Cover
 
 

 

  INTO THE NEW WORLD is the flagship of a new adventure series that extends the events of our current world into the very real and frightening challenges that we must face in the near distant future. This work is driven by the underlying suspense humming beneath our daily lives that makes us all wonder, in our quiet moments, what the future holds for our children and world.

Synopsis

  INTO THE NEW WORLD is the story of Wayne C Norton, who, from his simple upbringing in rural Alabama, through his Air Force career, became a military astronaut who found himself, after his biological suspension on a 125 year space mission, in a world that had evolved through a catastrophic metamorphosis. The story unfolds as Wayne, with his guy-next-door familiarity, having lost twice in love, survives, then becomes captive of a society that has little knowledge of their past world. He then saves from destruction the fledgeling community of his captors, who themselves cling to survival, from a powerful tyrant by revealing a bunker full of weapons hidden under their feet. Wayne becomes an unwilling hero, and it is his leadership and clever practicality, more than weapons, that save the day for his ragged group of rebels. Then a romantic mystery begins, the suspense of which simmers beneath Wayne’s continuing struggles in his new world. His life is nearly snuffed out several times, and the survival of humanity is always in question. Wayne’s warm friendship and his always willing helping hand eventually propel the story to a breathtaking triumph and to a soaring romance. Yet mysteries still remain, and in the end, the story is just beginning…

Author Biography

  I am a cum laude graduate in small business administration and industrial arts from the University of Georgia. I went on to study design, music, and fine arts in California's post-secondary community college system. Since 1978, under the brilliant mentorship of editor Sid Dominitz, my writings began with articles in The Northcoast Econews, where I began my involvement with social and political issues. I was part of the team that brought the non-profit organization, Net Energy Inc. grant money for our work in energy conservation and alternative energy education. My writing has also provided the unique types of correspondence and contracts that has helped empower my design and custom fabrication business which has grown, in more recent years, to providing content for a variety of business and political web sites. My comment postings, as Lux Veritas, appear on the NPR and Huffington Post web sites, as well as in my hometown newspaper, The Athens Banner Herald. I have also written the novels: Finding Imagination, and Jerrod’s Mountain.

 

CALL: 706-769-0640   or   EMAIL:   jpcrisan@gmail.com


Quick Quotes

Mishia 

I am the wind 
I blow into your eyes 
And through your soul 
To jingle your feelings 
And excite your passions 
To make your animals 
Run wild and free

There are flying machines, like the screaming fighter jets and rockets that Wayne once tore through the skies, flown by hardened, chiseled men. Then there are the craft, born deep within the soul, that are the gossamer, high reaching achievements, the places to see our world’s beauty, advance its vision, and to feel God’s view. Those magic craft are flown by the heart, not by pilots, but by dreamers.

 

"What if I am wrong, and lead you to your destruction? What if I fly like an eagle, and never return? It is human nature that people will follow a leader, even if he is not a good leader. Those who are vaulted into roles as leaders will always take the power, rather than conducting it, and they will carry the responsibility, instead of distributing it. If you look to one man as a leader, it is because the tasks are too many for one man. Only we together can make our world. Not one man, or even a few, but all together as one… And hear this! The weight of our responsibility is much greater than for our own time. We are building the framework of our existence, not as a set of rules, but as a set of dreams, visions, and passions that carry the deepest human understanding forward as a foundation to be built on by future generations."

* * *

"We are at the beginning. Alas, we have barely begun to make God’s garden. We find new faith in an unpresuming god. But it is simple, we need not search, or wonder, or question. It is simple, to love each other as we are a family, for each of us to have assurance and trust in each other, to help and share in life’s toils and joys. It is simple, for God finds us in our good work, our happy and caring hearts, in good meals shared, and in our joyful play. It is simple, God rests on our shoulder at night, and helps us vision our dreams and see the future of humanity. It is simple, because God is only love, and love is our kin, our dreams, our passions, the colors that we paint our view with, and the thing we want to leave for humanity when we pass."

* * *

Holding her tightly to his side, looking out through the endless windows of his fantastic airship, with the blue sparkles of the vast Atlantic spreading below and to infinity in front of them, they gaze out to the magnificent godpainting of a sunset panorama with colors in a perfect, intricate, and exquisite scene, re-inventing every moment in ever-changing timeless originality, with their floating honeymoon sweeping up in the evening breezes till the sun’s last glint flashes out beyond the world’s broad curve to change their world to indigo night under the firmament of clear twinkles in the Milky Way’s silky swath.

 


EXCERPTS:

The First Fight

Other thugs down below helped their comrade toward one of the boats as he limped and held his back. Meanwhile, about a hundred feet up the trail, Wayne and Gordon ran as fast as they could in jumping leaps down the sandy bluff to cut the thugs off from the boats. Gordon, with his nasty looking, rusty, cut-off-stock, semi-auto shotgun, put suppressive fire using cloud’a-smoking home-made, black powder and slug charged shells just over the heads and in front of the thugs who were using their captives as shields as they ran down the sandy shore.

Wayne charged forward to get to tree stumps and logs closer to the boats. Wayne tried to get a few shots off to disable the outboard motor. The thugs held their captives in front of them, leaving Wayne without a good shot. A bullet whizzed by his ear. Some of the thugs put out the fire on the burning boat and were pushing off. One of the thugs had a semi-auto rifle and stood in the boat shooting at Wayne. Bullets were ricocheting off rocks and cement walls and careening over, in front of, and around Wayne as he ducked behind a small sand dune and some driftwood to take cover. The shots were hitting erratically all around him as the thug couldn’t aim well from the moving boat.

Wayne aimed carefully to pick the thug off as he stood on the bow shooting at him. Wayne aimed his .50 caliber titanium Mark V with a squint, holding his breath, just leading the moving target, heartbeat, heartbeat, diastolic of the next heartbeat-he fired.

The thug jerked back and went limp as a cloud of blood and brains sprayed out of the back of his head. The accelerating boat swept out from under him as his arms and rifle dropped faster than his body; his knees folded and his shins raked over the gunwale as he tumbled forward into the water. In that moment of confusion aboard the boat, several captives sprang up, arching backwards in low slithering dives overboard, escaping. The boat sped away.

As Wayne was changing his clip and getting up to go towards the third boat, a thug ran down the bluff at racing speed and leaped onto him. They tumbled to the ground wrestling, punching, and kicking with sand flying. Wayne cracked him on the head with his empty Mark V and got up to continue his chase toward the third boat before it got away. There were captives, women, he didn’t know who. He reached into his pocket for the new clip, reaching around the longer 9MM to get to the fat .50 cal.

As Wayne turned to his right, he saw a grayish-brown object right in front of his face rapidly enlarging and filling his view before he felt the dull crunching sound of bones breaking under his skin then a sudden dreamy, suspended state that saw the world dimly behind a hazy veil of stars. It seemed like a long time before he hit the ground, remotely feeling the pain, as if it wasn’t his body, then a tiny bounce; thud-thud. He felt warm, thin liquid run over his mouth and down the back of his throat before tasting the salty, rusty flavor of blood. “Ugh!“ he grunted.

Shots, screams, a boat motor, a woman’s voice screaming… Sandy runningsteps flying by him… yelling, cracking gunshots, crying, shrieking.

Then Gordon’s screaming, breaking voice, “Eva, Eva, Eva! No! No! No-ho! Eeeevaaaaaagh!”

They took Eva and two young men. Three settlers were killed; two were shot dead, and a young girl fell through a rotted floor in an abandoned building while trying to hide, breaking her neck. She lingered in paralysis for several days before slipping away.

Wayne had a broken nose, and wore a mud and straw splint on it for several days. 14 slaves were happily freed, some were from this settlement. Four thugs were killed, one on a boat, two others floated away on the river…

Love Scene

With the sun behind the mountain, deep golden colors progressed through peach, orange, then reds in the lazily drifting clouds that floated by overhead, casting moody hues through the windows. They enjoyed a meal of bread, cheese, fruits and wine as they bantered in giggles and chatted about their projects and lives. When the last purpley dusk colors of the sky faded into the dancing shadows of a single candle on the table between them, both exhausted from the never-ending labors of life in the new world, they lay down to fall soundly asleep, he holding her close to him under a thick quilt as the cool night air filtered through the loosely boarded cabin.

In the deep, star-dark night, Wayne stirred, swirling out of dreams, floating in a mixture of sensations. Lucy’s warm body pressed against his from their heads down to their intermingled feet. Wayne felt around him the presence of the night angels. Eva’s face glowed in his thoughts and seemed to emerge and fly about in the shadows. His breathing became deeper, and he felt the beginnings of tingling excitement, not wanting to wake up, but to continue, half-sleeping, living in a dream world. His warm breath, through Lucy’s hair, flowed back up over his face. Their breaths and heartbeats were a slow, sensuous, abstract song of nature. She stirred, her body moving in a slow wave, pressing to feel against him with a soft, dreamy “Mmmmm” as he drew his arm a little tighter around her. He began to swell, reaching toward her warmth. Their bodies moved in a slow, very slow wave moving up, pressing each part closer, up her back— his hips, then middle, then chest, then starting again while nuzzling her nape with his hot-breathing lips. His root grew toward the warmth of her fertile rows, hidden between soft thighs, and with each gentle wave of feeling motion, he began to slip into her, slowly, innocently, naturally. Their breath-heart-song played in stronger passions. The gently rolling wave motions of their bodies were rhythmic little seawaves quenching into the sands. Within them each, a magic excitement was building, and as a finely written piece of music, they began in playful and gentle muses, then the expressions, explorations, and discovery of their sensations; then working, struggling, climbing up toward their resolutions. A crescendo building… They were soon writhing in twisting, undulating, grasping-clutching, pressing-hard-together motions. Reaching around with his kisses, stroking over her. Wanting to feel her firm breasts pushing into his chest, he turned her over, and on top of her, feeling her soft and perfect form, with the hungry satisfaction of his starved passions, he took her in a flurry of deep tongue-dancing kisses, body-rubbing-body, long groaning thrusts deep into her center, erupting into a dizzying, trembling, quaking, god-feeling, bewildering climax.

Flight Into Danger

…soon they were swept up with dizzying acceleration, right up the slope of the mountain. They shot up over its peak, going straight up, but they were losing speed fast, and were buffeted about by upper level shearing winds.

Then Wayne pulled the rudder hard left to put the craft over in a hammerhead roll; they cranked in the buoyancy and displacement cables, and with the nose straight down, regained their speed as they headed straight down in the laminar flows that split the ridge, coming down toward the knife edge that was the continental divide.

But then Wayne said, “Aw lookie gee, don’t your troubles come in twos and threes!”

As they came down the other side of the ridge, they faced the stormy soup of flashing lightning and boiling clouds of a storm that was bottled up against the western side of the mountains. Lightning lit up the clouds, and large raindrops made gunshot noises against the windshield.

Now remember that thing about hydrogen, that teeny weenie drawback, fire, explosion. Can you say Hindenburg! Their faces were braced with fear as they saw lightning reaching across from cloud to cloud, fanning out, looking for something to kill, and they were going straight into it. Wayne thought about Eva, and about the life beside him that was in his hands. He took deep breaths through clenched teeth in the thin air.

Every pilot knows that you don’t fly into a thundercloud, you will surely die. With shearing winds of over a hundred miles an hour, severe turbulence, and hail the size of baseballs, it is no place for a plane.

…Wagner’s Die Walküre, crackling, warbling…

So that is where Wayne went, because there was nowhere else to go. They hugged the downsweeping slopes and went underneath to take their chances in the rains. Down, down, into the mists and clouds and constant lightning. They couldn’t see the mountain, it showed up here, then it showed up there, very close, whizzing by. Then a blinding bright lightning bolt sliced right in front of them; their vision was dazed by the jagged flash; Wayne couldn’t see for a moment, he didn’t know if they were on fire, he held the stick rock steady. Then the rains came pouring, blowing sideways, splashing against them as their ship was twisting, creaking, buckling.

Wayne looked over the instruments, their needles were swinging wildly, the altimeter was useless within the storm’s own barometry. Hawk wore a look of stoic, unworried determination.

CRACK-BANG! A blinding flash… Suddenly they felt heat over them. There were burning smells. As they regained their vision, everything was bathed in a roaring orange glow. Hawk instantly reached up into the framework above them as Wayne’s shrieking voice said, “We gotta pull the bolts!” The few seconds that they frantically worked to detach the balloon wing were a slow motion eternity, lit in crackling orange flame with blue-white lightning glistening on their sweaty, twisted, desperate faces. They struggled with the bolts as the ship spun and tumbled downward.

Then the flaming mass flung away, and they began to plummet uncontrollably, spinning, flipping over and over as they fell toward the earth. A bright flash lit nearby rocks that were streaking by them. Wayne tried to hold the stick, but it was swinging about wildly, grazing his knuckles against the control panel. Wayne tried to feel the forces, and leaned and pushed his body against the control stick. The tumbling became a downward corkscrew spiral, with one side of the wing stalling. They were getting closer and closer to the steep rocky slopes.

Then they began to feel an updraft, with warmer earth smelling air coming up beneath them. Wayne was able to gradually broaden the spiral and swoop out with a wide turn into level flight, but they were upside down. He pushed the craft into a short dive, did half a rotation, then pulled out level away from the mountain, the mountain that had offered its mercy with its warm updrafts. Behind them, they briefly saw the flaming wreckage of their wing tumbling down the rocky slope. Lightning flashed all around them, everything was in disarray, they were disheveled, panting. Wayne’s eyes darted about to see where the mountain was, what was left of their ship, and where in the clouds he could fly to.

They were between columns of dark clouds, in and out of heavy rains and mists. Then Wayne saw a glow, a light, then a ray in the cloud. He followed it. They broke through the bottom, where a colored sunset was shining in under the clouds for what down there was just a gathering storm. They made their escape down a long canyon, and landed on a meadow of wildflowers by a small lake.

“Dang! That was hell! I gotta pee.” Wayne’s exhausted voice breathed as he stepped out.

 

 

Into The New World

Table of Contents

1 Coming Home

2 The Adventure Begins

3 Finding People

4 Pain, Torture, And Renewal

5 The Raid

6 Fort Wayne

7 Reconnoiter

8 Spy Underground

9 Ambush!

10 First New World War

11 A Love Story Begins

12 Scavenging Expedition

13 King Wayne And Wayne’s Drunken Tirade

14 Westward Flight

15 Flight Across Danger

16 NorthBay Landing

17 Sudden Battle

18 New Ways To Go

19 A New LA

20 The Secret Giant

21 Romantic Layover

22 Beginnings Of The Great Airships

23 Flight To The East

24 A New NewTown

25 Back To Eva

26 Love

Epilogue

Poem



 
earth

Coming Home

Aw, look at him fly, I’m flying, whew, wow, lookout! look up, strong feel power way fast, fast, ahh, whoosh, faster, whaah! The red hot air burns ripples across my cold face as the BOOM! sound barrier splashes whitemist around me. I fresh, cold, clean. Whaaah — POWER! dizzyhead am everything allpower dazey-scary where am what is how who tumble tumble, dizzy-to-pieces, spinning sick-eye rolling. I don’t care, I’m gonna crash into a meteor— fire exploding hell hair-burn-smell almost-death missing searing firerocks smoking furrows across my back, and crashhard crawl and sizzle into river. Now I can reach a cloud and hang on, you know, with this big piece of white plastic, yes, there, I’m light again. Fly now, this time fly real good, strongbod powerthrust. Ahgrrrr accella-dizzy fast, faster, now really fast. whooweeechuooo-fast. Aaaaahhh!

It took Wayne a long time to wake up, barely aware of himself, with just the foggy flurry of his faintest feelings and the even rhythm of his heart and breathing. After days, perhaps weeks, he began to awaken, but only as much as one would while having a vivid dream. He followed his wandering thoughts and sensations— childhood, love, work, random events. After a long while, he began to feel stirrings of anxiety.

As he became more awake, at some point he remembered where he was when he went to sleep. His heart suddenly quickened and he felt a jangled, queasy fear. A panicked shiver shot up his spine. “I’m comin’ around. Alive! Alive!” were his first words as he twisted about in his chair and became aware of his limbs.

As he rubbed his eyelids unstuck, and his blurry vision slowly focused, he could see glowing lights and screens around a cluttered interior. As he began to realize where he was, he remembered that he had been put in biological suspension in the lab, fitted within a capsule loaded with the most advanced technology of the time, then sent up into deep space orbit. He was in the space ship: the Tempus Fugit VII.

Prominently, in front of him, the glow of a screen slowly flashed the word: Instructions, under which was a list of things for him to do. The first item told him to remain in the harness for recovery exercises, and was followed by numerals counting down, indicating 22 hours, 43 minutes.

By now he was in a state of utter anguish. His tortured mind was a torrent of thought. He had been launched in 2028 for a 125 year experiment as part of NASA’s Long Range Exploration Program that was a series of projects to develop exploration to the outer edges of the Milky Way Galaxy. There were two other launches, the Tempus Fugits V and VI, that went up a few years before Wayne’s launch.

He was in a heart-racing, panting frenzy, “Where the hell am I?” He saw only black and stars in the window and was surrounded by silence. He eventually calmed down to anxious, but settled resignation as he looked around at everything, which looked just as it did during his many hours of training in Huntsville.

Suddenly, with the sounds of moving machinery, his harness began to make him move about in wild cycling motions; he then remembered that every hour, magnets in his loosely fitting harness activated to cycle his body through a series of exercises, as they had been, presumably, for the last 125 years, and from the looks of the very worn looking fittings and straps, it looked like he’d been there a very long time. The speeds attained on the five billion mile orbit de-aged his body’s cell structure, and as he looked over his body, he looked younger and more fit than when he left, which, in his memory, seemed like just a little while ago.

Then he looked at his face in the mirror just as he was reaching up to feel his beard. “Whoooo-Hooo! Wildman!” was his reaction as he recoiled seeing the reflection of a troglodyte face with a savage mop of red hair and a bushy beard that flowed down over his chest.

After about five hours, his impatience was unbearable, and, not able to wait one more moment, he detached his harness and adjusted the chair to flight position. He disconnected a number of tubes and wires that were part of a cardio-vascular lymphatic maintenance system, then took doses of medication and liquids, after which he endured hours of a sick, dizzy feeling before his body got used to operating on its own.

He activated the displays to see what was going on with the ship and the world. He switched on rows of circuit breakers, and turned on the other computers. The boot-up process began and was painfully slow as he squirmed and scratched his beard anxiously. Then his heart sank and face turned ashy white as a series of error messages appeared, scrolling too fast to see, with only glimpses of, “Connection failed, searching alternate,” and “Manual control” as the screens quickly rolled by. Then it stopped at a screen that said: “System on Manual, press enter for further instructions.”

The next screens indicated that the ship was ok, but contact with earth had been lost in 2079, three quarters of a century ago; the current year was 2153. After scrolling through a long list of NASA facilities, then military bases, it indicated that the landing would be programmed for the Redstone Army Airfield near the Marshall space flight center in Huntsville, Alabama. This was where the administrative offices for the mission were, as well as the labs of its corporate sponsors, and where much of the training took place, but landing there had never been planned or anticipated. “Well, ah’ight,” he thought, “I guess I’ll make it back home.” He then tried the internet connection, but it just wasn’t there, then he anxiously clicked on the communications tab to see the emails. He saw a list of thousands of messages. “Dang! See what happens when you don’t check your email for a hundred and twenty five years,” he muttered.

The most recent message was in 2079, seventy four years ago, from the mission director at the time. Wayne’s heart began to sink, and he felt despair as he read:

Dear Wayne and Donny,

I am Jim Fortman, the Mission Director in 2079. This is the last message that I’ll be able to send. The military servers have been going down. The last few of us here will be evacuating shortly. Please see the attachments; I pulled together all the data I could find. We lost most of our facility here in the last few years in the bad storms we’ve been getting. Your designated landing location at Cape Canaveral is no longer serviceable. Vandenberg might be ok, but there’s no one there.

The international radio frequency for space related communications has been designated as 1770AM and 777KHZ on the ham band, but there’s no guarantee of anything by the time you are brought back, which seems to still be on schedule as you and your ship have been reading a-ok for all these years. The Tempus Fugit V with Captain Donny Lambert still looks good too. Fugit VI with Captain Marks was lost about twenty five years ago; its nav programming was off, and it went into the Sun.

Things here are dire. Tornados are becoming as common as thunderstorms, the summers have been very hot, and they can’t stop the fires anymore. The place is a mess, and there are hardly any trees left. I heard that the Mississippi River is over twenty miles wide where St Louis used to be. You may very well be the last human alive by the time you read this. I’m very sorry; I wish you the best of luck. Jim.

Wayne shuddered, trembled in a cold sweat as he read those words. He was in catatonic disbelief, then broke down into a fit of uncontrollable weeping as he felt a horrible vacant agony. He collected himself together as he realized the seriousness of the situation, and he wanted to know more. He was in a shaken state, fragile, as he began to read the other materials that were uploaded; he feared what he was about to learn, would he bear what he would find out…

There were many words of encouragement from the generations of people who worked at the center since he was sent up. Then he began to read over the farewell letters of the people he had worked with as they retired, and as time went on, the various reports of deaths, and by 2065, all the people he knew were gone. Since his parents and brother had passed away several years before his mission, he was the last of his family. His wife Pam had left with his son Josh when he was two, twelve years before the mission, and in her stubborn estrangement, Wayne only saw his son a few times, and, to remember him, had only the worn photo of him in a little league baseball uniform, wearing a smiling sun gold pendent that he had given him for his twelfth birthday on which had been engraved: “With love to my son Joshua, your father, Wayne.”

And now, Wayne took a deep breath; there were the many hundreds of messages from Allie… She was one of the trainers, and although no personal relationships were permitted with mission personnel, Allie and Wayne had developed a deep bond. By the time of the launch, they had admitted to each other that they had fallen in love. He had thought of backing out of the mission up till the last minute. The torn and anguished memory of his feelings during those moments of his fading into his suspended state jumped at him like suddenly remembering a very bad dream.

He was feeling an awful empty feeling as he began to read her messages. He decided to read the oldest first. Allie always had words of cheerful encouragement. She was always excited about things she was doing. She loved plants and photography. She would describe scenes she saw. Her wish was that people would feel that sense of wonder of how precious our world and life is. Her vision of life was that love is the most important thing in the world. Allie believed that love is the only meaningful thing we can all share. With love, all things are possible, without it, all things loose meaning.

He read the many messages till he saw that there were only about a dozen left. By now, Wayne was in a terrible state; he could not stop sobbing. He felt like an empty burned out building. “My soul, my being… What is anything worth, why would anything matter now? I am an insignificant speck in this great universe. I am nothing.” He now felt the weight of his life, and perhaps that of all humanity, upon himself. He wondered if his psychological state was imploding, he was just hanging on to his sanity, “Oh God… Oh my God! Have I gone far beyond what any human could bear?”

He continued to read Allie’s letters, where in later years, she began to describe some of the things Wayne had read in the other materials. Things were getting rough down there with the big storms and breakdown of normal life. The Space Center was closed and the project was handed over to a private company which floundered, and eventually went out of business, leaving the project with a group of ham radio enthusiasts. She said that their group had formed a community at the military base and were doing pretty well so far at keeping themselves provided for.

The time between messages became longer, and it was almost three years between the last two. The last one included a photo of her. She was almost ninety, and her long, blonde-red hair was now silvery white, but she still had that sparkle in her eye and her look with that sassy, mischievous little smirky smile. She said, “Oh Wayne it’s been hard lately, and I’m not feeling all that well, and you know there’s no doctors or anything anymore. I just want you to know how much I love you, how I have always loved you since you took your first clumsy steps in that space suit. As you go into a new world, almost a hundred years from now, I want you to always remember the feelings we had, and how I feel about how important love is, beyond just you and me or between two people, that love is for the world as a whole, it is the only thing that can save us, it is the only thing that matters. Wayne… please don’t forget me, always remember me. Love, Allie.”

Wayne lay there, numb of mind. He had no more tears left. He had been to a hundred funerals in that day of nightmarish awakening. “Oh God! I have lost everything; I have sold my soul to the devil for a bit of immortality, for that little measure of life over other men… for nothing but dust delayed.”

He had several more days to read and ponder before some important decisions had to be made, and every minute was anxious anticipation about the world. He even thought that it all might be a big joke, or that it is all a dream, a horrible nightmare. He imagined just opening that hatch, and having his life back… To smell the air, to hear people talking and laughing.

He went back and started opening the attachments that Jim had sent. There were a large number and variety of files, including what must have been nearly all of the military’s classified documents. He read with fascination through page after page stamped ‘top secret’ relating to weapons systems, CIA operations, and experimental programs. There was a folder that was a catalog of hidden government bunkers, showing their locations, what they contained, as well as their lock combinations or digital access codes.

Reading over the materials, Wayne became intrigued because it was hard to get a handle on what really happened down there. There was no major single event that was so catastrophic or insurmountable, so how could everything have collapsed to the horrible state that was described. Surely the state of our existence was not such a house of cards, so delicately balanced, so fragile that it could so dramatically implode.

There were newspaper and magazine articles, professional journals, and a lot of data and statistics. The most current and informative of all was a file that contained a report from the Conference on World Humanities, which was formed in the 2040’s as the last vestige of organization after governments collapsed. It became the last remaining center of leadership through the crises and upheavals, becoming guardians of the world’s knowledge by keeping seed repositories, data banks, medicines, biological cultures, and caches of technology as most systems of government, agriculture and industry began to disintegrate.

Conference on World Humanities

Joel Sanders, President, August 30, 2078

Dear members and world public,

This will be the last conference for the time being. The small group of attendees that was able to attend this year at Greenbrier Bunkers was not able to provide significant usable data for our usual analysis, and since the government of the Americas has essentially evaporated, and world conditions are now on a survival basis, we are forced to redirect our activities solely through the underground network of our members. We will attempt in every way possible to maintain our dissemination of news and information on our current AM and ham radio frequencies: 1450 and 655 KHZ respectively. Please see summary report for more details, it is the last known written document on our world’s history.

Thank you, President Sanders Troutman.

The long report that followed was a thorough analysis of world history going back to the 1950’s, with 100 year trend charts showing such things as population growth, energy use, sea and air temperatures, oxygen levels in the atmosphere, per capita income and education levels, investment types and their distribution, and other statistics that shed light on what had happened.

There were many decades of economic instability, wide cyclical swings, with interest rates near zero, and sudden gains in the markets, followed by sudden losses, which began the erosion of personal capital, and with it, confidence in the investment markets. Retirement and insurance plans that were promised to workers as part of their compensation collapsed by the thousands, leaving many people uninsured and financially destitute. Social and financial systems were losing their viability, and the pillars upon which modern society was built were crumbling.

The media, as well as human nature, presented optomistic views and was in denial of the real magnitude of the seriousness these problems, even though there were many clearly spoken voices of reason in well documented articles, editorials, and bestselling books by many authors warning of the dangers. A social model began to emerge that replaced learning and careful analysis with personal opinion, emotion, and superstition in the determination of life’s truths or courses of action.

Religious and economic fascism, ultra nationalism, and corporate control of governments crept in slowly over the years, escaping the notice of most people at the time. The decline of intellectual analysis and a reasoned approach to serious issues led to poor judgment and actions based on short sighted political or belief-based ideologies whose divisiveness and dysfunction increasingly strained governments and social systems.

The decline in educational standards resulted in a large scale rejection of education itself, and with it, the ability of most people to follow complex lines of reason, which further broke down society’s pool of intelligence needed to cope with ever more complex problems. Within the span of fifty years, the decline in the percentage of people with educations in engineering, technology, and the sciences would have been unimaginable to people before that time.

Information systems degraded and became entertainment oriented. It is a great irony that in an era when the internet provided links to anything a person would want to know, to millions of songs, books, radio stations, and free universities, to the scholarly works and lectures from the most brilliant minds, where portable phones, navigation devices, and atomic watches became ubiquitous, where televisions became portals to hundreds of channels and interactive programs, all in high definition resolutions with high fidelity audio-- that in spite of all, the quality and effectiveness of human discourse diminished. People occupied their minds so much with trivialities; they lost the ability to see their world on its large scale beyond their own interests. They knew little of news, and were only limited and uninformed participants in the democratic electoral process.

While the world had achieved its height of discovery and knowledge, and there were people of great intellect, fewer and fewer people were well educated, or if they were, they were highly specialized, and few had the survival skills to adapt to changing conditions. The world was becoming more stratified intellectually, economically, and culturally. The masses had become mere consumers, entertaining and pleasuring themselves in useless diversions without any sense of purpose, future, or cultural identity. Many more people lived day to day, subsisting hand to mouth, leading to civilizations that eventually met their ends through the attrition of necessary skills and resources of society, leading to corruption, treachery, starvation, disease, and war…

One of the most predictable and debilitating of the world’s calamities was related to energy. Replacing petroleum as the world’s primary source of energy would have required the greatest amount of sacrifice in more ways, with the most physical effort of all the challenges facing mankind. The forces of nature that created pockets of hydrocarbon compounds within the earth was a boon that was a trap, leading us, in our ignorance, to a feast of abundance and expansion that was unsustainable. A substantial portion of the world’s petroleum resources were depleted by the end of the twentieth century.

Moves toward more globally interdependent trade policies in the opening years of the 21st century ushered in the burgeoning growth of lesser developed nations with high populations whose accelerated growth rates and energy use shortened the window of time to act, making it impossible, without extraordinary effort, to make the necessary corrections in time to avoid the faltering, stalling, then collapse of the normal functioning of urban centers.

Complex and interdependent civilizations could not downsize easily; they were based on growth rather than sustainability. Industries that had built up over many years were brought to a sudden halt as energy sources became unreliable, with their costs too high. Currency, interest rates, commodity and labor costs, and energy were all interdependent, not only within any given industry or nation, but globally.

The human animal had become too successful for its own survival. Mankind had climbed to the top level of earth’s living hierarchy, yet, with the same three pound brain of thousands of years ago, had not developed intellectually to a degree needed to think itself out of a foreseeable course of destruction, or to control the powerful natural forces that put its own propagation above all.

Perhaps it would have not been that severe, man is resilient, and is resourceful in solving problems.

But then there were the Storms…

While all of the world’s calamities had all been for many years preceded by clarion calls and well publicized forewarnings, all but the most dour alarmists were not able to imagine the precipitous cascade of events that occurred climactically and environmentally.

Every astronaut knows very well the thin peach fuzz that is the earth’s atmosphere they see on the planet’s surface, and that a mere 12 miles up, what would be a short trip on a highway, one finds oneself in clear, black space. The mass of the world’s atmosphere is but one tee-tiniest fraction of our world’s mass; the tiny fraction in which exists all of life, through all of time.

It is frightening to realize that our world systems are on a knife-edge balance that separates us from the millions of other planets, such as Mars, which we now know had a flourishing ecosystem and oceans, now all gone, leaving a desolate, barren place, where oxygen and other lighter gasses in the atmosphere are mostly gone, where planet wide storms now rage, lasting for years, scouring the land with winds of many hundreds of miles per hour.

In the early 2000’s, the world began to experience record setting weather events. These were all types of events, including hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornados, as well as an increase in downburst, straight line, or wind shear winds that developed power on a tornadic scale. Common factors shared by these events were their increasing size, power, and wind speeds. Some hurricanes were thousands of miles across, and category levels six, seven, and eight were added to the scale. Hundred year floods became ten year, then five year events. The conditions became progressively more severe and unpredictable; with some years relatively quiet, only to resurge with more ferocity in following years.

Runaway thermal effects in the atmosphere created inversions and changes in ocean currents which hastened the melting of ice at the poles. Greenland, whose ice layers had been shown to have begun forming over a hundred and thirty thousand years ago, lost over half of its glaciation in a period of seventy five years. Sea level rise from melting ice, along with land erosion, changed the shape of continents. The water surface area over the planet increased over eight percent, adding more heat-trapping water vapor into the atmosphere, causing more warming of the oceans. Massive storms and wildfires raged, with many parts of the earth regularly experiencing winds of over 200 miles per hour.

Then it reached a second tipping point; the cycle began to suddenly reverse itself. With heavy cloud cover, storms raising dust in the atmosphere, and the heat reflecting off increasingly barren lands, a rapid cooling began to occur, causing long and severe winters for over twenty years. This sudden cooling resulted in heavy snow and freezing for several years down to the subtropical zones.

The shock to plant and animal species was devastating, as they could not adapt to the severe changes. Massive erosion occurred on all continents, with large volumes of the landmass being washed into the sea, causing further rises in sea level. The loss of topsoil prevented plant growth, causing the loss of many plant and animal species, leaving vast areas of desolate lands with sandy dunes, low shrub, and uncontrolled populations of vermin.

Dammit!

“So, this all happened almost a hundred years ago… Good luck. Good damned luck!” Wayne was angry. He yelled every profanity that he knew; “Those stupid, greedy, little small-minded bastards! Those @#&*!…and &*$#@!... They were living in the best damned place in the %$#@ing universe, and they went and crapped it all up! Those rotten…” He went on and on, he used up all his cusswords; he wanted to invent more cursewords… He wanted to smash everything to bits. Every inch of the craft’s interior was lined with delicate instruments and controls. He contorted in his harness, all the muscles in his body pulling against themselves as he poured his anguished passions into a long, deafening, tortured, guttural, crying scream.

Wayne was exhausted; he felt sick as his body was still struggling with recovery. He had an odd, chemical, salty taste in his mouth and knew he had to keep a firm grip on himself as he recovered from a blob of flesh hooked up to a life support system to his return to a functioning human being. He had to survive, get down to earth in one piece, and then what; have the whole place to himself to live out his days surviving on a dead planet?

He poked a straw into another packet marked: ‘recovery ration: for oral consumption’, and slurped its gooey, sweet tasting contents; then he lay back in his chair, with his arm across his face, and dozed off.

He suddenly lurched forward and opened his eyes, dazed, and anxiously looked at the clock, but only 45 minutes had passed. He lay back and let his mind wander as he awakened back to his nightmare.

Wayne faced the reality of Earth looming closer in his window with each passing hour. A critical separation from the reactor module was to occur in about seven hours that would put him into Earth orbit, then he would have two more days to decide to let the ship land automatically, or to steer it to a different spot. His mind wrestled with the facts as he waited nervously.

The time for the separation bolts to blow was now only minutes. He watched the screen count down while carefully listening for things to happen in the ship. It was quiet, he waited. Right as the number changed to zero there was a sharp pop and a bright flash of blue briefly lit the window. All screens and lights went dark. Wayne waited, listened, but everything was silent. A single red indicator light flashing on the power supply panel lit up the words: ‘Auto Shutdown-Static Overcharge’.

The entire electrical system had shut down, so Wayne immediately began the procedure to first test, then restore the ship’s electrical functions. He flipped several switches and watched voltage meters, then switched on several circuit breakers. Through the window, he briefly saw the separated module, lit brightly in hard light, drifting away. Wayne’s capsule began to tumble erratically; he had to get the navigation and steering jet systems working. He began the boot-up procedure for the navigation computer, then waited for the gyros to come up to speed and stabilize. Wayne then ran the programs to calculate the jet firing pattern that would restore the ship to its proper orbit. It took a while to load the celestial maps into memory, and there were long minutes between stages of running the programming. Almost half an hour had passed, and the air was becoming stale, cold, and damp. Wayne was getting dizzy as the capsule began to tumble in complex gyrations, out of control.

The gyros could not stabilize, so Wayne brought up the manual fire screen and programmed a series of jet bursts to steady the ship. The computer responded slowly to his inputs; its screen flickered.

Then the computer crashed. Just a black screen, with a cursor blinking patiently in the upper left corner. Wayne felt a wave of numbness flood through his body, and his psyche floated in a surreal otherworld, as if he was watching himself from outside his body. He was feeling very nauseous as the ship’s wild motions pushed the limits of endurance of his recovering body. He could barely hang on. It took a lot of effort for him to hold himself steady enough to type in the commands. With sick stiffled little breaths through clenched teeth, he entered long strings of code to directly access the microprocessor modules that operated the navigation jet system valves and ignitors. He reviewed the long string of commands on the screen, then pressed enter…

Was this to be Wayne’s destiny, to wake up in his coffin, like the zombies of ancient Haiti? But for Wayne, not to just suddenly wake up in a dark tomb, only the die in the torment of inner darkness. For Wayne, it would be a torture of malaise, then a tumble to a destroyed Earth, blazing into a hell of fire, with his eyes boiling out of his skull, and his dying before reaching his home.

He heard the jet’s sharp hissing sounds, and the tumbling began to slow. He repeated the procedure several times till the ship’s motions had stabilized. He loaded the maps and main programming, and calculated the proper trajectory, then he programmed a rocket burn to put the ship in Earth orbit.

The main engine, as well as the steering jets, made a startling collection of rumbling and hissing noises, then twenty seconds later, stopped. After several minutes, as the navigation panel indicated that he was on a good orbit, he sighed a big feeling of relief. He lay still for a long while as he recovered.

The next day, as the ship’s orbits drew closer to Earth, Wayne peered out from the small viewing port. The earth looked much like he had left it. Swirling cloud patterns, blue oceans, and encouraging green splotches. He looked down with the telescope and tried to see the surface, then realized it was not the same. The northern latitudes appeared to be barren expanses of reddish brown, rippled with windblown dunes, but he was too far to see much detail. He saw lights on the night landscape, but he couldn’t tell if they were lights or only the usual flashes, here and there, of lightning.

He then began to fiddle with the radios, first tuning into the original mission frequencies. Nothing. Then he listened on the ham and AM frequencies mentioned in the messages. Again, nothing. He scanned around on the AM band and heard crackling sounds and some different little sounds, guessing that lightning could generate signals… Then suddenly, a human voice! “Wow! I know that was a human voice!” He carefully turned the dial… a little left, then right... “Find salvation in your lord savior! It is not too late!” then it faded away. Wayne felt giddy excitement at hearing those words. Even a fundamentalist preacher was oh such a welcome sound. He kept listening for a while and still thought he heard voices here and there. Then he wondered, that preacher might be built into someone’s tomb, solar powered, to play for ever and ever. He just didn’t know…

Wayne now had to decide about the landing. He watched the Earth as the orbits got closer. Everything looked fairly green across the south. The backup computer, as well as several other systems, had not functioned properly since the electrical shutdown, but the navigation system seemed to be stable. Wayne decided to let it continue its sequence to land at the Redstone Airfield in Huntsville, then he waited nervously with four hours till the final re-entry burn. He continued to listen to the radio and looked over the rapidly moving surface below. He thought he heard some music and voices here and there. “There-have-GOT- to be some folks down there. I want cornbread, yea, cornbread and black eyed peas for me!”

The seconds ticked down to zero for the burn…” Ah‘ight, here goes nothin’.” The burn was a loud, long roar. He was anxious, sweaty palmed, with teeth clenched. After a while, he began to feel the buffeting turbulence of the atmosphere, then the ship was surrounded by the plasma glow of superheat, with white hot fire and orange sparks casting hellish shadows around him for about four nail biting minutes. Everything, or nothing. Life or death.

Right at flight level two-four-zero, pop go the chutes, followed by the hangman’s snag that told him that he was slowing down for final descent. He waited, waited, braced himself, then heard the powerful retro-braking jets. “Scratch-whoosh pffffffftt-thud-thud” best describes the sound of a hard landing in the bushes. “Whew! Hot damn! I made it!”

river_valley

The Adventure Begins

Captain Wayne C. Norton landed back on earth on June 12, 2153, 125 years after blasting off from Vandenberg Air force Base in California. His space capsule was a white speck in a vast expanse of brush that was the Marshall Space flight center near Huntsville, Alabama.

He opened the hatch against a mess of branches and felt cool fresh air. Compared to his filtered environment, it was rich in all those earthy smells. He breathed and sniffed the air the way a chef would sniff over his creations to sample the flavors. It was the dawn hour, and the air was cool and misty with a chorus of crickets and the other summer bugs. He climbed up on top of the capsule and looked across the vast thicket. In the early morning light, he began to see the surrounding hills, then realized he recognized their shapes around the old Space Center, and by golly, he landed right in the middle of runway two-seven, just like he was supposed to. He thought about where the survival gear was located; there was food and provisions for about a week, a first aid kit, a totally useless GPS unit, personal papers, a portable computer, and his big bowie knife.

He climbed down to the ground and into the brushy thicket that had swallowed the craft. He felt like he weighed a ton as he wobbled on his legs for several minutes. He kicked around the ground, digging his toe into the dirt, a chunk of asphalt turned over. There it was, the runway, the runway of over a hundred years ago.

“Ug, food, woman, beer!” He joked to his self. The moment of humor was brief, however, as he knew that this was a serious situation. Survival; that was the number one word. He didn’t know how scared he should be. There were coyotes running around the base back then, and rattlesnakes. His eyes scanned around, looking, thinking out loud in a voice that was less than a whisper, where the tongue and mouth move to form words, and the vocal chords barely move, leaving only breathy hisses and p sounds, “Dang! They’re all gone. Not a soul around. I just know there have to be some clever human rascals surviving around here somewhere.”

He packed up some gear, gathered the chute, and covered the capsule with branches to conceal it, then set out towards the main buildings to see what he could find. It was some distance across the dense thicket, and, even with the automated exercises, gravity would take some getting used to, leaving him only able to plod along slowly, trying not to get his bushy hair and beard tangled in the prickly brush, resting every few minutes. He found a twisted, gnarly branch to use as a walking stick.

He saw that most of the buildings were gone, or in partial ruins, but could see the hulk of the main control center through the trees in the distance. It was a heavily reinforced building built by the military in the 1950s’ era of Cold War nuclear threats. Wayne thought about the hidden bunkers that were in the basement that were loaded with everything from camp stoves to bazookas.

He began to get nervous. There was no sign of any recent human life. Birds were singing, breezes rustled through the brush. “Got to be folks around, got to be someone somewhere.” He used his big knife to part the branches as he moved quietly through the thickets that grew right up to and up the sides of the massive, gray and green mottled, vine covered concrete building. The doors and windows stood open, or were missing. As he very slowly stepped into the shadowy darkness, he was greeted by the birds’ sudden squawking of annoyed complaint with unseen wing flutters that stirred dust flecks into a lone narrow sunbeam that reached diagonally into the dark recesses of the cavernous room. As Wayne’s eyes adjusted, he could see that the equipment and fixtures were still there, although in disarray, rusted and dust covered almost beyond recognition. He went to the upper floors and looked around and saw dust covered, moldy furnishings, peeling paint, and tangles of vines that had grown within. Then he went up to the roof to look for anything, anywhere out there. He saw a panorama of endless, green rolling hills, and the great Tennessee River that was a wide, bright, sparkling ribbon of light down in the valley. “I’m king, king of America. Hoy hoy!... and it stinks! Where’s the party, a beer! “

He scanned the horizon slowly for any signs of life. No smoke, no lights, no white or bright colors on anything. There was no sign of people anywhere. His gaze drifted to the mottled, mossy, pebbled surface of the roof. He felt sick with an empty loneliness. His eyes were blinking rapidly as they watered. He thought about Allie. “They should‘ve sent her with me, at least I could have had a friend, a family…”

He went back down the echoing stairwell. He turned on his headbeam and walked further into the darkness. He had to see the bunkers to see if they escaped pilfering hands. The rusted door to the stairwell made a lot of noise as he opened it, making him nervous, so he went back outside and looked around the building a few times. After a while, he returned, satisfied that nothing would trap him inside. As he reached the main hall in the basement, things looked a bit tidier, with furniture and stuff stacked around, with less dust, bird droppings and vines in the sealed, dark space. He found a variety of things left in the cabinets and rooms. There were office and cleaning supplies, computers, and tools in a room with piles of broken and surplus office machines and furniture.

The bunker door was at the end of the hall behind a hidden door. Only the military guys knew about the bunker because it had some goodies that you wouldn’t want civilians to get their hands on, so when the center became privatized, the military officers kept it a secret among themselves, and by the time Wayne went up, Harris and Wilkins were the only other people who knew about it.

After moving some desks and junk away from the wall, Wayne felt around the panel as he tried to remember what the trick to the latch was. After he unfastened several bolts, the panel opened with a faint squeak, and he fought off old spider webs as they floated down over his head and face; then he saw the large handles to open the heavy steel door. He pulled a scrap of paper out of his shirt pocket and carefully turned three dials as he squinted to see the corroded etched numbers. He stood back and moved the heavy handles to the open position and pulled hard, and with a grunt, the door swung back and he peered inside.

His headbeam revealed right away a well stocked room, with shelves full of a wide range of supplies. He walked in, then he saw a box on a table with a note next to it that had a pistol in a plastic bag on it as a paper weight. He couldn’t believe it. “Whew! That’s Harris’ titanium Desert Eagle Mark V .50 caliber pistol.” He picked it up and popped the clip, and worked the action, dry firing it a few times. Its crisp clicks and the smooth feel of its sliding parts gave him the confidence that it would shoot well, and as he moved around, drawing and aiming the big gun to get a feel for its balance, it felt a lot lighter than the eight pounds plus that the stainless steel version weighed.

The note offered some words of best wishes and described the “freaking ice age, storms, and wildfires everywhere and collapse of the government in ’79.” It said they were moving as a group on the treacherous 800 mile trek to the Kennedy Space Center in southern Florida. Then Wayne remembered, as he orbited the earth, Florida was gone.

