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Will: Sequel to Fragile Chapter One

Will felt someone pulling open his left eyelid in the early morning darkness. Sure enough, it was his four year old Allison.

"Anybody in there?" she asked.

Will tickled Allison and sat up. The old windup clock said it was already four thirty which meant he was late.

Getting out of bed, Will dressed in one of his two remaining pair of jeans, a shirt (one of four longsleeves left), and his only pair of workboots.

He cut through the kitchen and kissed Tiff, his wife of the past seven years on the top of her head, hooked a drop biscuit off the counter, put on his coat and hat and went into the October morning chill to get on his chores.

In the barn, a single lamp was lit and DeShawn was already at work on the milking. After a quick "'Lo" to DeShawn, Will started milking Clari on the far end of the barn. The two would milk to the middle of the small herd of seven Jerseys, store the milk and slop some in the nearest hog pen.

DeShawn lived in another farm house the other side of the barn. Their partner in crime, Ralphie Six, lived in another ancient house five hundred yards to the north. The three worked the surrounding land as well as keeping their cows, hogs, chickens and fruit orchards.

This past spring marked seventeen years since the flu spread through their world. Will and Tiff had been found by Jack, Ernesto and some of the others while they were still children. Jack, the late Jack Gershom, relocated all he found to the area surrounding Whiteright, Honeygrove and Bonham (maybe other places from the stories) where they lived to this day.

Will, DeShawn and Ralphie farmed and had the line on peaches, pears, Mexican plums, some grapes (and alcohol products derived from each), a little tobacco and of course their corn, wheat and hog harvest.

Other groups had their lines as well. The smithy and welder over in Savoy. The cattlemen in Ector and Dodd City. And of course the Fletcher's fuelworks outside of Paris. There was that group in Sherman who did little other than scavenge what little was left, garden some and eat anything. Fortunately there was not enough of them to be a burden or a besore as Jack used to say.

Will and Tiffy had four kids with a fifth on the way. Be fruitful and multiply they were told so they did. All three men had families; DeShawn and Whitney had five kids out of the chute, while Ralph and Maddy only had three kids before Mary Katherine told them to take a break.

After the milking, Will returned for his second breakfast with the kids. Biscuits, fruit, wheat cereal, milk, eggs and some yoghurt. They packed it in while his oldest boy, Pete, made plans for the day. He was going to travel to Mars, drive a Buick to Las Vegas and then deal with the pirates in the cow pasture. Allison and her twin brother, Watson, could help, but it was best if they left the dirty work to him.

Watson sat at the table with his old oven mitt next to him. He called it a baseball glove and had a crudely drawn circle representing a ball on one side.

"I'm gonna hold my glove out and the ball will come inside it" he would say.

Will was pretty sure he had at least two baseball gloves when he was little. He played baseball on a team and they won a trophy he seemed to remember. That was a long time ago.


Prologue: Fragile Part Four

The next morning Steph awoke with a start. She had fallen to sleep sometime last night but had not checked on little Genna all night long. Leaping from the bed, she ran to the baby's room and found Will sitting next to the crib in his pajamas.

"She woke up and was crying. I made her a bottle but she didn't want it so I got another with juice. She drank all of that and I changed her, but I couldn't button up her sleeper. Are you mad?"

"No, Will. You are such a big help. How is she?"

Steph checked the baby and found her fever was back. Steph felt like she had one too, but the baby came first. She drew another bath and dosed Genna with some Motrin. Charles wandered in the room, disheveled and looking like a bus ran over him. Only Ella stayed in bed for the time being.

The baby's temperature would not drop in spite of baths and medicine. Steph bundled herself and the baby up and went to the nearest Primacare but found it closed. It was then she noticed several stores were closed and the parking lots empty. She drove on the hospital but the streets clogged with dozens of idling and abandoned cars blocked her from getting within a mile of the building.

On a whim, she called the children's pediatrician on her iPhone and was delighted that someone answered. The nurse, whose voice sounded muffled, advised against coming by but said they would see the baby if no one else would.

The pediatrician wore a face mask the whole time they saw him as did all of the nurses. The office was packed with sick and very scared parents. The doctor only looked at the baby for a few minutes before having the nurse give the baby an injection in her leg.

"It's a new flu virus and this is the latest thing we have. I don't know if it's too late but let's hope for the best. Take care" and then he left.

The words "Too late" stuck in her head, but figured he meant Genna catching the darn bug and not the alternative. She asked about bringing Ella and Will in for a shot, but the nurse could not confirm whether they would be open much longer today. "Try back tomorrow".

