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JDY Fiction - And The Pendulum Swings

JDY Fiction - And The Pendulum Swings

Postby Jerry D Young » Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:06 pm

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 1

Gary folded the newspaper and tossed it down rather forcefully. “Don’t know why I even bother anymore,” he complained.

“Because you are an information junkie, Dear. Books, magazines, newspapers, TV, Internet. You want to know it all.”

“Clarissa, you know that isn’t true.”

Clarissa looked up from the book she was reading and looked over at her husband of thirty years. She didn’t say anything, but Gary got the message.

“Okay. Okay. I am an information junkie, I suppose.”

“At least the trait has had many positive benefits for us over the years,” Clarissa said.

Gary looked surprised. “You really think so?”

“Of course, Dear. We wouldn’t be sitting here, able to retire if we wanted, comfortably, at fifty, had it not been for your insatiable quest for knowledge. About almost everything, it seems.”

“Hm. We do have it pretty good, I suppose,” Gary said, rubbing his chin with his right hand. A habit he really wasn’t aware of. “Sure different than when we started out.”

“Just as you say about the economy, the weather, and almost everything else, the pendulum swings back and forth, denying opportunities and then supplying them. You, with your vast knowledge base, even back then, were able to make the right choices for us to get to where we are today.”

“Well. Yes. I suppose. But I have a feeling the pendulum is about to start swinging back. Two or three of them.”

“Yes, Dear. So you have said. But aren’t we sitting at just the right point on that swing where they affect us the least?”

“I’ve tried to get us there. Much of it possible only with your help. This isn’t something I did all by myself.”

“Aren’t we the mutual admiration society this evening? I know I played my part. In tune with yours. We really are a good team. I just hope Faith and Anson can develop the same kind of relationship.”

“Hm. Well, I hope so. But I’m afraid I don’t have that much confidence in Anson. He hasn’t proven to me he can adequately take care of our little girl.”

“Gary, she is twenty-five. We raised her well. She can make her own decisions. Right or wrong. It is up to us to be there to lend support if she needs us.”

“So you don’t think it will last?”

“Didn’t say that, Dear. But I, too, have my doubts. But it will take a decision by Faith to institute any changes.”

“Lord, I am glad I found you!”

“Well, I threw myself at you enough times before you did.”

“You didn’t throw yourself at me! I don’t remember anything like that.”

“Of course not, Dear. I made sure it wasn’t obvious, but I worked you like a fish on a line until I had you in my net. I spotted you the first day in Freshman Orientation Class and warned all the other young ladies that you were mine and they’d better keep hands off. It only took two years of hard work to land you.”

“Oh,” was all Gary could think of to say.

Clarissa laughed the low in the throat laugh of hers and Gary smiled. He loved her laugh. He loved everything about her, actually. The conversation over, Clarissa went back to her book, and Gary turned to the computer on the desk. He moved the mouse to wake the beast up and then began to do some browsing.

Not seeing anything he hadn’t already seen earlier that day, Gary started Excel and pulled up one of his planning workbooks. Started over thirty years ago, he’d found a friendly companion in Excel. He used it for planning, financial matters, simple drawings, and an easy to use list holder.

Just about everything they owned, needed, or wanted was in one of the lists in the workbook. Complete with quantities wanted, name of the item, description of the item, unit cost of the item, subtotal cost, and then internet links pertaining to the item. One item per line.

He had to smile at the fact that there were so many more filled in lines than in those early days. But his research in financial matters in those early days had led him to some important decisions on how to make money, keep money, and protect the money.

Unlike most of his contemporaries that started college with some scholarships, that partied the money away, Gary kept his close to his vest, and with the money from a pair of jobs during those first two years, had an investment program set up and going the summer between sophomore and junior years. So he had his degree, Clarissa for a wife, and money in the bank on graduation day, instead of owing thousands of dollars of college loans.

Years of hard work, living a modest lifestyle with Clarissa and then with Clarissa and Faith, had allowed him to further his investments for the future. They hadn’t done without anything they really wanted at the time, even taking Faith on educational vacation trips when she was old enough. The budget numbers that Gary kept in the computer were watched carefully, to make sure there would be college money for Faith, and retirement for Clarissa and him.

But the money wasn’t all. Gary had run across a couple of survivalist types that freshman year of college. He became interested in some their ideas, but quickly disassociated himself from them when they turned out to be rather radical, with an agenda that he wanted no part of.

However, it was that exposure that put him on the path of a renamed movement of people wanting to be prepared for any eventuality. The Prepper community. Many being loners and tight family groups, the internet had become their communication source for trading information about all aspects of prepping.

So, even from the early days, Gary was making preparations for not only a traditional retirement, but one of life in the PAW as well. So far, traditional was doing fine. But there was that pesky pendulum swinging further and further out to an extremist position of liberalism, entitlement mentalities, porous borders, and the overall weakening of the US in so many ways.

Gary had, with Clarissa’s willing help, become a very skilled prepper, with a home that many preppers would drool over, and equipment and supplies to live a very long time with little or no outside help. There was even a small vacation home on a natural lake, among several others, that were guarded and maintained in the off season by a reputable company specializing in such work. The home was also a bug out location in case they had to leave their permanent home for some reason.

Even beyond that, there were three small plots of land with vandal resistant ‘hunting cabins’ with cached equipment and supplies to take up temporary residence if either the primary home or the vacation home were untenable. And Gary had the means to regain the homes if they weren’t actually destroyed by whatever event had them evacuating in the first place.

But the showcase was, of course, ‘The Home Place’. It went beyond a typical farm in the area, being not only a large working farm, but a small dairy operation and a ranch with horses, beef cattle and buffalo, with the actual home site being a moderate estate in its own right.

No, Gary and Clarissa didn’t have millions upon millions of dollars on hand, but they had that and more in the value of their holdings, not only in terms of dollars, but of security, for themselves and Faith and her future family, and all those that worked for them.

His thoughts still on Faith and Anson, Gary shook his head as if to get them from his mind when the land line telephone rang. Clarissa looked over expectantly when Gary reached for the receiver.

“Gary Middleton,” Gary said when the phone was up to his ear and mouth, his usual salutation when he answered a call.

“Father, it’s Faith.”

Gary’s eyes cut over to Clarissa. She again had the book down in her lap, her bright blue eyes firmly on Gary. “Yes, Faith?”

“Is Mother there?”

“She is. I take it you would prefer to talk to her then…”

“Of course not, Father. I called to talk to you. It is just that Mother will need to know, too.”

“I see. From the sound of your voice there is trouble. Is there something I, or we, can do to help?”

“You are just too perceptive, Father,” Faith said rather softly. “Yes. There is trouble. Trouble with Anson. He has become quite possessive of me and is getting insistent that we, as he puts it, prove our commitment to one another. Without benefit of marriage.”

“I see.”

So did Clarissa. She couldn’t hear Faith’s end of the conversation, but with what she was hearing Gary say, and the motion of his jaws as he ground his teeth in a rare display of controlled anger, Clarissa knew it was something important.

“Father, I’m not afraid of Anson, despite a couple of things, but I would like to come home for the Holiday break rather than go on the trip with Anson we’d planned. I know you had plans…”

“Which are as of this moment moot. When should we expect you?”

“Tomorrow evening. Thank you, Father. And thank Mother for me, too.”

“Absolutely. I love you, child.”

“And I you and Mother. Please tell her that, too. Good-bye.”

Clarissa was standing by the chair in which Gary sat one hand on his left shoulder as he slowly hung up the phone with his right hand. “I take it the plans for the road trip are off?”

“Yes. Faith needs to come home for a while. Anson is getting persistent. If you get my drift.”

“Ah. I see. Yes, I do get your drift. But you don’t work your jaw that way over something fairly simple.”

“It was one thing she said. Totally out of character for Faith,” Gary said, putting his right hand up to cover hers on his shoulder as he looked across the room at the family portrait that he had commissioned just before Faith left for college.

Clarissa waited patiently for Gary to collect his thoughts. He was slow to anger, and kept careful control of it when he did become angry. “Faith said, and I quote, ‘Father, I’m not afraid of Anson, despite a couple of things, but I would like to come home for the Holiday break rather than go on the trip with Anson we’d planned.’

“No, she isn’t afraid of him, since we taught her how to protect herself, but that, ‘despite a couple of things’ has me believing that Anson quite probably did something that Faith took as a threat of some kind. Physical or otherwise.”

“Well. We will know the full story when Faith arrives.”

“And that should be tomorrow evening,” Gary replied. “I need something to take my mind off Anson for the moment. I think I’ll check the dogs. Lady Gail is due to whelp any time.”

“Very well, Dear. Although Melody has the house spic and span, I think I’ll check Faith’s bedroom. Make sure it is ready for her.” She let her hand slide from Gary’s shoulder as she stepped back and he rose up from the chair. They touched lips and then left the study slash library, lost in their own thoughts for the moment.

Besides the other animals on the farm and ranch, Gary maintained a professional kennel: breeding, raising, and training a long established line of award winning Airedales.

About as far from one could be from being a ‘puppy mill’, Gary insisted on maintaining the quality of the bloodline, and both paid and received high prices for breeding privileges of his female, as well as his male dogs.

He kept a hand in the operation, even now, but the bulk of the work was done by Nadine Smith and Robert Jones. Nadine was a professional vet as well as breeding specialist, and Robert was trainer and general kennel worker.

They were married, but Nadine had built up a reputation and preferred to use her maiden name. They were just one of several couples and singles that lived on-site, in the housing that Gary and Clarissa Middleton maintained for most of the workers, since the property was some distance from the nearest town, with the city much further away.

Occasionally the work, any of the work, could result in some long hours and many of the employees liked being able to just walk to their homes from the job after one of those days. And it saved a tremendous amount of commuting expenses for most of them, as well.

Gary didn’t stay long. Lady Gail was in the process of giving birth and both Nadine and Robert were right there, making sure the natural process didn’t need any assistance, but ready to lend a hand, if it was.

He did take a few minutes to talk to Lady Gail, reassure her and rub her head and ears a little, until her attention went back to the pups being born. He’d found that it was tough to sell the trained dogs if he became too attached to them. He had the personal and farm dogs that were a pleasure to him, but maintained some distance to those being bred and trained for sale.

“Thanks guys,” Gary said quietly and took his leave when they both nodded, their attention on the dog and pups, too. It was Lady Gail’s first litter and they wanted everything to go well.

Gary returned to the study/library and found Clarissa there, book in hand, but lost in thought. She seemed to sense his presence and looked over at him as he took his seat behind the large desk again. The slight tilt of her head and lifted brow asked the question of how Lady Gail was doing.

“She is a champ, in more ways than one. The birthing is going well. Nadine and Robert are right there, for safety and encouragement, but Lady Gail is doing well on her own.”

“That’s good. I was lucky that way, as well. Faith came quickly and easily.”

“I remember,” Gary said, smiling at the fond memory. They never brought up the fact that Faith was the only child that Clarissa could have. Despite the quickness and ease of the birth, there were other internal problems that precluded her having more children.

Gary leaned back in the leather and oak executive chair behind the desk. “Be nice to have Faith to ride in the Independence Day parade again. She always enjoyed that.”

