Chrysalis Bug
Chapter 1

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Science Fiction, Post Apocalypse, Harem, Petting, Slow,

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Another post-apocalypse yarn. Big people wake up skinny. Skinny people don't wake up. It's farm or die.

It's a good old-fashioned apocalypse bug story. If you're good with a map you can follow along with most of it 50 miles west of Chicago. MRE= Military Meals Ready to Eat—dinner in a bag. Cowboy Action Shooting—Yep, it's a real sport. It's done with lightly loaded ammunition in the traditional calibers of the 1840's to 1900. It's a speed and accuracy contest.

I knew I was in my bed. That damned spring always caught me in the shoulder blade. But why was I so—slow? Sounds were distant and my heartbeat was very loud and personal, as if I were under water. I relaxed back into sleep.

I awoke ravenous. I tried to sit up and couldn't. I couldn't help it— I panicked. My fingernails tore something like heavy paper. Instead of warm, now I felt wet. Cough? I thought I was going to cough myself to death. Finally, thank god, it ended. I flopped over onto my stomach, tearing away the layer around me that resembled a garbage sack. I sank back into sleep.

Damn! I was hungry! I was suddenly awake, none of this groaning and aching stuff. I found myself sitting up at the edge of my bed and nothing hurt. NOTHING HURT. Not my ankles, not my knees, not my shoulder, not my neck, not my rotten teeth, not my lower back (always a rare treat), not even my wrists. I went to bed February 27, 48 hard years old. I had diabetes, high blood pressure ( 292 over 270 scared the doctor more than me), destroyed ankles and knees from sports. I drank myself to sleep every night. I weighted over 300. I was single. After watching my parents screw up their marriage and then die in 1977 and 78, I was shell-shocked enough to never inflict myself on anyone in a relationship, much less a marriage.

I WAS over 300 pounds. When I awoke I may have topped the scales at 90. I was terminally thin. I could see my bones thru my skin. I didn't know what happened, but it sure as hell beat a fat farm. The bathroom mirror shocked me. I looked like a teenager again. My tongue no longer encountered the familiar stubs and holes of my destroyed dentition—my teeth were intact again. The mirror showed me my familiar bearded face yet the wrinkles and pores were gone. I was examining myself without my glasses. Hot damn! I'd worn glasses since grade school! Forty-Four years of glasses gone! I peed and tried the tap—nothing, then headed to the kitchen. The cell phone was dead. No battery. So was all the other electrically powered devices in the place. I didn't dare open the fridge. The freezer HAD been packed with meat. Nasty. There was NO traffic on the 4-lane outside my apartment.

That used to be one of the busiest strips in the county. Spooky. Electric stove. Fuck 'em. Gear up, son. I dug out a propane camping stove and two gallons of water. Corn meal, raisins, sugar and canned milk filled me up nicely, thank you. I took my vitamins from the bathroom out of sheer habit then sat to think.

Some sort of regeneration had hit me. No electricity or water meant the apartment was a death trap—no sanitation. My camping gear gave me a hand up, and my weapons in storage gave me even more. There's a difference between survival and sustainable living and I was about to find out which I was in for. The 2-meter radio in my bedroom could be hooked to my jeep's 12-volt circuit. So could my Sony ICF-2010 all-band receiver.

Time to meet and greet the locals, if any were still around. I dressed in sturdy gear (lots of room in these clothes, folks!), belted on my 22 mag pistol and a basic get-out-of-Dodge pack and unlocked the door. Phew! My neighbors must not have made it. I headed outside. Somebody had shredded my poor jeep's top and dug thru it looking for whatever. The canned beans and peaches were gone from the camping box in the back, but the pots and tarp were OK. That's what I was really looking for. They weren't easily replaceable. The duffle bag full of clothes was gone, but that was OK. I needed to go "shopping" anyway. I didn't want to come back here if I didn't have to. I cleared out the jeep's clutter, then went back in to pack. I had some MREs, several boxes of dried and canned food, a couple of wooden boxes of camping gear and a decent 20-degree sleeping bag. All my tool kits came with me, and my medical kit. My knife collection topped it off. I spent a good hour matching which blade went with what sheath.