Inside the box were more sealed bags with the papers from Wayne’s office and lots of faded photos of the old crew. There was a model of the landing capsule and, in its wooden case, Wayne’s old harmonica. “My old life will always haunt me“, he thought, “what have I done, what have I done?”

He looked around further into the bunker. He found a lifetime supply of C-rations. There were large crates that contained a field hospital, medicines, and supplies. Things were all sealed up for long term storage, and indeed, the dried, vacuum sealed food was still good, well, as he snacked, as good as C-rations can be. In the armory, there were lots and lots of guns and ammo. M16’s, M240’s, anti-tank rockets, mmm! He was starting to get that warm and fuzzy comfortable feeling. From one of the shelves, he pulled a box from the middle of a stack of unopened, plastic-sealed, 9MM M9 military issue handguns. As he opened the box, and blew off the little packing-foam bits that static-clung to the pistol and its two 15 round clips, he remembered the debate as the military switched its standard issue to the 9MM from the .45 ACP. Most guys agreed that the .45 had more stopping power, and would usually kill, even without hitting vital organs, but the 9MM was a lot more accurate after the first shot with less recoil from its gas powered loader and the more advanced engineering of its receiver. He grabbed a few boxes of 9MM hollow point rounds as he went further down the hall. “Geez! A hundred year old Hummer, man, well, not much good with no roads, just an antique collectible.“ Further down was the Special Ops stuff. “Mmm! More fun toys for the ultimate adventure vacation!” There were Zodiacs, kayaks, dirt bikes, and most interesting, several unassembled ultralight aircraft in plastic crates. ” Flying machines! Now we have something.“

He was worried and went back outside and looked around again; the sun was well up above the hills, but everything was still eerie quiet. He came back down to the bunker and closed the doors behind him because he knew he would be clunking around in there a while, which he did as he looked through and checked the usability of tools, rations, weapons, and all the other supplies.

Wayne planned to stay near the building for the day, then go down to the river the following day. He went back upstairs to set up where he could get a good view. The director’s office up on the third floor looked good. It was on the corner with windows looking out to the east and north, so he stashed some food and gear in a closet and put two desks together for a bed. The rest of the day, he looked around the base for signs of life. He saw a deer, a rabbit, and lots of various junk; survival was looking better all the time. He went back to the capsule and grabbed the computer, radios, a solar charger, and clothing.

It was nearing the end of the day. He went up to the roof and washed up using water that had pooled in low places on the expanses of flat cement. He cut off foot-long locks of his wavy red hair and beard with his bowie knife before using a straight razor and scissors to shave his beard and trim his hair to a reasonably civilized haircut.

Wayne could only manage to plod around slowly, fighting gravity, with long rests in between. He was exhausted by late afternoon, went back to the upstairs room to lie down, and was soundly asleep long before dark.

Wayne was awakened out of delirious sleep in a panic, startled by shrieking yelping sounds, a chorus of barking growls echoed all around through the windowless openings. He jumped behind the desk holding the 9MM out in front of him in aiming position as he swept his gaze across the window openings and the room’s closed door. His first thought was of a hungry bear, which he knew could easily scramble up the side of the vine covered building.

Now awake, he realized that it was a pack of coyotes, that awful sound, four or five of them closing in on a kill, perhaps some unfortunate raccoon or ‘possum. It was strangely comforting, however, more like home all the time. He felt safer now, with all that commotion; it should have scared away every other scary thing, but he knew there had to be people, someone, somewhere around. He thought anxiously about who he would meet, and under what circumstances. Eventually he went back to sleep.

In the early morning, eating yet another dry energy bar, he thought about the fracas he had heard in the night, maybe tonight he could bring back something to cook, to barbeque. “Got to have some ‘cue. I have to give myself a welcome home party!” He was anxious to explore and see what he could find but would need several more days to get used to gravity before being able to explore any distance, and would be limited by the overgrown brush and lack of usable roads. He really wanted to see what Huntsville looked like, but it was too far to walk. He decided to spend the day working on survival strategies and getting one of the aircraft ready to fly.

He went back down in the bunker to the aircraft. He opened the sealed packages; the polymer fabric wing and fuselage panels looked pristine, and indeed boat sails made of the stuff will last fifty years out in the salt and weather. Now, the rest of it. The aircraft’s four cylinder engine was partially disassembled with parts sealed in oil filled polycarbonate containers.

As well as flying F15’s, Wayne had about 30 hours of training on light aircraft where he learned to do field maintenance on piston engines. He laid everything out on the workbench and wound up several hand crank flashlights, aiming them at the table. The air cooled, overhead valve engine had horizontally opposed cylinders, with a split crank case that bolted down the middle around the main bearings and to a gearbox that powered a supercharger and provided reduction drive to the propeller shaft. All he had to do was bolt together the two halves of the crankcase, pop in the seals, bolt on the manifolds, carburetors and supercharger turbine unit, then mount the gearbox and bolt on the propeller. The flight frame had side-retractable large, all-terrain wheels, an extra capacity fuel tank and a storage rack slung below the fuselage big enough to bring back a twelve point buck.

On shelves along the wall were dozens of sealed fuel tanks, some of them were ethanol, which reminded him of the time when his flight instructor, who was a real Alabama country boy, brought a couple of gallons of moonshine in unmarked jugs, passed it around for the crew to all to have a sip, then took a few big swallows himself, poured the stuff in the fuel tank, and went for a barnstorming flight around the base, through an open hangar, buzzing the control tower, and winding himself in a whole lot of trouble with the base commander.

After several hours, Wayne had everything ready to go with one of the aircraft, so that when he was ready, he could drag the parts out, and assemble it up on the roof, whose long, flat concrete surface might be an acceptable runway.

For the next three days, he looked around the base through what remained to see what he could find. There was very little left in one piece, the big radio towers were down, twisted, mangled, rusted, lying over the crumbling buildings, launch pads and rusted equipment. The observation bunkers still had working doors with untouched, but dust covered interiors. Their thick green glass launch observation windows were covered with silt, leaf litter and brush.

On the third day Wayne walked out toward the highway and the main entrance to the center. He refused to believe that there were no people around, and had convinced himself that it was just the base that had been closed, and that there was a busy world out there.

The gates were open at the main entrance to the base and the cement sign had only a few of the stainless steel letters left. He pushed his way through the brush and walked along the edges of the road, as the roadways themselves were even more difficult to travel with cactus and low growing, dense thorny brush and vines growing through the cracks and upheaved chunks of road bed. After a while, he came to some metal parts and panels. As he wiped the dirt and leaves off, he realized that it was a corroded aluminum sign attached to green metal posts bent over in the brush next to what used to be a road. After several minutes of trying to read the corroded panel, he realized that it read: Interstate Hwy 565 East, Huntsville 5 Miles. His body posture sank in dismay as he sighed thoughtfully, disappointedly. “Dang! It’s all gone…“

The next day, a misty sunrise in peach tones rose over Wayne’s fort. A well stocked castle in a lonely land. He knew that he had to explore further out. His thoughts of getting up in one of the paraplanes became tempered with the practical realities, such as having minimize risk as well as having to clear enough of a runway to take off and land on because he realized these heavier ultralight needed more runway than the general aviation versions, and the parts were too big to get up the narrow stairway leading to the roof.

Those special ops guys had some nice stuff, he thought, as he opened a new green and khaki camouflage uniform with all its pockets and clips to mount gear on. He loaded a backpack with food and gear, and slipped the 9MM pistol into the holster built into the tactical suit, then strapped the Mark V with its holster extender slung low inside a large cargo pocket on his thigh, just above the knee.

He scanned the horizon with his spotting scope from the rooftop one last time to look for anything before setting out on a three day reconnoiter of the area. “I know there must be some folks survivin’ out here somewhere,” he said under his breath as he walked into the brush.

Wayne found deer trails and got to the river in about an hour. Before him lay the great Tennessee River. He just stood there in peaceful wonder as it quietly flowed. The river was over a mile across, and in its waters he saw the swirling, glistening patterns in which the reflections of the green trees and the blue sky danced in little twirls of sparkling mixed colors interrupted only by fish, every moment or so, jumping out of the water to catch insects.

This great giver of life, the great Tennessee Valley that meanders through these ancient Appalachian hills; this cradle of green and abundant life— this American Mesopotamia.

He continued along the riverbank northward towards where the I-65 bridge should be. Then he saw it, rusted, with bent beams dangling, a twisted steel skeleton framework with many pieces missing. The road surface was gone, leaving only the widely spaced steel beams.

After a while, Wayne realized that he could only explore so much in a day, the distances were great, and the travel slow, he realized that he would have to prepare a runway up at the base, or bring a boat down to the river to do more extensive exploration.

As Wayne walked along, he suddenly heard a bustling commotion in the brush. He stopped, listened a moment, then heard grunting and squealing. As he started trotting towards it, his heartbeat quickened as he parted through the growth with a machete in one hand, and the fifty caliber handcannon in the other, with eyes darting back and forth trying to see something. Then he saw some movement through the brush and slowed, walking in a crouch. Suddenly a wild hog burst out of the brush, tearing up the ground charging right at him. Wayne barely had time to aim, and with the hog less than 20 feet away, he pulled the trigger. CRACK-BANG! “Good-gosh-almighty! I forgot how loud that .50 cal is without hearing protectors!“ The shot echoed for four or five seconds back and forth in the valley. The beast lay dead at Wayne’s feet. Dinner!

Wayne decided to make camp there. He got a fire going and set up a spit roast with rocks and branches, then set about dressing the hog. He was glad he got a clean head shot, and that the digestive track had not been punctured and polluted with blood and fluids. As he gutted the hog, he carefully tied off the esophagus to avoid getting any blood or body fluids on the meat. He cut out the tenderloins to cook separately. He had a small amount of salt with him, so he decided he would use it on thin tenderloin fillets to smoke and dry into a few pounds of ham jerky that would keep for several weeks. For the next four hours, he carefully cooked the meat, turning it regularly to keep the fat from flaring into large flames. He managed the fire to keep an even bed of hot coals under the length of the sizzling wild hog.

The sunsetting colors over the great river lent a peaceful beauty over the landscape as he enjoyed the smoky flavor of a tasty meal even if the uncured wild meat was a bit sinewy and tough.

Afterwards, in the dim dusk, he walked further down the bank, away from the remains of the meal, bringing only the parts he had wrapped up to take with him. He found some rocks in the bluff over the river bank to climb up on and tuck himself in between for a sheltered sleeping place to spend the night. He gathered a pad of leaf litter, and laid out a tarp that he folded over himself for the night. He slept lightly, nervously, bodily exhausted as he still struggled with fatigue. Warm and cool breezes mixed off the waters, he could smell the earth, trees, and water as he rested. The whippoorwills whistled their lonesome, patiently repeated nightcalls.

People

Finding People

Wayne woke in the early gray dawn. He sat looking out over the morning mist on the river, but the beauty served only as a backdrop to highlight Wayne’s angst. Was he the only man on Earth? He scanned the water for boats, looked along the shore for trash; for any clue. He thought he had seen some movement the day before, far away on the river, but he didn’t want to waste time trying to track down false clues; if folks are around, he would find them sooner or later. He planned to stay there till late that day while watching the river and looking around for signs, then go back to base, resupply, then go in the other direction toward Huntsville. Then he thought about the kits for the mounting of the floats on the ultralight aircraft for use in amphibious operations. Wayne realized that he had to get airborne. He had limited resources, and simply had to have a way of travelling more than a few miles from base. Even the dirt bikes down in the bunker would be little use in a land that had become a dense brushy wilderness.

Voices… Wayne’s head suddenly whipped around wildly, wide-eyed, looking around, up, scanning. Then he saw movement, barely visible in the brush about a hundred yards down the riverbank.

Three men were looking at him and talking to each other as they crouched behind rocks. He saw a gun barrel. Wayne unsnapped his holster flap with his thumb and drew the 9MM, keeping that motion and gun out of their view as he crouched behind the curve of the sandy bluff. Then, as he carefully looked back at the spot a few moments later, the men were gone. Soon he heard noises in the brush closer to him.

“Stannup, stannup let see ya man!” a voice commanded, just out of view. Wayne looked that way, moving his head sideways to see into the growth.

Then there was another voice, closer, clearer. “Na-na. Droppa gun an-a hands up. Hands up!” Wayne turned around to see a gun barrel pointed at him from behind a stump.

Wayne stood up slowly while letting his pistol fall into the sand, then he held his hands up level with his shoulders. Three men stepped out into view, and walked cautiously toward him with one man sighting a shotgun at him, taking only quick glances at the ground as he walked. One was older, grey bearded, and the other two were late teen and mid twenties.

They wore the simple clothing of an undeveloped country, and carried cloth sacks and machetes. The other man, behind him, remained behind the stump with Wayne only able to see a shadowed form and the end of a hunting rifle, probably a 30-06.

Wayne stood up straight and said forthrightly, smiling, “Hi fellas, I’m Wayne Norton from the Marshall Space Center, I just got back. What’s goin’ on around ol’ Huntsville these days?”

Wayne had a smoothly spoken southern drawl, the kind of voice that could walk into a roomful of strangers and make them feel like they were all old friends. His humor was modestly self effacing with understated irony. He had a face that carried itself confidently with sincere eyes and an interested smile.

They came closer to him, looking carefully around to see if he was alone, and curiously at his uniform and the things in his camp. “You from Textan?” One asked.

“Na, not Texas. Alabama. Right here around Huntsville, right around this great ol’ Tennessee River.” Wayne replied, panning his hand across the waters...

“What? Hunts…Tenn, hmm what?” the man tilted his head questioningly... “So what you doin’ here, you talk like old world… And them hide in the woods clothes…” Then he furrowed his brow and looked increasingly wary as he saw the Mark V, in its huge holster, bulging from Wayne’s side pocket.

The older man glanced at the man holding the shotgun, its blued finish decorated with patches of corrosion. “You a Textan man, those shiny stuff, hmm, you lost, aint’ ya?” His eyes looked worriedly at the big, gold-gleaming Mark V. “Take off the suit. Slow-take it off!” Wayne paused to think, to try to delay a moment, then the younger man raised the shotgun to Wayne’s head.

“We’ll trade him for Paul,” one of the others said. There was a long and tense moment as they began to surround and move slowly closer.

” Off, off the tex suit.” The other young man reached toward Wayne’s throat with a knife in hand. Wayne’s eyes darted about desperately, the shotgun was aimed at him, three feet away.

“Ok ok!” Wayne began to pull off the one-piece tactical suit.

Wayne couldn’t believe that they captured him. They gave him the tarp to wrap around himself, gathered up his other belongings, and led him several hundred yards down the riverbank to where two boats were pulled up on a sandy wash.

The ancient, battered flat bottomed boats had short masts with lateen rigged sails. Winds were light, and they used long, flexible sculling oars to propel the boats in the wide, slow moving river. Wayne saw that these were innocent people, as they joked and chatted light heartedly, and, as they realized that he was not a member of Textan, they seemed more curious about, rather than scared of him. Wayne knew that he had much to offer to help them, not the least of which was the tasty hog barbecue and jerky, which became the topic of lively discussion as Wayne told them of how he nearly got charged down by the beast, how he shot it, and how he prepared the fire and cooked it.

They sailed for several hours, stopping at a long sand bar to gather clams, till they reached a barely visible, scattered settlement. People walked up and there was a lot of curious chatter. The men who caught Wayne told of their adventure, showed off the pistols and repeated some of the things Wayne had told them. “Get Jerry, get Jerry” one said. They gathered around and looked through Wayne’s things. “Yea, bring him up to the hall.”

Wayne was brought up to a large, partly collapsed building and led to a large room. Around 30 people were there as they sat around several tables. They gave back Wayne’s suit minus most of its tricks and trinkets. They brought in platters with round flatbreads, fruits, and wine as they made friendly conversation with Wayne and asked about a certain Textan place that was apparently some days travel north. Wayne began to realize that this other more technologically advanced town or place downriver was a real bother to these folks, and had taken slaves and raided their farm and livestock fields.

They soon realized that Wayne was from a different world, and Wayne wrestled in his mind how he was going to explain how different a world he was from. He named landmarks like the Space Center and towns in the area, but they had only vague knowledge of them, and were fascinated as Wayne kept making innocent references; the figures of speech, slang, and the brand names of over a hundred years ago.

Ol’Man Jerry was a tall, grey bearded man with deeply set dark eyes. He walked into the room with a curious gaze fixed on Wayne and sat down across the table. “So you’re not a T-thug, nothing to do with that, you traveled from somewhere else, ay?”

“I am Captain Wayne C. Norton with the United States Air Force. I work, or I used to work with the Marshall Space Center. I grew up in Birmingham, but my parents were originally from down in Montgomery.” Wayne then unzipped a compartment in his pack and pulled out a map. He had not used it, and the new paper unfolded cracklingly, then he pointed to a place along the serpentine river where they were, and to the now overgrown highways and the rusted bridge, then pointed at the cities he had named. Then, motioning eastward with his hand, he said, “And Huntsville up there, good ol’ Huntsville, are there a lot of folks living there now?”

Wayne looked up to see the twisted grimace of puzzlement in Jerry’s face. Jerry then pointed to the map, and followed his finger along the words on its front panel: Alabama Tourism, 2026-2027 Season.

Wayne’s face froze, his mouth slightly open as he began to speak, but no words came. After an awkward pause, Wayne said, “I am going to have to try to tell you something that might be a bit hard to believe. I… Yes I am from here, I grew up around here, but I’ve been away for a long time… A very long time… Let’s see… Do you have any old books, newspapers, or magazines from the early 2000’s?”

Jerry motioned to two of the others, then waved dismissively across the other twenty or so people as he stood up. His face was pale, serious, worried. He briefly flashed a tight-lipped smile at Wayne as he sighed and motioned to him and the other two with a softly spoken “C’mon, let’s go up the hill.”

After a fifteen minute walk, they arrived at the ruins of an industrial complex. They picked their way through the crumbled, twisted, and overgrown remains toward the interior. There were places within the wreckage that had well tended gardens, and there were dwelling places tucked around the various buildings and remains; one was inside a large storage tank, another was a city bus that had a roof garden with its fruit vines and vegetables draping down over it. Barely legible above the front windshield read: City of Huntsville. Each home proudly displayed carved wooden signs, flourishes of artfully arranged junque or other talisman. There were trellises, flower planters, and vines growing around their entrances.

Within the complex, there was a massive, thick walled, low concrete building. Dirt and junk was piled high against it, all overgrown with thick brush, making the building barely visible, and giving it the appearance of being merely an elevated slab or platform. They walked through a tunnel of brush and junk to a three foot square hole that went through several feet of concrete into a dark interior. Jerry led the way through the darkness, walking with unhesitant familiarity to an unseen door. It opened to a hallway that was lit by small sky lights. Along the long hall were doors, some opened to medium sized rooms that had high, clerestory, slatted windows that lit the rooms’ light colored painted cement walls with bright geometric sun projected patterns. In one room there were two women, and children were playing.

Jerry stopped at one of the doors and opened it to reveal a lavishly furnished library with the warmth of thousands of books and nicely crafted, heavy tables and chairs. Jerry motioned with a slight bow as he pointed his upturned palm, graciously ushering, with a little flourish of humor, for Wayne and the three others to come inside.

Wayne, Frankrobert, and Gordie sat at one of the tables. A young, fair complected woman with long blonde hair walked in briefly to talk to Jerry and Gordon, then walked out as she glanced across the others. Jerry, crouched down, looked among the shelves, and brought a wooden box of assorted papers to the table. “Yea, let’s see,” he muttered to himself, then pulled out a pack of papers that were colorful, but faded brochures about the area.

Wayne leaned forward, and as he recognized things, pointed out things he knew: The big mall in Huntsville, the amusement park. Then there was a folder with space related material. Wayne thumbed carefully but anxiously through various brochures and other publications. He looked through a stack of magazines titled, Space Flight Today, then stopped at one of the issues, took a slow, deep breath, as he looked at them furtively, then laid it in front of him; he had both hands covering the images below the title. Wayne sat frozen for several moments, then asked Jerry, “You remember what I said my name was?”

“Well yea, Captain Wayne, um Wayne um, Nor.. Yea Norton, Wayne Norton, right?” Wayne moved his hand from over the magazine’s cover, and slowly slid it toward Jerry. They all leaned in toward it to look. A moment later Wayne had staring at him three big O mouths with eyes that had all of their whites showing.

It read: Captain Wayne Norton to Travel on 125 Year Mission to Our Future, see page 12. Wayne’s grinning face was pictured below, and Wayne wore that same grin now as he proudly swept his gaze across their looks of incredulity.

It was a long, odd moment, then their looks became a bit blank as they thought to themselves trying to understand what they were seeing. Wayne’s look became more serious as Jerry turned to the article on page twelve. There was a group photo, Jerry read the several names and titles, ending with “ …and mission specialist Allie Henderson” as he pointed to a young, slender woman with long, red hair. Jerry looked up to see Wayne’s face struggling with his own feelings of seeing those images; his eyes were blinking rapidly, watering, his lips were quivering. Wayne struggled to keep a stoic composure, then he grasped his hair with his fore arms covering his face, then he turned to the side as his awry, pain distorted, twisting face fell into his hands, sobbing softly, with his shoulders jerking up in jaunty fits. The others were shaken, ashen faced as the reality set upon them. They looked down, thinking, wondering. Jerry cradled his arm over Wayne’s shoulders and said sadly, softly, “These were your friends… And her, you love her… They’re gone, gone a long, long time now.” Jerry ending his statement in a tone of fatherly consolation… The young woman that had entered the room earlier was standing outside the doorway, observing the scene, just visible in the shadowed hallway.

“But hey! You got a big rocket!” Jerry asked as he pointed to the giant Tempus Fugit VII rocket pictured in the article “Can you fly it around?”

“Na na, ha, I parachuted down in a tiny tin can. I’m not going anywhere.”

Wayne and his newly found companions had many questions for each other, and there were many practical issues to deal with: Wayne’s place in a new world, the survival of this little community, and the constant threat of invasion by this Textan thing.

Wayne realized that he had returned to a world half destroyed. What happened to the world in those 125 years? More specifically, what happened after he lost all contact in 2079, and what happened to Captain Donny Lambert and the Tempus Fugit V ?

Textan

“You see, we had our Town down the river, and for many years since people started coming back north, we had it going well, nice farms, a school, this library we saved, we even started to have some electricity things, like lights and water pump for irrigation and we had motor boats too. And, oh, since we’re on the subject…” Jerry slid Wayne’s .45, and then the Mark V in its holster back to him across the table. “Oooo, and that’s a nice one too…So about six years ago there was a big invasion, see, and they took a lot of the children and young people to this place about two days down river. They had other people too, from the Caribbean Sea. But this Textan is some thing or man from the future, no one is sure what he looks like, they say he is a, um, uh, well agh, like some blob of… Kinda like this egg pod, ha, but big, bigger than a man. His place is this white fort on a hill with laser beams all around it. He has a bunch of super high tex future stuff, like invisible control beams that can kill you a mile away. He has a bunch of goons, T-thugs we call ‘em, that make the people work and go out looking for people to get. Their army is getting bigger and bigger, and they have these powerful laser and sonic guns. All their stuff, like their boats and uniforms, is always white or silver shiny. They got over a hundred of our people, and they keep coming back and stealing stuff, and taking our crops. So, you see, it’s been horrible, and we live hidden and scattered to hide from them. They are planning to spread outposts outward to control more land and people… Hey get Jesse, he escaped recently— ” Jerry motioned to Gordon.

Wayne’s look showed worry. From the future, looks like an egg, advanced weapons; he mulled, puzzled, then began to think strategically. Jesse walked in after a short while. He was in his 30’s, and had a wiry build with weathered features. He sat down and began to describe his life as a captive of Textan. “Yea, they teach you to do a job, and you have to do it or they beat you up or shock you. They don’t let you read or learn anything else, and they make people into families to have children. I escaped in a big storm, when a tree fell on our sleep building and broke the wall.”

Then Wayne asked, “So who is this Textan guy.”

“Well, that’s what we called him because of all the tek kind of stuff. He calls himself Tezan. I never saw him, and there were only vague glimpses by some of the servants. We joked about him being an eggman. But he had this thing they would read us every night on radio speakers. It was called the New Scripture, and they showed us pictures of horrible things like the world getting blown up or on fire, and piles of bodies. They said we must devote our lives to God or we will be among the burned dead, and that if we believed in him, and dedicated our lives to him, and as long as we stayed in his world, we would always have a good life. But things were bad, they hurt us and made us work very hard, and I thought I would rather be free. I don’t know, mmm,” he looked down and shifted about nervously, then continued, “well, you know, when I saw the sun rise, and heard the birds sing, and I saw flowers, and I remember how the elders said what a bad time the Worl’ had, and when they got here there was nothing hardly. I know one thing for sure. This is a good world, we had our hell already, and I feel that now is s’posed to be the beginning of a wonderful new world. I could never accept Tezan’s world.”

As Wayne asked questions, he tried to get as many details as possible. Their guns and lasers were real, as Jesse said people and animals had been shot or had limbs maimed or severed. But something about the whole thing reeked of a sinister human, rather than supernatural doing.

There were misty showers by the time evening came and they sat down to eat. Women and boys brought out bread and wildberry wine. Most of the people wore robes of a coarse fabric, or of salvaged material or leather, or loose pants with a long, buttonless shirt tied around the waist with a sash that had leather pouches attached. Many of them carried pouches under their garments, hanging from their necks on thongs. They all carried one or more knives either visible, or under their garments. Women wore one piece robes tied around the waist, and often carried large cloth bags. Some of the women wore more tailored dresses that had their fabrics creatively sewn into folds and ruffles and had hand painted floral patterns. Footwear was made from animal hides into moccasins or higher lace-up boots covering the calf, tied at the top, just below the knee.

They ate, drank and chatted excitedly with an insatiable curiosity about Ol’Worl', as they called it, and delighted in Wayne’s telling about how things were so long ago. Skewers of meat and vegetables were brought in, along with Wayne’s ham jerky, and Wayne began to feel less alone. They enjoyed a hearty meal and lively conversation; he had found friends, but he knew that they would need him to fight this enemy. The sounds of the others became muddy and distant as realities sunk in and Wayne began to think about strategy. Wayne knew that he had his stash of weapons, and that he would have to lead these people into battle, a battle with a yet unknown enemy, an enemy with un-estimated powers…

Later, the others left. Wayne and Jerry remained after the meal. Jerry told of their rule of scattering after a gathering like their foregoing festivities and that Jerry would go to any number of secret hideouts that he and his family kept.

“So, what happened after I went into space, what happened after 2079, how many people do you think there are in the world?” asked Wayne.

“Ah, mmm, gash, ha. Well there’s not a lot of people left, I tell you. But Hawk, he’s a Cherokee, went north and west quite far a few years ago and he found other people that survived. He said there was talk about people way out west, near the ocean. They called it, hmm, what’s it, mmm, ah Forna, yea place they called in Ol’Worl’ Fornia it is.”

“California?” Wayne asked.

“Yea!” Jerry went on, “And there’s villages and people way south across the sea, and I heard across the other big sea too. But it’s not like Ol’Worl’, y’know with the shiny cities, cars, airplanes an’ stuff. That stuff, It all gone.”

Then Jerry turned his gaze away slightly. The old fellow scratched his gray beard as he looked to an infinity as he thought for a long moment. There was a sudden change of mood. Wayne felt a heavy sadness in the room. Then jerry, in a voice that was spoken too low to not crackle or rasp in the old man’s throat said, “look Wayne, you asked before about…those years.” He walked slowly to the rear of the room and moved some stacks of things from the top of a large trunk, then opened the trunk and grunted as he pulled up a large leather satchel. Jerry brought it to the table, gathered his things, slung a cloak over his shoulders then motioned for Wayne to gather his things then led him out of the building, closing a steel door over the small exit and covering it with brush and junk. The others had all gone.

Jerry led Wayne through a thicket to a hidden cottage with a small flower garden and went inside. He lay the leather case down softly on the table. “We don’t have very much from that time, we don’t really know how things came to their end, and it is not much spoken of. You have leaped over the chasm that is the crack between two worlds. You know things that we do not know, and here, in this case are things from between our worlds. Our world was almost lost, so you must look, see, and help us, tell us, so what happened cannot be again.”

After he left, and the sound of his steps were gone, leaving only the sounds of hushed breezes and gently rustling leaves in the waning light of that drizzly day, Wayne’s eyes looked downward at the satchel. On its cover, scrawled in blood, it read: The Apocalypse…

Nebula

Pain, Torture and Renewal

Wayne didn’t have the courage to open that book. He knew what would happen to him. He knew that inside, from the various things he had already seen, what he would read of. As the hours became late, and darkness fell, he lit a candle, and in the feeling that the dim light may shield him from the hard glare of truth, he opened the big case’s cover.

It was filled with old and brittle pages written in different handwritings. There were newspaper articles, drawings and maps. He read here and there at first, scanned over some letters and notes that were written by different people. Then certain things seemed to jump out here and there; a word, phrase, fragments of description. He kept seeing these on so many pages. He tried to find pages that didn’t have those words. He didn’t want to know, but curiosity was burning his eyes as he found himself forced to read sentences, then paragraphs as he was pulled into their stories. There were love letters, final goodbyes, news that seemed too horrible for even fiction, long lists of names, pictures too horrible, destruction, cruelty, debauchery, and mass murder unimaginable, and the religions all turned to the devil. The words death, murder, rape, corpses. Over and over. The stench of death still seemed to waft from the pages. His body sank lower, stabs of pain and nausea thrust up through his being, he struggled, like the wretched, burning alive, crucified, to bear the licking of pain’s flames on a tortured psyche.

“Oh, oh my god, I can bear no more. What desperate prayer can I say? There are certain thresholds of mordanture below which any decent person could never be. There is basic human dignity. These are things that poison souls. Only from the most putrid depths of the Devil’s bowels could such things come. Our world was abandoned into the Devil’s clutches, and I have hurtled across time’s divide, and escaped the Apocalypse.”

He stepped out in the garden, and in the rainy darkness, retched, retched till the blood of his innards was on his lips. He went inside, and in a dark and cold corner, curled himself up in a dirty, wet blanket, determined that he would never look at the day’s light, nor ever look into the eyes of, or speak to another person again.

Throughout this stormy night, the shadowy monsters came, one by one, hour by hour, Wayne’s mind was a torture chamber as he could not escape the things he saw and read. Tormented by the word: Why? Why did it happen, how could humanity inflict this upon itself? He was chained to the torture post and whipped mercilessly by: Why?

Why did man abandon all reason after achieving so much. For nations to weaken themselves, to sell their soul for short term gains at the expense of stability, allowing business, military, and religious tyrants to rule the world.

Why did man fight to the death over dwindling resources, even as they knew there was little left to fight over, stubbornly clinging to their pride and refusing to find new ways.

Why did man refuse to act, even well after it was known to all, that the Earth’s systems of climate and ecology were collapsing, with animal and plant species being extinguished at an unimaginable rate.

Most unforgiveable of all is why did man make his own final days, as the breakdown led finally into the descent to a Devil’s bloodbath, with every man for himself, with a humanity turned onto itself, where mass murder, treachery, and rape was systematic, and only passed the time waiting for their angry, starving, frozen, diseased, or burning deaths.

The whipping went on through the rainy night with every thought. Wayne blamed himself. He thought of horrible tortures to his body. He knew. It was known. There were those who warned us. It did not have to be. Wayne would be comforted if he were the sacrificial lamb at the altar, burning on a pyre, with a sword run through his innards.

The Morning’s Light

The door opened quietly, then there was silence for a long time, there was the softness of a woman in the room, the smell of sweet flowers.

“Even as my soul carries itself lightly, like the butterfly upon the flowers” , she said ever so softly as her arm slowly cradled Wayne’s shoulders, “you now are with me, in our family, we are the world’s only family, the family of the Apocalypse.”

As Wayne peeked out from his corner, with the sun shining brightly, the birds in song; this fair and delicate beauty, with a face of porcelain innocence, blue bright eyes full of life, and flowing locks of golden hair. “I am Eva.” She said.

On the table was a vase of wildflowers. The satchel was gone…

It was hard for him to look into her eyes, he felt the shame of a mass murderer in the sense that he knew of the word’s course, and that with the deepwell of God’s power that exists in every human, that this power, even if it’s giver’s life is consumed, could have effected the change that would have steered the world ship from the reefs of destruction. But it may have been out of human hands, and only in the grip of firm and knowing providence. We can never know…

He saw in her eyes looks of understanding that reached far deeper than his own, and a hand reaching out to bring him into their world, to sever the Devil’s shackles from his feet.

Into A New World

Wayne walked out into a new world. With every working toil, bread broken at meals, in every gaze, the kinship of close brethren was peaceful joy, a final and beautiful answer to all the torment, war, religious struggle of so many millennia of man’s tortured existence. From a scientific space mission, he saw now that this was an exploration and endeavor of the grandest proportions. “Have I traveled to the end of man, beyond the Apocalypse, to the end of Christendom? “

Then he thought about Textan, and the stories of his cruelties. Wayne’s mind scanned the array of weapons in the bunker at the base. He said resolutely. “Never again!”

Wayne met with the others the next afternoon and they planned a trip back to the Marshall Space Center when the rains stopped, perhaps in two days. Powerful storms were a normal part of life, and caused the anxiety of not knowing what amount of destruction would be put upon the ravaged land. Several times that summer saw tornados rake farm fields or sweep up torrents of river water onto the surrounding valley.

Wayne worked with Frankrobert on some old, very old, computers in the big building. Frankrobert had learned how to reclaim old lead acid car batteries to provide limited lighting in the building, and they were able to get one of the computers working. It was more modern than the ones Wayne used before he left, it had no moving parts like drives or fans, and had useful educational software and information on things such as medicinal plants. Wayne started the internet browser with a blind hope, but a box appeared that said ‘Server not found’. Frankrobert and several others watched with interest and amazement at Wayne’s familiarity with the computer and the software, music and videos that were stored in its memory, and as Wayne skillfully picked off bad guys in an old west shoot-em-up game.

Desert_Eagle

The Raid

Several days later, Wayne was startled from his sleep with the sounds of frantic voices, gunshots and engines. Wayne felt pangs of anxiety as he scrambled to his feet and ran down toward the riverbank with the Mark V hastily tucked behind his belt buckle, pressed against his bare stomach, and his 9MM in hand. From the bluff, through the scrubby brush, he saw three boats pulled up to the shore with men pouring out, fanning up into the settlement and toward the crop and livestock fields. There were men wearing white armored suits and dark visored helmets directing at gunpoint plain dressed workers who carried large sacks to dig up crops and grab sheep and goats. Other armed men ran in search of people as the settlers ran away in every direction or found their pre-chosen hiding places.

Wayne met Gordon, who had a shotgun, as he ran down the trail toward the action. They ran down along the top of the bluff, and as they got closer, they crouched in the brush and looked over the scene. They saw below, a group of the armed men marching several of the villagers toward the boats. Wayne told Gordon to shoot in front of the group of mixed guards and settlers to slow their progress toward the boats while Wayne tried to pick off the guards. Then Wayne decided that he would try to catch the boats on fire by shooting at the fuel tanks. They opened up with a barrage of gun fire that echoed throughout the valley. The armed men below looked around wildly, not knowing where the shooting was coming from since the muzzle flashes were hidden by the bushes. One thug dropped, another limped toward one of the boats. Settlers were running everywhere and diving into the brush.

Then BOOM, a big fireball and black cloud rose over the center boat. Flame was spreading out on the water. There was confusion as the thugs waved their guns wildly and began to drag several of the villagers, using them as shields as they went toward one of the boats that was further away from the flames. The flames of the burning boat blew across the one next to it, beginning to catch it on fire too.

Meanwhile, some of the other villagers, seeing that the thugs were retreating, came out with shotguns and machetes and ran down from the hill and along the top of the bluff, driving the thugs down and separating them from their slave workers in the farm fields. The villagers chased the thugs toward the shore, peppering their limping rears with shot. The unarmed slaves began to flee in every direction and hide in the bush.

As one of the thugs ran down the hill out of the settlement, he stopped and hid behind a low wall to reload shells in his gun clip. Argus, a short, strong, stocky, balded man, saw him and snuck out of a nearby building while the thug was looking down at his pistol and reaching for shells in his pocket. Argus kept low as he ran quietly up behind him, and when he was about 20 feet away, sprinted, grabbing the thug’s arm as it was reaching for a knife and punched the white-uniformed thug just below the ribs on his right side. The thug then swung around with his left with a big roundhouse that skipped off Argus’ chest and grazed across his chin as he was turning away, only tickling him.

Then Argus, seeing the thug vulnerable with his arm across his chest after his swing, charged low into the thug’s stomach, slamming him into the wall, causing the thug’s upper body and head to whip back over the top edge of the waist high wall.

Then Argus took a long step back and charged forward while delivering, with a muscle-bulging arm, a tremendous blow upwards into the thug’s stomach. The thug left the ground as he doubled over, landing just on the other side of the wall, catching the back of his thighs on the top of the wall and flipping legs over head backwards and over. The thug fell through the brush and grasses overhanging the bluff, falling about five feet before landing on the slope and tumbling the rest of the way down the sandy embankment.

Other thugs down below helped their comrade toward one of the boats as he limped and held his back. Meanwhile, about a hundred feet up the trail, Wayne and Gordon ran as fast as they could in jumping leaps down the sandy bluff to cut the thugs off from the boats. Gordon, with his nasty looking, rusty, cut-off-stock, semi-auto shotgun, put suppressive fire using cloud’a-smoking home-made, black powder and slug charged shells just over the heads and in front of the thugs who were using their captives as shields as they ran down the sandy shore.

Wayne charged forward to get to tree stumps and logs closer to the boats. Wayne tried to get a few shots off to disable the outboard motor. The thugs held their captives in front of them, leaving Wayne without a good shot. A bullet whizzed by his ear. Some of the thugs put out the fire on the burning boat and were pushing off. One of the thugs had a semi-auto rifle and stood in the boat shooting at Wayne. Bullets were ricocheting off rocks and cement walls and careening over, in front of, and around Wayne as he ducked behind a small sand dune and some driftwood to take cover. The shots were hitting erratically all around him as the thug couldn’t aim well from the moving boat.

Wayne aimed carefully to pick the thug off as he stood on the bow shooting at him. Wayne aimed his .50 caliber titanium Mark V with a squint, holding his breath, just leading the moving target, heartbeat, heartbeat, diastolic of the next heartbeat-he fired.

The thug jerked back and went limp as a cloud of blood and brains sprayed out of the back of his head. The accelerating boat swept out from under him as his arms and rifle dropped faster than his body; his knees folded and his shins raked over the gunwale as he tumbled forward into the water. In that moment of confusion aboard the boat, several captives sprang up, arching backwards in low slithering dives overboard, escaping. The boat sped away.

As Wayne was changing his clip and getting up to go towards the third boat, a thug ran down the bluff at racing speed and leaped onto him. They tumbled to the ground wrestling, punching, and kicking with sand flying. Wayne cracked him on the head with his empty Mark V and got up to continue his chase toward the third boat before it got away. There were captives, women, he didn’t know who. He reached into his pocket for the new clip, reaching around the longer 9MM to get to the fat .50 cal.

As Wayne turned to his right, he saw a grayish-brown object right in front of his face rapidly enlarging and filling his view before he felt the dull crunching sound of bones breaking under his skin then a sudden dreamy, suspended state that saw the world dimly behind a hazy veil of stars. It seemed like a long time before he hit the ground, remotely feeling the pain, as if it wasn’t his body, then a tiny bounce; thud-thud. He felt warm, thin liquid run over his mouth and down the back of his throat before tasting the salty, rusty flavor of blood. “Ugh!“ he grunted.

Shots, screams, a boat motor, a woman’s voice screaming… Sandy runningsteps flying by him… yelling, cracking gunshots, crying, shrieking.

Then Gordon’s screaming, breaking voice, “Eva, Eva, Eva! No! No! No-ho! Eeeevaaaaaagh!”

They took Eva and two young men. Three settlers were killed; two were shot dead, and a young girl fell through a rotted floor in an abandoned building while trying to hide, breaking her neck. She lingered in paralysis for several days before slipping away.

Wayne had a broken nose, and wore a mud and straw splint on it for several days. 14 slaves were happily freed, some were from this settlement. Four thugs were killed, one on a boat, two others floated away on the river. The remaining one, left behind on the riverbank, appeared to be Hispanic, and had an older army issue .45 pistol and combat knife. None of them seemed to have had extra ammo clips, just extra shells in their pockets. The white armored suit worn by the thugs was simply made using a type of smooth, flexible plastic and painted foam panels with shiny parts that were decorative, but designed to look like technological components or controls.

The freed slaves gave information about the Textan settlement, telling of between 100 and 200 thugs, and around 300 slaves, and an unknown number of people inside a large, central, laser protected building. Several surrounding communities were under their control as well.

The mood was solemn for several days as the community recovered from the shock of the attack. Wayne proposed that they leave the settlements for a while in case the thugs came back. Of the around 500 settlers, about 400 had secure hiding places or remote caves or shelters. The Karst limestone geology of the area was riddled with caves, some were miles long with vast underground cathedral sized caverns. Their entrances were often no more than a small gap between two boulders.

Fort_Wayne

Fort Wayne

A few days later, Wayne, Jerry, Frankrobert, and Gordon went up to the space center. They looked around the building briefly, but they had to satisfy their curiosity and walk out to see Wayne’s magic time travelling spaceship. Wayne led them to the landing module, but the moment was anticlimactic, however, after a long trek through the scratchy brush to reach the small, scorched, dented, turned-on-end capsule. Wayne showed them its screens, controls, and navigation equipment. Then he lifted the enabler off of the main engine fire switch and pushed the button. Only a small noise from a valve and electrical contactor could be heard from within the ship. “See, she won’t even crank.”

Wayne stripped components off the ship, including a fuel cell and an electrochemical generator, which they lugged through the brush back to the main building on that warm, hazy, humid early afternoon. Then Wayne showed them the hidden bunker. As the men walked down its long aisle, they were astonished, nodding their heads side to side in disbelief with their mouths standing half open as they gawked in amazement. Motorbikes, ATV’s, watercraft, aircraft and, oh my stars, sooo many guns.

They brought up the supplies and weapons that were going to be used, then closed the bunker back up. They would keep the bunker a secret to be known only among those four men. They prepared the large conference room and set up several of the computers and placed solar panels on the roof, and laid wiring. Weapons, ammunition, and other supplies such as camouflage overalls, boots, gloves, and tools were laid out in some of the other rooms. The field hospital was set up in a room by itself.

When the main group arrived the next day, more faces of incredulity looked over everything as they filed through the rooms. They looked at Wayne with awestruck gratitude as they were issued uniforms, boots, packs, canteens, mess kits and so on. Then they went upstairs and looked at the weapons. Wayne felt nostalgic, thinking back to his early basic training years. A bunch of new guys’ first time playing with military hardware. The room was filled with the crisp metallic sounds of clicks, slides and clinks and impressed hmm’s and mumbles as they pulled bolts and triggers and clicked safeties, clip release levers and slid clips into their receivers.

The woman and youths had been preparing food, and in late afternoon with a yellow-orange hazy sunset, there was a mood of hope and celebration as they feasted in a large room on the main floor that had a row of windows with a sweeping view of the great Tennessee River. The hues of the skies went through their oranges, reds, fading slowly through dusty violets as darkness was ushered in with a soft indigo veil.

Tap-tap-tap

Wayne stood at the end of the long table and began his speech. “Well ah’ight fellas, this is the time when Unit Commander Harris would always make one of them pompous speeches. Well, since he couldn’t be here this evening, and as your fearless leader, broken nose and black eyed, here we go…

I’ve come a long way to tell you this… As I look into all your eyes this evening, I see the heroes of the beginning of a new world. We must walk with the weight of our duty in our hearts, because humanity has paid its price in pain, and has seen all what can be evil. We must be the world’s vigilant guardian and defend its freedom. We are given both heaven and hell, and we have the choice to make our world as we want it. At no time have the stakes been higher, and has such a great responsibility rested on so few. Even as the religions have fulfilled their prophecies, and we have gone past the end of time to the end of the world’s calendar, it is now more than ever that we must believe in our highest purpose, and we must have faith in a higher power. Now is the time, more than ever, to live in truth, to share your love, and to walk upon the land proudly, knowing that you have inherited a most precious gift; a world that has seen all the ways of humanity, from its innocent natural beginnings to the most horrible of destructions. We know right from wrong, we know the value of love and humanity, and we know that freedom will always carry the responsibility of all of us being the best we can be, to love our fellow survivors, to always speak truth… To be strong.

As he spoke, with his computer hooked up to a special ops audio transducer mounted on the ceiling, Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor From the New World played softly in the background, beginning with its soft murmurs, wandering through its dreamy and intimate musings, innocent playfulness, through solemn and tormented introspection, then thrusting up its stirring and heroic themes, lifting the hearts of all to hope and thoughtful inspiration.

Wayne’s face was a monument, in hardshadowed light, chiseled with the hardship of humanity’s many millennia, looking with the stony determination of a man who truly had the world upon his shoulders.

