Chapter 8

Copyright© 2000 by Al Steiner

Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story: Chapter 8 - 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

It was nearly two o'clock when a weary and sore Brett found Paul in the community center. Paul had converted one of the empty conference rooms into a makeshift hospital to house the wounded. Dale, Sherri, and Michelle were lying on cots in the room, all of them covered with blankets, their various injuries bandaged up as best as possible. None of the three were conscious when he came in. The wounded prisoner had been bandaged up as well, but he was not housed with the others. He was housed in an empty supply room down the hall, two armed guards out front.

Paul was kneeling next to Dale, examining the wound beneath the trauma dressing. He put the bandage back into place and stood up, stripping off the pair of latex gloves he'd donned and dropping them into a garbage can. He waved Brett over to a small desk, out of earshot of the patients. They sat down.

"The town is secure," Brett told him. "We've checked everything from one end to the other and there's no sign of any further invaders. Of course that doesn't mean there isn't a force holed up in an empty house or something, but I talked to the prisoner before we went out and he told me that there was only sixteen of them that came in. We have sixteen accounted for; fifteen dead ones and one injured one. They've been watching us for a few days - from the hill overlooking town no less - and they moved in early this morning by scaling the wall across from the guard posts. Their plan was to take out the guard positions quietly with those pesticide bombs and then hit the community center while we were at breakfast. They were going to load our supplies and enough women for all of them onto our vehicles and then head out."

"Ambitious plan," Paul commented sourly.

"It would've worked if Michelle hadn't spotted them."

"That's a little too fine of a margin for comfort."

"My feelings exactly," Brett agreed.

"Are you sure the prisoner is telling the truth?"

Brett gave a strange little smile - a smile that told Paul he didn't want to know. "Oh, I'm pretty sure he is," he said.

"I see," he said, saying nothing further on that subject. "What else?"

"I've got the guard positions up-staffed again, although I'm using untrained people at the moment. I thought I'd give all of my people and everyone who participated in the battle and the clean up the night off. It seems the least we can do. Especially after... you know... the bodies."

Paul nodded understandingly. He had been monitoring the progress of the goings-on since the battle on his radio. He had heard about the grisly discovery of Mitsy, Lenny, and Jeff in guard position 3. "Pretty bad, huh?"

"It almost made me sick," Brett told him. "It was cans of Raid insect poison exploded in the room with them, just like they tried to do to Michelle and Brenda. I'm a veteran cop that has seen some serious shit over the years and I almost puked when I saw and smelled what had become of them. We haven't been able to move the bodies out of there yet; the fumes are still that strong. We've opened all the windows in that house and hopefully it will be aired out enough to make a recovery tomorrow."

"I take it that you're not using that house as position 3 anymore."

"No, that's impossible. I've got it located four houses over now, in another two story. I thought under the circumstances I could make such a move without committee approval." He spat these last two words out.

"Now now," Paul said wearily. "It's not the time for that yet. It's coming soon, but not yet."

Brett nodded and went on with his report. "Brenda was DOA, as you know. We've recovered her body. It's now in the supply room off the downstairs hallway with Rick's body. As soon as we can get Mitsy and the others, we'll put them in there too and wrap them up in blankets for burial."

"What about the invaders' bodies?"

"I've got them stacked in the back of the wood gathering truck right now. With your permission I'll grab a crew and take them out to the bridge and toss them over. I don't see any reason to waste effort burying those assholes."

"I agree. Get it done as soon as you can."

"How are things in here?" Brett asked.

Paul shook his head, his eyes showing helplessness. "Dale is going to die," he said. "Probably within the next twenty-four hours. He's bleeding internally at a slow but steady rate. I have no way to replace blood or repair the damage the bullet did to him. Even if I did, he would only get peritonitis. His small intestine is pretty ripped up. I can see that just by looking from the outside. That means his large intestine and probably his stomach took a hit as well."