The motor started! That was evidence of no EMP. I pulled the jeep around to an easy access door and loaded my stuff up. I hooked up the radio to the battery and gave a good listen. The bands were clear. This was not good. What was the local Civil Defense hangout? Tri-Com was the 911 clearing house near the sheriff's station. It was only a few miles away. Time to roll. First, weapons. I visited my stash and loaded up on winter camping gear, rope, and all the tarps I had, canvas and plastic. I picked up my rifles and ammo boxes, too.

Now over to the Sheriff's department. Jesus. It looked like a war zone. The military had been called out before everything took a crap. There were O.D. humvees and 4x4s in the parking lot. There was also smoke rising from the chimney. What if the prisoners took over the jail? Shit. At the bottom of my trapping pack was a .45 caliber derringer from my cowboy shooting days. I filled it with .410 cartridges and put my left mitten on over it. The .22 mag and pouch of ammo went under the seat. I hit "shave and a haircut" on the horn and waited.

All I saw were eyes. Lots of eyes. There must have been 17-20 people in there. Finally someone pushed open the door and started yelling at me with a bullhorn. He sure was a yammer head. The guy wouldn't shut up. He kept ranting on about God's Will and keeping our oath to God and whatever. Finally I keyed up my 2-meter amped to a speaker.

"Would you just shut up? If you've got something to say, say it. Else bag it." He just stood there, lipping like a fish out of water. Then he went back in. If that's what was left there wasn't much hope. Fuck it. I turned the jeep around and headed for the parking lot. I was going to provision up and get out of Dodge.

The 4x4's in the lot looked like a good trade-in, especially at the current rate of exchange. Namely, nothing. The keys were in the dash of the third one, thank god. Bench seat, military radio (what the hell should I do with THAT?), back end full of toilet paper, tampons and paper towels. What a waste. Both tanks were full of diesel. I dumped all but a case of paper towels and two of TP. I remembered hearing about an army field medic that plugged bullet holes with tampons and kept a case. I transferred my stuff from the jeep (canvas tents, pots & pans, canned goods, hammers, nails, poles, LED lanterns, lots a batteries, etc).

I damned hear had a heart attack when someone spoke up from behind me. "Hey, Mister!" "Jesus!" I looked to find a kid behind the next truck over buried in an adult's coat. "If you smell anything, that's me. You scared the crap out of me." I got a little smile out of that one. "You leaving? In the truck, I mean." "Yeah. I'm not sticking around anyone that thinks Jesus knows best. It's a little late for that." "Would you take me with you? Me and my sister, well, we don't feel safe here." Now I was curious. "Why not?" "The reverend stopped mentioning the bible and started saying "my flock" about a week ago. And I don't like his hand on my butt, either."

That raised my eyebrows. Nobody likes a sick fuck.

"Tell you what. I'll pull out of here and drive down to the intersection. I'll be behind the gas station there until tomorrow, about 10. That's four hands high, four hours after sunup—You know how to tell time with your hand?"

I showed him how to ballpark the time.

"You collect anyone that wants out and ease over here. Don't make it obvious. Don't take anything that will be missed. We'll go shopping over at Gander Mountain for clothes and shoes. Then we'll see where to go winter over till spring. OK?"

I got a grin for my troubles. I finished off stealing my new ride and took off. I kept the keys to the jeep. Fuck 'em. I took ALL the keys I could find. The truck started OK. Thank god I'd learned to drive a stick. I rolled out down the road to the West and then South to throw off anyone watching. Besides, I was hungry as hell again. Time to check out the Aldi's distribution warehouse to see if the refrigeration was still working. It was the closest regional foods warehouse that I could think of.