Then Wayne selected some of his old music favorites, starting with a bit of railroad blues. He turned away briefly as he poured a little water into the reeds of his old harmonica, then he fired up a recording of an old-time bluegrass band. The settlers had heard very little recorded music, and they listened with delight to the bands syncopated tum-tuda-tum, tum-tuda-tum intro, then Bill Monroe’s high mountain voice began singing. The howl of a lonely train, echoing softly, filled the room. Wayne’s harmonica made the clickity- clickity sound of the iron wheels going over the joints in the rails. He bent his lips over the instrument to make the loneliest sound in the world, a train whistle on a rainy night, an engineer with his mind a million miles away, pressing on the whistle lever with his thoughts. Then the chorus came around, and Wayne cut loose with his Blues Harp in wails and roars, getting every note and bending it in a liquid, soulful, mourning, drunken sound. You don’t hear it, you can’t describe it. You feel it, man, you feel it…

Wayne wore a satisfied smile as the people nodded their heads with big grins, exchanging their amazement as they looked around at each other. They slapped their knees and made awkward wha-hoo sounds reacting to feelings they never had felt before.

Then Wayne put his harmonica in his pocket and said, “Before we watch the movie, I want you to hear this one song, it speaks to dreams people had long ago, and it says a lot about where we are now in the world.”

The soft strumming of a folk guitar began to play, then a kind voice began to sing the visionary themes for a new world… Words and feelings that were so needed in the song’s day, and that were so true on this day now, words saying that we should see:

A world in peace, where there is no greed, nor hunger, or war.

A world that has lived past religion, past heaven and hell, past division, with no nations but the brotherhood of humankind,

A world under blue skies of hope where all can come together, not merely to dream, but to live in a world of peace shared by all.

The room was in gentle reflection, and there was a powerful feeling of love and fulfillment connecting two distant worlds.

Then Wayne started the movie using a projector that had been left with a lot of other computer equipment in the bunkers. The movie seemed to emerge out of the coarse cement as its flickering colors projected another world across a long wall.

Boom-Boom! An exploding opening screen began two shocking hours of big gun shooting, fighting, fast cars, and flashy gadgets in crowded, shining glass and neon cities with villains who were ruthless, bloodsplashed, guttural, twisted-faced, hard-hearted madmen who seemed to reach out of the screen to grab your throat, and with wild exaggerations of women from no world anyone would know…

It was late when the movie ended, and the people were shaken as they sat quietly squirming in their seats, Wayne tried to comfort their fearful eyes with a bit of joking around. The film was very frightening to these people who had never seen Hollywood’s fine craft. Wayne wanted to prepare them for a battle that he knew they would have to fight. They left and tried to find sleep with the haunting images in their minds.

The next day woke up with enthusiasm as there was much to do. They had to clear a runway and paths, clean up the place, set up the buildings to live and work in, and sort out the people into their duties, with Wayne and Jerry starting a boot camp for survival, fighting, weapons, and medical aid training. They were building an army, and they began to call the place Fort Wayne.

Flight in a New World

Wayne turned the key. The engine turned ten or fifteen starting whinnies, then cracked to life with a loud, smoking, “BRAAP BRAAAP.” Goose bumps cast tiny shadows on his arm in the low morning sun with the cool air being drawn over him as the engine roared to life, sputtering, then as he eased out the choke, running raggedly, then evening out to a perfectly timed, “Glug-glug-glug, glug-glug-glug, glug-glug-glug.”

Then Wayne slowly pushed the throttle lever forward, and as the propeller sent clouds of dust and leaves into the air, the plane lurched and surged on its soft tires as Wayne held the brake and did a pre-flight run up while watching the rpm, manifold vacuum, temperature, and voltage gauges.

He taxied down to the leeward end of the runway and turned back into the light breeze. After a brief moment of scanning the gauges, he eased the throttle forward, and with a roar, the plane swept up into the air and was soon a speck in the sky; a bird. As Wayne took off, he felt breathtaking exhilaration as the unloaded craft soared upwards at a steep climb angle, making the ground fall away as if he was flying a rocket. For a moment, Wayne was back in time, flying F15’s. He could let himself forget for a while the surreal and desperate existence he was living now.

He did several take-offs and landings, touch and go’s, banks, stalls and several power off landings to get used to the plane’s handling. He began to realize that the design, with the reduction gear and high torque, five-bladed prop nestled with the wing extending around and behind it created a high lifting effect over the wing, even at very low speeds, making take-off and landing distances very short and giving the aircraft the ability to carry, for its size, heavy cargos.

The aircraft had a light weight alloy frame covered with heavy polymer fabric and polycarbonate panels that were designed to stop up to .50 cal rounds shot at a distance. The wing was a broad triangle shape mounted overhead. The engine, reduction drive, and a McDouglas WhisperFlite five bladed propeller faced rearward. The frame and wing structure was formed in compound curvatures, giving the aircraft a modern, streamlined appearance. With several fuel tanks, and the ability to burn anything from vegetable oil to alcohol, the aircraft had an extended range of over 600 miles. The front windscreen swept around the front and extended down to the rudder/brake pedals, giving the pilot a bird’s flight view. Retractable wheels were mounted on the side of the fuselage; the hull was amphibious. The aircraft wore camouflage colors; light underneath, with green and beige in smears and splotches on its side and top surfaces.

For several weeks, they continued to set up the fort. They set up a small armory back at the settlement, but with instructions, for now, to run and hide, don’t shoot, since, as far as Textan knew, they faced only one man with a pistol and a few old shotguns when they raided the settlement.

Radios were distributed, which gave a huge boost of confidence as scouts could do a better job of monitoring Textan’s activities and reporting back. There had been a few scares when Textan’s boats drove by, far out in the river, but did not stop, but there were reports of raids on other settlements.

At the fort, twenty men and six women agreed to be a part of the tactical unit. Wayne spent around five hours a day training them in the military arts of shooting, fighting, and surviving, along with a few other useful skills in the areas of explosives, espionage, and sabotage. Hawk, a native Cherokee, began flight training. A shooting range was set up inside one of the long launch observation bunkers to keep the noise of gunshots, which echoed for miles in the valley, from giving away their location. They fortified the openings and windows in the main building, and set up machine gun emplacements at strategic locations. Sentries patrolled the area, stealthily following deer trails.

As they worked together over the weeks, there was an infusion of education, music, and technology that propelled the community forward, or, let’s say backwards over a hundred years. Wayne got to know the people better, and a new feeling of security and optimism began to lift the hopes of building a strong community.

Wayne tried to analyze the dialect that the people spoke as he sometimes had a hard time understanding what people were saying. There were people of Hispanic, African and other origins. The way of speaking of these New World people was hard to categorize. Most people spoke in a voice that was a blend of urban and commonfolk slang, with touches of Louisiana or Caribbean intonations when expressing nuance or emotion. It was a sound one would think of as the way a second generation foreigner would speak, or a person with one foreign parent.

It was an English that was colloquialized to an individual level, with each person taking liberty with the language, combining, or making up words that were tuned to the situation at hand, and freely adding other sounds or inflections that introduced a rich sub-communication, either to add detail or context, or for contraction. An example is when one man told another to “Grab that grrrope.” The other man knew that he meant the coarser, heavier of two coils of rope that lay on the deck. Every person had their own way of using words, and some people, such as those that lived in outlying settlements, had begun to develop their own individual dialects. Wayne called it feelspeak.

Wayne had not spoken of much beyond the daily matters that were at hand. Hanging over them, however, was the specter of Tezan’s mysterious identity and his expanding power. The escaped slaves had told of training that had begun among the slaves by the T-thugs to form a more expanded army, and that a string of outposts was being built along the reclaimed roadbed of an old highway going westward.

Everyone knew that there was to be a battle, although some had voiced a desire to try to come to terms with Tezan through negotiation.

Wayne spoke to Jerry and a group of the other leaders one afternoon. “You asked me to tell you things about the Old World that you did not know. Well, I will tell you this: Tyranny, like many other things in human nature, can only move forward, grow greater, and cannot reverse itself without coming to destruction.” He glowered down at their faces, continuing, “So let me tell you with no uncertainty that this Tezan guy ain’t gonna just quit, he’s going to go after more and more power and he will, I guarun-damn-tee you, come back after us!” Then Wayne thought of his night of torment, and reflected on his pain, and talking through his clenched teeth, with his brows lowered over his eyes, growled, “We have come too far…The world has suffered too much, and we have all learned… Never again!”

Some days later, as rain dripped outside, after finishing their meal with the usual banter and chatter, Wayne asked Jerry about what he thought of religion. Jerry grinned freshly, “Ah, well, y’know, I guess we’re the chosen people. We had the Apocalypse and all that, so we are the meek survivors and we can just be, and we don’t have to worry about you gotta do this, or think that. Life just is. No one ever saw that Jesus guy, though.” Then his face lit up suddenly, and he looked at Wayne mischievously and said, ” Hay! Y’know what! I think it’s you! I’m going to call you Jesus, yea, Wayne Jesus! You are saving us, saving our butts, Jesus saves!”

Then Wayne asked “Seriously, now. What do people think about God in New Worl’?”

“Well, hmm,“ Jerry thought a moment, and gathered his thinking, “Everybody has to believe in something that he knows he will never understand. Spirituality is something that goes to one point, and that point has to be infinity. Einstein knew there was an equation that could explain the whole world. He knew it was there, but that he could never reach it, but he always had hope that he could find it. Because he knew it was there, he believed, and it made him give his life’s work to try. He found a lot of other things on the way, some of it bad, like the Bomb. God doesn’t presuppose good or evil, those are only relative to man’s view, and how he makes his world, or perceives his life. Because everything that is infinite, like immortality, is a journey, and like any journey, you travel and keep going till it is the end. With infinity, your journey seeks higher and higher meanings, and never stops, and if you keep going forever, and you keep seeing everything, and everything that everyone else has seen or felt spiritually, we end up at the same place with that, and that is what God is.”

Jerry felt very comfortable, open, and relaxed about the subject. It was clear that he had not one bit of bitterness or judgment nor was there any uncertainty in what he believed.

Reconnoiter

Reconnoiter

The plane’s wheels rumbled on the runway only briefly before it lifted up briskly in the cool morning air. The ground fell away rapidly as Wayne and Hawk, along with Jesse, the Textan compound escapee, flew up over the silky strands of mists that hovered over the river in peach shades of the dawning morning. They planned their route to head north till they got to the Textan compound, then to follow the highway 72 roadbed westward to see how far Tezan had gotten with his expansion. Jesse positioned himself by an opened window through which he could aim a small digital camera that had been fitted to a large sniper’s scope.

Mission: Recon. Codename: Terminator Tourist.

For hours, they flew over the endless green rolling carpet that was the piedmont region just west of the Appalachian Mountains. Rivers, lakes, and creeks would suddenly sparkle out of the green canopy, then disappear without a trace. They flew at over 3000 feet, slowly and quietly as Hawk and Jesse both scanned the ground and the river with spotting scopes for signs of human activity. There were two more free settlements on the river, then twenty five miles or so before they saw settlements and farms that were under Textan’s control.

They saw a white object ahead of them at some distance. Wayne went up to 7000 feet altitude, and as they approached the site, he began to circle and Jesse took photos. Wayne cut the engine to idle and the winds whispered over the wings as he did a slow, spiraling decent. The white bottom surfaces of the aircraft made it virtually invisible from the ground at over 2000 feet. They had circled twice by the time they had gotten down to 3500 feet. While circling, Wayne had been using a powerful pair of binoculars to look below. There was a cluster of white buildings surrounded by a wall which was surrounded by well tended farm fields, other buildings, and an outer fence. There also appeared to be slave barracks which were fenced in separately within the fenced in area. There were a few vehicles and some mechanized farm equipment. By the river, there were docks that had probably 30 boats of various sizes and descriptions, as well as a number of barges.

Wayne peeled off the circle to follow the old highway 72 roadbed. As they followed the highway, they could see a narrow track cut through the growth extending westward, and also saw behind them that it extended eastward as well. For several hours they flew and followed the winding track that picked through the pocked rubble of the old highway. Wayne glanced at the fuel gauge with a look of ‘I’m almost nervous about it.’ There were two small, mostly worksite slave settlements and very few vehicles visible along the road. Then, far in the distance, a shining silver ribbon stretched as far north and south as they could see. The Great Mississippi. Then, as Wayne approached it, he realized that it was not as it was many years ago. The cleared road tapered off long before the great body of water’s swampy shores. The Mississippi was now over twenty miles wide, and looking south, it opened up as a wide, island filled bay of the Caribbean Sea.

Wayne banked the aircraft into a gentle turn as he looked in awe, then headed home.

* * *

Wayne sat in his office with only the blue glow of a computer screen lighting the room around his head as he carefully examined photographs and government records that he had on the area around the Textan base. Wayne had a large collection of data from the vault in the bunker. It consisted of the entire Library of Congress and National Archives collections as well as government records on everything down to the local and individual level.

He had two images superimposed on his screen. One was a photo of Textan’s base that they took on the fly-over, and the other image was a county planning office’s diagram of an application for a construction permit to construct a storm water drainage and retention pond system for an industrial park. It was dated August, 1994.

Building codes required the installation of systems to control water runoff from roads and parking lots that involved burying a network of three to six foot diameter cement piping and drains. Wayne had examined county records to find the names of companies, permits, inspection reports, and building plans. Wayne started by looking at county tax assessor’s office aerial photos that included land parcel numbers and property lines. He found the area that they had photographed on their fly-over. Textan’s base had been an industrial park when it was built over a hundred years ago. Wayne then looked in the deed records from the clerk of courts office to find the names of current, and all previous owners. Since the owners were corporations, their information was found in the state’s Secretary of State’s office, which had information on the corporation’s charter, as well as its operating officers. He then looked up the names of companies or their responsible individuals in the county planner’s building permit office records to come full circle in a title and municipal records search. Wayne now knew a lot more about the buildings Textan was using. He had diagrams of drain and ventilation systems; he knew what construction materials were used. There were only five left of the twelve original buildings in the industrial park, and several smaller ones had been built since, some using the parts or ruined foundations of older ones.

Wayne was intrigued by the network of drain piping. He was especially interested in a manhole cover in one of the photos. Barely visible, but unmistakable, It was on one of the now unused and overgrown roads that was part of the development, and was well beyond Textan’s fences and fields. Wayne imagined popping up from underground right under Textan’s nose.

Tunnels

Spy Underground

They waited for a new moon and a misty night. A hidden camp had been set up close to Textan, on the other side of the river. Around midnight, Wayne and Gordon emerged from the woods across the river from Textan’s base and left in their kayaks for the other shore. They reached a little cove about three quarters of a mile down river from the base. Under a low overhanging tree they sank their kayaks in the shallows and placed large rocks in them to hold them fast, then slipped into the bush. They carried cloth bags with tools including a small sledge hammer and mason’s chisel, a shovel with a stubby handle, a crowbar, rope, and wind up LED flashlights. They wore black tactical waterproof suits that were equipped with a special ops package of survival gear, tools, and knives. They each carried a 9MM pistol with silencer, loaded with subsonic rounds.

With carefully drawn maps showing landmarks, compass directions and distances, they pushed northward through the brush till they got to the abandoned road. The road was barely discernable under the thick growth, and Gordon only happened to find it by using his crowbar as a walking stick, poking the end of it into the ground as he walked. They hoped to find one of the manholes before morning light and have the cover removed, then explore above ground in the dim dawn light, then go underground into the drain system during the day. They worked carefully to follow the road eastward toward the base. The manholes were supposed to be every 600 feet along the north curb. It was black dark as they pushed through the thicket. They navigated by checking green night glowing compasses clipped to their suits just below their left shoulders.

Wayne felt the size of the challenge before him. From the dark woods, to a muddy hole, then what? Heroism, luck, madness? Who knows? To bring down this ruthless dictator… This was a victory that Wayne and his new family could not fail in achieving.

Then a noise in the woods, movement. A shadow. They froze. A form slipped by, visible only three or four times through the branches at some distance. There was a faint glow, and they realized that they were already approaching the outer clearing of the base, and that a sentry trail ran through the woods at some distance out from the perimeter. They hadn’t found any of the manhole covers, so Wayne paced 25 feet to find the curb on the other side of the road, and went back down the road away from the clearing, poking the ground with the shovel point as he went.

“Psst, hewego.” Wayne whispered loudly to Gordon after finding one of the round, iron covers. It was under a thick layer of leaf litter in the brush. They had to cut roots and growth that had entangled it and the drain opening at the curb. When they shone their light down the round, black hole, water reflected back at them from far below. “We’ll see what we got,” Wayne said as his body disappeared into the opening that was not much bigger than he was. He lowered himself, climbing down ladder pockets that were formed into the thirty inch diameter cement pipe. After about 20 feet his legs dangled as he came to the collector pipe. He continued to lower himself on the strength of his hands as he tried to feel below with his feet. His toe caught a splash of water, then felt something mucky about six inches below that. He let himself down slowly. He was about shin deep in mud and water in a four foot diameter pipe. He sloshed about a dozen yards toward the base, and shone his light down the tunnel. It appeared to be clear as far as his light could see. He came back out, took bearings of where the spot was, and they began exploring in the woods around the base.

The first hints of deep indigo in the black sky foreshadowed the dawn. They found an observation point on the side of a hill in a low thicket and watched the buildings and fields as the day began. The slaves were filing out towards their work from their barracks in the blue-gray dimness a half an hour before sunrise. There were armed guards in white uniforms, and bosses wearing khaki directing the slaves. Large doors were opened on a work building, and several tractors started their engines. Guards patrolled frequently around the inner compound and on the sentry trails. A grid of laser beams surrounded an inner compound that consisted of several buildings connected together by high concrete walls. Everything was painted white. The two spies watched everything and tried to learn as much as they could. Wayne made notes of distances and details on his map.

Then they saw the guards line up four slaves out in the field in view of the others as they started their work. One at a time, two guards held the slaves by their arms over a barrel while another guard fiercely whipped their back, buttocks, and legs. The screams of pain and begging for mercy echoed throughout the compound. The two men’s blood went cold as they saw it; they felt the frustration of their powerlessness to stop it. The beatings went on for some time, as each victim received about twenty lashes, each whack followed by moments of sadistic cursing and insults by the guards.

The last one was a woman, she was small, fair, delicate. Her childlike voice shrieked in pain amidst the leathery slaps. Her screams of painful desperation were cut off and renewed with every blow of the strong guard’s high lifting arm. Gordon’s face was red, his teeth gritted, and just audible under his hyperventilating breaths “Eva, Eva!”

“I don’t think it’s her,” Wayne said, ” this is a child they are beating.”

Wayne’s cold clenched jaw and distant stare could barely contain his deep and primal rage. He struggled to restrain himself and to realize that it was only his adrenaline telling him that he was a twenty foot tall beast that could shred these demons with his claws, to disembowel and eviscerate them and fling their entrails far about them.

They went down into the tunnels.

They crouched apishly with echoing splashes as they walked through the four foot high concrete culvert. It was damp, black, and smelled of methane, mildew, and decay. They reached a junction. The concrete junction was a ten foot square box that had 48 inch pipes coming in from three sides and a 60 inch pipe exiting to the south, in the direction of the complex. The larger, five foot pipe went down a slight slope heading towards two more junctions at six hundred feet intervals, then subsequently to the subterranean gravel filled drain field. Well, that’s what Wayne’s diagram showed the county planning commission had approved in 1996, over a hundred and fifty years ago.

They went down the five foot pipe. The condition of the pipe deteriorated rapidly, however, and several hundred feet down, there began to be upheaved and partly collapsed sections. They shoveled to get clearance and continue as far as they could. If they could make it to the next junction, its tributaries could take them under the central complex and slave barracks. They could see some distance over the loose rubble, but there was not enough clearance to even belly-crawl.

After several hours of digging, and carrying dirt back out of the way, they made it past the blockage and were able to walk, stooped, down the pipe, till they reached the next junction. The access cover at the top of a short section of pipe leading to the surface, called a drain riser, had apparently been sealed off, and they saw crude supports wedged across and the sloppy underneath of cement mixed with debris. The air was stale, and smelled of methane; this part of the system was sealed, and was dry. Wayne climbed up the riser to chip away at chunks of debris embedded in the cement blocking the access hole. He pulled a five pound hammer and a mason’s chisel from his bag. He drew his arm back to swing the hammer then froze when he remembered that a methane explosion could occur at eight to twelve percent concentrations of the gas in air. He held part of his carry sack over the face of the hammer, then continued, gingerly, to chip away. He could see the iron flange, and guessed that the cement was about 5 inches thick. It was soft and crumbly, and he switched tools to use the crow bar to gouge and pry the sandy cement. Then the crow bar penetrated into something softer; he withdrew quickly, a little dirt fell, but no light was visible. He broke a larger hole, then probed with the crow bar and felt hollow about a foot up. He withdrew the bar and saw light. He dug out a larger area and enlarged the opening to a cone shaped opening, very small at the top. Methane, heavier than air, sinking to lower sections, drew fresh air in. The gear in Wayne’s tactical suit included a signaling mirror. He extended his arm up and raised the mirror ever so slowly at an angle, holding it in his finger tips and using it as a periscope. As he aimed it around, he could see that he was in a grassy strip about ten feet from a dirt lane. The farm fields were to his west, and to his east, the wall of the central complex was about 100 yards away.

Wayne drew and wrote notes on his map, and now had a better idea of where the tunnels lay. He climbed back down and they rested a few minutes and drank bottles of a water and grain-with-dried-fruits concoction that was tasty, nutritious, and easy to consume in those grungy conditions. They discovered that the slave barracks and some other buildings were built using one of the old road beds as floor slabs, so the drain tunnel went along beside them. From the junction, they went west into the four-foot tributary pipe that went toward the slave barracks. When they reached a drain riser, they punched a hole through its sealed and dirt covered top and, when Wayne looked around with the mirror, saw that they were just behind the tractor building. He sketched in more details on the map.

Then they crawled back and went through the junction in the other direction that led directly under the central compound. After several hundred feet, a pile of debris blocked the tunnel. They dug into it, but it was filled solid. The pipe had been crushed, so they took turns and began to dig up to the surface. On one of Gordon’s digging shifts, he penetrated the surface and slithered back down to tell Wayne, who went up with his mirror. He raised it very, very slowly, reaching up through tufts of grass.

Suddenly the mirror was knocked out of Wayne’s hand, and fell back, with dirt, onto his face. He withdrew his arm quickly. There were shadows moving over the hole, digging at the sides, then it suddenly stopped. Wayne got the dirt out of his eyes and looked up. Two eyes stared at him curiously; cat’s eyes in a friendly, furry, playful white kitty face. Wayne pushed dirt up and wedged chunks of cement to block the opening. “Well, I guess Textan has a cat.” He said.

They went back down to the junction. There were about four hours of light left, and Wayne decided that they would try the Cat hole, as they called it, later on. They went further down the large pipe towards the next junction. As they descended what is usually specified by construction engineers to be a ¼ inch per foot slope in the main tunnel, the silt level began to be higher, and they had to crawl the last 100 feet in damp but tightly packed fine clay and sand till they got to the last junction. There was little headroom in the junction, and they began to pull dirt away from the openings of 36 inch side pipes that extended eastward under the central complex, and westward by the slave barracks.

So, they had come northward from the riverbank till they found the road three quarters of a mile west of the compound, then went eastward about half a mile to where they entered the cement culvert drainage system. Inside, they continued eastward 1200 feet, or two manholes till they got to the junction where they reached the 60 inch main line into which they turned right and went south through two junctions that were 600 feet apart. Smaller, 36 inch side tributary pipes from these junctions went west, under the farm fields, work buildings and slave barracks, and east, under Textan’s compound. It was a big ‘H’ pattern. They were now at the last of the series of three junctions.

As he pulled dirt back out of the pipe to his left, Wayne began to chat ramblingly, “Yea, we used to go cavin’ in the hills about fifty miles east of here. This one time we had to exhale to squeeze through a narrow spot, then we came out in a huge room, I mean with our brightest lights, we never could see the other side, it was just black, we never got to know how big that room was. One time, I had to git down under the water, holding my breath as I walked about ten feet or so to come up in a cavern. Or you do that chimneyin’, where your back is on one wall and your feet are on the other, like three or four feet away, and there’s a hundred feet of nothin’ under you. Ha, there was that time our club rappelled down Stone Mountain over there in Hotlanta, it’s about a nine hundred feet high granite monolith that they made this park around, y’know with a cable car to the top and other rides and all. We had to get a thousand foot rope with no splices special ordered for it...”

As Wayne’s muffled echoes came from the pipe, Gordon was pulling the dirt back further out of the way as his pained face looked down in thought. His daughter Eva was somewhere in those buildings.

Wayne crawled up the pipe going east, while Gordon went down the other pipe toward the slave barracks. Several hundred feet down, Wayne got to a riser. It was about ten feet up to an iron manhole cover. He pushed a piece of wire up through its pull hole and felt hollow several inches up. A bit of dirt fell. He poked the wire around to move some of the dirt away so he could see something, but it was a dark place. He pried the cover up with the crow bar, slid it aside, and soon found himself standing in a room. He had come up between piles of metal parts and crates. A wall had been built between two buildings across where a road used to be to enclose the compound, and he was in a shed that had been built on the inside. There was an assortment of equipment, salvaged wire and electrical parts, and tools. He saw what looked like aircraft related parts, instruments, then he saw the badly wrecked aluminum fuselage of a small single engine aircraft. There was what sounded like a generator running on the other side of a wall, and Wayne could hear some distant voices.

Aromas of food were mixed with the earthy smells in the room. He stacked three drums, two on the bottom and one on top, to reach a vent that was high on one of the side walls. He cautiously peered through the grille; it was a kitchen and dining area. A number of people with white uniforms were leaving the room, and slaves were cleaning tables and carrying baskets of dirty dishes. They had just finished dinner.

Then Wayne’s eyes jumped to a small figure working in the shadows at the other end of the room. He waited, looked, then as the person turned toward the light, he saw that it was Eva. He waited as more people left the room. After a few minutes, three people were working in the kitchen, and two guards were standing, facing away as they talked in the doorway to Wayne’s left. Eva carried a bucket of mop water out of the kitchen to the dining area. As she worked, she got closer to where Wayne was. She had come within twenty feet or so, so Wayne whispered loudly, “Eva!” She paused only briefly, cocked her head to listen briefly, then kept mopping. He waited till she looked up a bit between pushes of the heavy mop and he repeated her name. She froze. Then she carefully looked around with her eyes without turning her head as she mopped. As she pushed the mop around a table, and was facing Wayne, he made a little chirping sound. She looked up. Wayne shone his light on his face as he made a small waving gesture with his hand. She shuddered, and surprise turned into a smile, then quickly back to a neutral expression as she looked around cautiously. “Shhhh… Soooon.” Wayne whispered slowly. Then the two guards at the door finished their conversation, and one turned and began to walk towards Eva. He made idle chat, and she meekly and dutifully responded.

Wayne carefully climbed down, lowered himself back down the pipe, and slid the cover back over the opening, then went back down to find Gordon. About 250 feet down the pipe on the other side of the junction, Gordon was digging upward to try to surface in the high grass behind the slave buildings. The pipe was collapsed beyond that point, and he hoped that he was far enough to be inside the fence that enclosed the slave barracks and a dining hall. He raised the mirror up the small hole. “Agh, too far.” Gordon said as he motioned back over his shoulder, “we need to come up over there where some barrels are.”

The second hole was easier, as they could leave the diggings just ahead of them. The cement pipe was easy to break, they made an opening above them and dug five feet up to the surface. They opened it up just enough to peer out, then wedged dirt and cement pieces back in to close it. “Alright,” Wayne said “let’s try Cat hole again, then go home.”

At Cat hole, Wayne carefully moved the cement chunks and very slowly raised the mirror. It was dusk, and in the dim light, he saw a courtyard with a fountain, flower plantings, elegant urns, columns, and furniture. There were large windows beyond the garden through which he could see a lavishly decorated interior. There was movement, shadows, but he couldn’t get a clear view. Then a door opened, but only a foot or so. A shadowed form in folds of white cloth appeared briefly, then a cat stepped out and sniffed the air. Wayne quickly and quietly pushed dirt up and packed cement pieces up in the opening. He was already ready for the next steps, and he was anxious to get back and plan his next actions. “Ah’ight, let’s get outta here…” They went back out through the pipes and through the brush back to the river. As they paddled back to the camp, Wayne told Gordon about Eva.

Battle Plans

On the third floor at Fort Wayne, Jerry, Gordon, Jesse, Hawk, and Wayne filed into Wayne’s office, then closed the door. Wayne locked the door, then unrolled some papers next to a computer screen that had the pictures of aerial views of the Textan compound. He took a deep breath and said, “Well ah’ight fellas, here’s what we got…” He had a notebook with lists, diagrams, and scribbled notes. For several hours, they looked at photos and drawings, and they talked and made plans.

Wayne: “Ok, Jesse, so you work on that list of names of our people that they’ve got; get that long steel cable and bring the 120 millimeter shells over to the second building, and be very careful; don’t do any cutting till I get down there and have a look at ‘em. And Gordon, tell Willie to make sure he puts those springs between the motor mountings and the hull, ok, and get some of those plants like I drew here from that marshy place and keep the roots in the water, and use the wire like we talked about, just below the water line, right? I’ll get the detonators and the other stuff ready. We’ll have to be ready for our first trip by mid afternoon tomorrow. We’ll have a pretty good moon in about 24 days, so we’ll have to have everything up there and ready in three weeks, so that only leaves us two weeks to work down here.”

Over the next few weeks, they looked at the details in the photos, and gathered supplies. They set up a staging area at the last free outpost, about 25 miles from the Textan base. Over several weeks, they ferried supplies in large, camouflaged canoes to the settlement, which was a loosely settled, concealed outpost up in the hills above the river. It was called Las’Town, and had around 50 people who were there mainly to tend farm fields and raise goats. They hid supplies nearby. Then they set up a secret camp, Camp Hidey, a few miles from the Textan base, leaving food, kayaks, supplies, and equipment that they brought in during dark, foggy nights.

Camp Hidey was set up on an island in a marshy area where the river was very wide, where there was a vast area of wetlands in a bay formed by a large tributary creek. An area was cleared in the center of the brushy island, and several shelters were built. Channels were cut through the marsh to reach the island, then disguised with ‘gates’ of floating plant mass to hide their entrances.

Ambush

Ambush!

They had been observing the Textan base. There were small motor boats that patrolled the areas several miles around the base. There were a few larger boats, around 30 feet long that were used for raids and scavenging as far as fifty miles from the base. The river was well over a mile wide from Las’town past Textan’s base and got even wider till it reached the Mississippi Bay. There was almost no current. Every morning, 4 or 5 small boats rowed or sailed from the Textan pier with slaves and usually two guards to fish on the river.

The first part of the battle plan was to capture several guards to ‘have a little chat with and rattle the guy’s cage.’ as Wayne euphemized.

On a heavily overcast, dim misty morning, Argus, Hawk, Rizzi and two others waited in the warm August water. Only the top halves of their algae slime and dead leaf covered heads were visible above the water. They peered through small pads of marsh litter that they floated in front of them. Argus and Rizzi held, under the water, long poles with ends bent into shepherd hooks. Hawk held a line to make a heron decoy’s wings flap in a clump of reed grasses in the marsh about 100 feet away. They waited for one of the fishing boats, a low, wooden skiff, to drift closer to them in the slow current.

The Textan boat with three slaves and two guards moved slowly in the quiet water near the marsh as the fishermen watched their several lines, casting and slowly reeling them in. The guards sat near the bow, one facing away, out toward the river, and the other faced toward the stern as he sat on the edge of the boat with his arms akimbo.

Several hundred feet before the boat reached them, Argus and Hawk began to move ever so slowly in the shallow marsh to intersect the course of the boat. They waited. The water was warm and still.

As the boat went in front of the men, about 35 feet away, Hawk tugged on the line under water. The heron decoy flapped and the grasses near it rustled about. As all the men on the boat looked toward the distraction, Argus and Hawk walked smoothly and quickly, then, in the last 15 feet, lunged in a sudden slosh, hooking the guards with their poles just as the two guards began to turn around. They were pulled overboard, making two broad, almost simultaneous splashes as their bodies slapped the water.

The water churned white around them as the men struggled and fought. Two of the other men joined immediately as Hawk and Argus jumped on the guards and held them down in the water. Legs and fists were splashing about as the two guards and their five attackers fought in the chest deep water. They pulled the two guards up, and as they held the gasping, coughing, twisting men in head locks, the other two began to tie them. There were growls and grunts and quickly let breaths, but few words, and the wet slapping sound of punches, wrestling and grappling to hold flying limbs as the seven men fought. They tied the guards sloppily as they tried to see the rope and tie knots in the clouds of muddy water that were growing around them and streaming down river. The two guards continued to squirm and buck their bodies as they were carried toward the drifting boat.

It all happened in a very short moment, and the slaves sat with gaping, surprised, worried looks. They began to bring in their lines after a moment, then laid their rods down in the boat. One slave looked out on the water, then looked around, eyes darting, as he thought about escaping. He got close to the edge, looked down at the water, then looked at the other two slaves. They traded worried looks. Then Argus commandeered the boat and ordered the slaves to sit near the bow.

They dragged the guards back onto the boat. It was getting over-loaded with more than seven men aboard, and water ran in over the low sides as they rocked it struggling with the still fighting guards. Two of the others went into the marsh and brought out canoes. They put a slave in each canoe with one of their men.

In the boat, Argus and Rizzi held knives to the throats of the guards. The guard’s wet skin was soft and they were accidently nicked a few times with the sharp knives. A small amount of blood began to spread over their wet skin in pale red streaks. The guards’ eyes darted about fearfully and they trembled as their captors sat on them and held their knives under their chins as several inches of water in the boat washed around them.

The captives muttered what sounded like prayers or admonitions as they whined and begged. They made religious statements and said Textan would save them, that he had power, that he could move time, that they should go to Textan, that Textan would help them. Argus recognized one of the slaves as a man who had been taken from the settlements several years before.

They paddled for several hours, several miles past Camp Hidey to an inlet where they pulled the boats in and hid them. It was a secondary hideout, Hidey-Hidey, and consisted of three overgrown buildings in the woods up on a flat three or four hundred feet from the river.

They locked the captives in separate windowless basement rooms and went back and hid signs of boat marks on the shore. For several days after, power boats from the Textan base patrolled slowly along each shore, and looked around islands and inlets.

Everybody stayed put and kept out of sight till the third night, when Wayne and Gordon travelled the 8 miles upriver from Camp Hidey to Camp Hidey-Hidey to question the captives and the freed slaves.

They brought the two guards up to question them. One was in his mid thirties, shorter with dark, wavy, almost curly hair, olive complected with a Hispanic accent. The other one, in his early twenties, was slender, fair, with brownish-blonde short hair, and spoke in the similar dialect that most of the new world people did. They had one civilian hunting rifle on the boat, and the two guards had knives which were lost in the fighting in the marsh. The younger man wore a metal pendent on a leather thong with an engraving of a distinguished looking older bearded man with the word ‘Tezan’ below it in laurels.

Wayne asked the older guard, “Why do you work for Textan?”

“Work? Well, we are doing what we must. We have duties of great importance. He is the biggest power in the world, he is our only hope. There are tremendous events that are going to come to pass, perhaps soon. Please listen, you simple peoples do not understand, we must order the world as Tezan ordains, or our world shall devolve to a horrible destruction.”

When they spoke of their beliefs, these followers of Tezan spoke in a more formal liturgical manner, much the way a normally slangspoken rural southerner could speak eloquently with quotations of scripture that he learned through his life of Sunday mornings at church and Sunday school.

“So, why do you have slaves, and why do you attack us?”

“When we rule the world, everyone will be free. Till then, there must be suffering, but no price is too high to assure victory, the stakes are too high.”

“So why is Tezan powerful, who is he?”

“He— he is… Such is not to be questioned!”

The captive became agitated, and evasive in his answers. He was uncomfortable as his beliefs were being questioned analytically.

” I mean, like, how would you like to have your freedom taken, and forced to work, and be whipped and all?” Wayne asked.

“Our students are on a path to the Good Way. They move to a higher place, if they are worthy. I... I was a student in the beginning.”

“So Tezan gives you comfort, deep in your heart, he gives you a feeling of security.”

“Yes.”

“So what does Tezan look like, do you see him?”

The captive snapped back angrily, “What does it matter what his body looks like! Jesus was some man in sandals, so what! These are things of the highest parts of our spiritual life. He therefore speaks from the Shroud so we are not distracted by petty material thoughts.”

“Does he speak wisdom to his people?”

“There are the Scriptures of the Consequent Deity, they carry the truths forward from the Devil World that existed here for thousands of years before the First Apocalypse. His father Todas was given the scriptures up on the Fire Mountain. He returned, badly burned, and spoke the scripture for three days, then he passed…”

“A devil world?”

“Yes, you see, for thousands of years, mankind had lived life on this planet in a horrible state of constant war, lechery, crime, and disease. Men were corrupt, violent, primitives. The world was purged in the Apocalypse, and we are handed this precious gift. We have the Garden of Good in our hands, we need only to pull weeds and clear brambles, and we have God’s Heaven, right here, to have our lives in heaven.”

Then Wayne paced a moment, rubbed his chin, then flashed his gaze directly at the captive. “Well, what if you’re wrong? Maybe you don’t know the real truth. Maybe these same things were said before. What if you are only repeating the same things, and will end up in the same Devil World?”

Wayne plugged a wire from a large battery they had carried in, and opened his portable computer.

“You have one of our time viewers.” The older captive said.

“Well, it’s one I brought with me, you’ll see.” The machine finished its boot-up, and Wayne cued up a video.

Wayne leaned over to the guard with a glowering stare and said, “I’m Captain Wayne Norton, and I travelled through time from the Old World; now let me show you my world.”

The first video was classic political propaganda produced in the heat of a presidential campaign, and began with a soaring, grand, orchestral overture with a sweeping flyover above farms, rivers, and forests, then a dizzying, zooming upsweep in a supersonic jet over the Rocky Mountains. A commanding announcer’s voice began a glowing monologue as the views faded between clips of families happily playing in their yards, people in a spectacular mall, sweeping views of twinkling city skylines at dusk, people cheering at a slide into home plate at a baseball game, children laughing with a playful teacher.

The men looked with affected amazement, their faces were fixed on the screen, yet wore self conflicted grimaces. Then Wayne showed them a promotional piece put out by one of the corporate sponsors of his space mission. Trumpets and tympanis heralded heroic themes, then a slow, upward pan of a large rocket filled the screen. The announcer began as the view faded slowly to a low angle view of Wayne in a white astronaut’s suit. “The year is 2024, and Captain Wayne Norton is about to travel to the future aboard the Tempus Fugit VII to find a new world of space travel for mankind.”

The two men looked at Wayne with chiseled, cold sweat beaded, white faced horror. All of the whites of their eyes were showing. They began to hyperventilate as their eyes darted around wildly. “Wha…Huh, what… How?” They tilted their heads with awry grimaces of disbelief.

Wayne leaned over, glaring at them closely and said, “So, ya see, the world was just great when I left it, so why-in-the-hail did’ja go and mess it up, huh?” Even Wayne’s own men shuddered in disgust, as it was a hurtful thing to hear, but they slowly and reluctantly smiled, as they had gotten used to Wayne’s teasing wit. Wayne saw their faces, then looked down thoughtfully. “Well, it wasn’t a perfect world, and I’ll be honest with you, I saw a lot of trouble coming, I saw a heap of trouble a’comin’. And it all could have been prevented. We knew. We had no excuse.“ Then he looked into their eyes and said in a low tone. “I’m the only man alive from that world, and I will forever be haunted by the question: Why. Why?” There was a hushed, introspective tone in the dim room of faces uplit by the cool light of the screen.

“So, I’ve come a long way through time, and I won’t stand to see the world taken over by one guy, I don’t care how holy or wise he is. Freedom has nothing to do with religion, it is the right of every person, not tomorrow, or on a promise, but right here, right now, and for everyone!”

Wayne took the shiny, rainbow reflecting data disk of the videos from the computer. He wrote a number on a strip of paper, then placed them in a plastic cover and slipped it into the older guard’s shirt pocket. The guard recoiled with a look of fear as he looked down at his pocket with its bulging square shape stretching its corners. “I, I shouldn’t have this, I can’t have…” The guard reacted with taboo fear.

Then Wayne interrupted his whimperings and said, “You take your little boat and go back to Tezan, ok, and see that number, it is a radio frequency number, we’ll be listnin’ if he wants to chat, but there’s not a whole lot to say, only actions count. We want to see the fences come down, and the slaves, and that’s what they are, set free, alright! Now I am asking you very politely, as my parents tried to teach me, but let me tell you and leave you with no uncertainty in the fact that if you aren’t inspired to the enlightenment that I hope I have opened your eyes to… We will rain on you, we will come down upon you with the fury of man’s many millennia of bondage to so many failed ideologies, and petty, self serving dictators. I have lived too long, and come too far to have any patience for even the tiniest acts of tyranny! I do agree with you that this world is our Heavenly Garden to make as we wish, but I believe that heaven or hell are in the principles and actions that we live our lives by every day as well as the legacy we leave for others after we are gone.”

Then Wayne turned to the younger guard. He recognized him as the person who approached Eva when he saw her in the dining hall. “You like Eva, don’t you?” The young man shuddered and went whiteblankfaced. Wayne grabbed the man’s collar, and drew him face to face into his hard gaze and spoke in a low growl, “Eva is a very good friend of mine. I heard her terrified screams as you people took her away. We want her back home; you make sure no harm comes to her!” The man was shaken, and trembled as he looked down in shame, avoiding Wayne’s angry eyes.

Then Wayne went on. “I didn’t tell you about my powers, hmmm, I can pass like the wind across the earth, through the trees, through people’s lives, through time… Yes, I know things. I saw your master in his beautiful garden, his glass covered portico, the row of big windows with white drapes, the piano in the room with gold framed paintings of beautiful women on the walls… The fountain in the middle of his garden. The pear and apple trees… He walks in white robes, and he speaks kind loving words to his little white kitty… He is no god, he is just a man like us. Yes… I am the wind…”

The two guard’s faces couldn’t conceal their aghast surprise. Their brows lowered onto their eyelids, and the center of their faces wrinkled inward in distress. The younger man’s lips quivered as he started, then stopped speaking abruptly, “How do y…” The two men’s faces were stripped and deflated, and they hung their heads like wet, scolded dogs. The next morning the two were led down to their boat, and sent back to Tezan.

Wayne, Hawk, and Jesse went to the Textan base that night. Wayne and Jesse went into the tunnels to be in place to see the following day’s reaction at the Textan base. Hawk went into the woods on the rise just north of the base with a 60 power spotting scope. Wayne brought a tiny video camera and microphone that was disguised as a tuft of grass that could be slipped through a tiny hole. Jesse, who had recently escaped, and knew many of the other slaves, took a section of pipe, and would listen through the hole that surfaced near the slave kitchen that was in the fenced slave area between the farm fields.

Wayne reached Cat hole around 3 AM. He had smeared a paste made with pungent lantana and rosemary leaves on the camera to repel any curious creatures. He carefully pushed it through the small opening. He viewed the image on a 5 inch monitor that was salvaged from the spacecraft. Power was supplied by a heavy, homemade lead-acid battery in his back pack. Even at that early hour of the morning, there was a hustle of activity. Shadows moved quickly about, and different men’s voices talked in urgent tones. A younger man’s voice asked questions in rising, perturbed, and surprised tones, and gave orders for guards to patrol and search. Wayne thought he faintly heard some of the sound from the video on the disk that he gave the freed guards. He briefly saw Tezan in his white robe appear at one of the windows.

As the morning began, Jesse listened as activity began to stir in the slave kitchen. The noise of clanking pots and sizzling fry pans gave cover for the slaves to speak their accustomed gossip. He could tell that some information had rippled through the community, although they seemed to only have vague notions. They asked each other why there was unusual activity late at night in the central compound, then he heard them speak in more hushed tones that one of the slaves had said that something was going to happen soon.

Hawk, on the hillside, hiding in a thicket, wore a pair of 9MM silencer equipped M9’s with their handles facing forward so that he could crossdraw without raising his shoulders or elbows. He also wore a pair of 12” , razor sharp knives in scabbards strapped just below his knees. He saw that there were more patrols, and guards were pushing through the brush and setting fires to tall grass outside the outer fences. At one point, he saw faces of guards looking directly in his direction, and could hear their approaching voices. He drew one of the pistols as he crouched low. They were within a hundred feet of him but quickly retreated and ran back toward the base when the guards setting fires called out for help to keep the fire from burning sheds and piles of materials near the fence.

Hawk watched the morning begin. The slaves marched out to their duties, then two men were brought out to be punished. One at a time, their handcuffed hands and neck collar were attached closely together to a ring on the top of a low post near the barrels over which the other slaves had been beaten. Each man received a vicious beating by two guards at once. Hawk could hear their piercing screams of pain from his distant hillside, and, as he rested the scope on a branch and carefully turned the focus, he could see that the two men being beaten were the guards that had been captured in the fishing boat ambush.