At home, Ella had a fever, Charles was complaining about there being no soup or anything to eat and Will was trying to get the TV to work. The cable and internet were both out. Shortly afterward, the power flickered for a few minutes before shutting off entirely. Steph dug out an electric bill and called the customer service number. She felt like crap and intended on chewing out the first person who answered the phone. After she pushed send on her cellular, all she heard were some clicks and a long beep. Call failed.

That evening, Charles went out to the Kroger down the street with Mr Brandon from across the street. The store was not letting anyone in because of trouble with some shoppers earlier. There was shooting. Charles did not come home that night and Mr Brandon had no idea where he had gone to as they were separated when the shooting started.

Around two in the morning, Genna went into convulsions and passed away in Steph's arms. Nobody answered her frantic 911 calls. Steph, exhausted, sick and emotionally drained screamed and wept into Genna's stuffed bear while Will sat next to her. She wrapped the little Genna small body in a sheet and laid her in her crib not knowing what to do next.

Ella woke up and in a cracked voice called for her mother. Will came in and brought her tepid water from the still refrigerator. Steph had passed out around five in the morning and Will sat vigil all night next to Genna's crib. He did not tell Ella what happened.

Later that day, Will looked out the window and saw black smoke in the sky. Steph woke up and like a zombie, picked up the limp body of Genna and carefully buried her small body in the flower bed along the high cedar fence in the backyard. She then came inside, threw up and went back to her room.

Ella got better. Two days after it happened, Will finally told Ella what happened to Genna because she kept bugging him about their mother and the baby. He and Ella cried for awhile. They cried for their little sister and for their missing father and for themselves.

The next day, Ella and Will went outside and played with the two Brandon boys and some other children in the neighborhood. Many of their parents were sick or dead and there wasn't anyone telling them what to do. Ella decided to run down the street to her friend Jennifer's house to see if she could come out and play.

A few days later, Ella was dead and soon followed by Steph, their mother. Nobody heard from their father again and it was assumed that he had been shot at the grocery store and his body carried away.

Will last played with the Brandon boys before they disappeared or left, he could not remember but he remembered being alone for a couple of days. Sometime soon afterward, Ernesto and poor old Mrs. Whitcomb found Will near his home and then they met Jack a day or so later.

End Prologue

Be Prepared For Anything Survival Guide

Prologue: Fragile Part Three

Stephanie woke with a start and looking at the bedside table, realized the older children would have to be woken up now if they were to get to school on time. Jumping from the bed, she saw the other half was empty and remembered that Charles was probably still asleep in the living room.

Before she put on her slippers and robe, she went to check on baby Genna. The baby was still asleep and her breathing was less raspy than before. There was snot caked in one nostril, but her skin was cool to the touch.

Her attention now on the baby, Stephanie forgot about the hour and the other members of the family and took the baby to the changing table. She removed Genna's sleeper and started warm water in the tub.

By that night, a number of things had taken place. The baby was better, but Charles had come down with it as well. Stephanie was exhausted, but still not sick. The other two children, Will and Ella, were fine, but naturally, very worried about their baby sister.

Stepanie was unable to reach the doctor or the hospital. The lines were either busy or nobody answered. She directed her attention to the baby and home care instead. She gave the baby regular baths, changed her crib sheets twice a day and washed her own hands religiously. She alternated between dosing the baby with the prescription she was sent home with along with some Benadryl to keep down the cold symptoms.

Charles hacked, coughed and blew his nose all the next day while fitfully sleeping in the spare room. Ella ended up with a runny nose by dinner time and complained about feeling achy. By this time, even Steph was starting to feel under the weather. Only little Will seemed unaffected by the bug.

The next morning, everything changed again.

Prologue: Fragile Part Two

Stephanie did not like the look of the people around her. Many looked like they had no insurance or means to pay. "Fringe people" she termed them; those people who always have children they cannot afford and stories to accompany their problems. The people who hold up the line at the bank or grocery store with their long tales about missing ID's and bounced checks.

A nurse called for the baby by name and Steph took the baby and followed the nurse to an examination room.

Stephanie entered through the double glass doors and nearly fell over when she saw what waited for her and the baby. The entire hallway was lined with people; children, adults, old and young. And all sick. They leaned against walls, sat on the floor and ever a few, were laying down parallel to the wall.

The nurse guided Steph to a counter, sat behind it in a spare chair and asked without looking up "Age of the infected?"

Seven hours later, Genna had a fever and was laying on a bed in the hospital with an IV in one arm and a monitor attached to the other. The bed was wedged into a small room with two other beds each containing babies as well.

One of the other mothers blowing her nose after letting off three loud sneezes into the air without covering her mouth. "No wonder everyone is sick" thought Steph to herself.

