I want to write a quick thanks to all of you who’ve read the first series, commented, and endured the delays in getting this second season started. There have been technical difficulties that have unfortunately delayed posting, but I can assure you now, that you’ll have a new episode each week. Most of this season is already written, and I look forward to sharing it with you, and reading your thoughts and comments as always. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Good morning,” the voice came soft, cracked and soothing to Jason’s ears. He opened his eyes and adjusted to the dim light of the sunrise peaking through his bedroom window. For a moment, he almost tricked himself into believing it was his old home, the one that had burned down in the first days of the EMP attacks. The one with the cellar that housed his wife and daughter while He and his son made first contact with the D.D.T.F. The feeling was passed in a split second, but it forced Jason to shake himself back into the present reality.
“Hey you,” he said to his wife, and pressed his lips to her forehead. He sat up and looked around the room. Not everyone was able to live inside the community center, but as the elected leader of the new camp, Jason and his family enjoyed a room on the third floor just down the hall from the bathrooms. It had been used as a daycare room and so they enjoyed thin carpeting and soft bright colored walls and a row of windows that still contained a few pieces of finger-painted masterpieces. He’d planned on taking them down when they moved in, but Patty insisted they keep them up.
“They make me happy,” she’d say, “they give me hope that one day we’ll be able to turn this room back into a day care, and kids can paint and play make believe again instead of picking weeds or fetching water and learning to shoot.”
So, the pictures stayed, and so did a few other leftovers from the daycare. Namely, a bookshelf with toys and puzzles and various big lettered books, which his daughter Cathy was just beginning to outgrow. Of course, most of the kid’s items went to the community to be shared, but this little bookshelf was one of the few perks of having helped unite the community after the rebellion against the D.D.T.F. The mattress, an acquisition from a home just outside the community center’s perimeter, was another one of those perks.
Things were beginning to be okay, Jason thought. The morning was peaceful and a feeling of comfort and stability was beginning to replace the vigilant paranoia that had been the norm for the last year and a half. Then he remembered what Tony had found on their supply run the previous afternoon, and the cold familiar worries came crawling back like ice in his veins. He wanted to get up and out of bed before his wife could notice the change in him.
Jason leaned down and kissed his wife once more and shifted out from beneath her. She groaned in protest, but he got out of bed and pulled on an old t-shirt.
“Lots to do today,” he said softly, threading his belt through his jeans and adjusting the holster that hung at his hip.
“You look like a sheriff from the old west,” she said smiling at him from the bed. Jason feigned a tip of the hat, and said, “Thank ya ma’am.”
She chuckled, “You’re cowboy accent is terrible.”
“Well there’s no Stetson on my head, and I’m pretty sure cowboys didn’t carry 9mm semi-automatic Glock’s ,” he added. “So I’ve got some time to work on that accent.” She rolled her eyes and got up from the bed.
“I’m taking Tony out again today,” he said, “we’re gonna head East towards the industrial district.”
“You’re not taking Jim along?” She asked curiously.
He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice, because he didn’t want to raise any suspicion. He elected not to say anything about what they’d seen yesterday. No sense in alarming people until they were sure if there was an actual threat, he figured. Chances are whoever made that weird little scene had moved on, or been chased off or killed by the D.D.T.F. Besides, they were well fortified, and their defensive measures had been tested before and had worked wonderfully. It would take more than a few nut jobs to take what they’d built there.
“I’m sending Jim to check up on the farm,” Jason said, hoping to satiate any suspicion his wife might have. While Jason was relatively confident that there wasn’t any real threat, he preferred to keep his son inside the camp that day.
“Oh?” she replied.
“Yea, Gerald and Mike are just finished building the second manure pit, and their testing out the pipeline today. I figure it’d be good for Jim to get involved in some of the less militaristic aspects around here.”
“Sure,” his wife said, “And you don’t want to be covered in cow shit, so you’re sending your son in your place.”
“And I’d prefer to not be covered in cow shit at the end of the day,” Jason laughed.
“Be careful out there,” she said, and blew him a kiss.
“Always,” he said, and walked out the door.
Jim was already up and in the mess hall spooning down oatmeal and jabbering away with Tony when Jason found him.
“Hey pops,” Jim said, and Tony nodded.
“Hey guys,” said Jason, and sat down next to him with his own bowl of mushy oats.
“Breakfast of champions, eh Mr. Jones?” Tony was always dissing the food, but never in a serious manner. It was his way of keeping things cheerful.
“I suppose you were hoping for Eggs Benedict with mimosa and a fresh, wholegrain bagel served in bed?” Jason chided.
“Steak and eggs actually, a Rib-eye medium rare with two fresh eggs sunny side up and a whole mess of hash browns on the side.”
“That’s not too far out of the question,” Jim cut in, “Gerald’s boys just found three more cows and said they got a possible line on a bull.”
“Damn, that’d be something wouldn’t it?” Tony cooed.
“That reminds me,” Jason said, interrupting the boys’ food fantasies, “I need you to help Gerald with the manure pits today.”
“What?” Jim protested, “I thought we were heading East to the factories to find parts for the rain barrels.”
“We are,” Jason said, indicating Tony and himself, “but I need you to make sure Gerald and his boys have everything under control with those pits. We’ll be planting soon and that fertilizer is going to be just as vital as that rain water.”
Jim looked disappointed but he didn’t complain. They finished breakfast and prepared to head out. Manny found them as they were loading the truck and gave them a list of what he needed, what could work if they couldn’t find those exact parts and where he thought the best places to look might be. Jim hopped on a four-wheeler after mildly protesting his exclusion from the excursion, and headed out towards the farm on the edge of the property where the baseball fields used to be.
Jason knew Jim didn’t think much of the farm, but that was only because he was at the age where he craved action and excitement. To him, the farm was boring, but Jason knew how vital it was to the camp’s survival. It was impressive too, thanks to Gerald’s expertise and his three sons strong backs. They had chickens, goats, cows, and now it sounded like possibly a bull was on the way. Jason was glad he’d sent Jim to work the farm that day, and hoped the work would get more attractive to him.
Tony and Jason made their way through the front gate, past the machine gun nest that was now manned with their people and not the government soldiers. They headed east out of town and made it to the industrial park by roughly ten am. The pickin was good, and after the day they had yesterday, Jason was relieved to have such luck. They found a stockpile of gravel, sand and charcoal, and loaded as much as possible into the truck, and made plans to make several more runs. Jason knew that it wasn’t exactly what Manny had in mind, but with this stuff, they could make a great bio-filter for the water collectors, and that was one hell of a good start.
They returned to camp in high spirits, but as they pulled up to the front gate it was obvious something had gone wrong. Jason’s first thought was of what they had found the day before, and he cursed himself if he’d let them get followed back. He pulled the truck just inside the gate and tore out of it. Two men were running at full speed from the direction of the farm, neither of them were his son. They were waving their hands frantically, and it was clear something horrible had happened. Jason jumped back into the truck and gunned it towards the farm, praying that his son was okay.
If he hadn’t been in such a hurry, he might have noticed the glint from the field goggles far off in the tree line, beyond the fences, beyond the field they’d set with booby traps, at the edge of where the thick woods began. Jason hadn’t noticed it, and the man who’d been careless enough to allow the sun to flash off of his binoculars would never make the mistake again. His commander made sure of it.