Well folks, it's been a while, but I am back. I have made the decision to keep my manuscripts over at FictionPress instead as it is designed for the purpose, and use this as a site to discuss story ideas, review books and movies, and post research notes on the stories I am writing on. I have the first chapter of Blackout over at the FictionPress site, and will soon begin uploading both Blackout and my latest work, High Ground, to the site.
Other stories I am working on and will begin posting soon includes
-Diesel Cowboy: Coming of age story of a young man from Texas driving long haul trucks in Africa when the South Sudan civil war breaks out around him.
-Blood Dark Sky: Forty years after the Soviets won the Cold War, North America has collapsed into a number of competing fiefdoms as the World Soviet congress falls apart due to mismanagement and environmental catastrophe. Legends of a green land across the sea to the south lure a small family as they doge war, brave a poisoned world, and try to avoid bands of desperate and hungry people willing to kill them to survive.
From the Journal of Jason Forrester
Unknown Date in 2013
[Ed. Note: While it is believed that this was written sometime in 2013 based on its place in the journal, the writing might have come from a later time. This journal entry was scrawled in the margins of another, using a different color of ink. It is included here due to the relevance of the Journal Entry to the section detailed within.]
I still remember the first time I read A Canticle for Liebowitz. I was in middle school, and the world Miller had created frightened me more than I could describe. What he said made sense in a way, it was only natural there would be a backlash against technology after the end.
I just wish I was further from the epicenter of the Great Simplification.
Central Resource Library
24 September 2013
Eric Eklund watched the Library's purging in the cleansing flames with a frown. All of the Children who gathered around him knew it should have been a happy occasion, but few dared to cheer. In spite of their destruction of the hated poisoner of the mind, something was wrong.
"My apologies, Reverend Eklund, for not completing the task you set before me," Cooper said as he came forth.
Eklund turned to examine his Hawk. The man stood out amongst the group. While others had taken to growing their hair and beards long, Cooper still shaved his head and face clean. It made him look like a lizard of some kind, and Eklund had to admit he found it off setting. So many had forgone the razor, and yet his Hawk still did so.
Eklund didn't know what to make of it. With any other member of the Children, he would assume the man was having doubts, but Cooper - the Brother Hawk - was one of his most fanatical supporters. The man had even located a pharmacist who he had tasked with making the dissociative pharmacologicals which made his men such effective warriors.
If it was anyone else, Eklund would have killed the chemists himself, but Cooper wanted the man for himself. He was training the man to make his compounds with natural ingredients, but Cooper said that so long as the chemicals of the false enlightenment remained, they should use them to destroy the last remnants thereof. At least with this way they would be disposed of properly.
Eklund secretly suspected that Cooper had an addiction to the chemicals and was using this as an excuse to keep his addiction fed. In fact, Eklund was certain his Brother Hawk would be one they destroyed were it not for the fact a number of Earth Liberation Front followers hadn't vouched for him.
"Brother Hawk, you lost four men in the attack out of six. According to the other survivor, your men took severe casualties and only killed one of the defenders. Had they not been armed with the Demon weapons they carried, you would have won. You saved yourself and one of your sub-ordinates to fight again."
"If that does not help put your mind at ease, then find them and kill them. Bring the wrath of the Goddess down upon their heads once and for all. May Helios and Gaia guide your foots, and may the spirit of the wolf inspire you."
Overland Park Regional Medical Center
26 September 2013
Captain Michaels of Charlie Company was in the security office turned command center when the radio call came in. A man in a torn jacket and ripped jeans with a gash over his eye and bruises on his face had just staggered in. He claimed a group of people had marched in and forced his people out, and that they had kept the women and children with them.
The radio reports claimed that dozens of men were wounded and in need of first aid. Captain Michaels sent the orders, and two Platoons were ordered to mobilize on the target - the twin Elementary Schools of Holy Spirit and Oak Park-Carpenter - in order to escort the paramedics and nurses who made up the hospital's medical staff.
The two platoons loaded up into HMMVW's in order to escort the ambulances to the target. A bunch of marauders and looters had tried to ambush the last medical convoy to report to a group under attack, so the Captain had ordered the escorts increased in order to protect the valuable men and women under his protection. If civilization was going to survive, the hospitals were key to that survival.
People who claimed to have been involved in te fight began to filter in slowly. They bore bruises and scrapes, many of them had cuts and two had crossbow bolts in an extremity. With the surviving patients from before the Blackout, and the ones who had fled to the hospital in hopes of safety or medical care before this fight, even the National Guardsman were tasked with joining the medics in caring for patients.
When the radio messages of an attack on the Hospital came in, warning of an attack by the Children of the New Dawn, it was already too late.
Overland Park Regional Medical Center
26 October 2013
Unbeknownst to the Captain, all of the men who had entered the hospital were secretly Children of the New Dawn. Too make matters worse, three of them were Berserkers who had foregone the paint in favor of stealth and the ability to slaughter as many as possible. So long as the Hospital remained, the False Day under which the world had lived would continue and the True Dawn would never come. Survival of the Fittest, that was the true nature of the world, the shape of the world to come.
