Chapter 1

[Janice]

Janice here. I will try to do a little housekeeping before I continue with my story of the trip north with Bennie. A couple of weeks ago, we had the first grand meeting among Preservation, Protection, and Pintlala/Hope Hull Free District. Radio interest was building in Protection and Pintlala and the air waves were getting busier every day.

The communities were continuing to grow internally through new births. Keeping track of everyone is becoming difficult. It's a nice problem. I'm just going to record the high points of those closest to us.

Preservation is first with Papa Jack and Momma Shirley. They had added a daughter, Mary, to Mike. Both were growing up healthy and happy. Mike has a shadow in Jennifer, Jim Sinclair and wives' daughter. She goes everywhere he goes and, at this point, is a tomboy. Mike is going to be a handsome young man and Jen will be a beauty when she is grown. Papa Jack's parents are doing well along with the rest of the family.

Bennie's dad had remarried but they haven't had any children. I believe this is by choice as both are older and that seems to be a common choice for survivors of the Day who were married before the Day. There are plenty of others helping our communities go through a population boom.

Bennie and I haven't had children and it doesn't look like we will. We aren't the only childless couple in any of the communities. I guessed my prior sexual history from before the Day may be at fault but Doc Ollie disagrees. He has noted that many of the survivors are having some difficulty in conceiving. He isn't sure if it's left from the virus or is genetic.

Preservation is now part of a three-part amalgam of communities. We have had a revitalization of air travel that has physically connected all of us. The changes that air travel is bringing about are mostly what my journal covers along with Bennie and my trip to the north. Except for the few people, we could be on our way to reconstituting a continent-wide government, at least for the area east of the Mississippi.

The other two communities are Protection led by George Andrews with two wives, Jane and Judith. All three communities allow plural marriage. In Preservation, it started because there were many more women than men. In Protection, it just happened. Pintlala (it's easier to just call it that) has the fewest plural marriages but is also the smallest of the three in population. At any rate, Jane and Judith show that Doc Ollie may not be right. They have between them given birth to five and Judith is pregnant now. Something different is going on there.

On the other hand, Robby and his wives, Pam and Melissa, have only two children from Melissa. One child, Charles, Jr., is named after their dead husband as they were a foursome until Charles was killed. Their second child is Roberta Pam, called

Bobbi. Pam has miscarried once and hasn't gotten pregnant since. They think Melissa may be pregnant again. We have been spending a lot of time at their farm while learning to fly. I think if Bennie and I ever took an additional spouse or spouses, it would them. All three are really good people.

Other than a couple of quick air visits, we haven't been to Pintlala since our first visits. Fred is no longer the chair, but is influential in their meetings. Their current chair for the quarter is Melody though that will change soon.

All in all, things are going well and Bennie and I are preparing for the continuation of our trip north. It will be much easier by air and we will leave our horses with Robby. We haven't discussed how we will get them back to Preservation unless we ride. It's a decision that we haven't made and won't until we need to make it.

We had found a Cessna 172 with the help of Tom and Vic. Getting it ready to fly wasn't difficult and Bennie and I learned a lot about the craft as we went over it in detail. The only real change we made was to add a two-meter radio and antenna to the plane. Vic was very careful about both and we understood because he explained as we all installed it. The radio could affect the avionics and the antenna could affect the roof and aerodynamics of flying. We flew it a number of times after adding the radio to make sure we hadn't created any problems.

We chose our equipment carefully to minimize weight but give us what we would need if we could no longer fly the plane. We took our guns and ammo, bows and arrows, clothes, and a few personal items. We loaded two HF radios and wire antennas along with a battery. We had a hand-cranked generator to charge the battery. We were headed north to complete Jim's trip to the Hudson's Bay. Once loaded, except for clothes and personal items, we practiced. We had added some weight for those things not packed. We practiced landing in strange places. We used roads and fields and learned to detect places that would and wouldn't work. We would be alone and Tom or Vic might not be able to help us if we got in trouble. We didn't want to have to ask for help by having been stupid.

Once both Tom and Vic were satisfied with our skills, we began to mark our trip on a map. We planned to hop from place to place going through Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and ending in Winnipeg. It looked like a bit over fourteen hundred miles. Beyond that, our maps showed no details for the Hudson's Bay area. We talked it over with Tom and Vic. They agreed that there should be landing strips up that way but they had no maps showing any. We also were worried about fuel. Our plane couldn't make it up and back from Winnipeg without refueling. Making the trip blindly wasn't our method. We didn't want to be trapped particularly with winter coming on. Finally, we decided that we could go to Winnipeg and make a decision once there hoping that we could find enough in the way of maps and information to make an informed decision.

With that decision made, we began to plan in detail for our trip taking it in easy bites. The plane could make the trip in a couple of days, albeit, long ones, however, we didn't want to do that. We planned to go slow enough to garner attention and then would try to land close enough to people to talk. Tomorrow would be Sunday and we would leave the day after that, September 4!

The church service was inspiring and Alan had us come up front and prayed over us for God to bless our trip and us as He had blessed Protection by having us come to stay with them. He told us that we would always have a home in Protection. Robby came up behind me and hugged me while his wives hugged Bennie and re-emphasized that statement. George and his wives were next. I was hugged by more men than ever before in my life and Bennie by even more women! I didn't know if I should be jealous or simply enjoy it. I decided to enjoy it.

