After the Apocalypse
Chapter 113: A Tale of Two Rons

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Ron Atkins had tried, while being treated in the Beaver Creek building, to take notice of as many of the details of the Scout camp as he could. In the interests of speed, and owing to the fact that he was too heavy to be carried easily, he had been walked down the shortcut path, through the woods to Clearwater-which was out of sight of the surrender site-and then up to BC. No one said a word on the walk.

The crowd in the cabin they finally entered came as a surprise-it looked like there were far more people in the one room than could possibly be living there comfortably, even if that second cabin they'd passed was used as housing. Certainly there were more people in camp that the 30 or so that the Deacon had told them about. And there seemed to be evidence of a lot of young kids around, which made him wonder if this was really a Boy Scout crew.

Their supplies were certainly not running low, either-discounting another piece of the Deacon's intelligence information. Indeed, they seemed well-provisioned for a long stretch in the woods. Maybe they were just a bunch of survivalists conveniently occupying the camp grounds.

"Or possibly a branch of the Razers. Gotta keep that in mind, although I suppose it's a weak possibility," he thought.

As he allowed his shoulder to be treated, he was positioned facing the kitchen sink and a blank wall-probably intentionally, he figured. He noted that the men working on his bullet wounds seemed quite competent, and that a good store of medical supplies was at hand. They even had running water-how was that possible?

What he couldn't figure out was why Whateley was so sure that someone from here had shot his son. To all outward appearances, the group-except for the score of men who had intercepted them, and that could be easily written off as self-defense, especially in light of their own intention to come in and shoot anything that moved-seemed safe, peaceful, and secure enough.

As the Winter Camp medics finished up, the one-armed guy who'd been talking in the main room came back and took over. "Okay, we're going to take you downstairs so you can rest in a quieter area. Want anything for the pain? Aspirin?"

"I'm all right for now, doc. Thanks, though."

"You have a name?"

"Atkins. Ron Atkins."

"Welcome to Winter Camp, Ron. Call me Jeff."

Downstairs? The cabin had a basement? Maybe that was how they could have so many people living here. One thing was clear-this was nothing even remotely ordinary.

After answering a couple of questions about the Flock while passing through the main room, Atkins was surprised to be led out the door. "I thought you said we were going downstairs?"

Jeff pointed down to Clearwater. "To the other cabin down there. We sometimes refer to it as 'downstairs'. Watch your step, though-the actual stairs are pretty icy these days."

Atkins noted that the armed guards were accompanying him and Jeff down to the smaller cabin. He supposed that this was part of the price to be paid for surrendering, but he decided that he was probably going to be better off here than with the rest of the Flock in the remains of the hospital.

The downstairs cabin, apparently called 'Clearwater', turned out to be far less lavishly appointed than the first. He was led to an empty bunk that was set up in the cabin's kitchen, which he could easily see made it easier to guard. He stretched out on the bed; the springs strained beneath his weight, but held firm. "I guess I'm a P.O.W. now," he thought. "Still, I think I'd rather be here for awhile. It seems a little nicer, and-" and he was asleep.

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Ron Donohue looked around the dimly-lit cabin. Hilltop was laid out like Chippewa-two large bunkrooms were connected by a central meeting and dining room, with a kitchen on a third side of the main room. The interrogation was soon set up in the north bunkroom, while the invaders were relegated to the south bunkroom under guard and the central room served as a buffer between the Winter Campers performing their investigation and the interlopers waiting to be heard.

John pointed out one small logistical flaw. "What do we do with these guys after we get done talking to them? We can't just put them back with the others-we don't want them to have a chance to exchange information."

Ron thought about that for a moment before responding. Oak Ridge was the closest cabin, but it was set back from the main roads, and taking anyone down there might reveal some of the paths they themselves had taken to get from BC to their encounter point. Lakeview cabin, across the road from Oak Ridge, was a possibility-but the expansive view from the front porch might reveal too much of camp, he thought.

"South Cove," he said. "It's secluded, and taking them there won't reveal much. Is there possibly a path leading directly there from here?"

"Not a good one, what with all the snow," said Dave Milon. "We came that way earlier, and it's rough going. The road is still our best bet-and it's road that they've already seen."

"So be it, then." Ron delegated two of the smaller Scouts with a radio to prepare South Cove for its new role, and the Winter Camp universe expanded to include another of D-A's cabins. The remaining guards turned their attention back to the newcomers. While a close watch was kept on the men in the holding room, others stepped outside to review their plan and determine the next set of moves.

Ron took the lead. "Here's what we want to do. Interview each of them individually-find out who they are, where they came from, and what they're doing here. The obvious question, of course, is how to ensure their cooperation. I don't want any more shooting."

"We need to set up some sort of... deal, I guess-something they need for the information we need," said Tim.

"What would that be, though? What do we have that they might want?" asked Ron. "On a different level, what information are we really interested in trading for?"

"Are we under a continued threat of attack? That's the first-and most important-thing we'd like to know," said John, who was interrupted by his radio.

"Hey John, it's Jerry. We backtracked these guys to the Trout Lake building. They don't seem to have touched anything when they were in here. No apparent damage."

"None?" John was somewhat surprised, given the nature of Trout Lake's contents.

"Not that I can see. Still looks pretty much like it did after the masquerade party."

"Roger that. Keep tracking them, and report back when you reach Sutton Road. Unless something else strange comes up, of course."

"We confirmed they were in Trout Lake cabin," announced John to the group. "That probably means they found our booze stash-but all indicators are that they didn't touch it."

The liquor had gone untouched since the masquerade party, as more pressing matters had kept everyone away from the TL building and no one dared bring a bottle down to the main cabins. "Might we have a bargaining chip here?" asked Milon.

"Hard to say," said Ron. "If they're with the Flock, they may be sworn off alcohol as a religious thing. Or not-could go either way. If they're Razers, I suspect our odds are probably better-but it doesn't explain why they didn't dig in when they had the chance earlier."

"Maybe they figured that a drunken invasion force wasn't such a smart idea," said John. "Could be they were planning to bend their elbows a bit on their way out, after they'd taken us out. Still, you're right, Dave-we could make some use of this. They probably know what we've got-but do they want it?"

"Let's find out."

Everyone filed back into the building, where Ron, John, and Dave settled into the north bunkroom while the rest took up posts guarding all of the exits to the south room.

"John, go on down to Trout Lake and pick up a couple of bottles," said Ron. "We might as well play that card up front." As John left, Ron spoke quietly to Dave. "Who do we want first?"

"I know who fired the shot," said Dave. "Let's start with him." When Ron stared at him in surprise, he continued. "I collected their guns, remember?"

"Go get him."

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