Twenty-four hours after the event some information was beginning to be received. The event over Carolina had indeed been some sort of magnetic pulse as assumed, though its origin and method of delivery remained a mystery. Washington, DC was hit. Hard. Probably nuclear, but that was only speculation and not yet confirmed. That would be especially bad news given that political events in recent weeks had nearly every Congressman and Senator staying in town. If there was a major hit on DC the US government was now probably headless with federal administrative duties falling to regional military commanders.

The four nuclear power plants in North Carolina were still online, but idling for a couple of reasons. First, there had been some electronic damage to switchgear and primary substations from the pulse and these would require repair. The more ominous consideration was whether or not sufficient power plant employees would come to work to safely bring these back online. That wasn’t guaranteed as nearly the entire state workforce was staying home waiting to find out what was going on. This was exacerbated by the fact that there was no internet, telephone service, no television, radio or newspapers being delivered.

In all reality, this was the day the earth stood still.

As this new information was being discussed, the two guys who had visited the State Police station earlier had plenty more to add. The governor and his entire staff were attempting to get organized in Raleigh, but they expected it to be three full days before they would get a couple of broadcast radio stations transmitting again. Until then, Martial Law had been declared though with almost no impact given there was no way to announce that news and local law enforcement around the state was hit and miss. The city of Asheville had just purchased a new fleet of police cars the previous year and none of these were working. Best guess was that the pulse event disabled the ignition module or computer in most newer automobiles. This was just an educated guess supported only by the fact that older vehicles were now being seen on the roads.

Immediate problems were medicine, food, and communication. People could survive days without food. But there were no medical facilities open and no way to call for an ambulance if emergency service was required. These items were being read from the government’s Emergency Response Manual, three copies of which returned from the State Police station visit. It was a rather long treatise with 80 chapters that offered no discernible reason for hope. According to the manual, the first to perish would be those requiring daily medical attention, like kidney dialysis patients. Diabetics requiring injectable insulin would likely be next to go as it has a shortened shelf life at room temperature.

In addition to the lack of medical services, medicine would also be in short-supply. With trains, trucks, and automobiles unable to transport and deliver goods, the availability of medicines will quickly create an urgent need. Soon after, access to food would become problematic. The manual went on to detail all manner of bad news and grim scenarios that could only be averted if the crisis ended quickly, an unlikely outcome given what was known to have transpired.

It was the next section in the manual that made everyone in the radio room go silent. The chapter was on the social breakdown of law and order. Three days was the expected amount of time that most would wait before things started to turn ugly. After that, looting and general mayhem should be expected. No place would be completely safe, especially not public buildings that would be difficult or impossible to protect. Like this university building.

Now the conversation in the radio room turned to going home. These hams were used to meeting here in the face of every emergency they had faced. Until now. Suddenly no one thought it a good idea to stick around the club station for long. Better they retreat to their homes and use their own ham radio equipment to help organize the… the what? What could they do to help? This wasn’t like calling for help from the Red Cross in Charlotte after a tornado.

Besides, there was no point in remaining at this station while the power was out. They had generators and 200 gallons of fuel on hand, but that would be exhausted in a few days without guarantee of resupply. Then there was the matter of obtaining food and protecting their own families. They all agreed it would be best to hunker down for the duration in their own homes. They agreed on certain frequencies and times to meet on the air so they could remain in constant contact. But even that sparked a fairly useless conversation about how they would know what time it was without some sort of electronic tools…

It was settled. They would all leave the facility.

Clinton had been giving his own survival a lot of thought too. He had been born and raised in Boone, North Carolina about 90 miles away. His parents had both taught at Appalachian State University, though both had died several years ago. When he settled their estate he purchased a hundred acres in that mountainous region and constructed a small hunting cabin that he visited often. It was well-hidden and off-grid. He had solar and wind power available there and he desperately wanted to believe if he could get there he might survive this ordeal. The problem was the 90 miles. He was a strong hiker, but that would still be a three day hike in good weather and along paved roadways. It could take a week to hike there over less populated, rougher terrain. He figured if he had any chance of making that long journey unmolested, he needed to leave right away.

One day of that “three day” window of peaceful opportunity had already passed and the last thing he wanted was to be caught out on some lonesome byway in the dark of night with desperate, lawless marauders and black bears his only company.