Copyright© 2000 by Al Steiner
Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic Story: Epilogue - 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
October 17, Impact +370 days
El Dorado Hills, California
"Are you okay Brett?" asked Doreen Rowley, the twenty-year-old wife of Pat. She was sitting on the left side of the helicopter as it idled on the ground, and had been most of the way through the pre-flight checklist when she noticed her instructor rubbing his knee and grimacing.
"A little bit of an ache," he said dismissively, taking his hand away and shrugging her question off. "Nothing I can't handle. Now how about you finish up the pre-flight so we can get up in the air?"
"Right," she said, her face a little concerned. She dutifully went back to work however and soon the checklist was complete. Doreen was the fourth of his student pilots since the official merger of the Garden Hill and El Dorado Hills communities three months before. She had just finished ground school and this was to be her first trip up in the air where she would get some stick time.
In truth, his left knee, the one injured in the Second Battle of Garden Hill (as Matt, their official historian called it), was throbbing painfully and had been all morning. It was the barometric pressure. Renee had told him and the others with bone injuries that many times. The weather was going through some changes as the cloud cover above was running out of precipitation to drop on them. Windstorms and rainstorms swept in and out now, sometimes with terrifying power, and the barometer rose and fell with the advance and decline of these systems, making everyone edgy and compressing nerve fibers in those that were vulnerable to such things. Currently the barometer was on the rise though the sky was just as cloudy as it had been since the impact. It was in fact one of the most rapid rises yet recorded and it was creating an ache unlike any he'd felt since the first post-operative weeks after the surgery. He tried his best to ignore it, for the most part successfully. "So," he asked Doreen, giving one more rub of the area. "I'm all set to take off then?"
"Yes," she told him. "Everything checks out."
"Are you sure?" he asked, deliberately injecting a note of skepticism into his tone.
The old instructor's trick worked on her for only a second. She looked down at the checklist in her hand, trying frantically to spot something that she might have forgotten to check on it. Seeing it however, she knew that she had covered everything. Her face took on a more confident expression. "I'm sure," she told him. "You're ready to fly."
He smiled. "Almost got you with that one, didn't I?"
While she laughed he throttled up the engine and then lifted off, rising into the air. Doreen was actually one of his better students and he thought she would have no trouble at all picking up the mechanics of flying. As his experiences with Jason had taught him, the younger members of society, those that had grown up with Nintendo and PlayStation, tended to be much easier taught. The two students that he had been forced to wash out so far had both been in their thirties.
Brett brought them up to an altitude of 3000 feet, taking them well out over the Great Central Valley. Though the cloud cover was still with them and though monster storms sometimes rolled in and dumped inches of rain in little more than an hour, the constant fall of raindrops was now a thing of the past. The weather itself had grown steadily colder over the past few months - they were lucky if they reached 45 degrees during mid-afternoon these days - but the average day brought them nothing more than a light mist of drops. Sometimes they didn't even get that and it would be possible to go outside without rain gear on. The cessation of the rainfall - aside from creating problems gathering dishwashing water, laundry water, and bathing water - had had a dramatic effect on the view of the valley below them. Where once there had been a virtual sea of water more than a hundred feet deep, there was now endless swampland and wide, surging rivers running through mudflats and the mounds and mounds of debris left over from the initial flooding. Thankfully the millions of bodies had all decomposed by now, leaving nothing more than bones scattered among the remains of cars, the uprooted trees, and the piles of smashed concrete. The residents of Auburn had taken to picking through this debris in order to survive, at least that was what recon flights of the area had shown. What they were finding to eat in all of that was the subject of often intense speculation in the executive council meetings.
"Let's head a little to the south," Brett told Doreen, "and then we'll have you take over and try some turns. Sound good?"
"Uh... sure," she said a little nervously.
"Relax," he told her. "You'll do fine."
