At first she had her doubts about the old house, if one could call it that and it really wasn’t that old. Part log home, part pallet shack ( or what ever the hell it was made of ), part barn… Damnedest place she had ever seen. Even in the short time she had been there it had held up remarkably well in some really brutal weather. Hard to heat at times, but could be much worse. Some were living like animals in not much more than shacks and tents, and some died. She had grown to love the place and tried to keep it going the best she could . The patchwork of materials, colors, and textures reminded her of an old quilt. Not much to look at but serviceable and sturdy.
She had never experienced weather this cold. She, at times, didn’t see how they survived it. Many didn’t, but as time passed it seemed people adapted and those that trickled in seemed more determined to stay alive. Things must have been really bad in the rest of the world to make this icy hell the go-to place to live free. In fact, that was true. The lower 48 was bankrupt, coming apart at the seams and on the verge of another civil war. Washington so vile and corrupt, they were incapable of leading their own city much less the rest of the nation. The true American Patriots in the heartland said fuck it, lets get it on. Canada was little better, fragmenting more every day. Mexico and much of Central America turning into a giant drug cartel, run by the most evil men imaginable. Panama at war with China and getting their asses kicked. Nobody for sure knew what was going on in South America, but insane inflation and crushing poverty didn’t sound good. With the exception of a sliver of a breakaway white South African republic, Africa was in starvation, war and drought beyond biblical proportions. The newly formed republic was faring little better. Europe was losing a war with the Muslims led by the Turks. Russia was run by organized crime, China by the return of communists of unbelievable brutality. Everyone else on the planet was pretty much fucked.
The Alaska Republic struggled on…Protected only by determined men and women armed to the teeth.
She struggled every day to keep the family alive and healthy. No easy task with prices and taxes as high as they were. She was having a hard time keeping gas in their vehicles, fuel of all types was hard to come by and very expensive. They were ok with food, kerosene and other supplies, enough to last a few months. She had caught up on the bills and even had stored away some extra gasoline but had nearly depleted the old mans retirement savings. She had taken a part time job at the local V/A hospital helping out in the emergency room on weekends to help make ends meet, Wendy watching the kids while she worked. Not always pleasant but a job. Wendy’s hubby keeping the house in repair, pretty much a full time job in these conditions.
She hadn’t regretted coming north to Alaska, not sure what to expect or even if the old man would take her in. But she saw what was coming in the lower 48, a re-education camp wasn’t her gig. After seeing what these places had done to one of her friends, she decided to haul ass with the kids. She had the law right on her heels but had moved too fast for them. If caught, she probably have more to worry about than a re-education camp after the stunts she had pulled. Even the old man didn’t know the full extent if what she had gotten herself into. She suspected his sponsor did.
The old man figured they were fighting a losing battle…Too many conversations with his sponsor, a couple of meetings meetings with higher that he shouldn’t have been privy to. They even asked his opinion on occasion, that about freaked him out. He had pieced together that the Alaska Republic was eventually doomed, a lost cause but never said anything to family or close friends. He figured his wife knew, she could always read him. Too vast a cold bitter land, too many insurmountable problems, too few good people. He, and his loved ones, just took it a day at a time. About all they could do under the circumstances. They were better off than many, that he was thankful for. They were better off than most of the rest of the planet. He had read the stories in the Alaska Free Press, had conversations with those recently up from the lower 48 and elsewhere. It didn’t sound good. Pretty much hunger, massive inflation, shortages of nearly everything as the worlds economies failed. Much violence and brutality almost beyond imagination. Flights, with rare exception, had stopped and the borders would be sealed soon, or the best they could with resources available. The weather seemed to be doing a good job of that anyway. The Republic did have some things going for it. A more or less strong currency backed by precious metals and commodities, a few big gold strikes were helping with that. Oil exploration paying off, boosting the economy some. Other natural resources, fishing… The people were hardworking and innovative. Rule of law mostly restored, but penalties could be harsh. The state of emergency was still in place, hard but forcing people to focus on real problems.
The old man had just been given a new M4A1 carbine, tactical case, magazines, ammunition and a cleaning kit at the armory. Then body armor, helmet and some tactical kit at another location. All able bodied men and some women were members of the reserves in some capacity, 18 years to whatever. Apparently the old man was “young enough” and had prior military service. His sponsor explained he would be defending his neighborhood, which consisted of four houses. His wife was to get additional medical training one day a week at the hospital where she worked. Wendy, her hubby and the Pakistani family down the road were exempted, his sponsor didn’t know why. Or wasn’t saying.