As the HMMVW's and Ambulances which had rushed to the twin school buildings where the attack had occurred neared their location, a number of molotov cocktails rained down upon them. The HMMVW's opened fire with the .50 caliber Machine Guns, an action which had an uncertain at best effect.
More molotov cocktails continued to rain down as boxes of nails and screws were tossed in the path of the ambulances and HMMVW's. When their blind rush led them down a blind alley, a group of Marauders jumped down upon them from the trees and the balconies of apartment buildings. The berserkers dropped molotov cocktails down any open space, and ripped apart anyone who dared to leave with an axe or mace.
This news never reached Captain Michaels. While normally within range for a radio message, the building blocked line of sight and required the radio operator to bounce the signal off the ionosphere. Due to the lack of accurate meteorological data, he misjudged the position of the ionosphere and the signal missed the hospital entirely.
Had it reached him, Captain Michaels would have immediately implemented security procedures. Because he did not, the entire hospital was caught unawares when the Berserkers burst out of the pharmacy and assaulted the ER.
One of the berserkers was shot down by an alert National Guardsman, only to be avenged by another of the berserkers with a pick-axe to the face. With the magnetic locks not functioning, the berserkers burst through the doors and began to slaughter everyone who resisted. Behind them, the rest of the Children advanced with clubs and spears and dispatched those wounded or ignored by the berserkers.
One of the Guardsmen ducked into the room he was closest to and barred the door with two nurses and eight patients inside. He got on the radio and alerted his Platoon Leader, but it was already too late for them to react. With half of the guardsmen out of the hospital and pinned down several blocks away, there would be no reinforcements and there could be no holding the entire hospital.
The Guardsmen fought a rear guard action, plugging any berserker who showed themselves as they were forced back to the farthest wing. It took haf a magazine to put the berserkers down, as gut shots had no effect. Only a shot to the heart or nervous system would take them down for good - or a shot which would bleed them dry. There was only one problem, they did not enough bullets to kill them all.
Moving to their bayonets, they fought hand to hand. The Guardsmen were at a severe disadvantage. The Berserkers were high on PCP, and thus didn't feel the pain from the relatively small knives. The Guardsmen, in contrast, felt all the pain of the axes and clubs which were brought down upon them with maximum force.
Captain Michaels was personally organizing the final defensive line when the Berserkers burst around the corner howling their drug-enhanced rage to the skies. The last squad of his men were with him as they opened fire. The remaining troops were headquarters troops, trained as typists and comms personnel. They quickly fell to spray and pray tactics and were slain to a man.
In a last desperate move, Captain Michaels grabbed the Tomahawk he had carried with him through Iraq and leapt at the man who appeared to be the leader of the bersekers. He and the man with the bald head traded blows for several minutes before the bald berserker buried his own axe in Captain Michael's throat.
As the world grew dark and cold, Michaels could hear the distant roar of triumph and the screams of those in pain.
Cooper looked down at the Captain whom he had slain in personal combat. The captain had been a worthy opponent, but he was a man who had died preserving the false light of an evil world.
Turning to the Children who had followed him in, he ordered them to block the doors leading up and down and to begin setting fires. Let the evil beings roast in their artificial cave of evil chemicals and false cures.
I just read a fantastic review of one of my favorite novels, A Canticle for Leibowitz. I highly recommend you go and read it. It captures much of what inspired me about this book in the first place. It is a fantastic work and one which I must whole-heartedly endorse. I lack the eloquence of the author of the review to describe what I found so intriguing about this work, so go and read the review - and then read the book for yourself.
From the Journal of Jason Forrester
12 September 2013
[Ed. Note: Journal is missing part of this page. It looks as if part of the journal was burned, and the remainder was doused in water. The section which remains is below.]
…and the Hollisters, we are going through food and water at almost seventeen times the rate I originally predicted. At our current rate of consumption, this means we will run out of food in four months.
None of that matters though. The Simplification has come.
I still remember the first time I read the Canticle. The first time I read about the Simplification. I had hoped it was simply a literary device which Miller used for his story, but it has actually come. The Luddites and the Eco-Nuts and Terrorists have banded together to destroy civilization, but how is that any different than what was happening before the blackout?
Oh, that's right, now they are out in the open burning schools and books and tech stores. And now, they have an army at their disposal. Soon, the decree will go out; anyone caught with a book shall be put to the death.
There will be plenty who oppose this, but so much of the population of the old world spent their lives avoiding intellectual pursuits. For so many, the world began with the latest fashions and ended with the latest celebrity scandal. For so many, they allowed the fools in the media - whether that be sports, entertainment, or the so-called information media - to lie to them and say that the old world would never die.
It is a basic trait of humanity known as the normalcy bias - the belief that everything will always be the same as it is now. It is hard for people to plan for the worst because they have trouble thinking of the worst. So, when the government and the media are both telling people nothing will ever go wrong, it makes it that much harder to break people out of it and get them prepared for…
[Ed. Note: The burns are present here as well.]
And so they blame the system and the technology which they allowed themselves to become addicted to. After all, why should they blame themselves for allowing it to happen?
