This is Book 7 in the series
EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: THE FOLD TWO
Copyright 2020 Wendell Sweet
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Additional Copyrights © 2010, 2012, 2015 by Wendell Sweet.
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THE FOLD TWO
Rochester New York
While Jimmy searched out Hank Nelson, one of his ex-police buddies who had been helping to coordinate things, Frank set off with Gary to find Jessie. Jimmy could fill Hank in, and Jeremiah had gone over to the television station to set a plan in motion, that they had all agreed upon. Frank needed to find Jessie. He couldn’t leave without seeing her, even if it only made it harder for him, and she was also part of the plan they had come up with, and, she needed to know about the children, Frank reasoned.
He found her with Lisa and Connie, in the old County Court House building, setting up the make-shift Red Cross kitchen for lunch.
“Frank,” she asked when she saw his red eyes, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing is,” Frank said, mildly, “but I need to talk to you…” he looked over at Bessy, the formidable woman who had run the kitchen on her own for three days, “Bessy?” he asked.
“Go on ahead,” Bessy said, “we’re just about finished here anyhow. Jessie, go on ahead, Lisa and Connie can help me serve.” The old gray-haired woman nodded her head sternly at Jessie as she spoke.
Frank waited until they were outside before he spoke. Gary had followed them out, but walked a short distance away. “First,” Frank said, “I love you, Jessie, I do with all my heart, and I should’ve already said it.”
“Jessie, we, Gary, Jeremiah, Jimmy and I have to leave. I can’t tell you all reasons right now… it has to do with something I know about those caves, but we have to go, Jessie. We have to.”
“Okay,” she said in a low voice, as she brushed tears from her eyes, “just come back, Frank…” she burst into tears as she finished. Frank took her chin in his hands, and gently lifted her face to his.
“Jessie, do you trust me?” Frank asked.
“Of course, Frank!” she was crying harder but her voice had taken on a rough edge, a panicked pleading was mixed in with it.
“Jessie, trust me, it’ll be okay, I swear it,” he said.
“I believe you, Frank, and believing will help me hang on,” she replied.
“I… I wanted to say something else, Jessie… Something.”
She put one finger to his lips and stopped his words.
“Frank… Not at a time like this… I don’t trust emotion in a time like this.”
He looked at her for a second and then nodded. He turned to Gary and nodded decisively.
The three of them walked quickly toward the television station, meeting Jimmy along the way.
“All set?” Frank asked.
“All set,” Jimmy answered, “Hank, will see to things here.”
They walked in silence to the station, and Jeremiah met them at the door. “Think it’ll work?” Gary asked him.
“No way to know, but it can’t hurt,” Jeremiah responded.
Two hours later, Frank, Jeremiah, and Jimmy, as well as Gary, were standing at the village of Fairport’s main dock.
“Several to choose from,” Gary said, as he stared out over the muddy banked channel.
“At least they’re not all in the mud,” Frank agreed. “Makes me wish we had John with us. I’d feel a heck of a lot better with him steering us out to the lake.” They had gone to John before they left to find out which was the quickest way to get to the lake, without chancing a trip through the north side of the city. John had suggested Fairport, because of its man-made channel that served the lake.
“Well, let’s do it, Gentlemen,” Jeremiah said, as he walked across the concrete lip of the channel, and out onto a short pier. A length of yellow nylon rope was still bound, although it was pulled tight, around a wooden piling, and Jeremiah followed the rope to its ending, at a fairly good sized fiberglass speed boat about three feet below them. Lilac City Baby, was stenciled just below the port side in script. After carefully untying the knot in the nylon rope; holding it tightly against the wooden piling as he did, allowing the tension to slowly bleed off, Jeremiah jumped down the three feet to the deck.
“Well?” he said looking up, “you guy’s gonna just let me float away?”
The remaining three men jumped down to the deck, as Jeremiah made his way back to steering console.
“No keys,” he said frowning.
“I can fix that,” Jimmy said, “lemme see…” he reached his hand under the panel, and emerged with three pig-tail ends of wire. “I learned this at the jail,” he said, as he slid two of the wires together, “listening to a kid we had in one night, talking about how he did it.” The small red indicator light to the right of the switch lit up. “Now,” Jimmy said, as he touched the remaining wire to the already connected two. “Presto-chango,” he finished as the electric starter began to whir, turning the in-board motor over. He reached to the throttle and edged it forward slightly, while still holding the wires together with one hand. The engine caught, and the low burble of the motor came to him from the exhaust that bubbled up from the rear of the boat. “No probleemo,” Jimmy said, as he released one of the wires. “I don’t however, know how to drive this thing,” he finished sheepishly.
“I do,” Gary volunteered, “I owned one like it.” He took over the controls and slowly backed the boat away from the dock, turned it around, and headed down the channel toward the lake.
“Owned your own gravel pit,” Frank said, “I guess you were pretty well off if you could afford a boat like this.”
“That I was,” Gary said, “but I ain’t sorry I don’t have it all still, Frank… In fact I’m glad I don’t. It was too much of a headache. When this is over I’m retiring.”
Frank chuckled. “Me too, Gary, me too.”
Twenty minutes later they were leaving the channel and entering the lake. The sun rode high in the warm air, and Jeremiah asked, “How long did John say it would take to get there, Frank?”
“Two, maybe three hours tops,” he replied.
“Gee, Frank, how come we didn’t think of this?” Gary asked, with a smirk on his face.
“Dunno, should have,” he said laughing. It felt good to laugh, he thought, and he was pretty sure none of them would be laughing once they got to Fort Drum.
“How are we going to do it when we get there?” Frank asked, to no one in particular.
The laughter died down quickly, making Frank wish he hadn’t asked.
“We’ll see when we get there,” Jeremiah said, “all we kin do, Frank.”
“How close you think you can get us, Gary?” Jeremiah asked.
“Well, if the town’s flooded like I think, we’ll probably be able to take it right into Watertown, and probably most of the way to Fort Drum. From there I guess we hoof it, guys.”
Frank checked the clip in the nine mm machine pistol, before he spoke. “You really think we’ll need these, Jeremiah?”
“I’m ‘fraid so, Frank, we can hope this Jeffery’s guy ain’t there, I doubt he is, but there’s the other guy to contend with… He may know we’re coming, he may not. Hopefully Jessie and Hank can fool ’em for a while… No telling, Frank, but I’m sure we’ll need ’em,” he checked the clip in his own weapon when he finished.
The machine pistols were fully automatic, and each held a two hundred round clip. Jimmy had liberated them from the evidence room of the Rochester Police Department’s downtown office, along with several spare clips, and more than two thousand rounds of additional ammunition. “These will do the job,” Jimmy had said, “if anything will.”
The machine pistols had been taken in one of the many raids on drug houses on the city’s north side, Jimmy had told them, as he had pointed out a room that to Frank looked as if it could hold a small banquet.
The room had been filled to overflowing with weapons of all types, including what looked to Frank to be an Army issue fifty mm anti-aircraft gun. “They use those?” Frank had asked, incredulously.
“Those and anything else they can get their hands on,” Jimmy had answered solemnly.
I wonder if we should have bought the anti-aircraft gun, Frank thought now, as he watched the calm blue-green water of the lake slip by. “I hate the thought of having to use this,” he said, as he slipped the gun into a leather side holster that had been with it. The holster had obviously been custom-made for the previous owner of the weapon and included a long slit in one side that allowed the weapon to be holstered with the clip in place. The initials A. S. were burned into one side of it.
“So long as you use it when the time comes, Frank,” Jeremiah said. “Don’t hesitate, just do it, it’s us or them.”
“Oh I wouldn’t hesitate, Jeremiah,” Frank said, “I just won’t like it while I’m shooting it.” He frowned, but in truth the weight of the gun against his hip was comforting.
Gary pushed the throttle forward as they left the shallows of the lake, and began to move across the dark blue waters toward Fort Drum. Frank relaxed back into one of the vinyl boat seats, and let the wind flow through his black hair. Had it ever smelled so sweet, or felt so good, he asked himself. Probably not, he told himself. He wondered if maybe that was the way it was though when you were about to die. If suddenly everything began to look a lot better, he supposed it was. He couldn’t rightly say that he felt as if he were going to die, but he couldn’t say he didn’t either. He looked around at the others. Gary had a grim smile plastered across his mouth as he leaned into the rush of wind, piloting the speed-boat. Jeremiah was sitting in the seat across from Frank, idly picking at a loose thread in the cushion, a worried look on his face, and Jimmy was leaned back in a backwards facing seat directly in front of Frank, with his hands clasped behind his head and his eyes shut. Frank tried but he could not shake the doomed feeling that had clutched him. It wouldn’t let go, no matter what he tried to think of besides where they were going, and what they were going to attempt to do. He couldn’t shake it, the grip was too tight.
