Read The Independents Online

Authors: Joe Nobody

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure

The Independents

 

 

Holding Their Own
II
:
The Independents

By

Joe Nobody

Copyright © 2011-2012

Kemah Bay Marketing LTD.

All rights reserved.

Edited by:

E. T. Ivester

Contributors:

D. Hall

D. Allen

www.holdingyourground.com

www.prepperpress.com

Other Books by Joe Nobody:

-
Holding Your Ground: Preparing f
or Defense if it All Falls Apart

-
The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire

-
Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skill to Help You Survive

-
Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival

 

Prologue

The pilot looked at the
fuel
gauge on the cluttered dash of the small Cessna for the tenth time
in the last few minutes
. The needle seemed to be glued to the capital E
,
and he knew it wasn’t going to move
,
no matter how many times he checked
. He considered
the passenger in the front seat and shook his head –
W
e’re not going to make it
. Right on cue, the engine sputtered, spit
,
and then returned to its steady drone.
It was an unwelcome
validation
that t
he gauge was
neither
broken
,
n
or inaccurate.

After a minor adjustment to the rudder, he
glanced
out t
he side window at the desolate w
est Texas landscape below. A seemingly endless expanse of
brownish sand accented with bleached
,
off-white rocks spread out
below
him.
Small
, random
clusters
of dark vegetation littered the ground here and there
, but w
hat really drew his attention
were
the angry
, sharp-
looking formations of grey and red rocks
. His mind visualized
their razor
-
like edges slicing through the thin skin of
the
aircraft.
Despite being above it all
,
he could tell
it was a harsh world down there.
Even
the
hazy
outlines of
the
d
istant
mountains
looked
gloomy
and foreboding.

He pushed down the panic that was
growing
in his throat
and look
ed at the passenger.
“Do you think that was him?”

The passenger was looking out his window
,
los
t in thought. He surveyed
the map resting i
n his lap, and then
the pilot.
“No way to tell.
There was somebody down there for sure, but who knows.
Can you get us down?”

One last check out the windows confirmed what they both already knew.
The only place to set down was a thin
strip of black
top
the
charts
indicated was
Texas
State
Highway 98.
The pilot grimaced and
shook his head
.
“We don’t have any choice – here goes.”
He adjusted the trim and
steered the nose
so it began to
line up
with
the
road below
.

From their altitude,
the
roadway below
looked
like a pie
ce of dark ribbon stretching
to
the
horizon
.
As the front of
the
plane slowly aligned with
the
makeshift landing strip, t
he engine protested its lack of fuel
by cutting in and out several times and
then
finally
fell
silen
t
.
The sound of air rushing past at just over 100 miles per hour was a poor substitute for the engine

s mechanical hum and reassuring vibrations.
The pilot ignored the crushing pressure building in his ears
,
focusing on
the white dashes that now cut the black road in half.
Everything he had ever read or heard about landing with
out power
came rushing to the forefront of
his
mind.
He mentally ran through the checklist
learned
so long
ago.
He didn’t know the wind
,
and it was
use
less to radio a mayday
– everything else had been done
. He squeezed the controls and kept his eyes locked on
the
improvised runway ahead
.

The passenger reached across
,
put his hand on the pilot’s shoulder
, and spoke in a calming voice.
“You’ve done well. No matter what, I want you to know that.” He then turned and looked at the
girls seated behind him.
He mouthed the words,
“I love you
,

and then said a
loud, “We’re going to have a rough landing – better make sure your belts are good and tight.”

Despite the overwhelming whistling
of the wind outside, everyone in the cabin could hear the whispered prayers coming from the
backseat.

The plane
was being pulled down by gravity
,
and the angle was bad. The pilot
desperately worked
the controls
,
trying to
flare
the
nose
. A
t
the last instant,
a
pocket of
thermal
air
nudged the powerless craft
,
causing it to miss its mark by only a few feet.

The small plane hit the pavement hard. On initial impact, the
starboard
landing wheel snapped off as the plane bounced
back
into the air. On t
he second touchdown, the uneven
landing gear caused the nose to veer sharply right
,
and the port wing slammed into the ground.
The cabin was heaved upwards as the plane rolled over
,
still traveling at over
7
0 m
iles per hour
. The nylon seat
belts felt like they were cutting flesh
,
and the
roar
of tearing, screeching
metal filled
the air
.
Passengers
who
managed to
ke
ep
their eyes open
,
would have noticed
the landscape
outside the front windows turn
upside down, and
then slowly roll back to normal.
It took a full
five
seconds before the momentum bled off
,
and the pl
ane
skidded to a complete stop.

