Chapter 2

Copyright© 2000 by Al Steiner

Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story: Chapter 2 - When Comet Fenwell crashes into the Pacific Ocean one October day, it spells the end for most of humanity. Those that survive find themselves in a greatly changed world filled with different morals and the same old urges.

Caution: This Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Ma/ft   Fa/ft   Consensual   Reluctant   BiSexual   Science Fiction   Post Apocalypse   Group Sex   Sex Toys   Violent   comet crashes into earth story, end of civilization story

Brett awoke, as always, to the sound of rain and wind outside the lean-to. That was nothing unusual. What was different however was the fact that instead of shivering alone in his sleeping bag, he had a warm body lying atop him. Chrissie's head was snuggled into his chest, her blonde hair cascading over his shoulder. Her right arm was clinging to his upper torso. His own hands were still wrapped protectively around her back, his fingertips against her smooth skin.

He groaned miserably as he remembered the events of the previous night. What had he done? He had violated a sixteen-year-old girl! That was statutory rape. Rape! A week ago he could have been thrown in prison for doing such a thing, and he would have deserved it. Brett, though a cop, had not been a fanatic on the subject of many of the laws that he had enforced. Some of them he had recklessly violated himself. He had been known to drive his car considerably faster than what was legal on a regular basis. He had been known to drink a beer while behind the wheel. He had routinely fudged deductions on his income taxes. He had taken home batteries, flashlights, map books, and several other useful items from the department supply room. But when it came to sex crimes against minors, he had always been a firm believer in the law that declared those under the age of eighteen to be hands-off. It was a good law, designed to protect young girls from people like... well people like himself. And now what had he done? He had slept with Chrissie. Just because the threat that the law represented had been removed he had done something that he believed, that he knew was wrong. What kind of man did that make him? Was he any better than the bikers he had shot?

He opened his eyes slowly, noting that it was just past dawn. The meager light that marked the daylight hours was just starting to show itself, allowing him to see Chrissie's blond head on his chest and the slanted roof of the lean-to above him. Chrissie, feeling him stir a little, opened her own eyes and looked up at him.

"Hi," she said meekly, offering him an embarrassed smile.

"Hi," he returned, finding it difficult to look her in the eye.

"That was the best I've slept since... well... you know."

Brett did not admit to her that it was the best the he had slept as well. He let his arms fall to his side, releasing her from his embrace. "We'd better pull our sleeping bags apart," he said. "Jason will be up soon and I wouldn't want him to see us like this."

She didn't move for a moment. "Brett?" she said, her face troubled. "Are you okay? You're not... mad at me, are you?"

"No," he told her, shaking his head. "I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at myself."

"You don't have to be upset," she told him. "What we did was..."

"Wrong," he interjected. "What we did was wrong and I should have known better. Come on, let's get separated."

Reluctantly she raised herself off of him allowing him a tantalizing and tempting glimpse of her breasts dangling beneath her for a moment. He did his best to ignore the sight and to try not to think about how those breasts had tasted and felt the night before. As he slid out from underneath her, trying to work his way fully into his own sleeping bag, he looked over the top of her, checking on Jason, expecting to see him still snoring away. Jason, a typical fourteen-year-old boy, was always the first to bed at night and the last to rise in the morning. But this time, as luck would have it, he was not. He was leaning on one elbow, looking at the two of them.

Brett froze in place, a jolt of adrenaline surging through his body as he realized that he had been caught. Could this morning possibly get any worse? Would Jason pick up his rifle that he had been so recently taught to use and shoot the man that had raped his sister? That was certainly in the realm of possibilities, wasn't it?

Chrissie, noting Brett's sudden halt in movement, looked over her shoulder to see what he was looking at. She too froze in place, so surprised that it took her a few moments to realize that her breasts were exposed to Jason's eyes. When she did realize this she slowly reached down and pulled the sleeping bag tighter against her chest.

How long did the moment last? Brett was not sure. It seemed an eternity that the three of them all stared at each other. Brett tried to read Jason's face and found it impossible. There was no expression to be read. It was as if he was looking at a baseball card or a pinecone.

"Morning," Jason finally said, his tone strangely normal.

"Uh... good morning," Brett answered slowly. Chrissie said nothing.

"Did you guys sleep good?" he said next. "I know I did. I think I'm starting to get used to sleeping on rocks."

"Really?" Brett asked, feeling a little like he was in the Twilight Zone. What was happening here? Wasn't Jason upset?

"Yep," he said, nodding. "Would you guys mind turning around so I can get dressed? I gotta pee."

"Uh... sure," replied Brett.

"Yeah... okay," echoed Chrissie. Both of them dutifully rolled over to the other side, hastily moving as far apart as they could in the process. Brett had a sudden worry that this was how Jason was going to kill him; by having him turn his back to him. He listened for the clacking of a gun being picked up. It didn't come, only the sound of Jason's clothes jingling.

"Man," Jason told them as he dressed, "I really hate putting these wet clothes on in the morning. Talk about cold."

Neither Brett nor Chrissie had any sort of answer to offer him. It took him the better part of five minutes to get fully dressed.

"Okay, I'm done," he said.

They both turned to look at him again. He was carefully threading his belt through the pistol holster, positioning it neatly on his right hip at exactly the angle that Brett always did. He gave it a pat and then picked up his rifle. "I'll set out the cans from dinner last night so they can fill," he said as he wormed his way out the side. "We're starting to get low on water in the canteens again."

"Uh... sure. Good idea," Brett told him, staring after him as he disappeared in the rain. He then turned to Chrissie. "Did that just happen?"

"That was kind of weird, wasn't it?" she agreed. "I mean, we were totally busted. There's no way he didn't see us."

"It was like he didn't even care," Brett said, shaking his head in wonder.

Chrissie shrugged a little. "Well," she suggested, after a moment's thought on the matter, "maybe he doesn't."


"Well, think about it. Why should he care? I'm his older sister, not his girlfriend or his daughter or anything. My dad or my mom probably wouldn't have liked finding us very much, but Jason is younger than I am."

Brett rubbed his temples a little, massaging at a tension headache. "Too much to think about right now," he mumbled, sitting up and grabbing for his own clothes.

"Brett," Chrissie said softly, putting her hand on his bare shoulder.

He looked over at her, knowing what she was going to say, desperately wanting to avoid it.

"What about us?" she asked. "Don't you think we should talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about," he said firmly. "I shouldn't have done that. I took advantage of you last night and it was wrong."

"I don't feel like you took advantage of me," she said. "I wanted it as much as you did."

"That's beside the point."

"No it's not!" she insisted. "Don't you like me, Brett?"

"Yes, Chrissie," he sighed. "I like you a lot. I like you too much. You're a very beautiful, very smart girl and I am very attracted to you. That's what the problem is. You're too young to be having sex with a thirty-five year old man."

"Says who?" she asked him.

"Says me! What I did goes against everything I believe in."

"Everything you believe in is gone now," she said quietly. "You told us that yourself. It's a completely different world now with completely different rules. We could die at any time. Isn't it more likely that we're going to be dead in a month than that we're still alive?"

"Chrissie," he said, "I hardly think..."

"Isn't it?" she interrupted forcefully.

"Yes," he admitted. "I suppose it is."

"Then why shouldn't we enjoy a little affection while we're still alive?" she asked him. "Who is it harming? It's not harming me. No one is going to come and put you in jail for it. Why shouldn't we do it?"

"Why shouldn't we go and kill people who have food if we need it?" he countered. "Why shouldn't I have raped you at gunpoint the other day instead of protecting you? We can't just go changing our morality because there's no one to enforce it anymore. Don't you see that? That's what those bikers are doing. They are what happens when people just start doing whatever they feel like doing."

"You're not like those bikers Brett," she told him, almost angrily. "You're nothing like them. And having sex with me when I wanted it and you wanted it is not the same as raping someone and killing their parents. Can't you see that?"

"It's not the same," he said, "but it's a step in that direction. Don't you see?"

She had no answer for him. Before they could continue the discussion any further, they heard the sound of Jason returning. "Why don't you turn around so I can get dressed?" he asked. "I want to try and put some miles behind us today."

With a disappointed look she rolled over to the other side, turning her back to him.

The town of Foresthill had once occupied about two square miles of real estate alongside of a simple two-lane road that ran from Auburn up into the high Sierra. It had once had a thriving population of six hundred, a mix of blue-collar types that worked in the nearby lumber mill and wealthy yuppies who commuted sixty miles to Sacramento to work. But that had been before the comet. Now, three quarters of the business section and half of the old residential section had been washed away by mudslides moving down the mountain. After wiping out the main part of Foresthill the mud had continued downward, eventually burying the Todd Valley section - where the majority of the yuppies had lived in tract houses on subdivided land - more than thirty feet deep. Now all that was left were a few crumbling old farmhouses, a bait shop, a useless gas station, and a church. The population had been reduced to a mere 83 people who were taking shelter in the church and living off of the canned foods that they had managed to scavenge together.

Most of these survivors were women and very small children. Since the comet had struck during the late morning hours on a workday, the majority of the men had been at work and the majority of the school-age kids had been in school. Those that had been at jobs in Sacramento had suffered the fate that everyone else in the valley had. Those that had been at the mill, which was virtually the only employer in town, had been trapped in the building when it had collapsed in the earthquake and then buried for all time when the first of the mudslides had swept through an hour later. Those that had been in school had been thirty miles away in Auburn, since Foresthill did not have a school of its own, and their fates were unknown.