Jeremiah turned and spoke. “Seems like the end don’t it, Frank,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Jimmy opened his eyes and leaned forward as Frank spoke. “It does at that, but I’ve never had much that I cared about in life except my kids, and now Jessie; and now God. I don’t want to die, but it isn’t something I’m afraid of anymore.”
“I feel about the same,” Jimmy said, “no kids, no wife, I thought being a cop was all there was,” he shook his head, “I’m in no hurry to die either…” he shrugged his shoulders, “It won’t make me avoid it though, or walk away from it, I’m in it to the end.”
They both looked at Jeremiah as he spoke. “It ain’t so hard to die. It ain’t something I want to do again though. At least I know there’s something there, and it makes a big difference far as I’m concerned.”
“What’s it like, Jeremiah?” Jimmy asked, echoing the same question that Frank had been thinking.
“I don’t know as I kin explain it well enough…” Jeremiah replied, “It’s sort of like what you think it is. Like…if you think it’ll be hangin’ around in a cloud all day, and talkin’ to angels, I guess it could be that for you,” he paused. “For me it was playing checkers. It was something I used to like to do, and never had time for. I played a couple of games with my dad…” his voice broke softly, “he hadn’t changed a bit, still cheated’. It also means spending time with God, talkin’ to him if you want to. I played checkers with him too, beat him on occasion, course I think he let me. It’s everything you think it is, that’s the best I kin say toward explaining it,” he paused, and sighed. “One thing is life does have a bit on it. The taste of a cold beer, food, Maggie, feelin’ hungry even, life does have something on it. But death ain’t a bad place at all, you kin live there and have it agree with you.”
“That’s a good thing to know, Jeremiah,” Frank said quietly, “if it’s what you say, I guess it isn’t half bad then.”
Jimmy had once again closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat. “It’s a damn sight better than I thought it would be,” he said softly.
“What the hell you worrywarts talking ’bout now?” Gary called out, over the sound of the wind.
“Just life in general, Gary’,” Frank answered. “How you doing?” Frank asked of Gary’s back. “Why can’t you put this thing on auto pilot or something?”
Gary stared over his shoulder at Frank, a look of disgust mingled with a smile on his face. “This boat doesn’t have it, that’s why, mister smarty-pants,” Gary yelled above the wind. “The throttle will stay open, but the steering won’t lock, we’d go around in circles.”
“Gee, so touchy,” Frank said with a smile, as he got up and steadied himself. “I’m gonna watch the water go by, I guess,” he said to Jeremiah as he walked away. He moved slowly up to where Gary stood, and stared out over the water. The waves were choppy and Frank could feel the boat skipping over them. They were hugging the coast line, about a mile out, he figured, and from here the world looked beautiful, he thought, it looked like nothing at all had happened. The vast expanse of water was entirely empty though, and that shattered the illusion. “Worried, Gary?” he asked.
“Nope, I ain’t,” he replied. “I’m ready as I can be, and I ain’t a bit afraid,” he added. “You?”
“We talked about it…” Frank said.
“Heard most of it,” Gary returned.
“What do you think, Gary?”
“Same as you, Frank, it’s a big comfort to know.”
Frank nodded his head, and the two men fell into a comfortable silence as the boat skimmed over the water toward Fort Drum.
In Rochester, Jessie sat in the small studio, staring intently at the television. Beside her John was silent, watching the recording that Frank and the others had viewed earlier.
She had never promised Frank she wouldn’t, and she wanted to see for herself what kind of a monster they were sent to deal with. They watched it all, and as they did the paleness that had crept into Jessie’s face turned red, and her eyes reflected the anger that was building within her. John reacted similarly, and Hank who was also with them refused to watch after the first few minutes, preferring instead to stare idly at the ceiling, as if inspecting it for damage, until the recording finished.
In a small run-down apartment on Hudson Avenue, on the north side of the city of Rochester, Willie Lefray sat talking to Alfred Harding.
Al had been with Willie since the day he had arrived in Rochester. Al was devoted. Totally devoted, and Willie knew he would balk at nothing he asked him to do. He stared at the slight red-haired pimple-splattered young man that was Alfred Harding, thoughtfully, before he spoke.
“Today, Al, today. Take three or four of your guys with you. Do you think you can handle it, Al?” Willie asked.
“Oh yeah, Willie, sure, sure I can,” he responded.
He’s like a fuckin’ puppy dog, Willie thought, before he spoke. “Okay wonder-bread, it’s on you. You get that bitch, and you get her alive, understand?”
“Sure, sure I understand, Willie, what’re you gonna do to her, huh? Gonna kill her or something, Willie?” his eyes shone with adoration as he spoke.
“Don’t worry, Al, tell you what, you want to do her first, Al? Before I do what I have to?”
“Oh sure, Willie, that would, you know, that would be cool, I think,” Alfred answered fairly drooling with anticipation.
“Okay, Al, calm down. Now tell me what you’re gonna do,” Willie asked.
“Sure, Willie,” he answered. “We’re gonna sneak in, and we ain’t gonna kill nobody unless we hav’to. We’re gonna get this Jessie and we’re gonna bring her back to you… Not hurt,” he added hastily.
Willie took a long swig from the bottle between his legs. “Good, Al, very good, now get the fuck out of here and get ready, ’cause in just a few, you’re going,” Willie said.
“Sure, I’m gone already, Willie,” Alfred said as he got up and beat a hasty retreat out of the living room, and through the front door.
Willie listened as the door slammed shut behind him, and took another long pull on the bottle.
He had run out of the white powder. He could settle for cocaine, he supposed, there was a virtual glut of it just laying around waiting to be picked up, but after the magic white powder that Luther had given him, cocaine was nothing.
He had fully expected to be dead by now, and it baffled him that he wasn’t. He hadn’t eaten in ten days or better, and he’d had nothing to drink that didn’t contain alcohol in at least as many days. He sighed. “Fuck it,” he said aloud, as he took another swig from the bottle.
The phone on the coffee table suddenly burred, and Willie nearly choked before he managed to swallow, and then quickly snatch the phone from the table.
“Yes,” he said into the phone, in a small voice. “Yes, today, Luther,” he set the phone back down and got serious about killing off the half empty bottle, “No place to hide, nowhere to go,” he muttered as he drank.
Jessie was angry…No, she corrected herself, pissed off big-time, not just, or only mad, pissed off big-time, in big capital letters. She envisioned it in her mind, PISSED OFF BIG-TIME, that’s what she was she told herself, as she sat at the small table and stared at the blank screen of the television monitor.
John spoke. “You okay, Jessie?”
“No, I’m not,” she said, “I’m Pissed off… Big-time,” she said vocalizing the thought. “What a rotten piece of shit he is,” she said, referring of course to Luther.
“Yeah, he’s a piece of work all right,” John agreed with a sigh, “you’ve got to let it go though, Jessie, we have things to do, and you can’t allow your anger to get in the way of it.”
“I know that, John,” she said, still angry, “I’m trying to get a handle on it, okay?”
“Okay,” John said soothingly, as he got up. “Want some coffee?”
“Yes,” she replied, a little bit calmer, “that might help.”
“Be back,” John said, as he walked off.
Hank had stepped out a few minutes before. When Jessie had finished watching the recording she had been steaming, and it had scared him.
Hank liked things nice and straight forward, and in his mind women didn’t get that mad. Why, women were kind and soft and gentle, like his mother, he reasoned, things like that. But they were never angry, they never swore like Jessie had, and men were never afraid of them either, he had told himself as he left the room. Maybe it would be a good idea if he just took a short walk, he had convinced himself. In fact it was time to take a walk… A long walk. Time to lay low maybe, he told himself.
Jessie drew in several deep breaths, as she sat at the table, and once she felt she had herself under control, she snatched the disc from the machine and forced herself to set it down instead of throwing it across the room, which is what she wanted to do. “Prick,” she mumbled under her breath, as she sat the disc down. She reached across and picked up the disc that Frank, Gary, Jeremiah, and herself, as well as Jimmy, had made before they left. She slid it into the machine and hit the play button, then leaned back into her seat to watch it.
Frank turned from staring out over the water and asked, “How much longer you think, Gary?”
“Twenty minutes, maybe less,” he responded, after checking his watch.
Frank turned. “Almost there guys,” he said. Jeremiah and Jimmy walked forward and stared out over the water.
“It’s changed a bit,” Gary said, “we should already be on dry land, and, as you can see, we ain’t.”
“That bad?” Jeremiah asked.
