Brad sat there, trying to put all of this into perspective . . . . and it was damn hard to do. A month ago he was getting his “civilian legs” after a hitch in the Marines . . . one that had seen too many of this friends go home in body bags. But the Twin Cities just wasn’t for him anymore – he needed room . . . space . . . less people. The job in this quiet little town was perfect – the Sheriff primarily wanted a weapon’s instructor – and with his military training he had that covered in spades. He’d obviously made the same deal with the local community college that he had for E to get Brad his state required certifications, and in the meantime – he was an interim Deputy Sheriff. All of this was well and good. The town was exactly what he was looking for. The pay was fine as was the company of his new partner – E. But – honestly, listening to “Gramps” as everyone called him, well . . . it all sounded just a little bit paranoid . . . . maybe even a touch crazy . . . .
“You think I’m a nut case son??” Gramps could hear the wheels turning in Brad’s head and he could hardly blame the kid. Hell, they were both only a couple years into their 20s. Yet, both had been the “pointy end” of the spear – and E had almost come in one her countries finest aluminum boxes, complete with a draped flag. They were young, but both had aged significantly during their 4-year hitch. Perhaps a different approach then . . .
“Just what the fuck do you think’s going to happen Marine??” Gramp’s asked – with the sharpened edge of a seasoned NCO in his voice! “You think all these assholes in all these steel jungles are just going to roll over and wait for their “Uncle” another year to solve the shit sandwich our government’s handed them?? Or two?? They get nearly $1,500 on their little red and white cards every month . . . . only thing is that it only buys half of what they need to live. There are no jobs. There is not hope . . . . they are well and truly fucked! Just what do you think they are going to do??? You read about the D.C. Swarm – what a fuckin’ mess! And it’s not over yet. My people send regular reports back – about the attacks, the thefts, the roving gangs that are reaching south well into Virginia. You won’t hear about it much on the news – this government has the lid down tight – but the pressure is building.” His voice earnest, his passion obvious – Gramps moved his chair to within an arm’s length of Brad. “All hell is about to break loose . . . . and you know it!” His eye’s softened a bit . . . “Are you going to help us? Or do you truly think I’m crazy? If so, no harm done . . . we’ll keep looking for the right man.”
And that was it. Gramps had made his argument, laid out his evidence and challenged him Marine to Marine. If Brad couldn’t see it . . . then they had “chosen poorly” and they would go back to the pool of names he and Richard had and try again.
It was obvious to Brad that Gramps and Richard truly believed what they were telling him. Hell, he could feel that things weren’t right on his ride from the airport in the Twin Cities to his mother’s place just off the northeast corner of the beltway. He’d made the mistake of deciding to see “downtown” on his way home after being gone for nearly three years. It had been a mistake. The city of his youth was gone – stores empty, half of the hotels boarded up, people walking the streets always checking their six . . . not what he was expecting at all. Things were “frayed” as Gramps had said. But, ready to be torn to shreds . . . Brad wasn’t quite so sure. Still . . .
“No sir – I don’t think your nuts.” Brad returned Gramp’s gaze without batting an eye. “I’m not sure I’m ready to buy the whole story – but that won’t get in my way of doing my job. You want the rest of your deputies trained up – I’m your guy. You want me and E to build you an Army . . . . I have no fuckin’ idea how to do that at all!! But . . . . I’ll learn!” Brad simply stopped talking. Both sides had said their piece, made their arguments . . .
Gramps looked at Richard – and they shared a nod, both coming to the same decision at the same time. “Fair enough Brad, fair enough. There are other considerations as well . . . . your family for instance. How far are they outside of the city?”
A shadow of concern crossed Brad’s face – “About 30 miles to the northeast, maybe 10 miles off the beltway – why” But he knew why – if the cities exploded as Gramps believed they would . . . his mom and “little” brother would be in real trouble.
“You’re mom’s a plant manager, right?” Brad simply nodded to Gramps. “I suspect she could manage to keep track of a small army . . . couldn’t she?” Gramps had two things to consider – he needed a good manager and his contacts gave Brad’s mom very high marks in that area . . . and he needed her safe for Brad’s sake. “Two birds with one stone” Gramps decided.
“Yes sir, I’m sure she could. But there are other considerations . . . she’d have to be convinced, sell her house, find a college for my brother, move . . . and the pay would have to cover her expenses . . . . it’s a big step sir, a big step.” The more he thought about it . . . well, he knew it’d be a hard sell.
“Let’s see if I can sweeten the pot a bit then . .” Gramps pulled out his tablet to take a few notes. “Whatever her current salary it, I’ll triple it. I’ll buy her home at fair market value and I have a number of homes on my property – I’m confident she’ll find one she’ll like. If not, well summer’s almost here – hell, we can build her anything she wants. As far as your brother and school – well, if the lid stays on, he’d be hard pressed to find a better school than the U of I and I’ll cover his tuition. Think that’ll get your mother’s attention?” Gramps was relaxed again and leaned back a bit in his chair. The serious stare of moments ago had been replaced by a humorous little gleam.
Brad sat there more than a little stunned. He had a rough idea of his mother’s salary – Gramp’s offer came to nearly $300,000 per year. Add in another $400,000 for the house and a couple hundred for his brother’s school tab . . . . this man simply couldn’t be serious. Still – he saw no doubt in Gramp’s eyes – the offer was genuine.
“Sir, no disrespect . . . . but you are talking millions of dollars over the next couple years . . . “ Brad was subconsciously looking around this very, very modest – almost primitive home. Warm, sturdy . . . . but nothing to indicate that the folks here could pony up that kind of money . . . other than Gramp’s sincerity. “I’d hate to convince my mom to make this kind of decision only to have everything turn to shit – pardon my language – and she’s left to pick up the pieces. You know what I’m sayin’ sir??”
Serious once again – Gramps took a moment . . . “Son, if you commit to us, you’re family – plain and simple. And I take my family responsibilities serious – as do Richard and Cathy. And I hear the concern in your voice for you family as well – I like that. For your mother’s and brother’s sake – you need to get them the hell outta dodge – and soon! As for the financing of this, and what I intend to build – let’s just say I, well, WE, the family – have some pretty deep pockets.” Turning to E he asked “Child, you haven’t shared with this young man your little secret??” Gramps smiled – he already knew she hadn’t, she never did.
“No Gramps – you know how weird folks get when they finally recognize our name. Men especially – that’s one of the reasons I like “E” so much better than Elisabeth. Once they know a real first name they always want to know the last name . . .” She looked at Brad . . . “So I tell them it’s Franks. It never ends there . . . they want to know where I’m from . . . . so I say “Iowa” . . . and they just sit there a bit.” She watch Brad – waiting for the little light to flash on in his eyes – the same one she’d seen dozens of times . . . yep – there it was. “They they’ll typically ask – ‘Say, you any relation to that Dr. Jack Franks?? The one who cured cancer??’ “ Brad’s eye went from curious to . . . well, that completely shocked look she’d seen so many times before.
“And then Gramps – everything just goes to shit! Ya know?” She sighed and just waited for the questions to come . . . .
Brad just sat there – stunned, really. Everyone knew about Dr. Jack Franks, the man who “cured” cancer. It wasn’t that long ago, ’24 if he remembered right. Dr. Franks was an organic chemist specializing in the development of target chemotherapy treatments. In the mid ‘teens a method had been developed to shape nanoparticles to attach themselves to cancerous cells . . . and cancerous cells ONLY. The target cytotoxic compound was “simply” attached to the nanoparticle and “voila” you have a cure. Since the nanoparticle could be targeted for virtually any type of cancerous cell – well, this combination of organic chemistry and nano-technology cured about 95% of all known cancers. The results were breathtaking – with millions cured virtually overnight . . . Brad had been quiet for a number of minutes, running this history through his head . . . trying to draw a correlation between Dr. Franks and E . . .
“See why I don’t tell anyone Gramps . . . it turns their brain to mush . . .” E was looking a Brad – with just a bit of a smile, while talking to Gramps.
Brad closed his eyes, took a deep breath, rubbed his face with both his hands and after he’d lowered them and his vision had cleared . . . he looked at E . . .
“And you went in the fuckin’ Marines . . . are you out of your fucking mind???” Brad just shook his head. “We’ll sir, I suspect you can afford to do pretty much anything you want??!!” E smiled, Gramps just chuckled . . . . “You could say that son, you could say that. So, you in?”
“Yes sir . . . yes sir, I’m in.” And with that Brad, his mother and brother became “family”.
“Good to hear son, good to hear. Cathy? Could we get some more ice – Richard, how about another finger or two, let’s move on to the describing to these two a bit more about our plans and what they need to be looking for. Anyone who needs to should hit the head again, we still have a bunch of talkin’” to do!”
Again, chairs shuffled – “visits” were made, a bowl of snacks appeared . . . . Gramps checked the clock – it was closing in on 2200 already, damn the night was going fast! Finally all were back, glasses filled and snacks in hand. It was time to pick up again . . .
“Alright – it’s getting late so here’s the thumbnail. Brad, we’ve scoped you out pretty good – let’s just say my money allows me to have “friends” that can get things done. I know what a talented woman your mother is – she’ll be perfect as our “Personnel Officer”. She’ll be responsible for every person on our staff – exactly along the lines of a Marine personnel officer. You’ll put together a training team – martial arts, QCB and weapons. I want you to find us a tactician – someone who knows their shit, someone who can work out a plan to defend our little piece of the world.”
E stared off in the distance a bit – then looked at Gramps . . .”Gramps – what’s Tony doin’ – is he still in?” She had been Tony’s date for his Senior prom even though he was three years older. Like E – he’d enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. She’d even bumped into him in Africa early on in his tour – he was already a Platoon Sargent – a testament to how shorthanded the Corps were and, frankly, how talented Tony was. He knew his shit and he knew the area. If he was available, E thought he’d be a great choice.
“No idea E” Gramps said, “Find out and see what Brad thinks.” Gramps was working down the list on his tablet. “As for personnel and command structure – Richard will be the equivalent of the OIC (Officer In Charge), we’ll need four LTs, each will be responsible for a Rifle Platoon made up of four fire teams. I know, the numbers are a bit different than the corps – just live with it. And each Rifle Platoon will have two Platoon Sergeants responsible for two fire teams each. That shakes out to 140 Marines . . . guess my math was off a bit.” Brad spoke up – “No sir, it was just fine, you just added a couple LTs, and I like that. That give us 35 men per platoon, I like that”. Gramps just nodded and continued.
“I want these Marines to be family men . . . I want them to feel invested in the community – with something to defend and protect. As part of their sign-on bonus, I’ll include a home, I’ll double their last pay grade in the Corps and I’ll provide a full kit. That said, the other part of their “contract” if you will is that they’ll need to “work the farm” along with the rest of us. It is my intention to become fully self-sufficient within the next three years – and that’s a hell of a lot harder to do than it is to say! Everyone needs to buy into this – everyone. You’ll need to screen your candidates carefully – Brad, I suspect your mom will be able to help with that. So, while military skillsets are important – so is some knowledge of farming, general mechanics, we’ll need some folks who specialize in communications, radio communications, computers – the works. You two see where I’m going with this?” Brad and E glanced at each other and nodded – “We’re essentially building a Company Command – a bit smaller, but the same basic structure” E replied. Gramps smiled – “Yes Ma-am, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
E’s eyes clouded over a bit while she was mulling over the mechanics of what she’d just heard. “That’s going to take a lot Gramps – money, land, housing . . . . we’re talking about a shitload of stuff here. Can we really pull that off??” She had never really stopped and thought through the ripple effect of Dr. Jack Franks’s discoveries had had on her family.
