Low Profile (Part 1)


Chapters 1 through 4

Low Profile – Chapter 1

Bobby Jones called to his next door neighbor. “Hey! John! Come take a look see.”

John Havingsworth controlled his frown. Bobby was always wanting to show him something. Usually to do with either his guns or his Jeep.

“Look at these tires! Had to raise the lift another two inches!” Bobby said with pride. “Won’t be no stopping me this time. You’ll go, won’t you? I need a cheering section.”

If he didn’t take a close look at the Jeep’s new tires, Bobby would pester him until he did. John feigned interest as he took a long, careful look at the huge, aggressive tread tires. “Big. Some lug pattern,” John finally said.

“Yeah! I won’t have no trouble on Crunch Hill with these! Come on. You going or not?”

John didn’t really want to, but dealing with Bobby in a foul mood was beginning to get a little scary. “Sure, Bobby. What time?”

“Six sharp, Saturday morning. Uh… You probably should bring a pair of leather gloves. I might need you to help me with the winch.”

With a nod, John said, “Okay, Bobby. Just like last time.”

“Nah! Be a bunch better now, with the better tires and higher lift. You shouldn’t have to get down in the mud, this time.”

Though he was careful not to say it out loud, John thought. “Yeah. Right.” He did say, “Okay, Bobby. I’ll be ready. Six AM Saturday morning.”

To John, it looked like Bobby was about to bring something else up, so John hurriedly said, “Gotta go. Boss wants me to come in early for a project.”

“Hey, man! When you going to grow a spine. Tell that jerk you work regular hours. You got lots of things you could be doing, besides spending all that time at work. Not like you get overtime the way I do. You should look into getting into my line of work. All the commercial carriers are looking for delivery people.”

“My job is not that bad,” John replied carefully. In actuality, John had a good job that he liked. He was on salary, and didn’t get overtime, but the company was generous with a bonus program. John regularly got bonuses. In fact, the bonuses were what funded his emergency preparations. The preps were simple, but extensive.

“Well,” Bobby said, “I guess it suits you. I’d find it booorrrriiiinnnggg.”

“I’ll see you Saturday morning.” John walked over to his driveway and started to get into his Subaru Outback wagon. It was no rock climber, but it did what John wanted it to do. Get him back and forth in all but the most extreme weather. John began to smile when he thought of the vehicle he had parked in a self-storage facility in the small town near Adam’s farm.

If he hadn’t known Adam Markum since grade school, and shared a few interests with him, John would never have been able to afford the rent on the twelve by thirty storage room housing the highly customized 1993 Chevy one-ton pickup truck, and a portion of John’s preps. Bobby would flip if he knew about it. The truck, like the Subaru, was no rock climber, but it did boast some pretty good get-around features. One of these days John might just have to show it to Bobby, for meanness.

Saturday rolled around and John went over to Bobby’s house to go with him to the Mud and Rock challenge meet. He wound up waiting a full fifteen minutes before Bobby came out the front door of his house. There was no apology, or recognition of the fact that it was Bobby’s fault they were running late. Just Bobby’s, “Hurry up! Don’t want to be late.”

At least the Jeep was already loaded on the transport trailer. John guided Bobby as Bobby backed his Dodge Ram pickup toward the trailer. It took several tries, as Bobby over-steered the truck on one attempt after another. But finally the trailer was attached. John threw his leather teardrop shoulder back into the back of the Ram and climbed into the passenger seat.

“Wait till you see what I do to this baby, after I’m finished with Sally Sue back there,” Bobby boasted, patting the dash of the Ram.

Bobby had told John recently how much he was paying for the Dodge. It was taking half of what Bobby made every month to make the payments. John had to admit that Bobby had a pretty low mortgage payment, but with what Bobby was spending on the Jeep, John didn’t see how Bobby was keeping his head above the water, financially.

John put it out of his mind and enjoyed the weather on the trip to the site of the competition. At least enjoyed it as much as he could, considering Bobby’s very aggressive driving style. They were honked at several times. John lost track of how many times they got the bird. Of course, Bobby shot the bird right back, and was none too easy on the horn when someone was ahead of him in the passing lane and wouldn’t speed up or slow down to let Bobby go around.

But they made it in one piece. Bobby went to register, leaving John behind to un-strap the Sally Sue and lower the ramps on the trailer. John waited for Bobby to come back to unload the Jeep. Bobby wouldn’t let anyone else drive it.

It went about the way John expected it to do. Bobby got further in each event than he had in the past, but he still came in well out of the money. And John was wet, muddy, and bloody. He’d had to handle the winch line in the mud crawl, and on the rock climb. John new that if he wasn’t getting some valuable experience, he’d never go with Bobby. It sure wouldn’t be worth it, otherwise. Bobby had even forgotten to bring a lunch and had to share John’s.

The following weekend went about the same. Only it was gun shooting time rather than off-roading time. Bobby was late on his insurance payment for the Ram, so they took John’s Subaru to the range. Johnny helped Bobby carry his bags of goodies to the firing line, and then went back to the Subaru for his own shooting bag and gun case. They had the small range to themselves.

Each of Bobby’s long arms was in an individual ballistic nylon carrying case. He already had his Romanian SKS out and was loading it when John made it back. “Don’t forget your shooting glasses and ear protection,” John called over to Bobby.

“Oh. Yeah.” Bobby fished in his pistol bag, brought out the safety items, and put them on.

John barely had his own Peltor Pro-Tac II ear protection on when Bobby cut loose with the SKS. He fired the entire ten rounds as fast as he could. Bobby fired a hundred rounds of the 7.62mm x 39mm and set the SKS aside. He’d been firing at the one-hundred yard gong. It sounded more often than not, but the hits were erratic.

John was just getting ready to fire his old lever action Savage 99A .308 Winchester. He loaded six rounds in the magazine and closed the action, chambering the first round. He sighted through the Bushnell 2.5-10x40 scope, set at 2.5 magnification, aiming at the one hundred yard gong. When he was settled, he fired all six rounds, slowly, resighting for a second between each round. The gong sounded six times.

He dialed up the magnification and fired at the six hundred yard gong. Of the six shots he fired, four sounded the gong. The scope was mounted with an old Pachymar Lo-Swing scope mount John had found on e-bay. He flipped the release and let the scope lay along side the receiver. He fired another six rounds at one hundred yards using the ghost ring rear receiver sight, again hitting the gong each time.

When he tried the six-hundred yard gong with iron sights he made only two hits out of the six shots he fired. John swung the scope back into place and put the Savage back in its place in the two gun hard case he carried his long arms in.

“That’s it?” Bobby asked, now holding a Bushmaster Carbon AR clone in M-4 configuration. He slid a thirty-round magazine into place and turned back to the firing line.

“Yeah,” John said. “Just want to keep my eye in.”

Bobby shook his head and began to dump the thirty rounds of 5.56mm x 45mm NATO ammunition down range. John heard the occasional clang, but couldn’t tell which gong Bobby was actually aiming at.

John had his Stoeger 12-gauge coach gun out, ready to load, when Bobby had emptied four more thirty-round magazines. Again, there were plenty of gong hits, but they were very erratic. Bobby put the Bushmaster aside and took out his Remington 870 pump 12-gauge.

“You on safe, there Bobby?” John asked after Bobby had loaded the 870 and set it down.

“Uh…” pushed the cross bolt safety button on, and then worked the action to unload each of the shells he’d just loaded into it, and said, “Yeah.” Bobby had at least learned to follow John’s safety rules. John had said he wouldn’t shoot with him any more if he didn’t.

They went to put up paper targets on the fifty yard target supports.

When they were back behind the firing line, Bobby picked up the 870. He had added a collapsible stock with pistol grip and an extended magazine. John waited with the Stoeger broken open, two shells in the chamber, with two more held between the fingers of his left hand while Bobby reloaded the 870.

John let Bobby fire all seven rounds down range before he closed the action of the coach gun, fired first one barrel and then the other. With a quick motion he opened the action, the two empty shells flying over his right shoulder. He slipped the other two shells into the chambers, closed the action and fired twice more.

They walked down to the fifty yard line, pinning up pistol targets at seven, twenty-five, and fifty yards.

Before changing the fifty yard targets, John had to admit Bobby’s target was peppered with about the same number of pellet holes as John’s, when Bobby gleefully pointed it out. John didn’t point out that Bobby had fired seven buckshot rounds to John’s two. There were also two large holes in the paper of John’s target. The two slugs John had fired were about three inches apart, one inside the six ring, and the second inside the five ring.

Next they both opened up pistol bags. John took out his father’s old Colt 1911A1 that had been combat modified and fine tuned back in the eighties. His father had never shot it much after he’d bought it.

Bobby took out three handguns from his pistol bag and put them on the shooting bench. He took a long, 33-round 9mm magazine and slid it into the butt of the Glock Model 17. As usual, Bobby emptied the magazine as quickly as he could. He slipped in another and did the same thing.

John, on the other hand, inserted a ten-round magazine into the 1911A1 and proceeded to fire rapid aimed fire at his target. He did a magazine change and continued to fire. Bobby was loading a Smith & Wesson 629 .44 Magnum with an 8 3/8” barrel.

Bobby fired the first six rounds, much more slowly than he had with the Glock. He loaded six more rounds and fired them, and then put the gun aside. John had noticed in their few times at the range together that Bobby always shot the .44 Magnum, but only a couple of cylinders worth.

Next, Bobby picked up the third gun he’d set out. It was a little Raven .25 ACP semi-automatic. “Don’t know why I shoot this,” Bobby said. “It’s just my throw down gun. You know. Just in case.” He grinned and then fired the Raven.

It went off, but didn’t cycle completely. Bobby racked the slide and fired again. That time it worked and Bobby pulled the trigger four more times, the Raven firing each time. Bobby picked up the live round that he’d ejected, opened and held the slide back to put the round into the chamber. He released the slide and fired the pistol. “Good enough,” he said, dropping the empty weapon back in the pistol case.

The two walked out to check the pistol targets. Bobby admired the many holes he had put into the seven yard target while John checked his target. John was a little disappointed that only two of the four rounds he’d fired at the seven-yard target were in the X-ring. The other two were in the nine-ring. Still, it wasn’t his best shooting.

The rounds in the twenty-five yard target could be covered by the palm of his hand, with one flyer near the edge of the target paper. Bobby didn’t say much about his twenty-five, or the fifty-yard targets. John was pleased with his fifty yard results. All eight rounds were in the chest area of the target. Not extremely tight, but acceptable for John’s wants.

They gathered up the paper targets and went back to the shooting bench. After they’d re-cased the weapons, the two went back to the Subaru to stow them.

“I gotta get a carry permit!” Bobby said suddenly as John drove them back home. “I don’t know why they won’t give me one. That little scuffle was nothing. Think I’ll get a lawyer and see what he can do.” Bobby lapsed into a brooding silence.

It didn’t bother John. Bobby’s silence, brooding or otherwise, was a welcome relief. If Bobby hadn’t talked about moving recently, John thought he just might have been making plans to move himself. And he hoped Bobby didn’t get that carry permit. It was a scary thought.

John managed to avoid Bobby for the next two weeks. But all good things come to an end, decided John, when Bobby showed up on John’s doorstep one Monday evening. “Hey man! You got to help me out! I’m almost out of gas and I got to get to work. Christmas is the busy season and I can rack up a lot of overtime. If I can get there. Boss said he’d fire me the next time I missed, if I wasn’t dying. You got to loan me a few bucks for gas. I get paid Friday. I’ll pay you back then.”

