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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 1a, by Christopher Young

At the door of the trailer, Chris reached for the
four D cell Mag light which was propped in the
bucket near the front door. Chris had a four cell
Mag light years ago, but had lost it unfortunately.
It was never much of a concern, but now he had
another one. This one, he had traded from a
friend. The flash light brought back good
memories, of night time picnics in the back
yard, swimming in the pool, and playing flash
light tag in the park. And night time gathering
fire wood at the park to cook food, and just to
enjoy the company of the fire. Chris wondered if
he'd ever have another care free picnic again,
or if all future picnics would be armed and alert.

He slipped on his medium weight jacket, and looked
out the window. Nothing going on, so he stepped
out. There was Ernie, on the porch. Ernie had
brought out a small television and was watching
the news.

"How goes things?"

"Much worse" Ernie replied. The riots are moving
into the small towns, and it looks like there is
no keeping up with them. We've been lucky to have
some armed neighbors on the street. It's much
worse else where." As Ernie was speaking, the
TV screen was showing images of burned houses
and cars.

"I've just had a nap, and I'm good for awhile.
Want me to take a turn on guard duty?" Chris
asked. Ernie did look like he was about ready to
fall asleep.

"Well, I dunno. You got a gun? You don't seem like
the kind of guy who would know how to shoot."
Ernie came from a long line of  sportsmen and
hunters. He drove  big truck, and hunting season
found him wearing camouflage and orange.

Chris pulled back his coat just enough to let his
sidearm show. Ernie smiled and said "Maybe I
misjudged you after all?" Chris smiled back.

The familiar clanging noise happened, again, at
the end of the street. But this time noticably
louder, and faster. "Our lookout neighbor has
also been warning us about prowling Muslims"
Ernie remarked. A car rounded the corner, and a
couple of dark faced young men looked out. Ernie
made the classic "keep it moving" gesture that
cops the world over use. Ernie also picked up
his shotgun, and patted the stock of the gun a
couple times. The dark faces were punctuated by
the bright whites of thier eyes, and then the men
turned and looked forward towards the road.

The car kept rolling.

Chris and Ernie chatted for a few minutes, and
decided that Ernie would go in and get some sleep.
Chris would take a turn at being the neighborhood
watchman. Before Ernie  went in, they decided to
go talk to all the neighbors. A couple of them were
single moms, retired widows, working couples, and
elderly folks who could barely walk. Chris and
Ernie walked to the neighbors, and introduced
themselves. The neighbors had all been watching
news, and were frightened that the "bad men" would
burn down their houses. They were much reassured
when they found out that their neighbors were
protecting them.

Many volunteered to help out. One elderly woman
didn't have a gun, but volunteered to stay awake
over night and help watch. She was usually up
late watching TV, so it was no extra work. A
single Mom offered food and coffee for the watchmen.
A couple of the elderly ladies came to the door,
but would not open the door until they found out
it was people from the neighborhood, and not those
bad men.

Most of the neighbors were very open with their
religious beliefs. Many were raised Catholic, and
some had been attending other churches. A couple
were atheist, and could not figure out why the
Muslims were so mad at everyone. Everyone wanted
to talk about God and church. And why the Muslims
were so angry.  One elderly fellow turned out to
be a retired sheriffs deputy, and still had his
uniform and duty weapon.

Staying in place might actually become a viable
option. But that's what it was: an option. During
the night Chris weighed the pros and cons of the
possibilities before him. On the one hand, this
trailer of his was his home. Hunkering down with
the neighbors had the strongest pull at this point.
And the neighbors had a lot in common. Sure, they
all attended different churches. But they were
united in peace, freedom, and wanting the
neighborhood to remain calm. Just plain respect
for life.

But, some of the neighbors had gotten out before
the travel ban. Where were they? How far had they
gotten? Had any at all made it to their
destinations? Was their destination any better
than what they left behind?  How had they traveled?
This last was a fairly simple question. Given the
choice, people invariably traveled on pavement in
vehicles. Few would walk if they could help it,
let alone walk overland. Chris felt somewhat the
same but didn't need to  travel roads as most
people did. He'd had some experience off road
and had improved on that some.

Chris is a peculiar sort of man. He makes friends
easily and few people he met and corresponded with
didn't respect him. Part of being a
survivalist is to be friendly to all, but to be
very careful who you trust. But, most of the
prepared survivalists he had contacted lived
quite a ways away.

