Ever and Always
Chapter 42: Hitting Bottom - August 2025

Copyright© 2015 by Banadin

The next few weeks left Rick in a daze. Marsha and the children came through their quarantine period without any problems. His world was shaken by two major events, the end of the world as he knew it and the beginning of a new family.

Years later, he would confess that he didn't know which was more stressful. During the quarantine period, the two children bonded with Marsha. Matt the two-year-old still missed his parents. Janet would never know any parents but them.

Matt took to Rick, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that Matt was two years old, while Rick was over eighty going on sixty. Rick was in good health for a sixty-year old; that was meaningless as he tried to keep up with the toddler.

He could keep up with the little girl as she was smart enough to take an afternoon nap just like him. Matt was a ball of energy from daybreak to lights out. The only mercy was when he fell asleep after dinner, that was it. There was no dropping off gradually, the light switch went off, and he was gone to the world. Until the sun came up then once again he was on a holy tear.

Rick only had to put up with this until after dinner for an hour or so, and it still pushed him to the end of his rope. It may have something to do with his being at the CSC command center twelve to fourteen hours a day seven days a week ever since events started.

Marsha was at home with the children. Janet was a little angel according to her, other than she woke her up every night wanting to be fed. Matt, however, came from somewhere else. She loved him to death and tried to keep up with him, but her age was against her.

Then after his first week there he learned a new word, NO! Between hours at work, and no sleep this was just about the last straw for Rick. He and Marsha were having their morning coffee along with a serious conversation about the children.

As they talked, Marsha was giving Janet a bottle. As Rick continued his litany of complaints, he didn't notice young Matthew try to climb up on his lap. He didn't even think about it as he absent mindedly lifted the youngster.

He continued on, but came to a stop as he realized Marsha was smirking at him.

"What," he said in exasperation.

Marsh tilted her head towards Matt; he was now sound asleep over Rick's shoulder. Rick turned his head to look at the lad.

"It's too late isn't it," he said plaintively.

"Yep," replied Marsha as she cuddled the cutie in her arms. She continued, "We need to hire a Nanny, a Cook, and Housekeeper. Several Maids, would be good also. Wayne and Paul have done a good job on the grounds so that is okay."

"What! Why the staff all of a sudden?"

"Because if you haven't noticed it dear, you are now the leader of about fifteen thousand people, and probably the largest concentration of people left on the planet. After things settle down a bit, we will have to pay our social dues."

This thought pleased Rick as much as a root canal, but he realized it was true. He got up to pour himself another coffee, carrying the sleeping Matt with him.

"You are right Marsha, and that brings up another subject. We need some security around here, at least controlled admission to the house, and even the whole farm. That is one nice thing about being the General, I can give orders, and it will happen. I will take care of Security if you hire the rest."

"Yes dear, the staff will start tomorrow."

When you are completely sandbagged sometimes it's best to accept it and move on. That was Rick's story, and he was sticking to it.

After some thought, Rick decided to have the Military handle security on the perimeter of the Farm, and use a civilian police set up in close contact with the family.

These were the easy problems facing Rick and Marsha. The bulk of the people who had come in at the recall were already residents of the Valley. However, they had picked up an additional four thousand people who had tagged along or were smart enough to show up on their own.

Apartments had been started, and in many cases completed and were unoccupied. They had enough rooms for everyone. The problem was the apartments were truly empty, no furniture or furnishings of any sort. So while housing was being assigned it couldn't really be lived in yet. A few people did camp out in them.

They were so tired of the quarantine quarters that anything was better.

At a staff meeting, this was the top of the agenda. The question was; where and how would they get everything that was needed. It was all out there somewhere they just had to go collect it.

While second on the agenda, a more pressing issue was to find survivors. They had to save everyone they could. While there was a world of food and shelter out there, there was the possibility that some of those left would be too young to care for themselves.

The hard fact was that most would die before they could find them, but that was no excuse to delay. It was the only human thing to do, plus the fact they needed all the genetic diversity they could find.

The preplanning from the think tanks addressed this issue. They would use drones for the initial search for human life. Many drones had been prepositioned for this purpose. These were the huge ones like the Predator versions. These had a seventy-foot wing span and had a long flying range and time.

Operators were easily trained for this mission. They would have rotating flight crews, which would fly the drones twenty-four seven. The take from on board cameras, would be computer analyzed for active human signs, such as movement, fire or any lighting. There would also be human observers to react to the software alerts.

The software was set to high alert, so there would be many false positives for the observers to sort out. It was felt that rather than take the chance on missing someone they would over react.

Once an individual or group was identified the drone would fly low and sound a siren. The operators would then drop a padded canister with a long streaming flag. The canister would contain a radio which could reach the drone's radio equipment. The drone would then act as a repeater station back to the drone center. As they spread further across the United States, they would have to have an airborne system of relay stations.

While they could use the military satellites overhead, none of their portable equipment they had available could reach them yet. This was one item on the list that hadn't been completed in time.

Once they found the needs of the group and found out if they wanted to be brought in, or that the Valley would let them in a car or cars would be sent. The self-driving cars had oversized gas tanks with a cruising range of a thousand miles. They were communication equipped and each had their own crew, like the drones, there were operators and communicators/observers.

While the vehicles were in transit, there would be ongoing scanning for active human presence.

As in any group human endeavor a specific language was developed. Along with the special terms came clothing with patches and badges for accomplishments and rank. Those that worked with drones were in drone ops, the pilots were drone operators or ops, and the observers were called drone eyes or just plain eyes.

The auto flight was car ops, and the drivers were car operators who became cops, and the observers were called talkies. Of course, the car operators were never allowed to forget that they were driving self-driving cars. This led to several friendly bar room conversations and a black eye or two.

The entire country was gridded out and the process had started. It was estimated that it would take six-months to give a quick look at everything and then another year for a refined search for survivors. This required two fleets of drones, one high flying looking for large signs of life and then the lower more refined search. So now there were LDO's and HDO's, high and low drone operators.

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