Time of Isolation, Chapter 4 Part 2

Before beginning this week’s post I’d like for us here in the USA to remember the fallen as we enter the memorial day weekend. Without their sacrifice  we wouldn’t be doing what we are today. I’m a veteran of foreign wars and am quite aware of those sacrifices, and the impacts those losses made to the families of the fallen, and continue to so do today. Since those sacrifices are still taking place in a world where peace seems like a distant dream.

After a natural disaster, and if you are one who is unlucky enough to be involved, you learn that from this moment on nothing will ever be the same. And if your home was one of the ones lost then this compounds everything. Whatever plans, whatever goals you may have had must now be put on hold, and will probably change forever. Yet while the incident is taking place you personally are involved with the moment to moment changes and how these changes affect you directly. And once the disaster is over and you find you’ve been one of the lucky ones and can return to your home and continue your life the one thing it has given you is a taste of what it’s like to be a refugee.

And in this chapter we find the scouting team doing just that. Taking everything that’s happening and adjusting to the needs of the moment. Still at some point they will either escape or die trying. So Shayne attempts to project different scenarios that may or may not happen. If we think about it all of us do the same thing, and it doesn’t require an emergency for those thoughts to form. Somehow the other cities must be informed, but at this very moment such isn’t possible. And while dealing with these possible futures it brings him around to thinking about the primitives. In truth this first book in the trilogy concentrates mostly on the scouting unit and their attempt at surviving. It isn’t until book 2 that we really get up close and personal with the primitives and learn who and what they are. (The complete Survival trilogy is available from your favorite EBook retailer. The novels are: A Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past.) And with this introduction is part 2 of chapter 4:

After a week of dodging patrols and putting much distance between themselves and their starting point Shayne finally called a halt. They were presently in a small hidden valley that would provide them shelter for a few days before they continued. Looking around he could see the haunted expressions on many of the faces. There had been too many close calls in their escape. But so far their luck had held and as far as they knew they had been undiscovered. Shayne knew that their luck would fail at some point so immediately had the members practice their combat skills. Then Shayne and Skylar would call in the teams of two and start going over strategies to infiltrate the unknown leader’s camp of the primitive alliance. Somehow they had to gather intelligence, and find ways to bring it down. Otherwise their way of life was complete, finis, over, done, or whatever other word came to mind. Plus, now that the escape had been successful, it was time to find an uninhabited area and set up their village. They had to blend in and appear to nothing other than one of the many primitive tribes. It would have to be their base of operation, and it needed to be somewhat close to the alliance but not so close as to make them a target since they were not to be a part of the alliance.

While this was happening they would send out two teams of two to head for different cities and hope that these teams reached the cities before the primitives did. Yet all of this was in the future. As of right now they hadn’t completely escaped, close, but not yet. All he could hope for was that the equipment they used would remain undiscovered, and if found by the primitives, it would immediately give them away as being from the cities. Again, because of the short-range communications devices within these units, they needed to be much closer to one of their sister cities so that they could communicate over the airwaves.

This led him to thinking about the differences between the cities and the primitives. Why the two differences? If the history taught in their learning centers had been accurate, and who knew for sure, since history is rewritten over time to fit the present leaders, and the ones who did the writings – yet this written history said that at one time they were all one people. All advanced, with no primitives. There were factions within and eventually somewhere along the time line war had broken out involving the whole world. Some seeing the futility of such an action vowed to remove themselves from the fighting and try and preserve what they had. It is unknown how they accomplished it, but from their actions the cities came into existence and remained outside of the fighting and the death and destruction. Hidden in the desolate untraveled areas, it became the time of isolation. As the war raged outside of this isolation they continued to thrive and develop methods that would hide their cities. Then eventually the wars ended and the remnant of those who had fought in those many wars had reduced them back to a primitive way of life. And this way of life had remained as it was presently for hundreds of turns around their sun. It appeared that the primitives would always remain so, with no desire to rise above whom and what they were. So as time had continued, as it always does, the cities remained hidden – observing their once brothers and sisters and remaining unseen.

A commotion brought him out of his thoughts and he quickly looked around to see what was happening. They were under attack! Where had the attackers come from? No time for questions or answers now! It was time to fight or anything they had planned for the future would be naught, and if they did not get out of the area safely, then none of the other cities would ever be safe. As these thoughts ran through his mind he saw one of his team go down under a spear. That was the last direct image head had as it became complete chaos around him as they desperately fought. It seemed that an hour must have passed but he knew it could only be a few minutes in truth. Soon, their training paid off, and they were able to overcome the attacking primitives. He immediately sent out hand signals to search the area and to allow none of the primitives to escape. If they did then their own escape would end here, as the alliance would be alerted to their presence.

