Chapter One by pengxuebo

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									                                              Aftermath

Chapter One

It was called Comet Fenwell. Named for the 18 year old English amateur astronomer who first
detected it as an out of place smudge of light just past the orbit of Saturn, it was an irregularly
shaped chunk of frozen methane, ammonia, and water mixed with a scattering of rock. Preliminary
calculations revealed that it would pass alarmingly close to the Earth after its spin around the sun,
as it headed back towards the deep space beyond Pluto from which it had come. This led to a fever
of religious conversions and mass hysteria in those first few days as reputable scientists gleefully
went on television to explain just what this mass of ice was capable of doing if it actually struck the
planet. Though Fenwell was not a huge comet - it was just a hair over two miles long and just a hair
under a mile wide - the velocity at which it was moving was enough to cause a global catastrophe,
particularly if it struck the ocean.
But after those first tense days things calmed down considerably when, by unanimous agreement of
scientists from across the globe, it was announced that while Fenwell would be CLOSE, it would
still pass more than three thousand miles from the Earth. These same scientists that had stirred up
the hysteria in the first place calmed it by explaining that the course they predicted the comet to
take was based upon Newtonian laws and was absolute. They assured the people of Earth that there
was no guesswork or speculation and no possibility of error. Fenwell would provide perhaps the
most spectacular celestial show in recorded history and would then leave them in peace.
And so while everyone on the small blue planet settled in to watch the glowing tail of the close
encounter that October, none of them realized that their coveted scientific community had made a
terrible, lethal miscalculation. It was just a little error, easily attributed to mankind's lack of
knowledge about the exact makeup of these strange travelers, but it was enough.
Just past the orbit of Mars, solar radiation began to bombard Fenwell with enough energy to
vaporize the outer layer of its surface, sending it outward behind it in the spectacular tail that was
indicative of such objects. Night after night the tail grew longer and brighter as the amount of
radiation striking it increased until finally it trailed across more than ten degrees of the night sky.
Fenwell disappeared briefly as it reached the extreme of its orbit and was pulled around the sun,
reappearing later on the other side, this time with the tail facing towards the Earth. Night after
night, all over the planet, people clustered outside of their homes to see the strangely beautiful
show that was being staged for them. As Fenwell grew closer still it became possible to see the tail
even during the daylight hours under favorable conditions.
When it was just past the orbit of Venus a few scientists began to note that Fenwell was not
EXACTLY where they thought it should be. Though the discrepancy was minute, there really was
not a lot of margin for error when you were talking about only a three thousand mile difference in
orbits. The scientists did not raise any sort of alarm at this time since their calculations still showed
the comet passing more than fifteen hundred miles from Earth's atmosphere. Instead, they tried to
figure out just where their careful and supposedly ironclad calculations had gone wrong. Why
wasn't the comet following the basic principals of Newtonian theory? What had thrown its orbit
off?
The answer, though they would never know it, was thrust. As the comet slowly turned on its axis
while under the influence of the sun's rays, pockets of methane and ammonia would periodically
explode, releasing pressure. These explosions were not noticeable by the many peering instruments
that kept watch on the comet, partially since they were so small and partially since they always
occurred on the sunward side. Individually they did not do much to move the large chunk of ice.
But collectively, day after day, hour after hour, they nudged Fenwell further and further off of its
projected course and closer and closer to a lethal intersection with planet Earth.
Two days before the pass-by, the scientists began to become seriously alarmed by what they were
seeing. Their calculations now showed that Fenwell would pass less than five hundred miles from
the surface of the earth. That was almost close enough to skip through the thin layer of upper
atmosphere! And still they had no idea why the point of passage continued to grow closer. On the
surface of the comet itself pockets continued to intermittently ignite and by twenty-four hours prior
to closest approach it became apparent to anyone with the ability to perform the equations that,
barring a miracle, a collision was inevitable.
The scientific communities of the various nations on Earth all informed their various governments
of the coming impact. Inquiries were made in each case as to whether anything could be done to
either destroy the comet or nudge it to a safer course. In every case the answer was a firm no.
Fenwell was simply too large and moving too fast. So while the various government leaders and
wealthy insiders of Earth tried to make a mad dash to whatever underground place of safety they
had access to, it was decided that there was nothing to be gained by informing the general public of
what was to come. There really was no place for them to hide even if it was possible to get them all
there. Had there been even a little more time, the secret undoubtedly would have leaked. A secret as
horrible and as far-reaching as this one could not have been kept. But there was not more time.
On October 12 - a Thursday in the western hemisphere - Comet Fenwell, moving at approximately
100, 000 mph, impacted the Pacific Ocean 600 miles off the coast of Oregon. Its trip through the
atmosphere took a mere eight seconds to complete, during which time friction heated its surface to
nearly thirty thousand degrees Fahrenheit. This superheated mass slammed through the water and
buried itself in the very mantle of the earth. The release of energy that resulted was so powerful that
the entire world's stock of thermonuclear weapons being detonated at once would have seemed a
child's firecracker in comparison. Rock and sludge from the sea bottom was exploded outward
before falling back to earth hundreds, even thousands of miles away. An actual HOLE, more than a
hundred miles in diameter, appeared for nearly twelve hours in the Pacific Ocean as the tremendous
heat boiled billions of tons of seawater into steam sending thick, gray clouds into the atmosphere.
As more water rushed in to fill this void, it too was boiled away to vapor. Aside from this hole in
the ocean, the impact sent huge tidal waves outward, tidal waves unlike anything ever seen before.
The first set was more than two hundred feet high and moved at nearly the speed of sound. They
would keep moving until they struck something.
The first catastrophic effect to be felt by the inhabitants of the earth came from the shockwaves of
the mantle impact. They traveled outward along the planetary crust, circling the globe in less than
twenty minutes and releasing the pent-up energy from every fault line they crossed. Everywhere
along the surface of the planet, earthquakes erupted on a scale hardly even imagined. In nearly
every country, buildings and bridges crashed to the ground, underground fuel storage tanks
exploded, dams burst. Those that died quickly in this initial disaster were perhaps the lucky ones.
At impact+45 minutes, the west coast of the United States became the first to be struck by the tidal
wave. It rolled in at a height of two hundred feet and moving at 684 mph. As it crossed the
continental shelf it doubled in size and when it reached the actual coastline, it reared up to nearly a
half mile in height. The coastal cities and all their inhabitants - those that had lived through the
earthquakes - were obliterated in an instant as the massive wave destroyed everything in its path for
nearly one hundred miles inland. The great metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San
Diego, home to nearly a hundred million, were erased from the landscape in the blink of an eye,
leaving nothing but a clogged mess of debris and shattered bodies near the wave crest. The cities
further inland - Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, were similarly destroyed by the breaking of this great
wave atop them. In the great central valley of California, where water was already rapidly rising
due to the broken Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom dams, water rushed up the Sacramento and San
Joaquin River channels, funneling into a destructive force that swept away the cities of Sacramento,
Stockton, Bakersfield, Fresno, and the many other small farming communities that dotted the
landscape. Some of the most fertile land on Earth quickly became an inland sea upon which the
bodies of millions of humans and livestock bobbed and floated.
The west coast of the United States was only the first to be struck. Eventually, every sea coast area
in the world would be hit in a similar manner several times as the great waves traveled back and
forth across the oceans of the world, bounding and rebounding like ripples in a bathtub. Most of the
major metropolitan areas of the planet were located either on or within a hundred miles of a
coastline. The earthquakes and the tidal waves alone killed off a sizable fraction of the planetary
population.
But the death and destruction, as horrific as it was, did not stop there. If it had, perhaps civilization
could have been rebuilt eventually. After all, many of the inland cities, though many were heavily
damaged by the earthquakes and dealing with out of control flooding in some cases, were still
standing when the waves finally equalized. Unfortunately for the human race, the greatest
catastrophe was still forming over the impact site and spreading across the globe.
From the hole made by the comet in the Pacific Ocean, immense clouds of seawater continued to
boil away into the atmosphere. In all, before the seawater finally closed the hole by quenching the
tremendous heat, more than two percent of the total volume of water on Earth was vaporized and
sent aloft. These clouds quickly spread out and covered the globe like thick blanket, dumping rain
virtually everywhere and blocking out the sun. The rain promised to continue for months, killing all
crops, flooding every low-lying area, and disrupting the planetary food chain in ways that would
guarantee the extinction of all but the very strongest species.
Sierra Nevada Mountains - 40 miles northeast of Auburn, California Impact+5 days
Brett Adams trudged slowly along through the thick mud on the top of the ridge. With each step
that he took, his hunting boots plunged four inches into the syrupy muck that the ground had
become, forcing him to pull upward to take the next. His camouflage hunting clothes were
saturated and covered with mud and pine needles. He had not been dry since the rain started and he
was on the verge of hypothermia. He was tired beyond belief. Every muscle, every joint throbbed
like a rotten tooth. He was weak from hunger, having eaten nothing in the last five days but a
chocolate bar and some trail mix. He had no idea where he was going or why he was even
bothering to continue on. He constantly shifted the Remington.30-06 rifle on his back from one
shoulder to the other, thinking quite often of simply sitting down, putting the barrel in his mouth,
and pulling the trigger. Why shouldn't he? Everything that he cared about was gone now. Why was
he bothering to keep propelling himself forward?
But somehow he did keep going, his survival instinct a little too sharply honed to allow him to
simply give up. Brett, at thirty-five years of age had lived through five years as a street cop and
four years as a helicopter cop. Before that he had flown Apache attack helicopters in Desert Storm,
striking targets deep behind Iraqi lines while anti-aircraft gunners tried their damnedest to bring
him down. He had once been in a gunfight on the streets of Stockton during his rookie year with the
San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. He had once had the engine of his helicopter die on him,
forcing him into an autorotational landing. His mindset was geared to keep him alive as long as
possible, under whatever conditions or situations he encountered. Though he was racked with grief,
cold and miserable, and quite probably going to die within the next twenty-four hours no matter
what, he kept going. He lifted one foot and placed it in front of the other. He did it again. He kept
moving through the purgatory that he found himself in, wondering why he couldn't have been with
his family when the end came.
The rain had slacked off some in the past six hours. Of course, when you were talking about this
sort of rain, "slacked-off" was a very relative term. It was now only slightly worse than a torrential
downpour of the sort that was normally only seen at the height of a severe thunderstorm. Visibility
was now almost a hundred yards or so. The wind had died down to something like a moderate gale,
no longer packing the power to sweep him completely off his feet, no longer blowing pine cones
and tree branches through the air like deadly missiles. During the first twenty-four hours of this
biblical-like event, the rain had been so thick it had been difficult to breathe at times. Lightening
strikes had flashed and exploded all around the mountaintop like an artillery barrage. Trees had
toppled in the hurricane force winds and then been washed downhill by the mud like toothpicks.
It had been a mudslide that had taken Carl, his best friend. Carl was a San Joaquin Sheriff, just like
Brett. They had met six years ago, when Brett had still been working uniformed patrol. Carl had
been like a brother to him, closer in fact than Brett's own brother had ever been. Their wives
socialized together, their children attended the same schools. The night before the impact, he and
Carl had driven up to nearby Castle Point in Carl's Toyota 4-runner to set up camp for their annual
deer-hunting trip. They had been happy, full of life, contemplating bagging a nice trophy to take
home to their families. That first night of the trip they had stayed up late, often staring at the night
sky, which had been overly bright with the beautiful, gossamer tail of the approaching comet. They
drank beer and cooked their simple meal before retiring to their tents for the night. At 6:00 AM the
next morning, they had set off into the woods to make their kills. That now seemed a different
lifetime. Had that really only been five days ago?
After the earthquake, and after the barrage of flaming rocks and mud had fallen throughout the
forest, setting it ablaze in many spots, they had immediately started back towards camp, concerned
not so much for their own safety as for the safety of their wives and children back in Stockton.
They had intuited that the comet had struck the earth at that point but they had been completely
clueless about just what the ramifications of that were. Global catastrophe is on a scale that most
mere humans can hardly fathom. As they huffed and puffed their way through the woods, dodging
fires here and there, hearing the impacts of rocks slamming into trees, they saw the clouds to the
west of them for the first time. A thick, black, angry front was swelling into the sky, moving
rapidly towards them. By the time they made it to camp, the wind and the lightening had started,
toppling trees and igniting more fires.
They dove into the Toyota, not bothering to pack up camp, terrified at the fates of their loved ones,
and started to head back to Auburn, which would in turn lead them back to Interstate 80. The road
they were on curved slightly upward from Castle Point before twisting and turning its way down to
the foothills below. From the summit of this peak was a clear line of sight out over the Sacramento
Valley. Usually it was one of the most impressive views that Brett could imagine. This time it was
a glimpse through the gates of hell itself.
When they first topped the rise they were able to see the city of Sacramento and its suburbs some
fifty to sixty miles away. Already they were able to see huge areas of flooding caused by the
breaking of Folsom Dam and the release of a half million acre feet of stored water. This first
glimpse of isolated devastation was horrible but it did not destroy all of their hopes like what
happened next. From the southwest, in the direction of the San Francisco Bay area, a huge wall of
water appeared. It moved forward at what seemed a slow rate from their vantage point in the
mountains but it advanced steadily. It swallowed up everything in its path, burying the valley and
turning it into a brown, muddy sea. They watched in horrified fascination as the city disappeared
and the water reached the fringes of the foothills twenty miles below them.
Any illusions they might have had about the possible survival of their families disappeared at that
moment. Though Stockton was forty miles south of Sacramento and well out of their line of sight,
it was in the same valley and at the same elevation. It had been slightly under an hour since the
earthquake had occurred. That was nowhere near enough time for Julie and Summer, Brett's wife
and daughter, or Sandy and Kevin, Carl's wife and son, to get to ground high enough to save them.
Nor was there any way any human could have lived through what they had just witnessed.
Soon after this, while they were still staring at what had once been the home of nearly a million
people, the clouds overtook them. The sun was blotted from the sky, making the early afternoon
daylight fade to an inky twilight. And then the rain began. It did not gradually develop from a
drizzle to a downpour like a normal rainstorm, it simply started. One moment it was dry and the
next it was raining harder than either man had thought possible. Visibility dropped to less than ten
feet and the dirt road quickly turned to an impassable sludge of running mud. As they'd sat there,
trying to cope with the loss of their families, wondering what to do next, the 4-Runner began to
move on its own, propelled along by a river of mud pouring down the hillside above them. They
picked up speed and finally fetched up against a stand of trees, at which point the mud began to pile
up against the driver's side.
Brett made it out, climbing through the passenger side window and up a small rise to safety. He
didn't stop to help Carl out of the car, not out of fear, but because he hadn't thought it necessary.
The situation had SEEMED under control at that point. It was a decision that would haunt him
later. When Carl was halfway out, a huge glut of mud suddenly buried the truck like a breaking
wave, knocking the trees it had been resting against flat. The entire mess had continued down the
hill and over the edge of a ridge, landing in a creekbed that was already raging with brown runoff.
Tons more mud quickly landed atop it, burying Carl and the 4-Runner for all time. Brett had not
even bothered trying to rescue his friend. It would have been beyond futile.
That first night, while the rain continued to fall and the wind continued to blast and the lightening
continued to explode against the ground every ten to fifteen seconds, he had huddled against the
base of a tree, on the upside of a ridge. This had put him at high risk for a lightening strike but kept
him safe from being buried alive by a mudslide. Though he was even then seriously considering
ending it all with his Remington, he had no wish to endure the same hellish death that Carl had.
Since then he had been walking north, inching along through the mud, keeping as close to areas of
thick vegetation as he could to avoid the rivers of mud that continually washed down from the
mountains. Despite these precautions he had almost been swept away several times when slides
passed over a spot where he had just been. As the lightening strikes grew fewer and farther
between, he worked his way onto higher and higher ground, staying out of potential flooding. He
lived off of the two candy bars and the small bag of trail mix that he had in his shirt pocket and his
body began to grow weaker and weaker.
At night, with the thick cloud cover blotting out the moon and all the stars, the blackness was
absolute, broken only occasionally by the odd flash of lightening. During the day it never got
brighter than early dusk or late dawn as the clouds blotted out most of the sunlight. He sensed that,
survival instinct or not, the end was near for him. Either hypothermia or starvation would soon cart
him away to join his family and the billions of others that had undoubtedly died with them. This
was not a particularly unpleasant thought. He almost welcomed the coming oblivion.
Now, five days after the end of the world, running on the very last reserves of strength that he had,
he sat down on the leeward side of a pine tree and ate the last of his trail mix. It was unsatisfying
and unfulfilling but it was all he had. Would it be safe to end it now? Could he concede that further
survival in this terrible new world was an impossibility?
The sound of a gunshot startled him out of his suicidal thoughts before he could bring them to a
conclusion. It was not terribly loud but with the damping effect on sound that the wind and the rain
inflicted, he knew that it had to be close. He looked around him, trying to gauge just where it had
come from. He wasn't sure, and what real difference did it make anyway? So someone was nearby,
shooting at something? What of it? Granted, it triggered his cop's instincts, but he wasn't a cop
anymore, was he? There really wasn't any such thing as a cop anymore.
Another shot rang out, a sharp crack void of any echo. This time he was able to tell where it had
come from. It had issued from just over the ridge above him; a ridge topped with a stand of old
growth pines that had so far managed to survive all that the comet had thrown at them. Two more
shots quickly followed and then a prolonged burst of what could only be an M-16 rifle on full
automatic. He knew that sound from his basic training days in the army. It was very distinctive.
Another, shorter burst followed this and then, faintly though clearly, came a blood curdling scream
of anguish.
It was the scream that got him moving. That had been a woman! Though he was weak and on the
verge of ending his life, though he was no longer a cop in a suddenly lawless world, he could not
deny the cries of a woman in trouble. What the hell was going on over there?
He pulled himself to his feet and unshouldered his Remington, checking to make sure the safety
was off. It was. Next he checked the.40 caliber pistol strapped to his waist. It was his duty weapon,
issued to him by the department to carry at work. He had packed this pistol through five years of
service on the streets and through four years as the pilot of the northern San Joaquin valley's
primary law enforcement helicopter. On hunting trips he carried it both for self-protection and to
finish off any deer that might have managed to live through the initial rifle round. It was a weapon
that he was much more comfortable with at close range than the bulky rifle. It was seated neatly in
its leather holster. He gave it a pat and then put the rifle at port-arms position. He began to move up
the hill.
He moved tree to tree, rock to rock, keeping a close eye before him and to his flanks as he moved.
He saw nothing unusual and heard no further gunfire although he did hear a few more faint screams
and once a barked male voice telling someone to "shut the fuck up, bitch."
As he got closer to the top of the ridge he dropped down to his belly and began to inch his way
forward, crawling along the ground as he had been taught in the army. He wedged himself against
the base of a tree on the summit of the hill and let his head edge slowly to the side. What he saw
down there made him forget his hunger and his fatigue.
About sixty yards down the hill, resting against an outcropping of large rocks, was a camping
trailer. It was about twenty feet long and sitting upright, almost perfectly level, with only a small
mound of mud pushing against the uphill side. That it had come from the public camping area two
hundred feet up the next hill was obvious. Also obvious was the fact that it had been swept down
there when that portion of the hillside had given in to the erosion of constant rain bombardment.
Just beyond the trailer was the telltale swatch of bare, torn-up hillside that bespoke of a recent
mudslide. But how had this single trailer been separated out and spared? Looking at the path that it
had made in its journey, it appeared it had somehow become aligned forward during its trip down
the hill and had managed to roll out of the flood of mud, where gravity then propelled it downward
until it encountered the rocks.
But the trailer itself, despite its almost miraculous existence in the first place, did not hold Ken's
attention for more than a second. In front of the trailer was a group of four men and two women.
The men had M-16s in their hands and sidearms attached to their muddy clothing. They had long
hair and beards and looked, to Brett anyway, like methamphetamine snorting biker types. He had
seen such people many, many times in his career and had taken many of them to jail for various
offenses. They could be very dangerous even when living in a society ruled by civilized law. Now
that the factor of civilization was removed from the equation, they had become infinitely more
dangerous, as was evidenced by what he was seeing below him. He wondered where they had come
by automatic weapons? It wasn't like fully automatic M-16s could be found just lying around.
The bikers were training these weapons on a group of two women and a young boy that were
cowering in fear before the trailer. The oldest of the women looked to be in her late-thirties. The
youngest looked to be a teenager. The resemblance in the facial features of the two told him that
they were mother and daughter. The boy, who had his arms protectively around the younger
woman, was about fourteen and obviously a son. The father of this particular family was no longer
in the picture. This was apparent by the fact that he was lying lifelessly at the foot of the trailer, a
pistol next to him, his body riddled with bullets and covered with blood. That must have been the
bursts of M-16 fire.
"I'll give you anything you want," the mother of the group pleaded with the men. "I'll DO whatever
you want. Just let my kids go. I'll... I'll go with you."
This struck the bikers and even their women, who were unarmed and lagging in the rear, as
deliciously funny. They laughed for the better part of thirty seconds before one of the men said:
"Oh, you're both coming with us mama. We might get around to doing somethin' with you after
we're done with this little sweet piece." He jerked the barrel of his rifle towards the teenager.
"I'm gonna tear me a piece off a that shit right now!" one of the other men declared. "Look at that
shit. I bet she got some nice titties!"
"No," the first one to have spoken said after a moment's reflection. "I get her first. Y'all can have
sloppy seconds. Let's all take a quick piece of her and then we'll see what kinda goodies they got in
that trailer for us."
"No!" screamed the woman, trying to get up. She was forced to sit back down again by four rifles
swinging towards her.
"Take it easy baby," the apparent leader of the group warned mildly. "We wouldn't want to have to
kill you before we had our fill now, would we?"
"You can't do this!" the teenaged girl cried hysterically. "You just can't do this!"
The leader chuckled a little. "We can do anything we want now, sweet piece. The law done blew up
with the comet. Ain't you figured that out yet?"
"What about the little shit?" one of the other bikers asked, pointing at the young boy. "Think we
oughtta just kill him now? He ain't good for nothin', is he?"
While the boy in question trembled in fear and his terrified mother and sister moaned in terror, the
leader seemed to consider this question very carefully. Finally he answered, "Let's keep him for
now and take him back to camp. Zipper and Turbo like to slam little dudes once in a while, don't
they? Reminds 'em of when they was in the big Q."
"I guess you're right."
"I can think of a few uses for him too," said one of the women with a lascivious grin.
"Shut the fuck up, bitch," the leader said, casting an evil glare at her until she dropped her gaze. He
then turned back to the teenage girl. "You ever give a blowjob before, sweet piece?"
Brett watched all of this, unseen from his perch up the hill from them, his mind whirring as he tried
to think of what he could do. He certainly had no desire to stand by and watch a young girl get
raped by a gang of bikers in front of her mother and brother, but he had nothing more than a
hunting rifle and a pistol and they had automatic weapons. He hardly had a chance against that, did
he?
But on the other hand, he had just been willing to take his own life a few moments ago. So when
you came right down to it, what difference did it make if these biker assholes were the ones to kill
him? Wouldn't dying in a firefight to save a helpless family be preferable to blowing his own brains
out? What could be nobler than that?
Though he was not particularly worried about the state of his own skin, Brett nevertheless was not
reckless in his attack. Being shot in the first volley would not help the family down there. Utilizing
his army training and his experience as a cop, he waited, watching the developments below in
search of the best possible time to make his move. It came a few moments later.
"Hold this Ricky," the leader said, handing his M-16 to the biker next to him.
Ricky took it from him and slung it over the opposite shoulder from his own.
"And keep those two in their places," he added next, unholstering a semi-automatic pistol and
walking towards the terrified teenage girl. Beside him, Ricky advanced a few paces and kept his
rifle trained on the mother and the son.
The leader stopped right in front of the girl, towering over her.
"You're gonna do exactly what I say, ain't ya, sweet piece?" he asked, pointing the pistol at her
head.
Before she could answer the mother spoke up. "Just do it Chrissie," she told her daughter. "Just do
it and it'll be over soon. Try to stay alive honey. Just try to stay alive."
The leader glanced over at the mother and grinned, nodding his head a little. "That's right Chrissie,"
he said, unbuttoning his pants and letting them drop. His small cock was already hard. "You just do
what I say and we'll get along real good. You might live long enough to starve to death. Now suck
my cock bitch. And make it a good one."
As a trembling Chrissie leaned forward to do what she had been told, and as her weeping mother
buried her face in her hands, unable to watch the degradation of her daughter, Brett saw his
oppurtunity. Everyone was distracted by the goings on with Chrissie. Though none of them had
dropped their weapons, except the leader of course, it couldn't possibly get any better than this.
He brought the rifle to his shoulder and peered through the telescopic sight. He aimed at the head of
Ricky, the biker closest to the mother and son. He was the most dangerous at the moment since he
was packing two automatic weapons. Brett's scope was designed to sight in on deer more than three
hundred yards away. From a mere sixty yards, Ricky's head, in partial profile and mostly facing
forward, filled the entire field of view. He centered the crosshairs just above his right ear. Though
the wind was blowing at nearly forty miles an hour it was not a particular concern at this range. It
wouldn't throw the bullet off by more than a quarter inch or so. He took a deep breath, whispered a
silent prayer for the lives of the family he was trying to save, and then smoothly squeezed the
trigger.
The rifle bucked against his shoulder and the sound of the shot rolled across the landscape like
thunder. In the scope, Brett saw Ricky's head explode into a spray of blood, brain, and skull
fragments. Before his body even hit the muddy ground Brett was working the bolt on the rifle. The
ejected shell casing shot out to his right and he slammed another round into the chamber. A quick
glance down into the clearing showed exactly what he had hoped to see.
Ricky was down and the other three bikers were still trying to process exactly what had just
happened. They were all standing still, looking up towards him, trying to identify the direction from
which the shot had come. The two behind Ricky, those that still had rifles in their hands, were not
even aiming at the spot.
He quickly sighted on the farther of the two men, centering the crosshairs on the middle of his
chest. As soon as they were steady, perhaps four seconds after the first shot was fired, he pulled the
trigger again. The gun bucked and the second biker suddenly had a hole in his muddy shirt. He
looked almost comically surprised at this for a moment and then he fell to the ground.
The second shot got the bikers moving. The leader and the one remaining man with the rifle, finally
realizing they were in mortal danger, both dove to the ground and began firing up at him. The
leader only had his pistol and his shots were nothing to be concerned about from sixty yards, but
the other biker was firing short, controlled bursts from the M-16. Bullets began to slam into the
mud and the trees around him, sending little sprays of water, bark, and dirt flying through the air.
Brett knew instantly, by the way the man was firing his weapon, that he had military experience. A
novice would not have shot a rifle that way.
He slid down the hill about ten feet and crawled quickly to the left, hoping to catch them on the
right flank before it occurred to them to turn their attention back to the family they were
tormenting. Above him bullets continued to whiz by in groups of three and four, smacking the trees
or flying off into space. He found another tree that overlooked the ground below and inched on his
belly up to it, his body coursing with adrenaline, the rifle dragging behind him.
When he reached his new position he poked his head out a little and trained the barrel of his rifle
down over the scene, looking first and foremost for the biker with the M-16. He saw him
immediately. He was in a crouch, moving right to left towards a stand of trees that would provide
him with relative cover. Yes, Brett thought, this man, despite the fact that he had not reacted to the
first shot, knew what he was doing.
Intending to snap off a shot at him before he reached the tree line, Brett took a quick glance at the
rest of the players before he did so, just to make sure that they were all where he thought they were.
The two women that had come with the bikers were nowhere to be seen, apparently smart enough
to run off into the woods once the shooting started. The leader of the group was crouched behind a
rock, having taken the time to pull his pants back up into the combat position. He was reloading his
pistol with a fresh magazine that he had pulled from his pocket. The young boy was cowering
where he had last been, as was the young girl. But the mother, that was another story.
"Oh shit," Brett muttered, seeing what she was doing, knowing he was helpless to prevent it.
She had decided to take a little initiative in the gun battle by creeping forward and pulling one of
the M-16s from Ricky's body. Crouching next to the former biker and obviously having never fired
a rifle in her life, she socked the weapon into her shoulder and took aim at the leader just as he
made a sprint towards the tree line where the other biker had gone.
She pulled the trigger and unleashed the entire clip at him. It took about four seconds to fire all
thirty rounds. The barrel of the gun jerked upward in her arms and at least twenty of the rounds
flew harmlessly into the air above. But the first five or six rounds cut the leader's legs out from
beneath him as he ran. He dropped sprawling to the ground, his pistol flying out before him, his
body landing facedown in the mud and sliding about ten feet.
This immediately drew the fire of the biker with the M-16. He stopped in his tracks and trained his
weapon on the woman, firing a three-round burst directly into her chest. The rifle dropped from her
hands and she clutched her chest, falling forward over the body of Ricky.
"Momma!" screamed her kids simultaneously, their voices filled with fresh horror.
The biker ignored them. So did Brett. He only had a second or two before his target started running
for the tree line again. He sighted in on him until his torso was the only thing in the crosshairs.
With a smooth tug of the trigger, the bullet was fired through his body, a good portion of his
internal organs spraying out behind him with the exiting projectile. The M-16 clattered to the mud
and a moment later, he joined it, dropping face down.
Brett did not take any time to celebrate his victory or marvel over the fact that he was still alive. He
quickly shouldered the rifle and stood up. Moving as fast as possible in the thick mud, drawing
his.40 caliber as he went, he ran down the hill. As he went past the man with the military
experience, the one who had shot the mother, he put a single bullet into the top of his head, turning
it into pulp and insuring that the man would pose no further threat. He did the same for the second
biker he had shot, the one who had taken a round in the chest at the beginning of the battle. Ricky,
he didn't bother with. Ricky's head had exploded from the thirty caliber round, unequivocally
ending his days of posing a threat to anyone. Besides, the mother of the two children was still lying
over the top of him.
The leader of the group was still very much alive. His legs were both virtually useless, the knees
shot out by the rounds from the M-16, but he crawled relentlessly forward, dragging himself
through the mud towards his .45 pistol that was lying about five feet in front of him. Brett did not
put a bullet in his head. Instead he ran up behind him and put his hunting boot between his shoulder
blades, pushing his head down into the mud.
"Don't move motherfucker," he said, "or I'll stick this gun up your ass and pull the trigger."
The leader stopped instantly, his hands still outstretched.
"I oughtta do that anyway, you piece of shit," Brett told him, pushing a little with his foot. "You
like to rape little girls, do you? How'd you like a nice piece of lead up your ass?"
The biker said nothing. He only whimpered pathetically.
"Roll over," Brett said, stepping back a few feet. "Keep your hands in sight at all times."
He did as he was told, his face miserable with fear. Brett was glad to see it.
"If you so much as twitch, I'm gonna gut shoot you and let you lay here until you die, do you
understand?"
"Yeah," the man breathed, looking up at him with terror. His face recognized something in Brett's,
something he had undoubtedly seen many times before. "You a cop?"
"I'm worse than a cop," Brett told him. "I'm a cop with no fuckin' internal affairs division or
Supreme Court to tell me what not to do. Do you dig it?"
The biker nodded, not saying anything.
"Good," Brett said. He stepped back a few feet, keeping his pistol leveled on the biker and diverting
half of his attention to the tree line where the two women had disappeared. There was really no
telling whether they had been armed with concealed handguns or not and there was really no telling
just where they had gone. He looked over at the two kids that he had rescued. They had pulled their
mother off of Ricky and were cradling her in their arms, sobbing over her. Even from twenty feet
away, Brett could see that she was still alive but fading fast.
He walked over and picked up the pistol that the biker had been trying for. It was a Colt .45, one of
the newer models of a timeless firearm. Its surface was caked with mud. We wiped a little of it
away, unplugging the barrel. On the grip were the initials: EDCSD followed by a serial number.
Brett, as a California law enforcement officer, knew that meant that the weapon had once belonged
to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. Strange.
He stuck it in his belt and walked over to the family after a quick warning to the biker of what
horrible fate awaited him if he moved. The two kids were still cradling their mother, telling her that
she was going to be all right even though it was plainly obvious, even to them, that she wasn't.
Blood was running freely from her mouth and her skin was pale, almost gray. Her breath was
ragged in her mouth. But still she was awake and alert, her eyes locking onto him as he approached.
"Thank you," she croaked at him as he kneeled next to her. "You... saved my... my kids."
"And you probably saved me," he lied, not wanting her to die thinking that she'd done something
stupid. "You're pretty mean with a machine gun."
A faint smile followed by a ragged breath. "You're not... not going to just... take over where they
left off... are you?"
"No ma'am," he assured her. "I'm not like them."
She nodded a little, becoming weaker by the moment. "Take... take... take care of them... for me.
Please?"
"Momma," the girl insisted bravely. "You're gonna be all right! He doesn't have to take care of us.
Right mister?"
Before Brett could answer, the woman answered for him. "I'm dying baby," she said. "It's a new... a
new reality now. Your job is to... to live."
"Momma!" the boy said miserably. "You can't die!"
"Can't help it," she said. "I'm all used up. I'll be with your daddy in a minute." She looked at Brett
again. "What's your name?"
"Brett," he told her. "My name is Brett."
"Take care of them Brett," she said weakly. "Please? They'll die without... without someone to help
them."
And they'll die WITH someone to help them, he did not say. "I promise," he told her instead,
having only the vaguest idea at that moment of what he was getting himself into.
"Thank you," she croaked. She told her children that she loved them and a moment later, her
breathing stopped. She died with a faint smile on her face.

While the two kids cried over their fallen parents, Brett picked up the M-16 that the woman had
fired and looked at it. It was a standard military issue rifle, no different than the ones that he had
fired in basic training so many years before. Engraved on the metal just below the action were the
same initials that he had noted on the .45: EDCSD.
He popped out the empty magazine and stuck it in his pocket, having to struggle to get it to fit. He
then patted down Ricky's pockets, searching for another. He found two of them, one in each rear
pocket, both fully loaded with jacketed rounds. He made a quick check to make sure the action and
the barrel were clear of mud. There was a little bit in there but nothing to be concerned with. This
version of the M-16 had been designed, after all, with conditions like this - mud, water, and rain -
in mind. He slammed one of the magazines into the weapon and jacked the first round into the
chamber. He then fiddled with the selector, turning it to the setting for semi-automatic fire. That
done, he pocketed the other full clip and walked over to where the single surviving biker was still
laying in a pool of his own blood. The biker looked up at him in fear as he approached.
"You know that you're gonna die, right?" Brett asked him, pointing the rifle down at his body. "I
mean, even if I just left you alone here, there's no way you could last for very long in this new
world of ours without being able to walk. Even if your buddies came and got you, even if they
hauled your sorry ass back to camp, I seriously doubt they're gonna waste any precious food
feeding a cripple, right?"
The biker said nothing, only trembled there, his face a mask of pain.
"So if you concede that you're gonna die here," Brett went on, "the only question remaining is
whether it's gonna be an easy death or a hard one." He pointed the barrel of the M-16 at the biker's
forehead. "A head shot would be pretty quick," he said reflectively. "One second you're alive, the
next second you're dead. I don't imagine that you even feel pain, it happens that fast. But a shot to
the groin on the other hand... " He let the barrel drop about eight inches, until it was pointing at the
man's crotch. "Now that would be a miserable way to go. It could take hours, days even. You'd just
lie there in pain while you slowly bled out onto the ground. Hell, I bet scavengers would start
eating you before you were even dead. After all, they gotta be just as hungry as we are."
Brett saw that his speech was having the desired effect. The biker began to shudder uncontrollably.
His face became a mask of horror as he contemplated the thought of coyotes or mountain lions,
insane with starvation, making a meal of him while he was still conscious. "What do you want?" he
asked Brett in a halting voice.
"Information," Brett said simply. "It seems I have a couple of people to watch after for a while and
I'd kinda like to know just what I'm up against out here. Now I'm gonna ask you some questions
and you're going to answer them truthfully and without hesitation. If you lie to me, I'll know it. I've
talked to a thousand pukebags just like you in my lifetime and if there's one thing I know how to do
is tell when a piece of shit like yourself is handing me a line of crap. Besides, you're about to die
anyway, right? What would be the point of lying to me? If we get through this interview without a
lie, I'll put a bullet in your head and end things quickly for you. If you DO tell me a lie however... "
he jabbed a little at the man's crotch with the rifle, making him jump, "... it's semi-automatic
castration, get it?"
"Yeah," he breathed.
"How many of you are there at this camp you mentioned?" Brett asked.
"About thirty or so," the biker replied without hesitation.
"How many men, how many women?"
"Mostly men. We got six bitches that were girlfriends and wives that we managed to pick up after
the comet. We got three more that we snatched from other guys up here. Campers and hunters, you
know. We keep them in one of the tents."
"I see," Brett said, not bothering to ask WHY they were keeping these women in tents. "And what
became of the guys that these women were with before you snatched them?"
He hesitated for a moment.
Brett jabbed at his crotch with the rifle again. "No lies now," he said. "Remember the penalty."
"We killed them," the biker said, almost defiantly. "We killed them and took their supplies."
Brett simply stared at him for a moment, enraged at what he heard though not particularly
surprised. As a cop he had always instinctively known that he and his colleagues were the only
things standing between civilization and the sort of savagery that this man represented. Now he had
proof.
He took a deep breath, calming himself, resisting the urge to end the interrogation right then by
means of a bullet. "And just where IS this camp in relation to this spot we're in now?" he asked
when he felt he had regained control.
"About half a mile that way." The biker raised a hand and pointed off to the east. "We grabbed
some Arctic tents from a sporting goods store in Placerville before we headed up here. They stand
up pretty well to the wind and the rain. Especially since we put 'em in a grove of big-ass trees."
About half a mile to the east, Brett thought reflectively. That was higher ground up there, more
trees and less mud. Was a half a mile close enough for his fellow bikers to have heard the gunshots
from the recent battle? Were they even now on their way here to see what had happened, or would
they have to wait until to two women who had fled made their way back? He didn't know, could not
guess just how far sound was capable of traveling in these horrid weather conditions. But common
sense told him to assume that they HAD heard. They wouldn't have much time.
"Where did you get these guns?" Brett asked next. "They belonged to the El Dorado Sheriff's, didn't
they?"
"Yeah," the man said, again hesitating.
"So how did you get your hands on them?" he demanded.
The biker took a deep breath. "From the arsenal at the ED-triple C," he said, using the local slang
term for the El Dorado County Correctional Center. This was a county jail facility where inmates
sentenced to less than a year were housed. "All of us in our group were inmates there when the
comet hit. The guards let us out when they realized what was goin' on. They said they didn't want
us to drown like rats."
"That was awfully decent of them," Brett said, feeling a fresh rage creeping through his body. "And
you repaid them by... "
"We killed most of them," the biker reluctantly admitted. "There was only eight of them and there
was almost fifty of us. Some of the guys didn't get in on it and they went their own way. But me
and my guys... well... we knew we had to have guns if we was gonna live and we knew there was a
shitload in the armory there. You can't blame us for that, can you? It's survival of the fuckin' fittest
out here now. How could we just walk away and leave all them guns behind?"
"I'm real tempted," Brett said through clenched teeth, "to gut-shot you and leave you here to die
slowly. I'm real tempted."
The biker said nothing, simply looked upward in fear.
"But I'm a man of my word," Brett said next. "I don't have much in this new world, but I can still
keep my fucking word. Even to a sub-human piece of shit like you. Good-bye asshole. I sincerely
hope there's a hell so you can rot there."
He backed up a few feet and pointed the barrel of the rifle at the biker's head. The biker closed his
eyes, awaiting his oblivion. It came a moment later when Brett squeezed the trigger, unleashing a
single shot that punched a hole in his forehead and blew his brains out the back of his head. His
days of raping teenage girls were over.

The two kids, still sitting by the bodies of their parents and sobbing, looked up at the sound of the
rifle shot, jerked back to the reality that they now found themselves in. They looked at Brett
fearfully as he walked over to them, the Remington and the M-16 both slung over his shoulders.
"Are you... are you gonna... hurt us?" the girl, Chrissie, asked softly, her eyes cast downward. It
was hard for Brett to tell for sure but it looked like, under all the dirt and mud that covered her, she
might be pretty. Her eyes, though haunted by what they had seen, were a pale blue, the color the
sky had once been before the comet. Her hair, which was mostly tucked under a filthy brown hat,
was light blonde in color. The shape of her body was impossible to guess at under the bulky
clothing she wore, but it seemed she was neither overly chubby nor overly thin.
"No," Brett said, kneeling down next to them, these two kids he had suddenly been put in charge of.
"I'm not gonna hurt you. Whose trailer is this? Are there any supplies we can carry in it?"
"You killed that man," she said, ignoring his question. "You shot him."
"I killed all of them," he told her. "They would have killed you and your brother just like they did
your parents if I hadn't. Does it bother you that I did that?"
She thought about that, sniffing a few times while she mulled it over. "No," she finally said. "I'm
glad you did it. I'm glad they're dead. Thank you."
"Anytime," he assured her. "Anytime. Now, we need to get moving out of here real quick-like. Is
this your trailer here?"
"We found it the day after the rain started," she told him. "Our camper got washed down a hill. It
almost killed us all but we got out before it went over a cliff. We started walking and we came
across this one. The owners didn't seem to be here so Daddy broke into it. We've been staying in it
ever since. Why do we have to leave it? It's shelter."
"Because it's a magnet for people like this," he said, indicating the sprawled bodies of the bikers.
"Why do you think they attacked you in the first place? This place just screams out for any passing
dirtbags to pillage it. And my guess is that there are a lot of desperate dirtbags out here. That's in
addition to the thirty or so other bikers that are part of the group that these ones came from. If
they're not on the way here now, they sure as hell will be soon."
"We'll stay here," the boy, speaking for the first time, said defiantly. "Leave us a couple of those
guns and we'll fight them off. This trailer is ours. No one is going to force us away from here."
Brett looked at him pointedly for a moment. Like his sister, it was difficult to make out his features
very well, so dirty was he and so bulky was his clothing. He had light brown hair, the same color as
that on the head of his dead father. "What's your name kid?" he asked.
"Jason," was the reply.
"How old are you Jason?"
"Fourteen," he said toughly.
"Well Jason, I'm thirty-five. I've spent time in the army. I'm a combat veteran of the Persian Gulf
War. I've been a cop for the last eight years. With all of that experience at fighting and shooting,
even I would not try to defend this fixed, highly visible target from a group of bikers armed with
automatic weapons. It's suicide."
"We'll manage," he said. "No one's asking you to stay here. I just want a couple of those guns."
"Jason," his sister broke in. "I think we should... "
"Shut up Chrissie," he said angrily. "I know what I'm doing."
"No you don't," Brett told him. "If you stay here, you're going to be killed, probably within the
hour. I promised your mother that I would take care of you. You need to come with me."
"I don't think that she meant we should... "
"Look goddammit," Brett jumped in, taking a step closer. "I'm sorry about your parents, I really am.
I lost my entire family to this comet as well as my best friend. You'll forgive me if I seem less than
compassionate with you - its not really my nature - but we don't have time to sit here while you
posture and whine at me about this fucking trailer. We need to get moving as soon as possible and
I'm not going to allow you to stay here, with or without guns. I'll drag your ass out of here
forcefully if that's necessary. So let's drop this worthless discussion about staying or going. We're
going. Do you understand?"
"You don't even know us," Jason cried, holding his ground. "Why do you care what happens to
us?"
Brett had to admit that the little shit had huevos. "What else do I have to care about?" he asked in
reply. "Twenty minutes ago I was all alone and about to blow my brains out, to give up. Now, a
couple of people need help and I'm the only one around who can give it. I can't turn my back on
you now. I couldn't do it even if I hadn't promised your mother that I would. We're all probably
going to die anyway, and soon, but if there's a chance for you two to live for a while, I'm it. Okay?"
Reluctantly he nodded, his tough expression fading a little.
"Good," Brett said. "And if you want to live, you're gonna have to let me make the decisions here
and you're gonna have to do what I say, when I say it. Little boys aren't going to be able to cut it.
You need to be a man. All right?"
"All right," he mumbled, taken, as Brett had known he would be, by the challenge to "be a man."
"Good enough. Now, what kind of supplies do you have in that trailer?"

As it turned out, the trailer was a virtual treasure-trove. Whoever it had belonged to before the
apocalypse, they had stocked it with enough canned food and dry goods to last for a while. There
were nearly a hundred cans of Chef Boy-R-D pastas, Campbell's soups, various vegetables and
fruits, and even pie filling. There were bags of rice, beans, flour, sugar, coffee, and powdered milk.
There were vitamin pills and aspirin and Tylenol. There was even, glory of glories, two bottles of
Jack Daniels and a half a case of Budweiser.
"There IS a god," Brett said, seeing all of the supplies.
The two kids both had backpacks which Brett directed them to fill with as much of the canned and
vital dry goods as they could fit in there. He dumped out another backpack, which had belonged to
their father, and began to fill it as well. Even with all three filled to capacity, there were still
numerous supplies left over. Brett would have liked to haul them out of the trailer and bury them
somewhere for a rainy day (no pun intended) but he felt the time slipping away from them. Any
moment a group of armed bikers could come bursting out of the forest.
He rolled up the sleeping bags that were in the trailer, noting with satisfaction that they were the
waterproof kind, and tied one to each backpack. Into his he carefully slipped six of the beers and
both of the bottles of JD. Strictly for medicinal purposes, he told himself with a grin.
"Okay, let's get out of the trailer," he said, once they were ready. "One last thing to do before we
go."
After they stepped outside, packs firmly upon their backs, Brett went and collected two of the rifles
and pistols. He searched each body for ammunition, finding a total of six magazines of M-16
rounds and eight of .45 rounds. He shoved all of it into his backpack along with the cans.
"Do you guys no how to use guns?" he asked them.
They both shook their heads. "Our dad doesn't... uh didn't believe in guns," Chrissie said sadly.
Brett raised his eyebrows a bit and looked at the .38 pistol that was lying next to his body. Chrissie
followed his gaze over there. "It wasn't his," she explained. "He found it in the trailer. When the
men came he pointed it at them but they just laughed. He fired at them a few times when they kept
coming and they... " She couldn't continue.
"It's okay honey," he said soothingly. "Your dad was obviously a very brave man. He tried his best.
But in any case, you guys need to take these." He handed each of them an M-16, after removing the
chambered rounds of course.
They took them very doubtfully. "I don't know how to fire this," Jason said. "I've never shot a gun
in my life."
"Me either," Chrissie echoed.
"I'll teach you everything you need to know about them later," he said. "I was always in favor of
gun control before. There was simply too many goddamn weapons out on the streets. If you'd a
asked me last week, I would of said melt down every last one of them, including mine. But now,
this is the kind of world where you're gonna have to learn how to shoot if you wanna stay alive. For
now, just lug em. Sling 'em over your shoulders like I have."
They did as he asked.
"And take these too," he said, handing each of them one of the holstered .45 pistols. "Run the
holster through your belt."
When they were all armed up and ready to go the kids took one more look at their dead parents,
tears falling from their eyes. Chrissie had asked Brett if they could bury them before they went but
he vetoed that idea. There simply wasn't enough time. And so they left them there, lying beside the
dead bikers.
"Goodbye Momma, goodbye Daddy," Chrissie said as they walked away. Jason looked over his
shoulder once, but offered no words of parting. Both of them were sobbing as the campsite faded
from view behind them.

Two hours later they were nearly a mile north of the camper, having trudged mostly uphill to where
the woods were thicker and the problem of landslides was not as severe. Brett had a full stomach
for the first time since the impact. After leading his new charges out of the zone of immediate
danger he had stopped for ten minutes and inhaled a can of cold ravioli. That greasy, tinny tasting
concoction of pasta, processed meat, tomato sauce, and imitation cheese had already been written
into the log of his brain as the finest meal he had ever consumed. He had eaten every last scrap,
even going so far as to run his finger over the inside of the can to gather up the stray sauce. Now,
with food in his belly and working its way into his malnourished bloodstream, he felt himself a new
man, full of energy, ready to take on the world and everything in it.
"Can we take a rest for a few minutes?" Chrissie asked as the reached the top of the latest hill. They
were in an area of dense forest and underbrush. Many of the trees had been knocked down by the
wind but most were still standing, towering above them and rocking gently back and forth.
Brett was in the lead, taking the point on their journey, his M-16 locked and loaded and held out
before him. He stopped and looked at them, seeing that they were on the verge of exhaustion.
Though they were younger than him and had been better fed over the ensuing week, they probably
were not accustomed to lugging fifty pounds of gear uphill through the mud. "Sure," he told them,
pointing to a fallen log that was half buried in the mud. "Let's take ten. I could use a breather
myself."
Chrissie and Jason unshouldered their packs and set them down in the least muddy place they could
find. They set their unloaded rifles down next to them and then planted their weary bodies on the
log. Brett, after setting down his own pack, grabbed a seat on another fallen log a few feet away.
He kept his rifle cradled in his lap.
Chrissie put her hands in the small of her back and pushed her hips forward, stretching out her
spine. There was an audible pop as she reached the limits of her stretch. She grimaced a little and
then took her baseball cap from her head, freeing her blonde hair. It was damp and spotted with
mud, the bangs and the ends knotted in stringy lumps from the lack of recent care. She ran her
fingers through it a few times before bunching it back up and replacing the hat. Her face, though
dirty and rapidly acquiring the thousand-yard stare of combat fatigue, was pretty and had an
undercurrent of innocence about it. It was a face that boys had probably pined after not too long
before, that they had dreamed of kissing.
They had not talked a lot on their journey so far, the effort of movement making idle conversation a
waste of precious energy. Now that they were at rest however, Brett made an effort to get to know
his new friends.
"Where are you two from?" he asked, directing the question at no one in particular, but looking
more towards Chrissie.
It was she who answered him. "Berkeley," she said softly. "Dad was a professor at the university."
Brett nodded. "And what brought you up here? Wasn't it a school day when the comet hit?"
"We come up here every year at the beginning of hunting season," she told him. "Mom was a
wildlife photographer. When the hunters started filling the woods, all of the deer would go into the
national forest to get away from them. That was when she got her best shots." She sniffed a little at
the memory.
"Yeah," Brett said, feeling a pang of sadness of his own. "I came up here for the start of hunting
season every year too, although I was always on the other side of the national forest boundary. It's
kind of funny, isn't it? How we're alive now just because of an annual tradition?"
"Yeah," she said bitterly. "Real funny."
"Were you both in high school there?" he asked next, trying to ease the subject to a less painful
track.
"I was a junior," Chrissie said. "Jason was a freshman. I was gonna study medicine when I got to
college. UC Davis has a top-rated medical school. I guess that's not really gonna happen now,
huh?"
"I guess not," he said.
"What IS going to happen to us Brett?" she asked next. "Is there anyplace we can go, anything we
can do? There had to be someplace safe, doesn't there?"
He sighed, wishing she had not asked that. It was a question that he hadn't even wanted to ask
himself. "I think civilization on planet Earth is pretty much over," he told her.
"Over?" Jason said. "How can it be over?"
"Most of the major cities are probably gone along with all of the people in them. For those that
were anywhere near the coast, that's a given. For those that were inland, well, people build cities
near rivers so they have a water supply and a means of transporting goods. They build them on low,
flat ground. Those rivers are all swelling up to ten, twenty times their normal size because of all
this rain. Those that weren't swamped in the initial strike when their dams broke are now probably
underwater from torrential flooding. Without those cities, there is no structure to base society on. A
lot of people probably survived the impact - I imagine there are groups like us all over the place -
but they're scattered all over and soon, they're going to start starving. There will be no crops, no
food production or transportation, no organization of any kind. Everything has collapsed to rubble."
"So are we all going to die then?" Chrissie asked. "Are we going to starve to death when we run out
of food?"
"Millions of people will," he said after a moment's consideration. "But that doesn't mean that we
have to be among them. Are you familiar with the theories of Darwinism?"
She scoffed. "Are you kidding? My dad's a college professor at Berkeley. I've heard about Darwin
since I was in kindergarten."
This got a laugh out of Brett, the first he'd had since flaming rocks and mud had started to fall from
the sky. "I see your point," he said. "Anyway, we're living in a Darwinian system now. There is no
law, there is no civility. There are no hospitals or schools or jobs. There is only survival of the
fittest. I think that the human race can survive this little episode. Eventually these clouds are going
to clear away and we'll be able to grow food again. We'll be able to rebuild a society and start
feeling safe again. But the ones that are left to do that are going to be the ones who can live through
the next year or so. In order to live through the next year, we have to be strong enough and smart
enough to keep ourselves alive in a world that wants us dead."
"And how do we do that?" Jason wanted to know.
"It's simple," Brett said. "Food is life. We have to find a way to keep eating even though there is no
more food being grown or produced. As you can see from the little stock you found in that trailer,
there is food in cans to be had. The trick will be finding it and keeping others from taking it away
from us."
"And how are we going to do THAT?" Jason asked next.
Brett offered him a cynical smile. "As soon as I figure that out," he said. "You'll be the first to
know."

They continued to work their way northward throughout the rest of the day, stopping every hour or
so to rest and regain their strength. They saw no one although several times they came across the
remains of tents, trailers, and SUVs. In each case they made a search for usable supplies and in
each case they found someone had been there before them, stripping away anything that was even
remotely useful. These findings served to confirm Brett's belief that there were other survivors all
around them.
As they went north, heading towards the Auburn Ravine section of the mountains, they continued
to climb higher and higher in elevation. The mudslides ceased to be much of a danger as the foliage
grew thicker but the temperature also dropped, chilling them in their wet clothes. Through it all the
clouds overhead remained thick enough to block out the majority of the sunlight and the rain
continued to fall in a steady downpour.
Just before dark Brett found them a place to camp for the night. On the leeward side of a rocky hill
he was able to build a lean-to of sorts out of thick branches from a fallen pine tree. Once it was
complete it was almost undetectable as a man-made object unless you happened to be standing
right next to it and the inside was relatively free of dripping water. Brett directed the two kids to
store their backpacks and their guns against the rock and to spread their sleeping bags out in a line.
They shared a family sized can of chicken noodle soup for dinner, taking turns using the spoon
attachment on Brett's Swiss Army knife to ladle the cold broth into their mouths. Afterward, Brett
took the empty can and set it where the rain was falling, holding onto it with one hand to keep it
from blowing away. Less than five minutes later, the can was full of clear, sweet water that had
been boiled upward from the heat of the comet five days before. They passed this around,
rehydrating themselves until it was empty. Brett then refilled it six more times and poured the
contents into their canteens.
"How do you know so much about, you know, surviving? Building shelters and all that?" Chrissie
asked him as he poured the last canful into a canteen. They were all three sitting under the shelter
of the lean-to, looking out at the forbidding and rapidly darkening landscape.
Brett shrugged, tossing the can to the side and fishing into his sleeping bag. After a moment, he
pulled out one of the bottles of Jack Daniels. "I grew up in Sacramento," he said, breaking the seal
and twisting the cap off. "My dad used to take me camping and hunting a lot when I was a kid.
Usually right up in this neck of the woods. He taught me a lot of stuff, like the lean-to for instance,
in case I was ever lost in a snowstorm or something. A lot of the other stuff I learned from the
survival school I had to go to in the army."
"Survival school?"
He nodded, taking a large swig out of the JD. He wasn't much of a hard alcohol drinker and the
liquid burned like fire as it went down his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. But at the same time he
felt warmth spreading through him for the first time in forever. The fact that it was false warmth,
that it was actually making him more prone to hypothermia, seemed a trivial matter. "Aviator's
survival training," he said when his pallet was clear. "It was designed to teach us how to survive if
we were ever shot down behind enemy lines. They taught us all about evasion techniques and
living off the land and then they dropped us into the woods by ourselves and made us do it while
people tried to find us. It was pretty intense training. They called it hell on earth back then." He
scoffed a little, taking another swig. "They obviously had no idea what hell on earth really meant."
"You flew airplanes in the army?" she asked, hugging herself with her arms to combat the cold.
"The army doesn't have any airplanes," he told her, taking one more swig. He could feel it going to
his head now, making him buzz pleasantly. "They only have helicopters. I started off flying the
Kiowa; that's a little Bell Jet Ranger like the police departments fly. Its job is to seek out targets for
the combat choppers. I did a little time in the Blackhawks too; those are the transport choppers.
Finally, they gave me the job I really wanted. My last two years I flew the Apache. It's an attack
helicopter that goes after enemy armor. That's what I flew in the Gulf War." He shook his head a
little, remembering who he was talking to. "Christ, you two were in kindergarten during the Gulf
War, weren't you?"
"I was in first grade," Chrissie said seriously, as if that made a difference.
Brett laughed. "God, I'm getting old. Now I know how my dad used to feel when he talked about
Vietnam."
"How many ragheads did you kill?" Jason, speaking for the first time since dinner, asked. "In the
war I mean?"
Brett looked at him, seeing something like life in his face for once. "I didn't kill PEOPLE in the
war," he said. "I killed tanks and armored vehicles and radar sites. I did it from three and four miles
away, or actually, my gunner did."
"But there were people in those tanks," Jason pointed out.
"Not as far as I could see," Brett answered, offering the justification that he had used back then.
"It's real easy to kill someone when you don't have to see them. I got in a gunfight once as a cop but
I didn't hit anyone. When I shot those bikers today, that was the first time I ever killed anyone at
close range. I didn't like it much. I didn't hesitate to do it, but I didn't like it."
"They deserved it though," Chrissie said. "They killed our parents."
"Yes," Brett agreed, taking yet another swig of whiskey, "they did. That makes it justifiable. That
makes it a little easier on my conscience. But that doesn't make it enjoyable. Not at all. Try to
remember that as we go on here. There may come a time when you kids have to kill someone with
those guns I gave you. Don't hesitate if it's necessary, but don't be surprised when you feel guilty
about it later."
While they contemplated that thought, Brett screwed the cap back on the JD and stashed it next to
his backpack. Though the temptation was to drink until he passed out, he refused to give in to it. He
had people to take care of now. A hangover the next morning would not be a good way to do that.
"We'd better hit the sack," he said. "Let's try to get to the edge of the canyon tomorrow so we can
get a look at what we're dealing with. Auburn and Colfax are across the canyon. If there's any sort
of civility left in the world, maybe we'll find it there. And if the bridge across the canyon is still
intact, maybe we'll be able to get there."
"Do you really think there might be?" Chrissie asked hopefully, no doubt thinking about warm
hotel rooms and pancake breakfasts in the diner.
"No," he said simply, having made a vow not to lie to them, "but it's worth a look, isn't it?"
On that note, they began to get ready for bed. Brett set his rifle down alongside his sleeping bag
and then unstrapped the.40 caliber pistol from his belt, laying it next to it. Before he got any further
in his ritual, he noted with alarm that the kids were fully intending to climb into their sleeping bags
as they were.
"Whoa," he said, holding up a hand in the rapidly encroaching darkness. "You aren't going to get in
your bags while you're wearing those clothes, are you?"
They looked at him in confusion for a moment. "What?" Jason finally asked.
"What else would we do?" Chrissie contributed.
"Strip," he said simply.
"Strip?" they said simultaneously.
"Everything off," he confirmed. "If you climb in there like that, you're going to get the inside of
your bags all wet and muddy. Pretty soon they'll mildew. Not only that, but you'll be a lot warmer if
you're not wet."
They looked at each other and then at him for a moment, both clearly embarrassed at the very
thought.
"Chrissie," he said, rolling his eyes a little, "you go first. Go out and pee if you need to and then
take your clothes off and climb in your sleeping bag. Jason and I will turn the other way while you
do it. Trust me on this, you'll be a lot happier if you're dry in there."
Only after several more minutes of cajoling and convincing did she agree to do as he said. She
hiked out into the rain and out of sight for a moment to relieve her bladder and then came back to
the lean-to, a sheepish look on her face. Jason and Brett, as promised, turned their heads away from
her. From behind them came the sound of a belt buckle being undone and then clothing being
pushed forcefully down.
Brett, looking out at the dim landscape outside, didn't see a thing. But listening to the young girl
undress behind him, he became aware of her for the first time as something other than someone that
he was trying to look after. He found himself wondering what just what her breasts looked like.
Would they be nice and firm? Would they be small? Did they have pert little nipples? What would
her pubic hair look like? Would it be blond, like her hair?
Knock it off! he told himself before these thoughts spun completely out of control. She's a sixteen-
year-old girl! Half your age! You used to arrest people for doing what you were just thinking
about! You shot four men who were thinking about doing it less than eight hours ago! He managed
to drive the thoughts underground but they didn't bury themselves very deep. When he took off his
own clothes a few minutes later, while Chrissie was snuggled in her sleeping bag, dutifully turning
her head to the side, his penis was a turgid mass of flesh, sticking out before him. It remained in
that state until long after he drifted off to sleep.

Breakfast the next morning consisted of a can of Vienna sausages followed up by a can of syrupy
orange slices. It wasn't exactly bacon and eggs but it kept their stomachs from growling too
noticeably. Before heading off for the day's hike through the muddy woods, Brett spent a few hours
making the two kids familiar with the M-16 rifles they were carrying. He instructed them in
assembly and disassembly, making them do both several times until they got the hang of it. He
showed them how to load the weapon, how to eject unfired rounds from the chamber, and how to
clear the action if it became jammed. He had them dry fire at various objects, getting them used to
the sights and the feel of the weapon. Unfortunately, the most important part of the lesson, shooting
the damn thing, could not be accomplished very well without seriously depleting their ammunition
supply. He allowed them to fire three rounds apiece at the culmination of the lesson, setting up an
empty can on a stump twenty yards away and challenging them to hit it. To his surprise, Chrissie
potted it neatly through the center on her first shot.
"You're a quick learner," he said, impressed.
She smiled sweetly, glowing in his praise and clearly quite proud of herself as she went to go pick
the can back up and replace it. Her next two shots were also on the mark. Jason turned out to be a
quick study as well. He missed by about eight inches or so on his first shot but was able to knock
the can down on both of his successive tries. In all, Brett considered the lesson to be time well
spent and the ammo expended an acceptable loss. If nothing else it got them accustomed to the kick
and the noise of their rifles and built their confidence up about their abilities to hit something. It
wasn't the same as shooting at a human being that was shooting back, and they were certainly a
long way from being properly trained in safety, combat techniques, and a thousand other things, but
it was better than nothing. At least they could return fire in a fight and reload their weapons. If they
didn't panic, that was, something that remained to be seen.
"Okay," he said, picking up his backpack and his own rifle and donning them. "You've earned the
right to load your weapons. Keep them locked, loaded, and on single fire whenever we're on the
move from here on out. Remember, if someone starts shooting at us, the first thing you want to do
is get down on the ground. Make yourself as small a target as possible. Understand?"
They both told him that they understood.
"And please," he admonished, giving them one final piece of instruction, "don't accidentally shoot
me, all right?"
They both promised that they would not do that.
"Let's move out then before some curious person comes to see what all the shooting was about."
They moved out, Brett, as always, taking the point, his apprentices in a triangular formation behind
him, their weapons gripped like his.
Brett had come on his hunting trip with an expensive, hand-help GPS receiver that was capable of
fixing his position within ten meters of any given spot on the earth. It was touted as the most
reliable and sturdiest device of its kind, even coming with a lifetime guarantee. Apparently
however, its designers had not considered the fact that thick, comet-produced clouds would block
all of the satellite signals that it used to orient itself. He had thrown it away as useless, excess
baggage shortly after Carl's untimely demise. Now he relied on his backup navigation device - a
trusty army surplus store compass that his dad had taught him to use long before the world had
even heard of a global positioning system. He checked it every few minutes to make sure they were
continuing to head in a generally northward direction. He was glad that he had been in the habit of
carrying the compass in his hunting clothes. Without it he might very well have ended up leading
them around in circles since the clouds, in addition to blocking the GPS signals, covered every
other navigational reference available. It was impossible to even tell where the sun was in the sky.
Several times as they picked their way forward, moving over mudfalls, around downed trees, and
crossing over swollen creeks, Brett looked back to see either Chrissie or Jason weeping softly. It
was understandable. Their parents were less than a day dead and they were heading off to an
unknown fate with a total stranger. It would have made him weep on occasion as well. He offered a
few words of comfort to them during their breaks but otherwise left them alone. Their grief was
something that they were just going to have to work through themselves.
It was about an hour after lunch when they first heard the roar coming from the direction of the
canyon. It was a low, bass rumble, similar to thunder, that grew louder and louder the closer they
came to it. By the time they reached the rim of the canyon it was so loud that they could barely hear
each other.
The Auburn Ravine was a deep cut across the Sierra Nevada mountains and its foothills that had
been formed by the north fork of the American River. From where they stood on the rim, the
bottom of the canyon was about five hundred feet below them, down a steep cliff. Ordinarily the
river at the canyon bottom was a mere trickle during the autumn months, slow enough and shallow
enough to walk across. Now, it was not so much a river as a raging torrent of floodwaters draining
down from higher in the mountains. The entire bottom third of the ravine was filled, wall to wall,
with turbulent brown water rushing at high speed towards the Sacramento Valley and the sea that
had formed there. Thousands of uprooted pine and sequoia trees were propelled along in this flood,
bashing into each other and sometimes smashing against the rock walls hard enough to snap them
like twigs.
"We can't get across that!" Chrissie yelled over the roar, her eyes staring in fearful awe.
"No," he agreed. "I never thought that we would. But maybe there's still a bridge intact. There was
one at Auburn and one at Garden Home a little further up the hill. Both are high enough above the
bottom of the canyon so the floodwaters can't reach them. If they survived the earthquake then
there's a good chance they're still intact."
"Which one should we head for?" Jason wanted to know.
"The Auburn bridge is closer," he answered, having already thought this through, "but the Garden
Hill one is newer. They only built it a few years ago. It's probably a lot more likely to still be there.
Garden Hill is also a lot more likely to be intact itself. It's on high ground and there are no rivers
running through it."
"Will there be people there, you think?"
"It's possible," he allowed. "Garden Hill was mostly a bedroom community for people who worked
in Sacramento but liked to say they lived in the mountains. It was kind of a ritzy place. I don't know
how welcoming they'd be to strangers, but it's worth a look anyway."
"How far?" Chrissie asked.
"I don't know exactly because I don't know exactly WHERE we are. All my maps got buried with
my friend. But I think we're probably about twenty miles southwest of it, give or take a few."
"How long will that take?"
"A week or so at this pace," he told them. "We should have enough rations to last us until then."
"And if there's nothing there?"
"Then we come up with a plan B," he said.
They seemed to accept this.
"C'mon," he said, waving them away from the canyon. "Let's backtrack a little until we can hear
again. I don't like being deaf."
They trudged back the way they had come until the roar of the water in the canyon was nothing
more than white noise. They then began to parallel the rim of the ravine.

As dark approached Brett taught the kids how to build the lean-to shelter, instructing them in
everything from how to pick out the proper spot to how to pick out the right branches to use. The
end result of their efforts was fairly respectable. It didn't leak very much, mostly due to it's
positioning rather than its construction and, most important of all, it was extremely difficult to see
as anything other than a naturally occurring deadfall against some rocks.
Jason, after eating his portion of dinner, went directly to bed, obviously quite exhausted from his
second day of lugging a pack. He had them turn their heads while he stripped off his wet clothing
and then he climbed into his thick, arctic sleeping bag. He placed his coveted rifle next to it,
positioning it exactly as Brett had the night before. He gave them a quick "good-night" and less
than five minutes later he was snoring away.
Brett stayed up a little longer, watching the night conquer the landscape and drinking one of the
cans of beer he had taken from the trailer. Chrissie, though she looked, if anything, even more tired
than her brother, stayed up with him. She sat beside him near the edge of the shelter, her legs
crossed Indian-fashion.
"Can I have one of those?" she asked timidly after watching him take a few swigs.
He looked over at her pointedly, giving her a parental stare.
"Oh come on," she said, rolling her pretty blue eyes at him. "It's not like I haven't drank a beer
before. I'm sixteen for Christ sake."
"I'm sure you're a woman of the world," he said sarcastically. Nevertheless, he reached into his
supply and pulled out a can for her. Who was he to dictate what she could and couldn't do? He
wasn't her father. Besides, what was the harm? If she lived long enough to develop a drinking
problem that would be a blessing, wouldn't it?
"Thanks," she said, taking the can from his hand. Their fingers touched for an instant as the transfer
was made and Brett was jolted a little by the contact. Even that brief, innocent touch of fingertip to
fingertip seemed to stir something within him. He fought the sensation down, forcing it to the back
of his mind.
They drank in silence for a few minutes, not looking at each other, only staring out towards the
distant roar of the canyon, watching the rain. It was a companionable silence, not the least bit
awkward.
"It's funny," Chrissie said at last, after having drunk most of her warm beer, "how overwhelming all
of this is, isn't it?"
He looked at her, seeing that she had taken her hat off, letting her blond hair spill free. "What do
you mean?"
"I mean everything that we've lost," she said. "It's not just my parents that are gone, it's everything.
My whole life, all of my plans, everything that I liked to do. I won't ever go to school and see my
friends again. They're probably all dead. I won't get to go to the junior prom this year. I had a
bitchin' dress all picked out and everything. I even had an idea that Tommy Morgan was going to
ask me to it." She shook her head a little. "Just a week ago, that was the most important thing in my
life. That was all I thought about, that and the cheerleading routines that we were working on. And
look at me now. I'm up on a mountain with half the world destroyed, carrying a gun and wondering
if I'm even going to be alive next week, worrying that some biker will kidnap me and rape me like
that last one tried to do."
"You've been forced to grow up a little faster than what you were meant to," Brett said, reaching
over and brushing a lock of her hair out of her eyes. "But you're doing a great job of it so far. Jason
too. Most adults would have gone insane after what you've been through this last week, seeing your
life destroyed, seeing your parents killed right in front of you, but you've hung in there. You should
be proud of yourself."
"Thanks," she said, sniffing a little. "For everything that you've done for us. I'm so glad you found
us and helped us. You make me feel safe."
"Well, let's hope I'm not just creating an illusion for you. I'm trying to teach you guys to be able to
carry on yourselves if anything happens to me. Remember what I said about this new world."
"It's a Darwinian world now," she dutifully repeated. "And don't you go talking like that. We're not
gonna let anything happen to you."
He didn't bother pointing out the fallacy of her words. He could see that she realized it without
being told.
"Tell me about your family?" Chrissie asked him suddenly, changing the subject.
He sighed, draining the last of his Budweiser. "I'd rather not," he told her. "It hasn't been long
enough yet."
"Talking about it helps," she said, scooting a little closer to him. "Really, it does."
Another sigh. Chrissie, despite her age, was very insightful into matters of the heart it seemed. "My
wife's name was Julie," he said quietly, not looking at her as he spoke. "She was a nurse at St.
Joseph's Hospital in Stockton. She worked in the emergency room there. I met her about five years
ago, just before they assigned me to the helicopter. I was working a day shift patrol car and I went
to the hospital to go take an assault report from someone that had been taken there. Julie was the
charge nurse. We started talking while I waited for the victim to come back from surgery. After
that, I made a point of always looking for her whenever I went to that hospital. It wasn't too long
before we were dating."
"A nurse huh?" she said. "Was she pretty?"
"She was very pretty," he replied, able to see her face before him as clearly as if she were standing
there. "And more important than that, she was able to relate to me, to what I did for a living. Cops
have a really high divorce rate because our spouses usually have a hard time understanding the
pressures that we go through. But Julie was a nurse in a busy emergency room. She dealt with a lot
of the same people that I did. We got along real well together. Maybe we weren't storybook
soulmates or anything like that, but I loved her an awful lot." He wiped at a tear that was running
down his face. "We had one daughter," he went on after a moment. "She was two years old,
would've been three in about two more months."
"What was her name?"
"Summer."
"I like that name," Chrissie said.
"I didn't at first," he said, a few more tears running down. "I wanted a more traditional name like
Susan or Cindy or Michelle. But Julie liked Summer and she laid down the law with me. Women
really are the rulers of the planet you know? So Summer she was and of course the name grew on
me really fast until I couldn't even imagine her being named anything else. She was really a daddy's
girl. I used to take her to the park every one of my days off when the weather was nice, I used to
take her on the back of my bike when I went for rides. She used to tug on my shirt and giggle when
we went down hills."
He sniffed a little, wiping more tears from his face. "Julie was probably at work when the comet
hit. St. Joseph's was right smack in the middle of downtown Stockton, more than forty miles from
any high ground. Summer would have been at my parent's house in Lodi. They watched her on the
days that we were both at work or when I was on my hunting trips. Their house wasn't any closer to
high ground. Carl and I saw the water come rushing into the valley from Castle Point. If there's a
God up there, he's got a rather twisted sense of humor, having us be up there at that exact moment."
Chrissie leaned over and put her arms around him, hugging him to her, resting her head on his
shoulder. Instinctively, his arms came up in return, rubbing and patting her back. Though it was an
innocent hug of comfort that they shared, there was no denying that an undercurrent of sexuality
was there as well. Brett felt the press of her breasts against his chest through their wet clothing. He
felt her warm breath on his neck. Despite the haunting images of his wife and daughter that he had
just invoked, or perhaps because of them, his penis stiffened within his pants and he felt a wave of
powerful lust for the teenage girl sweeping over him.
He tried to fight this feeling down again but this time the battle was futile. Though his wife was less
than a week dead, his daughter with her, though Chrissie was half his age, he was forced to admit to
himself that he wanted her. He wanted to take her in his arms and make wild, passionate love to
her. With that admission came a vow that he would never act upon these feelings. Despite the
recent events that had pushed her maturity to a premature evolution, she WAS still a child. If he
were to take advantage of her just because he could, wouldn't that put him in the same category as
the men he had shot the previous day? Wouldn't he be abandoning his morality just because there
was no penalty for doing so? He would NOT do that. He would NOT.
As they broke apart from their embrace, Brett could see plainly, even in the rapidly diminishing
light, that Chrissie had been as affected by it as he had. A blush had crept across her face and neck,
raising goose bumps. Her eyes were shining at him in wanting and arousal. He knew that if he
leaned in and kissed her at that moment, she would not pull away from him.
He successfully resisted the urge and they returned to their previous positions next to each other.
They talked of inconsequential things for a few more minutes, until the light was completely gone
from the landscape, and then they went to bed.
Like the night before, Brett was able to hear, though not actually see her undressing for bed. He did
not have to turn away from her this time though. The absence of any light made that an unnecessary
precaution. He stared right at the spot, only two feet away, where the rustling of clothing and the
jingling of a belt buckle were audible. He heard the whisper of wet cloth against her legs as she
pulled off her pants. He heard her shiver a little as she pulled off her heavy shirt, her undershirt, and
her bra. He discovered that he could smell her. It was a wet, musky odor of girlish sweat, very far
from unpleasant. He wanted to reach out and put his hands on her body, to touch her, to feel her
flesh against his hands.
But he didn't. When she was safely in her sleeping bag he excused himself, claiming he had to take
one last leak before turning in. Moving entirely by feel, he walked thirty feet away from the shelter,
out into the driving rain and the wind. He unbuttoned his pants and pulled his rigid cock free,
grasping it in his right hand. As he stroked himself he thought of Chrissie; of the feel of her breasts
against his chest, of the way they would feel bare against his hands, of the way she had smelled just
before climbing into her sleeping bag, of how it would feel to slide into her tight warmth. The
orgasm that resulted came quickly and with a power that he was unaccustomed to. His knees
became wobbly and he fell to them, spurting his seed upon the wet ground.
By the time he stumbled his way back into the shelter, Chrissie was sound asleep, her breathing
deep and regular. Feeling more than a little ashamed of himself now that he had relieved the
pressure, he stripped off his own clothes and set them to the side. He climbed into the relative
warmth of his arctic sleeping bag and made himself as comfortable as possible on the rocky
ground. Though he was exhausted, it was a long time before his troubled mind allowed him to
sleep.

