Read The Dying Time (Book 2): After The Dying Time Online

Authors: Raymond Dean White

Tags: #Science Fiction | Post-Apocalyptic | Dystopian

The Dying Time (Book 2): After The Dying Time (34 page)

BOOK: The Dying Time (Book 2): After The Dying Time
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Chapter 32: Weather Delays

 

Nephi, Utah/Deseret

 

July 29, 13 A.I.

 

Prince John was seated at his desk scowling furiously at the Situation map; but it wasn’t the disposition of his troops that was angering him at the moment. The sound of the rain drumming against the roof of his office was the most irritating noise he could imagine.

Almost a month had passed since his brother Prince Anthony ignored his advice and left on what the idiot had called a reconnaissance in force; more than two weeks since he’d sent word of his whereabouts. John shook his head in disgust. Tony just couldn’t wait to test out his toy planes.

“But John,” he’d said. “They’ll make such great scouts. They’ll be able to spy out ambushes. They’ll turn the tables on those damned guerillas.” Yeah. Right.

John tried explaining the guerilla raids were little more than a nuisance he could end any time he wanted to. All he had to do was attack Provo, now the seat of the Mormon religion and the Allied commander would be forced to pull his troops back and defend the place. But his ever-impatient brother listened as well as always.

Search parties had been dispatched. Many failed to return and none had any success locating his brother or the men with him. Furthermore, Anthony’s absence had delayed the deployment of the King’s Air Force. That, as far as John was concerned, was inexcusable. When he shows up...

He was beginning to fear the worst. Well, not the worst. After all, with Anthony dead, John became heir apparent. No, the worst would be facing his father’s wrath for having allowed Tony to get himself killed. This could be worse than the royal ass-chewing he got for blowing the Freeholds raid. His father still hadn’t forgiven him for losing those Cobras. The only two helicopter gunships in the entire damned kingdom, as he was forever being reminded.

And now with most of his planes assembled, his roads built and guarded and his armor and men ready, he had to put up with this goddamned rain. Jesus! To make matters worse, he’d discovered only this morning that a case containing vital parts for three of his aircraft had been left on the docks in California. He had been so angry he’d personally beheaded the clerk responsible for the omission. The parts would arrive with the next shipment, but that meant they still might not be here before the weather cleared enough to attack.

Goddamned rain! If it stopped right now, it would take days before the ground was dry enough to begin the armored attack. Even the road from Nephi to Payson, which his road crews had repaired and rebuilt to facilitate his troops’ advance, had been closed for days due to mudslides. Every little delay cost him what he was increasingly coming to regard as precious time. Yet more time for those bastards in Provo to prepare.

John had argued bitterly with his father earlier in the year, pleading with the King to reconsider, stating repeatedly the time to attack was right then, before their victims could get organized.

His father had vetoed that idea, both to reprimand John for his failure at the Freeholds and because this time he wanted to have all of his enemies in one place so he could smash them and be done with it. John knew his father was still smarting over the five years of constant campaigning it took to extend the realm over the widely scattered resistance groups in Washington.

John banged his enormous fist onto the table in frustration. Why couldn’t his father see the situations were totally different? In Washington, the population centers, though small, were numerous and well organized, having been engaged in trade and mutual defense for years. When John recommended an instantaneous attack, he had done so in order to prevent them from getting even better organized and with the full knowledge that a final conquest could take years. The King had approved the plan, then berated John for his failure to deliver an instant victory.

Here in Utah and Colorado, the population centers had been--and he couldn’t help stressing the past tense--relatively poorly organized and completely out of touch with each other. Conditions had been absolutely perfect for a blitzkrieg-like attack. Now, even though the enemy was still numerically and technologically inferior to his forces, they’d been given almost a year to prepare. Look at that air force they’d come up with. He wondered what other surprises they had in store for him.

John was beginning to worry that the cost of bringing Utah and Colorado into the Empire was going to be too steep. Hell! Their incessant guerilla raids had badly damaged his soldiers’ morale, not to mention the dent it put in his supply of reserves.

Worse, it looked like his father was losing confidence in his abilities. Why else would the old man have nixed his plan to ship a second expeditionary force through the Gulf of Mexico, land it on the beaches of central Kansas and attack these damn Mormons and Freeholders from the rear? Nothing was going according to plan in this campaign, at least not his plan. That was the main reason he was sending Jamal Rashid back to California. Perhaps Jammie could convince his father to reconsider that second army.

He turned his attention to the stack of intelligence reports on the table. The first one nearly sent him through the roof. The spy they had found injured in a ravine, what was his name? John leafed through the pages till he found it, Bilardi, Kenneth Bilardi, had managed to chew his own tongue off and had bled to death before being properly questioned. John made a note to have the soldiers in charge of the spy executed as a lesson to others. Such sloppiness could not be condoned.

Of another suspected spy, the pretty sax player he remembered, there was no sign, though one of his recon patrols was found murdered along her trail. God! Will nothing ever go right again? He’d been looking forward to questioning her personally, using her as his next toy. His last one had died on him before he came, cheating him. In the meantime, it might pay to keep a closer eye on her associates. The Lachelle woman offered intriguing possibilities.

Half an hour later, he came to a report that put a smile on his face. The spy in The Freeholds had managed to get attached to the flanking army the Allies intended to surprise him with. Good! The spy now added a note that Sara Garcia was with the medical corps of the flanking army. Excellent! The flies were becoming ever more entangled in his web. His smile widened when he considered that whatever surprises the enemy had cooked up for his troops, he had a few of his own waiting.

