The Long Walk Home Part II

Some targets are just too easy and safe to hit. We decided on one more piece of sabatoge before we left the area, rail lines. Using the spike pullers we had requisitioned from
the railyard we pulled a few dozen spikes from several different locations. We would never know the damage we had caused, but we were sure it would be a headache and drain of
manpower to have to constantly check tracks.

Camping near a small pond let the horses feed and drink, us to defunk ourselves and smell somewhat human again. The smell of that fuel still hung heavy on us.
The grub packed by our hosts beat those buckets hands down. Homemade bread, a can of that bbq’d hog, home canned corn. This was almost like a long camping trip,except for the rifles on our shoulders, and soldiers on our tail. Guard shifts were short three hours.
As the sun rose Allen rousted all.
“Let’s git movin, lotta ground to cover, and breakfast is ready” he announced.
Breakfast, interesting description, bisquits, coffee, and bbq’d hog. Well considering that the army was confiscating supplies it was probably better than a lot were eating.

Around noon we saw helicopters cruising over a wide area.
“Must be looking for other troublemakers” I said.
“Yea, bad hunting” Allen chimed in.
About that time one of the helicopters exploded in a ball of flame.
“Somebody has some serious firepower” Allen proclaimed.
“Yea, and more attention than I want to draw, let’s move” I replied.
Well at least we knew we wern’t the only ones in the area causing trouble, there was by their weaponry some organized resistance.

After watering the animals in a small creek we broke march for the day. Jeremy went out to do his usual look around, Allen and I readied camp and a meal.
Dinner had been ready for an hour when Jeremy came back.
“We got company” he announced.
“Govt. troops” I asked.
“I don’t think so” he replied, “they are speaking English, and have a lot of mismatched gear”
“they were talking about where to move next” he added “I think the’re ours”
“Well, we need to make sure” I suggested “How close can we get, unseen” I asked.
“I can pick thier pockets, you can probably git within 30 yards” Jeremy grinned.
“Well lets go take a look see” Allen said.

We rope lined the animals and headed out with Jeremy in the lead. Sure enough a little over a half mile away there they were. Their light and fire disipline was good.
Guards were out, it looked like a profesional orginization. Should we make contact? How should we make contact? Curiosity and the need to know what was happening got the better of us.

Jeremy slithered up and took one of their guards by surprise.
“Quiet” he commanded “If’n I wanted you dead you would already be”
By the time we moved up to meet him he already had answers. They were a national guard outfit, engineers, on the run like us. Leaving Allen to take the guards place.

Jeremy and I walked him into a surprised camp of about twenty soldiers. All nervously pointing weapons at us.
“Who is in command here” I asked.
A half uniformed seargent came walking up “I am, SSG Mahoney” he replied “who the hell are you”
“Jeremy Giddens, 1st Louisiana Cavalry” was the reply. “Heard ya from tha woods,and smelled ya from tha creek, figgered we’d come say hello”
That response drew a smile from the haggard looking sarge, “would offer ya a cup but got no coffee, and running a cold camp tonight”
“Good idea” I offered “saw a lot of choppers in the area”
“If’n you’ll make a small fire” Jeremy quipped, “there is coffee all around ya” As he proceeded to tell them about holly coffee and his favorite, pine needle tea.

As we talked a bit we found out a lot. That chopper had been brought down by another renegade outfit from the national guard. It seems that when the foreign troops arrived a lot of the American troops that didn’t have families they could threaten headed for the hills with whatever they could carry, pack, steal, there was a lot of men and firepower out there.
The remaining troops that had to stay were not for the most part enthusiastically following orders. Most had been assigned to base duties, many without weapons because of all the thefts and security leaks.
Sure there were more than a few that cooperated, some overly enthusiastically. But most of the old line veterans were a drain on the occupiers. When he spoke of all the acts of sabotage that had been performed our little rail strike was mentioned. Seems that seven fuel tanks
had burned, it warped some tracks, burned six railcars, the terminal was out of commission as far as he knew. We beamed inside and kept our mouths shut.

“Where are y’all headed” he asked.
“Unfinished buisness near Wakefield” Allen piped up.
“Don’t know anything about up there” he said “this is as far north as we have come, were based in Hammond”. He said there was not any real command structure, it was more like an angry ant colony spreading out and hitting everywhere.
We said our goodbyes, wished each other good luck and good hunting, then went on our way back to camp.

