Sunday, November 27, 2011

Distance, Chapter 31


Monday Morning
April Tenth,
Wausau, Wisconsin
5:10 a.m.

‘Monday, finally,’ Doug thought to himself as he waited for the alarm to go off.  He’d be able to get out of Wausau today, and out of the ‘zoo’, as he’d come to think of it.

There were a dozen Regent staff that trained alongside Doug, but none had exchanged any names or other information, on Martinez’s orders. They had numbers for names, each trained as directed by the Regent security trainers, for nine hours a day.  Doug was able to keep in touch with his business team sporadically, which seemed enough for the moment.
It took several days, but he’d worked through the shock of what the RNEW product was really all about, and read the internal files prepared by the creators of the ‘nutri-chemical’.  The creation of RNEW (named internally, ‘six six zeta’ on the executive summaries) had taken Regent almost thirty-five thousand man-hours over five years, an obscure footnote that led Doug into further analysis.  He ran the math on just the R&D and the return on investment needed to offset the research and development process. The math didn’t work.
Regent could not realistically expect to recover their investment within the timeframe of a complete market saturation. He didn’t share that information with anyone. ‘Something else had to be factored in, because there was no way that this amount of investment would be thrown at an objective without a guaranteed return,’ Doug knew.

The mental pressures that Doug endured with the knowledge of the RNEW product had been stressful, but less so than actually using training weapons inside a huge warehouse a mile or so from their quarters.  The training weapons fired blanks, but also registered ‘hits’ with a laser-like beam of light on and around the targets.  Martinez had warned all of them about the noise and the recoil on each of their weapons, and all had done fairly well in the controlled firing range.  Actually working with their firearms in an environment where someone was shooting back was a completely different experience.

Each of the Regent trainees had been pitted against one another, without knowing it at the time…they thought that they were up against their training instructors.  In preparation, each of the trainees was taken aside for all of five minutes of instruction in the scenario they were about to begin. In one case, the trainee was a ‘defender’, another, an ‘attacker’.  Several of the scenarios were ‘home invasions’ as described to the ‘defender’, but as ‘hostage recovery’ to the ‘attacker.’

Doug’s first experience in the mock-village had rendered him dead within five steps of his cover position.  He’d moved too slowly when traversing the uneven terrain, and the opposing shooter had easily taken him out with three hits to his chest from an M4 from fifty feet away.

His second effort, scant minutes later in another part of the building, had his heart pounding and he was sweating. None of the trainees had any sort of uniform on, just ‘street clothing’ with the reactive vest and headpiece.

He quickly located his objective, spotted the target through a ‘window’, and took out the trainee with a single shot to the head. She’d never seen him coming. Once he’d completed that mission, he realized he was quite calm.  ‘I can do this,’ he thought. 

After successfully completing the ‘individual’ missions, each trainee was thrown into scenarios where they were part of, or defending against, a larger force.  The lesson that only two trainees out of twelve learned, is that if there is a way out of the target area, they should take it.  Doug wasn’t one of those—he’d stood his ground and the three surviving members of the attacking team made him pay for it. The two trainees who’d picked up and moved let the attackers take the ‘objective’, and then had killed the entire attacking force single-handedly.   The lesson was that it was sometimes better to let the enemy win the battle so that you could win the war.

The trainee group was also thrashed in the automotive arena, with attempted car-jackings and learning behind the wheel in a day-long aggressively-defensive driving course. Doug had done far better than all of the other trainees, a legacy of his winter-driving experience and a half-million miles as a salesman on the road.

“Graduation” had taken place the night before for the dozen trainees, precisely at eleven twenty-eight p.m. Each of the trainees had turned in early, taking their training weapons with them as they had for the duration. Each night, they’d been instructed to place the weapons in a position in their rooms as they would to defend themselves in case of sudden attack, to ‘make it normal. Part of your routine from now on.’

Doug didn’t know if any of the other trainees knew what was coming--for certain, he didn’t. Doug had been sleeping, but he woke just before his door burst open.  He found his M9 trainer in his hand, safety lever in the ‘fire’ position as a darkened figure charged the room with an M4.  Doug fired three times into the chest.  Three of the twelve trainees had ‘survived’ the ‘attack.’ A half-hour debrief followed the exercise.

Now, Doug was functioning on a bare minimum of sleep, with an uncertain drive ahead of him, not to mention an undesired future.

Breakfast was delivered promptly at six a.m., Doug had already showered, dressed and packed.  By seven, he was in a different company vehicle, headed north.

Regent didn’t have a particular threat assessment for any point north of Wausau, nor did they have any traffic going north.  The only thing that he had going for him was that he’d be driving a three year old Ford Explorer that had once belonged to someone who thought they needed to have it upgraded with some bullet resistant features.  Martinez had seen to Doug getting this vehicle.

