This is the first entry in our new series of survival scenarios, You Took Away Tomorrow. Here, we introduce the cast of characters during happy times prior to the coming apocalypse. Trouble is coming...stay tuned.
One Month before the Event
Jack Rourke slammed a fresh magazine into his AR-15, running for safety. Covering fire echoed behind him, 5.56mm rounds blasting down range. Jack reached cover behind a blue 55-gallon water barrel, settled into a kneeling firing position, stock quickly resting into its familiar place on his shoulder. His thumb flipped the AR’s selector switch to the fire position, and Rourke set his Aimpoint’s dot squarely onto the center mass of his target. Then, putting thousands of repetitions into action, he squeezed the trigger to the rear—crisply, smoothly.
The AR jumped slightly, but good shooting fundamentals, a mid-length gas system and a pricey compensator kept the carbine nearly completely flat. He fired rapidly, smoking the target with three more rounds.
“MOVING!” Kyle MacNab, Jack’s shooting partner, yelled, loud enough to hear over the booming rifle fire.
“MOVE!” Jack responded. Kyle’s fire stopped as he burst from cover, racing behind Jack’s position at the blue water barrel and beyond to the next area of cover, an old Chevy pickup. Kyle dropped into an urban prone position behind the Chevy’s rear passenger tire, aiming underneath the truck’s body. Set into his new position, optic on target, Kyle began re-engaging.
“Targets down!” a voice yelled from behind the line of fire. Jack and Kyle’s fire stopped, trigger fingers straightened along the side of their receivers, and safeties were re-engaged. Kyle hopped up from his prone position to a low crouch, and then both men checked their surroundings, scanning for any additional threats.
“LOADING!” Jack called out, satisfied that they were safe for the moment.
“RELOAD!” Kyle responded, signaling that he would provide cover while Jack’s carbine was out of the fight momentarily for a reload. Quickly, Jack grasped a fresh magazine from his chest rig, swapped out the mostly depleted mag in his gun for the new one, and stowed the old mag in his rig.
Having finished the tactical reload, Jack signaled Kyle with a “Ready!”
Then it was Kyle’s turn to go through the some process—the load/reload calls, performing the tactical reload and calling completion when he was good to go.
“All right, end drill,” Jack said after getting the ready call from Kyle. He let his rifle hang from its sling and turned to face the assembled group of family and friends who had been watching the drill. On the family side, there was Jack’s wife, Fiona and his 7 year old boy, Porter. On the friend side, there were his buddies Mike Blackwell and Tyler Ryan, as well as Mike’s wife Brooke and Tyler’s wife Esmerelda.
Mike, Tyler and especially Porter had big dumb grins on their faces. The assembled group clapped at the performance. Jack and Kyle took half bows, chuckling.
“Nothing much, guys,” Kyle brushed off the praise “You shoulda seen the instructors. They could probably run that drill three times as fast, with their eyes closed.”
“Are you kidding? That was sweet!” Porter said, laughing, single-shot .22lr slung safely over his shoulder.
“Guess them fancy shootin’ classes paid off, huh fellas?” Tyler asked, purposely exaggerating his Texan accent for effect. His nickname was “Big Tex” or just “Tex”, and he fit the name quite well. He’d earned the nickname playing as a linebacker in college and certainly still had the size and strength to throw an average sized guy around with one hand.
“Big Tex, you better hope those classes paid off, or Kyle might have just put a couple new holes in the belly of your Chevy,” Mike laughed.
“If he did, there’ll be hell to pay—from my wife. You love my truck, huh, Esme babe?” Tex joked, nudging his wife, who smacked his arm away playfully.
“Oh yes, you know how much I love having your big, ugly, gas-guzzling truck sitting in the driveway,” Esmerelda jabbed back.
“All right, all right guys, let’s break this up before Tex gets himself in over his head. Everybody circle up,” Jack said, the group gathering in around him.
“So you just saw, in a nutshell, a lot of what Kyle and I learned in that carbine course we took last weekend. It probably didn’t look too fancy, but there were a lot of different moving pieces there, and I’d hardly say Kyle and I got all those pieces mastered in a four-day class. There’s the basics and then you throw in shooting from cover, communicating with a partner, providing cover fire and moving, and doing it all safely, quickly and effectively. It gets pretty advanced pretty quickly. But, Kyle and I honestly got some excellent range time and instruction in, and feel pretty comfortable with the skills we just demonstrated.
