Castle Roland

Day of N

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 10

Published: 31 Aug 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

Hunter leaned back against the wall and listened to the rain and hail beat against the west side of the house. The last few days had been the hardest of his young life and he was exhausted, but with the workload he had not been able to work on his private journal, and with things settled down he decided to break out a lantern and put pen to paper again.

Day of N +10:

I feel like a jerk for not writing for several days, but it has just been insane. There is so much Mr. Korbal wants us to do and he is getting worse by the day. I hope now that we have everything here, he will rest and let us take care of things, but I kind of doubt it. His very nature just won't let him turn things over even when there is nothing for him to do.

Anyway, it has now been a full week and three days since the world we knew went up in multiple fireballs of nuclear destruction. It had also been a week since we have seen the sun. When it isn't outright storming, it's raining, sprinkling, or at the very least misting.

The past couple of days have been crazy as Mr. Korbal all but demanded we clear out the wreckage of the crashed plane as fast as possible. It had a POW/refugee camp inside plus all sorts of weapons and other junk, much of it only known by Mr. Korbal... Although Gage can at least identify every weapon and has an idea how to use most of them. It's actually kind of funny to watch Gage constantly trying to convince Mr. K to teach him how to fire things like LAW rockets...

The hard part has been moved. We moved tons, and I do mean tons, of stuff out of the destroyed transport and back here to the house. Nothing about it has been easy. The bridge we first took when we ended up shooting those horrible National Guard guys and rescuing the others flooded over on us the second day. We tried the next nearest bridge but it was gone, completely washed out. This meant a ten mile road trip to the next nearest bridge, then back across to the plane. With each trip the mud kept getting worse as the tires churned it up. The deeper it got on us, the worse the first Humvee seemed to do. On the ninth trip the four wheel drive gave out on Scott altogether.

This meant loading the second Humvee, taking it down the muddy slope, transferring the stuff to the damaged one, driving the good one back through the mud, filling it, and taking both vehicles back to the farmhouse. Several times we had to stop work and wait out massive lightning storms either in the plane itself or in the farmhouse. Once we pulled into another farmhouse we found, but we decided to park in the barn after we found two dead people inside and lots of blood. The place looked like something straight out of a horror movie.

Gage pointed out there were several bullet holes in the walls around the door, so he figured the three guardsmen who ran from us probably stopped and forcibly took the place. If they did, then I have to wonder if it is partially our fault. If we had shot all of them, then maybe those two would still be alive. I tried to voice this, but both Mr. Korbal and Scott's dad flatly rejected it. The both say what we did was far beyond what most people would have done, still I can see in both Devin's and Angus' eyes they also wonder if we could have done more.

There is some good news in all of this though. The father of the three we rescued, Hank, has made a decent recovery from the bullet he took in the arm. Hank, (he won't let us call him by his last name since he says we saved him and his kids, so we are adults and shouldn't have to call him mister)... anyway, he is up and healthy enough to be helpful. It turns out he was not only a gas station owner, but also a mechanic. Because of this, he was able to do some work on the damaged generator trailer so Angus could tow it properly. Out of all of us healthy kids, Angus is the only one who knows how to pull a trailer, and it's a good thing he can, since once we got the generator back and unloaded it in the barn, the empty trailer made getting the rest of the stuff out of the plane way easier.

Hank wasn't able to do much to the damaged Humvee, however. He says he'll have to wait until he can get it to his garage and pull it apart to find what the problem is. He says it's got to be something with the front axle and the four-wheel drive; of course parts will be a major problem unless we can find another Humvee to pull parts from. Hank keeps saying the world will be all about scrounging things now, but Mr. Korbal thinks it won't be too long before things start getting made again. He says people are too spoiled to live like the old days.

Me, I'm not so sure, we seem to be doing things like right out of a history museum. We work by lantern light, which is something Gage found in the shot up house, since he was the only one who really wanted to search it... he actually found three of them and a bunch of other stuff in the basement, but no food, first aid supplies, or weapons... we cut wood with an axe we found in the barn and for the most part we cook over a fire in the fire place.