As he caught his breath he first wondered how they were found. He thought that they were well hidden. Looking around at the team he was proud of what he saw as without a word they were looking after any that had been wounded in the brief battle. He was glad that these primitives that had attacked them seemed to be a small group. Probably one of the many patrols that this new alliance had working the countryside, and eliminating any competition. What worried him lay in both the discovery of their location, and while yes they had succeeded in overcoming the small patrol, it had proved more difficult than it should have been. They had been lucky. In fact the only severe injury was the first one he had seen before the chaos. The one who had been speared had been lucky, as the spear had missed any vital organs and major blood vessels, but still he had lost a lot of blood, and seemed to be breathing rapidly and appeared to be somewhat pale. The rest of the injuries seemed to be flesh wounds, cuts and scrapes. Turning to the group once it had been confirmed that all the primitives were indeed dead he said. “Okay, I guess we’ve now had our first taste of battle. I myself did not care for it, but our training seems to have paid off. Still, we were lucky once again, as this was a small force. I believe that had it been a larger scouting party that we would be the dead ones.” He let that comment soak into them before continuing. “How we were located I do not know, but it shows that we are not as good as we thought. So if we are to survive, we must get better. Now bury those primitives, take whatever we can from them, as we may need the items, and then prepare to leave. It is obvious we cannot stay here. If we did we would be very foolish indeed. I do not know how much time we have, but I can guarantee that once this group is missed they would be searched for.”

“Shayne?”

“Yes Saige what is it that you want to ask?”

“How would the primitives leave their enemy’s bodies? Would they bury them as you proposed, or would they strip them and mutilate the bodies? So in their afterlife they could not attack the other spirits.”

“Ah I see your point. If we bury them we would be giving ourselves away that we are not a part of this world but of the cities. Okay let’s follow what these primitives would do and get out of here.”

* * *

The following days and weeks indeed turned into hell as the words he had spoken became true. They found themselves fighting for their very lives as they continued to be pushed further from their goal and deeper into the untamed wilds. Each fight, each ambush left them weaker as some fell to these attacks. In one of the last desperate fights they lost half of their remaining healthy members. Even the leader Shayne was severely wounded. The second in charge had been killed only the previous day. Shayne, before this fight had then placed the sister and brother Shellian and Saige as seconds. But if this continued then it would not matter as they would perish and any of the knowledge they had would perish with them.

That evening Shayne called the two to his side and stated that most likely he would not live out the night. He was very pale and his breathing ragged – they could see desperation in his eyes when he knew that he would not be able to continue to lead their small band of refugees. Shellian then said, “Shayne, I know that you have been hurt and your injuries are bad. But you must survive. Who else could lead us? I mean you have taught us how to survive and how to depend on each other. It is you who is the heart, strength and soul to us. You are our leader.”

He could see the pleading in her eyes but he felt the truth deep down inside of him. He knew that even with what they had medically, that the wound he had received, in the end would be fatal. Without the access to one of the cities they did not have the means to stop the slow bleeding that was happening inside of him. And he could feel his strength leaving him as his blood loss continued. Smiling up at her, even though it was a weak smile at best, he said weakly, “I have always been a realist. I have been given no special protection or immunity from what has happened to our city and to us. So why should I be any different than the rest of you?”

“But Shayne!” she exclaimed, “You are our leader. If you die how will we continue? We all look up to you. You’re the one who gives us confidence, the one we draw our strength from, the one with the knowledge . . .”

Interrupting by laying his hand on her Shayne said. “Shellian, Shellian, there is nothing I can do to change what has happened.” Then catching his breath he continued, “It will now fall to the two of you to take over for me. I do not know what lies on the other side of this physical death, but I do hope there is something. If so some day we will have a chance to meet again. But for whatever reason my time is coming to an end. I believe we are all here for some purpose. I never knew what mine was, and I guess now I will never know, but please . . .” His tone in his voice dropped as they could again see the desperation in his eyes. ” . . . Please get any part of this team safely out of here. We are being forced into the mountains and away from any of our other sister cities. It may be that we . . . you will have to survive there for a long time . . .” He then drifted off to unconsciousness without completing his thought. Shellian and Saige looked at each other, Saige being too heavy of heart to say anything at all. This seemed like the end, and for Shayne it was as he quietly slipped from this world as they watched.

Sister and brother looked at each other and neither spoke, as they could not believe he was gone. Shayne had been their leader from the beginning – well at least as long as they had been around. His knowledge and strength seemed indomitable. How could it be that he was to be one of the ones killed as they ran their desperate escape from these primitives? What were they going to do? How were they going to survive? Just what was to be their fate? It seemed that a dark cloud now hung over everything. They had lost two thirds of their numbers on this escape, and had to abandon their mobile units – no longer having the number of members to be able to operate them. Plus it was slowing them down and now speed and stealth was of the essence.

Suddenly they both realized that someone had been speaking to them. Looking up from their overwhelming grief they realized that the woman who had been caring for Shayne and had witnessed his end was asking them something. “Again I ask, now what? What are we going to do?” Looking at her they both could see the pain in her eyes and they reflected that it was probably the same if they could look into a mirror and see their own. Neither had an answer but they both knew that whether wanted nor desired, Shayne’s last request was for the two of them to lead the remaining members to safety if at all possible.

Saige then said. “First we must lay our leader to rest.” Then breathing deeply and turning to his sister he continued. “Shellian, go inform the others of Shayne’s passing. I fear we do not have much time to us and we are going to have to leave this place before the sunrise if we are to survive.” Again pausing and then coming to a decision, he realized at that moment that all of the older generation was gone. It was difficult to realize that now they were the older generation here, but indecision here would and could finish them. “We must, as Shayne requested, head into the mountains. It will probably be our only salvation. For some reason that we have never been able to discover, these mountains are a sacred and a feared place with these primitives. They rarely venture into them. When they do, it is usually their holy men only. So it may be that these mountains can be our sanctuary.”

