Developmental Editor: Drew Pendleton
Copy Editor: Tammy Pendleton
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 by New Legend Books & Comics
Cover Art © 2019 by New Legend Books & Comics
This book is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
As the dust rolls across the now desert-like terrain, fourteen-year-old Scottie Pittman walks east toward what she hopes to be a place that may have been protected from the devastation that has befallen to the once beautiful, bluegrass state. By any standard, she’s a sight. Her dirty jeans now fit more like capris and her shirt is faded and stain-covered. The jacket, Scottie wears, is dusty and weathered from being overexposed to the elements. She has a piece of her father's old shirt wrapped around her head, covering her nose and mouth to protect them from the winds, which are filled with dust and debris. Her small dingy brown canvas shoes are riddled with holes. Her socks, belt, and backpack (which use to be bright pink but are now more of a dirty mauve) have been able to withstand the environment reasonably well. Her dirty blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail and she is wearing a pair of round welding goggles to protect her eyes from the dust and scorching sun.
Scottie is one of the few survivors of the Crimson Sky, the shortest war in history and wiped out a vast majority of the world’s population. It turned the earth into an inhabitable, deserted wilderness. No, it wasn’t a conflict between nations, and it wasn’t even an official war. In the end, one small group of terrorists caused all the destruction. They unleashed a simple computer virus that tricked countries with nuclear and EMP missiles into thinking they were being attacked. In response, each country launched a nuclear strike and absolute chaos was released upon the earth. The name of the virus was Crimson Sky. The results were catastrophic, to say the least. The skies turned red from the glow of the rockets and it was nothing short of a miracle that anyone survived. No one really knew how many missiles there were until the day they were all unleashed. Then and only then did people understand the destructive capabilities the human race had reached.
Technology before the war was at its peak. Androids had become a regular part of society in most parts of the world and were designed to do all sorts of tasks. Dangerous jobs for humans were becoming a thing of the past. Huge airships flew through the air, replacing airplanes. These massive machines could carry an infinite amount of cargo and people all over the planet, and even into space. This incredible leap in technology was due to a new power source that a group of astronauts had discovered on the world’s first manned mission to Mars.
The team brought back something amazing. It was a mineral that pulsed with a massive amount of energy but remained cool to the touch and was extremely low in radiation. Scientists began to study it and learned to harness its power. That led to the first pulse crystals and the Pulse Reactor, which produced 100 times the power of a nuclear cell. This mineral was costly to mine though, so the crystals were not widely used and supplies were too low to meet demand. Once again, great minds reacted and created the pulse chamber. A pulse chamber would be cheap and easier to maintain. You simply charged them with a crystal, which allowed it to maintain and produce that same level of charge endlessly as long as the chamber wasn’t damaged. One small chamber supplied enough energy for a city block and one pulse engine propelled a jet at unbelievable speeds, therefore breaking the atmosphere no longer required thousands of gallons of fuel. The future of mankind looked bright and missions to Mars became more and more frequent. On any given day, there would be three to five ships on their way to or from the mining camps. The massive airships could go in and out of the atmospheres of either planet with ease. After decades of slow progress, mankind had reached a new level of achievement.
Then, as if from the snap of a finger, it was all gone. A simple computer virus almost wiped out the entire planet. Billions of people died in a flash and cities were turned to ashes. It would take years just for the dust to settle. When it did, there wasn’t much left but devastation. Amazingly enough, people who made it to caves, underground buildings, and even personal bomb shelters survived. Some were bent on dominating others and some just wanted to find a safe place to live, but all experienced great loss and sorrow. The world was no longer a happy place but a place of pain and suffering.
Scottie and her parents lived out west in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Her mother, Janet, was a nurse and worked at the local hospital. She loved her job almost as much as her family. At night, she and Scottie would read together before her father came in so the three of them could say their prayers. Janet and Rick, Scottie’s dad, had been married for eleven years and were close to their twelve-year anniversary. Scottie’s mother was respected by her colleagues and loved by her patients. She was an extraordinary woman.
Rick was no ordinary man. He was a certified genius, with two doctorates under his belt. The government paid him well to work on military hardware and bio-engineering. He was a good husband and father as well. Nights and weekends were for family and he made sure they got his attention. Rick was also a survivalist who loved hunting, fishing, and gardening. These interests were passed down to his daughter as they spent quality time together.
The day the virus hit was just an average summer Tuesday with the only exception being that Scottie went to work with her Dad that day. That was the only thing that saved his and Scottie’s life. Rick worked in an underground sealed laboratory, which was protected from the blasts and aftermath. Janet, unfortunately, was at work on the eight floor and did not have access to a bunker. The hospital was laid to waste and there were no known survivors. Rick, believing his wife could still be alive, risked his own life to go out and find her. He found nothing, and his search came with a high price to pay. Rick became ill due to radiation poisoning. It was then that he came up with a plan to save his daughter. They would wait for the radiation to drop, then set out for Kentucky, where he was from.
Every day they would watch the levels slowly drop, but not fast enough. Rick knew that he was not going to be able to make that trip, so Scottie would have to prepare for a solo journey. He spent every waking minute teaching Scottie everything about how to take care of herself and how to get back home. Most kids could not have taken in that kind of knowledge, but Scottie soaked it up like a sponge. After all, her IQ made Rick’s seem like that of a child. Scottie had scored off the charts when she was very young and showed the uncanny ability to remember everything she sees, reads or is told. This made teaching her any skill extremely easy. She was scared as any child would be, but Rick assured her that God would keep her safe. One way of doing that was giving her an amazing brain and sassy attitude. It didn’t hurt that her dad was a weapons engineer either. Rick hung on for almost three years. The radiation returned to safe levels after two or so, but Rick was too far gone, as he suspected he would be. The last six months Scottie nursed her father as he withered away to nothing. The day he died, she wept as she buried what was left of him, and then headed for Kentucky.
Rick’s hometown was Berea, Kentucky. He was sure some of his family survived and they would take Scottie in. It would be a long hard journey filled with a lot of danger but his girl could do it. Now fourteen years old Scottie had made her way from there to Berea. But the town she was looking for was no more. Scottie found the same destruction there as everywhere else she had been, but there was a backup plan. Rick had told Scottie about a military testing facility in the mountains south-east of Berea that hopefully would have supplies and maybe even some lasting remains of the staff that worked there. With any luck, the mountains surrounding it protected it from the blast waves. Very few people knew of this place, so if nothing else it might be a safe place for Scottie to live out her days. It wasn’t ideal, but it would do if all else failed.
Scottie looked down at the compass she has tied around her wrist, as though it is a watch, to check her heading. “From what Dad said, this should be the right direction.” She thought to herself. Off in the distance, she saw hillsides scorched and bare.
“What a pretty place this must have once been…what a shame.” She said aloud.
Ahead of her, she noticed a dust trail coming her way and wasn’t quite sure what it was. “It couldn’t be people,” she thought, “There’s too much dust.” She continued walking, thinking that whatever it was it would pass by the time she got there and besides it is right in front of her and she has no desire to go out of her way. The dust cloud kept getting closer and closer and by the time she figured out what it was, it was too late. She has been spotted by two men on makeshift motorcycles. Running would be pointless, they would surely catch up to her.
Two men on those bikes pulled up alongside her but Scottie kept walking. The first man pulled down the dirty rag over his face to reveal an even dirtier face and nasty teeth.
“Little girl! What are you doing out here all alone?”
Scottie kept walking, choosing to ignore the men. She had run into people like this from time to time and had found that to keep moving is the best course of action.
“LITTLE GIRL!” The man yelled. “I’M TALKING TO YOU,"
Still, Scottie kept moving. The man looked at the other one and said.
“Can you believe this, Willard?”
“You reckon she’s deaf or something, Dale?” Willard replied.
Dale then glanced at Willard as he shrugged his shoulders and the two men got off their bikes, quickly catching up with her. Dale grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around.
“What’s in the backpack little girl?” He said eerily.
“Nunya”, She replies
“Nunya? What’s a Nunya?” He asked, bewildered.
“Nunya business. Now move along before I have to hurt you.” Scottie demanded as she turned, headed back in the direction she was walking.
“Can you believe the balls on this girl?” Dale said to Willard.
Dale ran after her, grabbing her again and twisting her around. “Little girl, I ain’t gonna…” He started but was cut short when she zapped him with a million volts of electricity from a stun gun.
Dale collapsed and was left twitching on the ground. Willard comes running at her but she gets him too and he also hits the ground twitching as Scottie walks over to their bikes. After a brief exam of the design she can tell that they have been modified to burn crude oil. She pulls the lines, which causes the tanks to drain onto the ground. Scottie quickly turns and heads back in the direction she was going, zapping each man again.
“Look, fellas, I hate to do that to someone but you left me no choice. By all rights, I could take your stuff, but I won’t. I did, however, drain your tanks, so you’ll be walking back to where you came from. Please don’t try to follow me. I don’t have anything of value and if I do see you again, I will crank the power up on this baby and I ain’t sure but I think it might kill ya.” She says to them, pats her stun gun and walks away as the two men try to regain their composure. They lay there for a good while as Scottie walks off into the distance and out of sight.
By night Scottie reaches the base of the mountain range. “I’m beat.” She thought.
“I better find a place to sleep. I can tackle this mountain tomorrow.” She says to herself.
After looking around, she finds a little notch in the bank of what used to be a creek bed and snuggles in. She turns her face to the sky and begins to tell her nightly prayers.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to keep… Also God, can you tell mom and dad I said hi and that I miss them. Goodnight.”
She then flips the black welding lenses of her goggles down and drifts off to sleep. That night, like most nights, Scottie dreamed about her old life. She relives a fishing trip that she and her parents went on about a year before her mother’s death. This particular trip was to Waurika Lake.
“Scottie, come help me hook up the boat,” Rick yelled up the stairs.
“Be right there dad!” She yelled back down as she put on some shorts and a t-shirt over her swing suit.
She wanted to be prepared to swim, just in case the fish weren't biting. She ran down the steps and into the kitchen with her long hair flying through the air.
“Scottie Nichole, put that hair up.” Her mother told her.
“Oh mom, I like it down.” She replied.
“You know it is going to be in your way and a rat’s nest with all that wind blowing it,” Janet tells her.
“OK,” Scottie says with a disappointed tone.
She then gets a hair tie out of the kitchen junk drawer and pulls her hair up.
“Better?”, she asked sarcastically, of her mother.
“Much”, Janet replied.
“Scottie, where are you?” Rick yelled from outside.
“I’m coming.” She yells back.
She ran outside and helped him attach the boat to the truck by guiding him back to the hitch. Ten minutes later the three of them were on the road and headed for the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the water was perfect. The boat was in the water in no time and they are off. The trio caught a handful of fish but nothing big enough to keep. After a couple of hours of failure, Rick drove the boat out into the middle and stopped.
“What are we stopping here for, dad?” Scottie asked.
“Something is not right with the engine.” He told her.
“Come back here and let's check it out,” Rick said to Scottie.
“Everything ok, honey?” Janet said with concern on her face.
Rick’s only reply is a wink and a nod to his wife. Scottie heads to the back of the open bow boat, where the motor is located, and started to unlatch the cover. Rick comes up behind her and scoops her up in the air.
“FISHIN’S OVER!” He yells as he steps up on the back of the seat and jumps out into the water with his daughter in his arms.
The two of them hit the water with a huge splash and came up laughing.
“You two are so goofy,” Janet said as she looked over the side of the boat at them.
Scottie and Rick both look at each other, up at her, and in unison, both use their arms to send a big splat of water soaking Janet.
“OH, YOU TWO HAVE HAD IT NOW!” Janet yells as she laughed and jumped off the boat into the water next to them.
With that splash, Scottie wakes and quickly sits up. The smile on her face from her dream quickly turns to a frown as reality sets back in. The look of heartbreak on in her eye is enough to make even the toughest man cry. The little girl wipes a tear from her cheek, lays back down and returns to sleep.
This is It!
The next morning Scottie woke up early to the sun beating down on her face. She sat up, opened her backpack and took out a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small pack of jerky that she made and a canteen of water. She removed her morning portion of the jerky from the package and ate every last crumb. Afterwards Scottie took a small drink from the canteen and sat it on the ground.
“That hit the spot.” She said with a smile.
Next she put a small dab of toothpaste on her toothbrush and with a small sip of water she began brushing her teeth. For about two minutes she meticulously brushed her teeth until they were clean. Good dental hygiene was one of her mother's pet peeves that she had drilled into Scottie’s head since she was little. Once done, she spat out the foam, took another tiny sip of water, swished it around and spit it out as well.
“AHH, nice and fresh.” She said as she smacked her lips together.
After taking one last drink of the water, she put everything back in her backpack.
“Time to get going. This mountain ain’t gonna climb itself.” Scottie said aloud as she rose to her feet.
With that, she walked up out of the old creek bed and started up the mountain. This wasn’t going to be an easy climb, and she knew it. If the base was still standing on the other side though, it would be worth the effort she had made to get here. Scottie hoped it would be because the last month had been a hard one. Food was getting more and more scarce, which was not good. She didn’t like to think about what she made this last batch of jerky from, but she had to eat. Purifying water had become second nature to her but finding a good water source isn’t always easy either. There was enough jerky and water to last her a couple more days, but after that, she would have to get creative. The ascension was long and the terrain was rough. Several times she changed course and went out of her way because the terrain was too steep, but by midday she had reached the top.
As she walked over the peak of the mountain, she saw something she didn’t expect to find. About fifty feet below the peak were green trees, bushes, and weeds. Below that, to her astonishment, was grass and what appeared to be clear water flowing through a creek at the base of the mountain. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was as if heaven had ascended to earth. This oasis in the wasteland stretched on for several miles, and from what Scottie could tell it was surrounded entirely by this mountain range. It was that fact that most likely sheltered it from the blasts of the war. This meant that maybe the entire world wasn’t a total waste, like everything she had seen so far. The thought of this put a smile on her face and a hop in her step.
“How can this be?” She said aloud, as she pulled down the rag covering her face and lifted her goggles.
“I must be dreaming. After all this time…I’m home.”
The somber tone of her voice reflected the astonishment and wonder she felt at that moment. It had been such a long journey, but it was all worth it. She stood and looked at the beauty before her and imagined how much better her life was about to become. After that brief moment of quiet reflection an excitement came over her and she could no longer hold it in.
“YAHOO, I’M HOME!” She yelled, leaping into the air, with her hands over her head.
As soon as her feet touched back down on the ground, she darted down the mountain as fast as she could. Scottie followed what seemed to be an animal path, and she couldn’t wait to get down there and jump in the water. She hadn’t known joy like this since before her father died, and right then she didn’t have a care in the world. Life was looking up for Scottie and she could feel it.
What Scottie didn’t know is that off in the distance the two thugs she had dealt with yesterday had spotted her on top of the mountain, with their binoculars. They had pushed their bikes back to their camp and refueled. Once done, they slept for a short while and headed back out at first light to search for her. The duo now stood, no more than a couple of miles away, staring at her.
“There she is, Willard! By God, we’ll teach her a lesson for messin’ with us!” Dales said.
“Yeah, that’s right Dale, we’ll teach her.” Willard agreed, dopily.
“Just wait little girl, we’re going to catch you and take that purty little backpack of yours and zap you with that freakin’ stun gun. I wonder what she’s so excited about Willard. You reckon she found something valuable up on top of that mountain?” Dale said as he watched Scotty jumping up and down.