Avoiding sighing openly, John pulled out his wallet and gave Bobby a twenty.

“Uh… John Boy… I’m kinda short on food at the moment, too. How about another twenty for some eats?”

Reluctantly, John handed Bobby another twenty-dollar bill.

“Thanks man! I’ll pay you back when I can.” With that he was off the stoop and running toward the idleing Ram.

“But you said…” John’s slight protestation faded away. “I’ll never see that forty again,” he mumbled to himself.

They pulled into their driveways at the same time that evening. John almost said something when he saw Bobby take out a small bag of groceries from the truck. And a twenty-four pack of beer. Instead he shook his head and drove into the two car garage.

“I can’t believe I’m going to move, just because of him,” John muttered, opening the yellow pages to find a real estate agent as soon as he entered the house. Suddenly he slammed closed the yellow pages book. “No, doggone it! I am not going to move because of him.”

In a sour mood, John went downstairs to the basement. One section was finished; another, smaller section, contained the utilities. The third section, the largest of the three, John used for storage. Of course, it was also a PF 1000 fallout shelter. The ceiling was pretty low, to accommodate the shielding above it, but John could stand upright. He took out a #10 can of Mountain House freeze-dried seafood chowder. He marked it off the inventory. He scanned the inventory sheets. Time to reorder a few things. He’d do that this weekend.

Working with his preps always cheered John up. He made a serving of the seafood chowder, and a small dish of fresh coleslaw, for his supper.

John woke up the next morning to three inches of snow on the ground. He had a hot breakfast of oatmeal, and then went out to clear the driveway. He saw Bobby get into the Ram. Bobby had cleared a small section of windshield, but that was all. John was opening the garage door when Bobby backed out onto the snow covered street.

Bobby finally saw John just as John was about to enter the garage. “Hey! John! You want a lift? That little car of yours will never make it in this!”

“That’s okay,” John said with a wave. “I’ll chance it. It does pretty good in snow.”

“Your life, partner. Don’t say I didn’t offer.” Bobby goosed the Ram and the rear of the truck slid over two feet.

John heard Bobby curse. Bobby must have put the truck in four-wheel-drive mode, for when he goosed it again, the truck stayed straight and Bobby roared off.

John took his time and cleared the driveway with his snow shovel, and then his section of sidewalk. He started to put the shovel away, but sighed and walked over to Bobby’s driveway and cleaned it, and then his sidewalk.

After putting the snow shovel away, John got in the Subaru and headed for work. He took it slow and easy and made it fine.

John couldn’t believe it when Bobby came over two days later. “Hey, man! Need to talk to you! I need to pick up some food. That blizzard is supposed to hit tonight.”

“Don’t you have something put away? A three day supply, at least? Geez!”

“Aw! You know me! I just get what I need when I need it.”

John, getting more fed up by the day, let his annoyance show, even as he was taking out his wallet again. “What would you do if it was the end of the world? Nothing in the shops?” He regretted it as soon as he said it.

“You think about stuff like that?” Bobby asked, taking the twenty John handed to him.

John suddenly saw a glint in Bobby’s eyes that he didn’t like.

“Hey man!” Bobby said, “If it’s the end of the world… I got guns and ammunition. I’ll get what I need. Don’t worry.”

“Okay, Bobby,” John said, feeling sick. He tried to lighten up the conversation and get it away from being prepared. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“Probably have to. It’s only a twenty.” Bobby looked at John expectantly.

John handed over another twenty silently.

“Thanks man! I knew you’d come through. And don’t worry. It’s going to be a few days, but I’ll get this back to you.” Bobby went off at a trot to his truck.

John silently cursed himself for letting Bobby get to him like that. He’d always made it a point to keep his preparations a secret. He used the ‘gray man’ approach, keeping a very low profile. Bobby might not think anything about it right now, but if anything ever happened…


Low Profile – Chapter 2

John carried a box of #10 cans of freeze-dried food into the house, and then went back to the Subaru for the three sacks of regular groceries he’d bought on the way from picking up the LTS (Long Term Storage) food from the storage room. He was always careful to only bring one preparedness item to house at a time. The box brought him back up to where he wanted to be in terms of LTS food at the house.

Although he never really thought of himself of having enough preparations, he did have things set up at the house according to his long range plans. He pretty much had the hardware he wanted, over all, except for a real retreat.

He had space reserved in the shelter at Adam’s farm, with his own supplies stored. It was a reciprocal deal. Adam had some supplies stored in John’s shelter in the basement, and he and his family were welcome in a disaster. Both had additional supplies and equipment in the storage room Adam rented to John at a discount.

Adam had relatives in Kansas to which they could go, if the situation was such that staying local was not an option. Adam had told John he would be welcome to come along, but John wasn’t so sure. From what Adam had said about his brother, a stranger showing up on his doorstep might not be welcome, despite Adam.

As an alternative, John did have a small piece of land in Missouri. There was a small cave on it that John considered a last ditch refuge. Besides some hardware, John kept several years of basic food stored in the cave. There was a year round spring a quarter mile away from the entrance to the cave, where John could get water to replace what he had stored as it was used.

John hoped never to have to use any of the preparations, except to rotate them. But Mother Nature being the way she is, and Father Time the relentless soul he is, and human beings being what they are, it was pretty much inevitable that he would have to use them.

The first real test of his preparations was due to Tulsa being a major transportation hub, with several railroads, major highways, and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Transportation hubs invariably had hazardous materials going through them. Tulsa was no exception.

Among the hazardous material were chlorine, propane, diesel, and gasoline. Sometimes all on one train. Combine that situation with domestic terrorists and you have the makings of a disaster.

John heard the crash, and the first explosion a few minutes after he got home. He was only a few blocks from the point on the tracks the terrorists had sabotaged. Not knowing specifically what the trouble might be, but knowing what passed over the tracks five blocks away, John decided his best course of action would be evacuation.

But first some protection. He opened the hall closet and pulled out the respirator bag hanging next to a white Tychem SL hazmat hooded and footed protective coverall. After pulling the Millennium CBRN respirator out of the bag, he put it on and snugged it into place. He reached up and got a CBRN canister and screwed it into place on the mask. He took a deep breath. He could breathe.

John both felt and heard the next explosion. It prompted him to hurry with the protective coverall. He put it on over his suit and snugged the hood down around the rim of the respirator and tied it in place. Still working with haste, but holding the panic down, John slipped on a pair of BATA overboots. He did a good turn and a half of duct tape around the top of each boot, sealing it to the coverall. Next he put on Nitrile gloves and taped them.

He was hearing sirens now, getting closer and closer. And another explosion, this one louder than the two before. After grabbing his personal BOB from the floor of the closet, John ran into the garage and hit the garage door opener on the run. He was in the Subaru and had it started in moments. As he backed out of the garage, he saw people running down the street. He also saw Bobby standing in his yard, beside the Ram.

Bobby waved at John and ran over to the Subaru. John was rolling down the passenger window and called to Bobby, the ESP II voicemitter of the respirator amplifying his voice slightly. “Hey man! You got to get out of here!”

“What’s going on? Why are you wearing that? Where is it?”

John didn’t want to take any more time. And when a wisp of faint green mist drifted toward Bobby, Bobby quickly opened the door of the Subaru and dived in, closing the window and door at the same time. “Go! Go! Go! Go!”

Being careful not to hit any of the running people, John got the Subaru onto the street. They could see the green mist thickening. The wind was directly toward them, from behind. As soon as he could take a street perpendicular to the wind direction, he took it.

“Are you crazy, man!” Bobby screamed, as others continued to run from the mist. “Hey! You got another mask?” He coughed a little when John drove through a tendril of the mist and some of it came in the car.

“Come on, man! Give me a mask!” Bobby was reaching for John’s respirator when John had to slam on the brakes to avoid a car pulling out onto the street. Bobby’s right side hit the dash, and he slumped back in the seat, the impact having knocked the air out of his lungs. He struggled to breathe, and John was sure Bobby was trying to get up enough wind to try and take John’s respirator.

About the time Bobby, a crazed look in his eyes, began to struggle up and try for the respirator again, they came to a police line and John slowed. The police officer motioned for John to roll down his window. Bobby was protesting, but John did it anyway.

The officer took a moment to look at John. “You a First Responder?”

John shook his head. “Private citizen. And this is my… friend. How far should we go?”

“You should be okay in this direction now, but I’d say to keep going for a while. People on foot are going to be congregating no further than they have to go.”

John nodded and pulled past the police cruiser. Bobby had heard everything and seemed to be loosing his panic. When John found a spot where he could pull over, he did so and unfastened the hood of the protective coverall, and then removed the respirator. John could tell Bobby wanted to reach for it when John tossed it onto the rear seat of the Subaru.

“It’s a relief to get out of that thing,” John quickly said. “Guess I didn’t need it, but I don’t like to take chances.” He looked over at Bobby then. “How you feeling? You got a whiff of whatever it was. Chlorine gas, I think.”

“Poison gas?” Bobby began to cough.

“I’d better take you to the hospital,” John said.

That seemed to satisfy Bobby. He quit coughing.

A nurse took a quick look at Bobby when John and Bobby walked into the lobby. “Over there. We’ll look at you in a bit.” She looked at John then. “Hadn’t you better go after someone else?”

“I’m not Emergency Services. Just a citizen.”

“Oh.” She frowned and added, “Well, stay out of the way.”

After fifteen minutes or so, Bobby began to get annoyed that the doctors and nurses were working on other people as they came in. They were obviously in much worse condition than Bobby, but that didn’t seem to matter to him.

“I’m going to sue the city!” Bobby said, coming to sit down beside John after he’d gone to try to get one of the nurses to look at him. John noticed Bobby was only coughing when he was trying to get the attention of one of the medical personnel. John felt shame, for Bobby, and for himself, for aiding and abetting the situation.

They were watching the coverage of the disaster on one of the Tulsa stations. From the reports they learned that a mixed freight train composed mostly of tank cars had derailed on a slight up grade. A gasoline tanker had exploded, possibly with help from a bomb of some kind. The burning liquid fuel was running down the grade and it caught several more cars on fire, or caused them to overheat. At least one of the propane tankers had BLEVE’d and that had ruptured two chlorine tanks. (BLEVE – boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion)

John decided, when one of the interns looked at Bobby and told him to get plenty of fresh air, and if symptoms got worse, to come back in, that the intern just wanted Bobby out of the area. John could understand why.

Apparently upset because the intern couldn’t find anything wrong with him, Bobby was still muttering about suing the city and the hospital as they walked out to the Subaru. “Where you want me to drop you, Bobby. We aren’t going to get home for a few days.”

“Geez! I don’t know!” Bobby fell silent, and John was hoping he was thinking of some place he could stay. After a long silence, Bobby finally asked, “What are you going to do?”

It was a question John didn’t want to hear, much less answer. But it was there, voiced, and he had to respond. “Get a motel room, I guess. I’ve got enough stuff to tide me over until I can get back home.”

“Hotel? Man, I don’t have enough for a hotel! I got… like twenty bucks!”

“What about a credit card? Don’t you have one you can put a room and some food on?”

“All of them are maxed! I don’t get paid till Friday and this is only Tuesday!”

“They’ll probably be a shelter set up. Let’s…”

Angrily, Bobby cut John off. “I ain’t staying in no stinking shelter! I’m a man, not some little wimp that’s got to go crawling to some shelter run by more wimps!”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” John said cautiously.

