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Release date: 2022-12-06 04:52:31 Author:CBLboLas

"No," Rock replied, "The weight of the snow finally got to the roof. Nothing lasts forever, not even the Hall of Presidents. Where is Run Dutil's body?"

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

"Let's move on," Rockson said.

Rockson and his Freefighters pulled up their sleds in front of the blackened crumbling structure and gingerly stepped into the ruin. It was dark inside, they lit a flashlight. Rockson gasped as his beam hit a human face. McCaughlin shouted, "Watch out -" and drew his shotpistol, before he realized the face was familiar.

They came upon an area 235 miles south of Colorado Springs Plain that Rockson himself had crossed years earlier. It was the area around a small hunter-trapper community called Moosehead. Moosehead Township was a set of ten or twelve wooden shacks and a tanning shed for hides. The Soviets usually ignored these primitive American communities, which served their purposes because their commanding officers did a brisk trade with the mountainmen who did fur trapping. Hides and furs were exchanged for rubles. The rubles bought the trapper families some precious supplies like salt in the small free markets in the shadows of the great Soviet forts further east.

Rockson and his Freefighters pulled up their sleds in front of the blackened crumbling structure and gingerly stepped into the ruin. It was dark inside, they lit a flashlight. Rockson gasped as his beam hit a human face. McCaughlin shouted, "Watch out -" and drew his shotpistol, before he realized the face was familiar.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

Rockson needed every bit of his famed "mutant's luck" if they were to reach the obscure site. The bearing was vague, as Dutil had measured direction with a sextant that was little more than a toy.

They all chanted an amen in unison, and then went back and spread out their maps, and compared them to the notes from Run Dutil's little pad. Rockson drew some pencil marks on the maps, using the meager angles and sun-elevation heights that Dutil had jotted down. He drew estimated margin-of-error lines too - dotted lines that were as much as ten miles to one side or the other of their new route. Then they were off on their quest for Eden.

"Can we bury him?" Danik asked somberly.

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

Rockson wondered how they would spade the ground outside, seeing that it was frozen solid. Then he said. "We can roll some boulders over him - better that way - the animals can't get at him."

"Let's move on," Rockson said.

They headed southward, guided by Run Dutil's notes in the little pad. Hopefully, they would find the next landmark on the route to Eden, the giant teepee that Danik bad described.

The dogs were howling and yapping, apparently happy to be on the trail again. They didn't like the President's museum much, it seemed.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

"No," Rock replied, "The weight of the snow finally got to the roof. Nothing lasts forever, not even the Hall of Presidents. Where is Run Dutil's body?"

"Do you think someone's been here?" McCaughlin said.

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

"Can we bury him?" Danik asked somberly.

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

They came over the ridge and looked down on a glassy-surfaced blackened plain. "That's the area that took a nuke bomb hit back in the twentieth century," said Rockson grimly. "The heat of the air-detonated blast melted the sand into that shiny surface. Not a thing grows there to this day. You notice that there is no snow on that mile-wide plain either. There is still some heat from radioactive elements in that surface - hence the clicking you hear on the Geiger attached to the front of my sled. Let's give it some room."

They quickly made for the boulderfield Danik had indicated. Rockson hoped that any roving scavengers attracted by the body of Run Dutil would not have eaten his notebook as well - some species of high-plains bobcat ate even metal cans

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

They came over the ridge and looked down on a glassy-surfaced blackened plain. "That's the area that took a nuke bomb hit back in the twentieth century," said Rockson grimly. "The heat of the air-detonated blast melted the sand into that shiny surface. Not a thing grows there to this day. You notice that there is no snow on that mile-wide plain either. There is still some heat from radioactive elements in that surface - hence the clicking you hear on the Geiger attached to the front of my sled. Let's give it some room."

"Let's move on," Rockson said.

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