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The Long Winter

The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:06 pm

The Long Winter

I have never tried writing before, so please be gentle but firm. If I start rambling, well, thats pretty much how I talk. Please let me know of any grammatical or spelling errors and let me know if you think I should continue. There are some fine writers here, and it can be a little intimidating.


The Long Winter


Chapter 1




“I don't think this Winter will ever end,” Marty complained to his wife, Martha. “This has been the coldest, wettest, Winter I can remember.”

“Seems like it to me too, Marty,” Martha replied, “at least the chicken coop is thawed enough that I can do a good cleaning. Egg laying has just about come to a halt.”

“Let me know when you get if cleaned, and I will work the manure into the beds in greenhouse. It is past time to get them started.”

Marty slowly ambled his way over to the barn and began the chore of feeding the animals, the mules got fed first. He wasn't sure why, but the mules were his favorite, except when plowing downwind and the mules expelled the exhaust from the wheat shorts. He supposed, it was because without fuel for the tractor, he knew the mules were his best chance for getting in a crop. Next came the cows. Now the cows were Martha's favorite, he mused. He was glad for that, for she insisted she be the one to milk them everyday. Lord knows he had enough to do around here without that.

After finishing in the barn, Marty stepped up on the back porch and shed his dirty boots and jacket and headed into the warmth of the kitchen for a much needed cup of coffee, black of course. Looking in the oven he saw it was time for the biscuits to come out so he grabbed a towel and removed the old cast iron skillet and set it on a cool place on the stove top.

Martha came in and said, “I will get the eggs started and some bacon frying, you need to feed the fire in the fireplace and get it warmed up in here.”

It seemed like they had always been together. They started school together and had always been friends. Martha's folks had been a little better off than Marty's, but it didn't matter to the two of them. They fell in love in the sixth grade and never bothered looking for anyone else. They had gotten married seven days after graduation and had been together ever since. Forty five years to be exact. That made them both sixty three, and except for the two years that Marty was in VietNam, they had never been apart.

“Breakfast is on the table,” sang out Martha. Marty dropped the last chunk of wood on the fire dogs and headed into the cozy warm kitchen and sat down to eat.


More or not?
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:59 am

Chapter 2


Marty finished up breakfast and while Martha cleaned the kitchen, Marty took his coffee and retreated to the den. Sitting in front of the fire place Marty started thinking about how they came to be where they were. After Marty had returned home from the army, they had bought this small farm and Martha
took a job in town at the grocery store to help make ends meet. Their intentions were to make the farm as self sufficient as possible. To that end, Marty took odd jobs and they paid the farm off as soon as they could. They had lived a frugal life and put everything they made back into the farm. Solar panels when they could afford them, extra insulation when they could get it on sale, and canning everything they grew that wasn't eaten fresh. Everything was going as well as it could except no matter how hard they tried, it looked as if children were not in the cards for them. They both loved and wanted kids but it was not to be.

Things were pretty idyllic for the couple, until the sickness came. The CDC said it started in China, although there were some that were pretty sure it was brought in intentionally from the South by illegal immigrants. However it got her, it took out about a third of the US population. Being somewhat isolated and not having to deal directly with other people, Marty and Martha survived the “flu”. Most of the folks in the area were like minded and tended to stay to themselves, so the area did pretty well, survival wise.

The government was pretty devastated and with so many workers dead, the economy tanked and the give away programs dried up. What happened next was inevitable. The entitled class took to the streets and took everything they could take. The authorities were more concerned with their own families safety than enforcing the law. The entitled soon ran out of targets and turned on each other. Being so far off the beaten path, Marty and Martha saw little of the carnage.

“Marty”, Martha called from the kitchen, breaking his train of thought. “You need to see if you can get a deer or two for the freezer.”

“I was just contemplating that, dear” replied Marty. He knew taking a deer would be no problem, as they had made a successful comeback after the initial population drop caused by too many hunters trying to survive off the limited herd. “I will saddle one of the mules and try this afternoon” he told her. Marty like hunting from the mules, they tended to let him know when the deer were near and it save a lot of walking. Besides the mules didn't spook the deer like he did when he walked through the woods.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby Muleskinner » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:03 am

Of course! Sounds good so far. With an opening like that you could take this story anywhere. Go for it!
"Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not." ~Thomas Jefferson

"Being prepared is sometimes inconvenient, but not being prepared is always inconvenient." - Fred Choate

Molon Labe!
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Re: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:23 pm

Chapter 3



Marty got out his rifle, a M-14, that he had mailed back home from Vietnam, one piece at a time.. It was a select fire model and very few people knew he had it. He had equipped it with a Nightforce scope and if he could see a target, he could hit it. He picked up a five round magazine that he used for hunting and a couple of twenty rounders that he always carried in his vest and went out to the barn to saddle one of the mules. He didn't care which mule he rode, they were both broke to the saddle and plow as well as the wagon they went to town on. Once the mule was ready, Marty led him over to the trough and let him drink all he wanted as he went through his checklist and made sure he had all he needed.

