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Thread: The Liard River Stories

  1. #1

    The Liard River Stories

    This a series of connected stories set in the Phoenix Point Universe. For more info on Phoenix Point go here.

    I'll be posting the chapters as I write them. Please comment in a separate thread.

  2. #2
    Chapter 1: Guard Duty

    Cold. Sharp. The bitter breeze ripped through Senja's jacket making her shiver. She rubbed her arms to warm them up as she gazed out over the parapet, flood lights filling the gloom.


    Directly below her lay the road winding its way up the mountain to the haven's entrance, barely visible in the snow. At the very bottom of the road a set of concrete guard towers stood watch over the bridge that connected the haven to the old Alaska Highway. All around the sloping sides of the haven walls the tree line had been trimmed back over a hundred meters, at least along the western face. The northern and eastern faces bordered the river, and the southern face was the mountain.


    Though she could not see it beneath the bridge she knew there was a weir, built to provide a large enough head of water to power the small hydroelectric station the haven used to keep the lights running, even in the dead of winter. Currently the water level was nearly over-topping the banks thanks to an early spring thaw. The haven's Commander had cautioned against all but the essential travel along the road.


    “What travel,” Senja thought. “The only people that travel are the security patrols, and the convoys headed to and from the Canol Road Haven to trade for its surplus Tungsten. The only reason they even stop here is to barter for ethanol for their fuel tanks.”


    Senja pushed the thought from her head and continued her patrol. Round and round the parapet she walked, ever watchful for the sight of headlights along the road, or movement in the forest edge. The only sounds she heard were the crunches of her boots on the thinning ice, an angle grinder at work in the motor pool repairing something, and the sound of water flowing over the weir.


    Still round and round she walked, her routine only broken by the sound of a chunk of ice going over the weir or by the fitful attempt of an old diesel engine to start in the workshop. Boredom was really starting to set in. Senja checked her watch: 7:36 am. In another 20 minutes her replacement would arrive.


    Two hours on, two hours off. The constant rotation designed to give the mind a break and keep it fresh and alert. She just had to keep it together until then.


    Round and round she went, her gaze drifting past things, her mind wandering to her duties after her patrol. First, check in on the repairs in the workshop; second, check on the grow lights in the greenhouse; third, off to the range to practice on the simulator; fourth-


    Senja shock the cobwebs loose and looked around. Despite the distraction she hadn't appeared to have missed anything. Back to the patrol. Round and round again, and again, and again.


    Behind her Senja heard the sound of footsteps She turned and saw Maxwell walking towards her: her replacement had arrived. Maxwell waved to her, and Senja returned a mock salute.


    “Anything interesting?” Maxwell asked.


    “Not a peep.”


    “Cool. See you in a couple hours.”


    Senja waved her goodbyes and set off for the stairs off the parapet, and then across the courtyard to the workshop. Finally, a change of pace.

  3. #3
    Chapter 2: A Change of Pace

    Cameron swore under his breath and walked away from the diesel engine parts strewn across a tarpaulin behind the military truck he'd been working on for the past 4 hours. He took a couple of deep breaths and turned back towards it. Rubbing his grease covered brow, he struggled to get his head around the thinking of the previous driver.


    Not only had they let air into the fuel system, they'd try to repair it without knowing what they were doing. As a result they'd ruined several gaskets, amongst other hard to come by parts, and had generally made a mess of things. The only reason Cameron hadn't chased the moron out of the haven is that they'd been trapped in the middle of crab-land when it happened and were hours from help.


    Cameron walked back behind the truck and climbed the ladder to get back into the mostly stripped engine compartment. It was around this time that his fellow mechanic started up the angle grinder again, jury-rigging a part for something.


    Looking back around the engine compartment, Cameron went back to pulling the various hoses and wires out of the way. He had had to remove most of the engine to get to a badly placed part of the fuel system, so might as well just do a full inspection of the engine compartment.


    It hadn't been a total lose. He'd found the source of the banging noise the crews were constantly complaining about: a lost wrench. Cameron leaned over to try and grab the wrench but couldn't reach. Sighing, he climbed into the compartment. As he picked up the wrench a voice called out to him.


    “Ahoy, permission to come aboard?”


    Cameron rolled his eyes.


    “That's the Navy Senja,” he called back.


    He poked his head out of the compartment and looked down from the truck. Senja was leaning against the armoured door wearing the cheesiest grin he'd ever seen her wear, which was saying something.


    “What?” he asked.


    “Loose something?” she asked.


    “Aside from my temper a few dozen times, no. I did however finding the source of that bloody banging all the time,” he answered, tossing her the wrench.


    “And the missing wrench from Jessica's set.”


    “Normally that'd cheer her up, but the fact that we get to do a rebuild on a diesel has her fuming.”


    “Why does this thing even have a diesel anyways? I thought the military went fuel cell during the war.”


    “Only on new vehicles. Preexisting vehicles were left as is. Not practical at the time to refit it. This baby happened to survive both the war and the mists and then everything fell apart so no factory to sent it to to get refit,” Cameron responded, leaning against the armoured body of the truck.


    “Ever think we'll refit it ourselves?”


    “We'd have to find a vehicle that has a trashed body and yet still has a working fuel cell that can provide enough juice for a beast this big. Fat chance this far north.”


    “We could just ask New Jericho for one.”


    “Yeah, and just how much would that cost us in political capital, favours, etc.”


    “I was kidding. I wouldn't trust them farther than I could throw them. They took in Vincent after all, the little rat.”


    Cameron tilted his head in agreement and turned back to the engine compartment, sighing again.


    “I'll let you get back to work,” Senja said, starting to walk away.


    Cameron waved out the top of the compartment. He then went to grab part of the fuel line and stopped.


    “SENJA! HOLD UP!”


    “What's up?” she asked, climbing the ladder. “Phew, that reeks of fuel.”


    “And I know why, hand me back the wrench.”


    “Oh right,” Senja replied, handing it over. “Jess would be really pissed if I lost that again.”


    “Not as pissed as she's gonna be if I'm right,” Cameron said removing the metal jacketed pipe from its connection.


    Cameron held it up to the light and let out a string of curses.


    “Okay, I recognized shit and tabarnak, but what were the rest of those?”


    “A few things I've picked up along the way. Get Jess's attention please.”


    Senja nodded and climbed down the ladder. She then walked over to a oil drum filled with scrap metal, grabbed a piece and banged it against the side. Across the workshop the other mechanic turned and glared. Senja emphatically waved her over.


    Jessica visibly sighed and made her way over. Her frown turned into a look of concern as she approached.


    “What's wrong?” she asked, her voice hoarse with age.


    Cameron just handed her the fuel line. Jessica's swearing was much shorter than Cameron's.


    “You know, when I was hoping for a change of pace, this isn't what I meant,” Senja muttered.


    Cameron and Jessica stared at her.


    “Oh, so this is your fault? Okay, you get to tell the boss then,” Jessica said.


    Senja frowned, nodded and walked off. Cameron looked at Jessica, trying to gauge her response.


    “Now what?” he asked.


    “Trouble.”

  4. #4
    Chapter 3: The Boss

    Basil took his reading glasses off and tossed them onto his desk. Rubbing his eyes, he leaned back in his chair in exhaustion. Under his glasses lay a pile of papers tracking the production and expenditures of the haven's resources. Fuel production was holding steady and food production was slightly up this month. Spare parts were constantly low, though ammo was at an all time high.


    “Just another day in paradise,” he muttered to myself.