They made almost five miles the next day, moving steadily uphill and keeping the roar of the
canyon at a low rumble to their left. Though they saw no other human beings as they trekked over
rises and through gullies, they saw plenty of signs that others were nearby. They saw old food
containers, a few lean-to structures such as the ones they slept in, even the remains of a failed
campfire once. Brett suspected that others were leaving them alone because of the firepower they
were packing. Having the entire group carrying military assault weapons like they knew how to use
them was a great deterrent to anyone who spotted them and thought about trying to take their
supplies.
That was all fine and dandy to prevent direct assaults upon them, but what about an ambush? Most
of the people stuck up here had probably been hunters. That meant that most of them were probably
carrying hunting rifles. Would it occur to someone to try and take them out from cover, such as the
way he had taken Ricky and the others out? If a person was hungry and desperate enough, it just
might seem a good gamble. And people WOULD be hungry and desperate. As they had moved
along Brett had seen precious little that could be used as food. They had seen plenty of dead and
rotting animals along their way but not many living ones. Not even squirrels or raccoons, perhaps
the most abundant pre-comet life forms in the mountains besides bugs, showed their furry faces, let
alone deer or bears. If he and his group had not secured canned food from the trailer, they would be
starving now as well.
He could think of no way to counter this perceived threat of ambush other than to keep a sharp eye
out for anyone tracking them or following them. Such a person would more than likely shadow
them for a while, waiting for the best opportunity to strike. Brett knew that if the attack were to
happen, HE would be the first one shot, probably through the head during one of their breaks. It
would be quite obvious to anyone plotting against them that he was the leader of the group and the
most dangerous one with his rifle. He did not mention any of these fears to Chrissie or to Jason, not
seeing any advantage in it, but he did obsessively check their rear and their flanks as they hiked.
The fact that he saw nothing did not make him feel any better.
As they went, he continued to instruct them on basic combat techniques applicable to small unit
action in a wooded environment. He made them learn hand signals, various voice commands, and
the difference between cover and concealment. He explained about covering fire, shooting and
moving, and flanking maneuvers. Most important of all, he explained to them how to make a
fighting retreat.
"We're not trying to hold any ground here, you understand?" he said. "Our objective is to stay alive.
In any fight situation, if we can get the hell out of where we're at, then that's what we'll do."
As had been the case with their firearms instruction, he realized that he was not exactly giving them
a complete knowledge base. Nor was there any real way to have them practice the techniques since
he figured that staying in one place for any length of time was just too dangerous. But, as had been
the case with teaching them how to use the M-16s, it was better than nothing. Perhaps, if push came
to shove, the things that he had taught them would save them and keep them from panicking. You
had to take any advantage that you could get in this new world.
They made camp that night a little earlier than usual, while the meager light that penetrated the
cloud cover was still in the earliest stages of its long fade to black. Again, Brett had the kids pick
out the spot and construct the lean-to. He was gratified to see that they required little instruction
from him during this second attempt. While they were working on it he walked around the
perimeter, checking out every conceivable vantage point that an enemy (which, in his mind,
consisted of anyone who wasn't them) might use to spy on them and plot an attack from. He found
nothing amiss.
As he had done the previous night, Jason went directly to bed after dinner. Brett wished him
pleasant dreams and told him, in a man to man voice, to keep his weapon close by, just in case.
Jason very seriously assured him that he would do just that. Brett had realized as the day had gone
by that Jason was developing an attitude very much like hero worship towards him. He tried to do
everything as Brett did it; the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he carried and stored his
rifle. This attention sometimes made Brett feel proud but mostly just scared him. He was no hero.
He was simply a man trying to survive.
Again, Chrissie stayed up with Brett after her brother had gone to sleep, staring out of the shelter at
the approaching darkness and listening to the water roaring through the canyon. Their conversation
was not nearly as somber as it had been the night before. They stayed away from the subjects of
dead family members and friends, of the dead world they now lived in, and talked instead of neutral
things.
"So it sounds like you were one of the high school elite," Brett told her as he sipped from his
customary can of beer. "You were a cheerleader, honor roll student, I bet you were homecoming
queen too, weren't you?"
"I was NOT the homecoming queen," she giggled, slapping playfully at his arm.
"No?"
"No," she confirmed. "I was runner-up."
"Ahh, so you were a loser then, were you?"
They had a laugh about that for a moment and Chrissie took a few sips out of her own beer. "What
about you?" she asked him, edging a little closer to him. "Were you a preppie back in high school?
Were you in the happening clique?"
"No," he told her, noting her lateral motion but doing nothing to discourage it. "I was actually part
of the stoners."
"The stoners?" she said, disbelieving. "But you're a cop."
He shrugged a little. "You'd be surprised how many cops and nurses and paramedics and firemen
came from the stoner clique in school. I stopped smoking it when I graduated and that's why the
department didn't reject me when they did the background check, but I probably smoked a pound or
two in my glory days. I went through the majority of my junior and senior year in the freakin'
stratosphere. My grades were barely high enough to let me graduate. If I hadn't of tested so high on
the ASVAB the army wouldn't have even accepted me into flight training when I signed up. I
almost ended up a grunt instead of a pilot."
She looked at him in wonder, her blue eyes shining. "It's hard to imagine you as a stoner," she said.
"You're so serious now."
"I'm serious because survival depends on it. Catch me sometimes when we're NOT in the middle of
a global catastrophe and you'll notice a startling difference."
They shared another few moments of companionable silence, during which Chrissie took the
opportunity to inch even closer to him, until her left hip and leg were in contact with his. Without
stopping to think much about the ramifications of his actions, Brett put his arm around her
shoulders, pulling her against him. She cooed a little and snuggled into him, her head resting on his
shoulder.
"This feels nice," she said softly.
"It does, doesn't it?" he replied, feeling pleasant chills surging through him as he felt her closeness.
The chills were accompanied by a strong sensation of guilt. What, his mind demanded, did he think
that he was doing? Why was he putting his arm around the girl he had vowed not to touch the night
before? Why?
Almost before he realized it was happening, he was kissing her. She turned her face up to his,
offering an expression of surrender as old as the kiss itself, and he responded to it, touching his lips
to hers. Their kisses were gentle at first, light pecks of affection. But gradually they became deeper,
more passionate. They lingered sweetly and he allowed the tip of his tongue to poke out and touch
hers. At this first contact of tongues she twisted in his arms, turning her body into his. Her arms
came up around his neck, pulling him tight against her. Once again he felt her breasts pressing
against his chest through their shirts.
He pulled his mouth from hers in fear and guilt, breaking the kiss but not letting go of her with his
arms. He saw desire in her eyes, wanting. "We can't do this," he whispered, feeling himself
trembling in her arms, feeling his erection building in his pants, feeling his resolve already slipping.
"We can," she whispered back, sliding her hands up and down on his back. "It's all right. I like it
when you kiss me. I WANT you to kiss me."
He shook his head weakly. "You're just sixteen," he said. "I'm more than twice your age."
"So what?" she said. "I'm a woman and you're a man. We don't have anyone else. What's wrong
with what we're doing? Who does it hurt?"
"It hurts you," he told her. "I'd be taking advantage of you."
"I don't feel like I'm being taken advantage of," she said, giving him another soft kiss on the mouth.
"I feel like I want to do it some more."
"Chrissie... " he started.
"It's not like I haven't done this before," she said next. "I know what I'm doing and I'm old enough
to know who I want to do it with. Now kiss me. Please?"
He opened his mouth to give her a firm "no" but she covered it with hers, sliding her tongue back
between his lips. It was only a second before he became lost in her embrace, his resolve not just
slipping but free falling to a nasty death. He pulled her tightly against him and kissed her back,
swirling his tongue against hers, sucking it gently into his own mouth.
They kissed for more than five minutes, both of them rapidly heating up as their passion built and
then he let his lips slide down to her neck. He began to kiss the soft flesh there, nipping at it with
his teeth, giving it gentle sucks and licks, unmindful of the occasional speckles of mud that he
encountered. She purred in his arms, her arms dropping down to his lower back.
"Why don't we get in our sleeping bags now?" she panted in his ear as his own hands slid beneath
the back of her shirt, feeling her bare skin.
He had one last moment of doubt that was abruptly squashed when she began to unbutton her shirt.
The white T-shirt that she wore beneath it rode up a little, baring the skin of her midriff and
exposing her belly button to him. Though he still felt it was wrong, though he still felt he was
taking advantage of her, the sight of her pale, smooth stomach in the fading light decided him. He
wanted her as bad as he had ever wanted anyone before, even Julie. He wanted her and she was
willing to give herself to him, so he would have her.
He watched her undress for him, not making any move to take off his own clothing just yet.
Underneath her T-shirt she wore a simple black sports bra. It molded to her breasts, accenting the
fact that her nipples were hard beneath it. She gave him a nervous smile, clearly unaccustomed to a
man watching her disrobe, and then she pulled it over her head, baring her breasts. They were as
close to divine as a set of breasts could be. About the size of grapefruits, they sagged not an inch,
standing up firmly and proudly as only the mammaries of teenage girls can do. They were capped
with pink aureoles that were barely darker than the surrounding flesh itself. The nipples were small
but rigid, just begging for his mouth to suckle them.
"You're beautiful Chrissie," he told her, letting his hand reach out to run over her right breast. She
took in a sharp intake of hair as his palm crossed the nipple.
"Thank you," she said, blushing, breathing quickly.
After kicking off her muddy boots and her filthy cotton socks, she lay on her back and began to
unbuckle her pants. She snapped the button open and pushed the zipper down, revealing the front of
her panties beneath. They had once been white but seven days of constant exposure to mud and
water had turned them a dirty brown. Brett didn't mind. He grabbed the waistband of the pants and
pulled, bringing the pants and the panties down in one motion until she was able to kick them off.
She now was completely naked before him, lying on her back; her beautiful cheerleader's legs
lightly spread. Her pubic hair was only a light covering of blonde fuzz, just a half shade darker than
that on her head. He could see that her vaginal lips were swollen with arousal. The odor that he had
noted the night before struck him again, only more powerfully and with a heavier tint of sexual
musk.
"Come on," Chrissie breathed, lust in her eyes as she looked at him looking at her. "It's your turn.
Take your clothes off."
He did just that. While he removed his boots, socks, and shirt, Chrissie unzipped her sleeping bag
all the way and crawled inside of it. When he pushed his pants and underwear down, freeing his
straining cock from its confines, she leaned up on one arm, her eyes locked onto it. She reached out
with one hand and grasped it, feeling its girth, sliding her palm up and down lightly on it. It felt so
good that Brett just held in place, letting her masturbate him.
"Come to bed," she said, patting his sleeping bag, which she had pulled next to hers after flipping it
over to make sure the zippers were both on the same side.
He nodded, taking a quick look at Jason, her brother's presence occurring to him for the first time
since they kissed. He was still sound asleep, snoring softly, completely oblivious to what was going
on right next to him. That was good, Brett thought as he unzipped his bag and climbed inside.
They let their two sleeping bags overlap each other, in effect creating one big sleeping bag. Brett
pulled her to him, feeling her naked breasts against him, feeling her soft legs touching his. He slid
his hand up and down her back as their mouths came back together and their tongues found each
other once more. As the kiss deepened, Brett slid his hand down to her butt, touching it, feeling the
firmness of her cheeks. Her hand reached out to find his cock again and she began sliding it up and
down softly.
He kissed his way down her neck to the hollow of her throat, spending a moment there before
continuing his journey downward. His face rubbed over the swelling of her breasts and he let his
tongue reach out and lick between them before he kissed his way to the nipple of the nearer one. He
took it between his lips, tonguing it gently and then suckling it. Chrissie moaned softly from above
him, continuing to caress his cock, her free hand on the back of his neck, encouraging him.
After several minutes of attention to the left breast, he switched to the right, pulling himself a little
further atop her. She rolled over onto her back to allow him freer access. He took advantage of this
position by letting his hand slide over the front of her thighs. Though her calves were somewhat
scratchy due to the lack of shaving, her thighs were baby smooth and very feminine. He stroked
them with his fingertips, moving from the knees to the upper thighs and gradually forcing his hands
in between them. She spread her legs for him as she felt his hand traveling towards her center and
soon he was touching the junction between her inner thighs and her crotch. He let his fingers slowly
explore her. They moved through kinky pubic hair and across soft, velvety outer lips before finding
the warm wetness of her inner lips. She moaned again as he touched her there and then again as he
slowly slipped his middle finger inside of her. Her sex was saturated with her musky juices and
very tight. He could feel her muscles clenching at him strongly, gripping his finger. He added one
more finger and began to slowly push and pull, sliding them in and out, up and down. He let his
thumb lightly touch her erect clitoris and she jumped, squealing a little.
"Shhhh," he whispered, bringing his head back up to her face and kissing her lips. "Wouldn't want
your brother to wake up now, would we?"
"Sorry," she whispered back, in a voice that was not quite steady.
Their lips came back together as he continued to move his fingers in and out of her. After several
minutes she loosened up slightly and her hips began to rise and fall in a gentle rhythm. He kept up
the manipulation of her clitoris with his thumb and soon she was panting against him, her hands
clawing at his back.
"Mmmmm, oohhhhhh, oohhhh god," she groaned into his mouth. Her thighs tightened against his
hands and her pelvis rose forcefully upward. He kept her mouth covered with his own until her
spasms died away.
"Oh my god," she whispered excitedly to him, kissing his cheeks and his face. "I've never felt
anything like that before."
"You've never come?" he whispered back, slowly freeing his dripping hand from her sex. He began
to stroke her stomach.
"Well, yes, I have, but never like THAT. I've never had anyone make me come before. I've
always... well... you know?"
"Played with yourself?" he asked, sucking gently on her bottom lip.
"Yeah," she breathed. "Sometimes I would. But you did it with your hand. And it felt so much
better than the ones from MY hand. My GOD."
"Are you ready for another one?" he asked her. "A real one."
"Yes, oh yes."
He rolled his body upward, positioning himself atop of her. He had to do it entirely by feel since,
while they'd been warming up for the main event, the light had abandoned the sky for the night,
leaving them blind. This made Brett a little apprehensive since he could no longer look over to
make sure that Jason was still asleep, but not apprehensive enough to stop.
Her arms came up around him again and her legs opened up, allowing him to fall between them. He
took his erection in his hand and rubbed it slowly through her wetness, lubricating it for the coming
festivity in a most pleasurable way. Below him he could feel Chrissie trembling.
"Are you okay?" he asked her, giving her a gentle kiss on the lips. "We can stop you know. It might
even be better if we did. What if I get you pregnant?"
"No," she said immediately. "I don't want to stop. And if I'm still around in two months to worry
about being pregnant, I'll gladly accept the consequences. Do it to me Brett. Do it to me."
He did it to her. He put the head of his cock between her soft lips and pushed forward slowly.
Despite the abundance of natural lubrication he had to force his way inside of her, she was that
tight. It took a while to accomplish but soon his entire length was gripped within the snugness of
her clenching sheath. He felt her sparse pubic hair mingling with his. He felt his balls resting
against her butt.
"Ohhh," she cooed in his ear. "Sooo big. So good."
He knew that he wasn't really particularly big, just average, but he didn't bother correcting this
notion at the moment. He began to move within her, keeping it slow so as to avoid waking up Jason
(assuming he was still asleep). Very quickly the going became easier as her body adjusted to
having him inside of her. Soon he was moving in a delightful friction, a tight, slippery channel that
seemed custom designed for his pleasure. Though Julie, his wife, had been an expert at making
love to him, Chrissie had the tightness and the allure of youth in her corner. Though she was clearly
without much experience, and though she couldn't hold a candle to Julie's techniques at movement
and gripping, he had to admit to himself that the actual sensation of intercourse with her was better
than anything he had ever felt before. He could revel in the pleasure of her body for hours.
The factor of Jason kept him from driving into her as he truly wanted to do. Instead, he kept it slow,
using gentle, steady strokes designed not to make much noise or rustle the sleeping bags. It was a
tender, almost hesitant act, though no less passionate than an unrestrained one.
When Chrissie began to buck up and down with her second orgasm, Brett once again covered her
mouth with his, sucking her tongue to keep her from moaning aloud as the waves of pleasure
overtook her. The uncontrolled spasms of her tightness against him as she came pushed him over
the edge of his own control. He felt the inevitability of his own orgasm building in his groin,
moving up and down his spine. His hips began to move faster, driving with more power and now
creating the noise that he did not wish to create. But he could not help himself. To not thrust
potently in her body was impossible.
This time it was Chrissie who kept HIM from moaning with her own mouth. She brought her legs
up around his back, pulling him even harder against her. The spasms began and soon he was
unloading thick jets of sperm into her body, plastering her cervix and overfilling her to the point
that it ran out onto the fabric beneath them.
Slowly the last vestiges of orgasm departed, the strokes slowed to a halt, and their breathing began
to return to normal. They lay against each other, kissing softly, their bodies bathed in a sheen of
sweat that quickly gave them chills. The entire lean-to, despite the ventilation from the openings on
the side, reeked of sexual musk. Chrissie reached up and pulled the sleeping bag tighter around
them.
For the longest time they simply held each other, enjoying the sharing of their body heat, his
wilting penis still nestled within her sopping opening. Finally Chrissie broke the silence. "I think
the inside of my sleeping bag got wet," she said quietly to him.
This gave them the giggles, the sound of which they covered by putting their lips to each other's
necks.
"Are you sorry for what we did?" Chrissie asked him when their laughter dried up.
He didn't answer her right away, he only laid there atop her for a moment, trying to examine just
how he felt about what had happened. "I don't know," he told her at last. "Ask me in the morning."
"Okay," she said softly. "But in the meantime, can you hold me for awhile?"
"Sure."
He pulled himself off of her, rolling onto his back and she laid her head on his chest. His arms
came around her, crossing protectively over her back. Within minutes, both of them were asleep.

Go To Chapter 2 -->

Chapter Two
Brett awoke, as always, to the sound of rain and wind outside the lean-to. That was nothing
unusual. What was different however was the fact that instead of shivering alone in his sleeping
bag, he had a warm body lying atop him. Chrissie's head was snuggled into his chest, her blonde
hair cascading over his shoulder. Her right arm was clinging to his upper torso. His own hands
were still wrapped protectively around her back, his fingertips against her smooth skin.
He groaned miserably as he remembered the events of the previous night. What had he done? He
had violated a sixteen-year-old girl! That was statutory rape. Rape! A week ago he could have been
thrown in prison for doing such a thing, and he would have deserved it. Brett, though a cop, had not
been a fanatic on the subject of many of the laws that he had enforced. Some of them he had
recklessly violated himself. He had been known to drive his car considerably faster than what was
legal on a regular basis. He had been known to drink a beer while behind the wheel. He had
routinely fudged deductions on his income taxes. He had taken home batteries, flashlights,
mapbooks, and several other useful items from the department supply room. But when it came to
sex crimes against minors, he had always been a firm believer in the law that declared those under
the age of eighteen to be hands-off. It was a good law, designed to protect young girls from people
like... well people like himself. And now what had he done? He had slept with Chrissie. Just
because the threat that the law represented had been removed he had done something that he
believed, that he KNEW was wrong. What kind of man did that make him? Was he any better than
the bikers he had shot?
He opened his eyes slowly, noting that it was just past dawn. The meager light that marked the
daylight hours was just starting to show itself, allowing him to see Chrissie's blond head on his
chest and the slanted roof of the lean-to above him. Chrissie, feeling him stir a little, opened her
own eyes and looked up at him.
"Hi," she said meekly, offering him an embarrassed smile.
"Hi," he returned, finding it difficult to look her in the eye.
"That was the best I've slept since... well... you know."
Brett did not admit to her that it was the best the HE had slept as well. He let his arms fall to his
side, releasing her from his embrace. "We'd better pull our sleeping bags apart," he said. "Jason will
be up soon and I wouldn't want him to see us like this."
She didn't move for a moment. "Brett?" she said, her face troubled. "Are you okay? You're not...
mad at me, are you?"
"No," he told her, shaking his head. "I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at myself."
"You don't have to be upset," she told him. "What we did was... "
"Wrong," he interjected. "What we did was wrong and I should have known better. Come on, let's
get separated."
Reluctantly she raised herself off of him allowing him a tantalizing and tempting glimpse of her
breasts dangling beneath her for a moment. He did his best to ignore the sight and to try not to think
about how those breasts had tasted and felt the night before. As he slid out from underneath her,
trying to work his way fully into his own sleeping bag, he looked over the top of her, checking on
Jason, expecting to see him still snoring away. Jason, a typical fourteen-year-old boy, was always
the first to bed at night and the last to rise in the morning. But this time, as luck would have it, he
was not. He was leaning on one elbow, looking at the two of them.
Brett froze in place, a jolt of adrenaline surging through his body as he realized that he had been
caught. Could this morning possibly get any worse? Would Jason pick up his rifle that he had been
so recently taught to use and shoot the man that had raped his sister? That was certainly in the
realm of possibilities, wasn't it?
Chrissie, noting Brett's sudden halt in movement, looked over her shoulder to see what he was
looking at. She too froze in place, so surprised that it took her a few moments to realize that her
breasts were exposed to Jason's eyes. When she did realize this she slowly reached down and pulled
the sleeping bag tighter against her chest.
How long did the moment last? Brett was not sure. It seemed an eternity that the three of them all
stared at each other. Brett tried to read Jason's face and found it impossible. There was no
expression to be read. It was as if he was looking at a baseball card or a pine cone.
"Morning," Jason finally said, his tone strangely normal.
"Uh... good morning," Brett answered slowly. Chrissie said nothing.
"Did you guys sleep good?" he said next. "I know I did. I think I'm starting to get used to sleeping
on rocks."
"Really?" Brett asked, feeling a little like he was in the Twilight Zone. What was happening here?
Wasn't Jason upset?
"Yep," he said, nodding. "Would you guys mind turning around so I can get dressed? I gotta pee."
"Uh... sure," replied Brett.
"Yeah... okay," echoed Chrissie. Both of them dutifully rolled over to the other side, hastily moving
as far apart as they could in the process. Brett had a sudden worry that this was how Jason was
going to kill him; by having him turn his back to him. He listened for the clacking of a gun being
picked up. It didn't come, only the sound of Jason's clothes jingling.
"Man," Jason told them as he dressed, "I really hate putting these wet clothes on in the morning.
Talk about cold."
Neither Brett nor Chrissie had any sort of answer to offer him. It took him the better part of five
minutes to get fully dressed.
"Okay, I'm done," he said.
They both turned to look at him again. He was carefully threading his belt through the pistol
holster, positioning it neatly on his right hip at exactly the angle that Brett always did. He gave it a
pat and then picked up his rifle. "I'll set out the cans from dinner last night so they can fill," he said
as he wormed his way out the side. "We're starting to get low on water in the canteens again."
"Uh... sure. Good idea," Brett told him, staring after him as he disappeared in the rain. He then
turned to Chrissie. "Did that just happen?"
"That was kind of weird, wasn't it?" she agreed. "I mean, we were totally busted. There's no way he
didn't see us."
"It was like he didn't even care," Brett said, shaking his head in wonder.
Chrissie shrugged a little. "Well," she suggested, after a moment's thought on the matter, "maybe he
doesn't."
"What?"
"Well, think about it. Why SHOULD he care? I'm his older sister, not his girlfriend or his daughter
or anything. My dad or my mom probably wouldn't have liked finding us very much, but Jason is
younger than I am."
Brett rubbed his temples a little, massaging at a tension headache. "Too much to think about right
now," he mumbled, sitting up and grabbing for his own clothes.
"Brett," Chrissie said softly, putting her hand on his bare shoulder.
He looked over at her, knowing what she was going to say, desperately wanting to avoid it.
"What about us?" she asked. "Don't you think we should talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about," he said firmly. "I shouldn't have done that. I took advantage of you
last night and it was wrong."
"I don't feel like you took advantage of me," she said. "I wanted it as much as you did."
"That's beside the point."
"No it's not!" she insisted. "Don't you like me Brett?"
"Yes Chrissie," he sighed. "I like you a lot. I like you TOO much. You're a very beautiful, very
smart girl and I am very attracted to you. That's what the problem is. You're too young to be having
sex with a thirty-five year old man."
"Says who?" she asked him.
"Says me! What I did goes against everything that I believe in."
"Everything that you believe in is gone now," she said quietly. "You told us that yourself. It's a
completely different world now with completely different rules. We could die at any time. Isn't it
more likely that we're going to be dead in a month than that we're still alive?"
"Chrissie," he said, "I hardly think... "
"Isn't it?" she interrupted forcefully.
"Yes," he admitted. "I suppose it is."
"Then why shouldn't we enjoy a little affection while we're still alive?" she asked him. "Who is it
harming? It's not harming me. No one is going to come and put you in jail for it. Why shouldn't we
do it?"
"Why shouldn't we go and kill people who have food if we need it?" he countered. "Why shouldn't
I have raped you at gunpoint the other day instead of protecting you? We can't just go changing our
morality because there's no one to enforce it anymore. Don't you see that? That's what those bikers
are doing. They are what happens when people just start doing whatever they feel like doing."
"You're NOT like those bikers Brett," she told him, almost angrily. "You're nothing like them. And
having sex with me when I wanted it and you wanted it is not the same as raping someone and
killing their parents. Can't you see that?"
"It's not the same," he said, "but it's a step in that direction. Don't YOU see?"
She had no answer for him. Before they could continue the discussion any further, they heard the
sound of Jason returning. "Why don't you turn around so I can get dressed?" he asked. "I want to
try and put some miles behind us today."
With a disappointed look she rolled over to the other side, turning her back to him.

The town of Foresthill had once occupied about two square miles of real estate alongside of a
simple two-lane road that ran from Auburn up into the high sierra. It had once had a thriving
population of six hundred, a mix of blue-collar types that worked in the nearby lumber mill and
wealthy yuppies who commuted sixty miles to Sacramento to work. But that had been before the
comet. Now, three quarters of the business section and half of the old residential section had been
washed away by mudslides moving down the mountain. After wiping out the main part of
Foresthill the mud had continued downward, eventually burying the Todd Valley section - where
the majority of the yuppies had lived in tract houses on subdivided land - more than thirty feet
deep. Now all that was left were a few crumbling old farmhouses, a bait shop, a useless gas station,
and a church. The population had been reduced to a mere 83 people who were taking shelter in the
church and living off of the canned foods that they had managed to scavenge together.
Most of these survivors were women and very small children. Since the comet had struck during
the late morning hours on a workday, the majority of the men had been at work and the majority of
the school-age kids had been in school. Those that had been at jobs in Sacramento had suffered the
fate that everyone else in the valley had. Those that had been at the mill, which was virtually the
only employer in town, had been trapped in the building when it had collapsed in the earthquake
and then buried for all time when the first of the mudslides had swept through an hour later. Those
that had been in school had been thirty miles away in Auburn, since Foresthill did not have a school
of its own, and their fates were unknown.
Still, a few men were in the group. Some had taken the day off on that fateful morning. A few had
worked somewhere in town that hadn't been touched; such as the gas station or the bait shop. The
pastor of the church was among them, his place of employment spared; miraculously he liked to
think. And of course there was more than one that had been simply "between jobs", as they would
have put it. In all, of the 83 surviving residents of Foresthill, there were 49 women, 20 young
children, and 14 men.
That was before the convicts came to town.
They were twenty-seven strong, including six women, and they had been camped on the outskirts
of the town for two days, performing a careful reconnaissance of the area through binoculars and
rifles scopes that had been taken from the El Dorado Sheriff's Department. They had noted that
everyone in Foresthill seemed to be staying in the church, a sturdy wooden building near the center
of the remaining township. The security measures that the townspeople employed were a joke but
the leader of the convicts, a man named Stuart Covington, who had, once upon a long time ago,
been a United States Marine Corps infantryman, thought it best to be sure of what they were
dealing with before they moved in. It was discovered that the Foresthill residents posted guards
armed with rifles and pistols on the outside of the church - always men - but that they did not send
out patrols of the surrounding area. Nor did they have anybody posted in a high place to keep an
eye out on the approaches. It was a rare event indeed for anyone to leave the church at all.
"What do you think Stu?" asked Mark Wisington, Stu's former cellmate in the EDCCC and his
unofficial second in command of the motley group.
Stu, who was staring at the church building through binoculars, answered without taking them from
his eyes. "It should be pretty easy," he said. "Take down the guards out front and pin the rest of
them inside. I wanna capture the women if we can get them to come out peacefully, but if they
won't, we'll have to shoot some of those tear gas rounds in."
"If we play it right," Mark opined, "they'll come out."
"Exactly." He lowered the binoculars and edged backwards a little. "We'll move on them in one
hour. You take half of the group around the back, I'll take the other half from here. My group
should be able to close to within fifty yards or so before we're spotted if we use that gas station
building for cover. You'll be able to get even closer if you use the trees. Keep low and keep your
guys quiet."
"What about our bitches?"
"We'll have Turbo hang back and keep an eye on them. They won't be any trouble."
Mark nodded, putting his own set of glasses to his eyes and taking a quick look. The guard out
front was about forty years old. He was dressed in a black rain slicker and was smoking a cigarette.
He had an old bolt action rifle slung over his back. He was not even walking around. He was seated
in a damn chair. "I hope they still have some of those cigarettes when we take them," Mark said
wistfully.
"Yeah," Stu agreed. "The one fuckin thing we didn't think to grab when we blew town."
"Still no M-16s spotted with the guards?"
"Nope. Just those old hunting rifles. I don't think they even have that many of those. Some fuckin
frontier town this turned out to be. It would seem that if our friend is still on the loose somewhere,
he isn't here. I never thought that he would be once I saw their security. A man smart enough to
take out four of our guys and walk away without a scratch would be a little smarter than this."
"I hope we find him someday," Mark said, lowering his glasses again. "I really hope we do. I got a
little payback I'd like to give him for Joker."
"Be careful what you wish for," Stu told him. "You just might get it. But for what its worth, I hope
we find him too. He's dangerous. A man like that will be able to organize others. Organization is
our enemy."
"It's a small world now. We'll find him eventually. And when we do, I wanna kill him slow."
Stu said nothing in reply to this. He had his own thoughts and feelings on the subject of their friend,
the man who had ambushed four of their number while they'd been making a raid and had deprived
them of both weapons and needed supplies. He did not hate the man, he feared and respected him.
If he ever had the chance he would take him out as quickly as possible from as far away as
possible.
"I'm gonna gather up my group and start filling them in on the plan," Mark said after a moment.
"We'll be ready to move when you give the word."
"Right," Stu answered. "We're gonna party hard tonight."

Right on schedule, the two groups, divided into ten apiece, made their move. Most of them carried
M-16s - they had scored sixteen of the weapons from the EDCCC originally but had lost three to
their friend - and those that didn't carried scoped rifles or shotguns. They managed to box in the
church building and close with it before the guards in the front and back spotted them. When they
were spotted, the reaction by the guards was simply to stand and stare. No alarm was raised, no
warning shots were offered. This sealed the fate of the townspeople.
Stu took the honor of firing the first shot. He sighted on the front guard from forty yards and
squeezed off a single round, striking him in the chest. The guard crumpled to the ground and Stu
waved his men forward. From the back of the building Mark, who was much closer to his guard,
took him out with a pistol shot to the head. This group did not have to move forward. They were
already optimally positioned to cover the rear.
Stu's group spread out and found cover across the street from the church, their weapons trained on
the doors and windows. When a man stuck his head out the front door to see what the shooting had
been about he promptly had a bullet put through it by an M-16 round. He dropped in a heap and
that was when the screaming began inside; a chorus of feminine wails intermixed with the cries of
children.
The battle did not last very long at all. From the top window of the church, two muzzleflashes
erupted as two of the townspeople tried, ineffectively, to drive away their invaders. A brief but
intense barrage of automatic weapons fire at the window answered this attempt at defense. The
glass exploded, tinkling to the ground below, and a series of holes appeared in the wooden frame of
the building. No more shots were fired from that window. At the back of the church three women
and one man tried to rush out the back door and flee. They were cut down by hail of bullets before
they even cleared the doorway. At the front, a young woman carrying a baby in her hands tried the
same thing. She and her child were similarly gunned down, their bodies thumping to the mud.
There were no more attempts to escape the church after this. Stu knew that the townspeople had
realized that they could neither drive their tormentors away nor escape from them. They would now
be setting up to defend against an attempted breach of the building itself. Even as dumb as these
people had proven themselves to be, they were probably smart enough to have trained every
weapon they had on one of the two doors that allowed entry. They would methodically pick off
each person as they came through if a frontal assault was attempted. Stu had no intention of wasting
either his men or his ammunition that way.
"Inside the church!" he yelled loudly, his voice carrying across the rainy street and through the
windows. "We are a heavily armed militia group and we have your church completely surrounded
by armed men! You can not escape us! We did not have any wish to harm you, we are just here to
take your supplies! Drop your weapons, come out peacefully, and surrender your goods to us and
we will leave you in peace! If you do not come out, we will fire tear gas into the building and kill
you as you exit! You have one minute to comply with this! One minute!"
There was no answer from inside at first. It was only when Stu began to loudly count down from
thirty seconds that someone spoke. A hesitant voice yelled out: "How do we know that you won't
kill us?"
"You don't!" Stu yelled back. "But you know that we WILL kill you if you don't do as we say! You
have twenty seconds left! If we don't start seeing people coming out with their hands in the air by
that time, the tear gas goes in! If the tear gas goes in, we will not accept surrenders and you will all
die! Nineteen... eighteen... seventeen... "
"All right," the voice finally yelled back. "Stop counting! We're coming out!"
"Men first! And keep those hands in the air!" Stu reminded them. "Leave your weapons inside! Do
not try to run once you get out here or you will be shot!"
One by one, the men emerged, hands in the air exactly as Stu had ordered. They were led by the
pastor of the church who was, amazingly enough, dressed in his traditional black suit and white
collar. In all there were eleven adult males, ranging in age from late teens to late sixties. One of
them was wounded, suffering from a bullet in the shoulder, undoubtedly taken during the barrage
of gunfire at the upper window.
"Lie down, face first in the mud over there!" Stu commanded. "Keep your hands out in front of
you!"
They did as they were told, none of them trying any cute moves. Stu and the rest of them relaxed
somewhat once the men were secured.
"Now the rest of you!" Stu yelled. "One by one, hands in the air, no weapons! Do it now!"
They came out slowly, docilely, marching through the doorway and out onto the muddy lawn. The
women, like the men, were of a wide variety of ages, everything from late teens to geriatrics. The
largest age group however, was early to late twenties. Some led small, crying children by the hands,
whispering encouraging words to them. Others carried smaller children in their arms, holding them
tightly.
"Oh yeah," the man next to Stu said as they watched. "Look at all that pussy! We're gonna have a
good time tonight!"
"Shut the fuck up," Stu said mildly, his eyes never leaving the group, keeping a constant lookout
for the slightest sign of danger.
Once everyone was out of the church, Stu directed the women to sit down on the ground, separate
from where the men were lying. They all complied, most of them hugging children to them. The
moment they were all seated, Stu gave a hand signal to his group and they suddenly shifted their
position, moving to the left, out of the line of fire from the front of the church. They all kneeled
down once again, finding cover behind new objects.
"Mark!" Stu yelled loudly. "They're out and under control! Move in and secure the building!"
"Moving!" came the faint reply from the other side.
It took about two minutes before Mark and his group emerged through the front door. "Secure," he
told Stu. "And they have a buttload of goodies in there. Canned food, dry food, cigarettes, beer,
even hard liquor. It's a motherfuckin' gold mine!"
"We'll go through it later," Stu said, standing and waving his men to do the same. He began to walk
towards the two groups of captives, relaxing now that they no longer presented a danger. "Good job
everyone. That was by the fuckin' book." He looked over the smaller bunch, the men. "Who's in
charge?" he asked.
"I guess you could say that I am," the pastor announced, looking him in the eye defiantly. "Just take
what you want, and leave us in peace."
"You bet padre," Stu answered. "But in the meantime, I'd just like to say that you made that way
too easy for us. If you would've had a decent defense set up here, we never woulda fucked with
you."
The pastor said nothing and Stu did not push the issue.
"Where are those twist-ties at?" Stu asked his group at large.
"Right here Stu," Harley, a former methamphetamine brewer, announced, holding up a bag of
heavy duty zip-ties that they had found in the EDCCC storage room. The cops used them for
securing people's arms during mass arrests.
"Okay," Stu nodded. "Let's get a detail formed. Harley, Zipper, Billy, Joe, and Spanky, move the
men over to the gas station one by one. Keep a close eye on 'em and waste 'em if they try anything
funny. Do them just like we told you earlier; hands and feet."
One by one the men were led over to the gas station building under heavy guard. Once inside the
former convenience store portion of the station, they were laid down on their stomachs and directed
to place their hands behind their backs and their feet against their butts. A zip-tie was then used to
bind all four extremities together, making it impossible for the person to move. It took about ten
minutes before all eleven were safely hobbled and stored.
Once this was accomplished, the group of bikers gathered before the women and children. They
held a quiet discussion among themselves as they looked their captives over, gesturing and pointing
a lot, laughing to themselves, but talking too softly for the women to hear. Eventually an accord
was reached among them. Stu, Mark, and two others stepped forward and began pointing at various
members of the group.
"All those that we just pointed out," Stu said, "I want you to stand up. Leave your children if you've
got them with the other women."
There was hesitation until Stu fired a shot over their heads. "I mean fucking NOW!" he screamed
menacingly.
Slowly the chosen females stood. There were eleven of them in all and the reason for their selection
was glaring obvious. They were the youngest and most attractive of the group. They began to
shudder in fear as they realized what was in store for them.
"Harley, Zipper," Stu ordered, "get 'em in the church. Have 'em sit down and keep 'em under guard.
Hands off of them for now."
"Right," Harley grinned, looking lewdly at the raid's bounty, his cock already erect in anticipation
of what was soon to come. "You heard the man," he yelled at the women. "Get your asses moving.
Into the church, right now."
Slowly, miserably they marched off to the doorway, the guards flanking them. Several children
began to wail as they saw their mothers taken away.
"Shut those fuckin' kids up!" Stu barked at the remaining women.
They did their best to comply with this command but it was futile. One of the great truths of life is
that children will cry when upset and there's not a thing that can be done about it. Stu, realizing this,
did not repeat the order. Instead, he ordered his men to start moving the remaining women and the
children over to the gas station to be with the men. "Secure 'em the same way," he said.
"The kids too?" someone asked.
"The kids too," he confirmed.
It took the better part of a half an hour to accomplish. Not all of the women went as docilely as the
men had, particularly when they felt the children were being mishandled. One of them, an early-
thirties babe that had missed the cut of those led into the church by virtue of the fact that she looked
like a truck-driver, slapped Mark across the face when he grabbed her four year old son roughly by
the arm.
"You don't need to be so rough!" she said defiantly, standing her ground. "They're just kids!"
That was the last thing she ever said. Stu stepped forward a moment later and bashed her squarely
in the face with the butt of his rifle. She fell, choking and gagging on her own blood, to the ground.
Two more strikes to the forehead quieted her. There was no more rebellion after that.
Once they were all securely tied and bound inside the church, Stu, who was smoking a cigarette
that Harley had brought out to him, turned to Mark. "You know what to do now."
Mark looked at his leader doubtfully. He was looking forward to the night's festivities as much as
anyone but he was not at all enthusiastic about his next task. "Are you sure we hafta do it that
way?" he asked. "Why can't we just shoot them?"
"We don't have enough fuckin' ammo to be wastin' it like that," Stu replied, giving his underling a
seething glare. "Do you have a problem doin' it the way I told you?"
Mark cowered under Stu's gaze. "No Stu," he said. "No problem at all. It's just a pain in the ass to
find the supplies."
"It's a tough job Markie," Stu said, continuing to glare. "That's why I picked you for it. Now get it
done. While you're doing that, I'm gonna take a look around and figure out where to post some
guards. If the supplies are as good as you say then we'll stay here for a little while and rest up. And
once the job's done, it's party-time."
"Right," Mark said, taking a glance at the gas station building. "Party time."
He found a five-gallon bucket near the outside of the church. It's sparkling cleanliness in a world in
which everything was now covered with mud told Mark that it was what the townspeople had been
using to collect their drinking water in. He picked it up and began looking for the next item he
would need. Less than a minute of searching led him to a twenty-five foot garden hose that was still
attached to the useless faucet outside the church. Using his folding knife, he cut off a six-foot
length of it and slung it over his shoulder.
Just outside the gas station itself was a Chevy pick-up truck mired to the axles in mud. It would
probably still be there when archeologists uncovered this town ten thousand years or so in the
future. Mark pried open its gas cap with his knife and then inserted the hose down into the tank.
With a few sucks on the other end of the hose, amber gas began to flow. He let it pour into the
bucket until it was about three-quarters full.
After taking a few deep breaths and bracing himself for what he had to do next, he picked up the
bucket, carrying it carefully to avoid spilling any, and carried it inside the gas station store. Lying
on the floor, most of them crying or yelling or praying, were 69 men, women, and children, all hog-
tied with plastic straps. When he began to pour the gasoline on them, their cries turned to screams
of panic. They begged him not to do what he was about to do. They pleaded with him. They cursed
at him. Many of them began to vomit uncontrollably. One of them, a child, began to convulse. He
tried his best to ignore them.
He made sure every person was liberally soaked with the fluid and then he spread the remaining
gas over the counters and on the floor. With their deafening cries echoing in his ears, he walked
back outside and threw the bucket to the ground. He stood against the wall next to the outside of the
door and took a box of waterproof matches from his pocket. His hands were shaking so badly that it
took him more than ten tries before he was able to get one of the wooden sticks to light up. When it
did, he closed his eyes and, without stopping to consider his actions any further, threw it through
the doorway.
There was a soft, almost gentle WHUMP and a blast of heat and fire immediately exploded
outward from the building. Mark ran away as quick as he could, escaping any burns from the
rapidly spreading flames. He could not outrun the screams of those inside however. They were the
shrill, high-pitched wails of nearly seventy people dying in sheer agony. They went on for the
longest time, for much longer than he would have thought possible.
Less than an hour later, while the gas station was still sputtering flames in a few places, the party
inside the church was in full swing. Except for those unlucky souls that had been stuck with guard
duty, everyone was drunk on the liquor supply that had been found. The women had been stripped
of their clothing and handcuffed to the pews. Stu and the others were taking turns raping them in a
variety of fashions. Some were forcing the women to blow them, others were forcing themselves
into anal openings, others still were performing their acts in the conventional method. All of the
women had been beaten to varying degrees, some simply with fists, others with steel-toed boots or
gun butts depending upon their level of resistance. Since there were more men then women, most
were being raped by several people at the same time. Two of the younger ones had had their
handcuffs removed and were being forced to lick each other. All of them had begged to be killed at
some point but that was simply not in the cards for the time being. That would be like purposely
breaking a favorite toy.
Mark simply sat there, chain smoking cigarettes and sipping from a bottle of Wild Turkey that
someone had handed him. He didn't feel like partaking in the pleasures of the conquest. He could
not get the screams of those dying men, women, and children out of his mind.
But after a while, as he drank more and more, his brain began to rationalize what had been done.
True, it had been a rather grisly way to go but, in the long run, he had actually been doing those
poor bastards a favor, hadn't he? Obviously they were not equipped with what it took to survive in
this new reality. Wasn't it better that they be removed relatively quickly instead of suffering
through the eventual starvation that they would have faced? Wasn't it the responsibility of the
strong to remove the weak?
The more he thought about this, the more sense it made. Soon, when about a third of the whiskey
bottle was coursing through his veins, he began to get a boner as he watched Turbo and Zipper
taking turns fucking one of the younger women up the ass while Stu was forcing her to suck his
dick. A smile formed on his face and he stood up, passing his bottle off to a new recipient as he
walked over.
"Get the fuck outta there Turbo," he said, grabbing the younger man by the arm and pulling him to
the side. "It's my turn." Turbo grumbled a bit but offered no physical protest.
"Yeah Markie!" Stu yelled, giving him a drunken thumbs-up. "Bag this bitch! Show her how we do
it downtown!"
Mark grinned at Stu as he unbuckled his pants and let them drop. By the time he forced himself into
her back door the thoughts of what he had done earlier were nearly forgotten.

"Did you and Chrissie have a fight?" Jason asked as they sat on a fallen log after eating their lunch
of cold vegetable beef soup. They were in a small clearing in the middle of a thick stand of old
growth pine trees. The rain had a hard time falling directly upon them but it had a rather easy time
of dripping from the branches above in thick, heavy drops. Their log was located in the zone of
least moisture, a zone that they had become intimately familiar with and had learned to expertly
locate in any surroundings. Chrissie, the object of this new discussion, was off in the trees relieving
her bladder.
"A fight?" Brett asked blankly, looking at the fourteen-year-old before him.
"Well, yeah," he said. "You haven't talked to each other all day and I saw her crying a few times
while we were walking. You haven't been talking a lot either. You're usually teaching us things
while we're moving but you haven't done any of that today. Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine," Brett replied. "Or at least as fine as they can be. Things will be back to what
passes for normal here pretty soon."
"So you're gonna make up with her?"
"Make up with her?"
"Yeah," he said enthusiastically. "You're like the coolest boyfriend she's ever had. The rest of those
guys were all a bunch of dweebs tryin' to impress her. But you're like the real thing, you know?"
"Uh... thanks," Brett said carefully. "But I'm not really Chrissie's boyfriend."
Jason looked confused. "But you guys were... you know... doing it."
Brett fought to keep his expression neutral. It was a battle that he won, just barely. "Doing it?"
Jason blushed a little. "Last night," he said, embarrassed.
"You uh... heard us?"
"You guys woke me up," he said. "Chrissie's elbow bashed me in the head like five times. You
sounded like you were tryin' to be quiet but you weren't doin' a very good job of it. Especially not
towards... uh... the end. It kinda grossed me out a little thinkin' that was my sister doing that right
next to me, but I got used to it."
"Jesus," Brett muttered, about as embarrassed as he'd ever been in his life. Had they really thought
that Jason had slept through the whole thing? They really had.
'It's cool though," Jason told him, giving a fairly passable man of the world look. "I mean, what else
can you do, right?"
He sighed, having to struggle just to meet Jason's eyes. "Look," he said. "What happened last night
was... was wrong. I did something that I really shouldn't have done and that I regret now. You don't
have to worry. It won't happen again."
The reaction that this proclamation produced was not at all what Brett expected. Jason looked
downright alarmed by it. "It's okay," he said quickly. "I wasn't complainin' or nothin'. You don't
have to worry about me. If you want, I'll get out of the lean-to at night until you're done."
"What?"
"Or I'll build my own. I don't want to get in the way of you guys. I'll give you all the privacy you
want. Really."
"We won't need any privacy," Brett said. "What happened last night won't happen again. I'd just
assume everyone forget about it. You won't have to build your own lean-to or go out into the rain."
Jason, if anything, seemed to become even more alarmed. He chewed on his lip for a moment,
seeming almost on the verge of tears. Finally, he blurted: "Are you going to leave us then?"
"Leave you?"
He nodded. "Go off on your own," he said. "Since you and Chrissie aren't... you know?"
So that was what was on his mind, Brett realized. Jason thought that if he and Chrissie were not
going to sleep together and be boyfriend and girlfriend, that there would be no reason for him to
stick around. "Look Jason," he said seriously. "No matter what happened or happens between
Chrissie and I, I'm not going to leave you guys to fend for yourselves. I promised your mother and
I'll promise you, I will take care of you as long as I'm able to and as long as you need someone to
take care of you. I'm not going to leave you."
"Okay," he said softly, but he didn't seem entirely convinced. "But if you and Chrissie ever want
to... you know... do it again, you go ahead and do it. Don't worry about me."
"I'll keep it in mind," Brett said, letting his head fall into his hands.
Chrissie came back a moment later, entering the clearing through a gap in two trees. She did not
look at either one of them. She simply unshouldered her rifle and sat back down on a different log.
The rest of the lunch break passed in silence.

An hour later, at the summit of a steep ridge, Brett, on the point like always, spotted something. He
saw a small patch of something orange between the trees about fifty yards in front of them, a color
that was very out of place in the green and brown environment of the forest. At this first hint of
something unusual he held up his left hand, silently indicating to his two companions to halt in
place and keep a sharp eye out. It was probably nothing to worry about but you didn't stay alive in a
hostile world by assuming that. Chrissie and Brett, seeing the signal, obeyed it instantly, as he had
taught them to do.
He dropped to one knee, training his rifle towards the area. He gave two more hand signals to
Chrissie and Jason: "Spread out to the sides and cover my flanks". They both trotted about twenty
yards in opposite directions, both of them finding fallen trees to use as cover. Had they been under
fire, Brett would have covered this move with bursts from his rifle, but since they were not, he
simply kept his eyes open and his finger upon the trigger. Nothing jumped out at or attacked them
during the move. Once the two kids were in place, Brett took a moment to check their positioning.
He was pleased with what he saw. Both of them had placed themselves so well that he had a
difficult time even spotting them. Both had their rifles trained outward at forty-five degree angles,
covering the sides and allowing him to cover the front. They now had an overlapping field of fire
that would allow them to shoot at anything in a 180 degree arc without having to shift position.
They really were quick learners.
He watched the mysterious orange blot in the trees for nearly two minutes, waiting to see if it
would move or not. It did not. Neither did anything else. He raised himself back to his feet and
gave a brief whistle, getting the attention of the kids. They looked over at him and he pointed to
himself and then forward, giving them the signal that he was going to move up and check things
out and that they were to stay back and cover his advance. They both nodded their understanding to
him and he began to pick his way forward, moving tree to tree.
He made it about twenty yards before the smell hit him. It was the thick, sickly sweet odor of
decay, an odor that he had smelled a thousand times during his days as a patrol cop. It was the
distinctive stink of a dead human body. Not even the rotting corpses of the large animals that they
had passed smelled quite like that.
He continued to move forward until he had a clear view of the orange that he'd seen. He was now
able to identify it as one of those bright orange hunting caps that some hunters liked to wear to keep
from being mistaken for a deer. It was lying next to the body of a man in blue jeans and a T-shirt.
He was sprawled on his back under a tree, his arms and legs splayed out to the sides. He was
barefoot. About ten feet away was a smaller human corpse, that of a young teenage boy. Thanks to
the constant rain there were no flies about them and there were no ants covering them. But larger
animals - rats, raccoons, coyotes, maybe even a bear - had certainly taken their fill. Their faces had
been almost completely chewed away, as had large chunks of their arms and legs. Though Brett had
seen more than one dead body in his time, these were particularly grisly looking to him.
He examined the area around him for a few moments, searching for anything else that did not
belong. Seeing nothing, he waved Jason and Chrissie up, giving them the all-clear signal. They
came trotting up quickly, their rifles clanking as they moved.
"Oh my god," Chrissie cried when they got close. "What is that smell?"
"Gross," Jason agreed.
They came around the last set of trees and stopped in their tracks as they saw what was on the
ground. Both moaned a little in disgust but neither backed away.
"Hunters," Brett said, stepping a little closer to the bodies and breathing through his mouth. "Looks
like a father and son. They were ambushed by someone."
"Ambushed?" Chrissie asked. "How do you know? Maybe they just died."
He pointed to the tree right in front of where the father lie. "Brain and blood splatter," he said,
pointing out some grayish specks that marred the bark. "This man was shot from behind as he
walked up the hill and then he fell backwards onto his back. It looks like the boy was shot almost at
the same instant since he didn't try to run away. All of their supplies, their guns, even their shoes
are gone. Trust me on this. It was an ambush. Somebody killed them for their supplies."
All three of them silently contemplated that for a moment.
"Brett?" Chrissie asked softly. "Could that happen to us? I mean, we're probably carrying more than
these two were."
He looked at her, instinctively wanting to lie to her but knowing that she wouldn't believe him.
"That is probably the most likely thing TO happen to us," he said. "These guns we're carrying will
keep away the casual robber but these packs we're carrying are a magnet for the kind of people who
would do this."
"Is there anything we can do to stop it?" Jason asked, looking nervously at the forest around them,
probably envisioning armed bandits just over the next rise.
"We can try to spot them before they spot us," he said. "We can keep alert for danger. People who
ambush will usually stalk for a while before they make a move. Other than that," he shook his head
sadly, "nothing."
They mulled that over for a moment while they stared down at the chewed corpses. Finally Brett
said: "Let's get moving out of here. The people who did this are probably long gone, but you never
know. They might be nearby."
They began to walk again, continuing through the muddy forest. Soon the sight and the smell of the
two hunters were behind them.
"By the way," Brett said once they were clear, "that was excellent execution by both of you back
there when I waved you to the flanks. You both did exactly what you were supposed to do exactly
when and how you were supposed to do it. Your cover was so good that even I had a hard time
seeing you and I knew exactly where you were."
"Really?" Jason asked, beaming at the praise. Chrissie, though she seemed pleased by it, said
nothing.
"Really," he confirmed. "I don't give false compliments, especially not in this world. You two did
good, even if it was a false alarm. You keep that kind of thing up and we stand a decent chance of
surviving under fire. Always remember that it's usually the people that can keep their heads and
respond correctly that survive a combat situation. Panic kills. You two didn't panic, you just did
what I told you. I'm proud of both of you."
"Thanks Brett," Jason said, looking between him and Chrissie. "Wasn't that a nice thing to say sis?"
"Yeah," she mumbled, not saying further.
Jason let it drop and so did Brett. They marched onward.

That night, after the lean-to was built, after the surrounding area was checked for stalkers, and after
their simple though satisfying dinner of canned spaghetti, Jason made a big show of yawning and
stretching and proclaiming his fatigue. When Brett suggested that maybe he should hit the sack, he
immediately took him up on the offer and stripped down. Ten minutes later he was snoring away.
Brett reached into his sleeping bag and pulled out the last two cans of Bud. He held one out to
Chrissie. "Care to join me?" he asked her.
She had been scraping the worst of the mud out of her boots with a stick. She looked up long
enough to say, "no thanks" and then went back to what she was doing.
Brett put the can he had offered her back where it had been without comment. He considered trying
to talk to her but could not think of a thing to say. Chrissie would just have to work it out on her
own.
He sipped at his beer as he watched the coming of night. Before it was even half gone, Chrissie
announced she was going to bed and asked him to keep his eyes forward while she undressed.
"Can't have you seeing me naked now, right?" she asked sarcastically.
"Right," he answered softly, with a sigh. He kept his eyes forward and listened to the maddening
sound of her shucking her wet clothes. Her smell, that wet, feral odor of musk and sweat, was even
stronger than it had been the previous night. It assaulted his nostrils, kicking his libido into
overdrive. The knowledge that she would welcome him turning around to look, that she would
welcome his touch upon her, did not help. He began to wonder just how long he would be able to
keep up his vow not to touch her. He wondered if it was worthwhile to even try.
NO, he told himself firmly, feeling that he was on the verge of resuming their relationship. You
have to be strong. Sleeping with Chrissie was WRONG.
He did not turn around. When she was done undressing she climbed into her sleeping bag and
covered up. When night finally wiped out the last of the light he made another one of his trips out
into the rain to relieve the aching pressure that had built up. It didn't do much good. As he lay next
to Chrissie later, listening to her breathing, remembering how good she had felt in his arms, he
stiffened up once again. He did his best to ignore it and finally, after more than an hour, sleep was
able to take him.

The month of October in the Sierra Nevada Mountains signals more than just the start of deer
hunting season, it is also the harvest month for the many illegal marijuana plantations that dotted
the heavily wooded, difficult to access portions of the mountains. This was the reason that Dave
Madison and Matt Horn had been spared when the impact had occurred. Instead of being in their
trailer park outside of Rocklin, where they surely would have been drowned by the water surge that
took the valley, they had been at an elevation of 3500 feet in a thickly wooded section of the
mountains, preparing the half acre of plants that they had raised for picking the following week.
Unfortunately the two men had been prepared only to stay overnight and had brought only enough
supplies to sustain them for that length of time. After the impact they had made a feeble attempt to
ration their holdings but had been unable to stretch them more than three days.
They had been sitting under a tree, on the verge of starvation when the hunter and his son had
walked by them two days before, not even seeing them so intent were they on ascending the hill
they'd been climbing. Though Dave and Matt had both been in numerous fistfights in their lives,
though both had done some time in the county jail from time to time, neither had ever robbed
anyone or killed anyone. They would have been genuinely appalled had anyone suggested to them
that they would one day kill for food. But that had been before. Things were different now.
They had held a quick discussion with very little argument and with a great deal of rationalization
in it. Both of them, as was customary in the mountains, were armed with pistols. They had gotten
up and, utilizing the last of their strength reserves, began to move through the forest behind the two
hunters.
They'd moved tree to tree, making short dashes from one place to another, steadily closing the gap
between themselves and the hunters without alerting them. They'd known that they would have to
get very near in order to make their plan effective. Pistols were notoriously inaccurate at much
more than ten yards. It was when their quarry stopped for a moment to catch their breath before
climbing the last section of hill that the two men managed to get near enough to act.
They crept slowly, carefully forward the last few feet, their guns out and ready to fire at the first
sign of detection. But the hunters remained oblivious, the father saying something to his son that
could not be heard. They were able to get within fifteen feet before Dave, who was tacitly in charge
of this operation, signaled that it was time. He took careful aim on the father with his.357 magnum,
putting the sights right on the back of his head. Dave was not an expert shot by any means but he
had done a fair amount of shooting at cans and signs and other inanimate objects during his many
trips to the mountains in the past. When he pulled the trigger the bullet went where he wanted it,
dropping the older man instantly to the mud. Less than a second later, while the kid was still
turning to see what had happened, Matt had pumped three rounds into his chest with his 9mm. The
kid quickly joined his father.
They had been disappointed to find that the only food the hunters had had on them had been a few
energy bars and a bag of trail mix. It was hardly enough to sustain them for more than a day or two.
Had this been the only bounty they'd taken from the operation they would have probably felt guilty
for murdering two people for it. But the thick, winter jackets that the two had had on almost made
up for the lack of food, as did the fine hunting rifles that they'd carried. They had stripped the
bodies of everything usable and had sat right there eating the bulk of the food.
Now, less than two miles from where they'd killed the first time, they were reasonably warm and
fairly well armed but once again on the verge of starvation. Their last rations had been consumed
more than twenty-four hours before. They were resting with their backs against a tree, both feeling
the heaviness in their stomachs that went with extreme hunger, when movement below them caught
their eyes.
Both stiffened up, watching as three people, a man and two teenage children, passed less than a
hundred yards from them. All were carrying assault rifles and they were walking in what appeared
to be a military formation. They all three had large packs and sleeping bags upon their backs and
they did not appear to be grappling with food deprivation.
"Did you see that?" Dave whispered to Matt, his mouth actually drooling. "I bet they had food in
those packs."
"Yeah," Matt said, drooling himself, "but did you see those guns they was carrying? Those are
fuckin' M-16s."
"Let's follow 'em," Dave said, getting to his feet. "We need to get those packs."
"There's three of 'em," Matt protested. "That's three people with combat rifles. We're only two with
hunting rifles."
This argument did not carry as much weight as it would have with full stomachs. "What do we got
to lose?" Dave asked. "If we don't get some food pretty soon, we're gonna die anyway. Maybe
they'll drop their guard. They have to rest sometime, don't they?"
Dave thought this over for a second and found himself swayed. "Yeah," he said, standing. "I guess
you're right. Let's go."
They kept to higher ground as they stalked their new prey, moving, as with the two hunters, tree to
tree, steadily closing the gap. They kept that gap a little larger with these three however and they
kept themselves more carefully concealed as they moved in. This group was considerably more
alert than the hunters had been. The one in the lead, the older man, made a point of turning around
every fifty feet or so to check their rear. It didn't matter too much though. They, the stalkers, were
now equipped with weapons capable of hitting targets from a much greater range.
"When they stop," Dave whispered at one point, "I'll bag the big one and you bag the boy."
"What about the girl?" Matt wanted to know.
Dave grinned. "We'll try to take her alive if we can. Maybe we can have a little fun with her after
we eat."
Matt returned the grin. "Yeah baby," he said, imitating Austin Powers.

Brett had had this feeling before. It was a prickly sensation on the back of his neck, a quickening of
the pulse, a feeling of being watched. He sensed something up on the ridges above them, something
hostile. It was an instinctive knowledge, born from years of working in hostile situations, and
something that he had long since learned to trust. Had he been asked, he would have attributed this
instinct to some sort of extra-sensory perception, a weak psychic ability that some people learned to
utilize as an early warning system of danger. In fact, it was no such thing. It was merely his
subconscious processing a variety of tiny inputs from his normal senses, inputs too weak for him to
notice individually.
His auditory sense was the first to pick up a signal. Out of the thousands of sounds that were being
processed every second by his brain, one pattern did not belong. Though Brett did not consciously
hear the soft breaking of wet twigs, or the gentle sucking of boots coming free of mud, or the
occasional scraping of a hand against tree bark from above and behind, he DID hear them. And
though he did not consciously smell a wet odor of sour sweat drifting on the breeze, a few
molecules of this scent did reach his olfactory nerve which was able to identify the fact that it
belonged to neither Chrissie, Jason, nor himself. His eyes, when he looked back for routine checks
of their rear, did not consciously see, among the thousands of other things, a few broken branches
or fresh indentations in the mud where feet had recently trod but his brain did recognize that
SOMETHING was just a little different. His brain would have dismissed any one of these things
individually. But when they were all added together in the subconscious, warning bells began to go
off. The sympathetic nervous system activated the adrenal glands, dumping fresh adrenaline into
the blood stream. As the inputs grew stronger and more constant, the subconscious began to yell at
the conscious that something was wrong.
Brett swallowed forcefully when the sensation became too much for him to dismiss as nerves. He
did not break stride or make any indication that he was nervous but his senses were now on full red
alert status. He glanced at Chrissie and Jason with his peripheral vision, seeing that they were
keeping tightly in formation. That was good. Trouble was coming soon and he hoped they would
react correctly to it. He gripped his rifle a little tighter and began to scan the area around them,
looking for favorable cover that would protect them from fire coming from above.
He found it less than a minute later. A group of three tall pine trees had been blown down, probably
in the hurricane winds that had followed the initial impact. They lay on the ground like fallen
soldiers, their root systems sticking up into the air in an interwoven pattern of mud and wood. If
they could get behind those trees the trunks would provide cover and the roots would provide
concealment. But would they be able to get there in time if whatever was triggering his instincts
turned out to be hostile? He didn't know, but he was about to find out.
"Chrissie, Jason," he barked when they were almost upon the trees. "Behind those trees! Now!" He
waved his gun towards them.
They both hesitated for the briefest of instants, probably more out of surprise than fear. It could
have been a lethal mistake but this time they were allowed to get away with it.
"Go, goddammit!" Brett yelled, "Go!"
That got them into gear. They began running as fast as they could, their ankles and knees rising and
falling, splattering mud. Within a second or two they rushed past him.
"Get under cover!" he commanded, beginning to run himself.
Up on the ridge, Dave and Matt saw them break and run, heard Brett's frantic shouts.
"They know we're here," Dave told Matt. "Get them! Don't let them get away!"
Both men raised their rifles and tried to sight in but their targets were now moving rapidly across
their view, making a precision shot impossible. They tried their best anyhow, both pulling off shots
at the running figures. The battle began.
The bullets traveled faster than the sound of the exploding gunpowder. Brett heard something whiz
over his shoulder just as Chrissie, who was in the lead, rounded the roots and dove behind the tree.
An instant later bark exploded from the tree, sending chips through the air. Just to the right of this,
another shot buried in the mud. Then came the sound of the shots. Two rifle blasts echoed through
the air around them. Jason screamed a little but kept moving. He followed his sister around the tree
and dove to the ground.
Brett was right behind them. Just as he pulled himself around, another shot impacted into a standing
tree five yards in front of him. It was followed by the sound of another shot. He threw himself
down into the mud behind the logs, scooting as close to it as he could.
"Somebody's shooting at us!" Chrissie yelled from her position. She sounded greatly offended by
this.
"No shit!" Brett yelled back. "Return fire at them! Shoot and then duck! Don't let them close with
us!"
Brett raised his head up over the log, training his rifle up towards the hill where the shots had come
from. He saw nothing but forest, trees, and mud but he knew that at least two armed people were up
there. He fired a series of shots across the landscape, the M-16 bucking against his shoulder, the
expended casings flying out behind him. To his left, Chrissie and Jason both did the same. Up on
the hill, Matt and Dave were forced to dive behind bushes in terror as muzzleflashes winked up at
them and bullets began to plink into the mud all around them.
"Fuck me!" Dave cried in terror, realizing belatedly that he and his companion were now trapped.
There was no way for them to get out of the field of fire without exposing themselves. "Shoot!" he
yelled at Matt. "Shoot them or they're gonna kill us!"
Below, Brett ordered the kids to hold their fire. They each squeezed off one more round and then
ceased.
"Now get down!" he shouted, following his own advice even as it left his lips. They put their heads
down and an instant later, two shots slammed into the log right on the other side of them.
"Move down that way," he told them, pointing further down the log. "Shoot and then cover! Don't
fire from the same place twice!"
While they crawled along the muddy ground to their new positions, Brett eased three feet to the
right and then popped up again. He fired three more shots into the hillside, again not seeing a target
but wanting to keep them pinned down. He ducked back down just as Jason popped up twelve feet
to the left of him. Jason, his face with an absolute look of terror upon it, unleashed five rounds up
the hill before diving back to the mud. The moment he was down, Chrissie popped up from the far
end of the log and fired four shots.
Things then happened very quickly. As soon as Chrissie was back under cover, Brett raised up
again, preparing to fire another quick burst. But just as he did so, he saw a muzzle flash from
behind a small mound of earth with bushes atop it. One of their attackers had fired at the spot where
Chrissie had just been. In doing so, he had given away his position. Worse still, for him anyway, he
was only behind concealment, which just hid a person, instead of cover, which hid and protected.
Brett quickly sighted on the bush from which the flash had emitted and pulled the trigger five times
in less than two seconds. Just as he ducked his head back down he saw a body come rolling down
the hill, a rifle trailing after it.
At that instant, another muzzle flash erupted from yet another bush ten feet further up the hill. The
bullet slammed into the log less than six inches above Brett's head, peeling a large sliver of wood
off and throwing it over the top of him. Specks of wood and mud struck him in the face, stinging
his eyes. A fury of rifle shots answered this as Chrissie and Jason unleashed a barrage at the spot
where the shot had come from.
"We got him!" Jason yelled triumphantly. "We got him Chrissie!"
"He's down Brett!" she answered back gleefully. "We got him!"
Brett, having poked his head back up, saw that they were right. Another rifle and another body was
sliding down the hillside. It fetched up against a rock and lie still. He then looked at the two kids,
seeing that they were staring at the spot, mesmerized by what they had done. "Get the fuck back
down!" he screamed at them. "There might be more out there!" He fired another three rounds up the
hill as soon as these words were out of his mouth. Jason and Chrissie, heeding his warning, both hit
the dirt once again.
Brett slid about five feet to his left, switching his rifle to automatic fire as he did so. It was time to
bug the hell out of Dodge. "Regroup," he yelled at them. "Form up on me! Keep low!"
He put his head up once more and squeezed the trigger twice, sending two short bursts upward
before diving back down. No fire answered this. He allowed himself to be slightly encouraged by
this. He had only heard two rifles during the battle and two people were down. But that did not
mean that there was not another person lying in wait up there.
He began to slide to the left, meeting the two kids near the center of the log. He raised up and fired
another burst, again receiving no answering fire. He looked at his two companions. "Is everyone
okay?" he asked them.
"Yeah," Chrissie said, nodding rapidly. Her eyes were bright and wide with terror, the pupils so
dilated that they almost completely erased the blue surrounding them. Her hands gripped her rifle
tight enough to make her knuckles white.
"I'm okay," Jason echoed, breathing rapidly and fidgeting. "We shot that guy Brett! We fuckin' shot
him!"
"Yeah," Brett agreed. "You did good. We'll talk about it later, after we're the hell out of here. I
think there was only two but I'm not sure, so we're going to exit this place as if we were under fire,
okay?"
They both nodded.
"Jason, you go first. Chrissie and I will give you covering fire while you move. Head for that small
hill over there about twenty yards past these trees. Run as fast as you can without tripping or
falling. Zigzag as you go but do it irregularly, without a pattern, understand?"
"Yeah," he said, looking where Brett was pointing. "I think so."
"Do you think so, or do you know so?"
He took a deep breath. "I know so," he said.
"Good. Once you're over there, find a firing position. When Chrissie comes across, both of us will
cover her. Use short bursts on automatic. Short bursts. Don't waste your ammo. We don't have a
whole hell of a lot of it. Once you two are both over there, spread out and give me covering fire
when I come over. Got it?"
"Yeah," they both agreed.
"Then let's do it."
They did it, the entire operation taking less than two minutes to accomplish. Though there was no
one else left alive to oppose their transit, it was unlikely that anyone would have been able to hit
them even if there had been. It was an almost textbook retreat under fire.
Once they were behind the dirt mound, Brett popped out his expended magazine and let it fall to
the dirt. He reloaded his rifle with a fresh one. He then directed the two kids to do the same, even
though they both had a few more rounds in their clips. They saved their partially emptied clips as
an emergency reserve.
"Now," Brett directed, his eyes never wavering from the direction from which they'd come, "we're
going to move down this hill and over to that grove of trees by the mudflow as fast as we can. Don't
stop for anything. Keep up the zigzag pattern and don't worry about keeping in formation. Once
we're over there, find the best cover that you can and pull yourself into it. We'll hold there for a
while and keep an eye out. Are you ready?"
They told him they were ready.
"Then let's do it. Go!"
They continued to leapfrog from one place to another for the next two hours. They dashed from one
area of cover to the next, spreading out and holding once they got there to watch for followers.
Once they were reasonably certain that they were alone and unobserved, they moved on. Finally,
more than an hour after their traditional lunch break, Brett allowed them to stop.
"If there was anybody back there," he said, sitting down on a log, "then we've lost them." For the
first time in hours he set his rifle down and relaxed. His nerve endings were all tingling with
adrenaline overload and a sudden wave of fatigue, common following combat situations, washed
over him.
Chrissie and Jason, both equally exhausted despite their youth, slumped down next to him. He
looked at them affectionately, these two children of a screaming liberal Berkeley professor and his
environmentalist wife. They had done good. He could not remember ever being as proud of
someone as he was of those two at that moment. "We're alive right now," he said matter-of-factly,
"because of you two."
They looked at him questioningly.
"You guys were bad-ass," he said. "You did everything just right. You didn't panic, you didn't
falter. If you hadn't of helped me fight those guys off, they would've nailed us. That was some good
teamwork back there. We fuckin' kicked ass!"
"Yeah," Jason said, picking up the giddiness. He raised his rifle in the air in triumph. "We fuckin'
kicked ASS!"
"Hell yeah," Brett said, laughing now that the tension was relieved. He looked at Chrissie. She was
trembling a little, her mind seemingly on overload. She was not smiling. "What do you say
Chrissie?" he asked her. "Did we kick some ass today, or what?"
"Yeah," she said, unenthusiastically. "We kicked ass."
"No, no, no," Brett said, shaking his head strenuously. He moved over next to her and put his arm
around her companionably, pulling her against him. "You take away from the victory when you say
it like that. What you mean is that we kicked some fuckin' ASS! Right?"
"Right," she said, the hint of a smile marring her face.
"Then say it goddammit," he chided, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. "Are we a team or
aren't we?"
"Yeah," Jason agreed, pushing at her legs. "Say it."
The smile blossomed to full. She shook off his arm and stood up. She raised her rifle above her
head. "We kicked some fuckin' ASS!" she yelled happily, loud enough to echo off the nearest cliff.

Brett allowed them double rations for lunch in celebration of their victory. They ate greedily, their
stomachs swelling in a pleasantly uncomfortable way. Afterwards, instead of moving off right
away like they usually did, they continued leaning against the log, their feet stretched out before
them.
"I still can't believe I actually shot someone," Chrissie said reflectively. "I mean, it was like the
most intense thing that ever happened to me when it was happening, but now that its over, it seems
like it was a dream or something. Something that happened to someone else."
"Yeah," Jason agreed. "I keep thinking about it like it was a video game I'd played or something.
It's like they weren't really shooting REAL bullets at us and we weren't shooting real bullets at
them. It's like they weren't even real people. But then when I think about it a little more and
remember that they WERE real, and that they WERE trying to kill us, I get all freaked out."
"Understandable," Brett said, taking a sip from his canteen. "Sometimes it doesn't seem real to me
either. When I shot those guys that killed your parents, it was the same way. I would find myself
wondering at times if that had really happened at all. I think it's because you're a different person
when you're in a combat situation like that."
"A different person?" Chrissie asked.
"Uh huh," he said. "You're in a completely different mode. You get pumped up with adrenaline and
your mind starts to speed up. When this happens you either panic and go rushing off blindly,
usually right into trouble, or you start to make instant decisions that are geared towards the most
basic need: to stay alive. You two were in that category. You didn't panic. You were obviously
scared to death but you did everything you were supposed to do. You moved fast, you listened to
me and did what I told you to do and you shot back well enough to kill that fuck that was trying to
kill us. But the thing is, after everything is over and done with and your body goes back to a normal
mode, it gives you the feelings that you're experiencing now. You feel like it wasn't really YOU
that did those things because you never imagined yourself doing them. Or if you do accept that it
was you that did it, you feel like it wasn't as serious of a situation as it really was."
"That's trippy," Jason said.
"Yeah," Chrissie agreed.
"Well, trippy or not," Brett told them, "you two are now official combat veterans. Your cherries
have been popped, as we used to say back in the 3rd ACR."
Chrissie started to giggle. "Gee Jase," she said, elbowing him in the side, "bet you never thought
you'd lose your cherry THAT way, huh?"
Jason managed to look amused, offended, and embarrassed all at the same time. "Shut up Chris," he
barked, pushing her.
Brett smiled as he watched this exchange. Though the world had forced his two friends into a brutal
adulthood much earlier then they were meant to be thrust into it, for just a moment he was able to
catch a glimpse of the kids that they had once been.