It was sure a relief to find others out here, at least we wern’t alone, or the only ones they were looking for. Double edged sword that was, more gurellias, more strikes, mean more sweeps. Well Hell, at least America was fighting back, a gun behind every blade of grass I thought as I smiled.
On the way back Jeremy checked the snares and traps he had set on patrol, one Opossum, one rabbit. There would be meat in the meal, and we could save our packed supplies. Would it be Rabsum, or Oposbit stew, didn’t matter, with some wild garlic and onion, Biscuits, and coffee (real coffee) it hit the spot. The late meal made it a short night, we got a before dawn start.
We wanted to be sure we got moving and out before that guard unit stirred for the day. The terrain was broken woods so there was enough cover for easy movement. We saw some smoke rising to the east quite a ways off. Wondered who the target was us or preferably them. Another days ride behind us, we should start to see the familiar terrain of our home turf tomorrow.

It seems it’s been so long that …… how long have we been gone? Over two weeks? Seems like a lot longer, a long long time ago that life made any sense.

“Ah, a bean and bisquit breakfast, musical accompniment for the ride home” Allen laughed.
“Yer ridin in back then” Jeremy exclaimed “and don’t frighten tha mules”

Everything was strangely quiet, not a lot of even birds could be heard as we rode toward Wakefield. The terrain finially began to look familiar, we were getting close enough to home to smell it. And it didn’t smell good. The Marston farm was the first we saw, a blackened hulk, decomposed cattle, carrion, and the smell of decay and, death.

Skirting around the remains of the farm binoculars told the story from the our wooded cover. Broken front gate, holes ripped in the fences, track marks from vehicles in the yard and a crushed toyota in the driveway. I only hoped that unlike the Wards’ they had managed to get out in time. Another few miles and we would be in Wakefield. Coming up the backside of the wooded hills east of town we crept up to the edge of the woodline for a look. Burned and gutted buildings, the national guard armory was completely destroyed. The fight Sammy told us about was indeed a hard fought one. Burned out cars were everywhere, along with three APCs.
“It looks like they put up one hell of a fight” I remarked.
The town though seemed deserted. Either there was noone left, or they were all in hiding.

Despair mixed with anger and hatred, this was our community. Destroyed, ransacked by foreign mercinaries, my blood boiled as I thought only of spilling thiers. O.K. so if they left where did they go?
South I bet, back towards the interstate, or to the bridge over the Mississippi. Well if that’s where they went, then that is where they will die.

“Look” Allen shouted “Movement in the elementery school”
There in the back something had been momentarily visible. There did not seem to be any military vehicles present, no patrols. Maybe civilians, our neighbors?
Mounting up we rode around town to the north of the school. There in the yard were four children, and three weomen. Riding out of cover we approached, they ran into the building
As we approached there was also other movement, two rifle barrels poked out of buildings towards us. As we drew near we were recognized. Out came an old friend and H.S. flame, Ann and her younger sister Mae,

“and just where have you been” she querried.
“How many are still here” I asked.
“Only fourty six, the rest were either killed, or taken away in trucks” she replied. “We took the children and hid in the woods for three days. It was horrible”
They shooting everyone, some of the men managed to get to the armory and put up a fight. After they killed everyone that resisted they looted the town, and then loaded everyone up on trucks and left”
“How did you survive” I asked
“We scavanged all we could, we had the fruit trees in the park, and found four of cows, have three left and five horses.” she explained.
“We have twelve adults, teenagers and thirty-four children, can you help us” she pleaded.
“Are there any cars or trucks running” I asked
“We have one old pickup” but not much gas” Ann replied.
“Jeremy, lets go find some fuel in these wercked cars”.

The town had been pretty much picked clean but we found three cars with some fuel. We collected it in buckets, bottles, and then into their truck.
I gave Ann the cache maps.
“Here” I told her “there are supplies buried and hidden where these maps are marked, If you watch it you should be able to go quite a while on them.
You need to take everyone up to the Sammy’s place, the Barn is still standing and will be less exposed, safer, and closer to the supplies than here in town”.
“There are also cans of seeds you can plant in the spring, Uncle Sammy has good dirt, grows crops well” I told her.
The rest of the day was spent ferrying kids, supplies, three cows, and whatever we could scavange to Sammy’s old barn.

There were two rifles and a shotgun between them, so we added two M-4s, three beretta pistols, some mags and some ammo to their arsenal.
“Are you sure you don’t need these” Ann asked?
“Don’t worry there are plenty more where those came from” Jeremy replied
After a round of hugs and thank yous we left them at Sammys and headed for town, with the spare mounts in tow.

We had done all that we could do, we couldn’t stay. There was now even more reason to track down those criminals and exact revenge. With the survivors of Wakefield reasonably safe we spent the night at the school. Rising with the sun we made our way south following the trail of devastation that they left behind. The trail led to St. Francisville.

The next week was spent gathering information. The Rosedown Plantation seemed to be where they had set up their headquarters. The Magnuson Hotel had been turned into a barracks. The old GMC dealer and warehouse on Wilcox street their storage dumps. It seemed that they had kept a lot the people here in town. I guess they needed their servants and toadies. good, because we needed intelligence and help. Finding those that would help us was easy, simply look for those that they are abusing. Revenge is a powerful motivator.

