Monday, August 25, 2014

The Unholy Roamin' Empire - Part 6


[NOTE:  Fair warning, Momma Hen is providing the directions included in this section for informational purposes only.  Don’t any moar zombie try this at home unless you want to get into some big honking trouble of one sort or another.] 

Aston said that he would take night watch just as he had when Jax and Reggie had been making night runs.  There was no run tonight but Aston decided he liked the schedule.  Continuing the normal schedule, I would be up before the sun as was my normal routine and Aston would then hit the hay for a while.  Everyone else had worked out their own place in the flow and so far it was working for our team. 

I wasn’t going to complain about Jax staying home that night as I had missed spending time alone with him.  Kelly was asleep in her little area behind the screen.  I had plans to turn the walk-in closet into a little room for her but Jax said to hold off on it until we saw if the new living arrangements lasted to the point she needed a room of her own.  Jax and I had crawled in bed and been cuddling when I realized his breathing had developed the rhythm of a sleeping man.  I tried not to be frustrated but it took a while for me to relax and go to sleep myself. 

I jumped awake sometime during the night thinking spiders were crawling on me.  “Sorry,” he mumbled in my ear.  “Didn’t mean to scare you.” 

“You didn’t scare me,” I grumbled a little irritably.  “And what are you doing awake?  I thought you were tired.” 

Gruffly he said, “I got my second wind.” 

Hurray for second winds; however, I could have choked him a little while later when he stopped us both.  He was breathing like a freight train going uphill and in frustration I asked, “Are you trying to kill me on purpose?  ‘Cause if you are your’re on your way to reaching you goal.” 

He gulped air and said, “No.  Matter of fact I’m closer to death than you are but if we are going to do this we are going to do it right.” 

I could have thumped him I was that frustrated.  When he got off the bed and started fumbling around in the dark I nearly threw the pillows at him.  I whispered, “What are you doing?!  You’re going to wake Kelly.” 

“Shhh,” was my only reply. 

I fell back on the bed, ready to expire right then and there.  I presented my back to him when he crawled back into bed but he was having none of it and pulled me to him.  I wasn’t being very cooperative but then he hit a spot he knew I was ticklish in and I lost control just long enough for him to flip me over.  “Stop being so difficult.  This is important.  Now listen up, I have next to nothing in this world to call my own except my heart and my hands.  Whatever I do have is yours Lydie … all of it.  I love you like I never expected to love anyone.  You deserve more and better and one of these days I hope I can give it to you.  Until then … well … I knew you wouldn’t want any of those rings that I found at the pawn shop.  None of them looked like something you would like and … I knew it bothers you still that I took them.  So … so Reg and I … we snuck back into town …” 

“You what?!” I yelped. 


I lowered my voice back down to a whisper but demanded, “Are … you … crazy?!  I thought we agreed that town was off limits!” 

“Ow … ow … ow … turn loose of the chest hair Lydie.  I had a good reason.” 

“You’re lucky I don’t rip the whole flaming carpet off your chest Ajax Beauregard Remington!  What on earth possessed you to do something crazy like that?” I hissed. 

That’s when he grabbed my left hand in the dark and I felt him slipping something onto my ring finger.  “This belonged to my grandmother.  I never even thought about asking to use it for Darlene … but for you … yeah.  It’s the right kind of thing to do.”  It’s like I’d forgotten how to breathe.  He continued talking and I tried to listen over the buzzing in my ears.  “I can’t give you a white dress, a preacher, or anything else … at least not right now.  And later it might be too late or not mean anything to you but if it does I’ll try and get it.  I can’t even give you much besides this ring except myself and my daughter … except I hope she’ll be our daughter from here on out.  I just want you to know upfront … before we … uh ... before that … that sex or this house or your cooking or anything else is not why I’m sticking around.  I’m sticking because I didn’t just fall in lust with you … I fell in love with you … the forever kind of love.” 

I felt the ring with the fingers on my other hand.  It was a wide, flat band and had some kind of setting on the top that I couldn’t see.  I wanted to turn on the light and look at it but I wouldn’t risk disturbing the moment. 

I heard his throat click when he swallowed.  “Well?  Are … are you going to say anything?” 

I threw myself on him and he was the one that nearly expired at that point … from lack of oxygen.  He finally drew back and coughed to put some air in his lungs.  “Was that a yes?” 

“That was a lot more than yes.  That was a kiss declaring you’ve-done-lost-your-last-chance-to-back-out-now.  You even try and get away from me Jax Remington and you just watch and see what kind of meanness I can get up to.” 

I could feel his chest shake with suppressed laughter.  “Don’t worry.  I don’t plan on going anywhere now that I’m caught.” 

