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Jerry D. Young - Church Of The Ark And Armageddon

Jerry D. Young - Church Of The Ark And Armageddon

Postby fastback65 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:08 pm

Jerry D. Young
www.jerrydyoung.com • jerrydyoung@outlook.com

Church Of The Ark And Armageddon
Copyright 2012 by Jerry D Young


All Rights Reserved

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual names, persons, businesses, and incidents is
strictly coincidental. Locations are used only in the general sense and do not represent the real place in
actuality.



Church of the Ark and Armageddon - Prolog
It had started small, in the Deep South, among disillusioned
Christians of several denominations, as well as a few people of little
previous faith preferences. But it grew, slowly, changing slightly as
more people, people with very definite ideas, became involved.
Elements of the Old Testament; a few of the New Testament;
passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls; some fraternal organization
elements, especially Masonic, Elks, and Shriners; a little Mormon, as
well as Mennonite and Amish influences; along with powerful emotions
and beliefs of the Ante Bellum southern states of America; all mixed
together, became the quiet, powerful, event focused religion.
A religion with an agenda. The survival of the church and its
members, come what may, biblically, naturally, or humanly. As Noah
had survived once, the new church now planned to survive the coming
Armageddon. And, of course, the members of the church wanted the
survival of enough non-church members to serve those in the church.
They didn’t really want to convert everyone to the church, just the ‘right’
people.
Church properties were always built with defense in mind, usually
with high walls or stout metal fences surrounding them. The dwellings
of church members were also built with defense in mind, often within
small walled and gated communities.
Many of the church members were wealthy, with more wealth
coming into the church almost daily. Owners of certain key, to the
church’s interest, businesses and activities were welcomed into the
church, even to the point of recruiting people, with already apparent
leanings toward the church’s basic beliefs.
While the congregations had many and diverse businesses owned
by the members, a development of older, harsher days, came once again
into being. The leaders of the church wanted more than stored food.
Page 3 of 78
They wanted a long term, perpetual in fact, supply of food. That meant
farms. Farms under the control of the church. Farms that could and
would produce food, no matter what the future brought.
The church made land available, some by members of the church,
and more owned by the church itself, to a new breed of share croppers.
A few of the CAA members became sharecroppers, but the vast majority
were non-members. All did have one thing in common, however. Only
pre-tractor equipment would be used. The farms would use horses and
oxen to pull the plows and other farm machinery, and the production
would use only organic methods. No modern technological chemicals or
devices could be used.
The farms were only one of the efforts the church took for its long
term preservation. The members were not dependent on retailers for
things such as canned and packaged foods. Not even dehydrated and
freeze-dried foods. Three wet pack canneries and two packaged food
companies were owned in part or in full by the church or by members. A
commercial dehydrating and freeze-drying company with its own
cannery was owned and operated by the church as a nonprofit business
supplying the members of the church.
The church owned a commercial transportation company for profit.
The profits subsidized the hauling the company did for the church and
church members. Halo Trucking, with the golden halo slanted over the H
and a mighty sword as a background was a common sight on the
interstates and in remote areas, too.
Every major church operation, including their main businesses and
all the churches, were networked on the internet with a high security
system of internal design done by members of the church with degrees in
programming. It was a parallel system to the sophisticated business band
radio system the church was licensed to operate, backed up by licensed
Amateur Radio Operators using the latest Amateur Radio Equipment
available.
Page 4 of 78
The tall, free standing spires prominent at each church were
camouflaged omnidirectional antenna structures. Every major operation
also had log periodic directional antennas for the various
communications bands, the larger ones for HF frequencies more obvious
and visible than the small farm of smaller antennas on the properties.
Page 5 of 78
Church of the Ark and Armageddon
Ray Collins eased forward in a crouch, careful of each step he
took. He had the breakaway tagging arrow nocked and ready. He
tensioned the compound bow slightly. The deer he had been tracking
was thirty yards away. Still a bit far for Ray’s modest bow skills to take
a shot. He was helping out the forest service trying to get an idea of how
many deer were in the area and had agreed to try and tag a few if he
could.
Suddenly the deer alerted, its white tail flipping as it bounded off.
A shot rang out and Ray went to his belly on the ground, the bow
slipping from his fingers as he brought the M1A around from its slung
position on his back, to a ready position in his hands. It wasn’t for deer,
but there were some bears back in the area now, and Ray didn’t trust his
archery skills to divert one if it decided to come after him.
He’d lost sight of the deer, but as he scanned the area for the
source of the shot, he saw it stagger back into view several yards further
away and then go down. Ray made no move to rise or announce his
presence as two men came into view, approaching the dead deer.
“CAA,” muttered Ray. This wasn’t the first time he’d encountered
one of the church’s hunting parties. Clad head to foot in Realtree
®
camouflage, there were usually three of them. Two to spot and hunt,
with a third as back up and over watch security.
Slowly and carefully, Ray scanned the area, turning his head
slowly, and really concentrating on each and every object that could hide
a person, or be a person. It wasn’t until the man moved that Ray saw
him. This one wasn’t just in patterned camouflage. He wore a ghillie suit
from head to toe.
The three men greeted one another and exchanged a few words.
The man in the ghillie suit stepped back into the edge of the trees and
stopped. Ray looked away, and then back. It took him several seconds to
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see the man again. The man hadn’t moved, but the effect of the well
made ghillie suit was remarkable.
Ray stayed where he was until the men had the deer field dressed
and quartered. He started to get up when the two hunters turned around
and disappeared into the forest. But he remembered the ghillie suited
man in time and held position.
He was glad he did. About ten minutes later the two hunters
showed up again, this time with a game cart. Everything but the offal
was loaded onto the game cart and the two headed toward where Ray
was sure their vehicle was. The man in the ghillie suit had begun to
move before the other two, parallel to the path the two men were taking.
Ray continued to wait, watching carefully. He wasn’t quite sure
why he was being so cautious. It was his land the men were hunting on,
and it was out of season by months. He should be out there protesting.
But there were rumors about CCA, not so nice rumors, especially about a
religion. Or as some were now calling it, a cult. A major cult with
influence in high places. Even some of the people in high places were
members, it was said.
And some of CCA’s activities were broaching on being highly
illegal. Ray had not given the Church any permission to hunt on his land.
It was different when he’d run across them before, on state and federal
land, hunting legally. But, again, rumors were saying they were really
pushing the limits in a lot of places. In a lot of activities.
Ray finally stood and carefully made his way back to his vehicle.
His property wasn’t vast, but it was broken up by a long ridge with a
small mountain stream at the base of it on the side of th e ridge where
Ray’s homestead was. The area on this side of the ridge was simply
wilderness from the ridge to the property line. Thinking about it on the
drive down and around the far end of the ridge, Ray decided that the
men would just have said they didn’t know they’d passed from the State
Forest onto his land. The out of season activity would have been harder
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to explain. He was a little disappointed in himself that he hadn’t
protested.
It was just salt in an open sore to see one of the Halo trucks shoo t
by on the county road as Ray was about to turn onto it from the trail. He
wondered for a bit if it contained the hunters and the game cart with his
deer on it.
Ray shook his head, pulled onto the road and drove the short
distance down to his driveway. “Going to have to fix this, one of these
days,” Ray said to himself as he crossed the deteriorating low water
bridge that spanned the creek that ran along the county road. The
concrete was broken up and tilted at all angles.
He’d put it off for several reasons, not the least of which was the
isolation it gave him. Not too many people were willing to risk their
vehicle crossing it, even if they thought they could. But his truck was
more than capable of handling it so he’d not bothered. He wasn’t sure he
wanted to fix it now, with the way things were going in the US and rest
of the world. Ray wasn’t sure which was in the worst shape, us or them,
as he thought of anyone and everyone not an American citizen. That
actually even included a few people that were US citizens, many of them
elected officials.
After driving up the rough track that was the driveway, Ray took a
sharp left and rode up and over the berm he’d pushed up when clearing
the top of the jutting bulge of the mountain that was his homestead. The
berm went all the around the road side of the now flattened ledge with
the only reasonable approach being up the driveway. The ground fell off
quickly on each side of the road and was heavily forested.
It was steep enough on the outer side to make climbing it and
shooting over the top of it at the property extremely difficult except at
the crossover. And Ray had a few surprises for anyone that might try
that.
Page 8 of 78
But Ray put those thoughts out of his mind when he was greeted
enthusiastically by his Airedale, Homer. “Hey, Homer! How you doing,
boy?”
Homer luxuriated in the rubs and scratches to his head and around
his ears, leaning against Ray’s legs as he often did. Ray wondered how
Homer had picked up that trait. He wasn’t a lazy dog, but he’d lean
against Ray anytime he was close enough.
Suzie came trotting out of the rather elaborate doghouse, with three
of the four pups trailing her. The fourth pup came running out to join his
siblings and managed to fall and trip up all three of them.
Ray wooled Suzie around as Homer checked the pups. Both dogs
were fine specimens of Airdales, registered and papered. Ray was
thinking about selling the pups when the time came, but had a hard time
facing the fact that it would be best, but he loved the animals and knew it
would a hard task to part with them.
A few minutes of bonding, and Ray checked the dogs’ automatic
feed and watering system. Ray was often gone for two or three days at a
time and the automatic system, kept filled and well maintain ed saw to it
that Homer and Suzie and the pups would be okay when he was gone.
After ensuring everything was fine with the animals, Ray went into
the house, which backed right up, almost against, the bluff that climbed
another fifty feet in elevation before sloping back down toward the crick
and ridgeline.
Ray changed out of his hunting clothes and put the bow and rifle
away before fixing himself lunch. He checked the internet as he ate the
bowl of Crockpot chili. Nothing of great import, except the overall
situation. Then one article caught his eye. The Church of the Ark and
Armageddon was being thanked for donating several truckloads of
canned and packaged foods to flood victims of a flood back east.
Page 9 of 78
“Dollars to donuts,” Ray said to the computer screen, “It is old
stock they are rotating out to make room for fresh.”
“Don’t be so cynical, Ray.”
Ray turned around quickly. “What are you doing up here?”
“Thought we’d spend the weekend together. Been a while since
we’ve had any free time. I remember you said you were taking this
weekend off to watch the Olympics. Thought we could watch them
together.”
Ray got up and hurried over to his sometimes girlfriend. He kissed
her politely, a mere buss on the cheek. “Hi. It is good to see you,
Antoinette.”
“And you. Would you get my case out of the Jeep? I need to hit the
head.”
“Sure.” Ray hurried outside to get the backpack out of the front
seat of the Jeep. He stopped at the kennel run and told the dogs, “You’re
a fine pair. You didn’t even make a noise.” Normally the dogs would
signal anything approaching, which was very seldom, but Antoinette had
been up a few times and the dogs had been shushed and told she was
okay to be in their territory. Besides, they liked her. She would play and
work with them whenever she was up.
Ray didn’t have a doubt that Antoinette had stopped to say hello to
the dogs and give them a treat before she came into the house, using her
key.
Placing the bag down near the hallway to the bedrooms, Ray
hurriedly did a little clean up in the kitchen. When he’d put on the chili
that morning, he’d left the sauté pan and other utensil s out used in
preparing the ingredients for the Crockpot chili. Even the empty diced
tomato and Ranch Style brand chili beans cans on the counter. The
Page 10 of 78
blender used to puree the beans and tomatoes was still on the counter,
the remains of beans still clinging to the inside.
“Is it alright to come out now?” Antoinette asked in an amused
voice from the hallway.
“Yes. You can come out now.” Ray’s voice was fatalistic.
Antoinette had to be the most observant person he’d ever known.
“Figured you want to tidy up a bit. So. How’s tricks?”
“Good,” Ray said. “Getting quite a bit of work from the state
putting in fire breaks and such. They are worried about a bad fire season.
Already been two. You want something to drink?”
“Sure. What do you have that is ready?”
“Got a nice stout. Or some clover blossom wine.”
“Better go with the stout. Save that scrumptious wine for after
dinner.”
Ray got a pair of bottles of the stout he’d brewed up a few days
before. He was an avid brewer and winemaker. He’d do hard liquor if it
wasn’t illegal. He didn’t actually drink much, but loved to try new
recipes and test them out on his friends.
Handing Antoinette the bottle after popping the Grolsch style
clamping stopper he waited a bit anxiously for her opinion when she
took a sip.
“Um. Good. Did yourself proud, Ray.”
“Thanks.” Ray sat down beside her on the sofa. “Okay, Antoinette,
out with it. What really brought you up here today?”
Page 11 of 78
She turned a sad face toward him and managed to get the words
out before she started crying. “I lost Momma today. The nursing home
called…”
“Oh, baby!” Ray said and took her in his arms. He put his bottle on
the coffee table and then hers. He just held her until she cried herself out.
He’d lost both his parents in a car wreck a few years previously. He
knew what Antoinette was going through.
“Thanks, Ray. I knew I could count on you,” Antoinette said after
straightening back up. She reached for the stout and took another sip.
“They aren’t going to let me go to the funeral.”
“What? That’s not right! That all happened a long time ago, and
your mother was in a bad way!”
“I know. But Charles has never forgiven me for putting Momma in
the hospital when she went off the deep end and tried to kill herself. The
stigma of mental illness was just too much for him to take. That’s why
he pulled her out and put her in a nursing home. She was cared for
physically, but she never got over losing Sally and just went into
withdrawal. I think… No. I know she could have been helped and been
able to cope with things if Charles had just left her in the mental health
care hospital.”
