Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

The world had gone mad. 

Mike stared out through the spiderweb of cracks in the windshield of his truck wondering when the nightmare had begun. Below the hill where he was parked, houses and cars burned, a pall of dark smoke rising into the air.

Figures wandered in apparent confusion, occasionally stopping to lean over a still bundle on the ground as if to comfort an injured friend.

Mike wished he could believe it was comfort that was being offered. In the past few hours he had come to understand just how wrong that impression was. The windshield and gore encrusted truck paid mute testimony to that.

He wiped a tear away. Was there any point in going on? The odds against survival seemed so high. Maybe giving into the chaos was the only sane thing left to do.

"Scouter Mike?" a young male voice from the back seat called.

Mike ignored it and continued to look out at the devastation, despair growing in his mind with each passing moment.

"Dad? Are you okay?" the boy beside him asked, shaking his arm.

Mike focused on him. "Hmm? Oh, Kyle? Sorry!" He shook his head to clear the fuzziness, finally seeing his son.

The boy, a young man really with just the beginnings of a moustache, looked afraid, but determined. Mike looked at the three other boys, all the same age as his son, in the rear view mirror of the truck. They too looked both afraid and determined.

That determination pushed the feelings of doubt and self pity aside. "Sorry, guys. For a moment there, I wasn't sure what to do next."

Kyle kept hold of his father's arm. "We need you, Dad. Stay with us. You taught us about survival and survival shelters all weekend. We'll just have to use what we learned a little sooner than we expected."

Kyle laughed and the other boys joined him. The laughter was forced, but it was there.

Out of the chaos, that little bit of order brought Mike fully back from the edge. Of course, Kyle was right. They were Scouts and it was their oath to help make their community and world at large a better place. This really was no different. Just a LOT bigger problem than any of them had ever imagined.

“Okay, boys. The first thing we need to do is get back to the others and figure out just what we can do.”

***

 The survival camp had started out innocently enough. The five Scoutmasters had driven out of the city in a convoy, each with a few of the boys in their respective vehicles. It wasn't quite regulation, but the parents had all agreed that it was the best way to handle the three hour drive away from civilization.

They had left the city early and arrived at the campsite well before lunch, driving off the logging road and back into the trees, and out of view. The area was perfect for the task. A government free land use zone, anyone could use. It was heavily treed with plenty of water and space.

"Okay, boys," Scouter Steve said when everyone was together and stretching out the kinks and stiffness from the long drive. "Some of you have done this before and for others of you, this is your first time." He stopped speaking long enough to ensure he had everyone's attention.

"The purpose of this camp is to learn how to deal with a disaster. The scenario is, we have been in a plane crash on the way to a jamboree. We have to set ourselves up to survive until help comes."

“In the cold?” one rather pale boy asked. He stood near the front of the group in sneakers, blue jeans and a thin hoodie. He was rubbing his arms with his hands and jumping from foot to foot.

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