Authors Notes: November 2002 Chanllenge: This story is base on a novel written by Roger Zelazny same title later adapted to the big screen. A SciFic Story that seem to fit the guys perfectly.
Military: Christopher Larabee – Major US Air Force; Bucklin (Buck) Wilmington – Captain US Air Force; Vincent (Vin) Tanner – Lieutenant US Air Force; Nathan Jackson – Sergeant Medic US Air Force
Non-Military: Ezra Standish – Gambler; JD Dunn – kid; Josiah Sanchez – Preacher
An aerial view shows an Air Force Installation known as the 123rd Strategic Missile Wing, location Tipton AFB, California. The area is a vast desert wasteland and except for the installation nothing else can be located.
Inside the installation, military personal monitor missile silos. There are 10 missiles in each military base. Inside this base two military personal keep post in case of a hostile attempt these men will then launch the missiles. The base has an eight-hour rotation in which the system is monitored, while a checklist is completed on each rotation.
Lieutenant Vin Tanner and Major Chris Larabee make their way down towards the underground installation for their rotation. Greeting them is Sergeant Nathan Jackson, an EMT medic putting in his two-week reserve duty at the base.
“Morning gentlemen.” Nathan smiles as the two officers enter his view from an enclosed door. A small window lets him see the two men in front of him.
“Morning Sergeant Jackson.” Major Larabee responds.
“Morning Nate.” Lieutenant Tanner replies.
Nathan looks them over; “well looks like you boys are clean, show me your weapons,” making sure no non-authorized weapons are on their person, viewing them through the window, Nathan nods his head. “All right come on in.” He lets them through the secure door.
Major Larabee makes his way in followed by Lt. Tanner. Both look at the new sketches Sgt. Jackson has drawn. Nathan Jackson a tall slender black man is filling in for another sergeant that happens to be in the infirmary where Jackson signed in this morning; the base is shorthanded due to the 4th of July weekend holiday.
“This ones a new sketch?” Nathan nods in confirmation, “you captured Buck’s imagine real good,” Larabee smiles, looking at the portrait of his old friend.
“Yeah, you did, captured that piss off look of his.” Tanner adds.
The Major and sergeant both laugh.
“How about doing one of me for my wife?” The Major asks.
“You serious,” Nathan was beaming. “I’ve been hoping to convince you to let me draw you, but figured you’d never go for it.”
“Well Nate, I hope for your sake you don’t capture that famous glare of Larabee’s or his wife ain’t goin’ ta recognize him.” Larabee glares at him but it has no effect on the young man.
Nathan laughs, “I’ll see what I can do,” he pauses a moment waiting for the two officers to sign-in. “Maybe we can start after your shift? I’ll be here for the next two weeks.” He informs the two men.
“Sounds good to me; Buck seen the photo yet?” Looking at the medic.
“Just finish it, was going to show him as soon as he comes off duty.” He smiles at both men.
“Damn, I’m going to miss the look on his face.”
Chris laughs, “When did you capture that look any way?”
“Remember that night he was sure Inez would finally say yes, only she said yes to that new fly boy was station here for a few days.” Both men nod, “that’s the look that sort of sear into my head and had to paint it just to get it out.”
“Oh, man, poor Buck got drunkard than a skunk.” Vin shook his head remembering that night.
“We’ll see you later, Sergeant.”
“Major, Lieutenant.” Jackson replies; opening and securing the door to the first stage of the missile silo both officers would be entering.
As both officers made their way down the elevator doors to the bottom level of the facility they enter the last phase of their journey and greet Captain Buck Wilmington.
“Buck,” is the Major’s stoic greeting.
“Hey Buck,” the Lieutenant replies.
“Well hey boys,” Buck shakes their hands as if he hadn’t seen them in years when in fact it was during last nights poker game. “Looks like the place is all yours,” The Captain hands the Major his keys, trying to get past his friend.
“Where’s the fire Buck?” Chris questions, knowing the response.
“You still trying to sweep Miss Indez’s feet off the floor.” Vin asks.
Buck stops and turns around, “Junior, I’m wearing her down.”
“Aha, you just keep telling yourself that.” Vin answers.
Buck laughs; “catch you later boys.”
Closing the titanium doors behind them, Larabee and Tanner go to their stations and begin their modular checklist. Once completed the next eight hours will be spent in a companionable silence. This is one of the reasons Chris enjoys working with the younger man, he is quiet, unlike his old time friend who is anything but quiet, boisterous is the only way to describe Buck Wilmington.
After only three hours Larabee and Tanner, receive their first alert code, “Blue Square One, Blue Square One, Red Talon One.” The communications officer speaks out the message over the intercom system alerting both men back to their stations.
“Breaker, Breaker… Part One: Three, Charlie, Alpha, Fox Trot, Tango… Part Two: Tango, Alpha, Charlie, Delta, Tango, Xray, Oscar… Part Three: 042346. Authentication Sierra Alpha.” The message finally ends, as ranking officer; Chris Larabee moves over to Tanner’s station and compares his message with the other man’s.
“I have a valid message,” Major Larabee states.
“I agree,” Lt. Tanner responds.
In the command base above the men and women watching as an unknown threat approaches the United States, the base is shutdown all leaves are suspended as time seems to stand still.
Communications are open information passes between one missile base and another. The hostile approach has been confirmed, sequence to prepare missile launch begins. Below in the missile booth, launch sequence has been completed and missiles have been launch, both Larabee and Tanner look at one another, knowing that what they have been train to do, will kill thousands of people in the Middle East who are not even aware that their country has declare war on the United States. The United States the same will happen, thousands too will die not knowing that their country has responded in retaliation.
Larabee responds, “Ten missiles have been launch, repeat ten missiles have been launch.” Tanner rubs his face, wishing he were somewhere else, oblivious of the threat going on. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
After their duty has been accomplished both men leave their stations to report to the command base above. Chris moves next to Colonel Travis. Travis merely staring into the large satellite screen, watching as the United States missiles travel to intercept the enemy missiles.
A few minutes later information begins to come in: “confirm intercept effective only 40% enemy missiles destroyed. Major hits are as follows: Boston, Philadelphia, Trenton, Washington D.C., Detroit, Pittsburgh…” Suddenly outside large mushroom explosions can been seen. Skies turn yellow, orange hue colors. “Seattle, Portland, Charlotte, Denver, St. Louis…” and the list continue.
* * * * * * *
Finally after years of squabbling both the United States & The Middle East launch their missiles causing near destruction of the planet. The dark skies begin to engulf the planet, and then the skies begin to clear and turn to different colors, shades of yellow, brown, and red orange, no longer are the skies blue. The Third World War leaves the planet shrouded in a pall of radioactive dust, under skies lurid and angry, in a climate gone insane…
Tilted on its axis as a result of the nuclear holocaust the Earth lines through a reign of terror, with storms and floods of unprecedented severity. When this epoch begins to wind down, the remnants of life once more venture forth to commence the struggle for survival and dominance. This is the story of some of them…
* * * * * * *
Two years have pass, earth’s atmosphere has turned dark with red, orange glows running in the sky, the air is breathable but the heat reaches near 110 degree’s causing the survivors to shelter during the afternoon hours, the temperature doesn’t begin to cool until late evening to early a.m. After that temperatures begin to climb again.
