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 (5 page)

BOOK: The Dying Time (Book 2): After The Dying Time
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Chapter 5: Deseret--Utah

 

July 28, 12 A.I.

 

Bob Young spotted his wife carrying fresh cut roses and spurred his sorrel to catch her. No way was she making this trip alone. He reined the horse to a stop, dismounted and led the animal up to her.

“Mind if I tag along?”

The pain in her eyes tore at him like sharp claws, but she nodded and they walked along the road in silence. Normally she would have been full of news about how well the corn and oats were doing, how the Santa Rosa plums were coming in, or how the children...his mind shied from that thought.

They walked in step, turning into the lonely lane between the stones, stopping briefly while he tied his horse to a fence rail. The grass was greener here than elsewhere in the valley. Blue skies and puffy white clouds floated past. The scent of the roses in her arms melded with the more distant smell of fresh mown hay. It was summer and tuna were running in the Gulf. Raspberries and mulberries were bearing bumper crops. It should have been a good time.

He sighed, slow and quiet--and wondered it there would ever be good times again. He sorely missed the bright smiles his wife used to wear.

She stepped out now, slightly in front of him, before pausing at the three small stones and fresh mounds. She knelt and laid the roses across the graves, fussed with them to get them just right, then bowed her head.

“Ezekiel, Jubal and Joy,” she whispered the names inscribed on the stones.

Her shoulders shook and he laid his hands on them and felt, rather than heard her sobs.

“Ah, Betty,” he said as tears flowed down his weathered face and pain threatened to burst his heart. Parents simply weren’t meant to outlive their children.

They remained like that, frozen for some time while the sun climbed higher and shadows shortened, but when he felt the time was right he helped her to her feet. She came into his arms and the solace of shared misery.

Finally she stepped back, flipped her auburn pony tail, now streaked with gray, over her shoulder and asked, “Have you got them all?”

Her sky blue eyes burned into him and he shook his head.

“Not yet,” he admitted. “But we caught the ones who stole the boat. They’re all hanging from a crane at the docks.”

“Good,” she said and the cold smile Bob saw on her face froze his heart.

None of the bastards who’d attacked Provo would be shown clemency or mercy. Their first salvo hit the elementary school. Thirty-four dead, including Bob and Betty’s children and Betty’s best friend, Fern Cummins, who was subbing for a sick teacher.

“We’ll find them all, Betty,” he said. “Adam and his cavalry are hunting them down south and I’m heading back out on another patrol in a couple of hours. Now why don’t we go home and I’ll get you some tea.”

She put her hands in his and locked her eyes on him. With her sharp features and chilling smile she looked like a starving wolf.

“I don’t want tea, dear,” she said in a tone that gave him goose bumps. “I want their blood.”

 

*

 

Adam Young, military commander of the Deseret Defense Force, tugged sharply on the reins of his mount, bringing it and his entire Company to a halt as he sniffed the cool morning air. There it was again, a hint of wood smoke, an odor that usually meant a campfire, but could mean a burning building.

His steely gaze drifted over the Upper Sanpete Valley, searching for smoke, but the early dawn light was too faint. Eyes aren’t what they used to be, he thought ruefully. He could barely make out the ruins of Indianola, where his Company had spent the night. There weren’t many farms left this far from Provo, but any farm here was part of Deseret, entitled to his protection.

That’s why he and his men were here. A rider had rushed into Provo a few days ago to warn the Mormons that a large force of marauders was laying waste to the farms in this area. Adam’s job was to hunt them down and kill them. Sometimes he felt like he’d accomplished little else since his people restored the Nation of Deseret.

He urged his mount off the trail and into the scattered trees that grew alongside. His men followed swiftly, needing no command. They were good men, well-trained and he was proud of them; but then he should be. He trained them, pulling them together after the chaos of The Dying Time settled and shaping them into an army.