“Not if we want to save time it ain’t,” Gary replied, “the closer the better, I just gotta be careful is all, don’t know how deep it is here.”
“Seems pretty deep to me,” Jimmy said doubtfully.
“Seeming deep, and being deep, is two totally different things,” Gary said, as he dropped the throttle to a low idle. They coasted slowly up what looked to be a wide and calm river.
“This is new,” Gary said, a trace of wonder in his voice “looks like it might be what used to be White creek. If it is, we’ll be coming in a lot closer than we figured to be,” he finished.
“How’s that?” Frank asked, feeling foolish.
“White creek comes right into Fort Drum, is why, and if this is it, we’re coming straight into… Damn if it ain’t!” he said pointing ahead. “That’s the water tower, and soon as we get through these trees, I’ll bet ya dollars-to-donuts it says Fort Drum on it,” he finished excitedly.
“Well, how far from here to that Jeffery’s place you figure?” Jeremiah asked.
“Mile, maybe mile and a half,” Gary answered, smiling. Jeremiah started to turn to Frank. “Be about forty hours left,” Frank answered, before he could ask.
The boat coasted through the trees, and they all read the lettering on the water tower, slapping Gary on the back as they did.
“Good navigating, Gary,” Jimmy said.
“Fine, that’s for sure,” Jeremiah said also. They all knew they were trying to hold the lighthearted mood that they had just acquired seconds before, they knew as well that it was no use. It was time to be serious, lives, not the least of all their own, were at stake.
Frank jumped to the grassy shore, caught the rope Jeremiah threw to him, and pulled the boat in closer, tying it off to the thick trunk of a nearby tree.
“Think that’ll be okay, Gary’?” he asked as he knotted the rope, and the remaining three men stepped ashore.
“I take it you were never in the Navy, Frank,” he said, as he looked over the three square knots, Frank had used. “It ain’t going nowhere I don’t think. The rope’ll break first, Frank.”
Frank put one more knot in the rope to be sure, before he looked up and then followed Gary, who was shaking his head, away from the boat.
“What?” he asked, as he caught up to him.
“Nothin’, Frank, I was just bustin’ your chops is all,” Gary replied smiling. They walked up to a vine covered road. Or at least it looked like it had been a road, Frank thought, as he joined Jeremiah, and Jimmy.
“What’s with the vines?” Jimmy asked.
“Don’t know, but they’re everywhere, Jim,” Gary replied, “started the same night the bombs fell… Jeremiah?”
“Don’t know any more than you do, walked over a whole bunch of them myself. Wasn’t something He thought to let me in on,” Jeremiah replied. “Which way, Gary?” he asked, as he looked up from the vines, and down the road in both directions.
“Left,” Gary replied, and started away. The others stood for only a second, and then fell in behind him.
Jessie watched the recording that was due to be transmitted in little over four hours. It was an old ruse, probably wouldn’t work, she thought, but it had been the best they could come up with on short notice.
The six of them, John included, stared grimly at the camera. Their reasoning had been simple. If Luther was aware that they could transmit, then he had probably been, and would probably continue, monitoring their broadcasts. The recording was set up to appear live, and the speed with which they had recorded it heightened that quality.
Frank stared grimly into the camera and spoke…
“…We felt we needed to inform you of something that developed earlier today,” he began. Behind him a large screen lit up and began to replay carefully edited parts of Luther’s recent broadcast, as Frank spoke. The clock behind Frank read 6:00 PM, and the hope was that Luther would buy it as a live transmission. If not it would all be for nothing…
“…Think it will work?” John asked from behind her as he re-entered the room.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t, at least not entirely. Can somebody like him even be fooled?”
“I don’t know,” John said tiredly, “if he can’t be fooled, maybe he can be confused. I mean he can’t be all seeing, and all knowing… he’s not God.”
Jessie’s eyes brightened. “Maybe then,” she said hopefully.
“Maybe,” John agreed, “just maybe.”
They watched the rest of the short ten minute recording in silence. It consisted of showing the edited recording, while Frank talked about their need to discuss it with everyone else, and a short plea for more time at the end. They made no mention of Luther’s demand to turn over five of the assembled group. It had been Frank’s suggestion to leave it out, but Frank did say they were considering his demands, which left it open to Luther’s interpretation. At the most, they knew, it would only buy them a few extra hours if Luther went for it, but those few extra hours might allow Frank, Jeremiah, Gary and Jimmy, to get to Fort Drum.
They also knew that once Luther realized that he had been tricked, he might push the button right then. The whole thing’s a crap shoot, Jessie thought, as the recording ended, and she turned off the machine.
She looked at John. “No way to know,” he said, as if reading her mind, “but it beat’s doing nothing.”
“Jeremiah thinks they’ll come at us today from the north side,” she said.
“When did he say that?” John asked, surprised.
“After Frank went for coffee, he told Hank, I guess. He didn’t want Frank to know. Hank told Jimmy too, and Jimmy told him to make sure that I was aware. Jeremiah told him to tell me I should make myself scarce,” she said, “wonder why?”
“No telling with him, but… If it was me he had said that to, you can bet I’d be making myself scarce,” John said thoughtfully, and then continued. “Odd though that Jeremiah didn’t tell you or me directly,” he shrugged. “I believe I’ll just keep an eye on you today, if you don’t mind,” he held up his hand when she began to protest. “I’m not saying you can’t handle yourself, Jessie, but two is better than one any way you look at it,” he favored her with a stern look. “I mean it, Jessie, if he said it, even if he didn’t say to us directly, he didn’t say it to hear himself speak.”
“Okay, “she said, “you win. You can babysit me, John.”
“That makes me feel better,” John said. “I’m an old man, Jessie, but I spent a lot of years in this city dealing with the bad elements of it, I can hold my own, and then some if I have to,” he patted the .38 that was holstered at his hip as he finished speaking.
“I intend to stay right in here today anyway,” Jessie said, “I want to make sure nothing goes wrong when we broadcast that recording.”
“Well in that case,” John said, getting up from the small table, “I guess I’ll go get us some more coffee,” he walked off as he finished speaking.
“Thanks,” Jessie called after him.
Willie Lefray leaned back into the worn old couch in the living room of the house on Hudson Avenue. The empty bottle lay in shards in one corner of the room, where Willie had flung it. He had drained the last drop from the bottle, and then flung it against the wall when he realized there was not another bottle to replace it. He had of course called Mike in from the front porch, and had him dispatch someone to liberate a new supply from one of the many liquor stores that dotted the avenue. Whoever he had sent would be in hot water when they returned though, Willie promised himself, they had already been gone for more than three hours. How long does it take to follow simple fuckin’ directions and go to a damn liquor store, Willie wondered. Probably forever, he told himself. Especially with this bunch of morons he was saddled with.
He debated calling Mike back in to find out what was taking so long, but rejected it. Mike was dumber than Alfred, he knew, and Alfred was a frigging moron. A creepy moron, but still a moron. Actually, Willie thought, the guy scares me a little. He looks like a little kid, and even acts like a little kid. Sort of naive, maybe even innocent-looking to someone who didn’t know better. Willie knew, however, that it was nothing but an act. Alfred was a straight out nut-case, and the calm kid-like demeanor could change in an instant, without warning.
The kid was also loyal. Well, not loyal, he reasoned, more like devoted, or fanatical. Alfred embraced evil and death, more even than Willie himself did.
The day Willie had arrived he had dismissed Alfred out of hand, simply because of that kid-like quality. Alfred had begged Willie to make him one of his right hand men, the friggin’ kid had been in tears over it, and Willie had jokingly told him that all the positions were filled, and that if he wanted in, he would have to kill his way in. Willie had figured that would satisfy the kid. Either he would be killed trying to take out someone, or he would simply walk away, and Willie would have bet ten to one on the walking away. Either way Willie didn’t have the time for him.
But, no sooner had the words been out of Willie’s mouth, than the kid had turned quickly, cat-like almost, Willie thought, and slit the throat of one of the guys Willie had bought with him. The guy had been standing there laughing at Alfred. At how pitiful he looked, and a second later he had been gagging on his own blood, and trying to hold his neck together, before he crashed to the floor.
Yeah, Willie thought, Alfred was a nasty little bastard all right, and he had no doubt that he would manage to bring the woman back.
The phone call from Luther had been short and to the point. Get her, but get her alive. “It should be easy, even for a no-brained fuck-up like you, Willie,” Luther had said. “After all, Willie my sweet, I did the hard work for you, I lured their big shots away, I opened the door and left her alone, and I think you should be able to handle one old man, hmm, Willie, think you can handle it?”
