Rated NSFW. Contains profanity, violence, prepping situations, and pro-gun politics.
Chapter 1 is here. You are reading chapter 2.
After staring for a moment at the mushroom cloud on the horizon, Casey and Aura rush inside his house. He realizes it isn’t a nuclear detonation, and Aura trusts his judgment. But they’re both disturbed by this new development.
Inside, Casey flips on the TV. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t. Lots of channels are down, but he finds a local news feed.
After watching for a little while, Casey shakes his head. “Shit. It’s just some gasoline and oil storage tanks on the mainland.”
Aura has lost her usual smile. “Seems like a huge explosion. Will there be a shortage?”
“Compared to the total supply in the country, that’s a drop in the bucket.”
“Oh, good.” Aura takes a step closer to Casey, and puts an arm around his waist. It’s a friendly side-hug, apparently.
Casey reciprocates, but then thinks to himself, “Who is this girl, really?”
Suddenly, Casey realizes something. He pulls away from Aura, and she stumbles a bit.
“Sorry. We need to get gas. ASAP” He grabs his AR-15 and heads for the door.
Aura follows. “You said it won’t matter.”
“Yeah, but people will panic buy gasoline, and that will cause a shortage.”
Aura frowns. “You’re a prepper. Aren’t you prepped for this?”
He shrugs. “It’s hard to store gas. And you always need more.”
They rush out the door.
Casey tosses the rifle in the backseat of his F-150 pickup truck. His 9mm pistol is secure in an IWB holster, covered by his shirt. “You coming?”
Aura jumps in the front seat. “Sure. I love adventure.”
As they drive, Casey tries to get through on his cell phone. He has bars, which is always hit or miss. But the circuits are busy.
He tosses the phone to Aura. “In my contacts. Text Dusty. See if he’ll meet us there.”
“Your poker buddy? The one with all the tattoos?”
She talks while she texts. “Why is he called Dusty?”
“From his ill-spent youth, street racing. He used to shout ‘Eat my dust!’ when he was winning.”
“The text went through!”
“Tell him we’re headed for Eddie’s gas station. He’ll know what to do.”
“Then, this one time, he was a little high, and he shouted ‘Eat my dust’ as he crossed the finish line, last. And that’s why we call him Dusty.”
Aura giggles a little.
“Don’t tell him I told you.”
* * * * *
On the mainland, there’s confusion and panic everywhere. The explosion at the gasoline and oil storage facility produced a very impressive, black and fiery, mushroom cloud. The shockwave shattered windows and set off car alarms in a wide radius around the plant. Crews struggled to contain the fire, and to keep a second set of storage tanks from exploding next.
On the local and national news stations, the usual assortment of talking heads are very excited. The nation is falling apart, but as a result, their ratings are going ever higher. Many people have their TVs tuned to the news almost constantly. And that’s good for the news biz. Even as good as a major war. Yes, it’s a heady time to be a news anchor. What is it they say about a certain type of lawyer? Oh, yeah: ambulance chaser. Well, that’s what the news industry is fast becoming.
Freeboro, right on the northeastern edge of North Carolina, is a short drive from Virginia Beach, and a daytrip from Amity Island. And in that free and rural town lives a survivalist — not a suburban prepper, like Casey Stoner — but a hardcore survivor, with four years’ worth of canned goods and a whole bunch of guns. His name is Alan Champney, but everyone calls him Champ.
Champ and Casey get together occasionally to talk prepping. Champ runs a Survivalist Bulletin Board that has been connecting like-minded self-sufficient individuals since, well, since online discussion groups were called bulletin boards. Casey is a longtime member of Champ’s online forum, and Champ is an avid reader of Casey’s sporadically-updated prepping blog: “Bullets, Beans, and Sharks Teeth”.
Champ’s wife is Bethany Sallows, who is not so much a survivalist or prepper as she is a homesteader. She loves to grow her own wheat, bake her own bread, make her own clothing. She weaves on an old-fashioned wooden loom, and prefers reading antiquarian books over TV or internet any day. Bett raises chickens and rabbits, both for food. And she is clearly the only human being on the planet who can command their loyal but very particular black lab, Max. She raised him from the time he was a pup, taken from a rescue shelter. Whenever Champ tries to give Max a command, the animal just eyes him, as if he were another dog, competing for the same bone. Yeah, that’s right. His own dog gives him the creeps.
