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The Second Civil War : Part One
Chapter One: The Beginning
This is a two part novella which was originally published on Smashwords and achieved quite a following. It's frightening how some of the scenarios what I wrote (before Occupy) bear a resemblance to what is happening today.
That said, it is a work which draws on possible outcomes to todays events - bearing in mind it was written in 2011.
Chapter One: The Beginning:
Ginger Pike was speechless. It wasn’t often the Speaker of the House was speechless. Then again, she had just watched the congressman put his fist in the face of the president. The silence that followed the right jab was absolute, and then a mighty furor broke the sound barrier as security pounced on the offending congressman and removed him bodily from the palatial room.
“Order! Order!” Above the din, Ginger Pike could not be heard. She heard snippets of conversation here and there. “Bloody fool deserved it!” “Typical of the GOP. More brawn than brains.” “This is an outrage.” “What is happening to the American people?”
Ginger Pike also wondered what was happening to the American people. She had tried to intervene in the increasingly incensed diatribe between the Republicans and the Democrats Tempers and distress were at an all time high. Once more, big business had come to Congress to ask to be bailed out, and this time the number was so immense that it was inconceivable.
The House was in turmoil. There was intense anger on both sides. She saw the Secret Service surround the president, check his eye for damage, and hustle him out as quickly as the crowd would permit. The noise volume was still pitched so that nothing could be heard above it. She thought for a moment, then looked around to see if she could see a security guard or a secret service member, but the service was fully occupied with the safety and well being of the president, and she rather ruefully remembered that for the past two or three years, there had been continuing cuts for the Capitol Building. Many guards had been dismissed.
She attempted once more to bring order to the house but her voice, again, was lost. She glanced towards the exit door on the far right, then slowly circled the room to see if she could catch any available security guard, and as she did so, she saw a face that she couldn’t quite place. Something tingled, as if she had just seen something very dangerous, but she shook herself. And then, as suddenly as pandemonium had reigned, it grew quiet.
Ginger had only one thing to say, and she said it loudly.
“Congress is in recess. We will convene promptly at seven the day after tomorrow."
With that, she picked up her alligator purse and marched in her alligator clad feet to the exit.
And as she made her way to her offices, the grey haired preacher man whom she had glimpsed for only a moment, muttered softly into a mic, “Hook, line and sinker." He smiled as he said it. “The drug given to the Congressman earlier has done exactly what was expected of it” With that thought, he turned and went his way.
For a bunch of unschooled militia men, they were pretty impressive. Big Bill Muchoo looked over the new recruits and wondered how raw they were. He saw young Reilly, the kid brother of his son’s best friend. He’d known the young man since he was six years old and watched him grow into an angry young man. He was all of twenty now and had still not found work. He did find a car wash weekend job, but it wasn’t enough for a young man who had once had dreams. He had watched the young boy deflate and slowly morph into a rebel with a cause.
Alan, Reilly’s older brother, had died in Iraq. That was a blow to the family. Their father had died young, the victim first of obesity and then diabetes. Reilly blamed it on the food. He didn’t think the food was any good. Just starch, starch, and more starch. The human digestive system, he believed, wasn’t supposed to eat that much starch. His anger at the grain industry for bribing the food authorities into making grains the principle component of a healthy diet was well known to all. And that was just one of his gripes.
Reilly had never said anything about his older brother’s death but had silently begun training himself in the martial arts. At sixteen, he had been a skinny kid, tall for his age, but within a few months, the weights, the Krav Maga training, and the slow seeping bitterness in his soul changed the child into a man. At twenty, Big Bill Machoo was glad to have him in the militia. There were tough times ahead and few would survive the coming years without being scorched by the approaching bloodshed.
Jennifer Goodman was out of her mind with worry. Along with too many people to count, she was standing outside the bank waiting for the doors to open. Her common sense told her it was too late. The banks had no money and unless the president gave the Federal Reserve permission to print some more, no more would be forthcoming. She couldn’t understand where her money had gone, but she knew enough to know that it had been converted in some way into someone else’s wealth.
She took out her phone and scrolled through the tweets on Twitter. The president had had his eye poked by a right jab from Congressman Peter Allen. She didn’t know whether to applaud or cry. Allen had spent years trying to close down the Federal Reserve, saying that it was a private for-profit organization, and it had no business printing the money of the American people. Some called him a conspiracy theorist, but she could see there was some truth to what he was saying.
The bank held Jennifer’s last funds. There had been enough to tide both herself and her aging parents over for the next two months and she had hoped that she would find employment during those two months. Yes, she had been drawing an unemployment check for the past twelve months but it barely paid the rent for the three of them. Her parents’ pension was eaten up by medical expenses, and the money she had so carefully saved towards her dream home was now all but gone. A year without a job had seen to that.
She wished now that she had listened to their neighbor, Reilly. He had warned them that hard times were coming and that the day America lost the Reserve Currency was the day that the value of the American dollar would disappear. He had insisted that the currency wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on and had encouraged her to begin growing her own garden. Of course, that was not why she had planted a potato bed and groomed a tomato bush. They had been short enough on the pennies and every bit of money not spent on food was extra money for the medication her parents so desperately needed.
She glanced at Twitter again and the words she saw now made her heart skip a beat. “The president has declared a State of Emergency.” She thought of Reilly. And suddenly she thought that he had been quite insightful in what he had told her. She looked at the closed doors of the bank. She looked at the long lines waiting for the bank to open. She thought it would be a long wait and that she’d be better off spending what little cash she had on supplies. Wasn’t that what Reilly had told her? Yes, he had said, “Prepare for war.”
How the Reserve Currency Gives America Power
The GOP headquarters was in an uproar. Divisions were forming quickly. The leader of the Republican party, Jack Jones, signaled for silence, and, surprisingly, received it. “What Congressman Allen did was not an acceptable expression of opposition and it's time that talk of this nature ceased. The events of today probably cost us the next election―” They were the last words Jack Jones ever spoke.
The shot wasn’t particularly loud – just deadly. It entered dead center, between his eyes, the place where the pineal gland resided. Blood splattered over his face and down his shirt. Then he collapsed on the floor, as dead as a cow in a butcher shop. Once more there was that silence that precedes the storm. Then a woman screamed, a man was heard to use profanity, and somewhere someone said, “What’s happening?”
At the rear door, a man laughed softly, his long grey locks looking quite elegant for someone dressed so simply. The walking stick which had pointed a moment before to Jack Jones now tapped lightly on the floor as he, too, professed to look around for the gunman. Then, with perfect glee, he muttered into the mic that lay hidden under his collar, “It has begun.”
The president insisted that it was not a mortal wound, and that he was quite capable of continuing to run the government. He also told the people that things happened for a reason and that it would all come right. There were those who had grave doubts. How was it possible that the banks had once more collapsed and demanded money from Congress? Again. Yes, the banks demanded it. The threat was implicit. If the money was not given, then the people of the USA would find that there was no money in the banks, and they would be penniless. The president saw nothing for it but to accept the advice of the Federal Reserve Chairman – print more money and pay off the bankers.
Now, as he sat on the chair in his oval office, he turned gravely to the members of his cabinet, “Gentlemen, it is a little bit more complex than that. Printing money is just a short term solution. There is a bigger shock coming to the American people, and when it comes, there truly will be no money. This country will then be on rations, and we need time to prepare for that.”
Ronald Rodrigues cocked his M24 rifle. It was loaded with magnum bullets and he was pretty sure that he would be able to hit both his targets. He had less than fifteen seconds to accomplish his task, as did the other five gunmen who were on the same mission. Between the six of them, they would take out the dozen most prominent men of the Federal Reserve. It was time, he thought, that the people spoke, and it was time that people controlled their own money - in more ways than one. He was tired of being robbed, of working his life blood to the bone and having nothing to show for it.
Joy Brown was dancing a jig of happiness. The ring on her finger had long been sought, and the Democratic senator had at last proposed the obvious. They had been on vacation in the Caribbean, and she had insisted that for the full ten day duration of their cruise on the senator’s yacht that there would be no cell phone contact with anyone. There would be no television, no radio, and nothing that would interrupt their special time together.
She was a keen diver, as was he, and it was their love of the deep blue which had first drawn them together. Of course, the senator would have said that it was her curvaceous body, her long legs, and her ample bust that had been the initial draw, but as time had passed, he had seen her for a bit more than her body, and this last week, had indeed been bliss. There really was something in Mother Nature that healed and soothed the soul of man.
Now as Joy traipsed down the gangway of the 524 foot yacht, she couldn’t wait to tell her friends and family. The downside of not having the senator have constant contact with his office was that she had been obliged to leave her cell at home as well. That was their agreement. What was good for the goose was good for the gander. Thus it was that neither Joy nor the senator had any idea of the events of the past week.
It was, perhaps, a few seconds before Joy realized that there was something different about the Miami yacht club. It seemed over-quiet, a tad too empty, and it shouldn’t be. While it wasn’t quite the height of summer, she had never seen it this quiet. She felt Senator Tom Grey behind her. “Where are all the people?” he asked. Her thoughts, precisely.
“Senator Grey, there’s a call from your office on the main yacht phone,” the Captain spoke behind him. Of course, now that they were in port, there was no more ‘radio silence.’ For a moment he thought, rather cynically, “Back less than two minutes and already there’s trouble on Capitol Hill.” He dropped a light kiss on Joy’s shoulder and said, “Be back in a moment. See if you can organize a cab.”
The general was looking at his death sentence. “Where does this come from?” he asked the young lieutenant who hand handed him the missive. “Intelligence saw it on Twitter.”
“It can’t be real.”
“Can’t afford to take a chance, General. It’s your assassination they’re talking about.”
“Why would anyone want to kill me?”
The lieutenant was silent because he rather thought it might be a rhetorical question, but the general continued to stare at him.
“Perhaps, General, those who have seen the wealth of this country spent on weapons feel that you have had something to do with squandering the wealth of the nation?”
The general noticed the tone of the young lieutenant and said, “Is that your feeling, Lieutenant?”
“Sir, I have no feelings,” was the quick retort.
“Well, I’m safe enough in the Pentagon,” said the general with an air of disdain.
“Not really, Sir,” responded the young man before him.
“And why is that?”
“Because, Sir, the bullet can come from those you least suspect.” And with that, the young lieutenant, one of the fastest guns in the military, drew his weapon and shot the general. The gun had a silencer so there was no loud shot to alert anyone else. The young man looked at the dead senior officer and said, “That’s for all the men you sent to die.” Then he closed the door, walked down the passage, turned right, a quick left turn, and then another right. He exited, climbed into the neatly parked Humvee and, flashing ID, drove out of the complex.
A few hours later, he made a call. “Muchoo,” he said. “Mission acccomplished.”
The man with the grey locks wiped his feet on the welcome mat before entering the 40s art deco cottage. He entered the bathroom, and there he stripped off the grey beard and removed the wig with the pretty locks. Beneath it, his hair was an almost white blond, perhaps bleached by too many hours in the sun, except that they had the glint of silver sheen which was not common to hair bleached by too much sun. Then he peeled off some latex from his face, emerging from his graying years as a young man of exceptionally good looks.
He glanced down at the picture perched on the bathroom basin. It had been a fine imitation. Some would surely remember him, and blame would be apportioned. Yes, everything was going according to plan. It was the beginning.
The media went crazy. Gone were the sleazy scandals. Not only was the American currency system in grave danger of collapsing – if it hadn’t already done so, but someone had poked a hole in the president’s eye and lived to tell the tale. The congressman, the media said, had been taken to jail, but they had been unable to establish which one. In addition, a general had been shot in the supposed safety of the Pentagon and his side-kick Lieutenant was missing. Foul play was suspected. Then the death of a dozen senior members of the Federal Reserve Bank – which, it turned out, wasn’t a bank at all - was announced in somber tones on television stations that were all focused on the day’s events. Lastly, Jack Jones, the leader of the Republican party, had been shot.
The media let it be known that the president would speak to the nation at six in the evening and with a few more hours to go, the people bought what groceries they could, then rushed home, not knowing what either the president’s speech or the following morning would bring.
At another militia camp, this one a thousand miles south, in north Texas, battle ready men were seated around a twelve foot table. Several maps were scattered and a half dozen laptops and tablets were tracking some vehicles. “They should be here within the hour.”
“Are you ready to move out, Captain?” the senior officer asked the twenty something young man.
“As ready as we’ll ever be.”
At six in the evening, some 250 million Americans was waiting for the President’s speech. He ahhed and ummed for a moment, then looked the camera in the lens, and started his prepared speech.
“Fellow Americans, we live in the greatest country in the world and as we face these challenges we will overcome.”
The words were smooth. But while they might have been soothing once upon a time, nobody believed that America was the greatest nation in the world anymore. How could they be when they were all about to be stone cold broke? Still, the American president thought it sounded pretty good and so he continued with all the usual clichés.
The president seemed nervous. And it was fifteen minutes into the speech before the answer came.
“I have something of momentous importance to announce. While I understand that printing more money does not resolve our currency issues, it may well need to be a short term solution to compensate for another set of circumstances which will be announced by the World Bank as I make this speech.”
The president took a deep breath.
“As of one minute ago, America is no longer the holder of the Reserve Currency, and we can, therefore, no longer print money to which the world will adjust the value of their currencies. Nor can we any longer set foreign exchange rates, and we are, therefore, at the financial mercy of the international community. We may now be paying much more for imported goods, for gas, and many of our other necessities.”
The president paused. It might have been for effect, but it was probably because he was searching for words so that the anger which would be coming his way might be softened. “We are a brave people,” he said, “and we will need to be brave as we build our nation again. The sad truth is that we have no more money. The banks will not open again. We will need to be kind to each other and help those around us when they are hungry and in need.”
The president could, of course, not see the response to his words, but it was to be expected that it would not be a happy response. He saw panic as many did not wait for his speech to run its full course; they simply ran for their cars. He assumed that they would attempt to buy the last goods left in stores. And so it was that many missed the most deadly part of the president’s speech. It came five minutes before he was due to finish.
An Aide approached him with a note. The president read its contents and paled. Then he stepped down from the podium and conversed with the vice-president who was seated somewhat to the side. And when the president walked up the podium again, he seemed to have aged visibly from the time he walked down a podium a scant moment before.
“Twenty minutes ago, four electromagnetic pulse bombs went off – in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The cities are in darkness and anything with electronic components is no longer in operation. This includes those with pacemakers in their hearts. Emergency services in those cities are in disarray because all components of modern life is controlled by electronics. FEMAis currently being mobilized and other emergency services are on route to these cities.
The president’s preplanned speech seemed to be forgotten, and he looked quite lost for a moment. He paused again, taking a deep breath, and then he continued. “These acts of terror have not been wrought by some energy outside our borders. They came from within. We have entered a time of war amongst ourselves. May God be with you.”
Again the president paused. He looked at the media throng surrounding him, and then almost whispered, “Pray for America.”
Then the president exited.
Chapter Two: Nightfall
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.”
Chapter Three Day One
The President’s office was packed to capacity and the mood was grave. Senator Tom Grey was speaking. “It wasn't me – I wasn’t anywhere near California at the time, and I certainly wouldn’t have said something like that.”
The White House press officer eyed him and said, “The LA Times isn’t in the habit of running news stories that aren’t true.”
A voice came from somewhere behind the president, “Why would the Dems split California in two and take lives in the process? It doesn't make sense.”
“Well the south has always been more GOP than Dem. I'd say they were drawing sides with a no man's land in between. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” There was a pause before General George Stokes contined. “It looks like a local operation - not foreign.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff continued firmly, “Both the NSA and the Feds concur on this. Appears there’s been a Dem Militia group in Northern California for some years.
