THE PASSAGE, A SHORT STORY, THE AFTERMATH
The Passage is a story about several different groups as they experience a pole shift.
The Passage was first writen as a script, then later as a short story.
It is the short story that is being presented here, with character descriptions from the script.
Part 1 was presented earlier, during which we followed a young reporter, Danny, as he encountered the cover-up when he tried to get a story printed.
Danny then went camping with his girl friend Daisy as the days of rotation slowing to a stop set in.
The couple and some fellow campers take refuge at a local ranch when the pole shift hits.
In this segment of the story, we meet Netty, the lone survivor at a resort, who is being pursued by the Groggin Brothers, who are dealt in vigilante style justice.
In this segment of the story, Netty is on the run.
Where cataclysmic forces tear civilized trappings asunder, nature often remains unruffled. Except for an occasional tree limb tossed into the tall weeds, the pasture lands look much the same. A horse and rider are emerge from the cow path that wends through the woods, riding hard. Netty, her hair coming apart and looking like it hasn't been combed in days, is on the run. Her cream colored jodhpurs are black in places, soiled beyond hope, attesting to the fact that Netty has been living in them for days. Her face is oily and dusty, and the horse is covered with dust where the sweat is not rolling off its flanks. She slows the horse when she gets to the next clump of trees, turning to look over her shoulder. Netty sees what she fears, coming behind her, and speaks quietly to her horse, setting off again. "Haw."
The group at the farmhouse has constructed a makeshift tent set up over a rope strung between trees, weighed down by rocks along the edges of blankets hung over the rope. Bedding of all kinds has been stuffed inside the tent, with some laundry hung on another rope strung nearby. Life goes on. A fire is smoldering between some stones and a pot is hung on a hook overhead, some metal from the wrecked barn used to rig a metal beam over the fire. A menage of wooden chairs salvaged from the house is set near a table with three legs, the fourth corner stabilized on a barrel. In the distance Netty comes into view. At first only a few puffs of dust are visible, but then the figure of a horse and rider. The rider is raised high in the stirrups, English style, leaning forward over the big bay's shoulders, helping the weary horse carry its burden as easily as possible.
Martha rises from where she is washing and peeling potatoes and carrots for soup, watching Netty race toward the tent city. Netty dismounts before the horse stops, swinging her legs alongside the horse and under its nose, forcing the horse to stop short. The bay braces it's front legs, it's rear haunches splaying outward in a frantic bracing motion. "They're coming!" Martha, stuttering, says, "Wwwwho, wwho's coming," her hand to her throat. Big Tom is rushing up, a rifle in his hands, setting the rifle to the firing position. He has a grim look in his eyes, his jaw set, as he has been braced for intruders and needs no explanation from Netty. She sees an ally in his face, their eyes meeting, and quickly states, "I'm Netty Finley, Buck Finley's granddaughter. I was at the Clearwater Resort when it happened." Among friends at last, Netty's allows her face to shows the strain of the past few days. Big Tom glances at the horizon, scanning, impatient for her explanation. Netty is shaken. "They killed them all. All. Even the baby." Netty is having a hard time talking, overcome, but fighting, the urge to collapse into weeping, clearly due and coming. "I think they're following me." Big Tom, meeting her eyes, nods at her briefly, his jaw set, a silent understanding between them.
Climbing to a hell top:
Big Tom is leaning against a large tree trunk, his rifle resting on a lower branch. The sound of a jeep is heard in the distance, engine revving and the voices of young males whooping it up as though on the hunt for a prey that can't get away. The open topped jeep is seen bouncing along a dirt road through the field, moving in the direction that the horse and rider had taken, following the trail of dust puffs seen from a distance and the occasional prints left from pounding hooves. Big Tom lowers the rifle, moving his eye close to the sight, bracing himself against the tree trunk. A shot rings out as Big Tom jerks from the recoil. Red has herded the group into a cistern room, where spring water is drawn and foods stuffs are placed for cool storage, an old fashioned cooler. Red is at the door, peering out through a crack, his finger to his mouth reminding them all to hush. Red has his rifle resting along his leg, not cocked but there just in case. He is standing in for Big Tom, second in command.
Martha has her two youngsters close to her, one under each arm and leaning into her. Everyone is silent, scarcely breathing. Danny has his hand over his hysterical girl friend's mouth, her wide eyes looking up steadily and unblinkingly into his. He has taped her wrists and ankles, and secured her to a chair, taking no chances. Netty stands behind Red, peering over his shoulder. Frank and Jane are in each other's arms, Frank running the fingers of his good hand lightly up and down Jane's arm, as she rests her head against his good shoulder. Big Tom is seen in the distance, walking down off the hillock, his purposeful stride showing no tension or hurry. He takes his hat off and waves it in the direction of the cistern room, signaling the OK. The door opens and Red emerges as Big Tom comes within voice shot. "They won't trouble anyone anymore."