“Oh you’re caught all right.”  I ran my fingers through the hair on his chest but this time he wasn’t complaining.  Not at all.  Didn’t hear any complaints later either … he was actually kind of purring the way that silly cat of Ginger’s did when it was getting scratched in all the right places.  For me the whole intimacy thing would take a little getting used to but right then I was content to see him get such joy from it. 

The next morning came too soon and to be honest I would have given a valuable body part for a soak in a hot tub of water but instead had to make do with a quick jump in the shower before heading out to start my day.  First stop I made was the kitchen to start the breakfast casserole that I’d set in the frig the preceding night.  Then I put a pot of coffee on using some of the coffee we’d gotten from the Mennonite store.  It wasn’t as good as roasting the beans and then grinding them myself but when you have a caffeine craving, any port in the storm will do. 

Aston came into the kitchen looking uncomfortable but I put it down to the discussion at the committee meeting until he said, “Uh … Lydie … I … uh … you really should fix the headboard on your … uh … bed … it’s probably loose or something … anyway … uh … you should probably like … uh … fix it or … uh … and close the vent too … um …” 

I lifted my head and looked at him with horror.  “Oh … oh … no … “ 

He saw my face and then put his hand out like a traffic cop.  “Wait … don’t freak out on me here.  OK?  Uh … Ashley said it was … uh … cute … that … you know … you two … uh … waited and stuff … but … but uh … um …”  He scrunched his eyes closed then in a rush blathered, “Ash refused to say anything because she said it would be rude because no one has said anything about us making noise and stuff and I swear neither one of us is ever going to talk about this again but if you don’t fix those things before you two do it again I swear I think I’m gonna go live in the barn because I’d rather have to spend the rest of eternity listening to Mr. Wilde teach algebra than pretend not to hear some of the noises you two were making even if it did sound like you were having fun OK?” 

By the time he was finished my hands were clinched in fists and I was seriously contemplating re-damaging him to a large extent.  Instead of what I had meant to come out of my mouth all I could do was whisper in near catatonic embarrassment, “OK.  Just so long as you promise not to say anything about it again.” 

“Never,” he groaned.  “I swear.”  Then he shuddered.  “It was like the time my sister and her husband came to live with us and they stayed in her old room next to mine.  Every freaking night.  Over and over and over again.  I swear it …” 

“Don’t want to hear any more,” I rushed to interrupt him.  “TMI … just … just TMI.” 

“Fine,” he huffed.  “Just … you know … fix it.” 

That was not exactly how I had meant to start my day out.  I nearly died ten times over before Jax came out to the barn to find me contemplating the idea of digging a hole and pulling it in after me.  When he finally got me to tell him what was going on all the big doofus could do was laugh.  He was practically rolling on the floor by the time I stomped off but not long after that I saw him heading back into the house with what he would need to fix the loose headboard.   

After lunch, a meal that I ate as fast as I could so I could escape back outside, Ginger and Reggie found me digging through some of Dad’s junk boxes. 

“Hey!” they called. 

I turned from where I stood on the ladder and then groaned at the look on their faces.  “I swear I’m going to kill Aston so dead,” I muttered darkly. “He promised not to say anything else about it.” 

Ginger laughed and said, “So you think that Aston and Ash are the only two with ears?” 

I got down off the ladder before I fell and moaned dejectedly.  “I’m moving to Siberia.” 

Ginger came over and hugged me and said, “Naw.  We’re just messing because we’re happy for you.  It’s nice to see something good come out of all the trash going on.”  I sighed just wanting to get past the shock of having everyone know my business.  I was a private person then and even more so these days.  It was almost painful to have people know such intimate details of my life. 

Reggie snorted a laugh at my discomfort though he was a little red in the face himself.  Then he got down to the business he’d sought me out about.  “Hey, got a question for you Valkyrie.” 

Giving him a look that was designed to let him know exactly how much I disliked his new nickname for me I said, “Will you stop calling me that?  It gets that blasted music by Richard Wagner stuck in my head and it is totally annoying.”  ( ) 

He and Ginger both grinned, then laughed.  “OK, fine.  But I still want to pick your brain.”  At my curious but cautious nod he said, “You seemed pretty serious about obliteration last night.” 

“I am,” I told him. 

“Serious enough to show all your cards?”  Wondering what he meant I simply asked him.  He answered, “I know you aren’t an angel so don’t try to play at being one.  That paper you wrote on terrorism for American History nearly got you suspended for being a little too knowledgeable about how easy it is to build bombs and stuff out of ordinary household items.  That old bat Mrs. Hockshuster shredded your paper so fast it was like she was afraid of anyone else reading it and getting ideas. You only got off because they thought what happened to your parents had turned your brain a little.” 