"I'm glad you're talking to me again," Brett told Chrissie that night as they shared their customary
fellowship after Jason's departure to dreamland. There was still a little bit of light left, just enough
to make out the silhouettes of the trees around them, but it was fading fast.
"I'm sorry for the way I acted," she said softly. She was sitting next to him on the ground, hugging
her knees to her chest. She did not look at him as she spoke. "I was being kind of a bitch I guess."
"No," he said, shaking his head. "You weren't. I did something that hurt you and you were acting
the way a woman does when she's hurt. You don't have to apologize to me. It's me that should
apologize to you for sleeping with you and then rejecting you the next morning. I'm not the kind of
person that does that, you know."
"You had your reasons," she said. "I understand. I didn't at first but after what happened today...
well... I think I can face just about anything after that. It seemed like being mad at you and not
talking to you after you saved our lives was just... petty."
"You saved your own lives. I just told you how to do it."
She dismissed this with a wave of her hand. "You know what I mean," she said. "We wouldn't have
been able to do that without you. We wouldn't have even known those guys were there in the first
place if it wasn't for you. How DID you know?"
He shrugged, leaning over and reaching into his sleeping bag. He bypassed the one remaining can
of beer and instead pulled out the opened bottle of Jack Daniels. "Something just told me," he said,
unscrewing the lid and placing it carefully in his lap. "I just started to get a feeling that something
was wrong and that someone was up on the hill above us. I don't know how I knew, I just did."
"That's creepy," she said, shivering a little at the thought.
He tipped the bottle back and swallowed down a healthy shot. Like before, it made his eyes water
and his throat constrict but warmth began to spread through his body almost instantly. "It's not
really all that unusual though," he told her. "I used to get the same feelings at times when I worked
patrol. I'd be in a house and I'd just know that someone was hiding in one of the bedrooms. Or I'd
walk up to a car on a vehicle stop and I'd just know that they had a gun or a knife or some rock
hidden in it. And it wasn't just me either. Most cops that worked patrol for a while were able to do
that. It's just some kind of instinct." He took one more drink and then offered her the bottle.
"Thanks," she said, taking it after a moment's hesitation. She sniffed at it carefully and then put it to
her lips, taking a tentative sip. She made a sour face. "Yuck," she said. "This stuff is horrid."
"I agree," he said. "I can't understand why people paid twenty bucks a bottle for that shit. But you
kinda get used to it after a few shots. Take a big drink and swallow it as fast as you can, before you
have a chance to really taste it. It still tastes like shit but believe me, the warmth it gives you is
worth it."
She looked at the bottle doubtfully for a moment and then did as he suggested. She shuddered for a
moment as her body tried to reject it and then she began to cough. "Gross," she choked, wiping at
her watering eyes. "I almost barfed!"
"But how do you feel now?"
She wiped her eyes one more time and then paused, as if getting in touch with her biorhythms.
"Actually," she said, "I do feel kind of warm now."
"Try another shot," he suggested. "Get real warm."
She giggled a little. "Are you trying to get me drunk?"
"Maybe I am," he said, sliding closer to her, until their legs touched. "Maybe you deserve to get
drunk after what happened today. I sure feel like I do and I hate to drink alone."
"What if you corrupt me?" she asked teasingly, letting her body lean a little closer to him.
"I'll tell you something Chrissie," he replied, turning her face to his and looking in her eyes. "We
live in a corrupt world now. If that little shoot-out we had this morning taught me anything, it
taught me that. It seems that we might just have to change our definition of what that word actually
means now. If you're woman enough to blow some pukebag away with a fuckin' M-16, then you're
certainly woman enough to down some whiskey afterword, aren't you? If Jason was awake I'd give
him a couple shots too. I never would have dreamed of giving booze to a teenager before all this
shit happened, but I never would have thought that I'd need to rely on two teenagers to back me up
in a firefight either. So drink up, if you're woman enough, that is."
She took a huge swallow of the whiskey, hardly flinching this time. She handed the bottle back to
him. "I'm woman enough," she said. "For anything that you want to throw at me."
"I'm glad to hear that," he said, downing one more shot himself. He picked up the cap and put it
back on the bottle and then tossed the bottle itself in the general direction of his sleeping bag. He
put his hands to the side of her face and slowly pulled her head towards his. "You ARE a woman
now," he told her softly.
"Yess," she breathed, as his lips touched hers.
She tasted strongly of the whiskey she had just swallowed as his tongue slowly slipped into her
mouth. He sucked at it gently, drawing it from her mouth into his own, swirling it against his. She
put her arms around his back, pulling him to her, pressing herself into him. He relished the contact,
relished the feel of her soft curves beneath her wet clothing. The guilt that he had experienced the
last time he had done this was gone.
"Mmmm," she hummed, pulling her mouth briefly from his. "You're a great kisser."
"Thank you," he said, pecking at her lips again, letting his own arms encircle her waist.
"Are you sure that you really want to do this?" she asked him, looking in his eyes, her expression
wanting but also a little worried. She did not want to be hurt again like she had been the first time.
"I've never been more sure of anything," he replied with complete honesty. "I want you very badly
Chrissie. I dream about you at night."
"I dream about you too," she said. "No one has ever made me feel like you do when... " she trailed
off.
"When what?" he asked, giving her top lip a soft suck, making it swell.
"When you touch me," she said.
"Would you like me to touch you again?"
"Yes. Touch me everywhere."
Their lips came back together in a passionate kiss, their tongues intertwining once again. It was not
a gentle kiss that they shared but a lustful one; one designed to heat them up. It did its job
admirably. Brett's erection began to push painfully against the front of his pants. Chrissie let her
hands drop down to his ass where she began to knead his cloth-covered cheeks with her fingers. He
broke the kiss and put his lips to her neck, biting and sucking on the skin.
"Let's get undressed and get in the sleeping bags," she panted into his ear as she felt his mouth upon
her.
"I've got a better idea," he said against her neck.
"Huh?"
He stood, holding out his hand to her. "Come with me. I'll show you something I found when I was
checking out the area."
"You mean, go out in the rain?" she asked, although she did not hesitate to take the offered hand
and stand up.
"Just for a minute. You'll see."
He led her out of the lean-to and into the almost-night. There was just enough light left for him to
make out the proper direction. They moved in between trees and over several piles of fallen
branches.
"Brett, where are we going?" Chrissie asked. "Why didn't we just get into bed?"
"Jason heard us the other night," he told her. "We woke him up."
"We did?" she said, mortified at the thought.
"Yes, or, more accurately, he felt us. He told me that your elbow bashed him in the head a few
times."
"Oh my Gawd! Did he tell you that?"
"He did. But don't worry. He's cool with it. In any case, I thought that maybe a little more privacy
was in order. And fortunately, I found... where the hell is it now?" He looked at the confusing array
of shapes and shadows that surrounded them. "Damn I wish we had a flashlight... oh... there it is.
This way." He headed for a black shape that was just a little too straight and even to have been
caused by Mother Nature. Chrissie followed dutifully behind him.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It's a genuine, American-made, Ford Taurus that got washed down from the road up there," he told
her, stumbling his way closer.
"A car?"
"Correct," he confirmed, reaching out and finally touching cold, wet metal. "I found it while you
were making camp. I didn't think you could drive something like this out this far into the woods,
even before the comet, but somebody did. You ever done it in a car before?"
She began to laugh. "Except for the other night," she told him, "that's the only place I ever HAVE
done it."
"I see," he said, laughing with her. "Then maybe you can show me the way. It's been quite a while
since I've had the pleasure."
He opened up the back door of the four-door car and swung it open. It took a little effort since the
vehicle was resting at a twenty-degree angle, it's trunk against a tree, the hood the highest point. He
held it for Chrissie. "After you, my lady," he told her.
She didn't move right away. "There's nothing in there, is there?" she asked, obviously thinking
more about someBODY than someTHING.
"I checked it for supplies when I found it," Brett told her comfortingly. "There was nothing we
could use in it but there were no people or critters either. It's empty."
That convinced her. She ducked under his arm and climbed into the back seat, scooting over
towards the far door. Brett followed her in, allowing the door to shut behind him. With the upward
tilt of the car it was actually quite comfortable to sit in since they were naturally reclined. The rain
pattered noisily on the roof above them, adding a soothing background noise. The smell was a bit
musty, as if the previous owner had not been very fastidious with cleaning, but it was not
overpowering. Most important, it was dry; the first completely dry place they had been in quite
some time.
"All we need now is some music," Chrissie said, stretching out a bit and pulling herself next to him.
"I checked on that earlier," he replied, putting his arm around her. "The battery is still good but the
keys are gone. And despite my many talents, hot-wiring an ignition is not one of them."
"Have you been planning this the whole time?" she asked, mock indignation in her tone.
"Who, me?" he asked innocently.
"We're gonna have to get shot at more often if this is the kind of effect that it has on you."
He pulled her against him, forcing her to twist a little in her seat. "Be careful what you wish for," he
told her, kissing her on the mouth before she could answer him.
It did not take them very long to get heated back up. Within a minute of their lips touching, both
were panting with lust and letting their hands touch forbidden places. Brett reached under her
shirts, pushing across the soft skin of her stomach and forcing his way into her bra from below. He
cupped her bare breasts, feeling the nipples harden into points against his palms. Chrissie reached
down between them and unbuckled his belt, ripping his pants open once they were free. She
reached into his pants where she gripped his hardness with her rough hand, squeezing and releasing
it almost painfully.
"I can't wait to have this inside me," she groaned into his mouth.
"And it can't wait to be there," he returned, flicking at her nipples with his thumbs.
He pulled his hands from beneath her shirts and then began to take them off, continuing to kiss her
as he did so. Though he couldn't see very well in the darkness, he memorized the shape and feel of
her breasts once they were bared. He ran his hands over them, squeezing softly, kneading them,
pushing them together. Chrissie hummed softly as he did this.
"I like it when you play with my boobies," she told him, kissing at his neck now.
He pushed her back onto the seat and then scooted himself backward just a tad before leaning down
and taking her left nipple into his mouth. He let his tongue slide all around it, feeling the little
ridges and bumps that marred its surface, tasting every square millimeter. He sucked it until she
began to moan and run her fingers through his matted hair and then he switched to the other one.
It wasn't long before both tired of foreplay. "Let's get undressed," Brett said, pulling himself free of
her.
"Yeah," she agreed, reaching down for her boots.
They shed their clothes in record time, throwing each piece over the seat in front of them, forming
an untidy pile of shirts, socks, pants, underwear, and holstered guns. Since neither of them had been
able to bathe in recent memory, the smell in the enclosed car was very strong and thick and not, in
the strictest sense of the word, terribly pleasant to inhale. Neither one cared however. The moment
they were naked they reached for each other, their lips once again closing into a passionate
exchange of tongues and saliva.
Brett ran his hands up and down the smooth skin of Chrissie's back as he held her to him. She
rubbed her bare thighs against his, her hands dropping down once again to grasp his turgid erection.
"Fuck me now," she told him, nipping at his bottom lip with her teeth. "Put it in me and fuck me!"
"Come up here," he said, pulling at her by the armpits (which had developed more than a little hair
over the past week and a half), dragging her onto his lap. She swung her legs over the top of his,
straddling his thighs and inching forward until her bare stomach was touching his. Her crotch
pushed towards his straining member and he felt warm wetness and coarse hair. She began to
undulate back and forth, smearing her juices on him. He put his hands on her ass and pulled upward
a little, forcing her to raise up. "Put it in," he told her.
"I've never done that before," she panted.
"It's time to learn," he replied. "Grab it and put it inside."
She reached down between their bodies and took hold of him again, her hands smearing more of
her juices over the head and the shaft. She moved it back and forth for a moment, trying to line it
up just right, rubbing the head against her folds as she did so. Brett groaned at the sensation and
pulled on her ass, trying to force her down upon him.
The head slipped inside of her at last and, with a gentle tug on his part and a gentle push on her
part, she sank down, pulling the rest of him in. Though he had experienced the exquisite tightness
of her before, it still came as an altogether pleasant surprise to feel her clutching at him, engulfing
him. Both sighed as the penetration occurred, as their crotches joined at the hairs. He began to
thrust upward, grinding himself against her body, pushing on the nerve channels that gave her
pleasure. They kissed each other hotly as they fucked, his hands squeezing the cheeks of her ass,
her hands scratching at his back.
"Oh god, it feels so good," she breathed, moving her lips to his neck once again.
"Yeah," he panted back, thrusting upward with more force, squeezing her ass together at the top of
each stroke.
Where their first coupling had been gentle and hesitant, this one was wild and forceful. They began
to thrust faster, with more power, grunting and groaning, licking and biting. He dropped his head
down to her breasts again and buried his face between them, tonguing the tangy skin, sucking it
into his mouth. She put her hands on his shoulders and used them as leverage to push and pull
herself up and down. They started to sweat, their bodies sliding together on a film of sticky
perspiration.
Brett reached down to her crotch and found her clit, which was swollen and wet, a firm little nubbin
just begging to be touched. He began to rub it with a finger, using a firm circular motion. Chrissie
went immediately and completely wild at the contact.
"Oh godd," she moaned, "ohhh, ohhh, yessss!"
"You like that?" he panted into her ear.
"Yes, yes! Keep doing that!"
"Are you going to come all over me?"
"Yesssss!" she screamed, her thrusts speeding up, her hands pushing painfully down onto his
shoulders.
"Do it Chrissie," he told her, increasing the pressure and thrusting up into each of her downthrusts.
"Come on me baby, come on me!"
"Ohhhhhhhhh," she whined, slamming up and down so hard now that Brett began to fear she might
dislodge the car from its resting place and send it further down the hill. She arched her back and
stiffened up, her teeth biting into his shoulder. "Goddddd!"
Her spasms went on for the better part of a minute and, with them, her chasm gripped and squeezed
spastically on his cock. He leaned forward and took over the burden of thrusting from her, putting
his hands to her waist and holding her in one place while he raised his hips up and down. He felt his
own orgasm straining to be released and he fought it down, not wanting this wild ride to end.
As soon as Chrissie's orgasm passed he began whispering in her ear again, trying to drive her
towards another one. He continued to move himself upward and downward, rotating and grinding
as he thrust. It didn't take very long before she began to pant and moan once more. This time, when
she was at the height of her spasms, as her teeth buried themselves into the flesh of his shoulder, he
let himself go. Now it was his hips that were rising and falling spastically, his lips that were
moaning out uncontrollable pleasure.
"Oh yesss," she cried from the throes of her own pleasure. "Come in me, come in me, come in
meeeee!"
When the peak hit him he thrust upward hard enough to bash her head into the roof of the car.
Undaunted, he continued to drive into her as his sperm blasted out of his body and into hers. She
held onto him tightly as she was bucked up and down like a woman on a mechanical bull. Finally,
after an eternity, the spasms died down, with it, his thrusts. They slumped against each other, both
dripping sweat, both breathing heavy from the exertion.
"That was totally awesome," Chrissie said when she was capable of speech.
"Totally awesome?" he said, kissing her sweaty forehead. "Now just partially awesome, huh?"
"Totally," she giggled, holding him tightly.
They stayed like that for a while, just holding each other, his penis shrinking within her but
remaining nestled in her folds. The rain continued to patter on the roof of the car.
"So what happens now?" Chrissie asked him. "Between us, I mean?"
"What happens now," he said, "is that we live life one day at a time. This is the kind of world where
you have to do things that way, wouldn't you say?"
"So you're not going to tell me it's all over between us in the morning, that it was all wrong what
we did?"
"No," he told her. "I don't think that it IS wrong anymore. We used to have laws against doing what
I just did but those laws, as much as I used to agree with them, were passed for a world where
people didn't try to kill other people for the food that they carried, where you didn't have to wonder
if you were going to be alive the next day. That was a world where people worried about retirement
plans and whether or not there would be Social Security when they got old enough to need it. This
isn't that world anymore. And while I like to think that some of our old morals are going to survive,
I've already determined that a lot of them aren't. There are certain morals that we simply don't have
the luxury of embracing anymore."
"And sleeping with me is one of them?" she asked, half-seriously.
"As far as I'm concerned," he said. "Like I told you earlier, you're a woman now. You proved that
today quite nicely. A woman can make her own decisions. While we're on this little journey of
ours, I'll be proud to share a sleeping bag with you, if you'll have me."
"Oh I'll have you all right," she told him, grinding herself a little atop him. "I'll have you every
night if I can get it."
He kissed her. "You won't get any arguments from me there," he said.
They left the car a few minutes later, not bothering to dress themselves, donning only their boots to
keep from getting their feet muddy. They carried their clothes in their hands as Brett led them
slowly and carefully back to the lean-to, relying only on his sense of direction to find it.
They discovered that Jason was awake when they got back.
"Where were you guys at?" he asked, his voice a little nervous. "I woke up and you were gone."
"Sorry," Brett said. "We went for a walk. We didn't think that you would wake up or we would've
told you."
"You went for a walk in the dark?" he asked incredulously, and quite naively. "Why would you do
that?"
"Just because," Chrissie barked impatiently at him in her older sister tone. "Don't worry about it."
"We'll let you know if we ever decide to do that again," Brett said, feeling guilty for scaring Jason
that way. "I'm sorry if we scared you."
"I wasn't scared," he said quickly. "I was just wondering where you went. It's no big deal."
Jason seemed to have finally figured out what was up between the two of them. He asked no more
questions of them, not even when he heard them struggling to zip their two sleeping bags into one
large one.
"Good night you guys," he said, when he heard them crawling in.
"Good night," they both replied.
The two lovers snuggled their naked bodies together in the tight confines of the sleeping bag. It was
a close fit, forcing them to spoon their bodies together, Chrissie's back to Brett's front. But neither
of them minded in the least.

Go To Chapter 3 -->


Chapter 3
The next two days passed fairly uneventfully for the three survivors. They continued to work their
way along the rim of the canyon, keeping consistently just far away from it to hear the roar of the
flood waters within, but not close enough for that sound to overwhelm their sense of hearing. They
did not directly encounter anyone else although on multiple occasions their presence was noted by
other survivors, all of them desperate and starving but none of them quite desperate enough to
tangle with the mean looking group that Jason, Chrissie, and Brett had obviously become. Even
those with no evil intentions in their heads, who just wanted to try to beg food, kept their distance,
electing to try their luck elsewhere.
On a few occasions the trio was shadowed for a while, usually by groups of three or more armed
men, and usually to scope out whether an ambush would be possible. In all cases, once these groups
got a good look at just how the trio moved, how they coordinated their every step, how they
constantly checked their rear, the would-be attackers elected to move on to weaker and less capable
victims. At this point in the aftermath, there were still other victims to be had.
Brett caught the scent of a few of these groups as they shadowed him. Nothing was so strong as the
two marijuana growers but on several occasions he had felt the beginnings of that instinct tickling
his neck as he realized they were being watched from afar. In each case a signal to his teammates to
spread out a little and keep a sharper eye to the sides and the rear (they had gone over many more
hand-signals and pre-planned evasion techniques since the shootout) had been the clincher for the
stalkers. These were NOT people to be trifled with. In a world where the strong now preyed upon
the weak, Brett's group certainly did not fall into the latter category.
Brett toyed with the idea of a rotating watch at night while they camped, just to keep anyone from
sneaking up on them and killing them as they slept. But every time this thought crossed his mind,
he was forced to conclude that it was an unnecessary waste of precious sleep. The blackness that
fell over the land when the sun went down was simply too absolute to allow any sort of attack upon
them at night. Unless they had night vision goggles - something that was highly unlikely - a group
bent on taking them would not be able to approach or shoot with any degree of accuracy even if
they knew exactly where they were. For the time being, they kept a watch until the light was gone
and then they went to bed.
Brett and Chrissie continued to share a sleeping bag together during their slumber hours, enjoying
the warmth of each other's body and, at least once during each sleep period, a slow, careful session
of sexual coupling. They took great pains to be quiet and still during these sessions, neither very
wild about the thought of Jason listening in on their activities. If he heard them (and he did, every
single time) he said nothing about it.
As they continued to climb in altitude - on the day after the shooting they passed 4500 feet - the air
grew steadily colder, without any significant difference between day and night temperatures. This
was mostly due to the increasing elevation but it was also due to the fact that it was just getting
colder everywhere. When the clouds had initially covered the planet after the strike they had served
almost like a blanket, trapping the residual heat beneath them and keeping temperatures reasonably
high despite the lack of sunlight. But now, at impact+10 days, much of that trapped heat was being
slowly leeched away in the mid-latitudes and the equatorial regions, dissipating towards the poles
instead. Brett began to wonder if the rain they were experiencing would turn to snow at some point
or, even worse, if it already done so at the higher altitudes above them. If too much snowfall
accumulated at the mountaintops it would eventually come sweeping downward in a tremendous
avalanche.
But, as Brett had told Chrissie not long before, this was a life that was to be lived one day at a time.
There was not really anything that could be done about hypothetical avalanches that might be
months in the future. Their current goal at any given time was simply to live through the day; and
after that, the week. He could not honestly see or plan any further than reaching the bridge that
crossed the canyon at Garden Hill. There were too many variables and possibilities to worry about
in that alone. The bridge might be down, probably would be in fact, or the town might be washed
away. If the bridge was intact and the town still there, the inhabitants might be like the bikers that
had found Chrissie and Jason's family. If they were not like that, then they might not be feeling
very charitable to a traveling band of strangers. Only in his wildest moments of optimism did he
think that they might find friendly, sharing townspeople in Garden Hill.
Most of the time he tried not to think about such things. He kept moving and his two teammates, as
he now thought of them, moved with him. He kept up a cheery, hopeful attitude, even though he
sometimes felt blackly hopeless, and they responded to it, their own attitudes echoing his. Brett, a
second born child, had never been a natural leader of others but in the course of his lifetime he had
learned to embrace that role and excel at it when it was necessary. He had done it in the army and
as a cop, usually with favorable results, and he did it now. Though their food supply was dwindling
steadily and there were no replenishments in sight, though they had used up nearly half of their rifle
ammunition in one minor firefight with a couple of inept morons, he kept his chin up and he kept
them moving.

It was late afternoon, just about the time when they usually started looking for a suitable place to
camp for the night, when Brett caught sight of movement up ahead of them. He saw two figures
about two hundred yards away, walking together. He saw them only for the briefest of instants,
through the maze of trees and shrubs before them, but it was enough.
He chopped his left hand downward several times, the sign to Chrissie and Jason to get down
immediately. They did so, throwing themselves instantly into the mud on their bellies, their rifles
trained forward. Brett was on the ground at the same instant that they were, his eyes peering
forward, searching for another glimpse. He caught one a moment later, just as the two people
moved from one area of trees to another. There were two of them, both men, both dressed in
hunting clothes. Both were armed with rifles that they carried slung over their backs. It appeared
that they were oblivious to the presence of the trio as of yet, but, if they kept to their current course,
they would soon blunder directly into them.
When they passed from view again, Brett looked over his shoulder at Chrissie and Jason. They
were looking at him anxiously, awaiting his next instruction. He pointed forward and then held up
two fingers, indicating where and how many. He then mimed the firing of a rifle, letting them know
what they were armed with. They nodded their understanding. Next, he gave them the signal to
spread out and keep low. He covered this move with his rifle while they each crawled on their
bellies about ten yards to each side, both slipping behind the trunks of trees that would protect them
from the front. Once they were in place and aiming outward to cover him, Brett inched forward as
quickly and silently as possible, until he too was behind a large pine tree. He leaned outward,
training his rifle towards a gap in the tree line ahead of them where he figured that the two people
would emerge.
It was very tense while the trio waited for them to approach. Several times they caught further
glimpses, enough to identify as them as people that were on their last legs. Their clothing hung off
of them like rags and their skin was abnormally pale and drawn. They didn't seem completely alert
as they approached, as if they were moving forward on autopilot only. Several times they could
have been shot down with ease as they moved through open ground, but Brett had signaled to Jason
and Chrissie to keep their weapons tight, meaning that they should not fire unless he did or unless
they saw some immediate threat.
Brett was hoping that the two men would pass either to the left or right of them without even seeing
them but it became apparent as they got closer that this was not in the cards. They were heading
directly towards where they lie. He got the attention of Chrissie and Jason and then reiterated the
"weapons tight" signal: a pat on the side of his rifle followed by a clenched fist. They nodded their
understanding.
He waited until they were less than fifty feet in front of them, as they were in open ground and easy
targets for any one of the three rifles pointed at them. "Stop where you are!" he yelled clearly
towards them. "Do not come any closer to us!"
They both jumped, startled at the loud voice that had jerked them out of whatever world they had
been in. Both instinctively reached for the rifles on their backs.
"Don't touch those guns!" Brett warned, his finger tightening on the trigger of his M-16. "You have
several people pointing weapons at you right now. If you bring those rifles down, we will be forced
to shoot!"
The two men stopped in mid-reach. They shared a look with each other, as if passing a telepathic
signal. Finally, the one in front said: "We don't have any food. You're wasting your time with us."
His voice did not sound the least bit scared, only resigned.
"We have no desire to hurt you," Brett said. "We're only making sure that YOU don't hurt us. Now
put those rifles down on the ground and back away from them. We won't take them from you, we
just want to make sure they're safe before we approach."
They shared another look, seeming to hold a silent conversation with each other. Finally they both
shrugged at each other and tossed their rifles into the mud. They backed up six feet and put their
hands in the air.
Brett signaled to his team that he would move forward and that they should keep him covered. He
then stood up and began to walk towards them, his rifle held at hip level, the barrel towards them,
his finger on the trigger. He made sure that he did not, at any time, cross between either Chrissie or
Jason and the targets. As he got closer he saw that the two men looked even worse than he had first
thought. So emaciated were they that their cheekbones were protruding from beneath their skin.
Their eyes were nothing but hollow sockets, haunted by impending doom. They looked like they
had already died days before and just didn't know it yet.
"You guys look like shit," he observed when he got close enough to converse in a normal tone.
"Brilliant observation Einstein," one of them, the nearer of the two, shot right back.
"Any more of you out there?"
"No," the second one said, shaking his head wearily. "There's just the two of us left."
Brett had no sense that the man was lying to him. He relaxed a little. "Have a seat," he said, waving
at the ground with the butt of his rifle.
They made no move to sit down.
"Go on," he encouraged. "I wasn't lying to you before. We're not gonna hurt you or take anything of
yours."
They sat, both of them slumping down and plopping their butts into the mud. Brett gave the all-
clear signal and waved Chrissie and Jason forward. They trotted up, staying to the sides of him,
their rifles pointing downward but still gripped in the firing position. They kept their mouths shut
as they took in the two strangers.
"Where'd you two come from?" Brett asked, lowering his own rifle a bit.
"We were up near Blue Canyon when the comet hit," the first man told him.
"Deer hunting?"
"That's right. Up on our annual trip from San Jose. I don't suppose there's much left of San Jose
these days, is there?"
"I wouldn't imagine," Brett said. "Wives and families down there?"
They both nodded sadly.
"I know the feeling," he commiserated. "I'm from Stockton. There's not much of it left either. How
are things further up the hill? Do you know if the bridge to Garden Hill is still intact?"
The two men looked at each other knowingly. "Oh it's intact all right," the second man said,
shaking his head a little. "At least it was two days ago. I wouldn't plan on getting across it though."
"No?" Brett said, raising his eyebrows. "Why not?"
"It would seem that the Garden Hill people aren't taking too kindly to visitors these days," the first
one said. "They've piled cars up on the bridge and they shoot at anyone who tries to cross it. There
are guards posted just on the other side and they'll just shoot around you the first two shots to try to
make you get off. If you keep moving after that, boom, right through the heart."
"Interesting," Brett said, absorbing this information. "They're not letting anyone in?"
"They didn't let US in," the second said. "And they didn't come down to question us either, they just
shot."
"We're trying to make it down to the Auburn bridge now," the first told them. "Any idea if that
one's still up?"
"Don't know," Brett told them. "We were up near Castle Point when everything started. We were
heading up towards Garden Hill because we thought that bridge was more likely to be there."
"Well, like we said," said the first, "it's there but you ain't gonna get across it. Not even with the
firepower you're packing."
The second man started to get a gleam in his eye. "Maybe you'd like to throw in with us and head
down to Auburn," he said hopefully. "There's safety in numbers you know?"
Brett was able to clearly read the underlying implication to the offer. If they joined up with the two
hunters they would be expected to share their food supplies with them as well. As much as he felt
for their predicament, he had to watch out for his own group first. There simply was not enough
food to feed five people for the week and a half to two weeks it would take to walk back to Auburn.
"Sorry," he said, shaking his head. "I think we'll keep moving up the hill and take a look at that
bridge ourselves. Maybe we can find a way to negotiate our way past it. I appreciate the
information though."
"There's no negotiating with those people," the first reiterated, starting to see where his companion
was coming from. "They'll just gun you down. Come with us."
Brett shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "We'll part company here gentlemen. I've got enough to
worry about without picking up two more stragglers. I wish you the best of luck down in Auburn.
We're gonna move off now. You two keep your butts on the ground until we're gone. Don't try to
follow us, okay? People get hurt that way."
The both nodded feebly, neither trying to push the issue. "I don't suppose," the first said, licking his
lips a little, "that you have anything to spare?"
"Just a little bit?" the second put in. "We're about used up."
Brett, Chrissie, and Jason all looked at each other for a moment. They passed a careful shrug back
and forth.
"Give 'em that low-fat turkey chili shit," Brett finally told Jason, who was carrying that particular
supply in his pack. "That stuff makes us all want to puke anyway."
"Glad to get rid of it," Jason said, unshouldering his pack and opening it up.
The two men were beyond grateful for the gift. They thanked the trio approximately two hundred
times in the three minutes that it took to give them the two cans and allow them to use their single
can opener to access one of them.
"Once again," Brett told them as they reached into the can with their bare fingers and pulled out
globs of it, "good luck to you down there and don't try to follow us. We'll know and we'll deal with
it harshly."
"Mmmm hmmm," said the first, chomping and chewing the brown gruel.
"Hmmmph," agreed the second, stuffing his face as well.
The two hunters did not bother them after they left. Brett figured that the information that they
provided had been well worth the price of two cans of disgusting turkey chili.
It was late the next day when they saw the bridge for the first time. The terrain that they had been
passing through had become extremely steep, rocky, and hard to penetrate, forcing them, as the day
passed, much closer to the wall of the canyon than they felt comfortable with. Several times they
were forced to inch along the edge in places, listening to the deafening roar of floodwater passing
below them and contemplating the dizzy height. Finally they reached a steep rise that completely
blocked their way. It was a rocky outcropping that rose several hundred feet above them. They
were left with the choice of either backtracking a few miles to go around it or climbing over it.
Neither idea was terribly appetizing.
After a discussion among them they elected to try scaling the rise. The going was a little easier than
it had looked from the bottom but it was no cakewalk. They clawed and scrambled over slippery
rocks, inching their way upward foot by foot and occasionally sending small rock slides clattering
down behind them. The climb made Brett extremely nervous, not because he was afraid of falling
but because they were easy targets to any enemies while they were up there. But luck was with
them and nobody took any potshots at them as they ascended.
The top of the rise was a gently rounded plateau full of loose boulders and protruding rocks of all
shapes and sizes, some of them more than ten feet in diameter. Brett was the first one to the top and
he pulled himself between two large rocks at the summit, his eyes looking outward to what lay
beyond.
"The bridge," he whispered to himself, his eyes taking in the sight of it. It was a single span, steel
arch bridge that stretched about three-quarters of a mile from one side of the canyon to the other.
The support structure of the bridge had been built beneath the roadway, a solid steel curvature that
was fastened to the canyon walls at both ends. The steel was painted forest green. It was just over a
half a mile in front of him, its outline a little indistinct through the haze of rain. As the two hunters
had told them the day before, a mess of automobiles clogged the bridge at both ends, snarling the
roadway.
Beyond the bridge on the far side of the canyon, the roadway passed between two low hills and
disappeared. Brett knew that the main part of the town of Garden Hill itself was just on the other
side of those hills, out of sight. He also knew that there had once been expensive houses lining the
upstream rim of the canyon. Those houses were no longer there. The changed shape of the hillside
where they had been told him that either erosion from the rain or the earthquake had carried them
into the canyon itself.
On Brett's side of the canyon the topography was a little different. The roadway climbed upward,
away from the near end of the bridge at nearly the steepest grade that the law had allowed, twisting
through holes that had been blasted in the steep cliffs around them. The view from the top of the
rise on this side was actually quite commanding and Brett immediately began to wonder why the
people that were controlling access to the bridge below hadn't occupied it. He filed that thought
away for later examination.
"Keep down as you come up here," he told Chrissie and Jason, who were just now scrambling up
next to him. "The bridge is down there and we're probably close enough to be spotted by the people
that are guarding it if we silhouette ourselves."
"We're at the bridge?" Chrissie asked excitedly, crawling on her hands and knees until she was next
to him. She looked out over the landscape. "Finally."
"It's still there," Jason said, coming up next to him on his right. "You were right Brett."
While the two younger members of the team took in the sights around them, Brett reached into his
pack and pulled out the hunting rifle that had been in it ever since the shootout with the bikers. He
put it to his shoulder and looked through the telescopic sight at the bridge, bringing the view closer.
He trained the crosshairs on the near end of the bridge, where two Ford Expeditions and a Chevy
Suburban had been placed, their tires flattened to keep them from being moved. Through the
magnification he was able to see multiple bullet holes in the vehicles as well as two rotting corpses
of men on the roadway of the bridge.
"It looks like these people mean business," he said, moving the sight from one end to the other.
"There's two bodies down there that have been shot. They must be the people that didn't heed the
warning shots."
"We're not gonna be able to get across then?" Jason asked.
"Well," he said, training his sight over the rest of the bridge and examining every visible portion of
it, "we're not gonna be able to just walk right over it, that's for sure."
"So what are we gonna do?" Chrissie wanted to know.
"We're gonna scope this place out for a bit," he said, noting that there was a maintenance catwalk
just below the roadway. It looked to be about two feet wide and hung about six feet under the
center of the span. "We'll see how things work around here, see if we can observe any of the people
on the other side, and then we'll decide what to do from there."
"Do you think there's a way?" she asked.
"Maybe," he said, training his sight on the hillsides across the canyon now, trying to spot their
guards. "I can already tell that these Garden Hill people are not as smart as they think they are. If
they were, they would be sitting up here on this hill right now and we never would have been able
to get this close. This is the optimum place to guard the canyon approaches from."
Neither one of them said anything to this, bowing to his superior grasp of tactics.
He was not able to spot their guards or anything that resembled a guard position. He put the rifle
back in his pack and looked at his two companions. "Let's go back down," he told them. "We'll try
to find a place to camp down there and we'll keep a watch on this place until sunset."

Chrissie stayed down at the campsite to guard it while Brett and Jason climbed back up onto the
rise after dinner. There was about 45 minutes to an hour left of daylight and Brett wanted to see
what, if anything, the townspeople did to protect the approaches to the bridge once the light was
gone from the sky. Surely they wouldn't just leave it unprotected at night, would they?
They didn't. Brett, seeing what they did, actually was impressed with their cleverness.
It was about twenty minutes before dark, the light fading fast, when he spotted two people
emerging from around the hill. They walked down the roadway, both of them carrying rifles over
their shoulders, heading towards the bridge.
"I got two people coming our way," Brett told Jason quietly. He put his hunting rifle to his shoulder
once again, peering through the scope to get a better look at them. Since they were nearly a mile
away from him and since there was a sheet of rain impeding the view, the magnification did not
help all that much. Still he was able to make out that one was a male and one was a female and that
they were wearing black rain slickers. "A man and a woman," he said. "They both have backpacks
and rifles. I bet they're heading for those two SUVs that are blocking their end of the bridge."
"You think they guard it from there?" Jason asked, his sharp eyes taking in the tiny figures as they
walked down the road.
"I think they do," Brett confirmed. "You see how they're right next to each other and facing
outward. That's pretty smart. I bet they got those engines gassed up and they keep the batteries
charged. If anyone tries to cross the bridge at night, they can turn on the headlights and spotlight
the whole roadway in front of them. If they stay behind the cars, they can shoot with impunity since
their targets will be blinded."
"That IS pretty smart," Jason agreed.
What was even smarter was what they did next. The female guard opened up the left SUV and took
two objects out of it. Brett could not quite make out what they were, only that they were something
black, about the size of a paperback book, and wrapped in clear plastic. While the male guard took
up a position behind the opened door of the SUV, the female, still carrying the mysterious objects,
began to walk out onto the bridge itself.
"What're they doing?" Jason asked.
"I'm not sure," Brett replied, continuing to watch. "It looks like they're putting something on the
bridge."
"Land mines?"
"I don't think so. Land mines are kinda hard to come by in a yuppie town like Garden Hill." He
chuckled a little. "They probably could've got some in Stockton though."
Jason, finally figuring out that he'd made a joke, dutifully laughed.
When the woman reached the far end of the bridge Brett was finally able to identify what she was
carrying. "They're video cameras," he said. "What the hell?"
As he watched, she removed them from their plastic wrappers and placed them in the backs of the
two vehicles that were positioned on Brett's end of the bridge, one camera in the back of each
vehicle, facing outward, towards the entrance to the bridge. It appeared as though they were resting
on some sort of mounting device that had been fashioned. Once they were in place, she picked up
cables from the inside of the vehicles and plugged them into the backs of the cameras in two places.
"Son of a bitch," Brett said in wonder, taking his scope off of the woman and training it onto the
back of the SUVs. Sure enough, barely visible unless you knew to look for it, was a black cable
stretching out the back of each one. The two cables, which probably each consisted of an individual
power supply cord and a coaxial cable twined together, joined each other and stretched back across
the bridge towards the far end where they snaked into the guardpost SUVs. "I bet you those
cameras are the kind with night vision on them," he told Jason. "They keep them trained on the
front of the bridge all night long on that setting and monitor them from the other end on small
television sets."
"Won't the batteries die?" Jason asked.
"No, they have a power cord running to their SUVs. They probably have the cameras and the
monitors plugged into the cigarette lighters and they start their engines every now and then and run
them just long enough to keep the batteries charged up. Impressive. They must've stripped that
whole town of coaxial cable and extension cords to do it. Either that or the local Radio Shack
managed to survive the comet."
"So there's no way across the bridge then?"
"Well now, I didn't say that," Brett said. "They're smart but they've left a few holes in their
defenses."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you once I've thought it all the way through," he said, watching as the woman raised a
walkie-talkie of some sort to her lips and spoke into it. Back at the other end of the bridge her
companion, who also had a walkie-talkie, said something back to her. She nodded and then started
back across the bridge.
Brett lowered the rifle and eased backwards a little. "Let's get back down," he said. "We'll get some
sleep and then do some more surveillance in the morning."
Brett and Jason both climbed back up at first light and resumed their positions. They arrived just in
time to see the dismantling of the cameras and the pullback of the bridge guards. Brett, peering
through his telescopic scope, noted that the guards were not the same ones that had put up the
operation the night before. These two were both females. That meant that they had enough people
to work in shifts. It also meant that they had some sort of organized group functioning. That was
just what was needed if the human race was going to survive another year: organization.
"We need to become a part of that group," Brett said, speaking mostly to himself, but loud enough
for Jason to hear.
"What?" Jason asked. "I thought we were just trying to get across the bridge."
"We are," he said. "We're trying to get to Garden Hill. And it looks like Garden Hill has made itself
into an enclave. They've pulled together, organized, and they are defending their borders from
outsiders. If they can keep themselves organized and fed, they'll live long enough to see the sun
again. If they live that long, they'll be one of the groups whose children and grandchildren will
rebuild. We need to make ourselves a part of that."
"But how?" Jason asked. "It don't look they want any more people in there."
"No, it doesn't, does it? So we'll just have to convince them that they need us."
"Why would they need us?"
He smiled a little. "They need us," he said. "I'm just going to have to show them how much."

"I don't like it," Chrissie said when they discussed the plan that afternoon. "They'll kill you."
"I don't think so," he replied. "I've watched them all day and I'm convinced that they don't just kill
people for the hell of it. Five times people walked up to that bridge and tried to cross it. Every time
they just fired down into the cars near the front until the people decided to go somewhere else.
They just want to keep people out."
"But those are people that are just walking across the bridge openly. What's going to happen when
they find YOU?"
"If I do it right," he said, "they WON'T find me until I'm already well across. At that point the
example that I'm trying to make for them will be well-established."
Chrissie was not convinced. "We don't really need to be a part of this town," she said. "We can do
just fine by ourselves. We have so far."
"We can't," he told her firmly. "We've done okay so far because we have a food supply and good
weapons and we keep a sharp eye out. Our food supply is running out though and we don't have
any way of getting more. Our luck will eventually run out as well if we stay out here. Eventually
some desperate group of hunters is going to bag one or more of us. Our best chance of survival is to
join a larger group that holds a defendable piece of ground. This is it Chrissie. We have to convince
them to let us in."
She was struggling not to cry. "What if you don't come back Brett?" she asked him. "What happens
to us then?"
"Then you carry on," he told her. "You do the best that you can without me. You guys are fighters
now, you're a bad-ass, ass-kicking team. But I WILL come back. I don't think I'm wrong about
these people. They're not sadists. They're just ordinary people. Even if they reject me, they'll let me
back out again. I'm sure of it."
"And what if you ARE wrong?"
He looked at her levelly. "Than I'll die. Sometimes you have to gamble. I think this is a good one."
She said no more. She only turned her face from him and wept softly. Beside her, Jason was
fighting not to do the same.
It was late afternoon again when he departed; about two hours before sunset. He kissed Chrissie,
shook Jason's hand, and then gave both of them a few encouraging words and some final
instructions. He then left them, climbing up the rise again. He traveled lightly, absent of his pack
and his sleeping bag. He left his M-16 and his hunting rifle behind as well, taking only his trusty.40
caliber, which was strapped to his waist. He wanted to be able to maneuver freely and, most
important, he did not want to appear to be an immediate threat when he was finally discovered.
His observations throughout the day had shown him exactly where the daytime guards of the bridge
were located. They had hidden their bunker well but had foolishly given away its location by the
muzzle-flashes of the guns they fired to keep intruders away. Predictably it was near the crest of the
hill overlooking the bridge. Keeping this location in mind, Brett always kept boulders between it
and him once he reached the top. He then started down the far side, the side that was not visible
from the Garden Hill side of the canyon.
The going was a little rough at first and several times he very nearly lost his grip and went sliding
downward. But at last, about three-quarters of the way to the bottom, the angle leveled out to
something a little less suicidal and he was able to move more freely. He nearly trotted the rest of
the way down until he was once more in the safety of the trees and shrubs. Being in the open had
scared him more than the threat of falling.
Once at the bottom, he worked his way carefully, moving tree to tree, keeping a sharp eye and a
sharp ear out around him. There were probably a lot of people about, camped out in the woods
trying to figure out a way across the bridge. He had no desire to run into any of them.
It took him the better part of an hour to reach the road. In a way it was surreal seeing a stretch of
two-lane blacktop after so many days of wandering in the wilderness. Though it had undoubtedly
been washed out in many places and rendered all but impassible, this section was still intact. He
paused near the edge of it, watching both directions carefully for any signs of life. Seeing nothing
he finally crossed, doing it at a full-out sprint and diving into cover on the other side. He kept
another watch on that side for a few minutes to see if he had attracted any attention.
When he began to move again, he paralleled the pavement, sticking to the woods to travel but
walking exactly twenty yards from the roadbed as he closed with the bridge. In front of him loomed
the large granite ridge that had been opposite the one he and his group had observed from. The two
hills had once been connected until dynamite had blown them in two so the roadway could be
constructed.
Brett, during his observations of the Garden Hill security measures, had noted a fatal blind spot in
their plan. The crest of the upstream hill was hidden from the view of the guards by the bulk of the
downstream hill. He exploited that blind spot now by climbing to the top. The going was a little
steeper than what he had endured on the other side and it was doubtful that anyone with a full pack
could have negotiated the ascent, but less than ten minutes after he started up, he was at the
summit, crouching behind a rock and looking out over the small portion of bridge that was visible
to him.
He looked out over to the summit of the other hill, which was about a quarter mile away. He
couldn't see Chrissie and Jason there - they were too well concealed - but he waved at them
anyway, knowing that they would be glad to see that he had made it that far. They did not wave
back - he had taught them better than that - but he knew that they had seen him.
The downside of the hill was even steeper than the upside over here. He worked his way towards
the canyon, necessarily confined to a narrow portion of the hill that was hidden from the guards'
view. He slipped several times and had to grasp for dear life onto boulders or rocks to keep from
bouncing and tumbling all the way down. For the first time he began to wonder if this was
REALLY such a good idea as he realized that, if he fell, he would not stop at the bottom but would
instead continue over the edge of the cliff, falling several hundred feet into the rushing waters
below.
"Relax," he told himself, taking a few breaths and regaining his equilibrium. "Just take it slow."
He took it slow. He continued to work his way downward and finally, after nearly twenty minutes,
he was resting on a narrow outcropping of rock that protruded out over the canyon. He was below
the roadway of the bridge itself by about twenty feet. A narrow ledge led from where he was to the
point where the steel support section joined the walls about a hundred yards away. He edged along
the ridge slowly, trying not to look down into those rushing waters, until he had gone as far as
possible without being spotted from the guards' lookout. He then began looking for a place to
conceal himself.
He forced himself into a tight ball between two outcroppings of rock and kept his head down. From
here he was able to peer through a small gap and see the two SUVs at the front of the bridge but
hopefully, not be spotted when the guard came to set up the cameras. He thought he was fairly safe
from detection as long as they did not look directly at the spot where he was hiding. To help
minimize this threat he put his fingers into the brownish muck that had accumulated under the
rocks and smeared it all over his face, hair, and any exposed clothing. When he was done he was
nothing more than a shadow among shadows.
He waited.
As the light faded from the landscape and night began to fall, he saw the guard approaching the
SUVs that guarded his end. It was another female, different from the ones he had spotted the night
before. She went through the set-up procedure quickly and then spoke into her walkie-talkie.
Apparently receiving the answer that she wanted to hear, she turned and began to move back across
the bridge, passing out of his line of sight.
He waited, staying in place as the landscape around him grew darker and darker. He had a narrow
window in which he would be able to act. He had managed to place himself so that he could
approach the bridge without being detected by their cameras, but he could only avoid detection by
the guards themselves if he waited until it was too dark to be seen by them. At the same time
however, he needed SOME light so he could see where he was going as he moved along the ledge
to the bridge. Trying to negotiate that last fifty yards in complete darkness was a thought that did
not even bear contemplating.
Fortunately it was easy to tell when that particular window had been reached. When Brett could no
longer see across the canyon, he knew it was time. He pulled himself out of his hiding place and
continued his trip along the ledge, taking each step carefully and slowly. Several times he dislodged
loose rocks, sending them tumbling downhill and over the edge. Thankfully the deafening roar of
the water below easily masked the sound that this created.
At last he reached the bridge. He ducked under one of the massive steel supports and, utilizing the
last of the light available to him, scrambled up another ridge until he was able to put his hands on
the maintenance catwalk. This narrow access was suspended from the bottom of the bridge by steel
support beams that were located every twenty feet. During his examination earlier that day, he had
counted these beams, finding that there were exactly 198 individual supports on each side. Now, he
pulled himself up and ducked under the handrails that had been mounted along the length on both
sides. He put his feet on the grated metal surface and breathed silent thanks that he had managed to
make it to relative safety without falling to his death.
Just behind him was an L-shaped platform that protruded outward to the edge of the bridge. It had a
ladder bolted to it that allowed access up onto the roadway. Brett knew that there was another such
platform at the other end of the bridge, exactly 192 support columns away from where he now
stood. The townspeople had foolishly left the two ladders in place. He had no interest in the ladder
behind him since it only would have led him directly up to where the cameras were pointing. But
the ladder on the other end, that one he had uses for.
He began to walk along the catwalk, keeping his hands on the handrail as he went. He stepped
carefully, his boots treading along the grated surface. Each time his hand passed over one of the
support beams he counted off silently to himself, thus keeping track of his progress. He was
disconcerted to discover that the entire catwalk was rocking gently back and forth in the wind, the
sway increasing the further out over the canyon that he went. He began to wonder about the
structural integrity of the surface he was walking on. Was it possible that the earthquake had
loosened the catwalk but left the bridge intact? Not being an engineer, he simply didn't know. But
he had gone too far to turn back now.
By the time he reached column 96, the light had disappeared completely, forcing him to move by
feel only. Though this was part of his plan he still was forced to struggle with doubts about his
ability to ascend back to the roadway without being able to see. True he had obsessively studied the
ladder on the other side of the bridge through his rifle scope that afternoon, and true, he had the
layout of the platform memorized to the last detail, but now that the reality of what he was doing
was here, worry assaulted him.
Nevertheless, he pushed on. Brett was not a quitter. The closer to the far end of the bridge he came,
the slower and more carefully he walked. For the first time he wondered if maybe the guards up
above had another night vision equipped video camera that they used to periodically check the
catwalk with. It would be a simple matter of climbing out of their SUV from time to time and
leaning over the access ladder to point the camera downward. Surely they hadn't completely
disregarded the possibility that someone would infiltrate them in the manner that he was now
utilizing. After all, despite a few glaring security breaches they HAD proven themselves to be
rather clever.
Oh well, he finally concluded, if that was the case then they would catch him. There was simply no
way for him to counter that possibility. He continued on.
Nearly 30 minutes after he had started walking across, Brett's hand finally touched the 192nd
structural support beam. He stopped, listening carefully but hearing nothing but the rushing water.
This did not make him feel any better.
He shuffled forward a few more steps, using the handrails to support his weight while his left foot
stretched out over the side of the catwalk. It encountered nothing but empty air for the first couple
of steps but finally, right where he had thought it would be, it encountered the grated surface of the
ladder platform stretching out to the side. He withdrew his foot and stepped two more steps
forward, turning to his left as he went and facing out over the canyon. He moved his foot around
again, familiarizing himself with the small dimensions of the platform. It was narrower than the
catwalk surface, only about eighteen inches wide, barely enough to squeeze between the rails.
He ducked under the catwalk handrail and made his way out onto the platform. Moving as slow as
ever, he began to move outward at a 90-degree angle. The platform extended out a little more than
ten feet, to just beyond the edge of the bridge, and then it made another 90 degree turn to the right.
This last section was only about two feet long, just big enough to house the ladder that led up to the
guardrail and the roadway. When he reached the turn in the platform he looked upward into the
darkness, the rain falling on his face. He saw absolutely nothing, nor did he hear anything. He took
the fact that no one was challenging him or shooting at him to be a sign of his success so far.
He turned his body around and, groping blindly, finally found a rung of the ladder. He pulled
himself over to it and gave it a soft, experimental tug to see if it was loose or if it was going to rattle
as he climbed. It seemed relatively solid in its mountings so he put his foot on the first step and
pulled himself upward. He climbed one step at a time, pausing as he went up each rung, until
finally his hand touched the top of the guardrail itself.
He pulled himself up two more steps until his head was up over the rail. The end of the bridge
would be about ten feet to his left. The two SUVs that constituted the guard shack were about
twenty feet to his right. He could SEE the closer of the two SUVs plainly despite the darkness
because of the small televisions that the guards were using to monitor the cameras. A faint blue
glow emitted from the cab, just enough to allow him to see the outline of the vehicle. For perhaps
the hundredth time since he'd started watching the townspeople's security measures, he wondered
why, in the name of God, they had positioned those SUVs in front of the bridge's access ladder.
Had they just not considered that someone would do what he had just done? Or had they maybe run
out of the power or coaxial cables that connected the two ends of the bridge? If that were the case,
Brett would have moved the SUVs on the far end backward instead of moving the Garden Hill ones
forward. Whatever the reason, this lapse served to convince Brett that he had a decent chance of
convincing them that they needed him.
He looked at the outline of the SUV for a minute, trying to catch a glimpse of the people inside.
Though he knew that they would not be able to see him even if they were staring right at the spot
where he emerged, he wanted to make sure that one of them was not off taking a leak or something
and that he didn't accidentally blunder in to him or her as he made his getaway. As his eyes
adjusted to the dimness his brain finally began to make some sense out of the blurry shadows
within the vehicle. He identified one human head in the front seat, on the driver's side. The head
was leaning back against the headrest, moving from side to side every now and then. On the
passenger side, he saw nothing. Where was the other guard?
The answer came a moment later when a second head popped upward right next to the first head.
This second head had a lot of long hair, obviously designating it as belonging to a female. Brett
began to suspect where that second head had just been. Surely he was mistaken though? Nobody
would do that on guard duty, would they?
They would. This became apparent a moment later when the two heads came together in a
passionate kiss. He could not make out much detail but it was obvious that the two guards' hands
were rather busily stroking each other.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Brett mumbled, shaking his head in disgusted wonder.
What were these people thinking?
Obviously it wasn't about security. After only a minute or so of kissing and groping, the female
suddenly pulled away and began making motions that could only mean that she was removing her
pants. Her head dropped from sight once she finished this process and the head of the male
followed it down. Shortly after this the SUV began to rock back and forth, slowly at first and then
gradually picking up speed.
Brett had seen enough. No longer making any particular effort to be cautious, he swung his foot
over the railing and hopped down to the roadway. With one last contemptuous glance at the rocking
SUV, he began to walk along the roadway in the direction of town.
The road climbed steeply upward from the bridge where it passed through a gap between two hills
before curving back down into the town itself. Brett walked slowly along the shoulder, right where
the pavement met the dirt, using the contrast between the two surfaces to keep him oriented in the
darkness. He would step forward gingerly each time, carefully feeling with his foot before shifting
his weight forward. His progress was slow and it took him nearly an hour to make it to the top of
the hill.
He followed the curve of the road and, once he was about halfway around it, he was able to see
faint lights in front of and slightly below him. They were houses! The flickering softness of the
light told him that the illumination he was seeing in the various windows was from fire, either oil-
lamps or fireplaces. Fire! The very thought of that natural warmth thrilled him. He continued to
walk, moving steadily closer, trying to get some sort of count of just how many buildings were lit
up in the wealthy subdivision that he was looking at. A hundred? Maybe a few more? As incredible
as that seemed, it was accurate. How many people were left in this town?
His mind conjured up an image of the town as he remembered it from his many hunting trips in the
area. The actual township itself was nothing more than a few gas stations, a motel, and some simple
houses at the intersection of State Route 63, which he was now walking upon, and Interstate 80,
which was about two miles in front of him. Until about ten years before, Garden Hill had been
nothing more than an exit sign that people passed on their way up to Reno or the ski resorts, it's
only purpose to serve as a chain installation point and to gobble up the money of travelers who
stopped there for gas. And then the real estate developers had discovered it and bought up all of the
land adjacent to the canyon, slapping down expensive subdivisions among the pine trees and
advertising the town as "luxurious rural living". The yuppies from Sacramento had flocked there in
droves, buying up the 200 to 300 thousand dollar homes long before they were even built. These
subdivisions were of the sort that were called "gated communities", which meant that they had
eight foot concrete walls around them to keep the riff-raff out. They had all been grouped together
on the top of a series of hills near the rim of the canyon although, with the exception of the
REALLY expensive houses, none of them had any sort of view of the canyon. Across Route 63
from the houses was the inevitable strip mall; home to a grocery store, a Starbucks, a computer
store, and an expensive hair salon.
Looking at the lights now, Brett could see that they were only showing in the nearer of the
subdivisions, the one closest to the bridge. He continued walking down the road, heading directly
for it.
As the road dropped down out of the hill, Brett lost sight of the lights once he was lower than the
security wall that surrounded the houses. He continued walking, switching to the other side of the
road until he felt he was adjacent to the wall. He then inched forward, through the mud that made
up the shoulder, his hands outstretched before him. He touched wet, unyielding concrete with his
fingertips. He stopped. It was time to put his plan in action.
He jumped upward, his hands grasping the top of the wall and holding on. He swung his left foot
upward and hooked it over the edge, using it to pull the rest of his body up. Once atop the wall he
adjusted himself carefully until he was seated on it, facing into the subdivision. In front of him
were two houses, both with the faint glow of firelight showing from within them. He could not see
the inhabitants however because the blinds were closed. The light did provide him with enough
illumination to see that he was overlooking a street that paralleled the wall.
He did not jump down. Though the wind and the rain were particularly biting from eight feet up, he
withstood them, hoping that it wouldn't take too long for him to be discovered.
It took nearly an hour; a length of time which both disgusted and encouraged him. What the hell
was the matter with these people? How could they be so smart about some things and so stupid
about others? He should not have been allowed to climb that wall at all, let alone sit atop it long
enough to develop hypothermia. Just as he was about to give up and simply go find someone to
surrender to, he spotted a flashlight bobbing and weaving its way towards him from the far end of
the street.
"About goddamn time," he muttered, keeping a sharp eye on it as it approached. It moved slowly
forward, switching from the wall side of the road to the house side with predictable regularity. It
was obvious that the person holding the light did not really expect to find anything, that he or she
was just going through the motions.
It turned out to be a she, two of them actually. He could not make out what they looked like since
they were standing behind the flashlight beam, but they were talking to each other loudly enough
for him to hear their conversation long before they were close enough to see him.
"She's such a bitch," one of them was saying. "I'm telling you. It's like she's happy about all this or
something."
"I'm sure she ain't missing her husband too much, that's for sure," the other one replied. "That old
fart was able to bring in the money for her pretty well but he sure wouldn't have been much help
now. I wonder what she would've done if he'd lived. How long you think it would've been before
she sent him packing?"
"Probably before the rain started," the first said, giggling a little.
"You think it would've taken that long?" the other shot back, giggling as well.
"Pathetic," Brett whispered to himself, watching the light grow closer and closer. Finally it swung
directly over him, illuminating him for all the world to see. He waited for their surprised squeals,
for the challenge, for the swinging of guns towards him. It didn't come. Apparently they were so
involved in their conversation that they had not even noticed the fact that they had just spotlighted
an armed man sitting on their wall right in front of them. They continued on by without pausing,
the flashlight beam continuing to swing back and forth.
Brett watched in amazement as they walked less than ten feet in front of him, continuing to talk
about "that bitch". He saw, in the residual light that reflected back at them, that they were both
wearing black rain slickers and carrying rifles, which were slung carelessly over their shoulders.
"HEY!" he yelled loudly at their backs, unable to keep a tone of total exasperation from slipping
through.
Now the squeals came. They both sounded as if they had been goosed with a hot curling iron. They
spun around quickly, spearing him with the flashlight beam. Another squeal followed when they
actually saw him sitting there. They began to scramble for the guns on their backs. Brett, waiting
patiently, raised his hands into the air in surrender.
"Don't move!" the one with the flashlight yelled in a trembling voice.
"I'm not," he said, keeping his hands up. "I've been waiting here for a goddamn hour. Why should I
move now?"
"Who the hell are you?" the other one demanded, her voice shaky.
"I'm Brett," he said. "The man who could've killed you a long time ago if I had wanted to. Can I
jump down onto this side?"
"What?" they both said in unison.
"Jump down," he told them. "I'd like you to take me to whoever is in charge of this town. I need to
talk to them."
This seemed to cause an overload of some sort. Neither one of them answered.
"Hello?" he said. "Are you still with me?"
"How did you get up there?" one of them, the flashlight bearer, finally asked. "How did you get
here?"
"It was much easier than it should have been," he said. "So how about it? Are you gonna take me to
your leader, or what?"
They continued not to answer his question. Instead they stared up at him, keeping the light on him,
doing nothing. He imagined that he looked rather frightful to them. He had not shaved or bathed in
nearly two weeks now and his clothing was clotted with filth. "Where did you come from? What do
you want?" one of them asked.
"I came from across the bridge," he replied.
"That's impossible," the flashlight holder said. "We have that bridge guarded."
"Yeah," he said, "by a couple of guards that are more interested in getting in each other's pants than
they are in protecting you from me."
This threw them for another loop. He heard them hurriedly whispering back and forth to each other
about WHO was stationed on bridge guard tonight. Laura and Steve? Could it be true? They had
heard rumors about those two.
"Excuse me?" Brett interrupted. "Do you think that maybe you can update your gossip a little bit
later. I'm freezing my ass off up here and I'd kinda like to get down. I'd like to talk to whoever is in
charge of this operation."
"About what?"
"About security," he said. "I've surrendered to you, okay? Now if I jump down there, are you gonna
shoot me?"
There was a pause. Finally: "No."
"Good," he said. "Stand clear. I'm coming down. I'll keep my hands up."
He pushed himself off of the wall and landed neatly on his feet on the sidewalk of the street below,
his knees easily absorbing the shock. The two guards kept him in the beam of the flashlight the
entire time. He kept his hands up in the air, his arms bent at the elbow.
"Do you have walkie-talkies like the bridge guards?" he asked them.
"Huh?"
"Walkie-talkies," he repeated. "You know? Communication devices? Are you in contact with
anybody? If so, don't you think you should radio in to let them know what's going on here?"
"No," the flashlight holder told him. "We don't have any."
"You don't have any?" he asked, exasperated. "Why the hell not?"
"Batteries don't grow on trees you know," she said, somewhat defensively. "And nobody's going to
be making any more for a while."
"I see," he said, shaking his head a little. "Well, how far do we have to walk then?"
"About a half a mile. We'll go down to the end of the street the way we were walking and turn
right."
"Got it. Do you want me to get in front of you?" he suggested. "That way you can keep an eye on
me from behind and its more difficult for me to attack you."
"Uh... yes," she said. "Do that."
"Right," he told her, not moving yet. "But before I do, shouldn't you disarm me?"
"Disarm you?"
"I have a gun on my waist, don't I? Surely you can see it there. You're not going to let a prisoner
carry a firearm, are you?"
There was another long pause. "This is just too fucking weird," the flashlight carrier said at last.
"All right," she told him. "Put your gun on the ground."
"Right away ma'am," he said. "I would suggest that you have me remove it from the holster with
my left hand. That way it will be much more difficult for me to fire it at you in a controlled
manner."
"Do it," she said softly.
He did it, reaching across his body and unsnapping the quick-release catch. He slid the weapon
from its holster and carefully placed it on the ground. He then raised his hand back up.
"Now kick it over here," he was told.
"Uh... if you don't mind," he said apologetically, "would you just have me step away from it and
then you can come and pick it up. I'm rather fond of that weapon and I'd rather not scratch it all up."
"Oh Jesus Christ," she cursed, obviously quite flustered. "Go ahead. Back up!"
He backed up about ten feet, moving slowly. The woman without the flashlight came forward to
retrieve it.
"You shouldn't cross in front of your partner's line of fire like that," Brett warned.
"Shut up!" barked flashlight. "Mitsy, do you have the fucking gun?"
"Yes," Mitsy said, scuttling quickly back over to her friend.
"Okay Mister," she told him. "Start walking. We'll tell you where to turn."
"You're the boss," he said lightly, moving out.

He was marched to a three-story building that stood in the middle of a small park just inside the
main gate to the subdivision. Several vehicles, including a green fire engine and a grass fighting
truck that had belonged to the California Department of Forestry, were parked out front. From the
bottom floor windows came the glow of multiple oil lamps burning within.
"What's this place?" Brett asked his captors as they entered the parking lot.
"It used to be our community center," the woman named Mitsy replied. "Now we kind of use it as
our headquarters."
"I see," Brett said, noting that they at least had guards posted out here. There were two of them
before the front door; a male and a female. Like the two that had "captured" him, they were
wearing rain slickers and packing rifles. When they saw him being led up to the building at
gunpoint they both jumped to their feet (they had been sitting in chairs under the protective
overhang of the roof) and rushed over.
"Who's this?" the male guard asked, pointing his gun menacingly at Brett's abdomen. Brett saw that
he was a younger man, probably no more than nineteen or twenty. He looked scared shitless.
"We caught him sitting on the wall," the flashlight bearing guard replied. "He wants to talk to the
committee."
"He wants to do WHAT?" the other guard asked incredulously. "And you brought him here?"
"I think that maybe we're going to want to listen to what he has to say," Mitsy said. "He was very
persuasive."
Brett stopped near the bottom of the steps that led up to the community center door. The male
guard continued to point his rifle at him. "Howdy," Brett told him, eyeing the kid's trigger finger
nervously. It looked like he had about four pounds of pull already applied. "I'm unarmed now and
I'll sit quietly anywhere you tell me to, but would you mind pointing that gun downward a bit. I
sure wouldn't want any accidents to happen."
"Shut up," the kid said toughly, not moving the barrel. "I don't know who the hell you think you
are, but you can't just come walking in here and... "
"Actually," Brett interrupted, "I DID just come walking in here. That's why I want to talk to
whoever is in charge of this joint, so that it doesn't happen with someone a little more dangerous
than I am. So how about I go sit on those steps there and you go get whoever that person is?"
Without waiting for a reply or even acknowledgment, he turned around and plopped himself down
on the cement steps.
The four guards all looked at each other in confusion for a moment. It was obvious to them that,
even though they were the ones holding all the weapons, they were somehow not in charge of the
situation. It was Mitsy who finally spoke. "Jeff," she said, addressing the male guard, "are Jessica
or Paul in there?"
"Uh... both of them," he answered. "So is Dale."
"Go get them," she said. "Tell them that we have a prisoner that has some information that they're
going to want to hear. We'll wait here."
Jeff didn't seem too keen on this idea. "What if he tries something while I'm gone?" he asked, as if
his mere presence would be enough to prevent this occurrence.
"We got him this far," Mitsy said, a little impatiently. "I think we can safely watch him for the next
couple of minutes. Besides, as he so dramatically pointed out to us earlier, if he had wanted to hurt
us he would have done it a long time ago. Isn't that right?"
"That's right," Brett said, smiling up at her.
Jeff grumbled a few more times under his breath, but finally mounted the stairs and disappeared
through the double doors of the building. The three guards watching Brett kept their distance from
him and said nothing while he was gone. About two minutes later the doors opened back up and
two men stepped out. They both had pistols in their hands which they wasted no time in pointing at
Brett.
Brett looked up at them placidly, keeping his hands up in the air. The man who came out of the
door first was in his late twenties or early thirties. He was a very average looking person, of
medium build with short brown hair. He looked a little tense but otherwise calm. Immediately
behind him was a much taller man, a man who looked big enough to be a professional football
linebacker. He had a head of dark blonde hair and he looked nearly as scared as Jeff, the young
male guard who had retrieved him. Again, Brett became cognizant of just how filthy and disgusting
he looked, especially in contrast to the townspeople. They were all clean. Not just un-filthy, but
CLEAN, as if they had been bathing regularly.
"Who the fuck are you?" the linebacker demanded, stepping forward and towering over Brett. "And
how did you get in here?"
"My name is Brett Adams," he said, keeping his voice mild. "Before the comet I was a deputy with
the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. Before that, I was a warrant officer in the US Army.
I got in here by walking unobserved over the canyon bridge."
"You're lying," the man accused. "There's no way that anyone could walk across that bridge
without us seeing it. You came in from the north side."
"You have two guards stationed in a Chevy Suburban monitoring the approach to the bridge with
night vision equipped video cameras," Brett said, spouting off details so they would know he was
being truthful. "The Suburban has a Toyota Landcruiser parked next to it. You've run coaxial cables
and power cords from the Suburban to another set of SUVs parked on the other end. That's where
the cameras are. The guards watch the take on small television sets from the other end."
The two males looked at him in surprise for a moment. The linebacker than yelled: "That doesn't
mean anything! He still coulda come in from the north and seen all that!"
Brett turned his attention away from the linebacker, shifting it instead to the smaller man, whom he
suspected had more authority. "I did not come in from the north," he told him. "I walked in here to
make a point to you. Your bridge defense is flawed. If I did it, others can do it. I could have led an
entire attack force right to the gates of this subdivision if I'd wanted to and you would have known
nothing about it until the first shot was fired."
"Bullshit," linebacker declared. He turned to the smaller man. "Paul, we don't need to listen to this
shithead anymore. I'll take him back out to the north side and throw him out."
"No," Paul said thoughtfully. "I don't think we should do that just yet."
"What? What do you mean... "
"Tell me how you got in here Mr. Adams," Paul said.
"It wasn't very hard," he said, only lying a little bit. "I located your guard position just by watching
you from the hill across the bridge. Every time you fire a shot down at someone trying to cross, you
give yourselves away. You probably waste a lot of ammo as well. Anyway, the smaller hill on the
east side of the canyon is mostly hidden from that position by the larger hill across the road from it.
I simply walked around and placed myself on the edge when it was daylight. Once it started to get
dark and your guards set up the nighttime position, I walked to the catwalk and climbed up onto it.
Your cameras aren't looking at that part of the bridge and the guards couldn't see me because of the
darkness. I simply walked across and came up BEHIND your guard position."
"You climbed up from the catwalk to the bridge in complete darkness?" Paul asked, though his tone
did not seem to be one of disbelief.
Brett shrugged. "I memorized the layout from across the canyon while it was still daylight. That's
another security problem you have. I shouldn't have been allowed to even get that close to the
bridge in the first place. Once I was on the surface of the bridge it was nothing more than a matter
of walking into town along the shoulder of the road. You don't have to be able to see to do that. I
climbed up on the security wall when I got there and waited for your two guards to arrive." He
shook his head a little. "It took much longer than it should have. You really should increase the
interval of your perimeter patrols."
"Hey, fuck you," yelled linebacker. "Our security is not any of your fuckin'... "
"Shut up Dale," Paul interrupted, his voice still even.
"You can't talk to me like that!" Dale shouted, turning on his own now. Obviously he had a bit of
an anger management problem. "You'd better remember who you're talking to boy! Remember who
feeds you!"
Paul did not seem the least bit upset by this outburst. Nor did he seem intimidated by it. "I'll
remember," he said. "Now why don't you go get hold of the bridge guards on the radio and make
sure they're all right. I don't think Mr. Adams hurt them but it's best we make sure."
"You're not gonna listen to this scumbag, are you?" Dale asked.
"Let's just say that he's captured my attention for the moment," Paul answered. "Now go check on
the bridge guards and then meet me in the conference room. If Jess is not already in there, send her
that way."
Dale grumbled and postured a few more times but finally disappeared back through the double
doors. Paul didn't watch him go. He kept his eyes on Brett.
"Are you carrying any weapons on you Mr. Adams?" Paul asked.
"Not anymore. Your two guards took my pistol from me. The rest of my weapons are back at my
camp across the canyon."
"Very good. But you'll understand if I make a quick check, just to make sure, won't you?"
"Of course."
While the other guards pointed their guns at him, Paul had him stand up and submit to a pat down.
It was far from the efficient, all-inclusive search that Brett would have performed had their
positions been reversed - Paul was squeamish about patting down the crotch area and beneath the
arms - but Brett decided to keep his comments to himself. At least the man had been on the ball
enough to make the effort.
"Walk through the doors," Paul directed when he was done, stepping back and waving with his
pistol. He was wiping his hands on his clothing as he did so.
"Sorry about the dirt and grime," Brett said, mounting the steps. "Bathing facilities are a little
scarce these days you know."
"Understandable," he said, taking up position behind him. "You can put your hands down if you'd
like."
He was directed to a closed door off one of the hallways that was marked: CONFERENCE A. He
pushed it open and found himself in a spacious room that was equipped with several oak tables
with chairs around them. Oil lamps set at both ends of one of the tables provided illumination.
Standing next to the table was a tall blonde woman in her thirties. Though she was wearing blue
jeans and an old sweater there was no mistaking the look of aristocracy in her pretty face. She
looked like a woman who had grown up with money and had lived with it all of her life. Brett had
no trouble at all picturing her in one of the expensive houses of Garden Hill. She looked at Brett
with unmasked distaste in her eyes and stepped backwards to keep from being close to him. Her
nose wrinkled up as she caught a whiff of the odor he was exuding.
"Is THIS our intruder?" she asked Paul in a high, nasal voice.
"This is him," Paul confirmed. "Meet Mr. Brett Adams. He alleges to be a former San Joaquin
County Sheriff and a former army warrant officer. He claims to have walked through our bridge
defenses and into our town under the cover of darkness."
"But you said that was impossible," she said.
"No," he corrected, "I never said any such thing. I told you that it would be very difficult. Dale is
the one who has been saying it's impossible."
She let that go. "So why did you bring him in here? Why don't you take him right back out to the
edge of town and put him back where he belongs?"
"We may do just that," Paul said. "But first, I think we should talk to him. He went to a lot of
trouble to do what he did and then he simply gave himself up. I suspect that he has a proposal of
sorts to make for us. Is that right Mr. Adams?"
"That is exactly right," Brett agreed.
"A proposal?" the woman asked. "What could he possibly have that we need?"
"What indeed?" Paul said. He waved Brett to a chair. "Why don't you have a seat Mr. Adams and
tell us what brings you here."
"Don't let him sit on our furniture," she said, wrinkling her nose. "He's disgusting."
Paul looked at her pointedly. "Jessica," he said, "Mr. Adams is a guest here at the moment. I will
not ask a guest to remain standing no matter what he looks or smells like. Besides, it's a lot harder
for him to attack anybody if he's seated." He waved to the chair again. "Go ahead."
Jessica fumed and seemed about to say something else before deciding it wasn't an issue worth
pushing. She pulled her own chair out and sat down as far away from him as she could get. Just
from the brief exchange that he'd witnessed, Brett could tell that Paul was a little more
conscientious about contradicting her than he was about contradicting Dale. Interesting.
He pulled out a chair and made himself comfortable. Paul remained standing, his gun held in his
hand, barrel pointing at the floor. Before any conversation could begin, Dale entered the room. He
shot a foul look at Brett and then walked over to the table, grabbing a seat next to Jessica.
"The guards are still in position on the bridge," Dale announced. "They report seeing no unusual
activities tonight. They say that there is no way that anyone could have come up the ladder behind
them without them noticing it."
"The ladder?" Jessica asked.
"When you talk to them again," Brett said, "tell them that I came up just as the female guard was
finishing up the blowjob on the male guard, but before they both ducked down and started making
the Suburban rock."
A collective gasp came from the three members of the group.
"That is disgusting that you would imply something like that," Jessica said. "Paul, take this man out
of town immediately!"
"Goddamn right," Dale agreed righteously.
But Paul only looked embarrassed. "Were they really doing that?" he asked Brett.
"He's making this up as he goes along," Dale yelled. "Jesus Christ Paul, can't you see that? Steve
and Laura wouldn't do anything like that. Especially not on guard duty!"
"If he's making it up," Paul asked his companions, "then how did he know that there was a male
and female on tonight? How did he know that we use a Suburban?"
Neither one of them had an answer for that.
"They were really doing that," Brett said. "But don't be too hard on them. They wouldn't have seen
me anyway. They were in a lighted position and I was in complete darkness. The rain and the
canyon noise kept any noise I made from reaching them. While I wouldn't recommend that
particular activity on watch, it wasn't because of it that I got in."
"Christ," Paul muttered, pacing back and forth for a moment.
"Paul," Jessica said, "don't go yelling at Steve and Laura just because of something this... this man
says. I mean, sure, it might be possible. But I think that you should talk to them first and find out...
"
"Oh, I'm gonna talk to them all right," Paul said. He looked over at the doorway. "Mitsy!"
A moment later it opened and she stuck her head inside. "Yes?"
"Find me two more guards and have them take over at the bridge for Steve and Laura right away.
Once they're relieved, I want those two to report immediately to me."
Mitsy took a moment to digest all of that. She nodded and said: "Right away Paul. I'll have Barbara
and Maggie go out there."
"Good enough," Paul said. "Please close the door as you go."
No sooner had it swung shut then Jessica asked, "Do you really think it was necessary to do that,
Paul? I don't think we should make too big of a deal about this. Rumors have a way of getting out
of control. I'd really hate it if Cindy heard that Steve was... "
"The guards are my responsibility Jess," Paul said wearily. "I'll handle the situation as I see fit. And
as for containing the rumor, you of all people should know it's already too late for that."
Jessica blanched a little, obviously unaccustomed to being talked to like that. "I don't really think
that... "
"I will handle the guard situation," Paul said firmly, in a voice that there was no compromising
with. "It is MY responsibility. Now how about we move on to the subject of Mr. Adams here, shall
we?"
"Fine," she pouted.
Paul looked over at Brett. "Why don't we get right to the point and save everyone a lot of time?
What exactly is it that you want?"
"Safety," Brett said immediately. "Since the comet came down I have almost died more times than I
care to count. I want to be safe and live long enough for the sun to come back out. This town
represents safety of sorts. You are organized and functioning. I want to be a part of this."
"You want to join this town?" Paul clarified.
"That is correct."
"Impossible," Jessica articulated. "We're not a charitable organization here. We don't even know if
we have enough food to feed ourselves for more than a few months. Taking on another mouth,
especially a sneaking thief, is out of the question."
"Oh, it wouldn't just be one mouth," Brett said, ignoring the sneaking thief remark. "It would be
three. After the comet hit I picked up a couple of teenage kids that had been camping with their
parents. Their parents were killed and now I'm looking after them."
"Kids?" Paul asked. "Where are they?"
"That doesn't matter!" Jessica yelled. Next to her, Dale nodded his head in agreement. "We can't
take any more people in here! Our food supply is critical enough as it is."
"Why don't we hear the man out before we make any decisions?" Paul asked her.
"There's nothing to hear," she said. "He's a beggar. We've already made the decision that we can't
feed beggars. Not if we want to live."
"I'm not a beggar," Brett interjected at this point. "I have something quite valuable to offer you in
exchange for taking me and my companions in. Something that you need here almost as much as
food."
"Oh?" she asked, looking at him skeptically. "And what might that be?"
"My experience," he said simply.
"Your experience?"
"Exactly," he told them, leaning forward a little. "I have six years of active experience as a military
man. I was the pilot of a combat helicopter as part of the 3rd Armored Cavalry. I flew medivac
during the invasion of Panama. I flew combat missions during Desert Storm. I know all about
natural and man-made defenses because it was my job to penetrate and destroy them. I was also a
cop for eight years in one of the shittiest cities in California. I know about security. I can help you
defend this little town from invasion by the hordes of starving and desperate people that are
outside, because, believe me, they will be here and they will find a way to get in if what I've seen so
far is any indication of how you're protecting yourselves. Quite frankly, I'm amazed that you've
made it this long without being hit."
"Thanks, but no thanks," Jessica said icily. "Our security is quite adequate."
"No," Paul said, taking a step closer to the table. "It is NOT."
"Paul?" Jessica said, glaring at him. "What are you saying? You are the one that set up our
defenses!"
"And that is why I'm saying it," he said. "I'm a fireman Jessica. A fireman. My job was to sit in a
fire station and wait for someone to get sick or burn their house down. I've never been in the
service. I did the best I could because no one else had any ideas, but, as Mr. Adams has shown us,
my measures are simply not enough."
"We can't feed him!" Jessica insisted. "Especially not with two kids tagging along with him."
"If we don't take him up on his offer," Paul told her, "there may not be anyone here TO feed. He
penetrated our most secure line of defense Jess. That bridge was the one thing I didn't worry about
and he walked right across it and sat on the wall less than a half mile from here. Can you imagine
the kind of mistakes I've made on the north side of town or the east?"
"How do we know he's not scamming us?" Dale put in. "So he SAYS that he was in the army and
that he was a cop. How do we know he's not just making that up?"
"I agree completely," Jessica said, smiling at the linebacker next to her.
Paul looked over at Brett, giving him a look that told him the ball was in his court. Brett handled
that ball nicely.
"I have no way of proving who I am," he said. "All of my identification is buried under a couple of
tons of mud up by Castle Point. All you have is my word at this particular point in time. However,
as a gesture of good faith, I'll give you some free advice about how to secure your bridge route and
keep from being invaded from that direction."
"I don't think we need to listen to any advice from this man," said Dale.
"I do," Paul disagreed. "Let's hear it."
Brett looked at Jessica, waiting for her to parrot the opinion of Dale, as he had done with all of her
opinions. She did no such thing, she only looked at him expectantly, an arrogant expression upon
her face.
"You need to occupy the hill on the other side of the bridge," Brett said. "The one that I observed
your current guard position from."
"Oh that's just brilliant," Dale said, smirking. "You want us to put our people outside of our
protected area and let them get cut off?" He turned to the two other members of the committee.
"This guy is scamming us."
"He does have somewhat of a point," Paul said to Brett. "What happens if that position is attacked?
How would we get them back across the bridge?"
"You don't seem to understand," Brett said. "I'm not suggesting that you place people outside of
your area, I'm suggesting that you extend your area to include that hill. From up there you have a
panoramic view of every conceivable approach to the bridge. The only blind spot would be if
someone came around from the other side of the smaller hill across the road like I did. And even
then they would have to cross about a hundred yards of open ground along the canyon ledge before
they could access it. You could close that loophole simply by stringing some barbed wire or
something like that on that approach. Or you could maintain another watch from your original
post."
"I'm sorry," Paul said. "I really don't see the advantage to what you're talking about."
"The advantage," Brett explained, "is that no one could approach anywhere near the bridge without
being seen. As it stands now, they're able to walk right up to it before you see them, right?"
"Well, right."
"And as I've proved, they can use the very hill that I'm talking about to conduct a thorough
reconnaissance of your defenses. If you position your guards where I'm suggesting, no one will be
able to get within a quarter mile or so without being seen. That overlook is perfect and it would be
almost impossible for a force to dislodge your guards from there without heavy weapons, mortars,
or air power - things which are in kind of short supply these days. The only way up that hill is from
the road, which is a very steep climb, or from the south, the way we came up, which is an even
steeper one. If you hold that hill, you hold everything within view of it because your guards can just
pick off anyone that tries to climb up or get to the bridge. Two guards with a sufficient supply of
ammunition could fight off fifty people easily."
Jessica and Dale were both doing their damnedest to keep looking skeptical about him, but he could
see that they were carefully considering what he was saying. "Does that make sense to you Paul?"
Jessica asked hesitantly.
"Yes," he said. "It does make sense. I'd have to look the place over to be sure, but I don't see any
flaw in what he's saying." He looked over at Brett. "What about at night? That was the problem we
had with the original guard position. You just can't see the bridge at night. That's why I came up
with the idea of the video cameras."
"And that was a damn good idea," Brett said. "I have to give credit where it is due. I'm not sure that
I would have even thought about something like that."
"Thanks," Paul said, beaming a little. "I was rather proud of that."
"And you should be. But your problem is that, although it's a great idea, you did not execute it as
well as you could have. You left a hole that I was able to find and exploit. And the reason I was
able to find that hole is because I was able to observe you at will before I made any sort of move."
"So what is your suggestion?"
"I'd have to see the capabilities of your camera system before I came up with a firm plan," Brett
said after a moment's thought. "But the one thing that is absolutely necessary is that you move the
two SUVs on this side of the bridge backwards so that they are between the ladder from the catwalk
and the bridge entrance. You can't let people come up behind your position like I did."
"We don't have any more coaxial cable connectors," Paul said. "We made the chain as long as we
could."
"Then either splice on some more or move the camera positions back. It's better to do that than to
leave yourself exposed from the rear. Also, those ladders should be removed on both ends to keep
people from moving up and down on them. Hell, if you can cut holes in the catwalk itself or even
drop the whole damn thing into the canyon, that would be even better. The important thing is that
somehow, some way, you deny the use of that catwalk to an enemy. Without that catwalk, I
wouldn't have been able to get in here from that direction. With that catwalk, I could have led as
many people as I wanted to across to this side and you wouldn't have known about it, even if your
guards HAD been doing their jobs at the time."
They discussed other aspects of the bridge defense for more than twenty minutes, Paul and Brett
holding up most of the conversation but Jessica and Dale gradually starting to throw in a few
contributions and ask a few questions as well. Brett began to sense a thawing of the malevolent
feelings that Jessica had for him as the talk went on, a very small thawing but a thawing none-the-
less. The look of disgust in her face whenever she looked at him was replaced by a look of
something that was almost like interest. He sensed no such warming from Dale, who seemed to
perceive him as some sort of threat, but he had also figured out that Dale's position among the town
leadership was more symbolic than anything else.
Finally the discussion wound down and the time came to take a vote on the matter of Brett's leaving
or staying. The vote did not go well.
"I still think we should put him back out of town," Dale said when the table was opened for
discussion. "I don't like him and I don't trust him. He snuck in here in the middle of the night and
God only knows what his intentions are. We have too much to protect in this town to be taking in
strangers."
"I have to agree with Dale," Jessica said when he was finished. "While he has proved himself to be
knowledgeable in the matter of defending our bridge, I think that the cost of feeding him and his
companions is too high to pay for a few good ideas. As I said earlier, we don't even have enough
food to feed the people that we have here already for more than a few months. We don't have the
luxury of taking in outsiders."
"I think we should take him," Paul said. "Neither I nor anyone else in this town knows the least bit
about defending us from attack. We can put up basic defenses, sure, we can keep out the stragglers,
true, but if there were ever any sort of organized attack upon us, we would probably be defeated."
"You're being paranoid Paul," Jessica said. "The stragglers are all we have to worry about. There is
no organization out there."
"I beg to differ," Brett put in at this point. He told them about the bikers that had attacked Chrissie
and Jason's family, killing the parents. He then told them about the interrogation that he had
conducted on the survivor of that firefight. "He said there were thirty of them and that they had
automatic weapons. That is organization. Those people are probably still out there somewhere and
they will probably head for towns where there are survivors to try and secure more supplies. They
may eventually find there way to your front door, either by coming to your bridge or by working
their way up the other side of the canyon from the west. If they don't get here, other groups like
them will. You cannot just assume that you will not be attacked. If that group comes here with your
defenses as they are, they will defeat you. I've told you what they were trying to do to Chrissie and
Jason when I interrupted them."
"You're just trying to scare us," Dale accused. "How do we know that you didn't make all of that
up?"
"And how do you know that he did?" Paul put in. "Wouldn't the smarter course be to prepare for the
worst instead of to hope for the best?"
"Not to the point of paranoia," Jessica said. "I'm sorry Paul and I'm sorry Mr. Adams, but we've
voted on the matter. Dale and I voted not to take any more people. That means that you will have to
be put back out of town. I'll have the guards lead you back across the bridge."
"No," Paul said firmly.
"Paul," Jessica said. "We've voted! It was two to one against you."
"You're not going to do this to me on this issue," Paul said. "This is not about whether or not to
allow three baths per week or only two, this is not about whether or not to increase rations or keep
them where they are. This issue is for our very survival and I will not allow an impulsive decision
from the two of you that is probably based more on snobbery than it is any practical matter to
stand."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Dale said, leaping to his feet so fast that his chair clattered to
the floor behind him.
"How DARE you!" Jessica said, just as angrily.
"You'd better watch how the fuck you're talking to us or you're going to be walking out with the
scumbag as well!"
Brett watched this exchange carefully, with the eye of a man who had seen a thousand angry people
arguing with each other. Never before had the argument been so directly connected to his own
survival but, interestingly, the tones and the posturing were the same. Jessica, and particularly Dale,
were both exaggerating their anger, yelling louder than was necessary. This was usually a sign that
people displayed when they were doubtful about their stated position but were afraid to show it for
fear of losing face. Paul, on the other hand, showed the kind of determination that came with
knowing you were right. He held his ground, his face remaining calm. "This is too important of a
decision to allow you two to piss away with your little voting alliance," he said. "This is something
that needs to be decided by the entire town, and only after they have listened to the facts. I want
Mr. Adams to stay here tonight... "
"No!" shouted Dale. "He is NOT staying here another minute."
"He WILL stay here," Paul said, taking a step closer to the larger man. Incredibly, Dale backed up.
"That is MY decision. I will keep him under guard in this building for the night. I will feed him and
allow him to bathe and I will even give him fresh clothing."
"You will do no such thing," Jessica spat. "How dare you... "
"And tomorrow," Paul went on, his voice overriding her, "we will tell our fellow townspeople what
Mr. Adams has offered us and what the cost would be. We will then have a town-wide vote on the
matter of whether we should sacrifice a little bit of our food supply for increased security."
"That is not how things work in this town," Jessica said, pointing her finger at him with short jabs.
"We are the committee and we make the rules. You are not free to change them just because you
were outvoted on something. If you have a problem with that, you would do well to remember that
you were not even a resident of this town and that you can be put out of it just as easily as your
friend here."
"And you can keep in mind," said Paul, unfazed by her speech, "that YOU two are not really liked
by the other residents of this town. They accept your leadership Jessica because you have assumed
it and none of them wish to take it. They accept yours Dale because you used to be the friendly
grocery store manager that they all had wet dreams about and because you're fucking Jessica now."
"You don't need to be so crude," Jessica said, paling.
Paul ignored her. "They accept MY leadership however, because I get things done around here. It
was me that organized the defenses. It was me that set up the hot baths and the laundry area. Now I
don't know what the result might be if you try to throw out the one member of this committee who
actually DOES anything and who is actually worth a damn, but it could be that you might find that
you are not as well-supported as you think you are. It could be that you two will be the ones
walking across the bridge."
Jessica crumbled under this onslaught. Brett saw it happen in the way that her eyes suddenly
became full of doubt, in the way that her shoulders suddenly slumped in defeat. Paul had pushed
exactly the buttons that needed to be pushed in order to change her mind. He had played upon the
natural insecurities that bullying people all had.
"Well," she said slowly and carefully, "since you feel THAT strongly about this, I suppose we can
make an exception to the rules just this once. He can stay until the morning and then I'll talk to
everyone and tell them... "
"WE will talk to everyone," Paul broke in. "I'm not about to let you go out there and tell your
version of the story. We'll do it together and we'll do it objectively."
Her face angered but she controlled the outburst that she so desperately wanted to unleash. "Fine,"
she said. "WE will go out and talk to everyone. But make sure you keep him guarded all night! He
is NOT to be left alone."
"I think I can handle that," Paul said, allowing the slightest smile to touch his face.