Later, the group has adjusted to the lack of housing and electricity and running water.
Behind what used to be the barn, the ladies are bathing, and a sheet has been hung between the trough and the tent city, for privacy. Martha, dressed in a bathrobe, is toweling off Tammy's head, while Tammy stands with a large bath towel wrapped around her tiny frame. Daisy is complaining that the water isn't warm, shivering and muttering as she quickly washes off with a wet cloth and slips into one of her boyfriend's large wool shirts. Jane has recovered from her scalp wound, but still has a thin strip of white cloth tied around her head. She is being cheerful, or at least trying to be, telling stories to Tammy about pioneer women, how brave they were, and the hardships they bore. The obvious point is that these things can be survived. Netty is washing with relish, for the first time in days, soaping repeatedly and rinsing as though she thought this day would never come again. Jane continues with her monologue. "They washed like this all the time, and in winter, while standing by the stove! Never hurt them a bit. Can be kind of fun if you think about it." The ladies walk back in a leisurely manner toward the tent city, laughing and joking, the tension of the past few days gone now that the threat seems to be past.
Mark, the pilot of a downed small plane, and his lover Brian are looking for rescue.
As they approach,
Mark and Brian see the women coming back from their bath as they struggle toward the farm complex, relieved to find others still alive and well. Martha breaks from the group and runs toward the tent city, to warn her husband. Tammy reacts to the sight of two strangers approaching by standing stock still, staring in their direction. Netty, seeing that Tammy will be left behind, takes her by the hand and leads her along. The two men are limping, dusty, Brian almost staggering. Big Tom strides into view, coming from the direction of the tent city which the woman are now jogging toward. He holds the rifle pointed straight up in a warning fashion, clearly stating that the visitors are to stop and identify themselves. Mark is the larger and more handsome, almost twice the bulk of the slender Brian, who has a thin face and light fine hair which he wears on the long side.
Mark is dark and tanned, hair on the short side and with a commanding look about him, used to being in charge. Mark puts his hand up, signaling to Big Tom that they mean no harm. "We're unarmed. We mean you no harm. We're just trying to get to a phone". At this point he glances past Big Tom and notices for the first time that the farm buildings are devastated, scanning the view in silence. He says, more as a statement than a question, "I don't suppose your lines are up, though." Not yet at ease, Big Tom says, "Put your hands on your heads. We've had some unwelcome visitors and I'm taking no chances." Red has come up behind Big Tom and hands him the second rifle to hold while he quickly pats the visitors down, nodding at Big Tom when no weapons are found. Big Tom hands the spare rifle back to Red and says to the two men, "Come on back and have some soup, you look like you could use some."
Later, around the tent city campfire, the group shares stories.
It's evening, the last traces of the setting sun fading rapidly, and the group is gathered around the coals of a small fire, kept small and low so as not to attract attention. Martha is putting her outdoor kitchen away, stacking chipped plates and dented pots and pulling a sheet over them as cover, to keep them clean. The new guests ate everything put before them, and as nothing goes to waste, Martha has seasoned the water used to cook carrots and given it to them as soup, a bedtime snack. Nothing goes to waste. Brian's slender hands are trembling as he brings the bowl up to his face, slurping the soup repeatedly, still famished. Mark is telling the group what he heard on the radio before their small plane hit rough up and down drafts due to incipient hurricane winds at the shift. "The winds were like a hurricane, but different, more erratic. Our plane hit some bad drafts. I couldn't hold it. We could hear the radio news guy talking about it too. Where the bridge crosses the river, cars were abandoned, blocking traffic in both directions. People were flooding across from both directions, desperate. Little kids were left, abandoned. Rioting was breaking out, everyone in a hurry and no one knowing where to go, I guess. Trying to get someplace, anyplace, but where they were." "And looting in the city. The police just weren't around, at least not paying attention. No law, and anything goes."
Mark's face is like a mask as he relays all this, keeping his emotions disconnected so he can get through it. "Services were failing, as people failed to turn up for their jobs and power outages went un-repaired, phone lines went dead, gas pumps were locked and the stations closed." Mark shakes his head and says: "A never-ending mid-morning on the East Coast, taking its toll." Mark pauses a minute, keeping his emotions in control. "We saw some of that too, from the plane. Cars were littering the roads, pulled over to the side out of gas or blocked, and there was a bridge with traffic lined up on both sides, blocked by abandoned cars on the bridge. This traffic jam was getting worse, too, cars pulling up at both ends. We could see people walking in small groups across the land, too, setting out on foot. And all the while we could hear the earth moaning. I don't ever think I'll forget that sound." Big Tom nods in agreement, Mark glancing at him for a minute, and then continuing. "We heard that religious groups thought the end of the world had come, and lots of them, even atheists, were committing suicide, taking their whole families with them, taking the kids out first, just like that Jim Jones crowd."