“Well, what about I stay with you? We’re buddies, aren’t we?”

John was disappointed in himself when he gave in. “Yeah. Sure. Okay. Come on, let’s go.” All the way to the motel John berated himself. He should have just said he was going to the shelter, and then left at his leisure.

He wasn’t about to share a room with Bobby, so he booked two rooms. He got a few strange looks, undoubtedly due to the protective gear he was wearing. He stripped it off when he got to the room. Flipping on the television, he watched the coverage of the train wreck.

John decided he was lucky he got the hotel rooms when he did. The evacuation of the area was on going, with a larger area now being evacuated. There were several more tank cars not yet involved, but could be if the fire was not contained.

It wasn’t long before Bobby knocked on John’s door. “You ready to get something to eat?” Bobby asked when John opened the door.

“I’m not really hungry. You go ahead. I’ll get something later.”

Bobby frowned. “Aw! Come on man! You know I don’t have the money to eat on! You were going to stake me until I got paid.”

“Sure,” John said, carefully keeping his voice neutral. He definitely needed to do something about his ‘friendship’ with Bobby.

“You know,” Bobby said as they entered a nearby restaurant, “I’m going to have to get me one of those suits and masks.” He looked over at John and asked, “You have an extra you can loan me until I get one of my own?”

“Sorry, Bobby,” John said evenly as they were taken to a table. “I don’t have one I can loan you. I got mine at Approved Gas Masks dot com.”

“Oh. Okay. It’s just going to be awhile.”

John was quiet during the meal. Fortunately Bobby got off the topic of getting anything else from John, and went to expounding on what he was going to do to Sally Sue next. John followed along with half an ear, nodding or commenting when necessary. Finally the meal was ended and John paid with one of his credit cards.

“Let’s go see what is going on,” Bobby said as they left the restaurant.

“We’d just be in the way. I just want to go back to the motel and rest up. I’ll watch the coverage on TV and go to bed early. I have to be in to work early again tomorrow.”

“Okay, lazybones. Let me have the keys to your windup toy, and I’ll go get you a personal report.”

“Bobby, I can’t do that. You’ll have to get a taxi or something.”

“Why not? You know I’m a good driver.”

“I just can’t Bobby. If you go down there they could very easily run you in for interference and impound my car.”

“Some friend you are!” Bobby went to his room in a huff.

John didn’t care. He was getting really tired of Bobby taking advantage of him. Of course, John let it happen, and knew it. “My own cotton picking fault,” he muttered as he turned on the TV again to watch the news.

He didn’t watch long. The authorities had things under control. John went out to the Subaru and brought in his BOB, and the Subaru BOB. He’d planned to eat out of them, since he had three days of food in the personal BOB, and a week in the Subaru BOB, but Bobby had changed that.

After undressing, John took a shower. He got the toiletries ditty out of the Subaru BOB and brushed his teeth. He crawled into the bed naked. He called the front desk and asked for a 5:00 AM wake up call.

John groaned and rolled out of bed the next morning when the automated wakeup call came. Using the items in the toiletries ditty, he shaved and combed his hair. He had a change of clothes in the Subaru BOB, but they weren’t really suitable for work. The underwear was, and he put on a fresh pair of boxers.

He shook out and brushed the suit he’d worn the day before and put it on as he watched the morning news. The story had made the national news. The worst disaster Tulsa had ever experienced. And it was confirmed that the derailment and first explosion had been an act of domestic terrorism. A group calling itself ‘Americans For Safer Society’ had claimed responsibility.

He felt a bit bad about leaving Bobby stranded at the motel, but didn’t think about it for long. He decided to keep the food in the BOB’s in reserve and stopped for a fast food breakfast before he went in to work.

The derailment was all the talk at work. John wasn’t the only one at work affected. Two more employees called in saying they wouldn’t be in due to it. He’d come in early just to avoid Bobby, but it was well he did. With the other two employees out, he had almost a triple load of work to do. Besides coming early, he wound up working late. He stopped and ate on the way to the motel, not really caring at the moment how it would affect Bobby’s plans.

Bobby was upset when John pulled into the parking lot of the motel. “Man! Where you been? You left me stranded this morning!”

“We had two people out today. I had to go in early and stay late. I’m beat. I’m going to my room and get ready for bed.”

“What about me? I’m starving! All I had today was that crummy Continental Breakfast the motel does.”

“Didn’t you get some lunch while you were working?”

“Working? How was I supposed to get to work? You ran off and I didn’t have any way to get there.”

“A cab would only have been a couple of dollars,” John replied. He was tired and getting angry. “You said you had, what, twenty bucks?”

“Well, I had a few beers last night after you went to bed. No harm in that. I sure wasn’t driving anywhere. Had to walk down the street. It’s a lousy bar.”

John sighed and took out his wallet. “Here’s a twenty.” He waved vaguely at the street. “There’s fast food places close. If you walked to the bar, you can walk to one of them. I’ll take you in to work in the morning. Hopefully they’ll let us go back to our houses tomorrow evening.”

He turned away, and went into his room, not waiting for Bobby’s outraged response. John closed and locked the door in Bobby’s face. He heard Bobby cursing, but couldn’t make out the actual words.

John waited until Bobby had left and went out to bring in the BOB’s again. From that point the evening was the same as the last. John turned in early.

He got up early again, shaved and combed his hair, and got dressed in the clothing from the BOB. It was a Friday and they had Casual Friday at work. John almost always wore a suit anyway, but decided this was as good a Friday as any to go in casual. He put the BOB’s back in the Subaru and waited for Bobby.

John was fidgeting by the time Bobby put in an appearance. John called him over and when Bobby saw him, he laughed and asked, “Who are you supposed to be? Great White Hunter?” John was wearing a pair of khaki work pants and a khaki work shirt.

“Funny,” John said as Bobby entered the Subaru. John headed for an IHOP for their breakfast. Bobby took his own sweet time over breakfast, and John called his office on his cellular telephone to let them know he was running late.

Bobby finally finished and they went back out to the Subaru. Both were silent, and John was thankful that Bobby was engrossed in the sports section of the paper that he’d asked John to get at IHOP.

Without a word of thanks, Bobby got out of the Subaru at the carrier’s offices. He leaned down and said through the open door, “Be here at 5:00.” Bobby closed the door without waiting for John to answer. Fuming, John headed for work.

He was waiting, as Bobby had asked, at 5:00 PM that evening. It was a little after 5:30 PM when Bobby walked over to the Subaru. “I thought you said 5:00,” John said when Bobby settled himself in the passenger seat.

“I did. Don’t get off until 5:30, but I didn’t want to have to wait.”

John was amazed, but Bobby didn’t seem to give what he’d done a second thought. On top of that, Bobby wanted to eat at Red Lobster. And wanted a lobster for dinner. “Just got a craving, you know,” he told John after he’d put in the order.

John had just sat there, his mouth hanging open. He didn’t say much during the meal. Bobby was flirting with the waitress, anyway.

“Where do you bank, Bobby?” John asked when they were once again in the Subaru. “I’ll take you by so you can deposit your check.”

“Wells Fargo. But I deposited it while I was on my run.”

When they got back to the motel, John headed for the motel office.

“Bobby,” he said, “Don’t forget to pay for the room in the morning. I’m checking out then, too. If I can’t get back into the house tomorrow, I’m going to stay with some friends.”

“They shouldn’t mind another one, should they?” Bobby quickly said.

“They don’t have room. I’ll be a real imposition. I couldn’t ask them to put up two.”

“Oh. Too bad,” Bobby replied. “This has worked out okay, me and you, working together. Even if you did stiff me yesterday.”

Fortunately the residents that had been evacuated were able to return to their homes beginning at noon the next day. There was still clean up to do, but the hazardous materials had all been pumped into tank trucks and removed.

John had gone into the office, just for something to do and heard the news on the TV in the break room. He finished off what he was doing and headed for home. Bobby was already at his, working on Sally Sue as if nothing had happened.

After going inside and opening all the windows and doors to let the house air out, John went over to Bobby’s. “Hey, Bobby,” he said. Bobby had his head under the hood of the Jeep.

“Hey, John. What’s up? Good to be home, huh?”

“I’ll say. About that money you owe me…”

Before John could continue, Bobby’s head appeared from under the hood of the Jeep. “Yeah. That. Hey, man. It’s going to be a bit before I can give that back to you. I missed a day’s work and things are going to be tight for a while.”

“I see,” John said. And he did see. The parts boxes of a snorkel engine air intake kit. Brand new. Afraid to say anything else, John said, “See you later,” and walked calmly back to his house.

He considered it a defeat, but John checked the phone book and called the real estate agent he’d found previously. He was putting the house on the market. He’d start looking the next day for another place.

There were several open houses going on in the city. The market was down and there were some bargains to be had. But that also meant that John’s current place probably wouldn’t bring what it would have two years before. John looked at several places around Tulsa. He found one new subdivision going in that he liked. It was a new walled and gated community going in on the edge of the city.

It only had the two display homes built at the moment. He didn’t particularly like either of them. But there was a large corner lot at the rear of the complex that had caught his eye. The market being down was to John’s advantage when he started negotiating for the lot. He made it clear that the purchase of the lot was dependant on being allowed to put in a two story quadraplex, with a basement. He would live in the basement and rent out the four above ground units.

The owners didn’t like it, but after three hours of consultation with all the partners, behind closed doors, the representative came back out to the waiting room of the offices and told John the other partners had agreed. A stipulation was that the owners had the right to approve or bar any potential renters. The second stipulation was that the design had to blend with the tone of the complex. John would have to have the plans approved by the complex owners.

John wasn’t fussy about the exterior design. As long as they let him build the basement the way he wanted.

John took that next Monday off, to meet with his real estate agent. He came out to John’s house to take pictures and put up the agency’s ‘For Sale’ sign. “With the railroad situation the other day fresh in peoples’ minds, this could be a hard sale,” Hubert Garcia told John.

“I’m not much of a negotiator,” John told Hubert. “Price it high, and let potential buyers know there is a full fledged fall… er… tornado shelter in the basement.”

“Well,” Hubert replied, “That will certainly make a difference to some buyers. I’m not so sure starting really high and then lowering price will work. It might back fire on you. Sometimes when a seller shows a willingness to drop the price, a buyer will take advantage of it and get the price even lower than what a good price would have been.”

“I’ll chance it.” John shook Hubert’s hand and said, “I’ll be in tomorrow after work to sign the papers.”

As soon as Hubert left, John went into the house and began working on the plans. Using the Quadraplex in the old HUD publication HUD-180-S as a starting point, John drew up a set of basic plans. Feeling a bit guilty about having the whole basement area as his residence and shelter, he kept the design features in the drawings in HUD-180-S that made the kitchen and utility room in each dwelling unit an emergency shelter with access to a bathroom.

With the basic dimensions for the foot print of the quadraplex, John drew out the floor plan of the basement. He was smiling when he went out to the Subaru with the drawings. The owners of the development had been adamant about using one of their approved builders. John had looked over some of their example books while waiting for the decision. The designs of one specific builder had caught his eye. That’s where he was taking the drawings to be reviewed and a set of working drawings made.

John was back at work on Tuesday, felling better than he had in a long time. Even when he got home and Bobby walked over, John couldn’t stop smiling.

“You’re selling? Why?”