The place was still running off of a propane generator and bulk tank! Hot damn! Aldi's doesn't carry high quality meats, but it does carry lots of frozen economy packs. I broke into the office to see what I could find. The automatic calendar grabbed my attention—it was March 21st. I had slept for over three weeks.

There were some newspapers on the manager's desk with what I thought were interesting headlines. They were all different, but talked about the 'chrysalis bug'. There were articles guessing everything from bio-warfare to an escaped bug designed for astronauts to hibernate.

I sat for a while trying to deal with the ramifications. If it had hit everyone else like it had hit me, only the morbidly obese had survived. (That's really fat, to you)

There were plenty of fat people in the US before the change. Thinking about the kid, I realized that kids would have a tough time of it. Fat kids would have been TV addicts. No real skills. There were plenty of old, fat farmers and their wives.

Obviously there had been enough deaths to wipe out any central services. It was an automatic death sentence to the military, fire and police. They had to stay in shape to keep their jobs. I'd never seen a fat EMT Tech, either. Fat doctors? maybe. Nurses? sure! The problem may be too many people left with no ambition. This time around I was going to use it, not abuse it. This was a gift I wasn't going to turn down.

Time to get a grip and make some decisions. First, to eat. One town South, Geneva, had an Ace hardware store. It was kind of spooky, shopping in the darkened store. I took a couple of grills, a couple of gas heaters and all the propane and charcoal they had. The Carhart's rack gave me a new wardrobe. I was especially glad to find the five gallon commercial water cooler jugs for sale—full. I was getting dry and worried about water.

Next, the sporting goods store, downtown Geneva. It was a little mom 'n pop shop by the river that had been there since WW II or so. They had a nice rack of insulated camo coveralls for deer hunting. I geared up and felt LOTS warmer. The disposable heater packs were nice, too. I never was much for fishing, but kept up with the subject. The new micro-lines were tough as hell. I took 3 bulk spools of 1000 yards, each 240 pounds test weight. I was very surprised to find a pair of Ruger single-sixes behind the gun case. They were blued and had six inch barrels, in .38/ .357. The service tag said that they'd just come back from a gunsmith, having their triggers slicked for competition. Just what the doctor ordered. I'd sold my old Rugers years ago. I appropriated them, and looked around for anything in a .22 Magnum. One rifle, a Savage all-weather, and two revolvers. I already owned a single-shot 30-06 Handi-rifle with a nice scope, a 12-gauge double barreled coach shotgun and a Marlin Cowboy II 38/357 with an eleven shot tube magazine.

The common ammo pleased me very much. There was a nearly new Smith & Wesson chromed .357 with a six inch barrel behind the glass counter. You can't get them anymore! They're out of production. Was became the operative word. My shopping cart was getting full. The shotgun rack almost defeated me, but a trip back to the Ace store gave me a pair of bolt cutters. I made a note to try to find a gas-powered cutoff saw, and took all the cutoff wheels I could find while I was there. Three Remington pump 12-gauges and a 20 gauge over-and-under to the better, I took all the ammo I could find in .357, .38 and .22 mag then left. The big 'ol safe tempted me, but I didn't have the tools or time to mess with it. Besides, there was a MUCH nicer gun store 20-or-so miles north. Let's hope the competition was sparse.

Paranoid? you betcha. I had no idea about the competition and didn't want that sick feeling of having underestimated an enemy. There was too much of a chance of gang behavior to feel comfortable. I HAD read lord of the flies. It was getting dark, so I motored back to the warehouse and locked up behind myself. Where were the dogs? The cats? I saw few birds, but they were usually sparse this time of year. Where the hell were the PEOPLE? If there was such a problem with obesity before the change, where were the survivors? Was there another contributing factor?

I grilled some chops and potatoes, opened some soda and pigged out. It surprised me how little it took to fill me up. Well, back to aboriginal eating patterns—small meals often. I vowed to keep a pocket full of nuts and raisins handy. The fruits and veggies were refrigerated, so were still good. I grabbed 10 pounds of apples and 10 of carrots, found a case of baked beans and filled a cooler with porkchops. I loaded The truck back up and headed for the rendezvous with the kids, leaving the used grill and taking the new one. Hell, I'd be back anyway. I wanted a semi!

