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datatime: 2022-12-03 20:54:25 Author:YjPTlEHa

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.

Detroit rummaged around and found the toy sextant Run Dutil had used for compiling his meager notes in JFK's plastic hands. It would be useful, for if the navigation device had some error in it, they could take that into account in plotting their trek south.

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.

"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 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.

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.

The building was a two-story affair nestled in the midst of a flat area covered with snow - a parking lot of old. The big rocks had shielded it from the blast effects - everything else in these parts was flattened. It was partly collapsed. Danik was besides himself with feelings, and his voice was choked up when he said, "Through that second door - that's where my best friend and I stumbled frozen and hungry into the building."

"Can we bury him?" Danik asked somberly.

"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?"

"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.

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."

"Well. I'll be a monkey's uncle. Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln - a plastic figure."

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."

Danik took the lead, and they passed a lifelike statue of Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse in the Battle of Bull Run, and then a replica of President Bush signing the Martial Law decree in the Oval Office. They finally came to the Rotunda Room. Light spilled in from above through a hole in the ceiling. The snow flurries drifted in on the figure of John F. Kennedy sitting in his rocking chair. He was staring forever at the three astronauts in spacesuits that had returned from the moon and were coming in to receive his accolades. A tattered and mouse-eaten American flag hung disintegrating on a pole nearby. JFK was up to his knees in snow.

The building was a two-story affair nestled in the midst of a flat area covered with snow - a parking lot of old. The big rocks had shielded it from the blast effects - everything else in these parts was flattened. It was partly collapsed. Danik was besides himself with feelings, and his voice was choked up when he said, "Through that second door - that's where my best friend and I stumbled frozen and hungry into the building."

Danik agreed, Run Dutil was solemnly carried outside, still in his frozen, stiff sitting position. As McCaughlin rolled up good-sized rocks to the body and then hefted a capstone in place, Rockson said, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Heavenly Father, we send you our friend Run Dutil, a good and true American. If you can see to do it, please welcome him into your arms. Amen."

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."

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."

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.

"It wasn't like that when I was here two weeks ago," Danik gasped. "There was no hole in the roof."

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.

"Good work, Detroit," Rockson said. "We can try to reach Eden now"

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

Detroit rummaged around and found the toy sextant Run Dutil had used for compiling his meager notes in JFK's plastic hands. It would be useful, for if the navigation device had some error in it, they could take that into account in plotting their trek south.

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