Showing posts with label apocalyptic fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apocalyptic fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Open Lines Friday 2 JAN PT 2- Fiction Writing

tpals said...
Are you going to try writing fiction again? (I know I'm nagging but I want the rest of the story!)

Ryan here: No worries honestly I probably need a kick in the butt to get back to it. I have been working on this off and on albeit a lot of off and not much on. Haven't given up though I do seem to keep getting distracted and losing focus for awhile. Would like to get something together for a kindle self publishing type deal. It would be nice to get it done sooner instead of later. Admittedly right now since I do not have a timeline completion of a book is more of a wish than a goal.

So anyway that is what is up with that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Repost: Book Review: Liberators by Jim Wesley, Rawles

Today I will be reviewing the new Jim Rawles book Liberators: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse Before getting started in case anyone has not read some (or all) of his previous works let me talk about some unusual elements of these books. This book is the 5th book of his 'series' that started with Patriots. I use the term series loosely because of the contemporaneous nature of these books.
The different books cover more or less the same time period from different perspectives and locations. There is some inter twining between characters and events through the books. The nature of these books is that unlike a more conventional series you could, in theory, pick up book two or four and read it as a standalone without being behind or confused about the story. Another feature of these books is that they move between characters/ groups throughout the book. I do not mean simply shifting point of view from Bob to Tom but essentially entirely different stories in different areas that may, or may not come together. For example the last book Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse was split between central Florida, Australia and the pacific in general. This part of the Rawles books has taken some criticism, including from me, for making things a bit disjointed but in the last couple books those kinks have been ironed out.

For the sake of full disclosure I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher with a loose agreement that I was interested in reviewing it. Of course there was no talk, let alone pressure, about the content of the review. I also fundamentally like Jim Rawles as he has been good to me and my blogging efforts. This does not mean I would be consciously biased towards his works. However arguably there could be some unconscious bias, sort of how you are less annoyed when the cool guy or cute girl you casually know at the local coffee shop flubs your order than if it is a person you don't know.

So onto the usual format.

I will do my best to avoid spoilers but if you genuinely want to have no clue about the contents of this book then stop reading now, buy and read it then come back and see what I think. However if you do not mind having a little bit more of an idea than reading the back cover but a lot less than say, a kids
500 word book report, then continue reading.

Begin potential spoilers.

The general outline of the story is that it follows two groups one an older couple living on a remote ranch in British Columbia along with their children (the sisters from the last book) and the second a family living in Virginia. It follows them through the beginning of the collapse through the UN invasion and the subsequent conflict. The ranch group has some folks who travel to get to the ranch and the other group had a loose plan at the start that led to a very long bug out type scenario. They all ended up resisting the UN troops in different ways. While the books run more or less contemporaneously this book tends to be more focused on the latter part of that period than the initial part.

The Good: The trend of an easy to read book that flows continued. Earlier books issues with short chapters and lots of jumping around are not present.

I am pleased to say people, even survivalist types were portrayed in what I feel were very realistic ways. The types of situations and levels of preparedness of both survivalists and non survivalists meshed with what I have seen to be accurate.

Along these lines the situations characters were in seemed much more representative of our society at large and arguable as such realistic than previous books. There was a divorcee facing home foreclosure and a writer toiling away at a half done work who cut wood for a living. Folks were
meeting each other and sometimes finding love during a chaotic situation, in other words being actual people not survivalist automatons.

Furthermore the groups people formed into were much more organic along family  and friendship lines than the much spoken about but rare (in actual implementation and rarer in success) survivalist type group. Folks were trying  to get by with their loved ones and friends, some of whom were survivalists.

Additionally it was a pleasant breath of fresh air that characters were equipped with a wide variety of gear, weapons and vehicles. There was never totally unauthentic moment where only a 1911 .45 from X manufacturer, some  specific rifle or vehicle was the cure all to a situation. More like "Tim had  a pistol, rifle and shotgun with some ammo so he was reasonably well armed."

Of course the huge pool of free research assistants the massively popular Survivalist Blog offers gives Jim a huge advantage. He can talk to three people who live near the Whatever Forest, Any County, Anywhere to find a nice location that has the  sort of caves/ roads/ permissive border the story needs. This brings a huge level of authenticity and arguably actionable information not present in other books of this type.

That people were portrayed as an active part of the overall guerrilla/ counter insurgency situation was excellent. Fence sitters can be spurred into action based on something bad being done (by either side) to their loved ones.

Also a significant part of the action being intelligence related folks brought the book more into Jim's (former) area of expertise which let him write realistically and with some authority. In fairness we will revisit this topic later from another angle.

Surely more stuff was good but I cannot think of it specifically right now.

The Bad:

JWR's military background is in Intelligence which was a not insignificant part of this book. However that experience is pretty dated and I strongly suspect more along Cold War lines than the guerrilla/ counter insurgency lines of the book. At times he wrote at some length about various topics that are arguably not that applicable to the type of fight going on. I know it is tempting to talk about your area of knowledge but sometimes that can lead to talking more about what you know than stuff that really applies to the situation, also it can somewhat detract from the story. These parts would have been better served by being adapted more to applicable guerrilla/ counter insurgency situation, potentially with some help, or snipped down.

[Without getting into my background I know what I am talking about with this stuff.]

The Ugly:

I was frustrated at the end that the book seemed to end too fast. Some individuals from the last book arrived on the scene with considerable build up  then it just ended. It felt like when someone has to write a minimum 5 page paper and is cranking away then realizes they are at 4.5 pages and throws in
the cliche restate the point ending paragraph to close it out.

The book would have been well served by being 20 pages longer (or if X pageswas the goal snipping a bit here and there from other parts to free up the space) to do service to that part of the plot line.
To me some of the connections between characters from different groups from previous books (Specifically the sisters from the last book and the original group from the first book )was forced yet for what did not really lead anywhere.

It is confusing to me that forethought (at least a book or two back) was put into inter twining characters in different areas to come together but it almost seems like the planning on how to do it was deeper than the planning on what they would do, or why the thread of connection added value to the bigger story.

In this book I would probably have had one group in this book who was not really connected to the previous books fight the good fight supporting different resistance cells. That would have seemed less forced and also given a good platform for different TTP's and lessons learned (good as well as bad).

I should note the bad and ugly are very relative and did not significantly detract from the overall book. Sort of like if the waitress is a bit slow bringing your second beer/ cup of coffeee so it arrives less than optimal temperature at an enjoyable meal with friends, and everything else is good.
It is a minor annoyance but a few days later you remember the dinner and have forgotten the less than optimal beverage.
My overall assessment is this book was excellent. I tried not to get into spoilers but there is a lot on bugging out by vehicle as well as by foot. Additionally many interesting lessons for potential insurgency situations as well as more general survivalist ones were present. Furthermore I found it a
very enjoyable read with characters you can really relate to and root for as they go through the events that unfold. This is probably the best book in the series. Buy a copy of Liberators: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse to read and get another to give away or loan to a friend and not get back.

There may well be a second more free form thoughts and lessons post on the book down the road. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Matthew Brackens 'Enemies' Trilogy Available FOR FREE on Kindle

Download them between now and the 16th for free. DO IT NOW!!! If you don't have a kindle there are aps to read books on pretty much anything electronic. Read these books, think and make some choices about what you want to do, where you want to live and how you want to react. As the years go by the two authors I find myself re reading are James Kunster and Matthew Bracken.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

NANOWRIMO Goes Nothing!!!

Patrice got the idea into my head. Given that I have been working on a book for awhile now (halfway through Chapter 8 of I'm not sure how many now) off and on so it seems like a good thing to try. NANOWRIMO might just be the ticket to get it done.

My rational side says I'm pretty busy so I do have some concerns about when I will find time to AVERAGE a bit over 1,600 words a day. While a marathon evening or two is doable I am not honestly willing to make a ton of sacrifices from my busy and generally productive life (work, gym, family, sleep, etc) to make it happen. My challenge will be identifying useable gaps of time in my current schedule then taking advantage of them.

Honestly if I get The Crunch finished but do not make the word could that would still be a huge win. If I finish Book 1 of The Crunch (Planning to go Archer style with 2 or more parts to the larger work)

So anyway here it goes.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mountain House Sale, M1 Garand Ammo and Garage OPSEC

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RE: What To Do With Extra Firearms

This came up in the comments for the latest chapter in You Took Away Tomorrow:

One question I've had off the top of my head is arsenal wise. If you were a guy that had hunting bolt and lever rifles or extra pistols laying around, would you take those? Say your .243, .270, .30-30? For me I can't imagine leaving them somewhere, but taking 5-10 non tactical weapons that wouldn't help a lot seems like a lot of space and weight to carry! Thoughts? Click to read the rest

My response:
I would recommend spreading your proverbial extra eggs out. Cache them or leave them in convenient locations. [EX if you always meet up at Jim's to go hunting leave the .243 and your big .357mag there with some spare ammo. This means you have couple guns in a place you regularly travel to away from home. Maybe they'll help you and maybe they'll help Jim. Either way it beats them sitting as extras you couldn't move in a bad situation.]

They key is doing these things, to some degree, now before you need to.

General diversification strategy aside I would not underrate non tactical type guns. A good .22 and a hunting type shotgun are some of the most practical guns out there and a scoped deer rifle can be pretty handy also. Not tacticool but really useful for game gathering.

What are you doing with firearms beyond your basic needs? There are lots of viable options but I would submit that putting them all in a big gun safe at home is  probably not the right answer.

On another note this evening somehow vanished so you get somebody else's stuff with my thoughts on it. Good news I ordered a bunch of stuff to complete various systems today; a couple metal sporks, another steel water bottle, a streamlight flashlight and some other things. Had craziness with amazon but eventually I got it to take the right payment and hopefully to ship to my current address. Expect a normal post tomorrow.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Crunch Update

Not sure what happened but somehow chapters 3-7 of The Crunch are gone. Had drafts complete but something happened. Did some basic recovery stuff but didn't find it. Honestly that is OK. It wasn't headed where I wanted so it was probably a 'good money after bad' type of situation. So I'm starting over.

