretting having been saved by a gun owner.

“People, among many other things, kill people. Guns are a tool. And I know what I’m saying won’t persuade you. Only a life experience will, I suspect.”

It was a long time before Barbara spoke again. Scott had turned on the radio and they had been listening to the reports of the latest attack. The Salt Lake City aerial Sarin gas attack was one of two attacks that morning.

The second was a dual purpose attack at Memphis, Tennessee. Seven separate massive barge strings were rammed into the highway and railroad bridges across the Mississippi at Memphis. The barges, upon hitting the bridge supports were blown up with explosive charges and sunk to add the barges mass to that of the bridges to block the river from other traffic.

“Oh, no!” Barbara suddenly said, sitting up in her seat. “My parents. I called them last night and they know I’m in… was in… Salt Lake City.” She looked around for her purse. “My phone! My purse!” She shot an angry look at Scott. “It was left behind when you attacked me.”

“Use mine,” Scott said, handing her his cellular telephone.

After a grudging “Thank you,” Barbara dialed.

“Mother? No, Mother! I’m fine. I’m fine. I got out unharmed.” She looked over at Scott for a moment before turning her eyes away and continuing to talk to her mother. “A classmate… A man traveling east the same as I am. He has a special vehicle and we got away from the gas in it.”

“Mother, is Daddy there?”

There was silence for a few moments and then Barbara was speaking again. “Yes, Daddy. I’m fine. But my car… my purse… all my belongings are in Salt Lake City.” Again Barbara looked over at Scott. “There just wasn’t time. The news says it will be days or weeks before people can come back into the city. I don’t have any money or means of transportation, and…”

Barbara was suddenly frowning. “My father wants to talk to you.” She handed Scott the cell phone.

“Yes, Mr. Wadsworth?” Scott said, keeping his eyes on the road.

“You have a very important person with you,” said Barbara’s father. “It would mean a great deal to me for you to see that she gets home. And it would be well worth your while.”

“That isn’t necessary, sir.”

“I insist,” reiterated Wadsworth. “Now give me a location where I can wire the money she asked for last night and I’ll double it for you to make sure she gets on a train or bus for home, since the planes aren’t flying at the moment.”

“Again, not necessary. I’m traveling as far as Interstate 29 and I can just continue…”

Barbara was making the same angry response her father did. “Now see here, young man,” her father said, “I want my girl home as quickly as possible! You follow my instructions or I’ll have the law after you for kidnapping. You understand me?”

“I do, Mr. Wadsworth. Cheyenne is the most likely place to be able to get things done. We’ll be there this afternoon if nothing else happens. Here is your daughter.”

His jawbones working, indicating his anger, Scott handed Barbara the cell phone. Scott turned his attention away from her and she lowered her voice, turning to face her window as she talked to her father again. Scott couldn’t hear what she said.

“Yes, Daddy. Thank you, Daddy.” Scott heard that, and turned to look at Barbara.

“You have a plan now?” Scott asked.

“Yes.” She handed the cell phone back to Scott. “I’m… I’m… I’m sorry. My father can be a little… forceful.”

“Runs in the family,” Scott replied. “No skin off my nose. As soon as we get to Cheyenne you can call your father and have the money wired and then get a bus. Don’t think the trains will be running after the hits at Denver and Omaha.”

Barbara didn’t respond, simply turning her head and watching the scenery passing by, occasionally looking in Scott’s direction as one vehicle after another whizzed past them. She finally leaned over and saw that they were traveling at almost 80 mph. The traffic wasn’t passing them because Scott was going deliberately slowly. The other vehicles were just traveling much faster than the speed limit.

Around noon Scott pulled off the interstate and into a fueling station with a quick mart. He gave Barbara a twenty to get something to eat. She almost refused, but she was hungry and finally took it without comment.

The fuel dispenser took the debit card without a problem and Scott filled both side tanks. The cross bed transfer tank was still full. He pulled the truck clear of the pumps and went inside, intending to get something to eat and drink himself. But there was Barbara, two sandwiches and two bottles of water in hand.

“I hope you like turkey salad,” she said, handing him one of the sandwiches and one of the bottles of water. He took the change from the twenty when she handed it to him rather than risk another row.

“I love turkey. Thanks.”

They sat down at a picnic table at the side of the quick mart and ate silently. Both went to the bathroom and then they were on the road again. Scott turned the radio back on and again the pair listened to the reports of the day’s terrorist attacks.

