“I don’t know about you Tammy, but I want to try some of this food,” Arn said excitedly, walking over to a bank of shelves stocked with packaged and canned food. “What’s chicken noodle soup? And freeze-dried chocolate pudding? Reconstitutes in one minute with water? Huh?”
“You’re practically drooling, Arn. I don’t think your body will recognize that stuff. It might give you the runs?”
“I don’t care if it does. I want chicken noodle soup and chocolate pudding.”
Picking up a can of chicken noodle soup I read the directions aloud. “Turn bottom of can one quarter turn and allow two minutes for hot soup. Great! This is like military rations that heat themselves. I think we can even open these with our hands. No can opener needed.”
I twisted the bottom of my can of soup. My mouth was watering. I hadn’t had decent food in a week. I love chicken noodle soup.
“Turn the bottom of your can of soup Arn so it’ll get hot.”
Arn did as I instructed, then asked, “O.k., but exactly what is chicken noodle soup?”
“You’ll love it. It’s made with noodles, which are made out of wheat flour I think. Wheat is the dried seeds of a kind of grass. They’re ground into a kind of dust, then missed with water and some other stuff and…Oh forget me trying to explain. Just taste it when it’s hot. It has chunks of chicken in it. Chickens are….”
“Yeah, I know what they are. I read about them and saw pictures of them in a book.”
I walked over to Gramps’ desk, opened the lower right drawer and extracted two spoons, Gramps’ and mine. I handed one to Arn.
“You’ll need this to eat your soup.”
Then I removed two bowls from the same drawer.
“We’ll need these for the soup and the pudding. My soups’ hot. How about yours?”
“Remove strip around top of container, then turn top one complete turn to remove,” Arn read.
Soon we were both eating our soup. Never had chicken noodle soup tasted better. Well, maybe Gram’s homemade chicken noodle soup had, but Gram wasn’t here.
“Whadda ya think Arn? Like chicken noodle soup?”
“Damn. I never tasted anything so good. Can I have another one? Did you eat stuff like this all the time where you came from?”
“I didn’t eat chicken noodle soup every day, but I had all kinds of stuff to choose from. Looking at how much food we have here, I’d say you can have all you want. But it might be a good idea to wait to make sure this doesn’t make you sick since you’re not used to eating this kind of food. Tell you what. Let’s make the pudding. After that you can decide if you want anything else.”
The package of pudding read “Open top. Fill two thirds full with water. Close zipper opening. Shake well. Makes approximately 24 ounces of pudding.”
“This makes about three cups of pudding, Arn. Maybe we could share one.”
“You said I could have all I want. I want my own package.”
“Fine, let’s get the water.”
We found 24 oz. bottles of water and we each made chocolate pudding.
“I might like this stuff better than the chicken soup. What is it?” Arn exclaimed. He was acting like he’d been stranded on a desert island and this was the first time he eaten in ages.
“It’s chocolate and powdered milk and sugar and a few other things to make it thicken when we add the water. I love chocolate. Oh, chocolate is some kind of pod thing that grows on trees. I think. Who cares? It’s wonderful.”
We were happier with our chicken noodle soup and chocolate pudding than we would have been with a room filled with gold. Who needs gold and what good would it have been on Hoth? We needed real food. Now we had it.
We finished our pudding.
“This is the way I feel after I’ve drunk all I can hold first thing in the morning before heading out to the fields,” Arn said. “Only this time I’m full of food, not water. This is a first for me.”
Can We Live Here?
“Let’s see what else Gramps has stored in here, Arn and then figure out if we can just live in here.”
Gramps’ workshop was about the size of six two car garages put together. The room was about ten feet high. The walls were almost completely lined with deep floor-to-ceiling shelves and cabinets. The shelves held a variety of survivalist type food supplies, some bottled water, and cases of jeans, long-sleeved shirts, hats, socks, shoes and underwear.
A huge stack of cases of more of the same filled the center of the room, except the area where the Land Rover stood.