Still, a few men were in the group. Some had taken the day off on that fateful morning. A few had worked somewhere in town that hadn't been touched; such as the gas station or the bait shop. The pastor of the church was among them, his place of employment spared; miraculously he liked to think. And of course there was more than one that had been simply "between jobs", as they would have put it. In all, of the 83 surviving residents of Foresthill, there were 49 women, 20 young children, and 14 men.

That was before the convicts came to town.

They were twenty-seven strong, including six women, and they had been camped on the outskirts of the town for two days, performing a careful reconnaissance of the area through binoculars and rifles scopes that had been taken from the El Dorado Sheriff's Department. They had noted that everyone in Foresthill seemed to be staying in the church, a sturdy wooden building near the center of the remaining township. The security measures that the townspeople employed were a joke but the leader of the convicts, a man named Stuart Covington, who had, once upon a long time ago, been a United States Marine Corps infantryman, thought it best to be sure of what they were dealing with before they moved in. It was discovered that the Foresthill residents posted guards armed with rifles and pistols on the outside of the church - always men - but that they did not send out patrols of the surrounding area. Nor did they have anybody posted in a high place to keep an eye out on the approaches. It was a rare event indeed for anyone to leave the church at all.

"What do you think Stu?" asked Mark Wisington, Stu's former cellmate in the EDCCC and his unofficial second in command of the motley group.

Stu, who was staring at the church building through binoculars, answered without taking them from his eyes. "It should be pretty easy," he said. "Take down the guards out front and pin the rest of them inside. I wanna capture the women if we can get them to come out peacefully, but if they won't, we'll have to shoot some of those tear gas rounds in."

"If we play it right," Mark opined, "they'll come out."

"Exactly." He lowered the binoculars and edged backwards a little. "We'll move on them in one hour. You take half of the group around the back, I'll take the other half from here. My group should be able to close to within fifty yards or so before we're spotted if we use that gas station building for cover. You'll be able to get even closer if you use the trees. Keep low and keep your guys quiet."

"What about our bitches?"

"We'll have Turbo hang back and keep an eye on them. They won't be any trouble."

Mark nodded, putting his own set of glasses to his eyes and taking a quick look. The guard out front was about forty years old. He was dressed in a black rain slicker and was smoking a cigarette. He had an old bolt-action rifle slung over his back. He was not even walking around. He was seated in a damn chair. "I hope they still have some of those cigarettes when we take them," Mark said wistfully.

"Yeah," Stu agreed. "The one fuckin thing we didn't think to grab when we blew town."

"Still no M-16s spotted with the guards?"

"Nope. Just those old hunting rifles. I don't think they even have that many of those. Some fuckin frontier town this turned out to be. It would seem that if our friend is still on the loose somewhere, he isn't here. I never thought he would be once I saw their security. A man smart enough to take out four of our guys and walk away without a scratch would be a little smarter than this."

"I hope we find him someday," Mark said, lowering his glasses again. "I really hope we do. I got a little payback I'd like to give him for Joker."

"Be careful what you wish for," Stu told him. "You just might get it. But for what its worth, I hope we find him too. He's dangerous. A man like that will be able to organize others. Organization is our enemy."

"It's a small world now. We'll find him eventually. And when we do, I wanna kill him slow."

Stu said nothing in reply to this. He had his own thoughts and feelings on the subject of their friend, the man who had ambushed four of their number while they'd been making a raid and had deprived them of both weapons and needed supplies. He did not hate the man. He feared and respected him. If he ever had the chance he would take him out as quickly as possible from as far away as possible.

"I'm gonna gather up my group and start filling them in on the plan," Mark said after a moment. "We'll be ready to move when you give the word."

"Right," Stu answered. "We're gonna party hard tonight."

Right on schedule, the two groups, divided into ten apiece, made their move. Most of them carried M-16s - they had scored sixteen of the weapons from the EDCCC originally but had lost three to their friend - and those that didn't carried scoped rifles or shotguns. They managed to box in the church building and close with it before the guards in the front and back spotted them. When they were spotted, the reaction by the guards was simply to stand and stare. No alarm was raised, no warning shots were offered. This sealed the fate of the townspeople.

Stu took the honor of firing the first shot. He sighted on the front guard from forty yards and squeezed off a single round, striking him in the chest. The guard crumpled to the ground and Stu waved his men forward. From the back of the building Mark, who was much closer to his guard, took him out with a pistol shot to the head. This group did not have to move forward. They were already optimally positioned to cover the rear.

Stu's group spread out and found cover across the street from the church, their weapons trained on the doors and windows. When a man stuck his head out the front door to see what the shooting had been about he promptly had a bullet put through it by an M-16 round. The man dropped in a heap and that was when the screaming began inside; a chorus of feminine wails intermixed with the cries of children.

The battle did not last very long at all. From the top window of the church, two muzzleflashes erupted as two of the townspeople tried, ineffectively, to drive away their invaders. A brief but intense barrage of automatic weapons fire at the window answered this attempt at defense. The glass exploded, tinkling to the ground below, and a series of holes appeared in the wooden frame of the building. No more shots were fired from that window. At the back of the church three women and one man tried to rush out the back door and flee. They were cut down by hail of bullets before they even cleared the doorway. At the front, a young woman carrying a baby in her hands tried the same thing. She and her child were similarly gunned down, their bodies thumping to the mud.

There were no more attempts to escape the church after this. Stu knew that the townspeople had realized that they could neither drive their tormentors away nor escape from them. They would now be setting up to defend against an attempted breach of the building itself. Even as dumb as these people had proven themselves to be they were probably smart enough to have trained every weapon they had on one of the two doors that allowed entry. They would methodically pick off each person as they came through if a frontal assault was attempted. Stu had no intention of wasting either his men or his ammunition that way.

"Inside the church!" he yelled loudly, his voice carrying across the rainy street and through the windows. "We are a heavily armed militia group and we have your church completely surrounded by armed men! You cannot escape us! We did not have any wish to harm you. We are just here to take your supplies! Drop your weapons, come out peacefully, and surrender your goods to us and we will leave you in peace! If you do not come out, we will fire tear gas into the building and kill you as you exit! You have one minute to comply with this! One minute!"

There was no answer from inside at first. It was only when Stu began to loudly count down from thirty seconds that someone spoke. A hesitant voice yelled out: "How do we know that you won't kill us?"

"You don't!" Stu yelled back. "But you know that we will kill you if you don't do as we say! You have twenty seconds left! If we don't start seeing people coming out with their hands in the air by that time, the tear gas goes in! If the tear gas goes in, we will not accept surrenders and you will all die! Nineteen... eighteen... seventeen..."

"All right," the voice finally yelled back. "Stop counting! We're coming out!"

"Men first! And keep those hands in the air!" Stu reminded them. "Leave your weapons inside! Do not try to run once you get out here or you will be shot!"

One by one, the men emerged, hands in the air exactly as Stu had ordered. They were led by the pastor of the church who was, amazingly enough, dressed in his traditional black suit. In all there were eleven adult males, ranging in age from late teens to late sixties. One of them was wounded, suffering from a bullet in the shoulder, undoubtedly taken during the barrage of gunfire at the upper window.

"Lie down, face first in the mud over there!" Stu commanded. "Keep your hands out in front of you!"

They did as they were told, none of them trying any cute moves. Stu and the rest of them relaxed somewhat once the men were secured.

"Now the rest of you!" Stu yelled. "One by one, hands in the air, no weapons! Do it now!"

They came out slowly, docilely, marching through the doorway and out onto the muddy lawn. The women, like the men, were of a wide variety of ages, everything from late teens to geriatrics. The largest age group however, was early to late twenties. Some led small, crying children by the hands, whispering encouraging words to them. Others carried smaller children in their arms, holding them tightly.

"Oh yeah," the man next to Stu said as they watched. "Look at all that pussy! We're gonna have a good time tonight!"

"Shut the fuck up," Stu said mildly, his eyes never leaving the group, keeping a constant lookout for the slightest sign of danger.

Once everyone was out of the church, Stu directed the women to sit down on the ground, separate from where the men were lying. They all complied, most of them hugging children to them. The moment they were all seated, Stu gave a hand signal to his group and they suddenly shifted their position, moving to the left, out of the line of fire from the front of the church. They all kneeled down once again, finding cover behind new objects.

"Mark!" Stu yelled loudly. "They're out and under control! Move in and secure the building!"

"Moving!" came the faint reply from the other side.

It took about two minutes before Mark and his group emerged through the front door. "Secure," he told Stu. "And they have a buttload of goodies in there. Canned food, dry food, cigarettes, beer, even hard liquor. It's a motherfuckin' gold mine!"

"We'll go through it later," Stu said, standing and waving his men to do the same. He began to walk towards the two groups of captives, relaxing now that they no longer presented a danger. "Good job everyone. That was by the fuckin' book." He looked over the smaller bunch, the men. "Who's in charge?" he asked.

"I guess you could say that I am," the pastor announced, looking him in the eye defiantly. "Just take what you want and leave us in peace."

