Castle Roland

Day of N

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 9

Published: 13 Jul 15

Day of N

Kyle Aarons

Place   Latitude   Longitude
Prairie Dog State Park Kansas   39.804316   -99.954987
Farmhouse   39.702333   -100.331268
Missile launch site   39.989523   -101.379384
Benkelman Neb.   40.050811   -101.534958

Name  Age   Eye Color   Hair Color  Weapon(s)
Devin 12 Blue Black
Hunter 12 Grey Brown Shotgun
Angus (Gus) 12 Green Red .22
Gage 11 Blue Sandy .308
Zeki (Zeek) 11 Brown brown
Ramsey (Ram) 12 Brown sandy .22
Vernon (Vern) 11 blue blond musket

Steven glanced at the woman, then up to the ceiling. "Guys, don't take this the wrong way, but we don't live in the same world we did a few days ago. Right now, very little medicine is being made, maybe none at all. What is out there is going to get used up and then it's gone… At least for the foreseeable future, those of you who are survivors need to conserve. Wasting precious resources on someone who has such a slim chance of survival is just not the wise thing to do."

A few tears trickled out of Hunter's eyes, "Mr. Korbal, I… I killed someone today… I shot his hand off… I can't just let this lady die, or it'll be like I killed two…"

"You didn't kill him," Nikki responded. "He did," she pointed at Angus. "He snapped his neck when he kicked him."

Angus' face dropped some, "I did?"

Gage nodded, "Yeah, maybe you should go out for soccer instead of football."

"Newb," Angus growled, "I'm no field fairy. I play a real sport."

"Fairy?" Gage snarled, clearly insulted far more than Angus meant, "You spend sixty minutes running on a soccer field and then tell me about a real sport." Gage fired back. "You all only have to run a few plays, then let others take over for you."

Hunter shook his head and looked back over, "Come on, guys, we're talking about sports when this woman is dying here!"

Angus looked down, clearly stung by Hunter's words, "Come on, Newb, he's right and we should help since we both killed someone."

"Hey, if you think I'm going to feel bad about putting a bullet in the jerk's skull, you're talking to the wrong kid. He wanted to take all of us!"

"Dude!" Ramsey shouted. "Do you have any idea what my dad would do to you if he heard you say that?"

Vernon moved over to Gage's side, "You weren't there Ram. You didn't see the look in those guys' eyes…"

"Yeah," Devin spat out with a venomous hiss. "You weren't the one being told you would be in their sleeping bag. Gage's shot saved our butts."

"And now I want to save this woman's!" Hunter yelled, "And none of this is helping!"

Angus nodded in agreement, and pointed over at Gage, "For some reason blood doesn't seem to bother you, so the least you could do is give us a hand."

"Fine," Gage grunted, but his voice said something entirely different than the single word did.

"What's wrong with you?" Ramsey asked in confusion.

Gage finally moved forward clenching his fists as he did so, "Let's just drop it, see if we can save her, and hope she isn't like those six jerk-offs."

Steven raised an eyebrow, but decided to keep his mouth shut. Clearly there was more going on inside the boy's head than Gage was willing to admit or talk about. Deciding this was not the time, he turned his attention to the pilot. "OK guys, we need to get a clean work area. Devin, you and Vernon move the dining table over to the corner, clean it with bleach, and then put some fresh sheets down over it. Ram, you and Zeek hang up some of the plastic we still have left around the table, just leave us enough room to work. Once we start, I need everyone else to stay well back."

Scott stood, "What about me and my sisters?"

Steven frowned, clearly not trusting the newcomers, but realized he needed to see if they were as trustworthy as the boys thought they were. "You two help move her onto the table, then bring the first aid pack over and lay it out flat."

Steven watched the kids get to work setting up a makeshift operating area. While all this was being done, he tried to figure out a way to get them all to see the larger picture. Even if they managed a miracle and saved the woman, the waste of medical supplies on a stranger was simply not acceptable under the current situation. On the other hand, he realized the seven boys were scouts, and for the most part they saw this as being more than the average kid. Other than Gage and Zeek, the kids had a code of honor which the world would need going forward. It also was clear Zeek, and to a lesser extent Gage, realized they were part of something bigger than themselves. All of this would help build teamwork and could even be the beginning of rebuilding a shattered society.