One of the people Chris had met over the years
had forged a lasting friendship based on common
interests. Gomer was also well aware that the
world was growing worse. They had met on the
computer, on a survival list. Chris and Gomer
had sent a lot of emails back and forth.
Discovered  they had many common interests. They
met in person years ago. And they had worked
together on Chris's truck.  The Chevy Blazer
with a V6 engine that was both good on gas and
totally invisible in a crowd. The truck surely
didn't look like it could deliver much torque.
But thanks to Gomer, the vehicle was more capable
than it looked. Though, still not as good as a
Ford. The suspension was well engineered, as
Chevrolets go. The driveline was beefed up to
sustain a long period of abuse. Almost Ford

Chris kept the vehicle well maintained and the
abuse was saved for when he really needed it,
which might be soon.  A few years of working
friendship had not only netted him a vehicle
that handled almost as well as a Ford, both on
and off road. And Chris gained a lot of knowledge
and experience in rough terrain driving. All Chris
had given in return was a little knowledge and
some manual labor. The trade almost didn't seem
fair until the thought came that this was what
Gomer was thinking, too. All Gomer had brought
into the friendship was.... and so it worked
out well.

That was another option: Chris could travel
fairly well stocked over rough terrain keeping
from the roads as much as possible.

Another possibility was to just give in and
follow the herd. Not to the slaughter house
as some herds do, but just long enough to gain
as much information as possible and jump ship.
But would the herd let him go? Like crabs in a
bucket. And the sheep herders tended to want to
search, disarm, and corral the lambs. Like the
busses going from New Orleans to the Super Dome.

With this in mind, Chris spent a long night
protecting his home and those of hisneighbors.
Few incidents marked the night and soon morning
arrived. The man at the corner had served well
his neighborhood. Many walked or drove to the
entrance of the park to thank the self appointed
watchman. Of those, several brought gifts of food,
coffee, flash light batteries.

The dawn opened up the world and made plain that
much had changed during the night. The horizon
was punctuated by the columns of smoke over the
city to the north and the neighborhoods to the west
 and east. Some were pretty close to the park,
the fires having been hidden the night before by
the intervening column of trees. The stakes
had just been raised. This was no longer a media
specatacle, only to be watched on the television.
Real people were losing their homes. The talking
heads on the television were growing much more
somber. The reality was starting to reach the
news anchors, but they didn't want to admit it
to themselves or the viewing audience.

Ernie came out of his trailer at precisely 8 AM,
as arranged the night before. He chatted for a
few minutes, to see what happened the night
before. Briefing. Fortunately, not very much.

Chris went in for breakfast, and to think. Pouring
the last of the two percent milk in to a bowl,
he followed that with Life cereal, and a squirt
of clover honey. Might be the last bowl of cold
cereal for quite a while, he thought to himself.
Chris had been eating Life cereal since his
early childhood. His parents liked it, cause it
was low sugar. Chris liked it cause it tasted
good. Simple, filling, and nutritious.

Finshing the cereal, Chris decided to check the
status of systems. The light in the refrigerator
told him that the electric was on. The running
water in the sink let him rinse out his bowl
and spoon. Turning a knob on the stove reveals the
natural gas is still on.

Chris  pulled out the cell phone, and selected
the programmed speed dial number for Bill. "What
up, my friend" he asked. So, the phones are
working. For now.  The news was pleasant, but
not good. No one had come down Bill's street to
fire bomb, but most of the town near him had been
burned to the ground. Including essentially all
the business, and all of the gas stations. From
what Bill knew, the last remaining gas station
was over 100 miles away, and that had been
pumped dry. Across the nation, there was no
gasoline to be had anywhere.

Another call to Gomer. Heather answered the
phone. Chris asked how was the family. Heather
said much the same thing. Gomer and his family
were fine. The three kids were a bit bored,
account of having to stay indoors. Heather was
also missing going to work. A large part of her
daily routine was the social life that the
factory provided. The kids were missing school.
Mom had them studying the school work, using any
books that they had at home.

After a few minutes, Heather handed the phone to
Gomer. "Bet you wished you had a Ford, now, don't
you?" It was the friendly rivalry that the two
men enjoyed. Gomer's parents had driven only
Ford vehicles, and so it was natural that Gomer
would prefer Ford vehicles. After a couple Ford
pickup trucks, Gomer had settled on the Bronco,
which had maximum power, with also four wheel
drive and cargo capacity.

"Who's coming to dinner?" Chris asked. "Well, it
looks like our crew, plus the folks downstairs.
Faith is trying to head over, also. So, it might
be a crowd." Living alone, Chris got plenty of
solitary time. So, crowds were a welcome change.
Gomer grew up in a crowd. His brothers and
sisters had seldom quieted down long enough to
hear themseles think.

Gomer's home was rather secure. In large part
due to  Gomer's friends and family being well
armed, and being very watchful. Gomer's military
service had served him well. That, and the
couple of pieces of military equipment that had
made it home from the war. Fortunately, he
hadn't had to use the fragmentation grenades yet.
The town had burned, and all the business. No
gas for many miles.