Steph phoned home and found that Charles had finally returned from the office and had picked up Ella and Will from the Brandons across the street. Charles would make the two older children dinner and help them with their homework and wait for Steph to get home.

Steph hung up the phone a few minutes later and wished she had a bottle of water or some coffee, but she did not want to leave the baby. Not with that sneezing woman just a few feet away.

Genna was sleeping as the nurse had given her something for her cold symptoms, but her breathing was rattling with every exhale.

A young intern came into the room and made the rounds. When he reached Genna, he took a look at her chart, squeezed Steph on the shoulder and started out the door. The doctor shook his head after he left the room. The next few days would be difficult.

About 15 minutes later, a relieved Stephanie made her way with a sleeping Genna out to the car. She was thankful the parking lot was well lit with extra security lights mounted on trailers. They must have needed the lights with all the extra people still trying to get into the hospital. There were several police officers still directing traffic into the parking lot which made her feel more at ease as well.

Genna was still breathing heavily when they got home, but she seemed to be sleeping soundly. Stephanie checked on the other children and found Charles asleep in the living room with the television on. He has left Fox News on and there were scenes of some people fighting with each other in the streets while buildings burned behind them.

Stephanie assumed it was one of those foreign countries and turned off the set without a thought. Had she left it on, she would have heard the anchor person speaking with a reporter on the ground. The city was Los Angeles and the riots were taking place in other American cities as well at the same time.

Prologue: Fragile Part One

Nobody knew where the virus came from or how it was created. Many thought it was a natural occurrence, others thought it was deliberately created while some thought it was simply, "an act of God". Regardless, it came, it killed, it left.

The virus attacked in two ways. Some people simply got the virus, got sick and died within three or four days. That was the really young and old who fell into this category. Others got sick, got better a few days later and then relapsed a week or so later and then died.

A small number got sick, but never relapsed and of course, never died, but they were carriers. Others, simply never got sick. Those people are still here to this day.

The first week, over one hundred million Americans were estimated to have been infected. After that first week, nobody bothered with tabulating the numbers, it did not make any more sense and the medical experts were too overwhelmed to make any progress.

The hospitals and doctors offices filled in the first few days before the public was warned to simply stay home, drink plenty of fluids and rest. It must not have made much of an impact as most hospitals were surrounded by abandoned vehicles for miles around. The overflow of patients and dead, were placed in tents and temporary shelters spreading out from the parking lot between the abandoned cars, trucks and vans.

Within three weeks, the virus had swept the world over. Most were dead or dying. How and who the virus infected and killed versus those who lived, made no sense. Even as the virus wound down, many who were still alive, infected or not, were left to deal with a world without any infrastructure or organization.

This one was story...

The Taylors were not much different than the rest of their neighbors in their upper middle class suburb. Dad Charles worked for a mortgage broker business. Sure, business had not been great the past few months, but he had high hopes things would get better in the next few months.

Mom, Stephanie, was a stay at home which was a bit of a misnomer. Most of her time was spent carting the two older kids, Ella and Will, to school, sports, friends and activities in her SUV. Then there was her tennis game and the club she belonged to with a dozen other women she met at her kids' school. The baby Genna, a surprise, was Stephanie's joy and life.

When the virus hit, the Taylors heard something about it on the news, but those stories came up all the time, especially with kids in school. Another flu bug was standard, so they thought. The kids and Dad had taken flu shots last November so they should be fine, right.

When the youngest, Genna, age 15 months, came down with a cold, Steph gave her some Benadryl and kept her in plenty of fluids in the form of watered down juice. On day two, when the baby kept Steph and Charles up all night, Steph decided to call the baby's doctor.

The doctor's office informed Steph to bring the baby to the hospital. "We are no longer seeing patients" said the receptionist who then hung up. Indignant, Steph packed the baby up in her car and drove over the Presbyterian which was only ten minutes away.

Worried she forgot her insurance card, Steph quickly forgot everything when she saw the sight at the hospital. Police were directing traffic into the overflow parking lot. A lighted sign, the kind found on highways and construction zones flashed "Emergency cases left only!!!".

After parking and bringing the baby, now crying uncontrollably, to the door of the hospital, Steph was alarmed at the state of the place. People were everywhere. Sick people. In the lobby, she was handed a clipboard by a volunteer wearing a mask. Steph filled it out and attached her insurance card to the clipboard. She waited 45 minutes for the volunteer to make her rounds through Steph's section of the lobby.

The insurance card was not needed and handed back to Stephanie. "Strange" she thought.

