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A Change of Major (Epilogue)

A Change of Major Epilogue


A few months later..

The small convoy of vehicles lined up in front of the now, nearly empty campground. Ernie and Chuck stood next to the lead vehicle, a modified pickup truck loaded down with gas cans and supplies, when Brenda and I walked up.

"It feels warmer, at least some, doesn't it?" I asked.

"Must be in the fifties or so," said Ernie.

I faced Chuck,

"Well, I guess this is it, huh, Chuck?"

"I guess so, Mike."

"The Hartmans to Nebraska, Minnesota for you and then Ernie to Pennsylvania? Think you'll make it?" I asked.

"Why not?" said Ernie. "We can't sit here in a campground all year can we? Besides, I feel like an adventure."

I reached out and shook Chuck's hand and we gave each other a guy hug. I then reached in my pocket and pulled out Curtis' iPhone and handed it to him.

"I think Curtis would have wanted you to have this. It's probably the only working one in all of America if you think about it." I said.

Chuck looked at it and said "Thanks, Mike. I see you around, okay?".

He then went and got into the passenger seat while Ernie took the wheel.

"Mike," said Ernie out the window. "You take care of yourself and this pretty young lady. Don't make this old man come back to Texas and and teach you some manners, you hear?"

"I gotcha and you don't have to worry about that, Ernst." I added giving him one final hard time, "Good bye".

"Wrong, Mike. Until we meet again. Take care." Ernie corrected me.

And the truck pulled out with the others following behind.


A long time ago, I thought I wanted to go to college, so I did. I changed my major and thought I knew where I was going and what I was doing, but life got in the way.

Now, I am still learning, but my major changes all the time. One day it's birthing pigs, the next picking corn and another how to fix a silted well. And along the way, I have loved, been loved, lost friends and made new ones.

I get a report card each day which tells me if I am alive or not and so far, I'm doing okay. Besides, Brenda's a great study partner although we take a lot of breaks.

Every now and then I go back to the campground, clear off Curtis' grave and see how he's doing. Hap says he saw a deer near it once and I like to think that makes Curtis happy somewhere.

I once thought that someday we would set up a monument to people like Curtis for what they did in the early days after The Day, but the fact is, eventually we will all return to the dirt like Curtis, so why make a fuss? Curtis wouldn't have. He loved life and celebrated it each day. Why should we celebrate death?

I miss my friends and my family and I wonder if I will ever see any of them again. For now, I can't worry about it as life will take care of itself. A hundred years from now, we will be gone and probably forgotten, and the time we have now is all we have. So, I have to make it count.

Tomorrow starts early and I have more work to do and Celina says its time I made an honest woman out her daughter. I told her my hands were full with Brenda and Tracy was her problem. She threw a dirt clod at me.

Like Ernie says, it's not goodbye, but until we meet again.


At the end of a forgotten rural road, a young couple and their four year old daughter weeded and carefully worked their large garden. Between this, chickens, rabbits, an occasional deer and avoiding trouble, they eeked out a decent life.

A young man, riding a worn out bicycle, stopped in front of their home and waved his hand. The man looked cautiously at the visitor and then approached him.

"Looks like you have plenty of work to do here and not enough hands," the young man said.

"And let me guess, you want to help. What are you looking for?" the farmer asks.

"Honest work and nothing more."

"I can't offer you much and when winter comes, there may be nothing," said the man.

"A place to bed down and a couple of meals are enough for me. So do we have a deal?" said the young man.

"OK, we will give it a try. What's your name?"

"Bil.. William Hough, but call me Will." said the young man putting out his hand to shake.

"Alright, Will. Come on over, I got some firewood that needs cutting..."

The End

A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Six and a Half)

Celina and daughters made it to the second floor of the closed movie theatre and found two slit windows which gave them a perfect vantage point of the square from behind the attacking cons. Celina and Brenda took the first two turns while Tracy would reload magazines if needed.

It was then Tracy realized that she had left one of their duffles downstairs by the door they had forced open in the theatre. She told her mother and sister she would go down to get it and would be back in a few minutes.


Rafe and four of his men had made it to the third floor and were moving without resistance down the hall to the "Boss's" office as Holtz had told him. Take out this guy and the town would be his.

Rafe had two men killed and three wounded on the way up. They left the wounded guys on the landing of the second floor and with things going his way, he doubted he would have a hard time replacing guys in the future. Hobbs would be his base of operations from which he could spread out and raid in any direction.

When they reached the door, Rafe called out in a high falsetto voice,

"Yoo hoo, anybody home?"

A shot rang out from in the office and splintered the door, but nobody was hit.

"Now that's not the way to greet company. Where's your sense of hospitality, Hough? We just want to come in and get acquainted." mocked Rafe.

Another shot rang out and again, Rafe's men ducked and looked to their boss for instructions. Rafe motioned for the man closest to try the door knob which he did and shook his head; it was locked.

Rafe nodded to one of the other men and he let lose with his AK at the door frame, the rifle's bark magnified by the close confines of the hallway while each round chewed up the carpentry.

Hough wildly fired three rounds at the rapidly disintegrating door before jumping behind his desk. Rafe kicked open the door and one of his men tossed a flash bang grenade into the office.

A muffled boom followed by a flash of light and eruption of smoke filled the office forcing Hough to stagger backwards from his desk pushing his massive leather chair across the floor. Rafe stepped across the threshold and fired once hitting Hough in the shoulder and sending the Colt skittering into the corner.

Hough fell backwards into his chair and looked finally defeated. Rafe cocked his head at him and said,

"See you in the funny papers, mac!" and fired twice hitting Hough in the chest and throwing his body to the floor.

"Alright, let's clean up and see how many fine women they got in this town, boys!"


Tracy made her way downstairs, picked up the bag and was about to head back up to the second floor when a strange hand grabbed her face from behind while another yanked her left arm behind her back.

A deep voice sounded from directly against her ear,

"Hey beautiful, what's the rush? Let's get to know each other shall we?'

The deputy known as Deuce pulled Tracy back into the shadows.


Vic was still strafing the front of city hall, but it was apparent that resistance had died down to nothing so he paused to save ammo and get a read on the situation.

When no shots were fired from the building in his direction, he turned to the group behind the vehicle to his left and smiled a big grin.


I turned slowly and saw Holtz standing thirty feet away and the end of the corridor, his sidearm held casually in his left hand.

"Why don't you put down that shotgun real slow like, punk."

I slowly set down the shotgun, keeping my left side slightly forward facing Holtz. I had no plan other than delay this maniac as long as possible and hope that Delbert magically appeared in time.

"So where's your little friends, punk? Where's that big mouth hippie boy, huh?" sneered Holtz.

"Dead. Same as you someday." I replied calmly turning my left side out a few inches more.

"Now that's funny. Little snot got his ticket punched. I'd like to have been there to see that. Tell me something, did he cry like a little girl when he died? Or did he scream like a woman and roll around on the floor?"

"Neither. He died saving a kid's life." I said taking two steps forward. "You know, the same thing a firefighter or police officer would have done when a kid was in danger.

Tell me Holtz. Have you always been this way or did you want to be that sort of police officer too. Maybe when you were a kid?"

"Oh no, don't try that cr*p with me, sonny boy. You stay right there and put them hands on top of your head and get down on your knees. I'm gonna teach your college a** a lesson." he said with as menacingly as possible.

"I don't think so, Holtz. Not today. Not ever. You want to cap me, you come on over here and do it personal, look me in the eye and ... Oh sh*t! It's Hough!" I shouted suddenly pointing past Holtz with my left index finger, my eyes wide open.

For a moment, Holtz turned white and jerked to turn to his right and as he did, I yanked the .38 Delbert gave me from my jacket pocket and squeezed the trigger three times. The first round went wild but the next two found the target.

Holtz turned back to me slowly, his mouth a perfect "O" of surprise and let out a huge grunt. A red stain quickly swelled across the area of his solar plexus rapidly darkening his dung brown uniform shirt.

His pistol slid from his hand and clattered to the floor and he staggered forward two steps and slapped the wall trying to hold himself up. He managed for a few seconds and long enough to look at me and say, "F*** you, college boy..." and then he fell face down on the floor.


Deuce was trying to pull the surprised Tracy to the back of the room and was already getting worked up when the girl suddenly dug her feet into the ground and raked the fingernails of her free right hand over Deuces right arm.

Deuce yelped and instantly tried to grab Tracy again, but instead she raised her knee directly into his privates causing him to lean over with a huge "Oomph".

Tracy then shoved Deuce back with a two handed shove and stepped backwards towards the back door of the theatre. Deauce lurched forward and drew his .40 caliber service pistol from its holster and screeched,

"You b**ch! I'm gonna mess you up!"

But he never had the chance. Three nine millimeter rounds fired from the darkness behind Tracy and hit Deuce in the chest in a perfect grouping.

"How many times do I have to tell you to stay away from strange guys?" said Brenda from near the stairwell.

Tracy ran to her big sister and they hugged briefly before Brenda broke off, grabbed the dropped duffle from the floor and pulled her sister up the stairs.


Jose looked at the square and saw the man on the SAW relax his grip and look over at his compatriots who then let out a big yell of victory. Jose took that as good as time as any.

"Fire!" he yelled.

Hearing the call from across the square, Arturo yelled the same command and both sides of the street erupted in a fullisade of small arms fire.

.22, .270, 12 guage, 30-30, .223 and all manner of calibers ripped through the lines of grouped attackers tearing them to shreds. Vic manning the SAW in particular was hit at least a dozen times before falling off the El Camino to the grass.

At the very same momemt, Ernie let lose with the M60 blocking any escapees from fleeing towards the city hall. Brenda, Tracy and Celina picked off stragglers attempting to retreat back the way they came.

