Note on the astrixes (*) in the story – I posted this directly from my iPad, and they got thrown in for some reason, just ignore them.
The girl could not peddle for long. The paved road quickly turned into a service road that turned into a fire road, that turned into a trail, that finally turned into an overgrown path. She stopped, strapped the backpack to her bike, and began to walk her impromptu wagon as best she could in the direction she was heading.
During this time, she was passed by a few hikers, all heading out of the city and not towards it, but not nearly as many as she thought she would see. All were loaded down with gear, and about half visibly armed. The passing each time went basically the same; she would hear them, move off the trail, putting the bike and pack in-between herself and the path, with her hand casually on her pistol. The person or persons would move quickly past, hands on their own firearms (if available), provide a curt nod and keep moving.
She put plenty of miles along the trail when she decided to take a quick lunch break. It consisted of three spoonfuls of peanut butter (the jar with the strange note of “calorie dense” scribbled on the side in sharpie) and a bottle of water with a crystal light peach tea packet mixed in as an afternoon treat. The packet was held onto the bottle with about two feet of electrical tape, carefully wrapped upon itself. Her boyfriend was the most calculated man she knew – the tape was like that for a reason, so after pulling it off to get to the mix, she replaced it in the exact same manner. After finishing the drink, she noticed that she only had two more bottles of water from her original eight; the six in the backpack, and two on the bike.*He gave her the means to purify more water, but she needed to find some so she could.
After lunch she traveled on, and in about an hour arrived to the location on the map listed as “RP-3”. She was not sure at first if she was at the correct location, but she noticed a tree with a circle spilt into five sections, with numbers in two of them spray-painted on the trunk in hard-to-notice brown. She pulled the challenge coin out of her pocket and rotated it until she saw the number sequences line up.
“Nice coin you got there” said a voice from behind her.
She spun with a gasp, pulling her Glock as she did.
“Aren’t you supposed to be discreet with that thing?” he said as he flipped her an identical coin, completely ignoring her weapon.
She attempted to catch the tossed object, but fumbled between it and the polymer pistol.
As she picked it up, he threw on a militant looking backpack and picked up an old rifle that was leaning against the tree next to him. It looked like her carbine, just bigger. He was dressed very similar to her, in earth tones with a button up shirt unbuttoned, concealing weaponry. In his case, the shirt was not doing as good a job because he had on a chest rig with numerous pouches.*
“So you must be his sanctioned?” the man said after he took back his coin.
“Sanctioned, each member can identify a person that the MAG will help in a time of crisis if needed. We identify them by those coins.” he replied as he pointed to the coin in her hand. “I’m Rob” he said, moving the rifle to one hand and extending the other to be shaken.*
“You’re Rob?” the girl said in disbelief, “I didn’t think you existed, he talked about you a lot, but I never met you…”
“Yea, we have a strange relationship, your boy and I. After serving together in the Army, we only got together for MAG stuff. It’s not that we don’t get along, we just both had busy lives.”
He looked around a little bit, and continued. “Let’s get going, we need to get some more miles before nightfall. I want to reach the cache point tonight so we can pull the supplies.”
“The what?” she said, sounding a little more dense than she wanted to.
“Look on your map, the green dots are cache points; places where we have prepositioned supplies for events like this. Look in the margin, you will see GPS grid coordinates for each exact dot so you know where to dig. Hopefully he told you about the rule of two?”
Her reply of a blank stare encouraged him to continue. “Every hand written number on this page is two less than what it should be in reality, and I mean every number, and it cycles past zero. Meaning if the number is 479 the translated number is 691. It’s not a sophisticated code, but should defeat most people.”
“Got it, thanks” she exclaimed, holstering her pistol and grabbing her bike. “Shall we continue?”
Rob walked in front of her and set a quick pace, occasionally stopping for a few minutes and throwing up a clenched fist as he did. She asked him what he was doing on the second stop and he whispered “listening halt”, as if she had any idea what he was talking about.*
They continued on in this fashion until they got close to the first green dot on the map, their stop for the evening and the cache point.
He pulled out a GPS from one of the pockets on his chest and walked around in a few large and progressively smaller circles, until he stopped over a bit of ground under an old oak tree. He picked up a stick,*started marring the soil, and slowly digging. As he did, he threw to the side bits of junk; a tin can, a few nails, and other stuff. “We bury metal crap over our caches on the off-chance a treasure hunter runs across it with a metal detector,” he offhandedly said to the girl as he worked.*
When he got a foot or so down, he hit something hard and tossed away his stick. He reached down, cleared away some of the dirt, and pulled on the green handle of an old fifty caliber ammo can. With a bit of tugging he was able to free the can from it’s grave, and handed it to the girl.
