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The Second Civil War : Chapter Ten
Chapter Ten: Code Name Delilah
Chapter One can be found here: The Second Civil War : America Broken
Week One September
The director of Fema was visibly upset. The motherfucker of all hurricanes was coming to five states and he had neither the resources nor the experience to handle it. Hell, nobody on this planet had. What had they been thinking? The people of America had been fighting over who had the biggest candy bar while Mother Earth was laughing at them as she set up the seeds of their destruction in her belly.
Hell, he couldn’t care less about what caused global warming. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that the planet could kill them all at any given moment and there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, rainstorms, tornadoes, snow storms, mudslides – it was as if the earth was getting back at them.
He had notified the president and he had notified the five states. Hell, he had even notified the Texas governor, although Texas was no longer his problem. She had seceded from the Union after all.
On top of it, many of his men had perished in Chicago and Los Angeles as they had been there helping out when the powers that be had decided to eradicate the cities. At one level, he understood Neo-Darwinism very well. It was the survival of the richest that dominated all other laws. But his mother had been one of those killed in Chicago and he was an angry man. When he had first signed on for the Delilah operation five years ago, he had not anticipated that family members would die. He grimaced. It was ironic that the mother of all tornadoes should be named Delilah as well.
Sometimes, no matter how high up you were, you simply weren’t high enough for the fall out to pass you by. He was learning that now.
He looked at the figures. There had to be a good two million people in Houston. Put that together with half a million from Miami, another half million from New Orleans, and yet another million from all the small cities and places along the way, and that meant that there was probably at least four million people that were going to be pretty badly affected by Hurricane Delilah.
He looked at the figures before him. The hurricane was forming in the Gulf of Mexico and was larger and faster than anything ever seen before. It measured three hundred miles by twelve hundred miles, and that covered the land from Miami to just west of Houston. The wind speeds were already seventy miles per hour, and the weathermen who measured these things were predicting wind speeds of up to two hundred miles per hour. He couldn’t conceive it.
It occurred to Jim Holder – the FEMA Director – that nobody really knew what a wind that speed could do. He had visions of it blowing down concrete towers. How did one move four million people in two days? He didn’t know.
Bett wanted to know the answer to the big question. Who was behind all the destruction and mayhem that had overwhelmed America during the past weeks. She found the events incomprehensible, and despite growing up in an environment where conspiracy theory reigned and survival training was the rule of the day, she couldn’t grasp two major cities being destroyed, biological warfare, presidential assassination, and more. It was way too big for her mind to comprehend. And then Bett thought, “What the hell? Someone has to figure this out, and it might as well be me.”
So it was that she sat down with pencil and paper – the old fashioned way – and started drawing little boxes with an event in each. Then she cut them out and began to shuffle them around to see which boxes seemed to have a connection. Obviously all the cities that had been destroyed through biological warfare were connected, and equally obviously, all the cities that had been destroyed through EMP bombs were connected. The question, though, was, were the two connected, or were two entirely different parties responsible for each.
She also began to think seriously about creating an underground within an underground. Alasdair had asked that they find out who was responsible for the biological warfare and the EMP bombs but she didn’t fully trust Alasdair, even though he was the hunk of the day – her day, anyway. She knew that some of the information she unearthed she would keep to herself. Bett had always been that way. She knew herself well.
She mapped out a plan. She would let it be known that she and her family were teaching survival training, and she would contact the commanders on the list of militias her parents had compiled over the years.
Reilly was beginning to have doubts about the Anti-Corporate Militia. It occurred to him that they might have been a pawn in someone else’s game play, and that was something that Reilly was not keen to admit to himself. However, increasingly it occurred to him that the situation was ripe for the picking, that anyone with the resources could become richer than any man on earth had ever been. The thought occurred to him because he had been thinking about making a little money himself, and having a somewhat inventive mind, it occurred to him that when Los Angeles was declared safe by the CDC, it was prime real estate.
Adrian James might have stepped into something a little more compicated than he had anticipated. While the initial idea of Texas using an alternative currency had seemed the answer to the State’s problems, the implementation of it was not without difficulty. The most difficult part of it was the resistance of people. With that in mind, he had schedule a talk to the people, state wide, on any TV network that would have him, which was pretty much all of them.
