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Yael Dragwyla and Richard Ransdell First North American rights

email: polaris93@aol.com 5,800 words

The Eris War

Volume 1: The Dragon and the Crown


by Admiral Chaim G. Resh, USN detached

Book 2: This Devastated Land


Part 1: Deep Impact

Chapter 3: The Other Side of Summer


It wasn’t long until the three of them were bedded down, Rachel upstairs, alone in the guest bedroom
upstairs, and the Hamiltons on the spacious foldaway bed in the front room. Promising to tell the three of
them all about the things that had been happening around the country and in the world at large since about
2 a.m. as soon as they’d gotten plenty of sleep and had had a good breakfast, sometime in the morning or
early afternoon, Tom bade them good night and headed for his own room. But not to sleep, apparently.
When the three of them arose around 1 p.m. that afternoon, dressed, and found Tom’s parents waiting
anxiously for them, asking if they would like breakfast, Tom himself didn’t join them for breakfast.
“Tom told us you’d come in last night,” Adelle Villemur, Tom’s mother, told them, smiling. “He said
you were refugees from the . . .” The cheer drained away from her voice. “Well, anyway, please come into
the kitchen, I’ll be glad to fix all of you some breakfast. We’ve got plenty, more than enough to share.”
“Are you sure?” Rachel asked her. “I mean . . . well, it may be hard to get more for awhile, what with
the . . . you know.”
“Yes, the floods. Tom’s been sharing everything he’s learned about it – when I went into his room to
see what was going on this morning – I could hear the radio, and Tom talking, in our room, which is right
next to his – he told us about whatever it was that hit the ocean east of us, and what he could learn about
what’s happened to New York City and so on. That’s when he told me about the three of you, so Martin
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and I – Martin is my husband, Tom’s father – wouldn’t be surprised and upset when we found you,” she
told them as she led them down the hall connecting the front room to the kitchen.
“I hope we’re not any trouble for you,” Rachel told her.
“Oh, no, Rachel, we’re happy to be able to help. You seem to be such nice people, and – well, Tom
told me who you are,” she told them, smiling, “and I’m as big a fan of your books, both you and John, here,
as my son is. My husband, Martin, isn’t a real fan of horror – here’s the kitchen, come on in, sit down at
the big table, there, while I start breakfast – but he’s seen some of the movies that’ve been made from your
novels, and he liked them. (Martin’s the dedicated movie-goer in our house; Tom and I are the readers.)
So we’re delighted you stopped here, actually.
“—And, as I was about to say, while I have to agree that getting to the supermarket is going to be
something of a problem for quite a while,” she told them, smiling at the understatement, as she got eggs
from her refrigerator, which was running off a generator, and began cracking them into a bowl. “But we
won’t want for food as long as our ammunition holds out. Both my husband and my son are outstanding
hunters and fishermen, and I’m no mean shot with a pistol or shotgun, myself. There are lots of deer
around here, plenty of wildfowl, and if the lake didn’t get washed out by dirty water from the flooding and
tidal waves, we’ll have fish, too. There are herbs – I have an herb garden out back – and we grow a lot of
our own vegetables. I imagine that it won’t be too long until some sort of order emerges out of all this
chaos, and there’ll be regular food distribution. In the meantime, we trade with our neighbors all the time,
as well; they’ve got their own gardens and vegetable plots, and most of them hunt and fish all the time, the
way we do. So we’ll have food, don’t you worry. – Ah, here, let me just put the bacon on to fry . . .”
Soon breakfast was ready. Over scrambled eggs, thick rashers of bacon, toast, and strong coffee,
Adelle told them, joining them at the table, “I’m very worried about Tom. I don’t think he slept at all last
night – he’s been listening to that radio of his ever since we got up, about six this morning, and I know he
was at it all last night.”