Marty, always carried a few MREs when he went hunting and two quart canteens of water. A change of clothes in case he got wet, fire starting materials, and a first aid kit made up the bulk of his pack. He checked his knife for sharpness, got the mule's reins and off he went. The mule moved in a leisurely fashion, neither he nor Marty was in a hurry. They had all afternoon. Marty spotted what looked like a fresh deer trail so he let the mule amble in that direction. Before they had gone one hundred yards, Marty watched as the mule stopped and twitched his ears. Looking around Marty saw a doe deer that was good sized so he raised his rife and taking careful aim, he dropped the deer where she was standing. Marty reckoned the mule had smelled the deer and they had been hunting enough times, the mule figured the shot was coming so he stopped and waited. Marty had figured out, when the mule stops, the deer is near. It was as good a explanation as any.

Marty dismounted and gave thanks to the deer for the meals to come and then he began the task of field dressing the deer. Once the deer had been lightened of the innards, Marty used a rope and tied
the deer across the mule behind the saddle. Using some of his water, he cleaned his knife and then his hands and told the mule, “I'm not going to be greedy, one is enough for today.”

Arriving back at the farm, Marty set to work right away. The sooner they could get the meat cooled off and hanging, the better it would be. He carefully skinned the deer and after splitting the sternum , he propped open the ribcage as far as he could to allow the cool air inside the barn to circulate. He then wrapped the deer in cheesecloth to keep any insects off, and raised it up about six feet off the floor. The deer could hang there for a day or two and age a bit, as long as the temperature stayed under forty or so.

Having taken care of the deer, he unsaddled the mule and fed him and the other mule. He threw a few flakes of hay in with the cows and headed into the house.

“Martha, I'm home” yelled Marty, though he knew she was well aware. Ever since they had started dating, she always seemed to sense when he was near.

“I hear you” she replied, “No need to yell.” “Get cleaned up and we will have a little supper.”

“What are we having” he asked, though it didn't matter. She knew what he liked and she always provided him with a good meal.

“Some greens that we canned this fall and mashed potatoes and pork chops, it it pleases your highness,” she joked.

“Sounds good to me” he said, “as long as there is cornbread.”

“Who cooks greens without cornbread?” she asked. “Certainly no one I know.”
"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: The Long Winter

Postby HC5CA » Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:27 am

I like it!

M14 a piece at a time, eh? Reminds me of a song about a "55, 56, 57 automobile" with a title "a phone-book thick!" :D
73,

Steve

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish." :-)
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Re: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:10 am

Chapter 4


The next morning brought sleet. Now snow was one thing, but sleet usually meant broken tree limbs and in the past, the power would have gone out.

“Powers been out nearly two years,” laughed Marty. It is amazing what a human can get used to. Of course the solar panels would keep on working, albeit with diminished output. Marty had long ago cut anything away that could have fallen on the house or the panels.

“Looks like we will have a day or so to just relax and maybe work a little in the greenhouse.” he decided.

After a hearty breakfast, Marty went out to check on the animals and noticed some tracks around the barn door. “Damn coyotes”, he said. “They looking for a free chicken dinner, but they won't get it here.”

Marty walk on in the barn and fed all the animals and checked the chickens for eggs. Seeing on a few, Marty reminded them that he could eat chicken just as easy as eggs. “Maybe that will get 'em laying,” he thought. He had been around chickens long enough to know that come warmer weather and longer days would pick up production.

He walked in the house and built the fire up a little and told Martha he was going coyote hunting. He
went to his storage shed and got some traps and grabbing his rifle and vest, he headed for the wood. Marty followed the tracks as far as he could, once he hit the heave woods, there was not as much sleet on the ground. Figuring they would come back the same way, he started placing his traps at intervals baiting them with sardines. After laying out a trap line he thought had a good chance of catching one or maybe two of them, he headed back to the house.

“Marty,” called out Martha, “We are going to have to go into town and pick up sister.” “She called me on the radio and said that she wanted to come and stay with us til the sleet was done.”