* * * * *
At Eddie’s gas station, panic buying doesn’t suffice to describe the situation. People are franticly trying to get gas, before the station runs dry. The tension is building. There’s a lot of arguing, shouting, and swearing. This could take a turn for the worse, very quickly. Eddie is trying to remain calm, but there’s just no reasoning with people overwhelmed with fear. Soon, they may not be able to run their cars for lack of fuel. How will they get to work or to the store? They’ll be grounded at home, with intermittent cell and internet service.
And now the station has just run out of regular gasoline.
Eddie is trying to keep his temper in check, explaining the situation to an irate and rather overweight man. “Sorry, sir. But we just ran out of Regular.”
“Fine. Then give me Special.”
“There’s no more Special.”
“You can’t possibly have run out of both types at the same time, you lying piece of shit!” Fat man is losing his cool.
“There’s no such thing as Special.”
“What the Hell?! It’s right there on your own pumps!”
“Sir, Special is just an on-the-fly mix of Regular and Premium. And since we have no Regular, we have no Special.”
“This is just a scam to get more money, that’s what it is.”
“If you don’t want the fuel, move your vehicle. There are plenty of other customers.” Eddie motions toward the very long line of cars, vans, and trucks lined up for gas.
Fat man gives in and fills his tank with Premium, while muttering to himself.
Just then, Dusty pulls up in a Subaru Outback, with a large cargo carrier on top.
Eddie recognizes the vehicle, and smiles. “Dusty, my man!”
He leans out the window of the SUV. “So, should I get to the end of the line?”
“Fuck that shit. Pull in over here.” He points to a spot beside the station, not far from the pumps.
Dusty parks and walks over. “I don’t know, Eddie. People are going to be mad.”
“Those cars at the end of the line won’t be getting any gas.”
“Okay, then. Sucks for them.” Dusty opens the top of the cargo carrier.
Eddie climbs up and looks in. “Shit. You must have a dozen gas cans in here!”
“Can you fill some for me?”
Eddie gets down and looks back at the line. People are angry, arguing with one another, shouting and swearing. Eddie shakes his head. “Some, maybe not all.”
“Whatever you can do.”
They start taking down the bright red gas containers.
People notice, and begin to wonder what’s going on.
Dusty hands Aura couple of gas cans, and they both head for the pumps.
Eddie takes Casey by the arm and holds him back for a moment. “Where have I seen her before?”
“My backyard barbeque, several months ago?”
“No, man. Somewhere else.”
“Oh, I know. Local TV.”
“What the fuck?”
“She fills in once in a while as a substitute weather reporter.”
“You’re shitting me!”
“Totally serious. She does know some meteorology. But the reason they keep bringing her back is ratings. She has this wacky cute weather girl thing going on. They like her for the entertainment value.”
“Huh.” Eddie watches Aura.
As she’s filling a gas can, she bends over, then flips her hair to the side and looks their way.
Eddie is impressed. “Case, my man, she really stands out in a crowd.”
“Yup. She’s our neighborhood sunshine and silver lining. It works for her.”
Eddie looks her over. “Works for me, too. Damn.”
At the pumps, Dusty is becoming concerned about the angry crowd. They’re unhappy that he and Aura are cutting line to grab some gasoline before it runs out. Some people are pointing in their direction, and complaining loudly.
Dusty advises Aura, “Don’t look at them! Fill these last couple of cans, and let’s get out of here.”
Dusty stands up and watches two men approach them. This will not go well.
Joe “Dusty” Krieger is tall and muscular, but not ripped. He’s got a good thick layer of fat over all that muscle. So he’s quite an imposing figure. He also has a few too many tattoos, and a tough looking face. Now in reality, Dusty is a sweet guy. But he takes shit from no one. Most men couldn’t take him in a fight, just because of his size and strength. And then you have to factor in his knowledge and skills at Krav Maga. Twenty years of study in that martial art, the last ten as an instructor, and you do not mess with this guy. Not if you like being able to chew your own food.
Unfortunately, his two opponents are too young and inexperienced in fighting to be able to size up an opponent. They know how much they each can bench press. And they mistakenly consider themselves to be a fearsome and intimidating duo. So they strut over to Dusty and Aura, thinking to take a few of those filled gas cans away from them, no problem.
Eddie sees the situation and frowns. “I have a baseball bat in the office.” He starts to leave, but Casey holds him back.
“No need. Watch him handle this like a pro.”
“It’s two against one!”
“Exactly. Only two of them.”
Aura runs over. “Aren’t you guys going to help him?”
Casey is nonchalant. “Don’t be silly. He’s fine.”
Eddie adds, “You just stay here with us. Where it’s safe.”
“Hey, don’t underestimate me!”
Well, the two idiots walk over to confront Dusty, and he’s playing it cool.
“No problem. Just give us the gas cans.”
