Zero Node
Chapter 11: "End of the Road"

by Jeff Rand

ATS Explained

Howard Hammes was active in the Order of the Arrow as a youth, initially in the Riverside Chapter, before a number of subsequent mergers. He attended one full Winter Camp as an adult and visited two others for their banquets. He worked for the City of Trenton. Among other duties, he had occasion to work as a grave digger and was quite found of his ability to provide square corners to facilitate a smooth process for lowering the casket. The chapter title refers to such work not being complete in reference to an encounter from the main character.

The chapter also describes some historical Scouting events of the 70s and 80s that did happen.

I attempted to construct a shoe in the manner described. It does not work well with the full size fluffy pillows that proliferate on most beds. However, it can work with a small pillow that may be used in a casket to make the corpse more comfortable.

Jeff Rand
May 12, 2019

Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter

"I am happy to say that the Road of Bones has been short-changed. There will not be the anticipated additions to it of our deposits," Steve remarked, looking at the expanse of ocean ahead.

"We certainly beat the odds. Yet there is much uncertainty before us," added Jeff.

Both men, who were advanced in years, had survived months of bitter cold and hiked across Siberia. Spring and its renewal of living things had now changed their outlook, as they entered the outskirts of Magadan. Once a thriving port of 100,000 souls, the city had been devastated. Although this was expected, after traveling under such brutal conditions, they had hoped the city would be different. As they headed south towards the ocean, they saw a large building still standing to the west.

While there was no sign of life or any indication that the structure was functional, they knew to avoid this building. It was obviously a center housing the human population to live their lives in neural virtual reality. If indeed, it had ceased to function, it would be serving as a mortuary. In this scenario, it would be doubtful that it used an embalming process. Of course, the remains could be recycled and added to the food supply serving those not yet deceased until the last inhabitant ran out of neighbors to consume and died of starvation.

If the NVR center continued to function, it posed a more significant threat. Steve and Jeff knew that whatever or whoever controlled the center and ultimately the world-wide NET, did not have any interest in preserving human life on the outside. They were not about to exchange their freedom for the short-lived hedonistic pleasures on NVR.

After coming to the edge of town, it took nearly a day to reach the harbor or least what remained. Magadan had its start as a shipbuilding port but there hadn't been such activity in years. Everything that had once floated had been systematically destroyed.

The travelers found a clearing at the site of a former park near the harbor. After years without attention from humans, much of the park was overgrown with seedlings of poplar and larch, sprinkled with scrawny spruce trees so common in the taiga the covered much of Siberia. Enjoying clear skies and shirt-sleeve weather, they were able set camp in record time.

"It is a gorgeous day," said Jeff. "Perhaps we can stay here for awhile."

"How long are you planning to stay?" asked Steve.

"I don't know - a year or so. I don't see a boat ready to travel across the ocean. And we won't have to fight crowds."

Steve became irritated, "You forget that there is much more at stake than what will likely be the short lives of two humans. We must make preparations and find a way to get home."

After several days searching the city and its shoreline, nothing seaworthy could be located. They did find about a dozen fifty-five gallon drums that were empty but sealed. Although the drums were located about mile away from their camp, they hauled eight of them to the shore nearby. There they would build a pontoon boat to sail across the Pacific.

Once the construction of the boat commenced, Steve soon realized the magnitude of the project. Jeff had not exaggerated the significance of sailing across the Pacific. It would take many days to have a craft ready for this undertaking.

Though the ship would neither be measured in cubits nor had to carry multiple species, it would be twenty feet long and eight feet wide. Jeff estimated that the total weight of the vessel, supplies, and two occupants would be about a ton. He knew the weight of water to be eight pounds per gallon and the eight barrels used for floatation would displace more than 3,000 pounds of water. That should be enough to keep the decking dry in most conditions.

It took several days of scrounging the ruins of Magdan to find the materials needed to construct the boat and provide it with supplies to start the trip. They were pleased to find timbers to construct crossbars between the barrels and complete the decking. It took some time to locate a hand drill and the hardware required to attach beams to the barrels. Materials to build the decking proved to be less of a problem since there were boards underneath the remains of the brick walls, having escaped the fires that were set to destroy whatever remained.

The actual construction took three more weeks. First, four sets of pontoons were constructed on dry land, as each set had a pair cross members above and below the barrels that were held in place by threaded rods. The two barrels were set apart to define the width on the vessel and would establish the most likely direction of travel. It was not difficult to move each set of pontoons into the water but a difficult experience to set the beams for the length of the vessel. Jeff had opted to get into the bitterly cold ocean for this phase, believing that the project as whole would be too heavy to move into the ocean.

Once the frame had been constructed, Jeff set about the task of building the decking. Having a handsaw, along with a hammer and nails to construct the deck gave him the most satisfaction he had experienced during the months of the journey. Steve went to find more food and supplies to serve their immediate needs. Among the treasured items he found was a hand crank generator and a portable transmitter/receiver radio.

Although the radio was not charged, it had a USB port. Steve managed to use the hand crank to generate sufficient energy to charge the radio. He turned it on to static and tried every possible channel. He kept the radio on and nearby as construction on the raft was finished.

A quadripod was constructed to hold a sail. The tepee was made into a small shelter at the center of the raft, while chests were placed inside to hold food and supplies. Two open barrels were filled halfway with water and were attached to the raft on either side. Another 20 gallons of water in jugs was attached strategically to various points on the raft. Jeff found some plastic that he fashioned to create two funnels that could be placed above the barrels to expand their surface area in collecting rainwater.

As they were nearing completion of the raft, Steve heard something more than static on the radio. He was sure it was a voice.

"Jeff!" he shouted. "I think I heard someone on the radio!"

Steve put the radio to his ear and listened intently. He heard it again but the signal was weak. Then he heard just two words. "I heard someone say 'Winter Camp,'" he bellowed.

"I don't know," said Jeff. "We must continue to be careful. Our departure from Yakutsk may not have been unnoticed. I don't want to become part of the rubble. I believe tomorrow will be the summer solstice and we are ready to set sail."

Steve responded, "OK. We will be able to celebrate El Mediodia at sea."

End Part One

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