The Second Civil War : Chapter Nine
Death is Cleansing!
For a full list of chapters, go to The Beginning
New chapters are published either weekly or every few days.
Week Four August
In the aftermath of eliminating Los Angeles and Chicago to prevent the spread of the bioweapon, there was a silence in America. Nobody was certain, but it was estimated that some thirteen million people had died when the bombs had fallen on the two cities. The morning after, thick clouds of black smoke reached high into the sky and the wind carried the death pall for hundreds of miles.
The CDC was called to make an announcement as quickly as possible but the director, Jack Ruben, was loathe to do so without further evaluation. “We don’t know if we contained the toxin.”
The new president, George Stoves, said, “Well, find out quickly. I think the people think America is dying, and we don’t want them to believe that.”
“What if America is dying?”
George Stoves looked at him somewhat cynically. “The death of thirteen or fifteen million people, and the destruction of two cities does not mean the death of a nation. Germany recovered after WWII and Japan became prosperous after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Jack Reuben acknowledged that to be true and his sense of loss receded. It was amazing, he thought, that if you thought of people as mere numbers, their fate didn’t concern you so much anymore.
“When will you be able to confirm whether the virus has been contained?”
“Two or three days if there are no new breakouts.”
Those who were attending the meeting in the president’s oval office were content with the words. Both Chicago and Los Angeles had had full air support and any who had attempted to run from the city had been shot down. Air support was still in full swing and any stragglers seen on the outskirts had been eliminated by machine gun fire. The threat, it was felt, was too serious, to risk anyone leaving the area and possibly carrying the virus. They called it collateral damage.
“Let’s move on. We have a lot of ground to cover.” The president’s voice, in line with the years of his military career, was clipped, and meant to be obeyed.
“How far are we with the Chinese?”
General Rudi Morgan reported. “After they were warned that we were going to bomb Los Angeles - giving our reasons - of course, they offered to help. They were very professional and very thorough. I have to say that their weapons were far more effective than our own, and the job wouldn’t have been as easy if the Chinese hadn’t been there.”
There was a murmur around the oval office as the chairman of the JCS gave his report. Chad Newman stated the obvious. “That doesn’t sound very promising if we default on our commitment to pay them the gold.”
“The gold we owe them!” Senator Tom Grey interjected.
President George Stoves turned to the senator, his eyes probing everything about the senator. “You know, Senator, I have to begin to ask you where your loyalties lie. Since the beginning of this you have been questioning America. Technically speaking, we may owe the Chinese a little money, but don’t forget we are the ones who started them on their road to success. They got there because we transferred our manufacturing industry to them. If anything, they owe us.”
The senator looked the president in the eye. “Belittling the messenger because you don’t like the message isn’t the most ethical behavior in time.”
George Stoves looked at him in disbelief. “Since when has the president’s office, or anything to do with the ruling class, ever had anything to do with ethics?”
“Perhaps the people of America thought that that was what their Constitution offered them?”
“The people of America are idiots.”
“Can I quote you on that, Mr. President?”
George Stoves looked at the senator and said, “Be very careful how you tread, Senator. The military now rules America, and freedom of speech has always been a casualty of war.”
Chad Newman, the leading Republican, was taken somewhat aback by that. “Mr. President, you’re no longer the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs. You can’t combine the two offices.”
“Like you can’t combine religion and state?”
The mood in the oval office was neither happy nor peaceful.
“There is no doubt that the Chinese have a superior military force to us,” Colonel Andrews stated in matter of fact tones. “That became apparent, yesterday.”
“I have to say I’m not sure that it’s a surprise,” Rudi Morgan added. “And as I don’t think we can afford to find out just how superior that force is, I think discretion, in this case, is the better part of valor.”
The president nodded, then said to Morgan, “You might tell the Chinese that we now have several cities which, once cleansed of the bioweapon, will have much gold. It’s possible we can pay off our entire debt to China using the wealth we gain from our pickings in Los Angeles and Chicago.”
“Rudi, how fast do you think we can get that gold out of those cities?” the president turned to his new Joint Chief of Staffs.
“Dependent on how soon the bioweapon becomes harmless. I can’t give you a date. Once it’s harmless, though, we can initially take gold from the stores, but after that, it would take months to go through all the homes.”
“See that you take care of that,” the president ordered.
The president turned to the other business of the day.
