Copyright © 2015 by Eric Aune and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.
All Rights Reserved
As Cole and Cooper rode their bikes up to their house, they saw a familiar car in the driveway. It belonged to Reverend Campbell. That probably meant their parents were home as well. They looked at each other and saw the same dread on each other's face. Well there was no putting it off. They opened the garage door and went inside to park their bikes. They entered through the connecting door and heard the evil bastard before they saw him. They hesitated a moment before going in to face the music. When they entered the living room, they saw Reverend Campbell and their parents sitting there with glasses in their hands. Their mom had a glass of white wine and the men had glasses with amber liquid in them, probably whiskey. Campbell was his usual bombastic self.
"I tell you Wayne…" They saw the two boys come into the room and Campbell put on his fake smile. "Well, well, the prodigal sons return." Their father looked at them. "Where have you boys been?"
"We, uh, were with some of the guys, shooting hoops. There wasn't much to do with no power, so we thought it would be okay to go out for a little bit to shoot some hoops." Wayne looked at them a few moments. "I noticed that you didn't take your truck."
"I thought with martial law and all that. It would be better not to be driving on the roads, in case it…uh, they were needed for emergency vehicles."
"Hah, well thought out boy. Wayne, you've got a smart son there. He puts the needs of the country before his own comfort. Well done Coleman. And don't worry about the power, it should be on soon. My sources tell me that it should be restored anytime now." Wayne turned to Campbell and raised his glass. "Thank you Reverend. That is kind of you to say. We have tried to raise them as good Christian boys, who know which things are important. You boys go on up and clean up. We'll be having dinner in about an hour."
"Yes, sir." The boys went upstairs. Cooper followed Cole into his room and came up to him for a hug. "Hey bro, it will be okay. Go clean up. After dinner we'll talk some more about tomorrow. Start thinking about what you want to pack. Maybe you can put some things to the side that you'll need to pack. I'll figure out how we'll get our backpacks out of the garage. Go on." Cooper nodded against his brother's chest and stepped back. He smiled at his brother as he left for his own room, to do as his brother had told him to do.
Cole stripped off and went into his bathroom for a shower. Without thinking he hit the light switch on the way in, just as he normally would do and the light came on. He started toward the shower to turn on the water and stopped as he realized what he had done. The power was back on. He turned the light off and then back on. There was power. Cole grinned and started the shower. When it was the right temperature he stepped in and let the hot water splash down on him. It helped to relax him a little. There was no way he felt that he could completely relax, as he thought about what he knew was probably going to happen tomorrow, but the hot shower helped a little. He thought about wearing some sweats and a t shirt, but with Campbell here, his parents would expect him to be dressed in something a little better. He pulled out a polo shirt and some nicer slacks and put them on instead. Cooper soon came into his room similarly dressed as Cole was tying his shoes. Cole looked up and grinned. "I see you figured it out that we would have to be on show for Campbell." Cooper nodded and then came and sat down on the bed next to Cole.
"Cole?" Cole glanced to his side as he finished with his shoes and sat up. "Yeah Coop."
"Are we leaving?" Cole looked at his little brother and put an arm over his shoulders to pull him closer. Cooper leaned against him taking the comfort that was being offered. "Yeah, we are. I think we have to. Partially because of that hate spewing asshole downstairs. I need to keep you safe and I don't know if I can do that here."
"Where will we go?" Cole shook his head. "I don't know yet. But don't worry. We'll find a place to be safe." About that time, they heard their mother call them for dinner.
They went downstairs and took their normal seats at the dining room table. The table was all ready for dinner with a beef roast, mashed potatoes, green beans. Each of the adults had a glass of red wine in front of them and the boys had glasses of coke. They saw that their mother had given up her normal place at the foot of the table, so that Campbell could sit there. Campbell gave one of his usual 'Hail fellow, well met' fake smiles and then looked at Wayne. "Wayne, I envy you your sons. They are well turned out young men. You should be proud."
"Thank you Reverend. We have tried to teach them to be respectful and act as God would want them to act."
Campbell nodded. "Well I am looking forward to having Coleman working with us at our camp this summer. I truly believe that he will be an asset and will be a good role model for our younger campers. What about you Cooper? I expect you're looking forward to joining us at camp this summer?"
"Um, yes sir. It sounds like it will be fun."
"Of course it will be. I promise you will learn all about how you can grow to be a good productive godly man."
Campbell looked around at the table. "Well we don't want this wonderful repast to get cold, so if you will permit me I would like to offer a prayer."
"Of course Reverend we would be honored to have your blessing." Campbell gave Evelyn an indulging smile that said 'Of course you would'. Cole had to look down and hide the scowl on his face because of how his mother was practically gushing with admiration for the asshole. He schooled his face as he listened to the prayer.
"I humbly ask you Jesus, that you look down upon us, your servants, as we partake of this meal together as friends. May your blessing fall down upon us as we eat this food to strengthen our bodies, so that we may go forth and spread your word and do the work that you would have us do in your name. I ask also that you bless our glorious President as he endeavors to make this country a godly and Christian nation. Strengthen him for the struggles before him and all of us as we do your work. In Jesus's name we pray. Amen."
Cole kept his head bowed a moment longer so that he could hide the scowl on his face, after hearing what Campbell had said about Ashwood doing god's work. What an asshole. They began to eat. Campbell of course led the conversation. Neither boy contributed much to the conversation unless asked a direct question. They knew that when company was here, they were to be seen, but not heard. They were only half listening to the conversation by this time. Cole was thinking about what he needed to pack and also what to remind his brother to pack as well when he heard his name being called. He looked up quickly.
"Huh?" He looked at his mother who had a small frown on her face. "Did you hear Reverend Campbell, Coleman? He asked you a question." Cole turned his head toward Campbell. "I'm very sorry sir. I, uh, was thinking about school." Campbell waved him off. "Think nothing of it son. It's good that a young man such as yourself is thinking about his education even on a Friday night." Campbell then looked at Wayne. "You know it is so nice to hear of a young man thinking about his education instead of being glued to a computer and playing video games or listening to that gutter music that is all the rage among young people these days." Wayne lifted his glass of wine in salute. "Here, here."
Campbell took a sip of wine and turned his attention to Cole. "I was wondering about someone you may know. A Tyler Grant, I believe his name is."
