Part 6: Tomesha
"When the earth shakes at the coming of the new world do not be afraid. It will not hurt you.
- Wovoca, 1890
"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."
- Louis L'Amour
The earth speaks softly to the mountain,
And lights the sky.
-author of a traditional Japanese haiku
Charlie watched the exchange with composed interest. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together and they had to prepare. The teachings of their ancestors had foretold this event long ago. While he was certain the players had no idea of their roles, he was equally certain they would fulfill them without question. Things would begin to happen rapidly now. It was time to reveal the truth.
"Lou. Once Sloan and Tom are finished with their reunion, arrange for a meeting tomorrow morning. Make sure the man with Tom understands he's to come too, he is also very important."
Lou looked at his grandfather, "OK. Do you want the rest of Sloan's group there as well?"
"The others should be there, yes. I will speak with the rest of the elders." Charlie replied.
"Do you think he's the one?" Lou asked.
"I'm not sure yet which of them it is, but I feel certain it's one of them." Charlie answered before turning to walk away.
Sloan clutched Tom to her like she was afraid to let go, as though she feared if she released him, he'd disappear before her eyes.
"Shhh," Tom whispered to her as he stroked her hair. "Sloan, it's all right. Please... don't cry.
"Oh God Tom!" Sloan choked through her sobbing. "I can't believe you're standing here. Where did they take you? How did you get away? How did you find me?"
Tom looked at her tear stained face with a gentle smile, "I'll tell you all about it later. All that matters to me right now is that I found you."
Sloan wiped her eyes trying to regain her composure, "Ed and Ray are here. They are going to be so happy to see you. There're others here with us that I want you to meet."
Tom released her and walked toward his bike. He dug in his saddlebags, pulling out the book and handed it to her, "This belongs to you, it's how I found you."
Sloan looked at the book as she took it from him, "My journal!" She rubbed the cover absently, refusing to look up and meet Tom's eyes. "So you read it? Then you know about Walter?"
Tom nodded and responded quietly, "Yes, I read it... I know."
Sloan glanced at him with renewed sadness in her eyes, "That's what this ceremony is for. It happened 3 months ago today."
Sensing her sorrow, he decided a change of subject would be a good idea, "I want you to meet someone. This is James." Turning to the other man, "James, this Sloan."
James had been leaning on the handlebars observing. He reached up and removed his sunglasses before he spoke, "Well that much I'd figured out for myself." He smiled as he reached out to shake her hand. Sensing her emotional turmoil, he decided to keep his response lighthearted, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you. Maybe he can talk about something besides you now."
Seeing the genuine smile he got along with his handshake he continued, "He's a little single-minded where you're concerned, tends to make conversation limited."
Sloan laughed at that, "It's good to meet you too. Why don't you both come on up and join the rest of us so you can meet the others."
Nodding their acceptance, the men began pushing their bikes as they followed her. Tom quirked an eyebrow at James, "Single-minded?"
James fought to keep from smiling, "umm hmm, very."
Ed's large grin portrayed his feelings before he even spoke, "Tom! Man it's good to see you again!" He reached out and vigorously shook his hand, slapping him on the back with his other.
As the men talked, Sloan looked down and noticed Mari had a hold on Ed's belt. She looked up at her in amusement and Mari replied, "It makes a good leash."
Ray and the others came forward to welcome Tom back and introductions began. David stood back and watched. He sensed Lou's approach; sensed Lou was concerned about how he'd handle Tom's return.
"I told you there's nothing to worry about," David said as he turned to face Lou.
Lou studied him briefly before he spoke, "I know that's what you said, but I can't sense your feelings as your kind can ours. But from what I see in your eyes, I see it was the truth."
David turned back to watch the others, "Sloan has been so lost without him, she's been hurting a long time now. She tries to hide it, but she can't hide it from me. She has her soul back now."
Lou nodded his agreement as he too watched the others, "What is it like? To know what others are feeling."
David shrugged his shoulders, "It's hard to explain. It's like submerging yourself in a pool of water. The water rushes over your skin and you know it's outside your body. But at the same time, you feel like you are a part of it or like it's a part of you. The emotions of others — you feel them as if they're your own, but you also know they are outside of you. As very young children, we are taught how to suppress our emotions so we can differentiate between what is our own and what belongs to others.
"Submerged in other's emotions. That must be an odd sensation." Lou acknowledged. "What do you say we join the group and meet the new arrivals? I for one am curious to hear their story."
David agreed as the two men moved to join the growing crowd.
Tom shifted, putting his arm behind his head, as he stared at the ceiling and thought about the day's events. Sloan let out a soft moan as she exhaled and snuggled in closer to his side.