“Has he told you what’s happening?” Rachel asked her, now worried sick about her husband. “Is – has
anyone said anything about Vermont? My husband’s there in Saint Albans at a convention, you see. I
couldn’t make it myself, the Hamiltons were coming in from England and, well, I was hoping we could
drive on through into Vermont and join him there. I – from what we heard last night, I don’t think he’s
going to be coming home to Bangor any time soon . . .” Then, her face crumpling and tears starting from
her eyes, she put her face in her hands and began weeping loudly, great wracking sobs tearing through her
frame.
Getting up from her chair at one end of the big, farmhouse-style wooden table, Adelle came over to
Rachel. Putting her arms around the other woman, she held her close as Rachel leaned her head against
Adelle’s shoulder and cried her heart out. “It’s going to be all right,” Adelle told Rachel in a low, soothing
voice, “it’ll be all right. Go ahead and cry if you need to . . .”
Finally, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue Adelle gave her, Rachel said, “I’m so sorry, I’m
such a mess – I just – just –”
“No, don’t apologize,” Adelle told her, her brown eyes filled with kindness. “If I were in your shoes,
and it was Martin away in another state right now – well, I know how you must be feeling.
“—By the way, Rachel, Tom didn’t tell me, did you bring any clothing with you?”
“Oh, Lord, no, well, just some sweaters,” Rachel told her, her face beginning to crumple again. “We
had to leave the clothes we’d brought with us behind at the inn –”
“No, no, don’t worry, it’s not a problem,” Adelle told her soothingly. “I think you’re about my size,
Rachel, and Chloe, here, is somewhat smaller. You can wear some of my clothes, and I can take some
things in for her. And John, you’re more or less Tom’s and Martin’s size,” she said, turning to him.
“They’re both tall, like you, but a little heftier in the chest and shoulders, I think. I’ve got an old manual
sewing-machine I operate with a treadle that was passed down to me from my great-great grandmother, in
addition to the electric Sears machine, so it’ll be easy to take in whatever we need to get you all outfitted –
Grandma Ternier would be smiling knowingly now if she knew that that ‘useless’ old machine was still
going strong when all those far newer, ‘progressive’ machines were useless because there was no
electricity!
“As for washing your clothes, well, when we first moved here, years ago, I knew there’d be times we
wouldn’t have electricity from the Grid – bound to be that way, you know, given the whims of weather and
the like. The generator we use for the refrigerator when the power’s out, like it is now, can also be used to
run the washing-machine. But back when we first moved here, I decided that we wouldn’t be caught short
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even if the generator went out. So I got a big galvanized metal washtub and scrub-boards, and we can do
clothes by hand if we need to. There should be plenty of water – we’ve got a big water-tower, and it’s
raining right now, as I’m sure you can hear – it’s coming down pretty hard. So with just that, we’ll have
water for quite awhile. Plus, there’s a spring nearby, not to mention the lake, though we may not be able to
trust the water in it – what with the quake and the floods last night, it’s virtually certain somebody’s sewer-
lines ruptured and spilled into it somewhere. We can boil and filter the lake water, and add iodine to it,
though, so that’s not a problem.
“Anyway, we’ve got plenty of everything we need for now. It’ll take some elbow-grease to make do
with the manual equipment, of course, but with six of us here, plus Tom’s fiancée, Janet, and her parents
(sometime this afternoon, Tom’s going to go over to her folks’ house, they’re only about a mile away, and
ask her and her folks to come stay with us), that shouldn’t be a problem. Plenty of room for all of you –
we’ve got extra rooms downstairs, as you probably noticed coming down the hall, no trouble to make beds
up in them.”
“I – I don’t know what to say,” Rachel told her shakily, beginning to smile. Gently taking Rachel’s
hands in her own, Adelle told her, “Say you’ll relax and stay with us as long as you need to. We’ll be more
than happy to have you.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you . . .”