Still inwardly cringing at how much of the medic kit he would see used, Steven moved up and pointed to a brown bottle. "The stuff in there is iodine. From here on out, everything that touches the wound or gets close to it, needs to be coated with it." He then glanced over at Hunter, "Go ahead and pour some of it around the wound and let it dribble down the metal piece too."

Steven pointed to a spot he didn't think got any of the nasty brownish liquid before he took a step back, "OK, now, any of you who are going to handle any part of this operation, and it will be an operation, wash your hands with the antiseptic soap. Really rub it in and go all the way up to your forearms and to your elbows, then mask up and glove up. Once in the gloves, the only thing you should touch is what comes out of the sterile packages or is coated in iodine. As tempting as it is to touch your faces, don't. If you have an itch, or some sweat, tell me and I will scratch it or dab it."

Once he was sure everyone had prepared themselves as carefully as the environment allowed, he focused his full attention on Hunter. "I need you to grab some gauze and rub the iodine into the skin. Do it gently…" Steven patted Hunter on the back. "This is not about speed, slow down and try to see if you can feel anything besides the metal under the skin."

Hunter glanced back as he forced his hands to feel all other way around the wound. "There's a bump all the way around it, but I can't really tell."

"That might just be where some blood hardened, go a little further out, and make sure there isn't like any sharp barbs just below the skin or other weird bumps."

Steven quickly turned away from Hunter, "Gage, you're up. I need you to open up the package with the blue cloth in it. Everything you use needs to come from the top of that cloth because it will be sterile. This means nothing, absolutely nothing, is put on that cloth that anyone has handled directly. If something is directly handled or your glove gets a cut and you touch something, it goes on the floor and stays there till we are done. Also make damned sure you don't pick up anything that is not on that cloth; by doing it this way, we will keep what you are doing as clean as possible."

"Gus, find Hunter a scalpel and open it for him. Once it is open we are on the clock. If you need to back off and puke, get outside the plastic, and remember you can't come back in until you rewash." He then moved up to Hunter, "Are you sure about this?"

Hunter gulped but quickly nodded.

Steven patted him on the shoulder, "Fair enough, now brace yourself because you are going to have to start cutting. You want to make a two-inch cut on either side of the metal piece. You want to try to make it a straight line if possible with the metal piece the middle. You want to go through the skin only right now, so don't go too deep."

Hunter's nose scrunched up as some grayish-goopy stuff came out as soon as the very sharp blade made contact with the skin. "Ewww, what's all this white stuff?"

Steven bit back a curse and gripped Hunter's shoulder as protectively as he could. "It's not good… infection has set in. Grab some water and pour it into the wound to flush it out, we'll pour more iodine in after we finish. Keep cutting to open it up more so we can get as much out now as we can."

Steven pointed over to Angus, "Don't be shy about flushing the wound out. We need to get the crap out, all of it." He waited until no more pus could be seen. "Good work; now, Hunter, I want you to look closely to how the muscle looks. See how it looks like bands glued to each other."

Hunter was happy no more nasty goo was coming out and was somewhat surprised at how little blood there was. "Yeah, it kind of looks like a bungee cord."

This got a slight chuckle out of Steven and gave him some hope the boy might actually be able to stomach what was needed to be done. "Interesting, but accurate. If it helps you think of a rubber band bungee cord, than so much the better. I want you to take a finger and slide it along the two bands. What we need to do is separate the muscle gently so we can get closer to the bone."

"What if I just cut through the muscle, won't that be easier."

"It would be, but then the muscles would have been cut and will never grow back together properly, so she would lose use of her arm."

"Oh… No we don't want that!"

Steven nodded in agreement as he looked over to Zeek. "Look through the bag for a small package labeled surgical gut sutures, once you find them carefully tear apart the edges of the package and drop the insides on the blue cloth. Make sure you don't touch the stitches."

