Discovery! – Welcome Back Jason 50

Discovery! – Welcome Back Jason 50

Feb 05, 2021

"What happened to him? He took a look at you and passed out." George England was saying.

"I'm assuming that he's had little sleep, probably hasn't eaten a descent meal in over 30 years and probably didn't know that it's been 30 years since he went into stasis. Not to mention what he's had to go through, just getting out of the stasis pod room and getting to the surface. That area was a direct hit by a meteor. The whole side of the building is completely gone. I guess he was lucky that the stasis pod room was so deep under the building and surrounded by bedrock." Dr. Swan was telling George England.

"Did that guy have something to do with that top secret thing you were working on when "Sky-Fall" happened, Dr. Swan?" George asked in curiosity.

"His part of the public study, I can talk about, George. I just couldn't discuss some of what my husband and I were working on with nanites, and still can't. But, yes, yes he was. In fact, he was the subject of the Publicly Advertised Government Research project I was working on." She said and continued.

"On that, only the location was a secret, to deter any type of medical espionage on our nanite infusion treatment development. If it is him and I think it highly likely that it is. His apparent youth is an unexpected development from the nanites used to keep him alive in stasis. Definitely an unexpected development." Dr. Swan told George.

"But, I thought you were working with animals in that research. That Hawk and Ferret that you gave to Derrel Darvy came from your old laboratory in the bio-medical research building down by the destroyed V.A. Hospital, didn't they?" George England asked.

"Well, yes they did, George. But they weren't part of that particular study. They were part of an animal communication study using nanites." Said Dr. Swan informatively and continued sadly. "They were also a part of my husband's project but, he was killed when Sky-Fall took out the Air Force Base, south of here."

"What was your husband working on, Ma'am?" George asked, curious.

"That's largely secret, George. But, I can say those two animals were paired via our nanite system. My husband and I were working on a system, that allows them to communicate almost telepathically. They work together as a team without being trained to do so. They were our most promising paired set of animals, using our system. The goal of the study was to see if nanites could be used for silent communication between members of a team. They're a remarkable pair of animals and appear not to be aging. I'm glad they bonded so well with Derrel." Dr. Swan said, brightening a little.

"Dr. Swan, Ma'am, is he the guy you were looking for after Sky-Fall? I remember when you were first looking for the entrance to your underground test facility. How when you saw what the meteor did to the building, then those military guys started shooting at us, you freaked out, called off the search and we ran like hell. No one has been back since with permission, by your orders, why?" George asked curious.

"Like you told Jason a minute ago, it is an evil place. There are too many horror stories coming from there and they get worse as they're told by those who've survived exploring deeper into the highly developed urban areas. I don't know what's in there but, I'm in no hurry to send anyone to their death on an exploratory mission." Dr. Swan was telling George.

"I heard that whatever is in there is big, hairy and smart. I like it out here in the open, it has it's drawbacks but, it's home and we keep each other safe in here. I'm not the adventuring type." George said frankly.

"I know, George. You've always been the maintain the homestead type. The people like and respect you. You're our Captain of the Guard, the chief of our police, if you will. I've known you since you were three and a half years old. You're like a son to me and you are my son's best friend. You just keep on being your best self and you'll be fine." Dr. Swan said in a parental way.

"You should probably stay here, big guy." Jason said as he sat up. "This place has been being scouted by a raiding party of an undetermined number of armed men, with plans to raid your new settlement. They want your livestock and anything else they can use." Jason finished looking George in the eye seriously.

Jason had been "playing possum" since he recognized Dr. Swan, felt dizzy and was starting to pass out. Jason had been through this sort of thing before and knew that to ward off a fainting spell, he just go ahead and drop, relax and maintain consciousness. He did, was rewarded by not losing consciousness and just pretended to be asleep so he could listen to what they might say.

Jason had never really been all that trustful of anything having to do with the government. Dr. Swan was a government funded researcher, that by extension, was part of the government that had "left him out to dry" on more than one occasion. And was responsible for turning him into a frozen dinner and leaving him in the freezer too long.

George was standing there looking at Jason, slack jawed, shocked that Jason was acting like nothing had happened.

Jason turned his head and smiled at Dr. Swan. "Hi, ya Doc. I think you might have left me in the freezer too long. Although, this freezer burn seems to have burned the old off of me." Jason said sarcastically.

"Mr Stalk, I'm so sorry. When Sky Fall happened it was chaos. We organized a party and set out to find you, but I saw the building with the north east corner completely gone from a meteor impact. Then some military looking men started shooting at us and we ran. I didn't think there was any way you could have survived. I'm so sorry, please believe me." Dr. Swan pleaded.