Senator Grey spoke again. “It still doesn't make sense. Dems don't do war, and whoever was at that meeting, it wasn't me." He looked bewildered. "I most certainly didn’t say that there was a war brewing between the two parties-- It wasn't me! I was in my office in Washington and my staff can validate that, as can the security videos.” He voice reflected his frustration.
The Republican representative said harshly, “Lies. You were seen there, Senator Grey. Stop the posturing! We’ve all known that this day was coming. There are extreme points of view on both the left and the right.”
The General intervened. “Actually Congressman, it looks very much like it was a Republican militia which started it, and then a second militia took up where it left off. We have no evidence that it's liberal."
“Well, what are you going to do about it?’ The voice was tense and belonged to a senior member of staff of the Federal Reserve.
Everybody turned to face Tim Smith, the Federal Reserve representative.
“Gentleman-- When the banks closed their doors yesterday afternoon, it created panic. The stores are losing money and the people are in need of food, water, gas, and more. We could print some more money - quantitive easing - but it's been tried before, and I don't think the people will buy it."
“I don't understand what's happened to all the money. It can't just vanish.” The president spoke harshly to Smith.
Smith, the most senior person alive since the shootings of the Federal Reserve leaders the previous day – said, “Pointing fingers isn’t going to fix the situation. I do believe that we need to create another Federal Reserve like institution, only we won’t call it the Federal Reserve. We can call it the American’s People’s Bank. Fortunately, we have had these plans on the back burner for some years as we anticipated this happening.”
“So we can have the same old system? How does that help us?” It was Senator Grey who spoke.
Smith replied, “Isn’t that rather obvious, Senator? Perhaps you might stop with the hypocrisy?” There was an audible gasp from someone, but Smith continued, “Wasn’t the purpose of appointing a well-connected private group to control the money of the rich and keep it from falling into the hands of the poor? If you feel that the goal of the Reserve has changed, now is the time to tell” Smith knew that it would always be the money that controlled the power. Then he said, “Isn’t it good policy always to have a back-up plan? We have a back-up plan. Let’s use it.”
The president shook his head as he sat himself at his desk. The people needed a leader and he knew that he was supposed to be that leader. His brain raced. In one way, the situation was simple. There was enough food, water, and shelter for everybody if there was no hoarding. But that wasn't going to happen. Weren't people supposed to help each other in crises, he wondered?
He didn’t know what to believe anymore. He was feeling fragile and the people did not need a fragile president. The situation needed a clear mind and a strong course of action. He wondered if he should hand over to his vice-president.
More thoughts rushed through his head. There was no money. It looked as if civil war was on the horizon. With Texas seceding from the union and and others looking to follow suit, he worried about his inability to solve the problems. They were too vast, and he was only human. Why had he ever thought that he wanted to be president?
Now southern San Francisco reported that a massive stink bomb had been detonated and it was was forcing fast evacution. The stink was so vile that people were leaving in droves - some going north while others were going south. Whirly birds reported that the belt of foul gas stretched from the ocean to the edge of Nevada.
It was forcing a temporary separation between northern and southern California. It occurred to him that it was rather an innovative way to establish a no-man’s land. How had all this happened? The Joint Chief of Staff was right. This was an attempt to create a no man's land. Why?
There were other reports which were even more disturbing - from the CIA and Intelligence services two hours earlier. Those who had remained in the area, in the vain hope that the stench would lift, were dying. The thought of biological warfare was not welcome.
Reilly said, “I should have locked the door.” Jennifer didn’t say anything. She just looked at him. She couldn’t believe that this man who had been a neighbor for two years, and for whom she had nursed a secret crush, was pointing a deadly weapon at her. She didn’t say anything because she didn’t know what to say.
Reilly thought for a moment, then picked up some rope and said, “Tie your legs together, and do a good job. I taught you how, so don’t try anything.” Jennifer took the rope from him and remembered other things he had taught her. He had said that if someone tied you up, there was at least time to make a plan, and that there wasn’t currently a plan to kill you. She did what she was told.
When she was finished, he walked over to her with another piece of rope, then tied her hands behind her back, then sat her down on a chair and tied her to a chair. He then proceeded to pack the cache of weapons into two separate containers, put them on wheels, pushed them to his car and came back. He then disappeared for thirty minutes during which Jennifer tried her best to loosen her bonds, but it wasn't happening.
When Reilly came back, he said, “Your parents are both in my car. They don’t know anything. I’ve merely told them that you’ve made arrangements for us all to go away because there are terrible things happening in America. We’ve been friends long enough for them not to ask any questions. The way I see it, you can either play along, or I can shoot the lot of you."
Jennifer believed this man she once thought a friend would do that. "Shows how little I really knew about this man in the two years I thought I knew him," she thought to herself. But she wanted to live, and so she played along. Reilly untied her and they both exited the house and climbed into the car. She gave both her parents as cheerful a good morning kiss as she could, and settled down as Reilly started the car and headed she didn’t know where.
Harold Parkins, a billionaire twice over, was shepherding his family to his private jet. Thankfully, he had not been in New York when the EMP bomb had detonated. The family had been enjoying a summer break at Disney and the family jet had been parked in Miami. Considering it pointless to return to New York, he had managed to use his influence to obtain permission for his family and himself to travel without the necessary papers to safer havens in Europe. Money and power opened doors, he knew.
After speaking to Chris Roberts, his assistant, in New York, he had instructed him to get the family passports and other travel documents and Fedex them to their destination in Europe. He wasn’t yet sure which country he wanted to go to, but the family had homes in Barcelona as well as in Florence.
As he was about to board the plane, a stranger stepped down onto the gangway from the jet and walked towards him.
“Mr. Parkins,” he said.
“Yes,” replied Parkins, rather curtly.
“You won’t be traveling today.”
“Who are you?” Parkins was unaccustomed to being told what he could and could not do.
“I’m the guy who has been sent to tell you that you won’t be traveling today, and that if you choose to travel, then an EMP bomb will detonate within a minute of your take-off.”
For all of three seconds, Parkins looked stunned. Then, the wheeling and dealing of a lifetime took over. “I can pay you for safe passage.” There really wasn’t a simpler way of putting it. Parkins didn't doubt the veracity of the man’s threat, but he also didn't doubt the power of money and corruption.
The man before him looked slightly familiar. He hadn’t noticed that immediately, but now he struggled for a name. Then it came to him, and as it did, he struggled for words, “Aren’t you-“ The absurdity of the question he was about to ask stopped him. But there it was, the man in front of him was the splitting image of Luciano Pavarotti.
For a moment, there was a faint smile on the lips of the stranger, then he said, “Mr. Parkins, there are a lot of people in the city of Miami who would be very grateful for any generosity you extend to them, but you will not be leaving the United States in the foreseeable future.”
He indicated for the family to return to the terminal, which they did. As they reached the doors, he gave Harold Parkins a long steady look. Parkins received a clear message from those eyes, then slowly nodded to his family and said, “Let’s find ourselves a hotel.” His gut told him it wasn’t going to end well.
Bett Clark and her family had arrived in their compound in the northern California town of Nevada City at around two in the morning, a little later than they anticipated.
They had not been surprised to note that others were migrating to safer pastures as well. It occurred to Bett that there had been rumors of revolution in America for some time and these people were all prepared, as her family had been. Truthfully, she hadn’t really seen it, and her family had not been happy with her decision to deal casino games just north of Santa Rosa on one of the reservations. After briefly, greeting those who were already there, she made her way to her room, and when she finally put her head to pillow, tired as all hell, she slept peacefully.
In the morning, the sun woke her, and she could hear movement of those who had woken earlier than she had. The memories of the previous day came to mind and she hopped out of bed in a flash. Bett grabbed jeans and a tee, then made her way to the kitchen where the smell of freshly brewed coffee welcomed her. Her mother was sorting through the tins in the pantry.
“Morning, darling,” she said to Bett.
“Need any help, Mom?”
“Need you ask?”
Bett smiled, took a clean mug from the sink, poured the heavenly black brew into it, added cream and sugar, and then joined her mother in the pantry to help. It occurred to her that stockpiling all the cans of foods on the shelves might not have been the result of paranoia but the result of inside knowledge.
Bett sorted through the tins and various containers with her mother and set aside packets of seed to plant. An hour later, the job was done. Bett thought it time to speak to her father and find out exactly what was going on.
It was time to break for lunch and the man who bore a striking resemblance to Pavarotti looked around to see if his relief was close by. Everything had been well organized and it was essential that no planes leave Miami. There weren’t many of them but they had been practicing the scenario for many months – one might even say years.
In the distance, he caught sight of another famous character. He smiled. The dead were definitely walking again. How nice, he thought, to add some silent humor to these dire proceedings. Einstein joined him two minutes later.
After handing over to the fake Einstein, Pavarotti made his way to the rest room. There he locked the door, quickly discarded the wig, removed some stuffing from his mouth (they altered his cheeks), donned a pair of dark glasses, turned his two-way jacket inside out, and walked out a changed man. He headed towards the food court. A man had to eat after all.
At one in the afternoon - Washington time - the President once more stood before the podium. He had delivered speeches at eight, at ten, and now again.
At eight, he announced that the Federal Bank would dissolve and that a new bank would be formed to take care of the interests of the American people. When asked by journalists who would control the bank, it turned out to be friends of the president and buddies of the congressmen and senators.
At nine thirty, he had to deny rumors of pending civil war between factions of the GOP and factions of the Liberals. His denials didn't reassure anyone, and when the journalists asked him who he thought was responsible for the EMP bombs, the President did the presidential thing and said, “As soon as we have more information, we will let you know.”
Now, at one, he had even worse news. He thought, perhaps, he wouldn’t run for reelection after all.
“Fellow Americans,” he said. “We live in the greatest country of all time, and as a consequence, we sometimes face greater than normal challenges. Now is such a time. But the American people have always overcome their challenges, and we will do so again. As a people, we are always well prepared.”
He breathed. Now to tell the tale.
“Both the National Intelligence Service and the FBI have confirmed that there are biological weapons being used to force a separation between northern and southern California. Although there have been very few deaths, we do not want there to be any more and so we must ask you in the strongest possible way to respect the boundaries that have been artificially enforced on the sunshine state.”
“Doctors from the CDC have been working in the area since early this morning trying to establish what the virus is. We do know that it is man-made and that it is fatal.
“Marines from Camp Pendleton are en route to the area to ensure that there is as little collateral damage as possible.”
Perhaps POTUS should not have paused to breathe at that moment because it gave opportunity for those below the podium to ask questions.
“What do you mean by collateral damage, Mr. President? Are we talking Americans here?
The President was having a bad day.
Peter Allen accepted the salute from the men of the militia. The break-out from the jail had been easy. From the moment he had punched the President in the face, the tone had been set for what was to follow. It wasn’t that he had planned the event. It was just that he couldn’t control his anger any longer. It was his frustration at the persistent pandering to the privileged classes thereby ensuring that the rest of the people were in a state of perpetual poverty.
Of course, there had been no exact plan for revolution. It was more that they were ready for the revolution when it came. Many had known that the revolution would come, and so, it was really just the combination of circumstances which had triggered everything. He wondered, though, who was responsible for the EMP bombs. That hadn’t been his people. Yes, his people had taken out the Federal Reserve – bloody robbers, every single one of them. He also wondered just how many sides there would be in this war. He knew that many would be caught in the middle, "Sometimes," he thought, "you have to pick a side because the middle ground wasn’t the safest place to be." Sitting on the fence wasn’t going to pay big dividends in this revolution, he knew.
Before he was ready to speak to the members of the militia, he turned and softly said to the man next to him, “Has my family been taken to safety?”
“Yes, Congressman. The moment you were taken to jail, we went to get them. Your daughter has only just arrived and your wife has already been settled into the designated home.”
Peter Allen wondered if his relief showed on his face. He mounted the make shift podium to speak.
“Soldiers,” he said, “the time has arrived for you to demonstrate your patriotism. The choices will be difficult for it will be one state against another state, one friend against another friend, and one brother against another brother. The choices, I say to you, will not be easy.”
“How will you know which choices to make in future days and months?"
“You have before you only one goal and that is to remove the poison that has beset this nation. There can be no un-American values anymore. We cannot have homo-sexual marriage. We cannot have mothers who are not married. We cannot have people living in our country illegally. We cannot have corporations employing people in another country while our people starve because there is not enough work for them. In short, we want our country back, and if we have to take it back through the use of force, then that is the way it will be.”
“You will all know by now that we did not set off the EMP bomb, and that means we are not the only party in this war. The people who did that may be our friends, or they may not be our friends. Security to be maintained at all times.”
“Some of you will lose your lives in the coming months. You will be remembered by your comrades, and when the day of remembrance comes, as it does each year, we will remember you. God be with you.” Congressman Peter Allen stepped down from the podium. He was anxious to see his wife and his children.
Bett finally caught up with her father in the late afternoon. It had been a busy day for all of them. They made sure that the well was supplying water and that the fruit trees were still bearing fruit. They didn’t have any livestock but the boys had gone off to see if they could buy some breeding hens and a cock from distant neighbors.
“Pops,” she said, “We need to talk.”
“Yes, of course, we do.” he smiled softly as he spoke. Lance Clark might not always have agreed with his daughter’s choices, but he had a healthy respect for her brain. And he had a healthier respect for her determination to get something she wanted, and she wanted the truth.
“There’s a group up in the north who have been training men for some time. Heard about it from Ben some years back, before he vanished. He said that it was a bunch of hippies that had decided that they needed protection from the Republican militias that were forming. Didn’t sound like they had much in the way of weapons, but obviously Ben didn’t tell me that. Yesterday morning, before the EMP bomb went off, Ben came round. Said it was time to leave. And that’s all I know.”
Bett believed him.
The crowds in Los Angeles were getting ugly. Phone lines were down. Microwaves didn’t work. And if it had previously been thought that social networking couldn’t be stopped, then the thinkers had been in error. For while there was an occasional working computer, the electronics in all the routers had been fried. Dead burglar alarms now served no function. Motor bikes, cars, and anything that had had an electronic component were as dead as last year fashions.
Shopkeepers didn’t open stores because staff couldn’t get to work. The governor had no idea what to do because he didn’t have sufficient resources to deal with an entire city of people who were rapidly running out of food and water. In short, Los Angeles was getting ugly.
Anne Shapiro and Douglas Martin stared out of their apartment onto the streets below. Both were naked but that didn’t prevent them from seeing the fire in the distance. Anne was a professor of social studies at UCLA while Martin was a mechanical engineer who contracted out his skills to the highest bidder.
Douglas put his arm around Anne’s shoulder for he felt her fear in the same moment that it occurred to him that while love making had detracted them from the dramas of the previous day, it most certainly hadn’t made any of it go away.
“We’re going to have to get out of here,” he said.
“Yes,” said Anne. “I think the entire population of Los Angeles is probably thinking that way by now. It’s not difficult to work out that there aren’t enough resources in America to fix this mess up anytime soon.”
“The fire looks as if it’s pretty close to your father’s bike store.” He couldn’t tell though, as the afternoon light was muggy with a smog that seemed to have permanently settled over the city of Angels
“People will begin looting because they have no other options. It’s going to be very much survival of the fittest and the rich will probably make a run for it. The middle classes will try to be civilized about it all for a bit, but that won’t last. And the poor have probably started the looting already.” Anne’s knowledge of sociology painted a clearer picture for her than most. Martin wasn’t far behind, though.
“We should probably have left LA yesterday,” he said with hindsight. Even as he said it, he was grabbing clothes and reaching for his backpack in the closet He opened the bedside drawer and took out a small revolver. “I’m glad you know how to shoot,” he said to Anne.
The woman gave one final twist to the latex on her face, then lifted the blond wig from the stand next to working area. She fitted it snugly onto her head and looked at her reflection. Marilyn, blond bombshell of the 50s, stared back at her. The woman donned three quarter jeans, flat sandals, and a pretty blouse to complete the picture. Now to do the act that the late actress would never have done, she thought to herself..
She walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, then removed a package which she packed carefully into her handbag. When that was done, she reached for a petite gas mask which she also packed into her handbag. Satisfied, she opened the front door of her apartment and stepped out into the lovely early evening of New York city.
Chapter Four : Biological Warfare
New York Mid August
Lyn Alberts did a left turn into West 47th Street. It would eventually lead to Times Square, but she was quite a way from there. Before she reached her destination this evening, she wanted to go via the man she would probably never see again, the man to whom her heart would belong for eternity. Such a sad story, she thought.
She thought of the creeping disease inside her, the one that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat, and which she could not afford. And then she thought of the option offered to her in return for treatment. Lyn had thought about it long and hard and had eventually decided she wanted to live. She put her hand into her bag and felt for the flask which contained the deadly biological toxin. She supposed it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do, but then, was it the right thing to charge such high prices for medical treatment? Sometimes it was so difficult to know what to do, especially when your heart cried out for life and love.
Lyn turned left into 8th and stared at the luxury apartment complex on the corner. He lived there. She wondered what he would say and how he would feel if he ever knew the decision she had taken. But she couldn’t think of any other way. If the price for her treatment was the lives of many others, then that was the price she would have to pay. After all, she didn’t have the money…
All that Jennifer Goodman knew about the camp where Reilly had deposited her parents and her was that it was somewhere north of Minneapolis and that the camp was situated next to a lake. There were tall trees everywhere so the camp was well hidden from prying eyes in the sky. In addition, if she had any thoughts of going anywhere, she soon discovered that it would not be happening. Security was tight. The parameters of the camp were securely fenced with well camouflaged wire.
Still, both she and her elderly parents had been given good, if small, accommodationl. They had been fed, and there was a doctor at hand to treat them. Jennifer was pleasantly surprised to find that she didn’t have to make any payment. The doctor explained that it was only the law that prevented less expensive versions of sophisticated medication, and he knew some people who reversed engineered the medication and so he was amply supplied with whatever was needed.
Outside the night air was brisk. She had not seen Reilly since he had handed them over to his general. There had been no introductions, just his terse explanation that these were good people and he didn’t want them to be collateral damage. Well, thought Jennifer, as she heard those chilling words, she didn’t want to be collateral damage either. She desperately wanted to speak to Reilly to find out why they had destroyed four cities. The thought devastated her. She had been worried about America not having a currency and having no money, but when she thought of the people in the cities which now had no power, with food going bad in fridges, and all sorts of vital electronic machines not functioning anymore, she knew that her worries about money faded in comparison. Still, she wanted to speak to Reilly. So she left the house and went to look for him.
Jennifer Goodman was stopped before she got much further than ten or twenty yards. “Where are you going?”
“I’m looking for Reilly,” she said.
“Reilly’s busy, but I’ll tell him you’re looking for him when I see him. Go back to your home and stay there.”
The two men, well known to most people, were respectfully left to eat their meal without being interrupted. If there were some who wanted to leave good manners behind and solicit an autograph, they didn’t act on the impulse. So the two men, seated at a side café on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, continued to speak softly.
“The operation was successful. Only a few lives were lost, and the point was made.”
“I take it we’re ready to implement the next part of the plan?”
One man had an olive skin with black hair. His brown eyes were almond shaped and while he would be considered short at 5’9”, his physique was such that many a woman would forgive him that shortcoming. The other man, considerably taller, with a yellow blond mane of hair, had the kind of green eyes that many would aspire to. His high cheek bones and well developed muscle tone spoke of long hours in the gym. They were both high profile figures, accustomed to being adored.
“The Los Angeles Times set up make shift offices in Orange County and are running an emergency operation. They’ve written a pretty good story, and it’s to our benefit. They’re telling people that there is ample evidence that the GOP is responsible for the EMP bombs. That should definitely set the cat amongst the pigeons. With there being so much resentment between the Republicans and Democrats, it’s not going to take much to tip this into a civil war. And the good old media is stirring the pot nicely!”
“Still, I think we need to work with our friends up north. It’s all worked very nicely. And we do want to get this war off to a good start.” There was almost a smirk to the blond man’s tone.
The dark haired man looked up at him and said, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?””
Lyn was sipping an espresso at the café across from the luxury apartment complex. Occasionally people would stare to her. They couldn’t quite figure if she genuinely looked like the 50s star or whether it was a good make up job. Lynn didn’t notice the stares. She was too busy hoping to see him. As she sipped her coffee and watched the entrance to his apartment, her thoughts turned to Black Mist, the deadly nerve agent she was carrying.
Of Russian origin, it had been invented during the cold war and brought death within hours to those who breathed it in. Worse than that, the mist itself was a propellant for the bacteria it carried. The gas weakened the lungs, and the lungs once weakened did not resist the bacteria. There were rumors that it was bubonic plague bacteria - Yersinia pestis. Initially, the disease caused large black welts on the skin, thus called the black plague. However, as the disease became more entrenched, it developed into pneumonic plague, a far more deadly version. It was also known to be the most infectious of all diseases.
Lyn had been told that the particular item she carried was a combination of a gas that weakened the lungs and allowed the bacteria to speed up its toxic effect more quickly. She had been told that death would result within a few hours of contact, depending on whether the person has a strong immune system, and whether treatment with antibiotics was immediately available. During the hour or two that it would take for the disease to develop, however, different carriers would go into all parts of New York, and because they would be infectious within an hour, once the initial gas attack was over, the deadly plague would begin. It was anyone’s guess how many would die, and how long it would take to contain the plague. It would also be especially difficult because the results of the EMP bomb had all but disabled New York city.
She didn't know who her paymasters were and she didn’t know why they were doing it. Hadn’t they just killed the city electronically? She had no computer, no refrigerator, no car, no money. Nothing was working. She knew it was a war, and she knew that in a war it was every man – or woman – for himself. All she wanted was a chance to have a life.
The Texas Governor, Adrian James, was having an interesting, if disturbing, conversation.
“How well are they armed? And when do they plan to strike?”
“They’re very well armed. They’ve been arming for years. They want America back the way it used to be. They consider everyone who is not a staunch Republican a traitor to the cause. They also consider anyone who is not a Christian, not white, and not heterosexual to be an enemy.”
Adrian James thought of his daughter who had told him a month prior to her sixteen birthday that she was a lesbian. She had wanted to use her 16th birthday party as a coming out announcement. He had been shocked to his core, had forbidden her any such action, taken her to see the pastor, then a psychologist, and finally, after two years spent weeping on his knees before his Lord and consulting numerous experts in the field, had accepted the inevitable. She was his daughter after all.
She was twenty three now, had graduated college with honors, had a live in lover whom she badly wanted to marry, and worked as a sociologist for the state department. He thought she was following in his footsteps by wanting to serve the community. He loved her deeply and in those quiet times when he contemplated the deep divide between his faith and the circumstances of his life, he still despaired. Oh that there would be easy answers in life. Now, as he heard the words of his informer, his heart trembled with fear for his daughter.
“Why?” he asked.
His informer looked at him and said, “Some people like simple answers. They see things as black and white and they think when things go wrong, it’s because some things are grey.” The verbal delivery of the paunchy man who spoke held no condemnation, just factual information, as if there was no meaning to any of it.
“Do you know what they’re hoping to achieve?” he asked.
“Oh, that’s simple enough. They’re hoping to reestablish the old America. They want men to be fathers, women to be married and looking after the children at the kitchen sink. They want gays to confess it’s all a heinous sin and to reform and beg forgiveness. Then they want everybody worshipping Jesus Christ, and they want jobs that pay them substantially more. They want to raise their families in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.
“And they think this war is going to get it for them?”
“They think if they kill those who don't fit, only good Americans will be left.”
Governor Adrian James was scared that his daughter wasn’t a good American.
Lyn was beginning to feel very, very depressed. The night crept on and it was fairly late when the man she loved appeared - with another woman attached to his arm. They seemed most affectionate to each other and the pangs of jealousy bit into her, increasing her anger at her situation. It boiled and stirred her bitterness, increasing her determination to disperse her little flask with its deadly contents. Revenge, she thought, and then she hated herself. It didn’t matter which way Lyn played it, she was going to lose him. The biological weapon would kill him as well.
It was dark when Anne Shapiro and Douglas Martin stepped from their Los Angeles apartment. They were both dressed warmly, in black, and carried backpacks with the essentials they thought they would need over the next few days. Neither of them had any illusions. After the initial impulse to escape immediately, they had thought about it and then planned more carefully.
Douglas carried the revolver on him with spare ammo in his belt. They had decided to avoid contact with others and to walk in the dark and remain as hidden as possible. They were both thankful that the lights were out, although, more and more, they saw fires burning wildly. There was no one to put out the fires as the streets were full of cars that couldn’t be moved. Unfortunately their television had been on when the EMP bomb hit and so it was fried, and their normal source of news was subsequently unavailable. Their one source of news was the little radio that Anne had kept packed for emergencies – the earthquake type. Now he was thankful that it was there, with a full set of spare batteries.
They kept to the shadows on the sidewalk, and when they saw people ahead, they stopped, reconnoitered, and took back roads. Their destination was simple. They were going south, ostensibly to San Diego, but really intent on getting to Mexico. Their passports – still valid from their last trip to Rome the previous year – were pocketed safely so that if they lost their backpacks, they could still cross the border. Neither were sure if Mexico would close the border, but they felt the earlier they made the dash, the more likely it would be that the borders would still be open.
Douglas’s parents had a vacation villa in Rosarito and it had always been a family joke that if anything ever happened to the great old U.S. of A, then everybody would head down there. Well, the two of them certainly were, and they hoped that the rest of the family would be there as well.
Neither of them had any illusions about the long walk. They knew that there would be many people, who desperate to survive, would begin to rob others as food and other necessities became scarce. Douglas supposed the marines had arrived but in a city with a population close to ten million people, he didn’t see that they could contain the violence that would erupt.
Lyn gasped. Trevor and his new girlfriend were coming towards the café where she was sitting. She looked for a way out but there was none. So she did the only thing she could do. She gazed into space and continued to sip her espresso as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
Of course, he saw her.
Worse, he walked over to her, and she noted, with surprise, that there was delight on his face. “Lyn, how lovely to see you.”
Lyn’s found it difficult to compose her face. Yet, for the sake of what dignity she could muster, she said with charming control, “Trevor, I was walking past your apartment on the way to meet some friends at Times Square when I saw this charming café, and as I was a little early, I decided it would be a nice place to have a cup of espresso.” God, was she babbling? How insincere she sounded.
“Lyn, it’s lovely to see you,” he repeated, intensity in his expression. I’ve missed you but we’ve had some issues in the family and I left New York rather suddenly. Just got back. Can I introduce my lovely sister, Bobbie, to you?”
So that’s where he has been. Why hadn’t he called, she wondered desperately. Would she have taken this path if she had known he had been interested, as was now apparent to her? Still, he didn’t know about her disease, and if he did know that, he would know that they had no future together while she had the disease.
Oh why did so many have to die in order for her to be cured, she asked herself desperately. It was the only way, she answered herself. And she desperately believed in the cause. There were too many rich people who were taking everything for themselves, while people like her could not get the medication to live. Her flask would be delivered at Times Square where the mayor of New York and various others of the legislature had gathered this night - along with the leading lights of the city - to decide on a course of action. Of course, so many times in the past, these people had decided what to do, and when they did, they did it mostly for themselves, and the rest of the people just carried on struggling under increasing burdens of debt - tired, stressed, and with little hope.
Trevor drew up a chair without asking. He parked himself right next to her, put his arm around her, and gave her a lingering kiss. She wanted to respond, and for a moment she did, and then she squeezed his hand with hers, and said, “So Bobbie, I didn’t know Trevor had a sister. Tell me about yourself.”
And as it was all playing out, she thought she deserved an Oscar for her act.
Reilly sneaked into the hut in the early hours of the morning. Jennifer was asleep, as were her parents. Their wooden shack had one bedroom, a living room, a small bathroom and a kitchen. He guessed rightly that Jennifer would sleep on the settee, so when he let himself in, he was careful to first close the bedroom door, before he stepped quietly to her sleeping figure, put his hand over her mouth so that she wouldn’t cry out, and woke her.
“It’s time we spoke,” he said.
“It’s night,” she replied groggily.
“I had a mission,” he said.
“Another EMP bomb?” she asked sarcastically.
“That wasn’t us,” said Reilly.
It’s time, thought Lyn. I must go. They will be getting out of the meeting soon, and it’s a thirty minute walk. I must go. She slowly got up from the chair.
Trevor said, “Are you off? What time are you meeting your friends? It’s a bit late, isn’t it?”
“They went to see a late show and I’m meeting them afterwards.”
“Gosh, there’s a show on? I thought everything had come to a halt in New York.”
Before he could ask any more questions, Lyn bent and kissed him on the lips, and said what she knew to be true, but also knew a woman never said to a man before he said the words first. “I love you,” she said. “I always will, no matter what.” And then she stepped out.
She heard him call her, but moved quickly, fading into the dark, unlighted streets.
Lyn walked quickly. Her thoughts were in turmoil. She had HIV. There was a new treatment. It cost millions. She hated all those wealthy people. She hated, in particular, all those people who called people like her lazy and stupid because she didn’t have a job. She wished they would all die. And tonight they would. And she would live.
But she didn’t want Trevor to die. And she didn’t want his sister to die, because that would make Trevor sad. And what would happen if Trevor caught the plague? She hadn’t thought of that. Lyn paused. But she paused only for a moment. Times Square was still ten minutes away, and if she wanted to live, if she wanted the treatment that cost millions, then she would need to carry out this assignment - for the good of the cause.
And then she was there. She breathed a sigh of relief. The limousine drivers were beginning to park outside. That meant that the city dignitaries were about to come out. She was in time. Her hand went into her purse and she felt the flask. She also felt the tiny little mask that would slip into her nostrils and which was barely noticeable. It would cover her mouth as well. It had been specially molded to fit her face so that she would be protected from the toxic effects of the parcel she carried. The mask was a perfect replica of the bottom half of her face.
Jennifer didn’t believe Reilly for a moment. She wanted to, but she couldn’t.
“So, if you didn’t do it, who did? And then why do you have all those bombs and guns?”
“We have the guns and bombs because we want to protect ourselves. I’ve told you that this day would come, but we didn’t start this war. We’re here to protect all God loving Americans.”
‘Well, that we are,” she said. She looked at him. He was so sexy.
‘Thank you for looking after my parents,” she said.
The men and women started exiting the doors. Lyn recognized some of them. She had seen them many times on television.
She felt the flask with her fingers. She felt the mask that now covered her face. And she felt the little pill at the top of the mask – just in case she changed her mind. It was the pill they said she must take if she didn’t carry out her mission. They had told her that there was no escape, that they could not afford to have her live if she did not carry out the task allocated to her. The cyanide pill would kill her in a moment and the people would go free this night.
Lyn thought of Trevor. She thought of his sister. She thought of her illness.
The people continued to walk from the theater. They were nearing the limousines now. She needed to act now.
She thought of the man she loved. She thought of all humanity, and in those moments, her death would give them life. Her hand moved towards the cyanide pill, and then it seemed to her that she was making the right decision. She said her goodbyes as she bit down. She felt her strength fade. She saw the people blurring in front of her. And then she dropped. Around her there were screams, but Lyn never heard them. She was gone from this world.
Doug and Anne walked steadily, first heading west towards Santa Monica, and then walking south along the seashore. They reached Redondo Beach by five the following morning. It was still dark, and it was only thanks to Anne’s love of vintage that they had any inkling of the time. The art deco watch that she had so diligently wound every evening before she went to bed had finally paid off.
It was just outside Redondo Beach that their luck ran out.
