Authors: David Craig
Tags: #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Literature & Fiction
By David Craig
The radio announcer read the report in the same anxious yet somehow reassuring tone of voice he used on all breaking news stories, but Beacon saw the significance; this was a game changer, this was TEOTWAWKI!
Once the complex interconnected and interdependent systems that supported civilization went down the technicians and technocrats that ran them would be killed or scattered in the ensuing die-off. It would take decades, maybe generations, to reconstruct the intricate webs that made modern life so comfortable.
Luckily he'd been getting off work when the news hit the airways. His mind raced as he tried to think what to do first. The plan; implement the plan! First secure whatever additional goods and supplies he could before the public panic became full blown. Then Get the Hell out of Dodge!
Beacon slammed on the breaks and made a right turn into a gas station. Inside he found one plastic five gallon and three metal one gallon gas cans for sale at the usual inflated prices. He took them all outside and filled them after topping off his truck paying for it all with his credit card.
He found a plastic two and a half and two one gallon cans at the next gas station. A line was starting to form at the pumps. The owner was watching a statement by the president on TV as he demanded twice the price on the stickers, in cash, for the cans while a kid was changing the gas price on the big sign out front. Beacon threw a twenty on the counter and grabbed the cans without waiting for change. He filled the cans without looking at the pump price as he swiped his credit card. He was putting the cans in the back of the camper when the owner rushed out telling the kid to raise the price again. Beacon didn't wait around to see how high the price of gasoline was going.
While he was filling up another newly purchased five gallon can at the next station a big guy pulled into the pumps got out and ran inside. He immediately came back out heading for Beacon.
"Give me that gas can," he demanded.
Beacon finished tightening the can's cap and stood up. "That would be leaded gas," he said curling his pinky finger under the hem of his safari shirt. The big guy took a step forward and Beacon lifted the shirt placing his hand on the grip of his Colt forty-five semi-auto pistol.
The guy stopped, "I've got a gun too," he shouted putting his hand behind his back like he was going to pull a pistol from his waistband, but his eyes had darted to his pickup where a 12 gauge shotgun hung on a rack in the rear window.
"Thank you for telling me that," Beacon said bending over just enough to grab the handle of the gas can, "now I've got justification for killing you if you attack me." He didn't want to let the guy see that he had other cans in the back of his truck so he put the gas can down by his pickup's passenger side door while he pretended to unlock and open it with a key. Putting the gas can in on the floorboard without taking his eyes off of the big guy Beacon closed and locked the passenger door manually.
More cars were pulling into the station now. Beacon backed around to the driver's side. The big guy looked like he was waiting for Beacon to click the remote to unlock the doors so he could open the passenger door and grab the can. But Beacon's truck doors had been unlocked. Only the manually locked passenger door was now locked.
Beacon smiled and said, "There are two things you ought to know. One, the price of gas is going higher every second you wait to fill up your tank and two, if you try to open that door I'll shoot you." The big guy didn't look like he was going to back down, but his eyes darted to the station as the manager came out with a long pole in his hand and some large plastic numbers under his arm as he yelled something about "Cash Only".
Just then someone began honking their horn from behind the big guy's pickup. As the big guy turned to snarl at the honking car Beacon hopped in and pushed the driver's master door lock control button locking the doors before the big guy could finish screaming and turn back to grab the door handle. Beacon had taken advantage of people's tendency to finish what they were saying before taking action. As the big guy raced towards his pickup and his shotgun Beacon peeled out of the lot without bothering to fasten his seat belt.
He turned right to get the gas station between them so he'd be out of the big guy's sight as quickly as possible. He made another right at the first corner then a left, then a right at the corner after that in a zigzag pattern so as to get and stay out of the sight of anyone trying to follow him because he knew that as long as a pursuer could see him it wasn't an escape, it was a race. Only by breaking visual contact could he turn pursuit into evasion.
When he was sure he wasn't being followed Beacon fastened his seatbelt then turned back onto the main drag and drove straight to Costco. All the gas stations now had lines of cars out into the street.
Costco's parking lot was filling up as he pulled in. Costco's gas pumps already had lines of cars across the parking lot. Eschewing the large shopping carts he normally used Beacon grabbed the last flatbed cart by the door and hurried inside. He didn't stop for free food samples instead loading the flatbed up with cases of canned foods until the cases were stacked, front to rear, as high as the cart's push bar. He then loaded a layer of large sacks of rice, beans and flour on top and headed for checkout grabbing a case of pint bottles of water along the way.
Already there were uncharacteristically long lines at the registers. One guy had a cart full of frozen food with two ice chests piled on top. Beacon debated telling the guy canned foods in a cool dry place would last fifty to one hundred years but decided against it. He didn't want to get into any arguments now.
Beacon noticed more of his fellow shoppers than usual were on their cell phones. With worried looks on their faces several people in line turned their carts around to go back for more food.
