In Northern California, Eileen was still in her first year with her new husband Victor Foy. He was a local and older than her. She was a refugee from Southern California, displaced by the bombardment of Vandenberg that Jeff mentioned to his business associates. April carried out a strike on the base a couple of years previously to make them stop shooting at Jeff. She really hadn’t used excessive force. The damage was far out of line with the level of her response. There was some splatter from the primary weapon into the adjoining counties, but she really hadn’t targeted civilian areas.
The problem was that all of Southern California was a hodgepodge of obsolete and barely adequate infrastructure waiting to do a chain-reaction collapse if any important piece was damaged. Southern California was depopulated and reverting to desert in a month of the strike. People who built luxury seaside mansions on the Baja after the Mexican annexation fled or died. The northern part of the state and parts of eastern Oregon were more like the tribal areas of Pakistan now than part of the United States of North America. The new seat of North American governance, Vancouver, looked dangerously close to being cut off from the rest of its populated areas when you looked at an honest map.
The Texas Republic in the South and East was keeping the USNA too busy to do anything about the autonomous areas. Nevada wasn’t exactly lawless, but it was a lot emptier than before The Day. Many businesses were closed, including all the casinos, and services limited. You might get mail if you could get to your post office, but forget delivery or seeing state services like the highway patrol. There was no city water in Las Vegas, and when the power went down in outlying areas, nobody was fixing it now.
Eileen walked from near LA to her father-in-law’s home after The Day, with a stop to winter over halfway. She quickly became eager to leave there, chaffing under their thumb, and picked Victor Foy over younger men for his substance. She’d left her family early when things had come to a head and walked to Vic’s late the previous fall.
“When we go to the Fall Festival I want you to talk to Mr. O’Neil and arrange for him to get me a prescription flown in from Nevada,” Eileen said. She was standing close in front of Vic, her hands on his shoulders. He was sitting on his favorite kitchen chair, which put her eyes just a little higher than his. He’d been reading but sat the book aside when she wanted to talk.
“Feeling poorly?” Victor asked, but he knew better.
“Feeling entirely too good, and you also have that look on your face that says you are tired of being patient and understanding about feeling half married. I’ve grown enough this year that there’s no arguing a pregnancy would be too risky for me. Well, no more than all the other women here in the autonomous zone who don’t have modern medicine like before The Day. But I still have the same goals. I not only want to go to space, but want to take you with me. I’d be pleased to have children with you – later – out there. If we have to get passage for three or four, my guess is it will never happen.”
“We can try,” Vic said, “My understanding is the doc in Nevada will issue a new prescription against an old pill bottle. I’m not sure he’d send a new prescription for a seventeen-year-old girl he’s never met or had as his patient before.”
“Do you know what the legal age is to marry in Nevada?” Eileen asked.
“Eighteen, without parental consent,” Vic said. “Why? What are you thinking?”
“I could fly to Nevada and return his next trip. I’m easily within his weight limit to take passengers. Both of us are near it. If it’s still business as usual enough to have a pharmacy and get a prescription written there has to a doctor and maybe even a clinic or hospital. If there is any way we could pay for it,” Eileen worried. “Is there any way we can convert some of our nuggets or gold dust secretly?”
“No need. If there are drug stores and aviation gas in Nevada they must be doing business normally in dollars,” Vic said. “I have a credit card that hasn’t expired yet. It had no balance and was set up to auto-pay from my bank account. If Chase Bank is still in business in Nevada it should still be active even though it hasn’t been used lately.
“If that doesn’t work, I always kept some cash on hand. I should have enough in twenty and fifty dollar bills to pay for your flight and pills. I always worried the teller system might go down and I wouldn’t be able to get to my money. I just never figured everything would go down so hard that very few people would take cash for anything. I was thinking in terms of a couple of weeks or a month. If there is a branch open I may even get some more cash.”
“Like you kept a few extra rounds of ammunition?” Eileen teased.
“I’ve got somewhere around fifteen thousand dollars in a bank bag in my safe. What I am more concerned about is things may be too normal in Nevada. They may not accept you are an emancipated minor and a married woman and try to declare you at risk and put you in foster care if they have that sort of thing still functioning.”
“I could lie and tell them I’m eighteen,” Eileen said. “That wouldn’t bother me.”
Vic shook his head no, looking unhappy. “You might be in national databases even if your old California records are lost. Sworn statements from our locals that our marriage is notorious and recognized by the community might mean more. Especial from the pilot if he’s well regarded there. We need to discuss it with either O’Neil or his pilot buddy. If they need to make inquiries at the other end we’ll have a couple of weeks until he can report back what it’s possible to do there.”
When Eileen made a face, Vic shrugged. “Thank you, but we’ve waited this long. A couple more weeks won’t kill me.”
Eileen put her arms around his neck and leaned forward nose to nose and forehead to forehead. “Do not assume my concern was for your patience.”