Once the initial irritation passed I am sort of happy about the whole thing. Going to plan a bit better to make something interesting and plausible that hits the points I want. Obviously this will set the writing back. I think everyone will be happier with the end product so it's OK.

Wanted to let you all know what was going on. It will probably be a few weeks before anything else comes out. Once everything is written I plan to put out a couple more chapters. So that's the deal.

Now available: The Border Marches, by Archer Garrett

Now available:  The Border Marches, by Archer Garrett

Book 5 in the Western Front Series

Darkness has descended upon the world; the fabric of society has been torn asunder, sovereign nations collapse under their own burdens, once stable governments are ushered into revolution and allies of old are thrust into war. The tentacles of darkness have inevitably traveled across the Atlantic and are now tightening their grip on the American republic.

Picking up shortly after the events of the Nine of the North (Book 3), Jake and his family have made a home for themselves in New Falcon, one of many settlements along the southern border of the Republic of Texas. Hayden, from Crescent City (Book 4), has also found his way to the borderlands. Together, a strong, freedom-minded community has developed. A precarious peace has settled, but the threat of the cartels is growing in strength.

Soon enough, the settlers are forced to make a decision: Will they come to the aid of a small border town and strike back against the cartels?  Will the Republic stand by them if they do? And what of the mysterious Watchmen and a former assassin named Manuel - can they be trusted?

$3.99 Kindle Version (35,000 Words)

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Crunch-Chapter 2 First Blood

Chapter 2- First Blood
Location: The Johnson House
Time: Friday Night Month 1-January in the not so distant future

Note this chapter runs contemporaneously with Chapter 1.

The folks were down at the Eagles so Brian had dinner at Bobby's house. Bobby was a very good friend of Brian's, his best friend if one is forced to define such a thing. Bobby lived with his mother. She was a good person but not entirely functional or great with money so Bobby stayed around to helped out. After high school she didn't bother him about coming home late, or not at all. If he wasn't coming home Bobby called to let her know. She kept a neat home, was a good cook and did not pry too much into his life so it worked out well for everybody.

Recently Bobby's girl friend Jill had moved in. Things started getting ugly so Bobby and Brian drove up there to her out of the apartment she was living in. She previously lived in a larger town, well nearby in car distance. Since the community college shut down and her job as a cashier at Safeway was history there wasn't a reason to stay there anyway. Her family lived elsewhere and was out of the picture for reasons that were unclear; Brian saw it was a sensitive subject so he never asked about details.

If Caroline, Bobby's Mom, minded Jill moving in she didn't show it. In fact she seemed to like the arrangement. Shortly after they started dating when it became clear Jill was probably not going to break her baby's heart and would likely be around for awhile Caroline sort of adopted the girl as her own. Since Caroline only had Bobby she had all this pent up girly energy and Jill sort of needed a mother figure so it was a natural fit. She didn't want Jill in an apartment in a (relatively) large town in times like this. Also Jill being there meant Bobby was there too. The two had been dating for about a year and it seemed serious.

It probably helped that Caroline's room was on the second floor and Bobby lived in the basement. A couple summers back with Barry's help the two boys had turned half of the previously unfinished basement into a large bedroom with a bathroom and kitchenette. Even put a wood stove in to heat the place without high utility bills.

Barry and Caroline had dated on and off over the years. At that time they were on for about a year and even talked about getting married. Caroline was switched to nights at work and Barry was on days so the romance sort of fizzled. They ended up amicably separating.

Brian brought over a fresh fish which Caroline cooked up in a cast iron pan on the wood stove in the living room. Jill made some home made french fries and they cobbled together a farmers salad (whatever veggies you've got) so it made for a pretty good meal. They had a bottle of wine with the meal. Since there was no TV or internet and going out to do something was impractical they hung out after dinner playing idle games and talked about nothing in particular. Caroline brought out some moonshine she got from a friend to sip on. They sat around chatting and playing cards.

Around 9 everyone was full, happy and getting ready to wind the evening down. Brian finished the game, polished of his drink then politely excused himself. The short walk home was nice. It was a clear evening with a full moon.

When he got home the house was dark and empty. This wasn't a surprise. Dad always played cards after dinner at the Eagles and Mom usually ended up drinking wine chatting with the neighbor. Dad would swing by there, say hi, grab Mom, then they would usually be home around 11.

Brian tossed some wood on the coals in the fireplace and pretty soon had a nice little blaze going. He pulled a rocking chair by the fire and with a mirror they had set up as a reflector was able to get enough light to read by. He took the rifle off his shoulder and set it by the chair.

Brian sat down and picked up the book he was working on. It was “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Gibbons. His copy was abridged but still 900 some odd pages long. Very interesting and a bit slow but there was only so much else to do for entertainment these days.

He would read till the folks came home. Then they would all talk about their evenings, have a drink together and then go to bed. Mostly these days he wanted to make sure they got home OK. At Barry's advice Brian had started carrying his AK everywhere. Strictly speaking it was legal, though nobody cared much about technicalities these days and he knew all the cops anyway. Dad had plenty of guns but didn't see a reason to carry one in town. Said he'd lived there for decades and not needed one yet.

Brian read for awhile then decided to give up. While very interesting the book was dry and deep; he was a bit too tired to focus and his thoughts were drifting. There were just so many things to worry about these days. Things had not been good in the US for several years. However until a couple months back you could go to the gas station to fill up your truck, grab some food at a restaurant then go home to watch tv, cruise the forest service roads or go have a bonfire at the beach so it was pretty easy to pretend things were OK. Barry called that a “normalcy bias”.

In any case even as a teenager Brian had seen the economy going down the tubes. He'd read a bunch of Walters books on economics at Dad's advice. He couldn't pin down the specific problems or what caused them but he knew there were problems. It reminded him of a cop show where a person was shot by a shotgun that was not supposed to be loaded, fell out a 7th story window to hit the street then get run over by a truck and the medical people have to figure out what killed them. At the end of the day it didn't really matter as they couldn't have survived any of it. Sort of like America.

Since graduating high school Brian had been very busy. He'd decided not to go away to school and signed up at the local community college instead. He went to school full time and worked almost full time. It kept him busy so he was not not sitting around being a mopy loser. Also he had been able to get some more ammunition and silver which was good. Now that things had slowed down he had time to read more, fish and hunt which was nice. Everyone was busy but there was a lot more time to think and read which was sort of nice.

He didn't miss TV, Facebook, debit cards or punching a clock at work but fuel for his truck, cold beer and hot running water were pretty nice.

Brian was shaken out of his wandering thoughts by a noise at the front door. Somebody was fumbling and banging around. The family habitually used the back door. If somebody was fumbling and having a hard time opening the back door he would have figured the folks had a few too many but they would not be at the front door. Something was wrong.

Brian set down his book and grabbed the AK taking the safety off as he pulled it to the low ready like Barry had taught him. He moved silently through the living room to the kitchen and around to the den taking a kneeling position behind the wall facing the front door. Thankfully for reasons lost in time the wall between the entry area and the den, like outside of the house, was made of brick. The noise was obviously not his parents. He knew from experience that even drunk someone with a key would have gotten the door open by now. After another minute of fiddling with the door the person outside just gave it a couple of good kicks then stepped into the house.

Brian yelled at them to stop which was met by a shotgun blast. Thankfully they aimed strait down the hallway away from the den. Brian then put two shots into the person with the shotgun coming through the door. A male voice grunted as they fell. The second individual moved into the doorway then fired a shot in Brian's general direction which thankfully went into the brick wall. Brian fired three rounds into the open doorway. He thought one connected but there was no way to be sure. There was no more fire from the door.

He needed to move. If there were more people out there the choice was to slip around and kill them or wait for them to slip around to kill him. To be sure the guy in the hallway was dead Brian put a round into his head. It was too dark to see his sights even by moonlight but at 15 feet with a rifle it was still an easy shot. Brian stayed low and quietly slipped towards the outside wall then opened the den's window with one hand. He pushed out the screen with the practice of a kid who grew up there and had snuck out that window a couple times. He quietly slipped out the window aware that there still might be a threat somewhere outside.

Brian moved carefully through the yard bringing him around the side of whoever was still outside. Thankfully there was a full moon and it was a cloudless night so visability was fairly good. He was wearing socks so steps on the lawn were silent as he approached the front right corner of the house. Brian came around the corner low and fast, 'cutting the pie' like Barry showed him.

He saw a small person leaning against the wall and yelled to put up their hands. The person reached for something so Brian started shooting. He unintentionally used what was called the “zipper” method. The zipper method was to simply starting shooting at someones hips then working your way up as the weapon rises. If multiple solid torso shots did not do it the last one, which in this case took off the top part of the person's head, did it for sure.

Brian approached and kicked away what turned out to be a handgun from the person. He then moved around the corner of the house to to see if there was anyone else there. Either these two were alone or their partners took off when the shooting started.

He went inside moving the shotgun away from the individual in the entry way while going by and confirming they were dead. Brian slung his AK and found a flashlight. The person in the entry way Brian knew by sight. A local guy, late 20's, a druggie who had been in some trouble over the years. He went outside to see who the second one was. It was a girl about his age that Brian had seen somewhere but did not know. She was nice looking too; well she was nice looking before he shot her repeatedly. Suddenly Brian's reflexes turned off then he vomited in the yard. He would say it was because he'd shot a girl but actually it was the whole thing.

There were no more apparent threats so Brian was not sure what to do. The phones were down so he could not call 911. He had fired a dozen rounds or so and the burglars had fired a couple so he figured somebody would show up eventually. Brian ran upstairs to grab a fully loaded magazine than sat down on the porch swing to wait.

A few minutes later somebody came running up the sidewalk. Brian took cover being the half brick wall that defined their front porch. After a second he recognized Jim the local police chief. Brian set his rifle down and stood up, clearly displaying his hands.

Jim was tired, he probably needed to run a lot more often and lose 20 pounds. Hearing generally where the shots came from he went running that way. Jim thought he had a hell of a job, interrupting a nice Friday evening to go run towards people shooting at each other. He had a had feeling about which house it was. His bad feeling was verified by the smell of gunfire and body lying out front of the house. Jim saw someone moving and activated the surefire light on his rifle. 200 lumens showed Brian with his hands up.