I pulled into the gas station from the East, lights out, invisible from the Sheriff's station up the road. When I pulled up and killed it, four faces peered out of the bushes. This time I was ready and didn't almost piss myself. I rolled down the window.

"anybody need a lift?" The kid I'd talked to earlier came out to greet me. "Hi. You're back." Nothing like the obvious. "I said I would. Is this all of your tribe that's going?" "Yeah. Everyone else is either too scared to come or locked in." "Ok, everybody on the bus. We're getting out of here. It's too close to the right reverend to make me happy." I heard some banging and thumping for a bit, then silence. I took that as a good thing and powered up. First, clothes for the masses. Back to Ace and the Carhart selection. "OK, everybody out of the bus. Let's go shopping." Christ. My troop had grown. Seven kids piled out. I grabbed a couple of LED lanterns and handed 'em out. The first thing they hit was the candy counter. Figures. They were eating awfully carefully, though. They were sharing. Good sign. "You guys looks starved."

My small friend looked back. No smiles, there.

"We are. We have been"

Shit. Food now, clothes later. I found the big rental grill in the back of the store and pulled it outside. Charcoal, lighter fluid and a match later, we had a fire. I put them to clearing an area inside the store and dragged a couple of picnic tables together, then started four propane patio heaters. I raided the cooking section for plates, forks, knives, spoons and cookie sheets. I put the frozen chops on the cookie sheets to thaw quickly. Apples got distributed and I put two kids to work opening cans of beans. We found bowls and divvied up the veggies while the chops cooked. I split the carrots and put them on the grill over a couple of cookie sheets. Gatorade was everywhere. I ate as well. Hunger really is the best sauce. When they slowed down I started making introductions.

"Hi. I'm Harry Faxon. I'm 49 even though I look 16. I've camped and hiked throughout my youth. I've worked on a farm. I'm pretty good with a pistol or rifle. I hate shotguns. They make my shoulder sore. Now, who are y'all? That got a grin. I gave each one a hug as we talked. My fried was Terri. Yup, girl, not guy. She was 22, looked 16, muddy blonde, skinny. Her sister was Linda, all of 12 years old. MAJOR family resemblance. Bob was 14, dark hair, dark eyes. Tom, his neighbor, was 13. Nordic. Cindy was 35, looked 16. Redhead. Ruth was 44, looked 16. Apache? Nope, I asked. She smiled, "Navaho." Jeri was 18. An emaciated blonde cheerleader. Everybody, including me, was thinner than thin.

It's a good thing the Carhart rack had a good supply of size "small". I found the swimming stuff in the back storage and brought out air mattresses. We all puffed ourselves silly filling the things up. Canvas tarps made for sheets. Rough, but effective. We set up buckets for a latrine. There was plenty of toilet paper in the store. We bedded down in the rear of the store for the night, leaving an LED lantern on for lights. Later, it got cold. More tarps for everyone worked fine. I woke up with Linda on one side and Cindy on the other, snuggled up. I could get used to this. I lazed there savoring the feeling, luxuriating in their warm, slow breathing. Damn. Pee break. That started everyone up. I cranked two propane heaters on. Be damned with the CO warning. The front door glass was busted anyway. The morning saw another clothing raid. We pretty well took care of the coats and overalls. We really needed more, as well as pants, underwear, socks and boots. Everyone had a whore's bath with spray counter cleaner and shop rags. First things first. "Everybody on the Bus! Time to get fed!" More smiles. Nice cooperative bunch, this.

Back to Aldi's. The power was still on. More smiles from me. I'd better refill that bulk tank, quick I had no idea how full it was.

