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Posted: 6/19/2008 5:57:45 AM EDT
I hope you enjoy this story. I hope to have it done before September. Any criticism or comments are of course welcome. Some might remember this from 2 years ago. It has been re-written and enlarged.
This story is rated PG-13. Violence, harsh (Really bad words are *) language, but no sex or nudity.
******
THE DARK AGE SAGAS
BOOK 2
******
Man's Sins
By
Clan Dire Wolf
******
Copyright Paul L. De Rousse 2008
******
PROLOGUE
*******

11 And the earth was corrupted before God, and was filled with iniquity. 12 And when God had seen that the earth was corrupted (for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth,) 13 He said to Noe: The end of all flesh is come before me, the earth is filled with iniquity through them, and I will destroy them with the earth.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Genesis 6:17



******
Terra Solar System
Asteroid Belt
November 1st.
In the Year of Our Lord 2008

******

Captain Mark Jacobson of the ARNTSS (American Republic Navy Temporal Space Ship) Providence still couldn’t find it. All the scans showed nothing capable of creating the massive explosion that had occurred here. Well, would occur in the next five minutes. Twin meteorites: SOHO-62 and SOHO-63 were on a collision course with this part of the asteroid belt. Looking at the forward screens, he could see the comets as they approached.

“Lt. Peters.”

“Aye, Sir!”

“Prepare temporal quadrates for jump in 4 minutes from my mark. Mark!”

“Mark!” Responded Lt. Peters, “Temporal jump engines at 90%, Captain. Building at 5% per minute.”

“Very good. Navigation!”

“Aye, Sir!”

“Set hyper-space jump for home, Ensign.”

“Sir!”

The Captain turned his command chair to his second, Lt. Commander Jake Rogers and said; “Anything?”

“No, Sir. All scanners show the area clear of anything that could cause such an explosion. SOHO-62 and 63 also show nothing. ”

“Damn it, Jake. We have the best ship with the most advanced scanners ever made to find out what happened here.”

Captain Jacobson sunk down in his command chair and muttered; “The Admiral’s going to have me scrubbing toilets on Io.”

“I don’t think so sir, no one has ever figured out what happened, how can you be to blame?”

“Because Jake, you know how hard it is to make time jumps like this. And the expense is incredible! No one will be able to jump here ever again. We had one shot and it’s over. They’ll want someone to take the blame for not finding out the answers and it sure won’t be the Admiral or anyone at ONTI (Office of Naval Temporal Intelligence.)”

“It’s time, Captain.”

“All right, Jake." said the captain, “All hands prepare for jump. Navigation set time displacement for the year 2....”

“SIR! I have an abort coming across all my boards, jump engines are failing! Reactors are at 200% and climbing! We have a system-wide failure! Reactors are going critical and coolant is super-heating!"

Captain Jacobson looked out at the screens again. The Twins were bearing down on them!

“Give me full military thrust! Down 20 degrees! Ensign, fire emergency chemical thrusters! Eject all jump engines and flush the coolant! Give me...”

“Too late.” whispered his second.

The Captain looked up and had the answer that had baffled man for so long.

“Oh, God. No...”

This wouldn’t look good on the report at all.

******
CHAPTER 1
******
"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have
tried is the true failure."
George E. Woodberry

******
Washington D.C., USA
Presidential Bunker
3:55 a.m., November 2nd
Year of Our Lord 2008

******

An emergency meeting has been called. The President, Vice-President, National Security Council, Secretary of Defense, the Directors of the NSA & CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are meeting in the Presidential Bunker, deep under the White House.
******

"And as you see here, Mr. President, the Earth will pass through this 'rain' of asteroids for a period of four days. NASA's Near Earth Object Program has been unable to say how many will strike the Earth, but we do know that it will number in the tens of thousands, each and every day. Just to give you an idea of how many we're facing, take the asteroid known as Ceres. It was around 480 miles in diameter and it was shattered by the explosion. All those pieces are coming straight at the orbit of the Earth. Some will miss us, some will burn up in the atmosphere, but many will hit."

President Bush looked at the wall-size flat screen and still couldn't believe it was really happening. It sounded like something out of the movies.

"What caused the explosion?"

"Mr. President?"

"I said: What caused that explosion in the asteroid belt?"

"Well, uh." he looked around the room at the other scientist's, all which were looking else where.

"We don't have a clue, Mr. President. All we know is that the explosion was somewhere around (cough) 300-400 megatons. We, of course, had the Hubble Space Telescope monitoring that area of the Belt, but we didn't see anything that could have caused that explosion. Perhaps some unknown element was present in the asteroids and that caused it.

More than likely, we'll never know. Not with the time we have left."

Bush put his face in his hands. He just could not believe this. This was worst then 9/11! He was just supposed to have a quite term as President and retire back to Texas. But everything kept blowing up in his face and now this! Just a few months more and he would have been living the life of a retired president.

He looked back up at the Air Force Colonel and asked; "So what can we do?"

The Colonel looked at his feet.

"Nothing, Mr. President, not a thing. It will be like the earth is getting shot everyday with a shotgun. Asteroids will be raining down on the surface and going off like nukes, due to the kinetic energy they will release moving at such extreme speeds. They'll be ranging in size from golf balls to sky scrapers.

This could very well be an Extinction Level Event. Nothing may survive. When this is over, the Earth's surface may very well look like the Moon's."

And with that the Colonel felled back into his chair with a thump. One of the NASA scientists started to cry.

"When... When will they hit?"

The NASA scientist still crying, said; "November 15th, the world will end in thirteen days!"

"Can't we stop them? We have a couple thousand nukes! We must be able to do something!"

"Mr. President, think of it this way. The nukes are like a shotgun and the asteroids are thousands of clay pigeons. You will be able to blast some, maybe even hundreds, but you never really make that much of a difference.

Besides, we never could get more then two to six of our missiles rigged up in time to carry a nuke into space. Our normal ICBMs are designed to strike the surface of Earth at certain GPS coordinates. The Russians use the Earth’s gravitational fields. Their missiles will be totally useless. None of the nuclear powers have any for use in space.

We never really consider having to destroy more than one large asteroid with our RNEP (Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator) warheads. Their useless against these small asteroids.”

"What about using them against the larger asteroids? The one's that would be as large as sky scrapers, wouldn‘t they destroy those?"

“No, Mr. President. Those asteroids are mixed in with the smaller ones, which would knock-out any missile before they could reach their target. We also have to consider that if thousands of nukes go off in the atmosphere or Near Orbit that the massive EMP surge would destroy many electronic devices, such as computers, radios, and so on. We would destroy vital equipment that, if any, survivors would need. ”

"Thank you, gentlemen. You may go now." said the President.

After the last of the scientists had finally left, Bush turned to the head agent of the Secret Service White House Detail.

"Bob, get those guys locked down and get their families too. I want them to go with the Vice-President. I don't want any leaks on this.

Dick, I want you, your staff, the Junior JCS's and those on the beta list and get to Yucca Mountain. Take what Supreme Court Judges you think would serve you best. I send as many SpecOps troops and Marines as I can spare. The shelters there are already stocked and manned by the Air Force but I’ll get more supplies sent there right away.

Everyone else here will go with me to Mt. Weather.

Get going, Dick. And thanks for being my friend and for enduring all the crap you’ve had to."

"Yes, sir, Mr. President. Good luck to you." said Dick Cheney. He gathered up his staff and left the room.

"General Patterson, get ahold of the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands and get our troops home! I want all our troops back on U.S. soil before this happens. Destroy any equipment that can’t be brought home in time. If anyone gets in their way, smash them flat. If this is the end, I want our men to die on American soil.

I want those missiles and any others to be made ready. I want as many birds in the air as we can. Even if they can't make it into space, we can try to take out as many as we can in the atmosphere. I hope the survivors can forgive me.

Then give the order: OMEGA-1.

Tell the CIA and the others, I want the K-lists activated. They have one week to get them done then get the teams home."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"Alright then people get to work and keep this under the radar. General Carson.”

"Yes, Mr. President?" replied the Air Force JC.

Bush smiled a sad smile. "Do we have a Stargate at Cheyenne Mountain or any UFOs at Groom Lake? Now’s not the time to keep any secrets if you got them."

All the Joint Chiefs chuckled at that.

"No, Mr. President. No gate, no UFOs, no Aliens have taken over any small towns in Colorado. If we had a Stargate, I would have found a nice little planet where the fishing was good years ago."

Everyone in the room had a good laugh over that one.

Once the laughter had died away, the Director of NSA spoke next. "Mr. President, the elections are today and we should know tonight who the President-elect is. Should we advise the Senator about the situation or not?"

Bush thought about that for the moment. "No. I won't have either of them running off to the press. I don't trust either one not to try and use this situation to their own ends. God only knows what that would be with the world coming to an end. Same goes for the Congress and Senate. If anyone comes sniffing around any of you asking questions, tell me. I may not have ever used it before, but I have everyone’s dirty little secrets. I'll use that to keep them in line. If we had more time, like those movies did, I would probably have told them. There's just no time and if word of this leaks out, the world would dissolve into a Mad Max world.

All right then, gentlemen. Let's get to work. Bob."

"Yes, Mr. President?"

“Get ahold of my family and have them taken to Mt. Weather.

And shut off the lights, I want to be alone for a while. Then tell Laura to come down here in 15 minutes.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

As Secret Service agent, Bob Gars, left the war room, he could hear the Last President of the United States starting to cry.

******
CHAPTER 2
******
"Think like a man of action and act like a man of thought."
Henri Louis Bergson


******
Heath Road
******

Bobby Matthew (38, five foot nine, 165 pounds, skinny, brown hair & beard, brown eyes) drove down Heath Road and was doing a slow burn. He looked at the place where his house had once stood, nothing now but barren ground. The sign on the tall security steel gates said:

Crimson Wolf Inc.
KEEP OUT
NO TRESPASSING
Area patrolled


“F*** You, Max!” he said as he drove by, giving the sign a one-finger salute.

“Someday you’ll pay.”

******
Max's hunting lodge & retreat.
Heath Road
Outside Rose City, MI
November 15
Year of our Lord; 2008

******

Maxmilian Joseph De La Salle (44, six foot one, 280 pounds, stocky build, brown hair & mustache and blue eyes) lay hidden. He had been waiting for hours for the intruder. Max had tracked the intruder coming across his property for the last month and he was going to kill him today.

Lying still, Max heard a sound. Not moving a muscle, he waited.

A minute or two later, the intruder showed himself. The brown camo he was wearing didn't quit fit the late fall colors and slight snow on the forest floor. The intruder stopped suddenly, and looked around.

Max held his breath and squeezed the trigger. The LRB M1A slammed back into his shoulder and the intruder stood for a second with a confused look on his face and then felled over, dead.

Max got up from the forest floor, his ghillie suit blending in perfectly with the fall colors, and walk over to the intruder.

Looking down at the form at his feet, Max pulled out his Cold Steel Trailmaster knife and said; "Bet you’re sorry you came this way, buddy."

He took a knee and struck the knife in the stomach of the intruder and started opening him up.

"Buddy and JR (Max's two faithful Jack Russell's) will be happy tonight!" Max said aloud as he started to gut the 10 point buck. Another perfect Opening Day for rifle deer season in northern Michigan. The day was perfect; cold with the promise of more snow to come. When he was done, he got the Yamaha Grizzly ATV, and once the buck was secured to the back, he drove off for his hunting lodge.

Max had lost his mother in an auto accident back in 1994; just two years after his father had died in one.

Max and his mom had been mowing grass that morning and were on the way to another job, when a gravel hauler had run a red light and smashed into them.

He awoke in the hospital the four days later. He had a broken arm and 3 ribs, a twisted ankle and several facial scars and a concussion from his face crashing through the driver's side window. The seat belt he had been wearing had saved his life, but the passenger side of the 89 F-150 had caved in from the impact with the gravel hauler. The only thing that kept the Ford from going airborne was the trailer on the rear bumper and its 4 thousand pounds of equipment it carried.

A Clinton Township detective came by later that day to get Max's version of events. Max really didn't know what had happen. The detective inform him that the truck driver had been heard blowing his horn at least 150 feet form the intersection. Witness said that he didn't even hit his breaks.

The road construction company’s insurance company had offered to settle for 17.5 million.

Max would have given it all up to just have his mother back, but he knew it would never be.

But Max was never the same again. He had given up on getting his business up and running again and put all his energy into being a survivalist, building his hunting lodge, and dabbling in investments. Y2K had come and gone and then 9/11 happened and that seemed to be it. The economy was slowing down, but nothing like back in 1978 or 1987, even with $4 a gallon gas.

The latest thing was a mysterious explosion in space. Boy did that have the conspiracy nuts on a roar! A secret space ship had blown up or Bush had a secret weapon he was showing the world’s leaders. But no one really knew, NASA said that two comets had collided with each other.

The Muslims were saying it was Allah, because Bush starting pulling troops out of the Middle East. Most just thought he wanted to give McCain a chance to win the Presidency by announcing troop pull outs just before the polls opened.

But Max didn’t care. He hadn’t bothered with the net for the last two weeks and his cell was shut-off. Max just wanted to hunt and get away from it all. His business manager could handle things till rifle season was over in two weeks.

As he drove from the back of his 115 acres, he thought he heard the roar of a jet over head. That was nothing new; the A-10C Thunderbolt II's from Grayling would sometimes buzz over the treetops of his woods. Nothing like being in the quiet woods when suddenly an A-10 went roaring over.

But they didn't usually do it during hunting season. Spooked the deer and pissed off the hunters, he thought, bad for business. Max just shrugged it off and kept driving.

Max pulled off the main trail and headed up to the front gate for the fence that enclosed the large hill and five acres on which his hunting lodge sat on. He hit the remote for the gate and went through and over to his buck pole. It looked like a really nice log hunting lodge, but then looks can be deceiving.

There were two greenhouses and several pole barns that looked like old fashion two-story barns with lean-tos on both sides. There was the pool house, the guest cabins, and the fuel depot. Max also had a nice 800 yard shooting range near the back of the property.

As he pulled the buck up on the pole, Max thought he heard more jets. In fact, a lot of jets. Looking up he thought he could seem some contrails through the trees. Some looked like they were trailing smoke, but they were still pretty high up. Probably just exhaust, he thought as he headed for the garage next to the lodge.

Once inside he stripped out of the rest of the ghillie suit and went inside. Buddy and JR (Max's two Jack Russell’s) where happy to see him, as their jumping and licking showed.

Max hugged his boys and headed for the back patio. A warm bath and a Meyers rum & Coke sounded like a pretty good way to celebrate his first deer of the season. He stepped through the back door and flipped on the CD player, turning up the volume to Beethoven's Sonata No.13 to drown out the sound of jets. Max walked over to his outdoor bathtub and started running the water, stripping out of the last of his clothes. Max had always loved that outdoor bathtub that Lee Majors had in his TV show; The Fall Guy. Even with it being as cool as it was, Max still enjoyed it.

As Max fixed himself a drink he heard in the distant a boom. Then another and this time he felt the earth shake beneath his feet.

Looking up at the sky, Max saw it was filled with dark smoking contrails.

