He led them up to his apartment and mixed sours with the corn whiskey and fat, ripe limes. Then there were the introductions. There was a Captain Bayliss, the pilot, a Lieutenant Smith, chief radiologist, and the two sergeant technicians. They all considered the sour very good and Paul said, “It’s impossible to find anything to drink, even in Denver. Not even beer. Shortage of grains, you know. Nobody would dare make his own whiskey in the clear zones. He’d go to jail. The older people say it’s worse than prohibition.”

There were a thousand questions Randy wanted to ask but at that moment he only had time for one because Lib called from downstairs. Lunch was ready. The men all wore brassards with the letters D.C. on the right arms. “What’s that?” Randy asked, touching Paul’s brassard. “District of Columbia?”

“Oh, no,” Paul said. “there isn’t any District of Columbia. Denver’s the capital. That stands for Decontamination Command. It’s the biggest command, nowadays, and really the only one that counts. I was seconded to the D.C. last spring. I put in for a C.Z. right away and asked for Florida and Florida was the C.Z. I got.”

Paul Hart thought the soup was wonderful and said he had never tasted anything exactly like it before and Randy replied that he wasn’t surprised. They always kept the big soup pot simmering on the fire and everything went into it. “This particular soup,” he explained, “is sort of a combination. Armadillo, gopher, and turkey carcass.”

Lib brought a dozen quail, and more were broiling, and placed pitchers of orange juice in front of them and they all drank it greedily. Captain Bayliss kept mumbling that he felt they were imposing, and that there were K- rations in the helicopter and that he actually expected to find C.Z. people all starving, because certainly most of them were in other parts of the country. He also kept on eating.

“How does it happen,” Randy asked Hart, “that you found us?”

Hart said, “You haven’t heard anything from my wife, Martha, have you?”

Randy shook his head, no, apprehending Paul’s tragedy. “Of course that’s why I asked for duty in this C.Z. I wanted to find out what happened to Martha and the children.” He looked up. “It was just a year ago, wasn’t it, that I met you at McCoy Operations? Wasn’t it on the day before H-Day?” “H-Day? We just call it The Day.”

“Hell day or Hydrogen Day or The Day, it’s all the same thing.”

“Yes. That was the last time I saw you.”

“It was also the last day I saw Martha except to kiss her goodbye the next morning. Post-strike we went on to Kenya, in Africa. When I got back to this country I learned right away, of course, that McCoy received one. But it wasn’t until I flew over Orlando last week that I gave up hope. I suppose you know what happened to Orlando.”

Randy said, “Oh, no! Nobody’s been that far off!”

“It’s as if no man was ever there. Even the shapes of the lakes have changed and there are a couple of lakes that weren’t there before. Find my wife? I couldn’t even tell where my house stood.

I think they must’ve dropped a five-megaton missile on McCoy and another on Orlando municipal. Nothing stands. Everything is burned and still hot. It’s the damn C-14 that does it.” “C-I4?”

“Radioactive carbon. It’s half-life is more than five thousand years. That and U-238 and cobalt and strontium is what makes rebuilding impractical in the T.D.-the totally destroyed—cities. You have to start somewhere else, here for instance. Did you know that you are living in the center of the largest clear area in the whole C.Z.?”

“No, I didn’t, but I’m glad to find out.”

Helen had been waiting, tensely, to ask the question that she must ask, yet knowing the answer before she asked it; for had there been any other answer Paul would have told her before now. She said, “Paul, nothing about Mark, I suppose?”

“I’m sorry, Helen. Nothing. There were a few survivors from Omaha but Mark wasn’t one of them. After all, it was a primary target with SAC Headquarters, Offutt Field-itself an important base-and the biggest rail complex between Chicago and the Coast all grouped together. I don’t think we’ll ever find out exactly what happened.”

Helen nodded. “At least I know for sure. That’s important-to know.” No tears, Randy thought. He glanced at the children. Ben Franklin stood firm, chin outthrust, taut facial muscles containing his emotions. But Peyton, eyes lowered, slipped away into the other room.

