Chapter 1 - Travelling
Lakota Johnson picked himself up off the ground and shook his head to clear his vision. The ringing in his ears was loud, but diminished as he stood on wobbly legs. The explosion had thrown him across the road from the building that now lay in ruins. Shaking his head in disbelief, he turned and walked to the automobile just up the road from him. Climbing in the driver's seat, he started the engine and pulled around to the back of the wrecked building.
There he found what he was looking for and what those inside had not wanted to share, gasoline and diesel fuel. It was the diesel fuel he was after, as the small car he drove was diesel powered. Pulling up alongside the pumps, Lakota turned off the engine and climbed out. He pulled the hose from the hook and inserted it in the filler tube. Placing his hand on the handle, he began to turn the pump. The hose gurgled and diesel fuel started to flow into the fuel tank in the car. After about five minutes of turning Lakota stopped as the fuel overflowed the filler tube.
Opening the trunk of the car Lakota moved the hose to the large tank there. Back to pumping, Lakota gazed out on the landscape that he could see from where he stood. It took him another five minutes of pumping until the tank was full. He pulled the hose from the filler tube, replacing the caps on both. He hung the hose back on the hook. Looking around to see if there was anything else he could use he spied a black case just inside what used to be the back door to the building. Grabbing the handle of the case, he pulled it out from under the debris.
Lakota stood looking down at the case. Made from a hard black plastic with metal edges there was lettering, almost faded to nothing, it looked ominous. Squatting down Lakota turned one of the latches freeing the cases top on the left side. Leaning in he gazed at the edges now exposed. No wires showed. Carefully turning the other latch until it popped, he slowly stood and with his toe flipped the lid open. In the box were, neatly ordered, rifles. Military rifles, M4's. At one end of the case were boxes of ammunition.
Leaning down Lakota picked up two of the rifles and carried them to the car. He placed them in the passenger seat and returned to the case. Pulling all the magazines from the other rifles Lakota placed them on the floor on the passenger side. He then took all the ammunition and placed it next to the magazines. Climbing in the driver's seat, he drove away from what was left of the farmhouse.
Ten miles down the road, Lakota pulled over into a grove of trees. Shutting off the engine, he sat listening to the world around him. Calmly he took a magazine and a box of ammo. The box of ammo he tore open grabbing a stripper clip from the five that tumbled out on to the seat. Fixing the clip into the magazine, he pressed the ten cartridges down into the magazine. The magazines could hold thirty rounds so he did the same thing two more times. He loaded all the magazines on the floor and the two from the rifles. When he was done, he had twenty boxes of ammo left over and twenty-two loaded magazines.
Sliding a magazine into one of the rifles, he pulled the charging handle back and slapped the bolt catch sending a round into the chamber ready to fire. He did the same with the second rifle. He then started the car and pulled back out onto the road.
* * * *
Cheyenne Phillips calmly drove her SUV down the road. She was headed south on what had been an interstate highway back in the day. She was making good time and staying ahead of the cold weather. She did need to stop in about an hour to refuel and started to look for gas stations along the highway that didn't look ransacked. She had found very few stations with untouched tanks. The last station had only filled her vehicle halfway.
She was on her way to meet him. Who he was, she only knew his voice on the radio back home, was a mystery. Her mother's death precipitated her decision in taking such a big step. There was nothing to keep her at the family farm in northern Minnesota now. She had been talking to him for almost a year now, among others. Eleven of them had decided to meet and then head south for the winter. She had two days to get to Kansas City. A small non-descript brick building on the outskirts of an industrial district. She would make it with time to spare, if she didn't run into trouble and in these times, trouble was around every corner if you didn't pay attention.
* * * *
Jeff Manning looked down at his wife, lying across the front seat, her head in his lap. She was sleeping as he drove down the dark road toward a small town where he hoped to be able to trade for some fuel. He didn't have much, but he did have some items that people would need to survive. He wondered how many people were out here now. Who survived beside him, his wife and those he spoke to on the radio?
It had been almost one hundred years since…the end. As he slowed to enter the town, he saw few lights. The service station was a shambles yet there were three men standing by the pumps and lights above the pumps were glowing weakly. Cautiously, he slowly pulled into the service station, headlights off, dome light on. Kathy, his wife was now wide-awake and sitting close by his side.
"What can we do for you buddy?" the biggest of the three asked.
"Do you have gasoline?" Jeff asked.
"If you have something to trade," the big man said eyeing Kathy.
"I have several items you may want in return for a full tank of gas and no my wife is not one of them," Jeff said sternly.
The big man's eyes widened slightly at Jeff's statement, he then slowly nodded.
"What you got then?" he asked.
"I have, may I get out to show you?"
"Keep your hands where we can see them."
"Of course, we are not looking for trouble just a tank of gas," Jeff opened his door slowly and cautiously stepped out of the truck. "If you will follow me around to the back of the truck…"
Jeff waited at the tailgate for the big man. When the big man got there, Jeff dropped the tailgate down and pulled out a wooden case. When he opened the case, the big man's eyes widened with surprise. The case held tools. An axe, a saw, a shovel, extra blades for the saw, a stone to sharpen the axe, it also held a rifle and shotgun with ammo for both.
"How many do you have?"
"This is my last one. Is it enough for a tank of gas?" Jeff waited expectantly.
"You bet. Too bad you don't have another one of these we could have filled up a shitload of jerry cans for you."
"I only have a little way to go and a full tank is more than enough to get me there, sorry."
Jeff closed the lid on the case and stood with his hand on the top looking at the man. He nodded to one of the others who nodded back. Kathy slide out of the trunk and held out a cup for the man to fill before she would unlock the gas cap. Once filled Kathy sniffed the liquid in the cup and nodded to Jeff. This wasn't the first time they had done something like this in their travels.
It took ten minutes to fill the tank of the pickup truck. Jeff then helped the big man with the case. When the case was down on the ground by the side of the truck Jeff turned and climbed in shutting the door as he fired up the big truck. The big man had opened the case and pulled the shotgun out and was shoving shells into the feed. He jacked a round into the chamber and pointed the muzzle at Jeff through the open window.
"Now why don't you step on out of that truck and we'll renegotiate our little arrangement."
Jeff just sat there smiling at the big man as he raised the muzzle of his handgun over the sill of the trucks window. The big man pulled the trigger to no avail.
"The firing pins are tapped to the bottom of the last box of shells, thanks for the gas," Jeff put the truck in gear and pulled away leaving the three men standing there watching Jeff and Kathy drive away.