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The Second Civil War : Chapter Two
Chapter Two : Nightfall
To read chapter one, go to The Beginning.
It was three in the afternoon when the EMP bomb went off in Los Angeles.
Bett Clark was thankful that her Honda Civic was stationary at the time. She was in a quiet part of Wilshire Avenue, at a red light, contemplating her happy hours with her best friend forever, Pauline. As her vehicle cut out, she saw the traffic lights before her die, and thought it a strange coincidence. Then she noted that the cars beside her had ceased idling, and she knew what it was. Her father had explained the effects of an EMP detonation to her many times, and almost as if she had been prepared for it for a lifetime, she set about planning her route home.
Pragmatism had always been Bett’s middle name, and now all the memories of the different skill sets her survivalist parents had taught her, returned to her. In the space of a few moments, she grabbed her jacket and water bottle, emptied the contents of her purse into her pockets, grabbed a small flashlight from the cubbyhole, locked her car, and started to think of the best route home.
An earth-shattering roar reverberated through her ear drums and the ground around her seemed to shake. She looked ahead and saw an explosion of fire some miles down the road. A plane, she thought. She knew that it had simply dropped out of the sky. EMP bombs fried all electronics in use – there were no exceptions. She continued to walk wondering if she should satisfy her curiosity by getting closer to the scene but decided against it. It was best to get back to her family; they would be waiting for her.
Fortunately, she was wearing jeans, a dark sweater and flats on her feet. Nothing to draw attention to herself. It occurred to her that if she had packed her bike into the car that morning, she might have been riding home. She shrugged her shoulders and set off at a steady pace. It was a good four mile walk home and she knew it would take her just under an hour to make the journey.
Bett was on vacation from Santa Rosa area where she worked in one of the casinos as a Black Jack dealer. She had come home for a week to visit her aging parents and eccentric siblings. She wondered how her parents and brothers would be responding. It was more than her gut that told her that they would be packing and preparing for the hidey-hole in the mountains.
Ten minutes up Wiltshire Blvd, Bett began to hear screams in the distance. She could see fire and black smoke. People were exiting buildings, curious. She heard people talk about a power outage but didn’t get involved. She kept walking, exactly as her father had taught her. The screams became louder and the crowd became thicker with each step. The smell of the fire reached her, tainted with oil, with brick, and, no doubt, with human flesh.
Around her, drivers were now leaving their cars, aware that something strange and catastrophic was happening. Some were dialing out on their smartphones while others clearly had dead phones and didn't realize why.
Ahead of her, she saw two young men fighting for possession of a bike, and she knew there would be many more before it was all over. She wondered if the bike belonged to either of them. Bett didn’t stop to help anybody. Instead, in line with all that she had learnt in survival training, she took the first road right and walked into the more quiet neighborhood area. The sky seemed darker than it had been earlier, and she wondered how it was that mood affected perception so much. For the first time, in a long time, Bett felt the beginnings of fear.
She had another three miles togo.
Joy Brown walked to the club house where she asked the receptionist at the desk to call her a cab. “Where’s everybody?” she asked.
“Glued to TV,” the willow thin young lady told her.
“I’ve obviously missed something,” said Joy and waited to hear more.
“Four electromagnetic pulse bombs went off thirty minutes ago - in Houston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.”
“OMG - another terrorist attack! Was it ISIS?”
“The President said it was an inside job, but then he was rushed away so nobody knows what’s going on.”
Joy thought, “That was probably the president on the phone to Tom. I guess I can forget a nice romantic supper and bed tonight.” Just for a moment she thought of his hands on her more intimate parts and the wisp of a smile touched her lips, and then she put the thought away. There was a long way ahead, she knew.
She saw Tom walk towards the doors. Beside him, a crew member carried a suitcase in each hand. Joy had been adamant that they travel light. One look at his face assured her that they were, indeed, back, and if they weren’t quite in Washington yet, they soon would be. She suspected that they would be going directly to the airport and not to the Four Seasons Hotel super deluxe room where she had planned their last lustful night.
