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Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 2 A , by Christopher Young


Chris walked next door, and saw Ernie out on the porch eating hot dogs without buns. "No bread, neighbor?" Ernie said no, they used the last of the bread this morning. Chris told Ernie a very little bit of the plan. Got some friends who are running short of supplies, I'm going to go help them out. I'll be back a day or so. You remember where the spare key is? Ernie nodded yes, and the two men shook hands. Good luck, they wished each other.

Chris walked slowly back to his truck. He checked the bungee straps on the tarp on top of the trailer. Took a last, slow, look at the trailer where he had lived for the last several years. Would it be there when he got back? Would he even be back ever? Neither seemed likely.

Turning the key in the ignition, the motor came to life. The vents blew cold air, as the engine was cold. Chris turned on the fire service radio. Keyed the microphone, and spoke his call sign. The dispatcher answered immediately, and sounded both very sleepy, and very relieved. "742, how you doing?" "Fine, Chet. You staying out of trouble?" In the next couple minutes, Chris learned that the fire departments in the county were running very low on diesel fuel, and some had run out. The water pressure was near to zero, and the fires kept burning. Chris told the dispatcher he'd be out of the area for a little while. With an understanding note in his voice, Chet ten foured that, and the conversation ended.

Switching to the state police band, Chris listened as the truck engine started to warm up. The vents started to blow warm air, and that felt good, as it was down to about 40F outdoors. The leaves were starting to turn colors, and fall off the trees. From what he could figure, Chris was hearing a lot of reports of trouble, but very little police action. Chris contacted the base, and asked for a T-stat report. The dispatcher replied that the NYS Thruway was official business only, but no problems were reported for the length of the toll road. A couple cars had been burned west of here, towards Buffalo. Chris closed the conversation, and pulled the gear shift into drive.

The short, four mile drive to the Thruway entrance was spooky. It was after dark, and very few houses had any lights on. Some houses and trailers were smouldering piles of ash and blacked beams. There was a State Trooper and four national Guardsmen at the entrance ramp to the Thruway. Chris slowed down, and rolled open the drivers side window. He recognized the man, it was Trooper Gonzales, from the local State Police Barracks. The two men greeted by name, and he asked Chris why was he on the road. Have to head to Albany, they are having a high level meeting, and asked me to attend. What's the road like?

Pedro tipped his flat brimmed patrol hat back, and looked thoughtful. "I been talked to some of the boys up and down, been keeping the radio on, you know. They say the road is pretty good, but once in awhile someone figures to set up ambush. You be careful, now, you know?" Chris nodded, and turned his eyes forward. Trooper Gonzales turned to get back in his car. After all, it's cold out.

Sigh. The decals and light bar worked. We're good. Chris took the familiar east bound entrance ramp, and pulled onto the highway. A NYSPD car passed him on the left, going about 90 MPH. with lights and flashers and siren going. "Neat stuff", Chris thougt. At least if there was a road block or something, that would be his early warning. He would be able to see the flashing lights of the stopped Trooper car ahead. Chris settled for about 50 MPH. Fast enough to get there, but not whipping the tarp off the trailer. The fishtailing from the trailer was managable. Chris set the cruise control, and kept the police band radio turned up good and loud. Any information is useful. The troopers were griping how the FEMA was ordering them to turn over all the looters to Federal control. and then the troopers could see the FEMA trucks taking the looters back to the cities and turning them loose again. The Troopers were disciplined enough not to criticize higher authority, but it was clear they thought the idea was foolish.

Four hours later, Chris arrived at the small town of Elk Flats, NY. He pulled off the  Thruway, and waved to the trooper who was guarding the exit ramp.

The time read 3 AM.

Pleased to be at destination. The car seat was pleasant, but starting to cramp butt. A lot. Five miles off the highway, Chris reached over to the passenger seat. He picked up a two way radio, and wondered out loud if Gomer would remember the channel and code. With a note of curiosity in his voice, he pushed the transmitter and spoke. Two seconds later, a voice replied with the correct coded response. The code meant "caution required, and return to base". Chris turned down the side road, and continued. Going slightly down hill, he was pleased for the rise on top of the hill, the radio would transmit farther. Of course, Gomer was using the base station for a repeater, and would be able to use the base antenna to talk wherever he was. Good thinking, that.

The driveway was marked by only two blue reflectors, the kind that truck drivers and farmers the world around used. To the rest of the world, the driveway was totally unremarkable. Chris turned into the driveway, and reached with his other hand into the glove compartment, to pull out the key to the activator box for the electric gate. As his headlights rounded the corner, the gate was open. Standing next to the end of the gate was Gomer, wearing his combat gear, and rifle at the rest ready position.

Chris closed the glove box, and turned on the revolving red lights. Gomer leaned the battle rifle on the gate, and put both hands way in the air. Eyes wide, and looking scared. Chris turned off the red lights, and both men started to laugh.

