Walking into the merchant’s area of the town was like stepping back in time. It had only been about a week since the power was taken, but in that week we were set back over a hundred years.
They saw a man selling rabbits, some being butchered right on the spot; something a week ago would have earned you a visit by multiple agencies. A doctor set up a booth with a hand-painted sign that read “consultations” with a list of items that would be accepted. There were a few people*selling fresh vegetables; zucchini, squash, potatoes, pumpkin, eggplant and onions. More than a few booths held trinkets of no relative value, the people desperate to make trades that gave them something they needed. After one such merchant, the pair spotted a gunsmith/gunshop; being the man he was, Rob stopped.
“Morning sir, what’s the going rate for ammo?” Rob inquired as he greeted the vendor.
“Depends on what you want, and what your offering,” he replied. After eyeing Rob’s Garand and her Carbine he continued “I have a few clips full of some good GI 30-06 and a few boxes of 30 carbine soft point. What can you offer for that?”
“How about 5 bucks a round for the ‘ought six, and three bucks per carbine round?”*
“Cash? Well, I don’t know, it may not have much value here soon.”
“True, but it equally may have great value – don’t underestimate the power of a portable barter medium, and cash has worked for years. Also, I took that into account when I offered you the amount I did, we both know that’s over five times what it was worth a week ago.” Rob stated.
“Tell you what, I’ll go out on a limb for you, two hundred and fifty for two clips and a box of fifty soft points.”*
The girl gagged, and was immediately silenced by a hand motion from Rob.
Rob nodded and handed over the cash “Sounds ok to me.” After getting the ammo, stuffing the clips into his chest rig, and handing over the box of carbine ammo to the girl, Rob continued the conversation with the gunsmith.
“What’s been going on here, you all seem a bit prepared and on top of things for an incident that happened only a week ago.”*
“Well, we were lucky enough to have the Colonel, he and some of his boys put everything together right-quick. He said we need to stand for something in this area and came up with safety and commerce. If this goes on for a long time like we think it will, he thinks the town will be best off being known as a safe place to trade your goods. He had us tear up the high school football and track fields so we could put in crops. He even has some military hardware to protect us.” The smith’s face started getting a hard edge to it, as if he realized the potential folly of his loose lips.*
Rob picked up on it immediately “Sir, we are just looking for info to help us on our way, don’t worry about us telling outsiders your secrets.”
Unassured, the man continued in a shaky tone. “Yea, well in any event the Colonel has things in hand, he has over a hundred soldiers, we will be fine.”
“We should get moving, thanks for the news, and the ammo” Rob stated as he started walking away from the booth, with the girl following him.
When they got out of earshot, the girl started chastising Rob “Why did you spend so much on the ammo, we don’t even really need it!”
“I know, but I wasn’t buying ammo.”
“What? It sure looked like it to me, I have the box to prove it.”
“Well, yea, I GOT ammunition, but I BOUGHT information. Do you think I would go to a trade fair and buy ammo from the ammo guy? He will of course be selling it over the price of anyone else. I wanted him to feel comfortable with me, feel like he got one over on me and that he could again if he wanted. The man in charge at the gate looked military, military planners keep critical assets near them, assets like access to ammunition and firearms. I assumed that the man in charge would want his local gunsmith on his side, and provide some more information to him. I figured this has become a military town, which now we know it has. We know that it could be a potential place of trade in the future, and the town is not going to mess around to protect it.”
After the chastisement, all the girl could muster out was a quiet “oh”.
“C’mon, let’s get some supplies and get moving, we need enough for at least ten days.”
“Why ten days”
“Because that’s how long it is going to take us to get to our next rally point, and hopefully a car that runs.”
As they continued through the bazaar, they found a larger area set up for what looked like the remnants of whatever local grocery store was in the area. There were two assigned guards to it, each with an M16 slung over their shoulder and wearing a mixture of military and civilian clothing.