Mark leans back, resigned, his eyes dropped to the feet of those around the campfire, as the story gets personal. "Brian and I were overland when it hit. First the compass started behaving erratically. Brian was trying to unfold the maps, but wasn't having much luck, and I had my hands full. Then the sky started to dance around. We saw the moon sliding across the sky just before wind sheers hit the plane, as though either the sky or the earth were on the move." Mark heaves a sign. "And when the winds kicked in, we had no choice but to land and land quick!" Mark falls silent for a minute, searching his memory for what he might have missed. "We've been to the beach plenty, and I can recall looking out at that broad expanse of water and wondering once what it would be like to have it rise up and rush at me. You know, a really big wave. Happens, after a quake or something. The last thing we heard was the radio announcer, screaming 'It's coming. Oh my God, we're all going to drown' and then the radio went dead."
Netty has been brushing Tammy's hair as she sits numbly, her stony lack of emotion being taken for a quiet nature. Netty puts the brush aside and says, "I was at the Clearwater Resort, waiting it out as the phones had gone dead and no one knew what was happening. I was up in my room, changing, when I heard a woman's voice pleading, 'Not my babies, please, they're so little'. Then I heard gun shots, then silence, and slipped under the bed, quiet as a mouse." Martha reaches across, and taking Tammy's hand, leads her away from the unfolding story. "It was the Grogan brothers. I later realized they'd killed the other guests for target practice when they came up from the fishing hole. Almost everyone went there to escape the heat, you know. I saw them when I went to the barn to get my bay - fishing poles and fish in hand, laying there in blood and twisted in agony. All dead. I realized they were shooting everybody, and I'd be no exception."
As the hours passed, Netty determined that the Grogan brothers were downstairs, getting drunk. "They were laughing about what they'd done. Laughing. Talking about how people looked when the bullets hit, how they reacted, the look on their faces. Then they'd howl and carry on. I was sick, trembling so hard I was afraid to move. I edged under the bed, lay there trying not to breath, not to move, not make any sounds that could be heard." Now considering themselves masters of the resort they were never welcomed at, the Grogan brothers swaggered around, putting their muddy boots up on the stuffed furniture, and raiding the bar and tossing empty bottles at lamps and vases. No phones, no law, and the brothers can do as they please. "I heard them say 'this is more fun than moving weed.' Then I heard them moving from room to room, seeing what they could find. I held my breath when they came into my room, didn't breath, and they missed me. Later I slipped down the stairs when it got quiet. They were asleep, drunk and snoring. I went to the barn and saddled my bay. He follows me like a baby after I pet him a bit. Quiet as a mouse.
I thought I had gotten away, had walked along the hedge where they couldn't see me unless I mounted, and didn't mount to ride until beyond the trees there. But when I was riding away, I thought I saw something move near the house. I figured I'd been seen." "They chased me, and there was no hiding as the Sun never went down. But it was dim, and that helped me. They had to use the headlights on their jeep or they would've lost me." Netty glances around the group, and seeing all eyes on her, attentively, continues. "I was the only living witness to their crimes, and they weren't about to lose me. Dead women tell no tales. But I think they were on a power trip too. Their guns ruled, I guess. These guys are sadistic. Once they got on top, no telling what they'd do." Netty falls silent for a minute, putting the fear she felt away in that compartment she never wanted to open again. Taking a deep breath, Netty glances around the group to signal a change in the story.
Netty had been walking her bay along the bed of a stream, trying to lose her trackers. "I was lucky enough to be in ClearWater Creek when it hit." The jolt had thrown both she and the horse sideways into the hip deep water. "I took a dunking, had the breath knocked out of me when I landed belly, and when I came up all I saw were kicking legs and splashing around. It was a good thing I hadn't been riding. My bay was almost upside down, and there were hooves everywhere while it tried to get up. But we were OK." Netty pauses to pull the story together, piecing it together for herself at the same time. "I guess the Grogan brothers must have been drunk, loose as a goose, as they survived." Netty falls silent again, having reached the end of her story. "I wonder if this isn't happening all over." Not everyone around the campfire is silent, as Brian has begun giggling, but this goes unnoticed by the others rapt with the stories being told. Brian stares off into space, his face a mask, giggling softly though nothing seems to be funny.