We went home with Robby and his wives. The five of us talked into the night. Finally, Pam said that we all needed to get to bed for us to be rested for our flight. We reluctantly agreed. Pam and Melissa each gave Bennie passionate, deep kisses and Robby did the same to me. I tried to return it with as much passion. Bennie and I will have to talk about them later. I kissed each of the girls in a similar manner while Bennie and Robby contented themselves with bear hugging the other.

In the morning, Melissa and Pam prepared a good breakfast for us and all of them accompanied us to the airport. They watched us take off and told each of us that they loved us over the radio. We told them the same. I teared up and had to wipe my eyes so I could see to fly. I flew the first leg with Bennie navigating. Our initial target was Chicago but any excuse would do for a delay.

We flew due north toward Paducah, Kentucky, which was under one hundred miles as the plane flies. I flew a compass course and then could see Paducah in the distance. We saw a couple of small towns to our right but they were too close to possibly be Paducah. It was different from riding, as we had already found out. Even going slowly in a plane, it was still fast. Also, the perspective was different though we weren't flying high at only around five hundred feet. It took just over an hour to make it to the outskirts of Paducah. We stayed at about five hundred feet and I flew level while Bennie checked out things with the binoculars. He was looking for anything that might suggest people were living in the area. We saw nothing and continued north by east toward Evansville, Indiana.

We circled Evansville twice hoping to find someone on the edge of this larger town. We saw nothing that suggested anyone had been in the area for a long time. The farms surrounding Evansville were unkempt suggesting that no one was planting or doing anything to work them. It was a stark contrast to the fields around Protection.

"Bennie, do you want to land and stretch your legs or look around?"

"No, let's continue on and see if we find people up ahead."

"Suits me. What's my heading?"

Bennie looked at the map and said, "Let's head over to I-57. Go northwest. We shouldn't have any problem seeing an Interstate."

We found I-57 at Effingham where the road crossed I-70. It was obvious from the air. A compass course north identified I-57 and we began to follow it north. Bennie had begun to glance back frequently in case someone saw us and began to wave something or start a fire.

We were coming up to Champaign when Bennie looked back and said, "Janice, come about to the right gently. I think I see something and we should check it out. There's a farm being worked and the angle now shows some smoke rising."

"Okay. I see an airport ahead. We can land there later. Commencing turn now."

I came around and slowed the plane just a little and let my altitude drop a bit. If there are people down there, they should hear and see us and have time to try to attract our attention. I flew slowly one hundred eighty degrees from my former course and a little east of it. Bennie had a different viewing angle and could see better due to the direction we were flying. I was also very slightly nose down. I decided to bring the plane down to one hundred feet or so. I had to watch what I was doing to prevent a stall. This low, it would be tough to pull out.

Bennie said, "I can see signs of people. I see people! They are off to the right of our path just a little. Continue on this course."

"Roger."

"I can see people and they are waving. Wiggle your wings, Hun." I did as he asked. "They saw that. We're going past them now. I see men, women, and children! Speed up just a little and come around to the right and head toward the airport. Give them one more wiggle." I did. "They've figured out where we're going and I think we will be met soon after we land. Let's have a look at the airport."

I ascended to five hundred feet and flew to and then over the airport. It was a big one and looked to be in good shape. I turned and flew lower and slower over the runway I selected. Everything looked good and I had a long runway. That was good since there was no good way to tell which way the wind was blowing. I was either against it, good, or with it, not good. I turned and lined up. I touched down about one hundred feet from the end and slowed. With so much runway to use, I pulled back on the throttle and touched the brakes lightly watching for any obstructions that might have been hidden before. It was a quiet and peaceful landing and I slowed to a taxi speed still well out from the terminal. "Bennie, where should I go?"

He pointed off to my right. "That looks like the general aviation area. That would be the spot to look for more gas even though we're okay on fuel." I taxied over that way slowly watching for anything. Bennie was doing the same. Finally, he said, "This is good. We're neither too close nor too far."

"Okay." I set the brake and shut the engine down. We just sat for a long moment. The quiet was noticeable. "Bennie, we can sling our rifles but we should take them, I think. We don't know these people yet."

"I agree. It looks promising but caution has stood the test of time when meeting unknown people." We opened the doors and left the plane with our rifles slung over our shoulders. We had our pistols and Bennie had a knife. I had my hands. They were dangerous. I have seen my body in a mirror. I'm five foot, ten inches, tall with fair sized, firm breasts, a slim waist, and reasonable hips. I draw looks from men all the time. Also, I didn't look tough or strong. Looks can be deceiving. Bennie is well over six feet tall and looks strong and carries his size and strength with an ease that suggests power. He is intimidating without trying. When he speaks, his bass voice doesn't make him less so. I think he's also very handsome and I know he's gentle. That's the picture we present and people with bad intentions focus on him figuring he is the dangerous one. That can be a mistake.

We headed toward what looked like an office to collect keys and try to determine what fuel reserves might be available. According to Vic, airports take better care of fuel and the chances of finding good fuel were better even if they weren't good. To our surprise, the door wasn't locked and we went inside. The manager's office was locked but Bennie opened it with a foot. We went inside and looked around until we found a key cabinet. The key to that was in the desk drawer and we opened it up. There were vehicle keys and other keys. We left them for now and headed back outside.

Bennie said, "Let's just take it easy. I don't want to be checking gasoline quality when our expected visitors arrive. We can look around some more and pick some likely possibilities." I nodded and we began to walk around looking for fueling trucks and anything else we might need or want.

I heard a noise and said, "Company's coming. Should we stay together?"

"Yes, we'll wait together and in the open."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Fiction / Post Apocalypse / Violent /