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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 3a , by Christopher Young

Chris helps out

Hello, this is Chris. Some guy has been writing about me, and he's been doing OK. But, gosh, I'm so tired of him trying to guess all the time, and try and figure out what's going on in my mind. He said it was OK for me to write a bit, I remember him asking for ideas. So, here's my idea: quit guessing, and go ask people what is really going on. So, I'm going to edit some of this chapter, and might even write some myself. Hang on, here it comes.

So, when chapter 3 ended, Faith was along the side of route 16, and Savannah had just collapsed. Both the girls were collapsed with dehydration and fatigue. Gomer and I were sitting in his kitchen. I was sipping Pepsi, and he was working in a cup of coffee. I don't drink coffee, tried it years ago when I was a teen, and didn't like it. Ah, well. Worked out nicely when I joined the Mormons ( ) years ago. Yeah, yah. I know "Mormon" is a nickname, but I use it so people know what I mean.  So, Gomer's nice enough to have soda pop, and I drink a lot of water and juices, too. So, lets take a look and see what's doing in Tennesee.

David was also laying down, but for different reasons. Bill could order him to guard duty, but that didn't mean David would spend the entire day scanning the horizon with binoculars. More time to sleep. Inside the house, the two kids had gotten bored of the DVD. Ten year old Madison wanted to play with her make up set. She was determined to be a cosmetologist when she grew up. Jade was planning on being an auto mechanic. Madison wanted to practice cosmetics on Jade, but at 8 years old, he was having no part of it. Unless it was military camo paint. But that wasn't what Madison was thinking. Finally Jade suggested they go see if Dad wanted to play. They got Madison's cosmetic set, and headed out to the lookout post. After all, Mommy was in the bathroom and she didn't say no, right?

When they arrived, David was fast asleep. Madison said nothing. Opened her make up set. Jade grinned, and also said nothing. They were at the look out post for about half an hour, until Madison ran out of cosmetics to apply. She did a very good job, if she did say so herself.

The pill was starting to take effect for Sam. He got to his feet, careful to put his weight on his right leg. And hopped slowly to the bank of the stream. It took half an hour, but Sam did make it to the top of the bank. And another hour to hobble the two hundred yards to the road. Route 263. that's familiar.  He'd gone over this bridge in his truck. Only 82 miles to home.

On the way up the bank, Sam had chosen a good strong stick. It was something between a cane and a crutch. But even with that, there was no way he was going to make it 82 miles. Time to call home. Sam pulled out his cell phone, and dialed home. His wife answered, and asks how are you, and where are you. Sam said where he was, and can you come and get me in the car? No, dear, the rioters burned the car last night. Got up this morning, and all that was left was the engine, frame, and some springs for the seats. Sam asked how were the kids. Their daughter Emma had made it home safely from work, she only worked a couple miles away. The grand daughter was fine. She hadn't much idea that anything was wrong. Sammy, their son, had been living away from home, he was about 100 miles away. Sammy hadn't had much emergency supplies, so when things got bad, he decided to retreat home to live with his parents. He was on the road some where. Sammy had just lost his cell phone service, hadn't paid the bill. So, he was out of contact. No one knew much about where Sammy was.

"Thanks dear, love you. I'll figure something." and Sam pressed the disconnect button. So, who else to call? Sam pulled out his pocket phone directory, and searched his memory. Finally figured Chris was worth a try. They had only met a couple times, but seemed like a decent enough fellow. Chris answered on the third ring.

I thought that cell number looked familiar. I could hear the relief in Sam's voice. So, I'm at Gomer's, with my fire chief's truck. I sure wasn't expecting to hear from Sam. Neat, how's things going, pal? So, Sam is filling me in on what's doing. Shazaam, I sure am glad to hear that Sam had evaded the FEMA refugee camp. That sounded miserable, to be stripped of all your gear, and sent to some public school gym to spend the rest of your life. And meantime, sam is telling me that he broke his leg, and needs a ride. I ask him what gear he's got with him, and if he's got plenty to eat and drink. What's the location. With the route number, and the bridge. Sam says he figures he could camp in the woods near the bridge, and stay out of sight. I'm thinkign that gasoline is really in short supply, but this is an emergency. I promised Sam to do what he could.

So, I hang up on Sam, and put the cell phone back on my belt. Time to get another opinion. Time for a quick chit chat with Gomer. I'm figuring Sam was about 200 miles away. And Sam was injured. Now, that's going to take some planning. Gomer and I chatted a while, and figure we need some more information. I pull out my pocket planner, Figured Sam's home number in there. Yep. A call to Sam's wife, and see how she's doing. Well, the house is still standing. The rioters burned the shed, and the car. She was really worried, their daughter barely  made it home from work. Their family had moved in, since the trouble started. And they also had the grand kids. Still plenty of food, and some diapers for the kids.