“I’m so sorry that ever happened to you and your family. You can
take as much time as you want to start dealing with this.”
“Thanks, Ray. Considering our relationship, or lack thereof, you
are a kind man.”
“Mutual decision, Antoinette. I feel the same thing you do about
marriage first. But that is all immaterial right now. You just need a
friend to lean on and I’m glad you chose me.”
Page 12 of 78
“Nobody but you could help me the way you can. I always leave
you feeling better than when I arrived, even if I was feeling good to start
with.”
“Well, I’m still glad. There are always choices.”
“Yes, there are.” Antoinette recapped the bottle of stout to Ray’s
surprise and set it back on the coffee table. “I need to work off some
stress. You worked the vein anymore lately?”
“Been a few days. Are you sure you want to work that hard and get
that dirty?” Ray asked.
“I’m sure. We can have the rest of the stout when we’re done for
the day. You still have my mining clothes, since it has been so long?”
“Oh, yes. I just clean them up after you leave, wash them, and put
them away for next time. I guess it is next time.” Ray picked up the two
bottles and recapped his before he took them back to the kitchen.
Antoinette was already in the second bedroom, changing, when
Ray headed to his bedroom to do the same thing. Both came out a few
minutes later, dressed in coveralls and boots with hardhats. The hard hat
had a bright light attached, with goggles looped to them. They met at the
end of the hallway, which was closed off with a doorway. He opened the
door to expose another doorway in the face of the rock just slightly taller
than they were. The door was set in a concrete block wall. There was
nothing on the sides of the gap between house and rock, but it was
roofed and there were floor boards down to span the gap.
Ray opened the mine door, leaned into the hole, and flipped a light
switch, illuminating half a dozen LED bulbs on the wall of the short
mine drift. Even from the door Antoinette could see the gleam from the
thin line of quartz encased gold. Ray flipped another switch to start the
fan that blew fresh air from outside through a large diameter flexible
hose to the face of the drift where they would be working.
Page 13 of 78
Ray had cut the vein when he’d been using the Cat D-11T dozer to
build the flat shelf out of the sloping bulge on the side of the mountain.
It was obvious from the start that the vein was rich. So Ray made the
decision to continue to work, build the house he was already planning
next to the bluff, and begin hand mining the vein out as time and energy
permitted. He didn’t figure he’d lost much gold in the earth works, since
the vein, though rich where he’d cut into it, had been very small. It was
gradually getting larger the deeper he went into the bluff.
Before they entered the drift, both carefully checked the walls, and
especially the ceiling, for any indications of collapse. Ray was adamant
about safety, and shored the walls and ceiling every few feet with heavy
timbers, just in case. The geological structure wasn’t prone to collapse,
but Ray simply didn’t take any chances.
The two picked up their tools and dust masks and walked slightly
downward to the face of the drift. Antoinette could see where Ray had
worked the face some since the last time she’d seen it. “Almost ready to
harvest,” Antoinette said.
“Yeah. I kind of like getting to a point where it will be easy to
finish so the next time I come in it doesn’t take long to get some
satisfaction.”
“Gold bug,” Antoinette said, humorously.
“Look who’s talking!” Ray said with a laugh.
Antoinette already was picking up the electric hammer drill that
they would use to bore a series of holes into the fa ce of the rock. When
the holes were completed, an electric jackhammer would knock out the
webbing between the holes to expose more of the gold laden quartz vein.
Since Ray had decided to keep the drift a little over head high, it
took more rock removal than would be necessary with a drift only high
Page 14 of 78
enough to crawl in to access the vein. But Ray wasn’t a production
miner, intent on getting as much gold as possible for the least money
invested. People knew he had a source, but no one suspected it was right
behind his house. He didn’t want to let on just how rich the vein was, so
he only harvested enough at a time to convert to a few Gold Eagle coins,
while having a good time doing the work.
As soon as Antoinette had a few holes done and Ray had room, he
began using the electric jackhammer. He could knock out the rock faster
than Antoinette could drill so he would spell her every so often to let her
rest while he drilled a few holes.
They both took a break after a couple of hours and evaluated their
progress. They both sat down on a pair of stools that were handy. “How
you holding up?” Ray asked Antoinette after they’d each downed a
bottle of water from the case Ray kept in the drift so he wouldn’t have to
bring it with him every time.
“I’m good for another go around,” Antoinette said, standing up.
She hoisted the drill and began the drill holes up near the roof, standing
on one of the stools, her head bent at an angle to clear the roof.
Antoinette finally gave up and let Ray do the rest of the face,
exposing a long, thick slab of quartz. “You know,” she said, carefully
shining her headlamp on the quartz, “I think the vein is getting both
larger, and more laden with gold than earlier.”
Ray studied it the way Antoinette had and final agreed with her. “I
think you are right. I thought it might, but I never wanted to get my
hopes up.” He began to chip away at the quartz with a rock hammer as
Antoinette caught it and put it in a canvas bag there for the purpose.
“That’s enough, I think,” Ray said. He hadn’t gone all the way
against the face of rock, much less digging deep into the vein itself to get
more gold out. Just like he’d said earlier, he left enough clear so it
wouldn’t take much work to get a reasonable amount out the next time.
Page 15 of 78
Antoinette carried the canvas bag back to the entrance of the mine
and came back with a heavy cart. Ray was standing ready with a shovel
to load up the spoils. The two alternated shoveling and running the cart
to the entrance and dumping it to one side of the gap between the house
and rock face. It would take several more sessions before Ray needed to
move the pile and distribute it over the property so it wasn’t obvious he
was mining right there on the property.
Finished with the cleanup, the two set everything in its assigned
place in the mine and left, with Ray closing and locking both of the
doors. Then they cleaned up, leaving the bag of quartz and gold at the
end of the hall. They would separate the gold from the quartz after
having a rest and some supper.
Ray didn’t mind eating his Crockpot chili several meals in a row,
so with each having a bowl of chili, with some grated cheese and saltine
crackers, the bottles of stout in their other hand, the two went into the
living room to eat and watch some of the Olympics.
The chili and the stout both gone, and an event starting neither
cared much about, Ray, and then a smiling Antoinette, fell asleep sitting
on the couch.
Ray woke up first, looked at his watch and groaned slightly as he
moved his arm. “Getting too old for this,” he muttered. He shook
Antoinette. She woke quickly and asked, “What time is it?”
“Almost midnight,” Ray said. “I need to get to bed. These old
bones and this old couch don’t sleep well together.”
“I’m with you, even with my youthful bones.”
Ray rose and gave Antoinette a hand up. They walked hand in
hand to the hallway, where Ray said, “We’ll do the gold tomorrow.”
Page 16 of 78
“Okay,” Antoinette said, letting her hand slip from Ray’s. But she
raised it up to Ray’s face and brought his face clos e to hers. “Thanks,
Ray. You are a peach.” She kissed him lightly on the lips and then
turned into the bedroom she used when she was visiting Ray.
Ray sighed and headed for his own bedroom, wondering when it
would be a good time to ask Antoinette to marry him. She was still
making it subtlety clear that she wasn’t ready yet to commit.
The next morning Ray found Antoinette in the kitchen, making
smoothies for breakfast, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Oh, sweetie!’
Ray said and took her into his arms. But she didn’t stay long, gently
disengaging after a few moments. She wiped her cheeks with the backs
of her hands and went back to adding fruit to the blender.
The tears slowed, but didn’t stop, but Antoinette said, softly. “It’s
okay Ray. This is just how I deal with some things. Here you go. An
Antoinette special smoothie.” She handed Ray the tall glass she’d filled
from the blender and then filled a second glass with the remainder.
“Um. Good. You do good work, Antoinette.”
Antoinette chuckled, the tears having slowed to a stop. “Let’s see
what is going on at the Olympics.”
They went into the living room and took seats on the couch again
to have their breakfast smoothies and watch some of the Olympics.
When another sport came on they weren’t too interested in, the two got
up and while Antoinette cleaned up a little in the kitchen, Ray got the
canvas bag of gold laden quartz and went into the third bedroom that
was now a workshop with outside access.
When Antoinette came in a few minutes later, her face was
scrubbed of the tear tracks. Ray couldn’t tell if she’d put on any makeup,
but doubted it. She seldom used any, having nearly perfect skin.
Page 17 of 78
The two worked side by said, carefully cleaning the quartz away
from the gold. The quartz was rather crumbly, but it still took a little
effort to break it up and recover the strands of gold. The quartz would be
added to the collection he’d accumulated. Like the spoils that he only
moved from time to time, the accumulated quartz would be pounded
down to a powder and then panned to recover the small specks and
flakes that couldn’t be separated by hand.
After the work was done and they’d cleaned up everything, Ray
weighed the raw gold. “How much?” Antoinette asked.
“Almost four ounces. Good haul. And you get half. Give me a
minute and I’ll get you some coins. What denomination?”
“Tenths. The ounce coins are impressive, but the tenths will be
more usable, if ever needed.” She didn’t even try to dissuade Ray from
giving her a share of the gold. He’d made it clear the first time that if she
helped, she got a share, no arguments. This was the fifth time she’d
worked the drift with him and had accumulated several ounces of gold to
add to her retirement stash, as she considered it.
They lazed around the rest of the day, watching the Olympics when
there was something on that they enjoyed. They worked and then played
with the dogs for a while in the afternoon. Antoinette took a nap after
that, while Ray got on the computer and checked the Daily Briefing on
the Preparedness Center dot us website. It was one of his primary
sources of information since it was so comprehensive. He didn’t have to
go to a bunch of different sites to get the information that interested him.
It was all right there in one spot.
He noted that gold was up nearly a dollar, and silver thirty-three
cents. They’d been trending downward for a couple of weeks, but that
seemed to have stopped. Crude oil and fuel prices were still stable. The
weather was a hodgepodge of record highs in the middle of the country,
with rain in the northeast and northwest coastal cities. The drought
monitor was an agonizing sight to see. If some of the areas didn’t get
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significant rain soon, food costs that fall, winter, and next spring were
going to skyrocket.
Ray went to the other sites he visited, checking first for any new
stories from Tired Old Man. Nothing today. But there were some
interesting posts on a couple of the forums. Preppers were concerned
about a possible new gun control effort after a spate of public venue
shootings.
He sighed. Ray felt for the victims, but just couldn’t change his
mind about the inherent right to keep and bear arms. After an hour on the
various forums, Ray went to the kitchen, intending to prepare supper. No
chili tonight, as much as he loved it. But Antoinette was already there,
well into the process of making another of his favorite meals. Meatloaf,
with boiled potatoes and corn on the cob.
It was a meal that he’d planned on making for himself that
weekend, and had picked up the necessary components earlier that week.
“You know me well,” Ray said.
“That I do. You’d live on meat and potatoes, chili, eggs and bacon,
and ice cream if you could. Now get me a stout and I’ll join you in the
living room in a few minutes.”
Ray nodded, grabbed two of the bottles homemade stout and went
to the living room. The TV was already on. Coverage was back and
forth on several of the less popular sports. The pair sipped the stout and
watched the games with interest.
But the oven timer went off and Antoinette went to the kitchen to
take the meat loaf out so it could rest, and put the corn in the water she’d
boiled the potatoes in after taking them out. “You want another bottle?”
Antoinette asked Ray. “I made some tea, if you want.”
Page 19 of 78
“The tea sounds good. And we didn’t have that clover blossom
wine last night. Want to have some of that this evening, so I’ll pass on
the stout.”
“Same here,” Antoinette said, joining Ray on the couch again. “Be
about another ten minutes.”
“Okay. Good. I’m getting hungry.”
“The way you eat, I don’t see how you stay so slim,” Antoinette
said.
“You’re talking to me about staying thin? You can’t weigh more
than one hundred pounds.”
Antoinette chuckled. “You’d be surprised, my dear, not that I’m
going to tell you how much I weigh.”
Ray laughed in return. “I know better.”
A few more minutes of the games and the two went to the kitchen
and Antoinette began to bring the food to the table while Ray set out
place settings for them. It was a pleasant meal, highlighted by the
homemade ice cream that Ray made religiously with an in-freezer ice
cream maker, followed by a cordial glass of Ray’s clover blossom wine.
It had an exquisite taste but was a strong wine, so they limited
themselves to a single cordial serving.
With no plans for the next day, the two stayed up late again
watching the Olympics, with the agreement to sleep in and not start
Sunday until around ten in the morning. With another light kiss on his
lips, Antoinette went to her bedroom and Ray to his.
Antoinette took Ray at his word and didn’t even stir until after
nine. Ray was in the kitchen when Antoinette came in wearing her robe,
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yawning widely. “The mining and late nights are catching up with me.
I’m glad I was able to sleep in. What is for breakfast?”
“Omelet. One egg for you, two for me. And a fruit bowl with toast
and juice. That sound okay?”
“Sounds perfect,” Antoinette said. “I’ll get my shower and be in
shortly. Anything important going on this morning I need to know
about?”
“Haven’t checked, yet,” Ray admitted. “I’ve only been up a few
minutes myself.”
On the way back to the bedroom, Antoinette turned on the TV to
see what Olympic events were scheduled for the day. But the Olympics
weren’t on. “Ray. You’d better come see this,” Antoinette called to him.
“What’s up?” Ray asked, joining Antoinette standing in front of
the TV.
“China is poised to attack Taiwan, it looks like. Our government
has not responded in any way.”
“They couldn’t have just moved enough manpower and mat ériel in
a few hours to be ready to move on Taiwan.”
