Authors: Kennedy Layne
Tags: #Military, #Romance
Surviving Ashes, Book Two
Copyright © 2015 by Kennedy Layne
All Romance Ebooks Edition
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-943420-02-5
Print ISBN: 978-1-943420-04-9
Cover Design: Sweet ’N Spicy Designs
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Jeffrey – An apocalypse? Bring it on. We have each other’s six and our flames would only burn brighter. I love you.
erke, just how
reliable is this woman?” Owen lifted the papers on his desk, searching for a customer’s file that seemed to have disappeared. He’d had it in his hand five minutes ago. He sighed in frustration as he half-listened to the nonsense that his friend was spewing. “You broke things off with her and now she’s telling you that the world is basically going to hell. Sounds like she’s getting one over on you, buddy. I just can’t believe you’re falling for this shit.”
“Would you stop what you’re doing and listen to me?” Berke’s frustration came through the line loud and clear. “You’re worse than Mason.”
Owen raised an eyebrow at being compared to Mason Sykes, the Nebraska farm boy they both considered a brother. The only way to describe Mason was focused, and anything anyone said while he was working on a project would go in one ear and out the other. He barked orders and treated civilians as if they were in the Corps. That was the nice description, because the man could be a complete ass at times.
There were two other men that Berke could have compared Owen to as well, since they had a group of friends that consisted of five former Marines. As a matter of fact, the five of them had just finished their annual vacation up at Lost Summit Lodge in Washington. Maybe Berke was just having trouble adjusting to the nine-to-five life again after the break and had decided to reach out to an old lover who had made up some radical excuse as to why she didn’t want to be with him. The end of the world scenario wasn’t common, but it sure worked as a way to say goodbye.
“That hurt, man. I would’ve rather have been compared to Van,” Owen said, finally giving up on finding the file and sitting back against his cracked and worn black leather chair. He glanced out the window of his office and into the garage to try and catch a glimpse of his mechanic. She was nowhere in sight and he sighed in resignation, getting back to the conversation at hand. “At least Van has a relatively higher IQ.”
“You’re going to have zero, zilch, nada in that pea-sized brain of yours if you don’t take what I’m saying seriously.” Berke must have really taken this woman’s rejection hard if he was raising his voice. Owen moaned and figured he better give Berke his undivided attention. “Mav called me last night and spouted off some crap about Ernie thinking that the Yellowstone caldera was on the verge of exploding. He was insistent enough that I promised to call Paige since she works at the U.S. Geological Survey Headquarters in Reston.”
Berke now had Owen’s attention and he sat up a little straighter, recalling that there was something on the news yesterday about a six point one earthquake occurring in Yellowstone National Park. There was also mention of swarms of smaller aftershocks taking place on another report he’d heard on his favorite rock n’ roll radio station. Owen hadn’t watched television this morning or even listened to the radio on the way into work since he’d ridden his bike in. He liked the sleek look of the dynas and softtails, but he preferred the comfort of the touring suspension on his 2012 Road King during longer rides. Splitting the difference, he had elected to buy the Road King with the 103 engine and forego the hard-shelled saddlebags for the cleaner look of the local cruisers.
For Maverick Becket, another friend in their group, to have called Berke to verify that the earthquake and swarms were a catalyst for something bigger meant it was definitely
something of note
. Master Gunnery Sergeant Ernie Yates had been their Tank Battalion Operations Chief after a long career, including two combat tours in Vietnam as a tank commander back in the day. They still got together once a year after each of them had resumed life as a civilian. In Tank’s case, retirement after the Corps meant living amongst the civilians a bit off the grid. Owen always looked forward to the annual vacation up at Ernie’s fishing lodge, even if it meant sometimes helping the old man work on his incredibly complex bunker he’d been setting up for years…not that Owen thought it would ever be used unless an asteroid hit the earth.
“Mav must have been talking about the earthquake that occurred yesterday,” Owen said, standing as he picked up his coffee mug. He needed more caffeine with the way this discussion was headed, not that he really believed that the apocalypse was upon them. But something on a smaller scale? That was believable. “So what you’re telling me is that Ernie thinks the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park is about to erupt. Wouldn’t that have been plastered all over the news?”
“That’s just it, Owen.” The somber tone that Berke spoke in managed to take Owen back in time to when they were in combat. It was a precursor for bad shit to happen. Fate wouldn’t be that cruel, would she? He grimaced, thinking he had shitty luck if that was the case. “I managed to get a hold of Paige. It’s bad. It’s a lot worse than the state and federal governments are letting on.”