Chapter 5 Madame de la Guillotine
Mid August - Texas
It had been two days since the EMP bomb had detonated in Houston. There had been little help from Governor Adrian James for the people of that city. The governor was too busy with too many emergencies and couldn’t be in ten places at once. There was a civil war brewing with some Texans killing other Texans. There was no money for people to buy food and other basics. The dead electronics no longer fed oil through the pipelines, so gas shortages were now chronic throughout the state. With Houston out of commission, shortages were rapidly developing in other states. NASA was a complete write-off.
Added to this, Houston was burning. It was burning because the temperature had been hovering at a hundred and fifteen degrees for two weeks. It was burning because fires had flared up but there were no working fire engines. Tempers were frayed; food and water were in short supply, vandalism had broken out, and the mood was rapidly approaching one of desperation. With a population of just over two million, the breakdown of law and order came more rapidly than it would in a small town.
After leaving the airport, the Parkins family made their way to their vacation home in Miami. They were in a sombre mood, while they discussed the possible identities of the people who prevented them from boarding their jet and flying to Europe.
*This is not a good situation," Harold Parkins said to his wife. "We might have to find a way of living off the grid for a while. This is dangerous. We could all get shot."
As they opened the front door, it became obvious that they had guests. "Who are you?" asked Harold.
“We’re the same people who didn’t want you to leave the country,” the well dressed middle aged man said to him. The man, himself, looked mild, as if he wouldn’t hurt a fly In fact, he looked the type of man that Parkins had spent a life time giving orders and, in a normal situation, he would have done exactly that. It was the Glock in the man's hand, however, that kept Harold civil.
“Is there a reason you are in my house?”
“Yes, we’ll be escorting you elsewhere, so we need your family to get a good night’s sleep and we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning. You won’t be needing much, just some comfortable clothing for traveling, and a change of clothing when we arrive at our destination.”
“And where is our destination?” Harold Parkins had asked.”
“Houston,” said the man.
Harold Parkins continued to have a very bad feeling.
The family slept in one room that night, and iin the morning, they were escorted back to Miami airport where they boarded Harold's own plane. An hour later, the family deplaned and were driven to a house near the Galleria shopping mall. It was a silent journey as everyone eyed the destruction in the city. The heat was sweltering and the three children were hovering between bouts of tears and moments of frustration. Mrs. Parkins was doing everything she could to contain the situation, but she too, was fearful.
“What do you think they are going to do to us?” Emma, asked Harold.
“I don’t know, but it’s sure to involve a lot of money. These people don’t have the capacity to earn it on their own, so they want to take the money of honest, hard-working individuals like myself.” Harold Parkins did not include his wife and children in that statement. He knew that he was one hundred percent responsible for making his own money. Nobody else had helped him or contributed in any way.
The Parkins family waited the entire day in a very ot house without AC and two fresh loaves of bread, some peanut butter and jelly. Initially, Initially, they grumbled amongst themselves about the food. Mrs. Parkins wondered if Mr. Parkins could sneak out to the shops to buy some steaks. Mr. Parkins wondered if Mrs. Parkins was aware that there was were men standing guard outside the front door. He also wondered if Mrs. Parkins realized that any steaks available in Houston would, by now, be food for maggots. By late afternoon, with no other food available, Jello sandwiches began to taste as good as anything they had ever tasted.
Their guards didn’t disturb them, and when Emma or Harold tried to ask them questions towards evening, they were simply ignored. So the Parkins family waited, sure that at some point, money would be involved. It always was.
Senator Tom Grey met with the famous actor behind closed doors. The craftsman cottage was well hidden behind trees and not easily seen from the road. Few knew of its existence. Indeed, it had been in the senator’s family for more than four generations, and though seldom used, it was kept for moments such as these. Indeed, as the senator descended from a long line of politicians and other officials, it was inculcated into him from birth that secret meeting places were an essential part of the political life.
“Are we ready to move forward?” asked the Senator.
“Yes, the captives are all in place. We took the last one yesterday. Thirty five billionaire and their families, as agreed.”
“It should be quite a show,” said the Senator. "Then, again, with those costume changes of yours, that's exactly what it is. Why not wear a simple disguise?"
"I'm an actor and I've always had a thing for impersonating the famous. It's fun!" The actor grinned at Tom Grey. "It's got to be more than a show, you know. It has to be effective as well."
The conversation was ended there, then they hugged like old friends which they were, and each went their separate way.
They came for Harold and Emma in the late afternoon of the second day. The three children were driven in a separate car while Emma and Harold were put into the first car. Emma was both distraught and hungry. Her fears had finally vanquished her normally rigid self-control. “Why are they going in a different car?”
“Because you don’t want them to hear the conversation we’re about to have.”
“What conversation is that?”
“The one about the procedures that will be followed at your trial. The jury will consist of thirty people. There will be judge. You will have an hour to convince judge and jury of your innocence. If you cannot, then you and your family will be sentenced. Sentence will be carried out immediately.”
In New York, seven of the super wealthy had been taken. In Los Angeles, eight had been taken. In Chicago, five had been taken, and in Houston, three had been taken. In Seattle, Silicon Valley, Dallas, and in various other places throughout the United States, thirty five families were told they were being escorted to a place of justice to stand trial.”
“That’s typical of the bastards!”
It wasn’t often that language like that was heard in the oval office, but this time it expressed what the general feeling in the room. Senator Tom Grey wo had arrived some fifteen minutes earlier was delighted at the anger and frustration. The plan was working.
Mildly, he said, “They're only asking for what they’re owed. Wouldn’t you be concerned if you knew that you weren’t going to repaid the $390 billion you were owed? Our dollar no longer exists so they’re asking for it in gold. Makes perfect sense to me.”
“They’re asking for it in gold that they know we don’t possess, and they refuse to supply us with the electronic parts we need to fix everything that the bomb took down.” The president stated his case quietly, paused, and then continued. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if they used the fact that we couldn’t pay them in gold as an excuse for war.” He pause for a moment. "All we need now is a war with China."
Senator Grey hid a quick smirk on his face as he thought that it had always been okay for America to go to war. Now the shoe was on the other foot. “We could ask the people for their gold,” he suggested.
“Are you crazy?” the president asked him without expecting a reply.
“Not really,” replied the Senator. “Have you got any other ideas? You might not have noticed but we’re without a currency, our four top cities are dead in the water, our supply lines have been cut because virtually everything routes through those four cities. We have all sorts of militia and internal terrorists killing people. There seems to be something happening every moment, and I think we’re in over our head.”
There were those in the Oval Office who thought his words something of an understatement.
“ I also think that, regardless of whose fault all this is, it’s only the people of this country who can save us by donating all their gold to the US government.”
“You know, Tom, you might actually have something there. It is not unknown in history for kings to take from the people when their wars cost them too much. I’m sure if we worded this correctly, appealed to the patriotism of the people of this great country, we could get them to donate all their gold. There must be enough gold from 350 million people for us to pay the Chinese.”
There was a knock on the door and an aide walked in. He went straight to the president and handed him the note. The president's face quivered as he read it and then said, “Gentlemen, thirty five of our most successsful citizens have been abducted. I think it’s fair to assume that they won’t be coming out of this alive. I think it’s also fair to say that if we instituted a heavy death tax on what they leave behind, we might be able to save ourselves. This is one piece of good news, thankfully.”
Harold Parkins stood with his wife beside him. Behind him were seated a jury of twelve. In front stood a robed judge and two men attired in grey suits. Harold didn’t know if they were attorneys. There were elements of a court room, but it wasn't an official court of law. The most he could say was that it was a spacious room. Once more, he wondered how much it would cost him. He had spent a life time buying people, bulllying them, and putting them into situations where they had no option but to sell to him. His one concern was the amount of time they were taking to get to the point. It meant that they wanted a lot of money. He wondered how much that would be.
The judge asked, “Are you ready?”
If looks could kill, Harold Parkins’s look would have charred the judge to a crisp black crust.
“I’ve been ready for two days. I’d like to get this fiasco over with.”
The judge looked at him and said, “Sometimes, it’s best not to wish your life away.”
Harold Parkins missed the full implications of that. He had heard the cliché many times and didn’t have much time for over-used clichés. He knew them for what they were.
One of the men dressed in grey said, “Mr, Parkins, are you familiar with the biblical verse about the early church sharing all their possessions, especially those who had more than others, giving to those who had less than they had.”
The full implication of those words hit Harold Parkins immediately.. They couldn’t possibly want him to give away that much, could they? He thought it better to profess ignorance. Maybe they were just starting high – classic negotiating technique.
“No, I don’t.”
“In the acts of the Apostle, 2:44, 45 it says ‘they held everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, giving to everyone who had need. Times are hard for many people right now. Would you be willing to give up your fortune to the people of Houston? Look around you. You have been very uncomfortable these last two days. Think of people who have endured this for all the years of their life.”
Harold Parkins looked at the man and said, “I am always willing to help. However, I worked hard for what I have, and I deserve every penny of it.”
The court didn’t say anything, and Mr. Parkins felt the silence. It made him feel uncomfrotable. Next to him, Emma, perhaps a bit more sensitive said, “Now Harold, you inherited some from your father, and your father paid for you to go to all the right schools. You didn’t have it as hard as some.”
But Harold wasn’t having any. He had known all his life that his wealth had some to him through his own hard work. Those that didn’t attain his heights, he firmly believed to be less hardworking, and most certainly, less intelligent.
“The second man in grey walked over to where Harold stood and said, “How much are you willing to give these people, Mr. Parkins? Your generosity would be most appreciated in these difficulty times.”
Harold didn’t miss a beat. He had known all along that it came down to money, and the rule of thumb was start low when it was going to cost you and start high when it was going to cost someone else. So he started low, “I think that there will be many contributions, so I think $2 million would be most generous offer.”
“Out of the billions you have, you think two million would be a generous offer?”
“You know nothing about money, young man, obviously. My wealth is tied up in hard assets. Two million is a very generous offer."
“You’re sure about that?”
“Very,” replied the billionaire. He thought it was almost too easy.
“We’re not going to beg, Mr. Parkins. We would like you to reconsider.”
“I think in view of the extreme discomfort afforded myself and my family, $2 million will be enough. You could have gone through the normal channels to get me to donate, I might have been more generous had you approached me in a friendlier way.” And this time, Harold Parkins vented. The worst was behind him. They had settled. He could go home with his family now. Thankfully.
“Mr. Parkins, did you not decline to donate some half a million a few months ago when it would have saved the life of a young man sorely in need of medical care?”
“That was hardly my problem. He had family and he should have been on insurance.”
The two men in the grey suits walked towards the judge. “We rest our case, your honor. It is more difficult for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than part with his wealth. We have given him every opportunity and he has denied the people of Houston and the people of America.”
It was then that Harold felt a moment of fear. Perhaps, he thought, he needed to be a little more generous. He glanced up at his wife, Emma, and saw the fear in her face. He had always trusted Emma’s gut.
The judge nodded towards the jury. A man in the jury stood up. “We find Mr. Parkins lacking in generosity towards his fellow man and we do not think he is capable of seeing them as people. He has a very cold heart. However, in a spirit of generosity, we will allow the family one last half hour to say their good-byes, and then we will follow procedure.”
Harold wanted to ask what was going on, but he didn’t because some military looking men walked in, heavily armed, with his children, and he did not want to say anything in front of his children. But for the first time in his life, Harold was scared. He did not want to believe that he would only see his children for half an hour.
Cause of civil war and revolutions - wealth inequality
Things were not going well for Governor Adrian James. He was desperately trying to make his way to Houston, but trying to arrange an alternative means of exchange for the people of Texas as well as trying to source the necessary electronics to get Houston working again was, he suspected, an impossible task.It didn’t help that it was the beginning of hurricane season and his advisors had just told him that a big one was brewing in the Caribbean.
The oil industry could also bring further problems. With all the electronics gone, he suspeted that there could be explosions. He didn't know. He needed to be at ground zero. There could also be leakages in the deep sea pipes and oil could once more flood the ocean bed. He wondered if it could possibly get worse.
And then it did.
Nevada City, Northern California
Bett Clark saw the man before he saw her. Her gut told her that he was trouble and that he had a lot to do with what was happening around her. She didn’t want her family to be involved. She wanted them to sit it out, just as her father had taught them through the years.
With a shock of recognition, she saw that it was Ben's son, now grown to be a man. More to the point, he had grown to be a very good looking man with a body that cried, “Come to me.” Bett’s emotions were confused, and for a few moments, her brain wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. Then the years of survivalist training came to the fore, and she stepped forward. He stopped somewhat abruptly as he realized that he had been seen, then walked towards her, “You must be Bett,” he said, and he eyed her almost the same way that she had eyed him.
“Are your family ready?” he asked in the same breath.
Emma Parkins, Harold Parkins, and their three children were escorted to a door at the far side of the large room. Inside were chairs, some water and soda, and a few sandwiches. Neither Emma nor Harold were hungry as their trepidation killed their appetite. The children, though, reached out, keen to have something to eat and drink. None of them had ever known what it was like to be hungry.
Tacitly, Emma and Harold acted as if everything was okay until the children had eaten. Then both Emma and Harold asked their children to come be seated with them. Jon, the youngest at three years old could sense the tension more than the others, and after his joy at the sandwiches and soda pop, he now burst into tears. Emma picked him up and held him against her. Marina, a pretty little girl of six years, and Ron, her older brother of eight, tried to make the best of things. After all, both their parents had assured them that everything would be alright. Well, maybe not, “Mom, is everything still going to be alright?” Ron asked.
Harold put his arms around his son, and Emma held her daughter. So they remained, tightly wrapped until they came for them. Emma and Harold were taken from the children and, with some grace, reassured their children that they would see them shortly. The children were led out through another door.
In New York, where Lyn had died the previous evening without releasing the deadly toxin into the city, violence brewed, silently, deadly, about to implode on a city with too few resources to care for the many. It was the third day since the release of EMP bomb. Food was running out. In some way, the electronic circuitry had affected the flow of water through the city as well. While some pipes and taps were still working, increasing numbers were running dry. There was an unbearable overload on virtually everything. The smaller cafes that had bravely attempted to remain open to serve people food and drink, now closed their doors.
Trevor thought it a good idea to leave the city. So did Bobbie. Both were concerned about Lyn, and after packing a few supplies into a backpack, both walked to Lyn’s place. When they knocked, there was no answer, and when Trevor tried the knob, it opened easily. He saw the note on the table and knew that something terrible had happened. It simply said, “I’m sorry.”
“Let’s go,” he said to Bobbie. “We’ll probably have to walk out of New York, and it might get dangerous. People become feral very easily.”
When Harold and Emma Parkins reentered the room that they had left thirty minutes earlier, it had changed. In the center stood a huge contraption. “What is that?” asked Emma.
“Welcome to Madame de la Guillotine,” said one of the men in the grey suit.
“Guillotine?” Harold paled. “You can’t be serious!” he gasped.
“We very much are,” said the judge. “The jury did not see you as publicly minded or concerned about your fellow human beings. You have lost your humanity.”
Emma was trembling. “What are you going to do with us?” she whispered.
“We are going to cut off your heads, just the way the French cut off the heads off all their elite, rich people.”
“You can have it all,” Harold said. “Please take my money, but give me my wife and my children.”
The judge looked at him and said, “That is fear speaking. If a man will only give when he is scared, then it is not a spirit of concern for others. We will take the money anyway. You had your chance.”
Emma started screaming. Harold attempted to run, almost forgetting Emma. But it wasn’t possible to go anywhere. The men of the jury had rope. They tied the feet and hands of Emma and Harold, and then they took Emma up to the Guillotine. She remembered her children.
“What about my children?” she whimpered.
“They have already been given lethal injections. We do not want your type around anymore. You’ve already conditioned them to have a sense of entitlement. They’ll be just like you when they grow up.”