The three men returned to Camp Hidey in the darkness of the following night and had a post-mission debriefing and strategy session. After Hawk told of what he saw, Wayne said, “well, I think we know what their answer is.” The CB scanner suddenly crackled as it came out of standby mode and the signal strength meter jumped back and forth between sixes and sevens. A recorded message played: “It is not too late to find light, you must act now, for the end is coming soon…” It was the same message that Wayne had heard in the spacecraft when his orbit passed over this part of the continent just before he landed.

A few days later, several boats with armed men arrived at Camp Hidey-Hidey. Among them, the younger guard, now in slave’s shackles, pushed through the growth to the buildings, but all they found was dark and dusty, long abandoned rooms, and on the riverbank, no mark of any other boat or footprints.

Wayne sat in the library. He had the Trunk of Apocalypse, as it was called, open, and papers out on the table… Something he had seen during that night of horror. He carefully opened the pages of a very old and brittle newspaper. Último Alboroto De la Muerte de Todas; Todas’ Last Rampage of Death. The heading was over an article in a Brazilian newspaper. He worked his way through the article with his fair knowledge of Spanish as it discussed one of the many murderous tyrants, Roberto Velasquez De Fuerte, that appeared on the world’s stage in the 30 years of the Apocalypse. This man had started out stealing millions in a corporate embezzlement scheme, then disappeared for several years and resurfaced as a fundamentalist religious leader during the roughly 15 years in which most governments collapsed. In that time, he engaged in the widespread slaughter of people in that nation’s capital, seizing power briefly before being squeezed out by other warring gangs and forced to flee. His name was a nickname that was slangspoken ‘All’ in Spanish. Todas. It was derived from his commands to kill all, all men, women, children, and animals.

The article described his presumed death as fires were set and raged up a mountainside where he was thought to be hiding. The article went on to speculate that his son, Tezan, had seized control of a small Caribbean island and formed an apocalyptic religious cult. Wayne photographed the article. Then he put the papers back and went hastily up to Fort Wayne.

Wayne slipped into the secret bunker, and opened the vault that was in the rear wall. He looked down a shelf of data disks, then slowed down and pulled one out and fed it to a slot on the side of his computer. He scrolled through names and photos till he reached Roberto Velasquez de Fuerte. “FBI, Interpol status: wanted, fugitive.“ It went on to a long list of crimes, a photo, then under another heading below titled ‘Associates’ was pictured his son Tezan De Fuerte, and several other individuals. Wayne saved the file to memory, then removed and replaced the disk, then went upstairs to his office.

As he looked at his computer, a dim, grainy image of an older man could be seen through a window. He had taken it from Cat hole the previous night. He zoomed and panned around on the computer screen as he analyzed the image and worked for a while as he manipulated the image in an image processing program. He leaned close to the screen as he applied filters and image enhancements. He leaned back and looked, squinted, then he opened the file he had found in the vault, and brought up both photos into the software’s panel in a split screen arrangement. “Whew!” he spoke to his solitary presence in the room, “You ain’t telling me that ain’t him!”

Wayne’s night was sleepless. He saw Eva in that big room, mopping; he thought of the show poster of Les Miserables. The little innocent girl with that heavy mop. Then he thought of the mass murderers of the Apocalypse. There were so many, and so many people died at their hands. They died in the name of greed, lechery, madness, nation, hunger, primal savagery, God.

Wayne began to re-live his night of horror, and wrote in his journal:

“My life means nothing. Victory is all. I fear not death, only defeat.

My people love me, they serve me with the obsequience of slaves. Their future depends on me.

I have the spirituality for a new world. I have the weapons…

Am I Wayne, am I Tezan?”

Fight

First New World War

On a cool night in September, fog wandered slowly over the warm river’s swirling patterns, and swept upward like an army of ghosts in the calm air’s movements. Then the silver glowing mists were slowly swallowed up by gray shades of darkness as the moon’s first quarter slipped below the horizon close to midnight.

Little Camp Hidey island was so crowded, many of the men waited in their boats, canoes and kayaks. Wayne stood on a crate and looked over the group and spotted the team leaders in the dim light.

“Ah’ight guys. We’re throwin’ us a little party at their has’, and we’re bringin’ the music. So Gordie, you got that transducer ready and workin’, and those files play surefire, right?”

Gordon: ” Right!”

” Ok, the sequencing is going to be very important, so, you team leaders call out your order and the event that you follow.”

Gordon. “Start music at 0-300.”

Jesse:“Punch through behind the slave kitchen. When I hear music, take out the guards, start the slaves down the tunnels.”

Hawk: “Start the fire after that Kennedy guy.”

“Hey! That’s President John F Kennedy!” Wayne said emphatically.

“Oh… Yea. Ok.”

Rizzi: “When the fire gets going, get the boats.”

Argus. “When he got fire, we blow the fence.”

Wayne, “Now remember, the second, real faint laser beam is the one that will hurt you. The others are fine. Now Jesse, you’ll have about three minutes max, ok. Make ‘em jump in head first, serious now, because that will get ‘em headed straight down the line, and I mean make ‘em. Hold a stick over ‘em like you mean it. Ok!”

” Ok!”

Then Wayne nodded his approval and said. “Now me and all these guys in black will be all over the place. We’ll have some big guns and we look a lot badder than the bad guys, so don’t worry when you see us. Ok, we have about three hours, so take your time and be very careful getting into your positions. Well, ‘nuff said… For the New World!”

Kayaks and canoes covered in camouflaging driftwood and leafy branches set out in two directions.

One group went down the south bank, past the Textan base, to cross over to the cove to follow the trail to the drain tunnels.

The other group crossed the river right away to float down along the north bank. The river was over a mile wide the four miles from Camp Hidey to the base. They travelled spaced far apart over five hundred feet from the riverbank so they would be hard to spot from the shore or from mid river patrols.

Hawk and twelve others fed their kayaks into thick brush on the riverbank about a half mile up river from the base. They put on their back packs and fins, and hid behind marshgrass-covered floats as they swam downstream. As they neared the glow of lights that shone out on the waters in front of the boat docks, most of the men waited in the shallows for a time, then swam out into the river, just out of the light, using snorkel tubes to stay almost submerged, with just their eyes above water.

Hawk and Emmet sank low in the water, with barely more than their camouflaged head-tops above water as they crept slowly toward the long boardwalk and its six docks jutting out into the water. When they got close enough to see the guards, they watched carefully, and moved only when the guards weren’t looking. They made it to the edge of boardwalk. Hawk crept along just under an overhanging edge and went to the other end. They opened large canisters and began to smear a mixture of pig fat and gunpowder on the wood beam along the front edge. They set fuses.

Meanwhile, Jesse, Gordon, Jackrobert and four others hid their canoes and slipped into the woods about a half mile down river from the base. They went into the tunnels. When they reached the middle junction, They put the audio transducer through the hole they had made to the surface, near the center of the farm field, in the grass by a lane. The audio transducer that was so effective at scaring everybody on movie night was a waterproof disc that could play audio files at high volume. The omnidirectional sound immersed the listener, making it very difficult to tell where the sound was coming from. They pulled sleds to lug several heavy batteries and duffel bags of tools, lights, weapons, and supplies down the tunnels.

They took batteries to the other junctions, and hooked up lights so that they could see down the long tunnels. Gordon went down the side pipe to Cat Hole with the camera to push it up through a small hole to spy on Tezan. He left men at the junctions and at Cat Hole while he, Jackrobert, and Jesse went down the pipe that went under the slave quarters. Gordon reached into his pocket and pulled out two wind-up watches that had their straps removed and compared their times.

Underneath the slave’s fenced-in area, Jesse removed chunks of concrete and dirt from the hole and slowly climbed up behind four trash barrels behind the slave’s kitchen, he peered about, bending and stretching his neck to see where the guards were. He couldn’t see anyone, so he climbed up on the drum’s edges and pulled himself up on the low pitched roof of the kitchen. As he crept slowly up to the ridge, he saw two guards sitting on wooden bushel barrels by the gate. From the well worn spots on the ground in front of them, he gathered that they probably stayed there most of the time. He immediately went back and whispered down the hole.

Jackrobert and Gordon came up with a sack. Jackrobert walked low, below the windows of the rear of the slave barracks, to the other end, where he went to the fence corner and pulled a grassy camouflage net over himself. He began to cut the fence with a pair of heavy wire cutters. Gordon brought up a fire extinguisher that was pressurized with hot pepper powder and fine clay dust.

Gordon looked at his watches again, his brow dropped into a slight grimace.

Argus and several others approached the complex near the west fence at the nearest point to the fenced slave buildings. They assembled a small wagon from parts that they had carried through the woods and filled it with high explosives from the artillery shells. The fence was about two hundred feet down a slight slope from their brushy hiding place.

Wayne and about a dozen men were in two groups on two aluminum skiffs with outboard engines and electric trawling motors. One group, armed with a pair of M1 .50 caliber machine guns and several anti-tank rockets, remained out from the bank with a view of the cove and the base, ready to approach when the action started. Wayne and five others wore black armored tactical suits and carried M240 automatic rifles along with their M9 pistols with clips holding high velocity hollow point rounds. They were dropped off about a quarter mile down river from the base.

The quiet night was coming to morning’s earliest beginnings. The cricket’s chorus was slower, and the whippoorwill’s steady nightcall had stopped. A distant owl made its deep hoo-hoo’s. The rising mists had turned to lowhanging layers of fog over the river and surrounding valleys.

Jesse slowly rose under a window at the rear of the barracks from which he had escaped several months before. In an upper bunk bed, Jesse’s still enslaved friend woke up to soft whispers, then suddenly startled, he shifted, then froze at the word ‘escape’. In a moment, from the several beds nearby could be heard shifting blankets and the ‘s‘ sounds in the word ‘escape’ being passed around. Jesse pushed the window sash fully open, then a stir began to fill the room. He gave his friend an M9 pistol and told him to order everyone to stay quiet and to slip out the window one at a time. Jesse held his finger up over his lips and said “Shhhh.” The friend, inside, motioned with the pistol, ordering everyone up as he held his finger over his lips saying “Shhhh,” while whispering for people to begin climbing out the window. Jesse began urgently directing a stream of people into the tunnel. Once the first pair of bare foot soles disappeared down into the hole into flicking shadows, the next, then the next slave slipped into the earth through a small, oval slot between two barrels.

Suddenly, a few gentle tones echoed off the concrete buildings and walls, then a grand overture swelled into the air as Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man expanded into its grand, commanding, passionate, and heroic themes. The sound shocked the quiet early morning. Shouts and voices in tones of question and surprise suddenly erupted all about the base, and the heads of guards were tilting, cocking, and turning about as they wondered what was going on. Meanwhile, slave after slave slipped into the hole. Paul’s voice was a loud whisper over the music as he waved his pistol and said, “Go! Go! Go!” with each descending slave.

As the music finished in its gentle, resolved tones, the voice of John F Kennedy began to read part of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in

such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

The two guards at the slave compound went towards the slave barracks. A watchperson warned, and Jesse passed the yellow cylinder through the window. Soon, the door squeaked open, and as the two guards entered, there was a loud hissing sound, followed by coughing, grunts, struggles, slapping skin, and the dull thudding of several people punching and clubbing the guards.

WHA-BOOM! The boardwalk exploded.

The higher sounds of the explosion arrived a fraction of a second before a deep ‘Thwump’ sent a shockwave across the base, then the sound became a crackling roar as a wall of flame rose from the hundred foot long planked boardwalk. Figures ran about as the flames cast dancing shadows over the fields and on the buildings, and the early morning mist was infused with yellow and orange glows. Then a series of Molotov cocktails arched in the air from the waters beyond the ends of the boardwalk and exploded into fireballs in the field of dried corn stalks, black mushroom clouds rose in several places as the fields quickly erupted into flame. The air was filled with the conflicted smells of the savory aromas of pork mixed with the rank smell of gunpowder. Views began to be obscured as gray and black smoke spread over the area, swirling, boiling and rising to feed an anvil shaped cloud higher overhead that was pulled into streaming layers by breezes aloft and lit from below by the hot white-yellow flames.

At the edge of the clearing, several hundred feet up from the river bank, a dark form, a black box on wheels began a slow roll, then accelerated towards the west fence. Gunfire erupted as guards shot at the wagon, making little sprays of splinters and wood chips fly off its sides. Then CRACK-BOOOM... there was a sharp, loud crack as the wagon instantly became a blinding white spot, a cloud appeared with white, yellow, and red sparks and bits of flame shooting out in all directions, sending hundreds of arching fire and smoke trails outward and upward in every direction. Immediately, there was a very hard shockwave, a shockwave travelling at eighty percent of the twenty two thousand mile per hour burn rate of the high explosive. It left stinging pain on the skin and in the ears, and sharp, bone jarring pains deep inside the bodies of people within three hundred feet. Debris flew overhead at high speed, making deep, warbling ricochet sounds and dopplering in weird falling tones. In the tunnels, some distance away, a loud tick sent dirt falling down between the pipe joints onto the still crawling, escaping slaves. Windows in the slave barracks shattered, and there was the sound of broken glass and things falling. There were random noises on the roof as debris kept falling from the sky for some time after the blast.

The concrete corner post that held the laser reflectors was shattered in the blast, letting the laser beams shoot past the corner straight into the forest beyond the clearing. The usually invisible beam could now be seen as it passed through the smoke. Lines of fire appeared in mid-air as the powerful industrial cutting laser beam ignited anything in its path. Fire began to rise up in the trees deep within the forest. The two guards that had been shooting at the wagon lay squirming on the ground about a hundred feet away holding their heads and moaning in pain. Blood ran out of their mouths and noses.

Argus emerged from an erosion gulley and went to where the beam went into the woods. He removed a polished stainless steel signaling mirror from the inside pocket of his tactical vest and lashed it to a short stick.

By now, guards were running all around the base shooting wildly everywhere and whipping their heads with wild, searching eyes. A guard gunned down several other guards in a surprise meeting at the corner of a barn. The heartstabbing pathos of war could be heard in the shrieks of the shooter’s emotional agony as he had killed several of his own men. Around the base were the yells and breathy gasps and grunts of shock, fear, and desperation.

One of the guards on the ground near the blast saw Argus reaching up to reflect the laser. The bloodyfaced guard struggled to his knees and raised his rifle to aim at Argus, who quickly and carefully aimed the beam. It wobbled erratically, setting leaves on fire around the two guards. Suddenly the guard went limp, and as he slumped down to the ground, his head tumbled off his shoulders and rolled several feet away. “Daayum!” Argus froze a moment in his horror and surprise. He looked up at the beam in front of him, and stepped back a bit, then quickly raised his mirror as he saw dozens of guards running toward the docks and the blown up fence.

A sharp yell came from the slave buildings as guards swarmed around the buildings. “They’re all gone!” Gordon and Jackrobert had slipped away only moments earlier through the hole they had cut in the fence after concealing the hole to the tunnel. As they ran through the corn stalks, bullets whizzed overhead, some snapping through the brown dried plants around them. They came to part of the field that was ablaze and kept low between the rows, running apishly on all fours. As they neared the clearing, they made a dash through the opening in the outer fence toward Argus.

Then a bullet pierced the air, making a quick twing next to Gordon’s ear. As he turned, he saw Jackrobert tumble forward expressionless. There was a small hole in the side of his head, and as he hit the ground, he turned over, and his brains splashed out of a gaping hole on the other side of his skull. Gordon ran, shrieking, and tumbled into the woods, collapsing in a heap and screaming his horror at Argus’ feet.

As soon as the docks blew, the men in the river began to swim vigorously towards the boats, but stopped almost immediately when two guards that had been laying asleep in one of the large boats sprang up, flopped about in dazed confusion for a moment, then hurriedly began to untie the mooring lines. Then one of them paused, squinted, and saw some of the ripples that were still around from the frogmen’s swimming. The guard grabbed a rifle and began shooting, aiming quickly at different places in the water as he fired with loud reports from his hunting rifle. The swimmers submerged and popped up here and there in the water as they swam towards the docks.

A body floated in the water, with only the wet creases in its dark clothing shining as it tumbled, just below the surface, slowly drifting in the current.

As the other guard went to the boat’s console to start the engine, a grappling hook at the end of a black cord whipped over the shoulder of the guard with the rifle and dug into his neck and chest. The chord was immediately yanked very hard and spun the guard around so fast, his rifle hung in the air a moment, then fell as he spun rapidly while being pulled sideways, tumbling over the edge. He hit his head hard on the dock as he fell, and disappeared with only a small splash between the boat and the dock.

As one of the swimmers began to climb aboard over the transom, he stepped on the stabilizer fins on each side of the propeller. The remaining guard looked around and saw the other guard gone. His hand was on the start switch as he craned his neck around, looking fearfully. He noticed a shape hiding behind the motor housing. Then a loop of stiff black cord arched over the side in a pair of black-gloved hands, making a low, quick ‘whoop’ as it went over the guard’s head, slapping around his neck. The cord immediately sprang taut with a low twang as the guard was pulled down forcefully, landing on his upper back on the boat’s edge. With the cord around his neck, the guard kicked and clutched at his throat as he twisted, struggling as he was pulled overboard, disappearing under the water.

Across the docks, black arms with shiny knives came up everywhere and cut mooring lines, then disappeared. The boats slowly were pulled out by unseen hands.

Some of the boats were on fire, and were abandoned to float, brightly burning, shining yellow light across the water. The bow of one of the larger boats was on fire, and several dark shadowed figures splashed water and dumped buckets till clouds of steam and smoke diminished to a rank smolder; its engine started and it sped away.

Soon, the fires spread out onto the docks, all were brightly ablaze, crackling, popping. There were smaller explosions as gas cans blew. Burning debris floated and flames spread out on the water.

In the fiery light over the water, two more bodies, with air puffed clothing billowed about them, floated face down, bobbing as they very slowly slipped away in the river’s current.

Some of Tezan’s men went down to the riverbank towards the docks. They fired at the departing boats. Other guards ran toward the hole blown in the fence, shooting into the woods beyond the mangled openings. Gordon pulled out his pistol and began shooting as Argus reflected the nearly invisible laser beam across the advancing soldiers.

The guards didn’t realize what was happening for a moment, then suddenly they began jumping and running in every direction as Argus swept the beam back and forth, creating little lines of fire in the smoky air, and crisscrossing their bodies with searing, black cauterized gashes. Their uniforms melted to their skin and caught fire as the searing beam made sizzling sounds bubble from deep in their skin. The beam stopped on one man’s back briefly, his upper body swelled up quickly, then steam shot out of his mouth and nose, then he exploded and sprayed bloody mist out several feet as his body fell to the ground in pieces.

In the tunnels, the train of crawling souls shifted in hushed echoes through the sands with occasional grunts, comments, and soft cries. The men at the junctions holding the lights gave gently spoken instructions, words of encouragement, and occasional quips of humor as the people anxiously filed by. At Cat Hole, Rizzo watched and listened on the little monitor. He saw guards pacing about, nervously watching the walls, roof, and doors. He thought he heard mention of a safe room as a group stood under the portico. Then there was a call for a meeting in the main hall at 5:00 am. He sent a messenger to tell Wayne as he continued to watch.

On the base, several small groups of Tezan’s men had shed their white uniforms and walked out toward the edges of the outer perimeter, past the bodies of their dead and burned comrades, with their hands in the air, looking for their unseen attackers to surrender to. When Wayne’s big gunned, black suited badboys emerged from the woods, the men dropped to their knees or lay prone and cried for mercy as they trembled in their undergarments in the cool, dewy morning grasses. These men had been little more than slaves too.

Wayne saw the first of the slaves emerge from the woods: the cook Sharion, the songleader of the fields, Kendor, the master mechanic, Jeremy. All met in the cove and talked to Wayne as the boats from Textan’s docks began to arrive. People climbed aboard, engines were started, and they set out on the river; free. As they filled the several boats and departed, there were the hushed conversations of the many people, and voices here and there in the darkness; outbursts of song, children’s inquisitive voices, soft cries of joy and fear.

Wayne’s questions confirmed what he had suspected, that a small number of slaves were in the central compound with Tezan. Among that number was Eva. It was 0-318 hours, eighteen minutes after the first note of Copland’s symphony sounded, and Wayne’s day was just beginning…

As soon as the slaves were well up river, Wayne, Gordon, Jesse and several others went into the tunnels. They scrambled down the pipes with several duffle bags. At Cat Hole, observing from Tezan’s garden, Rizzi filled in the others on what he saw. There was about an hour and a half till the meeting in the main hall. Wayne went back to the junction and picked through things in the several duffel bags, then went down to the last junction and headed left to come up in the storage shed.

He slid the iron cover aside and came up among the stored equipment in the shed. He could hear the barking voices of commanders and the frightened voices of soldiers over the generators running in the next room. He covered the manhole. He stood on a drum, then lightly tossed a grappling hook around a beam about ten feet above him. There were two light lines hanging down from the hook. He unrolled a small bundle and clipped one of the lines to it, and pulled on the other cord to raise a cable ladder up till it clicked into a catch just under the hook’s leader cable. The cable ladder consisted of two parallel, twenty foot long, 1/8 inch diameter braided stainless steel cables between which were attached six inch long, 3/8 inch diameter aluminum alloy rungs spaced a foot apart. He climbed up the little ladder. When he reached the beam, he pulled up the ladder, gathered it together, then clipped its rungs together with carabiners to make a sling to sit in, suspended at the ceiling.

He could now see a few people’s heads in the generator room, as the wall only went as high as the lower pitch of the roof, leaving a low triangular opening near the ceiling. Wayne pulled out a camouflage net and draped it around himself. Above him, he found the seam where sections of the 36 inch wide corrugated steel roofing joined. With a pair of metal shears, he pushed between the leaves of metal and began snipping. He had both hands on the shears’ handles as he wiggled, rocked, and twisted the tool to cut metal that was thicker than the similar stuff he had used on the family farm. “Dadgummed eighteen gauge commercial stuff,” he muttered between grunts.

He made two parallel cuts about two feet long and two feet apart and bent down a flap of the metal, creating a springy, self closing hatch to the roof. It was dim rose dawn outside as he peered out, then slowly climbed out onto the roof. The shed was lower than the two flat topped concrete buildings that it was built between. Wayne went to the north building and tucked himself close to the wall and pulled the mottled looking camo net over himself. The south building housed about fifty of Tezan’s men and some slavegirls. The north buildings were Tezan’s private living quarters.

Wayne began to unfasten bolts holding long vent grilles in place near the top of the building. The rusty bolts snapped off only after a long moment’s struggles with vice grips and a hacksaw blade.

A shadow suddenly loomed over him from the edge of the higher roof. He froze and pulled close to the wall under his camouflage. A guard stood over him, but looked only at the fields and outer perimeter, nervously, as if fearing another attack at any moment, then walked away out of view without looking down.

Wayne slowly pulled back the grille, crawled inside, and squeezed into a space between the suspended ceiling and the roof of the building. He lowered himself onto bundles of electrical conduit that branched throughout the building that were suspended on steel crossbars spaced about every ten feet. He heard more activity at the other end and worked his way down anxiously.

His loaded backpack and tactical suit contained everything from his computer and electronic gear and a battery, to grenades, smoke bombs, pepper spray, and several pistols. He was prepared to blast his way into, and out of the place, but he had a few tricks he wanted to try.

Wayne learned from the escaped and captured that Tezan’s presence at meetings was televised from his secure apartment into the large meeting hall where Wayne had seen Eva on his spy mission. He brought video files and photos from newspapers, and other information about Tezan, as well as the promotional video of the space mission. As he neared the area where he heard voices, Wayne saw a concrete enclosure within the building protruding a few feet above the suspended fiber panels of the inner ceiling below. It had concrete walls and roof, as if it had been a vault or refrigerated area when the building was built over a hundred years ago. He realized that it was the center of the activity. Many of the voices were Spanish. Then he saw that there were some wires that were not covered in the gray dust that covered everything else in this space between the ceiling and the roof. He stepped carefully onto the concrete top of the enclosure, then saw where wires came through a small hole. He opened his bag and pulled out the computer and the tiny camera. As the computer booted, he very carefully fed the camera through the hole just far enough to see something. He watched the screen as he slowly aimed the camera.

Wayne looked at his screen and watched the image from the camera. There he was; Tezan De Fuerte. There were several other people. A younger man, a woman, and an older woman. They looked at papers and drawings. The voices were agitated, curt. Tezan was gray, the women had black hair and they had Hispanic accents. There was tension in the room. Wayne began to record the video as he watched and tried to figure out the relationships between the people as they argued angrily among themselves. The meeting was to start in less than an hour.

Wayne continued to watch. There was a taller, fair, younger man who paced about. He spoke sharply, arrogantly. He had a gun in a holster on his belt. Several armed men were with him, and Tezan and the women were subservient to him. Wayne then realized that Tezan was not the man in charge.

The elder woman spoke, “You should listen to my husband, we cannot keep this way…”

“Shuddup!” snapped the young man.

Then the younger woman, ” Don’t talk to my mother that way!”

The young man raised his arm, preparing to backhand the younger woman, “You shuddup, be quiet, this is not your business!”

“My famil…” WHACK! He slapped her. She shrieked and grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling.

The tottering old man began to get up slowly, pointing his finger at the younger man, but was interrupted by the younger as he began to speak. “You get out there and talk, put on your shroud, ok. Do your spiritual, from-the-future hocus pocus on those idiots, and give them your sweet talk of sacrifice, because, you know what, that’s all you’ve got. You’re just Tezan De Fuerte, the washed up religious nutcase, and your father, kill-them-all Todas, was just a greedy, lecherous thug. If the truth is known, you are finished. With me, you will have your peaceful life in your garden. I don’t need you. You just make my job easier. Our army is big enough now that we have the power to do as we please. This thing last night was just a few troublemakers. We were just caught unexpecting an attack; they have never resisted us. We will sweep the area, get the slaves and our boats back, and find those who did it. Damian is God now, I rule the world now, it is mine to take!”

“Damn, Damian. What an a-hole!” Wayne muttered to himself.

Wayne examined the wires coming out of the hole. He put a splitter in their connections and tapped a booster amp. One cable was for a monitor that showed the assembly room with people beginning to file in and take seats. He could see that there was a large projection screen on the wall. He tried several other cables till he saw flickering on the wall screen in the image of the assembly room, and found the cable that he would feed into from his computer.

“Ok, it’s almost time. Get over there on stage.” Damian said. Tezan walked up on a small stage that had a backdrop of a futuristic spacecraft and stepped into an enclosure, really a rounded, streamlined space suit or pod, out of which his visored head protruded. His arms had mounted on them sleekly designed control panels with small, glowing screens.

Most of the people had assembled in the room, they were nervous, with shifting eyes and grimaced, tired faces. They were in shock, and felt the uncertainty as well as an ongoing sense of impending doom. It was 4:55. Wayne switched the input cable with one from his computer and started the video. It began with a slow zoom, then downward pan of the newspaper article Wayne had photographed that documented the family’s ill deeds, and showed full screen photos of Tezan and his father Todas. Then it faded into the video of the fracas below him that he had recorded earlier showing Damian’s bullying and Tezan getting into his suit on stage.

There was immediately a stir in the meeting room and questioning tones of voices, whispers, and gasps. Within a few minutes, the room became filled with agitated voices and yells, There were at first, timid murmurs of wobbly leadership that soon spoke themselves into strong rallying speechlets. Then one man said loudly, “Let’s see for ourselves, we never see the guy. C’mon! C’mon!, let’s go down there!” The crowd erupted in a flurry of varied voices; of fear, frustration, action, question, wait-a-minutes'. People began to pour out into the courtyard toward the north building, and the echoes of lynch mob tones began to fill the buildings. Then there was loud banging at the doors to Tezan’s private quarters.

On the monitor, Damian did not know what was happening at first. He squinted trying to see the image that showed the assembly room and the screen on the wall, then he turned to check the video equipment. Then he heard the voices astir in the assembly room, and when he looked back at his monitor, he saw as the crowd watched him hitting his wife, Tezan’s daughter.

Damian erupted into a roaring fury when he realized what the people were seeing. Wayne could hear the angry, barking ‘woo-woo-woo’ of Damian’s voice through the cement below him. Damian darted about in the room with wide-eyed horror like a trapped animal as he saw the event unfold. Then the people saying “Get him! Get him!”

Damian looked at his men, and said, “We gadda-go!” He grabbed a satchel and went to fill it with ammunition and other things from the dark corners of a closet.

As Damian opened the door to leave the safe room, the guards outside had just begun to hear the clamor of voices outside the private area. Damian looked around desperately, but there was no other way out. The guards looked at his wild motions, but knew nothing yet. There was confusion and worry in their faces. They drew weapons. Then BOOM! BOOM! The double doors in the hallway to the rest of the compound bent several inches inward with each kick by the men on the other side. “We’re under attack!” Damian yelled in a voice that was more shrieking fear than leadership.

Wayne, above them, zipped up his body armor, and pulled out his black, visored helmet. He could continue to hear the muffled boom, boom, boom of the people trying to break the door down.

Damian looked up at the ceiling, thought furtively a moment, then slipped into a room at the end of the hall and stood on a table. He pushed aside a panel in the ceiling and climbed against the wall up into the space above. He steadied himself against a pipe as he reached down, ordering one of his men to hand up his satchel. With his arms full, he struggled as he wobbled while balancing on a truss in the dark space to reach the cement top of Tezan’s safe room, where Wayne stood. It wasn’t till Damian was close that he looked around and tried to see into the vast but low space between the roof and inside ceilings.

Wayne stepped out into the beam of light that was cast by the opening that Damian made. Damian looked up. He jolted in surprise, almost falling, letting the heavy bag he held fall with a dusty crash through the ceiling panel, creating rays of streaming, dusty light up into the dark space.

Wayne towered above Damian in his black, bulging, massive, iron-headed, mirror-faced, black-booted, armored suit. “You’re finished,” Wayne said solemnly.

Then there was a loud cracking sound and the din of voices below suddenly got louder as the crowd broke the door in and came flooding down the hallway with sweaty anger worked up in their struggle to get in. Several heads peered up through the open panels.

Damian jumped recklessly, almost slipping as and climbed up onto the cement platform. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pistol and shot. It missed Wayne, and dust fell off pipes behind him. Wayne walked toward Damian as he shot two more times, both making little dust clouds on Wayne’s armored chest.

Wayne grabbed Damian’s wrist, the gun, click, click, was empty. It sounded like a toy as it fell to the cement floor. Then Damian swung widely to Wayne’s mid section with his other hand, but only skinned his knuckles against the hard armored suit.

Wayne grabbed Damian in a head lock, and they twisted about as they wrestled. Damian worked loose and swung wildly, with his arm making a low whoosh sound over Wayne’s head. Damian swung and danced about crazy-eyed in panting desperation. He looked here and there erratically, and tried to think, then he impulsively charged at Wayne, but had not gotten a good footing, and twisted his ankle, and went flying off the concrete and crashing through the ceiling, falling into the crowd below.

There was a roar of confusion and excitement as the crowd swarmed around him. Wayne looked down through the opening to see the white tips of many elbows rising and descending quickly over Damian, and he heard the B-B-BIFF-BIFF KSCH-KSCH sounds of many fists hitting in succession.

After some time the melee died down. Damian’s bloody, twisted body lay in the hall. The tone became hushed and heads popped up looking around the space above the ceiling, but they saw nothing.

The door of the safe room slowly opened, and the sobbing of the women was behind the emerging, solemn, slowly walking figure of Tezan. “Libre. Todo libre! We are now all free, now go, go…” He waved his hand in a little, floppy, nonchalant gesture as he turned around without looking back, shuffling in loose slippers slowly, agedly, to the women’s sobbing embraces. Then his daughter, Isadora, ran out and huddled over Damian’s body, weeping, her black eyes flashing looks of fear and anger, her face in twisted anguish.

At the other end of the hallway, a soft thud. Everyone looked around. There stood the black, menacing, broadshouldered, larger than life form of an armored man. Wayne flipped up his visor to show his puffy cheeked freckle faced smile.

There was a sudden little cry from down the hall, then a petite feminine figure peering out from around a corner pushed her way anxiously through the crowd and ran into Wayne, throwing her arms around him as she broke down sobbing. Wayne bent and cradled his big arms around her, “Eva! Eva! God it’s so good to see you. I’m so glad you’re ok.” Wayne’s eyes watered as she continued to embrace him. There were sobs and wearied smiles throughout the people. They were all free.

Word got to the outside; Wayne’s men collected up weapons. As Tezan’s men came in from outlying parts of the base and from the other communities, all were declared free, disarmed, and everyone was given civilian clothes. Some of Damian’s commanders were belligerent, but they were hunted down and cornered in various buildings around the base and eventually wisely surrendered to the armored men, then were locked in a storage room and guarded to be dealt with later.

As Wayne looked at the equipment in the generator room, and turned off the laser, he read some papers that came with the equipment: “Universal yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd-YAG) laser. Up to one inch cutting in stainless steel. Dayum!”

* * *

From the medical clinic could be heard the frantic voices of people hurriedly working to set up components that had been brought down river from the Fort Wayne hospital. The moans of painful injuries could be heard from a triage area in an adjoining room. A small room was being set up as an operatory. The door was removed, and an airlock with an air filtration unit and a UV sterilizing curtain was fitted in the door’s opening. They brought in cases that contained folding operating tables, lighting, an autoclave sterilizer, and medical supplies. Wayne directed the others, few of whom had any medical know how. Wayne had been through the military’s battlefield injury training seminars. A military field manual titled Emergency War Surgery lay open on a desk next to trays of surgical instruments. Wayne quickly removed his armored suit, washed up, and put on a set of surgeon’s scrubs.

“Ok, it’s like the lady that comes up to the meat counter and says that she wants that ham sliced reeeel thieeeeun. See, here, we’re using a number 22 scalpel with that rounded tip so we don’t lance below the base of the dermis… Ok now move that retractor up about 6 centimeters…Good, right there.. So you come along at about a thirty degree angle in our debridement of these nasty cauterizations. You use a little sawing motion as you rock the scalpel back and forth to perform our escharotomy to remove about a millimeter’s worth all along the injury. Make sure you keep the suction nozzle right there and follow the incision to keep anything from even touching the muscle layer if you can. Ok, the sutures. We will be doing a bunch of these subcuticular mattress sutures, and here’s how you proceed: First use that sponge applicator and put some of the chlorhexidine solution on its pad…” Wayne demonstrated the suture technique used to close the base of the dermis in deep wounds. With a second pass, he came back down the suture line to close the epidermis.

“Ugh, ok. Now this one’s dead, but the others sho’ will be hollerin’.” He had demonstrated the surgical procedure on one of the dead to others who would be working on the medical team. “It looks like they’re ready setting up the operatory. It’ll be rough in there, a lot of yelling and scrambling around. Just concentrate on your jobs and close out of your mind all the other commotion. Ok! Let’s go!”

The surgeries went on for over twelve hours, with one group setting and splinting broken and sprained limbs, and another team working on lacerations, gunshot, and laser wounds. Twenty lives were saved, and a dozen lost.

The next day was solemn, with funerals and burial of the twenty seven dead. The dead from both sides of the battle were buried in a plot on a hill just north of the base, and the words: ‘May These Men’s Souls Look Upon A New World Of Peace. September 6, 2154.’ were engraved on a large, flat stone.

The following week, there was a gathering. People wanted to see who Tezan was, and to meet Wayne. There was much food, and a festive and relieved atmosphere, as well as many happy reunions. Old Tezan, his wife Anna, and daughter Isadora greeted everybody warmly.

They had been virtual prisoners of their son-in-law Damian for over ten years. Damian began as one of Tezan’s followers, and had been installed as governor on one of the Caribbean islands seized by Tezan’s father. When visiting his family on the mainland, however, Damian found their town ransacked, and his family butchered in their home. Over the next years, Damian became a hard, embittered, dark man and combined his ambitions of conquest with an inverted, perverse, and delusional belief system. His personal angst became entangled with his connection to religion through Tezan, where he saw himself as Tezan’s successor, but began to place Tezan’s role as preparatory for his own ultimate ascension to a level of spirituality above mankind. Damian had messianic delusions, and through that belief, saw himself as the one who could restore world order. Having grown up in a world that saw only violence, cruelty, and suffering, he saw no wrong in people’s suffering for the effort of creating order. He equated kindness with weakness. He blamed his parent’s kindness for their deaths. He was afraid to be kind, to love. His tormented mind was always awaiting a cruelty, and was ready to answer with even greater violence. His violence begot him a violent death.

Tezan was a gentle man, and in spite of all, carried himself with grace, warmth, and humor. “Their god beat up our god.” He said as he nodded with a grin to Wayne. Then Tezan began to speak, “Things can be simple now. We are at the beginning. Alas, we have barely begun to make our garden. We find new faith in an unpresuming god; and it is simple, we need not search, or wonder, or question; it is simple, to love each other as we are a family, for each of us to have assurance and trust in each other, to help and share in life’s toils and joys; it is simple, for god finds us in our good work, our happy and caring hearts, in good meals shared, and in our joyous play; it is simple, god rests on our shoulder at night, and helps us vision our dreams and see the future of humanity; it is simple, because god is love, and love is our kin, our dreams, our passions, the colors that we paint our view with, and the thing we want to leave for humanity when we pass.”

In this new world, these words are the beginning of man’s new scriptures, to be preserved and never forgotten, so their goodness can always be there to shine in the hearts of future peoples.

Throughout several days there was food and laughter, music and singing, and several couples were wed. Fences and barriers were taken down. The slave dwellings became work and storage areas. The buildings that were the central compound became a center of activity, where a late afternoon meal was served every day that brought people together to meet, plan, and share the news of the day. The medical equipment that was brought in after the battle became part of a well equipped medical clinic that included an x-ray room, testing lab, and a surgical suite.

One afternoon, Wayne heard raucous laughter in one of the buildings on the far side of the large corn field. He had smelled the rank spoiled smell of fermented mash since the battle, but had not gotten over there to see it. When he walked in, he saw and smelled people in high spirits. “Wooo, corn likker! Y’all watch that stuff now,” Wayne said as he looked at the several vats of ferment and three distillation boilers atop which were mounted four-foot tall, three-inch diameter copper pipes from the tops of which condensation tubes led to coils in drums of cool, circulating water.

These were fractioning stills, designed to produce 95 percent pure ethanol, with the ability to accurately separate the many components of the ferment, from high aromatic fusel oils, methanols, ethanols, down to the lower beer tailings. “Ah’ight guys, now let me tell ya a thinger two about this stuff. If you don’t want to get a hangover, don’t drink the first fusins’, that is, about the first ten percent of your batch, the foreshots ‘n heads that is. See that thermometer on top of the still head; the good drinkin’ stuff will come out at between 78 and 79 degrees centigrade. The rest of it is better off put in your gas tank as fuel.”

The distillation plant had been run almost continually, and much of the Textan farm output and slave labor had been devoted to producing fuel to run the generators that had kept electric fences charged, the laser barriers on, and for all the other comforts that Damian and the central elite had enjoyed. One of the first things Wayne planned to do was to minimize the use of electricity by running the generator for only a few hours a day during main meal, setting up wiring to different parts of the complex for battery charging stations, and adding windows and skylights to the buildings in the central compound for daytime lighting.

In the following weeks, communities were named, schools and libraries were established, and radio communications were set up. A farming co-op was formed to maintain the antique equipment and to manage food production. Regular ferry and mail service was established along the hundred miles or so of river towns.

Wayne thought about how the new string of communities, to flourish beyond a life of survival, would soon face the organizational challenges that have been the bane of man’s history; the issues of government and law, equality and representation, factionalism, transparency, communication, and bureaucracy. Wayne knew that their unsupposing innocence could not defend them from the pitfalls and various failings that societies have suffered throughout our world’s history.

Wayne warned them that, out of their new found unity, they had to be ready to deal with unforeseen troubles, declaring: “History has shown that, every time, in every nation, one group, or some dictator like that Damian character took over and made everybody’s life miserable, and a lot of the time, these rulers started out as good people. We’ve seen it over and over and over again in history. If I were you, I would make sure that no single person, group, or narrow way of thinking has the power to tell everyone else what to do. Make that rule number one, period!”

Wayne thought about the bunker, where, in the vault, stacked on pallets, there were millions of dollars of cash bundled in ones, fives, tens, twenties and hundred dollar bills. A currency and banking system could be established… Then Wayne realized that he had been living in a world without money for these months, where everyone got up every day and did all they could to survive, but where each person took pride in what they did and wanted to be valued as useful to their community, which was really a family, a good family, that is, where everyone cared about and helped each other.

Wayne thought… Nah. Toilet paper! Money was the most tyrannical ruler of all; the ultimate corruptor. In his old world, it had grown into a monster that was a feudal system, creating virtual slaves out of whole classes of people. Money dictated who would receive an education, where people could live, and whether they lived a life of security or of uncertainty and risk. Money was an invisible hand that bound together the availability of food with the price of fuel. Currency had become a complex entity that had taken on a life of its own and had grown beyond the control of any person, company, or government.

In the new world, everybody was equal, and each earned their life purely by how hard they worked, and each earned the respect of others purely on the quality of their character.

And, indeed the character of this world was now in the forging; each and all were free to be who they were as they began to form their collective identity and define their culture and purpose. What would they call themselves? What would be the name of their land? Even their language was infused with words of other languages, spoken differently, imitating the sound of things or feelings, with new words and ways of speaking emerging every day. Everything was new; they were free.

Girl1

A Love Story Begins

The times between Wayne and Eva became the gentle musings of love finding itself in their hearts and becoming part of them. The looks in each other’s eyes spoke long before it was said that a deep bond was growing between them. She was gentle and quiet in her manner, and carried herself with patient wisdom as one who always saw life as a whole. His wild and adventurous spirit danced with twinkle-eyed charm and fascination around her as the spring of hope in his new life.

Wayne began to understand the spirituality that was the quiet underpinnings of the family bond between these people. Women were revered, in men’s hearts, as the angelic mothers of humanity. Yes, the men were strong and brave, but motherhood and progeny were filled with the reverence of a precious and sacred rite. Men’s voices would quiet in woman’s presence. Men’s following and awe-looking gazes upon woman first appeared to Wayne in his first days there as playful venery, but he felt shame as he came to know their thoughts spoke nothing so daring as being even close to carnal desire, but rather a wonder and kind reverence, a humility of their always thanking feelings of acceptance of blessings. These men had their angels in their world, and Wayne began to realize that he was sharing with a new mankind the innocent beginnings of a spirituality that was unsupposing, unburdened and broken away from a history that was so removed from where they were now. Wayne felt that the ingredients that make heaven had never in man’s times been closer at hand or so real around him, hidden just under the surface, with only the glad and song filled toils and sharing of hearts needed to pull away the prickly vines and sow the seeds of beauty and love to find themselves sharing God’s very garden. Just now, Tezan’s gentle words found themselves a comfortable place of understanding in Wayne’s heart. It is so simple…

Wayne and Eva sat in her garden after sharing a quiet meal. Their conversation tailed off into soft gazes at each other. He saw in her tinges of distance and sadness. Wayne felt something in her manner, something she was not saying, some pain in her heart. They both felt deep adoration for each other, and they both knew it, yet unspoken things between them kept them from falling into the grasping and clinging embraces of blind and torrid passion.

The light of sunset’s soft hues faded to deeper tones, ushering in the twilight hour. The sun’s warm amber light shone across the treetops. Wayne’s look at her foretold his feelings, and her eyes and body beckoned, “Would you have a family with me, would you marry me?” Wayne asked softly.

She gasped and flung her arms around him. “Yes!” She said quietly and passionately, but it was one word that stopped with a small unsaid tone in her throat, a pause. She held his hand in both of hers and looked down, her mind in thought for several moments. “You are very special to us, here, in our new world, and we have found in each other love and joindre.” She paused, thinking, “You are a great man, and your life here will be filled with great works. You are a gift to us, divinely bestowed to us.” She rose, and walked in a slow circle around their bench, coming back in front of him, but looking out over the river. “You see that Great River,” she said, “it gently flows to give life and abundance in our land. Your greatest gift to us is not yet given. It is a gift for all. You are the one seed left from before our earth’s bedevilment. Your heart is unstained by the horrors. We shall marry, to have a wonderful family at the summer’s beginning.”

“Till then, you shall have dreams of progeny, where, in the silky night, the river of fecundity will flow in your chambers for the spring of new world children that can be the joy of a pure heart.“ His face tilted to her in wonder, and he began to speak, but she said, “I love you, I love you…” her voice trailed off to a soft breath, and she cried softly in his arms.

Through that late summer, In silken and scented nights, on his soft quilted alter came the anointed nubiles to lay with him, quietly, in submission, in gratitude, but not visage seen, or words spoken, only to accept a blessing; playfully love frolicked in giggles and teases, flowery petaled, rolling and free, each one a most magic time, to then fly out softly in elation and veneration.

His waking moments would smell sweetness lingering in his folds, only remembering a dream, of hearts, joy, hope, and gentle, floating ecstasy. Wayne heard the soft sighs, felt the heartbeats, smelled the sweet skin, saw inside these gentle souls with their soft little murmurs, moans, and excited breaths. On the first day of the new summer, Wayne and Eva would wed.