”The drill we just ran through is going to be the goal that I think we need to work towards with everybody—yes, that means you Fiona honey—but we’ll need to work up towards it. This afternoon, we’ll go back over some of the basics and make sure everyone’s comfortable with them. Then, on following gatherings, we can gradually step things up a notch. Sound good to everybody?”
The circle quickly responded in the affirmative.
“All right then, let’s get rifles ready and get shooting!” Jack said, the group responding with cheers.
Later that evening, after the range session, the group gathered around a bonfire, Tex taking charge of roasting a whole pig on a spit while the others relaxed in camp chairs, chatting and getting in some pre-dinner snacks.
Jack leaned back, ice cold glass bottled root beer in one hand and his wife’s hand in the other.
“You did well, honey,” he told her.
“Thanks, love, it was a lot of fun,” Fiona said, her crisp Irish accent bringing a smile to Jack’s face. He’d always been a sucker for that darn accent.
“Not so scary, huh?”
“No, I’m getting used to it. But thanks for asking.”
Fiona had grown up in the U.K., where guns had been vilified and eventually banned, confiscated and destroyed en masse. And so Fiona had grown up terrified of firearms. When Jack and Fiona had met during college in Utah, he’d taken her out to the desert for some plinking on one of their first dates. She’d been ridiculously nervous just shooting his Ruger 10/22, and literally yelped in startled surprise at shooting his Glock. One shot had been enough for her—and that was it for her range time until several years after they had been married.
It’d been something that they had worked through over the years, and now, a decade later, she was finally getting comfortable around guns and, though a bit timidly, showing interest in learning how to shoot. Today, she’d run through more ammo than ever before. And she’d done a great job, too. Jack was, for lack of a better word, proud.
“The SAS will come recruiting knocking on our door soon,” he joked.
“Doubtful,” she laughed.
Jack sat back, watching his friends talking, laughing and enjoying themselves. His oldest son, Porter, was busy roasting four marshmallows simultaneously, planning on combining them into one so called “mega-s’more.” Jack’s other boy, two year old Link, was fast asleep in their little camper trailer. Kyle and his wife, Amy, who had sat out on the training session to watch some of the younger children, were teaming up to making some sort of cobbler desert that Kyle claimed had been passed down through at least five generations of his family. Mike wrestled his kids, Lilly and Ash, on a large picnic blanket while his wife Brooke strummed an acoustic guitar. Esmerelda worked on reassembling her AK-47 after finishing up a cleaning.
Jack was happy. He’d had a good day of shooting with good friends. The roasting pig was really starting to smell delicious, its sweet, meaty scent rolling through the forest air. The root beer was the exact perfect temperature. Life was good.
The land they were on was a hunting lease that Kyle, Jack and Tex had gone in on together; a big, two hundred and fifty acre plot at the far end of a farmer’s large land holdings. The farmer had given them a thumbs-up to camp, shoot, hike or do whatever on the land, as long as they did so responsibly. As far as Jack was concerned, this patch of forest was paradise. It was primitive, un-built upon land, with only the fire ring that they camped around. But it had several year-round streams, ponds, and plenty of thick, beautiful hard woods. They’d arranged a “lease-to-own” deal with the farmer, and, if everything went smoothly, the land would be theirs in 10 or so years.
As Jack kicked back and relaxed, he considered, that, in many ways, he was the reason the group was together.
Kyle was the first that he’d bonded with when moving into the area—Kyle’s wife, Amy, had been their real estate agent, and she had identified a definite “bro” match when she discovered Jack dabbled in martial arts and shooting. Soon, Kyle and Jack were training partners at the local martial arts school, and shooting buddies when they made it out to the ranges. Of course, along with the interest in fighting and shooting came an interest in general preparedness—food, water, fuel, medical supplies, that kind of thing. For really the first time, Jack had a good buddy he could talk to about that kind of stuff—in between practicing arm bars and knife fighting.
Mike and Tex, Jack had met at church—all were Latter-Day Saints, or more commonly , Mormons. Tex had grown up shooting ground hogs, feral pigs and coyotes, so they had naturally bonded over talks of guns and ammo. Mike was a paramedic; Jack had originally sought out his expertise around dealing with traumatic injuries, but then Mike had quickly become fascinated with Jack’s knowledge of survivalism, preparedness and the array of cool guy stuff that came along with it.