Luther had an inside man over there, Willie correctly guessed. He had no idea who, and hadn’t asked, but whoever it had been had told him that the four men, who in Luther’s estimation held everything together, were gone. While Alfred went for the woman, Willie himself would lead a small army right into their midst. There wouldn’t be anyone, or anything, to stop them, Luther had assured him.
Willie planned to be sneaky about it though, he already had snipers stationed close to the roadblocks. They were so stupid that they didn’t even try to hide behind their barricades. They just walked back and forth, like they were on guard duty at a friggin’ factory somewhere. Apparently, Willie thought, they didn’t take a threat from the north side seriously. After today they would though, Willie promised himself, and smiled as he did.
He got up from the worn sofa. “MIKE, where the fuck is that little bastard you sent to the liquor store?” he yelled, as he opened the front door. If the little prick didn’t get back soon, there wouldn’t be time for another drink before he’d have to leave.
Jessie stood up from the small table. It was nearing 6:00 PM, time to play the tape. John had left ten minutes before to get them some fresh coffee, but hadn’t returned yet. What’s keeping him? She wondered, as she walked toward the hallway. She was almost to the door when a red-haired wild-eyed looking kid came running through it, nearly knocking her over.
“Ma’am…Miss Stone, ya gotta come quick, ya gotta, they’re coming through the barricades, and they got John, Ma’am, they got… you gotta come quick!” the kid said in a panicked voice.
The kid was clearly scared witless, Jessie realized. “Calm down, calm down,” she said as she grabbed him by the shoulders, and shook him. The kid was carrying what looked to be a machine gun, Jessie saw. What the hell are they doing putting a young kid like this on guard duty? Jessie thought angrily.
“Miss Stone?” the kid asked still sounding panicky, “you are Miss Stone I was supposed to come get, right?”
“Yes, now calm down,” Jessie said sternly, turning away from the kid and heading toward the table where she had left her gun, “just let me get my…”
“Good,” the kid said from behind, cutting her off. “Real good.”
Bright stars exploded in her head, cutting off the rest of what she had been going to say. WHAT… she thought, as she crumpled to the floor. She was dimly aware of the sound of gun fire, before she passed out.
Hank Nelson entered the room just as Alfred clubbed Jessie in the back of the head with the machine gun. Alfred quickly reversed the gun and aimed it at Hank.
“Hey!” Hank yelled in surprise, and then looked fearfully to the gun in Alfred’s hands. “Hey, don’t kid, I’m on…”
Alfred didn’t let him finish. He squeezed the trigger and in a split second Hank was cut in two by a hail of bullets.
“Fuck you,” Alfred spat, as Hank fell to the floor. Two men appeared in the doorway behind him, Alfred whirled around cat-quick but lowered the weapon once he recognized them. “Pick her up, let’s go,” he ordered. The two men quickly did as ordered, and followed Alfred out into the hallway. They passed John’s lifeless body in the corridor, where Alfred had let it fall, after he had snuck up behind him and clubbed him in the back of the head as he had Jessie. He had slit John’s throat, almost before he had hit the ground, and so he had made no sound whatsoever. Alfred kicked an empty paper coffee cup, resting by one of John’s outstretched hands, out of his way as they trotted by.
Outside, in the late afternoon air, the sound of gun fire reverberated through the Streets. It was audible now, even inside the building. Alfred mowed down a group of seven people with the machine gun, who had been crouched fearfully just inside the doorway to the building, as he came upon them. None of them had the chance to return fire, or even turn around, and Alfred, followed by the two men, trampled over their bodies as he pushed through the doorway and out into the street.
The South side of the city was in the grip of a battle that had begun two blocks away, when Willie himself had taken out the patrolling guard, and then quickly rushed through the barricade, toward the War Memorial.
All was not going as planned however, as a heavily armed group in the County Court House building had pinned them down before they had been able to take the War Memorial, and that had allowed the people in the War Memorial, to react.
As a consequence Willie’s group was rapidly falling in numbers, and although he did not wish to, he would have to drop back, or risk losing all of his men if Al didn’t show soon. He had just started to draw back, when Alfred came trotting out of the television station, in a deafening roar of gun fire. The kid had done it, Willie realized, as he saw the two men running behind him, carrying a slumped form in their arms as they ran. He could see even from the distance of the two hundred yards that separated them, that the form was female, and he was quite sure that Al knew better than to bring him the wrong woman.
As Willie watched, one of the men carrying the woman was cut down by gun fire, and Alfred quickly picked up the fallen mans’ burden and continued forward. Willie was torn, Alfred had to make it through in one piece with the woman, or Luther would have Willie’s balls, he had told him as much, and Luther didn’t bull-shit.
The gunfire from the Court House, and the War Memorial was restrained somewhat, but they apparently had more than a few shooters who could aim well enough to miss the woman. When they were less than a hundred feet away, the kid went down, and the remaining man struggled to get the woman over his shoulders and continue on. Willie hesitated, only an instant longer, and then leapt up and sprinted for the man. Chips of asphalt flew all around him as he ran. The War Memorial crowd was trying to stop him from reaching them, he realized. But gunfire was nowhere near as bad as Luther, so he kept on, marveling that he hadn’t yet been hit, as he ran the last few feet and grabbed the woman’s body along with the other man.
He felt the man behind him go down just ten feet from the safety of his small band of disciples, and he felt as well the ripping of his flesh, as three rounds caught him in the back. He stumbled the last few feet pushed forward by the impact of the rounds, fully expecting to finally drop dead as two men rose from behind the barricades to take the woman’s body.
He had done it, he had reached safety, he realized, and he had also caught three solid rounds in the back doing it. That made him happy, as he wanted nothing more than to lay down right here on the pavement and die, it would feel so good, so right, he thought, as he began to ease toward the road. His hands were clasped across his stomach. What’s left of it, he thought. He could feel his insides trying to squirm out through his fingers.
Good, he thought, very fuckin’ good. Very, very, good. So, how come I’m not dead? he asked himself.
Takes longer, his mind whispered, this ain’t a friggin’ movie.
Okay, fine, he reasoned, this ain’t a movie. But how come it don’t hurt even, huh?
Shock, his mind told him.
Well fuckin’ fine, but…
Two of his men squatted and quickly picked Willie up, just as his eyes slipped shut. “His gut’s is hanging out, Tommy,” one complained, gagging.
“Shut up and get going, we ain’t leaving his body here, no way.”
The two men ran off down the street, and deeper into the north side of the city, carrying Willie’s body between them as they ran.
Frank crouched low, looking over the layout of the Jeffery’s farm along with the others, from a thick stand of trees that came up to within one hundred yards of the rear of the house. The barn and the twin silos were even closer, maybe two hundred feet, he estimated.
A heavily bearded, biker type stood on the rear porch of the farm house, casually picking his nose, while simultaneously, drinking a can of beer. His machine gun resting against the porch railing less than two feet from where he stood.
“That guy’s got to go three hundred pounds,” Frank whispered, as he watched him.
As if he had heard him, the biker suddenly tossed his thick greasy hair out of his eyes, and looked out toward the woods, directly, it seemed to Frank, where they were hiding. Frank held his breath and waited, mentally kicking himself as he did. If he had heard him though, he certainly didn’t act like it. He suddenly crushed the beer can in one fist, threw it out into the yard, where it joined countless others, turned heel and walked to the opposite end of the porch. Once there he lowered his wide bottom into a rusted green metal deck chair, and propped his feet up on the rail of the porch as he lit a cigarette. The machine gun still rested against the rail on the opposite end of the porch, perhaps twenty feet away, Frank saw.
“Piece a work, ain’t he?” Gary whispered, to no one in particular.
“That he is,” Jeremiah whispered back.
A foggy belch, along with the hiss of an opening carbonated beverage, could be plainly heard from the rear porch in the quiet mid-afternoon air.
“Real pig too,” Jimmy whispered, “if he drinks enough we might be able to just walk over to those silos.”
“That’d be nice,” Frank whispered back.
“Gonna have to try for it soon,” Jeremiah said, “maybe now’s the best time, he ain’t got his rifle. Might not get a better opportunity.”
They had spent over an hour crouched down in the trees hoping for a good opportunity. Trouble was, Frank thought, we still don’t know if there’s anyone inside the house. The biker was the only one they had seen so far, and he had not ventured into the house once while they had watched him, so they had no idea what to expect if they tried to move on the silos. There could be, Frank thought, a whole house-full of re-enforcement’s just waiting to come out of the rear of the house. Jeremiah was right though, he realized, they had to make a move soon, either that or wait for night fall, and none of them wanted to do that.
“Lets’ do it,” Frank grunted decisively as he slowly stood up. The other three men stood up with him.