Outside the base large scorpions have emerge from the blast now mutated to the size of a full-grown man.
Nathan Jackson is above the structure keeping watch; sweat trickles down his face as he wipes it and returns to painting his mural. Nathan hears the sound of a motor and looks through binoculars for the young Texan who decided to go into the nearest town and search out for supplies, signs of life, anything really to get out of the base.
After the near destruction of the planet, Tanner and Jackson resign their commissions, but with nowhere to really go they both remain on base. Jackson gasps as he finally sees the young man. After leaving the force Vin lets his hair grow long and begins riding his motorcycle out in the desert, it is really the only transportation capable of traveling through the desert.
Several scorpions emerge from the dry desert and give chase; Vin maneuvering the motorcycle manages to stay ahead of the large beast, there is someone sitting behind him, Nathan can’t believe as the form looks to be a woman, he rubs his eyes hoping that he is not seeing things as he continues to monitor his young friend.
Suddenly scorpions surround Vin, but before they can grab him he throws the other person over the side. The large beasts attack the body and ignore Vin as he manages to ride past the other scorpions and enters the safety of the base.
“What the hell did you do?” Nathan shouts at the younger man, grabbing him violently.
“Calm down Nate, look again.”
Nathan grabs his binoculars and looks again, focusing on the body, he laughs at himself. The body isn’t really human but that of a female mannequin. “Shit Tanner, I swear she looked real.”
“Yeah, I was going to see how long it took Buck to notice the difference.” He chuckles making Nathan laugh louder.
“Tanner you are bad.” He shakes his head.
A few months ago the installation begins to pick up a weak radio broadcast always at the same time of day. By command of the Colonel two teams are being readied with the newest type of all terrain vehicles and state of the art on board computer system to travel to Albany New York where the radio broadcast seems to originate.
During a break Chris walks outside and sees Tanner seating watching the sunset or at least what looks like the sun setting. “You doing okay?” The older man asks.
He nods, “after two years I still can’t believe what happen;” his voice almost a whisper.
“Yeah me too.”
“You and Buck finish with your tinkering?” He casually looks over at the older man.
“Yeah, we should be ready to leave in a couple days, just waiting on Colonel Travis to give the word.”
“I don’t see how you can still take orders from the old man, he’s not right in the head.”
“He’s still in charge, and until someone tells me different, I’m still following orders.” He all but shouts to the younger man; It’s one of the reasons he started preparing the all terrain vehicles, he wants to find others in authority, or even convince Travis to go with them, at least that way he wouldn’t worry about the other men. He wasn’t the next in command, but still felt responsible for the other men.
* * * * * * *
Inside the base a shift change begins to take place one enlisted man is late making another angry at having to spend more time at his post when he could be resting or doing something different.
Finally, the other man shows up. “About damn time.” He sneers at the man.
“Sorry, the Colonel wanted to see me,” was the simple truth. “Besides it’s not as though anything was going to change.” He states.
“Yeah, but I still had to wait here when I could be doing something else.” The other man angrily replies, “You owe me twenty minutes.”
The angry soldier leaves his post and returns to his bunk. The other makes himself comfortable and lights a cigarette and lies in a cot feeling the calming affects of the nicotine start to settle him. Nearly finish the man closes his eyes and quickly falls asleep, dropping the still smoking cigarette to the floor. In the other room there is an open valve that was not shut off because of the angry words and the need to leave. Suddenly an explosion erupts and the main installation is engulfed in flames the screams of soldiers can be heard as the building begins to crumble.
Chris and Vin suddenly fill the earth shake and rush inside the main building only to witness the death of their commanding officer. Colonel Travis is engulfed in flames. The young Texan grabs Chris hauling him out of the installation as he struggles to reach the there CO. Vin manages to shout over the explosions, “it’s too late Chris, it’s too late.”
Snapping the man into action and leaves with the younger man. Outside Buck runs out of the other building which houses the vehicles and Nathan runs from his post outside the main building.
“Buck,” Chris shouts. “Get the vehicles ready we’re leaving now.”
Wilmington stops in his tracks and rushes back to the building followed by the other three men. After a few minutes Chris, Buck, Nathan and Vin embark on their new journey inside Landmasters One and Two destinations, Albany, New York.
After a few hours of driving Vin and Chris in Landmaster One, while Buck and Nathan ride Landmaster Two, no words are spoke the explosion of the base still fresh in their minds. Vin takes a quick glance at his partner and sighs, they didn’t even check for any survivors.
Chris seems to pick up on the mans thoughts, “you really think their could have been any survivors?” He asks the other man.
Vin doesn’t look at him knowing the truth, “no, just wish I knew what happen.” He shrugs, picturing the Colonel in flames still haunting him.
“Yeah, me too…” he trails off. Hoping to distract the younger man he asks, “you ready for some training,” looking over at Vin. “I could use some sleep you think your ready to earn your keep?”
Vin gives his lopsided grin, “ready as I’ll ever be cowboy.” He smirks.
Chris however growls, “one of these days,” He shifts the manual drive and transfers control to the other steering wheel. “All right, this drives just like the family car, it has four wheel drive plus an overdrive that can handle any terrain.”
“So where we headed?”
“No, but its something to shoot for,” is the only reply.
“Okay, how we getting there?”
“We’re headed to the least resistance, through Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Kansas and Detroit to Albany. Or what I like to call it Damnation Alley.”
“Damnation Alley,” Vin laughs, “and here I always thought of you as a cowboy not a swashbuckler.”
Chris glares at him, “shut up and drive.”
“What happens if I go off course?”
Chris stands up and walks over the Vin’s right, punching in coordinates he explains, “okay this baby can purity much drive itself. You just make it look good.” Vin snorts at Larabee’s attempt at humor. “Just make sure you keep the dial within the horizon if you deviate, you’ll get a red flash light just correct and the green light should come on when your back on track. Pretty simple.”
“Right.” Vin smiles.
“I’ll relieve you in four hours.”
“Sweet dreams cowboy.”
* * * * * * *
Inside Landmaster Two, Buck and Nathan are discussing the same instructions, “now this baby has all the modern techno knowledge you could want and the weapons, small range missiles, gunfire, flamethrowers. I mean we could start a war…” Buck trails off.
“I believe the big heads all ready did that.” Nathan replies with out emotion.
“Oh hey, Nate…” he pauses I mean what can you say when you put your foot in it. “Didn’t mean it like that, just we don’t know what’s out there. We got giant scorpions in the desert who knows what we’ll find.” Looking at the ex-medic.