Just about the time I'm hung up with Sam's wife, then my cell phone got an incoming call. I'm thinking I recognized Faith's cell phone number. Faith says she has to talk to me, and it has to be in complete confidence. Yeah sure, so I take the cell phone out into the hall. Gomer is busy with the maps and charts. I told Faith to go ahead, I'm alone, now. She says she was about five miles out from Gomer's and ran out of gas. If you're still coming to the retreat, could you stop by and pick me up, and the girls? And be sure to bring me a Pepsi, and some water for the girls? And don't tell Gomer, would you, hun? So, well, I promised I'd do what I could.

I stepped back to the map room. Gomer had the atlass out, and was using a military land mileage triangular ruler to plot the distance from here to where Sam was. Yeah, I know, I promised to "do what I could". Figured he'd find out sooner or later. So, I  gave him the update. Faith was out of gas, and wanted a Pepsi, and some water. Gomer smiled, knowingly. That was so totally Faith. Quarter tank of gas, and one bottle of Pepsi for the trip. Probably not even dressed for a bug out. "Well", Gomer says, "do what you want". I told him I figured to gas up the Blazer, unhook the trailer, and head out. I havn't got all the details figured, but I figure to head down  that way, and see what all I can do.

I went to the fridge, and got out a 20 ouncer of Pepsi. And, took five more bottles out of the freezer, The bottles were half full of ice. I'd half filled them yesterday, and put them on their side in the freezer. I filled them the rest of the way with water from the sink. Put them in a cooler, and went out to the truck. Unhooked the trailer, and put a five galon gas can from the trailer into the back of the Blazer. Time for rescue mission one.

Meanwhile, in TN, Bill looked at the thermometer outside the window of his house. The temp was 94F, and David had been on sentry duty for a couple hours. Unknown to each other, both Chris and Bill were on rescue missions. Bill's rescue was that David never could remember to bring water to the sentry post. Bill picked up the military intercom, and turned the crank. He picked up the handset, and David answered immediately. Bill asked how things were going. David was tuned to the sound of the military phone, and woke up instantly. "Fine, everything is cool, here. No, I havn't been sleeping. I never sleep on guard duty, you know that." Bill decided to be nice, and bring some water out.

With a camelback water pounch over one shoulder, and a rifle over the other shoulder, Bill picked up the cooler of bottles. Bill stepped out the door to make the two hundred yard hike to the lookout post.

Arriving at the lookout post, David was standing by the railing, with binoculars to his face. David lowered the binoculars, and turned around. Bill nearly bust out laughing, but decided in an instant to fake an allergy coughing fit. David had mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, and rouge. David thumped Bill on the back until he stopped coughing. Bill slowly turned around, and asked if everything was OK. Yup. Anyone been by the Sentry post? No, been alone the whole time. Bill smiled his seldom  used half-smile, and thanked David for his good service. Said there was never before such a good Sentry as you are. David accepted the water, and immediately opened one.

Across the country, Sam's wife, Edna, was drinking bottled water. Good thing Sam was a survival nut, and had plenty of bottled water stacked in the house. Plenty more bottles in the house. With the power out, the house was getting warm. But the breezeway in back was cool and comfortable. Edna sat with the puppy dog on her lap. A bottle of water, and the babies playing inside the breezeway with plastic keys, and rattles. And a shotgun leaned against the wall of the house. My, how things had changed. Edna hadn't handled a gun since she was 14, and her Pappy decided to take her hunting.

Changed was not the word on Faith's mind. Bobbi was laying on her back, looking like she needed to be changed. But what was really going on, was that she was all dried out, and didn't have the energy to go on any farther. Faith remembered the stupd parenting class that Social Services had made her attend. She tried to remember the treatment for heat exhaustion. Decided to drag her to the shade. She asked Savannah's help, to move her to the shade. Savannah was also wobbly and woozy from the heat, and she wasn't much help. Faith's ankles and calves were sore from the high heels. Damn, why was the world out of Pepsi? Maybe that's part of the reason Faith is so crabby, she's also dehydrated.

About at that moment, I'm driving slowly about 30 miles an hour west bound. scanning both sides of the road, not sure what to expect. I drive very slowly over the top of the hill in the Blazer. Faith turned, saw the vehicle, and started to push her girls out of sight into the forest. I wondered why, and then it occured to me that Faith had wasn't expecting the light bar and decals. She probably didnt know about the fire department background. I pulled up along side them, and rolled down the window. Faith looked worried, and then some recognition, and then relief. Amazing, the expressions that went across her face. She walked over. I handed a cold bottle of Pepsi out the window. Faith took the bottle and drank it down in one swollow. And then smiled. I got out of the truck. I walked over to Bobbi. Carried her to the side of the road, and lay her under a big shade tree. Savannah followed along, holding my back pocket. Just as I set Bobbi down, a deep rumbling belch could be heard echoing off the trees. I'm thinking they probably wondered about that, at the National Seismological Lab in Nevada? Probably. So, I told the girls to sit tight. I'll be right back. Went back to he truck and got three bottles of ice water.

