Friday, February 18, 2011

Distance, Chapter 15


January Twenty-fourth
6:10 a.m.

Instinctively Doug knew he’d hit a home run. The heart of the need, a once in a lifetime lightning bolt that would resonate with every single exec, every marketing director, every distribution specialist that read it.  He knew that the next order of business would be to copy the West Coast team on the emails he’d sent, and to keep his higher ups apprised as to progress.

But he knew he’d smoked the sell.  There wasn’t any rush like the rush of ‘the kill’ on the sell, or the sale that would inevitably follow.  It was so much better here at Regent, because they flat out had something that no one else could possibly compete with.  Perfect timing, perfect situation, perfect outcome guaranteed. Doug was reeled back in by the radio, now with the Secretary of Defense speaking about Taiwan.

“….with the initial attack coming in the form of an electro-magnetic pulse carried out in near space to bring down the power and communications grid on the island. This attack failed when the warhead—a nuclear warhead—was destroyed by a laser hit from one of our airborne assets.  Simultaneously, a massive series of ground-to-ground and ship-launched missiles bore in toward the island.”

“What the Hell? Lasers? Are they serious?” Doug said to himself. “Since when do we have lasers?”

“The sheer number of missiles overwhelmed both US and Taiwanese defenses, with approximately thirty-five percent of incoming missiles making it through the defensive screen. Most of these missiles were targeted on industrial and civilian government command and control targets. The initial wave of missiles was targeted on key military targets, with civilian and governmental targets in subsequent waves.”

Doug heard the chime of an incoming email, then a second, and third in quick succession. He didn’t take the time to read them.

“The Battle of Taiwan is now concluded. The United States and Taiwan have won the day.” 

“Ships of the U.S. Navy that participated in the defense of Taiwan included the U.S.S. Essex, a light carrier deployed from Sasebo, Japan, which is on fire and listing at this time. Also damaged, Ticonderoga-Class Aegis cruiser, U.S.S. Antietam, which took four missile hits. U.S.S. Harpers Ferry, a Marine amphibious assault ship, was sunk by a Chinese submarine.  No United States submarines were lost or damaged in the battle.”

“Our response to the attack was swift and severe, but appropriate to the level of force needed to defeat the enemy.  Upon the news of the attack on U.S.S. Rueben James, the Commander, Pacific Fleet informed all U.S. warships in the theater of operations of the attack, the casualties, and the target package for each ship. As of five a.m. this morning, Eastern time, the Communist Chinese Navy has permanently ceased to exist as a viable fighting force in the world.”

‘We just took them out? Like that? We can do that?’ Doug thought to himself. He realized that he really had no idea what the U.S. military was capable of. He’d never really thought of it; they were people that went elsewhere in the world when the country needed them to. The few military people that he’d met didn’t leave him with the impression that they were all that intelligent. 

“Our submarine and surface vessels have sunk more than sixty submarines in port or at sea, including two ballistic-missile submarines, one off of Hawaii, the other off of San Francisco. All surface vessels worldwide belonging to the Communist Chinese, have been sunk or destroyed, with the exception of four vessels which surrendered to U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln’s battle group upon threat of sinking. Forty-two merchant vessels were also destroyed, after refusing orders to heave to for boarding, threatening U.S. military or civilian ships with illegally-mounted weapons, or in one case, attempting to ram a U.S. Coast-Guard cutter in San Francisco Bay.”

Doug wondered what sort of desperation made the Chinese decide that ramming a Coast Guard ship was the best option available.

“The President, when informed of the initial attack, was relocated to a secure location. I now will transfer this briefing to the Presidents’ location.”

More emails arrived in Doug’s inbox as the President began to speak.

Good morning. I am speaking to you from Camp David, to inform you of the defeat of the People’s Republic of China in their attack on Taiwan. The losses in Taiwan are high--they have paid a dear price for their freedom.”

