Packing lightly, his mind was attentive to the task at hand deciding which items might be useful in what could very well be his last assignment. The ransom note was cryptic. We've got your mate. You know what happened to the farmers. Go to former command co-ordinates before midnight. Await further instructions or else we cannot guarantee the safety of your loved one.

He recalled far too vividly what happened to the farmers. Promised a better life and financial freedom, just somewhere else. One week later, the Midwest had become a wasteland with invisible fencing so strong it could stop your heart, permanently blind you, cause retrograde amnesia or reduce your body to a pool of charred dust.

That happened ten, maybe twelve years ago when saying "That's the last straw" referred to bales of hay, back when amber waves of grain were bountiful, even sung about proudly. People living on the East coast used hay bales as decorations during the odd holiday of Halloween, no longer celebrated except for fringe groups eking out a peripheral existence.

Momentarily distracted by memories, he swore loudly then shoved remaining supplies into his bag: guns, poison pens, confiscated knives, a collapsible machete and existence tablets. What he left behind mattered little. They had Jay and that was the last straw. Zipping up his all-weather, radiation repellent hoodie he silently thanked the maker, pushed the leaky old gas-powered lawnmower into the midst. He threw a lit matchbook then disappeared into the dark future.

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