“—By the way,” came a deep male voice from the door into the hallway, “Tom said to tell you,
Rachel, that he’s already been able to use his ham rig to pick up some people at that convention your
husband’s at in Saint Albans, and that he’s okay. He was very glad to learn you’re all right.” Smiling,
Martin, Tom’s father, entered the kitchen and came up to the table, where he took a seat in one of the
wooden chairs around the table, which he pulled up next to his wife. In spite of his cheerful words,
Martin’s electric-blue eyes – the same color as Tom’s; Adelle must have had blue-eyed people in her
ancestry – were hooded, sunken deep into their dark-rimmed sockets. The tall, big-framed man looked as if
he’d just heard that his best friend had died – or, perhaps, lost family members. “Tom said he’ll be down
soon, himself, and let you know what’s going on himself, but he wanted to make sure you heard about
Steve as soon as possible,” he told his wife and their guests.
“Oh, thank God!” Rachel cried. She began to cry again, but this time they were tears of relief, not
terror or grief, and she smiled through them at the Villemurs. “God bless you all – oh, Lord, that does take
a load off my mind . . .” Then, as a thought hit her, alarm filled her face. “Oh, my God, the kids –”
“Your children? Where are they?” Adelle asked her, taking a sip of her coffee.
“They – well, they’re grown now,” Rachel told her, “they have families of their own, now, and they
weren’t living with us. But they weren’t that far away, either – oh, God, I hope they made it to safety . . .”
“Oh, I’m sure they did,” Martin told her soothingly. She accepted it, desperately needing to believe it,
in spite of its improbability. “Look, my boy’s a wizard with that radio set-up of his,” Martin added. “I’m
sure he can hook up with people on your side of the state within a day or two and find out how your kids
and their families are doing. Right now, don’t worry, just relax and rest. It’ll be all right, I’m sure.” Then
he felt John’s gaze on him. Turning, he looked at the other men. A brief, silent communication passed
from John to Martin. Glancing over at Rachel, then turning back to John, Martin said, “Er, Mr. Hamilton
–?”
“Call me John, please.”
“Sure. Uh, there was something I wanted to ask you about – could you come with me for a bit? It
won’t take long.”
“Well, yes, I suppose so . . .” Glancing uneasily at his wife and Rachel, John got to his feet and
followed the other man out of the room. John wasn’t a small man, but Martin Villemur seemed to tower
over him, and might almost have made two of the other man in bulk. Tom was very nearly his father’s
height, but it would be some time before his rangy yearling body would fill out to match Martin’s.
While Martin and John were out of the room, the three women chatted, Adelle drawing the other two
women out, finding out what she could about any medical problems they and John might have and other
details that would help her provide for them while they were staying with her.
“Honey?” It was Martin. He had returned to the kitchen alone.
“What, dear?” she asked, putting down her coffee-cup.
“Could you come here a moment? Tom needs to talk with you about something.”
“Uh, sure. – Will you and Chloe be all right for a few moments? My son needs to talk with me,” she
asked Rachel.
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“That’s fine, we’ll eat some more of this wonderful bacon and have some more coffee, if that’s all
right.”
“Help yourselves. If the coffee gets cold, the range over there runs on methane. Just turn it on like
you would a gas stove, and put the pot on the burner until it heats. I took out the grounds, so it won’t get
nasty the way it does if you leave the grounds in. I’ll be right back,” she said, getting to her feet and
following her husband out of the room.
When she returned, some 45 minutes later, the other two women had finished their meal and, sipping
from their coffee-cups, were discussing possible options for the next few days: Should we dare the roads
and try to get to Steve? Maybe try returning to Bangor? Would Tom be able to contact Rachel’s children,
find out if they were all right? What were –
“Adelle?” Rachel asked as her hostess came into the room, John, his face grey and his expression
bleak, accompanying her. “What’s wrong?” she asked the other woman, alarmed.
Adelle’s previous gracious cheerfulness was completely absent from her face. She looked haunted,
and much older than her probable chronological age, which would have been a few years less than
Rachel’s.
