After telling his story, Mark put the stone on the coffee table in front of them. It was noticeably dimmer than before, the glow was now barely perceptible in the morning light.
“Clearly, those things are filled with some sort of energy, and also, it seems like Mark has some ability to move it around. I’d want to experiment with it more before we do anything else though, so for now, let's not touch the thing, and let's not let it come into contact with anything that has electronic or chemical components.” Jason said in a voice that brooked no arguments.
In the silence in the room after the statement, a loud snapping noise caused everyone to jump. Looking back, they saw one of the composite crossbows had broken in half. Wandering over, Jason picked up the device and frowned.
“What happened” Mary asked with concern in her voice. “I just reloaded that a minute ago and it seemed fine.”
Jason saw that that the bow had broken along a particular stress point. It’s something that happened with this type of crossbow, since it was modified to give extra pull, but the composite materials used in its construction would more than easily accommodate the extra strain. Filled with a sudden sense of unease, he turned to the room.
“Ok, everyone, let’s go to the armory and take a look at the condition of everything there. Pay close attention to anything made of composite materials.”
The small group went to the room, carrying the remaining equipment with them. As people walked along the walls, pulling things they saw damage on, a clear pattern was emerging. Mary didn’t take much time to draw a conclusion from the evidence and stood to address everyone.
“It seems like anything that has petroleum based plastics is deteriorating at an accelerated rate. Wood and steel seem fine, but you can see all sorts of issues with the plastic composites.” She held up a bow that had an extensive set of pulleys and was almost completely made of advanced materials.
“This thing looks like it’s aged 10 years in the past few hours, and I don’t know if we could even draw it anymore. But see this” she said as she held up a similar bow. “This one is fine. It’s the one Liz was carrying. Whatever effect is causing these things to break seems to be stopped or slowed by proximity to us.”
The room took a few moments to digest this new information. It sounded crazy, but crazy was the word of the day. The evidence in front of their eyes was hard to dispute. Not one to take chances, Jason immediately started to pass out equipment to everyone and loaded himself down with as many items as possible. “Quick! Everyone grab something!”
“Jason, this just isn’t practical my love. We can only carry so much. We should focus on the best stuff and make sure we each have something” Mary went to calm her overly excited husband.
A few minutes later everyone had a few items and had settled back in the living room. Jason had tried to load up more, but finally relented. His shoulder injury didn’t make bows practical for him at the moment, and carrying a couple of them around as dead weight didn’t seem very compatible with survival.
“Ok, its getting on noon, and anything we do I think we should do in daylight. Low vision and lack of decent light sources would make night exploration exploration extremely hazardous.” Jason said to the room. “Haley, I know you want to get George, and while it’s only a few miles away, that could be brutal under our current circumstances. If we had reliable transportation, it would be a different matter, but we have to take into account that some people might be injured and would be difficult to move.”
“What about the Carlson’s carriage? They have a few horses, and a carriage would be a heck of a lot easier to move people around on than trying to carry them” Mark volunteered. He had taken to riding like a fish to water and the Carlson’s let him exercise their horses in exchange for help around their stables.
“That’s actually a great idea” Jason said, somewhat surprised at his Son’s insight. “So a trip to the Carlson’s is in order, but we’re still down on manpower. Liz, Elly is still homeschool, right?” Jason asked turning to his daughter.
“Yeah... Oh wait! Oh my god she’s probably home right now we have to help her!” Liz blurted out, realizing where her Dad was going.
“It’s okay sweetie, that’s what I was suggesting we do. We’ll do another quick circuit to round up the Johnsons. Hopefully they haven’t left on that camping trip they were talking about yet. After that, we swing up to the Carlson’s, pick them up if they are willing to come along, and see if we can use their horses and carriage.”
Jason looked over the room and sighed, he knew what the safest course of action for them would be but was hesitant to suggest it. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, his kids were the most prepared to survive out there. The lessons, the survival trips, and the training he forced them into all prepared them for this moment. It had been fun and exciting when Jason imagined it was for some future fantasy, but now that an apocalypse actually happened, he discovered that the idea of his kids being in harm's way terrified him. However, the dangers out in the world right now clearly demonstrated the need for someone to watch his back, and he knew who it should be.
“Kids, I hate to ask this, but you’re the best equipped to deal with what’s going on out there. The house is well fortified, and Haley and your Mom should be able to keep things safe. If we have a few more people we can make some changes, but will you go out and help me rescue the Johnson’s? It’s a lot to ask, I know, and I certainly won’t force it on you, but you’re the best bet we have of getting there and back safely.” Jason looked over to his wife, who nodded slowly. She knew he was right, and probably hated it just as much as he did. He waited for his kids to answer.
Liz immediately spoke up “We have to rescue Elly and her parents. They’re practically family, so I’m going.” she said with no uncertainty.
Mark looked over at his Mom and Dad. He knew his Dad was right, and he wanted to make sure he was safe out there. Clearly, it would have been more dangerous to run into something like the Hipporaffe in the open than in the house. While he didn’t want his Mom to get hurt, he knew the house would protect her better than he could, and with that in mind the choice was clear.
“I’ll go with you too Dad, someone needs to watch your back, and not just shoot arrows in it.” he smiled over to his sister, getting a good dig in. She responded by blushing and hitting him in the arm. “Ow!” he cried in legitimate pain. His sister was strong!
“Then it’s decided. I’ll provide cover and try to keep things at a distance with a spear. Kiddos, you’re on bow duty and if any things out there get to close, switch to melee weapons. We’ll go as fast as we can. If we see someone come out to us, we’ll convoy with them, but otherwise we’re going in for a targeted extraction. Sound good?” Jason stated, more than asked.
“Be safe my loves, come home to me” Mary said giving them a hug before letting them leave.
“We’ll keep the house safe for you to come back to” Haley nervously added, picking up a crossbow and sounding more confident than she looked.
Everyone congregated outside the front door, not really wanting to go out into the insanity again, but knowing they had too.
A few deep breaths and one last group hug later and the trio set off to find the Johnson’s.