Shawnee Mission Northwest High School
22 September 2013
Jayce sat at the table. The meeting was voluntary, only those willing to make a risky trip out to 87th and into the heart of Children territory. The nature of the mission was one which would make it doubly dangerous.
The group sitting at the table was small. Arturius, Booker, Jayce's own Father Michael, Francis Hollister, Arturius' father-in-law Gavin Ruskin, and a few of the other men of the colony. That was how Jayce wanted it. They needed to be few in number. He was not going to risk more than he had to. Not even for this mission.
"Okay guys, I am certain you are curious as to why I asked for this meeting during breakfast."
Arturius held up a hand, "Let me guess, this has something to do with the fight you and Rebecca had last night?"
Jayce winced. She had not been happy with him when she learned what he was trying to do. That she recognized the apparent necessity of doing so hadn't made things any easier. She knew the books in there were necessary for survival in the future.
"Guys, we need to check on the Central Resource Library."
The group reactions were somewhat amusing and entirely predictable. Arturius facepalmed, letting out a quiet "ow" under his breath. Michael quirked an eyebrow, curious where his son was going to take this. Francis Hollister leaned forward, curious to hear more. Booker's jaw dropped, and Gavin looked befuddled.
"I know this may sound like a bad idea, but I know for a fact they have a map of the entire metro area's underground tunnels and storm drains. There are books on farming and agriculture, medical and emergency first aid, and more. These books are highly useful, and the reference books they have which we don't have could be very useful in about a week or so."
"A week or so?" Gavin asked.
"Give or take a few days, depending on how long it takes the monks to respond to my letter."
A look of dawning realization broke across faces of both Michael and Arturius as they realized what he was doing, but everyone else just looked confused. The answer was not just a non-answer to most of the colony, it only raised more questions. Jayce paused for a moment to let the gathered potential volunteers chat for a moment.
"This mission is volunteer only, if you don't want to risk it, I won't force you to come. Here is the plan."
Jayce pulled out a map and stretched it out on the table.
"Okay, here's the situation. We know the Luddites - the Children of the New Dawn - have around 48 followers and 12 warriors. That is just what we saw at McAuliffe, and we know they could have more. We need more information on this, and that is an ancillary reason for this trip out to the library, but it is not the primary reason."
"Our primary reason is to get the books and maps we need to navigate this area safely. I don't know how many of you have noticed, but we have an entrance to the sewers in our basement; one which is large enough for us to travel through it fairly easily. I know for a fact the central resource library has the map we need to navigate the maze."
"We are going to use side-streets with a few exceptions, namely the 69th street bridge over I-35 and we will be stuck on Antioch for a few dozen yards before we are able to get off the main roads and onto the side streets."
"Each of us is going to take an MRE and a Food Bar, along with a Camelbak. Everybody grab a revolver and a shotgun, along with three reloads. If we need more than that, we just need to leave instead. We'll grab a first aid kit as well, just in case."
"For comms, everyone grab a radio. That way we can communicate as necessary. Channel 10, Secure 6."
Jayce took a look around at the people gathered in front of him, "Remember folks, this is volunteer only. If you want to work with me, just raise your hand."
Arturius was the first to raise his hand, with Booker and his father following his lead. Hollister was about to raise his hand, but decided against it at the last moment. Jayce was almost worried that it would not be enough, but it would have to do.
"Okay guys, head over to the Armory and load up. Hollister, Rebecca is in charge but you have command of security."
Central Resource Library
22 September 2013
Jayce held his fist up and urged the group to take cover and over-watch positions. He scanned the area ahead with his Winchester, and scanned the horizon. He had heard voices in the direction of the Library, and he was concerned that someone had seen him.
He could not see who or what was there from his position in the park behind the Library, but the very fact that some group of people were sitting upon the place was trouble. He needed to get in the Library. Dear God, he silently prayed as he fingered the old rosary at his hips, please don't let them be hostile…
Jayce moved slowly backwards towards the old Tennis court. Arturius had his - or rather his wife's - shotgun out and ready. His father had his back to them and covered the library, while Booker was watching their rear. They were learning.
"Okay, I hear voices by the Library. It could be nothing, it could be people looking for kindling, or it could even be a bunch of those self-righteous Luddite Simpletons. We are going to move on it, swiftly and quietly. I hope they are not hostile, but we can make no assumptions on that regard. We have to assume the worst. Booker, you have the tail, I have point. Move out."
Moving with surefootedness, rifle high and ready, he swept along the back wall - noting the cars which had been built as a barricade before the doors. The same was true at the sides. Several of the windows had been shattered and the trees on the east side were scorched from the transformer substation's explosion back on the day of the Blackout. This fire had not gotten out of control, which spoke good things about the contents of the library.
They had already seen what the electrical fire had done to the apartments and the VFW office to the East, driven no doubt by the winds that day. But the library was not touched. Good, it meant he might still find what he was looking for.
Swinging around the library to the North Side, Jayce back peddled on his feet and took cover behind the cover. Arturius came up behind him, and took up a position of his own.
"What is it, what did you see?"
"They look like Sheriff's Deputies, but I can't be sure. They had the car, but they are both carrying AR-15's of some kind and one of them is wearing some heavy body armor."