“There is also news from Beijing. The ruling government of Communist China has been removed from within. The U.S. Embassy and consulate staffs have been released. At this hour, massive demonstrations are taking place for peace and democracy in major Chinese cities. It appears that this may be another country about to turn the corner to freedom and democracy, and away from enslavement, from evil, and from an ever-shrinking number of nations that wish to deny basic human rights upon their citizens.” 

“The news—and results--of this pre-meditated attack on the U.S. and Taiwan and the resulting Communist Chinese defeat were leaked to the Chinese people almost as soon as the first missiles flew.  It is our understanding that more than a million Chinese citizens stormed the Chinese Premier’s home and homes of other government leaders. Almost to a man, the former leadership was immediately taken into custody by the Chinese Army forces in the areas, which refused to defend the indefensible.   It is our understanding that some of the military leaders responsible for this course of action either committed suicide or were executed by their own troops before the former government was deposed.”

“To the Chinese people, I wish to welcome you on the path to freedom and democracy. As part of the terms of surrender, the mainland Chinese have agreed to full reparations to the island democracy of Taiwan, to the United States government, and to all other injured parties.”

“To the people of the island democracy of Taiwan, I wish to commend you on your bravery, your sacrifice, and your kindness in helping injured U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  These acts, which will become known soon, will be long-remembered and held with honor by many.”

“To the people of the United States, it is a new day. We will make the most of it and heal the fresh wounds on our country and our countrymen. While this war with Communist China was brief, consuming only a little more than a days time, the repercussions will be with the world forever. With losses in the thousands and tens of thousands,, but not millions, and none shall be trivialized on either side. Often, death came without warning, either from the missiles striking cities and ships, to the torpedoes suddenly sinking the pride of the Communist Navy throughout the world’s oceans. Brave men fought and died, as did innocent civilians. We will remember the sacrifices of all, with the goal of never having to fight another war.”

“Please pray for the souls of all the dead, and hold them in your hearts this day. I will return to you later this day, to discuss events on our southern border, and the actions taken to defend our land. Good day.”

Doug’s cell phone miraculously came to life, with the screen name of one of his Delta employees.

“Doug Peterson.  Jim? Is that you?”

“Yes, sir. I…wanted to see if we’re working today. My wife…she’s pretty freaked out with the war and all.”

“Where are you, Jim?”  Jim McGillicuddy worked for one of the Regent specialty divisions, ‘Gold’ in his case, in product research and development.


“Where do you want to be?”

“Not L.A.” he said, with a nervous laugh.

“I’m not in a large city, Jim. I’m in an out of the way place in the mid-west. If you and the rest of the team can accomplish your tasks out of your assigned offices due to safety or personal security reasons, I don’t see why that would be a problem. I think I can clear this with management,” Doug said confidently, guessing that most of the management teams were not heading into anything that remotely looked like a problem area. “Have you heard from any of the other team members?”

“No sir, but phones are screwed-busy…I mean…”

“No problem. I got it.  Keep trying, and keep me posted either through email or text. I sent out an email this morning to the contact list….”

“Saw it. Effing brilliant. I mean, seriously. Brilliant.”

“Thanks. Can we deliver on it?”

“No doubt about it. None….assuming we aren’t nuked at some point in the next five minutes.”

“Sounds like the Chinese have been beaten,” Doug said.

“Which is fine, but no one’s told either the Mexicans or the Chinese south of here,” Jim said. “These aren’t just sympathetic riots.”

“What are you seeing?”

“Still dark out here. Sun’s not up until something like six-thirty. It won’t even start getting light out here for another hour….but there are some big fires in East L.A. I can see the glow in the overcast from here.”

“Where are you exactly?”

“Inglewood. The office is in Culver City.”

“Where do you plan on going to get away?”


“Generally. I don’t need specifics,” Doug said, understanding that Jim might be reluctant to tell.

“North. Not far from Paso Robles.”

