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Chapter 6: Ring, Ring
Tex was assigned guard duty while the rest of the group ate breakfast and finalized the plans for the day. The consensus was to hunker down, get some rest and regroup. The radio would be monitored and a small group would go out to greet the neighbors. If things appeared calm and quiet, a scout party might head out in the afternoon to visit Tex’s house for supplies and to potentially swing by Barry’s gun shop, which was only just out of the way.
It was a tough call, but the group decided that waiting for Mike to arrive was their best strategy for the time being. A trip to the hospital was deemed high risk, and with a high likelihood of failure—there was no telling if Mike would be there, or if they’d be able to track him down. If he was on the job, he was also likely safe, so it was only a matter of waiting for his arrival.
A simple watch schedule was drawn up. With six able bodied adults—Jack and Fiona, Tex and Esme, Kyle and Amy, and the desire to have shifts no longer than four hours each, a twenty four hour block was divided into six, four hour blocks of time. The group decided to have two people on guard duty at all times, which meant each adult needed to be assigned two shifts. Those not assigned to guard duty would keep their walkie talkies and firearms close at hand.
“Where are we going to place the guards?” Kyle asked as they planned out their strategy for security. Previously, those on watch had remained on the Rourke’s property—in the garage, with a view of the street, or in the front yard. Jack scratched the stubble growing on his face, focusing on Google Map images spread out across the table. He’d printed them out and put them in protective sleeves a while ago—cost had been negligible, and now it gave them a detailed satellite view of the surrounding area.
“That’s a good question,” Jack acknowledged, “The problem with our street is that there is one way in and a dead end. If the entrance to the street gets taken over, we’re boxed in and we’ll need to bail out on foot. Hardly ideal.”
“Yup—all those pretty hardwoods make off-roading out of here a challenge. We could probably hop the curb, run over some bushes and squeeze our way out of here if someone decided to road block off the entrance, but it’d be dicey,” Kyle added, “We really need to watch the main road, ID and stop any trouble before it turns onto the street.”
“So wait, we’re setting up a road block now?” Amy said, jumping in.
“Naw, babe. There’s going to be through traffic and we don’t want to deal with that. Somebody can hide in the trees, watch for trouble and radio it in if spotted,” Kyle responded.
“But then we likely end up with the same problem—they’ve turned onto our street and now our exit may be compromised,” Jack added.
“Well, do you think we’ve got the people to man a roadblock on the main road?” Kyle said.
Jack shook his head.
“Not really, and like you said, we don’t want to deal with that.”
There was a moment of silence as the group thought collectively through the problem. Jack was the first to speak up.
“Well, if we lose the entrance, we lose the entrance. Let’s plan for that contingency. What if we took a couple of the trucks over here,” he said, pointing to a cleared area on the other side of the forest that covered the Rourke’s neighborhood. The area was accessible from another through street, and, from the satellite images, showed a nice little spot where they could park the vehicles in a place surrounded by trees and out of sight from the road. On foot, the group would just need to head out of Rourke’s backyard and travel for a quarter mile or so to reach the spot.
“Throw some camo over them, and leave them there just in case. Then, if we have to bug out on foot, we can head for the trucks and get out of here. There are a lot of cars in my driveway now anyways, not doing us much good.”
“Makes sense to me,” Kyle acknowledged.
“You’re volunteering your truck then?” Fiona chimed in.
“And my husband’s truck too!” Esme added.
“We can use my truck, but I’m not going to trust my life to Tex’s truck again. That thing wouldn’t start when we needed it to last time around.”
“We can use Amy’s Explorer,” Kyle said, receiving an elbow to the ribs for his trouble.
“Why not your truck?” Amy said.
“It’s red—not going to camo up very well,” Kyle said with a shrug and a grin, “besides, if the crap hits the fan, that means you’ll get to keep your car and I’ll have to leave mine to the zombies.”
With that part of the plan decided on, Jack moved onto other details.
“We’ll want to load the vehicles up with some supplies, and may want to wait until after dark tonight to move them into place. And, everybody needs to make sure their bags are packed and ready to roll at a moment’s notice.”
