Ray Granger watched with mild interest as the cattle transport truck rolled past him on the highway. Even the next two that passed held no special fascination until he saw the military escort they had. Three jeeps with officer-types in them followed by two troop transports made this particular convoy a bit more interesting to him.
“What are you up to?” he wondered. “I guess I'll have to follow and find out for myself. I wonder how long before you notice?”
His answer came faster than he could imagine. Not even five miles went by before the state trooper switched on his lights to pull the reporter over. He asked for the standard license, insurance and registration, but Ray could see that all he was doing was stalling for time. Time to give the convoy a chance to get away from prying eyes that would question why the government suddenly needed a couple hundred pigs.
“Will this take long Officer?” asked Ray.
“I expect it will sir,” answered the trooper without looking at him. “I need to run these and my computer has been running slow. Settle in, you'll be here awhile.”
Janice smiled when her cell phone buzzed and Ray's name showed on the caller ID. She genuinely loved hearing from him and answered with a good amount of cheer in her voice.
“Calling to brag about a Pulitzer yet?” she asked. “Or some poor farm girl that had the misery to meet you in a bar?”
“Both,” he quipped. “In fact, I got the Pulitzer for the farm girl. I also have some weird military stuff here that I need your help with.”
She jotted down everything Ray had seen and reasoned it was really no big thing. Still, Ray's hunches were usually pretty good and if something smelled fishy to him, chances were good that somewhere in the Pentagon, a big barrel of fish was open.
Several calls later, she had confirmed Ray's hunch. The military was indeed stocking on not only animals, but very large quantities of vegetables and fruits. Something was up and now she had to find out where all of these things were heading. She knew that when she found them, she would also find one hell of a story. For a moment she wondered if she should keep it all to herself, knowing that no matter what she uncovered, it was Ray's story.
The thought of his puppy eyes quickly made her forget that as she redialed him. It wasn't just the puppy eyes she thought and allowed a smile to cross her lips as his phone rang.
“I'm calling in some favors,” she said. “I'll get some time off and meet you at Salina Municipal tomorrow at noon.”
“Jesus, could you pick a crappier spot Jan?” he laughed. “You think a commercial flight will fit the runways there?”
“I'll be coming in on a private jet smartass,” she replied. “We don't need the world wondering what we're looking for just yet. Just make sure you're there.”
His smile faded as he ended the call and looked up into the stern face of the trooper. He wondered how much he had heard and how much he would report back. He took his cards back and quickly turned the car around and noted that it was he who was now being followed.
“Alright smokey,” he thought as the trooper's car maintained speed and distance. “If you want to follow me, I'll take you on a tour of the worst dives in Ellsworth County.”
Several hundred miles away, the large steel doors that were cut into the side of Lone Butte Mountain in Wichita County were wide open while several convoys waited for entry to the compound more than three miles away. The soldiers at the gates checked and rechecked each vehicle and directed all non-military drivers to a small shack while their military counterparts drove the vehicles past the gates to the holding pens.
The air filled with the sounds of livestock and the men in charge of organizing the lot. The roar of truck engines mingled with the constant thrumming sounds of the helicopters that patrolled the area. President Harrison's threat was not being taken lightly on any count. In Gainsville, the two astronomers that had seen the original approach were busy preparing on their own. They had been sworn to secrecy under threats of imprisonment, but the government conceded that they were entitled to prepare themselves for the coming calamity.
The first thing Bill and Jeremy decided on was who to bring besides their families. Jeremy had a fairly large parcel of land he owned along the southwestern border of the Everglades. It had a four bedroom house on site and plenty of room for more. The pair addressed what they would need with scientific minds.
“We need a carpenter,” said Jeremy. “We'll need to build places to live, places to keep animals and maybe some kind of structure for growing food.”
“I know someone,” answered Bill. “He's married but no kids so it won't be any extra mouths to feed. We're going to need a doctor too. Maybe a couple of them for good measure.”
“You're gonna need security too,” said a voice from the doorway. “There's gonna be some people that ain't likely to be of the pleasant sort.”
Both men looked at Alan Kinder, a former cop that had taken the job of security manager for the school and installation.
“If you're making some goofy survival list,” he continued, “don't forget that people are douches. Forgetting that will get you killed.”