John had his story ready. “Thinking about retirement. I’m building a quadraplex for rental. I’ll live in one unit and rent out the rest. It’s part of my retirement plan. With just four units, I don’t fall under the same rules a large apartment complex does. Though it takes a big lot, it’s not nearly as much property as four individual lots. The design takes full advantage of the lot, leaving large amounts of shared open property for all the residents. The over all cost of the quad is significantly less than the same square footage in four separate houses. I think it is one of the best investments there is, as long as it is being built with rental in mind. Durability and ease of maintenance. And that’s how I’m having them built.”

“Oh.” Bobby looked a bit shell shocked at John’s enthusiastic explanation. “Well… Good for you, I guess…”

“I need to get inside,” John said. “I’m expecting a call.”

“Sure… I’ll see you later.” Bobby walked off, looking dejected.

John almost felt sorry for him, but suddenly remembered how much money Bobby owed him, and the circumstances under which it was owed.

It was a month before John got the first interested buyer for his house. It was a very low-ball offer, and John turned it down. It was about the same time the architect called and said the plans were ready. John picked them up after work and studied them that night. He had to admit, the elevation drawings matched the style of architecture of the display homes very, very well.

There were several notations on the basement drawings. John smiled. The architect hadn’t questioned the why of the room layout of the basement, but commented it wasn’t very effective use of the space.

That was fine with John. He planned on making a few on-site changes when it came to pouring the basement footings, floor, and walls.

John submitted the plans to the developers the following day, and got the approval for building a week later. Another week and the contractor broke ground. John spent every spare minute at the building site. Staying out of the way, mostly, but letting his presence be known, so, when the time came, he could effect the changes he wanted.

It wasn’t as difficult as he thought it might be. There were already many uncommon elements in the original building plans. The few changes that John instituted on site weren’t questioned. He did have another, separate, contractor do a few things on the lot on two different weekends, in addition to the work the primary contractor was doing.

When the twelve inch ceiling slab was poured, it was covered over with five feet of earth, which brought the monolithic pour for the floor of the quad two feet above grade. John didn’t hang around as much during the construction of the quad itself. There were only a couple of details pertaining to the basement that were involved in the construction of the quad, and once added to the drawings, John was sure that they would be incorporated without any problems.

Knowing it wouldn’t be too much longer that he would need to put up with Bobby on a regular basis, John didn’t mind so much going with him to his Jeep events. Bobby even seemed a bit more mellow. For Bobby, at least.

John continued to check on the progress of the construction of the quad. He also began to equip the basement, but only during weekends, when no one was around, and he could get a load from the old house to the basement under the quad.

He bought a few items specifically for the basement, however, and paid extra for weekend delivery to minimize witnesses. By the time the quad was finished and ready for occupancy, John had already moved in, lock, stock, barrel, and preps. Bobby didn’t even give him a house warming present.

John began to breathe easy. He was even better prepared for disasters, human made or natural, than he had been before the move. And all four units of the quad were rented within a month. Unfortunately, his old house hadn’t sold. He decided to rent it out, too, until it did sell.

The rents from the quad were paying for the entire structure, including the basement. The rent from the house was gravy. It went directly into preps.

Though he was pleased with the new preps, he was beginning to worry about the fact that he might very well need them. Things were really beginning to heat up politically in several spots around the globe, all at the same time. And the effects of global warming were becoming more obvious with the wild weather extremes being experienced around the world.

Kim Jong-il was threatening nuclear war with South Korea and the US.

Hugo Chávez, was rumored to have obtained nuclear weapons from North Korea or Iran, or both. He offered aid and assistance to Mexico to take the Aztlan territory from the US.

Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei announced that Iran was a nuclear power and gave the UN three years to disenfranchise Israel, or else.

Rumors were rife that there was soon to be a political change in Saudi Arabia. A change not favorable to the US and her allies.

Brazil also joined the nuclear club, announcing a small nuclear arsenal, to be used in the case of threats of invasion.

The general population of Russia was showing great unrest with the current leadership of Russia. Crackdowns on dissent activities were beginning to take place by the government. The several crime syndicates that had developed after capitalism had come to Russia were campaigning to keep democracy. There were reports that pitched battles between the gangsters and Communist sympathizers were taking place in several major cities.

The former Soviet republics had suddenly fallen silent.

China was conducting military training exercises along most of its borders and had announced she would be test firing several missiles over the course of the exercises.

Africa was in turmoil. More and more internecine, small scale wars were taking place.

Precious metals prices were climbing daily, as were all types of fuel prices.

One of the hottest summers on record in Europe hadn’t helped things. People in the corn belt in the US had been losing crops due to drought conditions. Now they were suffering an overabundance of rain. There was flooding all across the Mid-West. As November rolled around, a series of storms developing in the North-West Pacific, all headed for South-West Canada and the Western US.

The Pacific Rim was experiencing unprecedented volcanic and earthquake activity.

The inflation rate suddenly began rising, as the Fed poured money into the system to try to reduce and control the foreign debt problem, particularly that with China.

The UN was pressing the United States to take the lead in disarmament, not only of strategic and tactical weapons, but also civilian ownership of small arms, claiming that if the world’s strongest power did so, other countries would follow suit.

The current administration in the United States was showing strong support of the UN call for disarmament. No less than six bills were on the floors of the Senate and the House to restrict civilian ownership of firearms, from a revived Assault Weapons Ban to a complete ban of all weapons, except for military and police.

Prices for all weapons, hi-cap magazines, and ammunition jumped sky-high. John was comfortable with his collection of weapons and accessories, and supply of ammunition. He’d been on a buying program for a long time for arms, ammunition, and accessories, just like he had the buying program for gold.

John stopped those programs and began accumulating cash. He used three banks, all independent of one another, to handle his banking needs. At each bank he had a checking account and a savings account.

He kept his balances in each under the FDIC insurance maximum. If any one of the banks had trouble, he still had funds in the others. But there had once been a Federally mandated ‘Bank Holiday’. There could be again. John began to draw down the balances of each account slowly. Just as he had with the banks, he stashed the cash in several different locations, for safety.

Adam Markum had large fuel tanks on the farm and John paid to have them filled so they would have a sure supply if fuel became hard to get. Adam would keep them topped off, as long as fuel remained available.

John also went in with Adam to purchase both biodiesel production equipment and supplies, and a set of alcohol production stills. The alcohol would stretch their gasoline supply by mixing it with the gasoline to produce E85 fuel.

John didn’t know what else he could do to increase his level of preparedness. What he did do was put a television in his office, tuned to Fox News Channel to monitor the world situation. He also picked up a couple more Ohio Scientific NOAA NWS SAME alert radios. One for his office and one for the Subaru. If anything major happened he would know it as early as it was possible.

It seemed, however, that the old adage was true. If you are prepared for something, that something seldom happens. That was the way it was with John’s preps. All the situations seemed to be calming down. Except the inflation rate. It continued to rise, a bit more slowly, but it was still going up.

John got another big bonus for his work and with gold and silver down somewhat from their highs, began the purchasing program again. He let one his checking accounts grow slightly to cover the increased costs of everything, particularly food. Weather losses, fuel prices, and inflation were bringing the cost of food up slowly, but steadily.

There was nothing more to do, except wait for the other shoe to drop.


Low Profile – Chapter 3

Drop it did. And it wasn’t one of the things that had been bothering John. It was a problem that had fallen off the front pages. Avian Influenza. It was never clear where it got a foothold. It was clear that it spread from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after a blizzard had closed the airport for two days, just before Christmas.

Two weeks into the New Year cases of human transmitted Avian Flu began to show up in ever increasing numbers all around the US, and in several cities around the world. Adam’s wife June was a nurse, and both her parents were doctors and preppers. On June’s advice, John began taking a series of Cipro as a precautionary measure. It was one of many medications that he had stockpiled, thanks to Melissa and Jack McCullen, June’s parents.

The US essentially shut down. It wasn’t martial law, but it was close. Everyone not in a critical industry was instructed to stay home, isolated, until the disease ran out of new bodies to infect. There were heavy losses in the medical profession, despite extreme sanitation measures.

John had no problem sitting out the first wave of the illness. The company shut down for three weeks, but advanced the employees a month’s wages to carry them through. John cashed the check and added it to his cash reserves.

He spent the three weeks in the basement shelter, watching the news for local and national information, and listening to shortwave broadcasts for international news of the event. He also monitored the HF shortwave bands for information not semi-controlled by the government the way commercial broadcast news was.

Once, he thought of Bobby, whom he hadn’t seen in months. John quickly put the thought out of his head. Bobby was a big boy. He could fend for himself.

John worried a bit that the natural disaster of the flu might encourage adventurism by some aggressive countries, but nothing happened, other than the loss of life all around the world.

Despite the early outbreak in the US, the country lost fewer people to the disease than many other countries, due to relatively good medical care. There were sixty-million deaths with another sixty-million hospitalized patients, recovering slowly.

Worldwide, the losses were higher in many places, upward of thirty-five percent dead and an additional twenty-percent hospitalized. Some nations with little medical infrastructure suffered much higher losses. Countries like Sweden and Switzerland had lower losses, due to their medical care. Australia had heavy losses in the cities, but many of the isolated small towns and independent ranches had very low loss rates.

John lost two of the four renters in his quadraplex. Disinfecting living and working spaces was a new booming business. He had the two units disinfected and was able to rent them again. With the inflation, rental rates had gone up, but with more availability and less demand, the rates dropped. John broke out about even, the rates on his quad units going back to what they were when he first rented them out.

Adam’s extended family came through with flying colors. None had come down with the disease.

The pandemic created a mixed bag of effects. Due to the great loss of human life, many items were in surplus, and prices for those items fell. Other items, because of labor intensive production, were scarce, with attendant higher prices. There did seem to be a trend. Necessities went up, luxuries went down.

Food was one of the necessities that went up. Adam was able to finance, at good rates, additional land for farming, and add two greenhouses to the four that he already operated.

Fuel continued to go up, as well. Adam hired two additional hands and set up the biodiesel and alcohol production units to start making fuel. Half of the additional land he had acquired would go to producing fuel crops. He put in two additional irrigation wells and pumps.

Two of the things that dropped in cost, despite the still pending legislation to ban them, were firearms and ammunition. Of the sixty-million dead in America, a significant number had been gun owners. All types of firearms came onto the market, at very low prices.

John hit a small bonanza in finding the families of three different preparedness oriented men that had died during the pandemic. The families were looking to sell the preps, except for food, that the men had accumulated over the years.

John offered above the going rate to buy the entire lot of items in each case and took home several good acquisitions for his armory. He doubled his ammunition stocks. The firearms and ammunition he didn’t want he held, expecting prices to jump again. Many other items that the men had he sold and used the proceeds to buy more gold and silver coins.

After asking some leading questions, John also got maps from two of the families. They were maps of the men’s caches. One of them had accompanying lists of the cache contents. The third man either didn’t have caches, or had not put down their location on hard copy form.

John took a couple of days off and went looking for the caches. Both men had good descriptions with map coordinates and landmarks. Both also had global positioning satellite coordinates. The caches were easy to find. John left them as they were.

It bothered him a bit to acquire the items the way he was. Those men had labored for years to build up their preps. He was getting them for dimes on the dollar. But the families would have sold them in any case.

Much to John’s surprise, gold and silver were coming down sharply in price. It seemed much of the second and third world peoples that had put away gold for emergencies, had turned it loose to get them through the tough days of the pandemic.