"Oh, crap!" Max threw his drink aside and shut off the water. He ran back inside and scooped up JR, Buddy, and his remote, and headed for his shelters. Max triggered the remote unit and the stairs that went up to the second floor started to lift up.

Running under them Max bumped his shoulder against a large red button on the other side and the stairs lowered back down sealing the way to the basement shut.

Another boom and Max almost felled down the basement stairs, but he regained his balance and made it down safely. Max put down the two eating machines and triggered the remote unit again, a large shelf filled with # 10 cans of Mountain House foods pulled slowly from the wall, revealing a vault door. Max punched in the code and opened the door to the stairway that lead to the bomb shelters and shoved the two mutts inside. He ran back into the basement and killed the power at the fuse box and switched off the generator. The emergency lighting system flashed on.

Max heard another boom, the ground lurch again, and he went crashing to the floor. That hurt! He grabbed his left arm and headed back to the bomb shelter, he could hear his boys howling. Max got in and shut the door and threw the locks, just in time for the ground to lurch again making him smack his head into the massive steel door.

******
CHAPTER 3
******
"You can call a survivalist irrational.
You can call a survivalist reactionary.
You can even call a survivalist stupid.
But there's one thing you can't call a survivalist: unprepared." - Thomas Greene


******
Max's hunting lodge
Underground shelter system
November 17th
Year of Our Lord 2008

******

"Oh, God, that hurts!" said Max as he regained consciousness. Reaching up to his head, he could feel a nice size bump. He had a roaring headache too.

Max found himself lying on his back; Buddy and JR were lying next to him, asleep. As he tried to sit up, he groaned, instantly waking up his boys. They were on him in an instant; whining, licking, crying, and jumping all over him.

"Okay, okay, guys! Get down!" Max struggled to get to his feet. He noticed that the LEDs that made up his emergency lighting system were still on. But Max also noticed that the air felt stale. Then he remembered where he was.

Max was still in the stairwell that connected the house to the shelter. Thankfully, he was still on the top landing and hadn't fallen down the stairs! It was 15 feet down to the shelter's blast door.

He wasn't feeling all that good and when he tried to stand, he started to feel like he was losing his balance. So Max sat back down and then slowly butt bumped his way down the steel stairs.

Not an easy thing to do when you’re naked. Ouch!

He noticed that Buddy and JR had left a puddle at the bottom. Max couldn't blame them, knocking himself out like that must have scared them to death. And Jack's were a bit of a wired breed.

Max unlocked the blast door and went inside and relocked the door. The air was stale in here too. He needed to turn on the shelter's ventilation system. Max stumbled his way over to the security station, said a prayer, and flipped the switches for the ANDAIR / LUWA Swiss filters through out the shelter system. He heard it turn on and air started to come through the vent. The board showed all filters working.

"Thank you, God!" Max muttered as he leaned against the wall. The terrible two started whining again, even louder than before. Max looked at his G-Shock watch and saw that is showed that it was the 16th! He had knocked himself out for over a day! Max realized that he must have really hit his head hard on the vault door. He would check for the dent in the door later.

Max knew what his guys needed; they need to go! He turned on the indoor CCTV system. All of the cameras were working and Max could see that the next shelters were clear of any damage. He would check the outside cameras later. Max grabbed up a first-aid kit and dry swallowed some aspirins for the pain in his head.

Going over to one of the bunk beds, he lifted it up revealing the storage area under it. Max pulled out a pair of Under Armour Loose endurance shorts, a UA Beat polo shirt and a pair of 5.11Tactical Attac boots and slipped them on. He grabbed up a spare set of keys from the security station and headed for the other shelters.

Unlocking the blast door, Max walked slowly and with one had on the wall, into the inter-section tunnel and over to the next shelter. He got his keys out and unlocked the blast door and went in. The lights were already on and all the plants were still in place. The hydroponics system was still working. This shelter and one other were designed as greenhouses. It was easy enough to do; drug dealers had been doing it for years.

Max walked through the shelter and over to another blast door and then through that to another connection tunnel and to one of three storage shelters. He needed a bag of dirt, along with a small hard plastic kiddy pool, and a kid's sand bucket and shovel. These were stored right up front, near the door. Max grabbed up the dirt and kiddy pail and took them into the greenhouse shelter. He then went back and got the kiddy pool

Dumping the dirt into the pool, Max called Buddy and JR and place them in the pool. They started sniffing around and did their business. He was getting ready to scoop it out when he noticed he didn't feel too good. The smell of doggie poop was making him sick.

"The hell with it." he muttered and got the boys and went back in the primary shelter. Max needed something more for his head and he felt the need to lie down. Grabbing up a first-aid kit with a green cross, which contained homeopathic medicines. Max took some Hypericum Perfoliatum (St. John's Wort) that helped with injuries near nerve endings, Calcarea Phosphorica (Phosphate of Lime) which speeds healing of bone fractures, Apis Melifica (Honey Bee) for swollen area from any cause, and some Belladonna (Night Shade) for sudden onset of pain. Max grabbed a cold pack and lay down on the bunk bed. He hoped the knot on his head wasn’t serious.

As he sat in the bunk after an hour, just taking it easy, he suddenly realized that he didn’t know what was really going on outside or what had cause the explosions and tremors. Max really didn’t want too but he got off the bunk and went back to the security station. He saw that the inside camera’s showed that a lot of stuff had fallen over through out the house and that the back patio door was still opened and that snow was blowing in. A lot of snow. Max was going to have to get that door closed and the security shutters powered up and locked in place.

Switching to the outdoor lodge cameras, he saw that three of them were not working and two others must have come loose and were swaying in the wind. The two that were still working showed that a lot of snow was coming down and that is was pitch black outside.

“Must be the reason the snow looks so dark.” Max said, to Buddy and JR who were watching him from their bunk bed. The night vision camera’s sometimes showed a lot of shadow and he didn’t want to turn the flood lights on. Not without knowing what shape they were in.

The clock on the monitor showed 3 p.m. and it look like mid-night outside! Dang, must be one hell of a snowstorm. Must be some real Lake Effect Snow blowing in. Max thought the weather service had said snow was coming, but nothing like he was seeing now.

Thankfully, the main gate camera was still working. He could barely see it though the snow, but the amount of snow was drifting almost all the way up the gate. And the gate was 4 foot tall.

Max also checked the remote monitors for radiation, just in case. No radiation was detected.

The main shelter's battery power system was at 98% and falling slowly. It should last about three weeks. The ones in the greenhouses were at 33%, much lower due to the growing lights. They wouldn't last more than one more day at the rate they were draining their batteries.

Plus he had three EdenPure electric heaters going on in three of the shelters. It looked like he wasn’t getting any power from the solar panels, probably due to the snow and darkness. He needed to get them cleaned off and the main generator going again.

And that meant going outside.

Max didn’t know if he had it in him to do it. He could let the panels go for now and see to the generator first and that meant checking the fuel tanks. They were out next to one of the storage barn.

Dang, he hadn’t check out the cameras in the other buildings. Every building had its own camera and intercom. Max turned off the outside camera’s and turned on the outbuilding ones. All were working and as he panned the cameras around, everything looked fine. He turned on the inside intercom and listen for any intruders. Still nothing but howling winds.

Max next hooked up the cables for his communication equipment to the tower. He tried the SW, then the CB, Business radio, Maritime radio, AM/FM, NOAA, TV, and finally the police scanners.

Nothing but static.

Max was starting to get worried. There should have been something. Even just a carrier wave. Unless nukes had gone off but everything was working so it couldn’t be from any damage due to EMP, though all his communication equipment had been stored in a faraday cage, which protected it against EMP.

Of course, something might be wrong at or with the tower itself. The three cameras mounted on it were still not working.

All this meant he had to go out and see what had happened. Max decided he might as well try; he needed to close that patio door, no matter what.

“No rest for the wicked.” Max muttered. He headed for the blast door that led back into the basement of the house. Max opened the locker that was next to it and started to pull out some clothes and boots he would need. He quickly got into the Cabela’s Military Weight Polartec long johns, a green stocking cap, then a pair of Tiger Stripe BDUs and an M-65 jacket. He wanted range of motion over warmth. And finally a pair of Rocky Eliminator boots and a pair of Max-Tac Combat gloves. He grabbed out of the next locker a Practical Tactical PT-03 MESA Assault Vest configured for the AR-15 and a High Speed Gear thigh holster for the Browning High Power. He then unlocked the weapons locker and took out a Heckler & Koch-93, his grandfather's Browning Hi-Power, and a PVS-7B night vision goggles.

“You to stay put and I’ll be back” Max said in his best Terminator voice.

Buddy gave Max a yawn and JR didn’t even bother to open his eyes.

“Ingrates.” And then Max turned and opened the blast door and stepped through.


******
CHAPTER 4
******
"Sorry don't get it done, Dude."
John T. Chance (Rio Bravo):
John Wayne



******
Max's hunting lodge
Underground shelter system
November 17th
Year of Our Lord 2008

******

Max closed the blast door behind him and looked at the stairs. He grabbed the rails on both sides and slowly walked up the stairs. Max felt a bit puffed and he rested a moment. He grabbed a Streamlight Trident headlamp from the emergency light box next to the door. Max unlocked the vault door, turned on his headlamp, and stepped through to the basement. Max walked carefully over to the fuse box and flipped on the main switch, ready to shut it off at the first sign of trouble.

Nothing happened.

Max wasn't surprised a bit at that. The way everything had been shaking, he didn't doubt that the power was off. Usually up here, it only took a good snow storm to start having trouble with the power. He looked over at the stairs and frown. Max took out a small bottle of Belladonna, and swallowed five more tablets, and headed up the stairs and into the kitchen.

Huffing and puffing, he stripped off his HK and the tac vest and dropped them on the floor. His head hurt badly and the stuff was feeling like it weighed a ton. Thank God he hadn't been stupid enough to wear armor! Max doubted he would even need a BB gun, but he kept the Browning just in case. He sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and rested for a moment. Max could hear the wind blowing in the open patio door in the great room.

With a loud grunt Max got up and walked into the great room and over to the patio door. Snow was blowing all over the room and he grabbed the door and tried to shut it.

It wouldn’t budge.

Max tried again and all he got for his trouble was getting his arm to feel sore again. Max looked at the door trying to figure out what was wrong. He kicked at the snow in the door sill and hit ice.

Max got down slowly to his knees and started to sweep away the snow with his hands. When he got down to the sill, Max could see that some of the snow must have melted and then frozen over it.

Getting slowly back up to his feet Max walked back to the kitchen and through the breeze-way and on to the garage. He walked over to the Craftsman tool chest, opened a drawer, and took out a rubber mallet and headed back to the door.

Max got back down and smacked the mallet against the ice, with his good arm. He smacked it a few more times, breaking up the ice. Throwing the pieces outside, Max finally got the door closed. He leaned his head against the door, closed his eyes, and tried to slow down his fast breathing. Max opened his eyes after a couple minutes and saw the snow. Feeling overheated he grabbed a handful and stuck it in his mouth.

Yuck!

He started spiting it out and kept it up for a full minute. Dang snow tasted like mud! Max grabbed up another handful and took a good look at it and he saw something strange. The snow that had been blown in, while the door was opened, looked incredibly dirty. Max started to shift through it. It looked like the dirt was blended in with the snow, like it was some kind of fine dust. But how did it get in with the snow?

Max tried to make his brain work, but the pain was coming back again. He would let this wait till later; he needed to check the generator.

Grabbing the door handle, Max pulled himself back up and headed for the garage. He stopped and grabbed a bottle of grape Gator-Aid out of the Sunfrost refrigerator. Max took a swig and spat it out. He got some more aspirin out of the cabinet and swallowed them, hoping they would help the pain in his head and arm. Max had some pain killers but knew that he couldn’t take them just yet.

As he walked in the garage he headed for the back door that went in the “electric room”, as he called it. This room contained the bank of submarine batteries and the power system. An LED light lit the room and Max turned off his headlamp. Dang, the light was starting to hurt his eyes. He didn’t think that was a good sign. He then checked everything over and it seemed okay to him. Max then went through the next door in the generator room. There sat the Stateline diesel generator 30 kW model that he bought 2 years ago to replace the old China Diesel he bought back when he had this place built in 1996. It sat next to a 300 gallon flat tank that he just had installed last year.

Max checked the tank and saw it was 3/4 full. If he ran it just enough to keep the battery bank recharged, he should have enough for about a couple weeks.

Max could leave the outside bulk tanks for later, but on second thought, he decided to make sure the tanks weren’t leaking. He had a smaller back-up tank, by the workshop but that only held a thousand gallons. Max went back into the electric room and switched on the generator.

He then headed back for the garage.

Looking out the garage door window, Max could see that the snow storm hadn’t let up one bit. Walking over to his snowmobile, he grabbed up a snowmobile helmet and a hood, putting them on. Max then grabbed up a ten million candle power spot light and head out for the fuel tanks.

The wind just cut right through him, even with the military grade long johns. Snow was whipping by so fast that he could barely see, even with the spot light. It took him twice as long as it should have but he finally made it. The earthen berm that the Ogemaw County Fire Chief had insisted be erected, actually helped him with the snow. Max took the dip stick and stuck it down in the tank. When he pulled it out he saw that the tank was still almost filled. Max had the tanks filled up last week.

Heading back to the house, Max noticed that the wind had died down some. He decided this was the best chance he might have to check the tower. Walking over to the tower, Max turned the spotlight on it.

"Oh, crap!" yelped Max

It looked like the top thirty feet of the 130 foot tall communications tower was gone.
'Least I know now why the radios don't work', he thought. If he could find the missing section that had the antennas, maybe he could jerry-rig something up. But he would have to wait till these winds stop, or he would get blown off.
Looking around the snow at the base of the tower, Max found the missing thirty feet. The ends of the section of tower looked like something had twisted and melted the metal. The antennas had either snapped or were badly bent when the section hit the ground.
"Now, how the hell did this happen?" he asked.

Feeling even more tired, Max decided that there was nothing more that he could do for now, so he started back for the lodge. Then he remembered that he had left his M1A on the ATV near the buck pole. Staggering over to the pole Max found his ATV.

Or what was left of it.

It looked like something had torn it apart and the buck pole. Max could see that the ATV was partially in the ground, like something had shoved it into the earth. The only thing left of the buck pole was part of one support pole. As he got closer to get a better look, Max heard an even greater roaring sound then the storm. He looked up, into the sky, trying to figure out what it was that he had heard. Seeing something glowing and moving in the sky he took a step back.

And stepped into space and experienced freefall.

Max felled backwards into a crater hole and disappeared under the snow.

He tried to stand up but he kept slipping down the sandy sides of the crater. Max grabbed around and his hands grabbed onto what had once been the front-end of his ATV. Slowly and painfully, he pulled himself onto it.

Max pulled himself hand over hand up the wreckage of the ATV. Bruised, tired, cuts all over his hands and body from the torn metal, Max finally got back on solid earth. His head was pounding worse then before. His bad arm felt like it wanted to fall off and the good one wasn’t too far behind.

He found that all the strength had left his legs.

Max crawled his way back to the house. He reached the garage door and crawled in. Ripping the helmet off, Max then tried to stand up again. But it was no use. He could feel that his body was starting to shut down.