Shellian stood there unable to move. It was obvious to Saige that she was on the verge of tears as was the other woman who had been caring for Shayne. He had to admit it himself that he too was emotionally drained. But if they did not get moving and soon it would not matter as they all would be joining Shayne much too soon, and if that happened then they would have failed completely. He walked over to his sister and gave her a hug. She clung to him with her head on his shoulder. She seemed to be shaking and he realized that indeed she was crying. He found that the other woman had joined them and she too had tears flowing. He thought he should say something but could come up with nothing to say that would comfort any of them. So they just hung together for what seemed like a long time. Finally pushing them gently away from him he said. “I’ll go out and let the rest know. Please prepare our leader for burial and I will get the rest started in digging his grave. I truly fear that we do not have as much time to honor him, as we should. But in the end I think he will understand.” He then turned and left the small shelter they were in leaving the two women alone.

* * *

Tragedy! The very last person the scouting team expected to lose was their leader. Yet here it happened. Now what? Still for all of us who remain part of the living, life goes on, and if they allow the tragedy to overwhelm, then they could fail leaving not a trace. Next week we continue to follow the scouting team, now with new leaders, who were selected by Shayne before his passing. In the next few weeks they will learn whether his choice has been a good one. Have a great week and return for part 3 of Chapter 4. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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Time of Isolation, Chapter 4 Part 1

Last week I talked about one of the critical issues dealing with disasters and that being evacuation. I suspect the logical question would be: How would you know? The simple answer is: I have been involved in such a situation in a rural community. Even here where the population is less you still face the same issues – an infrastructure never meant to handle the volume that an evacuation creates. And in the chaos of those times things remain fluid as the ones in charge try to come to terms with the always changing situation. And forget your cell phones as they will be useless during those times. And if you and yours happen to be in more than one vehicle it is easy to get separated, and it may even be days before you find each other. Unfortunately in our world such disasters happen all the time, so it is only natural to carry them over to our stories. (The Survival trilogy is available from your favorite EBook retailer. The titles in order are: A Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past.)

While this isn’t quite the situation with the scouting unit, the conditions they face are fluid and are changing by the minute. It’s probably  true that their first thoughts, when they came up against this greater force, was to overwhelm them and “get out of Dodge”. Once they were past that first obstacle I’m sure they felt they would be successful in making their escape only to be disappointed. So they now wait knowing that at any moment they can be discovered, and if they are, then they will be fighting for their very lives. With this information we close out chapter 3.

As we open chapter 4 the perspective again shifts and it opens with another supervisor at the communications center in one of the other existing cities. (A little insider information here: I had a friend, who has since passed away, who wanted me to use his name in one of my novels, and I said yes. So this character and his personality is that friend. Of course he had to harass me, all in good fun of course, because I made him a communications flunky.) And with this we begin Chapter 4:

Keenan was shocked. He was in charge of his section of the communications center that kept the many cities linked, and within two days two additional cities had gone silent. No explanation, no warning, nothing. While each city had their own individual communications, theirs was the hub where all the cities, that still existed, kept in contact with each other. He had his suspicions, but again had no proof. What exactly was going on? At this rate by the end of this annual all the cities could be gone. With no proof he couldn’t even put forth his theories. He knew they would just laugh at him, saying something like, “Look at it. Almost all of the cities that have gone silent have been in one area of the continent. So some natural disaster must have befallen them. After all with our technology we are well hidden from the primitives, and there is no way it could be them anyway. We’ve been able to put the fear into them that we are from their primitive gods so are off limits.”

He had to admit that their arguments were valid enough, but these arguments just didn’t feel right, and they did not really fit in the pattern as he saw it. Well it was time to go over to the one above him and report the loss. Sighing, and then shaking his head he knew that it would be just filed and he would be told to forget about it. “Sometime soon a valid answer would be found, and please no more of your stupid theories.” Had they as a people become so complacent that even with disaster looking them in the face they could not see it? For that he had no answer. He just hoped that what they were saying as the probable cause was correct, and what his theories were, was not. Yet, he had this nagging feeling that he was absolutely right . . . yet . . . with no proof he was just going in circles. “By the gods!” he yelled, “What is going on?” Looking around he saw the startled looks on the ones who worked under him. He then responded, “Sorry team. It’s just something is happening to our people and the ones over us are going on as if nothing has changed and nothing has happened. It seems that they are denying all of this. I feel that they are going to do this even if it happens to us. And then wonder what happened?” Shaking his head again he headed out the door to report his findings knowing again that it was futile.