Not all injuries are physical, broken bones and bleeding wounds.
Catastrophic change unhinges many, who can't adapt well to the shock.
In the dim light of the continuous dawn, Big Tom is trudging back from the creek, a towel thrown over his shoulder. Red is sipping coffee at the makeshift kitchen table, both men alone as the others sleep in. Big Tom glances up at the sky and then says quietly to Red, "Seems like this cloud cover is never going to lift." Red rubs the tips of his fingers together, examining them briefly, and says, "I saw this when I was stationed in the Philippines. Some volcanoes have been burping, somewhere." Big Tom bends over the smoldering campfire, picking up the blackened coffee pot, and while pouring himself a mug of coffee says, still in the quiet voice, "Have you noticed what's happening to Tammy?" Red had been dreading this moment. "I think she'll snap out of it, she just misses her doll house. The way she holds that rag doll of hers, you'd think it was all she had in the world." Clearly eager to talk about what he sees happening to his little girl, Big Tom is not going to be put off so easily. "She's never been like that, so quiet! I couldn't even get her to talk to me yesterday, wouldn't say a word. Damned peculiar."
Martha steps out of one of the makeshift tents, brushing hair away from her placid sleepy face. She smiles slightly at the two men in her life as she walks over to the fire, flipping open the coffee pot lid to inspect the contents. "I heard you two talking about Tammy. I known she's not right, and if we could I'd take her straight-away to Doctor Townsend, but there's no way what with the roads torn up." A wailing sound floats through the air, coming from a distance but unmistakably human. Mark bolts out of one of the tents, beating back the blankets that act as the tent walls in his haste. He has a worried look on his sleepy face. "Where's Brian, did you see where he went?" Red points in the direction of the wail, his face blank as though this is nothing new, and Mark heads off in haste in that direction, tucking his shirt into this pants and stomping his feet into his boots as he goes. "That's another one who's not right. The other day I found him talking to thin air."
After a pole shift, people migrate, looking for anyplace not devastated.
The local Mayor, along with some of the villagers, drag up along the road in front of the ranch.
Roads and communications are disrupted, so they are on foot.
Several people can be seen in the dim dawn, straggling along the winding road that leads past the farm. One of them pulls a wagon meant to be
pulled by a pony, hauling another. The man inside is gripping both sides, bracing himself against the jolts, his broken bones complaining at the
motion. Herman, a large man in the lead, stops and points toward the house, and the others look up, lifting their gaze from the road and then looking
in that direction. They move forward with more pep now, taking hope that they have found other survivors. Big Tom has been watching this
procession, from where he is sitting at the table with Martha and Red, his hands wrapped around a coffee mug. "We've got more visitors." Red
jerks his head around, and then rises to go off to get his rifle. Big Tom puts his mug down and heads in the direction of the arriving travelers,
apparently deciding that by their appearance they are anything but a threat. Big Tom walks with a firm step past the wreck of the house and out
along the entry road. When he gets close is walks with his hand outstretched, recognizing the lead man.
Clara, a thin graying woman, has rushed up to Big Tom. "They were all burned, as though there was no escape, as though the fire dropped on them from the sky!" Her husband, Len, a thin bend man, joins in. "Don't know where else, as the house was fine, and that ain't the weirdest thing we seen neither!" Clara glances at her husband. "You talking about that man pelted to death?" Len, not accustomed to be displaced as the story teller, jumps back in. "It was like he was stoned to death, those little stones all over the road, and his car looked even worse." Clara, too excited to stay silent, says, "Poor man, looks like he tried to run from it when the windows shattered, and there was just no escape."
Big Tom asks, "These town folks?" Len and Clara glance at each other, but then Clara drops her gaze, looking down at the road with tears welling up in her eyes, temporarily overcome. Len is pointing toward the broken farm house. "Didn't fare any better then you, and those that survived went off just like ourselves, looking for help." Clara adds, finding her voice again, "Miz Farmington got throwed clear across the creek, up against the flood wall, looked like one a them tomatoes the boys throw on Saturday nights, all red and smashed." Big Tom hasn't registered any surprise at any of this, and now asks, "Where are you headed for?" No one answers, but after a moment of silence, Herman says, "Anywhere its not like this." Big Tom nods in understanding, and invites them back to the camp. "We're not much better off, but we have some coffee and fried potatoes we can share." Then, with a gesture toward the camp and turning to walk back there himself, he says, "Come on back."
The group gathering at the ranch soon encounter a rogue military unit, lead by General Flood and his acquiescing assistant Sergeant Hammond.