Max knew that if he quit now, he would freeze to death in the garage. It would be so easy to close his eyes and just quit.

But he had his boys to think about. Max couldn’t let them die like that. Sealed up in the shelter with almost no food or water. In the dark.

So Max started crawling again. Across the garage floor and into the kitchen and then down the stairs into the basement. He crawled across the floor and pulled himself up a shelving unit near the fuse box. Knocking boxes off the shelf, Max flipped on the fuse box and saw the power gauge begin to move.

Falling back to the floor, he crawled over to the vault door. He pulled himself up and opened the door. Max crawled onto the landing and shut the door behind him. Reaching up he flipped the locks on the door and then started down the stairs.

Agonizingly, Max pulled himself slowly down the stairs. He was careful not to go to fast and take a header. Slowly, one step at a time till he finally reached the bottom.

Max’s breathing was ragged. He needed to rest, but not yet. Only a few more feet, he thought.

With shaking hands, Max got the keys out and unlocked the blast door. He didn’t know if it was real or not but he thought he felt tremors once again, like had happened the other day. But he was shaking so bad, he just thought it was his body doing it. Max pulled himself up the door and opened it.

The door swung in and he landed with a thump.

He remembered hearing whining and him pushing the two mutants back. Max crawled for his bed with Buddy and JR at his side. They were so confused and were frightened by his condition. He tried to soothe them, but he didn’t know if what he babbled helped or hurt.

As Max crawled for his bunk, he saw the security station that was right across from his bunk.

Max pulled himself up to the ledge of the desk and smacked the master panic button.

Turning, with his head pounding worst than he had ever thought possible, he reached for his bunk.

And failed.

In the lodge above, motors started and the security shutters slowly closed over every window and doorway in the entire lodge.

Sealing the lodge from the outside world.

******
CHAPTER 5
*******
Oh, I run to the hills and the hills were a-fallen',
Run to the sea and the sea was a-boilion',
Run to the sky and the sky was a-burn'!
All on that day.



******
Earth
November 17th
Year of Our Lord 2008

*****

As Max lay unconscious, the Earth was being re-made.

The twelve missiles that the Air Force had been able to make ready had destroyed hundreds of the incoming asteroids while still in space. But not enough to save the world. Many more were destroyed over the skies of America, but still not enough to save the country.

The incoming asteroids struck the earth causing massive amounts of dirt and water to be thrown into the atmosphere.

Tsunamis raged across the Earth's oceans from the impacts and whole island chains disappeared under their onslaught. Coastal cities were smashed flat. Entire costal regions were washed away by tidal waves that surged miles inland.

Shockwaves from the impacts crushed cities and destroy forests, as if nuclear bombs had gone off. Fire's burned everywhere.

Mountains were pulverized under the barrage of asteroids.

Earthquakes and volcanoes let loose their destructive powers. Great fissures were torn open. Huge clouds of volcanic ash added to the dirt already thrown up from the impacts.

In the northern parts of the world, a winter unlike any human alive had ever witness was starting. When it would end was only known to God.

And in the southern part of the world, black clouds covered the skies and rained down mud and ash.

The sun vanished from the sky. Perpetual night was all that remained.

People tried to run, but no place was safe. But still 100s of millions took to their feet, bikes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and even planes and helicopters, seeking anyway to escape from the end of the world. They ran from the cities to the countryside, they ran from the farms for the safety of the cities, they sailed out to the seas.

But no where was there safety.

Many prayed while most others took what they wanted. Murder, rape, rioting, and burning. Chaos and insanity ruled the world of men. Hell on Earth was a reality.

The strikes continued and billions died and Satan continued his harvest.

But only for a brief time.

Many of the underground super-shelters built for governments and business elites around the world collapsed, entombing those who had wanted domain over their fellow man. Many cursing the one that they had thought would give them everything.

But not all of them, evil always survive.

For four days and nights, the earth shuddered under the impacts of the asteroids.

If it had not been for the Mercy of God, none would have survived.

And Omega stayed hidden.

As for Max, well...


******
CHAPTER 6
******
Healing is a matter of time, but sometimes it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
Precepts, Ch.1
Hippocrates

******
Max's hunting lodge
Underground shelter
November 20th
In the Year of Our Lord 2008

******

"Oh, God, that hurts!" said Max as he regained consciousness. Oh, man, not this again, he thought.

Max found himself lying in his bunk, still in his BDU's and long johns. He hurt, felt hungry and thirsty, still had a killer headache, and he stank.

‘Crap’, he thought, as he took a sniff. The guys must have gone in here. As Max move he realized that the smell was coming from him. And he could feel it.

"Yuck!" he muttered as he slowly took his clothes off, with the smell getting worst as each layer of clothes came off. Max grabbed the trash can near the security center and stuffed his clothes in it.

His bedding was stinking too. Max decided to take a shower first and get cleaned up. As he walked, naked, down the shelter to the shower in the greenhouse, Max realized that he hadn't seen Buddy or JR. He called out for them and two little heads peaked around the corner of their bed.

"Hey, guys. Sorry about the mess." Max said aloud. They just wagged their tails but looked very concerned. He knew that they got themselves worked up whenever they had an accident, it seemed they didn't care for him having one either!

Max continued down to the shower and turned the water on. He gave the Aquastar tankless water heater a few seconds to get going. Max got under the spray of water and gave himself a good scrubbing.

A very good scrubbing.

After the shower and a fresh pair of underwear, he then treated every cut on his body with Tea Tree Oil and Cayenne pepper. Some of his cuts were pretty nasty looking.

Max got a couple of 55 gallon trash bags and some duct tape and got the mattress off his bunk and stowed it in the stairwell, along with his soiled clothes.

At the small kitchenette, he nuked himself some water. Max pulled out a Mountain House beef stroganoff meal pack and sat down at the fold-out table. Max ate it very slowly. He even gave each of the mutts a bit to one of his own. Max knew what would happen to him if he just gobbled it down. So he shared it with his boys as a way not to get sick, and did so again when he made another one.

“Well, at least you two welfare case’s are good for something.” he said to them.

All he got was more begging.

He figured that all they had was dry dog food for the last three days. So Max got out a pack of beef cubes from the small Novakool refrigerator and gave them their supper.

Max laid back down on one of the spare bunks and took some aspirin and Kava Kava (for sleeping), and slept for a while.

He awoke, later, still sore and still with a headache, but he at least was starting to feel human once again.

Max took his time walking over to the latrine, did his business, and washed up. Walking back over to the security station he turned on the radios and searched again for anything. And once again, nothing. The outside security cameras still showed nothing but snow.

I might as well take it easy, he thought. Max walked over to the book case, and being too tired to read, pulled out the first Alien vs. Predator DVD.

Max pulled out the keyboard for his computer and booted it up. When the screen showed ready, he pointed the cursor at the time just like he always did. Max was stunned when he saw the date.

November 20, 2008.

"My God, I've been out for three days!"

Max searched his mind, could it be possible? Three whole days? The last thing he remembered was trying to get to his bunk and falling. But when he woke up, his jacket and boots were off. So at some point he must have awakened but he couldn't remember it.

Shaking his head and then instantly regretting doing so, Max slipped in the DVD into the computer and when the RealPlayer program was up and running, clicked on PLAY.

He grabbed up a six pack of Diet Coke and a bag of vinegar pork rinds. Max called the boys over and Buddy and JR got up with him and snuggled close.

He then lowered the small flat screen HD TV, which every bunk had, put on the wireless headphones and watched the movie. At the point where the Predator tossed his wrist nuke into the egg chamber, Max drifted off to sleep again.

He dreamed of snow and Aliens.

And Omega started its countdown.

******
CHAPTER 7
******
Against boredom, even the gods struggle in vain.
Nietzsche



******
Max's hunting lodge
Underground shelter
December 5th
Year of Our Lord 2008

******

RRRRIIIINNNNGGGG!

­He rolled over and turned off the alarm clock. Six a.m. it read. Buddy growled as Max moved to get out of the bunk, Max always got up too early for his liking.

"Good morning to you too, Mr. Sunshine!" Max said as he got off the bunk. Buddy, growled again and just burrowed his way under the blankets with just the tip of his nose pointing out.

Buddy was not a morning person.

JR on the other hand was, and greeted Max as he got up.

Buddy just thought they were both nuts.

After doing his business, washing up, and shaving, Max took a good look at himself in the mirror. The bump on his head was just about gone and didn't hurt anymore. Nor did his arm or most of the cuts he got crawling out of that hole.

Just a few more scars and mileage on the old bod, he thought.

He was feeling about 100% again.

And was bored out of his gourd!

For two weeks he had watched movies, listen to music, and finally starting reading again. Max took it easy with only cooking and bathing as his only real chores.

Well, other than cleaning up after those two manure spreaders. You won’t believe how much could come out of the south end of those little guys!

Max just tossed it into the Mantis compost tumbler.

He even started to say his prayers once more and thanking God for letting him survival whatever had happened.

Of course, he did ask why he had survived? What made him so special?

And as usual, he got no answer to his questions either. Max also figure it would only get those answers after he left this mortal world.

He decided that it was better to just let it be. God knew better then Max ever would and that, in the end, was okay with him.

Then yesterday, Max started up the Kubota 3830 HST and using the snowblower had cleaned a path to the gate and the entire driveway. That took over an hour and wiped him out for the rest of the day. Thank God he was able to sit while doing it. The other thing that Max had noticed, right off the bat, was how cold it was. Usually, it should have been in the low 30s or high 20s in early December. The outside thermometer said -2 below zero. With the wind he figured that the wind chill was, perhaps, -20 below?

After having a breakfast of Eggo's with strawberry jam, a nice piece of New York strip (rare of course), fries and Tang, Max sat back down at the security station and did his daily radio and security sweep.

And just like every single day, nothing was there. Just lots and lots of dirty blowing snow.

But he couldn’t take it anymore down here. Max was going to move back into the lodge.

He needed to see the world again. And with the communications tower not working, Max needed to know what was happening and why. He didn’t mind being alone but he wasn’t the indoor type either

So, back into another pair of military long johns he had pulled out of the storage shelter, snow boots and his Natural Gear camo snow suit. Then a white CTC tac-vest made up for his HK-91 and a HSG thigh holster for his Browning.

Remembering how tired he still felt, Max decided not to wear any body armor this time out.

He hoped he wouldn't regret it.

"You two be good and I'll be back in a couple hours." said Max.

All he got was snores.

"What did I ever do to deserve you two?" he muttered as he left the shelter.

As Max entered the garage, he thought of where he should head for. Probably stop at the Beth and Joe McCubbin's home and check it out.

Beth was Max’s housekeeper for up here. Joe did the caretaking and minor repairs around the place. Max even let them us his fenced in garden area, that way they could keep it up and have it ready to go if he needed it. Max also split the orchard 50/50 with them.

Beth and Joe weren’t going to be home, Max knew. She had told him they were going to go and see their daughter, who lived in Kansas.

But it would be worth it to still check it out and the small subdivision at the top of the hill.

Max walked over and grabbed up his helmet and started up the Yamaha Apex Mountain SE snowmobile conversion and activated the remote garage door opener. As the commercial steel door rolled up, the snow began blowing in. Max gunned the sled and took off.

As he approached the main gate, Max hit the gate remote and zoomed through. The snow was at least six foot deep and the drifts were even higher. It wouldn't be much longer, at this rate of snowfall, before he was able to ride over the top of the gate. Once he found the main trail, Max again gunned the sled and headed for Heath Road.

When Max reached the road, he took a quick look at his grandfather’s old hunting cabin. The front door was open and snow was blowing in. So he got the sled right up next to the porch and slung the HK to his front and slowly entered the cabin.

Max took his helmet off, activated the Surefire light on the HK, and started to look around.

The place had been trashed.

Every can of food, every blanket, and all the clothes had been taken. What was pissing off Max was that whoever had done it, had just flung anything they didn’t want on the floor, smashed open the cabinets, and broke almost all the dishes in their search.

Max just went back out and closed the door. He doubted that he would ever know who did it, if it wasn’t someone from around here. When he had time, Max would fix the place back up. The cabin held very special and precious memories for him.

Thankfully, they hadn't found the access door to the basement.

Getting back on the Yamaha, Max started it up and headed for Beth and Joe’s house. He got on Heath Road, went up the hill, and stopped and looked at their house.

Or what was left of it.

Their house was nothing but kindling, blown all over the place, Max could see parts of the house scattered across the road and even in the trees on his property. Max could still see a good size crater behind it, even with all the snow that had fallen. Whatever had crashed there had struck behind the house, blowing it apart and shooting it out like a cannon. He didn’t like the look of that crater. Something had to be moving pretty fast to make it and he didn’t see any wreckage from a plane.

So what had happen?

Looking at the large steel gates across the road that close off the access road that trucks used for delivering to the lodge, Max could see that they had been blown down. Walking over to where the gates should be, Max thought he saw something was sticking out of the pond that was near the road. Huffing and puffing he worked his way over to the pond and walked across the snow and over to whatever was sticking out.

Wiping the snow away, Max found the rear end of one of the Ogemaw County Sheriffs HUMVEE’s.

“Now what the hell is this is doing here?” said Max.

Seeing that there was nothing more he could do, Max headed back up the road and got on the snowmobile and went over to the small subdivision, which consisted of 12 mobile homes and cabins.

When he got to the entrance, Max shut down the sled and listen.

He heard nothing but the wind.

Since the wind was blowing towards him, Max lifted his visor and took a sniff.

He couldn’t smell any wood smoke.

Max got off the sled and walk into the subdivision. It was slow going through all that deep snow. He kicked himself for not bring his snowshoes.

The first mobile home was 40 feet from Heath Road. He took a knee and watched the place. Max could see that the snow had drifted around it, covering the doors and windows. But not much was near the front door. He could see that there was only about a foot or so against it. Max made his way over and knocked the snow from the door and tried to open it. Finding the door unlocked, he did a sweep through the home and found it trashed too. There were no bodies.

Max proceeded through the whole neighborhood and found nothing but more looted homes. He then tried the homes on Heath Road itself, heading towards Campbell Road. He found more trashed and looted homes, till he came to the fancy log house that was almost at the corner. Max never met the people who owned it. The name carved into the log, next to the door, said: Ropes.

Here he found bodies. Fifteen of them, frozen stiff. Ten adults and five kids.

That confused Max. There was plenty of firewood stacked up and all the food and stuff they had looted from the neighborhood was there. Why were they dead?

He looked the bodies over and found no bullet holes or other wounds on them. As he moved a couple of the bodies, trying to find out what had happened; Max found a note under one of the adult males.

We have run out of water. Tried to melt the snow, but we became really sick, the kids are really suffering. It must have been the dust in the snow, something in the dust is making us sick. There’s no water, we can’t get the generator to work, too cold. My wife found some pills at one of the homes that should work.

God forgive us.

Max just shook his head, what fools. In his grandfather’s cabin, in the kitchen, was a hand pump and the old wood cooking stove. Hell, he even had a masonry stove to heat the place with. Max found the stuff that he kept in the old cabin, here, so these people had been the ones looting it and hadn’t even noticed the pump.

Plus, he knew that the Sames’ cabin had a hand pump inside too. But these people had picked this big fancy log cabin with the huge bay windows to hold out in.

