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Friday, August 26, 2011

#FridayFlash: On the Georgia Road 2

The first one was received well enough that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post another.

“Gas rationing has made the Great American Road Trip a thing of the past. But even in unincorporated areas, the interstates are still open. They may get only a fraction of the traffic they did in years past, but the federal government considers them vital. In today’s segment of On the Georgia Road, our Sean McKinzie has more.”

Cut to: Sean McKinzie, exterior, freeway overpass. Below, an occasional car or motorcycle passes by. “Thanks, Marcia. It’s a little-known fact, but the interstate system was built partly as a defense project. It’s official name is the ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.’”

Cut to: infographic. INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM / Construction began in 1956 / About 47,000 miles long / Nearly 60% of the system lies in Unincorporated Areas. “Officially, the Interstate Highways are considered incorporated areas of the country. But in practice, while you might drive safely from Atlanta to Chattanooga and back, you aren’t likely to find any open gas stations along the way — and if your car breaks down, you’re on your own.”

Cut to: Sean in front of boundary sign. “In late 2015, a modern-day version of the highwayman began to plague the freeway system. Makeshift barricades caught unwary travelers, who lost their fuel — and sometimes their lives — to banditry. Stories have a way of growing in the telling, and recent polls show that three out of four people living inside the Georgia Quadrangle believe that venturing into Unincorporated areas is likely to be fatal.”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, military convoy. “But the military, charged with keeping the system open, has been patrolling since the spring of 2016. I-85 and I-185, the route from Atlanta to Columbus, get special attention. Captain James Galloway, of Fort Benning’s 75th Ranger Regiment, recently invited us to ride along with the patrol — On the Georgia Road.”

Cut to: Capt. Galloway, interior, office. “The biggest battle was in Congress. Representatives of Unincorporated Areas blocked our initial efforts, citing the Posse Comitatus Act, then made it very difficult to get the Act modified to specifically allow us to do our jobs. It took an Executive Order from the President to cut the red tape. After that, we began clearing the highways under strict rules of engagement. Those made life difficult at first, but by fall of 2016 we had re-opened all but the most remote sections of the system.

“At first, we would simply remove barricades by whatever means necessary. Then the bandits began using portable barricades, and we resorted to satellite surveillance to locate trouble spots until they caught on and used overpasses to conceal their activities.

“Nowadays, we use a vehicular version of the naval ‘Q-ship.’ Those were naval vessels disguised as merchant ships, intended to draw the enemy out from ambush. A decoy car takes the point position, usually with a crew of four: driver, data logger, and two armed guards. The car is specially modified with armor and gun ports, but is indistinguishable from a civilian vehicle until you’re right on top of it.

“Behind the decoy is one or more reinforcement vehicles, again indistinguishable from a civilian vehicle, carrying more troops. The banditry problem has all but disappeared since we began using this tactic.”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, roadside. Camera angle very low, showing a blimp far above. “In fact, this section of freeway is so secure, the Army now has tethered blimps to old billboard posts to do most of the watching for them. This has several advantages over satellites, including constant surveillance of the areas in question. While it is possible for a determined bandit to climb up and cut the tether, or punch holes in it from the ground with a high-powered rifle, the blimps have certain non-lethal defenses that were not explained to us for security reasons — and tampering with a blimp is certain to draw a forceful response. ‘De-tethering’ a blimp, as Captain Galloway describes it, does not disable it right away. It will attempt to hold its position and altitude as long as possible, usually long enough for a maintenance crew to arrive on-site.”

Cut to: Sean, interior, in vehicle, surrounded by soldiers. In the background, military radio traffic can be heard. “We are now in a reinforcement vehicle, on the way to Columbus. While this is officially a combat mission, the atmosphere is relaxed. Of course, that can change in an instant, depending on what the decoy vehicle sees.”

Cut to: exterior shot from moving vehicle. Several burned-out vehicles scattered on either side of an overpass, another nearly covered by weeds. “This is the site of the last action seen along I-85, over a year ago. Since then, we’re told, there have been only isolated incidents, usually after someone breaks down or runs out of gas — in other words, the same kind of thing that can happen along I-16 or I-20. Night patrols occasionally run into races, which are usually dispersed with warnings unless they run across contraband or repeat offenders.”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, Fort Benning. “We safely arrived at Fort Benning, so we’ll stay in Columbus for some amount of time before hitching a ride back to Atlanta with the next convoy. The patrols happen at random intervals, but always at least twice a week. We’ll bring you news from Columbus in separate segments until we head home. On the Georgia Road, at Fort Benning, I’m Sean McKinzie.”