When the time arrived, he was well prepared, and with his normal suave appearance and charismatic personality, proceeded to deliver a well rehearsed speech.
“People of Texas,” he begun, “A few short weeks ago, we implemented the new Texas currency. We’ve kept if very simple and called it Units and Parts. You can think of the Units as representing dollars and the Parts as representing coinage. Like many currencies the world over, there are 100 parts in a unit. While we have not publicly announced this, we have set the worth of one unit as one square inch of land. That worth is derived by calculating the worth of the entire landmass of Texas, and then dividing that monetary figure by the number of square inches of land in Texas. Theoretically speaking, as in the days of the gold standard, anyone should be able to walk into a bank and exchange one Unit for one square inch of land in Texas. The monetary unit in Texas, therefore, has a solid value. It is not based on fairy tale mythology.”
“There is one very big advantage to using a local currency, and that is that the wealth generated in the state cannot be removed from the state. This means that entire communities grow wealthy and that services and surroundings increasingly become reflect that wealth. Have you ever seen those beautiful cities in the movies? Well, we here in Texas can have them as well. We do that by keeping our money in the community. Sure there are people out there who want to be able to move their money elsewhere. And that’s fine. We would just say to you that we would prefer you to move with your money – not ours.”
Governor Adrian James paused. He thought he’d done pretty well. Sometimes all it took was a solid explanation. It was stupid of him, he thought, not to have mentioned that the alternative currency had a solid base. He had always believed it was asking for trouble removing the dollar from the gold standard, but then, of course there had been no more gold in Fort Knox. What was a president to do? He thought the legislature of Texas had done pretty well with coming up with Texas land to back the currency. Inflation wasn’t that easy when the monetary unit was measured against something solid. Nor could the State just print money as there only so much acreage in Texas.
“The value of the currency will not inflate or deflate as the land will always be set at one unit for one inch of land. When land is bought and sold, regardless of where it is, that will be the price. That way, we can ensure permanent value of our currency. I would ask the people of Texas to work together to achieve a place for the people of our great state to live together peacefully. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
He thought that he had explained it rather well. Now for the next announcement.
“Some of you will be aware that there is the mother of all hurricanes brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. It measures twelve hundred miles wide and is three hundred miles in length. It will make landfall in two days, somewhere between Miami and Houston. The intensity of this hurricane is not something we have witnessed on earth before, and we believe that evacuation is the only way to save lives. We will need to accept that property will be lost. I a asking the people of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana to work together as we have very little time left to move everybody out of the areas which will be afflicted. I want all people who live inland and are in safe zones and who have cars, to make their way to the danger areas to ferry people to safe areas. The State of Texas has arranged for tent cities to be set up outside Austin, San Antonio, and College Station. We are also going to need you to give everything you don’t currently use. Remember that these are human lives we are speaking about. We have no more time for petty differences between people. There is no deadlier war than the one that Mother Nature wages against us. Let us measure up to that challenge. I ask you to care for your fellow man, because if you don’t, who will?”
The Texas governor thought that was a good place to finish. In an unusual gesture, he closed his eyes, put his hands together in prayer, mouthed something that a few read as “God help us,” and then he walked from the podium.”
Janet Jones was a Houston babe! Well she liked to think she was a Houston babe. Truth be told she was born on a ranch in the far north of Texas but it had been a one horse town sort of place, and she hadn’t been home for a decade.
She had big boobs, a protruding rear end that many men regarded as her best feature, a tiny waist, and a brain that Mensa stopped measuring. Her brown eyes were not easy to read which was just as well because she had long ago come to the conclusion that men responded to her body before they had their brains in gear. And as her brain was always in gear, she had great difficulty in getting along with the male sex. She wished things could be different.
She had remained in Houston after the EMP bomb had detonated - fortunately able to fend for herself as she had a garden in her backyard. She had planted it in a peeve a few years ago because decent food was horrendously expensive and she was tired of Wholefoods eating up her food budget and more.