Then for a long time Hart and the lieutenant radiologist questioned Randy and Sam Hazzard about the way things had gone in Fort Repose, taking notes and showing remarkable interest in details of how the emergencies were met. “Of course we need everything,” Randy said, “but the town could get along fine if only we had electricity because if they had power then they’d have water. They wouldn’t have to boil it or haul it from springs, as they do now.”

“It’ll be a long time-a very long time,” Hart said. “Even major cities that weren’t touched-cities in the clear zones lost their electricity a month or so after H-Day and don’t have it back yet. The only towns which have had uninterrupted power were those served by hydroelectric plants, provided the plants were undamaged and the aqueducts intact. There aren’t many.”

“What about the other towns in the clear zones?” Randy asked. He noted how quickly you picked up the jargon of the post-Day age. It was like entering a totally new environment, like joining the Army.

“To have light,” Paul said, “you either have to have water power or fuel. Most cities had supplies for a month or so. After that, darkness. Some of our big oil fields are still burning. The coal regions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia were saturated with fallout. But the transport problem is what really cripples us. Think what happened to the pipe lines, the railroads, the ports. Our big hope is atomic power. Thank goodness we still have a big stockpile of nuclear fuel.”

The radiologist and the two technical sergeants excused themselves. They were going to the river to bottle water samples. Randy said that if the river was hot they’d all be hot because ever since The Day they’d been living on the bounty of the river. Hart said that apparently the river was going to be all right, and this was hopeful. “If we’re going to get this C.Z. on the road back, I think I’d like to start in this area. Of course you understand, Randy, that before we can be of much help to the C.Z.’s we have to get the clear country in decent shape.” He shook his head. “Some of our scientists think it will take a thousand years this decision alone. He looked at Lib without finding it necessary to speak. She knowing what was in his mind, simply smiled and winked. He said, “I guess I’ll stay, Paul.”

“And the others?”

Randy wished Dan was with them and yet he was confident he could speak for Dan. “We have our doctor here, Dan Gunn. If it wasn’t for Dan I don’t think any of us could have made it. He saved this town and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to leave now.” He turned to Helen. “Would he?”

Helen said quietly, “I wouldn’t and he wouldn’t.”

“But there’s one thing you have to do, Paul. Bring supplies for our doctor.”

“What’s he need?”

“Everything. Everything that a hospital needs. But most of all he needs a new pair of glasses.”

“I could requisition those for him, I think, if I had his prescription.”

Helen said, “I know where it is. Don’t you leave, Paul! Don’t you dare!” She left the room and ran upstairs.

“What about you, Admiral Hazzard?” Paul asked. “What about the children? What about the two women who live across the road-the librarian and the telegraph gal?”

Sam Hazzard laughed. “Colonel, I have a fleet under my command. If the Navy Department will give me a fleet, I’ll go with you. Not otherwise.”

“We don’t have any fleets,” Paul Hart said. “All we’ve got left, really, are nuclear submarines. The subs saved us, I guess. The subs and the solid fuel rockets and some of the airborne missiles.”

Lib said, “Alice Cooksey and Florence Wechek are in town but they were talking about the possibility of going out only a few nights ago. They’ll both want to stay. You see, they’re terribly busy. They’ve never worked so hard or accomplished so much in their whole lives. And I don’t know what Fort Repose would do without them. They’re practically our whole education system, and they keep all the records.”

“Isn’t anybody going?” Hart asked. Ben Franklin said, `Not me!”

Peyton, who had quietly returned to the conference, said, “Me either.”

Helen came downstairs with the prescription for Dan’s glasses. They all walked out to the porch and Randy went out with Paul to the helicopter. They shook hands.

Randy said, “Paul, there’s one thing more. Who won the war?”

Paul put his fists on his hips and his eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding! You mean you really don’t know?”

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