"Smoke?" Paul offered to Brett, holding out a red and white box of Marlboros.
"I haven't smoked since I was in the army," he told him, waving his hand as one does when one is
holding at a blackjack table. They were still in the conference room although Jessica and Dale had
both departed for parts unknown. He had just swallowed down a meal of baked beans, cornbread,
and apple sauce, easily the best he had consumed since leaving his home in Stockton before the
hunting trip. The beans had actually been hot!
"Yeah," Paul agreed, taking one out of the pack and putting it in his mouth. "They're bad for you.
Give you cancer and heart disease and emphysema and all that." He struck a light with a pack of
matches. "Somehow that just doesn't scare me as much as it used to." He put the end of the match
to his smoke and took a deep drag.
"Good point," Brett agreed. "But all the same, I'll pass."
"Suit yourself," Paul told him, leaning back in his chair a little. He had long since reholstered his
gun and dropped his guard.
"So you were a fireman you said?"
"I was with the CDF," Paul confirmed. "I was the captain at the station just outside of town, near
the interstate. I lived in Penryn, just down the hill in the valley. My crew abandoned me once the
shit really hit the fan and tried to make it home. They both lived in Sacramento. I don't know what
ever became of them but they've never shown back up here. Some of the people in town tried to
make it down to Auburn about a week after the impact. They say the interstate is washed out near
the gulch down there."
"Family?" Brett asked.
"Wife and two kids down in Penryn," he said a little sadly. "I would've gone with my crew if I'd
thought there was the slightest chance of them being still alive, but... I knew better. I imagine my
house is under about sixty feet of water or so. There's no way they could've made it."
"I'm sorry," Brett said. "Mine were back in Stockton. I saw the water come in from Castle Point.
There's no way that mine made it either."
They both contemplated their losses for a few minutes, Paul smoking, Brett just staring at the wall.
"So how many people are in this town?" Brett finally asked to change the subject.
"One hundred and eighty-three," Paul told him. "Of which, one hundred and sixty-two are either
women or children under the age of seven."
"What?" Brett asked. "There are only... " he tried to do the addition in his head.
"Twenty-one men," Paul said, providing the answer. "Not including you, although I'm pretty sure
we'll let you in once the decision is taken out of those idiot's hands. And not a single one of us men
are FROM this town. We all just happened to be here because of our jobs."
"How is that possible?" Brett asked.
"It's simple," Paul told him. "This is an upscale, higher income town. Or at least it was before the
comet. There was not much diversity here like you might find in other places. This was a very
structured, closed-minded, we-must-conform-to-the-elite-standard-of-living kind of place. It was
the home of the lawyers, the dentists, the investment bankers, the accountants, the doctors. For the
most part these people were all men and they were all married. This was not a place where there
were a bunch of unemployed men hanging around, drinking beer and watching NASCAR on the
tube. When the impact occurred we were smack in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, remember?
Every last one of these men was down in the valley doing whatever it was they did to bring home
the bacon. Now there were a lot of women who worked in this town as well and all of them were
down in the valley as well. There were not any jobs in town that anyone who actually lived here
would have been doing. So what we had left after the earthquake and the flaming rocks and the
mudslides swept through, were a bunch of high-class housewives, a few female employees from the
school or the grocery store or the library and twenty-one men whose jobs just happened to bring
them here at the particular moment that the impact happened.
"There's me for instance, the captain of the local firehouse. I got put into a leadership role because
I'm able to take charge of people and figure out how to get things done. And then there's Dale, who
was the manager of the grocery store. He was here doing what he does and he came into power
because he was perceived as being the one who controlled the food. This position was strengthened
because Jessica, who was the leader of the PTA and the homeowners association and the library
committee and god knows what else, snatched him up as a plaything before any of the other women
thought to do that. Dale's a major pain in the ass, but he's manageable. As for the rest of the men,
we have a few teachers from the elementary school, a few of them were checkers at the grocery
store, one worked at the gas station, one was a pool guy, two were PG&E workers that were
installing an electrical box. We also have a couple of landscapers that were up here mowing lawns,
a plumber that was fixing someone's pipes, even a couple of nineteen year old Mormons that were
up here doing the bicycle rounds."
"Not ONE man was home from work for the day?" Brett asked. "Not a single one?"
"Not that survived anyway," Paul told him. "Keep in mind that nearly a third of the houses were
located up on the hill over the canyon. They all went down in the earthquake. Maybe some of the
men were home up there but there weren't any down here. It's not all that surprising when you think
about the kind of people we're talking about here. Very conformist. They were all office hours type
of people doing their climb up whatever ladder they were on. There was hardly a person in town
under thirty-two years old, which means they were in the frantic parts of their careers where they
have to put in ungodly hours. They wouldn't have taken a day off unless they were just about dead."
"So you have a bunch of yuppie women to deal with?"
"You got it," he said. "And I'm telling you, it's a trial. Some of them are pretty sharp but a lot of
them are just the most stereotypical airheads you could ever imagine. They're women who've been
used to their good looks getting them by for all of their lives and they don't really seem to grasp that
things are a lot different now. It seems like every day I'm dealing with some kind of crisis about
work details or guard duties or some other task that someone has been assigned that they think is
beneath them. I actually had one refuse to learn how to shoot a rifle because she broke a fucking
fingernail while she was trying to load it."
"Jesus," Brett said, trying to imagine how he would have reacted to that. It probably wouldn't have
been pretty.
"Take the issue of the baths for instance. That was made the number one priority when we
organized and started getting our shit together. Before we even got around to gathering weapons up
and learning how to use them, before we tackled the issue of town security, they wanted to have a
working bath that had hot water. Can you fucking believe it? The world collapses around them,
billions of people are dead, we don't have enough food to make it through the winter, and they
demand that someone rig them up a freakin' bathtub with running water. I'm telling you, sometimes
it seems like it would just be easier to take a few guns and head out on my own."
"No," Brett said, shaking his head. "You wouldn't want to do that. You can't imagine what its like
out there unless you've been through it. At least you have some semblance of order in here, at least
you can tell yourself that you'll probably be alive this time next week."
"That's true," Paul sighed, crushing out his smoke in a beer can that had been fashioned into an
ashtray. "I hope I wasn't belittling what you've gone through with my whining. Part of the grass is
always greener syndrome I guess."
"Don't worry about it."
"So what about these two kids you have? You said they're still out on the other side of the bridge.
Are they safe out there? Should we try to bring them in?"
"They're as safe as they can be out there," Brett said. "I've taught them how to build their shelter so
no one will happen across it or spot it. They'll be under cover in there by now and they're well
armed with weapons that they know how to use. There won't be any way to bring them in tonight. I
told them to climb the hill in the morning and keep an eye out for me."
"They sound like they're pretty smart," Paul said.
"They're good kids," Brett agreed, smiling as he thought of them. "Actually, I don't have any right
to call them kids anymore. They may be teenagers, but they've grown up since the impact." He told
Paul about the firefight with the two hunters.
"Unbelievable," Paul said, obviously impressed. "You took two teenagers that had never held a gun
in their lives and turned them into an infantry squad. I wish I could do that with my people. I'm
afraid your experience with the bridge guards and the two that captured you is more the rule than
the exception. They volunteer for guard duty at night not so they can help protect us from outsiders
but so they can boff each other in privacy. I just cannot get these people to take security seriously.
They're too caught up in the who is fucking whom game."
"I take it that the woman to man ratio is somewhat of a problem?"
"It's a huge problem," he said, pulling another smoke from the pack and sparking up. "It's funny. I
never would have thought that I would end up in charge of a group in which the women were all
very attractive, in their sexual prime, and outnumbered the men by a ratio of nearly six to one, and
that I would hate it. But I'm here to tell you now, it is not the freakin' Garden of Eden. People were
not meant to live like this. It screws with their sensibilities and their morality. It pushes them over
the edge."
"What do you mean?" Brett wanted to know.
"Well, the basic problem is that all of us men have latched onto a woman who is our "official"
partner, I guess you'd say. I'm no exception to this. Even though my wife is less than two weeks
dead, I'm now sharing my bed with Janet, who used to be one of the kindergarten teachers at the
school. I mean, why not, right?"
"Right," Brett wholeheartedly agreed, thinking about his own relationship with Chrissie.
"So that's the surface of the whole thing. All of the men have a partner. The problem is that that
leaves more than a hundred women, all of whom are in the prime of their lives and most of whom
are accustomed to having a male to take care of them, WITHOUT a partner. Most of these women
are also the types who have no problem undercutting each other and backstabbing in order to get
something that they want. So here in our happy little town we constantly have attractive women on
the prowl, trying to steal a man away from one of the women who already has one. And we're not
talking about coy flirtation or innuendo here. They will do almost anything to achieve this goal
short of actually killing a rival. I imagine it's only a matter of time before one of them tries that.
And the men... " he shook his head a little. "Well, I don't have to tell you how men are. Most of us
up here were blue-collar types before the comet and these are the kind of women that we always
considered to be way out of our league. It's not very surprising that we find it hard to resist the
temptation when one of these women basically asks us to fuck her. They are often quite shameless
in their manner of seduction. I myself, as moral and monogamous as I like to think I am, have given
in more than once. You simply can't help it."
Brett listened to all of this carefully. "Beautiful women constantly on the prowl?" he asked. "I'm
waiting for you to tell me that part about how this is BAD."
Paul laughed, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. "Sounds ideal, doesn't it? It's not. Most of the
men here have already switched partners three or four times just since the comet struck and of those
that haven't, I can't think of a single one that's not stringing two or three along on the side. The
tension that this creates among the women is volatile. Most of the conversation around here is
about who is making a move, who is thinking of changing partners, who is resorting to what to get
what she wants. Every day there are at least four physical fights about someone who either has or is
perceived to have tried to make a move. The rumors spread around like wildfire and the fact that
you cannot judge how accurate they are only makes things worse. And then you have Jessica, who
lives in constant fear of someone stealing Dale from her. She is one of the worst sources of the
rumors and prides herself on always knowing what's going on. But at the same time, she is always
trying to push us, as a group, to kick out any woman that is caught engaging in "adulterous
activity", as she puts it. So far Dale, myself, and some of the other men have always managed to
keep her from actually expelling someone who gets caught fucking the wrong person, but her point
of view is starting to spread, particularly among those who have a legitimate partner."
"What is it that they are after?" Brett asked. "I mean, besides sex, why is it so important that they
have a man to call their own. Don't they realize that this is a different world now?"
"I don't think that a lot of them realize that," Paul said. "As for what they are after, a lot of it
depends on the individual woman. For some, it's strictly sex that they want. They're horny and they
want to fulfill a biological need. They are the easiest ones to deal with and they are the only ones
that I, shall we say... transgress with, when I do. They just want to get fucked for the sheer
enjoyment of it. Others however, cannot seem to live without a man's identity locked up with theirs
and they are the ones who are the source of most of the problems here. Thanks to Jessica and a few
others like her, there is now a perception that those who are officially partnered with a man are
somehow better than those who are not. Thus, we have the fierce and often violent competition to
secure "attached" status. I don't mess with the women who are out for that."
"God," Brett said, shaking his head a little. "And I thought relationships were complicated before."
"No shit," Paul agreed.
There was a soft knock at the door and Mitsy opened it a crack without waiting for a reply. She
stuck her head in. "Paul," she said, "Steve and Laura are here. I had them wait for you in the main
office."
"Thanks Mitsy," he said, standing up. "Do they know why they're here?"
"Well... " she started, obvious hesitant to say that they'd been filled in on their mistake.
"Never mind," Paul sighed. "Has Hector checked in for his perimeter shift yet?"
"He just got here," she told him.
"Good. I want you and Hector to keep an eye on Brett here. I've already got Jeff rounding up some
clothes and shaving stuff for him. Take him over to the bath and let him get himself cleaned up.
Then find him some place to crash for the night in the building. Brett is to be treated as a
compulsory guest, okay?"
"A what?" she asked, her brow wrinkling in confusion.
"That means you will treat him politely and tend to his needs within reason, but don't give him a
gun or let him out of your sight, okay? He is still to be considered potentially dangerous to us."
Her eyes tracked over to Brett for a moment and she offered a nervous giggle. "Okay," she said.
"I'll wait here until you find Hector. Be sure you each have a pistol please."
"Right," she said, her head disappearing.
Once she was gone Paul looked at Brett. "No offense taken I hope? You seem like you're on the up
and up but, as you've pointed out yourself, you can't be too careful."
"No offense at all," he said. "And if nothing else, I think the chance to bathe will make this whole
trip worthwhile."
Paul gave a cynical look. "I'm sure you'll enjoy it," he said. "Freakin' baths are what we specialize
in here."

The bathing area was located in what had once been a women's locker room adjacent to the
community center's basketball court. A large marble tub had been placed atop of jack stands
directly above the drain in the floor of the communal showers. Two hoses - an inch and half
diameter fire hose and a standard garden hose - were curled neatly up on the floor next to it, nozzles
on one end, the other ends snaking up and out of the building through a window. A shelf had been
erected next to the tub and it was filled with towels, washcloths, bottles of shampoo, conditioner,
bubble bath, bath beads, and every other conceivable bath option. A hand lettered sign, printed in
spiky, feminine script, read: PLEASE, CLEAN THE TUB AFTER BATHING. HAVE
COURTESY FOR OTHERS! Light came from a serious of oil lamps and candles that had been
placed around the perimeter of the tub.
Brett looked at all of this in frank amazement as Mitsy and Hector, a young Mexican man, led him
into the room. Hector was carrying an armful of fresh clothing with him, which he set down on the
towel shelf. Both of the guards had pistols strapped to their waists but neither one of them seemed
particularly concerned that he would try some sort of dangerous move on them.
"Hecky," Mitsy asked her fellow guard, "can you go start the pump on the fire engine?"
"Sure," he said in heavily accented English, "right away." He headed back out the door.
"The water comes from the fire engine?" Brett asked.
"The cold water does," she said. "It'll take a minute for him to get it going. In the meantime, you
can put the garden hose in the tub and start putting in the hot."
"Hot water?" Brett said, shaking his head in wonder. "Where does THAT come from?"
"Paul rigged up a big rain barrel for us near the side of the building," she said. "He diverted one of
the rain gutters on the roof so that it would dump into it and keep it full for us. We have a fire
burning under it all the time. Ted, he was a plumber before the comet, he rigged a faucet in the side
of the barrel and we ran the hose in from there. It doesn't flow very fast so you probably want to get
it started right away. It takes about ten or fifteen minutes to get your bath at the right temperature."
She shrugged a little, as if to say that somehow, they were coping with these primitive conditions.
"It works."
Paul picked up the garden hose and put the end of it into the tub.
"Be sure to close the drain first," Mitsy warned. "We try not to waste hot water here."
"Of course," Brett said, pushing down the locking drain button. He then opened the nozzle on the
end of the hose. Water began to slowly flow, at about a third the rate of a normal faucet. It was
lukewarm at first but, by the time he heard the sound of the fire engine's motor turn over outside, it
was too hot to touch. Steam began to rise into the air.
"Here," Mitsy said, bringing over the fire hose. "You can leave that one in there and spray in the
cold with this one. It comes out pretty fast. Be careful not to overspray it."
"Right," Brett said, taking the heavy hose in his hands after leaving the smaller one on the bottom.
He examined the controls of the nozzle for a moment and then, pointing it into the tub, slowly
opened it up. Water began to spray out, slowly at first and then with considerable force. The tub
began to rapidly fill.
"Here," Mitsy said, "let me put some soap in there for you." She had a bottle of Ivory dishwashing
liquid in her hands. She squirted a generous amount into the flow of water. White bubbles
immediately began to form.
"Thanks," Brett told her, looking over at her for a moment. She had taken off the rain slicker that he
had first seen her in and was dressed now in Levi's jeans and a flannel shirt. Though her clothing
was baggy it was still easy to tell that she had a nice body beneath it. Her hair was dark brown and
cut short. Her face was without makeup but was still very pretty. He wondered what her husband
had done. Had he been a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant?
"That's enough cold," she told him when the tub was about two-thirds of the way full. "Shut it off
and let the hot water fill up the rest."
He did as she said, shutting down the nozzle and cutting off the flow of water. He set the hose back
down on the floor.
"I'll have Hecky keep the pump running," she said. "As dirty as you are you're gonna need two
tubfulls to get everything clean. Get the worst of the dirt off and wash your hair and then we'll drain
it and start over. The second tub will get the rest of it off and you'll be squeaky clean."
"Squeaky clean," he said. "I didn't think I'd ever be squeaky clean again."
As they waited for the hot water to heat the tub up, Mitsy sat on a bench just outside the shower
area while Brett sat on the end of the tub. She asked him about how he had come to be in their little
town and he explained about Chrissie and Jason and his desire for something approaching safety.
"I can't believe you actually LIVED out there for almost two weeks," she said, her eyes wide. "It
must've been horrible."
"It wasn't a PTA meeting," he said. "That's for sure. Hopefully you'll never have to find out just
how nasty it really is."
"God forbid," she said. She did not ask him about just WHY he was still here and what his current
status in the community was. Apparently that rumor had already spread to her.
He asked her about her former life, just to make conversation. She told him that she was twenty-six
years old and had been the wife of a senior auditor for Arthur-Anderson. Her husband had been in a
Sacramento high rise, well into his seventieth hour for that week when the comet hit. "I imagine his
building probably collapsed around him in the earthquake," she said, without a trace of sadness in
her voice. "It hit pretty hard down in the valley from what I understand."
"Do you have kids?" he asked.
"Two girls," she said. "Four and six years old. The older one was in school, the younger one was
home with me when it happened. Luckily the school stood up to the quake and Megan was all right.
They're both over at one of the other women's house right now. We kinda watch out for each other's
kids when someone has guard duty."
"I see," Brett said, putting his hand into the tub. The water was nice and toasty, just begging for him
to enter it. He dragged out the hot water hose and shut down the nozzle. "Well," he told Mitsy. "I
guess it's time."
"I guess it is," she smiled, making no move to leave her perch on the bench.
"Any chance of getting a little privacy?" he asked her.
"Paul told me to keep a close eye on you, didn't he?" she asked sweetly, her eyes teasing.
Brett took a deep breath, remembering what Paul had told him about the women in town. He
sighed. What could he do? "All right then," he said. "Just be advised. What you're about to see
won't be pretty. I haven't had a bath since before I left Stockton. The only thing approaching clean
is my teeth, and that's only because we found some toothbrushes in that trailer."
"I'll take my chances," she said.
He peeled off his filthy clothing, piece by piece, dropping it into a pile near the edge of the tub.
Soon he stood naked, his back to Mitsy, thoughts of her almost forgotten as he looked down at
himself in the light for the first time. He could hardly see his skin through all of the dirt and grime
and the smell that rose from him was offensive even to his own nose. "Let me in there," he said,
mounting the wooden step that stood next to the tub.
"Let's see if there's a man under all that," Mitsy said from behind him.
He ignored her remark, putting his foot into the blessedly hot water. The rest of him quickly
followed it in. It was hot enough to sting but the sensation was beyond description. For the first
time since the impact, he was hot! The heat caressed every inch of his skin, sank into his muscles,
opened his pores. "Ahhhhh," he said in a voice that was near orgasmic. "You can't believe how
goooood this feels."
"I bet," Mitsy said, her voice closer than it had been a moment before. Brett looked up to see that
she was standing near the edge of the tub. She held a bar of soap in her hands. "Need any help?"
she asked.
"I'll manage," he said, taking it from her. He picked up a washrag and went to work.
Within a minute the water that he was sitting in had turned a dirty brown color. Even the soap
bubbles lost their whiteness in favor of the mud color. He soaped and scrubbed everywhere with
the washrag, which itself soon turned as brown as everything else. Eventually he began to see a
faint pinkness to his skin.
"Here's some shampoo," Mitsy said, handing him a bottle of a popular name brand. "Let me fill up
your bucket for you."
She picked up a one-gallon bucket and released some water from the fire hose into it by spraying
for a few seconds. She then picked up the garden hose and warmed the water up by putting some of
it in there. "Close your eyes," she told him. A moment later warm water was dumped over his head,
thoroughly wetting his hair. "Now lather up."
He dumped a generous amount of the shampoo, which smelled like fresh apples, onto his hair and
scrubbed for the better part of two minutes, rubbing the lather over his face and the hair of his beard
as well. While he was doing this, Mitsy filled up another bucket of water that she dumped on him
to rinse the shampoo off. They did this two more times until his hair and beard were clean and
sweet smelling.
"Okay," Mitsy said next. "Pop the drain and let that dirty water run down it. When it's all gone,
we'll hose out the tub and then refill it so you can wash again. That oughtta get the worst of it off of
you."
Brett pushed the drain with his foot. A moment later the sound of water running onto the ground
beneath echoed up. He turned to Mitsy. "Can I get a towel?" he asked her.
She smiled mischievously. "They're over there on the shelf," she said, taking a step backward, her
eyes remaining riveted on him.
When he finally figured out that she had no intention of getting a towel for him or even turning
around to give him privacy, he stood up. Dirty water and soapsuds ran off of him in streams,
pattering back into the tub. Not making any effort to cover himself, he stepped out of the tub,
putting his bare feet on the cold tile of the floor.
"You look like you're in pretty good shape," Mitsy said appreciatively, her eyes continuing to take
in his form as he walked over to the towel shelf and pulled a bath towel from a stack.
"It comes from marching around with a fifty pound pack of canned food on your back," he told her
a little testily. He began to towel off, sopping up the dirty water that clung to him. Mitsy watched
his every move, her eyes starting to shine now. Brett knew that he was soon going to have trouble
with her.
"You look semi-clean now," she told him while the brown water poured out of the bathtub and into
the floor drain. "I think one more dunking should do it for you."
Once he was dry he wrapped the now-filthy towel around his waist and walked back over to the
tub. With disgust he realized that he had not just left a ring on the sparkling white surface, he had
coated the entire thing with grime. Mitsy handed him the fire hose and he spent the next ten
minutes just hosing it out and scrubbing it down with another washrag. She stayed carefully behind
him as he worked, paying particular attention to the view that was provided whenever he bent over.
"Now I know how secretaries feel when their bosses drop pencils for them to pick up," he told her,
annoyed.
She did not seem to be particularly concerned with his feelings. "And now I know how those
bosses feel," she said. "You have a really nice ass you know."
"Jesus," he said, scooting around the other side of the tub. "Can I fill this thing up now?"
"By all means," she said.
He closed the drain and put the hot water hose back in. Once it was running, he picked up the fire
hose and began to spray. As before, he shut it off when the tub was two-thirds full. When he set it
back down on the concrete, Mitsy walked over to the window that the hose came in from and stood
on a small ladder that had been placed there, climbing until her face was looking out over the
parking lot.
"You can shut it down now Hecky," she yelled. "He's done with it!"
A moment later the rumbling of the fire engine cut off. A minute after that, Hector appeared in the
doorway, his expression neutral as he took in the sight of Brett in a towel standing around waiting
for the tub to fill while Mitsy watched him. As soon as she saw him she walked over to him. They
held a whispered conversation for a few moments, during which Hector developed a pleased grin
upon his face. They said one last thing to each other and Hector disappeared, heading in the
direction of the community center's front door. Mitsy, wearing a smile of her own, walked back
over to Brett.
"What was that all about?" he asked her.
"Hecky's got a little thing going on the side with Brenda Callahan," she told him. "He's living with
Maria Sanchez you see. She was one of the cart girls at the grocery store, but Brenda's been doing
him for a few days now, trying to steal him away. Myself, I think he's just tearin' some off for the
fun of it. Hecky likes Mexican girls and Maria's the only one in town. He won't leave her."
"Shouldn't he be helping you guard me?" Brett asked, a big part of him appalled by the fact that he
had left her alone.
"You're not gonna attack me," she said. "You would've already done it back on the wall earlier if
you were gonna do it. Did I tell you that you almost made me pee my pants when you yelled at us?"
"No," he said dryly.
"You did," she said. "You scared the crap out of both of us."
"If you would've been paying attention to your duties as perimeter guards instead of gossiping with
each other, maybe you would've seen me before I had a chance to scare you."
She scoffed a little. "Do I look like a damn security guard?" she asked him. "I grew up in Granite
Bay and went to private schools all my life. How the hell was I supposed to know that you were
going to be up there?"
"You weren't," he told her. "But you could've at least kept an eye out. Don't you know that the
world is a different place now?"
"I'm starting to learn that," she said. She pointed at the bathtub. "Looks like you're full up. Are you
gonna climb in?"
He climbed in after dropping his dirty towel to the floor and pretending not to notice Mitsy's
interest in what was revealed by this motion. As before, the water was stinging at first but he
quickly got used to it. This time he did not immediately pick up a washrag. Instead, he leaned
backward against the sloped rise of the tub and relaxed, letting his body soak in the warmth, letting
it ease his sore muscles. He closed his eyes, intending to ignore Mitsy in the hopes that she would
go away or at least retreat back to her bench. This hope turned out to be quite naïve.
He heard the sound of her boots being unbuckled and slipped off. He opened his eyes and saw that
she was doing exactly that. As soon as they were free of her feet, she unbuckled her belt, sliding the
holstered gun free and setting it on the towel shelf.
"What are you doing Mitsy?" he asked her wearily.
"We're only allowed three baths a week," she said, undoing the buttons on her flannel shirt. "Its not
my turn for another two days and I thought, since you've already got it full, that you wouldn't mind
if I cheated a little." She winked at him. "A girl really does love her baths you know."
"I would prefer to go it alone," he said, watching as her shirt opened up revealing a white bra
beneath. Her breasts were small, smaller than Chrissie's, but they were nicely formed and the
contrast of the white bra cups against her tanned skin was alluring.
"Oh, don't be such a prude," she told him, shrugging the shirt off her shoulders. He could now see
her smooth stomach and her belly button. "Surely you've taken a bath with a woman before. I don't
bite."
"But maybe I do," he said, unable to tear his eyes away from her skin. She really was a very
attractive woman. Her curves were prominently displayed for him as she slid her hands down to the
buttons of her jeans.
"We've already been over that," she said, unsnapping the first button. "You wouldn't hurt me."
"Mitsy," he said firmly, "I don't want to do this with you. I just want to get cleaned up and get some
sleep."
"Who says we're going to do anything," she said, feigning disinterest in him. She popped open the
second button, revealing the top of her pink panties. "I just want to sneak in an extra bath. Help a
girl out, will you?"
"Then I'll get out," he said. "You have your bath and I'll get dressed."
"Oh no," she told him, shaking her head. "I'm supposed to guard you. I can't do that if I'm in the tub
and you're not." She undid another button, revealing even more of her panties.
He began to feel his penis filling with blood, very much against his will. "Mitsy," he told her,
shifting uncomfortably in the tub. "I'm trying to get accepted into your town. My very survival
depends upon it. If I get caught naked in a bathtub with you on the first night, it won't look real
good for me."
She pushed her pants down, revealing her long legs. They, like her stomach and her chest, were
nicely tanned. They were athletic legs, with hardly an ounce of fat on them. It seemed that Mitsy
had spent a good portion of her adult life working out. She stood with them slightly apart, her
weight distributed evenly. Her pink panties were bunched up just a little bit, the crotch showing a
distinct dampness, a few stray strands of black pubic hair sticking out from the sides. His erection
grew larger, reaching maximum pressure. "If we get caught," she told him, stepping out of her
pants and walking a step closer to the tub, "I'll tell them that you were under duress." She smiled,
reaching behind her for her bra strap. "In a way, you are you know. I have a gun over there on the
shelf."
"Jesus," he breathed, his hand unconsciously sliding down beneath the soapsuds to grasp his penis.
He slid it up and down a few times without even realizing what he was doing.
Her bra came free with a quick twist of her fingers and, with a single shrug of the shoulders it fell
to the floor at her feet. Her breasts were perfectly rounded mounds that stuck out from her chest
proudly. They did not sag. There was not enough of them to cause a sag. Little more than the size
of avocados, they were capped with disproportionately large nipples and aureoles. The nipples were
starkly erect, protruding outward more than half an inch.
"My husband used to think these were too small," she said, cupping them for a moment with her
hands. "He always used to nag me to go get a boob job but I was always scared to do that. All the
horror stories about implants, you know. What do you think?"
"They're very nice," he said shortly, his voice wavering. He could not keep his eyes off of them.
"Very nice," she repeated, mocking his tone. "You really know how to sweet talk a girl, you know
that?"
He said nothing, just continued to watch as she hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties
and pushed them down her hips. Her bush was very hairy and very black, hiding everything
beneath it. She rectified this by sliding her fingers into it and spreading open her lips, allowing him
to see her pink membranes.
"I seem to be kind of wet down there," she said, as if puzzled. "Isn't that weird?" She kicked the
panties off and began to walk to the tub, her eyes locked on his face.
"Mitsy, we can't do this. I don't want to," he said, making a last ditch effort to dissuade her.
She mounted the step, looking down at him. "We're not going to DO anything," she said teasingly.
"I'm just going to take a bath, remember?" With that she swung her leg over the edge, preparing to
step in. This opened her crotch up to Brett's inspection from less than two feet away. Her lips were
swollen and reddened, moisture glinting off of them. He even caught a brief glimpse of her clit
before she stepped in and hid the view. It was protruding from its hood and ready for action.
Brett growled a little in the back of his throat, partially in desire, partially in frustration.
She eased into the tub, sitting down in the water directly opposite from where he reclined.
"Ahhhhh," she moaned, letting herself lean back against the edge, her legs stretching out before her.
Brett felt her feet contact his and then her legs slide over the top of his. He jumped a little at her
touch. "What's the matter?" she asked. "You don't expect me to keep my legs all curled up beneath
me, do you? I have to relax a little."
Her legs continued to move forward until the backs of her thighs were resting firmly on his ankles.
Her skin was hot and very smooth against him and his hand stroked a little faster on his erection.
He felt the cheeks of her ass lightly touching his toes beneath the water. When he tried to pull back
to break the contact, she scooted down further in the water, maintaining it.
"Now isn't this nice?" she sighed, putting her arms on the edge of the tub, everything but her face
and neck beneath the bubbles.
"Yeah," he breathed through clenched teeth. He finally realized that his hand was grasping his cock
and he removed it, putting his own arms to the side. "Are we ready to get out now?"
"Not even close," she said, squirming a little closer to him. "I haven't even begun to relax yet."
"Great," he said, trembling a little. He thought of Chrissie, who was out on the other side of the
bridge, huddling alone in a lean-to in the rain while he was warm and safe in a hot bath with a
beautiful woman trying to seduce him. Guilt added itself to his emotions, putting them into even
more of turmoil.
"There's just nothing like a hot bath," Mitsy said, her legs moving a little on his, sliding back and
forth with an unbearable softness. "Everything else in the world is gone but at least we still have
this, right?"
"Right," he squeaked, knowing that the "this" she was talking about was not the bath.
He felt her legs sliding together, felt her feet moving over his ribcage. Suddenly, before he realized
it was happening, his dick was being grasped from both sides by the bottom of her feet. He jumped
a little, trying to pull himself away, but she gripped him strongly, her legs holding him down.
"Now what's this?" she said, rubbing her feet up and down a few times. "It seems that somebody in
this tub has a little problem."
He could not help but groan at the pressure. Never had a woman done what she was doing to him.
He had never imagined that FEET could feel so good on his manhood.
"You like that, don't you?" she asked softly, applying a little more pressure and moving her feet just
a little faster. "You never had a foot job before?"
"Uhhh," he groaned, still trying to resist her.
"I could make you come like this you know," she said, increasing the tempo, forcing him to raise
his hips up to her. "I could make you shoot all over my feet if I wanted to."
"Mitsy," he moaned. "Please?"
Her foot action continued, the water in the tub starting to ripple with the motion now. "But I
wouldn't do that," she said, the action slowing a bit. "That would be an awful waste of a good load
of come, wouldn't it?" She let her feet come to a halt, ending the sensation for him.
He groaned again at the sudden cessation. Unable to help himself, he plunged his hands in the
water and grabbed her feet, forcing them to start moving on his cock once again.
"Well, well," she said, smiling wickedly, her own hands dropping to his legs. "I thought you didn't
want to do anything in here. I though we were just taking a bath. Could it be that you're starting to
get a little interested?"
"Ohh god," he moaned, continuing to force her feet against him. His hips moved up and down,
driving him in and out.
She suddenly jerked her feet away from him, breaking the contact. He tried to grab them and bring
them back but she was too fast. "You don't want to come on my feet," she told him, sitting up in the
water and showing him her soapy breasts. "You want to come in my pussy. Don't you?"
"Mitsy," he said, his voice choked, his body trembling, his mind pulling him in several directions at
once.
"Don't you?" she asked again, her hands sliding up and down his legs sensuously.
"Yes," he said, giving fully in. He wanted her. He had to have her. Chrissie huddled in her lean-to
didn't matter at that moment. He NEEDED Mitsy like he needed air.
"Tell me what you want to do," she said, continuing to rub his legs, her hands going higher and
higher up his thighs with each repetition. "Tell me."
"I want to fuck you," he said, sitting up and grabbing for her. "I'm GOING to fuck you."
"Oh yes," she said, bringing her own hands up and putting them around his neck. "Do it to me
Brett. Fuck me good. I need it too."
He pulled her over the top of his legs, his hands going to her firm ass, his mouth mashing against
hers. Their tongues stabbed out and connected, plunging together passionately. She continued to
move forward atop his legs, until her small breasts were pushing against him, until he felt her ass
nestled against his thighs. Their bodies slid together on a slick film of hot soapy water. Her hands
left his neck and reached beneath the water, grabbing his prick. She stroked it up and down.
"So nice," she said, breaking the kiss and attacking his earlobes. "So hard."
"Yes," he said, his fingers digging into the firm flesh of her ass cheeks, squeezing it nearly hard
enough to hurt her. She didn't seem to mind. In fact, her moans encouraged him to squeeze even
harder.
She continued to squirm forward on him until he felt the head of his dick dragging through hair.
She shifted her hips a little more, adjusting him with her hands until it was rubbing against slippery
lips.
"Oh, you can't believe how much I've wanted a dick in me," she said. "Let's do it!"
"Yeah," he agreed. He lifted up on her ass, positioning her opening against him. He then pulled her
down, forcing his dick into her lips, plunging himself inside of her in one smooth stroke. She was
not as tight as Chrissie was but she was experienced. He felt it in the knowing way she clenched
him, in the way she drove herself downward to meet him. It was an almost violent thrust, not for
the faint of heart. And the pleasure that it sent radiating through him was almost more than he could
bear.
"Ohhhh," he groaned, feeling the penetration.
"Yesss, oh fuck the shit out of me!" she agreed, her hands going back around him.
He began to thrust up and down, not bothering with a slow build-up, just rutting at her like an
animal. She responded in turn, forcing her hips downward to meet each of his strokes. Waves of
sheer pleasure radiated outward from his cock as he plowed into her. Water, churned up by their
motion, splashed over the side, turning the area under the tub into a slippery, soapy puddle. His
hands moved from her ass to her slippery tits, each breast fitting neatly into a hand, the nipples
pushing into his palms. She pushed her chest forcefully into him, squirming her shoulders back and
forth to increase the friction. He craned his head downward, taking her right nipple into his mouth.
He sucked it between his lips, biting at it with his teeth.
"Oh yesss," she moaned, her hips moving faster, her hand pulling him against her. "Suck my titties,
suck them!"
He continued to suck at that nipple until it was blood red and hard as a rock. He then switched to
the other one, giving it the same treatment. Through it all his hips kept rising and falling, pushing
and pulling, slamming his cock into her body like a piston. She loved every second of it, every
thrust, ever motion of his lips and tongue against her. Her hands clawed at his back, twined through
his hair, squeezed his ass.
When she came, she slammed her pelvis down onto him so hard that he bounced upward. Her
fingernails dug into his back and her tongue slammed down his throat so far that he almost gagged.
She moaned into his mouth as she fucked up and down, as water splashed out of the tub by the
gallon.
He sucked at her tongue obscenely, taking over the job of thrusting as her orgasm faded away. He
powered up and down in her and her muscles continued to clench and unclench rhythmically,
gripping and ungripping him. He ground himself forcefully into her with each movement, his pubic
hair abrading against hers beneath the water. Soon, too soon, he felt the spasms start. His thrusts
became more powerful, less controlled.
Mitsy, sensing the change, began to suck on his shoulder, licking and biting at it. "Yes," she
breathed, her hands gripping his shoulders, "come in my pussy! Give it to me!"
"Uhhhhh," he grunted, as the waves of pleasure began, as the machinery of orgasm kicked into
maximum overdrive. The sensation climbed and climbed and finally peaked in a pinnacle of
pleasure. The first jet shot from his driving member, splashing forcefully against her insides.
"Yessssss!" she cried, feeling it. "Oh yessss!"
He continued to plaster her insides with his seed. Her vaginal muscles gripped hungrily at him,
drawing every last drop from his body. Her channel was suddenly a lot slipperier as his semen was
added to her juices. When the last spurt was finally shot, when the last tingling of pleasure started
to fade, she continued to grind herself atop him while they kissed passionately.
"Oh god," she told him, kissing his lips and licking at them. "You can't imagine how good that felt.
It's been sooooo long."
"I can imagine," he panted, feeling sweat running down his face. His hands continued to run up and
down her soapy back, caressing the silky skin.
"You're pretty good at this," she said, giving him one more little grind atop his wilting cock.
"Thanks," he said, glowing from the aftereffects of orgasm but already starting to feel the first
tinges of regret at what he had done.
"Yes," said a female voice from the entrance to the locker room. It was not an amused voice. "That
was a very impressive performance indeed."
With a start they both looked at the doorway. Standing there were Paul and Jessica, their eyes
glaring at the two lovers. Both of them had pistols in their hands.

Chapter 4


Chapter 4
"Mitsy, get the hell out of that bathtub right now!" Paul yelled at her angrily.
"All right, all right," she said, pulling herself off of Brett, her voice far from regretful. She stood,
unashamed before Paul and Jessica, stepping down and heading for the towel rack.
"Are you okay Honey?" Jessica, her gun pointing at Brett, asked her gently.
"Okay?" she said, grabbing one of the towels and starting to pat herself dry. "Of course I'm okay."
"Thank God for that," she said, continuing to glare at Brett. "How dare you abuse our hospitality
like that," she accused. "We invite you into our town, feed you, allow you to bathe and you repay
us by attacking the girl who was guarding you?"
"Attacking?" he said, raising his eyebrows.
"How else did she get into that tub with you?" Jessica asked. "And just what happened to Hector?"
"Christ almighty," Paul said, shaking his head sadly. He put his gun back in its holster and then
turned to Jessica. "Jess," he said. "I don't think that Brett attacked Mitsy, did he Mitsy?"
"No," she admitted without shame. "It was actually more the other way around." She bent over to
dry her legs.
"YOU attacked HIM?" Jessica asked in disbelief.
She shrugged. "He has a nice ass," she said. "And I was horny. What's wrong with having a little
fun?"
"What's wrong with it," Paul said, "is that you were SUPPOSED to be guarding him. What if he
was dangerous? What if he HAD attacked you? Nice ass or not, we don't know this man! Anything
could have happened, anything! For Christ's sake Mitsy, he is in the building that we store our
goddamn food and ammunition in!"
"Sorry," she said softly, her eyes downcast now.
"Sorry," Paul repeated, mocking her. "And just where IS Hector, your partner in this guard detail?"
"I'd rather not say," she replied. "He's all right though."
Paul buried his face in his hands for a moment and took a few deep breaths. When he looked up he
noticed that Jessica was still pointing her gun at Brett, murder in her eyes. "Jessica, would put that
freaking gun away before you accidentally shoot something with it?"
"Put it away?" she asked. "What about HIM?"
"What about him?" he returned. "At least this proves he wasn't trying to attack us from the inside,
doesn't it?"
"It doesn't prove anything except that he's an animal willing to come in here and take advantage of
our hospitality by... "
"Oh please," Paul said, cutting her off. "I hardly think it makes him an animal because he
responded to the seduction of a beautiful woman after he's been out in the wilderness for two
weeks."
"Do you really think I'm beautiful Paul?" Mitsy asked, beaming, immediately interested.
"Shit," Paul muttered. He turned to Brett. "Are you about done with your bath now?"
"Uh... yeah," he said. "Look, I'm really sorry about all of this. The last thing I wanted to do was... "
"Don't sweat it," Paul told him. "Just get out and get your clothes on. We'll get you a bed set up in
one of the rooms."
"You're not going to let him stay here after what just happened, are you?" Jessica asked.
"I don't see how this changes anything," Paul replied. "You know as well as I do that what just
happened is far from unusual in this town these days. I probably should've known better than to
have Mitsy guard him. I should've found two of the men. But then I probably would've had BOTH
of them run off to screw someone and Brett would've been free to wander around at will. At least
this way someone was with him."
"I don't think we need to discuss town business in front of him," Jessica whispered, although loudly
enough for Brett to hear. "Especially not... you know?"
"He already knows about it," Paul said. "I filled him in earlier on the various games that are played
here."
"You did WHAT?" she asked, horrified.
Paul ignored her. "Now you see what I mean, right?" he asked Brett, smiling a little.
Brett smiled back hesitantly. "A very graphic lesson," he agreed.
"Sorry we came rushing in here with guns," he said. "We heard moaning and splashing coming
from in here and we thought that maybe... well... "
"That I was hurting her?"
"Yeah."
"I didn't realize we were so loud," Mitsy said, embarrassed now.
"Nobody ever does," Paul said. "Nobody ever does. Get yourself dressed Mitsy and then I'd like to
have a word with you in the office."
"Okay," she said, dropping her towel and grabbing her clothes. She began to put them on.
"Jess," he said, turning to her, "can you go get Jeff from the front and have him take over watching
Brett for us?"
"You want ME to do that?" she asked with distaste, as if she was being asked to gut a fish or
slaughter a chicken.
"Yes, please," he said, just a hint of sarcasm tinting his words. "If its not too much trouble that is?"
"I don't like the way you've been talking to me tonight," Jessica practically hissed at him. "You
seem to have forgotten what your place in this town is. Remember... "
"I wasn't a resident," he said before she could. "I know. You've only told me that a hundred times
or so. And as for forgetting my place, I think that it's the opposite that's happening here. I think I'm
just starting to REALIZE my place as well as YOUR place."
"Are you threatening me?" she said, taking a step closer. "Because if you are, you'll be out of here
so fast... "
"Take it for what you want Jess," Paul told her, standing his ground. "We've already been over this
once tonight, haven't we? Now, if you're finished, would you please go get Jeff so we can make
sure that Brett doesn't find himself in any more mischief tonight?"
"I am FAR from finished," she said angrily. "We will talk about this some more."
"Fine, let's just do it later, okay? It's been a hell of a long night and we have a lot of people to talk
to tomorrow."
"You're overstepping your bounds," she warned, pointing a finger at him. "And you'd better check
yourself." This statement might have had a little more dramatic effect had she not then turned and
headed off to do exactly what she'd been told to do.
"Fuckin' bitch," Mitsy, who was now completely clothed again, muttered once she was gone.
"Enough of that," Paul told her wearily. "I'll see you in my office Mitsy."
"Sure," she said, sulking to the door. Before she went out she shot an affectionate look at Brett.
"See you later," she told him.
He gave no acknowledgment to her and a moment later she disappeared. Once she was gone he
looked at Paul. "Sorry about all this," he told him. "I seemed to have created some power struggles
for you."
"Nothing to be sorry about," Paul said. "I'm kind of glad that all this happened tonight. Jessica and
Dale need to be taken down a few notches and this struggle over you has given me the means to do
it."
"I see," he said. "Will this incident with Mitsy affect how people feel about me staying?"
"No, not in the least. Trust me on this, you'll be voted in as long as I'm with Jessica when the story
about you gets told. You're a man in a town where men are scarce. You'd have to be Ted Bundy
before these women would vote to exclude you. If nothing else, the rumor about what happened
here tonight will strengthen your case. After all, they'll know you can be seduced, right? That's the
best thing you can say about a man in this town."
"That's good to know," he said.
"Don't be so happy about us accepting you though," Paul warned. "Once you're a member of this
community, I'm going to move to put you in charge of defense and training. And then YOU can be
the one who deals with all of this guard duty crap. I imagine it will be the toughest job you'll ever
have."

"So I hear you bagged Mitsy," Jeff, the nineteen-year-old guard that he had first encountered at the
front entrance, asked him with a shrewd smile. He seemed to have put his hostile feelings aside.
"How was she? She was one of the virgins but I was thinking about maybe giving her a try." They
were walking down the hallway of the community center, Jeff in the rear, lighting the way with a
flashlight.
"Virgins?" Brett asked, raising his eyebrows a tad. Mitsy certainly had not been a virgin.
"You know," he said, "it means none of the guys have tapped her yet. Nobody's worked their way
around to her yet. So was it worth it?"
"Jesus," Brett muttered. "I'd rather not say. I prefer to keep my experiences to myself."
"Bummer dude," Jeff said sadly. "But I can get down with that, you know? That's the same thing
Paul and Matt do. They don't say shit. Sometimes I think they're out there getting more pussy than
anybody." They arrived at a small storage room near the back of the building. "Here's your suite.
Sorry it ain't much." He shined the flashlight inside, allowing Brett to have a look at it.
It was pretty much a case of what you see is what you get. It was a windowless room with only one
door. About ten feet by ten feet, the floor was covered with the same industrial carpet that covered
the rest of the building. There was a rollaway bed of the sort usually found in motels set up in the
corner. A neatly folded stack of linen sat atop it. On a small table next to the cot was a candle, unlit,
with a pack of matches next to it. Brett walked inside and picked up the matches, lighting the
candle and allowing Jeff to douse the flashlight.
"So dude, you were like a cop and all, right?" Jeff asked, pulling a pack of cigarettes from the
pocket of his flannel shirt.
"That's right," Brett told him, picking up the stack of linen. It was soft, dry, and smelled faintly of
laundry soap. Clean linen! Amazing. He began to unfold it and place it on the bed. He would get to
sleep in a REAL bed.
"Well," Jeff said, "even though you WERE a cop, I guess it's only polite to ask. I'm not a Bogart
you know?"
"What are you talking about?" Brett asked, looking over at him.
"You wanna burn one with me?" he asked, holding up a tightly rolled joint. "It's good shit."
"You want to smoke a JOINT with me? The man that you're supposed to be guarding?"
"Hell yeah," he said, putting the joint in his mouth and pulling out a disposable lighter. "I ain't
never smoked out with no cop before. It'll be the bomb." He lit it, taking a large hit and filling the
room with the pungent smell of marijuana.
"My work is going to be cut out for me here, I can see that."
"So what do you say?" Jeff squeaked, speaking and holding his breath at the same time. "Wanna
get loaded?"
"What the hell?" Brett said, reaching out and taking the joint. "I guess they can't fire me now, can
they?"
"You the man," Jeff squeaked, grinning at him.
Though he had not smoked any since his high school days, it really was like riding a bicycle. He
put the smoldering joint between his lips and sucked, drawing a medium hit into his lungs. "This IS
some good shit," he squeaked back as he handed the joint back to Jeff. "Where'd you get it?"
"Are you kidding?" Jeff asked, dipping the ash that had formed onto the floor. "We have more than
a pound of this shit in storage. When we went through all the houses looking for supplies we found
pot in more than half of them. I guess these rich people liked to smoke out. They bought quality
buds too."
"Really?" Brett said, exhaling a plume of smoke.
"And that ain't all," Jeff said, holding the joint near his mouth but not hitting it. "We got enough
booze, wine, and yuppie beer to kill everyone in town five or six times, enough Prozac, Xanax, and
Valium to paralyze an army, and even some coke and crank. In one of the former doctor's houses
we even found some morphine and a box of syringes. Fuckin' rich people. They're disgusting, ain't
they?" He took a hit, sucking up more than a quarter inch of the joint in one inhale.
"I guess it shouldn't surprise me," Brett said, "but somehow it still does." He grabbed the joint and
took another hit. "So what's your story?" he asked once he'd exhaled and handed it back over.
"Me?" Jeff squeaked, once again talking while holding in a hit. "I'm from Salt Lake City. I was here
on my mission."
"Your mission?"
He blew the smoke out and handed what was now nearly a roach to Brett. "My mission," he said,
coughing a little. "You know, for the Mormon Church. I was up here riding a fucking bicycle
around spreading the word."
Brett found this extremely funny. He began to laugh, unable to stop once he was started. "You," he
chortled, "are a Mormon?"
"Fuck no," he scoffed, laughing himself. "But my family was. If I wanted my piece of the pie, then
I had to play the game, right? Now my parents couldn't afford to send me to Japan or Russia or
anything like that, so I was doing my time here in California. I was gonna start at BYU next
semester and major in business and be a part of my old man's firm but the comet kinda toasted
those plans." He shrugged. "I don't mind though. This is, without a doubt, the best time that I've
ever had. I mean, I got to score some pretty good puss back in SLC, you know, being a football
player and a future BYU student, but I never imagined anything like what we got here. I've been
laid at least once a day since the comet hit, usually twice. My friend, you are now living in
paradise."
"Paradise," Brett said, feeling his head reeling from the pot. "You ever listen to The Eagles?"
"The who?"
"No, The Eagles," Brett said. "Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh."
Jeff shrugged. "Maybe my parents did. Didn't they sing Hotel California?"
"That's them," Brett agreed. "I remember the last line of one of their songs. The song was the Last
Resort. The line was about paradise."
"What was it?"
"If you call some place paradise," Brett quoted, "kiss it goodbye."
Jeff didn't get it. "What the fuck does that mean?" he asked.
"It means that you people have something that everyone is going to want. You have paradise. It's
apparent just by watching you from the outside but its even more apparent by watching it from the
inside. Somebody's gonna try to take this place away eventually. It's human nature. And you, as
members of paradise, will give it to them by your inaction."
"Why are you telling me this?"
Brett took another hit. "I'm a guest of yours right now," he said. "But pretty soon I won't be. Pretty
soon, I'm going to be in charge of security here."
"Yeah? So what?"
"So enjoy your pot-smoking on guard duty while you have a chance my friend. Once I'm in charge,
you won't be doing it. Nor will you be fucking anybody on guard duty. I guarantee it."
Jeff started to laugh. "Oh dude," he said, pulling out an expensive looking roach clip and inserting
the joint into it, "you don't know the people in this town very well."
"Oh, I think I do," Brett replied with a smile. "They just don't know ME very well."

For most of the night Jason, and especially Chrissie, had lain awake, tossing and turning, their
minds worried sick about the fate of Brett. Was he dead? Was he alive? Had he been taken prisoner
in Garden Hill? Or had he fallen to his death from the bridge? They did not know, could not know
and their minds, insisting upon dwelling on the worst possible things imaginable, refused to shut
down and let sleep take over for more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time.
Finally, after what seemed like days, first light touched the sky, turning the blackness into indistinct
shadows and shapes. Wearily, both of them with bags beneath their eyes from fatigue, pulled
themselves from their sleeping bags and put on the same wet clothing that they had worn since that
day at the trailer.
They ate a breakfast of spaghetti-O's, washing it down with sips of water from their canteens. They
talked little as they ate, neither wanting to vocalize the fear that was gripping them. When the can
was empty and the rumbling in their bellies quieted, Chrissie felt a familiar fullness in her lower
regions. Though their limited diet had certainly cut back on the frequency of bowel movements in
this new life, the mail did still go through every few days or so. It seemed that this was going to be
one of those days.
"I gotta go around the corner for a few minutes," she told Jason, using the euphemism for "I have to
drop a load" that had developed among the three team members.
"Don't use the poison oak to wipe with," Jason warned, repeating an overused joke between them,
formulated on their first day with Brett when he had given them an amusingly serious lecture on
that very subject.
"I'll try not to," she dutifully replied, picking up her rifle and slinging it over her shoulder. "Once I
get back we'll climb the hill and start looking."
"Right," Jason said, deliberately injecting a note of optimism into his tone. Brett had instructed
them to climb the hill and keep an eye on the bridge starting at first light. If his plans had gone
well, he would wave them over.
Chrissie walked out of the lean-to and into the rain, feeling the first icy sting of water on her face
and wincing a little, as she always did at the first contact of the morning. She put her head down a
little and trudged around the rocky outcropping that they had made camp at. It was in a wider
section of the canyonside cut, about two hundred yards from the tall ridge overlooking the bridge.
She worked her way out of the rocks and into the area where the trees and foliage grew, sliding in
between a group of pines. She found a relatively clear area and then dropped her pants, squatting
down over a small hole she'd dug with the toe of her boot. She set her rifle down on the ground next
to her, within easy reach.
It was just as she was finishing up, just as she was wiping with a handful of wet leaves, that she
began to get a very uncomfortable feeling. It was like what Brett had described to her when he'd
sensed the two gunmen that had attacked him on the ridges. Her neck began to tickle, the hairs on it
standing on end. Her pulse was suddenly beating faster and she had the strong sensation that she
was being watched. Brett had told her that she should never ignore such a sensation, that non-
mentally ill people rarely had such feelings for no reason.
She dropped the leaves onto the ground and quickly pulled her pants back up, buckling the belt just
enough to keep it from unfastening. Her eyes were looking outward as she did this, tracking over
every rock, bush, tree, and mound of dirt, searching for whatever was jigging her senses. She saw
nothing that she consciously considered to be out of the ordinary but, for some reason, she kept
coming back to a group of boulders that was sitting about thirty yards away. They were just
ordinary boulders, no different than a thousand others that she had seen, grouped in no particular
pattern, but, as she looked at them, she became convinced that someone or something was behind
them. Her adrenaline began to flow faster, her pulse to hammer harder. Where was the nearest
cover?
Slowly, trying her best not to look as if she was alarmed by anything, she reached down to pick up
her rifle, wanting it's comforting weight in her hands. Just as her hand touched the plastic of the
grip, there was movement from behind the boulders and a man suddenly emerged. He was wearing
filthy blue jeans and an equally dirty forest green down jacket. His face was heavily bearded but
did not have the sunken, haunted look of starvation. Whoever he was, he had been eating regularly.
He carried no rifle but his right hand was hidden in the pocket of his coat. His eyes were looking at
her as he walked forward, his mouth formed into a broad, ain't-I-glad-to-see-you smile that Chrissie
instantly did not trust.
"Well hello there young lady," he said with obviously forced friendliness, his eyes remaining
locked on her as he continued forward. "Wherever in the world did you come from?"
Chrissie moved fast. If Brett had been there to see it, he would have been quite proud of her. In one
swift motion she picked up her rifle and sidestepped to her left, throwing herself behind a tree.
Once the trunk was between her and the mysterious man she swung towards him, bringing the butt
of the rifle to her shoulder, her eye peering out over the sights. "Stop where you are!" she yelled,
loudly enough for Jason to hear back at camp. "Don't come a step closer to me!"
"Whoa," said the man, holding his left hand up in a gesture of appeasement. His right hand
however, stayed in the jacket. His pace slowed a little but did not stop. "Nothing to get excited
about. You don't need to go pointing a gun at me. I'm harmless."
"I said STOP!" she said. "Take your hand out of your pocket!"
He slowed a little more but continued to move forward. He was now fifteen yards away. "Where
did you find that gun anyway sweetheart?" he asked. "It's awfully big for such a young girl. You
really should put it down before you hurt yourself with it."
"Stop motherfucker!" she yelled. "I mean it! I'll shoot you!"
"You don't want shoot anyone, do you?" he said, continuing his slow advance. "Really now. I'm
here to help you. I'm a good guy. Why don't you... "
"Don't take another step!" she warned, her finger tightening on the trigger.
"Sweetheart," he said, "you need to put that gun down. I know you don't want anything bad to
happen here, right?" He took another step forward. He would never take another.
Chrissie squeezed the trigger twice causing the rifle to thump against her shoulder and sending the
crack of two shots echoing off the rocks. Two holes appeared in the man's jacket, right in the center
of his chest, sending a small puff of goose feathers out into the wind. He screeched as the wind was
driven from his lungs and there was a flash from his right pocket as the gun he had hidden in there
was fired. The bullet ripped a hole in the jacket and then ricocheted off the ground about ten feet in
front of her. The man then fell to his face on the ground, his hand still pinned beneath him.
"Chrissie!" came Jason's voice from behind her. "What's going on? What's happening?"
Before she could answer him, before he was even really done speaking, three more shots suddenly
rang out from the boulders where the first man had come from. They were pistol shots, by now she
was able to tell the difference, and she caught a brief glimpse of another bearded face in the gap
between two of the rocks. Two of the bullets that had been fired whizzed by on her left. The last
one struck the tree she was hiding behind.
Before she even realized she was doing it, her finger was squeezing the trigger again, sending a hail
of rifle bullets right back at him. The pinged and sparked as they hit the rocks. She fired five times
and then stopped, her sight trained on the spot where she had last seen him.
"Chrissie!" yelled Jason again, frantically this time.
"Jason," she shouted back, "stay down. Take cover. There's one down and at least one behind some
rocks over here."
"Are you all right?"
"So far," she yelled. "I'm behind cover."
She continued to watch the rocks, her body tense, her eyes dilated, her heart going nearly one
hundred and eighty beats per minute. She saw nothing but the rocks, heard nothing but the rain and
the canyon. Had she hit the gunman back there? While it was possible, it would not be a good idea
to assume that, or even to assume that there was only one more of them back there. What now? she
wondered. Why the hell wasn't Brett here? Brett would know what to do.
On the other side of the rise, near the lean-to, Jason was even tenser. He lay on his stomach behind
a rock, his rifle trained outward towards where Chrissie had gone, but he couldn't see anything of
the area where the shooting had come from. He did not know exactly where his sister was or where
the gunmen were. He was useless. He needed to change that. Slowly, moving rock to rock,
crawling on his belly, he inched forward until he was against the mound of rocks and sparse shrubs
that stood between he and where he figured Chrissie had gone. He began to climb up it, step by
step, foot by foot, picking his footholds carefully and making sure that his head stayed below the
crest. When he reached the top he peered over, keeping his face behind a rock. He was able to see a
body lying on the ground, face down. After a moment's searching he was able to see his sister. He
could not, however, tell which rocks their enemy might be behind. There were simply too many
rocks down there. Now what?
Meanwhile, Chrissie had an idea. "You, with the gun," she yelled from her position behind the tree.
"There are two of us out here with rifles. Come out now with your hands up and we won't kill you."
As to what she might do if her offer was accepted, she did not quite know, but it was a mute point.
The gunman or gunmen did not come out or give any indication that she had been heard.
"Goddamn it," she muttered to herself, not even realizing that she had spoken aloud.
"Chrissie," hissed a voice from behind and to the right. It was Jason. "Don't look up here. Just nod
if you can hear me."
Though she was desperately afraid that her brother was exposing himself and though every big
sister instinct that she had was commanding her to at least take a look, she kept her eyes forward.
She nodded twice.
"Where are they at?" he asked her next.
"The group of rocks at my two o'clock," she said back, talking only as loudly as she thought
necessary for him to hear her. Hopefully the gunman wouldn't hear as well.
"The tall group with the big egg-shaped rock in the middle?" Jason asked.
"That's right," she said. "There's at least one back there with a pistol. I don't think I hit him when I
shot. Can you see anything back there?"
"Nothing," Jason whispered after searching the formation with his eyes for a few moments. "What
do we do now?"
Chrissie looked around her for a moment, checking the terrain. There was not much to the right of
her as far as cover or concealment. Trying to move that way would be a mistake unless she could
verify that her assailants were down. But the left however, that led deeper into the trees. A person
could find lots of things to hide behind back there. And even better was the fact that the tree line
extended forward. "Hmmm," she hummed to herself, her mind spinning a thousand miles an hour.
She risked a look over her shoulders, up to where her brother's voice had come from. She did not
see him, but she gave him a series of hand signals. "Cover me," her gestures said, "I'm going to
flank him to the left."
"Are you sure Chrissie?" Jason's voice called down.
She nodded, positioning herself to run. She took a few deep breaths and gathered her courage and
then gave Jason one more signal. The go signal.
Jason began firing down into the rocks, several shots a second, giving her covering fire so she
could move. Again the sparks began to fly and the bullets to ping and ricochet around. Rock chips
exploded upward. As soon as she heard the first shot, Chrissie broke from behind her tree and
sprinted to the left and slightly forward, moving into the area of thicker foliage, throwing herself
down behind another group of trees that provided a better angle of attack. She rolled over onto her
stomach and aimed out towards the rocks just in time to see two flashes of the gunman's pistol as it
raised over the rock to return fire. She aimed her rifle in that direction but could see nothing but the
man's hand extending upward. That one glance only lasted a second or two before the hand dropped
back down. She did not fire.
Jason held his fire for a few moments, waiting to see what would happen next. When the man
behind the rock had returned fire he, Jason, had aimed for the arm that had poked up but he was
pretty sure he hadn't hit it. He looked downward to where Chrissie was, searching for a moment
and finally finding her. She was looking up towards him, unable to see him but trying to attract his
attention. "I got you Sis," he yelled down at her.
Chrissie, gratified that she hadn't hidden herself too well, gave him another set of hand signals,
indicating that she wanted him to cover another advance. Now she knew why Brett had told them
so many times that the key to a successful battle was communication and coordination. Without
being able to signal her intentions to Jason, she was pinned down and trapped, with being able to do
that, she was nearly invincible.
"Got it," came Jason's voice, drifting downward at her.
"Good," she mumbled to herself, gripping her weapon and slowly raising to her knees, preparatory
to running. She took another deep breath and gave the go signal. Gunfire once again exploded from
Jason's position, pattering down on the rocks. She jumped to her feet and dashed through the open
ground to the next set of trees, moving strictly forward this time. She glanced at her enemy's
position and still saw nothing but rocks. Jason continued to fire and she dashed forward again,
diving behind a fallen log and scrambling as far forward along its length as she could go.
The gunfire from Jason's rifle halted again and there was no answering fire from the pistol this
time. Slowly, cautiously, she raised her head up and peeked over the log, ready to dive back down
in an instant if she saw danger. She did not. What she saw instead was a man crouching behind the
rocks, his body as close to the edge of them as he could physically get it. He was in profile to her,
holding a pistol in both hands, pointing it upward. Even from twenty yards away Chrissie could see
that he was scared shitless and didn't know what to do. He was close to panic, finding himself
pinned between two armed people.
Had she more time and inclination to think the situation through, she might have felt sorry for the
man, might have hesitated to shoot at him as he cowered there. But she didn't. She acted as Brett
had taught her. She took tactical advantage of the situation. She brought her rifle up and sighted in
on him, aiming at the bulk of his body. She fired four times in rapid succession, seeing more goose
down fly, seeing blood splatter on the rocks, hearing the startled scream of the gunman even over
the sound of the rifle fire. He slumped to the ground, the pistol falling from his hand into the mud.
He did not move.
"Chrissie?" Jason's voice yelled from back at his position.
"I got him Jase!" she yelled back, her breath raggedly moving in and out of her lungs, terrified
sweat running down her face with the rainwater. "Move down to where I'm at. I'll cover you from
here."
As she waited for her brother to come down to her she began to tremble with fear overload. Her
hands, which had been steady as a rock during the battle, began to shake, making it difficult to keep
the barrel of her rifle steady. She closed her eyes for just a second and commanded herself to be
calm. This wasn't over yet. There still might be others out there.
There wasn't. Jason came down and she signaled him to find a position opposite of her. He did so
and, after a furious exchange of signals, they moved in, advancing to the rise behind where the
gunmen had emerged, searching with their eyes the downhill portion of the forest there. They saw
no signs of anyone else, nor did they receive any jigs on their nerve endings.
"I think those were the only two," Chrissie said when they finally stood together behind the trees.
"If nothing else, we're secure up here."
"Jesus Sis," Jason said, trembling himself now. "What the hell happened? Where did they come
from?"
"They must've just been two people that were heading for the bridge when they stumbled onto me."
She told him the story, her voice breaking a few times as it came out. "It's a good thing I finished
my business before he came out," she concluded, feeling the giddiness that she remembered from
her last firefight now. "If he would've came BEFORE, I'd be cleaning it out of my panties about
now."
The thundering roar of water rushing through the canyon had masked all sounds of the battle from
Brett, Paul, and Jessica, who were standing just in front of the SUVs on the Garden Hill side of the
bridge. All they knew was that it was first light, the agreed upon time for the two kids to show
themselves, and they hadn't done so yet. Brett, starting to become seriously worried now, kept
waving his hands every few minutes towards the hill, giving them the pre-arranged signal. They
were supposed to stand briefly and acknowledge the wave and then move down the hill towards the
road.
"I'll give them ten more minutes," he said to Paul, "and then I'm going over there to look for them.
Something's wrong."
"Hmmph," Jessica said from around a large wad of bubble gum that she was chewing. "It wouldn't
surprise me if something happened to them. I still can't believe you left a couple of children out
there alone all night. And with GUNS. That's criminal behavior if you ask me."
Brett glared at her, giving her such a seething look that she took a step away from him, her mouth
stopping in mid-chew. "They're not children," he said to her. "They're more capable out there than
anyone I've seen in this town so far."
She said nothing, just glared back at him.
"Maybe they're having trouble getting up the hill," Paul suggested, trying, unsuccessfully, to break
the tension a little. "You said they have full packs to lug, not to mention your pack and your
weapon as well."
"It shouldn't have taken this long," Brett said, reaching his hand beneath the black rain slicker he
had been provided and itching at his chest. He had discovered that his body was so used to wearing
wet clothing that it did not know what to think of dry clothing. The material of the shirt, jeans, and
underwear that he had been given felt rough to his skin, almost like sandpaper. A strange irony.
The minutes ticked by slowly, agonizingly, and finally, just before Brett was about to begin
heading for the far side on his own, he spotted movement atop the hill. "There," he said, pointing,
his voice full of relief. "Do you see it?"
All three of them peered intently upward until they saw two people, so dirty that they would not
have been visible had they not been silhouetting themselves deliberately. They both waved their
hands back and forth for a moment. Brett waved frantically back, giving them a "come down"
gesture. They stopped waving and began to scramble downward, towards the road.
"They're not going to fall, are they?" Jessica asked. "Shouldn't they go around the hill to the other
side."
"They're a lot safer coming down that way," Brett said, keeping his eyes on their progress. "God
only knows how many lowlifes you have camped out in the forest over there."
"But if they fall... " she started.
"You weren't very concerned about them last night," Brett said. "You were perfectly willing to
leave them out there to the wolves. Why are you so worried about them now?"
"I did NOT say I was unconcerned for them last night," she barked at him. "I just told you that we
couldn't afford to feed outsiders. I still feel that way. I'm just shocked that you allow children to
carry guns and camp out in the woods by themselves. And that you encourage them to climb over
wet hills where they could fall and hurt themselves."
Brett opened his mouth to retort, and God knows what might have come out of it, but Paul, keeping
with his role as mediator, stepped in between them. "That's enough you two," he said, holding up
his hands in a gesture of supplication. "Really. It looks like the two of them are coming down just
fine. There's no need for anyone to worry."
Brett let his mouth close. Jessica, after a moment's consideration, did the same. Silence ruled during
the rest of the descent.
As soon as Chrissie and Jason put their feet on the roadway and started walking towards the bridge,
Brett began trotting towards them. By the time they reached the first set of barricade vehicles that
guarded the entrance, he was running and so were they, Brett's backpack held between them.
Jessica and Paul stayed back, neither willing to venture any further out of town then they already
were (this was, in fact, Jessica's first trip to the bridge since the impact itself).
"Brett!" Chrissie yelled, dropping her half of his backpack to the pavement and rushing into his
arms. She hit him nearly hard enough to knock him over, her clothing leaving a dirty smear of mud
on his rain slicker. He didn't care. He put his arms around her and hugged her tightly to him, kissing
her muddy face.
Jason came up right behind her - after carefully setting the pack and Brett's rifle down - and joined
the embrace, not caring if people thought he was a fag for hugging a guy. He could not remember
ever being so glad to see someone in his life. Brett let one arm come off of Chrissie and put it
around his shoulders.
"You're safe," Chrissie said, her voice choked. "You made it in!"
"Fuckin aye I did," he said, continuing to hug both of them.
"Are they gonna let us stay here?" Jason asked, fighting back tears of his own.
"We're working on it," he told them. "We'll know by the end of the day, but it's looking good."
"Did you shake 'em up like you said you would?" Jason asked.
"Even more," he said, pulling back from the embrace. "Even more."
"My god," Chrissie said, looking at him closely for the first time. "You don't even look like you.
You're clean!"
"And you shaved," Jason put in. "I never saw you without the beard before."
"You like it?" he asked, running his wet hand over his reddened, itchy face. "This is what I used to
look like before."
"It's different," Chrissie said, reaching out to touch the bare skin.
"What took you guys so long?" he asked.
Their expressions darkened. "We ran into some trouble this morning," Chrissie said.
"What?"
They explained what had happened, Chrissie doing most of the narration but Jason throwing in a
few comments from time to time. As they talked, the happiness they had shown at seeing him again
turned to fear and despair at what they had been through.
"When I got over along that log," she said, trembling a little at the memory, "I saw him just sitting
there, cowering. He still had the gun in his hand but he looked so scared Brett. He looked terrified!
I shot him anyway, four or five times, until he fell down."
"That's exactly what you should have done Chrissie," Brett told her, sensing that she was feeling
guilty for killing someone who hadn't actually been shooting at her at that moment. "You did
everything just right. Perfectly. Both of you did."
"But what if I would've just told him to leave?" she asked. "I mean, he looked like he just wanted to
get away from there. I could've yelled over to him... "
"You gave him that chance once, didn't you?" Brett asked, lifting her chin to make her look him in
the eyes. Tears were running down her face, mixing with the rainwater. "He didn't take you up on
it, and in fact, he fired at you again after you'd made the offer, didn't he?"
"Yes, but... "
"No buts," Brett said firmly. "You have nothing to feel guilty about. That man took his chances and
he lost. I would've been pissed off at you if you'd done anything but smoke his ass once you got
him in your sights."
"Yeah Sis," Jason replied. "You smoked his ass! Fuck him."
"It sounds like you two performed a picture-perfect flanking maneuver. It's like I've told you all
along, you're bad-ass."
"I suppose," Chrissie said, still sniffing a little, still unable to get the final moments out of her head.
"Come on," Brett said, going over to his pack and picking it up. "Let's get into town. It's about a
twenty-minute walk during the day but they have hot baths and warm food and fresh clothes there.
You guys deserve all of that."
"Hot baths?" Chrissie said. "Are you making that up?"
"Nope."
"Wow," she said, giving another sniff. "I didn't think I'd ever get to have a bath again."
"I don't usually like baths," Jason said, "but I think I can make an exception."
They began walking across the bridge, heading towards Paul and Jessica, who were still standing
on the other side, watching the reunion.
"Look how filthy those children are," Jessica told Paul as they approached close enough for them to
see. "It'll be a wonder if they don't have some sort of... disease or something."
Paul looked at her in annoyance. "Jess," he said, "it's not like they have bathing or laundry facilities
out there. They've been living in the wild for nearly two weeks now. What did you expect them to
look like?"
"Children just should not be exposed to this sort of thing," she said, giving an extra hard chomp on
her gum. "It's criminal if you ask me. That man is a menace!"
"Christ," Paul muttered, shaking his head in wonder. Just what world did Jessica live in? It certainly
was not the same one that he did.
Brett made the introductions once they were close enough to talk to each other. "Jessica, Paul, these
are Jason and Chrissie, the baddest-ass fighting team that I have ever had the privilege of serving
with. Jason and Chrissie, this is Paul and Jessica, two of the leaders of Garden Hill. They are going
to discuss with the other members of the town today whether or not we will be staying with them."
The kids muttered some brief but polite "nice to meet you's" to their hosts.
"Brett has told me what you two have been through," Paul said, shaking each of their hands. "Let
me be the first to tell you that you sound like a couple of troopers."
"Chrissie dear," Jessica said, looking at her, making no move to shake either hand. "Are you
crying?"
"I'm okay," Chrissie said, giving a very teenager-like shrug. "We've just had kind of a rough
morning."
"I can imagine," Jessica said. "Being left all alone out there all night long."
"They had a little encounter with a few men this morning," Brett said. "That was why they were
late for the meeting on the hill."
"Men?" Jessica said.
Brett let Chrissie tell the story, thinking it might be therapeutic for her. In a way it was. By the time
she was done with the second narration, her tears had dried up and her voice was a little more like
itself. Jessica however, did not seem to be terribly impressed with what she was hearing.
"That all sounds rather fantastic," she said, making no attempt to hide her skepticism.
"Fantastic?" Jason said, anger showing on his face. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Yes," Chrissie said, giving a rather evil glare of her own. "What IS that supposed to mean? Are
you trying to say I made that up?"
"Well you must admit," Jessica said, "that it seems highly coincidental that such a thing would
happen right before we start considering whether to take you in. And the fact that two children
could come out the better in a gun battle with two grown men, well that IS very difficult to
swallow."
Brett took an angry step toward her. "I don't give a shit WHO you are lady," he said. "You WILL
not call Chrissie and Jason liars. Not while I'm around. How dare you belittle what they have just
been through!"
Jessica, alarmed by Brett's tone and his advance towards her, then made a mistake. She let her hand
drop down to the butt of the gun on her waist. Before her fingers could even close around it, before
Paul or Brett could intervene, there was the simultaneous clanking of two rifles swinging towards
her as Jason and Chrissie instinctively moved to protect their leader.
Jessica squealed as she found herself facing two automatic weapons and took another step
backward. Her feet tangled together, overbalancing her. She fell to her butt on a puddle of standing
water, sending up a little spray.
"Holy shit," Paul said, keeping his own hand well clear of his weapon.
"Stand down," Brett barked at them. "It's okay. She was just posturing."
Slowly they lowered their rifles. "She was gonna pull a gun on you Brett," Jason said. "Didn't you
see it?"
"Don't worry about it," he told them. "Everything's cool."
"They pointed GUNS at me!" Jessica yelled, still sitting in the water. "At ME!"
"And you were about the point a gun at Brett," Paul said, extending a hand to help her up. "It's
okay. Nobody got hurt."
"What if they would've shot me?" Jessica, seemingly near hysterics, asked. "I can't believe these
CHILDREN are carrying loaded guns and that think they can just go pointing them at people who
have invited them into their town!"
"Brett," Chrissie said, fighting back tears again, "I don't need a bath this bad. Let's get out of here.
How can we stay in a town with someone like that?"
"Shhh Chrissie," he said, glaring at Jessica. "It's okay. They're not all like her."
"Get those guns away from them," Jessica yelled at Paul. "Why aren't you doing something about
this?"
"Shut up," Paul said to her.
"What did you say to me?"
"I said shut up," he repeated. "Everything that's happened here, you brought on yourself. First you
call them liars right to their faces after they relate a traumatic experience that they went through
this morning to you and then you try to draw a gun on their leader."
"Did you hear the way he talked to me?" she asked.
"He talked to you just like you deserved Jess," Paul said. "And I will not take those guns away from
those kids. It is quite obvious that they know how to use them properly. I don't think they'd give
them to me anyway. Now, can we start heading back to town or would you like to stand out here in
the rain and piss off a few more people first?"
"You're forgetting your place," she said, pointing an angry finger at him.
"And that line is getting old fast," he replied. "Now, let's move out, shall we? We have a lot to do
today."
"I won't stand for this Paul. You're mocking my authority."
"That's only because you're abusing it. Now let's go."
She muttered a few more things under her breath but said nothing else aloud. She turned and began
heading across the bridge, her feet splashing through the puddles.

