Chapter 5 - Horror



The euphoria over the collapse of Iran’s Ayatollahs was short lived. The next morning shocking pictures of the carnage in Israel and Jordan began to appear on television. Ironically Iran’s germs and nukes may actually have killed more Arabs than Israelis. The networks picked up on a particularly shocking picture of a rabbi with horrible burns carrying an Arab child out of a burning building. No one needed to be told that they had both received so much radiation that they were the walking dead.


The fear and panic in America’s big cities that were afflicted by smallpox and plague were beginning to boil over. Sick people were going on suicide runs trying to break through the National Guards cordons. In some cities, organized gangs were actually having fire-fights with the Guardsmen.


Worse yet was the local news from Denver. The hospitals were full of the dead and dying. When Brian saw it he said, “Oh God that’s us.”


The Ayatollah’s war was over but the dying had only just begun.


Tom could tell that the news was having a corrosive effect on the boy’s morale. He had to come up with something to get their mind away from the shocking images of death and destruction on television.


That morning he took the boys on a walking tour of the land surrounding Eagle Rock. For lunch he pulled the grill out of the barn and cooked burgers outside in spring mountain air.


While they were outside they saw a number of high-flying wide body jets overhead. It was obvious that someone was busy. Tom only wished that they had something to do to keep busy so he would not sink into that sick horrible feeling he had watching the horror show that the news had become.


When they returned after lunch they didn’t watch TV. Jimmy had the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings. They all sat in the upstairs den and watched the whole thing from start to finish.


While the movie was on, Tom’s Mom called with good news. Colorado Springs was in good shape. They had a few smallpox cases in isolation but they had all come from Denver. She said that she was going to spend the night at home.  


That night all five of them ended up sleeping crowded together on the upstairs sofa. Somehow they all felt the need to be close.


*     *     *


Tom woke up early. He went outside to see tall threatening thunderheads and the wind was whipping up the valley making the pines ripple like a sea of green.


As he was getting ready for the day, he heard the radio, “Sierra Hotel to Eagle Rock, do you copy?”


He quickly ran over to the radio and keyed the mike, “This is Eagle Rock, I copy. Go ahead.”


“You guys OK up there?” Tom could tell it was Gaddis’s voice.


“Yes sir. We’re fine. A little freaked out by the news but we’re all OK.”


“We hadn’t heard from you and were a little worried.”


“Thanks Sierra Hotel. Yesterday we saw some really sick stuff on the news and it shook up the boys so we just unplugged for a while. I’ll remember to check in every day from now on.”


“I understand completely Eagle Rock. I wish I could unplug for a while too. We owe you a solid so just let us know if you need anything.”


“Roger that, Eagle Rock out.”


They owe us a solid Tom thought and smiled.


While the rest of the boys were still sleeping, Tom went downstairs and had a look at the news for himself.


Horror just kept coming from Israel and Jordan. The United Nations was sending all the help they could. Unfortunately with the epidemic problem in the United States, the US was too busy with its own problems to help much. The Navy had anchored a pair of their Marine Assault ships off Israel and was providing helicopter airlift support but that was about all they could manage.


Problems in the Far East were beginning to look scary. With the United States, specifically her Navy stretched to the limit, it looked as if China may invade Taiwan at any moment and the North Koreans might come out of their hole to cause problems. Over the last day there had been several incidents between patrolling aircraft.


*     *     *


Jimmy had a look outside and came back in and said, “It looks like crap outside. It’s going to storm. Looks like an X-box kind of day.”


Brian said, “Every day looks like an X-box kind of day to you.”


Bobby and Ronny did their usual magic in the kitchen and made sausage and cats-head biscuits.


Jimmy asked, “Why do you call them cats-head biscuits?”


Bobby said, “Because they are big as a cat’s head.”


After breakfast was cleared away, Brian asked, “Tom, could you tell us about your grandfather? Jimmy told me some but he said you knew more.”