"Hey Doc. I'm not mad, a bit confused maybe. But, that's not surprising, I've been clinically dead for a very long time, is seems. Look on the bright side, your stasis experiment was a smashing success. And I got the bonus of youth. Nah, I ain't mad at all." Jason had found the place to have all of his questions answered and he was happy. "I only have about a million questions, Doc. And I'm sure that you want to look me over real well for your records. So where's the scale?" Jason asked looking around the guard shack.

"And, by the way George, I'm on your side, would you mind stabling my mule for a while? He's loaded with goods, so if you, being the top law enforcement here, would see to it that my goods are properly cared for, I would consider it a favor and I don't forget favors. I call him Clyde." Jason said seriously.

George nodded his head and looked at Dr. Swan for approval. Dr. Swan smiled and nodded.

"If you'll come with me Mr Stalk, we'll give you as good of a physical as we can with our mechanical equipment. We have no powered equipment but, we do have battery powered lights." Dr. Swan said as she led Jason to her office within the main compound.

Jason looked around as they went toward the main gate of the inner stonework wall. It was at the apex of the nearest corner of the triangular wall, which had a door in it for foot traffic, on the closest side to them. The wall itself was perhaps eleven or twelve feet tall.

The palisade was about fifteen to twenty feet tall and roughly circular all the way around the inner stonework wall which was, in fact, triangular.

In the two sides Jason could see between the walls, there were crops being harvested on Jason's right hand side and on the left there was a large pond with some cattle and a few horses grazing around it. On the exterior palisade there were one room structures about every 100 feet as far around the exterior wall as Jason could see. There was also a walkway about 5 feet below the top of the wall, all the way around the wall as far as Jason could see of the wall. The walkway had stairways leading down from the walkway to every wooden structure below it.

Atop the corners of the triangular stonework walls were the three towers Jason had seen from a distance. They were perhaps thirty five feet tall and would be perfect for lookouts.

Jason followed Dr. Swan through the foot door at the apex of the stonework wall, once inside, he was impressed at what he saw.

Down both sides of the wall, was a solid wooden structure that looked to be a series of one or more room dwellings. There were people walking around, conducting business or doing various tasks pretty much everywhere Jason could see and he let out a low whistle in appreciation. Everywhere Jason looked, there were people pointing at them and talking quietly. Many would look away quickly when Jason made eye contact.

"We've pretty much, filled any space not being used with dwellings and our settlement continues to grow, Mr Stalk. That is why we are starting a new settlement not far from here. Unfortunately, there have been some raiding parties who've stolen a few cattle that used to be outside the outer palisade. And the other day, there were some harvested crops stolen that had been left outside the palisade by one of our farmers over night. But, they're not much more than an annoyance since we brought the rest of the cattle inside the outer palisade and are no longer using the exterior for growing crops." Dr. Swan explained to Jason.

In front of the long dwellings along the stonework wall, there was a wide pathway of dirt and looked to be where wagons transported heavy loads from place to place within the palisade and inner walls.

There were buildings across from the long building around the outer stonework wall. Not one long building, but separate, free standing, structures of varying sizes and rectangular shapes. Some appeared to be shops of one type or another and the others looked to be dwelling/shop combinations. There also looked to be front entrances, while others, appeared to be back doors to dwellings or businesses, as there were loading platforms, obviously for the loading of wagons.

Once past this next line of dwellings, Jason saw another line of individual dwellings and shops, with hanging signs in front of or secured to the front's of shops. There were more people going about their daily tasks, many of whom would stop and gawk at Jason in suspicion. Jason was also aware of others who'd been following them at a respectable distance.

Jason was beginning to hear the sounds of children's laughter and the associated noise they tend to make during play. Complete with the screams, crying and other assorted loud noises that children make during play. As they passed another row of buildings, Jason could see a large, two story house in the center of a circular fence made of timbers, resembling a cattle fence.

Beyond the fence were quite a few children playing on a meticulously kept lawn. There was timber playground equipment close to the large "manor house" in front and off to the right side. This is where the children's voices were coming from.

Dr. Swan noticed Jason's smile and said, "Those are our settlement children, they're on their recess period. You look like that sight pleases you, Mr. Stalk."

It does, Dr. Swan, a great deal. "The laughter of children is like a medicine to an old soul, Doc. I may not look like it, but I'm an old man, Doc. Inside, in here." Jason said as he pointed at his heart. “When you put me in the freezer, the world was going to Hell in a hand basket, Doc. But, here it looks like you've managed to preserve some of humanity and it's joys.” Jason, said sounding a little more hopeful.

“From what I've heard, humanity nearly was wiped out, Jason. Almost an entire generation of children died during and shortly after Sky Fall. Disease, starvation and chaos killed many after the first meteors destroyed most, if not all of our technology or the ability to power it.” Dr, Swan said, in a way that, didn't quite cover her, deep sadness and sense of extreme loss.