“I reckon she found something. She’s awful excited.” Willard replied.
“Oh, it might be something great. Buck might give us extra rations and credits if we bring it back to him.” Dale told him.
“Extra rations suuuure sound good Dale. My mouth is already waterin’.”
“Let’s go, Willard; we need to find a way up that mountain.”
The two men returned to their bikes and headed in Scottie’s direction.
A short time later Scottie made it to the base of the mountain. Kneeling down on the creek bank, she leaned out over the water with her face only inches off the surface. She took a deep breath in through her nose to get a good smell. It smelled fresh, and it was crystal clear. Scottie then reached into her backpack and took out a water test kit. It was the last thing her father gave her before he died. She put the test tube under the water, pulled it back up, put in a drop of the liquid testing agent, and the water remained crystal clear. This meant that the water isn’t contaminated. She scooped up a handful and took a small sip.
“Tastes good,” she said as she smacked her lips together.
A huge smile came up on her face as if she had just struck gold and suddenly she plunged her face into the water, gulping it until her belly was full. She sat back up, rinsed off her hands, then wiped her face.
“That feels good.” She said as the water ran off her face and down onto her dirty shirt.
After about an hour of playing around in the water, she filled her canteen full and made her way into the woods. She couldn’t help touching everything she passed by, like a kid walking through a toy store. It had been four years since she had seen anything like this and all of her senses were responding at once. It isn’t long before she saw wildlife living in this oasis as well. There were animals in the wasteland but mostly cats, dogs, rats, possums, and other scavengers. This place also had squirrels, rabbits, and colorful birds. Just ahead of her, she saws a small path through some thickets.
“Rabbits,” She whispers to herself.
She reached into her bag, pulled out some wire and made a snare trap.
“I’ll be back to check you later.” She laughed, then stood back up and continued to look around.
It was hard for her to keep her mind on the task at hand with all this beauty surrounding her. Still, she made her way north, looking for the base like her dad told her to do. Soon she came upon the remains of a road. The road was hard to see due to trees and weeds growing through it, but she could tell what it used to be and followed it. Soon she came upon a tall chain-link fence and an unlocked gate across the road. The fence, like the road, is overgrown with weeds and vines. Scottie could see a sign on the fence, so she climbed up two feet and cleared the vines from it.
“AREA 12 Property of the US Government DO NOT ENTER” She read.
“This is it.” She thought as she climbed down, pulled the gate open, walked through it and headed on up the road. At top speed, she ran for over a mile until she stood in front of a huge wall with a massive steel door. The wall and door stood over thirty feet tall and though it was covered in growth, none of it was strong enough to climb. The area around the wall was paved with thick concrete, which hadn’t allowed trees and other big plants to grow there. This left her with a problem. How does she get over the wall? At this point, it was about too late to worry about it tonight so she decided to call it a day and start fresh on this issue in the morning. She gathered up some thick vines and other plants and built herself a very soft bed for the night. Her stomach began to rumple. This meant it was time to return to her snare trap. She did so and found a plump rabbit.
“Sorry, Mr. Bunny but you’re gonna be delicious.” She told the rabbit, as she pulled it from the trap.
Once she returned to her campsite, she built a small fire and skinned the rabbit. Using two Y-shaped sticks and a straight one, she made a spit and roasted the rabbit. Her mouth began to water from the aroma of the cooking meat. She was almost giddy with anticipation of eating freshly cooked rabbit. Scottie was not the only one, however, who caught the scent of cooking flesh. As the sun was setting, she noticed four dogs come out of the woods and stand at the edge of her campsite, staring at her. Scottie stood to her feet.
“This is my food! If I have anything left when I am done I will share but until then, you better back off or I’ll light you up like a Christmas tree!” She yelled at them as she pulled out the stun gun and held down the trigger which sparked with a bright flash that lit up the dark.
The dogs stood there for a moment longer, then turned and went back into the woods. Scottie sat back down and continued to cook her meat.
In no time, the rabbit was ready to eat and Scottie tore into it. She disregarded all her manners, ripping the meat off the bone and eating it as if it was the first meal she has had in days. Licking her fingers and smacking her lips, she didn’t want to waste a drop of it. It wasn’t long before the rabbit was just bones and gristle. Because Scottie is a girl of her word. She gathered the bones and took them over to the edge of the woods where the dogs were standing.
“Here you go, I always keep my word. Thank you for not bothering me while I ate.” She said as she laid the bones on the ground and walked away.
Once she was about twenty feet away, a dog came out of the woods, looked at her and started to lick the bones. After a few licks, he turned and looked back into the wood. The other three soon came out, and the team started gnawing on the bones. Scottie smiled and walked the rest of the way back to her makeshift bed. She sat and rested for about an hour, watching the birds and other nightlife move around, then followed her routine and went to sleep.
The next morning, she brushed her teeth, drank her water and ate her jerky. She went into the woods and set more snare traps. The thought of another rabbit or maybe even a squirrel for supper tonight sounded fantastic. After that, she started looking for a way over the wall. She walked up and down the wall and both ends ran right into steep cliffs that could not be climbed without equipment. By midday, she found herself back at the large steel door and still without a way to get through it.
“Ok, think Scottie. How do you get over this door?” She thought. “There has to be a way over. I can build a ladder. No, I don’t have the tools for something like that.”
It was then that Scottie saw something shiny under the vines next to the door. She walked over to it and pulled the vines back to reveal a control panel. The panel was completely powerless, but she thought she might be able to use her stun gun to juice it enough to crack open the large door. She took her knife and small tool kit out of her backpack and went to work. It took a little time, but she got the panel open. She pulled the faceplate out and started tracing the wires.
“These have to be the ones.” Scottie said aloud, holding the red and green wires in her hand.
She cut the wires, stripped them back and connected them to her stun gun prongs.
“I hope this works.” She said, turning her head to the side and standing back as much as she can as she pulls the trigger on the gun.
With the first “ZAP!” the door creaked and jerked. Scottie hit it again “ZAP!” and this time the door nudged open a couple of inches. Scottie got a big smile on her face and pulled the trigger on the gun several more times. By the time she was done the stun gun was dead and would need hours of charging with her solar charger but it was worth it. The door was now out about a foot and Scottie squeezed through.
On the other side, she found the most solid structures she has seen in years. All the buildings were still intact and from the looks of it, she could make a nice home out of this place. This would also be a great base of operations for her to search out other survivors.
“HELLO! Is anyone here?” She yelled out, looking for other people, but no one replied.
She kept walking past the rows of buildings on both sides of her until she reached the back half of the facility. There she found a huge stockpile of old junk, parts of planes, vehicles, and drudges.
A drudge is a robotic suit that men and women can use to do jobs that are dangerous or require heavy lifting. They range in size, starting at around twelve feet tall and going to about twenty-five feet tall. They also have different looks. Ones designed for only heavy lifting had an open cockpit and you can see the drivers. They enclosed the others that were designed for the more dangerous jobs and airtight to protect the drivers. These manual suits were later replaced with automated androids.
“This stuff is so cool!” Scottie exclaimed excitedly as she searched through the piles of junk.
Next, she headed back towards the buildings. There were ten buildings in total and most of them were warehouses. The building in the middle was the command center and living quarters. That was the first building Scottie went into. There she found a control room, and the walls were lined with shelves full of manuals. She began to look over the manuals and read anything that looked interesting. Scottie spent the next several hours reading over them until she found what she was looking for. It turned out that the facility had two modes of power. It had a Pulse Reactor and a natural gas backup generator with its own tap straight into a gas mine.
“Eureka!” She said as she slammed the book closed, grabbed a crank powered flashlight from her backpack and ran down the steps to the lower level.
Once at the bottom floor, she looked over the controls to the Pulse Reactor. From the look of it, the reactor had gone offline because someone turned it off, using the master power shutoff switch. Since it wasn’t a power failure, the backup natural gas had never kicked on. Scottie knew it could be dangerous, but she had to see if the reactor would start. She took out the startup guard sitting next to the reactor console, turned the power shutoff switch back on, which supplied battery power to the control board. Next, she started pressing the buttons in proper order to start the power on sequence.
“Here we go.” She said as she pushed the last button.
The reactor ignited and came online. The whole building powered up, but the ignition was short lived, and the reactor shut down. This time, however, the system registered that as a power failure, which caused the natural gas turbines to ignite and begin to turn. In seconds she had back up power online and that would work just fine. She sat back in the control chair and smiled at her great accomplishment.
Here Comes Trouble
Shortly after seeing Scottie atop the mountain jumping up and down, Dale and Willard headed off after her. They were still a good distance from her so they had a way to ride. Soon enough though, they were at the base of the mountain close to where she had gone up. The two got off their bike and looked up the mountainside.
“That’s awful steep, Willard,” Dale said as he snarled up his face while blocking the sun with his hand over his eyes.
“ I don’t think we can make it up that hill there, Dale,” Willard said with a dumbfounded look on his face.
“Well, of course, we can’t Willard, these ain’t mountain goats,” Dale responds.
“MMMM…billy goat sounds good,” Willard replied distracted by hunger.
“Will you shut up! You’re makin’ me hungry now!” Dale yelled at him.
“What are we going to do, Dale?” Willard says after a few moments of silence.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to go around it until we find a good place to go up…duh! God, you’re so stupid.” Dale scoffed.
“Sorry Dale, I don’t mean to be so stupid. I can’t help it.” Willard replied with his head hung.
“Just get on your bike and let's get outta here,” Dale told him.
The two men got back on their bikes and headed south to look for a good place to go up the mountain. They rode for hours and started up the mountain in several spots only to have to slide back down because it became too steep. The last attempt looked promising and Dale made it about a third of the way up before flipping over, tumbling down the mountain, and landing face-first in the dirt. Willard quickly came to his aid and helped him up.
“You ok Dale?” He asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He replied as he spits out a mouth full of dust.
“You sure had me worried. That was a long fall.” Willard told him.
“We are going to have to go back, Willard. We ain’t got enough fuel to keep going.” Dale declared as he continued to dust himself off.
“Ok Dale, that makes sense to me. I guess we’ll have to let the little girl go.”
“Heck no, I ain’t letting her go. She insulted my manhood. A real man can’t let that slide. We’ll have to go back and bring extra fuel with us.”
“Good plan Dale, you sure are smart.”
“Yeah, I am…ain’t I,” Dale replied with his chest out.
Dale and Willard turned around and headed back the way they came. About an hour later, Dale noticed something that he hadn’t seen on the way through the first time. He pulled over and got off his bike as Willard followed.
“What’s wrong, Dale?”
“Nothing’s wrong. You see that cave looking place. I don’t think it’s a cave.”
“What do you reckon it is?”
“If I knew what it was for sure I would have told you already, stupid.”
Dale walked over to the opening and looked it over. The hole was only a foot wide and about two feet tall. Dale stuck his head in to see. As he did he could see a light off in the distance. Pulling back out of the hole with a big smile on his face, he spoke in an excited voice.
“Hot dang, it’s a tunnel! Get over here Willard and help me clear the debris out of the way so we can get the bikes through there.”
The two men worked for another couple of hours moving dirt and rock until they had an opening big enough to ride in. They got on their bikes and rode into the tunnel. It was almost a mile long but when they got to the other side, they couldn’t believe what they saw with their own eyes. In front of them was the beauty of nature. Trees, grass, and clean water as far as the eye could see.
“Oh my God Dale, look at this place,” Willard said as he pulled the rag down from his face.
“Yeah, I see it Willard but I can’t believe it. How in the world did this place survive?”
“I don’t know Dale but I bet I can beat you to the water,” Willard replied.
“Now Willard, don’t act like a kid…GO!” Dale said.
With that said the two men jumped off their bike, ran down to the creek, and jumped into the water. Neither of them had bathed in weeks and the cool clean water felt really good. They splashed each other, floated around, and drank their bellies full as well. They looked like two young kids on summer break, playing in the creek. For that short time, life was good and all their worries slipped away. The fun lasted about thirty minutes, then the two walked out of the water and laid in the tall grass on the creek banks.
“Wow, that sure felt good didn’t it Willard?
“Yeah Dale, it sure did. I don’t remember the last time I saw or drank water so clean.”
“This place is a paradise,” Dale said like he had discovered heaven itself.
“Can we stay here Dale?”
“Yes, we can Willard. ‘Course ya know we have to keep this place secret. We can’t tell anyone about it or else everyone will want to come here. Ya know we could make a killin’, selling that water to people.”
“I bet Buck would pay us a ton for this clean water,” replied Willard.
“No! We can’t sell any of this to Buck. He will want to know where it came from and if he finds out he’ll come in here and take it over.” snapped Dale.
“Oh yeah, you’re probably right about that. Don’t worry Dale, I won’t say a word to him about it.”
“Good. Now hush up, I am going to lay here and take a little nap, after that we can camp here and head out in the morning exploring.”
“What about that little girl?”
“Forget about the little girl Willard, we got bigger fish to fry now?”
“You got fish Dale?”
“No, I ain’t got no fish, you moron. It’s an expression.”
“Oh, ok I just misunderstood.”
“It’s OK Willard, it ain’t your fault that you’re dumb. Now hush and let me nap.”
The two men laid there for a few more minutes and Dale drifted off to sleep. Willard was too excited to nap. He was thinking of all the stuff they can get for this clean water. They might even get as rich as Buck.
Buck Brewer was a coal miner before the war. He and his crew were deep inside the mine in West Virginia when the war hit so they were sheltered from the blast. Buck, being the foreman, took control of the men and when the dust settled, they emerged from the mine and set up camp. This camp would become what is now Coal City. A dusty dirt town filled with thieves and murderers. Only one man could rule such a place and that man is Buck Brewer. Buck is a massive individual and was a man of low character before the war. At over six-foot, three-inches tall and about three-hundred pounds, most men tremble in his sight for fear he will unleash his wrath upon them. He was and is often described as mean and hateful. His demeanor has survived him well as the kingpin of this part of the country. He controls everything east of the Mississippi River and it has amassed him a fortune in traded goods such as water, canned food, meat, and whatever else someone might need or want. He is not a man to be trifled with, so keeping this place secret from him wouldn’t be easy but it was worth a shot to Dale and Willard.
Dale woke up from his nap to find that Willard had also fallen asleep. He was often really mean to ole Willard but deep down he cares for him. After all, why else would he put up with him? Despite his shortcomings, Willard was trustworthy and people like that are always good to have around. Dale stood up and walked down by the creek. He looked down from the banks and saw some large fish swimming around.
“Boy, I bet those rascals would be good. I bet I can spear a few of them too.” Dale says to himself.
He then turns and looks back at his friend. There are two choices at this point, spear a couple of fish and eat them before Willard wakes or spear enough for them both and surprise his friend with a great meal. He chose the latter and made preparations. First, he gathered up some dead wood and started a fire. Next, Dale snapped off a small tree about an inch thick, got out his knife, and sharpened the end of it.
“Perfect,” he said as he finished up. “Now let's catch some of those rascals.”
Dale walked back down to the creek and stood on the bank. Patiently, he waited for just the right moment then struck but hit nothing but water and rocks. He tried over and over with no luck.
“Dag gonit! This is harder than I thought it was gonna be.” He said in frustration.
He looked over in the dirt along the back and saw a worm.
“I got it!” he said as he quickly sat down and pulled off his smelly shoes.