The cabinets held flashlights, matches, basic hand tools, and lots of medical supplies.
Where’s all the stuff Gramps used to keep in here? What’s all this stuff for? Why would he stock hundreds of pairs of jeans, socks, underwear, hats, and shoes? There are cases of antibiotic ointment, bandaids and aspirin. What was he thinking?
“What’s crème brulee,” Arn asked while reading the labels on some of the food packages. “And what’s lasagna?”
“It’s food you would like. Excuse me, food you will love. We’ll try it later. I can’t figure out why Gramps put all this stuff in here and what he did with all the stuff he used to have here. It was a wizard’s workshop. Now it’s a survivalist bunker.”
“Well, duh. That’s what we need. Tammy. We need to survive.”
“I agree. But we can’t possibly use five hundred pairs of jeans and a thousand pairs of socks.”
“Wonder why he didn’t put anything in front of that section of wall at the end of the room?” Arn asked.
I walked over to the blank wall and recognized that it was steel, rather than concrete, like the other walls.
“It’s a door, Arn. He did say we should acquaint ourselves with the contents of these rooms, that’s rooms plural. Gramps’ workshop was one room. I think there are more rooms behind this door. Gramps must have added them.”
“Right. Open it Tammy. Let’s see what’s on the other side,” Arn said, excited as a kid at Christmas.
Within seconds the panel slid open and revealed a midnight black space. The light from the workshop illuminated a few feet of a concrete ramp that sloped down and away from us. I stepped in. Lights automatically came on.
We walked down the ramp, descending perhaps twenty feet below the level of Gramps’ workshop. Ahead of us and to either side lay an enormous lighted room.
“Sweet &$%*#^@!&^%#!$^%#&%#!#^, what is this?” I exclaimed. “This is some kind of warehouse, the biggest warehouse I’ve ever seen. It must be ten blocks to the other end and just as wide. This wasn’t here the last time I was here. How did Gramps ever dig out a hole this big? He had lots of money, but not enough to build this place and fill it with whatever is in here. I thought I knew my gramps, but I guess I didn’t.”
Arn was speechless, staring with his mouth wide open.
“Let’s see what’s in here Arn. Maybe we can figure out why Gramps put it all in here.”
“This room must go under this whole end of town. The floor we’re standing on must be forty feet below ground. How did anyone build a room like this? How could Gramps possibly have done this?” Arn asked.
“I’m as much in the dark as you are, Arn. Let’s look around. I think this piece of equipment moves.” I stepped up onto the machine. “Stand beside me, Arn.”
Arn hopped aboard and the machine came to life. We headed toward the far end of the cavern.
“How are you making this thing move, Tammy? I don’t see you doing anything except laying your hand on that flat piece of glass. What are you doing?”
“I tell it what to do, and it does it.”
“I don’t hear you telling it anything.”
“I think what I want it to do, and it does it.”
“How did you know to do that, Tammy?”
“I don’t know. I just know how. That’s all.”
“I thought you said your remembered everything when you found this place.”
“I thought I did. Apparently I was wrong. Let’s stop here and see what’s in these boxes.”
Arn and I moved back and forth throughout the warehouse, stopping numerous times to check the contents of the cases of supplies stacked on the miles of floor-to-ceiling shelving. We found food, clothing, and every kind of supply a person would need to survive on Hoth.
“Tammy, there’s enough stuff in here for thousands of people to survive for twenty or thirty years.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Arn?
Gramps’ General Store
“Now I call it my General Store, instead of my workshop.”
Arn and I turned and there stood Gramps.
“What’s all this stuff for?” Arn asked.
“Yeah, what’s it for Gramps?” I chimed in? “Where’s all the stuff you had in your workshop?”
“Don’t need it. As for what all this stuff is for, you two might need it.”
“There’s enough stuff here to supply us for a thousand years,” I said.
“Do you think your bodies are going to live for a thousand years on this poisoned planet?” Gramps asked.
“No,” Arn answered. “We’ll be lucky to live another twenty maybe thirty years. Then everyone on the planet will be dead.”