At first the biker type seemed not to notice them as they slowly walked from the woods. The way his feet are propped up, Jeremiah thought, he might not be able to see us. Two steps later though, the biker suddenly jumped up and began to sprint for the machine gun at the opposite end of the porch. All four of their machine pistols chattered at once, and before he had made it more than ten steps, he was cut down. Frank ran as hard as he could toward the silos behind Jeremiah. Jimmy and Gary brought up the rear. They all dropped to the ground once they reached them, and scurried around behind them.
Although the silos protected them from the gun fire they expected, they also blocked their view of the house. They heard nothing, no doors suddenly slamming open, no footfalls, but that didn’t mean they weren’t already closing the distance to the silo, Frank knew.
“Gonna check,” Frank grunted, as he belly crawled around the side of the silo so he could see the house. No one was in sight, and he could make out the prone body of the biker behind the spindles of the porch railing, where it had fallen. Frank stared at the house for a few minutes longer, before he crawled back around the silo.
“Looks good,” he whispered, “can’t be certain, but nobody’s come out yet.”
“We have to check it though,” Jimmy said, “no telling for sure until we do.”
“Yeah,” Gary agreed, “I don’t want to get inside this silo and then find out that we were wrong, that there is somebody in there.”
“It don’t make sense,” Jeremiah said, “that they’d put the guy out here alone… Not if it’s really important anyhow.”
Frank looked at the silo. It looked like an ordinary see-it-any-day-of-the-week sort of silo. He had seen hundreds just like it back in Seattle. He looked down at the base of the silo. The base was just concrete. Could be Peter’s lied, his mind whispered. It might be just an average ordinary silo, and he didn’t feel like getting his ass shot off for an average ordinary silo. The door however, was around the front, and like it or not, they would have to be reasonably sure the house was empty before they entered, or they would be trapped, he realized, like fish in a barrel. “Lets’ go,” he decided, crouching low as he ran around the silo toward the house.
The house was empty. The house was completely empty. No people, no furniture, no nothing. The only thing that was in the house were three cases of beer piled just inside the rear door, that matched two on the rear porch, apparently to keep the biker type happy. Along with a deep midnight blue Harley sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, its chrome winking, even in the muted light falling through the windows of the kitchen. Other than that it was completely empty. They searched the attic, basement, and found nothing. After the quick search they trotted past the body on the rear porch, and back out to the silo.
“Here goes,” Frank said, as he shot the padlock off the silo door they had hidden behind. He turned the knob and the door swung open. The door was not lead lined, Frank noticed, the pristine interior of the silo was empty. No silage, and definitely no missile, and no false bottom either, the floor was solid concrete, they crawled around the perimeter and checked on their hands and knees to make sure.
“Other one,” Frank said, “it must be in the other one,” he finished, and bolted toward the other silo, with the others close behind.
The second silo had a small key-pad installed into the solid metal door, with both a green and a red indicator light. The red indicator light was pulsing steadily.
“Bitch, what do you make of it, Gar’?” Frank asked.
“Looks almost like a simple house alarm type setup,” Gary responded.
“I wouldn’t try shooting it off, Frank,” Jeremiah cautioned, “could be maybe it would set off some sort’a warning.”
“Believe me I wasn’t entertaining the thought,” Frank responded dejectedly, even though he had been thinking of doing just that. “Does anyone have any idea on how we can get in?”
The silo was connected to the barn, or at least to Jimmy, who had been looking it over, it appeared to be. “Through the barn maybe?” he offered, “looks to be connected to me.”
They circled the entire barn twice, before they came back to the double sliding front doors. From a distance they had appeared to be ordinary doors, but up close they could tell that they were not. They looked to be better than ten inches thick, and that was only what they could see. The sliding mechanism was only for show, the doors either swung inward, or outward, it was hard to tell, but they definitely did not slide. The windows were likewise fake. Within ten feet they had been able to tell they were nothing more than painted replicas. The weathered wood siding was also a sham, Gary discovered, after he kicked the side of the barn in frustration. One rotting board had fallen to reveal the thick concrete shell of the building beneath.
“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Gary said, “there’s something in there, or they wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of disguising it so well.” He stepped back and stared up toward the roof of the deceptive building. “Might be maybe another way in though,” he said, gazing upward.
The other three men stepped back and looked up as well.
“Through that air vent you thinkin’?” Jeremiah said.
“Might work,” Frank agreed.
Jimmy’s eyes flew open. “I saw a ladder, one of those aluminum jobs around the back,” he exclaimed.
“I saw that myself,” Frank agreed, as he followed Jimmy around the building. They were back in a few minutes carrying the long ladder between them. Jeremiah helped set it up, and then began to climb it toward the top.
The others were positive, at first, that Jeremiah would come tumbling back down the roof to the hard ground.
The roof pitch was steep, and once he had left the ladder he’d had a bad moment or two before he gained his balance. “Don’t worry, I ain’t goin’ to fall,” Jeremiah assured them once he regained his footing, “I climbed my own barn roof more times than you could shake-a-stick-at, and this one ain’t near as steep.”
Still, the three remaining men on the ground were apprehensive, until Jeremiah gained the top of the roof, and the large turbine-type air vent. He seemed to test the solidity of the mounting once he reached it, and then called, “Look out boys, she’s comin’ down.” He twisted the round steel top, the muscles in his arms standing out, crouched down, and let the top fall free, as it came loose with a high squeal of metal against metal. The top tumbled end over end to the ground, the turbine still spinning, until it hit the ground and burst apart, no longer an air-vent, but a small pile of shiny scrap metal.
“Well, what you waiting for?” Jeremiah called down, a smile on his face. “She’s open straight into the loft, come on.”
The others wasted no time in climbing the ladder, and they dropped the six feet to the loft floor, as Jeremiah had, once they had crawled through the now open vent.
The interior of the old barn had been as extensively modified, as the exterior. The entire upper loft area still resembled an actual barn, but below that was where the real renovations had taken place. The entire one hundred foot by forty foot space was completely open, and steel girders now supported the weight of the structure, instead of the massive hand hewn beams that had once done the job.
Excluding the small loft, that had been left intact to facilitate easy access to the roof vents, heating ducts, and electrical conduits, eighty feet of the structure rose unobstructed to the ceiling from the concrete floor thirty feet below. There was no sign of equipment, military or otherwise in the building, it was empty, and the pristine off white of the concrete seemed to bear out the feeling they all had, that the renovation had been fairly recent, and whatever equipment that had been destined to be installed in the structure had not been.
“Looks more like an aircraft hangar than a barn,” Jimmy said, as he stared down into the well-lit space. The building was obviously powered by some electrical source, but no tell-tale sound of a generator could be heard within the structure, and they had heard nothing outside that would indicate the presence of a power plant either. In fact the only sound in the building itself, was the low buzz of the florescent lights suspended from the steel girders.
“You think it’s powered from the caves?” Gary asked.
“Has to be,” Frank responded. “Unless there’s a sound proofed building close by that we missed, and I doubt that,” he finished, and shrugged his shoulders. The empty building echoed their voices, seeming to amplify them as they spoke,
Has to…has…Be…be, and that tended to make them speak in whispers, to avoid the eerie echoes of their own voices.
The barn was extremely oppressive to Frank. He had the feeling that a full scale war unfolding directly outside the building would not be heard, and it was almost as if the building ate the sound of their voices, or absorbed them into its walls after it bounced them around.
“I really don’t like this place much,” Frank said, vocalizing his apprehension.
“Me either… Lets’ see what we got, and whether we kin get into the silo,” Jeremiah said, as he began to climb down a steel ladder to the floor below, “then lets’ get out of here.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Frank said, as he followed. Jimmy scrambled down next, and Gary followed at a slightly slower pace nervously clutching the steel rungs as he did, as though they would suddenly disappear.
“Hey, you comin’, or what?” Frank called up teasingly, as Gary slowly descended. He regretted it a few seconds later as Gary turned his sweat slicked face to him. “Scared a heights a little,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Sorry, Gary, take your time,” Frank said apologetically, as he mentally chastised himself.
To Gary the thirty feet to the concrete seemed more like a mile, and until he finally set one foot on the cement floor, he had been convinced that the ladder would either suddenly fall away, or his own fear would cause him to lose his sweaty grip on the iron rungs, and he would plummet to the cold concrete far below. “Unreasonable, I know,” he said with a shaky voice once he was standing beside Frank. “Unreasonable or not though, I never been able to shake it. Goin’ up ain’t much of a problem, but comin’ down…” He finished, shaking his head, with more than a trace of embarrassment.
“I wish you’d told me, Gary you could have stayed up there, or outside, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have kidded you about it, I feel like a real ass,” Frank said, concern in his eyes.