About six miles to the southwest of the bridge, on the wilderness side of the canyon, the two
hunters that Brett, Chrissie, and Jason had encountered two days before were on their last legs.
They had long since consumed the two cans of turkey chili they had been given and the brief surge
of energy that meager offering had provided was long since used up. In desperation they had tried
eating a few of the dead squirrels that they had found lying around, cutting them up and peeling the
stringy, foul smelling meat from the bones. Since they had no means of making a fire in the
relentless rainstorm they tried to choke the horrible tasting chunks down raw, but neither had been
able to force it past the back of their throat without triggering uncontrollable vomiting.
They had staggered on, making increasingly worse progress as the hours ticked by, lugging their
hunting rifles with them more out of instinct than anything else. Both had started to think that
maybe those rifles would be used pretty soon to simply end it all. One quick pull of the trigger
while the barrel was placed in the mouth would instantly quiet the painful rumbling in their
stomachs, instantly end the black fatigue that pulled at them incessantly. Neither had suggested this
aloud as of yet but both knew the suggestion was coming. Both also knew it would more than likely
be agreed upon than not once it was brought up. Maybe they could shoot each other at the same
time? If suicide really were a mortal sin, wouldn't the simultaneous mercy killing of each other be a
loophole around that particular prohibition?
"Let's rest a minute Jack, " Rod, the older of the two said wearily. They were just about to start up
another rise. It was only a shallow one, no more than fifty feet up at a gentle angle, but to Rod it
looked nearly as formidable an obstacle as Everest.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, breathing hard. "A rest will be good." He slumped to the ground, not caring
that he'd landed right in the middle of a patch of poison oak.
They did not talk, they did not look at each other, they did not really even think as they sat there,
their bodies drawing on whatever non-essential tissue it could find to burn for energy and propel
them forward. Their mouths hung open listlessly, their sunken eyes staring at nothing. They did not
even hear the cracking of branches or the squishing of boots through mud as three men crested the
top of the hill above them.
All three carried assault rifles and wore camouflage clothing from head to foot. They had sidearms
on their hips, heavy packs upon their backs, and military helmets upon their heads. The first man to
spot the two hunters below them gave a hand signal that Brett would have been familiar with. He
had taught the same signal to Chrissie and Jason. The two men to the rear halted in place for a
moment and then spread out to the sides, their rifles pointed downward, beads drawn on the two
men. The men to the rear then passed more signals to a larger group behind them. This group of
thirty, who were all armed and equipped as the front three, spread out to the flanks and found
cover.
The man on the point at first thought he was dealing with a couple of dead bodies, so slack were
they, so motionless. It was only the lack of any mutilation caused by scavengers that convinced him
that these two just might be still alive. Whatever they were, they did not look like they presented
much of a threat. He waved the two men to his sides forward and began a slow advance of his own,
closing to within ten feet of the men before they finally looked up.
Both blinked at them, taking in their features without fear or even much surprise.
"Who the hell are you guys?" asked Rod wearily.
"Placer County Militia," said the point man, his rifle never wavering from Jack's chest. "Who are
you? Hunters?"
"Yeah," Jack agreed. "What's the Placer County Militia? You the army, or what?"
"We are now," the point man said cryptically. "We are now. Anyone else out there?"
"No, not with us anyway."
He nodded, his eyes neither believing nor disbelieving. He pulled a small walkie-talkie from one of
the pockets on his webbing and keyed it. "Two hunters armed with rifles," he said into it. "They
look harmless enough. They say there's no one else out there and I don't see any signs that there
might be."
"Right," said a tinny voice from the speaker. "Hold in place. I'll send second and fourth squads out
in front of you to check things out. I'll be down in a minute."
"Right."
A moment later came the sound of multiple people moving through the trees on both sides of them.
A moment after that, 3 men crested the hill above. They carried their rifles over their shoulders,
their stride normal instead of cautious. The one in front was about thirty years old, clean shaven,
with a few locks of reddish hair protruding through the front of his helmet. He stopped just behind
the point man and took in the two hunters.
"I'm Lieutenant Bracken," he said at last, "leader of the third platoon of the Placer County Militia
Group. Who're you two?"
They told him their names, both speaking quietly. He then asked them how they came to be in the
woods, which they also answered, explaining about their annual hunting trip. He nodded at their
words, showing no other reaction to it.
"Either one of you have any military experience?" Bracken asked them next.
"I was in the coast guard," Ron said hesitantly. Jack simply shook his head.
"The coast guard," Bracken repeated, obvious disgust in his voice. He shook his head a little. "NRA
members?"
They both nodded.
"Good," Bracken said. "That's a point in your favor. Where you heading to?"
"We were working our way to the Auburn bridge," said Rod. "We wanted to see if it was intact. We
couldn't get across at Garden Hill."
"Oh?" Bracken said, interested. "Is the bridge down there?"
"No," Rod said. He then explained about how it was guarded and how the townspeople would shoot
at anyone who tried to cross it.
"Interesting," Bracken said. "Very interesting."
"It sounds like they got the same kind of set-up going up there as we do," the point man opined,
spitting a spray of brown tobacco juice to the ground.
"I don't know who would be running it," Bracken said. "There ain't no militia members up there far
as I know. That's more of a rich town, full of fuckin' bureaucrats and shit. I know those people
didn't have the know-how to do something like that."
"Somebody did."
Bracken nodded. "Sure sounds like it, don't it?"
"Uh... excuse me?" Rod said. "Did you say that you're from Auburn?"
"That's right," Bracken agreed. "We're in charge of Auburn now. Got it all organized up and
running nice and efficient-like. Colonel Barnes is in charge of it."
"Colonel Barnes?"
Bracken nodded. "He's the head of the militia. We keep Auburn fed and running and protect it from
scavengers. What did you two do before the comet?"
"What?" Ron said, confused by the abrupt change of subject.
"We need people with skills in town," Bracken said. "What did y'all do for a livin?"
"Oh," Ron said, getting it now. "We were both electrical engineers for Intel."
Bracken scowled a little. "What the fuck's that mean? You computer nerds?"
"No, no," Ron replied vehemently. "We were in charge of power usage and wiring and all that. We
made sure that there was enough power to run all the equipment."
"I see," Bracken said, although it was fairly obvious that he really didn't. "And y'all know how to
use guns, right?"
"Right," they both agreed, sensing where this was heading. Could there be salvation in these
people? Granted, they were not the most savory characters in existence - in fact, they were
downright scary when you came down to it - but beggars couldn't be choosers, could they?
"Give 'em some food," Bracken told one of his men after a moment's thought on the matter.
A pack was opened and two army issue MRE's were tossed down to them. They immediately
grabbed hold of them and began trying to rip them open.
"You need to use a knife," Bracken said, somewhat amused. While they both began reaching for
their hunting knives he looked at his cohorts. "Let's leave third squad here with them and get 'em
rested up and ready to move. Then we'll have them take 'em back to Auburn and talk to the
Colonel."
"What if there's trouble in Foresthill?" the other man asked. "Will we be able to handle it short a
squad."
"We'll be able to handle it," Bracken said confidently. "You know what our mission is."

While Chrissie and Jason remained in the community center building to get cleaned up and fed,
Jessica and Paul led Brett around town. Jessica had objected to taking him with them while they
went and discussed his fate with the various members of the town on the basis that they would be
giving away their "secrets" which he might use against them after he was kicked out. But Paul had
vetoed this idea telling Jessica that she knew as well as he did that the townspeople were going to
vote to allow them to stay and that they might as well give their newest member and future security
chief a tour.
"Security chief?" Jessica had said, blanching.
"Well sure," Paul replied. "Isn't that the whole basis of inviting him to stay in the first place?
Remember that we're not a charity. He'll have to work for his room and board."
Jessica, who seemed to sense a great deal of her power slipping away by the minute, looked
physically ill at this prospect. She favored Brett with an evil look but said nothing more on the
subject.
They started within the community center itself. It was a 15, 000 square foot, two-story facility
stock full of rooms of all shapes, sizes, and purposes. Most of these rooms, no matter what their
original purpose, had been utilized for storage of supplies. Food was the primary stock, mostly
canned or dry goods. There were literally thousands of cans of soups, vegetables, beans, fruits,
meats, and anything else that could be stuffed into an airtight piece of tin. There were also glass jars
of all shapes and sizes as well as stacks and stacks of flour, sugar, rice, and cornmeal.
"We pretty much cleaned out the grocery store of everything that doesn't spoil and moved it over
here where we can defend it better," Paul told Brett as they moved from room to room. "It was a lot
of work and took the better part of three days to accomplish, even with vehicles, but it's a good
thing we did. Every day we find outsiders sneaking into the store to see if anything's in there."
"Is there anything in there?" Brett asked.
"Rotting meat and spoiled dairy products mostly. Also some vegetables that we couldn't store long-
term. We took some of the meat and either dried it or salted it. It's not the best you've ever had, but
it's edible."
"It's hard to believe that all of this is not enough," Brett said, looking at the mountains of food.
"Hard to believe but true," Paul replied. "We've done the math more than once and update our
estimations once a week. At the rate we're consuming it we've got maybe two, three months worth,
depending on how severely we ration as we get lower. We try to keep upbeat about it, but we all
know that if we don't secure a food supply of some sort, we're going to starve."
"So you see," Jessica said, her voice uncharacteristically humble, "why we aren't too fond of
bringing in outsiders here?"
He nodded, making an uncharacteristic assuagence of his own. "I guess something will have to be
done about food, won't it? Are you working on anything?"
Paul shrugged a little. "We've rigged up some lights in one of the rooms and we're trying to use
them to grow vegetables with. We got the seeds from the little garden display at the store and we
power the lights by using a lawnmower engine to turn a car alternator."
"Smart," Brett said, impressed.
"Yeah," Paul said. "One of my ideas if I do say so myself, but its just not enough. We don't have
enough gasoline to expand the program and what we've planted, assuming it does grow, won't be
able to extend us by much."
"How much gasoline DO you have?" Brett wanted to know.
"We don't know exactly," he replied. "We figure that the tanks over at the gas station have close to
six or seven hundred gallons in them. There's a little bit of water contamination of course, but
luckily, that sinks to the bottom and we've figured out how to keep any more from getting in.
There's also what's in all of the gas tanks of the vehicles that were at people's houses. We haven't
done any kind of count, but that might be as much as five hundred gallons there. Who knows?"
"We should find out," Brett suggested. "And make it a priority."
"We?" Jessica said icily.
"Or you," Brett allowed, not bothering to look at her. "I'm just trying to offer suggestions here,
okay? Don't take them the wrong way."
They moved on to the armory. It was located in what had once been the male locker room adjacent
to the basketball court, directly across the hall from the bathing area. Stacked neatly on shelves in
the shower stall were about sixty rifles, mostly of the hunting variety but with a few.22s mixed in.
Below them were twelve assault rifles of varying design: 5 AR-15s, 5 AK-47s, and 2 H&Ks. Next
to this were nearly fifty shotguns ranging from simple skeet guns to 12 gauge Remington police
models. On the bottom two shelves were the handguns: everything from.22 target pistols to.40
caliber police issues to.44 magnum "Dirty Harry" guns. There was even, wonder of wonders, a
chrome-plated.44 automag that had probably cost close to a thousand dollars before the comet.
"Damn," Brett said, looking at all of the firepower. "Did all of this come from town?"
"You betcha," Paul said. "It was a big part of the psyche of the people that bought houses up here.
Kind of a "my dick is bigger than yours" thing for the yuppie mountain folks. Most of these guns
have hardly been fired and their previous owners probably had no use for them whatsoever. I mean,
nobody burglarized houses up here and most of the men didn't have time to go hunting or target
shooting, but they HAD to have them all the same thank God."
"I'll have you know," Jessica put in, "that MY husband used to go target shooting on a regular
basis. He was quite good too."
Brett and Paul ignored her. "And how about ammo?" Brett asked. "A gun's kind of useless without
it."
"Well luckily for us," Paul said, "we're reasonably well set up in that category as well." He led him
around to another shelf where box after box of bullets of every conceivable category were neatly
stacked. "Most of the men who owned the guns had obscene amounts of rounds for them as well.
Why did they need two hundred rounds for their hunting rifle or their magnum? Who the hell
knows? Who the hell cares? We have it now."
"The AR-15s," Brett said immediately. "How many rounds for those?"
"Let me check," he said, walking over to a clipboard that was hanging from a piece of string on the
end of the shelf. It had several papers clipped to it, which he consulted. "That would be the 5.56
mm jacketed rounds, right?"
"Right," Brett said, "the same thing that the M-16s fire."
His finger traced up and down the page for a moment. Finally he found the entry he sought. "Well
well," he said. "We seem to be rather wealthy in that regards. We have 24 boxes of that."
"You're shittin' me," Brett said.
"Nope," Paul assured him. "This inventory is done daily."
"Twelve hundred rounds," Brett whispered, already formulating the basics of his town defense now
that he had heard that. "Glory hallelujah. What about reloading equipment? Do you have any of
that?"
Paul looked a little confused for a moment. "I'm not sure," he said. "If someone in town had any,
we probably left it where it was. Nobody here knows how to reload as far as I know. At least
nobody suggested that be something we look for during our scavenger hunt."
"We need to find out. Reloading equipment will be more valuable than gold. If there's an adequate
powder and primer supply, we can extend our ammunition supply by maybe half, especially on the
high value weapons like the rifles."
Jessica gave him a sour look. "Exactly what kind of conflict do you think we'll be fighting here?"
she asked him. "I've told you, there's nothing but scavengers and thieves out there. Even if those so-
called bikers you told us about show up, we wouldn't use up all of our ammo fighting thirty men."
"You'd be surprised how fast you burn up your rounds during a battle," Brett told her. "And I'd be
surprised if those bikers were the worst we had to worry about out there."
From the supply rooms they went to the main gathering area of the community center: the
basketball court. In here a chow line had been set up and breakfast was in full swing. Cafeteria
tables were sitting on the polished surface of the court and each one was filled with people eating
the course of the morning - pancakes and orange juice - from a variety of fine looking china. At
each table there were two or three men, three or four small children, and eight or ten women
shoveling food into their mouths and talking, occasionally sipping from their glasses. Each man
was very obviously the focus of attention for the group around him and Brett saw that not a single
one actually went up to get his plate himself. In every instance a woman did it for him. And in
every instance where a woman disappeared from a man's side to accomplish this task, some other
woman would immediately home in and try to engage him in conversation. They weren't standing
there more than two minutes before a fight erupted near the back of the building when a woman
came back to find that someone else had actually taken her seat.
"Christ," Paul muttered, shaking his head sadly as he watched the verbal battle turn physical when
the first woman pushed the second one to the floor. "Here we go. The first of the day." He tromped
over quickly, Brett and Jessica trailing him. By the time he got there the fight had degenerated to
the two women rolling around on the floor, scratching and trying to punch each other. The
onlookers in the immediate vicinity stopped what they were doing to watch. Some cheered for
either one or the other women. It reminded Brett strongly of high school.
"Goddammit!" Paul yelled loudly, standing back away from them and making no move to actually
pull them apart. "Jenny, Lisa, knock that shit off right now. Break it up!"
They immediately did as he said, separating from each other and standing. Both started pleading
their cases to him.
"This slut was trying to home in on Steve," the first women, who had blood dripping from her nose,
yelled.
"I didn't do anything!" the second protested. Her hair was tattered and torn in a few places. "I just
sat down to eat and she came over and attacked me! And don't you be calling me no slut, you
bitch!"
"You ARE a slut! Just because you don't have a man you're always trying to take someone else's!"
"Enough of this shit!" Paul yelled. "Do you hear me! Enough!"
They both looked at him sheepishly, refusing to meet each other's eyes.
"What have I told you about fighting?" he asked. "About scratching and breaking the skin? For
Christ sake, what if you get blood poisoning? Do you see any doctors around here? Do you want to
die or cause someone else to die? We don't have enough antibiotics to be wasting them on people
beating each other's ass!"
They both turned their eyes downward, looking at the floor.
"Kitchen detail for both of you," he said. "Three days worth, breakfast, lunch, and dinner."
"Paul!" both of them protested at once.
"That's my decision!" he said. "If you don't like it, file an appeal with the freakin' judge. You can
start with dishes after breakfast today and if there are any more fights between you two, I swear to
god I'll put you on house arrest! Do you understand?"
"Yes," they both muttered.
"Good," he said. "Now finish your breakfast and get to work."
"And who is this?" the second woman, the one who had been pushed down asked, her eyes locking
onto Brett. Immediately her face went from pouting to keen interest. "Do we have a visitor?"
"You know damn well who this is," Paul said. "Don't try to pretend this entire room wasn't just
talking about him. This is Brett. He's kind of applying for citizenship with us."
"Hi," she said, stepping forward and holding out her hand to him. She smoothed back her mussed
hair and then put a big, almost seductive smile on her face. "I'm Lisa. I heard you used to be a cop."
"Nice to meet you," Brett said, taking her hand and giving it a quick shake. It was soft and dainty,
the kind of hand that was not used to doing much work. "Yes, I was a cop not too long ago."
Before Lisa had a chance to make another reply there was suddenly a swarm of women surrounding
her, jostling each other to try to get close to him. Multitudes of names were thrown at him as they
all tried to introduce themselves at once. A multitude of smiles was thrown at him as they all tried
to attract his attention.
"Ladies, ladies!" Paul said. "Please. Give the man a little room. Why don't you all go back to your
seats and Brett here will come around and talk to each table, okay? I'll introduce him and explain
what he wants from us and what he can do for us."
"I know what he can do for ME," one voice proclaimed boldly. Brett was unable to see whom it had
belonged to.
"Please," Paul reiterated. "To your seats. Everyone will get a chance to meet him."
Reluctantly they retreated, shuffling back to their tables. Brett noticed that the men were all looking
at him as well, although not with hostility, as he would have thought. They seemed to be more
amused than anything else. A few of them even winked at him before going back to their
breakfasts.
"Well," Paul said. "Shall we begin?"
"I guess so."
It took almost an hour but he managed to meet and say a few words to every single person in the
room. Names were thrown at him and he promptly forgot them. Faces smiled and flirted at him and
he smiled back. His hand was shaken by soft hand after soft hand, only occasionally with a rough,
male hand thrown in for variety. He found that Paul had not been exaggerating when he'd described
the town as being full of beautiful women. Though not all of them would qualify as centerfold
material, a portion of them did. And of those who didn't, it was not by much of a margin. There was
not a single woman among them that a reasonable, average male would consider to be grossly
unattractive. If effect, it was kind of an exercise in sensory overload. Especially with the flirtations
thrown in. These flirtations ranged from the barely subtle to the outright bawdy. One woman, a
petite brunette of about twenty-five, actually invited him to come to her house for "a proper
introduction" after he was done with the tour. Several others made no bones about telling him that
they were unattached at the moment and looking for a man. The only ones that did not openly flirt
in some way were the ones that were sitting next to one of the males, usually in a protective stance.
And even they were not unfriendly. On the contrary, they seemed just as happy to have him among
them, probably to help occupy some of the unattached women.
One remarkable thing that Brett noticed as he moved from woman to woman, table to table, was the
fact that they were all freshly made-up. Though their clothing was mostly jeans and sweaters or
flannel shirts, their faces all had carefully applied layers of cosmetics and their hair was all neatly
and fashionably styled. Most had hair ribbons or clips that matched their clothing and all had nail
polish on their fingernails. Jewelry was also quite prominently displayed; earrings, necklaces,
bracelets, diamond rings; everything except wedding rings, although many of them still had the
fading tan lines on their left ring fingers. He also smelled many different varieties of perfume
wafting upward, some quite strong and nauseating, some soft and arousing. It was quite a culture
shock to see and smell all of this self-pampering less than twenty-four hours after he had been
living and eating and sleeping mud and filth.
As they moved from group to group, after the initial chitchat and introductions were made, Paul,
and, to a lesser extent, Jessica, would explain what Brett's proposed place in the community was.
During the first stop Jessica tried to seize the initiative by declaring: "This is the man who snuck in
here with a gun last night and scared us half to death. He's traveling with two small children that he
left alone all night out there so he could do that. Now he wants to know if he can STAY here."
Paul immediately took her aside after this statement and a heated, though quiet discussion took
place between them, ending with Jessica frowning and pouting. After that it was Paul who did most
of the talking. "Brett is a former cop and a former army pilot," he would say. "He knows a lot about
security and military matters and is offering to help us defend this place against outsiders in
exchange for citizenship for himself and the two teenagers he's traveling with." From there, a brief
discussion would usually ensue, although it was fairly obvious by the third stop that most of the
women didn't give a rat's ass WHO he was, just that he was an available man. Jessica did manage to
put in at least one snide comment per stop, usually related to the fact that he had left Jason and
Chrissie to fend for themselves all night, but the sting of these words was usually muted by the
obvious fact that no one really liked her that much. Not one person, male or female, raised any
objections to his staying and it became apparent before they were halfway through the process that
the community vote on the matter that was scheduled for dinner that night would be little more than
a formality.
Finally, as the breakfast dishes were being carried into the kitchen portion of the court and the
groups began to disperse towards wherever it was that they went when they weren't eating, Paul
and Jessica led him on a tour of the rest of the center.
"Hopefully Jason and Chrissie are all cleaned up and dressed by now," Paul said as they walked
through the hallway next to the bath area. "Baths start after breakfast for those that are scheduled
today. A good way to get voted out of this joint is to put any kind of a kink in the bathing
schedule."
He said this with a mocking tone of sarcasm that was plainly evident to Brett but apparently not to
Jessica. She nodded in solemn agreement to these words, as if that was the most serious offense
that one person could inflict upon another.
"Here's the nerve center of Garden Hill," Paul said, leading him into an upstairs office that had once
housed the homeowner's association. Several desks full of paperwork and clipboards occupied its
space. In a corner were the computer terminals and monitors that had once sat atop them. "In here is
where we, the committee and a few helpers keep track of inventories, work schedules, housing
assignments, and just about everything else that goes on here. Jessica and Dale spend a lot of their
day here doing the paperwork and I spend about half of my day here. The other half I'm out
breaking up fights and fixing whatever's broke."
"You have work schedules?" Brett asked.
"Oh yes, there's a hundred things that need to be done around here on a daily basis. Food detail,
water detail, hot water detail, wood gathering and drying, child care, and of course the guard detail.
We can also monitor the guard posts with the two way radio set there." He pointed to a CB that was
hooked up to a car battery. "It ain't much, but it serves its purpose."
"How do you pick who is on what detail?"
"We try to rotate people from one thing to another on a regular basis," Paul explained. "The people
here tend to get kind of antsy if they're stuck with one job for too long. Everybody gets to try their
hand at everything, with a few exceptions like guard detail. There are a few women here who can't
or won't learn to shoot a gun. It's my feeling that it's best not to force such people."
"Uh huh," Brett said. "How many such people do you have?"
"I don't really see how that matters," Jessica said. "You have to remember that these are mostly
women of breeding. They never thought they'd end up having to walk a guard post."
"And the rest of the world never thought it would end up dead either," Brett replied. "So, how
many?"
"About twenty or them," Paul said before Jessica could object any more. "And a good portion of
the rest of them don't take the job that seriously, as you've seen."
"Oh yes," Brett said. "That's going to have to be the first thing to change. We cannot have people
screwing each other on guard duty. It is completely unacceptable."
"For once I find myself agreeing with you," Jessica said. "As Paul told you yesterday, we have a bit
of a problem with... well... fornication here. All of the women who are unattached... " she said that
word with a great deal of distaste in her voice, "... are constantly flaunting themselves in front of
the men. That little fight you saw this morning is a perfect example. And the men are simply pigs
about it, showing very little restraint. I am firmly of the opinion that the only way to counter this
problem is to exile a few people."
"Exile people for screwing?" Brett asked. "Don't you think that's a bit harsh?"
"Not at all," she said. "We may not have the ability to perform marriages here but the sanctity of
the couple is still very alive and well. This is a sanctity that must be protected at all costs, wouldn't
you agree? It is what civilization is based upon."
"There isn't any civilization any more," he told her. "And I've been out there, you haven't. I'm not
sure you quite grasp what you would be sentencing people to if you booted them. It's truly a fate
worse than death. Now as a punishment for murder or for rape or something along those lines, yes,
that's probably a fitting response, but for "fornication" as you put it, I don't think it's appropriate."
She smirked a little. "So just HOW would you suggest punishing those who threaten the fabric of
our society with their wanton behavior? I've been over this time and again with Paul and Dale both
and what happens is that nothing is done and the problem continues. How would YOU handle it
Mr. Adams?"
"I don't know," he said honestly.
"You don't know," she said, shaking her head.
"Obviously it is a problem," he said. "Any time you have high class women rolling around on the
floor clawing each other's eyes out and guards boffing each other at their posts because that's the
only place they can do it, you have something that needs to be addressed."
"They need to be punished harshly," Jessica insisted.
"You can't enforce a ban on sex," Brett told her. "That would be even more futile than prohibition
or making marijuana illegal. People are going to do it no matter what you say and with sex, they
don't even have to distill anything or grow anything or buy anything to imbibe. All they have to do
is find a place to be alone."
"That's why we should exile them," she said, as if he were an idiot.
"And pretty soon," Paul put in, "we wouldn't have anyone left here."
"After you kick out the first one or two, the rest would fall in line. Trust me on this."
"No," Brett said, shaking his head, "what you'd have would be an open revolt. Trust ME on this. I'm
very familiar with human nature."
Jessica scoffed at his views. "Well, either way, the decision is not in your hands. We on the
committee will find a way to deal with this problem."

After the upstairs tour Brett checked on Jason and Chrissie finding them sound asleep in rollaway
cots in the same storage room where he had spent the night. Both were cuddled tightly under warm
blankets and snoring the snores of the nearly comatose.
"They didn't even get anything to eat first," Janet, Paul's official companion and the woman that
had taken charge of getting them bathed and clothed, told him. She smiled affectionately at them.
"They just wanted to sleep."
"That's kind of how I felt last night," Brett replied. "We've been sleeping on the ground in the wind
and rain all this time. After that, you can't imagine how nice those cheap rollaways and fresh linen
look. If I never see those arctic sleeping bags or a lean-to again, it'll be too damn soon."
"Poor things," Janet said, shaking her head a little. "Paul told me what you've been through and
what they went through this morning. It's a shame that people so young are forced to have
experiences like that, isn't it?"
Jessica, who was standing with them, gave a little snort of disgust - she still seemed to think that
Jason and Chrissie had made up the tale of their gunfight this morning - but said nothing. Janet shot
her a brief look of annoyance - a look that Brett had noticed nearly every person they contacted
give at some point - but kept her mouth shut as well.
"Well," Paul said, "On that note, shall we go tour the outside now?"
"Sure," Brett said. "Let's do that."
They went on a two-hour walk around the entire subdivision and its guard posts, Paul showing him
the defenses that he had set up and introducing him to the guards that were currently on duty.
Though Brett had been able to catch brief glimpses of the terrain on the walk to and from the bridge
that morning, he was now treated to a detailed look of everything in Garden Hill.
Brett found that Paul, in setting up town defense, had not done too terribly badly for someone
without military of law enforcement experience. Even before the tour he had figured out that the
former firefighter had a healthy amount of good old common sense and seeing what he had done
for protection only served to reinforce this view. For the purpose of keeping isolated stragglers
from entering the walled area where everyone lived and worked, he had covered every base,
leaving no part of the subdivision exposed to someone slipping inside during the daylight hours.
Except for the bridge approach, all of his guard posts were located in the upper floors of two-story
houses along the outside wall. He had four of these positions, each manned with two guards armed
with scoped rifles and binoculars. Between the four of them, the entire perimeter of the irregularly
shaped subdivision was visible as long as the guards did their jobs and kept watch.
The problem with this set-up however, was twofold. In the first place, while it effectively kept
stragglers at bay, it would be almost useless against a concentrated attack by more than ten or
fifteen people. They were simply allowed to get too close to the walls before they were spotted.
Along those same lines it was a defense that depended heavily upon the guards maintaining a
diligent watch - something that they had already proven themselves incapable of - since there was
potentially only a matter of a few minutes or so between when an invader would first appear and
when he reached the safety and invisibility of the wall. Another problem was that, when they did
spot a straggler heading in, the way they drove him or her away was to fire at them, not aiming to
hit, just to persuade them that they did not want to be there. This was a horrible waste of
ammunition since it usually took two or three shots to accomplish this goal. Brett, as diplomatically
as possible, pointed out these flaws in the plan as he observed. Paul seemed to take it well.
As for the guards themselves, they tended to be male and female teams. Of the four interior guard
posts, three of them were coed posts. Though they did not actually walk in upon any coitus in
progress - probably since the guards knew that they would be getting a visit from the boss on that
morning - it did not take extra-sensory perception to figure out that there was a great deal of sexual
tension between each pair. Nor did it take much to figure out that a guard position was the ideal
place to carry out an affair since they were located inside of an actual bedroom and had an actual
bed in them.
"Who makes the guard roster?" Brett asked as they left the final post and began heading out
towards the hilltop position that overlooked the bridge.
"I do," Paul told him. "I do it mostly on a volunteer basis since I don't really want to send people
out there that don't really want to be there. Of course the cost of that is that I end up having couples
with an agenda volunteering. I do make sure that everyone who mans a post is able to shoot their
rifles and pistols, but that's about the only qualifying factor at this point."
"Might I make a suggestion?" Brett said.
"Hey," Paul told him, "You're the new security chief. You don't make suggestions, you make
changes."
"IF he's voted into town," Jessica said from her position right behind them. "And ONLY if the
committee approves them."
"Right," Brett said. "Well, the first thing that will change is that male and female combinations will
no longer be allowed on guard duty. It's going to be either two males or two females. That should
cut down on the "fornication" wouldn't you think?"
"People aren't going to like that," Paul said dubiously. "You're going to have a hard time getting
volunteers if you implement that rule."
"Guard duty is not for people to like or dislike," he said. "It's for people to DO. It is a job, not a
fuckfest. Nobody here seems to realize that that is the most important job in town. Without an
effective security force, you might as well just set all of your food outside the wall right now
because at some point, someone is going to take it away from you. We'll need to develop teams of
people who specialize in this duty and will take it seriously. And they will then be the only ones to
do it. We'll partner them together every shift so they can learn to rely on each other and I'll train
them up into an effective fighting force that can back each other up if it becomes necessary."
"These are not military people that we have in this town," Jessica said. "They're women of breeding
and men who fix things or mow lawns."
"They're gonna have to be military people," Brett said. "And in addition to the guards, every person
in this town needs to learn how to shoot and fight. Everyone. If we're ever attacked in force the job
of the guard force is going to be to simply hold until the rest of the town can grab weapons and man
whatever positions are needed to fend them off."
"You MUST be kidding," Jessica said. "These people can't do anything like that."
"If they want to live to see the sun again, they'd better learn," Brett said.

"Well, let's find Brett and his friends a house, shall we?" Paul said as they reentered the main office
in the community center. It was just before lunch and the odor of cooking food - it smelled like
some kind of rice dish - was wafting upwards from below.
"A house?" Jessica immediately said. "Don't you think that's a bit premature?"
"Yeah," agreed Dale, who was going over some paperwork at his desk. "We haven't had the vote
yet. We don't know if they're going to be staying."
"They'll be staying," Paul said. "You know that as well as I do. So how about we concede the
inevitable and start figuring out a place to put them."
"But Paul... " Jessica started.
"If I'm wrong," Paul said, giving a little roll of the eyes, "then how much trouble is it to move them
back out? They don't have anything anyway."
This argument seemed to do the trick. Brett, who watched the conversation from his position in the
corner, wondered, not for the first time, just what it was that Jessica had against him anyway. True,
he had upset her little power trip but he was not directly responsible for that. That had just been
Paul insisting upon what he knew was a needed addition.
"All right," Jessica said, opening a drawer on her desk and pulling out a sheaf of papers. "I guess
we can at least look. I think a small house would suffice for them, wouldn't you?"
"By all means," Paul said. "I certainly wasn't suggesting that you give him a bigger house than
yours. How about the one on the corner of Sycamore and Cypress? It's one of the small, three
bedroom models. That should do them, don't you think?"
"That was Bob and Vickie Whalen's house!" Jessica immediately protested. "They were good
friends of mine."
"And they're dead now, aren't they?" Paul said, quite exasperated. "That's what they get for both
being at work on that particular Thursday."
"That's not a very nice thing to say."
"And that house is empty and it's not a freaking shrine. It's close by the community center in case
Brett has to get over here fast and it has furniture in it. All we'd have to do is move a couple of beds
over there for the kids and give them some linen and they're all set."
They argued back and forth for a few minutes about the appropriateness of that decision, Dale
echoing everything that Jessica said, but eventually they were worn down. With only one warning
that Paul was "forgetting his place" it was agreed upon. 415 Sycamore became the official
residence of Garden Hill's unconfirmed security chief.
"I'll take you over to look at it," Paul told him. "And after lunch we'll get you all moved in and set
up."
"Cool," Brett said, following him down the stairs.
He checked in on Chrissie and Jason, hoping that they would be awake so they could go see their
new home as well but they were still quite unconscious in their beds, both in the same exact
position that he had last seen them in. He shut the door on them, leaving them to their slumber, and
then donned his rain slicker once again, following Paul out into the rain.
"Why does Jessica hate me so much?" Brett asked as they walked over. "I mean, Dale, I can
understand. He's just pussywhipped and takes whatever position Jessica does. If she hates me, then
he hates me. But why DOES she hate me?"
"Ahh, Jessica," Paul said, a queer smile upon his face. "She's a very complex and interesting
psychological phenomenon. Are you familiar with psychology at all?"
"Not really," he said. "I mean, I know human nature from my job, I know it all too well in fact, but
as far as formal training goes, I haven't had any."
"Well, neither have I, but I did take quite a few courses while I was in college. Jessica is the
epitome of the classic, textbook, inferiority complex. Something, somewhere in her childhood has
led her to believe that she is worthless and inferior to nearly everyone else. Now she is smart,
crafty, and before the comet she was quite rich, but still, she always compared herself to other
people and found herself lacking in some way. So to compensate for this feeling of inferiority, she
tries to make herself look superior in everything to everyone, to the point that she becomes quite
annoying and possibly dangerous under the right circumstances. Her entire reason for living is to
prove to everyone that she is better than they are because she feels that she is not. Her husband was
richer, her house was nicer, her car was more expensive. If someone bought something nicer than
she had, she would immediately go out and top it. If you told her you had the flu and you were in
bed for three days with it, she would tell you that she had it worse but that SHE didn't have to stay
in bed at all. If you told her your kid got an A in school, she would tell you that her's got an A-
plus."
"Okay," Brett said, nodding. "I'm following you so far. I've known a few Jessicas in my time, but
that doesn't explain the hatred for me."
"Oh, but it does. Don't you see? Her position in this town is very important to her. She is a leader, a
committee member, someone who makes the rules and enforces them. She helps control the food
that we eat and can potentially get someone exiled from town. Having such a position helps her to
convince herself that she is NOT inferior, that she IS somebody. But at the same time, deep down
inside, she realizes that ANYBODY could do what she is doing. She tries to come across like only
she has the strength and the smarts to help dole out food and make decisions, but she knows that
she doesn't and tries to hide that fact from everyone. And then you come along. You are someone
who DOES possess skills and knowledge that no one else in this town has. YOU truly are an
important person and YOU will be doing something that she could not do or even pretend to do.
This town really does need you."
"But I am someone who can help this town," Brett protested. "Doesn't that mean anything to her?"
"No," Paul said. "That's what is scary about this. The terror she feels at being exposed as just
another person is greater than her fear for the safety of Garden Hill and everyone in it. In a way, her
response to you is almost sociopathic. She would rather see our town overrun and destroyed, all of
our food gone, all of the men killed, all of the women raped and captured, than admit that she's just
another citizen that relies on others to help keep things running."
"That is a rather scary thought," Brett said slowly.
"Yes it is. And I'm going to be keeping a close eye on Jessica as things progress here. I have no
idea how far she is capable of going to protect this image she tries to maintain. The more it slips,
the more likely she is to do something drastic."
"Drastic? How drastic?"
"There's really no telling," Paul said. "But just remember that YOU and, to a lesser extent, ME, are
going to be the focus of her insecurity. You saw her reach for a gun today down on the bridge.
Keep that in mind."

The house was a simple, 1600 square foot, three-bedroom single story. It had a two-car garage and
a muddy backyard with soggy, dying grass. The smallest model available in the Garden Hill
subdivision, it had probably been worth close to 250 thousand dollars before the comet impact. The
previous owners - Bob and Vickie according to Jessica - had decorated it tastefully if slightly
effeminately. The carpet and the padding were top of the line, the kitchen appliances - useless as
they all were now - were of the highest quality, and the furniture was all name-brand and
expensive. In the bedroom was a large, King-sized bed with a canopy over it. One of the other
bedrooms had been used as an office and contained a computer desk and some bookshelves. The
third bedroom was decorated with a mobile and had a large, oak crib in it. Brett tried not to think
too much about what had happened to the baby that had once slept in that crib.
"Now the bathroom," Paul said, as he led him through the tour, "is the most important room in the
house."
"Oh?" Brett replied, wondering if he was kidding or not.
"Yes indeed. It is where your water supply, your bodily functions, and your laundry are all
accomplished. Now the toilets are just like the ones in the community center."
"Meaning that you can still use them," Brett said.
"Right. As long as you dump enough water down in them after you finish your business, they will
still drain down into the septic system and you will still be able to refill them with fresh water.
We'll have Ted, he's our resident plumber, come out later today and rig up a hose assembly from
the rain gutter for you. He's devised a little device that lets you tap into all of that water draining off
of the roof. It plugs into the bottom of the gutter and gravity feeds through a hose and a nozzle right
into the bathroom through the window. That will be your toilet water and your laundry water, but I
wouldn't advise that you drink it straight. For drinking water you should fill up a five-gallon bucket
with rainwater and don't let it sit for more than a day or two. We've been putting a few drops of
bleach in our buckets just to make sure we don't catch any nasty bugs. Remember, we don't have a
doctor here and we don't have a lot of antibiotics either."
"You say we do our laundry in here? How does that work?"
"It's not a power Maytag, that's for sure. Every household is given a laundry soap ration for the
week. Just fill the tub with some water, throw in some soap, and then let your clothes soak for a
while. Squish them around a little bit and then rinse them off until the soap is gone. Then rig
yourself a clothesline someplace in the house. Most of us use the formal living room part since
that's pretty much a useless waste of space anyway. I'd advise doing your laundry every day. If you
let it build up and then try to do it all at once, it takes a long time for it to dry and the house gets
unbearably humid."
"Amazing," Brett said, feeling a little bit of unreality wash over him.
"What's that?"
"It's just kind of strange," he said. "Not too long before I was wondering if I was going to be able to
survive from day to day. Now, I'm pondering the best way to go about installing a clothesline in my
new Garden Hill home. It's probably the way my dad felt when he came home from Vietnam. They
kept him in combat in the jungle right up until his very last day. And then, on day 365, a chopper
came and took him out and flew him to Saigon. He climbed on a plane and eighteen hours later, he
was in Seattle waiting for a flight home. I never understood him before when he tried to tell me
how weird that was, going from a deadly jungle where VC are trying to kill you to the streets of
Sacramento in the USA in less than 24 hours. Not even when I came home from the Gulf War did I
understand it. The Gulf War was pretty much a pussy war in comparison. But I understand now. I
really think I do."
"Yeah?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I only wish my old man were still alive so I could tell him. It's unreal. It's hard
to grasp."
Paul looked at him, his face deadpan. "Molly bolts," he finally said.
"What?" Brett said, having no idea what he was talking about.
"Molly bolts," he repeated. "That's the best way to install the clothesline. We have a supply of them
back at the community center."
Brett started to laugh. Paul, dropping the straight face, joined him. Within a few seconds, both were
in hysterics.

About two hours after lunch Brett was up in the main office with Paul, going over some maps of
the town that had been made since the impact. For the most part they were crudely done and not
even close to scale but they did show the topographical features around the subdivision fairly well.
The two men were discussing various ideas about defense while Jessica and Dale, both at their own
desks, worked on some items of their own, one or the other occasionally throwing in a negative
comment or two that was mostly ignored.
"Look who finally decided to join the living," said a voice from the doorway.
Everyone looked up to see Janet standing there, a bleary looking Chrissie next to her.
"Chrissie," Brett said happily, standing up to go greet her. Seeing her in fresh clothes, her blonde
hair neatly combed, it was a little like looking at a different person. "Look at you. You're clean!"
She giggled a little tiredly. "Yeah, it took me two tubs full of water to get everything off of me but I
finally found some skin underneath there."
"I know what you mean," Brett said, feeling a little pang of guilt as he was reminded of his own
bath last night. "That's about what it took me as well. Did you get something to eat?"
"Yes," she said. "Janet took me down to the gym and gave me some of the rice that everyone had
for lunch." She scratched herself on the shoulder, making a sour face. "These clothes itch Brett.
And they feel so rough!"
He nodded. "Mine too," he told her. "Give it a few more hours, you'll get used to it eventually."
He filled her in on the developments that had occurred while she had been sleeping, telling her of
his tour of the town and speculating that the vote scheduled for dinner that night seemed like it
would go in their favor. "People seem to like us here," he said, casting a sideways glance at Jessica,
who was monitoring the conversation. "At least most of them do."
"Well that's good," she said happily. "I could get used to living here I think."
"Of course you WILL be expected to work if we take you," Jessica said from her seat. "Don't get
the idea that it's a free ride or anything."
Chrissie looked over at her with distaste. She had already determined how she felt about Jessica
and she didn't do much to hide it. "I have no problem pulling my weight," she said to her.
"I certainly hope you don't," Jessica said. "I imagine you have some babysitting experience don't
you? Most teenage girls do."
"Babysitting?"
"Yes," Jessica said. "We have a great many small children in town that need to be watched while
their mothers are out doing their assigned tasks. I think you would fit that bill nicely. That will free
up Janet or one of the other women who normally do that for guard duty or some other detail."
"Babysitting?" Chrissie said a little louder, her face flushing a bit. "You want me to babysit!"
"Chrissie," Brett said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Not now."
"But Brett," she said, turning towards him. "I'm... "
"Not now," he told her sternly. "We'll talk about this later, okay?"
"Do you have a PROBLEM with babysitting?" Jessica asked her, standing up and walking over.
Before she could answer, Janet answered for her. "I would think," she said, "that Chrissie probably
feels she would be more suited to guard detail instead of babysitting."
"Guard detail?" Jessica laughed. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Send a child out
with a gun and entrust her to keep a watch?"
"Chrissie is not a child," Brett said, abandoning his effort to avoid a conflict on the matter. "Neither
is Jason for that matter. Both of them have been surviving out in the wilderness with me for more
than a week and both of them have been in combat situations twice now. They know how to shoot
those guns and they know when to shoot those guns. They know how to maneuver under fire, how
to communicate silently with each other, and I would venture to say that they are more qualified for
that duty than anyone else in this town."
"I would have to agree with Brett on this," Paul said. "Putting Chrissie in the day care center would
be a waste of talent. Her services would be better used at a guard post."
Now it was Jessica whose face was flushing in anger. "NOT as long as I am a member of this
committee," she said firmly. "I will not entrust our lives to children nor will I allow them to carry
guns. This is not the Middle East. This is America."
"That's where you're wrong," Paul said. "This isn't America anymore. There is no America as far as
we're concerned. This is Garden Hill and Garden Hill and the people in it are all we've got. We
have to make the best use of our resources."
"I will not budge on this issue," Jessica said, turning away and stomping back to her desk. "No
children on guard detail. No children carrying guns. That is final."

"That woman is such a BITCH!" Chrissie, still fuming, proclaimed as Brett led her through the
abandoned streets towards their new house. In order to defuse the situation before it got completely
out of hand, he had suggested that maybe it was time to go look at their assigned domicile.
"Don't worry Chris," he told her. "Jessica is kind of prone to making impulsive decisions like that.
Paul is pretty effective at changing her mind when he really needs to. I've seen him do it more than
once now."
"What does he do?" she asked. "Throw holy water on her?"
"No, he's just figured out that she's a lot of bark without much ability to bite. When push comes to
shove she'll give ground, but its more likely to happen if the object of the discussion is not right
there. Don't worry, we'll get you on guard detail. Common sense will prevail."
This made her feel a little better. Her mood was improved even more when they entered the house
and started the tour. "All of this is really ours?" she asked, her eyes wide as she went from room to
room, looking at everything. "We get to sleep in a real bed?"
"We do," he said, seeing that the plumber had been there at some point and installed the hose
assembly. "They're going to bring over some beds for you and Jason later."
"A bed for me?" she said quietly, looking away from her perusal of the water system. "What do you
mean? Aren't we going to sleep together anymore?"
"Yes," he said, feeling uncomfortable. "We will. It's just that... well... I don't think we should tell
people about us just now. Especially not before the vote. They might not understand."
"Who cares?" she said. "Brett, I don't want to have to hide. You've seen how many women are in
this town!"
"And you saw the way that Jessica acted towards you," he told her. "She thinks of you as a child
and no matter what, she can't think of you as anything else. How do you think she'll react if she
finds out that I'm sleeping with you? She'll try to have me exiled. And I imagine that a lot of the
other women would see her point of view on that subject."
"How long will we have to hide it?"
"Until they get to know us better," he said soothingly, feeling like a complete ass, feeling like a
criminal trying to cover his tracks. "Until they realize that you are the woman that you are and not a
child."
She lowered her head sadly, dropping the garden hose back into the bathtub. "Oh Brett," she said.
"Are you sure that this is the town for us? These people here are all so... phony."
"I know," he said. "But this town is where we're gonna have to make our stand. Like Paul said, it's
all we got."
"What a mess," she said, walking over to him. "Can you hold me? I missed you so much last night."
He put his arms around her, feeling the familiar curves of her body through the unfamiliar layer of
dry clothing. "You smell so clean," he told her, inhaling the scent of apple shampoo. "And you feel
so dry."
She raised her head up and kissed his chin a little. "I'm starting to get wet somewhere," she said
slyly, rubbing herself against him, letting him feel the weight of her breasts.
"Are you now?" he asked, allowing his hands to drop from her back down to her ass. He gave the
tight cheeks a squeeze. "You know, I've never seen you naked in decent lighting before."
"No," she agreed, licking at his neck a little, causing blood to run to his cock. "You never have.
And I shaved my legs while I was taking my bath, my armpits too."
"So you're all smooth now?" he asked, grinding his crotch into her, making his dick even harder.
"All smooth," she said. "Shall we go try out our new bed? I've never done it on a bed before."
"There's a lot of things you've never done before," he told her. "I think we should go try a few of
them." He twisted in her grasp and then slid his right arm down to the back of her knees. With a
quick motion, he picked her up, cradling her as a groom does his new bride. She giggled, her arm
going around his neck.
"I've never been carried to the bedroom before," she said, kissing his neck. "I kind of like it."
"Well don't get used to it or anything," he told her teasingly. "You weigh a damn ton."
"I do not," she said, slapping at him. "I hardly think a hundred and sixteen pounds qualifies as a
ton."
"It's pretty close," he said, walking through the doorway and into the master bedroom. The pink
canopied bed awaited them, although no linen had been brought over as of yet. He stopped near the
side of it and put his lips to hers, giving her a passionate kiss. Their tongues swirled together and
she pulled him tighter to her.
He set her gently upon the mattress on her back and then released her, standing up and looking
down at her. "You really are a beautiful woman Chris," he told her, touching her face.
She grasped his hand in hers and took one of his fingers into her mouth, sucking it and swirling
around it with her tongue. It was an incredibly erotic sensation. She did this for a moment and then
let it slip free, a small string of saliva stretching out and then breaking. "Show me how beautiful I
am," she told him. "Make love to me the way it's supposed to be done."
He undressed her, piece by piece, starting with her shirt and her bra. The skin of her chest was a
little reddened, not quite a rash, from the recent removal of the protective layer of dirt it had
developed and from the unfamiliar exposure to laundry soap residue in her new clothing. Her
breasts stood up proudly, the nipples erect. He bent and took them into his mouth, licking and
sucking each one until her back started to arch upward. Her hand reached out and began to squeeze
his erection through his jeans.
A simple pair of Nike tennis shoes had replaced the camping boots that she had worn out in the
wild. She kicked them off, letting them drop to the floor, as he began to unbutton her jeans.
Beneath them was a pair of plain cotton panties, sparkling white against her pink skin. As he slid
the jeans down her shapely legs, he saw that the crotch was wet with her juices. He ran the knuckle
of his finger over her sex, feeling the damp cotton, feeling the outline of her swollen lips beneath.
Her smell, her NATURAL smell, reached him for the first time and he moaned, thinking how nice
it was going to be to finally enjoy her body like it should be enjoyed. Their past couplings had all
been marked by an unspoken, but very real effort to avoid touching certain places due to the filth
and odor that they'd accumulated.
He dropped her pants to the floor and then took one of her legs in his hand, bringing her foot to his
face. Looking her in the eye he took her big toe into his mouth and began to suck on it, treating it
the same way she had treated his finger. She immediately began to squirm on the bed, her breathing
kicking up a few notches as unfamiliar sensations coursed through her.
"Oh my god," she whispered, craning her head backward. "I... ohhhh, "
He sucked each toe in turn, moving from the big one to its neighbor and finally ended up with her
small toe. He then began to kiss, lick, and suck his way along the side of her dainty foot, paying
particular attention to the sole, delivering sensation that was just below the threshold of a tickle.
"You're driving me crazy," she said breathlessly.
"That's what I'm trying to do," he said. "Do you like it?"
"Yessss," she assured him.
He kissed his way up the back of her calf, his lips and tongue moving over the smoothness of her
recently shaved flesh. Thanks to the all of the walking uphill they had been doing with full packs,
her calves were tight and muscled, very toned. She opened her legs widely as he worked his way
upward, her hand dropping down to the outside of her panties, where her fingers began to idly play
in the crotch area, spreading her wetness around. He continued to move higher and higher, his
hands caressing the flesh ahead of his mouth, enjoying the silky softness. When he reached the
back of her knee, a particularly erogenous zone on most women, he spent nearly two minutes there,
tonguing it and tasting it, making her beg him to keep moving.
At last he did, his kisses trailing along the inside of her thigh, his teeth occasionally nipping at the
tender skin. As he moved closer to her center her odor began to grow more powerful, more insistent
and she began to grow more restless upon the bed.
"Ohhh, Brett," she moaned. "Stop teasing me."
"When the time comes," he told her, his mouth giving a quick suck high on her thigh.
When he felt the damp material of her panties touching his cheek, he slowly turned his head
forward, finding his eyes less than three inches from her cotton-clad sex. Her musk was now very
strong in his nose, driving him onward, breaking his will to keep teasing.
"Put your mouth on me Brett," she pleaded, her fingers finding his hair. "Please? I want to feel it. I
want it!"
He leaned forward, his tongue sticking out and contacting her panties right over her lips. He gave a
little suck, the tart flavor of her juices being transferred to his tastebuds. He could feel the quivering
outline of her clit through the cotton, could make out the soft shape of her vulva.
"Oh God, take them offfff!"
He kissed her through the panties, rubbing his face in her, pushing against her, making her squeal
with the sensation.
"Now Brett," she begged. "Take them off now!"
"And then what?" he asked between kisses and licks of the cotton.
"You know what," she panted.
"Do I?" he asked, giving her an extra-hard rub.
"Yessss!"
"Maybe you should tell me... " another kiss, another suck, "just so I can be sure."
"Eat me!" she nearly screamed, her fingers giving a yank at his hair. "Please, eat me!"
With a smile he hooked his thumb into the crotch of the panties and slowly pulled it to the side,
exposing her treasures to him. The lips were an angry red and invitingly open, the surface glinting
with wetness. They were framed on the sides by her sparse growth of blonde, curly hairs and on the
top by a thicker carpet of the same. Her clit bulged out almost like a small nipple. He inhaled
deeply of her scent, relishing its clean, musky odor, and then, without warning, he plunged his
tongue inside of her.
"Ohhhh, yesssss!" she screamed, her hips raising up from the bed for an instant.
He licked up and down the length of her pussy, gathering her juice on his tongue, loving the
slippery texture of her membranes. He lapped at her like a starving cat at a bowl of milk, his saliva
dripping from his mouth, making her even wetter, even slipperier. She moaned and bucked on the
bed, her legs moving back and forth seemingly of their own volition, her hands moving over his
head and the back of his neck, urging him on.
He paused for a moment (over her vocal protest) to pull the panties off of her and drop them on the
floor and then he dove right back in, licking and sucking, tasting and smelling. He slid two fingers
inside of her and began to move them in and out while his mouth moved upward and began to lick
at the hood of her clit, swirling around and around, occasionally stabbing at the sensitive organ
itself. Each time he contacted it Chrissie's legs would tighten against his back, her fingers would
tug at his hair, and her mouth would utter a delighted moan of pleasure. When he added a third
finger to her pussy and locked his lips onto her clit and began attacking it with his tongue, she did
not last long. She bucked wildly against him, forcing him to hold tightly to her with his free hand to
keep his mouth where it belonged. No sooner had her bucks and spasms stopped then he went at
her again, starting back at the slit and eventually moving to the clit, drawing a second and then a
third orgasm from her body. By the time he pulled his head from her crotch she was sweaty and
hardly capable of speech.
"Oh god," she moaned, squirming back and forth on the bed. "I had no idea that could feel so good.
Come here." She held her arms out to him. "Kiss me."
Still fully clothed he climbed atop her naked body, his hands caressing everywhere. She pulled his
face to hers and plunged her tongue into his mouth, sucking his tongue obscenely, relishing the
lingering taste of her own body. Next she sucked his lips into her mouth, first the bottom and then
the top, and then she began to lap at the skin around his mouth.
"Mmmmm," she hummed, "it's so nice to do this while we're clean. Your skin tastes so good Brett."
Her wet tongue lapped at him some more, moving from his face down to his neck. Her hands went
beneath his shirt, to his bare back and her fingernails began scratching lightly at him in a way she
knew he liked.
"Let me get these clothes off," he told her, pulling away. Reluctantly, she let him go.
He was naked in a flash, his jeans, shirt, and underwear flying off into an untidy heap behind him.
His erection was tremendous, sticking upward at a sixty-degree angle, the head purple and moist
with pre-come. Chrissie's eyes looked at it hungrily. Her hands reached out to touch it, sliding up
and down its length. Her legs opened wider. "Fuck me Brett," she told him. "Fuck me in this bed."
"You know it," he said, once again climbing atop her. For the first time in their relationship they
had the freedom to perform the act as it should be performed, with no constricting sleeping bag
pinning them down, with no need to keep their grunts and groans quiet to avoid waking Jason. He
grabbed her legs at the thighs and pushed them backwards, spreading her as wide as was physically
possible. Since she had been a cheerleader used to stretching, that was pretty wide indeed. Her
juicy opening gaped before him, begging for his entry. He did not disappoint. He put the head
against her and slid smoothly in with one thrust, sinking to the bottom, feeling the head of his cock
pushing against her cervix.
"Yessss!" she cried, arching her back beneath him, trying to draw him even deeper. "Fuck me!
Fuck me hard Brett!"
He fucked her hard. Keeping her legs pushed backward he slammed in and out of her with vigor,
his balls slapping against her ass with each stroke. Juices poured out of her and soaked into the
mattress beneath them. A wet, squishing noise joined the sound of their grunts of effort and
pleasure. He pounded into her as he never had before, quickly working up a sweat in the muggy air.
As the droplets fell from his face onto hers, she lapped at them with her tongue.
He only lasted about five minutes in her tightness before his orgasm hit him like a freight train,
blasting jets and jets of sperm into her body. When he finally collapsed atop her, panting like a dog,
slick with perspiration, his heart hammering in his chest, he knew that he would never be able to
give up the pleasure that her body gave him. Though this session had been among the shortest that
they'd shared over the past week, it had undoubtedly been the most passionate and it had only
hinted at the unrestrained passion of the future that they could share now that they had a bedroom
to themselves.
"Oh Brett," she said into his ear as her hands traced idle circles over the moist skin of his back. "It
just keeps getting better and better. I never dreamed when I let Stan Corban screw me in the back of
his dad's car that it could feel this good."
"No?" Brett, still panting a little, asked her. "Stan didn't do a good job of it?"
"No," she said. "In fact, I was about to give up on sex after that. It hurt like hell when he crammed
that thing in me. And then it only got worse. I'd always read that it was supposed to be a little pain
followed by the most intense pleasure. Instead it was a lot of pain followed by even worse pain
when he started to jam it in and out."
"You can't always believe what you read, can you?"
"No shit. At least it didn't last very long. He made it about ten strokes before he shot off." She
giggled. "And his orgasm triggered an asthma attack. He had to climb off me and get his inhaler."
Brett chuckled. "Poor Stan," he said. "But it's understandable. If you'd have given yourself to me
when I was... what? Sixteen?"
"Seventeen," she said. "He was seventeen and the star pitcher of the baseball team."
"Now why doesn't that surprise me?" Brett said with another chuckle. "Anyway, if you would've let
me have you when I was seventeen - which I doubt you would have, I was kind of skinny and
nerdy looking - I probably wouldn't have even made it in before I shot off. That's how beautiful you
are Chris. That's how much of a fantasy you are. You can't blame the guy. He must've had
incredible control to make it even ten strokes with you at seventeen."
She grinned at him. "That's not the most romantic thing that I've ever heard one person say to
another," she told him. "But it's strangely arousing all the same."
"The truth often is," he told her, feeling himself starting to twitch within her body once again - a
process she helped along by rotating her hips back and forth.
"How about another one?" she asked, widening the rotation of her circles. "We've got a night to
make up for, after all."
He continued to grow within her, waves of pleasure starting to radiate outward. "We do have to be
back to the community center soon. Jason will be waking up and then there's dinner and the vote
tonight."
"We'll make it a quick one then," she said, nibbling on his neck.
"A quick one it is," he said lowering his lips to hers. "After all, they might kick us out tonight. It
might be our last chance to do it in a bed."
"Then let's do it right," she told him. "Let's do it right."
Their mouths locked together in a kiss of passion once more and soon he was back up to a full
erection. He began to move within her once more, moving slower, drawing it out. They did it right.

Chapter 5


Chapter 5
"Right here is perfect," Brett told Paul as they stood atop of the hill. "I could not have placed this
high ground in a better place. Just look at the view!"
"It is very impressive," Paul agreed, looking out towards town.
The hill was on the northeast side of the town, about a half mile from the corner of the concrete
wall and about a quarter mile from the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80 to the north. The summit of
the rocky, sparsely vegetated rise stood approximately 400 feet above the surrounding terrain. This
offered a panoramic view of the entire wall as it stretched away to the south, and most of it as it
stretched away to the west. The roofs of Garden Hill, clumped together in geometric patterns, a few
of the chimneys spouting smoke, could nearly all be seen from this vantage point.
It was four days after the town vote that had accepted the trio into Garden Hill and made Brett the
new head of security. As had been predicted in advance, the only nays that had been shouted out
had come from Jessica and Dale. Now, on his third day at his new job, Brett was scouting out new
guard post locations. The hill they were on was one that he had pegged as a likely candidate on his
first trip around the area.
"It's more than impressive," Brett said excitedly. "It's perfect. It slopes gently on our side, making it
easy to get guards up and down, but it is very steep on the I-80 side, making it hard for outsiders to
climb from that angle. To the west we can see the most likely avenue of approach from this side -
namely, crossing the freeway and moving over those low hills. To the east," he pointed that way,
"we can see the only chokepoint people can move through to approach us from that side."
"You mean the freeway surface?" Paul asked.
"Right," Brett nodded. "The Interstate starts to climb up this mountain towards Donner Summit
right there. They blasted a cut right between those steep cliffs." He pointed to that spot, which was
just over a mile away. "There is no way in hell that anyone could come at us from the east without
either rappelling down those cliffs or coming through that sixty-foot gap where the roadway goes
through. From this vantage point, we can keep a constant lookout on that chokepoint, at least
during the daylight hours. This will not only secure us from the north but from the east as well
since it won't be possible for anyone to slip along the east side of the wall without being seen. Since
our southern flank is secured by the canyon, there is no need to keep a guard post on the east
anymore as long as this hill and the bridge approach is covered."
Paul nodded slowly, starting to see what he was talking about. As strange of an idea as it was to
leave an entire side of the subdivision unguarded, it made sense. Nobody would be able to get over
to that side unless they first passed in view of this post or came across the bridge. "It's kind of rocky
up here," he said. "What would it take to build a bunker?"
"About ten people with shovels," he answered. "It would take maybe two days worth of work. Dig
down about four feet and put up some sandbags over here behind these rocks. Cover it up with
some kind of canvas or plastic material and put mud and dirt on top of that for camouflage. I'd have
two guards in here during the day, both with scoped rifles and one of the M-16s. They'd have at
least a hundred rounds of.30 caliber ammo and four hundred of 5.56 mm. That way, if we're
attacked in force from this side or if someone tries to take their hill, they'll be able to fight them off
either until they surrender or we can get reinforcements up to them. Maybe we can even rig some
sort of rope and bucket system to get more ammo up to them if they need it."
"Very ambitious," Paul said, reaching under his rain slicker and pulling out a cigarette. He spent a
moment fiddling with a lighter beneath his hood before he finally got it going. "I wish I could tell
you that you have a chance of getting Jessica and Dale to approve a work detail like that, or a major
change in the deployment plan."
Brett sighed, knowing that his companion was right. In only three days he had had nearly every
change, nearly every improvement, nearly every policy that he wished implemented, voted down
by the alliance of Jessica and Dale. It had been stipulated that any changes he wished to make
would need to be discussed with the committee first and then voted on. This, in effect, made him
almost useless at his job. No matter how carefully he explained the need for something, no matter
how concisely he presented his case, they both voted no on whatever his proposal was. Dismantling
the catwalk on the bridge had been shot down. Moving the guard positions backwards to at least
cover the catwalk exit better had been shitcanned as well. Putting up signs on likely approaches to
the wall that warned outsiders not to approach or they would be shot; that had been voted down too,
despite his conservative estimate that it would cut their ammunition usage by more than two-thirds.
It had been that vote that had really infuriated him. "Why?" he had demanded of them as they sat
smirking in their chairs. "What possible reason do you have for not allowing warning signs along
the wall?"
"It puts us in a position where we appear weak," Jessica had said. "I think the cost of a few extra
rounds fired is more than worth the image we portray to those scavengers out there."
"That make absolutely no sense," he'd cried. "Where in the hell did you come up with that?"
"I am not required to discuss my rationale with you Mr. Adams," she'd replied. "The matter has
been voted upon. Do you have anything else you'd like to discuss?"
The only exception to this blackballing was his proposal that coed guard teams would no longer be
allowed. That one had been approved only because Jessica knew that it would be an unpopular rule
which would serve to diminish his popularity which, in those first two days, had been very much
like celebrity status. That measure was passed unanimously the first day and implemented the next.
It had had very much the effect that Jessica had guessed it would. The first thing to happen was that
volunteers for guard duty almost completely dried up, forcing Paul to take the drastic step of
assigning people to the job against their will. Several of these recruits had to be threatened with
kitchen duty or house arrest before they agreed to the task. In less than twenty-four hours Brett
went from most popular citizen to unpleasant, slave-driving boss. He was considered a spoilsport
by the many couples who were using guard duty to carry out their affairs. Though he was still the
object of intense flirtation by the unattached females of town, the males now regarded him with
open hostility. One, Jeff the Mormon, the kid he had smoked a joint with the first night, actually
told him to his face: "I wish I wouldn't of voted for you now, dude. You're such a Bogart!"
"I'm not here to be liked," he had replied. "I'm here to keep you alive."
"Well you're doin' a good job of not being liked," was the sour response.
His slave driver reputation was made even worse by the fact that he insisted upon visiting each
guard position several times a day, always at random, unpredictable times. Always he found two
grumpy men keeping a listless watch or two grumpy women doing the same. The women would at
least perk up a bit at his presence, assuming that they were unattached, which most of them were,
and the flirtations would begin. He had been offered every conceivable sex act, up to and including
a threesome, at the female-manned posts. But at the male-manned posts he sometimes felt himself
in danger of being assaulted or even shot. The resentment at his presence would radiate off of them
in waves.
"How long you gonna keep coming out here?" he was asked once by Hector, the man who had
slipped away that first night, leaving him alone with Mitsy.
"Until I don't feel that I have to anymore," he'd answered simply. "And the way that's looking, it's
gonna be a long time."
Fortunately, Brett's experience as a cop had long-since made him accustomed to being the authority
figure that no one wanted to see or deal with. The efforts of the Garden Hill men to get under his
skin with snide comments, the silent treatment, or glaring looks, were strictly small-time compared
to the way the residents of Stockton had tried it. With everyone he kept his voice even and
monotone, his commands clear and concise, his criticisms constructive and non-insulting. If he
responded to a jibe at all it was with gentle sarcasm. If open hostility was displayed for him, as it
had been a few times, locking eyes with the person and maintaining the contact always defused it
rather quickly. Brett, like most cops, had long since learned how to project a strong vibe towards
such people that warned them that attempting a physical confrontation would be a bad mistake.
Though this vibe had not always worked in Stockton (sometimes it was taken as a challenge) it
never failed to work its magic in Garden Hill. Brett was feared, that was easy enough for him to
see. He did not mind being feared as long as he was feared AND respected. As of yet, that second
factor had not come into play and he knew of no easy way that he would be able to earn it.
"Look on the bright side," Paul told him now as he smoked his cigarette atop the hill.
"What's the bright side?" he asked, shifting the AK-47 that he'd lugged up the hill to a more
comfortable position.
"At least the women still like you. I heard earlier today that Cindy Groton is going to be your
squeeze. They seem to be really sure about that one."
Brett smiled a little. Among the women, whether they feared him or not, the main topic of
conversation was who he was going to pick as his "official" companion, as if doing so was a town
ordinance or something. He had so far shunned all of the advances that had been thrown at him.
Chrissie was keeping him well satisfied in the bedroom department and, at least at this point in his
relationship with the townspeople, he felt it important to keep himself out of the games that were
played, to seem as aloof as possible to those he was trying to teach to protect themselves. This did
not stop the rumors from flying however. On the contrary, it only seemed to encourage them.
Whenever he was seen talking to a woman for more than a minute or so the word was passed
around that he was "interested" in someone. Before an hour would go by the word would be
inflated to "she's the one."
"Which one is she?" he asked Paul.
"She's the brunette with the big bolt-on titties that you were talking to this morning at breakfast."
"The one that asked me to show her how I used to pat women down?"
"That's the one," he agreed, taking a deep drag. "She used to be a part-time massage therapist." He
grinned. "Word has it that she has a real special massage she'll show you if you play your cards
right."
"I'm sure she does," he said sourly. "But my experience with Mitsy was eye-opening enough. I'll
just let it ride at that for now."
"You must have the willpower of a priest," Paul said. "How do you turn down as much sex as
you've been offered these last four days? Even I, who is getting it regularly, find it hard to say no to
a lot of them."
"It IS hard," he said honestly. "I mean, I have the same urges everyone else does. But it is my belief
that sex is going to be the undoing of this place if it is not brought under some kind of control.
These people are obsessed with it. They will happily keep screwing each other until the hoards out
there come walking through the gates and then they'll ask themselves how it happened. If I'm gonna
help prevent that from occurring, then I cannot allow myself to become a part of it. If I start going
on the same sort of sex binge that everyone else seems to be wrapped up in, pretty soon I'll
convince myself that we really don't need to post guards up on the hills or keep them alert. I don't
want that to happen."
"I'm with you there," he sighed. "When we first started to organize things here, nobody wanted to
do guard duty at all. They convinced themselves that it wasn't necessary. It was only when the first
groupings of males and females started to fall apart, when the men started to realize that they could
have virtually all of the sex they wanted, that it began to be a popular thing to do."
"So they could screw each other," Brett said bitterly.
"Correct."
He shook his head. "The problem we have here is that nobody has been out there. Nobody has seen
how desperate things really are. I mean, they can intellectually grasp that most of the world is dead
and there isn't any more food to feed anyone and that there are starving people out there, but they
can't mentally grasp it. Until you've seen two men with guns stalking you, trying to kill you so that
they could have the backpacks you're carrying, you just can't appreciate how real the danger is."
"Especially not these people," Paul added. "None of our women have even been on the wrong side
of the tracks before. And our men, they're too locked up in the glory of the sex game. They're like
kids at a candy store. Remember that I've been in charge of them longer than you have. I've gone
through this same shit."
"I know," he sighed. "And you've done a good job of it too, don't let me give you the idea that you
haven't. It's just that this town is going to get a rude awakening at some point if things don't change.
It's as inevitable as the tides."

"Now let me get this straight," Jessica said later that afternoon, back in the main office. She was
sitting behind her desk, Dale next to her, chewing a wad of gum and looking at Brett and Paul with
her patented smirk upon her face. "You want to move the northern and eastern guard positions from
their current location and place them on a hill more than a half a mile from town?"
"That is correct," Brett said, keeping his voice as monotone as possible, allowing no emotion to
show upon his face.
"And you would like a work detail of ten people to work on this project for the next two days?"
"Or until such time as it is completed," he put in.
She shook her head in bewilderment. "That is the most ridiculous thing that I've heard you suggest
so far," she said. "Move the guard posts outside of the wall? Leave the eastern side of town
completely undefended? Have you been dipping into the marijuana supply or something?"
"Yeah," Dale said, giving his own version of the smirk. "Some military expert YOU are." He
looked at Paul. "Didn't I tell you from the start that he was scamming us? Isn't that the most idiotic
thing you've ever heard?"
Paul, taking Brett's lead, kept his face neutral and his voice even as well. "If you went and stood on
that hill," he said, "I think you would see where Brett is coming from. From the top of it you can
guard the entire north side and prevent anyone from accessing the east side since there's only one
way in there. He's convinced me. His plan is sound and I think we should do it."
"Yes," Jessica said, "you seem to agree with most of what he says, don't you? Well, I don't know
how Dale feels on this matter, but I certainly cannot vote to approve such a gross downgrade in our
defenses. Our guards belong inside of the wall, where they can do us some good, not a half a mile
away on top of a hill."
"Your bridge guard position is almost a mile away," Brett said. "It is well outside of the wall and
yet it prevents anybody from entering from the south, doesn't it?"
"That's different," Dale said. "That's a bridge. If people can't get across the bridge, they can't get in
from the south."
"And if people can't get through the gap in the cliffs to the east of town, a gap that that hill I'm
talking about has a view of, then they can't get in from the east. And they can't approach us from
the north because that hill can see them before they even cross the Interstate. The most basic
military tactic is to occupy high ground surrounding your position. That is common sense."
"I don't think that tactic applies here," Jessica said. "My vote is no."
"My vote is no as well," Dale added. "The guards need to stay inside of the wall."
Brett took a few deep breaths, wanting to give a seething lecture on how their stupidity and
pettiness was going to get everyone killed but knowing that such a thing was just what Jessica
wanted. Instead, he calmed himself and went on to his next proposal. "I'd like to ask for volunteers
to be permanently assigned to the guard force," he said.
"Volunteers?" Jessica said. "Permanently assigned? What for?"
"With a permanent group I can concentrate on training them for specific duties and actions. In a
way, they will be professionals at the job. That will increase the overall effectiveness of the force."
"I see," she said thoughtfully. "And just how many of these volunteers do you think you're going to
get?"
"Probably not very many at this point in time," he admitted. "But that will change in the future I
think. I'd like authorization for thirty such volunteers."
"Thirty?" Jessica barked, laughing.
"As I said, I know I'm not going to get that many at first. But that is how many I would eventually
like to have. With thirty I can keep all of the posts manned 24 hours a day using the same people all
of the time. This would keep Paul from having to assign people the job every day and night. To get
these volunteers I will place sign-up sheets on the bulletin board in the gym."
Jessica and Dale looked at each other, clearly amused by his suggestion. "I'll vote yes on this one,"
Jessica said, shaking her head a little. "You go ahead and ask for your volunteers. Of course... " she
snickered, "you'll have to come to us for approval if you want more than thirty."
Dale was snickering as well. "You can have a yes from me too. Hope you don't get overwhelmed
with volunteers now."
While they laughed about this Paul added his yes vote to the tally and it became official. Brett
Adams, security leader, was now authorized to raise a group of volunteers to help guard the town of
Garden Hill. Though Jessica and Dale thought it quite a funny joke - Brett thinking people were
going to sign up to be permanently assigned to guard detail - they had no idea that they had just
impulsively voted to establish a professional armed forces for their town. In other words, Garden
Hill had just added the ability to create an army to its constitution.

One small victory that Brett had managed to win over the last four days had been the inclusion of
Jason and Chrissie on guard details. As he had predicted, Paul had been able to convince Jessica in
a private meeting that packing guns and watching over the safety of the town were where the two
kids' talents were best utilized. As such, both of them were Brett's prime volunteers. Each post was
manned with two guards that worked six-hour watches, which meant that there were four crew
changes each day. Chrissie and Jason typically worked double shifts in order to keep themselves
busy and to reduce the number of people that Paul had to actually assign. Jason preferred the night
watches since it allowed him to sleep most of the daylight hours away. Chrissie, on the other hand,
preferred the day watches since it allowed her to sleep with Brett every night.
At dinner that night, when Brett gave a short, impassioned plea for volunteers (a plea that was
received somewhat listlessly by the audience) Chrissie was working her second straight shift on the
east side, awaiting her relief. By the time she made it to the dining hall and ate the plate of
stroganoff that had been set aside for her, Brett had already gone off to take care of other duties.
When she made her way to the small house that they shared, well after darkness had covered the
land, he was still out. She lit the two oil lamps that they had been provided (Paul had rigged them
so they burn gasoline by adding a small amount of motor oil to the fuel) and waited for him alone.
He came in about an hour later, stomping mud out of his boots and shaking excess water from his
rain slicker before removing them in the entryway. He had had a long day that had involved much
tromping around from one part of town to another and his muscles ached dully.
"Hi Chris," he said, leaning down to give her a kiss on the lips. She allowed the contact but did not
contribute to the display of affection in any way. She had a determined expression on her face. He
looked at her, puzzled. "What's the matter?"
"Where have you been?" she asked, a clear note of accusation in her voice.
He looked at her carefully, already sensing that something was in the air. "I was out at the bridge,"
he told her, quite honestly. "I rigged up some trip-wires on the catwalk exit so that if someone
comes up that way like I did, it'll at least make some noise. I also checked on the western position
on my way back."
"You weren't out VISITING someone?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Visiting someone?"
"One of the women maybe?" she said. "One of those sluts who are trying to get you into bed with
them?"
He sighed a little. He had known that at some point this conversation was going to occur. This was,
after all, a small town with a small town mentality. "No Chris," he said, sitting next to her on the
couch. "I wasn't out visiting anyone. I was out trying to take care of a few things. I wouldn't lie to
you."
"Who was at the guard posts?" she asked, her voice on the verge of hysteria. "Was Cindy Groton
out there? I heard that you and she are fucking each other!"
"Jesus," he said, turning towards her. "Chris, I don't even KNOW Cindy Groton other than the fact
that I talked to her for a few minutes at breakfast this morning. She's not even ON the guard detail."
"Everyone says you're fucking her," she said. "They say that she's going to be the one you pick to
be your woman."
"They're just rumors," he said. "I've already got my woman."
"A woman that you won't tell anyone about!"
"We've been over this Chris," he said, trying to calm her. "We need to give it a little more time
before we let people know about us. They're still locked up in pre-comet morality here. You know
that as well as I do."
"Pre-comet morality?" she nearly shrieked. "Every time I leave this house I get women coming up
to me and asking questions about you. Is it true he's doing this girl? Is it true he's thinking about
hooking up with that girl? Out on watch it's all my partner will talk about! I've been asked a
hundred times to put in a good word to you about someone. I've been told a hundred times how
good of a big sister someone would make for me! I've seen them get into fights over you Brett!
They hit each other and pull each other's hair while they're arguing about who has a chance with
you and who doesn't! And it's not just you, they do that over every man in town, even that dweeb
Jeff. These women fight over a nineteen-year-old! Does that sound like pre-comet morality to you?
Did they used to do shit like that before?"
"No," he said. "I'm sure they didn't. Their morality does tend to be ruled by self-interest and
abandoned for the same thing."
"So if they can give up the morality when it comes to keeping their hands off of other people's men,
why can't they give it up about you sleeping with me?"
"Because it's not in their self-interest to do that," he told her. "Chrissie, I am not sleeping with any
of these women, okay? I'm not meeting up with them in secret and I'm not looking for someone to
replace you with."
"What about Mitsy?" she said, glaring at him. "I heard you fucked her your first night here.
Everyone seems to be real sure about that rumor."
His hesitation gave him away.
"You DID, didn't you?" she said.
"Yes," he said slowly. "She caught me off guard that first night. It just kind of happened."
The look of pain on her face was almost more than he could bear. Her lips started to quiver and a
tear rolled down her face.
"Chrissie," he said, sliding closer to her, intending to put his arms around her.
"Get away from me," she told him. "Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me again!"
"Chris, listen... "
"I said stay AWAY from me!"
He stayed away from her. She refused to talk to him any more that evening. That night, at bedtime,
she slept in the bed that had been placed in her bedroom for the first time.