"What a waste," Brett said, not being the least bit sarcastic. Though he had not liked Dale, not in the least, he had no desire to see one of the townspeople perish. Especially not when it was such a worthless and unnecessary death. "Does anyone know?"

"Not officially," he answered. "I'm sure that anyone who has looked at him has a pretty good idea though."

"What about Jessica?"

Paul made a snort of disgust. "What about her?" he asked.

"Does she know?"

"She doesn't know shit," he said. "She hasn't been in here to see him a single time. I have no idea where she is right now. I saw her earlier talking to some of the other women about something and she was making the same old gossip motions, riling them up about something or other. She doesn't change."

"Oh well," Brett said with a shrug. "Let her rant. She ran away when the shit hit the fan out there. Fucking ran away. What about Michelle and Sherri? How are they doing?"

"Michelle will probably be all right," he said. "She was pretty sick when they brought her in. She got a good snootful of that pesticide but if she were going to die from it she would've already done so. She's probably already purged most of it from her body. She's just going to feel sick for a while. Sherri, on the other hand, is a different story."

"She just has a leg injury, doesn't she?" Brett asked. "What's lethal about that?"

"Nothing if this were civilization," he said. "But since it isn't, things are a little different. In the first place, she has a broken femur. The bullet tore right through it. I don't know how to set femurs and get them to grow back together right so there's a good possibility that even if she does live, she'll never be able to walk right again. But that's not the main concern here. The main concern is infection. She had a dirty bullet pass through her body. She'll be prone to blood poisoning or some other infection from that. I cleaned the wound out as best I could and I gave her a big dose of penicillin from the supply we have, but I just don't know if its going to be enough to counter something like that. In a hospital, she would've been given a big dose of intravenous antibiotics. Here, I have nothing but Keflex and Amoxicillin that people used to use to treat freakin bladder infections and strep throat. If she does get blood poisoning, what am I supposed to do about it? Do I cut off her leg? I sure as shit don't know how to do that without killing her."

"You're doing the best you can, Paul," Brett told him. "That's all that you can do. You can't help it that you're not a doctor or that you don't have the right supplies. You work with what you got."

He nodded, still frowning. "I know," he said. "It just makes me feel so helpless. I've got two gravely wounded people here and one that has been poisoned and all I can do for them is dope them up with Valium and Vicodin and give them some low grade antibiotics in the hope that will work. Strangely enough, Michelle would've been the easiest one to treat if I just had the supplies. Paramedics carry atropine as part of their drug inventory. Atropine counteracts the effects of organo-phosphate poison. But I don't have any of it. All I have is the first aid supplies from the fire station and the drugs we got from people's houses."

"Nobody will fault you, Paul. They know you're doing the best you can. Don't be so hard on yourself."

"I'll try," he said, looking at his three patients sadly. "I've just never felt as uncivilized as I do right now. Back before the comet when me and my fire-crew responded to shit like this, they didn't die. We just called for the medivac chopper and flew them off to Sacramento or Reno. They went into a nice trauma center and had their injuries patched up and then they went about their lives. They didn't die from peritonitis or blood poisoning because they couldn't get to a doctor or decent medicine."

"Nope," Brett said. "And they didn't get nerve gassed or shot in a battle over cans of corned beef hash and ravioli either, did they? We live in an uncivilized world now. If anybody in town needs any more proof of that, they can just go look in the supply room around the corner."

Brett had given firm orders to both Chrissie and Jason to go home and get some rest. For that reason he was somewhat surprised to find both of them in the armory when he went there after finishing up the distasteful task of dumping the fifteen bodies of the invaders over the railing of the bridge. He had come in to make an inventory of their remaining ammunition supply so he could see how much the battle had consumed. When he entered the room Chrissie was leaning against a bank of lockers, sipping from a can of warm soda and Jason was curled up on the locker room bench, snoring softly.