The aircraft they were in was not the MD-500 that had helped them win the war against the Auburnites. With its rotor blades failing, several major engine components well past their useful service life, and no replacement parts on the horizon, the machine had been honorably retired and relegated to museum status behind the El Dorado Hills elementary school buildings. In its place the merged communities now possessed a Bell JetRanger - the civilian model of the helicopter that Brett had flown for the Sheriff's Department - and an old Vietnam era Huey that had been refurbished and returned to service as a firefighting helicopter shortly before the comet impact. Both helicopters had been discovered by recon flights from the MD-500 - the Bell from a small municipal airport outside of Reno and the Huey from a National Forest station outside Angel's Camp. Both had been stored with a fairly good inventory of spare parts and components, enough to hopefully keep them in the air for as long as there was a fuel supply for them. Currently Brett was flying the Bell, which had dual controls for the ease and safety of teaching. It was the Bell that also was used for short-range recon missions and small lifting. The Huey, a large, maintenance intensive, dual engine job, was used only for heavy lifting or - if they were to go to war again - for transporting large numbers of troops. So far, the former job was all that had been required of it.
Brett, as fond as he had become of the MD-500 during the Garden Hill days, loved the Bell almost physically. It was the aircraft that he was most familiar with, that he had accumulated the most hours in over the years. He liked the responsiveness of its controls and even the clattering racket caused by its tail rotor. The quiet that the MD-500 had produced with its NOTAR system had always seemed unnatural to him.
"Okay, let's have you take the controls and take over straight and level flight for me," Brett said as they moved south over the flooded and smashed city of Sacramento.
"All right," she said, putting her hands on the collective and cyclic and her feet on the pedals.
He talked her through the switchover and a moment later the aircraft was hers. Nothing dramatic happened. As long as she didn't move anything, the aircraft would continue on its course. As soon as it soaked into her mind that she was in command, he talked her through her first turn. As most of his students did the first time, her hands were a little too light on the controls, so afraid was she of being too heavy on them. It took her a minute before she actually got the machine to change direction. Once she began to practice though, she caught the hang of it real quickly. Inside of ten minutes she was turning and banking with ease, able to level them within five degrees of a particular heading and able to maintain her altitude within a hundred feet or so. By the time twenty minutes had passed, she was able to maintain altitude perfectly and put them within a degree or so of the requested heading.
"Very good," Brett told her, absently rubbing his knee again, trying to massage away the ache. "Very good indeed for your first time up. Why don't you spin us back around to 10 degrees and we'll head on back. It's your aircraft until we get ready to descend."
"My aircraft," she said, savoring the words.
Ten minutes later she handed control of the helicopter back to him, allowing him to descend towards town. They passed over the defensive bunkers on the outer perimeter, bunkers which had been built by work crews shortly after the community merger and which were staffed by an elite cadre of trained guards supervised by Chrissie. The guards in those bunkers were all equipped with fully automatic rifles and had plenty of ammunition to burn if needed. The extra weapons had come from pillaging partially flooded police buildings in Reno, Sparks, and several smaller towns both in California and Nevada. The ammunition had come from a storage warehouse much further away.
A routine radio check-in occurred when they were spotted and the three guards below waved up at them in a friendly manner as they flew over the top of them at 1500 feet. They were given clearance to land the aircraft and Brett circled around the elementary school once to get the feel of the wind and to get a read on the altitude. The constant barometric changes of late meant that the altimeters of all of the aircraft - which operated by measuring barometric pressure - were off by an unknown amount at any given time. Since it was only a small amount it didn't matter terribly much in flight but it did make landing a tad tricky at times. Still, Brett was a veteran of such post-comet idiosyncrasies and he touched down neatly, right in the accustomed spot, between the Huey and the twin engine Cessna that had been scavenged from the Cameron Park airport.