    Of course the haven's supply situation was the least of his worries today. Today he was preoccupied with politics, both the haven's internal politics, and of the wider world's. The internal politics he could handle, but getting a read on the remaining powers and their plans was much more difficult.


    Of immediate concern were New Jericho, as they had a haven a few hundred kilometers away in the old town of Fort Nelson. In his view their obsession with physical purity with regards to the Pandoravirus bordered on the disturbing, and the foolhardy. It reeked of eugenics and superiority complexes. As far as he could remember very few of the members of New Jericho he'd met had not had the might-makes-right and egomania that had led to so much war and strife throughout history.


    Of course, he reminded himself, that's just the Fort Nelson haven. They don't necessarily speak as to the whole of New Jericho.


    At least he hoped not.


    The Disciples of Anu, on the other hand, had an equal obsession with protecting their minds from the Pandoravirus, to the exclusion of all else. Their cult-like fascination with the virus and those that had survived it's touch further disturbed him.


    While the Disciples did not have any nearby havens, every few months one of their air ships would stop by on its way to the Canol Road Haven to pick up Tungsten. Basil wasn't which why though as they never carried any guns as far as he could tell. Maybe they just kept them hidden.


    The envoys that arrived with the airship were the only members that interacted with anyone, and even then you had to be very high in the leadership for that. Their aloofness and holier-than-than behaviour as got on Basil's nerves. The masks and cloaks they worn to hide their bodies were just annoying though.


    If the rumours were true, they'd mutated themselves with the Pandoravirus to be stronger, faster, and better. Basil wasn't sure if this was true, but it would explain why you never saw their skin.


    And then there was Synedrion. No member of Synedrion had ever come to the haven. As far as he knew, no member of the haven had ever met someone from Synedrion. Of course if anything he'd been told of Synedrion by the envoys of the Disciples or the diplomats from New Jericho was true, you wouldn't know.


    Claims of being master spies and technological wizardry, heresy and hedonism, carelessness and corruption abounded. Basil had no idea what was true and what was propaganda, and he suspected a lot of it was propaganda. If he had to guess, Synedrion was based on the idea that human ingenuity could get humanity out of any problem.


    Humanity. That was another thing that struck Basil as something of an obsession with the various factions. Both the Disciples and New Jericho claimed to being doing everything they could to protect humanity, or at least what they thought of as humanity. For New Jericho, that was the body, For the Disciples that was the mind.


    If Basil had been a literary scholar in his past life, he'd have known had to put together a convincing argument that Synedrion wanted to protect humanity's spirit or soul. He hadn't trained as a literary scholar thought, so it was just ideal speculation on his part. Instead he'd studied Hydrology while training to be an officer in the Navy.


    Fat lot of good that does here, he thought to himself. I barely made Lieutenant Commander before catching Pneumonia.


    Basil sighed. That bought of Pneumonia had ended his career and practically destroyed his lungs. As a result it had necessitated moving to a place with good air quality. Basil choose Whitehorse at first, but eventually settled on Liard River. The side effect of that was he'd been nowhere near the coasts when the mists showed up.


    When everything collapsed he moved to the haven, and was given a leadership role. As time wore on eventually command fell to him. Not for the first time he wished a better leader had survived. Basil turned his chair around and stared out the windows in his office to the courtyard below.


    The ground floor of the haven stretched out before him. It was a huge complex, designed to support a thousand souls indefinitely. Only two hundred people lived in the haven though. Another hundred or so in the dependent havens used as resupply points on the way to the Canol Road Haven. Primary power came from the run-of-the-river hydroelectric plant, though there were back-up generators that could burn ethanol or trees. The sad irony of that always tickled Basil.


    A huge combination greenhouse and hydroponics building was placed along the Northwestern side of the haven. Below the greenhouse and actually on the ground was the weakest part of the haven: the collection yard. Connected to the collection yard was the conversion building for turning the trees into either charcoal, or directing into fuel to run the rendering plant. The rendering plant provided the materiel for the fuel plants and via a round about path, the nutrients for the greenhouse.


    It was more complicated than Basil liked, but it worked. It also provided a wide variety of produce so that helped morale. The inedible plant material was fed to the livestock (mostly sheep but some cows and pigs as well) and their waste, along with the haven's sewage added into the rendering process. Potable water was simpler. There was a pumping station and filtration plant connected to the river.


    Basil avoided the Northwestern section of the haven if at all possible. The variety of bad smells and particulate matter was not good for his health. Thankfully the ventilation systems vented on the other side of the mountain, via a massive chimney.


    The middle of the haven was clear of everything, except snow in the winter, having been designed as helipads. The main entrance to the base started at the northern edge and wound down the the southeast where it then cross the hydroelectric plant to join the highway to everywhere that still had a bridge.


    The southern section of the haven had the workshop for the vehicles, the main barracks, the medical facility, and a disused lab. The entire haven had a raised concrete wall around it. It even had emplacements on the wall large enough for artillery pieces, not that they'd ever been installed. There were also a couple of guard towers with flood lights constantly covering observing the area around the haven. The wall had also been designed to have barbed wire fences installed, but those had long since been scavenged for other uses.


    The truly interesting parts of the haven had been built into the mountain though. Directly below Basil's office was the tunnel into the deeper section. Connected to the helipad and beside the tunnel was a hangar, currently used as a secure storage site by the haven. On the other side of the tunnel was another hangar used as general storage.


    On the same floor as Basil's office was the council chamber, formerly a military conference room, and other government facilities. Flanking his office were two permanent sniper's nests that were always manned and ready and had been designed to have complete view of the haven and the surrounding valley.


    Above his office was a massive library dedicated to preserving whatever information the haven could gather. There were also a few lookouts that were mostly used to watch the sun rise and set these days.


    The tunnel however was the key feature of the haven. It lead to a massive concrete wall, formerly a nuclear-strength blast door, long since closed. Behind it was access to what everyone called The Vault, designed to be permanent storage of the knowledge, history and legacy of the long deceased country of Canada. The story of how that happened always fascinated Basil.


    No time to dwell on the past, he reminded himself. You have to prepare for your guests.


    The envoys from the Disciples and the diplomats from New Jericho were due within the next couple of days for their regular pitches to join their factions for the increased protection, prosperity and security they promised. While those might be convenient side effects for the haven, Basil was under no illusions as to the goals of the two groups: they wanted access to the vault. Of course they didn't believe for a second that there was no access. Another sad irony for him to mull over.


    A knock at his door disturbed his thoughts.


    “Enter,” he said, breathlessly.


    In walked the young Senja, closing the door behind her. Instantly he could tell it was not good news: she wasn't smiling. In fact she looked very disturbed. She came to attention in front of his desk. She didn't need to. Basil didn't run the haven like a military. Senja just did it out of respect.


    “At ease. Report.”


    “Commander, we have big problems in the workshop sir. Jess specifically asked me to get you.”


    Basil carefully looked at Senja. Sergeant Winslow didn't disturb him unless absolutely necessary.


    “What is the issue?” he asked.


    “If I'm reading the situation correctly, and I'm not one hundred percent sure I am, sabotage, sir.”


    “Get the Inspector and tell him to meet me there. Dismissed.”


    Senja came to attention again and walked out. Basil was right behind her. He grabbed his well weathered peacock off the coat stand on the way out and locked his office behind him. Suddenly the envoys and the diplomats didn't seem like that big of a deal.

  5. #5
    Chapter 4: The Inspector

    Margo unlocked the door to her office and stepped inside. Reaching to her left, she flicked on the lights. The LED lamps flashed into life, flooding the ceiling with light and filling the room with an ambient off white glow both from the peeling paint and the LEDs.