The group in the oval office seemed to alternate between minutes of loud discussion and desperate silence. Everybody was standing, the president included. The vice-president was reading a document while the general beside him was leaning over his shoulder, also attempting to read it. The vice-president turned.
“Give me a minute, will you? You already know the contents.”
The general moved back, then had a thought.
“I wonder if this has anything to do with the killing of Mike Barton.”
“Who is Mike Barton?” the president asked.
“One of our four star generals. Earlier this afternoon, a lieutenant shot him and then drove out of the Pentagon in a Humvee. By the time they found General Barton’s body, the lieutenant and the Humvee had disappeared into thin air.
“Has to be a connection. This is a well orchestrated plan. Congressman buffs the President in the eye. Jack Jones is killed. A dozen members of the Federal Reserve are taken out. There’s this missive. Where is Peter Allen?” The President’s voice took on an urgent note.
“Washington State Jail, Sir.” This from his aide.
“He’s part of it. Get the FBI to question him. Better bring in extra security.” Even as he spoke, cell phones were reached for and orders given.
“Now let’s take a look at the wording on that document again.”
The vice-president handed the document to the president.
The president read it aloud. “Round one to the Republican Militia. There’s a lot more to come. In the meantime, as the mighty US dollar is now the mini US penny, we thought you might like to contact the banks and instruct them to write off all loans, including student, business, and home loans. They've made enough profit. See to it!”
He was quiet for a moment.
“We’re dealing with a fruitcake,” he said.
In Sacramento, California, the Democratic Party Headquarters was in as much disarray as the GOP had been. So far, nobody had being shot. Precautions were taken; there was tough security. This did not make anyone feel any safer as the news seemed to be getting worse with every passing minute.
The chairman, Joe Bloomberg, tried to preside over the meeting but he could feel the panic in the room, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. If truth be told, he wanted to pack his bags and take his family out of town. He had an idea that cities were going to be dangerous places for a little while.
One of the five senators who were present stated the obvious. “We need to know what stance we’ll be taking on this.”
From the rear door, there was a voice – a nicely modulated voice. It said, “Oh, that’s very easy.”
The compelling nature of the statement made many of the people in the room turn their heads. They all recognized him, although they couldn’t for a moment understand what exactly he was doing at Democratic Party Headquarters.
“The Democrats are officially at war with the Republicans.” With that statement, he turned and walked out.
Nobody stopped him.
Bett Clark arrived home just after four. Her elder brother, Jonathan, was the first to see her. “Bett’s arrived ” he announced loudly to his family.
“About bloody time, sister,” he said.
“I walked,” she replied.
“You’ve been in training all your life, and you walked?” Disbelief colored his voice.
Bett glanced at him. He was dressed in black jeans, a long plain black tee, black boots, with a black padded jacket. She had no doubt that the jacket was loaded with every conceivable survival gadget that her family had dreamed up through the years. Most days she thought her family crazy. Tonight she felt thankful.
“Are my things packed?” she asked.
“Of course, darling,” her father came towards her. We’re just finishing up. This family is ready to roll. The Buick is out of commission. Got caught in the EMP. The other cars were not in use at the time, so we’ll use them.”
Bett said, “Cars are a bad idea. It’s quiet here but the roads elsewhere are blocked with miles of stranded traffic.”
“We’ll take the back roads. We’ve got a lot of supplies.” Bett’s younger brother, Andy, said with that touch of dominance which made the rest of her family bow to him – even when it wasn’t a wise thing to do.
“Big mistake,” said Bett. “I’ll take my bike. What did you pack for me, Ma?” she asked her mother who had just walked into the room.
“Your basic pack,” she replied. It was at moments like these that Bett loved her mother with all her heart. “You rock,” she said. Her mother had known that Bett would want to travel light.
A thought occurred to her. “Dad,” she said, “You know anything about this?”