"You bet, padre," Stu answered. "But in the meantime, I'd just like to say that you made that way too easy for us. If you would've had a decent defense set up here, we never woulda fucked with you."

The pastor said nothing and Stu did not push the issue.

"Where are those twist-ties at?" Stu asked his group at large.

"Right here, Stu," Harley, a former methamphetamine brewer, announced, holding up a bag of heavy duty zip-ties that they had found in the EDCCC storage room. The cops used them for securing people's arms during mass arrests.

"Okay," Stu said. "Let's get a detail formed. Harley, Zipper, Billy, Joe, and Spanky, move the men over to the gas station one by one. Keep a close eye on 'em and waste 'em if they try anything funny. Do them just like we told you earlier; hands and feet."

One by one the men were led over to the gas station building under heavy guard. Once inside the former convenience store portion of the station, they were laid down on their stomachs and directed to place their hands behind their backs and their feet against their butts. A zip-tie was then used to bind all four extremities together, making it impossible for the person to move. It took about ten minutes before all eleven were safely hobbled and stored.

Once this was accomplished, the group of bikers gathered before the women and children. They held a quiet discussion among themselves as they looked their captives over, gesturing and pointing a lot, laughing to themselves, but talking too softly for the women to hear. Eventually an accord was reached among them. Stu, Mark, and two others stepped forward and began pointing at various members of the group.

"All those we just pointed out," Stu said, "I want you to stand up. Leave your children if you've got them with the other women."

There was hesitation until Stu fired a shot over their heads. "I mean fucking now!" he screamed menacingly.

Slowly the chosen females stood. There were eleven of them in all and the reason for their selection was glaring obvious. They were the youngest and most attractive of the group. They began to shudder in fear as they realized what was in store for them.

"Harley, Zipper," Stu ordered, "get 'em in the church. Have 'em sit down and keep 'em under guard. Hands off of them for now."

"Right," Harley grinned, looking lewdly at the raid's bounty, his cock already erect in anticipation of what was soon to come. "You heard the man," he yelled at the women. "Get your asses moving. Into the church, right now."

Slowly, miserably they marched off to the doorway, the guards flanking them. Several children began to wail as they saw their mothers taken away.

"Shut those fuckin' kids up!" Stu barked at the remaining women.

They did their best to comply with this command but it was futile. One of the great truths of life is that children will cry when upset and there's not a thing that can be done about it. Stu, realizing this, did not repeat the order. Instead, he ordered his men to start moving the remaining women and the children over to the gas station to be with the men. "Secure 'em the same way," he said.

"The kids too?" someone asked.

"The kids too," he confirmed.

It took the better part of a half an hour to accomplish. Not all of the women went as docilely as the men had, particularly when they felt the children were being mishandled. One of them, an early-thirties babe that had missed the cut of those led into the church by virtue of the fact that she looked like a truck-driver, slapped Mark across the face when he grabbed her four-year-old son roughly by the arm.

"You don't need to be so rough!" she said defiantly, standing her ground. "They're just kids!"

That was the last thing she ever said. Stu stepped forward a moment later and bashed her squarely in the face with the butt of his rifle. She fell, choking and gagging on her own blood, to the ground. Two more strikes to the forehead quieted her. There was no more rebellion after that.

Once they were all securely tied and bound inside the church, Stu, who was smoking a cigarette that Harley had brought out to him, turned to Mark. "You know what to do now."

Mark looked at his leader doubtfully. He was looking forward to the night's festivities as much as anyone but he was not at all enthusiastic about his next task. "Are you sure we hafta do it that way?" he asked. "Why can't we just shoot them?"

"We don't have enough fuckin' ammo to be wastin' it like that," Stu replied, giving his underling a seething glare. "Do you have a problem doin' it the way I told you?"

Mark cowered under Stu's gaze. "No, Stu," he said. "No problem at all. It's just a pain in the ass to find the supplies."

"It's a tough job, Markie," Stu said, continuing to glare. "That's why I picked you for it. Now get it done. While you're doing that, I'm gonna take a look around and figure out where to post some guards. If the supplies are as good as you say then we'll stay here for a little while and rest up. And once the job's done, it's party-time."

"Right," Mark said, taking a glance at the gas station building. "Party time."

He found a five-gallon bucket near the outside of the church. It's sparkling cleanliness in a world in which everything was now covered with mud told Mark that it was what the townspeople had been using to collect their drinking water in. He picked it up and began looking for the next item he would need. Less than a minute of searching led him to a twenty-five foot garden hose that was still attached to the useless faucet outside the church. Using his folding knife, he cut off a six-foot length of it and slung it over his shoulder.

Just outside the gas station itself was a Chevy pick-up truck mired to the axles in mud. It would probably still be there when archeologists uncovered this town ten thousand years or so in the future. Mark pried open its gas cap with his knife and then inserted the hose down into the tank. With a few sucks on the other end of the hose, amber gas began to flow. He let it pour into the bucket until it was about three-quarters full.

After taking a few deep breaths and bracing himself for what he had to do next, he picked up the bucket, carrying it carefully to avoid spilling any, and carried it inside the gas station store. Lying on the floor, most of them crying or yelling or praying, were 69 men, women, and children, all hog-tied with plastic straps. When he began to pour the gasoline on them, their cries turned to screams of panic. They begged him not to do what he was about to do. They pleaded with him. They cursed at him. Many of them began to vomit uncontrollably. One of them, a child, began to convulse. He tried his best to ignore them.

He made sure every person was liberally soaked with the fluid and then he spread the remaining gas over the counters and on the floor. With their deafening cries echoing in his ears, he walked back outside and threw the bucket to the ground. He stood against the wall next to the outside of the door and took a box of waterproof matches from his pocket. His hands were shaking so badly that it took him more than ten tries before he was able to get one of the wooden sticks to light up. When it did, he closed his eyes and, without stopping to consider his actions any further, threw it through the doorway.

There was a soft, almost gentle WHUMP and a blast of heat and fire immediately exploded outward from the building. Mark ran away as quick as he could, escaping any burns from the rapidly spreading flames. He could not outrun the screams of those inside however. They were the shrill, high-pitched wails of nearly seventy people dying in sheer agony. They went on for the longest time, for much longer than he would have thought possible.

Less than an hour later, while the gas station was still sputtering flames in a few places, the party inside the church was in full swing. Except for those unlucky souls that had been stuck with guard duty, everyone was drunk on the liquor supply that had been found. The women had been stripped of their clothing and handcuffed to the pews. Stu and the others were taking turns raping them in a variety of fashions. Some were forcing the women to blow them, others were forcing themselves into anal openings, others still were performing their acts in the conventional method. All of the women had been beaten to varying degrees, some simply with fists, others with steel-toed boots or gun butts depending upon their level of resistance. Since there were more men then women, most were being raped by several people at the same time. Two of the younger ones had had their handcuffs removed and were being forced to lick each other. All of them had begged to be killed at some point but that was simply not in the cards for the time being. That would be like purposely breaking a favorite toy.

Mark simply sat there, chain smoking cigarettes and sipping from a bottle of Wild Turkey that someone had handed him. He didn't feel like partaking in the pleasures of the conquest. He could not get the screams of those dying men, women, and children out of his mind.

But after a while, as he drank more and more, his brain began to rationalize what had been done. True, it had been a rather grisly way to go but, in the long run, he had actually been doing those poor bastards a favor, hadn't he? Obviously they were not equipped with what it took to survive in this new reality. Wasn't it better that they be removed relatively quickly instead of suffering through the eventual starvation that they would have faced? Wasn't it the responsibility of the strong to remove the weak?

The more he thought about this, the more sense it made. Soon, when about a third of the whiskey bottle was coursing through his veins, he began to get a boner as he watched Turbo and Zipper taking turns fucking one of the younger women up the ass while Stu was forcing her to suck his dick. A smile formed on his face and he stood up, passing his bottle off to a new recipient as he walked over.

"Get the fuck outta there, Turbo," he said, grabbing the younger man by the arm and pulling him to the side. "It's my turn." Turbo grumbled a bit but offered no physical protest.

"Yeah, Markie!" Stu yelled, giving him a drunken thumbs-up. "Bag this bitch! Show her how we do it downtown!"

Mark grinned at Stu as he unbuckled his pants and let them drop. By the time he forced himself into her back door the thoughts of what he had done earlier were nearly forgotten.

"Did you and Chrissie have a fight?" Jason asked as they sat on a fallen log after eating their lunch of cold vegetable beef soup. They were in a small clearing in the middle of a thick stand of old growth pine trees. The rain had a hard time falling directly upon them but it had a rather easy time of dripping from the branches above in thick, heavy drops. Their log was located in the zone of least moisture, a zone that they had become intimately familiar with and had learned to expertly locate in any surroundings. Chrissie, the object of this new discussion, was off in the trees relieving her bladder.

"A fight?" Brett asked blankly, looking at the fourteen-year-old before him.

"Well, yeah," he said. "You haven't talked to each other all day and I saw her crying a few times while we were walking. You haven't been talking a lot either. You're usually teaching us things while we're moving but you haven't done any of that today. Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," Brett replied. "Or at least as fine as they can be. Things will be back to what passes for normal here pretty soon."

"So you're gonna make up with her?"

"Make up with her?"