Hello World Radio

The crackle of a radio accompanied whines and static spits as Wayne sat in a small concrete equipment building at the base of the stubby remains of what was once a large communications tower. The steel framework towered a hundred feet or more above a hill overlooking NewTown, which was the name that emerged for the cluster of farms and homeplaces in this broad bend in the River. They had set up radio scanners to monitor several of the shortwave, AM, and ham radio bands, and they broadcast messages on several ham and shortwave frequencies.

In the little square building, there were several batteries; there was a small generator outside and an assortment of salvaged solar panels was hooked together on the flat roof. Wayne had set up a computer to cycle a message to broadcast through several frequencies. “Hello from NewTown on the Great River in the heart of Eastern North America. Our receiving antennas are optimized for 600 and 1000 kilohertz. Please give us a call!” He had tested the system, adjusting antenna lengths and line impedances to bounce the radio transmission off the ionosphere several hundred miles above.

It was several hours after dark, when there was less solar radio interference. He went outside and started the generator, then came back in and switched on a five hundred watt linear amplifier, the lights on the all equipment dimmed a bit and fans in the large, heat sink covered box began to hum. He watched the computer screen scroll through a series of frequencies as it repeated the message. He watched voltage and ampere meters, and felt over the tops of the equipment and the wires for heat buildup. The heat sinks on the amp soon became warm, and he carefully felt the four large power transistors to compare their temperatures, since slight inaccuracies in the input impedance could over drive and burn out the power amplifier transistors. He fiddled with gain, modulation, and squelch settings. The scanners rapidly cycled through all the frequencies stopping only occasionally for local chatter.

Late on the fourth night, as Wayne monitored the equipment, slouched low in his chair as drowsy daydreams were fading into sleep, he suddenly was jolted awake. “Hey-hey, man alive! What ya say? Come again on nineteen meter or 1200 kilohertz.”

Wayne chuckled at his being caught off guard, and cleared his throat to sound awake. “I roger that on 1200 kilohertz. I’m Wayne Norton. We are on the Tennessee River near the old world city of Huntsville, Alabama. I landed from the Tempus Fugit VII project of 2028. Over.”

“Mic Herndon here, ay, here in southwest Australia. Over.”

There was a long pause. ” In that blazing rocket you did? We just brought up the news archives for that year. Holy-bloody-croist! Ha, but it’s all gone to the devil since then, ha! Over.”

“Heh, yea, I couldn’t find my car. We have around 1200 settlers here. How many people are there on your side, and elsewhere that you have heard from? Over.”

” We have several thousand up along the Murray River. Just signed the lease on another forty thousand years. Yes there are some good colonies on the American west coast, Izzy in NorthBay on 1400 kilohertz. Europe and South America too, a lot there, doing well too. Ay, there’s that bloody tyrant around your corner, Textan, what do you know about him? Over.”

“His name is Tezan De Fuerte, he is son of Roberto Velasquez De Fuerte. His son in law Damian had been holding his family captive, and had ruled by force over two hundred miles of the river. There was a battle, and Damian was killed. Tezan and his family, and several hundred slaves were freed, and we are in a process of developing a unified council for this part of the continent. Over.“

“Big news, we had heard bad stories. We want to develop better communications around the globe. I see you have a program driven sequencer, can you send data files? Over.”

“I must humbly tell you that I did not know that we can exchange data. I’ve got a bunch of data. We’re learning more each day, and we are building up our communications network as we find more equipment. Hope to get full duplex soon. We have a nice antenna tower. Over.”

Mic Herndon on 1200 KHZ was the first contact in Wayne’s log book. They set up a weekly time to exchange information and news.

Several days later, Wayne raised Izzy on 1400 KHz. Their community was around the San Francisco Bay. They had begun to put systems in place, and a string of communities developed north and south. From his conversations with Izzy, however, Wayne realized that things over there were more complicated. People were spread out, and Izzy’s community had good things going, but they were having to defend themselves against raids and thievery by semi-wild nomadic Hispanic peoples who had survived there through the climatic inversions.

Wayne began to get a better picture of what was out there. In the next month, he had contacted several other radio operators. Vincente, from TexCity, as the Textan base began to be called, helped Wayne with contacts in the Spanish speaking regions of the world, and was able to get information for some of the Textan people who were from the Caribbean and South America, about family and friends from whom they had been separated from for many years.

There were a number of settlements around the world, some with as many as 15000 people. Wayne guessed that there were one or two million people scattered around the world. Indigenous, native, and primitive tribal peoples seemed to have survived better than did people of the more advanced societies. None of the large cities of the old world had escaped ruin.

Love pains

Wayne’s nights began to torture him. Now, he locked his door from the night angels and drew deep into his quilts and pined for Eva’s love.

Wayne made his bed high on the hill in the little concrete shed, surrounded by the crackling and squawking of the radios. As he found a peace there, he began to dream, and to see the world from the high tower’s view. Adventure stirred within him. Wayne was on one of man’s greatest voyages, and in his heart, he felt he was at the beginning of a new life, at the start of a great journey in a new world. He envied the clouds and birds flying free across the sky. Pushing up in his chest were rushes of exhilaration with his feelings of wanting to leap into the air, to spring up and fly like an eagle with the wind.

He heard a bump outside, the night was dark, cold, and the rain mixed with mist in the gusting winds made eerie whistling sounds in the wires and steel framework of the towers in an autumn storm. “Eva!” She slipped inside with a drizzly gust. He cradled his arm around her.

“I worry for you.” she said, “You have not been at your house.”

His face turned slightly aside and became sullen as he tried to withstand her inquiring looks, then he said, “The women want to follow me into my dreams; they throw their hearts upon me. For love unseen? Unknown? I… Ah-cain’t… I can only dream of you. It is only you that I can love.” He looked at her with pained eyes, speaking softly, “My dreams at night can only be of you, and only you shall be my night angel.” He kissed her tenderly, then as their eyes so close poured their souls together, they drew tight and kissed passionately with halting gasps and groaning coos…

Scavenging

Scavenging Expedition

With cooler weather, and easier going through the brush, Wayne and four others went on a scavenging expedition up into the remains of Huntsville. Wayne had data from directories of where various businesses and facilities were located. He wanted to find a medical and pharmaceutical supply company, as well as another company that had promise for finding computer related components.

They had about a seven mile trek, and they followed the old highway towards the downtown. As they got in town, they passed street after street of ruin. Wood structures were mostly decayed to the ground with almost nothing remaining. The rusted hulks of vehicles were vine covered humps. Wires lay about, stretched between leaning or fallen poles. Here and there, they would see a bright color, shiny metal, or the glint of glass.

They reached a large shopping center and entered the gray concrete hulks by pushing their way through tangles of vines into dark openings. A hallway led into a dark world, and their lights were feeble in the dark, cavernous spaces. The bright colors of signs, and advertising posters showing happy faces and stylish clothing were a surreal sight to the others, who asked Wayne about what they saw. “Ah, here’s one of my favorite stores,” Wayne said, “They started in the 1890’s, one of the first department stores.” The others were fascinated with his familiarity with the things in that commercial grotto. They had not seen advertising, lawn mowers, or business suits. As they looked around the ransacked remains of the store, they found some tools, clothing, and in the automotive area, they were excited when they found car batteries that had their electrolyte still in separate, sealed containers.

There was some intimate apparel scattered in one part of the store, and posters of women modeling underwear. The other men looked at these with embarrassed disgust, wondering why such images would be so un-abashedly displayed. Wayne panned his light slowly across a row of large posters high on the wall over the clothing department that showed children playing, young women running down a beach, a happy family, and men playing sports.

One said, “Everybody in Old World was so happy, did all the girls just run around skipping and laughing and wearing skimpy little clothes. Did they do any work?”

Then Wayne responded flippantly, as he felt his own dismay, “Well, like most of my answers about Old World, it’s yes, no, sometimes, and maybe,” then said, “In Old World, we just had too much stuff and too many distractions to think about the most important things in life; we had it too good for our own good. And you know what I say about it all now…”

“-It’s simple.” One of the others interjected.

Wayne’s dismissiveness was his way of protecting his psyche from the stark reminder of how the world of his first forty five years of life was so utterly destroyed. He refocused on the practicalities of scavenging the things that were most useful.

It was already getting late afternoon, and they made their way to a nearby commercial area. Wayne studied his map, and they found several taller buildings that were a corporate headquarters. As they explored inside, they saw the contrast of storm damaged or ransacked parts of buildings with parts in the interiors that were undisturbed for the many years. There were locked doors, but they easily opened them by poking a hole in the pithy drywall next to the doorknob, and simply reaching inside to open the door. They found throughout the buildings a wealth of paper and other office supplies and computers.

As the sun began to set, they went to the upper floors and found a suite of offices on the east side of the building that had windows still intact. They entered a world that had been abandoned in a day, with offices that had their papers neatly arranged, computers on the desks, with family photos and personal items left behind and never retrieved.

Suddenly one of them screamed in horror and recoiled from a dark opening. Wayne slowly stepped forward, carefully shining his light inside. He grinned as he looked back at the others. A life sized poster of a football star, charging with a menacing grimace, hung on the wall.

They entered a lavishly decorated office that had a panorama of windows overlooking the distant river. The closed room was clean with everything left as if its occupants expected to come back to work on Monday morning, but never returned. Then one of the guys opened a door at the rear of the suite and found a luxury private apartment. It was filled with fine furnishings and artwork. The bedroom was lined with mirrors and plate glass windows. There was a huge television on the wall. In an alcove was a bar with sparkling glasses, and in a cabinet, an assortment of liqueurs. “Woooo! Hunna-twenty five year old whisky!” Wayne said. They had a little tasting party, and soon felt giddy and lighthearted as they lorded around in their fine long lost penthouse. They made their night there, and huddled in the bedroom under blankets for the cold night.

They could carry only a limited amount of their scavengings back home; they had seen loads of stuff they could use, but it would be hard for anyone to move any amount of goods through the overgrowth and destruction.

The next morning, they walked further down the road till they got to a hospital, but it gave them a creepy feeling, as they knew that they would find corpses if they looked within. They saw several trucks and ambulances standing near a basement loading dock, so they decided to look there first in the hopes of finding within easy reach, such things as sanitizer, suture kits, or medicines. As they got near, they pulled aside vines and brush, then one man hopped down off a low wall to where a large semi trailer sat low on its flat tires. He opened the latch, and yanked once, twice, then as he pulled the door open. He immediately let go, and, making crying shrieks that warbled with his running steps, he quickly scrambled up the wall and ran back up the hill, crying in whinnies and gasps as he pushed recklessly through the growth.

Thousands of corpses had been left at the hospital’s loading docks...

Castle

King Wayne

As the communities along the river settled, and as Wayne had grown up familiar with engines, computers, and all the things familiar to twentieth century living, he was torn fifty ways asunder with technical questions and requests to solve problems ranging from medical issues, to how far apart to plant rows of crops, to matters of civil justice.

Being the friendly, good natured and earnest fellow that he was, his manner, leadership and bravery had earned him adoring adulation from the settlers, and he had become, in every practical sense, the ruler over the settlements. He always reacted to praise with an awe, shucks shyness and he helped others not as an act of directed purpose, but rather incidentally, albeit always gladly.

He had led them to win their battle. Now he was placed above all. This man who was from the past, was really a man from the future with his so many great powers of knowledge, medicine, technology, fire, and flight. He could rule the world if he wanted to.

He felt like he was becoming, in spite of his always declaring that he was the vigilant defender of freedom and equality, neither free nor equal. They bestowed upon him the best of all in food, comfort, and shelter. He was esteemed above his own ability, above the ability of any single man.

Wayne always cherished his upbringing in a rural farming family in the southern hinterland, simple, practical and focused on the day’s matters at hand, yet he always tried to, as he would say, ‘Rise above his raisin’. ’

Since childhood, he would gaze skyward, and marvel at the clouds, and wonder how the birds felt as they flew, knowing that many of them, even the tiny fragile hummingbird, would fly many thousands of miles every year, and see more than most men would see in a lifetime.

As a youth, he wrote poetry that he euphemistically termed: ‘Hillbilly Shakespeare.’ He later earned an aeronautical engineering degree during his twenty five year career in the Air Force.

Wayne always enjoyed reading before he slept; he would often wake up restless, and to calm his mind, he read the classic tales of Homeric heroes, the adventures by Kipling, Verne, Bradbury, Asimov, or the romanticism of Lord Byron…

He wrote one evening in his journal, really a loose mess of assorted papers that he kept in an old leather case with his bible, personal things such as his father’s watch, and the old photos of his son, Allie, and his other friends:

What good is a man graced, who imbibes such an air of well being as to dim the fervor of what should be his ever diligent self determination, leading him far from himself to a place that he does not recognize as close to him, where sense of relation and direction is lost.

He was a pilot, an explorer, and as he began to see roots growing out of his shoes into that place, he began to feel a tormented loss of who he was.

Wayne’s Drunken Tirade

There was a feast and trade gathering in the large hall in NewTown. As they ate and talked, they conferred on developing good council among the settlements, and Wayne had invited any community members to participate who would see themselves as the ‘good shepherds and mothers of our new world’.

There had arisen, over the months, a number of challenges among the string of settlements along the river. Some of the outlying villages felt like they were not equal in proportion to their contributions of food or livestock. There were issues of civil justice and disagreement over priorities in matters of use of resources and of education and industry.

At the table, Wayne and several other leaders discussed the particulars of the administration of a community. Over the late afternoon and evening, over food and wine, they had meetings to develop a ruling council, and Wayne tried to explain the processes of democratic government, the procedures of holding meetings, forming boards and committees, and voting.

But there was something bigger he was trying to tell them, and he realized that, in spite of them just having come out of the most horrendous chapter in human history, they did not grasp the importance of a sound and far forward looking view of managing their society and the greater civilization that would unfold in the coming years.

He explained the dilemma that was faced in 1787 as the American colonies formed their new government, of how the visionary thinking of Thomas Jefferson and the scholarly James Madison left writings that detailed their struggles to find a balance in forming a good way of managing their new nation. Wayne quoted Madison, saying:

“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

He went on to explain how these men had studied the governments of world history, and had seen their strengths and failings and downfalls.

“Ya see, the document they had come up with was flawed, it allowed slavery, and unequal rights for women, but it was designed as a living document, one designed to form a more perfect union. The document was a delicate balance of representation among states of differing sizes and interests, and throughout American history, the process of making it a more perfect document was fraught with social upheaval and war.”

His explanations were met with the glazed looks of people who did not quite grasp what he was telling them, notwithstanding the fact that they continued to pass around the flasks of potent wildberry wine. Wayne became increasingly impatient as he tried to delegate the yoke of leadership, and he was determined to get their attention.

He raised the wine flask to his lips and took several big, gulping swallows, then slammed the heavy jug down hard on the table and let out a loud, raucous belch through boisterous laughter. People looked at him aghast as he boomed: “Aw heil! Y’all ain’t seen me dronk, has ya!” He tottered slightly as he waved his arm across the group while looking up beyond them, “Lemme tell you folks a few damn things!” Wayne’s face glazed with earnest passion, glaring, almost trembling.

“What if I am wrong, and lead you to your destruction? What if I fly like an eagle, and never return?”

Wayne paused briefly as he leaned forward over the table, standing, supporting himself on his arms as his eyes panned across them. He lowered his tone into a solemn gaze. “It is human nature that people will follow a leader, even if he is not a good leader. Those who are vaulted into roles as leaders will always take the power, rather than conducting it, and they will carry the responsibility, instead of distributing it. If you look to one man as a leader, it is because the tasks are too many for one man. Only we together can make our world. Not one man, or even a few, but all together as one… And hear this! The weight of our responsibility is much greater than for our own time. We are building the framework of our existence, not as a set of rules, but as a set of dreams, visions, and passions that carry the deepest human understanding forward as a foundation to be built on by future generations.”

His heart was free, soaring, and the intensity of his feelings, driven by that world’s stark realities, poured out a conviction that was beyond inspiration, rant, or opinion. It was spoken of the hard truths of life that were beaten out of our collective existence after there was nowhere to hide ideologically, as the world had so ordained itself now as to strip away any such thing that might semble of vain affectation, delusion, or refuge in falsehood.

eagle

Westward Flight

Wayne was ready to fly with the eagles…

Wayne sat in his office at the space center, the screen lit his face in a pale blue glow as he studied engineering data. His mind dreamed skyward to thoughts of flying beyond just around the valley, but farther and higher. Wayne wanted to see who was out there, and what was left of his world. He wanted to fly westward. He had a burning curiosity about what he would find at the Hugh L Drayden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where the military had built a number of experimental aircraft, and in the information that he had about their bunkers, he expected to find some very interesting stuff there.

Wayne had to get to the west coast to make contact with the people there. He had regular conversations with Izzy over the radio, and now regarded him as a close friend. The situation out west was getting to a stage that was beginning to set precedents that would cause problems in the future. A series of independent city states were growing out of the old population centers. Because of unique conditions of distance and abundance, as well as the damaging results of illiteracy and lack of education, it was difficult for them to transition from a culture of hunter-gatherers, to agrarian sustenance, to more complex societies and cohesive communities. Good roads or regular communications between the distant communities had not been developed, there was a dearth of usable vehicles, and very little in aviation had been attempted. The abundance of food that can be produced in the fertile soils had the ironic effect of lessening the perceived need for education and many of the other functions of more organized communities.

From some of his travels, Wayne remembered California to be a land of never ending late springtime, filled with wildflowers in picturesque frosted mountain panoramas, with fruiting and edible wild plants all about in abundance.

Wayne began planning the construction of a long distance aircraft centered on the use of a dirigible superstructure under which one of the ultralight aircraft would be mounted. With the electrolyzer, he was able to make large amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and other gasses.

He made several expeditions into the ruined city to find parts, and had a collection aluminum tubes and angle sections. They also found rolls of thermal-adhesive coated high strength plastic sheeting that was used as a high gloss white protective coating on boats. Finding this material would enable Wayne to build up the complex curves of a large wing shaped balloon that would integrate with the aircraft’s existing wing to create a lighter than air ship that could fly higher, over the Rocky Mountains, and be able to carry enough fuel for a long voyage over thousands of miles of wilderness.

He assembled a team and used the shell of a large building that was near one of the other settlements up the river as a hangar to build a large, wing shaped dirigible. An aluminum structure was built as a framework for the rigid balloon that would be mounted above the ultralight’s wing, and the thin plastic was overlapped and layered to form a smooth, aerodynamic shape. Heat guns were used to fuse the adhesive to make the wing into a seamless, but flexible shell.

They built a ballast system to accommodate gas volume that varied widely at different altitudes. A long inner bladder, enclosed in netting, could be cranked in to compress the gas to change the ship’s buoyancy. Adjustable cables connected the upper and lower wing surfaces, which allowed the wing to swell to much larger volumes, because the 14 pound per square inch atmospheric pressure at sea level compressed the light gas in the wing to a much smaller volume than would the mere 8 psi experienced at 15000 feet.

On an early misty morning when grey cloud strands streaked a peachy sky, Wayne was ready to test his hybrid aircraft. The little airplane with its giant puffy wings floated lightly on its hydrogen filled floats as it waited, moored at the river bank. Wayne planned several flights over the river to test the plane and practice its handling.

The plane lifted off the river like a dandelion seed with the engine making a lazy lugling sound, barely more than idling, as it swept upward. It was like a daydream as Wayne barely felt the plane leave the water’s surface, and soon, he was high above the river in the breezes. The airship began to move around with the gentle morning air currents. Wayne felt a bit uneasy with the slow and delayed reaction of the craft to his actions on the controls. He flew around for several hours, he began to get a feel for the plane. He let the plane fly, and gently moved the stick and rudder pedals with the plane’s motions. Wayne could feel the plane react to the wind currents, and he began to realize that the thermal patterns in the atmosphere were very much a part of what the plane was reacting to. He opened the side windows, and developed a keener sense of how the warmer currents rose off south facing slopes, and the way clouds, mist, and dust moved in the air, and how land features like cliffs or water affected the air above them. Then Wayne worked the buoyancy bladder cables to synchronize the plane’s momentum with its swooping and soaring in the breezes and thermals. He watched how the hawks and eagles, who, with tiny motions of their flight and tail feathers and just the right turns and tilts into the breezes, were able to parlay faint and fleeting breezes into hours of gliding and soaring flight.

Wayne never flew gliders. The planes he flew had fifty thousand horsepower engines and could fly five hundred miles an hour straight up. An F-15 flies like a brick if it’s only going 200 miles per hour. This plane, however, soared with a spirit of its own, flying with the eagles, moving like the wind.

Over the next weeks, Wayne and Hawk explored further away from the settlements. Hawk’s Cherokee family had been among those who survived the thirty years of climactic inversion that so devastated plant and animal life in the northern latitudes. They made contact and left sacks of corn and useful items with a few scattered native communities and isolated groups that they found within several hundred miles of NewTown and TexCity.

The plane gave Wayne exhilarating feelings of flying less with instruments, and more by watching the clouds, birds, and landforms, and by feeling the direction, temperature, and moisture of the winds around him. He felt light on his feet that springtime with the expansive feeling of being able to travel beyond their string of communities, to the west coast, which a few months ago was a world away, now within reach of a few days of flying.

Wayne was ready to fly west. He set aside worries about the long trek, after all, he had flown thousands of miles around home. He was anxious to get out to NorthBay, Izzy’s community, which was isolated and had surrounded itself with a wall to protect itself from the Wildhoos, as they were called, who were nomadic, scavenging survivor-gangs that roamed the valley. Wayne wanted to make a show of strength and solidarity and help establish communications between NorthBay and the communities farther south. He hoped to lay the groundwork for cooperation and some form of responsible authority, perhaps an authority based on the mutual interests of maintaining a north-south farm-to-market road.

He planned for his flight out there to be a few weeks of exploration, a tour of the central valley to make contact with the several communities, and a visit to the Edwards base and other air bases to see what resources would be available to him. He thought there might be possibilities of setting up a string of air fields with fuel depots, along with several more aircraft, to support a transportation network. At any rate, Wayne wanted to get back by May to prepare for his marriage to Eva.

rockies

Flight Across Danger

Wayne and Hawk prepared and loaded supplies. At the riverbank, there were around fifty people in the early morning light. Ol’ Man Jerry looked at Wayne and said, “Oooo, Wayne Jesus, I hate to see you go. You saved our asses over here and have done so much for us. Hey Hawk, you look after him real good, ok…”

As they lifted off, Wayne saw the faces of the people, friends, Eva. A fear briefly flashed in his mind that he might never see them again. NewTown became smaller and smaller below them, and soon they were soaring in the breezes over a vast, unexplored panorama. A high pressure system had passed the previous day, so they expected good northwesterlies for a few days. They could only see a few hundred miles around them, so things could change rapidly. They flew at around 1500 feet most of the time so they could still see things on the ground. They worked the thermals and banked on the winds to soar like a sailplane to save fuel, but also to cover more area and see things. They swooped down along valleys, rode the updrafts along ridges, and followed rivers.

As they flew, their eyes searched for life, peering into the forests, looking for anything. Hawk rested his forearms on the frame of the open window as he looked into the landscape, often straight down to see the ground through the trees and brush. It was frustrating and they spent a lot of extra time circling, going back, only to find that what they saw, gleams, colored things, were just more remains of Old World.

Soon they saw the Mississippi Bay as it lay across the horizon at the end of miles of green rolling hills, and it was several more hours before they reached the water’s edge. When Wayne came into good thermals, he spiraled upward for a number of turns after which they cranked in the buoyancy bladder and were able to coast a long way under low power. “The old river’s gotten to be a big mamma now.” Wayne said as they looked at the expanses of water with brushy islands and sand bars scattered about. It was over an hour before their slow flying craft reached the other shore.

Beyond the Mississippi, the Ozark Mountains were a rumpled blanket of green rounded ridges below them with an occasional rocky outcrop or mountain lake to draw their attention.

Several hours later Hawk looked at one area, he kept staring at a spot just over a ridge that looked like a clearing and said, “Smoke, I think there are people over there.” Wayne steered the craft and cut throttle to descend towards the spot. They were gliding in, controlling their descent by winding in the buoyancy bladder lines, and as they were getting closer, Wayne said, “Well, those sure look like Indian tipi’s to me,” then closer, in the clearing, “Yea, there’s some guys down there!” Hawk said.

Then there was an odd turn of events, it caused a bit of a panic, but everything turned out ok. They were coming in to set the ship down in the clearing where two guys were working, planting corn, digging the soil up into mounds at one end of the field. The ship had gotten within a few hundred yards now, and the men hadn’t seen them yet as they bent down busily doing their work. Then some women who were in the trees at the edge of the clearing did see the odd aircraft and started yelling and jumping up and down, so, naturally, the two guys looked over at them, and started jogging towards them to get close enough to hear them and find out what all the commotion was about; still they didn’t see this giant bird coming in. The plane was now about a ballfield’s length away, so Wayne let out a little sort of friendly yodel, “Helloo-de-doo.” At about that time, the shadow of the ship cast over the men.

Well, they turned around, and were just a little bit surprised. They screamed in utter terror and ran, but Wayne couldn’t help laughing as he reacted to seeing big white eyes and black open mouths looking back over their shoulders. Hawk said something in ‘injun’ and made a motion of waving his arms and bringing them over his heart. The people slowed down, turned around, then watched with incredulity as the ship came down for a slow, soft, squishy landing.

They were Creek Indians, and Hawk was able to talk and gesture and get and give information. While it has been habitable this far north for over 30 years, these people knew little beyond their own world. They had survived the over three generations of hell right here in this valley and it’s caves. Wayne and Hawk moored there, shared a meal in different languages, and spent the night. They gave the natives a few machetes and seeds for plants that they didn’t have. Then the next morning, they unwound the bladders, and whisked up, up, off and away to continue their journey.

Wayne never tired of looking at the panoramic views of the Earth as they flew, to see all the expanses that nature had cleansed from itself almost all traces of human life. All those peaceful rivers, going along their way, the shapes and forms of the land, bluffs, balds, canyons, lakes.

Hawk flew the airship most of the second day, and there was deep satisfaction in his face as he flew, looking out over the vast landscape. “I have seen pictures of the silver birds made by men. I have always wanted to soar over the land. In dreams from the time I was very young, I flew, soaring free. In these dreams, when I felt strong, I could fly very high, and see a big world, and if I doubted, I would tumble, and become more afraid. It told me to never be afraid, because inside ourselves is a deep power, a gentle power, like the eagles, a power of seeing far, over all things, to see the truths in things. I found a power of our whole self that is shared by all men.”

Wayne smiled as Hawk described his feelings, “I had flying dreams all my life too, especially when I was a kid. I remember being scared when I looked down, then plummeting into a busy scene with cars and people, but no one saw me. Then I gathered my determination, and went soaring between trees and through clouds. When I was a kid, I built model airplanes, hot air balloons, and experimental planes. I always wanted to be a pilot.”

As they flew, they saw the gentle Ozarks, the Arkansas River, then vast rolling prairie. He had the ship in a gentle climb over the hundreds of miles that the land rose to the high plains, and now, barely becoming visible, far in the distance, there was a white jagged line that was the Rocky Mountains.

They had used close to half their fuel and were getting to the point of no return, so Wayne wanted to secure a fuel stash somewhere before they went over the mountains. There were several air force bases, including the old decommissioned NORAD site at Cheyenne Mountain at the base of the Rockies. Wayne’s data referred to some useful supplies that may be located in a secure area at Peterson air Force base near Colorado Springs.

He eased the controls and veered north till he saw the glistening band of the Arkansas River, which was one of the few reliable sources of water in this part of the high plains. They saw what looked like irrigated green fields near the river. As the minutes passed till they got closer, they realized that these green areas were very large, then saw that they once had been lakes, but were silted up to become wetlands. He cut the engine and floated slowly with the breeze as they scanned with their scopes to see signs of life. There were ducks and other birds, then near the edge, about a dozen bison were grazing. As the earth passed beneath, Wayne realized that the area was greener than it used to be. What used to be sagebrush country now had become darker green brushlands and conifers with less locust and other more alkaline tolerant plants. He then realized that he had not seen the white crusty salt patches that used to dot the farmer’s fields in this part of the country.

They continued westward till they reached the old town of Pueblo. Seeing the town ahead with the distinct outline of its buildings and streets that seemed well preserved in this more arid climate made Wayne feel like he would see normal life, with cars and people moving about. It wasn’t till they were over the city that they could see that it was in disarray, dust covered to a reddish sandy color with the long abandoned look of forgotten ruin. Wayne’s eyes scanned the scene, and not seeing signs of life, he looked to his next priority of finding likely spots to prospect for fuel or food.

Wayne had just about abandoned hope of finding food, fuel, or people, and was about to throttle up and pull out of there, when they saw things further up the river like gardens and things lying around that looked like someone was around. Then there was a boat pulled up on the sandy bank of the river. “Hey wait a minute, there’s somethin’!” Wayne said. He flew a distance further, then turned around into the wind so he could fly slowly back over the area. The propeller was just above idle making a soft whoop-whoop-whoop sound over the glugling engine as they flew about fifty feet over the river. They looked into the buildings near the river as they flew ever so slowly along the bank.

Then Hawk pointed and nudged Wayne’s arm. Two children were huddled in bushes next to a building. They cranked in the bladder hard to make the ship as heavy as possible as Wayne managed a tricky landing in this flat, open, and unprotected country in breezy, turbulent air. He aimed at a spot between two trees, where the two men sprang out and pulled down mooring lines that were at the wing tips, then tied them off to the trees. The gas volume compensator cables were out about half way, making the wings about twice their normal size because they were over a mile above sea level, so the little plane with its fifty foot balloon wings looked odd, drooping down, pulled low to its moorings.

As Wayne and Hawk joked a bit about the plane, and splashed some of the cool river water on themselves, people appeared from the buildings, and some were jogging down from further up the river bank. Wayne raked his hand through his dusty hair and couldn’t keep himself from grinning at all the wondering and surprised looks. One of the older men walked forward with a tight grin, nodding slowly, then, as he got closer, eyed the pair with a slightly suspicious look as he looked at Wayne and said, “Flyin’ people, flyin’. But where? Wheredahell you from? Are they building them big cities again?”

“Ha, no big city, I’m from a big river, from Alabama. My name is Wayne.”

“Um yes, welcome, I am Olok. Alabam-what. Where is that place?”

As Wayne pulled out a travel atlas, they went into a nearby building out of the wind. He showed them places on the map, and asked them about places around there. He motioned knowingly in the directions of the downtown, the speedway, the reservoir. Then he showed them their flight route and described their journey. Olok still wore an amazed and worried look as he asked Wayne, “You know the whole land? You been all these places? You say the names of gone places and speak like it was a hundred years ago…”

Wayne avoided Olok’s questioning stare and looked out of their closeness to somewhere beyond for a moment, then he closed the large, thin book, and as he pointed with his finger to the cover and said with a wry grin, “My journey began a long, long time ago.” …It read: USA Travel Atlas 2012…

They did not fully understand what he meant, and they regarded him enigmatically till he suddenly smiled broadly and said boisterously, “So what you guys got goin’ on around here anyway?” They talked more about each other’s communities for a while, and Wayne asked them if they had set up any radio communications, or if they had electricity or water pumps. Olok said that they were trying to develop irrigation for their farm fields, and that they had found a windmill. “Let’s see it.” Wayne said.

They went up to a field, to a building where there were long boxes opened and parts and tools laid out on a table. Wayne soon saw that they had a wind driven electric generator that was designed for a remote cabin or off-the-grid homestead. Wayne’s face beamed and he moved with excitement as he looked through the parts and its instructions. He flipped through the pages. Then Olok said, “Some of the guys find it in a building far over there in the hills and carry it. We tried to read it but I have no idea with this electric things.”

Wayne said, “Oh hell yea! You will have lights, water, TV. To-night. This rig is a thousand watt electric generator.”

“Wos TV?”

They all worked on the project, and within a few hours, they had mounted the eight foot diameter, three bladed rotor on a forty foot mast, and pulled it up with its guy wires from a swivel base. Wayne worked on the wiring as they looked on.

It came to life in the breeze with whispering swishing sounds, and a volt meter needle moved around till it settled on 12 volts, then the inverter lit up and its fan began to run. As soon as Wayne flipped the switch in the control box, water began to burble out of a pipe in a farm field. Whoops and hollers erupted from the thirty or so people that were watching. The women who put their buckets down and leaned back a little with simple smiles were the happiest.

These people, like the Tennessee River settlers, were all colors and had different histories. Most had come back up from the south, some were descendants of native and survivalist groups. Several survivalist and religious sect groups had remained, but by their third generation in isolation, had been reduced to semi-nomadic hunters and scavengers, having lost most technical skill and literacy.

Wayne came to Earth in a period of our world’s reconstruction, and it would be some time before those communities would become societies, and sometime after that before they would develop their deeper and broader identities as civilizations.

They ran wire from the generator to a central lodge building in the settlement. That evening they had a talkative dinner under strings of vegetable shaped colored lights. They ate pan fried fillets of large river bass with browned wild grain, yucca root and malted sprout flatbread, with an assortment of fresh greens and flowers.

Later, they showed Wayne a room full of scavenged tech gear, electric appliances, and power tools. His first stunt to amaze them was to pull out an electric power saw, plug it in to the line from the wind generator, and cut a piece of wood, but Wayne was impressed with a portable computer that had been made about twenty years after his launch. It had no moving parts, forty gigabytes of RAM memory, and fifty terabytes of static data storage, and an ultra low current cascading multichannel CPU.

There was hushed excitement as they set up a large television monitor in the council room, carefully handling the stiff and brittle wires to hook up the antique equipment. When the computer booted up and the screen glowed, a rush of gasps filled the room.

“TV!” Wayne said.

For several hours, the room followed with spellbound amazement, living every emotion that played out on the crisp and colorful television screen as they saw, set in the rugged and misty beauty of the north western coast, the story of a young man's search for a young woman who disappeared after their romance began at a camp where she worked with him for the summer. He faced wolves, cougars, bears, and dangerous cliffs in the mountain wilds as a tale of treachery and mystery unfolded. Then he found himself fighting a shadowy group of well armed criminals, and had to penetrate their cave fortress to save her.

The next day, from his computer’s memory bank, Wayne loaded several of their computers up with encyclopedias, education and language programs, agricultural and medical information, music, art, and photography, and the Project Gutenberg files, which contained over 100,000 books.

Wayne didn’t know how much luck they would have with the computers without some guidance, but he said he could help them more if they had radio equipment. After more rummaging, he found a multichannel radio receiver, hooked it up using as an antenna, a long wire stretched between two nearby three story buildings, and showed them the channel that NewTown was broadcasting on, where, on the hour, through the static, they looked up in grinning amazement as they heard Wayne’s voice reading his recorded message with his warm southern drawl saying, “Now we want to hear from all you folks, so transmit on the following frequencies…”

Wayne spent the rest of the day showing them as much as he could, opening up worlds to them as they learned how to use power tools, and how, as Olok said: 'all this electric things works'. Wayne told them about the swamped reservoirs isolated in the drylands, several miles from the river, about eighty miles eastward, with their bison, geese, and plantlife. They talked about how they could develop outposts along the long river, as Wayne hoped that soon, there would be regular air or road connections throughout this land of distant and scattered communities.

The next morning they were off with the faces of warm goodbyes on the riverbank. A young woman, with windblown hair disarrayed over her shoulders, in a work-sallied and torn yellow sundress, stood against the backdrop of the town’s ruins, gazing hungrily at Wayne— a hello, ooo-you, oh-goodbye in a deep and longing glance— then a quick breeze swept under the ship, and they whisked away.

Wayne still needed his point of no return fuel depot. They had looked around the town, but saw that most resources like gas or oil had already long ago been pilfered through by the destitute townfolk. As the earth slowly moved beneath them, Wayne thought about setting up a string of ethanol distilleries to develop a transport network to support monthly flights to bring supplies and assistance to isolated pockets of survivors like these people.

He had to have fuel, or else this place was going to be their new home. Wayne placed his bet on finding fuel at an Air Force base that he knew was about fifty miles to the north.

After a long hour flying over barren wind whipped land, the grey forms of Fort Peterson’s buildings and long, partially buried runways came into view. They circled around looking for good moorage. There were shrub and grass covered sand dunes, with little pavement or runway showing. Sand had drifted high up on the sides of buildings. He aimed for a spot between two buildings, and they reeled in the bladder. The winds were strong and gusty, and the ship was all over the place, and he didn’t see anything to tie to, so he throttled up, pulled out, and came around again for another try; he faced into the wind and carefully worked the throttle and rudder to hover and crab his way over to a large, open hangar. Wayne busily worked the controls as he maneuvered the aircraft to get into the hangar’s wide opening. He was about three quarters of the way in when an air eddy suddenly tilted the wing up, raking it across a dangling length of electrical conduit. They heard a jagged ‘Rrrripp’.

“AAGH, CRAP!” Wayne yelled as he immediately reached behind him for a bag that held an assortment of tools and supplies. They both jumped out as they held the mooring lines and tumbled in the sand about twelve feet below before struggling to bring the craft in and tie it down. Wayne immediately ran to where the damage was and pulled out the inner gas bag, now flaccid, through the three foot long ragged tear in the outer covering; he gathered its torn edges together, then tightly bound them with a cord.

Wayne’s dejected body, with head down, plodded through the sand and brush for almost a mile till they got to the main complex. Sand was above the windows and doors of the massive concrete building. There seemed no way in. Then Wayne thought about the utilities access tunnels that were used on bases and airports, so they went to a building nearby and got in through a collapsed section. In the subterranean levels, they found narrow passages that had dozens of pipes and wires leading to the other buildings. They shuffled through the narrow, black, lifeless passageways to the main building, where they found useful and valuable things, including weapons and tools, but nothing they had to have, and so far, no fuel…

When they reached the third building, they found a lab that had shelves of fuel test samples in glass jars. The jars were sealed, and filled, leaving little or no air inside. A few of them that had not been well sealed had left in them only an orange, oily residue. Most of them were JP1 jet fuel, but there were probably twenty gallons of the LL100 fuel for piston engines, and avgas had a lot more power than ethanol, so Wayne knew he could get back. That gave him some hope, but there was still the repair of the wing to tackle. They looked around a bit more, then grabbed several containers of fuel, and made their way back to the ship.

The repair was a tedious process of layering pieces of spare fabric that they had brought, and running the ship’s engine to get electricity from its generator to power a heat gun, which they used to melt thin sheets of adhesive that they sandwiched between the plastic fabric patches on the wing and the inner gas bags. Of course, the gas inside was hydrogen, which is something between extremely flammable and explosive. They finished near sunset, but went ahead and set up solar panels and hooked up the electrolyzer, which makes hydrogen gas from water, knowing that it would take several sunny days to replace the gas that they had lost.

The winds blew hard and gusty from the southwest for two more days, and westward travel would have been very slow in their dirigible airship. The second day, they did more looking around. There was an air museum, the NORAD administrative center, a shopping center, and residential streets that had been built right up to the fences of the small base. Wayne was looking for fuel. They found cars left in garages, but when dipping a long greenwood stick into their gas tanks, he only found dried, gummy residue. They did find several more gallons of fuel in the form of camp stove gas in sealed aluminum flasks, and a few gallons of denatured alcohol, which, while weaker than fuel ethanol, would still burn in an engine if mixed with petroleum fuel.

They sat in several living rooms of people who had very nice things. Large TV’s, plush furniture, and lots of fancy, useless trinkets. For the most part, people just left with what they could put in their cars, and they never returned, and there weren’t enough people left to do very much looting. Wayne thought of the Anasazi and Mayan civilizations that had suddenly and mysteriously vanished, leaving their pottery and personal things behind, not to be discovered till hundreds of years later.

Wayne was satisfied that there were meager amounts of fuel to be found, but he realized that, in this new world, petroleum was all but gone, and the world would have to run on something else. The production of distillate fuels like ethanol would be limited because they required large amounts of petroleum based fertilizer, and the manufacture chemical fertilizers had ceased long ago. Other sources of fertilizer such as livestock manure were limited, and were needed for food crops. A mechanized lifestyle in the new world would be a tough challenge.

There was enough scavengeable technology left for a limited number of people to enjoy the benefits of refrigeration, computers, and motorized transport, but what was left would be used up in a relatively short time, and the world would soon return to pre-industrial times. There was a window for mankind, and a decision had to be made whether to use what was left as a bridge till the manufacturing, transportation, technological, and medical industries could be rebuilt, or to let it all fade away as distant curiosity, and return to hundreds, possibly thousands of years of simple, pastoral life.

It can’t be known whether this decision will be made by man, in his collective actions, or if it will be decided by the forces of nature and providence.

Late the second day, wearing new jeans and polo shirts, they carried two solar panels that they had found to the ship to add to the ones they already had to boost the output of the electrolyzer. They also brought a few more gallons of fuel. They slept in the aircraft, then, the following day, they marched off in the other direction to look around some of the other buildings, including a maintenance facility where they found a large fuel tank that contained partially evaporated fuel. Wayne examined and sniffed the yellowish fuel, and , referring to the aircraft’s engine’s ability to run on a variety of fuels, declared: “Ah ol’ Billy Goat’d run on that, barely though.”

Early the next morning, Wayne checked the patch on the wing by swabbing soapy water to see if any gas was escaping, and by pulling on the patches’ edges to reassure himself that it would remain glued if they got into turbulent air. Only a few slowly growing bubbles showed that very little gas was escaping, so in the still morning air, they loaded as much fuel as they could carry, and continued westward. They could jettison the balloon wing, in mid flight if they had to, and fly on the aircraft’s underlying rigid wing, but the dirigible wing held the promise of a speedy return trip, on prevailing westerly breezes, on only a few gallons of fuel, and it held the explosive gas that they would use to boost the engine to help them over the mountains.

They had good buoyancy in the cool. Dry air, which was calm after three blustery days. Calm for now. Wayne’s fantasy of looking through the goodies at Cheyenne Mountain would have to wait, as he had no appetite for trying to perch the ship halfway up the slope of that mountain. It had been five dusty days since they left NewTown, food supplies were dwindling, and there were two mountain ranges to cross before reaching the Pacific Ocean.

As they slowly climbed into the brisk dawn air, they saw the dark shoulders of the mountains ahead of them, then blue-gray glints began to outline hard rock edges emerging from a dusty indigo background. Soon, the rising sun played a drama of color on layers of frosty tipped peaks that spread across their view. The mountains soon began to glow in a palette of deep reds and oranges, banding across what was turning into a vivid blue sky. The glistening, bright, stark white peaks shone, cold, desolate, unforgiving, foreboding. They looked like the jaws of some great shark… That was where they were going to fly.

Wayne circled around on the last bit of prairie and worked the thermals for more altitude. Once, twice, and after a third upward spiraling circle, had gotten up another few thousand feet. They were beginning to reach the inversion layers at the upper reaches of the troposphere. It was as high as their ship could fly, and as high as they could fly without oxygen, and it was very, very cold. They began to get into strong upper level winds blowing towards them from the west. They only had a few thousand feet of clearance over the jagged crags. They could wind through the valleys if they had to, but such routes would be fraught with treacherous turbulence and a host of uncertainties.

Every pilot knows that when going over mountains, especially ones laid out in ridges like these were, many thousands of feet of clearance are needed between an airplane and the peaks, because severe up and downdrafts, and laminar flows can suck a plane backwards to swallow it, never to be found again within the folds of steep, glaciated canyons.

As they neared the mountain range, clouds began to emerge out of the mountains’ folds and valleys, and they flew through patches of fog. Wayne could see clouds rolling over the top of the mountains and rising up around them.

Tall mountains make their own weather; changes in pressure compress and decompress the winds. Mists and clouds are formed and evaporate, and rain, snow, or hail may be seen falling in any direction.

As they got close to the ridgeline, the continental divide, Wayne wasn’t surprised when they were beginning to get sucked down into a powerful downdraft, but he became uneasy as they sank, sank, then the ridge looked like it was higher than they were. They were getting closer, closer to what looked like an icy stone wall in front of them. Wayne pushed the throttle forward, his hand reached down to the knob for the hydrogen boost system that was similar to the nitrous oxide boost used in hot rods and funnycars; he nervously rubbed his finger over the little ridges on the knob. He pulled the control stick back to pitch up and cut across layers of airflow, but the strong current kept pushing down, down.

He waited as long as he dared, playing chicken with a huge mountain, then he turned the valve, and the motor began to roar, and the exhaust pipe became a torch of orange and blue flame. The ship lurched forward, and the wing rippled and racked with the force of the super powered engine.

He knew that the same air that was taking him down would be going up that mountain. He looked for any sign of change in the air that indicated the updrafts; if they weren’t there, he would hug the mountain, only tens of feet from its surface, where the winds are much lower. All they saw was mountain, and now, individual trees and misty clouds as they approached the wall, less than a mile away. The exhaust manifold began to glow a dim red, and he knew that was all the engine could take before exploding. He only had a few more seconds.

The wind began to change, then the pressure fighting him back on the stick eased, allowing him to pull back. He closed the valve with a sigh. There it was, the updraft, at first a bit, then soon they were swept up with dizzying acceleration, right up the slope of the mountain. They shot up over its peak, going straight up, but they were losing speed fast, and were buffeted about by upper level shearing winds.

Then Wayne pulled the rudder hard left to put the craft over in a hammerhead roll; they cranked in the buoyancy and displacement cables, and with the nose straight down, regained their speed as they headed straight down in the laminar flows that split the ridge, coming down toward the knife edge that was the continental divide.