"I thought I told you two to go home," he said, walking over and sitting on the bench across from Chrissie.

She shrugged, giving him a tired smile. "We figured that you would want an ammo count done as soon as possible," she said. "So we came in here to do it. I guess Jason didn't realize how tired he was. He laid down there to take a break and never got back up."

Brett looked at him affectionately. "Poor guy. He did all this after working the night shift. I'll wake him up and send him over to his house in a few minutes. First, I can use a break as well. Did you finish the inventory?"

"I finished it after he fell asleep," she said. "I don't know how many unfired rounds there are floating around outside this room, but there are 330 less .30 caliber rounds, 212 less 5.65s, and 118 less 7.65s."

"Is anything approaching critical levels?" he asked.

She nodded. ". 30 caliber is down to less than 500. That's what most of the hunting rifles fire."

"Great," he sighed. "More good news." He gave her a smile. "Thanks for taking care of that for me."

"Sure," she said.

They sat in silence for a few moments.

"How are the wounded?" she asked at last.

He gave her the update that Paul had given him. She frowned as she heard that Dale was for sure going to die and that Sherri was possibly going to. "Those poor people," she said. "I mean, Dale was just Jessica's little puppet and Sherri was almost as bad at talking shit about me as Jessica, but I didn't want this to happen to them. It's horrible."

"I know. I didn't want it either, but we have to deal with what happens, don't we? There's no way to change the past."

"No," she said. "I guess there isn't."

Another silence developed, this one a little more uncomfortable than the first. Brett sensed that she wanted to say something important to him and was working up the nerve. He gave her the time.

"I almost died out there, Brett," she said at last, her words barely audible.


She nodded. "When I was trying to flush that last guy out of the planter, he took a shot at me. I saw the flash and I rolled up onto my side. I didn't think about it, I just did it." She took a deep breath. "And the bullet hit right where I had been lying; right there where I'd been less than a second before. If I wouldn't have moved..."

"But you did," he said. "You did and you're still alive because of it."

"I almost wasn't though," she said. "I can't get that out of my mind. I could've died out there and it was only a simple little roll that saved me. I could've died."

He slid down off the bench and joined her on the floor. He put his arm around her, pulling her against him. She didn't protest or pull away. "We all could've died, Chris," he told her gently. "We were in a war. That's what happens in war. People die. This time we didn't. Thanks to you and Jason and Michelle and Matt, we were able to rally these people into something approximating an army. It was crude and it bordered on a complete clusterfuck, but we won. We lost five people and we may lose two more, but we won this one. You should be proud of yourself. I certainly am proud of you."

She snuggled up a little to him, acknowledging for the first time that he was holding her. "You have a way of making me feel better," she said. "You always have."

He held her tighter, knowing that he probably didn't smell very good at the moment, but Chrissie didn't seem to mind. After all, she had smelled him under much worse conditions. They simply sat there for a few minutes, enjoying the closeness after so long without it. Brett did not think ahead to what their embrace symbolized. He just enjoyed the now.

"I'm pregnant," she said at last.

He felt no particular surprise at her words. Though it was somewhat of a jolt to have his suspicions concerned, he had long since realized that it would have been a miracle for her to not be pregnant after all of the unprotected sex they'd had. "I see," he said slowly. "And how does that make you feel?"

"It makes me feel attached to you," she told him. "I love you, Brett. I've loved you since maybe our second or third day together. This just makes me love you even more, makes me want you even more. I've been in denial about it for the longest time. I've been telling myself that I was just under stress and that's why my period hasn't come. I've been telling myself that getting sick in the morning is just because I have to get up so early. I've been telling myself that my boobs are sore all the time because of the damp air. But then Michelle talked to me last night and just laid it out for me."

"Did she?" he asked, wondering in the back of his mind how Michelle had known. Certainly Chrissie had not told her anything.

Chrissie nodded, her head bobbing up and down against his shoulder. "She's pretty smart," she said. "She checked the sign-out logs in the supply room and saw that I haven't been using tampons or pads."