Ginger swatted Reggie and gave him a killer look that told him he was treading thin ice.  It made me smile for some reason and relax.  Then I thought about it.  “Are you asking what was in the paper or are you asking whether what you think I wrote about in the paper was the truth?” 

“Both,” he said without hesitation. 

“You know my opinion about terrorists regardless of whether they are foreign or domestic and I didn’t pull any punches with that paper.  And that ignorant cultural sensitivity training class they forced me to take was a joke and didn’t change my mind that’s for sure.  If you are asking if I know …” 

I stopped because Jax suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  “What’s up?” he asked a little too cheerful. 

“My blood pressure if someone makes a joke about ear plugs.”   

He just grinned and asked, “Seriously what’s up.” 

Reggie laughed making me angry again and caused me to wonder how much damage I could inflict in how short a period of time.  Ginger seeing how really upset I was getting broke in on the guys and said, “Reg wanted to know if Lydie knows anything about making bombs.” 

Jax stopped in mid-laugh.  And looked from Reggie to me … and then did a double take.  He asked in disbelief, “You really know how to make a bomb?” 

I rolled my eyes.  “Oh for Pete’s sake.  Yeah … yeah I know how to make bombs.  When my parents were killed I …”  I got uncomfortable and shrugged.  “I wanted to know why and since I figured out pretty quick that was not going to be a very satisfying answer I decided to change my question to how.  The how was a lot simpler than people want to believe.” 

“Is this something your dad taught you?” Jax asked. 

“No.  I mean he knew I could make small stuff … it isn’t rocket science and I made some stump removers for him so he didn’t have to buy them.  After he got over … uh … how well they worked all he said was that we shouldn’t do it again if Mom was around because she might not … er … appreciate the fact that I knew how to do things like that.  It’s no big deal … just basic chemistry with some scope and imagination thrown in.  I didn’t get into understanding the really big ones until after …” 

As I stuttered to a close and went to the place I sometimes would go when those memories would surface Jax came over and put his arms around me.  The feeling anchored me and I returned to what was then the present.  I said, “We shouldn’t need anything big enough to take down a building but I’ll still write down the directions just in case.” 

Ginger said weakly, “Just in case.  Right.  Isn’t it bad enough that they salvaged that stuff from the granite quarry when they were out that way?” 

Reggie ignored her and said, “I’ve got a few … ideas let’s call ‘em but I want to hear what you’ve got too.  Feel free to jump in Jax if you’ve got some ideas too.  If we can make a list of what we can do and make then we can sit down and map out placements and things like that.” 

I nodded remembering that Reggie had liked to play games that had strategy in them rather than just role playing and said, “Fine, I was already starting to pull things together anyway.  Look here … you see these old plastic containers?”  Everyone looked at the tub of containers that ranged in size from old pill bottles to empty tubs of frosting.  “Let me give you one example.  Take this pill bottle.  Start with some black power and pour a little in then on top of that you put some scrap metal pieces then in goes another layer of black powder and another layer of metal bits.  Each layer should be about an inch thick.  Make sure you have at least a thin layer of black powder on top.  Then you take the bottle’s lid and drill a hole with an 1/8th inch drill bit.  Break off some sparkler to use as a fuse put it through the hold and make sure that you tighten the lid down on the bottle.  Once you light that puppy you need to get thee behind something thick and sturdy because the percussion from the bang and the flying shrapnel will put a serious hurt on the unprotected.” 

Reggie nodded but Jax was looking at me with a new respect and being a little more than silly about it.  “Girl, remind me to never make you mad.”  I elbowed him and he straightened up his face enough to ask, “What else?” 

I sighed.  “Homemade napalm.  Take gas and put it in a glass container.  Then you add Styrofoam to it until the gas won’t melt anymore and you’ve got a big snotty wad of white goo.  I … uh … have a drum of packing peanuts in the barn.” ( ) 

Reggie laughed and said, “Yeah, ‘cause you never know when you’re going to need a drum full of packing peanuts.” 

Ignoring his verbal clowning around I continued.  “You can use it two ways.  Either you can slather this around on something … or make a trail of it … and once you light it it won’t go out and will subsequently catch whatever it is on on fire.  Or you can do the same sort of thing in a kind of liquid grenade.  That’s trickier but you can fix a few, light it, then throw the glass container which will break on impact splattering the napalm everywhere … call it a modified Molotov cocktail.  The lit fuse will quickly catch the splatter on fire and it burns hot and long on whatever it touches … including human skin which makes the stuff pretty dangerous and not something I want to have around too much given how dry everything is right now.” 