As he cleaned off his hands, she opened the can. It was packed full with supplies; mainstay water packets, Coast Guard approved survival rations, a two person mountain house *freeze dried entree, a heavy duty garbage bag, some 550 cord, and fifteen hollow point 38 special rounds vacuum sealed in a bag with a small revolver in a leather holster.
“Everything a girl needs for a night out on the town.” Rob said with a smile.*
“Haha, a night out in the woods maybe.”
“This place looks like a good place to set up camp, we can move away from the path, and get some cover from the elements from one of those trees.”
The girl nodded and they began getting their stuff out. Rob helped the girl put up her simple tarp shelter, using a few sticks as tent poles. He had her fill up the trash bag with leaves and grasses so she could set it out as a mattress over her sleeping pad.*
He moved with practiced ease, just throwing out a pad and bag, without the need of a shelter.*
With those tasks done, the two quietly chatted as the sun set.
“I haven’t seen many people, where do you think they all are? I would expect an outpouring from the city.” the girl said.
“You have to understand that most people are probably realizing the gravity of the situation today, if not tomorrow. Most really don’t know that something is wrong. We have about another day to get as far ahead of them as we can before they start into the countryside. Some will take longer than others, but even if it’s only a percentage, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of people in these hills.”
“That makes sense, I think if I didn’t have the notes and instructions I did, I would still be at home, not knowing what to do. Do you think it’s getting more dangerous, should I carry my rifle like you?”
“You have a rifle?” Rob said, surprised
“Well, an M1 Carbine, I have it rolled up in that towel” she said, pointing to the blocky towel strapped to the back of her bag.*
“Yes, I think that would be prudent, given what’s going on. Do you have any extra ammo.?”
With a smile, she move back her shirt tail to reveal the three dual pouches, and then undid the wrapped carbine to show the two on it’s buttock as well. “How much ammo can you carry on that chest rig thing you got?”
“I’d hardly call this a chest rig, wait till you see what I have at the retreat. This is an old chinese ammo carrier, I got it for like 5 bucks off the internet. To answer your question, it holds 80 rounds in clips for my Garand. Each of the pouches can hold two clips, and I’m using five of the seven for ammo. The other two are for my GPS and radio.”
“Thats pretty slick, but aren’t you guys like big gun guys, what’s up with the world war two stuff?”
“Oh, no one *is a bigger gun guy than your man, he easily has as many as everyone else in the MAG combined. But in a situation where there is still the possibility of law and order, you want to be in compliance of the law. You want to appear as unthreatening as possible, but still not look like a target. For me, this Garand is more than satisfactory – it looks like an old hunting rifle, but I could stop a truck with some of the black tips I carry. A barrage of 30-06 is no joke.”
The girl laughed, Rob’s last line was something she would hear from her boyfriend; it made no sense to anyone but a firearms enthusiast. It was said so nonchalantly that he expected anyone to follow without question. “Well, on that note, let’s get some dinner and go to bed?”
“Sounds good, you cook I clean?”
With a smile and a nod, the girl set up her Jet Boil (in about half the time as she did previously) and started on preparing the two person chicken stew entree that was found in the cache. When she was about to open a pack of Mountain House corn, Rob handed her a ramen packet from his backpack and said “throw this in with the stew, I have a few of them. They add a little flavor, a little bulk, and I just like my freeze dried stew with ramen – it stretches it out.”
She put away the corn and concentrated on preparing the meal. Rob picked up his rifle and left the camp site after informing her he was going to go on a short patrol around the perimeter, as well as check the trail for signs of use. She was to start eating after the food was ready, he would be nearby, but would eat after her so she could keep watch.*
She quickly ate, the preverbal torch was passed and he sat down for his share while she tried to keep watch, not really knowing what she was doing. After eating, Rob buried the food wrappings and started rubbing sandy dirt on their utensils. He then splashed them with a little bit of water to knock off the dirt and they were totally clean with only a quarter of water she would have wasted.*
“Time for bed?” she said, posing the statement as a question.*
“Yea, I’ll take the first watch and wake you in four hours, you do four, and then I’ll do another two or so so you can get a little more rest.”
She did not think about setting up a watch, but she trusted this man’s judgement way more than her own. She agreed and crawled into her sleeping bag. The garbage bag mattress felt like a kings bed*compared to the concrete tube she slept in the night before. Feeling safe, fed, and comfortable, she quickly fell asleep to the sounds of uninterrupted nature.*