  1. ... and that's exactly how the decline will begin. Not with some catastrophic zombiepocalypse, but with gas getting more and more expensive. Surprised there aren't more electric vehicles, though.

  2. Tony, they're around, but Unincorporated areas don't get a lot of electricity either. They're around, just part of the background as far as the TV news is concerned.

    Up in the Pages section, the FAR Future link (my first serial) does a novel-sized treatment of the decline.

  3. I really love these posts of yours. A bit Mad Max, and love the mention of highwaymen.

  4. neat - it's like a post-apocalyptic Cops episode! fun stuff :)

  5. Interesting format, a mix of prose and screenscript. Nicely done on all counts.

  6. Detethering blimps sounds a bit like the post-apocalyptic version of cow tipping. More dangerous, of course, since cows have fewer options for forceful response.

  7. Ha! I thought this was leading me into backroads Horror. Nope, just pragmatic political fear. These sounded like worries I'd read in your other fiction, so I'm not surprised there is a novel-sized treatment floating around.

  8. Zing! Jackpot here. I have driven that road at least fifty times over the last $*+ years and it gets more crazy every time. I'm not going to tell you about the time nature called while on one of those long stretches of nothing --- nope. Not gonna, lol. Fun post!

  9. Howdy!

    Thanks, Icy. It wouldn't surprise me if that was an unconscious nod to your vampire.

    Techtigger, at least they didn't have to bust anyone this time. That could have been awkward with cameras rolling.

    Anthony, I wanted to create the feel of a TV newscast. Thanks much!

    Tim, yeah, there's plenty of cows out there!

    John, there may yet be some backwoods horror in this line…

    Apple, I was on it once, and that was back in '83 or so. Maybe, on one of those trips, you can swing by FAR Manor and meet the other inmates some time!

  10. I liked the idea of gas bandits! I wonder what they would say, give us your gas or else?

    This is an interesting way of writing FAR.


  11. I like the military aspect you capture with how they dealt with the issues and the escalating ways of handling it until the military deployed their q-ships.

  12. Futuristic stuff like this really grabs me, and with the way the world is going lately this story may come to contain more fact than fiction.

  13. Another great newscast, FAR. Unfortunately it still sounds too plausible. :)

  14. Scary, scary world you've created here (especially since it's possible). Excellent story!

  15. Afternoon, all!

    Helen, that's probably what they'd say if they say anything at all. I'm guessing they just pulled guns out when the victims stopped at the barricade. Resistance is fatal, you will be siphoned.

    Thanks, Aidan. I borrowed a leaf from the "arms race" between drug smugglers & the DEA. They're always upping the ante.

    Steve, I have a much longer piece if you haven't seen it.

    Chuck, yup, it's plausible. Once you accept the idea of cutting off large swatches of the country, the rest of this just follows logically.

    Thanks, Eric!

  16. Really liked this.

    A little confused by the ending. They're in Columbus? But Fort Benning's in Georgia...

  17. I really enjoyed this second round of the Georgia Road. I'm with Icy, it has kind of a Mad Max feel to it.

  18. Hey all!

    Ganymeder, Columbus GA is on the Alabama line, but it's still in Georgia. Across the river is Phenix City.

    Danielle, it might get more Mad Max in future installments…

  19. I agree with other comments - interesting format and great descriptions. Well done :)

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  21. This is more chilling that a horror story because it feels so real. It almost describes the murmurs that hang from the tips of our tongues at this moment in history.

    Certainly shades of Mad Max but more the backstory of how that landscape of the future began. All dystopian stories had to start some place normal and on the curve of dramatic change. Possibly this is the event in history that leads to that nightmare.

  22. Hi all…

    Brainhaze, I find the format flows pretty well when I'm writing. I was rather surprised.

    Anthony, it's those times of inflection that are most interesting, no? Not so much post-apocalypse as teetering on the edge then beginning to slip over.

  23. Great flash, and interesting how plausible it could be ;-)

  24. Hi there Far -- this may be prescient documentary. Gas bandits ahoy. Liked the news cuts style, and the evolving 'arms race' between bandits and authorities. Sounded about right to me. St.

  25. Wow, I don't have many #FridayFlash stories that are still getting comments the following Thursday!

    Estrella, I'm on the "polly" (i.e. Pollyanna) side of the peak oil doom scale. I don't think we'll just "find something else" but it doesn't necessarily mean The End.

    Stephen, you might want to hit the FAR Future link for a longer take on what could be ahead. It's getting a little outdated, as I started it in 2007, but part of the "outdated" part is that some of the things have already happened…


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