Authors: S.M. Armstrong
Rob set down
his drink and said, "The short of it is that this will be the worst human
catastrophe in centuries and we're going to be stuck watching the train wreck,
even knowing about it ahead of time.”
"So we go to the press."
think I haven't tried that? The last reporter I told was dead less than twelve
hours after I fed her the story," said Rob.
then," said Susan, "We put it on the internet."
get shut down and you would be disappeared within a day."
exploded. “And you think
is the best time to tell me all of this?!”
Rob looked at
her, “I’m sorry, Denise. It’s going to be hard enough acting like you don’t
know from here on out.”
isn't the sort of thing that you spring on people on vacation. This is like
taking the kids for ice cream to tell them that the dog died," said
retrospect, maybe that wasn't the best call," said Rob. "But I need
you to trust me for now. I'll give you as much information as I have when I
No one else
spoke at first. Eventually, Susan asked, “So how screwed are we?”
Rob answered, “Like
Small Pox to the Native Americans, except this time it will be everybody."
case scenario is that it is so virulent that it burns itself out quickly, but
there’s almost no chance of that. Most likely is six months to a year to come
up with a vaccine.
and asked, “How sure is it that we'll see this flu?”
expression hardened, “One hundred percent.”
silence for a moment before Rob spoke again. "It looks like a common cold
at first. Spreads through respiratory droplets with a seven to ten day
incubation period. Extremely contagious well before the victims actually look
hell do you know all of this?" asked Jim.
we got lucky. We slipped an agent inside during the development and testing
“And you kept this quiet for the entire trip.”
Rob barked at
her. “I'm sorry, Denise. We needed it to look like a real vacation both in
our actions and on our credit cards. We're being watched.”
“This is a lot
to swallow,” Jim said. “It will take a little time to get used to the idea.
You’re really sure?" Rob just looked at him. "Okay, I know you are.
What kind of lethality are we talking about?”
estimates are eighty to ninety percent."
Rob! That's the end of civilization! That's the end of life as we know
it," said Jim.
numbly, “So, Rob, now that you’ve scared the shit out of us, what’s the plan?
And I agree with Denise; your timing sucks.”
grimly as he answered. “Your Arizona ranch will come in handy.” Turning to
Denise, he said, “Could you get that box I brought?”
As Denise left,
Rob looked back at Jim. “I have some flash drives for you, a rough game plan,
and I’ve put together half a million in cash to help you get started. Expect
more money later, but try to make do for now. I'll guide you as to what we
need, but Arizona is your show. There are also a few printed copies of
documents that I’m going to let you read tonight and I’ll have to burn
“What’s the short version?”
Rob rubbed the
stubble on his chin. “Figure on up to a year for the virus to burn itself out
or for a vaccine to be available. I'm thinking in terms of a small village of
people. Maybe thirty. I’m planning to bring in a group I’ve worked with over
the years and their families but if you have people you want to include, be
careful what you tell them, keep it small, and remember that food, water, and
weather are going to be the biggest problems, then sanitation, transportation,
and security." Rob gestured at the Airstreams around them. "I'm
thinking a small RV village may be the way to go."
the box out of the RV. "This is insane! You're putting us in the middle
of some lousy disaster movie."
"I wish to
hell it were a movie." He turned back to Jim and Susan. “Liquidate
everything you can because your retirement won’t be worth spit this time next
year. If you can sell your house and move to your ranch, do it."
our trailer park?" said Susan.
is going to be to help distribute the vaccine once it's available and minimize
the damage as much as possible. Other groups are being placed all over the
country. It's important."
“EMP may be a problem
at some point, so we’ll need to have Faraday cages prepared for storage of
electronics." Rob reached back and lightly slapped the Airstream trailer
behind him and said, "Cover the openings, including the base, with
aluminum sheeting and you have a reasonable cage. Metal garages and spare
parts storage for vehicles too. I’ve included plans on the flash drives. Believe
me, Susan, we're going to be very happy for trailers before the end.”
"What am I
supposed to do, sitting around, knowing about this, and being totally unable to
prepare?" asked Denise.
what we can quietly, but it's too important to chance having the other side
step in and cut us off short," said Rob.
the file box and she, Jim, and Susan spent the next few hours looking for flaws
in Rob’s analysis, but were having a difficult time finding any. They all
argued with him anyway, not wanting to believe.
"This is so crazy that I don't know what to think."
coming at you with a knife is pretty crazy too, but that wouldn't stop you from
getting the hell out of the way," said Rob. “Look, you’re in or out, but
I need to know tonight.”
Jim looked to
Susan for a nod and answered, “You better know what you’re doing. Yeah, we’re
“Robert, where the hell did that money come from?”
complements of Saddam Hussein. Relax, it doesn’t exist. There’s no record of
it anywhere and the only people who know about it will be with us.” Denise
looked skeptical, but said she was satisfied.
advice before they left for home was to be careful on who they invited in, and
to tackle food and water storage first.
Rob and Denise
departed first, leaving Jim and Susan to spend a little more time cleaning up
and checking out of the Airstream resort. Susan said, “You know, I didn’t
believe him until the cheap bastard pulled out that box of cash? What the hell
are we going to do?”