Died in style, he hoped they were happy.

Max avoided the bedrooms that had sheets over tiny figures.

As he checked out the cabin and gathered his stuff, Max found that the food in the frig and freezer were frozen solid. That would mean a boon of frozen meat and such for him and the boys. Max took all the batteries he could fine too. They wouldn't last long in these freezing temps. He'd have to come back with a cargo sled and get the jar's and can's of food before more busted. Most still hadn't.

Then it struck him.

Where was everyone?

******
CHAPTER 8
******
"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant."
Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires


******
Omega Complex Zulu
Oklahoma, USA
December 24th
Year of Our Lord 2008

******
There was a knock on the door.

"Enter!" said Major General Steve Fraley (63, 5 foot eleven, black hair almost gone gray, fit and missing one eye and left hand).

A Marine Colonel (Ken Vining, 59, 6 foot, white haired, missing his left leg) enters and salutes.

"Sir, Meteorology reports that conditions are now good enough to launch."

Maj. General Fraley returned the salute and ask; "Are they sure this time, Ken?"

"As sure as anyone can be without satellites and no other weather stations."

"And still no word from the other Omega Complexes?"

"No, Sir. The atmosphere is still screw up from all the storms and dust. All the hard-lines are still dead."

"Damn it, I wish just one more had survive."

"I know, Sir, but the system was made so just one Complex could initiate launch. And it's time."

"Your right, Ken. Go on, I'll be down at Mission Control in a few moments."

"Sir." The Colonel saluted and limped away.

Maj. General Fraley sat at his desk for a few moments and followed the Colonel.

Heck of a thing to do on Christmas Eve, he thought, as he headed down to Mission Control.

As he reached the doors, a Army Sergeant and a Navy Petty Officer, First Class, came to attention as best as they could. The Sergeant was affected by a spinal injury and the Petty Officer had suffered from Gulf War Syndrome. Both were armed with M-3 .45cal. submachine guns.

Above the entrance was a saying from his favorite President, Ronald Regan, who had started Omega.

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

As he went through the doors, he heard the Colonel say; "General on deck!"

General Fraley watched as some of the men struggled to stand up at attention, some sat straight up in their chairs, and the rest turn towards him in their wheelchairs.

He nodded at them and said; "As you were."

He then headed for a raised platform that held a chair and workstation. He called it his "Kirk" chair. From there he could see everything that went on.

Getting himself settled, and putting on his headset, he look at the Colonel, down on the floor and asked; "Where do we stand at now, Colonel?"

"All drones are ready, Sir. The runway has been cleared of all snow and ice. With your permission, I would like to start the countdown."

"Permission granted."

"Sir! All right people, let's make this happen! Begin countdown for the first drone at my mark. Mark!"

On the huge screen, the first countdown started at Ten, Nine, Eight....

The screen split and the first Predator drone could be seen rolling out of the elevator and onto the runway. As the elevator sunk back into the ground, a pilot in Mission Control started it down the runway.

Everyone held their breath and when the drone became airborne, a cheer was raised.

The General watch as drone, after drone was launched. All six of them had successfully taken off. He watched as the pilots sitting down a row below him, steering the drones to their destinations.

"Sir!"

"Yes, Colonel?"

"Communications reports that the com relay tower and dishes are ready to be raised to the surface."

"Precede, Colonel."

He watch as Ken turned to the lift control officer and give the order.

Fraley watched on his screen as the 4 story tower com array was lifted up to the surface. Next, he watched as 3 huge communication dishes were raised into place

As an hour passed on, he was informed by the Colonel that all six drones had reached the beginning of their broadcast areas. The General gave the go ahead and the drones started to re-broadcast the signal from the Omega Complex.

Deep underground in hidden silos, twenty-seven surviving armored MX4 missiles waited and when they once received the signal, they launched. Out of the 27, twenty made high orbit around the earth and started to deploy the satellites they carried.

General Fraley knew it would take a few weeks for the satellites to gather the information he needed and then Phase II would begin.

******
Hilltop Bar
On M-33
Between Rose City and Mio
December 24th

******

Max filled another box with the few remaining bottles of liquor. Wasn't much left and that any was left had surprised him. He had counted at less a fifty people had jammed themselves in the little bar and had one last party.

It was kind of gross seeing so many naked, frozen bodies all twisted up from the cold.

He took the box out to the Ohara Caliber snowcat and put it in the back. Looking up into the black sky, he wondered when he would ever see the sun again. It had taken Max over a week to get to Tom McCliman’s place and get the snowcat. And he lived only 18 miles from Max’s cabin. Tom owned the snowcat as well as being a member of the Ogemaw Snowmobile Trail Association. He groomed the trails so people could have a smooth ride and not get stuck. Tom also picked up some extra cash with hauling people’s wrecked snowmobiles. The Ohara was Japanese made snowcat and had a couple of attachments for it, like a crane.

Max had found that his Yamaha snowmobile couldn’t take the ever growing amount of snow. When he had been on Heath Road, he had failed to notice how much less snow there was on the road, due to all the trees that lined the road. Once on Campbell Road, where there were open fields, the snow had was as deep as ten feet. And in some of the dips in the roads, it could be as deep as twenty or even completely filled in.

So Max had to get to Tom’s place by driving through the woods and making trails for himself. With more snow falling all the time, even at the reduced rate it was at now, it still took a lot of work making the trails. He had to dig the sled out a couple of times, set trail makers and caution tape so he could find his way back to where he had stopped.

When he finally had got to Tom’s place, Max had found the snowcat in the pole barn. It had taken him a day to take the battery back home and get it re-charged and it had taken another day to get the snowblower attachment on. Max had thank God that the battery did re-charge or he would have had to pull out one of his spares and Max didn’t want to do that. He only had so many for his own needs and didn’t know how many he would find that would survive the freezing temperatures.

Max had explored Tom’s place and had found him dead in his bed from an overdose of some kind of pills. Looked like they were some illegal kind. Worst was that he had found the guy surrounded by photos of child porn.

Max burned all the photos, tapes, and DVDs in the house. He smashed the computer to bits.

Once he got the snowcat back to his place and got it set-up the way he wanted, Max went exploring. He went through many of the houses up and down Heath and Campbell roads.

Max finally found where most people had disappeared to.

Most of the houses were empty and but some contain large numbers of frozen bodies. He figured that they had gathered to pool together what little they had. It looked to Max that most of them had suffered the same fate as the ones in the Rope’s cabin. Their water pipes had frozen and they started to melt snow for water. So many had such looks of agony on their frozen faces. Others had killed themselves and sometimes their whole families.

In one house it looked like someone had run amuck with an axe and slaughtered everyone in it.

Max ran out of that house and puked his guts out!

When Max headed into Rose City itself, he found many more dead people. In the bars, churches, or government buildings. With so many dead in only a few places, Max started to carry with him, his New Marian Missal and would say the Prayer for the Dead over them. Since he couldn't bury them, he could at least say a few words over them.

It was in the Rose City Hall/Police office that he found out what had happen. A special edition of USA Today, which was only consisted of one sheet, was on one of the desks and it explained about how the mysterious explosion in the Asteroid Belt had caused many of the asteroids to shatter and would be push into the Earth’s orbit. Asteroids would slam into the Earth for the next four days!

What stunned Max was that the paper was dated November 15th!

No wonder the woods had sounded so quite that day. Usually the first day of rifle season sounded like a war zone.

That also explained the tremors and explosions he had heard and felt! Max felt better having some answers as to what had happened, but he was left with wondering how many had survived such a catastrophe, on a world-wide scale like this.

There was only one thing to do and that was to go looking himself.

Max set out to find any survivors that he could over the next week. He started doing a search out from Rose City itself, but all he found was more dead frozen bodies. He rigged up a siren and a spotlight to the snowcat, but no one ever came out of any homes. He did find a lot of impact craters and destroyed homes, like Beth and Joe's place.

Max did stop at a lot of the homes and looked for anything he could salvage before the cold destroyed it. Basically, batteries and anything that would freeze and bust. He did make lists of what would be of value to him to come back and get later. It did look to Max that there would be enough frozen foods to eat for a couple years. The freezing temperatures were keeping everything nice and frozen. Of course, once it started to warm up again, it would all be lost.

Finally having enough of finding no one, Max headed out for Mio. He wanted to check in on the gun store there and find Jacob Fuller, who lived north of it. Jacob was a Mennonite farmer that also did construction work with a crew of Mennonites and Amish. There was a large group of Amish farmers and Mennonites about 20 some miles north of Mio. There even was an Amish store there on M-33.

Jacob and his crews had done much of the finish work on his lodge and the other projects Max had needed done.

Max figured that they, out of anyone, should have the ability to survive this.

When Max was finally getting close to Mio, he saw something was wrong. There were chucks of trees and huge, strangely shaped mounds of snow everywhere.

He got out of the snowcat, got his snowshoes on, and tried to walk to Mio, but the snow had all kinds of debris sticking out of it. But he kept climbing over it; he had to see what had caused this. Max brushed the snow away from one of the mounds and found a giant piece of concrete that was at least 10 feet high and wide, another turned out to be part of a fire engine.

As Max crested the hill, he came to a halt. He couldn’t believe what he saw. He got his Nikon digital camera out and took a dozen shots of it.

Mio was gone and a giant carter was all that was left, it looked to be about two miles wide.

There wasn’t anything left, no buildings, no bridges; even the Rifle River Dam was gone.

Max figured that he didn’t have the fuel to go around this and reach where the Amish were. He could take 489 west but since that was such a round about way and with the cat being a slow mover, and having no idea what the road was like, he decided against it. Plus, he wasn't equipped to be out for a couple days that it might take to do it.

He worked his way back to the snowcat, and started to head home. Max did stop on the way to check out all the cars and trucks around the Hilltop bar. He took anything left that was worth it, said a prayer for those fools and went home.

Tomorrow was Christmas and Max want to get ready for the Lord’s birth.

******
CHAPTER 9
******
"Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
Louis Pasteur



******
January 16th
Year of Our Lord 2009
Max's hunting Lodge

******

"Here you go." said Max as he flipped Buddy a cookie. JR was munching his already.

He went back to eating his dinner of shrimp, a nice 2" thick Elk steak, seasoned fries, and corn. And some ice cold milk to drink.

It had been a good day.

******

Suddenly, there was a blinding light.

Max threw his arm across his eyes to shield them, and the snowcat came to a halt.

"What the hell was that?" he shouted. Max saw blobs of intense white light, floating in his field of vision, and his eyes were still shut tight.

It was like a nuke had gone off in front of his eyes!

Max sat there confused about what had happened. He grabbed up his Kimber Custom Covert II .45 in case it was some kind of attack. Max listened for any sounds other then the constant wind.

But he knew he was in deep trouble; he couldn't see anything and with the howling wind, he couldn't hear anything either.

He was a sitting duck.

For all he knew someone was lining up a shot at him right now.

Max tried to open his eyes but everything was still a blur. He rubbed his eyes to combat the tears that were pouring out.

After a while, Max's eyesight began to return to him. He never knew just how frightening it was not to be able to see. He grabbed back up the pair snow goggles that were in the cab and put them on. They gave his eyes some relief, even with it being dark out.

Max jumped out of the snowcat with his HK-91 at the ready. He walked around the snowcat as best as he could and found nothing that showed where the flash had come from.

Suddenly, again, light flooded from behind Max's back. He dove around the corner of the cat and took a peak.

Max saw a shaft of sunlight coming down like a laser beam from a small break in the black clouds. It was so bright and beautiful.

He sank to his knees and started to cry.

Max had thought that he would never see it again.

The last two and a half weeks had been hard on Max and his guys. The temperature on January 3rd had dropped to -10 below zero with wind chills near
-40 below, and stayed there until yesterday. Michigan’s Lower Peninsula never got that cold. Ever.

It had been a battle to keep the batteries and the generator going. Max had insulated the electric room well, but he just never figured on such cold temperatures for so long a period. If Max hadn't stored some extra 55-gallon drums of diesel in the garage, due to the diesel in the outside tanks were jelling due to the extreme cold, he might have lost the batteries.

Which meant the lights and greenhouses would have been lost too.

Seeing the sun, even for such a brief moment gave him such a feeling of hope and joy, Max couldn't stop crying and thanking God.

After a while, Max got himself under control and started heading for West Branch, the county seat of Ogemaw County. He hoped to find survivors there.

As Max headed down Fairview Road, his watch’s alarm went off. The alarm meant that Max had used up his time and needed to head back home before "night" and the dangerous temperatures that came with it.

He sat there in the cat and looked down the road; Max must have been all of seven miles outside of town. He wanted to find people, any people. Max had been a loner his whole life, but now, he needed to actually see someone, anyone! Even a liberal!

But he knew that to go on, was just asking to get killed. So, reluctantly, Max turned the cat around and headed for home.

As he headed back down Fairview Road, Max took the time to stop at a McMansion he had passed by before, and take a quick look around. Max had got pretty good at his routine of searching a house. Right to the living for the TV remotes and the batteries, then any kids room for more batteries. Then a sweep through the parents room and bathroom looking for any medications, check the fridge in the kitchen, and then the basement or garage for a freezer.

The McMansion was a gold mine. He found 4 remotes, all AAA’s. The kid’s room had a PSP and a PS3. Max took them both as he had played Halo so much he needed a break.

In the den, he found two huge Browning gun safes that would have to wait till another time. Max doubted that there was anything he needed and the shelters and garage were starting to get crowded with all the stuff he brought back.

Whoever had lived here must have been a big-game hunter, from all the mounted heads and photos.

It also looked like the guy was some kind of doctor from all the degree's and books that were about. In the master bedroom, Max found enough medicine to stock a pharmacy.

Max searched the basement and found, on a shelf, three cases of Del-Monte pears in jars. How they had survived the cold was a mystery.

In the kitchen, he found several cans that hadn't busted, some salt, and the fridge. He found two gallons of whole milk, a half gallon of chocolate, and some BBQ chicken and fixings. In the freezer part, Max found a bunch of snack foods; Pizza, fries, egg rolls, TV dinners and such. In one of the cabinets Max found a commercial-grade FoodSaver, boxes of bags and other odds and ends.

When Max went into the garage, he found two huge chest freezers and two stand-ups. One was full of FoodSaver bags marked: venison, elk, turkey, big horn sheep, small game, fish, and even some black bear. He figured that the guy must have been a big time hunter.

The other chest freezers were full of meat. Max guessed that they must have been contained a whole steer and a whole pig.

The uprights were full of fruits, vegetables, and more frozen meals.

Max found a couple boxes of garbage bags and used them to haul all the food out to the cat. He didn't have to worry about freezer space back at his place. All he had to do was leave it outside on his front porch and the food would stay frozen.

After Max got everything loaded, he said a prayer of thanks to God for letting him find such a great bounty of food.

He got in the cat and headed back home.

******
Omega Complex Zulu
Oklahoma, USA
January 16th

******

Major General Steve Fraley sat at his desk and watched as the computer uploaded a new map of the world.

He was shocked to see how much it had changed.

Every single coastal region had been chewed away at by the numerous Tsunamis. Iceland was gone as were many atolls and small islands.

Many mountain ranges had been crushed.

