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[personal profile] drewkitty
I needed a day off. Legal One told me so, and he is never wrong, because he is the client.

Admittedly things were getting to me. I finally had the supervisory team trained up to the point where they could tack things down in my absence. I also hadn't had to shoot, strike, beat or order arrested anyone in about a week. This bothered me. What was I doing wrong?

Perimeter encampment, checked. Site, secured and searches. Employees, accounted for. Residents badged.

So one morning, I borrowed a helmet and motorcycle and put on a vest and left site. Alone.

This was arguably a great way to get killed, except that I was going where no one sane wanted to go. I was also wearing a dosimeter badge.

I had a friend in San Francisco. I wanted to know.

The route to the regional freeway, 280, was relatively safe. Someone threw a rock at me from a pedestrian overpass, but missed.

The run up was interesting. The road had been cleared mostly by dozer, but maintenance had been slipshod and both potholes and debris were an issue.

I was stopped at three checkpoints. At the first two, my ID and business card were enough to get me waved through.

The third was in Daly City. I was closely questioned by first a sergeant, then a lieutenant. Who did I think I was? Where did I think I was going?

My pistol was not noticed.

Ultimately the lieutenant made a decision. He issued me a 'day pass' valid for the route to and from the address. He warned me that I could exit the zone only from his checkpoint, and by the time indicated. I would be searched. Photography was OK and papers and print photos could be removed, but absolutely no metal. Looters would be shot. If challenged I was to stop immediately and show my pass. Failure to stop could be enforced by sniper or gunship. Briefly.

Then the sergeant and I went over the same radiation survey I had checked yesterday from the National Weather Service Web site. Areas of safety, areas to avoid. "Stay in the open where rain has decontaminated most. We will wand you when you leave but being deconned sucks."

The zone was eerily quiet. They had shot all the dogs. The birds had left. The cats were dead. The rats too.

My friend's home was a typical two story with walk up stairs.

The front door was open. An X marked the door. "CHP / clear [date time] / low / D-4 "

I parked and cable locked the motorcycle, even though no one was around and I hadn't been challenged.

I walked up the stairs.

The living room was a scene of horror.

What got me was the tea. A nice brewed pot with a skull and crossbones logo from a household product under it. Three cups.

I could see into the guest bedroom. The bed buzzed with a horde of flies under and over the tarp in which someone had wrapped the small body.

But not as many as the three sitting corpses that grinned involuntarily at me, through rotted away faces.

I stumbled into the kitchen, fighting not to throw up despite the gauze mask I had automatically put on walking up the stairs.

I found the note. I took a picture of it.

It listed the names of four people. My friend, her kid sister (in the bed) and her parents. Full names, dates of birth and of death. The child had died on D+2. They had died on D+3.

It was my friend's handwriting. I knew with a certainty she was one of the three on the couch.

"We are trapped. My folks are old and feeling very sick. I am sick too, started today. Cathy was horribly burned at school. I had to go get her and bring her home in a shopping cart. She died. Fortunately not much pain.

"The radio says if you get bad sick within three days, there is not much they can do. I know there is little for lots of people. They are telling people to walk out by Highway 1 but the Daly City Fire is spreading. I made it to the Great Highway but couldn't get further. So I went home.

"We have decided that the thing to do is to go as a family. We are listening to music on the radio and drinking our tea.

"When there are no good choices, our family way is to accept the inevitable with dignity. If we had a chance we would take it, but we do not. So we will die as we lived, in our home and together."

"The Yamashita Family, San Francisco."

I carefully put the note down in its place, put it in a Ziploc bag from the cabinet and weighted it with ... another teacup of the same set.

I took no papers, I took no effects. I would update the Red Cross Web site when I returned.

A street of homes. A neighborhood of streets. A city of neighborhoods.

And every one a tragedy.

Not a statistic.

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