Jim said “Come out here” and Brian complied keeping his hands visible the whole time. Just a few steps behind him Thomas and Barry came up on the scene. Barry had an AK and Thomas had a pistol that Brian recognized as Barry's. They lowered their guns after seeing the situation seemed under control.

Jim walked through the entry way and into the house quickly clearing it then coming back out.

Thomas handed the pistol back to Barry then ran up to his son. He patted the boy down to confirm he was not injured then gave him a hug.

Jim said “What the hell happened?” and was cut off by Barry saying “Boy, don't say a damn word till we get a lawyer down here.”

Brian just sort of looked at them. He took Barry's advice and kept his mouth shut.

Jim asked Barry and Thomas to come with him to talk. They walked down to the side yard to talk. Brian could not hear what they were saying from the sidewalk where he was standing.

Betsy ran up with her friends husband who was carrying a shotgun. Seeing Jim there with a rifle he pointed the duck gun at the ground. She saw the broken door and a body then screamed. A second later Thomas and Brian were with her. Once she knew they were both OK Betsy calmed down a bit, well until she learned what happened. Thomas took Betsy inside to get her calmed down.

Barry stayed with Brian and Jim.

Jim asked Brian “What happened son?” Brian looked at Barry who gave an approving nod.

Brian said “I was sitting by the fireplace reading a book waiting for Mom and Dad to come home. Heard something weird at the front door. I knew Mom and Dad would have come in the back door. So I grabbed my rifle, moved into the den. After another minute of trying to open the lock they just booted it. I yelled “stop” and the person let go with a shotgun blast down the hall so I shot them twice. Another person shot at me and I fired back. I wasn't sure if there was still a threat so I slipped out the window and moved around the house. I came up on a person, told them to put their hands up, they reached for a gun so I fired. I checked both individuals and they were dead. Wasn't sure what to do so I sat down on the swing till somebody showed up.”

Barry said “Boy you did good.”

Jim said “You didn't exactly mention how guy inside got shot in his head but as far as I am concerned you just got confused and fired three times not two. With the shotgun blast into the wall you are covered in my book. Hard to judge you for wanting to make sure they were no longer a threat. The girl on the walk fired a round from the gun she carried, it's probably in the house somewhere. From what I can see nobody is going to fault you for this, it looks like a pure case of self defense.

We will look into it some. However unless it turns out that you previously threatened these people, owed them money, invited them over tonight for a party or something else crazy I am pretty confident no charges will be filed. Strictly speaking I should take your rifle but if need be I know where to find it. Honestly the lab in the capitol probably isn't functional anyway and I fear you may need it again. Beside if I take it Barry will just replace it so there is no point. I am going to get my guys down here as quickly as possible to take a few pictures and measurements then get out of your hair. I will need a formal statement in the next couple days. Get yourself together, get a lawyer and have them get in contact with my office.

Bottom line though I will deny saying it, is that baring something crazy popping up, you are clear on this. No charges will be filed.”

An hour or so later some folks from the police department had taken a few pictures and hauled the bodies off. Thomas came out after getting Betsy calmed down. The idea that her son had shot two people at their house was a bit more than she could bear. When the doc, who moonlighted as he Coroner, came Thomas grabbed him. Doc talked to Betsey for a minute then gave her a pill to go to sleep.

After everyone left Thomas, Barry and Brian were sitting in the living room having a drink. Brian fully recounted the incident to them. The consensus was the he did well. Barry did mention he should have had a reload for the AK and a pistol but that was just a learning point and 'all's well that ends well'.

Thomas realized he'd made a mistake by not having a weapon on his person and swore to not repeat that mistake. Said he wouldn't leave the house without a gun or two from here on out. Barry said not to beat himself up about it. Realizing a significant change has taken place is hard, we all want to think things are normal until forced to see that is not the situation. Deftly switching topics Barry asked if they were still having pancakes in the morning.

Thomas said between a few drinks and the sedative he did not think Betsy would be cooking in the morning. However either he or Brian would whip something up. On that note they all excused themselves to bed.

The spare bedroom in the Johnson household was Barry's de facto town room. He kept some spare clothes, a few books, and some hygiene stuff there. In the closet under Betsy's spare sweaters and off season shoes he had a locked foot locker with a rifle and pistol with ammunition and an Alice Pack that had a full change of clothes, boots, some food and a wad of cash. He slept there about every other Friday night after the Eagles and occasionally after coming over for dinner during the week. Brian liked having him around and Betsy worried about him being all alone in an empty house so he stayed more than he would otherwise. It worked out fine for everybody.

Then they all slept.

You Took Away Tomorrow Chapter 12

Things get real in Chapter 12 over at TEOTWAWKI Blog. Catch up with the Chapter Index if needed.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Crunch- Chapter 1

Read The Crunch-Prologue here

Chapter 1- Late Night at the Eagles
Location: The Eagles Club
Time: Friday Night Month 1-January in the not so distant future

Every Friday night they got together at the Eagles. Sort of a happy hour turns into dinner then maybe some more drinks type thing. Usually it was steak except during fish and seafood season. These days it was catch as catch can so the menu varied. Since the power went out and normal commerce pretty much stopped people were pretty sedate. They came to dinner to talk and see each other, also there wasn't much else to do. At some level people came to feel normal.

A few days ago when the power went out they had a meeting at the Eagles to discuss continuing operations. There were several issues at hand. First was the question of whether to keep the Eagles open at all. The consensus was that they needed each other more than ever so if at all possible the club should continue operating.

The next issue was whether folks desperately needed anything. A few folks had small shortages. One realized after the power went out that they had a half book of matches and 1 almost used up lighter in the house. An older lady needed help moving some things. These issues were quickly resolved

Lastly was figuring out the logistics of keeping the place open. The problems at hand were lighting/ cooking, food and lastly booze. An older lady had a few extra kerosene lanterns then Thomas came through with a few gallons of kerosene from the store to run them. For cooking a couple folks had dutch ovens and those who could spare it agreed to bring some firewood.

Food was a bit more complicated. At best folks, except Barry, were short. The lucky ones had just enough to get by. It worked out like the old story about “stone stew”. Someone decided it would be best to see what sort of ingredients they could get then decide what to make from there. One guy had just killed a deer, out of season (not like it mattered) so he volunteered a roast. Betsey offered a few pounds of potatoes, somebody had a bunch of onions and carrots, Barry offered stuff for a bunch of biscuits and Rob said he could bring butter and spices. So the consensus was stew and biscuits. They also decided to have a short discussion each week where folks who could contribute to the next week 's meal what they had then the gal's figured out a meal from there. Some might have said that was sexist but it was probably more functional, the ladies had learned from years of stretching budgets at home so they could do the most with the least. Really the grouping was self selective as Rob the Grocer and the odd man who was big into cooking were of course welcome to participate.

After dinner around 8 a few people got together in the side room just like always. It was one of those small town informal power broker type things. Thomas sort of started the game. It included Al the mayor, Jim the police chief, Walter the banker plus of course the usual town fixtures Barry and Randy. They usually had a couple drinks and played poker. Tonight there was a drink in front of everyone and cards on the table but they were just going through the motions.

The usual stakes were $10 with the option for a second buy in. Chips were penny, nickel, dime and quarter. Honestly they only had money involved so people would pay attention and not play stupidly. It was painfully apparent that money didn't actually matter anymore. Also there was a lot going on and just like everybody else they wanted to feel normal. It didn't really work. After a dozen hands they gave up.

Barry who never held back said the game was shot and they needed to talk. He walked over the bar in the corner grabbed a handle and a bunch of glasses. Barry topped off all the drinks then sat back down. There was no ice, that went when the power shut off. The only light in the room was a kerosene lantern.

Barry started the conversation in his usual gruff fashion “So what the hell do we do now?”

Jim replied “We could set up check points on the roads coming into town and a roving patrol in town at night. We also want to crack down on local trouble makers to prevent problems from happening.”

Al stepped in “Check points and a beefed up patrol make sense but we need to talk about that as a group. Citizens still have rights. If troublemakers cause problems we will deal with them but we cannot throw out the constitution and harass or harm them.”

Thomas said “Check points and a roving patrol make sense. Some trusted citizens could be deputized to add a few extra hands for patrols. As to the troublemakers I have an idea. Harassing or harming them would not be right; however we can warn them that laws are going to be vigorously enforced and taking advantage of the current situation will not be tolerated. After that they can straiten up and fly right or be dealt with. Maybe mention that our town had more than one vigilante style hanging from a tree in the old days.”

Al finished his drink in a gulp and poured another “How the hell did we get here” he asked to nobody in particular.

Barry let out a snort “Let me get started, the breakdown of the nuclear family, welfare, the movement of American jobs overseas, corporate welfare, failure to secure our borders, political correctness, unnecessary foreign wars, dysfunctional banking laws, I could go all day.”

Walter said “It all started in 1913 with the federal reserve. Fiat currency controlled by a private bank with international interests, specifically the Rotheschild family, has been the ruin of us. Like Jefferson said “"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." It was clear private central banks would be the ruin of us, however we let the fox be in charge of watching the hen house.”

Al said “Walter I am not disagreeing with you there. For years you told me to put money into productive businesses, land and precious metals. I listened to you though, hindsight being 20/20, not as much as I should have.”

Thomas came back in “This situations is more of a wimper than a bang. Real inflation has been well above 10% for the last several years. Fuel prices have risen even more dramatically. Our economy has been tanking like crazy. Good jobs have been vanishing and being replaced with part time menial labor jobs. Small businesses cannot compete with the big guys who have crony capitalism and all manner of regulations set up so they win. The supply chain started getting short as raw materials became problematic and that trickled all the way to normal folks going to the store. As fuel became very expensive then scarce and crime increased our transportation networks broke down.

For better or worse everyone in this room has lived a pretty long and generally good life. If one of us has a heart attack tonight we've had a good life. I worry about the young people. First simply that they will be the first generation in a long time to see such a drastic reduction in standard of living, probably a permanent one. Second I worry for our society as history has shown large desperate groups of young people do not make for a stable society. What the hell sort of world did I bring my kid into?”

