Saturday, December 19, 2009
“We haven’t heard much if anything about secession since…what, May?” I said.
“There was something on National Public Radio before they went under in July,” Alan said. “That Senator. What was her name?”
“Cynthia Blackburn,” Chuck said. “Flag bearer of the New Republic.”
“That’s the proposed name?”
“Affirmative. Not proposed. Real.”
I felt as if I’d been smacked upside the head. “Since when?”
“September first. Their Independence Day.”
“Who, exactly, is ‘they?’”
“A hodgepodge of states and parts of states. They believe that their borders are not necessarily fixed things, and that those fellow travelers that believe in their cause are quite able to become part of their ‘nation.’”
“Yes, but an effective way to create something from nothing.”
“How effective?” I asked.
“Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, parts of Pennsylvania and New York, New Jersey, parts of Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, parts of Illinois and Iowa, West Virginia, Tennessee, the eastern half of the Carolinas. Not Florida, interestingly enough, but bits of it and Georgia.”
“What, exactly, does this mean?” Ron said. “Sounds like a class ‘A’ cluster.”
“It means that if you owned property in those states, that you don’t any more. If you owned guns, you don’t any more, and you are probably in prison if you’re still alive. If you grow food, it belongs to someone else.”
“Oh, communism would be a couple rungs above their philosophy.”
“What’s the government doing about it?” I wondered.
“They were waiting for it to burn itself out.”
“And?” Alan asked.
“And it’s not, or at least not fast enough. Raiding parties have been moving out of their ‘territories’ to get what they can’t seem to grow, manufacture, or keep. That includes of course food, goods, and, workers.”
“They’re shanghaiing people?”
“Modern day slavery, yes.”
“So again, what’s the government doing?”
“Picking them off, little by little. They got Cleveland back, and most of Minnesota and Tennessee. And their local governmental units have been having trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“Families disappearing. Whole families.”
“No, relocated somewhere safe and prosperous. Which puts them in a bad spot, because if they don’t cooperate, the U.S. government will be sure to let the New Republic masters know that their underlings have sent their families out of country.”
“Slick,” Ron said. “What about military?”
“They have what they could capture, repair and fabricate, which isn’t a whole lot. We have a full naval blockade of course, so they have no trade by sea, as if there were any trading partners with that capability.”
“So no active military actions?” I asked.
“Skirmishes mostly, from what I understand.”
“So what about D.C.?”
“Under Federal control, but there aren’t many people there anymore. The radiation will be a problem for decades.”
“President still in Denver?” Alan asked, reaching for a second cookie.
“Undisclosed location, I think is the term of the year.”
“Ditto. You seem pretty hungry for information out here,” Chuck said as he poured another cup of tea.
“Chuck, ever spend a couple months living in a barn?”
He chuckled. “Matter of fact, no. Three weeks in a bomb shelter was as close as I could get.”
“Well, living in what is these days, the forgotten American disaster zone leaves us with a distinct hunger for intel. The sanitized news we get nationally is pablum. We want…no, ‘need’ better information.”
“So I gathered!” Chuck said as the back door opened. Karen was home.
“Hon, c’mon in. We’ve company.”
“Mike’s family, not company,” I heard her say.
“Yes, but I’m not,” Chuck replied as he stood. “Chuck Severa. Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
“I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t know we had guests,” she said as she smacked my shoulder.
“Quite all right, ma’am.”
“That’s quite a sidearm you have there,” Karen said, noticing something that I’d missed, hidden under his suit coat.
“Thank you. Don’t leave home without it anymore,” Chuck said as he removed a Glock from a hidden holster and placed it on the table.
“You sound like these guys,” she said, not mentioning that she now had a compact .45 ACP of her own.
“May I?” Alan asked.
“We have 1911’s mostly, but the mag capacity leaves a little to be desired.
“Which is why I chose the G21. Thirteen rounds.”
“It is at that.”
“Chuck, we better get moving. Pete Wolfson’s going to be heading out at five-thirty,” Mike said as Alan handed the weapon back to Severa.
“All right. Rick, Karen, gentlemen, it’s been good to get acquainted,” Chuck said as he stood, re-holstering the Glock.
“Likewise. And thank you for this meeting.”
“It seemed the right thing to do.”
“In a world so wrong, it’s refreshing.”
“How’s Pete holding up, Mike?” I asked as we reached the front door.
“He was wondering when you’d be back. As in, ‘do whatever you can to get him back in this office and me out.’”
I laughed a little harder than I ought, and caught a stitch in my side. “I’ll be a while yet.” The snow was still falling, in small flakes that noted the cold. Alan and Ron were talking with Chuck about Denver and other parts of the country. ‘Pumping him for information’ was more accurate.
“So he’s afraid,” Mike said, also noting Chuck’s conversation with Ron and Alan.
“The townsmen must be driving him nuts.”
“They are at that. He’s not cut out for bureaucracy.”
“Neither am I.”
“But there are a few townsmen that think big government is a good thing, and have been pushing for more of it since you’ve been away.”
“Time to stomp that bug flat.”
“Yes, it is. We barely have the resources to support what we have, which aren’t enough in the first place.”
“Agreed. We’ll deal with this next week. I’ll see if Dr. Karen will let me get into the office.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Thanks, I’ll need it.”
I’d managed three hours of sleep, and then was wide-awake for no good reason. I then thrashed around the bed for a few minutes and gave up. I almost managed to make it out of bed before Karen woke up. Almost.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Take your meds?”
“Yes, that’s probably why I’m up.”
“You’ve got another three days of those pills. Gonna make it OK?”
“I need Art Bell to listen to. He always used to make me sleep.”
“Well, he’s retired.”
“I know, still miss him.”
“Whatcha going to do?”
