First light found all the boys standing outside the wide open doors; Elam was instructing one of the newly taught boys how to drive the large armoured vehicle with the huge weapon from the garage below ground. The new vehicle had not been easy to understand and Elam had spent long days with three other boys, trying to work out how it moved and operated; they now knew it was called a 'Tank' from the instruction manual.
As the tank slowly manoeuvred from the depths of the elevator; Elios could plainly see the small scrapes on the paintwork; it was obvious that they had not been too successful in missing other vehicles in the lower garage, or the walls for that matter; even the elevator had paint marks on its walls.
With a loud revving of its huge motors; the tank slowly moved towards the open door; Elios could see the head of the driver poking through a small hatch at the front; he was the only boy that could be seen. The loud clanking sound of the tracks filled the top garage as the heavy smell of fuel filled the air; slowly the tank moved forward into the open air; the sound echoed down the still morning air of the empty valley.
As the group of boys watched in awe at the huge armoured tank; a small hatch opened on the top of the turret, as they now knew it was called; another boys head appeared and then his upper torso; with a big smile he waved down at the group of watching boys; the smile on his face was priceless.
Elios and the others walked around the tank inspecting the paint damage; here and there were thin narrow scratches in the metal where it had hit something just as hard as its armour and left a shallow gouge in the metal. Elam could only shake his head but the end result of long days of learning had been achieved; he had the first of the heavy weapons out of the bunker; all they had to do now was learn how to fully operate it.
As the boys returned to the common room to make plans, they heard the loud blast of sound of the tank moving out again; its deep throbbing motors were picking up and the clank of the tracks became softened as it drove out onto the sands of the valley; once at a table, Elam began to fill in all that had not been passed on the night before.
"We have 300 boys here now; some have come in from the wastes on their own and a lot more have come from the home bunker; the word seems to have spread really fast, they're coming in from everywhere; we've had no trouble from any Renegs but the scouts have seen a few watching the valley from far away. In another three weeks we'll have enough drivers for all the vehicles and everyone here has been doing training on all types of weapons."
Elam looked at the other three boys as he paused; when he saw they had taken in all he had said he continued.
"Elios; the boys you trained for those computer things have been able to keep in touch with home bunker; its been easy to ask what they need from here and send it to them on the trucks; the trucks then come back with new boys so the numbers are growing fast; now tell me everything that happened on your search."
Elios again related their adventure but this time filling in all the small details; when he finished Elam looked thoughtfully at the ceiling as he digested all he had heard.
"It looks as though we will have to stop using the quads as scout units, it's too dangerous; losing one boy is one too many; let's keep the quad boys for bunker security, they can operate out of the bunkers as mobile guards. I think for longer trips and supply runs we should use the Jeeps or Humvee's."
The other three boys nodded their agreement; Elam was in charge of all transport so they were willing to let him set it up as he thought fit.
"How is Elvan getting on back at home bunker?" Elios asked.
"He's good, Modou has gone back there with his two boys; he's taken over the instruction of the boys for fighting, he said they will soon have some specially trained boys as a scouting group; now what's in the new bunker? Are there any new weapons systems?"
"We haven't had a good look in there yet but I didn't see anything like what we have here; the biggest thing is the people in the valley; we have to do something to make them safe from attack. They're growing all sorts of fresh food and most of the boys and men seem to really enjoy doing just that; I don't think they like to fight too much. The boys that came back with us will help them to defend the valley when they are trained properly."
"How difficult is the track over the mountains?"
"It's not too bad but I think it needs some more clearing to make it easier for our trucks to move along it. I think we should take more boys back with us and clear as much as we can this time before going on to search the bunker; if the word gets out about our bunkers to other boys they might also come in and help us; sooner or later we will have to track down the main village of the Renegs and settle it for once and all but, for now I don't think we are strong enough."
Elam nodded his head at Elios summation of the situation; it was well known that the Renegs had been around for many years and their numbers were very large; until the boys had settled and formed good fighting units, they would have to try and avoid the hated Renegs. Now that they had the use and understanding of the Ancients weapons and tools they had a very distinct advantage; not knowing the true numbers of the Renegs could be dangerous; they would have to wait.
While they had been catching up on the news; Elam had put one of the small com devices on the table in front of them; suddenly it gave out a hiss and the young voice of the boy in the tank could be heard.