Australia was now the Australian Islands.

Snow was falling in Cuba and Mexico.

Mt.Weather, Cheyenne Mountain, Yucca Mountain, Groom Lake, were all gone.

Hawaii, the Alusian Islands, Rohde Island, and Florida were also gone. Both coast lines were completely changed. It looked like every major costal city was just gone too.

But what interested him the most was the number of heat plumes that the satellites were finding all over the world. Some had still survived, not many, but some.

Thousands in the States alone, but most were in the northern parts of the country. That did make sense to him. The people that lived in the north would be better prepared to deal with such harsh winter conditions.

But two in heat plumes on the other side of the world were in particular of great interest to him.

One was in Kabul, Afghanistan and other in Tehran, Iran.



******
CHAPTER 10
******
"The slowness of one section of the world about adopting the valuable ideas of another
section of it is a curious thing and unaccountable. This form of stupidity is confined to no
community, to no nation; it is universal. The fact is the human race is not only slow about
borrowing valuable ideas — it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all.

Take the German [Masonry] stove, for instance — to the uninstructed stranger it promises
nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer. The process of firing is
quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning one brings a small basketful of
slender pine sticks and puts half of these in, lights them with a match, and closes the
door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door,
and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until next morning. All
day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and
comfortable.

Americans could adopt this stove; but no, we stick placidly to our own fearful and
wonderful inventions of which there is not a rational one in the lot. The American wood
stove, of whatsoever breed, is a terror.

There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It
has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you
are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its
own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one’s skin feel dry and
feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a
volcano.

Consider these aspects of the Masonry stove. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is
next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by
turns; one may absorb himself in his business in peace. Its surface is not hot; you can put
your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt, yet one is as comfortable in one part of the
room as another." - Mark Twain, "Some National Stupidities", 1891


******
Max's hunting lodge
February 10th
Year of Our Lord 2009

******

Max put in another piece of split pine into the Finish masonry furnace. He was trying to keep the lodge as warm as he could since the ice storms that had started last week. Not that a lot of heat escaped through the lodge walls or roof, but he figured any would only help.

He was amazed at how much ice was coming down. Well, it really was rain that was freezing on contact. But Max had never seen days of freezing rain in his life. He could only remember a handful of ice storms in his 43 years.

Max still hadn't been able to get back to West Branch, the County Seat of Ogemaw. Max couldn't risk the chance again of being so far from home since the weather kept getting really nasty.

First the temperatures had dropped again and even the snowcat was having a hard time starting. The outside thermometer had shown it dropping like a rock. It had reached -20 below at the end of the month. Not including the wind-chill, which made the temp near -60 below.

Max wasn't going to risk getting caught in a broken down snowcat with those types of temperatures. So, he stayed put and worked at keeping the snow off the roofs of the lodge and outbuildings.

Max found that doing such hard work was having an affect on him. He first noticed that he was staying hungry, even after having a decent size meal. Then he noticed that he had actually lost some weight.

He was puzzled at first and then realized that all the outdoor work and extreme cold was sapping his body of energy. Max started eating almost double the amount he had been before. He figured he was eating almost eight thousand calories a day or more, mattering how long he was outside and how hard he was working.

Max thanked God for all the extra food he had found in peoples freezers. Even though he had a large amount of long-term storage food in the shelters, over 10 years worth for 10 people in the bomb shelters, he wanted to save as much of his own long-term LTS food as he could. Max didn't know when he might ever get a chance to start hunting or even raising any animals.

Or if there would be any left to raise.
******

Max walked up from the basement into the kitchen, he could hear the “tinkling” sound that rain made as it became ice. He was afraid that his orchard wouldn't survive all this freezing rain.

He needed to keep the lodge as warm as he could so that the ice wouldn't accumulate on it, so he had left the shelter and started living up in the lodge again. Still, Max had to get on the roof and knock of chucks of ice. He had to do it for the other buildings too.

The two greenhouses had their roofing panels collapsed due to the weight of the snow and ice. It look to Max that many of the plastic panels had just popped out of their frames, most should be able to be saved. Thankfully, he kept a large supply of extra roof panels on hand so he could replace the entire roofs twice.

He looked over at the couch where his two heroes were stretched out and on their backs. Max didn't know how he could have gone on for this long without them. He never imagined any scenario where no one would be around, not even on the radios.

He gave up on watching movies; they were starting to depress him for some reason.

Max also found his mind drifting into thoughts, that he would rather not think about, when he saw the women in the movies.

And lately he had begun, again, to think about her.

Wasn't 25 years of guilt enough already, he told himself. It wasn't his fault what she had become.

He wasn't responsible. Just because, at the end, she turned to him and he turned her down.

Was he?

More questions about how his life had gone flooded his mind. Over and over, he recalled events and people.

He started to have nightmares of being the last man alive on a frozen dead world.

It was starting to drive him mad.

So to get his mind off those things, he read his Bible, cover to cover. He made sure he said his prayers too.

He played with his boys until they were pooped out.

Max spent every moment finding something, anything, to do. He had to keep busy and not let his mind wonder. Max spent a lot of his extra time in his library/game room.

So as soon as the ice stopped coming down, he suited up with just some long johns, BDU pants and a fleece jacket and balaclava. He needed maximum range-of-motion when working on the roofs. Grabbing up an axe handle, Max headed for the back door.

Heading out the back door, Max kept a hand on the guide line that he had posted going from the lodge to his other buildings.

When he got to one of the storage barns, he took a few whacks on the steel door with the axe handle, knocking the ice that covered the door. After that, he went inside and took a seat at the desk in the small office for a rest.

After a few minutes, Max got up and headed up stairs.

When he got to the second floor, he headed over to a ladder that went to the roof. Max had all of his buildings built with a roof access hatch from the inside. That way he didn’t have to bother with wobbly ladders ever time he needed to get on a roof.

He grabbed a rubber mallet, his axe handle and put on a ComforTech safety harness. He then started up the ladder. Max found that he had to give the access panel a few whacks with the mallet to get it to open up.

Getting himself up to the opening, he reached over and attached a lanyard to the I-bolt next to the panel opening.

He then took the axe handle and gave the snow rake, which he had left tied to the I-bolt, a couple of whacks. Getting it loose from the ice, Max took the rake and started to hit the metal roof.

Sheets of ice started to come loose and slipped down the metal and crashed into the snow and ice already on the ground.

After clearing the ice within reach of the rake, Max pulled himself out onto the roof. He inched his way over to the next I-bolt six feet away. On every roof there were I-bolts spaced 6 feet apart so that he could hook his harness to them. He hooked another lanyard to that bolt and then unhooked the other one. He repeated his actions with the snow rake and knocked more ice loose. Max kept at this for the next half-hour.

After getting back inside the storage barn, Max took a break before heading back to the lodge. He checked all the windows and garage doors, making sure everything was still shuttered tight and no damage had occurred since the last time he had been inside.

Finding everything to be as it should, he decided to start up the vehicles that were under the lend-to's that was on the storage barn.

Max took the battery charger and headed out the side doors that lead to the west side lean-to. He had felt safe with leaving the keys in the vehicles.

He walked out, hooked up the battery charger, and got into the M-35 Cargo Truck, also known as a Deuce and a-half, and turned it over. Thankfully it started right up. As did the M-151A2 Jeep and the M-1009 CUCV Blazer

The British Ferret Mk. 2/3 Armored Scout Car was giving him some fits like it always did during the winter. Max had found it at such a bargain that he couldn't pass it up. Some times though, he wished he had. He should have bought the WWII M-3 half-track instead.

As he pressed the starter a very loud crash happened. He stuck his head out of the turret and listened for any more sounds. Max wasn't really concerned. Trees had been crashing all over due to the heavy ice. He was going to be cutting up a lot of trees just to get back to Heath Road.

Finally, the Ferret started up and Max let it idle for a while and went back inside. Sitting down at his desk, he started to fill out the vehicles maintenance logs on the computer, when he heard some kind of thump from upstairs.

Listening carefully, he heard nothing again. As he turned back to the computer, he heard another thump. This time he got up from the desk and headed back up stairs.

Once back on the second floor, he looked around, trying to find out what had made the noise.

THUMP!

Max jerked his head up at the roof and listened.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

Something was hitting into the roof!

He got on the safety harness and climbed up the latter as fast as he could and flipped opened the access panel and hooked the lanyard into the eye bolt.

Just in time to get hit in the head by something hard and cold.

Max lost his grip and started to fall. He reached out and tried to grab a ladder rung but missed.

Suddenly he jerked to a stop. The lanyard had gone tight and stopped him from falling any further.

But the sudden stop made his back hurt.

A lot!

Grinding his teeth, he reached over and grabbed a rung on the ladder. He pulled himself over and got his feet back on the rungs. Looking up, he jerked himself to one side, just in time to miss being hit by another chunk of hail.

The soft ball sized hail thumped into the floor and put a dent in the wood.

Max scrambled up the ladder as fast as he could and slammed the panel shut. More hail slammed into it. He unhooked the lanyard from the harness and went down the ladder.

When he got back down the ladder, Max went over to the window and looked out. He reached up and felt another lump starting on his head, once again.

“Dang!” he said.

Hail rained down on the woods outside, crushing branches already heavy with ice. More trees were toppling over. The noise from the hail hitting the metal roof was deafening.

Max thought of the solar panels on the roofs and knew they were toast. None would survive this. And just how much damage would happen to the roofs from this?

"And the orchard is toast too." he muttered.

Damn it! He thought as he slammed his fist on the window sill. Just how much more was he suppose to take? Just how much more was God going to punish him? Max slammed his fist into the wall.

What the hell had he done? Wasn’t it enough that his mom had died? That anything or anyone he knew was gone?

Max slammed his fist into the wall again and again.

Finally exhausted, he slumped to the floor and starred at the damage he had done to his hand and wondered what the hell was wrong with him. He wasn’t like this; he didn’t blame God for what had happened.

Had he finally gone mad?

No. No it wasn’t that. But what was it? The loneliness? The complete isolation? He really didn’t know what was bothering him so badly. But there was only one person he could turn to now.

He took a deep breath and told God he was sorry for doubting Him. Max prayed long and hard for God to forgive him for his doubts and to grant him peace.

After a while, he felt once again in control. He got up and looked out the window.

It was still hailing.

Max shook his head and wondered just how badly Buddy and JR were taking all this noise without him there.

The second it stopped he needed to get back to the lodge and check up on his two boys. They would be so wired up from this that it would take a couple hours to get them calmed down again.

Max looked out the window and waited for the destruction to stop.

******
Omega Complex Zulu
Oklahoma, USA

******

Major General Steve Fraley looked at the planes being worked on in the aircraft warehouse. He loved coming down here and just soaking up the history that was here before him.

Republic P-47C Thunderbolts, P-51 Mustangs, P-38 Lightnings, F4U Corsairs, Piper Cubs, C-47s, B-25s & 26s, Consolidated PBY Catalina flying-boats. And even a few Douglas Dauntless A24s!

The other warehouses in the Complex were full of other equipment from the Second World War.

When he had first taken command of Complex Zulu, he thought he was a victim of a bad joke. Propeller fighter planes and Korean War helicopters, Israeli modified Sherman tanks and M7 “Priests”105mm Self-Propelled’s, and old M-1 Garand’s and M-3 “grease guns”.

But he had learned the reasons behind the decision for his base to have such old and out-dated equipment.

The first was that Complex Zulu had actually been designed as the United States military’s fall-back headquarters in case of an invasion back in WW2. No satellite had ever seen it being built. No one really knew that it even existed any more. It had been built with old technology.

Second, it also was the countries biggest depot of weapons, munitions, and supplies in case of said invasion. Even after the war ended, a lot of supplies and equipment had been brought back from overseas and stored away here.

Just in case.

Third, the technology was so easy to repair and the stockpiles of parts were gigantic. The equipment here could be rebuilt a couple dozen times easily. There wasn’t a computer chip in the entire bunch! The machine shops in the Complex were able to build any part needed, including vacuum tubes for the radios and tires for the planes. Hell, they even had the ability to ground glass lens.

The only modern facilities were the Mission Control room, Communications, and the Power Plant. The Power Plant held three updated nuclear reactors made for the SeaWolf submarines.

Other Omega Complexes went up the scale in technology, but Fraley felt that if anything truly destroyed civilization, that his old war machines stood a better chance then the newer equipment.

He knew that the higher you went up the technology ladder the harder it was to keep it running. Parts were harder to come by, (sometimes they were even made by your enemies) people needed more specialize training and more people became specialists requiring even more people to be able to keep the machines running.

And now, with the country lying in ruins, it was up to Fraley and his damaged warriors to get things going again.

But they had to be careful.

The US wasn’t the only country to prepare for such things either. Russia had its Ural Mountain underground cities. China had a series of bunkers called Dragon Lairs. The Islamic’s had bunkers and caves. There were also the bunkers and retreats of the super rich too.

And of course, there was always the Swiss.

So instead of broadcasting signals out to the survivors, which would reveal their base, they were going to modify the drones to home in on any radio signals and then tight-beam a message to the survivors. Fraley prayed to God that the EMP released by the nukes hadn't destroyed all communications equipment.

Then they would use the old C-47s equipped with skis to transport supplies and personal to help the survivors rebuild, once the winds let up and winter was over. Hopefully, it would end someday.

And Fraley knew that it was only his base that stood between a new dark age or rebuilding the Republic.

And he prayed ever night that God would help him.

******
CHAPTER 11
******
When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin.
Winston Churchill


******
Kabul, Afghanistan
March 28th
Year of our Lord; 2008

******

Osama bin Laden, riding in the back of a Russian ACRV-2 (Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle) entered Kabul.

The Taliban had turned out what was left of the population, they cheered as the al-Qaeda convoy drove through the city.

Heading for Kabul International Airport the convey came to a stop at a large house just outside the airfield.

Six T-72s took up position at each end of the streets. Al-Qaeda fighters spilled out of BMPs and BTR-70s. A squad went in the house and others spread out in front of the house.

When the all clear was given, bin Laden emerged, along with a figure in a black hooded robe, from the ACRV-2 and went inside. Waiting for him were members of the leadership of the Taliban, Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and other mujahideen groups.

“May Allah bless you, bin Laden!” said the Taliban leader.

The crowd started yelling; “Allah u Akbar, Allah u Akbar!”

Bin Laden waved to the men and went with the top leaders into the conference room and took the seat at the head of the table.

The black robed figure took a position behind him.

The Iranian Guard leader stared at the figure before making his announcement; “Bin Laden, I have been in contact with my bothers. The port city of Bushehr has survived Allah’s cleansing of the unbelievers from the world. We have a number of freighters, oil tankers, a few ships of the Iranian Navy, and a Japanese “roll on, roll off” ship.

We have been sending ships to any ports that where we may find more mujahideen and equipment to join us in this final war against the Great Satan.”

Bin Laden nodded his head. The robed figure bent down and whispered something, before handing him a slip of paper. Bin Laden nodded his head and then spoke; “Send several of your naval ships along with three prize crews to this area, near the Indian port city of Cochin. There you will find three more large container cargo ships that have survived.