Stephanie waited for over three hours in the lobby, all the while the baby was getting more and more cranky. Virgina would not take the bottle or be consoled. Not that it mattered as the whole lobby and other waiting rooms were full of crying, sniffling and sneezing toddlers and infants.


America 2.0: Chapter 14

Some military guy wearing those fatigue army clothes was holding a microphone and kneeling behind a beat up car. He was in New York City the words at the bottom of the screen said.

The military had been running the TV news since the Crash so they had all these reporter with military abbreviations like TSgt Chip Murphy reporting. It was goofy. The reporter/soldier was covering a demonstration in New York when someone blew up a bomb and shooting started.

When the camera was not on the soldier hiding behind the car, the TV news kept showing a clip over and over again of what happened earlier. There was a bunch of people listening to a fat guy with a baseball cap and glasses on yelling about the military and money when there was this big boom off to the side. The camera jerked and you saw a big explosion go off and a bunch of smoke.

The fat guy fell down, but he got back up and kind of fell off the stage away from the explosion. He then ran into the camera man and ran away I guess. Then you see all these people with blood on their faces and torn clothes standing around.

A cop comes into the screen to help this lady whose face was bleeding when all of the sudden some man hits the cop over his helmet with a sign he was carrying. Then everyone starts fighting and kicking and attacking the cops and soldiers.

The clip stops and then they went back to the soldier with the microphone which I assumed was happening like right now in New York. He's talking, but I can't hear what he's saying because the sound is gone.

They cut back to the news station and the two anchors, Captain Rhett Baker and Master Seargent Tanya Groom, both wearing blue Air Force uniforms start talking.

"Tanya, we can't seem to reach Tech Seargent Murphy in the field, but here's what we know. At an impromptu demonstration of the People's Party in New York City, some type of explosive devise was set off which resulted in numerous casualties. First responders and law enforcement were then attacked as you saw on this recent clip recorded just moments ago.

Both the military and law enforcement officers are also under fire from an unknown number of snipers in nearby buildings. Police in riot gear are releasing tear gas in the streets and attempting to restore order.

We'll have more on the events in New York after this messages from our sponsors."

Dad turned off the TV.

Be Prepared For Anything Survival Guide


America 2.0: Chapter 13

Before we went home, Dad turned into a parking lot for CashExpress. The big yellow and red sign place. Dad grabbed his money bag, stowed his Glock and told me to come along.

Dad pulled a plastic credit card from his wallet and slid it along the card reader next to the front door to CashExpress. The door was heavy glass threaded with thin wires and covered in heavy metal bars. A buzzer sounded and the door opened.

Inside, there was a counter along the far wall with two windows. A teller sat inside each window which was also covered with heavy bars. A single window on the right wall only had one man sitting inside. He was pointing a large black shotgun at us as we crossed the room to the tellers.

Dad slid his credit card in a reader next to the window and an electronically amplified yet friendly voice spoke out.

"Welcome to CashExpress? How can I help you today?"

"I need to convert some NuBucks to my card and settle one account, please".

A slot opened below the window and a drawer appeared. There was a tiny camera mounted inside the drawer along with another card reader and a number pad. Dad opened the money bag, counted off a number of bills and set them in the drawer, He then slid his card and punched in the amount he put in the drawer on the number pad.

The drawer slid shut and about 30 seconds later the attendant asked for the account in question.

"Which account did you want to settle, sir?"

"There is a home equity account under the name USR Holdings. It should be account reference 2110000024".

"I have it here, sir. You have an old US currency balance of thirty two thousand, four hundred and twelve dollars. At five PM east coast time, the transfer rate will be.. um... two hundred and four NuBucks. Did you want to settle for the full amount?"

"Yes, please."

"Hang on. OK, here's your receipt with confirmation number. The transaction goes through at midnight. Do you still have a snail mail box they can UPS the paper copy too?"

"Nope. They are supposed to send it electronically to my email."

"Alright then, is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?"

"No thank you, that's it."

We got in the truck and I asked Dad what had just happened in CashExpress.

"I paid off the mortgage on our old house. The bank went under during the Crash and the paper was purchased by some holding company. They offered a settlement in old US currency, but the new rules say I can convert it to NuBux and pay the current transaction rate."

"What does that mean?"

"The rest of the world is trying to get off the dollar standard and move over to some new currency. They tried the Euro, that's the "dollar" in Europe, but it tanked. Then they went to the yen and the quan, but they both took a dive. Right now there are a couple of other currencies most of the world is working with like the Swiss franc and the New Shilling in the Middle East, but none of them are strong enough yet.