"Elam, we've had a run in the tank; this thing is fast even over really rough sand; we're about ready to try and fire the big gun; do you want to come and see?"
Elam picked up the com unit and replied.
"Yes, but wait a little bit, we'll come up and watch; did you check everything in the manual about the gun?"
"Yes, we've got it worked out according to the manual but these cartridges or shells; are damn heavy but the firing system is all ready to go."
"Ok we're on our way; did you pick out a target to fire at?"
"Yes we are aiming at a big rock down the valley; I've set the aiming system like the manual said but the rock seems a long way away; even one of our small weapons wouldn't reach it, are you sure the manual is right?"
"We can only follow what it says; how far is the rock from you now?"
"The aiming system says it is 3 km's from here; how far is 3 km's?"
Elam looked at Elios; he was the best at working out the new distance system from the ancients. Elam watched as Elios got out his small book and writing tool; moments later, Elios looked up with surprise on his young face.
"That's about as far as you can walk in 30 minutes in the new scale; that's a long way; is he sure the aiming system is right?"
"It must be; if he said he followed the manual then it must be right but it does seem a long way to be able to fire a weapon; let's go and watch what happens; it must be a mistake in the manual."
The four boys quickly got up and went outside; to their left and in the middle of the valley sat the threatening appearance of the painted tank; even though it was only 1 km away it was still difficult to see as its paint blended in with the surrounding sands and rocks. Elam spoke into his small com unit again and the group of boys watched and waited. Suddenly; from the end of the long cannon came a long spurt of flame and smoke; the resounding crash of the firing echoed hollowly around the valley as the sound wave swept over the sands.
Without realising it; the group of boys looked hopefully to the right; what they saw made them stiffen with amazement. Further away than they thought possible; a large cloud of sand was floating in the air; the shot had been so fast they had missed it landing and now only saw the end result; when the sand cleared, they could see nothing of the large rock that had been the chosen target; all they could see was the remnants of a smoking hole in the sand; as they looked back at their new weapon, they saw it was still rocking slightly on its tracks from the firing. Elam got onto his com unit quickly.
"Don't fire any more, we have to go and see what's been done; that thing is really deadly."
Elam turned to the other three boys.
"If we can train the other boys to use these tanks; we might have our answer to the bigger numbers of Renegs; these tanks are awesome. I'll have to bring up all the other transports from below so we can get boys trained on them; when are you going back to the new bunker?"
"I think two weeks; the valley boys have to be trained in weapons before we can go back; also we have to work out new ways to keep our convoys safe from attack. The Renegs will know all about us by now, they've seen what we can do so we will have to make new ways to fight them. I'm going to go back to the computers and see what I can find out about the ancients way of fighting; we can then pass it on to Modou and the other teachers but these new tanks are going to give us a big edge when it comes to a fight; with the other eight wheelers with their fast firing weapons it should be great."
Elam nodded agreement at Elios ideas; they had plenty of time and so it was better to use it to get everything ready for when the big day came that they could go in search of the Renegs main village. All the boys returned to the common room; the sight they had just witnessed had to be discussed in full; the power of the new tanks was a definite advantage to them now.
Two weeks had been a little short of the true time needed to train any new boys; it was closer to three weeks before Elios decided it was time to return to the newly found valley and bunker. The new return convoy was now made up of two armed Humvee's; two eight wheeler carriers and four trucks filled with boys and supplies as well as extra arms for the boys and men in the valley; they had trained the original valley boys in the ancients weapons and they would pass on their knowledge to the others once they got home.
The return trip to the valley was made a little easier as they now had over a hundred boys with them in the trucks; the clearing of the old road was faster and more efficient and, three days after leaving the supply bunker they rolled up to the now mostly completed gateway into the valley.
The boys left behind to help guard the rebuilding could be seen higher up the side of the mountain keeping watch on the surrounding country side; as the convoy came up to the gate there were loud yells of greeting and cheers from the guard boys; the deep rumble of the heavier transport echoed throughout the valley below.
An hour later and everyone had had time to greet old friends and make new ones; the valley was now a hive of laughing boys and smiling men as the trucks were unloaded and the new items were distributed to the original valley owners. That evening the small village was a rowdy place as they all celebrated the return of the boys.
