Read Bugging Out Online

Authors: Noah Mann

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Post-Apocalyptic, #survivalist, #prepper, #survival, #Preparation, #bug out, #post apocalypse, #apocalypse

Bugging Out (4 page)

Bunker Bo’s
I swung by an electrical supply house and purchased eight solar panels, spare inverter, wiring, and the hardware to mount the additional equipment alongside the eight panels I already had at my getaway. Two dozen deep cycle batteries completed my order and put another sizable dent in my credit line. I wasn’t done gathering what I needed, but what I’d filled the truck with was the bulk of what I believed I’d need.

Fully loaded, I drove north from Missoula, skirting Flathead Lake, passing through Kalispell and turning west off the highway several miles past Whitefish. Nearly five hours it had taken me just to reach the driveway of my property. Next I had to break down what I’d bought so it could be unloaded by hand, my only option. An hour into the endeavor I began to wish for a forklift. By the second hour, though, the strain, both mental and physical, began to morph into some sort of drive I’d never known. Some energy that allowed me to carry and cart most of the food into my house, and the mechanical items into the barn. After six hours, with midnight approaching, I finally finished, sore but satisfied, the steps I’d taken toward my own survival adding meaning to the endeavor. I was reliant on myself. I wondered how many others would be able to say the same in the coming weeks and months.

I also wondered how many would be left.

Giving in to exhaustion I spent the night at my getaway, and rose early the next morning to return to Missoula. Over the next two days I made more trips, transporting what I believed would become essentials, including my ATV on a small flatbed trailer, and a half-dozen full five gallon gas cans with fuel stabilizers added. And, on my final trip, the tank trailer loaded with five hundred gallons of diesel fuel. Its absence was noted by my chief foreman, as was my own.

*  *  *

ou’re not leveling with me,” Marco said.

He stood just inside my office, the hum of activity from workers in the break room down the hall filtering in. They were laughing over some idiotic joke that I would normally chuckle at. But with my foreman of eight years staring at me, clearly worried, the humor landed flat.

“I’m not following you, Marco,” I told him, feigning composure as best I could.

He stepped further into my office and closed the door behind.

“It’s Thursday,” Marco said. “Monday you get a visit from some old friend and the next thing I know the truck I need for the Peyton job is gone, and you’re the one who took it. Two days later the truck’s back, but the fueling trailer is gone. And it’s still gone. But now you’re here, and I’m left trying to figure out what the hell’s going on.”

Marco was no idiot. He was also a friend. A friend who deserved to know not only what I was doing, but why, and to what end. But if I opened my mouth to him, there was no telling where it would go from there. The information. The warning.

A warning whose origin could be traced back to Neil. Would a government willing to shoot down citizens at checkpoints hesitate to bring some wrath upon an employee who’d leaked a vital secret? Yes, I knew. They would. I couldn’t risk his life for the sake of satisfying my foreman’s worry.

Then again, he might not buy it at all. He could just as easily conclude that I’d gone slightly crazy. But with what we’d witnessed, both in person and in news reports, I had to think he might very well accept what I was relaying as gospel.

But what if it wasn’t? There was still that slight chance that nothing of the magnitude I feared was going to happen. A chance that it would not all come tumbling down. I knew I couldn’t bank on that, however. And I couldn’t count on Marco keeping close what every instinct would tell him to share, just as it was telling me to.

“Just some things I have to deal with, Marco. One thing where my personal life and professional life have come together.”

He eyed me skeptically.

“And the fuel trailer is essential to fixing whatever this issue is?”

“I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you,” I told him, the statement only partially a lie. “But it makes sense to me. And it is my fuel trailer.”

That statement of rank, something I’d rarely, if ever, used before, seem to trouble him more than the uncertainty my actions had caused.

“Okay,” Marco said, and left my office, leaving the door open as he headed down the hallway, more laughter drifting in. Raucous laughter. It was sound of people without a care in the world.