It was not without bloodshed or cost. The convicts were heavily armed killers and had been shooting without fear far longer than the assembled volunteers from the camp ground had. They fired with impunity or conscience. The battle was far from over.


Rafe and his men were heading down the hallway when a large figure dressed in black appeared at the end, blocking out the light from the window behind him.

Rafe was about to make one of his trademark comments when the stranger quickly raised his rifle and let off a well aimed burst in their direction.

Two of Rafe's men went down immediately while Rafe and the other took cover.

At the other end of the hall, Delbert quickly moved to his left, ducked behind the corner, dumped the magazine in his rifle and replaced it with a fresh one. At the same time he heard the trademark sound of a grenade pin popping and crouched down in a ball, his face away from the open hallway.

There was a pop and a whoosh of smoke but nothing more. Delbert stood and saw the grenade was pluming harmless white smoke into the air. Using it to his advantage, Delbert ducked low and fired a burst around the corner. He then kicked the grenade back down the hallway towards Rafe and jumped to the other side of the hallway.

Rafe fired a half dozen rounds from each of his pistols and heard them smack against the far wall but could see nothing due to the smoke. He turned to his remaining compatriot and saw the man's lifeless eyes staring back at him; there was a large bullet hole in the center of his forehead.

"OK, Big Tex, looks like you want to play cowboy. Alright, I can do that. Tell you what, why don't you come out and let's have a showdown like in the movie shows? How's that sound?" asked Rafe.

The grenade was no longer spewing smoke, but what had still hung in the air. Delbert waited thirty seconds to his advantage and carefully set down his AR on the floor behind him. He then checked the Colt 1911 in his drop leg before answering.

"Why that sounds like fun Mr... say, I don't recall hearing your name stranger. How about we make this personal and introduce ourselves first?" said Delbert.

"Why you can call me The Lone Ranger, cowboy, and I'll call you Black Bart. How does that strike you?" replied Rafe.

"That suits me fine, Lone Ranger. Now, what are the rules? My mother didn't let me watch cowboy movies growing up, she said they were too violent so you'll have to tell me what to do". said Delbert, still stalling for time.

"OK, Black Bart, you and I face each other but our guns are in our holsters. Then we walk towards each other and then we draw. Last guy standing lives. Sound like fun?" said Rafe.

"How do I know you wont shoot me once I come around the corner?" asked Delbert

"Why that would be cheating and I never cheat. So you ready?" asked Rafe.

Rafe had one of his .40 calibers in his hand behind his back waiting for the big man to come around the corner. Delbert pushed his duster behind the butt of his 1911, took a deep breath and stepped around the corner.

Rafe smiled and then his face went white. In Delbert's left hand was a cut down double barreled shotgun the end of which looked like two open mouths until they belched fire. Rafes head disappeared leaving his body to collapse to the floor.

"Sorry, Lone Ranger, I always cheat. Adios, kemosabe." said Delbert. He then turned down the hallway the way he came and went down the stairs.


I picked up my shotgun and while there was still shooting outside, I had to check one more thing before I left the building.

I went up the stairs carefully until I reached the third floor and went towards Hough's office. There were numerous shell casings littering the floors and bullet holes in the walls as well as plenty of bodies, none of which, I was happy to note, were Delbert's.

I pushed open the shattered door to Hough's office and saw the carnage inside. I walked over and picked up the now broken picture of Hough and his son Billy and wondered whatever happened to the kid. I hoped he made it somewhere good because he was a nice guy.

I looked down at Hough's body laying on the floor and said,

"Looks like you answered my question after all, huh?"

It was then I noticed Curtis' iPhone sitting on the blotter. Hough or his men must have taken it when we were detained, something that felt like a million years ago. I picked it up and left the room.


The last convict went down a few moments later. He held up his hands to surrender but when Barger told him to drop his weapon, he snapped off one more round catching Aldus in the hand. Jose dropped the shooter like a bag of rocks.

Everyone slowly walked out of the surrounding buildings and checked the dead making sure none were alive and could pose a danger, but most had been cut to ribbons by multiple rounds.


Ernie checked the weapon and his the health of assistant before safing and stowing the weapon for travel. In his mind, he thought, "Now I am really too old for this." and they made their way down to the square.


Celina, Tracy and Brenda escaped without a scratch other than the nightmare inducing encounter with Deuce. Hopefully, time and love would cure that wound.

The packed up their gear and went to the square.


I looked out the window on the way down and saw both the shooting was over and many of my friends were moving freely about. That was a good sign. Before I joined them, I went to the parking lot behind the city hall.

There, against the dock, where Rafe and his men had left it, was my Scout. There was a nice dent on the right panel and it needed a good washing, but otherwise, was the same.

I went and opened the door and saw the keys still in the ignition. In the back cargo area were dozens of boxes of shotgun and .223 ammunition. I guess they were using this to haul around supplies, so I left it in there.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I drove the truck over to a big fuel tank in the lot and filled it up along with a half dozen jerry cans lined up nearby. I then pulled out and drove into the street out front.

Sitting on a bench in front of city hall, as if it was normal to be people watching while dressed in black and carrying an AR15, was Delbert. I pulled to a stop at the curb.

"That your truck?" he asked.

"Yep" I smiled.

"It's ugly, like you." he replied.

"Not as ugly as you, big guy." I said back.

Delbert smiled and I said,

"Glad to see they couldn't kill you. See you around."

Delbert waved and I drove off.

I stopped near the theatre when I saw Brenda with her sister and mom.

"May I give you a lift home, miss?" I asked.

Brenda smiled, "Of course." and then stood there.

"Well? Get in." I said.

"I don't think so," she said raising her head and closing her eyes, "A gentleman always opens the door for a lady."

"Right you are, miss. Please forgive me."

And I hopped out and opened the door for my girlfriend.

As we pulled away from the curb, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time in weeks.

A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Six)

The Second Holocaust Part Two - It All Ends Now

"Shuddup, all of ya. Here's the dealio so listen and ya won't get yer head shot off.

There's two big roadblocks one on the east and here on the west. We're gonna ignore that east block for the time being cause we got an ace in the hole for it.

Now the west block is gonna be strike team one. We're gonna move in across country and take it out once their call in time passes. Then we are gonna make a distraction and cut into town.

Now, you guys with the bus, i want you to wait right here until you get the signal, then come in from the west and pick up strike team two.

Now the rest of you sorry sunsabeeches are coming in technicals into the town square last. Setup the Equalizer and scare the locals into their hidey holes.

I figger about fifteen minutes of fightin in town, another hour or so of clean up and then the party begins. Sounds good?"

The holler went up from the fifty plus men gathered around Rafe and the homemade map spread out on the truck bed. Dead center, bullseye on the map was one word: Hobbs.


"Jose, Arturo and Chuy will take in the main body once we have transportation together. Your fields of fire are here, here and here.

Ernie, you have heavy weapons and will setup here but your fall back is here.

Celina and I have insertion here and here if that first one fails.

Stifflebeam? You, your boy, Chuck and Barger are here. We are counting on you and what you got on your plate. And Chuck, we can't test it until it happens, so you'd better be as smart as you say you are, got it?" finished Delbert.


The air was heavy in his office and Hough felt like a caged animal. He opened his desk drawer and took out a Colt Trooper and checked the cylinder one more time and put it back.

His hands were sweaty and there was a pall around the city hall. Too many men were missing. The roadblocks were at half strength. Even the town residents all appeared to be missing or hiding.

So this is how Hitler felt down in that bunker, said a voice in his head. He waved it away and went back to his calculations for the spring.


Rick Stiller had been a deputy for Hobbs for all of ten days and here he was, in charge. His men, all five of them, were gathered around two burn barrels trying to stay warm on the dry, but frigid afternoon.

The group was primarily comprised of dragooned citizens promised a day's food for a day on the roadblocks. The previous deputies and citizens militia members had all figured out the system and after siphoning the food and goods they needed, were safely back in their homes staying warm and well fed.

For Stiller, it was the end of an uneventful twelve hour shift as no vehicles or foot traffic had been by as it the word was out; stay away from Hobbs. But here they were spinning their wheels.

The old UHF two way field radio discovered in some out of the way location was hanging from the rear view mirror of one of two running vehicles stationed at the road block. Once an hour, a bored dispatcher would call for clearance and the roadblocks would report in. Then all would wait for the next hour.

"City Hall to Roadblock West, over."

"Roadblock West, copy."

"Roadblock West, say all clear over."

"Roadblock west, all clear, city hall, over"

That was that. Stiller turned back to the burn barrel when a flash of movement caught his eye in the ditch to the north of his position. There was a puff of smoke and by the time the report reached his ears, Rick Stiller was alredy dead.

Thiry seconds later, so were all the others on the roadblock.

Rafe stepped out of the bush delighted the first step of his plan had gone so well.

"Alright, you know what to do. Strip em, get the uniforms of those that got em and get all these guns! Gimme that radio, Boon." said Rafe to one of his gang.

Rafe waited for ten seconds and then keyed the radio.

"Cityhall, roadblock west, do you copy?"

"Roadblock west, city hall go ahead over."

"City hall, we heard shots fired, can you confirm over?"

"Roadblock west, negative on that, no shots fire..."

The radio went silent for a moment until the dispatcher came on suddenly,

"Roadblock west affirmative. Roadblock east is taking heavy fire, over"

"City hall, roadblock west, shall we render aid, over?"

"Roadblock west, stay, I repeat, hold your position, over"

"Roadblock west, affirmative, over and out."

Rafe smiled an evil grin. Get loaded up boys, let's go to town.


The school bus had been heavily modified with steel plates over most of the front windows and windshield. When the plate ran out, two by fours, backed by sandbags inside provided the secondary protection.

