After the Apocalypse
Chapter 103: Data Processing

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

The crew in Clearwater was silent as Ron pressed his face to the cabin window, watching as Dave and Tim led the intruder away. When they were out of sight, he turned to the group. ”They're out of range. So what do you think?”

“Something's just not right with his story,” said Jeff. “The attack was almost a month ago, right? If he'd really been walking the whole time, he could have made it to Flint in a few days-maybe a week at the outside.”

“Why would he even wind up here?” asked John. “Wouldn't this be awfully far out of his way?”

No one was sure of the answer to John's second question. As the speculations raced around the room, Mark Bollman left Clearwater for a minute and ran out to his car. He returned with an old Michigan road map and spread it out on the table.

“Okay,” he said, pointing to the map, “here's Selfridge, and here's Flint.” He picked up a ruler from Jeff's upper bunk and laid it on the map. “A straight line between the two runs…right through Lake Orion. Not exactly close, but it wouldn't be like he was heading in entirely the wrong direction. If he was trying to stick to roads, it's unlikely, but not totally inconceivable, that he could be lost this way. If he's not telling the truth, he's got a fair-not a great-cover story.”

“But why would he stray off the roads, and if he came from the southeast, why was he coming into camp through Trout Lake?” asked Mark Hunt.

“Good questions,” said Jeff. “But I think the main problem with his story is still the time factor.”

“Maybe he didn't want to approach Flint too rapidly because of the radiation,” said Doug.

“If your child had just been born, would anything keep you from getting to your wife?” asked John, speaking father to father.

“A nuclear war might, but I see your point. But if Flint was a likely target-and we know we saw the glow to the north-surely the military would know that something had happened up there. And the radiation would have decayed down to manageable levels by now, so there would be no real reason not to move quickly. And not much reason for him to be on his own.”

“So if he's lying, where is he from and why is he here?” asked Ron.

“He is lying,” declared Jeff flatly, his mind made up.

“Which still leaves my questions unanswered.”

“What's the simplest explanation? Lapeer. Sounds to me like he's based in town and is investigating the greater area to see what's going on. Why would that be? From what Emily's told us, there's no good interpretation of that-either the Razers are here trying to figure out if anyone's left, or if there's anything here that needs to be destroyed, or tracking the radio signals we've been sending out; or it's the Flock-”

“Doing what?” interrupted Doug. “Why would they make up a story like that? It sounded like they just wanted to leave the area, so why would they be interested in what they'd be leaving behind? The militia seems to me to be the most likely option.”

“Okay, so say he is with the Night Razers,” said Ron. “What do we do about that?”

“We can't let him leave,” said Jeff. “No matter what he tells them about us, the consequences could be disastrous. We'd be opening ourselves up to an invasion, and I wouldn't bet a lot of money on our chances of winning that fight.”

“Maybe the thing to do,” said John, “is to call his bluff. Offer to put this guy in a car and take him up to Flint.”

“But then what happens when we you get there?” asked Mark Hunt. “Either he's telling the truth”-Jeff shook his head at that statement, but Mark ignored him-“and he'll be grateful and all of this will be over, or he's not, and then what? We may have a confession, but I doubt we'll be any closer to knowing what's really happening with this guy. And whoever goes might be in danger.”

“If we think he's lying, we have to act accordingly,” said John. “I vote that we put him under 24-hour guard. Maybe in isolation-can we find a cabin for that?”

“We never moved into Rawhide-we haven't been able to arrange dependable heat there,” said Mark Bollman. ”I don't know how comfortable it'd be as a detention center, though-if he's got friends in the area, I don't think torturing him in any way is a good move.”

The situation clearly confounded everyone, and they pondered it in silence for a moment. The spell was broken by the crackling of the radio.

“John, you might want to get down here. There's some guys in the Trout Lake Building and they look like trouble.”

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