“The talking heads are speculating, based on some kind of insider
information, that at least one spy satellite went off line or was destroyed
by the Chinese. Gave them enough time to get ready it looks like.”
“The administration should have realized something was going on
when those satellites quit working.” Ray said.
“Apparently there have been a series of solar flares playing heck
with some of the satellites. I guess they thought that they were the
cause.”
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“I know about the flares. But I didn’t think they were strong
enough to take out some like a spy satellite.”
“It’s all just guess work now, in the media. The government and
the military aren’t talking. I’m going to get my shower. You can fill me
in when I get back. Don’t let anything burn.”
Ray went back to the kitchen, stepping to the doorway from time to
time to watch the television for a few moments before getting back to the
breakfast preparations.
They ate their breakfast in front of the TV. There was nothing new
that they hadn’t seen the first few minutes. When things were repeated
for the fifth or sixth time, Ray decided to go out to see to the dog s. They
kept him occupied for an hour, for half of which Antoinette joined him.
Antoinette was obviously reluctant when she told Ray after a light
lunch that she had to get back home and get ready for work the next day.
After Ray loaded her suitcase into the front passenger seat of the Jeep
and went back into the house, Antoinette was coming out of the
bedroom.
I’m ready to go.” But she stopped at the hall, with Ray watching.
“Ray… If you’ve ever entertained the idea of asking me to marry you,
now would be a good time.”
Ray was totally shocked, but he quickly gathered his wits about
him and said, “Stay right where you are!” He ran to his bedroom, opened
the wall safe behind a large print of the Homer and Suzie, and took out a
ring box.
He hurried back to join Antoinette. She was waiting patiently, an
expectant look in her eyes. She watched Ray go to one knee, bring up
the ring box and open it.
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“Will you marry me, Antoinette?” He took the ring from the box
and Antoinette held out her left hand and Ray slid the ring onto her ring
finger.
“Yes, Ray, my love, I will marry you. Just as soon as I can plan it.
That okay with you?”
Ray stood. “My Lord, yes. You just name the day and the place
and I’ll be there. Set up whatever you want and I’ll gladly pay for it.”
“That won’t be a problem, Ray. I don’t plan on much. Just a few
friends. I already have a plan.” She stepped forward and put her ar ms
around Ray. This kiss was unlike any she’d ever given him. This was no
platonic friend kiss. It was a passionate, romantic kiss if there ever was
one.
“That’s going to have to do until after the wedding,” Antoinette
said, releasing Ray and stepping back.
Ray could only nod, nearly paralyzed with desire. But his voice
returned quickly and he said, “Of course. What do you need me to do to
help you get things ready?”
“Not a thing. Just be careful, stay healthy, and figure out what you
want to say for your vows.”
Ray really did freeze up then. “Vows?” he squeaked out. “Just the
regular ones, right?”
Antoinette smiled and raised her right hand to caress his cheek. “If
that is what you want. It is your wedding, too.” Her hand slipped from
his cheek and she turned and left the house. It was a moment before Ray
hurried after her. He stopped at the dog kennel and stood with the dogs
to watch Antoinette drive away.
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The two dogs looked at Ray, their heads cocked slightly in
perplexity as Ray suddenly jumped up and down, did a little dance, and
yelled out a loud, “YES!”
Then he stopped and stood there, feeling more scared than he had
in a long time. He was getting married. To Antoinette. A woman he’d
been in love with for several years. A dream was coming true and he
didn’t have a clue about what to do next.
The Olympics no longer on his mind, the wedding became
secondary as he went back inside and sat down in front of the TV to
think. But the news caught his attention. China had just made a
declaration that Mainland China was going to bring the island of Taiwan
back into the fold. No interference in the operation would be tolerated on
any level.
It was a clear warning to the US and everyone else to just sit back
and let it happen. The wedding always in the back of his mind, Ray fired
up the computer and began to evaluate the status of his preps. He’d been
planning for two, plus the dogs, for years. He now wanted to make sure
that there wasn’t anything he’d forgotten that Antoinette might possibly
need in the future, if worse came to worse.
Late in the day, after checking the news again, Ray went to the
mine and entered. Not very far in, between two of the shoring timbers,
he lifted a canvas curtain that looked very much like part of the drift
wall.
There had been a branch vein, off the main vein, that Ray had
followed until it played out, probably no more than ten feet from the face
of the bluff. The gold recovered justified the work, but Ray found an
invaluable use for the resulting room. It was the perfect st orage place for
his preps. There were several dozen feet of shelving, with almost every
foot of it loaded down with supplies and equipment.
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Ray took a few minutes to verify a couple of things that the
inventory numbers didn’t match with his memory. “Shoul d have
known,” Ray muttered. “The computer has much better memory than my
brain.”
Satisfied that everything that he thought he had was present or
accounted for, Ray went back inside, got a bowl of left over chili and sat
down at the computer again. There were several things he wanted to get
ordered, but he wanted to check his PayPal account first. He knew to the
penny how much he had in his checking accounts and wallet, but he had
a tendency to lose track of how much was in the online account.
He would occasionally sell on e-bay a particularly nice piece of the
gold quartz that would have more value as a collector item than the
bullion value. He’d picked up that idea, and some of his gear, from a
small mining operation website. Diggitprospecting, a dot com company.
Those transactions helped finance his preps, allowing him to get paid by
PayPal, and then use the money to buy things online without having to
keep transferring money back and forth from bank accounts to PayPal
for every sale or purchase.
Ray put in the orders and then checked the news sites online for
any further information. None was forthcoming, so he got a meatloaf
sandwich for supper, a glass of iced tea, and sat down to try and watch
some more of the Olympics. But when the sandwich and tea were
finished, Ray just didn’t feel like watching any more. He was more
exhausted than he thought he should be. “Stress,” Ray murmured as he
went to the bedroom to shower and go to bed.
Up early the next morning, Ray had breakfast, prepared a lunch
and Thermos of hot tea, and headed in for work. The first vehicle he saw
on the road was another Halo semi rig, this one with double reefer
trailers. He wondered what they would be carrying. He put it out of his
mind as he passed the rig. He got on the interstate and drove to the point
where the reconstruction of a section of highway was going on, along
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with the installation of a new diamond/cloverleaf intersection with
another major regional highway going in.
Ray checked with the foreman to find out what he would be doing
that day. It didn’t look like much had been done over the weekend, but
that could be deceiving. With his orders on what to do, Ray climbed up
into the Cat D-11T after verifying that it had been serviced as scheduled.
The contractor was subcontracting a lot of the equipment work, paying a
good rate per hour, and including servicing the equipment every night by
another contractor.
The D-11T wasn’t new, but Ray had kept it in perfect shape since
he’d lucked into the deal to buy it. The machine made him a great deal
more money that just hiring out as an equipment operator. It was too big
for some things, so his older D-7E got as much local work as the big one
did on contracts like the highway project.
Ray concentrated on the work. While not brain surgery by any
means, doing earthwork to a grade line wasn’t as easy as Ray made it
look. He checked the news when he broke for lunch. Amazingly, it was
all Olympics. The China Taiwan situation seemed to have fallen off the
news radar.
He was climbing back up into the dozer when the traffic caught his
eye. It was down to one lane each way on the Interstate, as it would be
until the project was finished. That, of course, bunched up traffic. What
Ray saw was six Halo semi-rigs, spread out among the other vehicles.
“Just how many rigs do they have?” Ray asked himself. A shake of the
head and he fired up the Cat.
Three days later, Antoinette called shortly after he arrived home
from work. “Ray, my love, This Sunday. 10:00 AM at my church. Wear
a suit. The dark grey one. And have whoever is standing up with you
wear one, too. If you don’t have rings yet, I’ll pick them up tomorrow. I
have my eye on a pair that I think you will like.”
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“I should…” Ray started saying.
“Oh, Ray!” Antoinette laughed. “I may be something of a Tomboy
still, but I still like doing girl stuff. I don’t mind handling all of this. I’m
getting a big kick out of the pharmacy staff. They just seem to find it
hard to believe that I am getting married.
“Now, I just want you showing up shined up and glowing.”
“Well… Okay… I guess.” Ray didn’t know what else to say. When
Antoinette was on a mission, there was no stopping her.
Ray took the suit and tie in with him to work the next day. He’d
have them cleaned and pick them up Friday. He hadn’t even thought
about someone to stand up with him. He didn’t have any family left, and
very few friends. Probably his best friend, other than Antoinette, was
Alfonse Jacquard. They hadn’t been seeing much of each other lately.
Alfonse was now doing most of the travelling for the company he
worked for and was in town sporadically. It always seemed like any time
one of them wanted to go shooting; the other was unavailable due to
work.
Ray called Alfonse, his fingers crossed that he was in town. He
was. And would be Sunday. He was ecstatic to hear that Ray was finally
going to marry Antoinette, and quickly agreed to stand up with him. “Be
a good chance for you to meet my fiancée. It is amazing that you are
getting married now. I just asked Melody to marry me last weekend.”
“Wow. That is amazing. And congratulations. I’ll see you Sunday,
10:00 AM at the Church on Fifth.”
“I’ll be there! Congratulations, Buddy.”
“You, too, Alfonse.”
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Ray was steady as a rock the rest of the week. Until Sunday
morning when he remembered that Antoinette really wanted him to come
up with his own vows. He was wracking his brain for something all the
way into town and decided as he parked on the Church parking lot that it
would just have to be the traditional words.
He saw Alfonse, schmoozing with the few guests, a beautiful
woman at his side. Ray went over and the two men shook hands. Then
Alfonse introduced his fiancée, Melody Strong.
“I have a feeling Alfonse doesn’t deserve you,” Ray said.
Melody had a bright smile. “Oh, I think he is quite deserving. Just
as am I. Wait until you get to know me. You’ll be surprised how much
the two of us mesh.”
“Well, I’m glad he finally met someone his equal.”
Ray and Alfonse were suddenly being urged into the Church, and
to their places for the ceremony. He looked over at the woman standing
opposite Alfonse. He had no idea who she was.
When Ray saw Antoinette come in, it took his breath away.
Though the dress wasn’t a flouncy wedding dress per se, it was a
beautiful white flowing dress, off the shoulders. Her long auburn hair
was loose and flowing. She seemed to be glowing. Ray just stared as the
music started and Antoinette was escorted up the aisle by someone else
Ray didn’t know.
He took her hand in his when she came up to him. They turned to
face the minister. Much to Ray’s amazement, when it came time for
them to exchange vows, he found himself responding to what Antoinette
had said. Her beautiful smile and glistening eyes told him he had done
just fine.
Page 28 of 78
Then came the kiss, and the ceremony was over. Ray walked out of
the Church with Antoinette on his arm to the accompaniment of clapping
hands. A limousine was waiting and Ray handed Antoinette inside when
the chauffeur opened the rear passenger door.
Ray leaned back against the seat and sighed.
“Glad that’s over?” Antoinette asked lightly.
“Oh, no! It was beautiful! You were beautiful.”
Antoinette leaned over and kissed him. “You’re sweet. You are
right, but you are sweet to say it. To be honest, I’m glad it is over. I
loved doing it, but I’m ready to have some peace and quiet for a while.”
“Yeah. I was only able to take off three days next week. I wasn’t
sure what you wanted to do for a honeymoon. We really haven’t
discussed this much.”
“That’s my fault. I’m going to have to adjust to making joint
decisions. I’ve been making my own since I was thirteen. I sort of just
took over the wedding thing, I know.”
Her hand in his, Ray said, “I think you did a great job. Who were
all those people? I only saw a couple I recognized. Who stood up with
you and who walked you down the aisle?”
“That was Denise. She’s my number two at the pharmacy. The
closest friend I have when I let her be. And the man is my attorney. He’s
been a friend of the family for years. He’s about the only person
associated with my family that still has anything to do with me. Been a
father figure since before Dad died. Who was that with Alfonse? I didn’t
get a chance to even talk to him. Hopefully at the reception?”
“Her name is Melody Strong. I get the sense from her that she
probably is a good match for him. He actually asked her to marry him
Page 29 of 78
the same day I asked you. Despite everything that day, I guess it was a
very good day after all,” Ray said.
“Yes. But let’s discuss that after the reception. And some other
things. I have a bad feeling about that day, but I’m not going to let it
interfere on our wedding day. Here we are.”
The chauffer was out of the car in a flash and had the door open for
them immediately. The other cars in the short convoy found parking
spaces and headed for the door as Ray and Antoinette took up their
places for a reception line at the door of the bar and lounge where the
reception was being held.
After handshakes, hugs, back slaps, and kisses were over,
Antoinette and Ray were called out onto the dance floor. Ray managed
not to fall himself, or trip Antoinette so he decided he did okay. The
same with the few women brave enough to drag him back out there,
including Denise. Finally he got to dance with Antoinette again and did
even better than the first time. Finally they were able to sit down to eat.
The food was good and the champagne better.
Alfonse and Melody joined them at their table at Antoinette’s
insistence. Ray and Alfonse were basically ignored as the two women
swapped particulars. Ray did have a chance to talk to Frank Smith,
Antoinette’s attorney and friend. He found himself liking the man
immediately. Then Frank and Alfonse got together to discuss business
matters and Ray was left sitting there, basically alone.
But that was okay. It was a nice break. For a while. Ray was more
than ready to have Antoinette’s attention back on him and his on her.
That only lasted a few more minutes. There was another party scheduled
and the wedding group had to vacate. But it was time. The small group
had quickly run out of small talk and was ready to leave.