In the wooded foothills fringing the valley, quiet preparations have taken place. In the swirling mist rising from the ground after a recent shower,
construction is going on. A large silver dome is being erected, cranes lifting a section as orders are barked. The military, it seems, were not taken by
surprise. They prepared for this day with construction supplies, and have quickly completed the construction of a dome with military hands assigned
to the duty. The dome design is one fashioned after the remnants of sites on the Moon and Mars, scientifically studied to withstand high winds,
earthquakes, and large enough to enclose their own atmosphere with comfort to the inhabitants. However, they would be surprised to learn that a
second dome has been constructed in the locale, one not inhabited strictly by humans, much less the military. General Flood, a vein in his bull neck
throbbing, is impatient. "I wanted this done yesterday! We can expect stragglers to start arriving, and I'll be damned if they'll find us out in
the open!" His non-commissioned companion, Sergeant Hammond, is hurrying to catch up to the general. Shorter and slight of build, he looks up at
the general and says in a worried voice, "Sir, I still haven't been able to get through to my wife and kids. None of us have." The General snaps
back. "I told you that'd have to wait! We've got bigger worries than that right now."
As they continue walking toward the construction site, another couple steps out from the tree bank.
Jonah is wearing jeans and a white shirt worn thin by many washing, his dusty boots and ruffled hair attesting to his careless attitude toward
appearances. He is standing next to a tall Zeta whose post thin body and stick arms are almost shocking when seen side by side next to the slender
Jonah. The Zeta is gesturing toward the receding military men, his face turning toward Jonah, silently communicating. Jonah replies, "They stole it
from a contactee, tortured him for it. But they don't have much besides the shape. It's not like our places." The Zeta puts his hand on Jonah's
shoulder, and glancing up, Jonah replies in agreement, "Yeah, I know, before we're spotted and followed". At this both, of them rise in the air a
few feet and float off, backwards and away from the scene before them.
At another location,
Jonah and his Zeta companion are walking up through the mist, out of the trees that are surrounding a natural clearing. Jonah is explaining, "The injured you brought in have been getting restless and want to help with the work, they've been asking for a role." We see that they are walking toward a large silver dome, toward the entry port at the ground level on one side. Off to this side there are several thin Zetas, transporting injured people or assisting those too weak to walk into the domed city from a dull gray saucer shaped craft suspended a couple feet off the ground. Those who can't walk are being transported by levitation, their prone bodies floating alongside a walking Zeta who is apparently in charge of the levitation and transport.
Back at the ranch, Billy is struggling with his sisters stubborn silence, and gets some help from a friend.
Billy is out digging for potatoes in a field behind the tent city. It is gloomy as though early dawn, the trees along the creek starkly outlined against the gray sky. Their leaves have fallen off, not as they do in fall when they color and then drop, but because about half have turned a sickly yellow and dropped while the remaining are still green. Billy is scrapping and chopping at the earth with a short hoe and digging tool, turning the earth looking for potatoes. He has a cloth sack lying on the ground beside him, lumpy with the few potatoes he has found. He is dusty and frankly dirty in places, as much from his work as from infrequent baths. Billy looks solemn and forlorn, with a slight frown on this face. Billy drops to his knees to dig by hand, not noticing that he is no longer alone. Suddenly he notices a thick gray Zeta foot, developed over eons to deal with a heavy gravity draw, and the thin leg above it. The foot appears to be booted in a seamless gray material. Billy sees the foot and freezes, but does not look concerned. He eases back into a sitting position, putting his legs out in front of him at bit, and looks up, squinting. The Zeta holds capped vial of smoky colored glass. The long slender fingers in the Zeta hand are wrapped around the vial, held in place by just a hint of a thumb, a bump where the thumb should be.
Billy starts talking to the Zeta as though he has been doing this all his life, as though there were nothing unusual about the scene. He blurts out, in a natural and relaxed voice, as though talking to a family member he trusts, saying quickly and with fervor, "She just won't talk to any of us". At this tears well up in his eyes. He continues, now with a quiver in his voice, "She stares at me like she doesn't see me." His breath quickening as though he were about to start crying in earnest, tears starting to stream down his face. "I asked her to come with me, digging, so we could skip stones like we used to, and she didn't even say nothing. Nothing!" Billy wipes the tears away with the palm of his hand against one cheek, suddenly jerking his head up and looking clear faced at the Zeta. There is a moment of silence as he is obviously listening to something intently. Finally, Billy says, "Well, sure, all at once you say, like a glass of water?" At this he glances at the vial and raises his hand to take it from the Zeta. He smiles slightly through his dusty tears, glancing at the Zeta briefly during this, by way of thanks.
Billy promptly follows the Zeta instructions, eager to help his sister.