"Yeah," he said enthusiastically. "You're like the coolest boyfriend she's ever had. The rest of those guys were all a bunch of dweebs tryin' to impress her. But you're like the real thing, you know?"

"Uh... thanks," Brett said carefully. "But I'm not really Chrissie's boyfriend."

Jason looked confused. "But you guys were... you know... doing it."

Brett fought to keep his expression neutral. It was a battle that he won, just barely. "Doing it?"

Jason blushed a little. "Last night," he said, embarrassed.

"You... uh... heard us?"

"You guys woke me up," he said. "Chrissie's elbow bashed me in the head like five times. You sounded like you were tryin' to be quiet but you weren't doin' a very good job of it. Especially not towards... uh... the end. It kinda grossed me out a little thinkin' that was my sister doing that right next to me, but I got used to it."

"Jesus," Brett muttered, about as embarrassed as he'd ever been in his life. Had they really thought that Jason had slept through the whole thing? They really had.

'It's cool though," Jason told him, giving a fairly passable man of the world look. "I mean, what else can you do, right?"

He sighed, having to struggle just to meet Jason's eyes. "Look," he said. "What happened last night was... was wrong. I did something that I really shouldn't have done and that I regret now. You don't have to worry. It won't happen again."

The reaction that this proclamation produced was not at all what Brett expected. Jason looked downright alarmed by it. "It's okay," he said quickly. "I wasn't complaining or nothin'. You don't have to worry about me. If you want, I'll get out of the lean-to at night until you're done."


"Or I'll build my own. I don't want to get in the way of you guys. I'll give you all the privacy you want. Really."

"We won't need any privacy," Brett said. "What happened last night won't happen again. I'd just assume everyone forget about it. You won't have to build your own lean-to or go out into the rain."

Jason, if anything, seemed to become even more alarmed. He chewed on his lip for a moment, seeming almost on the verge of tears. Finally, he blurted: "Are you going to leave us then?"

"Leave you?"

He nodded. "Go off on your own," he said. "Since you and Chrissie aren't... you know?"

So that was what was on his mind, Brett realized. Jason thought that if he and Chrissie were not going to sleep together and be boyfriend and girlfriend, that there would be no reason for him to stick around. "Look, Jason," he said seriously. "No matter what happened or happens between Chrissie and I, I'm not going to leave you guys to fend for yourselves. I promised your mother and I'll promise you, I will take care of you as long as I'm able to and as long as you need someone to take care of you. I'm not going to leave you."

"Okay," he said softly, but he didn't seem entirely convinced. "But if you and Chrissie ever want to... you know... do it again, you go ahead and do it. Don't worry about me."

"I'll keep it in mind," Brett said, letting his head fall into his hands.

Chrissie came back a moment later, entering the clearing through a gap in two trees. She did not look at either one of them. She simply unshouldered her rifle and sat back down on a different log. The rest of the lunch break passed in silence.

An hour later, at the summit of a steep ridge, Brett, on the point like always, spotted something. He saw a small patch of something orange between the trees about fifty yards in front of them, a color that was very out of place in the green and brown environment of the forest. At this first hint of something unusual he held up his left hand, silently indicating to his two companions to halt in place and keep a sharp eye out. It was probably nothing to worry about but you didn't stay alive in a hostile world by assuming that. Chrissie and Brett, seeing the signal, obeyed it instantly, as he had taught them to do.

He dropped to one knee, training his rifle towards the area. He gave two more hand signals to Chrissie and Jason: "Spread out to the sides and cover my flanks". They both trotted about twenty yards in opposite directions, both of them finding fallen trees to use as cover. Had they been under fire, Brett would have covered this move with bursts from his rifle, but since they were not, he simply kept his eyes open and his finger upon the trigger. Nothing jumped out at or attacked them during the move. Once the two kids were in place, Brett took a moment to check their positioning. He was pleased with what he saw. Both of them had placed themselves so well that he had a difficult time even spotting them. Both had their rifles trained outward at forty-five degree angles, covering the sides and allowing him to cover the front. They now had an overlapping field of fire that would allow them to shoot at anything in a 180 degree arc without having to shift position. They really were quick learners.

He watched the mysterious orange blot in the trees for nearly two minutes, waiting to see if it would move or not. It did not. Neither did anything else. He raised himself back to his feet and gave a brief whistle, getting the attention of the kids. They looked over at him and he pointed to himself and then forward, giving them the signal that he was going to move up and check things out and that they were to stay back and cover his advance. They both nodded their understanding to him and he began to pick his way forward, moving tree to tree.

He made it about twenty yards before the smell hit him. It was the thick, sickly sweet odor of decay, an odor he had smelled a thousand times during his days as a patrol cop. It was the distinctive stink of a dead human body. Not even the rotting corpses of the large animals they had passed smelled quite like that.

He continued to move forward until he had a clear view of the orange that he'd seen. He was now able to identify it as one of those bright orange hunting caps that some hunters liked to wear to keep from being mistaken for a deer. It was lying next to the body of a man in blue jeans and a T-shirt. He was sprawled on his back under a tree, his arms and legs splayed out to the sides. He was barefoot. About ten feet away was a smaller human corpse, that of a young teenage boy. Thanks to the constant rain there were no flies about them and there were no ants covering them. But larger animals - rats, raccoons, coyotes, maybe even a bear - had certainly taken their fill. Their faces had been almost completely chewed away, as had large chunks of their arms and legs. Though Brett had seen more than one dead body in his time, these were particularly grisly looking to him.

He examined the area around him for a few moments, searching for anything else that did not belong. Seeing nothing, he waved Jason and Chrissie up, giving them the all-clear signal. They came trotting up quickly, their rifles clanking as they moved.

"Oh my God," Chrissie cried when they got close. "What is that smell?"

"Gross," Jason agreed.

They came around the last set of trees and stopped in their tracks as they saw what was on the ground. Both moaned a little in disgust but neither backed away.

"Hunters," Brett said, stepping a little closer to the bodies and breathing through his mouth. "Looks like a father and son. They were ambushed by someone."

"Ambushed?" Chrissie asked. "How do you know? Maybe they just died."

He pointed to the tree right in front of where the father lie. "Brain and blood splatter," he said, pointing out some grayish specks that marred the bark. "This man was shot from behind as he walked up the hill and then he fell backwards onto his back. It looks like the boy was shot almost at the same instant since he didn't try to run away. All of their supplies, their guns, even their shoes are gone. Trust me on this. It was an ambush. Somebody killed them for their supplies."

All three of them silently contemplated that for a moment.

"Brett?" Chrissie asked softly. "Could that happen to us? I mean, we're probably carrying more than these two were."

He looked at her, instinctively wanting to lie to her but knowing that she wouldn't believe him. "That is probably the most likely thing to happen to us," he said. "These guns we're carrying will keep away the casual robber but these packs we're carrying are a magnet for the kind of people who would do this."

"Is there anything we can do to stop it?" Jason asked, looking nervously at the forest around them, probably envisioning armed bandits just over the next rise.

"We can try to spot them before they spot us," he said. "We can keep alert for danger. People who ambush will usually stalk for a while before they make a move. Other than that," he shook his head sadly, "nothing."

They mulled that over for a moment while they stared down at the chewed corpses. Finally Brett said: "Let's get moving out of here. The people who did this are probably long gone, but you never know. They might be nearby."

They began to walk again, continuing through the muddy forest. Soon the sight and the smell of the two hunters were behind them.

"By the way," Brett said once they were clear, "that was excellent execution by both of you back there when I waved you to the flanks. You both did exactly what you were supposed to do exactly when and how you were supposed to do it. Your cover was so good that even I had a hard time seeing you."

"Really?" Jason asked, beaming at the praise. Chrissie, though she seemed pleased by it, said nothing.

"Really," he confirmed. "I don't give false compliments, especially not in this world. You two did good, even if it was a false alarm. You keep that kind of thing up and we stand a decent chance of surviving under fire. Always remember that it's usually the people that can keep their heads and respond correctly that survive a combat situation. Panic kills. You two didn't panic, you just did what I told you. I'm proud of both of you."

"Thanks, Brett," Jason said, looking between him and Chrissie. "Wasn't that a nice thing to say, sis?"

"Yeah," she mumbled, not saying further.

Jason let it drop. So did Brett. They marched onward.

That night, after the lean-to was built, after the surrounding area was checked for stalkers, and after their simple though satisfying dinner of canned spaghetti, Jason made a big show of yawning and stretching and proclaiming his fatigue. When Brett suggested that maybe he should hit the sack, he immediately took him up on the offer and stripped down. Ten minutes later he was snoring away.

Brett reached into his sleeping bag and pulled out the last two cans of Bud. He held one out to Chrissie. "Care to join me?" he asked her.

She had been scraping the worst of the mud out of her boots with a stick. She looked up long enough to say, "no thanks" and then went back to what she was doing.

Brett put the can he had offered her back where it had been without comment. He considered trying to talk to her but could not think of a thing to say. Chrissie would just have to work it out on her own.

He sipped at his beer as he watched the coming of night. Before it was even half gone, Chrissie announced she was going to bed and asked him to keep his eyes forward while she undressed. "Can't have you seeing me naked now, right?" she asked sarcastically.