It didn't look like it was going to be an easy
decision. It was looking very likely to be
ambushed along the way or hit other problems.
Time to research the options, and gather more
information. In the meantime, it was time to
check up on the neighbors. Since the utilities
were on, everyone was warm and cozy. It got down
to 34F that night, but the heat and electric
was good. No signifigant problems, though a few of
the elderly folk were running low on
prescription medicines. A few were low on food.

Back to the trailer, the television was still
going. The talking heads were all excited,
President Bush and Vice President Cheney were
just fine. They were both out in the midwest
when the White House was targetted, and were not
affected. They were at separate, though
undisclosed locations. There was news that the
President would adress the nation later that day.
Again, they were calling on all people to remain
calm. The news reporters also reported some
scattered incidents of vigilante justice. In one
or two cities, the home owners had shot or lynched
the fire bombers. The reporter reminded the viewing
audience that any such vigilante justice would
be punished by law, and that looters and burners
should not be interfered with in any way. Just
call 911, and let the National Guard take care of

Chris rolled his eyes and spoke out loud to the
television. "Yeah, right. Remain calm while the
nation is burning. And while the police and
national guard are playing catch and release with
the rioters?" He wondered for a moment how many
fire bombers were in the compost pit out behind
the trailer park. Well, some things better not to
know. Chris's family had compost pile when he was
a kid. But, that was just sticks and leaves.

Now, to figure the bug out plans. Chris did a
quick mental calculation, how much fuel was at
hand. The Blazer's stock 15 gal tank had been
supplimented by a 20 gal aftermarket tank. The
barrel of gasoline in the shed had 50 galons
of gasoline. Treated with stabilizer. And the
cover story. Hmm. Well, that would work itself
out some how.

Chris walked next door to chat with Ernie. Well,
so far for today. But tomorrow might be a
different matter. With the stores closed, people
were starting to run out of food. Several
families had already run out, the type of people
who buy a day's food at a time at the mini mart
down the road. Others shop by the week, some by
two weeks at a time. Ernie had taken to passing
the time by shooting squirrels with an air rifle.
His wife was from a hunting family, and she could
clean a squirrel faster than any man in the
neighborhood. They had been givng away squirrel
meat. with instructions how to cook it. That was
helping a lot.

It became obvious that when the food ran out,
there would be a lot of things happening. People
would be calling the government on the telephone,
and demanding to "do something". There was talk
on the TV already about feeding camps being set
up. The talking heads were saying that
fortunately there were a lot of fenced in
military bases which were set up for housing
soldiers, and many thousands of people were
voluntarily going to the military bases for
housing and feeding. At the moment, they were
mostly taking in elderly and nursing mothers at
the bases. The TV reporters were showing video
clips of hungry people outside the barbed wire
fences, demanding to be let in. They were also
reporting scattered power outages, as the
transformer buildings and power stations had
been burned by the mobs of Muslims.

A call to Bill revealed that he had been seeing
the same images on his television, in his small
town TV viewing area. In a suburb of Chatanooga
TN, Bill had seen the reports of the city
burning. Fortunately, Bill was far enough away
from town, that the riots had not gotten any
where near.  And then the hungry people demanding
the government "do something". A call to Gomer in
eastern NYS revealed much the same thing. The
nearby cities such as Albany NY were in trouble.

Bill, Gomer, and Chris are three totally
different personalities. Normally, you would
not expect such widely different people to be
friends. But, knowing that times were getting
worse helped smooth out the minor differences.
Each found the others quite annoying. But, at
the same time each recognized some skills in the
other two.

Hmm. Power stations being burned, and power
outages across the nation? That didn't sound
very good. With winter time coming on, it was
clearly not a good time to be living in New
York, where the snow and bitter cold arrives
every winter. The trailer wasn't equipped
with a wood stove, and the paper thin walls
get real cold, real fast. Aparently, it's
time to take action.

Chris called Gomer on the telephone. Give him
a head up, I'm coming out your way. Gomer said
thanks, we'll try not to shoot anyone who looks
like you. Hmm. Gomer was only half joking.
That's a real concern. Not sure if I want to
travel during the day or the night. The Muslims
are mostly out at night. Gomer told him that
Faith and the girls were going to try and get to
his place. Havn't seen Faith and the girls in a
couple months. That would be good.

"Stick to Route 20 East. When you get near Little
Falls, head north to route 5. You should be able
to get into the hills unnoticed as you'll be a
little east of Little Falls and you'll be able
to slip into the hills and bring the back roads
in," Gomer suggested. "Worst case, you'll be hitting
some of the snow mobile and ATV trails. Just keep
going in the same general direction. They're
pretty much sticking to 'civilization'."

That's right. No one seems to be out mobbing in
the country. Only in the cities. Maybe that's it,
just bypass the cities.

"You still MTSU9?" Chris asked Gomer. Well,
yeah, the answer. Gomer wasn't happy with that
fact being mentioned on a telephone line,
especially a cell phone. There were only a
handful of people in the US who had Military
top Secret Unrestricted clearance. There were
ten levels, and only four people had level
10 clearance.

