It was dark and the wind howled, but we were warm and toasty with the fire burning in the fireplace. Clouds had moved in about an hour before sunset, bringing more snow with them. We had sat near the heat and eaten a cold meal of MREs and some canned beans Rachel had found in the kitchen. Conversation was at a minimum as none of us felt much like talking.
Dog nudged my arm after we finished dinner to let me know he needed to go outside. I didn’t mind as our perimeter needed to be checked, and I also wanted to see if there was an update from Jessica. I grabbed the sat phone off the kitchen counter, shrugged into my cold weather gear, made sure I had all my weapons and they were ready to go then walked out onto the patio.
The wind hit me directly in the face. Heavy, wet snow was falling and it immediately began to stick to the outer layer of my clothing. I pulled my hood up to protect my head, unhappy at how much it restricted my field of vision and reduced my hearing. Oh well, I’d just better be extra careful.
While Dog limped out into the snow to find a spot, I moved to an area with a clear shot at the sky and dialed Hawaii.
“Hi, sir,” Jessica answered on the first ring. “I’ve been trying to call you.”
“No signal indoors,” I replied. “Something wrong?”
“No. But I’ve got a plan to get you to Seattle. Want me to text it to you?”
“Yes, but go ahead and tell me,” I said, glad there was finally some good news.
“OK. If I go too fast let me know. First, the infected are clearing out of the Twin Falls area faster than expected, so you should be able to pass through by mid-morning tomorrow. Your time, not mine.”
“Do we know where they’re headed?” I asked.
“They’re following Interstate 84. Salt Lake City, maybe. My CO is thinking the Russians are drawing them into an area that’s geographically isolated and going to leave them there until they starve to death. Maybe, but I’m not so sure. Every time they’ve moved a herd, there’s been a tactical objective.”
“There’s no one left alive in that area, is there?”
“Not that we’re aware of. Don’t know how there could be. Anyway, if you head out right after dawn, Twin Falls should be mostly clear by the time you arrive. There might be some stragglers, but nothing that should stop you. Definitely check with me before you start in case something changes overnight.
“Once you get to Twin Falls you’re going to head due west onto an unmaintained road. The snow stops about thirty miles south of your current location so you’ll be out of the worst of the weather. It’s raining south of you and the road is probably muddy, but nothing that Jeep can’t handle. You’re heading across southern Idaho for Oregon, and the first town you’ll encounter is Dickshooter.”
“Seriously?” I couldn’t help but grin.
“Seriously,” she said and I could hear the smile in her voice. “I had to check it twice, but that’s really its name. There are three houses and that’s it. A few infected wandering around, but not enough to worry about. And there’s several vehicles you can get gas from to top off your tank.”
Dog had finished his business and slowly made his way to where I was standing in the shelter provided by the house. The snow was shoulder deep to him and it was a struggle, but he finally made it and gingerly sat down with his side against my leg.
“From there you’ll keep going west into Oregon until you reach Basque, then you’re back on pavement. Turn northwest to go through Bend and cross the mountains, then pass through Salem on your way to the coast. There’s infected in Salem, but it looks passable if you keep moving and don’t do anything to attract their attention.
“I’m sending you all the way to the coast so you can bypass Portland. It’s big and there’s still a lot of infected there. When you get to Astoria, there’s a bridge that crosses the Columbia River into Washington. It’s intact, and there’s several wrecks on it that you’ll have to clear, but you won’t have any problems finding a tow truck in town.
“Once you’re across you’ll follow the coast for a few more miles then start angling inland to go around Puget Sound. You’ll come into Olympia, about 60 miles south of Seattle, and have to go up I-5. It’s all city and there’s enough infected to pose a problem if you’re not careful. Here’s the worst news, though. The Russians have taken over McChord Air Force Base and the Interstate goes right by it.”
“That’s not good,” I said. “There’s no other way around?”
“The only other option is to stay on the western peninsula and find a boat you can use to cross Puget Sound into Seattle. But the Russians are thick on the waterfront. Right now they’re unloading several troop carrier ships. Besides, you’ll be stuck without wheels once you get off the boat. I think you’re better off to go up I-5 and move onto the local streets to get past McChord.”
“OK, I’ll deal with it and make the call when I get into the area. Anything else?” I was shivering from the wind and ready to head back inside.
“That’s it, sir. Good luck and don’t forget to call me before you head out.” She said, sounding way too chipper.
“Thanks, Jessica. Talk to you in the morning.”
I ended the call, ruffled Dog’s ears and took five minutes to walk the perimeter before heading back inside to fill the girls in on what we were doing.
“How long is that going to take?” Katie asked when I described the route we were using.
“I didn’t ask. Don’t even know how many miles it is,” I said, looking down and opening the text from Jessica that detailed the route.
“Twelve hundred miles, more or less,” I said. “And a good chunk of it is on dirt roads until we’re well into Oregon. Probably not a bad thing. It will keep us in the middle of nowhere and hopefully unnoticed by the Russians.”
“Maybe you should try to get through to Seattle and talk to them,” Rachel said. “Tell them what we’re worried about.”
I thought about that for a minute before responding.
“Are they going to be able to do any more than speculate until they can run some tests?” I asked. Rachel shook her head.
“And they won’t stop working just because of a phone call from me, especially when we don’t even know if we need to be concerned. I think I’d rather just show up and not give them advance warning of why we’re coming. If I need to shut them down, then I’ll deal with that when we get there.”
“I already told you, you can’t do that,” Katie said.
“Can, and will,” I said with complete certainty in my voice. “If it’s choosing between you and the Terminator virus, there is no choice.”