It was fast approaching a month, and there were still vehicles blocking streets and to all intents and purposes, it looked as if Houston wasn’t going to recover. Janet, being the brain she was, had quickly figured out how to make a radio using transistors and, before anyone else had cottoned on, had raided the vintage, antique, and charity shops. Sometimes her methods of entry had been less than orthodox, but nobody was watching, and she didn’t really care. She needed a good radio, and if she couldn’t buy one, then she was sure as hell going to make one. And she did.
It enabled her to get the news from the outside world, and the news that the mother of all hurricanes was on the way gave her room for thought. Obviously, she couldn’t remain where she was. It was doubtful that either her home or her garden would survive. She had two days to travel the three hundred miles and as she didn’t have wings, she had to find another way.
Bett made contact with the ACM. She used the radio that had been stored with all the other survival equipment. It wasn’t the only radio they had available. They had several, put away safely in many different areas on the property. As her father had always said to the family in the years he ingrained survival tactics into them, “You never know what is coming. It’s best to be prepared for anything.”
When she made contact with Reilly at ACM, she was surprised it was so easy. The Anti Corporate Militia was her first bet. Follow the money was always the best way to go. But Reilly turned out to be something of a surprise.
“Funny. I’m asking the same questions,” he said.
“Is there anything that seems particularly strange to you?” she asked.
“Well, I thought it strange that Peter Allen put his fist in the face of the president,” he responded. “It’s just so out of character. Never made sense to me.”
“Speak to him,” said Bett, for a moment forgetting herself, and giving an order as if it was her place to do so.
“I think that’s a good idea,” said Reilly. It has been niggling him. He was glad Bett had called. Something wasn’t right.
Janet figured her bicycle was going to be her only way out of Houston. She should have thought of it before but, like many others, she thought the US government would help out sooner or later. Even with Texas seceding, her faith in the Union had been such that she thought the Texas secession would be of short duration. Now she wasn’t so sure anymore. What had she been thinking? Brains, obviously, didn’t mean that one got it right all the time.
Riding at about fifteen miles per hour, she could probably do 250 miles in two days, if she did an eight hour day, but Janet thought that was pushing her stamina. Still, she was a Texan and she didn’t like to rely too much on other people. So she packed some surivival gear in her backpack and then tied it to the rear of her bike with bungee ropes. Thankfully, it was the end of the hurricane season and so the days were cooler.
Reilly approached the ex congressman with respect. He had always held Peter Allen in high esteem and he had been very surprised to hear that the congressman had taken a swing at the president. The militia camp was small enough for all its occupants to have easy access to each other, so it wasn’t a difficult thing to do to approach someone like Peter Allen.
It was twilight and most people were inside, either having an early supper, or generally doing choirs around the house, or simply chatting or listening to radio. There was no television, although some might be watching various episodes on the web. They were wired for that. Initially, the camp commander had forbidden any form of satellite connection but as the days passed he admitted that everybody was so focused elsewhere that he doubted anybody had the resources or the interest to track them down. So security had become a bit slack and comfort had taken its place.
Despite the chill in the air the congressman was sitting outside on the porch. “Hello Reilly, haven’t seen you for a while. How are things?” The congressman greeted him as if they were old friends. As Reilly had only met him once, he was quite impressed that the Peter Allen remembered him, but then he supposed it was that particular talent that enabled him to be the leader he was.
“I’m well, Congressman. I’m just a bit uneasy about some things, and I wondered if we could talk.” The moment it came out, Reilly wondered if that was the right thing to say, but he needn’t have worried. The congressman smiled and said of course.
Janet Jones had been riding for a day. She took the side roads because bikes weren’t allowed on the highways. At some point, she realized that there was a lot of incoming traffic and she began to ask herself why that was. Nightfall was approaching, and she was very, very tired. According to the speedometer on her bike, she had covered just over a hundred miles. With one more day to go and another two hundred miles before she moved out of the radius of the approaching storm, she began to think of ways to hide from the storm.