“Listen to the radio for awhile. Maybe I can sleep in the recliner.”
“Ribs still hurt?”
“Well, turn the light on before you go downstairs. We don’t need anymore hospital time.”
“Will do. Sleep well,” I said as I kissed her again.
My ‘barn office’ was a place to get away from the bustle of the house. In former days I used the computer out there for tracking stuff I needed to buy for projects and supplies. My ‘basement’ office I used on winter evenings when Carl or Kelly hadn’t commandeered it for a game of Halo or Super Mario. These days, after the Domino, it was not quite a wreck, but really didn’t resemble its former self. The two fluorescent lights, now minus their diffusers, flickered for a full minute before they stabilized. The rebuilt windows to the south and west were covered with heavy moving blankets, as much for insulation as for light control.
Most of our old furniture, which once included bookshelves, an old entertainment center and TV, and a monstrous Steelcase desk, were either damaged or destroyed in the quake. The desk remained, but everything else had been trashed. While we’d managed to put the rest of the house back together, the basement still sported studs and insulation, and exposed floor joists. The dented desk, which was the recipient of a two-foot diameter chunk of our fieldstone foundation, now held a new-to-me Apple laptop, and our higher-end radio gear. We’d run antenna cables up to the attic and outside, and with some help from Aaron Watters, had a passable ham radio setup. The temporary setup would be moved upstairs though in a few more days, once we cleared out a spot. The basement would be the recipient of new pantry shelves for more supplies.
I was more into listening than talking, maybe because I just didn’t have that much to say, or because I found the process a little…intimidating.
I checked the uninterruptible power supply to make sure that it was powered up, and checked the line voltage on a pair of digital voltmeters ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ of the UPS. Our voltage had been more than a little flaky ever since the electric lines were repaired. Tonight, we had a nice, even reading on both gauges.
Buck decided to join me as I turned on the Collins, a gift from Aaron to Kelly on her birthday…and an extremely generous gift at that. The blower on the wood furnace—a modified pellet stove—kicked on to help take some of the chill off of the house. My wall thermometer read fifty-five degrees, which was about average for the basement. I wasn’t really dressed for it though—and wrapped up in an old sleeping bag while sitting at the desk. Buck took advantage of the part on the floor, and promptly curled up on my feet.
The logbook that the kids maintained (with some adult input, but spare) noted times that they’d had luck picking up certain parts of the world. Even though we were back to some sense of ‘normal’ these days, they still kept up on their listening habits. We didn’t deter them, except on school nights.
The changed weather patterns, Aaron told us, had dramatically altered shortwave transmitting and reception worldwide. I assumed that the changes were mostly due to the volcanoes and a historic decrease in solar activity. Some blamed it on the War, and thermonuclear pollution. It didn’t really matter what caused it, except to those who blamed humankind for the woes of the planet. For whatever reason, we could listen, and I suppose talk to, most of North America, a couple evenings a week. Once in a while, we could pick up Asian-language broadcasts, which we could not translate. Very, very rarely, we could pick up some broadcasts from England. We hadn’t heard anything from the rest of the Continent since early August. Nothing from the Middle East or Africa ever.
Our world had again become a large place.
The radio suddenly came to life, left on the frequency that Kelly had on earlier. I expected words I heard only numbers, with gaps in the sequences that I assumed could only mean some sort of code. The frequency I noted was that of WWCR in the old days, which if I remembered correctly, was out of Nashville.
“Seven, forty-one, six, ninety-two, four, eight……one, thirty-three, six….” the pleasant female voice spoke.
If it was some sort of code, and it must have been, I would have no idea of where to start with it or what it meant. I did note that it began at exactly twenty-five past the hour, and ended at thirty-five past. Exactly.
During a prolonged pause, I waited, and reached to tune it to a different frequency, when a different voice spoke.
“Radio Free America broadcasting on nine point nine eight five. At thirty-eight past the hour, video from within rebel-held New York City has reached us that New Republic forces are seizing food supplies from the remaining population. Those resisting are being killed. Rumors of this type of brutality has been reaching us for weeks, but the video—secretly shot with a high-quality DVD camera—was smuggled out of the rebel zone by refugees to a RFA broadcasting unit.”
This news really didn’t surprise me one bit. The broadcast went on, with the broadcaster putting on an audiotape of the attack, with a narrative. For the world, I was reminded of a play-by-play. A macabre one in this case.
“The video has been copied and supplied to major media networks as well as the Federal government, with no comment since it was delivered to them two days ago.”
“Rumors that the rebel government is near collapse continue to intensify, and I believe that this seizure of food and the wholesale executions we’ve seen in New York, Philadelphia, and Newark provide ample evidence that the New Republic must be close to implosion. Rebel leader Blackburn was last seen in Boston last Monday, and multiple RFA sources within the immediate area said that her motorcade came under fire at least twice during a fifteen-minute period of observation. Rebel guard forces then conducted a systematic attack on three separate locations, resulting in multiple fatalities. It is ‘illegal’,” I noted the dripping disdain of the commentator, “to possess any firearms within the New Republic.”
The broadcast began to go into static, and then faded to a frustration point where I turned to another frequency. It sounded like a prayer vigil in an Islamic country. I noted the frequency, and looked it up in the logbook index. If it was correct, I was listening to Paris. Ten minutes of an utterly unintelligible singsong chant was enough for me. I shut off the Collins and turned on the big old Radio Shack multiple frequency radio. I wasn’t able to pull in anything much, and shut it off finally.
I then moved to the banged up recliner, and reached to the small bookshelf next to it, and pulled out one of the oldest Bibles in the house. I read Paul’s letters for two hours, before nodding off.
Posted by Tom Sherry at 5:45 PM