"Yes sir, if it is the Tyler I'm thinking of. He is part of our Scout Troop." Campbell nodded with that attitude, but of course, he knew that. "I was wondering if you had seen him recently."
"He was at the troop meeting on Monday evening." Campbell shook his head. "What I wanted to know is if you have seen him since then?" Cole nodded. "Yes sir, at school on Tuesday morning I think. Didn't we see him there Cooper." Cooper glanced at his brother and nodded.
"Not since then?" Cole shook his head. "No sir. Not since then." Campbell looked at Cooper. "What about you Cooper. He's in your grade isn't he?" Cooper swallowed and shook his head. "Um, no sir. I mean yes sir, he is in my grade, but no I haven't seen him since then."
Campbell nodded. "If you see him this weekend please let me know. We want to make sure he is okay. What with all this unrest going on." He looked at both of the boys until they each nodded. He broke into a big smile and turned the conversation back to their parents. Cole and Cooper exchanged glances and went back to eating dinner. They soon finished.
"May we be excused?" Their father glanced at them and nodded. They stood up and began to gather their plates and glasses to take to the kitchen. "You boys will need to rinse the plates off and put them in the dishwasher and clean up tonight."
"Yes Ma'am." They carried their dishes to the kitchen. "Coop, why don't you start clearing the table and I'll start rinsing everything out and put it in the dishwasher. Once everything is cleared, will get the rest of the stuff cleaned up and then we can go up to my room and talk." Cooper nodded and turned to start clearing everything off the table.
For the next several minutes the two brothers worked together packaging any leftovers to be put in the fridge. They made sure the kitchen, and all the dinnerware was rinsed, and put in the dishwasher. Cole started the dishwasher, while Cooper took the trash outside. When he returned, they were finally free to head upstairs. As they neared the living room they heard Campbell.
"Wayne, make sure you call me right away, if your boys hear from their friend Tyler. We need to find out where…" He stopped talking as he saw the boys. "Mom, Dad, we're going upstairs. Reverend it was nice to see you this evening." Campbell stood up and walked over to them with his hand out. He shook each boy's hand. "It was my pleasure as well. When we start getting ready for our summer camp, I will contact you for a meeting with the other Camp Counselors and the Camp Director." Cole nodded. "Yes, sir, thank you sir." Campbell clapped him on the shoulder. "I will see you both on Sunday then." The boys nodded and headed upstairs. As they walked away, they could hear Campbell start up again about how they should be proud of their sons.
Up in his room, the boys could finally relax a little. "Gawd! I really don't like that asshole. As if I'd ever want to work with him at some camp that he had anything to do with. That's at least one good thing about us leaving. I won't have to see or listen to him, ever again." Cole paced a few moments before sitting down next to his brother. He glanced at Cooper, and he could see that he looked worried. He pulled his brother to his side.
"Coop, you know why he was asking about Tyler." Cooper nodded. "He wants to find him so that he can find his dads."
"Yep. So, what Mister Woods and I were talking about while you guys were delivering your messages was this." For the next half hour, he laid out everything about the Underground Railroad, and the riots in Nashville with gunfire and all that. He told them about Danny seeing the person he was supposed to deliver the message to, being led away in handcuffs.
"So you see, they are already starting and the sooner we can get Tyler and his dads out of here, and us of course. The sooner we can feel safe."
"Do you know where we're going?" Cole shook his head. "Only that we need to go west. I don't know how far, but the farther we are from here, the safer we'll be. I don't care how long it takes, or how far we have to go, but we'll keep going if we have to go all the way to the Pacific Ocean. But I don't think we'll have to go that far. I'm sure will find a safe place long before that."
"I hope so. I wish we could stay here. Maybe…no that wouldn't work."
"What Bro?" Cooper sighed. "I wish we could live with Grandma and Grandpa."
"Yeah me too. But right now, anywhere around here is not safe for you, even Grandma and Grandpa's. Besides I'm sure that where we're going, Tyler and his dads will be there too. They'll help us. I mean you're practically their son-in-law."
Cooper pushed away from him and punched him in the arm. Cole grabbed him and started tickling him. The two boys wrestled a bit on the bed as they tried to tickle each other. They stopped when they were out of breath, and lay there looking up at the ceiling.
"I'm glad you're my big brother." Cole looked at Cooper lying next to him and smiled. He reached over and tousled his hair. "Yeah, I'm glad I am too. Don't worry. We'll be okay." He got up and put his hand out to pull Cooper up. He reached out and took Cole's hand so that he could help him up. "Coop, you should go and get the stuff together that you want to pack."
"How will we get our backpacks out of the garage?"
"I'll go downstairs later after they've gone to bed and bring them up here to my room. We'll figure out tomorrow what we'll do next, depending on what the 'rents are going to be doing tomorrow." Cooper nodded and left Cole's room. Once he was gone, Cole began to get his things together. He made sure that he had warm clothes packed. It would be a bit bulkier, but he wanted to be prepared for the days ahead. He checked on Cooper a little later and looked over what he had set aside. He made a couple of suggestions about what he should add to his things and Cooper agreed with them.
They were both in their rooms reading a book, once they finished getting their things together to pack. Even though there was power, there were no radio or TV stations on. The TV just had snow on the channels. So they turned them off and put their earbuds in, to listen to music on their iPods, while they read. Their father poked his head in their rooms to tell them that they were going to bed and not to make any noise to disturb them. The boys nodded and Cole took the earbuds out so that he could hear when his parents had gone to bed. It took another half hour until he could no longer hear them.
He got off the bed and went out to the hall. He stopped and listened but there was no sound. He went over to his brother's door and went inside. Cooper looked up. "I'm going for the backpacks. I'll bring yours here, so that you can pack it. When you finish, hide it in your closet." Cooper nodded and Cole backed into the hallway. He listened once again, before he went downstairs.
He was careful as he made it through the darkened house. There was some light filtering through from the streetlamps out front. He went to the inner door that led to the garage. He was glad he was wearing socks as he stepped onto the cold concrete floor in the garage. Closing the door, he turned on the light and walked over to where they kept their camping gear.