When I got back under the shade tree, Faith said "Oh, I see you brought soda pop bottles full of... DAMN!!!! I had a whole bag of soda bottles. I could have filled them with water and brought them along?" I smiled, and nodded. Bobbi had the top off a bottle of water, and was drinking as fast as she could. When she had about three ounces, I took the bottle away from her. Thinking that water would probably make her vomit. "Give your stomach a chance to absorb that. Have more later". Savannah learned from watching. She took a few more sips out the bottle, watching and doing like Chris did.

I sipped on my bottle of water, and listened while Faith told me all the details of the trip. How she'd stopped at the gas station, and the national guadsmen who were mocking her. And she sure was so glad too see someone. After she'd talked for about twenty minutes, I mentioned the gasoline I'd brought along, and lets go get the mini van. I'm inwardly wondering if Sam's rescue would be that easy. Well, rather doubt it.

So, the girls got some strength back. We walked back to my truck. Faith looked in the back. No space for the kids, too much equipment. Well, they would all have to ride in the front. It was a tight fit in front. Now that the girls had their energy back, they both started talking. Faith just let them ramble on, and I asked a question or two. It was only two miles back to the van.

I was pouring about a galon of gas into Faith's mini van about the same time Bill got to the sentry post. The mini van didn't want to start. So, I gave it a squirt of ether in the air cleaner, and then it started. The girls squealed, and jumped up and down when they heard the motor start. "I ride, ride, wanna, Chris, wanna, ride, truck, Chris" the jumble of girl voices wasn't making sentences. Faith motioned for them to get into my truck. I guess she understands Munchkin better than I do. So, that's what they want, ride in a different car. And we were off and rolling. I let Faith go ahead, in case she had mechanical problems.

Mechanical wasn't the problem Bill was having. He was having trouble keeping a straight face. He decided to be a good manager about it, and give David a chance to fess up. Asked again, if David had seen anyone. Or anyone out to the sentry post? No. Bill reached into his fanny pack, and pulled out a signal miror. Indicated that David had a spot of dirt on his cheek, and should wipe it off. David looked at himself in the signal miror, and his face grew pale, as he realized that he'd been caught in a lie. And where the heck did all that make up come from? As his face grew more pale, the eye liner really stood out more. Bill finally bust out laughing, and fell on the ground and rolled around.

And Sam wasn't having mechanical problems, either. Well, unless you considered his broken leg to be mechanical. Or the low cell phone battery. Sam was sitting on the shade side of a tree, his cell phone was on the sun side, charging the battery. Sam's major problems included boredom, and a big dose of kicking himself in the butt. Figuratively, as he coulnd't literally kick anything now. His leg was swelling up.

Unknown to anyone in the group, 98% of the televison stations in the US were off the air, for lack of power. Or fuel to run their generators. The Muslim riots had spread, and were now world wide. London was in a conflagration that the Nazis would have given their left testicles to have seen in person. Even the V-bombs hadn't lit up London like that. Germany was just as bad, Berlin had hardly a stick of wood still standing. And the Muslims were moving out to nearby German forests to try to burn down the woods, too.

Three time zones East of Germany, the Prince of Azbegistan was saying the third of his five daily prayers. Kneeling, and facing Mecca. Prince Shamir was very pleased with himself. He had personally murdered his father, King Samuh, and had taken power of the throne. His father was a weak and timid man, who had admitted publically that the Jews might have a right to be on the Earth. That weak and foolish man simply had to die. The public riots were going exactly as planned. Allah would be very pleased. Today after prayers, he would take three or four of his virgins to dinner, and return to pleasure them. Life is good when you are 15 years old, and the prince of the kingdom with no king to tell you what to do.

Even less known was the War Room, at SAC. The generals at the Stratigic Air Command were discussing what to do. Only three contingents had been able to report. Out of the 192 land based units which  were supposed to be reporting on a daily basis to SAC. None of the generals knew why the lack of communications. The deputy assisant under secretary was available by secure comm to Air Force Three. But she hadn't heard from any of the units, either. The 36 submarines which were out of port still circled, and they were still in contact. No missiles had been launched. And no reports of terrorists captured. SAC was blind, deaf, and a bit clueless. At that moment, the SAC generator ran out of fuel. Plunging SAC into darkess, except for the emergency lights. Which battery emergency lights would last between half  hour, and 45 minutes. The Eastern time zone clock read 3:19.