Kellen received the news from Keenan with little acknowledgement leaving Keenan frustrated with the response he received. But there was little he could do about it. With foreboding he then headed back to his section completely at loss as to what to do or where to go. This lack of concern on any of the leaders’ part could lead them all to disaster. Kellen, immediately after Keenan left, could see the anger on his face, but he had been specifically told to make it appear to be something minor. Yet he was very worried, and once he knew that Keenan had left he went out with no explanation to his underworker and went to report to the next higher up. Again what was causing their cities to disappear like this? They had been safe and hidden for generations, why now? What had changed? Why was there no communications or at least refugees from these silent cities? Of course the distances between them could be part of the answer, since the portable communications devices were of very short range. Only the major communications centers within the cities allowed direct contact between all of them. So there may not have been enough time for someone from one of the silent cities to get close enough to use the short-range devices or even reach one of the other cities as of yet.

Still it was a worrisome thing, and with little facts and no information what could their response be? And if it turned out to be war, well that would be a bad thing, since they did not even have an army to defend their way of life. There had been no need for such a thing. Their technology had kept them safe to pursue other endeavors. Now if it came down to fighting for their very lives could they do it? He knew that their city, Keahilani, had shut down their wilderness project, oh, at least 10 annuals ago. It seemed to be something they no longer had a need of. Were they wrong? He had to admit he had no answers for any of the many questions that this emergency brought forth, none at all.

* * *

Shayne signed back to the team what the forward scouts had passed on to him. “The scouts stated that a small group of what appears to be warriors just came into the area and appear to be hanging around. Fortunately it was after we had killed the one enemy so they are not alerted at the present to either our location or us. We do not know if they are here just by chance or are here to collect the one we killed. Every moment we have to stay here gives them a better chance of discovering either the entrance into the caverns or finding us. We cannot take them out, as it would then alert the primitives that someone has escaped. So we must just wait, and pray that they do not find us. Keep it silent and continue using sign language.” He could feel as well as see the tension and fear in his team. Would they be successful in their escape or be caught?

Time continued to drag as they waited for the scouts to inform them that the war party had moved on, but none had been forthcoming so far. As the morning crept along and nothing seemed to be happening, Shayne could see that many were becoming restless and wanted to do something, anything. The waiting was becoming unbearable with discovery likely at any moment. Finally as they reached mid-morning the “all clear” sign was given. Shayne turned back to the group and signed to them to wait, as he would go forward to confirm. He then left, and again what seemed like an eternity he finally returned and signaled for the team to move out. The warriors had left the area, and apparently were not there to collect the one lookout from here. They then continued to push west through the major canyon complex. Every additional branch of these many canyons increased their chances. They knew by nightfall that they had to be completely out of the area. With heavy hearts and with some distance between them and their lost city they looked back and saw smoke rising. Some of their beloved city was burning, but from the amount of the smoke they could tell that it was not the whole city. Without power the fire extinguishing equipment would not work. It was a sign to them that they would never be able to return here and presently they were a people without a home. As far as they knew they were the last of their city. They really did not know if any of their city had lived through the attack. They suspected that it was a possibility but there was no proof. These thoughts weighed heavily on them as they worked through the canyons further from their home that would be no more.

That night with the day full of avoiding roving groups of primitives they finally found shelter in a small copse of trees and within a small stream ran merrily on its way. But none of the team felt joy in the sounds of the stream as it bubbled over rocks on its way to who knew where. They were exhausted; beat, both physically and emotionally. Had it been only this morning when their city had fallen? It seemed like a lifetime, and that they had always been on the move, dodging and hiding. They ate a cold meal afraid to have a fire, or anything that would give them away. Shayne set up watches for the night wanting them changed every couple of hours. They had to be alert and any member on guard duty for longer than that could become careless. And carelessness was something they could not afford. There was little talk, as most seemed to be asleep on their feet. So after eating most fell into an exhausted sleep.   At this point there had been no young ones to complicate their escape. Although a few of the women that were coupled were early in carrying their first child, and if they went full term before they were able to enter another city there could be problems. Walking among the sleeping team members Shayne was very worried. He knew that the next few weeks were going to be hell. They always had had the city to fall back on and now it was gone. Would they be good enough to be able to completely survive without its support? For this he had no answer, or was likely not to find an easy one. He missed a hot cup of shick. He liked it strong, bitter and very hot. It seemed to help him keep going. But he knew that they would be eating cold meals for many days to come and until they could build a fire he and all the rest would be without it.

Then it came to his mind that now they were going to find out rather quickly if they were good enough to avoid the roving patrols of the primitives. Whoever was presently in charge of these primitives seemed to have some military sense about him. Everything that he had witnessed showed discipline, organization, and precision in carrying out the attacks, the posting of watches, and the roving patrols. It had to be that way or else someone from the city could escape and alert others to what was happening, and thusly change things, making it harder for these attacking forces. Just what is this unknown person offering the tribes that he seems to be uniting? Then while on this track of thinking Shayne thought, we have to find out who this one is, the ones who directly support him, and then find a way to either eliminate him or at least make the rest of the newly aligned tribes to become distrustful. At this point his mind became too clouded with fatigue to continue so he found a place on the ground and like the rest fell into an exhausted sleep.