“Alright,” said Marty. “I will hitch up the team and go and get her.” “Do you need anything form the store, assuming he has anything​?”

“No, were good.” replied Martha. “ I will get the milking done while you are gone.”

The trip to town was uneventful. The limbs were getting a good coating of ice and cracking and popping could be heard coming from the woods on both sides of the road, spooking the mules a little, but Marty's calm voice soothed them right down.

“You ready to go?” Marty asked Martha's sister, June.

“I guess so,” she replied, “It seems to be getting colder by the minute.”

“Climb on up on the buckboard and you can cover up with some of the quilts, Martha sent.”

Marty had never cared a lot for June, she had been a social climber and had married a wealthy man whose appetite for the ladies had exceeded just June. She caught him with several different ladies over a period of time, but her need to have social status and economic security overcame her objections. Lucky for her, the sickness solved her problem. He had been one of the first to go, She was left with a paid for home and little else. He had spent most of their money on his lifestyle. No matter, thought Marty, she is Martha's sister and I will do my best to take care of her, for Martha's sake.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:46 am

Chapter 5



On the way home, a large sycamore tree had fallen across the road. It only took Marty a few minutes to unhitch the buckboard and hitch the mules to the tree. He drug it out of the way, making a mental note to return and salvage it. Not real good firewood, but good enough for some planking and maybe a new table top fro his workbench. He hitched the wagon back up and was soon on the way.

“June,” he asked, “How are you holding out?” “Do you have enough food to last a while?” “You know you are welcome to move in with Martha and me, if you need to.” He was hoping that would not be the case, but June surprised him.

“That is awfully kind of you Marty,” she said. “It is getting harder and harder to stay fed and warm in that big house by myself.”

“Well, you can stay with us as long as you like,” Marty replied. “You know, my brother Ron has been thinking about coming down this way, and with four of us, we could get a lot more done.” “The gardens and animals and the greenhouse take a lot of time and frankly, Martha and I could use the help.”

The homestead came into view and Martha was standing on the porch, having just cleared the steps of sleet. “Come on in and get warm, “she called to June. “I know you must be about froze to death.”

Marty stopped and helped her down and sat her bags inside the door. “I'm going to unhitch the mules and see to them and then I will be in.” said Marty adding, “a cup of coffee sure would be nice.”

Inside the sisters acted as if they hadn't seen each other in years. June asked Martha about Marty's offer to let her stay. “If Marty asked you, he meant it.” You will be expected to help out around here though.” said Martha. “We don't cotton to that debutante lifestyle of yours. Out her, we work.”

June thought she might have gotten into more than she bargained for, but she decided that being fed and warm was worth an honest effort to help.

“Deal!” she said. “I will do all I can to help, it may taike me a little while to get up to full speed, but I will do all I can.”

“I can't ask ask for more than that,” said Martha, wondering if her sister could really change.

“Where's my coffee?” yelled Marty

“coming right up.” replied Martha
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:13 am

Chapter 6



Marty informed Martha he was going to check his trap line, and after getting his pack on, he grabbed his rifle and took off across the field towards the wood line. By the third trap, He was sure he hadn't caught the coyote that had such an interest in his barn and he was more than a little disappointed. Topping a rise, Marty's breath caught in his throat as he saw the largest bobcat he had ever seen in the next trap. Removing his 1911 pistol from the holster, he dispatched the large cat with one shot, carefully placed so as to do minimum damage to the pelt. He place the cat in a tree to retrieve on his way back, and quickly checked and reset the remaining two traps. When he returned to the cat, he saw two coyotes trying to get the cat out of the tree. Two quick and sure shots from the M-14 insured the cat as well as his barn would be safe.

Marty took a small tarp from his backpack and after spreading it out, he placed the coyotes and the bobcat on top. He then rolled the tarp around the animals and tied it securely. He tied a rope to one end and taking the rope in hand, he began the trip home sliding the tarp across the ice.

“Martha, I'm going to be out here for a while skinning my catch.” he informed Martha. And he set to to work, skinning and fleshing and stretching the hides. He buried the waste and after cleaning his tools he made his way to the house.

“I'm getting too old for this,” he said to no one in particular.

“Get washed up for supper.” Martha called out.

Marty was glad for a chance to sit down for a while and enjoy a warming meal. After supper he offered to help with the dishes, but June, said, “I got them, you and Martha sit down and rest.”

Marty and Martha exchanged a glance and Marty just shrugged his shoulders with I don't believe it look and settled into his recliner.

“What did you catch?” asked his wife.

