After the Apocalypse
Chapter 95: Randland, Version 2.0

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

"Randland" was a term coined by Mark Bollman in Channel 120, the first Winter Camp novel, and was used as the new name of D-A after a character based loosely on Jeff purchased the defunct Scout camp. Mark might have employed the term to refer to Jeff's evolving plans for a new world at camp, had he known what Jeff was up to. Allison had some knowledge of Jeff's ideas-but she had never read Channel 120.

As Jeff's master plan unfolded in his mind, he came to the realization that successfully maintaining the Winter Camp colony through months, rather than weeks, would necessitate far grander planning that he had initially figured. And he also soon knew that some rapid action was required to lay the best possible groundwork for his new world. He decided to begin by enlisting Allison's aid, with the idea that she could serve as the conduit to the other women. Once they were behind his ideas, he felt sure that the Winter Campers and their families would soon fall into line as well.

A lot of his more ambitious proposals would be new to Allison, he knew. Indeed, he wasn't completely sure of the feasibility of some of the details himself, but he was sure that massive drastic action was called for if everyone was to survive.

The first-and most urgent-of Jeff's new ambitions was a fuller realization of the "Ranch" part of D-A's name. Walker's Farm was located just down Sutton Road from the main entrance to camp, and he had kicked himself for overlooking the beef cattle there for over a month. Assuming that they were still alive-and Jeff was forced to admit that that might be too much to hope for-he had laid out a plan to drive the herd to camp and set up a new operation within D-A itself. The obvious challenge with this plan was securing a good supply of food for the cattle, but his continuing euphoria kept him optimistic-perhaps unrealistically so-about Winter Camp's chances.

He admitted to himself that if grazing were possible, camp provided many decent grassy spaces, although they weren't conveniently situated. Much of the new land added to the Ranch in the 1990's seemed like it would be good pasture, but it wasn't close to the cabins. In a way, it was like the problems he'd had finding and laying out an agricultural site. On the other hand, it might be possible for a suitably dedicated community to move the herd from pasture to pasture. That might have to wait until spring, he knew, but in the meantime, he'd targeted the pavilion near Lang cabin as a convenient home base for the herd.

Jeff's agricultural plans required the next most significant immediate activity. By simply converting his primary agricultural mission from large fields of grain to a series of gardens throughout the Beaver Creek campsites, the need for huge expanses of flat land was removed. On the other hand, the problem of seeds was not so simple to solve. Even for a collection of vegetable gardens, none of the camp's resources provided significant seeds-and if they chose also to plant a lot of grain, they'd be even further pressed for the raw materials. An agricultural group, as he envisioned it, would need to start work now by collecting fresh or rotting vegetables-probably from Metamora, since Lapeer wasn't secure anymore-and drying seeds. Yet another raid into Lapeer would be necessary if a full-scale farm was on the horizon-only Lapeer had the agricultural supply center that would provide the wheat or corn that the camp would need.

The insecurity in Lapeer preyed on his thoughts in another way. While the Winter Camp leaders were slowly relaxing as they saw that an invasion by either the Flock or the Night Razers wasn't imminent, Jeff thought that perhaps Winter Camp needed to take some decisive protective action. He felt sure that the more adventurous campers would soon be feeling a bit more wanderlust, and he thought that he could cut that off and give them a satisfying diversion involving explosives at the same time. He'd sounded John out briefly about dynamiting the main roads into camp to create a more secure perimeter, but had met with some resistance.

"I don't like it," John had said. "That means we won't be able to get out of camp too well, either."

"I don't think that's all bad," Jeff had countered. "It might be a good idea if we locked everyone down for awhile. Maybe have everyone check their car keys with Ron and give him control over who leaves and when. I can't see anyone crossing him."

"I can't see that some of the guys want him-or anyone-making those kinds of choices. They'll resist it. And an awful lot of us can hot-wire a car."

The debate went nowhere-whether that was because things were still pretty hypothetical or because of the accuracy of John's perception wasn't clear.