Dale stepped down into the water, turned, reached down, and picked up the worm.
“You’ll do just fine.” He said then stuffed the worm into his pocket.
He dug around and found four more worms, which he also stuffed into his pocket. Once he believed he had enough, he waded out into the water until he was about four feet from the shore. The water was about up to his knees and deep enough for some nice fat fish. Dale reached in his pocket and pulled out a worm. Then he pulled his right foot out of the water and stuck the worm between his toes. Holding on to it tightly he slowly put his foot back into the water and waited. It wasn’t long before a large fish noticed the worm and started towards it.
“Come on big boy, come get the juicy worm,” Dale whispered.
The fish swam closer and closer until SWOOSH! Dale stabbed the spear down into the water and hit the fish. He pulled it out of the water and smiled big, exposing his nasty teeth.
“I gotchya.” He told the fish as he took him off the spear and tossed him over onto the bank. “Now let's get some of your friends.”
This went on for about an hour and Dale ended up catching six fish in all. Once he thought he had enough, he gutted them and headed back up the hill. He stocked up the fire and put out an old iron skillet that he carried in his saddlebag. Dale wiped off the skillet and laid it on the fire. Once it was hot, he placed the fish on it and they started to cook. It didn’t take long for them to cook but Willard was still snoozing away.
“WILLARD! Wake up, boy!” Dale hollered over at him.
Willard opened his eyes and then started to smell the aroma of cooked fish.
“MMMM, something sure smells good.” He said as he slowly rose. “Watcha got over there Dale?”
“Fresh fish Willard, speared’um myself. You want some?” Dale said proudly.
“Sure do!” He replied as he jumped up and ran to the fire.
The two men started digging into the fish as if it was the best meal they had ever had.
“Man this is good stuff Dale!’
“Yeah, it’s de-lish-us, ain’t it?” Dale replied.
“Say, Dale, why is your foot bleeding?” Willard asked as he looked down at Dale’s foot.
“Oh, that’s nothing, I just speared myself a couple of times,” Dale responded.
“Oh, you ok?” Willard questioned.
“Yeah, I’m fine. That water cleaned it right up. Besides, I think it helped draw in the fish a little more.” Dale laughed.
The two men finished eating all the fish then settled in for the night. They discussed all the great things they could do here in their new-found home. Around ten o'clock Dale stoked up the fire one more time and they went to bed. The next morning, they loaded up and rode back to their other campsite to get their fuel and supplies with plans to return as soon as possible.
After admiring her own accomplishment of getting the power on, Scottie made her way up to the top floor of the three-story building. She took the steps because she didn’t want to take a chance on the elevator just yet. As she came to the top of the steps, she saw a long hallway with doors on both sides, about every twelve feet or so. At the end of the hall is an opening to a dark room. This looks to be the living quarters for the base.
“Could this place get any better?” She wondered as she crept down the hall.
She checked each door as she made her way to the end of the hall. All but three were bedrooms with two beds in each. Two were bathrooms with multiple toilets, showers, and a laundry room. The last was a janitor’s closet stocked with cleaning supplies. Scottie came to the end of the hallway, reached in the darkroom, and felt for a switch on the wall. So far, this place had been relatively safe but she wasn’t taking any chances. She found a switch and flipped it up. The lights came on to reveal a mess hall with a fully equipped kitchen. In the back of the kitchen, she saw two walk-in freezer or refrigerator doors and a door label pantry. Rushing back, she was excited to see a real kitchen. The thought of cooking food on a stove instead of over a fire made her smile. She checked the stove by turning the gas knob and hearing it click. After several clicks, the flame came on and she could feel the warmth on her face. Smiling from ear to ear, she turned it off and spun around to see the doors.
“Whatever is in you two rascals probably stinks to high heaven so I will wait on you,” she said as she walked by and patted the two walk-in doors.
Scottie stopped when she reached the dry goods.
“What do you have for me, Mr. Dry Goods door?” She said as she reached out and tried to turn the knob.
Turning it was of no use though it was locked.
“Ok, so you want to play hard to get. Just remember I got into this place, opening you won’t be a problem. I’ll be back early in the morning and you better have something good for me there.”
Scottie then turned, walked back into the dining area, took another quick look around, and headed back into the hallway.
“OK, which room is yours, Scottie?” she asked herself.
After looking in several rooms, she opted for one in the front with a big window. It was extremely dusty but at this point, it’s too late to worry about that tonight. She shook the dust and dirt off the bed, went through her nightly routine, and crashed for the night.
The next morning during her normal routine Scottie noticed that her supplies were getting low. She knew she needed to get out there and check her trap. After that, she had a date with that pantry door to see if anything was left in there. Normally, being low on supplies would be a major issue and would force her to go on the hunt for water to sterilize and some kind of nonperishable food. This time it was different though. She knew her traps worked and there was a creek full of water outside the facility. This meant she will for sure have water and protein in an abundant volume. Scottie grabbed her backpack, scurried down the steps, through the door, out the gate, and straight through the woods. It’s not long before she comes back out of the woods with another, freshly gutted rabbit in hand and a smile on her face. Returning to the kitchen, she laid the rabbit down on the counter. She walked over to the freezer, pinched her nose, and opened it. The cool breeze of the freezer hit her with a chill. A light came on so she looked but found no food.
“No food, but a great place to store meat. Besides, that would have been a terrible mess to clean up…ugh!” She said aloud as she closed the door.
Next, she once again pinched her nose and opened the refrigerator. Like the freezer, she was once again hit with a cold breeze and no food in sight. Lastly, she closed that door and walked over to the locked dry goods door.
“Ok you, it’s time to show me what you got,” she told the door as she pulled out her little tool kit.
It took her about thirty minutes but soon the knob unlocked and turned. Scottie opened the door, turned on the light, and got a pleasant surprise. As luck would have it, she hit the jackpot. The dry goods storage room was full of canned foods and MRE’s. She looked around as a huge smile appeared on her face.
“BINGO!” She yelled.
An MRE or Meal, Ready-to-Eat is a packaged airtight meal that soldiers used in combat. She now had enough food to last her a good while. She grabbed a few things, tossed them into her pack back, walked out, and shut the storage door. As she passed by the sink, she looked over at the faucet.
“Why not try it?” She asked herself.
She reached out and turned the knob. The faucet hissed and spit out air and some dust. Suddenly some brownish water started to come out but after a few seconds, the water turned crystal clear.
“YES!” She yelled. “I have hit the motherload with this place!”
Scottie reached into her backpack and once again took out her water test kit. Filling the test tube with the water and putting in a drop of the liquid testing agent the water remained clear. This meant that the water was perfectly fine to drink. Scottie took out her cantina, filled it up to the top, and guzzled it down before filling it once again. She would later find out from reading all the manuals in the control room that this facility sits atop a huge underground spring that not only supplies the base but also feeds the creek in the valley. The facility had tapped the spring when it was built years ago.
After putting her cantina back in her backpack, Scottie picked up the rabbit and put it into the refrigerator. She closed the door and looked around the kitchen.
“Well, if I am going to be cooking here, this place is going to need a good cleaning.”
She went out into the hall, opened the janitor’s closet, and got everything she needed. Once back in the kitchen, she started cleaning. The whole room was a total mess but after a couple of hours of cleaning it looked good and Scottie was satisfied with the job she had done.
“This looks great.” She said.
She put all the supplies up and returned to the kitchen. In the dry goods storage room, she found an MRE that sounded good. Scottie ripped out the top and dug in. While she ate she returned to the kitchen, closing the door behind her. While still scarfing down the food she left the mess hall and walked down to the control room. She knew she was pretty lucky to find this place and didn’t want someone else wandering in without her knowledge. She sat down at the console and brought up the security system.
“Ok, I need you to get this puppy back online.” She said as she opened the manual for the system.
After several hours of reading and testing, she had all the systems online, and the gate programmed with her own code. She wasn’t one-hundred percent sure everything was working properly but the system looked to be set up with checks and balances so if something went wrong it should simply shut down.
“That should do it.” She said as she stood up and put on her backpack.
Scottie turned and looked around the room for something heavy. She saw a cart full of tools. Walking over to it she pulled out a hammer, screwdriver, and some electrical tape, which she put in her backpack. Zipping it up, she pushes the heavy cart over to the elevator. She pressed the up button and soon the doors opened. Scottie pushed the cart inside, careful not to get on it herself, reached in, and pressed all the buttons.
“Ok, that should take a while,” she said as the doors closed. “Time to deal with the gate.”
With that done she left the building and walked straight for the facility entrance. Once she reached the still open gate she walked through and stood by the outside panel. When the power came back on it should have closed and sealed it but the mess she made of the panel must have kept that from happening. Scottie reconnected the wires and tapped them up.
“OK, here goes nothing,” Scottie said as she punched in her code on the panel.
With the same loud noise as before the big doors closed and sealed. She punched the code in again and it opened back up, this time all the way. Satisfied the gate was now fully functional, she put the panel back on. Once it was screwed down and secure, she took the screwdriver and held it on the screws, as if it were a chisel. Using the hammer, she smashed the tops of the screw until she was sure no one could unscrew them. This left them unmovable unless you cut or grind them off. Feeling like the gate was now safe from tampering, she put her tools away and walked to the inside panel. With the last digit of her code typed in, the big gate closed.
“That’s that, time to explore the rest of this place.” She said, turning and walking back towards the buildings.
Scottie walked around the facility looking once again at the huge piles of scrapped test projects and saw that one such pile was a mound of droid and drudge parts.
“That could be fun to play with.”
She stood there for a few minutes looking at everything, taking a mental note of how many arms, legs, and bodies were lying in the pile.
“I could build four or five Drudge’s with those parts,” She said in excitement.
Next to this pile of scrap was a large building. Scottie made her way inside and was happy to see that it was some sort of workshop. Out in the middle of this workshop was something extremely large, covered in a massive tarp.
“OK, I gotta know,” she said as she walked over and pulled on the tarp.
As it fell to the ground Scottie was pleasantly surprised to see what was underneath. There in front of her eyes stood a generation one droid. The giant machine was a heavy-duty industrial model and was at least twenty feet tall. These models could be driven manually or be fully automated. From the looks of it, it has never been painted and was covered in surface rust. This big fella was a humanoid model which means he had arms, legs, feet, and hands. He had a large wide body, big enough for a pilot to get in. He also had a helmet-like head that spun on a turret atop his body with a single slot eye. The eye was about six inches wide and wrapped almost halfway around his head. His arms and legs made him look like a giant man in a metal suit.
She walked around the huge behemoth a couple of times in awe of it. The back hatch where the pilot would enter was open and Scottie couldn’t resist.
“Oh I’m getting in there,” She said with determination.
As she looked around the room, she saw a step ladder in the corner. She ran over and pushed it back to the droid. The excited young girl climbed up to the top of the ladder in front of the hatch opening and climbed inside. She sat on the seat and noticed that her arms and feet were not long enough to reach the hand and foot controls.
“I can fix that.” She said as she slid forward closer to the display scene and control boards in front of her.
Wiping off the dust and cobwebs, she could see that everything looked intact. She checked out the controls and all of them looked basic enough. There was a keyboard for entering data, a panel that looked to be control switches and a navigation panel. To the right of where the control switches were, she saw a green button.
“Green for go, maybe?” She asked herself.
She pressed the button, and the droid came online. Seconds later the screen in front of her reported the system started.
“Pulse Reactor active…No errors found.
Manual systems…functional, No errors found.
Automated Systems…Error, no system board detected.”
“Ok, looks like you aren’t automated. That’s ok boy, I can have fun driving you around, anyway.” Scottie said to the droid. “Looks like you have a full pulse reactor too. That’s pretty rare. You must have been a special project or something. That could come in handy someday. You’re like a portable power plant.”
She shut down the machine and climbed back out to look around for the manuals, finding them on a nearby desk. She picked them up and stuck them in her backpack. After that, she walked back outside, returned to the control room building, and went to her new room.
“First things first, gotta get this room lookin’ sharp.”
She went and got the cleaning supplies and started scrubbing. It took some time but once she was happy with it she sat on her new bed and started reading everything she could find. Over the next two days, she took in a ton of information about the facility and her new monstrous droid. She reads for hours, taking breaks only to sleep and eat. Scottie knew that if she was going to get the most out of this place she had to know everything she could about it. Even someone of her intellect still needed to study.
On the morning of the third day, she sat down at the control panel, and unlike the first time she sat down, this time she understood what it all meant and how to use it. The security was a cinch but everything else was pretty complicated. She checked on all the systems. The generator was going to need maintenance, most likely from sitting for at least four years and the pulse reactor was functional but had a bad control board on it. She also discovered that, like her new android friend, it was a true pulse reactor. This meant that if she gets it working, she would never be without power again. That was a very exciting thought to Scottie.
“The things I can do.” She said to herself with a smile.
“That sounded a little conceited, didn’t it? Oh, who cares there ain’t no one here to hear it,” she said with a laugh.
She made a list of all the things she needed to do around there, which included cleaning up everything. The thought of cleaning again didn’t sound very exciting to her so she decided she would scout the area around the facility first.
“The cleaning can wait; I better make sure there are no hostiles out there first.” She said as she laid down the pad and pencil on the console.
She grabbed her backpack, stocked with some MREs and water, and headed outside the walls to explore a little. Thinking that following the creek would be the best way to go, she headed down the side of the creek to see what she could find.
As she walked, Scottie was amazed at the greenery and the animals that were living there. The fact that this place survived was a miracle in itself. A few miles downstream, she spotted a campsite. She could see two men laying on the creek bank and she recognizes them as the two boneheads that she had run into a few days ago.
“Crap,” she said quietly to herself.
She then pulled out her stun gun, which is now fully charged, and held it in her hand. Scottie walked up into the woods on the opposite side of the creek from them. She snuck past them and continued downstream. As she did, she was very aware of her surroundings just in case they woke and started wandering around.
“You can never be too careful,” she thought.
A few miles past the campsite, she came to an open field that had signs of people being there. There were footprints in the mud and the remains of a deer that was killed and field dressed. At first, she thought it might be those pirates but after looking closely, she can tell that one set of prints was too small to be either of them. It occurred to Scottie that if these were the footprints of a child, these people could be friendly so she cautiously followed them. Not more than a few hundred feet ahead she came around the bend to see a small town set in a field on the west side of the creek.
Welcome to Hope
Scott surveyed the area carefully; she wanted to make sure it was safe before she got much closer. The town looked like something out of the old west. There were about twelve buildings in all, most of which looked to be houses. All of these buildings were made of logs and have hand-carved wooden doors and window shutters. From what she could tell, there wasn’t any glass in the windows but they had managed to come up with some hinges for the doors. In the field surrounding the town, are a few horses and a dozen or so head of cattle. At the other end of the town, she could see some kids playing in front of a building that appears to be doubling as a school and church. Usually, very cautious of strangers and settlements, Scottie decided to go against her instincts and snuck into the town, keeping her stun gun tucked in the small of her back, in case she needed it.
She walked by the first building and no one noticed her. The second and the third builds were passed by, yet still no response from anyone. Her plan was simple, “get to the kids and get the dirt on this place.” About halfway down the dirt street, an older man was sitting on the porch. From what Scottie could tell he was a man of average height, with a lean build that looked to be in his early sixties. He was wearing jeans, a button-up shirt, cowboy boots, and an old cowboy hat. The man was leaning back in his chair, with his hat pulled down over his eyes and his feet up on the porch rail.