The next morning; after a long discussion about the new weapons and how they could be used to defend the community; Elios called out for the others to get ready to move onto the new bunker; now they had a solid direction to travel too, it would not take as long; the trucks were soon filled with boys and their weapons and the convoy left the security of the valley to reopen the new bunker.
Midmorning found the convoy parked outside the now open door of bunker #26; the eight wheelers were positioned to protect the entrance from any attacks that might come from out on the wastes or higher up in the mountains; the trucks entered the large passage and parked off to one side to allow the Humvee's to go further inside; they then turned around to face the entrance and parked off to the right hand side.
The group that followed Elios further into the passage numbered about twenty; he thought it would need that many just to look around the large facility; next he led them to the office room; there he again fired up one of his favourite computers and went back into the part about the lay out of the bunker and what he would need to open all the sealed areas.
The codes for each underground room were different to the one he had for the doorways; carefully he wrote them down in his now familiar book and began to look for the doorways; the first was the closest one down the short passage on the right; the one marked "US TREASURY"
Going to the door pad; Elios entered the new access code; suddenly he heard the deep rumble that he knew meant that an elevator was rising up to meet them. It was only a short time later when the big doors drew back and showed a large empty elevator; it was not as big as the transport elevator back at the supply bunker but was still a lot larger than any personnel elevator he had so far seen. Even with all the boys crowded into the large space, there was still room too spare.
Elios pushed the single button and they began to descend into the depths of the mountain; a full minute later and they came to a halt; the doors slowly hissed open and the boys were met with another long passage; this one however had a number of metal barred gates along the side walls.
Stopping at the first gate, Elios looked into the room; all he could see was another room; it was empty apart from another of the ancient's strange transports although this one was quite small and stood against one wall which was made of shining metal. The floor was of what they now knew was called, 'concrete'; from the machine ran a thick black cable to an attachment on the wall; it was square and had two arms of metal poking out of the front; there was only space on the machine to stand and the top was open and only about the same height as a short man.
Elios punched in the code for the gate and went in to look at the rest of the room; all the walls were bare except for the back wall, there it had a large metal door; easily higher than a man and wide enough for three boys to walk through side by side; on the front of the door was a large wheel and two small pads, one on each side of the wheel. Elios checked his note book and then, one after the other; punched in the code numbers.
When the last number was entered, he heard the distinct loud click of the inner locks release; again checking the book he then asked one of the bigger boys to turn the large wheel; much to their surprise the wheel spun easily and then; with a hard pull on the door, it silently and smoothly swung open; as the door swung open, Elios showed surprise and a little disappointment.
Elios looked again at the now open room; it also was lined in the shiny metal but all he could see inside was row upon row of the wud platforms; each stacked two high and filling the whole room; each platform was covered in the now familiar plastic cover that the ancients favoured so much for everything they made; through the clear plastic cover, Elios could see nothing but small packets of paper all tightly bound together.
The only empty space in the room was close to the door where there was room for five or six boys to stand; taking out his combat knife, Elios carefully slit one of the plastic covers nearby; with a little tugging he finally removed one of the small packets of paper. Elios carefully turned it over in his hands; it didn't seem like much and he had no idea why the ancients would protect small bundles of paper in such a manner.
Elios broke open the tightly compressed packet; inside was nothing more than a lot of small oblong pieces of white paper with green writing and pictures on them. Elios carefully read the words and numbers on the small piece of paper; first was a funny S sign with a line drawn through it and the words that spelt out 'DOLLARS' and the number for '100' there was the small drawing of a mans head in the center of the paper and a lot of funny unfamiliar designs all over the rest as well as a mixture of numbers and letters in small print in one corner.
Elios turned the piece of paper over and looked at the other side; it was different and a little plainer but Elios could still not make out what it was used for; he was going to count the number of paper pieces but looked at the packet in his hand; finally he decided it must have been something the ancients needed but for the life of him he could not see any reason to protect it in such a way.
Elios dropped the bundle on the floor and, along with the other boys; left the first room, a little disappointment showing on his face; why would the ancients think a bundle of paper would be so valuable that it had to be stored with such security; he shrugged his shoulders and returned to the passage, they still had a lot of other rooms to check; he hoped they were not all filled with useless paper packets.
