He knew something was wrong when he pulled in to town. Something about the place was just off.
When the two guys in ratty military surplus camo holding suspiciously clean M-16s jumped out in front of his car, his suspicions were confirmed. Rob dropped the Subaru WRX STi into first, popped the clutch, and brought the car to a stop. He slipped the Glock under the coat sitting on the passenger seat, but kept his hand on the gun.
One of the M-16 guys walked up to his car, signaling that he should roll down the window. Rob complied.
"What brings you here, friend?"
"Just passing through. Looking for supplies, maybe a place to stay."
"This here's our territory. You can pass through, but it'll cost you."
The pseudo soldier stroked his long, red beard and squinted in to the car for a moment. He looked over at his partner. "Hey, T-Bone, he wants to know what it'll cost him."
T-Bone laughed. "Ask him what he's got."
Red beard looked back at Rob. "Well, whaddya got?"
"Um," Rob said, risking a quick glance over at T-Bone. His gun was trained on some point above the Subaru. Red beard's was slung over his shoulder. It was a good way to look like a badass. It was an even better way to look dead. "Well, I've got this."
The Glock flashed out from under the coat. Red beard never fully registered it before taking two rounds through the forehead. T-Bone was just beginning to react as Rob popped the clutch and slammed on the gas. The military wannabe somehow managed to get out of the way. He even swung his rifle around quickly enough to get a burst off.
The right side of the Subaru suddenly dropped and the car jerked around. Rob swore, swung the wheel and turned the jerk in to a sideways skid. He'd lost a tire.
Three more rounds thudded in to the side of the car, then it slammed to a stop against a wall. Rob blindly fired through the passenger window, then dove through the door. Three more rounds spanged against the concrete behind him, so he kept rolling. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of T-Bone.
He stuck his leg out and jerked to a stop as three rounds passed through the air he would have been occupying. The Glock came up and he put three rounds in to T-Bone's chest. He dropped to the ground. He wouldn't be getting back up.
Rob turned and looked at the Subaru. He already knew about the right front tire. On top of that, three windows had been shot out and it was leaking gas. The car was done. He would be, too, if he didn't get out of the street.
He grabbed his coat off the front seat, then took his M4 carbine out of the back. As he turned to run up the street he suddenly discovered he wasn't alone.
"Hey, you," someone yelled from behind him, "Over here."
He turned around. A woman and a teenage girl were standing on the porch of the house that had suddenly become the final resting spot of his Subaru. The woman was holding a shotgun and the girl had a revolver.
"Can you get us out of here?" the woman asked. "We have a car."
"Yeah," Rob nodded, "I'll need some of the stuff out of my car, though."
They disappeared back in to the house and Rob popped his trunk open. A minute later the garage opened and the woman backed a green Mustang out in to the driveway. She opened her trunk and Rob started throwing his stuff in next to the pair of suitcases that were already there. The woman ran out to the street and grabbed red beard's M-16 while the girl sat in the back seat next to a small armory and somehow managed to look bored and scared at the same time.
"Shit!" the woman yelled, "We've got to get out of here."
Rob hopped in to the driver's seat and backed the car down the driveway. He stopped long enough for the woman to jump in, then peeled out down the street as a pair of pickups gave a futile chase. He quickly lost them.
"Thanks," the woman said. "By the way, I'm Karen and this is my daughter Tina."
"I'm Rob. And I should probably thank you. I wouldn't have gotten very far on foot."
"Who were those guys?"
"I don't know," Karen shook her head, "Some militia group or something. They moved in to town a couple days ago and started looting the place. We figured we'd sneak out, but they've had guys on our block ever since they got here."
"That's a little weird," Rob said.
"So where to?"
"My husband's a Captain in the Reserves. His unit's up in St. Louis. They're supposed to be getting ready to come down here and get rid of these militia guys."
Rob got on the highway but didn't get anywhere near St. Louis. Less than five miles up the road they ran in to a military convoy and flagged it down.
A man wearing captain's bars on his fatigues hopped out of the lead Humvee, a broad smile on his face. "Karen," he said, opening his arms to embrace his wife and daughter. "Tina. I'm so glad you're safe."
"Thank him," Karen said, pointing at Rob.
"All I did was drive," Rob shrugged. "I even had to borrow the car. Er, your car. Sir."
The captain turned. "You a vet?"
"Um, yes, Sir."
The captain let go of his wife and daughter, then turned towards Rob and offered a stiff salute. "Thank you, soldier."
Rob returned the salute. "You're welcome, sir."
The captain nodded off to his right, then began walking away from his family. Rob followed him.
"I know you're a stranger and you've already done more than I could ask of you," the officer said, putting his arm around Rob's shoulder, "But do you think you could take Karen and Tina up to my sister-in-law's place in St. Louis? Talk it out with Karen, but I wouldn't mind letting you take the car afterward. I figure we owe you something and we were going to replace it, anyway."
"That's no problem, sir."
"Be careful though, son. Something's going on out here and I don't know if anyone is safe any more."
"What do you mean?"
"I know a few spooks Right before all those people disappeared they said they were getting some really weird intelligence, like someone knew something big was going down and they were moving assets in to place to take advantage."
"What kind of assets?"
"Groups like the Anarchy Boys." the captain paused, "Um, you met a few of them back down there."
"Scuttlebutt has it that there have been a lot of terrorist attacks and some of our supply problems are due to sabotage, not just confusion."
"How could anyone know about something like that?"
"I wish I knew."
"Can we get it under control?"
The captain sighed. "I don't know. We're holding now, but just barely. We're lucky that the big cities have managed to keep control. Well, everywhere but Texas. If the cities collapse we'll be in trouble."
"Official word has it that the U.N. is offering to come in and help. Unofficial word says that they're pushing some sort of unified world government as a condition, however."
"Really?" Rob raised an eyebrow. "A bunch of people disappear, the country falls in to anarchy, and the U.N. shows up offering assistance in exchange for joining their government? Think it's connected?"
"I hope not, but let's just say that too much is going on right now for it all to be coincidence."
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