They had entered the wooden gate and were walking toward the smaller building between them and the manor house. "This is my clinic where I care for the sick or injured. It has every type of medical instrument that doesn't require power to operate." Dr. Swan said, as she opened the front door of her clinic and ushered Jason inside.

Jason saw the old style counter-weighted scale, went right to it, stepped onto it and adjusted the sliding weights to find out what his weight was. Then Jason lifted the height bar and said, "5' 11" tall, 195lbs, That's what I weighed when I went into stasis, Doc. If I remember right."

Dr. Swan had opened a filing cabinet and was holding a rather full folder. She opened the folder as she seated herself at her desk. "Yes, that is what I have here. Odd, I would think that you would have lost at least some muscle mass. Remove your shirt please, Mr. Stalk. I need to see what kind of changes have happened to your musculature."

"Uhh.. Okay, Doc, if you say so." Jason said as he removed his shirt, then his undershirt. And asked, "How about the stasis suit, Doc? It's got a tear in the right leg but, it feels like part of me now."

"You're still wearing the stasis suit? My goodness, yes, remove it, please. I'd like to examine it under the microscope. You can remove it over there, behind that screen." Dr. Swan said, trying not to sound too excited, as she indicated a clinical modesty screen, in a corner of the room.

Dr. Swan was amazed, the suit had taken on the appearance of Jason's skin in color.

Dr. Swan knew what her husband's project was and how he had used her lattice design, to begin his adaptable camouflage, body armor with offensive capability, project for the government.

But, that capability hadn't been activated in Jason's stasis suit. The nanites used for the camouflage ability in her husband's suit, had been re-purposed, to provide the air-tight aspect of the suit and shouldn't function. Yet, they seemed to be using the chameleon like ability of those nanites.

Dr Swan desperately wanted to see those nanites under a microscope to see what changes might have happened to them.

"No need for the screen, Doc. You're a Doctor and I'm not modest." Jason said as he removed his trousers and skivvies, preparing to remove the suit. "Well, I'll be damned. The tear is gone, Doc. Like it was never there. What the Hell? And did you forget, Doc? The zipper is in the back. I'm limber again, but not that limber." Jason said sarcastically as he turned around and pointed to his back with his thumb.

"Well, oh yes. It's been 30 years for me, Mr. Stalk. For you, it's only been a day or so. And about that tear in your right leg. This suit," Dr. Swan said as she began unzipping the stasis suit's rear zipper. "Is my husband's first generation nano-armor suit with some of my additions for the suspension study. It was ideal for the first part of what was his dream of adaptable body armor, in that it was designed to be self repairing and would fit the wearer like it were their own skin. His dream was to be able to issue this suit to recon-scout teams or individuals, when he completed it's development."

When the zipper had been pulled to it's opening stop, the suit was suddenly hanging loosely from Jason's body, as if it had just grown three sizes too large in volume and had taken on it's original red color. Jason easily removed the "too large" stasis suit, handing it to Dr. Swan and said, "Mind if I get it back when you're done looking it over, Doc? I don't know why, but I feel naked without it." Jason said as he re-dressed himself in his skivvies, socks and trousers.

Jason walked over to a full length mirror and looked himself over. "Well, I'll be damned. I've got abs. Hell, not just nice abs, I'm ripped." Jason said as he pinched a very small area on his stomach, then flexed his arm muscles, admiring his reflection. "I didn't even have this much definition when I was on active duty, in peak condition. And I have a full head of hair. It's a flat-top, but I've got hair again! Well, Doc, what do you think?"

"Your, physique has indeed, changed. You no doubt have a body fat index of around 2%. Quite an improvement from when you went into stasis. If you would stand at this line and read the letters on the eye chart, we'll get your vision scores." Dr. Swan said, indicating a painted line on the floor.

Jason did as he was instructed and read every letter on the chart, even the ones that were difficult to see at arms length for "normal" people. Dr. Swan was completely taken aback.

"That's incredible! You can't have read every line. That would make your vision better than perfect. Your original eyesight was 20/25 which is very good. But this is better than perfect." Dr. Swan almost shouted in shock.

"Yeah, I've noticed that I can see clearly, pretty far away. And my hearing has gotten better too. I could hear and understand the two men who were scouting your settlement, from at least half a mile away. I don't know what the hell those little machines you put in me did but, I like it, Doc. I tell ya what, you can do all the tests on me that you want, after I go to warn this "Jacob's Satellite". They may need the help and I'm good at the kind of help they'll need." Jason said as he was putting his under shirt, shirt and Kevlar vest on.

