Terra Mortis II: The Gathering
By Dwayne MacInnes
The morning after the blizzard revealed a clear and bright sky. The sun was out and the temperature had risen to around forty degrees Fahrenheit. The few birds that stayed year around sang their greeting to the morning. There was no wind howling nor was there any snow falling.
Nori was sleeping in a light slumber dreaming of being in her warm bed back at the cabin. As she rolled around, she realized that she wasn’t in bed alone. Nori’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head as she instantly awoke with this realization.
She wasn’t in any bed, but a sleeping bag. She wasn’t in the cabin, but in some strange room lit faintly by the sunlight stealing in through the cracks in the boarded-up windows. Further, she wasn’t just sharing her bag with someone, but both of them were naked.
Nori shot her head towards her sleeping companion. Only the back of Brady’s head was visible. He was still soundly sleeping. His short brown hair was all disarrayed and his glasses lay on the floor next to their boots.
Nori couldn’t remember anything from the previous day. She felt very exhausted and panic began to consume her being. What was going on? What happened? Where are we? All flashed through her mind at once. However, what came out of her mouth was a blood-curdling scream.
Brady instantly awoke and jumped out of the bag. He managed to grab his glasses and threw them on his face as he scrambled for his shotgun. It all happened so fast that he didn’t even notice that the metal frame of his glasses were freezing as it came in contact with his skin nor that he was standing in the middle of the room holding a shotgun totally nude.
"YOU... YOU PERVERT!!!" Nori screeched.
Brady was still half asleep as he stared down at Nori who was sitting up and quivering with rage inside her sleeping bag. The puzzled expression on his face did nothing to calm her down.
"You took advantage of me," Nori said angrily before she started to sob into her hands.
"Wha...?" was all Brady got out.
The lookout station’s interior though warmer than it was outside was still cold. Brady then realized that he was standing in front of Nori with nothing on. That is when the memories of the previous day flooded back to him. Brady went to retrieve his clothes from where he had stuffed them into the sleeping bag when Nori violently pushed him away.
Brady found his coat and wrapped it around his waist. He then seated himself down next to Noriko who was still crying into her hands.
"Nori, calm down," Brady said soothingly. "Nothing happened."
"What do you mean nothing happened," she replied between sobs. "We were sleeping together in a sleeping bag NAKED!"
"Nori, what do you remember from yesterday?" Brady asked in a calm voice. "Do you know where we are or how we got her?"
Nori shook her head in the negative not looking up at Brady.
"OK. Nori, tell me what you do remember," Brady prodded.
"We went out after Sarge to stop him from murdering the pilot. It was snowing very hard and I was getting very cold," Nori started.
"Then we...I don’t remember. I must have fallen asleep or something," Nori finally said.
"Nori, you had hypothermia. That’s when your body’s core temperature goes below 95 degrees," Brady began.
Nori just sat there looking at the floor sniffling occasionally, but never saying anything.
"You were rambling incoherently, shivering uncontrollably and moving very sluggishly. These are the signs of hypothermia. If you body temperature drops below the mid 70s you die.
"Fortunately, for us both I stumbled upon this fire lookout and was able to get you up here. The best way to warm-up another person with hypothermia is to share body heat and that means bare skin to bare skin. You have my word nothing happened. Hell, I was so tired nothing could have happened," Brady concluded.
Nori looked up at Brady sheepishly. Then she began to chuckle, which then became a hearty laugh.
Brady stared at her not comprehending what brought on the laughter. Maybe she was still suffering from the hypothermia.
Still laughing Nori fished around in the bottom of the sleeping bag and pulled out some clothes that she flung at Brady.
"Man, you had to see yourself standing there totally naked with your shotgun in your hand," laughed Nori.
Brady’s face must have turned three shades of red as he hurriedly dressed himself in his warm clothes.
Carl woke up in a twin bed in a small bedroom. He must have made it to a cabin. His shoulder still hurt and he reached for it instinctively. It was bandaged, but nothing appeared to be broken. Obviously, someone must have found him.
The FBI agent looked around the room. The sunlight flooding in from the single window revealed a large black man in military BDU’s sleeping in a chair next to him.
Carl reached over and shook the man awake. The soldier came awake with a start. He looked over at Carl and then smiled.
"Good morning, Mr. Roger’s," greeted the black man.
"Uh...Hello? You seem to have me at a disadvantage," Carl returned.
"I’m Master Sergeant Ronald Greene. I found you in the snow outside the gate to the palisade. It appears that a tree limb broke with the weight of the snow and fell on top of you. Thank goodness nothing was broken," offered Ronald.
"I saw the crash and followed the trail that led me here. You did rescue the Apache crewmen didn’t you?" asked Carl.
Ronald’s face turned sour at the mention of the Apache crewmembers. Carl then saw sadness and worry flash across the sergeant’s face before it became impassive.
"What brings the FBI over the mountains to Terra Mortis as we call our new world over here?" returned Ronald.
It was obvious that the sergeant didn’t want to talk about the helicopter crew. In addition, Carl was interested in knowing how the soldier knew he came over the mountains.
"I’m sorry, I’ve been trapped on this side of the mountain like you when everything hit the fan," answered Carl.
"OK. Let’s place our cards on the table. I found your ID in your wallet nothing to hide there. But you also had a state quarter that wasn’t in circulation when the passes were closed down. So you had to come in from the other side," replied Ronald deadpan.
"That’s pretty good deduction. Looks like you are in the wrong line of work there sergeant," began Carl with a slight smirk on his face. "Things are little better on the other side as you put it. What do you know about what’s happening over there?"
"I heard from the pilot, yes, I rescued the crew, that the passes are nearly impenetrable and that we are a hair’s breath of going to war with Iran over something they had nothing to do with."
Many questions flooded the FBI agent’s head with Ronald’s single sentenced. However, he decided to paint the picture for the soldier before asking his own questions.
"First of all things are bad. You probably know that the economy is in shambles. But did you know that the draft has been reinstated? Every able-bodied boy and girl between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two is in the military. The Patriot Act has been strengthened and the CIA is acting like the president’s secret police. The FBI has been taking a shelling for this president for years and it looks like we are about to be the sacrificial lamb again.
"Martial law is the reality on the other side. The president has been hinting that he’ll have to suspend the elections until things can be returned to normal.
"What about the congress? They have given the president carte blanche on nearly everything. This is ten times worse than 9/11.
"Both parties in congress are starting to realize that they have lost their power to the executive branch. But what can they do. The people are scared and angry and they want someone to blame. The president has given them their scapegoat...Iran.
"So it is my mission to try and get to the ColTech pharmaceuticals plant in Marysville and to find some evidence that someone else was involved instead of Iran."
Ronald just sat their staring at the FBI agent for a while not saying anything. This news was overwhelming.
"Now I have a couple of questions for you. How do you know that Iran isn’t involved and what’s the story with the helicopter crew?" asked Carl.
"I can help you with your mission. I have the evidence that you seek here downstairs," Ronald said to Carl, whose jaw nearly hit the ground. "I have a CD-Rom and papers stating who was involved in the ColTech project. There is proof that Washington and this administration in particular is knee deep in this crap."
Then Ronald went into the story of the helicopter crew, their rescue, Lt. Jones attempted rape of Nori and his banishment. Then how when he returned to the cabin Coop and Smith told him that Nori and Brady had went out looking for him. Now the two are lost out there and even possibly dead from the blizzard.