He instinctively tightened his arm around her, enjoying her warmth and the sense of being close to her. The peace he'd felt from their earlier lovemaking was disturbed by his certainty that the worst of this was not over. While she and the others in the house slept, he continued to turn over in his mind the words and feelings he'd gotten from the old man and Lou.
Finally, deciding attempts at sleep were futile, he quietly eased away from Sloan and got out of bed. He silently dressed and slipped out of the room. Knowing his distress would not end till he had answers, he decided to take a walk and find the old man.
Charlie sat on his porch, gently rocking in his chair and enjoying the cool desert night air. As he sipped his coffee, he spied the dark figure walking down the street towards his house. Smiling to himself, he wasn't surprised to see him. He'd figured the man would seek him out before the meeting tomorrow.
As Tom approached the house, he sensed the old man's presence and raised his head in surprise. His eyes met Charlie's and he read the keen intelligence behind the dark gaze. He was suddenly taken with a sense of 'coming home' as he climbed the porch steps.
Charlie broke the silence first as he continued to hold Tom's stare, "I've been expecting you. Take a seat."
Tom paused for a moment before dropping into the chair next to his. "I was compelled to come here, for reasons I'm not sure I even understand myself."
Nodding his head, Charlie handed Tom a cup of coffee, "Perhaps it is better this way, our speaking before the meeting tomorrow. I have much to tell you. For now, I want you to just listen. You can ask all your questions when I'm done."
Tom sensed the urgency in Charlie to get his message across, so he remained silent and waited for whatever the old man was about to reveal.
Charlie took a deep breath and began his tale...
"My people descended from an ancient race. It is said that 'We emerged from the underworld through a sacred aperture and then migrated in all directions'. As has always been our tradition, legends have been handed down from the elders, generation after generation. There is one legend, from the time before our people scattered, which speaks of a great destruction coming. It speaks of a battle against other people in these lands ... the descendents of 'those that possessed the first light of wisdom'. "
"During this time, a blue star will appear in the heavens. That will be the sign that the end of this world is near. 'This is also the time when the Lost White Brother will emerge. He'll be known by the symbols of the Blue Star and the missing piece of the sacred tablet he will carry with him.
He will bring with him two helpers. One of them will carry the masculine symbol of purity and the sign of the sun. The second will have the feminine sign representing life blood.'"
"When the blue star falls from the sky, a red star will appear. This is The Purifier, which brings with it the Day of Purification. 'The world shall rock to and fro, much of the Earth will be destroyed.' Only those living at the Earth's Center according to the ancient ways will survive. According to the legend, the Lost White Brother and his helpers will show us the way."
Finished with his account of the ancient tale, Charlie waited for Tom's response.
Tom contemplated what he'd heard and what he felt from the old man before he spoke. "I feel you believe we, the Dominants, are these descendents you speak of."
Charlie nodded his head briefly in answer.
"You also believe I am one of these three key figures?"
"I'm certain of it."
Tom carefully sat his coffee mug down on the table between them. Bending over to rest his arms on his thighs, he absently rubbed one hand with the other. Turning his head to look at Charlie, he began his own tale. He told the old man about his discovery of the Project Starchild files and the fact that the Dominants had been engineered. He also relayed what he knew of the approaching Kewley's Comet and it's role in their history. Finally, he told Charlie about the mysterious pillar they'd found in Oaxaca.
"There's one more thing you should know," Tom added. "I have a tattoo on my shoulder. It was what we used to unlock the information in the Pillar about Kewley's Comet."
"Tom, from everything you've told me, I have to believe this comet is The Blue Star. And ... that YOU are the Lost White Brother spoke of in our legends. The pillar must have been the missing piece of the sacred tablet."
"James told me there are others among our people that also wear tattoos, they were keys to the pillar."
"Does James have a tattoo as well?"
"I don't know."
"Perhaps you should ask him."
The comet continued on its journey as it had for thousands of years, streaking along its determined path through the vacuum of interstellar space toward the sun. As it got closer to its destination, the frozen methane and ammonia and hydrogen that formed its coma began to melt. The boiling maelstrom of vaporized gases mixed with the rock and dust of its nucleus, forming a tail that lengthened as it got closer to the heat of the bright burning star. The tail trailed behind the comet, catching and reflecting light, giving off a brilliant glow.
On this trip through the galaxy, the comet would have company. The Companion was older than the comet, older than the sun it sped toward. The Companion existed long before this galaxy was formed. Its course took it far beyond the reaches of the known universe. It took millions of years for it to complete one pass around its elliptical orbit. It had been twenty-six million years since it had seen this galaxy. Because of its unusual path, the Companion was virtually unknown to the inhabitants of Earth. Its existence had been hinted at by past civilizations of course, stories had been handed down through the years. But the modern day people of Earth dismissed the old tales. However, soon, they'd believe. They'd believe as all the people before them had believed, right before the dawning of each new era.