Jeremy was appointed as supply officer, they had a large ammo dump, and his theory was why use your stuff when you can use theirs stuff ta do tha job. The stockpile of detonators explosives, weapons and ammo grew at an impressive rate.

Late one evening Allen spotted a couple of soldiers harassing a couple near the hotel. Knocking down the man, pawing at the woman, acting like the subhuman beasts that they were. After the soldiers left Allen made contact and brought them back to our camp. The intelligence they provided was invaluable, the list of those who would help, some of whom had even managed to hide some weapons was indeed impressive. They contacted others, and by ones and twos they brought us intel, building plans, guard schedules, supply schedules, even plans for the sewer system.

It took two weeks of meetings for the plan to begin to come together. There was a sewerline right under the hotel which came up in the kitchen annex. same for the supply dump at the dealership. The headquarters would be the tough nut to crack. the explosives had been moved into the sewers, weapons stashed at needed locations, people informed of the plan. Duct tape and detonators awaited under the hotel. Jeremy had wired everything in the dumps, and anything else he could get close to. Propane was to be delivered to the Plantation on Tuesday afternoon. The gas delivery man placed a charge and detonator in the uncut tall grass under the 1000 gal. propane tank near the plantation.

The attack would come that night. As the kitchen staff at the hotel shut down to leave they opened the access to the sewer. Armed with detonators and duct tape we went to work. Sealing all the doors, windows, and air duct vents in the kitchen and dining room, placing the detonators. Jeremy and two Iraqi/Afghan vets, Alex and Stephanie took out the downstairs guards, and locked the doors from the inside. Gathering in the kitchen we turned on every gas stove we headed back down the sewer.

Stephanie took the detonator for the kitchen with Alex as cover. Their signal to set it off was when lights came on upstairs. That way we knew the gas had filled the kitchen, dining room and penetrated the building when people noticed it and woke up. We raced off to join the others at the plantation. We had not quite made it there when all hell broke loose.

At the sound of the Hotel blast Jeremy’s ammo dump went off with a ground shaking explosion like an earthquake. The propane tank took out half of the Plantation house and set it on fire. Those waiting in the woods poured all their fire into the remaining part of the structure.

The Hotel kitchen and dining room, filled with natural gas went up like – well I guess the best description would be a “fuel air building”, collapsing floors above the blast and leaving most of the walls as a shell.

Everyone split into small groups and headed for the rendevous point. Our group had now become a bit bigger. There would for sure be reprisals. Those who could fled, or hid. Our group now totaled thirteen men, eight horses, two mules, and the Mexican army looking to toast our burittos. Heading east riding double travel was slow as the horses tired quickly.

It took three days of travel and dodging surprisingly few patrols to make it back to Pine Grove. Dog tired, worn to a frazel we arrived to a celebatory atmosphere.
I had never been hugged so tightly as by Sarah who could only say over and over “Thank you, Thank you”

We spent that night in revelry, recounting the tales of the weeks since we had left. Wondering what we would do now. Many things had happened since we left. The die off especially in the large cities after they were kept contained had been of apocolyptic perportions. Most all of those trapped in the coastal population belt didn’t make it.

The federal Govt had reconstituted in Colorado. The president had been impeached for failure to respond to the attack. Texas had suceeded and formed their own republic. Montana and Idaho had joined together as new nation. Chinese troops occupied the west coast. Russian troops occupied the east coast. Mexican troops the southwest and as far e
east as Mississippi.

The foreign troops we were told had taken a beating. America had managed to launch a counter EMP strike so their countries were not in a lot better shape than we were.
Those that were over here were apparently stranded and being strangled by the resistance, gangs, lack of supply, and unreplacable losses.

Rumors abounded … China had collapsed into fuedal warlord states, Russia had further fragmented, Europe was devestated by another plague. Africa and the middle east hit with starvation and riots. The South Americans were fighting each other as well as the drug lords.

It was most certianly a new world which had emerged.

We assembled the group and talked things over.
The contingent from St. Francisville wanted to go back and fight.
Jeremy wanted to stay in Pine Grove, with Sarah. Sammy and Helen were going to stay as well.
We split up the mounts, let the new generation of freedom fighters have most weapons and the mules. They would need them.

That next morning we wished them good luck and good hunting as they went on their way.

As for Allen and I, well we each kept our prairie mounts, rifles, bed rolls, and headed northwest.
Allen thought we needed to head home and rebuild.
“It’s time for the world to reset” Allen said.
I agreed.

As I looked to the east the sun was coming up, yea I thought, maybe it is a new day.

Besides …… I really wanted to see Ann again, share a sunset, start a new life, and help raise however many of those kids she decided to keep.



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