The first order of business was breakfast. Damn. No griddles. I looked around and found a granite-wear coffeepot. It was strange looking eggs, but it was scrambled eggs. The bacon got grilled, somehow. I got muscled out of the "kitchen" by Ruth and Cindy. Thank God. I had enough to do. I found two semis with reefer boxes on 'em. Both were still running. Thank god for a cold March or they'd be dry. I got 'em to the filling station and filled up the reefer tanks as well as the dual Diesel tanks... This could be trouble without power. Next "purchase" would be a generator to sub into any gas station when we needed an on-the-road fill up. This took until nearly noon. We had burgers on thawed buns for lunch, more beans and fruit cup.

I called a meeting after lunch to get us on the same map. "Welcome to the new Faxon clan. First, a couple of ground rules. One, nobody owns anybody. Two, All for one, one for all. Three, If you want out, just walk. If you want some provisioning first, ask me and I'll help you. No second guessing, no recriminations. Sometimes things just don't work out. Four, if someone wants in, it's got to be a 100 percent vote. Five, everybody has a voice. Mine's a bit louder than yours right now because I took the initiative. As we go, I'll talk with each of you and see where you're coming from. In any case, even the youngest has a right to a voice in their future. If there's an emergency, I'm the dictator. Move first, ask questions later, or someone could get killed. Any complaints so far?" Everyone looked around, Ruth stood up. "Yeah, I've got one complaint." Oh shit. already." OK, what is it?" "Would you get some chairs for the back of that damned 4x4? It makes my ass hurt." I about lost it. "OK, ok. No more "back of the bus" for anyone. We're riding in style from here on out. I've got two semi's gassed up and ready to go. The sleeper beds are very comfortable. Anyone but me know how to operate a stick?"

Cindy said she could drive a semi better than I could. I had no doubt. "Good. YOU can teach ME. We all need to know how to drive whatever we can find. We'll probably be on horseback if there are any, in five years."

"Who knows how to fire a weapon? Pistol, shotgun or rifle." Ruth was our prize. Ruth was retired army air corps. She was checked out on helo and single engine fixed wing. I smiled so big the room got brighter. Ruth looked over our little arsenal. She liked the .357 rifle/pistol compatibility and the punch per size of the .22 mags. She wanted a shopping trip for something a little bigger though. "GAT guns has a couple of FALN .308s on the wall and a scoped 7mm Mag I want. We need leather and slings, too. I want everyone in a .22 mag pistol." "Yes, Ma'am. You just got delegated to security as you're the one that best knows what you're doing, all right with you?" "Fine with me. You steer, I'll push." "We need to load up the semi's with what we want, then find a place to stay. I was thinking Southern Illinois or Kentucky. There's good crop land and easier winters." "We need to strip a pharmacy for supplies and find a PDR" from Cindy. "What about Missouri south of St. Louis? The Mississippi would flood occasionally, but the highlands would be safe. Also, when the cars die the river would be our highway." from Jeri. "Anyplace we go needs power. How about LP gas tanks? Do generators run on LP?" from Tom. "We need a farm. I can milk cows." from Bob. "Can it be pretty? I mean, if we have a choice, can it be a place we like, not just need?" This wisdom came from little Linda. I knelt down and opened my arms to Linda. She hesitantly came to me and I gave her a long hug. "Yes, honey. There's always time for pretty. That's called esthetics. You're going to be our official artist, OK?" By God, there's nothing like a little girl's smile. "Good comments from all of you. Yes, we need a farm. Yes, we can use LP for a generator. Yes, I didn't even think about Old Miss. Maybe even further south. We need to check out soil types, growing seasons and elevations at the library. Before I forget, someone look up "Generac" in the phone book. We want a big generator on a flat-bed. There's a Walgreens supply depot about 50 miles south of here on 80, if I remember correctly. I also want to strip a Blockbuster for movies, Circuit City for laptops and electronics, and Gander Mountain Sporting Goods for boots and more supplies. Now, some big questions. Do we winter over here or take off right away? Do we train up first? Look for more people? What's our plan of attack?"