Taking advantage of that situation didn’t bother John at all. He began buying all he could, as the rates continued to drop. But the situation didn’t last long. People were still people and nature was still nature. Neither were stable for very long.

The pandemic was the trigger for the return of Communism to Russia and the former Soviet Republics. The new Communist government began to solicit many of the former countries that had been in the USSR sphere of influence to rejoin them voluntarily. What would happen if they didn’t was left hanging.

China began to close its borders again.

Suddenly the number of illegal border crossings along the US/Mexico fell dramatically. Some said it was because of the fence now going up, but that project had barely started. There were even a discernable number of illegals returning to Mexico and the Central American countries from the US.

The I-10 War broke out on a Sunday, with Mexico and Venezuela declaring war on the United States, with the announced intention of Mexico reclaiming the historical Aztlan territories of the Southwest US. Mexico submitted an appeal for the United Nations to support them in their endeavor. To declare the historic Aztlan territories a part of Mexico.

Los Angeles was taken without an official shot being fired, by a small army that had entered the US as illegal aliens over several years. That is not to say there wasn’t fighting. Despite the gun laws of California, many gun owners began an immediate guerrilla action against the attacking force. Racial and religious prejudices on both sides resulted in numerous atrocities.

As Los Angeles was being taken over, Houston met a similar fate, with an in-place army augmented with Mexican troops off loaded from Chinese controlled ships. Houston was cut off, but there was no real attempt to enter the city in force.

Additional Mexican troops closed all border crossings and poured combatants northward, supported by troops from Venezuela. The largest group headed up I-25. US forces were slow to respond, though locals, as they had in Los Angeles, began fighting on their own, with heavy losses. There was much more air cover for the attack than had ever been expected. Reports began to come in that many of the planes were flown by Chinese looking pilots.

Congress was called to immediate session and the President, with approval of the Congress, declared war on Mexico and Venezuela. The President also warned China to get out of the conflict, if they were in it.

The Mexican and Venezuela armies hit the I-10 at several points and began to spread out on a front from Los Angeles to Houston. By Monday noon, the US military was retaliating. But Hugo Chavez announced that if the US didn’t step back and allow the take over, the battle would go nuclear.

The President reined in the Armed Forces, insisting on a holding action along the I-10. They were not to cross the interstate under any circumstances. The situation would be evaluated and a decision would be forthcoming.

John watched the news coverage with amazement. It was inconceivable to him that the President was hesitating. John wasn’t alone in his amazement. By Wednesday millions of Americans were protesting the lack of response of the US government. State after state had groups of armed citizens preparing to head for the border, blood in their eyes.

When that became obvious, the President declared martial law, instituted curfews, and restricted travel to Federal Government approved reasons. There weren’t many reasons for travel listed.

All the while Mexico was consolidating its positions south of I-10. It was allowing refugees to move north, out of the invasion area. But they were allowed to leave only with the clothes on their backs. All other possessions were being confiscated.

All states’ National Guard units were Federalized. Those states that had internal State Militias began to fortify their borders. Even northern states not likely to come under attack.

The President never said what she would have done to break the stalemate, if Chavez, apparently acting on impulse, without consultation with President Fox of Mexico, launched three missiles from Venezuela northward.

Though the Air Force tried, they were unable to counter the missiles. Chavez proved he had not been kidding when he had announced the possession of nuclear weapons. Seattle, Omaha, and Chicago were hit with one-megaton nuclear weapons. Massive evacuations were begun around and down-wind of the three cities.

The President didn’t waver any more. Nuclear tipped cruise missiles were launched at Caracas, Venezuela and Mexico City, Mexico. US Forces were allowed to push the invading armies back into Mexico, though the ground forces were ordered to stop at the border. To the surprise of the members of the Joint Chief of Staff, they were ordered to eliminate the Mexican and Venezuelan Air Forces and to seize the Venezuelan oil fields.

Another big surprise were the orders to escort all known Chinese shipping out of US territorial waters. An embargo was imposed on Chinese shipping to the US. All products from China would have to be on non-Chinese ships. Many, convinced of China’s duplicity in the I-10 War, wanted much more aggressive measures.

Hugo Chavez and Vicenti Fox were both killed by sniper fire a few days after the attacks within the borders of their countries. Venezuela and Mexico both surrendered unconditionally two days later.

It took several weeks to ferret out the leaders of the Aztlan Movement in and around Los Angeles and their army. Many small battles continued to occur during the process.

Though it was illegal, Hispanic Heritage people all over the US were being driven from their homes and sent back to Mexico by locals. Only those that looked or sounded Hispanic that could show long term American citizenship were allowed to stay in many places.

The camps that weren’t there opened up and took in the refugees from the targeted cities that had no other place to go. But many people relocated themselves.

Three weeks after the nuclear attack on the American cities, people were allowed to begin to return to their homes in the fallout affected areas. It was a staged return, as the radiation levels fell closer and closer to the targets. There were multitudes of occurrences of looting in the affected areas, despite martial law and travel restrictions having been emplaced early in the war. There were also many cases of radiation sickness of the looters that had stayed to loot and hadn’t evacuated.

Quite a few people had refused to evacuate for reasons other than looting and received fatal doses of radiation. The number of cases of radiation sickness that didn’t turn out to be immediately fatal numbered in the millions. The US health care system, already decimated by the Avian Flu, was overwhelmed again by the cases of radiation sickness.

The UN condemned the US for its use of nuclear weapons, even though it was in retaliation to those used against it. More calls for unilateral disarmament were voiced. Though those calls for strategic and tactical weapons were ignored, the US administration again called for total civilian disarmament.

Both sides cited the use of personal weapons during the war and its aftermath, for and against private ownership of firearms. It was a controversy that wasn’t going to go away this time.

Despite the recent war and the efforts of gun owners across the country, another gun ban went into effect. It wasn’t nearly the law that anti-gunners wanted, but then again, it did restrict availability of some arms, and as importantly, ammunition.

Full auto weapons were still covered by the old law. Bolt action, lever action, and break-open action shoulder arms need were taxed yearly at $25.00 if they had magazine capacities of ten rounds or less. If more than ten round magazine capacity, a $50.00 yearly tax applied.

Break open action handguns, and single action, and double action revolvers, again with a limit of ten round capacity, were taxed yearly at $100.00 each. If over ten round capacity the tax was $200.00 each, per year.

Shoulder arms and handguns of .50 caliber or larger, no matter what type of action, were restricted to special license holders, at $1,000.00 per year for the license and $1,000.00 per year per weapon.

Semi-auto firearms with fixed magazines of more than ten rounds were taxed at $200.00 per year. Semi-auto firearms with removable magazines were taxed at $500.00 per year. Magazines over ten rounds had a purchase tax of $100.00, but were not taxed on a yearly basis.

All weapons did have to be re-registered each year and the tax paid.

A special purchase tax was also placed on the purchase of ammunition. No more than fifty rounds of any caliber ammunition could be purchased at one time, and there was a purchase tax of $25.00 dollars per transaction, no matter what quantity was purchased. Multiple calibers could be purchased at one time, but no more than three.

Rim-fire ammunition was in a separate class. It could only be purchased one 500 round ‘brick’, or the equivalent, at a time, and there was a $50.00 tax on the sale.

Firearm sales were limited to no more than one per month, six per year. Ammunition was limited to 1,000 rounds per caliber per year center fire, 5,000 rounds rim-fire.

Amazingly, private sales were not banned or taxed, though the new owner was supposed to register the firearm within ten days of the purchase and pay that year’s tax on the firearm. Pre-1900 cartridge firearms lost their exemptions. All cartridge arms fell under the new laws. Non-cartridge firearms were still exempt.

With the high taxes on the arms, magazines, and ammunition; and the tough penalties for non-compliance; hundreds of thousands of firearms came onto the market. The actual price of most weapons dropped like rocks, even as the cost of owning them skyrocketed. The BATFE was quadrupled in size and tasked with actively enforcing the new laws. Existing registration records were used by one division to begin collecting taxes on weapons already registered. Another division went after current sales to ensure registration and tax collection.

The war didn’t affect John much. He was able to continue to work, and when food deliveries were delayed due to the war and the travel restrictions that also applied to commercial trucks, John simply used a bit more of his LTS (Long Term Storage) food in a regular rotation.

He put in order to replace what extra he was using, but was put on a long back order list. There were thousands of new preppers now, due to the recent events. All the prep companies were receiving record numbers of orders. That included shelter manufacturers. The various internet prep and survival forums too were getting enormous numbers of hits every day as people looked to lock the barn door after the horse was gone.

John, like many others, took advantage of the reduced prices of firearms and greatly added to his collection. He was very careful to screen any and all offers, to make sure he wouldn’t get caught in a sting. He passed up quite a few offers due to that fact. But he picked up quite a few firearms, and ammunition with most of them.

His Savage 99, Stoeger Coach Gun, and Colt 1911A1 were registered and he paid the taxes up front as soon as the law took affect. He bought two additional guns, from individuals, for his Cowboy Collection, and registered and paid the yearly tax on them. A Marlin 1895 Cowboy lever action .45/70 and a Ruger New Blackhawk .45 ACP/.45 Colt convertible. They, like the Savage, Stoeger, and Colt, were somewhat Politically Correct.

John also sold a couple of unregistered weapons, to get bills of sale. Of the weapons he’d bought over the last couple of years were two high tax weapons that he didn’t particularly care for. He didn’t mind loosing them to get on the record as getting rid of that type of weapon. Both were AR-15 clones that had been somewhat abused. He let six magazines go with the weapons. They too, were in less than perfect condition.

All his other weapons were unregistered, un-papered, and well hidden. When the BATFE showed up, twice, his paper work on the five guns he kept at his house satisfied the officers and they left, convinced he was on the up and up. One visit was for the original three firearms, and the second visit for the two new purchases. Both times the officers ran all the weapons through their check system.

John wasn’t really sure why he was accumulating so many weapons, but he couldn’t pass up the deals. He had picked up quite a few items to add to his armory. He considered it good and quit while he was ahead.

There was a lot of unrest in the country, with food availability still marginal and prices high. Another factor for the unrest was the increasing cost of fuel, despite the US holding the Venezuelan oil fields. And inflation was growing faster and faster as money was being printed to cover the costs of cleanup and recovery from the war.

The lack of the illegal, and much of the legal, immigration work force was driving prices up and contributing to the inflation. A few businesses, including the one John worked for, began giving quarterly cost-of-living raises to their employees, due to the inflation.

The new Soviet Union, was doing no better under the communist rule than they had under capitalist rule. The Soviet Union began dumping gold to buy wheat again, while still increasing its military capability.

The Chinese, having been buying gold for several years for its strategic reserves suddenly quit buying, despite the sudden drop in price. It caught most financial analysts by surprise. John understood how inflation worked, and began turning his slowly depreciating cash holding into gold as soon as the falling price trend became apparent. He knew the downward trend couldn’t last long, and it didn’t.

In the three weeks of declining prices, John converted seventy-percent of his cash on hand to gold coins, with another ten percent going to silver coins, all through paperless transactions.

When the trend stopped and reversed, it happened overnight, the price going from the previous day’s low of $425.00 per ounce, to $1,200.00 an ounce the next morning at the London Price Fixing, after the Asian markets had gone wild after they opened.

A week later and the US Congress had passed legislation to restrict the ownership of gold and silver, and recall almost all bullion forms of both, including bullion coins, at a set price of $300.00 per ounce gold, and $3.00 per ounce silver. The first five ounces of gold, and the first one-hundred ounces of silver, per person, was exempted.