“Yeah, guess.” Both men look ahead not talking for a while.
“Well you ready to learn this baby?” Buck asks.
Nathan grins, the ladies man never could stay quiet for very long, ‘Vin’s lucky he’s with Chris,’ the black medic thought. “Sure.” He replies.
After a few minutes of instructions, Nathan notices a large mass on the radar screen. “Buck, what’s that heading our way?”
The Captain looks over at the screen and frowns. “Not sure, hold on.” He reaches for the mic. “Landmaster One, this is Landmaster Two do you copy?”
On the other vehicle Vin answers. “Landmaster One go-ahead, over.”
“Landmaster One, where’s Chris, over.”
“He’s asleep, what’s up, over.”
“Got a large mass headed our way, you see it?”
Vin checks the radar screen, “yeah,”
“I think we better get to shelter, and dig in?”
“Hell no, I think we should just ride through It.”
Buck presses the mic again, “Vin don’t, and you don’t know what’s on the other side. Dig in.”
This time the younger man doesn’t listen and decides to ride it out, Buck in Landmaster Two moves to a secure location and prepares the vehicle to dig in.
“You think he’ll dig in?” Nathan asks.
“No, but right now we got to secure this baby.” Buck unbuckles his straps and moves around the vehicle, pushing buttons, switching levers; all the while Nathan monitors the approaching dust storm.
“Buck, it’s almost here.” Nathan reports, as the ladies man pulls down the last lever and returns back to his seat buckling himself in.
“Hold on, it’s going to be ruff.” Holding the arm chair with a vice like grip, knuckles turning white as the dust storm hits them with a vengeance.
* * * * * * * At the same time Landmaster One continues to move forward right into the path of the dust storm. As the vehicle begins to take a beating, Chris wakes with a start; he heads to the front. Major Larabee gasps as he sees the young man struggling to fight for control of Landmaster One.
“Damnit Vin, didn’t Buck inform you to dig in?”
“Yeah,” the young Texan shouts as rocks, dust and every thing else that you could find in the desert hits them.
“Shit Tanner,” the Major responds as he takes the other seat helping to fight for the battle of their lives.
* * * * * * *
When the storm hit, Landmaster Two is pluck up off the ground and hurdle to its side rolling over and over the hydraulic jacks useless against mother natures wrath.
By the time the storm past the vehicle is left on its back. Both Nathan and Buck hang up side down strap to their seats not moving. A gash adorns Nathan’s head, while Buck seems to have weathered the assault unscathed.
Both men begin to regain their consciousness, groaning as they realize they’ve survived the attack. “Nate…” Buck gasps, “You okay?” The gregarious man asks.
“Yeah… is it over?” as Nathan tries to look out the window.
“Think so, hold on a sec, let me unbuckle myself and I’ll help you down.” Buck begins working on doing just that – it’s a strange feeling and not as easy as it looks – to try and unbuckle, while your upside down.
“Okay,” Nathan answers as he touches his forehead feeling the warm blood drip. ‘Head wounds tend to bleed bad, but doesn’t mean there bad.’ The medic tells him self.
A thud sounds to his left prompting the ex-medic to look over at Buck. He chuckles as he hears the man curse as he hits hard.
“It ain’t funny Nate.” The man grumbles as he rubs his rear.
“Sorry Buck, you okay.” Still grinning, while trying not to.
“Yeah, the place is a mess.” He pauses looking over at the radio. “Landmaster One, you copy, over.” He calls, but receives only static. “Damn, think we broke our radio.”
“Shit, hey Buck?” Nathan calls.
“Yeah,” looking at the young black man.
“Thought you were getting me off this thing.” Nathan looks annoyed trying to free him self and making Buck laugh, which in turn earns him a glare.
“Hang on Nate… oh, ah no pun intended;” as he walks over to help release his friend.
* * * * * * *
The storm also passes as Landmaster One emerges with a few minor dents, but none the worse.
“Damn Larabee what a rush.” Vin grins sheepishly.
Chris just grunts, “Your dam lucky, next time Buck orders you to dig in, you dig in. You hear me?” The Major glares at his young friend, angry at the Texan for taking such a chance.
“I hear you, sir.” He replies not happy, but still somewhat guilty, hearing the tone of worry comes across. ‘But hell, he wasn’t some green horn who didn’t know how to handle a bad situation.’ At least that’s what he tells him self.
“Get on the radio, see if you can reach Buck.” He orders then starts to inspect any damage to his vehicle, while hearing the young man calling over the radio. ‘Thank God,’ as all systems are operational.
“Chris, I can’t reach Buck.”
The Major sits down and tries himself, “Landmaster One, to Landmaster Two, Buck come in over.” All that can be heard is static. “All right lets try and pin point Buck’s last known position and triangulate with our position and see if we can narrow our search.”
“Right.” Vin begins calculating location points, and map coordinates to come up with a best guess. “Chris I think I got something.”
The Major returns after checking the exterior part of the vehicle glad there are no major damages. “What’ll you got?” He asks.
“This is Buck’s last radio call and his location, if I were Buck I’d hit for a secure location something that covers me while the dust storm hits. I’m guessing these large boulders here.” Pointing at two locations on the radar screen. “They should be here.” The radar screen begins to extrapolate both known points and comes up with the best possible location.
“Okay, lets head there.”
* * * * * * *
It is at least two hours later when they arrive to the site. Again the radio is use, “Landmaster Two do you copy, over.” Vin again tries the radio, but still only static is heard.
Over at the other vehicle Nathan sees Landmaster One. “Buck, there they are.” Pointing at their radar screen.
“Shit they can’t see us.”
“How we going to let them know we’re hear?”
Buck looks around and then smiles, “we’re going to have to send up a flare.”
“Buck, what are you up too, that look always means trouble.” Remembering the last time the gregarious man had one of his bright ideas.
“Now Nathan, have a little faith.” He grins as he releases one of their missiles.
“Ah hell,” Nathan gasps; as the sound vibrates all along the vehicle forcing him to cover his ears, as another is release. “Jeezus Buck, warn a guy.”
Buck smirks as Landmaster One begins to turn their way.
* * * * * * *
“Dam that must be Buck.” Chris gasps as two missiles pass just a few feet in front.
“Always knew he was a hot head, but this is a bit much, don’t you think.” He looks over at his friend.
“Never underestimate Buck, let’s go.”
* * * * * * *
A few minutes later Buck and Chris survey the damage; “we’re not getting this thing back on its feet hoss.” Buck comments.
Vin bandages Nathan’s head, smirking at the medics constant wincing. “Vin I think that’s about enough medical treatment I can handle.” Stopping the younger man’s hurried attention.