“How far have we got with providing the people with a currency?” he asked.
Desperate Measures Taken to Prevent Fatal Infection for Everybody
Blane Coetzee had always been a rebel and New York City had always been his home. He trusted the city in a way that he didn’t trust his fellow man. The city, he believed, would always protect him, and now with so many leaving her like a sinking ship, he decided it was time to restore New York. He knew it was a big job, but Blane felt that he was created for just such a task, and so he started calling on those who two weeks previously would have been considered the underbelly of the city. The destruction of the city had made them all equal.
Jordy Ryan was the best of the best when it came to hacking electronic safes. He was betting that Jordy knew a little about fried electronics and how to fix them. The first job, he knew, was to get the cars off the streets, and if Jordy couldn’t fix the ‘tronics, then they would take the cars apart, bit by bit, wheel by wheel, and seat by seat. It was a big job, Blane thought, but it excited him in a way that nothing else had ever excited him.
He thought about that for a moment and it came to him that it had always excited him to be able to build but as he had always been outclassed by money and power, he had not had much chance to develop his own skills. He was surprised to learn that about himself and shook his head in wonder. It really was true, he thought. You lived and you learned.
Bett was devastated when she heard. “I lost my best friend,” she said. “And the bastards killed off everybody we knew.” Then she wept. The others were quiet and walked away to drown their sorrows. Bett’s mother came to sit with her. “They probably thought it best, you know. Rather kill some of us, than let all of us die.”
“The virus kills within a day. They could easily have told everybody to stay in their homes, enforced a curfew for a week, dropped food in through helicopters, and all those still living within a week, obviously didn’t have the disease.”
“And if it was still alive on any surface, it would have broken out all over again. They did their best for this land.”
“No, Ma, they didn’t. I know it in my gut. There’s something else here. Why destroy Los Angeles. It was our star city.”
There was no reply from her mother.
Alasdair had left the previous day. Bett’s father hadn’t been keen on being involved in spying on a supposed secret enemy, but her brothers had been all for it. She privately thought that while young men liked to go to war, old men would always plan them.
Bett wept for many hours, and when she had finished weeping, she decided that she would honor those who were murdered, for she was convinced that they were, by teaching all that survived the best survival skills she could. With that in mind, Bett washed her face, went downstairs, made herself a cup of Bush tea, grabbed some pen and paper, and began to plan.
A Realistic Evaluation of a Pandemic!
Reilly was not feeling good. Nobody in his militia was. None of them had ever dreamed that two major cities in America would be taken out as a result of internal strife. None of them could conceive that a toxin could be such a threat to the lives of all Americans that two major cities had to be removed from the map. Had mankind’s weapons become so deadly that now the only escape was death? He hoped not. He hoped there was another way.
The camp had grown during the past week. Situated on the bank of Keweenaw Bay, just south of Houghton, there had been a steady influx of people who were leaving the cities. Minneapolis was no longer considered safe.
He didn’t blame them, but he also didn’t know that the camp could support them all. The camp had been built as the headquarters for the ACM and it had been kept compact so that it would remain hidden and effective. A lot of safety was required when hitting back against big money.
He saw Bill Muchoo and Jennifer Goodman walking towards him, both engaged in the conversation they were having. Both looked animated. His first instinct was to note the chemistry, and he was surprised to feel a twang of jealousy. While he had always had a soft spot for her, it was more in a sisterly nature. He guessed it was that old animal instinct that lurked inside all human beings – ego.
“Jen has come up with a good idea,” Bill Muchoo’s opening words were not what he expected, but then he didn’t know what he expected. “She suggests that the people start building their own camps on federal land, invest in equipment to grow their own food inside the home all year round, and start looking for sources of water. She thinks it’s best to start doing this now while there are still supplies in the shops and while some cities are still standing.”
Reilly wasn’t expecting that either. Jeez – some cities still standing? Wasn’t it over yet? Reilly had never thought it would come to this, and Jennifer surprised him. Bill formed as a result of the realization by some that the rising inequality would result in a civil war. It was virtually impossible for the poor to make their way out of poverty. The poverty trap in America was as extreme as the poverty trap in any third world country.
“I’ll help,” he said as he cleared his mind of his negativity.