“Wine country. Can’t beat that….Would you be able to complete the assignments already tasked?”

“Sure.  As long as we have phones and ‘net.”

“All right.  I’d say, ‘go.’  I’ll send an email out to the rest of the team and let management know.  Check in when you can.”

“Thanks, Mister Peterson. I appreciate this.”

“Jim I had a little close call myself a couple days ago when some yahoo shot up my townhouse in Chicago. So, I’m now in the middle of farmland and I think I’ll like it here.”

“Thanks again—I’ll check in later today.”

“Good enough. Good luck,” Doug said, ending the call. He’d heard several more emails come in as he was talking with McGillicuddy.  When he checked the inbox, he saw thirty-one new messages.

“Holy smokes,” Doug said aloud.

Five were from the various Regent offices that his crew was assigned to, informing all employees that work disruptions were likely due to ‘events beyond our control,’; three were from Regent Delta’s administration office, covering Doug’s medical insurance, various general administration procedures, and personnel policies.  The rest were from businesses on the client contact list….all positive, most eager and three, downright demanding.

The radio was continuing to broadcast and endless stream of bad news that just seemed to get worse as the minutes went by.

“….missiles fired from enemy combatants have shot down at least four U.S. aircraft attacking the Mexican invaders, including at least one A-10 Thunderbolt in the Arizona desert.  U.S. ground troops, backed by air support, have turned back the majority of the attack and are progressing into Mexico at this hour. We’ve heard from volunteer Militiamen who were overwhelmed by the initial invasion, that U.S. forces are literally, shooting anything that moves within twenty miles of the border, and appear to be moving farther south by the hour.  We have confirmed that two helicopter gunships were downed by enemy gunfire, and that the crews were alive after the choppers went down. We have also confirmed that the crews were executed after they were taken prisoner.”

More incoming email chimed from his laptop, including one from David Williams.  Doug punched that one open, but found it blank at first, and then a password screen popped up.  He was asked for his employee identification badge, which was swiped through a card reader above the keyboard.  The email then opened.

“Doug—excellent progress so far today on your contacts.  I’m going into an emergency board meeting, but wanted to compliment you on your agility today and making the most of the situation.  Terrible things have happened, but they’ll shake out eventually and we’ll all be stronger for it in the end.  I’ll be in touch later today—

‘Huh,’ Doug thought. ‘Odd.’

“.......Juarez, and Mexicali. Intense urban battles rage at this time in Brownsville, El Paso, the San Diego region, and as far north as Tucson. In addition to highways and airports, PEMEX—the Mexican national oil company—resources including oil fields such as the huge Cantarell field, refineries and pipelines, have also been seized by American forces.”

“In the U.S., urban battles at this hour continue to side with the guerilla force, with most active-duty and reserve police units being killed in an initial series of car bombings and sniper attacks. Given the battles fought in the western Pacific today, and the nature of the surprise attacks and invasions, it only seems a matter of time before the Mexican attackers, as well as innocent Hispanics caught up in the battles, are killed. Urban areas with high percentages of Hispanics and illegals in many U.S. cities also report vicious attacks on non-Hispanics, police officers, and military forces.” 

“Within the hour on the East Coast, a vicious car-bomb attack has occurred in suburban Alexandria, Virginia.  The bomb has apparently leveled a child-care facility used almost exclusively by Congressional staffers families. Two Mexican illegals seen running from the delivery van were captured after the explosion and beaten to death before police could arrive. They have been identified as in this country illegally through government records listing previous deportation.  At this hour, the death toll is rising, with forty-seven children under the age of five killed, thirty more missing, and more than twenty adults missing and presumed killed.  Eleven adults and four children were pulled from the wreckage and taken to local hospitals.”

Doug could not believe what he was hearing. He suddenly found himself throwing up in the kitchen sink.

