Authors: C. Chase Harwood
Tags: #Science Fiction
Thank you to my B-Readers, Mom, Leslie, Jane, and many others who don’t necessarily seek out genre fiction for the beach. Having the opinions of people who aren’t beholden to the genre helps make the work that much stronger. Richard Pine at Inkwell, gets a shout out for timeless and thoughtful advice that has helped make me a better writer.
I am most especially grateful to my editors, Chance, Peter, Robert and Tony. Your insight is invaluable. You keep me from looking the fool.
Children of Fiends - Part 2 A Nation By Another Name
Copyright © 2014 Christopher Harwood / Fate & Fortune Press
3627 Buena Park Drive
Studio City, CA 91604
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Any route north was a mass of chaos and despair. The Jarvis family was running for their lives. They had heard the rumors that Delmarva was safe, that the C&D Bridge still stood. For Tillie’s parents, the only logical step was to go south, toward the coming onslaught, and pray for deliverance.
They had found a refugee camp in the southern suburbs of Wilmington and, choosing safety in numbers, they spent a night out in the open, waiting with everyone else for some kind of government direction, some instruction for evacuation. In the early dawn hours, someone spotted the Fiends pouring down Route 95 and thousands of people broke and ran. The tent city was trampled to dust, dozens of people crushed under foot. Tillie remembered her little sister Emily holding her hand as tightly as she could, Tillie hardly aware of it; like holding hands with a butterfly. Her sole focus, follow Dad, get to that bridge.
They could see the white towers in the distance; the huge white cables leading down to the bridge deck like strings from a web. The height of the towers gave the illusion of closeness and many people started sprinting, using up their reserves of energy too soon. Tillie’s father had been a long distance runner in high school. He knew how to husband his and his family’s strength. They would ultimately pass hundreds of people who had collapsed from running in the high heat, begging for help.
When the entrance to the bridge finally did come into view, Tillie could see the Sentinels. Like giant black spiders, they were suspended in the fanned out bridge cables. Then the frightening looking machines began to pull back, and her dad screamed at his family to run with everything they had. A sound wave of terror caught up to them through the ranks of the running refugees. Tillie had a position of height now, and a quick glance over her shoulders told her why. The Fiends were pulling down the rear of the mob, their hoots and howls, screeches and laughter, mixing in with the horror filled shrieks of the refugees. Then another huge pack of Fiends appeared out of the woods to their right. This group cut the retreat of the refugees in half, and suddenly the Jarvis’ had the infected right on their heels. The horror of the crowd was replaced by the even louder scream of a jet engine, and the north anchor of the bridge behind them exploded in a shower of concrete, steel and fire. The blast wave knocked everyone on the bridge to the deck and the North Tower itself began to crumble. Huge cables swayed. As the wounded bridge whipsawed beneath their feet, the deafening sound of separating steel and concrete got them all up again.
There were maybe fifty healthy people who had gotten to the center of the bridge, with twice as many infected right behind. When they reached the South Tower the Jarvis’ saw something almost as frightening as the Fiends behind them. A phalanx of black Sentinels stood at the end of the bridge, their spider-like legs overlapping to form a fence of sorts. The refugees hesitated only for a moment and continued to surge forward as those in the rear were pulled down, hacked and bitten, shredded limb from limb. There was another jet scream and then the center of the bridge erupted. The leaping concrete forced the family to the deck just as the Sentinels opened fire.
The Atchison assault shotgun is a deadly piece of armament. Add a belt with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and multiply that by the thirty robots firing away, and a hail of death came upon the stragglers and their tormenters like a great disintegration ray. The Jarvis’ tumbled forward as refugee and Fiend alike were shot to pieces with high explosive rounds. In short order, hundreds of people were reduced to bloody flying chunks. The Jarvis family was the only group to survive. A lone Sentinel led them off the bridge just as a third JDAM-equipped 500lb bomb found the South Tower. They watched as the bridge groaned out a final thundering death rattle and collapsed haphazardly into the canal below. When the dust cleared, the horror of the feast on the opposite side came into detailed focus. The Fiends far outweighed the stranded refugees. Assorted random and pointless pops of small arms fire could be heard above the screams. In a manner of minutes the healthy were either being infected or devoured. For a moment, the Jarvis’ paused in deer-like astonishment, observing the slaughter only 600 feet away. Then the Sentinel prodded them toward the containment camp.
That was ten years before. Tillie still thought about it nearly every day, and certainly every time she set eyes on a Sentinel.
Niles Plimpton stood in front of the bank of curved windows that made up the circular private penthouse level of what had been Delaware’s Delmarva Capital Trust Building. He surveyed the city below him and decided it was good. A black Armani silk suit with a white Egyptian cotton hand made shirt, and a tightly knotted, sky blue silk tie carved his figure into one of refinement and strength. As he brushed a piece of lint off his sleeve and watched it float to the floor, he noted that he was in control of the world outside this window, and after considerable work, he could finally enjoy taking it all in. He was forty-two, with a young face that could pass for thirty. A few grays were weaving their way into his thick black hair, and a considerable amount of time navigating his yacht around the nooks and crannies of the Chesapeake over the years had sun-kissed his eyes with a few crowfeet. Otherwise his skin was smooth and thick with youth. The room behind him was elegantly decorated in a clean modern seaside motif that suggested that the penthouse, rather than being at the top of a six story office building, was instead set along the dunes of the outer banks of Delaware. His view included the short brick buildings that made up the government center and the more majestic legislative building that once contained the rulers of Dover, the capital of Delaware. The capital building had a new purpose: the chamber for the patrician citizens who oversaw the new nation of The Shore.