He got both of their backpacks down from where they hung on the wall. He looked at their other gear and he grabbed a two man backpacking tent and their sleeping bags and ground pads. He attached the sleeping bags to the backpacks and put the pads inside for now. He also grabbed some extra nylon straps and dropped them into the packs as well. He looked over the other items on the shelves for a few minutes before picking a few more items to add to the packs. With one last look, he put his pack on his back and carried Cooper's in his hand as he went to the door.
He glanced back into the garage one more time. His gaze was drawn to his truck. He was surprised to find that he felt his eyes watering a little as he looked at it. He was asking himself if he would ever get to drive it again. He reached up and wiped his eyes. His brother was more important than any 'thing'. He'd gladly give up anything he had to protect his brother. He turned off the light and went back inside.
He stood there for a moment letting his vision adjust to the dimmer light. When he was sure he could see well enough so as not to bump into anything, he headed upstairs. He stopped at his brother's bedroom and saw that Cooper was sitting on the bed facing the door. He had the lamp next to his bed turned on and the overhead light was off. As soon as the door opened, Cooper stood up and carefully took the pack from Cole's hands. Cole stepped inside, closing the door behind him.
"I attached your sleeping bag to the pack. I put your pad inside, along with some extra straps. I also put a couple of empty Nalgene's in your side pockets. I would suggest you quietly pack it up tonight before you go to bed. I'll be doing the same. If you have a question, come to my room and ask me. When I'm done, I'll come and check on you. Oh and don't forget to hide it in your closet when you're done." Cooper nodded and put the pack on his bed as Cole left the room.
In both rooms, the boys were careful to make sure that they made no noise as they packed everything away. Cooper knew what he needed, so there was no need to check with Cole. He had just put his pack into the closet, when Cole came into his room. He smiled when he saw that Cooper was all done. Cooper straightened up and went over to his brother. "I think I have everything I need."
Cole nodded. "I've no doubt you do. Okay, goodnight Bro. I think tomorrow's going to be a big day. I love you." Cooper hugged Cole. "I love you too." They stood together for a few moments taking comfort from each other. They let go of each other. "Good night." Cooper stepped back. "Night."
Cole left the room and returned to his room. He stripped down to his underwear, brushed his teeth and got into bed. He shut off the lamp and put his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling of his room. In his head he was making plans for tomorrow. He tried not to think too far ahead, because he thought that if he did, it would worry him too much. Well, one day at a time. That's how to look at it right now. He'd see what tomorrow would bring. He turned on his side and looked at the clock. It was almost midnight.
Cole woke up the next morning when a weight landed on his bed next to him. He blinked his eyes and looked around for the source of the disturbance. He saw that it was Cooper. "Hey sleepyhead. It's eight o'clock. Time to get up." Cooper leaned in closer and whispered. "Remember Mister Woods, said to come early today."
Cole nodded and sat up taking the pillow from behind his head and tossing it at Cooper. "Okay, I'm up. Get out of here and let me get cleaned up." Cooper got off the bed and threw the pillow back at his brother before giving him a cheeky grin and leaving.
Cole got up and went into the bathroom to shower and brush his teeth. He dressed in some jeans and t shirt when he went downstairs. Cooper was already at the kitchen breakfast table eating cereal. His parents were just rinsing out their coffee cups and putting them in the sink. Cole went and got a bowl and spoon so that he could join Cooper at the table.
"Coleman. I'm going into the office to see if there is anything that requires my attention. Your mother will be busy with some of the other ladies of the church. I don't care if you and your brother go out, but make sure that you are back before curfew. We'll probably both be home in the early evening.. Just remember to stay out of trouble."
"Yes sir." Their parents were soon on their way. When they finished their breakfast, they went up to their rooms to get their packs and bring them downstairs. Before they left their rooms they looked around at them, thinking that it might be the last time that they see them. They did hope that one day, hopefully not too far away, they might come back or at least come back to their grandparent's home. There were more things that they wished they could bring with them, but they knew that they had to pack relatively light for the journey ahead. At least it wasn't like it had been over 150 years ago, during the time of the original Underground Railroad. They made sure their rooms were straightened up before going downstairs. Cole stopped at a side table that was in the foyer and placed an envelope with 'Mom and Dad' written on it.
"What's that?" Cooper pointed at the envelope. "I put a note saying that we were going to grandma and grandpa's to see how they're doing. I'm hoping that it will keep them from wondering about where we are for a day or two. When we aren't home tonight, they'll hopefully think we stayed there. I'm also hoping that it will stop them from trying to find us until it is Sunday night. Even then what with the curfew and all, they shouldn't be able to start looking until Monday. By that time, I hope we're a several miles away and they won't be able to find us. That is in case they care. Anyway, maybe it will buy us a day or two."
Cole looked at the envelope and then looked around the room they were in. He wondered if this was the last time that they would see their home. He shook it off and put his arm on Cooper's shoulders. "Let's go." They went through the connecting door from the kitchen and garage. Inside they headed for their bikes when Cole stopped and looked at his truck.
He shook his head and said, "Fuck it. I'm not leaving it here." He threw his pack into the truck bed. He walked back to Cooper who stood there with his mouth hanging open watching him. "What are you doing Cole?" "I'm not leaving it here. I'm going to take it to Grandpa's. We can hide it in the storage building like Mister Lindsey and Mister Grayson's car. It'll be safe there." Cooper shrugged his shoulders, carried his pack over and put it in the back of the truck.
Cole went over to the shelves again and he grabbed several of the backpacking food pouches that they had stashed there. He put them in a bag and tossed the bag onto the seat of the truck. "Okay, let's go." They got in and Cole activated the garage door opener and backed out. He closed the garage and took one last look at the house that had been their home for all their lives. He was upset that they had to do this. All because of people like Campbell. It made him dislike the man even more. He pulled into the street and drove the short distance to Mister Woods' house.
Mister Woods came out of the house as they drove up. He went over to the driver side window. "Cole, why did you bring your truck, I thought you were riding over on your bikes?"
"Sorry Mister Woods, but I couldn't leave it. I'll be able to hide it at my grandparent's house. Besides, this way I can carry stuff for anyone else." Rich looked at him for a few moments before stepping back. "Follow the driveway around and pull it into the back, so it's not visible from the street. I'm going to have you pull it into the garage for now, so that it is out of sight of anyone." Cole nodded and drove around to the back. He saw that there were several bikes in the backyard already. The garage door opened and Cole pulled inside. Rich closed the door behind him and waved for them to follow him.