"What are they doing here?" Michael asked, looking over at Booker.
The former Fire Medic shrugged, "I don't know. County never even told us this was happening - if they knew in the first place that is - so I have no idea what orders the Sheriff's Deputies have regarding security."
Booker turned to Jayce, "Let me look at them, I might recognize one of them - and one of them might recognize me."
"Okay, I will go with you," Jayce said. "Equal numbers means we are more likely to prevent a real confrontation."
Booker stuck his head around, "Yeah, that's Deputy Leonard Richter. I went to his sister's wedding. He and I play poker together a couple times a month. Let me take point on this one."
"Do it," Jayce nodded.
Booker stepped out, hands up with shotgun held high over his head that he might not get shot if the guards were trigger happy. "Hello, Deputy Richter!"
Both of the guards turned and knelt to the ground with their AR-15 Rifles at the ready and trained upon Booker's chest. Booker stopped and let them take a good look.
"Deputy Richter, it's Fire Medic Savage of the Lenexa Fire Department. I have friends with us and we do not mean you any harm. May we approach?"
"Booker?" The one in the heavy armor stared at him and lifted his head from the stock of the rifle he was carrying. "Church, lower your rifle." He stood up then, "Okay, Booker come forward slowly and with hands raised. Tell your buddy to do the same."
Jayce followed Booker around, conscious of the fact that he was under the aim of rifles held by a couple Deputies. These may not have been the Mujahedeen he had fought against in the Rock Garden of Hell, but they had the training to actually hit him.
"You, state your name and purpose."
"Staff Sergeant Jason Forrester, United States Marine Corps, Retired. I am the leader of a Colony located at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. I had hoped to come to this Library and obtain reference documents in case we were stuck here in the city for a significant amount of time."
"You mean you came to loot the Library for books."
"Aye, I do mean that was my purpose. I won't lie to you about that, I assumed that the Library would be unguarded and possibly even gutted by flame. But if you are here, I would only ask for access to the Library."
"Honesty, haven't heard anyone speaking honestly for almost a month now." The other Deputy commented with a sense of sarcasm so dry it almost made Jayce's mouth go dry. "Is it just the two of you or are there any more of you?"
"Two others. My father and a friend of mine. May we have access?"
"Yes, you may enter but you may not take any book out of the Library. One of the County Commissioners gave us orders to protect them and not allow them out of sight."
"Which one?" Jayce asked. He knew a few of the County Commissioners, he had even helped the guy's election campaign near the end of it last year.
The name was not one Jayce recognized. Oh well, it was good the Library was safe.
"Oh, and you have to leave your long arms with us. You can keep the revolvers on your hips, but if you hurt anyone or any book within the Library, we will take you out. Understood?"
"Understood." Jayce turned, "Dad, Arthur, come on out."
"Hands up, no sudden moves," Deputy Richter called out.
Both of them came forward around the corner of the Library with their shotguns raised over their hands. The other Deputy covered Jayce and Booker as Deputy Richter kept his rifle trained on Michael and Arturius. All four of them handed over their long arms, and Jayce noted another shotgun was here. Not a Police one, an over-under double-barrel shotgun. Interesting, he thought to himself, we aren't the only ones here today.
Stepping inside, Jayce noted there were no Deputies within the Library, but a few of the Librarians seemed to have taken up residence in the meeting room at the front of the Library.
There was indeed another guest in the Library. A drifter by the looks of him. This was a man used to working for his food as he moved from place to place. Sure, the presence of oil lamps and candles appeared to faze him, but he seemed to be otherwise non-plussed about the situation.
Arturius and Booker stepped close, questions within their eyes. "Well," Michael asked, "What now?"
"Before the Blackout, I would have suggested we grab a bunch of books and type up notes on the computer. Without the power, and thus the computers, the only thing I can think to do would be to take notes on paper."
"Maybe we can find extra copies of the maps you were referring to earlier," Arturius commented. "If so, they might let us have one."
"Mayhaps," Jayce conceded, "But no guarantee. You guys remember what you were supposed to grab?"
The other three nodded. Arturius had a list of blacksmithing and carpentry materials to find. Booker had some medical and science books he was tasked with grabbing, while Michael had some of the gardening and agricultural books Anne had suggested. Jayce meanwhile was tasked with finding books on philosophy and history. The others would be able to just take notes, but Jayce's targets required him to grab whole books. This would be difficult.
The four of them split up and got lost in the stacks as they grabbed books which seemed to be useful and carried them back to tables where they would be able to make notes and glean as much knowledge as possible. One of the Librarians asked what they were doing, and volunteered to help take notes. She might have come with them if they would let her.
They had each made several pages of disjointed and uncertain notes when a shot rang out.
Central Resource Library
22 September 2013
Cooper O'Seighin looked upon the Library with disgust. This was even worse than the school. Schools poisoned the minds of the young sure, but in the days before the Blackout most people reverted to their naturalistic stance once they had gotten out of school. Most people simply allowed the poisoning of their minds to bleed away and their minds would thus heal with time.