It seemed like only minutes when he was awakened, but it was just before dawn and they had to be up and moving out of the area. It was going to be difficult to eliminate any sign that they had been here. They were just too large of a group. While he had them spread out to take care of the morning nature call he knew that with the amount left behind that there would be a scent that could draw the primitives right to their campsite. With that in mind, he assigned a group to cover the wet spots with soil and leaves to help hide their passing of the area. Again with hand signals they headed out, with scouts out front and to the rear, and out-runners or flankers to both sides. It was a cool and very clear morning with a light haze in the distance. It was going to be a very long day. They would be moving from now, before the sunrise, to after the sunset. It presently was the late summer months, and the daylight period was much longer than the night.

* * *

At this time escaping the area is the main thoughts and concerns of not only the leaders of the scouting unit, but all. Yet as another day ends with them still alive, moving, and free, Shayne begins to look over the whole situation and to come up with what must be done in the near future if such time is granted. And then will too little sleep it’s time to continue their escape. Chapter 4 is a long chapter and as such has been broken up into 4 parts. So next week we move on to part 2. Have a great week and God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

Time of Isolation, Chapter 3 the End

Last week this city learned the truth and a few are trying to escape the city and the resulting destruction. From what can be determined, from the little information available, the primitives must have united. From the size of the force coming over the walls it is obvious they are facing more than a single clan or tribe. And as they work towards abandoning the area they find their planned route is being watched – another sign of a leader who knows what to do and how to lead effectively.

If you personally have been involved in an evacuation, because of an emergency of some kind, be it a natural or manmade disaster, or simply a drill at work, then and only then will you understand the chaos that surrounds such an event. In one sense the movies have it right. The infrastructure of any city, county, and beyond was never designed to handle a complete evacuation of an area. If you think rush hour is bad then try an evacuation. You can find yourself sitting for hours on that road that has become a parking lot. And if the danger is immediate, say a wildfire or something similar, then ones who are stuck in that traffic are of higher risk to becoming part of the disaster if that natural disaster strikes or overruns those evacuation routes.

Here, in this situation, they have a strong leader in Shayne, and all count on him to find solutions to what they face. And when we look at such situations personally (like natural disasters) we look to leadership to keep things under control and orderly. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Many times it is someone who is not a part of this leadership that rises up and takes control, organizing things and bringing order out of the chaos. This week we briefly shift perspective and learn a little about the primitives, yet the main focus will be with the scouting unit. And with this introduction is the end of chapter 3:

Kor had been disappointed. At first he was excited when he had been informed that he would join the raiding party. It would be his first, and to be able to join the warriors in battle had always been his dream, and now it appeared it was coming true. He also thought that he might have his first female then also. Yet when they approached the area he had been assigned this duty to be a watchman. A watchman . . . that was a child’s job . . . not a warrior’s. What made it worse lay in the fact that he was completely isolated, and knew that there would be nothing happening here at all. There was only a flier or two now and then. This place was desolate, nothing to interest one. Why had he been given this assignment when all the action was on the other side of these hills? The sun had been rising for quite a while and it was dead silent, nothing, just nothing was happening. So bored, he glanced around, picked up some pebbles and tossed them over the side to watch them as they cascaded down the side, creating small landslides with the loose soil that rained down to the canyon bottom. He was about to throw another over the side when some movement caught his attention. Unbelieving he saw two females coming down that dead-end canyon. Where had they come from? He worked himself up to the edge so he could watch them. He wanted to see where they were going. Maybe he would have his first female anyway, and who knew maybe two. With a wicked smile on his face he concentrated on the pair as they stumbled down the canyon coming closer to his location. Deciding it was time to move he stood up to begin his approach only to hear something behind him. As he turned he felt himself being pushed. He fought hard to regain his balance since he was standing on the edge, but realized that there was no way he would be able to prevent the fall. Screaming once he fought hard to regain his balance, but then slipped over the side and then fell to his death.

* * *

Saige stood there with Shellian next to him and looked down and waved at the two women. He wouldn’t have thought to do it that way. But now that he thought about it, it had made perfect sense to send out only women making it appear that they would be vulnerable easy targets, something that a young primitive would concentrate totally on, not thinking that it was an ambush. His estimation in the capabilities of Shayne just rose. By doing it this way they would be out of the area with none the wiser. And with the body of the primitive at the base of a cliff, it would appear to any that he had simply slipped and fallen. As long as they covered their tracks and left no evidence then there would be nothing to alert the attacking force. With a signaling wave the two women headed back to the cave exit and signaled the rest that it was now safe to exit. Fortunately the craft they had were partially hovercraft and as such, would not leave any tracks. Because of the noise they were only used in this mode when there was no other choice. The craft would normally navigate on six wheels.  At the back of the group were the trackers with the responsibility of wiping out any sign that they had been here. Now it would become more difficult. Shayne signaled Saige and Shellian to join the teams and then sent out a scouting group ahead of them. He would also have teams of out runners and flankers to both sides and the trackers taking up the rear position. Now once they were in the canyon networks ahead there was a greater chance to escape. Yet, he knew that they were far from safe. After all if there had been a lookout posted here, there was a great chance that there would be others.