They pulled into Cheyenne mid-afternoon and found a Western Union in the Yellow Pages. Scott parked the truck and handed Barbara his cell phone. She exited the truck without a word.

Barbara came out of the Western Union office with a stunned look on her face. She got back into the truck and handed Scott his cell phone. “Daddy’s bank is closed. He couldn’t get any cash out and they wouldn’t take a credit card. I still don’t have any money.”

“What did your father want me to do?” Scott asked.

Barbara bit her lower lip for a moment and then said, “He… He didn’t say. He was so upset about not being able to send me the money I think he started having chest pains. Mother got on and said she was taking him to the hospital.”

“I’m sorry, Barbara,” Scott said softly. “Try not to worry. I’m sure he’ll be all right. And don’t worry about getting there. If I need to, I am fully prepared to take you all the way home.”

“Why? Why would you do that? You don’t even know me. And I’ve made it as clear as I know how that you won’t get any physical reward from me for doing anything.”

“You’re just someone that needs help and I’m in a position to help. My mother and father would each whip my hind end if I didn’t do all I could to see you safely home.”

“So I’m just your pet needy person, then?” Barbara looked hurt and was starting to cry.

“Don’t cry, please,” Scott pleaded. “It’s not that simple. You’re a good person. I happen to know you. I would have offered to help no matter what.”

“Can we just go?” Barbara asked and dropped into that silent mode she was so good at.

“Okay.” Scott started the truck and headed back to pick up I-80 East again. They traveled silently until it got dark and then stopped at the first motel with a vacancy. Again Scott had to pay cash for the two rooms. When they checked the two rooms out, which were side by side, Scott, seeing the look on Barbara’s face, said, “Let’s find a Wal-Mart and get you a few things for the next few days.”

Barbara looked relieved. “Okay. Thanks.”

The Wal-Mart was nearby. Scott parked and shut off the truck’s engine. Pulling out his wallet, Scott handed Barbara two one-hundred-dollar bills. “I know it’s not what you are used to, but…”

“It’ll be fine,” Barbara replied. She was halfway out of the door when she looked back and asked, Scott, “You aren’t coming?”

“I think you know how to shop on your own,” was Scott’s sardonic answer. He was sure he saw a tiny smile curve Barbara’s lips as she left the truck. “Bring me back a sandwich, would you?”

Barbara nodded and hurried toward the entrance to the Wal-Mart. She wasn’t really a Wal-Mart person and took quite some time getting the things she needed. There was plenty of money left to go to the grocery section and get a couple of items from the deli before she went back to the truck.

Scott had the driver’s seat leaned back, his wide brimmed hat down over his eyes. Barbara couldn’t tell how he knew she was coming, but he straightened up and reached over to open the front passenger door for her. She set the food bag down and then went to the rear passenger door and opened it. She put the sacks containing her items on the rear seat.

Scott had the truck running by the time Barbara buckled herself in the passenger seat. He pulled out of the parking lot without a word and headed back to the motel. He helped Barbara carry in her purchases. Barbara kept waiting for him to ask what she had bought, but he never asked, taking his share of the food and a bottle of water from the sack containing it.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

“Oh,” Barbara said, stepping toward the door. “Your change…” her voice trailed away and she didn’t open the door. Instead she went about eating a very lonely meal and getting ready for bed.

She woke up groggy and still tired the next morning when Scott knocked on the door to her room. “Just a minute,” she managed to say. Wrapping the bed clothes around her she went to the door and opened it a crack.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just woke up. I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

“No problem. Take as long as you need. I’m going to go fuel up while you get ready.”

Barbara nodded and yawned. Nearly an hour later she was on the verge of panic. Scott hadn’t returned and she had no clue about what she would do in the event he didn’t come back. But there he was and Barbara breathed a sigh of relief.

“Sorry I’m late,” Scott said as soon as Barbara opened the door. “Fuel is getting hard to find. I want to keep the tanks topped off in case we can’t get any more.”

“No more fuel? What will we do?” The near panic of Scott not showing up was back, with the idea they might not have fuel to get to her home.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got enough to get home. Maybe get all the way to your place, but I’d feel a lot better stopping at my family’s place and refueling if I can’t top off again this evening.”