Brett ginned. "She is very perceptive, isn't she?"

"I can't compete with that," she said. "I just can't."

"There's nothing to compete about, Chris," he told her. "I love you too and you're carrying my baby inside of you. Like I told you the other night, I don't want to lose you."

"But you don't want to lose Michelle either, do you?"

He sighed. "I like Michelle a lot, Chrissie," he said. "I don't know if I love her but I probably could. Would I love her more than you? I don't know, I'm not a psychic. If I had to absolutely choose between you and her, I would choose you. But Chris, I can't promise to be faithful to you under these... circumstances that we have here. That is really too much to ask of someone."

"I know," she said. "I've been thinking a lot about what Michelle told me last night, about this... sharing thing."


"And it makes a lot of sense I guess. I didn't want it to at first. I just wanted things to be the way they were between us. Remember? When we were out in the woods, just you, Jason, and I?"

"I remember."

"But we can't be like that anymore. Things are different now. And we can't be like a normal couple in the old world either. Like Michelle said, women are the glut here and men are the demand. If I want to keep my man, I'm going to have to share him. I didn't want to accept that at first, no matter how much sense it made, but after what happened today... well, things look a little different now. Almost getting your head blown off does a lot for giving you a reality check, you know?"

"That it does," he agreed. "So what are you saying?"

"We'll give it a try," she said quietly. "I don't know if its going to work or not, but I'll try to make it work if she will."

"Wow," Brett said after a moment. "I'm not sure what to say, Chris. What's the proper response when your woman agrees to share you with someone else?"

She laughed a little. "You say you'll do it," she told him.

"I'll do it," he said. "And as of this moment, our relationship is no longer going to be a secret. I've had a few revelations of my own today and one of them is that I shouldn't give a flying fuck what other people think. If they don't like the fact that I'm with you, they can just kiss my ass and find someone else to help save their town when someone attacks it."

"Do you mean that?" she asked.

He took her face in his and kissed her on the mouth. It was a long, drawn-out kiss. "I mean it," he said. "No more hiding. Everything's in the open now."

"Let's go home," she said a little breathlessly. "I think we should officially make up with each other before dinner tonight."

"I think you've got a workable plan there," he said.

They walked through the community center hand in hand, looking like lovers. They passed no less than ten people, most of them women, before donning their rain slickers and exiting the building. No one said anything to them as they passed, but their affection was duly noted and the expected barrage of shocked looks and whispered comments followed in their wake.

"Did you see the way they were walking?"

"You don't suppose that they're... that he's actually..."

"I just bet he is. I bet he's been doing it this whole time."

"What about Michelle? I thought she was the one?"

"Apparently he liked little girls instead."

"Mmmm hmmm."

Though everyone knew that it had been Chrissie and Jason who had reported the movement of the enemy that morning and allowed Brett to set a trap for them, though they also knew that Jason and Chrissie had been the ones to gun down the final two invaders, these points never once came up in the conversations. It was almost as if they did not equate the young girl on Brett's arm (and yes, it looks like they're going back to their house together!) with the woman who had performed those feats of heroism.

Within minutes of their passage, the Brett and Chrissie story was actually able to surpass the invasion story as the main topic of conversation. After all, talking about death and nerve gas and lost friends was depressing. Talking about a sexual scandal, on the other hand, was what they lived for.

One person who took particular note of the pairing was Jessica. She had been making the rounds through the community center, talking to all of the women she could find to explain her version of the events that had taken place earlier. She downplayed the story about her breaking and running when the gunfire started, not denying it since there were multiple witnesses who had seen her do it, but rationalizing it as a run to go get help for Dale. As for the invasion itself, it was her view that a criminal lapse in security had been what had allowed it in the first place. And just who is in charge of security? Since most of the women had no idea how many of Brett's strategic suggestions had been voted down over the weeks, they had little problem assigning blame to him. Sure, he had acted heroically and quickly when it became apparent that an invasion had taken place - even Jessica gave him that - but had he paid more attention to his job in the first place, there would have been no invasion and there would not be five people dead.