Also when you start your journey, stop along the coast of every African nation and look for more fighters and equipment, even if they are not of the Faith. Use them as cannon fodder. Strip the areas of any food, weapons, fuel that you will need. Do not take any of their women! Kill any that you find.

Promise the savages all the spoils and all the women they could ever what, are waiting for them in America.

And when you reach America, kill all that you find. Take the weapon our Pakistan brothers and destroy their base in Oklahoma. Even if not a single mujahideen survives, the Americans in Oklahoma must die! And with their base destroyed, America will DIE!”

Once again the leaders started shouting; “Allah u Akbar, Allah u Akbar!”

******
The robed figured bowed to bin Laden and left the room and headed out of the building and back to the ACRV-2. Locking himself in, the figure sat himself before the comm unit; he pulled out a small silver box and hooked it to the back of the radio. Reaching under the comm unit shelf, he took out a small case and replaced the microphone with one that had a cone around it.

Looking at his watch, the robed figure counted down to his appointed time to check in. Taking up the microphone and pressing the cone around his mouth, the figured started to talk very quickly and very softly.

******
Jamal Sharif watched as the blacked robed figure went in the command vehicle and closed the door. He nodded to his second-in-command, Yussef, who ran into one of the BMPs and started the recorder.

Jamal didn’t trust the stranger, even though bin Laden did. As the head of his leader’s bodyguard unit, Jamal trusted no one. If bin Laden found out that he had planted a transmitter in the command vehicle to discover the true identity of the stranger, Jamal would be beheaded.

He waited until the stranger emerged around fifteen minutes later and went back in to be with bin Laden, and then he got in the BMP with Yussef.

Sitting himself down, he turned to Yussef and said; “Did you get anything?”

Yussef shook his head; “Not much, just bits of words that I don’t understand. I have never heard this language before.”

“Fine, give me the recording and go about your duties. Talk to no one about this. This never happen, understood?”

“Yes, Jamal.” And with that Yussef handed him the recorder and left.

Jamal put the headphones and listened to the recording, hoping it would give him some clue as to the Leader's mysterious adviser. He pressed the play button.

“...Sho-sho....Tai-i...baka...Ryu no tomo...shikata ga nai...sugu...so ka...teki...hai...”

Jamal turn the recorder off and pulled out the tape. He broke the tape in half and pocketed it. Grabbing up his prized M-4, he got out of the BMP.

He knew he would have to recover the transmitter before it was discovered.

As he walked the along the street, he wonder what language he had heard. Jamal was sure he had hear the word “hai” before.

******
Major General Steve Fraley was sitting at his desk doing a pile of paperwork, which he found to be highly ironic.

“Civilization comes to an end and I’m up to my ass in paperwork. Guess the Sun would have to go nova before it would stop.”

His phone rang and Fraley reached for it.

“Yes?”

“Sir, this is Lt.Commander Charrette in mission control, I have something that one of our keyhole satellites picked up. I think you’ll want to see this, sir.”

“Fine, Commander, I’ll be right down.”

Fraley thought anything had to be better then doing paperwork. Leaving his office he told his aide, a Marine Lance Corporal wounded in Somalia, that he would be down in MC.

Taking the elevator, he emerged just outside MC and went in. This time, no called attention to him. Everyone was too busy now with the attempts to find survivors to be bothered. Not that he mind, he was tired of people jumping up like some kind of Jack's in the box, especially since there was so much to be done.

As he walked over to where Satellite Imagery was stationed, the Lt.Commander saw the general and saluted. Fraley saluted the Lt. Commander back and didn’t say anything about him coming to attention.

He was, after all, in a wheelchair. Like half the men in mission control.

“So, what have you got for me, Commander?”

“General, we have been reviewing the data collected from one of our satellites that has been scanning the cities in Canada.

“This is from three days ago, at the Ottawa International Airport.” The Lt.Commander picked up a laser pointer and highlighted some dark shapes moving in the snow. “The images you see are seven snowplows, General; they were working the entire time the satellite was over the area.

This is the next day, here you can see that two jets has been moved out on the edge of the runway and this,” using his laser pointer; “is a fuel tanker. They seem to be thinking they can get those birds off the ground.”

“What kind of aircraft is that?”

“From our copy of Jane’s Aircraft, we’re pretty sure it’s an Airbus A318 Elite, it’s capable of flights of up to 4,000 nautical miles range, with a choice of two cabin layouts seating up to fourteen and eighteen passengers, plus a crew of two.


“So, they can reach us here?”

The Lt.Commander wheeled his chair around and looked at the General.

“How did you know, sir?”

“Know what?”

“It took off today and its flight path has it coming straight for us. But I think you should see what the satellite showed today.”

General Fraley looked up at the screen and saw a battlefield.

“General, here are today’s images, in real time. As you can see there are numerous vehicles and buildings burning. These black dots littering the runway are bodies. But as you can see one of the Airbuses are gone. Here", using his laser pointer once again, "is the burning wreckage of the other, near the end of the runway.”

“So where is the plane now?”

“We have the transponder signal for the aircraft on another one of our satellites. Larry, bring up the map for the General, would you please?”

“Sure, Commander.” Said the retired CIA analyst. “Let’s see, where are you? It’s over Michigan now. Hmmm. There seems to be a problem, Commander.”

“What is it, Larry?”

“Seems our bird is off course and is dropping like a stone. Shit, it’s gone!”


******
CHAPTER 12
******
"What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens".
Benjamin Disraeli, Henrietta Temple


******
Rose City Oil Fields
March 28th
Year of our Lord; 2009

******

Max removed the inspection hatch on the 30,000 gallon diesel fuel tank and threw in a rope with a rock tied to the end. Pulling it back out, he could see that the tank was about half full.

Climbing back down the side of the tank, Max walked over to the Cat and got up in the back and started to unroll the hose that was hooked up to a 55-gallon drum that was full of PRI-D.

Max filled a military gas can and lugged it back up and dumped it in. He didn’t have a long enough hose to pump it from the barrel, but thankfully, the snow was half way up the tank. He would have to go to the Do-It Hardware Center in Rose City and find a longer hose.

On his fifth trip, Max had just finished dumping another can’s worth, when he heard something through the blowing wind.

Throwing the gas can down in the snow drift, next to the tank, Max stood up and listened for the sound.

Standing still, he listened.

Max heard it again, sounded kind of like a train way off in the distance.

But there weren’t any railroad tracks for miles.

Max heard the sound even louder now.

Walking over to the northern edge of the tank, Max took out his Canon image stabilizer binoculars; he looked across the open field towards the woods. Looking through the binoculars, he still could see nothing but swirling snow.

The wind started changing direction and Max couldn’t hear the sound anymore. Putting his binoculars back in their case, he turned to go back down.

Max took one look back and saw a small jet plane came plowing through the clouds and was heading straight for him!

“OH CRAP!” he shouted as he dived off the tank and landed in a snow drift.

Max looked up, just in time, to see the jet fly over the tank and the wheels were coming down. Smoke was coming from one of the jet engines.

And just as swiftly as it had appeared, the jet disappeared back into the snow storm.

Max noticed that he hadn’t heard the engines at all.

Suddenly, Max heard a rumble and it seemed as if the ground shook a little.

Getting out of the drift, Max ran for the snowcat.

******
CHAPTER 13
******
"If you can be seen, you can be hit. If you can be hit, you can be killed."
The First Law of the Modern Battlefield



******
Western edge of Rose City Oil Fields
March 28th

******

Max had tried to follow where the corporate jet had being flying, but many of the trails in the oil fields weren’t made for something as big as the snowcat and with the snow as high as ten feet, even if he had tried the smaller trailers, he would have just run into all the tree branches that over hung the trails. Plus, there were impact craters that he had to avoid.

Taking the snowcat up a hilltop, Max got up on the cab of the snowcat, Max scanned around with the Canon binos, looking for the jet through the swirling snow.

As he was looking around, the wet snow turned to ice. He also heard the rumble of thunder.

“Crap.” Max muttered. The temps lately had been getting closer to the freezing mark, this last week.

Max was figuring that the jet must have flown on for some miles. He couldn’t see any trace of it.

As he was climbing down, Max saw a red star flare coming from the west. Looking towards the area the flare had come from, Max got down and back into the cab and grabbed up his maps for the area.

The maps were made up of the different trail maps and topographical maps of the area. Due to all the destruction from the meteorites, the normal maps he had were useless.

“Hmm, should be near oil pump #35. Hope they didn't hit it.”

Max started the cat and took off.

******

Michael Stackpole (29, 170 pounds, athletic build, sandy blond hair and blue eyes) raised the flare gun and fired it. He watch as the red flare went up into the ice filled sky. Michael was hoping that someone would see it, but he knew that the chance that anyone was even alive in the area was remote.

Taking a rag out of his pocket, he wiped at the blood from the cut on his face that he got when the jet had crashed.

Looking back at the corporate jet, he wondered how they had survived the crash. Both wings had been sheared off and the tail end of the plane was almost torn off.

Lara (28, 130 pounds, five foot six, full figured, brunette-long & curly, brown eyes) and Angelique (29, 155 pounds, six foot, blond, long & straight, blue eyes) were bundled up and looking at him through the busted windows of the plane.

As he went back inside the plane, Lara asked Michael; "Do you think you should set off that smoke bomb? Someone might see, Michael."

"I don't know, Lara. It looks like we came down in the middle of a wilderness area. I couldn’t find a road when I went looking. I don't think there's anyone around here."

"Well, what are you going to save it for? We might as well use." Said Peter Samsonov (35, six foot, black haired and brown eyes.). “I’ll get it.”

Michael watched as Peter went to the cockpit to retrieve the smoke bomb. He never trusted the Russian. The guy was a loose cannon and that was a bad thing in a bodyguard.

Turning back to Lara, he ask; “So, how’s Mr. Mansfield doing?”

Shaking her head, she gave Angelique a quick glance, and said; “Antonio, says he still unconscious. He’s taking care of him and doesn’t want our help.”

Michael shook his head, a mad Russian, an Italian that look like a Sumo wrestler and spoke with a British accent, Mr. Mansfield, and a secretary, excuse me I meant Executive Assistant and a lawyer were all that was left of the 14 people who started out on this flight.

He wished that Thomas Anderson had survived. Thomas had been in Special Forces for twenty years before becoming the head of security for Mr. Mansfield. Thomas would have known what to do. Michael just wasn’t sure what he needed to do. He had been with the Army as an MP for eight years and the training he had didn’t really cover surviving the end of the world.

Michael knew that they had to find better shelter than this wreck, but where was any? He had looked around and hadn’t seen anything put a forest of pine trees. Michael would have to follow the path that the plane had made through the forest and see if he could find anything.

Peter came back from the cockpit and opened the door and giving Angelique a quick look, he went outside.

Angelique shivered and said; “I don’t like the way he looks at me, Lara.”

“Don’t worry, Angelique, Michael will make sure nothing happens. Won’t you, Michael?”

“I’ll make sure he keeps away, Angelique. Thomas had a talk with him before; I will make sure he understands, okay?”

“Thanks, Michael.”

“No problem, Angelique.”

“Thank you, Michael.” Whispered Lara, giving him her best smile and a quick squeeze on his arm.

He just smiled back at Lara. Michael was glad that they had just started to date before the asteroids had hit. Lara helped him keep focused with all that had happened.

Michael looked out one of the windows and saw the orange smoke drifting through the rain from the bomb.

Suddenly, he heard shots outside, coming from a 9mm!

Now what? He thought as he ran for the door and grabbing his Glock.

******
Max was racing down a road, hoping he didn’t drive into a crater that was made for the oil company trucks when he came to a halt.

In front of him was a plowed path in the snow going across the road and crushed pines going into the forest.

Grabbing his Marauder, M-3 medical bag, and the HK-91, Max jumped out of the snowcat and ran down the newly made path.

Following the path wasn’t easy with the ice, it the made it tough going. Max decided to get off the path and walked through the forest instead.

He found one wing of the plane wedge between a couple of pines, so he knew he must be close.

Max was getting tired from running through the wet snow with his snowshoes. He saw orange smoke ahead and ran even faster.

Running through the smoke, Max saw the wreck jet and a tall dark haired man came around from the nose of the plane.

Max waved his hand, unable to speak due to his running. He saw the tall man give him a look and then he drew a pistol and leveled it at Max and started shooting.


******
CHAPTER 14
******
O brave new world
That has such people in't!
Shakespeare
The Tempest, V, i


******
Plane crash site
Western edge of Rose City Oilfields

******

Peter was taking care of business when he heard something. He listened closer and it sounded like something was running through the woods towards him.

Zipping up, he went back to where he had set off the smoke bomb, he was startled to see a fat man dressed in a soaking wet camo snow suit with a G-3 come running through the smoke.

The man was breathing hard from running and waved his hand to Peter to wait.

Peter thought the man must live nearby, and instantly knew what needed to be done. He grabbed his Glock 18 and let off a three round burst of 9mm into the strangers chest.

Peter watched as a look of surprised appeared on the man’s face as he felled to the ground.

Walking up to the man, Peter readied to put a round in the man’s head when he heard Michael yelled; “WHAT THE F*** DO YOU THINK YOUR DOING!?!”

Peter turned to Michael, who was standing next to the jets doorway, shrugged his shoulders and said; “The man had a rifle and was going to take a shot at me when I shot him.”

Michael put his Glock 18 back in its holster and zipped up his parka, glaring at Peter.

“We could have found out where... OH S***!!!” said Michael as his eyes went wide; he tried to unzip his parka.

Peter turned back to the man on the ground and saw a huge revolver being aimed at him.

******
Max felt the rounds hitting into the Dragon Skin vest as he felled to the ground. Having never been shot before, it came as quit a shock that he was okay.

Then Max got pissed!

He heard the man walking towards him through the snow, so very slowly he slid his hand to the chest holster that held the Smith & Wesson revolver.

Max could feel the man staring down at him and as he closed his hand over the butt of the revolver, he heard a man shouting.

Figuring this was the best chance he had, and praying that the revolver hadn't been hit, Max grabbed the S&W 500 and turned over and shot the man standing over him. The Hornady 350 gr. XTP MAG round blew Peter’s head to bits.

******

“OH S***!!!” yelled Michael as he tried to get his parka unzipped. He watched as the man rolled over and shot Peter in the head with the biggest revolver he had ever seen.

Michael heard one of the woman scream as Peter’s head blew apart. Glancing over at the windows, he turned back and saw the revolver pointing at him!

He saw the man was looking through the scope on the revolver when Michael saw him pull the trigger.

******

Max saw another man near the jet, trying to unzip the brown parka he was wearing.

Aiming next to the man, Max sighted through the scope and fired a round into the jet’s fuselage.

Max heard a woman scream and he started to lose his tunnel vision.

Taking a breath, Max looked down at the body of the man he had shot, now headless.

“Wow.” Max said turning back to the man who now had his hands raised up. Holstering the S&W, he grabbed his HK and leveled at the man and said;

“All right, I want you to toss that piece you got over to me, with your left hand. Right NOW!”

******

Michael slowly unzipped his parka tossed his Glock by Max's feet.

"All right then, strip off that parka, turn around and get on your knees with your hands on your head. Just like in the cop shows. Oh, and of course, cross you legs and interlace your fingers."

"It's pouring ice!"