No one spoke, and any communications were completed strictly through hand signals. Silence now was their friend, and any noise could compromise their position. So quickly and with stealth they moved into the center canyon. From here this one branched in four different directions. Initially their direction would be west. This would lead them deeper into the wilds. Once there they would have time to set up camp look at their options and figure out which city to head towards. They had to survive, as now they knew what was happening and who generally was responsible for the disappearance of the cities. They were the only ones who truly knew. But were they good enough to avoid the primitives and get this important information where it needed to go? Shayne knew that the nearest city was many weeks away. But it may be that it would serve them better to head for one that was still further away. There had been such a short time between the fall of the previous city and theirs that by the time they could reach the next closest city it may have become a victim of the primitives and could easily have fallen also.

At least with the canyon complex they were working through, the further along they proceeded, with the many additional branching directions they took, the less of a chance they had of being discovered. Shayne, as did the rest of the team, knew it was a desperate time since the primitives could only continue to be successful if the remaining cities were kept ignorant as to what had been happening to the ones disappearing and going silent. While he had these thoughts running through his mind one of the forward scouts signaled back that there was a small force of primitives ahead of them and these appeared to be seasoned warriors, not the young one that had been watching the canyon they came out of. He signaled for one of the forward scouts to come in and let him know what they were facing. Turning to the rest of the team he signaled for complete silence and all of their equipment was shut down. Fortunately most of the craft they were bringing with them was still hidden. Everyone else faded into the surrounding sparse vegetation and waited for the signal to move. There was a heavy tension in the air as they all were aware that their lives were on the line, and they were far from successful in leaving the area unscathed. Shayne, waiting until the scout was close enough that the sign language they used would be easily recognizable, He then signed, “What are we facing, and can we get around them?”

The scout answering back said, “It appears to be twenty to twenty-five warriors, and it appears that they were recently in a fight. They seem to be on alert, but presently are not moving.”

“Can we move around them without being seen or heard?”

“I don’t really think so. They are right in the middle of the main canyon floor where it splits in the four directions. I think we will have to wait until they move. Possibly, if they were not so alert and expecting anything . . . but I suspect they are there to cut off anyone who escapes from the city, you know like us.”

Shaking his head Shayne then signed back, “Okay then keep us informed, stay out of sight, and if anything changes let me know. We cannot fight them as it would give us away, and by these primitives believing they have everyone, it is the only way we have a chance.”

The scout signaled his affirmative, and then disappeared back the way he had come. Shayne coming back to the team then signed that they were stuck and would have to remain in the stealth mode for who knew how long. He knew that every second they stayed this close to the fallen city the greater chance of discovery. But what could they do, if they attacked the group, they would give themselves away, if they waited they could be discovered which would result in the same thing. So throughout the day they sat quietly, nervously, praying that no one would not come along and check on the one they had killed, and that this other group of warriors would move soon.

* * *

They need to get out of the area, and now! Once again after initially succeeding they have come up against a larger force. While it is smaller than theirs, they cannot afford to attack and overcome it, since it would be obvious to any that someone escaped. Now comes the waiting, the pressure of possible discovery, followed by the fear that it still could end right here, and now. And with this we wrap up chapter 3. Next week we begin a new chapter. Have a great week, and God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

Time of Isolation, Chapter 3 the Middle

In a sense what has been revealed in the first part of chapter three reminds me of a story, most likely fictitious, but still makes a valid point: In a small city, which bordered a river, the only way across was by ferry. So it was decided they would build a bridge. As the construction progressed it became obvious that materials were being stolen from the construction site at night. So they decided to hire a guard to protect the materials. Once done, they realized they needed a supervisor, an accountant, and a few other positions to support the new guard. As time went by they congratulated themselves on eliminating the thefts. Yet after a short period of time it came to the attention of the leadership that the overall operation was costing more than the loss of materials, so somewhere there needed to be a reduction of personnel to cover the shortfalls. After a study it was decided they would fire the guard.

So how does this apply here? In a sense every city except this one has fired their guards and left themselves vulnerable. And in their arrogance and complacency have forgotten that they are not invincible, that they can be located, and because they have lost the edge have left themselves open to failure, attack, and destruction. Still at this point in the story while what is stated here sums it up the situation, no one knows who or what is responsible for four cities going silent or dark. It can be anything from a natural disaster, since the ones who have gone dark are in the same general geologic area, or could it be they have been discovered? No one really knows. And because of this they, being the only one left with a scouting force, must begin serious planning on discovering the real reason for the failures of the four cities (No one leaves the cities to travel except the scouts.). And as we enter the middle of chapter three we find Shayne looking over the past hours of preparation, (The trilogy – Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past are all available from your favorite EBook retailer.):

As he prepared for sleep, Shayne felt that after the meeting that they had made a good start, but knew that was all. There had been many a good idea thrown out. Now they had to find the best of them that fit the circumstances, as they knew them right now. But, be willing to make adjustments on the fly as new facts and situations became known. This was not going to be easy at all. Just what was it that had revealed that first city to the primitives? And then what had these primitives found that revealed the other cities to them? He had no answers at all and it worried him, and even the assumption that it was the primitives causing this was just a guess. Tomorrow they would be sending out an advanced scouting unit to see if anything could be learned. At least the way out of the area for him, and his teams, was well hidden.