“All done Nate.” Nathan just glares at him, “ah Nate, at least it wasn’t Buck tending to you.” Nathan had to agree on that comment. Vin walks over to both men leaving Nathan to rest. “So cowboy, what’s the verdict?”
“Looks like we’re going to have to leave it, Buck lets get whatever supplies and fuel we can handle. We still got a ways to go. Las Vegas should take us at least two days to get to.
Landmaster One stops four men peer through the window, Las Vegas, was a city of lights and activity that never seize. Now all that is left are a few buildings and most are covered in mounds of desert dust, it looks like the city has become a giant sand box.
“Wow, I remember the last time I was hear, I met these two ladies and let me tell you that was one wild…”
“Buck, I just had breakfast.” Nathan comments not sure that he wants to hear the story.
“You know I’ve never been to Vegas.” They all look at the young Texan. Looking at his friends. “Always wanted too.”
“I guess we can make a pit stop;” the Major replies.
Chris finally spots an open path and it leads right to Circus Circus, one of the hotel/casinos that would have house hundreds of people. The Major remembers a time, a special weekend he and his wife Sarah had stayed here.
Chris had been working long hours. New recruits were arriving for training and the Major was their as a training instructor. So on a holiday weekend Buck arrange it so that he’d be working and Chris could go home.
Sarah was waiting; she didn’t give Chris a chance to protest and off they went. Sarah drove and they arrived around 2a.m. The couple check-in and the room looked like the honeymoon suite. Sarah and Chris had been married three years and hardly a honeymoon couple, but that didn’t stop them from acting like one.
Chris smiled at the memory of that weekend.
The others were silent having noticing that the Major had yet to release the steering wheel after shutting the engine off.
Buck signals the other two to go outside and wait. “Hey pard, you remembering that weekend.” On Chris’ return that man had a smile that could light the darkest caverns of Texas, or so Buck thought.
“Yeah, wish she was here, but it’s that not knowing for sure…” He trails off not wanting to dwell on it, but at the same time needing to say it out loud.
“Yeah,” Buck whispers back, hoping his friend could one-day move pass it… “You know we better get out of here or Tanner is liable to own that there casino.
“Yeah right,” Chris snorts, grateful for the change of topic.
* * * * * * *
The four look around the casino as they enter, trying to visualize what it must have look like on any other day. People mulling around, the noise level alone would be something to experience. Right now however, the casino is empty, quiet and even collecting dust particles a sure sign as a reminder of why they are traveling to Albany to search out for more inhabitants of this planet.
“Hey guys, what are we standing here, we should be out there gambling,” Buck entices.
“Exactly with what?” Nathan wants to know.
Walking over to a slot machine Buck finds one with coins, “now we’re cooking.” As he starts placing coins into various slots and starts pulling levers. The machines start to turn and tumble, some hit winning combinations, but most don’t.
Tanner and Jackson move to the green felt tables of blackjack and start to play; the dust on the table not discouraging them.
“Hit me,” Vin calls as Nathan throws down a card.
“The player shows a ten,” Nathan smiles as he shows a king.
Scratching the table Vin calls, “again.” The younger man receives another card. “Ah hell, bust.” This time a five card shows, as he turns his cards to show another five and a three.
Nathan has a Queen, King and an Ace, “House wins,” He smiles as Vin tosses his cards.
“Figures,” he snorts his displeasure at having lost. Both men now decide to move to the slot machines, Chris behind them chuckles at their by play.
Soon all four men are playing the one-arm bandits. As the four men become in gross playing the slot machines, the roar of sounds echo all around the building. They imagine the crowds of people playing along side them, some winning others loosing even the sound of security ushering the disgruntle players out.
Vin moves to another slot and stops something pulls his attention, movement from above, as he looks up his jaw drops open, up above there is a man, leaning against the banister. He seems to be clad only in sleepwear, pants and a thin robe.
Slowly the others also notice and stop they’re playing suddenly the whole casino is again quiet. All sound seems to have fallen into a void. The sound of heavy, raspy breathing can be heard, as the young man on top appears to be hyperventilating.
He turns away and begins to descend the staircase, running, his robe billowing freely behind him. He stops in front of Chris not sure what to do next. He slowly approaches and fearing these men to be apparitions, lifting an arm he pokes Chris’ chest and gasps.
“You’re real…” Smiling, “you’re really here.”
“Names Chris Larabee,” Chris formally introduces himself.
“Oh, pardon my rudeness.” The voice is unmistakably southern, quite out of place in Las Vegas, the man continues. “Ezra P. Standish at your service.” He takes Chris’ hand and shakes it with enthusiasm and then shakes the hands of the others as well.
* * * * * * *
In the third level floor of the hotel/casino Ezra begins packing a bag while explaining the circumstance of his survival.
“How did I survive, well that is indeed an interesting story. At first I had no idea that I was alive.” Looking at the quizzical expressions, he continues. “You see the reason I was even in Las Vegas was for a tournament; it was hosted by the owner a Mr. Kees, the participants some of the best poker players around.” Ezra smiles as he continues. “The entrance fee a mere $250,000,” Buck whistles. “Yes, multiple that by twelve and the take home would be $3million for the winner, a handsome price to be sure.”
Nathan shakes his head in contempt, not sure he’d want a gambler traveling with them, but understanding it was the moral thing to do.
The others are astonished; three million was a lot of money. Of course, that was then, three million wouldn’t amount to much now.
“So what happen you loose.” Buck asks smiling.
“Hardly, I won.” Smiling back at the shock looks.
“Hope you didn’t spend it frivolously. Know a lot of charities could of use that money;” Nathan remarks not hiding his ire.
Ezra either didn’t hear the tone or choose to ignore it. Course that didn’t stop Chris or Vin to glare at the medic, Nathan ignores them and continues to listen to the gambler.
“Unfortunately, neither as the owner had no intention of parting with that large cache, I was not aware of the deception, as my adrenaline was still fixated at the fact I defeated eleven of the best players ever seen.”
Ezra pauses and took a little water from his silver flask, the others might have thought it was alcohol, only Nathan seem bothered, but Ezra wasn’t even thinking about that.
“In any case, I accompanied Mr. Ronald Kees and his bodyguard a Mr. Vargas down to the basement vault. When we reached the bottom it finally occurred to me that I was alone. That is when I noticed the bodyguard was armed. My protest went unheard as Mr. Vargas pointed the barrel of his gun in my direction. I immediately closed my eyes,” looking around he shrugs. “I didn’t know what else to do. But before the gun went off a massive movement hit and I was flung against the wall and lost consciousness.”
“When next I woke, I was alone, everything was still dark. I thought for sure I must have been in hell, but as I found out later, I think I’d prefer hell.” He sighs looking down at his hands having sat down on the bed that he’d slept on for the last two years.
“Where’s Kees now,” Chris wants to know, angry at the fact someone would callously kill another after inviting them to this tournament.
