By Susan Callaway
All choices and actions have consequences. This story illustrates some of the consequences possible for the choices and actions Americans have taken since 1776. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.
Betty slowly took the headphones off, placed them on their hook by the radio, and then put her head down on her arms to sob. Roger Bradshaw came into the radio room just then, and gently rubbed her neck while he rescued the notebook under her arms. He continued to rub her neck and back while he read the notes she had taken from their ham contacts in the east and California.
None of it really surprised him, but he was still dealing with some shock that it had all happened so fast. Four weeks ago, the US dollar had at last joined the scrap heap of history without anything to replace it, at least not on an international level. Imports had stopped arriving, including food and the oil so desperately needed for the transport of basic food and supplies.
Martial law had been declared across the country, and Washington DC had been burned to the ground within the next few days. It was not known if the President or Congress, etc. had died, but Roger didn't suppose the country had been that lucky. The criminals of DC had had their rabbit holes prepared for a long time - at least for the chief rabbits.
Soon, rioting had broken out in the big cities, and it had been obvious from the start that the various law enforcement agencies were woefully inadequate to stop it, even in those places were National Guard troops were sent in. The cutbacks and budget woes of the last year had made that inevitable, and they were simply outnumbered regardless of superior firepower. Thousands, on both sides, were dying every day.
Now, the latest reports from ham operators in Iowa, along the Mississippi, and California were coming in. Large groups of desperate, lawless men, including released prisoners, were beginning to infiltrate farther and farther into the center of the country, looting and burning as they came. One of the most disturbing things to Bradshaw was a confirmed report of a National Guard commander in Nebraska who had deserted with his picked troops. Unfortunately, nobody knew where they had gone when they left Omaha. Roger knew this man personally, and he greatly feared their paths might cross again.
Betty stood up and put her arms around her new husband. Her sobs were controlled, but the tears continued to fall on his broad chest. He gave her a hug, then took her hand and led her out the door. Soon they stood before a small group gathered in the lounge of their community building - a former "dude ranch" headquarters and main house.
Twenty three adults, another twenty not quite out of their teens, and a large group of young children who were mostly sleeping on bed rolls along one wall. Three grannies watched them, while half a dozen older women worked in the adjacent kitchen packing food and other supplies into backpacks and boxes.
Every adult in the room had a sidearm, and racks full of rifles nearly filled the far wall next to the outside door.
"You know why we've gathered," Roger said, after reading the latest reports to them. Their faces were generally stoic, though there was a glint of tears in more than a few of their eyes. They had been preparing for just this day for a very long time. Two of the ladies came up and took Betty to a seat at one side, silently comforting her.
"We also have a few members not present here, as you know. Betty's brother Charlie and his family did not get out of Iowa in time. Why that happened is not really important now, I think, and I suspect Charlie and Cathy are very aware of the errors they made. The question before us is what to do about it, if anything."
They were all silent for a few moments, remembering the events of the last few weeks. They had expected Charlie to roll in any time, but it had become evident that Cathy was not as committed to the move as she had seemed to be during earlier visits, and she was not really willing to leave her family in Sioux City, Iowa. They, unfortunately, had not been willing to even consider leaving the city.
The last communication from Charlie, just before the cell phone network went down, had confirmed that he was ready to "fort up" in his home and had prepared the best he could with supplies and ammunition. He had indicated continued hope in a peaceful outcome, or at least a restoration of order by the police. But he hadn't sounded as if he believed it much... And he'd been mighty sorry they couldn't come out for the wedding.
Six young men stood by the back door, as if they were not completely sure of their welcome yet. Their haircuts and manners identified them easily as Marines, and the faded BDU uniforms gave silent testimony to their recent experience. They had come with Roger, all being discharged in the final and hectic days ending the "war" in the Mideast. Thousands had finally been released from their long "stop loss" extensions of expired enlistments, and most of them had refused the offers to join various law enforcement and National Guard organizations. They'd had a belly full of the lies and abuse from their "government."
The oldest of the former Marines, Jeff Sutton, stepped forward and addressed his former Sergeant. "We can just go get them," he said, grinning. The others nodded agreement. Charlie was one of their own, a former Marine, even though these 6 had never met him.
"We'd be leaving our community a tad light on security," Bradshaw commented, but the combination of scornful and defiant looks from the rest of the people made him laugh out loud. They all chuckled with him then, realizing that he'd been pulling their legs.
"Anyone object to us doing a rescue?" Bradshaw asked. We've got our own vehicles and supplies, of course. No need for anyone to go with us. You might want to see to it that the cabin Charlie built here is ready to be occupied.
Nobody had any objections, but there was plenty of discussion later as some of the folks joined Bradshaw and his troops in the planning session. The maps and note pads were stained with coffee and marking pens, empty plates and cups pushed to the side to make room for them.
"Not too many large towns between here and Iowa," Jeff said. "If we stick to smaller state highways and county roads, we should be ok. We don't know how well or if these towns are prepared to deal with invaders, and we'll have to be mighty careful not to get mistaken for goblins." Bradshaw rubbed the back of his neck, easing the tension, and said, "I sure wish we had Charlie with us because he's a whiz with maps in strange territory, but we'll have him on the way home." Standing up, he said, "We've got the route mapped, so unless someone has something to add, I suggest we get some sleep and head out at first light."
Yawns and grins greeted this prospect without objection, and one by one they left to find their various bed rolls while Bradshaw rolled the maps and tucked them in his tote bag. He turned out the light and went down the hall to the room he shared with Betty.
Tomorrow was going to be a very long day.
Chapter 4 and 5
I look forward to your comments.
This is fiction. Any resemblance to actual people or places is purely unintentional.
It is a work in progress and may change or be published later.