While Gage moved over to help Zeek find the requested item, Steven glanced over at Angus, "Did you find a set of bolt cutters in the truck, more importantly did you remember to bring them with you?"

Angus nodded and pointed to the other side of the plastic, "Devin, Mr. K. wants the bolt cutters!"

"Devin, wash them as best you can under the pump, then hand them to Gus, but you stay outside the plastic. We can't chance anyone directly breathing on her!"

Steven nodded approval as they were carefully pushed through, while Devin purposefully turned his face away so his breath had no chance of entering the work area. "Good get them so we can clean them in iodine. Make sure you rub them really good as they will be going inside the skin."

"Okay, now we need to roll her on the side and do the same to the other side."

Angus handed the cutters to Zeki, "Hold these so I can help, just don't let them touch anything."

Angus moved up and rolled the woman over with Gage's help.

Steven moved closer and pointed, "This one will be easier, as it looks like it did not go through the skin." He pointed to the bump in the skin. "The other nice thing is, because it is the back, there is less muscle to worry about."

While Angus held the body still, Hunter once again made the cuts; this time there was only blood and no puss, unfortunately he tore a hole in his glove as it caught on a hook like structure on the piece of metal.

Steven motioned Hunter back, "This sort of thing happens all the time so don't sweat it. Re-clean and glove up with a fresh pair. Gage, hold her so Angus can grab the cutters. Zeek, squirt some water in there so he can see. Angus, you are going to have to clip the barbed part off as clean as you possibly can. If we pull it out with the barb on there it will rip all sort of stuff up!"

It took one quick snip to remove the barb. Gage had no problem reaching into the wound to grab the small hunk of metal, and tossed it off to the side. Steven's eyes went up, "You'd make a good medic, Gage. You don't even look slightly green."

"I've seen worse." The youngster stated, "But this is kind of cool. I could really get into this kind of thing."

Once again the boy's attitude and words caused a half million questions to form in Steven's brain, but he forced them to the side as Hunter came back with fresh gloves on. "With the barb removed, I think we're good. It looks like it's pretty smooth, so we might not need the bolt cutters again."

He paused and locked eyes with Scott, "We'll need Angus' strength to hold her still so I need you to glove up and get ready to pull the rod out from the front when I say so. Just be ultra careful you don't touch the blue cloth."

Steven stopped, took a deep breath, and paused to wipe some nervous sweat off of both Hunter and Angus. "Now, no one does anything until I say ready. I need you to pick up the suture and make a small hangman's noose on one end. It's not the proper way, but if you see blood start to spurt you can tie it around the bleeding vein quickly so she does not loose any more blood."

Checking to make sure everyone was ready he looked at Scott and gave a sharp nod, "Pull as straight and even as you can, but we have to do this in one pull, so pull hard…Now!"

Seeing a spurt of blood, Hunter quickly dropped the end of the suture around the vein and pulled tight, stopping the flow of blood. Looking around he did not see any more bleeding and looked up at Mr. Korbal "What now?"

"Now…" Steven clenched his fist as he saw the woman convulse a few times. Seeing the spasms stop and the breathing continue he let out a short sigh of relief. "Now you pour more iodine in the wound to flush anything out and sprinkle some of the yellow sulfur powder in the wound, work on the one in the back first. Then stitch it closed and place a gauze bandage over it. Then you'll do the same to the front side. What you want to do is to take the needle and hook it through the skin and pull so the end almost comes out, then you take the hemostats, the scissors that only grab and make several fisherman's knots before cutting above the last knot. Do that every quarter inch or so."

"I'll do the back," Gage volunteered.

Somewhat surprised by the note of enthusiasm he was hearing, Steve moved around so he could talk him through the first couple of stitches. He then said nothing until it was time to tie off the last one.

Flipping the women over Hunter poured more iodine into the wound and waited, while Steven moved around to the front and coached him in the same way the man had done for Gage. Once Hunter had the bandage on he looked up, "Now what?"

All things considered the whole procedure, although probably a gigantic waste of time and precious resources, went very well. Still, it was worth some praise. Steven took a deep breath, "You are all awesome, but she ain't out of the woods yet."