“Ah, Mr. Kees, realizing what had happen didn’t handle the situation well, he took he’s own life six months later.” Looking at the others he answers the other question on their minds. “As to the bodyguard, he left a few weeks after the explosion and I never saw him again.”
“So, you’ve been here all this time, alone?” Vin asks, he couldn’t conceive the idea of being alone for nearly two years, not another soul to talk with. He was in awe of this man, not to have gone sir crazy, is quite an accomplishment.
“Yes, there were times though that I found my self in deep conversation, before I realized I was answering my own questions.”
“Jezsus,” Buck shakes his head in wonder. He’d never be able to pull that off.
“Well that is in the past. I am truly grateful that you have offered to take me with you.” Ezra smiles.
“Well I don’t intend to leave anyone behind if I can help it.” Chris looks at the suite case. “But I recommend you take comfortable cloths; jeans, t-shirts, sneakers or boots, we don’t know what we’ll find out there.”
Ezra nods as he continues to pack a bag.
Several days pass, each man taking turns, driving, sleeping and now bathing.
“Bathing?” Ezra asks.
“Yep, Buck and me managed to piece together a workable plumbing system, now we can bathe once a week whether we need to or not. I’ve posted a schedule so use it.” Chris orders.
“About dam time, Buck was getting a little raw.” Vin comments.
“Hey, that’s not nice Junior not nice at all.” Buck replies making the Texan laugh.
* * * * * * *
The following morning they arrive in Salt Lake City.
“Okay, we’ll fuel up here.” Vin nods as he pulls along side diesel pumps.
Buck and Chris disembark and walk over to the pumps, but there so old that the hoses are no longer attached to the fuel pumps.
“Looks like we’re going to have to manually pump them.”
“Looks that way. I’ll get the hose and hook it to the main pumps under the grill and then you can pump it.”
“Hey, how come I do all the hard work?”
“Because I’m in charge.” Chris states.
Nathan laughs at the Major’s attempt at humor.
“Chris me and Ez are heading into town, see if we can find supplies.”
The Major watches as the Texan pulls out his motorcycle down the ramp. “Okay, but take a radio and keep in touch.”
“Yes, mom.” Vin smirks.
“Mr. Tanner, you can not mean we will be traveling in that death trap?”
“Yeah, come on, I’ll even let you wear my helmet.” The southern looks on in shock at the idea of another mans used accessory. “Come on Ez don’t be a wooze.”
“I beg your pardon.” The southerner replies indignant.
“Let’s go.” Vin finally sighs as Ezra relents and sits astride the death trap. “Hang on.” He smiles.
“Good Lord,” is the southerner’s last words as both men disappear.
“You think they’ll be okay?” Chris still worried.
“They’ll be find pard.” Buck slaps his friend’s shoulders.
“Aha, let’s gas her up, so we can get out of here.” Chris heads back to the Landmaster all the while having a bad feeling.
Nathan opens a vehicle and winces as a skeleton drops out. “Shit,” Buck right behind him looks at the clean white bones. “Dam look at the bones theirs something weird about them.” Nathan begins to wish they hadn’t stop.
“What’a ya mean?” Buck looks again. “These bones have been here two years, what you expect?”
“I’m not sure, just a feeling.”
“Ya know, your starting to sound like Chris and his weird feelings. Now you open the grill I’m going to help Chris with the pumps.”
Nathan snorts and walks back to the vehicle. Buck heads in back. Opening the grill protecting the manual release pump valve Nathan grabs the lever and pulls it open and then pulls the attachment for their pump. As he pulls his hand out there are roaches all around his hand. Nathan shakes them off and tries to stomp them, but they seem to have some sort of protective casing on their backs.
“Shit,” Nathan gasps pulling away, “Chris, Buck.” He begins to shout as suddenly thousands emerge from everywhere. Nathan’s skin starts bleeding as the roaches begin to bite. “Dam it,” The medic walks back to one of the cars opening the backseat he is about to enter, but Buck pulls him back spraying him with C02, the cold makes the roaches fall off.
“Okay Nate come on let’s get the hell back to the Landmaster.” Pulling him away from the car.
Chris pulls over and picks up his two men. “Buck get-on the radio call Vin and Ezra find out where they are.”
“Right, shit what the hell are those things.”
“Killer roaches, that’s why those bones look so smooth, those things pick them clean.” The medic answered, treating his wounds.
* * * * * * *
Over at Salt Lake City downtown mall, Vin and Ezra stop out front. Using a crowbar previously acquired the Texan pries open a side door and they enter astride the motorcycle.
“I never thought I’d ever find myself in a shopping mall.” Vin causally comments, while looking around the various shops. When the bombs fell it was during the day, a lot of people must have died here. “Weird how we haven’t seen any bodies.”
“Most were probably radiated and it has been two years. I would think most of the remains are dust now.”
“Maybe,” looking over at his friend he asks, “well what’s your pleasure?”
Ezra smiles and looks around, “well, Neiman Marcus is not available, let’s try Dillard’s. I’ve heard they have fashionable clothing.”
Vin smirks; personally he’s a jeans man. “I’ll drop you off, I’m heading for the Gap.”
“As you wish, but there are casual clothing as well.”
“Really, a fancy store like that, has jeans?”
“I believe so.”
“Okay, hang on.” Vin guns his bike and they go up the escalator that is no longer in use.
“Dam it Vin, you are bent at my demise.”
The Texan merely laughs, parking the bike outside of the department store, they enter.
“So Ez, where are these jeans ha?”
* * * * * * *
“They’re not answering.” Buck swears.
“All right, we head into town, they said they’d be at the mall,” he couldn’t believe he’d said that, he almost sounded like an irate father searching for his elusive children. “Let’s start there,” looking over at the medic, Chris asks, “Nathan how you doing?”
“I’ll live. The bites are just surface wounds, but I’m taking penicillin and a tetanus shot just to be safe.”
“Okay, and just in case, you best have that ready for two.” Chris said in concern.
Nathan nods understanding that they have two men still out there.
* * * * * * *
Back at Dillard’s, Ezra is trying on a silk shirt when he hears scurrying. Turning around the southern gasps as not one but several hundred roaches are making a quick beeline in his direction.
“Vin!!!” He screams at the top of his lungs at the same time running to where he last saw the Texan. “Vinnn…”
Vin jumps at the sound of his name and rushes out of the dressing room wearing a new pair of wranglers. Seeing Ezra running to him he wonders what’s wrong now, he notices no one is behind him.
“Ezra, over here, what the hell’s wrong?” Looking annoyed.
“Roaches, hundreds of them.” He stops in front of the man, but only long enough to relay the message as he pulls at him to follow. Then Vin sees the roaches and doesn’t think twice about leaving either, as both men head back to the front of the store, dodging counters, clothing racks and mannequins.
Ezra sits on the bike waiting patiently for Vin to arrive. “Mr. Tanner, please hurry we are being surrounded.” He yells just as Vin straps his legs around the seat of his bike, at the same time starting the engine.