But Libraries were a special class of evil. They kept alive the poison of the false enlightenment in the minds of those who might otherwise have reverted back to a more natural state of mind.
Taking out a half-dozen dosages of PCP, he handed them out to the five berserkers who stood around him. Their ranks had swollen thanks to the Brother Dove, Adam Hollub, who had made a good herald for the group. They were up to well over three hundred and fifty or so warriors.
Not all of them were Berserkers, and most of them carried spears instead of axes, but the ranks of the Berserkers had swelled as well to almost thirty. And they were all great and well trained.
Creeping upon the Library, they managed to sneak up on the houses across the street. There, Cooper ordered his berserkers to light up the cigarettes and inhale deeply. They allowed the drug to take effect, relying upon their leader, the Brother Hawk to alert them when it was time to charge.
Cooper eventually gave out a roar and charged forth with the axe in hand. He screamed out a battle cry of "For Gaia and the New Dawn."
The rest of the Bersekers took up the battle cry and charged after him. A few were so far out of their minds with anger and aggression that they could only let out a howl of rage. They burst around the corner of the Library and Cooper buried his axe in the face of the Sherriff's deputy who had charged forth to hurt them.
Cooper felt a burst of wind tugging at his hip, he motioned forward with his arms and a shout. He didn't care when the first two Berserkers to approach the far deputy died with buckshot to the face.
Central Resource Library
22 September 2013
Jayce shouted out, "Arturius, Michael gather up as many books as you can. Booker, you still have your axe on your hip?"
"Good, bring it with you. You are with me."
Jayce pulled the Taurus Revolver from his hip and ran forth. He could hear Booker following behind him with an axe in his hand. Both of them burst from the doors to see Deputy Richter pump two rounds of 12 gauge buckshot into the face of the berserkers.
Booker let forth a howl as he charged into the four remaining Berserkers with his axe swinging. His axe blow was blocked by one of the Berserkers, and the two quickly fell into a brutal dance of swinging axes and fists and kicks.
Jayce had little time to watch what happened as one of the other enraged warriors charged at him. Slipping into the Weaver stance, he brought his pistol up and opened fire. The first two rounds went wide, missing the target entirely, while the third connected with his target's shoulder. He jerked to the left from the force of the gunshot - even a man high on PCP still reacts to physics - but otherwise showed no reaction as he charged home. Jayce held his ground and fired twice more, plugging him twice in the chest.
He had to jump out of the way as the Berserker's momentum carried him past. With his dying breaths, he lunged at Jayce with his axe, cutting a shallow slash into his right thigh. Jayce went down with a yelp - he had never been cut like that before and was surprised to find out just how much it hurt - and clutched at his leg.
A scream of pain dragged his eyes to where Booker stood triumphant over a fallen Berserker. Or at least, he looked triumphant until he stooped over to pull the axe out of the man's chest where it had cut the heart in two.
Looking over, he saw the man who must have been their leader smack another upside the head and shout, "We have no choice. We must leave them and return another day."
Central Resource Library
22 September 2013
Booker had been cut as well. He had a flap of skin from his upper arm which was hanging loose, but seemed otherwise okay. He bandaged Jayce up first, noting how lucky he was no major blood vessels had been severed, as he allowed Jayce to return the favor. Luckily, he remembered all of his first aid training from Boot.
Deputy Richter was standing beside them, shotgun in hand, when he made the decision, "Those were the Children of the New Dawn weren't they?"
"Yes, they were," Arturius responded.
"Thought so. I heard about them on the radio the other day. If they have decided to target the Library, I am not going to be able to protect this thing by myself." He turned to Jayce, "How secure is your location?"
"Its secure. And we have enough food and water to last us until spring."
"What are you planning at that point."
Michael's expression darkened, "Why do you want to know?"
"Because, I was tasked with protecting the books. I can't do that here, not if the Children of the New Dawn are marching on this place with the full force of their followers. I need to save what I can and get it out of here. I can head off alone with what I can fit in my patrol car, or I can leave with you."
Deputy Richter fixed Jayce with a glare, "but I need to know where you are going first."
Jayce nodded, "Once the spring thaw comes we will be heading south-west to Hoisington. We have a couple houses there waiting for us with supplies and farm equipment. You interested in joining us?"
"Yeah, I am." Richter tossed the car keys to Jayce, "Load up both cars with books. Let the Librarians know they are coming too, and to load up their cars as well. We have some moving to do."
From the Journal of Jason Forrester
7 July 2013
I just finished re-reading the Postman. Much less - and yet at the same time more - optimistic than Canticle. In that world, the Fall was slowed possibly even stopped by a man with a postal worker's uniform and a satchel of letters.
Of the three legs of civilization - guns, currency, and writing - this one was one of the most important. Gold and guns may fall away, but writing survives for far longer. Writing allows mankind to advance more than either of the others. It is writing which allows mankind to tell his progeny of the past, to allow mankind to speak to those far distant.
Writing is like a time machine, and it is the postal courier who makes that happen. There was a time when postal workers were sacrosanct, when the mere thought of harming a runner or a courier was foreign to any man of honor.
I makes me wonder, would I be able to halt the fall when it comes by starting up a courier service? Would I even have the resources to do so?