“Never gonna happen. Why don’t you just walk away?”
“Does that line ever work.”
The two guys laugh. Dusty just stands there, smiling, while one of them walks around behind him, wraps his arm around Dusty’s neck, and puts him in a chokehold.
Now I don’t know how much you know about Krav Maga. But I at least know that putting a Krav Maga expert in a chokehold is a really bad idea. It occupies both of your arms, while both of his arms and hands are free to counterattack.
And counterattack he does. Dusty elbows the guy in the gut, then he twists around and pummels him in the groin. And finally he twists the guy’s arm around behind his back and throws him onto the ground.
Now his buddy was not standing still during all of this. But when he advanced on Dusty, to punch him repeatedly in the stomach and side, it had no effect. Dusty can take a punch.
But now it’s one against one. You would think that this idiot would give up, and realize he’s overmatched. But no, he tries his luck. Of his next several punches, half are blocked and the other half just bounce right off.
And now Dusty steps closer to his opponent, and throws a combination of punches, elbow strikes, and kicks. The guy is unsteady on his feet, until Dusty gives him one last punch, and he falls on top of his buddy.
The crowd waiting for gas saw the whole fight. They applaud.
Dusty walks back to the group.
Casey and Eddie congratulate him, but Aura is a little indignant.
“Was all that really necessary?”
Dusty laughs. “I was avoiding further violence, really.”
Casey adds his two cents. “Aura, sometimes violence is a fortunate necessity.”
Aura tilts her head to one side. “Don’t you mean unfortunate?”
“Nope. I don’t think so.”
“Well, I abhor violence.”
“Good for you.”
Dusty finishes filling the last gas container. He asks Casey for help putting the cans in the cargo container.
Casey takes his AR-15 and offers it to Aura. “Here. Hold my rifle. We’re almost ready to leave.”
She pouts. “But I haven’t had my first gun lesson yet!”
“So? Keep your finger off the trigger, and keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction.”
“Kay, kay!” She smiles, sweetly, and walks toward Casey’s pickup.
Dusty calls to her. “But if anyone gives you shit, point the dangerous end at them and look mean!” He laughs.
Casey shakes his head. “Don’t tell her that!”
Dusty watches her walk away, and then says to Casey, “Man, there’s not an ounce of mean in that girl.”
They load the gas cans into the cargo container.
Some of the vehicle drivers are getting impatient. And they’re upset that Casey and Dusty have received special treatment. One of the drivers sees that Aura is alone, standing by the pickup truck. He walks over to her, not caring that she has an AR. She holds it like she has no idea how to use it. Angry guy is tall, with a heavy build, and he looks to be just as mean as he is stupid.
Aura is nervous. She looks over at the guys. They don’t see the situation yet. Maybe Dusty could take this guy in a fight. But she can’t be sure.
Angry guy takes one long step toward Aura. She backs away, but not fast enough. He snatches the rifle from her hand, causing her to stumble a bit.
She recovers her balance, and stares at him. “That wasn’t very nice.”
He laughs, and moves toward her again. He’s about to issue a profanity-laced threat. But then Aura steps back and to the side, a step and a half, gauging the distance carefully.
He’s a little confused, but doesn’t care. He starts to say something like, “You fucking bitch–” But before he can finish the sentence, he sees her head drop down a bit, and she begins to spin around. This amuses him, until he sees her foot. Out of the corner of his eye, her foot is zooming toward the side of his head, very fast. Before he can react, Bam! He’s knocked sideways. Then his head slams into the side of the pickup, Bam! Two hits for the price of one.
He catches one last glimpse of Aura, now standing on two feet, smiling, in front of him. Then his knees buckle. Everything starts to go dark. He falls on his face, unconscious.
Aura giggles a little. “Oops. Sorry about that!”
Dusty and Casey noticed the situation a few seconds too late. They ran over just in time to see Aura throw that very surprising spin-around kick.
Now Casey reaches down and picks up his AR off the pavement. He doesn’t know what to say. His mouth drops open and no sound comes out.
Aura turns to face them. “Hey, guys! Sup!”
Dusty is stunned. “Shit. I thought you said you abhor violence.”
“Oh, I do. I absolutely do. It’s fun though, right?”
Casey shakes his head, in disbelief. “Sure, sure.”
She takes a step closer. “Let me hold the rifle, kay?”
Casey just stares at her. Suddenly, he’s a little afraid of her.
Aura grabs his rifle and winks at him. She slings the AR, awkwardly, over her shoulder. Not a care in the world.