Long of the short is, anyone can still make an offer to settle old US dollar debts with NuBux based upon the current trade rate overseas. It's complicated, but your mom and I have been watching the rates and figured this would be a good time to get out from under that old debt."

"But why bother, Dad? I mean we don't have that house anymore, the bank foreclosed on it and took it. Didn't we just walk away from the debt we had?"

"Yes and no, kiddo. The debt is still there and a wrangler could purchase it and come after us for existing assets. Like our Class A or our home lot at Norman's. Better safe than sorry and if things ever get somewhat normal again, I want a clean slate."

Wranglers were free lance collection goons. Sometimes they work alone while others are organized. Very organized. The largest wrangler firm is made of ex-Treasury and ATF agents from the old Federal government. My friend Kayla's family woke up one night to wranglers dressed in black with machine guns repo'ing their house and SUV. It still freaks her out.

We stopped at a QuickJuice spot and put five gallons of diesel in. Dad checked it off on a clipboard chained to the dashboard. He and the other truck partners don't trust each other completely.

When we arrived at Norman's, we were allowed through the gates and drove up the golf cart track to our lot. Mom had the front door open and William was standing on the steps waving us in.

"You'll never believe what just happened! They're fighting and killing everyone! C'mon!"


America 2.0: Chapter Twelve

One Saturday, mom let dad take me with him to run his route. He had to drop off a bunch of trackers with some of his car lots in Garland.

Dad made me wear some baggy old jeans, a big hooded sweatshirt, a jacket and a cap.

"I look like a boy"

"That's the idea."

"Why do I have to look like a dorky boy?"

"Get in the truck and let's go."

Dad and another guy who lived at Norman's had thrown in together on a diesel pickup. Diesel fuel was easier to get (and dad knew some truck companies who were willing to pay with fuel when they could) and the truck could be used for deliveries.

Dad did not need the extra space. There were three cardboard boxes carrying the tracker units and they easily fit behind the bench seat.

Dad pulled his pistol out, a Glock, and stuffed it in the seat. He also brought along a short barreled shotgun which he put behind the bench seat.

"What's all that for?"

"Better safe than sorry, puddin"

We left Normans and worked our way east through town. Many of the smaller strip shopping centers were making a comeback, most with mom and pop shops selling this or that. Gone were the tanning salons, nail salons, and real estate offices.

Instead, the retail extreme went from technology - portable satellite television systems, wireless internet ports, pay as you go cell phones, power generators to old school - homemade and refurbished clothing, shoe repair, produce, hardware, repair shops and so on.

Every location was run by someone or a family or a partnership. There were no large chain stores. There were no familiar names. There was no limit on signs and advertising. Teen agers stood on sidewalks holding up signs advertising "Fresh fruit!" and "Cellular Phones 2 Go!" to passing cars. At another intersection, a group of people dressed in clown suits ran into the street and stuck coupons for a car wash under windshield wipers.

At major intersections, a hodge podge of army soldiers and police officers stood guard next to military vehicles. They looked at nothing and everything and looked extremely bored.

"Hey, hon. Grab that map I printed out and let me see it for a 'sec".

"Why aren't you using the GPS thingee, Dad?"

"It doesn't work anymore. The military turned off access to it. Wanted to confuse the bad guys I guess."

"What bad guys?"

No answer. Mom and Dad had a habit these days of ignoring certain questions from William and I.

Ten minutes later, we pulled into a small parking lot of used cars. Balloons were tied to the antennas and multi colored streamers were strung overhead.

"Como 'stas, Mo! How's business?"

"Good, good my friend. Who is this?"

"My daughter. She's helping me out today with deliveries".

"Hello little girl. My name is Mo. Do you want a cold pop?"

"What's a pop?"

"He means coke or soda."

"Oh, um no thanks. Mom says they are bad for my teeth and we can't see the dentist..."

"She'd love one Mo. Say, I have those new trackers. No GPS, they use the cell towers now. Won't lose a car now!"

Dad and Mo went inside the tiny office. I thought about hanging outside, but dad grabbed my arm and pushed me inside. The office was small, smelled of cigarettes and had a calendar written in some foreign language. There was a picture of a woman in a black bed sheet over her head holding a cup of tea out. Weird.

Fifteen minutes later, Dad and I left the "Mo's" and got back in the truck. Dad pulled a blue zippered bank bag from under the back of his seat and stuffed a wad of blue and yellow NuBux into it.

"Mo is from Pakistan."

"Why did you say como estas in Spanish to him?"

"He speaks Spanish most of the day. Doesn't want people to know he is from the Middle East. It's a thing he does.."

We visited four more lots like Mo's that afternoon and dad dropped off more than 50 of his little car trackers.