"So, what do we do?" Gage all but demanded to know.

"Now," Steven chewed on the inside of his lip as he decided to give her one shot at pulling through, though it most likely was not going to work. "Look in the bag for a bottle of Penicillin and a syringe. We need to give her a shot of five CC's of the antibiotic in the rear."

Angus quickly did as instructed, his own cheeks flared red as he pulled down on the flight suit enough to expose a very tan butt cheek and plunged the needle in. He moved back quickly and looked away, but did sneak another peek. "Okay done, now what?"

Steven backed off and pointed to all the equipment. "We toss all the stuff we just waste… um… used… make sure to clean up all blood, give her a few pain shots and wait to see if she makes it."

As the kids collected all the used equipment and cleaned up the blood and other fluids with some bleach, Steven moved back out into the main room and looked down at the father of the other three, "Hunter, Gage, let's get this guy in the sterile room we set up and bring some water and bandages over. We need to get these Quickclot gauze out of this wound. We'll loosen them with water and pretty much do the same thing we did for the woman. Only this is straight forward; we clean it, flush it, sulfur it and stitch."

Steven glanced over to Scott, "Is your dad allergic to anything?"

"Just shellfish," Nikki responded instantly.

"We should be safe with penicillin then." This time Steven said very little as the two boys went to work. The only problem was where some of the gauze stuck, which he had Gage pick out with some tweezers. "You all realize we just used over half a medic kit."

"What were we supposed to do?" Devin asked while looking through the semi-clear plastic where the woman was lying on the table.

Gage moved up next to Devin, "He's trying not to say we should have let her die."

"No he wasn't!" Vernon quickly jumped in but seeing the look in Mr. Korbal's eyes he paused, "Were you?"

Steven rubbed his hand through his hair and gave himself a shot of the penicillin on the off chance he could save himself. "Guys, I can't answer those kinds of questions for you. I just want you to understand every time you use something it is gone and eventually you'll be out. The truth is, I can find no fault with your actions and if this was the same world we had a week or so ago I'd be throwing a fit if my mom didn't use some of her power to get you guys some kind of civilian medal.

"The problem is, this isn't the same world and I know it sounds selfish, but sooner or later you need to think about saving some things for yourselves. You are also going to have to understand there are some you cannot save. Using up resources on them will doom others who could be helped with supplies wasted on the dying. Still, this was a grey area; there is a chance she will make it. In truth, what you all did today was both extremely brave and done with the purest of hearts. Hearts I don't want to see get ruined, by the way. All I am asking is you think it over and save something for yourselves."

Steven moved back over to the massive mound of gear, "Now let's see what we have here and get some rest. As soon as the storm breaks I want some of you to take me back out to the aircraft so I can see what else may be important."

"The tags on the pallets said it was some kind of POW camp setup."

Steven turned slowly with wide eyes that held hope for the first time since he had seen the mushroom clouds in the distance. "Guys…you know what else those can be used for?"

Every kid in the room shook his or her head and looked over, wondering what the man looked so intrigued about.

"Guys, a POW camp and a Refugee camp is basically the exact same thing. If there is really a full setup for a camp then we would be talking a generator, fuel, radio base station, field hospital, tents with heating stoves and cots, tools to make latrines, and razor wire for security. IF it's really all there, we could be looking at the equipment we need for starting over!"

"It has a generator and fuel." Angus stated with excitement. "It's on the trailer attached to the other Hummer. There are also ten pallets numbered one through ten all saying POW camp. There are also a few other pallets and lots of stuff piled haphazardly on top of it all."

Scott's eyes went wide, "Our town only has damage from the earthquakes; we have buildings and stuff…"

"And viable farmland since we didn't get any radiation," Nikki added. "We could get Jennings everything it needs to start over!"

Steven looked up and said a short prayer. "We need to get back out there and get it all back to your town. Keep watches and as soon as the weather breaks we move it all here, then get help from others where you all live so it is in a spot where it can help the most people."