“That is a very good idea, Gary. That should help her take her mind off whatever is troubling her. And if she is going to ride, I suspect you might just bring out the wagon and harness up the Clydesdales this year. People were disappointed last year that they weren’t included.”

“Well, that ‘thing’ with Mayor Robbins rather took the spirit out of me. Especially with him being a vet, as well as the Mayor.”

“Oh, Dear. I didn’t mean to bring that up again.”

Gary brought the chair upright and put his forearms on the desk. “No. It is quite all right. I’ll go by his rules. There is a point to them. But it was his attitude, not the need for cleaning up after the horses while doing the parade that turned me off.” Gary chuckled. “Be interesting to see his expression when we show up, with shovels and waste pails.”

“And just who will have that duty?” Clarissa asked, smiling over at her husband.

“Well, I’m not going to ask the hands. I’ll be taking care of that chore myself.”

It caught Clarissa by surprise, but just for a moment. Gary wouldn’t ask anyone to do that job. At least not before he showed everyone that he was willing to do it first.

“You are such a nice man.”

Gary glanced over at Clarissa. “Not too nice. All the time.”

“Ah. Yes. Of course. You can be a hard man, too. It is part of the reason I love you so. I know you will do anything and everything to take care of all that comes under your… how should I say it? Your sphere of influence?”

Gary laughed outright. “My sphere of influence. I like that. And for the moment, I think my sphere of influence is limited to the house. I shall take a turn around and check everything and be up to bed in a little while.”

Clarissa placed the bookmark that Faith had made for her while in grade school in the book and closed it. She met Gary at the door of the study/library and they shared a kiss. She headed upstairs, deciding to use the elevator rather than the stairs. Her recently diagnosed osteo-arthritis was bothering her. It would be a relief to take her medications before going to bed.

Clarissa and Gary both kept themselves busy with household and farm/ranch duties all day. They held supper, Faith’s favorite, past the regular supper time.

She and Gary were in the study/library again, until the driveway annunciator sounded. Nothing was expected that evening, except Faith. Both hurried to the front door. Faith was there, parked in the circle driveway for the moment, and threw her arms around her mother first, and then her father, for long, tight hugs.

“Any left overs, Mother?” she asked as Clarissa led the way inside and Gary went to get Faith’s bags from her custom Jeep. She looked back at Gary. But he would insist on getting the bags, even if she offered. Best to let a dad be a dad, she decided.

“We held supper for you,” Clarissa replied.

“Oh, you didn’t have to do that!”

Clarissa laughed softly. “Your father wasn’t, and wouldn’t be, hungry until you were home safe and sound. It was easier to just suggest we wait.”

“Father has nothing to worry about. I’m a big girl.”

“You are still my daughter, and I reserve the right to worry about you.” Gary said, speaking behind them as they went into the kitchen and he went to the elevator to take the bags up to Faith’s room.

Soon the three were having supper and catching up on the happenings at Faith’s college and here at the estate. No mention was made of Anson for the moment.

It wasn’t until just before bedtime, with the three of them in the study/library, that Faith brought up the subject. “I need to explain what is happening with Anson,” she said, rather softly, her head down, looking at her hands.

Mother and father sat quietly, Clarissa taking Faith’s hand in hers as they sat on the button tufted leather Chesterfield sofa. Gary was again behind the desk, sitting upright, watching the two most important women in his life.

Faith sighed, and then looked up. “Anson… Well, he thinks we should move in together as ‘full partners’ as he put it. He wants us to share a bed. And when I bring up marriage he says there should be a trial period first.

“To see how compatible we are in lifestyles.” Faith fell silent for a moment.

“Lifestyles?” Gary asked. “Not… well… in the bedroom?”

“I really don’t think he was referring to that, at least later on. I did at first. But he was equally adamant about joint checking and savings accounts, and signing a lease on a place to live jointly. I’m beginning to think he may be more interested in my ties to the family wealth rather than me. He is struggling to make ends meet at college.

“He lost two of his scholarships because of bad grades. I’ve been trying to get him to let me tutor him, but he refuses. Says the professors have it in for him. He won’t say why. I accepted that at first, because I have had some run-ins with a couple too. The very liberal ones don’t like my conservative ideas and attitudes. But I’m finding Anson to be so much more liberal in his beliefs than I first thought.”

“I see,” Gary said. Clarissa just squeezed Faith’s hand, encouraging her to continue.

“He… well… to put it bluntly, got a little physical… twice. He put his hands on my shoulders the first time and tried to shake me. ‘To shake some sense into me’ he said, before I broke his grip and stepped back.

“The second time, he raised a hand… I think to slap me… when I told him that I would not sleep with him under any circumstances, or anyone else, without benefit of marriage. And there would be no joint bank account or anything else until I had a chance to think things over.”

There was silence for a moment and then Faith added, “That was yesterday afternoon, a while before I called you.”

“He was going to strike you?” Gary’s voice was cold, the suppressed anger obvious to both wife and daughter.

“I don’t know for sure… really… but… I honestly thought so at the moment it happened. My hand was going for my gun, and I think he realized it for he made the move into a wave of his hand and said some lame words, that didn’t register, about me being unreasonable. I told him to leave. That was when I called.”

Again Gary said, “I see.”

Clarissa added, “Oh, Honey! That is just so wrong of him.”

“Father,” Faith said, looking at him intently, “I want to handle this on my own. I know you must be feeling very protective right now, but Anson is my problem, and I will handle it. You have to let me do it on my own.”

It was a couple of seconds before Gary nodded in acquiescence. “As you wish, Daughter. But if he takes it one half step further, I will take a hand in this matter. It would be best if he knows that, however you can get him to understand it.”

“I don’t believe he will do anything else, Father. Not even that half step. I won’t let him get to that point. But thank you. I knew I could count on your and Mother for the support I need now.”

“You have it, unequivocally,” Gary said.

“And mine, as well, Dear,” Clarissa said.

“I think I shall go up and go to bed. I’m more than a little tired from the trip and the stress.”

“Very well, Faith. We will see you in the morning. Have a good night.”

Faith nodded and rose. It was only moments before Gary and Clarissa followed her out of the study/library. They said very little as they finished the minor cleanup in the kitchen. Then they too went up to bed.

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 2

Faith was back into the swing of things a day later. It was almost as if she had not been gone. Only a couple of the newer hands were unsure of her abilities as she saddled up her favorite riding horse, a feisty, but smaller Barb, one of the several Barbs the farm/ranch had as riding stock.

But once up on High-Ho, it became obvious that Faith was at home on a horse. She put the mare through its paces in the paddock. Many of the hands that were nearby came to watch when the word spread that Faith would be riding in the parade a few days hence.

Though she was fully aware of the spectators, she ignored them, and put High-Ho through the routine she would use in the parade, after getting the mare settled down. She had been exercised regularly, like all the horses, but had not been ridden for some time and was more than willing to test Faith’s skills against her own.

An hour later Faith rode High-Ho over to the gate to the paddock and dismounted. It was another hour of grooming and feeding the mare before she was back in the house, ready for lunch.

“I hear you put High-Ho through the ringer,” Gary said, seating first Clarissa and then Faith at the table.

Faith, laughed, eyes sparkling. “I didn’t realize how much I missed riding. Especially High-Ho. She is such a darling. I noticed some of the crews watching. Hope I didn’t take them from something important.”

Clarissa laughed lightly. “Oh, I think seeing the prodigal daughter back was the important thing. We often get inquiries about how you are doing. Many of the employees miss having you around, almost as much as we do.”

“Oh, Mother! I was just in the way most of the time, sticking my nose into everything, all the time.”

“That, my dear daughter,” Gary said, forking a piece of buffalo roast onto his plate, “is what makes for a very competent future owner of a place like this. You’ll be well qualified to take over when your mother and I retire from the active running of the place.”

“That is a scary thought,” Faith replied.

The talk turned to the happenings on the property as lunch continued. Faith was all ears as Gary and Clarissa caught her up on the few new aspects of the operation.

The morning of Independence Day, the whole farm/ranch population was geared up for the celebration in town. Only two people, both volunteers, would be staying behind to keep an eye on things. And they would be amply rewarded for having to miss the festivities.

There was quite a train of vehicles that left the property early that morning. Mostly company vehicles, including the stock and horse trailers that carried the animals that would be in the parade. Those included eight of the Clydesdales; Geronimo, the buffalo herd bull; and High-Ho.

Those that would be in the parade stayed at the staging area while the others headed out to find good spots on the parade route.

The town, despite its small size, put on a remarkable celebration every Independence Day. It included not only the parade but a large carnival at the main city park.

The eight-up hitch of Clydesdales pulling a handmade hay wagon, followed by six of the farm hands controlling Geronimo behind, and then Faith, in her finest western wear, with High-Ho bedecked with the silver and gold adorned tack, were favorites of the crowd. There had been no trouble getting area youngsters to ride the hay wagon.

Gary, dressed down in a pair of overalls and rat’s nest straw hat pulled a small cart and with shovel and broom, cleaned up after the stock, before the high school marching band came along. He got plenty of laughs as he made a production of the cleanup. Many people had to ask who it was, since Gary usually rode in the parade, driving the hay wagon.

It was a tired, but happy, group that headed back to the property late in the day. Things had gone well and everyone, townies and rural residents alike, had enjoyed the day.

It was only when things were secured, the animals cared for, and the property shut down for the night that Gary had a chance to watch the news after a light supper.

He, Clarissa, and Faith were in the study/library, having quiet cups of tea and discussing the day when Gary turned on the satellite TV and internet system, and switched from the Weather Channel to Fox News.

Gary sat up a little straighter in the chair when several reports of major problems at a dozen or more of the larger celebrations that day were shown. It seemed that not everyone had experienced a wonderful time the way the locals had.

Clarissa and Faith had been chatting quietly, but fell silent and watched with Gary as video reports were shown of bombings and riots at several celebrations around the US.

Three different Muslim organizations claimed credit for the activities, primarily the bombings. But from the early reports, the riots that got started had been carefully orchestrated by the same, or similar, groups.

The riots were arranged to pit ethnic minorities against one another and mainstream society, as well as religious and have vs. have not situations.

“Oh, dear,” Clarissa said when a commercial came on, “that is so sad.”

“Sad,” Gary said, “And worrisome. Things have been pretty quiet on the world political scene lately. This is going to stir up things. And not for the good.”

Gary looked over at Faith. “I know I can’t dissuade you from heading back to school in two days, but I want to make sure you have your preps in order, both in the Jeep and at your apartment.”

“I keep everything ready, Father. I learned well at your and Mother’s hand. The need for preps is always in the back of my head, kept there as much by the attitudes of the faculty and staff at college as the news.”

“That is good,” Clarissa told Faith. “You have enough in your accounts to take care of an emergency?”

“Yes. I never let my checking fall below ten thousand, and keep five thousand on or about me all the time.” Faith looked over at Gary when Gary got up and went into the walk-in closet that opened into the study/library.

He came back out a minute or so later and handed Faith a small leather bag. “Some additional gold and silver coins. For just in case. Cash is good, as long as people take it. But I want you to have a better hedge.”