“Oh. Okay. But isn’t it a long ways out of the way to get to your home? You said you cut south on I-29. How far south would we have to go?”

“To south central Missouri, in the Ozarks. Near Branson?”

“Oh. I’ve heard of Branson. I guess if that is the only way…”

“It may be,” Scott said. “If I can, I’ll take you straight home. But there just might not be enough fuel available. I know I can refuel completely at home. We store quite a bit of fuel for emergencies.”

“The prep thing?” Barbara asked.

“The prep thing,” Scott acknowledged. “Speaking of which, I’m supposed to be reporting in during circumstances such as this. Would you speed dial number one for me?”

Scott handed Barbara the cell phone as he kept his eyes on the road. Traffic was light, but it was aggressive.

“Hello?” Scott heard Barbara say. His mother didn’t like telephones much and had a tendency to talk very loudly into one. He could hear both sides of the conversation as it continued.

“Toomey house. To whom am I speaking?”

Barbara started to hand Scott the telephone, but he was concentrating on not getting crushed between two semi trucks. “This is Barbara Wadsworth, Mrs. Toomey. I’m with Scott. He wanted me to dial for him, but he’s driving and can’t take the phone.”

“Probably a good thing,” Mrs. Toomey said. “I’ve got a few things to say to that boy. You were in that thing in Salt Lake City, weren’t you?”

“Yes, Ma’am. But Scott got us out okay.”

“Of course he did. We trained him well, we did. Boy has a head on his shoulders. A little too independent minded. He should have contacted us before this. Everything okay?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Barbara said. “Here he is now.” Barbara started to hand Scott the phone, but Mrs. Roomey was speaking again. “That’s fine then. Tell the boy to keep to the contact schedule.” She hung up.

“She hung up,” Barbara said helplessly.

“Yeah. I heard. Mother does not like using a telephone. Got shocked by lightning when she was twelve when she was on the telephone. Never trusted them again.”

“I can’t believe she didn’t ask why I’m with you,” Barbara mused.

“She doesn’t care,” Scott replied. “For a woman, she isn’t very inquisitive.” Before Barbara could retort to the comment, Scott continued. “That’s a quote from her, not me.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Since we know the cell system is still up, why don’t you try your folks? See how your father is doing.”

“Thank you,” Barbara said, opening the telephone again and dialing. “Hello? Mother? Yes, it is me. Scott has assured me he will see me all the way home. We may have to swing south to his family’s place in Missouri to get fuel before we can make it all the way. How is Daddy?”

Barbara listened for a long time before she said anything else. “Tell him I love him and I’m all right. And that Scott is doing everything he can to get me home.”

Worrying her bottom lip with her teeth, Barbara closed the telephone and put it on the center console between the custom bucket seats of the truck. “They kept him overnight for observation. Mother is picking him up in a little while.”

“I’m sorry,” Scott said quietly. “My father had an incident a couple of years ago. It is frightening to think you might loose a parent.”

“Yes. My family is very close,” Barbara said. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost one of them.” She reached down and turned the radio back up.

It was basically the same information they had heard the day before. Nothing else had been attacked, but just about everyone that had any responsibility was on watch for something new. There was still no martial law, Scott noted. But people were being told to stay at home, or wherever they were at the moment. Travel was strongly discouraged. They might hit travel restrictions at any time.

Rather than going into Omaha, Scott got off I-80 in Lincoln and took State Road 2 across to pick up I-29. Not only was it a more direct route, but it would avoid the hassles in Omaha that the attack on the rail yards had caused.

When he was down to fifteen gallons in the left hand thirty gallon tank, Scott started looking for fuel. After the fifth stop he decided it was pointless to continue trying. At least until they got to a major metro area again. “We’ll try at Kansas City,” Scott told Barbara after getting back in the truck at the fifth stop.

“How can they just be out?” Barbara asked. “No gasoline…”

“Diesel,” Scott corrected her.

“No Diesel and hardly any food left in the quick mart.”

“Times like these, there is a cascading effect. If the trains and especially the trucks don’t run, service stations don’t get fuel and stores don’t get food deliveries.”

“That’s just not right!” Barbara said rather forcefully. “How are people going to cope?”

“Many won’t,” Scott said. “Besides the deaths caused directly by the attacks, there are going to be people dying of dehydration due to lack of water. Some will die of starvation, though that does really take quite a long time if they are getting any food at all. Some people will have access to water, but it will be contaminated. Many will die from waterborne diseases. There will be fights over food and water. People will die from those.”