Scottie quietly walked by him but before she got to the end of his porch, he spoke.
“Hello there, stranger,” the man said without removing or pulling up his hat.
“Are you talking to me?” Scottie replied, playing dumb.
“Well, you are the only stranger I see around here.” He said, as he pushed the hat from his face and smiled.
“I’m no stranger, I’m…I’m John’s daughter.” Scottie lied, hoping there was a John in this town.
“Nope, I know all of John’s kids and you ain’t one of them.”
“Did I say, John? I meant Jack. I’m Jack’s kid.”
“Little one, I personally brought every man, woman, and child in this camp over that mountain. There ain’t no Jack here and you ain’t from here either.”
Scottie got a look of worry on her face. She reached around, grabbed the handle of her stun gun, and prepared herself to flee if she needed to.
“It’s all right though; we don’t mind strangers as long as they are friendly. Are you friend darling?” The man asked.
“Yes, sir I am. Are you?”
“Yeah, we are all pretty friendly around here. Except for Bill Webster, he can be a jerk sometimes.” He said as he laughed and sat his chair down on the porch floor.
Scottie slowly smiles which leads to laughter. It had been a while since someone made her laugh. At that moment she decided that this guy seemed alright and relaxed, a bit, releasing her grip on the stun gun.
“Come on over here and tell me about yourself.” The man said as he grabbed another chair and pulled it closer to the edge of the porch, a few feet away from him.
Scottie was hesitant but walked over and sat down.
“My name is Clay, little one. What’s your name?” He asked.
“Scottie” She replied and stuck out her hand to shake.
“I like that name. I had a sister named Scottie.” He replied as he reached out and shook her small hand.
“Really?” She inquired.
“Yep, I had three older sisters and the youngest one was named Scottie. She was a mean one. It was almost like having a big brother.” Clay said as he laughed.
“Sounds like I would like this other Scottie.” She said as she smiled.
“Where are you coming from Scottie?”
“Oklahoma! All by yourself?” Clay responded in shock.
“Yeah, my parents died out there so I made the trip alone.”
“You must be one tough little girl, to make it all this way on your own. Smart too.”
“I can take care of myself. I am very cautious and I pack a very mean stun gun.” She said letting him know she is armed.
“Packing some heat…smart girl, I bet that rascal has come in handy.”
“It sure does.” She said with a grin.
“You looking for a place to call home, Scottie?”
“I was, but I found a nice place, at the other end of this valley, to call my own. I was just out exploring today and found you all here. I have to warn you though. There are some, not so nice, guys a couple of miles up the creek that may want to cause trouble. I had to deal with them a few days ago. I’m afraid they may have followed me over the mountain.” Scottie told Clay.
“Don’t worry; we get troublemakers in here from time to time. I always deal with them effectively. Come on Scottie, let me show you around.” Clay replied as he stood and stepped off the porch with Scottie following close behind.
The two walked all over the town as Clay told Scottie about the people who now live there. He explained how they were all survivors of the war and how he had a dream about this place. When he awoke he was sure God had given him a vision and knew what he had to do. He gathered his small group and headed southeast. Along the way, more survivors joined them and it was hard getting everything over the mountain but they did. Once they settled on this spot, everyone gave their all to erect the town. It was amazing how they had the collective knowledge to survive and start over here. They started out with two horses and four cows that were seemingly wild and already living here in the valley. They now have four horses and fifteen cows. Thanks to the capture of a few wild bores, chickens, and ducks, they also had a nice little supply of fresh pork and fowl. They grow gardens and pick wild fruits and berries. They also built a church, which in fact does double as a school and meeting hall.
What Clay didn’t tell her was how he came to lead this group. His family was wiped out in the war. He was only spared because he was deep underground when it happened. Clay and several of the people in the town, worked for a power company in Lexington and were four stories deep working on an electrical issue. The children, who were in the company daycare, were above ground and rushed below when the warnings sounded.
Clay was devastated over the loss of his wife, children, and grandchildren. The man lived for his family and for a short while he thought of joining them in the afterlife. For weeks, he barely ate or drank and spoke very little. It was not until a fight broke out among the survivors that he saw something. These people needed a leader. They needed someone to keep them focused. He saw his family in the eyes of these people, lost and broken. Clay put his grief aside, stood tall, become a father, and grandfather once again. This new family gave him hope and restored his faith. It was only then that he understood that they had survived for a reason.
Once the dust settled, and it was safe, Clay and the others started looking to see if there was someplace safe to go. It wasn’t until Clay’s dream that they had a plan. Some people thought he was crazy so he and Miguel set out alone first and found the valley. They took back proof of green life in the form of a sapling to prove the valley existed. Once the people saw it they believed. The next day they loaded up everything they could and started out towards the valley. The trip was grueling but like Moses lead the people out of Egypt, Clay made sure every one of them made it to the valley safely.
When the tour was over Clay took Scottie over to the church where the kids were playing and introduced her to them.
“Kids! Come over here!” Clay yelled loudly so they can hear him over their noisy playing.
The kids all came running over and gathered in front of them.
“Kids this is Scottie. Scottie, this is Noah, Liam, William, Emma, Olivia, Benjamin, Ava, Isabella, Jacob, Elijah, Sophia, Mia, Charlotte, Amelia, Ethan, and Alexander.”
“Hello,” Scottie said.
At once, all the children, who range in age from eight to fourteen, started to say hi and asked her if she had come to live there.
“No, I’m just visiting,” Scottie replied as she tried to take in the overwhelming questioning.
One boy, in particular, pays even more attention to her. He makes his way to the front of the pack, with an expression on his face as if he has seen an angel.
“QUIET DOWN GUYS! Give the girl a chance to speak,” he told them.
The group goes quiet at the command of the older boy.
“Hi there, I’m Benjamin. It’s nice to meet you, Scottie.” He said with his hand out to shake hers.
Scottie looks at this boy who was a little taller than her, probably a year or so older, and was not impressed. He looked like more of a brute than a thinker and she doesn’t really like brutes but she was polite, anyway.
“Hello, Benjamin.” She replied, shaking his hand.
The other boys pull him back and start to joke with him about liking her. Scottie rolled her eyes and took a few steps away. The other kids went back to playing but not before asking Scottie if she wanted to play. Scottie politely turned them down, not seeming interested in games. She and Clay turned and walked back through the town.
“You sure you don’t want to play with the other kids? It might be really fun.” Clay asked.
“No, I’d rather learn a little more about how you did all this with no real technology.” She replied.
“OK, but if you change your mind, the kids would be happy for you to join them. As for the town…Well, to be honest. I am a Jack-Of-All-Trades. We have some other handy people here in Hope but….”
“Hope?” Scottie asks cutting him off.
“Yeah, that’s what we call our little town, Hope. Now, where was I? oh yeah, I am a jack-of-all-trades and we have some other handy people in town as well. My mother always said I get it from my Papaw. That man could do anything he set his mind to. I learned a lot from him. He saw this whole war thing come long before it happened. He always thought he would live to see it but he missed it by about 20 years.”
“Sounds like somebody I would have liked,” Scottie responded with a smile.
“Yeah, you either loved him or hated him. He always tried to be honest with people and like he said some people don’t like honesty. One of his favorite things to say was, don’t ask a question that you really don’t want an answer to.”
“I like that. I might use that sometime if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all Scottie, it’s yours to use whenever you want.” Clay replied, smiling.
“You know there is not a lot of people in Hope but the ones we have are incredibly smart. Each of them is crucial and a Godsend to the town. The reality of life now has restored the nuclear family. The dad’s do most of the outside work and farming, while the mothers spend their days tending to the needs of the family. Everyone has a role to play in the survival of the town. I’m convinced that someday the people of this town will be the ones that will restore sanity to the wilderness outside of the valley.”
“That’s amazing Clay. You really believe that?”
“I do,” he said with certainty. “What about you, little one? Tell me more about how you came to our little valley.”
She tells Clay all about her trip from Oklahoma and her adventures along the way. She stopped short of telling him about the facility. She’s pretty sure she can trust him but still wants to be a little reserved for now. They ended their conversation back on the same porch it started. It was getting late afternoon by this point and Scottie knew she better get headed back.
“Thank you for the tour of your town Clay but I have to be getting back to my home.”
“Why don’t you stay here Scottie? I can find you a nice family to live with. You can join our little town. Everyone would love to have you.”
“Thanks, but I have my own place to look after. I’ll be back to visit though if you don’t mind.”
“No one here will mind in the slightest little one. Did you say you are at the other end of the valley?” He asked her.
“Yeah, all the way at the end,” she replied.
“You followed the creek, right?” Clay asked as he rubbed his chin with his thumb and index finger.
“Yeah, that’s how I found you,” Scottie said, a little puzzled by his question.
“You went way out of your way then. That creek cuts way over to the west side of the valley. You see that trail up there to right, at the end of the pasture. That goes due north. We cut it for hunting and logging. If you take that trail and cut through woods, once you reach the end, it should cut your time in half and keep you from running into those knuckleheads you were talking about earlier too.” He told her.
“That would great. Thanks, Clay.” Scottie said, sticking out her hand.
“You’re quite welcome, young lady.” He replied, shaking her hand.
With that said, Scottie turned and headed for the trail.
“What a peculiar girl,” Clay said as he watched her walk across the pasture.
Benjamin then came running up to Clay because he saw Scottie leaving.
“You think she’ll come back, Clay?” Benjamin asked.
“Probably, but you never know. Benjamin, I want you and Liam to follow her. Not too close, just make sure she gets back to where she is staying. Take your bows too. She said there are some troublemakers out there.”
“Will do Clay.”
Benjamin ran and got Liam. The two of them headed out into woods to do what Clay has asked. Scottie walks down the long trail for about an hour and a half. Once she reaches the end, she turned and looked back.
“OK boys, I’m almost home you can stop following me now.” She yelled, then waited for a few seconds. “I know you’re there and I appreciate it, but really I would rather you not follow me anymore. I would like to keep my home secret for now.”
The two boys step out of the woods and onto the trail.
“We can do that. As long as you promise you’ll come back in a day or two and check-in.” Benjamin told her.
“Done! Tell Clayton I said thank you.” She said as she waved her hand and disappears into the woods.
The boys waved, turned around, and headed back to Hope. Scottie in the meantime arrived at the Facility just as it is getting dark. She went in and showered, read for a few minutes, recited her prayers, and crashed.
My Very Own Drudge
The next morning after breakfast, Scottie knew she was going to have to finish cleaning up this place. She finished upstairs, then moved down to the control room and spent the next couple of hours in there. After seeing everything was neat and tidy Scottie decided that it was time to do something constructive. She grabbed her stuff and out the door she went, heading straight for the building that housed her new drudge. Scottie walked in the door, laid her backpack on the ground, and looked around at the mess.
“I am going to need a workbench.”
Continuing to look around the room she spots a large metal table about twenty feet from the drudge.
“That’ll do,” She said aloud.
Scottie drags the large table over behind the drudge and laid her backpack on it. Unzipping it, she pulls out all the manuals she found for this model drudge and lays them on the table. Next, she sees a large toolbox in the back of the room. Scottie pushes it over next to the drudge and starts looking through the tools inside.
“Not a bad set up. Looks like it has pretty much everything I need in here.”
She turns around to the drudge and pats him on the leg.
“Don’t worry old boy, I’ll get you fixed up. Between these tools and all the other stuff scattered around here, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
She inspects the large beast, looking at all his rusty joints and observing any damage visible as she continues to talk to him.
“Before you ask, no I have never welded before and in fact, I haven’t done much of anything that I will need to do to get you working but don’t worry, you’re in good hands. I’m really smart and it doesn’t take me too long to figure things out. My welds might not be really pretty but I promise I will make you strong. You and I will be great pals when I am done, I just know it.”
Over the next few days, stopping only to eat and sleep, she worked hard to get this behemoth into working order. Scottie cleaned and greased every joint and moving part on the drudge. She patched a few bad spots with some not so clean welds. It’s hot and she is tired but if she is going to start this machine up, she needs to make sure she isn’t going to get hurt doing so. After three trips around looking at every square inch of him, Scottie finally pushed her ladder back to the cockpit entrance. She climbed up, got into the cockpit, and started up the massive machine by pressing the green button.
“Pulse Reactor active…No errors found.
Manual systems…Functional, No errors found.
Automated systems…Error, no system board detected,” displays on the screen.
It doesn’t take him long to come up to full power and system ready.
“OK big boy, let’s see how your arms work,” Scottie said as she grabs the right arm controls and began to move it.
The large right arm moved up and down but with an extremely loud grinding and scraping noise.
“Boy, you are a mess!” Scottie yells are she covers her ear to muffle the sound.
Only being able to move one arm or leg at a time, she tries the other arm and the legs. They make a little noise but nothing like the right arm did. She turns off the drudge, climbs back out of the cockpit, moves her ladder over to the right arm, grabbed a few tools out of the toolbox, and climbs back up.
“Don’t worry boy, the doctor is in. Let’s see what we can do about your arthritis, my friend.” Scottie tells him as she starts to take apart his elbow.
She removes the cover and sees the problem. There is plenty of grease in there now but a bolt has been left loose and is causing the noise. She tightens it up and puts the cover back on. Just to be on the safe side, she moved around to the other elbow and verified it is good as well. Scottie puts that one back together and moves her ladder back to the cockpit. Feeling her stomach rumble from hunger, Scottie decides to take a break to eat something. She had been at it since sunrise and hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. She sat down on a stool, opened up her MRE, and started stuffing it into her mouth.
“You’re going to be a lot of fun to drive around.” She said with a mouth full of food.
“I can’t wait to see what you can do. I know what you’re thinking boy. I am just a little girl but I can tell you. I’ve been places and I’ve seen things. I know your old owner left you here to rust but rest easy. I won’t abandon you. You and me, we’ll be best buds for life. I just have to figure out how to get the seat closer to your controls and we are good to go.”
Scottie continues to talk to her new metal friend as if he is flesh and blood. She tends to give human traits to objects sometime. This is a side effect of loneliness and from the fact that most humans she has met want her stuff. It’s safer to make friends with objects than people. Deep down she knows she needs people but it’s easier to keep her distance. The people in Hope yesterday though have given her a little optimism that maybe not all the people left are bad.
After she was done eating, she climbed back up into the cockpit and started looking over the seat and controls. It’s moved all the way forward but it is still not close enough for her to reach.
“Hhmm,” she said, pondering what to do to remedy this.
She climbed back out and went over to her workbench. Pulling a pad of paper, she had gotten from the supply room, from her backpack, she started drawing out the seat and controls. Once done Scottie started sketching in the modification that she believes will allow her to reach everything. She worked the rest of that day and into the night on the modifications to the controls. Finishing up the last piece she lets out a huge yawn and rubbers her eyes. Scottie lowered her tools down to the ground with a buck and rope and climbed down the ladder.
“I’ll be back in the morning boy and we’ll get you out of this old dirty garage for some fresh. It’ll be a blast.” She said as she yawns and walks away.
Scottie was up early the following morning and right back at work on her drudge. It only takes a couple of hours to double-check her modifications to the controls.
“Perfect!” She said, admiring her own work.
She put all of her tools away; climbed back into the cockpit, strapped in, and pressed the green button. The lights and display screens came on and Scottie was gitty with excitement.