Everyone looked at each other like their tongues had fallen out. I sighed. Once more into the breach. "Damn. Looks like I'm dictator. OK, here's what we'll do. First, let's go to GAT Guns and see what's 'on sale'. Most of you need firearms lessons and training. I'm a cowboy action shooting specialist." Boy, that brought stupid looks. I was wearing my two new cross-draw holstered Ruger single sixes, blued, six inch barrels. They'd been tuned for competition. I turned, spotted a blue US Postal mailbox 15 yards away. Four shots, two from each pistol, alternating. Speed draw-"BANG BANG BANG BANG"-holster. About eight seconds. Slow. I needed practice. I sheepishly looked over at Ruth. Her mouth was hanging open. She pulled it together, came up to me and put out a hand for one of my pistols. I handed it to her. After a short inspection everyone heard her remark— "Son of a bitch. Single action." She handed it back slowly. "Shit, Ruth. That was slow. I'm twelve years out of practice. Give me a month." "OK gunslinger. Whatever you say." I just shut up and reloaded.

"Anyway, First GAT, then Gander Mountain Sports for boots, socks, woolens and such. We're gonna stay here and get it together until spring. We've got food, power and a warm place to sleep. We've still got to prioritize what we need to do." I sat down and thought for a while. "I wanna steal a cleaned out semi here to take along. For now, I want to set up beds here, and we need fresh water. Hot water and baths would be nice. I stink. So. Current first order of business, does anyone here know what a well head looks like?" more dumb looks. "Well, let's go look around. If it sticks out of the ground less than three feet high come back and tell me about it. In any case, be back in an hour. Everybody got a watch? No? everybody stay WITH somebody with a watch. We'll fix that later. Scoot."

I never knew plumbing could be so rough, er, hard. Thanks to a how-to book at the Ace, I figured out to get a water heater, one inch galvanized, plenty of elbows and tees, a bathtub, a few valves and a trencher. The well head was on the next property over. Damn, it was noisy work, but we ran that pipe and the Romex to power the pump in one day. I subbed in the run to the house line, then wired the pump. Viola, water.

We made a flying run at GAT. Someone had broken in before. They cleaned out the pistols but left some ammo. One FALN was there on the wall of the second floor, up in a corner. It was so dark that if you didn't know it was there you never would have found it. Ruth was happy as a pig in shit. I made a discovery of my own. There was a fancy display case of REALLY nicely engraved Ruger single sixes. They looked fake. They weren't. Half were in .44/ .44mag, and half in .38/ .357 I took 'em all. Ruth stocked up on sealed battle-packs of .308 while I took all the .357 mag, .44 mag, match 30-06 and .22 mag I could find. We did find some holsters, mostly nylon. After a half hour looking, I found a couple of cases of .50 military in the back. Somebody had had an expensive hobby. I also looked for and took any lithium batteries that they had. It's the only thing I know of with a 5-7 year shelf life other than 12-volt wet cell batteries that hadn't had their acid added yet. We split for Gander.

Hot damn! LP gas griddles! Turkey fryers! (Nice boilers). Giant fry pans. There were enough pots and pans to keep an army cook happy. We latched onto the mess, and all the white gas and lanterns, too. Always try to have three sources of heat in the winter. That place was stocked. They had plenty of small sized woolen shirts, good socks and boots. Nice, puffy goose down coats. I forgot that Gander had a gun department. So did a lot of other people, I guess. We found Ruth's 7mm Magnum as well as one for each of us. Kind of overkill, I thought, but I kept my mouth to myself.

I remembered something about an alligator mouth and a beagle brain, I guess.