The free market price of gold jumped to $2,275.00 per ounce. The price of platinum and palladium skyrocketed as they were not controlled. Sales records of precious metals retailers were seized across the nation to track down the hundreds of thousands of ounces now in private hands in the United States. Large rewards were offered to those that would turn in those that had undocumented metals.

Only those that had bought the precious metals privately, or through dealers that kept no records, were able to hang on to anything but a token amount. As he had done with firearms, John had a small amount of gold and silver with a paper trail. Ten ounces of gold, and two-hundred-fifty ounces of silver. He turned in his required five ounces of gold and one-hundred-fifty ounces of silver and collected the nominal payment from the government early in the process.

Shortly thereafter a hoarding law was passed. No person or family could have on hand more than a thirteen month supply of food. Anyone caught with more would have all but a three month’s subsistence supply confiscated for redistribution by the government. That included home preserved food. ‘Meat on the hoof’ was exempt.

Purchase records of LTS food retailers and buying clubs were used to target ‘survivalists’. As with precious metals, large rewards were offered to those that would turn in anyone that they thought had more than ‘their fair share’ of food.

Though always careful, John became even more low profile than he had been in the past. He made sure his working pantry held under a six month supply of a combination of LTS and grocery store foods. Some of the LTS food he purchased was on the record, but it was a small enough amount that the rotational use would explain it away.

He was glad he’d been careful. His name did come up in the record search and he was visited by the ‘food cops’ as they were known. There was some doubt about his use of the food over the period of time he had purchased it, but the several open and partially used cans in his pantry convinced them that he was just a lazy spendthrift and preferred the freeze-dried and dehydrated foods as they were easy to prepare, and cheaper in bulk. After all, he did live in a very cold basement, didn’t he?

The draconian gun laws had been for the safety of the children. The precious metals recall was to finance the reconstruction of the country after the war and for the damage the global warming generated storms was causing. The hoarding laws were to ensure everyone got their fair share of the slowly diminishing food supply caused by global warming. Citing the need for stability during trying times, the President, with the backing of two-thirds of Congress, postponed Federal Elections for the duration of the crisis.

Slowly more restrictions on travel were enacted, ‘because of the shortages of fuel’. Travel documents were required for any trip more than a hundred miles from one’s registered home. The implanted ID chip became mandatory. A Federal monitoring force was set up to enforce the new laws.

When the President announced that the internet would soon be censored by the Federal Government, again to protect the children, the American people were on the verge of revolt.

Too many had been looking internally for month after month as liberties were taken away. Only some, those like John, had been keeping their eyes on the world situation, primarily by shortwave broadcasts, as the news organizations had almost stopped any coverage outside the United States.

All the old problems around the world were still there and beginning to heat up again, one after the other. Most of the world powers began to think of the US as a second rate power. Many of them seemed to decide to take advantage of that at the same time. But all still feared the ferocity that could suddenly emerge when the nation was threatened.

The Chinese and the USSR had been on again off again ‘friends’. They were on again, and both wanted to rise once again to their former glory days. On July Forth, with two hurricanes bearing down on the Southeast coasts of America, and deadly storms dropping tornados all over Tornado Alley, China and the USSR launched a nuclear missile attack on the United States.

Unfortunately for both countries, several high ranking members of the US military had planned a coup for the Fourth of July. It will never be known if the President would have commanded the nuclear forces available to her to counter launch. Those in the coup did not hesitate. Orders went out to launch a retaliatory strike.

It wasn’t a couple of nukes here, a couple there. Every nation on earth that had a grudge with another attacked them. Those with nuclear weapons used them without mercy. It was worldwide nuclear war.


Low Profile – Chapter 4

John counted himself lucky. Being in a city that could be a target was an iffy proposition. If caught outside during a nuclear attack, and Tulsa became a target, there was little hope of survival. Which was the case when the war broke out.

Not much for crowds, John, as usual, spent the Fourth at home. He was watching a movie when the sound of the Oregon Scientific alert radio sounded off, startling him. He got up from the La-Z-Boy and almost committed a serious error of judgment. John headed for the outside door to take a look around.

But the alert suddenly cut off and the TV and lights all went out at once. “EMP!” John muttered and changed his direction. That might be the only thing happening, but he wasn’t going outside now to find out. There wasn’t much to do except wait and see. Sitting back down, John wondered what was happening.

He got a glimmering when his RadDetect PRD 1250 key fob radiation alarm sounded for two or three seconds, and then fell silent. A few moments later the basement shook heavily, with a rumbling sound, and small cracks appeared in the walls and ceiling. John’s hands gripped the armrests of the La-Z-Boy as he rode out the shake. The shaking stopped, but a few moments later John heard the blast valves on the air intakes and exhausts slam closed.

There was no doubt about it now in John’s mind. At least two nukes had gone off. Probably one at high altitude and one in or near Tulsa. That probably meant a lot more were going off, but John could only be sure of the two.

He got up and put batteries in the CDV-717 remote reading survey meter, the CDV-715 direct reading survey meter, and the AMP-200 high range remote reading survey meter. Turning both on he checked first the CDV-717. Nothing. He didn’t bother checking the rest of the shelter with the CDV-715. If there was no outside radiation, there wouldn’t be any inside.

But that sudden chirping of the PRD 1250 was bothering him. After a few minutes of thought he paled and sat down heavily. It could only have been the initial burst of radiation emitted during the detonation of the nuclear device. That meant the warhead had been uncomfortably close.

Only very high radiation levels would penetrate the two levels of concrete, totaling eighteen inches, and five feet of earth that constituted the ceiling of the shelter. That meant he’d taken a fairly heavy dose, though it had lasted only a couple of seconds. Much like an x-ray, but probably of much higher radiation. There was nothing he could do about it. The shielding would have reduced the level to less than two-thousands of the outside value. Only time would tell if he got sick.

John clipped on a CDV-742 dosimeter and sat back down, his mind a blank for a few minutes. It had happened. And he had prepared for it. But would the preps be enough? He already had a dose of radiation.

Twenty-one minutes later the CDV-717 began to show outside radiation. John’s place was undoubtedly under the edge of the mushroom cloud. The radiation level continued to climb and went off the scale at 500r. John turned the CDV-717 off and turned on the AMP-200. The radiation continued to climb. Finally several hours later, the radiation level quit rising. The peak was just over 2,000r and lasted only a few minutes. The level began to fall, though not as quickly as it had risen.

John used the CDV-715 to check out the entire basement shelter. There were no hot spots. There was nothing else John could do. He went to bed and tried to sleep. It was a fitful sleep and John was up early the following morning. He checked the AMP-200. The radiation was down under 100r and he turned the AMP-200 off and turned on the CDV-717. The readings matched closely.

John breathed a slight sigh of relieve. The dosimeter read slightly over 1r. But he still had no clue as to how much initial radiation he’d received. He wrote the dosimeter reading down in a journal sitting on the desk beside the survey meters and then reset the dosimeter to zero. He clipped it back onto his shirt and went about preparing a scant breakfast for himself.

The basement had three above ground entrances. John decided to risk a little more radiation exposure to go to each airlock entry and take a look through the small lead glass port in the outer door.

He couldn’t see much, but what he did see was devastation. The quadraplex was gone, except for the core shelters, the materials spread out all over the lot in the direction away from down town. The entrance on that side was blocked, but the other two were clear of debris.

John put on his CBRN safety gear and went out to check on the occupants of the quad units. Though the shelters had withstood the destruction of the rest of the quad, there was no one in any of the four shelters. John assumed they had been out enjoying Independence day festivities.

John went back into the full protection of the basement shelter proper and started his first full day of isolation.

With the PV panel roof of the quad gone, John had to run one of the twin Isuzu 12.5kw power plants to charge the batteries, fed from a pair of 1,000 gallon underground diesel tanks buried and filled one Saturday during the construction of the basement.

The shelter had a large battery bank in the room next to the gensets. Both rooms were vented to the outside, with the combustion air for the gensets drawn from outside, and the exhaust vented to the outside.

John spent his time sleeping; studying; and scanning the commercial broadcast bands, shortwave, and Amateur Radio bands. He was limited to one long wire antenna that had survived the destruction of the quad. Those antennas he’d set up in the huge attic of the quad were part of the debris.

He ate, but sparingly, less so to conserve food, than to an attempt not to gain weight with the sedentary life in the shelter.

The regular sewer line quit working the third day and John switched to using the chemical toilet. He’d lost city water almost immediately after the attack. One of the things he’d had installed on weekends during the construction of the basement had been a two-thousand gallon concrete water tank. It was kept filled with city water, and a pump pulled from the tank to provide pressure to the house piping. It had continued to work without problems.

He had two 30-gallon portable waste holding tanks into which he could empty the chemical toilet when needed. The portable tanks would be emptied into pits he could dig once he left the shelter.

The shelter was kept ventilated through an American Safe Rooms ASR-100N-NBC filter system. Buried the way it was, the basement shelter did not need additional cooling than that provided by the earth itself.

John didn’t hear much despite his nearly constant monitoring of the communications gear in the shelter. Finally, two weeks after the attack, he began to hear some Amateur Radio traffic on the HF bands. The radiation outside the shelter had dropped to 2r.

He suited up in the Tyvek coverall, with a Millennium CBRN (Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear) respirator, butyl gloves, and rubber boots in order to take a couple of reserve antennas out and install them. He also took a quick look around and decontaminated the areas adjacent to the useable entrances of the basement. He tried the Subaru. It wouldn’t start. Sometime during his shelter stay some of the quad residents had come back. He left the dead bodies he found where they lay. He couldn’t take the time to bury them.

Immediately he began to hear quite a bit more on the radios. He managed to make contact with Adam at his farm on a prearranged schedule and frequency plan. They too had survived. There had been considerably less radiation at the farm and they had been out decontaminating for four days.

There had been heavy losses of the farms stock, but they had enough left, Adam thought, to continue to breed more.

“Okay, Adam,” John said. “I’ll get out there as soon as I can. May be a while. The Subaru won’t start so I’m going to have to go to alternate transport. That means it will take me a while to clear the higher radiation zone. I want to let the radiation fall considerably more before I set out.”

“Understood. Check in every other day. We have several operating vehicles. We could come and get you.”

“No need to risk it.”

“I think you just want to avoid the farm work,” Adam said with a laugh.”

“Well…” John replied, laughing a little himself. It was the first laugh in a long time.

They both signed off and John tried a few more frequencies. There were operating Amateurs all over the country. John had large US, and individual continent maps and began marking them with contacts he could identify. Some of those transmitting refused to disclose their whereabouts. John couldn’t really blame then. Those that were prepared and had survived would most likely be targets for those that had not prepared, but managed to survive through hook, crook, or extreme good luck.

John suddenly thought about Bobby and how he had fared during and after the war. He put Bobby out of his mind immediately. John had serious doubts that Bobby had survived.

Undoubtedly there were other survivors around Tulsa, but he wasn’t hearing anything from them on the radios. He fell back into the routine he’d developed in the first two weeks of the shelter stay. According to the spreadsheet designed by TOM of Frugal’s Forums fame to calculate stay time in a shelter post attack, it would be another six months or more before he could be out and about with little additional risk of radiation, as long as he avoided hot spots.

That time frame didn’t preclude John from suiting up every few days and doing a little close-in scouting and some cleanup on the lot. He kept the time to a minimum, but was able to recover most of the PV panels that had been the south facing roof covering, and his antennas from the attic. John also found the wireless remote weather instrument cluster and put it back up so he could track the weather.