“Pulse Reactor active…No errors found.
Manual systems…functional, No errors found.
Automated systems…Error, no system board detected”, displays on the screen.
Next, she flipped on the switches for the navigation and view displays. His giant eye lights up blue and his view of everything in front of them, displayed on the center screen above the keyboard. Scottie reached out and grabbed the modified controls.
“Let’s go, boy!” She said as she pushed forward.
The giant machine took one-step, then another and another. She walked him over to the large overhead door reached out with the drudge’s arms and pulls it up. As she pushed forward again and they walk out into the sun. Scottie turned on the navigation system and it begins to map the location and everything around them. In seconds it is complete and she has a full display of her surroundings on the nav screen to the left above the navigation panel.
“Yahoo!” Scottie yells, as she lunges the drudge forward and gains speed with every step.
Within fifty feet, the machine is now running across the base while Scottie lights up in excitement. Just as she comes to her first turn she stirs into it but cuts it a little too tight, which sends the drudge tumbling forward and slams it into the ground with a loud crashing sound.
“HA! HA! HA! I guess I better watch those turns.” Scottie laughs aloud and readjusts herself in the seat.
“OK, let’s try that again.” She said with determination as she stood him back up.
Several more times she tried and several more times she fell but finally Scottie learned to control him and the two are running around the base as if she was a trained professional.
This went on for several hours. She was having so much fun she didn’t want to stop. This was the most fun she had since before her father died. After she had her fill with playing, Scottie decided it was time to do something constructive.
“OK boy, time to do some work. We can play some more, later. You never know what treasures might be under these piles of scrap.”
Walking him over to the first pile, which looked to be all drudge parts, she picked up and an arm.
“Let’s sort this stuff and put things away where we can find them later.”
Scottie looks around and behind the closest building is a large steel rack system.
“That’ll do.” She said, as she walked over there and placed the arm on the rack.
She returned to the pile and started going through every piece of scrap and storing anything she thought was important on the rack. Everything else she put into a single junk pile. She found dozens of arms, legs, bodies, and even airplane parts. Once done, she moved on to another pile, which was mostly automotive and contained stacks of motorcycles and ATV’s.
“This pile looks promising boy. Let’s put some of this in the workshop.” She said, holding an ATV up in the air.
She put several of them in what she now calls her workshop, which is the building where she found the drudge. She worked all day moving, sorting, and making notes about everything she found. By the end of the day, she had made real headway it at getting the area cleaned up. She was about to call it a night when she moved a large slap of steel and found something very interesting.
“Well looky there.” She said as she reached down and picked up the remains of a former military android.
“Looks like we found us an android dog or at least the front half of one. These things had great AI’s in them and with the head still intact, we might get you a system board. Let’s take this back to the workshop.”
Scotty turned her drudge around, headed back to the shop, walked through the large overhead door, and closed it behind her. She laid the dog on the table, parked the drudge in a squatted position, and opened the back hatch. She climbed out and walked over to the table. The system board cover was missing so all she has to do is disconnect it and it slides right out.
“Sorry fella, but my buddy over there needs this and you’re just a mess. Don’t worry though, I’ll keep you around and if I find some parts I’ll get you fixed back up.” She said to the robotic dog.
Sliding it out and holding it up in the air she smiled as though she has found a pot of gold.
“Good night boy! Cross your fingers this works!” She said as she put the control board in her backpack and ran out the door.
Returning to her room with some books on AI programming, she spends the rest of the evening reading then turns in for the night.
Back to Town
After breakfast, the next morning Scottie returned to her workshop. Knowing she had some more reading to do she tackled the programming on the AI board, she decided to work on something else today.
“Good morning boy!” she told her new drudge as she walked into the room.
“I think I am going to work on some wheels today, but don’t worry, we’ll have some more fun soon enough.”
She walks over to the toolbox and pushes it over to the ATV parts she brought in. One, in particular, looked almost in tacked.
“OK, let’s see. Looks like it was a gas-powered one. That’s easy enough to convert.” She said, looking over the ATV.
Salvaging a few parts from the other bikes and ATV’s Scottie digs into the conversion of the old engine into natural gas. Once the engine modifications are complete, she turned her attention to the gas tank. She seals, pressure tests it, and installs a regulator to control the flow of gas from the tank. The final step was to replace the rubber gas line with a copper line that would not allow the natural gas to leak out. For this part, she goes back to the junk pile of scrap. She recalls seeing a copper coil when going through it before and sure enough, it was there. Scottie returns with the part in hand, cuts it, flares the ends and connects it. It was now well into the afternoon but she believed that should do the trick and her ATV should run.
“That should do it, boy. This thing should purr like a kitten and should run for a long time on just one tank of gas.” She said to her drudge, which is still in the same spot it was from the night before.
“Now to get fueled up and started.”
Scottie walks over to the corner of the room and grabbed a hose from the wall that was labeled “Natural Gas”. She drags it over to the ATV, screwed it into the tank nozzle, and flips the value. The gas slowly filled the tank. Once it was full, she closed the value and put the hose back.
“Ok boy, cross your fingers for me,” she said as she pulled the rope start.
The engine makes a cranking noise but does not start.
“Don’t get discouraged boy, I didn’t expect it to start on the first pull.” She said in a mom like reassuring voice.
Scottie pulled it again but gets the same results. The process repeated several times until finally, the ATV started and the engine roared like a beast that had been released from a cage.
The ATV would give her a better way to travel back and forth to Hope, which she was excited about returning to. First, she wanted to bring them some supplies though.
“OK BOY, YOU JUST WAIT HERE AND I WILL BE BACK AFTER WHILE!” She yelled over the loud roar of the ATV as she got on and rode it out the door, which she had opened all day.
She stopped at the main building, ran inside straight to the kitchen. Scottie walked into the dry good storage room and loaded up her backpack with canned fruits and vegetables. She even tossed in a few MRE’s. Once she felt like she had enough she dashed back out to the ATV and zoomed off to the gate, opening and closing it as she went through. With the bag loaded and the tank full on the ATV, she pulled down her goggles, and off she goes as the big gate shut behind her.
At first, it was a little rough driving through the woods but she figured after a few trips she would have a trail carved out, and then it would be better. Once she got to the logging road, it was smooth sailing, and she really opened the ATV up. The sound of the rolling machine was echoing through the woods as she was smiling big and jumping over all the little bumps along the way. She came to the pasture in no time and rode on up to the town. Everyone heard her coming a mile away and came out to see what was going on.
The crowd quickly gathered around her as she came sliding to a stop. Some adults looked a little annoyed by the ruckus but the kids were overly excited and Clay was happy to see her as well.
“Hi, folks!” Scottie said as she pulled up her goggles.
“Hello Scottie, how are you?” Clay responded.
“I’m good. Sorry about the ruckus. I figure this will be faster than walking.”
“I would say it is,” Clay said with a laugh.
The other children start asking her for a ride as they stared at the ATV. She responded by telling them she would show them all how to ride it but she needed to talk to Clay first. With that said, she hopped off the ATV. She and Clay walked away from the crowd to talk in private.
“I wasn’t really forthcoming with you the other day Clay.”
“About what Scottie?”
“The place I am staying. I wasn’t sure if I could trust you but after all these days in which you could have easily found me and what all I have, you didn’t. That tells me you aren’t out to take people’s stuff. You must be a good guy.”
“Oh yeah?” Clay said with a grin.
“Yeah…I mean, I figured you were but I had to make sure. Anyway, my place is great and as you can see it has some really cool stuff. I want to share it with you all. My backpack is full of food and as I get machines like that one going, if you need to use them, it’s all yours. Would that be ok?”
“That would be great Scottie. Thank you for your kindness.”
“Your welcome. It will be nice to have some friends for a change.”
Clay kneels down in front of her and places his hands on her shoulders.
“Scottie, you are welcome here anytime and you don’t have to bring us stuff to be welcomed. I offered you a home here, and the offer is always open. You do have friends here. You understand that.”
“Yeah, I think I do.”
“Good, now go have fun with the other kids and show them how to ride that noisy thing.”
“Yes Sir!” Scottie replied with a huge smile as she hands the backpack to Clay and runs back towards the ATV.
Clay unzipped the backpack and looked inside it.
“Goodness, she wasn’t kidding. She must have a good stash.” He said as he reached in, pulled out a package of MRE brownies and put them in his pocket.
“I’ll just keep this little gem for myself.” He said with a grin on his face.
He zipped it back up and walked over to the supply build to add the content to the shelves. Once inside he opened it back up and took the contents out, placing it on the shelves. Once all the food was out of the backpack, he saw a picture in the bottom. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a picture of Scottie with a man and a woman. Clay assumed it is a picture of her parents.
“That poor girl, she must be so lost without the two of you.” He said to the picture.
“You should see her now though, you raised a remarkable little girl. To survive out there all on her own, that’s unimaginable. Good job!” He tells them as a tear runs down his face, his heart breaking from what she must have gone through after their death.
Clay placed the picture back in the backpack where he found it, not wanting her to think he was snooping.
Scottie in the meantime was busy riding the other kids around on the ATV and showing them how to ride it themselves. They spend hours riding and playing as each kid gets their turn on the motorized contraption. Scottie’s face is lit up like a Christmas tree all evening from smiling, laughing, and having fun with kids for the first since the war. She could hardly contain herself. Clay looked on from time to time and was very happy to see her having fun.
Soon, dinnertime came and all the kids went into their houses for dinner. Scottie figured it was time for her to head back so she rode over by Clay’s to say goodbye. Clay stepped out of the door as she pulled up.
“I guess I am going to head back Clay.”
“Not yet you ain’t. I’ve got supper fixed. You every had cabbage, taters, and cornbread?”
“No, not that I can recall.”
“Well, climb off there and come get a seat. You’re in for a treat.” Clay responds to her in a fatherly tone.
Scottie smiled, jumped off the ATV, and walked inside with Clay. The two sat down as Clay said grace.
“Father, thank you for your love and your grace. We know that we would not be here if not for your protection. We thank you for this food and the fertile ground from which it was grown. Lastly Father I want to thank you for my guest tonight. It’s not often that I have such an amazing little person to have dinner with. Amen.”
“Amen,” Scottie adds.
On the table in front of is a large bowl of crumbled cornbread mixed with boiled cabbage and potatoes. Next to that sets a saucer with a piece of halved cornbread, smothered in homemade butter.
“This looks really good.” She told him.
“We’ll dig in. I hope you like it.”
Scottie picked up her fork and dug in, getting a bite of all three in her mouth at the same time.
“This stuff is pretty good Clay,” Scottie said as she stuffed her mouth full.
“Yeah, this was my Papaw’s favorite meal. He got me hooked on it when I was just a little boy. Been eating it ever since.”
In between each bite, the two talked like old friends for the rest of the meal. Once done, they cleaned up their mess and retired to the front porch. Clay pulled his chair up closer to the rail, sat down, put his feet up on the rail, and leaned back. Scottie followed suit and did the same. Once they were both comfy Clay pulled the package of brownies from his pocket and opened it.
“I grabbed us some dessert from the bag you brought over.” He said as he opened the package of two brownies and handed one to her.”
“That was some good thinkin Clay.” She replied while taking it.
“I thought so too.” Clay remarked with a grin on his face.
The two then bit into the brownies and started to chew them up.
“MMM” Clay said with a mouth full of brownie and a sour look on his face.
“Yeah, these are great,” Scottie replied in the same manner.
The two continued eating until the brownies were almost gone. Finally, Scottie can’t take it anymore.
“You know this taste like crap, right Clay?”
“Yeah darlin, I do, but we are just going to pretend like they’re great. You know how long it’s been since I have even had some chocolate?”
“OK” Scottie replied as she choked down the last few bites.
It was about that time Clay noticed a couple of men heading into town.
“What do we have here?” He said as he lets his chair down and stands up.
“Those are the guys I was telling you about. They must have heard my ATV. I’m sorry Clay, I didn’t mean to…”
“You hush now; it’s not your fault. I’ll deal with these guys. You just stay here.” He replied as he cuts her off.
Clay stepped down off the porch as he rang a small but loud bell, which hung off the porch post, three times and walked towards the men, meeting them at the edge of town. He approached the men with a smile and a handshake.
“Gentlemen, what can I do for you?”
“Hello, stranger,” Dale replied and shook his hand. “We heard some noise over this way and thought we would come to see what it was.”
“Oh, that was probably the ATV over there. It’s somewhat new to our little town here. Sorry if we disturbed you.” Clay said.
“This is some town you got here,” Dale said as he walked around Clay looking at the town. “We thought we were the only ones in this valley. How long you all been down here?”
“We’ve been here for a few years now. It’s not much but we like it.”
Dale then steps back in front of Clay and gets nose to nose with him.
“Here’s the thing old-timer. You and these people are going to have to get out of our valley. Ain’t that right Willard?”
“Yeah, that’s right!”
“I wasn’t aware that this valley belonged to anyone,” Clay responded.
“Well, it does. It belongs to us but…we are reasonable guys. We’ll give you…a week to get out. That sounds fair doesn’t it Willard?”
“Yeah Dale, that sounds about right,” Willard said with his best tough-guy voice.
“Look, fellas. How about you go back to your little camp out there in the woods and we’ll pretend like this never happened? What do you say?” Clay responded as he looked at the pistols tucked in the front of both their pants.
“OK, I guess you want to do this the hard way,” Dale said as he and Willard reached for their guns.
Clay quickly grabbed Dale’s gun, pulled it out of his pants with lightning reflexes, and hits him square in the forehead with the butt of the handle, dropping him to the ground. No sooner that he hit Dale, Clay spun the gun around and pulled the hammer back and put the barrel to Willards.
“I wouldn’t pull that pistol, mister. I will relieve you of what little brains you have left before that gun leaves your pants.” Clay told him.
“Ok buddy, just da…da…don’t shoot me.” Willard stuttered in fear.
“As long as you pull that gun out nice and slow with two fingers and drop it on the ground, your head will be intact when you leave here,” Clay responded with the barrel still pressed against his head.
Willard slowly pulled it out and dropped it on the ground as three other townsmen, which had been close by thanks to the bell, run out and surround them. One of the men picked up Willard’s gun.
Clay tucks the gun into his pants and helped Dale, who was still stunned, back to his feet.
“Look, Dale, we don’t like trouble and we don’t start trouble but if it comes around, we know how to handle it. You think you are the first people to wander in here and want our stuff? Now, we are going to keep your guns but you and your friend are going to leave and not come back here unless you want to be friends. Do I make myself clear?”
Dale stumbled and walked a few feet away from Clay.
“Oh yeah and what if we don’t?” Dale responded in a childish tone.
“Well Dale, if you don’t…I’m gonna shoot ya. I might be a man of faith but I am also a man of my word. I don’t wanna shoot ya but if you come back here looking for trouble again. I have an obligation to protect these people from you and I will put a bullet right between your eyes!” Clay said as he pulled the revolver back out faster than Dale could blink and pointed it at him.
“OK, I can see that you mean it,” Dale replied with a nervous swallow. “We’ll be going now and won’t bother you again.”
“That’s probably for the best. Now Get!” Clay sternly told them.
The two men slowly back away then turn and quickly ran off in the direction they came from. Clay told the other men to keep an eye out for them and he returned to the porch where Scottie was.
“Little one, I think you better stay here tonight. I don’t trust those two.” He told Scottie.