But then Wayne said, “Aw lookie gee, don’t your troubles come in twos and threes!”

As they came down the other side of the ridge, they faced the stormy soup of flashing lightning and boiling clouds of a storm that was bottled up against the western side of the mountains. Lightning lit up the clouds, and large raindrops made gunshot noises against the windshield.

Now remember that thing about hydrogen, that teeny weenie drawback, fire, explosion. Can you say Hindenburg! Their faces were braced with fear as they saw lightning reaching across from cloud to cloud, fanning out, looking for something to kill, and they were going straight into it. Wayne thought about Eva, and about the life beside him that was in his hands. He took deep breaths through clenched teeth in the thin air.

Every pilot knows that you don’t fly into a thundercloud, you will surely die. With shearing winds of over a hundred miles an hour, severe turbulence, and hail the size of baseballs, it is no place for a plane.

…Wagner’s Die Walküre, crackling, warbling…

So that is where Wayne went, because there was nowhere else to go. They hugged the downsweeping slopes and went underneath to take their chances in the rains. Down, down, into the mists and clouds and constant lightning. They couldn’t see the mountain, it showed up here, then it showed up there, very close, whizzing by. Then a blinding bright lightning bolt sliced right in front of them; their vision was dazed by the jagged flash; Wayne couldn’t see for a moment, he didn’t know if they were on fire, he held the stick rock steady. Then the rains came pouring, blowing sideways, splashing against them as their ship was twisting, creaking, buckling.

Wayne looked over the instruments, their needles were swinging wildly, the altimeter was useless within the storm’s own barometry. Hawk wore a look of stoic, unworried determination.

CRACK-BANG! A blinding flash… Suddenly they felt heat over them. There were burning smells. As they regained their vision, everything was bathed in a roaring orange glow. Hawk instantly reached up into the framework above them as Wayne’s shrieking voice said, “We gotta pull the bolts!” The few seconds that they frantically worked to detach the balloon wing were a slow motion eternity, lit in crackling orange flame with blue-white lightning glistening on their sweaty, twisted, desperate faces. They struggled with the bolts as the ship spun and tumbled downward.

Then the flaming mass flung away, and they began to plummet uncontrollably, spinning, flipping over and over as they fell toward the earth. A bright flash lit nearby rocks that were streaking by them. Wayne tried to hold the stick, but it was swinging about wildly, grazing his knuckles against the control panel. Wayne tried to feel the forces, and leaned and pushed his body against the control stick. The tumbling became a downward corkscrew spiral, with one side of the wing stalling. They were getting closer and closer to the steep rocky slopes.

Then they began to feel an updraft, with warmer earth smelling air coming up beneath them. Wayne was able to gradually broaden the spiral and swoop out with a wide turn into level flight, but they were upside down. He pushed the craft into a short dive, did half a rotation, then pulled out level away from the mountain, the mountain that had offered its mercy with its warm updrafts. Behind them, they briefly saw the flaming wreckage of their wing tumbling down the rocky slope. Lightning flashed all around them, everything was in disarray, they were disheveled, panting. Wayne’s eyes darted about to see where the mountain was, what was left of their ship, and where in the clouds he could fly to. They were between columns of dark clouds, in and out of heavy rains and mists.

Then Wayne saw a glow, a light, then a ray in the cloud. He followed it. They broke through the bottom, where a colored sunset was shining in under the clouds for what down there was just a gathering storm. They made their escape down a long canyon, and landed on a meadow of wildflowers by a small lake.

“Dang! That was hell! I gotta pee.” Wayne’s exhausted voice breathed as he stepped out.

They were pretty beat up, bruised and scraped up from the tumult. They stayed there a few days to make repairs, patch up holes in the fuselage and wing and to clean things up. Wayne took stock of their new flight configuration, which was back to the original ultralight that he started with, minus a few parts. Fuel was now a critical issue. There were twelve gallons left, and a thousand more miles to go, and they were more than a thousand miles from home.

“Since I’m so lucky, let’s go to Vegas.” Wayne said. He knew that Las Vegas would offer the best chance of finding fuel, but he knew that he didn’t have enough fuel to get there. He planned to follow the Colorado River as a lifeline through the miles of desolate, barren lands.

They flew into the fresh air of uncertainty as they lifted off over the long morning shadows of the mountains behind them. After several hours, they could see the Colorado River and the headwaters of Lake Powell. Wayne cut the engine, gliding several miles, and landed in the river. “We should be able to float about a hundred miles till we get to the dam.” Wayne said. He looked ahead as the river carried them on a twisting course through the red and orange layered canyons. He realized, as he looked at the layers, with water level marks high above them, that there was no lake, just the river flowing through the winding canyon whose bottom was green growing in the sediments of the alluvium of the former lake.

With long poles, they directed the craft around sand bars and through gentle rapids. They saw water fowl, deer, and often saw striped bass jumping up from the water. Progress was slow, and after two days, they had gone about fifty miles. They had about five gallons of fuel left, and Wayne hoped to find something around the dam, still about fifty miles away.

As they drifted sleepily in the slow current, Wayne saw Hawk tilt his head up, looking, listening. Soon, they both could hear a low rumble echoing in the canyon. “Rapids!” Wayne quickly got ready to start the engine, but had to reconnect the battery because there had been a slow current drain in the wiring. The river began to flow more swiftly, then, as he came to the front of the aircraft, he saw ahead mists rising from where the river dropped out of view. The battery had drained some, and when he turned the key, the starter made low wavering groans as the propeller turned slowly. He pulled the choke and pushed the throttle forward. They could now see white rushing water churning over jagged rocks down a steep, narrow canyon ahead of them. The starter’s sounds became lower pitched, slower, grinding, and the noise of the water became louder, roaring. The water was shallow, with rocks rushing past them and just below the surface; Wayne felt a panicked chill run up his spine, then there was a little pop, he smelled exhaust, then the engine growled, stuttered, then cracked in loud misfires, shaking, smoking as it came to life, and just as they began to be tossed about in the steep course of rapids, they lifted off with splashes of the thrashing white water wetting their faces.

Soon, they reached the deep gorge where the canyon narrowed at the Hoover dam, once known as one of man’s largest works, now broken down to its rocky ramparts, with the river flowing over its remains in a broad, graceful waterfall. They landed next to what had been a small town that served the dam and its generating plant.

They wandered through the abandoned town and came to what had been a marina, now far from the water. Several boats were scattered about, lying at odd angles, half buried in dried mud, and probably had long been sunken before the dam broke. They found two spare five gallon gas tanks that still had some good gas in them. They made camp near the river, caught several fish, and enjoyed their meal with the confidence of knowing they could reach their next abandoned stopover.

The Grand Canyon was a panorama of reds in pink, rust and salmon colors, with its layers of strata in the sedimentary rock, with pinnacles and jaggedly winding side canyons were the timeless beauty of nature was unconcerned with humanity’s woes. For them, however, it was just more foreboding landscape that they were glad to see pass behind them.

Las Vegas was at the end of the canyon, and Wayne was very curious to see what he would find.

Wayne cut throttle to slow down and get lower as they came in over an expanse of boxy grey shapes with the rusty metal skeletons of signs and towers here and there, with surprising bits of color and fragments of familiar words and the iconic symbols— a crumpled Eiffel tower, a Sphinx paw, a piece of a huge guitar, a big red C. Then they saw some movement between the buildings, they looked through the chaotic array of stuff laying around, then they both said, almost at the same time, “Co-coyotes!” as they saw three or four running through the debris. They circled over the city to look around, but this inhospitable and vast desert is no place to try to survive; the air was very hot under a blazing sun; there was nobody.

Wayne saw the expanse of runways of the large airport near the city center, and landed next to the fuel depot. They walked around the several large tanks till they found one marked LL100. The tank made a hollow gong sound when he tapped on it. Wayne went over to a cluster of valves and slowly opened a small draincock. A rusty sludge oozed from the small opening, then a watery rusty sludge, then “Mmmm, the aroma!” he said as he smelled the volatile fumes. After several gallons of watery, stale fuel spilled out on the ground, a steady stream of the clear, light blue colored 100LL avgas flowed steadily. They filled several gas cans.

The temperature was well over a hundred degrees, and metal was too hot to touch on that mid afternoon, and there were hundreds of miles of desert to their west, then a mountain range. “Ah'ight! Let’s go hit the slots. Got a pocket a’ quarters?”

Hawk had developed a wry, grimacing smile that came across his face at Wayne’s joking at awful times and brushes with death.

They took a short hop flight into the city whose skyline was the backdrop next to the vast airport. They flew, wandering, looking for food and shelter possibilities till Wayne picked the flat roof of a large building, landed, then pulled into the shade of a taller section of the building. They rammed a door in with a long section of pipe and went within. They looked into several rooms; some were ankle deep in sand blown through broken windows, and others, still undamaged, offered luxurious accommodations with king beds. They walked down a dozen flights of stairs in darkness till they saw one door pushed in with sand piled up to its doorknob where they entered a vast surreal lobby with a desert dune floor, marble walls, and elegant chandeliers tilted and dangling at odd angles.

They walked out of the building to the town’s broad, main avenue where they found everything thoroughly ransacked and vandalized. It had the look of anger and frustration, with obscenities sprayed on walls, and every window smashed. Wayne had never been in a casino, and curiosity led him into a building decorated with large puffy-cheeked faded fiberglass figures holding bags of money. They walked in through an entrance made to look as if it were made of stacks of hundred dollar bills.

Among the broken glass, liquor, and beer bottles, scattered paper, poker chips and playing cards, lay the skeletal remains of quite a few people, with bullet holes, smashed skulls, and blood stains on the carpets among the wrecked, sledgehammered slot machines and overturned roulette and craps tables-- a ghoulish scene of mass murder. Wayne grimaced with disgust, then looked around warily and said: “Damn, let’s get our asses outta here!”

They looked through several buildings looking for sealed dry food, like cereal and granola bars that may have been preserved in this desert city. They went inside a restaurant themed with giant images of popular figures. Hawk grinned as Wayne rattled off names “Oh yea, man, there’s The Duke, Dirty Harry, ooo, then little miss sexy, and ha! You seen that guy…”

Then Hawk’s face sneered “Ugh, that robot guy from that movie.”

“Yea, a great badass! Ha-y’know, they made him governor too!”

They wound up their flashlights as they went into the dark shadows of a basement stairway where they found a large stockroom. There were stacks of napkins, seasonings, coffee, dishes, and other supplies — a few packs of peanuts, but they found very little edible food left.

They walked out and went down a side street to head back in the direction of the building they landed on. As Wayne stepped over fallen cables, his gaze continued to look down studiously. “Wassamatter?” Hawk asked.

Wayne walked on slowly, looking downward. “Footprints?”

“Yea, I think.”

“Kinna fresh, ay?”

Wayne unsnapped his holster and drew his 9MM and looked around as he walked in the shadows of the buildings. They continued slowly, looking around and on the ground, walking several blocks, when Hawk whispered “Psst, loogup there, that window…”

Wayne “Hmm, cleaner than the others, and those wires over to— man, solar panels.” There were clearly defined wipe marks sweeping across a third floor window across the street. On the ground, there were more boot prints. They crouched in the shadows of a collapsed awning and watched for some time, but everything remained quiet with no movement in the window. While there, however, they had noticed bones and parts of what appeared to be a coyote carcass, and they saw that there were footprints of different sizes, as well as signs of people where the dust had been smeared off railings and doors.

They walked fast but quietly to the other side of the street and slipped into a side alley where a trail of footprints led to an open door. He flung a piece of cloth into the opening, waited, then looked inside and withdrew quickly. He had seen nothing, so they went in. They could see through the open framing of the stairway that there was no one hiding, so they quietly went up while listening very carefully. At the third level, they could see the sandy trail of footprints sweep toward a closed door. Wayne went back down to the second level, were there was only a scant trail of sand into the hallway, and less wear on the door.

He slowly opened the door and peered into an empty hallway. Light from a window at the far end cast long, dark shadows. They walked softly as they slowly opened several doors along the hall. They saw some rooms in their original hotel furnishings, some with sand windblown through broken windows, then opened one door to see a collection of metal sheets, angles, pipes, window glass, solar panels, electronics, and lights.

They made their way toward another stairway at the other end of the building, where they saw little evidence of traffic on the old carpeting, and went back up to the third level. As they opened the door, they heard faint sounds, rustling, occasional shuffles, and a low hum. Light streamed into the hall from an open door about half way down.

Wayne estimated that was where they had seen the clean window. Wayne and Hawk tiptoed towards it, and as they held their pistols out with two handed grips up at sight level, they sprang in front of the opening. A young boy sitting on a bed squeaked with a grimace of horror, too scared to scream, and a woman, facing the other way, working at a table, turned her head over her shoulder and saw the two armed men. The child then screamed as he ran into a closet, and the woman shuddered in fear, panickingly clutching around, reaching for anything while her terrified eyes darted between the two men. There were two shotguns leaning against the wall, but they were on Wayne’s side of a chest of drawers, close to the door, and Wayne stepped in front of them.

Wayne waved his palms outward, holding his pistol aside as he grinned, saying: “Na, s’alright ma’am, ha! We aint gonna hurt ya.” He still looked around warily as Hawk stood in the hall, watching the other doors. The slender, dark haired, Hispanic complected woman continued to clutch around in a panic, grabbed a knife, and retreated to the shallow closet where the child was crouched in a corner.

“No problema madama. Todo es bien, no problema.” Wayne spoke, not sure if his Spanish even made sense. He walked in to see if there were weapons in the closet. The woman and child huddled together crouched in the corner as she held the knife in front of her. The room led to another room, there were jugs of water stacked along one wall, dried jerky and cactus hanging on a string, and on a balcony, a cooking grill stood next to a table on which were plates and utensils.

In the adjoining room were two beds, clothes, and a freezer connected to an inverter that was served by a row of batteries that were being charged by the solar panels. When Wayne peered into the freezer, it was stocked with meat, apparently from coyotes, as well as several large birds, perhaps hawks or buzzards, and fish. Wayne smiled at the woman with approval as he closed the lid.

Suddenly there were men’s voices. He looked toward Hawk in the hallway, but Hawk looked toward the windows, then Wayne saw several men and boys walking down the street carrying sacks and fishing poles. Wayne, still holding his pistol, raised it as he looked at the woman, whose eyes were darting with her thoughts of making a dash or screaming. The people on the street soon disappeared from sight as they talked in lively and happy conversation.

Wayne found a scrap of paper on which he drew a shape of the continent with a star where NewTown and NorthBay were with their radio frequencies, and his name. He looked at the woman, still crouched defensively with her large knife in front of her, not having said a word in what had only been a few minutes since they arrived. Wayne laid the paper on the table, then turned to Hawk saying “Well, I guess they’ve got a community here, let’s get back to the plane.” He nodded and smiled at the woman, then they slipped out the back stairway, out of the building, and went back to their hotel and slept in a room next to where they landed on the roof.

Early the next morning, they took off, sweeping low over the building where they had found the family. A man, the young boy, and an older boy stood on the balcony looking at the plane with wonder. The woman appeared in the window. Wayne gave a thumbs up with a smile, then the boys waved shyly. Now off to California.

After several hours of flying over the rippled dunes and rocky outcrops of a lifeless desert, having climbed to around 10,000 feet to escape the unbearable heat, with a hot and blazing sun getting higher in the sky above them, they were approaching the jagged, dark brown and white teeth of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Hawk had just siphoned fuel from their spare gas cans into the aircraft’s tanks and Wayne reached back and felt the various gas cans, with only two full among the hollow clanging empties. He looked at his map and did calculations, looked back to confirm the number of gallons remaining in the two cans, then did the calculations again with a grimace as he watched the gauges and kept the aircraft in level flight and the compass needle on the 285 mark. He measured the distance on the map again as he scratched the nape of his neck nervously. The mountains were getting closer, and Wayne felt a tightening in the pit of his stomach as he thought of –mountains…

Wayne looked at the gauges, tapping the panel with his fingertips, then shifting his upper body to look at them at a direct angle. Then Hawk said, “Manifold readings?”

Wayne: “Yea, down to 15 inches, and the temp’s been creeping up. The engine feels a little rough too.”

After about twenty minutes, the engine stuttered with a few popping misfires. Wayne’s face lost color, and his eyes looked down, as if on their own, not wanting to let the rest of him, or Hawk know that he was scanning the terrain for landing spots. Below them, the desert had given way to the shoulders and shadows of dry chaparral-covered, undulating foothills. Brown-grey snow tipped mountains, starkly thrusting into a deep blue sky, loomed in front of them.

Wayne reduced throttle slightly, then adjusted the mixture knob to open the carburetor’s fuel jets a little. He looked at the map briefly and steered north toward a gap where the mountain range dipped to reveal a small triangle of the desert beyond. The engine was now running with undertones of a plaintive grumble, and they felt rhythmic, pulsing, vibrations in their seats coming through the aircraft’s frame.

Wayne looked at Hawk and said, “Hold her a minute,” then climbed rearward between the seats where he tightened the wingnuts on the battery terminals, and gently ran his fingers along the wiring to check for loose connectors, or worn places in their insulation that would cause short circuits to the frame. He moved the things stowed more to the center and forward to neutralize elevator trim. He climbed back to the controls, looked over the gauges, and adjusted the trim tabs, reducing aerodynamic drag, while watching the wing to observe the tab’s position. The cylinder head and manifold temperatures continued to drift ever so slowly upward, and the manifold vaccuum, downward. The engine’s performance was deteriorating, and was punctuated by occasional pops and studders.

The mountains were a series of staggered, progressively higher, overlapping ridges. Wayne began to navigate in a broad, winding zigzag through the valleys between the ridges to keep from having to climb as high, where the engine would require a leaner, hotter-burning fuel mixture, and would turn at higher rpms in the thinner air. Below them were only steep, pine studded canyons whose V-shaped, boulder strewn bottoms invited their undoing. The engine studders and misfires steadily became more severe as time and the ragged landscape passed in unnerving slow motion.

As Hawk siphoned the remaining fuel into the aircraft’s tank, their hope for better engine performance was balanced with the uncertainty of how far they could travel on what fuel remained.

The engine’s performance continued to deteriorate as they flew over the last long, low ridge to see a vast desert sweep out to a hazy horizon. Wayne reduced throttle to put the craft in a slow decent, and they pulled things behind the seat as far forward as possible. The engine was now running in a steady shaking stutter, with frequent loud pops, almost stopping at times, with the rpm gauge needle dipping and jumping with the engine’s unsteady crackle. Wayne looked at the map then looked out toward the horizon, scanning left and right examining details in the almost flat landscape.

After a long twenty minutes, Wayne could see, in the distance, the lighter color of the pork chop shaped Rogers dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base. He adjusted for a glide slope with minimum power. Wayne had the mixture all the way rich, and only a few gallons of fuel left as they stared at the white patch in the distance, wishing it closer with their eyes, leaning forward in their seats while being jerked back and forth with the unsteady power. They began to see the grey shapes of buildings and more details, and soon, they landed in a blindingly white, absolutely desolate, baking otherworld.

They drank hot water out of their canteens, and Wayne lent an odd comfort from his familiarity with the buildings and the various parts of the base, some barely more than mounds in the sands. He had pulled close to where water and food might be found.

They entered the commander’s residence, opened windows and beat the dust off of mattresses, and, after a small meal of dried grains and fruit soaked in water, they poked around several of the other buildings where they found dried food rations, energy bars, and containers of water. Wayne set a solar panel in a window to power his computer, then took notes and made a sketch of where to look for parts, the machine shop, bunkers, and the layout of the Hugh L Drayden Flight Research Center.

Exhausted, the sun had just set when they fell asleep, resting soundly till the orange glint of the rising sun peeped over the mountain the following cool morning.

Wayne pulled the sputtering aircraft into a hangar at the end of the service taxiway and pulled a rolling table and toolchest next to the engine and began to work, first by cleaning dust that clung to especially the leading edges of the wings and propeller. He removed a dust caked air cleaner and drained oil from the engine.

Wayne found that the gasketing on the carburetors and intake had broken down, which allowed quantities of air to bypass the carburetor, causing the engine to try to operate on a turbulent mixture air into which the fuel had not properly vaporized. The rubber engine mounts also were brittle after over a hundred years in storage, and had broken down, leaving the engine resting loosely on its mountings. Among the materials he had found in the maintenance hangar were sheets of silicone gasketing material to rebuild the damaged components. He also found synthetic oil and grease for an oil change and to lubricate the various fittings, hinges, linkages and bearings on the aircraft.

Wayne looked longingly, and Hawk in wonder, at an F-15 fighter jet that stood on a lift dolly in the middle of the shop. Its massive grey form filled most of the space and its gracefully menacing grey, sleek lines and bomb shaped extended range fuel tanks loomed above them, with its fifty foot length dwarfing Wayne’s little ultralight. Wayne would have loved to, just one time, tear up and down the valley in that thing, but he knew that the beautiful but highly complex aircraft would likely never fly again.

As the late day sun sat low on the horizon, after several flights over the long runway and around the base, Wayne was confident that the engine was excellent working order. He taxied back into the hangar, then turned his attention to the next priority: finding fuel, which he found that Hawk had done when he had located the fuel depot’s underground storage tanks. Retrieving the fuel was difficult, however, as without the electric pumps, they had to dip out a cup at a time through the fill port.

After they got up the following day, they ate the last of the now crunchy-dry bread they had brought, with dried apple slices and water, along with military rations. Wayne was anxious to see what he could find around the base, as he knew that his grand vision of continental transportation would be shaped by what he could muster at places like this base. He laid his solar panels in the sun that shone through the window, and looked through the data on his computer regarding the base’s secure storage areas, bunkers, and hidden vaults.

Wayne cut the rotted tires off a pair of bicycles and they rumbled around the large complex, heading first to a low concrete structure behind the personnel barracks. Several feet of sand were piled against the door. He placed a small amount of C4 plastique with a blasting cap on a large padlock that was protected by a steel shroud. He lit the fuse and they hid around a corner. It went off with a sharp pop, and fragments whizzed by, making fast moving ricochet sounds. After they scooped enough sand away from the door, they worked a while longer to pry and hammer the remaining pieces of twisted metal away till they could open the door.

Inside, there was a hallway that had five large steel doors on each side. Wayne pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, and turned the dials of the combination lock on the first door. He tried several times, turning the knobs in different directions, and trying several of the ten sets of numbers that he had. He thought about blowing it, but he had a limited amount of explosive. Then he tried the number at the end of the list. He heard a metallic click inside the door, and it moved forward slightly. They pulled, and… Empty. Wayne let out a sigh of disappointment as he looked down with a frown. “Well, let’s try the others,” he said.

They eventually found useful supplies, including more dried food rations, energy bars, and almost anything they could use, but Wayne’s great excitement came as they explored through the part of the base that was the Hugh L Drayden Flight Research Center. Besides being an alternate landing site for space vehicles, it was also a facility that was used for the development of top secret aircraft projects, such as the X-15, the SR-71 Blackbird, the X-24 wingless lifting body, and the hypersonic X-43A.

Wayne was practically dancing on his toes as he looked through the facility, once guarded within three security zones, now open to his perusal. He found plans for an advanced dirigible airship. There were several bunkers that contained materials like carbon fiber and aluminum alloy structural components, specialty plastic sheeting, fabrics, and thousands of cylinders of helium. There was a large workshop with fabrication, welding, and laser cutting equipment.

Inspired by Wayne’s enthusiasm, Hawk said, “Hot damn!” albeit rather awkwardly.

It would be a large undertaking to construct the large airship that Wayne envisioned, and he hoped to develop friendships on the west coast to form a group that would work to advance education and technology. He realized that it might be some time before he could form a team to work out there at that remote, desert location.

The next day, as rosy fingered dawn appeared, they were off, off to see Izzy.

NorthBay

NorthBay Landing

As they came into the fertile central valley, they soon saw signs of settlement, little pastures, small farmsteads along a narrow dirt track that threaded its way up the valley. Then, after several hours of flying northward, a complex pattern of estuaries, islands and water sprawled to the horizon. To their left was the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It was another half hour before they reached what Izzy had called the North Bay, then Wayne flew another while till he thought he would have to go fuel scavenging when they spotted what looked like a substantial settlement. They circled till they saw people, then landed in the choppy waters and pulled up on a beach next to a wharf at which several boats were moored.

A small group of people were watching, and more came jogging out of the settlement up to the plane as they landed. Wayne got out and everyone was grinning as they looked over what was now a dusty and worn looking aircraft. “Howdy, fellas!” Wayne said.

“Wayne Jesus, I presume,” said the eldest of two guys. There were curious children, and more people walked up from within the town. Then he continued, “Hey, I’m Izzy, glad you made it. Geez, that’s a long way, look at that, you flew across the continent, ain’t that something.” He looked back at Wayne between looking at the plane, wearing a big grin, his head nodding slowly, repeating his amazement, “Unbelievable, look at that, really something, just look at that, ha, across the continent, across-the-whole damn thing. Well, welcome to NorthBay.”

By now, there were almost a hundred people gathered around, and they spent a while talking and getting acquainted. Then they went to a large park between several of the main buildings, where several hundred people came to meet Wayne. There was food, children playing, a lively buzz of conversation, and lots of questions. Wayne told them about the mission, of landing in the space capsule, about NewTown and the communities on the river, and about their adventures on their way west. Wayne found out more about life there.

Soon after sunset, they went up a hill behind the town to a radio facility where Wayne met Erdo, the radio and electronics specialist, to try and contact NewTown. In a building situated among several towers of different heights, there was a variety of radio equipment as well as an electronics workshop in a room that had shelves holding neatly categorized spare equipment and parts. They tuned to NewTown’s frequencies and waited till they heard Wayne’s voice in the recorded message.

They tuned dials and adjusted gain and modulation on the equipment, then, ready, Wayne looked over to Erdo, and they nodded. Erdo flipped a large switch to turn on a powerful linear amplifier. Wayne keyed the mike and the lights dimmed as he said, “Hey-hey boys, Wayne here, I made it to the west coast. Talk to meh!” Then Wayne looked over to Erdo and he switched the amp off. They listened for several minutes as they watched the signal strength meter monitoring the frequency; its needle rested on the peg next to the zero mark.

Wayne began to turn back to nod at Erdo to switch the amp on again, but just then, the needle jumped and Gordon’s voice came on, at twice his normal speed and about an octave higher as he frantically said, “Wayne! Wayne! I hear ya. Whooo-hooo, yea, Wayne!” The signal crackled, breaking up as Gordon’s excited voice was being clipped from over modulation of the broadcast signal. They had an excited conversation for several minutes till the end of the equipment’s duty cycle, then continued their conversations two more times every fifteen minutes or so as Wayne described his journey, then they agreed on a time the following week to talk again. Wayne felt relieved as he slapped Erdo on the back. Both wore big grins, proud to have made the cross-continent contact.

The following day, Wayne got to look around the settlement, which sprawled over the rolling topography. There was a harbor, and just above it was a cluster of buildings that had been a large industrial complex long ago. It was surrounded by various types of barriers, walls, and piles of junk that had passages, small rooms, and observation ports within it, as well as disguised observation towers jutting up here and there. He met Rockmann, the defense chief, who, with around thirty burly fellows, worked surreptitiously from within the walls and from several small buildings, and, Wayne suspected, from some underground bunkers as well. He saw several armored vehicles parked near large steel entry doors.

Outside the walls, around the main settlement, there were other buildings, work areas, and ordered stacks of lumber and other materials. Beyond these were farm fields and pastures extending several miles out, attended by people living in small clusters of homes that were behind walls made of steel panels. “So you get some trouble around here?” Wayne asked.

“Nah, things been pretty good for a few years now.” Rockmann answered in a booming, raspy, confident, but nonchalant voice. “We have softarms around all now, the Wildhoos easy these days, you know, and Mackie with the fish for school fleet and Millie Goodlove farmgiver… That’s been on for quite some time, and now has made the allfamtogether go way, way out there, like, to the big mountain.” He motioned his arm toward a mountain range about thirty miles away as he panned his view across the distant hills with a pursed lipped smile on a weathered face and with a thoughtful gaze that hinted of hard struggles in the past.

Wayne listened, not understanding the exact meanings of what Rockmann was saying, but he gathered, from what he saw, that they expended a fair amount of effort defending themselves, and that they tried to help and include people within a twenty to thirty mile radius of their community.

Throughout the town, there were fruit tree meadows sprawling in a meandering park around and between the buildings with artfully arranged planting beds, shrubbery, and fruit and nut trees. Two lane bicycle paths connected most parts of the community, and a network of walking trails threaded their way through, between, and intimately around the greenery and buildings. People on bicycles, peddle and electric minicars and restored antique vehicles were going about their work in the busy community. Most of the planting beds, decoratively arranged as landscaping, were used to grow food, herb or medicinal plants, and were well kept within low rock walls. The plants were knowledgably and pridefully tended to by people working from carts loaded with an assortment of tools and bins for mulch, manure, and clippings.

There were several clusters of small homes in the parklands, and late that afternoon, food was prepared in a tree shaded park near Izzy’s home. Several large tables were festooned with flower bouquets and garlands, and they cooked on several stone grill stoves under an open shelter. Around thirty people met, and a smaller group sat with Wayne while the others cooked and played with the children.

Izzy, Wayne, and several others chatted as they sat on benches at one of the tables. Martin, who worked with Erdo and others with technologies asked Wayne, “So Izzy says you are some air captain … Air Force. What is this force?”

“I was an Air Force captain in the United States military, um, well about a hundred and twenty six years ago now, and I was part of the space program.”

They knew Wayne’s story, but still had a difficult time understanding the idea of travelling through time. Wayne tried to explain the effects of the combination of his biological suspension, the near lightspeed attained by the ionic propulsion engine of the Tempus Fugit spacecraft, and the path taken that was counter rotational to the swirling and outwardly expanding universe, saying, “The system kept my body preserved, and I was hooked up to tubes that pumped synthetic fluid through my veins and endocrine system. I was kept at near freezing temperatures for most of the time, with periodic, every month or so, revivals for exercise. This halted the aging process, and the high speed travel toward the direction of universal expansion moved me back in time relative to my starting point, which made me about ten years younger.” They leaned toward him, listening with great interest as he continued, “Ya see, it was an experiment, they didn’t really know how well it would work. The computers monitoring me continually sent back data so that they could develop longer space missions for exploration to the more distant reaches of our galaxy.” The interested looks became grins and slow nods of wonder at what Wayne was saying.

Lucy, a medical specialist, who ran the clinic, which was also a research lab and medical school, asked Wayne about reports that they had heard over the radio of the emergency hospital and surgeries that had been done after the battle and Wayne’s victory over Damian. “Well, I did have quite a bit of medical training as part of the mission, and also earlier in my career with the Air Force, but I was way over my head on that one, you know, scalpel in one hand and instruction manual in the other. We didn’t do too bad.” Wayne pursed his lips and looked down somewhat sadly, “we lost about a dozen on the table, but we probably saved about twenty lives that day… I guess it was the best we could do in those circumstances. I can get you a ton of stuff, antibiotics too, but it’s all about two hundred miles south of here hidden in bunkers out in the desert.”

Then Rockmann said, “Man, you’ll have to tell me more about that battle over there. They said you were like crazy brave and had an allover it all plan. We can talk about it when we ride around in a few days.”

Then Erdo asked Hawk jokingly, “So you got in an airplane with this guy.”

Hawk grinned as he said, “Huh, we almost got ourselves killed, but it was like living a dream, to fly.” He grabbed Wayne’s shoulder and shook him a bit, then said, “With this man, we will all fly, and it will bring our world together.” There was a warm glow in all their faces, and Hawk continued, “There was a supersonic jet at that air base we landed at, and Wayne said he wanted to tear up and down the valley in it!”

“Whooo-hooo, ha yea!” the others erupted in excitement and laughter as they visualized such a scene in their minds. A boy playing nearby, having overheard the conversation, made roaring sounds as he ran about with his arms extended out from his sides.

They ate grilled fish, potatoes, and carrot and walnut pie with tender plantain shoot tops and lily blooms. They talked, sharing a jubilant time till mid evening when everything settled into the early evening's quiet shadows, and Wayne and Hawk went back to their guest rooms above the meeting hall overlooking the harbor.

Family Connection

The following day, early in the morning, Wayne went down to the aircraft to do a few repairs before the day’s activity started. A heavy fog covered the scene, floating over the bay and slowly creeping up over the land in layers, puffs, and churning eddies.

Wayne looked up from the instrument panel while working and saw a dark shadowed form in a long weathercoat emerging out of the mists, then Wayne recognized the deeply wrinkled, weathered face and gray and brown beard of one of the older men who sat at the table of the previous evening’s festivities. The man approached in a slow walk with a gently spoken and smiling “Hello, Wayne” as he neared. As the man’s gaze looked deep into Wayne, Wayne noticed a sunburst pendant shining as it hung from a chain, visible just below the man’s open shirt collar. Wayne’s face turned into a look of haunted bewilderment as he half-questioningly whispered “Joshua?” , with the man declaring at the same time, “I am Nathan, the grandson of Joshua Norton.”

They fell into an embrace. “Holy Jesus, I can’t believe it!” Wayne said as he chuckled with tears filling his eyes.

They went out on the pier and sat on a bench, and Wayne learned about his son’s life as a physicist and teacher, and his several children and their lives up through the Hardtimes generation, as it was termed, of which the old man was a member. Nathan had a son and two daughters, and five grandchildren. Wayne, some thirty years younger, was Nathan’s great grandfather.

Wayne spent evenings with his family, and they discussed vague recollections of stories handed down about Wayne’s son, from over four generations ago. With Wayne’s knowledge from his time, and maps, as well as the names of other family members that Wayne knew, both ends of history reconstructed the people and places in between, giving both a clearer picture.

They all learned more, several weeks later, when Wayne went to the library and was able to find more about Josh and the small university in upstate New York where he did research on the polymer molecular bonds of hybrid plant fibers. Searching computer files, he also found a small photo of him in a faculty directory. Wayne took notes, and knew that he would find out a lot more about his son and family back in the vast data files stored in the vault in the bunker at Fort Wayne.

Computer Thought

The day would hold more surprises and wonder when Wayne toured the technologies and learning center. Erdo met Wayne later that morning and they went to an inner compound that was surrounded by a tall fence. Inside, they met Justin, Lucy, and Miguel, all of whom Wayne had met the previous evening. There were several substantial concrete buildings and pavilions of unique and artistic design. There were sculptures in the parklands around the buildings, and some of the buildings had colorful and inspiringly designed murals with abstract fantasy and natural themes.

They entered the main building through an atrium that had lush plantings on three levels, and a waterfall that glistened in the sunbeams streaming through the glass ceiling. A main hall branched off to different areas, each devoted to various fields of study and research. He saw signs on doors for such things as labs, classrooms, and named individuals. They walked through a pair of doors, over which read: Computing Sciences. In the offices and labs off the long corridor, Wayne could see many computers and neatly dressed people in well lit rooms.

Justin led them into a large room, sat at a terminal, and brought up a menu on a large monitor mounted on the wall. He cycled through the menu items, and Wayne could see that the entire community’s organization and functions were mapped onto an interface that allowed users to look up everything from addresses and contact numbers, availability of resources such as materials and food crops, and listings of boat and transport schedules. A panel of work listings and signups was used to coordinate people to perform tasks such as gardening, maintenance, and various projects around the community. Libraries and help sections were used to get information for almost anything that the community members would need to know about the functions in the town and surrounding areas, and there was a listing of message boards.

NorthBay had an extensive and decentralized leadership structure with many individuals listed as specialists for all the functions, projects, and locations, as well as people who served to meta-coordinators to help synchronize everything. Wayne looked in amazement at the level of organization that he saw.

Justin nodded sideways, inviting Wayne into his large office-lab. “Lemme show you something.” From a small, shiny aluminum case, he carefully took out and opened a device that looked like a pair of stylish sunglasses, put them on a moment, then gave the device to Wayne to wear, then said, “Ok, you see the menu, now kind of relax your mind and what I call, merge with it; take a moment while I talk to these guys out here.”

Wayne’s face wrinkled and his head moved around a bit in motions of puzzled thought, then little smirky smiles appeared as he began to realize what was going on. Several minutes later, a grin of amazement was fixed on his face as he nodded, saying “Gaw-lee!” every few moments as he looked up, seeming to stare into a distant world. He muttered out of his thoughtful gaze, “The dadgummed thing knows what you’re thinking, it’s like having an extra brain.” He sat still, staring up at where the wall met the ceiling, his jaw relaxed, leaving his mouth expressionlessly open.

In his view, there was a map of the community showing his location and a menu with the items “Information, Maps, Library, Metrics-Calcs, and Relationships” which lit up as his attention was directed at them. As the heading ‘Friendships’ lit up, he blinked and the screen immediately changed to a colorful bar chart with headings such as ‘professional, supportive, familial, adversarial, and primal-reproductive, and primal-conquest’ under the various color bars ranging through the colors of the spectrum.

Then, when the previous evening’s conversation with Lucy flashed through his mind, the bars adjusted themselves to different levels. Wayne felt pangs of shame when he saw that the red sex bars were higher than the others, then he noticed a tick mark about two thirds of the way up the bar that was marked ‘Male-neutral-standard’. Then, below, additional text began to build till he was looking at an information-packed screen, every tidbit of which he dared not ignore. He saw a complex flowchart that mapped out his encounter with Lucy, showing the progress of their conversation, analyzing each step from both their perspectives with little boxes popping up at each statement with numeric values and comments. There was also a brain wave chart with a complex pattern of jagged, overlapping lines in different colors labeled alpha through gamma with numbered nodes corresponding to those in the comment boxes. As he concentrated to absorb all the information, he was amazed to see that the computer was able to use his recollection of the event to construct an analysis of both of their thinking. He jerked back in his chair and shuddered when a summary appeared indicating: that there was a high mutual level of thought synchronicity between both of them and similar interest classes. It showed elevated levels of pheromonal activity, with his receptors perceiving high levels in her, indicating that she judged him to be a virile and attractive mate. The chart indicated that sexual thoughts had reached into the conscious level of both of their minds. The analysis continued, showing that his primal scan of her, of looking at her breasts, midsection, and hips, had produced his judgment of her to be healthy, fertile and having a high probability of producing healthy children. It indicated that his pheromonal receptors judged her to be five days post-ovum in her menstrual cycle.

“Damn!” He shook his head to get the thought out of his mind, he then deliberately thought about airplanes and flying. The display instantly changed and he saw that it confirmed what he had thought. It’s summary showed that the most important things in his life at that time related to connecting the communities on the continent with communication and transportation. It laid out a chart showing priorities such as development of radio broadcasts, then local flight transportation starting with several ultralight planes to connect their local communities, then the establishment of a series of airports to connect communities to the south, and eventually linking both coasts.

As Wayne thought about NewTown, his mind drifted to Eva. The screen suddenly changed again to the relationships panel, showing the bar and brain wave charts, then he scanned words and phrases in sentences and paragraphs as they began to appear- First meaningful relationship— deep spiritual connections— emotional rescue— altruistic friendship. Then a heading in red appeared: *Conflict*: Sexual attraction patterns non-normative, unknown issues. Unresolved pheromonal receptor feedback readings… Then Wayne heard Justin approaching from the lab; he pulled the unit off his face, and was holding it in his hands with a disturbed grimace when Justin entered the room.

“So whatcha’ think, man?”

Wayne struggled to regain his composure as he tried to put on his best professional look, “It looks like they made some big advances in computing while I was in space. It knows what you’re thinking and puts up related information and images. It has this weird way of completing thought processes and generating those charts that map out your thought logic.” Wayne paused, “It’s kind of scary, though, I thought about my friend Eva, and all this stuff came up, like turning my brain inside out and putting all my inner stuff out there so clearly, then all this stuff about– well– one of the women I met here…” He stopped short, looking a bit embarrassed.

Justin’s face grimaced a bit as he rubbed his chin and thought briefly, then said, “Well, when you get into feelings..oh, and things like love and romantic interests, it can be a little heavy, but it only tells you things you already know inside, but, you know, our human minds are all a bit vain, and we all play those little games with ourselves, well at least I certainly do. It can be a bit jolting, ha, naked-izing, I call it! I don’t think I’d want to be somewhere where everybody’s wearing those things.” He looked at Wayne with empathy as he put the unit back in its case, then continued, “Once they began to fully implement XML coding within the document object model, it opened the whole thing up and merged programming with user-end application development, creating an almost self developing environment fueled by progressive predictive learning feedback of the thought process. We have the code, we have the code thank goodness, it’s the hardware that has to be developed to make it into anything like the slick unit we have here.”

Then Wayne looked up, thinking a moment, then said, “You know, there were a bunch of gizmos similar to these in some of those bunkers. I thought that they were some kind of communication or night vision device. I didn’t have any good batteries, and our hands were full with all the other stuff going on.” Justin’s eyes got bigger, with an open mouth grin that was left to itself as his mind was electrified by what Wayne had just said. Then Wayne went on and said, “All this brings me to another thing, since we are talking about all this long lost technology. You guys are pretty smart, and there’s a project that I need some help with. It’s a project that will help us all. We’re talking about flying…” He went on to describe his discovery of the plans and components for the advanced airship at the Edwards air base. They discussed possibilities of development of aviation for the NorthBay community and agreed to convene a meeting of people who could be involved in the development of aviation and inter-community transport.

They went out of the lab, and Justin led Wayne down a hallway towards the library. As they rounded a corner, Wayne almost collided with Lucy, she flashed a bright smile; he cracked a mischievous grin. He felt naked…

NorthBay Life

Over the next days, Wayne saw more of the community and surrounding areas. There were about 3000 people in the valley, with 5 smaller communities surrounding the NorthBay settlement in the valley and around the bay. Thirty five years after they arrived, they had well developed agriculture and were beginning to establish manufacturing in metals, pottery, wood, and textiles.

Education levels and literacy were still low. They had not established a school system, and, as they did at NewTown, children would usually accompany their parents in their daily activities, and children’s learning and games events were run periodically. At 16, most began a five year apprenticeship and higher learning program in areas of their interest and aptitude.

For getting around in NorthBay and the outer communities, besides the inventive and artful bikes, buggies, and mini-cars driven by a combination of human and electric power, they had a handful of motorized vehicles and some restored 100 year old trucks. Some people had built homemade rigs that were about five feet off the ground, built around a pair of steel beams, with a flatbed and large, solid rubber tractor tires. Powered by diesel engines, they burned oil squeezed from a type of palm plant that grew further south. There were a number of old military vehicles; flatbeds and armored carriers. There were a few tractors and other motorized farm equipment, and they used horses and donkeys to pull wagons and plows on the farms.

The community had originally formed around a small group of leaders, only a few of whom were still living, who, after years of desperation and fighting among bands of nomads, built their community by bringing together the scattered groups that had survived the dark and cold years of hurricanes, dust storms, and fires through which not enough was left of the vegetation for people to sustain themselves without roaming about to scavenge an existence from what had remained. The lush greenery that surrounded them now was still limited to the valleys and alluvial plains near the coast.

The community began as Castle Island, a large rocky island, far out in the bay, on which the only place to land a boat was in a sheltered sandy cove on its south end, making it out of reach and easier to defend from the bands of desperate nomads. This is where NorthBay began, where a group of people gathered to form a stable community that could farm, herd goats and sheep, and keep fishing boats. Their need to defend themselves and survive made them into a well organized group, like a family, or company, or a club.

After several years, having collected a fleet of what had been luxury sailing yachts, they gained control of the northern end of the large bay by offering protection and food to families struggling to survive in the surrounding countryside. They took women and children onto the boats so the men could hunt without having to leave their families unprotected. Aboard the boats, these families of primitive people, named Wildhoos, worked and were taught the skills of fishing, and were brought to the island to work making clothes, pottery and were taught how to live in a stable community.

After about twenty years, one summer, the decision was made to build the town of NorthBay, where about half of the islanders, as well as many people from the surrounding area built a fortified settlement around the ruins of a large industrial park. It was supported by the Castle island community till farms, livestock herds, and workshops could be established on the mainland.

To this day, the fleet of fishing boats had a special significance, as they were, many years ago, one of the main forces around which the community formed, as they had once served not only as a way of deriving sustenance from one of the few food sources, but also served as a platform of goodwill, where the visionary early survivors could extend helping hands in food, learning and shelter to those who could not provide for themselves. Out of this grew the enduring spirit of kinship and nurture that has allowed this group of communities around the bay to not only survive, but to flourish, not only in physical terms, but also as an extended family with deep and heartfelt bonds out of which grew concepts that are a true spiritual advancement for mankind.

Out of their lives were born the language and virtues of the community: helphead, say from deepin now, look keenly thinkstrong, energybod, allfam holdtogether, restgood-dreamgood, eyelook love, clearly yourselfworld, learnall, head-heart-arm, think-feel-do. These concepts were distilled of the desperation, suffering, and survival over overwhelming odds, with uncommon unity, through desolation, starvation, and battle; where a group of many different peoples eventually triumphed as a society that had broken the bonds of social dysfunction of the pre-apocalyptic millennia.

Ride To The Outlands

About a week after his arrival, Rockmann, along with Justin and Erdo, invited Wayne to join them on a ramble through the surrounding countryside to travel with a supply convoy to set up radio communications and the solar panels and battery banks needed to run them in two of the outlying villages. They were also adding lighting and introducing some of the families to computers with which they planned to extend education to the outer communities.