23 miles to the south, in Foresthill, the convicts were still in occupation of the church building they
had taken from the townspeople there. The food supply that they had captured was rapidly
dwindling to nothing thanks to the fact that they had made no real effort to ration it in any way. All
of the booze and most of the cigarettes were gone as well, again due to the lack of a rationing plan.
The fact that they had had a drunken, weeklong party after they took the town did not help much.
Even the women they had captured and amused themselves with, they were all gone as well, every
last one of them dead. Most had found ways to commit suicide. The most common method of this
had been by goading the men that were raping them into beating or shooting them to death (the first
woman to try this began laughing and making fun of Harley's admittedly small penis until,
humiliated, he had bashed in her skull). Two of them had tried an escape attempt that had not had a
prayer of allowing them to get away but that did succeed in getting them shot to death with M-16s.
One had actually chewed a hole through the skin of her inner elbow, ripping open the vein that runs
there and bleeding to death while everyone slept. Yet another managed to strangle herself by
wrapping the sleeve of her shirt around her neck and pulling it tight. The non-suicidal deaths had all
been caused by injuries sustained during the party itself. After becoming bored with the more
conventional methods of rape, some of the bikers had experimented with the insertion of foreign
objects into vaginas or rectums, namely rifle barrels or booze bottles. Two of the women subjected
to this had died of internal bleeding from perforated uteruses. Another had died of a particularly
nasty case of peritonitis after her colon was torn to shreds by the raised sight of an M-16.
Even the women that they had had before taking Foresthill, some of them prisoners captured from
other raids, a few of them pre-comet wives and girlfriends, they were all gone as well. These
women, appalled by what they saw going on around them, had fled into the woods. Their fate was
unknown but it was thought that they wouldn't last long. They had taken no weapons or food with
them when they'd gone.
Now that all of the booze and women were gone and the food and cigarettes were in short supply,
order among the convicts had broken down a little. Though Stu and Mark were still firmly in
command of them the grumblings and the fights were becoming more vocal and more frequent. Stu
knew that it was about time to move on and find another place to crash for a while.
On this morning, while most of the crew were still sleeping on the floor wrapped in their filthy
sleeping bags, Stu and Mark were sitting in what had once been the pastor's office going over some
gas station maps of the area.
"Foresthill is the only sizable town on this side of the canyon," Stu was saying, tapping the features
with a pencil. "At least until you work your way back to Placerville. And we know there ain't much
left there. We're gonna have to cross the canyon somehow if we're gonna find more supplies."
"Right," Mark said. "But how do we get across? Do you think that either of these bridges are still
there?"
"Maybe," Stu said thoughtfully. "The only way to find out is to go there. The question is, which one
should we try first?"
They discussed the matter for a few minutes, each tossing ideas back and forth. On the one hand the
Auburn bridge was located in an area that was more populated, which meant that there would be
more targets to scope out and possibly attack. On that same note however, the Auburn bridge was
also much more likely to be guarded by a force that they would not be able to overwhelm. The
Garden Hill bridge, on the other hand, led to a very small town where there may or may not be
anyone left.
"I think that bridge is a lot less likely to be guarded," Stu said. "And if it is, whoever is guarding it
would probably not be anything we couldn't overcome. And if the bridge is out or is too heavily
guarded to cross, we can always come back down and try Auburn."
"That make sense Stu," Mark said. "But what about... "
His thought was interrupted by the sound of two pistol shots from outside. Two seconds later, there
was a third. It was the pre-arranged danger signal from their guard post.
"Shit," Stu said, standing up so fast his chair fell over. He picked up his rifle and ran out into the
main room. "Everyone up, right now!" he yelled. "We got a danger signal from the guards!"
They moved impressively fast, shooting out of their sleeping bags and picking up their firearms.
Stu and Mark went to the front door and opened it up, looking out over the rainy parking lot to the
bait shop, where the perimeter guard that had fired the shot was stationed. They saw nothing out of
the ordinary.
"Battle stations everybody," Stu told his men. "Look sharp!" With that he ran outside, crossing the
parking lot and the street at a sprint, Mark right behind him. The other convicts all went to pre-
planned firing positions that Stu had worked out their first day in town and had made them practice
moving to several times. Within thirty seconds a deadly ring of rifles encircled the church, capable
of engaging any target no matter what angle it attacked from.
Stu and Mark entered the bait shop, guns ready for anything, and saw Harley looking out the rear
window, his rifle trained out over the hilly ground behind it. He looked very tense.
"What do you got Harley?" Stu asked.
"A dude out there about two hundred yards away. He's waving a white flag back and forth."
"What?" Stu said, walking to the window and looking out. Sure enough, in the distance, was a
single man standing atop one of the rises. He was dressed in rain gear and an army helmet and had
no weapons in evidence upon him. He had a stick that was about six feet in length and had a scrap
of white cloth, probably an old T-shirt, tied to the end of it. He slowly moved it back in forth above
his head.
"Somebody's surrendering to us?" Mark, who had come up behind Stu to observe as well, asked in
confusion. "What kind of idiot would do that?"
"That's not just a surrender flag," Stu said thoughtfully. "It also means that someone wants to
approach for negotiations."
"Negotiations?" Harley asked. "What the fuck for?"
Stu chewed his lip for a moment, trying to think. "I guess we should find out, shouldn't we? Harley,
don't fire at him unless you see a weapon and he looks like he's going to use it."
"All right."
Stu walked back over to the door and stuck his head out, looking towards the upper floor of the
church where several of his men were aiming their rifles outward at the flag waver. "Don't fire at
him unless he shows a weapon," he yelled at them. "I repeat: Hold your fire unless you see danger!
Pass it on!"
He waited a minute for the word to spread to everyone and then he stuck his head out the window
of the bait shop. "Approach us slowly!" he yelled to the man. "Keep your hands in sight at all
times!"
The man nodded his understanding and dropped the flag to the ground. He put his hands up and
began to walk, his pace steady but slow. When he got close Stu sent Harley and Mark out to him
while he stayed inside and covered them with his rifle. "Check him for weapons," he ordered. "And
then bring him in here."
They searched the man thoroughly, patting him down much the same way that they had been patted
down numerous times by cops in their previous lives. He kept his hands in the air and his bearded
face expressionless as they performed this task.
"He's clean," Mark yelled when the frisking was complete. "We're coming in."
The first thing that Stu noticed was the man was young, only about twenty years old or so. The
second thing was that he was not starving. There was no hollow look to his cheekbones, no sinking
of the eye sockets. In fact, he looked like he was in very good shape. "Who are you?" Stu asked
him, keeping the barrel of his rifle trained downward. Mark and Harley were back at the window,
keeping an eye out for any further intruders.
"I am Private Stinson with the Placer County Militia Group," he said.
"The what?"
"Placer County Militia," he repeated. "We have a force surrounding this town right now, hidden
from view. Lieutenant Bracken, the commanding officer of this force, has sent me here to request a
meeting between your leader and himself."
"How big of a force?" Stu asked, raising his rifle a tad.
"I am not at liberty to say sir."
Stu raised it higher, so it was pointing at his abdomen. "You fuckin' well better say!" he said. "How
many goddamn people you got out there?"
"Will all due respect sir," Stinson said, his voice even, "I am just a messenger. Lieutenant Bracken
can provide you with the information you request and more. I am an expendable member of the
force out front but do be warned that if any harm comes to me, that will taken as an act of war and
will be dealt with severely. I am authorized to say that we do have enough people out there to
defeat your group in battle and we have the advantage of knowing where all of your men are."
Stu bit back on the urge to strike the young punk that stood before him. "What does he want to talk
about?" he asked instead.
"I am not at liberty to say," Stinson replied. "He will explain everything when you agree to the
meeting."
"And if I don't agree?"
"Then that too will be taken as an act of war sir."
Stu fought to maintain control of his temper. He was not a man accustomed to being threatened in
any way, especially not by young punks like this one. Though it was a struggle, he kept himself
from striking or otherwise harming the man. "All right," he said. "I'll meet with him. What now?"
"I will walk outside and give the go-ahead signal," Stinson replied. "Lieutenant Bracken and
Sergeant Johnson will approach your encampment unarmed and meet you beneath the overhang in
front of the church. You will provide chairs for them to sit in and they will discuss the matter at
hand with you. They will not enter the building with you or walk anywhere besides to the meeting
place. Any attempt to harm them or force them to go somewhere else will result in attack by the
rest of the force. Taking them hostage will do nothing but force an attack as well. Lieutenant
Bracken and Sergeant Johnson realize that they too are expendable. Do you agree to these terms?"
Stu stared at him for a moment, feeling a pit of fear in his stomach. "Yeah," he said. "You give the
signal. I'll tell my men and get us some chairs."

Stu did not bother searching Bracken or Johnson for weapons when they entered the town. He
knew that their goal would not be a close assassination attempt. Instead, after the introductions
were made, he led them to the overhang in front of the church where four chairs had been placed in
a small circle. Mark and Stu sat down in two of them while Bracken and his sidekick took the other
two. Harley had been placed back in his guard post and the other members of the convict team were
still on heightened alert in their battle positions.
"So what is it that you want?" Stu asked, lighting up one of the last of the cigarettes and taking a
drag.
"Before I tell you that," Bracken said, lighting a cigarette of his own, "let me first explain a little bit
about who we are."
"Sure," Stu said.
"We are the third platoon of the Placer County Militia Group based in Auburn," he said. "We are
well armed and well trained and we are dug in around your town and have been so for the last two
days."
"Impossible," Mark said. "We would've spotted you."
"Really?" Bracken said, dipping his ash on the ground. "You seem a bit overconfident in your
abilities. Perhaps I can convince you that I speak the truth."
"Please do," Stu said.
"There are 21 of you here," Bracken said. "You had some women a few days ago but they are all
dead now. You are armed with M-16 rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles as well as pistols and you
have some rudimentary knowledge of military tactics and fairly good discipline. Your guard
positions are the bait shop, the upper floors of the church, and the storage shed behind the burned
out gas station. You routinely send out two-man patrols that circle the town and probe into the hills
a little bit. Your battle plan is to reinforce these guard positions with your remaining personnel and
to keep a small reserve force inside the church itself, ready to move to wherever it is needed. You
seem to be getting short on food and you drank up the last of your alcohol yesterday. When one of
the women dies you carry the body over to the gas station and put it with the other bodies that were
burned up in there."
Stu and Mark both looked at him slack-jawed as he recited this to them. Bracken simply smiled.
"Not a bad defensive plan if I do say so myself," he told them. "It would have been sufficient to
keep just about everyone except us away from you. However, as you can probably see, we know
where to hit you if need be. Our positions are set up specifically to counter yours. If we go to battle
with each other, we will kill you. If you try to flee, you will find that we've covered all escape
corridors with overlapping fields of fire. In short, you are trapped here and you only continue to
draw air because we have chosen not to attack you."
"You're lying," Stu said, feeling that pit of fear getting bigger.
Bracken shrugged. "I don't need to prove myself," he said. "If you think I'm lying then you are free
to try us. I would prefer that you do not since I am currently sitting in a very bad spot if the bullets
start to fly. So how about we try to come to some sort of arrangement instead?"
Stu swallowed with a mouth that was very dry. "What kind of arrangement?" he asked.
"We need people in Auburn," Bracken said. "Specifically, we need people for the militia so that we
can continue to keep our city running and continue to secure supplies until such time as food can be
grown again. We have nearly a thousand people in the city and our food supply is dwindling fast.
Now all over the mountains are little towns like Colfax and Baxter and Grass Valley and Nevada
City. Many of these towns are still standing and have food stocks in their grocery stores or their
warehouses or their residential houses. For the most part there are people left alive in these towns
and most of them have guns and have organized to some degree. Our plan in Auburn is to raise an
army that is big enough to take control of these towns and seize the supplies within them. We will
also take any women that are of breeding age and any men who have skills that will be useful to
rebuilding civilization when this is all over. When the sun comes out again we will be alive and
well fed in Auburn and ready to begin expanding our influence throughout the area. We do not
know what is going on elsewhere in the country, but we will control this region and be able to
defend it. We will remake civilization when this is over and we will do it right this time."
Stu listened to all of this carefully. "So you want us to be a part of your army?" he asked.
"That is correct," Bracken said. "A couple of hunters that we picked up a week past impact saw you
take this town. They were rather shocked by the methods you employed, particularly the way you
got rid of the men, children and older women"
Stu said nothing to this.
"I must say, that we were rather shocked by that as well. Colonel Barnes, he's our commanding
officer, was inclined at first to just destroy you as a menace because of that. Eventually however, he
decided that your obvious military skills could be useful to us so he dispatched my platoon to
observe you in action. What I've seen has impressed me enough that I made the decision to try to
recruit you. You must understand however, that actions such as you took in this town cannot be
repeated."
"You're willing to take other towns and steal their food but you get mad at killing people?" Stu
asked.
"In the barbaric way that you did so, yes," he replied. "Our way is the natural order. We take what
we need from a town and we bring it back to Auburn. We kill anyone who tries to fight us because
that is the way you win a battle. But we do not kill prisoners and we especially do not kill children.
True, they will probably die of starvation after we leave, but that is simply natural selection. God's
law, you see. Some of them may be strong enough to live through it and that too is God's law. It is
the strong who will survive and if someone can live after we remove their food supply, more power
to them."
"Interesting philosophy," Stu said.
"And you must also realize," Bracken said, "that if we take you into the militia, you will be subject
to military discipline and orders. You will do as you are told by your commanding officers without
question, whether you agree with what you were told or not."
Stu felt himself turning a little red in the face. "I'm not a real good order taker," he said.
"You'll have to learn to be. And real fast too. Now I imagine that with your abilities to lead, you'll
probably be made a sergeant and given a squad. But your squad will be part of a platoon that is
commanded by a lieutenant and that platoon will be part of a company that is commanded by a
captain, and so on and so forth. You will be expected to follow certain standards and to follow
every order that you are given."
Stu and Mark looked at each other for a moment. "Maybe we'd just better forget this whole thing,"
Stu said at last. "I don't think that my people will fit in too well with yours."
Bracken shook his head. "I don't think you understand," he said. "My orders are to either bring you
under control and recruit you to our side or to destroy you. There is no forgetting about it."
"Destroy us?" Stu asked. "What happened to natural selection and God's law and all that? I thought
you didn't kill prisoners."
"You're not prisoners," he said. "You are a potential threat to us. If you do not join our ranks and
agree to abide by our rules, you will all die."
"And you will die too if your people attack us," Stu said.
"That too would be God's law," Bracken said. "But perhaps I should tell you a few things about
Auburn before you make your decision."
"Like what?"
"We have hot baths, hot food, and dry houses for you to live in. We also have four times as many
women of breeding age than we do men. And while we do not tolerate rape, most of these women
are quite desperate for the company of a good man and will do damn near anything to keep him
happy. In a way, its kind of like that way things SHOULD be."
That statement by Bracken served as the clincher. Though they continued to talk for sometime
after, the decision was pretty much made at that point. Early the next morning Bracken's platoon
and Stu's convicts - the newest recruits of the Placer County Militia - began the three-day march to
Auburn.

"I got somebody coming towards the wall," Jason told Jeff, his partner on guard duty that night.
They were in the top story of the house that served as the guard position for the northern wall, one
of the most active for stragglers as they were called. The shift had just begun and there was still
enough light out to be able to see. They were twenty yards from the wall. On the other side of it
were low, rolling hills that were studded with pine trees and scrub brush. Emerging from a group of
trees was a filthy, emaciated man wearing muddy clothing and carrying a hunting rifle. He was
looking at the wall and the houses behind them as if he had never seen such a thing before.
"Let me see," Jeff said. He had been lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, leaving lookout duty to
his younger companion. He pulled himself off it and picked up a pair of binoculars, aiming at the
window. "Yep," he said. "Another straggler all right. Pathetic looking piece of shit, ain't he?"
Jason didn't answer. Instead, he dropped his own binoculars and picked up his rifle. It was a
Winchester, scoped hunting rifle, not the M-16 that he had learned to love, but he had learned over
the past few days to shoot it with precision. Not that shooting with precision was all that hard to do
with such a gun. You simply placed the crosshairs where you wanted the bullet to go and it went
there. And deer hunters had called it sporting when they shot defenseless animals with such things.
"He don't look like he has the energy to climb the fuckin wall anyway," Jeff commented,
continuing to watch the man as he stood in place. "Why do we even worry about people like that?"
"Because they're desperate," Jason said, putting the rifle to his shoulder and training it out the open
window. "A couple of people like that tried to kill us when we were out there."
"So you say," Jeff said, putting the binoculars down. He yawned and then picked up the walkie-
talkie that was sitting on a nightstand. He keyed the microphone and spoke into it. "This is Jeff at
position three. We got a straggler near the wall. He looks pretty pathetic. We're keeping an eye on
him."
"Copy that post three," came Brett's voice from the speaker. "Is he armed?"
"Yeah dude," Jeff replied, bored. "He's packin' a rifle."
"Copy. Keep me updated."
"Yeah," Jeff said into the radio before throwing it back down. "I got your fuckin update right here
dickwad," he said, grabbing his crotch a few times.
Jason, hearing this, said nothing though inside he was fuming at the insulting tone towards Brett.
He was used to such comments however. It was a sentiment that he had heard a lot of while pulling
guard duty the last few days.
"So what's he doin now?" Jeff asked, sitting back down on the bed.
"Still just standing there," Jason replied, watching him carefully through the scope. The man was
looking back and forth along the wall, an expression of wonder on his face. Finally, he seemed to
come to some sort of decision. He began to walk towards it.
"He's moving in," Jason said. "I'm gonna drive him off."
"I'm down with it," Jeff replied, picking up the radio and relaying this information to Brett.
Jason shifted the sight from the man's body to a mound of dirt about ten feet in front of him. He
took a deep breath, held it, and then squeezed the trigger, feeling the sharp kick of the rifle against
him. The sound was much different than that produced by the M-16. It was deeper and louder, not
so much a crack as a boom. The bullet hit right where he had aimed, sending up a little spray of
mud and water. The hunter did not seem to notice the bullet impact at all but he noticed the sound
when it reached him. He jumped in fright, looking everywhere at once.
"Did that do it?" Jeff asked as Jason jacked in another.30 caliber bullet.
"No," he said, taking aim again. "He's just standing there, looking around."
"Idiot," Jeff mumbled. He then reported this development to Brett.
When the man stepped towards the wall again, Jason pulled the trigger again, this time sending the
bullet into the ground about five feet in front of him. He saw the impact this time and immediately
turned and sprinted back the way he had come.
"He's running north into the trees," Jason reported, tracking him with the scope as he went. "Looks
like that might've done it."
"Another job well done," Jeff said cynically. He reported the success of the driving off operation to
Brett and then answered a few questions as to direction of travel that he was asked. Finally he
threw the radio back down again. "What does he wanna know all that shit for?" he asked Jason. "I
mean, the guy ran away. What fuckin' difference does it make where he ran to?"
"I think he's worried that he might try to go around and try another approach," Jason said. "You
know, a flanking maneuver?"
"Fuckin' flanking maneuver," he said, shaking his head sadly. "You've been hanging out with him
too damn long dude. You're startin' to talk like him. You need to loosen up a little."
"He's just trying to keep you alive," Jason told him. "You could be a little grateful for it."
"He's trying to keep me celibate is what he's doing. We were getting along just fine without him.
We'd get along just fine without him now." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cigarette
pack. "Come on dude, let's loosen ourselves up." He pulled a joint from the box. "Let's burn one."
Jason looked at the joint. "Not on guard duty," he said. "That's against the rules."
"Fuck the rules," he said, pulling out a lighter. "There ain't no rules anymore anyway. That's the
advantage of having a fuckin comet crash into your planet. It kills a lot of people but it kills the
rules too. I'm gonna burn." He lit the joint and took a tremendous hit. He then tried to pass it to
Jason.
"No," Jason said firmly. "We're on guard duty Jeff. We're supposed to be watching for people."
"Fuckin' pussy," Jeff squeaked contemptuously. He tapped the ash on the floor and then took
another hit. "You keep watchin for those scrungy lowlifes. I'm gonna make the most of what we
got."
He smoked the joint until it was about half gone and then carefully extinguished it and placed it on
the endtable next to the walkie-talkie. Jason, though disgusted by his actions, made no further
comments. He simply kept watch as the light finally gave up its hold on the sky, bringing on the
darkness.
"I don't know why we have to stay up here once its dark," Jeff said. "We can't see shit anyway."
"In case the perimeter guards find something," Jason told him, continuing to stare out into the
darkness. "Then we're in position to cover them."
"Nobody's gonna try and get in after dark," Jeff scoffed. "You have to be able SEE to invade."
"Brett got in after dark, didn't he?"
"But he's a fuckin maniac. No one else would try something like that."
"He is NOT a maniac!" Jason yelled, turning towards the sound of Jeff's voice. "Don't talk about
him that way!"
"Hey, fuck off little dude or I'll break your fuckin nose for you. Don't think I won't!"
Fuming, Jason turned his attention back outside. Like his sister, he was of the firm opinion that they
had been better off when they had been living out there. Outside he had been an important member
of a team; a member of a fighting squad that had battled armed men and come out the better. In
here he was treated as a child, not just by people like Jeff, who was little more than a child himself,
but by damn near everyone. The women all called him cute and tussled his hair when they saw him.
A few had even been known to pinch his cheeks like visiting aunts at family holidays. They seemed
to think that they way to Brett's heart was by treating his younger companion in a motherly way. As
for the men, they treated him with indifference at best, with subtle hostility at worst now that Brett's
unpopular guard duty decree was up and rolling in full force. Some, lacking the courage to confront
Brett directly, had chosen him as the channel with which to pass along their displeasure with the
new security chief. "Tell your friend that he can be voted OUT just as easily as he was voted in," he
had been told more than once. He had learned quickly not to respond to these requests by
suggesting they tell Brett that information themselves. That generally just made them threaten him
in some way.
Not wanting to be seen as a fink or a crybaby, he had not complained to Brett about any of these
attitudes, nor had he passed on any of the messages he was given. But sometimes, like now as he
was sitting on guard detail with Jeff whining at him about how unfair it all was, he wished that they
WOULD vote Brett out. At least then things could go back to the way they had been.
For the next hour, things were quiet in the guard post. There was no conversation of any kind, nor
were there any reports from the walkie-talkie. Jason kept watch over the blackness outside and Jeff
maintained his position of repose on the bed, occasionally smoking a cigarette or unleashing a loud
fart. It was the sound of footsteps approaching that finally broke the monotony.
"Someone's out there," Jason said, picking up his rifle.
"Just chill little dude," Jeff told him, the squeak of bedsprings indicating he was getting up. "It's
just a visitor that I've arranged."
"A visitor?"
"This all-male guard team bites the big one. I've invited over someone who will be a little bit better
company than your skinny ass on these long nights."
"You did what?"
"Hello?" came a soft voice from downstairs. Jason recognized it as belonging to Mitsy, the woman
that had caused the ongoing fight between Chrissie and Brett. "Is anyone here?"
"Up here baby," Jeff called down. "You know where we're at."
"Jeff," Jason hissed. "You know we're not allowed to have visitors at post. Brett made that clear to
us!"
"Brett's not gonna find out about it though, IS he?" he said menacingly.
"What if comes out here?"
"I'll take my chances on that," he said. "You just keep your fuckin' mouth shut after you get home
or you might find yourself a victim of friendly fire next time we're at post together."
"Jesus," Jason said as he heard Mitsy's soft footsteps on the stairway. He could see the bobbing
beam of a flashlight moving back and forth as she worked her way upward.
"I mean it dickwad," Jeff threatened.
"Hi guys," Mitsy said with a giggle as she shined the flashlight on the two of them. "What's up?"
"Turn off that light," Jason yelled at her. "You're spotlighting us for god sake!"
"Oh, good idea," she said with another giggle. "Brett might be out there." She clicked it off.
"Wouldn't want him to spoil our little party, would we?"
"Hell no," Jeff said, picking up the half-joint on the table. "Wanna get high baby?"
"There's a lot of things I wanna get tonight," she said seductively.
"And there's a lot of things I wanna give," Jeff assured her. "Come on, let's leave Captain America
here to keep a diligent watch. I'll show you the master bedroom. It's REAL nice."
"Does it have a nice bed in it?" she asked.
"Queen sized baby. Queen sized."
A moment later they disappeared through the doorway, Mitsy's flashlight once again lighting their
way. With an angry sigh Jason went back to doing his job. Before long the sound of giggles,
moans, and grunts began to drift down the hallway accompanied by the squeaking of bedsprings.

Mitsy slipped away at about 11:30, just before the change of watch. Jeff came back up shortly
afterward, reeking of pot, booze, and sex though in a much better mood than he had been in when
he had gone down.
"Now that," he told Jason in the darkness, "is what post-comet life is all about. Sex, drugs, and
more sex. I'm tellin' you, that bitch knows how to fuck. And she can slob the old knob with the best
of 'em. I might just dump Carrie to the sideline and have Mitsy move in with me instead. That
kinda poontang I can handle every night."
Jason did not favor this with a reply, he simply kept staring out into the darkness, looking and
listening for intruders. Thirty minutes later, when the clock struck midnight, Rob Handy, who had
been in Garden Hill cleaning a swimming pool when the impact occurred, relieved Jeff. Jason, as
usual, was scheduled for a double shift, until 6:00 AM. After one last gentle threat to Jason to keep
his mouth shut about what had happened, Jeff headed back to his assigned house. Ten minutes
later, after a few condescending comments, Rob was sound asleep and snoring on the bed. With
another sigh, Jason maintained his watch.
When he was relieved at 6:00 AM by Chrissie and her partner de jur, Laura Fletcher, he walked
listlessly back to the community center building to grab some breakfast. The official breakfast
service took place at 8:00 but the kitchen staff always served some early meals to those going on
and coming off watch. Jason preferred the low-key atmosphere of the pre-meal service as compared
to the rowdy chaos that accompanied the official service. When he entered the gym the smell of
hash browns and pancakes filled the air and his stomach immediately began to gurgle in
anticipation.
"You look extra-hungry this morning," said Stacy Keagan, the pregnant 20-year-old who always
seemed to be on kitchen duty. Stacy was somewhat of an outcast in the town, just like Jason. She
was not a town woman. Like all of the men, her job had been what had brought her to Garden Hill
on that fateful day. She had been one of two employees on duty at the Starbucks franchise in the
strip mall. Though she was not the only woman who had been pregnant at the time of impact she
was by far the most advanced in the process - her belly bulged outward with six-months of swelling
- and she was the only one whose "condition" had been outside of the bounds of legal matrimony.
These two facts combined with her decidedly un-Garden Hill-like appearance - she had short, died-
black hair and a nose piercing with a gold stud - had guaranteed her second-class citizen status in
the hierarchy of the town.
"It's been a long night," Jason told her, watching as she shoveled a double helping of hash browns
and an extra pancake onto his plate. "Is all of that for me?"
She offered him a smile, the first he had ever seen her offer anyone. "You work twice as hard as
anyone else around here," she told him. "Why shouldn't you get a little extra chow at mealtime?
Just don't rat me out, okay? That bitch Jessica would have a shitfit about it."
"Mum's the word," he told her, returning the smile. He was surprised that she was talking to him.
Stacy was usually one of the quietest people in town. She was also one of the most talked about in
gossip circles. The women loved speculating upon just who the father of her illegitimate child was.
Jason had heard Jessica and several of her cronies advance the firm conviction that it must be "a
nigger" that had knocked her up. Why else wouldn't she tell people who he was?
"Do you mind if I join you?" she asked him, grabbing a plate of her own once she handed him his.
"You're the last of the guard detail to stagger in and I just have enough time to get a little down
myself before I gear up for the main breakfast.
"Uh... sure," Jason said shyly. "Be my guest."
She gave him another smile and began to fill her plate with food. When she was finished she
waddled her way along next to him to one of the tables. They sat down next to each other and
began to tear into their food.
"I hate the morning service," she said as she cut up her pancake with a fork. "The little alien doesn't
like me to be up this early."
"The little alien?"
"That's what I call the baby," she said, patting her large stomach affectionately. "Remember that
movie? That's what it feels like to have something growing inside of you. It's weird."
"I bet," he said doubtfully, unable to think of anything else.
They continued to chat idly about various subjects, mostly their work schedules and their respective
jobs. Jason was unsure at first of just what her motivation was for engaging him in conversation.
Usually when the town women talked to him in a friendly manner it was because they were either
trying to ingratiate themselves with one of Brett's "kids" or were trying to hit him up for personal
information about Brett. But Stacy did not seem to fit this category. As they talked and as the words
began to flow more easily from their mouths, Brett's name did not come up at all. It occurred to him
that maybe Stacy just craved human company and that he was the only one who would provide it
for her without making snide remarks or being condescending. If that was so he was glad to be the
one to give it to her since, necessarily, it meant that she had no snide remarks or condescending
tones of her own to offer him.
He told her an abbreviated version of how he had come to be in the mountains on that particular
Thursday afternoon.
"Your mom was a wildlife photographer?" she said. "That's like, so cool. What magazines was she
in?"
"Oh... National Geographic a few times, Life Magazine once, and a couple times a year the Sierra
Club magazine would publish her shots. Those were the ones she was really proud of. Most of her
work was just for home display or for the UC Berkeley paper." He felt a pang of sadness wash over
him as he thought of her emerging from her darkroom with the latest batch of shots from her
outings. "You know, it's funny," he told Stacy. "Me and Chrissie used to hate it when she would
force us to sit down and look at another stack of her stupid animal pictures. But now... now I'd give
anything to be able to be annoyed by them just one more time."
Stacy nodded, patting him on the shoulder companionably. "I know what you mean," she said. "My
mom used to tell me I was too skinny, that I didn't eat enough, that I wasn't taking care of myself.
After I started growing the little alien she got even worse. "Stacy, you're not gaining enough weight
for that baby," she would say. Or "Stacy, are you taking your vitamins the way you're supposed
too?" I swear, I wanted to kill her sometimes. But like you said... " she sniffed a little, a single tear
running down her face, "if I could just hear her voice one more time." She looked over at him,
embarrassed for herself. "I'm sorry. We hardly know each other and I'm crying in front of you. Us
pregnant women don't have a lot of control over our emotions."
"It's okay," he said. "Really. There's been a lot to cry about since that day and not a lot of time to do
it in. I understand."
She smiled again, wiping away the tear. "You're a sweetheart," she said. "Thanks for putting up
with me. There are not a whole lot of people in this town that I can talk to. I'm not exactly one of
the girls"
"I know the feeling," he said. "Believe me, I do. And you can talk to me anytime you want to."
"Thanks. I'll be taking you up on that. Count on it."

Brett was somewhat disappointed in the number of people that signed up for his permanent guard
force. Though he had not expected the numbers to be overwhelming by any means, he HAD
expected that maybe ten or fifteen people would realize that security detail was a vital job. Not so.
Of the nearly one hundred and fifty people in town that were old enough to sign up he got a grand
total of six volunteers of which Chrissie and Jason were two of them. Though he and Chrissie were
still not speaking to each other or sleeping together because of the Mitsy incident his first night,
Chrissie was not a vindictive person. Her name had topped the list followed by her brother's. Of the
other four volunteers, personal interviews had shown Brett that two of them were women who
thought that signing up for his detail would help win his favor. When told that it would not, one of
them promptly withdrew her offer and the other had given him a look that seemed to say: "we'll just
see about that."
On the plus side of the equation, two of the volunteers - one a man, one a woman - genuinely did
seem to realize the importance of the position and, at least in the interviews, seemed to have signed
up in that spirit.
The male was Matt Engle, a 33 year old that had been one of the teachers at the town's small
elementary school - a colleague of Janet. Though he had no military experience of any kind, he did
hold a master's degree in history and did seem to realize just what kind of atrocities the human race
was capable of when pushed to the edge as it had been. "I think the formation of a protective force -
an army if you will - is vital to the continuation of this society here," he told Brett. "It shames me
greatly that no one seems to be taking the very real threat of invasion seriously. I don't know a lot
about how to protect us from it, but I'm willing and even anxious to learn."
"Good enough for me," Brett had said upon hearing this. He held out his hand for a shake.
"Welcome to the Garden Hill security force. Training will start tomorrow morning."
The female was Michelle Westover who, at 30 years old was the third oldest woman in town. Brett,
who was suspicious of the motivations of every female that crossed his path, spent a good deal of
time interviewing her. She had been a town woman before the comet and she was attractive in a
plain-Jane sort of way, but at the same time she was not quite cut from the same mold as the other
Garden Hill women. In the first place it had been she, and not her husband, who had been the
primary breadwinner for the family prior to the comet. She had been a free-lance writer whose
talents had been much sought after by various women's magazines. A regular contributor of articles
to Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Vogue, she had pulled in more than eighty thousand dollars the
previous year by telling the nation's women how best to please their man in the bedroom and how
to get the most out of their cosmetic and fashion dollars. Her husband, who she had genuinely
loved and who she genuinely missed, had been a cameraman for a Sacramento news station who
had happened to be on assignment in Modesto at the time of the impact. "It is just incredible to
me," she had told him, almost angrily, "how locked up in the gossip and relationship war everyone
in town is. Three days after the comet I was still grieving for Stan, still crying myself to sleep over
everything that was gone, even debating suicide because I didn't think I could go on. And the rest of
the town, what were they doing? They were fighting each other over who was going to pair up with
whom, who is officially attached to someone and who is trying to move in. It's obscene. It's
absolutely obscene."
"So why do you wish to be a part of the guard force?" he asked her.
"Because I've decided to live," she said matter-of-factly. "I want to see the sun again, I want to be
one of the people whose grandchildren rebuild everything that's been smashed. I know that the only
way that is going to happen is if people make the effort to keep us alive. I'm scared to death of guns
and I don't know the first thing about guarding a town but I want to learn. Most of these women
here are the types that expect things to just be taken care of for them. They want to just live in their
houses and do what everyone else is doing and be important without having to work for it. That's
why you're having so much trouble with them now. They need someone to tell them how to live
and how to act and what to wear. They were the women I wrote those stupid articles for. But I am
not one of them. I'm a fighter Mr. Adams, willing to claw my way upward to achieve a goal. That's
how I went from editing term papers at Sac State to being able to name my own price for an article
in a magazine. I proved myself. I'm willing to prove myself now and help defend this town so the
rest of these idiots can go on pretending like they're in high society."
"I see," Brett said, impressed with her statement. "There is one other thing that I think I should add.
Forgive me if it portrays me as somewhat arrogant."
"Of course," she said, her eyes telling him that she already knew what he was going to say.
"You must realize that joining my detail will not assist in any endeavor you might have towards
acquiring me as a male companion. That is NOT why I'm asking for volunteers."
She laughed, her intelligent eyes amused. "That IS rather arrogant," she told him. "But it is
understandable considering the current socio-sexual climate. I understand Mr. Adams and you can
rest assured that I have no interest in you in that way. Stan was the only man for me. He was my
soulmate and I will grieve for him for the rest of my life. As for sexual outlets, well, I've written
more than one article on how a woman can take of that matter for herself and believe me, I have a
lot of those research devices still in my house and I know how to use them."
Brett was not the easiest person in the world to make blush, but this declaration by Michelle was
more than enough. "I see," he said slowly, extending his hand. "In that case... uh... welcome to the
detail. Training starts tomorrow after breakfast."
"See you then," Michelle told him with a smile.

Brett and Paul had to fight and argue with Jessica and Dale over each aspect of the training
program that Brett wanted his new guards to go through. They did not want to release the
volunteers from the other duties that they had been assigned to, they did not want to have Paul
assign other people to guard detail during the training time, they did not want to allow the release
of four hundred rounds of ammunition for firearms training.
"They're security guards!" Jessica had yelled, quite exasperated. "What kind of training do night
watchmen need?"
Fortunately the issue was not one that required a vote by the committee since the establishment and
training of the guard force had already been voted in. Their arguments were more for form sake
than anything else. The personnel roster was adjusted, the ammunition was released from the
supply room and the training went forth as planned.
Brett led his troops just outside of the subdivision wall on the north side, within easy view of the
guard post there. He then ran them through a complete course of firearms training that included all
of the various types of weapons in the Garden Hill inventory. They qualified on the pistols, the
shotguns, the hunting rifles, both scoped and un-scoped, and the assault weapons, both the semi-
automatics like the AK-47s and the AR-15s as well as the fully automatics like the M-16s. Brett
had them learn the assembly, cleaning, and relative advantages and disadvantages of each type of
weapon. He then had them shoot at fixed targets like cans and human shaped silhouettes that he had
constructed from black paper scavenged from the elementary school.
Everyone did well except for Georgia Miles, the slinky former housewife who had joined with the
hope of gaining Brett's favor. She had jumped in feigned fear each time a cartridge was exploded
from her weapon, giving a girlish squeal and constantly trying to get Brett to give her more
personal instruction. Twice he had had to bat the barrel of her loaded weapon downward as she
turned to talk to someone and unconsciously trained the weapon towards them, her finger on the
trigger. After the second of these incidents he pulled her weapon from her hand and told her to go
back to town.
"What do you mean?" she'd asked.
"I mean I need people a little more dedicated than you are. You're dismissed from guard detail."
"Dismissed?" she nearly screamed. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you're washed out," he said. "You can leave now."
"You can't fire me from this shitty detail!" she yelled, standing before him with her hands on her
hips.
"On the contrary," he said calmly, "I not only have the ability to do so, but the obligation. Your
services are no longer needed here."
She had of course gone immediately to Jessica and Dale to complain but her complaints fell upon
deaf ears. While the popping of weapons continued from just outside the wall, Georgia went back
to the wood-gathering detail she had been on before.
In addition to firearms training Brett taught them the basics of movement and squad procedures,
going into more detail than he had been able to with Jason and Chrissie on their march to town and
also having them practice the techniques as well. His four-person squad was forced to crawl on
their bellies in the mud, to practice flanking the grocery store and breaching it under simulated fire.
He taught them the various communications signals, both hand and verbal, and went over the
importance of keeping in close contact with one's teammates. During the second day of training
Paul even participated giving a two-hour lecture on basic first aid as it applied to the types of
injuries they were likely to encounter in battle. His lecture was followed by a practical lab session
in which the firefighter made them dress and triage simulated injuries.
"Well," Brett told Paul after the course was completed, "they're not exactly Navy SEALs or
anything, but they're a damn sight better than they were before. Even Chrissie and Jason, who were
pretty tip-top before the class, have shown significant improvement."
"So you think we're a little more secure?" Paul asked.
"A little," he agreed. "But not much. Until I get more people to sign up and take the training
seriously we're still fighting an uphill battle if we're attacked. But at least I have four people who
can take charge of some of the others if the shit hits the fan."
"You do what you can in this world," Paul said, clapping him on the back. "Come on, let's go get
ourselves a little drink from the supply room. I think we deserve it."
Once the permanent guard volunteers were trained, Brett tried to keep two of them on duty at all
times. He did not order them to work double shifts at their posts but they all did this anyway,
Chrissie and Michelle usually working the day shifts while Matt and Jason worked the night shifts.
The trained guards were never posted together in these early days, although that was eventually
what Brett wanted to do. Instead, they were augmented with the conscripts assigned by Paul each
night. Brett's orders were of course that the trained guard was in charge of the post but he knew that
it didn't always work out that way, particularly when Jason and Chrissie were involved. Nobody
was willing to take orders from them.
In all it was an imperfect, very flawed system that still utilized sub-standard positions and was
staffed, for the most part, with people who did not wish to be there. The fornication on duty, though
slowed by the same-sex rule and driven deeper into the shadows, persisted, none-the-less,
particularly at the posts where one of Brett's people was not part of the team. Brett was rendered
pretty much powerless to prevent this from occurring since Jessica was only interested in finding
out who it had been, so she could try to push the issue of banishment for fornication. She didn't care
that it was on guard duty; just that it had occurred at all.
"I don't give a rat's ass what they do when they're not on duty," Brett had pleaded with her on one
occasion after he had caught two of his female guards having sex with a male visitor. "They can
stick live gerbils up each others asses if that floats their boat as long as they do it OFF shift."
"I cannot differentiate between on guard duty and off guard duty," was her answer to this argument.
"They are either punished for every fornication episode - and the only appropriate response is exile
- or we don't punish them at all. Now I know Dale feels the same way as I do about this problem."
"Of course," he said. "We can't have people fornicating. It's wrong."
"But," she went on, "Paul still will not vote with us to banish these people and, unlike most of our
other decisions, banishment has to be unanimous!"
"I will not vote to kick anyone out of here for sexual impropriety," Paul said before she could get
started on her lecture. "But I do think that some form of punishment for those who do it on watch is
appropriate. Brett has suggested three days of house arrest. What's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong with it," Jessica said, "is that by banning fornication in one particular instance, it
automatically says that it's okay in other instances. I cannot be a party to that. It's either banishment
for every instance or nothing."
"I agree," Dale said, rapping his fist firmly on the table.
And so the problem persisted, worsening even once the word of the committee's inaction spread
throughout the town. Guard detail once again became a favorite assignment for the fornicators.
"There's gonna be a reckoning in this town one of these days," Brett warned the committee during
his morning briefing at one point. "And you'd better hope its not too bloody because that blood is
gonna be on your hands."

Meanwhile, at the house where Chrissie, Brett, and Jason all lived, tensions remained very high.
Chrissie continued to sleep in the small twin bed that had been provided for her instead of the large
bed in the master bedroom where Brett slept. She did not talk to him unless it was absolutely
necessary and even then she kept her responses to as few syllables as practical. Whenever he tried
to sit down and discuss the matter with her she shunned him, not even favoring him with a
response, simply leaving the room. She spent most of the time that she was not on shift either
reading books from the supply in the community center or sleeping. Brett began to wonder if she
was ever going to come around.
Jason of course saw all of this occurring but kept mostly out of it, neither taking sides nor
attempting to mediate the dispute in any way. He knew what the problem was of course. The story
about Mitsy and Brett on that first night had not escaped his attention. And though he was
somewhat disappointed that Brett had cheated on his sister he thought that maybe it was time for
her to get over it and get on with her life. After all, Brett could have practically any woman that he
wanted. Chrissie was lucky he had only slipped once. But he kept his mouth shut and remained on
friendly terms with both of them and they remained on friendly terms with him.
Another person that he remained on friendly terms with was Stacy Keagan of the kitchen detail.
After that first morning chat she had made a ritual out of sitting with him and having her breakfast
as he wolfed down his own. She always slid him a little extra something in his plate and always
poured just a little more of the juice of the day for him, telling him that he deserved it for working
so hard. He found her very easy to talk to despite the six year difference in their ages and he
typically stayed at the table with her long after he was finished eating, until it was time for her to
start working on the full breakfast service.
As they became friendlier with each other, she began to tell him more personal things about herself.
"I hear everyone speculating on who the father is," she told him one morning. "It's almost funny in
a way. Jessica thinks it's a black baby since I'm not telling anyone, Mitsy thinks I'm a lesbian and
that it's from artificial insemination."
"Really?" he asked, laughing. "I haven't heard that one."
"It goes on my list as most original," she said, laughing back. "I guess since I have a nose ring and I
dye my hair black and I worked in a Starbucks that makes me a lesbian by default, doesn't it? I
swear, sometimes these women here are just too much."
"At least they don't muss up your hair when they see you," Jason said sourly.
"You mean like this," she giggled, reaching over and grabbing a handful of his brown locks.
"Stop it," he cried, though he made no move to enforce his words.
"Oh Jason," she cooed in a falsetto voice. "You're just soooo cute. How's that handsome man you
live with doing today? You think he'd like to come over and unplug my plumbing for me?"
This sent both of them into near hysterics, her words made all the more amusing by the fact that
someone had asked Jason that very thing the previous day.
"Oh god," Stacy said, untangling her hand. "Sometimes I crack myself up." She pushed his hair
back into somewhat of the position it had been in before. "There," she said, admiring her work.
"Good as new, almost anyway."
He said nothing, simply blushed. He had really enjoyed the feel of her hand moving through his
hair.
"Do you want to know who the father is?" she asked him.
"Uh... " he stammered. "Well... "
"It's okay," she told him. "I never really tried to keep it a secret from anyone until they all started
speculating about it. You see, while they were all thinking that its some black football player or
some anonymous sperm donor, I realized that the truth would actually be somewhat disappointing
for them, anticlimactic even. Far be it from me to spoil the fun they have spreading rumors around."
"So who was it?" Jason asked.
"He was the manager of the Starbucks I worked at down in Auburn before I transferred up here. He
was a white, middle-class small business manager in a hick town. Nobody in this town even knows
him. It's totally boring, isn't it?"
"Well, uh... yeah," Jason admitted. "It is."
She shrugged, giving him her smile. "He was married," she said. "I guess that makes it a little more
interesting of a story. He told me he was going to leave his wife for me, that he loved me. The same
shit that a thousand married guys have told their pieces on the side and I fell for it just like all of the
other one's did. And then my birth control pills didn't work the way they were supposed to one
month and I got knocked up. Funny how if you "forget" to take them for a week or so that kind of
thing can happen. Funny how when you confront your lover with a pregnancy and try to push the
issue of leaving his wife, he never does. Christ, didn't I read enough Ann Landers and Dear Abby
when I was growing up? I guess I didn't."
Jason didn't know what to say. He had never had a conversation even remotely like this one before.
He said nothing, only listened. And in doing so he gave Stacy exactly what she had been after: a
sympathetic ear.
"He told me he would pay for the abortion," she said. "That was awfully big of him, wasn't it? I told
him to go fuck himself and threatened to call his wife and tell her what had been going on between
us. Of course, I wouldn't really do anything like that but he didn't know that. He made the
arrangements for my transfer up here and my promotion to assistant manager. I don't know how
many strings he had to pull to do that, but he pulled them."
"You didn't get the abortion though," Jason said.
"No," she said. "I mean, I think a woman should have a right to do that if she wants to but... it
wasn't for me. I couldn't bear the thought of them sticking things up into me and ripping the baby
out. I told him that I was going to keep it and he hit the roof. He threatened to have me fired if I
didn't get my ass to the clinic that day. He told me if this was all some scheme to get him to pay
child support that I could just fucking forget it."
"Jesus," Jason said.
"That was perhaps the biggest mistake he ever made," she said with a predatory grin. "And it was a
dumb one too since I'd already told him that as long as he relinquished any custody claims to the
baby that I wouldn't ask for any child support. He could've been home free if he would've just let it
drop. But he didn't. When he tried to pull his strings and get me fired, I filed a sexual harassment
suit with corporate and told them the whole story. He lost everything. They fired him a week later
and his wife found out the story of how it had happened and she left him too. Then he had the balls
to come crawling back to me and asking me for forgiveness, can you believe that shit? He wanted
me to take him back. I sent his ass packing and told him if he ever showed his face in front of me
again I would get the cops on him. I haven't seen him or heard from him since then."
"Do you miss him?" Jason asked.
"Yes," she said. "I hate to admit it, but I almost called him half a dozen times before the comet hit. I
mean, I was in love with him, I really was. It's hard to let love just die like that, even when you see
the person for who they really are and that person is a piece of shit. Sometimes I think we women
are just a hopeless species. I'm really starting to think that now that I see how everyone in this town
is behaving."
"Brett says that Auburn is probably still there," Jason told her. "Do you ever wonder if maybe he's
still down there alive?"
She gave him a warm look. "You're pretty insightful Jason, you know that?" she asked him. "I catch
myself thinking about him all the time, wondering if he was in town when it happened, wondering
if he ever thinks about trying to come up here for me. If he's alive he would've known that I was at
work that day and not down in the valley."
"Would you go with him if he came?"
"I don't know," she said looking at him. "There's not a lot for me here. Sometimes I think that this is
my punishment for trying to trap a man like I did: I'm sentenced to be an illegitimate mother in a
town full of hypocritical rich women."
"So would you go?"
"I probably would," she admitted. "I know myself well enough to say that. I probably would. Who
would miss me here anyway? They'd have to find someone else to help cook their damn pancake
mix and mix their damn orange juice, but would anyone miss Stacy? Would anyone miss ME?"
"I would," he said.
She smiled, leaning forward and giving him a hug. "You're a sweetie Jason," she said. "Thank you
for being my friend."
He returned her embrace, feeling the weight of her stomach pushing into him, feeling the softness
of her in his arms. He liked the feeling a lot. "Thank you for being mine," he told her.
Later that morning, as he lie in his bed at the house, he took himself in hand as he always did at this
time of day. Jason was, after all, a normal 14-year-old boy in most respects of the word and
masturbation was something that he did at least once every 24-hour period. Usually the fantasies
that accompanied this jacking were somewhat vague in nature. He thought of girls he had known in
school, of women that he lusted after in the town itself. This time his thoughts spun only to Stacy.
Though he had never thought of a pregnant woman as being erotic before, he did now. As he
envisioned seeing her naked, seeing that bulging stomach in all of its glory, as he remembered how
her softness had felt when he had hugged her at breakfast he exploded in a spontaneous orgasm of
staggering power.

It was Chrissie who spotted him first. It was less than an hour before the end of her second shift on
duty and she was looking out the window of the northwestern guard position. Her partner for the
shift - Brenda Callahan - was chatting away behind her about how Hector had promised her that he
was going to dump Maria Sanchez pretty soon and make her, Brenda, his new official woman.
Chrissie was hardly listening to her, so sick was she of the whole subject.
"I don't know WHY you threatened to tell Brett if Hector came out here to visit me," Brenda said
huffily. "Someday when you're old enough and the men start paying attention to you, you'll
understand where I'm coming from. You have to take it when you can get it in this world."
Chrissie ignored her, keeping her eyes trained outward. They were dry and sore from fatigue and
she had a nasty headache forming behind them. It was getting so that she always felt like this
towards the end of a double shift. It wasn't like her partners ever helped her keep an eye out. If she
could even get them to stay awake for more than half the shift she considered herself lucky.
She stretched a little, relieving the pain in her aching back and sighed, knowing that when she got
home after her late dinner she would have nothing to look forward to but a cold bed and her own
company. She was still terribly hurt over what Brett had done with that bitch Mitsy and was not
sure that she could forgive him for it. He had cheated on her! Though it had been nearly two weeks
now since he had admitted it to her she still could not get the betrayal out of her head. She did not
know what to do. Should she move out of his house and start a new life without him? As drastic a
move as that seemed, she sometimes thought that was the only solution. How could she ever trust
him again? Did he even realize how much she loved him? But if she let him go, would she ever
find love again? In a town with five times as many women as men, was that really likely?
Especially when everyone thought she was nothing more than a child? Was she being too petty, too
judgmental just because he had given into temptation a single time?
She sighed, her heart torn in two directions. Should she stay or should she go? Should she abandon
the love that she had with a man she couldn't trust and risk living without love forever? She didn't
know, had no precedents in her short life upon which to base such an important decision. And so
she held in limbo, refusing to resume her relationship with Brett as it had been but also refusing to
take the terminal step of declaring an end. All she knew was that she was going to have to make up
her mind soon. Brett had been giving her the room that she needed, holding in limbo with her, but
that wouldn't last, it couldn't last. Soon, if she didn't decide, he would undoubtedly make the
decision for her.
"So," Brenda said from behind her, derailing her train of thought, "is Brett like a homo or what?"
"A homo?" she said, turning her eyes away from the window for a moment to stare in astonishment.
"Well, yeah," she said. "I mean, he's not sleeping with anybody and I'm here to tell you, some of
the best in town have tried. The word is that maybe he's not interested in women at all. They think
maybe that he and your brother have a little something going.'
"You think he's sleeping with Jason?" she yelled, horrified with the very thought.
"That's just what people are starting to think," she said defensively. "I mean, he doesn't sleep with
any of the women and he has a teenage boy living in his house. What do expect them to think?"
"That is the most disgusting thing I've ever heard," Chrissie said.
"Hey, don't blame me. I'm not the one that came up with this. I'm just telling you what I heard."
Chrissie shook her head and put her eyes back out the window. She was about to launch into a
seething lecture about how idiotic the rumors that passed in this town were but before she could do
that, movement outside the wall caught her eye. She had caught just a brief glimpse of someone
flitting from one tree to another, right on the edge of the open ground that separated the last set of
hills from the concrete wall. "Someone's out there," she said, putting her hands on the binoculars
around her neck.
"Imagine that," Brenda said, bored. "Another straggler."
"I don't think so," Chrissie said, trying to spot more movement. "He didn't move like a straggler.
He's being sneaky."
Brenda got up from the bed and walked over to the window. She took a quick glance outside. "I
don't see nothing," she said. "Are you sure you're not imagining things?"
Chrissie did not favor this with a response. She put the binoculars to her face and started examining
the tree where she had last seen the movement. At first she saw nothing but bark and pine needles
dripping with water but after a moment, a face appeared from behind it. Though all of the people
that appeared behind the wall were bearded, dirty men, Chrissie instantly realized that she had seen
this particular bearded, dirty man before. "I see him," she said, watching as he peered carefully at
the wall in front of him. "He's someone I ran out of here yesterday from post 3."
"I still don't see nothin," Brenda said from behind her. "Why would someone come back after you
ran him off anyway?"
"Because he really wants to get in here," Chrissie said. "Get on the radio and tell Brett what's going
on."
"Shouldn't we wait until we're sure that someone's out there?"
"Someone IS out there you idiot," she barked. "Now get on the fucking radio and tell Brett!"
"Now listen here," Brenda said huffily. "I don't know who you think you are little missy, but you
will not... "
"He's moving," she yelled, watching helplessly as he suddenly broke into a sprint towards the wall.
She dropped the binoculars from her face and picked up the rifle. Before she could get it to her
shoulder however, he had passed out of her line of sight, the wall itself hiding him from view.
"Goddammit," she said, putting the rifle back down. Now she fully understood what Brett had
always said about the vulnerabilities of the current guard positions. Though they could see the open
ground on the other side of the wall, they could not see the area immediately on the other side. Now
that the intruder was safely there, he could move along the wall at will, invisible to all of the guard
positions.
"Where'd he go?" Brenda, who had finally gotten a glimpse of the man, asked.
"He's against the wall," she said, pushing Brenda aside and picking up the walkie-talkie. "This is
position 2," she said into it. "Brett, are you there?"

Brett was in the community center in the main office, going over the roster for the upcoming night
shift when the call came in. He knew immediately from the tone of Chrissie's voice that something
unusual was happening. He picked up the microphone from the CB set on his desk. Jessica and
Paul, who were both going over paperwork of their own, also noted Chrissie's tone and looked up
from what they were doing.
"Right here Chrissie," Brett said. "What's up?"
"A man armed with a hunting rifle and a sidearm just sprinted from cover a hundred yards west of
my position. He's now up against the wall somewhere and I've lost visual. I was not, repeat not able
to get a shot off at him. He was moving too fast."
"Copy that Chrissie," he said, grabbing a map of the subdivision and unfolding it. He placed his
finger on the approximate spot that she was describing. "Any idea where he is now?"
"None. He could be moving either way. Information only, he's the same person that I drove off
about two o'clock yesterday afternoon from position 3."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"That is affirmative. It's him all right."
"Okay," Brett said. "Stand by for a minute Chrissie and keep your eye out for him. Position 1,
Position 3, Position 4, all of you check in right now."
This took a minute to accomplish but all of the other posts finally did acknowledge him and
affirmed that they had heard what Chrissie reported.
"Keep a sharp eye out everyone," he told them all. "Especially you guys at position 1. There's a
good chance he might be heading for the gate. Since Chrissie didn't get a shot off he might not even
realize that we know he's here." He set the microphone down and looked at the map again. Paul got
up from his chair and came over to look over his shoulder.
"What do you think he's up to?" Paul asked.
"He's trying to get in obviously," Brett replied, his finger tracing back and forth along the wall.
"Since Chrissie recognizes him from yesterday that means he realizes we guard the place and has
probably figured there's something worth guarding in here. He's also figured out that we're blind to
what happens directly under the wall. That means he has a fairly good idea of where our guard
positions are. If I was him I would wait until dark and then scale the wall."
"The same way you got in," Paul said.
"Right," he agreed. "Only he won't give himself up to the perimeter patrol. If he manages to get
inside after dark then we'll have no idea where he's at. He'll be able to hide anywhere."
"Then we have to make sure he doesn't get in," Paul said.
"Exactly," Brett said.
"Uh... excuse me," Jessica, who had been monitoring the conversation, broke in.
"What?" Brett asked.
"Has anyone besides Chrissie seen this person?"
"I don't know. What's that got to do with anything?"
"Well, she might be mistaken," Jessica said. "I mean, it sounds rather incredible that someone
would try to hide against the wall like that. And given her propensity for exaggeration, maybe... "
"I'm not even going to favor that with a response," Brett said, glaring at her. "If you don't have
anything constructive to add, why don't you keep your mouth shut, okay?"
"How dare you talk to me like that," she yelled. "Maybe I should remind you that... "
"Jessica, shut up," Paul told her. "Give it a rest for now."
She fumed at him but did as he asked.
"What's the plan?" he asked Brett.
Brett continued to look at the map for a moment. "We need to catch him before it gets dark. He
must not be allowed entry into the subdivision where we'd have to do a house by house search to
track him down. Someone's gonna have to go outside and get him."
"Who?" Paul asked.
"Me," he said. "I'll grab one of the AK-47s out of the supply room."
"You can't go out alone," Paul told him. "I'll grab a rifle and go with you."
"No," Brett said. "You stay here. Michelle is in position 1 with Cindy. They have one of the M-16s
up there. I'll have her go with me."
"Why her?" Jessica asked, seemingly happy about the idea of Paul and Brett both going out into
danger.
"Because that's what she's trained to do," he said, picking up the microphone again. "Position 1, this
is Brett. Are you there Michelle?"
"Right here," she said. "We haven't seen anything so far."
"Copy that. Michelle, grab the 16 and meet me at the front gate. We're gonna flush this fucker out.
Don't go out until I get there. Cindy, keep a sharp eye outside while Michelle is gone and I mean a
sharp eye. This is the real thing."

The front gate of the complex consisted of a thirty-foot gap in the concrete wall through which the
main road of the subdivision passed. Directly in the middle of this gap was a small structure that
had once served as a guard booth where a uniformed security officer - his salary paid for by the
homeowner's association - had controlled access to the subdivision by raising and lowering a small
railroad crossing type arm over the roadway. The exit lane of the road was guarded by a set of steel
spikes that would rupture the tires of any vehicle trying to enter from that side but that would allow
the safe egress from the inside. The front gate, which was the most likely avenue of entry by
stragglers, was watched over by the guards of position 1 during the day and by an infrared equipped
video camera at night.
Brett found Michelle, the M-16 rifle in her hands, standing just to the side of the gate when he
arrived. She was wearing one of the black rain slickers, complete with hood and a pair of heavy-
duty boots. Her face was nervous but determined.
"Do we have any idea where he is?" she asked him as he trotted up to her and put his back against
the wall next to the gate.
"No," he said, patting the walkie-talkie attached to his belt. "Other than that he's still along the wall
somewhere. If he would've left, one of the position guards would've seen him."
"If they're watching what's going on," she said cynically.
"Yeah," he agreed. "If. I'd like to think that they'd at least put their extra-curricular activities on
hold for the few minutes it takes us to clear this asshole out of here."
"I'd like to think a lot of things," she said. "But they don't usually happen, do they?"
"No," he said. "They don't. But you work with what you got. Are you ready for this?"
She looked at him doubtfully, her eyes dilated in fear, her knuckles white on the grips of the M-16.
"I don't know," she said. "To tell you the truth, I'm scared shitless to go out there."
"So am I," he said. "It's never fun to go out where someone with a gun is waiting for you. But it's
our job Michelle, so let's do it."
"Why don't you take the 16?" she suggested. "You're better with it."
"But it's your assigned weapon," he told her. "And it would be insulting for me to take it away from
you."
"I don't mind," she said. "This is not like writing articles on how to masturbate or put on make-up!
I'm not sure I'm cut out for this!"
"You are," he told her. "And maybe you can write an article about it later. Now let's go." He
pointed to the gate. "I'll clear the wall just around the corner and you step out to cover me. Ready?"
"Brett," she pleaded, actually trembling now.
"You'll do fine," he said. "Remember, this is our job. It's time to get your cherry popped."
"My what?"
"I'll explain later," he said. "Let's do it."
Without giving her any more time for self-doubt, he poked his head around the corner of the
concrete wall, looking at the other side. Along the Route 63 side of the subdivision the concrete
wall curved back and forth, following the twists of the road. This meant that only about a hundred
feet or so was visible at any given point before a blind spot intruded. Brett saw nothing in that first
length. "It's clear," he told Michelle. "Move!"
She moved, her doubts and fears pushed to the back of her mind now that the moment was at hand.
She trotted sideways through the gate, her feet squishing in the mud, and trained her rifle along the
wall, eyes searching for the intruder. "Clear," she said, just loudly enough for him to hear.
Brett then slipped around the corner, hugging the wall. Holding the AK-47 at the ready, he moved
forward, edging out sideways so that more and more of the wall came into view. Michelle, as she
had been taught, edged out even further, covering his advance with the automatic weapon, her eyes
taking everything in at once.
They continued to move sideways, crossing over the highway and squishing through the mud on
the other side until all of the blind spots along the western wall were visible. They could now see
all the way to the point where the wall turned the corner. There was no straggler visible.
"Okay," Brett said. "He's probably still on the north side somewhere. Let's move up to the corner
real carefully, keep a sharp eye on the bend in case he comes around it."
"Right," Michelle said. She began to move forward.
It took them almost twenty minutes to cover the distance from the front gate to the northwest corner
of the wall. They stayed to the west side of the road, keeping close to the rolling hills and the trees
that marked that particular approach. As they drew closer they began to move from tree to tree,
trying to keep their bodies hidden from view. First Michelle would move forward and then Brett
would leapfrog past her, then the cycle would repeat itself. As such, it was Michelle that was first
in position to peer around the corner.
The northern stretch of wall was perfectly straight and she saw their quarry immediately. He was
about a hundred and fifty yards from the corner, crouching in the shadows, his back to the wall, his
rifle held tightly against his chest. He had seen her last dash from one tree to the next and he
reacted to it. He stood and turned towards her, bringing his weapon down into firing position.
"Shit," Michelle gasped, training the M-16 on him. She began to shoot, squeezing the trigger in
short bursts of three and four rounds apiece. The sharp cracks of gunfire sounded off and reddish-
orange flashes exploded from the barrel. She saw specks of concrete chip off of the wall next to the
man and she adjusted her fire, swinging just a hair to the left. Just as he got his own rifle into firing
position, it suddenly fell from his arms and he dropped to the ground, rolling into a shallow gully.
He didn't move. "He's down!" she yelled at Brett.
He leapfrogged around her and pulled himself behind a tree, looking in the direction that she had
been shooting. It took him a moment of searching but finally his eyes locked onto the prone man.
"He was gonna shoot at me Brett!" Michelle said, near the verge of hysterics. "He was pointing the
rifle at me! I swear!"
"It's okay Michelle," he said softly.
"I didn't WANT to shoot him, but he... he... "
"Michelle," he barked, a little louder this time. "Chill out baby. We're not done out here yet. Let's
move up and make sure he's not playing possum."
"Move up?" she said.
"Right," he told her, his eyes never leaving the man on the ground. "Take the lead please."
"But... but... "
"Take the lead Michelle," he said. "Keep that 16 trained on him. If you see him move, shoot him
again. Let's finish our job, okay?"
She took a few deep breaths. "Okay," she said, nodding. "Let's move up."
As they started to move forward, Brett took a brief moment to report what had happened to Paul
and the other guards that were monitoring the walkie-talkies. "We're moving along the northern
wall now," he reiterated to them, "so you guys in positions two and three hold your fire. If you see
movement it's probably us."
They reached the man a minute later. He was not playing possum. He had a series of holes in his
chest and even one in his throat from the bursts that Michelle had fired at him. His eyes were open,
unblinking, staring upward. His mouth was locked forever in an expression of panic.
"He's dead," Michelle whispered in awe. "I killed him."
"You sure did," Brett agreed, bending down to take a better look. "That was damn good shooting.
You did well."
"I've never killed anything before," she said, unable to take her eyes from him. "I mean... I mean... "
She shook her head a little. "I mean, he was just alive a minute ago and now he's not."
"And he was just about to shoot at you a minute ago, wasn't he?" Brett asked. "And he was also
trying to sneak into our town with a gun."
"Well... yeah... but... "
"But nothing," he said firmly. "You did what you had to do, what you signed up to do." He stood
up, turning towards her. He took her face in his hands and forced her to look away from the body
and up at him. She was trembling all over. "It's okay to feel guilty about it," he told her gently. "It's
a natural reaction among those of us that have morals. Just don't feel TOO guilty about it, okay? He
played the game with us and he lost. Too bad, so sad for him. We get to go back to town now, and
he gets to stay here and contribute to the future ecology. And that's the way it SHOULD be."
"I never thought it would be like this," she said, her eyes trying to look at the dead man again. "So...
so... fast. It was all over in a second."
He put his arms around her, pulling her against him. "That's the key phrase," he said, patting her
back comfortingly. "ALL OVER. You reacted just like you should have and now it's all over,
right?"
"Right," she said doubtfully, letting her head fall to his shoulder. "All over."
He held her that way for a minute, feeling her body tremble with adrenaline overload, knowing that
embracing each other in this hostile environment outside the wall was a bad idea but doing it
anyway. Finally she calmed a little and he was able to release her. He could see a few drops
running down her cheeks that might've been rainwater but were probably tears.
"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to freak out like that."
"As long as you do it AFTER the shooting stops and not during it, don't sweat it. I think we should
head back in now though."
"Okay." She gave him a weak smile.
They began to walk back the way they had come, their pace a little more hurried. Brett reported
over the radio that the subject was dead and that everyone could return to normal alert status. As
they reached the surface of the highway and began to walk south along it, towards the main gate
and the safety of the subdivision, he noticed that she was trembling even worse then she had been
back at the body.
"It takes a while to get it out of your system," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders again
and pulling her against him. "We'll get you some dinner and you'll feel a little better."
"I don't think I could eat right now," she said, leaning into him. "I already feel like I'm about to lose
my lunch."
"Well how about a drink first then," he suggested. "We'll get Paul to break loose a little whiskey
ration from the supply room. There's nothing like a few shots to help put killing someone into
perspective."
"Now that sounds like a plan I'd be happy to participate in," she said.

Meanwhile, back at the community center, dinner was in full swing and most of the town
population, oblivious to the events going on just outside their wall, was contentedly chomping
down on bowls of stew that had been made with cans of beef and vegetables and more than twenty
packages of Top Ramen noodles. They sopped up the juice of this soup with pieces of freshly
baked bread that had been cooked in large ovens powered by propane piped into the kitchen area
from a series of tanks that had once stood outside every home.
Jason, his belly full, finished up and carried his dishes up to the large cafeteria rack that stood in the
corner of the gym. Stacy was there, just removing a fresh batch of dirty dishes so she could carry
them to the trough that was used as a sink. His arrival there at the same time as hers seemed like a
coincidence but was not. He had timed it carefully in advance.
"Hi Jase," she said, flashing the smile that he had become increasingly infatuated with. "How was
chow tonight?"
"It was bitchin," he said enthusiastically, setting his plates down. "Did you cook it?"
"Me and Tina did," she told him. "It's kinda hard to keep from getting boring when you only have
canned food and powders to work with, but we try. I'm glad you liked it."
"I did," he said, giving her his own smile. "It was like totally the bomb. Really."
"So you heading out for watch now?" she asked, her hands moving plates from the large cart to a
smaller, wheeled one.
"No," he said. "I'm off tonight."
"You get a day off?" she asked, surprised.
"Brett makes all of us take at least one day off a week. He calls it a mental health day."
"So he's not quite the slave driver that everyone thinks he is, huh?"
He shrugged. "I'd actually rather be on shift tonight," he said. "What else do I have to do anyway?"
"If you're bored," she told him teasingly, "you can always come back and help us do dishes you
know."
He thought about that for a minute. "Okay," he finally said.
She looked at him strangely. "I was kidding Jase," she said. "You don't really have to help us."
"So I can't then?" he asked, disappointed.
She looked at him as if he were insane. "Are you trying to tell me that you WANT to come back
and help with dishes?"
"Why not? Like I said, what else do I have to do around here?"
She shook her head a little, the way one does when one realizes they are dealing with the mentally
challenged. "If you wanna help clean up after these slobs," she said, "then I sure ain't gonna stop
you. Start grabbing some dishes."
He got a crash course in Garden Hill kitchen clean-up operations over the next two hours. Though
Tina Gillian, who had been a cafeteria worker at the elementary school before the comet and who
was the official leader of the "culinary department" as it was called, thought he was crazy too, she
had no problem putting him to work. The hot water hose that normally supplied the bathtub had
been run into the kitchen area and was used to fill the trough with soapy water in which the dishes
were soaked and scrubbed. They were then moved to another trough full of cold, clear water from
the fire engine where the soap was rinsed off of them. From there they were given a final rinse with
running water supplied via hose from the rain gutter before they were neatly stacked on drying
racks until the next morning. Jason was put on rinse detail, making him the middle of a chain of
motion.
"Hey Tina," Stacy said at one point as she scrubbed the grime from a bowl, "did you know that
Brett makes the people on HIS detail take a day off every week? What do you say about that?"
"I say dream on," she answered. "Until that cunt Jessica decides to assign me a few more women to
help out in here, we're both stuck working every day."
"Like that's gonna happen," Stacy said bitterly.
"Yeah," Tina said, "because we can't have women of BREEDING working as mere kitchen hands,
can we?"
"God forbid," Stacy said.
"Even if most of them don't have any assigned jobs from day to day."
"Wait a minute," Jason said, wondering if he was hearing correctly. "Are you saying that the two of
you work in here every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that you NEVER get a day off?"
"That's the way it is sweetie," Tina replied.
"Jessica refuses to force any of the town women onto kitchen detail," Stacy clarified. "And you can
imagine how many volunteers we get for the job. So it's just the two of us. We're here from 4:30
every morning to almost 7:00 every night. We can usually get a little bit of a break between lunch
and dinner, but it ain't much." She shrugged. "It's our lot in life I guess."
"Yep," Tina said. "That's what we get for being poor women in a rich town. We're not part of the
clique so we've been turned into the servants."
"Don't ever let anyone tell you that the old ways are dead Jason," Stacy added. "Believe me, they're
alive and well."