“Father, I already have ten ounces of gold and fifty of silver,” Faith protested.

“I know. But this is one of the cases where more is better. Keep it as last ditch funds. I take it you still wear your money belt.”

“Of course. Either the leather pants belt, or the silk belt under my clothing when I’m not in pants. Cash and precious metals both in both.”

“That’s my daughter,” Gary said. He was silent for a moment, but then brought up the subject that was Faith’s reason for coming home for the holiday. “About Anson. Have you made a decision on how you will deal with him when you get back?”

“Yes, Father, I have. I was able to think about it several times during quiet times while here. I plan to cut off all connections with him, in no uncertain terms, when I return to school. I’ll not have anyone put their hands on me the way he did, much less risk physical altercations. He will be out of my life not long after I get back there.”

“Well,” Clarissa said, “You be very careful. If he threatens you or anything, report it. But take what measures you must, if it looks like it might get out of hand.”

“Yes, Faith. Any measures you must. Make the break sharp and clean, and make sure everyone around you knows it so any repercussions will be documented.”

“I don’t really think it will come to that,” Faith said, rather thoughtfully. “But I will certainly protect myself if need be. After analyzing a few things, I’ve come to the conclusion that Anson is something of a coward and bully, based as much on his dealings with other people as with me. I was simply blind to it initially.”

“Well, you’ve learned your lesson. That is all that matters.” Gary left it at that and the three turned back to the news when the talking heads were back on screen, discussing the situation. Already foreign governments and NGOs were making known their feelings about America having brought the troubles onto themselves by their nationalistic celebrations.

It was with some misgivings that Gary and Clarissa saw Faith off the next morning to go back to college. Though he had kept his feelings off his face that morning for Faith’s sake, Clarissa saw his look change when Faith drove down the driveway.

“She’ll be okay, Gary. She is tough and smart, well equipped and trained.”

“You referring to the world situation or Anson?” Gary asked.

“Both. Now, go find something to keep you busy, and I’ll do the same. We just have to have faith in Faith.”

“Very true. But I think I’ll take a look at the place in terms of our prep status. And then see what I can find out about Anson. Should have done it when he first became a factor in Faith’s life.”

“Oh, Dear. Faith won’t like that much.”

Gary grinned a rather feral grin. “Anson won’t like it even more, depending on what I find out.”

With that Clarissa went inside and Gary headed for the operating sections of the property.

Clarissa left Gary to his own devices that evening after supper. He was intent on the computer, with the large TV in the study/library set up for multiple screens on which several news networks were shown, along with the Weather Channel.

And Clarissa herself was using her compact laptop, on her lap, to do much as Gary was doing. Going through the preps for the home and estate that she was responsible for, while he did the same for the farm and ranch operations.

By bedtime both were satisfied with their reviews, and had placed orders to the several key suppliers they used to maintain their stocks of equipment and supplies. When Gary didn’t mention anything about Anson before they went to bed, she didn’t say anything about it.

But late the next day Clarissa got an earful. Gary’s inquiries had revealed rather more about Anson than even Gary suspected. Anson and his whole family, actually.

Clarissa was a bit pale when Gary finished his quiet explanation of what he’d learned both on-line, and through one of his friends that worked for a detective agency.

“If Faith indicates there are any problems at all in disassociating herself from Anson, I will take a hand in the matter. This could be a bit over our daughter’s ken, as smart as she is.”

“Yes. I do think you should clue Faith in, but be ready for a lecture. And be ready to intervene if things look to be getting out of hand.” Clarissa smiled softly. “As if you weren’t already planning those things.”

“Yes. I was, actually. But it might just be all moot. Look.” Gary nodded toward the TV screen. He popped one of the displays up to fill the screen. It showed military operations. Joint Russian and Chinese navies doing a joint exercise in the Pacific. The reporter was explaining the situation, making it out to be rather harmless.

Gary switched channels to get a different view. But even Fox News was downplaying the situation. “That isn’t like them,” Gary said. “I’m going to see what I can find on the Amateur bands and shortwave.”

Clarissa stayed and listened quietly as Gary operated a pair of the radios in the extensive communications set-up that he had in the study/library. Even though it was all mounted in a Faraday cage, the same set-up, with a couple of additions, was present in the underground shelter complex on the property.

What they heard from those sources, with little or no influence from government censors was somewhat different than what the US mainstream news was saying.

Finally, after listening well into the night, the two went up to bed, more than a little uneasy. Things were getting to a point again where the safety and security of their holdings and those people they felt responsible for became a major part of their thinking. And lives.

There were a few grumblings, but nothing serious, when Gary announced the next morning at the employee meeting that there would be a series of drills over the next few days to test and refine the responses to various scenarios, from the sighting of a tornado, to a major earthquake in the nearby New Madrid Seismic Zone.

Even the plan for the eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera would be activated at some point. There were a few murmurs from the oldest hands about the lack of an announcement of testing the nuclear attack defense plan. All could remember the day of and the days right after 9/11, when Gary had put the place on a low level war alert.

But with the training above and beyond the requirements for each employee’s specific job description, all the drills went off without a hitch over the next few days.

Gary was satisfied, that if required, the place could be put on an emergency footing without delay or problems in the coming days. And there was little grumbling left by the time the drills were finished.

It had become apparent to all on the property that things in the world political scene were at a dangerous point. Perhaps as bad as the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Or the even worse time in 1995 when the Black Brant scare had Yeltsin with the Russian launch codes book open, ready to trigger a nuclear response to a Norwegian satellite that was mistaken for a Trident SLBM warhead. At least to those that kept up with such things.

But as fate would have it, the spark that set off the troubles that were to come wasn’t the world political scene. At least not at first. It was the appearance from beyond the sun of a rather small asteroid that the sun’s gravity field altered the orbit of, to bring it into a collision course with the earth.

Now, there was speculation on just how much damage the asteroid would create, with the expected impact point being somewhere on a track from the Eastern North Pacific Ocean to the middle of China.

While only history will tell, if it is ever fully explained at all, the known facts at the time are that China decided to launch her nuclear arsenal to try and equalize the destruction that the nation would be subject to upon the impact of the asteroid on their landmass.

Whatever the truth may be, it is known that China did launch. On Russia, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and the US. While the US initially absorbed the attack from China, without an in-kind response, when Russia joined the fray, not just retaliating against the Chinese attack against them, but launching on the US and Europe as well as China, the American President authorized the release of the nuclear land based arsenal.

US missiles flew, impacting on targets only in Russia and China. But like the US, only land based missiles had been launched by Russia and China. Whether or not the commands were given from the top, or the decisions made by individual submarine commanders under their fail deadly system, Russian and Chinese nuclear ballistic missile submarines launched their nuclear cargos.

And those missiles were not all for the US and Europe. For reasons that remain unclear, South American, African, and ANZAC targets were also hit by the two.

But the three major players were not alone in taking action. Every other known holder of nuclear weapons used them. In the Middle East and North Africa by both sides of the Iran/Israel based conflict, in Asia between North and South Korea; and then by Pakistan and India.

Some ancient enemies, suspected, but not known for sure, had nuclear arsenals of their own. Small numbers, but some built with stolen American plans and technology, with matériel from Russia and South Africa, the devices were used with good effect by Japan, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, and Venezuela.

So where two other continents might have been able to help and provide relief supplies and equipment to the original combatants, Africa and South America were under the pall of nuclear destruction too, with local internecine and ethnic hand to hand warfare once again the norm. And would be for decades, if not centuries.

France, always one to avoid modern conflict, had only responded to the limited number of Russian warheads that impacted on French soil. But when Germany launched Medium Range nukes against France, she retaliated in kind. And launched on Great Britain, too. So did Germany. And Great Britain fired on France and Germany, and sent a few missiles toward Russia.

Even the well prepared Nordic countries and Switzerland were hit by Germany, France, and Russia. Apparently for past refusals to aid and abet ‘their’ side in the 20th century wars. Though the populations came through fairly well, due to their extensive sheltering system, they were caught in the literal fallout as well as the political and financial fallout of the situation.

The days of long distance warfare were over. Only local battles would be fought by local enemies. Every nation withdrew into itself. To try and rebuild, with provisions so their sworn enemies could never again do to them what had happened during those few hours and days. But that was work for times to come. For the moment, it was strictly survival of individuals, families, and small groups. Such as the area around the Middleton Place.

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 3

For Gary and Clarissa, and therefore Faith, the announcement of the approaching asteroid was enough to trigger a significant response. There were no more drills. The property went on an emergency footing, and Faith headed for home, with all her gear in the Jeep and the trailer she kept loaded in a rental storage building near the campus.

Faith made only one mistake. She failed to take notice that Anson, though he had been livid at her announcement that the two were through, but had not done anything at the time, had been stalking her from that moment. He saw her leave the campus and followed in his Corvette.

When she stopped to pick up the trailer, he stayed out of sight, not sure what she was doing. He wanted to know more before he made her pay for making him a laughingstock on campus, and more importantly, in his own family.

When he realized what she had with her, her few remarks about being prepared for most things later in the stages of their relationship finally registering on him, Anson almost attacked her then, to get the equipment and supplies. But he didn’t. She was worth more to him alive, for the moment, than dead. Her family would pay for interfering in his life.

Anson decided to stay far enough back on the trip not to be noticed, but close enough to Faith to take her down if things got bad enough that he had to give up the plan to get to her parent’s place.

As soon as she was within range of the low band VHF business band radio, Faith called home. She’d tried the cellular phone, without success. The system had gone down from overload shortly after the announcement of the approaching asteroid.

She had barely hung up the microphone when she had to swerve to miss the car in front of her that was suddenly going much slower than before, with no show of brake lights.

Then there was another. And a third. Finally Faith took a second to look around and check her mirrors. Vehicles were stopping all over, some slowly taking the shoulder, others, without power steering when the engine died, losing control and winding up in the ditches or median, some in terrible accidents.

It was that glance in the rearview mirror that Faith made that let her see a red Corvette back several cars. “Can’t be,” she muttered and put the thought it might be Anson out of her head. She had to make a quick decision. Stop and help or get home to help there.

“Gotta be a HEMP device,” she muttered, slowing slightly as people began to wave at her to stop. “An asteroid impact couldn’t cause this… could it?”

It was the sight of one man stepping out like the others, trying to wave her down, that had her making the decision to keep going. The man had a handgun and was pointing it at her in the Jeep. She gunned the engine and the Cummins 4BT diesel engine growled, bringing the Jeep back up to full speed, even with the trailer attached.

It caught the man with the gun by surprise and he dove out of the way, without firing. Faith didn’t know, and wouldn’t have cared if she had known, that the man fired three shots at the quickly disappearing Jeep and trailer. All three missed widely.

Anson quickly slowed to a stop, near the man with the gun. Anson had left the Corvette as soon as the engine stopped and was running toward Faith’s Jeep when she took off. He screamed an obscenity, and then looked at the man with the gun.

“You idiot!” Anson said.

The man was about to object when Anson sucker punched him. The man went down and Anson quickly picked up the revolver that the man dropped. When the man struggled to get up, reaching for Anson, Anson simply put the gun against the man’s forehead and pulled the trigger.