Shawnee Mission Medical Center
16 September 2013
"Okay, Mr. Driscoll, that should do it."
"Thanks doc," Roarke Driscoll responded, testing his leg lightly as he tried to stand.
"You really should be more careful. It is a rough world out there, Mr. Driscoll. Why not just stay here, we could always use couriers here in the hospital. I know Captain Bauers was interested in keeping you on."
Driscoll grabbed his old and weather-worn postal service jacket, and limped slightly as he stepped out into the hall. "No thanks, Doc. I wouldn't mind using this place as a base of operations, though."
"Why not? Why not stay here?"
"I took an oath, Doc. Neither heat nor snow nor strontium rain shall stop me from my appointed rounds."
"Strontium rain?" The Doc asked, eye quirked.
"I read a little too much Post-Apocalyptic works before the Blackout. My buddies in the Postal Service thought it was funny, I meant it. You ever read The Postman, doc?"
"One postman, telling a lie granted, but one postman none-the-less, was able to bring civilization back the Willamette Valley after the fall. Maybe I can do the same thing here."
Dr. Samson Ludolf, the Hospital administrator walked in, he had stopped and was eavesdropping until this point, "You are a brave man, Mr. Driscoll. I hope you succeed."
"Me too. Did you get all those letters I asked for?"
"Yeah, everyone with family outside the hospital has letters they wrote. You need any stamps?"
"Nah, just keep a room open for me and let me eat for free when I stop by, and I will never charge you for sending letters."
"Deal," Ludolf replied. "The letters are in the saddle bags on your horse. You are lucky you are the only one who got shot."
"I think the ass who shot me wanted the horse."
87th and Lackman
17 September 2013
Driscoll was losing hope. He had been following the smoke for some time now, hoping to catch up with the nomadic refugees he thought he had been following. That turned out not to be the case. When he started passing the fire gutted remains of technology stores and libraries, he knew a deliberate hand was at work. This was not a random collection of fires, these had been deliberate.
At each of the most likely places people might seek shelter, he had found a symbol. It was a rough sketch made in charcoal of a tree with a sun rising behind it. In a few places he had found fragments of burned books or documents in the fire burned location. A great evil had marched through this route, and scattered the people who did not fall under its sway. And it wanted to kill everything he loved.
Now, staring into the shattered windows of a former super market - even the name of the store had been stolen by people desperate for anything they could find - he was beginning to think he was on a fool's errand. He urged the horse forward to check out the bank for any potential information, when a shot rang out.
Pulling out the revolver carbine he kept on him, he dropped the reins and surveyed the scene. A muzzle flash from the retirement home across the street gave away the position of his attackers. Driscoll fired a couple shots back at his attacker, hoping to force his attacker to duck down so Driscoll could escape. One of the bullets visibly smacked into the wall beside the window, but Driscoll couldn't figure out where the other bullet impacted. He could only hope it didn't hurt someone innocent hiding within the building.
Much to his surprise, two men burst out of the bank. One was dressed in a ragged suit and tie while the man beside him was wearing a hoodie and leather jacket. Both of them were carrying makeshift clubs, and looked at him with hunger and desperation. Swinging his carbine around, he opened fire with two rounds in their general direction. The man in the ragged suit and tie stopped in fear while the man in the leather jacket and hoodie charged on. With no choice left, Driscoll double-tapped him in the chest, dropping him to the ground.
The man in the ragged suit and tie glared at him with rage, and circled him as Driscoll pulled out a speed loader and ejected the spent cartridges. A shot rang out from the nursing home, so Driscoll finished reloading, snapped the cylinder closed, and opened fire at the home.
He could hear the man in the ragged suit and tie running towards him, and so he turned and used his carbine to block the blow. His horse reared in fear and flailed its front hooves at the man as it turned in fear. Driscoll held on as best he could, trying merely to stay on the back of the horse.
The crunch of the horse's hoof connecting the man in the worn down suit alerted Driscoll that the hostile was down. He spurred his horse onwards, and put the bank between himself and the grocery store. He then turned north and rode down Lackman. He knew there was an elementary school nearby, and if anyone was going to choose a spot to live, a school was a good choice.
Christa McAuliffe Elementary School
17 September 2013
Driscoll almost lost hope as he stared at the school. It was a burned out wreck, just like the other schools and libraries had been. The symbol was there as well.
This one was different though. It was the gas tank that intrigued him.
It looked like it had been a molotov cocktail, at some point. Opening up the spigot he was surprised to see that it was still half full, but not with gasoline. There was also signs that a number of people had arrived on bicycles and then walked around, investigating what had happened. Their trail led away to the North-East.
He decided to follow them. If they led where he thought they led, then their leader had a relatively good head on his shoulders.
Shawnee Mission Northwest High School
19 September 2013
Booker was out on bike patrol when he heard the sound of the horse. He stopped and put a hand on his axe, ready to act if necessary. Ditching the bike, he snuck up closer to catch sight of the man on horseback. Jayce had standing orders to investigate anyone within a block of the school who looked somewhat prosperous.
