The General is what this country needs. Why? Because he does not see color or religion. He just sees red, white, and blue. I know -- you're thinking 'how old fashioned' but it works! Sure, we still have martial law and the elections have been put on hold. We also have a country that is being torn in many directions by people who don't understand that just because the USA is going through hard times they can't set up their own kingdoms. That can not and will not be tolerated. Especially as you know the kingdoms they create are not places anyone sane would want to live or raise a family."
"So why are the Brethren still around? I mean they are damn near next door."
Sheriff Smiley made a sour face. It didn't look natural on him at all. "Yeah. There is that. Best thing I can tell you is they don't stray this way, they keep the road open, and we'll get around to the treasonous little shits eventually. The General has regular Army here keeping the Interstates open inside the Zone. Plus we got a police company, they're like infantry really, out there taking care of the criminal element."
The waitress came by and set a cup of coffee in front of the Sheriff. It smelled like the real deal too so I ordered one. I started digging out more silver but the Sheriff smiled and told me "Put that away Mr. Gardener. This one is on me." He looked up at the waitress, winked and told her "Put it on my bill Katie." I thought "Yeah right Sheriff. I bet you have a tab that hasn't been paid in years." Her reply was "Sure Sheriff." She also took Zanes glass back for a refill. I was going to have make sure he used the bathroom before we left.
"So whats the catch?"
Sheriff Smiley looked at me blankly. "Catch?"
"Yeah. If we go through the Zone. How do we get ID? What's the rules. What about the camps?"
"Oh yeah. The camps. You know that's usually the first thing people ask about. They either want to know how to get in or how to stay out of them." He shrugged. "The General said a couple of weeks ago it is time to wind them down. We need the people out settling the empty areas. You know, growing crops we can sell to the shit headed, lying back stabbing foreigners." He caught himself. I was glad. I was never big on listening to rants. The stupidity factor was usually to high for me to stomach.
"Sorry Gardener. I get wound up about some things."
"No problem. You were saying..."
"Yeah. I know. Zone ID's. The good thing is you get to go anywhere in the Zone and our roads are pretty much back to normal. Foods cheaper too. Bet you figured that one out on your own." I nodded thinking "No shit."
"Yeah. You could get work too. No problem. My guess is that US Marshals might hire you. You look like you could handle yourself in fight and they are doing plenty of that. Yeah..." He looked at me "Or local law enforcement. Probably get you on here. That is if you can pass a background check."
"Yeah. I can do that."
"I thought so. You remind me of a guy that was on the force when I was first coming up. He had worked out west. There were some stories too. He was Border Patrol. Why..."
I interrupted him. Drank the rest of my coffee and said "I still haven't heard the catch and I know there is one."
He smiled "Oh yes. There is. You got to go through new processing and get acclimated."