It was the Cessna that provided the long-range recon of the area. With a range of more than 1000 miles, Brett, Jason, and Pat had flown as far as Boise to the northeast, Salt Lake City to the east, Las Vegas to the southeast, and San Diego to the southwest. What they had found in all of these places was starkly depressing. The constant rainfall of the first six months post impact had drowned the desert and flatlands. All of the cities and towns in this area were flooded out and choked with mud, the only residents left, small groups of disorganized survivors, probably living off of the meager pickings left over from the collapse of civilization. Circling such places showed evidence of crude defensive walls built around enclaves, signs that the groups were constantly fighting among themselves. This was the view they had in all of the major desert cities: Reno, Salt Lake, Boise, Las Vegas. Los Angeles and San Diego were simply not there anymore, the very landscape that they had once stood upon washed clean of the towering high-rises, the endless subdivisions, and the millions of people that had once lived there. It was only in the mountain areas, high above the floods, outside of the mudslide areas, that any sign of organization existed. Here, near the communities of Nevada City, Alturas, Murphy's - tiny towns that had managed to roll through the earthquake intact - were places similar to El Dorado Hills or Auburn found. Circling such areas showed unmistakable defenses and inhabited buildings. In several cases the people themselves had been spotted. Review of videotapes made on the overflights had shown buildings where food was being stored, pens where animals were being kept, even greenhouse type facilities in Alturas. In contrast to the depressing views of the cities, the few thriving mountain communities brought hope; hope that there might be a future to the human race after all.
"Okay," Brett told Doreen once the rotor was in the neutral position and the engine was throttled back down to idle. "Go through the shut-down procedure."
She did so, performing each action on the short checklist without problem. The rotor spun down to a halt and the engine died with a last whine, leaving only silence behind. They both unstrapped from their seats and stepped out. Brett's leg gave a strong protest when he placed weight upon it. Christ, he thought, it was really hurting today.
Sherrie, Paul's second wife, came walking out from the small maintenance shack where the aircraft supplies were kept. Her job in town was to keep the various planes and helicopters of the El Dorado Hills Air Force fueled and ready to take off at a moment's notice. She also oversaw the maintenance on each one, although others did the actual tasks. It was a job that she was very well suited for. She had had a baby less than four weeks ago and was still slightly pudgy with postpartum fat. She was also limping quite badly on the leg that had been shot in the First Battle of Garden Hill, much worse than normal.
"Hey, Sherrie," Brett said as he limped over towards her. He gave her a smile that one gives to others that are sharing their exclusive misery. "You too huh?"
"Yes," she groaned good-naturedly. "It's killing me today. I don't think its ever been this bad before."
"The barometer is surely going crazy on us, that ain't no shit," he replied. "I guess because it dropped so low during that last storm."
"Go get a couple of Naprasyn from Renee," she suggested. "I did and it took the edge off a little."
"Maybe I will," he replied, intending to do just that.
Sherrie turned her attention to Renee, who was standing shyly next to her instructor. "So how'd you do?" she asked her. "You didn't crash my chopper, I can see that."
"It was really cool," she beamed. "The bomb!"
"And we're going to do a lot more of it tomorrow," Brett reminded her. "So why don't you go get your notebooks and head on home. I want a three page essay on the physics of ascent and descent before we lift off."
"Awww," she groaned. "Not more homework."
"More homework," he confirmed. "And no bitching about it or I'll give you even more."
"All right," she said, exaggerating her annoyance. She headed off to the main bank of classrooms, whistling as she went.
Brett looked over at the empty parking spot on the other side of the twin-engine plane. It was for their smaller recon plane, the former Highway Patrol Cessna 182 that had been next to the MD-500 in the Cameron Park hanger. "Jason still out on patrol huh?" he asked. "I'd of thought he'd be back by now."
"He said they were going to shoot some film of the Tuolumne forest area. Our maps are a little vague on that part of the foothills."
"Oh," Brett said, nodding. "I guess that will take a while then. I'm telling you, you give that kid an assignment and he certainly takes it seriously. How much longer until the 182 goes down for a thorough?"
"Another twenty hours or so," she told him, knowing the answer without having to look at her books.
"Good enough," he said. "Hopefully Jason will have the map done by then and we can start concentrating on recovering that jet fuel from Winnemucca. I know it isn't going anywhere, but I just don't like leaving those tanker cars sitting there." He was referring to another group of tankers and boxcars that had been found sitting on a cut through some hills outside of the small, demolished Nevada town. Three of the tankers were full of jet fuel bound for a military base in Nebraska. The logistics of getting it back to El Dorado Hills were something that was still being worked out.
"Well," Sherrie told him, "I'd better get the Bell gassed up and ready to roll. Any problems with it?"
He assured her that there were not and they said their goodbyes to each other for the moment. While Sherrie limped off towards the fuel truck, Brett limped off towards the elementary school.
