Edge of Valor: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller(8)

The blue marble pressed against her palm—round, cold, hard. And beautiful. Quinn slipped it into her pocket next to her slingshot. A reminder she didn’t want to forget.


Day One Hundred and Three

Dave’s blue eyes twinkled. “I have a surprise for you.”

“As long as it’s a pleasant surprise.” Hannah adjusted her grip on Charlotte in her carrier. Her daughter kicked her feet and giggled as Dave tickled her toes through her soft-soled shoes. “We could use more of those.”

“Pretty sure you’ll think so. Come round back.”

In his early sixties, Dave’s hair was graying, his face weathered with smile lines.

He owned fifteen rural acres and the Fall Creek Inn. The militia’s fuel stash had allowed the inn’s generator to keep running, so Dave had taken in Fall Creek’s elderly and medically fragile.

Dave was a helper, always putting others first without complaint. He used his ham radio contacts to connect family and friends from across the state and even across the country. He’d also stepped up to fulfill the role of unofficial superintendent now that Rosamond was dead.

Dave led her deeper into his fifteen-acre property. They passed two sheds and a pole barn, then several rows of cherry trees and his grape arbors.

Craning her neck, she gazed up at the huge antenna towering forty feet into the pewter sky. Gray clouds cloaked the horizon like a thick woolen blanket. No wind or snow, but no sun either.

They needed a turn in the weather to plant their seedlings. They had the tractors, biofuel, and the volunteer workforce. Spring needed to make its entrance.

Of course, they had to survive the General first. No sign of his army—yet.

While Dave, Annette, and Hannah focused on logistics such as food, water, power, and fuel, Liam took command of security. Whatever Liam ordered, they did without complaint or question.

Hannah prayed it would be enough to fend off the General.

Doubt gnawed at the edges of her thoughts. But for how long? And then what?

Dave led her to the office tacked onto the backside of his detached garage, opened the door, and gestured for her to enter. “I found someone who wants to talk to you.”

Her chest constricted. “Is it—?”

Dave grinned. “You’ll just have to see.”

They entered Dave’s office, a large room filled with shelves of ham equipment—a radio and transceiver, scanners, two-way handhelds, and a couple of desktop computers. Knots of power cables snaked along the floor. A generator hummed in the background.

Cloudy gray light streamed through the single window. A portable propane heater in one corner provided warmth.

Hannah sank into the soft leather chair, one hand clutching Charlotte to her chest as she reached for the mic with the other.

Charlotte bounced in her lap. She grabbed the mic with two chubby hands; her pink mouth opened like she wanted to eat it.

Hannah pushed it out of her reach and swallowed, anticipation fizzing in her belly. “Hello?”

“Hannah?” The voice on the other end was achingly familiar. “Hannah, is that you?”

Her breath hitched in her throat. She closed her eyes, mouth dry, unable to form words. Childhood memories filled her mind: camping, hiking, family dinners, trips to the grocery store. Football games and late-night study sessions.

Dave squeezed her shoulder. “You okay?”

His touch brought her back. She opened her eyes and inhaled sharply. Keying the mic, Hannah said, “It’s me.”

Silence on the other end, as if the speaker were as overwhelmed as she was. Not just any speaker—Oliver, her brother. After five horrific years, she was speaking to her brother.

“I can’t believe it,” Oliver sputtered, joy and disbelief in his voice. “We thought…all this time…they told us you were dead…”

“I’m not.”

“I can hear that. I still can’t believe it. Man oh man, this is unbelievable! I can’t wrap my head around it—” A beat of silence. A note of doubt crept into his tone. “How…how do I know it’s really you?”

She leaned forward. Tears sparked in her eyes, her voice husky with emotion. “When I was ten, I found a garter snake in the yard and put it in your bed as revenge. You called me a scaredy cat because I was afraid to jump off the embankment at the lake. I showed you, though. When it was your turn, you screamed like a little girl.”

Merry laughter burst from the mic. “Little sister, it’s good to hear your voice. After everything, the whole world falling apart…I didn’t believe something good could still happen.”

She smiled so hard her cheeks hurt. “There’s still good in the world, Oliver. I promise.”

“Damn! How I’ve missed you! If only Mom and Dad could see us. I wish—I wish they’d lived to see this moment.”

She blinked the wetness from her eyes. “Me too.”

For the next hour, they reminisced about their childhood and shared memories of their parents, who hadn’t survived the day of the EMP. They caught up on each other’s lives while Dave sat at the other end of the desk and busied himself repairing a broken receiver.

Hannah gave Oliver the shorthand version of her captivity and escape from Pike. She told him how Liam had found her in the woods and saved her. Charlotte’s birth in a cabin in the middle of a blizzard. How Pike had hunted her. How she and Ghost killed him.

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