Just for a moment she thought he was going to lie to her. “I’ve heard whisperings,” he said. “It’s best we get out of the city. We are well prepared at Refuge.” Refuge was the name of the cottage five miles south of Nevada City. It was in the country and had its own water supply as well as fruit trees and a vegetable garden run amock.
Bett didn’t think it was the right time to ask any further questions, but she trusted her father, and she knew that there would be time for them to talk later.
Another ten minutes passed, and then the family headed north east. They had an eight hour drive ahead of them. It was 4.35 pm. It would be past mid-night when they would put weary heads to welcoming pillows.
As the man removed his wig, he grinned. They had certainly ‘recognized’ him, or put another way, they had recognized the man he pretended to be. He could just imagine the difficult time the press would give the senator whose identity he had so briefly borrowed. What would he say when asked why he had said that there was now warfare between Democrat and Republican?
It wasn’t such a big leap, the actor thought. Tensions had run high in the country for close on a decade now, and all it needed was a fuse. Well, he was real good at triggering those fuses. As he removed the latex from his face and neck, he grinned again. He wondered if more EMP bombs would be detonated.
The Texas governor cleared his throat. It was one in the morning, precisely nine hours after the bomb had detonated in Houston. The members of the legislature had met and had being spending the time in bouts of argument interlaced with agreement, then raising their voices and lowering them, hashing out strategies, haggling over costs, and much more for close on seven hours. Eventually they had put together a plan.
“We didn’t have any choice but to take this path. It’s been coming for years.” The governor of Texas spoke once more as if to reassure the people around him. Then he left the room and prepared his announcement to the press.
Just south of San Francisco, a stench began to seep into the air. Those who were awake at that time of the night couldn’t help but notice it. It smelt like a thousand rotten eggs. It was so bad that those who were affected by it decided that they could not endure it any longer and they did the sensible thing, got into their cars and drove in the direction they thought most likely to free of it. Some drove south. Others went north. Still others went east. The wisest and luckiest headed for the ocean, and those that had boats or yachts boarded them and sailed out to sea.
The auditorium stilled as the governor took his place on the podium. Despite the hour, the hall was full. The press had been waiting for many hours while the legislature had been in conference. It had been a closed conference so that members could speak freely, for the situation was grave and the topic treasonous. The governor inhaled one more breath and then he spoke.
“Texans have always prided themselves on being able to do the job. At a time when other states have been losing jobs, Texas has been producing them. Houston has been our star city. Today we have many dead. Tonight many lie in our hospitals without the equipment they need because nobody foresaw an EMP bomb wreaking havoc on our city. Tonight, we have vehicles stranded in the city and lights which do not function. Gas pipes, controlled by electronic devices, have ceased functioning. So everybody with gas stoves can’t cook. As I stand here, I must say to you, it would take me the rest of the night to explain to you how devastating the damage is, not only to Houston, but to Texas as a whole.”
The governor paused. The hard part was beginning. But he had their attention, and that was good.
“We do not know who did this to us, but the president says that it was an inside job. He tells us that our own people did this to us. Is that possible?” He paused for a moment – for effect. “I hate to tell you this, but yes it is. There are a lot of angry people in America these days. They don’t have jobs. Nearly forty three million Americans wouldn’t eat if it wasn’t for food stamps. They just don’t earn enough. Those who had money and put some of it away, well they lost heavily in the investments they have made. And, of course, many lost their homes and others owe more on their mortgages than their homes will ever be worth. Many Americans are also deeply in debt – the result of outrageous but necessary medical expenses, over priced houses, underpayment from employers, student loans, or sheer over-expenditure because they liked to have a good time and thought they could pay it off tomorrow. All in all, not a good picture."
“Yesterday Americans were told that Big Business had once more come begging to Congress, and once more Congress wanted to hand it over. We are selling less oil because alternative energy is challenging the fossil fuel industry. This evening we were told that the American currency is no longer the Reserve currency of the world, and that our currency is now worth ten percent of what it was previously.
