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The Moment It All Changed

Posted on Wed Apr 24th, 2024 @ 6:18pm by Hale Stratton [Major, United States Army] & René Rouen & Reuben Baptiste & Vienna Quinn & Killian Sutton & Calista Sutton & Victoire Olaffson [Lieutenant, United States Navy] & Civilian Thea Matthews

2,184 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Winter is Coming
Location: Farmhouse Outside of Bangor, Maine
Timeline: 6 September 2010 - 6:43 a.m.

Morning came quickly. The group, gathered again in the kitchen, were working through a meager breakfast when a massive explosion shook the house. And while it seemed as though they'd been hit, really it was the edge of a shockwave born of desperation and the certain knowledge of those sworn to protect that they could no longer do so.

[Inside the Farmhouse]

Reuben, who was in the kitchen with Kenny immediately hit the floor dragging Kenny close. "God damn, I swear that had to be a GBU-43/B or two." he said to Kenny. "We need to stay down for a few more seconds to allow for the back blast to clear." he said as he petted the dog and kept him close. Reuben could hear the sound of glass shattering and feel the floor shake.

René's first instinct was to protect Vienna. He grabbed her and pulled her down as he twisted to shield her from any debris flying around. He felt the vibrations of explosions in the distance in the air and through the ground as it sounded as if the world were coming to an end.

The sound had made Vienna jump, she was grateful that René was protecting her. There was no need to try hazarding guesses at what the sound was, it was obvious what must have just happened, as hard as it was to believe.

Vic threw herself in front of Thea, shouting over the explosion to Jasper. "Runter, runter und bleib. Bleib sicher." A command to which he got down on his belly and crawled over to her and then buried his nose under his paws. She started counting mentally and stroked Jaspers head, noting his pinned ears. Hearing checks.... especially for the dogs she thought.

Thea huddled in a protected corner, staying down as Reuben had said protecting herself and her unborn baby from any flying debris caused by the shockwave.

Calista had been sleeping still when all of a sudden the voomph of an explosion rocked the house. Killian had grabbed a hold of her and pulled her down to the floor, both of them rolling against the bed. As the secondary explosions started, he pulled the blanket from the bed over their heads as they curled up hoping that everything was going to be okay.

[Outside in the Jeep]

Hale rolled over immediately, covering Alonzo as the very edge of the shockwave passed over the farm and showered the vehicle with tiny bits of shattered safety glass. He stayed there for a few beats, until things started to settle, and then, a grim look on his face, he slipped out of the Cherokee and made his way to the edge of hill.

[Inside the Farmhouse]

Reuben felt the back flowing air of the back blast roll through the shattered windows of the house. He did a quick count to sixty then stood up. "Everyone stays indoors. I need to see if the explosion was caused by a MOAB or a tac nuke, I pray for the former and not the latter."

[Outside Near the Hill's Edge]

What Hale saw as he made it to the hill's edge, the plumes of fire and smoke coming from Bangor brought him to his knees. Not everyone in Bangor had been part of the not-dead-enough.

With that he and Kenny made their way outside. He saw Hale on his knees and looked towards Bangor. "Looks to be two GBU-43/B's dropped on Bangor, standard for destruction of a city that size. No living humans left there, not so sure about the not so dead." Reuben stated in a flat, emotionless voice.

Hale nodded in response but made no comment otherwise.

Vic and Jasper were alongside Reuben and Kenny and she shook her head in silence if he made any motion or protest toward him, her face stern. She had already unclipped her holster and was very ready for a fight if it came but she knew above all else that they had to be ready to back each other.

Vic shook her head in silence when the scene unfolded before her eyes and she nodded after a moment, bracing herself against Reuben with a firm grip on his shoulder as a wave of nausea overtook her and she very nearly blacked out from uncontrolled anxiety like she had never known.

[Inside the Farmhouse]

Upstairs as everything seemed to settle, the explosions were now stopped, dust was starting to settle. Killian unwrapped his one arm from his own head that had been holding the blanket over their heads. "Stay here, let me go see what's going on."

Calista nodded and just stayed where she was. She feared that if she hadn't already went through what she did that would have been a very jarring stressful moment to have made it happen now. She just wanted the nightmare to be over.

Walking over to the window, Killian looked out over the horizon and the front of the farm house that they were staying in and down the hill towards the now flaming and smoking city on the horizon. "Fuck," he commented under his breath. That meant whatever was going on was far worse than what the initial reports had indicated. "I wouldn't look if I were you, Cal," he said quietly.

It hadn't taken long for Calista to pop up like a ground hog from behind the bed to see what her husband had exclaimed for. "Oh..." she trailed off super quietly. "Oh no..."

"Yeah, stay here and get ready to go. I need to go down and talk to the others." Killian pulled on his coat and left their room quickly to figure out what was going on. With the little talking they had done, he figured that their guests were good to get a pulse on the situation.

[Outside Near the Hill's Edge]

As Killian walked outside, he looked over to Hale. "That looks bad."

