Retreaters – Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3

Log In

Tuesday, October 2
6:36 am
Eau Claire, WI

Matt pulled into the parking lot of Eau Claire Building Products, Inc., the headquarters of the wood truss system manufacturer and lumber yard where he worked. He was still in disbelief of the text message he had received, which he had tied to a “Mission Impossible” ring tone. It was the first time it had actually gone off, other than the annual test last year. The sun had still not yet risen, and there was not light on the side entrance door, so he tried to feel for the right key to get into office building. Getting online was the only thing on his mind as Matt raced through the empty open cubical office area, flipping on lights as he headed to his office. He turned on his computer and threw off his jacket. Just as he was sitting down at his desk, his cell phone rang with the normal ring tone.

“Matt here,” he answered, without checking to see who was calling him, focused on logging into Windows XP.

“Matt, it’s Paul. I was just calling to see if you got the page and that you were up. Word is going around and we’ll all be online soon. Are you online yet?”

Matt replied, “I will be in a minute, just booting up my computer at work now.”

“Ok, great. We’ll see you on the forum them.” Paul cut the connection.

As the computer finally finished the initialization process, Matt went online to the CMMR group website. The name, CMMR, was an acronym for Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, the home cities of the three founders of the group who referred to themselves as “Retreaters”, of which Matt was a member, but not a founding one. In fact, at age 27, Matt was by far the youngest.

Matt logged in with his screen name of SR2Thompson and then clicked on the message board link. Immediately he noticed there were six posts already this morning, all in a thread titled, “10/2/12 – URGENT – Got the page.”

Just got page from SurComINT.net. We are level 4 alert, orderly bug out suggested. DHS is still on level 3, ELEVATED, yellow. So this is not yet main stream. Status? Paul

Paul, we’re up and Patrice is showering now. Will start packing next. What’s the plan? Morgan

I just got to work. Whats the situation? Joe

Scott is on the L on his way to work. Terry is in Austin this week and Nancy is alone. Their kids are both off to college. I’ll call her after we finish. I know she doesn’t have the page service on her cell. Scott and I will help her. Sandy

This is Natalie. Michael is up also. Kids are just getting up for school. What is the situation? Should I keep them home from school today? Natalie

EVERY PLEASE GO TO CHAT ROOM SO WE CAN DOO THIS REAL TIME. Paul

Matt logged out of the message board and clicked over to the chat room. Going to the chat room would allow for quicker conversations among the members. Where the message board was, more or less, an electronic bulletin board, the chat room was about as close as one could get to a real-time, in person, conversation on the computer.

SR2Thompson:

[SR3Rogers]: Ok, from what I see there is something going on in the way of a pandemic, and it seems nationwide. Confidence factor is 73%, that’s pretty high.

[SRPaulson]: Yeah, and its only the third alert they have ever done since they started the service in 2009 and this is the highest confidence factor ever.

SR9Hastings:

SR4Lutwig:

[SR12Weathers]: Who’s been following this?

SR10Saldnaha:

[SR3Rogers]: There has been very little to follow, unless this is related to the early flu outbreak stories in the news. We don’t know yet. I logged on to SurComINT.net and the page is exactly as it appeared on my cell phone. I’ll paste the message here for those who just logged on.

10/2/12 7:19 EST
SurComINT.net Level 4 Alert issued to subscribers.
Confirmation confidence factor: 73%.
Cell page function initiated for subscribers.
Possible epidemic outbreak: LA, NY, Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston, DC, and more reports coming in, including several rural locations.
Isolate from human contact immediately.
Possible relation to flu outbreak stories.
May be airborne, virus suspected.
Source unknown, no established pattern other than high concentrations of health care workers sick.
More to follow at 9:00am EST.

[SR12Weathers]: My God.

[SR1Paulson]: Crap.

[SR9Hastings]: I’m on. Susan is getting up. What’s the plan, Paul?

[SR6McCormick]: Oh no, Scott is going into Chicago now on the L.

[SR1Paulson]: How fast is this going to go? Should we go with Plan 101, 201, or 301? Is Matt on? Is he ready?

[SR3Rogers]: I already talked to Matt, he’s at work and just logging on now.

[SR1Paulson]: Oh, I see you there logged on now, Matt. Sorry.

[SR12Weathers]: Paul, what should we do?!

[SR3Paul]: Give it a minute for roll call. I think we almost have a majority quorum here now.