Sloan and Ed were just sitting down to breakfast when Tom walked in the backdoor. He went to the coffee pot on the stove and poured himself a cup. Sloan studied him as he turned around, stirring his brew with a spoon.
He looked tired — not just from an obvious lack of sleep, but mentally and physically exhausted.
There were lines around his eyes and mouth now that hadn't been there before. As she marveled again over how long his hair had grown, she noticed the unmistakable glint of a few silver strands mixed in with the rich brown.
Sensing her scrutiny, he glanced up at her. She tried to cover her concern with a smile but it didn't fool Tom. His eyes softened as he walked over to the table and sat down next to her.
"I suppose you're wondering where I was all night?"
"Among other things..."
Ed stopped eating, fork halfway to his mouth, and looked at each of them in turn, "Umm, do you two want me to leave?"
"No Ed, you really need to hear this too." Tom replied rubbing the back of his neck. "Last night, I couldn't sleep. So I took a walk and went to meet Charlie. We talked most of the night."
Sloan reached out and took his free hand in a gesture of support, "About the meeting today?"
"That was part of it, yes. Before we go to that meeting, there are some things I need to tell you — to tell you both — that are going to come up with the group. I want you both to hear this from me first."
Ed put his fork down and pushed his plate away, "Oh man, why do I get the feeling this isn't gonna be good."
Sloan shot Ed a quelling look before prompting Tom to continue, "Is this about when you were held prisoner?"
"No, this is about what I found out after we escaped. We found files at the facility where we were held about a secret government experiment called Project Starchild. It was started in 1947. It was a genetic experiment on forty scientists who volunteered to have their DNA altered. The goal was to create a human being that would survive, according to James, Kewley's Comet. The government ordered the project terminated in 1964 and tried to eliminate all of us by destroying the underground facility in Oaxaca where the scientists were hidden."
Ed ran his hands through his hair causing it to stand straight up, "Wow! So the Dominants were engineered for survival. God! That makes so much sense coupled with everything we know about them! But wait a minute ... you said this was started in 1947? That's not possible, we didn't have that kind of technology in 1947. I wish we knew more about who and what was involved..."
"I don't have any more information about what was involved." Tom said as he pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and handed it to Ed, "But I have a list of the names of the scientists that volunteered."
Ed was so excited, his hands shaking so badly, he was barely able to open the document. As he scanned the list, his eyebrows inched higher and higher into his hairline. "Von Braun, Blome, Ambros, Becker, Ruff, Gelli ... Jesus!"
He looked up with amazement written all over his face, "Tom, where did you say you were held again?"
"We were somewhere within the Nevada Test Site and Nellis complex."
"Holy shit! Ed shrieked, jumping up from the table in a rush knocking his chair over in the process. "Do you know who these guys were!"
Tom looked at Sloan in question and saw she was just as surprised as he. Turning back to Ed he shook his head.
Ed was pacing in circles, unable to contain his excitement. He waved the paper wildly over his head, "These guys were part of the team of German scientists that the US Government secretly brought into the country! They had worked for the Nazis and the U.S. had to cover-up their involvement to get them over here!"
Sloan barked out laughing. "Ed, get serious! I'm surprised at you, I never took you for conspiracy nut."
Ed righted his chair and quickly sat back down at the table. "It's always been a morbid fascination of mine, not that I truly believed it. But now ... I wonder. How else would you explain DNA altering in the 40's? Or the Dominant's abilities?"
Tom carefully hid his amusement as Sloan looked back at him. After she managed to control her giggles, she asked, "Tom, where does the comet come into all this. I still don't understand that."
"According to James, Kewley's Comet passed close to the Earth in 1940. Scientists predicted that the next time, in 1964, it would cause destruction of global proportions. We were meant to be able to survive, so the human race would not become extinct. The government decided they didn't need us anymore when that didn't happen."
"How does James fit into all this? How does he know so much about it?"
"James is one of the original offspring. He was born in Oaxaca."
"Are you telling me Oaxaca was a breeding facility!"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you."
"That's disgusting!" Sloan exclaimed, screwing her face up in shock and distaste. "The government experimented on humans, created you, bred you, and then tried to destroy you. No wonder your people are so angry."
"Sloan, there's something else..." Tom said turning in his chair to look at her directly. "The prediction about Kewley's Comet — they were off by a few years."
"I don't understand... "
"They had the date wrong. It wasn't 1964, it's 1998. That's what this meeting is about today. Charlie's legend, it talks about the comet and what is going to happen. Today we are going to come up with a plan on how we are going to survive."