She found a gas station that was deserted and took her bike into the restroom which was fortunately still open. It smelled, but it was enclosed, and it felt more safe than being out on the road. She took her radio from her backpack and tried to get a signal. It wasn’t hard. What she heard made her blood turn cold. The hurricane had speeded up, and had indeed fulfilled the worst fears of all. Its speed had increased to close on 150 miles per hour and it would make landfall by early tomorrow morning. Short of riding through the night, she had no way to outrun the mother of all storms.
Jim Holder felt bad. He handed in his resignation because there was nothing he could do to prevent the coming deaths. None of the States had been prepared for a catastrophe of epic proportions, and there was little he could do if he didn’t have the resources and the manpower.
Hurricane Delilah would eradicate Miami, New Orleans, Houston, and any and every place between those cities. He had no doubt about it. And he hadn’t even told the president. Personally, he didn’t think the president cares. There were too many other disasters these days to care about one more. He wondered how it was that the weather had ever become so bad. He didn’t remember earthquakes, tsunamis, and other extreme planetary events being so frequent. Was it simply a matter that there was better news services around and now they all knew about these things? Well, if it was, they should have prepared for it, not wasted their resources on fashion and war. What had they been thinking?
He tried to think of the figures that he had been given. Millions would die. They wouldn’t stand a chance. There would be high sea waters that which would flood hundreds of miles inland. Homes built of wood would be like matchsticks swept away by a high voltage fan. Supposedly solid concrete would be the last to go, but if the wind picked up to two hundred miles per hour, windows would be blown in, roofs would come off, and it was any man’s guess, how much would be left standing. He thought back to the Japanese tsunami all those years ago and wondered how it was that mankind had lost so much respect for the natural elements.
How a hurricane causes a tsunami and obliterates cities
“That’s a hard question to answer,” the congressman looked Reilly in the eye. “When I thought about it afterwards, I did wonder how I had reached such a point of fury. I just felt very angry and I couldn’t control that anger. But you’re right. There could have been a chemical inducement. Never thought of it myself.”
“So the question is,” said Reilly, “who could have fed you something?” Even as he said it, Reilly knew that he needn’t have voiced it. Peter Allen was smart enough to put two and two together and come up with the right answer.
“Well I did wake up in the morning with a slight headache, but I didn’t think much of it. Truth is that we live in stressful days, and with the bankers wanting us to bail them out again, the headache made good sense.”
He waited for the congressman to go on. Reilly knew when to let a man talk, and he let Peter Allen talk.
“I had supper with George Stoves, our new president. We’ve known each other since Stanford days and have a standing supper date once a month. Before that, I had a late afternoon drink with Tom Grey. He seemed upset over the EMP bombs. Other than that, had a check up with the doctor a few days ago for some anxiety and he gave me some capsules that I’m taking.” The congressman paused. “And, of course, there was water on the table next to me when we were debating. It’s possible there was something in there.”
Reilly said, “And it could have been any of them or none of the above.” He paused. “It was very cleverly done. I would love to know what it was.”
“So would I. I suppose, in retrospect, I did act out of character. I had a very bad headache afterwards, but I put it down to the stress of what I had done. Could just as well have been a downer from something I was fed.”
There was that quiet again, the type that follows people who contemplate their words carefully. Reilly broke it.
“So who gains what?”
That was the question, of course. It was what Bett said. “Follow the money.”
The congressman said, “I wonder if George Stoves had anything to do with it. He said something―”
And from out of nowhere came a shot. Peter Allen slumped forward and Reilly fell flat, six thoughts going through his head at once. One of them was that someone was onto him and Bett. Someone had a radio and had heard the transmission. Someone was monitoring the traffic between the different militia. And someone had been put into place at a speed that spelled out a fast and efficient organization.
Janet slept for an hour in the restroom, then got on her cycle and headed west, rather than north. It occurred to her that it might be easier to outrun the storm if she headed west. At midnight, the rain came, and the winds picked up. She was in the middle of nowhere, and the force was such that she could make no headway against the fierce winds. She thought that they weren’t even gale force. She had all but given up when she saw a car on the highway, and stretched beyond endurance, she stood in the middle of the road and waved the car down. It stopped.