The group had met up for BBQs, movie nights and trips to the shooting range, the conversation often coming back to what to do in case of a disaster or societal collapse. And, there was lots to worry about. The struggling economy, propped up by never ending government spending and ridiculous leverage. Domestic affairs, as the key players in Washington seemed ever more aggressive in their expansion of government, invasion of privacy and attacks on traditional conservative values and Constitutional rights. International affairs, now that Iran, Pakistan and North Korea had operational nukes and missiles to mount them on. Al Queda was resurging as a threat in Africa and throughout the Mid-East. The world was a real mess, and there were no signs that it would be getting better.
So far, the group had done some talking and game planning, and helped each other take steps towards becoming better prepared. They were far from hardcore, diehard survivalists ready for cable TV, but all were interested, engaged and taking measures to become better prepared for tough times that all fear may be imminent.
Jack considered himself—and the others would agree—the most dedicated among them, with a specific portion of his monthly budget focused towards stocking up on food storage, ammunition, survival gear and the like, and a few small side-projects to help support them. He had a fairly well-rounded family arsenal of firearms, solid bug out bags for everyone in his family, a small solar set-up, six or so months’ worth of food storage, a good sized emergency fund and precious metals socked away, reliable, off-road capable vehicles and a myriad of other preparations. He lived in a nice, sturdy house with ample storage, 3 acres of land, handful of fruit trees, a well, and, thanks to Fiona’s hard work, a very health garden and a small flock of chickens.
Aside from all of the “stuff,” Jack had sought out training from some of the best—the carbine class had been his fourth firearms course—as well as courses from wilderness survival experts and regular training in a variety of martial arts, including some of the blade-focused styles of Filipino Martial Arts. He had also accumulated a fairly good library full of various manuals and books, and had varying levels of expertise in a wide variety of areas.
Despite all that he’d done, Jack had a long, long way to go before he would be content. No hardened wilderness retreat, no bullet-poof bug out vehicle of doom, no hidden bomb shelter, plus three years into a 30-year mortgage, two little boys to raise and plenty of student loan debt to contend with, too.
Of the other group members, Kyle MacNab was probably strongest on the combat side—he was by far in the best physical shape in the group, and, having fought—and won—three amateur MMA fights, the most skilled in hand-to-hand combat. He was as good or better than Jack on the shooting range, depending on the day. But, Kyle was less interested when it came to other areas—food storage, water, medical, food production and so on. However, he was the most handy of the group, especially when it came to electrical work—his day job was running a business that installed high end security, entertainment and home automation systems. Kyle and his wife, Amy, were the only non-Mormons on the group, but as a religious, wholesome and faithful couple, they fit in just fine. Both Kyle and Amy worked full time and were waiting a few more years before having children.
Tyler “Tex” Ryan came at survivalism and preparedness from his country boy upbringing. He loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors in general, and, being a die-hard Texan, considered himself something of a cowboy. So, Tex had an odd-ball collection of hunting rifles, shotguns, big bore revolvers, 1911s and lever guns, many of them handed down or gifts from family. After some trigger time behind a semi-auto rifle, he’d fairly recently added a pair of AK-47s to his arsenal—one each for him and Esme. Being a massive beast of a man—6’4 and pushing over 275, most of it muscle—he didn’t have much of an interest in learning “fancy pants kung fu crap”, as he referred to it. As an outdoorsman, he already had most of the gear required for “roughing it”—including a very nice 32 foot 5th wheel trailer, a fishing boat and a Polaris RZR side-by-side, painted in his favorite camouflage pattern. He was also pretty good with a wrench—or at least at keeping his prized 1980s vintage Chevy pickup running.
Mike Blackwell was the newest of the group to survivalism, but he brought with him the knowledge and skills that came with being a paramedic. He’d amassed a comprehensive assortment of medical gear and a small library of manuals to supplement his knowledge. He’d also sought out additional training programs through the hospital system, and was in the process of training to join the county’s search and rescue team. Some gruesome experiences in his line of work had left Mike leery of firearms, and he’d only very recently bought his first rifle, a Ruger 10/22, at Jack’s recommendation.