The next room revealed another room full of paper as did the next three rooms. Elios was beginning to feel a little disappointed in this bunker; it was the sixth door that revealed a change; this room was protected just the same as the others but the contents were far different; as Elios looked inside he again could see no reason for all the security.
This room was even bigger than the last five; it was stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling with small blocks of yellow metal; they looked much like the small red blocks the ancients used to build walls and houses with but these were metal; he reached out a hand to lift one, it didn't move; he then used both hands and was shocked when he almost dropped the block of metal as he felt the weight of it in his small hands.
Was this a secret metal? Elios had no idea what would the ancients make with it; was it special armour for their weapons? Elios couldn't hold it any longer so he dropped it on the floor; it made a dull thud as it hit; taking out his combat knife again he knelt down and tried to cut the metal block; to his surprise it seemed very soft; he cut a thin shaving from the block and looked closely at it; his young face screwed up in thought while the other boys laughingly tried to lift more blocks than each other; only one of the larger and stronger boys could lift three of the blocks; this feat brought a few riballed remarks about how he got so strong.
Elios inspected the thin shaving; again it was one of those ancient secrets and again he could see no reason for the security just to store yellow metal blocks; the ancients sure had some funny ways. Elios called the boys and they went through the rest of the rooms; all the remaining nine rooms held the same stacks of yellow blocks.
At the end of the passage, Elios could only shrug his shoulders at the strangeness of the ancients and turned to leave the place; there was nothing down here for them, he would have to go onto the next passage. Leading the way Elios took the boys back to the surface; exiting the lift he went down to the left hand passage marked "HISTORICAL LIBRARY".
Taking the now familiar elevator down; the group of boys got one of the biggest surprises so far; as the doors hissed open they were met with the sight of one of the biggest rooms they had ever seen; down the center of the room was a long row of small metal tables; in the centre of the table was a strange raised triangle of metal and on each side was a plastic covered thick chair; the air smelled slightly musty but was free of any dust.
To each side of the tables was the biggest surprise; for stretching the whole length and breadth of the room were tall shelves filled with plastic covered blocks that Elios knew were called books. Their booted feet echoed throughout the room it was so large; going to one of the plastic covered chairs, Elios poked it with his finger; unlike the chairs in the common rooms, these ones were soft and there was a faint odour of animal skin when you got close to them; he then felt the chair turn a little under his hand; with childish glee he pushed the chair harder only to jump back and laugh as he watched it run across the floor on small wheels; it spun around until it finally came to a rest against one of the tall metal shelves with a soft clunk sound.
Elios looked up at the tall shelves with awe; each one was marked with the name of the type of books on it; they were about half a metre wide and went on for a good fifty metres until it met the end of the wall; it was as tall as three boys standing on each others shoulders and was marked off with another shelf each about three hands high; on these shelves were neatly stacked row after row of books, each in its own plastic cover.
Elios looked down the length of the room it must have been at least 200 metres long; this must be all of the ancient's knowledge. Elios didn't think he could live long enough to be able to read every book in this room; something in the center of the room caught his wandering eye. It was a small metal stand set all by itself; it had a thick glass top and, as he got closer to it he could see a large piece of old paper laid out inside; it was a little worn and looked very, very old; he spelled out the thick black letters on the top; it was a funny writing he hadn't seen before.
CONSTITUTION of THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA
Elios could not decipher all the small writing underneath as it was faded and too hard to read; there were also many words he had never seen before; he knew though, that the paper must have been something special to the ancients to be kept in its own protective glass box.
Elios turned and looked at the other boys; four of them had left the group and were beginning to wander along the rows of shelves; tracing as they went, with their fingers on the backs of the books; a look at their young faces showed they were enthralled with what was under their hands.
Elios called all the boys back to the middle of the room; he was ready to go and look for something more useful to their needs; one of the four boys looked at Elios; finally he asked Elios a question that had been burning in his head ever since he had walked into the huge room.
"Elios; can we learn to read all these books?"
Elios looked at the expectant faces of the four boys; he could see in their young faces a certain yearning for something hidden in the books; it suddenly hit him that while they had been so busy travelling and teaching the boys to use weapons; most of them did not get the extra learning that the first boys had had when they had found the first bunker.
Elios looked at the four again but this time he had a new understanding of what had to be done for those who wanted it.