“You got this the wrong way round, man,” said Jordy as he gazed at Blane. It’s a two minute job to insert the right ‘tronics in the vehicle. And there are lots of ‘tronics around. All them cars outside New York have ‘tronics. We just gotta go to them and say, ‘Hey, if you loan us the ‘tronics of your car, we’ll put them in the car with fried ‘tronics and you can drive it away. It’ll be your new second car. That way we clean the city superfast.”
“You can’t give other people’s cars away,” said Blane, the one-time car thief.
“Why not? New York don’t need dead cars. We build bicycles for the people. Nothing’s ever going to be the same again, bro. We need to get the city moving.”
With some thought, Blane could see it as a good idea, and the two of them left New York after helping themselves to two bicycles without owners. Some three or four hours later, Jordy explained to Blane how the ‘tronics worked and how they were removed from the car – the important ones anyway. Blane drew diagrams and wrote instructions which detailed how to remove the electronic parts. He added an explanation that while there were differences in cars, the basics were the same.
He and Jordy decided that it would be best to start removing cars from the outskirts of New York, so they added an address where they would start from. Then they approached a manager in a Fedex store, asked him if he was a patriot, told him their grand plan to clear the streets of cars in New York. They said they wanted him to copy 5000 small leaflets. After some negotiation, including any car he could find on the street so New York, the pamplets were duly provided. Blane and Jordy spent the next few days distributing the leaflets in town which bordered New York but had not been affected by the EMP.
When they arrived back in New York a few days later, they were both tired.
“It’s been good,” said Blane. “I think we’re on our way to rebuilding New York.”
“You bet,” said Jordy before he dropped into a dead sleep.
The agenda at the White House had moved back to the gold. The Chinese President had called earlier in the day, expressed his condolences for the loss of the ‘once great’ American cities’, and asked if there was any progress towards meeting the debt that America owed China. The American president, unaccustomed to eating humble pie, could only reassure the Chinese president that everything was being done to speed up the collection of gold from the American people.
“We wouldn’t want to think otherwise,” responded the Chinese president.
When the president put down the phone, he called Rudi Morgan. “Rudi,” he said, “get your men the hell out there and collect every piece of gold that you can, if necessary by force. The Chinese don’t sound like they’re willing to wait months for us to sweep LA and Chicago clean. And if we don’t get the gold to the Chinese, we’re going to have a lot worse problems on our hands.”
And so the rampaging of America by the military forces began. Wedding bands, steeped in memory and representative of eternal love, were forced off unwilling fingers and ‘donated’ so that the debts of business and state could be paid. Those who resisted were shot.
“What happened to America?” asked some. The answers were varied. “The rich raped this country.” “The government has been taken over by aliens.” “Americans spent too much money that they didn’t have.” “They sent all our factories to China.” “Corporate greed killed us.” “It was the housing boom. The homes weren’t worth what we paid for them.” “It’s the illegal immigrants. They sucked our economy dry.” “It’s the wars – the damned wars. They bankrupted us.” “It’s those lazy, stupid layabouts on social welfare that killed this country. No worth ethic.” And so it went. But the military continued to take the gold, and the people, broke, stressed beyond belief, and scared, could only ask themselves “What happened to America?”
Blane and Jordy were woken early the next morning by a knock on the door. Several people had arrived with ‘tronics’ and asked if they were at the right place. Blane grinned - feeling quite high that some had paid attention to his distributed leaflets.
“Help yourself, boys” he said. “Whatever car you can drive out the city helps clear the roads a little bit more. If you can find a way out, the car is yours.”
A few hundred people arrived that day, and Blane and Jordy explained the ropes. Initially people went for the best models, then they realized that they first had to clear the road of other cars, so it was that throughout the next week, increasing numbers of people arrived and drove away. Eventually, sufficient roads were cleared for goods to come into the city.
New Yorkers, every practical, got on with the business of finding a way to solve the problems. Taking a leaf out of the mini-cab system developed in South Africa during apartheid years, those cars which were now functioning acted as buses.
Jordy found an SRV at a dealership, explained to the owner, Marcel, that with the dollar being useless, he was never going to be paid for his stock. “Wouldn’t it be better to join our merry group and fix the city?” he asked.
Jordy had a golden tongue, and together with the store owner, set out to Bridgeport to do some ‘shopping.’ He ‘shopped’ by finding stores which had generators, then breaking and entering at night. Then he went ‘shopping’ for bicycles. He took whatever he could find. “Each man for himself,” he thought. “Some stuff you got with kindness – others you just had to help yourself.” Marcel was shocked to the core.