There was a cave system that lay to the south edge of their manmade wilderness. It was well hidden with a door that appeared to be nothing more than any of the many boulders and rocks that covered the hillside. What had surprised the ones in the past who had discovered the cave complex was the sheer size. It appeared that the whole small mountain was hollowed out sometime in the distant past. It could have been the results of ice or maybe an extinct volcano. Whatever had caused it, it had left at least one large grotto somewhere towards the center. They had found three points that one could enter or exit and these had been disguised, and hidden well. It was the way the teams who researched the wilds left and entered. They had explored the whole region to make sure that there was no place that someone on the outside could observe a team leaving one of the two exits that lay outside the city. At those two exit points there had been some observation ports cut in the past that allowed anyone from inside the caves to observe the outside areas.

The grotto area housed their special equipment and was large enough to hold the entire force. So if the unthinkable ever happened then they could hide until they could then leave safely. Speaking of the equipment, it was probably time to check the portable units completely. He thought that, most likely, they would be using everything that was stored there. This was to be an operation that involved all, and that had never been done before. How had they gone from being comfortable and secure to this state, and all in one day? And why had it taken so long for this information to get to him? He thought that if they had received this information after the second city had gone silent that there was a chance that they could have discovered what was going on, how they had been discovered, and then been working towards a solution – leaving the possibility that the last two cities would not have gone silent at all. Sighing, he knew he wasn’t going to solve this tonight, and if he was to be coherent tomorrow he needed to get to sleep. So finally climbing into bed he tried to relax. But his mind just would not stop. So for what seemed to be an eternity he tossed and turned, and then somewhere during all of this mental turmoil finally fell asleep.

* * *

Something awoke him and he did not know what it might have been. It was still dark out but he could tell that dawn was just about to arrive. Questioning himself again, just what had awakened him? Then he realized that something just did not feel right, but he did not know what it was. Now alarmed he jumped out of bed, quickly dressed, and went out into the courtyard. When he arrived he found that he was not alone. He was not the only one who felt that something was amiss. Then it hit him. It was the silence. There was always a background hum coming from the city and now it was silent. Then it hit him hard. He suspected that this city was about to be attacked and somehow the enemy had shut down all the power to the city leaving it completely open and vulnerable. Now there would be no time for planning, and with his small force, he would not be able to help any in the city. He first thought of his sister and their close ties, and knew he could do nothing to help her or her family. Shaking his head he grabbed the nearest person standing there and told him to wake everyone and to head for the grotto. If they were going to help any of the citizens of this city or the other cities that had gone dark, they would need to survive. Now being a hero and charging into this city would only bring them death and expose the rest to capture.

He admonished the people he grabbed to keep it quiet and to get to the grotto as quickly as possible. He could see shadows as his teams began their near silent exodus out of the compound to the caves – his only hope that they would be there before they were found. As the sky grayed he then heard the attack begin and shuddered inside knowing that people were both dying and having worse things happen to them, and there was absolutely nothing he or any of this group could do to slow or even stop it from happening. Again he thought of his sister and her family and almost cried out in anguish over his helplessness. He knew that the same thing was probably going through the minds of most of the people here. They all had family or loved ones in that city and they could do nothing to save them. Why had this attack come so close on the heels of the fall of the other city? One thing for sure he had his answer. No longer would he have to speculate on what was happening. He now had direct proof.

He and the rest now had to close their ears to what they were hearing. They could hear the screams and cries of the residents of the city as the primitives began attacking the residences. Could they get to the caves before they were discovered? Shayne swept the compound to make sure it was clear, and he remained as the rear guard to insure that all were ahead of him and retreating to the grotto. Even with the chaos within the compound they continued to move quietly and quickly with purpose. For this he was proud of them. It would have been so easy to panic, and to add additional noise to their movement, increasing the chances of being discovered. As he entered the edge of their artificial wilderness he saw some of the primitives coming over the wall. They had gotten out just in time. He hid behind a tree and then sped down one of the many pathways that ran throughout the area. He then came up against the hill turned left, went through a number of heavy bushes, then around a boulder which had a tree next to it. Once around the tree he entered the cave complex and closed the door behind him, and locked it. He then headed down towards the grotto and the growing crowd around him. What had surprised him more than the attack was the number of primitives that were coming over the wall. It appeared to have been enough to equal at least two tribes. And this would have included all the women and children, and old people. Yet, these appeared to have been ones who were male and were of fighting age. Yes something had changed and it bode badly for them and the cities.

He could feel the fear, confusion, and suddenly a sense of anger running through the crowd. Then one of the young members yelled, “Why are we running? They are attacking our city! Are we cowards, just hiding while our families are being killed and who knows what? Come on we have been training for this.”