The front grill had a push bar installed and sheet metal had been welded to the sides of the bus to offer some protection to the tires from gunshots. Rafe's gang called it "The Beast".

The side door on the right side was open as was the rear emergency door.

Currently, there were only four men manning the vehicle; the driver and three gunman whose job was to wait and pick up one of the strike teams once the attack commenced inside town. For now, all four were languishing outside smoking home rolled cigarettes and passing around a jug of questionable hooch.

Chuck, Barger and the Stifflebeams crept through the underbrush to the south until they were fewer than thirty yards from the monstrous vehicle. Chuck was carrying a satchel over one shoulder, the Stifflebeams each had a rifle and Barger carried a compound bow and a quiver of arrows.

Chuck purposefully distanced himself from the others and carefully withdrew a number of green packages from his satchel and laid them out.

Barger took his arrows from the quiver and laid them end to end on the dirt in front of him. Mr. Stiffleman readied his rifle, a bolt action .243, while son Brett set down his Marlin .22 and waited for Chuck.

"Let's go," said Barger and he readied his bow.

The first arrow took the only guard standing solo on the right side of the bus through his neck. He dropped to the ground, but one of the slightly inebriated other guards saw the flash and said,

"What was that?"

But by then, Barger's second arrow caught the questioning guard through the chest in front of his remaining two friends. He dropped his burning cigarette and fell to the ground causing his loyal pals to break for cover, one to the rear of the bus, the other around the front.

"Now, Chuck," said Barger.

Chuck gingerly handed one of the softball sized green packages to Brett who held out the long black fuse protruding from it to his father who carefully lit it with a Bic lighter.

Brett stood and took a classic quarterback position and threw the package at the back of the bus where it landed to the right and exploded, showering the bus with dirt and dust.

"Get it through the target, Brett," hissed Mr. Stifflebeam, "You did it in the playoffs, get it done, boy"

Chuck handed over another, Stifflebeam lit it and away the pass went. This time. money. It went straight through the emergency exit door and into the bus.

A single, slightly muffled pop and a plume of white smoke rolled out the door. One man, his face confused and his ears bleeding stepped out the exit and was promptly shot by Mr. Stifflebeam.

Barger moved quickly drawing a semi auto nine millimeter from his belt and went to the side of the bus. He carefully looked through the driver side window and fired twice. He then waved the others over.

"Let's go, job's done". Brett hopped on the roof of the bus and hastily tied a red bandana to the useless antenna and dropped back to the ground and climbed aboard.


The east roadblock was taking steady fire from the brush one yards to the north of the road when a motorcycle with a single rider approached cross country. Wearing his deputy uniform, Holtz hastily rolled to a stop and hopped off the still idling bike.

"Who's in charge, here?" he asked the four men behind the auto barricade.

"I am, Deputy. We lost Molesworth and Harry's been hit, but we have been holding out for now. What should we do, sir." said a young man clutching an old shotgun.

"Ok, you stay here. You two cut through the brush there and you, head over that a way. When you reach that tree, wave your rifle at me and we'll give it to them. Now git."said Holtz.

As soon as the other three were away, the young man turned to Holtz and asked,

"We're ready, what do you want me to do now?"

"Die." said Holtz and he shot the young man through the chest.

One minute and three shots later, the brush along side the road came alive with ten former convicts.

"Told you it would be easy. Now you guys wait for your ride while I go unlock the front door."

Holtz climbed aboard the dirt bike and rode towards Hobbs.


The parade of hastily repaired vehicles, three in all, rolled down the road towards the east roadblock and then stopped two hundred yards short.

The first car honked twice and one of the men on the road block thrust his rifle in the air for victory. The lead car moved forward as did the other two following in close formation.

When they approached the roadblock, one of the attackers, a poor old slob named Cliff, approached the lead car window, his grin revealing rotting brown teeth.

"Rafe'll be glad to see you guys back.. hey, who are.."

The air was full of the sound of shooting. At the very least, Cliff never had to worry about the dentist again.


Two vehicles rolled up behind city hall as Carl looked out the window. "Great" he thought, "Stiller failed to follow orders, again."

Things had been confusing enough as it was. There had been some sporadic shooting at first on the east roadblock, but that was confirmed to be nothing more than a ticked off old guy who was angry he could not walk through town, or so said the deputy on the radio.

Then there were several shots fired from the same direction, and now, no radio contact with the guys there. Carl was going to put together some deputies from the shrinking staff when Stiller rolled up down stairs.

Carl was still watching out the window and waiting for his three guys to get ready to go when Stiller stepped out of the old International Scout downstairs. He had his hat down low so Carl could not see him clearly which was odd.

That was until Stiller was joined by none other than Holtz who rolled up on a motorbike. "NOw where has that old sorry saddlebag been?" thought Carl.

Stiller and Holtz walked to the sally port and opened up the main door to the back of the city hall with Holtz's keys when Stiller turned and waved at the two vehicles.

At that moment, no fewer than ten men, none of whom Carl had never seen before and who were all armed and jumped out and ran to the back door.

"Oh cr*P" said Carl.


The tow truck, Celina's truck and the Mustang were all parked behind a stand of trees less than a mile from Hobbs. The trailer was loaded down with people as were the beds of both trucks.

The school bus, formerly known as "The Beast" rolled up and was allowed to approach unharmed due to the red bandana attached by Brett and clearly visible.

"I hope this works," said Barger to Delbert.

"It will, as long as the first roadblock is clear. Alright folks, safe your weapons and climb aboard!" he shouted.


A few tense moments later, Celina rolled her truck to a stop and Delbert and I jumped off and disappeared into a rundown neighborhood behind city hall.

Ernie and his "gunner" had been dropped of at his spot nearby two minutes earlier. Brenda, Tracy and Celina were on their way to the only location possible the old hotel on the other side of the square. Their concern was with nosy locals and stray convicts. They were ready for both.


The main force moved into downtown from the south and was comprised of five rundown vehicles with an ancient Chevy El Camino at point. In the back stood a heavily tatooed grizzled con named Vic.

The five autos worked the round about path to the center of town and the picturesque square small towns are famous for. Even more famous are the city and county courthouses of Texas and Hobbs' was no different. Hill Country limestone and rows of deep windows lined the oversized facade.

In the center of the green, the traditional and obligatory green space which was now invaded by at least three of the vehicles as they rolled over the curb with the El Camino taking center stage.

By then, it was evident it was too late for Hobbs. There was sporadic gunfire coming from the inner bowels of city hall. Deep rhythmic booms accompanied by stacato pops of small arms fire.

Vic opened up the dull green duffle at his feet and pulled the Equalizer from its resting place. The M249 SAW was laid across the roof of the vehicle and readied. Once the others were in place, Vic started raking the front of city hall in slow, controlled bursts.


The bus stopped only one block from city hall, the gunfire masking its heavy diesel engine. If any of the convicts heard the motors, it would only emboldent their attack, convinced that reinforcements had arrived.

The first load disgorged with Jose and Arturo and went to the west side of the square. Lined up in the alley behind the square's empty storefronts, the rear doors were jimmied and pried open and camp ground residents poured inside.

The bus backed off and worked its way dillegently over to the other side of the square, albeit unnoticed and behind the scenes.

Once inside, the improvised army, young and old. worked their way in groups of threes and fours to the front windows of the stores, many of the windows were broken, cracked or missing altogether.

As best they could, and with limited direction and tactics, they sat, crouched and stood in the shadows of the windows, their weapons prepared, ready and waiting.


On the rooftop of the supermarket, Ernie and his assistant, a seventeen year old high school kid named Tyreese, hauled the thiry year old automatic rifle onto its perch.

Ernie readied the weapon and gave his young protege a five minute crash course on small arms fire. They then dragged it to the edge of the roof, just out of site, overlooking the square.


Carl and his deputies were outgunned and outmanned. They were armed with sidearms, generally .40 caliber handguns, and pump shotguns. The attackers had semi-auto rifles and more than a few flash bangs and smoke grenades.

Two of his deputies had taken hits; one serious and the other not so much, but they were trapped at the top of the second floor landing trying to squelch the incoming fire.

Carl was about to head to the third floor to Hough's office and get some sort of direction from the old coot when a voice behind him said,

"Happy New Year, numbnutz." and his world went black. Standing in the corridor behind him was Rafe McCallister and a cardre of his gang.

"Upwards and onwards, boys. The sky's the limit!" shouted Rafe.


Delbert and I were in an empty corridor of the city hall I did not remember from the last time I was here. When Delbert said 'HObbs', my take was to let it burn and take Hough, Holtz and all the others with it. But when they explained this would be the time to stop these convicts I realized I had no choice.

Delbert and I had the job of hitting the cons already in the building from behind and preventing them from leaving once our main force counter attacked outside. We could hear the convicts automatic weapon firing from the square along with other small arms fire, but the time for our attack had not yet begun.

"OK, which way is Hough's office?" aske Delbert.

"It's upstairs, third floor, end of the hall." I replied remembering the last time I was here.

"Well, that's where they're heading so call us crazy, that's where we're headed too." Delbert said grimly.

We made it to the stairwell and were headed to the second floor when we came under fire from above. Delbert pushed me back and hissed "Find another stairwell up. I'll keep these guys busy for a few minutes and then tear out too."

I nodded and went back down to the ground floor and through the main offices towards the lobby. I hit the door and saw across the hall a door marked "Stairs" and was about to go inside when I heard a familiar voice say,

"Where do you think you're going, college boy?"




A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Five)

A Change of Major Chapter Twenty Five

The Final Holocaust Part One

There was no sound other than my heart beating. A steady, thumping throb in my head. I was holding Curtis' lifeless body sitting on the ground surrounded by strangers.