Now, as she saw Brett and Chrissie heading towards their house, hand in hand, she smiled in a predatory manner. She now had even more ammunition to use against him. Here, at last, was her chance to get rid of that meddling interloper who was constantly trying to upstage her and usurp her position in the town. At dinner tonight she would be able to rally the women into a lynch mob and Brett would be lucky if banishment was all that he ended up with.

It started out tender and slow, the way reconciled lovers usually approached the first lovemaking. They undressed each other piece by piece, kissing softly, their tongues barely touching. But by the time they were both nude, passion took over, pushing tenderness to the side. They clutched at each other desperately, their hands moving up and down each other's body, their tongues dueling in each other's mouths. After less than ten minutes of foreplay, they could take no more. He put her down on the bed and she spread her pretty legs for him. He slid into her familiar tightness and began to thrust. She came first, but only by a margin of seconds.

After, as they lay entangled in each other's arms, the bedcover pulled over them to combat the chill, she asked, "Are you sure that letting everyone see us was the way to go about letting them know? Jessica has probably got a spy out there right now."

"I'm sure she does," he said, his fingers playing with her hair. "I don't care though. My days of caring what these people think are over. As a matter of fact, I intend to give her a lot more to think about before the end of the day."

"What do you mean?"

He told her, making her smile wickedly. "You're flanking her," she said, giggling.

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say that," he replied. "I'm just giving her some rope so she can hang herself." He let his hand slide down to her ass, where it began to stroke. "However, I wouldn't mind flanking you one more time before we head back."

She giggled again, kissing him. "We do have a lot to make up for, don't we?"

They made their way back to the community center at 3:30, once again holding hands like lovers. They passed through the same sets of disapproving eyes, neither one acknowledging the glares that were being thrown at them. They went directly to the hospital room where Paul was still watching over the wounded.

Michelle and Sherri were both awake when they came in, Michelle sitting up and trying to eat some chicken broth, Sherri moaning pathetically in pain. Dale was still quite unconscious, his skin pale, his forehead bathed in sweat.

"How is he?" Brett asked as Paul met them at the door.

"Fading," he answered. "His blood pressure is dropping and his pulse rate is up. I can hardly wake him up anymore. I don't think he'll make it through the night."

Chrissie shook her head sadly as she looked at him. "I wish it could've happened differently," she said.

Paul nodded in agreement. "Sherri is stable for the moment, though in a lot of pain. I'm using up a good portion of our Vicodin trying to keep her comfortable. Michelle however, seems to be a lot better. As you can see, she's sitting up and eating now. I can only take that as a good sign."

Michelle, hearing her name spoken, looked over at them. She smiled as she saw her visitors. "We've been hearing about you two in here," she said, her voice just loud enough to carry to them.

"Hearing?" Brett said.

"Oh yes," Paul agreed. "Jessica was up here a few minutes ago. Obstinately she came to check on Dale but she only gave him a quick glance before she started going on about how the two of you were seen walking hand and hand to your house. Of course she didn't hesitate to speculate on just what that meant."

"I'm sure she didn't," Brett said.

Paul looked at him seriously. "Is it true?" he asked. "I don't care myself, but you know how the attitudes in this town are."

"It's true," Brett said. "Chrissie and I are lovers. We have been since before we even got here."

"Jesus," he said. "Couldn't you have... you know... kept that under wraps for a little while longer? At least until the mood settles down?"

"Nope," Brett said. "I'm done hiding things. If the town doesn't like it, they can kiss my ass."

He walked over to Michelle, leaving Paul to stare after him and wonder if he was mad. Chrissie, still holding his hand, followed.