Inside three men – two young, one old – asked her what the fuck she was doing on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere with possibly the most dangerous hurricane only a few hours away. She said she was trying to outrun it.
Nobody in the car knew whether to laugh or cry.
“You’re headed in the wrong direction,” she said.
“Looking for my wife. She came this way earlier to get our daughter but we haven’t heard from either her or my daughter.”
Janet could only imagine. She was too tired to ask questions. The driver indicated for her to get in, so she left her bike where it lay, grabbed her backpack, and climbed into the car. She shivered as warmth crept into her bones, and even as she knew that they were headed back into the storm, she was thankful that she was with others. There was something terrible about facing tragedy on one’s own.
Jim Holder said his prayers with extra reverence that night. He didn’t know whether he was praying to the God of his forefathers, or the gods of the natural forces. He wondered if there was something to be said for Gaia, the mother of the earth. Had she been woken from a long sleep and discovered what mankind had done? His sleep was filled with nightmares, possibly because he knew when he woke up in the morning, Delilah would have made landfall and that FEMA would have failed hopelessly.
Reilly did not dare contact Bett. He thought of the different ways he could get through to her and, in the end, decided that USPS was still operating and that might be the best way – if he could get something into the mail inconspicuously. Either that, or he packed his things and went to join her. He was no longer sure who to trust at the AMC. Someone inside the camp was a traitor.
Janet’s companions did not find the wife and daughter. An hour later, one of the son’s said to the father, “Dad, either Mum has found a safe haven, or she has gone. We need to look after ourselves. She’d want that.”
So they turned round and they drove through the early hours of the night until morning brought them to Austin. All of them were tired. Still, Tony the father, insisted on brewing some coffee, and it was as much as Janet could do to drink it before she fell into an exhausted sleep. She awoke in the late afternoon and found that she had been put into a bedroom. She made her way downstairs.
The three members of the family were seated around the TV, watching as much as they could of the storm. But the news of the storm was intermingled with other matters. Congressman Peter Allen had been shot. The CDC had declared all the areas where there had been biological warfare to be off limits. There were food shortages everywhere, and there was violence in many parts of the country as people began to kill each other for food. When the president was asked what he would be doing about it, he indicated that matters would be resolved but gave no idea of how and when. “I have a plan,” he said.
By late evening, all the cities alongside the Gulf of Mexico had been wiped out. Galveston Island ceased to exist. Anyone who had foolhardily stayed there would have lost his life. New Orleans drowned once more, and high seas swept up much of Florida so that even far inland, tsunami like floods drowned those who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was something to be said for mountains and hills. The death count numbered millions but nobody was counting. The country was numb from loss of life, and the president, after expressing his condolences to anyone who had lost family and friends, simply told the nation that it was time to move on. A new callousness appeared to have entered the White House.
Three days later, neither Tony nor his two sons had heard anything from their mother and sister. They never did again. Janet felt their agony and their anger. “Where was FEMA they asked?”
Janet quietly called her parents in north Texas. They were thrilled to hear from her and asked her to come home. She said she would, and after saying her goodbyes to the family which had rescued her, she managed to make her way, by dint of hitching rides from one place to another, to her place of birth. She never left again, for in the following years, the country and the earth would change much, and she found a place where she was needed.
FEMA was never heard of again. The director, Jim Holder, was found dead shortly after Hurricane Delilah faded into insignificance. A note was found beside him that read that Delilah was killing innocent Americans and that he regretted his involvement. Some thought it a strange note, but they understood that the hurricane’s extreme ferocity had overwhelmed the director of the relief services. The president shut down FEMA in order to lower the deficit and the funds were redirected to a little known army unit known as Delilah.
Bett and Tom, her brother, were the first to hear the alarms go off in the early hours of the morning. In her gut, Bett had known that it might happen. She had known that the moment Reilly had mentioned his unease about Peter Allen putting his fist in the president’s eye. And because Bett knew that anyone could monitor the radio, it didn’t come as a surprise that someone might want to remove them. She had discussed it with Tom and they had made their plans. They were ready.
© 2017 Tessa Schlesinger