    It wasn't a large office. Just a desk, a bookshelf, a hatstand, and a glass-door dresser. The bookshelf was one of the few places in the haven that had actual books outside the library. In this case they were all law based.


    Inside the dresser were her old RCMP uniforms, fresh and reading to wear should she need them for official duties. In the bottom right corner sat a box of medals with a folded Canadian flag in it. They were her mother's. She'd formerly been an Inspector with the RCMP and had died protecting the haven. The haven members had made the medals themselves. Margo inherited the title when she took over as security chief, or Inspector as the position was now called.


    Behind the desk were a few remnants of the old world government: a faded painting of The Queen and four flagstaffs. The weathered flags hanging were those of Canada; British Columbia; the RCMP, E Division; as well as the Canadian Forces Ensign.


    Margo put her hat on the hatstand, and then hung her coat on it. She closed the door and walked over to her desk. She pulled open the top right drawer, and removed her service pistol from her right hip, holster and all, and put it inside. She closed the drawer and sat down.


    For the next couple of hours she filled out paperwork related to the security of the primary haven and the dependent havens. A few supply transfer orders approved, a personnel transfer denied, a lack of progress report from the secure hangar – no surprise there, and some intelligence reports from the field teams. She was making her way through one on a new Giant, possibly Titan, class monster that had been lurking along the edges of the patrol area when there was a knock at the door.


    “Enter,” she squeaked before clearing her throat. “Enter.”


    The door opened a crack and a young man poked his head in.


    “Morning ma'am. Early start?”


    “Morning Carl. Couldn't sleep. Might as well get some work done.”


    “Yes ma'am. You might want to pop over to quarantine though. Oscar is on duty, somehow, and Carson was asking for you during the night.”


    “Thank you Carl, I'll head over now.”


    Carl nodded and closed the door. Margo locked the reports in a safe installed in the desk, retrieved her service pistol, coat and hat. She locked her office behind her and nodded to Carl on her way out of the security office.


    The security office was on the ground floor of what was called the courthouse. It was actually a combination courthouse, military police building and brig. It stood on both sides of the main gate and also served a temporary customs area, not that customs really was a thing anymore. Across the road stood the original brig, now converted to quarantine. The hospital was beside that, and the lab behind both of them.


    Margo looked at her watch: 6:30 am. The guards had changed half an hour ago and Oscar needed constant supervision. How he'd ended up in quarantine she did not know, but he wouldn't be there for long.


    As she pasted through the security gate at the entrance, she signed in with the guard and registered that her weapon was with her. She was then allowed into the cell block. The guard voiced a silent thank you to Margo as she entered.


    The typical prison cell doors and walls had been replaced with one inch polycarbonate. Margo didn't know exactly polycarbonate was, chemistry had never been her thing, but she did know that she'd seen a sample block of the same thickness with a .50 caliber round stopped dead in its tracks in it. Inside the cells were hospital beds with heavy duty straps.


    Further along a guard was patrolling the cells. Margo started a hard march towards him. As she approached he banged on the “glass” of a cell. Though she couldn't see them yet, she knew the occupants would have jumped. Quarantine was hell. The guard then pressed a button on the old intercom installed on the cell.


    “That's right. This is where you belong, you dirty freaks.”


    “Oscar!” Margo yelled before his finger left the intercom.


    Oscar froze and snapped to attention. Margo marched up to him and got right in his face, in full view of the occupants of the cell. At five foot five, she was a good foot shorter than Oscar, yet she still towered over him with force of will. When she was angry, she'd been described as appearing like a disapproving mother-in-law.


    “What the hell are you doing?”


    “I-”


    “I did not give you permission to speak.”


    Oscar came to attention again.


    “We do NOT have any freaks, mutties, crabbies, targets or any of the other disgusting names you give to anyone here. We have PEOPLE here. Sick people. Dying people. You WILL treat them with respect. AM I UNDERSTOOD?”


    “YES MA'AM” Oscar shouted back.


    “Who traded shifts with you?”


    Oscar stayed silent.


    “I ASKED YOU A QUESTION.”


    “Baxter, ma'am.”


    “Very well. For the next week you are on latrine duty without rotation. Am I clear?”


    “YES MA'AM.”


    “Good. MOVE!”


    Oscar took off running. Margo took a couple of deep breaths and picked up the walkie-talkie from her hip, and pressed the talk button.


    “Margo to Chen, over.”


    Margo waited a couple of seconds.


    “Margo to Chen, over.”


    “Chen here, over.”


    “Chen, for the next week Oscar is assigned to your detail. He does not, repeat not, get rotations. He is on punishment detail, over.”


    “Copy that. Full seven day double shift ma'am?”


    “Affirmative, over.”


    “Copy. Anything else, over?”


    “Negative. Margo out.”


    Margo paused for a second.


    “Oh and Baxter, you have three minutes to get your ass back to your post or you'll be joining Oscar, over.”


    Margo waited for a few seconds before the walkie-talkie crackled back to life.


    “Yes ma'am. On my way ma'am,” a terrified voice said.


    Margo shook her head. She had an idea what had happened, but wanted to confirm. She turned to the occupants of the cell, smiled and pressed the intercom.


    “It'll be okay now Wilma.”


    “Thank you ma'am.”


    Wilma was standing next to her young son in cleanroom gear. Her son was strapped to the hospital bed with enough restraints to hold a bull. She hoped it'd be enough. Her son was straining against the straps, doubled up in pain.


    The scars of the Pandoravirus infection covered his body. His immune system was fighting back. The question now was would he survive long enough to recover. The fact that he wouldn't turn was the only reason Margo had allowed his mother into the room.


    “How are you holding up Carson?”


    “Better. Than. Ever. Ma'am. Ready. To.Get. Back. To. Work,” Carson wheezed between spasms.


    “Carl said you were asking for me?”


    “Just. Wanted. To. Ask. You. Some. Thing. Can't. Re. Member. What.”


    “You'll remember in due course. Hang in there. That's an order.”


    “Yes. Ma'am.”


    Margo turned away and walked further down the hall. She sniffed and wiped away a tear. She'd been too lenient on Oscar.


    She walked around a corner and came face-to-face with Dominic Howes, one of the medical staff. He nodded as she approached.


    “And how is our other patient?” she asked.


    “Behaving.”


    Margo looked into the cell. It had been stripped of everything valuable. The only things inside were an old metal dog bowl and an oversized mouse in a cage. Or at least it had been a mouse. Now it had rabbit ears, porcupine quills, and what looked like crocodile teeth, or was it alligator. She could never remember which.


    Carson had been injured finding it routing around in the grass outside the haven. How he'd managed to hold onto it, she did not know. Now they had a specimen to test, and a new security hole to patch.


    It's never easy, she thought.


    “Let me know if anything changes,” she said.


    Dominic nodded. Margo turned and left the quarantine building. Just as she was leaving, Baxter showed up. He was very unkempt, even for the relaxed standards they maintained. Margo looked at her watch.


    “You're late.”


    “Sorry ma'am.”


    “Matty convince you to trade shifts to spend time with her?”


    Baxter nodded sheepishly.


    “You've got growth potential Baxter, but this is not appropriate behaviour. However, we will speak about this later. After your shift today, report to me. We will speak then and arrange your shift with Chen.”


    “Yes ma'am. Sorry ma'am.”


    “And apologize to Carson and his mom. Dismissed.”