While Scott and Nikki talked with Steven, Hunter motioned for Angus, Devin and Vernon to come over. Once he got their attention he took them into the junk room and sat on the chest that had held the civil war reenactment gear. "My dad, brother, and dog are still out there somewhere and so are some of your folks."

"I'm sure my dad went out looking for us." Devin closed his eyes to hide tears he felt coming. "You're right, we have to find them."

"No argument from me." Angus quickly sided with Hunter and Devin. "If we have homes I bet all of us have notes to go to Sid's place. There ain't no way our moms and dads would sit around with us out here. But we have to help get the stuff out of the plane and into Jennings. It'll be a place we can go back to and we can't let those animals who drove off in the other Hummer get it all."

"Mr. K. needs a safe place to rest and get better too." Hunter added. "He doesn't look very good, but he knows this stuff and could help get it all set up. I bet the others would take real good care of him since they will need him to run everything too."

Vernon shook his head and wiped tears out of his eyes with his thumbs, "I know my mom and dad would expect me to help others before going to look, especially since we have no idea what is even out there. But I am with you. I have to try to find them… I just wish we had some clue what all got hit and if there is anything major even left."

Angus pulled out the micro recorder and held it up, "There may be something on this. It fell out of the pilot's pockets when… um… when we dropped her."

Hunter turned it on to rewind and noticed the micro cassette barley spun. "Battery is dead."

"We have more double and triple A…" Vernon stood.

Hunter motioned for the boy to sit back down. "Let's get some rest and help get everything out of the plane first. Then we will figure out what we are going to do."

"What about Gage, Zeek and Ram?" Devin asked.

"Gage is a bit off," Angus spoke up. "But he can really shoot and knows guns. We need him if we are going to hit the road on our own. Zeek should be fine as long as there are no more earthquakes and Ram has two inhalers and he'll want to come. His dad went up to the park to meet us, after all."

"Then we'll ask them if they want to join us once we get all the supplies to Jennings." Hunter decided as he stood. "Let's just keep this between us for now, though. We don't want Mr. K. trying to stop us and we don't want to distract anyone from getting all the stuff to Jennings."

Hunter waited for the others to leave before he pulled a pair of batteries out of the mini flashlight he had found in the pack of one of the men they had killed. He cringed as he noticed some dried blood and wiped it on his still wet pant leg before putting it down. "Nasty," he muttered softly as he rewound the microcassette.

He had to turn up the volume because the rain and hail hitting the house made normal hearing impossible, but finally he could make out a female voice. "This is Captain Kryson of the Colorado Air Guard. As I banked over the mountains I saw both Denver and Colorado Springs go up. I took us deeper over the mountains, but even in the middle of nothing I can see mushroom clouds in almost every direction. I can also see some sort of vapor trails overhead. They seem to explode and then there are ten to fifteen smoke trails that come out of each explosion.

"I followed one down and just barely turned my eyes as it impacted in the general location of Vail. The bright flash told me everything I needed to know. I won't be going skiing there this winter." There was a brief snicker but it sounded extremely nervous and sad. At this point the recorder was shut off.

It picked up again with a clicking sound and the woman's voice came back sounding very shook up. "It's now seven hours since we took off from Buckley Air Base. We have had no contact with any surviving Colorado Guard units of any kind and there has been nothing from the governor.

"Because of this I have switched over to Air Force frequencies. It turns out there are dozens of us flying around up here and we are lucky enough to have a tanker only a couple hundred miles away. It said it would top us off while we all figure out what to do.

"There is also at least one AWACS up here with us and it has taken over command and control. It verified Air Force One fell out of the sky like a brick moments after the first aerial detonation. Someone either got very lucky or knew where she was. We also have it on eyewitness accounts from a pair of F-15s that Air Force Two didn't make it off the runway in Kansas City. This makes the Speaker of the House the President and Commander in Chief, but Washington DC was hit by multiple warheads. If he is in a bunker somewhere, we have not heard from him. I'm not sure who is next on the list, but whoever it is, isn't saying anything either, so I guess we are going to have to figure this all out on our own."