Barry patted Thomas on the back a couple times and said “Brian is OK. Things are not exactly working out exactly like he planned but he is rolling with it. Since the mill shut down there has been plenty of time to hunt and fish which has been good for him. He liked classes at the CC until it didn't reopen after Christmas break. Don't worry buddy, our boy is doing OK.”

Al shifted topics “So what do we do now boys?”

Thomas said “We need to help each other get through this. Give to neighbors and friends until it hurts, teach people useful skills, pool resources to help the greater good.”

Barry jumped in “Pool resources? Why should anyone else have a right to what I have? A guy who bought jet ski's and 90 inch flat screen tv's instead of food, equipment and gear does not have a right to what I bought any more than I had a share in his jet ski or trophy wife.”

Thomas said “Barry cool down. You have known us for decades. The legendary stash you have is safe. Nobody is saying we will take anything from people. The point I am getting at is that we need to voluntarily put our resources to help support the community. Think of it like the dinner we had tonight. People put in what they could so the group could have a nice meal and pretend things were OK for a few hours. Nobody was pressured to contribute. We would not do that, some folks here are seriously short on food. They have nothing extra to contribute and probably relied on a good solid meal tonight. Those of us who had something to give to the group did so. These people are our friends and some time down the road when the shoe is on the other foot they will come through for us.”

Al came back in “We do need to talk about the food bank. Pastor Johnson and Father O'Malley are doing their best but need some help. They each came to see me separately last week. The amount of families looking for help is going up and will likely explode in a week or two when peoples cabinets start to empty. Also since Rob's store has stopped receiving regular deliveries their support has dropped off accordingly. So we have more people who need help and less food. I do not know what the answer is but at least need to share the problem with you all, we need to figure this out or there will be real problems. “

Walter says “There are a lot of things we need to accomplish to get the town set up for our new reality. The old gravity fed irrigation system needs to be fixed. Public buildings need to have the old stoves and fireplaces made serviceable or we need to install new alternatives. We need to cut wood to help the elderly and start getting plots ready to garden next spring. There are many things that need to be done.”

Al replied “Are you talking about a sort of general good organization like the CCC during the depression?”

Walter said “While I do not love the government employing people unnecessarily it seems to make sense. Like we saw with the CCC people could keep hope and a sense of pride even if they were doing manual labor for modest wages. Some people need food/ an income and our town needs to get some work done so it seems like a natural fit. Of course we will have to figure out how to pay them but in principle it is a sound idea.”

Al said “I can not just sign off on all of this. Let's come up with a concept then bring it to the city council next week to see what they say.”

Jim came back “We need to come up with a plan for checkpoints and a night guard to present also. It is better to set this stuff up before we need it then get creamed and do it after the fact.”

There was a general agreement on both accounts.

Jim continued “Getting back to our crime situation. Things are not bad now but it's getting worse and that trend looks to continue. We can stop these scum bags now or wait until they hurt good people then deal with it after the fact. Do we need to wait until good families or elderly people are killed by gang banger wanna be drug addicts before taking care of business?”

Barry said “What do you plan to do? If we put people in jail we have to house and feed them which will not work. Do you plan to kill them? How do you plan to decide who to kill? How is this possibly any better than the Gestapo?”

Al said “Lets just slow this down. Jim I understand you only want to keep people safe but this idea goes too far. We are not going to kill anybody. Even in these hard times we are Americans and will live to that standard. Now Thomas's idea to give some people a harsh warning to straiten up and fly right or face serious consequences makes sense. We have to figure out what to do with serious criminals but keeping them in jail indefinitely is not realistic. The point is that it looks like crimes are going to be dealt with locally so those who cause problems will face consequences quickly and locally.”

Al continued “Until the early 1930's trials and executions were still done at the county level. However I fear we cannot expect much help from the county any time soon. Maybe we can get them to set up a traveling court that comes by every other month to deal with minor stuff and as needed if bigger crimes happen. I will look into it.

On Wednesday night there is a city council meeting. Jim can present some of this and I will agree with him. We can certainly get Randy on board. The other 2 councilmen I am not so sure about. Our esteemed councilwomen could be problematic. I will work on them all and get back to you all.”

Barry said “That commie lesbian is probably going to try some legal trickery to set up her own little commune. She has the California yuppies and those hippie kids on her side. I cannot believe we let her get elected.”

Al cut Barry off  “That's enough. Catherine won because there was not a functional person willing to take the time out of their life to do the job. We all talked about this. None of you wanted her on the council but at the same time any of you could have been elected and none of you were willing to do it. Besides, while I do not agree with Catherine's politics she has done a lot of good for this town. She got the farmers market going, organized the city clean up's and helped market our town to the area and folks in the larger cities. Lots of businesses stayed open here much longer because of her.

I do not think she has the votes on the council for anything crazy. Catherine, the yuppies and the hippie kids are a vocal minority. They represent maybe 10-15% of the town, even less when we consider the folks living in the immediate area. Furthermore in the unlikely situation that it comes to it they are not well armed. There are probably more guns in my house than that whole group has and certainly more experience in this room than that whole lot. Between the Eagles, the Hunting and Shooting Club, the police department and of course Barry I believe we can stave off a communist takeover.”

Walter said “Barry, Some of those folks have useful skills. A lot of them are organic gardeners or farmers, several raise bees. Many of them run some sort of small business, often craft or agriculture related out of their homes. I realize many of us do not get along with them but before this is over we might just need them as much as they need us.”

Thomas drained the glass in his hand then got up. “Well boys I'm calling it a night. Barry, you're welcome to crash at our place instead of walking home tonight. Betsy is making pancakes in the morning and I am sure Thomas would like to see you.”

Barry said “You had me at pancakes. I'll be ready to go in a minute.”

Al said “I think we all have a lot to think about. I am going to work on a few things then put them before the city council meeting. Why don't we meet after the City Council Meeting.”

There was a chorus of agreement. Folks polished off their drinks, put things away then trickled out one by one. Before leaving Thomas extinguished the light.

Several shots rang out. After a brief pause there were a few more and then silence.

Al said “Some drunk shooting into the air?”

Barry said “No, that was a gun fight.” He then grabbed the AK which was sitting in the corner of the room. It had accompanied him everywhere since the power went out.

Jim suddenly produced an AR-15; nobody was quite sure from where then took off running. Al and Barry took off after him, catching up to him easily. Outpacing Jim on foot was not too difficult. They followed Jim half because he might need help and half because it was the general direction of Thomas's house. Mid stride Barry handed Thomas a pistol from under his light jacket. They went running off into the dark towards the sound of gunfire......

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fiction Update

It seems folks liked The Crunch-Prologue or if they hated it were at least nice enough to abstain from saying so. A few more chapters are roughed out (written but not edited) and depending on where breaking points make sense that put's it half to 1/3rd of the way done with my first book.

You will see another chapter not later than Monday. Probably another the week after that. To get more you'll have to pay the price of a light draft beer at a neighborhood bar, not more than $3.

As to where things are going. You are going to see how our hero, his family, friends and community deal with the beginning of the crunch. I did not intentionally design this as a survival manual wrapped in a fiction novel. In fact the characters will make some choices and do some things I am not sure are 100% the right answer. Some characters will be very well prepared, others caught flat footed and many someplace in the middle. This is based in the sort of community I know pretty well. Characters may resemble people I have known, or in some cases know well. Characters are going to inevitably make mistakes which may cost them. Sort of like The Walking Dead or Son's of Anarchy nobody is totally safe.

The topics of sex and violence have some up in discussion. People will get laid, kill each other and die in this book. There are important parts of life and cannot be ignored but I think they can be appropriately tapered to the books goals and audience.

As to violence well; there will be blood. I am familiar with the type of folks who live in this fictional scenario. Also I have spent time in a couple of failed states. There will be conflict and violence. My intent is to portray what I see as realistic scenarios as they fit into the story line. I do not feel the need to work in extra violence for the sake of itself. Also I do not feel the need to be excessively graphic describing the terrible things people do to each other unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

As to sex. First and foremost I strive to have as much realism as possible in my writing. That means people are going to have sex. Sometimes real people have sex outside of situations (like marriage among others) considered appropriate by certain groups. Also occasionally they have sex in random moments or occasionally in outright destructive situations. When it fits I will include this all in my writings. That being said I do not feel a need to be overly graphic about sex. I am writing a survivalist fiction/ adventure type book not literary erotica. Expect to read something like "Suzie whispered seductively into Bob's ear, he picked her up, she waved goodnight to the group over his shoulder and they went to her room"; not the the exact details of how 'Suzie blipped Bob's blop' or whatever.

I truly hope this is acceptable for the majority of my audience. I have no desire to write something dirty. If folks want that they are welcome to it elsewhere. Since we are on the internet I bet those folks can find more porn than they know what to do with. As to the other side who are very conservative about sex and stuff. People are not always perfect. Sometimes they have sex a bit early in  a relationship or with folks they probably shouldn't. While they may not be your realities what I am going to express are human behaviors that are well within the normal range. I truly hope to write in a way that gets my message across without making anyone uncomfortable.

My overall intent when it comes to the violence and sex is to produce a book I would be comfortable with a 13-15 year old kid reading. Sort of like the literary equivalent of made for TV western based on a Louis Lamour book with Tom Selleck and or Sam Elliot. Some folks will get together, others will die but it's not going to be excessively graphic about either. Of course a parent should read my book first then judge if it is appropriate and something they feel comfortable with their kid reading.

Anyway I am hesitant to give an exact date but my goal is to have this book done in some time in the fall. So that is what is up with that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Crunch- Prologue

Location: The Coastal Pacific Northwest
Time: Month 9/Early September in the not so distant future

Brian walked down the road. It seemed that he spent a lot of time walking these days. Gas was very difficult to come by. They still had a little bit which was being saved for emergencies. The walk to the farm usually took an hour. Longer if he stopped to fish in the river or pick berries and shorter if he ran or walked fast. He only did this when there was an unusual amount of work to be done at home or it was raining. It rained all the time. Brian thought they probably noticed it more because everyone was outside so much more than they used to be.