A crying lady was clutching a little boy who was struggling to reach for Curtis. A middle aged man had his head down and was holding a child to his chest in a death grip.

A young man was next to me, in shock, his glasses in his hand, he was trying to stop the blood from flowing from the dead body in my arms although there was no point any longer.

Silence but for my heart. Thump. Thump. Thump.

I let Curtis slide limply from my lap and I stood. I found I had a gun in my hand, I staggered over to the dead body of the monster who shot Curtis and unloaded the three remaining rounds into his still body. I looked at the empty weapon in my hand and dropped it to the ground.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

A pretty girl ran up to me her mouth was moving, but I heard no words. I walked past her and ran into a woman who tried to grab me, but I went through her arms and on to the body of the big guy who tried to impale me with the knife.

His lifeless body lay on the grass and I started kicking his head repeatedly. The guy with the eyeglasses came up behind me and tried to take my arm but I pushed him away.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Old people and young, some bleeding, others not. All shocked. Some holding weapons, some holding each other. All staring at me.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I walked towards the gate where an old man with a rifle, helping a wounded man to his feet, was mouthing something at me while imploring me with tired old eyes. I looked away and walked towards the gate.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I walked between the damaged vehicles and found the rifle one of the attackers had dropped. A young man holding a rifle stood and watched me carefully, but I ignored him and walked over to the closest attacker's dead body and started firing into the torso until the weapon went dry.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The film started in my head, a montage of images.

Curtis playing his video games with that bear hat on...
Holding his iPhone into my face with some stupid app blinking away...
Curtis conning the last soda away from Chuck..
Curtis goofing off with Tyler...
Curtis singing in the kitchen..
Curtis standing in the rain wearing a trash bag with a dead guy by his feet..
Curtis talking incessantly about his family who could care less if he was alive...
Curtis turning to me to say something..
Curtis dying..
Curtis dead...

Suddenly the world exploded with noise.

Delbert was walking towards me, his boots on the pavement, dressed in black, black cowboy hat, big rifle in his hand, old west gunfight, here comes Mr. Death...

My voice, faraway, shouting, "Where were you? Curtis is dead! Where were you!"

I took a swing at his unemotional,expressionless face and a large hand stopped my fist in flight while an arm wrapped around my neck.

My other arm was pulled behind my back. The arm around my neck tightened and the world went black.


I sat up, slightly sore and shaking. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I felt very, very tired. It was real. Curtis was dead.

All of this. The shelter. The road. The work. All for nothing. Curtis was dead. His family would never know. They would spend the rest of their lives thinking any minute he would walk through the door all the while he lay dead.

It was all my fault. We could have stayed at the farm. If I had not insisted to Celina the other day that we had to bring the campground more food, this never would have happened. Curtis would still be alive.

Curtis was my friend. He lived in the room next to me. He was my friend and I got him killed.

I looked up and saw I was in the lobby of the welcome center sitting on the floor with a blanket around my shoulders.

Ernie was standing against the counter holding his carbine.

Celina was on her haunches inches away watching me carefully.

Delbert was leaning against the nearby wall staring at me with his arms folded across his chest.

"What happened?" I asked.

"We brought you here. Sorry about the sleeper hold, Jose thought it was best considering the situation." said Delbert.

"Is that what that was? I thought one of the bad guys was still alive." I replied.

"Nope. Can you talk or do you need a few more minutes? We don't have much time, but if you can't handle it, it's cool, just let me know." said Delbert.

"Handle what? What else happened? What's going on?" I said frantically thinking someone else had died as well.

"We were attacked and it wasn't by accident. They were part of a larger gang working this area and are the same group who attacked Celina's farm the other night. But there are more of them, a lot more." replied Ernie.

"And these guys today had help, but that's not important. What is important is we have to do something and in the next 24 hours." added Celina.

"Do we get to kill more of the guys who killed Curtis? Then I'm in."

"Not like that," said Delbert. "Guys like you got us hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan. Same with 'Nam, right Ernie?

Nope, you want in on this than you forget about Curtis right now, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get your head on straight. Or I'll nail you before you set foot in the field. Got it?"

I said nothing but took a deep breath.

"Mike," said Ernie, "I know this is hard. We talked about this the other night and I know what you are going through.."

"No you don't old man! You didn't know Curtis! You didn't lose your mom, your dad, your sister, your friend all at once did you, huh?" I interrupted.

"No I didn't Mike," he replied calmly. "But I lost all my family and my closest friends died the same way in battle as well. It took me years to get through it, not over it, not around it, but through it. And you will too.

But today, Mike, we don't have the luxury of rubber rooms, shrinks and Prozac. We have a war to fight and we need to know if you, in the next few minutes, are going to be with us or not. Afterward, if we survive, we can all deal with the pain, but for now, we don't have that choice."

I sat there and said nothing at first.

"How are we going to fight a war? How many guys just attacked the camp ground? Ten? Twelve? Who fought back? Me? Celina? Ernie? Arturo? We lost a bunch of people in the process besides Curtis I'm sure. How's that going to work for us, huh?" I finally said.

Delbert's jumped in,

"Actually more fought than you think. Having never served, you don't know about things like force multipliers and we wouldn't expect you to. Whatever. We have some things planned which might help us.

But you are right, we are short handed so we need all hands on deck including you, if you're up for it and you can keep your head on straight," said Delbert.

"Tell you what, why don't you take it easy for a few minutes while we wait outside. someone wants to talk to you anyway." said Celina standing up.

The three left the office and Brenda came in with her arms folded. I stood and let the blanket fall to the ground at my feet.

"You okay?" she asked in a quiet voice.

"Yeah. I guess I looked like a real dork out there." I said looking down.

"No, not at all. I'm sorry about Curtis. I didn't know him very well, but he seemed like a good person. He saved that little boy's life you know."

She paused, and then said "We really don't have much time. Today, maybe in the next hour we have to go to.. well Delbert will give you the details about where, I talked to Chuck and he said that you and he.. well, this sounds stupid, but Mike, we don't have a lot of time."

Brenda stood up straight and got right in my face,

"Curtis is dead. You or I may be dead in a few hours too. I want you to know what ever happens, Mike Brewer, I am glad I met you. I am glad you came into my life when you did and, mom is going to kill me for this, Mike I love you. And I don't want to lose you and..."

My turn.

I went to Brenda and kissed her. I kissed her to make all the hate, the despair, the sadness and hopelessness of the world go away for two people for just a few moments. For that time, the world was normal and right and maybe, just maybe, it would be later for Brenda and I.

We had to. We had to for Curtis and all the rest.


I stepped outside holding Brenda's hand and saw several people looking at us, and then turning away to what they were doing. And there was plenty going on.

The tow truck was pulling the damaged car from the gate and the hood was up with two men, Arturo and some old guy from the camp ground looking inside.

A shot out tire on the other attackers truck was being changed for the spare while all the attackers weapon's and ammunition was being collected and stacked on the picnic tables near the central fire pit.

George was sitting on a folding chair while Mrs. Cooper cleaned his shoulder wound with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

A group of people, mostly the older folks from the campers and motor homes, but also a fair number of younger and middle aged people from the tents and mobile homes were standing nearby in groups.

Everyone was carrying some sort of firearm and showing them one at a time to Ernie, Jose or Delbert. While a few weapons were useless due to age, condition or lack of ammo, the rest would all be put to use with the operator, regardless of training or ability, behind them.

I was about to say something to Brenda when I looked up and saw sitting on the ground tied to a stunted tree a few yards away, Holland. Needless to say, I was shocked.

He was dirty, his jacket torn and his face showed the results of a servere beating. He was looking down at the ground and trying very hard to be invisible from what I could tell. It was a long way from the pompous arrogant jerk I remembered from a few days ago.

"Where did he come from?" I asked.

"He was with the attackers. We followed the trail of the guys who hit the camp and found him tied up in the trunk of another car just over the hill there." said Brenda.

"He brought them here." I stated coldly. Holland caused Curtis' death.

"Mike, don't," said Brenda grabbing my arm, "Delbert is going to take care of it. Trust me."

Maybe I was too tired, maybe I had seen enough, but I let it go. For now.

Mr. Hartman walked over and said,

"I think this is yours." it was the .25 pistol I had dropped near Curtis.

"Mike, I am sorry about Curtis. He went straight to heaven, I know it. He saved Tyler's life and we will never forget him or what he did."

"Thanks, Mr. Hartman. I.. Curtis was good. Better than me..." I trailed off.

I removed the spent magazine and replaced it with the only other one I had left in my pocket. I may not need the little gun again, but it came in handy all the same.

Delbert walked over and seeing the little gun in my hand, shook his head.

"You got lucky with that piece of s**t before, don't put your life in it's hands anymore."

He walked over to the table and picked up a medium frame revolver with a three inch barrel.

"This is a .38, ever fired one before?" he asked.

"Sure, I had a friend whose dad had one. We took it to the range a few times." I replied.

"Good. Find somewhere to stick it and keep it close in case your shotty goes dry or missing."

I took the pistol and carefully opened the cylinder and found it was empty. I looked at Delbert and he wordlessly handed me a dozen rounds and turned away.

I loaded the gun, checked the safety and stuffed it in my right coat pocket.

I had to do something to help out so Brenda and I went over to the tow truck and checked out her AK and reloaded the two magazines she went through in the firefight. I discovered that she and Tracy had matching rifles and Baretta nine milimeter handguns as well. I don't know why that is even important now, but it's something you remember. In another time, they probably had matching Easter dresses, now its guns. Welcome to the new world.

Tracy had been with Celina during the battle and I did not even ask Brenda how she was, but I saw her over at her mom's truck unloading the food into the welcome center.