Emma crumpled. She showed no more resistance. They took her up, and rested her head on the lower blade. She tried to struggle but she couldn’t.
Harold was shouting. “You can’t do that. This is murder!”
The judge turned to Harold and said, “You don’t think it’s murder paying people in your company so little that they can barely survive?”
One of the men of the jury spoke. “Your company made six billion dollars in profits last year. If you had taken one billion of that and paid your workers a livable wage, your shareholders would still have made a profit, and your workers wouldn’t have endured the misery and stress that they did. Effectively, you murdered them in every sense of the word. Your robbed them of a soul and you robbed them of well being, and you did that so that you and your shareholders could live better than the kings and emperors of this earth have ever lived.”
“Look,” said the judge to Harold, and Harold saw the blade from Madame de La Guillotine fall. He saw Emma’s head roll and knew she was no more.
Harold went quietly.
It was later in the day that POTUS learned that thirty five of the richest men in the United States, along with their families, had been decapitated by Madame de la Guillotine. The message was sent collectively to all television stations, along with photos showing the deaths of all. Youtube hosted thirty five videos of blood and gore and those that saw them were sickened. The rich of the nation began to tremble.
Chapter 6: The President's Assassination
Week Three, August.
The press conference was set for the evening of the forth day. The United States was rapidly becoming ungovernable, and with several issues, all of vital importance, it was time to face the people for a moment of truth. The president decided not to hide the seriousness or the number of events. As he stood there, in front of the podium - the vice president next to him - surrounded by members of the Secret Service, he viewed the flashing cameras, microphones pointed at him. He heard the loud buzz of voices. At 7 pm eastern daylight time, the buzz stopped abruptly as he ‘ummed’ into the microphone.
POTUS paused only for a moment, and then he began to speak. He knew it would be the most important speech of his life, and he wondered if it would be his last.
“Citizens of the greatest country in the world, it is important for you to know everything that has happened. I promised when I came to power that there would be an open process, and with that in mind, I have come here this evening to lay everything before you, and to ask you to turn from the healthy, confident consumers you have been into the brilliant and patriotic citizens you are. Each and every one of us needs to work together to save the United States from the great catastrophes that have befallen us.”
The President then reiterated, again, the events that started everything – Corporate America once more asking for funds, the removal of the reserve currency status from the United States which plunged the value of the US dollar by 90% and, immediately following that, the EMP bombs that paralyzed Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York. He spoke sincerely, mentioning the personal stories of some who were in those situations, touching the hearts of many of his listeners as he did so. He was a good speaker and he continued to talk…
Chloe had been boxed in her apartment in central Chicago for four days and four nights. Her only excursion out had been to the office building across the road where she worked. As her work laptop had been off when the EMP bomb hit, it had not been damaged. Yet, even with that, she had not been able to get online as all the routers, satellite dishes, and other technology involved, had been fried. Still, she was pleased that she had the lap top.
The food in her pantry was rapidly diminishing, as were her candles and other emergency supplies. Unlike many others, Chloe had always lived off rice and tinned food, and her pantry had been well stocked with a tiny gas stove, bottled water, matches and candles.
Again, while her cell phone had not been in use when the EMP bomb hit, none of the towers were able to provide a signal and so she had been unable to contact any of the members of her family. They all lived in the country and that was where she desperately wanted to be. She also desperately wanted there to be someone with her so that she was not so alone. For the first time in her life, being alone frightened her.
There was a knock at her door and she ignored it. Chloe had seen a lot of movies and she had been watching the streets below from her third floor window. She didn’t think it healthy to open the door to anyone. The difficulty was that she knew that she would have to leave to go to her family. Only her car was not working, the street below was full of cars which had not yet been removed, and short of walking, she had no way of leaving Chicago. The knocking at the door was persistent and growing louder
The President continued, now covering events that had not yet been made known to the general public.
“Two days ago a young lady died in New York. She died in Times Square, just as city and government officials were leaving an emergency-planning meeting. When police examined her, they found that she was in possession of a deadly biological warfare toxin. Had she released it, many would have died in New York. For some reason, known only to herself, and now taken to the grave with her, she chose not to go through with that act and bit on a cyanide pill instead, taking her own life.”
There was a buzz from journalists and other media personnel. Yet, it stilled quickly as they realized that the president had more to tell them.
“Unfortunately not everybody made that choice. Nearly one hundred thousand people have died in Long Beach as a result of a bioweapon, and we have had to quarantine the area starting from Redondo Beach, around and through Downey, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Huntington Beach. Even worse, this is not the only city where biological weapons have been released. The other cities and towns which we currently know of are Albuquerque in New Mexico, Flagstaff in Arizona, Jamestown in North Dakota, Memphis in Tennessee, and Youngstown in Pennsylvania.
We also think that Chicago might be infected but we don’t know for sure. While the CDC has acted very quickly to quarantine these cities, unfortunately, due to the many tragedies that have befallen us during the past four days, the job has not been done the way it should have been done. It is, therefore, with a heavy heart that I tell you that your lives are not safe. Anybody walking around you could be infected. I would like to say to you, ‘Do not panic,’ but I have a feeling that you will make your own choices.”
“And it is about making those choices that I want to speak to you this evening. You still belong to the greatest nation in the world, and we should be a shining example to the world around us as to how a great people behave when they are attacked on all sides. I want to ask you to be the great citizens you are, to make the choices that need to be made for the greater good. In other words, I want to quote to you the words that so many of you know by heart, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” And if that means that you need to remain in a quarantined area, and that you might die as a result of that choice, I ask you to make that choice. A great people are capable of making choices that work for the greater good and not for their own personal survival only.”
Chloe was growing frightened. She resisted going to the door and looking through the peephole. She knew that the action would be noted, and so she remained where she was. Her satchel was packed with her small gas stove, a spare canister of gas, a bag of rice, another bag of lentils, two bottles of water, a spare panty, and a small canister of pepper spray. As she stood there listening to the thud-thud-thud, she carefully removed it from her satchel and kept it in her hand.
Then there were voices, a crowd of voices, male voices, and she heard someone say, “We got this one open,” and then they moved off. She could hear that it was one of her neighbors and she wondered what she was going to do. It occurred to her that the apartment that had been broken into might belong to the son of the landlord. The landlord had the penthouse at the top of the building and her neighbor quite often spent time up there. He was probably with his family. Just as well, she thought. But it didn’t help her much. She listened to them for the next hour or so while they played his music – the door was obviously open – and they drank his beer and partied. Then she heard them make plans to take what they could and within another fifteen minutes they were gone.
Chloe breathed a sigh of relief, dared to use the peephole to see if there was anyone outside – no – and then made her way to the window to see what was happening below in the streets. She had been staring down for about ten minutes when there was another knock on her door.
Senator Tom Grey and the actor were meeting once again. In fact, they were both starting at the 3D screen in front of them, listening to every word the president was saying. “So far, so good,” said the well known actor.
“I think he’ll do it. He’s a fairly easy man to manipulate.”
Now, as the president continued with his speech, he spoke more and more slowly, knowing that he had to convince these people to give their gold, and that to do so, he had to appeal to them as citizens rather than consumers. He hoped that after telling them that they were in great danger from biological warfare that they wouldn’t care so much about their gold, and that they would just donate it in the quantities needed to pay China what was owed her. The United States was in no way capable of defending itself in a war against China. He did not want to chance it.
“People of America, there is one more burden that I must share with you, and it will require even a greater sacrifice by you… When we asked China to supply us with the electronic parts needed to fix our cities, our cars, our medical equipment, our military equipment, and every other piece of equipment that uses an electronic item, China asked us first to pay in full the amount we owe them. As you know, the dollar is not worth what it used to be, and China does not want payment in our paper money. China has asked that before she supply us with the parts we need in order to return America to a state of normalcy, that we pay her what we owe her in gold.”
“Fort Knox!” someone yelled from the middle of the throng before him.
“Fort Knox,” said POTUS, “has been empty since Nixon took the US off the gold standard. That’s why he took us off the gold standard – because there was no more gold in Fort Knox. It was all used to pay for our military. Wars cost money."
Once more the great hall erupted in sound. This time it did not still when the president put up his hand. Instead there were many questions hurled at him - quite different to what the norm was in situations like this. Then again, he thought, there never had been a situation quite like this.
Finally everybody stilled and the president continued.
“I want to ask every American to part from his or her gold for the sake of the American people as a whole. We have spent to our heart’s delight for many decades, and perhaps it was a foolish thing to do, but we do have to pay our debts, and…”
The uproar interrupted him. He held up his hand and the noise stilled. He finished rather lamely. “You cannot eat gold.”
The actor looked at Senator Grey. “Well he did it. Told you he would. He’s good with words and he has a natural charisma.”
Tom Grey was too busy pouring two drinks into two oversized glasses to look at the screen. He passed one to his friend. “Let’s drink,” he said, and they both diverted their attention from the television screen to discuss other issues that needed their attention.
The knocking wasn’t harsh this time. Then she heard his voice, “Miss Allen, are you there?”
Of course she was.
It was her neighbor – the landlord’s son.
She rushed to the door, opened it, pulled him in, closed the door quickly, and said, “Your apartment has been robbed and thrashed.”“Yes,” he said, “I know.”
“You do?” her tone was puzzled.
“Yes. There are security cameras installed so I was able to watch it all upstairs. I also saw that they wanted to get into your apartment.”
“Yes,” said Chloe, and for no reason she could think of, she confided in him, :”I was frightened.”
“You’d be a fool not to be,” he stated somewhat seriously. “You can’t stay here on your own,” he continued quite unexpectedly.
“No,” replied Chloe, “I can’t, but I don’t know what else to do. It’s not exactly safe to get out of here.”
He eyed her satchel. “Were you going somewhere?”
“We can go together,” he said.
Now Chloe looked at him. “Why are you wearing plastic gloves and a scarf so close to your face? It’s not that cold.” But Chloe knew even as she spoke. “You look like the people in the movies when they’re running from a deadly virus.” She backed away, suddenly both angry and fearful. In fact, her fear made her angry.
Her neighbor nodded slowly and moved towards her.
The president knew that the next words he uttered would seal his fate. While he had delivered the message that the Senate, Congress, and ‘others’ had agreed to, he now had another message for the people. And he know that this message could cost him not only his life but the lives of his family and children. For just a moment he hesitated, but then his iron courage came to the surface, and he once more raised his hand for silence.
“Before I take any questions, there is one other thing you need to know. When I came to power, I made many promises to you, the people. As you all know, I have not being able to carry out those promises, and because I have not, I feel it right that I resign and hand over power to someone more suitable.”
The actor must have heard something at some level because he looked up at the television and indicated for Tom Grey to stop talking and listening.
“I think he just resigned!”That’s not good. That’s not our plan."
“Well, maybe he doesn’t quite love power that much. And it could be worse.”
And then it got worse.
The silence was absolute as the president continued speaking. “I want to tell you why I have been unable to carry those policies I committed to There exists within the chambers of this government, an organization that threatens the president and his family with death if he does not carry out policy as they dictate it. It is quite possible that I will be dead within minutes, as will be my family.”
Tom Grey grabbed for the phone inside his pocket. He pushed a button and tried not to yell as he said, “Red! Red! Red! Proceed Red!” Then he slammed down the phone and looked at the actor.
“This is not good,” he said.
“No,” said the actor. “Can we salvage the situation?”
Tom Grey looked at him and said nothing. He was busy tapping the phone with his with his fingers obviously trying to contact others.
“I’m not infected,” said Chloe’s neighbor, but the president has just given a speech and some people are using biological warfare and he thinks that Chicago might be affected as well.”
“How can you hear the president’s speech?”
He grinned for a moment. “Sometimes it pays to have a father who is interested in collecting WWII radios. I have been listening to what has been happening in America for the past four days and I think it’s reached a point where people are making choices.”
It suddenly struck Chloe that she did not know her neighbor’s name.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
His face reflected a moment’s confusion as his mind switched from one topic to another. “Rory,” he replied.
“Rory,” she said, “It’s nice to meet you, but what am I going to do? You have your family upstairs, but I am here on my own.” Chloe paused, then rambled on. “I don’t think you and your family should stay upstairs either. I think we all need to leave this place. I’ve been watching fires in the distance, and they will probably come here.”
“I’m on my own upstairs,” he said. “My parents weren’t in Chicago when the EMP bomb hit. My entire family is away on vacation at the family home in Sturgeon Bay. I’ve been in touch with them by radio and I’ve got a bike stored downstairs. It has room for one more.”
Chloe stared at him. She didn’t say anything. She bent forward instead and kissed him on the lips – full and firm. “Thank you,” she said.She picked up the laptop on which she had been attempting to play Solitaire and put it into her satchel, grabbed her all-weather coat, and put the satchel on her back. “Let’s go,” she said.
Two shots rang out. One hit the president in the pineal gland and second one hit the vice president in the heart. Both men were dead before the Secret Service could move.
“We need to bring in Janet earlier than we anticipated.” The actor’s voice was not happy. “I don’t think she’s ready.”
“Oh , she’ll be ready. She always understood what needed to be done, and there was always the agreement that she would do what needed to be done if we got her the presidency.”
“Tom, I‘m not sure she’s the right person. Those fundamentalist beliefs of hers are going to be our undoing.”
“She’s exactly the right person! We’ll be there to replace her as soon as she’s done enough damage and Americans are crying out for real leadership.”
“Can’t we just put our man in right now?”
“I don’t think so, Rob. It’s too early in the game.”
Then a thought occurred to him. “Isn’t she the wife of one of the billionaires whose head was amputated?”
Jennifer Goodman and Reilly were talking. Jennifer was beginning to believe Reilly when he said that it wasn’t his group that had set off the EMP bombs. On the other hand, she had been very shocked when he had told her that they had shot all the head honchos of the Federal Reserve Bank.
“That’s murder,” she said.
“Depends on how you look at it.”
“How can you think it’s not murder?” she retorted.
“How many people do you think will die as a result of all the financial skullduggery which has been instigated by them throughout the past two or three decades? Many will die, and it’s not because your average American didn’t work hard. We all did.”
Jennifer thought maybe he had a point but she still didn’t believe that murder was justified, and so there was still distance between herself and Peter. Still, she and her family were well cared for, and they had sufficient food and water.”
Doug and Anne huddled in their sleeping bags. They had been holed up in Redondo Beach for nearly forty eight hours. Ahead of them, a make shift barrier fence, manned by marines with face masks, prevented them from moving ahead. They had also watched as medical personnel dressed in highly protective gear moved through the barricade.. They both knew what that meant.
“We can’t go back to LA,” said Doug.
“Agreed,” said Anne, “but we can’t stay out here much longer. We’re out of food and water, and it’s bloody cold sleeping outside at night – even if we are huddled together.” Her face was taut as she said that. “And I need a bath.”
“We don’t know how far the barrier stretches so it’s not a good idea to attempt to walk around it, either,” said Doug.
“And we can’t go through..”
“So we either swim with the sharks or―”
“Steal a boat!” finished Anne.
Chloe and Rory made it down to the private garage without being stopped. There Rory handed her a spare helmet and packed both her satchel and his into the storage space at the back. He checked to see if there was fuel, breathed a sigh of relief, got them both on, and said, “Hold on!”
They traveled rapidly through Chicago. Fortunately, red lights were a thing of the past and when they saw crowds ahead, Rory used the back streets. He seemed to know his way around and Chloe felt quite blessed. "God answers prayers, sometimes," she thought.
She tightened her arms around him, said a gentle prayer of thanks, and when they left the outskirts of the big city, a million years lifted off the shoulders.
Throughout the world, there was only one breaking story on television, “The USA president claimed before his assassination that he was coerced into the policies that he signed into legislation. The president’s family has vanished without a trace.”