The meeting was going well. All the information about the comet had been conveyed to the entire group as well as the true origin of the Dominants. Charlie was just concluding the reiteration of the full context of the legend...
"... the last thing I need to tell you all is that we have determined who the Lost White Brother is. Tom tells me he wears a tattoo that marks him as a 'key' the your lost pillar. He says this 'key' was used to reveal the nature of the comet. Because he carries the direct link to the comet and the pillar, we believe him to be the Lost White Brother."
"He also says that he was told this key labels him as 'Chosen' and there are others among you that have such tattoos. James, I understand you are the one that told him this."
"We must also find out who the two helpers are. The people we seek will also have tattoos. One will be the sign of the sun, the other will be the sign of life blood. James, are you also 'Chosen'?"
James rose and swiftly removed his shirt in answer. Turning to the group, he showed them he also had a tattoo — an ornate sun that contained a swastika in the same dot type pattern as Tom's.
"This proves you to be one of the people we seek." Charlie nodded in approval. Looking to the rest of the group, "Do any of the rest of you have a tattoo?"
Mari spoke up, mirth dancing in her eyes, "Well, I have one but it doesn't look anything like theirs. I know where mine came from and it sure ain't on my shoulder."
Charlie laughed, Mari's meaning clear, "I won't ask you if we can see it then." Turning back to James, he continued. "I feel certain the other helper is either in this group in the mountains or someone we will meet soon. The symbol will look much like a cross and it will have red lines between the arms. You should watch for it in your travels."
"I will." James replied pulling his shirt back on. "I think Dennis and I should leave tonight. While we still have a month and a half till Kewley's appearance, we still have to get the group from there to wherever we are going."
"Agreed. While you're gone, we'll see if we can locate some vehicles that will run." Tom stated.
"Didn't you say the trucks you stole were military?" Lou asked. "There's an Army Guard base not far from here. It would be deserted but they would have trucks."
"Good idea." Tom agreed. "We should also probably gather supplies to take with us. We don't know what we'll find where we are going." Turning to Charlie he added, "You haven't told us yet where we are headed."
"We are going to the Earth's Center ... you would know it as Four Corners."
Bill and Sonny were sitting at the campfire when they heard the distant rumble of the Harley's. Standing, Sonny grabbed his rifle and sent Scott to get Sheila and Jake. The bikes pulled into the campgrounds just as the others raced into the clearing.
Shelia recognized James immediately and relaxed her stance, propping the butt of the rifle on her hip with the barrel in the air. James dropped the kickstand on his bike as he reached over and shut off the engine. When he looked up and saw Shelia, he flashed her a dazzling smile as he removed his sunglasses.
"Hi sweetheart, I'm back."
"So I noticed."
"Did you miss me?"
James chuckled as he turned to look at the others who'd also dropped their weapons when they'd recognized him. Dennis sat quietly nearby using his senses to feel out the group.
"Welcome back." Sonny offered. "Where's Tom? Did you guys find Sloan?"
James got off the bike and walked toward the campfire as he spoke, "Yes, we found Sloan. Tom stayed behind with her and her group."
He sat down on a log with a groan, resting his arms across his thighs. He squinted up at the others as Dennis joined the circle. "This is Dennis. He's from Sloan's group."
Dennis silently sat down and waiting for James to continue. " We came to collect you all and take you back with us."
The others joined the two men around the campfire, except for Shelia. She remained standing where she was, still holding her weapon.
James turned to her, "Aren't you going to sit down?"
"I don't want to catch anything."
"Are you inferring I have something contagious?"
"Not as in a disease, no. I was thinking more along the lines of a parasite — like fleas."
James' eyebrows rose, "I don't have fleas."
Shelia tilted her head to the side as she regarded him. "Really? That would be unusual. Most dogs do."
Sonny spit his coffee into the fire as he choked and coughed through his laughter. Jake pounded on Sonny's back as he too laughed, shaking his head. Even the stoic Dennis smiled at the exchange between the two adversaries.
James frowned, staring back at the redheaded spitfire. When he opened his mouth to respond, Nick cut him off, "Son, if I were you, I'd quit now while you're ahead. She ain't gonna give an inch and she has you just a mite outclassed at this point. This is the time for what we called in the military, a 'strategic retreat'."
James was exhausted by the time he'd conveyed all the information to the others about the legend and the coming journey. It was going to be a long trip. Five hundred miles to the reservation, then another seven hundred till they got to Four Corners. He'd be glad when it was over.
Everyone else had long since retired for the night, but he was restless. There were too many things to do and not enough time to get them done. Not to mention the danger it all presented to the rest of the group. Deciding a soak in the nearby hot springs would relax him, he grabbed his towel and left the tent.
Just as he reached the edge of the springs, he sensed someone was already there. Dropping to a crouch, using the brush as cover, he cautiously peered through the leaves at the water trying to locate the other person.