Having the two girls is a bit annoying at times, but they surprised everyone with pitching in with the workload, cooking and even doing laundry by hand, but it's pretty clear the two aren't thrilled with being relegated to servant-like duty. This is especially true for the older one, Nikki, since she has more tom-boy in her than her brother, Scott, has boy in him. I'm positive had Hank not started moving around or was not around, Nikki would be the one upstairs pulling guard duty while her brother washed clothing with his little sister. He's a nice kid, but man, what a wimp.

Hunter once again rolled his extremely tired shoulders and winced as thunder shook the whole house. He glanced over at the shuttered window wondering for about the hundredth time if this was anything like Noah had to face in the Old Testament flood. Part of Hunter wondered if they should all be trying to build a boat now that they had the supplies out of the aircraft.

Mr. Korbal is very nervous since we made contact with a few people from the town. Hank took Mr. K and Devin into Jennings this morning. Devin went because the mayor knows Devin and his dad. It's just like Devin to know everyone of importance... Talk about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth that would be Devin, three fold... The tables have turned now, though, since for the first time Devin's vast family money means nothing. The couple of hundred dollars I bet he has in his wallet means even less. He's a good friend and great at social stuff, but him always having cash and trying to buy friends always bothered me some. We'll have to see if he can get used to just being one of the guys, but since he knows the mayor, maybe not.

The meeting with the Mayor went well according to both Hank and Devin. The Mayor said we can all live there and he will get any still running trucks out to us along with manpower as soon as the weather clears. The town has right around three hundred and fifty people, if you include all the farming families that consider Jennings as their town, but at least forty were killed when the earthquakes hit and collapsed cellars on people. There are also a few abandoned nearby farm houses we can make our own. The plan, as best as I can understand it, is to set up the POW camp and turn Jennings proper into a fortified camp. Since there is no radiation and the farm land and water is good, the idea is to make Jennings into a base of operations for rebuilding, a place to give shelter to those who wander in, and I guess a place to just start from scratch.

I know the recording I got from the pilot said there was a base of operations somewhere, but if there is, it has remained silent, so starting from scratch is about the only thing we can do. We did get a radio transmission from someplace called Winter Park Colorado the other day on short wave. It said there were lots of folks cut off in the high mountains of Colorado, and there was too much radiation to take any roads out. It also said it was snowing hard and had been for a couple of days. We lost the signal during a lightning storm and couldn't get it back. I hope they are alright. I guess they should be used to snow way up there at least, just probably not in June.

Other short wave stations have given us signs lots of places survived, but their signals are too weak to keep them or to get more than a few broken words at a time. One thing we did hear loud and clear was an AM station out of a place called Camdenton Missouri. The station said the big earthquake we felt originated just outside of St. Louis and the entire Mississippi river has changed course. The man also said Lake of the Ozarks has totally changed and the dams and bridges are gone, destroyed by the big quake.

The station comes on for only three hours a night, since it says it wants to save fuel and only report accurate news, but if what we are hearing is correct, the United States is cut in two and the already very wide Mississippi and Missouri rivers are considerably wider and the Ohio River is different too, but the exact nature of the change could not be verified as of last night.

The station did confirm massive waves smashing into both the east and the west coast. If what the broadcaster was saying is true, California broke off during an earthquake out there and is an island and has been all but swept clear by the ocean. The East Coast is no better. Up to seventy-five miles inland was hit with a tidal wave... It's kind of hard for me to believe any wave could come so far in, but the guy saying this said he was only reporting what was confirmed. If true, then it stands to reason all coastal cities over the whole globe have been hit by these massive waves and with something like forty percent of people worldwide living within fifty miles of an ocean, the world is a pretty empty place all of the sudden. When combining the probable loss of almost half the worlds population to ocean waves, then add in the death of a worldwide nuclear war, I wonder how many of us are left.

Hunter stared at the paper for a minute, it had been so long since he had written in the journal he didn't want to end this latest session just yet. He left a rather large gob of ink on the paper before he continued to write.