The Ford had about fifty thousand miles and looked it.  Martinez explained that the tires were all-season ‘run-flats’, meaning they could take small arms fire and he could still drive.  The battery area, oversize fuel tank, radiator and side panels of the engine compartment were all protected as well, and the cabin glass was all tinted ‘ballistic grade’ material.  None of the windows were operable as a result.   Within the doors and under the carpet, a blanket-like material that was also supposed to protect everyone inside.

Regent had also seen to it that the company vehicle had the standard emergency kit and a console-mounted citizens’ band radio. The contents of Doug’s former vehicle were re-sorted and packed up again neatly, and the Regent commissary in Wausau had filled an additional order for Doug, at Martinez’s direction. The vehicle was full to the ceiling. The company had also provided a rack in the front seat for his new rifle and shotgun.  The center console had a fitted holster for his handgun.   Most of the ammunition for the weapons was stored in the back.

Doug had headed east and then north, winding his way on two-lane county highways that would take him all the way to Crandon, hopefully without the roadblocks that were routinely encountered in Iowa.  The snow of the previous week had almost all melted, but the temperatures were still in the thirties and the sky was lowering. Again, no farm equipment in any of the fields, he noted.   He’d had the CB radio on ‘scan’ mode, and picked up a few spotty transmissions.  He then switched over to the car radio for background noise.
“…evacuations.  The ashfall is relatively light, but after the surprise that Mount Rainier gave the nation, no one is taking any chances with either Mount Shasta or the uptick in activity in the Mammoth area. The good news is that the mudflows as of the moment have not taken any lives,” the reporter said. Doug hadn’t heard anything about an eruption at Shasta. It took him a minute to realize he hadn’t heard any news at all in five days.  The radios at Regent’s facility hadn’t picked up any broadcasts. ‘Perhaps that was by design,’ he thought.

“In Occupied Mexico yesterday, the Southern Marine Expeditionary Force finally quelled the attack at the KMZ Cantarell oil complex, while the Northern Force completed the clearing of the demilitarized zone, a hundred-mile-wide area just south of the current occupied area.  Administration spokesmen had no comment on the evacuation of wounded American troops from the area, or an accounting of those killed in action.  Numerous helicopters could be seen however, landing in an area known to be used for offloading those lost in battle.”

“In the Republic of China today, the naval base at Suao readied U.S.S. Antietam for transit to Pearl Harbor.  Chief of Naval Operations Terrence Adams and numerous members of the Pacific Command were present as surviving crew members hoisted the colors, resting them at half-staff in the memorial service.  Antietam may be at sea for another two to three weeks before arriving at Pearl.  It is not known at this time if the guided missile cruiser will be rebuilt or salvaged. Hundreds of citizens of the island nation have kept constant vigil over Antietam since her arrival.”

“Also coming from our staff on the ground in the R.O.C., news reports are coming from the Mainland that former Communist Chinese Army leaders are in hiding and are trying to mount a takeover of the nation.  Basic services have collapsed across the nation, and millions of former military are reported to be stealing from the population at gunpoint.”
“In Washington, the Acting Congress has again taken up the task of the currency re-valuation, while widespread criticism flares around the President and Homeland Security on the ‘containment’ of rioting in urban areas.  Many major cities afflicted by relatively minor unrest have seen dramatic increases in violence as residents are quarantined and prevented from leaving the cities. Air National Guard units have completed numerous humanitarian missions in several of the areas under quarantine.  As of today, seven major cities are in ‘lockdown’, including Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore,  Atlanta and Chicago.”

“In downtown Chicago today, hundreds of police officers manned barricades to prevent further looting.  The fire at the Chicago Board of Trade continued to smolder, a full thirty-six hours after arsonists torched the six-hundred-foot tall building and dozens of other buildings along Michigan Avenue.  Local officials estimate the number of dead at more than three hundred, while emergency workers, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said that the number is many times higher.  The Mayor had no comment on reports that Chicago Police had been ordered to fire on unarmed civilians along Michigan Avenue.  The entire area east of the Kennedy Expressway, from Lincoln Park to the Stevenson Expressway has been ordered evacuated by the Office of Emergency Management.”

Doug couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.  His adopted hometown was tearing itself apart. ‘The Board of Trade? They burned the Board of Trade? How did things get THAT out of control?’ He drove a dozen or more miles, not really seeing the road as he imagined what Chicago must now be like.  The fat drops of rain roused him from his trance.  Crandon was only a few miles ahead.