Martha, Billy's mother, has had a struggle of her own, as their meager supplies are running out, especially since they've had unexpected guests to feed.
Though it is mid-day, it is still gloomy, as though a very overcast day during early dawn. Martha is sorting laundry, looking for items to be mended, seated on a chair in an open area, the laundry scattered about her in little piles on the ground. Her two children are behind her on the grass, Billy bringing Tammy what appears to be a glass of water. He sits down beside her, holding the glass up near her face. She weakly raises a hand, and he uses his own hand in addition to her hand to steady the glass as she raises it. Issues around the food shortage and what to eat have come up continually lately, with creative meal-making resulting. Martha cooks what she and Red decide is good to eat, and the others are told not to ask. This has included atypical menu items such as earthworms picked up off the damp grass after the last rain and some slow moving possums Red has caught, as well as edible weeds.
Big Tom strides in to talk to his wife, squatting before her so they can talk face to face. He looks up into her face and says, "We're out, plumb out, and the canned goods are going fast too". Martha is unperturbed, as she and Red noticed this long before the others. She keeps on mending through all of this without missing a stitch, though looks up and into her husbands eyes a lot, letting him know she has heard him. She smiles, "Red is bringing some possum back, and I've got some special soup tonight. You'll see, it'll be all right." Big Tom pauses, then rises to his feet. "Special soup?" Martha starts picking the laundry up off a pile, folding it on her lap as though getting ready to go, and says, "Never you mind, it'll be good for you."
Later, at supper,
The group has gathered around a glowing camp fire in the center of the makeshift tents. Martha is ladling out soup, handing bowl after bowl to the group as they come up one at a time. Some members of the group eat heartily, others sniff and ask, "What's in this?", but receive no answer or even a nod from Martha. All eventually start eating. Billy takes a bowl to his older sister, sitting without motion or expression at the perimeter. She says, "Thanks" and starts eating in casual manner. Martha has stopped ladling, her ladle frozen in the air, tears forming in her eyes. She catches herself, taking a deep breath and trying to disguise the emotion in her voice, and says, "Anyone for more?" Tammy glances at her brother and giggles, sharing a joke, both of them unaware of the waves of emotion buffeting their placid and reliable mother. Len and Big Tom have been having a discussion too, and now Len raises his voice slightly. "There are a lot of stories going around about these camps. Trucks were seen going in on a regular basis just ahead of the upheavals." Big Tom is intrigued. "Maybe we should get together a scouting party and find out what's what." Always loving a good gossip line, Len continues. "Repeatedly, repeatedly and sometimes on a daily basis! Jed ain't the only one who seed it either, plenty others seed it too." He scoops some soup up with a piece of bread and after biting a piece off says, with great seriousness, "I'm telling you, they've got a camp there, they got supplies, and that's where we should be heading." What they find there will not be a warm welcome, however, but interrogation.
A scouting party sets out from the ranch, determined to check out the military base.
Crossing an open field, Big Tom, Len, Herman, and Jane, who insisted that the woman's touch was needed, are trudging through the overcast day. They have backpacks or cloth sacks thrown over their shoulders, boots on and jackets open, as they are wearing their clothing supplies rather than carrying them in suitcases. Jane brings up the rear, though she is following Len who is actually the slow one. She is doing this out of consideration, steadying him now and then if he loses his balance by putting a hand up against his back pack, unbeknownst to him. She's a kind hearted person, and can see this veteran is a weakened man, struggling not to show it. Len is pointing toward a cleft in the hills looming up ahead. "Over there, they drove up and just plumb disappeared between those hills. Ain't nothing in there that anyone knows, and the signs say 'Private Property'."
A lookout on the hilltop is watching the four-some trudging toward him. He picks up a portable phone and speaks into it, softly. "Incoming, 4 o'clock". The group is approaching a cleft in the hills, trees on both sides. Len is talking animatedly, waving his arm in this direction or that, while he describes what he or others have seen from a distance. Jane is glancing slowly from side to side, scanning the skimpy forest they are approaching with a half-curious look on her face. Suddenly Jane freezes, her hand raising in the direction of the woods they are fast approaching, her warning frozen in her throat as a military warning booms out. "Halt! Halt or be fired upon! Identify yourselves".
The reception is not what the group expected.
First order of the day, by order of General Flood, is to determine how their secret base was discovered.
A single table is furnishes in the large bare room, the lights dim everywhere but in the center of the room over the table. The foursome come stumbling into the room, glancing over their shoulders, more worried about what is behind them than in front of them. General Flood comes walking out of the shadows opposite their entry. "Who led you here? This installation isn't on the map! Who led you here!" His voice is firm and his questions posed as though he didn't expect any resistance. Len is almost squirming, and the others glance at him. "Well Sir, I was formerly in the military and .." at which point he gets rudely interrupted by General Flood, who says, "Stick to the point! Who led you here!" Len gulps and says, "I did."