He used some of his in-shelter time to repair the antennas. They were banged up, but not beyond repair with the equipment and parts he had. John also rigged up a set of simple remote cameras to keep an eye on the area without going out.

John’s quadraplex had been the only compete structure in the walled community, besides the display homes. The display homes had not survived the war, either. He saw no one else on his outings.

As summer progressed, John became concerned about the weather. The old adage about checking out things when the smoke cleared didn’t seem to be applicable. The smoke wasn’t clearing.

From the reports from Amateurs he was hearing, it wasn’t the nuclear war caused nuclear winter, for the huge widespread fires predicted by some scientists didn’t occur. The overcasts seemed to be caused by volcanic activity. And unlike nuclear winter, ‘volcanic’ winter was a proven fact.

There had been much speculation before the war about using nuclear devices to trigger geological events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Several nations used geological targeting for some of their weapons, in addition to the military asset, industrial production, population center, and resource targeting.

It hadn’t worked as well as some had predicted, but a few of the attempts did, despite those that had predicted that it would be a waste of warheads. At least three of the geological targeting attempts affecting the US worked. Mount Rainier was triggered and erupted violently. It added to the atmospheric pollutants.

The eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera was the one that did the most to ensure a volcanic winter. The Chinese targeted three one megaton warheads on the caldera and it triggered the massive eruption.

The third event was as decimating to the country as the Yellowstone eruption. Either the USSR or China or both targeted the volcano on La Palma Island in the Canary Island. The devices themselves, or the volcanic eruption that they caused, dislodged half of the island. The resulting gigantic tsunami devastated the East Coasts of the Americas from Newfoundland to the bulge of Brazil. The damage was catastrophic for a mile or two inland, to as much as twenty miles inland, dependant on the local geography.

Eastern Oklahoma received its first snow on September third that fall after the attack. The winter lasted into April of the next year, delaying John’s departure of the basement shelter till the spring season was evident. He’d planned to leave in February, but the heavy snows prevented it.

He was able to stay in contact with Adam. The Farm had taken in some refugees that had survived the first weeks post war. It had worked out fairly well. What problem they did have was a band of raiders in the area. At the moment they were fairly disorganized and ineffective, except for attacks on small places. They had killed at least six people since the war and had attacked several more that had run them off.

John had taken the extra time in the shelter to plan carefully. Adam’s farm was thirty miles north-west of Tulsa. Before the war it took John about an hour to get to the farm from the city. He was prepared for a full week of travel when he set out. Before he left he removed everything he’d set up outside the basement and stored it inside. He covered all three entrances with debris.

With the basement shelter secured, John straddled the Montague Paratrooper bicycle. Attached was a cycletote.com trailer to carry his equipment and supplies. He set off for Adam’s farm.

Instead of the Savage 99 he’d had for its political correctness before the war, John now had slung over his shoulder an HK-91 he had cached several years previously. A musette bag over his other shoulder carried magazines for the 91.

On his hip in a ballistic nylon flap holster he carried a Para-Ordinance P-14 .45 ACP instead of the Colt 1911A1. On the trailer was a Benelli M-4 tactical shotgun. A nylon bandoleer held fifty rounds of twelve gauge shot shells and buck. John also had a pair of pouches from FMCO holding 12 shells each he could add to his combat harness or vest if he needed to.

John was wearing khaki colored 5.11 shirt and pants, with a Cooper Zero Gravity A2 leather bomber jacket, since it was still quite cool for April. Hatch Operator CQB Tactical gloves were on his hands and Matterhorn SAR 12900 were on his feet, with his head covered with an Akubra Lawson Hat. He wore Bodyglove Z87.1 photochromic safety sunglasses.

The hat, sunglasses, and gloves were in part used to for protection from increased UV-A and UV-B radiation that resulted from the lessened protection of the ozone layer that had been severely damaged by the nuclear detonations. Even with the attenuation of the nearly constant high clouds and ash content of the upper atmosphere, the UV radiation was much greater than before the war.

John took his time traveling, maintaining constant awareness of his surroundings. He stayed on the main roads, working his way around the thousands of abandoned vehicles he saw. There were signs of methodical scavenging of cargo trucks. Not everyone had stayed in the protection of fallout shelters for as long as John had.

He suspected much of the scavenged goods were wasted by those that had scavenged them while radiation levels were still high. Many of the scavengers undoubted died from lethal doses of radiation they received while out in the open.

John stopped at the occasional house close to the road. There were signs that some people had survived the war, but not the winter. He left the bodies where they were. He didn’t have the time or wherewithal to bury every body he found. He wished he was able to do it, for some of the bodies had obviously been partially consumed by dogs that had survived and no longer had regular food sources. He kept a sharp eye out for feral cats and dogs.

He began to see more current signs of the feral animals, as well as wild animals after he got some distance away from Tulsa. He set up perimeter security each night around his camp using battery powered PIR (passive infrared) sensors set up on metal stakes he carried for that reason.

To keep the batteries charged for the sensors, as well as his battery operated lights and other electronic devices, John kept a pair of Brunton SolarPort 4.4 with BattJack battery chargers arranged on the top of the gear on the bicycle trailer. It took a bit longer than usual with the slight overcast, but they kept him in recharged batteries.

John checked in every evening with Adam using a Yaesu FT-817ND Amateur radio using a compact Miracle Whip antenna.

He ran into his first survivors on his third day out. He was getting close to the farm, but had at least another day of travel. He came upon the small family group as they were out scavenging in vehicles on the road.

When he saw them, at some distance, he stopped and stood straddling the bike. He raised his hand and waved. All five of them, two adults and three children, disappeared behind vehicles. John heard a shot ring out. It sounded like a small caliber pistol, but John was too busy getting down behind a vehicle himself to really try to analyze the sound.

“Hey!” he called out. “I’m friendly! Don’t shoot!”

“How do we know that?” came the man’s voice.

“I guess you don’t,” John called back. “But I am. If you don’t want contact, just let me get by and I won’t bother you.”

“You got any food to trade, Mister?” came the woman’s voice.

“Sylvia,” yelled the man, “We’ll find some! It’s too big a risk!”

“If I have some… I’m not saying I do… What do you have to trade?” John asked.

“Tell us what you have and what you want for the food. We’ll tell you if we have it.”

“Okay,” John replied. “I’ve got six MRE’s left that I’ll trade. I’ll take a tenth ounce gold coin for them, or a roll of silver dimes.”

“We don’t have any silver or gold!” the man yelled back.

“Your wedding ring,” Sylvia said.

“But…” The man fell silent for a moment. “Okay. I’ve got a fourteen carat gold wedding band. I’ll give that to you for those MRE’s.”

John didn’t really want the ring. He much preferred coinage, or something with real value. But he got another look at the children. They were all standing up now, looking at him. They all looked thin. So did the woman.

“Yeah. Okay,” John replied. “Wait there.” John went over to the bike and trailer. He opened one of the two Kifaru EMR packs on the trailer and took out the six MRE’s.

He closed the pack back up and set the MRE’s on top of the gear in the trailer. With his left side turned toward the man, John eased open the flap on the holster on his right side. He wanted quick access to the .45, just in case.

John got back on the bike and slowly pedaled toward the man. The woman and children started toward the man, as well. “Don’t try anything,” John warned the man. Keep your hands where I can see them or no food. And if you try something, I’ll kill you.”

The man was upset with the situation, but was holding himself in check. The handgun was out of sight and the man was holding his hands before him. John stopped the bike beside him. “Have the others take the MRE’s and you give me the ring,” John said.

The man made a motion to the others and they quickly grabbed the MRE’s and stepped back. John held out his left hand for the ring. The man struggled with it for several moments before he could get it loose, and it was with obvious reluctance that he set it in John’s open palm.

“You know,” John said, “I might have given you some food if you hadn’t shot at me.”

“Can’t take no chances,” the man said, his fists clenched. “There’s a lot of bad people running around. Kill you for your shirt. I’m going to take care of my family any way I can.”

“How’d you survive the war and the winter, anyway? John asked.

“Stayed in the basement of the house,” one of the children said.

Another added, “For a long time.”

The third chimed in with, “Until we ran out of food.”

“We’ve been scavenging for food since last fall.” The man was explaining now, seemingly embarrassed by having shot at John. “Found a grocery delivery trailer and lived off through most of the winter, but some guys came and took it away from us.”

“It was still in the trailer? You didn’t take it all home?”

“No,” Sylvia said. “We started living in a big abandoned motor home close to it.”

Again the man picked up the tale. “The engine wouldn’t start, but the generator does. We’ve been taking gas from cars to keep it running. The air conditioners had strip heaters in them so we were okay during the winter. But it’s getting harder to find food and gas.”

“I imagine,” John said. “Well, if you decide to drift north-west, I hear there is a farm there that gives food for labor on the farm.”

The children were trying to get into the MRE outer packs with little success. “I’ll let you at it,” John said, putting his foot on the left pedal of the bike. “Oh. And here.” He tossed the wedding ring back to the man and pushed off with his right foot to get the bike and trailer going again.

“But…” the man said, his voice trailing away, a confused look on his face. John pedaled away before the man could say or do anything else.

John set up his camp early that evening, since he couldn’t make the ranch that evening, and didn’t see any point in getting there too early the next morning. When camp was set up, John fired up the Yaesu FT-817ND and checked in with Adam.

“I’ll be there mid morning,” John said after keying the mike.

“Okay, John. I want you to keep a sharp eye out. That gang hit another place yesterday. They got run off without getting anything. They may be getting desperate for a score.”

“Understood. John out.”

After eating supper of one of his six remaining MRE’s, took up the HK-91 and scouted around the area. He found what he was looking for and went back into the camp as darkness fell After changing out of the Matterhorn boots for a pair of Cabela’s X-tra heavy duty moccasins, John took his sleeping bag out of the tent and headed for the spot he’d found away from camp.

According to the trend he’d plotted using the information from his Brunton ADC-Pro weather instrument, it would be another very cool night. But his Slumberjack Quallofill sleep system was up to keeping him plenty warm during the night without benefit of the tent.

After slipping out of the moccasins, John crawled into the sleeping bag, the HK beside the bag, and the P-14 at hand near the head of the bag. It was just a precaution, but John didn’t like to take unnecessary risks. If someone came up on the camp, they would trigger the perimeter alarm. With John outside the perimeter of the camp, he would have a better chance of defending himself if they were hostile, which was likely.

John finally fell asleep, waking twice in the night to zip up the sleeping bag slightly more each time. He lay there silently when he woke the next morning, listening. Nothing was out of the ordinary and John went about his normal morning routine.

The bike and trailer packed up and ready, John began pedaling his way toward the ranch, keeping an extra sharp eye out for the gang Adam had warned him about.

It was just before 10:00 AM, according to his Orvis Automatic Field Watch, when John came around one gentle curve in the road and saw a sharp turn ahead. Just around a bend like that would be an excellent place for an ambush, and John knew it. He took the bike and trailer off the road and threw a camouflage tarp over it. With the HK-91 loaded with a one-hundred round Beta C-Mag dual drum magazine, John began the slow task of quietly working his way through the scant woods bordering the road.

He was glad he took his time and kept quiet, stopping after every few feet of advance to scan the area with his Steiner Commander V binoculars. He located five men on his side of the road, all under cover. John couldn’t be sure, but he suspected there were at least one or two men on the other side of the road, probably right across the man furthest from John’s direction of travel, in a classic L ambush.