Several trucks were loaded with building materials, sacks of grain and beans, and other items used for exchange, since the families in the valley were mainly farmers, and the families on the hilly, rocky slopes below the mountains were mostly sheep and goat herders. NorthBay made monthly rounds to exchange, share, and collect goods to keep the communities equally provided. As part of the teaching and apprenticeship program that had been implemented, people from the outlying areas were brought into NorthBay for school sessions and to work.

Young men and women carried sacks and carts of supplies and loaded onto the trucks to return to their families. A girl had a sack of clothing she had made at the textile plant, and was proudly showing items she had made that spring to friends. A boy had built a wheelbarrow, and had stacked on it tools, machetes, shovels and rakes that he was taking back to his family.

Rockmann and Wayne each spoke to the drivers and riders that were to be in their segment of the convoy. Wayne gathered his group to give them his little spiel, “Ah’ight folks, each of you has a rifle, and the guardies had you out on the shooting range yesterday, but if you still have any questions about the operation of your firearm, feel free to speak up… Now, for convoy operations, you’ll be riding four to a side, and you’ll have gun barrels resting on the second slat pointing outward at all times. Now, I ain’t try’n to scare ya, but we will be out in the bush. There will be guardies on each wagon. We’re not looking for a big attack so much as we wanna keep some guy from jumping out of the bush and grabbing some of the stuff, so a bunch of gun barrels stickin’ out will keep these punks off our flank, ok. That little gal and that kid can ride up front, if ya like.”

The girl with her big sack of clothes, and a young boy approached the cab of the massive, knobby-tired, high ground clearance, military truck, but the boy decided to ride in the truck’s bed with twelve other youths, young men, and two of Rockmann’s guardies who perched atop the cargo with an M1 machine gun mounted above the cab.

As the girl climbed up into the cab, she pushed her sack into the footwell in front of her. Wayne reached behind the seat for one of several old shotguns and said, “You get a rifle too, and keep that barrel pointed out that window and keep your eyes lookin’ into the bush.” She awkwardly lifted the heavy gun over to her side with an unhappy grimace, and rested the barrel on the ledge of the open window.

Rockmann led the convoy in one of the armored vehicles, then followed five, four wheel, four horse team wagons, with Wayne bringing up the rear in a three ton canvas topped stake-bodied, slat-sided flatbed truck.

The girl wore a sad face and didn’t say a word till they were long out of sight of NorthBay’s walls, then said, “I’m Mishia. I know you. My class saw your plane where they showed us how the fabrics were used and how the stitching was done.”

Wayne: “Oh yea, you had all that hair up under a straw hat though. Hey did ya see my stitching on the wing that I did after a little adventure in a thunderstorm.”

Mishia: “There was a burned place, and a torn place on the side too.”

He turned briefly with a wry grin and met a pair of piercing blue eyes in a dark toned face surrounded a shag of thick, wavy, almost black hair. As they rode for several minutes, she looked blankly, sadly downward.

“Keep that barrel up and your eyes lookin for bogies!” Wayne commanded. She flashed an angry look at him as she turned quickly away to look out her window.

“I’m not a child! I’ve had two boyfriends. I slept with one.”

“Hay! Do-you-mind? You don’t need to be tellin’ me those kinda things.”

“I want to stay in NorthBay. I wanted someone to marry or a childcarer job so I would have a family to keep me in NorthBay.” She gazed out her window again as she saw Wayne panning his gaze outside suspiciously as they pushed through the encroaching branches of a thicket. Several minutes later, as they drove between open pasturelands, seeing his computer, she said, “I know about computers, I want to be a teacher so all the places can be nice like NorthBay… But they say I’m just a Wildhoo, like an animal… Aw, you wouldn’t understand, ha, they said you came from out in the stars.”

Through a little chuckle, Wayne said, “Heh, naw, I’m from right here on earth. Start the computer, and I’ll show you photos of my home town.” He spoke parenthetically, pausing in thought a moment, then went back to her comment. “People are scared of other people who aren’t just like them. It was the same way back home, folks in my family felt funny around people whose skin was darker, or browner, or redder, or if people spoke a different way, or if they were from somewhere else, or if they were richer, or poorer, or if they had more, or if they had less education, so, y’see I know what you mean, and yes, over a hundred years ago, I took a little ride in a rocket way out there. I’m sorry you didn’t want to leave NorthBay, but y’see little gal, believe me when I tell you this: This whole world is yours, and in it, you will find all that you want in life. Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you dream of doing. Just work hard, and you’ll be there before y’know it.”

“I’m not a child!… But thank you, it was caring of you to say that.”

As they approached the first village, she looked through the photos and video clips of Old World with an enchanted grin, then after a few minutes said, “is this your family, who is she?”

Wayne snapped his head around with a shocked look. “Howd’ya…”

“I did a meta search of the subdirectories for JPEGS and hidden files…”

“Huh, ok then, cool! Well, we’re almost there, go ahead and shut it down, please. Yes that was my son, and, ha, you wouldn’t believe it but I found my great grandson right here in NorthBay. He’s an old man. And that red headed gal was a friend of mine, but, of course, she’s been gone a long time.” He felt Mishia’s interrogating gaze on him for several moments.

She folded the computer’s screen closed and said, “I wrote you a poem; it’s in the newworld_docs folder as ‘Mishia’.”

They arrived at their first stop, about 45 minutes up the narrow track through grassy meadows and pasturelands, where they were welcomed by members of the several families that lived in a cluster of stone cottages and log barns behind a perimeter wall made from twelve foot high 22 gauge corrugated steel panels salvaged from industrial buildings. One of the horse drawn wagons was unloaded of its cargo of supplies, food, tools, and materials, and then was loaded with hay and several crates of clover honey that the families had produced. The wagon returned to NorthBay.

An elderly man sat in the cab with Wayne and Mishia as the convoy proceeded up the valley to the next, larger village, where they unloaded two wagons and stayed the rest of the day. Wayne and Erdo set up a small radio tower and solar panels on the roof of the village lodge, then wired batteries and lights inside the building, then joined Justin and showed a group inside how to use the radio and gave them an introduction on using the computers.

As the sunsetting colors faded to deep oranges and reds through the window, Erdo ceremoniously switched on the new lights, which, while only lighting the large table, drew cheers and applause from the thirty or so appreciative villagers. They then enjoyed a festive meal as a goat was brought in on a long metal pipe, and its meat was carved off by a converging of knife-holding hands and put on plates with potatoes, spring greens and dandelion, poppy, and lily blooms. As jugs of wine were passed around, the room got louder, and the laughter more boisterous.

Late, thick quilts were laid down, and the drivers and guards began to make places to sleep in the long lodge room, then Wayne thought, and said, “I’d better stay with the truck out there, it still has about a half a load of supplies.” then went out and arranged sacks and crates to make a pocket in the cargo bed where he would be protected and still have a strategic view over the wagons and horses. Rockmann and several guardies slept in the armored carrier outside the gate. Wayne soon fell sound asleep.

Wayne’s body jerked suddenly as sleep’s delirium turned to startled grogginess. He felt a slight movement of the truck, and as he reached toward the edge of his quilts for his holster, his hand touched something warm that felt like the bare skin of a person’s body. A crescent moon was just over the mountain, and in the faint light, he saw his blanket in the form of a rolling mountain ridge next to him.

“So there are night angels in this village.” he whispered.

Little Mishia wiggled next to him and pressed her nude body against his, wrapping her arm and leg around him to pull herself tight against him. He slowly, reluctantly wrapped his arm around her, then stroked her thick hair several times. “Oh, lil gal, you’re wild as the wind, don’t give your heart to a wanderer,” he whispered in a raspy, sleepy voice.

“Mmmm, I need you. You have to help me. I want you to love me.”

“Now waitaminute, you don’t know me well enough to be in love with me.”

“I’ll hide, and when you get to High Prairie, give them the sack and tell them I stayed in NorthBay because I got work in the textile mill. When we get back, let me stay with you; I’ll do anything you need me to help you.”

“I’ll tie you up and put you in that sack and make sure you get back to your mommy.”

“Oooo, just love me. I already imagined we did. I remember that in the night, I felt your muscles as your strong arms held he. I felt you heart thumping with your passions as I breathed little love words into our soft kisses.”

She covered his mouth when he tried to speak. He wanted to give her a fatherly lecture, but this hot little she-wolf completely overpowered him, leaving him speechless, nearly breathless. She had pounced on him the way a wildcat does when taking down prey twice its size.

She continued… “My body writhed against your hot skin. Your springy hairs tickled me. My nipples were painfully excited. I wrapped my arms and legs around you, juicily waiting to have you inside me. I’m waiting for you to take me, just hold me down and take me! possess me!”

She spoke in a girl-voicy whisper, her wild blue eyes were piercing through him as she panted. He was dazed, panting, his heart was racing, making hard throbbing knocks up in his throat.

“I think you’ve been reading some sexy novels. You just want to get back to the big city…”

She suddenly reached down, he tried to deflect her quick hand…“You’re hard!”

“I’ll tie you up in that sack! You are a child too!”

She turned around quickly, her hair sweeping across his face, burying her head in the coverings and began to cry.

mishia

“Look, you are very bright, maybe I can talk to Justin who runs the computer lab at the university so you can work towards becoming a teacher. But lemme tell you somethin’, now turn around and look at me… Don’t play games with people’s hearts, like using them for your own gain, it will only lead to people not trusting you, just like hacking into the private files on my computer. There is plenty of good that you can do that will earn the respect of others, and they will be more than happy to help a bright young person like you.”

Early the next morning, Wayne woke up with the cool, wet dew, alone in the blankets. After a meal of cooked barley with honey and goat jerky, around twenty people in the armored carrier, two horse drawn wagons, and Wayne in the flatbed, continued the trek up to High Prairie. Mishia, with her big sack, sat among the cargo near the front of the truck’s bed avoiding any looks between herself and Wayne. They rumbled for several hours up a steep, rocky, barely existent road till they reached High Prairie village, perched on a hill, with only a few of its roof peaks visible behind its steel walls.

Two large panels swung open as they approached, and the vehicles pulled into an open area between the log buildings of what had been a mountain resort many years ago. A crowd of smiling faces and excited children gathered around with happy greetings as they began to unload the cargos from the vehicles and wagons.

Wayne saw one face, that of a broad woman wearing a food stained work apron with her hands white with bread flour. She looked over the vehicles with searching eyes, then, turning her palms up, called “Mishi! Mishi!”

“She’s on that tru…” She was gone. Wayne pulled himself up onto the flatbed, “well there’s her sack of stuff.” Wayne’s eyes scanned the crowd from his high view standing in the truck, but he could not see her, then he looked back down at the woman’s worried face. She now had a young boy with a dog wagging its tail beside her. “I should have tied her up in that damn sack,” Wayne thought in his guilty frustration.

Then the dog jumped up into the still open door on the driver’s side of the truck and began yipping excitedly. Wayne craned his head over to look down into the cab. He saw the dog’s paw pull out strands of dark, wavy hair from the gap between the door opening and the back of the driver’s seat. The woman saw Wayne’s nodding smirk and rushed up while he climbed over the side rails. Wayne pulled the seat-back forward to reveal a pair of burning, angry blue eyes searing through him.

She clung to her mother, sobbing, and petted the dog forgivingly as they walked away. Later, when Wayne and the others were working on the radio, solar panels, wiring, and getting ready to show the equipment to the villagers, he started his computer then remembered the file she had created, and opened it:


 

Mishia

I am the wind

I blow into your eyes

And through your soul

To jingle your feelings

And excite your passions

To make your animals

Run wild and free

 
 

 
Gun2

Sudden Battle

Several weeks had passed. Wayne was in the library looking in a section of aviation and engineering books when Hawk and several men briskly walked into the quiet room, breathing heavily. Wayne rose, startled, and looked at Hawk. As Wayne began to ask, Hawk just said “Let’s go, we gotta fly!” They all ran out of the building, Hawk leaning over towards Wayne, rapidly talking as they ran. Outside, there was a bustle of activity over the normally calm community. Guns and rifles were in the hands of many of the men.

They met Rockmann where men were loading into the armored vehicles. “Some Wildhoos raided Mountain Nest shepherd camp,” he said, “You could get a few of us out there pretty quick to see what’s going on?”

Wayne and Rockmann ran down to the aircraft at the docks, and were joined by two others carrying an M16 carbine and an M1 fifty caliber heavy machine gun. Wayne flashed a grin as he saw the weapons, checked various parts of the plane, then started the engine.

As they approached the settlement, some thirty miles away near the upsweeping slopes of a mountain range, Wayne circled over the scene while they looked down with binoculars. A messenger had galloped down to High Prairie to the radio and had told them that the villagers were holed up behind their barricades, and several had been wounded or killed, and a number of others were outside, with their whereabouts unknown.

As they flew over the Mountain Nest settlement, they saw that the Wildhoos were herding cattle away from the pasturelands up a narrow valley toward a wooded area. Wayne also spotted several positions that the Wildhoos had taken behind small hills and rock formations surrounding the small fortified hamlet. It would be several hours before the armored vehicles would arrive on the narrow dirt track over the rugged terrain.

As Rockmann talked to his men over the radio, Wayne flew up, on the backside of the ridge, toward the upper end of the valley. Then Wayne swept over a notch in the ridge into the valley, just out of sight, ahead of the herd, and glided low till he saw the heard of thirty or so cattle in front of seven to ten bearded, tattered-clothed Wildhoos. He throttled up the engine suddenly and the other men opened bursts of fire over the cattle, causing them to turn around and stampede back down the canyon. In the cloud of dust below, they only got glimpses of men running, scattering, and tumbling cattle as the herd thundered down toward the open pasture.

Flying out of the valley, Wayne flew just over the treetops towards the settlement, then came up behind the enemy positions, sweeping in a half circle around two groups of five or six Wildhoos hiding behind rocky crags. The gunners opened up on them while Wayne got a closer look through his binoculars. He could see that they had shotguns and hunting rifles, and were scrambling about trying to find shelter from the gunfire overhead and from people in the settlement who were shooting as they saw the Wildhoos running between boulders. Rows and patterns of dust puffs from the gunfire expanded and drifted over the ground. Wayne came back over the positions from the upslope to get a better angle for the gunners to see behind the rocks.

Suddenly a bullet tore through the aircraft cabin’s fabric side hitting a seat frame, scattering bits of hot lead, injuring Wayne and one of the gunners. Looking in the direction from which the bullet came, Wayne could see a larger group of Wildhoos in the woods at the edge of the pasture. He flew back toward the settlement while Rockmann talked to his men in the armor, which was now less than an hour away. It was several moments later, as Wayne felt the coolness of evaporation on his back, that he saw that the back of his seat was bloodsoaked from lacerations on his upper back. He saw the other man holding a rag around a bloody forearm. The uninjured man had opened the first aid kit and was preparing to attend to Wayne’s injuries. Wayne nodded to Rockmann to hold the aircraft steady while he leaned forward to allow the other man to cut his shirt open to get to his injuries.

Talking with breathy grunts through gritted teeth, Wayne gave instructions to Rockmann on keeping the aircraft on course in level flight. Realizing that the Wildhoos were mounting a well planned attack, Wayne followed a hunch and had Rockmann follow the road back toward the approaching armor. The other man applied local anesthetic and pulled tape over Wayne’s shoulder and around his side to close the skin around a furrow that the bullet had made across his upper back.

Just out of sight of the settlement, along the road, they saw that a group of Wildhoos had barricaded the road by making it look like a tree had fallen across, and were waiting in ambush in the surrounding woods. They could be seen trying to hide in the undergrowth as they were surprised by the aircraft. The three armored vans were only about half a mile from them, rumbling up the road in a dusty column. Wayne took the controls again as Rockmann radioed his men below. Then Wayne pointed out some rock ledges on a hill overlooking the ambush site and said “Hey, why don’t we have our guys ambush the ambush! Some of your guys get up on that hill while we come back around to lay down some fire and toss a few grenades from the other side.” Wayne glanced over at the fuel gauge.

After some back and forth on the radio, one of the vehicles diverted into a meadow and went as far as it could up the backside of the hill. The men got out and snuck around to take up positions overlooking the ambush site. Wayne flew around the back side of the hill, out of sight of the road as he worked some thermals, flying as quietly as he could with the engine lugging just above idle. The other vehicles proceeded very slowly, and backed up a few times to keep the dust rising over the road to give the appearance of their continuing approach.

Everyone was in place, and Rockmann gave the order over the radio. Wayne swept the aircraft down over the site for a strafing run. The vehicles charged, stopping just before the ambush site, with the men jumping out to set up a pincer maneuver on the enemy. The men on the hill opened fire as Wayne flew over for his strafing run and grenade drop just as Rockmann’s men began to close in from the sides. Then the men charged down from the hill, hiding behind the scattered boulders as they approached the Wildhoos, who had little cover in the lightly treed terrain and thin underbrush. Wayne circled around the outer edge of the battle, and the uninjured gunner and Rockmann picked off several fleeing Wildhoos as they ran away from the fight. Rockmann’s men closed in on the road to finish the fight.

Wayne had lost a lot of blood, and he struggled to remain conscious as his head rolled about on his shoulders. As he drew gasping breaths through gritted teeth, he pointed to the fuel gauge and immediately headed toward NorthBay.

Wayne made a rough landing in the Middle Park next to the medical center. In a delirious pained groan he yelled, “Get Hawk! Get us some gas!” Then, still bleeding badly, he slumped semi-consciously in his seat.

When Wayne opened his eyes, he was in a clean white room. Lucy’s worried eyes looked at him as she stood over him holding the packaging from a suture kit. She smiled gently and said softly, “You’ll be ok, we stopped the bleeding, and there doesn’t seem to be any internal damage.” Wayne felt embarrassed, vulnerable. He was naked under a thin sheet.

Hawk returned several hours later, longstrode into the room, and looked relieved to see Wayne with his eyes open. “Well, the bad guys took off into the hills, but we caught a bunch of them, including some of their leaders. We brought back three badly wounded villagers on the plane, and there are some more on the way in one of the vans. There are seven dead.”

The captives who had attacked the settlement out of desperation in a very dry year were spread among several outlying settlements and were put in farm fields to work, or were enlisted to help in various work projects. Several among them who were belligerent or insane were confined on a guarded island near Castle Island far to the south in the vast, cold waters of the North Bay.

The attack was a shock to the community, which had just begun to feel stable after years of struggle. It gave them a renewed focus both on defending themselves, but also on their founding principles of including and integrating all whom they came in contact with. Expeditions were mounted to explore farther out to find people and develop trade agreements and offers of security by bringing in the nomadic Wildhoos as seasonal workers in exchange for building and stocking with supplies outlying winterhouses.

These winterhouses, groups of sod roofed stone shelters with fireplaces, were designed to stabilize the lifestyles of the Wildhoos and to introduce education and ways for them to develop into cohesive communities. As it was, it would be several generations before the Wildhoos could become integrated within re-society, as it was called, since they were the nomadic hunter-gathering remainders of three generations of desperate survival. They were the dispossessed, left behind by those who had retained education and language. They were often deformed, mentally degenerate, or criminal, and spoke only in a minimal vocabularied and broken dialect.

Wayne’s push to develop aviation took on a new importance for defense, and for NorthBay to be able to reach out beyond the nearby mountains and to travel to the Angel Townships, which was the group of communities of similar interests, with similar problems, that lay many hundreds of miles to the south. Over the next months, Wayne helped them to lay out an airfield on a flat section of land next to the road leading up to NorthBay’s main gate, and they gathered parts and materials to build aircraft. They made an expedition to the remains of an airport about a day’s sail down the vast North Bay, which was really an inland sea with a narrow outlet to the Pacific Ocean about three day’s journey away. At the overgrown airport, they found the badly corroded remains of several light aircraft, and were able to bring back a few engines and an array of tools, lights, parts, and instruments.

Over the next months, they put together several powered parachutes, and they began work on two aircraft modeled after Wayne’s Special Ops Assault flyer. In the textiles shop, where he went to check on the work done on sewing the wing panels, Wayne caught a pair of blue eyes peering at him from a table at the other end of the room; they exchanged a warm, private smile over the others, whose heads were bowed over their tasks.

Every few weeks, Wayne went up to Radio Hill and talked to Gordon, Jerry, and occasionally to Eva back at NewTown. It was understood from the outset, after the loss of the dirigible wing on Wayne’s aircraft, that it would be a while before he would return, and that the wedding would be delayed.

Experimental

New Ways To Go

It was a cold early morning in November when Wayne, Hawk, Miguel, and several others boarded one of the large cruisers laden with supplies, as well as Wayne’s aircraft, and set out southward on North Bay. They sailed several days and established a camp in a small cove on an island at the southern end of the bay. From here, they would be within four hours flying time to the Angel Townships and to the Edwards air base where they planned to get several aircraft similar to Wayne’s and to begin construction of the Global Voyager. They also wanted to establish a settlement in a strategic mid-point location with the hope of developing a reliable transport route over the desolate landscape that lay southward to the Valleciendas further south.

The Valleciendas were communities in the southern stretch of the broad valley that lay between the coastal and inland mountain ranges. The three largest, with around 500 to 1500 people each, were Vallecienda Castillo, located in a rocky side valley overlooking an area of fruit orchards and oil palms in the main valley, Pueblo Rivera, along the valley’s meandering river, and Valleguerrera, the most recent, farthest north, which was a community composed of hunter-gatherers whose families had grown and settled into more agrarian lifestyles. These towns were mixed culturally, less technologically advanced, and there was an unsettled state of affairs as they vied for control of hunting lands and the limited farming areas that remained after the once fertile valley had lost most of its vegetation during the thirty years of the climate inversion, and had become a severely eroded, boulder strewn landscape of deep gullies and rock outcrops.

The Angel Townships were a string of communities, isolated by mountains, with mostly English and Asian speaking residents, that grew around a large inland lake in what was the Los Angeles Basin. At their center, LA Village had a technology and a medical center, and communicated with NorthBay over radio, but had limited direct contact because of the many treacherous miles that separated the two, both by land and sea. Wayne viewed the Angel Townships and the NorthBay communities as the best hope for providing a good model for the west’s new societies, and they were the best places to develop technology and leadership.

The plan was to fly down to LA Village, the largest of the townships, exploring the route by air to find a good spot for a central strategic settlement and to assess the best ways to develop road or rail transportation routes. Wayne decided to keep the Global Voyager project a secret among the group who would build it, and use the road project as cover.

The only existing road, a narrow track, began a few hundred miles south of North Bay at Valleguerrera and ran for about fifty miles southward to Pueblo Rivera, which was over the mountain from LA Village, the nearest Angel Township.

Flying about 150 miles south of NorthBay, Wayne found a small valley that opened into the main valley’s northern end, about thirty miles north of Valleguerrera. Yodel Valley named itself as Wayne and Miguel, having landed in a lake in the forested valley, threaded through gaps in piles of rock that had fallen into a streambed to emerge through a thicket into an elevated part of the valley that was surrounded by towering statuesque mountain crags. Upon seeing it, Wayne let out one of his yo-dee-hoos, which the rock edifices returned in obligement.

Yodel Valley was greener compared to the surrounding lands because it faced west and channeled moisture laden winds from the west, and where a high ridge on its eastern side caused clouds to drop rain. A clear lake lay at the valley’s lower end. Yodel Valley overlooked the broad central valley and its meandering river and what remained of a main highway and rail line.

Wayne and Hawk made a number of flights with two aircraft to bring in people and supplies to establish Camp Midway in Yodel Valley. They built rock shelters, planted gardens, and stocked fuel for flights farther south.

They soon realized that building a road from NorthBay, almost two hundred miles to their north, over which vehicles could travel, would take them a very long time, and as they thought about ways to travel, it placed more importance on the dirigible and other aircraft projects at the Edwards base. They also explored what remained of the rail system, but it was all but destroyed by washovers and deeply eroded canyons.

Wayne had seen the remains of electrical distribution networks, with the twisted wreckage of their giant steel towers laid to waste in long lines as he flew his supply missions. One day, he landed to get a closer look, and as he looked over the steel parts of the towers and at the large wires, he began to envision a light and speedy monorail system that could be built by stringing the cable over posts several hundred feet apart. He thought that it might be easier than clearing roadways and could keep a consistent grade over canyons and hilly terrain. He saw that the high voltage cables were made using braided stainless steel to give them the strength to be suspended between towers that were almost a mile apart. The towers would provide a source of structural components and hardware, such as clamps, joiners, nuts and bolts, to build the system that Wayne thought of as a cable monorail system.

They found some of the heavy high voltage wire near NorthBay, and built a section of Wayne’s monorail design a few miles long through the community and out to some of the outlying farm fields. They called it the Zee line because of the sound that the trolleys made as they travelled on the line. It proved to be very useful for moving food crops into town and for moving people and stuff around in town.

The NorthBay Council met and the NorthBay community decided to begin construction of a cable monorail line following and using parts from the old high voltage transmission network. Crews were organized, including enslaved Wildhoo captives, and within a month, had nearly ten miles of the line built.

The cable was strung taut about ten feet above the ground atop a row of posts spaced between a hundred and, over canyons, more than half a mile apart. Two-wheel, powered trollies straddled the cable and had platforms on each side, about six feet below the wheels, spread apart in the center to clear the posts.

Several vehicle experiments were tried, such as motorized locomotive trollies used to pull detachable cargo cars. There was also the winged, propeller driven Wi-Flyer, which flew, tethered, a few feet above the cable. Then there was the Rail Sailor built by Erdo’s adventurous twenty year old son Robbie, who was badly injured when the tall masted sail powered vehicle reached a very high speed, went off the cable, tumbled into a ravine, and broke into “many small pieces” .

Another vehicle was built to exploit the reliable winds in the valley. It was a long car with three horizontal wind turbines that were thirty foot diameter rotors tilted at an angle that caught the wind on a series of specially shaped aluminum fins. The output from the turbines was connected through a series of differentials through the eighteen speed transmission from a semi tractor. This propulsion car turned out to be the most reliable and most used on the project. It had a large carrying capacity on the large flat areas between and under the turbine rotors, and was able to make good speeds, even in light winds. After these successes, the teams began to build the line from NorthBay to Camp Midway. Work camps were set up along the route so that several crews could work at the same time on different sections of the 175 mile long line.

City

A New LA

Wayne and Izzy flew down to LA Village, stopping at Camp Midway to refuel. It had been several years since Izzy had been that far south to see Ramsey and Sarah, who were developing the technology and education center down there, and Izzy was anxious to discuss the plans and progress that had been made up north.

As Wayne topped the ridge above LA Village, he saw what looked like a huge metropolis rising out of an inland sea, with neat rows of buildings with shining water in between, but as they got closer, he saw that it was mostly a ghastly crumbled ruins. Izzy directed him to the settlement, which was on an island near the eastern shore, where they landed near the boat docks.

Once ashore, as a crowd was gathering, Izzy hugged Ramsey and Sarah for a long time in an emotional reunion, and they were glad to meet Wayne and anxious to hear more about what was the boldest undertaking among these communities in many years: the north-south Zee Line. They met others and found a similar organization structure as NorthBay, with Brax, the Chief of Guard, Richard the Industrialist, and the various other bosses, as Ramsey called them.

That evening was a feast of seafood and beer as a crowd met in a large meeting hall to celebrate. Musical groups played the music of a new world, the sentiments of new life, hope and determination, struggles and sorrow, adventure, whimsical poetry, and eerie tales of a mysterious history.

There were fantasy dancers telling stories with artful motions, and several painters and sculptors worked wildly throughout the evening, with one painter flinging her nude, paint covered body against large panels as she danced, squirmed sensuously, and chanted.

A shining race car perched atop the roof of a tall building out in the waters, in the night, cast colored lights and videos of abstract fantasy on the buildings all around.

The people of this place, on that moonlit night, carried themselves with twinkle-eyed energy, but with an inner resignment of it all existing isolated in a fragile, ruined world, surrounded by danger and desolation. The evening had the air of playful abandon in the timeless suspension of an apocalyptic, aw-what-the-hell, we’ll-all-die-tomorrow, last day party.

The following day, Wayne and Izzy got a look around, and saw how the community was organized around the series of townships, each having a specialized function. These township communities were situated around the large lake and on islands, and in some of the partly submerged buildings out in the water. A small community about a mile south was built around a compound of several buildings that was a manufacturing area with a well equipped machine shop, several manufacturing shops and a foundry where they salvaged and recycled metals to produce everything from hinges to vehicles and boats.

On a flat area further down the road was a steel tower surrounded by hundreds of concave mirrors that focused on an iron crucible suspended between two steel beams so that it could be maneuvered and tilted to pour molten glass into molds or into vats where glass panels were drawn out. Several people in thermal protective suits worked on a platform next to melting pots near the crucible, and were blowing and spinning glass into plates, glasses, bowls, and other useful, as well as colorful artistic objects. The area was bathed in the bright light of the sun’s hundreds-fold reflection, and the heat, on that warm day, radiated hotly off the equipment. Cooler air blew up from grates in the floor at the work stations, and outside, there was a cooling tower that had slats down which water cascaded, with blowers that fed into large concrete culverts that went under the building.

As they walked by long shelves holding distinctively crafted glasses, goblets, bowls, and vases, Wayne asked,“You guys do a lot of nice things with glass, do y’all make any pottery?”

“Na- well, there are a few pottery kilns near the village that an artist’s group has, but, see, we have a lot of glass, and the clay around here is too silty. Plus, glass melts at lower temperatures, and is a one shot deal- just melt it long enough to form it, and it’s done, then let it cool real slow. We have a lot of the tempered glass in tiny chunks, and we make stuff by filling the mold, like for a bowl, and arranging color designs in it, then fusing it all together, which takes even less heat than glass blowing. On a bright day, and if the mirrors are clean, the guys have worked the stuff without the help of the electric elements, which is good, because in summer, there’s not enough water to run the hydro plant, and the alcohol and palm oil is too scarce to use to crank out the kind of juice those glass kilns take.”

Between the townships, there were farm and livestock fields, with much of the farming devoted to producing sugar or starch crops for ethanol production. Wayne began to see the pattern, in the absence of fossil fuels, of new world communities dedicating much effort and resources to energy production, perhaps more than for food production. Extreme conservation was an accepted norm, and they were using every means possible to get electricity. They had hydro-electric dams, solar photovoltaic panels, solar reflector boilers to drive steam turbines, windmills, and some experimental methods, like a generator powered by horses yoked to a large turnstile. Methane gas was produced in bio-digesters that converted farm and animal waste into compost.

As the three men walked around, Ramsey, at times, talked to Izzy privately. Wayne’s curiosity about this community was only increasing as he saw and heard more. They had described a hierarchy of rigidly structured apprenticeship programs to develop needed skills, and Wayne had seen people teaching workers, and there were rooms that looked like classrooms with blackboards, books, and computers. Some of the workers looked like the rugged and unkempt Wildhoo captives pressed into labor at the NorthBay work camps.

“So they have Wildhoos working too?” Wayne asked Izzy while Ramsey talked to a farm boss.

“Well, ya see, they have this layer thing. There’s the citizens, the old families and the bosses, then there’s the apprentices, which even the children of citizens are, until they turn 20. Then below that, the whacks, ha-ha, as in the whipped, a word from the slave days, which they don’t do no-more, that do the hard work. Now the whacks can get to be apprentices, and, later, citizens, but they have to do a good work, like to get real good at somethin’. Apprentices and children of citizens have to do a good work too, before they are made citizens. So, anyway, it was Brax, the Guard Boss, that big guy we saw yesterday, that came up with the idea a bunch of years ago …”

Ramsey came back and they got back in their electric buggy and headed to another installation as Ramsey was on his normal work rounds as learning coordinator to check on the progress of apprentices, and to bring books and supplies, and to collect their weekly test papers. Then Ramsey pulled up to small building between farm fields. “Wait, I just gotta get the papers here in the office.”

“So they had slaves?” Wayne was anxious to continue the conversation.

“Well, yea, ha, but let’s say there was an um, let’s call it a turn of fate, well, maybe, a fatal turn... Well, I’ll have to tell you the story, but Brax doesn’t like for people to talk about what happened.” Izzy looked worried, fumbled for words a moment, then continued, “So they used to get raided and crap years ago, like the Wildhoos, but they call ‘em Bandoleros. They used to try to hold ‘em off kind of like we do at NorthBay, to offer food and trade, and give ‘em little jobs, and it worked ok. But then about twenty years ago, Brax and the guards took over, and he became the main boss. After that, his plan got a lot more aggressive. They went out and captured people, whole villages, anyone they could get for miles around, people who had been there for years, who never even bothered the Village, and, who themselves got raided too. Brax and his guys brought ‘em in to work, like on islands or places they couldn’t get away. They chained them together and made them work the farm fields. Things got screwed up bad, there were arguments with the bosses. Brax took over and bullied everyone around and built up his army and threatened to enslave the whole town. There was almost a big battle between Brax and the other bosses as they made their own armed camps in the townships. Now Brax isn’t the main boss anymore now, ok, now it’s split around about five or six of ‘em, including Rammie and Sarah and, huh, well, Robeval. So what happened is this, I guess I’ll tell you, cuz you’ll find out anyway, but it’s a thing Brax doesn’t like to talk about, so keep it inside. One day, Brax and about twenty of his men went to the other side of the mountain to get some settlers that had a small village and a few farm fields, but this time Brax didn’t come back…”

Ramsey came jogging back out of the small building with a pack of papers. “Sheesh, ok, we have to get back. The council wants to meet, and talk to Wayne about flying and stuff. We’ll have some food too.”

As they rumbled back on the dirt lane towards town, they chatted. Wayne asked: “Have you guys had earthquakes around here?”

“Yea, man, a bunch of years ago, it shook bad. It rubble-ized the place even worse than it was. You can see that it’s the steel buildings that stayed up better than the cement block ones. The smaller reinforced concrete ones didn’t do too bad either.

As they drove through the village, Wayne saw how the homes had food gardens, often on the roof, to shelter the homes from the summer heat. Plantings were arranged creatively using terracing, trellises, or arbors to maximize the plants’ yields. As in Town, back east, each home artfully expressed the individuality of its owners.

As Wayne, Izzy, and several of the town bosses sat around a table in a meeting room of the town lodge overlooking the harbor, Wayne brought out his portable computer to give the usual picture show-and-tell about his mission and Old World. They already knew about Wayne and the space mission from radio conversations that they had exchanged over the past months, but they had a lot of questions about Old World, and were still puzzled about the time travel bit, so Wayne proceeded, once again, to give his explanation as he had given to the many people he had met since his capsule landed.

“B’lieve it or not, I’ve been around here, huh, a really long time ago. Here’s me with some buddies in LA, see that building, well what’s left of it is out there in the water, it was a hellova crowded place. Now these photos are from the mission… The Fugit Tempus rocket… There’s the training center… And these were some of the other astronauts…”

“WAIDAMINNIT-WAIDAMINNIT!” Brax boomed as he lurched forward suddenly. His finger bumped into the screen as he pointed at one of the figures.

“Who? That guy…” Wayne’s face dropped. “That’s Donny Lambert … He’s s’posed to have landed around here about twelve years ago…”

“Oh-jeeza…” Robeval looked in at the screen, then reeled back, stood up, walked away, and looked out the window, then paced about with a face of sudden horror.

The photo showed a number of the officers in the space program as they stood on the tarmac at Vandenberg, with several F-15’s on a flight line behind them. At center, nearly a head taller than the other men, stood Donny Lambert, a decorated US Navy veteran of the Wider Mideast War. He had broad shoulders, a shiny, deep toned South African round face, and a high forehead. His round cheeks always seemed to draw his mouth into a wide smile.

Brax’s eyes glared at Wayne with the look of a madman. ” It’s Dunnie, it’s Dunnie! The bassud killed all my guys and took over the whole damn town!”

Wayne: “Donny? Dayum! Say wha..”

Izzy: “Ah-din’t get to finish the story…”

Wayne: “Well, where is he, I’m lookin’ for him?”

Brax continued to glare at Wayne as a mortal enemy. “You took over that place back east, and you had tons of weapons like Dunnie did. Where d’ya get ‘em all from. Is this some kinda plan…”

Wayne: “Hey! We were attacked! I’m survivin’ in this world just like you guys, ok. And no, I haven’t seen Donnie for a hunna-damn-twenna-five years!” Wayne glared at Brax, then opened a grin and continued in a lighter tone, “Heh, knowin’ him, ‘e prolly saw slaves ‘n said somethin’ about inalienable rights… All men being created equal… The Constitution…And prayin’ to the Lord.”

Brax leaned back, slapped his hand over his face, saying softly, “Can’t b’lieve it, I can’t believe it… Consti-damn-tution…Praise the Lord. Just the things he said. So you know that summich, he was from damn Old World, from out in damn space. I dinno where that bassud ‘z from, with all the kinda stuff he said.”

Wayne: “Donny? Took over? So, what happened to him?

Ramsey: “The big ship… Gone!”

Roberval: “Ha, gee, yea. Rained down on us man, made us do the charter, the learning center y’know, the ‘versidy, and, ha, ha-ha, the Park. We call it Dunnie’s Pursuit-a-Happy Parkaversity. He had us do it for the workin’ people and to enrich our lives.”

Izzy: “I wasn’t gonna tell him, Brax, I swear! But I had no idea Dunnie was Ol’ Worl’.”

Wayne: “Well, we were gonna see about getting you guys flyin’.”

Ramsey: “Oh, yea, but let’s go down and gedda few beers and eat. You can tell him, Izzy. Tell him the story.”

The others shuffled out as Wayne and Izzy lingered in the room.

“Like I was telling you, and I was still living down here then, Brax went out to get that little settlement, but they were ready for him. We think your friend Dunnie had come into town, and saw some of the work camps and stuff, and he probably had already come across some of the people around in the hills who told him about our raids. So when Brax went down in that valley, he got thwacked. These usually defenseless settlers had all kinds of major guns, rockets, grenades, you name it- armed like hell, so they shot up Brax’s little army, killed about twenty guys, and took Brax and about six others prisoner, then beat a bunch of information out of them. So, no one knew where Brax was, and after about a week, some weird stuff started happening around the village. At night, rockets would come off that mountain and blow up and set fire to stuff, boats, storage buildings, blew up fences. Then these guys in black would sneak in all over the place and blow more stuff up and take slaves out. After a few more weeks, one day, there were rows of guys in black with black helmets all along the tops of the ridges on each side, then Brax comes down, all beat up, a broken man, he had this thing chained to his neck and said we have to surrender, or he would blow up and the black army would come down and kill us all. Now, at the time, Dunnie always kept secret, and only Brax, Robeval, and a few guys even saw him. So Brax and Robeval went back and forth up the mountain a few times, and Dunnie had LA Village set up their new council, with the Constitution, the Angel Charter, as they call it, that they had to make with Dunnie telling them what to do. They formed the new council with all the bosses being equal, and set it up so that everyone would have a way, even if obligated to work, or learn, or serve in the community or the guard –for everyone eventually to have their citizen rights. Now, a lot of the people who were slaves did come back to work, and others made the Villeciendas Guerra and Rivera, up the valley. Now, part of the deal was the place of worship, well they call the Pursuit-a-Happy House. You see, in the Constitution, it says that all people are free to believe what they want and all people have their right to happiness, in any way they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Part of our duty is to find our inside self and to be the fullest of what we can be. That is, in knowledge, in love, in art and expression, in progress, in doing good work, everything that people can be as if they have developed to the highest place under God, like just an inch below heaven should be our world. So it’s kind of a different way of doing the thing we did at NorthBay, as we struggled to come from a wild people, from surviving by bringing all-arms heart together for a new life, to make our new world.”

Wayne: “Man, That’s… It looks like he came back and really stirred things up all around. So hay! Where is Donny now, then!”

“Ha, he went on a ship, well, about five big sail ships with a few hundred people out to the sea. We hear sometimes, over radio, that he’s been to other places in the world. He wants to spread God word and do good kind of stuff. That’s why we joke about the Pursuit-a-Happy House, I don’t think it was the kind of church that he had in mind…” Izzy grinned and looked at Wayne with amazement, “But we had no idea he was from old world, connected with you, from back in time like that. But Brax has never been the same, though. He really was shook. He still runs the guard, he doesn’t bully people like he did, he’s quiet, and I wonder, I still think he would kill Dunnie if he could. But this is a hellova day after seeing your computer. Ha, hellova! I had no idea!”

They went back down and joined the others, got pretty loaded, and Wayne told them more about Donnie, and the space program, and all the stuff that happened back then, like the oil wars and the way everything started to go to hell. He did get to talk to them about developing aviation, but they really wanted to know about Old World, and about Donny as Wayne knew him.

Wayne learned more about how the community developed in the years after Donny. The Angel Charter was a well crafted document that built on the US Constitution and bill of rights to form ‘A more perfect union’, and would have served the world well, Wayne thought, if the principles he saw implemented here would have been adopted by our world many years ago. The Angel University was part of the community complex, which integrated learning, jobs, medical care, arts and recreation. The university, in a broader sense, was at the core in guiding people’s lives to come to know themselves and their aptitudes and abilities to make each person flourish, find their place in the world, and contribute his or her best to the community.

Wayne discovered that the Council on World Humanities had survived, by a thread, and had maintained the cryogenic storage of seeds, medicines, and biological cultures. Part of the research center at Angel University included farms for plant hybrids and labs for cultures for advanced medicines, such as antibiotics that otherwise would have been lost.

The Angel University and the Pursuit of Happiness Parkaversity were part of the Community Growth Matrix, led by the council of Township Bosses. Before visiting the park, Ramsey and Robeval made a point of showing Izzy and Wayne the park’s administrative offices.

Under the mantra of practicality that was so much the way of New World life, the Parkaversity was a novelty, and was one of the community’s first undertakings that promised to take them past sustenance and survival, towards becoming a more complex society. The struggles to survive in the New World left little idle time for things like sport, play, or leisure. Words like vacation, art, toys, and to play were virtually non-existent in the New World vocabulary. For these reasons, there was some sensitivity about the park, and Robeval wanted to show it to be a useful and productive part of their world. On a big wall screen, Robeval brought up charts showing the numbers of people who had been trained in various trades, and the different projects and inventions that were developed at the park and through the university.

Donny’s introduction of the Jeffersonian concepts of freedom of belief and pursuit of happiness were melded into the practicalities of the world’s current existence. The park originated as a project of Robeval, who, once a slave, worked to earn his citizenship by setting up competitions to help unskilled workers learn skills such as welding, construction and glasswork with prizes such as warm baths and lavish meals offered as incentives. The program became wildly popular, and others joined, in their own quests to earn citizenship, in creating projects of their own. There came to be a competition among the projects themselves, assuming more far reaching dimensions as people used the burgeoning park to do experiments and try new things. This led to everything from fitness and strength training programs, experiments with vehicles, energy, industrial processes, chemistry, and aviation. Radio communications and a computer network were established.

All these became the foundation for the university. The drive to earn citizenship, and earn good favor and the recommendation of others, also spawned projects that were purely for enjoyment, the first of which was a theater showing movies and television shows salvaged from the city. Then, the bosses of several of the townships got together and created a banquet hall with lavishly decorated suites, baths, and lush gardens with citrus, pomegranate, and nut trees to reward and attract workers to do the difficult farming jobs and the hot and dangerous work in the foundry or glasswork townships.

The tradition grew to become the weekly festival of food and celebration that Wayne and Izzy saw when they arrived. The guest rooms where they stayed were architectural masterworks of classical columns, colored glass lightwalls, and abstract furnishings.

They took the short boat trip out to the park the next morning. There were several buildings around which were parklands with paths and exotic flowering plants and fruit trees. A grapevine covered tunnel led to a private area that had a classically designed wedding chapel and a pavilion with benches, tables, and a stone cooking galley.

The Persuit-A-Happy House, which had been a modern corporate headquarters, had only a few people working or cleaning during that early workday morning. Ramsey, Robeval, Wayne, and Izzy walked by open doors that led to several lavishly decorated banquet rooms and the theater. They then went into an atrium that was partly covered with glass roofing and walked through rock gardens between large boulders to a water park with pools, waterfalls, flowing channels, and steaming hot spas.

A broad stairway built into the rockwork led to an upper level around the central atrium, where they went up and where Robeval opened several doors to reveal guest rooms, each one decorated in themes of ultramodern fantasy, angled mirrors, dazzling glasswork, and lighting that seemed to take this new world to another world. Robeval opened one door, then immediately closed it while saying a polite and quietly spoken apology. Wayne got a tiny glimpse of a woman with flowing blonde hair wearing a sheer lacy gown with the sparkle of jewelry glinting around her neck and down her arms. Ramsey looked sheepishly at Wayne, then at Robeval as he said, “Uuuwell, let’s go upstairs.” They went back to the staircase, which narrowed into a cave-like tunnel as they went to the upper level of the building.

They walked into a fantasy world of sheer fabrics, jeweled walls, modern art chandeliers with peach, purple, red, and orange lighting twinkling and washing over the walls and ceiling from hidden coves. Through a door, Wayne saw a wardrobe room filled with racks of sensuous gowns, dresses, and fantasy wigs.