His destination was a small farm owned by his uncle. 60 acres was nothing in a world of commercial agriculture but it was a lot when things were done by hand. Brian worked there now. Definitely not the life he had planned on. Brian should have been attending his second year of college at Washington State. Good hunting and fishing, nice rural area, plenty of parties full of interesting people and of course girls. He did not think about it too much. Being a farm hand instead of a fun loving college student was not ideal but no point in constantly being sad about it.

It was a pretty nice day. Still cool but not too wet. Brian had left home about an hour before the sun came up like every day lately. It let him get the farm, do a few chores then eat breakfast and work all day.

During the late spring and summer they worked almost constantly. Brian pretty much lived at the farm then only coming home for a short 1 day weekend. Really that was just because his mom had insisted. Since they were working less now Brian would usually leave in the mid afternoon. He would check a couple fish traps along the way to see if there were any fish, pick a few berries and go home. There were a couple hours to spend on hobbies or with friends then it was dinner, a bit of reading and bed.

He did miss the convenience of vehicles and the fun of a weekend night driving forest service roads but walking was OK. 

Time was a funny thing these days. His family had some functional watches and a clock. As batteries went dead and accidents doing unusual work added up time pieces were getting rarer. Brian did not wear a watch. He didn't want to break a precious item working and just plain did not need it. It did not matter these days if he arrived someplace two minutes early or 5 minutes late. Unlike his old job at the saw mill there was no clock to punch or whistle for breaks and meals. The pace of life was a lot slower now. Time didn't really matter it was more about days and the season.

While he walked Brian thought of the usual things. Like most young men fun and girls occupied most of his thought and not in that order. Fun had changed significantly. No gas to drive around, less free time and the shortages of well, everything, put a damper on the usual pass times. However as with everything there were trade off's. Lately the local police had stopped bothering some kids having a good time whether in the city park or at a house in town. Kids couldn't drive 10 miles into the woods anymore, also there were security considerations. On the plus side there was plenty of time for fishing and hunting which was nice. Last year he went out hunting with friends for 3 weeks. The went up into the mountains and set up a base camp, hunted and preserved the meat there. They set up a base camp far from town and moved it to follow the game. That got them into places people coming back to town at night could not reach. It worked out really well so they planned a repeat for this year.

Things with girls had changed considerably. For one everyone was busy during a big part of the year. Secondly transportation was an issue as it limited the dating pool considerably. Seeing a person from the next town 25 miles away was common before but now it might as well have been 200 miles. Also the lack of birth control and the limited availability of condoms put a further damper on things.

After fun with friends, hunting and girls Brian's thoughts drifted to food. Food was the new money or as his uncle would say food had retaken it's historic importance. Right now everyone was doing fine. There was still food in gardens, most of the crops were in or would shortly be in, fish were running and it was hunting season (not like they paid a lot of attention to that anyway). One would intuitively think winter was the bad season but really it was the early spring after folks eat up all their food yet before the early crops start coming in. They had to worry about food now so they would have some to eat then.

His family would be fine. Between Mom's garden, his hunting, fishing and of course the farm they could put back a lot of food. It helped that his family had hobbies they were good at which turned out to be useful. He was light years ahead of some guy who grabbed a rifle and walked into the woods to find a deer. Mom had been an organic gardener for years and could grow anything. She even had a green house set up out back to buy extra growing time. Also thankfully she had put back a lot of canning jars and lids over the years. Dad liked to hunt also and was pretty good at it. However these days he was preoccupied with a half dozen micro businesses and helping mom around the house. While he never said anything Dad seemed to know there wasn't a whole lot of fun for a young man these days so he stayed home and  let Brian do all the hunting.

Brian's left hand casually grazed the barrel of the rifle on his shoulder. He carries the rifle everywhere. It was an AK-47. Great gun, nice finish and flawless operation. 

Awhile back Brian had wanted to build an AR-15. He'd done research on forums and spent hours in gun shops talking about different components. Eventually he figured out the components and was saving for it out of his paycheck's. He talked about it with Barry. Barry became a close family friend years before Brian was born. As Brian grew up their mutual interests in hunting, the outdoors and preparedness lead to a friendship of their own. Barry was a lifelong bachelor, though there was usually a woman in the picture and since he never had children Barry looked at Brian more as a son or nephew than a friends kid. Barry was the reason Brian had a good paying summer job at the mill. One day they were having lunch and Brian was rambling about the rifle he planned to buy in a couple weeks. Barry sort of mumbled along in between bites of a cheese steak and told him come by his house after work. Sort of like a cool uncle or an older brother Brian did whatever Barry said and it always worked out well.

That evening when Brian got off work he went over there. Barry came out of the kitchen with two beers. On the living room table was a brand new AK-47 with a stack of magazines and a can full of ammo. Though Brian was technically under aged the two has been having beers together for a few years. Barry was a crazy libertarian who figured he could serve alcohol to whomever he pleased in his home; of course he made sure Brian was going to have a big meal then be around for awhile so he would be safe to drive or staying over.

Barry told Brian he pulled the strings to get him a good paying job at the mill to save money for college, not to buy some fancy rifle. He then told Brian the rifle and all the stuff on the table was his to keep in exchange for the promise that he would not spend a bunch of money on that AR or any other guns until he was done with college and had a good paying job. Brian offered to pay for the rifle; Barry scoffed that he wouldn't take the boy's money. Said he bought plenty of AK's when they were cheap and needed to free up some space in the safe anyway. He was a very good friend.

Along with the AK Brian carried his usual stuff. Two spare magazines for the AK in a pouch on his left hip. That plus the one in the gun and the reserve on the buttstock was 120 rounds, way more than enough for every fight he'd been in. He owned a pistol. It was a Glock 19; a wonderful pistol and Dad's high school graduation gift to him. Brian did not bother to carry it to the farm. The usefulness of pistols was that they could be carried anywhere; these days he carried the AK outside the house and the Glock in it. A small Buck knife was on his left side. A flint and steel to start fires plus a lighter for emergencies (they were precious) were in his pocket.

His Cabellas camouflage hunting/ old school day pack carried a steel water bottle, a poncho, a first aid kit, 2 MRE's, an E and E kit and 3 more mags for the AK. There was a chest rig with 7 magazines at home under his bed just in case but it did not make sense for everyday stuff. He brought the backpack along every time he left town. While it had to be pretty hot to bother with drinking water on the walk to the farm he wanted that stuff along just in case. He liked having some basic gear and the extra space was regularly handy. There was plenty of room for a day trip hunting/ fishing gear or to carry a few things from his parents to his Uncle/ Aunt or visa versa.

Every day Brian was thankful to have serviceable boots. He was always into hiking and camping. Around 9th grade his feet stopped growing. At that point boots in size 11 were added to Mom's Good Will/ garage sale/ used stuff list. She bought gently used military boots in leather and suede, leather loggers boots and quality hiking boots. Brian figured the two dozen pair of boots Mom stashed would last him a really long time. This was one of the many reasons Brian was thankful for his mother.

Brian's work for his uncle was what a biology student would call symbiotic. His uncle and aunt had a fairly stereotypical hobby farm. Though it was a little bigger than the norm and his aunt had a huge garden the rest of the stereotypes fit. Before things went sideways they had a dozen chickens, 6 goats, 2 pics, 4 cows and 5 horses. In time things expanded. Anyway Brian working there was great for everybody involved. The truth is that his Uncle and Aunt could not run the farm without the diesel powered tractor and it's implements. With the recent expansion there was no way they could make it work. Brian worked there basically year round. They needed him plus 3 of his high school buddies for about 4 months of the year. The rest of the time it was just Brian. He took off October to go hunting. During the winter Brian worked a couple days a week as there was not much going on.

He had sort of adapted to the natural cycle of things. Busy during the spring and summer with plenty of time to do whatever during the late fall and winter. He worked like a dog from April to August but then it was time to hunt and things slowed down after that. Lazy winter afternoons reading books by the stove were pretty nice. When the snow stuck he would go cross country skiing or just mess around sledding with buddies and a bottle of booze.

Brian thought about the future occasionally. Not the future he planned for studying and dating cute coed's at WSU but the future that was actually realistic. Choosing a nice girl to spend the rest of his life with, getting married and having a place of their own. He was not sure it was the right time yet. It would be good to develop some more skills and do a bit of saving. Also he was not sure how it would work for everyone else. Aside from the fact that any building material except raw pine was almost impossible to find the hard truth was that the family needed Brian for things to work. Sure they could live without him but it would not be good. His mom and dad, as well as aunt and uncle were not getting any younger. 

For better or worse the realistic truth was that he when he decided to marry they would probably end up at his parents or the farm.Not exactly what a newly married couple would want but that is the situation these days. In any case there were some nice girls Brian was around who had definite potential but he did not have anything solid going on.

As he turned the last corner before the farm Brian shifted out of the idle thought auto pilot. Occasionally he got deep in thought and walked past the farm. All of a sudden he was a half mile down the road, ended up at the farm late with an excuse stupid enough to be real.

Brian hooked a right into the driveway. Out of habit he checked the mail box though it had not been running consistently for almost a year. It was time to shift into work mode. Not that farm work was very mentally intensive but it was still a shift. He could do this job while thinking idle thoughts but if he got too deep into thinking about something stuff could get confused. Brian had learned this the hard way.

As he got towards the end of the quarter mile drive Uncle Chuck was on the porch with a shotgun like always. Brian waved just like every day. After a cup of herb/ don't want to know what tea it was time for work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fictional Possibilities

There may be some fiction coming to the blog. I have a reasonably formed idea that just might lend itself well to the blog format of short, semi regular type posts. The concept will sort of straddle some concepts for where our future may be going as well as serve as a useful venue to share ideas and lessons on a variety of preparedness and  guerrilla/ insurgency related topics.

Really wanted to start writing today. However I realized the smarter approach is to 'measure twice and cut once' instead of just cutting away hoping it will all work out. So instead of writing I tried to flesh out some stuff that should help down the road. Odds are like most plans it will not survive first contact but hopefully the process of developing a plan should be useful over the long run.

