The Bug Out Joe woke up. He rolled over and looked at the clock. The red numbers glowed 2:35 in the darkness. He normally slept through the night, but knew once he woke up like this, it would usually take a while before he could fall back to sleep. Careful to not wake up his wife, he rolled out of bed and padded to the kitchen where the family’s computer was. The dull hum of the fan and the clicking of the hard drive greeted him as he plopped down in the chair and switched on the device. The flashing lights of the cable modem began and soon Joe was logged on and surfing the web. He was a regular at several of the bigger gun forums and he regularly checked in on a survival forum or two as well. He was paging through and reading some of the new posts on his favorite survival site when a new post appeared at the top. “BREAKING RIGHT NOW – TERRORIST ATTACK IMMINENT” Joe laughed to himself. The tin-foil-hat brigade was always posting something like this just because gas went up ten cents a gallon or some other meaningless event that they somehow twisted into The-End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It. He looked to see who the paranoid loser that posted this at almost 3:00 in the morning was. Joe was surprised to see the handle Ben Franklin next to the post. Ben Franklin was a man that Joe admired. He had never met the man, but knew from his posts that he was no kook. Ben was a moderator on this message board and was highly thought of for his fairness and objectivity. Joe knew that he worked at a nuclear power plant, but didn’t know what his exact job was. It seemed that he was one of the top men at the facility, but Ben had never been real forthcoming about his exact title. Joe nervously clicked the link and a message that appeared hurriedly written appeared on the screen. “I just got a call from my boss. There are confirmed reports that terrorist have bombs with nuclear material that they plan to detonate during rush hour in the morning. They found a dirty bomb in Boston about two hours ago and the guys they arrested told them there were a lot more of them. Estimates are that they are in ten or twelve major cities. It’s possible that one or two of them could be full nuclear devices. Even if they are all just dirty bombs, the panic will be horrific. This is not a joke! My boss only found out because the NRC called and told him to shut down the plant. If you are in a major city, get out now! The information I got is a little sketchy, but New York and DC are sure to get it. I don’t know where else is going to be hit, but any big city will panic whether they get hit or not as soon as word gets out. This may take a few minutes to hit the mainstream media and maybe that will give the members here a few minutes head start. I’ve got to go load up the truck. I plan to be out of here in ten minutes. Good luck and God bless.” Joe’s heart jumped into his throat. It was really happening. He always knew that it could, that’s why he hung around in the survival forums. He just never expected that it would be this soon. He had first become interested in survival in 1999. He had stockpiled food and supplies for Y2K, but it had not happened. Since then his level of preparedness had fallen off some, but he still had a lot of things put back. He jumped up and ran into his bedroom. “Linda, wake up. Wake up!” “What?” his wife of twenty years moaned. “What do you want?” “We’ve got to get out of here! There is going to be some terrorist attacks and we’ve got to get out of the city!” “What are you talking about?” Linda asked, while propping herself up on an elbow. “Did you have a nightmare?” “I wish,” he replied. “No, this is for real. There are dirty bombs in several major cities. There could even be one here.” “How do you know?” Joe quickly explained about the post, who had posted it, and why he believed Ben Franklin. “Maybe it’s a joke,” Linda suggested. “Maybe someone hacked his password and they’re pulling a bad prank.” She reached onto the nightstand and found the TV remote. She hit power and then tuned to CNN. “He said it might not be on the news yet,” Joe said. “It has to be if it’s true,” she answered quickly. The talking head was droning on about the 40-point increase in the NASDAQ yesterday and how it signaled that the bulls were back in control. “Think about it,” Joe said, “if the government told everyone, they would just panic. They’re going to keep it under their hats as long as they can. Ben would not kid about something like this. We’ve got to get loaded and head to your parents’ place.” “What if it’s a joke or a mistake? We’ll look like idiots to the neighbors and at our jobs.” “Who cares what people think? What if it’s true?” Joe was almost screaming now. Linda bristled. “Look Joe, you’re being paranoid. CNN would know if something was going on and they would tell us about it. Your friend,” she paused as she folded her arms, “is wrong.” “What are you guys screaming about?” Melissa, the couple’s fourteen-year-old daughter, asked from the door of their bedroom while rubbing her eyes. “Your father is going off the deep end,” Linda said. “He wants us to pack up and go to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s because of something some idiot on the internet said!” “That’s nice,” Melissa said. As was too often the case, this would end up being a girls against the boys argument, Joe thought. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “Look, maybe it is a mistake and maybe it’s not. But, what if it is true? I’d rather be safe than sorry. Wouldn’t you? We can go to your parents’ house and if nothing happens by seven thirty we can all call in sick or something. We don’t have to tell anyone anything.” Linda stared at him for several seconds while what he said sunk in. “Alright,” she said reluctantly, “but I’m not driving all the way up there and back and then cooking dinner tonight. When we get back, you’re going for take out or something.” “Okay,” Joe agreed. Linda threw back the covers and stood up. She looked at Melissa and spoke. “Go get dressed. But first, wake up your brother.” “Okay, Mom,” the teenager answered. She turned and headed down the hall toward her brother’s room. She opened the door and called his name. “Andy. Andy, wake up! We’re going to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house.” Andy, seventeen and a slow riser, opened one eye and looked at his sister. “Leave me alone. It’s Wednesday, you dope. We have school in…” He looked at his clock, “…five hours? What the hell are you waking me up for?” “Mom told me to. Dad thinks the sky is falling or something and he wants to go to the farm.” “Yeah, right!” Andy said as he pulled the covers over his head. “Andy, get up now. Get dressed. I need your help,” Joe said as he passed his son’s room, threading a belt through his jeans. Joe walked to the kitchen and tried to gather his thoughts. His in-laws lived 150 miles away in a rural area. Although they called their place a farm, it was only fifteen acres. Originally, the house and barn had been the headquarters for a large family farm, but once the old farmer died, his kids had divided the place up and sold it off. Linda’s parents had bought the farmhouse and the few acres that surrounded it when they had retired. The larger tracts had been sold or leased to local farmers that used them for crops or hay. All right, take care of the basics first, he thought. Water, food, and shelter are the most basic. For water there is the well at the farm. And, my generator will work the electric pump even if the power goes out. I just need to make sure we have enough gas to last for a while. That takes care of water. Food, he thought as he opened the pantry. The shelves were almost bare. “Linda,” he called, “is this all the food we have?” Linda scurried into the kitchen looking flustered. “I was going to go to the store today,” she said quickly. “Where is all the food we had put back for Y2K?” “We ate most of it. Some of it got so old that I threw it out. But you have that freeze-dried camping food and those MER’s or whatever they’re called.” “That’s not enough. I only have two cases of MRE’s. That’s just six meals apiece. There might be enough of the Mountain House food to last a week or so, but what if we need to help out your parents or your brother’s family? We had enough food put back to feed 10 people for three months and now we don’t have anything?” “Well, after the millennium, you told me to use it up.” “I told you to use it and replace it,” he said pleadingly. “That way the food would be fresh.” “If that’s what you wanted done then you should have done it yourself. It was a pain in the ass to go through all those totes of food.” Joe realized that the argument was just wasting time. It didn’t matter whose fault it was. They just had to fix it. “You’re right. I’m sorry,” he said trying to calm her down. Linda was surprised. He usually would have argued longer, even though she would have still won. She saw how scared he looked. Maybe there was more to this than she thought. Joe certainly thought so. Her hands fell from her hips as she began to feel bad that she had disappointed him. Not that she could admit it to him, but her tone softened significantly. “What can we do?” “We have to get some more food. Look, I’m going to send you and Andy to the store. Buy as much dry and canned food as you can. Fill up the back of your SUV if you can. Melissa and I will stay here and load the truck.” Joe looked around. “Andy, hurry up. You need to go with your mother.” “Okay, Dad. I’ll be right there.” “It’s almost three in the morning. The grocery store isn’t open,” Linda said. “But the Super Wal-Mart is,” Joe said. “I know I don’t like us going there, but that’s our only option at this point.” “Can’t we just wait and see if your Internet buddy is right and buy food from the store close to my parent’s place if we need it?” “I’m afraid that if there is a big panic, the stores will get stripped quickly, even where your parent’s live.” “Well, how do you want me to pay?” “Write a check.” “But, we don’t have that much in the bank. You don’t get paid until Friday.” “Look, we’ll worry about that if nothing happens. Right now we just need to get what we have to have and get out of here. I want to save whatever credit we have on the cards for gas and other stuff. Do you think you could be back in thirty minutes?” “We’ll try. Come on, Andy, let’s get going. I hope I don’t see anyone I know without my makeup on.” Linda snatched up her purse and the mother and son were out the door. “Alright, that takes care of food. Next is shelter,” Joe said to no one. He looked at his daughter and smiled. “Grandma and Grandpa have plenty of room for all of us. Even for Uncle Larry and his kids. I better tell your Mom to call him.” Joe grabbed his cell phone and hit the speed dial for Linda’s phone. “Hello,” she said. “Hey, it’s me. You think you should call Larry and your folks?” “I don’t think so. At least not yet. Remember how crazy Larry thought you were for buying all the Y2K stuff? He still makes fun of you. And, there is no sense waking Mom and Dad since they don’t need to do anything. If