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datatime: 2022-11-27 17:02:08 Author:GUBRaLEn

"It should be over there - in the shadows - propped up against the wall. We found a steel box in here, all rusted and jammed closed. Some other hapless wanderers must have brought it here - we found disintegrating skeletons on the second floor, next to charred wood on a sheet-metal plate. When Run and I broke open the box, we found some canned goods inside. Must have been decades old, but we cut them open and ate the stuff. It tasted flat, but it wasn't spoiled. Canned Soviet-label meat. It gave me the strength to go on, but Run was sickening from a snake bite he got the sixth day out of Eden. He threw up the food and convulsed and died. I was - was too weak, delirious, frightened. I left him - and his notebook of our travels - right where he died." Danik's voice trailed off. He looked down.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

Danik took the lead, and they passed a lifelike statue of Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse in the Battle of Bull Run, and then a replica of President Bush signing the Martial Law decree in the Oval Office. They finally came to the Rotunda Room. Light spilled in from above through a hole in the ceiling. The snow flurries drifted in on the figure of John F. Kennedy sitting in his rocking chair. He was staring forever at the three astronauts in spacesuits that had returned from the moon and were coming in to receive his accolades. A tattered and mouse-eaten American flag hung disintegrating on a pole nearby. JFK was up to his knees in snow.

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

"No," Rock replied, "The weight of the snow finally got to the roof. Nothing lasts forever, not even the Hall of Presidents. Where is Run Dutil's body?"

They came upon an area 235 miles south of Colorado Springs Plain that Rockson himself had crossed years earlier. It was the area around a small hunter-trapper community called Moosehead. Moosehead Township was a set of ten or twelve wooden shacks and a tanning shed for hides. The Soviets usually ignored these primitive American communities, which served their purposes because their commanding officers did a brisk trade with the mountainmen who did fur trapping. Hides and furs were exchanged for rubles. The rubles bought the trapper families some precious supplies like salt in the small free markets in the shadows of the great Soviet forts further east.

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

"His top hat don't look too good." Rona said. Indeed it didn't. There was a pack rat sticking its nose out of the decayed fabric.

Rockson and his Freefighters pulled up their sleds in front of the blackened crumbling structure and gingerly stepped into the ruin. It was dark inside, they lit a flashlight. Rockson gasped as his beam hit a human face. McCaughlin shouted, "Watch out -" and drew his shotpistol, before he realized the face was familiar.

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

Rockson and his Freefighters pulled up their sleds in front of the blackened crumbling structure and gingerly stepped into the ruin. It was dark inside, they lit a flashlight. Rockson gasped as his beam hit a human face. McCaughlin shouted, "Watch out -" and drew his shotpistol, before he realized the face was familiar.

Danik agreed, Run Dutil was solemnly carried outside, still in his frozen, stiff sitting position. As McCaughlin rolled up good-sized rocks to the body and then hefted a capstone in place, Rockson said, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Heavenly Father, we send you our friend Run Dutil, a good and true American. If you can see to do it, please welcome him into your arms. Amen."

"No," Rock replied, "The weight of the snow finally got to the roof. Nothing lasts forever, not even the Hall of Presidents. Where is Run Dutil's body?"

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

Eagerly he played the light across its contents. "Direction readings," Rock yelled exhultantly. "Run Dutil took bearings and direction readings with a sextant. And there are some notes describing the places they stopped."

They came upon an area 235 miles south of Colorado Springs Plain that Rockson himself had crossed years earlier. It was the area around a small hunter-trapper community called Moosehead. Moosehead Township was a set of ten or twelve wooden shacks and a tanning shed for hides. The Soviets usually ignored these primitive American communities, which served their purposes because their commanding officers did a brisk trade with the mountainmen who did fur trapping. Hides and furs were exchanged for rubles. The rubles bought the trapper families some precious supplies like salt in the small free markets in the shadows of the great Soviet forts further east.

They came over the ridge and looked down on a glassy-surfaced blackened plain. "That's the area that took a nuke bomb hit back in the twentieth century," said Rockson grimly. "The heat of the air-detonated blast melted the sand into that shiny surface. Not a thing grows there to this day. You notice that there is no snow on that mile-wide plain either. There is still some heat from radioactive elements in that surface - hence the clicking you hear on the Geiger attached to the front of my sled. Let's give it some room."

"Let's move on," Rockson said.

"I remember this place," Danik said, "the President's Museum is about a mile away from here - just beyond those boulders shaped like a pile of kid's blocks."

"Do you think someone's been here?" McCaughlin said.

Taking the bearing to the southeast that Dutil's notes indicated, they moved their sleds along at a good thirty miles per hour through icy weather conditions. Soon they were approaching the old border of Colorado into Arizona. But there was no letup in the cold temperatures, or in the golfball-sized hailstones pounding the hunched-down travelers.

They came over the ridge and looked down on a glassy-surfaced blackened plain. "That's the area that took a nuke bomb hit back in the twentieth century," said Rockson grimly. "The heat of the air-detonated blast melted the sand into that shiny surface. Not a thing grows there to this day. You notice that there is no snow on that mile-wide plain either. There is still some heat from radioactive elements in that surface - hence the clicking you hear on the Geiger attached to the front of my sled. Let's give it some room."

The dogs were howling and yapping, apparently happy to be on the trail again. They didn't like the President's museum much, it seemed.

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