“A couple of coyotes and a bobcat. They will make some nice pelts when I am finished with them.” he said.

“How do think your brother Ron is going to get along with June?” Martha asked. “You know they haven't seen each other in years.”

“Ron has settled down a lot and I think they would be a good match for one another if they are willing to give it a chance.” opined Marty. “There was a time when Ron considered June a real looker.”

“You know June made a promise to me to try her best to fit in and help out. All we can do is wait and see how that goes.” said Martha.

“I think I will fire up the Ham rig and see when Ron is coming.” said Marty. “It will be good to see him.”




Chapter 7


Marty had always been frugal, not cheap mind you, but frugal. When he bought his HAM radio, he went for the best one he could afford at the time. Marty was the proud owner of a Yaesu FT-1000D. He bought it new and it had cost almost four thousand dollars. He also bought an amplifier from Ameritron that had the capability to operate at full legal output power. Most times he could reach anyone he wanted with just the radio, but under noisy or poor conditions, it was nice to be able to reach a little further with the amplifier.

He and his brother had gotten into radio as kids and they had both remained in the hobby as they had gotten older. Now it was the best chance for them to reach each other. Cell service was almost non existent. It seemed when a cell site went down, it was just abandoned and the service became progressively worse as equipment aged and no one had the money to repair of replace them.

He tuned the radio to 14.230 megahertz. This was the frequency they always used while it was daylight. When night fell, they would move down to 80 meters as the signal was better there. Marty gave his call sign and then Ron's, waiting fro an answer. Hearing nothing, he tried again, this time he heard Ron on the other end.

“When you coming down this way,” he asked his brother.

“I was going to try and leave here tomorrow if I can finish packing,” he said. “I am bringing everything I can load on the wagon.” “I sure appreciate you taking me in, little brother.” he laughed.

Marty was a good four inches taller and forty pounds heavier, but by virtue of Ron being two years older, he was the “little” brother.

“You should be here in about three days then if you don't dawdle,” said Marty. “Keep your portable radio handy and we will try to make daily contact.”

“All right,” acknowledged Ron, “I am going to go and finish packing.” “I will see you two soon.”

“Us three,” corrected Marty. “June, Martha's sister is staying with us now.”

Silence for about 30 seconds and then “I will be there as soon as I can.” stated Ron emphatically.

The conversation over, Marty had the presence of mind to walk outside and check his antennas. The ice coating on them was not heavy enough to cause the elements to droop, but, he would be glad when the ice was gone. The ice kept the radios from operating at full efficiency due to the ice affecting the SWR.

Marty figured after a couple of days, Ron would be close enough to reach with the two meter radio. He might even ride out and meet him.



While he was on the radio, Marty made contact with a couple of people he regularly talked to, to try and get a li9ttle information about the world beyond their little corner. The news was not good. It seemed the President had requested help from the United Nations and the Blue Helmets had eagerly accepted. Reports were coming in from all over but it seemed mainly in the Northeast, that folks were being herded into containment centers where they could be “cared for”. Marty knew immediately that this was nothing more than a way to contain the dissidents. They would likely never be free again. He also learned that China had put up a communications black out. Nothing was going in or coming out of China, thanks to massive antenna arrays that were blocking signals, however, China had a lot of unguarded border and the information was slipping out with the refugees. It seemed the “flu” had mutated and the people of China were dying in droves. Estimate were that there was barely one tenth of China's original population left. Surrounding countries, fearful of the sickness, were shooting Chinese on sight, trying to protect themselves.

In the United States, there were scattered reports of UN troops coming under fire. There was little mercy shown the interlopers and while there was no torture, there were no prisoners taken either. Any supplies that could be taken were quickly hidden or distributed to the areas with the greatest need. Marty updated the contacts with the local goings on and after signing off, he disconnected his coax as he always did to protect them from lightning.

“Martha, you and June come into the den, when you get a minute.” said Marty. “We need to talk about a few things.”

“What's going on now?” asked Martha.

“I just talked to a couple of folks that I trust and what they had to say is pretty scary.” Marty said with a shiver. “It seems the UN has been called in and reports are, they are rounding people up and confining them. Also, things are going very badly in China with a relapse of the flu. Seems like Asia and most of Western Europe is in turmoil.”

“What does that mean to us Marty?” Martha asked anxiously.