Jose appeared shortly afterward driving the Mustang which he parked just outside the gate before he opened the trunk with Delbert and Ernie standing nearby.

Jose pulled a wicked looking long weapon out with two legs folded beneath the barrel. I walked over and watched as he handed the gun to Delbert and then pulled two long belts of ammunition from a box in the trunk.

Delbert saw me and said,

"I told you about force multipliers, meet one."

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's an M60," said Ernie. "We used them in Vietnam and up until you were a young man. It's a good weapon in the right hands."

"And those hands would be yours, pops." said Delbert.

"OK, let's get over to the tables and get this worked out." said Delbert.


A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Four)

We rolled up to the gate and Ernie greeted us with the other guy who wore the USS Enterprise hat, George. Both were happy to see us as were most of the others who came down to the gate. Most excited of all was little Tyler who ran right up to Curtis screaming,

"Curtis! Curtis! Here I am! What did you bring me?"

Curtis jumped down from the tow truck and picked up Tyler,

"What's up little dude? Have I got something cool for you."

Curtis went back to the truck and came back holding a yellow ball of fuzz in his hands.

"Here you go, buddy. Your very own chicken. What do you think about that?"

Tyler's eyes opened wide,

"Wow. Is that real? Can I keep it?"

'Careful little guy, he can still break. He's like you, only smaller and yellow and eats bugs, but he's just like you." said Curtis gently handing the chick to Tyler.

"When he, or she grows up, she can make eggs for your breakfast. Pretty cool, huh? But you got to promise me you won't hurt it and make sure it eats lots of bugs and junk, kay?" said Curtis

"I will Curtis, I promise. Mom! Dad! I gotta chicken! Lookit, lookit!"

Everyone laughed at the little kid running around with the chick in his hands. I was sure a few were wondering how big it would get, whether or not there would be eggs and if not, what a nice chicken dinner would taste like. I hope they don't tell little Tyler.

I looked back at Brenda who was standing behind the tow truck cab holding her AK. She then pulled off her stocking cap and sunglasses, which was unusual, and gave me a big smile. Ernie picked up on it because he was on me like flies on a cow patty.

"Well, looks like farm life agrees with you, Mike. How are you doing anyway? Keeping busy?" he asked

"Busy enough Ernie, how are things here?"

"Better now that Holland is gone and the walls have come down. Everyone is pitching in with water and wood and other stuff. Someone figured to set up a trot line in the wider part of the creek and wouldn't you know it, we have actually been catching some fish. Other than that, it's been pretty quiet around here, but..." he trailed off.

"What is it Ernie?" I asked.

"Something doesn't feel right. Like we are being watched. It reminds me of 'Nam and knowing there were VC just beyond the wire waiting for you to make a mistake. Maybe I am getting paranoid in my old age, but I just can't shake this feeling." he admitted.

I subconsiously checked my shotgun as Celina had warned me to and made sure it was ready and spare shells were where I expected them to be. After the last few days, paranoia was an old and constant friend.


Up on the hill, Cranes eyes opened wider and a wicked grin spread across his face.

"Look at that fine piece that just showed up down there," he whispered to Jimmie while eying Brenda.

"And look at the vehicles. They got stuff and more guns. Glad we waited. Scoot back and tell the rest to get ready. And remember what to do. Take out the guys first and then you can have that chick, but don't screw it up, got it?" said Jimmie.

"Rafe will be happy with this haul," thought Jimmie.


We rolled into the camp ground while Arturo, one of Celina's numerous cousins and driving the tow truck and Chuy, who was riding shotgun, turned the truck aroud to face the entrance like Jose had done with the Mustang the first time I met them. Arturo opened the door and stood behind it holding an AR pattern rifle aimed through the door jamb. Chuy sat low in the front seat cradling an AK.

Chuck, Curtis and I went to work unloading the carrots and other vegetables we had brought over along with some of the beef from the Bakers. All of it paid for with the gold jewelry I had given Celina and which I was happy to get rid of and put to good use. We had brought enough for the community for several meals, most of it put together like beef stew or soup, using the foods they had when combined with ours. I also brought enough flour for bread to be had at least once a day or so I hoped.

Everything seemed to be going well unti two things happened.

First, the noise of a rattling car engine punctuated the air and being so alien these days, I knew instantly it was not one of ours.

Next, was the sound of a buzzing insect that traveled past the left side of my head and left a gray streak in the air as it went by.

Then things slowed way down...

A beat up 60's era Ford came rolling around the bend from the left of the campground road and hurdled towards the open gate. There were at least two gunmen hanging out the rear windows rapidly firing rifles in our direction. I saw George grab his left shoulder before letting out an audible "Umph!" and falling to the grass.

Ernie dropped to the ground and rolled to his right while yelling "Down! Down! Everybody down!"

Cutis and Chuck were no longer by my side. Chuck was on the ground crawling towards the door of the welcome center while Curtis disappeared behind me. Then came the short barking sounds of Brenda's AK. Simultaneously, a pickup came rolling from the right hand side of the road towards the tow truck and Brenda. Three individuals were leaning over the cab firing long guns at the tow truck and us.

Ernie was firing spaced even shots at the first car, his .30 caliber rounds peppering the windshield. It veered to the right and slammed into the front gate post easily doing thirty miles per hour and tossing one of the backseat shooters against the door post and knocking his rifle to the ground. I had a clear shot and put a blast of buckshot through his torso sending him back into the car with his head smacking the post on the way down.

The driver stumbled out with blood on his face and Celina's sawed off barked twice with a firey muzzle and sent him backwards as well. She broke her weapon to reload and then tossed it aside and pulled a Colt Python from her holster and started firing at the other vehicle which was now stopped about ten yards from the tow truck and unleashing a torrent of rounds in its direction. I could not see Brenda standing any longer in the back of the truck.

Instinctive stupidness took over and I was about to jump up and run to her aid when a high pitched scream came from behind me. I rolled over and turned to see some of the people from the campers and motor homes running down the hill and being follwed by at least three or four scruffy men who were firing indiscriminately at them. I got up and started back their way seeing as the residents were all unarmed and in a panic.

A woman I did not recognize ran towards me screeching and tried to grab me. I pushed her to my left and tried to get a clear field of fire on any of the attackers, but there were too many camp ground residents in the way. I watched that nice old guy Cooper step out of his camper and start firing a revolver from only a few feet at the closest attacker hitting his target forcing him to grab his stomach and fall to the ground, his rifle firing wild rounds into the air.

One of the attackers broke off to his right and was heading directly towards the tent area. I thought I saw Hartman pushing his wife down while dragging one of their other kids along side.

"Where was Jose and Delbert?" my mind screamed. "We are getting killed here!"

It was then I heard the little voice scream, "My chicken! Come back chicken!" and saw little Tyler running across the open ground directly in the field of the oncoming attacker. Mr and Mrs Hartman were screaming. The air was a confusing cacophony of gunfire and shouts. Tyler and the gunman were mere feet away from each other and the murderer was moving as a demonic killing machine on auto pilot, firing, firing and firing. Then I heard Curtis shouting,

"I got you little buddy, I got you...!"


"Now" said Delbert from his vantage point on the nearby hill.

Jose's Remington 700 chambered in 30.06 boomed. The bolt worked and fired again. Down in front of the camp, the head of one of the attackers in the second vehicle exploded.

Then another.

The remaining attacker in the second vehicle turned to look behind him in the direction of the new firing before his body began to spasm uncontrollably as Arturo fired round after round of 7.62mm tearing his body apart.

Brenda looked over the cab of the truck and seeing it was reasonably clear, snapped a half dozen rounds off at the other crashed vehicle taking out all the glass on both sides and winging the only remaining gunman left in the car.

Crane rose and stood from behind the car, glass shards falling from his hair, his teeth pulled back in a snarl, he started to say some filthy expletive to Brenda when a .357 round from Celina's Python tore through his open mouth and out the back of his head. His body collapsed like a stringless marionette and fell to the ground.


I ran forward, tunnel vision on the gunman near the tents. He had stopped and I could see the action of his rifle back and open. He reached methodically for a new magazine before looking up with bloodshot, souless eyes at me coming. He pulled back the bolt and was about to raise the rifle when my shotgun fired and cut him in half. I worked the action and fired a second round into his head before it hit the ground.

I was about to go to Tyler when I heard a scream behind me. I turned and was lifted off my feet by a huge bear of a man flashing something in his right hand. I hit the ground with a thud and being on a slight incline, we both rolled a few feet before stopping. I saw stars and felt his knee dig into my chest as he raised his right arm, a nasty butcher knife clutched in his dirty hand. His left hand was pushing my right shoulder into the ground pinning my upper arm.

I shouted, "No!" and raised my left arm and managed to grab his massive forearm in my hand and hold it barely, but he weighed much more than me. My right hand was trapped partially under my body and as I wiggled it out, it passed my back pocket where I felt a bulge. It was the .25 I had picked off dead Red a hundred years ago.

I yanked it free and thumbed off the safety, the mans dirty arm now pushing down the knife inches from my face. He took his left hand off my shoulder and put on the back of his right hand for one final push to bring the blade home into my head.

I raised the little hand gun over my hip and pulled the trigger resulting in subdued pop. The attacker grabbed his left side and stopped pushing long enough for me to fire once more, this time hitting his head by the left eye socket. His remaining eye rolled back and he fell on to my left side.

I kicked him off me while clutching the handgun tightly. I looked to my right and saw one more of the attackers falling backwards with multiple gunshot wounds. There were sporadic shots being fired, but they were fewer. Then it died down entirely.

I heard moans, screams and crying as I stood there my chest hitching. I was about to go back to the gate and Brenda when I heard Mrs. Hartman scream,

"No! Oh God, no!"