"Of course you can learn to read them; but why? Why do you need to read them?"
"We don't know, it's; well it's just what we want to do; can we learn to read, do you know how to do it?"
"Yes; I can read most of the simple things. I learnt from the computer although some words make no sense at all but I can teach you if you really want too."
"Yes please; when? Can you teach us now? We really want to look into these 'book' things."
"Not now; we have to look at the other rooms first and it takes a lot longer than you think to learn all the words. I'll have to look in one of the computers to see if it can teach you; they have everything else in them so they must have learning things as well."
The boys looked disappointed that they could not start straight away but Elios was the leader and they would have to wait until he could show them what to do; The excitement of what was hidden in all these new book things was almost overpowering; they could hardly contain their excitement but did as they were asked and followed their leader out of the room and back to the elevator.
The next and last passage led to something called the "MUSEUM of NATURAL HISTORY" this meant nothing at all to Elios but it was becoming evident that this was a special place for the ancients; although it held nothing of real value to their survival in the harsh and barren world they now knew. After the last floor was seen Elios knew he would have to spend some hours on one of the computers to find something for the boys to learn from; it was one more thing to do before he could get some rest for the night.
The last elevator went into the mountain like both the ones before but this one went deeper and; when the doors hissed open; all the boys just stood and stared; right in front of their eyes was the biggest animal they had ever seen; it was all made from old white bones. Its head was a massive piece of solid bone with big sharp teeth that were bigger than any boys hand; the body was long and ended in the long tail; it had only two big thick legs to stand on and two funny small arms but the sheer size of the bone animal projected fear in the boys; slowly they stepped forward into the huge room.
Looking around the boys saw that a great many more smaller passages led off the first one; each had a large sign with a name on it; the rest of the first room was filled with more bone animals of all shapes and sizes; some even looked as though they could fly as big as they were; this was a room of magical animals; there was nothing of this size in the real world and the boys began to think that it was some fantasy room of the ancients.
Again Elios was disappointed in what they had found; there was nothing really here to help in their preparations to fight the Renegs; as far as he could work out, this whole bunker system was made for some type of learning or just plain storage area. Elios shook his head, 'the ancients sure had funny ways' he thought to himself.
At last they returned to the main passage; it had taken them the best part of the day to search the rooms and they were hungry and tired. The guards outside had been brought back inside and the main doors closed by Mita. In the common room a meal was being made ready as the searchers walked in. Elios went to the table where Mita and Usof sat waiting for him. Elios began to tell them about their search.
Just as he finished his report, one of the boys put a large tray of hot food on the table and left them to talk and eat; the hubbub in the room was only occasionally quietened when a mouth was begin filled with the hot food but the new finds were quickly being discussed by all the boys; most were disappointed about not finding new and bigger weapons or transports but a small number of boys were showing real enthusiasm about some of the finds.
On this level of the bunker were all the rooms needed for living and all the things for their immediate survival. Elios suggested that they stay for a few weeks and then look for the next bunker; they could leave a number of boys here to guard it and for those who wanted to investigate the strangeness of the ancients; it would give him time to have the boys that wanted to learn to read, to be taught; if he could find a teaching program on the computer.
The discussions went on long into the night; some boys excited by the new discovery, others more interested in moving on to find a bunker that had more valuable items for their survival. Mita called a halt to the late night chatter and told all the boys it was best to rest for now and tomorrow they could begin to get ready for the next search; for now it was time to rest and thoroughly search every room and passage in the bunker.
When he arose next morning; Elios went straight to the main control room and switched on the main computer; for the next four hours, Elios searched through the massive amount of information stored in the machine; by midday he had found the programs he wanted; it had been a real challenge to his limited knowledge but with persistence he had finally tracked down what he needed.
The program was called 'EDUCATION' and there were pages and pages of listings for what was available; he had, had to go back and forth to work out what most of the words meant; such as, 'Grade Level, Alphabet, Mathematics, Writing, Reading, Grammar and many others but at last he now had the programs he needed for the boys that wanted to learn.
Elios returned to the common room and looked for the four boys that wanted to learn to read; he was surprised when he found out that the number had now increased to ten; after a short meal he took the boys back to the control room and sat them each at a separate monitor; he then spent the best part of two hours showing the boys what to do and how to find the programs they would need; no sooner had the boys worked out what was needed, they became engrossed in the screens before them.