Reuben cackled at that statement "Now sir, that is the most understated comment I have had the pleasure of ever hearing. If my guess is right it looks like Uncle Sam just invoked one of the million worst case scenario protocols. Surprised the Idiot-in-Chief had the balls to authorize it." After saying that Reuben looked down at Kenny "Come on bubba, let's get some food and get our packs ready, if I know the good major he will be anxious to move out soon." The two walked back to the house.

[Meanwhile, Inside the House]

Back in the house Vienna had moved from the protective huddle with René to the nearest window, seeing the smoke rising in the distance. “Oh no...what have they done!”

“They did what all ill advised people do, they took the option to try and eradicate the problem quickly” Thea moved from the corner walking over to Vienna.

[Outside on the Hilltop]

Hale looked over to where Killian stood and nodded. "You know, I've been in the military since I got out of college. I've seen things but this?" His expression was bleak as he surveyed the smoking debris that had once been a city. "How could they do this?"

Looking grimly, Killian looked over his shoulder folding his arms. He sighed, worried. "I guess it is much worse than what they were leading this to be. Now the question is, how wide spread is this? Is this nationally? World? Or just located here in Maine?" he wondered out loud.

"There were reports, back when I was in the zone, sightings in other places," Hale said quietly. "It wasn't just here and if they did this, then …" He shook his head, disbelief warring with horror in his mind. "They did it elsewhere to … probably all the major cities but … that's a guess at best. Communications between Bangor and Washington were all but nonexistent by the time I got there."

Vic looked every bit like a zombie herself, not at all believing what she was witnessing. It wasn't until Jasper ran out of the house through the door she had left open in her shock and bolted into her legs that she began to slowly shake herself out of it and she sort of half choked out an attempt at words before having to stop and cough out the knot in her throat caused by fear.

"This... This means that we may very well be the last vestiges of normalcy left... the only thing that resembles the world before... well before that...." she pointed to the moldering ruins of Bangor."

"I doubt that," Hale said gently. "There will be cops and doctors and teachers. All that. Just maybe not so easy to recognize for a bit." He was mesmerized, or entranced, or something. It was hard to look away from fires burning below. Fires. He straightened almost at once. "That," he said pointing to the devastation below, "is going to draw every weirdly-not-dead person for miles. We have got to to get out of here."

"We were cutting our way to I-95 to make getting South easier. I think staying out of the cities might be the best thing. Woods have been interesting the past couple of days. I do expect that to get weirder with influx being drawn to the city and those trying to escape it," Killian stated. "We're out of our element here, and will follow you guys if you're willing to have us. We just wanted to go home to Tennessee, which might not be standing if this has happened there."

Vic listened for a moment thinking. "Major; there are some routes through the states that the military designated for these scenarios... They may be the best bet for travelling." She very much still looked ill but by the looks of it she was managing to shake it off and refocus. "Seeing as how that wasn't a nuke or we would all be in a much worse condition... I think the Cherokee will still run.. but we might need to try and procure a second vehicle to fit everyone."

"Everyone, literally, wants to get home or back to those that they know," Hale said. "This isn't meant as a criticism but going forward, I'm thinking we would all do well to choose our words a bit going forward. Not everyone has the option of going home. Rene for one. No need to hurt him unnecessarily."

Hale paused a moment, gathering thoughts, making a plan. "As to route. Vienna wanted to go by her parents' cabin but that's mostly for the bow she has there. We can find her one on the way that should work just as well. Reuben wanted to go hunting for a friend that's maybe somewhere along the trail but I think, given the inclusion of Thea, that's not wise."

Hale rose to his feet and turned toward the group, turned his back on the devastation below, and nodded. "We need two vehicles, both good for off road, and a supply of gas which means cans and tubing. We'll travel South, away from the cold, as far as we can until the gas runs out."

Vic was thinking and listening, formulating thoughts and trying to come up with plans for the safety of everyone's safety to help ease Hale's burden of command. "I am not trying to undermine your words, Hale. But guarding our words is only going to go so far when the visual evidence is going to be there. We are going to have to be honest with everyone at some point now that they have done this."

"The evidence is clear enough," Hale answered. "And I don't think honesty is always the right answer at least not when it comes to whether someone's family is alive or not. The better one, I think, is to allow the individual to come to us, to be the one to bring it up, to be there when they need to talk. And I'm speaking now as one of the ones who is unlikely to ever know what happened to the people they care about."

"Now," Hale continued, "if you're talking about what the blasted military that I have loved and served since I got out of college, well, that's a different story entirely. Yes, that's something to discuss openly because things have changed." His expression turned bleak and shuttered. "I fear that we're never going to see things go back to the way they were."

He left the rest unsaid. In a sense, they'd just been handled their separation papers. If the government could do this, then, at least to his mind, the military didn't exist anymore. Not as an effective force. Oh, there might be stragglers here and there but no, they were all survivors now with experience that could help others to restart their lives. Build a future out of the rubble. And all of that was way more than he could vocalize easily if at all.


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