"Right," he answered softly, with a sigh. He kept his eyes forward and listened to the maddening sound of her shucking her wet clothes. Her smell, that wet, feral odor of musk and sweat, was even stronger than it had been the previous night. It assaulted his nostrils, kicking his libido into overdrive. The knowledge that she would welcome him turning around to look, that she would welcome his touch upon her, did not help. He began to wonder just how long he would be able to keep up his vow not to touch her. He wondered if it was worthwhile to even try.

No, he told himself firmly. You have to be strong. Sleeping with Chrissie was wrong.

He did not turn around. When she was done undressing she climbed into her sleeping bag and covered up. When night finally wiped out the last of the light he made another one of his trips out into the rain to relieve the aching pressure that had built up. It didn't do much good. As he lay next to Chrissie later, listening to her breathing, remembering how good she had felt in his arms, he stiffened up once again. He did his best to ignore it and finally, after more than an hour, sleep was able to take him.

The month of October in the Sierra Nevada Mountains signals more than just the start of deer hunting season. It is also the harvest month for the many illegal marijuana plantations that dotted the heavily wooded, difficult to access portions of the mountains. This was the reason that Dave Madison and Matt Horn had been spared when the impact had occurred. Instead of being in their trailer park outside of Rocklin, where they surely would have been drowned by the water surge that took the valley, they had been at an elevation of 3500 feet in a thickly wooded section of the mountains, preparing the half acre of plants they had raised for picking the following week.

Unfortunately the two men had been prepared only to stay overnight and had brought only enough supplies to sustain them for that length of time. After the impact they had made a feeble attempt to ration their holdings but had been unable to stretch them more than three days.

They had been sitting under a tree, on the verge of starvation, when the hunter and his son had walked by them two days before, not even seeing them so intent were they on ascending the hill they'd been climbing. Though Dave and Matt had both been in numerous fistfights in their lives, though both had done some time in the county jail from time to time, neither had ever robbed anyone or killed anyone. They would have been genuinely appalled had anyone suggested to them that they would one day kill for food. But that had been before. Things were different now.

They had held a quick discussion with very little argument and with a great deal of rationalization in it. Both of them, as was customary in the mountains, were armed with pistols. They had gotten up and, utilizing the last of their strength reserves, began to move through the forest behind the two hunters.

They'd moved tree to tree, making short dashes from one place to another, steadily closing the gap between themselves and the hunters without alerting them. They'd known that they would have to get very near in order to make their plan effective. Pistols were notoriously inaccurate at much more than ten yards. It was when their quarry stopped for a moment to catch their breath before climbing the last section of hill that the two men managed to get near enough to act.

They crept slowly, carefully forward the last few feet, their guns out and ready to fire at the first sign of detection. But the hunters remained oblivious, the father saying something to his son that could not be heard. They were able to get within fifteen feet before Dave, who was tacitly in charge of this operation, signaled that it was time. He took careful aim on the father with his .357 magnum, putting the sights right on the back of his head. Dave was not an expert shot by any means but he had done a fair amount of shooting at cans and signs and other inanimate objects during his many trips to the mountains in the past. When he pulled the trigger the bullet went where he wanted it, dropping the older man instantly to the mud. Less than a second later, while the kid was still turning to see what had happened, Matt pumped three rounds into his chest with his 9mm.

They had been disappointed to find that the only food the hunters had had on them had been a few energy bars and a bag of trail mix. It was hardly enough to sustain them for more than a day or two. Had this been the only bounty they'd taken from the operation they would have probably felt guilty for murdering two people for it. But the thick, winter jackets that the two had had on almost made up for the lack of food, as did the fine hunting rifles that they'd carried. They had stripped the bodies of everything usable and had sat right there eating the bulk of the food.

Now, less than two miles from where they'd killed the first time, they were reasonably warm and fairly well armed but once again on the verge of starvation. Their last rations had been consumed more than twenty-four hours before. They were resting with their backs against a tree, both feeling the heaviness in their stomachs that went with extreme hunger, when movement below them caught their eyes.

Both stiffened up, watching as three people, a man and two teenage children, passed less than a hundred yards from them. All were carrying assault rifles and they were walking in what appeared to be a military formation. They all three had large packs and sleeping bags upon their backs and they did not appear to be grappling with food deprivation.

"Did you see that?" Dave whispered to Matt, his mouth actually drooling. "I bet they had food in those packs."

"Yeah," Matt said, drooling himself, "but did you see those guns they was carrying? Those are fuckin' M-16s."

"Let's follow 'em," Dave said, getting to his feet. "We need to get those packs."

"There's three of 'em," Matt protested. "That's three people with combat rifles. We're only two with hunting rifles."

This argument did not carry as much weight as it would have with full stomachs. "What do we got to lose?" Dave asked. "If we don't get some food pretty soon, we're gonna die anyway. Maybe they'll drop their guard. They have to rest sometime, don't they?"

Dave thought this over for a second and found himself swayed. "Yeah," he said, standing. "I guess you're right. Let's go."

They kept to higher ground as they stalked their new prey, moving, as with the two hunters, tree to tree, steadily closing the gap. They kept that gap a little larger with these three however and they kept themselves more carefully concealed as they moved in. This group was considerably more alert than the hunters had been. The one in the lead, the older man, made a point of turning around every fifty feet or so to check their rear. It didn't matter too much though. They, the stalkers, were now equipped with weapons capable of hitting targets from a much greater range.

"When they stop," Dave whispered at one point, "I'll bag the big one and you bag the boy."

"What about the girl?" Matt wanted to know.

Dave grinned. "We'll try to take her alive if we can. Maybe we can have a little fun with her after we eat."

Matt returned the grin. "Yeah baby," he said, imitating Austin Powers.

Brett had had this feeling before. It was a prickly sensation on the back of his neck, a quickening of the pulse, a feeling of being watched. He sensed something up on the ridges above them, something hostile. It was an instinctive knowledge, born from years of working in hostile situations, and something that he had long since learned to trust. Had he been asked, he would have attributed this instinct to some sort of extra-sensory perception, a weak psychic ability that some people learned to utilize as an early warning system of danger. In fact, it was no such thing. It was merely his subconscious processing a variety of tiny inputs from his normal senses, inputs too weak for him to notice individually.

His auditory sense was the first to pick up a signal. Out of the thousands of sounds that were being processed every second by his brain, one pattern did not belong. Though Brett did not consciously hear the soft breaking of wet twigs, or the gentle sucking of boots coming free of mud, or the occasional scraping of a hand against tree bark from above and behind, he did hear them. And though he did not consciously smell a wet odor of sour sweat drifting on the breeze, a few molecules of this scent did reach his olfactory nerve, which was able to identify the fact that it belonged to neither Chrissie, Jason, nor himself. His eyes, when he looked back for routine checks of their rear, did not consciously see, among the thousands of other things, a few broken branches or fresh indentations in the mud where feet had recently trod but his brain did recognize that something was just a little different. His brain would have dismissed any one of these things individually. But when they were all added together in the subconscious, warning bells began to go off. The sympathetic nervous system activated the adrenal glands, dumping fresh adrenaline into the blood stream. As the inputs grew stronger and more constant, the subconscious began to yell at the conscious that something was wrong.

Brett swallowed forcefully when the sensation became too much for him to dismiss as nerves. He did not break stride or make any indication that he was nervous but his senses were now on full red alert status. He glanced at Chrissie and Jason with his peripheral vision, seeing that they were keeping tightly in formation. That was good. Trouble was coming soon and he hoped they would react correctly to it. He gripped his rifle a little tighter and began to scan the area around them, looking for favorable cover that would protect them from fire coming from above.

He found it less than a minute later. A group of three tall pine trees had been blown down, probably in the hurricane winds that had followed the initial impact. They lay on the ground like fallen soldiers, their root systems sticking up into the air in an interwoven pattern of mud and wood. If they could get behind those trees the trunks would provide cover and the roots would provide concealment. But would they be able to get there in time if whatever was triggering his instincts turned out to be hostile? He didn't know, but he was about to find out.

"Chrissie, Jason," he barked when they were almost upon the trees. "Behind those trees on the left! Now!" He waved his gun towards them.

They both hesitated for the briefest of instants, probably more out of surprise than fear. It could have been a lethal mistake but this time they were allowed to get away with it.

"Go, goddammit!" Brett yelled, "Go!"

That got them into gear. They began running as fast as they could, their ankles and knees rising and falling, splattering mud. Within a second or two they rushed past him.

"Get under cover!" he commanded, beginning to run himself.

Up on the ridge, Dave and Matt saw them break and run, heard Brett's frantic shouts.

"They know we're here," Dave told Matt. "Get them! Don't let them get away!"

Both men raised their rifles and tried to sight in but their targets were now moving rapidly across their view, making a precision shot impossible. They tried their best anyhow, both pulling off shots at the running figures. The battle began.

The bullets traveled faster than the sound of the exploding gunpowder. Brett heard something whiz over his shoulder just as Chrissie, who was in the lead, rounded the roots and dove behind the tree. An instant later bark exploded from the tree, sending chips through the air. Just to the right of this, another shot buried in the mud. Then came the sound of the shots. Two rifle blasts echoed through the air around them. Jason screamed a little but kept moving. He followed his sister around the tree and dove to the ground.

Brett was right behind them. Just as he pulled himself around, another shot impacted into a standing tree five yards in front of him. It was followed by the sound of another shot. He threw himself down into the mud behind the logs, scooting as close to it as he could.