"They aren't as well defended as we are here, at the new settlement. They haven't even gotten the timber palisade built yet. And we aren't due to ship any more supplies until the weekend. They're armed but, not that well and are inexperienced at dealing with an attacking force of raiders. Perhaps you're right, Mr Stalk. They are about 2 miles east of here just off that road to the south. They're just south of the road and you should be able to see it from the road." Dr. Swan said with a hint of worry in her voice.

"Don't worry, Doc. I'm hard to kill, especially if it's me doing the hunting. Now, where is that George fella? I need my equipment. Can't very well run out there unarmed, well I could but, it wouldn't be a good idea. I'll want that suit when I get back, Doc. So, do your thing on it while I'm gone, Okay."

"Certainly, Mr Stalk. And no, it wouldn't be advisable to go unarmed, Mr Stalk. If you hurry, you can catch George going to the stable, behind the big house, my home. Your weapons are at the guard shack at the gate. The items on your mule will be put in a secure place, I'm sure. George is very dependable and will guard your gear as if it were his very own." Doctor Swan said informatively.

"Good. There are a few toys among my stuff, go ahead and give them to the kids, I'd just be handing them out anyway. Kids need toys, it keeps them out of trouble, lets them be kids and that makes me kind of like Santy Clause. After all, I just came out of a freezer, kinda like him. Budget cutbacks. I had to downgrade to a mule. George would make a better Santa than me anyway." Jason said with a snicker as he left Dr. Swan's clinic, headed for the front guard shack.

Dr. Swan followed Jason to the door and hollered to him as he trotted away, "Do be careful, Mr. Stalk, there are things that we still need to discuss." Jason simply waved over his shoulder in assent.

Jason trotted to the front guard shack, put on his duty belt with the holstered 9mm semi-automatic, shoulder harnessed, .45 caliber, model 1911, Colt and the rear over the shoulder holster for the 12GA pump shotgun. Jason checked the ammunition and magazines, chambered a round in each of his holstered firearms, checked his shoulder strap mounted bayonet, picked up and chambered a round in his M-16, then left the settlement at a fast trot.

Jason dropped into his old running rhythm from the Marine Corps, singing cadence inside his head. There was the old favorite about the Kansas City, girl and many others with Jason quietly yelling at a whisper OORAH after every line. Jason had run at a fast trot for nearly a mile and he didn't feel winded at all. Jason marveled at this briefly, then picked up the pace to a near full run. Jason was marveling at his new found endurance when he heard a brief exchange of gunfire ahead of him and realized that he was within perhaps 100 yards of the turn off to the settlement.

Jason dropped into a crouching run, went angling toward the tree line, along the old fencing and slowed to a quick crouching trot. There was another exchange of gunfire and Jason pinpointed the nearest shooter by the sound. The nearest shooter was, perhaps 50 yards ahead and to his left, in a dry gully wash, sighting intently through a telescopic scope. Jason did some quick thinking, cross back slung his M-16, drew his bayonet, then crouch ran to the dry wash, where it had turned in his direction, scrambling into the wash as fast and quietly as he could.

Once in the dry creek wash, Jason began moving as quickly and quietly toward the shooter as he was able. There was a lot of tall prairie grass growing in the gully, with a thin path where water would run when it rained and didn't allow any grass to root in the sandy loam.

Jason had played cowboys and Indians, mock war, hide and seek in these kinds of creeks and gullies as a youngster. He had even shot his friend between the eyes with his BB gun once, in a gully like this. So, Jason knew how to move fairly silently through tall prairie grass, especially when there was a fairly strong breeze. Jason heard the shooter fire another two rounds, apparently trying to pick his shots and hit a distant target. Jason rounded the bend in the wash and got a glimpse of the shooter re-loading his semi-automatic through the waving prairie grass. From the dark reddish brown stain down the right side of his back, Jason figured that this was the one called, Tony. And too, he was wearing the same clothes that Tony had been wearing, earlier. Jason stopped, waiting for him to finish loading his weapon and was again looking through the scope.

The shooter fired another round just as Jason came up behind him, driving his bayonet between the vertebrae at base of the shooter's neck. The shooter stiffened, then fell like he had no bones. Jason grabbed the semi-automatic rifle as the man fell and used the scope to check the house and where the other shooters might be. He could plainly see one man at the front of the house trying to get into the house. That man had been dressed the same as Ben had been earlier. Jason also spotted two more men moving around the house to get a vantage in the rear of the building. Jason reasoned that one of these men was the one the two had been referring to earlier as, Frank. As soon as the two men were out of eye sight, Jason sighted in with the high powered rifle on the man in front's head and squeezed the trigger.