I stumbled around and saw Curtis and Tyler both laying in a tangle on the ground a near the body of the gunman. Mrs Hartman and Mr Hartman were kneeling on the ground nearby and trying to crawl their way to where their tiny son and my friend lay.

I hurried over and grabbed Curtis' shoulder.

"Curtis! Is Tyler okay? Move over and let me see..."

I flipped Curtis over thinking he was merely playing or something. It was then I saw the blood and first thought it was Tyler, but I was wrong. The little boy looked up at me as I moved Curtis and he started bawling his eyes out.

"Mommy! Mommy!" he cried. Mrs. Hartman grabbed Tyler and pulled him into her chest, her eyes flowing with tears.

It gave me the time to see Curtis. His chest was a bloody mess and dark blood pumped out with each breath he gasped. I shoved my finger into the wound trying to staunch the ghastly flow.

"Hang in there buddy.. hold on. We are going to get you all better, just be still.." I whispered.

"Mike, is that you Mike?" Curtis gasped.

"I'm here, hang on don't talk, We are going to.. do something.. get help... Celina is coming she'll know what to do.." I gasped

I heard foot steps and Chuck slid to the ground on the other side of Curits.

"Curtis? Oh cr*p. Curtis, lay still. We have to stop the bleeding" Chuck said whether to me or Curtis, I don't know.

"Mike?" Curtis gasped, "Can we go home now? I want to see my family. They don't know where to find me. They'll think I let them down again. Oh, God, Mike, I have to go home.."

"You haven't let anyone down Curtis. Nobody. You are the best son anyone could ask for. Your family is so proud of you right now." I said, my face inches from his.

"Mike? My family? Where are they?" his voice barely audible.

"We are right here Curtis. Right here. You're never been alone.. we've always been with you.. always" I said.

Curtis smiled and then his eyes rolled back and a final rattling breath escaped his lungs.


Next The Final Holocaust


A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Three)

Thank you for the kind comments.

A Change of Major Chapter Twenty Three)

The M16 lay on the dining room table like an exhibit in a court room murder trial and had things been normal, it probably would have been. Delbert picked up the unloaded weapon, and like a trial lawyer, spoke to us

"We have obtained through trade, sale and other means a number of firearms of all types. This one is interesting not because of what it is, but where it came from. As you can see, there is a metal tag on the base of the stock which clearly identifies it as belonging to the Texas Department of Corrections.

What we was worried about has come to pass. Huntsville prison was left unattended and the worse of the worse are running around doing God knows what."

"But Delbert, there's a good chance they guy who had that rifle may have just stolen it from someone else, maybe even an abandoned DPS vehicle or a house of guard, true?" said Celina.

"Sure, that's possible, but every one of the the guys we got last night was cut from the same mold. Lots of bad tats and plenty of identifying marks tying them to prison or gang activity. I think these guys were part of the breakout.

Now, to be fair, all them dead guys they may be the whole gang, but Jose and I both think that this is part of a larger gang. We found their vehicles and they hardly had any fuel or supplies. That might mean they left their stuff at a central location or they are supporting a bigger group. Further, a group of locals or refugees from Houston is not going to pull off what these guys were up to. They were prepared to kill or commit a simple break in, almost like they had plenty of training in Crime 101"

"So what do we do, Delbert?" asked Brenda.

"What else? Be on our guard, try and find out where the center of the gang is and take them out when we have the chance, if we get it. Most of all, quit thinking inside the box." he replied in a matter of fact voice.


After I woke up, I dug around in my bag and took out a power bar, some trail mix and jerky to eat before I headed out. I really wanted a shower, but knowing that was out of the question, I rinsed off my hair, hands and face with the water from one of my containers and then brushed my teeth.

I started wondering if it was possible to get lice or something from all the dead guys I have been around combined with my lack of regular hygiene. All the same, we need to hurry up and get normal in this world before things really get nasty, I thought to myself.

I dressed in jeans, a clean sweat shirt, coat and scraped off my muddy boots. Then grabbed my hat and shotgun and headed out the door to join the others. I found them in the big planting area between the barns working the rows of covered beds.

Each time a carrot or head of spinach was harvested, Celina had a new seedling from her greenhouse ready to go in the ground along with some fresh compost. She was careful what to take this time and what to keep in the ground.

Some of what was harvested would be sold fresh while others would be canned, dried and stored for later. I knew that cold weather crops such as some greens, potatoes and carrots would only do well until the late spring. When the weather became too hot, if it ever did, tomatoes, melons and peppers would take their places.

We filled several large bins with produce and moved them by hand truck ("can't waste the fuel for a hundred yard trip") to the barns.Everyone had to work with the exception of some people Delbert called "our eyes and ears" whoever they were because I did not see anyone.

After a long day for all, we were told to clean up and go to the big house for dinner. Since everyone worked in the field, we were required to help with meal preparation and serving.

After my shower, I went into the kitchen and was assigned to work with Brenda peeling and boiling potatoes. For some reason or another, Chuck and Curtis were sent with Delbert outside to kill something, while Tracy and Celina were doing something else in the house, leaving Brenda and I alone.

Being the dense lightbulb when it comes to girls, I was oblivious that this was a setup.

Someone said once that when two people go through a traumatic event together, they are naturally closer. Apparently, Brenda felt something about me after that business on the front porch and wanted to see if I felt the same.

OK, so take a normal, healthy, college age guy and put in him a close proximity situation with a very pretty girl and leave them alone. Do the math.

Before your mind rolls into the gutter, it wasn't like that. First up, I have been through some tough stuff the past few weeks. I have accepted that my family is dead, my home is destroyed and any plans I had for college and afterward are toast. I have killed several people and will probably be forced to again in the near future. I don't feel too good about myself as a person but I try to keep that under wraps.

All the same, Brenda and I aren't meeting at some frat party or at a night club on Sixth Street in Austin, rather we are together because of a nuclear war and a bunch of people want to kill us. Falling in love and rolling around in the back seat are the last things you have on your mind.

We were peeling potatoes and making small talk. She told me how her father died when she was seven in a truck accident. How her mother used the life insurance to purchase the land for the farm and slowly built a working business. She told me about going to Austin County Community College for two years and then leaving after a bad break up with some kid she was dating.

She was far different than the AK47 toting tail gunner riding shotgun through post-apocalyptic Texas. Then she had to do it.

"Your parents. Do you think about them?"

"Um, sure, all the time. I try not to, though."

"Do you miss them?"

"Of course. I keep hoping they are alive and someday, maybe not for awhile, we will find each other again. I have to hope."

"What was your mom like? What was she like with you?"

"She was, like a mom, I don't know... She did mom stuff. She was closer to my sister because they were both girls and could do the shopping and stuff. But mom always did nice things for me like birthdays and being at all my sport practices and game. Just stuff you take for granted until it's not there anymore.

I remember every Thanksgiving when we all came home, she would make us wear matching sweat shirts or sweaters. Each year it was something else, and then we would have to pose for a Christmas card picture. It was so lame, but it was something she did." I said.

For a moment, the memory swept over me, like I was watching a film about someone else's life.

How simple my mother's love was and how much I missed it and then, how it was gone as if it never happened. Mom was dead. Dad was dead. My sister, Kristy was dead. No more goofy pictures. No more holidays. No more phone calls. Nothing. A lump grew in my throat and I turned to look out the window at the darkness.

I felt Brenda's hand on my arm and she slowly turned me towards her. I didn't want her to see me like this but she slowly lifted my chin with her hand. She then leaned in and kissed me.

"That's why Mom warned me about you. You keep burying that pain and you make me want to crawl in there and hug you and make it all better. Geez, why can't you be a jerk or something?" she then gave me a small smile and hit me with the towel she was holding.

"C'mon and hurry up or Delbert will peel you like a potato".

Of course, I am still standing there like a statue wondering if anyone got the license plate of the truck that hit me. "Delbert? What's a Delbert?" I said to myself.


Crane and Jimmy were looking at the mobile home park from their vantage point on the low hill. So far, they could only see a couple of guards and they were nothing more than old men.

Fact was, there was plenty of old folks in that place, all easy to roll over and pick clean. Crane was particularly interested if there were any young women but they seemed to be few and far between. Old people, some middle aged folks, some kids and not much else. Oh well, he'd just have to make do.

"So whatchoo think? Tomorrow morning? Tonight?" asked Crane.

"Tomorrow," said Jimmie. "So far we've only seen one shift and they may have somebody hiding back in them woods there. Let's sit on it and hit'em tomorrow"

They continued to watch the park waiting for anything out of the ordinary to happen all the while eager for tomorrow.


Brenda and I were taking a break from potato duty, again, when the kitchen door banged open.

"Mike, you should have seen it. The chicken ran around with his head cut off! It was so gnarly. Chuck was about to hurl and Delbert made him do the other one. Classic!" shouted Curtis.

"Shut up you dork. I think I am going to be a vegetarian. My cousin is and she seems good with it." complained Chuck.

"Hey! What have you two been up to?" blurted Curtis. "Looks like someone's been fooling around in here! Someone's in the kitchen with Mikey, someone's in the kitchen I know oh oh oh!" he warbled away.

Delbert stood at the door, shook his head and said, "Curtis come on outside. I gotta put you and that voice out of my misery."

Brenda turned red and went into the dining room. I made busy cleaning up potato peels from the floor and counter and tried to think about something other than Brenda, like the names of all the fifty states and their capitals.

Delbert told me to scat from the kitchen while he ordered Chuck and Curtis to get busy cooking chicken. Celina came in and was shocked Delbert was going to let these two simpletons (her words) ruin two good chickens and sent Delbert outside. I went into the dining room to see what Brenda was up to, but Tracy intercepted me with a "Down, Romeo!" dirty look so I went out on the porch.