"Somebody's shooting at us!" Chrissie yelled from her position. She sounded greatly offended by this.

"No shit!" Brett yelled back. "Return fire at them! Shoot and then duck! Don't let them close with us!"

Brett raised his head up over the log, training his rifle up towards the hill where the shots had come from. He saw nothing but forest, trees, and mud but he knew that at least two armed people were up there. He fired a series of shots across the landscape, the M-16 bucking against his shoulder, the expended casings flying out behind him. To his left, Chrissie and Jason both did the same. Up on the hill, Matt and Dave were forced to dive behind bushes in terror as muzzleflashes winked up at them and bullets began to plink into the mud all around them.

"Fuck me!" Dave cried in terror, realizing belatedly that he and his companion were now trapped. There was no way for them to get out of the field of fire without exposing themselves. "Shoot!" he yelled at Matt. "Shoot them or they're gonna kill us!"

Below, Brett ordered the kids to hold their fire. They each squeezed off one more round and then ceased.

"Now get down!" he shouted, following his own advice even as it left his lips. They put their heads down and an instant later, two shots slammed into the log right on the other side of them.

"Move down that way," he told them, pointing further down the log. "Shoot and then cover! Don't fire from the same place twice!"

While they crawled along the muddy ground to their new positions, Brett eased three feet to the right and then popped up again. He fired three more shots into the hillside, again not seeing a target but wanting to keep them pinned down. He ducked back down just as Jason popped up twelve feet to the left of him. Jason, his face with an absolute look of terror upon it, unleashed five rounds up the hill before diving back to the mud. The moment he was down, Chrissie popped up from the far end of the log and fired four shots.

Things then happened very quickly. As soon as Chrissie was back under cover, Brett raised up again, preparing to fire another quick burst. But just as he did so, he saw a muzzle flash from behind a small mound of earth with bushes atop it. One of their attackers had fired at the spot where Chrissie had just been. In doing so, he had given away his position. Worse still, for him anyway, he was only behind concealment, which just hid a person, instead of cover, which hid and protected. Brett quickly sighted on the bush from which the flash had emitted and pulled the trigger five times in less than two seconds. Just as he ducked his head back down he saw a body come rolling down the hill, a rifle trailing after it.

At that instant, another muzzle flash erupted from yet another bush ten feet further up the hill. The bullet slammed into the log less than six inches above Brett's head, peeling a large sliver of wood off and throwing it over the top of him. Specks of wood and mud struck him in the face, stinging his eyes. A fury of rifle shots answered this as Chrissie and Jason unleashed a barrage at the spot where the shot had come from.

"We got him!" Jason yelled triumphantly. "We got him, Chrissie!"

"He's down, Brett!" she answered back gleefully. "We got him!"

Brett, having poked his head back up, saw that they were right. Another rifle and another body was sliding down the hillside. It fetched up against a rock and lie still. He then looked at the two kids, seeing that they were staring at the spot, mesmerized by what they had done. "Get the fuck back down!" he screamed at them. "There might be more out there!" He fired another three rounds up the hill as soon as these words were out of his mouth. Jason and Chrissie, heeding his warning, both hit the dirt once again.

Brett slid about five feet to his left, switching his rifle to automatic fire as he did so. It was time to bug the hell out of Dodge. "Regroup," he yelled at them. "Form up on me! Keep low!"

He put his head up once more and squeezed the trigger twice, sending two short bursts upward before diving back down. No fire answered this. He allowed himself to be slightly encouraged by this. He had only heard two rifles during the battle and two people were down. But that did not mean that there was not another person lying in wait up there.

He began to slide to the left, meeting the two kids near the center of the log. He raised up and fired another burst, again receiving no answering fire. He looked at his two companions. "Is everyone okay?" he asked them.

"Yeah," Chrissie said, nodding rapidly. Her eyes were bright and wide with terror, the pupils so dilated that they almost completely erased the blue surrounding them. Her hands gripped her rifle tight enough to make her knuckles white.

"I'm okay," Jason echoed, breathing rapidly and fidgeting. "We shot that guy, Brett! We fuckin' shot him!"

"Yeah," Brett agreed. "You did good. We'll talk about it later, after we're the hell out of here. I think there was only two but I'm not sure, so we're going to exit this place as if we were under fire, okay?"

They both nodded.

"Jason, you go first. Chrissie and I will give you covering fire while you move. Head for that small hill over there about twenty yards past these trees. Run as fast as you can without tripping or falling. Zigzag as you go but do it irregularly, without a pattern, understand?"

"Yeah," he said, looking where Brett was pointing. "I think so."

"Do you think so, or do you know so?"

He took a deep breath. "I know so," he said.

"Good. Once you're over there, find a firing position. When Chrissie comes across, both of us will cover her. Use short bursts on automatic. Short bursts. Don't waste your ammo. We don't have a whole hell of a lot of it. Once you two are both over there, spread out and give me covering fire when I come over. Got it?"

"Yeah," they both agreed.

"Then let's do it."

They did it, the entire operation taking less than two minutes to accomplish. Though there was no one else left alive to oppose their transit, it was unlikely that anyone would have been able to hit them even if there had been. It was an almost textbook retreat under fire.

Once they were behind the dirt mound, Brett popped out his expended magazine and let it fall to the dirt. He reloaded his rifle with a fresh one. He then directed the two kids to do the same, even though they both had a few more rounds in their clips. They saved their partially emptied clips as an emergency reserve.

"Now," Brett directed, his eyes never wavering from the direction from which they'd come, "we're going to move down this hill and over to that grove of trees by the mudflow as fast as we can. Don't stop for anything. Keep up the zigzag pattern and don't worry about keeping in formation. Once we're over there, find the best cover that you can and pull yourself into it. We'll hold there for a while and keep an eye out. Are you ready?"

They told him they were ready.

"Then let's do it. Go!"

They continued to leapfrog from one place to another for the next two hours. They dashed from one area of cover to the next, spreading out and holding once they got there to watch for followers. Once they were reasonably certain that they were alone and unobserved, they moved on. Finally, more than an hour after their traditional lunch break, Brett allowed them to stop.

"If there was anybody back there," he said, sitting down on a log, "then we've lost them." For the first time in hours he set his rifle down and relaxed. His nerve endings were all tingling with adrenaline overload and a sudden wave of fatigue, common following combat situations, washed over him.

Chrissie and Jason, both equally exhausted despite their youth, slumped down next to him. He looked at them affectionately, these two children of a screaming liberal Berkeley professor and his environmentalist wife. They had done good. He could not remember ever being as proud of someone as he was of those two at that moment. "We're alive right now," he said matter-of-factly, "because of you two."

They looked at him questioningly.

"You guys were bad-ass," he said. "You did everything just right. You didn't panic, you didn't falter. If you hadn't of helped me fight those guys off, they would've nailed us. That was some good teamwork back there. We fuckin' kicked ass!"

"Yeah," Jason said, picking up the giddiness. He raised his rifle in the air in triumph. "We fuckin' kicked ass!"

"Hell yeah," Brett said, laughing now that the tension was relieved. He looked at Chrissie. She was trembling a little, her mind seemingly on overload. She was not smiling. "What do you say, Chrissie?" he asked her. "Did we kick some ass today, or what?"

"Yeah," she said, unenthusiastically. "We kicked ass."

"No, no, no," Brett said, shaking his head strenuously. He moved over next to her and put his arm around her companionably, pulling her against him. "You take away from the victory when you say it like that. What you mean is that we kicked some fuckin' ass! Right?"

"Right," she said, the hint of a smile marring her face.

"Then say it, goddammit," he chided, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. "Are we a team or aren't we?"

"Yeah," Jason agreed, pushing at her legs. "Say it."

The smile blossomed to full. She shook off his arm and stood up. She raised her rifle above her head. "We kicked some fuckin' ass!" she yelled happily, loud enough to echo off the nearest cliff.

Brett allowed them double rations for lunch in celebration of their victory. They ate greedily, their stomachs swelling in a pleasantly uncomfortable way. Afterwards, instead of moving off right away like they usually did, they continued leaning against the log, their feet stretched out before them.

"I still can't believe I actually shot someone," Chrissie said reflectively. "I mean, it was like the most intense thing that ever happened to me when it was happening, but now that its over, it seems like it was a dream or something. Something that happened to someone else."

"Yeah," Jason agreed. "I keep thinking about it like it was a video game I'd played or something. It's like they weren't really shooting real bullets at us and we weren't shooting real bullets at them. It's like they weren't even real people. But then when I think about it a little more and remember that they were real, and that they were trying to kill us, I get all freaked out."

"Understandable," Brett said, taking a sip from his canteen. "Sometimes it doesn't seem real to me either. When I shot those guys that killed your parents, it was the same way. I would find myself wondering at times if that had really happened at all. I think it's because you're a different person when you're in a combat situation like that."

"A different person?" Chrissie asked.

"Uh huh," he said. "You're in a completely different mode. You get pumped up with adrenaline and your mind starts to speed up. When this happens you either panic and go rushing off blindly, usually right into trouble, or you start to make instant decisions that are geared towards the most basic need: to stay alive. You two were in that category. You didn't panic. You were obviously scared to death but you did everything you were supposed to do. You moved fast, you listened to me and did what I told you to do and you shot back well enough to kill that fuck that was trying to kill us. But the thing is, after everything is over and done with and your body goes back to a normal mode, it gives you the feelings that you're experiencing now. You feel like it wasn't really you that did those things because you never imagined yourself doing them. Or if you do accept that it was you that did it, you feel like it wasn't as serious of a situation as it really was."