it hits the news then I’ll call Larry, okay?” “Whatever you think,” he said “Okay, Bye.” “Bye,” he said and hung up the phone. “Alright,” he said to Melissa, “the next priority is clothes and personal items. Let’s get our Bug Out Bags.” He knew that defense was really next on the list, but he needed to get Melissa on something. Besides, he thought, getting my guns out of the safe and into the car will be easy. I’ll do that last. Joe walked to the hall closet with his daughter in tow. He opened the door and a ton of junk fell out around his feet. “Damn it! I’ve told your brother a million times not to stuff things in here and then close the door.” He reached down and picked up a bag of golf clubs and kicked some of the smaller items out of the way. “Here, set these in the corner for me, will you?” “Sure, Dad,” Melissa said as she took the bag from her father. Joe got down on his knees and started digging through the closet that was a catch all for his family’s junk. He pulled out three daypacks and then kept digging. “I can’t find your brother’s Bug Out Bag.” “I think he used it a couple of months ago when he went camping with his friends.” “Great, these are supposed to be ready to go all the time,” Joe said. “Give me mine, Dad. I think I need to put some stuff back in it.” Joe handed his daughter her pack and gave her the look. It told her that he wasn’t happy without him having to say a word. She disappeared into her room and Joe could hear the dresser drawers opening and closing. He noticed that Linda’s pack looked a little empty as well. He opened it and found that it only held a ratty pair of jeans and a couple of shirts with a few odds and ends. When Joe had made everyone pack their BOB, they held enough clothes and toiletries to last at least three days. It seemed that everyone had raided their bag when they needed something and had not replenished them. He opened his and found it was in pretty good shape. There was no underwear in it, Linda must have taken them out to replace some of his old ones, and his toothpaste had leaked. Fortunately, it was in a Ziploc bag so it didn’t get on anything else. “Melissa,” “Yes, Dad.” She answered, sticking her head out of her door. “Hurry and finish repacking your BOB. Then see if you can find your brother’s and make sure he has enough clothes and stuff in it. You need to repack your mom’s after that. I’ll put it on our bed. Also, turn on the TV and listen to it. If they start talking about an attack, come get me right away. Don’t let it slow you down, though.” “Okay, Pops.” Joe grabbed his bag and took it to the bedroom. He threw the busted toothpaste away and got three pairs of underwear out of his drawer and stuffed them in the pack. He wondered if they should take more clothes. “Melissa.” “I’m in here.” He found her in her brother’s room, digging through his closet. Listen, when you’re finished with the Bug Out Bags, come out to the garage and get a big duffle bag from me. I want you to get some more clothes for all of us and get all the stuff you can out of the bathroom closet, too. Got it?” “Yeah, Dad, I got it,” she said as she nodded her head. Okay, what’s next, he asked himself. I better get the camping stuff in case the power does go out for a while. He headed out to the garage. At least this is organized, he thought as he looked at all his emergency equipment stacked neatly on shelves. Much of it was still brand new and in the original boxes. He walked over and started pulling things down that he thought he might need and stacking them in the middle of the garage floor. He also grabbed the generator out from under his workbench and put it next to the pile. What about gasoline, he thought. He looked in the corner and saw two five-gallon cans. He picked them up. One was almost empty and he had no idea how old the gas was in the other. He could pour it out and refill them both on the way out of town, but ten gallons would not last long if they really needed the generator. He called Linda’s phone. “Hey, have Andy run over to the automotive department and get me six five-gallon gas cans, okay?” “Alright,” she said. “How much have you got done?” “Not much, we just got here a minute ago.” “Does it seem like anyone knows anything?” he asked. “No. The place is dead as a doornail.” “Good. Hurry as fast as you can, okay.” “I know!” she said. He could almost see her rolling her eyes at him. “Okay, thanks,” he said as he hung up. “Your father wants you to go get six gas cans for him.” “Do you want me to go now?” Andy asked. “No. Let’s get the groceries first.” They each had a cart and were pushing them up and down each isle. Linda would point at things and tell Andy how many to get and he would load them onto the carts. When one of the carts was full, she told him to park it where it was and go get another. When all three carts were full, top and bottom, she decided that it was enough. “Go grab one more cart and run over to automotive and get the gas cans. Make sure they are the five-gallon size.” “Yes, ma’am.” Andy took off to the front of the store and Linda tried to move two of the baskets at a time by pushing one and pulling the other. She could barely budge them. She gave up on the one she was trying to pull and concentrated on pushing just one. It was so heavy that she even had trouble getting it going. When she got it to the main isle. She went back for the other basket. She pushed it about halfway to the front where they had left the first full basket. She went back for the second basket and was pushing it when her phone rang again. It was Joe again.