The desert didn’t notice the wreck, nor did it care. The small cloud of dust, already settling around the crumpled airframe, was of no consequence. The shallow trenches created by the skidding metal would be refilled by the winds within a seaso
n. Even the repeating hiss
…hiss…hiss…of a fluid dripping
on
to
the hot engine manifold meant nothing to the desert.
  

 

 

Chapter 1
 

Bishop stood
looking at the rim of the box canyon
wishing the plane would magically
re
appear.
When it didn’t, he
tried
tilt
ing
his head slightly
in a vain attempt to detect engine noise. The sky was empty
,
and the desert was soundless
.
The aircraft had clearly made two direct passes right over the ranch,
and his mind was working overtime trying to figure out if they could
’ve
really see
n
anything from the air.
Bishop
meandered into the middle of the ravine
, trying to imagine what could be recognized from above.

The camper
rested
partially underneath an outcropping of solid rock
and the canopy of a young pecan tree
. A thi
c
k film
,
caused by years
of windblown
sand
,
covered the
once
shiny aluminum skin. Directly behind the camper was
the
pickup truck. Most of it
was
obscured by the overhang as well.
Besides, the truck
was even dirtier than the ca
mper and would probably be d
ifficult to detect from the air. A
n old camouflage net was strung
between the truck and the camper
. Bishop had put it there for shade more than concealment. Under the net were two wor
n
,
folding lawn chairs
with
green and white nylon webbing
that was
beginning to unravel. 

Opposite
the camper,
separated by
a flat area of bare sand
,
was the canyon wall where the
Bat Cave
was located.
 
A
naturally formed rock room created by thousands of years of erosion
, its almost
constant temperature
enabled the couple to carefu
lly store bits of food,
tools,
and equipment salvaged from their Houston residence. As with
its sibling formation
,
which hid
the camper, the sheer cliff face curved inward
at the base,
creating an area completely hidden from above.
A
spring
dripped constantly from the overhang into a small pool o
f solid granite. Bishop had damm
ed the natural drainage creating what
they called
the hot tub. Both the spring and t
he entrance to the
Bat Cave
were difficult to detect from ground level, let alone a fast moving airplane hundreds of feet in the air.

Downslope from the hot tub was their garden. While it was barely sprouting any green at the moment, Bishop wondered if the straight
rows of plantings could be spotted from the sky
. No doubt the soil was darker, as it was irrigated from the hot tub, but was that enough to cause an aircraft to hone in on their ranch?

A slight rustle from behind signaled Terri had joined him. He recognized the familiar sound of her bare feet on the hard-packed desert floor. A moment later, she exhaled a sigh as she leaned her body against his back. Her fingers interlocked across his chest in a gentle hug, and her head peeked over his shoulder
.

What’s the matter
,
Bishop? I mean…besides the obvious.”

Bis
hop’s voice relayed frustration.
“I’m not sure I need to
check on the plane. I don’t think the pilot could see anything. I mean, look ar
ound…what could he have identified
from the air?”

Terri released her hug and moved around to look at her husband’s
face. While she expected to see concern, his
face
showed
anger
.
When he finally made eye contact, her expression made it clear she didn’t quite follow his thinking.

His tone
softened
.
“I don’t want to leave you here alone
unless it is
absolutely necessary. I’ve taken enough risks lately
,
and my luck isn’t going to hold out forever.
I want to
stay here,
dry the meat, eat dinner, and then count the stars before going to bed. Remember? We were going to find Orion’s Belt tonight. I was looking forward to that.”

Terri rose up on her toes and kissed his cheek
.

Bishop
, if you
’re sure you won’t be worried
about someone sneaking up on us, I’m cool with you
r
staying here.
I just thought we would bot
h sleep better if you checked things
out.

Bishop
shifted his weight from one foot to the other, fidgeting with the rifle slung across his chest.
His gaze shifted from
Terri
’s eyes to
the
point in the
sky where the plane had disappeared
and then back again
. The isolation of the ranch
was their single greatest peace
of mind. Now, without warning or
reason
, someone had trespassed. At least that’s how
he
felt about it.
Terri
and he
were the only people who knew the ranch was here – at least until now. Stealth was always the best defense
,
and now their cover was blown.