Moonlight reflected off the pool, the bubbles from beneath causing the light to ripple. Steam rose off the water in invitation. It took him a minute but he finally spotted her. It was Sheila. She was at the far end, her arms cradling her head on the rocks. Her eyes were closed and her lips curved in contentment, she appeared to be sleeping.
Smiling to himself, he quickly stripped and silently entered the water. He carefully made his way over to her, settling on a spot a few feet away. Propping his arms on the rocks behind him, he looked up at the sky.
"It is a beautiful night isn't it." he said, smirking as he saw her jump slightly from the corner of his eye.
She lifted her head and glared at him, "You don't take a hint do you? Has anyone ever told you it's dangerous to sneak up on a Chameleon like that? It can get you killed. And how did you manage to do that anyway? I should have sensed you."
James smiled at her obvious discomfort, "I've had a little training of my own sweetheart."
She snarled at him, her raising ire showing clearly on her face, "Look, my name is Sheila. If you must address me, call me by my name. If you call me 'sweetheart' one more time, I WILL kill you in your sleep."
"Alright ... Sheila. Why is it you hate me so much? I've never done anything to you."
Sheila wiped her wet hair back from her face as she turned to face him, sinking deeper into the water. "It's simple. You. Are. A. Man. Although, I guess you really can't help that."
"So do you hate all men or just me in particular?"
"I don't hate men, per say. I just don't trust them as far as I can throw them."
"Fair enough. How about we call a truce? We have to get this group of people to Washoe and then on to Four Corners. I'd prefer to have you working with me rather than against me."
"A truce huh? I'll agree to a temporary cease fire but that's as far as I'm going."
James nodded his head, "That'll be fine with me for a start. Maybe after some time, you'll find out I'm trustworthy."
"I doubt that." Shelia smirked, turning her back to him and grabbing her towel. "So... Since we have a 'cease fire' here, what do you really think about this whole business of this trip and this legend? You really believe it?"
James' breath caught in his throat as his eye caught the elaborate tattoo on her back. Forgetting himself, he quickly swept over to her and grabbed her shoulder. "Son of a bitch!"
Sheila shrieked and tried to fight him off but his grip was like iron, "What the hell are you doing?"
"This tattoo... on your back. It looks like a cross." he remarked sternly, tracing the design with his finger. "Are these lines red?"
"What the fuck is the matter with you?" she asked craning her head around to look at him.
"Answer me!" he barked. "Is this a cross? Are these lines red?"
"Yes! Okay? It's a cross. And yes they are red!"
He turned her to face him and searched her eyes, "You're the other one."
Sheila quickly covered her front with the towel. She was looking at him like he had lost his mind. "The other one? The other what?"
"Charlie told us the legend says the Lost Brother will have two helpers. One will have a cross with red lines. The other will have a sun."
"Is that so?" she replied snidely. "So who has the sun?"
James released her and turned his back for her inspection. Sheila didn't have to look closer to see his tattoo. "Shit. Well isn't this just perfect."
James turned back around before speaking, "You asked if I believe all this? Any doubts I'd previously had just went right out the window."
"Whoa! Look at that." Sheila pointed toward the sky.
James looked up and saw dozens of flashes of red and green streaking across the black sky.
"Are those shooting stars? I've never seen them in red or green before." Sheila asked.
"In more innocent times, I would have said yes." James answered. "Now, I would call it an preview to the coming show."
The comet was closer to the blue orb now. Caught in the gravity of the sun, it was pulled helplessly toward the fiery globe. The chemicals in its coma were vaporizing in frenzied fury with the friction and increasing heat. CO2 hissed from the crevices and mixed with the other gases, swept along behind the nucleus. On the surface, geysers erupted ... vents of steam and gas, shooting dust and particles into the vacuum above. Larger portions of rock were beginning to break away in the increasing force between the sun and the Companion.
The Companion was unaffected by the increasing pull from the celestial body, it's frigid surface marred still with ice and pumice. The mass of the Companion was having an effect on the sun however. A closer look at the fiery star showed eruptions on the surface were increasing in violence. The solar flares danced higher and higher above the surface — the explosions within its core becoming more forceful. The tug of war between the sun and the Companion had just begun, with the comet caught in the middle and the blue planet as a spectator.
Sloan came up behind Tom as he sat at the picnic table. She slipped her arms around his neck, handing him the card she had bought a lifetime ago.
He took the card with one hand and grasped her arm with the other. Looking up into her face he asked, "What's this?"
"I bought that for you a long time ago but this is the first chance I've had to give it to you."
Opening the gift, he began to read the verse aloud...
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, shivering from fright
Feeling empty, feeling nothing because
I think about how it would be if you weren't here...