    “Yes ma'am.”


    It was was what Margo figured. Matty had nearly every single single man, quite a few married men, and numerous women wrapped around her finger. Frankly Margo figured the only reason there wasn't an STD outbreak was that none of the surviving haven members had ever had one, somehow.


    Margo stepped over to the guard and told him that is anyone was looking for her, she'd be inspecting the ammo dump. She then headed over to the ammo dump. It was near the southern wall, far from any of the other buildings. It had also been designed to blow-up-safely, according to the folks that had built it.


    What does blow-up-safely even mean, she asked herself, not for the first time.


    “Inspector!”


    Margo turned. Senja was running towards her. Actually running, not walking quickly. Not good.


    “What's happened?” Margo asked.


    “Sabotage, possibly, in the Workshop. The Commander asked for you to meet him there.”


    “Right. Go grab my case from Carl and bring it to the Workshop. Then continue your duties.”


    Senja came to attention and ran off again. Margo growled under her breath. Definitely not good.

  6. #6
    Chapter 5: Growth Potential

    Doctor Larissia Lazlow looked through the checklist on her clipboard. It was filled with growth statistics and botanical data. She flipped through a few of the pages before looking out over the balcony high above the main column of the hydroponics building.


    The main column actually consisted of the aeroponics section. Large trays of plants were connected to a vertical lift mechanism that cycled the plants from the ground floor, up to the roof, and back down again. The ground floor was where the inspecting, pruning, harvesting and planting was done. After a tray was inspected, the mechanism moved it the next tray into position. There were 12 lifts spaced three wide and four deep to cover the square room.


    The roof of the building was thick glass with grow lights suspended from a gantry just below it to allow plants to be grown year round. The exact height of the lifts had been calculated so that it was a reasonable approximation of the temperate summer day-night cycle with regards light access on the lifts.


    The lifts contained eight separate species of plants at the moment: wheat, oats, barley, peas, corn, leeks, peanuts, and potatoes. There was debate amongst the agriculture section of the haven on whether to increase variety for better morale, or to try to increase the yields so people could eat more. As head botanist Larissia was on the fence.


    Satisfied with the way the growth and maintenance of the aeroponics bay, Larissia moved on to inspect the hydroponics areas. Though technically aquaponics, everyone just called it hydroponics. The hydroponics areas were maintained on the top three floors of the building. They all had glass windows and grow lights to provide the needed light in all seasons.


    A further twenty species of plants were grown there, along with four species of aquatic life and eight marine species, again for variety. The marine species needed the most tank space, and were the hardest to maintain, but were very much a favourite amongst the residents. It helped that they were pretty to look at.


    On the ground floor and in the basements were the old school agriculture. It was mostly mushrooms and other plants that couldn't be grown hydroponically or aeroponically. The livestock also lived there, a few cows, horses, pigs, as well as numerous sheep. The livestock were feed the inedible portions of the plants and any produce that was no longer fit for human consumption.


    Half farm, half greenhouse, the building never ceased to amaze Larissia. The only reason it was as productive and efficient as it was, was the state of agricultural technology prior to the world collapsing. Though not operating a peak capacity, they didn't have enough workers for that, the building still easily feed the entire haven, the dependent havens, and had a little left over trade with. Food variety was a very valuable commodity these days.


    Just as Larissia was about to move on to the last stop of her inspection, she spotted Senja on her rounds. Larissia waved to her. The lack of cheer in Senja's step concerned Larissia


    “Morning Senja. Is everything alright?”


    “Hey doc. Been better, to be honest.”


    “Oh what's wrong?”


    Senja frowned.


    “I cannot say actually. You'll learn about it during the council meeting.”


    Something was clearly wrong in the world at large. If Larissia was to learn about it in the council meeting, The Commander obviously did not want to spook the population as a whole. Not that it would last. With so few people living in the haven, gossip spread like wildfire.


    “Indeed,” she finally replied. “Also, the repaired grow lamps are working quite well. Please pass along my regards to the technicians.”


    “I shall. You need help with anything?”


    “Not as far as I know. Things appear to be running smoothly. Where you off to now?”


    “Target practice.”


    “In that case, I shall not keep you waiting any longer. Have a good day.”


    “You too doc.”


    Larissia smiled as Senja left. In Larissia's opinion, Senja had her head screwed on remarkably well for someone so young and with her history. With her skills she'd have made an excellent scientist, if only there was a university for her to study at.


    Maybe she could convince Senja to intern at the botanical labs. Larissia could use the help. Unlikely though, Senja was very much a woman of action.


    Pushing the thoughts aside, Larissia headed for the last stop of her inspection: the secure lab. Situated in the basement, under the main column, this specialised greenhouse was the haven's true treasure trove, with the vault being sealed. It contained are the pharmaceutical plants. It was also guarded.


    She nodded to the guards as she passed them. Her progress through the retinal and fingerprint scanners was trouble free, as was the key card scanner. The final barrier was a door and a key. She had no idea how the key worked but it was supposedly unpickable. Loosing the key just wasn't an option, so it was strung around her neck, 24/7.


    Unlocking the door, she entered a small airlock. If one door was open, the other couldn't be opened. Behind the inner door was a two story tall enclosure of ploycarbonate and titanium. Vents circulated air and keep the temperature and humidity correct in the various enclosed glove boxes, each with a different extremely rare and valuable plant.


    The upper floor was dedicated lab space for refining the plants into their medicines, and working the bacteria that produced certain other drugs. It also had the freezer that contained the seed stockpile. Larissia walked across the walkway and entered the lab via the decontamination booth.


    Already inside was Naroosh, who'd been a biochem major before the collapse. He was currently handling an opium pod. She waited for him to put down the scoring blade before speaking.


    “Morning Naroosh.”


    “Good morning Doctor Lazlow.”


    “How goes the harvest?”


    “Very well. The latex is flowing well. Yesterday's harvest has already been prepared. If this keeps up, we should end up with enough to last the year before the week is out.”


    “Excellent.”


    Larissia walked over to a specific glovebox. Inside was the plant that had allowed such rapid advancements in indoor agriculture: marijuana. There were several plants at various stages of its growth cycle. Satisfied, she visually inspected the other boxes.


    “Very good,” she said to herself as she finished her inspection.


    “Okay Naroosh, I'm off to harvest the beets. Have a good day.”


    “You too Doctor Lazlow.”

  7. #7
    Chapter 6: Target Practice

    Senja walked across the courtyard, her boots occasionally crunching on a piece of unmelted ice. She wasn't sure what to think about the sabotage. Why would anyone want to hurt the haven. It just wasn't something she could understand.


    She tried to push the thoughts out of her head. She needed her mind clear for her target practice. However the thoughts continued to play in the back of her head.


    Still fighting distraction she eventually reached the secure hangar. Stopping, she looked up at the massive hangar doors before her. Apparently they were supposed to open, but she'd never see it. A person sized door was installed in one of the panels that apparently slide sideways. She walked over to it and pushed the door open.


    Inside was a short cavernous space. A second set of hangar doors were about 50 meters away. Behind them was the secured area. Flanking the person sized door were a pair of guards. Senja didn't have access to that area and could only guess what was in there.


    When the older folks had guessing contests, they always used references to pre- and immediately post-WW3 culture, which made no sense to her. The only things she could come up with were spare parts for the technology they maintained. The older folks always told her to stop being logical, which she did not appreciate.