He led them downstairs to the play room. They saw that all of the guys were there. They had been the last to arrive. A couple of the guys were playing a video game on the TV at one end of the room.
"Okay guys, pause the game. It's time for us to talk about what we are going to be doing today." The game was shut off and everyone gave Rich their full attention. He looked around for a few moments as he gathered his thoughts before saying anything. He wondered if he should hold anything back or lay it all out there.
"There are some bad things going on right now as you know. While you were out delivering your messages, Cole and I discussed what we can do to help. Also while you were out, we found out some more information. I was able to talk to a friend of mine in Nashville by radio. He told me some disturbing information. There are riots happening in Nashville, and he told me that there are reports of gunfire as well." The boys exchanged looks of surprise and began to talk. Rich held his hands up to settle them back down.
"Remember I told you about Tyler and his dads going into hiding. Well we're going to do what we can to get them out of the area. I'm going to give you a little history lesson. I know by now you all know about the Civil War." They nodded. "Well before the war, there were a bunch of people in the north and even the south who helped slaves escape from the plantations to the north. Usually they went all the way to Canada, because if they stayed in one of the northern states, they could be tracked down by slave hunters and sent back into slavery. They called it the Underground Railroad. We're going to do something like that, only it's going to be used to help people go to the west, not to the north."
Noah held up his hand and Rich nodded for him to go ahead. "Why to the west?"
"Well, last night I was up pretty late talking to people on my ham radio. Once I made contact with another ham operator, I asked if they knew Morse Code, if they did, we continued our conversation in Morse Code. If not, I asked if they knew someone who did know it. I've contacted a few people and I've been hearing some real bad news that was transferred back to me, some of it sounds outlandish. You know that messenger game that we've played in the troop. One person starts a message, which travels through everyone and then nearly all the time, by the time the last person hears it, the message is all messed up." The boys chuckled, remembering some of the messages at the end of the games and put some digs into their friends who had repeated the screwed up message. Rich smiled and got them to settle down again.
"Right, so you remember. Well that's why I'm not sure some of what I've heard is true or not. Anyway, we can talk about that later. For now I've made some preliminary arrangements with some of the other ham operators and we're going to send the first group west today. The reason we're going west is because that is where President Bryce, the one who won the Presidential Election has his strength. It seems that if someone can get on the other side of the Mississippi River, then they'll be in the part of the country where Bryce has control."
There were a lot of concerned looks and the boys started asking questions. Rich didn't say anything, he just brought his hand up in the Scout Sign and the boys settled down again, joining him in holding up the Scout Sign. "Two. Good, now, I have two things for you boys to do right now. First I have some messages that I want you to deliver for me. They are to the people that you delivered to yesterday. This time, they are only to the people that got the message yesterday. Unfortunately the ones who didn't get the warning message have probably been picked up and arrested."
The boys were shocked. "What did they do to be arrested?" Rich looked at William and shook his head. "They didn't do anything wrong." Several of the boys were looking confused now. Rich waved his hand in the air. "Forget that for now. I'll explain later. After you deliver your messages, I have another thing for you to do, but first I have to ask you a question." He paused a moment before asking the question he needed the answer to. "Do any of your parents have a problem with gay people?" He paused a moment to look them over before he continued. "Have you heard them using the words, homo, or queer or fag or faggot when talking about someone?"
He watched as the boys thought about the question. Most of them didn't know or weren't sure. A couple of the boys including Noah shook their head no.
"Well there's no help for it. After you deliver your message, I need you to bring one or both of your parents back here. It would be better if they don't drive over. Too many cars showing up at the house might cause one of my neighbors to get curious. Coming by bike would be best or by walking if you live nearby. You can bring one or both of your parents. I'll leave that up to you guys and your parents. Michael, I'd like you to bring your dad. I know his views and I'm going to need his help. Any questions?" Several of the boys started to say something, but Rich held his hand up to stop them. "Dumb question, I know you have questions and when you come back here with your parent or parents, I'll answer them." He looked at the boys one more time.
He nodded and pulled some papers out of his back pocket. He handed the papers out, there were less than before, like he had said there would be. He looked at the boys. "Okay, if you don't have a message to deliver, head on home and talk to your parents. If you have a message, I made it so that the place that you are to deliver the message to, is either near your house or on the way home for you. One last very important thing for you to watch for. We know that there were some people watching Tyler's house. There may be people doing the same thing at the place you are delivering the message to. I know you've all seen cop shows where the two cops sit in a car and stake a place out. If you see anything like that, then just leave. It's probably means it's too late and I don't want to bring any attention to you. So before you go up to the door, take a careful look around the street and make sure there is nothing that looks out of place. If you can get around to the back of the house that might even be better. Okay?"
All the boys nodded. "Then get going and be careful. Just deliver your message and leave. If they have questions, just tell them that you were asked to deliver the message and that's all. And if you are unable to deliver your message, when you get home, tear it up and flush it down the toilet to get rid of it. If you can't deliver it that will mean that it is too late to help them, or maybe they have already tried to escape themselves."
The boys left the room, until the only ones left were Rich, Danny, Cole, and Cooper. Rich looked at Cole. "I was worried about you bringing your truck, but now, I think it's a good idea. Especially if you can hide it like you said you can. You guys come up to the garage with me and give me a hand."
They followed him upstairs and into the garage. He led them over to where he had some gear stored. He started taking items down from where they were stored and handed them to the three boys. "Put these in the back of your truck Cole." Cole nodded and they put everything that Rich handed them into the truck. The items were backpacks, sleeping bags and ground pads, tents and cooking gear.
When they finished, Rich pulled a large tarp and some bungee cords off the shelf and they covered everything and secured the tarp so that everything was covered up from any casual glance. Rich led them back inside the house and let them grab some snacks before heading back downstairs to the basement. Rich had the three boys sit down with him.
"I wanted to let you know what was in the messages that I sent out. I told them to make their way to your grandfather's house, this afternoon. I put different times on the messages, so that they all aren't showing up at the same time. I also told them to pack up a few important things that are easy to carry in one bag. I know we're doing this without asking your grandfather, but I think we're running out of time. Whoever shows up will be the first passengers on our railroad." Cole had a grim look on his face as he nodded that he understood.