“Enough! Enough!” Barbara cried. “I don’t want to hear any more!” She turned to look out the passenger window again, lost in some world of her own.

Scott let it go. What was happening across the US, and to a much smaller extent, across Europe, was just too traumatic for some people to come to grasp with it. Scott wasn’t too surprised at Barbara’s reaction, but he had some hopes she would bounce back after a time.

With the radio on at a low drone, they approached Kansas City. “Could you help me look for a service station that is open?” Scott asked, hoping to bring Barbara out of her funk.

She looked around at him and said, “You really think it will be hard to get fuel here?”

“Harder even than I thought,” Scott replied. “Look. The traffic light at the end of the off ramp is out.” They looked around. It seemed that the power was off in Kansas City.

There was very little traffic on the interstate system and not very much more on the side streets that they could see. Law enforcement was visible, but seemed to just be waiting for trouble. They weren’t stopping people.

They were on the way out of the city, traveling south on US 71 when Barbara suddenly pointed ahead of them and to the right. “I think that one is open!”

Scott slowed down and turned into the station. There was one car at the pumps and it seemed to be filling up. Pulling up to the diesel pump, Scott stopped and got out of the truck. A quick try of his debit card showed that it wouldn’t work. Scott headed into the building to pay with cash. Barbara was right on his heels.

“Looks like you have both power and fuel. Unlike most of KC. What’s it going to cost me to fill up?”

The man behind the counter was chewing on a toothpick. “Can let you have ten gallons. Two hundred bucks.”

Scott heard Barbara gasp and look toward them from where she was looking over the limited choice of food items on the shelves and in the cooler.

“Twenty bucks a gallon,” Scott said. “I guess I’ll just have to pass on that.” He made a motion with his head and Barbara hurried over, several items in her hands. “Leave it,” Scott said.

Scott could tell Barbara wanted to object, but she didn’t, setting the items on the counter in front of the man and following Scott out of the building.

“I can’t believe he wanted twenty dollars a gallon!” she said, going behind the truck to the passenger side.

“The food would have been the same,” Scott said as he buckled up. People with no other choice will pay it, if they have it. Fortunately we have a choice.” He looked over at Barbara and grinned. “Actually, we have the money, and the choice. Just didn’t like the guy’s attitude.”

“Oh,” Barbara said. “Good. I can wait for some food later, I guess.”

“No need,” Scott said. “Reach behind the seat and get that bag on the floor behind my seat.”

Barbara unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned over between the bucket seats. Scott’s eyes went to her bottom, perched as it was right by his shoulder, in the tight jeans she’d picked up at Wal-Mart. But his eyes left as quickly as they were drawn.

“Got it,” Barbara said, pulling the small backpack from behind the seat. She set it on her lap and buckled back in. When she opened it she smiled. But it faded after a moment. “What are these?” she asked, holding up one of the Millennium Food Bars that was in the pack.

“Food bar. Tastes okay and will fill the void. We’ll stop the first place we think we can get real food.”

Barbara offered Scott one, but he declined. She tore open the wrapping on the bar in her hand and took a bite. “Not so bad,” she said. “Not like a Snickers, but not bad.” She pulled out a bottle of water, offering the first one to Scott. He took it, opened it, and took a long drink. Barbara did likewise.

“I always keep some rations in the truck. Just in case. Don’t want them to be too appetizing or I’ll eat up the supplies and then not have what I need when I need it. I’m hoping we can get something in Springfield.”

Again Barbara fell silent as they continued to listen to the radio. It was approaching seven in the evening and the sun was fading when they pulled into Springfield. The power was obviously on, since there were plenty of lights shining. “You want to try to fuel up?” Barbara asked.

“No. I’ve got more than enough to get to home…” his words trailed away. “But it might be a good idea to get as much as I can, to stretch the supplies at home.”

Barbara and Scott both watched for a station that was lit, that didn’t have a sign out signifying they were out of fuel. It took a while, but they finally found one. Scott pulled in and tried the debit card. No dice. He headed inside. Again, Barbara was right on his heels.

“Sorry,” said the female clerk. “No credit cards, debit cards, or checks. Cash on the barrelhead. Limit of ten gallons of gas, twenty of diesel. It’s double what shows on the meter.”