One lady with a cart full of food had several monster packs of various sized batteries with three jumbo 30 roll bales of toilet paper thrown on top. She gave him a knowing wink as her husband showed up with a portable gasoline powered generator and more canned goods on a flatbed cart.
The sound of the generator and lighted windows would draw desperate neighbors and less friendly people to their home, but Beacon didn't have time to remonstrate with them and figured his advice would be ignored anyway.
Their best chance, assuming they had a source of gasoline for the generator, would be as a neighborhood nucleus keeping other people's freezers frozen until either the refrigerated food or the gas ran out.
It looked like the lady in line in front of him had cleaned out the meat department. She was worrying aloud about having enough room in her freezers for all of it. Beacon bit his tongue and didn't tell her the electricity likely wouldn't last long enough for her to eat even half of it. She wouldn't have listened and their argument might contribute to the growing sense of panic he saw building on the faces of customers and employees. He paid by credit card because, as he'd expected, large corporations hadn't yet sent word down to their retail outlets to take only cash.
After moving the contested gas can to the back, he filled the passenger side from the floorboard, up over the seat, to the window sill with cases of Campbell soup topping it off with the bottled water. He left the gas cans in the rear near the tailgate putting the rest of the canned food up in the front of the pickup's bed by his Get Out Of Dodge bag.
Beacon was confident he could survive and work his way up to Old Bill's place with just his everyday carry knives; a genuine Swiss army knife and a real Leatherman multi-tool, but he'd have a better chance with that small OD Get Out of Dodge backpack he always carried in the back of the pickup. In the event of trouble the Colt forty-five caliber pistol on his hip was there to help him fight his way to his cased Mini-14 rifle behind the truck's seat.
Realizing he was wasting time he should have been using to get the out of town before all hell broke loose Beacon hurried. He should have headed for home immediately, but wanted to go into this thing with as much in trade goods as possible.
He expected things that were cheap now like gasoline could be traded for more expensive things like ammunition at a very favorable rate in the immediate aftermath. Of course once things settled down and realization set in ammo value would go through the roof.
Once the riots, shooting and looting died down Beacon expected the local Army base commander to take over the town. The military's obsession with command and control would limit military domination to the area surrounding the base until food ran out. Then they'd have to go rogue or build a fiefdom of backyard farms and livestock. Beacon hoped the commander would choose to become king. The surrounding towns wouldn't stand a chance against a marauding military unit.
The real knock down drag out battles would be between the criminal gangs and the military since they would be the only armed groups with an intact command structure. A few police chiefs and National Guard armories might pull off similar feats, but for the most part their personnel would choose to stay home and protect their families or take them somewhere as happened to the police forces in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Once home Beacon put on his tactical vest with full magazines and equipment then grabbed his home bug out bag, actually a large camouflaged Army, rucksack he kept by the front door and tossed it into the truck in the middle between him and the Campbell soup.
He had everything he needed to survive and get to Old Bill's place in his head and on his belt; the Get-Out-of-Dodge bag in the back of the truck and the home Bug-Out-Bag were redundantly packed with freeze dried food, first-aid kits, sleeping bags and other amenities to make the trip more comfortable.
If the balloon went up while he was at work and he couldn't get home for some reason the truck's small Get-Out-of-Dodge backpack would provide minimal supplies for the trip. But he'd planed to get home to the large Bug-Out-Bag at home which had more equipment. Ideally he'd carry both bags in the truck which was the way things were working out now.
Beacon placed the home Bug-Out-Bag on the seat next to him so he could grab it and run if he was forced to abandon the truck. Locking the truck he ran back inside for more.
In three trips he'd loaded all his winter clothes, rendezvous reenactment clothes and camping gear over the food in the back of the camper shell. His extra rifles, pistols and shotguns went on top of blankets with more clothes over them.
As he shoved the last of the two rows of ammo cans in the back between the gas cans and the tailgate he wondered what OSHA would say if they learned of his cargo?
A crash and a honking horn disturbed his musings about federal agencies that wouldn't exist when the sun rose again. Two of his neighbors on opposite sides of the street had backed their cars out of there respective driveways simultaneously smacking rear bumpers in the exact middle of the road just 60 feet from him.
Another neighbor, with a large suitcase tied on the roof of his car with a rope, was honking to get by as the first two started to argue about their fenders. Suitcase guy could easily have driven around if he'd been willing to drive up on the sidewalk and lawns.
The two arguing had a lot more to worry about than whose insurance company was going to be buying bumpers; but habits held and all three drivers conformed to the norm as civilization crumbled around them.
Beacon walked over to the arguing men and suggested they go back inside to clean out their kitchen pantries, freezers and refrigerators before hitting the road. Beacon could almost see the light bulbs flashing on above their heads as he pointed out that there'd be little food available on the road.
Both men jumped back into their cars and peeled back into their respective driveways as quickly as they'd backed out of them. "Don't forget water, coats and blankets!" Beacon yelled to them as the car with the suitcase on top sped off ignoring his advice.
Over the Curb and Through the Woods