We found a couple more .22 mag revolvers, too. Those little Taurus 8-shot revolvers are pretty nice. I remembered a Savage FP-110 I once had stolen from my pickup in Davenport. It was a .223 and I could cut a playing card in half at 70 yards with it. I found one in that damned store in 30-06. The women were getting pissed at me taking so much time until I started talking about my old rifle and what it could do. It was a real bean field rifle. Fire from one end; kill the buck at the other. I found the sweetest Suvorov scope for it in weaver mounts. I was going to spend a while playing with this puppy. We rode out of there with two shopping carts full of match 30-06 ammo I asked the guys to bring out all the hi-tech arrows and heads they could find, too. There were a few simple fiberglass bows there, nothing fancy. I picked them up with tabs, bowstrings and all the beeswax I could find.

We had to plan ahead. I took all the gorp, dried fruit and jerky they had. Again, Lithium batteries were my friends. We ended up with a full field kitchen and backpacks with camelback canteens for everyone.

Target had our beds as well as a couple of kitchen tables and some chairs. I had to put my foot down when they started eyeing the Xboxes. We didn't have the luxury of sloth anymore. Everyone had to help whenever they saw the need. Nobody looks when you're playing video games. I had to explain that a couple of times. We hit the electronics store on the way back for laptops and stereo equipment (so sue me, I'm a guy.)

We went back "home" to continue our plumbing odyssey. We all needed baths. Jerri had thought to grab bedding and towels at Target. We all got to change underwear, at least. I managed to turn a conference room into a bathroom. Getting the sewer run and connected was LOTS of fun. I did put in two stools, two sinks and a tub, though. Then we all had fun cutting green board (waterproof wallboard) and gluing it down for a floor, then tiling it. It ended up one bastard of an ugly job, but it worked. We covered it with rugs. We didn't care—we were cold, dirty and tired. do NOT get between a woman and anything resembling 'clean'. Trust me on this.

I looked over at Linda, pitching in with the tiling and said to myself "hot tub", imagining her smile. We ate and crashed early. I never knew operating a pallet truck was so hard. I cleaned out a temperature-controlled warehouse room, eventually, and we went shopping for carpeting. One roll of stinky new carpet over the best pad I could find later, and we had a bedroom. A huge bedroom. It looked like a luxury barracks—eight king sized beds. We all slept well that night, clean and warm. I woke up with a girl under each arm again.

You think I complained? What, you think I'm stupid?

I asked Cindy and Jeri to come with me the next day while Ruth gave weapons lessons. I wanted to surprise the rest of the girls, but first, "Ladies, we're going shopping for "Linda" things. First, dressers for everyone, then a surprise."

We half-filled that semi with furniture I saw a store on the way back and laughed.

"I always wanted to knock over a liquor store. YeeHaw!" More propane, charcoal, some port, sherry and my favorite, Wild Turkey. Two cases. "You ladies have any choices?" two cases rum, six of Pepsi.

When I pulled in behind the pool and spa store I got nothing but grins until we tried to get that big son-of-a-bitch into the semi. I was real glad that the pump and filter were on a separate pallet. Jeri got caught under one corner and I heard a dull snap. Oh, shit. Her arm looked broken. She looked at me like it was all her fault. I had to reassure the poor kid. Shit happens. Hell, we got caught out. Thank god it was already in the semi. We cruised over to Delnor Hospital and I hit that semi's air horn at the emergency room door. Damn if I didn't see faces pop into the windows! We came to the right place. We helped Jeri down and thru the door. I saw lights! Hell, a hospital WOULD have a generator, wouldn't it.

"You still open for business? This itty bitty thing of a girl came out from behind a door and gave me a nice smile. "Well, I don't know about business, but come on in." We got her arm straightened out and a nice fiberglass cast put on. They're lighter than plaster and waterproof. She doled out a sample bottle of Percodans to Jeri. "Take one every four to six hours as you need. Keep the arm up at night and in a sling during the day." It turned out Jean was 44 and a surgical nurse. There were seventeen others in the building, but things were getting tight. They'd been eating out of the cafeteria freezer, and it only held so much. Politics were starting to get nasty. "Let me guess. Nobody wants to do anything, but nobody wants to give anything up either. Sound familiar?" Yup. Lotsa nods. "Cindy, since I'm the dictator, as an interested observer, would you tell Jean about us? I have the feeling we could help each other out, and we seem a lot saner than this bunch." The ladies—girls?-- went off to talk while I went to see what I could do for Jeri. Not much until the Percodan kicked it, it seemed, but hold her, so I did, and mouth sweet nothings in her ear until she fell asleep. I saw a head peek around the door a time or two, but ignored it. If they wouldn't help us, I wouldn't help them. Fuck 'em. Jean wanted out, er, in. Cindy winked at me and nodded. Good enough for me! Never piss off a willing cook. I handed up Jeri to the women—fuck it. They looked like girls, so they were girls. I handed Jeri up to the girls and we blew out of there.