"That's trippy," Jason said.

"Yeah," Chrissie agreed.

"Well, trippy or not," Brett told them, "you two are now official combat veterans. Your cherries have been popped, as we used to say back in the 3rd ACR."

Chrissie started to giggle. "Gee, Jase," she said, elbowing him in the side, "bet you never thought you'd lose your cherry that way, huh?"

Jason managed to look amused, offended, and embarrassed all at the same time. "Shut up, Chris," he barked, pushing her.

Brett smiled as he watched this exchange. Though the world had forced his two friends into a brutal adulthood much earlier then they were meant to be thrust into it, for just a moment he was able to catch a glimpse of the kids that they had once been.

"I'm glad you're talking to me again," Brett told Chrissie that night as they shared their customary fellowship after Jason's departure to dreamland. There was still a little bit of light left, just enough to make out the silhouettes of the trees around them, but it was fading fast.

"I'm sorry for the way I acted," she said softly. She was sitting next to him on the ground, hugging her knees to her chest. She did not look at him as she spoke. "I was being kind of a bitch I guess."

"No," he said, shaking his head. "You weren't. I did something that hurt you and you were acting the way a woman does when she's hurt. You don't have to apologize to me. It's me that should apologize to you for sleeping with you and then rejecting you the next morning. I'm not the kind of person that does that, you know."

"You had your reasons," she said. "I understand. I didn't at first but after what happened today... well... I think I can face just about anything after that. It seemed like being mad at you and not talking to you after you saved our lives was just... petty."

"You saved your own lives. I just told you how to do it."

She dismissed this with a wave of her hand. "You know what I mean," she said. "We wouldn't have been able to do that without you. We wouldn't have even known those guys were there in the first place if it wasn't for you. How did you know?"

He shrugged, leaning over and reaching into his sleeping bag. He bypassed the one remaining can of beer and instead pulled out the opened bottle of Jack Daniels. "Something just told me," he said, unscrewing the lid and placing it carefully in his lap. "I just started to get a feeling that something was wrong and that someone was up on the hill above us. I don't know how I knew, I just did."

"That's creepy," she said, shivering a little at the thought.

He tipped the bottle back and swallowed down a healthy shot. Like before, it made his eyes water and his throat constrict but warmth began to spread through his body almost instantly. "It's not really all that unusual though," he told her. "I used to get the same feelings at times when I worked patrol. I'd be in a house and I'd just know that someone was hiding in one of the bedrooms. Or I'd walk up to a car on a vehicle stop and I'd just know that they had a gun or a knife or some rock hidden in it. And it wasn't just me either. Most cops that worked patrol for a while were able to do that. It's just some kind of instinct." He took one more drink and then offered her the bottle.

"Thanks," she said, taking it after a moment's hesitation. She sniffed at it carefully and then put it to her lips, taking a tentative sip. She made a sour face. "Yuck," she said. "This stuff is horrid."

"I agree," he said. "I can't understand why people paid twenty bucks a bottle for that shit. But you kinda get used to it after a few shots. Take a big drink and swallow it as fast as you can, before you have a chance to really taste it. It still tastes like shit but believe me, the warmth it gives you is worth it."

She looked at the bottle doubtfully for a moment and then did as he suggested. She shuddered for a moment as her body tried to reject it and then she began to cough. "Gross," she choked, wiping at her watering eyes. "I almost barfed!"

"But how do you feel now?"

She wiped her eyes one more time and then paused, as if getting in touch with her biorhythms. "Actually," she said, "I do feel kind of warm now."

"Try another shot," he suggested. "Get real warm."

She giggled a little. "Are you trying to get me drunk?"

"Maybe I am," he said, sliding closer to her, until their legs touched. "Maybe you deserve to get drunk after what happened today. I sure feel like I do and I hate to drink alone."

"What if you corrupt me?" she asked teasingly, letting her body lean a little closer to him.

"I'll tell you something, Chrissie," he replied, turning her face to his and looking in her eyes. "We live in a corrupt world now. If that little shoot-out we had this morning taught me anything, it taught me that. It seems that we might just have to change our definition of what that word actually means now. If you're woman enough to blow some pukebag away with a fuckin' M-16, then you're certainly woman enough to down some whiskey afterward, aren't you? If Jason were awake I'd give him a couple shots too. I never would have dreamed of giving booze to a teenager before all this shit happened, but I never would have thought that I'd need to rely on two teenagers to back me up in a firefight either. So drink up, if you're woman enough, that is."

She took a huge swallow of the whiskey, hardly flinching this time. She handed the bottle back to him. "I'm woman enough," she said. "For anything that you want to throw at me."

"I'm glad to hear that," he said, downing one more shot himself. He picked up the cap and put it back on the bottle and then tossed the bottle itself in the general direction of his sleeping bag. He put his hands to the side of her face and slowly pulled her head towards his. "You are a woman now," he told her softly.

"Yess," she breathed, as his lips touched hers.

She tasted strongly of the whiskey she had just swallowed as his tongue slowly slipped into her mouth. He sucked at it gently, drawing it from her mouth into his own, swirling it against his. She put her arms around his back, pulling him to her, pressing herself into him. He relished the contact, relished the feel of her soft curves beneath her wet clothing. The guilt he had experienced the last time he had done this was gone.

"Mmmm," she hummed, pulling her mouth briefly from his. "You're a great kisser."

"Thank you," he said, pecking at her lips again, letting his own arms encircle her waist.

"Are you sure that you really want to do this?" she asked him, looking in his eyes, her expression wanting but also a little worried. She did not want to be hurt again like she had been the first time.

"I've never been more sure of anything," he replied with complete honesty. "I want you very badly, Chrissie. I dream about you at night."

"I dream about you too," she said. "No one has ever made me feel like you do when..." she trailed off.

"When what?" he asked, giving her top lip a soft suck, making it swell.

"When you touch me," she said.

"Would you like me to touch you again?"

"Yes. Touch me everywhere."

Their lips came back together in a passionate kiss, their tongues intertwining once again. It was not a gentle kiss that they shared but a lustful one; one designed to heat them up. It did its job admirably. Brett's erection began to push painfully against the front of his pants. Chrissie let her hands drop down to his ass where she began to knead his cloth-covered cheeks with her fingers. He broke the kiss and put his lips to her neck, biting and sucking on the skin.

"Let's get undressed and get in the sleeping bags," she panted into his ear as she felt his mouth upon her.

"I've got a better idea," he said against her neck.


He stood, holding out his hand to her. "Come with me. I'll show you something I found when I was checking out the area."

"You mean, go out in the rain?" she asked, although she did not hesitate to take the offered hand and stand up.

"Just for a minute. You'll see."

He led her out of the lean-to and into the almost-night. There was just enough light left for him to make out the proper direction. They moved in between trees and over several piles of fallen branches.

"Brett, where are we going?" Chrissie asked. "Why didn't we just get into bed?"

"Jason heard us the other night," he told her. "We woke him up."

"We did?" she said, mortified at the thought.

"Yes, or, more accurately, he felt us. He told me that your elbow bashed him in the head a few times."

"Oh my Gawd! Did he tell you that?"

"He did. But don't worry. He's cool with it. In any case, I thought that maybe a little more privacy was in order. And fortunately, I found... where the hell is it now?" He looked at the confusing array of shapes and shadows that surrounded them. "Damn I wish we had a flashlight... oh... there it is. This way." He headed for a black shape that was just a little too straight and even to have been caused by Mother Nature. Chrissie followed dutifully behind him.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It's a genuine, American-made, Ford Taurus that got washed down from the road up there," he told her, stumbling his way closer.

"A car?"

"Correct," he confirmed, reaching out and finally touching cold, wet metal. "I found it while you were making camp. I didn't think you could drive something like this out this far into the woods, even before the comet, but somebody did. You ever done it in a car before?"

She began to laugh. "Except for the other night," she told him, "that's the only place I ever have done it."

"I see," he said, laughing with her. "Then maybe you can show me the way. It's been quite a while since I've had the pleasure."

He opened up the back door of the four-door car and swung it open. It took a little effort since the vehicle was resting at a twenty-degree angle, it's trunk against a tree, the hood the highest point. He held it for Chrissie. "After you, my lady," he told her.

She didn't move right away. "There's nothing in there, is there?" she asked, obviously thinking more about somebody than something.

"I checked it for supplies when I found it," Brett told her comfortingly. "There was nothing we could use in it but there were no people or critters either. It's empty."

That convinced her. She ducked under his arm and climbed into the back seat, scooting over towards the far door. Brett followed her in, allowing the door to shut behind him. With the upward tilt of the car it was actually quite comfortable to sit in since they were naturally reclined. The rain pattered noisily on the roof above them, adding a soothing background noise. The smell was a bit musty, as if the previous owner had not been very fastidious with cleaning, but it was not overpowering. Most important, it was dry; the first completely dry place they had been in quite some time.

"All we need now is some music," Chrissie said, stretching out a bit and pulling herself next to him.