    Most of the space in front of the inner doors had been set up as a gymnasium. Scavenged materials cobbled together to make weights to lift, a simple obstacle course, and other things to train on. The big thin though was a multiple story structure built into the inner wall. That was the “shooting” range. Senja immediately started walking over to it. Walking through a doorless door frame, she approached the counter set to the side. Behind it stood the haven's armourer.


    “Morning Rasheed.”


    “Good morning to you Miss Senja. The usual program?”


    “Yes please,” she replied, slinging her rifle down from her shoulder.


    As she was one of the more accurate shots in the haven she'd been given one of the few surviving semi-automatic sniper rifles rather than one of the standard assault rifles. She made sure her weapon was safe before she ejected the magazine and placed it on the counter. She then ejected the round in the chamber and placed it on the counter as well. Next she made sure the weapon was clear before handing it to Rasheed. Finally she took her spare magazines from her webgear and placed them on the counter.


    Rasheed placed the weapon on a gun rake hidden behind the counter and placed the magazines and the spare round next to it. He then pulled out an nearly identical looking rifle from the other side of the storage area. Senja knew it was completely different though. The furniture was orange for one thing. He placed it on the counter before grabbing a special vest from a locker in the back of the storage area.


    Senja took off her webgear and placed it on the counter before picking up the vest. She put the vest on and zipped it up before flicking a switch to turn the internal electronics on. She then picked up the rifle from the counter.


    Inside the rifle had been completely changed in function. Rather than firing bullets, it had parts to be used on the simulator. The simulator had been upgraded to its current form by the haven's late electrical engineer, Maxine. It was a fantastic achievement given that it had been made post fall.


    Rasheed handed Senja four modified magazines and she placed three of them in her webgear before placing the last one in the modified weapon. All the magazines were made of orange tinted plastic rather than the standard beige or black. Inside them were a small rechargeable battery, a small gas tank that took pressurised air, and some weights. As such the magazines weighed the same as a normal, fully loaded magazine.


    Inside the gun most of the components had been replaced as well. Instead it had an LED flash simulator, a small computer, a pair of three axis gyroscopes, a small wireless transceiver, some pipes and valves to vent air from the tank in the magazine to simulate the recoil of firing the gun, as well as weights to maintain the proper weight distribution of the real thing. According to Rasheed, Maxine had pulled the parts from something called a Wiimote. Neither Rasheed nor Senja had any idea what that was. The vest was similarly modified.


    The simulation house on the other hand, Senja did understand, for the most part. The gyroscopes tracked how the weapon was being held, the transceiver transmitted data to the computers controlling the simulator, the internal computer tracked how many simulated rounds you'd fired and controlled whether the weapon “fired” or not, and the LED flashed to simulate muzzle flash. The computers controlling the simulator took the data fed to it from the weapon and used it to figure out where the simulated rounds went in the training house. The information in the vest meanwhile tracked how Senja moved and bent.


    In all it provided a person the ability to train as if they had a real weapon and were firing real rounds, only they didn't use up precious ammunition. It didn't simulate the loudness of the sound though, which was both a positive and a negative. It also needed to recalibrate a fair bit. The haven was perfectly willing to live with the downsides for all the advantages it gave.


    Senja checked over the weapon and entered the simulator house's lower floor. Inside were a series of screens that could be moved around. Images were projected onto them from the overhead projectors. The images weren't very realistic, but they weren't bad either.


    Senja placed the weapon on a rest just within the entrance area and pressed a button the back of the weapon, starting the recalibration. She also pressed a button on the vest and it bean to recalibrate as well. Once a small light next to the button on the weapon glowed red, and the vest was finished, she picked the weapon up again.


    “Ready,” she said.


    With that, the screens flicked on. They were simulating the old lab, which she had to move through identifying whether someone was a crabman, an allied human, or an enemy human, and shoot the enemies. It wasn't a complete simulation though. Maxine had wanted to add return fire, but had contracted pneumonia first. As such lights in the ceiling flashed red whenever a simulated hit landed on her. If the computers thought she'd taken a lethal hit, the simulation ended.


    Unfortunately no one in the haven was skilled enough with computers to try and complete Maxine's work, though a few of older children were learning programming from the library. Until they were able to complete the project, the guards would make do with what they had.


    Senja dropped the safety on the weapon.


    “Start,” she called out to the person running the simulation.


    For the next half an hour she picked her way through the simulated lab several times. When she was done she safed her weapon before heading to the upper floor which was a much simpler simulation. It was just long range training. Before she started though, she stopped at a small station setup by the range to recharge and refill the magazines. When the magazines were ready she entered the firing range simulator and lay down on the ground, flicking the bipod into position.


    “Morning Senja,” a female voice said behind her.


    Senja sighed. Just what she needed.


    “Hello Matilda,” Senja replied, trying to stay calm.


    “Looking good today. Real good. Going to be doing some work on your form?” Matilda's slimy voice said.


    Senja knew Matilda was checking her out and shifted uncomfortably.


    “Is there something you wanted Matilda?”


    “To spend some time with you, and please, it's Matty.”


    “I'm kind of busy right now.”


    “Maybe after your next rotation then?”


    “I'm going to pass, thank you.”


    “Oh, okay. I guess I'll just spend some time with Reg, since no one else seems to want to, if you know what I mean. It wouldn't do for someone to provide bad counsel to him on the ways of life. Bye.”


    Senja flushed slightly and tried to calm herself. Matilda was just trying to get inside Senja's head, and everyone's pants. She took a couple of dead breaths before choosing the settings on the simulator for her lane.


    Time to work on her 800 meter shots. She'd really need to focus for this, which would calm her. Senja dropped the safety again, took a few steadying breaths and began her practice.

  8. #8
    Chapter 7: Bad Council

    Reginald looked around the conference table. The microphones were in place, the recorder was in place, everything was ready to go to document the council meeting. All there was to do was to wait for the council members to arrive and for the other shoe to drop. Reg pressed the record button on the small computer and waited for things to start. More out of habit, he took his glasses off and polished them with a handkerchief.


    Rumours were already spreading about Margo conducting an investigation. They ranged from murder to sabotage to drugs. Reg was going to wait to find out at the council meeting. He'd already been informed that the normal meeting had been postponed.


    The tinkling of china stirred him from his thoughts. One of the chefs, Garcon, was setting out teacups at the arranged seats. Garcon wasn't actually his name, but a nickname he'd picked up at culinary school. Reg didn't actually know his given name.


    “We expecting everyone?” Reg asked.


    “No idea,” Garcon replied in a faded Quebec accent. “Everything is up in the air now. You been listening to the rumours? They are incredible.”


    “I've been hearing them, but I'll wait for what Margo actually says before I put any stock in anything.”


    “Ever the sensible one,” a new voice said.


    Chen, the head of maintenance and the rendering plant had arrived. He walked around the table and sat in his spot. Reg sniffed the air. By the nature of Chen's work there was always an odour about him. It was different today.


    “Um, Chen did you perhaps find something new today?” Reg asked carefully.


    “Yes actually. Some sort of mutated flowering plant. Smelled almost of lavender, at least to my burnt out schnoz. No idea what it smells like to you guys. I did take some samples for if we ever get the lab up an running again.”


    Reg nodded and wrote a quick note in his note pad. As the haven's historian it was his job to record everything for posterity. His secondary job was as the haven's librarian. He also dabbled in a bunch of other things as he read from the extensive library that the haven had.