Antoinette and Ray said their good-bye’s to Alfonse and Melody,
after making arrangements for a longer, less hectic get together. After
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the limo ride back to the Church, Antoinette and Ray split up, taking
their separate vehicles to Antoinette’s apartment to change clothes and
pick up the things she wanted to take with her back to Ray’s. The rest of
the things they would get after a short honeymoon.
Each of them only had three days off so they took full advantage of
the time. There was no mining, and only enough work with the dogs to
keep them happy.
But Thursday rolled around, and the weary newlyweds got up early
enough to get to work on time. Ray had to leave quite a bit earlier than
Antoinette, as the dirt work on the highway project started shortly after
daybreak.
The pharmacy, on the other hand, opened at eight. But Antoinette
was determined to get off on the right foot, and got up when Ray did.
She prepared breakfast for them, and took her shower while Ray ate. A
long kiss good-bye and Ray was gone. Antoinette spent a few minutes
with the dogs, but then finished dressing and headed in for work herself.
That was basically the way it went for the rest of the month. A trip
each from Antoinette’s apartment had it empty and clean by the first of
the next month so Antoinette could get her deposits back. All her preps
were in with Ray’s in the mine.
Ray had to admit he had been rather lax on keeping up with the
forums during that time when he sat down on Saturday morning to get
caught up on things. Antoinette saw him frown and joined him at the
computer desk, a cup of tea in hand. “What is up? You don’t look
happy.” She leaned against the side of the desk as Ray responded.
“I had no idea things had become so bad in the world. Did you
know that the US still hasn’t protested or sent a carrier or anything?
When it was no longer in the news I sort of lost track of things, with
everything that has been going on. The one time I did think of it, I just
figured that the Chinese had reconsidered attacking Taiwan. They sure
Page 31 of 78
haven’t attacked yet, but the buildup is still in place. They can’t keep
those troops and equipment at the ready for much longer. It is attack or
pullback.”
“Check North Korea and South Korea,” Antoinette said softly.
Ray did and whistled. “You already knew?”
Antoinette nodded. “A customer I was counseling at the pharmacy
yesterday said something. I was going to bring up our preps today. I’d
like to know what we have now that we’ve combined for ces. I wasn’t
too concerned about China. I just have a hard time believing they’ll
actually attack Taiwan. But I’m beginning to have doubts about my
doubts. With North Korea gearing up, too, all it needs is a spark to set
something off.”
“True,” Ray said. He pulled up his inventory spreadsheet and
Antoinette got her laptop and pulled up a chair to share the desk. It took
them a while to compare their numbers and get them combined.
“I didn’t realize you had as much as you do,” Ray said.
“There for a while I was in prep mode. It has mostly been natural
disaster driven, with the drought in one part of the country and the
flooding in other. Those things and the drug shortage that has us
sometimes waiting a month to get some of the high demand drugs and
longer for some of the less prescribed things.
“I’ve been studying my Herbal Pharmacology texts when I have
time. I need to go through all my herbal and mineral remedy kit and
update some of the supplies and add a few. Also need to go out and
scout the area for usable things. Do you think we could put in a small to
medium greenhouse for producing herbals?”
“Of course. That is a great idea. I knew you had taken medical
herbal classes, but didn’t know you had pursued it so far.”
Page 32 of 78
“Yes. For a long time I’ve known that there could come a time
when the regular drug supply line could be broken and the only things
I’d have left to dispense were some OTC and herbals. Dr. Scott worked
with me for a while, but she’s swamped and could no longer consult
with me.”
“That is a wonderful skill, Antoinette,” Ray said. “Something that
could be invaluable in the PAW. About all I can do is work with my
hands or my equipment. And don’t know how long I will be able to keep
them running. Or even if they will be needed.”
“You thought about branching out a little bit? I know you are
working steadily at the moment, but with the new Doomsday Prepper
rage, you might be able to get some work digging the holes for shelters.
If you could hook up with someone in the area to build them.”
“That’s not a bad thought,” Ray said musingly. “Phillip Gardner
was talking a couple of months ago about building a shelter. He was
going to do the work himself. I don’t know if he did anything about it or
not. I’d have to get a large loader backhoe or small excavator. And if I
get the excavator I’d need something to move the dirt with. The backhoe
loader can do both. I think I’ll ask Phillip about it on Monday.”
Using the home WiFi system connected to the satellite dish internet
connection, both began to do some searches pertaining to the discussion
they’d just had. They did make a point that weekend to spend plenty of
time with the dogs. They’d in no way been neglected, but they loved
being with the humans and never slowed down until Antoinette and Ray
had to break it off or fall over exhausted. They had taken to Antoinette’s
full time presence without a single problem.
Despite the activities, the two kept an eye on the news. It wasn’t
getting any better. And now Iran was building up their military presence
on the Iraq border. Anyone that knew anything about military operations
knew that something had to give soon, just as Ray had said.
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Ray and Antoinette didn’t waste any time carrying out their plans.
By the next weekend, the greenhouse was delivered and ready to set up.
Antoinette had spent each evening out with the dogs, running the
mountainside, cataloging and collecting herbal specimens. There weren’t
too many usable items, but Antoinette h ad some of all that were. And
many more were on order from herbalist supply stores, along with the
equipment and supplies she needed to use them.
Ray had talked to Phillip and reached an agreement with him to
start doing shelters just like the one Phillip had designed and installed.
Phillip was one of the concrete design experts working on the road
project, so had the engineering background to design and build the
shelters safely. And he already had the contacts from building his shelter
for all the specialty items.
A suitable backhoe loader had been found the very first day Ray
started looking. He noted that there was quite a bit of equipment up for
sale. Much of it was a real bargain. The economy wasn’t doing very
well, and it showed.
Before Ray arranged for payment upon delivery on the upcoming
Saturday, Nature, as it is wont to do, interfered with Ray’s plans.
Billions of other peoples’ plans, as well. And after just a small amount of
deductive reasoning, Ray realized why the US Government had not
responded to the threats of war in several parts of the world. Or why no
one in a top position with the government had been available the last
three days.
The only announcement of the event was by Amateur Radio
Operators, one whom was high up enough in government to wiggle the
story out of a frightened aide to a Senator. A celestial object was headed
for Earth, on a collision course. Not big enough to wipe out civilization,
but big enough to be considered The End Of Civilization As We Know
It.
Page 34 of 78
But the aide didn’t know where the object was going to impact. He
did know those above him were headed to the US Continuity Of
Government Bunkers. That was enough to make those hearing the news
decide that the object would not hit in the US.
The story went viral on the internet, and then on the TV news
networks. For about three hours. Ray’s foreman spread the word, having
received it from the construction office.
Ray, like all the others working on the project left their equipment
or tools where they were and headed home. Ray took a roundabout way,
going into town to get Antoinette headed for home with him.
The low band business band radio in Ray’s truck broke squelch. It
was Antoinette. One of the early things they’d accomplished after the
marriage was to make sure they had reasonable, reliable
communications. So they invested in three Motorola Low Band Business
Band mobiles, and six handheld units.
Two of the mobiles went into their respective vehicles and one
went on a battery system in the house. A pair of the handhelds were in
each vehicle with a pair in the house.
“Ray! I need help at the pharmacy! Can you get loose… Get away
from there!”
Ray pressed the accelerator a little harder. Antoinette’s last words
on the air had not been directed at him. But he relaxed slightly when the
squelch broke again. “There’s something major going on, Ray. I don’t
know what, but we’ve been ordered to close up shop and head for home
as fast as we can shut down.”
“I know, Baby. I’m almost there. It is a celestial object on an
impact course with Earth. Apparently the impact will be somewhere
other than the US. Why aren’t you already home?”
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Antoinette didn’t have time to answer. Ray came sliding to a halt a
few feet from her vehicle. She looked okay sitting in the Jeep. There
were no other vehicles in the pharmacy parking lot. And when she
jumped out and ran over to him when he got out, there were no apparent
problems. But Ray asked anyway. “Are you all right? Something wrong
with the Jeep?”
“No. Oh, Ray! I can’t just leave everything here! If this is going to
be as bad as people are saying, then people will need these medications
in the future. I’ve already run off a couple of guys that I think would
have tried to break in if I hadn’t been here.”
“You just plan to take things?” Ray asked, incredulous.
“Yes. I’ll lose my job and my license if this turns out to be nothing,
but if it is major, these things are going to be in dire need.”
“Okay,” Ray said. “What do you want me to do?”
“Back up to the loading dock. I’ll pass things out to you. You’ll
have to be on watch in case someone else looking for narcotics tries
anything.”
“Okay,” Ray said. Antoinette ran toward the back door of the shop
to enter the Pharmacy. Ray backed the truck up to the loading dock as
the lift door began to rise. There were already dozens of boxes stacked
by it.
“You load these while I get some more,” Antoinette said and
disappeared.
Ray made sure his Glock 21SF was ready in the holster and that
the two spare magazines were, too. Then he began stackin g boxes. He’d
made a pretty good dent in the pile when Antoinette returned with a
stock cart full of more boxes.
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It had never occurred to him that she would be able to bring things
back faster than he could load them. But she was. After six trips she
began transferring boxes to the Jeep after she moved it over closer.
“Hey! Hey! What are you doing?” yelled one of the three men
approaching.
Antoinette crouched down behind the engine compartment of
Ray’s truck. Ray was standing on the loading dock, tossing the last few
boxes into the bed. He’d run out of room to stay in it and still get the
boxes in.
“Nothing that concerns you!” Ray yelled back. He pulled the
Glock and held it ready. “But just so you know, we’re saving these
things from looters so the town can have them after things settle down. If
you are looters, you are going to meet a sorry end. If you are just too
dumb to head for shelter, you’ll still meet a sorry end. So back off, and
let us get these products to a safe place.”
The three men conferred for a minute and then the same one spoke
again. “We can help. We came to get our wives, but they are gone. We
just thought you were stealing the stuff. Abbs here says he recognizes
the pharmacist.”
“I know him, Ray. Abbs has a family. I believe they will help.”
“Okay. But you stay ready,” Ray told Antoinette. To the men he
motioned over, holstering the Glock. “Just need to tarp it down,” Ray
told the men. Antoinette kept a close eye on the men, but they pitched in
and helped Ray secure the tarps he’d taken from the front toolbox.
“Okay. That’s it,” Ray finally said. “Thanks guys. That was a big
help. But I think you need to get home. That thing could be landing
anytime.” He shook hands with all three and then waited for Antoinette
to lock up the pharmacy before getting back into her Jeep.
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The three men were in a slow jog down the alley, but turned onto
the sidewalk when they got to the cross street. Ray still wasn’t sure if
they were in fact just trying to help, or had just been afraid of him and
Antoinette because they got the drop on them.
It didn’t matter at the moment. Antoinette pulled down the alley
headed for the other side street. Ray was right behind. He had the Glock
tucked under his right thigh, and the two magazines stuck between his
legs.
The streets were crowded some places and totally open in others,
until they got out of town. Antoinette picked up the speed a bit on the
county road, all the way to the turnoff to the property.
Ray saw her bounce over the rough low water bridge and followed
even more slowly than Antoinette had, not wanting to shake loose
anything in the back. After they parked, Ray and Antoinette ran inside
the house and turned on the TV. Every network that was still up was
buzzing with the news, all of them speculating where the object would
impact.
It didn’t seem to occur to them that it was coming from deep space,
toward the sun, on the same side of the solar system as Earth. That pretty
much meant it was going to impact on the dark side of the earth. As it
was coming from above the plane of the solar system, that meant the
northern hemisphere. So Ray said China and Antoinette said Russia.
Only one camera in that part of the world caught the streak of light
that disappeared almost as fast as it had appeared. The downward track
of the celestial object was obvious for a moment, and then came the
bright flash of the object becoming overheated as it pushed through the
atmosphere before the impact.
Ray reached over to the All Hazards Alert Radio and made sure it
was turned on. He jumped when the alarm sounded the warning tone. He
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took Antoinette’s hand in his and waited the few seconds it took for the
alarm tone to stop and the broadcast to begin.
But there was silence for long moments and then then the radio
went silent. Ray and Antoinette exchanged looks. “What is that all
about?” Ray asked.
“I don’t know, Ray. What I do know is we need to move
everything into the mine, and get ready for whatever this impact does to
the earth.”
“Yeah,” Ray agreed, and then added softly, “And to civilization.”
They were working quickly, in and out of the hot July sun, so were
nearly exhausted by the time the vehicles were empty and everything
was stacked in the mine. Ray decided not to put it in the side room, since
he and Antoinette might need the space themselves, depending on how
things worked out.
The television was still on and one kept track of what the news
networks were saying, while the other showered and changed clothes,
with Antoinette going first. When Ray returned and joined her on the
couch, Antoinette was pale.
“What?” Ray asked, automatically taking one of her hands into his.
“They keep losing feeds. In a circle around the impact point. Japan
just went off the air, and Poland, and Pakistan.”
“The blast wave is travelling fast,” Ray said. “Perhaps even
supersonic. I don’t think we’ll feel anything. It should play out before it
circles the globe.”
“What do we do next, Ray?” Antoinette asked. “It seems like we
should be doing something!”
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“I know. But it is too late to go try and get anything else prep wise.
I have a feeling the grocery stores are already mobbed, or already empty.
All the stores. People go crazy. Dollars to donuts, places are being
looted of things that have no use at all in this situation.”
“Ray,” Antoinette asked, her voice low, “Do you think I did the
right thing with cleaning out the pharmacy? If the owners just lived
here… But being the senior employee…”
“You did the right thing, Antoinette,” Ray said. He patted her
hand. “As time passes you will see just how smart it was to do it. And
you’ve had the foresight to acquire those items you need to continue
your work as those factory supplies dwindle. Your herbal knowledge
may become invaluable soon.”