Nobody was out there so I stared out at the night. The dark and dirty clouds blocked any sort of moon or stars so I could only wonder if we would ever see them again.


The next morning, Celina ordered everyone up before sunrise. She wanted to make a run by a small community nearby for some quick barter. Afterward, she announced we would go by the trailer park because of a special order she had.

I was ordered to ride up front with Celina while Brenda rode in the back of the tow truck this time. I guess Celina wanted some distance between us.

I took the time to ask Celina a few questions.

"Back at the trailer park, there is this woman named Pat. You gave her a bottle of wine or something but you wouldn't take her ring for it. How come?"

"I'm a softy for a woman who's lost her husband. Pat's husband died on The Day. No, he wasn't in a big city, he was with her. But he had a pace maker and one second he was alive, the next he was dead. That and he was on several medications that without them he would have died eventually. Since then, Pat has holed up in her camper and it just makes me sad. The drinking isn't good for her, but at this point, does it really matter?"

"What are you going to do with all that gold and jewelry you are taking for food and stuff? I mean the gasoline I get, but silver and gold? What good is it when stores are closed and money is just toilet paper?" I asked.

"First, it's real money. Like it or not, some form of commerce will be back eventually and I like being ready.

Second, I already have used it to buy stuff from other folks. Things like fertilizer and feed that I didn't have before. I went to the feed store owner and got him to open his back storage units and sell things to me, but I could only do it with real money."

Finally, like it or not, most people don't like living on charity. Whether it's through work or barter, they want to pay their own way. Taking some diamond ear rings for a basket of eggs may seem stupid after a full blown nuclear war, but it lets people feel normal all the same. As if things aren't so bad."

"Now I want to ask you some questions and I want the truth," Celina said. "What are you intentions with Brenda? If you think she is just a roll in the hay you got another thing coming, buddy."

"I don't know what to tell you, ma'am but, I really like Brenda and and hope she likes me. What we have to figure out is how we are going to see each other after I am done working for you. Maybe I can walk out to your place and find someone around there who needs a full time hand. After that, I don't know." I answered looking out the window.

"So you would be willing to walk all the way from that camp ground with no where to live or no where to work just on the chance you could see my daughter?" she said incrediously.

"Um sure, why not?"

"OK, well, maybe we can figure something out. Alright, the first place we have to stop is the Bakers and then on to your old place. Make sure your shotgun is loaded and keep an eye out at the turn off for their place. I don't like surprises." said Celina.

We rode for a few more minutes before tuning on to a dirt track surrounded by stunted mesquite that I am sure if you did not know what to look for would have missed by a mile.

Over the next rise we came to a cluster of small buildings surrounded by plastic covered raised beds, unplowed fields and a group of people watching a small herd of cattle.

We stopped at a gate and were greeted by some older man named Baker who spoke with Celina before letting her truck in. Celina traded some animal antibiotics and one of the captured rifles for two steel cans of milk and some beef.

We were only there for a few minutes before heading out once again for the camp grounds. I had to admit I was excited about seeing the "old place" and checking in with the Hartmans and Ernie. I looked back and saw Brenda riding in the tow truck behind us but could not see Delbert or Jose or the Mustang which I was sure was back there when we left the Baker place.

Fifteen minutes later, we rolled up to the gate completely unaware we were being watched.

Next up: Goodbye to an Old Friend


A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty Two)

Dantwon "Red" Sturgis lay in the corner of the abandoned gas stations curled up in a ball. Both of his knee caps had been shot out and at this point, it was doubtful he would be getting up and boogieing down any time soon.

Rafe McCallister stood a few feet away, his matching .40 caliber Texas Department of Safety automatics sitting comfortably in their shoulder holsters while Rafe had his arms crossed leaned against a long empty cooler in the looted gas station.

"C'mon Rafe, I needs a doctor, oooohhh, this hurts so bad. We go way back, brother, help me out here." moaned Dantwon.

"Oh way back are we now? Like when you found those three girls hiding in that basement? Yeah, we shared all that didn't we? I gets to find out about it from Cheleco a week later. Or how about this? A little purple bag of coins and you didn't want to let ole Rafe in on it, didja? Lesse, we gots some big gold coins, some little gold coins, some big silver coins and where's old Rafe? Sitting outside plinking punks while Red counts his payphone money."

"Man, it ain't like that, see. The other guys, they gots to know I am the man. I canst' go playing up to you. You know how it works man, help me out, brother." begged Sturgis.

"Oh, I'll help you alright, "brother", replied Rafe as he drew one of his pistols and calmly shot Sturgis between the eyes.

"Feel better now, "brother"?"

Rafe strode out of the station and was met by one of his men,

"Tanks are empty boss. Nothing here but fumes." he said

"I figured as much. Get the the lieutenants over here by my truck and let's have a little pow-wow." said Rafe.

Rafe pulled a county map out of his truck and spread it out on the truck's hood. Four other men, all scruffy, tattooed and carrying a variety of weapons gathered around.

"We got to break up and hit these county roads and find some remote communities and farms. We need more fuel, food and guns and the best way to do it is in strike teams of ten to twelve men. If there are women, take em if you want em, but don't let it slow you down. I want everyone to meet up here in two days. I got a big target picked out and with the combined crews, it should be cake." said Rafe pointing a grimy finger at the map.

The men split up into teams, fired up their fleet of scavenged and stolen late model vehicles and pulled out in different directions leaving Rafe time to think. Had he known it, Rafe just confirmed what Ernie had said a few days earlier - that gangs would splinter and fight among themselves, but sooner or later a strong man would take charge and organize the remnants.

A few weeks ago, Rafe, Sturgis and most of the others were inmates at the Huntsville maximum security unit when The Day happened. Shortly afterward, the guards abandoned their posts, riots broke out and a couple of hundred remaining inmates managed to get out to freedom. The first few days were a spree of looting, rape, and murder inspired by large quantities of alcohol and drugs.

Now, with resources depleted and the more sheep herding together for safety, targets of opportunity were harder to find. Rafe knew that it would only become more difficult and eventually, his gang would have to move on. That was, unless they found a suitable community with the resources in place to house and entertain his gang for the uncertain future, then they might be able to stay in this area of operation.

Fortunately, Rafe had recently made contact with someone who just handed him the keys to the kingdom. If he believed in God, Rafe would have called it a miracle.


Delbert and I went outside with flashlights and surveyed the damage. The first guy I shot on the porch took a round in the stomach and bled out. The rifle he was carrying which I brought in the house was a knockoff AR15 in need of a good cleaning. The satchel still on the body contained some spare magazines, loose rounds, a screw driver, duct tape and a piece of rope.

The second shooter which Brenda had taken down was armed with an M16 which caught Delbert's eye and he carefully examined the weapon closely and told me to put it up on the porch. This shooter also had a few additional magazines, but also had a small bag of coins Delbert called "junk silver" which meant nothing to me other than they were valuable.

The third shooter we located in the field had apparently crawled or walked thirty or so yards after being shot and after we found his weapon, a Ruger 10-22, in the approximate area.

We collected the weapons and took them to the porch. Then we moved the bodies, one at a time, to a central location where Delbert would pick them up with the backhoe and bury them in a common grave near the tree line.

The sun was starting to lighten the sky to the east when Jose drove up in the old two truck with two pit bull mixes tied down in the back.

"Well?" said Delbert as Jose pulled up.

"Got 'em. Dogs tore him up and he was all bled out dead by the time we got to him. We got the other four stacked like wood and stripped of anything useful." reported Jose

Delbert leaned in the cab and quietly spoke to Jose who only nodded and said nothing more. Jose then started the tow truck back up and drove off the property to the east.

"What was that about? What's the secret?" I asked Delbert.

"Wouldn't be a secret if I told you, ugly, now would it? Serious like, I just confirmed a hunch I had with Jose. I'll tell you about it later if it matters, but I think it will."

We went for the backhoe and Delbert set to work disposing the bodies. After we dumped them into an unmarked hole and covered it over, we drove back to the barn and then to the house. I was ready to go back to my trailer when Celina told me to come inside the house first.

She handed me a large cup of coffee and some leftover bread and butter and told me to have a seat at the dining room table. The look on my face must have given it all away.

"Don't look shocked. You did a good job this morning and I know it was not yours to do, but you helped save my daughter. Thank you. Brenda is perfectly able to take care of herself, but even three to one odds are more than she can handle.

I want you to finish that up and go on back to your trailer and get a few hours rest. Afterwards, we are going to be working in the covered beds doing some harvesting and replanting. In a few days, we are going to make another run and that includes stopping by your trailer park and dropping a few more things off. When we go, I want you to go with us, alright?" she said.

"Sure, hey is there any chance I can get a few more things for the folks over there?" I asked.

"What are you going to pay for it with? I am not giving you more food for labor." she replied.

"No, I have a couple of things which might be valuable, I don't know much about jewelry or gold so I will have to trust you." I said thinking of the ring and gold chains I took from Red out on the road.

"Fair enough, but what about you? You can't just keep paying for everyone else out there, you have to look out for number one too." Celina said.

"Seems I wasn't thinking that last night when those guys attacked the house with Brenda in it. I guess I am not that good at the number one game," I said with a smile.

I excused myself and went back to the trailer and found Chuck and Curtis getting dressed after waking up.

"Hey where you guys? I've been out there for a few hours, why didn't you come out after the shooting stopped?" I asked.

"We couldn't. After you went out, we laid low like you said, but when we tried to leave after the shooting, the door to the trailer was locked and we were stuck in here. Delbert just unlocked the door five minutes ago and told us it was safe to get out." said Curtis.