“Oh sure, I stay outside and get my ass shot off, while you guys get to do the fun stuff,” Gary said in a serious voice. “No thanks, we’re stickin’ together. I’ll deal with the ladder, it ain’t so hard going up, only comin’ down,” he finished smiling. They walked toward Jeremiah and Jimmy at the rear of the structure.
The silo did have a connecting hallway to the barn, but another key-pad, complete with a flashing red indicator light, protected the steel door of the silo, just as the one outside had.
“Any suggestions?” Frank asked.
“Maybe you’ll have to shoot it off after all,” Jeremiah said, a frown settling on his face.
“Maybe I can take it apart,” Jimmy said, as he bent and began to study the key-pad, “gimme that pocket knife of yours, Gary.”
Two slotted screws appeared to be all that held the small black device to the wall. Using the edge of one of the smaller blades Jimmy carefully unscrewed the key-pad, and gently started to ease it away from the wall. The mounting screws were apparently an intrinsic part of the alarm system, for as soon as Jimmy lifted the key-pad a loud braying siren began to wail in the building. “Damn!” Jimmy yelled, and dropped the key-pad as though it had burned him.
“So much for surprise,” Jeremiah yelled above the braying of the siren, panic in his voice, “We better take out the door if we’re going in.”
Eleven miles away, Luther sat mesmerized by the pulsing message on the monitor. He was replaying for yet another time just exactly how he would enter the remaining codes, and launch the missiles from wherever they were buried in the huge underground complex.
He had men searching them out, but there were miles of underground roads, tunnels, corridors, and natural rock passages to search, and it would take forever for them to search them all. He could only hope that they would stumble upon them in their searching. After all, the law of averages must be tipping in favor of it, he thought, they had already searched better than half of the complex itself.
It still made him angry that their location had not been known to him. He had known several other things. He had known of their existence, hadn’t he? So why was it he didn’t know where they were? He supposed it didn’t matter, not really anyway, as everything was close to being over, and regardless of where they were, they would still do their intended job.
He was anticipating word from Willie later on this evening, concerning the woman. Her capture was assured though, he knew, and Willie would not really be telling him something he didn’t already know, rather just confirming it for him, and once he had the woman, he would have them all.
Another thing that really pissed him off was that he was not positive of where the four men were. He had been able to see them leave Fairport he had even been able to glimpse them briefly as they sped across the lake. After that though, he had not been able to track them, and had no idea where they had gone. But they would have to come here eventually, wouldn’t they? After all they were seeking the missiles, and they had left Rochester.
So far they had not been spotted trying to enter the caves. They would be, he assured himself, and the orders he had issued concerning them were to shoot to kill, on sight, no fucking around. He had no doubt that he would be in possession of their bodies by night fall, and once he was, he would punch in those codes, and send the fools in Rochester a little present.
He didn’t question why in his mind it was so important to him that their top people were dead or at least captured, before he sent the missiles. It was just part of The Plan. His Plan and he had thought it out carefully. Plans were important, and once a plan was devised it was even more important to stick to it. Follow it. See it through to the end. He wanted their deaths to be more personal, he wanted to look at their dead bullet-riddled bodies, and maybe stomp what was left of them, or order their remains torn to shreds.
Yes, he decided, as he watched the screen, torn to shreds, ripped limb to limb. “Yes indeedy,” he said aloud, and shuddered with delight.
He was still thinking of how much he would enjoy the little scenario he was playing out in his fevered mind, when the screen suddenly went blank, and then a split second later began to flash a new message. The wide grin that had been plastered on his face, suddenly slipped as he looked at the screen.
SECURITY BREECH ZONE 7…….
INITIATING POWER DOWN SEQUENCE IN TEN SECONDS.
ENTER COMMAND CODE SECTOR SIX, ZONE SEVEN TO
ABORT POWER DOWN SEQUENCE NOW __
A small cursor blinked, waiting for the requested input.
Now what the fuck did that mean exactly? Luther wondered, and where the fuck was sector six, or zone seven for that matter? And just what the fuck was going on, he asked himself. Power down what? Sector six and zone seven? Did it mean that the four men had somehow managed to enter the underground facility undetected? If so, Luther assured himself, somebody’s balls would be hanging from his belt. They would join several others he had skewered, that now hung suspended from a leather thong at his waist. Fucking-up was not allowed, and the punishment he had devised for it, was a powerful deterrent. As he watched, still puzzled, the screen changed once more.
INITIATING POWER DOWN NOW.
ESTIMATED TIME TO POWER DOWN SECTOR
SIX TEN MINUTES.
ABORT COMMAND ON STANDBY.
A small computer generated digital clock appeared in the upper left hand corner and began to track the time second by second.
Slowly it began to dawn on Luther that the termination might be referring to the missiles. That maybe sector six, zone seven, might be where the missiles were located, and that possibly the four had not only broken into the underground facility, but that they may also have found the missiles, and that maybe, just maybe, they were trying to disarm them, and if that were the case, it couldn’t be allowed, it just could not. Because, he told himself, well because it couldn’t, because…Well, because that wouldn’t be fair, that would be cheating, and even that old bastard who was passing himself off as God wouldn’t cheat, would he? Could he?
No, Luther decided, he was too much of a goody-two-shoes, for that shit, and besides, he didn’t know how to cheat, that was… Well, that was just the way it was, he reasoned. Only I can cheat, it had always been that way, and… and… Well, anything else wouldn’t be playing the game fairly, it would be… cheating, and cheating was no fucking fair, no fucking fair at all, and… So, it couldn’t be, it was against the rules. Not allowed, but… Just in case he was thinking of cheating, not that he could, he assured himself, but just in case, just in case that old bastard was trying to be crafty, hadn’t he better try punching those codes in right now? Hadn’t he better? He glared at the computer screen. Yes, he decided, just in case, not that it was possible, but… “Just in case,” he whispered, as his fingers deftly punched the terminals keyboard, and entered the final codes. “Just in-fucking-case,” he whispered again. He was rewarded with a new screen for his efforts, as the old one blinked away.
TERMINATE POWER DOWN SECTOR SIX ZONE
SEVEN? Y/N __
The screen asked, as the cursor blinked, waiting for input. He quickly punched Y on the keyboard and was rewarded with yet another screen.
CONFIRM ACTIVE LAUNCH STATUS Y/N __
He pushed Y once more.
ENTER LAUNCH COORDINATES_________
Luther referred briefly to a small blue book he had liberated from the base commanders safe. He punched in the specified code for an in-country launch, and then entered the required coordinates.
SPECIFIED COORDINATES INDICATE
10% SURVIVAL RATE THIS FACILITY.
Luther pressed P, and the screen went blank.
Frank emptied the full clip of the machine pistol into the steel door, which seemed to absorb the bullets rather than bounce them back at him which had been his concern. The heavy steel lock-set blew apart and fell to the floor. Smoke and the smell of burnt gunpowder hung heavy in the air. Jeremiah wriggled his fingers into the bullet-warmed opening that had once contained the lock-set, and tugged sharply. The door swung slowly open, and they stepped inside the silo.
Luther had begun to panic. A new screen had not appeared, and just what did that mean? He wondered. He refrained from touching the keyboard, or the monitor, although he would have liked to, he was too afraid he would not be able to control himself, that he might just rip the keyboard from the station and smash it to bits, and if it didn’t respond soon, he was afraid he would, and what would that do, and… The screen blinked back on, interrupting his thoughts.
CALCULATING SAFE-FLIGHT STAND BY.
The screen blinked.
Now what the fuck did that mean? Luther asked himself. What was safe flight, and how come it had to calculate anything, and how come it wasn’t just launching the fucking missiles, and this is really beginning to piss me off, and… The screen changed.
Frank stepped into the silo behind the others. The smoke was heavier inside the room, and the stench of sulfur dioxide was almost gagging in its intensity. The room however was not so obscured by the smoke, that he could not see that it was empty.
“There ain’t a damn thing in here,” Gary said, echoing their thoughts, “now what d’you make of that?”
Frank was examining the walls of the silo. What had appeared to them to be solid brick on the outside, was not. “Fiberglass cast,” Frank said, “it’s fake, this isn’t a silo…” He had been about to say more, when the floor beneath his feet suddenly began to tilt. “Out!” Jimmy yelled in surprise. “Its’ under the damn floor, get out!”
Luther stared at the new screen.
SYS LOC.EXE INSTALLED.
24:12:06 TO LAUNCH.
The clock-like entry began to run backwards second by second, as Luther watched in anger.
“NO!” he screamed into the room. “Right fucking now, not twenty-fucking-four-fucking-hours, RIGHT NOW!” He fought to control his temper, and forced his hands to release the key board.