Much closer to home, we have other situations we are trying to deal with. The biggest problem I haven't talked about is the female pilot Angus found. She is alive after both Gage and I did a surgery on her supervised by Mr. K, but she has to be fed. While not totally unconscious, the woman has not, as of yet, fully woken. When she does kind of come around, Mr. Korbal has someone, usually one of the girls, mask up and spoon feed her the softest stuff we have, but the apple sauce and the canned, easy to mush, peas are almost gone. Next on the list is mashing up the few cans of green beans so we can continue to feed her a baby food like paste. If she doesn't come out of it soon, we will have to figure out something else. Maybe people in the town of Jennings will have some mushy stuff to feed her.

Speaking of the town of Jennings, Angus, Devin, me and Vern are pretty much dead set on not living there. Our parents are still out there... they went looking for us and it wouldn't be right if we didn't go looking for them. Once we help get the refugee camp set up, I think we are going to head out on the road and go looking. We found three Geiger counters in all the stuff we pulled out of the plane, so we can take one with us and let the town have the other two. This way we can stay out of the radiation and still go looking. We may take two, who knows… there is so much to take in, and so much to try to figure out.

We have talked to the others about this, but other than Gage, who I'm pretty sure wants in, the other two are big question marks. Zeek still freaks out with every minor tremor, and there have been several, and the weather is playing hell with Ram's asthma. I'd hate to do this without everyone, but I can't leave my folks, my brothers and my dog out there. Those National Guard guys are still out there and I bet Mr. K. is right about there being lots more just like them.

The real question is what way to go first. Part of me says we should head home, but if our parents were on the road, like Scott and Nikki say, then going home isn't the answer. The next option is to go up to the lake where we were supposed to camp. Our scout master took the scout trailer up there and Ram's dad was with him. Vern's dad was also supposed to join us too. The problem is, we have no clue if they stayed or even if the park is safe. If it is, it could be a dangerous place since those camping there will be getting desperate by now. The other problem is I know Ram's dad would want to go find Ram, since the asthma is a real issue… Angus says whatever way we go, the choice is mine, but my dad was out driving around, so to me it really doesn't matter which way to go. He could be anywhere.

Hunter closed the journal and tucked it into his backpack as he stretched and yawned. Pain and stiffness caused by loading and unloading load after load had taken its toll. After a few seconds of debate he shut off the lantern and closed his eyes.

Hunter woke several hours later and looked around trying to figure out what had woken him. It was pretty dark in the room and the air was chilly. He slowly rubbed some junk from around his tear ducts. Even this movement caused him to wince slightly. His exhausted muscles had tightened up and protested any movement as he took a few minutes to force his body to move and work out the kinks. Once he was fully awake and somewhat stretched, he took a moment to listen. All was quiet, save for the light sound of someone walking around above him, and a pretty heavy breeze whistling around and through the damaged house.

He grabbed his mini flashlight and started to click it on, when he realized there was some light from outside. His heart sped up as he gulped and used his free hand to secure the M-4. One thing Mr. Korbal had relentlessly drilled into all the kids was to keep their weapons close at all times. He had also made sure everyone, even Tamera, was familiar and comfortable with an assault rifle, could field strip it, and clean it without any hesitation.

It was now total instinct to first check the clip to make sure it was fully seated. He then stood and flipped the selector level to semi-auto. Even as he did this his eyes stayed fixated on the light coming through the boarded up window; it didn't move around at all. Frowning deeply he stayed low, just like Mr. K had taught them, and poked his head up just enough to where his eye could see out the window. It wasn't till he got close enough to do this that he realized one of the sounds he had grown used to hearing was gone. There was no rain hitting the house, no drips coming in through the hail damaged roof, and splattering of water as it rolled down the downspouts of the gutters.

Even before he actually saw it, he knew what was causing the light. One glance confirmed his suspicions. The moon, almost full, was out. The glow it cast was rather astonishing since it was reddish. Looking past the blood-moon, he realized there were few stars visible even though the clouds were gone. His heart sank some as he realized it must be ash, either nuclear or volcanic. The blowing up of water to make rain hadn't fully worked.