“I –” Adelle slumped into the chair she’d had before, the one at the end of the table. “I think . . . it’s
going to be a lot longer before you can go home again than we thought earlier.”
“What – what happened?” Rachel asked her, sick certainty that she would never see her home or Steve
again beginning to fill her.
“It – now, it isn’t as bad as we’d feared,” Adelle told her with a gesture of her hand meant to downplay
Rachel’s fears, working hard to keep herself as calm as possible and do what she could to take away
Rachel’s apprehension. “But – well, let’s be frank. You need to know what’s going on, of course. The –
the situation isn’t good at all. Do you – are you aware that we’re at war?”
“I – we heard that from a television announcer last night, before we left the inn we’d been staying at to
come up here,” Rachel told her. “Is it . . . very bad?”
Glancing briefly at Chloe, making a quick decision, Adelle gathered up all her composure before
answering, then said, “It’s . . . not as bad as some had feared, at least at this point, but yes, it’s bad.
They’ve H-bombed New York City and other cities along the coast.”
“We heard that last night,” Chloe told her in a suddenly shaky voice. “Who – who is the enemy?
Who’s fighting whom?”
“That’s . . . the thing nobody’s quite sure of,” Adelle told him. “My son has managed to contact some
people some distance to the east of us – they won’t tell us exactly where, but apparently they have some
connection with the Navy – who told him that terrorists may have been responsible for at least some of the
bombings, rather than, say, Russia or China or whoever. It is possible that those countries made bombs for
the terrorists, who the people Tom has talked to think were from the Islamic world, with a couple of
exceptions – they think Aum Shinrikyō might be involved, among others – and that the terrorists actually
deployed them; a way to hurt us without admitting guilt on the part of those nations, of course,” she said,
sorrow and disgust heavy in her voice. “I – well, that’s one reason I’m glad we’ve all voted Republican or
Libertarian or for candidates in some of the other, smaller parties all these years. We should never have
cuddled up to the damned socialistic Democrats the way we did back toward the end of the last century . . .
“Anyway,” she said, getting herself back on track with an effort, “we weren’t the only ones bombed.
Somebody has nuked both China and Russia – apparently we were responsible for a little of that, in
retaliation for what we thought were their actions, but for some reason we only used a couple of nuclear
weapons on each of them and stopped at that. As for our own cities, well, we’ve been hit hard in a few
places – as I said, New York City is gone, now. So are Washington, DC, and Miami, and Chicago. All of
them were targets of thermonuclear bombs, some brought in by ship, others coming in by ICBM. And a
number of smaller bombs, Hiroshima-size or so, have been used on some of our cities and theirs, too, as
well as on certain other countries, although in some cases they think those might have been high-explosive
bombs rather than nuclear devices. We don’t know all the details yet, but if this doesn’t go too far, it might
not be too bad, particularly here, behind the mountains.”
“Has there – did you hear anything about England? The United Kingdom?” Chloe asked her
hesitantly.
“I –” Carefully she set her cup down on the table, keeping her eyes on the cup, not looking at them.
“I’m afraid . . . I’m afraid your country got hit pretty bad,” she said in a much lower voice than she’d been
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using up until now. “I – my son can give you the details on that, of course. But so far it sounds as if . . . as
if someone has used several nuclear or thermonuclear devices there.”
Chloe made a choking noise. Turning away from the table, she got to her feet and staggered over to
one wall, leaning against it, not looking at the others. “There’ll be radioactive fallout all over the place,
then,” she said in an almost conversational tone, as if to herself. Suddenly turning back toward the others,
she asked, “Do any of you mind very much if I . . . if I go lie down on the bed in the front room? I – I’m
feeling a little sick . . .”
Standing up, Adelle came over to her. Taking the other woman’s arm, she said, “Here, lean on me.
You don’t look at all well. Let’s get you into the other room . . .” Chloe, unprotesting, allowed herself to
be led out of the room by the other woman.