*  *  *

stayed late at the end of the day. When the last dispatcher left just after seven I was still at my desk, sitting, thinking, and wondering if this was the last time I would see the business I’d built. The business I’d struggled and sacrificed to nurture from a one-man contracting enterprise to a multimillion dollar powerhouse that allowed eighty workers to put food on the table for their families. Would the need for my business even exist in a month, a week, or the next morning? I didn’t know, but I also didn’t want to leave without taking in the feel of the place one last time.

In case this was the last time.


was ready to bug out.

I’d gathered and stored everything I could at my getaway. Whether that was everything I would need only time would tell. In the bed of my pickup, secured under the shell, I had the final boxes of clothing, medicine, and other items ready to go with me on my run to what I hoped would be a safe place. If safety was not what it offered in full, I was prepared for that eventuality with a selection of weapons and ammunition alongside the more mundane necessities. Pistols, rifles, and shotguns to complement what was already stashed on my property.

The only thing left to decide was when. When I would leave this world and this life behind. I’d continued to go to work each day. To play at living. Business continued. My workers demolished old buildings and put new ones up.

But enough ominous signs had appeared on the news since Neil’s warning to me just over a week ago to convince me that what he feared was coming to pass. A complete quarantine of the nation was in effect. The borders, both North and South by land, and East and West by sea, were closed, patrolled now not by shifts of Border Patrol agents, but by units of the military that had been hardened by battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a daily occurrence now to hear of fighter jets chasing away stray aircraft approaching the border, either accidentally or by design. Two more had been shot down, if what was being reported told the entire story. It could have been ten, or twenty. The press, whose freedom had been enshrined in the Constitution, seemed, at every turn, to be actively embracing anything the government said, and repeating it to a populace seeking assurances.

Assurances that, more and more, were ringing hollow.

But the news, the truth, or some semblance of it, was getting out. Between the rumors filling every corner of the internet, incidents were getting play. A news crew from an Alabama station had been shot by contract security while attempting to record the transfer of food from a supermarket chain warehouse to Blackhawk helicopters. Three journalists lay dead in a parking lot beneath the wash of rotor blades, but nowhere did that appear on national, or even local news. The video, captured by a frightened jogger in the right place at the wrong time, became the hottest topic on nearly every social media platform.

Until it disappeared.

For days afterword, those who had downloaded it attempted to post it again, only to have it disappear in a feat of digital magic whose origin was apparent to anyone with half a brain. But by then, more reports, often with video or photos to augment their authenticity, were flooding the internet. Not every bit of damning evidence of a government running amok could be done away with. The depth of the crisis was beginning to creep into the collective consciousness of the nation. People were scared. Checkpoints had become rife with standoffs. The disconnect between the governed and those who governed had become very, very real.

And very dangerous.

Something within told me I should go. Not in an hour, or a day, or two days, but that very minute. In the dark as the day spun down toward midnight, I should get in my truck and go. So strong was the feeling that I had walked around my home all evening with the keys to my pickup in my pocket.

I did not, however, want to give in to fear, regardless of what I knew had to be coming. Logic should inform the moment of my departure. As long as the situation was relatively stable, everyday living would be easier right where I was.

Stable, though, seemed more and more relative to the reality engulfing society. The news droned on that evening with story after story of the spiraling situation. Looting had begun in Oakland. Rioters were fired upon by police in San Antonio. A train in Indiana had been derailed, the contents of its boxcars carted off by hundreds of nearby residents. People who, until recently, would have reported such an act to authorities, were now participants, maybe out of some need for food that might have been aboard, or simply because they, too, felt that some tipping point was nearing and it was time to grab whatever was there for the taking.

I turned off the news and went to bed just after midnight, drifting off soon after, a combination of physical and mental weariness dragging me down to sleep. Dreams of football and high school and Neil soothed me. Drowsy memories of good times.