Shaking his head he could understand the sentiment. But if they went back out to meet the primitives then all they would be doing was throwing their lives away and solving nothing. Now the best courses of action was to admit that they would fail here, but hopefully in the end, find a solution, and save others. There was absolutely nothing that could be done to save their loved ones at all. Turning towards the one who had voiced his concern Shayne said. “I understand exactly what your feelings are, but understand this, if we were to go out there, we would just be throwing our lives away accomplishing nothing. If you do not believe this I want you and someone else, someone of your choice, to climb up there and look out onto the grounds and tell the rest here what you see.” Then seeing some reluctance on the part of the speaker he then said, “This is not a suggestion this is an order. You need to see for yourself what we are up against. Then with you and the other you can come back down and let the rest know what you have seen. Now go and be back down in no more than ten minutes.” We do not know how long it may be before our escape may be discovered.” He then watched as the individual with another of his choice headed up the pathway and then up the ladders to the observation point. Once there he watched them pull back the cover and saw both of them visibly flinch. Then he saw their shoulders slump, and he knew that now they also knew that it was hopeless and if indeed had they returned to the compound then they would have either been captured or killed. He watched as the two slowly closed the port and made their way back to the waiting group. The one who had protested spoke in a subdued voice said. “You were right. If we had been waiting and tried to help we would now be either dead or captured. There is nothing we can do. I have never seen that many primitives. We barely would make a dent in the tide if we each had killed ten of them.” Then with a look of desperation he asked, “What has happened, what has changed? I don’t understand at all. How are we going to be able to do anything against that horde? How are we going to be able to prevent this from happening to the other cities? We are not a warlike people.”

Shayne could see the hopelessness showing in the faces of his teams. Then again shaking his head he stated. “I wish I had an answer for you. But I had only learned of the threat yesterday. I have no answers, solutions, or even an understanding of what has changed. But know this, we are going to try and solve this. Solving this is for a future time, now we have to escape and survive. So we will be on the run for a while. This will be hard and dangerous, as we must find our way to one of the remaining sister cities if possible. I am sure the alarm is already been given out since our city has gone silent. We are the fifth. I just hope that we do not lose too many more before we are able to change the situation. It is now obvious that we have become complacent and have allowed something to change. By not being vigilant we have now paid the price. If we are to prevent the ending of our cities and us then we cannot go on as before. Understand this, we are going to escape, and we are going to survive. This road ahead of us will not be easy. But you have to understand this; we must stick together, fight together, and work together. I believe that we are the only chance that the remaining cities have. So we must survive. Now let’s work towards the hidden exit . . . and yes we are going to take all of our equipment. I have a strong feeling that we will need it in the upcoming escape, followed by whatever plans we come up with, due to changes in the situation. We need to go with stealth. One last thing . . .” He paused then dropped his voice to almost a whisper before continuing. “ . . . When we survive this and then find out what has led to this change, we are going to eliminate the cause, and then hopefully be able to rescue our families and friends that have survived this attack, and of course the members of the other four fallen cities. I am sure that they have been enslaved and their lives will be pure hell, not much different than ours from this point on. We will at least have our freedom, something that they will not. But if we are captured then everything we have worked for and now working towards will be in vain, and the hopelessness of our people will be complete. As long as we are out there they have something to hope for. Now let’s move and get as far away from here as we can. Be prepared for anything. These primitives are not stupid, and they live in that world. It’s a world that we have only played in. They have the advantage, and as such we must learn quickly or we ourselves will be no more.” At this point he turned to his second and said, “Let’s get moving. I really have no idea if the primitives will find a way in here or not. I don’t want to be here if they do.”

At the end of his statement, the teams began the hike through the caves to the hidden exit lying on the backside of the hillside. The exit was located in a dead end canyon where there was a large rock face. At the point of the exit, the canyon was choked with small trees and brush – giving the appearance that it was impenetrable, and nothing of value to make it a place to go and explore anyway. The one danger to this blind canyon lay with its opening. A small group could keep anyone in the canyon from escaping. But since there appeared to be nothing of value here, it had always been felt that no one would ever take the time to even explore it. Then, once beyond the canyon entrance there was at least three ways out, making it more difficult for any that would want to follow, to know the direction they would take. As they neared the exit from the caves they released the small drones that would appear to be nothing more than birds. So if any were actually there the watchers would not give these drones a second thought. As they monitored the drones they saw a single primitive watching up on the ridgeline. “Okay I need one of the better scout teams to go out there and take out that single observer. And be very quiet about it. We cannot afford an alarm to go out.” There was a pause and then Shayne continued, “Saige, Shellian, you two are the best we have, I think you two will go out and take care of the primitive. Once you are in position we will send two more out to grab his attention to make it easier for you. Let’s get this done.”

The exit was opened just enough to allow Saige and Shellian out, then immediately closed. They slowly worked themselves up tight against the canyon wall that would hide them from the observer. Using hand signals they carefully worked their way down the length of the canyon and took the right branch, continuing to keep the primitive out of view. Of course by doing this it meant that they couldn’t keep tabs on the observer, so they really had no idea if he was staying where he had been first observed. If he had moved then they could be walking right to where he was and be seen. Luck held with them, as at one point they were able to briefly view the primitive. Since they now were closer they could see that he appeared to be a youth, probably out on his first raid. If they had anything to say about it, it would be his last.

* * *

The unknowns have now been answered, but it wasn’t the way they wanted or expected to discover the causes for the loss of the other cities. Now they know. Now the danger to them is personal with their way of life being threatened, and this could lead to them being completely destroyed, leaving not a sign that they or any of the other cities had ever existed. New problems, new dilemmas have arisen. Never in their history, and the study of the primitives has there been a leader that could unite the clans and tribes, yet now it appears that one such has arisen. Yet, of immediate concern is escape. Next week I will present the end of chapter three, have a great week and God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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