"What's in the wind, my friend?" Chris asked.
Gomer replied three or four phrases, which might
have sounded like a field commander calling
for a helecopter pickup. If you didn't know
better. What it told Chris was that the
rioting and looting were global. And that
the problem was rapidly gaining speed, and
that the troops and law enforcement were
unable to any where near keep up with it.

Chris had noticed something in the news footage
earlier: not all of the faces were Arabic any
longer. He'd started to notice other colors on
those faces. Some looked as if they's all bought
their clothes in thrift shops twenty years ago.
Some of the clothes he'd seen were ill fitting.
Many of the rioters were dressed in the latest
in gang wear. Baggy clothes.  So the rest of the
dregs were slipping in to take part in the
mayhem. One face in particular rang bells, but
Chris wasn't sure. Perhaps someone he'd seen in
passing in a grocery store or a gas station?

Nevermind. It'll come to you, he thought to
himself. Still, it appeared that the violence
and anger was bringing out the welfare bums in force.
Everyone with a grudge. Or everyone who wanted
to get something free from the rich folks. And
not just the USA ghettos, but all over the world.
Was this going to be the "big one"? It sure
looked like it.

What was worse, was that it wasn't just burning
buildings any more. There had been select
beheadings in the cities. But now, the violence
reminded Chris of the Rodney King riots in Los
Angeles. White people were dragged out of their
cars, and beaten.

So as not to make any noise that could be heard
beyond the walls of the trailer, Chris grabbed
his ready bag and laid it next to the door. Other
supplies were either already in the truck or
stored in tool boxes and tote boxes in various
places in the house and he began to gather them
in the living room. Some tote boxes in the shed,
and the all important barrel of gasoline.

Have to wait for nightfall to move this stuff with
out being noticed, he thought. Suddenly it hit him.
That face he'd seen was a face he'd seen in the
county courthouse while doing some work for the
sheriff's department. The man had been an inmate.
Of course this was a while ago and odds were he'd
been released since then. The rest of the faces
he'd seen held the same look looters in New
Orleans had looked after Hurricane Katrina had
ravaged that city. According to the judge's nasal
drone, the man had been jailed for burglary.
Burglary of what? The memory was just beyond reach.

Memory was working just fine for Sam. He
remebmered the last time he'd been part of an
emergency round up. It turned out to be "just
a practice drill". But he sure didn't enjoy
being searched, and made to wait a couple hours
in a detention center for truck drivers. The UN
guards barely spoke any English, and they had
foul disposition. They did take him back to his
truck after, but it wasn't a happy moment.

More reason to take care on the road; others
with less to lose and strictly greed as
motivation were on the prowl. The mob situation
looked like Los Angeles Rodney King riots, plus
the New Orleans violence, and a few other problems included.

Both Chris and Sam were concerned about the
road. Sam was pulling slowly into a truck parking
lot, being waved in by FEMA guys, and UN troops.
The smell of road flares was in the air, and the
tension was thick. Near the entrance, a bunch
of drivers were standing around, smoking
cigarettes, and rassling around. Not quite
fighting each other, but nearly so. A short
yellow school bus arrived, and several of the
guys got on.

"Baaahhh.... " Sam thought to himself. Sheep
going to be sheared. Sam stopped the truck
next to the truck ahead of him, and made some plans.

Chris glanced at his wrist watch. Only quarter
after ten in the morning, and the nation had fallen apart.
In one day, the nation went from
relative calm to cities burning and random
violence. What would happen tomorrow?

Chris glanced out the door, and saw that Ernie
was busy eating a grilled steak with baked
potatos and a cold beer. Drink it real slow,
Chris thought. Might be the last cold beer you
have for awhile. At least, the last one for you.
Chris knew that Gomer had a propane power
refrigerator, and Gomer would have cold beverages
for a long time. Chris had given up drinking 15
years ago.

The television in the living room was tuned to
a news reporter. The talking head was going on
and on about which cities had sustained damage,
and the latest predictions from the deputy
assistant undersecretary of Homeland Security
how soon the nation would return to normal.
Troops were being brought in from other countries
to quell the riots, civillians should immediately
give up their weapons, and go with the troops to
feeding centers where all would be taken care of.

Chris pulled out his cell phone, and called Bill
again. At least the utilities and telephone were
working. During the brief telephone call, Chris
learned that the situation down there was also
getting critical. The looting mobs had been busy
burning down the major cities. However, the
highways and open roads were pretty much
abandoned. No one had any more gasoline or other
fuels. The only vehicles moving were aparently
public service like fire trucks. And of course
the military troops being brought in.

Fire service! That's the connection that was
missing. OK, so there is the cover story, and
the public service identity. Cool stuff.

Now, for a long afternoon sleep.