Kevin entered and sat down in a chair, his expression strained. Jenni and Bill had wanted to come as well, but only Travis had been allowed to accompany her. Her Dad also was allowed into the meeting. He gave her an encouraging smile as he sat next to Kevin. Travis leaned back against the closed door, his arms folded over his chest, his gaze encouraging.

The office was small, but not at all cozy. She took a breath, readying herself.

The Senator crossed her legs and rested her folded hands on her lap. “Let us get down to business. I take it you are speaking for the fort, Katie?”

“Consider me their ambassador,” she answered.

“Very well, ambassador. We will be relocating to the fort immediately. I expect for you to have the Governor’s Suite ready for us,” the Senator started. “I want a meeting with the fort’s former leadership for an indepth debriefing within an hour of my arrival.”

“You all will then be instructed in our plans for the fort and be given directions on how we will go about establishing the fort as a supply depot to the President’s enclave known as Central. Each and every person will be expected to do their part in our plan to create a strong, working force.”

“We will expect full cooperation on all levels. The Major General will oversee all security matters with the assistance of the First Lieutenant. I would also like an armed escort dispatched to check on my sister, Blanche Mann, at her estate. Unless she is already in your fort.” The Senator tilted her head. “Is she?”

“She was,” Katie answered. “Until she shot a man and killed two others.

Now, she is most likely staggering through the countryside.”

“What?” The Senator rose sharply to her feet.

“Oh, and about your plans,” Katie said blithely. “Fold them five ways and shove them up your ass.” She heard her Dad and husband laugh at this and her smile grew larger. Diplomacy be damned. She was pissed off.

“Excuse me?” The Senator looked shocked to be spoken to in such a way.

She probably was since she was accustomed to people kissing her ass.

“We are not giving up the fort. I’m here to inform you that the people of Madison Mall are welcome there. We are more than willing to take them in. We have enough supplies to last until summer and hopefully by then we will be growing our own food. Now, if you want to come as well, you will need to realize we are working hard on building a community based on respect of the individual and what each can contribute to our society.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” The Senator looked confused and glanced sharply toward her campaign manager. Raleigh looked just as shocked as she did.

“We are determined to give people a chance to have a good life. If they don’t agree with the concepts of hard work, loyalty, and the basic ideals of the US Constitution, they can leave.”

“You will not tell me how to live my life,” the Senator snapped.

“Oh, but you can tell us?”

“I am an elected official. That is my job! To make the hard decisions that you cannot,” the Senator retorted. She came around the desk in a streak of red.

Katie didn’t back up as she was sure the Senator expected her to, but crossed her arms under her breasts. She could feel the curve of her belly under them and felt even stronger.

“I am in charge here! I make the hard choices for the people!”

“You see, that is where you are mistaken. You’re supposed to represent the people who elected you and help them by not hampering their lives. And that is what you want to do. Kevin showed us your plans. You call people assets! Breeders! You estimate how many of us can die and not be considered a liability to your plans.”

The Senator shot a venomous look at Kevin. “You were supposed to convince them to turn over the fort.”

Kevin stood up slowly. “I went and told them your plans so they wouldn’t.”

“First Lieutenant Reynolds, how dare you defy a direct order?” The Major General rose to his feet heavily, looking furious.

“Easily. I realized it meant making the people surviving in this mall into slaves.” Kevin stood with his chin up, his eyes blazing.

“Slaves?” The Senator barked a sharp, sarcastic laugh. “They are the future of this country! They need to be guided firmly and not left to their own devices or else we are going to be doomed.”

“Our fort is much better off than this mall, Senator. We are just common people trying to survive in this new world and make a life for ourselves,”

“And doing a better job at it than we are,” Kevin added.

“How long before your people fall into chaos without proper and experienced leadership? Let’s be frank here. You have no clue what you are doing and you will need me to guide you. The civilians of this country have proven they can barely take care of themselves. Why do you think there are so many social programs to assist them? They have no idea how to make good, solid choices for themselves.” The Senator’s voice had gone very quiet and persuasive. It was the voice she was famous for during debates.

“Bullshit,” Katie answered angrily. So much for her persuasive prosecutor approach. “You are completely underestimating the people who helped build this country.”

“You will turn over the fort per the orders of the President of the United States,” the Major General said in a firm voice.

Bruce Kiel shook his head. “There is no more United States. Don’t you see that? It’s fallen and all that remains are pockets of survivors that will do what they must to survive. Some will become animals but others will rise above. You’ve been making choices for everyone here and now it’s time for us to start making choices for ourselves.”

“If people want to stay here, then they can. But we are offering them a chance to come to the fort,” Katie continued. “If you want to stay here, that is your choice. But you can come with us. You will just be one of many. You will have to find a way to make yourself useful and that doesn’t mean trying to tell the rest of us what to do out of a false sense of superiority.”

The Senator laughed and shook her head. “You are completely delusional.

You actually think those sheep out there will follow you? I have proven myself as a leader of this State. I am an elected official. I know damn well how to lead people who are unable to even lead themselves.”

Her campaign manager was wincing. Katie thought it was rather amusing. She supposed he still tended to think about popularity polls and campaign rhetoric.

“I think you’re wrong. I know you’re wrong. And I know this ridiculous plan you have to establish a totalitarian form of government is utter bullshit and doomed to fail.”

“Government and the law bring order to the people. Without us they don’t know how to think or act for themselves. Only the educated and the powerful truly understand the full dynamics of what it takes to run a society.”

Katie shook her head. It shocked her to realize the Senator fully believed what she was saying. “You know what. I’m not here to debate politics. I’m here to tell you how it is. We are not turning over the fort and we are not going to follow your orders. Your rule is over. And we are leaving with whoever wants to go with us.”

“My men will not follow you into mutiny, First Lieutenant,” the Major General said, pushing out his chin, trying to look fierce. His eyes strayed to the woman who promised him power and guidance. His weakness was evident.

“They will and they are,” Kevin answered. “We’re done here and frankly, sir, you are disgrace to the uniform you wear. The minute you fell into bed with this woman you lost your right to order any of us.”

“Oh, please,” Katie said with the roll of her eyes.

“The worst thing I ever did was turn over the mall to you. I should have trusted myself. I learned my lesson. I’m leaving and taking these people and my men with me,” Kevin said in a firm voice.

“There is no room for debate on this,” Travis added. “We’re taking these people home.”

“We’re done here,” Katie said firmly. “We’re leaving in the morning. We’ll spend the rest of the evening organizing the people for the airlift. You are welcome, despite your bitchiness, to join us. But if you do, remember, you will be just another member of our little fort.”

The Senator leaned back against her desk, smirking. “We’ll see.”

Turning around, Katie looked at her father, Travis and Kevin. The three men were all looking quite serious, but Kevin slightly smiled at her.

“Paige, you just can’t let them do this,” the Major General said in a low voice.

Travis opened the door and they left without a backward glance.

Chapter 18 1. The Last Hours The afternoon was harder work than any of them had fully anticipated.