He opened the next report, read briefly and his smile vanished. His man in Provo had been unable to delay any further the restoration of satellite communications between there and the Freeholds. The Prince’s brow knitted with concern. Could this be related to Raoul Garcia? He hoped not, for if that old man had decided to work on activating The Weapon, then the Empire was doomed. The man from Provo had added a consolatory note to the end of his report. His brother, Prince Anthony, was allegedly dead, killed by a man named Michael Whitebear, who was now leading the Allied air force.

“GODDAMMIT!” John roared, slamming his hands onto the desk so hard it broke.

It wasn’t so much that Tony was dead. Hell, he’d already suspected that. But the man who killed his twin was the same man who, according to the Freeholds’ spy, snatched those kids from under his nose and who reportedly had a goddamn-broken-fucking-leg at the time. Maddening! Worse! It was humiliating to be defeated by both the man and his bitch of a wife.

John leaped to his feet and stalked back and forth across the room like a lion pacing his cage, smacking one enormous fist into the palm of the other hand repeatedly as he decided exactly how to deal with those goddamned annoying Whitebears. It wasn’t until he envisioned them both as his toys that he regained his sense of perspective and controlled his raging temper.

Sitting back down at his desk, Prince John pushed the papers away from him and leaned back in his chair to consider the implications of all he’d just learned. So far, it all tended to reinforce his decision to attack with everything he had at the first opportunity, even if his air force wasn’t at full strength. He had a feeling things were somehow slipping out of his control and the Prince was one man whose passionate obsession was to be in control.

He glanced out the window of his office at the rain coming down outside and made a mental note to have Jammie deliver the news of Tony’s death to his father. The scowl was back on his face.

 

*

 

Michael looked out of the hangar into the steadily falling drizzle and smiled like a searchlight. The rain had accomplished what the defenders of Provo could not, stalling the King’s march on the city. For six days now the rain had fallen, turning firm earth into treacherous mud, bogging down the King’s armor. It had also bought the Allies precious time for those last minute preparations. And even though a few pit traps had collapsed and a couple of trenches had caved in, everyone in Provo was praying for the rain to continue. The longer it rained, the longer many of them would live.

 

*

 

Both Able Emery and Martin Dinelli hated the rain. Both felt it merely delayed the inevitable, though they had somewhat different concepts concerning exactly what was inevitable. Able couldn’t wait for the attack. He wanted to see action. He had lied to Michael about not caring what type of craft he flew in. He wanted one of the crop dusters. He smiled as he considered the fact that none of the pilots he’d trained as mechanics would spot his subtle sabotage until it was too late.

Martin wanted the attack to begin because he was tired of waiting. The strain of the past several weeks was beginning to show. By day he commanded the Allied effort to restore satellite communications. By night he mapped out Provo’s defenses. He just wasn’t getting enough sleep, he decided, as he continued to carefully and precisely pace out the distance between artillery battery “A” and the site of the former State mental hospital.

 

*

 

Jim Cantrell wanted the rain to stop also. Only about one-third of his army had managed to cross the lake under the dense cloud cover before the rest were forced to high ground by rampaging flash floods. Until the water receded, he was stuck with part of his army on one side of the lake and part on the other. The only good thing about the delay was that his men needed rest.

Thank God Mitch Stonehand got here before we were cut off, Jim thought. Now he knew for certain he had to plan his troop movements to avoid aerial reconnaissance and attack.

 

*

 

Raymond Stormcloud fretted over the rain delay. He wanted to get back to Provo, to Susan. Ever since she’d been assigned as liaison to the tank killer squads she’d been spending more and more time around Walt Beeman -- a white man and even worse, a cowboy. What could she possibly have in common with such a man?

Raymond shook his head slowly as he put an edge on his combat knife. She was Cheyenne! He wasn’t the jealous type, but he’d seen the way Susan’s eyes sparkled when she looked at Walt and he’d heard the way the man made her laugh.

His mind not on his work, he tested the edge of his blade carelessly and sliced open his thumb. He sucked on the blood welling from the cut and thought about what he should do.

 

*

 

Daniel Windwalker considered the rain a gift from Mah-hay-oh. It provided the best cover imaginable for his guerilla attacks. The enemy couldn’t move its heavy weaponry fast enough to respond effectively, while his troops darted in and out, always hitting the soft spots in the enemy’s defense perimeter. His only concerns were for Chris, who was still in the hospital and Susan Redfeather, who he’d sent into Nephi to contact the Lachelles.

 

*

 

Lieutenant Walt Beeman was also worried about Susan. The two had gotten very close in the short time they’d known each other. Walt wanted to marry her, but she had a mind of her own and she wanted to wait until they’d discussed all the “issues.” It was an ongoing argument between them. Opposites attract, was the way Walt thought of it.

“Cowboys and Indians,” as Susan had laughingly put it.

 

*

 

Meanwhile, Susan Redfeather was relaxing in a steaming hot bath in the Lachelle’s suite. She’d had no trouble sneaking through the enemy lines into Nephi and thanks to crystal-clear directions from Chris Herrera, had no difficulty finding Denise. Jacques, she was informed, had hitched a ride to California with Jamal Rashid to meet the King and, incidentally, to check out the situation there.

Denise was alarmed that Ken Bilardi hadn’t been seen in Provo and thrilled that Chris had made it through. She was also intrigued by Susan’s gossip about the romance between Chris and Daniel.

Susan splashed sudsy water over her head, reveling in the feel of being clean after days spent on a muddy trail. Her own love life was far too complicated for her peace of mind.

Walt had forbid her to make the journey. Forbid! A flush burned her ears. Three Fingers would have understood. As she pulled the plug to drain the tub, she realized it had been more than a month since she’d thought about her former beau. Even Raymond Stormcloud, who mooned around her whenever he got the chance, would know better.

Men could be so arrogantly...intolerably...STUPID!

BOOK: The Dying Time (Book 2): After The Dying Time
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