The first post/ chapter in the series might be as early as the next couple days or as late as next week. I hesitate to say what sort of frequency these posts will come at until there is a better idea what sort of time they take and if I enjoy writing them. Heck, I could suck at writing fiction and just scrap the whole thing after a few chapters.

So that's something new coming down the pipeline. Hopefully it will be fun for everyone.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Excellent Linkeage

John Mosby continues the Combat Rifle Craft discussion

American Mercenary talks IED's

Chris reviews a Gen I night vision device

Teotwawki Blog's You Took Away Tomorrow series 

How to spot a concealed firearm. I see a lot of guns. If forced to unscientifically guess I see half to 2/3rds of the guns that are carried concealed in my immediate area. Bulges on the side of the waistline are an obvious one. Right or wrong I assume anybody wearing tactical garb (5.11 pants, Multicam hats with morale patches, etc all) is packing. Obviously folks wearing concealed carry/ photographer type vests who do not have a huge camera are packing. ANYBODY wearing a vest when it is 90 degrees outside is hiding a gun.

It isn't so much that these folks are doing anything wrong in terms of concealment. Just that folks know their own. Potheads can find potheads, gays can find gays, CCW folks can often spot their own. The guns I miss are 1) Particularly small and discretely carried. Hard to tell if somebody dressed normally has a little .22/.32/ .380 in their pocket or 2) The gun is on the side away from me or I just miss it thinking about other things or whatever.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Read Archer Garrett's Flasblack for Free!


I'm going to make Flashback ( available for free on Amazon from Monday 12/3 to Friday 12/7.  If you haven't read it, or have readers that might be interested in picking this up - it would be greatly appreciated if you would pass the word along. 

The book is short, but I've tried to cram a lot into it.  The story is Orwellian in nature in that a collectivist revolution has resulted in a tyrannical regime that has absolute power over all, except for a small, urban holdout that has managed to successfully repel the regime.  The story takes place over the course of one night.  The second half of the book is a discussion of morality, with a biblical argument against collectivism.  Even if you are not a believer, I think the argument, if from none other than a historical perspective, shows that mankind has struggled against this ideology for much longer than most realize.

Anyway - I think the message is important, so I'm trying to get it out there.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Founders by Jim Wesley, Rawles

Founders is the third fiction book by Jim Wesley, Rawles. These books are a bit different than most because they run contemporaneously. So  in other words Patriots, Survivors and Founders are all happening at the same time.

This book covers the Layton's cross country treck from Chicago, Ill to the super retreat in Idaho in significantly more detail than it previously was touched on in Patriots. It also wraps in a couple other sets of characters from the second book.

The book spends a good bit of time on the composition of the new Provincial Government out of FT. Knox and how it occupies new areas and regulates occupied areas. I don't want to get too much deeper into the plot and spoil anything.

I have heard some criticisms of this book that deserve to be addressed. Some folks said they got less out of this book then previous ones. These books, in particular Patriots, have been characterized as survival manuals worked into fiction novels. This viewpoint certainly has at least some truth to it.

Using the old fiction series The Survivalist as an example you are going to get less out of book 6 than book 1 if you have read them all in order. It isn't that book 6 necessarily has any less value than 1 but that you have heard most of the authors major points and pet ideas by then. At some point in a series it is sort of inevitable that you will have been exposed to most of the major lessons the author has to give.

That point aside onto the usual format.

The Good: I appreciated that this book displayed a lot of fairly regular folks and their effort's to make it through a hard time. It had some interesting points where characters tried to stock up at the last minute and found the obvious guns/ammo/fuel missing. This is good because too many books let folks somehow get 4 guns, 12 cases of ammo and a years worth of food after an economic collapse. The characters then picked up some other useful items that were still available. Stuff like extra rifle scopes, hunting clothes and such. Interesting food for thought.

Even the more skilled and prepared folks made some good moves and some less good ones. There were not John Rourke figures who get into gunfights with 40 hard core bikers and kill them all. The more survivalist fiction I read the more I appreciate this.

Now that I think about it the book was fairly low on violence though some is realistically present. The book dealt more with folks getting prepared, day to day issues and the structure of both Pro Gov as well as the resistance. This worked well and made things interesting without getting all ridiculous. In this regard the book had a sort of different focus than Survivors which focused on less prepared folks figuring out how to get by or Patriots which had the uuber prepared group with the sweet survivalist retreat.

The threads about folks in the US military and how they did and did not cooperate with the Provincial Government and UN were pretty interesting. This part was well thought out and entirely plausible. Also it gave us some credit which is appreciated. Definitely something to think about.

Also this book did a pretty good job of staying off the gear and all too common specific model gun porn soap box. It seemed much more 'got a pistol, a rifle and a .22' so guns are covered than folks falling short because they lack the coolest Blast O Master 6000. This made me happy.  

The Bad: There were a couple gun porn .308/30.06 moments. At one point a character inferred that the M4 was not effective at intermediate distances (I think it was about 300 meters) which is just ridiculous. There was also another moment that fell into the 'battle rifle' long distance 'ambush' point of view which in my opinion is not really a viable strategy. That being said we all have our 'things' and the 'battle rifle' is one of the author's. It didn't detract from the book and was easy enough to just ignore.

Also the 'pre 1899' firearms came up in what I think is a less than plausible context. The new evil government that was banning pretty much everything kept the current loophole of exempting pre 1899 firearms. Like some evil UN Mercenary is going to stop and look up if a 30-30 or a 12 gauge was made in 1899 or 1935 or 1957? These guns have some distinct benefits today but thinking this would help you out in a totalitarian gun grab is probably wishful thinking. 

The Ugly: Like the second book Survivors this one follows multiple characters and sort of jumps back and forth between them. It just didn't to work quite as well here. I think it just moved a little too fast. Sometimes we just stayed with a character for just a few pages and then moved on. A couple character threads would have been better served by either getting filled out a bit more or otherwise cut out entirely.

Overall Assessment:  I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. At this point if you have read the previous books Patriots and Survivors you know JWR's beliefs/ writing style and generally what to expect. If you liked his previous fiction books (particularly Survivors as it is more similar to Founders than the first book) then I think you will like this book. Founders can be purchased here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stacey's Quest- Sample Chapter

Today I am pleased to bring you a chapter from Stacey's Quest to sample for free.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
-Chapter Eight-

    Stacey awoke the next morning before the sun, sticking her arm out of the covers to explore the day. It was cold and damp, but not as bad as she had endured previously. The window was definitely dark, and she questioned if it was middle of the night or early morning. Her bladder told her that it must be morning, and outside she heard the continuing, soft patter of the rain. To be sure, she went to the window to check.

    A little light came through the clouds, making her figure that morning was imminent, and she could see that the snow was nearly gone, with only a few small drifts remaining where they had been impassable even the day before.