“Shit, there everywhere.” The engine catches and the wheels skid to one side as Vin tries to maneuver the bike to the nearest exit.
The bottom floors are now covered with hordes of roaches approaching from all sides. Both men look on in horror, as every exit is block.
“Vin, up the other stairwell…” Ezra points towards another escalator, which leads to the restaurants.
The Texan heads up there but as they reach the top it is a dead end. Vin quickly heads to the large windows. Across the mall is another building, the parking structure for shoppers. Quickly Vin grabs a chair using it to shatter the window.
The radio starts to squawk, “Tanner, come in, do you read. There are killer roaches in town, do you read.”
“Mr. Wilmington, its Ezra, we have encountered the foul beasts and are now making our way from the mall to the parking structure across, please meet us there.”
“Copy that we’re on our way, just hang-on.”
Vin hits the top of a dinning table and manages to free part of the top from the stem. Ezra sees the Texan’s efforts and joins him, with another kick the table is finally dislodge. Taking the tabletop Vin places it at the edge of the window making it into a ramp.
Ezra looks behind as the roaches are almost upon them. Both return on the bike. Vin starts the engine and turns to the horde of roaches they need momentum to make the jump. The bike crushes some of the roaches as others jump on there boots, shaking them off Vin guns the throttle and the bike with both men is propelled forward and makes the jump across one structure and falls to the other.
Getting back on the bike they head down, but they encounter more roaches not stopping they continue down the spiral path of the parking building. At the bottom of the structure there are more roaches and are again surrounded. This time there is no other way to exit, suddenly an explosion hits the wall and Landmaster One enters Vin grins at the Major’s cowboy ways. Quickly maneuvering his bike to the back of the vehicle to board her, Chris shoots another missile and the Landmaster exits the other side leaving behind the blood thirsty roaches.
Part Five: Buck and Nathan are on driving duty, when the Captain notices a small service station and someone peering through the window. Shifting gears he turns into the station.
Chris is shaving when he feels the turn. Vin and Ezra are still sleeping in their bunks. The Major walks forward and moves to Buck. “Why are we stopping?”
Still looking out he replies, “Thought I saw someone,” this time they all look through their window and then a small figures runs out from behind. “There told you.” He smiles as he runs out of the Landmaster and gives chase.
Nathan and Chris look at one another shaking their heads as they follow after Buck.
“Hey kid, hold up, I’m not going to hurt you.” Buck yells out.
The kid ignores him running further through the desert.
Up above the sky illuminates a twilight glow. It seems to linger yet this time of day is in fact morning just another reminder of the devastation, which befell the planet.
“Buck, where’d he go?” The Major shouts.
“He’s behind those bushes. Come on kid I ain’t going to hurt you.” He tries to sooth.
The boy sprints out again, this time Buck’s ready as he tackles the boy. Their struggle is short and Buck’s superior strength wins out but not by much.
“You through,” Chris asks his tone lace with humor is heard, which doesn’t do much for Buck’s temperament.
“Oh you’re a lot of help.” Looking at the boy, he realizes a young man is more appropriate. “What’s your name boy?” Letting the kid go.
“I’m not a boy, I’m seventeen.” He replies, while dusting him self off.
“Ah, that means your name’s seventeen?”
Making the boy glare. “No, names JD, JD Dunne.” He replies with chest puff out. Trying not to show any fear.
“You here all alone?” Nathan looks around, there is nothing for miles, he wonders how long the kids been out here.
“Maybe, who are you guys?” He looks at all of them.
“Names Buck Wilmington, over there.” Pointing to his right, “is Chris Larabee, and behind me is Nathan Jackson. Now you all alone, where are your folks?”
“There dead, okay.” He answers looking all the while lost and lonely.
They all walk back to the station, by this time Vin and Ezra are up having realized they’d stop.
“Gentlemen, who’s your young friend?” The southerner asks.
“This here is JD Dunne and he’s seventeen years old.” Buck teases, looking back at the boy he continues. “The funny talking ones Ezra and the long hair one is Vin, there part of our team.” He introduces.
“What kind of team?” He asks curious because of the unusual vehicle they all rode in.
“What Buck means is we have a plan you might say, you see we’re heading for Albany, New York, by way of Damnation Alley;” Vin answers looking at Chris who only snorts at the younger man.
* * * * * * *
Suddenly a voice is heard, “you men let that boy go.” The sound is echo’d all around and then four men pull their weapons, Ezra preferring using logic rather than guns.
“It’s okay,” JD calls out. “They don’t mean to hurt me Josiah.” Then looking at Buck and the others he tells them, “please put your guns down that’s Josiah, he used to be a preacher, he don’t mean no harm.” At this point JD is afraid they might hurt the only other soul he thought was still alive and doesn’t want anything to happen to him.
“Please Josiah come meet them, they ain’t so bad, at least once you get pass there smell.” He says more to ease the preacher then really meaning to insult.
The others laugh, “I took a bath three days ago.” Buck complains.
“Well pard, I didn’t want to mention it but I’ve been thinking of scheduling you for twice a week instead of one.” Chris deadpan. Bringing more laughter to the others.
Josiah hearing the laughter walks out behind a large boulder. Just a few feet from the station house, “you sure you’re okay son?” Wanting to make sure, not putting down his old rifle, which doesn’t even work, but the others don’t know that.
“Yah, Josiah I’m okay, they say there headed for New York.” The boy yells out.
“Really now. And just why are you headed there?”
“We’ve been getting a radio signal from there, an emergency beacon if you will. We’re hoping others have survived too.” Chris explains.
“You know, we have room for two more.” Buck said looking at Josiah and then JD.
“Yeah,” JD agreed, the possibility of others is luring him to the idea.
Josiah looks at the sky, “we best start tomorrow. Its getting dark now, we should seek shelter.
“What are you talking about?” Major Larabee also looks up above, yes the sky is darkening, but it’s barely past the afternoon. “We still have enough light, we’ll be fine.”
* * * * * * *
The preacher stops in front of the kid. “No, Josiah’s right, your truck won’t protect us, if they find a way to get in.” He explains.
“What are you talking about?” Vin was getting one of those feelings, the ones that you ain’t going to like, as Buck sometimes would say.
“The bats,” was all the boy would say.
“I beg your pardon, did you just say bats?”
Josiah turns around to face the five men, “yap, these bats are messengers from the devil him self; no other explanation for them being here.”
“What makes you think our vehicle will not protect us?” Up till now Nathan was listening wondering if perhaps the older man may not be well in the head, but if the boys seen these bats, the medic wonders just how big these things could be, after all the Air Force Base had been infested with giant scorpions.
The other man starts to explain, “I was a priest, I brought JD and other students on a field trip. There are some caverns just twenty miles north west of here, some of the best caves you could want to explore. We were down there when the explosions hit.” He pauses looking at the boy to continue, the preacher had trouble reconciling with what happen after they got out.