In the Blazer, I pulled out two packages of M and Ms for the girls. They squealed, and jumped as much up and down as they could. Since they were both under the seat belt, in the front seat. They hadn't eaten since last night, and were both starving. The M and Ms didn't last very long. I woulda give one to Faith, but she was driving her van.

Back at the compound, Gomer was also eating. As was his  tradition, he'd gotten a MRE entree out of the desk drawer, and opened it with a razor sharp 10 inch K-Bar. He got out a plastic spoon, and started to absentmindedly spoon in room temperature Beanie Weenies while he studied the map. Gomer figured that it would take a minimum of 20 galons of gasoline for an extraction to get Sam. About 30 if they went as far as Sam's house and got his wife and the grand kids.

Speaking of gasoline, it occured to Gomer to gas up his Ford Bronco II. He went out to the driveway, and drove the Bronco around back of the shed, and started to crank fuel out of the 250 galon underground tank. As an after thought he opened the back hatch, and decided to fill the two gas cans in the back. The gas cans were out of sight of the crank and the first one overfilled, and gasoline poured over the top of the gas can. Well, never mind, that will dry. The second one, Gomer got the gas can out and put it on the ground next to the pump. As Gomer was picking up the gas can, he noticed a flint and magnesium fire starter on the ground. Zach had been playing with it yesterday, making sparks. Have to remember to yell at him for leaving stuff laying around. With his other hand, Gomer picked up the flint fire starter and without much conscious thought threw it into the back of the Ford Bronco II. As the flint bar landed, it had the odd chance to land in Gomer's tool box. The flint side of the bar scraped against an old rusty flat file, which was laying in the tool tray. A shower of sparks flew off the flint bar. The quart or so of gasoline had penetraed into the tool tray. The shower of sparks was all that was needed to light the gasoline on fire.

Within ten seconds, the entire back of the truck was filled with orange rolling flames, and clouds of soot billowed out into the sky. Gomer backed up about twenty paces, still holding the second gas can. On the wall behind the shed was a 20 pound chemical fire extinguisher. Gomer grabbed the extinguisher and pulled the nozzle off the side. With a look of raw determination, he walked back towards the rolling orange flames.

Five minutes later, the fire extinguisher was empty. The truck was now a pile of hot smouldering ashes, with a metal frame. Gomer was lost in thought, Gomer was laying flat on the ground, with his hands over his head. Eight boxes of ammunition had cooked off, and sounded like a  string of firecrackers. Gomer was thinking what supplies were lost. Five galons of gas in the gascan. Twenty galons in the tank. Tools. Bottled water. And the truck  itself. And five tires. Four guns.

Two minutes after that, the sound of the electric gate woke Gomer out of his thoughts. Who could that be? Uh, oh. Faith. Blast and damn! He was always riding her about safety. And now he'd never live this one down. Well, at least the truck was behind the shed. Better get out there. And put on the happy face.

Faith turned into the driveway marked by the two blue reflectors. She got as far as the gate, and stopped. I had to walk up, and turned my  key in the electric lock. Faith drove on, up the driveway. The gate closed.

Faith stopped at the house, and got out. The girls climbed out of Chris's truck, and we all followed right behind her. Faith started up the steps, and at that moment the front door opened, and Gomer came out. The girls squealed again and rushed up to him for hugs. He motioned for them all to come inside. The girls wouldn't stop talking for several minutes. Faith and Gomer just waited them out. Faith looked a bit embarassed.

I decided to break the ice by mentioning Sam, and his broken leg. I asked if Gomer wanted to take care of the extraction. Give him a chance to road test the Bronco II, after all he hadn't been off the property in a couple days. Give me a chance to sleep, and give Faith's girls a chance to play with Gomer's three kids. Faith and Heather could catch up on old times. Gomer's face went military blank. He motioned for me to follow him to the map room. In the map room, Gomer handed me a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars, and wordlessly indicated that I should look out the window. I'll admit, I'm not a military man, but know the concept of the thousand meter stare. So, I started to slowly scan the horizon.

"No, back of the shed. By the gas tank." the binoculars were a bit much for that short of a range, but I swung them down to see behind the shed. Expecting to see a gopher hole or something. When the focuss finally landed on the Bronco II, I paused for several seconds. Put the field glasses down, and asked what happened. The tirade of military grade language was a bit much more than I'd  expected.

"Well, we're down to one vehicle I guess. Plus the lawn mower. Want to go get Sam with the garden tractor, and a garden trailer?" Gomer was lost in thought, looking out the back window at what remained of his truck. I thought I saw the beginning of a tear. "Well, lets go out and hassle Faith for awhile. Make you feel better."

Gomer dried the corner of his eye. Took a deep breath, and resumed a military blank facial expression. Cold, solid, and impossible to read.

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