He kissed her
on her forehead, enjoying the smell of her jet black hair and wrapped his arms
around her waist before answering, “The best we can and hope that blowing our
retirement is the least of our problems.”
LAS VEGAS & FLAGSTAFF
Jim gave a two
week notice that he would be leaving his job as a paramedic. He had wanted to
keep it longer, but he discovered that he couldn’t cash out the 401K until he
left. The hard part was the guilt at not being able to tell everyone what was
coming. That it was made clear that they wanted him back any time made it feel
difficult thing for him was closing the martial arts school he had run part
time for the past nine years. He explained everything he could to his students
and offered them a place at the ranch if they chose. As he expected, none of
them could take him up on it, but they would prepare however they could.
Jim and Susan
financed an insanely large used fifth wheel and a new diesel dually pickup to tow
it. Jim felt a twinge of guilt knowing that he would never bother to pay it
off if Rob was right, but it made sense to stretch the cash as far as
possible. Besides, the cabin was too small to live in, and this RV offered
some real long term comfort. He could always take a job in Flagstaff if Rob
turned in her notice with the convention authority the day they had gotten back
from Utah and cashed out her IRA and 401K shortly thereafter. So far, she had
their living room filled to the ceiling with freeze dried foods.
They sat at the
kitchen table over coffee. Susan was looking over a map of their property, and
said, "I'm thinking we need to come up with a better plan."
listening," said Jim.
we're thinking too small. What if this ends up being a couple of years instead
of several months? We need to plan a small town and we're still thinking
"It just makes
sense," said Jim.
"We need a
sustainable community. That means storage, meeting places, green houses,
livestock, water supply, septic systems, and power generation, for starters.
It would make more sense to buy a large farm with a well."
Jim chewed his
lower lip for a moment. "Too visible. Our property is hidden enough that
it should limit people being aware of it. Don't have to fight them if they
don't even know you're there."
need to do this right. We get enough RV's to accommodate extra people. What
about around twenty RV's? They don't all need to be new, just
That's a lot of infrastructure to install. I'll have to put in multiple water
and septic systems."
me, Jim. I'm thinking that we set them up in groups of three or four, maybe
here, here, and here," she said, pointing out areas on the map.
"That way everyone gets a view and we can run water from tanks on this
hill to the side. The other thing is that it prevents a fire in one unit from
burning out everything."
thing we need is storage for food, supplies, equipment, and fuel. We need food
storage first. Shipping containers should work well, but root cellars will be
important, too. It makes sense to me to have far too much storage than not
"We can use
Airstreams to provide shielding, like Rob said. We can get old trailers for a
song. We can start with that eyesore that you've been going to restore for the
last fifteen years."
started to get angry, and then thought for a moment. "I hate it, but I can
still restore your vintage trailer someday. I promise!" Susan pointed to
an area a short distance away from the trailers and said, "I'd like to put
in showers and washing machines here and drain them into a large gray water
tank that we can use for watering plants. I'm thinking about putting
commercial sized greenhouses over here."
another cup of coffee, and said, "We can put the fuel tanks over here,
away from everything else."
what I'm thinking."
"How did you get so good at this?"
and pointed to a stack of books and magazines, "I've been spending a lot
of time reading lately."
Jim picked up a
magazine. "I didn't know there was a
should see what's online. You want a two and a half ton military truck?"
would be good for flattening Smart Cars."
that, I suppose, but I think I'd rather have newer vehicles stored in shielded
garages unless you're a much better diesel mechanic than I am."
Jim picked up a
book on AR-15's off the table. "Are we turning gun nut?"
"A girl's got to be prepared. I can pick them up Tuesday."
Jim shook his
head and laughed. As usual, she was far ahead of the curve.
Jim and Susan towed their fifth wheel to the ranch property and parked it near
the cabin. The property was a good twenty miles from the freeway, about a
half mile off of a little used paved road through the mountains. They had paid
a small fortune to get electricity routed to the house, because they had no
intention of living off of generators when they had bought the place. It
seemed like a moot point now.
the truck from the trailer and they drove into Flagstaff to check into
purchasing more land adjacent to their property.
The real estate
agent was more sleazy than helpful, to the point where they threatened to walk
if he didn't hurry up with the transaction, but by the end of the day they had
purchased another 80 acres, all of it bordered by national forest land.
On the way back
to the cabin, Susan said, "I never would have believed buying a piece of
raw land with cash could be such a pain in the ass."
to the world of small town real estate agents," said Jim.
That night they
lit a fire in the Franklin stove in the cabin and enjoyed the quiet night. As
always, the quiet was a welcome contrast to Las Vegas. No helicopters, sirens,
or gun shots. It was perfect.
morning, they drove back into town where they bought a used diesel truck with a
fifth wheel hitch and another fifth wheel RV trailer. Jim found a thirty foot
sliding axle trailer as well. From there, they split up, with Susan spending
much of the afternoon shopping, and Jim taking the sliding axle trailer to
Kingman to pick up a used tractor with a back hoe and a bulldozer blade.
Jim made it
back first and used the time to start leveling an area for the RV's and another
for the first of the shipping containers. When Susan looked over the leveled
area that evening and said, "You know, I think this is going to
doesn't, we're going to look pretty damn foolish while we starve to
death," said Jim.
and said, "You know how I hate to look foolish."