……If there ever was a galvanizing event so brutal as to unite the American people against a common enemy, we must look back to the attack on Pearl Harbor for comparison.  Within the space of a single day, the United States has been attacked by the Communist Chinese, and our neighbor to the south, Mexico. The defeat of one was rapid and decisive. If you are a Mexican listening to this now, I can assure you that your defeat is coming, and it will be equally decisive and infinitely more painful…for you.”

Doug went outside for a walk around the property, ignoring the cold wind. It took him a long time to get over what he had heard. He had never conceived of anything so brutal as what the radio had broadcast.

By nine a.m, Doug had walked most of the property, finding the hidden generator in a small, rough-looking outbuilding about twenty-five feet from the house, not far from the pump-house. Unlocking the big lock with one of the keys from the realtor, Doug found the room inside to be completely finished and heavily insulated, he assumed for sound. The natural-gas fed generator had an exhaust manifold that was piped into a sleeve through the floor, Doug guessed into some sort of large baffle or muffler to minimize the noise.  On the wall was a clipboard and service chart showing the generator was last ‘exercised’ in December.
In a low-roofed barn there was a small pile of wood, where a large pile might have been at one time.  Not really enough to warm the house for long. Doug wondered where he could buy dry firewood in the middle of the winter?  His late father always had six cords cut, split and delivered in his later years.  Winter on the lake was harsh, and the power was certain to fail several times each year. Doug loathed splitting wood in his youth….and he’d realized he hadn’t held a splitting maul since he was twenty-two.
The property had some oak, pine, and a number of other trees that he couldn’t identify.  They might be firewood some year, but not any time soon.
Back inside, Doug realized how cold he was, and warmed up some water for tea. He decided to leave the radio off. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear any more….ever.
He found himself staring at the laptop display, rolling a Regent screensaver over and around, changing colors once in awhile. The phone rang, no number displayed.

“Doug Peterson,” he said flatly.

“Uh….Hi Doug. It’s Julie. You OK?”

“Oh. Sorry Julie. Yeah, I guess I’m OK. More importantly, how are you?” he asked, perking up immediately.

“All right, all things considered. You’ve…heard the news?”

“More than I want to, actually. I had to shut off the radio and go for a walk.”

“Yeah. Bad,” she said.

“Bad. I did manage to go shopping last night though….actual groceries. And a burger and fries in town.”

“And what did that cost?”

“Well, a shopping cart was four hundred dollars and change. A couple burgers, fries and a shake….twenty dollars.”
Julie let out a long, descending whistle. “I wonder what it will be next week?”

“Unobtainable.  The supply lines are running out.  Day or two, and the Fairfield stores will look like Soviet Russia….or the prices will be too high for anybody.  How’s the farm? How’re you feeling?”

“I’m still sore. Tough to sleep long. The farm work is busy and I feel like I’m slacking, even though Maria and Arie aren’t letting me do much of anything.  Are you getting to work yet?”

“Started this morning.  Emails.  My team members though are mostly incommunicado or evacuating.”


“Talked to one in L.A.  They’re saying the riots are more than riots.”

“Oh. I saw some of that on TV, but didn’t know what to make of it.”

“No TV for me, but I have had internet for awhile.  Radio mostly,” he said, wondering if he should ask.  “Say, do you want a visitor later?”

“I would love one,” Julie said.  Doug could tell she was smiling.

“Midafternoon or so? Maybe one-thirty, two?”

“Sure….that’d be great,” she said as another call came in.

“Jules, I have another call coming in. See you later, OK?”

“See you then,” Julie said. “I won’t ambush you this time.”


  1. I found your site, and your blovel, about 6 hours ago through Arctic Patriot. My compliments, great reading. I have read all the way through Distance and am looking forward to your next chapters, presuming present history does not catch up to the events of Distance. Best wishes.

  2. I am really enjoying your story and hope you post more as soon as you are able. Thanks for making us all think things through a little deeper.

  3. Great story! Really like the different perspective on this one vs. your previous novels. Please keep it coming!


Comments are welcome!