After the Apocalypse
Chapter 59: More Decisions

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

The excitement of the new water project pretty much assured that none of the principal engineers slept that night. They were up well before dawn the next morning, gathering supplies and selecting three more campers to meet expected needs at the well site. Tom Ray and Roger Horn were added to the crew to get four more hands on board-if the cover was frozen in place, the quartet thought releasing it might be more than they alone were prepared to handle. Bryan Lenz, the smallest Scout at camp, was selected in case exploration made it necessary to lower someone into the well pit.

It came as no surprise to anyone except Allison that a pair of needed blowtorches was provided from Winter Campers' collective gear. She redeemed herself by suggesting that a Polaroid camera might be useful for further photographic surveying, and by tracking down Mark Bollman's. In light of the significance of the event, it was clear to everyone that some of Winter Camp's scarce gasoline could be expended on this mission, and Mike's truck was packed full of the project team, its numerous tools, and every empty water container that could be had-whether the pump power system could be mimicked or not, there was value in bringing back as much well water as possible.

The drive out to Indianwood was simple-the weight of the SUV made traction control easy, and the well pit was quickly located in a small clearing northwest of the cabin. A considerable accumulation of snow atop the cover was quickly removed, and then Mike and Tom set to work with blowtorches to remove the icy seal. While everyone waited, Jeff began filling the water jugs. He reported that the water flow was constant, although slower than camp pumps typically flowed. Bryan ran uphill to Forester campsite, where he soon found that the pump there was not working at all.

"Not a big deal," said Doug. "After all, there are many reasons why that might be. It could be that they're not on the same well line as this one, or it could be a wiring problem somewhere else in the circuit, or it could just be frozen. We've got one possible working pump; let's not get rabid with greed here."

As Doug finished, Tom called out that the cover was freed from the ice. Allison and Roger joined Mike and Tom on the concrete cover, one to a side. They proved unable to get a good grip on the narrow edges of the cap until Jeff suggested using a crowbar on one side. A tricky balancing act followed, and it looked like the cover would stay in place, until Bryan proposed adding a second crowbar on that edge. As he and Roger pushed downward simultaneously, the others were able to grab hold of the concrete platform as it rose, and to lift it clear of the opening.

There followed a brief bit of comedy as everyone quickly looked around for a place to set the cover down-that they had not thought out beforehand. After a few seconds of false starts and a bit of juggling, they finally moved away and lowered the top to the snow. Everyone quickly grabbed a flashlight and trained its beam into the darkness.

"Got it!" shouted Doug. Everyone looked closely and saw the pump machinery and wires in a massive tangle, but the clipped wires and a crane battery in a corner proved ample proof of the original hypothesis.

"So we were right," said Jeff. "It was a temporary measure to bypass some sort of power trouble."

"But why?" asked Tom. "Why all this trouble for Indianwood? I'd guess that not too many units camp out here."

"We may never know," said Doug. "What's important is that we find a way to record this, find out what the hookups are, and get it replicated back at BC."

"But that's not a regular car battery. Who's got a battery that big, though?" asked Allison. Before the words fully left her mouth, though, she knew that there was going to be at least one battery that size back at camp.

"There's one in the ceremonial supplies," said Tom. "We brought it along because we were planning some special effects for the Anniversary Banquet, but then when the bombs hit…well, that didn't happen. We haven't been using it to run the heaters; it's just sitting in someone's trunk right now."

"Okay then. Allison, you've got the camera. Can you get a good shot from here, or do we need to drop Bryan down in there?" asked Roger.

Allison tried a few camera angles, but took no pictures. "I think it's still too dark down there, even with the flashlights. And this doesn't have telephoto-I'd say we need to get closer."

A length of rope was pulled from the truck, and Mike quickly tied a bowline on a bight. Bryan climbed into the collected loops and prepared to descend. Doug and Tom manned the upward end of the rope, while everyone else shone a flashlight downward where the interesting connections were made.

Bryan's descent stopped when he was about a foot from the most significant wiring. "Can you see okay?" called out Roger.

"Yeah. There's an inspection sticker right here-this thing was last checked in August 1999. I can get the camera over toward the wiring-here goes!" A flash shot out from the camera and the whirring of an ejected picture rose to the surface.

"Pull him back up!" said Jeff. "We need to take a look at that picture, and Bryan's hands aren't all that free."

Upon close inspection, the first picture had been a good one. Nonetheless, Bryan made the trip down for two more insurance photos before Doug, Jeff, and Mike were confident in their ability to wire up the Beaver Creek pump from the images they had.

"Nice work, Bryan," said Tom. "We all owe you one here."

They struggled to replace the cover and loaded the truck for their triumphant ride home. It soon became clear that travel with many full water jugs would be far less comfortable than the inbound ride with empty jugs had been, and Jeff quickly announced his intention to walk back.

"Bryan, you're the man of the hour-you deserve to ride shotgun," said Mike. "Who else can cram in there?"

Tom volunteered to ride with the water and try to control things. Everyone else opted to hike along with Jeff. As Mike drove the truck carefully along the road back, the four hikers cut away at Dan Beard campsite and vanished among the trees.

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