Chapter 7: Neighbor Against Neighbor
August: Week Three
The assassination of the president the previous evening hastened America into a state of civil war. Any remaining trust that there had been in the political process disappeared when the president mentioned that he had been coerced into making policy that had not been of his own conviction. Along with the shock came a realization that the government was not going to be fixing up anything soon, and that one’s neighbor might be the very person who is responsible for one’s death.
A great exodus to rural areas began; and with that happening, people began to take sides. Urban refugees were suspicious of each other, and increasingly there were challenges when groups with different ideologies came into proxmity with each other. Sometimes it ended in bloodshed. Gone was any idea of diversity; diversity was now something to fear. People trusted only those who shared their own values.
Entire neighborhoods began to to barricade themselves into small fortresses. Other neighborhoods split into as many splinters as there were households. The world was no longer a pretty place, and if ever it had been a two party country, nothing of it remained. If the ideologies of how the country was to be governed, all were in agreement with one precept: the government lined its own pockets at the expense of the people.
In the city centers where the EMP bomb had exploded, five days after the event, no hint of normalcy had returned. There were those who were betting it never would, and they were the ones who began to make serious plans for a different type of future than the one that they had envisaged previously.
Whereas previously, facebook friends had spoken openly for all the world to see and hear, people were now defriended in large numbers, and those who had previously tooted thousands of followers began to suffer the consequences of betrayal. Group think spread quickly, and if one man said that Jim James was a Republican and he had been in cahoots with the people who detonated the EMP bomb, then it was certain that a posse was on its way to the Jim James residence, and Jim James had better run for his life.
On the other hand, there were positives. Years of networking had, at least, given most people an idea of who had similar ideas to their own, and so those that were still connected, quickly joined others of like mind and set up their own conclaves.
Food and water were big issues because modern cities were not designed for self-provision. Those who were savvy about survival understood what would be needed and either headed for rural areas or began to seek out others to form communities. A surivivalist mentiality ensured that each community armed its members so that they could guard against potential raids, convert gardens into food factories, and ensure that water pipes had a clear path to their community.
While business had been the preoccupation of America for more than a century, that preoccupation vanished as the essentials of naked survival overtook the need for profit.
Janice was a born again Christian. She was convinced that they lived in the end times. Her coming to the Lord had happened a decade earlier when she had been an aging prostitute rapidly losing her clientele as a result of her vanishing looks and growing depression. Her business had been a tough business, and at thirty, she had looked forty. Now at forty, she looked fifty. Coming to the Lord had not slowed the aging process.
On Sunday morning, she rose early and dressed in the conservative garb that now comprised her entire wardrobe. She made her way to the tiny kitchenette in her studio apartment and brewed some coffee. That done, she buttered a blueberry scone, grabbed her tattered King James, turned to the book of Revelations in the New Testament, and began reading about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. As she read, she sipped the coffee and ate her scone. She didn’t taste either. She was trying to tie in the events of the past week with those that she was reading about in Revelations. She prayed for wisdom and insight as she did so. Then when her morning reading was done, she slipped into tongues, and with it came a release of the stress which had bound her for the past few days.
Janice had been lucky to find an apartment just a few short blocks away from the church she attended. The massive structure of the Born Again Fellowship of Christloomed strong against the darkened skyline. Thousands of vehicles were making their way into the parking areas, and she knew that by the time the service started in half an hour, there would be more than ten thousand attendees. It was a large congregation and Janice had made many friends in her years of attendance. It also helped that she had become involved in many of the activities and outreaches, telling her story of her years of prostitution and titillating her audience with her exploits. She would always be surrounded by fans afterwards, and this even more than her belief in Christ, added to her enjoyment within the church. Of course, not for all the tea in China would she confess that to her fellow congregants, although when she prayed she did ask her savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive her for the weakness of the flesh.
As she entered through one of the massive entrances, she was greeted by other congregants. She couldn’t help noticing the subdued nature of their greetings, and that the usual din was missing. It seemed that people were speaking in whispers. And then she looked around and knew that it was more than that. Although there was only half an hour to go before the service commenced, none of the anointed were at the doorways, and that gave Janice a very uneasy feeling indeed.
She walked up to Joe, the faithful usher who had been there long before she had joined the happy clappy throng. “Where is everybody?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve been trying to get any of the pastors on my cell and none of them have replied.”
Janice felt a rising panic. Surely, they couldn’t have been raptured without her?
Bett Clark and her family had gone into production mode within twenty four hours of arriving at their hideout home. By the time Ben’s son arrived, family life had taken on a definite and comfortable rhythm. That was the way Bett’s father had planned it for years. He had been sure that at some point, the madness of constant acquisition and greed would once more bring desperation and war to this land.
Alasdair had assumed that they knew more than they did, and once it was established that they didn’t know anything more than that his father was involved, he looked like a very bewildered young man for all of a moment. Bett almost allowed herself to fall in love with him, then reminded herself that her previous life had come to an end because of something he was involved in. She hardened her heart although she did not see herself as a political animal. At least, she didn’t think she was.
The family was seated around the kitchen table and had encouraged Alasdair to start at the beginning. They truly wanted to know what was going on.
And so Alasdair explained it to them.
The shooting of POTUS and the vice-president had left America without immediate leadership and it was natural that the power animals began to vie for the vacant position. The speaker of the house should have been the next to take leadership but she had vanished without trace, and so the leader of the seated party, the leader of the opposition, and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff jossled for the presidential titlee. In the meantime, law and order became a thing of the past.
Sheriffs in small towns across America declared martial law and the more populated the cities, the less law enforcement was able to control what was happening. Murder and mayhem began to intrude into ordinary lives.
“CNN is interrupting this news program to show you carnage that is now taking place across America. In Los Angeles, about two dozen heavily armed young white men broke into Walmart and held security guards at gunpoint while they raided the store for supplies. All food items were loaded into the three trucks in which the young men had arrived. Survival equipment including small tents, gas stoves, blankets, and even bicycles were removed. When the goods were finally loaded, one of the leaders went into the store and paid the $5000 in paper notes from his wallet.”
“He carefully put this onto the counter next to the till where the security cameras could see this, then took another $100 from his wallet and carefully put a match to it and watched it burn. He smiled up at the security cameras and clearly said, “Not worth much, is it?”
“The man then returned to partners in crime who, and the three trucks departed in a northern direction. No police were available as there were too much chaos in the city for a mere robbery at Walmart to merit a call. When two officers finally arrived at the store, both felt that the store had been recompensed for the goods, and that it therefore could not be considered be a crime. "You've got your money," they said.
As more and more people arrived at Born Again Fellowship for Christ, or BAF4C as it was known affectionately to congregants, the din picked up a little bit. With fifteen minutes to go, Janice who still had something of the survival instinct over from her days on the street, walked over to Joe and said, “Have you been to the pastors’ offices? Maybe something has happened to them.”
The panic stricken thought that they had been raptured and that the rest of them had been left behind had disappeared. There were far too many good people arriving for that to be the case. Joe thought that a good idea to take the ten minute walk to the offices, and the two of them began to make their way to the church compound in the next block.
When they arrived, the offices were quiet. There was none of the usual activity that was typical of a Sunday before a service. Joe looked at Janice and said, “This is not good.”
They made their way through the passages and came to Pastor Alan Freeman’s office. He had been the founding pastor of BAF4C fifteen years earlier. Alan Freeman had found God while serving a ten year sentence for pulling a gun on his boss. He had been drunk at the time, and the sentence might have been shorter, but it was not Alan’s first confrontation with the law. And so he had served seven years and got out early for good behavior. Of course, Alan knew that a sure way to convince the powers that he was a reformed citizen was finding God, and so he had. When he discovered the fortunes that finding God made, he decided on a new career, and he had been very successful at it.
Some, of course, would not read the situation as cynically as that, and perhaps, it was all very genuine. Janice knew the story. Janice also had a gut feeling as to what she was about to find, and it was only her faith in Christ that made her turn to Joe and say, “I’m sure there is a good reason for this.” With that, she pushed open Pastor Alan’s door and went into the office.
There was a white envelope on the pastor’s desk. It stated, “For the finder.”
And then Janice knew. Calmly she picked up the envelope and said, “Let’s go see if there’s anything in Peter’s office. And we might as well check on Tom’s, Steven’s, and Uli’s. All five pastors had been born again while serving their terms in the same prison at the same time, and had known each other and studied towards the ministry together. All of them had studied the word of the Lord with great diligence and done many long distance courses to become pastors. Alan had been the first to leave prison. He had initially joined another church, and when he had garnered enough support, he started his own church. When the others left prison, they joined him in his ministry, and together they built BAF4C.
Janice was familiar with the story. They had all become multi-millionaires, driving luxury cars and living in luxury homes. They told everybody who came to the church that it was only necessary for them to believe, and then they, too, would be blessed with abundance.
There was nothing in the other offices. So Joe and Janice looked at each, and Joe said, “Open it. It does say the finder is to open it.”
So Janice opened it, and as she did so, she knew as surely as day turned into night and night turned into day, that she wasn’t going to like what she read…
“The biological warfare toxin that was released has reached Los Angeles and several areas of the city have become danger zones. Unknown numbers have died in these areas as medical authorities have not been able to respond to emergency calls. The streets of Los Angeles are still blocked by many vehicles as the electronic parts needed to get the vehicles working again are still not available. As many people in LA are also without working TV, radios, or Internet, many are unaware that there is a biological toxin at large and that quarantine is necessary. Many people are moving out of their areas and this is spreading the virus. It is unknown how many people have been infected.”
"If you are ill, please be patriotic and leave your gold a the door for government agents to collect. China has demanded payment of our debt in gold before she will supply the electronic devices necessary to fix our country. In addition, there is some hint of invasion if we do not pay the gold. Although some of our citiens may die, they may die blessed knowing that their gold helped save America."
“In another breaking story, our sources have informed us that the Chairman of the JCS believes that it might become necessary to choose between some dying in order to spare the greater majority. When asked by Senator Tom Grey what the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff had meant, Colonel Andrews, the Chairman’s Aide, responded with, “We might have to bomb the whole lot into paradise.”
America at war with China
Bett and her family listened intently while Alasdair explained. “We are the military arm of the Democrats. We found out about fifteen years ago that the Republicans were arming themselves and while some of our party put it down to extremists and felt that it wasn’t much of a threat, there were those of us who knew that it wasn’t wise not to arm ourselves in return. So, under every Democratic president for the past fifteen years, we have built our own militia. Key people at the Pentagon and at Camp Pendleton let us have inside information from time to time. We knew that something was happening, and we also knew that we would be called upon to keep as many people as possible safe.”
“We reckoned that most people in San Francisco and north of San Francisco were probably going to support the Democratic creed. So we developed weapons that were more smart than deadly and created a no man’s land by releasing a massive stink bomb that cleared a no-man’s land just south of San Francisco. Unfortunately, there’s another player, and that player has infiltrated our ranks. That player released a deadly bacterial warfare weapon and it killed people who remained behind. We had no intention of killing anybody.”
“That same biological weapon has been released in eight areas in the United States that we know of, and right now, it’s spreading throughout Los Angeles like wild fire. We cannot afford for it to sweep through California. We need manpower to enforce quarantines. We need you.”
Bett’s father was the first to speak.
“Just how deadly is this biological weapon?”
“It kills everyone who breathes it in. Once breathed in, it takes a few hours to develop, and carriers become infectious within the first hour. Any contact they have with others during that time passes on the virus or bacteria. People are dead within hours. The good thing about it, if there is anything good about it, is that when a disease kills that quickly, people cannot travel too far, so it dies out quickly.”
“So what do you want us to do?” asked Bett looking him straight in the eye.
There were two pages in the envelope and both Joe and Janice stared at the first page. It read, “Please read this to all my congregants on Sunday morning. It is the true testimony of Peter, Tom, Steven, Uli, and myself. We think you will all learn something from it.”
“We better get going,” said Joe. The service was supposed to have start ten minutes earlier. Neither of them glanced at the second page. They knew it was going to be bad.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was responsible for a coup taking place at the White House today. He declared martial law, explaining that with China at the borders wanting the gold she was owed, and with America fighting a biological war, the danger of more EMP bombs being released, disrupted supply lines of food, water, and other necessities to consumers, that ordinary citizens did not have the skills to handle this. He appointed, Derek Morton, the head of FEMA to be the new vice president.”
“President George Stoves has stated that the most important task is to immediately curtail the spread of the biological warfare weapon so that it doesn’t decimate the entire population of America. There has been some outcry by various members of congress and the senate is looking at the implications of collateral damage. However, the majority, while regretting the enormous numbers who might lose their lives as a consequence, believe that collateral damage is a necessary evil and support the new President in his view.”
“CNN has also established that several congressman and senators have left Washington and have joined their families in vacation homes in areas outside the city. When asked if they were the equivalent of rats leaving a sinking ship, all of them pleaded either ill health or the need for more family time.”
Joe mounted the podium with Janice at his side. The congregation, greatly agitated by the absence of their pastors, grew quiet.
Joe announced. “We have not being able to find the pastors anywhere and so went to their offices. We found this letter on Pastor Alan’s desk. He wished it to be read to the congregation. I am going to ask Janice to read it because she found it. He passed the missive to Janet.
Janet drew in a deep breath, looked at Joe and then proceeded to read.
“In the bible, Jesus, your mighty savior, has called you sheep. And I must agree with him. For that is what you are.”
“You have all worked hard for your salvation. You have contributed millions to this church, willing to work without pay for that great prize that lies ahead of you when you leave this life. But before we talk more about that prize, I want to talk once more about the testimony of these five jail birds who became your pastors.”
Janice found it hard to breathe properly as shhe continued to read the letter. Her eyes were skimming ahead and she hoped that she was misreading.
“We were all determined to spend as little time as possible in prison and talked amongst ourselves. It was common knowledge that finding God was considered a sure thing for shortening one’s time served. So we gave our lives to God in one of the church services and started studying so that we could look good. It didn’t take us long to see that many pastors were making millions, and after that it didn’t take us long to figure that we could spend our time educating ourselves on how to become good pastors. We wanted to make millions, too. And so, that is exactly what we did.”
“During the fifteen years that we have served this community, all five us have built nice little nest eggs in other countries. We were all pretty much in agreement when the EMP bombs went off that it was time for us to depart. And because we’re the criminal type, we foresaw that we might need less conventional ways to leave the country, so by the time you read this, we will be long gone.”
Janice's voice faltered as she continued to read. She felt tears in her eyes and her heart almost stopped. She glanced at Joe and saw the dawning horror in his eyes. Sh e couldn’t bear it. She stopped for a moment, looked at the congregation, but said nothing. Then she began to read again.
“We want to thank you all for serving us so well, and for giving us so much of your monthly salary. Ten percent from the salaries of ten thousand people not only builds a church but gives your pastors a lot of swag to live well. We want to thank you for making that possible for us. Naturally, our wives and children are with us.”
“Because you all believe in Christ, I know that you will see us for the devil’s disciples. And that’s okay. Me and the other pastors, we wish you well in your life that happens after this one. Me, Peter, Tom, Steven, and Uli, and our families don’t think that there is a life after this one, so we’d like to enjoy this one. We hope that we served you well as pastors and that we were worth the price you paid us. We certainly enjoyed entertaining you and often had a good laugh at your gullibility Be well.”
Janice stopped reading. She looked up at the congregation, her brain quite numb. Then she glanced at Joe. He reached out his hand and they began walking off the platform.
Somewhere someone began to sing Amazing Grace. Others joined in. Janice did not. She looked at Joe, and he looked at her, and something connected. Then they both left Born Again Fellowship of Christ building.
Without thinking, the two of them made their way to Janice’s apartment. There they talked for a while, coming to terms that everything they had been taught had been told to them by five people who didn't believe a word of what they were saying. "I feel quite shattered," said Janice.