There was a loud knocking on the door and it turned out it was Tracy.

"You two, you're with me. We have harvesting to do so get ready to stoop and pick and don't waste a thing or we'll set Jose's dogs on you. You, knight in shining armor, you get to rest, but don't get used to it, you hear?" she said the last part directed at me.

"Rest? Wha..?" said Curtis.

"Forget that, who's the knight in shining armor?" asked Chuck. "Seems like there's more to this story than ole Mikey is letting on."

"Leave me along, I've been up all night." I said. After they left I hit my bunk and was out in one minute.


Jimmy Cortez and his convoy of three beaters were moving down the country lane trying to scope out a remote target that was both juicy and out of the way. They weren't having much luck.
So far, they had only found one farm which looked good, but they were greeted with a half dozen warning shots when they go within 500 yards of the place. These hayseeds all seem to have guns and know how to use them, though Jimmy.

They were about to turn back when they saw some idiot walking down the side of the road. He was an old guy with white hair and carrying a fancy back pack like he didn't have a care in the world. He even stopped and held his hand in the air when Jimmy's truck approached like he was hailing a cab in New York.

The old guy likely had nothing of value, but Jimmy and the gang liked to get their kicks whenever the opportunity presented itself. They pulled over.


A Change of Major (Chapter Twenty One)

Delbert took us out back and showed us our digs. It was an old fashioned aluminum travel trailer like out of the 50's TV shows, but it was in great shape on the outside. We went in an found the interior was the like the outside and in good condition for such an old trailer.

There were three beds including the fold out up front by the hitch so we had to figure out who would sleep where, but it beat a tent on the cold ground.

"I suggest you make yourselves at home and don't go wandering around outside. Might get yourself hurt that way." said Delbert on his way out.

No worries, I thought. I am going to sleep in a real bed tonight!

We all changed and dropped off fairly quickly. While there was no bedding, our sleeping bags and existing blankets were enough considering how tired we were.

I had been asleep for a few hours when I heard a loud noice outside which forced me awake.

There was one, two, three reports from a gun of some sort followed by a long bbbrrraappp from what sounded like an automatic weapon. And it wasn't very far away from the sound of it.

"What the heck was that?" shouted Curtis from the front of the trailer.

"Who cares? Get down, it sounds close!" I shouted.

We hugged the floor and I reached up and dragged my shotgun down with me. I was wearing sweats and socks and I grabbed my boots and while laying down, laced them up. Next, I pulled down my coat and yanked my back pack out from under the bed.

"Keep your gear close if we have to bail, guys!" I shouted over the nearby gunfire.

I worked my way over to the door and cautiously pulled it open. The shooting was coming from our right and sounded like it was on the other side of the field from the back of the house, but I could not see anything.

I was about to go outside when I saw someone rise up in the dim light out in the field and slowly make their way towards the house. That made no sense as if it were Delbert or the others they would not appear to be sneaking as this person clearly was.

I stepped outside and keeping my head down, worked along the back of the house to the corner where the figure had disappeared. When I peered around the corner, I saw the back of someone who I did not recognize or know working their way to the front of the house.

I readied my shotgun and followed, only stepping when it appeared they were until we reached the front corner of the house.

When the figure turned the corner I saw for a moment it was some man with a dark beard and carrying a military type rifle along with a satchel over his left shoulder.

He stepped onto the porch and I lost site of him. I went to the corner myself just in time to see him trying the knob on the front door. It was locked, but clearly this was not going to stop someone sneaking up on a dark house in the middle of a gun battle.

My gut told me the shooting was a distraction so a closer individual or group could move in. My hunch was right when the man on the porch took two steps back and leaned over the rail and in the direction of the barn, let out one loud whistle. A signal if there every was one.

"Put down that rifle and your hands over your head," I whispered.

The figure ignored the request and slowly turned on his heels, his rifle already rising as he moved to his left. Here we go again..

I squeezed the trigger and easily caught him at midsection. He flew across the porch and his rifle clattered to the floor. At that same moment, two guns started firing in my direction from the yard between the house and barn.

I worked the action and dropped to the floor. Once flat on my stomach, I aimed at the first muzzle flare and fired in that direction. It worked as I watched the rifle fire arc and drop off. The other shooter on the right slowed for a moment, before changing his aim to close in on my position.

The shooter clearly had a semi-auto rifle with a decent punch as splinters were raining down on me from the rail, posts and house as his rifle found their wide mark.

I worked the slide on the shotgun and then crabbed my free left hand out in the dark trying to find the rifle dropped by the first shooter.

My fingers touched what felt like a sling and pulled it towards me. At that same moment, I could hear someone panting heavily just down the stairs from the front porch. It was clear he was only a few feet away from me and was going to have a bead on me in my open position lying on the porch.

I jumped when the front door of the house jerked open and a long burst of very loud rifle fire emitted from within. It raked the porch and across to the left clearly stitching its way across the shooter. Something found the target when I clearly saw in the muzzle flash generated light someone stand and fly backwards like a ragdoll away from the porch.

The rifle fire from the house ceased and for a moment, it was completely silent as best as i could tell with ringing ears. The shooter in the house lowered the rifle but I could hear a handgun action being worked.

"Who's out there? C'mon out or I'll shoot and let Delbert bury you in the compost heap." said a slightly shaky female voice.

"It's me, Mike. Don't shoot. I'm by myself but I got to standup first." I asnwered.

I stood and walked towards the front door holding my shotgun in my right hand and the rifle by its sling in my left hand.

The door opened slighly wider and I stepped into the pitch black house. I stepped on numerous rifle casings on the floor and walked carefully into the inky blackness as not to fall.

The door was still open and I could see in the dim light from outside a figure standing just off to the side.

"Were you hit?" she asked.

"No, I don't think so. Pretty shaken up though. Who were those guys?" I replied.

"Raiders, trash, who knows? They drew our fire down near Jose's place and these three came in for the kill. There may be more out there so we gotta keep it quiet and dark until Delbert says so." she said.

"Which one are you? Tracy or Brenda?" I asked.

"Brenda, Tracy's the younger one and is an idiot. It's not hard to tell us apart after that." she said.

"I'll remember that. Hey, I am going to move over here near the wall away from the door. I need to check my shotgun and safe this rifle I picked up."

"OK, just watch your step. I don't want you tripping and blowing your brains out," she said.

I moved to the right and ran promptly into a table or something and barked my shins. I said nothing and knelt down until I found the low coffee table with my hands.

I set the strange rifle on the ground and reached into the pocket of my hoodie and pulled three new shells out and loaded them into my shotgun. After setting the safety, I carefully set the gun down on the floor.

I then ran my hands over the new rifle. It had an adjustable stock, a high capactity magazine but no scope or night vision site. I carefully removed the magazine and worked the action until the round in the chamber popped to the floor. I set the safety and put the rifle aside.

I then sat down on the floor and looked at the dark shape near the door.

"So, is this a normal night on the farm, Brenda?"

"No, normally we make a bonfire, slaughter a goat for a sacrifice and then howl at the moon all night." she deadpanned.

"That's it? Girl, I went to A&M and where I come from, that's called Homecoming." I said which made her laugh.

"You're the smart one," she said finally. "You're the one who made it this far, aren't you?"

"Me? Smart? No, that's Chuck. I'm the sucker. The designated driver. The responsible one. The one who gets to sleep in the dorm lobby because his roommate has a girl over. No, I'm not the smart one, I just get stuck with the bag."

"Mom said to watch out for you," said Brenda,"You're not the bad guy, just the one to watch out for."

"I don't know your Mom and she doesn't know me. Hey, this is creepy. Why don't you and your Mom talk about something else? Like who won Post-Nuclear American Idol? I don't want to be the subject of your conversations"

I didn't have to worry. The front door was blocked for a moment and in walked some big figure. I grabbed my shotgun, but did not have to once the voice spoke,

"Put that away, ugly. You made enough of a mess out front for me to clean up. You okay Brenda? Looks like you got the last one?" he said.

"I'm fine." said Brenda, "They were popping away at junior here so had to do something. He had the clear jump on all three and he barely got two of the jerks".

Delbert stepped into the room and turned on a maglight. He played it around the room until he found a Coleman lantern which he lit and then closed the front door.

Delbert looked me over and said,

"Where're your two pals? Hiding under the bed?"

"I guess. Say, what happened out there? When I came outside, I found one guy and two more showed up who were with him. What was going on on the other side of the farm?" I asked.

"A group of five or more folks attacked a watch post we have over there. Turns out it was a diversion so the three little pigs could make a run on the house. They thought we had a limited number of people and with most of us out, they could loot the place." replied Delbert.

"What happened to the people who started this over there?" I pressed.

"Got 'em, or at least most of them. There are four dead and a trail to the fifth. He won't make it long, Jose's dogs are after them." Delbert said.

"Were they firing some sort of automatic weapon? I heard one when the shooting started."

"No, they weren't, we were. It's funny the stuff that turns up when folks are looking to trade for food." remarked Delbert.

"So where did they come from? Austin? Around here?" I asked.

"You sure ask a lot of questions, ugly. No, they did not come from Austin. They came from somewhere else and that someplace is causing me some consternation, I tell you what." said Delbert

Just then Celina came in from the back of the house. She was carrying an AR type rifle, wearing a load bearing vest and had some strange goggles sitting on top of her head.

"Brenda? You okay baby?" she asked.

"I'm fine mom. It was like you said, they came right to the front door, nearly lined up. Mike got two, and I got the other." Brenda replied.

"He did, did he?" Celina raised her eyebrows at me.

I shifted uncomfortably and decided it was time for me to head back to the trailer. Delbert had other plans.

"Where you going, ugly? We got a bunch od dead guys to take care of. C'mon."