Eddie walks over. “What the fuck just happened here?” He looks at Aura, then at the guy unconscious on the ground, then back at Aura. He can’t believe this sweet skinny girl just took down a mean-looking six foot, two hundred pound asshole, with one kick. He stares at her. “Who the hell are you?”
Aura gets in his face and stares back, but with a big friendly smile. “I’m just a gun-toting weathergirl!” She laughs and walks away.
Casey smiles, proudly. “Yeah, you are! Fuckin’ A!”
* * * * *
That same night, as Aura walks over to Casey’s house, she’s forgotten that it’s a Thursday. Well, she knows which day it is. She’s just forgotten that Thursday is poker night at the Stoner household. So when she saunters up the outside steps, she’s surprised to hear a conversation inside. Curious, she refrains from knocking, and slips inside the mudroom, adjacent to the kitchen. She hears Casey talking with his poker buddies, Reed and Dusty.
As she peers around the corner, she sees Reed turn over his cards. A couple of Aces. He collects his winnings with a big grin. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
Dusty seems confused. “So you don’t think it’s okay?”
“Noooo! Absolutely not!” Reed is incredulous. He deals a new hand. Two cards each, for Texas hold ‘em.
Dusty protests. “But I lost everything! Didn’t have nothing backed up.” He feigns an uncharacteristic pout.
Casey shakes his head “So, Dusty. Let me get this straight. You think it’s perfectly okay to call all of your ex-girlfriends….” Casey interrupts himself, to push a few chips onto the table. “I’m in. And then ask them to resend you their nude photos? Just because your phone crashed and you lost the old ones?!”
Aura squelches a laugh. Casey sees her, but the other guys haven’t noticed her yet.
Dusty is indignant. “I think it was gentlemanly of me not to back that stuff up to the cloud. Never know where it could end up. I was just being…considerate.”
Casey laughs out loud.
Reed does a face palm. “Oh good lord … I have no words.”
Casey beckons for Aura to enter.
“Hi, guys! Sup!!”
Dusty tips back in his chair. “Weather girl!”
She pretends to be upset, hands on her hips, fake scowl on her face. “Hey!”
Reed folds, tossing his cards aside. “I heard you kicked ass today.”
“It was nothing.”
Casey elbows Dusty in the side. “Don’t piss her off. Her spin-around kick is deadly.”
“Don’t exaggerate! That guy will live.”
Dusty grins widely. “Yeah. Probably.”
The guys laugh. Betting all around. Dusty has a Two and a Seven, unsuited. He folds.
Aura heads for the fridge. “Well, he shouldn’t have touched my gun. Not without my permission. Got anything to drink?”
Casey raises an eyebrow. “Technically, it was my gun. ”
She glares at him, briefly, then pulls out a bottle of wine
Under his breath, Casey adds, “Permission. Good to know.”
Aura hands Reed the wine bottle.
Casey says, “Try some. Tell me what you think.”
Reed looks the bottle over, and sees that there’s no label. “Dude, seriously? Where’d you get red wine? I thought all the booze on this nearly-dry island was looted, hid, or guzzled down by all our local rabid alcoholics.”
Dusty agrees. “Bunch of savages in this town….”
Reed starts pouring the wine into plastic cups.
Aura takes a sip. “It’s good, too!”
Reed takes a swig. “No complaints here.”
Casey is coy. “Oh, you know…we’re old school Italian at heart.”
Aura objects. “You’re Italian?”
“At heart. I said at heart, right?”
Reed is amused. “So that’s what lets you turn water into wine? You haven’t been to church since you were eleven.”
Casey rolls his eyes. “No, wiseass. My grandma makes it.”
Dusty and Reed are both impressed. “No shit??!” They each take a big gulp of the stuff.
“No shit. She makes it the old-fashioned way. Why my nana crushed those grapes with her own two feet just last week!”
Both guys spit out the wine. “Fucking shit!”
Aura frowns and gives Casey an ‘Is that true?’ look.
He shoots her a sideways glance and a sly smile. Then he takes a cup of wine and waves it under her nose. “Take a whiff, Aura. There’s just a faint scent from nana’s foot lotion. That’s how you know it’s authentic.”
She plays along. “Oh, yeah! Smells like aloe vera and coconut!”
Dusty laughs and shakes his head. “Bullshit. Where’d you get it?”
“Friend of mine, off-island. Champ. His wife, Bett, is a real homesteader. Makes her own everything, including wine.”
Reed takes another sip, cautiously. “Oh, yeah? Not bad.”
“We did a little bartering. I got wine, and he got some extra ammo.”
Dusty shakes his head. “I think he got the better deal.”
[End of chapter 2]