"When the boys get back, I'll explain everything, but what I've arranged so far is a few safe houses between here and the Mississippi that you will be able to stay at on your way to safety." He looked at Danny. "Son, I'm going to ask you to take notes on the path that you guys take."
"You mean I'm going to go with them?" Rich nodded. "Yes, but you'll be coming back, once the first group is safe. I plan on sending some of the other boys with you as well."
"You're not coming with us?" Rich looked at his son and shook his head. "No, I need to stay back here to coordinate communications and I'm going to keep Evan back as well. He was your ASPL, so I'm going to need his leadership to help me coordinate efforts around here with the boys. I'm hoping that if this works out, maybe he can find some more of the troop or even other guys he knows, that will help us. I'm sending you Danny, because I know that you'll bring back the information that I need."
"Cole, some of the stops that I've arranged are a little tentative, so they may or may not work out. You may have to hike most of the trail. I think at a couple parts of the journey, you may have a way to get a ride part of the way there, but I don't know for sure. That's why Danny, you need to take some good notes, so that we will be able to guide other groups that come to us. Now let me show you the route that you should take."
They went back into his workroom and he showed them what had been planned so far. When he came back out to the playroom, they heard the sound of the boys returning.
The other boys headed either home or off to deliver their messages. Those that went home went looking for their dads with the request from Mister Woods. For those with the messages, they made their way to the house of the recipients. Only two of the boys were able to deliver their messages. One of those that received the message was one of Damon and Grant's friends, who was gay, but it was not generally known that he was gay.
He had recently moved into Belle Meade, because he wanted to find a nice place to buy a house without having to live in Nashville proper, and still be near enough, to not have a long commute into the city. He had met Grant when Grant came to the company that he worked for on behalf of the law firm that represented the company. Grant was one of the junior partners of the firm. He had hit it off with Grant when Grant was handling the legal issues concerning a project that the young man was working on and they became friends. Grant had told him about where they lived. So, with Grant and Damon's help, he found a condo in the town. He had only met one or two of his neighbors so far. As a result, he wasn't very well known in town.
The other successful delivery was to a couple with a daughter and son. The woman worked closely with Damon on local ACLU cases and they had put her on the list because of what they had heard about Campbell wanting to pick up those who worked with the ACLU as well.
The boys who delivered their messages, just handed them over and left. They didn't stay to answer any questions just as their Scoutmaster had told them to do. Once they delivered their message they headed home and went to talk to their parents.
Because of what Mister Woods had asked them about what their parents thought about gay people, a couple of the boys were not sure at all how to approach either of their parents, but they were determined to try and find out. One of them that wasn't sure was Harlan. He had never heard his dad say anything against gay people, but he'd never heard him say anything for them either. He figured he'd talk to his mom first. When he went in the house he was surprised to see his dad in his uniform putting some coffee in a thermos, to take with him.
"Oh, um, hi Dad." Gil Marshall looked at his son and smiled. "Hey Harlan, where've you been?" Harlan hesitated for a moment. He wasn't sure if he should tell the truth or not, but his dad always seemed to know when he wasn't telling the truth. It made him a good police officer. It had helped him make Sergeant, and become a supervisor fairly quickly after joining the force, when his military enlistment was over. "Um, at Mister Woods house."
Gil had noticed the hesitation and looked his son in the eyes. He knew something was going on. "Okay, what's going on?" Harlan licked his lips as he tried to think of what to say. "Um, where's Mom?" Gil shook his head. "She's gone shopping. Now tell me what's going on. I know there's something that you're not telling me."
Harlan wasn't sure but he knew his dad wouldn't let go until he had an answer. He squared his shoulders and looked his dad in the eyes. "Dad, what do you think about, um, gay people?" Gil's eyes widened. "Shit." Harlan saw a look on his dad's face that worried him right away. "Are you telling me that you're gay?" Harlan was shocked for a moment as he realized that his dad had misunderstood him. He quickly shook his head and he saw his dad seem to relax a little. "Um, no, but I've never heard you say anything bad about them and I…um, have a friend who um, might be gay."
"Who is it?" Harlan shook his head again. "I can't tell you. I just didn't know about how you felt in case I ever have him over. I mean I don't want my friend to be uncomfortable if he's here."
"Okay. I guess I don't need to know who he is. Son, I knew some guys that I served with who were gay. Being gay didn't mean they were any less of a soldier than someone who wasn't. So no, I have no problem with them." Harlan let out a breath, relieved that his dad had told him that. "What's this about Harlan?" Harlan looked at his dad and decided to go with it. "Can you come with me over to Mister Woods' house?"
"Um, right now."
"Right now." Harlan nodded. "Why?"
"Please trust me Dad. It's real important." Gil regarded his son silently for a few moments. He could tell that Harlan was nervous about something and that worried Gil too. He hoped that Harlan was okay and not is some kind of trouble. Maybe it had to do with this gay friend of Harlan's. A radio car had dropped by the house earlier, while Harlan had been out, telling Gil to come into work at noon. He checked his watch and saw that he had time. He had meant to go in early so he could find out what was going on, but there was something about the way that Harlan was acting, that he knew it was important to him. So that made it important to Gil.
"Okay, let's go." Harlan was surprised. "Will you get in trouble for being late to the station?" Gil shook his head. "No, I was going to go in a little early, but I have plenty of time. So let's go and find out what Mister Woods has to say." Harlan nodded and they headed out to Gil's car.
The other boys met varying degrees of questions. Barry Pickens, Michael's dad quickly agreed to go. Barry got his mountain bike out of the garage, and followed his son to Rich's house. Both of Noah's parents were friends with their neighbor's, Grant and Damon. Noah knew that, and told them it had to do with their neighbors. Evan's dad agreed to go with him.
The boy who had the hardest time, was William. His mom had all kinds of questions that William couldn't really answer. He just kept repeating that it was important.
"Mom, it's just Scout stuff."
"Well, why can't it wait until the meeting on Monday? I don't like you out there with all the strange things going on around here. I'd feel better if you were here."