The Border's books store was next. Home improvement, farming, animal husbandry, plumbing, electrical contracting, medicine. We got nursing manuals, Grey's anatomy and a new PDR. A few music CD's caught my eye and that was it.

Things were a little edgy around the home front until Cindy talked to the crew. They were a little belligerent until they heard what happened to Jeri and that Jean was a surgical nurse. It was an instant vote in. Damn. One bed short again.

It was all assholes and elbows when they saw what was in that semi. I got kissed so many times I lost track. Nice, though. It took three hours to plumb that damned hot tub, six hours to fill and eleven more hours to heat it. We had a hell of a party that night and an even better one the next once the hot tub heated up. It was as if people realized that they were still alive.

It's funny how every night I ended up with a girl from the older set under one arm and the younger under the other. Not complaining, mind you. just commenting. Cindy seemed to get more than her share, somehow. We began to assemble lists. Everyone got a laptop and an access database I'd hammered together. I set up a category list like this: food water shelter tools plant animal health & sanitation clothes and boots transportation defense entertainment trading raw materials & feedstocks chemistry and pharmacy communications printing, books

The next category was simple: Panic Short term Mid Term Long term

The third list I asked people to really think about: Consumable non-replaceable resources Sustainable technology and resources

I asked everyone to sit down for a couple of days and start hammering out lists of wants, needs and immediate attention items. Cindy was getting everyone up to speed on driving a semi. I took Linda, Bob and Tom out to get the idea of driving down, first. It's a lot more fun when you don't care what you hit. That Target parking lot will never be the same. I think they kept hitting the light poles just to see 'em sway. It was a hell of a lot of fun. Then we took a tractor and I taught 'em clutch and stick. It's a lot safer at 13 MPH. Drawbacks? Ever try to double-clutch a tractor?

We all sat down with Jean, with the idea of figuring out what really happened that wiped everyone out. We polled everyone as to what they weighed and their lives before the dieoff. If you were under 280 pounds you didn't make it. Nobody had lived with anyone else. Only two nearly identical sisters made it together. Nobody among us had had a pet. Jean said that anyone disturbed after the skin formed never made it. So what happened? Did any contrasting genetic materials cause a problem? Who knew? Nobody was left to analyze the event, and how would you duplicate it? If you tried any survivor would shoot you cold.

I hit every sporting goods shop in a thirty mile radius for hi-tech arrows, fletching, heads, knocks, bowstrings and anything else I could think of. I grabbed some recurve fiberglass bows and a couple longbows I saw. I packed all this plunder the best I could in long-life cases and labeled 'em. We picked up a water buffalo that would ride behind one of the semis. That gave us 75 gallons of good water no matter where we were. I also found that damned gas-powered cutoff saw I wanted. I found two, so I took 'em. No seeds had come in for spring yet. We'd look around down south. They should have gotten stocked earlier. We had a semi full of books, one full of weapons, ammo and clothes, one full of kitchen gear and dry food supplies, a flatbed with a huge generator on it, and a propane truck. Another semi got filled at the Walgreens distribution warehouse. We had two more reefers full of canned goods and frozen meat. We had saved all the canned meat we could. It had a very long shelf life. So did nitrogen-packed grains. Remember the Y2K scares? At least we learned something from it—how to package food!

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