    Shortly several more people arrived: Doctor Lazlow, the haven botanist and head farmer; Sinclair, combat medic and head of the medical staff; Mireia, accountant and logistic manager; Keith, civilian; and Vincent Senior, civilian. All of them quickly took their places except for Vincent, who deliberately went the long way around and bumped into Reg on purpose. Vincent snorted and muttered under his breath. Reg could guess what Vincent had said. No one else said a thing.


    Reg took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. Instinctively he rubbed his leg where the scars from the Pandoravirus had ravaged the muscles. Surprisingly the pain wasn't that bad today, though the stress of being around Vincent would soon change that. He then took his seat at the end of the table, notepad at the ready.


    “What is the hold up?” Vincent snarled.


    “Just waiting on Basil and Margo to arrive,” Chen said.


    “Well where are they?”


    “Right here.”


    At this point both Margo and the Commander entered the conference room, Margo closing the door behind her. Both of them took their places at the table. As soon as they were seated Garcon started pouring tea. As per usual Reg skipped the tea for plain water.


    “Good everyone is here. Are we recording?” the Commander asked.


    “Yes sir,” Reg answered.


    “Where is Jess?” Keith asked.


    “Indisposed,” the Commander replied. “Any other questions?”


    No one said a thing.


    “Very well. Council meeting for March 2nd, 2043,” the Commander said. “As I'm sure you all know from the messages sent today's normal meeting has been postponed so we will skip the reading of the minutes from last meeting and proceed immediately to business. Margo?”


    “Thank you Commander. I'm sure you have heard most of the rumours by now. Well at least one of the rumours probably got it right. We have a saboteur on the base.”


    There was a general clattering of tea cups. Reg cringed, both at the sound and the fear that a tea cup would break. Thankfully the latter did not happen. What did happen was a flurry of voices. Reg couldn't make many of the words out. That was going to be fun to transcribe. The hubbub lasted for a good twenty seconds.


    “Order! Order!” the Commander shouted, finally.


    “This is preposterous,” Keith said.


    “I assure you it is not. I have already started gathering evidence.”


    “Well what do you know?” Mireia asked.


    “I cannot say.”


    “Why the fuck not?” Vincent asked.


    No one said anything for several seconds. Margo just glared at Vincent.


    “Because this is a police investigation. There may not be many of us left, I'm still going to follow procedure. It exists for a reason.”


    “You don't want to tip off the party to what you know,” Chen said.


    Margo nodded.


    “What if the party is already here?” Vincent asked glaring at Reg.


    Reg glared right back over his glasses. Margo cleared her throat. Vincent looked at her.


    “Then I especially don't want them to know what I know.”


    “What can you tell us?” Doctor Lazlow asked.


    Margo thought about that for a second before nodding.


    “The sabotage occurred on our TAP-V that died two days ago.”


    “Uh, which one is that again?” Vincent asked.


    “Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle. Big green armoured 4 by 4 with wheels-” Reg started to reply on reflex.


    “No one cares,” Vincent interrupted with a snarl. “What are you going to do about this?”


    “I'm going to investigate,” Margo replied some anger slipping into her voice.


    “Do you have any suspects?” Sinclair asked.


    “Probably one of the fucking mutties,” Vincent said smirking in Regs direction


    Every froze. Reg's closed his fists, practically breaking his pen in rage and pain. He could feel the tears backing up. Again, no one said a thing. Eventually Margo spoke up, anger fully in her voice.


    “That is not appropriate language for anyone, let alone a member of this council. You will apologize right this instant.”


    “Yeah sure, sorry.”


    Reg certainly didn't believe it. He gathered his composure and spoke up, his voice breaking.


    “M-motion to Sanction the councilman.”


    “Oh ple-”Vincent started.


    “Seconded,” Margo interrupted.


    Everyone looked to the Commander. After a few seconds he nodded.


    “Motion seconded. All those in favour?”


    Reg, Margo, Chen, Doctor Lazlow, and Mireia raised their hands. Reg jotted down the names. He looked at the Commander and nodded.


    “Very well that is Reginald, Margo, Chen and Mireia for. Against.”


    Vincent, Keith and Sinclair raised their hands.


    “Vincent you cannot vote. That is Keith and Sinclair against. Let the record show that I abstained and Jessica was absent. The motion is carried. Sanctions will be decided at a later time. Please continue Margo.”


    Margo glared Vincent.


    “I do have some suspects, but again, it is an ongoing investigation.”


    “I think that about covers things. Are there any other pressing issues?”


    “There is one,” Reg said after several seconds of silence.


    “Oh what now?” Keith practically bellowed.


    Reg flinched. He reached down to a book bag at his feet and drew out a large hardcover book. Reg dropped the book on the table with a thud. He opened the book to a point in the middle and held up several pages.


    “Let the record show I am displaying the book Simplified Electronics and that pages 234 to 246 have been nearly torn out of it.”


    “Indeed,” Margo said. “Do you know who did it?”


    Reg glared at her. Margo rolled her eyes and glared at Vincent.


    “Oh come on. It was an accident.”


    “AN ACC-” Reg started.


    “ENOUGH. I will handle this,” the Commander said. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”


    Reg nodded and carefully closed the book before putting it away. Several council members were glaring at Vincent, who didn't seem to care.


    “Is there anything else?”


    No one said a thing.


    “Very well. We are adjourned until Wednesday. Dismissed.”


    The grumbling started immediately. Reg slumped in his seat. He shouldn't have said anything. Vincent passed by him on his way out.


    “You're history freak.”


    Reg choked back tears. Slowly people made their way out. Chen and Margo hung back.


    “Hang in there Reg. You did good,” Chen said, laying a comforting hand on Reg's shoulder.


    “I second that.”


    “I want him banned from the library,” Reg said.


    “I'll see what I can do, but I'm not guaranteeing anything,” Margo replied.


    Reg nodded. The Commander rarely punished Vincent to any severe degree. Soon Vincent would find another way to ruin Reg's life.


    “I'll come find you after I've spoken to the Commander,” Margo said before leaving.


    Chen followed her. Reg just sat around for a few seconds before tiredly stopping the recording.


    “Would you like any help gathering things up?” Garcon asked quietly.


    “No thank you.”


    “Okay,” Garcon said before clearing away the dishes.


    After Garcon had left Reg slowly gathered the recording gear and placed it in his book bag. The pain was slowly being replaced with the anger that always followed any interaction with Vincent. He switched out the light in the room as he left, his mood matching the gloom.

  9. #9
    Chapter 8: History

    Margo grumbled as she walked down the halls. Vincent was once again getting off basically scot-free. He'd been banned from the library for just three days. Like that would actually prevent him from behaving badly.


    Margo turned a corner and came upon the doors to the library. They were double fire doors with surprisingly fancy windows. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to design fire doors that were also aesthetically pleasing, and the government would actually buy. They were also push to open on both sides.


    Margo pushed open the doors, walked in, and took a deep breath. The wonderful smell of old books filled the air. Margo looked around, enjoying the smell.


    Rows upon rows of books filled the two story library. They were all sitting on wood shelves. Hanging off each end of the shelves were carved wood signs labelling that rows Dewey Decimal range. The only thing missing was a soft carpeted floor: the floors were straight concrete.


    On the left hand wall were a long series of windows and locked doors. Behind them she could barely make out a series of rooms with their lights off. From experience she knew that they housed metal shelves and tables for holding rare artifacts.


    On the floor above were more rooms, these ones without windows. These held the more light sensitive books and artifacts, not that the lack of windows meant anything underground. Yet more shelves covered the second floor.


    In the centre of the library a hole had been cut, creating a balcony on the second floor looking over the first. A small school had been set up there. The teacher, Mr. Lazlow, was in the middle of a lesson.