Antoinette leaned against Ray’s side, watching the networks feeds
go down one after the other. Finally the only talking heads left were in
the US. Then the networks on the west coast went off the air. A half an
hour later the east coast did, too.
Either the satellites had been affected, or the debris had made it to
the coast, interrupting power and everything else. Ray was sure that was
what it was when he took a look outside toward the town. It was dark.
Usually Ray could see the lights of the town and area toward him. He
made sure his outside lights were all off. He didn’t want someone keying
on them with everything else out of power.
“I think we’d better get something to eat and get some sleep.” Ray
stood up. “I think there is at least some chance of debris coming down
all over the US, if not from the east or west, over the North Pole.”
Antoinette nodded and stood. They held each other for a minute
and then went to the kitchen together to fix a quick meal.
After they ate, the two set up cots in the side room in the mine, as a
precaution, and put some water out for the dogs in the main drift. They
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went sniffing around excitedly, but came back to lay on the piece of rug
that Ray had put down for them right outside the side room.
Ray woke to the soft sound of Homer wanting outside. Suzie and
Homer both almost looked embarrassed at the messes the pups had left
during the night, but they were determined to hold it until they got
outside.
Corralling the pups, Ray let the two adult dogs out to do their
thing. He stepped out into the open, by the corner of the hou se and
watched them. They were often let out to run free around the property
when Ray was working outside and the dogs made the rounds marking
their territory again as it had been some time since they’d last had a
chance.
Ray studied the sky as the dogs ran. It was dark, despite the hour.
The sun should be visible on the horizon, but the entire sky was
overcast. And it wasn’t the normal cloud cover. Occasionally some
powdery substance would filter out of the sky. “Debris,” Ray muttered.
Suzie was the first one to come back to Ray, to sit and then lie
down at his feet, panting slightly. Homer took a bit more time before he
came back and butted Ray in the thigh lightly, wanting a ‘good dog’ at
the least.
Ray gave them both that and more, rubbing above their ears and
scratching under their chins’. He directed them to the kennel. Suzie
hesitated, looking at the mine door, but Ray reassured her and she went
into the kennel willingly. Ray gathered up the pups and took them
outside, setting them just inside the kennel run gate. They immediately
headed for Suzie for breakfast.
Going back into the mine, Ray cleaned up the pups’ mess. They
were not indoor dogs and would not be paper trained. But the dogs, as
they aged, would become more fastidious like their Dam and Sire, and
would hold things in as long as they possibly could if penned up indoors.
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Antoinette came out of the side room just as Ray finished.
“Thought I smelled something. The dogs okay?”
“Yeah. Homer woke me up needing to go outside. The pups
couldn’t hold it, but Homer and Suzie both did.”
“They are good dogs. You see anything out there?”
“Yeah. Heavy overcast, part cloud and part debris and ash. Nothing
much coming down yet, but if it builds up much more, it will rain. There
was a front moving this way from the Gulf. It had lots of moisture.”
Antoinette nodded. “You checked the TV or internet yet?”
Ray shook his head and the two headed for the living room. There
was only white noise on the satellite TV and the same on the local
channels picked up by a regular outside antenna.
When Antoinette tried the internet she basically got the equivalent.
The "404 - Not Found" messages came up on every time she tried to start
the browser.
Ray checked the Amateur and Shortwave bands. Static.
“Looks like we’re incommunicado for the moment,” Antoinette
said.
“Let’s get breakfast and then see what we can find out,” Ray said,
headed for the kitchen.
Both strapped on gun belts and went outside to get in Antoinette’s
Jeep. There was more fine debris and ash in the air now and Ray went in
to get them dust masks.
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Antoinette had just reached the broken up low water bridge when
the sound of an explosion came, loud enough to hurt their ears.
“What the hey!” Ray exclaimed. “I think that was local!”
The two looked at each other. “Bulk plant, propane distributer, or
HAZMAT train wreck.” Ray named the possibilities. Then, seeing the
smoke cloud rising up over the trees, he modified the statement. “Or
HAZMAT truck on the highway. Let’s see what we can find out without
getting too close to whatever it is.”
Antoinette crossed the low water bridge and turned toward town.
When they got on the state road from the county road, the smoke was
billowing in the distance, with occasional flames visible through it.
“Uh. We’d better hold up,” Ray told Antoinette. “There is no
telling what that could be. We should have suited up in PPE.”
“I think you are right.” Antoinette turned the Jeep around and they
went back to the house to get the personal protective equipment. Suited
up in Tyvek coveralls with attached hood and booties, they added
respirators, rubber gloves, and rubber boots before strapping the gun
belts back on.
Antoinette drove carefully, the PPE hampering her somewhat. The
smoke was still rising, but they couldn’t see any more flames, even as
they approached the accident on the state road. They probably didn’t
need the PPE, as it was a gasoline tanker that had for some reason run
off the road, turned over, and exploded.
There were already a couple of fire trucks on scene, with a State
Patrolman directing what little traffic there was. He gave the two a long
look, but waved them on through.
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“I want to check the pharmacy,” Antoinette said. “I’m having
second thoughts about having cleaned it out. Things don’t seem too bad
today.”
The debris and ash fall increased shortly after she’d spoken. But
with Ray’s encouragement, Antoinette kept going toward the town.
There was pandemonium in the town. People were out and about, but
stores were mostly closed due to the power outage. Ray pointed out a
couple, the liquor store and one of the grocery stores, that had obviously
been looted. There were armed people at a couple other stores that were
open and trying to do business.
When Antoinette stopped in front of the pharmacy, she sighed.
Sure enough, the front doors had been busted in. There was no real need
to go inside. The things she’d left were of no real importance and she
didn’t care what people might have taken. She had what she wanted
from the pharmacy.
“I guess I did do the right thing,” Antoinette told Ray.
“Yep. I wonder where the law enforcement is. Seems like they
should be out at least trying to maintain order. Let’s go by the station
and see if Grant is working.”
Antoinette nodded, started the Jeep again, and headed for the
modest town City Services complex. The Town Hall, one of three fire
stations, and the Police Headquarters were there, along with other town
services and their work yards behind the front offices.
“This is not good…” Ray spoke softly. Both of the town’s Police
cars were burning in the parking lot, and flames were shooting from
several windows of the building. The most disturbing thing was the sight
of a Halo semi, with the trailer’s rear doors open.
Two men came running out of the building, loaded down with
firearms. There was a shout and another man stepped around the back of
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the trailer and looked at the Jeep. The man was lifting a rifle and
Antoinette, not needing any prompting from Ray, gunned the Jeep and
took off down the side street before he could fire.
She barely managed to not run over two bodies in the street, both
uniformed police officers. Ray tried to get a good look at them, to see if
one was Grant. He didn’t think so, but a shot from behind them that
shattered the right outside mirror prompted him to pull his Glock and
send a couple of rounds behind them to give pause to the Halo shooter.
“I can’t believe what I just saw!” Antoinette said. She was shaking,
but her hands were firm on the steering wheel. “That was a Halo truck!”
She cut a quick look over at Ray. He was watching behind them. “Do
you think it was just a couple of rouge drivers?”
“I have a feeling that it wasn’t. Look.” Ray had turned back
around. He pointed to where another Halo truck was parked in front of a
gun store.
Antoinette took the next turn available, not willing to go past the
store being looted. “They are systematically looting weapons
supplies…”
“Yes. And no telling what else they will loot while they can. I’ve
had a bad feeling about that group for a long time.” Ray told her about
the poachers on his land. “It’s a risk, but let’s drive by the Church and
see what we can see.”
Ray almost wished he hadn’t suggested it. Nothing happened, but
just as they got a good look at the armed guards patrolling the perimete r
inside the security fence, so the guards got a good look at them.
The large parking lot was full of vehicles and two of the large vans
that the Church used for events were being unloaded. Ray couldn’t tell
what, and decided that they’d seen enough. “Let’s get out of here and
think about this some.”
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Intending to stop at the site of the wreck, Ray thought about what
he would say. But it was moot. The gasoline fire had burned itself out
quickly, and the small grass fire it had caused was also out. There was
no sign of the Highway Patrol or fire vehicles. They hadn’t passed them
going into town as they came out.
They were glad they were wearing the PPE by the time they got
back home. The debris and ash cloud was thicker and more was falling
from the sky than earlier. They found the dogs huddled together in their
luxurious dog house and were eager to get inside the mine again.
Ray set about getting a spot ready for them to use if it became too
bad for them to go outside. As smart as they were, it shouldn’t take long
for them to get the idea. A four by eight sheet of plywood he had in
stock, with two by sixes screwed vertically to the edges, was built and
then flipped over. A few cart loads of earth onto the plastic covered
plywood to make a sandbox like facility, and Ray took the dogs over to
it to get them familiar with it.
After digging deep enough to hit the plywood, Homer went onto
his side and then back to squirm around on the fresh dirt for a few
moments. He stood, shook, and snorted as Suzie did the same thing. The
pups wandered around on the dirt and one of them decided it was a good
place to go and proceeded to do so, inaugurating the bathroom.
Ray added some thickness to the carpet to create a more
comfortable bed for the dogs so they would be less likely to use the litter
box for sleeping instead of its intended use.
Antoinette prepared a light lunch and the two sat down to try out
all of their communications systems. There just wasn’t anything
working. Ray had never had any utilities installed, other than his off-grid
systems, so couldn’t check cablevision or land line telephone.
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But satellite service was unusable, as where the Low frequency,
High frequency, and low VHF frequency bands. That meant no regular
AM or FM broadcast radio, either. Ray could hear a two meter repeater
fading in and out, but couldn’t make out what was being said. So the
high VHF and UHF bands might be working, but they were short range
communications anyway. Same with the local public service bands, local
police and fire VHF and UHF direct and repeater systems.
In order to occupy some time, Antoinette had Ray help her sort and
check the inventory of the medical supplies from the pharmacy. She had
printed off the up to date inventory list at the pharmacy before Ray had
arrived so knew what she had. Just not where it was in the stacks of
boxes.
So as she checked each box or package and Ray checked it off the
list, Antoinette set things out in an orderly fashion. Homer came over to
sniff a box or two he hadn’t already sniffed before, but a word from
Antoinette put him back on the carpet bed with Suzie to watch whatever
it was their masters were doing.
“Sure need some shelving for these,” Antoinette said.
“I can knock some together with what I have, but… Can it wait to
see if we can get some commercial shelving somewhere?”
“I think so. The mine is dry as a bone, and the dogs seem to know
the stuff is off limits, so I guess it can wait.”
“Good.”
The process had killed the afternoon, so after supper, Ray decided
to load up the ammunition he’d expended on his last trip to the range.
Antoinette got her herbal medicine books out and went out to the
greenhouse. Since it was rather shielded from sight from town, she
turned the lights on so she could check on the plants she’d planted as
soon as they had come in.
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The plants were all doing fine, and Antoinette began to go over
each plants characteristics and uses yet another time. She wanted to be
able to go directly to what she needed when she needed it without
having to research it each time.
She called it a night before she got too tired and joined Ray in the
shop for a few minutes. He was just cleaning up after the reloading
session and the two went into the house.
“Stuff still coming down. Worse than earlier,” Ray said, keeping
his head tipped forward so the wide brim hat would shield his eyes from
the debris. “Going to have to start taking goggles everywhere we go,” he
added.
“Yes,” replied Antoinette. “And dust masks. Not as bad as volcanic
ash… Though there could be some in it, I suppose… so masks, too, for
the duration.”
A few minutes with the dogs, and then showers and the two went
to bed, again in the mine side room. Neither could explain why they
were being so cautious, but they were.
Properly protected, Ray went out the next morning and cleaned the
solar panels. He didn’t really know why he did, it was almost pitch black
out now and there was a good six inches of the debris and ash on the
ground. Given that they probably wouldn’t work for a while anyway,
Ray went ahead and tarped the panels to protect them.
Between the GALE wind turbine and the generators they wouldn’t
be short of power and could continue to charge the batteries.
It chafed on each of them to not know what was going on out in
the world. They spent their days studying and working with the dogs.
Ray had a few ideas about working in the PAW, which this event
certainly qualified. He and Antoinette had supplies for a long time, but it
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would be imperative to have something to fall back on. As soon as
possible. He couldn’t count on his precious metals for a long time, he
thought.
Antoinette would certainly have work as a pharmacist, especially
since she had medications now and would have herbals in the future. But
Ray wasn’t about to just depend on her for their future. He needed to be
doing something himself.
For two more days things stayed the same. But despite it being
August, the temperatures had fallen dramatically and were continuing to
fall. There was still debris and ash in the air. Even more of it began to
come down with the snow that was now falling. Dirty grey snow, even
seen in the head lamps they used in the constant darkness outside.
The dogs often wanted to go out, but upon sticking their noses out
of the door into the mess that was outside, they simply turned around
and went back to their bed. They’d picked up the idea of using the huge
litter box readily. Mostly they wanted outside because they were outside
dogs. Ray took to working them in the mine drift, as much as he could.
Three weeks passed before there was a break in the overcast skies.
A weak, watery, partially shrouded sun was finally visible. But there was
still a thin layer of clouds way up high that seemed to drain it of power.
It was thirty-three degrees that day in September. And there was
four feet of snow, debris, and ash accumulated on the mountain shelf.