The round hit the house high and to the right of where the reticle was centered. Jason cursed silently to himself. The man at the front of the house, turned around and shook his fist at Jason, thinking that Jason was one of his partners. Jason cursed to himself, "That fuckin' idiot, Tony, never sighted this scope in."

Jason tossed the rifle to his left, unslung his M-16 with "peep" sight, grabbed a hand full of sandy dirt, tossing it into the air above himself. Jason watched the dirt carefully, judging the wind speed and direction. Jason quickly adjusted the windage and elevation on his peep sights, moved to his right to different cover and again sighted in on the front attacker. Jason was sighting in on the biggest targeting area of Ben's back, his torso. Jason also noticed that there was another reticle, barely visible, in his "sight picture" through the peep sight. Jason paid it little attention, as the other reticle was centered on the back of Ben's head, took a breath, held it and squeezed the trigger.

Jason was rewarded by seeing the "pink cloud" yet again. "Well, I guess I know which reticle to use in the future." Jason thought. Jason knew that there were at least two more attackers.

Jason knew that his next actions might make the difference between success and failure, of what he considered was his mission. Namely, to save and defend the settlers who were under siege at the new settlement. Jason couldn't understand why the attackers had struck early in their attempt to take the new settlement by force. Jason had judged that he might have a few days before the bandits attacked, since there wouldn't be a timber and goods shipment until the weekend.

"Something must have happened to cause them to "step-up" their schedule." Jason thought as he crouch ran to the front of the house, keeping it as best as he could, between himself and the men at the back of the house.

Jason quickly checked the body of the man he had just shot, finding him well and truly dead, with no recognizable face any longer. Then Jason moved to and against the house, being careful to avoid the windows.

Jason knew that these people were inexperienced, scared and didn't know him. They might just shoot him by mistake, if they saw him close to the house. And they actually tried, as he was sneaking along the side of the house.

Jason heard the discharge of a shotgun from inside the house as splinters flew from the wall in front of him. Jason instantly broke into a run toward the treeline at the back of the house, to avoid the second round he knew would most likely come in the next instant.

To Jason's horror, the two men at the back of the house, started shooting at him as soon as he broke into a run. "Great, just great. These guys now know I'm here and my general position. This is about to get really hairy. Gee thanks, folks." Jason mumbled half to himself as he was moving to find cover behind the few trees along the fence, while the familiar sound of bullets hissed by him.

Suddenly, Jason felt like someone had punched him hard between the shoulder blades, knocking the breath out of him. Jason turned and fired two 3 round bursts, in the direction of where he thought the shot had come from, as he was diving to his right. Jason hadn't remembered putting the M-16 on 3 round burst but, sure enough, that's where the indicator was on his rifle, when he sneaked a peek at the side of his weapon, after he landed.

Jason hadn't ever really liked using full auto with his weapon. It wasted ammunition, which was often in short supply in combat. And Jason's father had told him from his youth, that although full automatic firing was impressive to watch, it wasn't really effective when accuracy counted. Jason did like how full automatic looked at night, when using tracer rounds but, had often lamented it's use during long, hard fought battles.

This was because, during such battles, over-use of full auto, would often deplete ammunition to a point where everyone in his unit needed to conserve ammunition. For Marines, that wasn't really a problem, usually. Marines, tend to "pick" their shots and hit what they're shooting at. But, whenever they were among an Army unit, full-auto "panic fire", happened all too often. If it happened in an all Marine unit, if they survived, there was sure to be a "blanket party" for the hapless Marine who'd used full auto during a fire-fight. Full automatic fire was reserved for the M-60 machine gunner and the L.T.. The three round burst, was the only automatic fire allowed to regular Marines, generally.

Jason thumbed his fire selector, back to semi-automatic and again moved to a better cover position, toward the other two men. There had been no return fire and Jason hoped that he had hit the unseen shooter with his two three round bursts. He couldn't be sure and he hoped that he had, as he was moving to yet another position, as stealthily as possible. Jason was moving through a bunch of saplings as quickly as he felt comfortable with. He believed he had cover and hadn't been pinpointed, when two men came running through the saplings, firing pistols at him.

When the first shot went hissing by above his head, Jason dove forward, toward the gunfire, drawing the shotgun from over his shoulder. Jason directed the shotgun in the direction of incoming fire, began firing, pumping the action and firing again, for all five rounds, as he rolled one way, crawled forward fired and rolled in the other direction. Only to repeat the same sequence in the other direction. When the dust settled and gunfire had ceased, the two men lay dead and looking largely like hamburger from the 5 rounds of double ought buckshot.

Jason quickly reloaded his shotgun, holstered it, drew his model 1911, .45 Colt semi-automatic and began searching the area for the man who had shot him from behind. Jason was pissed and thankful, that he had not forgotten the Kevlar torso armor. His search wasn't at all stealthy, in fact, he was stomping angrily to where, he thought the man had been, when Jason had been shot in the back.

