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Time became benign within the confines of the flying metallic fortress. The mobile command center spent the end of the world in the safety of the clouds. In a millionth of a second, a star was born on earth. The sublime white light silhouetted the shadows of the dead on the concrete ruins burning or hear the howl of the burning cyclones raging across the planet. Besides the humming of the cooling fans of the server banks, the plane was silent.
 To the generals on board the global holocaust was presented as abstract data. The dead and wounded were just numbers the end of the world was just an ongoing thought exercise, but as more of the earth became engulfed by atomic light, the supreme commanders found themselves with less and less territory and fewer and fewer units to worry about. Soon all the digital links that tethered the airborne titanic to the world below were cut, and the plane was left to circle silently in the sky.
The aircraft was part of the operation for the continuity of military command. The idea was constant refueling could keep it in the air indefinitely and real time battle awareness software could keep the commanders in the loop, but there was no contingency plan, and the commanders in charge of the plane were every bit as unimaginative as the ones who came up with the strategy. The whole idea was dependent upon they were somehow permanent.
The flying titanic found itself in peril when the last airfields were destroyed and refueling planes became a thing of the past the commanders found themselves without any armies to command they were no longer generals they were castaways in the sky.
Soon these military demigods would be forced to the ground by an immutable law no technological wonder at their command could counter. While the leaders of the vanquished armies’ contemplated plans for a future that would never be the flight crew was dealing with the more immediate reality of where the plane was going to land.
The cold walls of their metal sarcophagus provided the canvass for them to paint a collective delusion of the world they left in flames. They were confident no matter how dismal the situation there was hope as long as they remained alive.
They pinned their hopes on an isolated highway in the heart of Utah.
“This will be good for morale. Not just for the boys but for all the American people.” Said Joint Chief Carter
“They’ll be reassured knowing their military is still working around the clock to defend them.” Chief Parson concurred.
The paunchy frame of Colonel Blackwell appeared in the doorway. His chubby jowls jiggled when he talked, the only time more ripples were racing through his soft flesh was when he was rushing to fulfill an order from one his many masters.” he said giving a snappy salute.
“What is it Colonel?” asked Carter.
“We’re preparing to land sir.” Blackwell informed his superiors.
“Terrific I could use a little time on solid ground.” declared Carter.
“Yeah, a little air would be good.” Agreed parson. “The air is um, safe right Blackwell?”
“Yes, sir the closest fallout is 125 miles southwest of us we should have about three days before it arrives.”
“Good, where are we landing?” asked Carter
“Um, Interstate 86.”  Blackwell muttered.
The gleaming behemoth touched down on the isolated road without incident. It was a warm late spring day, and the sun hung in an unblemished blue sky. Rock formations rose out of the earth like pedestals on the horizon and uneven patches of grass spread across the beige dirt bent in the gentle wind. It was like landing in a postcard. There were no signs of the world wide nuclear fire storm engulfing the planet.
When General Carter stepped off the plane, he took a deep breath.
“There's nothing quite as inspiring as the free and wild expanses of the great American West.” He said with satisfaction.
“I used to love skiing in the Rockies back when I was a cadet.” Said Parsons
“Maybe we should grab a camera from the plane.” suggested Carter.
“We put out the distress signal we’re still waiting for a response.” said Blackwell interpreting the generals plans for a sightseeing trip.
“Good good.” said Carter seemingly unconcerned.
“Colonel where is the nearest town?” Parsons asked.
“That would be Goodrock about 29 miles northeast our present location sir.” Blackwell responded promptly.
“Not a bad idea.” said Carter “People will want to support for their troops in this time of national emergency maybe there will be somewhere we can get a hot home cooked meal and kick back on a couch.”
“Yeah, that would be a nice way to kill a few hours.” Parsons nodded.
“Blackwell get the Humvees ready we’re going to pay the fine people food Goodrock a little visit!” Carter enthusiastically declared.
The lead Humvee was outfitted with loudspeakers, and they tore down the road blaring a government issued mix CD of patriotic hymns.  Goodrock was every bit as isolated as the road where the plane landed and was virtually untouched by the war.  The interstate cut through the very center of town like a concrete river.
Goodrock had experienced the apocalypse quite a bit differently. They were alone surrounded by nothing but a still and quiet air, waiting patiently to see what would emerge from the devastation.
 They were an oasis in a radioactive inferno and the only thing they could do was hope whatever emerged from the settling dust was friendly.
Virtually every one of the town’s 759 residents came out to see the armored vehicles topped with men in machine gun turrets. Carter ordered the convoy slow down, and they rolled through town like they were on parade.
Blackwell compiled a brief dossier on the town. The mayor was a man named Eunice Wainright, he lived just a block west of the local tavern.