He found Renee, their resident doctor, inside one of the classrooms. The room was decked out with anatomical posters that had come from her former office and the blackboard was filled with drawings of the human circulatory system. At the desks, watching her lecture on anatomy and physiology were three men and six women from town, the first class of the El Dorado Hills School of Medicine. It had been decided even before the merger of the towns that the perpetuation of specialized knowledge such as medicine, piloting, and mechanics, would be the most important goal. In the world that was forming in the wake of the comet, knowledge and skills would be power. As such, Brett was teaching people to fly and the basics of military tactics, Steve Kensington was teaching engine repair and basic engineering skills, and Renee was teaching medicine. Stacy, Jason's first wife, was sitting in the front row, staring intently, her stomach already starting to swell with her second pregnancy. She was the star pupil so far, having been liberated from the kitchen on the basis of her extremely high test scores on the general knowledge exams that had been given.
Renee, seeing him standing in the doorway, paused in her lecture and offered him a smile followed up by a questioning look. He asked if he could have a word with her for a moment and she excused herself.
"Knee bothering you?" she whispered when she reached him.
"You must be psychic," he said.
"I must be," she confirmed. "Is it bad?"
"As bad as it's ever been. How about kicking down some of that Naprosyn you gave Sherrie?"
She pulled a prescription pad from her pocket and wrote "Naprosyn - 2 tabs" on it. The reason for the pad was that a few people in town had been helping themselves to some of the drug supplies - particularly the painkillers and the Valium derivatives. This had prompted the ruling committee to place all pharmaceuticals - over the counter and otherwise - under lock and key, releasable by the supply staff only on written order from the doctor. This did not include the alcohol and marijuana supply, which was releasable by a mere order from the ruling committee. "Are you flying any more today?" she asked him.
"No," he told her. "We've wrapped it up until tomorrow. Unless of course, someone attacks us in the meantime."
She laughed a little. "I guess we'll just have to take that chance." She scribbled a little more on the pad. "I'm adding a couple of Vicodin for you too. I couldn't give Sherrie any of that because she's nursing, but you're not lactating currently, are you?"
"I don't seem to be," he said with a grin.
"It must be nice to be a man," she said, rubbing her own swelling stomach a little. She tore the prescription off and handed it to him. "See you at dinner tonight."
"Right," he told her, taking it. "Thanks."
It took him the better part of ten minutes to get the supply clerk to get his pills from the locked room. Once they were handed over he washed them down with boiled water from the dispenser in the hallway. He then made his way upstairs - wincing at each step on the risers - to the main office where the ruling committee met.
The office was not terribly opulent by any means. It had once belonged to the principal of the school and it retained much of its original furnishings. Pat, Bonnie, and Paul, the committee members, were sitting around the desk having an informal discussion about initiating contact with Auburn. It was an old argument and one that they never seemed to make much headway on. Of course the change in government there had long been noted. It was not hard to notice that the women were the ones with the guns now and the men were the ones scavenging in the mudflats of the valley for whatever it is that they looked for there. Auburn was watched very closely by El Dorado Hills. Recon flights during the day were contacted three times each week - always by approaching from the east, as if they'd come from Garden Hill - and night flights were conducted weekly. So far it did not appear as if the women were planning any kind of military operation soon, but you never could tell. Bonnie was of the opinion that contact should be made, just in the interests of being the neighborly thing to do and perhaps to see if any sort of trade could be worked out. Pat and Paul however, were both opposed to the contact on the grounds that they didn't want to have dealings with a community that treated one sex as slaves. Sometimes they argued viciously about this for hours at a time.
Currently the discussion was much lower key. They were sipping out of glasses of boiled water with lemonade powder in it and behaving almost calmly. They looked up at him as he entered and he told them that unless they had something else for him to do today, he was going to go home and lay down.
"The leg bothering you?" Bonnie asked, noting how he was carefully keeping his weight on the right one.
"You could say that," he agreed. "Renee cut me loose some pills for it. I want to see if I can sleep it off."
"Sure," she said after receiving no dissent from the other members. "Take the rest of the day off. You're not the first one being bothered by the barometer today."