He typed out with a jab of one finger, and pressed enter. The terminal beeped, but other than the small beep, nothing happened. He forced his anger down, typed,
and again pressed enter. Other than the same small beep, nothing happened. His hands spasmed and he once again grasped the keyboard. One finger jammed the enter key, and a rush of beeps issued forth from the terminal.
NO, he told himself, as he ripped the key board loose, and rocketed it into the screen. The screen imploded with a bright orange shower of sparks.
“NO, NO, FUCKINGFUCKINGFUCKING,” he screamed as he pummeled the monitor with his fists.
As the four men watched from the relative safety of the hallway, the concrete decking tilted to one side, and a slim white missile glided out of the abyss below the silo. Before it was entirely out of its dark prison, the fiberglass silo began to tip and then crashed to one side. All obstructions removed, the missile, along with its launch mechanism, glided out of the dark socket, and rose majestically into the late afternoon air. Once fully extended the launch assembly swiveled, and canted the missile to an almost flat trajectory, then the hydraulic machinery fell silent. The missile was aimed to the southwest, Frank saw, directly at Rochester.
Ten seconds later the same heavy thudding of hydraulic machinery, came from the direction of a field behind the barn. All four men sprinted to the outside, and around to the rear of the barn. A second missile was rising out of the field, impossibly white against the back-drop of the deep blue afternoon sky.
They watched in silence as the missile swiveled, and assumed the same nearly flat trajectory as the first had. When it was finished the silence seemed deafening in its intensity. Frank broke it.
“We’re screwed,” he said softly, a defeated look on his washed out face, “it was all for nothing.”
“What about trying to find the wiring and cutting it?” Jimmy asked, with no trace of hope in his voice.
“Never get to it time,” Gary said softly, his eyes locked on the missile that had magically risen from the field. “And where would we look?”
“Why ain’t it launching?” Jeremiah asked, Shouldn’t it oughta?”
“We’re screwed,” Frank repeated, as if he had heard none of the other men speak, as if he were totally alone, and really only speaking to himself. “We are screwed.”
Jeremiah’s hand shot out, and smacked loudly against Frank’s cheek. “We ain’t screwed, Frank, so don’t say we are, we ain’t,” his eye’s flashed with anger. “It ain’t launching, Frank,” he repeated as though he were speaking to a child. “And if it ain’t launching,” he continued, dropping his voice to a calmer level, “we ain’t screwed.”
“He’s right, Frank,” Gary said, with a note of hopefulness in his voice, “there ain’t no steam, or whatever that stuff is you see when a rocket gets launched. There ain’t none of that comin’ out the bottom… they ain’t launching, least ways not yet they ain’t.”
Frank shook his head and looked at the missiles, first one, and then the other. “Can we disarm them somehow? Turn them away from Rochester somehow?” he asked.
“We kin try,” Jeremiah said, “but we don’t want to get too near ’em. In fact maybe this is too close, anybody know?”
“If they’re nukes, we’re way to close,” Gary said, “but who gives a shit, I don’t. If they launch they’ll kill a hell-of-a lot more’n just us four. I vote we try, if it kills us… so be it. I’d rather die trying,” his face was grim and determined when he paused and looked around at them. “Well,” he asked, “what’s it gonna be?”
Luther was standing in the Main Operations Room. His mangled hands dripped green fluid onto the white composite top of the partition he was leaning against, as he watched the wall of screens. The fluid bubbled and hissed as it ate its way through the top and ran down the sides.
The room was nearly empty, save Luther himself, and some of the computer jocks. He had sent everyone else searching for the four men he was convinced were somewhere in the facility.
All of the screens were in countdown mode. They had switched automatically as soon as the last sequence of numbers had been entered.
If Luther had been in the operation room before the change-over, when the screens were still monitoring outside cameras, and if he had been looking at one monitor in particular, he would have seen the objects of his wrath, as they had stormed the Jeffery’s farm, and killed the biker that had taken up residence there.
Luther knew about the biker. He had been informed by Willie himself two weeks before when the man had moved himself into the farm house. “Willie,” he had said, with a sneer, “who gives a shit about a farm house?”
Willie, who had thought at first that it might be important, had immediately dismissed it, and told the control room personnel not to keep track of the farm.
Steve Iverson, however, had kept track of the man in spite of being told not to. The biker seemed to be up to something, and Iverson hoped that he would be the one to figure out what. Today the watching had paid off, and Luther would have known what had transpired, if he hadn’t ordered one of the men in the control room to shoot Iverson, who now lay dead on the floor by Luther’s feet. Iverson had watched the whole thing, and had been in such a hurry to tell Luther, that he had forgotten to ask permission to speak.
Luther had been far to consumed with anger, to listen to someone who did not even have the courtesy to wait until he was asked to speak, and so had ordered Iverson shot, without ever knowing what sort of information he was so eager to depart.
Far better to nip disobedience in the bud quickly, Luther thought, as he gazed down at Iverson’s crumpled body.
Once he had been able to calm down, he had wondered briefly what Iverson had wanted to say, but only briefly, and then his attention had been drawn to the screen-wall, and the count-down clocks that they showed.
He knew for sure now, that he had been cheated, but it was still salvageable, he told himself. He had called Willie, to make sure that they would get the woman, impressed upon him how severe the penalty would be if he didn’t, and then had allowed himself the joy of watching the screens count down.
It could have been worse, he reasoned, the missiles might not have set at all, the old bastard might have jinxed that too. But he hadn’t, and if he had to wait a few hours so what, hadn’t he already waited for thousands of years? What was a few more hours compared to that?
“Nothing at all,” he whispered calmly into the quiet room. “No big deal.” No sooner had he spoken the words out loud, when all the screens in the Operations Room went blank.
“We do it,” Frank said, as he stared at the missile in the field and sighed. “Gary’s, right, four of us, or all of them.”
“How come there were no warnings,” Jimmy asked, “shouldn’t there have been those triangular warning plaques inside if they’re armed with nuclear war-heads?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Gary said, “but what else would they be? I don’t have a clue, ‘less they’re chemical war-heads could be some sort of regular war-head. Maybe even CFP’s. Trying to figure out what it is, ain’t gonna help us at all,” he said, as he turned and started toward the missile behind them. The others followed, and when they reached the missile, they began to circle it. Taking their first real look at it.
They had been too panicked before to notice much of anything, other than, it was white, it was big, and it looked like death, and it was the last thing they had really wanted to see, even though they had come here to find it.
The launching mechanism was almost as big as the circumference of the silo had been, and the massive steel girder-like arms that protruded upward, cradling the missile securely, also held two thick cables of wires that entered the body of the missile about twenty feet from the ground.
“What happens if we cut those wires?” Gary asked, as Jeremiah and Frank left to get the ladder they had used to climb onto the barn roof.
“Wouldn’t it blow up?” Jimmy asked.
“It ain’t like a bomb, like you see defused on TV,” Gary answered. “Least I don’t think it is. But I ain’t sure if cutting those wires will do the trick. It might not. I think though, that they might be to guide it… I wish to hell I knew for sure, but I don’t, I’m guessing. But it’s a place to start, I suppose.”
Frank and Jeremiah came back around the barn with the ladder, and leaned it up against the smooth surface of the Missile, adjusting it so it fell just below the cables that entered the body.
“I’ll go,” Jeremiah said, as he started up at the ladder before anyone could protest. He gained the top of the ladder, and gently pulled at the bundle of wiring, after first peeling back a protective rubber hood that shielded the wires where they entered the missile. The wires did not budge.
He looked down at the upturned faces of the other men. “Looks to be a special sort of plug-like thing can’t see how it releases though.”
“Probably don’t ’till it launches,” Gary said gloomily, “cut the buggers, Jeremiah, if she blows, she blows, we got nothin’ to lose.”
Jeremiah began to cut, and as he cut each wire all of them cringed, expecting the missile to suddenly explode. When the steel blade of the knife grounded out one of the wires that was obviously hot, the resulting shower of sparks caused them all to cry out. The shock nearly knocked Jeremiah from the ladder, but he managed to loosen his grip on the knife and hold on. The knife fell to the ground below, the blade distorted and notched where the high voltage from the wire had arced into it, the plastic handle smoking.
Frank was up the ladder quickly, and only half way up did he remember that the ladder was metal, and if… If nothing, he told himself, as he continued to climb.
“You okay?” he asked, once he had gained the top of the ladder, and grabbed Jeremiah’s jeans to steady him. “Come on, let’s get down from here, come on, Jeremiah, back up, I’ll hold you.”
