> TEOTWAWKI Blog: You Took Away Tomorrow: Chapter 7 - Further Complications

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6/30/13

You Took Away Tomorrow: Chapter 7 - Further Complications

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Chapter 7: Further Complications

“Could this be real?” Amy asked, hands clearly starting to shake as she looked at the cell phone in her hand.
              “It could be real, but I don’t think it is. But, let’s get back home anyways.”
              “But if it’s real, don’t we need to, like, run?” Amy said.
              “It’s not real, Amy,” Fiona insisted “It sounded fake, didn’t it?”
              The group walked the short distance back to the Rourke home, where Tex was standing guard in the front yard, AK-47 held in a low-ready position. The big former linebacker made an imposing sentry.
              “You guys get the same bogus phone call about an incoming nuke?” Tex asked.
              “Yup—you think it’s a fake?” Jack asked. Tex nodded.
              “Tricky as heck, but fake. USA Air Command? What the heck is that?”
              “Nothing that I know of. 20 minute advanced warning is hardly enough time for a mass evacuation, anyways—I doubt the real government would even pass on that warning if a nuke was incoming,” Jack said. Fiona nodded in agreement.


              “It sounded like a script written by someone who didn’t speak English as a native language—awkward. And, did you notice how they made sure to discredit news from any other source?” she said.
              The group nodded.
              “So—we just pretend like we didn’t get the call and hope that it was a fake?” Amy asked.
              Jack shook his head.
              “No—let’s go check the radio and then hunker down in the basement, just in case. Probably our best bet.”
              They gathered Kyle and Porter, who had been collaborating on the construction of the improvised spike strips to protect the neighborhood entrance, then turned to go inside the home. The sound of slamming doors gave them pause, and they turned to see the elderly neighbor’s Cadillac roar to life. The old man stomped on the accelerator, tires squealing, and rocketed out of their driveway.
              Jack and Fiona waved at them, trying to get their attention in order to warn them that the message was likely a fake, but it was no use. The old man was in flight mode, blinders on, wanting only to get out of dodge as fast as possible. In a few moments, the Cadillac swerved around the corner, disappearing from view.
              “Dang, that grandpa could drive,” Tex said in quiet amazement.
              The retreat of the elderly neighbors seemed to open the floodgates. Moments later, other neighbors were dashing to their cars in panic. The liberal family with their teenage girls made a run to their luxury SUV, arms overflowing with frantically gathered food. The divorced man threw open his garage and turned over the engine on his motorcycle. Others made their mad dash to their vehicles, loading up as quickly as they could.
              Jack’s group jumped up and down in his driveway, waving their arms and yelling out warnings.
              “It’s a fake! The message was a fake!” they yelled, but to no avail. Nothing could divert their neighbors from their planned course of action. In the space of a minute, all had loaded up and raced away.
              “Guys, maybe we’re missing something…” Amy said. Kyle, who hadn’t had his cell phone when the call went out, cleared his throat.
              “Are you certain it was a fake message? No chance it could be real?”
              Jack, Tex and Fiona looked at each other and nodded.
              Amy, though, was still noticeably anxious.
              “It’s 100% fake, Kyle. Like those Nigerian Princes that want to share their inheritance with you—fake as can be,” Tex said.
              “But guys—what if you are wrong? Shouldn’t we run, just in case?” Amy said.
              “Where to? There were zero directions about a projected impact site or which direction to travel. And, I guarantee that right about now, the roads are becoming choked as the masses try to get out of the danger zone. We wouldn’t make it very far in the time we have left,” Jack said.
              Kyle nodded.
              “Ya, I just got off those roads—I can only imagine what they’ll be like. Hellacious.”
              The group retreated inside the Rourke home and gathered in the basement, where the radio was playing. The local news station had already picked up the story—the newscaster’s voice was tinged with stress.
              “Many of you listening may have received an automated message a few minutes ago. We have confirmed with the Sherriff’s Office that this message is fraudulent—it is suspected that hackers have commandeered the county reverse 911 system and are sending out fake alerts in order to cause mass panic. If you received a call, ignore it. The nature of the message may be highly alarming—but that’s the point, to cause panic and fear. Please ignore the message. The system has reportedly been disabled, and no subsequent calls should be possible.”
              The group, though confident in their original assessment, let out a collective sigh of relief after having received confirmation.
“Unless the bad guys have actually commandeered the local radio station, then I think it’s safe to say that we were right,” Jack said. He checked his watch—by his count, if there was going to be a nuclear attack, it would come in a mere ten minutes.
 “I think our diplomatic mission has been cancelled—at least for the time being. There’s a good chance that we will see a horde of people coming through the area soon, as they try to make it away from the supposed attack. Top priority is getting our security in order. We need to move the vehicles, get the roadblock for the neighborhood entrance set up and all of the other measures we discussed,” Jack said.
“If the whole thing was a hoax, then we’re just burning time hanging out around here. I’d like to get back to work on those spike strips. You think you could pitch in, Jack?” Kyle said.
Jack was about to agree, but Amy spoke up.
“Look, I know it looks like the message was a fake, but can we at least just hang out down here for a few more minutes before we go running around again? Just to play it a little bit safe?”