"Would you care to see a lady safely home?" Stacy asked Jason after the kitchen was finally shut
down for the night. "I hear that there was bogeymen out there today."
"Uh... sure," he said doubtfully, opening the back door of the community center for her. She
waddled out into the darkness and the rain. He let the door swing shut behind him and then he
quickly trotted after her to catch up.
"Thanks a lot for helping out tonight Jase," she said once he fell in step with her. "That was really
sweet. We got done almost twenty minutes early because of you."
"I'm glad I could help," he said. "It gave me something to do. And I mean what I said. I'll talk to
Brett about talking to Jessica about getting some more people assigned to you."
"Well," she said, "I won't hold my breath or anything. I've heard Jessica routinely turns down
anything that Brett asks for."
"Maybe I'll have him ask to keep the kitchen staff just the way it is," he suggested. "You know?
Reverse psychology."
She laughed, slapping playfully at his arm. "It just might work," she told him.
They walked on through the rain, their feet splashing through puddles of backed up rainwater on
the sidewalks, navigating along by using the ambient lighting of the houses they passed. They went
up three blocks and then turned right, onto a street that backed up to the western wall. Most of the
houses out this far were uninhabited and dark. Finally they came to a single story house, the same
model that Jason, Brett, and Chrissie lived in.
"Well, here it is," Stacy said, digging in her pocket for a key. "Home sweet home. You wanna come
in for a little bit?"
"Come in?" he said nervously.
"Yeah," she told him. "I don't get company very often. And we won't have a chance to have our
little talk in the morning since you're not on guard duty tonight."
"Well... uh... " he stammered, suddenly nervous for no good reason.
"Come on," she prodded. "I'm not gonna bite you. It's me, Stacy, remember?"
"All right," he finally agreed, following her as she waddled up to the front door.
She lit two oil lamps and two candles, bathing the room in soft, orange light. In the formal living
room portion of the house, her laundry was hanging by a line, drying in the air. He saw several
pairs of the stretch pants and stretch jeans she habitually wore as well as a variety of flannel
maternity shirts, bras, and even some cotton panties. He blushed when he saw this, quickly turning
his head away.
Pretending not to notice his embarrassment she hung up his rain jacket for him and then led him
into the family room of the house, which was just adjacent to the kitchen area. "Grab a seat," she
told him. "I'm gonna go change into my jammies and get comfortable."
"Uh... okay," he said, walking over to a couch and planting himself on it.
"Don't I have a nice TV?" she asked as she disappeared down the hall with a candle. "It came with
the house. Turn it on why don't you? Find us something to watch."
Jason dutifully laughed at her joke although inside his stomach he almost felt as if he was going to
throw up. What was going on here? Why had Stacy invited him into her house? Was it really just
for company, as she had said? Or was it... something else that she wanted? Surely it couldn't be
THAT could it? He was just a kid! And she was pregnant! Pregnant women didn't do things like...
like... sex did they? He didn't know but suspected that they didn't. After all, they were already
pregnant. What would be the point of their body making them horny?
In the five minutes that it took for Stacy to change her clothes, Jason went through several cycles in
which he first convinced himself that she was definitely trying to seduce him and then convinced
himself that she just wanted to talk like they always did. He would first envision her emerging from
the bedroom wearing a see-through negligee straight out of a Frederick's of Hollywood catalogue
and then the vision would degenerate to a baggy sweater and a pair of sweats. He would talk
himself into believing that she wanted him and then, just as quickly talk himself right back out of it.
He was a kid for Christ sakes and she was a full-grown woman! Sure, she liked to talk to him, like
to hug him, and had even pecked his cheeks a few times when she was feeling particularly
affectionate. But desire? Need? He thought not. But still, maybe if she...
"Much better," she said at last, walking out of the bedroom.
He looked up at her with a little jump, seeing neither the negligee nor the baggy sweater. Instead,
she was wearing a matching set of very proper, non-revealing silk pajamas. They were gold in color
and appeared to have been specifically designed for pregnant women to wear since the hem of the
top did not ride up and show her belly.
"You like them?" she said, noting his interest in her attire. She gave a quick spin around, modeling
them for him. "Pretty high class, huh?"
"They're uh... nice," he almost croaked, not failing to notice the jiggle in her chest as she spun. He
knew from living with Chrissie that that jiggle meant she was not wearing a bra. When he saw such
a thing in his sister it always made him mildly disgusted for having noticed it. Seeing it in Stacy
however, he felt a wave of desire wash over him. Blood began to rush to his penis.
"They were probably about a week's salary for me before the comet," she said, setting her candle
down on the table and plopping herself into the couch next to him. "But there's tons of shit like this
in the supply room at the community center. Maternity wear for every occasion. I guess those rich
bitches were good for something, weren't they?"
"I guess so," he said, seeing that she had a bottle of something in her right hand. She tucked it in
one of the cushions before he could see what it was.
She put her bare feet up on the coffee table in front of her and leaned back into the couch. "Ahhhh,
relaxation," she said. "This is my favorite time of the day. I can just kick it for a few hours until it's
bedtime. Usually I just read or something but now I have some company." She smiled, her hand
reaching out to touch his arm. "Did you know that you're my very first guest here? Not even Tina
has been over to my pad."
"I'm uh... honored," he said.
"Well you should be," she said, keeping her hand where it was. "It's not everyone who gets invited
over to the pregnant hussy's house you know. I do have an image to maintain in this community."
That broke the tension a little bit and they shared a laugh. A moment later they were talking
naturally together, as they did in the mornings at breakfast. Jason hardly noticed when she scooted
closer to him, edging her bottom across the cushion inch by inch. It was only when their hips came
into contact, when he felt the warmth of her touching him, that he became cognizant. His penis,
which had softened back up during the talk period once again became interested in the goings-on.
"Can you do me a favor?" she asked him, turning towards him a little.
"Uh... sure," he said.
She reached into the couch and held up the bottle that she'd had in her hand earlier. He saw that it
was Johnson's Baby Oil. "I have to put this stuff on my stomach every night to keep stretch marks
from forming. Would you mind doing it for me?"
"You want me to... put oil on your stomach?" he asked slowly, his penis taking a huge lurch in his
pants at the very thought.
"If you don't mind," she said. "I usually do it myself but it kind of hurts my shoulders to reach
forward like that now that I'm as big as a whale. And since you just happen to be here... " She gave
him a pleading smile.
"Uhhh, well... " he stammered, wanting desperately to do what she asked but not wanting to seem
TOO eager. After all, she might think he was a pervert or something.
"If it grosses you out, I understand," she said. "Really. I'll just go in the bathroom and do it."
"No no!" he nearly shouted, sensing his opportunity slipping away from him. "I'll do it."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "What are friends for?"
She smiled and handed him the clear plastic bottle. Its surface was already slightly oily from many
previous handlings with greasy fingers. His hand trembled as he took it and it almost slipped from
his grasp. Stacy pretended not to notice this. Instead, she grabbed the hem of her pajama shirt and
pulled it up, uncovering her bulging belly to his gaze. Her skin was smooth and tight, very pale
from the lack of any recent sunlight upon it. Her belly button was small and protruding slightly
outward from the pressure behind it. She ran her fingers over the bottom third of her stomach and
the sides. "Here's where you get stretch marks," she told him. "Be sure to rub it in really good down
there."
He nodded, his mouth too dry for him to speak. He opened the bottle up, flipping the lid back on its
plastic hinge by pushing upward with his thumb. This revealed a small hole through which the oil
could be squirted. He upended the bottle over her stomach, right above the belly button, and gave a
squeeze. This propelled a generous amount of the mineral oil onto her flesh. It puddled up and
began to run quickly down the sides of her tummy, towards the couch. She giggled a little at the
contact.
He moved his shaking hand to her stomach and put it right in the middle of the oil puddle he had
created. He began to rub in circles, sliding his digits over her skin, smearing the oil all over her.
The oil quickly heated up from the radiant warmth of his hand and her stomach and she sighed a
little, closing her eyes and leaning backwards against the couch. The feel of that slippery, oily flesh
against his hand was perhaps the most erotic sensation that he had ever experienced. Her stomach
was very tight and hot, almost frictionless as his circles became wider and wider.
"Ohhhh," Stacy moaned with a pleased giggle. "This feels soooo much better when you do it."
"Does it?" he croaked.
"It's the bomb," she assured him. "Be sure to get the sides."
He continued to rub and caress her skin, even going so far as to dump some of the oil into his other
hand so he could use both of them. Soon the entire mass of her pregnant stomach was coated and
glistening in the candlelight. His penis was, by then, so turgid within his pants that he was forced to
shift back and forth uncomfortably trying to adjust it.
"How's that?" he asked her after about five minutes. Though he did not want to stop what he was
doing he figured that her tummy was now very well oiled up.
She opened her eyes for a moment and looked at him. "A little bit more," she told him with a
contented smile. "Be sure to get the tops and the bottom." With that she reached up and pulled her
pajama top even higher. He gasped a little as he realized that he could see the bottom of her breasts
protruding from beneath the silk. It was just a hint of swelling, pale flesh but it was undoubtedly
her tits; her TITS, that he was seeing. And then she moved her hands lower, grasping the waist of
her bottoms. These she pushed downward, just a hint, revealing even more of her lower stomach far
below where the bulge of her uterus stopped. Peeking from just above the waistband he was now
able to see a narrow strip of bright red hair, very curly and very sparse, peeking out. That was her
pubic hair, he realized. He was seeing the top of her bush!
He hesitated for a second, his mind whirring in confusion as it tried to process what she was doing.
Did she realize that she was showing him the bottom of her tits? The top of her bush? Did she have
any idea at all? And if she did, why was she doing it? Was she trying to tease him? Or was she
trying to seduce him?
"What's the hold-up?" she asked softly, picking up the bottle of oil and handing it to him. "I can
feel stretch marks forming as we speak."
"Sorry," he said, taking the bottle. He squirted a little bit on her lower stomach and a little bit more
on her upper. He began to rub again, spreading the slippery warmth towards her most private
regions.
She closed her eyes again, leaning back against the couch as he worked on her. His own eyes kept
darting between that small patch of fiery red fuzz poking out of her bottoms and those two bits of
pale pink swelling peeking out from the tops. His hands moved in wider and wider circles, his right
hand moving upward with each rotation, his left hand moving downward. His erection was now
throbbing almost painfully in his pants, bulging outward with enough pressure to make a noticeable
lump beneath the button-fly. He noticed that her nipples were hard, their shapes pushing against the
material of her top. Her breathing was also quicker than it had been a few minutes before. Did that
mean anything? Or was it just a coincidence?
Soon, the arcs of the circles he was making as he rubbed in the oil increased to the point that he was
almost brushing against her clothing. His left hand began to slide along the patch of hair at the
downward limit of its exploration and his right hand began to slide along the soft swelling of her
tits. He watched her face as he made the first few contacts, expecting her eyes to fly open and her
hands to slap his away from her. Instead, she only sighed and sank deeper into the couch, her body
squirming back and forth a little bit under his touch.
Suddenly, her hands were in motion, moving almost before he registered it. They grabbed at the
buttons on her top, undoing them one by one. Her eyes opened up and looked at him. When the last
button was released she pulled open the top, baring her breasts to his view. They were swollen and
tight, about the size of softballs, the nipples huge and engorged with blood. This was Jason's first
view of bare female breasts that did not belong to either Chrissie or his mother (he had once
accidentally walked in on his mom in the bathroom about a year before the comet). He thought that
they were, hands down, the most beautiful, feminine things that he had ever had the privilege of
casting his eyes upon.
"Put some oil on them," Stacy said breathlessly.
"You mean... " he croaked, almost shooting off in his pants.
"Touch them," she said. "Squeeze them. Rub it in!"
With a hand that was now shaking like a paint-mixer, he squirted oil onto both of her mammaries,
drenching them. He let the bottle drop to the couch between them and then reached out for her,
each hand grabbing a slippery tit. He began to rub all over their surface, spreading the oil around
and coating them until they were as glistening as her tummy. He then began to squeeze and feel
them, touching everywhere at once, squishing them and feeling the soft skin give under his caress.
Her nipples pushed insistently into his palms, slipped through his fingers, and begged for further
touch. They swoll up even larger than they had been, becoming virtual rocks of pink flesh.
"I like your hands on me," Stacy whispered to him, her eyes watching his exhalted face. "Do you
like touching me?"
Speechless, he could only nod as he pushed the two boobs together and then pulled them apart, as
he fondled and squeezed and palpated.
"Why don't you suck them?" she breathed, her hand reaching out to touch the back of his neck. She
pulled him gently towards her chest.
A little groan escaped from his mouth as he lowered his head and put his lips to the nearer breast,
capturing the slippery nipple and slurping it into his mouth. He tasted the bitter tang of the mineral
oil on his tongue and felt it coating his lips but this did not detract from the pleasure of the moment
in the least. He swirled his tongue around the nubbin and sucked on it like a baby.
"Mmmmm," Stacy moaned, her hand continuing to caress the back of his neck. "I just love having
my nipples sucked. That feels so good Jason. Soooo good."
Encouraged by her responses, Jason switched to the other breast, attacking that nipple and sucking
all the oil off it. This forced him to lean over her body just a little bit more, bringing more of her
flesh into contact with him. He could feel that big, pregnant belly pushing into his chest and he
liked it.
She grabbed one of his hands in hers and pushed it downward, sliding it over her stomach and
down, until his fingers were touching the oily strip of hair at the edge of her bottoms. She continued
to push and his hand slid beneath the silk and into the forest of pubic hair. Her legs opened up,
giving him room and soon his fingers were touching the wet lips of her sex. He could not believe
that this was happening to him. How many times had he imagined touching a girl's pussy? A
thousand? A million? And now it was really happening to him. Not only was he touching it but
Stacy was encouraging him, with the way she raised her hips up and down, to explore it thoroughly.
"Mmmmm," she moaned as he felt all around the swollen lips. They were hot and very slick, made
even slicker by the oil clinging to his fingers. He slipped his middle finger inside of her, having to
reposition his arm to do so, and felt a wonderful tightness clenching at him. It felt even better than
he had imagined it would in his fantasies.
He fingered her for perhaps ten minutes, gradually adding a second digit to her chasm. The wetness
continued to pour out of her, saturating his hand in fragrant juices. When the musky odor of her
vaginal secretions reached his nose for the first time it gave him pause. It was strikingly similar to
the odor that Chrissie had given off in the lean-to during those black nights when she and Brett
would have sex next to him, thinking that he wasn't awake. An odor associated with one's sister is
not generally the best aphrodisiac in the world. But gradually, as nature intended, the subtle
differences between Stacy's scent and Chrissie's asserted themselves in his mind. Stacy's smell was
cleaner, fresher, not quite as strong (undoubtedly because Stacy was relatively clean as compared to
how Chrissie had been on the occasions he had smelled her). Soon, instead of reminding him of
Chrissie grunting and groaning and occasionally whacking him with her elbow, he began to
associate the smell with the pleasure he was now feeling with his hands and his lips. He began to
associate the odor with Stacy's body instead of Chrissie's, with the slippery feel of mineral oil on
flesh, of hot nipple in mouth, of moist, inviting lips grasping his finger.
He continued to suckle on her breasts as his fingers did their work, switching from one to the other
with frequency. Stacy only moaned in pleasure, her fingers running through his hair, her hips
slowly rising and falling upon his hand.
And then suddenly, she pushed him off her, squirming out from beneath his body and standing up.
He looked up at her guiltily, thinking that he had done something wrong or that she had suddenly
realized what she was doing and was calling a halt to it. But she was doing no such thing. She
shrugged her shoulders and the pajama tops fell to the ground. She gave a little push with her hands
and the bottoms dropped as well, allowing him to finally see that wonderful pussy that he had just
been groping. It was swollen and pouting almost angrily with arousal, the red hair matted with her
secretions. He saw a swollen red bump near the top of it that looked almost like a small nipple. Was
that her clitoris? He had read about such a thing in magazines but had never seen one in the wild
before.
"Lay down on the couch," she told him lustily, her eyes tracking up and down his body.
Wordlessly he did as he was told, lying on his back before her with his feet up. Strangely enough
he instinctively tried to hide the fact that he had an erection from her. Never before had such a thing
been a source of pride to him in an encounter with a female and old habits died hard. He turned his
hips slightly away from her but she reached down and turned them right back, her eyes glued to the
bulge in his jeans.
"Should we let him out to play a little?" Stacy giggled, running her hand over the denim of his
crotch.
He jumped uncontrollably at the contact, nearly falling off the couch. "Umm, sure... " he panted.
She smiled down at him, her fingers going to the button of his pants. "Its okay that you've never
done it before," she told him gently, her fingers popping the first button open. "It's kind of sexy
actually. I get to be your first."
Of course he had never told her that he was a virgin but it seemed that his secret was apparent. "I
don't really know... uh... what to do," he said.
"It's okay," she said, giving her belly a rub. "I do."
She undressed him slowly, pulling off his pants first and then his shirt. His cock, once freed from
its confines, stood up as rigid as a flagpole, pre-cum dripping from the end like a leaky faucet. He
had not quite finished growing yet and, as such, he was only about five inches long. But Stacy did
not seem to mind. Her eyes drank in the sight of his manhood, her tongue licking over her lips.
But she did not touch it yet, did not even get close to it. Instead, she picked up the bottle of baby oil
that he had recently used on her and sprayed it all over his chest and stomach.
"Jesus," he cried, jumping at the feel of the cold liquid upon his skin.
"It'll get hotter in a minute," Stacy promised, sitting on the edge of the couch near his hip. "Believe
me, it'll get a lot hotter."
She began to rub the oil into his skin, her hands spreading it all over his torso, turning his body into
the same glistening mass of flesh that hers was. She squirted some more on his legs and rubbed
each one, her hands massaging the muscles, driving his arousal to the brink. Throughout this
massage she did not touch his penis at all, coming no closer to it than the top of his pubic hair
despite his many attempts to lift his hips into her hands and force the contact.
"The time will come for that," she said, kissing his cheek softly as she continued to rub up and
down his stomach.
Just when he thought he couldn't stand it any further, just as his balls were aching like a rotten tooth
from pent-up sperm and his dick felt like it was going to snap under the pressure, she leaned over
the top of him, so that her breasts were dangling over his cock. Her boobs were still quite oily from
the treatment he had given them earlier, everywhere except the nipples. She took a breast in each
hand and leaned down even further, capturing his cock between them. She then pushed them
together and began to move them back and forth, sliding that smooth flesh all over the shaft of his
erection.
"Ohhhh," Jason grunted, his hands clenching into fists at the contact. Never had he felt anything
even remotely like this. And then it got even better. Continuing to rub him between her tits, she
craned her head forward and sucked the head of his cock into her mouth. He suddenly felt himself
enclosed in a pleasing warmth, felt the tip of her tongue swirling around him, felt the teasing
suction. "Gawwwwww!" he cried, his body spasming. He began to come, blasting a huge load of
hot sperm into her sucking mouth. She swallowed frantically, continuing to rub at him with her tits,
as he shot spurt after spurt between her lips.
He was horrified to have come so quickly, almost at the first touch, but Stacy didn't seem to mind at
all. On the contrary, she smiled at him while she continued to lick and suck at him. She released her
breasts but continued her mouth action, licking up and down, gathering every last drop of his seed
as it oozed out of him. She even dipped down and took his balls into her mouth, sucking them one
by one while her hand took over the job of manipulating his penis.
"You have such a beautiful dick," she said, lapping up the sides of it like a little girl with an ice
cream cone. "And it's already getting hard again. Isn't that something?"
Sure enough, she was right. Less than two minutes after firing off into her gulping mouth, he was
once again becoming rigid as steel, his hips rising and falling in a gentle rhythm. She took the
entire thing in her mouth now, deep throating him slowly and then rising back up to do it again.
Jason groaned as he felt this, never having thought that a simple blowjob could feel so good.
When he was nice and hard again she removed her mouth from him and slowly slid up his body,
kissing her way over his stomach and chest until she got to his face. She began to kiss his lips, her
wet tongue probing outward, licking his lips, trying to force its way in. Though he was very
cognizant of the fact that he had just come in that mouth and though he had no desire to taste his
own sperm, he nevertheless could not resist the insistent probing of that tongue. His lips parted and
her tongue shot into his mouth, swirling together with his, tasting him, sucking on him.
As they shared their first kiss she pulled her body off of the floor where she had been kneeling and
onto the couch, climbing atop him, pressing her nakedness into his. Their chests slid together on a
film of baby oil, her large nipples tracing racetrack patterns around his smaller ones. His hands
came up and began to run up and down her back while hers slid up and down his flanks. Her legs
slid sensuously over the tops of his, letting him feel the softness of feminine thighs against his own
for the first time. She broke the kiss some time later, giving one last lick at his lips, and then she
pulled herself upward, into a sitting position. His cock was pushing gently against the cheeks of her
ass, the head nestled slightly between them. She raised herself up and little more and reached
beneath her, taking his hardness into her hand.
"I want you in me," she said, looking down at him, lust in her eyes.
"Okay," he managed to say with a broken voice.
She eased back a little and soon he found himself being rubbed through a delicious wetness. She
moved the head back and forth a few times and then lowered her body, taking him inside of her. He
slipped between her wet lips and into the tightness of her cavern. He felt himself being gripped
from everywhere at once as she sank down upon him and buried his cock in her warmth.
"Ohhh, sooo good," she sighed, twirling her hips around gently, her hands resting on his shoulders.
She began to raise herself up and down, pushing and pulling, driving him in and out of her.
Jason was in complete and total awe as he felt her gripping him and moving up and down upon
him. He was actually FUCKING a woman. Fucking! And not a girl either, but a full-grown
woman! And it felt so much better than he had ever thought that it would. It was not just the
experience of her pussy sliding up and down on his cock, although that was the centerpiece of the
tactile sensations. He could feel her entire body moving against his. He could feel her swollen,
pregnant stomach pressing into his. He could feel her soft thighs straddling his oily legs. He could
smell that rich odor rising into the air around him. And he could touch her anywhere that he
wanted! He could reach up and take her tits into his hand, even suck on them, and she didn't mind!
He could touch her ass as it bounced atop him and she didn't mind! She was his and he was hers.
Finally, at long last, he understood what all of the fuss was about.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that he had already come once, he did not last very long within her.
Less than two minutes after she took him into her body he felt the familiar spasms beginning in his
lower regions. He tried to concentrate on something else, tried to think about anything but what he
was doing, but it was to no avail. He was going to come and he was going to come hard.
"It's okay," she told him, picking up the pace of her ministrations as she felt him start to buck
uncontrollably beneath her. "Come in me Jason. I want it. Come in me." She leaned down and
began kissing him again, driving her tongue into his mouth.
That pushed him completely over the edge. With another grunt and another explosion of pleasure,
he shot his second load upward, into her clenching pussy. She moaned deeply as she felt his seed
splashing her insides.
Again he felt mortified that he had blasted off so quickly and again, she calmed his concerns, this
time with gentle kisses and playful strokes. "It's okay," she whispered to him, licking at his lips
between words. "Really, it is. I understand."
"But you didn't... you know?"
"I didn't come?" she asked. "Is that what you were trying to say."
"Yes," he said.
"No," she agreed. "I didn't. But I will. Would you like to help me?"
"Help you?"
"Help me," she said. "There's something you can do for me that will help me come."
"What?" he asked, somewhat naively.
She smiled and pulled herself off of him, his wilting dick popping free of her with a rush of juices.
She pulled herself into a sitting position, so that her pussy was resting upon his abdomen. She then
began to slide forward, towards his face.
Jason looked at her swollen sex doubtfully. The lips were bulging outward and filled with blood,
her clit pushing out of its hood and rigid. A mixture of white and clear juice ran out of her, dripping
down her crotch onto his chest.
"I'll understand if you don't want to do it," she told him breathlessly. "But if you just suck my clit
for a few minutes, I'll come all over your face. Oh Jason, please." She scooted closer, bringing
herself to within a few inches. The odor of sex was now overpowering. "I neeeeed it!"
Though he had not signed on for this kind of thing when he had agreed to walk her home, he rose to
the challenge. He grabbed her thighs with his hands and pulled her forward, locking his lips onto
the bump of her clitoris. He stabbed at it with his tongue and began to suck on it gently, as if it were
a nipple.
"Ohhh, god yessss!" Stacy cried, her hips grinding her into his face. "Just like that!"
He knew he was getting some of his own sperm in his mouth but he didn't mind. He concentrated
all of his energies upon giving Stacy the same kind of pleasure that she had given him. He pulled
her tighter against him and sucked harder, feeling her hard clit against his tongue. As she had
predicted, it took only a few minutes before she began to slam herself uncontrollably into him. Her
hands squeezed painfully upon his legs, which they were holding for support, and the bulge of her
belly bounced up and down atop his head. She screamed loudly as her orgasm overtook her.
Afterward, they cuddled together on the couch, their hands gently stroking each other's body.
"Jason?" she said, her face nestled in his neck.
"What?" he asked, trailing his hand over the rise of her stomach. That pregnant tummy fascinated
him.
"Will you move in with me?"

Chapter 6
Chapter 6
"Oh come on," Brett chided, his words more than a little slurred, "put more than THAT in there!"
Michelle giggled, upending the tequila bottle a tad more and letting another half ounce of the liquid
run into the orange juice glass. "I don't weigh as much as you do," she said, her words considerably
more slurred than his. "Don't you know that therapeutic," it took her three tries to spit this word out,
"dosage is based on weight, goddammit?"
"It sounds to me like you can't handle your booze," he said, picking up the two-liter bottle of warm
Pepsi and opening the lid. About a quarter of the bottle was gone now. There was a hiss as the gas
escaped.
"I can handle anything you can throw at me," she declared, staring at him defiantly with her
reddened eyes. "Pour the fuckin' soda."
"Right," he said, pouring an equal amount of the soda into each glass, so that the total amount of
liquid in each was about two-thirds. They then each picked up a small dishtowel, towels that were
now damp and boozy smelling, and placed them over the tops of their glasses. "Are you ready?" he
asked her.
"Fuckin' aye," she said. "On three."
They counted to three together and then slammed the glasses sharply onto the wooden crate that sat
in front of them. They then removed the towels from the glasses revealing a foamy, fizzing
concoction of soda bubbles and tequila. As quickly as they could, before the bubbles had a chance
to begin to settle, they put the glasses to their mouths and sucked the contents down their throats.
They were in what had once been an equipment storage room of the community center. Before the
comet it had been where the athletic equipment such as basketballs and badminton sets had been
kept. Now, in post-comet life, it had been converted to a different kind of storage. All of the
alcohol, marijuana, pills, and other drugs stronger than Tylenol were neatly arranged on shelves.
Paul, after having the need for a critical incident stress debriefing explained to him, had opened it
up and allowed the two of them unlimited use of its contents for the night. Jessica and Dale had of
course balked at this, as they did nearly everything, but Paul's insistence had eventually won out.
They were sitting on the carpeted floor, their backs against the wall, their legs stretched out in front
of them. The bottle of Jose Cuervo and the bottle of Pepsi rested on the small crate along with a
small bag of potent marijuana and a disposable lighter. On the floor, directly between them, was a
large ceramic water bong that appeared to have been made by a master craftsman at considerable
expense. After every second or third shot of booze they would load its bowl up with the bud and
add that chemical to their bloodstream as well.
"Blaaaah," Michelle said, sticking out her tongue and taking a few breaths. "I don't care what you
say, it's still gross. There's nothing you can do to tequila to make it taste good."
"This is how I used to get drunk when I was kid," Brett told her, secretly agreeing with her. It did
taste like shit. "Good old Alabama slammers. The fastest, most tasteless way to get hard alcohol
into your system. When you're trying to drink some of your dad's booze without him knowing
about it, it's the only way to go."
She stifled a burp with her hand, fearing for a moment that more than gas was going to come out. "I
was more into wine coolers," she said. "Remember those Bartles and James coolers? I drank so
much of those once that I passed out in the toilet."
They shared experiences of past vomitus drinking episodes for a few minutes, during which time
they both had one more slammer. Since neither one of them had bothered with dinner on that night
the booze went almost immediately to their heads, increasing their euphoria and making them
forget about the tension that they had experienced earlier along the wall.
Brett picked at a loose strand of carpet with his fingers. "So what do you think?" he asked her. "Do
you feel better about shooting that guy now?"
Her face sobered a little as she was reminded of it. "I'm not shaking anymore," she said. "That's
something, isn't it?"
"Well, the booze is an artificial and temporary coping mechanism. It's easy to forget after you drink
down a bunch of tequila. The trick is maintaining that coping after the booze wears off."
"We'll just have to wait and see then, won't we?"
He gave her a smile. "You'll do fine," he said. "You're a natural ass-kicker. I could tell that just
from training."
"So now my cherry's been popped, right?" she asked with a giggle.
"Correct," he said, with a chuckle of his own. "You're a virgin no more."
That declaration called for another drink. They poured the tequila, topped it off with soda, and then
wrapped the glass in a towel. A count of three and a slam and the alcohol was fizzing away. They
drank it and then set their empty glasses back down. The entire process took less than a minute.
"I'm starting to get dizzy," Michelle said, wiping a thin layer of sweat from her forehead. "I haven't
drank like this since... well, in a long time."
"Me either," he said, remembering that the last time he had gotten good and drunk had been in a
cop bar after work about a month before the comet. He had worked a patrol car that shift because
the department's single helicopter had been down for maintenance. Spending 10 hours on the
ground as just another grunt, responding to family fights and domestic violence calls and false
burglar alarms and making vehicle stops had reawakened the camaraderie with his fellow cops that
he was not usually exactly a part of anymore. And so he had gone to the 11-99 Club with them at
end of watch. Loud music had been playing on the jukebox and the talk had been animated and
profane, the way cops always talked when they were among their own kind. He had drank
boilermakers until nearly closing time and had to be carried into the house when he finally got
home. And Julie had been so pissed at him! He remembered the angry expression on her face as she
yelled at him about his no-good friends and asked him if he had ever heard of a telephone before.
He sighed a little now, finding the memory very painful to think about now. Michelle's face was a
mirror of his own, telling him that she was recalling her last time with the same sort of agonizing
nostalgia. Where had she been? With her husband? With her girlfriends? With a magazine editor?
He did not ask her, not wanting to travel down the road that such thoughts would open up.
"Did you notice that he wasn't starving?" Michelle asked him, apparently just as anxious to change
the subject.
"Yes," Brett said, not needing to know who the HE that she was referring to was. It could only be
the man she had shot along the wall. "I did notice that. It bothers me for some reason that I can't
quite put my finger on. I didn't realize that you had noticed it too though. Pretty good eye."
"I'm a writer," she said, reaching into the marijuana bag and pulling out a pinch. She began to roll it
between her fingers, compacting it into a ball. "Writers are observant by their very nature. We
notice the small details of things. It's how we earn our living."
"Cops too," he said. "So tell me, Ms. Observant, what do you make of it? Why would a man who
has been eating fairly well try to sneak in here after he was already driven off once?"
"Lot's of reasons," she said, putting her small ball into the bowl of the bong. "He could be running
out of food now and thinks he can get more in here."
"He could be," Brett agreed. "But perhaps you noticed that he did not have a backpack or any kind
of carrying device with him. What was he planning on taking his bounty out in? He wouldn't go
through all the trouble of sneaking in just so he could grab a few cans and leave, would he?"
"You wouldn't think," she said, picking up the lighter. "But then maybe he figured that he would be
able to find something to carry it with once he got inside." She struck a light and began to suck on
the mouthpiece of the bong. The marijuana turned orange and shriveled up, finally disappearing
down the hole below it.
"That doesn't make a lot of sense to me either," Brett said, grabbing a pinch of his own from the
bag and beginning to roll it around. "An empty backpack or carry bag does not slow down your
movements enough to justify leaving it behind in the hopes that you will find another one. And I
can't buy the argument that he just didn't have one. If he's been eating, he would have had
something to carry supplies in."
She exhaled a plume of acrid smoke into the room. "That all makes sense," she said. "So what do
you think he was planning on doing in here?"
"I don't know," he said, shaking his head. He turned the bong towards him and began to stuff the
hole. "It bothers me though. Anything that doesn't seem to make sense on the surface bothers me
because usually it does make sense in some way that you can't figure out. Can I have that lighter?"
She gave it to him and watched as he sucked up his own hit. "Do you think the committee will
listen to you now and let you change the guard posts around?" she asked him.
He exhaled, coughing a few times since his lungs were not used to such treatment. Nevertheless he
felt the effects of the latest hit pushing his intoxication to a level approaching obliteration. It was
not an unpleasant sensation at all. "No," he replied. "Even though that person did exactly what I
warned them we were vulnerable too, namely people hiding along the wall, Jessica and Dale will
not let me move the guard posts. They will say it is an isolated incident or a freak occurrence and
that it won't likely happen again. Hell, I wouldn't put it past them to say that I bribed the guy to do
that. That I found some outsider and gave him a week's rations to play hide and seek outside the
wall and that I then had him shot dead to cover it up. After all," he said, mimicking Jessica's voice,
"it was Chrissie that spotted him first, wasn't it? Isn't THAT just a strange coincidence? Little frail
Chrissie being the one to spot the big, bag straggler?"
"She does kind of live in a world of her own, doesn't she?"
"She lives in an entirely different universe," Brett said. "And she's trying to drag all of us in there
with her."
As if speaking of her summoned her spirit, the sound of soft footfalls began to echo along the
carpet outside. Both knew it was Jessica before her face even appeared in the open doorway. They
stopped what they were doing and looked up as she looked down at them. Her sharp, vulture's eyes
took in the companionable way that they were sitting together and her face twisted into an
interested gaze. Already she was formulating the gossip she would spread. Did you hear? Michelle
and Brett! I swear! You should have SEEN the way they were sitting next to each other. Mmmm
hmmm.
"What's up boss?" Brett asked, unmistakable sarcasm dripping from that last word. Michelle began
to giggle as she heard it.
Jessica's expression darkened, immediately changing to disapproval. She looked at the tequila
bottle and the marijuana bag. "You two certainly have helped yourself to quite a bit of our stock
now, haven't you?"
Brett shrugged. "Adequate payment for protecting the sanctity of this settlement, wouldn't you
say?"
"Stragglers are shot several times a week," she told him. "Do we invite every guard who does that
in here to raid our trade goods?"
"No," he said. "But then they usually don't have to go track them down and shoot at them in the
open either. Why don't you cut us a little slack Jess? Here," he held up the bong. "Let me load you
up a nice bong hit. It'll mellow you out."
"I do not take bong hits," she said with extreme distaste. "I don't know why we even kept that stuff.
It's illegal. You of all people should know that."
"I'll tell you what," he said, reaching in and pulling out another pinch, "when the federal
government and the California state government gets its shit back together, reinstates civilization,
reenacts the penal code and the drug control act, and gives me a new badge, I'll be the first to seize
the supply, okay? Until then, I think I'll just burn it a little bit at a time." He stuffed his pinch in and
picked up the lighter.
Michelle giggled again, shaking her head at Brett's quick tongue. Jessica glared at both of them,
daggers in her eyes. "In any case," she said sternly, "there is something going on tonight that I
thought Brett should be aware of. It is potentially very scandalous and shocking."
"Oooh, let me guess," Michelle said, holding up her hand as Brett took his bong hit. "Someone has
snuck out to one of the guard posts to have unauthorized sex?"
Though this was not particularly funny, Brett and Michelle both found it to be in their present
condition. Michelle erupted into hysterical chuckles while Brett coughed out the carefully prepared
inhalation he had just completed, and more than a little saliva. Michelle, still giggling, began
patting him on the back.
Jessica did not find this the least bit amusing. "No," she said huffily. "Although that subject is not
something that should be laughed at."
Brett got himself under control, his laughter reluctantly tapering off and dying away. "Of course
not," he said, wiping a tear from his eye and giving a few more light coughs. "Forgive me. So what
kind of scandal is going on that I should be made aware of during this official debrief session?"
"It seems," Jessica said, her expression now taking on the barely repressed delight that it assumed
whenever she was sharing a particularly damaging piece of gossip, "that your young friend, Jason,
was seen accompanying our kitchen server, Stacy, to the house that was assigned to her."
Brett looked up at her, uncomprehending. "That's it? What's the big deal about that? They're
friends. I see them talking together when I go in for early breakfast."
"Jason does have the night off you know," Michelle, who had finally gotten herself under control,
added helpfully. "He's not skipping out on his detail if that's what you're worried about."
"She invited him inside," Jessica exclaimed. "And he has not come back out yet!"
Michelle and Brett looked at each other for a moment and then back at Jessica. "How do you know
that he hasn't come back out yet?" Brett asked. "Do you have somebody following them around?"
"Well of course," she said, as if doing such a thing was by-the-book doctrine. "When I saw them
leaving together I sent Maggie to see where they were going." She patted a walkie-talkie that was
on her belt. "As of five minutes ago, he was still in there, no doubt being molested by that... that...
bimbo!"
Michelle's jaw dropped as she heard this. Brett's came close. "Are you telling me," he said slowly
and carefully, "that you are using the security division's communications gear to keep track of the
activities of two of the townspeople?"
Jessica scoffed. "Stacy is no more a member of this town than you are," she said. "She worked
making coffee before the comet. She's lucky we even let her stay here at all. And now look how she
repays us. By corrupting your friend! I always knew she was a shameless slut!"
"This is unbelievable," Brett whispered.
"I'm glad you agree with me for once," Jessica said. "Now what are you going to do about it? Are
you too drunk to take care of it yourself? I can get Paul and... "
"YOU are the one that is unbelievable," Brett interrupted. "Where in the hell do you get off having
people followed around like that? What the hell makes you think you have the RIGHT to do that?"
"She is taking advantage of a young boy!" Jessica screamed. "Where do YOU get off not even
acknowledging that fact?"
"I hardly think Jason is in any danger," Brett said. "In fact, he's probably having the time of his life.
If he and Stacy want to boff their brains out, what business is it of yours?"
"He's fourteen years old!" she reiterated loudly. "Fourteen! Are you saying that you think its okay
for a full grown, pregnant hussy like that to take advantage of him?"
"It's okay for him to kill stragglers for you and protect you while you sleep, but it's not okay for
him to get laid?" Brett asked.
"I never wanted him on guard detail," she said. "And that is beside the point anyway. He is a child
that needs to be protected. She is a corrupt woman without any sense of decency! Now, are you
going to do anything about this, or should I go get Dale and Paul to do it instead?"
"There is nothing to be done," Brett said. "Call off your nazi spy that's watching them and leave
them alone. Put the communications gear back in the security room where it belongs and don't
touch it anymore."
"You do NOT give orders to ME," she proclaimed.
"I am in charge of security," Brett said, "and you, committee member or not, are abusing official
security department apparatus. Call back your goon, put the shit away, and don't touch it again. You
know as well as I do that it is well in my authority to tell you that. So do it!"
"How dare you... "
"And no one will bother Stacy and Jason," he added, standing up to face her. "I mean that Jessica.
Leave them alone."
"Are you threatening me?" she asked, obvious fear in her voice as he towered over her.
He did not answer her. "Leave them alone," he repeated. "I mean it. What they're doing is none of
your business."
She took a step backwards, her fist clenching in nervousness. "Paul and Dale will hear about this,"
she said with a voice that was not quite steady. "The committee will take action against you."
"Groovy," he said. "We'll talk about it tomorrow, after everyone has had a chance to reflect upon
the day's events, okay? In the meantime, why don't you do what I told you to and then go back to
your house, fuck Dale a couple times, and then start planning your speeches for the meeting
tomorrow?"
"You'll be ejected from this town," she promised, pointing a trembling finger at him. "I promise
you that."
"Whatever will be, will be," he said. "Now, can me and Michelle get back to our debriefing? We
still have a lot of tequila to get through until we put the painful episode behind us."
She turned and stomped off, heading towards the main office. Brett watched her go and then sat
back down. "So," he said, with a satisfied smile. "Where were we?"

It didn't take them long to blow off Jessica and her intrusion. All it took was another slammer,
another bong-hit, and an animated discussion about Jason and Stacy.
"You think he'll come out alive?" Michelle asked with a laugh.
"I think he's a very happy man about now," Brett replied. "I'm surprised Jessica didn't have Maggie
stick a video camera through a gap in the blinds so she could get a photo record of the corruption in
progress."
"How do you know she hasn't?"
"True."
He sighed a little, slumping downward against the wall a bit. "Why is everybody so wrapped up in
all of this gossiping and scandal? Everybody does realize that a comet hit the planet and killed
everybody, don't they?"
"Of course they do," Michelle said, putting her hand on his leg. "They can't drive their Mercedes or
get their hair done in the salon anymore, can they? They only get to take hot baths every third day
now, don't they? They are rapidly running out of fingernail polish remover and Oil of Olay, aren't
they? You have no idea the hardships these women are enduring. I mean, sure, you've been out in
the wilderness fighting off starving outsiders, but they have not seen a new issue of Cosmo or had a
decent latte in weeks."
He eyed her hand for a moment, noting that it was resting about two inches above his knee,
seemingly companionably. He then looked up at her. "I guess I just haven't appreciated all that
everyone has been through in here," he replied.
She inched a little closer to him, her hand sliding up a few more inches. It gave a little squeeze of
his thigh, a squeeze that felt very good. "They're in a huge state of culture shock," she said.
"Everyone is. You can't just live under one set of ideals all of your life and then change in a few
days. Give them a while and they'll slowly start to come around."
"I'll believe that when I see it," he said, starting to feel guilty now for enjoying her touch upon his
leg and not doing anything about it. What would Chrissie think if she saw this or heard about it?
Despite the estrangement between them, he did not wish to lose her. And though he could pretend
that Michelle was just caressing his leg in friendship, he knew, even through his haze of
drunkenness that that was not really the case.
As if to prove this point, she inched her hand even higher, so that it was about halfway between his
knee and his groin. She edged her hips over a few more inches as well, so that their shoulders were
touching. He could feel her warmth through her clothing. "I've become very fond of you these last
few weeks," she said to him softly.
"Have you?" he said, not looking at her, only looking at her hand, which continued to inch upward.
"I didn't think I would at first," she said. "When you gave me that speech about my not having a
chance with you, I thought it was funny. I never thought that I would be the least bit interested in
someone like you. I figured that you were sort of a dull person, you know, efficient at what you did,
reasonably smart, but without much personality otherwise. That's how I always pictured cops,
pilots, and soldiers. Whenever I wrote about one in a short story or one of my many failed novels,
that's always how I portrayed them: serious but dull."
"That sounds like me all right," he said weakly, his penis now hardening.
"Give yourself a little credit," she said, leaning closer and whispering the words into his ears. He
could now feel her breast pushing against his shoulder. "You're very witty, very funny, and very
good looking. You care Brett. That's what really gets to me. You care about all of these shallow
people that you're protecting. You're not just going for free room and board."
"Michelle," he said, pulling away from her and breaking the contact; everything except her hand on
his leg, she refused to give that up. "This is a bad idea."
"Oh?" she said pointedly. "And why is that?"
"Because I'm in charge of the guard force and you're one of the guards," he said.
"Chrissie is one of the guards," she said, "and yet you sleep with her, don't you?"
He nearly choked as he heard these words. His erection wilted in an instant and adrenaline went
shooting through his veins, sobering him up considerable. Michelle simply smiled at him.
"Or at least you WERE," she continued, "until you had a fight on your fifth or sixth day here. You
haven't been really speaking to each other or doing anything else since then. The fight was probably
about what happened your first night with Mitsy. I imagine Chrissie told you what she heard and
you didn't deny it. Am I right so far?"
"How... how... how do you know this?" he asked numbly. "Did Chrissie talk to you?"
She shook her head. "Chrissie and I talk a little bit, usually at breakfast and dinner, but she never
told me that. She's keeping your secret."
"Then WHO told you?"
"You and Chrissie did," she said. "Although not with your mouths. Do you remember a little while
ago when I told you that writers are very observant people? I wasn't kidding. If you just pay
attention to people's body language, you can learn a lot about them. Hell, you should know that.
Don't cops do the same thing?"
He ignored her question. "Are you telling me that you just figured this out by watching us?"
"Yep," she agreed. "When you two were first voted in, I could see that you and Chrissie were very
close to each other. Much closer than a man and a platonic friend are. I could tell that you had great
affection for each other but that you were restraining it when you were in public. You always made
certain that you did not touch each other in any way, that your eyes never met with that teasing,
knowing little smile that lovers share. But at the same time, when you thought that nobody was
paying attention to you, you WOULD share that look, just for a moment. You would pass a little
telepathic signal back and forth with your eyes. She loves you Brett, and I suspect that you love her
as well."
"Jesus," Brett said, thinking that Michelle was some kind of a witch.
"It was also pretty easy to tell when you had your fight," she went on. "All of a sudden you weren't
eating breakfast together anymore, you weren't looking directly at each other for any reason
anymore. Although, if you watch, as I do, you'll see that both of you look at the other when you
think they're not looking at you. If your eyes do happen to meet during such a look, you don't smile
at each other, you look away. And then there's talking to Chrissie. It's pretty obvious that she's in
the midst of a major depression. She hardly laughs anymore and her eyes have bags beneath them
as if she doesn't sleep very well. You have the same thing, although your work keeps you a little
busier than hers keeps her."
Brett reached over and grabbed the bottle of tequila. He removed the cap and took a drink directly
from the bottle. "Okay," he said. "So you know. What are you going to do now? Are you going to
tell everyone?"
She smiled sweetly, scooting back over to him. Her hand, which had never left his leg, suddenly
moved all the way up to his crotch. "No," she said, squeezing and pinching his cock through the
material, "I'm not going to tell anyone. That is not my place to do. What I AM going to do, is suck
your dick. You could probably use a little relief after all those days of going without, couldn't you?"
"Michelle," he said, getting hard despite the underlying tone of the discussion. "I don't want to do
this with you. You just told me you know about Chrissie and me. I am asking you to respect that
relationship."
"Oh I do respect it," she said, continuing to squeeze and feel him, bringing him to a full and painful
erection. "I respect it greatly. It's almost like one of those crappy romance novels I wrote. It really
is a shame that the two of you are still fighting over Mitsy."
He tried to remove her hand from his crotch but she gently pushed him away. In truth, he really
didn't try all that hard. She had been entirely correct when she'd said that he had not had relief in
some time. He hadn't even masturbated in nearly a week. She began to pop open buttons on his
jeans, releasing each one with slow deliberateness.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked, cursing himself for not having the willpower to make her stop.
"Because I want to," she said. "Remember that I haven't had any since the comet either. Despite
what I said about my research tools and my self-gratification know-how, that gets old really quick.
I've come to the conclusion that a woman just has to have a nice hard, warm, live cock once in a
while." She popped open the last button, revealing his bulging underwear. "And right here is such a
thing. All ready for me."
He made one last feeble attempt to stop her when she pulled his pants and underwear down.
"Michelle, we're right in the community center in front of an open door," he said, watching as his
cock sprang free into the air.
"So keep an ear out for people coming down the hall," she said. With that she lowered her head into
his lap and took him into her mouth. Her warm, wet lips closed around him and her tongue began to
dance up and down the surface. She hummed contentedly as she tasted his member and he moaned
in defeated arousal as he felt her go to work. Within a second or two he was completely lost in the
sensation.
Oral sex was something that his wife, as passionate a woman as she had been, had just not been too
enthusiastic about. If he had been able to coax two blowjobs a year from her, he considered himself
lucky. Nor had Chrissie been particularly fond of that activity either. She had mouthed it inexpertly
a few times during foreplay once they'd moved into their home, but she had never sucked it more
than a minute or two and had never allowed him to ejaculate in her mouth. Despite her maturity in
all other aspects of post-comet life and sexuality, she still considered sucking a cock to be
somewhat "gross". He had never pushed the issue.
But Michelle apparently did not think it gross. She sucked expertly, in the manner of a woman that
had made cocksucking a regular part of her sexual repertoire for quite some time. Her brown hair,
released from the ponytail it was usually tied up in, cascaded over his lap, tickling his bare thighs as
her head bobbed up and down upon him. She would deep throat for several strokes, swallowing his
six inches whole and then slowly bringing her head back up, and then she would lick and suck on
the head while jacking his wet shaft with her hands.
"Ohhh," he moaned, letting his head fall back upon his neck, forgetting about Chrissie, his conflict
with Jessica, even the possibility of someone catching them in the act. This was, without a doubt,
the best blowjob that he had ever had in his life. He let his hand fall into her hair, his fingers
running through its silky smoothness. The honeydew scent that rose up from it told him that she
had probably had her bath recently.
"Mmmm hmmm," Michelle hummed from around his cock. She began to deep throat less now and
concentrate more on the classic motions of jacking and sucking. Her hand became a blur upon his
shaft and her mouth became a soft, clenching orifice that tried like hell to suck the sperm right out
of his balls.
It didn't take long at this pace. As he began to spasm, his hips tried to rise up into the air,
instinctively driving him in the age-old rhythm that accompanied orgasm. A wave of pleasure
spread throughout him and, with a grunt and a groan, he exploded into her sucking mouth. She
sucked frantically, her hands continuing their ministrations throughout, and she consumed every
drop.
She licked him completely clean and then slowly removed her head from his lap and looked up at
him. She licked her lips once. "Did that feel good?" she asked him.
"Yes," he admitted. "That felt absolutely divine in fact."
"Glad to see I haven't lost the touch." She removed herself from his embrace. "My panties are
completely soaked right now," she told him matter-of-factly.
"Uh listen... " he started, reaching down and pulling his pants up. "I think that things got a little out
of hand here tonight. Maybe we should... "
"Go back to my place," she said, standing. She began gathering up the tequila bottle and the glasses
and the other supplies they had used. She quickly stowed them back in their proper places. She did
not seem all that drunk any longer.
"No," he said. "That's not... "
"Walk me home Brett," she told him, not even looking at him. "I need you tonight. And I think that
you need me."
"But Chrissie," he said.
"Don't worry about Chrissie for the moment," she replied. "You need to come to my place. Believe
me, I'm acting in everyone's best interest here."
"Michelle," he said. "I don't think that... "
"Don't think right now," she said, walking over to him and giving him a teasing kiss upon the nose.
Her breath was warm and smelled of semen. "Just come home with me. I've wanted to do what I'm
doing for some time and tonight the booze has given me the courage to do it. Everything will be
made clear soon."

Michelle, like the majority of the town women, lived in the same house that she had inhabited
before the comet. Hers was one of the top-of-the-line models, not quite as much square footage and
as many upgrades as Jessica's, but it was close. It was a tri-level located near the southern portion
of the park that surrounded the community center. The walk to it was short but several times Brett
tried again to bow out of what was to follow.
"I can't Michelle," he cried at one point. "I've already betrayed Chrissie once and look what that did
to us. You know as well as I do that somebody is noticing us walking to your house. If I go inside,
that's it. By tomorrow, everyone will be saying that you're the one and I'll lose her forever. She
might put up with one betrayal, but she won't put up with two."
"That depends on what you consider a betrayal to be," Michelle answered. "Trust me. I am well
aware that our trip is being noted right now and it is part of my plan."
"Your plan?" he said. "Just what kind of plan are you talking about? You're stealing me!"
"I am doing no such thing," she said. "Now take my arm. Make it look good."
"Michelle," he said, stopping in his tracks. "This is crazy."
"Crazy or not, it needs to be done. Now do what I say. Everyone already will have an earful of you
and I based on what Jessica will tell them tomorrow. That in itself will be enough to drive Chrissie
away from you. I don't want that to happen Brett. I really don't. If you want to keep her, you need to
follow my lead and take me home."
"Michelle," he said, "you sound like a defense attorney telling a murderer that he can escape the
electric chair if he just kills a few more people."
She laughed, slapping at his arm. "That's funny Brett," she said. "Good analogy. You ever thought
about being a writer?"
"Michelle!"
"Sorry," she said. "Listen, my plan may seem strange right now, but it will soon make sense to you.
Just remember and try to accept that you and Chrissie are as caught up in pre-comet morality as
everyone else in town. The difference with you two is that you try to honor it while the others only
pretend to. You will have to come to some accommodations with some new realities here, just like
everyone else does. In the meantime, what I'm doing will protect you and your lover as well as give
me what I need. Everyone will win, okay?"
"Now you sound like a used car salesman."
"Saleswoman," she corrected, sliding her arm through his. "Now see me home Mr. Most Eligible
Bachelor and try to pretend that you don't think anyone sees us."
She gave a tug and he started moving, propelled along more by his drunken lack of judgement than
anything else. Soon, they reached her front door. She opened it with a key and led him inside.
Like every other house in Garden Hill these days, Michelle's had a clothesline strung through the
formal living room, attached by molly bolts into the plaster. Her shirts, pants, bras, and panties
hung drying in the air in what had once been the room designed to impress visitors with a display
of expensive, uncomfortable furniture, usually antique and usually the kind that no one was allowed
to actually sit upon. In every other house that he had been in, despite the clothesline, the furniture
had remained, as if the women needed to show that even though civilization had collapsed, they
had possessed taste and money BEFORE. This was not so with Michelle. There was not a stitch of
furniture in her living room, only other clotheslines with sheets and comforters hung upon them.
They had to duck in order to get under all of it.
"What's with all the linen?" Brett asked as she lit an oil lamp and led him through the maze.
"It helps my clothes dry faster," she said. "And keeps the humidity down in the house." Humidity
from air drying cloth was one of the scourges of Garden Hill life. It would peel wallpaper from the
wall and make you sweat sitting still despite the chilly temperatures.
"Say again?"
"It's like hanging clothes that are still damp in your closet," she explained. "The dry cloth helps
soak up the moisture. You'll notice that its quite humid in here but everywhere else in the house is
quite dry. I've suggested the technique to some of the other women in town but they won't do it
because it clutters up their living rooms."
He followed her into the family room of the house and found that it was indeed quite dry in there.
There was no thick haze of cold, muggy air pervading the atmosphere, making it feel like you were
in a fog bank. The air temperature was actually quite pleasant in a relative sort of way. Over the
past few weeks the ambient temperature outside had dropped by about ten degrees, making
everyday life in a town without propane or electric service a challenge. But in Michelle's living
room, it was almost comfortable.
"My plants," she said, pointing around the room where sickly looking houseplants were
everywhere. "They don't do all that well since there isn't any sunlight, but the firelight and the
lamplight during the hours I'm home keeps them alive. They, in turn, generate a little heat for me
and keep the air nice and fresh. Again, something I've suggested to the other women but it takes a
little too much effort for them."
"Amazing," Brett said, almost forgetting the circumstances that had brought him here. His respect
for Michelle, which was already quite high, kicked up a few notches.
She tapped the side of her head with her finger. "See what you learn when you read a lot," she told
him. "Why don't you start us a fire," she suggested. "I'm going to go change."
That suddenly brought him back to what he was doing here. "Listen Michelle," he said. "Maybe we
should talk about what this great plan of yours is first."
"Maybe we shouldn't," she said, starting to unbutton her flannel shirt. "Start us a fire Brett." With
that, she disappeared into the bedroom.
Left with nothing else to do, Brett picked up some dry kindling and newspaper from a stack next to
the fireplace. Wood gathering and drying was a major consumer of daily labor in Garden Hill, not
just for the personal use of the inhabitants but also for the three large fires at the community center
that needed to be kept burning day and night to heat hot water for bathing and cooking. The wood
was chopped from the many fallen trees around the perimeter of the township. Putting it near one of
the fires dried it, although even this could not get all of the moisture out of the pine and sequoia. He
arranged the kindling and the newspaper expertly and then put a log on. He lit the scraps of paper
with a lighter that Michelle kept nearby and a moment later a nice blaze was beginning, providing
both light and warmth.
"Very nice," said Michelle from behind him. "Very romantic even."
He looked up and saw that she was wearing a long white robe, tied tightly at the waist. It was not
the most alluring thing that she could have used to tempt him but at the same time it was not a
burlap sack either. The material looked very soft and warm and easy to remove. He could tell by
the way her breasts moved that she had nothing on beneath it. Her hair had been combed out as
well, making it smooth and silky and as she came closer he caught a hint of vanilla body wash. He
started to rise, intending to go over to the couch but she waved him back down and sat next to him.
As she eased herself down the hem of her robe rose up a little, displaying a good portion of her left
leg to him. It was a very pretty leg, pale and smooth looking.
"What now?" he asked a little nervously.
She took his hand in hers and set it on her bare knee, allowing him to feel the warmth of it. "Now,"
she said, "we make love in front of the fire."
"And this will help Chrissie?" he said, not moving his hand.
She did it for him, pulling it a little higher, so that it was now touching the soft skin of her thigh. "It
will help everyone," she assured him. She let her legs fall apart, which in turn caused the hem of
her robe to creep higher. He was now able to see her inner thighs almost all the way to her crotch.
He felt himself hardening again in his jeans, despite his best efforts not to. He felt his willpower to
resist her draining away. "I don't want to leave her," he said, unable to take his eyes from her legs.
"Like I said," she told him, opening her legs a little more now that she had his interest, "I don't want
you to leave Chrissie."
He could now see all the way to her crotch, although it was mostly hidden in shadow. He could just
make out the darkness of her pubic hair. "I don't want to sneak around with you either," he said,
unconsciously licking his lips.
"Sneaking around would be impossible," she said, turning more towards him to improve his view.
"I believe that we have already established that. Our presence here in this house is already known."
"But... "
"Brett," she said gently, undoing the knot on her tie. She slowly opened the robe, displaying
everything at once for him. "Don't talk so much. Just make love to me."
The sight of her body vanquished the second thoughts he was having. It was truly a piece of work,
much more impressive in the nude than the impression one got by seeing her clothed. Her breasts
were not large but were nicely rounded and, unlike many of the women in town, natural. Her
nipples were small and erect. Her stomach was smooth and very firm looking, as if she regularly
did sit-ups. Between her legs was a neatly trimmed triangle of black hair. Her pink lips and erect
clit showed prominently from the midst of this. She opened her legs even more and let her hand
drop down to her slit. She began to rub herself up and down, back and forth.
"You're not going to just sit there and let me play with myself, are you?" she asked him coyly.
He didn't. He leaned forward and took her in his arms, his hands going around her back, his lips
going to her mouth. They kissed softly, gently as she let the robe fall to the floor behind her. She
lay back on the carpet, pulling him down with her as their tongues began to dance together. Her
breath was sweet, as if she had just brushed her teeth, her kissing very erotic.
He let his hand roam over her body, sliding over her breasts and toying with her hard nipples before
moving downward. It passed over the firmness of her stomach, across her hip, and down to her
upper thigh. Her legs were still wide open and he let his hand move between them, finding her wet
pussy. He stroked the outside of it for a moment, feeling the velvet lips, before sliding first one and
then two fingers into her. She was not as tight as Chrissie - nobody was that tight - but she was not
loose either. She clenched hungrily at his probing digits, moaning into his mouth as he felt him
penetrate her. Her juices ran over the back of his hand as he began to fingerfuck her in earnest.
She broke the kiss and ordered him to get those clothes off and fuck her. He pulled his hand free,
taking a moment to lick her fragrant juices from his fingers. Seeing him do this made her moan.
"Now," she demanded. "Fuck me now!"
He moved quickly, tossing his boots, socks, pants, shirts, and underwear up onto the couch as he
removed them. He never left the floor. The moment his cock was exposed to the air her hand found
it and began to stroke it up and down. Once he was naked she pulled him on top of her once again,
pressing his bare flesh to hers.
"Just hammer me," she told him, looking into his eyes with lust. "Forget that slow build-up shit, I
need your cock pounding me!"
He positioned himself between her legs and slid into her, her muscles almost pulling him in. For the
first time since his fight with Chrissie he found himself enclosed in a tight, warm pussy and the
feeling was very nice. Michelle was right; masturbation just didn't cut it. Her legs came up around
his back and her hands went to his ass as he began to thrust in and out.
"Faster, harder," she demanded. "Fuck me harder. Pound me!"
He gripped her beneath her armpits, his fingers on her shoulders, and he used her body to give him
leverage. He slammed his hips up and down, making deep, fast strokes. His pubis mashed
forcefully into hers with each thrust, making a slapping sound. He felt his balls bouncing against
her ass cheeks, which were wet with running juices.
"Yes, yes, oh god, just like that. Fuck me hard. Give it to me!" Michelle yelled, her fingernails now
biting into his ass cheeks. Her own pelvis was thrusting back at him, her own strokes timed
perfectly to collide with his downstrokes. She ground herself a little bit each time he bottomed out,
stimulating both of them.
Since he had already come once he was able to last at this pace for quite some time. Their bodies
quickly heated up and began to sweat, Brett's in particular. Like Chrissie, Michelle seemed to enjoy
licking at his neck while he was perspiring. She also enjoyed biting at his neck, not hard enough to
hurt, but hard enough to arouse greatly. She had first one and then another orgasm, her bites and
clawings becoming frantic during the spasms of pleasure. She was about halfway through her third
when the clenching of her vaginal muscles on his cock finally became too much for him to endure.
He exploded within her, kissing her frantically as he poured his seed into her body.
Afterward they lay entwined together, his cock still inside of her, his arms still holding her
shoulders. They kissed more gently now, just touching tongues and lips as the sweat began to dry
upon them. The fire continued to crackle, occasionally popping as a knot exploded.
"That felt soooo good," Michelle said at last, her hands still resting on his ass. "I never thought I
would enjoy sex with another man besides Stan, but god help me, that was just incredible."
He nodded, a little more sober now than he had been and feeling fatigue and guilt both pulling
strongly at him. "Yes," he admitted nonetheless. "It was very good."
"Human beings of childbearing age," she said, "are not meant to go without sex. We just aren't
equipped to deal with it."
He swallowed a little, letting his chin rest in the crook of her neck. "I think you're right," he finally
said.
"And that's a big part of our problem here in Garden Hill, wouldn't you agree?"
"People going without sex?" he asked. "No, I'd say it's the opposite. People are having too much
sex."
She shook her head. "No," she told him. "That is the result of the problem, not the problem itself.
Now granted, with a lot of these women in town, sex is not all they are after. Some of them don't
even like sex I'm sure. They just feel that they have to have a man in their life, that they have to be
attached. But with a lot of them, like Mitsy, like Cindy, like Maggie, they want sex and they don't
have a man to call their own to give it to them. So therefore they go after the men who... let's say
BELONG, for lack of a better term, to someone else. And men, they take almost any sex that is
offered to them, especially in this environment. You are a perfect example."
"Me?"
"You," she said. "You are admittedly very attached to Chrissie and you try very hard to be faithful
to her, don't you?"
"I try," he said miserably, not failing to note the fact that he was lying naked atop another woman
as he said this.
"Paul is the same way," Michelle said. "He really does try to stay faithful to Janet. He loves her.
I've seen them together and I know that they love each other, but even he can't resist it sometimes
when one of these women throws herself at him. Just like Mitsy threw herself at you, just like I did.
If we know what we're doing, we can seduce you. Men cannot control their impulses. Men are not
meant to be monogamous."
"What?" he asked. "What the hell does that mean? Before the comet I never cheated on my wife,
not even once. And believe me, I worked in a job where cheating on one's spouse was almost a
badge of honor among your peers."
"But you were tempted all the time, weren't you?" she asked.
"Tempted," he said. "Of course I was tempted. But I never did it."
"That is because you did not live in a society where women shamelessly threw themselves at you.
You repressed your natural urge to couple with different women out of respect for your wife or fear
of getting caught or whatever, but you did have the urge, didn't you?"
"Yes," he said. "I did."
"It's an urge that is biological and genetic in origin, so don't feel bad about it. Until the advent of
modern religion and socialization, it was common for men to have multiple partners - harems if you
will. The human male evolved with the urge to spread his seed and his genetic code to as many
women as he could. That was how survival of the fittest worked. Those that were strong enough
and powerful enough to amass enough women to breed with got to pass on their genes to the next
generation. This was all very well documented.
"Now over the years it has become socially unacceptable for a man to have multiple wives or
partners - at least officially. The man's urge to couple with as many different females as possible
was suppressed but it never went away. In fact, it never even faded. That was why we had a multi-
billion dollar pornography industry that catered almost exclusively to men. That was why every
city, every small town, every hole-in-the-wall shitbox that didn't even qualify as a town had some
form of prostitution in it. That was why men were ten times as likely to routinely cheat on their
wives than women were to cheat on their husbands. And that is why the men in this town are going
completely apeshit now that they find themselves in a five to one woman to man ratio. It's a little
like what they envisioned heaven being like I'd imagine."
"Yes," Brett agreed. "I imagine that it is. But what does this have to do with you and me? I didn't
want to cheat on Chrissie with Mitsy or with you."
"Ahhh," she said, "but that's where you're wrong. You DID want to cheat. You did want to have sex
with us. This is evidenced by the simple fact that you did it. We may have seduced you to a certain
degree, but you were a willing participant in both cases, were you not? Otherwise, you would not
have attained an erection. It is not really possible for a woman to rape a man now, is it?"
"Well... no. But... "
"No buts," she said, giving his a playful slap. "You wanted to fuck me and you did it. I helped the
process along but you went with it once I got you riled up. This doesn't mean that you love Chrissie
any less, it's just that you have the desire to be with other women and here in this town there are
plenty of other women willing to give themselves to you. Under these circumstances I think that it's
maybe a little naïve for a woman to expect her man to be completely faithful to her. I certainly
wouldn't expect it of you. The best I could hope for is to control it to a certain degree, to make
accommodations with it."
"What kind of accommodations?"
"I intent to continue having sex with you," she said. "I enjoyed it greatly and I do not wish for this
to be a one time only thing."
"What are you saying?" he asked. "I thought you didn't want to have an affair with me."
"I don't want to have an affair with you," she said. "I want to be your woman. I want you to move
into this house with me."
"I can't do that," he said. "Didn't I make it clear from the start that I won't leave Chrissie?"
"I'm not asking you to leave Chrissie," she replied. "I want her to move in here with us."
That threw Brett for a complete loop. "You mean that you want to... share me with Chrissie?"
"Exactly," she said. "That is my plan. We can work out the arrangements once we're all living
together. Maybe I get to sleep with you one night and she gets to sleep with you the next. To tell
you the truth, I'm not even opposed to us all sleeping together. I mean, what the hell, right?"
He stared into her brown eyes for a moment, trying to detect signs of mental illness or comedy. He
saw neither. Michelle was serious and sane. Or at least she thought that she was.
"Well?" she said. "What do you think?"
"I'm not sure what to think," he told her carefully. "Somehow, I just don't think that Chrissie would
go for such a thing."
"Not at first," she said. "But give her a little time and she'll see that it's the only way. If you two are
left to your own devices, eventually your affair is going to be discovered no matter how secret you
keep it. Like when she turns up pregnant for instance. Is that a distinct possibility at this point in
time? I don't imagine that she was on the pill, was she? Nor do I imagine that you came hunting
with a supply of condoms on you."
"It is possible," Brett admitted. "Probable even. We really didn't think that we were going to live
long enough to have to worry about that."
"Understandable," Michelle said. "And even if she is not knocked up now, she will be eventually.
And even if that doesn't happen, you won't be able to hide your relationship forever. When these
women find out about it, Jessica will rile them up into a lynch mob that will run you out of town
before the next sunset. You saw how she reacted with Stacy and Jason, and he's a boy."
"And how does moving in with you prevent that?" he asked. "Are you saying that we should
pretend that I'm with you and that Chrissie is just living with us? That doesn't help solve the
pregnancy problem."
"No," she said. "I'm saying that we should be open about what we're doing together. If I am a part
of the equation that will help dampen the reaction of the other women from Jessica's influence. I'm
certainly not as powerful a presence as she is in this town, but I do carry some weight and I am
listened to. Most of these women saw me as somewhat of a celebrity before the comet because I
used to write articles in their magazines. If I tell them that Chrissie is a woman capable of making
her own choices, then they will be much more inclined to see reason than if you tell them that."
"You really think that if you approve of it then they automatically will as well?"
"Approve may be too strong of a word," she said. "Especially with the polygamy issue thrown in. It
will be a lot for them to get used to in a short period of time. But I think that they will accept it
enough to keep from throwing you out of town. You have to remember one thing, most of these
women, be they shallow or not, don't like Jessica. They'll jump on her bandwagon if she's the only
one that has one because jumping on bandwagons is what they like to do. I will provide an alternate
bandwagon for them to jump onto, a much more sane bandwagon."
"And what about the polygamy?" he asked. "What do you think they're going to do about that?"
"They're going to have to accept it eventually if they want to survive," she said. "Polygamy is the
only way that we're going to get the sex issue under control here. Now of course the women that
have an official partner are not going to like it very much at all, but the women who do not, the
women who are constantly sneaking around and having promises made to them and being
humiliated time and time again - those women will embrace it enthusiastically. I guarantee it. And
those women are, of course, in the majority. Now we cannot officially command polygamy in this
town, you know that as well as I do, but we can keep anyone from being exiled for it as long as
Paul maintains his dissenting vote. And I think he will. He's a man after all and I seriously doubt
that he'll vote to banish anyone for that. So you, Chrissie, and I will have to be the first polygamous
grouping. I'm hoping that the underlying discussion about the morality of Chrissie and you will
help draw some of the fire away from the main issue of the three of us being together in the first
place."
"Wow," Brett said, rolling off of her and sitting up. His head was aching from the alcohol he had
ingested and all of the information he was trying to ingest. "You certainly seem to have thought this
all through pretty well."
"Like I said," she told him with a smile, "I've been wanting to put this into motion for quite some
time but I've been afraid to bring it up to you. After killing that guy this evening and then drinking
all of that tequila, I finally found the courage. It was time to act."
"So is all of this just a plan to help stabilize the town?" he asked her. "Because, quite frankly, I'm
not too fond of being used as an example if that's the case. Nor do I think Chrissie would be terribly
fond of it."
She shook her head vehemently, her hand caressing his hair. "No," she said, "I'm not doing this
only for the town, although I'll admit that's a big part of my actions. We must bring order to this
place if we're going to survive. I'm doing this with you because I've got very strong feelings for
you. I'm not sure if its love just yet, but at the very least it's a powerful infatuation. I like you Brett.
I enjoy being with you, talking to you, having sex with you. Tonight was the happiest I've been
since the comet hit, and not just here in front of the fire either. While you held me outside the wall,
while we spent time together in the supply room, those are cherished moments for me and they
always will be no matter what happens."
He leaned back against the wall, the heat from the fire caressing his naked skin. "This is too much
to think about right now," he said. "I'm drunk, stoned, feeling like shit because I slept with you, and
I'm not capable of making a rational decision at the moment."
"You don't have to decide anything right now," she told him. "Sleep on it until tomorrow. But keep
in mind that the wheels are in motion. No matter what you decide to do, everyone will know that
you've been over here tonight. And also keep in mind that we HAVE to switch over to a system of
polygamy if we're going to survive. If we don't, everyone will perpetually be obsessed with sex and
we'll screw ourselves to death."

He took a long walk around the town after he left Michelle's house, weaving in and out of the quiet
residential streets, his way lit by the soft glow of firelight coming from the inhabited houses. It was
very cold out, cold enough for him to see his breath. The rain pattered on the vinyl material of his
rain slicker, some of it working its way to his face. He feet stomped through the perpetually flooded
streets. The chill helped sober him completely up, clearing his head a little and allowing him to
mull over all that had happened that day.
He encountered no one on the streets as he took his walk, although twice he saw the perimeter
guards making their rounds along the wall. He did not approach them and they did not see him,
occupied as they were in talking to each other. He wondered what they were talking about. Him
and Michelle? Stacy and Jason? Maybe a combination of both topics? That seemed entirely
possible.
Finally, close to 10:00, he made his way to the small house where he lived. He put his key into the
lock and entered. The soft glow of the fireplace logs blazing away in the family room greeted him.
He ducked under the clotheslines and made his way there, seeing that Chrissie was sitting cross-
legged on the couch. She was dressed in her typical pajamas - a long flannel shirt that went to her
knees - and it looked like she was crying.
"Hi," he told her softly, making no move to approach her, very cognizant of the fact that he
probably reeked of Michelle's body.
She looked up at him but didn't say anything.
"Is Jason still out?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied. "I suppose you've heard about him and Stacy, haven't you?"
"I have," he agreed. "Does it bother you?"
"No," she said, seemingly disinterested in the whole subject. "Why should I care what he does?"
She sniffed a little. "I'm happy for him."
"Me too."
Silence ruled for a moment; a very uncomfortable silence. Finally Chrissie broke it. "There are a lot
of rumors going around tonight."
"Oh?" he asked, knowing what she was going to say, seeing no way to avoid it.
"Yes," she said, nodding sadly. "Stories about you and Michelle getting drunk in the supply room."
"We did that," he said.
"And that you went back to her house afterward with... with... with your arms around each other."
He sighed, wanting more than anything to postpone this conversation at least twelve more hours.
But that was not in the cards it seemed. "Yes," he said. "We did that as well."
The tears began to flow again. "Did you... you... "
"Sleep with her?" he asked.
She nodded, unable to say the words.
"Yes," he said, barely audibly.
She began to tremble, her emotions flirting with a complete loss of control. Somehow she managed
to maintain. "I guess that's it then," she said, wiping at a tear.
"Chrissie," he said.
"I'll move out as soon as they can find me my own house. Or are you going to move in with... with
HER?"
"That's an option," he said. "There are others."
"Just let me know when you figure it out," she said, a brief sob escaping from her.
"Chrissie," he said. "I don't want to lose you. I want you to stay with me."
"You sure have a funny way of showing it," she said, another sob exploding from her lips. "I'm not
going to stay with you after what happened. How could you even say something like that?"
"I love you," he said. "You're very special to me. We've been through hell together and I enjoy your
company very much. I love you and I don't want to be without you."
"Why are you saying this to me?" she yelled. "You go fuck some other woman and then you tell me
that you love me?"
He walked over at last and sat in the recliner across from her. "I've tried to be strong Chrissie," he
said. "I really have. After Mitsy that first night, I haven't touched anyone else. Nearly every
unattached woman in this town has offered me her body and I didn't do it because of the way I feel
about you. Now that probably wouldn't sound like much if we were back in civilization and
everything was normal, but everything is NOT normal here. There are five women for every man in
this town and every last one of them is attractive and looking for sex. I'm not sure you realize just
what kind of pressure that puts on a mortal man like me."
She was not impressed by this speech. "It looks like a little too much, doesn't it?" she said crossly.
"Look, I don't know what you're trying to say here but it sounds a little like you want to keep
fucking me while you fuck other women too. If that is what you're saying you can just forget it! I
am not going to play that game. I will not live like that!"
"Chrissie, I'm not able to withstand the temptation. I've tried as hard as I can, but I can't do it."
"I'm not going to stay with you like that Brett," she told him. "I won't!"
"There is another way," he said.
"Another way?"
"We come to some sort of accommodation with it," he said, echoing Michelle's words from earlier.
"Accommodation?"
He took a deep breath and told her his suggestion. He explained about polygamy and how it was
the only way to save the town from itself. He told how it would make their relationship a little more
legitimate if Michelle were suddenly involved in it. He told how they could be out in the open with
their love if only they allowed Michelle to be a part of it.
She listened to his words, slack jawed, without interruption. And then, for the first time in her life,
she slapped a man across the face. Following that she retreated to her room, slamming the door
behind her hard enough to send a picture crashing to the carpet.
Brett sat there after she left, his face stinging, his eye watering from the force of the blow. "Well,"
he said to himself. "That certainly went well."

Chrissie was assigned to guard position 1 the next morning, her shift to begin at 6:00 AM. She had
been awake most of the night, alternately crying and fuming as she thought of what Brett had done
to her and had suggested to her the night before. Of all the nerve! Had he really meant for her to
take him seriously? Had he?
Finally, exhausted, she had dropped into a troubled slumber at about 4:00 AM. At 4:45 the wind-up
alarm clock that she used began to deliver its obnoxious ringing to the dark room. She smacked it
with her hand, silencing it, and then just lay there for a few minutes, feeling fatigue trying to pull
her back down into the land of sleep. Why should she drag herself out of bed and go man a post for
that cheating bastard? What did it get her? What had it done for her? She very nearly just let herself
drift back to sleep but eventually her strong work ethic, instilled in her by her mother and father,
forced her to put her feet on the floor and get up. Brett might be an asshole but the security division
that he commanded served a much-needed purpose.
The air was damp and chilly and she shivered as she put on a pair of jeans and a couple of heavy
flannel shirts. She tied her blonde hair back in a loose ponytail and then strapped on the.45 pistol
that she, like all of the other permanent members of the guard force, carried with her everywhere.
She slipped on her boots and stepped out of her lonely bedroom, hearing the loud snores of Brett
drifting through his own closed door. He was usually awake by now and he usually didn't snore
when he was asleep. Looking down the hallway she saw that Jason's door was shut as well. So he
had come back at some point during the night.
Dismissing her roommates from her mind and stifling a yawn, she walked to the living room and
pulled on her rain slicker. She buttoned it tightly and then slipped out the door into the pre-dawn
blackness, her feet leading her to the community center by feel.
Stacy gave her a plate of breakfast when she got there - corned beef hash and deep fried potatoes -
and a large cup of steaming coffee. Chrissie thanked her as politely as she could manage under the
circumstances noting that the pregnant woman, though very tired looking, seemed to have a
pleasant glow about her nonetheless. It was the glow of someone who had found a partner after a
long time without one. Chrissie envied her. The two women did not talk to each other - Stacy
nervous about what her new lover's sister might or might not think, Chrissie just too damn tired and
upset.
As she sat down at one of the empty tables her eyes found Michelle sitting three tables over,
picking at her food more than eating it. Michelle, like Chrissie herself, looked a little worse for
wear this morning. Chrissie had no pity for her. When their eyes met for a moment she glared at her
until the other woman's eyes dropped in shame. Had she really considered that bitch her friend the
day before? Had she really confided in her the story of her previous life and of the nightmares she
sometimes had about the shooting on the other side of the bridge? She had trusted her and her trust
had been betrayed in the most awful way. According to Brett, Michelle had known all along that
the two of them were lovers. She had known that and still she had plotted to get Brett into bed with
her. And now that she had had him she was offering to SHARE him with her? To share? What kind
of woman did she think Chrissie was? What kind of sicko was SHE? As far as Chrissie was
concerned, that sick bitch could just have Brett. And good riddance!
She ate all of her food and drank down her entire cup of coffee, feeling the caffeine take a little of
the edge off her fatigue. She gave one last glare at Michelle, who refused to look back at her, and
then carried her plate over to the cart.
"Do you want some more coffee Chrissie?" Stacy asked her hesitantly. "You look like you could
use it this morning."
Chrissie looked at her, knowing that Stacy was violating a rationing rule by offering a second cup.
But she also knew that Jessica and Dale routinely helped themselves to as much coffee and other
items from the kitchen as they pleased. "Sure," she said, grabbing her cup back off the cart and
handing it to her. "Thanks."
"Just be sure to bring the cup back at dinner. And don't rat me out."
"I will and I won't," she promised, waiting as she waddled around the corner. A moment later she
returned with a steaming cup of Starbucks house blend in her hand. She took it, thanked her, and
then gave her a small smile of her own. "I heard about you and Jason," she said.
Stacy gave her a nervous look. "Word travels fast, doesn't it?"
"It certainly does," Chrissie said, knowing just by looking at her that Stacy knew about Michelle
and Brett as well. "Is it serious?"
"I think so," she said. "I asked him to move in with me. He told me that he would."
"Good for both of you," she said, extending her hand and giving her a hug. "I guess that kind of
makes you my sister-in-law now, doesn't it?"
"I guess it does," she said, returning the hug. "I'm glad you're not... you know... mad or anything.
You know, with me being so much older than him."
"He's a big boy now," Chrissie said. "And I'm not his mom. What he does is none of my business."
She gave a sour look. "I only wish the rest of the town felt that way. I envision some serious shit
hitting the fan this morning over this."
"I wouldn't worry too much," Chrissie said. "I mean, who gives a damn what people think?"
"Not me, that's for sure," she said bravely. "I just get a little bummed about how self-righteous they
all are, you know? Why should they care about it? What possible difference does it make to them?
So he's fourteen. He's a very mature fourteen and I like him a lot. And its not like the rest of the
men were beating down my door anyway, were they? This is a bad place and time to be a girl.
There isn't much for a pregnant 20 year-old from out of town around here. You need to take what
love you're offered and Jason offered."
Chrissie looked at her carefully for a moment and then said her good-byes. As she left the
community center and headed for her post, Stacy's words were echoing in her mind.