Scott gave her enough cash to pay for the twenty gallons of diesel, despite the price.

“Someone ought to turn these people in,” fumed Barbara as they went back out to the truck. “There are laws against gouging during a disaster.”

“People will be people,” Scott said, putting the nozzle in the left side fuel tank. He pumped until it cut off at twenty gallons. Barbara started to go get the change, but Scott stopped her with a grin. “Better let me get it. Just as soon not have to bail you out of jail for getting into a fight with the clerk.”

“I would never…” Her words trailed away and then she huffed, turned, and got into the truck.

When Scott came back and was buckled up, Barbara said, “You let them take advantage of you!”

“I pick my fights,” Scott said. “A few bucks weren’t worth the hassle, since I got the twenty gallons. Now. What do you feel like eating this evening?”

“Just whatever you want,” Barbara replied.

“I’m kind of in the mood for steak,” Scott said, turning into the parking lot of a local steakhouse. “Feel free to get whatever you feel like.” Scott locked the truck with the remote as they walked inside the restaurant.

“I’m afraid we are somewhat limited on the menu tonight, due to delayed deliveries,” the hostess told them as she was seating them. “No salad bar to speak of.”

“We’ll find something, I’m sure,” Scott said, smiling at the hostess.
Barbara and Scott waited for the server, who was at the table only moments after the hostess left.

“Before you list things,” Scott said, “Let me ask, do you have a filet mignon and lobster tail?”

The server, Janice, looked pleased. “As a matter of fact, we do. We’re completely out of the cheaper cuts, but we do have filet mignons.” She looked over at Barbara. “The same?”

“I couldn’t eat that much…”

“Make it two,” Scott said. “I’ll eat what she doesn’t.”

“Well, I like mine medium rare,” Barbara said.

“Excellent! So do I.”

Barbara frowned. She’d hoped he liked it well done.

“Any starters still available?” Scott asked Janice.

“Stuffed mushroom caps,” she replied.

Scott looked over at Barbara. “Split an order?”

Rather reluctantly Scott thought, Barbara nodded.

“And what to drink?” Janice asked.

“Just water for me,” Scott said.

“Ice tea,” Barbara said.

Janice wrote down the orders and started to turn away. She turned back, and obviously embarrassed, said, “I’m afraid it is cash only. Is that okay?”

Scott nodded. “Got it covered.” Janice smiled again and walked away.

The two said little while they had their dinner. The restaurant wasn’t very busy, and most of the other people were talking in hushed tones.

Barbara declined dessert and had coffee while Scott downed the rest of her meal and a piece of peach cobbler with ice cream.

“Where do you put it all?” Barbara asked, as he finished the last of the cobbler with a sigh.

“Mother says I have a hollow leg,” Scott said with a laugh. “Just a naturally high metabolism. Pop is skinny as a rail, too. Speaking of Pops, why don’t you try yours again?” He handed Barbara his cell phone.

“Thank you,” Barbara said, taking it and dialing the number of her parent’s house. “No answer,” she said after letting it ring over thirty times. She had a worried look on her face when she handed the phone back to Scott.

They were walking back to the truck, which happened to be north of the restaurant when a sudden, rather large pinprick of light appeared in the sky slightly to the northwest. It was only there for a couple of seconds, but it was all the more noticeable due to the fact that all the lights around them went out.

“Oh, no!” Scott said, half under his breath. “This is not good!”

“What was that? What happened to the lights?” Barbara asked.

Scott grabbed her arm and hurried her to the truck. “Hey!” she protested when Scott as much as picked her up and set her in on the passenger seat. “What’s going on now?”

Scott got in the driver’s seat and started the truck. “I think that was a HEMP device going off.”

“HEMP? What is a HEMP?”

“High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse device. Kills electrical items attached to long lines, and some electronics. Including automotive engine control computers, apparently. Look.”

Scott pointed out the few vehicles on the road slowly rolling to a stop. On some the headlights went out, but there were some still with lights working.

“Why is the truck still running?” Barbara asked, feeling the panic well up in her.

“It’s not electronically controlled.” Scott became busy getting around people that had come outside to see what was going on. He managed to get back on the road without hitting anyone, but it was a near thing.

“I still don’t understand,” Barbara said, after staying quiet while Scott maneuvered the truck.