"You two certainly have this town in an uproar," Michelle said lightly. She spooned another load of chicken broth into her mouth.

"We thought that under the circumstances, it was time to come clean," Brett told her. He sat in a stool near the edge of her cot. "So how are you feeling?"

"Better," she said. "I haven't puked in almost three hours now. I can tell you that I now have sympathy for all of the bugs I sprayed with that shit over the years."

"You saved everyone, Michelle," he said seriously. "If you wouldn't have spotted them and got the word out, they would've hit us while we were eating breakfast. That was their plan. They were going to steal our food and take enough women for each of them to have a playmate. Because we were ready for them, we were able to kick their asses. If we had a Medal of Honor, I'd see to it that you were awarded one."

"I was doing what I was supposed to do," she said, shrugging off his praise. "I only wish it would've been enough to save Brenda and the others."

"That wasn't your fault," Chrissie said. "That was nobody's fault but their own. You heard how we found Jeff, Lenny, and Mitsy, didn't you?"

She nodded. "I heard they were naked."

"They were," Brett confirmed. "They were screwing each other on guard duty. They chose not to take their duties seriously and they died for that. You chose to take yours seriously, and you're alive. You should feel proud of yourself and this town should thank you."

"No, they should thank you," she returned. "You're the one that engineered the battle."

He nodded. "Yes, I did. Unfortunately, all that people can seem to talk about now is Chrissie and I. That will change tonight at dinner. In the meantime, how about we give them something else to talk about?"

She looked at the both of them. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" she asked.

Chrissie nodded, not quite smiling. "It looks like we're co-owners of this man," she said, squeezing his hand. "God help us."

Michelle put her soup bowl down on a small table next to the bed. She sat up straighter. "Are you sure about this Chrissie? I know I tried to push it on you in the first place, but don't do this unless you think we might be able to make it work."

"I'm as sure as I can be," she said. "Like I said before, it's not what I always dreamed of when I was growing up, but it'll have to do, won't it? I'll give it a shot, the best shot I can."

"That's all I ask," Michelle said with a grin. She held out her hand. "Friends?"

"Friends," Chrissie said, ignoring the hand and leaning in for a hug. "Or maybe sisters would be a better term."

Paul, who had been lingering nearby pretending that he wasn't listening to them, suddenly could hold his tongue no longer. "Are you three talking about what I think you're talking about?" he asked.

Brett looked up at him. "Yes we are," he said. "Paul, you have the honor of witnessing the first polygamous grouping in Garden Hill."

"May there be many more," Michelle added.

Paul just looked at them, stunned. "Oh my God," he said at last.

While Chrissie remained in the hospital room with Michelle (they had a lot to talk about), Brett went out in search of Jessica. It didn't take long to find her. He simply looked for a gathering of women and there she was right in the middle of it. In this case the gathering was outside the women's locker room, where, despite the tragedy that had occurred that day, women were still waiting their turn at the bathtub.

"So you can see that allowing someone like him into this town was probably the worst mistake we ever made," Jessica was saying as he approached. "I mean, first he gets Paul to change his votes on everything and then we get invaded! Five people are dead because of..." she cut herself abruptly off as she suddenly saw him standing there.

There was a murmur from the other women standing around, half embarrassed that they had been caught gossiping, half angry that the demon they had been discussing was standing there. Brett pretended not to have heard what was being discussed. "Jess," he said politely, "can I talk to you upstairs for a moment? There's some paperwork that I need to have changed around."

"Paperwork?" she asked coldly. "I don't really have time to handle paperwork right now."

"Okay," he said, as if it didn't really matter. "I'll just grab it myself. I know where it's kept."

That had the desired effect upon her. Jessica's files were sacred to her and the thought of someone, especially Brett, going through them, was enough to change her mind. "No," she said suddenly, "that's okay. I'll help you. What is it that you need to do?"

"It's a private matter," he said quietly, as if he knew that he could trust her to keep whatever it was a secret.

