Two Free Chapters from my new Gaia Ascendant Novel, “Confederation”

I’m finally getting ready to release this story. Maybe a little more editing still. However, I think I’ll be releasing it on Monday, November 2nd. Anyway, I thought I’d give you (should you actually find this obscure page) a couple of chapters introducing a secondary character. Note that she may well have her own book in the future, since she turned into such a strong person.

Warning: Post-apocalyptic violence. If you don’t want to read about some of the bad crap that can happen to people or if you’re easily horrified or addicted to the politically correctness drug, stop here or else risk being offended.

 

Here are Chapter 17 and 18 from “Confederation”. If you like Hazel, let me know. Please. I’m dying for some feedback.

Chapter 17

The Mother-effers were coming again. Hazel had been doing her best to avoid the soldiers for the last week. She’d been hiding in a dry, concrete culvert that went under the narrow, asphalt road a mile from the remains of her parent’s farm. She’d been in shock for the first three days, but now her emotions were beginning to crystallize. Physical discomfort and hunger seemed to increase the effect and now she was experiencing nothing but a cold, hard anger.

Last Saturday had been bright and sunny. She’d been gathering eggs when her dad had come running around the barn shouting for her to hide. Soldiers were coming. There had been smoke from burning farms in the distance for the last twenty-four hours and she and her parents had realized that something bad was coming. Now it had arrived.

Last night, over supper, they’d argued. She had wanted to run, but her parents were adamant that they had to stay with the farm.

“Hattie, the animals need us. They won’t be able to survive alone,” her father reasoned, calling her by her nickname. “Besides, if it is His will that they come here and find us, then nothing we can do will change that.”

She wished that her parents weren’t so religious. Since society stopped years ago, their faith had only grown deeper and firmer. Now, they wouldn’t leave and she knew they’d take no steps to defend themselves. “Turn the other cheek,” her father always said.

Her mother added, “The cows have to be milked twice a day, otherwise they may get udder rot. We owe it to them to stay. They’ve supported us well in the past and we need them, too.”

They’d made it clear, though, that if armed men found them, she was to hide. Her father and mother looked at each other with worry in their eyes and then her mother had said, “Hazel, you’re too pretty to take any chances with invaders. They would probably kidnap you and you might be seriously hurt.”

Hazel knew what they were talking about. “You mean they’d rape me, don’t you. You needn’t think I’m totally ignorant. I’m nearly an adult,” she fumed.

Her parents looked shocked. That had pretty much been the end of the discussion. Her mother went into the sitting room to read her bible by candle-light and her dad went out to the barn to repair something or other. Things were always breaking.

Two weeks ago, a refugee family had come by the farm. They were headed for the mountains; the distant mountains. They hadn’t seen any soldiers, but they’d heard tales of atrocities and that was enough to drive them towards safety.

Hazel had only dreamed about the mountains. She’d never seen more than a faint purple line against the western sky. Before the EMP blast, back when she was still a child, her parents had told her that they’d take a vacation to the front range, but it never happened. They never made enough money on their small farm, since it was barely a subsistence-level enterprise. They always had enough to eat, but there was precious little left over for clothes, let alone luxuries like vacations or even birthday or Christmas presents.

She’d gone to school in the small town that was eighteen miles to the south and that was just about the limit of her exposure to the outside world. That and reading. There hadn’t been any school since the EMP burst and she’d read and re-read every book in the house.

She had turned sixteen three months ago and she had harbored dreams of a life that had more in it than gathering eggs.

At her dad’s shout, she’d put the egg basket up against the side of the chicken coop and dashed off into the corn field to the west of the house. There was a drainage ditch on the far side of the field and she made her way to it. Once there, she scrambled down into the dry ditch and waited, hoping her parents would show up.

There was a rustling in the corn and she peered over the edge of the ditch in trepidation, wondering if the soldiers had followed her or if it was her parents. Shortly a black and tan muzzle came through the corn. It was Katie, their aged, border collie.