[SR4Lutwig]: We’re both on together now, Paul. Ralph is with me.

[SR10Saldanha]: I am here. Susan is on shift at the hospital.

[SR2Thompson]: Good morning everyone, this is Matt. I am on and at work, not at the retreat.

[SR3Rogers]: OK, I count units 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 on now. That’s enough to commit over $60,000 per our bylaws for emergency situations, backed up by the condo reserve fund if necessary. As President, I say we go with Protocol Plan 201 at this point. We don’t know what this is yet, but clearly we should go through a 201 stock up and bug out to be safe. The avoiding human contact warning really worries me. We should do isolation procedures. Matt, how is your day, can you take off work and do this?

[SR2Thompson]: Yes I can, it is a light week, business is still down. Give me an hour here to run some checks for the boss and I can take off back home and get started with the 201 procedures. Any special requests?

[SR3Rogers]: The basic 201-48 plan is around $50,000. I bet prices have gone up sine we last updated it. Is there any objection to doubling the the $5k per unit limit now?

[SR7Hathaway]: No, go ahead.

[SR12Weathers]: Fine with us

[SR10Saldanha]: We agree

[SR1Paulson]: yes fine

[SR6McCormick]: Go ahead.

[SR9Hastings]: No objection, we confirm

[SR4Lutwig]: We also agree.

[SR3Rogers]: Matt, do you agree?

[SR2Thompson]: Sorry, yes, I agree also.

[SR3Rogers]: OK, I agree as well. I’ve got a quorum and a clear majority here to double our preset 60k spending limit and proceed with a 201-48 plan. I therefore as Association President instruct Matt as our on site manager to do this. I’ll see you all up there within the next 48 hours, or as soon as you can make it. Check the group website for updates, otherwise proceed with the 48 hour bug out plan. Check the site hourly if you can. So this will end our business meeting here and now. You have your instructions, over and out. God bless and good luck to you all. Matt, I’ll call you later this morning.

[SR1Paulson]: Paul, who are we missing?

[SR3Rogers]: I’ll call everyone we missed and post an update later today. I’ll call Nancy Powell, the Ramckes, and the Ericsons. Then, Farmer Benny and give him the heads up as well that we are on our way soon. I tried them all earlier but their lines were busy.

[SR6McCormick]: Paul, this is Sandy. I’ll wait a minute for you and then call Nancy too. In fact, I’ll see if she needs our help. With Terry is out of town and the boys are in college, she will need help. She lives in the John Hancock Center, downtown Chicago. We will look after her.

SR1Paulson:

SR4Lutwig:

SR12Weathers:

[SR3Rogers]: Ok Sandy, just give me five minutes, and I’ll tell her to expect your call. Yes, thanks for helping her. Call her sons too if you can. If Terry is out of town, they’ll get to her, they are good guys. They go to college right in Chicago so they can get her packed and on her way.

SR2Thompson:

Matt closed the Internet connection and opened his spreadsheet software. He opened and printed out CMMR Protocol Plan 201. He then printed off the purchase order fax sheets that accompanied the file. He took a moment to glance through the plan. The protocols were set up in a manner similar to college courses, with 101 being the most basic up to 401 being for the most traumatic emergency situations. The 201 plan involved the most for Matt to do as the live-in manager of the retreat. He was the youngest full member of the group and the only full-time resident. For the rest of the group, the retreat was recreational property. Matt was expected to work with Farmer Benny, Paul’s brother in law of his second wife, and oversee the small livestock and farming operation the group had paid to have on site.

Matt wondered how the others in the group were going to react. The soonest any of them would probably arrive would be five or more hours from now. He thought about the purchase orders he needed to fax and the deliveries that should start arriving and probably go on all week. He realized he would have to be at the retreat by noon at the latest.

Matt walked over to the fax machine with the pre-done purchase orders in his hand. About ten of them total, they were orders for delivery of everything from food to propane, building materials, to ammunition. Each order was sent to a local company that had a pre-established business relationship with the CMMR group. Within 10 minutes, all the faxes were scanned in the machine being sent out in turn. Matt wondered how much of this they would actually receive, which in turn depended upon whether the crisis was real and how fast it would spread.

Jerry walked in just as the fax machine made the fourth transmission connection. “Starting a little early today Matt?”

