The Second Civil War - Chapter Six
If you have not read the previous five chapters, you can read them here. The link for Chapter 7 is here if you wish to continue reading after this.
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.”
When Chapter Seven is available, it will be in the list of chapters in the first chapter.
The din which met the president’s announcement threatened to deafen him. There were shouts of ‘Are we permitted to ask questions now?” The vice president put up his hand to indicate silence, as did the president. Both simultaneously said, “Questions will be taken afterwards.”
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 fingers obviously trying to connect with others.
The Assassination of a President
“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.”
When Chapter Seven is available, it will be in the list of chapters in the first chapter.
© 2017 Tessa Schlesinger