"I see," she said.

The crowd parted for her and she walked through them, passing in front of Brett and leading him through the community center towards the stairs. They did not talk. When they got to the office she sat down at her desk and looked up at him. "So what is it that you need done?"

"I need you to change my address in the files," he said, keeping his voice level. "I'm going to be moving in with Michelle tomorrow morning."

"Moving in with Michelle?" she asked, making no move to open her desk drawer.

"That's right," he said. "We're somewhat of an item now as you might have heard."

"I've heard a lot," she said shrewdly. "I've heard that you and that young girl you live with are somewhat of an item as well."

Brett nodded. "Yep," he said, his voice no different than if he was confirming that they were having tuna casserole for dinner that night, "we are. She's going to be moving over there with us too. And since Jason has moved in with Stacy, that means the whole house will be empty."

Jessica simply stared at him, certain that she was either not hearing correctly or that he was joking with her.

"Oh, and by the way, Chrissie is pregnant," he said next. "At least we think she is. We'll probably sign out one of those home tests from the supply room and confirm it. Is that something you keep track of? Who's pregnant?"

"I don't think you're very funny," Jessica spat.

"I wasn't trying to be," he told her. "If she is pregnant, we'll sign out some of those over the counter vitamins for her. Isn't it a shame that the grocery store didn't have a pharmacy in it? Wouldn't that have..."

"What are you doing?" Jessica interrupted, her voice low and bordering on dangerous.

"I'm not doing anything," he said. "I'm just informing you of a change of address since you're in charge of keeping track of that sort of thing. As of tomorrow, Michelle, Chrissie, and I will be living at Michelle's house."

"Are you admitting to me that you have sex with that young girl?"

He nodded. "Yep. She's really good at it too. I can't wait until she starts to show. I've always had kind of a thing for pregnant women."

Jessica's face was now starting to turn red. "And does Michelle know about this?" she asked.

"Uh huh," he said. "It was Michelle that suggested we move in with her. Of course it took a while to convince Chrissie to go along with this. I mean, a man having two official women is kind of strange. But gradually she came around to seeing how much sense it makes."

"Are you telling me that you think you're going to be allowed to continue to sleep with that child? And that you think you're going to be allowed to sleep with Michelle as well?"

"Allowed?" he asked. "I wasn't aware that I had to be allowed to do anything. What business is it of yours or anyone else's who I sleep with, or how many I sleep with?"

"I don't know what kind of game you think you're playing here," she said, pointing her finger at him. "But I can assure you that it will not be tolerated. You are a sick, perverted, lecherous man and you will be out of this town by nightfall. I promise you that!" With that she stood up and headed for the door.

"So does this mean you're not going to change the paperwork?" he asked as she stormed out.

Jessica did exactly what Brett had known she would do. She stormed down and began telling the entire story to every person she encountered. By the time the dinner hour rolled around, the town's women were in a fury about it. The fact that they had been invaded that morning and that five of their number were dead was almost forgotten.

At dinner that night Brett sat with Chrissie at a table near the front of the room. He made sure that Jason, who wanted nothing more than to sleep the night away, was sitting there as well. Even Michelle, who was not quite recovered from her pesticide exposure, dragged herself into the gym and had a seat. The four of them ate in silence, with no other people seated at their table. They ignored the stares and the pointed fingers that were directed their way.

Though official community meetings usually were begun after everyone had finished eating, Jessica started this one early. It was obvious that the events of the day had wrecked havoc on everyone's appetite. Most of the food went untouched. She mounted the small podium that had been extricated from another part of the center and turned on the battery powered public address system that was used for such things. After tapping the microphone a few times, she began.