“We didn’t bring a lot of supplies, we were planning on staying only three maybe four days. When the ground stop shaking, we all headed back. The entrance was all covered; it did take us awhile to find another exit. Father Sanchez, I mean Josiah. He knew the caves and remember another way out.” JD smiles at the relief they had all felt.
“At first, we weren’t sure what had happen. Our bus was totally destroyed and with no radio… we started walking back to the service station we had stop at to check in. Josiah knew the couple who own this place.” He takes a breather and then continues.
“When we arrived, most everything was destroyed by fire, we weren’t sure how long we’d been down at the cave but it must have been at least a day. It took us another day and a half to arrive here, the Linens were both dead, we buried them.” Silent for a moment, all that had remind of the couple were charred remains. “Any way, we gathered as much supplies as we could. Mr. Linens pick up truck was still in one piece, but the electrical systems were all burnt, with time though we fix the vehicle and Josiah went to find help for all of us, Andrew went with him and Michael being the oldest was in charge.” JD was silent again, now he couldn’t go on. By this time some how they all manage to go into the structure the boy had been hiding in.
Josiah took over the conversation. “We headed to the city, it was maybe 100 hundred miles ahead of us. I didn’t want to leave the boys out here all alone, but then I couldn’t send two of them without knowing what had happen. We weren’t getting anything on the two-way system or on the radio. When we got to the city, nothing was left everything was either burning, or still exploding. If there were any living souls left we couldn’t find them. Andrew didn’t return with me, he was determined to find his family; he couldn’t understand that nothing was left of Kansas. It was all gone. But he wouldn’t listen. I had to return, there were still eight boys to look after. Andrew never returned.”
Josiah shook his head, “how do you tell children that everything was gone, I brought back another vehicle with supplies, but I didn’t want the boys to go into that hell hole, to see what us Adults had done, I couldn’t, I always thought of myself a man of peace, but I wanted to kill those responsible for destroying the lives of so many people.”
Chris and Buck bowed their heads knowing that they had felt like that after everything was over, but never really having a choice but to retaliate against the enemy. Nathan and Vin could see their comrades feeling bad right now. But what could you really say. Nothing, what’s done can be undone.
“Where are the other children, you speak of?” Ezra asks knowing he would not like the answer, but knowing it had to be asked.
“After a year, things were okay,” JD, said. “What we needed we learn to catch.” He shrugs, really proud of their accomplishments. “Then the first bats came, the little ones aren’t bad, but the large ones…” He trails off looking a bit lost in his remembrance. “Their real smart. We didn’t know what was going on until the little ones scared Joey and he ran that’s when one of the larger ones flew off with him, we never saw him again. The next day more came again, and they took Bill and Jack before we could do anything.”
“That’s when I decided to take the boys to the city, where I’d hope we’d be safe.” Josiah started again. “But they came again the following night; you see the nights are longer here after twilight they start to hunt, the small ones got into the car and I lost control, we crash the boys panic, JD was the only who stayed, trying to help me, we could hear the cries of the boys, screaming. Only one managed to get to us, Randy, he’d been bitten several times. I don’t know why they didn’t take us. But I wasn’t going to let anything else happen. I already failed the others I wouldn’t fail JD and Randy.” Josiah was breathing hard now almost in a panic.
Nathan quietly walks over to him and oddly enough manages to inject a sedative. JD has been watching and is about to say something but Buck whispers that it would be all right.
Once Josiah calms down and the sedative takes effect, Chris looks at JD. “What happen to Randy?”
Looking at Josiah, he turns to Major Larabee, “he got sick, guess from all them bites, least we got to bury him.”
“What about the bats, they still come?”
“They come, we found an old…” Pausing a moment, “one of those bomb shelters, any way, we go down there when the bats come,” he explains.
“And where pray tell is this bomb shelter.”
“Oh,” JD walks back to what was the couple’s kitchen, “just under the freezer, and we should go down there now.”
Vin suddenly hears something hit the, ‘was that the roof,’ he looks up. “Ah, guys, I think we should listen to the kid.” Another sound is heard and then more sounds, ‘almost sounds like hail,’ he thought.
“Ah hell,” Buck cruses, “Nate you couldn’t wait to give the guy a micky ‘til after we got to the shelter.”
“Hell Buck, I didn’t know about the shelter yet.”
“Come on guys quit your belly aching and help me get the big guy down the shelter.” Chris shouts.
They all grab arms and legs as they hustle the preacher down to the shelter, JD showing the southerner where it is opens the top and then waits till the last of them goes down pushing JD in and following him down.
* * * * * * *
Down in the basement, six men and one boy wait for the bat assault to end. According to JD they usually leave by early morning, the first visible light, hurting them.
“Josiah doesn’t let you call him Father Sanchez, any more?” Chris asks.
JD shook his head, “no, ever since the… the others died, he’s blame him self. Thinks God hates him and… well that it’s all his fault.”
“Poor man,” Ezra sympathized.
“Yeah,” Vin echoed.
The next day, all seven of them left in Landmaster One, the vehicle was not cramped, but it was never mention. As Chris stated before he wasn’t leaving anyone behind if he could help it.
Several days later, the new team of men entered an old salvage yard. It was full of trucks, cars, semi’s, station wagons, etc. Every vehicle make, model and year. The last remains of a once thriving metropolis.
JD exited the vehicle mouth open in awe; he’d never seen so many vehicles in one place. The seven were now in Illinois. “This is where automobiles come to die kid. Our only legacy of man’s existence you might say.” He sighed regretting saying it, he just hope there were human’s at the end of their quest.
“Don’t listen to ole’ Buck there he’s just pulling your leg.” Vin chuckles slapping the kids back.
“I do hope your right Mr. Tanner.” Ezra appraised the situation.
“Hey Buck,” Chris calls. “I need your help, we need to find a new valve and some belts preferably from a semi.”
“Right pard, be there in a sec.” He ruffled the kids hair and walks over to his friend.
JD walks around, looking at the cars; they are stack six and eight cars on top of each other. ‘Dam,’ JD thought ‘if just one fell it would be like a game of domino one toppling another and so on.’
“Ah, this is my kind of car, Jaguar, and in black.” Ezra smiles, the kid noticing for the first time the gold tooth.
“Hey, this one’s my car Jeep Wrangler. All right.” Vin shouts wishing he could take it.
“You have no taste Mr. Tanner.”
“Now Ez, that car of yours would cost you more money in repairs then this genuine American car.”
“And well worth every sent.” He states.
“I give up,” throwing his arms up in exasperations, making Ezra wink at JD.
Josiah could only shake his head at the wonder of these men. With everything that’s happen there is still laughter in their hearts.