Tom said, “Why not? It doesn’t look like the weather is going to let us do anything else.”


The boys sat down in the den and Tom started his story. “Grand Paw grew up around Winslow, Arizona. He was always fascinated by airplanes and was a crop duster and a mechanic for a little aviation company that worked around the four corners area.”


“He was a little older than us when World War II broke out. When he turned 18 he joined the Army Air Corps and they were glad to get him because he was already a pilot.”


Bobby asked, “Why didn’t he join the Air Force?”


Tom said, “At that time all of the forces had their own aviation component and there was no stand alone Air Force. The Army Air Corps had the largest air service followed closely by the Navy.”


“He joined up and was able to go through training very quickly because he was already a licensed pilot. In fact, they made him an officer. He was assigned to a fighter squadron and flew P-40 Warhawks off of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. He did well and fought through 1943 when he was injured in air combat around a Japanese stronghold called Rabaul.”


“After he was wounded he could no longer pass the flight physical for pursuit pilots. He was an instructor for a while until he met an officer named Curtis ‘Bombs Away’ Lemay. Lemay asked for him and he transferred into B-29s. By late 1944 he was healthy enough to pass the flight physical and qualified in the brand new B-29s. He flew B-29s from Guam to Japan until the war ended.”


“His unit was the one that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. In fact when the war was ending his crew was training and in line to drop another bomb if Japan did not surrender.”


“Something else happened while he was flying against Japan that stayed with him a long time. After a raid, one of the B-29s in his group was badly shot up and would never make it back. They flew to a Russian air base where the plane and crew were seized by the Russians. The crew was very roughly handled and the plane was not handed back over to the United States for years. The only reason the pilots got out of Russia is they escaped through Iran. After that my Grandfather never trusted the Russians again.”


Outside there was a crash of thunder that startled the boys.


“After the war he was stationed in Japan for a good while and got to see a dirt’s- eye view of what the bombings has done. He saw Hiroshima months after the bombing and it affected him deeply. He said that he was grateful for the rest of his life that he never had to drop a nuke.”


“Grand Paw stayed in the service and was one of the original pilots in the Air Force when it was formed in 1947. He went on to fly for the Strategic Air Command and finally commanded a wing of B-52s. He retired in December of 1969.”


There was another boom of thunder from outside.


Tom said, “Wow. It sounds like its really coming down out there. Thunderstorms in the mountains are real impressive. You are closer to the thunder. “


“Where was I? Oh yeah. In retirement my Grandfather wrote a book about his career and was a big time advocate of Civil Defense.”


Ronny asked, “What’s Civil Defense?”


“Back during the Cold War, civilian preparedness was called Civil Defense. It meant have bomb and fallout shelters that were stocked with medicines and building structures that were hardened and would survive in a nuclear war. In fact you are sitting in one.”


Brian asked, “How can anything survive a nuclear war?”


Tom replied, “Well, nothing could survive the radiation of an all out nuclear war. That’s why the US and the USSR never fought. Both sides had thousands of warheads and once it started, it would escalate out of control.”


“What is survivable is a limited nuclear war when only a few nukes are deployed. Of course there is a radiation, death and destruction but it is limited in scope and not global.”


Ronny asked, “You say he built this house to be a… fallout shelter?”


Tom replied, “Yes. Grand Paw was one to lead by example. He designed and built the house himself. You’ve probably noticed that the walls are three feet thick and the windows are leaded glass three and a half inches thick but that’s just a start. You haven’t seen the basement. The house itself could be completely destroyed and we could live in the basement. The foundation is three feet thick of reinforced concrete and there are two levels of basement with storage and living areas.”


“The whole building is a Faraday Cage. A nuke or an EMP bomb could go off and the electronics in the house would be just fine. There is a diesel generator that can completely power the house if the electrical feeds go down.”


“In case of germ warfare the air handling system has micro-filters and maintains positive air pressure so no outside air can get in.”


Bobby said, “Wow. Isn’t that kind of obsessive?”