When Chloe and Adelle had left the room, Rachel looked at John. “Oh, John, I don’t – don’t know
what to say.” She looked haggard, her eyes dark wells in a crone’s face. She was only in her early fifties,
the gray and white in her normally carefully-tended dark hair turned to a lovely silver by the careful
frosting done by her hairdresser, her skin still youthful, her body still relatively supple. But now she looked
as if she were at least twenty or even thirty years older than her real age, her face drawn, deep lines etched
in it by the strain and terror she had endured over the last 12 or 13 hours.
“It’s all right,” he said absently, staring off into the distance, his words belying his expression, which
was that of a man who was utterly lost, overwhelmed by events beyond his control or comprehension.
“You – you’ve got plenty on your plate to worry about, yourself, you know.”
“Hello.” It was Tom, standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
“Tom!” Rachel yipped, startled.
“I’m sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you like that,” he told her with a rueful smile. He looked as if
he hadn’t slept in days. “May I – may I come in?”
“Oh, certainly,” she told him.
“Thanks. I . . . I’m sorry to have to be the bearer of bad tidings. I hope you aren’t angry at me.”
“Why should we be, Tom? You certainly aren’t responsible for the colossal stupidity of mankind
behind the events of the last day or so,” John told him. John looked relieved, as if Tom’s presence had
taken his mind off an inner vision of Hell. “Please, do join us here. I believe there’s still coffee in the pot
there on the stove, if you would like some.”
“Yes, I would. I’ll just get me a cup of joe, then join you.”
After he had poured himself a cup of coffee and taken a seat at the table, he said, “I expect you’ll want
to know what’s going on. Dad told John, here, but not all the details. I can fill you in on those, too, John.”
“Yes,” Rachel told him. “Your mother said that . . . that you heard from Steve?”
“Yes, I did,” he told her, smiling. “That’s one of the bright spots in all this mess. They’re all fine over
there at that convention he’s at – pardon my grammar,” he told her, looking embarrassed.
“Oh, goodness, I’m not an English teacher,” she told him, smiling a little. “Don’t worry about it. Tell
me what you heard from Steve. Did you talk to him, or somebody who had talked to him?”
“I actually was able to talk with your husband. There are a number of hams – you know, ham radio
operators – there in Saint Albans, and two of them are at the convention. When I contacted them, and told
them who was staying here, they went and got him and put him on to talk to me right away. He said to say
he’s fine – well, as fine as anyone can be, after what’s been going on since last night, anyway – and that he
loves you. He’s trying to find a way to get to here – he told me to tell you that you must not try to go to
him. The roads there are all washed out from the flooding from the Saint Lawrence Seaway and all. He
thinks he might be able to have someone take him here in a helicopter, though that’s not certain. He says
he won’t take any silly chances, either. He doesn’t want you to worry about him. There are some, uh,
survivalists there among his fans who are getting everybody there organized into teams to take care of the
things they need to do right now, you know, cooking, getting supplies of food and medicines and things in,
taking care of anyone who gets sick or injured – they apparently have a physician or two and several
paramedics among them, too – for some reason doctors and that sort seem to love horror fiction! He thinks
maybe it’s something like a busman’s holiday for them,” he told her, grinning, gratified to hear genuine
laughter coming from her. Putting a hand over hers, looking at her with his level, steady gaze, he told her
kindly, “He’s okay. Really.”
“If he could tell a joke like that, he must be!” she told him, still laughing.
“We’re going to try to let him talk directly to you, over my rig and theirs,” he told her.
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“I’ll be able to talk to Steve?” she asked him, so much hope in her voice that he shuddered at the
weight of it.
“Yes. We’ll try that later this afternoon. The weather permitting – there’s been a lot of interference
due to the bombs and all, as you can imagine – you’ll be able to talk with him yourself then.”