It wasn't long until Jason found him. The man who Jason was thinking of as Frank, was laying spread eagle with 6 bullet holes in his chest that oddly made an "X" on his chest. Next to him lay a .44 cal., Winchester, lever action, rifle. Jason stomped up to the body and shot the dead man between the eyes, twice. "Fuck, 'thump', You," 'thump'! You fuckin', chicken shit! Send your men in and hang back in safety! Marines are hard to kill, you asshole!" Jason yelled at the man from his diaphragm.

Jason picked up the Winchester and examined it closely. There was one discharged, .44 special, shell casing in the chamber of the rifle, Jason ejected it and the remaining 5 rounds, counting how many rounds it still contained.

"This rifle must have been someone's "pride and joy" rifle." Jason thought. It had the look of a specially made and finely crafted "saddle gun," that was made to be a fully functional "show piece". It had an octagonal barrel, a polished brass housing group and there was an oval area, that had been where a plate would have been inset into the stock. But, it had been pried out of it, judging from the marks in and around it, in the wood of the stock. It was at least, a collector's piece, Jason figured.

"I'll just keep this. You won't be needing it and probably didn't deserve it anyway." Jason said to the corpse. As Jason went through the man's pockets, he found 8 more rounds of .44 special ammunition, $100 in cash, a comb and a Swiss Army pocket knife.

Jason then went to the two men he had shredded with the shotgun and gathered what he could that was still salvageable. One old .380 semi-automatic pistol and one 9MM German Luger. 28 rounds of .380 ammunition, 14 rounds of .32 caliber ammunition and 11, 9MM rounds, all bloody. After Jason had gathered every usable item the men were carrying he said, "Damn, son. Overkill is a little light for what happened to these guys. Jason, boy, as a Marine, this is just about right. Not over-kill, it was Marine Corps S.O.P.. But, you wasted ammunition, kid." Then Jason slapped the back of his own head, saying "Dumb ass".

After searching the two "piles of hamburger", he went around to the front of the house to check the body of Ben, who no longer had a recognizable face. As he was leaning over the body, Jason heard, "Okay out there, we're armed and won't hesitate to shoot you."

Jason retorted with, "That, would be your last mistake, asshole. You already damned near shot me, almost got me killed and I'm not happy about the people I'm trying to save, shooting at me. Just keep your scared asses indoors and I'll be back after I make sure the area is secure."

Jason did a quick check of the body, to be sure there wasn't something that he'd want to keep, found and took an old model 10, "police" .38 special, Smith and Wesson and 16 rounds of .38 special ammunition. Then he went to the dry creek wash to check Tony's body and retrieve the .308 rifle with the scope from the wash.

Once in the wash, Jason checked the body and found 10, 308 rounds, another $50 in cash, some change and a $20, double eagle, gold coin. Jason knew that when he had gone into stasis, a $20 double eagle was first of all, illegal to own. Secondly, one was worth about $4000 depending on the "spot" prices on precious metals in weight alone. "Well, what have we here? I'll be damned, I haven't seen one of these since I was learning Jewelry Manufacturing back when I was 15. I'll just hang on to this. I'm friggin' rich now. Nothing like carrying around four grand in your pocket to make you feel like you're on top of the world. I wonder what the exchange rate is nowadays." Jason thought out loud as he stuffed the coin in his pocket.

Jason made a wide circuit around the settlement, only finding a few tracks from human footprints, some large dog tracks, a few deer tracks and quite a bit of expended shell casings of .380, 9mm, 308 and 32 cal. which he put in his side leg pockets in his black camouflage utilities. As Jason was returning, he called, "Hello, the house! The area is secure. I'm on your side, open up."

The door opened about 6 inches for a few seconds, then a man stepped out holding a 30/30 rifle. Jason had begun making a small pile of firearms from the weapons he had taken from the attackers, looked over at the man and asked, "You the one that shot at me through the wall?", looking rather grim.

"No, no I wasn't, Debby, my sister did. She panicked, grabbed Frank's shotgun and before anyone could stop her, she shot at you. Her husband was shot in the shoulder by one of those guys when he caught him trying to get into the barn. Frank was just going out the back door to lock up for the evening, he made it back inside, thank God. Then those bastards attacked but, they had a rifle in the gully, at least two guys in back and that jerk out front. We were surrounded and out gunned, I thought we were dead. You were amazing, mister! I'm Darrel, Darrel Darvy." said the man excitedly.

When Jason had heard that one of them was wounded, he dropped the rest of the weapons, walked quickly into the house to check on the wounded man without saying a word.