“The guard’s main responsibility, then, will be providing advanced warning if anything really bad looks like it is rolling our way, and also slowing the advance of any bad guys to give us time to retreat. In terms of the entrance to the neighborhood, I think we set out some obstacles and then have the guards observe them. Make up some spike strips or other barriers. Bad guys would have to try to smash through them or get out and move ‘em out of the way, which would give our people a signal of their intentions. If they are good guys, we’ve got some buffer distance to determine that, and can then talk with them and figure out what to do from there.”
The group nodded in agreement. They hashed out some further details of the plan—clarifying rules of engagement, how the guards would retreat if they found themselves in a protracted engagement, how and when the guards would call for support, and so on.
“All right—we’ve got the basic plan decided on. We should have probably figured that out way before this started, but hey, we’ve got it down now and I feel pretty good about it. It would be great if we could get some of the neighbors involved in pulling guard duty—they’re unfortunately pretty much unknowns, but they’ve got some skin in the game when it comes to security,” Jack said.
“I’d like to be a part of that,” Amy said.
“Me too. Most of them know me better than they know you,” Fiona chimed in.
“You’re a heck of a lot better looking, too,” Jack said with a grin. “And Amy, I think your people skills will be a big help. We’ll load up the garden cart with water jugs and bring those around to share if they need it, and see if we can find out any other intel as well.”
With the plan in place, the group went to work. With Tex still flying solo on guard duty for the time being, Kyle recruited Jack’s 7 year old boy, Porter, to help in fabricating some homemade spike strips and wooden barriers for the street’s entrance. Jack, Fiona and Amy headed out on their diplomatic mission, water filled wagon in tow, while Esme was left to watch over the brood of toddlers and a napping Brooke.
In favor of presenting themselves as the friendly, low-threat neighbors that they were, Jack was the only armed member of the diplomatic party. He carried only a concealed handgun and a pair of hidden knives. The women decided that the neighbors were very low risk and potentially very skittish, so heavier fire power was left behind for the short trip down the block. They had Tex waiting in the wings with an AK-47 if anything did happen, and Kyle was only a few short paces away from them.
The first home, directly across the street, went very well. Jack stood back and let the women work their charms on the older couple, sharing information and telling, in vague details, about the chaos and violence they’d seen in the Blackwell’s neighborhood. Though he was in his late 70s and had never fired a gun in his life, the husband offered his services on guard duty. The couple hadn’t heard any more about the attacks than what had been available over the radio, and were not expecting any visitors or family to arrive in the next few days. Their home was also on well water, and they had a gas generator to keep it running for the time being.
“Well, they were nice,” Amy said as they walked street to the next home.
“They certainly were,” Fiona added in.
Jack had to agree. They were good, nice people. He didn’t know how much help they would be, and, quite possibly, the couple would need help if the crisis continued on for as long as Jack feared it might. He kicked himself for forgetting to ask if they had any medical needs that they might need help with—not that they could do a whole lot if one of the couple were say, diabetic, but it would have at least been good to know.
Getting to know the kind older couple a bit better also made the idea of cutting and running in the face of trouble a bit harder to stomach. If an angry, hungry mob came rampaging down their street, was he prepared to abandon them as he ran for safety with his wife, children and friends? Could they hope to bring the older couple along with them?
Jack was lost in his thoughts when something summoned him back to the present moment. It was a familiar sound—a repetitive buzzing—but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Then, a loud 90s-vintage pop song began playing from Amy’s back pocket.
Their phones were ringing.
Jack’s hand flew to his pocket, retrieving his phone—he’d charged it up and put it in his pocket out of habit. He checked the caller ID—Unknown. He slid his thumb across the touchscreen, answering the call, and then switched the speaker on.
“This is urgent emergency message,” an awkward computerized voice declared, “U.S.A. Air Command has reported nuclear missile inbound for your location. You have approximately twenty minutes to evacuate the area. Disregard any reports to the contrary—the enemy may be broadcasting misinformation. Repeat: U.S.A. Air Command has reported nuclear missile inbound for your location. You have approximately twenty minutes to evacuate the area. Disregard any reports to the contrary—the enemy may be broadcasting misinformation.”
Then the line went dead, the call over.
Jack, Fiona and Amy all looked at each other, a mix of surprise and confusion pasted across their faces. Jack checked back to his phone—it was still reporting no signal. He looked back to the house, where Tex had his phone up to his ear, a similar look of confusion developing on his face.Jack stared at his phone again, dumbfounded.
“What the heck?”