Robeval led them to another door, and as he opened it, said while giggling, “He-he, a-heh… Well this is why our guys work so hard with smiles on their faces.” It was a long, narrow room with a counter along one wall, the length of which was covered with switches, knobs, sliders, control joysticks, indicator lights, temperature and pressure gauges, keyboards, and computer screens. Robeval sat down on a stool at one of the stations, then slid a set of slide controls to bring up multi-colored lighting on a stage that could be seen through one-way glass panels in the wall in front of them.

On a pink, red, and purple heart shaped bed, over which a sparkling sign read: Adora!, lay, motionless, a voluptuous and sensuously clad figure. When Robeval flipped several switches and worked a pair of joysticks, the raven haired, vixen faced figure came to life as her midsection began to roll and her hips began to gyrate; then her body began to undulate in a slow and sensuous motion as her lips quivered with her tongue darting in and out in serpentine flickers. She groaned and whispered words of desire as her supple breasts moved fluidly and rhythmically with her motions.

“Oh my Jesus. I ain’t believin’ this, y’all!” Wayne’s face blushed half as red as his hair. He looked over the control panel, nodding his head in amazement and disbelief.

As they walked the length of the room, they saw several other stages with other figures of various descriptions. In a greenlit setting of a woodland camp, dappled light filtered down through the tree branches to illuminate the youthful freckled face of a feral, shaggy haired runaway wearing only a short, torn cotton dress as she lay shyly, curled up, with rape-inviting lost innocence, sleeping on tattered blankets.

The next window peered onto a sunny country cabin where a prairie dressed farm wife stood, bent over her chores at her kitchen table. She wore a coy smile and eyes that hinted of fear and need, as if, in her lonesome modesty, she would only pause in her work, not looking back, seeming to hardly notice as you satisfy yourself deep in her desires.

Then, at the last control station, they looked into a dim grey dungeon where, in a pool of purple light, stood a narrow table that had straps and chains on it and hanging down from above. At each end of the wooden table stood apish, hair covered, troglodyte figures about seven feet tall, each with his thick, gnarly phallus sticking out to cast its shadow on the table inches below. As Wayne’s face grimaced at the scene, Robeval said “Ha! Rocky and Woolybooger! The punishment for rapers and unfaithful husbands!”

* * *

One building in the park was a museum of things from Old World, including cars, mannequins wearing suits and fashionable clothing, and a collection of company logos and signs. In another building, under guard, was a weapons collection that was a timeline beginning with spears, arrows, and tomahawks, suits of medieval armor, and martial arts weapons such as Nunchaku. There was a massive wall display of knives and swords with everything from Swiss army knives to intricately decorated gold Mameluke ceremonial swords.

A separate room, behind heavily guarded steel panel doors, was unlocked for the men to see the civilian and military firearms collection. The other men, as well as the guards, wore grins of amazement as Wayne rattled off the names of the guns: “Oooo, yea. There’s an 1851 navy single action black powder .38 caliber pistol with engravings on the cylinder commemorating the 1847 Republic of Texas’ victory over the Mexican navy which was pivotal in the American victory, and ultimately led to California becoming an American state. But the brass frame indicates that it was made in the south near the end of the Civil War, around 1864, when steel was in short supply. It was the gun of sheriff 'Buffalo Bill' Cody. Then there’s a .45 caliber single action army, known as the Peacemaker, one of the first pistols to fire cartridge ammo, dating back to shortly after the Civil War. It was a legend of the old Wild West. Ha! A Judge! You can fire a .410 shotshell out of that’n.” Wayne went on and on as he carefully looked at everything from cap and ball pistols to AR15’s to a spunky little Tek 9 semi-auto handgun.

“You never did tell us where you got all your weapons.” Ramsey asked. Wayne said nothing.

There were a number of unique ‘Citizen’s Award’ projects around the park, such as a spherical radar dome enclosure salvaged from the international airport in which a person could strap themselves onto a balance arm to float around in weightlessness amidst glowing stars and planets.

Throughout the week, Wayne had heard giggles and chuckles about a recent theater event where township bosses and council members dressed in ridiculous costumes, such as fish, trees, or tuxedoed gentlemen, then sang and told jokes in disguised voices till the audience was able to recognize them.

After a few hours in the park, Wayne realized, with the entertainment of its attractions and distractions, that he forgot for a while where and when he was. He was surprised with how he had let go and allowed himself to feel the things he had forbidden himself to feel: relaxed, unworried, secure, unhurried, light hearted, and nostalgic. A tiny part of him imagined that he could step back into his old life as if the New World had just been a dream.

The next day, the men did get together to get back to the issue of flying. There had been some attempts with powered parachutes and ultralights, but they had been stymied by lack of knowledge and by the fact that few engines they could find were light enough and powerful enough to fly on ethanol fuel.

Wayne, literally the only person in the world with an aeronautical engineering degree, spent several weeks getting these folks ‘off the ground’ as they set up a new township around a stretch of undamaged six lane highway and set up a flight center. Wayne worked with people from the engine shop to modify the carburetors and adapt motorcycle engines to use on several ultralight planes that they had found in the vast apocatropolis. After almost three weeks, they had successfully flown two new aircraft.

He gave a number of people flight instruction. Several pilots, in years past, had crashed relying on popular assumptions about flying, without understanding how wings and airfoils work, how propeller pitch and rpm related to speed and altitude, or the proper way to use the ailerons, elevators, and rudder to perform coordinated turns, avoid stalls, and maintain consistent glide slopes for descent and landing. Wayne’s students were humbled by what they didn’t know that they didn’t know, and one of them eventually learned the way to, and successfully landed and returned from Camp Midway in Yodel Valley.

After more than a month had passed, with the Zee line needing their leadership, and Wayne’s determination to get back to the Global Voyager project, Wayne and Izzy strapped themselves into their ultralight and headed back home with a cargo of medical test equipment and vials of badly needed antibiotic cultures that the Angel University research center had developed in their labs.

Davinci

The Secret Giant

After the trip to the LA Townships, and with the Zee Line cable monorail project well under way, Wayne, Hawk, and several others slipped off to the Edwards base to begin work on the Global Voyager airship. The first days at Edwards were spent getting the commander’s residence ready to use as a headquarters. They set up solar panels to provide power for lights, computers, and to run a well pump to bring water to the surface.

Wayne had spent time researching and making plans in the intervening months since they had explored the air base on the way to NorthBay. He planned to use the large earth sheltered hangar in which the Air Force had begun its XD-55 Advanced Dirigible project to work on the Global Voyager. The new project would involve substantial changes from the XD-55’s original plans.

Inside the large hangar, subcomponents of the airship were stored on large racks, and nearby storage bunkers contained a wealth of components, high tech fabrics, carbon fiber and light weight alloy metal tubing, angles, and sheeting, and tooling for specialized welding and metalworking. They reconditioned several generators and set up more solar panels.

But on the third day, Wayne found photos in an engineering lab. The images showed a working prototype that was a triangular winged dirigible flying over the dry lake bed next to the base. On one of the photos, he noticed in the distant background, an open hangar with nearby equipment that seemed to be related to the prototype. When he looked outside in that direction, Wayne realized that a large sand dune that he saw next to one of the runways was covering a row of earth sheltered hangars.

To move the tons of sand blocking the entrances, they spent several days preparing a bulldozer that they found in an equipment building. All its parts that contained oil or other fluids had to be opened, cleaned of gummy residues, and refilled with the best substitutes that they could find. There was plenty of diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid in sealed containers around the base that was still usable, and it was almost two weeks before they were able to clear or blast their way into the entombed hangars, but once inside, they were richly rewarded with pilot’s treasures.

What they found inside was a complete, flyable prototype. It sat drooping, with its deflated external covering made of an advanced titanium fabric, supported by scaffolds and rigging in the large hangar. Its inner gas bags, also made from advanced plastic fabric, were in excellent condition, neatly stored in sealed containers in an adjacent storage room. The propulsion system was a multi-stage turbine ducted fan that drew air in from above, porting the output to two main thrusters and several smaller steering thrusters. Wayne went into an office, and saw an indicator light glowing on an electrical panel. When he flipped a switch, the lights came on in the room. This was just the start of their discoveries…

The Secret Had a Secret

After looking through filing cabinets and report binders, taking notes as he went, Wayne went to his computer to see if he could find out more about the Advanced Dirigible project. He looked through the large number of top secret documents that his mission director sent him before they evacuated in ‘79. Wayne had seen some unspecific information about the project, but the names and document reference numbers that he had written down opened up a world of information to him, showing that there was a complex inter-relationship between a number of government agencies, private companies, and several specialized advanced research laboratories. Wayne gathered all the information he could find about the project and the many technologies related to it. He began to realize that most of it was administered through the Department of Energy, and that much of the work was related to energy production and drive systems. As he looked over the many pages of scientific papers and test reports, he was overwhelmed by the amount of information and all the scientific bla-bla, but he became more curious as he saw phrases like ‘Revolutionary’, ‘Changing the balance of power in the world’, and ‘Simple implementation with available technology’. As he found out more about the names he had written down, Wayne realized that he had discovered something more than the dirigible project. It seemed that the Advanced Dirigible project was only a cover for something much larger and far more ambitious.

Then, Wayne found site plan drawings which showed the flight research center, and within a maze of lines, titles, numbers, and descriptions, were some dotted lines with code numbers that showed the building in which Wayne was standing to have additional sections. It took him a while to track down numbers and to find information for bunker #EN-7469934-A.

Wayne anxiously strode out of the office. At the end of a wide hallway at the rear of the hangar, he plugged his computer into a port on a control panel. After he typed in a series of long codes, the security program came up and led him through a sequence of code entries and procedures of turning on switches in the panel. After he clicked ‘enter’ at the last screen, a large steel door began to open on the wall next to him.

Soon, Wayne was sitting in an engineering lab that he would have never discovered without the information in his top secret files. He sat hidden deep below the hangar looking at a large monitor screen in a spotlessly clean, white and stainless steel complex containing advanced computers and self sustaining energy and living support systems, with food, fuel, water, and living quarters… With warm showers...

Wayne felt fresh-faced inspiration as he discovered and began to understand the elegant simplicity of the Advanced Dirigible’s engineering. Driven by the need for the airship to be lightweight and for its systems to be reliable and field-maintainable, the military engineers and scientists had implemented designs that would seem to be out of some sci-fi movie if they had not been so ‘But-of-course, why not’ simple. Wayne began to realize that the discoveries by the Department of Energy scientists would have implications far beyond just powering the Global Voyager, and that Wayne’s work in the New World was just beginning.

The airship’s drive turbines were powered by thermo-dynamically driven gasses. Moving parts were mounted on frictionless magnetic suspension bearings. The gas flowed and was stored throughout the ship’s tubular framework. This system had been used in the bunker, using the temperature difference between the surface and the interior of a large sand pile, and had kept fresh food frozen and the electricity on for over a hundred years. Wayne’s time in the engineering office was filled with eye popping revelations of what had been accomplished by the time the project was suddenly abandoned and the hangars intentionally covered with tons of sand.

Couple

Romantic Layover

Wayne was startled by the little cheerful face that appeared in the window of the door to his cabin. “Lucy! What are you doing here?” he asked as he ushered her in. She set a bag down on the table. “I rode the line, on the big wind turbine car, to the work camp down the hill with a load of supplies. I’m setting up a treatment station up here, you know, with all the folks working around here so far from home, and then there was Robbie’s little stunt and the other injuries. There isn’t a whole lot of medical stuff up here.”

Wayne had come back from the Edwards base to keep the Zee Line project rolling, and had just finished several arduous days leading a crew about twenty miles away, operating a crane to pull cable across a steep canyon. He was the only one who knew the procedure to restore to working order the gummed up engine of the crane that they had found at an old sawmill. He was at the lake cabin for a few days rest, and was waiting for a fuel delivery so he could return to the Edwards airbase to work on the Global Voyager.

The cabin sat next to the mountain lake in the high valley that rippled the reflections of majestic mountains beyond rolling pine forests. Lucy reached into her bag and set bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of wine on the table. “I brought some goodies.” She said gleefully. “Oooo, that water looks so inviting, it’s so hot today. There’s no one else here, right?” She didn’t wait for his answer, and ran out toward the water. She shucked off her dress and flung it on the wing of the aircraft that was pulled up on the grass by the water. Through his oblique angled view through the curved polycarbonate windows of his aircraft, he saw only distorted glimpses of her long red hair flitting side to side and her naked little vivacious body as she skipped, splashing into the water with a joyous squeal.

Her friendship always seemed to have a way of sneaking up on him, from when he awoke from his injuries to see her standing over him with that suture kit; then when he unexpectedly ran into her in the hallway of the computer center where, having just been thinking of her, his eyes gave his feelings away, leaving him feeling naked. And now, she just shows up, and he’s alone, wearing only a pair of cutoff jeans that were worn to tatters.

In the golden colored late afternoon, they chatted about their projects, but Wayne’s mind, as it was before she arrived, was in the Global Voyager engineering office, preoccupied with setting up the equations that he would use to resolve changes in gas volumes given the differing coefficients of expansion of hydrogen and helium under various pressures and temperatures.

Their eyes met. He chuckled and said, “Aw, let’s walk around the lake a while before it gets dark.”

They walked next to the lake, slowly, saying very little. He could see minnows swimming, darting about, barely visible as the rippling water reflected the mountains in abstract colors. Lucy looked at the scene, or into the water in thought. Wayne knew they both felt a bit awkward, but it was soothing to walk along the water’s pebbly edge, at times holding hands, just letting their thoughts take in what they felt as they spent this quiet, unassuming time together.

With the sun behind the mountain, deep golden colors progressed through peach, orange, then reds in the lazily drifting clouds that floated by overhead, casting moody hues through the windows. They enjoyed a meal of bread, cheese, fruits and wine as they bantered in giggles and chatted about their projects and lives. When the last purpley dusk colors of the sky faded into the dancing shadows of a single candle on the table between them, both exhausted from the never-ending labors of life in the new world, they lay down to fall soundly asleep, he holding her close to him under a thick quilt as the cool night air filtered through the loosely boarded cabin.

In the deep, star-dark night, Wayne stirred, swirling out of dreams, floating in a mixture of sensations. Lucy’s warm body pressed against his from their heads down to their intermingled feet. Wayne felt around him the presence of the night angels. Eva’s face glowed in his thoughts and seemed to emerge and fly about in the shadows. His breathing became deeper, and he felt the beginnings of tingling excitement, not wanting to wake up, but to continue, half-sleeping, living in a dream world. His warm breath, through Lucy’s hair, flowed back up over his face. Their breaths and heartbeats were a slow, sensuous, abstract song of nature. She stirred, her body moving in a slow wave, pressing to feel against him with a soft, dreamy “Mmmmm” as he drew his arm a little tighter around her. He began to swell, reaching toward her warmth. Their bodies moved in a slow, very slow wave moving up, pressing each part closer, up her back— his hips, then middle, then chest, then starting again while nuzzling her nape with his hot-breathing lips. His root grew toward the warmth of her fertile rows, hidden between soft thighs, and with each gentle wave of feeling motion, he began to slip into her, slowly, innocently, naturally. Their breath-heart-song played in stronger passions. The gently rolling wave motions of their bodies were rhythmic little seawaves quenching into the sands. Within them each, a magic excitement was building, and as a finely written piece of music, they began in playful and gentle muses, then the expressions, explorations, and discovery of their sensations; then working, struggling, climbing up toward their resolutions. A crescendo building… They were soon writhing in twisting, undulating, grasping-clutching, pressing-hard-together motions. Reaching around with his kisses, stroking over her. Wanting to feel her firm breasts pushing into his chest, he turned her over, and on top of her, feeling her soft and perfect form, with the hungry satisfaction of his starved passions, he took her in a flurry of deep tongue-dancing kisses, body-rubbing-body, long groaning thrusts deep into her center, erupting into a dizzying, trembling, quaking, god-feeling, bewildering climax.

They were awakened early the next morning by the heavily breathing, groaning workers carrying sacks of supplies and cans of fuel to the nearby stockhouse. Wayne and Lucy’s eyes met, enchantedly, sleepingly smilingly, shyly, and for him, a bit guiltily; they kissed gently, then the sun’s bright awakening light turned their thoughts to the work that they needed to do that day, which, for Wayne meant putting fuel in the airplane’s tank and getting back to the Edwards airbase.

* * *

As Wayne flew, his mind was a whirlwind of thought about his love-dreaming night. He thought about Justin’s magic little eyeglass brain in the computer lab, and how it mapped out his brain waves when he thought of Lucy. Wayne remembered the words ‘Strong sexual attraction’ glowing on the screen. Seeing his feelings diagrammed so clearly made Wayne see himself and his thoughts in that same colorful, graphical layout. He thought about Eva. In his mind, the charts and analysis showed Wayne’s relationship with Eva as two people drawn together by higher purpose, with precious-feeling mutual admiration, and each, to the other, a tantalizing mystery; with Wayne an independent whose life was as big as the world, and Eva, not wanting to own him, but rather to be his soul guardian, and to nurture his life’s missions in the New World.

Wayne felt like he began to understand the feelings and mysteries around Eva. What Wayne didn’t know, however, and would learn months later, that while he did discover deeper truths, at the same time, he was way, way-off wrong about what he thought he knew about Eva...

As he flew towards the airbase, faces and feelings played across his mind’s view: Angelic Eva. Earthly Lucy. Mischievous Mishia. The hungry eyes of the woman on the riverbank… The Night Angels.

Then he thought of Allie, and felt like part of the center of his being was missing, left behind in a world that was now far away. He looked around as his aircraft pushed through the sky. Vast, eroded, dusty hills stretched across his view, and beyond were the flat expanses of desert where his destination lay.

earth2

Beginnings of the Great Airships

The Global Voyager towered above the men as they worked on the lower gondola. The airship’s massive shape, now filled with the light gasses, loomed above them in the shadows of the cavernous hangar. Pools of light shone on a workbenches and on the areas on which the men worked.

Wayne felt nervous pangs as he knew the day of reckoning was approaching. He wondered if the tremendous craft would fly, and to succeed, it had to work well in every way. He knew that it would usher onto the stage a new milestone for this New World as a bringing together of the peoples, dreams, and goods of scattered civilizations. It had to be the spectacular point of pride, not only of the communities Wayne had come to love, and for whom he had fought for, but of a world that had descended into such near oblivion, to return now with such promise.

For Wayne it was the pathway to the beginning of his new family, as so many times in the wee hours he imagined himself, with teenage bravado, sweeping into NewTown, whisking Eva up, up, up for his glorious romance and marriage to her in the sky.

This airship was a bold and ambitious endeavor. It was breathtaking in its scope, yet simple in its principles of operation. Its buoyancy, energy, and propulsion systems, symbiotically interrelated, were based on the simplest of principles, that of the compression and rarefaction of gasses that drove the steam engines of man’s earliest machines. The gasses used in this case, however, were far more efficient in the transfer of power and the storage of energy than the water vapor used in the old steam engines.

The scientific and engineering resources, as well as the parts that had been left behind at the top secret flight research facility, revealed that man’s pre-apocalyptic world was on the verge of developing self sustaining energy technologies that would have freed it from fossil fuel dependencies.

This ship was a prototype to develop designs envisioned by its designers. Air Force blueprints and video animations showed that the project was to eventually consist of up to one hundred ultra-high altitude Energy Motherships that would maintain low Earth orbit in the regular circulation of currents in the stratosphere. The bases would be kept in strategic locations around the globe and could operate automatically. A number of Earth Landers could travel between Energy Motherships to provide a flexible transportation network. The airships would also be an ideal platform for communication, navigation, and wireless computer networks.

These craft would be two-thousand foot diameter, disk shaped balloons that would have a circular tubular frame at its circumference with a system of spars and cables to define its semi-rigid shape. Hydrogen flotation gas would be ion charged by the exposure of the craft to powerful solar ionic fields that exist above the Earth’s ozone and carbon dioxide protective layers. This ionization would render the gas into a monatomic state, making it much lighter than hydrogen one would generate at lower altitudes, whose atoms coalesce into tightly bound, relatively compact pairs. A vacuum would be maintained inside the craft to reduce the gas density and increase the rigidity of the ship. “Vacuum” at this altitude must be viewed in relative terms, as the air pressure is less than five one hundredths of a pound per square inch at 50,000 feet. The normally explosive gas, at such a low density, would not approach anything near flammability, and would be contained inside a number of gas envelopes within the outer skin of the airship. The vacuum existing between the outer skin and the gas containers would expand the inner cells to a lower density. The gas containers would be made of a thin, high tensile strength polymer plastic, coated with an electrodeposited layer of platinum less than ten nanometers in thickness to contain the hyper permeating and highly reactive (corrosive) hydrogen gas.

The power generation system would be built around the use of tetrafluoroethane gas, which is highly compressible, and with its boiling point of minus 15.34 degrees Fahrenheit, made it an ideal energy transfer medium for the temperatures and pressures that exist at stratospheric altitudes. The highly reflective upper surfaces of the airship, because of the vacuum, would form concave parabolic reflectors between the supporting cable trusses, and would concentrate sunlight onto thin collector tubes containing tetrafluoroethane gas with neodymium magnet dust suspended within it.

Similar to refrigeration systems invented in the late 1800’s used to build refrigerators whose refrigerant gas contraction-expansion cycles were heat driven, the gas, compressed by the heat from the solar reflectors, would then be released at high speed through expansion valves, speeding past induction coils or magnetic drive clutches. The gas would then be condensed back into a liquid by the cold temperatures on the shaded side of the airship. This process continues, self sustaining, with essentially no mechanical parts. The powerfully magnetic neodymium dust carried in the gas would flow in coils past stationary armature wire windings to produce the electricity used to drive a multi-stage turbofan. The electricity would also be used to electrolyze water into oxygen and hydrogen, which would be stored under pressure within the tubular frame structure of the ship for use as an energy source through fuel cells for night time operation, and to supply energy for the separate Earth Landers, which, suspended beneath the energy producing mothership, would be the craft that would carry passengers and cargo, to make the trips down to the Earth’s surface.

The prototype that Wayne had found at the airbase was a smaller hybrid combination of the two ships envisioned by its inventors. This magnificent craft was engineered for fuel efficient, low friction, high altitude flight, with its design optimized for plying and banking the high speed winds and thin air of the stratosphere. It would soar in the upper atmosphere’s wind currents, which move at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. The lack of weather data and GPS would be less of a worry because the ship’s cruising altitude puts it higher than the clouds, and would give the pilot views spanning over a thousand miles.

The craft was a large, fat spearhead shape that was tapered at the edges into short delta wings, with vertical stabilizer-rudders located, at a slight outward angle, about midway along the wing, just in front of the rear facing thrusters. The craft was almost as long as a football field, about half the length of the zeppelins of the 1930’s, but with a more aerodynamic shape, and wider, it was able to hold a large volume of gas. Thousands of yards of a spun carbon fiber metalized stiff fabric were built up in seamlessly overlapping sheets to create the compound curvature of the ship’s shapes.

The non-flammable helio-hydrogen gas was contained in multiple platinum coated polymer resin fabric bags within the ship’s outer skin. Buoyancy was controlled by mechanized systems that compressed large bladders placed throughout the ship. The ship’s design required only a small amount of rigid framework, mainly a large triangular truss that was built out of sections of carbon fiber tubing with an integral system of cable and web trusses.

The top outer surface of the ship had inflatable clear greenhouses built in for hydroponic food gardens. On top were also a landing strip and an inset hangar where two ultralight planes were stored. Long, tapered hydrogen and methane fuel storage balloons were tethered by cables and floated above at a safe distance over the center of the ship.

The ship’s systems of operation were inter-dependant. Large areas of high output, satellite-grade thin-film solar cells covered the top surfaces of the ship to produce electricity and, through the electro-hydrolyzer, hydrogen and oxygen gasses from water. These gasses would power hydrogen fuel cells to provide power at night, and the oxygen would be used to pressurize the cabin during high altitude flight. Waste heat from the fuel cells and hydrolyzer would provide cabin and water heating. Methane would be produced from the ship’s bio-waste processing tanks as well as filtered from the air. The heavier methane would offset the buoyancy of the hydrogen fuel produced by the hydrolyzer and would be consumed in methane fuel cells. All the components were light weight and they operated silently. The airship’s powerful and light weight drive motors could be powered by electricity from the solar panels, the fuel cells, or driven by the differential expansion magnetic gas drive system.

A long, wide cabin built beneath and extending most of the ship’s length had two deck levels, with its upper deck divided into dining and living areas. On the lower deck were located a medical clinic, work areas, stock rooms, fuel and water tanks, fuel cells, generators and hydrolyzers. At the front tip of the gondola was the wheelhouse, which had sophisticated flight instruments and radar, and plush reclining chairs for pilot, co-pilot, and navigation officers with large expanses of windows sweeping around. The captain’s living quarters were above, in a loft over the flight control deck. At the rear of the craft, a smaller dirigible was cradled to fly passengers and cargo the twelve miles down to the surface.

With all its splendor and sleek design, the cabin was made of the light, stiff, random oriented strand carbon fiber fabric, built up, with helium filled polyurethane foam sandwiched between thin overlapping laminated layers, and was also formed into everything from the outer shell to the interior furnishings. Large expanses of windows afforded panoramic views and were made of thin, strong and light polycarbonate sheeting.

The ship’s flight speed ranged from under 200 knots near sea level to .96 mach, or 550 mph at 55,000 feet in the upper jet stream. The comfortable airliner was designed for a crew and staff of 25 persons, with a capacity to carry up to 60 additional passengers. It was designed to be almost self sustaining, with vegetable gardens and poultry production, water and waste processing systems, efficient work areas, and comfortable living quarters.

A New World Airliner

It was a cold November morning, and the peachy laced clouds glowed with the early colors of the day; The Day. Wayne, Hawk, and a number of other people who had worked on the Global Voyager these many months stood at their positions within the ship, and others stood at the mooring posts as the giant airship floated, poised in front of its hangar, ready to fly. Wayne moved the ship’s control surfaces back and forth one at a time, then revved the engines as he vectored the thrusters, causing the ship to lurch against its moorings, then he returned the turbines to idle, completing the pre-flight runup. He looked over the instruments, then called to the other men, who all returned affirmatives. He looked through the sweeping windows to the men on the ground, then raised his arm and snapped his wrist forward with his finger pointing upward. The men outside immediately untied their lines and let go.

At the helm, Wayne carefully guided the ship with a pair of joysticks while Hawk worked the bouyancy controls as they lifted up, smoothly, quietly, floating upwards into the first hints of cool fall morning colors that wrapped around them in the window’s sweeping panorama. Then Wayne pushed the throttles forward and they felt the quiet acceleration of a high speed elevator in a skyscraper, and very quickly, the ground fell away.

There are flying machines, like the screaming fighter jets and rockets that Wayne once tore through the skies, flown by hardened, chiseled men. Then there are the craft, born deep within the soul, that are the gossamer, high reaching achievements, the places to see our world’s beauty, advance its vision, and to feel God’s view. Those magic craft are flown by the heart, not by pilots, but by dreamers.

When Wayne landed the Global Voyager in NorthBay, with the secret of its existence having been well guarded, at first, terror, then wonder and amazement swept through the community. “Well, we landed a big one this time folks,” he told the gathered crowd, and in well-formed NorthBay speak, he continued, “With this new fishboat, we have our linescast for good-arms to hold around with big love-help-heart in our world!”

This deeply spiritual sentiment reached to the core of the NorthBay way of thinking, and evoked shudders of victorious emotion and weeping in the crowd. The ship inspired awe and pride in the NorthBay communities, and created an exhilarating feeling of expansion and hope that man could thrive once again on Earth.

They spent several months testing and fine tuning the ship, flying over the bay, along the coast, and high into the black skied edges of space. They ventured north over the mountains where they found native settlements in isolated, green, west-facing valleys and river gorges.

The Global Voyager made several flights up and down the valley; to the five largest communities and to LA Village. This was the beginning of regular flights among the western settlements of several new aircraft that had been built in NorthBay and the new Air-Angel Township.

The nearly completed Zee line began a flow of people, crops, and trade between the valley’s string of communities. Cooperative trade agreements were formed by the common benefit of maintaining a transport system that greatly improved lives and removed many of the difficulties, scarcities of food and resources, that had caused the people in the valley to vie competitively over the past forty years. These different peoples got to know each other, and their lives and families would become more intermingled in the coming years.

Mountains

Flight To The East

Wayne was headed back to where his life and love was reborn in the New World. The radio waves were abuzz with excited talk and with exaggerations about the ship, if that were possible, with stories of going to the moon, or back in time floating between the radio static, and with people around the world anxious to see the ship, expressing their dreams to travel, trade, and for people to see their communities.

After Wayne’s two month western trip turned into a three year adventure, he wondered if NewTown would look the same, and he thought about the ways, people, and culture back there, as well as the verdant landscape that had been his childhood home. Eva seemed so distant in memory, but his heart always felt her as close as the early morning that her gentle arms held him in his time of pain and despair. Every early morning, when the first colors appeared, when the cool, quiet misty air would roll over his sheets, he would think of her.

It would be two hours till dawn, and they were doing the last work of checking, tidying, and securing. Lights shone here and there, casting glows and shadows on the ship’s fabric with voices working in mutters and calls.

There were seven on the core team, including Marty to watch over the electronics, Lance the medicine man, Athis, who was a fine mechanician, Dori the gardener and the other officers with their respective duties aboard the ship. Hawk was returning to his home lands as well. This ship was a world of its own, occupied full time by the crew, and it had become Wayne’s new home since it left the hangar at the flight research facility.

Wayne realized that his dreams of flight in the new world were to assume grand proportions. The airports that he had envisioned would become International Air and Space Flight Bases in the population centers, where beyond the training of pilots and the development of advanced flight technology, the new Flight Bases would be life centers where the best and brightest people would come to learn, research, and work in the areas of highest human achievment; where people would develop and share skills in the sciences, medicine, energy production, computing, language, and communication technologies. These centers would be the fulcrum with which new societies would leverage themselves to advance in the New World.

As the first hints of eastern light defined the shapes of the mountains, higher tones of excited anticipation were spoken in the subtext of the crew’s voices. They were now all within the pressurized central cabin with the dense, oxygen rich air making them all sound as if they were close together in a small room. Seeing the first colors in the sky, Wayne’s eyes darted about almost impatiently as he sat in the pilot’s seat checking the instruments and controls one last time.

When he gave the all clear for take-off, they let the lines go, and muffled cheers, whoops, and hollers could be heard around and below them. The ship rose gently, softly, with the disorienting, dreamfeeling, ever so slight changes in pitch, yaw, and roll in the currents as they began to accelerate skyward. When Wayne looked up from the instruments a few moments later, the ground was darkshadowed and far below. The powerful drive turbines whispered with a hushed confidence as they swept toward the mountains, which loomed in front of them, soon passing below them, rapidly becoming smaller and flatter beneath them as the ship sped quietly and smoothly up towards the sky.

As they climbed, the sunrise was a spectacular high speed display, rapidly changing from the deep early morning tones, to a sun that got rapidly brighter as it cast sweeping shadows and discotheque color changes through the ship’s windows till they soon had a ten mile high view, with almost black skies above them.

They felt a boost of acceleration as they entered swift upper currents. Wayne panned his view around the horizon, and could now see the cloud patterns for a thousand miles around him, which he studied, then plotted his course. They hushed through the air, which, getting thinner and thinner, allowed the ship to go faster, faster, with the turbines steadily increasing in speed and power, going from a soft whisper at take-off to become a powerful wind-sounding metallic roaring whine. The treacherous mountain ranges were nothing more than little white-frosted wrinkled swaths as they passed slowly and peacefully far below.

Wayne and the crew were busy as they nervously watched their instruments, electrical, gas, and energy systems. It was only a few hours, after soaring high over the Rockies, then over the Mississippi River that they began their descent back to the earth’s surface. Wayne soon saw the great Tennessee River shimmering, winding serpentine in its great valley. Wayne watched the instruments carefully as the compressors hummed, reducing the gas volume and buoyancy for their descent.

The heavier air began to buffet and slow the ship as they got closer to the ground. Wayne could feel the different thermal currents and air densities as the giant ship swept into the valley over the river, then banked over the sandy bluffs and over NewTown to its landing in a large pasture.

river

A New NewTown

There were cheers, whoops and hollers around below and within the ship. They landed less than five hours after taking off. Wayne wore a tight grin of confidence and satisfaction as he spoke into the ship’s intercom congratulating the crew and giving orders to the several officers to set the ship in landing configuration— to adjust tension cables, divide the battery charge inputs, and switch off unused systems. Several men sprang out and pulled tether lines and drove stakes to secure the ship, pulling it close to the ground.

There were warm greetings from Ol‘Man Jerry, Gordon, Argus, Jesse, and many old friends, and Wayne’s embrace of Eva, twirling, her feet off the ground as he spun around once, twice, then a third time, leaving them both stumbling about in dizzy joy. After unloading crates of fruit, supplies and wine, there was festive celebration as people gathered in a green park by the river.

NewTown was now a flourishing place of beauty, thriving with the labors and joys of its now unboundaried beginnings, from the sturdy pier jutting out into the river, to the flatrock cobbled lane that had been the brushy trail along the bluff, to a long green parkway along which was a market pavilion, the council and meetings lodge, a clinic, materials depot, a waggoner and engine shop, and several other workshops. In the park, people tended vegetable beds, pruned fruit trees and berry vines as children skipped and giggled as dogs yipped playfully among them. Cottages and barns peeked through the greenery along lanes winding their way further up above the town center where the townfolk now lived unafraid with their neatly tended flower beds, gardens, and goat, cow, and horse pastures…

…A boy herding a family of goats up a narrow rocky path to a high meadow.

…Two children giggling, twisting around on a tree swing.

…A woman sitting on a bench, thinking out to the river, with a floppy old fat calico cat in its browns, white, and beiges, with green eyes, cradled in her arms.

…An old fellow on a ladder pruning a tangle of spring shoots out of the center of an apple tree.

…Two young men carefully riving shakes, tapping one side, then the other of a long sharp-edged piece of metal across a short cedar log standing on a stump.

…The colors of flowers whose seeds had travelled from gardens and plant baskets to now grow along the lanes, in the meadows, and along the riverbank.

Kids

Back to Eva

The next morning, in her misty dew-sparkled garden, Eva wore a mischievous smile, and her eyes flashed sparkling and excited looks at Wayne as he walked in from the lane leading down from the large pasture where the Global Voyager was moored. Wayne had seen in her eyes since he had returned, and had been teased and tantalized by something about her that was happy, playful, with an under-hum of an innocent but passionate desire. He had been consumed till the early morning hours in the festive reunion with NewTown. He felt the distance of the more than three years and the many miles that had separated them. Wayne felt pangs of worry as he anxiously trotted up to her cottage, with his eyes fixed on her as soon as he saw her silhouette against river mists that were backlit a peachy-pink in the low morning sun. They embraced tenderly with foreheads and noses touching, rubbing, with little kisses and playful looks between them.

Then she looked down thoughtfully and avoided his eyes as she shuffled lightly as her hands played aimlessly stroking through the forsythia blooms. She looked nearly at his eyes a few times, then looked away, then took his hand and led him to walk along the riverbank.

“I didn’t know if we could be together, to marry, to have our family…”

“I.. I’m sorry I was gone so long…”

“No, no!” she interrupted, then paused in thought. ” There was something that I had to know… I didn’t think that I could have children… I, I had never had the blood of the moon…”

Wayne looked down in dismay as he realized that he was learning the long held secret that had enshrouded her in mystery. He felt compassion for her as he knew how hard it was for her. He reached around her shoulder as they walked slowly by the water. He wanted to tell her that his love for her…

She suddenly turned and looked up at him very directly with a bright and playful face as she held both his hands tightly. She giggled, sprang up and down on her toes several times, “I was your night angel!”

“Huh-wha…”

“Remember the woman lost in so many layers of sheer lace, you felt through the folds to try to find her… And your bed full of rose petals! And the woman in the squeaking leather sash that rode, slapping you, saying “Giddy up! Giddy up!” And, he-he, the girl…”

“Eva, what-in-the…”

“Then the night I came in a rainstorm, soaked, dripping, wrapped in those yards of heavy cloth that landed with a splishy plop on the floor, then you hunched over my curled up shivering body for so long to warm me up.”

“Te-he, the girl covered in flowers, you sniffed and smelled saying “Mmmm, mmm” , then you sneezed terribly!

“And then, oh… And the night I came in crying, wearing only a burly cloth, my hair a shaggy mess, saying, “I am a lost little shepherd girl, may I lay with your lordship in the shelter of your castle?”

“Oh gah… I had begun to wonder… I ain’t b’lievin’ this…”

Then she looked down solemnly, guiltily “Then there was the last time… You cast me out and locked your door. I was frightened as you towered over me, scolding me.”

“But Eva, I… I thought...”

“I wore my hair up in little braids, bound my chest tightly with silk cloth, and spoke in a childish voice, and scented myself impossibly sweet. You were so stern. You talked like in the Bible, you scowled and said: ‘Get thee from me, thou innocent! Thou art not yet even a nymph! Lose not thy precious innocence, for your mother’s nurture you still need! This world is a hard place, and once gone through the portal into its cold winds, thou canst never return! Get thee to thy toys and tender folds of innocence, and stay in them as long as you can!’ Oh Wayne, you were like a storm on me!”

“But why? Eva, why?” Wayne’s face was a grimace of twisted confusion.

“Come, I will show you.”

She led him back toward her cottage; they walked along the bluff above the river, through the village, on quiet trails, through gardens, small vineyards and orchards, and behind cottages, barns and workshops where they heard the many sounds of people’s voices beginning their day: wagons creaking, tools being sharpened, crates being stacked and shifted, mutters, groggy chuckles, and children playing.

“The healer Marie gave me potions for the mother, the extract of the ewe’s ovaries, the yam’s root, cohosh…”

As they entered through her garden gate, Eva’s friend Christie smiled gently, then picked up a basket of flowers, and walked out to the village. On the grass, between beds of flowers, two children were playing.

Eva looked at Wayne and spoke in a voice so low, he could barely hear her over the rustling breezes. She looked at the children, then suddenly into Wayne’s eyes, “These twins are our children.”

The two young children had sandy red wavy hair, hazel eyes and broad faces. Wayne beamed a grin at Eva, then at the children. The little girl sang a little song to herself as she gathered flowers, stealing several quick glances at Wayne as she hurriedly picked more flowers and arranged them into a scruffy little bouquet. Then the little boy looked at Wayne with shy hesitation, and quietly asked: “Daddy?”

Wayne’s eyes glistened with tears, and his mouth fell into an open smile. He swept the two children up in his arms, and embraced Eva, the four holding together with sounds of sobbing, giggles, and joyous crying laughter.

There were sunny days of rolling in flowery fields, skipping, playing, fun, and happiness. The community looked on this rapturous love, and in every face walking along the paths, or at their labors, and at every eyes’ meeting, there were joyous smiles and lifted hearts.

Wedding

On the first day of the new summer Wayne and Eva were wed. Bowls of flowers were laid on long tables, and the favorite foods of the two were enjoyed by all: Steak and pork barbecue, river clams, the fresh vegetables of the late spring gardens- chard, asparagus, endive, green onion, with pickled cucumber, watermelon rind, baby corn, and peppers. There was goat and potato pie with some of the spices Wayne had brought from the west, such as mint, hot peppers, and bay leaves. People, children too, played their feelings with happy chaos on guitars, flutes, tambourines, dulcimers, as the sweet harmonies of girl’s singing filled the air, and as children’s happy and playful voices ran about. There were teases and smirks of understanding from Ol‘Man Jerry, Hawk, Argus, Eva’s father Gordon, and all their other friends.

As the golden sunlight cast afternoon shadows, Wayne and Eva, with their close friends and her father and sister, gathered in a circle for Ol‘Man Jerry to give his shaggy bearded, raspy voiced benediction. “Well you been through it all, an’ you made it through, so, Eva, I think he’s a good’n. So may the winds be fair, the sun warm, the flowers sweet in your love garden, and may you flourish in life and family. All good be with you.”

The new couple held hands and spun about slowly, with twinkles, giggles and bright faces of love’s euphoria, dancing lightly and wanderingly among their friends in the frolic of the park’s celebration. Wayne put together words from a song to a tune from one of his favorite flying hero movies:

Did you know that you are my angel

That as my heart soars with yours


 

You are the love that lifts my wings

That every morning, you are in the cool breezes

You take me so high, high through the sky

To fly with the eagles, you lift my wings.


 
Love

Love

And now we have reached the present time…

Holding her tightly by his side, looking out through the endless windows of his fantastic airship, with the blue sparkles of the vast Atlantic spreading below and to infinity in front of them, they gaze out to the magnificent godpainting of a sunset panorama with colors in a perfect, intricate, and exquisite scene, re-inventing every moment in ever-changing timeless originality, with their floating honeymoon sweeping up in the evening breezes till the sun’s last glint flashes out beyond the world’s broad curve to change their world to indigo night under the firmament of clear twinkles in the Milky Way’s silky swath.

The lovebed, as wide as the cabin, all along the upsweeping sky viewing windows, is an alter under the high sky’s brilliant starglow, surrounded by the blue-green diffused glow in the ship’s milky surfaces, where, in feathery soft cloud quilts filled with the sweet petals of so many flowers, they lay; Eva, a goddess anointed with sweet oils, spices, and honey essence, wrapped in gossamer silky scarves, lacy ribbons, and a flowing flower-sewn silk train; her face a soft gentle glow of innocence, happiness, and delicate, tingling joy; and he, curving in a lion’s sprawl around the bed’s central stage, in awed audience of her, his face powerful, gentle in adoring affection, and his hardworked and sun darkened muscular form, compact and heavy, sunk deep in the fluffy folds.

At first, shy glances underlaid with trembling excitement, then gentle fingers tickling tender palms, playfully, coyly, mischievously, brow tipped eye-flashes, tender peck kisses, nibbling the ribbons to unwrap the gift, then quick in-breaths of clinging to anticipation. Passionkisses pulled tight, coos, woos, aaahs, and ha-ha’s, with soft pets and caresses. Eva trembles a shiver of excitement, running up from her center, rushing upward, flushing her face and tingling her hair roots.

The gentle undulations and shadows of her form are perfect art, a magic landscape, a sweet dreamy place of silky skin with satin light and sculpted shadows. His love-charged form playfully skips across her with tickling kisses, hot breaths, feeling her warmth with gently floating hands forming over her curves. Her sweet scents and femininity intoxicate him into pleasant mmm’s and breathdrawn sighs as he moves strongly and gracefully, lavishing his passions over her.

Then their eyes meet, sending jolts of love’s tingles through them, floating them higher to a new and magical place. The catch-light twinkles in their looking, sparkling the love signals in their eyes. They tumble dizzyingly in their floating cloud to pour themselves into each other’s souls, bonding their most inner selves.

She melts under him, her passion drawing him into her. Her submission, quiet, natural, in soft swaddles with rose, jasmine, and passionflower scents floating on their cloudbed. He hovers over in tender kisses, playing tongues, and soft caresses as their eyes link them in scintillating, delicious love feelings, reflecting back and forth, growing in their breaths and heartbeats, with their warmth suffusing around them.

Exploring over her with all his senses as their bodies press, roll, clutch, hold, and mold together, mesmerizingly innundated, he worships her sensuously as his heart lives in full beats and he breathes with waves of passion that heat from his core, flushing up his chest, neck, then spreading into his face. His gaze is a fuzzy private tunnel between them, and his primal creature rises from within, ready to take her and possess her in the true, pure, and free way of animal nature.

So delicate, so hot, her tightdrawn gate he pushes gently, playfully rolling and smoothing againt each other. She gradually, almost fearfully, accepts him deep into her as the world she desires, her new family, her future, her history to be written, her grandchildren, her guardian… her beast and filling satisfier.

His love, in humility and reverence, enters her in gratitude, tenderness, and innocent delight as a special guest to receive from her heart a most precious gift of sharing of the most hallowed crucible of human progeny. That hall of sacred motherhood, that cathedral’s central aisle, leading to a most glorious, trembling, quaking, groan-gasping, laugh-crying, exalting song of pleasure.

Thank God that angels come to walk with men whose souls need their love.

The End



 
Rocket

Epilogue

This new family would soon launch out on a world adventure. The Global Voyager could only stay there temporarily, as the fiendish storms could appear to rake the valley on any day. Wayne’s new family, with a crew of ten men and women would travel the globe, plying its winds and currents to seek the world’s civilizations, to meet all far-distant neighbors.

The sky would be this pilot’s and his family’s home. They would soar over the seas and all the different lands, the forests and deserts, over the glittering lakes and rivers, meadows and valleys, over snowy places and unknown corners; over the animals peeking from the trees and running in herds. They would soar over the birds.

Wayne will discover more mysteries of our world, and he surely will face many dangers. His discoveries have already begun new endeavors. He will live a life of struggles, only whose triumphs will allow him onward, but he will always have love by his side. He will find questions, and his desire to find answers will burn in his heart…One of which is: Where on earth is his old friend, Captain Donny Lambert?


Flight’s Dreams

Vaulting beyond destiny

Over beyond’s horizon,

Past future’s destination,

From dreams, to imagination,

Through faith’s highest angels

Into this garden of riches to find,

Love, a new humanity, and a new world.