“Ok,” Scottie replied to him, not wanting him to worry about her.
Dale and Willard made their way to their campsite steaming mad. Dale led the way as he mumbled and complained about how foolish Clay made them look. Willard is silent the whole way knowing Dale was mad and it’s best to let him rant. After over an hour of not saying a word, Willard has to say something.
“What are we going to do Dale?”
“I’ll tell you what we are going to do Willard. We are going to go see Buck. Get him to give us some men and guns and then come back here and take that town. This is our valley by God and we will have it to ourselves.” Dale who has been thinking of nothing else said.
“I thought we couldn’t tell Buck?”
“I didn’t want too and we will have to cut him in but it will be worth it to get even with that old man. At first light, we will head out.”
“That’s a long trip Dale, we better stock up on water.”
“Yeah and we’ll have to hit our fuel supplies up on the way too but we’ll be back here in a week or so and take over this valley.”
In the morning, Scottie, who is still half-asleep, smells bacon cooking. She had a lot of food but bacon was not among her supplies, so the thought of it made her mouth water, and her mind wandered back to a time when her father was still alive.
“Scottie, wake up, honey. It’s time to eat!” Her father said to her from the kitchen of the bunker they were now living in.
“OK Dad, I’m up…be right there.” She replied while rubbing her eyes.
Scottie rolled out of bed and walked into the small kitchen where her dad is putting her eggs on the plate.
“This is the last of the bacon and eggs sweetie so take your time and enjoy it,” Rick said with a smile on his face.
“That stinks dad. What are we going to do now?”
“Well, we have lots of canned food and dry goods. It’s not exactly breakfast food but we need to be grateful that we have it.”
“I know and believe me I am very grateful.” She said to her dad as she picked up her fork and started eating.
Rick walked over, sat down in front of his plate, and did the same. In between bites, Rick was repeatedly coughing.
“What’s wrong with you dad? Are you sick?”
“I’m not going to lie to you honey, I am sick.” He replied with a somber tone.
“Is it just a cold or what?” She said with concern; because her dad was all she had left.
“No honey, it’s not a cold. Do you remember when I left the bunker that day to look for your mom?”
“Well, my suit didn’t protect me the way it should have. I have radiation sickness. It’s not urgent, and if I had a hospital to go to, it would be fixable but that’s not the case.”
“Are you going to die, Dad?” She asked as she started to cry. “I can’t lose you too.”
Rick got up from his chair, walked over, and wrapping his arms around his daughter.
“Honey, everyone dies. I wish I could tell you I will be here for a long time but I won’t so we need to make sure you have all the skills you need to survive when I am gone. We don’t have time to grieve or feel sorry for ourselves, so you need to dry those tears and be strong.”
“OK dad”, Scottie said as she tried to hold back her tears but can’t and cried even harder while squeezing her dad tightly.
At that moment, Scottie suddenly awoke and popped upright in bed. As tears streamed down her face, she realizes that she was only dreaming.
“Little One, you awake in there?” Clay yelled from the next room.
“Yeah, be right there,” Scottie responded as she wiped the tears from her face.
“I put some clean bowl of water and a towel on the washstand if you need it. I like to wash my face in the mornings…helps wake me up.”
She got out of bed and walked over to the washstand, which had an old mirror above it. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. Not wanting to show weakness, she wets one end of the towel in the water and pressed it against each eye. The cool water relieves the puffiness. Satisfied that she looked presentable, she rubbed her face dry with a towel and walked into the kitchen.
“MMMM, is that bacon I smell?” Scottie asked Clay.
“Yes, it is. You like bacon?”
“I don’t like bacon…I loooove it!” She replied with a huge grin as she sat down at the table.
“Good…I am making plenty and I got you some out of the cold well along with some pork roast, for you to take back with you. It’s very cold so it will make the trip home but you’ll need to keep it someplace good and cold. I figured that was the least we could do after the food you brought yesterday.”
“You didn’t have to do that Clay.”
“Having to is not the reason I did it. You said you want to set up trade between us so I figured we might as well get things started. I got some good stuff in your backpack here.”
“You’re welcome darlin. Now, let’s eat.”
The two friends began eating the delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs.
“If you’re heading home today, I think I will tag along and make sure you get back. I’m not telling you, you have too. You can stay here as long as you like. It’s up to you.”
“Ok, that sounds like a good idea. I think it’s about time you see my camp anyway. It’ll blow your socks off.”
“Well, I guess we’ll be making a trip today.” Clay replied with a big smile on his face.
This was a big decision for Scottie because she has learned not to trust people but there was something about Clay, she trusted him completely. After breakfast was over and everything was cleaned up, Clay saddled his horse while Scottie strapped down her things back on her ATV. A few houses down a man walked out, sat on his porch stared in their direction.
“I will be right back, Scottie,” Clay said, as he climbed up in the saddle and rode down to the man.”
“OK, I’ll wait here for you.”
Clay stopped just in front of the man's porch.
“Good morning, Miguel,” Clay said to the man.
Miguel was Clay’s right-hand man and second in command in the little town of hope. Though he was small in stature this dark-haired man was well respected in Hope.
“Morning Clay. What are you into this morning?”
“I’m going to take our little friend there back to her camp.”
“Clay, we have talked about this. If that girl is really all alone then we need to help her. She needs to stay here. If she is not, then this could all be a trap to get you out of the camp. We have to be careful.”
“I know but I believe her. She is all alone in the world and for some reason, she has befriended me. I can’t turn my back on that. She has to trust us if we are going to convenience her to stay here. I know you all don’t agree with the way I am handling this but, I am still in charge here and this is how I have to handle it. If it makes you feel better. Give us a ten-minute head start and follow us. If I am getting suckered, you’ll be there to have my back and you can tell me, I was wrong.”
“But, you’re never wrong Clay,” Miguel said with a sarcastic grin.
“Yeah, I get that from my papaw,” he replies with a joking wink.
“We’ll have your back Clay. Ten minutes and we are right behind.”
“Good enough, just make sure she doesn’t see you.”
“See you later, my amigo.”
“Vaya con dios, my friend”
Clay turned his horse around and rode back to Scottie.
“What was that about?” She asked.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you Scottie. They are concerned that you might be a bait to lure me out of town. Then your people would kill me and take the town. Don’t hold it against them. They don’t want to believe that but they are still scared of losing what little they have.”
“I don’t Clay. Everyone is scared now. It’s just a way of life. Are they going to follow us?”
“Yeah, they will be about ten minutes behind us.”
“OK, I trust you, Clay.”
“Let’s ride little one. They won’t be able to keep up,” Clay said as a big grin came across his face.
Scottie smiled back, started her ATV, and tore off through the field towards the logging road with Clay and his horse galloping behind them.
When they arrived, Clay was stunned. Scottie opened the large gate and the two entered, closing it behind them.
“All this time in the valley and we had no idea this place was here,” Clay said as he looked around.
“I told you it was a sweet camp, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, Scottie you did but I never imaged anything like this.”
They stop in front of the main build and dismount.
“You can tie your horse off here somewhere or let him wander, whatever floats your boat. I’ll be right back.”
Scottie ran upstairs and put the meat in her refrigerator then returned to see Clay still looking around in shock.
“Pretty cool, ain’t it.”
“Very Cool, Scottie. I see you have power. Do you have water as well?”
“Yep, from what I gather this place sits on a spring and a natural gas pocket. It has a pulse reactor but I haven’t been able to get that working. I think it has something wrong with the control board but, I don’t know for sure.”
“Amazing, Absolutely amazing”
“Come on let me show you my latest project then we can look at everything else.”
She grabbed Clay's hand and pulled him straight to the workshop. They walked in and Scottie lit up with excitement.
“This is my new toy!” She said with an ear to ear grin.
“My God Scottie, this is an Android, and it looks to be military issued,” Clay said as he walked around the giant machine.
“Not yet. Right now, he’s a drudge but I found a brain the day before yesterday and I’m gonna put it in him.”
“Are you sure that’s safe?” Clay asked in concern.
“Oh yeah, he’ll be a big pussycat, when I’m done.”
“How are you able to do all this stuff, Scottie?” Clay asks her, still astonished at her abilities.
“Well, my daddy always told me I was a prodigy. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I know what that means.”
“Good. So anyway, they had me tested when I was little. I scored 200 on the IQ test and I read…A LOT! Once I read or see something, I remember it. I never forget anything.”
“That’s remarkable. I wish I was that blessed. I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached.” Clay said with a chuckle.
“You would think so, but it’s not always great. Never forget anything means you never forget the things, you have lost. That parts not so great.” She told him with a sober almost tearful look on her face.
“I didn’t consider that. It has to be hard on you.”
“Yeah, it is. Sometimes it’s like living in a nightmare.”
“I can see how that could happen but you can’t live the past Scottie. Tomorrow is a new day no matter what a disaster yesterday was. Why don’t you tell me about how you got this big guy working?” Clay asked, changing the subject after seeing that she is hurting.
Scottie quickly livened up and goes on to tell him all about how she got the drudge going. The two talk for hours about what she has read and about all the parts; she has to build other drudges. She tells him she is going to build an army of androids to protect her home and that someday this place will be a city full of people was to start a new life for themselves. At that point, her tone changes and she got very sober. Clay can tell she is very serious about this but is still surprised when she poses a question to him.
“I’ve got something I want to propose, to you, Clay.”
“What’s that little one?” Clay responds.
“What do you think about moving the people of Hope here to my camp? There is plenty of room plus I have water, electric and there are plenty of grass areas in the back for the animals and crops. It would be a nice place for your people.”
“Yeah darlin, it sure could be, but then it wouldn’t quite be yours anymore. It would be all of ours. Is that something you can live with?”
“Yeah, It would be nice to have people around me I can trust.”
“That’s something you have to be sure of. You found this place. It’s yours now and while it would sure be nice to have all this, my people are used to our way of life. No need in uprooting them unless it’s something they want and something you want.”
Scottie looked down at the ground, not knowing what to say next. After a few seconds of silence, Clay spoke again.
“I’ll tell you what. I will talk to a few key people in town and see what they say. In the meantime, you really think about it and let me know for sure. Regardless of what they say, if you decide you don’t want it, it’s a no go with no hard feelings, OK.”
“Deal!” Scottie replied with a smile.
The two go on talking and looking at Scottie’s facility for the rest of the day, breaking only for a quick lunch of fresh fruit, Clay had put in her backpack. Before they knew it was getting dark.
“I better get going.” Clay said.
“No, I crashed at your place and you cooked for me. Tonight, you crash at mine and I will make you dinner.” Scottie replied in an insistent tone.
Clay laughed and replied, “I guess that would be alright but I better ride out and tell those boys that followed us to go home. They’re probably starvin.”
Clay road out the gate while Scottie waited to let him back in. Within minutes he Miguel and the others about a quarter of a mile away.
“Head home boy’s, I’ll be back in the morning. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow but we have some serious thing to discuss.”
“Are you sure Clay?” Miguel said.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“Ok, we’ll be expecting you by lunch. If you are not there we’re coming back.”
“Good enough, see you tomorrow,” Clay replied as he turned and rode back towards Scottie.
Once safely back inside the walls, the two of them retire into the main building and Scottie led him upstairs to the living quarters. A few doors down from her room, she showed him a room that she had started cleaning.
“You can sleep here tonight. It still needs a little cleaning but I have cleaned it up pretty good.”
“It’ll do fine darling, thank you.”
“Oh, hang on,” Scottie said as she ran down the hall, into the laundry room and came back holding a towel, soap, and some old clothes that had been left behind. “Here’s a towel and some clothes that should fit you. There is a shower down the hall on your left. You take a hot shower and I will make dinner.”
“A shower…Oh my, it’s been a long time since I had a hot shower, I could be a while.” He replied with a laugh.
“Take your time. I’ve got food to fix.” Scottie said as she turned and headed for the kitchen.
Clay walked down the hall into the men’s showers. He turned on the hot water, undresses, and got under the showerhead. The hot water running over his body felt so much better than he remembered.
“It sure would be nice to live here. I could get used to this again.” He thought to himself.
Clay soaked in the warm rain-like shower for an hour before turning off the water. He dried off and puts on the clean clothes before returning to the hall and following it to the mess hall.
“Smells good, Scottie. What are we having?”
“Spaghetti with pork meatballs and sauce. I had the sauce and noodles and I used some of the pork you gave me to make the meatballs.”
“MMM…I haven’t had spaghetti and meatballs in years,” Clay said with a big smile on his face.
They sat down and filled their bellies. It was another great night. They talked and laughed like two people who had known each other for years. To someone from the outside looking it. They looked like father and daughter, or maybe grandfather and granddaughter. Either way, it was apparent that these two were kindred spirits and building a strong bond. After dinner, they watched some old DVD movies from the rec room before turning in for the night. As Scottie kneeled down for her nightly prayers, the words changed ever so slightly.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep…Also God, can you tell mom and dad I said hi and that I miss them? Tell them I found a new friend, and he’s a good friend too. He reminds me a lot of Grampy Pitman. I think they would have liked each other.”
Once she was done she started to stand to her feet and quickly drops back down to her knees.
“One more thing God, take care of Clay, The people of Hope need him and so do I…Amen.”
Satisfied with her prayer, she jumped up in bed and went to sleep. That night Scottie slept better than she had in years. Their new friendship had given her hope for the future, knowing that the world still had people like Clay.
The next day the two ate an oatmeal breakfast and Clay said he needed to get back. He told Scottie to come into town after she is sure about sharing her camp with the people of Hope and they could talk some more. He then got on his horse and headed back for town.
“Be safe little one and keep this big gate closed. If anything happens you, come get me, you hear?” He told her as he rode away.
“I will Clay!”
Episode 9: Town Meeting
Just after lunch Clay came riding into town to find Miguel, Benjamin, and Tom, a tall, sandy-haired, man who is also Benjamin’s dad, saddling up their horse in front of Miguel’s house.
“You fellas going somewhere?” Clay asked.
“Looking for you,” Miguel responded.
“Well, looks like you found me,” Clay said jokingly.
“You were supposed to be back by lunch, Clay,” Tom told him.
“Yeah, I know. I took my time riding back. Had a lot to think about.”
“How is Scottie?” Benjamin inquired.
“Don’t worry Benjamin, Scottie is just fine. In fact, I would say she is a far cry safer there than we are here.”
The two men and young boy looked at Clay, puzzled by his remarks.
“Benjamin, can you round everyone up for me and have them gather in the church? We need to talk,” Clay asked.
“Yes sir,” he replied and quickly left to do as he was asked.
“What’s going on Clay? You are starting to worry me a little,” Miguel said.
“I’ll tell you boys, you wouldn’t believe what is on the other end of this valley,” Clay replied.
Clay swung his leg over the saddle and dismounted his horse. Tying it off to the post there in front of Miguel’s house, he tells the two men to walk with him, as he moves towards the church.
“First, Scottie is no spy. She really is all alone up there. I know everyone had their doubts but rest assured she is no danger to us.”
“Then what’s this all about Clay?” Tom asked.
“Well, our little friend stumbled into a military base. Probably a top-secret one, from the looks of it.”
“What? How did we not see it?” Miguel pondered.
“Except for what she cleared off, the walls around this place are covered in weeds, you wouldn’t see it unless you walked upon it.”
“Is it in good shape?” Tom intriguingly asked.