Gramps smiled – “Child, we have – as they say – “more money than God” – and I intend to spend a good chunk of it protecting us and our new family. As for space – well, we now own the entire section – including all the housing and farms. A lot of our neighbors were ready to retire – they were grateful for the windfall and moved into town or moved on. Those that wanted to stay got their home paid for and all their debt cleared with the expectation that they would continue to farm for the “company”. Most stayed – and those that didn’t want to, well – I sweetened the pot a bit – made them “offers they couldn’t refuse” and they went to spend their profits elsewhere. Which leaves me with a number of properties just waiting to be occupied.” Looking Brad’s way he said “I suspect your mother will find something to her liking, maybe you as well.”
“Past that, I’m in “negotiations” to expand our holdings a bit, should have that settled by the time you two get back.” And Gramps waited . . .
“Get back?” E asked . . .
“Yep, you two need to go up and get Brads mom and brother and bring them home. We have a shitload of work to do and I fear that time is running out much faster than any of us think. Brad, I want you to give your mom a call first thing in the morning, let her know you’re coming. Don’t tell her why; wait until you can chat face to face. Tomorrow’s Sunday – there’s Mass at 10:30 and our Sunday meal around noon – I expect you here. You’re welcome to come to Mass with us if you like, just meet us at the church around 10:15, we have room in our pew for you.” Gramps smiled – they always sat in the third row back, up close to the right side of the alter. He’d sat in that same spot with his father . . . it truly felt like “their pew”.
“Sounds good Sir, I’ll meet you there. I assume you’d like us to head out first thing Monday?” Brad was already running the arguments for his mother through his head – she’d think he was nuts!
Richard took over the conversation – “Sooner is better, Monday is fine. A few rules though – been chatting with some of my sheriff friends between here and the cities. There have been a number of random car jackings, attacks at rest areas and even a few restaurants. It’s starting to get a bit dicey out there. You’re deputies – I want you to go out in full kit – vests, spare mags and a carbine each. Probably won’t need them – but no sense taking chances. And stay the hell out of the cities – downtown is getting more squirrelly by the day. The only thing keeping the lid on is that it’s still colder than crap up there – come summer, it ain’t going to be pretty. You two clear?”
“Yes Sir” a perfect duet of sound came from E and Brad. Both chuckled a bit.
“Well sir, if I’m going to be presentable for Mass tomorrow, I better head out. I’ll see you all in the morning.” And with that, Brad said good night and left the family to their thoughts.
“I like him.” Cathleen said. “Agreed” Allison threw in. “He started out a bit slow – but Gramps – you did your usual good job of laying out your nutty ideas, he’s on board.” She smiled at Gramps – realizing just how serious he thought things were becoming and what lengths we was willing to go to in order to protect his family.
Richard followed suit . . .“Right there with ya Allison – dad is nuts . . . ok, just kiddin’ Dad. Seriously, I think we have “chosen well”. E, I expect a full report after your trip, let me know how it went, how he really felt about things away from us and especially how his mother bought into the whole idea. We are going to be depending on her skills a lot – I need to know she’s really on board.” Richard looked at his daughter – where the hell had the little blond girl gone who’d sat on his lap, went camping with him and ate smores by the fire ring . . . damn, time was flying by too damn fast!!
“Will do dad – will do. Now, I’m gonna pack it in, been a long day and I may have had one or two fingers too many tonight.” E smiled, gave them all a peck good night and headed off to bed.
“Well Richard, what do you think?” Gramps was watching his son – knowing he was about to shoulder a tremendous weight . . . “A good start dad – a good start.”
UPDATE: Minor changes to story line.