She snapped her fingers and the dog came over to the ditch, wagging her tail. It took some pulling and lifting on her part, but she got Katie down over the edge. The old dog was so stiff that she couldn’t jump or scramble down easily.

It was hot and there was only a little breeze. They sat in the ditch listening to the insects buzzing in the corn, waiting.

Suddenly there were two shots, then three and then after a pause, a fourth echoed over the cornfield. Katie whimpered.

Hazel could hear men shouting off in the distance towards the farm house. She waited for a few minutes, wondering what to do. Her mind was abruptly made up for her when she saw a column of black smoke rising from across the field. She heard the squealing of their pig, Blackie. She’d named him in jest, since he was a white-colored animal.

His squealing rose in terror and then abruptly faded in a gurgling sound. She’d seen hogs butchered before and this sounded like he’d just had his throat cut. She thought about creeping through the corn to see what was happening, but a sudden cold fear came over her and she turned resolutely and followed the ditch down towards the culvert, taking care not to leave any footprints where the dust had blown up into thick, soft patches.

She took the dog into the culvert and they huddled behind a bunch of dried weeds that blocked the narrow tube. She’d had to push her way past the weeds, forcing the dog ahead of her and checking carefully for snakes as they entered. Once inside, there was another blockage of debris and weeds that provided shelter from the other end.

She carefully crawled back to the entrance and backed in, brushing out the signs of their entry with a piece of tumbleweed. Then she and Katie laid on the dry sand and kept quiet. After an hour or so, a group of men came down the road and walked over the culvert. She could hear them talking as they walked.

One said in a loud voice, “Pretty poor pickins at that last place, not even nothin’ much worth stealing, stupid sumbitches.”

He was answered by another who spoke more quietly, “Yeah, but we got some good bacon and that woman wasn’t too bad either. Too bad for her that she had to fight so much.”

Loud-mouth came back with, “Did ya see that stupid farmer. Imagine him trying to fight us with a pitch fork.”

Another added, “He looked pretty surprised with that hole through his head.”

Hazel sniffled and tried to suppress a sob by biting her lip. Nevertheless, one of the men said, “Say, there was some smaller sized dresses in the second bedroom. There might’a been a girl lived there. D’ya think we’d better look under the road here?”

She quivered in terror and held her hand on Katie’s muzzle to suppress a possible snarl or bark. There was a scrambling sound as the men came off the roadway and bent down to peer into the culvert.

“Na, there’s nothing in here but a bunch of weeds and crap,” Loud-mouth shouted. “It’s so plugged that ya can’t see through. No tracks going in, either.”

Hazel was glad that she’d taken the time to blur the signs of her passage, erasing their tracks. She quivered in an agony of fear that one of them would try to crawl in and discover her hide-out.

“Hey, Tim, get yer ass down here and look in this here hole,” shouted Loud-mouth.

There was another scrambling sound and someone said, “It’s pretty plugged.”

Loud-mouth said, “Why don’t ya slide in there and see what’s what?” He seemed to have only one volume setting for his voice. Hattie couldn’t see him, but she imagined that he was fat and filthy.

Tim answered with a tone of disgust, “Whyn’t you? It’s too damned tight for a man to go in that hole. An ‘sides there might be a rattler or two in there. I ain’t a goin’ a do it.”

Loud-mouth cursed and Tim called him a ‘Damned fool.’ There was the sound of a little scuffle and Loud-mouth grunted as if he’d been struck in the stomach, then said, “I’ll get you for that someday, you sumbitch.”

Tim replied, “Maybe, but I ain’t waiting down here for it. I’m going to catch up with the rest of the guys.”

There were some more scrambling noises as they crawled back up onto the road and then all was quiet.

She remained still until dark, when thirst drove her and the dog out and back to the farm.

It hadn’t been a good day and it became far worse when they reached the farmstead.

Chapter 18

She now thought of herself as Hattie. In her mind, she was Hazel no longer. That was another person who’d lived in another time. Hattie was a stronger name, someone who didn’t feel grief, someone who survived and most especially, someone who lived for revenge.