He stopped, unable to keep going. Dipping his head slightly he cleared the sudden constriction in his throat. He pulled Sloan around to sit next to him and looked into her eyes. "I've been here — I DO know how this feels. When I was imprisoned, I woke up in the middle of the night ... in fear, feeling empty. Not because I'd lost my freedom, but because I thought I'd lost you."
Releasing her, he ran his hand down his face and sighed before continuing, "I had no idea if you had also been captured — or killed. All I could think about was you. I was so worried about what had happened to you. Then, when I escaped and found out about the war, I just ... I was lost without you. You are my heart ... my life. I love you Sloan. I truly, truly love you.
Sloan couldn't stop the silent tears running down her face. Choking on her sobs, she threw her arms around his neck, "I love you too Tom."
The cease-fire between Sheila and James had held — so far. The camp of nearly six hundred was packed, the trucks lined up on the dirt road pointed in the direction of the highway. Everyone was loaded and ready to go. The drivers and leaders stood to the side coordinating their final plans for the long road trip.
"Okay, we'll stop at the station at the on ramp to route 395 and fill up, they have diesel there." James commanded looking at the drivers. "Don't forget to fill up the extras tanks stored in the back in case we need it. Jake and Dennis will take the point on two of the bikes. Scott and I will cover the rear of the convoy."
"Why don't you let me take the last bike?" Sheila asked. "This could get dangerous. You may need my skills in a fire fight."
James shook his head, "No, I want you in the rear of the last truck. If we run into trouble you can surprise them because they won't be expecting it."
Not happy about it but understanding the strategy, Sheila agreed.
"Sonny? You got that mini canon of yours locked and loaded?" James called over to the big man getting into the lead vehicle.
Sonny raised his weapon above his head, "She goes where I go."
"Ok." James said as he mounted his scooter. "Let's get this show on the road."
The drivers all climbed into their trucks, engines started with loud rumbles and air brakes hissed as the caravan began their journey to Washoe.
"Well ... I don't know 'bout you Sonny, but I'll be damn glad when this trip is over," Nick grumbled, shifting gears. "My damn knee is 'bout to give out and my back is killin' me. I think I'm gettin' old my friend."
"Ah hell Nick, stop bitchin'. You got plenty of mileage left in ya." Sonny replied.
"Well I ain't sayin' I'm ready to bite the farm damnit. I'm just sayin' I don't care much for all this excitement. I'm getting' too old for this shit."
"What the fuck!"
"Son of a bitch Nick! Somebody's shootin' at us!"
Nick slammed on the brakes. Tires screaming, he downshifted for all he was worth. He gripped the big steering wheel hard to keep from losing control of the truck. Behind them, the others were rapidly following suit, not only to avoid ramming him, but having heard the shots themselves. Screams and gasps came from under the canvas covers from people having been thrown suddenly to the floor. Sonny grabbed his weapon and hung out the window trying to get a target in sight to shoot at. Up ahead he saw the scene unfold as if in slow motion.
Another shot came from the surrounding brush, hitting Jake square in the chest. The man flew backwards off the bike, his back exploding outwards in a spray of blood and bits of flesh that covered the windshield. His body landed momentarily on the hood of the truck before rolling off to the pavement below. The riderless bike went down hard, twisting and tumbling, sending up a shower of sparks in its wake. Nick swerved to avoid hitting the twisted heap of metal, causing two wheels to briefly leave the ground.
Sonny still didn't have a visual but he fired the M60 anyway in the direction the shot had come from. "Jesus! Jesus! That was Jake!" he screamed, wiping has face to remove the splatters of blood he'd caught.
Dennis, who'd been riding shotgun, went for the dirt as soon as the spray of blood had hit him. He laid the bike down in a cloud of dirt, rolling away and heading for the brush. He had his rifle to his shoulder before he even stopped moving.
In the rear, James detoured off the highway heading for higher ground with Scott on his tail. He stopped in the trees, quickly dropping his bike. Scott slid to a stop next to him and James whispered instructions, "You know where we're goin', we aren't that far away. You ride like hell and get to Tom. Tell him what's goin' down. OK?"
Scott nodded his understanding and raced like the wind through the trees to avoid being seen.
Sheila jumped from the back of the truck she was in before it even stopped moving. She ran in a crouch for the tree line and hastily searched for one she could quickly climb.
Soldiers began swarming out of the surrounding brush, heading for the long line of military trucks stopped in the middle of the highway. While the camp had their share of weapons and fighters, they were greatly outnumbered.
Tom jumped quickly from the picnic table when he heard someone screaming his name. Running to the front of the house, he reached the street as Lou, Ray, Ed, and David were coming off the porch. Scott screeched to a skidding stop and breathlessly shouted out what was happening back on the highway.