William got that whiny sound in his voice that his dad really didn't like to hear. When he heard that whiny sound come out of his son's mouth, Ken thought it was because Cherie was still babying William too much. At thirteen, he was getting too old to be treated like a little boy. He wanted his son to start growing up a little. He had convinced her that William joining the scouts was a way to help the boy become more independent. His mother didn't think too much of that. Privately Ken was hoping to cut William free from his mother's apron strings. Ken had enjoyed his time in Scouts when he was younger. He'd never made it to Eagle Scout, because his family had moved away and he had never hooked up with another troop in their new town. He had been an athlete, so he put his focus into that and did well. He really wanted to cut the apron strings that Cherie tried to keep William tied to. He was finding that those strings could be steel cables at times.
"Cherie. Don't worry about it. I'll come with you William." He saw there was a look of relief on his son's face and he smiled at him. "Just give me a minute and we'll go."
"Look Cherie, he said it has to do with the troop. It's probably just something about the meeting on Monday. I'll tell you all about it later." She looked at Ken and then William and smiled. "Okay. Let me know. See you later my little angel." She held William's face and kissed him. Ken had to bite his lip to keep from chuckling at the look on William's face when she said that. Ken put his hand on William's shoulder, and guided him out of the house. He didn't have a bike, and they were far enough away, to make walking not a good choice, so they drove.
In the car, Ken looked at William. "Will, or do you want me to call you William like your mother?"
"No, I like Will."
"Okay. Will you know if you take the whiny tone out of your voice, maybe she'll stop treating you like you're a little boy?"
"But Dad…" Ken cocked an eyebrow as he looked at him. Will stopped and turned red. "If something is important to you. Don't whine to get your way. Have a reason why it is important. The more you do that, the more you'll sound more grown up and maybe she'll treat you more like a teen than her sweet angel." Ken reached over and pinched Will's cheek. Will pushed Ken's hand away. "Daaaadddd!" This time, he purposely made the whine more annoying. Ken clapped his hands to his ears. "Please God nooooo. The death whine." Both began to laugh together.
Barry followed his son Michael downstairs to the basement where he saw Rich, Cole, Cooper and Danny. They greeted each other. Barry wanted to know what was going on, but Rich put him off, asking him to wait until the others got there. Soon enough the others started to arrive. Many of the adults asked Rich questions, but like Barry, he put them off until everyone had arrived. Rich greeted each person as they arrived, and there was only one left, Harlan and his parents. He heard footsteps at the top of the stairs and looked up. He froze as he saw the uniformed man following Harlan. He had forgotten the Harlan's father was a police officer. Knowing that the police might be involved with some of what was going on. He wondered if it was over before it even began. As they came into view, some of the other boys let out gasps of surprise.
Gil looked around the room of people. He could see that some of the boys looked like they had been caught doing something that they shouldn't be doing. Those adults who had noticed their boys' reactions, looked a bit confused. "It's cool Mister W." Rich looked at Harlan. He saw that Harlan didn't seem to be worried so he nodded and held his hand out to Gil. "Hi Sergeant Marshall. Haven't seen you for a while." Gil shook his hand and nodded. "Yeah, the job keeps me pretty busy. I wish I could take the time to do more things with you guys, but I've got responsibilities that prevent that."
"So what is this about?" Rich gestured for him to join the others. Gil noticed that some of the boys were still looking at him a little warily. He couldn't figure out why the boys would be afraid of him.
"Everyone, I know you have questions and I'm going to try to answer them right now. First, I would like to ask Evan if he could hook his laptop up to the TV, and show all of us some of the things that he's recorded since Election Day."
Evan went over to the TV and took a cable out of his laptop bag and hooked it to the TV. He soon had it ready and booted up the first dueling press conferences. "I think you may have seen these two press conferences on Wednesday, by Jackson Bryce and President Ashwood." Rich saw nearly all of them nod their heads. He looked at Evan. "The Breckenridge video." Evan nodded and started that one.
"I don't know if any of you have seen this. This is uncut video." As the video was run, there were several gasps of shock at the scene before them. "As you can see, this shows that these government agents opened fire, and killed hundreds of kids, and their parents in Breckenridge Texas. This was on Wednesday. The agents were following orders from the Ashwood administration." He waited until the video was finished before continuing. "Evan, the Thursday morning press conferences. I don't know if any of you saw either of these. They were on Thursday morning at…what time Evan." Evan looked up from this laptop. "Five thirty." Rich nodded. "Five thirty. So unless you happened to be up at that time and watching TV, you probably missed it. Play them."
Evan started them, Ashwood's and then Bryce. When they were done, there was a mixture of expressions on the adult's faces, mostly shock. "As you can see Ashwood tried to blame the Breckenridge attack on President Elect Bryce. Everything that is happening right now is because Ashwood appears to want to be a dictator of this country, not its President. He wants total control of this country. Over the last couple of days, I've discovered several things myself." For the next several minutes he told them about what he had found out about what was going on in Nashville, with the riots and gunfire. He also told them about the people that had disappeared." He paused a moment.
"There is also some other things that I found out overnight. Some of them are difficult to believe, but in light of everything that we've been hearing, I think you should hear it yourself, as I have no sure way to verify that it is real. However, I think there is at least some truth to them." He took a deep breath before continuing.
"Within the last couple of days, there were several things that happened, according to what I have been told. A huge bomb went off in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri, destroying the center of the city. A dirty bomb was exploded in Oklahoma City. A blister agent was released in Boulder City, Colorado. An extremely powerful earthquake has hit California, they say that San Francisco is basically gone. It ran all the way down into Southern California as well, causing widespread destruction throughout the state. Finally, Ashwood ordered the Navy to fire Sarin Gas filled cruise missiles at Austin, Texas. Texas has seceded from the US and declared war on the Ashwood administration, not the US, just the administration. There are unconfirmed reports that some of the ships that were given the order to fire, refused and they began to fire on those ships that did fire their missiles at Austin. There are also riots in many cities, mainly east of the Mississippi. They are being put down harshly by law enforcement and military forces. You will notice that the terrorist type attacks seem to be in the western half of the US. There are even rumors that Ashwood's administration somehow triggered the earthquake in California, but that seems completely implausible, so I discount that rumor. Supposedly there is a battle going on in Chicago and a little closer to home, in Memphis."