    The question was going back to bed or leaving her room. After the contentious interactions with her family the past days, she really didn't want to be around her mother or grandmother. But she did want to be around Erica, stuck on the couch, or even Robert. Finally, compromise was the order of the day, so she silently slipped out of her room across to his. Peering down the hall, there was no light or sound, so the others must still be asleep.
    “Robert, are you awake?”
    “Did you sleep last night?”
    “Not very good. What's wrong with mom and grandma?”
    “I don't know, maybe they're just upset by this more than us.”
    “How can they get that old and be so unprepared for a little inconvenience?”
    “It's more than a little inconvenience, it could be that our whole world has changed.”
    “Do you really think so?”
    “Do you really think things are just going back to normal?”
    “I don't know, either, Robert. I don't know what is happening, but I've stopped believing that everything is just going to be like it was before. We have to be ready to face the unknown, just in case it doesn't.”
    “What do you mean by that?”
    “I don't know, that's what bothers me the most. I don't know what I might have to do.”
    A little more light came in his window, so it was definitely morning now, and somebody had just gone out the back door.
    “We better get up, Robert.”
    “Yeah, I have to go.”
    At least now she had protection from being double teamed by her mother and grandmother, and the siblings walked down the hall together. Only Erica was there, on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. Stacey reached out for her hand, finding it cold.
    “Good morning, Erica. How did you sleep?”
    “Not very good, it was cold after the fire went down.”
    “Why didn't you come in my room?”
    Erica looked around. “I didn't want to upset your grandmother, she doesn't want me here.”
    “Did she say that?”
    “She and your mother talked down there. They know that there is not enough of anything for you guys, let alone with me here, and they are worried about taking care of you first. I thought about sneaking out during the night and going to the church.”
    Stacey squeezed her hand. “Don't, because then I would have to go out alone to find you and something might happen to me. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, now would you?”
    “Go in my room, the bed is probably still warm and you can get some more sleep.”
    They heard the sound of the back door.
    “Hurry, before they get back.”
    Erica took her blanket with her.
    “Good morning, mom, grandma.”
    “Good morning. Stacey, why don't you put some water on the fire to make coffee. We might as well have drinks even if we don't have food. The pitcher is full, on the table. Robert, you can build the fire.”
    “Okay, mom.”
    By the time she returned with the pan of water, Robert had a small fire burning,  waiting until a sizable area of hot flame before setting the pan on it.
    “Where is your friend?” Grandmother asked.
    “She was cold, so I told her to go lay in my bed.”
    Mother and grandmother looked at each other, saying nothing, so they all sat in silence until the water steamed, then each took a cup of hot water. The two older women added coffee.
    Grandmother spoke after her first sip. “It is barely raining out now, and the sky looks like it will clear today. I want us to go to the church and for you to place those letters before people return.”
    “Yes, grandma.”
    “And your friend will go with us.”
    “She is coming back here, though. I won't abandon her at a shelter.”
    Her mother and grandmother looked at each other.
    “Erica doesn't know what happened to her family, or if they are ever coming back. I won't abandon her.”
    “We'll see, Stacey. We don't have enough food or anything, they will supply the shelters first before they start to bring things to people's houses, so she would actually be a lot better off there.” Her mother quietly said.
    “Then maybe we should all go there together.”
    “We talked about that last night, and it is a distinct possibility that we might do that. For now, you and Erica go with your grandmother and do the things that you said you would do. We will discuss the rest later.”
    “All right, I'll do it.”
    “What about me?” Robert asked.
    “You'll stay here with me and Tootie to keep house.”   
    Stacey couldn't decide whether his tone of voice was relief or disappointment.
    “Maybe there will be supply trucks there already so you can bring us food, I don't think there is anything left in the house except for a cake mix.” Her mother really did sound optimistic.
    “Let's hope so, mom.”
    “Yes, it is about time they got to work. I'm surprised that the police weren't by yesterday to check on houses. I'm sure that they are out rounding up the ruffians that come from the woodwork every time there is a little crisis.”
    “Yes, grandma.”
    “Well, the rain is almost stopped, shouldn't you be getting ready to go? Mom, I'll get you a raincoat so you don't get a chill. Stacey, you should get Erica up so that she is ready.”
    “Thank you, Heather.”
    “Yes, mom.”
    Erica was already asleep, so Stacey gently lifted off the top blanket to try to find clothes and her raincoat in the dim light without waking her.
    “What's going on, Stac?”
    “We're going to the church so that I can repent for my sins.”
    “You're going, too. All my clothes are on top of you, so get yourself up and you might as well change.”
    With Erica up, they pulled the blanket off to look at her clothes.
    “You've got lots of cool stuff, Stacey.”
    “Yeah, lots of stuff, but not much practical for a walk on a cold, wet day like today.”
    Erica held up a clear plastic, hooded poncho with printed, bright flowers on it. “This is nice, can I use it?”
    Stacey hadn't seen that for years, it was from when she was about twelve. “Sure, Erica, if you want.”
    “Oh, thanks.”
    Layers ended up being the order of the day. After a complete change of clothes, the two girls emerged from the bedroom ready to go.
    Her grandmother had on an ill fitting, long raincoat of her father's, but it would do the job nicely.
    It wasn't such a dark day after all when they stepped out of the house. There was still mist in the air, no real rain, with the temperature probably close to fifty, and the clouds looked like they were breaking up. Under other circumstances, it could be a fun break from winter weather, almost what her father might call 'Indian Summer', though she wasn't quite sure what that meant.
    Grandmother had to use her cane, walking slower than each girl liked, so they quietly walked on either side of her, matching pace, also ready to catch her should she slip or try to fall.
    Stacey held the letters of apology and dutifully carried one up to each of the two neighboring houses she had entered, placing the envelopes, which also held the checks for damages, inside the screen doors. A glance at McCaffery's house caused her to momentarily reflect if a prayer might be more appropriate there.
    Then they turned left at the street toward the church and her grandmother's house.
    It really was nice to be out, even on this gloomy day, and under other circumstances, Stacey and Erica might have been running, laughing, and kicking in puddles. Now, the dreary day, combined with the grave mood of her grandmother, made for a somber procession. That plus the snail's pace that they went, every step slowly calculated to match to old woman's.
    To the next corner, bypassing the closest path so that she could leave the last letter. All along the way, seeing not a sign of other people in the houses or on the street. After coming back from her deposit, Stacey looked hard further down for anyone. Far down, she thought there was movement in front of a house more than a block away, but wasn't sure.
    They backtracked a little to Henderson Avenue, where they could see the steeple in the distance. Under normal circumstances, this was a five minute walk. It took them at least a half hour.
    Earlier in the year, on Easter, her family had accompanied her grandmother to church. That was a beautiful spring day, with the grass green, flowers in bloom, birds singing and bees flying from flower to flower to catch the nectar. She had not paid attention to the goings on, wearing her bright, new, spring dress and catching the beauty of the new season.
    Now, on this wet, autumn day, when free conversation with her friend was not possible, she studied grandma. The old woman walked steadily on, step after step, but her face told of the pain that every step brought. She carefully and deliberately placed the cane with her right hand to alleviate her hip pain somewhat, and Stacey tried to watch from her expression which side it was.
    Grandmother's lips seemed to be moving, too, and even though she tried not to stare, Stacey couldn't help focusing on them. Her eyes stayed straight forward anyway, so it probably didn't matter.
    After a while, as they stepped up the curb after crossing a street, little whispers came out from slightly labored breathing. Her grandmother was saying the rosary.
    A wave of feelings swept through Stacey. In the past, she had never really thought about who her grandmother was, always this old lady who seemed harsh most of the time, and who would reward her with money and things if she made the request with the proper, humble attitude. And always very conscious about how things might appear, because the political implications of a bad story or bad press could be ruinous. Most important was to think about how the future opportunity could be affected by every decision.
    So here she was, obviously in pain, doing something well beyond what she should be doing, for Stacey's sake, assuaging her pain by saying the rosary.    
    They came to another street, the church nearby.
    Stacey did what she realized she should have done when they left the house, taking her grandmother's elbow to help her with the step. “Let me help you, grandma. Your cane might slip, why don't you hold onto my elbow instead?”
    Grandmother took the elbow, hanging the cane on her wrist for safekeeping. “Thank you.”
    Despite her earlier feelings about both of her elders and the situation, her grandmother's grip brought a good feeling to her now and she smiled. They walked the rest of the short distance arm in arm, then up the steps of the church.   
    “The shelter is in the basement.” Erica said. “The entrance is around to the side.”
    “I know that, I just want to go in to make an offering since I missed on Sunday.”
    They continued up the steps, through the heavy door, and once inside, her grandmother let go of the elbow to use her cane as she strolled up the aisle.
    Stacey never liked church, and now found it most intimidating. The great, stone columns and ornate altar reminded her of something Gothic, Middle Ages. Even more now, with the only light that which entered through the stained glass windows, and the chilling cold inside, it was more intimidating than usual. She stood just inside the doorway watching her grandmother, the only person in the great church, slowly go to the front, genuflect, then turn to the left to walk along in front of the benches.
    “We should go up with her.” Erica whispered.
    “Why?” Stacey feared something.
    “It's the right thing to do.”
    “Why?” She really didn't want to enter the cavernous chamber.
    Erica pulled at her sleeve. “Just because, come on.”
    Hesitantly, Stacey followed her lead, walking slightly behind her friend. At the front of the church, before the altar, Erica genuflected and crossed herself. Stacey followed suit, then they walked to the side, where her grandmother stood in front of a stand that was supposed to hold many candles, but was empty. They passed right under the imposing statue of Saint Gabriel, whose intimidating gaze and large staff now frightened Stacey, who gripped Erica's arm.
    Grandmother knelt in front of the candle stand, and as they approached, they could hear her pray quietly, too soft to understand the words. They knelt to her right.
    The thought of McCafferys again crossed Stacey's mind, and she silently asked for Saint Gabriel to look after them, especially the children. Just for an instant, the idea flashed that perhaps they had seen the future, and whether their demise might have been intentional. She shook her head to cast the thought away.
    Finally grandmother stood, reaching to grasp Erica's shoulder to help herself up. “I left an offering, but there were no candles to light.”
    Erica gripped her hand. “I'm sure it's all right.”
    Grandmother smiled at her, Stacey was dumbfounded.
    “Are you coming, child?”
    Silently, Stacey stood to walk beside her grandmother, now holding Erica's arm in lieu of using the cane. At the back of the church, before opening the door, she turned and genuflected while crossing herself, waiting for the girls to do the same before rising.
    Down the steps and around to the side to the door that led to the basement, both girls held her elbows on these steeper stairs.
    Candles lit the massive room, as large as the church above it, with pillars set regularly for strength. Even though it was dreary outside, and more so in the church above, the lighting here was so dim that they could barely recognize individuals from the moving mass.
    There were other things about it that gave Stacey instant revulsion. The air had heaviness to it, musty, even more damp than the mist through which they walked. And, as Erica had described, a foul odor permeated it, a mix of body odor, human waste, maybe something bad cooking, and something that she couldn't identify.
    Plus the sound, not voices, but a low, heavy, mournful rumble, a mixture of wet coughing, heavy breathing, and quiet, depressing utterances not like a conversation, more like a low, chanted, mournful prayer.
    It was a little bit warmer than the outside, though with the heavy atmosphere, outside seemed much more comfortable.
    Stacey wanted to run away immediately, and maybe cry. Her grandmother led them on.
    Inside now, as her eyes adjusted to the dim candle light, was even more depressing. People mostly sat arm to arm without room to lie down in many places, and in others, a person would be supine, often with someone sitting, holding their head off the floor. Most did not have blankets. Some tables stood, mostly with people laying on them as well.