She wore a pair of her father’s overalls. The legs had been cut off at ankle length and the suspenders were cinched up to the max. A couple of tee shirts covered by a baggy sweat shirt camouflaged the fact that she had breasts. She’d chopped her pony tail off and now her hair hung in a ragged mop that could have been a boy’s.

A belt around her waist carried her Dad’s hunting knife, a butcher knife in an improvised sheath, the small hatchet and the twenty-two Ruger pistol. It was a nine-shot, semi-automatic that was covered with rust, but it was dead accurate and always hit where she pointed it, as several rabbits had found out to their disadvantage.

She was very careful when she approached the culvert, stopping and inspecting the ground for signs of an invader and also to ensure that she left no track of her own.

She was alone now. Katie had quietly died the second night they were in the culvert. Perhaps it was just old age or perhaps the dog felt as much grief at the loss of her family as Hattie did. Either way, it didn’t make any difference. When Hattie woke up, Katie was stiff and her body was cold.

She’d dragged the last member of her family into the cornfield to bury, then thinking better of it, she’d carried the dog into the farmyard and left her body to decompose behind the barn. There were dog dishes and food on the remains of the porch and the absence of the dog might make an enemy suspicious. Better to just let nature take its course.

By now, the crows and other birds had been at the bodies. Hattie wanted to bury her parents, but the same consideration held. The act of burying implied survivors and survivors meant there was someone to hunt. She didn’t want to send that message.

She’d been lucky to find the pistol hidden in the tin box under the floorboards. Her dad hadn’t believed in guns, but for some reason he had hidden the small pistol and three boxes of long-rifle ammo along with the deed to the farm. The box had also contained her parent’s marriage certificate, two hundred dollars in paper money, some older silver coins and three gold coins.

The paper money wouldn’t buy much. She knew from hearing her parents talk that the only thing most people would take were silver coins. Nevertheless, she carefully hid the box under a rock at the edge of the field. She’d keep the marriage certificate in remembrance.

The deed to the farm had no meaning in this world. Things belonged to those who were strong enough to take and hold them. That was an obvious truth to her. Her parents hadn’t been strong enough.

She’d hidden through two additional incursions of the Motherland Army. The last time they’d been in the farm yard, there had been a lot of cursing about the fact that the place was already stripped. One of the ragged men had gone on about how big a mistake it had been for him to join the Motherland Army and ended by calling it the ‘Mother-effin’ waste’.

Hattie thought that was far more appropriate. Motherland somehow had the connotation of a desirable thing. The army she’d seen was in no way desirable or admirable. She was dead set on staying out of their hands and their appearance reinforced that desire. She had no delusions about what would happen to her if she were captured.

She was lurking just inside the edge of the cornfield watching the mostly burned-out house. She’d seen a small group of men heading down the road towards the homestead and she’d finally decided that she was ready for revenge.

Today’s group of self-styled soldiers was coming down the road. There were just three of them, walking cautiously along, keeping a close look-out for trouble. They rounded the barn and immediately took to cursing, just like the last group.

“Damn it! Some greedy SOB has already taken this place down. There ain’t nothin’ here worth the walk,” said the apparent leader.

His nearest companion added, “Looks like two dead homesteaders here. Woman over there probably put up a fight or they’d a taken her with them.”

The leader responded, “Maybe, less she wasn’t pretty enough. I’d as soon shoot an ugly one as have to listen to ‘er complaints.”

The third turned with a laugh and said, “You’d shoot her alright, but what gun would ya use?”

They all laughed at that.

Hattie didn’t laugh. She was aiming the little Ruger at the leader.

The pistol snapped viciously and the leader grunted and then said slowly, “What?”

He opened his mouth again and a stream of blood ran out over his beard. He slowly put his hand on his chest and then toppled over.

Both of the others were trying to look in every direction at once, their rifles at their shoulders. The single shot had echoed off the barn and the men were looking suspiciously at the barn door, the chicken coop and the hay-mow window, which was hanging open.