Jason walked quickly to where Frank Tate was sitting on the floor, next to the window where Jason had been shot at, next to it. Jason saw the large hole in the sheet-rock, light streaming in from outside and shook his head in the realization that he was almost ventilated, in a bad way.

Frank Darvy was moaning and holding a wadded up, bloody rag, over his wound.

Jason knelt next to him and said, "I take it that you're Frank, let me see your wound, I have a bit of first aid training." Jason pulled the open assist pocket knife out of his pocket, opened it and cut Franks sleeve so he could examine the wound.

Frank grimaced as Jason felt around his shoulder for broken bones or the bullet saying, "Well, there's no exit wound. I don't feel anything moving around except the bullet. So, it's still in there. I'm no surgeon and this ain't the wild wild west, so we'll need to keep it clean and stop the bleeding until we can get you to Dr. Swan, buddy."

Jason heard the sound of hoof-beats and wagons approaching and said, "Well, maybe it is. Hold that bandage on there and keep pressure on it. I'll go and see if this is who I think it is." With that Jason rose, picked up his M-16, went outside and looked to see who was approaching the house in a wagon and who the riders were.

Jason saw a wagon half loaded with long timbers, being pulled by a four horse team, with George England driving and Dr. Juliette Swan sitting beside him. Clyde and his load were tethered to the back of the timber wagon, following dutifully behind. Two riders on each side of the timber wagon were riding at about a ten yard distance, they were armed and looking wary. In fact everyone was armed and looking wary of trouble. Including Billy Swan who was driving the two wheel cart filled with provisions.

"We Heard the shooting and came as fast as we could, is anyone hurt?" Dr. Swan asked concerned, as the wagon drew up in front of the house.

"Frank's been shot Dr. Swan, thank God, you're here. He needs your help." Darrel Darvy said from the porch, sounding a little panicked.

"Left shoulder wound, small caliber no exit wound, Dr. Swan." Jason said informatively as he helped Dr. Swan down from the wagon.

"Are you injured, Jason?" Dr. Swan asked, concerned.

"I don't think so, Doc. My Kevlar caught a bullet but, I'm okay." Jason said, looking around at the wagons and men assembled in front of the house.

The men on horseback all left the front in different directions and began searching the area farther from the house after a hand signal from George England.

Jason looked at George and nodded in appreciation at the efficiency of his men. "I've secured the immediate area George. You might have them do a wide circuit around the area. If you want to get the whole group, search toward the south east a couple of miles. But, If you do, be careful and be armed. That's where they were talking about as their base camp."

"It's up to them, really. I'll be sure to tell them when they get back and they can decide if they want to find the main camp or not." George said rubbing his chin nervously.

"It's up to you guys, fella. I came to help out and got here just in time, luckily. I'm a simple trader anymore. A well armed trader but, just a simple trader. I might be talked into being a paid scout if the compensation was good enough, though." Jason said in a bartering kind of way.

"Our Council of Elders has to make those kinds of decisions, Mr Stalk. I believe they will want to talk to you at the next Council Meeting, in any event. If for no other reason, than to thank you for your help." George informed.

"Well George, I'm kinda tied to your settlement, whether I like it or not. Dr. Swan and I have a contract, I intend to honor it. I'm expecting her to honor her end of it as best she can under the circumstances. I have a monthly payment coming, free medical for at least two years and she has a lot of stuff she needs to test me on for two years. Just because civilization got God swatted or whatever happened to it, doesn't end the duration of our contract. The Doc and I need to have a very long talk." Jason said, turned on his heel and returned to the house.

When Jason entered the house, Dr. Swan and Darrel had gotten Frank on the dining area table. Dr. Swan was operating on Frank's arm to remove the bullet. Frank was moaning and trying not to squirm around. Darrel was helping to hold him still and trying not to look.

Jason saw another woman there, holding Frank's other hand and crying. He assumed that this was the woman Darrel had told him about. His sister Debby who had nearly shot him, alerting the men he was trying to save them from and very nearly getting him killed. Jason asked, "He gonna make it Doc?"

"The joint wasn't damaged but there is significant muscle damage. It was a hollow point and tore a lot of muscle, but it will heal and in a few months he'll be as good as new. Remove your shirt and let's see where your vest stopped a bullet, Mr Stalk." Dr. Swan said as she was washing her hands.

Jason did as asked, turned around so Dr. Swan could see his back, where he had been shot.

"Well, what have we here?" Dr. swan asked as she removed the mushroomed .44 cal projectile from the center of Jason's back Kevlar panel with a pair of forceps. "This must have felt like getting hit in the back with a sledge hammer, Mr. Stalk." Dr. Swan said, wonderingly as she examined the expended .44 cal projectile.

