“How can I help you today?” Clay Atkins asked Aaron Ducat.
“I really hate to impose...” Ducat replied.
“No, it is an honor for me to help you.” Atkins cut him off.
“I need some logistical support. You are the only guy I know who might be big enough to pull it off.” Aaron Ducat said.
“Name it, buddy. I owe you.” Atkins said.
“I need delivery of enough food and consumables to keep 750,000 people alive and they are scattered across in dozens of sites 12 hours by truck from your Victorville warehouse.” Aaron said. “I am authorized to pay a 20% profit margin.” he added.
Considering that Atkins’ company typically worked with a 2% profit margin, this was a very generous offer.
Atkins was busy typing notes into his tablet.
“Any particular foods?” Atkins asked.
“Whatever you can spare.” Ducat said. “It would be helpful if they did not need to be cooked.”
“Tell you what I think would be best. We have lots of data about consumer preference for Sedelia. What if we pull the last six months of usage, delete the non ready-to-eat components and scale for 2500 Calories a day. Would that do-ya?” Atkins suggested.
“Would that be hard?” Ducat asked.
“Dude! We might be Arkansas but we live and breath this stuff. Shoot me a list of the delivery coordinates and we will start pulling orders and shipping.” Atkins said.
“You know, these special orders come with pre-printed gift cards.” Atkins said. “Are there any messages you want to send?” Atkins had started in the warehouse and the training was ingrained. That was one of the questions they were trained to ask.
Ten minutes later “pull tickets” were printing out at the Victorville warehouse. They were prefaced “Hot” meaning that mandatory over-time was triggered to keep the carts moving through break-times and lunch.
The gift cards read “With deepest regards from el Patrone and your brothers in Sedelia.”
Every third truck out of the warehouse was northbound to Cali and the prisons. Since twenty million people (half of Sedelia’s population) were fed out of the warehouse in Victorville, another 4% was just a flea-bite.
The hairs on the back of Zev’s neck rose when the phones around him pinged...and his did not.
He needed to talk with Anthony in Redwood City and had walked into the crowd of indigent men at the abandoned strip mall at the corner of Woodside and Virginia where he was known as “Eehood”. As usual, he was in character in dingy, threadbare rags.
The men pulled their phones out of their pockets and read the text message. Then they started scanning about. They were looking at faces.
The men looked at him. Then looked back down at their phones for confirmation. Then looked back at him.
One of them started laughing. “Bullshit.” he said as he slid his phone back into his pocket. “I knew these messages were too good to be true.”
The rest of the men appeared to be unsure.
Zev was between a rock and a hard place. There was no way he could outrun the group. Nor was there any possibility of his surviving a fight. His only viable option was to try and bluff.
“What’s going on, guys?” Zev asked in his most innocent voice.
“Well, Eehood, this text says you are worth sixteen billion Callors and that your name is Zev Azrael. The picture looks EXACTLY like you and the height and weight is a match.” one of the men informed him.
“What do you have to say about that?” another queried.
The best way to lie is to ask a question. Zev looked eloquently down the tattered, torn sleeves of his dingy coat. “If I had sixteen Callors would I be wearing this?” he asked.
The other men seemed to be undecided. The possibility that Eehood was Zev Azrael's doppelgänger was a real possibility. But then why did the doxxing virus think Eehood was Zev?
A skeletally thin man named Prakash Shah stepped forward and stood by Zev’s side. “Eehood is my brother. We broke bread together. We worked together. We sleep in the same alleyway. You will have to go through me to hurt him.” Prakash said defiantly with his chest puffed out and his fists balled.
And with that comical contrast of the scare-crow pacifist East Indian protecting the battered street bum, the tension was broken. Of course Eehood couldn’t be worth sixteen billion Callors! People with money lived in gated communities and ate steak. They did not sleep in urine filled alleyways and eat atole.
As the clot of men broke up and moved away, Prakash turned his head and gave Zev a languid wink of the eye. Prakash read the news and he knew.
Sadly, Prakash would be dead from his bone cancer in three months. Even the most unlikely are sometimes called to be heroes.