"I checked on that earlier," he replied, putting his arm around her. "The battery is still good but the keys are gone. And despite my many talents, hot-wiring an ignition is not one of them."

"Have you been planning this the whole time?" she asked, mock indignation in her tone.

"Who, me?" he asked innocently.

"We're gonna have to get shot at more often if this is the kind of effect that it has on you."

He pulled her against him, forcing her to twist a little in her seat. "Be careful what you wish for," he told her, kissing her on the mouth before she could answer him.

It did not take them very long to get heated back up. Within a minute of their lips touching, both were panting with lust and letting their hands touch forbidden places. Brett reached under her shirts, pushing across the soft skin of her stomach and forcing his way into her bra from below. He cupped her bare breasts, feeling the nipples harden into points against his palms. Chrissie reached down between them and unbuckled his belt, ripping his pants open once they were free. She reached into his pants where she gripped his hardness with her rough hand, squeezing and releasing it almost painfully.

"I can't wait to have this inside me," she groaned into his mouth.

"And it can't wait to be there," he returned, flicking at her nipples with his thumbs.

He pulled his hands from beneath her shirts and then began to take them off, continuing to kiss her as he did so. Though he couldn't see very well in the darkness, he memorized the shape and feel of her breasts once they were bared. He ran his hands over them, squeezing softly, kneading them, pushing them together. Chrissie hummed softly as he did this.

"I like it when you play with my boobies," she told him, kissing at his neck now.

He pushed her back onto the seat and then scooted himself backward just a tad before leaning down and taking her left nipple into his mouth. He let his tongue slide all around it, feeling the little ridges and bumps that marred its surface, tasting every square millimeter. He sucked it until she began to moan and run her fingers through his matted hair and then he switched to the other one.

It wasn't long before both tired of foreplay. "Let's get undressed," Brett said, pulling himself free of her.

"Yeah," she agreed, reaching down for her boots.

They shed their clothes in record time, throwing each piece over the seat in front of them, forming an untidy pile of shirts, socks, pants, underwear, and holstered guns. Since neither of them had been able to bathe in recent memory, the smell in the enclosed car was very strong and thick and not, in the strictest sense of the word, terribly pleasant to inhale. Neither one cared however. The moment they were naked they reached for each other, their lips once again closing into a passionate exchange of tongues and saliva.

Brett ran his hands up and down the smooth skin of Chrissie's back as he held her to him. She rubbed her bare thighs against his, her hands dropping down once again to grasp his turgid erection.

"Fuck me now," she told him, nipping at his bottom lip with her teeth. "Put it in me and fuck me!"

"Come up here," he said, pulling at her by the armpits (which had developed more than a little hair over the past week and a half), dragging her onto his lap. She swung her legs over the top of his, straddling his thighs and inching forward until her bare stomach was touching his. Her crotch pushed towards his straining member and he felt warm wetness and coarse hair. She began to undulate back and forth, smearing her juices on him. He put his hands on her ass and pulled upward a little, forcing her to raise up. "Put it in," he told her.

"I've never done that before," she panted.

"It's time to learn," he replied. "Grab it and put it inside."

She reached down between their bodies and took hold of him again, her hands smearing more of her juices over the head and the shaft. She moved it back and forth for a moment, trying to line it up just right, rubbing the head against her folds as she did so. Brett groaned at the sensation and pulled on her ass, trying to force her down upon him.

The head slipped inside of her at last and, with a gentle tug on his part and a gentle push on her part, she sank down, pulling the rest of him in. Though he had experienced the exquisite tightness of her before, it still came as an altogether pleasant surprise to feel her clutching at him, engulfing him. Both sighed as the penetration occurred, as their crotches joined at the hairs. He began to thrust upward, grinding himself against her body, pushing on the nerve channels that gave her pleasure. They kissed each other hotly as they fucked, his hands squeezing the cheeks of her ass, her hands scratching at his back.

"Oh God, it feels so good," she breathed, moving her lips to his neck once again.

"Yeah," he panted back, thrusting upward with more force, squeezing her ass together at the top of each stroke.

Where their first coupling had been gentle and hesitant, this one was wild and forceful. They began to thrust faster, with more power, grunting and groaning, licking and biting. He dropped his head down to her breasts again and buried his face between them, tonguing the tangy skin, sucking it into his mouth. She put her hands on his shoulders and used them as leverage to push and pull herself up and down. They started to sweat, their bodies sliding together on a film of sticky perspiration.

Brett reached down to her crotch and found her clit, which was swollen and wet, a firm little nubbin just begging to be touched. He began to rub it with a finger, using a firm circular motion. Chrissie went immediately and completely wild at the contact.

"Oh Godd," she moaned, "ohhhh, ohhhh, yessss!"

"You like that?" he panted into her ear.

"Yes, yes! Keep doing that!"

"Are you going to come all over me?"

"Yesssss!" she screamed, her thrusts speeding up, her hands pushing painfully down onto his shoulders.

"Do it, Chrissie," he told her, increasing the pressure and thrusting up into each of her downthrusts. "Come on me, baby, come on me!"

"Ohhhhhhhhh," she whined, slamming up and down so hard now that Brett began to fear she might dislodge the car from its resting place and send it further down the hill. She arched her back and stiffened up, her teeth biting into his shoulder. "Goddddd!"

Her spasms went on for the better part of a minute and, with them, her chasm gripped and squeezed spastically on his cock. He leaned forward and took over the burden of thrusting from her, putting his hands to her waist and holding her in one place while he raised his hips up and down. He felt his own orgasm straining to be released and he fought it down, not wanting this wild ride to end.

As soon as Chrissie's orgasm passed he began whispering in her ear again, trying to drive her towards another one. He continued to move himself upward and downward, rotating and grinding as he thrust. It didn't take very long before she began to pant and moan once more. This time, when she was at the height of her spasms, as her teeth buried themselves into the flesh of his shoulder, he let himself go. Now it was his hips that were rising and falling spastically, his lips that were moaning out uncontrollable pleasure.

"Oh yesss," she cried from the throes of her own pleasure. "Come in me, come in me, come in meeeeeeee!"

When the peak hit him he thrust upward hard enough to bash her head into the roof of the car. Undaunted, he continued to drive into her as his sperm blasted out of his body and into hers. She held onto him tightly as she was bucked up and down like a woman on a mechanical bull. Finally, after an eternity, the spasms died down, with it, his thrusts. They slumped against each other, both dripping sweat, both breathing heavy from the exertion.

"That was totally awesome," Chrissie said when she was capable of speech.

"Totally awesome?" he said, kissing her sweaty forehead. "Now just partially awesome, huh?"

"Totally," she giggled, holding him tightly.

They stayed like that for a while, just holding each other, his penis shrinking within her but remaining nestled in her folds. The rain continued to patter on the roof of the car.

"So what happens now?" Chrissie asked him. "Between us, I mean?"

"What happens now," he said, "is that we live life one day at a time. This is the kind of world where you have to do things that way, wouldn't you say?"

"So you're not going to tell me it's all over between us in the morning, that it was all wrong what we did?"

"No," he told her. "I don't think that it is wrong anymore. We used to have laws against doing what I just did but those laws, as much as I used to agree with them, were passed for a world where people didn't try to kill other people for the food they carried, where you didn't have to wonder if you were going to be alive the next day. That was a world where people worried about retirement plans and whether or not there would be Social Security when they got old enough to need it. This isn't that world anymore. And while I like to think that some of our old morals are going to survive, I've already determined that a lot of them aren't. There are certain morals that we simply don't have the luxury of embracing anymore."

"And sleeping with me is one of them?" she asked, half-seriously.

"As far as I'm concerned," he said. "Like I told you earlier, you're a woman now. You proved that today quite nicely. A woman can make her own decisions. While we're on this little journey of ours, I'll be proud to share a sleeping bag with you, if you'll have me."

"Oh I'll have you all right," she told him, grinding herself a little atop him. "I'll have you every night if I can get it."

He kissed her. "You won't get any arguments from me there," he said.

They left the car a few minutes later, not bothering to dress themselves, donning only their boots to keep from getting their feet muddy. They carried their clothes in their hands as Brett led them slowly and carefully back to the lean-to, relying only on his sense of direction to find it.

They discovered that Jason was awake when they got back.

"Where were you guys at?" he asked, his voice a little nervous. "I woke up and you were gone."

"Sorry," Brett said. "We went for a walk. We didn't think that you would wake up or we would've told you."

"You went for a walk in the dark?" he asked incredulously, and quite naively. "Why would you do that?"

"Just because," Chrissie barked impatiently at him in her older sister tone. "Don't worry about it."

"We'll let you know if we ever decide to do that again," Brett said, feeling guilty for scaring Jason that way. "I'm sorry if we scared you."

"I wasn't scared," he said quickly. "I was just wondering where you went. It's no big deal."

Jason seemed to have finally figured out what was up between the two of them. He asked no more questions of them, not even when he heard them struggling to zip their two sleeping bags into one large one.

"Good night, you guys," he said, when he heard them crawling in.

"Good night," they both replied.

The two lovers snuggled their naked bodies together in the tight confines of the sleeping bag. It was a close fit, forcing them to spoon their bodies together, Chrissie's back to Brett's front. But neither of them minded in the least.

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