If they were raiders, it would give them enough time to hole up and fortify their location. If they were just normal people, they would try to re-direct them elsewhere. But if they had skills the colonies could use, it was imperative they be contacted about joining.
Even with the knowledge of their bug-out location, Hoisingon, and the skills available to them there, Booker was convinced. The problem wasn't in surviving once they reached the small town, it was the 300 miles between here and there. It would take them eight to ten days to walk there, hours at most in their vehicles.
Sneaking around, he noticed the man was wearing a postal worker's jacket.
He picked up his radio, and called in, "Fire Bird to Cougar Base, Fire Bird to Cougar Base, come back, over."
The postman jumped off and wrapped the reins around a pole. He started fishing around in the bag.
"Fire Bird, this is Ranger. Go ahead, over." It was obviously Jayce's voice.
"Ranger, I have a man on horseback doing recon of the school, over."
"Fire Bird, what is he doing, over?"
The postman flipped through the letters in his bag and then pulled out a pair of binoculars as he muttered to himself.
"Ranger, he is dressed as a postman and is surveying the school with binoculars, over."
"Okay. Fire Bird, I am heading your way now. What's your twenty?"
"I'm on 66th, between Rosehill and Westgate, over."
"Copy that Fire Bird, I am inbound now. Make contact, hold him there. Out."
Booker double clicked the send button to confirm his reception of the message. He stuffed the radio in his back pocket, hefted his axe, and stepped out into the open.
The man in the postal jacket swung around, hand on the revolver at his hip. It was a swing holster, which meant the pistol was now trained on him. Booker congratulated himself on his stealth, but decided he needed to work on his first contact skills.
"Whoah, I don't want to hurt you. Not if I don't have to."
"Then why are you carrying the axe?" the postman asked.
"Because you are in my territory. I wanted to make sure you didn't mean us any harm." Booker nodded at the jacket, "That jacket real, postman?"
"Yeah, name's Driscoll, Roarke Driscoll. How about you, are you really a fireman or did you take that off someone?"
Booker shouldered his axe, "Fire Medic Booker Savage."
Before Driscoll could comment, he held up a hand and said, "Please, no jokes."
Driscoll loosened his grip on the swing holster and allowed the barrel to point to the ground. "What are you folks doing out here?"
Jayce walked up at that point, "I could ask you the same."
"Looking for signs of civilization remaining out here in the suburbs. I half expected to find this place had been burned as well."
"You been tracking the Children of the New Dawn then, I take it," Jayce responded.
"I guess so. I haven't come across anyone who lived to hear their name. Just been tracking the burned out schools, libraries, and tech stores." Driscoll looked at him skeptically, "I take it you are with Mr. Savage over here."
Jayce nodded, but did not extend his hands, "Yeah, you could say that. Jason Forrester, retired Staff Sergeant, USMC. And you?"
The postman extended his hand, "Roarke Driscoll, Postal Worker."
Jayce quirked his eyebrow, "An honest to God Postman, eh?"
"Yeah, I read David Brin's novel a couple years back. He was wrong about the majority of the Preppers, but he was right about keeping the postal service alive though. It's why I am here; I was looking for civilization in the area. Glad to see I found some."
"Where are you basing out of?" Jayce asked.
"Shawnee Mission Med Center."
Jayce started laughing, "Booker, arrest him. He is lieing to us."
Booker swung the axe down and approached menacingly. Driscoll held his hands up, "Wait, It's true."
"Bullshit," Jayce barked out. He had his Winchester in hand at this point. "The hospital was prolly ransacked last month. Within days of the start of the crisis in fact."
"No, it's not. The National Guard has secured the hospitals. Look, I have a letter from Captain Bauers. He asked me to give copies to any groups I came across. He explains what happened here, what he is doing here."
Booker motioned to hand over the letter. Once it was in his hand, he walked over to Jayce and handed it to him in exchange for the lever action rifle Jayce had brought with him. Jayce slit the envelope open with a knife, and pulled the letter out.
It was on Kansas Army National Guard stationary, though that didn't mean anything to be honest. The person who wrote the letter might have stolen it from the armory on the other side of the High School. It was handwritten, which was interesting. Jayce would have figured it would have been typed instead. The signature was obviously in a different hand, something which actually helped to establish the credibility of the letter.
Though Jayce was still afraid it was some looter's trick, he needed to trust this. If a company of National Guard had actually taken up residence at the Hospital, it might still be functioning. And if there were still postmen travelling it might be possible to slow the fall and hasten the eventual recovery. Probably not in Jayce's lifetime, but within his children's lifetime perhaps. It was probably overly optimistic he knew, but if nothing else his grandchildren would live to see a return to some semblance of civilization.
Nodding to himself, Jayce knew he had little choice. "Okay, Mr. Driscoll, come along. We might be able to help you. And I have a letter I need delivered myself."
Inside, Driscoll was astounded by what he saw. This wasn't just some group of people huddling in fear amongst the ruins of the old world, this was a full blown colony of people ready to re-populate the world as soon as they had the chance.