Jeff also had an ambitious engineering project on his drawing board. While ice was abundant in the current cold weather, it would be much harder to come by when-if-the temperatures warmed up. It might be nice, he thought, to build an ice house for the summer months, when natural refrigeration was no longer an option. The details weren't filled in yet, but there was still time before it became necessary.

His speculation was derailed as Allison and Carrie walked in. "Jeff, I couldn't keep Carrie away," said Allison. "She heard that you had some big plans for the camp, and she was really interested. I think she's ready to come on board with us."

Jeff scarcely noticed. "Okay," he began, "here's what I have in mind. We have to start with a community of ranchers." This was new to Allison, but she hid her surprise. "There's a chance that the herd of cattle up the road at Walker's might still be alive."

"Even though they've been left alone almost a month?" asked Carrie.

"We've got to look, at least," said Jeff. "If they're alive, it's an opportunity we can't overlook. If not-well, we haven't really lost anything major. Anyhow, we need to drive the herd back to camp and start raising them ourselves."

"Where?"

"All over, eventually. There's decent pastureland to the northwest and northeast corners of camp. We'll be a real ranch this way-there'll have to be a group of people dedicated to keeping an eye on them and moving them from place to place within camp. With the horses, that should be easy."

"But what happens before the weather breaks? Pasture isn't really an option right now with all the snow."

"We do the best we can, of course. There's a barn up front that's still partially full of hay. If we're careful about how we divide it between the horses and the cows, I think we can make it all work."

"We might at that; it actually sounds kind of fun. I always wanted to be a cowgirl when I was a kid."

Jeff nodded. "Moving on, there's the agricultural situation. I thought of something different from what I told you about before, Allison. We don't necessarily need a lot of flat farmland if we work on a smaller scale-I see a lot of gardens, probably based in the various campsites."

"You're not worried about radiation?" asked Carrie.

"Nope. The Geiger counter hasn't turned anything up, and it would have by now if there were anything close enough to affect us. As near as anyone who's been out there can tell, most of the damage to the north and south hasn't been from atomic bombs. It's looked more like tremors and from the citizens in Lapeer blowing stuff up conventionally. Makes it a little more strange how we've managed to survive, but we have-and I intend to make sure that we keep doing so."

Allison recognized a reappearance of Jeff's mania in the tone of his voice, and nudged Carrie as they'd prearranged while Jeff continued talking. "The trick there is that we still need seeds, and that calls for another trip into Metamora."

"Why Metamora? Because Lapeer's less safe, even though it's bigger?"

"Exactly. So when the crew gets there, they need to be scavengers with a vengeance. Anything that might have seeds we could dry out and plant has to be brought back. It doesn't matter if the vegetables themselves are rotting; that's not important anymore. The future is more important-besides, we're doing better with food now that the Coopers are here with their supplies."

"So you're giving up the idea of a farm?"

"Not right away. But to get enough grain to mount a farming operation, we need to go back and raid the farming distributor in Lapeer, and it's hard to say when-or if-it'll be safe to go back there. Anything we can pick up there will be ready to plant, though-no drying required."

"But won't there be other survivors who might be interested in doing that?"

Jeff was amused by the way Allison and Carrie were pinpointing all of the objections he'd come up with on his own. That, of course, meant that he had answers ready-and stood a good chance of a successful launch of his quest to convince the entire group of the soundness of his plans.

"Doubtful, although it's tough to guarantee anything based simply on what we know now. Judging from our intelligence report, the Flock is looking to leave the area. They're out. And the Razers-they seem more interested in destroying than rebuilding. They're probably working out of overstocked and overarmed bunkers and aren't planning on becoming farm folk."

"What do militias do for long-range planning? If they ever did achieve their goal of world domination, did they ever think about the day-to-day machinations of running a society-even a society composed entirely of their own kind?" asked Allison.

"Good theoretical question-but stunningly irrelevant," said Carrie. "Go on, Jeff. What else you got up your sleeve?"

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