Big Tom and Jane have been taken aside to another interrogation room by a group of military men in shirt sleeves with their sleeves rolled up past their elbows, ties off and shirt collars open. This room is small and close, so the military men are literally in the faces of those they are questioning. Big Tom and Jane are being questioned relentlessly with staccato questions meant to rattle them. The questions are broadly based. "How many in your group?" "Where did you say you were when it happened?" "Herman, who?" Big Tom is trying to answer the question as though they are factual, not understanding, as Jane does intuitively, that they are intended to rattle them. She is composed, and finally speaks, saying in a clear calm voice, "How long do you think it will be before the whole town arrives? What will you do with them?" Her question silences the interrogators, as she has seen past their bravado to their point of panic.
Finally allowed out into the camp yard, Big Tom and Jane come out a door to join Herman and Len. They are standing close together, waiting, in the center of a complex of bland colored huts. They are checking with each other as to what was asked and said. General Flood and his every present attaché, Sergeant Hammond, are to the side, being briefed by the interrogators, Colonel Cage among them. The Colonel is shaking his head slightly as he walks up to the group, indicating their lack of success. General Flood reports, "It doesn't matter, the little rat broke. He saw action in Vietnam, and we told him we were going to cut off his balls and rip his gut open. He saw plenty of that over there, and he broke. They came from the Simpson farm just north of here." The General pauses, then says, "Make sure they weren't followed" and turns abruptly and walks off, leaving his orders deliberately ambiguous.
Allowed to leave to return to the ranch,
A despondent Big Tom and Jane and their guard are returning to the farm, backtracking along the path taken to reach the camp. The path is going along a narrow valley between rolling hills. All are walking single file. The half dozen military men are holding automatic weapons, casually pointed down and to the side as they walk but nevertheless at the ready. Big Tom is in the lead, and is walking slowly, trying to think or escape and stalling, not wanting to lead them back to his family. The soldier behind him gives him a shove, making him stumble slightly. Colonel Cage, who has been walking behind Jane, comes forward quickly reprimanding the soldier in a quick aside, and begins walking side by side with Big Tom.
Colonel Cage picks up the pace to put a little distance between themselves and the others, and begins to talk to Big Tom quietly. "Is there a break up ahead where we can take a stand?" Big Tom doesn't miss a beat, having sized up the Colonel as a good man, and after a moment of mulling it over, says, "At the creek up ahead. It gets ... " The conversation is interrupted, Colonel Cage jerking his head around, hearing a slight but familiar sound, and immediately bolts back along the line. He jogs quickly up to the men following he and Big Tom. "Where is she!" His question is met with a cold stare, but as Jane and two of the soldiers have disappeared, the Colonel has his answer. He continues back along the trail, picking up his pace, and soon finds what he feared. Behind a group of trees, Jane is struggling with one of the men who is trying to tear her pants down, while the other holds the automatic weapon in a relaxed manner, watching and leaning back against a tree.
The gun man jerks his head around, seeing Colonel Cage running up to them. The rapist shoves Jane away and quickly adjusts his pants at the fly, trying to conceal what he was up to. The gun man raise his gun and shoots Jane, who has staggered back, in the face with a short burst from the automatic. "She was trying to escape". Finally reaching the scene, Colonel Cage wrenches the gun away from the gun man and without missing a beat, lowers the weapon and shoots the man in the stomach, swinging it quickly to do the same to the rapist. While the two of them are writhing on the ground, in agony, Colonel Cage walks over to Jane, determining at a glance that she is solidly dead as her head is essentially blown off. He turns on his heels and strides back the way he came, his face full of tension and a film of sweat on his pale face. He is breathing heavily, from the run and adrenaline, and runs his fingers thought his hair, front to back, combing it as he strides back to the waiting line of men. "Lets go" Big Tom is waiting with an anxious look on his face as Colonel Cage strides to the front to rejoin him. "They're all dead, it's over".
Back at the ranch,
the women are washing clothes on some rocks along the creek. Netty is snappish with Daisy, who is sitting back and barely dipping her batch of laundry into the water, as though she expects to be rescued. "I'm not going to do it for you this time. Wake up to it, it's this or living grungie." Clara is washing vigorously, a worried look on her face. Finally she sits back on her haunches and says to Martha, "Do you think we'll ever see them again?" Martha glances quickly over her shoulder, and seeing her children playing along the creek bed behind them, out of ear shot, says "Big Tom knows this area and Len knows how to talk to them." She hasn't answered the question, but it is apparent by her face that she too is worried and just trying to keep a calm front. Suddenly Tammy shouts, "Dad!" Tammy is running and Billy jumps to his feet to follow her. Big Tom and Colonel Cage walk out of the woods, followed by the three remaining soldiers.