Ray fired up the snow blower and cleared the mess from around the
buildings. After that he used the D7E and cleared it all from the rest of
the property, all the way down to the creek and over it to the county
road.
The road was drifted here and there with the mess, but Ray thought
that with the snow blade he had for the truck he could cut enough of a
track to get through. But before he did that he decided to try the radios
one more time to see if he could find out anything.
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After cleaning up some, Ray sat down at the desk holding their
communications gear. First he turned on the Public Service Band
scanner to see if there was anything happening with any of the agencies.
Then he fired up the Yaesu FT-897D and began to scan the Amateur
bands.
There was nothing but dead air. Finally, after dialing in a
frequency he knew a local Amateur Radio Club used, he keyed the mike
and said his call sign, asking for any contact. He tried twice. After the
third time he got a response. But the man had barely acknowledged Ray
when a powerful carrier wave blanked him out.
Ray was nearly speechless. “Someone is jamming the Amateur
radio bands!”
“What? That’s illegal!” Antoinette protested.
“Yeah. But someone has the equipment to do it with and isn’t
afraid to use it. Dollars to donuts it is the Church of the Ark and
Armageddon. I’ve had a bad feeling about them for a long time. And
after what we saw the other day, I’m convinced that they have some plan
to take over. Locally, at least. Perhaps on a wider scale.”
Antoinette was shaking her head. “How? How could they do it?”
“Control,” Ray replied. “Control. Eliminate law enforcement and
local government first. Then you can control the guns, the money, t he
health care, the food supply, the booze… It can be done. And we saw
them gathering up the guns and they probably killed the two officers we
saw. There is no telling what all they have done in the last few days. I
have a feeling they may have been rounding up individuals known to
have guns and food stored.”
“What do we do, Ray?” Antoinette asked. She looked frightened.
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“I have to find out more. Find out for sure. I don’t want to do
anything to someone based on mere guesses and speculation. I need to
go in and see what I can find out.”
“Oh, Ray! That could be so dangerous!”
“That’s why you are staying here. I’ll take the ROKON in and
scout around the edge of the town. See if anyone we know can tell us
anything. I wish now I hadn’t cleared the driveway.”
Antoinette didn’t like it, but she didn’t try to stop him. He was
right about finding out for sure what was happening. So she packed him
a lunch, made sure he had his gear shipshape for the journey, and gave
him a kiss before he left.
The ROKON, converted to a Hatz diesel engine was quiet, due to
the custom mufflers. He settled his gear and put the machine into gear.
But he didn’t go down the driveway. Instead he headed to a more or less
invisible track on the face of the bluff. He’d walked it before, a nd even
used the ROKON on it. But with it half covered with ash and snow, Ray
had to use all his riding skills to get to the fire road some distance away.
On it, finally, he sped up slightly. There were some trees down
from the weight of the wet ash and d ebris. But the ROKON rolled right
up and over the small ones. A couple were too big for that and Ray went
around, weaving through the trees until he was back on the fire road.
When it cut the county road Ray turned to follow it. The ash and snow
drifts he was actually able to ride up and over. Most of the time. Twice
he got up on some and then sank, burying the ROKON up to the axles.
He had to use the e-tool to dig the ROKON out.
The mess was tricky. Some solid as a rock, some as dangerous as
quicksand, and some just powdery that could be driven through, though
it stirred up a cloud. Ray kept his eyes well up the road, but he saw not
one vehicle or person on the road.
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He was surprised to see from the rise just before going into town
that some of the streets were clear. And there was some vehic le traffic.
But not much. Those that he could make out for sure were the Halo semi
rigs, and three of the Church vans.
Ray plotted a course to get to several places he wanted to check, if
he could without being seen. He debated for a minute on whether to take
the ROKON closer or go the rest of the way on foot. He decided that it
might be better to have the ROKON close enough to manage a get-away
on it if necessary.
So he carefully made his way down to his first objective, Drew
McClendon’s place on the edge of town. Drew was another heavy
equipment operator that Ray often worked with on projects. He was a
prepper from way back, though only a handful of people knew it.
Stashing the ROKON behind Drew’s firewood ranks, Ray went up
to the back door and knocked. It was a minute before there was any
response. And then, when Drew opened the door Ray was looking down
the barrel of a double barrel 12 gauge shotgun.
“Easy, Drew!” Ray said, his hands going up and away from his
body. “What’s going on?”
“Get in here!” Drew said, urging Ray through the door. He took a
quick look around the back yard and then closed and locked the door.
“What are you, nuts?”
“No. I’m just trying to figure out what is going on,” Ray said. “saw
the Church of the Ark and Armageddon doing some things right after the
impact…”
“Yeah,” Drew said. “They’ve taken over the town. Several towns,
it seems like.”
“Taken over?”
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“Yes. Everyone in a position of authority disappeared overnight.
Church members just started telling people what to do.”
“Some of them were killed outright, Drew. Antoinette and I saw
them cleaning out the police station of firearms. There were two dead
officers there.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. It was suspected by a couple of us, but
we didn’t see anything ourselves. And people aren’t willing to say much.
Any criticizing of the church gets you a visit from a couple of them. You
have anything left worth taking; food, firearms, medications,
ammunition, fuel… They take almost all of it at the point of a gun,
leaving just enough to tide you over until the next food distribution.
“And that’s after the first visit looking for ‘donations’ of those
same items. You refuse to give them anything, or not as much as they
think you have, they just take almost everything. You are given bare
minimums to keep you alive, until they have another food distribution .
You resist with a gun, and they simply shoot you before you have a
chance to do anything. And if they find out you’ve been holding out on
them after they’ve collected your ‘donations’, they take everything, take
you up to the interstate and turn you loose with a couple bottles of water
and two MREs.”
“They are systematically mining the town of everything useful, and
getting rid of ‘trouble makers” one way or another. Yes, they are
keeping some people alive, those they think can be of use to them. If you
have a skill they really want, you are treated a little bit better, as long as
you toe their line.
“And they are turning people against one another. They give extra
food for snitches that turn in other people for doing anything from
hiding your food, to disagreeing with the Church policies. And if they
manage to recover some of the items they are always trying to find, you
get double rations for a week. People are turning in their best friends.
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“Just to show you how bad it is, they have a reward of five US
gold one-ounce Eagles for anyone with information on who cleaned out
the pharmacy. They want those medicines, especially the narcotics.”
Ray felt his eyes widen. “They don’t know who took the stuff?”
Drew shook his head. “No one was around when it happened. They
got to it right after the announcement. Whoever has that stuff is sitting
on a time bomb. Be better to give it up. They’ll kill them when they find
them for simply beating them to the punch of taking it.”
“I see,” Ray said thoughtfully. “Anyone trying to set up some kind
of movement to control them?”
“I haven’t been able to find out anything. Couple of us tried to feel
out some others, but as long as they are getting a steady supply of food,
they aren’t going to rock the boat. What did you have in mind?”
“I don’t know,” Ray replied. “I’m going to talk to a couple more
people. See what they have to say.”
“You be careful, Ray. These people are ruthless. They intend to
control the whole nation, unless I miss my guess. One town or
neighborhood at a time.”
“So it is happening in the cities, too?”
“I’m pretty sure,” said Drew. “There were a couple of people that
came through that were trying to get some food at the distribution poin t
and said they’d left the city because their neighborhood was being
controlled, too. Someone apparently snitched and a couple of the Church
uniformed… They are enforcers, but call themselves Church Guardians,
took them out of line. I never heard anything about them afterwards.”
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“Okay, Drew. Thanks. I’ll get out of here so I don’t put you in
danger.”
“Put me in danger?”
“Yes. I’m not going to kowtow to a cult of extremists. You don’t
want to be associating with me.”
“You know, Ray, it just occurred to me. You married Antoinette
Rodgers. The pharmacist. You have the pharmacy stuff, don’t you?”
“What you don’t know won’t get you into trouble, Drew,” Ray
said, seeing the sudden gleam in Drew’s eyes. Ray left it at that and
Drew walked him to the door.
Ray didn’t waste any time getting to his next stop. It was only three
streets away. Mary-Anne Winnerman, age eighty, was a feisty,
inquisitive lady. If anyone was going to know if there was any resistance
movement afoot, it would be her.
Again Ray decided to use the alley entrance to Mary-Anne’s small
bungalow. He knocked lightly, and the door swung partly open. Fearing
the worst, Ray called out, “Mary-Anne! It’s Ray Collins! Are you in
here?”
Hearing no response, Ray opened the door wider and went inside.
The kitchen was ransacked, with the cabinet doors and refrigerator doors
open, and nothing left that was edible. The living room was worse.
There were dozens of expended cartridge cases on the floor, 5.56
caliber. The front window was shattered and there was a large pool of
blood in and on the glass. The front door looked like it had been kicked
in. The blood had drag marks in it, leading from the window to the door.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Mary-Anne had put up a
battle. And lost.
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“She was an old lady, for crying out loud!” Ray said softly. He left
things as he’d found them, and headed for Brian Jacoby’s auto shop. He
had to stop twice as Church Vans drove slowly down the street. There
were rifle and shotgun barrels visible at each window.
Ray eased around the building and hurried into the shop office.
Brian looked up, startled. He was at the dilapidated desk, going over
some paper work. “I see you made it okay. Been wondering about you.”
“Same here, Brian. Just came into town to scope out the situation.
What can you tell me about…”
Suddenly Ray was looking down the barrel of another gun. This
one was a Colt 1911A1, held firmly in Brian’s right hand.
“You should have stayed home, Ray. I got no quarrel with you, but
if you are going to buck the Church, I’ll have to put a stop to it.”
“You’re a member?” Ray asked.
“For three years. We’re taking care of things, Ray. It is the whole
reason for the Church. To get the right people through Armageddon and
start off society on the right foot this time. There are some people that
are itching to talk to you. If I had an inkling of where you live, we’d
have been out there already. We want that medication your wife stole.”
“What makes you think…”
“Don’t press your luck, Ray. You and she can both come out of
this alive if you cooperate. Life will be difficult for nonmembers for
some time to come as undesirables are weeded out. But your wife has
necessary skills we need. And you have some usefulness.”
“Whoop-de-do,” Ray said sarcastically. “I don’t intend to play the
CAA’s game, Brian. And it isn’t a good thing to threaten my wife.”
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“Whatever,” Brian replied. Taking his left hand off the gun,
holding it one handed in his right, Brian lifted the telephone receiver and
set it on the desk so he could dial with his left hand and still hold the
gun.
But Brian had to look down at the keypad to punch in the number.
And his right hand drifted slightly. It was enough for Ray to take a
chance. He lunged over the desk, his hands grabbing the Col t and
twisting it away from Brian.
Brian screamed when he, Ray, and gun all hit the floor at the same
time. Brian’s wrist was twisted back by the pressure of Ray’s hands on it
and when it hit the floor, Brian’s wrist snapped.
Ray grabbed the gun and ran out of the shop. He bee-lined it back
to the ROKON as fast as he could. He managed to make it without being
spotted and headed back home as fast as the ROKON would go.
When he went into the house, Antoinette took one look at him and
asked, “Are you all right? You look terrible!”
“It’s bad, Antoinette. The Church has taken over. Brian Jacoby is
one of them. He held me at gunpoint and was going to call in their
Church Guardians, their goon squad. I managed to get away. They are
looking for us… You, actually, Antoinette,” Ray said. “More so the
pharmacy goods than us, but would keep you around for your skills. I
figure I’m on their hit list, now. If it was common knowledge where we
lived, we’d probably already have had a visit.”
“My Lord!”
“They are controlling people with food. Taking food, fuel,
weapons, everything useful, from everyone and redistributing it as they
see fit. You buck the Church and you wind up on the interstate out of
town with the clothes on your back, or you wind up dead.”
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There were tears in his eyes when he told her what he’d seen at
Mary-Anne’s. Antoinette’s right hand went to her mouth. “No! Not
Mary-Anne!”
“She put up quite a fight,” Ray said, wiping his eyes.
“Ray, we can’t let this go,” Antoinette said. “My first reaction was
to pack up and run, but if it is like this in other places, we could just run
into the same thing elsewhere.”
“You realize that we are targets. The meds are more important than
you. They’ll kill you if they have to.”
“Then what do we do?”
“I’ve developed an idea… Got the idea from the “Pumpkin’
Chunkin’ TV show, about throwing things as far as possible with
mechanical leverage of some type. With influence from a baseball
throwing machine. But mine is a weapon. That might turn the tide. I
think I’d better get them ready.”
“Them?”
“There are two of them. Out in the shop. Come on and I’ll show
you how they work.”
Antoinette followed Ray out to the shop. She’d never really
explored out there since Ray hadn’t been doing anything in the shop
lately, except for the reloading. There were two parts to the shop. The
enclosed section with Ray’s reloading, metal working, and wood
working tools, and the pole barn that housed some of the various rolling
equipment he had.
Ray walked over to a tarp covered trailer and began to un-tarp it.
Antoinette began to help and in short order the device was exposed. It
was a two wheeled trailer with an old diesel engine out of a truck
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mounted on it. But that wasn’t such an unusual thing. Air compressors
and generators often had one.
But there was no air compressor head or generator mounted.
Instead, there was an assembly connected through a clutch system. It
was a pair of tires mounted so the treads just barely touched, horizontal
to the ground. There was a piece of angle iron with the V down just clear
of the juncture of the tires. Antoinette saw a rack with a large number of
eighteen inch long pieces of number three rebar. Each one was ground to
a point on one end and had a length of orange marking tape tied to the
other.