Their
lives
had been so
tranqui
l since
arriv
ing
at their
sanctuary
. The
harro
wing trip across Texas
to
get here
had l
eft its scar
s and shadows, but the routine of surviving was
slowly
healing them both
.
Desert living was tough on Bishop and Terri
. While they had good water, some
supplies,
and
the
old camper for shelter, it still took all of their energy to provide
just basic
food and security.

The ranch had been their permanent residence for
two
months now
,
and
some days
had been
more challenging than others.
When
Bishop
originally
inherited
the
property
,
he
envisioned a remote hunting retreat where he could spend many uninterrupted hours honing his
skills. Terri
had
pictured a rustic hideaway
,
absent
the
daily frustrations of city life.
For all that the wee
kend escape had meant t
o them, the ranch was never
in
tended to be more than a temporary refuge.
When terrorist attacks pushed an already crippled United States over the edge, the couple had i
nitially
tried to stay in their suburban Houston home
.
A fe
w weeks after the
local
government
ceased to exist, it become clear they couldn’t sustain
any longer
in suburbia.
Food was running short, neighbors were beginning to turn on each other
,
and martial law had been established
in the city limits. The radio
broadcast
s
sought to calm an out-of-control population with the announcement th
at soldiers would be
establishing order and taking control of Houston.
But t
he young couple
had
no interest in exchanging their family table for work camps and food lines. Deciding
the
Army
’s solution didn’t so
und very palatable
to them, Bishop and Terri hurriedly
packed as m
any supplies as they could fit in the truck
and set out on their own. 

Bishop looked at his wife and nodded. “You’re right
,
as usual. I’ll go check it out. I need to get some gear together.”

Bishop strode deliberately
toward the
outcropping, which signaled the entrance t
o
the
Bat Cave
.
He
opened the heavy steel
door
,
salvaged from a grain hauler, and
waited for his eyes to adjust to the
shade
.
The cool air
inside
was a refreshing change fro
m the dry heat of the desert. Leaving the
door
ajar
illuminated a path t
o a far corner where h
is
gear was stored
. H
e
needed to start
thinking about what to take with
him
.

The light from outside dimmed slightly as Terri entered
the rock room
. Bishop
looked up and smiled as she came to watch him get ready. She could clearly see from his actions that he was uptight
and knew instinctively
he was w
orried about the baby and her
.
A warm feeling went through her thinking about Bishop being protective
of their expanding family
. In a way
,
it was cute and made her feel
good
inside.
On the other hand
, she worried it might cloud his judg
ment. Before everything had gone
to hell, the stereotypical
father-to-be was humorous. Bringing home a new baseball glove
,
expecting
the
new
born to be ready for
a game of
catch was funny then. Now, Terri wasn’t so sure. If Bishop made decisions based on unrealistic concerns about
the baby and her,
this new world could instantly deliver a dose of harsh reality.
I need to reassure him
, she thought.
He’s not even aware he’s doing it.
  

Terri
walked
behind him and rested her chin on his shoulder. When he glanced at her, she cleared her throa
t and declared, “Bishop, I need
you
to
get me some pickles and ice cream before you go.”

He stopped
working with
his equip
ment and flashed a puzzled look.
“What? Are you serious?”

Terri put on her best indignant face when she countered him.  “Yes, of course I’m serious!
I’m pregnant
,
and it’s my
God-given
right as a spoiled American woman to crave pickles and ice cream. If you really love me, you’ll go find me some.”

He shoo
k his head and started to laugh.
“Very funny Terri, where the hell would I find…” She
overrode
him with a raised voice
.
“I don’t think it’s funny at all! You’re not the on
e who has
morning sickness
now
and stretch marks
in her future
. I want chocolate ice cream and dill pickles.” Her hands came to rest on her hips and her chin jutted out, daring him to challenge her.

Bishop was stunned
and started stuttering,
“Where…I don’t…how…”

Terri turned her back to him,
mostly
because she was
pretending to be mad, partly because she was having trouble keeping a straight face.

Bishop quickly turned and followed, putting his hands on her shoulders.
“Baby, please don’t be upset. You know if I could go get you anything…anything in the world, I would. There’s no way I can find pickles and ice cream, just no way. It’s just not reasonable.”

Terri sighed loudly and looked up at the ceiling
,
still keeping her face away from her husband. “Nikki Mo
r
rison’s husband went several times in the middle of the night to get her peppermint ice cream when she was pregnant. He had to drive clear across town and never complained. I guess he loved her a lot.”

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