As Elios was about to leave them alone to learn; one of the boys called out for him. Elios went over to the boy and looked over his shoulder as the boy pointed to a small figure on the screen.
It was at the bottom of the open alphabet page; it looked like a small dish on its side; it had three small wavy lines coming from the middle of it.
"What's this do, Elios?"
"I don't know, I haven't noticed it before."
Elios took the small round plastic disc called a 'mouse' and laying the arrow point on the small dish as he had done many times before; he clicked the side button, immediately the sound of a mans voice came from somewhere in the screen.
"Click on the first letter of the alphabet and follow the sound for the correct pronunciation."
Both boys almost jumped out of their skin as the voice seemed to be talking directly too them; with a shaky hand, Elios clicked on the large A on the screen; the voice then said the sound of the letter; the boy beside Elios repeated the sound and then went on to the next letter as he excitedly called for the other boys to do the same; soon the room was filled with mechanical voices leading those of the younger boys as they repeated their letters; Elios left the increasing noisy room and went back to where Mita and Usof waited in the common room; it would be some time before the boys would want to leave their new toys.
For the rest of the day the small group of ten boys was not seen again except when they all ran in to find something to eat and then disappear again; the next morning found them still sitting at the screens; some were bleary eyed but still listened to the computer voices; others had their heads on their arms and were asleep in their chairs; not one of them had left the new toys; the computers were now reading out full sentences and the boys were following with their fingers on the screen as the words were said.
Mita called out for the boys to stop; they all needed a good rest or they would learn and remember nothing; with a few moans and groans, the boys finally gave in; helping to wake and half carry those that had fallen asleep; they all groggily went to find a bed; it was only six hours later and they were all back at their computer screens. Elios and Mita could only shake their heads and go about their own business; that of finding the next bunker.
Going up to the head office above the learning boys; Elios closed the door to keep the sound out and switched on the computer. Carefully searching he found the line he wanted to make contact with the boys he had left behind in home bunker and supply bunker; having determined which would be the next bunker; Elios set about asking for the supplies that would be needed and any extra boys that wanted to travel with them; the next bunker was a long way away; it could take them over two weeks to get there if they could follow any of the old roads and did not fall into trouble along the way.
Ten days passed before they had all the supplies they would need; the convoy would be larger than any others had been and this worried Elios as there had been a number of sightings of Renegs gangs riding out on the wastes; their many dust clouds could be seen by the guards outside; not one of the gangs came too close but they could still see that the boys were there. Sometimes it was not uncommon to see two or three groups of the Renegs sitting far out on top of the cliffs watching the boys below but as yet they had made no attempt to come closer. Mita was a little worried about the number of them.
Elam reported that he now had enough older boys that could drive all of the heavy trucks and tanks; they had been practicing out in the valley and all vehicles could now be fully manned and operated. Elios suggested that he start to make up patrols and begin the search for the Renegs main village on that side of the mountains but that the boys should be very careful about making contact with any of the Reneg gangs. Elam agreed and said he would give them instructions to look and not attack; if they were attacked they had to try to escape before they stopped to fight.
Next Elios set about making up the convoy for the next search; there would be two eight wheelers that they now knew were called 'Strykers' these were well armoured and had speed and strength; the boys had come to love them for their security although they were very hot to stay inside of when moving.
Next came four Humvee's; three jeeps; four trucks and one of the large fuel tankers. There would also be thirty boys as guards and drivers; this was going to be a long search and they would need the numbers for safety and to cover more ground. Elios made lists of food, weapons, ammunition and all the other things he thought they might need; all of these would have to be carried to them from the supply bunker over the pass of the mountains; this time they would have every boy equipped with a communication set; these little tools had now become a very important part of the guards gear and, for the long distance travel they would keep everyone in contact.
In Mita's Stryker there would be a very strong com set so they could talk to the supply bunker from a long distance away in case they needed anything extra as they moved; the preparations for the next search had become a very time consuming act. Elios began to realise how much work would be needed each time they went on a search this big; he saved all the lists on the computer so he would not have to work so hard next time.