"I could just shoot you like your buddy did me. That would solve your problems."

Michael took off his parka and threw it aside and got down on his knees like Max said.

Max picked up the Glock and took a look. Hmmm, another 18 with a 33rd mag. Catching movement out of his corner of his eye, he dropped the Glock and trained the HK on the fuselage.

"Listen up! I can see you moving around in there. Come out with your hands up or I start blasting!"

Michael turned his head and watched as Lara and Angelique come out of the plane with their hands up and the hoods of their parkas were off their heads.

Max watched as the brunette and blonde came out of the plane with their hands up. Gesturing with his rifle for them to get over with the man, he watched them very carefully.

He couldn’t help but notice both of them were very beautiful, even with the bruises and cuts. The blond kind of reminded him of Kristanna Loken/ Claire Danes and just as tall, too.

The brunette didn't remind him of anyone. But she did have one heck of a figure!

Shaking his head, Max thought he better watch himself. He hadn’t been around any living person for over five months and now there were these two hot flossy babes.

Max wondered if they were really that good looking or was it because he hadn‘t seen a real breathing female for a while? What got him too was that the guy looked look he was a model they used in one of those man's fitness magazine.

Ugh, no matter. First things, first.

He watched as a man, which made Max look small, squeeze himself out of the jet's doorway.

'Must be Antonio', Max thought. He was big as Andrea the Giant and Jaws from the James Bond movies. (33, seven foot two, 330 pounds, long flowing dark hair (Like Fabio) and dark brown eyes) 'Looks like he's off the cover of GQ,' he thought. Max gestured with his rifle for Antonio to move over with the others

Antonio just glared at Max.

"Okay, then all of you, off with the parkas, then on your knees and do like your friend there. But you women, over there, away from those two." Max said pointing by the jet.

Max picked up the Glock 18 and racked the slide back and aimed at the jet.

"No one's left in there, right? You might want to tell me, because I'm about ready to dump this whole mag into that jet."

The brunette turned towards him and said; "Our employer, Mr. Mansfield, is still in there. He got knocked around pretty bad during the crash and is still unconscious.”

Nodding his head, Max aimed at a tree and fired the Glock.

Max watched the 9mm blasted the pine tree and said; “Coolest. Now I’m going to search you women first, then you guys. Anyone tries anything and I’ll blast the lot of you, okay?”

Everyone nodded except Antonio, who just kept glaring at Max.

Max walked over to Peter’s body and grabbed another 33rd mag from a holster and replaced the one in the Glock.

Pointing the Glock at Antonio, Max said; “Okay Antonio, face down in the snow. If I even see you twitched it’s ‘lights out‘, got it? Move.”

Antonio slowly laid face down.

As Max searched the two women, the brunette said; “My name is Lara Swanson and this is Angelique Dowd. The big man is Antonio and the other is Michael Stackpole.”

“Antonio what?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only heard his first name. What's yours?”

“None of your business. Get your parkas back on and sit right back down here.”

Max waited for them to get their parkas and sit back down again. He then went over by Antonio and pressed the Glock against the back of his skull.

He searched the big guy as fast as he could, then he searched Michael and took his two extra 33rd Glock mags.

“You two put your parkas back on and go sit over there.” Max said point to where Peter’s body laid. That would put them a good fifty feet from the jet.

Max took off his Kifaru Marauder and hauled out a hunk of 550 cord. Cutting four pieces, he threw two pieces to Michael and said; "Tie up the hulkster really good and tight. Do a good job or I'll..."

"Blast us both?" said Michael.

Max aimed the Glock right at a point between Michael’s eyes and said; "Quit being a smartass and do what I tell you or..."

“Michael do what he asks, please! There‘s been enough death already!” said Angelique.

Once Michael was done with Antonio, Max handed the other two pieces to Lara.

"Your turn. Tie his feet and hands."

Lara just nodded and tied up Michael.

Max picked up the last of the cord and tied it around both men's neck, securing them to each other.

Once he was sure the two men were tied up tight, Max turned to the women and said; “All right, you two are going to go inside with me to check on Mr. Mansfield. Move.” He said, gesturing with the Glock.

Walking behind them Max entered the jet.


******
CHAPTER 15
******
"We are never prepared for what we expect."
James A. Michener, Caravans


*****
Plane crash site
Western edge of Rose City Oilfields

******

On entering the jet, Max was greeted by the sight of 6 dead people still strapped in their chairs.

"Jesus." he muttered.

Lara looked at him and said; "We haven't had time to...do anything with them. Mr. Mansfield is here, in the front cabin."

"Open the curtain and step in. And keep those hands up."

Both women nodded and Lara drew back the curtain and stepped in.

Max had the Glock trained on the back of their heads and was ready to fire if he saw anyone other than this Mr. Mansfield.

Seeing no one else in the small cabin, Max stepped in.

And felt a chill, the likes of which he had never felt before.

"Do you two feel that?"

"Feel what?" asked Lara.

"That nasty chill."

The two women looked at each other, not understanding what Max was talking about.

"Forget it." Max said as he kneeled down next to the man on the floor. Training the Glock on the man, Max yanked the blanket off.

Mansfield didn't move. The man looked dead to Max, he was so emaciated. The man looked to be in his sixties with thin gray hair. (64, five foot five, 135 pounds.)

Max reached down to check the man's pulse and when he touched his neck, the hairs on his neck stood straight up.

Max felt like someone had stepped on his grave. He felt something wasn't right with this man, Mansfield. Like he presented some kind of danger to Max.

He also found a good steady pulse.

Not understanding why he felt the way he did, Max covered Mansfield back up with the blanket and stood up. Dismissing the feeling for now, Max motioned at the cockpit door.

"Open the cockpit door and stand back."

"The door won't open. We already tried; the frame of the doorway is twisted. Both pilots are dead." Said Angelique.

"Really." said Max. He leveled the Glock at the door and kicked it with his size 15 boot.

The door sprang open.

Max looked at the two women.

Lara had a frown on her face and said; "Antonio said the door wouldn't open."

Max looked in the cockpit and saw both pilots were indeed dead. He could see through the cockpit windows that the ice had changed back to snow. He stepped in and took a look around. Seeing that each pilot had a chest holster with a Glock 18, Max stripped the holstered Glocks from the pilots.

Walking back to the main cabin, Max sat down and looked out at where Michael and Antonio were sitting.

Antonio was struggling with the cord, trying to break it.

Michael was looking at the jet and when he saw Max, he said something and Antonio stopped struggling and just stared at Max.

Max smiled and shook his finger at Antonio.

Sighing, Max leaned back in the chair and tried to think of what to do next. He looked over at the dead people in the jet. One was an older man, that was extremely fit, and the others were all women. The thing Max found interesting was that all of the women looked to be under thirty, like Lara and Angelique. And like Lara and Angelique, they were all babes. He found something odd about all this when his thoughts were interrupted.

"Well? What now...Oh, for God's sake, what is your name?" asked Lara.

Shifting his eyes over at her, Max said; "My name is Maxmilian Joseph De La Salle and loyal son of the Union.

You can call me Max."

Lara narrowed her eyes and Angelique looked confused about the last part.

Explaining to the confused Angelique, Max said; "I could tell by Lara's accent that she's from the Deep South. My family wore blue during the American Civil War."

"War Between the States, you mean." said Lara.

Max smiled and said; "Doesn't really matter now, does it? There's no South or North, probably no America and besides; neither side was on the side of the angels, were they?"

Lara just looked at him and ask; "What now?"

Smiling, Max said with a wave of his hand; "Oh, nothing much. I figured to shoot those two out there, leave Mansfield to the wolves and add you two to my harem that I keep locked up in the basement."

Angelique gave out a gasp and Lara just rolled her eyes.

"No? Well then, I'm trying to decide if you are worth the trouble that I would get from taking you back with me. But first, I think I'll check around for anymore weapons, like that M-4 over there." Max got up and grabbed up the M-4 and started to field strip it. Pulling out the bolt, he placed it in the dump pouch on his vest, finding another and did the same. Checking the older man's body, he found another Glock 18 and spare mags. These he kept whole. Max searched the jet and found more spare mags and kept the ones for the Glocks, leaving the ones for the M-4s.

"What trouble would we be? You have to help us!" Angelique said.

"What trouble? I would have to feed all of you and I'd have to sleep with one eye open in case one of you tried to kill me.

Again."

"Look, I don't know why Peter tried to kill you but you have to help us."

"Well, look yourself Lara. I don't have to do anything! I can walk away and what are you going to do about it?"

Max could see that Lara and Angelique were trying to figure out something that would change his mind.

"You might have asked me to help or even use that magic word: please. But no, you don't ask, you demand that I help you!

Well, the hell with you, I don't need you, you need me."

Max got up and walked out of the jet and into the blowing snow.

******
CHAPTER 16
******
"Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must
be prepared for changes."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


******
Plane crash site
Western edge of Rose City Oilfields

******

'I can't believe that I missed having people around!' thought Max as he headed back for the snowcat.

As he past Michael and Antonio, Max grabbed up his pack and put it back on.

Michael asked; "Are you going untie us now?" Max looked down at him and turned and walked away. He watched as Max kept walking. "Lara? What the hell is happening?"

"He's leaving us, Michael. I don't think he's coming back."

"Why?"

"Why? Why? Oh, I don't know. Maybe something to do with Peter shooting him! Maybe because Antonio looks like he would try and kill him the first chance he got and we didn't say please!"

Michael looked confused and said; "What? Whatever, just untie us!"

"Just wait a minute. Angelique; stay with them, I'll be back."

Lara took off into the woods after Max.

"Lara! Lara! Come back!" shouted Michael.

Lara kept going.

As she tried to run through the woods looking for Max, she wondered what she was going to say to him. She could tell that Max seemed pissed off and she couldn't really blame him. Instead of being glad someone had found them, we acted like he owed us something, she thought.

As she stopped, dead tried, and looked around. Lara couldn't see Max anywhere.

"Damn it!" she muttered.

Max was gone.

Dejected, Lara turned around and started back.

"Well, what do you want?"

Lara looked over to her right and saw Max leaning against a pine tree. With the snow blowing through the woods, Max's Natural Gear camo snow suit blend right in.

Lara looked at him and said; "Please help us."

Max looked skyward for a moment and said; "Why not? I haven't done anything stupid lately, might even be fun."

He looked back at her.

"You sure you don't want to be part of my harem?"

"Yankee bastard." she said with a smile.

"Oh, fine. Be that way, you rebel scum. Get whatever gear you got and follow that path that your plane made through the woods. About a quarter mile you'll find me waiting with a snowcat. Make sure that Michael and Antino understands: you are all on parole with me, try and mess with me and I will toss the lot of you out. Tell him to bring the M-4s and any ammo he has with him. When I decided to, I give him back the bolts for the rifles.”

"Thank you, Max."

Max bowed at the waist and said; "My pleasure, Ma'am."

******

Lara came back out of the woods and found Michael and Angelique waiting for her. Antonio was no where to be seen.

Michael had his arms crossed and asked; "Well? Did you find him?"

"Yes, he'll help us. Max has a snowcat back about a quarter mile back that way." She said, waving back the way she had come. "He said for us to get whatever gear we have and meet him. And he wanted me to tell you that he wants us to bring rifles with us too. He said he give you back the bolts later.”

Michael didn't look please at that.

"I don't know. Maybe he'll turn us all into slaves or make you part of his private harem."

Lara cut her eyes to Angelique.

"He was joking, Michael."

"Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. Do you, for sure?"

"No, I don't. But I really don't think so. But think about this; if we blow this, what then? It's not like there's anyplace to go. Hell, everything was destroyed, the whole worlds dead. I don't even know where Mr. Mansfield was taking us! And if he doesn't wake up, we'll never know."

Michael thought about it. He didn't like it, but he would take Thomas’ Walther PPS that had been missed when Max had searched the bodies earlier, and he would keep his eye on this Max. Best not to tell Lara and get her all upset.

"All right, Lara. We give him a try. You and Angelique should find our luggage and Antonio and I will figure out someway to take Mr. Mansfield with us."

"Good. Come on Angelique; let's see if we find our stuff."

******

Max struggled with the snowcat's rear cargo tarp. The wind kept blowing it up. Giving it one more good yank, Max finally got the last corner hook on. It probably won’t be too comfortable or be much of a smooth ride back there, but there was no other choice. The cab wasn’t big enough for everyone. Three was going to be a squeeze.

Max got up in the cab and turned on the light bar and then the siren for a moment.

Ever five minutes, he would turn the siren on and let it go for two minutes.

Finally, Max saw shapes moving through the falling snow.

Jumping down from the snowcat, Max walked over to help.

******
Michael, Lara, and Angelique came out of the woods and saw the flashing lights of the snowcat. Antonio was carrying Mr. Mansfield in his arms.

“Go on, you two. I need a moment with Antonio.”

Michael waved them on and Lara and Angelique walked toward the snowcat.

Once the two women were out of sight, Michael turned to Antonio and said; “Listen up, Antonio. I need you to give me your word that you won’t try anything with this guy. And I don’t want you staring at him like you have. A lot of people don’t like that and this Max seems to be one of them. All right?”

Antonio just stared down at Michael.

“I mean it, Antonio. Your word.”

Antonio just kept staring at him.

“Look, what would Mr. Mansfield want you to do?”

Antonio looked away from Michael and towards the snowcat.

“He would want me to make sure he was safe.” rumbled Antonio.

“That’s right. You have to think what Mr. Mansfield would want, not what you want. So, have I got your word on this matter?”

Antonio looked back down at Michael.

“Yes. Until Mr. Mansfield tells me otherwise.”

“Fine, let’s go then.” said Michael.

******

Max helped Lara and Angelique with their suitcases and bags, storing them in the back.

“Where’s the guys?” asked Max.

“Michael wanted a word alone with Antonio.” said Angelique.

“Well, you two get in the cab, there’s a heater in there. I help them with getting in the rear.”

Max watched as the two women got in and then closed the door. He turned back and saw Michael and Antonio carrying Mansfield.

“All right, you two, you’re riding in the back of the bus. There isn’t room up front for you. The cat is only built for 2 and with all three of us in there, there be no spare room.”

Michael looked at the snowcat and said; “How safe is it, riding in the back?”

“Safer than walking twenty miles or so. You have to hang on and I’ll try to take it easy. But we need to get back to my place before it gets dark. The temps tended to take a real nose dive.

So let‘s get saddled up.”

Antonio handed Mansfield to Michael and jumped up in the rear of the snowcat. Max helped Michael with getting Mansfield up to Antonio. Then Michael jumped up.

Max dugged into his pocket and handed Michael a couple of hand heaters.

“Should help with the cold. Hang on tight.”

Max snapped the tarp back in place and got in the cab and started up the snowcat and took off.

He had felt that same sense of danger again, when he help get Mansfield in the back.

Max wonder about it as he drove off.


******
CHAPTER 17
******
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."
John Donne


******
Rose City Oilfields
******

“Ah, Max? Max!”

“What? Sorry, got thinking about something.”

“Yes, I could tell by the smoke pouring out of your ears.” said Lara with a smile. “What I asked is: what’s your place like? That’s where we’re going, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, my place. Well, let’s see. It’s just a simple log cabin with a couple storage buildings. I got a couple small guest cabins you’ll be using. My place isn’t set up for more than just me.”