An Army Of One…
His sponsor was giving him a ride home from picking up the military kit and weapon. Conversation was about a new storm front moving in, as bad as or maybe worse that the last one. The old man figured his family was about as prepared as they could be under the circumstances and said so. His sponsor thought of a few more items the old man might need and said he would try and scrounge them up. Meanwhile, the old man was to keep his vehicles topped off with gas and make sure each one had a complement of emergency equipment and supplies.
She had a long week. Three very full days of firearms training by the Alaska State Troopers after her day of medical schooling on Monday, it was intense. Mandatory fun for her, optional for the eldest girl but she got credits for school. The eldest girl also was going to get medical training, also helping out for school. They topped off the truck and a couple cans then headed for home. Dirty, smelling of powder residue and cleaning solvent the two of them were very tired but still had plenty to do be ready for the approaching storm. With the whole family pitching in it wouldn’t take long to square things away, then they could rest.
The old man felt they were as ready as the could be for the approaching storm. The girls opened the door for him so he could pull the old Dodge truck in, closing them tightly behind him. Wind was picking up, temperature was dropping (like it could get any colder…) and the sky was spitting bits of sleet. Good time to get home. Everyone had come down to see his new ride, a Korean War era Dodge 4×4 military truck. Hell, even had a load of wood in the back. The eldest loaded the stove with some wood trying to warm things up, the old man doubted that was possible anymore. The rest of the family wandered back upstairs into the house. She sat in the cab of the old truck smelling the fresh olive green paint, reminding the old man that she wasn’t half bad with a four speed. She figured she would grow to like this rig better than the Toyota. She could tell that someone had put one hell of a lot of work into this old rig getting it roadworthy. She even noticed the old wool blanket sewn in the canvas cab cover at an attempt to insulate, very nice work. The old man and herself walked upstairs hand in hand as she tried to talk him out of the old Dodge, shutting the garage lights out as they went inside a house smelling of dinner.
Walking into the hustle and bustle of his pre-storm household. Dinner about done, laundry going, his phone confiscated and plugged in. Everybody was tired but with the storm there would be time to rest.
The whole thing stunk…She always had doubts but when he got the new job and the truck…Something was up. She had seen how others lived, some barely scratching out a living. The cheap clinics, food, housing and clothing assistance. She knew the old man had come up here with means, but not that much. They were just a bit better off than she thought they should be. How did he get shipped up here with all of his shit when many showed up with clothes on their back and penniless? True, some did show up as the old man had but many didn’t. The old man tried to explain it away but she wasn’t buying any of it. All the training her and the eldest girl were getting, lots of it and intense. The weapons…On and on. There had to be payback somewhere down the line and that is what worried her.
The old mans new job was to evaluate and supervise maintenance on the new republics vehicles, military and otherwise. Since all of the military wheeled and tracked equipment had been stripped out of Alaska (along with aircraft) at the beginning of the first go around in the lower 48…Well, what little that had been replaced was by obsolete worn out junk. It would be interesting to say the least, mainly finding replacement parts. From what little he had seen so far many of the parts for these antiques were coming from Central America and the Philippines. The crew he had rebuilding the old equipment was a rainbow of colors and language from all over the third world and surprisingly talented for no more than they had to work with, their work was of high quality. Their shop was a cast off old hangar on the outskirts of the airfield with a fair sized salvage out back, machine and hand tools pieced together from what nobody else wanted. They worked on and rebuilt damn near anything. He had gotten a truck and a fuel card out of the deal, a good perk considering how fucked up everything was. That was all temporarily put on hold until this next storm passed.
She got up, lit a couple kerosene lamps and switched off the emergency lights. The electricity had failed not long after the winds hit. She would switch to battery power in the morning, loading the stoves before she lay back down. The house was getting cold. the fireplace, stove and furnace were not going to keep up with the wind moaning outside. At least they were somewhat ready for this one. The old man passed out sitting on the couch, exhausted. As they all were. Everyone laying everywhere with blankets in the living room, Wendy’s hubby crashed in the lazy boy…She fluffed the pillow up on the old mans lap as she lay down and pulled the old quilt up over her. Too chilly to even get undressed. She could hear the snow and ice pelting the outside of the house, The old wood creaking and popping. It all just made her burrow under the old shabby quilt all the deeper. Back to work in a few more days, she was going to enjoy some downtime.