The cassette continued to record radio transmissions for several minutes. Most Hunter couldn't understand, but those he could hear sounded confused and in some cases flatly scared. At least two came from civilian airliners who were running out of fuel. One said it was aiming for a spot out of Montrose Colorado, and the other said something about the salt flats in Utah. Most of the other traffic was Air Force and it was clear there had been quite a few aircraft up at the time of the attack. Suddenly the tape was shut off with the muttered words of "Oh crap!" being caught by the microphone.

When it was turned back on the woman's voice sounded truly exhausted. "We have been up for thirty-eight hours and some odd minutes now and have refueled five times. Air tankers are starting to run dry, but there are so few of us up that we probably will be able to refuel at least twice more before I have to pick a spot and set down." The tape stopped.

When the tape resumed the woman sounded totally defeated. "We're going on fifty-nine hours now and we still have nothing from the ground. Colorado is a bust. I have flown over every airfield we could land at, but all of them are either stacked up with planes blocking the runways, too high on radiation levels, or nothing more than smoking holes. It looks like lots of folks down there tried to get to their private aircraft, only to find the EMP's have taken out vital electronics. Some of those in the air made for airfields and crashed as they slammed into others. Without tower communications it was a mess. It was probably made worse since many small craft had damage and the weather everywhere is absolutely awful. We circled over to Albuquerque, and wrapped up to Cheyenne, but there are radiation pockets and no major cities left as best as I can tell.

"Making matters worse, the men in the back are getting fidgety, not that I blame them, but the Major wants me to fly east. He outranks me, so I‘ll go with it. I'm beginning to wonder about the tanker support. There must be somewhere they are refueling, and heading back up to top off tanks. The chatter from other aircraft tells me many of the other transport pilots are starting to think the same thing, but when I ask, the refueling person simply ignores questions and directs me in. At this point I want to follow, but my number three engine is starting to act up and if I push it hard enough to keep up with a refueling jet, I'll probably burn it up." Again the recorder clicked off.

When it came back it was slowed a little as the battery showed it was not as strong, but the words were clear enough. "There are fairly open areas in this area of Kansas with little to no radiation, but there are also numerous towns that have been hit and some appear to be burning for some other reason. Number three is going to go out and the last tanker told me there were some sparks coming out of it. I'm going to find a radiation clear zone and set her down as best I can.

"At this point I am sure there is someone in command somewhere, but they appear to be keeping it very low key. I can't blame them. I'm sure there are nukes still out there, and the last thing any surviving US government would want would be to announce their presence and get hit. News, while sketchy and totally unsubstantiated, has started to appear as those with radios who still work try to reach out to others. At first I thought it was all bunk, as stations from almost a hundred miles in from the East Coast are talking about a massive tidal wave, but over an hour ago I talked to a C-5 Galaxy pilot who said he saw a wall of water over two hundred feet tall smash into what was left of the Oregon coast. If this really did happen, then both coasts are gone as is a huge portion of the population of the U.S.

"The C-5 pilot went on to say he got a brief report from a naval ship that one of the islands in Hawaii literally exploded and sent a big section of the island sliding off into the ocean. According to him, other places worldwide had similar things happen. While our Navy seemed to have survived much better than other parts of the military, this wave and others like it, may well explain why they dropped off the airwaves over the last eight hours.

"I also got a pretty credible report from a C-17 pilot that the US Fifth Fleet had been hit by one super wave, but remained remarkably intact mostly because the gulf protected them. The report said they had sided with the Israelis as the Middle East decided it was time to take out the trash. As expected, Israel showed they too have mastered the atom, decimating almost every adjoining country.

"Since Israel seems to be intact at the moment, and with no word from home, the Fifth decided to take the Israeli offer to supply them and support them. With very few exceptions, it sounds like the Fifth Fleet has defected. There is also an open offer for any US military aircraft that can make it to Israel do so. I have to wonder if we now have a new world super power or will someone nuke them. My feelings are mixed as to what would be best. I do know the C-17 pilot I talked to decided to give it a shot." By this time the battery was barely able to keep the recording going and the woman either realized this or simply didn't say any more.

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