He’d never been through the little town, which was sort of sandwiched between two small lakes. It looked like a pleasant place to live, he thought as he drove down what passed for the main street.  Doug noted there weren’t any roadblocks.  Neither were there any cars on the street, but given the price of fuel, that wasn’t exactly a surprise. A few people, trying to shelter themselves from the sudden rainstorm, looked at him with some interest as he drove slowly through the town.

Brenda had provided Doug the street address, which he’d mapped on his GPS before leaving the Regent complex in Wausau. He wound his way out of town along the poorly maintained roads, finally passing the driveway.   Their home was indeed tucked away, about ten miles out of Crandon, near a series of small lakes.  The GPS showed that the border between the Nicolet National Forest was probably abutting the Bowman property. Doug backed the Explorer up and pulled into the driveway.

The home wasn’t visible from the road, and Doug imagined that the hundreds of feet of driveway must have been a real challenge in the snow.  He rounded a large group of trees, and finally spotted the house.  A huge, dark green pickup truck was parked just off the driveway, with a police light bar on the roof.   Doug parked and got out of the Explorer, not seeing any signs of life from the house.

“Doug? Is that you?” Brenda’s familiar voice called from the right side of the driveway.  She’d been hidden in the brush.

“In the flesh, Bren. Everything OK?”

“I was over in the barn. Heard a car and found a hiding place.  I can’t believe you made it,” she said. Awkwardly, they gave each other a brief hug.  She waved off to the north; Doug looked and saw nothing.

“How’re the kids?” he asked.  The kids had ‘adjusted’ to Doug during their marriage. They’d never really been as close as they should have been, he thought in retrospect. He wondered what they thought of him.

“They’re over at one of the neighbors for afternoon classes. We split duties so that we can all get some things done,” she said.  Doug thought she looked thin…too thin, and tired. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He’d never seen her hair that way before.

“It’s good to see you. I’m…sorry for everything, Brenda. I was a real shit.”

“No argument. You’re forgiven though. Let’s get under cover.”

“Where’s Matt?” Doug asked.

“He’ll be here in a sec. He was keeping an eye on you as you drove in,” she nodded over to the north again, and this time Doug saw Brenda’s husband Matt appear from the thicket that Doug had driven around.  Matt carried a scoped rifle.

“So things are interesting up here, too,” Doug said.

“You have no idea,” Brenda replied.

“I’m sure we all have stories,” he said as Matt drew closer—he was wearing an earbud, connected to a small radio in his vest.  Doug reached out and shook his hand firmly, looking him in the eye. “Good to see you, Matt.”

“Doug,” the other man said.  Their last meeting wasn’t pleasant, Doug remembered.

“Apologies for our last meeting, Matt. I had no business…”

“Ancient history,” Matt replied.  “Let’s not be idiots and stand out in the rain. There’s hot tea inside.”

“Sure there is,” Brenda said. “Once I make it.”

They made their way up the front steps and inside.  Doug noticed that the walls seemed much thicker than a regular house.  Matt saw him looking at the construction.

“Superinsulated.  Eighteen inches thick.”

“How is it for bullet resistance?” Doug asked, not really expecting an answer.

“Not great.  We’ve other options.”

“Did you build it? It’s great,” Doug said, meaning it.

“Yeah.  Took five years, off and on.”

“When you weren’t helping with the other two,” Brenda said from the kitchen.

“My partners are on adjacent parcels,” Matt replied, anticipating Doug’s next question.  “We built them all about the same time.”

“Good to have backup,” Doug said, not quite realizing he was quite accurate in his statement.

Brenda put a teakettle on the wood-fired stove. They all took a seat around the heavy, obviously hand-made kitchen table.

“I’ve got a stack of supplies in the car…thought you could use them,” Doug began. “Probably stuff you can’t get too easily.”

“We can’t get anything easily.  You drove through town, didn’t you?” Brenda said.

“Yeah,” Doug said.

“See any cars?” Matt asked.


“Stores open?”

“Uh, no.”

“No fuel. No money. Whatever’s left in the one remaining store isn’t worth buying,” Brenda stated.

“When was the last time you were able to buy what you needed?” Doug asked her.

“Five weeks ago, today,” she replied. “People stripped Margie’s One Stop.  Then they moved over to Farm Fresh.  By the time Matt and the other duty officers got there, it was all the could do to keep Nelson’s intact.” 

“What triggered it?” Doug asked.  He couldn’t recall anything that might have happened during that time period, but he’d been busy himself.

“No idea. Rumors, probably.  It’s been dicey ever since.  Not a lot of trust between anyone in Crandon right now, or the area right around it,” Matt said.  The water was coming to a boil, and Brenda got up to make tea.

“You work in other towns though too, right?” Doug asked.