Anson ignored the other people that had gathered around initially, and were now quickly getting as far away from Anson as they could get. Anson quickly went through the man’s pockets, finding six rounds for the revolver. He also found three hundred forty-seven dollars in the man’s wallet and took that, too.

Another quick search, this time of the man’s car, and Anson had another twelve rounds of .357 Magnum, two bottles of water, and a candy bar.

Glancing around to see what he might be able to commandeer in the way of transportation, Anson savagely ripped the wrapper of the candy bar and ate the candy in three quick bites. Two long swallows of water emptied the first bottle of water. The second bottle he stuck in a pocket. Then Anson headed down the road, ready to stop any vehicle that was moving, to take for his own use. With or without using the gun. That would be up to the victim.

Angry as he’d ever been, Anson muttered quietly, mostly about what he was going to do to Faith and her family when he got there, as he walked down the middle of the roadway. Every step he took, the more livid he became.

Faith was back on the radio as soon as she found a stretch of highway that didn’t have cars stopped all along it. She tried several times, but no one answered. She checked the radio. It seemed to be in working order. There were gas gap protectors on the antenna coax. She decided to continue rather than stop and see if that was the reason the radio wouldn’t get out.

She drove carefully, getting off the interstate as quickly as she could, barely avoiding three more attempts to get her to stop. There were far fewer vehicles on the state roads than the interstate.

It was with some relief that she finally stopped at the gate at the home place and triggered the remote to open it. Clarissa met her in the circle drive of the house, giving her a quick hug. “Let’s get your things inside. Your father is out making sure everything is getting buttoned up.”

“The asteroid couldn’t be doing this,” Faith said, grabbing two of her suitcases from the rear of the Jeep as Clarissa grabbed the other two.

“No,” Clarissa said. “Apparently the Chinese, out of fear of being put at a disadvantage when the asteroid hits there, fired nuclear missiles. That’s all we got before we lost communications.”

Faith’s eyes widened. “We’re in a nuke war?”

“So it would seem. The HEMP, at least. Don’t know what else.” Clarissa dropped the two bags and then started back outside.

“The other things can wait, Mother. I want to see how Father is and let him know I’m home safe and sound.”

“We tried the hand held radios right after the HEMP,” Clarissa said. “They are okay, but they are next to useless for the moment. Until the atmosphere settles down.”

“Okay,” Faith replied. “I’ll go find him.”

“Use the tunnels,” Clarissa said. “Just in case.”

Faith nodded and headed for the stairs for the basement. Using the stairs was faster than the elevator. She knew it would work, as the rest of the electrical items in the house would; protected as they had been against the HEMP.

She was welcomed home several times as she made her way through the tunnels to the various buildings and barns, getting the newest on where Gary was headed.

She finally caught up with him in the main animal barn. They shared a quick hug and Gary began to fill her in on what he and the employees were doing.

“Buttoning everything down. Have all the animals inside now and making sure all the automatic systems are working. It was a relief to find out that the EMP protection preparations worked. So far, so good on the electrical and electronic systems.”

“That is good, Father. It was horrible out on the road. So many people stopped and not a clue what to do. There were people trying to stop me any way they could.”

“But you are alright? I didn’t think to ask. You look okay.”

Faith caught her father’s slight look of alarm. “I am fine. Just a bit shaky there for a while. I even thought I saw Anson’s Corvette in the stopped traffic behind me. Just my imagination.

“And that went better than I thought it would. I could tell he was upset, but he didn’t do anything except accept the news. And now, with this going on, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about him anymore.”

“That is good. Now, if you will go set up a communication and radiation monitoring watch, I want to make sure the rest of the property and staff are as protected as I can make them. And ask your mother to be ready to screen the people that will be coming to the property.

“There may be some not invited that arrive with those invited. Call me on the sound telephone system if something comes up. I should be within shouting distance from one of them most of the time.”

“Okay, Father. And Father, I plan to open carry from now on.”

“That’s good. Should prevent more situations from occurring than might otherwise.”

Another quick hug and Gary went back to what he was doing and Faith hurried back the shelter at the house. She told Clarissa what Gary had said. And noted that her mother, who was usually armed, but never openly, was wearing the fancy leather pistol rig Gary had commissioned for her many years before.

Faith noticed that the buckle was in the same hole in the belt that her mother used when she first tried the rig way back when. Her mother kept herself slim and trim and fit.

Faith would have rather been the one greeting those coming in, but knew her mother would see it as her duty, not Faith’s. So she went down into the shelter and fired up the monitoring and communications system components that she would need to watch the gate and keep track of fallout if any arrived. The rest, despite the overall protection against EMP, where kept inside the electronics cabinet and the door closed again.

There was nothing to see or hear for some time, but then two whole convoys of vehicles and people on foot showed up, one from each direction on the road passing the property.

And it wasn’t mostly regular vehicles. There were more tractors, older models, than there were cars, also almost exclusively older models. Faith watched her mother head for the gate. Though there was no trouble yet, Faith picked up the sound powered handset and spoke into it. “Please alert Mr. Middleton that there are people at the gate.”

“He is right here, Miss Middleton.” It was one of the staff in the equipment barn.

“Yes Faith?” came her father’s voice over the sound powered phone.

Faith explained the situation and Gary quickly acknowledged the message and handed the phone back to Twilla. He hurried out of barn, making sure the door closed behind him and headed for the main gate to the property.

He sighed in relief when he saw Clarissa talking to one of those lined up outside the still closed gate. Everything looked calm. He joined his wife.

“Gary, you remember Alexander, Troy’s brother?”

“I do. Troy suggest you come out if something like this happen?” Gary asked.

“Yes sir. He said it would be okay,” replied the man. He was obviously scared.

“Just you and your family?” Gary asked then.

“Yes. Just us,” Alexander said, indicating the two women and two children crowded around him.

“Okay. Clarissa, take them to the employee building, if you would.”

When Clarissa nodded, Gary looked out at the growing crowd and raised his voice slightly to announce, “Everyone with family that works here will be admitted. But I need to know who you are, your relationship, and, in general, what you have brought with you in terms of equipment and supplies.”

“Come on man! Let us in! We could get fallout any minute!” yelled someone from the back of the group.

“All in good time,” Gary said. “We are going to do this in an organized manner so there won’t be any problems down the line. Alexander,” Gary said, addressing him again, “What do you have with you?”

Alexander hung his head. “Not much. Just the things in our back packs. Clothing and some water.”

“Okay. Go with Clarissa. She’ll show you where to go and let Troy know you are here.” With that Gary opened the gate manually, just wide enough to let the family in, closing and locking it quickly as a move toward it began.

“Now,” he said, addressing the group again, “I suggest that anyone here that doesn’t have direct family working here or doesn’t have a direct invitation, to head for somewhere that has a fallout shelter. The city hall and all three schools have shelters, as do the fire stations. Those that brought working vehicles, that fit that category, please give the others rides.

“We only have room for so many people and those will be family for the most part. Now, you,” Gary said, nodding at the next nearest person. “Who are you and what is your relationship to the Property?”

The woman, with two teenaged children, answered. “I’m Polly’s Aunt Polly. Just the three of us. We have food and some water, changes of clothes, and not much else.”

Gary looked over the three. All had moderate size back packs and Polly was pulling a well loaded cart.

“Okay. Come on in.” Gary again opened the gate just enough to let the family through. One man tried to push his way through the crowd, toward the gate.

There were cries of protest from several of the people he’d muscled out of the way.

“You know me, Middleton. How much to buy a place here? I have two grand with me and I’m good for another ten when things settle down.”

“Go find a good shelter, Mathews. This is family and friends only, and you don’t qualify.”

“You have the best shelter around,” Mathews objected. “Food, too.” His voice had risen substantially. “I’m willing to pay. These others… They don’t have the money I do.”

“Head for other shelter, Mathews,” Gary replied. He looked at a lone woman standing slightly behind Mathews. “Good to see you here, Mrs. Morgan. Come on in.”

When Mathews tried to bull his way through the slightly opened gate behind Mrs. Morgan, Gary blocked him physically with a shoulder in his chest. “Take off, Mathews. You aren’t getting in. And you are risking these people as well as yourself by not cooperating.”

Mathews used a few choice words, despite the presence of the several children. “That’s it, Mathews. You are persona non grata. Leave and don’t bother coming back. For anything.”

Gary waved another family to come through the gate. Clarissa was waiting with the woman with two children and Mrs. Morgan. She took all of them toward the employee building after Gary let the family in.

Mathews looked like he might try something again, but finally turned around, muttering, and walked off. “I’ll give anyone two grand to take me back into town. To the City Hall.”

One of the men on a tractor looked at Gary for a moment and then nodded to Mathews. The man asked for the money before he would let Mathews climb up onto the tractor. The two headed off toward town.

The process went fairly quickly for a while after that. Gary got a little information from each person or head of household that had family at the Property.

There were a few people and a couple of families that didn’t have people on the Property, but where some of those that Gary had extended invitations to come to the farm/ranch if something like what was going on occurred. They were people that Gary thought would be of great value to the operation during and after the event, if it came to be.

Suddenly there was another commotion, in the back of the much smaller group now. The group suddenly parted and Gary saw a man lift a handgun. It was pointed right at Gary.

But suddenly two men and one woman tackled the man and bore him to the ground. Gary was already reaching for the holstered gun on his hip, and moving to get behind the large gate support assembly of masonry construction.

“What do you want us to do with him,” asked the woman as the two men lifted the man none too gently to his feet.

“Let him go. If he tries something like that again, I’ll shoot him.” Then Gary looked at the man. “Timmons. You should know better. Head for town as fast as you can walk. You aren’t welcome and you know it.”

“I’ll get you, Middleton! Nobody treats me this way!”

But that was all that happened when the two men released Timmons. Timmons turned on his heel, giving the two men and the woman an evil stare, including them in the threat.

As things settled down, Gary asked the trio, “Who are you and what connection do you have with us?”

“None, Sir. Just helping a family we know get out here. An elderly woman, stooped and walking with a cane, became visible as the three parted slightly. Accompanying the woman were another woman, much younger, and two small children.

“This is…” one of the men started to say.

But Gary cut him off. “Mrs. Holmes. Good to see you up and about. I’m sure Honey will be glad to see you made it. Welcome.”

Clarissa was back and headed the two women and two children toward where the others were congregating with their families.

The two men and woman that had interrupted Timmons made no move to enter. “We’ll be on our way,” the woman said. “We have shelter space picked out. Like to be able to contact you when things calm down.”

Gary shook his head. “No. You have a place here. You have gear cached nearby?”

The three shared a look, startled at Gary’s perception. “Yes, sir. We do,” said one of the men. “But you are going to be full up, unless I miss my guess. We just wanted to see that Mrs. Holmes made it here okay. We ran into her on the way to where we will shelter if the warheads fly. We’ve known her since we were all little kids.”

Again Gary shook his head. “Get your gear. You’ll be an asset here. And we’ll make the room that we need.”

The three stepped away and began a whispered conversation. While they were deciding on what to do, Gary cycled two more families and three individuals, all of whom he knew, onto the property.