    Off to the right from the doors was a small desk, behind which Reginald was seating. Margo could hear the clattering of the keys of an old fashioned typewriter. As reg had once said, it didn't need power to type stuff out.


    Margo started to walk towards Reg, who immediately raised his left index finger. Margo stopped. Once again, it appeared Reg had eyes on the back of his head, or top in this case. Reg waved Margo over to a set of reading chairs that served as a waiting area beside the desk, still typing away, one-handed.


    “Just finishing up the transcript of the meeting,” Reg whispered as she neared. “I should be done in five to ten minutes.”


    “Okay,” Margo whispered back.


    Rather than sit and wait, Margo wandered over to the school section. They were just finishing up a math lesson. Mr Lazlow nodded to her as she approached. Several children of various ages were sitting at the school desks. There was also one adult male.


    “Okay everyone, please put your worksheets away and pick up your reading material.”


    There was a shuffling of papers and small slate tablets as the students prepared for the next lesson. There were a few snickers amongst a group of ten year olds. Margo had a hunch on what was about to happen.


    “Okay class, please turn to page 165,” Mr Lazlow said.


    There was more shuffling as pages were turned.


    “Wilson, please read the first paragraph.”


    A young man near the front stood up.


    “The Liard River haven was founded in approximately two thousand twenty by Library and Archives Canada. The exact date is not known. The purpose of the Secure Storage Site Project, as it was then known, was to serve as a back-up site to the Preservation Centre in Gaht-i-knee-oo?”


    “Gatineau,” Mr Lazlow corrected.


    “Gatineau, Quebec in the event of a national scale disaster such as a nuh-clear, oh nuclear, war. The raised national tensions of the late two thousand tens and early two thousand twenties had made this a distinct possibility.”


    “Very good. Parker, would you like to try?”


    The adult nodded sheepishly and rose.


    “This ought to be pathetic,” one of the ten year old boys at the back whispered.


    The adult flinched at the snide remark. Margo frowned.


    “Jamie, I'd like a word with you,” she said loudly.


    The entire back row jumped.


    “Busted,” a young girl whispered, before withering under a glare from Margo.


    “With your permission Mr Lazlow?” Margo asked.


    “Please,” he replied.


    “Jamie, come here.”


    The ten year old slowly got up and walked over to Margo, averting his gaze. Margo crouched down to be more his height. He still looked away.


    “Look at me.”


    Jamie carefully looked at Margo.


    “Have you ever been swimming Jamie?”


    “Uh,” he said clearly confused. “No ma'am.”


    “Do you know how to swim?”


    “No ma'am.”


    “Why not?”


    “We aren't allowed in the river, and the pool is empty.”


    “Right. Now imagine for a second that the pool was filled with water.”


    Jamie's eyes lit up a little at that.


    “Now imagine having to go swimming in the deep water.”


    Margo could see Jamie gulp.


    “Okay, now imagine a bunch of kids came up to you while you are standing next to the deep end and started teasing you about being unable to swim and called you pathetic. How would you feel.”


    “That's not fair. I don't know how to swim.”


    “Exactly. It's not fair. They know how to swim and you don't. You've never had a chance to learn. The same way you know how to read and Mr Campbell doesn't. He hasn't had a proper chance to learn either.”


    “Oh,” Jamie replied; miserable, and slowly understanding.


    “Back to your seat.”


    Jamie nodded and took his seat. None of the students in the back row looked happy. They were all hanging their heads. They had all seemed to pick up the message she had been trying to send.


    Margo had been preparing that conversation for a while. She stood up and looked at Mr Lazlow, who was smiling slightly. Mr Lazlow nodded to her. He then turned back to the class.


    “You ready Parker?” he asked.


    “I-I think so. Af-ter many months of s-searching and an-all-ee-sis, analysis, li-bra-r-ee, Library and Archives Canada nar-rowed down m-many po-pos-sible, possible, s-sites to just a few. They then begin the long en-vi-ron, environmental survey, and Fi-first Nuh-Nations con-consultation of each re-may-ning site. E-v-en-tu-all-y they ch-chose Liard River to be the site of the Se-cure Storage Site. Phhew.”


    “Very well down Parker. You're next Jamie.”


    “Yes sir. Construction began within a few years of the start of the Project. Though there were some protests regarding various aspects of the Project, most of the concerns were addressed during the initial phases of the planning. The addition of public benefits and a very open process seemed to have helped a lot.”


    “And the next one too Jamie.”


    “Yes sir. While the construction was initially started by civilian contractors, by the time construction was in full-swing the National Research Council had identified the Pandoravirus as an ex-is-ten-tial threat. The reaction of the government to this news was slow. Um, there is this number thirty two in square brackets.”


    “That is a footnote. It is inserted into texts to either provide a reference to information or for the author to clarify certain details, or provide opinion. You'll find the footnote at the bottom of the page in smaller text.”


    “As per the usual, the government ignored the NRC because the NRC wasn't telling them something they wanted to hear. As such, yet another opportunity to get ahead of the curve was missed. It's over, now what?”


    “Just keep reading the paragraph.”


    “However, after the first Mist, construction was handed over to the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers. Command of the facility was also handed over to the military. The exact group in command is not know at this time. Uh another footnote. It says see appendix 3.”


    “That is just a tracking of the date. We still do not know who was in command. Rachel, please read the next chapter.”


    Pages turned.


    “Under the command- wait chapter?”


    “Sorry, paragraph.”


    “Right. Under the command of the military the Secure Storage Site was changed from being just an archive for digital information about Canada and its history and a repository for artifacts, manuscripts, and artwork; to a global archive for all information. Footnote: it is not know what information and artifacts remain that are not in the public section of the haven. In furtherance of this goal the underground section dedicated to servers and artifact storage was expanded and a dedicated encampment was set up outside the haven. The increased size of the lower underground section was to include all the tools and materials necessary for long term survivablity of the encampment. The upper underground section as well as the outdoor area was for the day-to-day needs of the encampment. This outdoor area is the current Liard River Haven.”


    “Excellent. Phillip.”


    “Defence of the haven was to be pro-”


    Margo felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around and came face to face with Reg. He waved for her to follow him. He led the way over to one of the artifact rooms. He was carrying a folder and small square of plastic he referred to as an SD card.


    When they reached the door, Reg pulled a set of keys out from under his shirt. He chose one and put it in a large deadbolt lock. The lock clunked as he opened it. Reg pulled the door open and waved Margo in. Margo flipped on the lights as they entered. Once inside he pulled the door closed until the mechanism clicked.


    “Let me just put these away,” he said.


    Margo nodded as they walked to the back of the room. They were headed for the very last artifact table. Margo stopped in front of it while Reg walked behind it. Reg then crouched down to access the fireproof safes hidden from view and took the key chain from his neck. From experience Margo knew what was going to happen next: fiddle with keys, unlock safe, enter combination to safe, open safe, deposit paper transcript, close safe, remove keys, spin tumbler, try to open safe, fail to open safe, repeat with second safe for the electronic recording, return keys to neck before standing up.


    “Enjoying the history lesson?” Reg asked.


    “You did a good job on writing it, though I think it is a bit above their level.”


    “Eh,” Reg said, dismissing himself.


    Reg stood up. He looked straight at her, unnerving her slightly. Reg never looked at anyone directly.


    “Let's get this over with,” he said.


    “I don't-”


    “Ask me if I had anything to do with the sabotage.”


    “Oh, right. Okay, tell me you sabotaged the TAPV.”