“Yeah. Four. And I had been helping out the county when they needed it.  The sheriff though seemed to think that he could keep my paycheck for his own, so I told him to shove it. Things haven’t improved obviously since then.”

“And won’t in the near future,” Doug replied, and paused.  “I need to have a long talk with you both.”

Matt and Brenda exchanged looks, but didn’t say anything.

“I’m still trying to figure things out. What’s going on is much bigger than nearly anyone realizes,” Doug said.

“Global depressions are like that,” Matt said.

“It’s bigger than that. I’m coming to believe that it’s engineered. Not just the financial stuff. Bigger.  They’re trying to enslave people.”

“Of course they are.  They have control of the money, the politicians, the courts….” Matt said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Not what I’m talking about,” Doug said, cutting Matt off. “Those are part of the puzzle.  They have control of the food. Who gets it, when, where, but most importantly, what’s in it.”

IN food? What are you talking about?” Brenda asked, brow furrowed.

“The company I work for, Regent, is engineering many everyday food products to work in ways no one ever dreamed was possible. Not in a favorable way. Brands you know. Stuff you probably use without thinking twice about.”

“What on Earth are you talking about?” Brenda asked dismissively. 

“Food products that have been in the Regent production line for months, when combined with other food or beverage products that are either in early distribution or about to become widely distributed, work to create a psychoactive reaction on the consuming population. The consumers of those foods…the longer they consume them, the more…docile they become,” Doug said, before correcting himself. “No, that’s not quite right.  It’s like they cannot understand anything that they do could be wrong…so there are no consequences to their actions or the actions of their superiors,” he said.

“That can’t be possible,” Brenda said flatly.

“It is possible.  I’ve seen the results. I’ve read the clinical study. It’s real.”

“You’ve got to get out,” Brenda said. “If this is true, you’re part of it.”

“I can’t get out…I don’t think I can, anyway, certainly not easily. I’ve seen too much….know too much,” Doug said, looking down at the empty mug he was cradling.  “I think for the moment I’m safer on the inside.”

Matt sat back in his chair as Brenda poured the tea.  His hands were folded across his chest, head tilted slightly, considering what Doug had just said.

“What do you think their end game is?” Matt asked.

“I’m not a geopolitical consultant.” 

“You suspect something. I see it in your eyes.”

“The company has successfully marketed….no. Not the company. I, on behalf of Regent, have successfully marketed the products to major food manufacturers of all kinds.  Primary targets though—the first in the priority list—were manufacturers of institutional food products and military food products.”


“Yeah,” Doug said, seeing that Matt was beginning to understand the implications. “The institutional food products though…their end users might be anyone from people in prison to people on the receiving end of a Federal handout.  Some emergency or disaster or…”

“War,” Matt said.

“Right,” Doug replied. “So when you think about tens of thousands…or hundreds of thousands or millions of people who will do whatever they’re told to do essentially without question….you can see my reason for concern.”

“Concern?” Matt said incredulously.  “That’s what you call it?!”

“I could call it ‘panic’, but given the week that I’ve just spent, it was best to play my cards closely,” Doug said, understanding Matt’s reaction completely. “Had I reacted differently, I suspect they’d have just taken me out back of the building and shot me.” 

“Where are these people from? Which country?” Matt asked.

“They’re from here.  The company is based in Columbus. Big presence in Denver, some smaller units scattered around the country,” Doug replied.

“That doesn’t make it better,” Matt said, taking a mug of tea in his hand. 


  1. Tom, thanks for the new chapter!

    As I have Deep Winter, Shatter, and Remnant on PDF, and have read all of your stuff to date, the two perspectives (between the first three and Distance) are linking up quite well.

    Again, thank you, and keep up the good work!


  2. Thanks-I can't wait for the next chapter!

  3. Oh, Oh, I bet I know whats gonna, never mind. Please tell me you've actually got this story all written, prepped, and printed, and your gonna spring it on us for X-mas. Dammit, prolly not. Did notice one naming error in the Doug/Mark apology, unless I read it wrong, which I may have.

  4. Did Doug leave his cell phone in the car? Might be an important detail with Regent's monitoring.

  5. Thanks for another chapter! Even though I can anticipate where the story is going having read Remnant more than a couple of times, I'm still on the edge of my seat.

  6. It's not fair to put RNEW in the stories and get us hooked. I started with Deep Winter and have been hooked ever since. You have caused a lot of sleepless nights spent reading when I should have been sleeping. Great stories that everyone who doesn't Prep should read. Please hurry with more chapters.

  7. I'm really enjoying this story. I finished Deep Winter over Thanksgiving and will get into Shatter pretty soon. I see one typo, if you are interested, near the end:
    they’re end users -> their end users

  8. Hey, Merry Christmas, and thanks for the present!


Comments are welcome!