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datatime: 2022-10-06 11:48:47 Author:XhSkQGuT

Rockson shone the beam of his light over in the direction Danik indicated. The body was there, stiff and frozen, its eyes wide and mouth gaping, the lips blue. Run Dutil looked a lot like Danik. The body appeared to be untouched; the cold had kept it from rotting. Perhaps the animals had tried to taste the plastic statues over the centuries and found them unpalatable. And so they had desisted from tasting this real human. Rockson fumbled through the dead man's clothing until he found the small steno pad with pencil notes inside an inner pocket of his frost-covered tunic.

The building was a two-story affair nestled in the midst of a flat area covered with snow - a parking lot of old. The big rocks had shielded it from the blast effects - everything else in these parts was flattened. It was partly collapsed. Danik was besides himself with feelings, and his voice was choked up when he said, "Through that second door - that's where my best friend and I stumbled frozen and hungry into the building."

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

Rockson needed every bit of his famed "mutant's luck" if they were to reach the obscure site. The bearing was vague, as Dutil had measured direction with a sextant that was little more than a toy.

"Well. I'll be a monkey's uncle. Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln - a plastic figure."

They came upon an area 235 miles south of Colorado Springs Plain that Rockson himself had crossed years earlier. It was the area around a small hunter-trapper community called Moosehead. Moosehead Township was a set of ten or twelve wooden shacks and a tanning shed for hides. The Soviets usually ignored these primitive American communities, which served their purposes because their commanding officers did a brisk trade with the mountainmen who did fur trapping. Hides and furs were exchanged for rubles. The rubles bought the trapper families some precious supplies like salt in the small free markets in the shadows of the great Soviet forts further east.

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

They came upon an area 235 miles south of Colorado Springs Plain that Rockson himself had crossed years earlier. It was the area around a small hunter-trapper community called Moosehead. Moosehead Township was a set of ten or twelve wooden shacks and a tanning shed for hides. The Soviets usually ignored these primitive American communities, which served their purposes because their commanding officers did a brisk trade with the mountainmen who did fur trapping. Hides and furs were exchanged for rubles. The rubles bought the trapper families some precious supplies like salt in the small free markets in the shadows of the great Soviet forts further east.

Detroit rummaged around and found the toy sextant Run Dutil had used for compiling his meager notes in JFK's plastic hands. It would be useful, for if the navigation device had some error in it, they could take that into account in plotting their trek south.

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

"Let's move on," Rockson said.

Danik took the lead, and they passed a lifelike statue of Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse in the Battle of Bull Run, and then a replica of President Bush signing the Martial Law decree in the Oval Office. They finally came to the Rotunda Room. Light spilled in from above through a hole in the ceiling. The snow flurries drifted in on the figure of John F. Kennedy sitting in his rocking chair. He was staring forever at the three astronauts in spacesuits that had returned from the moon and were coming in to receive his accolades. A tattered and mouse-eaten American flag hung disintegrating on a pole nearby. JFK was up to his knees in snow.

Detroit rummaged around and found the toy sextant Run Dutil had used for compiling his meager notes in JFK's plastic hands. It would be useful, for if the navigation device had some error in it, they could take that into account in plotting their trek south.

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

"It wasn't like that when I was here two weeks ago," Danik gasped. "There was no hole in the roof."

Rockson and his Freefighters pulled up their sleds in front of the blackened crumbling structure and gingerly stepped into the ruin. It was dark inside, they lit a flashlight. Rockson gasped as his beam hit a human face. McCaughlin shouted, "Watch out -" and drew his shotpistol, before he realized the face was familiar.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

"Do you think someone's been here?" McCaughlin said.

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

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