Joe said, "I feel free."
"Now that you mention it, so do I. I wonder why that is."
With emotions running high, it wasn't long before they kissed. And then they made love for the rest of the day, something both of them had avoided doing for nearly a decade. Towards nightfall Joe said, “Will you marry me?”
Janice said yes, and then, “Well, I suppose if there is such as person as Christ, we’re already married in his eyes.”
Joe looked at her and asked, “Do you think there is someone called Christ?”
Janice looked at his naked form and said, “Someone had to have made you.”
“The Chinese asked the President for a timeframe when the gold would be delivered. The President asked the Chinese for some time as things were rather untidy in the country at the moment, but assured the Chinese that as soon as order was restored, the gold would be delivered to the Chinese.”
“The Chinese said that was fine, and that they had armed ships en route to America so that the gold could be transported back safely to China.”
Chapter 8: The Pentagon vs the People
Week Four, August
President George Stoves, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had always been a popular military man. He had been appointed to his position by the assassinated president and he felt it ironic that he now replaced the man. Perhaps not, he thought as he pondered the events of the past week.
The death of General Mike Barton had been a necessary evil as the inquisitive officer had heard rumours that he shouldn’t have heard, and it couldn’t be chanced that he might pass them on to others. Through expert manipulation of all the known players, they had managed to get the right wing militia to dispose ofl him. George Stoves smiled. It was so easy to manipulate a collection of people. People were just people. When their beliefs dominated them, they were simply unable to think.
The pieces weren’t quite in place yet as all the players hadn’t quite fallen into the places designed for them, but they would. They would. There was the far left militia, the right militia, the far right militia, the Christian militia, Jewish militia, the anti-corporate militia, the black militia, and the pink militia. It was the pink militia that really amused him. Who would have thought that those gays were probably the best organized and the most deadly? They certainly knew how to take a man out. Then, again they’d had years of organizing.
It hadn’t been planned that he take over the reins of leadership – not yet, anyway. That had been the job of Sheila Long, but the speed of events had taken them all by surprise. Who would have thought Congressman Peter Allen would have lost it and landed a right in the President’s eye? And who would have thought that Bill Muchoo would have seen it as a signal? Of course, it was bound to happen. Americans had been sitting on a tinderbox for a while. Tempers, fears, anger, ignorance, and half-baked belief systems were bound to erupt at some point.
The point was that they had been ready. Well, not quite. Shiela Long hadn’t been in place, and now she was dead. As the wife on one of the leading billionaires in the country, she had been one of the thirty five super super-wealthy elite who had died at the hand of the hands of the ACM – Anti Corporate Militia. It was too bad, but collateral damage was to be expected. It was the result of war.
He looked around at the faces that surrounded him. Senator Tom Grey wasn’t one of them. He was with the actor, redesigning the grand plan, and gathering intelligence as to who was doing what. It was a very necessary part of the operation. After all, Senator Tom Grey came from a long line of distinguished Virginians. His forefathers had fought in the first civil war as foot soldiers, bent and intent on victory. Now just over 150 years later, Tom’s family was once more involved in a civil war, because, of course, that is what this would become. The civil war would eliminate all the wrong sort of people.
President Stoves looked around him. He had selected his joint chiefs of staff well, plus he had appointed a loyal follower to the position of Chairman of the JCS. The director of the CDC and his second in command were chatting to each other, both with briefcases held tightly in their right hands. Ginger Pike was absent, of course. She had vanished when the President and the vice-president had been assassinated. They had most certainly not wanted her to step into the Presidential office. She would be found at some point, he thought.
Jennifer Goodman and Reilly were talking.
“What do you mean that the arrest of Peter Allen was the signal to kill the senior members of the Federal Reserve?”
“Congressman Peter Allen has been trying to get the American government to print the money because it shouldn’t be the hands of a profit-making corporation.”
“Reilly, the Federal Reserve is not a profit-making corporation. It’s part of the federal government. Even the name indicates that.”
“Jen, you’re wrong. The Federal Reserve was started by Nathan Rothschild―”
“Reilly, out with the conspiracy theory!” Jen laughed. “It’s the central bank which controls our money supply – what’s left of it.”
“Jen, do you really know that? The president selects the board of governors just after he takes office, but it’s an old boys’ network… It’s an inside job.”
“Their job is to make sure that everybody is employed, that prices are affordable and that interest rates are kept low.”
“Well they haven’t done a very good job, have they?”
“So you shot them? Why did you shoot them? Why would you kill the people who are most likely to get us out of this mess?”
“If they could get us out of this mess, they would have already. We’ve been getting into a bigger and bigger mess for fifty years! The huge arms industry invents wars for Americans to fight so that they can sell arms to the military. The prisons are private for-profit companies so they use lobbies to bribe congressmen and senators. Those congressman and senators then set about writing laws to put more and more people in prison. Do you know that America has more people in prison than any other nation in the world?”
“That’s a lie.”
“That’s the truth. This is not a free country. This is the country that invented corporate greed and spread it throughout the rest of the world. We’re here to stop it.”
“And who are you?”
“We are the ACM – the Anti-Corporate Militia.”
What are false flag operations?
The president thought about his options. The one piece of intelligence they did not have was who let loose the biological weapon. It was not something that they had intended – although, as it turned out, it had done a very effective job. While their organization had made a tidy profit selling arms to the many militias, none of them had asked for biological weapons, and they would certainly have been unwilling to provide them. It was one thing to kill off some individuals for the greater good. It was quite another to wipe out the entire population. He was worried. He turned to the director of the CDC.
“Jack, what’s the update.”
“Mr. President, the CDC have established that it’s definitely a biological weapon. The progress of the disease brings death within a few hours. It’s based on the plague and has been optimized to spread quickly and cause death quickly. Whereas the plague used to kill between fifty percent and ninety percent of its victims, everybody who has caught this bug has died. The CDC does not see any form of natural resistance to it.”
“Is there a treatment for it?”
“No, and we’ll probably all be dead before we can even think of one. It’s that serious.”
That was not what the president wanted to know.
“So how do we prevent it from spreading.”
The eyes of the director of the CDC dropped to the floor for a moment. “It’s a hard decision,” he said.
George Stoves knew what he meant.
He turned to the new chairman of the JCS and said, “You have a plan of action?”
“Some more radical than others. Unhappily, the ones that are the more effective ones are also the more radical ones. There will be a lot of collateral damage.”
The Democratic congressman spoke up, his voice outraged, “We do not kill American citizens. Surely there’s enough suffering going on already?”
Chad Newman, the leading Republican spoke, “Have you liberals never heard of the greater good? Sometimes if you choose to try to save as many as possible, everybody dies. Sometimes, you can only save some. It’s a hard decision. Don’t make it harder with unneeded sentimentality.”
“We can work something out,” the Democrat retorted.
“We don’t have the time,” one of the aides spoke out. His voice was irritated. Then he apologized for being out of line. Nevertheless, the Democrat conceded.
“Well, what is the least damage we can do?”
The president spoke. “I assume you mean the least damage for the safety of the entire country?”
“No way of putting this nicely – kill everybody within the parameters of the disease.”
Stoves noticed that Rudi Morgan was speaking into his cell. There was something about his tone of voice that did not bode well. When he terminated the call, he turned to the room and said, “The Chinese are headed our way. They have missile destroyers and are on their way to America to collect their gold. It looks like they have three headed towards Houston, four towards San Diego, four towards Los Angeles, and five towards New York.”
There were times when one word covered a multitude of sins. The president decided not to use it as it was not befitting to his office. Instead he said, “Gentlemen, I think harsh measures are called for in harsh times.” The tone he used said almost as much as the word he avoided.
Alasdair had given a brief outline to Bett’s family. Now he wondered if he should tell them the rest of it. His father, Ben, had sent him, after all, and his father knew who could be trusted. He made a decision. “There’s more,” he said.
“We think we are being set up. We’re not sure how or why, but somebody knew that one of our scientists had developed an oversize stink bomb, and somebody knew enough of our timing and methods to release a deadly biological weapon in that zone. Several of our own people were killed.”
Bett’s elder brother, Tom, spoke up. “I assume that you’re telling us this because you want our help.”
“We know that in military intelligence, your father has been put down as a question mark. We think that he could start a survivalist moment, expressing neutrality, and insisting that you’re only teaching people basic survival skills – like growing food, protecting themselves, finding water, etc. We think that you will be infiltrated because we suspect every single militia in the United States has been infiltrated, and we think there’s someone else behind all this. We don’t know who, but if you establish if anyone suspicious joins your movement, it could tell us who.”
“Why us?” asked Bett.
“Your entire family has been trained from birth. You’re a tight unit with built-in loyalty to each other. It’s unlikely anyone will be able to buy you or blackmail you. If anyone can do it, you can.”
“And if we want to remain neutral?”
“You will remain neutral. You’ll just be eyes and ears. We need to know who is behind all this.”
It was Bett’s father who made the positive decision.
Douglas and Anne didn’t know anything about boats, dinghies, yachts, cruisers, or anything else that sailed on water. Neither had a particular love of the sea and both preferred the mountains where they ardently hiked during summer vacations. It took them a day of hopping from one sea going vehicle to another before they settled on something that they believed they could float down to Mexico. During that time, they had had time to make use of the facilities on board a variety of crafts and had also bathed, helped themselves to clean clothes, and had a few decent meals. They almost felt human.
In the end they selected a small twenty four foot fishing cruiser with two berths. As luck would have it, there was an instruction manual on board, and when the two studied it, they believed it would be their best option to their reaching Mexico. It was also shabby enough to pass for one of the local boats. Fortunately, there was sufficient diesel on board for them not to have to complicate an already extraordinary situation by having to find more diesel. They decided to set sail in the early evening, understanding that while the night was not a good time to be on the sea for two beginners, it would also enable them to better escape detection.
Colonel Andrews left the oval office after a brief conversation with General Rudi Morgan, the new Chairman of the JCS. He had his instructions. His face did not reveal what they were. The president was pleased. It had not been an easy decision
Senator Tom Grey and the actor conferred over their choices.
“Until we know who the other party is, we’re taking a big chance here. We’ve already lost Sheila, and that was not on the cards.”
“It’s not the ACM and it’s not the lefties up in northern California. They’re as bewildered as we are. Both outfits have intelligence that there’s a new player.”
“What about the CRF?”
“That’s not their style. They’re doing this for their God, and they are not going to attack their own people.”
The Christian Right Fundamentalist Militia were well known to all. They trained their children in arms so that they would be ready for the anti-Christ, and if the Muslims came, then they would be able to kill them as well. They affirmed that God was on their side.
“There are a few hundred militia on the right but they’re small outfits. There’s two or three far right militias, and that’s about it. The EMP bomb took massive resources. Great false flag operation, by the way. The other interested party – the one that I assume is using bioweapons – must be internal.”
“Because the letter informing the president of the incident was found in the oval office, on the president’s desk. It’s pretty high up.”
Joy Brown smiled. It was all going according to plan. The senator thought he had it all under control. Little did he know that she had been specially selected to seduce him away from his office in case he presented resistance to commence activities earlier than planned. It had all worked out rather beautifully, she thought. And the disappearance of Sheila Long was an extra bonus. She wondered, briefly, what had happened to the Speaker of the House. She felt sure the little self-righteous atheist was dead.
In Los Angeles, the disease was spreading. With television and radio being mostly down and out, few people knew the real state of affairs in the city. Still, as the illness spread and bodies dropped dead in the street, panic became endemic as people realized the worst. The wise closed locked their doors, closed all their windows, and hoped they had enough staples in the pantry to last the duration.
Others continued their forage for food and other staples, thinking that without food, they would starve, so they tied cloth over their noses and across their mouths. Others wore gas masks, thereby identifying themselves as survivalists. A lucky few whizzed by on bikes to try to make their way out of the City of Angels, only to find that it had been cordoned off by the army. Still others, found breaks in that cordon, and slipped through, carrying with them the disease.
In Chicago, the first few bodies were discovered in the downtown area. Initially, there was curiosity and those that were titillated by events in the lives of others saw no reason not to get real close. Their reward for their unholy curiosity was to be infected, and they, in turn, carried the disease to those with whom they had contact.
Albuquerque was the first to become a dead man’s zone. There was no one left within forty eight hours of the first infection. The army moved in and used various incendiary devices to burn the city to the ground. Three days later, there was no sign that a thriving city had once existed in that location.
Flagstaff, Jamestown, Memphis, and Youngstown in Pennsylvania all followed the same path. The government kept the media from publishing any of it, but it was inevitable that something of it would leak onto the web. Nobody knew whether it was true or not. The American President had been, since his appointment, unavailable to the people. The press was barred from Washington as it did not serve the agenda of those in power.
Shortly after Stoves had taken the oath, he had appeared nationwide on television for five minutes during which he explained that information would be disseminated on the White House website but that he would be too busy dealing with serious issues to be giving encouraging speeches to the public. For once, nobody said anything about that. They understood.
Ginger Pike, the Speaker of the House, had no idea where she was. She was seated on a chair in a locked bedroom and was gazing out the window to a plantation of trees. It could have been anywhere. There was a scattering of snow on the ground so she assumed that she was not in the south, but that was as far as she went. Her bedroom door was locked and the windows were barred. Inside her room, she had a bathroom, a shelf of books, and two or three changes of clothing in the dressing room. She had requested a television or a computer but neither had not been granted. Nor had she been given any news as to what was happening in the world around her. She knew it was bad, and she wondered why she was still alive. Obviously there was a reason. She wondered what it was.
Jack Ruben, the CDC director spoke. “Nobody is going to get out of these cities alive. Both Chicago and Los Angeles endanger the entire United States. We have no choice but to use ultimate means. Some will have to die so that others can live.”
“We could save some of the folk in Beverley Hills.” General Rudi Morgan was an avid film buff.
Chad Newman seconded that. “Yes, I think that’s a good idea. We can’t afford for the American film industry to be decimated. It is partially what gives us the influence we have throughout the world.” He turned to the general. “Do we have a plan in place?”
The president turned to Colonel Andrews. “Have all the boys from Iran, Iraq, and our other bases returned to America?”
“They have. We’ve closed all our military bases worldwide so that we can deal with the situation at home. Just over 250,000 soldiers will be returning. We closed a total of 1005 bases.”
“Good,” said the president. “We are going to need every one of those men.”
He turned to Rudi, the new chairman of the JCS.
“Rudi, can you outline the plan, please?”
General Rudi Morgan stood up, cleared his throat, made eye contact with everyone in the room, then proceeded to outline the course of action that would take place within the next twenty four hours.
General Rudi Morgan was clear.
“After we have removed the uninfected dignitaries and celebrities from Beverley Hills, we will withdraw. We will then surround the city and wait for the Chinese to dock. Once the Chinese dock, we will send them a warning message that the city is infected, and tell them that we are about to bomb. If they do not move, then they will be caught up. That way we have followed correct channels. We will begin to bomb within thirty minutes. With a bit of luck, we will also take out some of the Chinese navy.”
“We will also need to take out Chicago and their surrounding areas. There is no other option. The other cities have been cleansed through intense fire but it is suggested that we keep the general public away from those cities as well as prevent any of this to be published by the press. Anyone from the CDC or the military who wants to go in needs to be properly attired in order to prevent infection.”
“We have not been able to collect the amount of gold that the Chinese have asked from us to repay our debt to them. While they assure us of honorable intentions, they have sent fully armed military convoys and that is not a peaceful signal. We need to be prepared for the worst. Not only is America turned upon itself, but we are now in a war with a nation which has the greatest number of military personnel on earth.
