The Big One……………….Chapter 20

                                                                                Frederick Casper was the lead scientist on the five hundred foot research ship now traversing the atlantic ocean. The Conquest Of Science as it was called had been without engine power for over twenty four hours and had been adrift ever since. Frederick or Fred as he was called, could see that they were reaching what appeared to be what remained of the American eastern coastline. They had been at sea when the quake had happened and now instead of fifteen people on board there was only five. He Frederick Casper and four young female scientists and if young Tabetha Long did not recover there would only be three. The crew had been doing compulsory sea rescue drills as per the requirements of the ships main fund raising contributor The American Science And Research Agency. The ships captain James Portman had grown angry with the bungled efforts of the exercise and had gone down to the main deck to set them straight leaving Casper, the only other trained and able ship pilot at the wheel. The quake then struck with sudden furry spewing gas and water everywhere. Three of the girls had been below preparing a special lunch but the forth one Miss Long had been on deck and was the only survivor………for now. She had been hit with an indirect shot of the gas and had then been hurled into some mesh covering that had saved her from being washed overboard with the others when the ship was smashed and beaten about for some twenty minutes. The four seat research helicopter by some miracle had not been thrown into the ocean and was none the worse for wares. Casper now guided the ship inland as the flooding situation was still very bad and there was no problem keeping the ship to deep water. The sun was shining nicely now and he figured they were probably now in what used to be Virginia as mountain peaks showed here and there. The door to the captains main control room opened and Fred turned to see the three ladies come in wiping tears from their eyes, twenty three year old Loraine Michaud , twenty five year old Amber Gershwin and forty eight year old Donna Case. Loraine simply chocked out two words, ” she’s gone”.

                                                                 Fred had never been one for warm and fuzzy words and so he simply went to the girls and held them while they cried. Never in his fifty two years on this earth had he ever experienced so much interaction with the opposite sex and his confirmed bachelor awkwardness was showing. Fred and Donna both had the helicopter training on the ship but it was Donna who suggested that they fly inland more to see what they had to deal with in terms of land availability and ship passage. It was then at that very moment that they were all given a jolt as the ship ran aground.

                                                                  “Damn”, shouted Fed but everybody knew with one look around the ship that they were not going anywhere and with one effort they fueled the chopper packing what food they could. Fred performed a pre trip inspection and they lifted off for parts unknown.

                                                                      This helicopter was bigger than most and held a good amount of fuel. It was also ahead of its time in that it also had a solar charging cell but in order to activate it one must set the bird down. Donna opted to use fuel for this trip as she was at the controls. Checking out the lay of the land was not the only reason for this trip, for strapped beneath the helicopter in a body bag was the remains of their dear friend Miss Tabitha Long.

                                                                      They flew in silence for hours over state lines in a westward direction and when they entered what seemed to be the mountainous region of Colorado Donna was just thinking of turning around when Amber Gershwin shattered the long silence with, ” home sweet home”.

                                                                    They had all forgotten that she was from Colorado and suddenly Fred pointed below to a plane stuck in the tree tops below and a barn nearby with a house. Donna had always been a good pilot but her biggest challenge had always been soft landings. This was made all the more clear when she plopped them down hard in the meadow right smack in the middle of grazing horses and cattle.

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