They made*trades for a few canned goods that they figured would stretch out their camping food, while providing some diversity. They got some chili, green beans, mushrooms, pickled peppers, tomato sauce, tuna, and a can of corn beef hash. The items in total cost one silver eagle, and fifty American dollars.
They were able to find a community well that cost only a dime to fill up all their water containers. Doing so made the pair feel much better about their lack of water.*On the way out, Rob stopped by one of the fresh food merchants and picked up a selection of veggies that would travel well and could keep easy to round out their travel preps.
They left the town with only an hour or so of sunlight. It looked like the town kept good order of the primitive camping area just outside the roadblock, so the two decided to set up camp there – and maybe get some information from fellow travelers.*
They picked a spot on one edge of the campground and efficiently set up their respective sleeping gear. Looking around, there was a vast variety of equipment, poverty, supplies, and methods of doing things in each of the other campsites.
They took turns watching their stuff, as the other walked around, trying to find out what they could. When it was her turn to stay back, she set up a hot meal for them to enjoy before going to bed.*
Neither could discern anything useful from their fellow campers, and none met Robs approval as possible traveling companions.
Just as she was turning in for bed, Rob called to her “I’ll wake you in four for guard duty.” She fell asleep to the thoughts of a time where she did not have to pull security.
After Rob woke her for her shift, she got up against her body’s best intentions to make her go back to sleep. There was a chill in the air, so she put on the soft-shell jacket she found in her backpack. When she put her hand in the pocket, she felt something wrapped in paper. She pulled it out, and it turned out to be a note from him, wrapped around two pocket warmers. Excitedly, she read the note.
You would not be reading this unless it’s cold out, so I hope I can lift your spirits a bit with this note. First off, the things this was wrapped around are one time use heaters, save them for when you really need them. I normally don’t like packing extra weight with gadgets, but being cold sucks!
Hopefully you are reading this on a camping trip, if not, I want you to know I love you and will always do what I can to find you – so never give up!*
The back of the note had a heart with their initials in it. To most of the world, he had a tough, almost heartless exterior, but to her he was quite gentle and caring. She slowly started to cry, missing him, feeling sorry for herself when she was startled by a male voice.
“Aww now girl, you don’t need to tear up, I can keep you company if you like” a gangly older man said as he walked into their camp. His tone was anything but comforting, it was almost lustful.*
Her tears dried immediately as she pulled up on her jacket and smoothly drew her Glock. She did not point it at him, but if he walked forward a few more steps, the angle she held would be sufficient for a groin shot. “I think not” she said with a confidence she was not sure she had.*
“I’m just being friendly” the man continued, smiling a toothy grin as he put one hand behind his back.
This was all it took for her to get aggressive, she leveled the pistol at him “In two seconds you’re going to get some company from my bullets, and get really friendly with the frickin’ ground. Walk away or I’ll be finishing this conversation with your corpse.” * **
He was eyeballing her, and she could see that he was figuring out if she had the grit to back up her statement. His hand was still behind his back “That gun is loud, you don’t want to wake the whole campground, or alert the guards. They don’t take to kindly to those who bring gunplay to their safe little town.”
His eyes shifted from their probing stare to a look of shock as a large knife came just inches from his throat, as a man stepped behind him and grabbed his wrist, pinning it into the small of his back. “Well in that case I’ll just have to cut your greasy head off then, won’t I?” Rob’s familiar voice said.*
“What do you want me to do?” Rob asked, looking at the girl.
“Let’s tie him up and get out of here, he may have friends.”*
“I like the idea of sticking a blade in his ribs, And then leaving.”
Shocked at his coldness, she replied “No! It’s not worth it, let’s go!”
Rob shrugged, and dumped the man to the ground face first. He hog tied him with the man’s shoe laces, and shoved a gag in his mouth made of his dirty sock, securing it with some duct tape.*
By this time she had everything packed up for them to get moving. Just before they took off, Rob kicked the man in the ribs, bent over, and whispered something in his ear.