Anne and Douglas docked at Rosarito in the late afternoon. They tied up their fishing cruiser, took their backpacks, and walked into Mexico. Nobody questioned them outside of customs asking for their passports, and they didn’t volunteer any information. Both, however, were of the opinion that they would not return to it. They had decided to make their way to San Jose Del Cabo as they had once vacationed there amidst the quiet artistic community and they had loved the people.
Neither had any local currency, and the American dollar no longer held any value. So they slept rough on the beach, wrapped up in the two sleeping bags they had taken from the cruiser. They arrived at the village ten days after they started out. By that time, the people Los Angeles had been exterminated. The City of Angels no longer existed.
Chapter 9: Death is Cleansing
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.
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.
Chapter 10: Codename Delilah
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.”
How a hurricane causes a tsunami
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.
“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.
Chapter 11: Take Washington
Week Two September
Jaylene Silver paused a moment before she hit the keyboard. As a member of Anonymous, she was accustomed to hacking, broadcasting, providing leadership behind the scenes by looking out for those who could not speak for themselves. Still she paused. With a doctorate in computer science, she had no doubt that the months (and years) of work she had put into the software she was about to upload into the world’s financial systems, would redefine the world.
Any account with more than a million in cash would begin to distribute its excess into those accounts with under $1000. The world’s very poor were about to get a massive injection of funds, and even though the dollar was worth only ten cents of what it had been a month previously, it was still going to ease their situation. She asked herself if she was stealing from the rich, and if stealing was okay.
Should she press the button? She hesitated.
It was a bitterly cold night but still the people came. The events of the past month had changed the parameters of many people’s lives. Some, never having had to worry about a month without a good income, suddenly found themselves unable to pay monthly debts, and worse - unable to buy necessities. With the extreme devaluation of the American dollar, many of those who had previously thought that it was all their hard work that had gained them their rewards, now discovered that the environment and infrastructure of their environment profoundly and inexorably affected their ability to earn.
Others, drained from the years of struggle, dressed in blue jeans and warm coats which had seen better days, still spoke with the traces of an education they once had but now diminished by endless struggle. They were prone to anger and inclined to hurl things at people and buildings because they were tired of talking. Guy Standing had measured them well when he called them the precariat.
And although Washington had become a militarized city, there was a measure about the marching people which said very clearly, “We have had enough.”And, perhaps, because the politicians were wise enough to know when to leave well enough alone, the people were allowed to make their way to the Washington monument. There some of them joined others who had been encamped there since the previous afternoon while others set up their own camps. Still others wrapped themselves in sleeping bags as they prepared to sleep the remaining few hours before dawn.
When the alarm sounded, Bett and Jon, Bett’s older brother, quickly woke the rest of the household. They activated booby traps which they had designed several years previously when they had anticipated attacks on their smallholding. Now it was real.
Lance Clark and Anna, Bett’s mother, took an underground passage to the shed where they were in a better position to cover the rear end of the farm. Andy, Bett’s younger brother, made his way to the kitchen where he had his rifle set up next to the window aimed at the back porch of the house. Bett covered the front door. She hadn’t been happy about that because she liked the action, but none of the men in her family would let her do the outside scouting. So she worked with them as a team, and thought, ‘There will come a time…”
Jon went through the trapdoor hidden under the dining room table and came up in a cluster of trees, some thirty or forty yards from the house. There he made himself comfortable in the pre-dug foxhoe lay in wait. On his arm, he had a small gadget to pick up heat signatures. He felt the instrument vibrate and saw that there were ten of them. They were outnumbered – two to one. Jon was surprised. It has to be serious for that number to come.
Jon knew that the rest of his family would pick up the heat signature as well as all the instruments were in sync so that wherever they were, they all had access to information that might save their lives. The Clark family had prepared themselves well for this moment.
The group moved quietly towards the house, and when he had a clear shot, Jon shot to kill, and he shot them in the back. War takes no prisoners he thought. Four of them dropped before they had time to scatter, and then they lay flat, obviously well trained. Jon figured out the logistics. He was south west of the group; the house was north of the group, and his parents were in the shed, slightly to the rear, in the north east. That left Bett, himself, and Andy to deal with the six remaining men.
Jon wished they had dogs, and made a mental note to go find some in the morning. He felt the instrument on his arm vibrate again, and looked down. “Oh shit,” he thought. There were four men heading towards the backdoor. Where had they come from. He hoped Andy could handle them. Their training had been tough, and the family had often played war games where they had been severely outnumbered. Nothing like the fact resembling fiction, he thought.
At the front entrance of the home, Bett opened the flap on the front door and inched her rifle through. She wished she could see better but the night was dark. There was no moon. Like Jon, she wished that they had dogs, and she, too, made a mental note to go dog hunting in the morning. It never occurred to either her or Jon that they might be dead in the morning.
Jon didn’t think long. In fact, he didn’t think. He removed a grenade from his pocket and hurled it at the place where he thought the men had dropped into a huddle. A moment before it exploded, he heard a yell, but then it exploded and shrapnel went in all directions. Fortunately, the trees provided some degree of protection. He looked through the night glasses that he had brought and saw that he had scored a direct hit. It seemed that they were all either wounded or dead. He stood up slowly, and as he did so, he heard a shot from the back of the house. Then he heard Andy yell. He couldn’t make out the words, but it wasn’t good. His instinct was to run for the house, but he quelled it, and it was just as well he did, for someone shot at him, and he dived for cover again.
Once more he looked at the huddle of stalkers that had come to their home. He saw that one had a rifle pointed in his direction. Jon took aim, fired, and killed the man. Then, once more looking at the group, this time sure that they were all dead, he got up and ran softly and carefully towards the shed. He knew that his parents would be able to see the rear of the house, and he needed to know what was happening before he went in to help Bett and Andy.
When he arrived at the shed, he couldn’t see his parents. Then he saw why. Someone had left luggage on top of the trap door. Bett! He grinned, picked it up, and let his mother and father out. “They’re in the house. Haven’t heard a shot yet, so they’re not here to kill. We have to get Bett and Andy out.”
Jaylene Silver had grown up in an upper middle class family. Both her parents had been doctors. In fact, they were the third generation of doctors in her family, and it had been expected that she follow in the family tradition. Instead she had found herself in love with cyber space at an early age, and while she did obtain a doctorate, it wasn’t a medical one. She was sure her parents had been disappointed, but she also knew that they understood that this was her life.
Her introduction to Anonymous had been a gradual thing. At college she met, for the first time in her life, those of lesser fortune. One girl, in particular, Sandy, had impressed her. Bright and beautiful, but clearly from an impoverished environment, whatever Sandy lacked in polish, she made up for in brains and determination.
It was early in their second year of university that Jaylene discovered that Sandy had been diagnosed with leukemia and that treatment for her had been sketchy. Sandy’s parents’ simply hadn’t been able to provide and there were no medical facilities that were willing to attend to her healing without it costing hundreds of thousands.
Sandy had become increasingly militant and said to Jaylene that her life was going to count, no matter how short it was. Sandy began to focus on exposing the callousness of medical insurance companies, hacking into their data bases, and exposing the fact that medical insurance companies were only interested in insuring the healthy, and the moment there was illness, benefits began to evaporate. Initially, she had contributed her findings to Wikileaks, but then as that door closed, she started maing efforts to contact Anonymous members.
Jaylene never knew if her friend was responsible for any of the broadcasts, but when Sandy passed on towards towards the end of her second year, she stepped into Sandy’s shoes and became a revolutionary of sorts. Now in her tenth year as an Anonymous contributor, she looked back at her upper middle class background, and thought to herself that she had, indeed, left it behind a very long time ago.
Lance Clark scrounged in a box hidden in a hidey-hole, removed three items, gave one to Anna, one to Jon, and kept one for himself. “Bett’s not going to be happy” said Jon.
“We want them alive,” said her father. “Happiness comes afterwards.”
As they were about to move out of the shed, Anna stopped them. There’s someone just inside the door she said. “Best that we put them to sleep through the ventilation pipes.”
They inched forward in the darkness, moving away from the back entrance. Lance Clark snaked around the front, while Jon and Anna crawled on all fours towards the east side of their home.
It was late. The actor and Tom Grey had each arrived past midnight at their meeting place. They had arrived within five minutes of each other, and so it was that they spoke privately for the first time in a few days. Each sipped a rich brandy from a snifter.
“What was so important?” the actor asked the senator.
“The game plan didn’t anticipate George Stoves being president. We have to move ahead with stage four.”
“We can’t. We’ve got a president.”
“We have to take the president down.”
“I think the president is behind the EMP bombs and the biological warfare. And I think it’s about prime real estate.”
The actor said nothing for a moment, then “You being serious?”
“The CDC identified the biological weapon. It was developed at DARPA and was used previously in black ops by George Stoves when he was a humble Colonel. He also has access to EMP bombs.”
“And that makes him guilty?”
The senator didn’t answer. He allowed the lengthening silence to do its work and eventually the actor said, “So what’s our next step?”
Jaylene pressed down on the keyboard. Throughout the United States, banks initiated transfers of money. As the transfers took place, all previous records were eradicated so that nothing could be rectified. When she was sure it was done, she broadcast a message and then she ended with the ubiquitous, “We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive and we do not forget. Expect us.”
Washington had an influx of close to 100,000 people and Washington had never seen anything like the mood of these 100,000 before. Then again, Washington had never seen anything like the events of the previous month. Now the politicians prepared themselves to face the wrath of the people. And still there were those in Washington who thought that a few charismatic words, or a sop thrown to a desperate demographic, would calm the waters and things could go on being just the way they normally were.
Bett Clark saw the two men before they saw her. They pushed Andy in front to prevent any shots from being fired into them. She withdrew quietly into the shadow of the curtain, glad that she had had the foresight to remove a fuse and prevent the lights from going on unexpectedly. When they walked into the sitting room Bett took two shots. The first was aimed to kill; the second was aimed to maim. She succeeded both times. Andy was pinning the maimed individual down to the floor because he could recover. At the same moment, Jon, Lance, and Anna came in. It was all over before it started. The Clark family had prepared themselves well for threats to their survival.
Washington dawned grey. Shortly after dawn, a man stood up and spoke. Nobody knew him particularly. The movement didn’t have any designated leaders. They worked together as groups, decided what needed to be done, where they were going next, and when there was general consensus, they acted on that. Now the man stood up and spoke. His words carried power and conviction, the result of years of frustration, anger, and sheer determination that things had to change.
“We, the people of the United States of America, demand that the events of the past few months be accounted for and those guilty brought to justice. We demand that if that cannot be done, our leaders be removed from office. We demand that anyone making money out of government be removed from government.”
The passionate voice of the speaker carried over the throngs. And a little way down the road, the president listened. “We don’t’ want these rabble rousers around. Have them removed.”
“That’s a tall order,” said Colonel Andrews.
“The press is in our pocket – very few will hear about it” replied the president. “And I’m declaring a state of emergency this evening, with all future elections canceled. The USA will be under marshall law for the foreseeable future.”
“Still planning on becoming the first king of the USA?” the colonel asked half facetiously. “That’s a fascist position, you know.”
“I won’t call myself a king,” the president said. “Just the people’s leader. The people need a strong leader. Most people cannot made decisions. They need someone to tell them what to do.”
The colonel did not respond. His not to question why. His just to do and die.
When politicians let the people down...
In Washington, the military came with guns. When the people did not move, they shot them. Some 20,000 were slaughtered. The rest ran. Later as photos began to be uploaded to the Internet, servers were shut down throughout the United States, and although some word of the events got out, for the most part, nobody could verify anything. The president did not like the press.
The Clark family had taken it in turns to guard their one living prisoner. Anna Clark had applied first aid to the wound inflicted by Bett and then, equally efficiently, had tied the man to a chair, and told him to catch as much sleep as he could because he would be questioned in the morning. He had given her a look of contempt, but Anna had just smiled.
Now the family had breakfasted and were ready to ask the man questions. Bett prepared the instruments the family would use for questioning. She set up a binaural beat to regulate the brain rhythm of their captive. Then she used the equipment specially designed to provide a match between flashing lights and the beat of the music. She set the rhythm to ten minutes of beta brain rhythm, then two hours of alpha rhythm, and then to fade into a theta rhythm.
And then they sat outside the questioning room, and very purposely started speaking about the situation, purposely seeding the captive’s brain with language that would trigger responses. After they had been doing this for two hours, all of them stepped into the questioning room. Each was extremely polite to the man, asking after his injury. He complained of pain.
“Oh that will go away in time. You’ll live. Now we have a few questions.”
The man looked at the family. Strangely, he did not say anything, but then the Clark family understood the power of binaural brain entrainment and after a little more than three hours exposure, their prisoner was completely hypnotized.
“What is your name?” asked Bett
“What was your mission last night?”
“To kill you all.”
“Who sent you?”
None of them knew who Colonel Andrews was, but they reckoned that Alasdair would be able to find out. Their bit was done.
Jaylene Silver picked up the phone.
“Operation Flame is live.”
President George Stoves was brief. “People of the United States, it grieves me to say to you that we have people within our midst who aspire to communist theology. This afternoon, in Washington, the military was forced to defend itself from a rioting mob that stoned businesses and harmed innocent citizens. We still do not have a firm count of how many injured or dead, but along with all the other woes that have recently befallen the United States, Congress has voted that the military take charge of the United States. The election as well as the 2020 elections have been canceled. We are also facing a barrage of propaganda, fake news, and misinformation from Anonymous, wikileaks, and other enemy groups, and have, therefore, been forced to immediately implement a law forcing all citizens to apply for a license to use the web.”
Jaylene went into hiding the moment she heard about the shooting. They had been expecting it. They had foreseen that there would be a day when the people would be not be permitted a free press and that, because the Internet posed a threat, it would be locked down.
She had spent some years preparing for this eventuality. Along the way it had meant burying routers, rewiring with cable, and it was as well that they had a communications company in their fold. Jaylene had no doubt that a class war was going to be fought, and while many aspects of it would be global, the worst of it was going to be in the United States. She wondered how many would die.
It was dark when she arrived at the compound in Atlanta.
After she had a bath, she logged on to her account and uploaded a video which she had prepared in advance.
Jaylene started speaking into the mic. Her voice was distorted by the synthesizer. “We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive and we do not forget. Expect us. People of the United States, this day you have become a military dictatorship. You have become a military dictatorship because those who love to wield power cannot do so if people will not obey them freely, and so they have found a way to enslave you with guns.”
“Despite nearly a year of protest and marches - with 80% national support - our government has not listened. Now they have taken away our last freedom. We say to you. Do not forget that your forefathers fought for your freedom. Do not forget that you left the old world because you did not want the extremes of wealth and you did not want to be ruled by people who thought they had a right to tell other people what to do. Do not forget. The coming months will be difficult. We now have a military dictatorship that has canceled our democracy. There are rumors that President George Stoves is the head of a secret society that wishes to convert the Republic to a Monarchy. This needs to be prevented at all costs.”
“When you wake up in the morning, you will wake to a very different world. Our first task will be to dismantle the military of the United States. It will not be an easy task, but it is a necessary task. And when that is done, we will take back every inch of this land, inch by inch, rock by rock, and mile by mile. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive and we do not forget.”
When she was done, Jaylene thought once more of Sandy, her long dead friend. “Sandy,” she whispered, “We’re striking a blow for all those that died because they couldn’t get medical care, and we’re striking a blow for all those who couldn’t work even when they wanted to, and we’re striking a blow for all those who starved because they couldn’t find enough to eat. But mostly, Sandy, I’m striking a blow because you died, because you couldn’t get medical insurance, and tomorrow, I’m going to take down every single one of those medical insurance companies.”
And then Jaylene went to bed, a smile on her face.
Aladair arrived at Bett’s place in the morning. He took the prisoner with him, and they never heard from him for two days. When he came back he said, “We are going to attack the army and the marines. We will use guerilla tactics. Are you in?”