Ray checked the oil and fuel and then started the engine. When it
was running smoothly, and quietly with the extra quiet mufflers, Ray
engaged a clutch, put the tires in gear, and stood back. There was a slight
hum from the tires movement.
With his left hand on a hand wheel that moved the entire apparatus
a fraction of an in per turn horizontally, Oliver used his right hand to lay
one of the lengths of number three rebar in the angle iron that acted as a
guide. A slight flick of the wrist and the spinning tires caught the rebar,
sending it flying at high speed. Nearly ninety miles per hour. Oliver
turned the hand wheel slightly, and smoothly fed another piece of rebar
into the tires.
Turning the hand wheel that changed the vertical alignment, Ray
slipped another rebar into place and sent it flying. All three pieces arced
out and went over the berm in line with the driveway. “That’s a half
pound of steel flying at high speed. It’ll take out anything that isn’t
armored.”
“Why the orange tail? Won’t that just help track back to where
they are coming from?”
“There is that risk, but it acts like the tail of a kite, keeping it flying
in line with the way I want it to go, and making sure it flies in point
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forward and angles downward as it arches down. It was what I had
when I made up these darts.”
“I see. That is amazing, Ray. I sure wouldn’t want to be on the
receiving end of one of those darts.”
“It is more for use against vehicles. Can’t aim it real precisely, so it
is more a threat against grouped up people than lone attackers. But I
think it will have a great deal of psychological impact. An iron rain of
sharpened rebar should give people pause.”
“It sure would me. You said you have two of them?”
“Yeah. Same thing in the old blue Ford over there. With the topper.
It has a hatch in top that the darts can be fired at high angles to get some
distance and to shoot over obstructions.”
“Okay. Is there another engine in the back to drive the darts?”
Antoinette asked.
“No. The old truck had a PTO. I hooked the gearing up to it. Just
put the PTO in gear and set the engine speed and you’re ready to go.”
“I sure hope we never have to use the thing.”
“You and me both,” Ray said fervently. “But I’m not going to just
give up and have you live the rest of your life as a pharmacy slave for
the CAA. It is nothing but a cult where the leadership wants to control
peoples’ lives.”
“What else do we need to do?”
“I want to make up some more darts. They are reusable, of course,
but you can never have too much ammunition. Other than that, I guess
there isn’t much more we can do. Just decide whether to take the fight to
them, or wait for them to make the first move on us.”
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“Mmm… I don’t like the idea of being the one to start the fight,”
Antoinette said, rather hesitatingly.
“Yeah. I’m kind of leaning to the side of waiting. We might need
to hole up at some point. If you could get some things ready, in case we
have to head for the hills, it would be quicker to get away. And don’t
forget the dogs. More than just our regular bug-out bags.”
“Okay. I’ll see to it,” Antoinette said and left Ray to make more of
the darts for the thrower.
It was a somber evening. Even the dogs could sense it when they
got their afternoon workout. Since he was working out in the shop, he let
the dogs stay out of the kennel while he worked on more darts.
Suzie stayed close to the dog house, with the pups, but seemed to
be on the alert. Homer stayed close to Ray, staying just out of range of
the sparks from the grinder as Ray put points on the pieces of rebar he
cut with a shear. He too seemed to be on alert, rather than just taking a
position near Ray and laying down, he stretched out, but his head was
up, his look going from Ray to the driveway from time to time.
When Antoinette called to him that supper was ready, Ray put
things away and walked over to the ken nel. It was one of the few times
that Ray had to be a little extra firm to get Homer to go inside. He really
wanted to stay loose, it appeared.
But a strong word and Homer joined Suzie and the pups in the
kennel run. But rather than go to the dog house, Homer laid down right
by the kennel gate, his chin on his front paws. “Yeah. I know how you
feel, Homer,” Ray said softly.
Ray and Antoinette had a quiet supper, after which they went to
bed early, secure in the fact that the perimeter alarm system and the dogs
would alert them to anything or anyone approaching up the driveway.
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More trusting in the dogs than an electronic system, Ray had
installed a simple intercom in the kennel to the bedroom, so if the dogs
set up a clatter he would hear them in the nearly sound proofed house.
But things were quiet all night and Ray and Antoinette got up
ready for the next day. It didn’t take long for things to go downhill fast.
As they were cleaning up after breakfast the driveway alarm sounded
and the dogs set up a howl.
“You get on the dart thrower and start it up. I’m going to meet
whoever it is at the berm. If you see me dive off the berm, open up with
the darts. Do a narrow back and forth pattern. You saw how it was
aligned yesterday.”
“I don’t want to hit you!” Antoinette protested.
“You won’t. The darts will clear the top of the berm at about
radiator to windshield height. I’ll be out of the flight path, in a prepared
fighting position. Worst comes to worst, get in the mine and lock up
tight.”
“I’ll not going to leave you out there on your own!” Antoinette
protested again.
“I’ll be fine. Let’s go.”
Grabbing rifles and vests the two ran out of the house, Antoinette
headed for the dart thrower and Ray to the berm. Ray had an M1A with
a fifty round drum inserted. Antoinette’s POF 5.56 carbine had a sixty
round Magpul quad stack Pmag ready to go.
He made it just in time. There were three vehicles coming up the
drive, one behind the other. There were two pickups and a Church
marked van. Ray estimated there were at least ten people. He waved his
arms over his head and indicated for the vehicles to stop.
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When they kept coming Ray lifted the M1A and fired a round into
the ground in front of the lead vehicle. He dove down behind the berm
when gun barrels were shoved through the open windows of the vehicle
and a return shot rang out.
Ray scrambled over to a fighting position prepared long ago and
kept equipped with water and ammunition on a rotating basis. In only
moments Ray was ready. He heard thuds and screams as dart after dart
sailed over the berm and arced downward to impact on the lead vehicle.
Using the radio on the vest, Ray told Antoinette to raise the
trajectory. The next dart sailed higher and there were more thuds and at
least one more scream. Five men came running over the top of the berm
and Ray took them out before they could find any cover from the rifle
fire.
Ray heard an engine rev and he radioed Antoinette to hold fire. He
climbed out of the firing position to take up another on top of the berm,
well to one side of the driveway. The Church van was backing rapidly
down the drive way.
Rapidly deploying the bipod on the M1A, Ray emptied the rest of
the drum into the van. The van suddenly swerved, going sideways to the
driveway and flipping over three times before coming to rest.
Ray waited for a long time before calling Antoinette to let Homer
out of the kennel and for her to come up and cover him from the berm
while he checked the vehicles. Homer was with Ray long before
Antoinette arrived. He was down on his haunches, ready to do anything
Ray requested.
When Antoinette was in the firing position, Ray cautioned her,
“Keep a good look out. I don’t know exactly how many people there
were. And mind Homer. If someone tries something he’ll probably react
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first. He should go on guard, unless they actually make an attack
motion.”
“Be careful Ray. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Same here.” Ray had replaced the drum with one of the twenty
round box magazines from his vest. He very slowly, stopping often to
observe, checked the five men that had made it over the berm. They’d
each taken at least two rounds and were no longer with this world.
Homer whined a bit at the bodies, but stayed right with Ray.
Ray made his way down to the lead vehicle. It had eight darts in
the grill, with another five holes in the windshield. The two occupants
were pinned to their seats, dead. It looked like one had struggled to get
loose before a second dart put him out of his misery.
The second pickup had darts sticking out of the hood, with two
more having holed the radiator. With the higher trajectory of the darts
that took out the second vehicle, the darts going through the roof and
windshield did terrible damage to the occupants. Ray nearly lost his
breakfast at the sight.
Checking on each side of the two vehicles he found three more
people with dart wounds. With no type of back stop, as there was in the
vehicles, the darts had gone all the way through the three. One took a
direct chest hit and had died before he hit the ground. Bo th the others
had caught darts coming downward. One in the left thigh and the other
in the right thigh. They’d bled out shortly after taking the hits.
Ray was even more cautious approaching the overturned van. He
had the M1A at the ready, but there was no need for it. The four people
inside were dead. The driver had taken a dart, but the others were killed
during the roll over. None of the three had been wearing seatbelts and
had been tossed around savagely. Ray shook his head. Brian Jacoby had
been the driver, even with his right hand in a cast.
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It was only when Homer alerted and went stiff legged with his tail
upright and rigid, did Ray realize there had been another person in the
van. He was off the driveway, and from the look of the body, had broken
his neck when ejected from the van.
“And that is why you wear seatbelts,” Ray muttered. He patted
Homer on the head and gave him a ‘good dog’. Homer’s tail wagged a
couple of times, but he was still obviously tense. Ray radioed Antoinette
that there were no survivors and then began the grizzly task of retrieving
the darts. Antoinette would continue keeping watch, but could leave the
fighting position and move around a bit.
After all the darts were gathered up and stacked, Ray then searched
the bodies and the vehicles. There were several weapons that Ray added
to the stack of darts. Each man had a combat vest or belt arrangement of
some type and he worked those off the bodies. There wasn’t anything
else he wanted, except the fuel in the vehicles’ tanks. But from the looks
of things, it wasn’t going to be worth the effort.
Ray went back up to the berm. When Antoinette got a good look at
his face she was concerned. “Are you all right, Ray? You look awful.”
“I don’t know, Antoinette. They were a mess. Those darts are
deadly. I just need a bit of time to collect myself.”
“I understand. You want to go up to the house and rest for a while?
I can stay here and keep watch.”
“No. I think I’d better take care of things now, just once, and then
take it easy. I’m going up to get the Cat D7E. I want to get everything
buried before anyone else shows up. You should probably take Homer
back to the kennel. I don’t want him running around while I’m on the
Cat.”
Still concerned, Antoinette nodded. But she whistled for Homer
and he came trotting up. “Let’s go, boy,” Antoinette said and headed up
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to the house from the berm. Homer looked at Ray once, but then trotted
up to join Antoinette.
When he got up to the equipment parking area he got into his truck
and took it down to the berm. The truck had a bed hoist that he used to
load the five bodies on the berm. He added their collected weapons to
the bed and then went down to the van.
It was a struggle to get the bodies into the van, but Ray finally had
them all in the back. Gathering up the darts and liberated weapons, Ray
took them up in the truck and returned with the D7E. He cut a trench
well off the driveway and then pushed each of the vehicles over to it and
in. It didn’t take long to cover everything back up.
Ray was back up to the house in time for the supper he didn’t want.
He had foregone lunch, and decided he needed to eat something, even if
he didn’t feel like eating. Antoinette had suspected he wouldn’t want
much, and kept it light. She was trying her hand at making yogurt and
simply served him some of the vanilla yogurt with some sliced
strawberries.
He ate silently and then excused himself. “Thanks, Honey. I’m
going to unload the truck. I’ll be back in shortly.”
“You want some help?” Antoinette asked.
Ray shook his head. “Rather be alone and think about some
things.”
“Okay. You know I’m here, if you want to talk it out.”
“I know. And I love you for it.” Ray gave her a kiss and a long
hard hug before going outside. Ray let Homer and Suzie out to romp
around while he worked. Both ran over when he began to unload the
darts and restack them on the trailer. Both snorted and Suzie ran off.
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Homer joined her after a bit of growling and stiff leg movement. But
Suzie wanted to play and soon had Homer running around in circles.
Ray smiled and watched the dogs for a few minutes before moving
the captured weapons from the truck to the mine side room. All were
quality arms, with only one damaged by a dart impact. He cleaned them
one by one after fetching the cleaning kit from his workroom. He didn’t
want the bloodstains corroding the metal.
He was done finally and took the cleaning kit back to his
workroom to clean the M1A and refill the XS Products X-14 50 round
drum. He removed the twenty round box and inserted the drum, adding
the box magazine to the vest. He put both of them back where he could
grab them if anything else happened.
With the alarms reset, and the doghouse monitor on, Ray and
Antoinette went to bed early. Ray tossed and turned and wasn’t getting
much sleep. Antoinette finally just wrapped her arms around him and
held him until he finally went to sleep.
Despite the lack of rest, Ray and Antoinette were up early the next
morning, with the expectation of additional trouble. The trouble, when it
came, wasn’t what they were expecting. The driveway alarm sounded
and then came the sound of an automobile horn. The dogs began to bark
and Ray and Antoinette grabbed their combat gear and ran to the same
places they’d taken the day before, with Antoinette letting Homer out of
the kennel on the way.
Ray was up on the berm watching the bend in the driveway, with
Homer setting on his haunches beside him. A pickup truck came around
into view and Ray indicated he should stop, by firing another round into
the ground in front of it. The vehicle stopped and a man got out, his
hands in the air.
“Hey Ray! It’s me! Drew McClendon!”
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Homer growled.
“What do you want, Drew?”
“The Church… Michael Banks… asked me to come talk to you. To
negotiate a surrender.”
“Okay. Come on up. If you brought people with you, you’ll die
first, Drew.”
Drew started up the driveway. “Don’t be like that, Ray. I’m by
myself. I’m on your side.”
“Yeah. I thought Brian Jacoby was on my side and he tried to kill
me right after I talked to you the other day. That’s close enough.”
Homer was growling low in his throat. “Easy, Homer,” Ray said.
The dog sort of quit growling, but Ray could feel the vibration as Homer
leaned against his leg.
“Uh… You… Uh… Well… Uh… Did you by chance see Brian
Jacoby yesterday?”
“What do you want, Drew?”
“This is uncomfortable, Ray,” Drew said. He was standing on the
driveway, at the base of the berm, and Ray was almost ten feet above
him on the berm. “Let me come on up and we can discuss the surrender.”