The woman, apparently chosen as spokesperson for the three caught Gary’s eye. “Okay. We’ll join you. But we insist on paying our way. We aren’t without assets.”

“Not necessary,” Gary said, but added, “But good enough. You have a vehicle to go get your gear?”

“Yes. That’s our old Jeep back there,” replied the woman. “Stan and Mark will go get the gear. I’ll stay and lend a hand if needed.” She shifted slightly, just enough to be able to shift the hem of her shirt to show Gary the holstered pistol she wore.

“All right,” Gary said with a nod. “What is your name?”

“Amanda Cartwright. The other two are my brothers, Stan and Mark.”

“Okay, Amanda. Just stay handy, if you will.”

Again the process started and went quickly. Having seen what happened to Timmons and Mathews, several people had taken off, some on foot, with a couple in the working vehicles.

But there were others, some Gary knew, some he didn’t, that voiced demands that they should be included. Twice, against his better judgment, Gary did let in people that came with an employee family. One was a woman, and Gary didn’t think she would be much of a problem. The other three, one woman and two men, Gary almost didn’t let in. But Audrey Smith, one of the field hands, asked him to include them with her family when they asked her to be consulted.

The three were quite arrogant in attitude, and had been sure they would be included, with no question. It didn’t set well with any of the three when Gary refused to just let them in without checking with Audrey first.

And then Amanda lent a hand when another person that Gary knew, and had no use for, first tried to bluff his way in, and then buy in, followed by begging and finally him pulling a revolver. Or attempting to pull it. Amanda was right there when the situation began to deteriorate and had the man’s right arm twisted behind him, and then marched him away from the gate.

Sidney Raines began to curse and to cry and wanted his gun back, which, after a nod from Gary, Amanda unloaded, handed the gun and shells to Raines. But she had her own semi-auto pistol in her hand as soon as she released the gun to him.

“Get on with you, Raines!” Gary called out. “There are shelters in town.”

Amanda looked at Gary again when Raines looked at several of the vehicles and finally got into one that had the keys in it. She saw Gary mouth the words “Let him go.” Amanda relaxed and moved back into position to lend a hand again if needed.

There were only a few more people to bring in when Stan and Mark Cartwright returned, the Jeep loaded down, and the trailer it was pulling loaded even more heavily.

The two men joined Amanda, and when they did, two of the last five people waiting to get in turned around and got back into their vehicle. Gary tried to get the license number locked into his memory, but he didn’t get a good look at it. He did note the vehicle was an old Subaru, but had no idea which model it was.

Fortunately, Amanda, Stan, and Mark all three took note and did get the information locked away for future reference.

Finally there were no more people wanting in, and Gary opened the gate wide enough to let Mark pull the Jeep onto the property. It was Amanda that asked what Gary wanted to do with the other vehicles.

Gary thought for a moment and then said, “you can start bringing in the ones that have keys in them.” He looked at Clarissa, just ready to take the last group to the employee building and asked her, “Would you get keys from everyone that brought a vehicle and has the keys on them?”

“Of course,” Clarissa replied, picked up one of the suitcases the last family had and led the way further into the property.

“Just follow them and then come back for another,” Gary said. “I want to stay on the gate.”

Amanda nodded, gave some quick instructions to Mark and Stan, and the three began moving the dozen or so vehicles lined up on the road.

It took several more minutes to get the vehicles moved, and when the job was finished, Gary headed back toward the house, after asking Amanda, Mark, and Stan to follow him.

He was talking to the three, in the study, when Clarissa came in. Gary quickly made the introductions. He was pleased when Mark and Stan both stood when Clarissa came into the room.

Clarissa shook hands all around and then looked at Gary quizzically.

“They insist on paying their way. We were just negotiating what that would be.”

“Ah. I see. Well, you might want to hurry it up a bit. We’re going to have a full scale riot in the employee building in a few minutes. Things are not going as they should be.”

“Okay,” Gary said. “Thanks. We’ll be over right away.” Clarissa left and Gary turned to the three again. “Let’s make this simple. I’ll bring you on as employees. General hands. But with the military experience you told me about, I’d like to build a defense force around you.

“Most of the employees are shooters, but not all, and I have no idea what the families are going to be like. Not good, I’m afraid. So if you’ll take the job of both internal and external security, under my command, I’ll match your last service pay. Plus what benefits being here enjoin.”

Amanda looked at her brothers. Both nodded and Amanda stepped forward to shake Gary’s hand. “It’s a deal. From what your wife said, perhaps we should drift over to the other building. We are going to need to get settled, anyway.”

“Well, I think you will better off moving your gear to the employee living quarters shelters, rather than the shelters the others will be using. It isn’t better shelter, but there is slightly more room, and I think it will be easier for you to keep the peace, among other things, if it is obvious that you are employees, and not just family of employees.”

“I think you are right,” Amanda said without consulting her brothers this time. It was quite obvious who led the small group, and that the two brothers preferred it that way.

“You may have just made some enemies, for lending a hand out there,” Gary told the three as they went out of the house.

Gary noted that the statement didn’t seem to bother the three any.

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 4

Gary had decided not to use the tunnels for the trip, due to the urgency, so when the sky off to one side of them brightened to painful levels all three broke into a run to go the last few yards to the building that served the employees’ needs, other than housing, which three other buildings provided.

The sound of the blast followed them into the building, bringing silence to the loud, raucous shouting that was going on. They were far enough away that the shock waves, both ground and air, were barely discernible.

“What was that?” a timid voice asked.

“Nuke. Off to the east,” Gary said calmly.

“There were several soft murmurs and a scream or two.

“Now,” Gary continued, “I understand there is some confusion and disagreement about the situation here. Let me make it perfectly clear. This is my family’s property and home. It is our rules, our way, or the highway, to put it bluntly.

“You are guests here. My guests. Not guests of your families. They have jobs to do and will not be in a position to take care of you. Well, other than those that are tasked with that job, and those people won’t be part of any of the families, just to keep things from turning into a he said, she said situation.

“Now, there is plenty of food and water. Plenty of things to do, just to take your minds off things for a while, and some to assist those that will be assisting you in your care.

“And, as my guests, you have certain responsibilities you will be expected to shoulder. That includes taking care of yourselves as much as possible, and keeping the place up as best you can. The employees will do the heavy cleaning, but all of you will be expected to make your own beds, help with the cooking and light cleaning to keep the places livable. And there will be other minor jobs that you might be asked to do, and will be expected to do them. All will be within each of your abilities, as that becomes clear.

“Now, the buildings have a high protection factor from radiation, but all sleeping arrangements will be in underground shelters, and time in these above ground buildings will be limited until the radiation level is low enough.

“So it boils down to this. Do what I, my family, or my employees ask or tell you to do, and you’ll be fine here until it is safe to leave. When that time comes, and it will, there will be arrangements made that are too uncertain to try and determine now what they will be.

“Cause trouble, refuse to cooperate with us and among yourselves, and you are out of the shelter, out of the building, and off the property, with what you brought, and a week’s worth of food and a few days’ water. Being related to an employee here will not carry much weight, though that is what got you in here. Your continued presence will be up to you each one.

“Now, anyone have anything to say before we move you into the shelters?”

“This should be a democracy. No one can own and control such an asset as this place represents under their own petty rules and regulations.” It was one of the three, one of the men, that Audrey Smith had asked Gary to allow to stay.

“That brings us to another point, I suppose,” Gary said calmly. “I’ll give everyone a chance. Perhaps even two. But no third chances. You, and the two with you, have just lost your first chance. This is not a democracy. It is an autocracy, with me as final arbitrator. Don’t like it, make it easy on the others, and leave now.”

“You wouldn’t dare throw us out into that mess out there,” growled the other man of the three.

Gary gave the man a hard look. “I’ll just include that as part of the first chance. I advise you not test me on that second chance.”

Clarissa, knowing how Gary intended to operate the place with the families in residence, had already gathered up non-family member employees and had them ready to take the families down to the shelter spaces they would be using.

There were a few people wanting to see their relative, demanding it even. “Once you are settled, and the employees have finished their present duties and can take a break, they will be here to check on you, I’m sure. Just be patient.”

Gary simply maintained his calm appearance when Audrey’s extra guests stared daggers at him on their way to the stairs down to the tunnel and shelter system.

“Well,” Gary said to Clarissa, Amanda, Mark, and Stan, “That went about as well as I feared it might.”

“Sir,” Mark said, as they moved toward the stairwell themselves, “I think there will be more problems before we can un-shelter. Some of these people are not going to take being under supervision very well.”

“And it will be worse when it is time to come out of the shelters,” Amanda said. “You’ve taken on a very big bite to chew.”

“Yes, I know.” Gary shook his head. “But I had to try to protect as many as possible and didn’t want to do it randomly. We… I… will deal with the problems as they come up, if I am made aware of them.”

Amanda nodded. “We’ll do what we can. For the moment, what do you want us doing?”

“Go ahead and set up in the employee housing. Clarissa can take you there through the tunnels. I’m going to split off and go to the house shelter and see how Faith is fairing and see if the fallout has started yet.

“After you are set up, go there, and we’ll get the duties lined out, based on what happens in the next few minutes, and after the employees get a chance to talk to their individual families.”

“Very good. We’ll be there shortly.”

They all walked down together, and went a ways in one of the tunnels, but Clarissa led the other three one way as Gary continued toward the house shelter.

He found Faith rather anxiously waiting for him. “I saw the flash and you guys running. No one was hurt, I hope.”

“No. Too far away, and we weren’t looking that way, fortunately, so no flash burns. Any indications of failure on any of the systems after the blast waves?”

“No, Father. The cameras shook just a little, so the towers moved some, but with them retracted there was no damage. I checked from another vantage point. Same with all the buildings. Everything is okay.”


Faith nodded toward one of the remote reading radiation meters. “Nothing yet. Winds are from the southwest at about twelve to fifteen miles per hour. There aren’t any targets close in that direction. But you know as well as I do, that there could be off-target warheads that could hit anywhere. Or the winds could change suddenly.”

“You learned your lessons well, Daughter,” Gary said, putting his right hand on her left shoulder. “You up for another hour or so, until I can relieve you?”

“Yes. Of course. But one thing, Father. The three people you were with outside. They aren’t acting like employee family members. And you aren’t treating them as such.”

“No. Recent military that lent a hand, and seemed like good people. They helped Mrs. Holmes get out here and were headed for shelter on their own. It was a snap decision, but I felt like I could trust them. So offered them general hand positions on the property. But one of their main jobs will be security. Both internal and external, in addition to our own trained people.”

Faith nodded. “I see. Your judgment has always been excellent. Let’s just hope we really don’t need them.”

“Absolutely. You’ll meet them shortly and can make your own decision. Right now I want to think over a few things that have come to mind with the situation with the families.”

Faith nodded and turned back to the monitors to keep an eye on the above ground areas of the property and for the first arrival of fallout, if any.

Gary was still lost in thought when Clarissa led Amanda, Stan, and Mark into the shelter. Clarissa took a moment to introduce them to Faith. That done, they walked over to Gary, sitting at a desk with several maps on the wall nearby.