“Nothing in the short term, but, I don't think China will let the rest of the world recover while they can't. I would look for China to either accept help from other countries of if no help is offered, they could launch an attack, more out of spite than anything else. Sort of a mutually assured destruction scenario. We probably should make sure all is ready if we have to go underground.”
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Thu Feb 20, 2014 6:55 pm

Chapter 8


The endless loop on the AM radio was interrupted by a special notice. All travel had been restricted. No one was allowed to be more than 10 miles from their declared residence and anyone out after local sunset would be shot on sight.

“I need to go and try to find Ron,” shouted Marty. “If he gets caught traveling, it could go badly. If he is with me, I have identification that shows where we live. We should be all right unless we get caught at night.”

“Please be careful and take a radio with you.” Martha implored. “I will be a nervous wreck until I see you safely home.”

“I'll be as careful as I can, but I have to get Ron home safely.” and with that he was on his way to the barn. Rather than pack a wagon, He would just saddle on of the mules and ride. It would be faster and easier to get off the road if he had to.

He turned on the two meter handy talky and called Martha in the house and made sure the radio was working.

“I will try to contact you on the top of the even numbered hours. Other than that I will have the radio off to conserve the batteries.” Marty explained. “You can leave yours on and if there is an emergency, I will try to contact you off of our schedule. I am turning mine off now and I will try to contact you at 8:00 AM.”

Marty cleared with Martha and turned off the radio. He set out hoping to find Ron, sooner rather than later.

“I will try to contact Ron, when I stop to call Martha. Maybe she can call for him too, as the base radio will have a greater range.”

Marty and the mule set up a brisk pace, hoping to find his brother and get home before dark. Meanwhile, Ron, had heard the announcement on his radio and knew he had to get to Marty's as fast as he could. He snapped the reins over the horse's back and urged the beast to pick it up a little. “When I reach the top of the next hill, I will try to contact Marty on the radio.” He told the horse.

At straight up 8:00 Marty stopped on the side of the road and called back to the farm. Martha answered on the first call and after assuring her all was well, Marty asked her to listen for and try to contact Ron periodically, explaining that the base radio had a greater range.

“I will be listening for both of you and if I hear him, I will let you know. I will also try to get his location,” Martha assured him.

“OK,” Marty siad, “I am going to push on.” He gave both their call signs and cleared.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Mon Feb 24, 2014 5:47 am

Chapter 9


As soon as Martha cleared with Marty she called for Roy on the radio. To her surprise, she reached him on the second try. The taller antenna and more powerful radio at the farm giving her additional coverage.

“I just talked to Marty, and he is on his way to meet you.” Martha informed Roy. “Give me your location and I will relay it to Marty. It is important that you are both well hidden before dark.”

“Roger that,” replied Roy. “Tell Marty I am four miles East of the 59/20 Interchange. I am going to continue West bound until I meet him.”

“Keep your eyes open.” warned Martha. “There are a lot of Blue Helmets about.”

“Understood. Over and out.”

Martha quickly relayed to Marty what she had learned and Marty told her they were about 20 miles apart. He let her know that when they made contact, it would be getting close to dark and the plan now was to set up a cold camp off the road and wait til morning to try to get back to the farm.

“See if you can reach Mr. Johnson, and let him know I will be gone tonight. Maybe he will send one of his boys down to the house to keep an eye on you and June.”

“Will do,” Martha responded. “over and out.”

Mr. Johnson was the closest neighbor to to Marty and Martha, and they had a sort of mutual assistance
agreement with each other. If the Johnson's were away, Marty kept an eye on their place and Mr. Johnson would occasionally lend out one of his strapping young boys to lend a hand with harvest or heavy work. It was mutually beneficial as Mrs. Johnson had passed on during the sickness and it was nice to have someone to help with the canning and occasional clothing repairs they needed done, and Martha was only to glad to help.

Looking down the mostly abandoned highway, Marty noticed what looked like vehicles. He eased the mule off the road and into the edge of the woods and waited and watched. Soon enough, three military vehicles came into focus and Marty knew at once they were not American vehicles. They were the blue helmeted devils from the UN. Marty slipped his rifle from his scabbard and took to the ground
steeling himself for whatever action may come. Fortunately the three vehicle convoy never slowed. They just continued down the road, going in the direction Marty had come from, but not before Marty noticed the direction finding antenna on the lead truck.

“I am going to walk down to Mr. Johnson's place, and let him know what is going on.” Martha told June. “I am also going to take him one of the Handy Talkys, in case we need to contact him while Marty is gone. I should be back in a couple of hours, keep everything locked up while I am gone and do not let anyone through the gate.”

June reminded Martha, that she was the one that taught her how to shoot and she would be fine.

“Just be careful and come back in one piece.” June said.
"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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