    As Reg started, his eyes instinctively drifted away from hers. Margo had known Reg ever he'd arrived ten years ago, and knew him well enough to spot when he was about to lie, which he was. Also Reg was a terrible liar in general.


    “Oh don't bother, you've already blown it.”


    Reg stood there mouth open. He then laughed slightly.


    “For once not being able to lie or bluff has come in handy.”


    “Now that that is out of the way, here is the deal with what happened.”


    “Whoa, why are you telling me this?”


    “You may not be able to lie, but you can keep a secret.”


    “Oh. Well what if someone asks me about the sabotage?”


    “Say 'no comment.' They aren't going to know specific details. If they ask you about specific details I tell you, they know more than they should. Or Senja is talking to you privately.”


    Reg rolled his eyes.


    “The only people who know anything about this for sure are myself, Senja, Jessica, Cameron, the Commander, and, of course, the saboteur. In addition, Carl cannot be the saboteur, so you can talk to him as well.”


    “How do you know that?”


    “He was visiting one of the dependent havens when the sabotage occurred. The guys doing the supply run are also not the saboteur, unless they can be in two places at once. Now then, my real question: any idea how they did this?


    “The TAPV was under guard after its inspection prior to leaving the base. The mechanics calculated that the hole would have drained the tank in six hours. It broke down five hours from here; and for the two hours prior to heading out, it was in full view in the courtyard. No one entered it in such a ways as to access the tank. Any ideas?”


    Reg thought for a few minute.


    “Yes actually. If my side project to get into the Vault was working, it could have done it.”


    “But its not working, unless you haven't said anything?”


    “Its not. Though the toy the side project is based on could have easily done it.”


    “That's long gone though.”


    Reg nodded. He then tilted his head to the side.


    “Changing the subject slightly, did Vincent get banned from the library?”


    “Yes, for three days,” she replied, looking away from him.


    “You might wanted to tell him,” he said, pointing to the front of the room


    Margo turned. There was Vincent, ignoring what the Commander had told him just minutes earlier, reading a book. Margo swore under heard breath. She hard marched to the front of the room and opened the door.


    Vincent looked over and jumped slightly. He immediately turned and walked away quickly, trying to maintain his delusion of dignity. Margo lost sight of him amongst the shelves and then heard the doors open and close: he was gone.


    Margo walked back to the shelf Vincent had been at. Reg was holding the book Vincent had dropped.


    “Young Fizzicist: Physics Experiments You Can do at Home. Why would he be reading this?” Reg asked.


    Margo look at the book. The cover had a generic pop bottle on the cover spraying brown soda everywhere: the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment. That was a fun one. Too bad the ingredients no longer existed.


    “Go through it and note down anything you think he might have been looking for,” she grumbled.


    “Look on the bright side,” Re replied, smiling maliciously. “You get to throw him in jail now.”


    Margo looked at him and smiled.


    “Good point. And if I cannot find him in a few minutes, I might just organize a man-hunt.”


    Reg waved goodbye before heading back to turn off the lights in the artifact room, carrying the book with him. Margo rubbed her hands together. Maybe today wouldn't be a complete disaster.

  10. #10
    Chapter 9: Supply Run

    Fred tested the tension on the tie down straps he was working on; still loose. He cranked on the ratchet a few more times and tested the straps again. Satisfied, he hopped down from the load bed and looked around.


    In front of him was a tractor-trailer weighed down with material scavenged from the abandoned haven they were in, formerly known as the city of Whitehorse. They had found a few special things this time. The big prize though of the item he'd just finished securing to the load bed. The only reason there was enough space is most of the supplies had been dropped off already. How someone else hadn't claimed it, he wasn't sure.


    Further down the road were a pair of fuel tankers, used to transport the ethanol and bio-diesel made at the haven to the dependent havens. The trailer the prize was on had previous carried food and other supplies for the dependent havens as well. It was the usual run: fuel and supplies to the dependent havens, then some scavenging in Whitehorse. They were made at the very least, twice a month.


    “You have got to be kidding me,” a voice behind him said.


    “I know, right?” Fred replied.


    The leader of the field walked up beside him and just stood there, mouth open. Fred didn't often see Howard speechless.


    “Is that thing really there?” Howard asked.


    “You better believe it is.”


    “Who'd leave something like that behind?”


    “Someone who didn't have a choice. Marcel and his group are currently collecting spent casings. There was a hell of a fire fight here.”


    “You aren't kidding. Sarah's team is finding them as well. We aren't going to be lacking for brass for a while.”


    “Wonder what happened to them though. There are no bodies, and there is no blood anywhere. Not to mention the lack of dropped weapons. It's like everyone just vanished.”


    “And left all their toys behind.”


    “Toys, plural?”


    Howard nodded. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.


    “Will found a toy. He might even be able to use it, assuming he can get it running.”


    “Really?” Fred asked, very intrigued.


    Howard nodded again.


    “Unfortunately, he has also named it.”


    Fred hung his head and sighed.


    “How bad is it?” he asked, afraid of the answer.


    “He named it Hugh.”


    Fred just groaned. Howard shock his head and looked over Fed's find. It appeared to be in very good condition for being about thirty years old.


    “Think it'll run?” Howard asked, waving at the find.


    “That'll be a question for the mechanics.”


    “What about that?” Howard asked pointing further up.


    “That will require a bit of investigation.”


    “You named it yet?”


    “You're joking right?”


    “If you don't, Will will.”


    “Good point.”


    Fred thought for a minute. He then turned to Howard.


    “You were infantry, you make a suggestion.”


    “Nuh-uh, your find, your naming. I just reserve the right to reject it.”


    “Fine. Puma.”


    “Taken.”


    “By what?”


    “An entire class of vehicles.”


    “Oh. Um, Wildcat?”


    “Again, taken.”


    “Panther?”


    “Taken. Most cats are.”


    “Coyote?”


    “Taken.”


    “Timber wolf.”


    “Taken, by the smaller guns the snipers use.”


    “Oh, right. Buffalo? No. Bison?”


    “Both taken.”


    “Honey Badger.”


    “Are we in South Africa? Also taken.”


    “Argh. Grizzly?”


    “Taken.”


    “Kodiak?”


    “Taken. In fact-”


    “Are you kidding me?”


    Both Fred and Howard turned. Another soldier was standing there, mouth open.


    “That's what I said.”


    “Can we help you Will?” Fred asked.


    “We are ready to head out. We've loaded what we can for this trip.”


    “Excellent. Just make sure the square rigging is covering everything,” Howard replied.


    “What about Fluffy?” Fred asked.


    “Better, but not quite right.”


    “Huh?” Will asked.


    Fred ignored him.


    “Cuddles?”


    “Are you naming that thing? If so Cuddles is a dumb name,” Will interjected.


    “Perfect, Cuddles it is,” Howard replied.


    Will muttered and walked off. Fred looked at Howard who was smiling.


    “You did that on purpose.”


    “Only because it fits. The irony of calling something like that Cuddles is just too perfect.”


    Fred nodded. He walked over to the load bed and pulled square tube steel lengths off of it and stood them up it special slots welded to the bed. Howard slung his rifle over his shoulder and assisted him. Within a few minutes the entire length of the trailer had steel tubes sticking up at regular intervals. They then hung cloth from the tubes, protecting everything on the trailer from both the weather and from vision.


    “Right, let's gather everyone and head back. Even if they haven't found everything they were looking for, the toys are reason enough to call the trip short.”


    “Copy that.”

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