Dateline: Near St. Olaf, Iowa
Muttering mild curses at his lack of foresight Rick was sweating heavily in the cooling air of the descending night. How could he have been so thoughtless! He’d seen the glistening shards laying on the pavement but had blithely driven right through them when he could have just as easily swerved around them. At the time though his only concern was his passenger. He’d been more aware of the effects of every bump and the continuing hard breathes between clenched teeth than he had of the possible ramifications of his choice of paths.
In order to get at the spare tire he’d had to unload the machines in the rear. To effect this he’d first had to seek out a likely safe spot where his actions would be unwitnessed. Not that he was doing anything wrong per se but because his plight would all to likely bring unwanted attention from a passerby, who’d then stop to offer help. Once stopped it would all too easy for them to catch a glance of Leadfoot and his evident misery. That would lead to questions and perhaps an offer to take him to the nearest hospital. An offer that would seem incredible to refuse considering the time it would take to change the tire. But how would one explain to a complete stranger that Leadfoot’s best interests did not lay in the direction of the closest hospital, given that it would be all too evident that he was suffering from a gunshot wound at the same time that a wide hunt was underway for a tractor-trailer combination being operated by a driver who might have been wounded in a gun battle with law enforcement? Perhaps the stranger would be more than a little sympathetic, and just as likely they could call in the law, ending Leadfoot’s freedom and risking everything the group had worked so hard to accomplish.
Once a suitable barn was found at an abandoned farmstead Rick had assured Leadfoot he’d move as quick as possible. Leadfoot assured him he could stand it. he was as loath to put the group and the hospital at risk as anyone, especially in light of what he’d already endured. He was determined that his contributions to the cause wouldn’t be for naught.
“How ya doing up there?”
Leadfoot heard Rick call to him as he sweated and grunted at the back of the Wagoneer. He called back in reassurance.
“I’m holdin’ on okay. Tire pretty bad is it?”
A grunt then a reply: “Yeah, time we got here it was pretty well shredded. Thought for sure these better grade tires wouldn’t puncture so damn easy. Sorry I was wrong. For your sake, not mine.”
“Ah’ll live, don’t worry none. Just wisht I could hep you unload all that stuff.”
Another grunt of effort. “Nyahh, not so heavy if you know how to do it. Just that my lift doesn’t work too well on this old floor here. Wheels are too small to roll easily. But that’s done for now. Wheew!”
Rick stopped to wipe the sweat off his brow. The last of the copiers was unloaded and moved out of the way. The hidden batteries within them made no small addition to their weight. Now for the easy part: get the spare tire and the tools from the compartment under the floor.
His movements only slightly slowed by his fatigue he worked as quickly as he could. The concealing plastic floor panel was pulled out, then the carpet lifted. Finally the fiberboard panel underneath. There in the well sat what he sought.
Removing the spare then the tools he set to work. The left rear wheel had punctured, losing air over the course of the past 20 miles. The last 2 miles had been driven on the rim, shredding the tire and gouging the rim itself. It’d have to be replaced. Fortunately Rick thought ahead enough to have a spare pair of rims and matching tires stored away. His spacesaver spare would stand the distance for a while, enough to get back home if he took it slow enough and stayed off the non-paved roads. Time to worry about that later.
Tossing a plate on the ground underneath the side of the car he placed the scissor jack on top and attached the jointed handle. The car rose in the air at an awkward angle until the destroyed wheel was clear.
Grabbing the compact lug wrench he set to work on the nuts after first removing the hubcab. In 10 minutes he was finished, the spare firmly in place, the useless tire dragged to the side of the barn and placed behind some detris there. It’d command less attention than the machines themselves, or not. It might also explain why several multi-thousand dollar business machines came to be sitting in the barn to begin with. If by chance they were found before he could return for them.
Dateline: PAS Supply Convoy
After making the tractor switch and dealing with the problem of the too-easily identified trailer the convoy of now two vehicles resumed their journey. Raymond and Charlotte ran ahead in the Explorer, watching carefully for other traffic, especially anything with official plates. Heading south from the rural Keystone area on Iowa 200 they caught US 30 and headed east towards Cedar Rapids. Once on 30 the driver could plausibly explain his presense. The plan now was to stay in the open, for all appearances a regular delivery run from the warehouse in Mount Pleasant, heading ultimately for Prairie du Chien via Decorah. The worst thus far was sweating out the entrance onto Hwy 30, lest surprise traffic catch the truck as it entered. Fortunately luck was with them and they made the highway without any traffic within visual distance.
A mere 9 miles brought them to Iowa 150, which they took north. For a moment they were afraid they’d been made when a County Deputy watched carefully from the intersection as the truck made the corner. The driver gave a non-commital wave as he came by, the Deputy scanning the rig carefully as if he intended to stop it. Ray and Charlotte were unaware of the drama save that they had seen the squad car sitting there and made a quick scrambled call to the relief driver.
Apparently the hasty placard job and the change of tractor models was enough and the Deputy remained on watch. It wasn’t until he was 3 miles up the highway that the driver made a quick double click to indicate that all seemed well. Wal-Mart trucks were after all not unusual on this highway as several stores lay along the route stretching south to north.
The next test was at Vinton, 13 miles to the north. After that another 13 miles would bring them to I-380 where 150 crossed over. There was an interchange there but nothing else. If stopped he could always claim he was just coming out of the store at Vinton. Workable only so long as no one checked or asked to see the inside of the trailer. One glance would tell that a stack of animal feed was hardly a typical cargo for the discount chain truck, nevermind that it was stacked to the far back doors.
It was now just after 2100 hours. Darkness was falling fast, the twilight dim enough that headlights were called for. Soon only lights would show in the distance and would as a result be far more readily picked up by anyone watching. Anyone wishing to check out the truck would have to either drive alongside or slow it to a crawl to see that it didn’t match the one being sought.
Almost holding their collective breath the intrepid patriots carried on. If all went well they could expect to arrive at the Aid Station around 2300 hours. A journey that should taken under 4 hours was now well into it’s 15th hour.
Dateline: Unnamed Location Within the US
The meeting went well. The outcast professor had excellent progress to report. His experiments to date had proven fruitful, so much so that he was overwhelmingly confident that the program was a complete success. All that remained was to produce the material in sufficient quantity to be useful. The men in the other SUV seemed quietly pleased.
The professor had his objectives in mind and his backers were willing to provide the resources he needed to meet those goals. To him that was all that mattered. The only ideology he cared about was his own. he could have cared less who was in charge so long as they allowed him his experiments, and then the exploitation of his research.
Insofar as principals he had virtually none. The only guiding precepts he accepted could be summed up by the text inscribed upon the Guidestones in Elbert County, Georgia:
THE MESSAGE OF THE GEORGIA GUIDESTONES
1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
9. Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
10. Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.
Little did the professor know how closely his principals were shared by his backers. Perhaps shared was too kind a word. It was if they themselves had carved the inscriptions upon the stones.
The professor didn’t care. To him the means were the end and the end was the means. All was the same and not. Not only did he talk like this he actually thought in that manner.
“I have my creation. My creation is the destruction. The destruction is the creation. All is the same and not the same. All will be as is and is not.”
The other three men present at the little gathering nodded sagely. They understood him better than he understood himself.
End Chapter XIII Part II