Chapter 2- Eagle Rock


The old place looked just like they had left it back in March when Tom had come up with his Dad and Jimmy to clean up. Snow was still hiding in shady spots. Wildflowers were growing and the grass of the lawn was beginning to turn green. Down the hill a field of lupines looked like a flowery ocean blowing in the warm West wind.


Brian said, “Whoa it’s really beautiful up here.”


“Yes it is.” Tom said. “There’s nothing like spring up here. Grand Paw used to say this is what he thought heaven must be like.”


Thomas stopped at the front door which had a numeric keypad rather than a standard lock. He keyed in his personal ID code and the big metal door popped open with a hiss.


He went inside and the boys followed into a spacious den with comfortable looking chairs and a sofa arranged around a television set and a fireplace. On the floor in front of the fireplace was a large black bear skin rug.


Ronny asked, “Who is that?”


Thomas said, “That fellow had the misfortune of surprising my Grand Paw in the barn and got shot between the eyes with a .45.”


Bobby said, “Isn’t that an endangered species?”


Jimmy laughed and said, “Hell yeah he was endangered. Sneaking up on Grand Paw was dangerous regardless of what species you are.”


Thomas said, “Well this is the downstairs living room. There’s a bedroom and a bath off down the hall. Kitchen and dining room is over there and the stairs are over here. Bobby, Ronny why don’t you two take the bedroom down the hall.”


Bobby and Ronny waddled off down the hall with their luggage and guitar cases.


He motioned for Jimmy and Brian to follow him upstairs. It opened onto another smaller upstairs den that was similar in lay out to the downstairs one. He said, “Jimmy you can set up you DVD player and X-box on this TV. Why don’t you and Brian take the bedroom over there and I’ll take this one.”


Thomas went into his favorite bed room and put his duffle bag on the chest of drawers. He picked this room because it opened onto his Grand Dad’s study which was the nerve center of the house and grounds.


He opened the door and found everything in order. His grandfather’s study had changed very little since he was alive. There on the walls were pictures of his grandfather next to the B-29 he flew for General Curtis Lemay against Japan. The senior Ross had been one of the very first pilots in the US Air Force when it was first established in 1947. There were pictures and plaques all over the place. His Grandfather had retired at the rank of Brigadier General in the 1960s after a long career with the Strategic Air Command. The only changes that had been made to the office were a computer console that controlled the security system for house and grounds and another desktop computer that his Dad worked on when he was at the cabin.


Being here alone in his Grandfather’s office made Tom feel like he was six and sneaking into some place that he wasn’t supposed to be.


He sat down at his Dad’s computer which asked for a password. He typed in “Tommy-Boy” and the screen opened up. He looked for and found a directory called emergency which contained a number of files. He clicked on a file named ReadMe1st which opened up on the screen:




If you are reading this there is an emergency and I was out of position and didn’t make it to the cabin.


You know most of what you need to know about the systems to keep the place running. What you don’t know is that I’ve been working on some equipment that it is very important for you to set up.


The boxes that came from the house have three Air Quality Monitors with satellite uplinks. I need for you to set one of them up here. If things calm down and it is safe, later on we may have you set up the others.


In this directory are the instructions to set up the AQMs and align the satellite dishes.


The internet feed for the cabin runs over a satellite dish so that shouldn’t have any problems.


If your cell phone goes down, there is a satellite phone in the basement. Don’t use it unless you have to.


I’ll be in touch as soon as possible.




As he read the note Jimmy and Brian came into the room.


He turned to them and said, “Did you two get settled?”


Jimmy replied, “Yeah- did you get any further news from Dad?”


“He has a job for us. There’s some equipment that he wants us to set up but that’s all I’ve gotten so far. He’s supposed to call at 1800 this evening. Maybe we can get more news out of him then. Where are the twins?”


Brian said, “They are getting the rest of the stuff out of the truck. They were putting the food up a minute ago.”


Thomas smiled and said, “Maybe those two will turn out to be useful after all. There’s something I want to go ahead and take care of. Will you guys give me a hand?”


Jimmy said, “Sure. You want to get Dad’s crates inside don’t you?”


Tom said, “Yeah, I think they weigh more than both of the twins put together so let’s go put some muscle in it.”


They went downstairs and when they passed the kitchen, the twins had things in order and already had something cooking.


Tom asked, “What’s for supper?”


Bobby answered, “I’m making a pot of my chili. It’s good, it’ll keep for a few days and it’ll make our 200 hot dogs even better. Ronny is making hamburger patties to freeze.”