“Honey,” Clarissa said, “Amanda and her brothers are here. Got them all settled in.”

Gary slowly spun the desk chair around, bringing his gaze back to things nearby. Before he spoke, Clarissa did so again. “I’m going up to take care of a couple more items before the fallout arrives.”

Gary nodded, and then turned his attention to the three. “You have a chance to get a bit of a feel for the place?”

All three nodded, and Amanda responded, “Very good set up you have here. Shouldn’t be any problems with the facility itself. The problems will come from number of people sheltered, and later, with those that are going to want what you have. At the gate was only a small taste of it, with the Wilson Clan another taste of the internal strife that might just blow up into a major revolt.”

“The Wilson Clan?” Gary asked.

Amanda nodded. “The three that spoke up about turning the place into a democracy run by everybody, but meaning run by them for their own benefit.”

“Geez, Sis!” Mark said. “That’s extrapolating a great deal.”

“True,” Amanda told her brother. “But mark my words, there will be an attempt. The key point is going to be how the employees react. If they side in any sort of large minority, much less a majority, it might be difficult to keep the peace without violence.”

Gary sighed. “That is the same conclusion I’ve been reluctantly coming to. Do you know if Audrey has talked to them?”

“Short, pageboy cut black hair?” Amanda asked.

“Yes,” replied Gary.

“She talked to her family first. And, by the way, the family isn’t associating itself much with those three. But, yes. She did speak to them. For a very brief time. Didn’t try to listen in, but the three were pretty vocal for a few moments. Audrey seemed to be quite calm and talked to them sternly for a minute or so before she left. The three didn’t seem to be very happy after she left.”

Gary ran a hand across his face. “I may have made a mistake in letting them in.”

“I don’t think so, Sir,” spoke up Mark. “There quite likely would have been another major scene, and there would be at least some hard feelings from Audrey, even if she is a loyal employee. Better to handle it after letting them in. I suspect if most of the people here see what it is the three are trying to do, it will cement your position if you handle it properly.”

“Yeah. Great,” sighed Gary again. “But what is the proper way to handle it? Right now I’m not sure. I don’t think I have it in me to just throw them out, with fallout on the way.”

“To be blunt,” Mr. Middleton,” Stan chimed in again, “It wouldn’t be a problem for us three to do the deed. But the decision would have to be yours.”

Gary nodded. “Yes. I am ultimately entirely responsible for the wellbeing and security of everyone here. I know that. But I appreciate having the help of people that agree… or at least understand.”

“Oh, we agree,” Amanda said. “There is a range of possible ways to handle it. I’m sure you’ll come up with a satisfactory one.”

Before Gary could respond, Faith called over. “Father. I’m starting to get an indication of fallout. Saw some dust on the video monitor and looked over at the radiation monitor. The needle just came off the peg.”

Gary rose and went over. “Okay. Log it in. We’ll need to keep accurate data so we can plot the probably shelter stay time.”

“Yes, Father. Tired Old Man’s spreadsheet?”

Nodding, Gary added, “Yes. But no need to worry about it until we get the peak reading and then the hour after peak. It could take a while to determine those, thus the need for the regular readings.”

Gary looked at the three ex-military people. “You all familiar with radiation protection and such?”

All three nodded. “Not a specialty to any of us, but we’ve all had the standard military training. Unfortunately, much of it is dependent on command well above our level when in the service. I take it you have some detail plans?” Amanda looked from Gary to Faith.

“Yes,” Faith explained. “We’ve taken the civilian fallout radiation classes and have good equipment, including weather monitors, so we can make some predictions as we get information. And as you indicated, getting some of that information can be difficult without an outside support structure.

“But once we can use the radios again, we will be able to get information from a group of sites all around the area. We’ll be able to plot the fallout fairly accurately when we get their input.”

Amanda nodded. “Okay. Good to know it is handled.” She looked at her brothers. “What say we drift and get a little more familiar with the place?” She looked over at Gary. “If that is acceptable.”

Before Gary spoke, Faith did. “Father, if you’ll take over here, I can show them the rest of the operation.”

“That might be best. So go ahead and do it. Might check on your mother to see how she is doing now that the fallout is here.”

“Yes, Father.”

With that, Gary was left alone in the house shelter, thinking again, but watching the monitors carefully. He would occasionally sweep the radio bands on the one inexpensive multi-band radio that was connected to a long wire antenna. There was barely three inches of the wire inside the shelter to minimize any EMP that might occur while he had it connected to the radio. The rest of the time the antenna was shorted to ground, just like all the other antennas.

The first three days went rather well, Gary decided, compared to the two after that. Fallout had been very light, so Gary had okayed the use of some of the above ground facilities after the third day.

That was when the strife started. It seemed to have been understood that the tight quarters and limited activity had been necessary when the fallout was coming down. But now that it wasn’t, even with the presence of the accumulated fallout still showing dangerous levels of radiation, people began demanding to go outside, and for more ‘freedoms.’

It was the Wilsons doing most of the demanding. But they were stirring up several of the others that didn’t have as good of an understanding of the realities of the situation as some did. Even with the employees encouraging them to listen to Gary’s advice, and instructions from all of the employees, not just relatives, the situation continued to deteriorate.

After trying to explain time and again and telling the Wilsons flat out that they would be ejected if they did not stop agitating the people with half-truths and outright lies about the situation, Gary finally put his foot down and made a decision.

After talking to the employees separately, and getting their opinions on the situation, Gary called for a meeting of all the guests.

“It is, in my opinion, too early to be leaving the safety of the shelters at night, and the buildings in the daytime, but those that have expressed their dissatisfaction with the conditions here are going to be allowed to leave.

“Each person leaving will get a cloth shopping bag with enough nutritious food for a week, four liters of water in bottles with purification tablets to purify more, as there are a number of water sources nearby and on the way to town. Of course they will be allowed to take everything they brought with them.

“Those with vehicles will be given a full tank of fuel. But they are asked to provide transport for those without their own, if there is even a modicum of room in the vehicle.”

That was as far as Gary got before the protests started.

The first objection was a tearful one. “We don’t want to leave! You said it isn’t safe!”

“I’m not making anyone leave. Not yet anyway. But it has been brought to my attention that several people aren’t happy here and wish to change venues more suited to their wants and needs.”

“That’s not what we want!” someone else said. “Leader Wilson said we should be getting more food and better food. Better accommodations than the crowded areas in the shelters. There are all those rooms in the main house. And the employee dorms and apartments. We should be allowed to spread out more and have decent food.”

“Leader Wilson, huh?” Gary asked, his gaze going to the most outspoken of the three Wilsons. “Didn’t realize your first name was Leader. Quite a coincidence.”

The man flushed red. “It is not my name. It is my title. I am leader of a small group of followers that look to me to see that they are treated as they deserve.”

“Several people have told me that you are the one advocating a change. That this place isn’t suitable for yourself and others.”

“Not the way it is run now, no. Of course not. That was not a request to leave. It was a demand to change the order of command here to a more equitable one.”

“With you the new leadership?” asked someone near the back of the group. The other two Wilsons tried to see who it was, anger in their faces.

Leader Wilson shrugged and said, “If requested that I be so, then I would not shirk the duty. Is obvious that something must be done. Beans and rice every day, with only a small serving of meat is not suitable to maintain our health and wellbeing.”

Another person in the group spoke up. “I’m a trained nutritionist and what we are getting is more than a satisfactory diet for health. Perhaps not the normal diet for some, but quite adequate for all, including both nutritious foods and comfort foods for adults, children, and the elderly. It certainly isn’t just beans and rice.”

“They could be having steak and beer every night in that mansion of theirs!” said the female Wilson.

Amanda leaned over to Gary and whispered a name. “Gwen Wilson.”

Before Gary could speak, one of the employee’s family members shouted her down. “So what! I don’t think they are, but what if they are? We’re getting enough. This is their place. They not only aren’t starving us, they are providing plenty of fun foods. Comfort foods, like that lady said. Cake, pies, even candy for the kids. And the adults that want it. I even get a couple of beers occasionally. And my kids get sodas. Maybe not as many as they want, but the food isn’t that much different than what we eat normally. Better in some ways.”

“What about smoking?” called out someone else. “The only place we can smoke is in that one small room. And it is cold in there! The fans blow constantly.”

“You’re lucky they let you smoke at all!” said yet another person. “You know what that smoke would do to my mother’s asthma? It could kill her!”

“Bah!” said the man. But a couple of the others, afraid they might lose the chance to take a smoke themselves got the man quieted down.
“Shouldn’t allow smoking at all,” said the third Wilson. Albert, according to Amanda. “Filthy habit. Leader should not be subjected to such a vile activity.”

“Okay,” Gary final said, when there was just the tiniest break. “Here is how it is going to go.” Gary looked at the three Wilsons, and the half a dozen people standing with them, “This has been your second chance. More trouble making and I will eject you.

“The radiation is now low enough that you could probably make it to town, even on foot, and take up shelter there, and not have more than moderate radiation sickness in the future.

“I aim to provide the best I can for the most that I can. But this is my place and it is still my rules. If you are capable of setting up and running something like this, I suspect there is plenty of property out there for the taking, and people willing to work for a meal. A meal of just about anything. You can lord it over them for as long as they take the abuse you will undoubtedly heap upon them in maintaining a fair and equitable share for yourselves.

“Now, I am going to join my family, in my house, and have my rice and beans, chicken breast perhaps, salad, and a pitcher of clean, pure, cold, ice water. Brink this subject up again, and people will be leaving.”

“Someone should shoot you and take this…”

It wasn’t a Wilson, but it was one of their group. And she fell silent, terrified, trying to hide behind someone else when fully half a dozen handguns were suddenly pointing at her.

Steel in her voice, Amanda quietly said, “That is a threat of lethal violence toward my employer. It will not go unanswered in the future as it is not going unanswered now. Do not threaten people here at the behest of Gary Middleton or his family, much less him or his family. It will not go well for you.

“Now step out and let the rest of the people here see who it is that would take away everything they have going for them here.”

The woman did not make herself visible, but those she was hiding behind stepped away from her, leaving her exposed to view. Shaking, she looked at Leader Wilson. “Don’t let them treat me like this!”

“I will deal with you. Later,” responded the man.

“No, you won’t, Marvin,” Amanda said quietly. “She is under Gary’s protection, and mine, just as everyone else here is. She will not be made to suffer for something you were thinking and probably plotting yourself.”

Amanda looked at the woman. “Go. If you are bothered, get word to me. You will not be harmed by anyone if you follow the rules and maintain the peace. But take it as the gospel that any attempt to hurt anyone here will result in a very stiff penalty, with banishment the minimum.”

The woman hurried away, head down, followed by two other people. Amanda and the others holstered their guns.

“Sorry, Boss,” Amanda whispered to Gary. “Thought it a good time to take a stance.”

“You did that, all right,” Gary whispered back as Amanda took up her position just to his right and slightly behind him.

“I hope everyone takes this as an object lesson,” Gary then told the group. We can all get through this without harm if common sense is just followed.