Eagerly Reggie asked, “More?” 

“Hey … what are you bringing to the table?” 

He grinned but admitted, “Not necessarily anything like that but I can make bodacious smoke bombs in a lot of different colors.  I’ve collected all the materials for it while we were out salvaging.  They might come in handy.” ( ) 

Jax nodded, “Maybe.  How does it work?” 

“Pretty simple really.  Saw you had potassium nitrate out in the gardening shed.” 

“Yeah,” I admitted.  “That’s salt peter.  It is used for a quick nitrogen fix for plants that are showing signs they aren’t getting enough.  I’ve got another stash of it in with the ingredients for curing meat.” 

Everyone nodded their understanding but I did note that Jax had pulled out his handy dandy notepad and was scribbling away.  Then Reggie picked the narrative back up.  “The other three ingredients you need are sugar – I’m using the staff we found in a house that was covered in bugs which I’ll just strain the bug parts out – baking soda and powdered dye.  The dye I picked up at … uh …” 

Jax shrugged.  “She knows.”

Ginger asked, “Knows what?” 

I told her, “The two lunatics standing before you went back into town without telling us.” 

Slowing Ginger turned to look at Reggie and the murder in her eye told me he was going to be hearing about it at some point in the near future. 

Reggie cleared his throat and tried not to look worried and said, “Anway … you mix the potassium and sugar – 60 grams to 40 grams ratio – and then put it on low heat and stir until the sugar starts to get all melty and brown.” 

I said, “It’s called carmelizing.” 

Reggie rolled his eyes and said, “Whatever.  It gets melty and brown.  You want it to wind up looking like creamy peanut butter.  Then you add a spoon of baking soda which slows the combustion down.  After you have that stirred in you had three heaping tablespoons of dye.  I’ve found that orange and blue work best but you can do a green or yellow but they aren’t as bright.  Then you take the paste and stuff it in a toilet paper tube and then shove a old writing pen or dowel down into the mess.  This is the form and you have to let it sit for an hour, maybe a little longer if the air is humid or damp.  After the mess has set up, take the pen or dowel out carefully and insert a firework fuse and secure it in place with a wad of cotton or dryer lint.  Cover the cardboard tube with duct tape and then cover the top and bottom of the tube as well but leave a hole for the fuse to come out of and for the smoke to escape from.” 

I started laughing.  Jax and Ginger asked, “What?” 

“I was wondering who the AV Club had gotten to make their special effects for their remake of the Night of the Living Dead.  It was you big boy, admit it.” 

Reggie took a bow and in a really bad Elvis impersonation he said, “Thank you … thank you very much.”  Back in his normal voice he added, “The deal was they let me … er … borrow a piece of equipment without logging it and I’d come up with the special effects and that neither of us would rat the other one out.” 

Ginger rolled her eyes and said, “I don’t even want to know what the equipment was and why you needed it but I guess you did more than smoke bombs if I remember that geeky movie.” 

He nodded.  “I can also make flash bangs out of magnesium and gunpowder.  I just don’t know where to get the magnesium from.” 

I grinned and tried to look innocent.  Then looked over at Jax who laughed guiltily.  “We … uh … got some of that from the mill.” 

Reggie asked, “Why would the paper mill have magnesium?” 

“It was used to adjust the pH of the leftover sludge and make it more … er … treatable for waste treatment.” 

“Do we have enough?” Reggie wanted to know. 

“Let’s just say there is a reason we stored it well away from the home site.  I took all of the chemicals from the plant because you never know what is going to turn out useful” 

Reggie’s open mouth slowly closed and a rather wicked grin split his face.  “So … we have enough magnesium.  What else can we come up with? Trebuchets, petards, nuclear war heads? ” 

Then it was Jax’s turn to laugh.  “Do potato cannons count?” ( ) 

Ginger sighed, “Another guy story that I don’t want to hear about I’m sure.  Lydie, you got a sec to come to the house?  Ashley and I are trying to understand your directions on making homemade pizza crust and Ash is craving it bad.”  She turned to Reggie and said in a casually smart aleck tone, “And when you stop fooling around ask me how to make a flame thrower with a fire extinguisher.  It will throw flame over forty feet.” ( ) 

We left Reggie and Jax standing there with their mouths hanging open and started laughing half way to the porch where we met Aston as he was going out to meet with them.  I started feeling more optimistic again and had a feeling that between the six of us we could come up with some serious tools of obliteration … we just needed to make sure we didn’t hurt ourselves in the process.

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