John went past the ambush, looking for the ambusher’s transportation. He finally spotted it. Like his bike and trailer, the ambushers’ old Ford Bronco, and an even older Chevy Blazer. He thought about disabling them, but that would leave the ambushers stuck in the area he needed to pass through. Better to run them off and deal with them later, when he was with a group. He went back through the woods and found a good sniping spot.

For a moment, John wished for the Surefire suppressor he had for the HK-91, but it was cached at the farm. He thought a moment about trying to contact the ambushers first, in case they were not the bandits. But the description of the vehicles that Adam had given him matched the vehicles he’d found.

Finally, no other choice he could think of off hand, John sighed carefully on his first target, the man closest to the point of entry of the ambush. It was a forty yard shot. A careful squeeze of the trigger of the HK-91 and the man lay dead, a .308 bullet in the back of his head.

Quickly John sighted the next man. Another round at sixty yards and two men were dead. John got up and began stalking the others. There were yells and calls, but none of the men left in the ambush broke cover. It took John only a couple of minutes to get in position to fire again.

It was a longer shot, over a hundred yards, but John again aimed at the man’s head, just as he had the other two. The shot was off slightly, but it was still a killing shot, taking the man just behind the eyes. He’d aimed at the ear.

Now, with three shots fired, the remaining ambushers had at least an inkling where John was and began to direct what had been random fire toward his position. John stayed long enough to get off a hasty shot at the fourth ambusher, just visible lying behind a small tree close to the road.

This was a much longer shot and John aimed for center of mass. He fired and scooted before he could assess whether or not he had hit the man. Assuming he lived, he could check later.

With heavy fire coming at his last position, John quickly moved to where the second ambusher lay dead. It was the best cover around and John began to fire rapidly at muzzle flashes. Of course he was trying to make killing shots, but the main goal was to get the men to abandon the ambush and leave.

With a hundred rounds in the magazine John could lay down continuous withering fire. It took only another two minutes of firing and the ambushers broke cover and began to run toward their vehicles.

John kept firing and downed two more men before the rest disappeared. He got up and cautiously ran down the edge of the forest until he could see five more men getting into the Bronco and Blazer. Both vehicles took off in the opposite direction as John stood and continued to fire slowly.

The Blazer swerved sharply once and slowed down, but then quickly picked up speed again and straightened its course.

John turned back and checked the two men that he’d shot while they were running. One was dead, sporting two widely spaced wounds in his back. One was low and to the right. It was the other round, high on the back, that had gone through his heart and killed him.

The other man was whimpering, trying to crawl away. A quick glance and John saw that his pelvis had been shattered by a series of three .308 rounds just below the man’s belt line. John stepped up and drew the P-14. One round to the back of the head and the man was out of his misery. John holstered the P-14 and lifted the HK-91 again.

Being considerably more cautious, John approached the tree where the fourth ambusher had been. There was a blood trail deeper into the woods, and no sign of the man’s weapon. Very carefully John tracked the man. He finally caught sight of him, ten yards ahead, limping along, using his rifle as a cane. John sighted and downed the man with a shot to the back of his head.

After confirming the man was dead, which was obvious up close, John went back and checked on the first two men he’d shot. He was sure of his shots, but didn’t want to take any chances. Both were quite dead.

Struggling not to be sick at the carnage he’d created, John stripped the bodies of everything useful, and their ID’s. Even months after the war, and people were still carrying wallets with licenses and insurance information.

The bike trailer was piled high when John had loaded it with the men’s belongings and tied them down. He didn’t waste much time getting to the turnoff to Adam’s farm. The ambush had been only three miles from the road.

Adam seemed to be waiting for him. “We thought we heard shots earlier. Really faint,” he said as John pedaled up to the gate at the entrance to the farm.

“Yeah,” John said, pointing with his thumb over his shoulders. “Failed ambush. I got about half of them before the rest ran off.”

Adam looked incredulous as he looked over the gear lashed on top of John’s set of Kifaru packs. “You ran into an ambush and fought your way out of it? By yourself.”

John’s grin was feral. “Nope. I suspected an ambush and sniped them from behind. The first two didn’t even know what hit them.” His grin faded. “At least five more got away. There were at least ten people in the ambush.”

“Geez, John! Why didn’t you hide out and call for some help?”

Adam saw the surprised look come over John’s face. “Adam… I… I just didn’t think of it.”

“Well, come on up to the house and we’ll get you settled in.”

Adam walked along side as John pushed the bike up the short road from the gate to the farm proper.

“How are things going?” John asked. “I know you couldn’t go into great detail on the radio.”

“All things considered, pretty good,” Adam replied. “We were in much better shape than the others around here. We were able to pick up quite a bit of stock from some of the other farms that had animals that survived the fallout. The people couldn’t really take care of them, so they traded them to us for a share of the food when the animals are processed.

“Several of the people are helping on the farm for food and other considerations. Small amounts of fuel and such. June and her parents are in big demand. They are pretty much the local medical system. Those that can, pay, but quite a bit of the medical work is done gratis.

“You said you’ve taken in some new people?” John asked, wondering if he would be sleeping his tent, rather than the extra bedroom.

“Yeah. Several. We had to make some new arrangements for live-ins.”

“I have my tent,” John replied.

Adam laughed. “You don’t have to use your tent, Dude.” His laughter faded. “It’s not much, I know, but we got you a Scamp sixteen footer. Found a whole double-decker truck load of them. I know they’re built to order, so we assumed they were being drop shipped or something when the war started. We don’t have the power capacity to run AC to them, but each one has a battery and a solar trickle charger. And they all have water and sewer. These on this end of the line are still empty.”

Adam was taking John along the rough road in front of a line of the Scamp trailers. There were nine of them. One fifth-wheel style, three thirteen foot models, and five sixteen footers. Adam was stopping at the third from the end of the line, which was a sixteen foot Scamp.

“Anyone in the end one?” John asked.

Adam grinned again. “Should have known. Yeah, it’s empty. Still keeping your back to the wall.”

“You could put it that way,” John replied. They walked on down to the last Scamp in the line and stopped.

“We put up another pole barn and made individual storage rooms so everyone could have more space. We moved your preps in. You can stash what you don’t need right now.”

John nodded. “Okay. Good. Uh…” John had been reluctant to ask this question. “The rental units? How did they fare?”

“Nothing to worry about,” Adam said, slapping John on the back. “Everything is ship shape. The manger is a good one. He stuck it out until we could get someone there to lend a hand. Luckily, there hasn’t been any attempts to break in. A couple of people came and got stuff, but it was their stuff. I don’t plan on opening any of the other occupied units for at least another year. Just isn’t right. They put their goods in storage in good faith, and I plan to honor that, even though they aren’t paying right now.”

“You’re an honest man, Adam. Always have been. Show me the storage rooms?”

“Sure. The barn is behind the hay shed.” The two discussed a few operational aspects of the farm as they walked. “The biodiesel operation is going great. Thanks to you we have the raw materials to make thousands of gallons of the stuff, as long as the oil crops do well. The same with the still. The methane we make from the animal waste provides enough heat to run the still and the biodiesel process.”

John nodded. All your equipment come through okay?”

“We had to replace some electronics in some of the newer stuff, but we either had the parts, or were able to scrounge them. Macon Archelletta’s equipment was all in his equipment shed. It’s all metal. The EMP didn’t affect anything in it. Did a little negotiation with him and got the use of the equipment we need but don’t have, to provide him with fuel. And some hands to help. He lost both his regular hands, and his boy got a pretty good dose of radiation and isn’t going to be much help.”

“Speaking of help, I ran into a family on the way in. I told them, not specifically, about a farm this away that might take on laborers for food.”

“That’s okay. If they find us, we’ll have a place for them. We need good family people.”

John shot a quick glance at Adam, but Adam continued without noticing. “But having some unattached residents has been a good thing, too. Usually willing to risk a bit more than the family men. And women, when it comes down to that. We had a couple women on their own come into the fold. They are carrying their weight and more. Gotta give them that.”

“How many people is the farm supporting now?” John asked as they went into the barn containing the storage rooms.

Adam took a minute to add things up in his head. “Twenty-seven, I think. Be twenty-eight with you. We’re supplying the area with meat, vegetables, and a small amount of fruit. We could take on another half dozen workers, with up to ten dependents.

That would let us increase the amount available for the rest of the community, as a matter of fact. We’d be maxed out at forty-four. Anything over that and we wouldn’t have as much for the rest of the community.

“Of course, we would need some additional housing to get to the forty-four mark. Water and sewer aren’t a problem. Be nice to get electrical power to everyone, but I don’t know how we can do that.

“We aren’t the only operating farm, but we are the biggest and best organized. Ted Johnson has a going spread, and Macon. Ted has his own biodiesel plant and is good on fuel. Macon just isn’t one to take on live-on-site workers. That’s why we’re supplying a couple for him. Ted took in a couple of families, so he has enough help for his farm at the moment.

“They’d both like to find some greenhouses they could move to their farms. They’re a bit jealous of my operation here. The greenhouses really pulled us through the winter.”

“I bet,” John replied.

Adam had stopped in front of one door in a line of several inside the pole barn. “This one is yours,” he told John. Adam unlocked and opened the door into a twelve by twenty-four room. He handed the key to John. “We wired everything we’ve built since the war, for when power comes back, or we can make our own. But right now you’ll have to make do.”

“Good planning,” John said, pushing the bike and trailer inside the room. He leaned the bike on the stand. Not much light was coming in the open door, even with the large main doors of the barn open. “We’ll work on that electrification problem. The house and main barn systems running okay?”

“Yeah. We have power for both of them, between the PV panels and the 12.5kw genset, but that’s all we can do.”

“In time. In time,” John said, un-strapping and picking up one of the Kifaru EMR packs and a leather laptop computer case. He shouldered them and headed back to the Scamp trailer he’d be using.

“Okay, John,” Adam said at the outer doors of the barn. “I have to get to work. Get settled and come on over to the house for supper.”

“Will do, Adam. And thanks for having this place.”

“It’s part yours, you know, for having helped out so much. We’d never had made it without your input and monetary help.”

John just waved a hand and continued on his way to the Scamp. After he’d put away a few things in the trailer, John went on a self-guided tour of the farm, taking note of the changes and additions. He met and spoke to most of the people working on the farm.

Suddenly the events of the morning caught up with him and he hurried back to the Scamp to lie down for a while, while trying not to loose what was left of his breakfast. It wasn’t just the events of the morning, but the total package of stress he had been under during the trip. Constantly on alert for trouble like that he’d run into. Though less than when he was traveling, he’d been under similar stress, being on his own, since the war.

He set his windup travel alarm and lay down on the bunk in the trailer. John thought he would toss and turn for some time, but he fell asleep almost immediately.

John was a bit groggy when the alarm woke him up, but he shook it off quickly as he made his way up to the main farm house. June greeted him enthusiastically, adding her thanks to Adam’s for John’s foresight to prepare and help them prepare.

He was introduced to Arthur and Hillary Buchanan, June’s parents. There were several more people around the large dining table he was also introduced to, but couldn’t sort all the names to faces that quickly.

Except for one. Belinda Carlile. She wasn’t at the table, but was one of three women helping in the kitchen. John noticed she was favoring her left arm. It seemed to have somewhat limited mobility.

Click here for Chapters 5 through 8

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