Ray ran into the house to get his weapon with the others close behind. Lou raced back out the door to gather other members of the tribe while the Dominants began loading their rifles. When Ed started to grab a gun, Tom stopped him, "You stay here and start setting up a triage. I'm sure before this is over, there'll be wounded." Ed gave him a grateful look and ran upstairs with renewed purpose.
The group gathered in front of Lou's house, about thirty in all. Some carried rifles while others held crossbows. They took out across the desert on horses and motorcycles, opting for a more silent approach.
The sounds of gunfire and screams told them when they were near. They moved in through the trees, using the tall ones as cover. Bodies lay sprawled on the pavement before them, twisted in unnatural poses. The coppery smell of blood and the scent of sulfur from gunpowder hung in the air.
Tom sensed James further down the tree line and crawled in his direction while the others took up stations that gave them the best advantage. Their firepower added to those of the caravan was turning the tide in their favor.
"What the hell happened?" Tom asked James as they both lay on their bellies amid the brush.
"I don't know exactly." James responded, aiming at an advancing soldier and taking his shot. "They came out of nowhere and surprised us."
"Are they Dominant or human?"
"Well Tom, I been a little too busy to go ask them."
"Where's Sheila and Dennis?"
"Sheila shimmied up one of those trees. Dennis was on point when they hit. He went for cover in the brush on the other side of the road."
Suddenly the enemy shooting stopped. One of the soldiers yelled across the road, throwing out his weapon in surrender. He stood from his hiding spot and walked out onto the pavement with his hands on his head. The remaining soldiers followed his lead, discarding their guns and coming out of the brush. Five young men stood in defeat; none of them appeared to be older then nineteen at the most.
Tom and James cautiously stepped out from their cover. Weapons at the ready, they approached the group. "Who are you?" Tom asked sternly. "Why would you attack families?"
"We were following orders sir," the spokesman of the group said, his voice cracking.
"The orders came from the President himself sir."
The young man looked down at his feet and continued softly, "We didn't know this convoy was a bunch of families. We were told it was the Dominant army."
"There is no more army, Dominant or otherwise." Tom said. "The war is over, the world as we knew it is gone. All that's left are people trying to survive. Son, you and your friends have a choice. You can become survivors or you can die."
The young man looked up sharply at that last statement. Tom continued, "What your leaders probably didn't tell you is there's a comet heading our way. It will wipe out what is left of civilization. You can come with us and live or you can stay here and die. Which is it going to be?"
The young man looked at his friends in silent appeal, and then back to Tom, "We'd like to live sir."
They buried the dead in the desert, over fifty in all. They'd found Dennis shot in the back in the brush where he'd hidden. Jake, John, Mark, and many others joined him in a shallow grave.
The final ride to the reservation was a solemn one, people lost in their grief and feelings of uncertainty. The young soldiers chose to stay isolated from the others during the trip. They were all clearly shaken over the realization that their orders had been flawed, one even wept silently.
Ed and Sloan met the convoy and immediately began the job of treating the injured. Charlie took charge of getting the families settled in the park, recruiting the assistance of the soldiers in pitching tents and hauling belongings. He felt it would serve as a way for them to begin making amends.
They dug an open fire pit in the center, lining it with rocks and sand. By nightfall, a large fire crackled in the center of the camp. The Elders and the adults sat around the warmth, sharing a meal of chicken roasted on spits over the coals.
Charlie was the first to speak of the final plans they needed to make. "I think we should probably wait a week or so before we pack up and head out. The injured need time to heal; the others need time to deal with their loss. Tomorrow we will hold a ceremony to aid the dead in their journey to the other side." The Elders nodded their heads in approval.
"Charlie, the injured are going to need more than a week to heal." Ed said.
Charlie looked out over the horizon, into the night sky as he considered Ed's words. "We can wait no longer."
"Why? Surely two weeks still gives us plenty of time to get to Four Corners."
Charlie pointed in the direction of the mountains, "There is your answer Ed."
Dancing atop the distant dark peaks was an Aurora Borealis — a spectacular show of green, blue, purple and red. Shooting stars of red, green and orange streaked through the sky, disappearing behind the mountains. And hovering in the sky above it all was a bright, blue star.
The strain on the comet was intense now as the sun and the Companion battled for dominance. Chunks of rock broke away, hurtling toward the blue planet below. Steam vents erupted with explosive power, jetting hydrogen, CO2, and methane into the vast emptiness around it. The tail was increasing in length as dust and rock rushed behind it. The entire comet seemed surrounded in a brilliant blue aura. While this appeared to be its last dance, it would put on a beautiful show.