"This meeting is hereby called to order," she said, pounding her gavel on the podium (Brett wondered for the hundredth time where she had even found a gavel. Had it come from some judge's house?) The murmur of conversation died down much faster than it normally did at such times. "I'd like to begin by explaining the events of this morning to you in as much detail as I've been able to gleam," she said. "By now I'm sure every last one of you knows that an armed force entered the town at eight this morning and caused the deaths of five people and the wounding of three. I will relate what I know as was told to me by our so-called security chief, Mr. Adams."

There was somewhat of a titter at her words. Brett didn't mind. He had expected no less from her.

"As best we can tell," Jessica went on, "a group of sixteen men climbed over the wall near guard positions 2 and 3 at some point early this morning, before sunrise. They moved into position near those posts and, at eight o'clock this morning, they attacked the two guard positions. At position 2, they managed to throw pesticide bombs in through the window. This caused the death of Mitsy Black, Jeff Hollister, and Lenny Long. At position 3, Michelle Westover and Brenda Callahan were able to see the invaders before they managed to throw their bombs in. The bomb throwers were killed but the remaining team fired upon the position and killed Brenda. Michelle was able to get the word out that an invasion was taking place and that is what prompted the response you saw this morning.

"As you are aware, the invaders joined up and began moving towards the community center. Their goal, again this is according to Mr. Adams based upon a discussion he had with a captured invader, was to take over the community center and steal our food supply. At some point between the guard positions and the community center, the group broke up into two again, one approaching from the west and one approaching from the east. Now Matt Engle took charge of the group defending us from the east. His group suffered no casualties of any kind and managed to kill all of the invaders. On the west however, I'm sad to say that the group led by Mr. Adams suffered one dead and two wounded fighting a group of four people. Eventually these invaders were all killed as well."

She paused for a moment while everyone discussed what she had said among themselves. When they finally piped down, she gave them a concerned and hurt look, one that seemed to be, to each individual watching, directed at them. "This is a very tragic event that has taken place here today," she said. "Words cannot even begin to describe how it feels to know that the town I am a part of was attacked and that friends of mine - Mitsy, Brenda, Jeff, Lenny, and Rick - are no longer with us because of it. Like you, I wanted to know how such a thing as this could have been allowed to happen in the first place. Who is responsible for it?" She let that linger in the air for a few moments. "I'll tell you," she went on, "we don't have to look terribly far to find the answer to this question. The party that needs to answer for this gross lack of security is the man that we, inadvisably it seems now, put in charge of that security in the first place. That person, as you all know, is Brett Adams."

There was an angry babble of voices and all eyes turned to Brett, who simply sat there, looking up at Jessica with a blank expression on his face.

"This is a man," Jessica went on, "that has brought considerable turmoil to this town since he came here. He snuck in here one night under the cover of darkness and managed to sweet talk and charm his way into your hearts. With the assistance of our so-called committee member Paul..." she shot an angry look at him, letting him know that she was going for his blood as well, "... he was voted into our town by popular decree, despite a committee vote barring him. Now I do not blame you good people for giving him your support in the beginning. Not at all. He was a handsome, virile looking man in a town where men are scarce. He seemed friendly and knowledgeable and he led us to believe that he would be a valuable asset. It is perfectly understandable that he led many of us in.

"But now, after all that we know about him, especially after this fiasco that has resulted in the deaths... the deaths... of five of our friends, I think it is time to reevaluate Mr. Adams' welcome among us. Now had the criminal lack of security that he was responsible for been the only thing, I believe that we might have found it in our hearts to allow him to remain a citizen - although not a security chief. But this is not the only character flaw we have found about him, is it?"

Another angry murmur went up. Brett again continued to look passively forward, not reacting to her words.

"No," she said, answering her own question. "It is not. There have been charges of vote influence against him in the shameless way he gets Paul to vote his will each and every time. There have been charges of reckless use of supply room stocks such as ammunition and even alcohol and marijuana. There has even been some evidence of improper sexual behavior with that young boy he shared a house with."

"I hadn't heard that one," Brett whispered to Michelle, still keeping his face neutral.

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