“Now. One last time. Is there anyone that is still unhappy with the situation and wants to leave, under the parameters stated?”

There was some muttering and stirring in the crowd, with the Wilsons all glaring at Gary and Amanda the entire time. But no one spoke up or stepped forward. After a moment Gary and Amanda turned and left, followed shortly by Stan, Mark, and the other employees that had been present.

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 5

With the short and medium range radios working now, Gary was able to contact some of those he knew were also likely to have survived the attack.

He found out they were lucky, indeed, in the low levels of radioactive fallout they had received on the property. Just about everyone else was still buttoned up tightly, with their radiation levels still too high for other than the quick trip outside to check on things.

Gary decided to start the decontamination process, more to get the animals out of the barns than for the human population. So selected employees, with Clarissa, Faith, and Gary, put on protective coveralls with hoods, rubber boots and gloves, and respirators and went outside.

Since they had planned for the need to decontaminate fallout or volcanic ash, the process went fairly well, and fairly quickly. There was some grumbling from the families about the animals being allowed outside before them, but that faded quickly when it became apparent that doing so was still too dangerous without the protective equipment.

Even the Wilson’s quieted down when the news was passed down that they were in an isolated zone, more or less surrounded by areas of still high radiation. Apparently the risk of banishment was taken to heart. Gary was happy that there was a lull in the stress, but knew it would be short-lived.

Little did he know just how bad things would eventually get. For Anson was not out of the picture. After he had walked some distance, with no sign of any usable transport, he came up to a group of people gathered around a Highway Patrolman.

The Patrol Cruiser was on the shoulder of the road, hood up. The Patrolman was talking to the group around him, trying to calm them down and get some semblance of organization started.

Anson eased into the crowd, staying to one side and nearly behind the Patrolman as he listened.

“My radios aren’t working, so I can’t get any information. Now, if we just gather up what supplies everyone has, we can hike to the next town and find out more about what is happening. I think there was an Electromagnetic Pulse weapon used against the country. That means the possibility of other attacks, including nuclear, so we should get going.

“The town has some shelter space in the town hall and probably some other places. I’m sure the Mayor has a plan to shelter people if it does turn into a nuclear attack.”

There were people crying, huddled together, terrified at what the Patrolman had told them. Others were anxiously checking for food and water in their own, and others’, vehicles that were dead on the road.

Anson continued to stay slightly behind the Patrolman, even as the crowd thinned. The Patrolman, not liking the feeling of people behind him was in the process of turning around to ask Anson and one other person to change positions when Anson put the muzzle of the revolver in the center of the Patrolman’s back and pulled the trigger.

The Patrolman went down like a sack of bricks. Those around began to scatter as Anson waved the revolver, threatening everyone with the same thing.

Keeping an eye on the surroundings, Anson stripped the Patrolman of his gear, including the keys. He put on the equipment belt and then unlocked the shotgun from the carrier on the dash. He went to the rear of the car and opened the trunk, smiling when he saw the rifle case and armor vest loaded down with magazines.

Anson slipped into the vest, pulled the M-16 from the case and slid a magazine home. He slung the rifle over his shoulder, and gathered up three water bottles also there. After picking up the shotgun again, he headed down the road, leaving those behind staring at him in horror.

Pleased with his take, his thoughts turned to Faith again and the smile faded. He cursed for several minutes as he walked, those he came up on scrambling away from him, hiding behind the dead vehicles as he made it clear he would shoot anyone trying to interfere.

Then his luck, such as it was, changed. When he spotted an old flatbed truck, engine running to tilt the bed and unload the old, restored, Farmall M tractor it carried, Anson picked up his pace slightly.

He hesitated only long enough to let the farmer secure the truck bed again, as people gathered belongings to get a ride on the truck or on the tractor that would be pulling several of the inoperable vehicles. Then Anson stepped forward, lifted the shotgun and shot the farmer.

Turning the shotgun on the tractor, he fired into the engine. He wasn’t sure how much damage he did, but the tractor engine died, which was his goal. He didn’t want anyone in a vehicle behind him.

Anson climbed up into the cab of the truck, keeping the shotgun pointed at those outside. He managed to get the truck in gear and took off down the road, with the people left behind screaming and crying in despair.

He thought long and hard as he was driving. His preference would be to just take over a shelter, kill everyone so there would be enough food and water for him no matter how long things might last. If that was indeed what was happening.

A few minutes later he was sure of the fact as the sky rapidly clouded and dust, rather than rain, began to fall. Fighting off panic as he approached the town, Anson located the City Hall, drove past, and turned into another street.

He shoved everything behind the seat of the truck that might get him into trouble in the shelter, climbed down and opened the hood. He had to climb up on the bumper and cursed when he scraped his hands pulling the plug wires free. Those he quickly hid behind some vegetation growing next to the building he was parked in front of.

The panic welling up in him, Anson took off at a run back around to the front of the City Hall, up the steps, and inside. He slid to a stop, facing a man in white coveralls wearing a respirator and holding a pistol.

Two other people dressed the same, quickly grabbed Anson before he could think and had him inside a room off the main hall. They stripped him down to his shorts and handed a similar coverall to the ones they wore, but no respirator, or gloves, and only flip-flops for shoes.

“Down those stairs,” one of the men told him, pointing toward a staircase further down the hall after they reentered it. “Someone will take your name and particulars. Don’t cause trouble, and everything will be fine. Now go. We’ll locking down in just a few minutes.”

That was fine with Anson. The fewer people in the shelter the better he would like it. Some of the anger at Faith was channeled toward the three men that had manhandled him so. He’d get even with them later. For right now, living was the main goal.

Five days after the pastures and holding pens had been decontaminated for the animals, similar work was done around the farm and ranch buildings, starting with the employee building and housing. There were many relieved people that went outside, though some hung back, still fearful of radiation.

But after two days of people going out and not showing any signs of trouble, everyone was soon taking some time to get the fresh air. Everyone was still instructed to sleep in the shelters, but day to day activities were conducted in the aboveground buildings.

Amanda and her small team had monitored the activities of the group, as they went about their other stated duties, which kept them near the group. On the eighth day of being allowed out, one of the employees came to Amanda and told her that she thought something was going on.

Amanda keyed on Leader Wilson, and sure enough, when he was sure he wasn’t being watched, or thought he wasn’t, anyway, he was carrying on forceful discussions with several members of the families. Amanda decided he was holding sway, since none of those she saw him talking to came forward about any plot.

But Amanda talked to Gary, giving him the heads up and requested instructions on how to handle things.

“Give it another day,” Gary told her. “If nothing has happened by that time, I have an idea about what to do about the Wilsons and any of their followers.”

Amanda took note of the iron look in his eyes and the way his jaw was working. It was not going to be something the Wilsons liked, she was sure. Her estimation of Gary went up a notch or two. She thought he was being a little too lenient, but so far, other than the relatively minor incidents, things had been going reasonably smoothly.

Nothing did happen the next day, and the day after Gary called for a meeting of the employees and families, to be held out on the outdoor basketball court that was part of the recreational features for the employees.

When Amanda signaled that everyone that wasn’t on watch was gathered around, Gary stepped up on the bench of one of the picnic tables, and then up onto the table top.

“Okay, everyone. I have good news. The radiation in the next town over has faded, and most of the important areas of the town decontaminated and cleaned up. National Guard troops went through and helped the town set up two of the schools as relief centers.

“I have cut an agreement, approved by the National Guard Commander, with the Mayor to provide as much aide as I can and still ensure the continued productivity of the property here.

“So everyone that doesn’t want to stay and hire on as farm labor, is free to head to town. What your vehicles can’t take, I’ll make arrangements to get you to the town. And to start things off so the town isn’t overwhelmed, everyone will get the before mentioned week of food and plenty of water for several days.

“The town does have a generator to power their water and sewer systems both, so clean water and sanitation won’t be a problem. I know the Mayor has plans to start on a quick recovery, so there will be plenty of work available for those that will need to generate some income for future purchases.

“Now, as I said, I can take on several additional people, as food production is going to be critical, and supplies of fuel are bound to be in short supply, so we’ll be growing large gardens, in addition to what we can continue to farm with the mechanized equipment. Anyone that works for me will get a similar food allotment as at present, plus some income of either more food, or silver coins. Real 90% circulated pre-1965 US dimes, quarters, and halves.

“I’ve set it up with the Mayor that we will honor both the precious metals and also any labor barter slips that might accumulate until the silver is in regular circulation.

“We probably need to get this move organized. No need to show up there right at supper time. It is going to require the help of everyone there to manage the recovery. So I’ll have someone get that transportation organized, as my wife and my daughter distributes the food and water, and I interview those that want to stay and work.”

There had been silence through most of the time Gary was speaking, but as it became more apparent that Gary wasn’t really giving anyone the option of just staying at the property gratis, some murmuring started, mostly in the group around the Wilsons.

“I protest!” Leader Wilson called up to Gary, his followers shouting likewise.

“Protest what?” Gary asked. “The recovery is already underway. People will be cared for and jobs, food, water, housing, and all the other necessities for life will be available. All one has to do is cooperate and do their share and everyone will be fine.”

There were quite a few people that acknowledged Gary’s words and seemed eager to get on with it. But Leader didn’t seem to want what was offered.

“I say that a group of us should take over the running of this farm for the good of all. You obviously have the Mayor and the National Guard leadership convinced of your generosity, but I’ve been here and seen the tyrant you are. Turn over the running of this place to me and my subordinates and there won’t be any trouble.”

Gary was stunned at the audacity of the man. Amanda not so much. She was where she could drop him with a single shot if need be. But Gary recovered quickly.

“Tell you what, Leader, I will personally take you in and introduce you to the Mayor. I have no idea where the National Guard Commander is, but I’m sure the Mayor has more direct communications with her than I do. You will be able to plead your case to them.”

“I have no intentions of going anywhere with you,” Leader replied. “This place has been given to me to minister to, to lead these good people into the…”

Audrey Smith suddenly appeared, with several of her immediate family and they surrounded the Wilsons and the half a dozen other people supporting him.

“I’m sorry I asked you to let them stay,” Audrey said quietly. “We’ll take care of this. If you’ll just let us use one of the buses…”

“Amanda?” Gary said, looking down at the former, and more or less, current, soldier.

“As you wish, Mr. Middleton.” She joined Audrey and along with Audrey’s family herded the nine people toward the property motor pool. Gary noticed that Stan and Mark were where they could keep an eye on the situation, but made no move to join in the direct handling of the people.

There was much milling around among the other families and the employees as plans were made. Gary expected at least a few of his regular hands would want to go with their families and help take care of them at the recovery center.

He was right, but there were only five that asked to be let go, all without any hard feelings. Gary certainly knew how they felt about wanting to take care of their families. Not a one asked to have their family stay at the farm as continued guests.

So Gary agreed and asked each one of them to stop at the house for a severance package. None of those expected the truck load of supplies to be shared among those five families, and the bags of coins that jingled when Gary handed each of the five employees one of them.

“Oh, Boss!” Brenda Jones said, fighting back tears, “Thank you! I hope I will be considered for a job here again, once things are more settled in town.”