Chris pulled far enough in to allow the gate to close. Gomer pushed the button on his remote control, and the gate slid closed on its tracks. Came to the pasenger side of the truck, and got in. The rifle barely fit in the truck, with the night sight and other equipment.

Chris eased the truck down the long drive. Chris knew a thing or two about that gate; it was electrified for instance. And it was heavier than it looked and the track was six feet underground as was the base of the gate. He'd helped Gomer test its desgin and knew that only a very heavily loaded medium duty truck moving at a pretty good clip could punch through it. He'd helped design the gate. A heavy truck might get through, but it would stop dead before it passed completely through. That's where the electricity came in. Anyone trying to squeeze through would find it very unpleasant; every two thousand feet was a line charger box of the kind used to hem in cattle.

"The key is the ground", Chris remembered Gomer telling him. "The grounds are six feet into the earth and each of those boxes is meant to hadle twice the distance they charge and the boxes are wrapped in more wire to prevent tampering". By now they would all be switched on. Gomer plays for keeps.
  
Chris pulled the truck into the familar parking space in front of Gomer's garage. Turned off the power, and got out. Gomer also got out. Chris tripped the electric locks, and followed Gomer into the house. They chatted a few minutes, and Chris headed down the hall to his pre arranged bedroom. Two kids were sleeping in Chris's bed. He carried one, and Gomer carried the other down the hall to the kids bedroom. And then came back to sleep.

Five hours later, Gomer was fixing breakfast for his family. The kids from downstairs had come up. Mom's still asleep, they said. And Dad's not gonna wake up till noon easy. So, Gomer put two more slices of bread in the toaster, and cracked four more eggs. Two handed, just like in the military. One egg in each hand.

Shawn, 4, was also still about half asleep. He had a bright red plastic spoon in one hand, the other arm was helping prop up his sleepy head. So he wouldn't sleep in his eggs. Wondering why he woke up in the kids room. Didn't I fall asleep in the guest room?  Melissa, 5, was hungrily eating her eggs with one hand, and eating toast with the other hand. No clue what happened last night, nor in the rest of the world. The house is warm and the food is good. Her Blues Clues doll sat next to her at the table. Zachary, 7, was looking at the food with a sour expression. "These eggs are all hard. I like mine runny and yellowy." He went on to complain about how it was hot in the apartment, and open a window. And how the milk was warm, too. Gomer gave him the "shut the F up" look, and went back to cooking eggs. This time, he cooked two eggs wet and runny. Slid them off the pan into Zach's  plate, and went back to toasting more bread.

About 10 AM, Chris awoke from his much needed night sleep. The smell of cooking came down the hall. Chris put his clothes back on, and his shoes. Still partly asleep, Chris arrived at the breakfast table. Gomer put some toast and eggs on Chris's plate, and then opened the propane power fridge, and pulled out a cold Diet Coke. Neat stuff, being able to bug out with a camp cook, and a cold soda.

By 10 AM, Sam had been awake for three hours. Had rolled up the bedding, and folded his tent. A couple of Trioxane tablets in an Esbitt stove had warmed some food out of his back pack. Checking the map, Sam got his location as best he could, and took a compass berring. It was a little redundant to compass, as the sun gave direction. but, better to sight in than to get lost or miss the mark. Sam slowly continued hiking through the woods, his laced his boots leaving no mark, and set the sun over his left shoulder. A look of determination went with him.

Shortly after 10 AM, Faith was looking over her bug out list. She had decided to take only the essentials on the bug out, and figure Gomer would have the rest. Shampoo. Lipstick. Laundry soap. Five changes of fashionable clothes. Four changes of school clothes for the kids. One change of play clothes. Kids toys. Combs and brushes. Bar soap, perfume, and eye liner. Plenty of good CD and DVD to keep the kids entertained. Including the latest one that came in the $39.95 per month kids DVD club. It only arrived yesterday, the girls hadn't seen it yet. The girls were barely awake, and they were both hungry and cranky. Faith looked in the cabinets, and the only food left was a half a box of macaroni and cheese. No milk or butter. There was a huge pile of empty soda pop bottles in the corner next to the over flowing trash can. Wondering if she should take the empty pop bottles, might be able to return them some where. Well, she still had twenty dollars from last week, so she could buy food. Leave the soda bottles. With nothing in the house to feed the kids, she just took the girls outside and strapped them into the car seats.

Locked the door, and then started the car. The gas gage read 1/4 tank. She never managed to keep more than 1/3 tank, because gasoline is so expensive. Might have to stop and put some gasoline on the charge card.

In Chattanooga TN, Bill was finishing his shower for the day, and getting ready to go to bed. After years of working night shift at the factory, Bill had settled into his inverted schedule. Awake at night, and sleep during the day. This worked out well, because David was an early riser. They were comptable, and able to take turns with the guard post. At 10 AM, David had already had his breakfast, and was out walking the perimeter.