The respite from the real lasted just two hours.

Part Two

The Red Signal


t ten after two in the morning my cell phone buzzed on the night stand, the grating sound dragging me up from sleep. My eyes opened to a room I’d expected to be dark. It wasn’t. A reddish glow was spread upon the ceiling to the left of my bed, directly above my phone.

I rolled and took the vibrating device in hand. A bright red rectangle glared at me from the screen, nearly filling it. It buzzed again in my hand, as if a text or call was coming in. But none was. The thing had glitched, I told myself. Like the tiny computer it was. Likely it needed the same medicine that often cured its larger brethren when they electronically misbehaved, so I switched the power button off to reboot it.

But it stayed on. The grating vibration stopped, but the screen remained on. I tried again to shut it down, and again it didn’t respond. It was either suffering from a major fault or...

... when the signal is given, there’ll be no mistaking it.

Neil’s words. Was he that knowledgeable? Or that prophetic?

Once again I tried to shut the phone down, and it refused.

Beyond the windows of my bedroom, in the distance, a chorus of sirens began to sound, rising and joining, wailing in unison as they moved across the city. Police and fire units, it seemed. Racing in convoy to the north. Toward the airport.

I kept my phone in hand and climbed out of bed, heading to the great room of my house, TV dominating what was, essentially, my man cave. I snatched the remote from the coffee table and turned it on. The sixty inch screen hummed and washed up from darkness until a bright red rectangle nearly filled it.

“Shit,” I said, the word coming as mostly breath.

...there’ll be no mistaking it.

I tried other stations, every station, from 24 hour news to reality TV, and all that I saw was that stretched square of red. The remote slipped from my hand and thudded softly on the floor.

“Shit,” I muttered this time, almost under my breath, the word seeming the only true reaction I could muster at the moment.

Quickly I went to the kitchen and turned on the small radio I kept there, the channel permanently fixed to the sports talk station that was my company while I cooked late night suppers for myself. Sound rose from its small speaker. A sound that was not the chatter of voices. Wasn’t the replay of some earlier show to fill the overnight hours. All there was was a single word, repeating over and over in a woman’s monotone voice.

“Red... Red... Red...”

A second of silence filled the pause between each utterance of the word. The color.

The signal.

Here, too, I tried more channels. Each and every one spat the same three words at me.

“Red... Red... Red...”

I turned away from the radio and stared into the great room at television’s screen, still blazing red. For a while I didn’t move. More sirens screamed. A helicopter raced low overhead. Then another. And another.

“Red... Red... Red...”

The radio droned on.

You’ve gotta move.

I told myself that. The time had actually come. This life, whatever it was now, would not be that when the sun came up.

“Red... Red... Re—”

I switched the radio off, then returned to the great room and powered the television down.


The directive came again from within. Yet I felt no urgency nearer the surface where my thoughts were swimming. Just as I hadn’t wanted to abandon the business I’d built as soon as I’d readied myself to bug out, here, in my home, I didn’t want to disappear into the night. Maybe it was fear working on me. The desire to remain anchored to the familiar.

Or maybe there was that last bit of lingering hope that, if not a bad dream, all that was transpiring would, in short order, work itself out. The powers that be would actually function as they should and protect the populace. Life would go on.

A second train of sirens racing out of the city convinced me otherwise.

I dressed and slipped my pistol into the holster inside my waistband. The Springfield 1911 was condition one—cocked and locked. A flick of my thumb when drawing it would take the safety off and bring it to condition zero, ready to fire, something I sincerely hoped would not be necessary. I slipped into my coat and filled an ice chest with all the fresh and frozen food I could fit from the fridge, then grabbed the keys to my pickup and walked quickly to the door that led from the house to the garage. While it might have seemed logical to linger here for a moment, even more so than the time I’d taken at the business I’d built, I did not. The door to the house closed behind me and a minute later I was on my way. Leaving my old life behind.

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