Mike also had the challenge of living in a comparatively high crime area; it had been an okay neighborhood when they’d moved in, but quickly slid into troubles after the housing market crashed. Their cars had been broken into, neighbor’s homes had been burglarized and so on—nothing enough to make the local news, but certainly enough for concern. Mike had been working to save up enough money to afford to move into a new area but was still a half year away from his goal, if family finances ran smoothly.
The wives were typically less engaged when the discussion turned to fortifying the homestead, blasting the zombie hordes and surviving the apocalypse, but they were all friends and had formed a close-knit social group. They also had their different skills and areas that they were more naturally inclined to than others.
Jack and Fiona had been married for a decade—they’d just celebrated their 10th anniversary with a gloriously relaxing week-long cruise to Alaska. Fiona was a stay-at-home mom, avid reader, gardener and expert baker. She’d become quite adept at canning produce from their garden over the past few summers and dehydrating fruit from their fruit trees in the fall. She spoke French, Spanish and German fluently—learned during travels bank-rolled by her wealthy family, as well as in full-time missionary service. As far as Jack was concerned, Fiona was about the perfect woman—naturally thin, gorgeous, brilliant, a wonderful mother and a perfect wife.
Kyle’s wife, Amy, had seemingly endless reserves of energy and enthusiasm. She worked out avidly and was probably in better shape than Kyle was, which was impressive. Amy was an incredible networker, a people person with a vast array of friends and former clients. That made her a very effective realtor, and it also meant that she had a talent for connecting others. If you needed someone to do something, chances are, Amy knew someone who could help. Need a new fence? Need a good orthopedic surgeon? Need to buy parts for a small plane engine? Amy would somehow know someone, on a first name basis, who could help you out.
Esmerelda, Tex’s wife, had been born and raised in Argentina. She had witnessed chaos and civil unrest first-hand while her family rode through the economic collapse of the early 2000s. Her family sent her to the U.S. for school, where she’d met Tex, married and become a citizen. Of the wives, Esme was probably the most “into” survivalism—especially when it came to economic collapse. Esme was a natural with numbers and had the credentials to match—she was a CPA and, between being a full-time mom for their three year old daughter, Kate, worked from home as an accountant for a successful start-up company. She kept a close eye on various financial indicators and could talk for hours about the consequences of the Federal Reserve’s latest measures.
Finally, Mike Blackwell’s wife, Brooke, was a warm, easy going, free-spirited type and a multi-talented musician. She had professional level skills in piano, guitar and flute, and an exceptional singing voice. But, instead of pursuing a career in the music biz, she’d largely spent the past several years focused on raising their two children, Lilly and Ash, but still did the occasional music gig—backup for the symphony, usually.
While the group was far from a well-tuned survival machine, Jack thought they were in pretty good shape. Sure, they certainly had some deficiencies in terms of skills and resources, and, at the end of the day, they were only four men, four women and a small flock of young children. But, they were good friends, got along well and had a lot going for them.
They hadn’t really gotten serious about any plans at this point—the general agreement was to initially fall back to Jack’s home if the other group members homes were compromised, and then from there they would relocate to the hunting land, about an hour drive outside of town, if the need came up.
Of course, Jack was well aware that the all-important details were still fuzzy. How would the group communicate if the phones were down—or would they even need to communicate? What if Jack’s home was compromised—would they go to the MacNab or Ryan homes? What would trigger a bug out? What if people were at work—would they first go home, and then after a set period of time relocate to the rendezvous point at Jack’s, or would they just go straight there? What if cars were knocked out of commission—would they walk? What if there was a pandemic—would group members need to be quarantined? How would they do that?
Lots of what ifs to plan for, Jack thought to himself. Well, they at least had time to plan and come to agreements. As bad as things were, the world was not about to end right then and there. They had the basics to work with, and certainly could figure the rest out without much trouble—of that, Jack was confident. It was only a matter of time.
Jack looked at his friends gathered around the campfire, laughing and happy, then to his wife, resting her head on his shoulder. His son, chomping down on a quadruple decker s’more, chocolate and marshmallow goo oozing out the sides. The sounds of the wind rustled through the forest and the fire crackled, seeming to mingle in with Brooke Blackwell’s soft guitar strumming. The roast pig was almost done. Jack sipped his root beer and smiled. Life was good.