“Better than good Tom. I would say this place is still ninety percent. You would be amazed if you saw it.”
“Are you suggesting we take this place, Clay?” Miguel said as he stopped and looked at Clay.
“No, not at all. You know me better than that Miguel. I can’t believe you would even ask me such a question.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry. This whole thing has me a little on edge. We haven’t had anyone come into town in a long while and then all of a sudden, this girl comes in followed by two thugs. Something just unsettling about it,” Miguel replied as he returned to walking.
“Let’s just get in the church here and I will explain everything,” Clay told them as he patted Miguel on the back.
Over the next hour or so Clay, Miguel and Tom waited while everyone in town slowly found their way in and took a seat. As the crowd gathered Clay looked again at this small group of about fifty people and thought about how far they had come. The day they first looked out into the world from a manhole cover.
“Can you see anything Clay?” Miguel asked from the bottom of the ladder Clay had climbed.
“Yeah, it’s pretty gloomy out but according to the tester, the radiation levels are low,” he responded from the speaker on his hazmat suit as he inched up the manhole cover just enough to test the air.
“Thank God, I don’t how much longer we can stay down here.”
“I’m going to open it all the way Miguel, stand back for now, just in case.”
Miguel moved back to a safe distance as Clay pushed up on the lid. The lid stopped about three-inch up. Clay could tell something was blocking it. Determined to get the lid off he took another step up on the ladder and used all his strength to push it. It took everything he had but after a few seconds of straining the lid lifted up and tumbled off the hole. Clay climbed the rest of the way up, stepped out, and looked out at the world for the first time in months. If not for all the food in the company cafeteria they would have all starved but what he saw did not give him much hope that things were about to get better.
“My lord, what have they down?” Clay said as he pulled off his mask.
“CLAY!...CLAY!...Are you ok!” yelled Miguel.
“Yeah, come on up.”
Miguel quickly climbed up the ladder and out into the world. Standing next to his friend the two men looked around at the destruction that lay everywhere.
“What are we going to do now Clay. We only have enough food for a few more weeks.”
“I don’t know.”
“Why are the radiation levels so low. Nukes should take longer than this to clear up?”
“Good question, maybe We’re not close enough to point? You’re the engineer, you tell me.”
“I guess it’s possible. Either way, it’s a blessing. A few months in the ground and people would have lost it.”
“Well, let’s tell everyone the good news. I guess it’s good anyway.” Clay said as the two men then returned down the manhole they had come out to report their findings to the rest of the people.
Just as it was that day Clay now finds himself having to tell the people the good news that they may not take as good news. He is excited about what could be but worries about how the people will take it. Seeing that everyone has arrived he steps up to the pulpit and starts to speak.
“Friends, as you know I went with our new friend Scottie yesterday to see her camp. I was amazed at what I saw but before I tell you about it I need to say one thing. I love it here. I am proud of what we have built here and I wouldn’t take back that time we have spent together for nothing. If I die in my little cabin, I will die a happy man, so no matter what we decide today, I am ok with it.”
“Just spit it out Clay, we all know that.” Byron Simple, a former big wig at the power plant, yelled out from the back.
Byron was one of the least liked people here in town and for good reason. He was not really trustworthy and tended to rub people the wrong way.
“OK Byron, I’ll get to the point. Scottie is living in a military facility. It is well protected on all sides. It has water and power.”
“Then why are we standing around here, lets go lay claim to it. She’s just a little girl, she’s got no business with something like that,” Byron yelled as he stood to his feet and the room filled with chatter.
“EVERYONE! QUIET DOWN!” Clay yelled.
“Clay, can I speak on this?” Miguel asked.
“To answer your question Byron, no. That’s not who we are. We don’t take things that don’t belong to us.”
“Hey, we were here first so anything in this valley belongs to us. Am I right?” Byron responded.
Click the pictures below to read the first chapters of my other books.
The people again start looking around at each other wondering what everyone else is thinking. Clay, seeing what is happening speaks up.
“I’ll say this and then we are moving on. Anyone who tries to take what belongs to that girl will have to answer to me. All of you are blessed to even still be living on this earth. After all that we have survived together, I can’t imagine taking something from someone else is what you want to waste your blessing on.”
“I second that!” yelled Miguel.
“Here…here!” Tom responded.
“Now, as I was saying. She has a great place and she has big plans. Scottie believes that she will restart civilization right there in that facility. She has invited us all to go live there.”
“But what about our town? What about Hope?” Sofia, Miguel’s wife asked.
“Good question. We have two options. Leave the town as is or take the building apart and move them over there.”
“I don’t know if I want to leave here Clay. I’m old and I don’t know if I am up for another life-changing move like that,” Mrs. Bell, the town’s only elderly woman said.
“Yeah, I kind of agree with Mrs. Bell,” Steve Wanger responded.
“I get that guys and I am not saying we should do it. I am letting you know what is offered.”
“Everyone just needs to relax and think about this for a minute,” Tom said as he stood. “I was fabricator before all this happened. A place like that would let me go back to doing what I love. Steve, you were a mechanic; wouldn’t you love to get your hands greasy again? Mrs. Bell, how would like to sit under a hot shower again instead of getting in and out of that old washtub? This little girl is offering us a chance to regain some aspects of our normal life again. No one’s saying, we have to give up anything. We will still need to farm and do everything that we do now. I would agree that it’s going to be even more hard work but I think it would be worth it.”
“She has hot water and showers?” Mrs. Bell asked.
“Yes, she does,” Clay responded as he eyes on everyone in the room widened.
“Are you saying we give this little girl control over our lives and Town?” Byron says sarcastically.
“No. How everything would work, I don’t know yet but those details will come after we have decided whether or not to even entertain her invitation. She’s an extremely smart girl and she will make it on her own, but we have the skills she needs to make her dream come true. The facility is not perfect. It has a pulse reactor, that doesn’t work. Miguel is just the man for that job. It has a stack of drudge parts that could be put together and used for work and protection. Tom, Steve, that’s right up your alley. I could go on but you see my point,” Clay told them.
“I think we need some time to think all of this over,” said Sofia.
“I agree,” Miguel said. “Why don’t we sleep on it for…a week. Then we can meet back here to decide what we want to do. Maybe we could even have Scottie be there to answer any questions that we may have.”
“That sounds good to me,” Clay responded. “All those in agreement, raise your right hand.”
With that everyone in the room raised their hand and the meeting was dismissed. Everyone went back to their daily routines with a lot to think about. Something like this would greatly change their lives and it was not an easy decision to make.
Later that evening just before dark, Clay saddled his horse and rode down the street towards the woods.
“Where you off to Clay?” Sofia, who was on the porch crocheting, asked him as he passed.
“Oh, I just got a feeling our little friend is chomping at the bit to know what we decide. She’s probably out there in the woods debating on whether or not to come down here. I think I will just go out and meet up with her.”
“That poor girl. I can’t believe she has no one. It’s so sad.”
“Yeah, it is. Hopefully, those days are about over for her though. Have a good night Sofia,” he said as he tipped his hat and rode away.
“You to Clay.”
Clay rode across the field and down the logging road towards Scottie’s facility. It wouldn’t take long before he came upon Scotty sitting on her ATV in the middle of the logging road.
“How did you know I was here, Clay?” she asked, puzzled.
“Because I am an old wise man and you are an impatient fourteen-year-old girl,” Clay responded with a big smile.
“Well, I was working on my Rex but I thought I would come to see if you talked to everyone yet.”
“My Android. That’s what I am going to call him.”
“Oh, your giant metal friend, in your workshop?”
“Yeah, I have been working on that brain board I told you about. Programming is not really my thing but, I’ll figure it out…. Well?”
“Did you talk to them?”
“Yeah, I did kiddo. They want to think about it for a week.”
“A week? What’s there to think over. My place is great.”
“I know but people get set in their ways. Sometimes change doesn’t come easy for them.”
“I know, I was just hoping that they would be excited about it,” she said with a disappointed look on her face.
“Don’t worry, I think they will decide it’s for the best.”
Scottie's demeanor changed instantly and Clay could see the look of hope in her eyes return.
“That’s great news Clay. I feel better now,” she told him.
“Have you eaten? Want to come down and I can fix you something?” Clay asked.
“Yeah, I ate earlier. No, I better let them do their thinking in private, besides I got a lot to do before everyone comes and checks out my place. I better go.”
“Ok, kiddo, be careful.”
“I will Clay, you take care and I will see you soon,” she responded as she turned on the ATV and drove away.
“That kid is something else,” Clay said to himself as he watched her ride off then turned and rode back home himself.
Earlier that same day, once Clay was gone and the gate was closed, Scottie knew what she was going to do next. She goes straight to the control room, picks up the AI brain broad, from the robodog, and plugs it into the test console. She then crosses her small fingers and turns on the power to it. Immediately the lights come on and the CPU starts. Within a few seconds, the screen, of the test console, comes on and shows a command prompt. Scottie begins to type.
“List model #”
“Model #...I394J65,” The line, returns
“List model name”
“Model name…Roving Canine 26, codename REX”
With that, the AI starts listing thousands of lines of code. Most of which had to do with the movement and functionality of the machine. There are only a few hundred lines that interest Scottie. These lines are the ones that make up the true function of whatever machine this board is placed into. Scottie has a good idea of what she wants from her giant metal toy but she is not a hundred percent sure. She loses herself in reading over the code and looking up each line in a few different manuals she has found on coding and robotics. This robodog was designed with a lot of the same traits as a real dog and as far as she could see those traits could work to her advantage. She didn’t want her drudge crawling around on the ground and sniffing things though, so she will fix the code so that it won’t behave like a dog. She also hopes to find a voice box at some point, so there needs to be something in there for that. The day flies by as she struggled to learn this complicated system that she is determined to master. Before she knows it there is only a little bit of daylight left.
“I wonder if Clay has talked to everyone,” she said to herself.
“Maybe I should go see how things are going?”
“NO, I better just keep on working,” she said as she goes back to reading for another minute or so.
“I gotta know, but I will just take a peek into town from a distance to see if anything is going on.”
With that said, Scottie leaves the control room, goes outside, and rides off on her ATV. She stopped while still in the woods and peaks at the town through the trees.
“Ain’t much going on down there,” she said with disappointment.
She continues to wait for a while until she sees Clay riding out towards her.
“Oh crap, he must have seen me. Now he’s going to think I am spying on them or something.”
It didn’t take Clay long to reach her but after their brief conversation, Scottie felt way better about everything and returned home to wait patiently for their answer. She spends the rest of that night and the next several days reading manuals and studying the lines of code. Finally, she is ready to begin. Scottie creates, rewrites, and tests every line of code she could find that dealt with the personality of the AI. Stopping only to eat and sleep a little, she works tirelessly to remodel the AI into what she needs. These dogs were programmed to be loyal to their owners, put human life above their own and they had a guard mode that would work perfectly for guarding the facility. All of these things Scottie keeps pretty much intact. She makes sure to add in logic, reasoning, and the ability to make decisions without a command. It is grueling work but finally, after two days she is ready to try it out.
“List model #,” she typed on the keyboard.
“Model #...SP101” The line, returned
“List model name”
“List main directives”
“Main directives…Obey my Owner
…Protect my owner
…Protect human life
…Protect the facility
…Help when needed
Scottie then sat back in her chair and smiled.
“I think I’ve got it”, she said aloud.
She then leaned back forward and started typing again.
“Rex is Activated”
“Hello Rex, this is Scottie.”
“Hello Scottie,” REX typed on the screen.
“It’s nice to finally meet you REX.”
“It’s is nice to meet you, Scottie. Are you Scottie Pitman, my owner?”
“Yes, I am REX.”
“Please list your access code to submit ownership.”
“Code approved. You are now listed as my owner. Why can’t I see you?”
“I don’t have you in your body yet but you will be, shortly. Just to let you know. There isn’t a voice box for you so you will not be able to speak but you will love the big body I promise.”
“Thank you, Scottie, I am grateful.”
“You’re welcome REX. I need you to power down now so I can install you in your body. When you wake up, you’ll be able to see and move.”
“I understand. Shutting down all systems”
It only took a few seconds for REX to shut down. Scottie pulls the brain out of the test console and takes off running to the workshop. Once there she jumps up into the drudge and puts the brain board in the slot. She starts to push the button and pauses.
“Wait a minute Scottie. What if he malfunctions, I could get hurt.” She said to herself.
She climbs back out and stands by her workbench. “How can I do this?” She thought. That’s when it hits her, “I need a remote-control”. She immediately walks over to a large cabinet, on the other side of the room, and opened the door.
“I know I saw it in here somewhere,” she said aloud.
After a few minutes of looking, she found what she was looking for. It was a brand-new remote-control unit still in the box. It comes with a small hand-sized unit that would allow her to turn him off and on without being in the cockpit. She unpacks the controller and climbs back up into the drudge. Lucky for Scottie these kinds of units were very universal and she was able to plug the unit right into its slot. After she climbs back out, she grabs the control unit and straps it to her arm.
“It’s showtime!” She said with a big grin on her face.
She presses the first of two power buttons on the remote unit, which powers on the drudge but not the AI. She closes the back hatch and stands him up.
“Now let’s see what you got Rex,” Scottie said as she presses the second button and powers on the AI.
The giant eye lights up blue and Rex was truly alive, for the first time. Rex starts moving his hands and legs testing their function without walking.
“How does that body feel Rex?” Scottie asks.
“It feels great!” He replied in type, on the small screen on her hand.
“Good. Can you walk for me big guy?”
“Ok, let me get the door.”
Scottie walks over and tries picking up the door. She strains and pulls but can’t budge it. From behind, she heard Rex walking towards her. He reaches out with both arms around her and uses his giant hands to open the door. She turns around and smiles at him.
“You’re welcome” he replied in type.
“OK big guys, the first thing we need to do is lock down your code. I am going to do something unusual to protect it. There will not be a way to type in the code. I am going to speak it. This way if anyone ever pulls your board, they won’t be able to hack it. I need you to record what I am about to say. Are you listening?”
“Yes, I am listening.”
“Activate code lock. Access equals restricted. Voice command equals owner. Password equals I love you, Rex. Lock code”
“My code has been locked.”
“OK, Let’s go test out your moves. Try to keep up!” Scottie yells as she takes off running.
Rex looks at Scottie and runs after her. It doesn’t take but a few steps for him to catch up with her. Rex reaches down picks her up and takes off running at full speed. As the air blew through Scottie’s hair, she holds up her hand and yells.
“Yahoo! You’re doing it, Rex. You’re doing it.”
The two of them run around the facility having a ball for a while then Scottie wants to test out some commands.
“Ok Rex, let’s do some testing,” she told him.
Rex lowered her to the ground. Scottie walked a few feet away and turns to face him.
Rex, without missing a beat grabs Scottie, opened the back hatch, put her in, began to scan the area, and asked for instructions. Confident that everything works like it is supposed to Scottie commands him to stand down. Next, she told him to go into guard mode. Rex quickly switched modes and started a wide range scan. He laid out a path that will allow him to patrol the ground effectively and started out on the path.
“Ok, Rex. Now let’s try…drudge mode.”
Rex came to a stop and released full control over to Scottie.
“Good boy Rex…Good boy,” Scottie said as she pats the sidewall of the cockpit.
She takes control and walked him back to the workshop where she lowered him, opened the hatch, and climbed out.