Tom smiled and said, “Remember who he was. He was a man who was in line to drop a nuke in his early twenties, flew a B-52 bomber with ready nukes in his thirties and commanded a wing of B-52s with nukes in his forties. Nuclear War was something that he lived with his whole life. That was his reality and this house is a natural extension of that.”


Ronny said, “Surviving a nuclear war, who would want to? I mean everything would be ruined wouldn’t it?”


Tom answered, “It’s simply a matter of scale. Drop a thousand warheads and there’s nothing left. Drop a dozen and life goes on as long as you are smart and know what to do.”


Brian said, “Something tells me that we’re probably the luckiest five kids in the country right now.


Bobby said, “So, how about a tour of that basement?”


Tom said, “Follow me.”


The stairs to the basement were just behind the kitchen. They went down a flight and stopped at a heavy steel door. He entered an access number into the key pad. There was a loud hiss and a click and the big, thick heavy steel door opened automatically.


As soon as the door opened a florescent light in the stairwell turned on.


Bobby said, “Whoa, this is wicked.”


Tom said, “Yeah, it is pretty cool.”


They went down one flight of stairs and Tom said, “This is the first level. We pretty much have everything that’s upstairs except it is on a smaller scale. Here’s the kitchen and pantry, a den, a study. Down this hall are bedrooms and a bath. There’s nothing exotic here, just living area. Let’s check out the second level.”


They followed Tom downstairs and he continued his tour. “The second level is where things get interesting. That is the generator room access. It kicks in if the power goes out. There is a big tank of diesel buried outside that feeds it. This is the well room. All the water for the house comes into here from a deep well.”


“Most of this level is storage but there are a few more interesting rooms down here. This is the clinic.” Tom opened the door and led them into a room that could be a treatment room in any hospital. “This room has everything we need for most first aid. My Mom is allergic to bee stings and we’ve had to use it a couple of times. We keep her medicine for that here.”


Tom led the group down the hall and said, “This is my favorite: the armory.” He punched his code into a keypad and the door opened into a room and the lights came on.


He said, “This is my Grand Paw’s gun collection.”


The boys went inside and found a large number of handguns and rifles.


Ronny said, “Oh wow. Mom would freak if she saw this room.”


Tom said, “There is all sorts of guns and ammunition in here. Grand Paw loved to hunt and he collected guns.”


Bobby said, “Looks like he could have fought a small war with all this stuff.”


Jimmy said, “Most of its hunting rifles and shotguns but he’s got a few really cool pieces in here. This one is my favorite.” He pointed at a particularly fierce looking rifle.


He said, “It’s a FN FAL assault rifle. Outside the M-16 it’s the rifle most used by armies friendly to the United States. It was a gift from an Australian exchange officer.”


Tom said, “Well, that is the secrets of the basement. What you say we watch a movie or something. Looks like the weather has turned this into a inside day.”


Jimmy led the way to the upstairs den. He looked around sheepishly and said, “Usually I would throw on Terminator or Aliens- something cool like that. After what we saw yesterday, I think I’m going to go with some Disney.”


Tom chuckled and said, “Bring on the Ice Age. I always did like that saber-toothed squirrel.”


*     *     *

“Sierra Hotel, this is Foxtrot-42.”


“Go ahead Foxtrot-42.”


“We are declaring an emergency at this time. We have sustained a lightning strike and have partial electrical failure. We need a safe place to land fast and these mountains are looking tough. Could you vector me to a landing site, over.”


The flight controller looked at his display. Foxtrot-42 was crossing the mountains and had run into an ugly storm. He looked at his chart and saw that the pickings were slim for a landing site considering their location. Wait- here’s one.


“Foxtrot-42, this is Sierra Hotel, come right to 120 degrees. You are five miles out of Eagle Rock. That’s your landing site. Be advised it’s a class 3 site but there’s plenty of room to land.”


“Thank you Sierra Hotel.”