During the formation of the United States, the naturally isolated Delmarva Peninsula had been absurdly carved up between the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. This isolation offered a geographical haven during Omega; with the Chesapeake to the West and South and the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean to the East, the Delmarva Peninsula was really an island primarily reached via bridges from Wilmington across the Chesapeake, and the Delaware Canal to the North. It was an island defended by a people who saw their isolation as making them somewhat separate from the rest of their countrymen. Once severed from the rest of the ruined nation, its inhabitants embraced their new status fully.
In the distance, Plimpton could almost make out the head of the Delaware River and beyond that, the southern tip of New Jersey and a still operational and incredibly critical nuclear power plant that provided so very much. To his right was the Air Force base that he could legitimately call his own – or at least his and the consortium of others who made up the governing body that oversaw The Shore. He briefly glanced back toward the river and saw the big sails of The Eagle coming back from another raiding mission and a smile of pride crossed his face. He surveyed the germs of new commerce coming to life in the streets below and was again made aware of the weight of the challenge that he had overcome. The Shore, infection free almost from the time the last bridge was blown those many hard years before, was also free of the encumbrances associated with being part of the United States. For many Shoremen like himself, it was a dream come true - if only the world hadn’t gone to hell in a hand-basket to achieve it.
When he finally heard her repeat his name for a third time, Niles was aroused from his reverie by the grating voice of Martha Kincaid. “Niles? Can we bring this meeting to a start?” He turned away from the window and faced the seven people seated around a large conference table supporting a model of the entire peninsula. He noted, not for the first time, how flat the Shore was in full relief. The only features that broke it up were the several rivers and tributaries that wandered out from its fertile center. Otherwise it was mostly farmland – rich farmland that had fed millions before the Omega; the damn Russian’s never-ending winter forcing all cultivation indoors.
Two of the seven wore military uniforms: an Air Force colonel, and an Army major. Niles felt a pang of pride as he looked at the two men, Quale and Thompson: visionaries who had seen the light and had followed him from the research facilities at Carnegie Mellon to this place of obvious strategic importance. The other five were Martha Kincaid, a former bank regulator turned Delaware State Senator, Vicar Wentworth, The Shore’s spiritual guide, Lawrence Ashton, bank exec, Dietrich Pelham, hedge fund manager, and Paula Brown, United States Senator in abstentia. All had known each other for at least a decade or more, all were of The Shore, and all had the same goal, now realized, of a separate nation on an island off the coast of America. Except for Pelham who had a slight Swiss accent from a childhood of European schooling, they all spoke with the dialect of the particular isolation that was their ancestral home. It was classically Mid-Atlantic, heavily rooted in English cadences, and unlike any dialect spoken in the United States.
Plimpton took a sip of his freshly made tonic and gin and sat at the head of the table. “Forgive me. I was just once more admiring that which we have wrought. Finer weather brings a whole new shine to it, wouldn’t you agree?”
Martha acknowledged the feat with an appreciative nod and continued, “The Eagle has made contact with a hostile ship.”
“Yes, I see her out there.”
“A Sentinel was lost, another badly damaged. An attempt on a schooner that claimed to be of the Northern Government. They had devil children aboard.” The final comment brought the sounds of casual movement in the room to silence.
Plimpton let the news settle in his mind without revealing a shift in his features. He looked around the table and focused on Colonel Quale. “Colonel?”
Quale said, “Not much more than that, yet.” He glanced at Major Thompson. “Pretty shaken, I gather?”
Before he could respond, Thompson was interrupted by Vicar Wentworth, who with scorn filtering through his gritted teeth said, “Traveling with the devils. Our fears about our Northern neighbors are confirmed.”
Plimpton offered the reverend a weak acknowledging smile while hoping dearly that the old man wouldn’t go off on some kind of religious rant.
Thompson said, “Captain Miller didn’t radio. Just word from the radio tech himself. Sketchy on the details.”
Ashton, who in a former life was the biggest agricultural banker on the peninsula, and now the Governor of Salisbury, said, “Fiend babies aside. You say it was a government ship?” He cleared his throat and raised his considerable bulk from his chair. “Folks, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just a matter of time ‘til they notice us.” He focused on Quale. “Especially with these raids.” He pointed at the sea on the relief map. “Long Winter’s passing. Got their feelers out, they do – maybe using them devils. Time will come, sooner than later, when we will want to trade with those people. It is critical that they not feel threatened by us.” He focused on Quale again. “Despite our significant might, we are not in the position to take on what is left of the much reduced but still powerful U.S. military.”