“How bad?” Owen cautiously asked, not sure he was ready to hear the answer. It had taken him years to obtain a small business loan to buy the motorcycle shop he was currently standing in. It had taken another year and a half to build his bike the way he had always wanted it. He saw movement in his peripheral vision that caused him to look out the semi-opaque window into the bay of the garage. Technically it was smudged with enough exhaust residue to make even him cringe, but it was the sight on the other side that held his attention. His mechanic, Prue Whitaker, was another thing he’d waited a long time to have and he was slightly closer to having her in his life…and he wasn’t talking about his business. She was worth every torturous minute she’d made him wait and he wasn’t ready for Berke to tell him that it was all going to be gone in a blink of an eye. “Because I gotta tell you…I’m not ready for a fucking apocalypse, man.”
“Let me break this to you gently, shit-for-brains.” Berke never sugarcoated anything and Owen slammed his coffee cup on the small table he’d set up to hold the coffee maker. He tightened his grip on the ceramic in preparation of what was about to be said. It wasn’t nearly enough of an anchor. “The caldera is going to erupt very soon. There will be nothing left of the continental United States and the only chance of your survival is for you to get your ass to Washington ASAP. Mav and Ernie seem to think the fishing lodge is protected by the valley it’s situated in and worst case scenario…we’ll use the bunker once the area becomes untenable. You need to pack up what you can and leave now. Go north from Florida until you hit the Canadian border and then make your way over to Lost Summit in the best time you can manage. That’s the safest route because you don’t want to get caught in the Midwest when the caldera erupts.”
Owen took a moment to let the impact of what Berke was saying settle over him. Some people would think their friend was pulling some kind of sick joke with such morbid hearsay, but the trust he had with his friends wasn’t built in a day. They’d been friends through hell and back during multiple combat tours and a bond like that was never truly broken—forged in the fires of hell itself. If Berke was telling him to get his ass to Washington…he’d better well do it.
“It sounds like we’re on a time crunch, but can you take another minute to give me everything I need to know?” Owen asked, not liking going into a situation without all of the facts. That’s how people ended up dead and he was trained not to have that happen. “Thirty seconds? Something? Anything?”
“The odds of Yellowstone erupting are one in seven hundred thousand every year. It appears that we’ve won the lottery,” Berke said, background noise almost drowning out his voice. Owen remained standing, not wanting to miss a word of what was being said. This phone call was surreal and it was almost as if time stood still. How could something like this be happening? Just last night he’d kissed Prue for the first time since they’d met over a year ago. It had been worth the wait and now he was being told there was no future. That wasn’t something he could accept in the span of a phone call. “It’ll start with a vent, which has already opened if you’d have listened to the news this morning. Others will open until the caldera collapses in on itself and explodes. The immediate blast radius and pyroclastic flows will wipe out everything standing in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho at the very minimum. The ash cloud will then follow the jet stream, which will carry the devastation in the direction of the east coast quite quickly. Rough estimates put the ash cloud reaching New York within seventy-two hours. Sulfur dioxide will be released into the atmosphere and the temperature will plummet as the sun is blotted out, putting us in a volcanic winter that will last years.”
“You’re all sunshine, Berke.” Owen struggled to accept what was being said, but he also needed more intel if he were to make it successfully to Washington. It was still hard to comprehend and reality hadn’t technically settled in. “What if I have to travel in the ash?”
“Volcanic ash is made of pulverized rock and shards of jagged glass. Whatever you do…don’t get that shit into your lungs. It doubles in weight when it becomes wet and will basically turn into cement inside of your lungs if you breathe it in. It will also lacerate the small alveoli, making it impossible to absorb oxygen into your blood. Regardless, you’ll suffocate. Ten centimeters of wet ash alone will collapse a roof. It’s going to contaminate water supplies, affect radio and satellite communications. Most vehicles won’t run once that shit gets into an engine. Take a gasmask, alter one of those motorcycles so that you can exchange air filters quickly. That way it can get you to Washington in one piece. Be ready to protect what’s yours. We’re talking human nature in its most basic form and desperation will make people do some crazy shit. Arm yourself and take an HF radio transmitter. Mav will be monitoring specific frequencies should any of us get into a bind, so listen up. 14.275 megahertz during the day and 3.975 megahertz at night.”