“That’s stealing,” he said to Jordy.
“That’s survival,” Jordy said to him. “You gotta look at the big picture. We gotta get New York working, and these people in Bridgeport have got more than we people in New York. It’s a little bit of redistribution.”
“That’s communism,” said Marcel.
“That’s life,” replied Jordy.
Effects of EMP!
Back in New York Blane began making lists of what was needed to get the city going. With everybody focusing on biowarfare, Chinese wanting gold, and food running out, pandemonium did not allow for clear thinking. Blane felt happy that he wasn’t tied to any sort of limited thinking. A man had to do what a man had to do.
Hardware stores emptied out fast. Nobody paid. The city people changed. Some helped each other. Others fought each other.
Food became scarce in New York, and there was no help from the mayor who seemed to have absconded to his house in the country. Rioting broke out in various places. There was no police to bring them under control. Resources were stretched to the limits.
So it was that there were those who returned to the law of the jungle and they became feral, and there were those that rose to sainthood as they began to organize neighborhoods and groups to fend for themselves.
Blane and Jordy, once petty criminals, later geeks and underground anarchists, settled into citizenship with a pride that few could imagine.
Senator Tom Grey and the actor met again. “Things are a bit off track,” said the actor.
“That they are,” replied the Senator. “Our biggest problem is our new president. Fair to say that he saw an opportunity and seized it.”
“You don’t think it’s more than that?”
“I think that it was a terrible thing to wipe out Chicago and Los Angeles and I don’t see that it was necessary. They were both prime estate.”
And in that moment, Tom Grey had the most terrible thought. The thought was so evil in its immensity that he pushed it away as soon as his mind admitted its presence. But it came back again, and it wouldn’t go away. He was rattled…
“Tom, are you with me?”
“Yes,” but his voice was terse.
“It’s time we moved ahead with phase three. We’ve stirred things up considerably. American fighting American, and we’ve gotten rid of the previous president. We need to move ahead before we lose momentum.”
“Okay, pull the plug,” said Tom Grey.
By the end of second week, the military forces had amassed sufficient gold from the American people to pay off the Chinese. One lone Jew came out and said publicly that his parents had told him the Nazis did the same thing to his parents in Germany, and he wanted to know if America was now the land of the Nazi and home to the Gestapo. His body was found a few days later alongside a rubbish dump.
The Chinese did not leave immediately. The Chinese president indicated that his forces were at the disposal of America should she need her help. President George Stoves, military man that he was, saw it as a possible occupation threat. Africa was slowly being occupied by the Chinese; he did not want the same thing to happen to the United States.
Fortunately, some of America’s allies came forward and also politely asked the Chinese to leave. They did, but it was the opinion of the chairman of the JCS that it was a merely a falling back strategy to regroup and that a war was inevitable. With that in mind, it was felt that it was best for the military forces to begin to regroup and focus on its prime directive – the defense of the United States of America. There were those who now regretted the squandering of resources in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. But who could see the future, they asked themselves.
“So that’s what redemption feels like,” Blane thought. It felt good. The outlying area of New York City had been cleared of cars. People were beginning to flock to New York from out of State to collect new cars. Auto mechanics arrived in flocks, ready to pick and peck. No longer, however, were they just taking freely. The people of New York needed things and they began to barter. A car for a generator. A working fridge for a car. And while some still fought for resources, it became more profitable to share resources. One person had a working fridge while another had a working stove.
Whereas Blane had thought that the process would probably take a few years, he now reconsidered that figure. While there was still a very long way to go, he discovered that when people worked together, and when competition vanished and generosity replaced it, progress was faster than had previously been conceived. “I wonder if our forefathers knew this,” he thought to himself.
Neither Blane nor Jordy had ever been believing men, and the experience of building rather than destroying did not make believers of them. Instead it gave to them something that neither had ever had – a sense of belonging to the human race.
Senator Tom Grey drove back to Washington, his thoughts in a tangled mess of horror and despair. He could not believe it, yet the pieces of the puzzle fitted so overwhelmingly well that he could not eradicate the idea from his mind. “God help us,” he thought. And the senator was very much a believing man – in that moment.
© 2017 Tessa Schlesinger