The sun was a flurry of activity. Great eruptions of fire and gas leapt out from the gas globe, shooting up to reach higher and higher heights before falling back to the surface. Plasma and particles shot away from the surface creating an orange halo. The Companion was no longer placidly gliding in its path. The heat from the sun and the increasing friction from its gravity were warming the surface of the giant barren globe. Chemicals, long frozen, were melting and mixing with the pumice and dust on its surface giving it a red hue.
It took them over a week to reach their new home, the ancient dwellings of the Anasazi. The soldiers had turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They eagerly shared their knowledge of the locations of military installations that were still manned, allowing the convoy to avoid them.
When they arrived, other people were already there to greet them. Members of The Ute, The Pueblo, The Navaho, and The Hopi were all present. Charlie didn't seem particularly surprised by this fact though it gave several of the others pause.
The trucks were quickly unloaded with the additional hands and goods stored in kivas deep below ground. Medical supplies, fuel and water were added to the stores of grain, dried meat and seed already there.
The ruins were immense, reaching far below the surface. An endless maze of tunnels connected larger community areas and private quarters, all perfectly preserved under the cool rock of the mesas above.
Outside the children played among the vestiges, climbing ladders and running along stone stairways, shrieking in delight. The view of the surrounding canyons was breathtaking, with cottonwoods and spruce and sagebrush dotting the hills and gorge below.
The sun had just disappeared behind the horizon when Tom found Sloan sitting on a stonewall, staring out at the far-reaching landscape. He sensed her turmoil as he approached. When she didn't notice him sit down beside her, his concern grew. Taking her hand he asked, "Sloan? You are a million miles away. What's wrong?"
She quickly scrubbed away a tear that had snuck down her cheek and sighed. "It is so beautiful ... all of it. The mountains, the ruins, the canyons ... " She looked up at the sky. "I can't believe it's all going to be gone ... it's so sad..."
Tom took a deep breath, enclosing her hand between his own, "We don't know that it is all going to be destroyed. Charlie and the Elders from the other tribes say their legends hint that this has happened before. The Earth is millions of years old Sloan. It has survived before, it'll survive this time too."
Sloan sniffled and tried to smile, "Oh I know the planet will survive. And as a scientist I know that the changes this is going to cause will be exciting, probably even create new wonders to admire. But ..."
Charlie walked up behind them, interrupting their conversation. "It is time to go below and seal the caverns." He looked out to the distant mountains to emphasize his point.
Tom and Sloan turned in that direction and saw it. The Northern Lights were more vivid than ever and they were joined by an electrical storm flashing in bright, brilliant colors. The blue star still blazed in the heavens but tonight, a large red star burned as its companion.
Chaos raged on Earth as the war between the Celestial bodies unleashed fury of biblical proportions from the heavens. Meteors thrown from the comet blazed through the sky, the fireballs trailed by bright streaks of light.
The added gravitational pull from the Companion added more strain than the tectonic plates could endure. The Juan De Fuca Plate suddenly plunged deep beneath the North American Plate starting a chain-reaction along the entire West Coast.
The massive jolt to the North American Plate caused an abrupt thrust of intense pressure on the vents of the Cascade Mountains. Mt Baker exploded, blowing off the top of the mountain. The pyroclastic flow instantly melted the icy glaciers at its peak. Water mixed with mud and rocks and trees hurtled down the mountain at incredible speeds, taking out everything that stood in its path.
Each volcano in turn blew with an equally powerful force; Mt Rainer, Mt Adams, Mt Saint Helens, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, Mt Shasta all detonated hurling a violent torrent of debris and lava to the valleys below.
The violence didn't end with the volcanos on land. Those along the Juan De Fuca Ridge also erupted with equal intensity. An earthquake larger than the big one in Alaska rocked the ground from Fairbanks to Sacramento. The jolt uprooted trees and toppled buildings and bridges. The sliding motion of North American Plate caused a splinter along the Pacific Plate, bringing the San Andreas to life in a way people had feared for years. The brutal activity created a tsunami that slammed into the West Coast and wiped out everything miles inland. The San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys were valleys no more.
And so it went all along the Ring Of Fire, truly living up to its name on this day. The Pacific coast wasn't the only area to suffer catastrophic damage. Little known faults along the East Coast ruptured as well. The New Madrid fault cut loose with shaking that hadn't been seen since the 1800's and the mighty Mississippi River once again ran backwards.
Miles below ground in the dwellings of the ancients, only an occasional faint rumble hinted at the pandemonium above. Mothers comforted crying children as others spoke in hushed whispers, speculating on what they would find when they were able to return to the surface.
The Elders said it had happened before; their legends spoke of other extinctions in the distant past. Only time would tell, until then they must be patient.
Of one thing they were certain. The Lost White Brother and his helpers would lead them to a better day.