“We don’t need to be any closer to do that. It’ll only take a
moment. You go back and tell this Michael Banks that I will accept his
and the Church’s unconditional surrender right down by the low water
bridge tomorrow at noon.”
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Even at the distance Ray could see Drew pale. “Aw, man! You
don’t mean that! He was talking about you and Antoinette surrendering.
If I go tell him what you said he might have me killed!”
“Then why are you doing it Drew?”
Now Drew’s face was bright red. “Um… Uh…”
“No hemming and hawing, Drew. Are you being paid to bring me
in?”
“No, Ray! No! It’s not like that, Ray! Really! The guys sent to get
you never showed back up and we can’t find them anywhere. Banks
wants to know what happened and for the two of you come in. I thought
maybe I could help you guys. Maybe keep you from getting killed.”
“How much, Drew?”
“Don’t be like this, Ray! Come on, man! They don’t take no for an
answer! They made me do it!”
“How much, Drew?”
Drew looked ready to turn and run. But he hung his head and said,
“Five one ounce Gold Eagles, Ray. It’s not that much! Not really! I had
to take it!”
“Blood money, Drew. Money for my wife’s blood.” Ray had been
holding the rifle at low guard, which put it pointing about chest high, but
off to one side of Drew. A small movement made in a fraction of a
second, and the gun was aimed at Drew’s chest.
“How much is your life, worth, Drew? Five ounces of gold? You
think I’d get that if I killed you and dropped your body off at the
Church? Five ounces for your life? How about it, Drew?”
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Drew dropped to his knees and began to cry, begging for his life.
Ray let him grovel for a moment, but it was a sickening sight, so Ray
told him to shut up, stand up, and go tell Banks what Ray had said about
the surrender. “And leave those five ounces of gold right there where
you are standing.”
Scrambling to his feet, Drew fumbled in his right hand pants’
pocket. Ray couldn’t tell for sure, but he was sure those were the five
gold coins. When Drew began to run down the driveway, Ray put a
couple of bullets in the ground beside him to hurry him on.
Homer decided it would be all right to add his own, ‘Keep going
and don’t look back’ bark to Ray’s rather deadlier version.
Ray chuckled and Homer sat back down beside him. “Come up and
keep a watch, Antoinette,” Ray said on the radio after Drew was back
down around the bend in the driveway.
Antoinette hurried down and dropped down into the fighting
position. “Okay, Ray. What am I watching for?”
“Anything. I think he was alone, but there is a possibility someone
is watching. I’ll be right back.”
Keeping his M1A ready, with Homer close by him, Ray went down
to where Drew had dropped the coins. Sure enough, there were five one
ounce US Gold Eagles on the ground. Ray leaned down and picked them
up. He looked down the driveway sightlessly. He almost drew back his
arm to fling the coins away from him. But gold was gold, blood money
or not. It wasn’t something you threw away on a whim. So Ray slipped
the coins in his shirt pocket, turned around and climbed back up to join
Antoinette on the berm.
“What was that all about?” Antoinette asked as they walked back
up to the house, with Homer marching right beside them. The two dogs
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touched noses through the wire of the kennel before Ray put Homer
back inside.
Ray explained what had gone on, and then added, “Much as I hate
to, I’m thinking we might be better bugging out for a while. Lay low and
try to find someone that can help us. If it wasn’t… Never mind. It is and
that isn’t going to change.”
Antoinette put her hand on Ray’s arm. “If what wasn’t?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me, Ray. If it is something you’d do if we weren’t
together, then I want to know about it and make my own decision.”
“But Antoinette…”
“For better or worse, Ray. That’s what we both said. Now out with
it.”
“Well… I was going to say I’d like to take it to them, instead of
waiting for them to do something here.”
“I think it is a good idea. What is the plan?”
“No plan…”
“Come on, Ray.”
“Okay, okay. I’m thinking about putting some road plate on the
D11T and seeing just how secure the Church property is. Maybe pour a
few darts into the mess. But I can’t do both of them…”
“I can do the darts. But how are you going to handle the road
plate? That D11T is tall.”
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“There is a crane at the road construction site. I doubt if there is
anyone out there now, if there was at all after the ash fall. I can position
the plate with the crane and then tack it into place. Take the dozer in and
just mow down everything in the way.”
“Even with the plate, that is a lot of risk,” Antoinette protested.
“I know. But it is a risk I’m willing to take. If you stay back and let
me do it on my own.”
“Not going to happen. But what I can do is join you with the blue
Ford dart thrower and maybe keep a few heads down while you work
with the dozer.”
“You’d do that?” Ray asked.
“I would. Someone has to stop this before it gets out of hand and
the CAA takes over the country.”
“Okay then. Let’s gear up and go work on the D11T. We might not
have much time.”
And the timing was very close. There was a convoy of vehicles on
the Church parking lot ready to head for Ray and Antoinette’s place
when the sound of the D11T’s tracks were first heard. People were
looking all around.
Ray radioed to Antoinette. “I don’t see any women and children.
Looks like they were planning on taking most of their able bodied out to
do us in. Fire at will. Walk the trajectory around some. I’m coming up on
the Church.”
Putting down the microphone, Ray slipped the hearing protection
over his ears. Already bullets were impacting the dozer blade and the
double thickness of road plate protecting the engine compartment and
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the cab. Without the hearing protection, the sound would have been
extremely painful.
It couldn’t have worked out any better, Ray d ecided, ignoring the
closed gate of the parking lot, and ramming right through the tough, tall,
concrete anchored steel security fencing surrounding the property.
A tweak on the controls and Ray was running right down the line
of vehicles, one huge track smashing the vehicles and the other tearing
up the asphalt for traction. The bullets stopped peppering the Cat and
Ray took a look through one slit in the metal protecting the cab. The
rebar darts were raining down, arching high and coming down point
first.
The first few darts simply impacted the ground. But Antoinette was
working the controls of the dart thrower the way Ray had shown her, and
the rain moved slowly over toward the group of shooters were trying to
stop the dozer.
Ray steered toward the building, trying to herd the group back into
the line of fire from the darts or get run over. A few got out of the way
and Ray drove the D11T right through the middle of the building. He
triggered a release that dropped several gallons of gasoline onto the fl oor
and flipped the switch that created a spark in an assembly under the
dozer.
The flames ignited in a small explosion and Ray decided to make a
new exit. There were more pings on the metal, but they sounded more
like pistol rounds than rifle. Pieces and parts of the building slid off the
dozer when he exited the other side of the building.
Curling around, Ray headed for the large spire on the front lawn of
the property. It barely took a touch of the powerful dozer to bring the
antenna encased in the spire down. Spinning around again, Ray headed
for the rear of the building, demolishing one corner of it to get to the
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regular antenna towers located on the back side of the property. They
came down more easily than the spire had.
The darts had stopped falling and Ray headed the dozer away from
the carnage. He didn’t go far. Just down and over two streets before he
stopped. He disabled the dozer engine. It would take an expert Cat
mechanic to figure out what he’d done. Ray certainly didn’t want the
dozer used against him or those in the city that were fighting against the
CAA.
And that was what caught Ray totally by surprise. When he
climbed down from the dozer and ran over to where Antoinette had the
Ford parked, he saw several people running toward the Church property.
They were armed and exchanging fire with those of the Church that were
coming after the dozer on foot.
It caught the CAA members by just as much surprise. They were
convinced that the Church had subdued the entire remaining population
of the town. The CAA people began to retreat back to the Church
property.
“Stay handy,” Ray told Antoinette and jumped out of the Ford with
his rifle. He slipped into the vest and headed for the Church with several
others.
Antoinette didn’t like it, but there was nothing she could do except
follow them, ready to pick Ray up and head the other way.
There were at least fifty people in the attacking force Ray decided.
They had the Church surrounded and continued to pour fire into it as
people tried to get away from the fire that was now engulfing the
building.
Finally some of the members of the CAA started dropping
weapons and raising their hands in surrender. Not having a clue who was
in charge of the civilian attack, Ray began to call for a cease fire. The
Page 74 of 78
shooting did stop, but not before half a dozen more of the Church
members went down.
Ray saw someone run up to one the men holding his hands up. He
was coughing and gagging from the smoke. Another man came up to the
two and both men took the man’s arms down and held on to them as they
marched him over to where Ray was standing. Ray recognized the two
bringing the third. One was Alfonse, and the other a fellow home brewer
that Ray knew.
“Meet Michael Banks, Ray. The head of this church and creator of
all the hardship around here,” Alfonse said.
“We are the savior of this town,” Banks managed to say. “You’ve
ruined any chance of recovery. The Church was taking care of everyone
that deserved it.”
“Well, I’m thinking that, deserving or not, a large number of
people had rather take care of themselves,” Ray said.
Ronny, the brewer, asked, “What do we do with him, Ray.?”
“I’d like to hang him right here,” Ray said. “But better to let justice
prevail the way it should. With a trial. I don’t suppose the jail is still
usable?”
Alfonse nodded. “Actually, we need to get down there and release
the ones Banks here had thrown in for minor sleights to the Church.”
There was quite a parade from the Church site to City Hall and the
jail. Every one of the Church members that survived the attack was
escorted by two residents, walking with guns ready for any attempt to
escape.
The two Churchmen at the jail took off before the parade arrived.
Fortunately they left the keys behind. It was a struggle to keep some of
Page 75 of 78
those that had been incarcerated from physically attacking the captive
Church members.
But after a couple of altercations the switch was made, with the
non-CAA people outside and the CAA people crowded into the cells.
“What are you going to do with us?” Banks finally asked as people
began to leave.
“Going to get a court together and have a trial, Banks,” Ray said.
“Depending on the outcome, individuals will be meted out judgments
and punishments.”
“You can’t do that! People hate us here! A change of venue is the
least you should do. We shouldn’t even be in here. We were simply
working for the good of everyone.”
“Everyone, Banks? Or those you thought would benefit the CAA
in maintaining control with their best interests at heart. Your group is a
church in name only. You lead the local chapter of an elitist cult. I don’t
know about other places, but it stops now, in this place, at this time.
“People deserve to worship anyway they want, as long as it doesn’t
infringe on other’s right to do the same thing. By the way, what
happened to Drew McClendon? He tell you my terms of your
surrender?”
Banks didn’t say anything at first, looking down at the floor. When
he looked up again, with a defiant look on his face, he said. “I don’t
know. One of my men took him out of my presence.”
“He’s lying,” said one of the men in another cell. “He shot him
right there in the Church when McClendon told him what you said.”
“Shut up, Reuben!” Banks nearly screamed. Ray felt a touch of
sympathy for Drew. For a moment. The man had chosen the w rong side
and paid the price for it.
Page 76 of 78
Ray swung around when Antoinette ran in, calling for him.
“Ray! Ray! Someone is saying they have the National Guard on
the radio!”
Ray saw Banks blanch. “You’ve known the National Guard has
been active, haven’t you?”
Banks began to curse. Ray shook his head and followed Antoinette
outside. There was a group gathered around a man on a motorcycle. The
man was wearing a back pack with a long antenna extending from it.
“You’re talking to the National Guard?” Ray asked after the crowd
parted and let Ray through.
“Yeah. They want to know who is in charge and what the situation
is.”
Ray looked around. “Who’s been elected to represent the city?” he
asked.
People looked around at each other. But no one spoke up. Then
Alfonse said “You’ve kinda been in a leadership role since you brought
the dozer in. I think you should talk to them.”
Quite a few people did speak then, echoing Alfonse’s words.
Rather reluctantly Ray took the microphone and keyed it up. “This is
Ray Collins. Who am I talking to?”
Page 77 of 78
Church of the Ark and Armageddon - Epilog
It took a while for the Guard to get there. Ray and Antoinette
wound up providing most of the food for those being kept in the jail, at
least for the time they were there. Two weeks after the battle a National
Guard MP convoy arrived and took them off the city’s hands.
The members of the other churches in the city finally began to
come out of hiding. The CAA had used every excuse they could come
up with to eliminate any that resisted the efforts to run them off or put
them to work for the church for minimum subsistence levels of food.
The activities of the CAA all across the country were finally
checked, some by force, and some by the members of the church simply
by keeping to themselves and relinquishing any semblance of attempted
control before being forced to do so by the Guard.
Many members of the CAA paid the ultimate price for their
murderous activities. Most simply faded into the woodwork, often
joining a real church and began to help with the recovery, for everyone’s
sake. The scars the Church of the Ark and Armageddon had created
began to fade, after many months.
The preparations that individual Church members were never
touched, despite a strong demand to do so was voiced. But things held
by the Church itself were commandeered and used in the recovery.
Nothing was ever said about the missing men, not even any of their
families. The families knew full well that their men had been sent to
murder Ray and Antoinette, and strip them of everything the Church had
a use for.
It didn’t take long for Antoinette to return the pharmacy goods to
the pharmacy and begin dispensing medications for the two doctors that
had survived. Eventually the commercial items were used up or went
Page 78 of 78
well past their expiration dates. Antoinette’s greenhouse of medicinal
plants became a vital resource for the community.
Life continued to be hard, but those that survived had been the
tough ones, the ones that had prepared well, and those that simply had
been lucky. But all shared the same hardships as communities began to
recover, and the State and National infrastructures started to come back.
In pieces and parts, here and there, over a very long time frame.
The Church of the Ark and Armageddon was no longer a factor.
End ********
Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: Jerry D. Young - Church Of The Ark And Armageddon

Postby stjwelding » Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:50 am

Thanks for another great story Jerry.
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