At each revelation, the looks on everyone's face was of complete shock. Some of them sat down because it was so much to take in. "I know this is a huge shock, but my sources tell me that it is all true. They told me that there is a Civil War going on, the east is under Ashwood's control and the west is under Bryce's. The dividing line is the Mississippi River."
Rich looked at them, but especially at Gil. If there was anyone here who could bring the curtain down on them, it was Gil. As a member of law enforcement, he might be called on to uphold the laws that the Ashwood Administration wanted in place.
Gil saw Rich looking at him and shook his head. "Don't worry about me, Richard. Now I know why the boys looked a little worried when I arrived. I can't believe that the country that I have served for so many years has come to this. Did you call us here to show us this?"
"Yes, but not completely, it has to do with something else. It is related though. I think you know Damon and Grant, parents for Tyler, who is in our troop."
"Do you know what has happened to them? We've been friends since they moved in next door to us. We haven't seen them for a couple of days now. You said that people have gone missing. Is that what happened to them?"
"No, Missus Myers, they're in hiding and safe right now. No. What this really is about came from an idea that Cole Anderson came up with." He looked at Cole and gestured for him to step up. Cole took a breath and stepped forward. "We, my brother and I helped them go into hiding because of something that we heard at an election night party at our house." He explained everything that Cooper had heard from the meeting in their father's study. Some of the adults were familiar with some of the men who were in the meeting.
"The more we heard, the more worried we were for our friend and his parents. The idea that I came up with was because of what I had been studying in school. It was about the Civil War. Before and even during the war, there was this thing called the Underground Railroad where they helped slaves escape to the north. I thought we could do that, to help people, that the government wants to arrest for no reason, to get to safety in the west."
"How do you propose to do that, young man? The Mississippi is what…" Rich spoke up. "About 150 miles from here." Ken nodded to Rich. "Okay, about 150 miles and then you have to get across the river. I'm sure any bridges across the river or ferries are guarded. I'm guessing they won't exactly let you through, because you want to go west."
"I've made contact with people who will do what they can to help the first group make it to safety."
"How are they going to get there? Just jump in the car and drive?" Rich shook his head. "No, they are going to be guided."
"And who is going to be their guide?" Cole slowly raised his hand. "Me and some of the other Scouts if you'll let them go with us." Noah's mom began to protest right away.
"You're asking these boys to lead people on a trip across the country that could get them hurt or killed. No." Noah turned around and faced his mom. "Mom I have to. Tyler's my best friend. I want to help him make it to safety."
"But you could be badly hurt." She looked at Rich. "You can't ask boys to do this. It's too dangerous."
"Missus Myers. All of these boys are good hikers and know how to make it in the woods and across country. They are all good with map and compass. They have the skills to do it." She pointed at Rich. "What about you, why don't you lead them and leave these boys here at home."
"I would, but I need to handle communications and coordinate everything. That's why I asked Barry to come." He looked at his assistant. "Barry, I'm hoping you'll go with the boys." Barry didn't hesitate and agreed immediately.
"Well Noah is only thirteen and I won't let him take the chance." Noah started to say something and she shook her head. "No and that's my final word. It is too dangerous." Noah turned around obviously unhappy with the decision, his lips tight in frustration. Rich realized that there was no use arguing. He'd have Noah stay back to help Evan.
"Okay. I was going to keep Evan back as well, to help me with things, since he's got the most leadership experience besides Cole. Noah can help him with coordinating things here with the boys." She accepted that.
"How many of you will allow your boys to be the guides for the first group?"
"How many will be in the first group that they will be leading?"
"I'm not exactly sure. At least five or six. Until they arrive at the first station, we won't know how many are able to get away." Rich looked at the parents. He knew that Noah wasn't going to be allowed to go. He looked at the others. "How about the rest of you? Will you allow your boys to help guide this group to safety? I'm having my son go with them to record what they encounter on the trek, and where each safe house is located, so that any subsequent groups will be able to more easily find their way to safety."
"Why not have Cole do it, since he is leading them?" Cole whispered to his brother for a moment and Cooper nodded after a moment. Cole squeezed his shoulder and stepped forward again. "I will be helping Danny record the information on our map, but I won't be coming back when they return."
"Because I'm gay too." They heard a low voice say that. They saw Cooper move up to stand next to his brother. "I'm gay and I told you what I heard my dad, Reverend Campbell and the other men say. If he ever found out about me, he'd probably either kill me or at the least, give me over to Reverend Campbell to be converted at one of those camps that he wants to set up. So I'm going and Cole said he'd make sure I was safe and taken care of. I'm not safe here and I can't go live with my grandparents either, because with the things they were talking about, my grandparents might get in trouble as well. I have to get away from here. We might be able to come back someday, I hope, because I'm going to miss my friends and all. I won't miss my parents, but you guys I'll miss."
Cole nodded as he put his arm around his brother. "I won't let anything happen to my brother. I'm hoping that Tyler's parents can help us when we get to safety. Like Cooper said, as long as Ashwood and other people like him are in charge, Cooper won't be safe around here. In the west, he will be." There were some surprised looks on the faces of some of the boys as they had never expected Cooper to be gay.
"So now you know part of the reason why Cole is leading this, besides it being his idea. He's leaving and won't be coming back. At least, not until this whole mess is over. Also they are leaving today."
"You mean you want us to allow our boys to leave today. We have to get everything together." Rich held his hand up. "Mister Whitman, does that mean that you are allowing William to be one of the guides?" Ken stopped and looked at his son. There was an expectant look on his son's face even if he was biting his lip nervously. He nodded and ruffled his son's hair. "Yes. That's what I mean. I am proud to let Willia…um, Will go along and help guide these people to safety." Will smiled and hugged his dad.
"See Mom! Me and Will are the same age. I'm a little older even, I think. Please let me go. I swear I'll be careful and do whatever Cole and Mister Pickens say. If they tell me to run, I'll run, if they say hide, I'll hide. Mom you gotta let me go. Please? This is real important to me. These are my friends. I know that they can use my help. Besides I may never get to see Tyler ever again if I don't go with them and he's my best friend. I love to hike and backpack. This'll just be a little longer backpack than normal."