While the others look around, JD goes exploring, staring at all the cars, no matter where he turns there are still more to see. The kid gasps as there before him is a purple Panther. “Wow,” then he hears a buzzing noise, at first its low, and then slowly starts to rise in volume. Louder, louder… he runs back to the others. “Vin, Ezra what’s that noise. Can you hear it?” He asks.
The sky above starts changing colors like a real light show. The colors turn from reds to blues and then to hues of greens and yellows all in a blink of an eye.
“Vin, Ezra grab JD get inside the Landmaster now.” Chris orders.
Both men grab the kid and haul him back to their vehicle. Buck, Nathan and Josiah waiting for them as Chris brings in the parts he needs for the Landmaster.
“Oh, God, Buck what’s happening,” JD gasps not hiding his fear; everything seems to be going insane.
“Don’t know kid. Here sit in the chair let me strap you in.” JD looking out the window does as he’s told.
Vin also sits on the other chair as he starts to back out of the junkyard.
* * * * * * *
The coastal waters begin to rise as the planet starts to almost pitch and shift as it begins to right it self; the axis returning to its original position. Causing major global changes in the planet.
The men hold on as their vehicle is now being engulfed in the very oceans.
“Dam, everyone hang-on to something.” Chris shouts.
“Shit pard, what the hell is going on now.” The gregarious man exclaims.
“Just hang-on Buck.” They can hear the roar of the ocean as it covers them. The Landmaster starts to turn in itself, the pressure of the ocean making it tumble and roll beneath the waters.
In theory the Landmaster was design to travel under water, but at this point had as yet been tested. Hopefully that theory will hold.
“Vin can you get us out of here?” Chris asks.
“What do you think I’m trying?” Vin answers back, while the Major grins to him self.
“Well try harder;” making Vin snort in disgust as he tries to right the Landmaster.
The Landmaster tumbles again as something hits its side, Ezra is thrown to one side, hitting his head. He groans.
Nathan grabs him and he pulls on some straps tying them both to pipes inside the vehicle that should anchor them from being thrown. This prompts the others to also strap themselves.
Finally Vin manages to stabilize the vehicle and they reach the surface.
JD shouts, “look the sky, its blue again.” They all look in awe; the shy is indeed blue again.
Chris and Buck begin checking the inside for any damage, “Chris there’s water coming in through the back.”
“Well this baby can still work if half submerge in water.” He states.
“What about completely full?” Buck asks.
“Let’s not think about that,” Chris replies. “Here help me open the hatch.”
“Need any help Buck,” JD calls from his seat, as both Chris and Buck seem to have trouble opening the hatch.
“No kid we got it;” as Josiah puts his strength into opening the top hatch.
The air is fresh, color so bright it hurts your eyes at first, the shy is clear and the clouds are once again white. Mother earth has healed it self and the planet seem to be whole; all is right with the world. The Landmaster now travels across the surface of the ocean and makes it through the waters and back on land after a few hours.
* * * * * * *
“How she look?” Chris watches as Buck and JD are looking under the Landmaster.
“A bit waterlog, but considering what we went through not bad. With them spare parts you managed to get we’ll have this baby running in no time.” He grins at his long time friend, who is glad to hear that.
Nathan is bandaging Ezra; Vin is looking over his bike cleaning the plugs that got wet and checking for any other damage.
Josiah is still in awe of the drastic change in the weather, has God forgiven him, is this He’s answer to his prayers. He smiles as he breaths in the glorious air.
There portable two-way radio is out side turn on to the radio frequency that has led them through hell. As they are all pre-occupied with their individual or joint tasks, they start to hear music play over the radio, when the music stops playing a voice comes on, “This is Albany, New York, broadcasting in steady programming to whoever is out there. We’re on the air daily at noon coming to you with music and informal programming our transmission on 720 kilocycles, we’ll leave our broadcast open for two minutes for any incoming calls.”
They all start to cheer as their journey has come to an end; the broadcast that they have been following for the last several months has paid off. There are indeed survivors at the end of their tunnel.
“I get the impression of a tall red hair, of about twenty-five,” Buck laughs happy that their ordeal is finally over.
“What if she’s sixty-five,” JD teases, he too is happy.
“I’ll live with it.” Buck answers nothings going to dampen his good mood.
Chris breaks from the cheers and shouts, “we got two minutes, we got two minutes,” he repeats as he takes the mic and begins their transmission. “Hello, Miss Albany, we read you, can you read us, we read you, can you read us.” He repeats again then releases the mic.
“Yes, who is it, who are you please identify yourself.” Miss Albany answers the tone in her voice excited.
“This is Major Chris Larabee, United States Air Force. There are six men and one boy in our group. We are near a large body of water can you locate us?” He asks releasing the mic and waiting for her response.
“Your signal is coming in loud and clear Major, you are 17miles from us on a heading of 81 degrees. Do you have transportation?”
Vin takes that as his cue to run and grab his bike.
“Yes, yes, we’ll come to you on a reverse heading of 261…” Chris doesn’t finish as he hears the sound of the motorcycle.
“Come on Ezra, lets go say hello.” The southerner smiles and jumps on as Vin starts moving his bike in the reverse heading he heard given by Larabee.
“What the hell, Vin you come back here.” Chris shouts, “Tanner.” He shouts again to no avail, as Vin can’t hear him.
“Dam it, Ezra you have a head wound.” Nathan yells, which the southerner ignores. “You had better not fall off that bike Ezra cause I am not fixing you up again.” He shouts as aloud as he can also to no avail.
This only makes the others laugh, still too happy to care that they’ll have their hellos express after they get the Landmaster on the mend.
“What are you laughing at Buck, those two are properly going to meet all the pretty ladies, before your animal magnetism has had a chance to work.” Chris deadpans and grins at the devastated look Buck gives returns.
“Ah hell, well lets get this baby back on the road.” He runs back to the Landmaster, JD right behind him.
Miss Albany comes back on the air, “Major Larabee you still there?” She asks.
“Yes, Miss Albany… we are sending you two emissaries: Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish, please don’t take them as a sign of the rest of our party…” He trails off.
Josiah laughing at their wayward brothers unique personalities, they are indeed the most diverse men of the group, yet that never stop them from becoming good friends.
* * * * * * *
Vin and Ezra ride through the curves of the up coming road, looking on at the scenery they pass through. The fields of green grass, the horses grazing in the pastures, even the white picket fences all along the road. Everything looks normal, like the nuclear bombs never happened it felt good, right. This would be a new beginning.
As they near the small community, people start to come out of their homes, having heard the broadcast themselves; they all flood the road waiting to greet the new comers. Additional survivors that will bring them news and hope that there is more people still out there that have yet to hear the broadcast. Survivors like them self.
The crowd gathers, Vin slows his bike and Ezra jumps off, smiling and hugging all those that gather. The Texan talking, grinning at so many people surrounding them, it is indeed a day of celebration. Survivors have come home.