“Weather?” John asked. “That reminds me – I can hear the rain out there, but last night, while we
were on the road, for a short time we got hit with a cloudburst and what I will swear was hail, little tiny
pellets of ice. Then it stopped, and the sky was utterly clear again, except off to the east, where it was dark
as pitch, the way it had been ever since we left the inn to come this way. What kind of weather are we
talking about now? Nuclear winter?” he asked, his voice even and pleasant even as he uttered the deadly
words.
“I . . . I’m not sure. There’s – well, as you probably know, this all started when an asteroid came down
out there early this morning,” he told the other man, gesturing vaguely toward the east. “They’re not sure
yet how big it was, but it was big enough to send one hell of a lot of water into the air – the kinetic energy
from that thing must have been horrendous! They said it probably came in at about 12-15 miles per
second, and was at least a quarter of a mile wide, to have done all the damage it did. That tidal wave that
was chasing you up the mountain came from that. Water also went up into the Bay of Fundy and into the
Gulf of Saint Lawrence – covered the neck between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with water about a
quarter of a mile deep in the process, they think, washed everything in there completely away, as if
somebody used a cosmic scrubber on it, people and all. Of course, once in the Gulf, the water kept right on
going, and a lot of it entered the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The southern part of Quebec had terrible floods,
they don’t know how many people are dead there as a result. The water kept on going right on down to the
Great Lakes, washing out an awful lot of business along the water and trashing quite a few factories there
on both sides of the border. Terrible thing,” he said, shaking his head. “Anyway,” he continued, “it was
one hell of an impact. The asteroid hit the Atlantic just east of the continental shelf – a good thing, in a
way, because the continental shelf forms an arc there which lensed the tsunamis that followed so that they
were concentrated in a couple of relatively narrow arcs. They only went as far south and southwest as
Cape Cod before they were deflected by the Cape in a more northeasterly direction – they did make it down
as far south as the Caribbean in places, but by then they’d lost so much energy, going over all that distance,
that they didn’t do too much damage other than knocking some boats around and washing out some
beachfront property, that sort of thing.
“Europe was pretty much spared the tidal waves, which did hit France and Spain but not much north of
there. There was some damage all along the coast of the rest of Europe and the coasts of Great Britain and
Ireland as a result of surges, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Spain and France went through, which was
so bad that – well, they’ve been finding bodies clear up near Switzerland that were apparently carried there
all the way from the western coast of France. Africa got some of it, too, but by then, because of the
distance, it wasn’t so bad.
“The worst of it happened here. Coming down where it did, right next to the continental shelf, in the
deep water just beyond it, the asteroid apparently set off a series of earthquakes, the ones we all felt last
night and this morning (you were probably asleep, but we had a lot of tremors here, mostly small, though a
couple were rather hefty). What happened is that some sort of earthquake fault leading up into the Bay of
Fundy from the Gulf of Maine was set off, and everything in that area just sort of collapsed. Tore up the
coast of this state something fierce.
“Anyway, what I was starting to say was that the asteroid packed one hell of a lot of kinetic energy
when it hit, and vaporized an incredible amount of water there. They say the vapor turned white-hot for
awhile – you could actually see it hundreds of miles away, glowing like a neon sign in the night. It made a
plume that went clear out of the atmosphere, then flattened and began to spread out and come back down
again. As it did, by the time it hit the stratosphere it had cooled off considerably. A lot of it must’ve turned
to ice around then. Snow started to fall all over the place, not just here, but as far east as France and
England – they were still getting broadcasts from London and other places over there up until about 4 a.m.,
our time (that would be 9 in the morning, their time, of course) when the . . .” He glanced over at John,
then said, changing tack again, “Anyway, there’s been this weird weather all over the place ever since, even
as far south as Venezuela and Morocco. Up until around dawn, though, we only got short bursts of rain
mixed with snow or ice, like you drove through coming here. Then it began raining hard and steady here.
And now there’s a lot of snow in the mix – if you look outside the window, you can see it.”