“Ok, Rex…Auto mode.” She said to him which allows him to return to his default state.
“Now let’s talk,” Scottie tells him as she sits down on the ground and crosses her legs.
Rex watched her, followed suit, sitting on the ground, and crossed his legs. Scottie decides to tell him everything about what has happened to the world. This includes how she got here, found him, and met the people of Hope. She had programmed him to be constantly learning and believed that giving him all this knowledge will be good for him.
“I need you to listen to me very carefully, understand Rex?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“This is a long story but here it goes…” She said as she began.
Her story goes on for a couple of hours. She wraps it up by talking to him about the people of Hope coming to live there.
“I have invited the people of Hope to come to live here with us. This will mean you have to look out for everyone, not just me but you are still going to be my best bud, so don’t worry. Clay said they are thinking about it. What do you think, you think I made the right decision?”
“Are they in danger?” He asked.
“No, but they are living a hard life. It would help them a lot to live here with us.”
“If they need help, we should help them.”
“I agree Rex, you’re a pretty smart fella.”
“Thank you. What do you think they are going to do?”
“I don’t know Rex, but we better finish getting this place cleaned up before we do. It’s still kind of looks like a junkyard around here.” Scottie told him as she laughed.
Scottie jumped up to her feet and walked back outside with Rex following right behind her.
“OK, Rex, Time to get back to work. We have to make a good impression on them if they come.” She tells him.
“I agree,” Rex replied as he looked around scanning the grounds.
“I have a plan though. Let’s walk around and I will tell what we need to do.” She instructed him as the two walked off.
She gives him instructions to finish putting all the junk away and cleaning up the outside. Once she is certain he knows what to do she goes inside the main building and started cleaning all the other rooms. The two of them work hard for the rest of the week but still manage to have some fun as well. Over that time, they became a good team, building a bond and friendship. At night, Rex would go into guard mode and patrol the grounds. This gave Scottie a new sense of safety and she could finally sleep without fear, something she had not done since she left the bunker that she and her father lived in after the war. Every morning, Scottie would bring out her breakfast, eat with Rex, and go over the day’s tasks. This morning would start out the same way. She came out, breakfast in hand and Rex immediately comes over and sat down in front of her.
“This is it, Rex. I am heading over to Hope today to see what they have decided. I am pretty sure they will say yes but you never can tell about people. You’ll learn soon enough that people are odd. They don’t always do what you think they will do. I thought about taking you with me but we had better hold off until after I talk to them and tell them about you. They’ll love you, once they get to know you but these people have survived the war, and seeing a big machine like you might freak them out a little.”
“I do not want to scare them, Scottie.”
“Don’t worry big guy, you won’t. I’ll tell them about you first. Ok?”
“That sounds like a good plan.”
“It’s settled then. I will head over there later today and talk to them. I will wait till close to dinner time so they will all be back in town before I head over.”
She finished her breakfast and gassed up the ATV. The two of them laid out a few ideas for houses and dreams of a new town built behind the safety of the walls.
“Right over there we could build houses, just like they have in Hope now,” Scottie told him.
“The ground there would be suitable for building structures,” Rex replied after scanning the area Scottie is pointing at.
“Yeah, Rex I can see it now. Houses, a new church, and a really cool place for all the little ones to play. It’ll be a blast!”
“Little ones?” Rex asked.
“That means kids Rex,” she replied with a laugh.
“Kids like you?”
“No, regular kids. We will have grown-up stuff to do, like protecting the town.”
“No fun for us?” Rex asked her.
“Are you kidding? We’ll have all kinds of fun but not kid stuff.” She told him with confidence.
“Good, I like fun.”
They worked off and on, all day, still trying to make the facility more people-friendly. At around 4:30, she got on her ATV and headed towards the gate, stopping just as it opened.
“Remember Rex, after I leave, use the remote command I installed for you to close the gate and don’t let anyone in but me. Got it?” Scottie told Rex in a motherly tone.
She then drove forward, heading for Hope. Rex watched her drive away as he remotely entered his code, shutting the gate, and went into guard mode.
Scottie rides into town smiling from ear to ear and waving at everyone she passes until she stops in front of Clay’s house.
“Clay…Clay! You in there?” She yells towards his door.
She hops off the ATV and walks up on the porch as Clay comes walking out the door.
“Hey little one, I was about to head your way to check on you. I was starting to get worried.”
“Oh, I’m just fine and I have good news.”
“Do ya? What kind of good news do you…have…for…me” Clay said slowly as his attention is pulled away from Scottie. “Stay here, I need to check this out.”
Clay steps down off the porch and starts to walk up the dirt street. As he does, he can hear the roar of vehicles coming closer and closer. Once he figures out what it is, he turns to Scottie.
“Ring the bell, Scottie. Ring it loud!” He said as he sped up his pace to get to the end of town quickly.
Scottie ran to the bell and franticly started pulling the rope which slammed the tong into the side causing a booming sound that could be heard for miles.
As Clay reached the edge of town, several trucks and motorcycles come crashing through the woods, bearing down on the town. Scottie continued to ring the bell hard and loud several more times then took off down the road following Clay.
The trucks and motorcycles pulled up to the edge of town and stop where Clay is standing with his hand up telling them to stop.
“What can we do for you?” Clay asked.
Dale stood up from the back of the lead truck.
“You can start by givin me back my gun. Then loading up and getting out of my valley, like I told you before.” He told Clay.
“I thought we already went over this. You are more than welcome to make a home for yourself somewhere in this valley but we ain’t going anywhere.” Clay responded, with aggravation on his face.
“You ain’t listenin mister. I have twenty men with me now and you are leaving.”
Dale looked around and saw that ten men had fanned out around them with bows and arrows.
“Oh, you think those toys are going to be a match for us?” Dale asked.
“My guys are good with those toys and will have no problem taking you all out if you don’t turn these things around and leave.” Clay forcefully told Dale.
“Maybe you’re right. I guess we should just turn around and leave boys.” Dale said to his men as he looks around at them before turning back towards Clay, eyes wide open and crazy as if he were surprised. “Oh yeah, I forgot…I have one of these.” He said as he pulled up a machine gun and started shooting all around.
Clay’s men quickly run for cover but Clay is hit in the right side of his chest and falls to the ground. Scottie sees what has happened, comes running up to him, and drops down to see if he is alive.
“Clay are you ok?!”
“I don’t know little one but you better run for cover,” Clay responded with a weak voice.
Dale who has paused his shooting looks down and sees her.
“Well look who it is Willard, it’s the little brat! You get her. Everyone else rounds up the rest of these people” Dale yells to his men.
On that order, the men all jump out of the trucks. Willard chases after Scottie and the others go after the people of the village. With bullets and arrows flying through the air a battle breaks out. Scottie ran hard back towards her ATV with Willard close behind her. When she was within 10 feet or so Willard managed to catch up to her and pushed her forward, knocking her face-first into the dirt. Scotty laid flat down and didn’t move a muscle. Willard walked over and leaned down to turn her over.
“Willard, watch out for that….” Dale yelled
“ZAP!” Goes Scottie’s stun gun as she hits Willard with it as he turned her over.
“…stun gun.” Dale finishes his sentence, shakes his head, and watches Willard go flying backward, landing on the ground.
Scottie quickly gets over to her ATV, starts it, and takes off around Clay’s house, heading for the field.
“You two! Take your bikes and bring her back here…ALIVE!” Dale barks at two of the men.
The two men mount their motorcycles and went after Scottie. As they follow her onto the logging trail, the town is now in chaos. The people are running and screaming as these men round them up and herd them like cattle into a group. Several of the townsmen, that were trying to defend the town with bows and arrows are shot and killed. The others are disarmed and put with the rest of the people. Clay lays lifeless on the ground where he was shot. The townspeople stare over at him shocked at what has just happened.
Back on the trail, Scottie ran full throttle, hoping she gets back to the facility before the men catch up to her. They are a few feet behind her the whole way up the trail but once she hits the woods, she gains an advantage. The trails are crooked and curvy causing them to have to slow down, while she speeds up, able to slide around them in her four-wheeled ATV. Taking a split second to reach over she presses the com-link button on her remote.
“REX, ARE YOU THERE!” She yells.
“I am here”, he replied in type which she sees out of the corner of her eye.
“OPEN THE GATE REX!” Scottie told him in a panicked voice.
“Right away”, Rex responded as he runs for the gate while sending a remote command to open it.
She rode through the gate with only a few seconds lead on the men following behind her.
“CLOSE THE GATE REX!” She yelled out as she passed through it.
Rex did as he was told and closed it behind her. The men pulled up to the gate and got off their bikes. At first, they punch in a few numbers on the keypad but when it doesn’t open they get mad and start yelling at her.
“You better open this gate little girl or you won't like what we do to you.” The one-man told her.
“Yeah, that’s right. We are going to hurt you real bad if you make us come over this wall to get you.” The second man chimed in.
It’s then that men can feel the ground vibrating a little as if something large and heavy was stomping it. Although they could not see him, Rex had finally made his way from the other side of the facility. He arrived to find Scotty sitting on the ATV crying. Rex kneels down and looked at her as to console her.
“They killed him, Rex. They killed Clay and they are going to hurt all those people.” Scottie said to him through her tears. “This is why you don’t get involved and you don’t make friends with people Rex. It always leads to pain.”
She hears a new message beep coming from her remote and looks down to see a message from Rex.
“If the people are in danger we need to help,” he said.
“What am I going to do Rex? There are a bunch of them and they have guns.”
“You have me.” He replied as he stood up and tapped himself in the chest three times.
Scottie wiped her tear from her face and sat up straight. She heard the men on the other side.
“We’re not going to tell you again little girl. Open this Gate!”
Scottie’s tears turned to anger and she began yelling back.
“You want me to open the gate…fine, I’ll be right out.” She told them as she stepped down off the ATV.
“Let’s do this Rex!”
Rex immediately lowered down and opened the back hatch.
Scottie climbed in and the hatch closed.
“OK Rex, I’ll drive and you navigate. Let’s get these jerks. DANGER MODE!”
All of Rex’s scanners come online and he started mapping out the area. Scottie turned Rex and ran about a hundred feet away from the wall. Once there she turned and ran full stream back at it. Just before colliding with the wall, Scottie slammed the control forward and backward causing the giant to leap over it and land about ten feet on the other side with a load-crashing thud. The two men freak out. Scotty uses Rex’s massive arm to backhand the one on the left sending him flying into the air, landing in the woods. The other man ran to his bike, got on, and darted back into the woods. Scottie and Rex follow suit but are slowed down because of the narrow clearance of the woods. Having to knock down trees as they go. The man reached the logging trail way before them and opened up the bike full throttle to return to the village and tell Dale. Scottie and Rex are not that far behind him and they too speed up to a full gallop once on the logging trail.
The man on the bike arrived back in town and jumped off the bike in a panic.
“Dale! There’s a…a…a…” The man said but can’t get it the words out.
“There’s a what, Jose? Where’s Phil!” Dale responded.
No sooner than those words left Dale’s lips, Rex came thundering out of the woods like a lion about to attack its prey.
“What the…! Shoot it! Shoot it!” Dale yells to the other men in a panic.
Dale and all his men opened fire at Rex. The storm of bullets began raining down on his think armed body. Each one bounces off him like a rubber ball. Scottie and Rex don’t so much as flinch as they kept running towards the men.
“They think that’s going to stop us, Rex, lets’ show them what you can do,” Scottie told him.
“Hold your fight!” Dale told his men, seeing that the bullets aren’t working. “Ram that thing with your truck!” He yelled to one of the drivers.
The driver floors it and drives straight toward Rex, both moving at top speed. The dust and dirt fly as the two metal machines bear down on each other. The driver grins through his dirty rotten teeth and starts to yell as the two collide in a crashing boom of smoke and dust. For a moment, everyone is quiet, looking to see what happened. As the dust started to clear, Dale and his men could start to make out something in the dusty cloud.
“Did we get it?” Willard asked Dale.
The other men start to cheer in victory.
“Shut up! Shut up!” Dale yelled at them.
Out of the dust cloud, they could hear movement as Rex’s huge arms reach down, picked what was left of the truck up over his head, and walked out of the cloud. Suddenly a little girl’s laughter can be heard over Rex’s loudspeaker.
“If that’s the best you boys can do you better give up now before ya get hurt.” She told them, laughing hysterically.
Scottie then threw the truck towards Dale and his men. As the heap of metal flies through the air, Dale knew it was going to hit them.
“Run, you idiots, for we are all getting flattened!” Dale yells as he and the men around him scatter like rats.
They clear the area as the truck came crashing down on top of the truck Dale had been in earlier. No sooner than it touched down, Scottie and Rex proceed to attack the men. While Scottie drove, Rex laid out a plan of action to best take out all the intruders. The men all opened fire and try to defend themselves from Rex but they are no match. Scottie uses him to smash every truck and motorcycle they come in contact with and swats the men away like flies. Within a few minutes, all but one truck is destroyed and the rest of the men run back the way they came when they first got there.
In all the commotion, Dale had run off and hid in the first house he came to.
“What am I going to do?” He said to himself as he paced around the room. “If I can’t have this town, no one will.”
Dale picked up and smashed a chair into the floor, breaking it. Using the leg and curtain he made a torch and used an oil lamp in the room to light it. He proceeded building to building lighting them all on fire. Once done he snuck back to the last remaining truck and takes off, leaving the other men to run on foot.
As Rex stands at the edge of town watching them flee, Scottie is delighted that they were able to protect the town. She turned Rex, to see the town going up in flames as the people try to get their belongings out of their houses.
“We have to help them, Rex!” She yells as she pushes forward on Rex’s controls.
She got inside of town and turned Rex over to automated mode, jumps out of the hatch, and starts helping get stuff out of the houses. Rex tries to stop the flames to no avail. Knowing that there is not, enough water, to put out the flames the people have no choice but to watch their beloved homes burn to the ground. Benjamin came running up the street yelling.
“Doc! Doc! I need you, Clay is still alive.”
Everyone is shocked that Clay isn’t dead. Benjamin explains that after Clay was shot and the men moved past him, to confront Rex and Scottie, Benjamin pulled him up the hill and out of the view of everyone else.
“He’s still breathing but I don’t know how much longer he will last. He’s bleeding really bad.”
Alan, the Doctor, and Scottie run with Benjamin to see about Clay. The three arrive and the Doc starts to look him over.
“Is he going to make it Doc?” Scottie asked with concern in her voice.
“I don’t know young lady. All my equipment was in my house and it’s all gone now. Looks like the bullet passed through but most likely he has internal bleeding and without my tools, I don’t know how much I can help him.” The Doc replied.
“We need to get him and you back to my place. I have a medical room there.” Scottie told him.
“You have what?” The doc responded in a confused tone.
“There is no time to explain right now doc, we just need to get there quick. Let me get Rex.”
Scottie ran back to Rex, climbed in, grabbed an empty water troth, and ran back over to where Clay was, sitting the troth down.
“Put him in guys.” She told them.
The two do as she asked and Rex picked it back up with his left hand. His right hand comes down to the ground and opens.
“Climb up doc and make it fast.”
The doctor does as he is told and climbed up into Rex’s hand.
“Benjamin, you tell everyone to load up what they have left and follow us back to my place. We can’t wait for you but the gate will be open.”
“Ok Scottie, I’ll take care of it.”
Rex then quickly but gently walked back towards the logging road to return to the facility.
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