Jimmy said, “It does smell good.”


Tom looked around, “You guys did a good job on the kitchen. Thanks for taking care of that.”


Ronny laughed, “Well, our Dad is a doctor and mom split so if we didn’t know how to cook, we would starve.”


Tom said, “We’re going to bring the last of the stuff inside. We’ll be back in few minutes.”


They went into the barn and found a hand truck. They wrestled each one of the crates out of the Hummer onto the hand truck and into the house. The boys stacked them in the back of the kitchen to deal with later.


Jimmy turned on the television set which had a satellite connection and turned to an all news channel. Bobby and Ronny brought some canned cokes out and the five boys settled in to catch up on the situation. The navy had lost a few ships but had stabilized their standing. CNN wasn’t reporting anything new but they were talking about a Presidential news conference at 4:00 mountain time.


Tom didn’t realize how tiring pure terror could be and fell fast asleep in his chair.


Tom woke up with a start. He looked at his phone and saw that only a half-hour had elapsed and that he hadn’t missed anything important. He looked around the room and saw that the other boys were sound asleep. It was the first time since this had all started that he had a moment to think.


He looked around the circle of sleeping boys and took stock. He knew his brother well enough to could count on him. At 14, Jimmy was a skinnier version of himself: smart, good natured and addicted to his X-box.


Since Brian and Jimmy had been best friends from grade school Thomas knew Brian was a solid kid. Even for a 14 year old Brian was built like a very sturdy athlete. He had been into the martial arts for some years and had a rainbow of belts to prove it. He had been a good influence on Jimmy in that regard. They both took regular classes and were both happy and confident at school around their peers. Much to Tom’s relief, bullying had never been the issue for Jimmy that it had been for Tom in middle school.


The twins were the wild card. When he looked at them sleeping they looked like little boys to Tom. They were both small and were barely 100 pounds a piece. Tom guessed that they were 13 or 14. They were easy enough to tell apart: Bobby had white blond hair and Ronny had light brown hair. Other than that, they were identical. So far they seemed eager to please and that was a good start but Tom still had a lot of questions about them.


Tom turned his thoughts to himself. Before the events of the day, his biggest concern was his advanced math class. Now he was beset by fear and doubt. Did he have what it took to bring them through this?


The news channel cut to the United Nations in New York where a German diplomat was explaining that the Security Channel has passed a resolution condemning Iran for its aggressive actions and threatening the gravest of consequences should any more nuclear weapons be deployed. The diplomat urged restraint from the United States and Israel and promised Israel that the World Health Organization would deploy all available resources to aid Israel with their emerging health crisis.


Israel was taken by surprise but she had recovered quickly and was handing Syria a serious beating. The news showed an airborne photo of acres of burning Syrian tanks and armored personnel carriers. Other films showed the big Israeli Merkva tanks working their way up the steep hills of the Golan Heights with helicopter gunship support.


The news from Iraq was good. The Syrians had been stopped in the West by airstrikes but there was a huge tank battle going on north of Basra. The army had rolled a pair of armored brigades out of Kuwait that were holding their ground against the Iranians. Further north the Iranians had crossed the border but the newly formed Iraqi army fought them to a standstill.


Meanwhile around the world Taiwan is very concerned about a large Chinese naval build up and the North Koreans were acting very frisky. Their aircraft had attacked a South Korean patrol ship and buzzed an American frigate in the Sea of Japan.


Tom thought, when the cat is away, the rats will play.


Damn. I’ll go nuts if I watch enough of this. He stood up and quietly left the den and went to the back of the kitchen to take a look at the mysterious boxes.


He popped one open to have a look at the equipment. The individual pieces of equipment were wrapped in plastic. On top of the pile was a binder with the title: Mark 5 AQM Chemical, Biological and Radiation monitoring station with satellite uplink. Attached to the notebook was another baggie containing a CD-Rom and a computer cable.


Thomas was looking for a challenging task to occupy his mind so he closed the box and man-handled it upstairs to the study. Once he had it there, he got his laptop and tools out of his duffle bag and got to work.


The instructions were fairly simple and took it step by step. Tom read through them all and decided there was nothing there that he couldn’t handle except for one thing: he had no idea what the GPS coordinates for the cabin was.


He decided that he would cross that bridge when he came to it and began following the instructions.


The first step for Tom was to decide where to place the device. After looking around a bit he decided on his grandfather’s sun porch: A balcony that ran around the second story of the house. His grandfather used to sit out on that sun porch and look out over the valley. There was plenty of room on it.