Once they had reached the ground, and Jeremiah had shaken his head several times, he began to feel somewhat normal again. He didn’t remember Frank climbing the ladder, and he didn’t remember coming down either. He picked up the knife, which was still warm to the touch, and looked at it. The blade was curved, almost hooked now, and he could clearly see the notch that the wire had burned into it. The plastic wood grain of the handle was nearly smooth too.
Other than a small burn in the palm of his right hand, and a slight vibrating sensation in that same arm, he felt okay, he guessed, and he certainly looked a lot better than the knife did, he reasoned. “I think I’ll live,” he stated matter-of-factly, as he let the knife fall back to the ground, “anyone have another knife?”
Gary pulled one from his front pocket, and Frank grabbed it before Jeremiah did, turned, and quickly climbed the ladder up to the bundle of wires. “Don’t be a friggin’ hero,” Gary called after him, “for God’s sake be careful,” he warned
Frank had no intention of being anything but careful. He slowly pulled each wire apart, making sure it couldn’t touch any others, as he finished cutting all but the last wire. “Now what?” he asked, “if I cut the last one the cables gonna fall, and if it hits the beam, or the ladder…?”
Jimmy scrambled up the ladder and supported the cable as Frank hacked through the last wire, then they carefully backed down the ladder. About ten feet from the ground the cable came up short, and Jimmy was forced to let go of it. They both jumped, as he released the cable, and landed in yet another shower of sparks, as the cable swung against one of the steel girders support rods. It stuck fast, at first, welding itself to the rod. But its own weight pulled it free within a few seconds, and it swung out and away, ending up far from the girder, where it slowly swung to a halt.
“Lets’ do the other one,” Frank said, as he and Jeremiah carefully pulled the ladder down.
Twenty minutes later they were finished. Frank had taken a great deal of care with the second cable, to be sure there was no repeat of the first incident. They had taken the ladder down, and left it in the field.
“I wish I knew for sure if those wires being cut will stop ’em from launching,” Gary said glumly, as they walked away from the missiles. They sat on the long rear porch of the old farm house and stared out at the missiles that sat gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.
“I don’t see why they haven’t launched already,” Jimmy wondered aloud.
Frank pulled a case of the beer close to him, opened it, and they each took one, sipping quietly, as they stared glumly at the two slender white needles that rose from the farm.
“I’m going back,” Frank said at last. “If they launch on the way… fine. If they don’t, maybe I’ll be able to see Jessie once more before they do. I sure don’t want to just sit here and die, or wait to die,” he finished solemnly.
“How long before radiation can kill you?” Jimmy asked in a resigned voice.
“Maybe a couple of days at the outside,” Gary replied. “But, we’ll probably wish we were dead long before that,” he paused. “Might be that they ain’t nukes,” he continued hopefully, “but if they are, I guess we’ll know soon enough. Maybe within a few hours, as close as we was to ’em.”
“Well,” Jeremiah said, “seems to me that if they were nuclear warheads, that silo would’ve been lead lined. Don’t that make sense?”
“Yeah!” Jimmy said enthusiastically. “It should’ve been and it wasn’t, just fiberglass, and that wouldn’t have been any protection from radiation, and the Army had to have had guys working here, right?”
“Okay,” Frank said, “maybe so, but if they aren’t nuclear, then what are they?”
“Maybe conventional,” Jimmy said, still enthusiastic.
“Probably chemical,” Gary followed, “and if they are, it probably won’t matter where we go, or what we do…The wind will spread it everywhere. I ain’t so sure we killed ’em. I ain’t so sure they ain’t gonna launch.”
They sat in silence, sipping at the warm beer, staring at the missiles.
“Then we have to do more,” Frank said, a determined look on his face. “We have to make damn sure they don’t launch.” Frank looked around at the farm.
Besides the barn, silos, and house, there were two other outbuildings. Both were falling down sheds really, they didn’t look to him to have been converted for use by the Army. “Listen,” he said “farms have tractors, right? You ever see one around here, Gar’?”
“Always used to be,” he answered, “what’re you drivin’ at, Frank?”
“I think he’s thinkin’ about pushin’ those babies over,” Jeremiah answered. “That about right, Frank?”
“Yeah, it is. I mean they look as though they’re only resting in those launchers, don’t they? It shouldn’t be too hard to tip them up and over, would it?”
Jeremiah was already up and walking toward one of the sheds. “Could blow ’em though. You think, Gary?” he asked, as he walked away.
“Could, but you’re gonna do it anyhow ain’t you,” Gary sighed, as he got up and followed.
“I am at that. Course it’s been a while since I was on a tractor. I hope this time ain’t like the last,” Jeremiah said.
Gary looked over at Frank. “Beats me,” Frank said as he shrugged his shoulders.
The first shed was empty, but the second yielded the tractor, and not the old International that Gary remembered, but a new-looking John Deere model.
Jeremiah started the tractor, after locating the keys on a peg just inside the shed door, and drove out into the field, coming to stop underneath the slim missile. He raised the bucket slowly until it clinked softly against the metal underbelly, then slowly gave the up-lever little nudges, until the missile lifted about a quarter inch off the launch cradle. He jockeyed the tractor forward, and carefully lifted the bucket simultaneously, raising the missile higher as he did. The tractors front tires began to sink into the ground once the full weight of the missile was on the bucket, and the missile screeched as it swiveled up from the launch mechanism. Jeremiah cramped the wheel full right, as he backed slowly away, and just cleared the launch arm with the forward most part of the missile. He lowered the bucket as he continued to reverse, transferring the full weight of the missile onto the front of the large tractor, and dragged it the remaining few feet, up and over the launch assembly. The rear of the missile reached the edge of the launch arm, and they all held their breath as Jeremiah slowly reversed, and the missile came free, crashing rear first into the ground.
The impact buried the rear of the missile a good foot into the ground. But it did not explode, or start ticking, or whatever the hell it was that missiles did, Frank noticed with relief.
The second one was even easier, due to the concrete pad of the silo, and the much harder ground surrounding it. Less than an hour after they had begun, they were finished, and once again seated on the rear porch of the old farm house.
“That was nut’s,” Gary said, “nobody would ever believe it if we told ’em. In fact if any of you guys had told me I’d help do something like that, I would’ve told you, you were soft in the head.”
“Yeah,” Frank said smiling, “but we did do it, didn’t we? Can you believe it?”
“Only ’cause I did it,” Jeremiah said.
“Surprising what fear can make you capable of,” Jimmy said softly.
“I’ve read stuff like that though,” Gary said, “people lifting” cars off loved ones, things like that, fear is a mighty strong motivator all right.”
“Well if you ever write a book, you can add this to it,” Frank said, “chapter seven four scared men dismantle two nuclear bombs. Should sell like hot-cakes.” He stood as he finished speaking. “I’m going back, how about you guys?”
“Only thing to do, we’re done here,” Gary agreed.
Jeremiah and Jimmy stood, and the four men began to walk back toward the road, away from the farm.
“If it kills me; if it was a nuclear job,” Gary said, as they walked away, “I don’t care. It was worth it.”
“Is it a good idea to go back?” Jimmy said, suddenly alarmed, “could someone else… Well, could someone else catch it, are we, like, contaminated or something?”
The question brought them all to a sudden halt in the middle of the vine covered road.
“Don’t look at me,” Gary said, as they all turned toward him, “I don’t know, I really don’t,” he paused for a second. “He’s got a good point, and I ain’t got a clue, ain’t that a bitch?”
“Lets’ not go jumpin’ to conclusions,” Jeremiah said calmly. “If we are, going back ain’t gonna make a real big difference. Nothing saying we gotta leave the boat once we get there, especially if we take sick along the way. It’s a good three hours back, and as close as we were I think we’d be feelin’ it by then. If we’re sick… We just stay on the boat in Fairport, we don’t get off, so we can’t make anybody else sick, if it is catchin’,” he finished.
“If we aren’t sick?” Frank asked.
“We play it by ear, I guess,” Jeremiah replied. “But staying here ain’t gonna help us at all, is it?”
“No, it sure ain’t,” Gary agreed.
Jimmy seemed calmer, as he agreed, and Frank nodded his head as they struck off down the road, back to the boat. Silence descended between them as they walked. Even once they had started the boat and Gary had piloted them out into lake, the silence still held.
We’re waiting to see who gets sick first, Frank thought, as the boat plowed through the water.
When darkness finally descended a few minutes later they were all relieved. The darkness was good, Frank decided, they didn’t have to look at each other as they waited.
I hope that you enjoyed this full chapter preview of book 7 in the America the Dead series, The Fold Part Two. This is the second book put together and published by Lindsey Rivers. If you would like the complete book you can get it at the links below…