Missus Myers looked at her son for several moments and then at her husband. She finally gave a small nod. Noah hugged her. "Thanks Mom, I swear I'll be okay." She nodded silently as she let him go. Her husband placed his hand on her back and rubbed it lovingly. "He'll be okay dear. Try not to worry."
Rich looked around. "Mister Marshall?" Gil nodded without hesitation. "If Harlan can help people, I'm all for it."
"Okay, then the next step is for everyone to go home, get your backpacks packed with what you would take for a weekend backpack trip, just add some more clothes and make sure they are warmer clothes. It's going to be cold at night and you probably won't be able to make a fire most of the time because it might be seen by others. If you have any backpacking food left over from other trips bring that along, since that stuff is lightweight and is filling enough. I'm going to give Cole what I have here."
"I brought all that I had at home too. Everything that you can bring will help, because we won't be able to stop at the store, or Mickey D's to grab something to eat."
"Let me show you the route that I have tentatively mapped out. Like I said some of these are certain, and others not so much." Rich spread a map out showing Western Tennessee. He began to explain each stop as he went over the route. There were eight stops or stations as he called them, in all. He explained that he had gotten assurances from one or two of the people along the route, that they would be able to drive the group part of the way. He expected if things went okay, they would be safe in about eight days. The plan was for them to make it to a station each day. He pointed at the points along the route where they would have to hike and where they had a chance to get a ride at least part of the way. When he finished he looked at everyone that was gathered around the table.
"I know that this is scary. The boys all understand that this is dangerous. If we don't help these folks, I can almost guarantee that they will be put into some sort of prison camp or worse, just for being themselves. That is not something that should be allowed at any time in this country. That is just not us. I'm confident in the boy's abilities, as I've been out in the wilderness with these boys quite a bit, so I know that they can do it. I'm proud that they have volunteered to do it and I'm glad you are allowing them to do this. When they come back, I think you will see a change in these boys. What they are doing is more than a lot of adults could or even would do. All through history, there have been young people who came forward to help others without worrying about the danger involved. During the Civil War, there were boys as young as ten who came as drummer boys and others as young as thirteen who carried a rifle and fought and died in the war. I don't expect any of these boys to have to worry about this. They will be going cross-country and only we will know where they are going." Rich looked at each of the boys and their parents.
"For now though, everyone needs to head home, and get packed. Cole is going to leave here and stop at each person's house to load their backpacks. You will need to make it as unobtrusive as possible, especially you Noah, just in case those men who are watching Tyler's house are still there. When he leaves, he will then give you directions to the first station on the railroad. You boys will ride your bikes to that place and they will be hidden for your return. I expect that you will be hiking out very early in the morning. We won't tell any of you where the first station is located, because if you don't know exactly where it is, then no one can find out from you where it is located. Just know that you will be safe for the night until you leave in the morning. Okay?"
Everyone understood and said their goodbyes. Missus Myers was the most worried looking. Ken knew that there would probably be a scene of some kind at his house with his wife Cherie, but he planned to just tell her that the boys were going on a little scout trip over the weekend to get away from all the craziness that was going on. He would explain more to her, once Will was on his way, and she couldn't do anything about it. Soon the place emptied out, Gil and Harlan were the last to leave. He waited until everyone was gone, except Rich, Evan, Danny, Cole and Cooper.
"Boys, Rich. This is a good thing you're doing. I know it's dangerous, but I think the boys doing it have a better chance of making it, then a bunch of adults that don't know what they're doing. I will help however I can. Since I'm a watch commander, I'll try to keep you up to date on what may be going on and give you a heads up, so that you can let the others know." He paused as a thought came to him. "By the way, how are you able to contact other people? You said you had to stay behind to handle communications. I know landlines, cell phones and the internet are still down. So how are you talking to other people that you were able to hear about all those events you told us about?"
Rich smiled. "I'm a ham operator. I have my base unit and we've been using Morse Code to communicate instead of voice, plus we're keeping our communications as short as possible. So far the administration hasn't done anything about that yet. They would have to do some sort of active jamming to stop us from using radios. They may eventually if they think about it, but for now, with everything going on, my friends and I are hoping that in all the confusion they will forget about us and we can stay in touch this way."
Gil shook hands with all of them. "Well if I hear anything about them wanting to start looking for ham radios, I'll try to get word to you, so you can do what you can, to either hide or maybe take a ride on your railroad yourself." He smiled and wished the boys luck. He and Harlan went upstairs.
Rich looked at the four boys. "I know you guys are all packed. I had Danny pack his backpack earlier, so he's ready. Danny, go put your pack in the back of Cole's pickup while I talk to him about the route." Danny turned to head up to the garage. "Oh and Danny, grab all the backpacking food that we have stored and put it in the truck as well. He nodded and left the basement. Rich took out some more maps. They were Topographical maps of the areas that they would be going through. Rich had marked the approximate location of each station on the Topo maps, so the boys could find their way to each place just in case they had to hike to them. He also included notes to describe the places they were to look for. Rich knew that the maps would be a great help to the boys on their trek.
For the next half hour, he went over the maps with them to make sure that they understood where each spot was. Danny joined them once he had put his backpack away. When he finished he folded all of the maps up and handed them to Cole. "You know where to go. Like I said I don't know if each station will be good. I'll leave that up to you, when you see the places. If there is a problem with a station, I'll expect you Danny, to bring that information back to me." Danny nodded.
"Well, I've prepared you as best as I can. Now it's up to you guys to make it work. All I can say is be careful. Hide if there is any chance that you can be seen. If it means you stay somewhere for a while to stay safe and out of sight, do so. One thing to keep in mind, the closer you get to the Mississippi, the higher the chance of danger. You guys have the skills, don't forget what you've learned. Danny is going to ride with you to your grandfather's place. I'm glad to have gotten to know you two boys. I hope to see you again someday. Good luck."
He held his hand out and Cole took it, but then he also hugged Rich. Cooper and Danny joined them. "Thank you Mister Woods. I'll make sure everyone is safe. We'll come back home as soon as we can." They stepped back and Rich followed the three boys back upstairs. Rich had talked with his wife the night before, about what was going on and although she was worried for her son, she gave him a hug goodbye. The three boys got into the truck and waved goodbye as they drove away to pick up everyone's gear and give them directions to his Grandfather's house.