The women have risen to their feet, as Big Tom walks up to Martha with a grim look in his face. Martha says, glancing over his shoulder and flitting her eyes back to meet his quickly, "Where's Jane and the others?" The grim look on his face is her answer, and she flutters a hand quickly to her mouth, utters a quiet, "Oh, no!" Clara is next in line, standing just behind Martha with an anxious face. "Where's Len? Where are they! In God's name tell me what happened!" Big Tom puts his left hand on her shoulder and says, "They're fine, fine, don't get excited. They stayed behind and they're all fine." Martha is leaning her face into her husband's shoulder, biting her trembling lower lip and fighting tears, trying to use an embrace and joy over seeing her husband again to disguise her grief from the rest of the women and her children.
The group walks back to the tent city, where
Danny is explaining to Mark and a restless Brian about the pole shift, relaying what he can remember from Professor Isaac's rambling dissertation. "It happens ever few thousand years, and what's left of mankind starts over again. I guess we're lucky to be alive." Brian is moving continuously but in a slow manner, pausing after each move for a moment, first raising partially up and then sitting down again, crossing one leg and then uncrossing and crossing the other leg, putting his hands on his knees and then crossing his arms, swatting behind his neck and looking at his hand for a bug that isn't there, moving his head from side to side as though looking in every direction - restless and a bit paranoid. Mark is in denial even though he has experienced it. "Yeah, well, I don't believe any of it. If something like that was going to happen the government would have told us. I think is was just an earthquake." A look relief crosses Mark's face as he sees Big Tom and the woman approaching. "Hey, there they are." Mark starts to rise from his seat to greet the group coming back from the creek. Danny turns also, a smile on his face, but the smile slowly disappears as he sees missing members. Brian has bolted into the tents at the sight of the military men.
Big Tom sets the tone and takes charge of the big lie. "They're waiting for us and we have to pack up and join them". Happy to hear this news, Danny starts nodding his head and muttering. "Cool, we're out'a here." Daisy comes up to him, immediately starting her whining mode again as she thinks things are back to normal again. "I'll need to see the hair stylist right away, my hair's a mess!" She is tugging at her pants and blouse, trying to straighten up and adjust back into appearance expectations she had put aside. Big Tom crawls into the tent where a sleepy Frank is just waking up from a nap. "Come on, guy, time to move out." Frank blinks and says, "You're back? Where's Jane?" Big Tom, keeping up the big lie, says calmly, "We're going to meet them. Hurry up, grab your things." The group is leaving the farm, carrying only pillowcases stuffed with personal items. Martha stops briefly, turning slightly to glance back at the ranch with a long lingering sad look at the home and lifestyle she knows she will never see again. Tammy is at her side. "Do you think they'll have a doll house?" Martha, wanting to encourage her daughter's recent return to normalcy, chatters back, saying brightly, "Wouldn't be surprised. I'll bet they'll even be some other little girls your age."
Colonel Cage is walking with Frank, who has just been told of his wife's death. He is talking this stoically, and they are walking at the side of the others who have spread out and are not in a line any longer. Frank is pale and barely moving. "At least she didn't suffer." The Colonel, still enraged at what had occurred, says, "No, but I made sure they did!" Big Tom and Danny are taking the lead. Big Tom is explaining the situation to Danny. "I don't know where we're going, but we had to leave, and soon. They were sent to kill us." His face is grim, and he glances repeatedly at Danny's face as he says this, checking out the terrain ahead of them in between these glances. The pace is not slow, and the field is rough so one has to watch their step. Danny looks confused and troubled, keep looking like he wants to say something but stops when the words don't come together. Finally, "So they're all dead, Len and Herman?" Big Tom pauses, faced with a question he himself does not want the answer to. "I don't know, but we have to assume that, I guess. Just don't say anything to the women."
In the next segment the group lead by Big Tom and Colonel Cage discover evidence of canibalism,
and then arrive at the river bank where they encounter another survivor camp.
They are followed by the rogue military unit under General Flood, who is determined to quell any rebellion.
On the run once again, they arrive at the dome city run by Jonah and the Zetas.
Mark and Brian meanwhile rig an air balloon and return to the East Coast, passing over horrific sights along the way.
Jonah introduces the group to some special children living in the Dome City.
And Colonel Cage sets out to recover his family, under the watchful eye of a Zeta.