He began by taking the equipment out of the case and stripping off the plastic covers. The main unit was a metal cube shaped like a microwave oven. It had a panel that covered attachments for cables in back and places on top where some odd looking gear plugged in. On top of the unit was a red arrow that had the notation: Orient this device toward the North. Tom carried the base unit out to the sun porch where he placed it with its front pointed north.


The next step was to place the solar array. He put it up according to the directions.


The next few steps were to attach several instruments to the main unit. Tom carefully followed the directions attaching an actinometer, anemometer, evaporimeter, barometer, psychrometer, and a strange looking device called a gas trap and spectrograph.


The instructions said that unless 8 hours of sunshine were unavailable, plug in ordinary 110 volt current to charge the onboard batteries. He pulled an extension cord out of the utility room. When he returned to the sun porch he plugged in the main unit and the battery status display showed the batteries were in the yellow.


The last bit of hardware to set up was the satellite uplink. It sat on a sturdy pad and looked like a ruined umbrella. According to the instructions he aimed the dish at the South-Western sky and plugged the data cable into the indicated port.


Finally the last stage required a laptop running the software from the CD Rom so Tom brought out his laptop, plugged in the cable and loaded the CD ROM. The program started and asked:


Name of Station:?


Tom thought for a moment and entered Eagle Rock—his Grandfathers name for the place.


Time Zone:?


He chose Mountain Standard Time.


Time and Date:?


He entered April 24 and 16:40


The program began running diagnostics on the instruments. That lasted for a few minutes. Finally it asked the question that he had been dreading:


Enter GPS Coordinates:?


While he was working, a sleepy looking Ronny came out on the sun porch and said, “You decided to go ahead and set up the science project?”


Tom looked up from his laptop and nodded.


Ronny sat in a chair and watched.


Tom said, “There’s one last step and I believe this thing will work.”


Ronny asked, “What’s that?”


“It requires the GPS coordinates and I don’t have a clue what they are.”


Ronny said, “Have you tried Google Earth? If you can find the cabin you can get a good approximation.”


Tom minimized the installation program, opened a window in Firefox and called up Google Earth. After a few minutes of looking he found the cabin by following the roads. Sure enough, he got the GPS coordinate for the cabin.


He switched back to the installation program and plugged in the coordinates.


The satellite dish came to life sweeping back and forth and the computer display said Searching for Satellite. Satellite Found and Locked. The dish stopped moving.


Sending login information. Login Successful. Sending data. Node Eagle Rock added to network.


Installation successful.


Tom said, “Yes!” He walked across the porch to Ronny and gave him a bear hug. “Thanks Ronny- that GPS thing had me stumped. You came along at just the right time.”


Ronny beamed in the praise and said, “Glad I could help.”


They stood there and watched the gadget. It didn’t do any tricks but both boys felt like they had just landed on the moon. They went downstairs and gave the other boys the news.


While they were chatting, Tom’s phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and answered, “Dad! It’s good to hear from you. You are calling ahead of schedule.”


He put his Dad on speaker phone so everyone could hear.


His Dad laughed and said, “One of our network guys asked if I knew about an Eagle Rock station on our network and I said I knew exactly who that was. Tommy, did you put that AQM together?”


“Yeah with a little help from Ronny here.”


“That installation is recommended for a senior technician.”


Tom said, “Humph. I’ve had video games that were tougher to install.”


“Do you think you could set up the other two?”


 “No problem.”


“Ok Tom. We may have you do that. The fourth box has a radio in it that you can talk to National Guard frequencies. For your next trick, see if you can get it working. Check in with the National Guard, use Eagle Rock as your call sign.”


Tommy said, “OK Pop, will do. Can you give us any more information? All we’re hearing about is the shooting in the Middle East.”


His Dad paused and said, “It’s bad Tommy. We’re getting cases of smallpox and plague showing up in the big cities on the East and West coast. The president is going on the networks and is going to declare martial law in an hour or two. You got out of town just in time. You boys just hunker down and stay put for now.”


“What about the National Guard Pop? Won’t they want to put us in a shelter or something?”


“No- the Guard wants people to stay in their homes. They won’t come get you unless you call for help. When you get the radio set up, check in with them. Use the call sign Eagle Rock, your position will be classified as a federal installation and you can call them if you have trouble.”


“That’s good to know.”


“Look- keep the faith. We’re going to get this sorted out. It may take a few weeks but we will. I’m proud of what you guys have accomplished. Get to work on that radio and remember- my email works.”


Jimmy said loudly, “Love you Dad.”


“Love you too boys. You’ve made me proud.”