Children In Winter
Karl "Hunter" Jones
Captain of the Frost Ravens
Karl Jones had never exactly seen eye to eye with his younger brother, David. In spite of that, they were incredibly close. While many families could never seem to put aside differing opinions long enough to come together, Karl and David never let it stop them. Their families, despite living hours apart, spent inordinate amounts of time with each other, and vacationed together every year.
And while David was a businessman, very suit and tie and nine to five, he never seemed to expect his brother to fit the same mold.
Back Before, Karl had been a physical geography professor at a local community college, and a Civil War re-enactor in his spare time. Something of both a survival and history buff, he had listened to the signs others were ignoring, in the 2040s. Times were changing, getting worse, and suddenly the fears from ninety years before seemed once again very relevant. And with those fears came a greater understanding of the risks, of what devastation the weapons created to end a world war so long ago could really cause. Many countries had voluntarily disarmed, their nukes forever destroyed. But others, less advanced, had refused to give up their edge. And they were the ones ever more desperate for food, ever more strident in their calls for aide. Aide that no one could provide, not with people starving and dying of exposure in even the most advanced nations.
So he had built his fallout shelter, stocked it, and prayed he’d never have to use it.
Then he had.
In one night, he’d lost his wife, his daughters, his brother, his sister-in-law, his nephew…only Griselda was left to him, still deeply ill with pneumonia and now out of a doctor’s reach.
He’d nursed his remaining niece back to health, concentrated on that to keep himself together in the aftermath. But he couldn’t deny the experience changed him, hardened him. Not that he was alone, all over the world the situation played out over and over again. Families were forever splintered and broken, the American dream finally shattered by the harsh light of nuclear dawn.
Into that light, he stepped, determined to keep what little had been scrounged together intact. He’d taught Griselda everything he knew, turning survival into the ultimate game, until the girl could take care of herself. And, as Griselda grew, changed her name to Mouse, she became more than a responsibility. She became an ally in Karl’s cause.
But still she was young. Reckless, in a way. She’d take risks no one else would, and Karl knew it wasn’t because she didn’t know the odds. Mouse seemed to take them just so no one else would have to, when she knew better than most what might end up happening.
Over and over Karl reminded himself he should stop the girl, should keep her from taking the risks. But Mouse had more than once saved them all, and while as her uncle Karl was appalled, as her captain he couldn’t have been more grateful or more proud.
The older Mouse grew, the more the two titles warred with each other. And even finding Will, sweet, gentle Will, had only seemed to make Mouse more determined to try and fight off the whole world on her own.
Karl hoped he’d never have to watch her fail.