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“Thanks, I’ll do that,” John told him, getting to his feet. Going over to the kitchen window that faced
west, he pulled open the curtain.
After a long silence, during which he stared out the window as if seeing a view from a strange planet
appearing there, he said in a small, stunned voice, “Good Lord – will you look at that!”
It was now snowing heavily, so many huge, dirty flakes of snow coming down, so fast, that they could
only see about ten feet beyond the house, if that.
“Oh, my God,” Rachel whispered. “Can – will you be able to, to get a radio transmission through
that?”
“Oh, snow by itself isn’t the problem. It’s the contaminated air from New York City and the others –
the bombs ionized the air rather heavily around there, and that can do a real number on reception,” Tom
told her, as if giving a lecture in a science class. He was keeping his voice carefully neutral, not letting the
emotions he had to be feeling creep into it. “As far as I know at this point, the fallout didn’t come this way
– the wind-pattern took it down the coast. So I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble.”
“Yeah, but that stuff goes way high up, into the stratosphere, where it can go just any old way,” John
said, letting the curtain drop and returning to his seat. “That would tend to screw things up in all directions,
wouldn’t it?”
“All other things being equal, yes. But they’re not equal. The Jet Stream has been doing funny things
all Summer, apparently, and it’s picked the stuff up and is carrying it south and east, away from us.
Whereas Steve, Rachel’s husband, is west of us, and so far, anyway, no bombs have gone off any closer to
him or us than Chicago.”
“Wouldn’t the Jet Stream carry the stuff from Chicago this way?” Rachel asked him.
“That’s . . . hard to tell. So far, no. I’m getting calls from hams as far west of here as Flint, Michigan,
which is one hell of a lot farther off in that direction than Saint Albans. If conditions don’t change too
much over the next few days – of course, there’s no telling what might happen in that time, but so far it
looks good – I don’t think we’ll have much trouble punching through to the guys with the rigs in Saint
Albans, and vice-versa. I – uh-oh, who’s that?”
They could hear voices coming from the front room, new ones, two female and one male. Then Adelle
came back into the kitchen. “Tom, Janet’s here with her parents, do you want to come talk with them?”
“Sure, Mom, be there in a sec’,” he told her. Turning back to Rachel and John, he said, “Here, I’ll go
see them, maybe bring them on in here, let them hear the latest news, too. Be right back . . .” So saying,
following his mother, he left the room.
Within a few minutes Tom’s fiancée, Janet Parker, her parents, Elaine and Fred, and Adelle and Martin
had all come into the kitchen with Tom.
“Where’s Chloe?” John asked.
“She’s sound asleep on the trundle-bed,” Adelle told him. “Out like a light – didn’t even wake up
when the Parkers got here. She’ll be all right – she just sort of got overwhelmed by it all, I imagine.”
“Yes. Well, all right,” John said in a voice that sounded as if he were feeling a bit dizzy himself. “Uh,
I’m curious – the phones are out, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are.”
“How did the Parkers know to come here?”
Smiling, Janet Parker, a lovely young woman with hair the color of summer honey and deep brown
eyes, told him, “Oh, I’m a ham operator myself. Got my license last year – Tom urged me to go for it. I’m
glad I did. He called me over the radio-phone this morning, asked us to come over here and join all of you.
We brought a whole bunch of stuff with us, too, food and clothing and a big first-aid kit, all sorts of
things.”
“Here, let’s get some chairs so all of you can sit down with us here,” Martin told the newcomers as he
went over to a floor-to-ceiling cupboard and opened it, revealing a stack of wooden folding chairs.
“Let me give you a hand with that, Martin,” Fred told him, going over to help his friend get chairs out.
Soon, save for Chloe, all of them were seated around the big table, drinking coffee and eating cake that
Adelle got out from the refrigerator., talking about what had happened. Janet had a good deal of
information herself that she had gotten from her colleagues around the country before she and her parents
had left to come to the Villemurs. Very little if any of it was good.