"More like a framing hammer, Doc. But, yeah, it hurt like hell." Jason stated flatly.

"I'll give you a more thorough examination when I can get you back to the clinic." Dr. swan said as she lifted Jason's shirt to see his back. "Well, there doesn't appear to be any bruising yet. If there isn't any stiffness or difficulty in movement, okay. Is anyone else injured?" Dr. Swan asked seriously putting Jason's shirt back down.

"I don't think so, Doc. There's 5 dead guys outside, though." Jason said sarcastically as he went back outside to finish sorting the firearms and ammunition he had gathered from the bodies.

Darrel Darvy watched Jason leave and said, quietly, "I've never seen anything like it Dr. Swan, he moved like he knew what the other guys were thinking. I watched him get shot in the back, turn around, shoot the guy that shot him and jump into the bushes. Then those two other guys ran at him shooting over and over, he dove left fired, dove right fired, dove left again and fired. He turned them into hamburger and they never hit him. How did he do that, Dr. Swan?" Darrel Darvy asked quietly in awe.

"You remember your dad, don't you Darrel?" Dr. Swan asked.

"Yes, Ma'am." Darrel said.

"Mr. Stalk is a Marine, like your dad was, Darrel. This Country's best and most ferocious fighters. He has been in suspended animation for the last 30 years. He was the test subject of a suspension study having to do with possible long distance space travel back before Sky Fall. I'm afraid that during combat, may be the only time Mr. Stalk will be truly comfortable, Darrel. That makes for a lonely existence, I'm sure." Dr. Swan said sadly.

"Lonely or not, Dr. Swan. I'm just glad he's on our side." Darrel said, shaking his head in wonder.

The out riders on horseback had returned and were helping to unload the long timbers from the wagon, carrying supplies to the cellar and barn, from the two wheeled cart.

Jason took inventory of his spoils from the attackers. He had one .44 cal., Winchester, lever action, rifle containing 5 rounds of .44 special ammunition and 13 loose rounds of .44 special ammunition. This is the one he had been shot in the back by, Jason decided that this one would go to the most worthy of a finely crafted firearm.

The .308 rifle with the scope and 10, .308 rounds of ammunition, Jason had already decided he'd keep for himself. Just as the $20, double eagle, the $150 in cash, the comb and the Swiss Army pocket knife were already claimed by Jason as spoils of combat.

There was an old .380 semi-automatic pistol with 28 rounds of .380 ammunition that Jason thought would be a good weapon for the female, Debbie Tate.

Jason decided that he'd let George have the old .32 cal revolver, 14 rounds, .32 caliber ammunition, the 9MM German Luger, with 11, 9MM rounds of ammunition and the old model 10, "police" .38 special, Smith and Wesson, with 16 rounds of .38 special ammunition to give to his men as he thought best.

Jason went over to Clyde, checked his load, untied his tether and led him over to the porch area where he had the .308 rifle and .44 Winchester rifle set aside from the rest of his spoils.

Jason dug into one of his sacks, pulled out a tanned deer skin, some long, thin, leather strips and began fashioning a crude saddle holster for his .308 rifle and scope. When he was satisfied with his crude saddle holster, Jason tied it to the pack saddle and put the .308 rifle inside it.

Jason picked up the .44 Winchester and walked over to where George was helping his men unload the timber wagon. "Hey George, one of those shitheads, was carrying this. It's a quality weapon that deserves to be carried by someone who will take care of it. It's loaded with 5 rounds and here's 13 more for it." Jason said as he handed the small leather bag containing the spare ammunition to George. "It could probably use a good cleaning before you put it away for the day, too. It's been fired." Jason said, remembering being shot in the back.

"Then you should keep it, Mr Stalk. You earned it." George said seriously, looking around.

"I already kept the best of the weapons, George, believe me. And if I were you, I'd have every man who has a long gun, to also have a pistol. Long guns are hard to maneuver indoors or in tight places where a pistol does a better job up close. There's pistols with some extra ammo over there, your men can have 'em. You decide who gets what, George." Jason said indicating his pile of spoils by the house as he walked toward the barn, leading Clyde.

"I'm tired, hungry and thirsty. I've been shot at, damned near killed and managed to survive. I'm going to take up a position in the loft of that barn and don't want to be disturbed until tomorrow." Jason said in a tone that allowed no other option.

Jason went to the barn, unburdened Clyde, brushed him and fed him. Jason then went into the loft, prepared himself a comfortable place to sleep, went to the upper opening of the loft, sat and ate an M.R.E. and drank 2 bottles of water. After he had eaten, Jason went to his pallet, knelt and said, “Thanks for everything, God.” Then he stretched out and promptly went to sleep.

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