Adam came of age on the battlefields of Vietnam, doing his first tour as a common grunt. He’d gone on to OCS and his second, third and fourth tours had been as an officer. He liked to think his first tour had been out of patriotic duty and his second to advance his career; but he risked the third and fourth because he believed the young men under him had a better chance of getting home alive with him in command. By that time, he knew first-hand the folly of that particular war.

Adam ended the war as a Captain whose citations included a silver star, a bronze star and three purple hearts, along with several medals from the South Vietnamese. He stayed in the military despite his contempt for the way the war was fought, believing that if you weren’t part of the solution, you were part of the problem.

In a way, The Dying Time hadn’t changed Adam at all. He was still in the Army. But his society had changed. In spite of devastating earthquakes, floods and other hardships during the catastrophe, many thousands of Mormons had survived. Their Church’s requirement that they keep a year’s supply of food and other necessities on hand saved innumerable lives.

Much like the Cheyenne, the Mormons seized the chance to return to their roots, establishing a Church/State, dominated by Adam Young and his brother Bob, direct descendants of Brigham. It was the 1860s and 70s all over again--heyday of the former Nation of Deseret--but with only one wife and better women’s rights. And this time there was no over-reaching U.S. Government to spoil things.

A cloud of dust on the horizon grew slowly nearer, progressing from a vague indistinct shape to that of a man on horseback. Man’s in a big hurry, Adam thought. He took out his field glasses and focused them. Too much of a hurry, he decided, noting the lathered condition of the man’s horse. Adam believed if you took care of your horse it would take care of you, especially in these days, when horses were all but impossible to replace. He was fond of horses and not so fond of those who abused them.

As the man and his tired horse thundered up to their position, Adam and his men burst out of the trees surrounding the startled man, forcing him to halt.

“Are y’all from the Deseret Defense Force?” the man asked.

“We are,” answered Adam, coldly.

“Thank God!” the man exclaimed. “We’re a fightin’ for our lives back there.” He waved his arm behind him. “Raiders! Tons of ‘em. They done burnt the barn. By the time ah got out they was tryin’ for the house.”

Adam only paused for a second. There was something about this man he didn’t care for, aside from the fact that he was a Gentile and didn’t know how to treat a horse. But raiders were raiders and eliminating them was his business, especially since the attack on Provo.

“Sergeant O’Malley,” Adam snapped the command to the noncom in charge of the remuda. “Front and center with a remount.”

“Yes Sir, Colonel!” O’Malley responded, forcing his way through to Adam with a fresh mount. O’Malley had been with the Colonel long enough to anticipate the command.

“Mister...” Adam paused, looking at the man.

“Beeman,” the man replied quickly. “Walt Beeman, from...”

“Texas,” Adam stated, completing the man’s response. Adam generally didn’t like Texans either. “Well, Mister Beeman, as soon as you swap mounts we’ll be heading out.” His tone left no room for argument and Walt Beeman hurried to comply.

“Scouts out! Flankers out!” Adam snapped the command and the men in question spurred away.

“Move out! Match pace! Column of fours,” he ordered, then nudged his mount to a lope. “Remain beside me, Mister Beeman,” Adam commanded, adding, “How far to the fight?”

“Three an’ a half, mebbe four miles, Colonel,” Beeman answered, “An’ Colonel? You can call me Walt.”

“What sort of armaments will we be facing, Mister Beeman?” Adam was not the sort who thawed swiftly.

“Waal sir,” Walt drawled, ignoring the rebuff. “They mos’ly got rifles an’ pistols.” He paused briefly before continuing, “an’ a armored personnel carrier with two 50 caliber machine guns an’ a flame thrower.” As Walt turned his head toward Adam he said, “Tha’s how they burnt the barn.”

Adam looked over at Walt and said, “APC, huh? You like to save the best for last.”

Walt grinned back, “Ah had tuh make certain-sure y’all were comin’ a’fore ah spilt that partikler bean.”

For the first time since meeting Walt Beeman, Adam looked at him with something akin to warmth. The man wasn’t as stupid as he sounded.

“So how did you know we were in the area?” Adam asked, gesturing to include his 120-man complement.

