The explosion shook the DC area as waves of energy pulsed out through the water, the air. The slender form lay prone in the control room. Outside the control room unmoving bodies were strewn on the landing and stairwell. Downriver the Tradewind rocked in the blast, her occupants bathed in the aftermath of the energy wave, her sides slammed by the wave of water pushed by the blast.
Jack pushed himself off the deck. His men were scattered about, rising from the deck, looking around.
"What happened?", Mike asked.
Jack shook his head. "There was some kind of explosion. I've never seen anything like it. A wave hit the side of the Tradewind, we're lucky she didn't swamp. Is everyone all right?"
Bill was sitting up, holding his head. Aaron looked up from where he was bending over Carl.
"Ya, he's coming around."
Jack nodded. "Good. Aaron, go down below to check on Dawson and Fred and the cargo. You guys take stock up here. And keep a good eye out. There's bound to be some bandits around looking to take advantage of a crippled ship."
Jack staggered toward the stairs, still dizzy and disoriented. He was sure his men were in much the same condition. They needed to get out of here, to get to sea before someone figured out they weren't at top condition. He was just glad Sally had gone into the wasteland. She should be safe.
The sails were down which was good as no one was in condition to handle them. He staggered to the control room and set the auto pilot to take them from the river. The small nuclear engines hummed with power as the ship picked up speed and headed for the ocean.
The Brotherhood doctor checked Sally's vitals again. She had been brought in with the commander's daughter and the big mutant. Everyone else at the center of the blast had been dead on site. He wondered how these had managed to survive. The mutant had regained consciousness after 6 days, but the women were still unresponsive. Other than the occupants of a ship that had been downriver, just below the facility, the soldiers hadn't been able to find any others that had been exposed to the blast that were still alive. The ship had sailed toward the sea. They didn't have the manpower to spare to go after them to find out if they had been affected or were even still alive.
The doctor had been unsure how to treat them as nothing like this had ever happened before. When they were brought in their temperatures, heart and breathing rates had been greatly accelerated, which had alarmed him, and their radiation levels near fatal from the exposure. But the rates had quickly dropped along with their radiation. He had been pleased at first, until they had continued going down. Soon they would be dead.
Since there was now plenty of clean water he had been using it to bathe the victims to bring down the fevers but had run short in the room. Since he didn't think it would make any difference he took a handy bottle of irradiated water and used it to bathe Sally whose fever was highest. Her heart rate and breathing almost immediately jumped, but then dipped again. He checked her gauge. No radiation level. How could that be? He grabbed more of the water and poured it over her, continuing to pour bottle after bottle and watching the cycle repeat itself.
He quickly called in aides to help and set them to pouring irradiated water over all the victims. They began to respond as well. It wasn't enough. He grabbed some IV bags and took them to be irradiated. He would begin infusion at once and keep their levels as close to fatal as he dared. It was all he could think of to do. Obviously they were mutating, he just didn't know into what.
Sally stirred, half waking. She was dreaming. David was sitting on the grass beside her with the picnic spread out around them. The city gleamed in the distance, the big spires of glass catching the afternoon sun.
"Don't go", she begged him, trying to hold onto his hand. He was a big man, his black hair cut in a short buzz, his uniform enhancing his strong form. He smiled at her and bent to give her a kiss.
"I have to,", he said. "It's in my orders. Don't worry, love, I'll be back in a few months."
"No, David, don't go. Please don't go," she cried, tears streaming down her face as she watched him walk off into the mushroom cloud sprouting from the distant city.
Sally jerked awake. She peered around at her surroundings. She recognized the Citadel clinic and the young doctor bending over her.
"What happened?", she asked dazedly. "What am I doing here? Where's Hawk?". She tried to sit up to look for him.
"I'm here", the deep familiar voice said. Sally sighed, relaxing back, her eyes focusing on the big mutant.
"You're all right?", she asked. "What about the others? The Project?"
Sally stared at their silent faces. "The others? Did anyone else survive?" The doctor shook his head at Hawk, who ignored him. Sally always deserved the truth.
"No one else in there survived, Sally, just you, me and Sarah, and she's still out.", he said inclining his head to his right. Sally looked over at where Sarah Lyon lay quiet and still on the next bed.
"And the Tradewind?", she asked hopefully. "Was it affected?"
"No one knows. It kept on going, straight out to sea. Scouts were sent to the Island to see if she stopped there but she didn't. Witnesses said she moved on past just on her engines like maybe she was on auto. No one spotted anyone moving on board but that doesn't mean anything. They were pretty far out and they couldn't really tell." Sally didn't reply to this.
"What about Madison? She wasn't in the memorial, was she? Is she all right?". Hawk and the doctor looked at each other.
Hawk said, "Madison's gone, Sally. She left shortly after you activated the Project. She said she couldn't stay here anymore and was going to go to the Commonwealth to look for work." Sally looked at him.
"She didn't even come visit me, did she?", she asked.
"No.", Hawk said sadly.
"Yeah, she never really liked me much.", she said.
"You should stay here for a while, Sally," Dr. Bening said. "We need to run some tests on you."
Sally ignored him, looking back at Hawk.
"You need to get some sleep, partner,", she said. "And take a shower, would you? You look like shit." Hawk grinned, not a pretty sight on his face.
"Yeah, I'm gonna get a good night's sleep now you're ok. I'll see you in the morning.", and he left. Dr. Bening watched him go then turned back to Sally.
Before he could say anything she said, "I'm very tired now. I think I'll get some sleep too." And she turned her back to him and the silent Sarah.
Dr. Bening reviewed the tapes of Sally's recovery. She had been unconscious for nearly 2 weeks. She had cried out before awakening. Who was David, he wondered? None of them evinced any other signs of mutation than the weird healing process, which Sarah was still undergoing. At least she hadn't died yet.
Sally slid into her armor, picked up her pack and left the Citadel early. Hawk was beside her, dressed in the fine armor they had purchased, his pack laden with the medical supplies and weapons she deemed necessary and the books he was never without. She had spent three days in the Citadel, letting the doctor prod and pry at her, ask questions. He had recording equipment in the surgery and now had it in the recovery rooms as well as he had decided to document the unique experience. She agreed to being recorded and Hawk did as well.
She was told the project was working, which should have been some consolation but it didn't feel that way to her. Sarah still hadn't regained consciousness. Her father was dead because of that project. She had never known her mother because of the project. Her lover and all her friends among the crew of the Tradewind were missing and probably dead. Her friend Sarah was still in a coma and likely to die. Her body had been changed in ways she couldn't even know and was probably still changing. How much more should she sacrifice for the wasteland? She didn't cry. She felt too cold to cry.
She didn't look at the dome of the Jefferson memorial as they crossed the river to head south. She had paid a high price to bring clean water to the wasteland. Now, full of pain and grief, the wasteland beckoned. Hawk didn't ask Sally what their goal was; he just stayed by her side. He knew the months ahead would be rough but he would never leave her. He would never let her go on alone.
The journey continues in Book 2: The Rise of Arhome
Thank you all my wonderful readers. I hope you have enjoyed Sally's journey so far, but she is far from done. Changes are coming to the wasteland and our daring duo. I have greatly appreciated all the great comments, suggestions and criticisms. Hope to see you in the future.