“You’ll figure out what to do with the stuff,” Gramps said. “Did you enjoy your soup and pudding?”
“That was the best ever,” I told him. “I don’t remember survivalist food ever being so good.”
“Consider it the improved version. You didn’t meet McKaren yet. You should get acquainted.”
“Shouldn’t we be getting back to the surface?” Arn asked Gramps. “Prune Face will notice if we don’t turn up for soup, and we need to figure out if we’ll be working in the fields tomorrow.”
“You’ll have tonight in here and the next two days. The rain will stop on the last day. The fields will be dry by the following morning. Tomorrow evening you need to show up for weed soup, then you can come back here to spend the night. The third evening you need to show up again for weed soup and then spend the night under your tree so you’ll be ready to work in the field the following morning.”
“We can’t live in here?” I asked.
“No. You’ll understand later. You can spend the rest of today and the next two days here, but after that you will come here only in the middle of the night. No one must suspect that anything is out of the ordinary with either of you.”
“When did you build this warehouse, Gramps? It’s incredible. Where did you get all the stuff you put in here?” I inquired.
“Later, Tammy. Later. We have lots of time to talk about that. I’ll explain it later. Now it’s time for you two to go back upstairs and get acquainted with McKaren.
Gramps disappeared. Arn and I did as Gramps had directed, moved back to the ramp, walked up it and back into the room I considered Gramps’ workshop.
“I think I’m on overload, Tammy. Nothing ever happens on this planet. More has happened to me in the last few hours than has happened in my entire lifetime. I don’t know how to explain any of this, do you?”
“No, Arn, I don’t, but I also don’t think the surprises are over. Gramps said to meet the Land Rover. Even though that’s a strange way to tell us to look over a vehicle, I think we should do what Gramps told us.”
We walked over to the Land Rover. It looked like a Land Rover, a specialty Land Rover, an armored Land Rover. The metal body was thicker than usual. The tires were oversized and looked thicker than usual. Oddly, it appeared to have no doors.
“How do we get in, Tammy? Arn asked.
“I don’t know,” I said as I reached out my hand and touched it.
McKaren greeted me, calling me by a name I had not heard in a very long time. I was meeting up with a very, very old friend.
“What did it say, Tammy?” asked Arn.
“McKaren greeted me.”
“It sounded like gibberish to me.”
“McKaren, speak to us in English” I commanded.
“Yes, Tammy. Welcome Arn. Please join me inside.”
Sections near the front of the vehicle on either side slid open. I stepped in on the driver’s side, and Arn on the passenger side. Inside were comfortable, individual seats, unlike any I had ever seen. Two semi-circular steering wheels extended from the panel in front of us.
There was no dashboard. No instruments. No gas pedal or brake. McKaren was no usual Land Rover.
“Fill us in McKaren. You don’t look like any Land Rover I’ve ever seen. How do you work?” I asked.
“We’ll have no problem whatsoever, Tammy. The device in front of you gives you something to hang on to and is a convenient way for us to communicate. You know what to do. May I suggest a short trip around what remains of the city before night closes in on us?”
How Do We Get Out of Here?
“What are you, McKaren?” Arn asked.
“Your friend, Arn. I only appear to be a Land Rover. I am here to be your friend.”
“How do we get out of here, McKaren?” I asked.
“You need only ask me to take you to see what remains of the city.”
“Take us to see the city. McKaren.”
The section of the ceiling of Gramps’ workshop directly above us slid open. A small quantity of dirt, but no rubble sifted down. We moved straight up through the opening.
“How did the ceiling open, McKaren?” Arn asked. Why didn’t piles of rubble fall on top of us?”
“If you notice, there is no rubble above where I was located, only what appears to be dirt. It is actually the disguised top of our escape hatch,” McKaren answered.
“Which way, Tammy?” McKaren asked.
“Take us to see the remains of the city, then to see the goons’ headquarters buildings, McKaren”.
We headed south.