Even as disappointing and scary as the thought was, Hunter's intelligence realized the rain had still done a great deal of good. Radiation fallout had certainly been limited and in many cases contained to areas around the blast sites. Many fires which would have burned unchecked for months, maybe years, were out. Radioactive partials had been put deep into the ground where they would be less likely to be picked up by wind and blowing contaminated surface dirt around. There was even a chance all the rain had flushed out some of the streams and rivers giving some fresh surface water for fish and wildlife to utilize.

The other thing he realized, if it was volcanic, not nuclear, then the particles would be larger and ash-like, so they would come down sooner. Still, there was a good chance global temperatures would fall for at least the next year or two, which would mean less food grown, harsher winters, and wild weather for the foreseeable future. It was not something the world needed as it and the people left in it tried to scratch and claw back from the brink of total destruction.

On the plus side, since there were probably less than half the people left, worldwide, there was a chance enough food could be grown to feed everyone. There would also be less people hunting and fishing so there was a chance populations of wildlife could rebound. At least, he hoped things would work out along those lines.

The one thing he did wonder about was what the oceans would be like. With massive tidal waves crisscrossing the planet, hundreds upon hundreds of oil platforms had to have been washed away. Would they all be like the one in the gulf only a couple of years back, pumping millions upon millions of barrels of oil into the sea? If they were, then what? There was nothing to stop them… this idea scared the crap out of him, since part of his studies told him most of the world's oxygen was produced by ocean plankton. If it was killed off, the world might still die.

He closed his eyes and did his best to shake off such a terrible thought. When he opened them, he once again looked at what the moonlight revealed. The tree line on the side of the house could clearly be seen as could the fields beyond. It took a couple of seconds for his brain to realize he could now easily see past the trees, since they were devoid of leaves. This puzzled him for several seconds until he realized they had certainly been stripped by the dozens of storms, many with hail, which had come and gone over the past week. As a matter of fact, as he looked out, he could not see any leaves on anything. It almost looked like he was used to seeing Kansas in the winter. Once again his mind went to food production as he realized most of the crops in the fields were either seriously damaged or outright destroyed.

Almost as disturbing to Hunter was the fact he could see his breath in the moonlight. "Man, way too cold for June!" He muttered as he backed away from the window. "No way are crops going to grow properly in this…"

Tamera's voice came out of the darkness behind him interrupting his out loud thinking, "The thermometer by the front door says its forty-five, and that's inside. It's warmer in the living room… you should join us. We have a small fire going."

Even though the voice startled him and caused him to clutch the M-4 tighter, Hunter didn't turn away from the boarded up window. The reason was twofold; first, he didn't want to tear his eyes away from the first clear sky in over a week and second, he knew the look on his face would show the aggravation he was feeling. Ever since the rescue of Tamera, Nikki and Scott, Tamera had taken ever chance she could to stick close to Hunter. She was only a couple of months younger, and it was pretty clear she wanted to be able to call Hunter her boyfriend. Most of the other kids had also noticed this, even Nikki and Scott, and there had been more than a few good natured barbs about it. The problem was, Hunter didn't find it funny. While girls were of some interest to Devin and Ramsey, and of serious interest to Angus, Hunter just wasn't comfortable with having one as a real ‘girlfriend', and certainly wanted nothing with one looking to him as a hero.

He decided to stay looking out the window, and while he wanted to be rude, it just wasn't the way he was brought up, nor was it what was taught in church or in scouts. "The clouds acted like a blanket, keeping the heat in. Now that they are gone, there is nothing left to keep the heat in. All we can do is hope the sun comes out and we get some kind of warm-up over the next few days, or couple of weeks."

Steven's voice cut through the darkness, "You realize with a break in the weather, lots more people will be coming out to see what is left, right?"

Hunter still didn't turn away from the window, "Yes, sir. It also means it will get more dangerous, right?"

"Yes," Steven confirmed. "Are you all still set on going to look for your folks?"

This caused Hunter to turn sharply, "How'd you know?"