Jack thought about it for a moment, visualizing the mass evacuation on the freeways, highways and side streets that was now beginning to take place around them. There were only two real major interstates that intersected the area—one heading north/south, the other heading east/west. While his home was not smack dab on the freeway, it was also under a ten minute drive to the nearest interstate on-ramp for the north/south road. Who could guess exactly what the hordes would do—if they would ignore their exit, or if they would continue onwards. Would some try to seek refuge in his neighborhood? It was impossible to know.
“Amy, I think this moves up the timetable for when we need to get things accomplished. There are a lot of people moving out on the roads now, and a lot are probably going to end up stranded. We’ve got to be ready for that—we might have a crowd of people outside tonight, looking for food and a place to spend the night. If we’re not ready for that, it could get pretty ugly,” Jack said. He was about to continue, but Fiona touched his arm, diverting his attention.
“Love, it’s only a few minutes. Let’s just wait here and take a breather, and then we can all get to work,” she said in her soothing Irish accent.
Reluctantly, Jack agreed. Tex was about to voice his disagreement, but a sharp look from Esmerelda stopped him before he could even open his mouth.
The countdown to the supposed time of impact ticked downwards as an exhausted silence fell over the group. The radio sounded in the background, the newscaster repeating his calls to ignore the phone message.
Sitting there, Jack’s mind wandered back over the day’s events—his run for home, the initial gathering of the group, the mission to the Blackwell’s and the gunfight that ensued. Jack hadn’t paused long enough to think over the damage he’d caused during the battle and the lives that he had likely taken. As Jack reflected, he realized that he felt at peace with his actions—he had fought to save his life and the lives of his friends. He felt no sadness at what had happened to the thugs who had attacked them, but instead was filled with gratitude that he had been able to act decisively and effectively protect the lives of others.
Soon, the twenty minute time had come and gone, with not a sound of distant explosion or rumble from an impact. Jack was about to get the group moving into action, when the familiar sound of ringing cellphones again filled the room. There was a pause as they looked at each other, unsure of whether to answer or not. Jack answered his phone, finding the now familiar computerized voice on the other end of the line.
“This is urgent emergency message. U.S.A. Air Command now reports missile is thirty minutes from your location. Missile may be nuclear, chemical or biological in nature. Please continue evacuation process. Disregard any reports to the contrary—the enemy may be broadcasting misinformation—“
Jack shut the phone off before the message could repeat again.
“So much for the system being disabled. They’ve added chemical and biological weapons into the mix—probably because there is no mushroom cloud coming and they want people to continue to freak out afterwards.”
“Damn,” Kyle said, “When people get stranded, they’re likely to try to seek shelter.”
              “It’s going to be a long night,” Tex added.
              “Well guys, then let’s get to work. Fiona, I think we need to move the vehicles to the hide site as soon as possible, and I want you with me. We’ll see if it’s even feasible to hide the vehicles—if we can, then we’ll do it. Tex and Amy, you guys run guard duty. Esme, you hold down the fort here, watch the kids and Brooke. Kyle, I need you to crank out those spike strips fast. And guys, I think the time for low profile has passed us—I want rifles and combat loads from now on, and make sure your walkies have fresh batteries,” Jack said, to the agreement of the group members.
              The group moved into action quickly, donning chest rigs, plate carriers or other means of carrying ammunition, before heading off to their assigned tasks with their long guns in hand.
Jack and Fiona set their attention on loading the assigned supplies into the two vehicles—jugs of water, bins of food, some basic tools and camping gear, ammunition cans and similar. Jack realized quickly how exhausted his body was—he was running on very minimal sleep—but forced himself to power through the fatigue. Large army surplus camouflage nets were the last to be loaded into each vehicle.
As Jack closed up the camper shell on his Tacoma, an echoing boom sounded off in the distance, startling him. Instinctively, he ducked down and turned in the direction of the sound, his mind trying to process what had happened. The boom didn’t sound like a gunshot—it was too far away, and too deep of a sound for that. It was almost like distant fireworks on the Fourth of July. The way that the sound had echoed made it hard to be certain the direction it had come from, but Jack guessed that it had come from the west—the direction of the interstate.
Since the group was still alive and not a pile of charred remains, it was doubtful that the boom had been caused by a nuke, unless it was one that had impacted very far away. With the thick forests surrounding them, Jack barely had line of sight to the end of his street, let alone across any long distances, which made it impossible to know for sure what had happened. He could only guess, or hope that the radio would accurately report what had happened.
“Everybody ok?” Jack yelled, scanning over his people. Fiona had taken cover next to him, clutching tightly to his arm. Kyle poked his head out from the garage.
“What was that?” he asked, shifting the protective goggles off his eyes.
“Not sure,” Jack admitted. He couldn’t see Tex and Amy, who had taken up positions closer to the neighborhood entrance. Jack keyed the walkie.
“Tex, you guys good?”
“We’re all right. Any idea what that was? That couldn’t have been a nuke, right?”
“No—I don’t think it was a nuke. We’d all be fried, or the electronics would at least be toast, too.”
“What about a chemical weapon? Nerve gas or something?”
Jack didn’t have an answer for that.
“Not sure—it’s possible, I guess. But we heard about chemical weapons from the phone call, and the phone calls are faked.”
“But that was nearby, Jack.”
“I know it was, Tex—but we have zero idea what it was.”
“But what if it actually was nerve gas or something? Do we adjust our plans? Bug in and button up?”
Jack wasn’t sure. The boom could have been next to anything—should they scrap their plans due to some distant detonation and hideaway for a while? They would lose valuable time and daylight to prepare for what lay ahead—a potential horde of refugees seeking shelter and safety. But, if some variety of WMD had gone off nearby, if they didn’t act, group members could start dropping like flies in a matter of minutes.