“Yeah. Look, I’ve got a few things to do and then I’m going to have to take a few personal days. Something came up with my other job. There’s only about two dozen checks for you to sign and a few invoices for me to get out. After that, we should be good for the week. Everyone else I can do from logging in from home.”

Jerry replied, “All right, but I may need you to change the invoice for the Johnson house. I’m told we’ll get a change order today, and they will be in to sign it.”

“No problem. You can just scan it here and email it to me at home. I’ll log in from there and change it as needed, then send it to print here.”

Matt walked back to his office as Jerry went off to start the coffee maker and turn on the rest of the lights. He logged on to his email and there it was, a warning email from SurComINT.net, which was the Survival Communications International Network, a subscription service site that paged members in case of local emergencies with optional alerts for weather and breaking news alerts. The service could not only email subscribers, but send text messages to cell phones. After today’s alert, Matt figured his subscription fee had paid off well. SurComINT.net utilized not only the main news wires but monitored radio traffic in all the major cities, counties, along with even HAM radio transmissions. Overall, the service was probably the top centralized source and clearing house for real time monitoring of disasters.

Matt opened the email message from SurComINT.not. The alert was now at a Level 4.5, with a confidence factor of 87%. Possible epidemic outbreak in most large cities, several rural areas, twenty-seven states total. The email went on to state the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had been alerted to the possible outbreak. There was a link to click for the full story and Matt did so.

Robert Truman, Director of SurComINT.net Information and Alert Service

Dear Members and Subscribers:

In the past twelve hours, we have raised our alert status from Level 3 to our newly created Level 4.5. The criteria does not strictly meet a full Level 5, though we do recommend treating it as such. Subscribers should have received the text pages this morning between 7:10 and 7:40am EST. We are now on the air on the shortwave frequencies listed on this site every half hour for a 90 second update, as we attempt to assemble all the reports coming in from our sources.

Our original information came from several county level health organizations that have been reporting to the CDC at a highly alarming rate. The only pattern seems to be certain facilities have seen a significant percentage of their health care workers start to come down with this illness all at once. The sick also includes the elderly and very sadly, an unusually high percentage of pregnant women.

The CDC has not confirmed the story. But we have three unconfirmed sources saying we are dealing with what seems to be a type of smallpox, or something very similar. We are working to confirm this rumor now.

We believe there is an intentional national blackout by the media on this story. Our sources indicate the National Guard in several states is going to be called up, and alerts are being prepared to go out to CERT units, and that Emergency Response Units. One of our sources heard from military channels something about a “Winter Night II” scenario. We don’t know, at this point, what that means. But, it does sound suspiciously close to the national Dark Winter smallpox drill of the late 1990s.

All information we have in the US is based upon local and unofficial reports at this time. Be sure to check back after noon today EST for a more formal update.

Just as he finished reading the message, Matt’s cell phone rang.

“Matt, sorry to bother you at work, this is Paul. Did you see the Level 4.5 on SurComINT?”

“Yep, it is on my screen now,” Matt replied.

“Ok, look, I have reached everyone now and left a message on Farmer Benny’s machine. I know we’ve been through this and we all agreed to not second guess ourselves if this actually happened. The protocol puts you on a shopping trip for at least half the day and I’m worried about the potential exposure for you. You’ve got to wear a mask or something. I know that looks ridiculous, but people did it back in 2009 for a while with the H1N1. I’m sure you saw the word smallpox. They say it is all over so be careful. You’ve got a N95 mask right?”

“Of course, in the bug out bag in my van. I know, Paul. I’ll be careful.” said Matt.

“Do everything you can by phone, Matt. I just got off the phone with my broker and I’m liquidating a lot of my stocks. I will front the cash if need be. I want you to exceed the 201 protocol and buy extra where you can. I’m really worried about this one, it may be what we’ve been preparing for.” As he spoke, his voice seemed to waver a bit, without his usual self-assuredness.

“Ok, Paul, I’m taking this as seriously as you are. I’m off to the wholesale club now with an empty van. I’ll fill it and be back to the retreat shortly after noon.”

“Do the mask procedure, Matt, as stupid as it will make you look. Do it and once you’re back to the retreat, do a UV and bleach treatment, just to be safe. Stay there, don’t leave for the rest of the week, no matter what. We need you there. We are counting on you to be there.” said Paul, in a somewhat rushed voice.

“I know Paul, that’s what I’ve agreed to do as on site manager. You can trust me, I’ll follow through. I’m on my way now, OK?” said Matt.