"I overheard Zeek and Ram talking about it. They both want to go with you and Gage is all about joining you, in case you weren't sure."

"Are you going to stop us?"

"Hunter…" Steven sat on the old chest and grimaced in pain. "First off, I couldn't stop you even if I wanted to; I'm getting worse and you all know it. Second, even though I don't want you to do this, I get it. This is something you all have to do." He managed a weak grin as he dug into his pocket and tossed over a pair of inhalers. "I got these from one of the survivors in Jennings. The man's girl happened to use the same prescription as Ram. Once he heard what you were going to try to do, he wanted you to have them."

Hunter looked at them for a few moments, "So these… the girl is dead?"

"Yeah," Steven sighed. "She was one of the forty-three who were lost when cellars collapsed and houses fell during one of the big earthquakes. The others in town dug the father and younger brother out, but the mom, baby and the girl were lost. Once the guy heard about Ram, he handed them over without any hesitation. I was also told they will have a house for you all to come back to and will happily accept any of your family members if they want to come here."

Tamera wiped a couple of tears out of her eyes, "You could just stay here…"

Angus joined the growing group, "Not as long as our parents are out there!" He paused and looked over to Hunter, "It's up to you, but Mr. K. woke us all up and told us if we are really going to do this, then we should move out so we can get clear of here while it is still dark and not lead anyone back. We talked about taking a Hummer, but your idea of going on foot is better. We can hide easier and will not attract as much attention. But we are going to get a ride up to the park in the back of pickups. Hank already went to Jennings and a couple of people are waiting at the next intersection up the road to drive us on the back roads. He also has people coming to grab everything we got off the plane. We're almost ready to leave if you are."

Hunter let out a long breath, "And everyone is in and ready?"

"All of us." Gage stated from the doorway.

Vernon's voice came from further back. "The only thing we have to do is get your pack set up. Mr. K. also says we all need to grab a shower. It may be the last one we get for a while. You can go first so we can get your stuff ready."

Ramsey spoke from over Gage's shoulder, "We let you sleep, but it is already three AM and if we're going, we need to do it soon."

Hunter moved past the others and glanced at the pump, "Who wants to pump the shower for me?"

Hank all but pushed Scott into the room, "After all you have done for us, he'll take care of pumping the water for all of you. We have all your clothing cleaned and even found you some old scout shirts scattered throughout Jennings so you have extras."

Hunter frowned as he looked around the room, "Who's on guard?"

"Nikki," Tamera responded. "She shoots better than Scott and pestered everyone so bad, Dad finally let her pull a shift."

"Good choice," Hunter stated softly as he walked by Hank. "I feel safer with her on guard…." He stopped as he realized the father had to have overheard.

Hank patted Hunter on the shoulder with a snicker, "I think Scott feels safer too. Don't ever feel bad about telling the truth."

Hunter said nothing. Instead he quickly stripped down, jumped into the shower and braced for the cold water. He wasn't disappointed. He scrubbed down quickly and exited the small bathroom switching places with Angus. By this point, modesty over needing to be alone while drying off and changing had long since vanished. Not even the fact Tamera was in the room and could see him stopped him from drying off completely while he looked over at Steven, "Mr. Korbal, you said you worked on the rain project and even though they were unmanned stations they had some supplies in them, right?"

Seven nodded with a frown deepening on his face.

Hunter chewed on his lip for a few seconds as he saw the look, but decided to continue with his question, "Some of the missile we saw go up seemed pretty close… Were there any of those hidden launch places as close by as it seemed?"

"A few…" Steven raised an eyebrow while his scowl deepened, "Why?"

Hunter ignored the tone and the look as he nodded, "And since they were real secret and hidden, they probably weren't targets and no one would really know about them, right?"

"Probably not," Seven responded with less hostility and more curiosity. "We purposefully picked out spots with nothing more than poor dirt roads in and difficult to get fully into. We also brought everything in with rigs that looked like water drilling and windmill trucks, so anyone looking would think we were building watering stations for cattle. For anyone who wanted to take a closer look, we even hid where the money was coming from. We didn't even use DoD money. It came out of NASA and National Weather Service funding. If anyone looked real deep they would think we were making research stations. Again…" Steven eyed Hunter carefully, "why do you want to know?"