“Of course. Any of you. I believe you are doing the right thing, taking care of your families first. That is essentially what I have been doing. Just look out for one another. Things are going fairly well in town, but don’t think there won’t be some tough times ahead.”

“Yes, Sir. Thank you,” was the standard reply as each of them shook Gary’s hand before going to join their families. Another bus, this one with a trailer, would take them and their possessions into town, along with the truck, and two drivers would bring the vehicles back.

The bus with the Wilsons and Audrey’s family was the first to leave. Gary sighed when he saw it exit the property, thinking that would probably be the last he would see of the troublemakers.

Amanda wasn’t so sure as she stood by the door of the bus as the family ushered the Wilsons and followers out and into the registration area at the high school being used as a relief center. She saw Leader Wilson talking animatedly to first one and then another person that looked like they might have some authority.

She shook her head and re-boarded the bus with Audrey and one of her family that wanted to stay on the farm as a hired hand. “What a waste of fuel,” Amanda muttered, looking out one of the bus windows at Leader Wilson talking to yet another person, this one carrying a clipboard.

Leader didn’t have much luck and was lamenting the fact when a man approached and asked about the Middleton place. Leader gave a scathing report to the man, pleased that at least someone was listening to him sympathetically.

But Leader was a bit disappointed when the man simply looked angry and took in everything he was being told. It was only after Leader ran out of steam that the man spoke. It was Anson. “I’m with you on this,” Anson said, keeping his voice low. “Those people cannot be allowed to treat people the way they do.”

Leader’s eyes widened in surprise. “You know them?”

“Only one. But that was enough. The apple does not fall far from the tree. If her parents are anything like her, they are pure evil.”

“Yes! Yes! Exactly! That is what I’ve been trying to tell people here. It is my destiny to command that place, to see to it the right people are fed and sheltered for the difficult times ahead.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Sure,” Anson replied, knowing that this man would be one of the first he killed when he got what he wanted from him. “Tell me more about the place.”

Leader, his spirits up, dismissed the rest of the group and followed Anson to a quiet spot over in one corner of the gym. He was seething already, just the thought of the Middleton’s, especially Faith, having everything they did and what they had put him through.

He had swallowed his pride and bided his time in the City Hall shelter, eating only what they would give him. Despite his best efforts to cajole more out of some of the others, it was all he got. It wasn’t so much that he wanted more food. It was more that he wanted to be top dog, and he wasn’t getting any special attention at all. Except for one warning early on to watch his step and not cause trouble.

He almost hit the woman, but his eyes went to a commotion at the main entrance to the shelter. Someone caught trying to steal food was being ushered out of the shelter with only the clothes on his back. Anson bit back the anger and turned away. He would bide his time. These people, like the Middleton’s, would pay. Faith had put him in this situation and she would pay the highest price.

And now, with someone else that wanted the Middleton’s taken down, Anson let the violence come a bit closer to the surface. Soon. Very soon, he would release it on those that had wronged him. And any of the petty people that might annoy him along the way.

And The Pendulum Swings - Chapter 6

For over a week things went surprisingly well. Gary was able to maintain a steady flow of fresh foods, including meat, into the town relief centers. And supplied the local Guard unit with some badly needed foods, too. They’d been living on MREs for the most part and the influx of fresh foods was a big boost to morale and helped cement the trust and cooperation between the Property and the Guard, just like the town.

But there was a mostly unnoticed undercurrent in one of the relief centers. It seemed that some people intended to be taken care of for the duration. They were refusing to work in the recovery and demanding more and more privileges. But it seemed to just be a person here and there. Those trying to keep things going just had no time to try and placate them. They were simply ignored.

Which was something that just egged Leader Wilson on. He was used to being listened to and treated rather like royalty. And it grated on Anson, though he was trying to keep a low profile, at least as much as he could with his attitudes. Yes, he wanted the Middleton’s punished, but at his hand, and with the Property becoming his, not Leader’s small, but growing cult.

The situation surfaced one day shortly after the supply truck from the Property left, having left less than usual. Leader, always on hand to monitor the delivery, and pick out a few choice items he always tried to get, and occasionally did, out of sheer eagerness to get rid of him, began to exclaim loudly and at length why he should be in charge of the farm and ranch.

The word worked its way up the ladder quickly, as most of the relief workers had taken a dislike to Leader almost immediately. Colonel Jessica Winnings showed up shortly, while Leader was still complaining.

“Sir,” the Colonel said, not even trying to take it to a private meeting, “I don’t think you understand the situation. This is still America. Private property is still private property. This man you are berating is the only thing standing between not just lean times, but starvation. I’m no farmer, and though I have a couple in the unit, there is no way we can produce what that trained outfit does.

“I expect you to keep your comments, which are verging on a chargeable offense, in advocating the violent overthrow of a sanctioned operation providing needed supplies, to yourself. I find out you are stirring up a riot, much less an armed uprising, things will go hard for you and everyone cooperating with you. Now, move along. You have no need to be present at these deliveries.”

Colonel Winnings turned on her heel and headed back to the command post in one of the offices in the high school building.

Somewhat subdued, Leader saw Anson and went on a binge of complaining about the treatment he was receiving. Anson didn’t pay much attention, his eyes following the process of the food being put away or distributed, but at a much greater distance than Leader did. Not until Leader said, “That woman at the farm was right. Someone should just shoot that evil man. I know it is my destiny to rule that place and feed those that will follow me.”

“You know, Leader, you might just be right. What would you say if I told you I might get that done for you? Depending on where my place would be in your organization. And on certain things that I might require prior to seeing the matter handled.”

Leader drew up, surprised. But the Colonel’s condescending words to him had him listening when Anson explained what he wanted.

When they’d come out of the shelter, Anson had carefully checked for the old farm truck. He nearly went ballistic when he saw that it was gone. The plug wires were where he left them, but someone had apparently found some replacements and got the truck going.

He was very lucky in his vitriolic cursing of the situation that he saw two of the National Guard members approaching and shut up, edging away from the plants next to the building.

One of the Guard, looking at Anson rather suspiciously, asked, “Looking for something? A truck perhaps?”

Anson was able, barely, to play innocent. “Me? A truck? I don’t think so. And I didn’t think anything would run, anyway.”

“This one did. And had some very suspicious items in it. You hear anyone looking for a truck with a Highway Patrolman’s equipment in it, you let someone know immediately.”

Anson nodded and hurried away breathing a sigh of relief he hadn’t giving anything away. But almost immediately he was blaming Faith again for disrupting his plans. It was as if she was at fault for him losing the weapons and other gear he’d murdered to get.

So Anson reeled off a list of items to Leader that caused him to reconsider his agreement. But there was something about Anson that suddenly scared Leader. Better to do what he could and then disengage from the man before he brought more problems down on Leader.

There were others being provided for that didn’t like the situation much. It didn’t take much for those of his group that Leader tasked to take the risks of recruiting some people for an attack on the Property, and the acquisition of some suitable firearms, and enough extra food and water to last for a week while they got ready to spring it. Even a usable vehicle.

The plan was for those involved to slowly, individually leave the town and hole up at an abandoned farm one of the people knew about. Anson figured a week would be enough to get things scoped out and set up for him to take care of Faith’s father, and then take care of Faith while Leader’s people secured the Property. Anson would then kill Leader and take over completely.

Since it was more a sense of relief when some of the troublemakers started to disappear, very little was done to investigate why. So on the last day, the one before the attack was scheduled, Leader sneaked out of town and joined the others. Anson was right behind him to make sure he showed up.

Anson had been to the farm three times, and to the Property twice, but had always sneaked back into the town. He wasn’t about to suffer short rations and uncomfortable heat in the late August weather if he could help it.

Leader started, terrified when Anson came up to him from behind and spoke just before they reached the farm. “Good that you decided to show up, Leader.” Leader felt the threat in Anson’s words and when he saw his eyes drew back even further.

The man was obviously deranged. And as Leader came to the conclusion that it would be better to abandon the plan and go back to the high school it was too late. They were at the farm and Anson had a firm grip on the Leader’s arm.

“You’re with me,” Anson told Leader, as he finalized the plans to attack the Middleton property. They’d come up with plenty of guns, including several magazine fed semi-autos. Enough that Anson was sure they’d be able to basically just walk in. They’d wait until the gate was opened to let out or let in one of the facility’s trucks.

As much as he hated to be out in the open in the dark, Anson led the way, with Leader kept just a step or two away, shortly after midnight, riding in an old Subaru one of Leader’s new followers had managed to get fuel for.

They were grouped, out of sight, they thought, across the road from the main entrance to the Property. When a truck approached the gate from inside, Anson gave the order for the others to charge as soon as the truck was starting through, so it would block the gate from closing when the driver was killed.

It wasn’t until well after the short battle that Faith got a good look at the man that Amanda said had been leading the group, though from behind. He was stretched out alongside the others, waiting for the National Guard to come pick up the bodies when Faith and Gary came out from their sniper positions in the two armored cupolas on the house.

Gary shook his head at the sight of the bodies. Mathews, Timmons, and Raines were among the dead.

Faith staggered when she saw Anson’s body. “Are you all right?” Gary said, putting out a steadying hand.

“That’s… That’s Anson, Father.”

“Anson? Your Anson?” Gary asked.

“Yeah. My Anson.” Faith’s voice was low.

“He was crazy!” Leader said, one of only two attackers to survive the attempt. He’d shrugged loose from Anson when Anson headed forward at the back end of the group rushing the gate. He’d dropped into the road ditch and lay there, shivering, hands covering his head until Amanda dragged him forcibly to his feet after the shooting stopped.

“He made me do it! I didn’t want to! He made me!” Leader cried. “He hated you! I don’t know why! But he was crazy. I saw it in his eyes and tried to get away, but…”

“Shut up,” Amanda said quietly. “Crazy or not, he paid the price for his hatred. Much as you will pay for your greed. The National Guard is on the way. I have a feeling you won’t get much leniency from Colonel Winners.”

Leader hung his head, much as the woman, kneeling next to him did. The same woman that had said Gary should be killed so many weeks ago.

But Leader couldn’t stand the not knowing. “How did you know? How did you know we were coming? It was a massacre.”

“We saw and heard you coming at the point you reached the edge of my property,” Gary said coldly. “We’ve had electronic and live surveillance around the property from the very first. Amanda recognized the Subaru as one belonging to someone that was turned away from here at the start. That with the group so heavily armed, we knew we were to be attacked. We were in ambush positions an hour before you got here.

“I was about to have Amanda announce that you were surrounded and to give up when… I guess Anson here… gave the order to attack. We thought you were just after the truck initially. But from what she said,” Gary said, nodding at the woman beside Leader, “It was your plan to take over, just as you said you were going to do. Well, you had your chance. You won’t get another.

“And this place will continue to serve the area until the pendulum swings back and things change once again, for the better.”

End ********

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Jerry D Young
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Re: JDY Fiction - And The Pendulum Swings

Postby fastback65 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:59 pm

Thanks, Jerry. Another winner. I appreciate you posting it here.
"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: JDY Fiction - And The Pendulum Swings

Postby stjwelding » Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:27 pm

Jerry great story thank you for posting it for us to read.
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