“Good. I’ve always liked you Matt. We were lucky to find you. There will be a lot on your shoulders the next 48 hours or so.” said Paul.

“OK, I can handle it. You know, this isn’t confirmed by the government yet, Paul. It may not be the big one. We just pulled the trigger on a ton of spending. This could be the bird flu scare all over again.” said Matt.

“You must treat it as a big deal, Matt. I don’t care if you view it as a drill or whatever, strict procedures from now on, no slip ups. I know it seems stupid to most people, but this is where we distinguish ourselves from most people – and survive what I fear is coming. Focus and make this the most serious thing in your life Matt. Never mind the ‘sheeple’ around you. Eleven families are depending on you and what you do in the next 48 hours. I wish you would go home now, back to the retreat, and do everything by phone and online from there. We need you Matt.” Paul’s voice again cracked slightly at this last.
“OK, I’ll just make a run to the warehouse club today, then wait for whatever deliveries I can get in, that’s it, I’ll stay there then, I even just cleared that with my boss.” replied Matt.

“Remember, money, shopping carts, door knobs, and hand rails can transfer viruses. The minute you get home, go through decon procedure, then stay there, OK?”

“I will, I promise. I’m using a credit card anyway.” Matt said, stunned at how Paul was repeating himself over and over.

“OK, Matt. Good job. See you soon. We made the right choice with you. Bye.” said Paul.

“Bye, Paul,” Matt replied then pressed the End key on his cell phone, shaking his head. That was by far the least composed Matt could ever remembered Paul being. As a business man and real estate developer, Paul had always seemed completely in control. Matt guessed the situation probably hit home for Paul, that this might be for real, after he had spent all morning on the phone and online with everyone, no doubt hearing all their fears.

Matt managed to get his focus back on business and started completing his work so he could leave early. He could feel his heart still racing a bit and having to sit still and print checks was a little tough to do.

By a quarter past ten, Matt had accomplished all he knew he had to do, and logged off, pushing his wheeled chair away from his computer. He spun around and grabbed his Victorinox Explorer Swiss Army knife and Mini-Mag flashlight out of his desk drawer. Pausing, he looked over the nearly empty box of printer paper. He emptied out the last two reams and started to put some of his personal items from the desk into the box. Matt found himself contemplating the thought he might not come back for a while and wanted to make sure he grabbed anything useful or meaningful to him.

He was so caught up in his thoughts he didn’t hear Barb step into his office and he jumped in his chair when she said, “You leaving us, Matt?”

“No,” he replied as his heart threatened to burst through his chest. “Just a couple personal days and thought I’d clean up a bit too before I headed out.” Matt said.

Barb smirked and walked out as Matt quickly finished up and headed out to his van. According to plan, he was now to make a wholesale club run before any of the orders began arriving at the retreat, as early as this afternoon.

The club was five miles away. He took a minute and tried to call his Uncle Larry in Sturgeon Bay but there was no answer. He then tried his sister in Phoenix but Matt surmised she was already at work. He left a message for each to call him. He pulled the into the parking lot of the club. His business membership let him enter the building before noon. He couldn’t bring himself to put on the N95 mask he had grabbed from his bug out bag, but put it in his pocket, along with two sanitary hand wipes.

He grabbed a flat bed push cart, and waived his membership card at the greeter, who nodded as he entered. The store was relatively empty so he wasn’t worried about having to use the mask. Matt figured if someone got close to him and coughed he would hold his breath until he was safely away. He grudgingly admitted to himself it seemed silly but the fear of being wrong and slipping up kept coming back. He wouldn’t only jeapordize himself, but the others as well if he got sick.

After piling on some dog food for Mutt, and some bottles of bleach, jumbo sized bottles of laundry detergent, and industrial sized jugs of all-purpose cleanser laundry and kitchen soaps and cleaners, he headed for the health care products. He loaded the cart with cases of basic health supplies – soap, toothpaste and brushes, shampoo, deodorant, vitamins, and several over the counter medications. Uncomfortably he also grabbed several women hygiene products. Matt attracted a few interested stares as he muscled the cart around the store. He topped it off with four 60-roll packages of toilet paper. The cashier didn’t seem fazed at all by the large purchase. Matt had set a new personal record of spending almost five thousand dollars. The load fully filled his van, which had the back two bench seats already removed for hauling.