    “Where is Father Frank?” Her grandmother asked an older lady sitting with her back to a pillar.
    “Oh, Naomi, are you all right? He is in the kitchen.”
    “I'm fine, Elizabeth. Thank you.”
    “Are you coming here to stay?”   
    “No, just to see Father Frank.” She turned away before any other questions could be asked.
    They carefully stepped between the bodies, many slumped over, who Stacey hoped were sleeping. Occasionally in the darkness, they would step on a finger or kick an outstretched leg, which only seemed to bring the response of withdrawing the offending extremity.
    At the far end of the basement was a serving counter and her grandmother led them through a swinging door at the end. More candles lit the inside of this room, which revealed itself as a kitchen. In the middle, a large blue flame heated a pot stirred by a woman using a long, wooden spoon. They didn't hesitate to study the situation, walking past to where a small group stood in the back corner.
    “Naomi, are you well?” The young priest stepped toward them to shake her grandmother's hand.
    “Thank you, Father, yes, I am well. We came here to the church to see if we could provide any assistance.”
    Stacey frowned, turning to her grandmother.
    “Thank you, we are having a difficult time, as you can see. Yesterday, people started with this cough, which you can tell now has spread completely through the flock. We isolated the worse cases in the classrooms, but I fear for them.”
    “I see that you have food.”
    “The men are going out to enter private homes for food, we are not finding sufficient. The local store is completely pilfered. What you see cooking is dry dog food with some vegetables and meat, which will provide one small, midday meal for the people.”
    “Have you heard of what is happening and why no one comes to assist us?”
    “Not a word, Naomi, not a word. When I saw you, I first had hopes that you might know something.”
    “No, Father, nor have I heard about why we don't get help. I assumed that it was just because of the storm, but after the weather cleared the lack of response is inexcusable.”
    “I don't know how much longer we will be able to go on. Four people have died here, two early on from exposure that we could not save, and two from illness since then. Many are ill, and diarrhea is spreading faster than the cough. We desperately need help.”
    She reached out to take his hand. “I have nothing to provide, Father, but tell the men to go to my house and freely take anything that they can use.”
    “Thank you, Naomi. Now, you should depart before you catch something as well.”
    “Is there anything else I can do?”
    “No, just pray for all of us.”
    Grandmother turned out of the kitchen.
    Stacey looked at the boiling cauldron, seeing pieces of dark meat coming to the top and wondering just what it was.
    They slowly made their way through the crowd, grandmother seemingly oblivious and Stacey very conscious of the foul air and ominous coughing that surrounded them. She reached up to lift her shirt collar over her nose and mouth to breathe through.
    The outside couldn't come fast enough, and she wanted to run up the stairs, pulling her grandmother as fast as she could go.
    “Stacey, I think you are forgiven. This doesn't give you the right to go breaking willey nilley into people's personal property, but under the circumstances, I think that your actions were permissible.”
    “Thank you, grandma.”   
    She stopped. “Don't thank me for sanctioning your actions, I still disapprove. After seeing the suffering downstairs and hearing the words of Father Frank, I just think that your infractions are forgiven. That does not mean that they are acceptable, only forgiven.”
    Stacey really could not understand the difference. “Yes, grandma.”
    She turned to Erica. “And you, child, shall stay with us. There is already sufficient suffering down there, it would be wrong of us to add more burden to their already overtaxed load.”
    “Yes, ma'am.”
    “Where are the authorities? Why don't they do something to help us?”
    “I don't know, grandma.”
    She just shook her head.
    Even more slowly than before, they walked their return trip. The mist had completely stopped, and now the clouds began to break up, letting rays of sunshine through here and there to bathe the ground.
    But if the atmosphere lightened, her grandmother's spirit seemed to deflate. The woman took each step as though it was a burden to go on, and her praying was louder, audible, with each Hail Mary understandable, especially the words ending in s and th,  making it sound like she made hisses at them as they walked.
    She also made no effort to use her cane, locking arms with a girl on either side of herself.
    As they passed the first block, her praying stopped and she seemed to be carrying on a conversation with herself.
    “Yes, grandma.”
    “When we get up here, I want you to go into my house and see if there is any food which we can use. I had a few things in the freezer and I offered everything to Father Frank, but I don't think it would be wrong for us to keep some for ourselves.”
    “Yes, grandma.”
    “Please get my jewelry case, too. It has all the things that your grandfather gave me and many of them are quite valuable.”
    “Yes, grandma.”
    “Erica, you can help her. Everything else we will leave for the church.”   
    “Yes, ma'am.”
    It really was turning into a magnificent day, and moving clouds allowed a warm sunbeam to bathe them as it passed by. The sidewalk was dry except for a few standing puddles, and Stacey wished it was a sign of spring, knowing that it was a temporary respite from a winter that had not even yet arrived. Even her grandmother's step seemed to lighten with the sunbeam.
    They crossed the next street to turn to the house, when her grandmother pulled them to a sudden halt.   
    “Oh, no.”
    Stacey changed her focus from her grandmother to ahead, up the street. Two men could be seen coming out of her grandmother's house, carrying things to put in a shopping cart on the sidewalk.
    “My things, they're taking my things.” She released the girls and started to step ahead.
    Stacey grabbed her arm. “Grandma, no.”
    “They're taking my things, after I gave them to the church, they're taking my things.”
    The men paid them no heed as one carried out the jewelry case, dumping it onto the growing pile in the cart.
    “My jewelry.”
    “No, grandma, stop.”
    The older woman could not pull herself away from the two girls, so they  just stood there watching.    
    Stacey's mind raced, trying to decide what they should do. She reached to her pocket, for the first time today realizing that she wore the raincoat and not the now-dirty white jacket containing the pistol. Against the two big men, the girls and her grandmother were helpless, and could only be hurt if they tried to defend her property.
    She also thought back to what Mathias had said. Use the gun to defend herself, for personal protection. There were only three shots, no more. When those were gone, it was just a rock. Only use it at close range where a hit was assured, and don't use it without a determination to kill. This situation met none of those criteria and now it was up to her to keep it that way.
    “Grandma, we need to go.”
    “But they took my jewelry, they're taking all my things. Where are the police? How can they let this happen? Where is my security company? Why don't they call the police to protect my house?”
    “Grandma, nothing works now, there is no phone and I don't have any idea where the police are.”
    “Hey, get away from my things.” She yelled, trying to take another step toward her house.
    Stacey and Erica held her back. “Grandma, no. We have to leave.”
    One of the men took notice and stepped toward them. Fear momentarily went through Stacey's mind of the last attack, and she didn't think that a Mathias would come to protect them now.
    He stopped after the first step to throw something toward them, which landed far short and proved to be one of her grandmother's broaches. “Get out of here.”
    Stacey stepped up a few feet to collect the broach, which opened to show a much younger picture of her grandmother and grandfather.
    Grandmother just stood there, watching, as Stacey again took her arm.
    The other man came by and grabbed the first one's arm as he prepared to throw something else, which he then dropped onto the load, their words inaudible. The two went back into the house.
    Her grandmother quietly sobbed, taking the broach and clutching it in her fist. “I shouldn't have wanted to keep any of it after I gave it away. Now no one gets it.”
    “Come on, grandma, let's go.”
    Slowly they turned back down the street and then onto Henderson again. Much more slowly than before, with her grandmother leaning heavily on both of them now, clutching the broach and sobbing.
    More clouds cleared as the sky became mostly sunny, with the chasing sunbeams becoming chasing cloud shadows, and warmer, comfortable. Under different circumstances, a glorious break.
    Not for them, they plodded on.
    On the horizon, a black smoke plume rose in the far distance. Stacey thought about the fire on the first day and stopped to look around. Off toward the mall rose another smoke plume, this one with a wide base of black, gray and white smoke. There were others, too, in different directions.
    “What's wrong, Stacey?” Erica asked.
    “Look around.”     “What is it?”
    “Fires, the city is burning.”
    “Why are there so many?”
    “I don't know. That big one might be the same one we saw the when we walked from the mall. The others I don't know.”
    “Why are there so many?”
    “I don't know.”
    “They're burning the dead.” Grandmother said.
    “What?”     “They might be burning the dead. If they don't dispose of the bodies soon after they die, it can spread disease. They might be burning the dead.”
    They studied again, seeing others far in the distance, discovering more every time they looked. The nearest to them appeared to be only blocks away.
    “Where's the fire department?” Erica asked.
    “They're not working, just like everyone else.” Grandmother said quietly. “Nothing is functioning, the savages are taking over.”
    “What, grandma?”     “The savage beast in all of us. As soon as you lose the structure and restraining force of a civilized society, the savages come out. That's why you broke into those houses, you wouldn't normally do that, would you?”
    “No, normally you would be restrained by the laws of society, and if not that, by the threat of incarceration, and if not that, by the police themselves, who would catch you, and the judicial system, which would punish you for your crime. That is how a civilized society works.
    “All my life, I have worked to build and support a civilized society where all people are treated well and equally, and our system of rules maintains order. We worked to protect the weakest from the stronger, and share the wealth from the greediest to the less fortunate. All my life.”
    She shook her head, her voice becoming distant, shaky. “I fear that it is all coming apart now. Without the bounds of strong government enforcement, the natural inclination of mankind is for the strong to prey upon the weak. All my life I worked to forestall this day, and I don't even know why it is happening.”
    “Grandma, don't you think they will get control again?”
    She held out her hand in a sweeping circle, her voice even softer. “Look out there, the city is burning. People are looting and probably killing. The weak are preyed upon by the strong. Those men knew that we were no threat to them, they laughed at us.     “In another time, in my life time, they would have been severely punished for just showing me disrespect. Now, they take my things and laugh at me while they do it.”
    She held out the broach. “They mock me by throwing Manny's picture at me.”
    Stacey thought she would just fall down there, wondering to herself how they could get her home if she gave up. Fortunately, her grandmother started walking toward their home, the girls taking her arms to assist her. Stacey felt her pocket for the gun.
    The weak were preyed upon by the strong, and all of them certainly qualified as the weak. Those boys hadn't even threatened them with the gun, they didn't have to. The girls outnumbered them, and that didn't matter, they just folded at the threat of force.
    The strong preyed upon the weak. She was small, Erica even smaller. Robert was no force to contend with, she could still beat him up.
    The weak were preyed upon by the strong. She swore to herself that never again would she be a victim. Those men laughed at her weakness. Her grandmother slunk away in defeat to let those men pillage her house at will, her whole life, helpless. Her grandmother, once almost a matriarch of city politics, a powerful force to be contended with.
    The strong preyed upon the weak. Mathias was old, those boys could have easily killed him with their bare hands, but he showed strength by his actions. He showed confidence to take on three of them alone, with a shovel.
    She didn't go to church much, but she remember a story from one of the times that she did go that absolutely fascinated her, the story of Sampson. In the story, Sampson defeated an army with the jawbone of an ass. At the time, she had no idea that was a donkey, her picture was much different and she asked grandmother about it after the service. Grandmother had laughed at her terminology, explaining to her that he used the jawbone of a horse to kill (smite was the word she used) his enemies. Stacey remembered this.
    With his weapon, he defeated an enemy much stronger than himself. The weapon made him strong, the weapon equalized him to them. Sampson didn't defeat them, the jawbone did.
    Grandmother was defeated. Everything she had lived for and done lay in the past. She depended on the services of others to take care of and protect her, and now they failed her. She believed in the party and the system, and they also failed her. Stacey looked upon her grandmother with pity, gripping tighter onto her arm.
    At that moment, she swore an oath to herself, never again would she be weak, never again would she lay her fate to the mercy of others. Henceforth, she would be strong and take care of herself, so that others weaker than herself would turn to her for protection. Never again would she not carry that gun.

Follow the link to read the rest of Stacey's Quest
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