Their supplies were hidden, but what he could see spoke volumes. The few children in the group seemed somewhat happy. They were hungry, but not desperately so, and seemed to be getting along in spite of that. What's more, there were senior citizens who were glancing over casually, and none of them looked neglected or hungry. The adults looked to have slimmed down some, but that could be stress as much as hunger.
This group might be subsisting on lean rations, but there was no desperation in their eyes. They were confident and hopeful. Their questioning glances at Driscoll contained less panic or terror and more the kind of suspicion one gives to a stranger in a bad part of town. When one of them looked at his jacket with the postal service logo on it and nodded, Driscoll felt odd.
He had run into another colony before he got shot by brigands trying to take his horse, and they had all looked hungry and desperate. They had almost attacked him as he rode by, and only relented when their leader threatened to beat them if they hurt the postman. This was a far different situation.
"Everybody gather round." The Marine who had identified himself as Jayce called out. From the glances he got, he was clearly the leader. Driscoll only hoped he hadn't taken leadership by force.
"This is Roarke Driscoll, he claims to be a Postman. He brought us the following letter from a man claiming to be a Captain of the Kansas Army National Guard in charge of the garrison at Shawnee Mission Medical Center." Jayce brandished the letter.
"From Captain Bauers, Kansas Army National Guard. To: Whom it may concern."
"I am pleased you are reading this as it means some semblance of civilization remains within the city. I have secured the hospital and I am pleased to announce that it remains open. While the loss of power means that it may no longer perform many of the procedures we once took for granted, we are still able to set bones, treat infection, and perform minor surgery."
"While I cannot vouch for the other hospitals, KU Med Center, Overland Park Regional, St. Lukes, the Children's Hospital, and the hospitals on the Missouri side of the State Line have each been secured by a Company of National Guardsmen and their families. If you are in need of medical service, we urge you to come and we will treat you and your wounds."
"Signed: Captain Blair Bauers"
Jayce let the gathered colony digest the letter, and handed it to Hollister to read it for himself and pass it around.
"I think we need to make a decision. Do we reach out to the Hospital in case this is real, or do we ignore this for now and pretend we didn't get this letter."
Driscoll gulped. He knew the implied threat buried within that statement. If they decided he was a liar working for a bunch of looters, this could turn very ugly very quick;
A young man Jayce's age with a little girl on his knee spoke up first, "Jayce, I think we both know how important this would be if it's true. I read The Postman because you suggested it, whatever I may think of David Brin."
"And don't forget A Canticle for Leibowitz." The young woman at his side responded, "Or Alas, Babylon."
Heads nodded at that. The man who had identified himself as Booker looked a little more cautious, "I don't know. I wasn't in here when the storm hit like you guys were, I was out there during the worst of the looting early on. I didn't see a single man I knew to be a Postman actually keeping his appointed rounds."
Driscoll winced at that. Most of the postal workers had been all too human and abandoned their rounds. Driscoll had had a partner at the beginning, but he had not heard from Mary since they got separated in the ambush on the other side of I-35. That might have helped instill some confidence in these people if he had. Then again, it might convince them they were bandits. Either way, Driscoll was getting more nervous by the moment.
The young woman who seemed to be Jayce's partner as leader held up her hand, "I know I haven't been out of the High School for much, what with Jayce asking me to act as an arbiter and all, but why not actually send a small delegation up to the hospital to check? Or, if that is too risky, why not just send Arturius? He is the fastest rider in the entire group."
Jayce paused at that. "Good idea, Becca. Everyone, write out your letters and then give them to Becca. Arthur, Booker, go with her and watch her like a hawk."
Becca looked excited though an older woman who looked like her mother was not. "And why does Rebecca have to go?"
"Because she is the most diplomatic person in our group, she is the one who would best represent us, and she is a great judge of character."
Arturius broke in there, "Wait she is? Then why is she dating you?"
Jayce sent him a death glare, but Arturius just laughed, "If anyone will be able to determine if these guys are on the level, it will be her."
Turning, he addressed Driscoll, "If you are lieing to us - or if anything happens to them - I will hunt you down myself, and I WILL kill you. Are we understood Mr. Driscoll."
"Don't call me 'Sir'," Jayce responded as if by reflex, "I have work I have to do."
Oh yeah, Driscoll thought to himself, this guy was definitely a Sergeant in the Marines.
K-7 Highway North to Atchison
21 September 2013
"Well, that was interesting," Driscoll thought to himself as he rode his horse out of town. Thankfully, he had managed to recruit a few of the teenagers at the Hospital too help him out, but this seemed important.
Jayce had mentioned a novel he had never read, A Canticle for Leibowitz, fairly often. It seemed like an important book to him. The letter he had written had sealed the deal.
Jayce had written two letters. One was to Driscoll apologizing for being suspicious, while the other had been a letter for him to take - personally - to the abbey in Atchison. Before the war it would have taken him a couple hours to get there. Now, it would be a full day ride there and a full day ride back.
Driscoll couldn't help but sigh again. At least Jayce had promised him a bar of chocolate and a 50 ml bottle of vodka for every day he was away. Jayce had even handed him a couple First Strike Rations and a gallon of dried corn. This was important to him.
Little did Driscoll know he would be in Atchison for a week and a half due to that letter.