"This meeting is hereby called to order," Jessica said in her loud, nasal voice. She then rapped the
gavel that she insisted on utilizing in meetings upon her desk, sending sharp sound waves across
the room.
It was 8:30 AM and Brett was hungover. His head ached dully, pulsating in sickening waves that
came and went with the beating of his heart. Despite the two liters of water that he had swallowed
down before leaving the house, his mouth was dry as a desert and craving more. His stomach was
perhaps the worst. He had drank all of that tequila the night before on an empty stomach and now
his stomach was making him regret it. It rolled and rolled in a sea of nausea, constantly threatening
to either rebel upward or downward but never quite following through. For perhaps the hundredth
time in the twenty years that he had been drinking, he gave a solemn vow that he would never do it
again.
"Mr. Adams," Jessica intoned sharply, noting that he was looking very intently at a spot upon his
desk. "Are you with us this morning?"
"Yeah," he said, looking up at her with his reddened eyes. "But could I get you to chill with the
gavel just for this meeting."
"It's not my fault you were drinking up all of the stores in our supply room last night," she told him.
"Now, can we commence with the topic of the meeting?"
"Sure," Brett mumbled, wishing he could go back to bed. "Fire away."
Dale and Paul, both of whom were at their own desks, also gave their consent to begin.
"Very well," she said. "The reason I called this emergency meeting has probably already reached
everyone's ears by way of the rumor mill. I know that Mr. Adams has heard of it since I personally
informed him last night. Of course he chose not to do anything about the matter and he even
threatened me if I tried to put a stop to it. I would like to address that issue as well after we address
the main issue."
"Jess," Paul said. "Could we just get to the point here? Are you talking about Stacy and Jason?"
"Yes I am," she said, leaning forward. "It came to my attention last night that the two of them were
seen leaving the community center after dinner clean up and that they went back to Stacy's assigned
house."
"It came to your attention because you had them followed," Brett said. "And that is an issue that I
would like to address later."
Jessica ignored him and went on. "Now we have no way of knowing exactly what went on behind
those closed doors," she said. "But I think we all have a pretty good idea of what it was. Jason did
not emerge from that house until nearly 11:30 last night. He..."
"I thought I told you to call off your spy last night," Brett interrupted.
"You were in no condition to give such orders," she said. "You were drunk and not using good
judgment. I used my own judgment and kept watch."
"Jessica," Paul said. "I don't think you should be following our citizens around and spying on them.
That is very secret police kind of stuff."
"I was trying to prevent a potential crime," she said.
"A crime?" Paul said.
"Having sex with a minor is a crime!" she nearly screamed. "For goodness sake, am I the only one
who knows this?"
"I know it," Dale said. Nobody acknowledged or even looked at him.
"It is my proposal," Jessica said, "that we bring that hussy in here and that we bring that young man
in here and that we interrogate them to find out exactly what went on in that house last night."
"Interrogate them?" Brett said, looking up at the ceiling pleadingly. "Oh please."
"How can you not be concerned about this?" she demanded of Brett. "He's living in your house.
You're the one that's closest to him!"
"If you can tell me what kind of harm has come to him as a result of Stacy boffing him, then I'll be
glad to be concerned about it."
"He's a fourteen year old boy," she said. "He needs to be protected from sluts like her."
"Why?" Brett asked. "Like I told you last night, Jason is old enough to man a guard post and kill
intruders when he has to. I see no reason why we should concern ourselves with his sex life."
"He's not supposed to be having a sex life," Jessica said. "He's not old enough to understand the
ramifications and complexities of it."
"Are you afraid he might knock her up?" Paul, who was smoking a cigarette, asked seriously.
"Don't downplay the seriousness of this," she told him, pointing an angry finger. "He's not old
enough to make the decision of whether or not to have sex. What that woman did is statutory rape!"
Brett sighed, sipping from the coffee cup in front of him. He set it down. "Perhaps you've noticed
Jess, that we don't really live in a perfect world anymore. In a perfect world, or even in an imperfect
one similar to the one we had a few months ago, I would tend to agree with you. I would probably
find some fault with a twenty-year-old woman seducing a fourteen-year-old boy. But then, we had
civilization then, didn't we? We had police and courts and armies and navies to keep everything
civil. Boys Jason's age didn't have to kill people in order to survive. They didn't have to watch their
parents murdered right in front of them and then leave them where they lie for the scavengers to
eat. They didn't have to learn to be infantry soldiers in a hostile environment in a matter of two days
just so they could keep drawing breath. Am I starting to make a point to you here?"
"Just because he's been through a lot," she said, "does not make him a man."
"Actually," Paul said, "I believe that it does. I go to sleep at night and I feel secure because I know
that Jason is watching over this town for me. He is one of the best guards that we have here. I've
seen him work. He is a man and it is my opinion that he is able to make decisions like a man. If he
wants to have sex with Stacy or with any other woman in town that offers it to him, than I certainly
am not going to try to stop him."
"Nor will I," Brett said, "take any security measures to prevent him from doing as he pleases in this
relationship. It is his choice and his choice alone and frankly, we have no business putting our
noses into it."
Jessica ignored what they were saying, not wanting to hear it. She had made up her mind that
something needed to be done and it was going to be done. "There's a motion on the table," she said,
pounding her gavel again. "The motion is whether or not Stacy and Jason should be brought in and
subjected to interrogation regarding what may have transpired in her assigned house last night, the
purpose of which is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. I vote aye on the
motion."
"As do I," Dale said, as automatically as a computer program.
"Nay," Paul said in disgust.
"It's two to one," Jessica said. "The motion passes. Brett, will you bring them in please?"
He rubbed his temple for a moment, trying to will the headache away. "If we conduct this
interrogation," he said, trying a new tack. "What rules are we going to use?"
"Rules?" she said.
"What if they don't want to answer any questions?" he asked. "Do they still have Fifth Amendment
rights? What if they want a lawyer? Are we going to provide one for them? If we do, what are we
using as law? Are we talking about the California State penal code here, or what?"
"They will answer any questions that are posed of them," Jessica said. "That's how it will work."
"And suppose they don't? How are you going to force them? Surely you're not suggesting that I
torture them, are you?"
"No, but..."
"And what if they do confess their sins?" he asked next. "What if they do that? What if they say,
yes, we fucked our goddamn brains out all night long. What then? Are you going to try to expel
her?"
"Of course," she said. "That would be the punishment for statutory rape."
"Paul?" Brett asked, "Would you vote to expel Stacy for that?"
"No," he said. "I am in agreement that what goes on between those two is none of our business."
"The vote to exile someone has to be unanimous. Paul will vote no. So she cannot be expelled from
the town for this," Brett said. "We know that going in, don't we? So what the hell is the point of
interrogating them if nothing can come of it?"
"If we can't agree to exile her," Jessica said, "we can at least order her to stay away from him."
"And what if she doesn't?" Paul asked, picking up the thread of where he was going. "What are you
going to do then? Assign her to kitchen duty? You can't, she's already on it permanently. Are you
going to confine her to her house? That will just give her more time to meet with him, not to
mention that the kitchen won't run very well without her. Don't you see what Brett is saying Jess?
There is nothing that can be done about this! Whether you agree with it or not, you cannot stop it!"
This seemed to get through to her a little bit. For the first time her face showed doubt. Since she
was in doubt, she returned to a track that was very much loved by her. "Well if Paul would just vote
to exile her, we wouldn't be in the quandary that we're in now. The same goes for the other
fornicators in town!"
"I'm not going to resume that argument," Paul said tiredly. "I will not vote to exile someone for
sexual impropriety. Period! That includes Stacy for allegedly having relations with Jason, which, I
would like to state one more time for the record, I do not believe is something we should concern
ourselves with in the first place."
"Nevertheless," Jessica insisted, "a vote has been taken and a resolution has been passed. The
committee has ruled that they will be brought in for interrogation and that needs to be done. We
will discuss what action to take after."
"Yeah," Dale said, nodding strenuously. "So bring them in Brett."
"Jesus fucking Christ," Brett exclaimed. "What are you two doing here?"
"We are conducting town business," Jessica told him. "Now will you carry out the resolution of the
committee and go get them or should we relieve you of your duties for insubordination?"
"Jessica, Dale," he asked, fighting to keep his voice reasonable. "How much food do we have in
this town?"
"I don't see what... "
"How much?"
Jessica clucked a little bit. "You know as well as I do that we have about two months worth."
"And what are you and your committee doing about this problem? How much discussion time have
you dedicated to solving this impending shortage?"
"What?"
"I'll tell you how much," he said. "I listen to these meetings every goddamn day and you have
dedicated less than twenty minutes since I've been here discussing the food shortages. Less than
twenty minutes! And have you found a solution to this problem? No, you have not. Every time it
comes up you vote to shelf the discussion after a preliminary review of it and then you move on to
some aspect of the townspeople's personal lives. You sit in here and argue about fornication and
bath rations and clothing distribution and who deserves to be placed on wood gathering detail
because they've offended you and a hundred other things that are completely inconsequential to our
survival. Do you realize that we're all going to starve to death if we don't find food pretty soon? Do
you fucking realize that?"
"You are out of line," Dale said, leaning forward threateningly.
"I agree," Jessica said, pointing her finger again. "It is not your place to tell us what to discuss in
the committee meeting. You are only here as a courtesy. Now I'll ask you once again to go get
Stacy and Jason and bring them here. Do it now or you will be relieved of your duties."
"Christ," he muttered, standing up. "All right," he said. "Let's get this shit over with."
They were brought in one by one and sat down in chairs before the committee. Jason was first.
Brett told him on the way over to tell the truth and answer all of their questions. He did this,
speaking nervously and avoiding any graphic detail but telling the basics of what had transpired the
night before. Jessica tried to pry at him a few times to elicit more detail but Jason balked when
things got too personal, telling her that it wasn't her business. Strangely enough, she seemed to
respect this.
With Stacy she was much less restrained. Her questions were biting, bordering on outright abuse.
Several times Brett and Paul had to gang up on her to get her to tone it down a little. The
interrogation almost reduced poor Stacy to tears but she answered the questions as truthfully as
Jason had, confirming completely that, yes, sexual relations has occurred, and that yes, they had
every intention of continuing to make them occur.
"Did you realize that you were committing statutory rape?" Jessica asked her, glaring at her like a
veteran cop questioning a murder.
"Did you realize you're violating child labor laws by having him work as guard?" Stacy shot right
back, increasing her respect level with Brett and Paul considerably, but infuriating Jessica.
"You are not the one asking the questions here little missy," she told her.
The interrogation of Stacy was followed by a committee vote on her fate in her presence. Jessica
moved that they exile her from the community but this was defeated by Paul's nay vote failing to
make it unanimous. Jessica then moved that they order her to cease and desist all contact with Jason
on threat of banishment. This was voted in successfully since majority ruled but Stacy defiantly
told them that she would not abide by it and that furthermore, Jason was going to be moving into
her house.
"He will do no such thing," Jessica told her angrily. "If you caught in the presence of that boy one
more time, you will be banished!"
"No she won't," Paul reminded her. "Because I still will not vote for it."
"You won't have to," Jessica said. "We won't need a vote since we have already voted that the
punishment for violating the order is banishment."
This led to a lengthy and often angry discussion on whether or not Jessica and Dale were allowed to
circumvent the system in that manner. It was an argument that Paul eventually won when he
threatened to enlist the aid of the rest of the township.
"Do you really think they'll support this hussy for violating Jason?" Jessica asked when he first
brought this up. "Do you really?"
"Maybe not in this particular matter," Paul said. "But when I explain to them that this same
technique, once a precedent is set, could be used against ANYONE in town, they might have
different ideas. Remember all of those women you threatened to banish for fornication? The ones
that were saved by my one vote? How do you think they'll feel when I tell them that if they support
you on this that they'll be next?"
Again, Jessica's will was outmaneuvered. Stacy was released with a stern warning that her activities
with Jason were expressly forbidden and that she was not to continue with them. But she had also
been as much as told that there was nothing the committee could do about it if she elected to keep
seeing him.
As she went out the door Brett, unable to help himself, called to her. She turned to look and he
asked: "Do you think Jason will need some help moving his things over to your house tomorrow?"
She smiled, giving him a look that told him he had an ally for life. "He might," she said. "He's
accumulated quite a bit from what I hear. We're planning on getting him moved in during my break
between lunch and dinner."
"I'll help him carry things then," Brett said. "See you then."
"I'll help too," Paul replied.
"Now wait just a minute!" screamed Jessica.
"Bye Stacy," Paul said, waving at her with his fingers. "Thank you for your cooperation."
Over Jessica's continued protests, she walked out the door and disappeared.
"What in the hell do you two think you're doing?" Jessica yelled, turning on them. "How dare you
mock a ruling of this committee like that! Especially you Paul. You're a member of it!"
"I'm just doing what I think is right," Paul told her, lighting another cigarette. "That's what I always
said I would do when I took this job."
"How can you think encouraging rape is right?" she demanded. "Are you sick?"
"We've already had this argument Jess," he said, bored with the whole thing. "I'm not going to
rehash it anymore."
"Well we'll just see what the community has to say about all of this," she told him. "I'm going to
talk to every person in town and tell them what happened between those two. My guess is that
they'll demand her exile by the end of the night. You've used that very argument with me when it
came to this man." She pointed at Brett. "Let's just see how you like having the same thing happen
to you." She turned to Dale. "Come on," she told him. "Let's get started."
They got up and headed for the door in a huff, slamming it behind them as they left.
"So I guess the meeting is adjourned then?" Brett asked.
"It would seem so," Paul answered, taking a particularly deep drag of his smoke.
Brett looked at his watch, a trusty Timex that had managed to outlive the civilization of Earth.
"Two hours we've been in here," he said wonderingly. "And what have we accomplished? Nothing.
We have no plans to get more food or beef up defenses or make our overall operation more
efficient. We've spent two hours making a worthless ruling that cannot be enforced."
Paul smiled. "Welcome to Garden Hill," he said.
"That's what we'll be telling the invaders when they come," Brett said, standing up. "I'm gonna go
get some water and then I'm gonna go make my check on the guards. The one I should've done
more than an hour ago."
"Enjoy yourself," Paul said. "I'm gonna sit in here and smoke cigarettes and do nothing and wait for
the next fight to erupt."

Brett, on the maps that he had made of the surrounding area, had named it Hill 5107. The number,
in military mapping tradition, he had assigned based upon the altitude of its summit above sea
level, a figure he had discovered by using an altimeter accessory from one of the SUVs in town. It
was the hill that he wanted to utilize to guard the north and east sections of town, the one that
Jessica and Dale had voted down. As Brett walked from the community center to the current guard
posts one by one, he was in plain view of the two observers that were atop the hill.
They were hiding behind the very outcroppings of rock that Brett had wanted to dig a guard bunker
next to, only they were on the opposite side, looking towards town instead of away from it. They
were dressed in thick hunting clothes patterned with forest camouflage colors and they were armed
with hunting rifles and pistols. Neither one of them was starving or even particularly hungry. They
each had a pair of high power binoculars that they used to examine the Garden Hill suburb and the
activity within it.
"That's the guy that was with the bitch that shot Ken," one of the men said, his binoculars showing
just enough of Brett's face to make the identification.
"Yep," said the other man, who was also examining him. "Sure looks like him."
"That's him. I wonder where he's going."
They continued to watch as Brett walked through the streets of town towards the wall, making left
turns and right turns, occasionally disappearing for a few moments behind one of the houses and
then reemerging on the other side.
"He looks like he's heading for that guard post on the east side," said the first man. "The one in that
two-story."
"Looks like it," the second agreed. "But he ain't got no rifle. Just a pistol and a radio."
"I haven't seen that many rifles," the first said. "Maybe they ain't got that many."
"They had a fuckin M-16 to kill Ken with, didn't they? And that guy was packing a goddamn AK."
"True," the first said, concentrating deeply. "They must just keep them in the guard posts. If so,
that'll make things real easy for us."
"Yep."
They watched.
The first man was John Kramer. He was 32 years old and had made his living before the comet by
being a hunting and fishing guide in the high Sierras. For a fee he would lead groups out into the
woods and guarantee them a deer or a bear or whatever else it was that they were trying to bag
(even if it meant straying a little bit into the National Forest area). His customers had mostly been
city folks with more money than brains, people who would get lost if they were allowed to wander
more than a hundred yards off the road without supervision. He had been leading such a group -
seven men from Santa Rosa - when the impact occurred and had been more than twenty miles from
the small cabin fifteen miles east of Garden Hill where he had lived.
That he had been away from his home at the time of impact was somewhat of an irony, an amusing
one even depending upon who you talked to. John had been a survivalist, a man who had prepared
all of his adult life for the impending collapse of civilization. His cabin had been built ten years
before on a carefully chosen five-acre plot. Beneath it had been a bomb shelter capable of housing
him for more than a month in the event of nuclear fallout blowing over from the Sacramento area.
He had considered minimum stock of food and water supplies to be a thousand cans of various
meats and vegetables and sixty gallons of fresh drinking water. He had had more than twenty guns
of varying caliber and size, and enough ammo to fight off a battalion of infantry. And he had not
been home when the comet had hit.
By the time he and his ragtag group of city hunters had made their way back to his cabin they had
found it occupied by another group of hunters. From the dead and rotting bodies scattered around
out front and the multiple bullet holes in all of the windows and in much of the wall surface, it was
apparent that the cabin had been the scene of many vicious gunfights. How many times it had
changed hands before John made it back there, he would never know since none of the hunters
inside survived his group's attack to retake it. When they made their way inside and took stock of
what was left they found less than a hundred cans of food and less than two hundred rounds of
ammunition. The booze that he had stockpiled carefully over the course of several years had all
been gone as had his stock of dried deer jerky.
But, as much of a blow as losing his food and ammo had been, at least he was back in possession of
the cabin itself. He had quickly organized his hunting group into a fairly efficient security force
capable, under his direction, of holding off any more such attacks and even, eventually, of carrying
out raids of their own. Though John did not particularly like having to attack others for food and
needed supplies, he did not shy away from doing it. Nor did his team members when it was
explained to them that it was either do that or die. They had forged out into the surrounding
mountainside day after day, attacking bands of other hunters or raiding houses that were still
standing and occupied. Though this portion of the mountains was not heavily populated, there had
been people living there. One by one, day by day, John and his men had picked the area clean.
Along the way they had met up with another group of eight hunters and a guide, a man that John
had known and respected, if not exactly liked, for quite some time. That man was Bill Blades, the
man next to him on the hill. When it had come down to a choice between fighting each other or
merging their efforts, they had wisely chosen the latter option.
Bill too had been out with a group of hunters, though in a different section of the mountains, when
the impact had occurred. Unlike John however, Bill had not lived in the mountains, instead
choosing the flatlands outside of Loomis down in the valley to call home. As such he was glad to
take the second-in-command slot when John offered it in exchange for stable shelter. Bill, like Brett
and company, had discovered that sleeping outside every night was not terribly fun.
Since joining forces the group of seventeen had been the terror of every small group of survivors
within thirty square miles. They had ranged further and further from the cabin that they used as
base, attacking any group smaller or less formidable looking then themselves, and taking whatever
supplies, no matter how small, they happened to have. Though they had managed to keep
themselves fairly well fed up until now, things had finally reached the point where there simply
wasn't anyone else to attack. All of the spare food in all of the standing houses had been consumed.
All of the hunters and other folks in the woods without a means to acquire more food had died of
starvation. That was what finally forced them to Garden Hill.
The group had known about the survivors of Garden Hill for quite some time of course. It could
hardly escape their attention that a large group of people was sequestered inside the walls of the
fancy subdivision. The problem with trying to attack Garden Hill was that there were just too many
people in there to make such an attack worth risking. Or at least that had been the argument used
when there had still been other, less protected pickings to go after. But now, with their rations down
to less than a week's worth and nothing else in sight, John and Bill had made the decision that it
was time to give it a go.
They had watched the town for a day or two, trying to learn the routines within it before they made
a move. Unfortunately they had watched from the edge of the hilly ground in front of the north wall
instead of climbing the hill that they were now on. After noting that those who approached the wall
were driven off with gunshots, they had probed the defenses using their own people, deliberately
approaching the wall at various points to both identify the guard positions and to try to find holes in
the coverage.
They had thought that they'd found such a hole. Two times in two consecutive days one of the
group had been able to walk right up to the northern wall on the western side of it. There had been
no gunshots, no challenge, no apparent detection of any kind. Though they had marveled that the
Garden Hill people would be so dumb as to leave this section open, they had counted it as a
blessing and made plans to exploit it. And then things had gone wrong.
They had sent Ken Staten, a CPA from Santa Rosa who had turned into quite a mountain man since
the comet, to the wall to try and get inside. The plan had been for Ken to hide along the wall until
dark and then to slip inside and do a quick recon of their community center defenses. He was then
supposed to slip back out again before sunrise and report what he had found so that they could plan
a full-scale attack for the next night. But Ken had been seen somehow as he had been crouched in
his hiding place and the rest of the group had watched from the hills three hundred yards away. A
man, the man that they were now looking at walking towards the wall, and a woman, both armed
with assault rifles had appeared less than ten minutes after Ken had positioned himself and they had
shot him dead where he stood. It had been much too quick and they had moved much too carefully
to have been a routine patrol of the outside perimeter. Besides, there had been no previous patrols
of the outside that they'd seen. Someone had spotted him. Somewhere was a guard position that
they had not seen. Where was it? And why hadn't it spotted the earlier probes? They could have no
way of knowing that their earlier probes had not been spotted because the guards that had been
responsible for spotting them had either been having sex or just plain not looking.
"Look at that," John said, watching as Brett entered a two-story house near the northwest corner of
the wall. "He's going in there. Do you think that's the guard position?"
Both men watched the house intently for a few minutes. Now that attention had been called to the
structure, they noticed that the upstairs window was open and unscreened. Looking closer they
were able to make out shadows of several people inside, moving about and conversing with each
other.
"Son of a bitch," Bill said, continuing to watch. "That IS a guard position. That has to be where
they spotted Ken from. He wasn't more than a hundred yards or so from it when he made his
move."
"I think you're right," John agreed sadly. "I wonder if there's any more."
"Why don't we watch 'em for another day or so and try to find out."
John thought this over. "We'll do it for one more day," he finally said. "We'll get someone up here
from first light to dusk. But we have to hit them pretty soon if we're gonna do it. We don't have
enough food left to be fucking around watching them for days. They look pretty soft as long as we
can get in and take them by surprise."
"Hit 'em at breakfast?" Bill suggested. "Most of 'em will be in the community center where we can
keep 'em under control."
John nodded thoughtfully. "I like it," he said. "If those two guard positions on the north are all there
is for this side - and I suspect that they are - it'll be easy to take them out. Sneak inside at night
when they can't see us and divide into two groups. We can synchronize our watches and hit both of
those northern guard positions at exactly the same time with Raid-bombs before they can call for
help. Then we'll be able to get to the community center in force without being detected. If we can
get the whole group there intact without them knowing about us, we can take it without firing a
shot. Get a couple of those big-ass trucks that they drive here and load up as much food as we can
carry. Then we scoot the hell out of there."
"What about the women?" Bill asked. "There's a lot of 'em in that town. It's been a long time since
we've had any women."
John smiled. "I don't think they'll miss 'em if we take one woman for each of us. I don't think they'd
miss 'em at all."
They continued to watch.

On the west side of the subdivision, across the highway and about two miles north of the bridge,
was a hill that Brett had also pegged as an ideal guard position. Hill 4986 it was called on Brett's
maps and it commanded an impressive view of the entire western wall and a good portion of the
northern. Had the three men atop it been members of the Garden Hill guard force and facing to the
west, they would have been able to spot anyone approaching the town from that direction before
they could get closer than half a mile away. But the three men were not looking west, towards the
town approaches, they were looking east, towards the town. They too had noted Brett's entrance
into the guard position. They also noted it when he came back out fifteen minutes later.
"There he is," Stu said, peering with his own pair of binoculars. "He's coming back out."
"I see him," Lieutenant Bracken replied, staring through his own set of binoculars as the man began
heading south down the street outside the house. He took a good look and then handed the glasses
to the man next to him, a man that Brett, Chrissie, and Jason had once given two cans of turkey
chili to. "Take a look," he told him. "Is that the guy?"
He took the binoculars nervously and peered through them, trying to get a good look at the man's
face as it moved slowly away. Hill 4986 was much closer to Brett than the other hill and therefore
his view was much better than John and Bill's had been. "That's him," he said confidently. "That's
the guy that gave us the food. He cut his beard off but I'd recognize that face anywhere."
"Are you sure?" Bracken said. "Tell me if you're not."
"I'm sure," he said. "He was the one with those two kids."
"And they had M-16 rifles with them?" Stu asked. "You're sure about that?"
"Well I guess I am," he said, irritated. "When someone points a fuckin' rifle like that at you it's
something you kinda tend to remember."
"Then that's the guy," Stu said. "That's the motherfucker that took out four of my guys. It has to be.
No other way that group would've had three M-16 rifles unless they took them from my guys."
Bracken wasn't completely sure that they weren't mistaken, but he kept his opinion to himself on
that matter. "I thought you said he'd be smart," he told Stu. "This defense they got set up around
here sure don't look very smart to me. In fact, it looks pretty fuckin' pathetic. They should sittin' on
this hill right here."
Stu had to admit that he had a point. "You ain't shittin boss," he said. "Keeping your lookouts inside
the wall is a good way to get buttfucked. Maybe he ain't as smart as I thought. Maybe he just got
lucky with my guys."
"Maybe," Bracken said. "In any case, he's just making our job easier. It should be a pretty easy to
take this town when the time comes."
"Why don't we just do it now?" Stu asked. "We have a platoon here. Shouldn't be too hard to do."
Bracken considered this for a few moments. "No," he finally said. "We're in no hurry. We stick
with the plan. We'll watch them for a few days and see how they operate. Then we'll go back to
Auburn and bring a whole company when its time to attack. That's how you win battles; with
numerical superiority and superior planning. There's no sense rushing and taking casualties.
Remember how we took Colfax? Not a single man hurt."
"I suppose," Stu said, watching as Brett disappeared behind a house. "But the sooner that man is
gone, the better for all of us. Remember, he's dangerous."

Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Just across the road from the main gate of the Garden Hill subdivision was the hilly, wooded area
where the community gathered most of its firewood. Many of the trees here had been knocked
down by the high winds that had occurred the first few days after the impact. Every day a work
crew of five or six people, mostly women but always with an armed man to guard them, spent a
few hours hacking away at these trees with chainsaws and axes. Though the women had protested
vehemently at first that such a thing was "man's work", they quickly warmed to the idea when it
was realized that the average shift of a wood gatherer was only about three hours in length.
About an hour after the meeting in the community center broke up, while Brett was marching from
guard post to guard post to check on the state of his people, this day's crew was in full operation. A
Dodge Ram pickup that had once belonged to Brenda's husband was parked with it's nose facing
back towards the gate and chunks of pine were being loaded into the back of it, piece by piece after
they were cut. There were five women today pulling the duty, all of them town women, and one
man, who sat behind the truck and kept an eye on things. Jessica was also out there, a rare
appearance since she made it a point to never venture outside the walls.
She was talking to the three women who were carrying the chunks of wood from the pile to the
truck, following them from one place to the other but not offering to don a pair of work gloves and
lend a hand. "I'm telling you," she told them, "that hussy actually ADMITTED that she was having
sex with that poor boy. She confessed it to us right there in the meeting. Can you believe that?"
They could believe it. "I TOLD you," one of the women said knowingly to a companion. "That
little bitch is shameless. Absolutely shameless."
The companion shook her head sadly (although secretly wondering just what it would be like to
have sex with a fourteen-year-old). "I knew she was a slut," she said as if in disgust. "But I didn't
think ANYONE was that slutty. Shocking."
There were some more comments tossed back and forth between the four of them, all of them
disapproving at what Stacy had done. The word "bitch", "slut", "hussy", and even that most hated
word among those of the female species: "cunt" were used with increasing frequency. Finally
Candice, or Candy as she was known, broached the subject that Jessica had really wanted
addressed.
"So what are we going to do with her?" she asked. "Is she going to be banished?"
"I would certainly hope so," one of the others put in. The rest then echoed this sentiment.
"She will not be banished, or even punished for that matter," Jessica said sadly, shaking her head as
if a great travesty of justice was taking place.
"She won't?" they cried. "What do you mean?"
"Paul won't vote to expel her," she said. "I tried and I tried to get him to see reason but he just won't
do it. I tried to explain to him that this was a CRIME. That it was RAPE. He just kept saying that
he didn't see anything wrong with it and that he wasn't going to do anything about it."
"Unbelievable," Candy said. The rest of the group agreed with her.
"He's been influenced by Brett too much," Jessica told them. "I'm telling you, Paul does whatever
Brett tells him to do and votes however Brett wants him to vote. Brett may as well be the one who
is on the committee, that's how much influence he has over him. So anyway, Paul kept us from
being able to exile that bimbo like we all know she should be, and now she's going to walk away
Scott free and be allowed to just keep molesting him all she wants."
This declaration caused a fresh outburst of anger. "Do you mean that nothing is going to be done
about it?" someone asked. "Nothing at all?"
"Nothing," Jessica confirmed. "There's nothing that we can do. We can't very well put her on
kitchen duty, can we? Of course I moved that we at least order her to stay away from him."
"I would hope SO," Candy said righteously.
"And of course Dale and I both voted yes, which means that she has a committee order telling her
to stay away from that young man. But she told us herself that she won't do it and there's nothing
we can do to stop her. Paul said he won't vote to exile her no matter what and there isn't anything
else we can do to her for punishment. Not that anything less than exile would be acceptable
anyway."
"So you can't do anything about it?" the woman next to Candy asked as she dropped a log into the
truck. "We just have to put up with her doing... doing that to him?"
"It looks that way," Jessica agreed sadly. "Unless..."
"Unless what?" they all wanted to know.
"Well this is just an idea," she said mysteriously, as if it wasn't something really worth mentioning.
"What?" they all demanded of her.
"Well," she said, speaking slowly as if this was just occurring to her that moment. "It seems to me
that the will of the community should take precedence over a committee meeting, shouldn't it? I
mean, that's how Brett and his friends got to stay here in the first place. The committee voted that
we wouldn't let him stay, but we put it to a community vote and the ruling was changed. Why
shouldn't that same thing apply to banishing that slut? If the community agrees that she should go,
then she should go, right?"
This darkened the expressions of three of the women present. These were three that had been either
caught at or suspected of fornicating with an attached man; an offense that Jessica wished people
expelled for. But before the thought that what she was suggesting could one day be turned against
them was even fully formed, Jessica covered that particular loophole.
"Now you'd have to understand," she said, "that it should take more than a simple majority vote to
overturn a committee decision. Particularly for something as drastic as exiling someone. I would
think that nothing less than a two-thirds majority would do for something like that."
"Two thirds?"
"Two-thirds," she said. "Like when they tried to impeach Clinton a few years ago, remember? If
two out of every three people of voting age in this town say that that pregnant hussy should be
exiled for what she's doing, then that should be what happens."
There was a momentary pause as everyone went over this thought in their head, their minds doing
some quick addition. Though there were probably enough people against what Stacy had done to
get her thrown out of town using that rule, the same ratio would not hold up when it came to simple
fornication. The people most against the act of sleeping with another woman's partner were the
women who had the partners, or roughly, twenty-one of them. Twenty-one was not even a simple
majority, let alone two-thirds. There did not seem to be any danger involved in supporting this plan.
"That sounds like a pretty good idea Jess," Candy said carefully, still trying to find the hidden
loopholes that Jessica was so famous for.
"Yes," one of the others put in. "I think the town would go for something like that."
"It gives us a little more power," said another.
Jessica smiled, knowing that she had them. "I think it's a good idea too," she said. "I'm going to
propose this amendment at the next committee meeting tomorrow morning. Now I don't know how
Dale or Paul are going to vote, but I'm certainly going to say aye to a rule allowing the community
to overturn a decision."
"And what if it passes?" Candy asked, already knowing, as did everyone else present, that it was as
good as passed as long as it was only a majority committee vote and not a unanimous one. "Are
you going to use it to throw her out."
"You bet your butt," she said. "We'll have a community meeting at dinner tomorrow night and have
a vote on it. If two-thirds of the people want her out, then she'll be walking across the bridge the
next morning."
They all grinned as they thought of this, as they envisioned Stacy waddling across the canyon out
into the forest beyond the bridge. They all thought that would be a sweet sight to see, that hussy
being ejected from their town, although none of them could have told you just WHY that would
have been a sweet sight.
Jessica left them to their work a few minutes later, knowing that those five women would vote the
way she wanted them to. With a smile she reentered the subdivision and found her way back to the
community center. Outside was a work-crew of four, also staffed exclusively with town women,
that was tending the fires that heated bath and cooking water.
"Hi Jess," they greeted with mixed levels of enthusiasm. Though she was valued as a gossip source
and a leader, they did not like her personally.
"Hi girls," she said, putting back on her solemn expression. She gathered them around her and then
began to speak, her topics neutral at first. Within two minutes however, the subject of Jason and
Stacy was brought up, giving her an opening. "It's interesting that you should mention that hussy,"
she said, putting her angry expression on. "We had a meeting about that just this morning."
"You did?" she was asked.
"Of course," she said. "After I found out that that young man had been in the hussy's house half the
night, I certainly wasn't going to let the issue drop."
"So what happened?" they inquired.
"Well," she said, settling down into storytelling mode, "We brought the two of them in for
questioning about just what happened in there. And guess what they said?"
"What?"
And so the story was told again, to the shock of the latest bunch. Just like with the wood-gathering
crew before, they fumed and cursed about the outrage of Stacy's actions and then asked what was
being done about it. When told that nothing was being done about it, they demanded to know why.
When told why, they ranted for a few more minutes about the injustice of it all and then Jessica
slyly slipped in the suggestion about the two-thirds majority rule. As before, after a few uneasy
worries were soothed, the idea was embraced with enthusiasm.
From the fire-tending crew, she moved on to the child care crew. From there, she moved on
somewhere else. She figured that she would be able to talk to every woman in town by 2:30, which
would give her more than enough time to catch her afternoon nap.

Guard position 4 was located in the top story of one of the abandoned houses in the southeast
corner of the subdivision. Except for the bridge lookout, it was the most isolated of all the posts, far
away from any of the occupied houses. It watched over the rough hills between the eastern wall and
the sheer impassible cliffs beyond them. It was a post that would have been obsolete had Brett been
allowed to station guards on Hill 5107, but for now, it was manned and on this day Michelle and
Maria Sanchez had the duty.
At 3:30 Brett made his visit to the post after making the fifteen-minute walk to it from the
community center. He found Maria and Michelle seated before the window in card table chairs, a
pair of binoculars, their walkie-talkie, and a game of gin rummy laid out on the endtable between
them. Leaning against the table was the high powered rifle that every guard position had and one of
the AK-47s.
"Good afternoon," Brett greeted them as he entered the room and sat down on the bed.
"Hi Brett," Michelle greeted, offering him a friendly smile.
Maria too gave him a semi-cordial greeting. Unlike many of the town women, Maria, who was
Hector's official woman, was used to hard work and didn't complain much about being assigned to
the detail. As such she did not seem to have as many hard feelings for Brett as others did.
He made small talk with them for a few moments, asking them how their shift was going. They
reported that they had not seen a single person all day, making it nearly two straight weeks since a
straggler was last spotted from this particular position. Soon Maria, who had heard the rumors
about Brett and Michelle, sensed that her presence was not exactly wanted at the moment. She
announced that she was going to go out on the front porch for a cigarette and got up, disappearing
down the stairway.
"So how are you feeling today?" Michelle asked once she was gone.
"Like shit," he said honestly. "My first post-comet hangover. A historical moment indeed."
"Me too," she said. "I forgot how miserable I felt after drinking until this morning. Now I
remember. But what I meant was how do you feel about what happened last night? And what we
talked about last night?"
"Oh," he said with a sigh. "THAT how do I feel."
"That's the one."
"I don't really know," he told her after a moment. "My mind is having a hard time convincing me
that you were serious about what you suggested."
"I was serious," she said. "I suppose I could now tell you that it was the alcohol talking, but it
wasn't. The alcohol just gave me the courage to bring it up. The idea itself was conceived and
perfected while I was cold sober. And I still think that it's the only way."
"It just seems so... strange. I could understand if you were trying to steal me away from Chrissie,
but to SHARE." He shook his head a little. "That's the bizarre part."
"But you mentioned it to Chrissie?" she asked.
"How did you know that?" he asked.
"She gave me a look at breakfast this morning that spoke volumes about how she felt about me. It
was more than just the look that she would have given had she merely heard the rumors about you
and I. I was pretty sure that you told her my suggestion. Did you do it while you were still drunk?"
"Yes," he said. "She was waiting up for me when I got home. The subject was kind of forced upon
me. As you guessed, she didn't react very favorably towards the suggestion."
"I told you that she wouldn't at first," she reminded him. "It is quite a shocking suggestion to have
to deal with. I think she'll come around though. There's not really anything else for her to do."
"She slapped me across the face," he said. "And it hurt. I don't think a woman who reacts with
physical violence to a suggestion is going to work her way around to accepting it."
Michelle shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not," she said. "Time will tell. But you never answered my
question. How do YOU feel about it? Besides thinking it's bizarre and strange that is?"
"I'm a man," he said. "If two beautiful women want to share me with each other, I'm certainly not
going to say no. Does that answer your question?"
"It does," she said with a smile. "And don't worry too much about Chrissie. I'll talk to her at dinner
tonight after shift."
"I don't think that's a real good idea," he said, thinking instantly of the gun that Chrissie carried on
her hip. He had a frightfully clear vision of Michelle lying dead on the gym floor beneath the table,
a large bullet hole in her forehead, and Chrissie being marched across the bridge the next day,
exiled for murder.
Michelle could tell what he was thinking. "Don't worry," she said. "She won't hurt me and I won't
hurt her. If she reacts too strongly to my talking to her, I'll just leave and try again tomorrow. I have
patience."
He gave a very doubtful look but offered no further protests. "Have you heard about Jason and
Stacy?" he asked her.
She nodded. "Maria filled me in on the latest when she came on shift at twelve. Quite a powder keg
brewing, isn't it?"
"To say the least," he said. "Did she tell you what Jessica is up to now?"
"About the two-thirds community vote?"
"Yep."
"Yes, she told me about it. Jessica caught her before she came out here and gave her the spiel. It
sounds like she is being very persuasive. Maria is not even a town woman and she hates Jessica
with a passion but she came in here spouting about that hussy and that bitch and using phrases that
I know she could have only been fed by Jess. If she can rile up Maria like that, I can only imagine
how riled up the town women are getting."
"They're pretty riled all right," he said. "You should've heard some of the things they were saying to
us while we were moving his things over there this afternoon."
"He still moved in with her huh?"
"He did," he confirmed. "He wasn't going to be talked out of it. He told me that if they throw Stacy
out of town then he'll be going across the bridge with her."
"You have to admire his devotion," she said. "It's too bad that this hen party we call a citizenry
doesn't see that. He's much more dedicated to his woman than any other man in town, isn't he? Do
you think Dale would walk across the bridge with Jessica if we threw her out?"
"I'd sure like to make the experiment," he said, making both of them laugh.
"Will what she's trying to do really work?" she asked him.
"Yes," he said. "I don't see any way to stop it. At tomorrow's committee meeting Jessica will
propose that a two-thirds vote of the entire community can override any committee decision. She'll
vote for it and so will Dale and that means it will pass. At the community meeting that night, she'll
move that we vote on overturning the committee's decision not to exile Stacy for statutory rape. I've
sampled the mood of those women out there. She won't have any problem getting a two-thirds
majority, even if all of the men vote no."
"Great," Michelle said, slumping a little in her chair. "I'll try talking to some of them after dinner
tonight and at dinner tomorrow. Maybe I can swing some of them over to my bandwagon. It can't
hurt."
"Why don't I just give you the day off tomorrow and you can spend all day doing it?" he suggested.
She shook her head. "Not a good idea," she said. "It would be counter-productive if you had to
assign someone to my position so I could go politic for you. It would look rather shady, especially
in light of the rumors that are already floating around about the two of us."
He sighed. "I guess you're right," he said. "Now I know why Paul told me the first night that living
in a town full of women was a pain in the ass."

At 5:30, just as the unseen sun was nearing the horizon, John Kramer and Bill Blades had one last
conference. They, as well as all of their men, were sequestered behind the last group of hills before
the open ground along the northern wall, almost exactly halfway between guard positions two and
three. The recon they had done had convinced them that these were the only two posts on this side
of the subdivision. The time had come to stop watching and to start attacking.
"We ready to get into position?" John whispered to Bill.
"I think so," he replied.
"Is everyone's watch synchronized exactly?"
"I've checked my guys three times," he said. "They're all tuned exactly to my watch and my watch
is tuned exactly to yours."
"Good enough," John told him. "Remember, we move into position at two in the morning and hide
ourselves. You can fudge a little on that time, but not on the attack time. At eight o'clock sharp we
strike. No more, no less. It's vital that we take out those guards before they have a chance to call in.
Don't shoot unless you absolutely have to. Make those Raid-bombs do the job. I don't think they'd
be able to hear gunfire all the way over at the community center with this rain, but you never
know."
"We'll do it," Bill assured him confidently. "Two o'clock we penetrate, eight o'clock and the Raid
bombs go in. Once the guards are down, we meet in the middle and move on the community
center."
"If we do this right," John told him, "We'll be sinking into some nice pussy in about fifteen hours.
Tell your men that. It'll pep 'em up."
"Already did it."
"Okay. It's time. Get your people into position and I'll see you tomorrow morning."
The two men each joined their group. Bill's group, which was tasked with taking down guard
position 3 (although they did not know that was the name of it) consisted of Bill and seven of the
hunters, all of them armed with their rifles and plenty of ammunition, two of them armed with the
special "Raid-bombs" that they had devised and found so effective in quickly taking out people in
enclosed places. John's group was tasked with taking down guard position 2 at exactly the same
instant. His group also consisted of seven hunters in addition to the leader, two of whom also had
the Raid-bombs.
While they still had some daylight left, the two groups moved in opposite directions, staying behind
the concealment of the hills but paralleling the wall. Each leader would periodically check position
by peering carefully around a tree or over the top of a rise to see how close to their targets they
were. When they found themselves to be almost exactly across from the guard positions, they
stopped and hid themselves carefully in the foliage. They had just enough time before it got
completely dark to make one last check of their supplies and ammo. Everything was as it should be.
The sun deserted them and so did the light. They settled in and waited, knowing it was going to be
a long night but anxious for the rewards that awaited them on the other side of it.

Chrissie was mostly picking at her dinner instead of eating it. She pushed it around with her fork
and occasionally took a small nibble, but her stomach, which was tied up in knots due to all the
worries on her mind, did not embrace the offerings she gave it. As if the problems with Brett and
Michelle were not enough, now she had her brother to worry about as well. He had relieved her at
her post less than an hour ago and had told her his plan to walk across the bridge with Stacy if it
came to that. She had argued and pleaded with him for nearly ten minutes, trying to get him to
change his mind. Although she liked and respected Stacy much more than she did any other female
in town, she did not want to lose her only brother when she was kicked out. And she had no doubt
in her mind that kicked out was exactly what was going to happen. Jessica had visited the guard
post that day while she had been on duty and in the space of less than five minutes had been able to
whip Brenda, her partner, into a seething fury at Stacy's "crime".
"Do you realize that if you vote to kick her out, you'll be sentencing her to death?" Chrissie had
asked Brenda after Jessica's departure.
"No," Brenda has answered indignantly (the way she always talked whenever she addressed
Chrissie) "We'll be exiling her, not executing her."
"Don't kid yourself," Chrissie had responded. "If you send a pregnant women across that bridge,
she's as good as dead. You just won't have to have to watch it."
The conversation had deteriorated from there, eventually ending with Brenda storming out of the
room and going downstairs for the rest of her shift. Chrissie was glad to be rid of her.
Now, as she forced herself to swallow a small portion of canned peas, she wondered if she should
just go with Jason and Stacy when they left. Why not? If they could talk Paul into giving them a
couple of guns and few days worth of food, maybe they could live for a while. Maybe they could
make their way to Auburn eventually and see what life held for them down there.
A figure approaching her in the nearly empty gym distracted her from these thoughts. She looked
up and at first couldn't credit what she was seeing. Was it really Michelle, the woman who had
aspirations of sharing Brett, coming over to her? She wouldn't be that crass, would she?
It seemed that she would. As she got to within ten feet it became obvious that she was heading for
Chrissie. Chrissie shot her the glare that had cowered her so well that morning, warning her to stay
away. This time however, the glare did not work its magic. Michelle stopped directly across from
her, holding her own plate of food, and looked down.
"Can I sit with you?" she asked.
Chrissie looked up at her in disbelief. "I don't think so," she said, venom dripping from her words.
"You are the last person that I want to eat with."
Michelle didn't move. "Even worse than Jessica?" she asked.
Chrissie didn't smile. "Go away," she said.
"We need to talk Chrissie," she said.
"I have nothing to talk to you about."
"But you do," she said. "You have a lot to talk to me about and I have a lot to talk to you about. So
why don't you behave like the adult I know you are and give it a shot, huh? That's what adults do
when they have a conflict with each other."
It was her tone that did the trick. It was not the least bit condescending, not even when she said
"adult". It was so rare that someone talked to her that way that she found herself responding to the
words. "All right," she said, waving to the seat across from her impatiently. "Sit down. Talk."
"Thank you," Michelle said, setting her plate down. She eased herself into the seat and looked
across the table, making no move to pick up her silverware. "I talked to Brett today," she said.
Chrissie shrugged. "So you talked to him. So what?"
"He told me that he brought up the uh... suggestion that I had about you, him, and I."
"You mean sharing him?" she said, hissing a little but keeping her voice down. "Yes, he brought it
up. Did he tell you what I did?"
"He said you slapped him," she said tonelessly.
"Damn right. And I oughtta do the same thing to you too."
Now it was Michelle who shrugged. "And what would that accomplish? It would hurt my face, it
would probably hurt your hand, and nothing will have changed. We would still be sitting here with
the same problems that we had before."
Chrissie did not know how to respond to that. She simply continued to stare.
"Tell me something," Michelle said. "Why is it that you are so opposed to what I have suggested?"
"Why? Are you serious? Because it's sick!"
"Why is it sick?" Michelle wanted to know next.
"What?"
"I believe you heard me," she said. "Why do you think that two women sharing a man is sick? I will
admit that it is somewhat unconventional to our upbringing, and that it is something that I never
considered before the comet fell. I will even admit that it is far from ideal from our perspective. If it
were up to me I would much prefer having one man to myself. But that is not the reality that we
live in anymore. You think that it is sick because it goes against the values that you were raised
with, right?"
"Of course it goes against them," she said. "Doesn't it go against yours? Or did your father have two
wives?"
"My parents divorced when I was young," Michelle said. "But that is neither here nor there. I too
was raised to believe that monogamous relationships were the way things were supposed to be.
Everybody was raised to think that, whether they did it in practice or not. But then everybody was
also raised in a world where there was an equal amount of men and women, weren't they?"
"That doesn't matter."
"It DOES matter Chrissie. That's what I'm trying to tell you. We have five women for every man in
this town. Five to one. Would you agree that that ratio is creating problems in this town?"
It seemed like a trick question and she hesitated for a moment. Finally she reluctantly said, "Yes. It
is creating a big problem."
"We don't live in normal times anymore," Michelle told her. "The civilization that we grew up with
is dead and most of the values that we were raised with cannot apply anymore. Do you agree that
you should be allowed to sleep with Brett in the first place."
"What?"
"Should this town allow you and Brett to sleep together? Should it allow your brother and Stacy to
sleep together?"
"Well... yes," she answered. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Because it's a value that has been changed to suit the situation. Would you have slept with Brett if
you had met him before the comet?"
"No," she said slowly, seeing where this was heading. "I would've told my dad and had him call the
police if he would've tried."
"And how about Stacy and Jason? If you would've found out that a twenty year old pregnant
woman had seduced your fourteen year old brother before the comet, what would you have done?"
"Told my dad and had him call the police," she said.
"Exactly. Yet now, after the comet, you accept Brett as a lover without question, don't you? You
accept Stacy as your brother's lover, don't you? I saw you hugging her this morning. So that must
mean that you have changed your value system a little bit to accept these new realities."
Chrissie shook her head. "You're talking about apples and oranges," she said. "My brother and I are
adults now because of the comet and what happened. All that has changed is that we're trying to be
treated like adults and given the rights that we deserve. That is not the same thing as changing my
values to accept another woman into my relationship. I won't have any part of that."
"But you're already a part of it, whether you like it or not," Michelle said. "You are one of the
women in this town where men are endangered species. We are the glut here Chrissie and the men
are the demand. It's going to come down to either sharing what's available or going without."
"I'll go without then," she said defiantly.
"For how long? Forever? That's real easy to say right now. But what about later, when you need
him."
"I don't need him."
"And what about Brett himself?" she asked. "What about when the town finds out about the two of
you and Jessica riles them all up to exile him for having sex with a minor. I don't even have to
convince you that she can do that, she's already doing it with Stacy."
"How will they find out about the two of us if we're not together anymore?" Chrissie asked.
"I think you maybe know the answer to that," she said softly, leaning forward a little.
Chrissie became very uncomfortable all of a sudden. "What... what do you mean?"
"How late is your period Chrissie?" she asked her.
Chrissie paled as she heard this. How had Michelle known? How could she possible have known?
She had not even told Brett about that! She had hardly even told herself about it, not wanting to
face what it meant.
"How late?" she repeated.
"How did you know?" she whispered, trembling a little.
"Elementary," she said. "I mentioned this possibility to Brett last night and it got me to thinking.
This morning, before I went out to my position, I took a look at the supply room log. In the entire
time you've been here, you have not signed out a single box of tampons or pads. You should have
had at least one period in the time you've been here; maybe even two if the timing was right. And
you don't seem the type that would've gone in and taken them without signing for them. So how
long?"
She continued to look at the woman across from her, feeling a reluctant respect for her deduction
skills. "Almost three weeks," she finally admitted.
Michelle nodded. "A little too long to blame on stress, wouldn't you say?"
Chrissie felt herself starting to cry as the very excuse that she had been giving herself all of this
time was thrown back at her. In her mind it had seemed a reasonable explanation. Spoken aloud by
another person, it sounded ridiculous.
"You're pregnant Chrissie," Michelle said gently. "You're carrying Brett's baby in you. Even if you
don't want to keep it, which I doubt, there is no way available here to put a stop to what's going on
inside of you. We don't have any doctors or medical equipment here. The best we can offer is Paul,
who was an EMT on a fire engine and who is equipped with the basic first aid kits that came with
it. He's real good at putting ice on sprains and bandaging up cuts, but I don't think he knows how to
abort a pregnancy."
"Oh god," Chrissie said, fighting not to face the facts and losing miserably. More tears began to
fall, dripping from her face into her food.
"It's okay," Michelle said gently, reaching across the table and taking one of her hands. Chrissie did
not protest. "It isn't anybody's fault, it's just the way that things work. You didn't think that you'd
live long enough to have to worry about this. But, thanks to Brett bringing you here, you have lived
that long. Why not be grateful that you're still around to cry about it?"
"How can I bring a baby into this world?" Chrissie asked. "What kind of life is it going to have?"
"The kind of life that we provide for it," Michelle answered. "And in a way, that's what I'm trying
to improve by having this talk with you right now."
"What?" she asked, sniffing a little.
"Let's take things one step at a time, shall we?" Michelle told her. "In the first place, there's the
pregnancy itself. What's going to happen when you start to show, when it becomes obvious that
you're expecting? Who is the first person that they're going to look at?"
"Brett," she said, seeing the point immediately.
"And what do you think they're going to do to him?"
"You know what they'll do with him," she said. "They'll exile him."
"Right," Michelle said. "They'll exile him for statutory rape, just like they're planning to do with
Stacy. So what we have to agree upon here is the fact that there is no way that your relationship
with Brett can be hidden from the town forever. They are going to find out about it. All we can
hope to do is control the manner in which they find out about it."
"And how does sharing him with you help with that?" she asked, some of her previous bitterness
coming back.
"Because I am a respected member of this town and I am somewhat of a trendsetter. Now I don't
know for sure if my involvement in the relationship will be able to counter Jessica's opposition to
you and Brett, but I know for damn sure that without it, all hope is lost."
"Why do have to share him?" she wanted to know. "Why can't you just give us your support from
the sidelines? Or are you trying to blackmail us?"
"I want to share him," Michelle said. "I need a man to hold and to have sex with just as much as
everyone else in this town and, to me, Brett is the most desirable that we have. Those are my main
reasons for suggesting this arrangement. If it doesn't work out that way for whatever reason, then I
will still give my support to you and be a voice against Jessica. I will do that Chrissie, no matter
what. However, I think my words will carry much more power with the other women if I am
actually a part of a relationship with you. My arguments will seem more legitimate to them and
there will also be the side-issue of the polygamy to take a little of the heat off of the under eighteen
issue."
Chrissie shook her head, not understanding.
"Look at it this way," Michelle explained. "Most of the women in town do not have an official man
and they desperately want one. They will embrace the polygamy issue the same way that I do; by
concluding that it is better than what they have, which is nothing. They WILL side with me on
sharing men, I have no doubt about that. So if they side with me on that against Jessica and the
other women who have official partners, they will be hard pressed to side with Jessica against you
being with Brett in the first place. They will not be able to jump on both bandwagons at the same
time. By tackling both of these issues in one single battle, we will be able to prevail with both of
them."
"This is just too much," Chrissie said, realizing almost belatedly that she had been giving serious
consideration to what Michelle was saying. "Too much has happened today. I can't think."
"But you have to," Michelle said. "Time is running out. You don't need to make any decisions right
now, but you will have to make one soon. And as you're mulling all of this over, try to think about
that baby in you. You mentioned what kind of world you would be bringing it into. It won't be the
world that you were brought into, that is a given. But it would be nice if it was a world with some
sort of order to it. Sharing men is not perfect, but if we start the ball rolling, it will catch on and it
will bring order to this chaos that we have here. And maybe someday that baby's children or
grandchildren will be able to go back to the values that we used to have."
"That would be nice," Chrissie said. "It would be, but... I don't think that I could share a man with
someone. I just can't see myself doing that. How could we live with the jealousy?"
"It will take some time," Michelle said. "I suspect that we would probably fight with each other
quite a lot at first and we would have to change and rearrange how we would go about certain...
things. It won't be a cakewalk. The only way it would work would be if we were friends with each
other. And Chrissie, despite what has happened, I do consider you to be my friend. I like you a lot
and I care about you. And most of all, I would be honored to share a man with you."
Chrissie left a few minutes later, without a decision made one way or the other but with a lot on her
mind. She walked slowly home and entered the house, seeing that Brett was lying on the couch,
reading a paperback novel from the supply room. He looked up at her anxiously, not saying
anything.
"Hi," she said softly.
"Hi," he replied back.
Instead of retreating to her bedroom as she usually did, she stayed at the end of the couch. They
continued to look at each other and then they began to talk. They mentioned nothing about
Michelle or polygamy. She said nothing about the near-certainty that she was pregnant. Instead
they talked about Jason and Stacy and the possibility of her being voted from town the next night.
He vowed that he would do everything in his power to prevent that, both before and after the vote.
He told her that Paul was going to try to enlist the aid of the other men in town in support of Jason;
a prospect which might be promising if they pressured their official women to vote nay and try to
convince others to do so. He did not mention that Michelle would try to talk to some of the other
women, not wanting to bring up her name. She told him that she was keeping her hopes up, that
things had a way of working out. And then she said goodnight and went to her room. It was not
exactly a mending of the relationship, but it was the most that they had said to each other with civil
tongues since the day he had told her about Mitsy.
At precisely 2:00 AM, Bill gave the order to his men. It was time to move in. They stood shoulder
to shoulder, moving slowly so that their equipment would not clank or make any other sort of
noise. They linked arms so that no one would stray off in the wrong direction in the darkness. They
then began to move forward, towards the wall.
Each step was made carefully and slowly, the ground beneath their feet being tested before the
weight was shifted onto it. It took them nearly twenty minutes to cross the fifty yards of open
ground but finally Bill, who was on the end of the line of men, felt wet concrete against his
outstretched left hand. We whispered the word "wall" to the man next to him. That man whispered
it to the man next to him. Within three seconds the message had been passed to everyone and they
came to a complete stop. They unlinked arms and everyone reached out to touch the wall.
"I'll go up first," Bill said to the man next to him. "Once I'm over, you come up. We do it one by
one that way."
"Right," the man replied. He then passed the message on to the man on his right.
"Give me a boost," Bill said. It took a few moments of fumbling in the darkness but finally he was
able to insert his muddy boot into the clasped hands of the man next to him. His rifle and pack over
his shoulder, his hands touching the wall, he pushed upward with his foot, elevating his head above
the top of the wall. He could see nothing on the other side except a distant faint glow from an
occupied house. The guard position, he knew, was in front of him and to the left. There was no
light coming from it at the moment and it was therefore invisible. He pulled himself completely
atop the wall and then, moving with extreme caution, slid his feet over to the other side while
continuing to hold to the top with his hands. There was a small clank as his rifle shifted but not
loud enough to be heard more than ten feet away. He eased downward until he was dangling from
the top by his hands only and then, with a deep breath, he let go.
He had worried incessantly that there might be a hole or a bush or a sprinkler head beneath him that
would cause him to land badly, injuring himself and creating noise, but this worry turned out to be
groundless. He landed in soft, spongy mud where grass was currently dying from the lack of
sunlight and excessive watering. He sank about six inches into it but was able to easily pull himself
free. He stepped a few paces away and waited for the next man to come over.
Now that someone was safely on the other side, it became much easier to get the rest over. As each
man swung his way over the wall, the man before him would grab him around the waist to help him
down. The second to last man remained up for a moment to give the last man a hand to the top.
Then they were both helped down. Less than ten minutes after Bill's hand first encountered
concrete, all eight of his group was inside the subdivision less than a hundred feet from the guard
position. There was no indication of any kind that they had been seen. They moved on to the next
phase of their insertion.
As Brett had done when he had penetrated the town by using the bridge, Bill used his extensive
recon knowledge to get himself and his group to safety. Though he could not see a thing, he knew
that he was directly across the street from the single story house that was next door to the guard
position. He also knew that that house, like many of the others in Garden Hill, had lost a good
portion of its perimeter fence to a combination of the windstorms and the earthquake. It was a
collapsed mess of wooden planks and posts lying along the western side of the house. The group
once again linked arms and spread out into a line. Slowly, deliberately, they walked step by step
across the street, up over the gutter, and onto the house's driveway. When Bill's fingers encountered
the metal of the garage door, they stopped. One by one, moving by feel, they then moved around
the corner of the house to the side yard, placing the bulk of the house between themselves and the
guard position.
"Okay," Bill whispered once they were all safely there. "I'm gonna turn on the light now."
With that he activated a small penlight that ran on AAA batteries. The illumination it provided was
scant indeed, but it was enough to allow them to move into the backyard without stepping on any of
the fence debris. They made their way onto the patio, which was covered with a roof and took
shelter there between the wall of the house and a dead hot tub.
"Good job everyone," Bill said once they were in position. "Now we wait until morning."
Three quarters of a mile to the west, at the house next door to position 2, John and his team had
found even better luck. They had found that the house had actually been unlocked and they settled
down to wait in the darkened living room behind closed blinds.
At position 3, Jason and Tim Harding, a former PG&E electrical worker, were on duty. Tim, who
had come on at midnight, was in the walk-in closet with the door closed, using his flashlight to read
a Penthouse magazine that he had found in the former grocery store. Jason, who had long since
given up trying to keep his partners alert to their duty, was looking out the window into the
darkness. He had seen nothing although he had been looking almost directly at the spot where the
men had penetrated. Nor had he heard anything.
At position 2 Mitsy and Laura Lewis were pulling the duty. Neither one of them had been looking
out the window when the penetration occurred. Instead, the two women were gossiping about Stacy
and Jason and wondering just what Brett was going to do when that bitch got voted out of the town.
Mitsy was of the opinion that he wouldn't have the balls to say or do anything. Laura, on the other
hand, thought he might try something dramatic, although just what that might be, she couldn't say.
When one of John Kramer's men lost his grip on the wall as he came over and fell to the ground, a
loud clank was clearly heard as his rifle barrel hit the concrete at the base.
"What was that?" Laura said, taking a careless glance out into the darkness.
"I don't know," Mitsy said, shifting herself in her chair. "Probably something falling over. There's
all kinds of weird noises out there."
"Oh, okay," Laura replied and there was no more discussion on the matter. A second later they
went back to gossiping in the darkness.
Twice between the time the invaders hid themselves and dawn, the night perimeter patrol passed by
the houses they were in or behind. Though they had heavy-duty flashlights they did not shine them
on the houses, let alone notice anything amiss.
When the first touches of daylight came to the sky at 5:45 the next morning, Bill's group left the
shelter of the patio and eased over alongside the eastern fence of the backyard, where a lengthy
section was still standing. They knew that the guard posts changed crews in fifteen minutes and
they wanted to make extra sure that a random sighting by the oncoming or offgoing crew as they
entered or exited did not give them away. It was a small chance at best that anyone would have
noticed them on the patio but it was best not to take chances. If living in the wilderness had taught
them anything, it had taught them that.

At guard position 2, Michelle and Brenda, the assigned crew for that first portion of the day, arrived
promptly at 6:00 AM, relieving Mitsy and Laura. As was normal when one female crew relieved
another, the offgoing lingered for a few minutes to share the latest gossip. Michelle took up her
position near the window and listened for a few minutes as the three of them began talking about
the latest developments in the Stacy and Jason saga. All three were of course of the opinion that she
would be voted out of town by the end of the night, and good riddance.
"What do you think about this Michelle?" she was asked at one point, as she had known that she
would be.
And so, attempting to utilize every ounce of influence that she had, she began explaining to them
that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Stacy and Jason living together as lovers.
"What?" they asked, taken aback.
She did her best but, as she had discovered the previous night after her conversation with Chrissie,
her influence in this matter was not quite as strong as she had thought it would be. They listened to
her respectfully and even agreed with many of her points but they were completely unwilling to
concede that a fourteen year old, even under the extreme circumstances found in the world these
days, was a suitable sexual partner for a pregnant 20 year old woman. All declared that they would
be shouting out ayes when Jessica put the matter of ejecting Stacy to vote.
"It would set a horrible precedent if we let her stay," Mitsy said, using the exact phrase that Jessica
had used when they'd talked the day before.
"Yes," Laura added. "Imagine what would happen if we did not respond forcefully to this. Think of
what would result in the future." This too was a verbatim quote from Jessica's speech.
Brenda then put in her own two-cents worth by borrowing yet another Jessica-ism that had to do
with protecting the morals of the young.
By the time that Mitsy and Laura finally left at 6:40 (Mitsy heading off in a different direction than
her partner), Michelle was seriously worried about what was going to happen at dinner tonight. She
of course could not know that less than a hundred feet away were eight men determined to see to it
that she did not have dinner that night, or any other night ever again.

At guard position 3, crew-change actually took place at 6:10 that morning since Jeff and Lenny
Long, a former grocery store courtesy clerk, were late arriving. This was not an uncommon
occurrence at the Garden Hill guard posts and it did not even draw a snide remark from Jason or
Tim.
Tim headed out the door the moment that the relief crew entered the house, not even pausing long
enough to say hello to either of them. Jason tried to give a pass-on report as he had been taught by
Brett, but neither one of the two men wanted to hear it. They simply waved him away, although
they did offer him their best wishes in the upcoming Stacy vote.
"I think its totally bogus," Jeff opined. "I mean, how dare they try to vote someone out for giving
up the puss. What kinda shit is that?"
"Yeah," Lenny agreed, sitting on the bed and lighting a cigarette, "even if you are just a kid, if
you're able to score it, that's one for you. I'm voting nay on that shit tonight, that's for sure."
Jason, whose stomach was tied in even worse knots than his sister's, thanked them kindly and then
made his leave, heading slowly towards the gym to have breakfast.
Once he was gone Lenny and Jeff settled themselves in by rearranging their chairs further away
from the open window to avoid the damp breeze the was blowing in. They would have shut the
window completely had they not tried such a thing in the past and incurred the furious wrath of
Brett on one of his unannounced visits. Neither one of them gave so much as a passing glance out
the window. Nor did they check their weapons to make sure they were locked and loaded. The only
thing that they did by the book was call Brett on the walkie-talkie to report that they were in
position.
"Another fucking six hours in this hellhole," Lenny complained, leaning back in his chair and
putting his feet on the endtable, knocking the walkie-talkie to the floor. He didn't bother picking it
back up.
"It won't be that bad today," Jeff said, pulling a joint out. "I've arranged for a little entertainment for
us."
"What, the joint? All that does is makes the time pass slower."
"Not THAT kind of entertainment," he said, stuffing it behind his ear for later. "I'm talking about
REAL entertainment. Mitsy's gonna come over. She just got off shift at position 2 and she's gonna
skip breakfast today so she can visit us."
"Mitsy," he said, shaking his head. "That doesn't do ME any good."
"Dude," Jeff said slyly, "have faith in me. I'll set you up. You'll see."
"Set me up?"
"I'll set you up. This'll be a shift to remember."

It was 7:05 when Bill, who was looking through a knothole in the fence towards the guard
position's front yard, saw someone coming. It was hard to tell much detail because of the rain
slicker but he was pretty sure it was a woman. He signaled to his men to settle down and be alert.
They all gripped their rifles a little tighter and made themselves as small as possible.
The woman didn't even glance in their direction. She walked right on by and cut across the soggy
lawn of the guard house, disappearing from their view. When she didn't come back after a moment,
they were forced to conclude that she had gone inside.
"What the hell?" one of the men asked Bill nervously.
"I don't know," he said. "It wasn't the leader that always checks on them, it was a bitch."
"What's she doing in there? Is this going to fuck up the plan?"
"Not as long as she's in the room with them at eight o'clock," he replied. "We go ahead as
scheduled. I don't see any reason to abort."
"All right," the man said doubtfully. "Should I start arming up the Raid-bombs now?"
"Yeah," he said. "Get it done."
While Bill continued to watch through the knothole, two of his men removed the partially
assembled bombs from their backpacks. Each bomb was a rather simple device, though very deadly
within a confined space like a bedroom. They consisted of standard-sized cans of Raid industrial
insect killer, the contents of which was nothing more than pressurized organo-phosphate poison,
basically a crude form of military nerve gas. Attached to the side of the can with super glue, primer
side up, was a single 12-gauge shotgun shell containing.00 buckshot. To arm the bomb, an
ingeniously designed firing mechanism needed to be attached. It was a three-inch length of 3/4 inch
PVC pipe with a half-penny nail connected to the spring from a rat-trap. When the spring was
pulled back, it would seat the head of the nail a half an inch above the shotgun shell's primer. When
it was released - and it took nothing more than the impact of the bomb landing on the ground to
cause this - it would drive the nail into the primer, firing the shell directly into the can of raid,
causing it to explode spectacularly. The men carefully fitted these mechanisms over the shotgun
shells, not activating the springs just yet. They would do that only as they were moving in on the
target.

It was 7:35 and they had just finished smoking Jeff's joint. Mitsy, her eyes reddened both from
fatigue and the pot, sat on the edge of the bed between the two men. Jeff was resting his hand high
up on her blue-jean clad thigh.
"Why don't we go check out the other bedroom Jeffy?" she asked coyly, giving his hand a sensuous
squeeze. "I got something that I really need to talk to you about." She giggled at her own
euphemism.
"We can talk in here baby," Jeff said, letting his hand slide a little higher. "Lenny don't mind, do
you Lenny?"
She giggled again. "This is kinda personal," she said. "I really think we should be alone."
He leaned in and began kissing her neck, right at the junction of the shoulder blade. His hand slid
firmly into the junction of her thighs, moving so fast she didn't have time to close them. "It's okay
baby," he said. "I think Lenny would like to talk too."
"Jeff," she said, trying to pull away from him but he was holding her with his free hand. "I want
to... you know?"
"So do I baby, so do I," he said.
"I want to do it ALONE," she told him. "Come on."
Jeff nibbled at her ear, his tongue swirling over the diamond earring in the lobe. "Don't be such a
prude baby, we both want a little action this morning."
"What?" she said, wondering if we was joking or not. One look at his face told her that he wasn't.
"No Jeff," she said firmly. "I don't do things like that. That's sick."
"What's sick about it?" he asked, standing up and facing her. "I'm horny, you're horny, Lenny's
horny, and we're all three here together. Why not take care of everything at once. Right Lenny?"
"Well... uh... yeah, I guess so," he stammered, unsure what to say, though very erect inside of his
jeans just at the thought of a little double-team action with Mitsy.
"You see," Jeff said, reaching down and fondling her left breast through her sweater. "Even Lenny
agrees."
"I'm not gonna do it," she said firmly, pushing his hand away. "If you want me, I'll do it with you in
the bedroom like always. But I'm not gonna do both of you. I'm not that kind of girl."
"You'd better learn to be," Jeff said threateningly. "If you expect me to leave Gina and move in
with you, I expect you to do the things that I want to do. If you don't want to play the way I want
you to, then just get on out the door and I'll be seeing you around."
"Jeff," she said, her eyes pleading. "That's not fair. That's blackmail."
"That's the way life is now baby. Now you gonna play, or what?"
She lowered her eyes and slumped her shoulders in defeat. What else could she do? She didn't have
a man of her own and it was starting to look like she might be able to wrangle Jeff away. She was
too close to blow that now, wasn't she? "I'll play," she said quietly.
"What was that?" Jeff asked, twisting the knife a little.
"I said I'll play," she said defiantly.
Jeff grinned, slapping Lenny, who had watched the entire exchange in fascination, on the shoulder.
"Come on Lenny, she's gonna play for us. Stand on up here and let's start out with a blowjob. She
gives the best fucking blowjobs you've ever had."
Lenny, despite his discomfort with the manner in which Jeff had manipulated her, still had a raging
hard-on. He knew that he should not be taking part in something like this but he couldn't help
himself. Mitsy was a hot looking piece. He stood next to Jeff with his crotch right in Mitsy's face.
"Come on baby," Jeff told her. "Take 'em out and get to work."
Feeling humiliation unlike anything that she had ever experienced before, Mitsy reached out and
unbuttoned first Jeff's pants and then Lenny's, pushing each pair down so that their hard cocks were
sticking in her face. She gave Jeff one last pleading look but saw no hope for reprieve in his face.
With a sigh she leaned forward and took him into her mouth.
"Ahhh yess," Jeff said happily, grabbing a handful of her hair and guiding her motions. "Use your
hand on Lenny while you're sucking me," he told her.
She reached over with the hand that was not jacking up and down on Jeff and began to listlessly
jack off Lenny's cock. Lenny didn't care that it was listless. Her hand around his organ, no matter
how unenthusiastically she moved it, felt great. He began to piston his hips in and out of her fist.
"Feel her titties," Jeff suggested to his partner. "She likes that. They're kinda small but they're nice."
Lenny reached down and grasped her right breast roughly through her sweater, making her wince a
little. She never broke stride however. He began to squeeze and knead it, moving it up and down,
back and forth.
Jeff let her suck him for about five minutes and then he abruptly pulled himself from her mouth.
"It's Lenny's turn," he told her. "Give him your best."
"Jeff, really," she pleaded. "This is humiliating."
"But it's your lot in life now baby," he said toughly, pushing her head towards Lenny's crotch.
"Now do what you're told."
Obediently she took Lenny into her mouth and went to work. Lenny found out in short order that
she was every bit the cocksucker that Jeff had promised she was.

Bill checked his watch. It was 7:55 AM. Almost time to strike. He turned to the two men who were
the designated bombers of the guard post. "All right you guys," he said. "Are you ready to move
in?"
They both told him that they were ready. They were obviously nervous about the prospect of
attacking such a large settlement, but they were also full of confidence as well.
"Okay," Bill said. "Start moving in. Remember the plan and remember not to throw them until 8:00
and zero seconds. Got it?"
They told him that they had it and they moved in.
They left the backyard by retracing their steps from how they had entered it. Keeping close to the
side of the house, they edged over the lumber of the fallen fence and worked their way out into the
driveway, keeping their backs as close to the garage door as they could get them without actually
rattling it. The window that served as the guard post was less than fifty feet away from them but
they were confident that they could get over there without being seen as long as one of the guards
did not actually stick his or her head out of the window and look to the left. They continued to edge
along the wall of the house until they were near the front porch, well back from the sightline of the
guardhouse now. They then trotted over until their backs were against the two-story house itself.
They crept along the side of this house until they were at the corner, near the garage door. The open
window from which the guards operated was directly over the garage and the driveway. They
paused at this corner, waiting for it to be exactly 8:00 AM. When the appointed time came they
would have to do nothing but pull back the springs on their bombs, take six or seven steps out onto
the driveway, and toss them inside. It was an easy shot through the window but they were using
two bombs in case, for whatever reason, one of them missed.
"Remember not to shoot unless we have to," the first man whispered to his companion.
"I won't," he said, checking his watch again. It read 7:58.

Mitsy was now completely naked, her impressive body on hands and knees on the bed. Jeff was
standing on the floor in front of her, his dick in her mouth, enjoying her wet blowjob. His hands
were squeezing her small breasts roughly, his fingers occasionally giving the nipples a strong
tweak. Lenny was behind her, driving his dick in and out of her pussy from behind. He was holding
onto her hips hard enough to leave marks upon her flesh.
"Doesn't she have a nice, tight pussy?" Jeff asked with a grin, looking at the rapturous face of his
partner.
"Yeah," he moaned, feeling the clenching of her muscles upon his cock. Though she was not really
any tighter than Carla, his official woman, or Barbara, his main piece on the side, there was
something intrinsically nasty and arousing about double-teaming Mitsy at the guard post. This was
the best sex that he had experienced since the comet, and he had experienced a lot of it since that
fateful day.
"Put it in her ass," Jeff told him. "She loves that."
Mitsy took her mouth off of his cock and looked up at him. "Jeff," she said, appalled that he would
suggest something like that.
Jeff took his hand off of her tit long enough to backhand her sharply across the face. "Shut up
bitch," he growled at her, grabbing her by the hair. "When I want you to talk, I'll ask you
something. Now get back to work." With that he pulled her to his cock again.
Lenny was somewhat shocked by the violence that the former Mormon had just displayed. "Are
you sure that she really wants me to do that?" he asked timidly.
"I told you Len," he said, driving his hips in and out of her mouth now. "She fuckin' loves it. Now
stick it up her ass and give it to her."
That was enough encouragement for Lenny. He had been looking at that puckered anus longingly
the entire time that he had been fucking her. He pulled his cock from her semi-dry vagina and spit
in his hand, rubbing more lubrication on it. He then placed the head against the bud of her asshole
and began to push.
"Yeah Len!" Jeff said enthusiastically as Mitsy grunted in pain around his dick. "You the man
motherfucker. Give it to the bitch!"
He gave it to her, pushing as hard as he could until he was buried to the hilt in her ass. It was the
tightest orifice that he had ever been in in his life, so tight that it was difficult to move in and out of
it. Nevertheless he gave it the old college try. Mitsy grunted with each thrust and after a few
moments, she loosened up a little and got somewhat used to his presence. He began to pick up the
pace as it began to feel better. He was actually fucking Mitsy up the ass! That very thought started
the wheels of orgasm into motion.
Just as the sensation of inevitable blast-off started to hit him, he saw something come flying
through the window out of the corner of his eye, something that looked strangely like a red and
black spray can. Before that even registered completely, another one followed it.
Jeff, who was facing the window, saw it too. Mitsy, who had her eyes closed and her mouth full of
cock, did not.
Nobody had time to even become alarmed. The cans both landed just to the side of the bed and both
exploded less than a second apart with sharp cracks of surprising loudness. Shrapnel from the
aluminum that made up the cans sprayed everywhere and Lenny took the brunt of it. Razor sharp
shards sliced into his back, his legs, his neck, and the side of his face. His left eyeball was ripped
right out of its socket and a large flap of his cheek was peeled away with almost surgical precision.
Another piece sliced neatly through the carotid artery on the left side of his neck before cutting his
trachea neatly in two. He fell to the floor in a bloody heap, his consciousness fading away before
the poison that had been released into the room could even affect him.
Mitsy and Jeff were not so lucky. Though both of them were peppered with shrapnel - Mitsy all
over her left hip and flank, Jeff all over his chest and stomach - and although Mitsy in reflexive
surprise had bitten down on Jeff's penis nearly hard enough to sever it, neither had been hit in a
vital area. Mitsy, dazed and bleeding, fell to the right on the bed. Jeff, holding his injured and
hemorrhaging dick with both hands, fell backwards. By the time it occurred to them a few seconds
later that they were under attack, it was already too late. The pesticide fumes filled the air in the
small bedroom and penetrated their lungs, entering the bloodstream via respiration. It was also
soaked in through their very pores, the process made even easier by the fact that they were naked
and bleeding.
Both of them tried to crawl to the radio. Neither of them made it more than a foot before their
parasympathetic nervous system rebelled in a big way causing them to simultaneously vomit,
defecate, and urinate uncontrollably. They began to choke on their own vomit and a few seconds
later, they began to convulse, their bodies flopping around where they lie like fish out of water. It
was an agonizing death but thankfully it was a quick one. Less than a minute after the cans had
flown in the window, while Bill and the rest of his men were kicking in the front door to clear the
building, both of them were dead.

Michelle heard the small beep come from her wristwatch, indicating that it was the top of the hour.
She was looking out over the wall, tossing a few ideas - none of which seemed to have much merit
- about the Jason and Stacy problem around in her head. Brenda, who was sitting on the bed behind
her, painting her fingernails, was chattering on and on about Hector and how she was beginning to
suspect that maybe - just MAYBE mind you - he was leading her on. She was about to offer a
mildly snide comment about Brenda's powers of deduction when her eyes locked onto a sudden
movement directly below her window. Someone had just been right beneath them and was now
stepping out into the open.
Brett, in their firearm training outside the wall, had made them work extensively with the pistols
that they carried. He had done to his guards what the instructors at the San Joaquin County Sheriff's
Academy had done to him over the course of his tenure there. He had made it an instinct to draw
their pistol whenever danger presented itself suddenly from close quarters. Michelle's.45 was out of
her holster and pointing out the window before she even realized what she was looking at.
All she saw was a dirty, bearded man, which meant he was a straggler. He had somehow gotten
inside the wall and right up to her position, which meant he was dangerous. He had something - she
did not have time to identify it - in his hand and he was cocking his arm back to throw it at her. Her
brain quickly processed all of this and came to the firm conclusion that she was in mortal danger.
Without pausing to send this information to her higher brain, where it could mulled over and
completely analyzed before a decision was made, the lower part of her brain, the part concerned
with basic survival instincts, commanded her to fire the gun. She pointed it at the center mass of the
man and began pulling the trigger.
Brenda screamed behind her as the gun in Michelle's hand began to explode with noise and
expended shell casings began to fly around the room. Michelle had no idea how many times she
shot him but she clearly saw bullets impacting his chest and spraying blood out behind him. Just as
he started to drop, just as the object that he had been about to throw fell from his hand, another
figure emerged right behind him. He too had an object in his hand and he too quickly turned and
prepared to hurl it.
Before she could shift her fire to him or even properly process the fact that he was a new threat, the
Raid-bomb from the first man hit the driveway and detonated. Some of the shrapnel and the fumes
managed to blast upward towards Michelle. She felt a sting in her right arm as a piece of aluminum
sliced into it. The gun dropped from her hand and clattered to the ground below. But the majority of
the blast hit the two people on the ground. The one she had shot was falling forward at the time and
took much of it in the chest. The one about to throw the second bomb felt metal slice into his ankles
and thighs. His arm was halfway through the throwing motion when the explosion occurred but it
was just enough to throw his aim off. His bomb flew upward and struck the side of the house two
feet to the right of the window, exploding almost harmlessly ten feet up.
John Kramer, who, along with the rest of his force, was positioned thirty feet away along the fence
line to the side of the house, watched helplessly as his carefully formulated plan began to fall apart.
First that idiot falling off the wall early that morning when they had penetrated, almost giving them
away, and now this. How had that guard in there shot so quickly? How could anybody react that
fast? Now one of his men was dead on the ground and the other was already starting to choke and
gag from the effects of the insecticide cloud that was enveloping him. And the two armed guards in
that house were still alive. They would be calling in to the community center any moment on their
walkie-talkies.
"Shoot them through the wall," Kramer barked at his men. He pointed to the side of the house
above the garage. "They're right behind that wall! Everybody! Start shooting!"
With almost military precision they swung their hunting rifles upward, knowing that the.30 caliber,
high velocity bullets would punch through the thin layer of plaster and sheetrock as easily as a BB
fired from a child's gun would punch through a sheet of paper. They began to fire.

Brenda was still screaming as the noxious fumes of the pesticide started to penetrate through the
open window. Michelle yelled at her to shut the fuck up (which she did not do) and took a moment
to look at her wrist. There was a piece of thin, black metal protruding from the side of it, about half
an inch sticking out. Blood was oozing slowly around the sides. She moved all of her fingers and
found that they still worked as they were supposed to. She pulled the metal free and threw it to the
floor, an act that caused the bleeding to increase.
Outside, the second attacker, the one who had thrown the can against the side of the house, had
fallen to the ground and was convulsing rather grotesquely. Even from fifteen feet away, even over
the odor of the pesticide itself, she could smell the sharp stench of feces rising up. Nerve gas of
some kind, her well-read mind told her. That was what they had tried to attack with although both
of the bomb throwers also had rifles. Who the fuck were these people and how many of them were
out there?
Dripping blood on the floor, she picked up the M-16 from its place with one hand and the rifle with
the other. She tried to hand Brenda the rifle but she was in complete hysterics and wouldn't take it.
"Brenda, goddammit, someone's trying to attack us! Take the fucking rifle!"
"Ahhhh, ohhhh goddd, ohhhh goddddd!"
"Shit," she muttered, throwing the rifle to the ground and starting to head for the radio. Just then
there was a pop from behind her and something whizzed over her shoulder. It was quickly followed
by five or six other pops and whizzes and holes began to appear in the ceiling and the upper part of
the wall. Just as this registered, the sound of gu