“Mountain man an’ his fam’ly drifted through las’ night. They said y’all was up thisaway roustin’ raiders,” Walt replied. “When we got hit this mawnin’ ah figgered you was our only hope. Ah surely am glad you was close.”

“You were lucky we were close,” Adam said curtly, “Your horse wouldn’t have lasted another mile.” He made a mental note to ask his scouts how his company could have been observed by anyone, even a mountain man, without their having noticed it.

“Yessuh, Colonel,” Walt said and ducked his head at the uncomfortable thought. “Ah had tuh run him hard through some woods tuh get away, an’ ah rek’n ah jist got scairt.”

Adam looked over at Walt and favored the tall, lanky Texan with a small smile.

“It can happen,” he admitted. And Beeman did look ashamed of himself. And it was an emergency.

“You any good with those guns?” Adam asked. A Winchester 3030 carbine protruded from Walt’s scabbard and a Ruger Redhawk .44 magnum hung snug in a holster at his hip.

Walt shrugged and said, “Passable.” He drew the .44 from his holster, flicked open the cylinder and ejected the cartridges from it into his other palm. He tucked the spent brass into a shirt pocket, to save for reloading and began thumbing in fresh rounds from the belt loops on his holster.

“Ah fergot tuh reload,” he said sheepishly.

Captain Cheryl Cummins, Adam’s second in command, a tall woman with short, chestnut brown hair and a spray of freckles across her nose, had almost drawn her own weapon when she saw Walt’s hand start for his gun, but a subtle signal from Adam dissuaded her. Several other nearby troopers also relaxed at that signal. No stranger drew a gun around the Colonel without being covered; but if Walt noticed anything out of the ordinary, he gave no sign.

Adam noticed the slugs Walt was loading were hollow-points that had been dum-dummed by having an “X” carved across their tips. Such treatment would cause the bullet to shatter when it hit, reducing its penetration but dramatically increasing its shock power. Hit a man in the hand with a round like that and you might just tear his arm off at the shoulder. Hit him in the chest and instead of an exit wound, you’d have four chunks of hot lead ricocheting around inside his rib cage. Lethal.

“How’d you happen to get away?” Adam asked.

“Ah was ridin’ herd when they hit,” Walt replied. “Ah heard the shootin’ an’ rode in tuh help, then skedattled when ah saw what they was up against.”

Made sense, Adam thought. And the story fit with what Adam’s own eyes told him, as well as being consistent with the fact that in recent years some of the folks in this area had started ranching. He had already noticed the coiled lariat slung over the pommel of Walt’s saddle and the brush-marked chaps the man wore. Walt’s hands were large and knobby, callused, cracked and rough-looking. His short, irregular fingernails had dirt under them. His hat was beat up and his green flannel shirt was patched at both elbows and mended at a shoulder seam. Now that he wasn’t fleeing, Walt sat his saddle with the air of one long accustomed to doing so. Whatever else he was, Walt was a working man.

“Rider coming in, Sir!” Captain Cummins said.

Adam watched the incoming horseman veer his mount down-slope through some trees, then break out into the open and splash across a small stream before urging the horse to a full gallop. The rider was waving his hat around his head.

Adam raised his right arm shoulder high, signaling his men to stop, just as the Sergeant in charge of the scouting detail reined to a halt in front of him.

“Sir!” Sergeant Buell began, “There’s a ranch house under siege just over the rise. Attackers consist of about 60 men with small arms and an old M113 armored personnel carrier mounting twin 50s and a flamer.”

The Sergeant paused for a second to gather his breath and continued in an amazed voice, “Sir, there’s a for-real moat around the house that’s keeping the raiders at bay. The house is on fire, but it’s built out of big logs and timbers so it won’t burn fast. Resistance from the house appears to be pretty stiff.” The Sergeant snatched another quick breath. “There’s a small knob at the end of this ridge overlooking the ranch. I make it to be within mortar range, Sir,” the man concluded with a smile.

Adam nodded, accepting the report. If Sergeant Buell said the attackers were within range of the company’s 81 mm mortars, they were.

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