Hattie aimed carefully and shot again. The third man screamed, dropped his rifle and clapped his hand to the side of his neck. A bright red gout of blood sprayed through his fingers. He sat down in the dust. The drops of blood were splattered across the area to his right making a somewhat artistic display, bright red against the light-brown dust.

The last man was shooting at the barn. He still hadn’t figured out where Hattie was hiding. She waited for him. His rifle fired several three shot bursts and then the bolt locked open. He started fumbling at his belt, trying to open the magazine pouch there. Just as he got it open, Hattie shot him in the stomach. The little slug splatted home and he grabbed his gut with a curse.

She shot again and he dropped the rifle when the bullet hit his upper arm. He was trying to move towards the back of the house, heading around the cistern and staggering away from her. She stepped out of the corn and yelled, “Hey, Mister. You came to the wrong place.”

He turned slowly to look at her. His face betrayed amazement, “A stinkin’ kid! I been shot by a stinkin’ kid.”

She just nodded and answered, “Yep. That’s the way it is.” She paused, but he didn’t say anything, so she added, “And, I’m going to finish the job.”

He turned and started to hobble faster. She lifted the little Ruger and carefully shot two rounds into the center of his back. One of them must have hit his heart. He slowly folded at the waist and toppled forward, landing face first in the bloody dust.

She sighed, shook her shoulders to clear the tension as she popped the magazine out of the bottom of the pistol’s grip. Seconds later she had reloaded it with six more cartridges. Her mind was blank, no emotions at the moment, just attending to business.

She collected the three rifles and the soldiers’ knives. One of them, the leader, also had a nine-millimeter Glock. She took it along with two full magazines he had in a pocket. Next she checked the others pockets. One had some jewelry that she kept for possible barter and the other had a nice pocket knife.

The rifles were military carbines of a standard sort. She didn’t know much about weapons, but these looked like the ones she’d seen somewhere. She couldn’t remember if she’d seen them in a magazine or on TV. It had been so long since the TV went out and she’d been a child then. She didn’t want to think about it.

After fiddling with the various buttons and knobs on one of the weapons, she figured out how to release the magazine and how to operate the bolt. The safety was a little rotating lever on the left side of the bottom by the magazine well. It had several positions, allowing for, she surmised, single shots, automatic fire, and a safety position.

She took a moment to climb into the barn and looked out the hay mow window. The road was easily visible from this height and there was no one coming or going in any direction. She decided to experiment with the rifle. Sliding the safety lever to the first position, she shouldered the weapon and aimed at the first raider’s body. The rifle banged, much louder than she’d expected, but the recoil was largely absorbed by a spring in the stock. The corpse jerked with the impact. Shooting the thing wasn’t so bad. She pulled a rag out of her pocket and tore off a couple of small pieces to stick in her ears.

The next shot wasn’t nearly as unpleasant. She’d aimed at the second body and the round showed that it was far more powerful than the little Ruger. The corpse’s head practically exploded. She laughed out loud in surprise, then shot the third man also. With her laugh, her emotions started working again.

She’d expected to feel horrified about killing people. She was amazed. She felt good. Empowered and, maybe a little bit, satisfied.

She carried all of the weapons to the culvert and hid the jewelry in the tin box under the rock, taking the silver and gold coins out and putting them into a small pouch she carried. Back at the culvert, she loaded up all of the magazines in a bag with a shoulder strap that she’d taken off one of the men, got her canteen and other supplies that she thought she’d need and then deliberated for a moment over the Glock. She ended up leaving it in favor of the Ruger. She could hit with the twenty-two and it wasn’t loud enough to give her away if she had to hunt. She didn’t know about the Glock, but it was undoubtedly a lot louder. She holstered the little twenty-two pistol and climbed up on the road carrying the best one of the three rifles.

Hattie looked both directions and then set out towards the south. The nearest intersection was there and she was going to head towards the mountains.

<End>.

You’ll have to buy the book to read more. Sorry. I do need to make some money once in awhile.

Namaste.

Eric

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