“Do you live up here, in the woods, all the time?” asked Angelique.

“Yes, for the most part. I sometimes have to travel around the state, but I'm here most of the time."

"What kind of work do you do or did Before all this happened?"

Max just looked at her.

"What? Did I say something wrong?"

"No. It’s just the way you said "Before". Like the word had some kind of special meaning. But back to your question. Mostly, I watch my investments. Try to keep my head above water. I had a few rental properties too. Nothing all that much" said Max with a smile.

Angelique thought that Max's answer sound a bit strange, but let it go for now.


******
Front entrance of Max's Property
******
The snowcat came to a stop at the front gate next to Max's grandfather's cabin.
Between the snow and ice, he couldn't open the gate anymore. So Max had built a ramp using the snow so that the cat could just ride over it.

"That's your place?" asked Angelique.

"Well, it's one of several places I own. But this one was my grandfather's cabin."

"This is where we're staying, Max? I don't see any of those guest cabins you were talking about?" said Lara.

"No, my place, and where your staying, is back in those woods." Max said, pointing at the trail that led into the woods. "Back in a minute, I'll check on the guys and see how they're doing."

Max turned and hopped out of the cat's cab.

Lara was looking at the cabin and the two out buildings across from it when she noticed Angelique staring wide-eyed at the trail leading into the dark woods.

"What's wrong, Angelique?"

"I keep thinking about how he joked about a harem and now he wants to take us in those woods."

"We've been in a forest for the last couple miles if you haven't noticed. Most cabins are off the beaten track, nothing strange about that."

Taking a moment, Lara looked at how Angelique was acting and it suddenly came to her.

"Wow. Haven’t you ever been in a forest before?"

"No, I have never had a reason to ever want to, I liked being in the city. If I want to see the countryside, I‘d watch the Discovery Channel!"

"Better get use to it. I suspect there isn't a city still functioning anywhere on the planet. Heck, there probably isn't even any small town’s left." she said frowning.

"You mean like your hometown back in South Carolina?"

"I really don't want to talk about it, Angelique."

******

Walking back to the rear of the snowcat, Max opened the tarp.

"You guys doing all right? Ten more minutes and we should be there. We're at my property line."

"Just hurry up, it's really cold back here." said Michael.

"Just as fast as I can, how's Mansfield doing?"

"Seems to be hanging on. Let's get going."

"Right." said Max and then he closed the tarp back up. Going back up front, he jumped in the cab and started the snowcat and move forward till he was past the gate. Then hopping out, he closed the gate and re-locked it.

Max looked around at the cabin and outbuildings and seeing nothing out of order, got back in the cat and set of down the trail.

******
Max's hunting lodge
******

As Max turn the snowcat off the main trail, and in a few moments was ridding over the gate and towards the lodge. Suddenly, the outdoor security flood lights snapped on, letting the women see the lodge and surrounding area clearly. As clearly as one could through a blowing snow storm.

Lara and Angelique were speechless.

At first.

"You call that a small cabin?" asked Lara.

"Well, maybe not small and it's really not a cabin, more like a fair size hunting lodge."

"That place is HUGE! I've seen smaller corporate retreats than that! How big is it?"

"The main part of the lodge is around 4000 square feet; the attached garage is about 1800 square feet."

"And how big are those barns and those other buildings? My God, look at those fuel tanks!" Lara said. Looking around she got very quit and then said; "How did you afford this place? I don't see how you could make enough to afford this.

Is this really your place or did you just find it?"

"No, it's mine. My mom and I were in an auto accident a few years back, just a little over a year since my dad had died in an auto accident himself. The settlement was pretty big and I use it to start to build this place. I latter invested part of it into stocks and made some money of that. The profits from that, the settlement, and other investments allowed me to build the lodge and all the rest. I had it all built a few years back.

And that's all you need to know about that.”

“So, your mother is here?”

“No, she died in the accident, Angelique.”

Pointing, Max said; There's the cabins you'll be staying in. They're only 30 X 30 but each has two bedrooms, a small bathroom, a small kitchenette that is fully stocked and the cabins are heated by propane. I think the weather won't allow you to make use of the enclosed wrap around porch.

It won't take long to heat them up. I'll drop you off and I have to go back to the lodge and turn the power on.

If you need anything, there is an instruction book on the cabin on the kitchen table and all have intercoms that are connected to the lodge and the other cabins. I'll have to turn the computer system back on too."

Max came to a halt in the drive that was in front of the cabins. Jumping out of the cat he ran behind the cabins and opened a small shed.

Going in, Max walked down a short flight of stairs. And then turned open the valve allowing the propane to flow. Then he lifted a wood access door off the floor and turned on the valve for the water system that came from an artesian spring.

Closing up the shed, Max went over to the first cabin and unlocked it and then unlocked the other four.

Max saw the women had got out of the cat and were unhooking the tarp in the back. Walking over to the cat, he said; "All right, I've open all five cabins, take your pick and I'll go turn on the power. Once the lights come on, just turn on the heaters. Take these flashlights and use them till the powers on.

It's 4:38 right now. If you want I can fix up a dinner for everyone and have it ready by 6:30. Just give me a call on the intercom."

Max got back in the cat and headed for the lodge.

Antonio said; "I will take Mr. Mansfield into that one marked number 5." And with that he carried Mansfield inside.

"Guess we take which everyone we want, huh Lara?"

Lara stared a Michael for a few seconds and said; "For now, I think I stay with Angelique, Michael. You should take a cabin for yourself. Come on, Angelique. We'll take cabin number one."

Angelique looked at Michael and shrugged her shoulders and took off after Lara.

"Well, what that hell was that about?" asked Michael.

******

Lara and Angelique went in cabin number one and looked around. It was small but nicely furnished. Lara took a quick peek in the bed rooms and found a bunk bed in each one and a small dresser.

Suddenly the lights popped on and Lara saw the white gas heater. She turned the dial and it popped on. Heat starting flooding the room.

“Oh, that feels good. I thought I never be warm again.” said Angelique. “We need to get out of these wet clothes before one of us catches a cold.”

Lara nodded in agreement but said nothing. She walked over to the window and looked over at the lodge.

Angelique took her suitcase and went into one of the bedrooms and started to change into some dry clothes. “Lara” asked Angelique, “why are you here with me and not Michael? I thought you two were getting pretty close and...”

“I just thought you would like some company, rather than being alone.”

"I'll do. And don't change the subject."

"I like Michael. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have dated him Before. He's a nice guy, but..."

"But what?"

"He's really not what I was looking for in a guy. I was really going out with him because he was one of the few Americans that work at the company that was close to my age. Once the asteroids hit, I just kinda of stay with him.

But since Mr. Mansfield talked to us about leaving and when he said that were other people where we were going, I started to rethink about Michael. Maybe I don't have to settle."

"So you’re looking for, what?"

"I'm not sure what I want now, everything’s changed. If we can just find out where Mr. Mansfield was taking us, maybe I could find someone." Lara shook her head and headed for the bedroom to change.



*******
CHAPTER 18
*******
The dusky night rides down the sky,
And ushers in the morn;
The hounds all join in glorious cry,
The huntsman winds his horn,
And a-hunting we will go.
Henery Fielding


******
Max's hunting lodge
******

"Hey guys, how you been?" said Max as he was almost tackled by his two jacks.

They didn't like him leaving them behind. They started to sniff him all over.

And we do mean all over.

"Hey! Watch where you stick that thing! Yeah, I found some people, guys. Guests are coming for dinner, you two throwbacks."

As the word "dinner" was said, both Buddy and JR snapped their heads up and cocked their ears.

Max looked at the two.

"What are you looking at?"

And with that, the two eating machines took off for a run to the kitchen.

And then the whining started.

Shaking his head Max started off for the kitchen, wondering how humans ever got tricked into this arrangement.

******

Lara looked at her watch and saw that it was getting close to 6:30. She was hoping for something decent for dinner, but wasn't holding her breath. Ever since she had gone with Mr. Mansfield to the company's R&D center, almost ever meal she had had come from a can.

"Angelique, you about ready?"

"Yes, just about."

Lara went over to the intercom and pushed the button for Michael’s cabin.

"Yeah?"

"Michael, its Lara, Are you about ready?"

"Been ready for the last two hours. I come over and then we can go. See ya."

"Angelique? Michael coming over and we'll be going, okay?"

"Yes, I'm ready." And with that she walked out.

Lara looked at her and then back out the window, and then snapped her head back to look at Angelique.

Angelique was dressed in an expensive tailored black pants suit with a white silk blouse. Her hair and make-up were done. She had on a gold necklace and ear rings too. Lara even caught the smell of perfume.

"What?" asked Angelique. "Is something wrong?"

"Why are you dressed like that?"

"Oh. Well, why not? I haven't got asked to dinner by someone for awhile and thought I should try and look the best I can. Are you going like that?"

"Like what?" asked Lara with a tinge of anger. She walked over and took a look in the bedroom door's mirror.

"Never mind."

Lara looked at herself in the mirror. She couldn't see anything wrong. The jeans and sweatshirt looked fine to her. Not as clean as she would've liked, but there hadn't been anything she could have done about that.

And then it came to her.

Opening the door, she looked out at Angelique. "My God, you’re looking to hook Max! I thought you were scared about becoming part of his harem." And before Angelique could say anything, Lara continued; "God, it’s like a switch got flipped!"

"Perhaps."

"That's it? Perhaps? And just what the hell does that mean?"

"Hey, it's none of your business what I do. If I decide to "hook" Max as you say, so what? It's not like there's a lot of choices nowadays. Who should I pick? Michael? Antino? Mr. Mansfield? That's the only other three men around."

"You don't know anything Max, Angelique. For all you know he’s some crazy lunatic!"

"Well, we just fine out, won't we?"

"He shot Peter!"

"That puts him solidly on the plus side as far as I'm concern!"

"He's huge! Not as big as Antino, but he could make two of Michael!"

"I can only hope!" said a smiling Angelique.

"He must be in his forties. Geez, he's got gray in his hair!"

"So? Like you never found an older man attractive!" she said with a humph!

Just as Lara was about to shoot back, there was a knock on the door. It was Michael.

Angelique opened the door and Michael came in and took one look at her. "What the heck are you all dolled up for?"

Angelique just rolled her eyes and grabbing her parka and purse said; "Let's go."

******

Antino carried Mr. Mansfield to one of the bunk beds and laid him down and covered him with a couple wool blankets. Once the lights turned on, he went back in the small living room and turned up the heat. He saw a same bronze crucifix on the wall and frowned.

Going into the small bathroom, he returned with a towel. Wrapping it around his hand, he reached up and yanked the crucifix off the wall. Carrying it like it was a bomb; he stuffed it in a drawer in the dresser in the other bedroom.

Throwing the towel on the small kitchen table, Antino stood still in the room. He slowly turned his head looking all around. When he finally spotted what he was looking for, he took a small knife and cut the wires.

Taking a folding chair, Antino sat down next to Mansfield and stood watch.

Leaning over to the old man, he whispered; "You are safe now, Master."

Still unconscious, the old man smiled.

******

Lara went though the glass door on the patio and looked around the room. It was huge. Looked to be around 50 X 50. Log walls, western paintings, a few Remington bronzes, metal signs, a couple of stuff heads and even a stuffed Brown bear. A few firearms here and there on the walls. Leather chairs and couches. Dark rug. A neon sign that said: Savage Arms. Large framed painting of John Wayne and a large bronze crucifix over the doorway.

Definitely a man's room.

But what really caught her attention was the smell of cooked meat and bread.

Hanging her parka up with the others, she followed Angelique and Michael towards the smells of food.

Stepping out of the dining room, Max announced, with his best British butler accent; "Dinner is served."

Lara heard Angelique take a sharp breath. As Lara entered the room she felt light headed.

On a large dinning room table, made from a huge single piece of oak, sat a feast.

There were platters of steaks, chicken strips, and BBQ ribs. A couple loaves of bread, bowls of mashed potatoes and fries. Onion rings and breaded mushrooms. Corn, green beans, baked beans, and a huge bowl of garden salad! Milk, Diet Cokes, beers, and lemon-aid were in an ice filled bucket.

"I thought it best to give you guys a buffet, that way you can have what you want." said Max.

As Lara wiped some drool away, she asked; "Max, how do you have all this? We ran out of fresh foods back in November. We've had nothing but canned foods since."

"Oh, it was nothing. I had plenty of time to loot, I mean, salvaged all this food. A lot of it comes from freezers and refrigerators that had food in them. Some I even found in a few restaurants that I got to. Probably still have a couple tons of it. I don't think I'll be able to save it all, if it warms up any time soon. I've been drying and canning when I find a spare moment."

"But the salad?"

"From my hydroponics greenhouse. Maybe I show you it later. Well, enough of my talking, if I go on any longer I may need a mop to clean up all the drool. Grab a plate and eat up!"

Max watched as they rushed to the table and started to pile it on. It reminded him of the scene in the movie; Red Dawn, when the kids got that food. Soon they were seated and stuffing it down and making yummy sounds.

"You guys better take it slow. You stuff it down too fast and you'll be running to the bathroom to toss."

They did slow down some. But there still was a lot of food going down quick. Max thought he should break out some Alka-Seltzer. Maybe he should save the desserts he made for tomorrow.

He fixed his own plate and took a seat. Bowing his head he said: "Father, we thank you for this wonderful food, from your bounty, through your Son, Christ our Lord. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." He finished the prayer with making the Sign of the Cross.

Lara and Michael stopped eating and looked guiltily at each other while Angelique kept eating.

******

An hour later and Lara was sitting on one of the leather couches back in the great room. She hadn't felt this stuffed since the last time she had been home, three years ago, for Thanksgiving.

That, plus the two beers she had was making her sleepy.

*****

Max watched the three of them. The food, booze, and all the rest they had gone through today was finally catching up with them.

In fact, they all looked dog tired.

"Alright, everyone. Why don't we call it a night? I think most of you could use some serious sack time. Tomorrow, we can talk some more. And bring any clothes that you have that need washing. Breakfast will be at six a.m. sharp."

Max just got some muffled 'thanks' and nodding of heads. He watched them put on their boots and parkas and take off.

When he finished cleaning up the dishes, Max went upstairs to his bedroom. One thing he couldn't take his mind off of was just how good Angelique looked.

And smelled!

Ah, blonds. What more can you say?

Upon opening the door, he found his two mutts sitting like statues on his California King Size bed.

Hmmm, he thought. When they looked that good, it usually meant they we peeved at him. More then likely they had their revenge on something in this room, but what? He knew their method of revenge. They didn't chew or destroy anything. They just marked something.

Shaking his head, Max sat down at his computer and looked up the surveillance footage of the guest cabins. When he tried to get the file for the cabin where Antino and Mansfield was in, the computer showed an error. Doing a quick diagnostic, he found the camera and mike weren't working. Seems that Antino doesn't liked being watched.

The others either hadn't found the cameras or hadn't even thought of it.

And Antino hadn't told them about the surveillance equipment either.

Hmmmm.

Michael hadn't done or said anything interesting, but Angelique had.

Very interesting.

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