As Matt drove out of the parking lot, he saw an H2 and was prompted to try his Uncle Larry one more time. His Uncle had bought the H2 in what Matt referred to as a post mid-life crisis. Larry liked to describe it as the sheep in wolf’s clothing. Larry answered on the second ring.

“Matt! You were on my call back list but obviously it can’t wait. What can I do for you?” said Larry.

Smirking, Matt replied, “What makes you think I’m going to ask you for something?”

“Experience,” and Matt could hear the smile in Larry’s voice.

“OK, seriously, the group is following the 201 protocol right now. I’m just leaving the warehouse club here in Eau Claire with a van load. Did you check your email? Do you know what is going on?” Matt asked.

“No, I haven’t had the computer on yet today. I spent most of the morning helping Max winterize his boat. What’s the situation? How much time do we have and what do you need me to do?” Larry asked, familiar with the protocols as a co-member of the group with Matt.

“SurComINT says there’s an outbreak of some kind affecting health care workers in large numbers and the unconfirmed rumor is smallpox. It seems very broad, affecting many emergency rooms across the nation. Something is going on, so Paul got a majority vote this morning on the group, live, for a 201 protocol with expanded spending authority to $120,000. Can you believe that?” Matt said with emphasis.

“I see. I haven’t heard a thing on the radio, so there is likely time. It will take the government more than a day to ramp up and fully respond to anything like this. I’ll watch out here and start packing now. Anything you short on?”

Matt thought for a moment, and then it hit him like a smack in the face. “Batteries! I just walked out without buying a single battery! How stupid am I? Larry, grab some extras of the usual stuff but if you could snag some extra batteries too, that would be great. I had all the purchase orders faxed out right away this morning and the deliveries could start arriving today, especially supplies from Menards and food from Sysco. Overall, we should be in good shape regardless as we were near 70% of most of our storage goals already.” said Matt.

“Sounds good. I’ll hook up the trailer and start filling the fuel tanks. Are we in good shape with reloading supplies and equipment?” asked Larry.

“We’ve got the basics covered. I put in an order to Midwest in Lomira, so if you want to stop by there and pick it up on your way, that’d be cool.” pressed Matt.

“I can swing down to Midwest, then take Highway 10 over. I think I’ll stop by and see an old friend that lives out that way. I can be down to Ed’s place by seven and then to Midwest’s front door when they open. I’ll call you en route by cell and also have the two-meter radio on our regular frequency if needed. I doubt it’ll come to that, I think we have couple days but we should use the time wisely. Everyone is coming up then?” asked Larry.

“Yes, it’s a 201 Protocol, the 48 hour plan. I hear Terry Powell is in Texas or something at the moment.” said Matt.

“Well, he should have time to get back. He’s the one that is really loaded, right? Hopefully, he’ll charter a jet or something.” said Larry.

Matt hesitated, then said, “Paul actually sounded a little nervous. OK, more like really nervous actually. First time I’ve ever heard him sound like that.”

“Never know what a real emergency situation, or combat, does to a man until it happens. The important thing is to not get emotional or lose focus. We have a good plan and its time to follow it, by the numbers. I will see you tomorrow. Call or email me tonight with anything else you need. I’m planning on being on the road by half past four tomorrow morning so I can hopefully avoid the traffic. Think I might make a few purchases too. There’s a few things I’ve had my eye on for a while but could never justify the price…until now. I think I’m going to buy birthday presents for the next 10 years today.” said Larry.

“I’m guessing that includes night vision, right?” Matt asked.

“Well, that among other things, yes. Third generation scopes always seemed priced too high for me, but if we need it, that second generation stuff doesn’t do the job at long range on dark night.” said Larry.

Matt chuckled. “Oh boy, big kid in a candy store, good shopping.”

“It may be more meat and potatoes than candy, Matt. Speaking of which, in case we go into lock down mode, should I stop and pick up some normal, healthy food for us? What’s in your fridge right now? I’m betting a couple cases of Liene’s red long necks and, at best, a few frozen pizzas in the freezer?” Larry said with playful chastising.

“Ah, well, yeah, why don’t you stop and pick up some groceries too. Good idea.” said Matt.

“OK, will do. ETA tomorrow at fifteen hundred. Over.” said Larry.

“Confirm you at three pm, over.” replied Matt.

“Roger. Over and out.” With that, Larry hung up.