“Yes, I can see that some people will be angry enough to do something like this. I don’t agree with it. I think it’s a terrible thing to do to one’s own people. Yet throughout history, when the people of a nation become angry with their rulers, there has been violence. And now that time has come for America.”
“With this thought, the legislature has agreed and approved several new directions for Texas. They are as follows. Texas will immediately secede from the Union. The Federal Government has not being doing its job for a long time. Just look at Arizona. The Feds don’t enforce the immigration law and then sue when a state that does it for them. There is something wrong with this kind of reasoning. We know that there must be agendas, but we don’t know what they are. We believe that Texans can work together to create a stable state as well as get Houston working again. We do not believe that the federal government is capable of doing this.”
“With immediate effect, Texas will begin to print her own currency. All state salaries and wages will be paid in Texas dollars. In addition, there is a lot of work to be done. There are also a lot of people who don’t have jobs. We think that those people who do not have jobs would like to have a job. With immediate effect, all unemployment payments are stopped. Everybody willing to work will be paid fifty Texan dollars per day. If they are working in Houston to help get the city together, the city government will also provide two meals a day to those workers. We will bus workers in from throughout Texas and put up tents so that they have a place to sleep.”
“One last issue before we call it a night. Anyone caught employing someone who does not hold a legal green card will be guilty of treason and face the death sentence. While the Texas legislature considers it a greater priority at this time to repair the damage done to our state and the city of Houston, and so will not be actively looking for illegal immigrants, that day will come. Please do not employ illegal aliens who do not have the necessary documentation. You will be held accountable.”
Governor Adrian James was done. He was tired - bone weary. He saw rising hands, all wanting to shoot a million questions at him. He forestalled them. “There will be no questions. Tomorrow is another day.”
In Minneapolis, Jennifer Goodman stared at the television screen. She hadn’t been able to sleep. Things were going from bad to worse. She knew it probably wasn’t a good thing to be in the city at a time like this but she really didn’t have any other choice. She was an only child and she had her parents to care for. Where else would she go? She wished Reilly was near but she hadn’t seen him in weeks. She had visited two or three times but he hadn’t answered the door. He often went away for weeks at a time, although she didn’t know exactly what it was he did. He wasn’t too keen on telling her either. Sometimes when she asked him, he would say to her in a joking sort of way, “If I told you that, I would have to kill you.”
Somewhere around four in the morning, a radio report was sent out. “Mission accomplished. The stench was so bad many moved. We now have a no-man’s land between northern and southern California.”
“Good job,” was all that was said on the other side.
The conversation wasn’t heard by anyone except the recipient it was intended for.
Reilly knew the trip into Minneapolis was necessary. He needed to collect some items and close his base permanently. Although he had known this day would come, the order had still been unexpected. He had been at base for his quarterly three week training period and had anticipated returning home.
So it was that the next morning when Jennifer Goodman awoke, she saw Reilly’s car. She desperately needed some care and comfort. The day before, in some sort of Reilly inspired moment, rather than hang on to the few pennies in her purse, she had bought the kind of food her grandmother had used – dried peas and lentils, dried milk, barley, and rice. Afterwards she had dithered and wondered if it was the right thing to do. With Reilly home, she was quite sure it was, and so she made her way to his house and knocked on his door.
He didn’t respond. She looked at his parked vehicle outside, knocked again, called his name, but there was still no response. Then she tried the door handle. It opened and she heard loud music. Probably why Reilly didn’t hear her knock, she thought. She walked in to the sitting room, and then stopped. The sight which met her eyes shocked her. Reilly standing amidst a create of weapons and dynamite, was playing with a grenade.
For a moment, she stood in shock, and then she turned to run for the thought occurred to her that he might be one of the people responsible for the EMP bombs.
His voice was curt. “Stay exactly where you are, Jennifer. Don’t move.”
For chapter three return to The Beginning, and click on link to next chapter. If it has not yet been published, it will only be a few days.
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger