After the Apocalypse
Chapter 46: The New ERA

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Katie spent most of the morning thinking about what she'd heard. She finally determined two things: one, they must not have felt Steve was really a threat and two, telling people about other survivors would be a mistake. Some of her girls were already homesick, worried about friends and families they might not see again. Telling them there were survivors would only make things worse and might even lead to a mass exodus of people trying to leave camp. She wasn't sure camp was perfect, but it was better than dying.

From what she'd managed to hear, it seemed that Steve probably killed the two men in self-defense. She hadn't known he was a pacifist, but it made sense; since their arrival, he'd been kind of distant. She hadn't been able to figure out why they all looked to a sullen, withdrawn man as their leader. Now it was clear. She wished she had known more about this before his disappearance. Melissa Collins was one semester shy of her master's in psychology; she probably could have helped him work through some of his problems before he ran off. Now she'd have to try to get him to talk to her when he returned.

She was sure he would return, but she wasn't sure how she knew. She was more worried about the other two. They seemed capable enough, but they were younger and sometimes that led to brash actions; it sounded like the world outside of camp would not be very forgiving of mistakes. If anything happened to them, the girls would be crushed, particularly Renee.

She broached the subject with the rest of the women just before they got ready to walk down to lunch. "I've been thinking about what you said, about us needing more of a role in things, and I think you're right."

Erin looked at her for a second, blinking slowly, as if in shock. "Really?" she asked.

"Don't be so surprised; I'm listening to you," laughed Katie, trying to ease the situation.

"I'm sorry," sputtered Erin, "it's just that you seemed so sure these guys should be in charge. I thought it would take longer to change your mind."

"Well, it's changed. I think we should try to pick a few of them and talk things through, see if we can get some changes made."

"That's great," said Erin. "What do you suggest?"

"Well, I think the first thing we have to do is become more a part of the group. Even if we don't wind up with a lot of say in things, it would help us know what's going on better. We need to break the ice somehow, so these guys stop seeing us as guests."

"Sounds good," said Carrie, "and I think I know just what to do." She quickly outlined her plan for the rest of the women and, after several minutes' discussion, they reached an agreement. Their plan was simple-Erin, Carrie, and Katie would talk to a couple of the younger guys and try to get some group activities going; once that happened, they'd be more part of the group and would eventually take more responsibility for their own survival.

The women made the trek down to lunch together, bringing along a few things they'd brought from the Stomp. While Winter Camp had some luxury accommodations, they were mostly aimed at men. The women down at BC and Clearwater would probably appreciate some more feminine reading material and, while the guys had secured the necessities in town, they hadn't grabbed even a single lipstick. Another part of their plan was to ingratiate themselves with the other women so they could get a feel for how well they would take their efforts to take control of their own destiny.

At lunch, it was announced that Steve, Joe, and Dave had gone back to town to grab a few things they had missed on the first trip. According to John, who made the announcement, the first crew hadn't had the right tools to retrieve some of the things they needed. It was hoped that Joe and Dave would be better able to retrieve them using cutting torches, while Steve was along to take them to the right spots. Katie couldn't help but admire the smoothness of the lie, and wasn't the least surprised to see everyone nodding in agreement with such a clever plan.

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