On the tenth day of preparing; Elios was told that the final vehicle, the tanker; had just arrived; they were now ready to leave for the next bunker. The ten boys who had decided they wanted to stay in the third bunker and investigate the book room; were now well on their way to being excellent readers and all of them could now write with a reasonable ability; the other boys gave these ten the nick name of; 'worms' as they liked to stay deep in the bunker and had no real interest in going outside just like a worm liked to stay under the ground all the time.
At last they were ready for the next search. Elios looked again at the map on the large glass table in the control room; the place he had marked out was called; 'Salt Lake City' in ancient times but now he wondered if any of it still stood. By the old map it looked as though it had once been quite large; the bunker was positioned some distance away from where the 'Salt Lake City' was said to be but he thought he might go for a look at the old place if they had time.
After a good nights sleep for all the searchers; the next morning was shattered by the sound of fourteen vehicles warming up; the shouts and yells as the thirty three boys found their places in the convoy until at last they were ready. Elios looked back from his place in the seat of his Humvee; with him were three of the boys fully armed and watching alertly; behind Elios was the first of the Stryker the other would be driven by Mita and would be the last vehicle in the convoy so their rear was protected.
The Jeeps were spread along the side of the convoy and would take up patrol positions when they were out on the wastes; the trucks and the tanker would stay in the center so they could be properly protected. From the door of the bunker, the light guard left behind watched as the convoy sent up a plume of dust as it drove away from them; some of the remaining boys looked a little sad at not going on this new adventure but they all knew that someone had to stay and protect each new bunker as it was found.
For the rest of the first day; Elios watched as they were shadowed by Renegs who stayed well out of range; or so they thought. Elios and Mita had decided that they would ignore the Renegs as long as they came no closer; for their first night they found a very secure and safe gully to stay in; if any Renegs tried to attack them they could only come in from the narrow entrance and would be easily seen and dealt with.
For another day they travelled in the direction laid out on the map in Elios Humvee; as they began to leave the flatness of the sand wastes; the country became rougher and harder to travel. As they moved, Elios found he was having to make adjustments to their directions; their direction became a large zigzag as they found more and more ravines and high hills in their path. On their third morning; Elios took out his map and studied it with all his might; there was no relationship nowadays to any of the original roads of the ancient's maps; everything had changed and it was more difficult to find a way through the rough ground.
Elios could now see that they had a long and hard trip ahead of them; his first estimate of ten days looked more likely to be fifteen or twenty; he had no worries about their supplies as they had always taken more than enough with them on every search. If the convoy needed to travel for twenty days they still had a little to spare to find the bunker; only the food and water would run a little short but the boys were well used to going long periods without either in emergencies.
Elios set in the new headings for the morning or until they came to another barrier; their cover guard of Renegs still kept well out of their way but tagged along watching the procession as it wound its way through the rough terrain; it looked as though they were not going to attack and were only watching to see what the boys were going to do; the convoy guards kept a close watch on the far off gangs.
Just as they were about to stop for the night of the third day; the convoy came to the edge of a low escarpment; below then stretched a large sand waste that went on for as far as they could see; it was unbroken except for the occassional small rise and jumble of rocks. Both Elios and Mita looked out at the barrenness of the way ahead; they would have to make a plan for the defences each night when they stopped.
It was Usof that came up with the ideal plan for their protection; they had all the equipment for night travel so he suggested they travel mainly at night and rested part of the day when they had good vision to spy out any Renegs; during the night the Renegs would be handicapped by the darkness but the convoy had both its lights and the special glasses that their own drivers could wear to see in the night.
The plan sounded good to both Elios and Mita so they decided to stay where they were for this night and then start the new plan the next day; they would travel only half the day and then stop to rest; as the sun sank in the evening they would start to travel again; while the land was flat and featureless and the Renegs would be able to follow; the extra speed of the vehicles would put a long distance between them and would make it safer when they stopped. Elios maps showed the vast sand wastes went on for a great distance so he had no need to worry for at least three days before they would come to some bad country again.
That night they put on extra speed and soon lost any sight of the following Renegs; the wastes were flat and safe to put the speed up to high and the convoy sped off into the darkness; the following Renegs had no chance of keeping up the pace and quickly fell behind; their decision had paid off; they were at last alone and on their way to another new find. What lay ahead of them they didn't know but, any new adventure was always exciting and the boys had no doubt they would have a lot of excitement in the future.
END OF BOOK 1