"Because," Hunter stated slowly as he thought over his words, "from what you have told us, some of those places may still be intact and we could use them to base ourselves out of if we have to get further away than a few days from here."

"Hunter…" Steven let out a long pained breath, "The further out you go, the more dangerous it is going to get. As it is, there is very little chance your folks will be further away than the state park. They would have stuck to roads between home and there."

Hunter nodded, "I'm sure they were somewhere between Prairie Dog State Park and Colby, but it has been ten days..." Hunter had to wipe his eyes and gulp back a sob before continuing. "My aunt lives in Imperial Nebraska, and there is nothing around there, so Dad may have tried to go there. Ram has some kind of family in Trenton Nebraska, and Gus has an uncle in Atwood Kansas, and a cousin in Stratton Nebraska.

"Just before you joined us and showed us we didn't have to camp out in someone's back yard, we did a campout on a farm down in Hoxie Kansas. It belongs to Vern's great-uncle, so there is even a chance his mom or dad could end up there. We have to check out everyplace we can until we find everyone we can!"

A smirk shot across Steven's face, "So you guys really camped out at a farm…"

"Yeah, but you wouldn't call it one." Hunter managed a grin and rolled his eyes. "After you changed things, neither would we. We slept in tents, but cooked meals out of the house and had extension cords out to our tents so we could have lights and fans."

Steven slapped his forehead in disgust, "You have got to be kidding me!"

"I wish I was. Until you showed up, we had no clue what roughing it was all about. I think we have learned more about camping, hunting, survival, first aid, canoeing, and other stuff from you than we could have ever done without you…" Hunter took a long breath, "Look, Mr. Korbal, we have to try this and we need to at least check some of the places our family may have tried to get to. If we have some of those launch stations to go to, then at least we might have some safe places to find some food and water if we run out or hide if things go wrong."

Once again Steven found himself fighting an internal battle about his oath to take the secrets entrusted him by the government to the grave with him, but after a few seconds he realized the reason for the project had come and gone. "OK, but all I have are latitude and longitude of those I know about. Do any of you know how to find coordinates?"

Hunter shrugged, "I doubt it, but you can teach me."

"I have maps you can have in my pack, and I can ride with you, with whoever Hank found to drive you up to the state park. But I can't guarantee a single quick class will be enough to really teach you, and even then, there is no guarantee those places remained intact after the earthquakes."

Angus moved close having overheard part of the conversation after getting out of the shower. "They were hardened, right?"

Steven nodded, "Sure, but not like a hardened missile silo. Secrecy was supposed to protect them from targeting. We built them to withstand mid-west weather and to keep out would-be thieves."

Steven paused and shook his head. "Earthquakes, on the other hand, were talked about only in so much as we wanted to make sure to put the missiles in spots where they would be safe from earthquakes caused by nuclear attack. We made them hardened to just about everything. Basically we built places so tough, nothing could destroy them, since we needed them to survive for ten minutes after a major attack and still be in viable launch tubes. Tremors from nuclear strikes were not what we ended up with. Some of those longer quakes could have easily done damage, since those were not considered as a possibility."

"Can't hurt to know where a few are," Angus countered.

After a moment of hesitation Steven nodded in agreement.

Hunter raised an eyebrow and sent Angus a quick nod of thanks, "So, where is the nearest one?"

"I don't know where all of them are," Steven admitted, "but the closest I helped locate is a remote location about twelve miles east-southeast of Benkelman Nebraska… There are eleven others I helped locate and get building material to. Do you want all of them?"

"You have them written down?" Angus asked.

"Nope," Steven shook his head. "Memorized. Writing them down would be a serious breach of security for the project. Only Mom and some other higher-ups knew where all of them were." He pointed to his pack, "I have detailed maps of Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming along with a military compass. Get them and I will plot out where they all are and show the two of you how to properly read a map. The rest will be up to you."

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