“So, it is The Institute, isn’t it?” Jared demanded. “Did your “classified” project do this, did it kill Doug?”
Jared had looked at his dead neighbor often enough over the past few days, trying to come up with another explanation. He knew Doug had an older pacemaker and he figured it had stopped working when the power went out. Everything with an electric circuit had stopped working, whether it was plugged in at the time or not.
Eve stared at Jared without answering.
“Is it?” he demanded again, “Are you somehow responsible for this, because it sure as hell isn’t a normal power outage or even a solar flare. The grid would be down, but all the electronics wouldn’t have fried, like Doug’s pacemaker did. The only way that happens is if this is man-made.”
Eve hung her head and her shoulders slumped before she met his eyes again. “Y-yes, it’s possible,” she answered quietly. “And that’s why I have to go, Jared. I have to get to that signal. Maybe I can do something… fix this, or at least stop it from getting worse.”
“Fix this?” Jared was incredulous. “Eve, I’ve made us stay here, where we’re safe and have supplies, waiting for someone, anyone to show up. If this is a localized event, then where’s the military with back-up generators, where’s The Red Cross? And if this is widespread, then The Institute of Progress just sent us back to the Dark Ages.”
“And that’s why I have to get to that signal, to see who it is and stop it from going any further,” Eve urgently explained.
Jared paced around the neatly organized garage, crumpling the old map in his tight fist. He ran his other hand through his hair as he considered what to do.
“The Camp is the best place for us to be,” Jared said, “but I don’t think Cassie is well enough for that long trek on foot.”
Jared was the Director at Adventure Base Camp, or Camp ABC as the campers called it. It was an adventure camp like any other summer camp. Sometimes he held survival weekends for all those guys that liked to play pretend-soldier. Cassie’s favorites were the Teenage Zombie weekends, where they staged zombie apocalypse scenarios. Jared couldn’t believe how much money he could make from the stupid zombie craze.
What he didn’t advertise was the L.I.T. Program. Leaders-In-Training sounded just like other junior counselors at every other kid’s camp in the country. Except, they weren’t training to be camp counselors. Some of them were kids of friends or his partners in the camp. Some, he scouted from the zombie weekends after evaluating the teens that had managed to “survive.” Because that’s what this was all about. Survival.
Jared grabbed a small backpack from one of the storage shelves and began to fill it.
“It’s been bad out there, but it’s going to get a lot worse, you’ll need to be very cautious,” Jared said as he zipped a package in the front pocket of the pack, where Eve would be sure to find it. “So far, it’s mostly been hooligans and looters, but all those unprepared people who’ve sat at home, waiting it out, are about to realize that the water is not going to start coming out of their taps anytime soon. That’s when the real panic will set in.”
Jared rifled through a drawer and found what he needed. He handed the pack to Eve with one hand, in the other he held a new-looking map which he held up for her to see and then dropped it into the pack. Eve stood silently.
Jared fetched a crowbar from his tool bench.
“Jared… what are you doing?” Eve finally spoke, her voice sounded hollow in her head.
“I’ve been wondering about that light too, worried it was the cause and that it might happen again.” Jared stopped in front of the three metal trash cans lined up against the wall. “I’m going to have to risk it.”
He jammed the crowbar under the lid of the first can and pried it open. The lid clattered on the concrete floor as Jared reached in and pulled out an oddly wrapped object. He moved to the work bench and removed the layers of cardboard, plastic and aluminum foil to reveal a two-way radio.
“You made Farady Cages,” Eve said in wonder, “you’ve got electronics in those cans that were protected from the pulse.” She runs her hand over one of the other cans and then turns to watch Jared, marveling at the change in him now that he’d decided to take action.
“I didn’t want to expose them if a second pulse came, but I’m going to have to set up a temporary base here, until Cassie is well enough to travel,” he told her. “I’ll get her to monitor the bandwidths, see what we can find out. And I have to let the guys up at the camp know about our delay because the first seventy-two hours are almost up with no help in sight. We’d agreed to wait that long, but now they’ll be expecting us. ”
Jared unwrapped a small generator next.
“Expecting you?” Eve asked him. “How did you know that this would happen?”
“I don’t even know what this is,” Jared said. “We weren’t just playing games up at the camp , Eve. The possibility of something like this happening was high, but I always figured it would come from an enemy outside the country, or a terrorist group, not from right here at home.”
Eve flinched, but Jared couldn’t help that little dig after all the times she’d teased him about being paranoid for no reason.
“We should go see Cassie,” Jared said in a softer voice as he moved toward the door that led into the house. “And you should get a move on if you’re going.”
Cassie was in a deep sleep and looked exhausted, and in the end Eve decided not to wake her. I’ll be seeing her again soon, she told herself.
“Promise me you’ll take care of her,” Eve begged Jared with a tremble in her voice. “Don’t let anything happen to her.”
“I won’t let anything happen to her,” Jared said as he embraced Eve tightly. “We’ll see you at the camp. Don’t lose the map.” He held her for an extra moment.
On the map they had approximated where Eve thought the light was coming from and Jared had marked a route from there, through the pine forest, to the camp. Together with The Institute, the location of the light and the camp formed the three points of a triangle.
After Eve left, Jared tried to radio the camp. He’d made contact with a few of the LITs who were heading there, but they were farther away than he was. They hadn’t been able to make contact with the camp either, and he was worried. Maybe something had gone wrong and the camp radio had fried along with everything else. If that was the case, he should try to get there as soon as possible with a working radio. He didn’t want to think about the other possibilities causing the radio silence. He’d have to see if Cassie was up to the dangerous trek ahead of them.