“It’s probably the initial stages of a nuclear attack on the United States. Something has happened somewhere that we are not aware of and the big boys started playing with weapons systems would be my bet.”

“Nuclear attack! No! It can’t be! It just can’t!”

“I’m afraid it is,” Scott replied. “Look behind us.”

In the far distance to the north and slightly west, an ugly bright purple glow lit the dark of the night slightly. “Probably Kansas City,” Scott said.

Barbara started crying. “My parents! What about my parents?”

“Barbara! Barbara! Look at me!” Scott stopped the truck in a spot without any stalled traffic. He touched Barbara’s arm and she turned to look at him in the light cast off by the dash lights. Her eyes were wide with fear. Scott could tell it was fear for her parents and not herself.

“We’re only a couple of hours from my home. Even if they hit Springfield, which is doubtful, we should still be all right. When we get there I will do everything I can to find out about your parents.”

Scott took a deep breath and then committed himself. “When things are safe, if we haven’t contacted them, I’ll take you there.”

“Can we go now?” Barbara asked, making a visible effort to calm herself.

Scott shook his head. “No. We’re bound to get some fallout if this is a full scale attack. We have to take shelter. We have one at home. We’ll be safe, once we get there. Will you be okay while I drive?”

Barbara managed to nod, though she didn’t say anything. She simply stared out the windshield into the darkness as Scott put the truck back into gear and headed south. As they traveled, they saw three quick flares of brightness, one to the southwest of their travel, one almost due south, and one slightly southeast.

After each one, Scott named the probable target city. “Little Rock. Ft. Smith. Memphis.”

Behind them there was another flare and Scott said, “Jefferson City… Or Ft. Leonard Wood.”

“Please! No more,” Barbara whispered.

Scott wasn’t sure if she was speaking to him or God, but he quit trying to pinpoint targets and simply drove as fast and safely as he could. He had to slow down when he left US 65 and took state and then county roads to an entrance of one of the Mark Twain National Forest segments.

He drove past the marked entrance and then turned onto a well maintained gravel road just a ways further west.

“You live in the park?” Barbara asked.

“Not per se. My family’s property borders the Park. We kind of think of it as ours, too. It’s not too much further.” He fell silent as he continued up the road.

Barbara shivered a bit at the enclosed feeling the trees all around gave her. She was stunned when the gravel road turned into asphalt and the road entered a large opening in the forest. It was too much to take in all at once.

She saw what looked like any small subdivision in the suburbs off to the left, complete with fire hydrants and street lights. Which were on. There were lights on in the houses, too. Off to the right came the reflected light coming off a lake that disappeared off in the darkness. But dead ahead was what really took her by surprise. It looked like a small, modern hotel. It too had lights glowing from most of the windows.

Scott pulled around the circular drive and stopped under the entrance canopy. There were no other vehicles around. “Come on!” Scott said. “We need to hurry.”

Barbara saw lights winking out in the subdivision, including the street lights as small groups of people approached the large structure. The lights in the upper story of the building were going out one by one, too. Scott had taken her by the hand and was tugging her toward one of the groups approaching. A woman stopped at his call, “Mother!” The others hurried on.

“Mother, this is Barbara Wadsworth.”

“Hello, dear,” Mrs. Toomey said. “Come along. We don’t have much time.” She looked at Scott. “You cut it very close,” she said. It was an accusation.

Barbara was surprised to see Scott turn slightly red. “Gee, Mother! How was I supposed to know?”

“You stopped at the steakhouse, didn’t you?” It was another accusation.

“Well… Yeah… But…”

“Hush up and come along. I want us buttoned up and locked down inside of fifteen more minutes.”

Scott shut up, and followed his mother, Barbara’s hand still in his. They were the last to enter the building. A man was standing at the door and marked off Mrs. Toomey and Scott. “Name?” he asked Barbara.

Scott answered for her. “Barbara Wadsworth.”

Barbara looked behind. The man was closing security shutters for the door and sidelights. Scott ushered her into one of two elevators in what was obviously a reception area of a commercial operation.

She noted that they went down two floors. There must be a basement and sub-basement, Barbara decided, curiosity getting the better of her fear. When they left the elevator they entered a large open area with quite a few people milling around.

“Welcome to the Ozark Corporate Retreat Complex disaster shelter,” Scott said, finally dropping her hand.

Click Here for Chapter 2