The caravan came to a rolling stop in front of Wayneright's modest family home. A crumbing narrow concrete walkway lead up to an equally degraded slightly elevated cement.
The white painted wooden door open up revealing Mr. Wayneright, a tall, barrel-chested man with a thick head of white hair and a short, thin woman with tightly trimmed white hair who Blackwell quietly informed the generals was his wife, Kathy.
The town’s people started showing up, and the troops on security detail fanned out on the lawn to keep a distance between the people and the commanders.
“Mr. Wayneright I’m Major General Carter United States Airforce.” The general said as he put his cap under his arm and extended his hand.
“Nice to meet you sir.” the small town mayor said as he grasped the general’s hands
“Major-General Parsons United States Army.” Parsons said holding his hand out.
“I’m really glad to see you guys,” Wayneright said with giving his widest smile.
“Well we’re glad to see you too,” said Carter returning the friendly grin.
“So what kind of aid are you guys delivering?”  Asked the wide-eyed mayor.
“Aid?” Repeated Parsons
The mayor nodded.
“Um, we didn’t actually bring any aid.” Said Carter. “See we’re actually in command of all US forces in this sector of the North American theater.” said Carter.
“Oh,” said Wayneright withdrawing his hand. “So you guys don’t have any food or water for us?”
“Sorry.” said Carter “we were actually hoping you might have something….”
“For us to eat.” Parsons muttered out the last half of carter’s sentence.
“I see I see.” Wayneright said stroking his chin. “Yeah for you boys we can whip something together: Wayne right said the wide smile returning to his face.
They mayor brought the generals back to the local tavern. They smokey room was dark, the different neo logos, the overhead lamps covered by stained glass, and the touchscreen jukebox were never to light up again
Parsons and Carter were sat at the bar. They sipped whiskey until their medal adorned jackets became too warm and their collars too tight. The dark liquid made them all fast friends and the general enjoyed the warms vibrations from the liquor and the distraction from the stress of commanding, not existent armies.
Mayor Wayneright was at the other end of the drinking trough sipping from his own glass. When the bombs fell cubed ice was one of the modern amenities lost forever, so everyone had to take their liquor warm, but since the plane was dry, the generals did not complain.
The only people more clueless about the overall state of the county after the atomic attack than the forlorn people good Goodrock were the commanders themselves. The Mayor made chit chat about their assignment and tried to ascertain just when if ever the power would be restored, the water would run again, and when the trucks would replenish the grocery store, but all the generals knew was where some F-16s might be.
“So where did you boys land anyway?” Asked the Mayor taking a slow sip from his highball.
“Sorry, sir that’s classified.” Interjected Blackwell, who was standing in the corner.
“It’s ok Blackwell.” Carter said putting the restrain on his ever vigilant subordinate.
“We landed on Interstate 86 about 30 miles southeast of here.” Carter told the Mayor. “Ran out of fuel, we put out a distress signal, but no one’s responded yet.” I’m not sure what they could be doing without their commanders.”
“Maybe they’re not there.” Muttered Sam the proprietor of the bar seated at a table against the wall.
Carter ignored the comment and took another sip.
“So what’s on that plane of yours anyway?” Asked the Mayor.
“Mostly communications equipment, some provisions, that kind of thing.” Answered Parsons nonchalantly.
“Ah I see I see.” said Wayneright.
“Sam you think you could get behind the bar and get us another bottle of this stuff?” Requested Wayneright.
Sam quietly pushed his chair out and started shuffling his heavy frame over to the bar.
“Oh no, I think we probably had enough already.” Parsons laughed.
“I insist we treat our soldiers like royalty in this town.” Said Waynright.
The sound of rifle fire could be heard coming from outside. There were screams and some returning fire but it was quickly silence.
“What the hell was that?” Snapped Carter.
Striking with the speed of a snake Sam took a heavy wooden bat out from under the bar and struck Carter across the face.
Blackwell reached for his service pistol, but Wayneright was much quicker. He pulled a Colt revolver from a hidden holster and put two rounds into Blackwell. While Sam was continued beating pink and red matter from General Parsons head.
“Alright, let’s find the plane.” said Wayneright.
“What about these two and the rest of their boys?” Asked Sam
“Get the spits fired up.” Wayneright said grimly.

The people of Goodrock took their aid from the command plane. The generals and their soldiers were from a gone by world. Their uniforms and titles meant very little to the hungry people of Goodrock. Their bodies were skewered and their flesh devoured. Their dismemberment and immolation was the final break between Goodrock and the world it had once belonged to. Now a new world emerged from the fire. The flesh of the old would once again sustain the new. Another fine example of how death begets life.


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