Thursday, April 5, 2012
Des Moines, Iowa
Augie Kliest had left a few minutes before, and Doug was left with the feeling that Kliest was looking for answers without asking the hard questions.
Doug washed up and changed into fresh clothes, making himself more presentable for Julie and the Segher family. He’d have liked to have been there already, but he thought it imprudent to brush off an employee from his employers intelligence division. He’d have to drive into town in the morning; his Regent accounting-department-prepared 1040 form needed his signature, and he’d drop it at the post office. Another ‘perk’ of the job.
The strong wind caught Doug by surprise when he stepped outside. The afternoon wind , although clear, was quite cold. The drive down to the Farm was fairly slow, with numerous downed trees that had to have been down for quite awhile, given the amount of build-up around them. He was less than a mile from the Farm when blue flashing lights came on behind him. Doug proceeded on, but pulled over when the police cruiser slowed behind him. He lowered the drivers window, and then put his both hands on the wheel, and looked in his rear-view mirror as a large, body-armored deputy stepped out of the drivers’ side.
“Step out of the car please, slowly sir,” the deputy requested.
“Sure,” Doug said, complying immediately.
Doug fished out his wallet, moving slowly, although the officer didn’t have a weapon drawn.
“You’re almost late for dinner, Mister Peterson, Deputy Roeland Segher replied.
“Roeland! You scared the crap out of me!” Doug said, shaking his hand.
“Benefits of the job. Good way to celebrate the end of my first week.”
“What prompted this?” Doug asked.
“Let’s catch up at the Farm. I’m off duty as of forty-five minutes ago.”
Roeland led Doug to the Farm, and Doug noticed that the ‘utility roads’ to the various farms near the main Segher property were gone. All had been carved back into ditches; culverts removed, and much of the underbrush had been cleared. There were few hiding places and fewer options for approaching any of the homes in a vehicle.
Roeland parked his cruiser in the massive equipment shed, and Arie beckoned Doug to do the same, and immediately closed the huge rolling door behind them. As soon as the door was closed, lights snapped on. Doug saw a large Comex shipping container on the far end of the shed that hadn’t been there when he was last on the Farm.
“Douglas, I see Officer Segher tracked you down,” Arie said, shaking Doug’s hand firmly.
“He did at that. Scared the heck out of me,” Doug replied.
“What’s up with those stitches, there?” Roeland said, touching Doug’s head with the hand of a veterinarian.
“Long story,” he replied. “Short version is that we were getting shot at. Piece of wood caught me in the head.” He stopped as Julie came into the shed through the side door. He felt his heart stop a bit, as he saw her.
“Good to see you,” he said. She wore a thick light yellow sweater, her hair down to her shoulders, and was looking at him with particular intent.
“You have no idea,” she answered.
“Roeland, let’s you and I leave these two to their hellos, shall we?” Arie said.
Roeland and Arie made their way out of the cavernous room, and Roeland looked over his shoulder, raised his eyebrows and smiled at Doug as he shut the door.
Doug took Julie into his arms and kissed her, holding her close as she cried. It was a long time before she could speak.
Peter Forsythe was listening intently to the shortwave radio, listening for any signal that the Presidential ultimatum had been met—any sort of ultimatum that was news to Doug. He hadn’t heard any of the Presidential address, and Julie filled him in on the substance of the broadcast, picked up only via shortwave, and had recorded it on one of the computers. Doug listened to the address, wearing small earbuds plugged into the computer, while everyone else busied themselves with dinner preparations.
“Good afternoon to the citizens of the United States and those around the world who are listening as well. I know that both friends and enemies of this country, those that believe in freedom and those that would deny it are listening, and I will speak to both the Nation and the world about events today.”
“Through our national strategic assets, this broadcast is being made on all spectrums of radio and television, world wide. This is possible through the temporary interruption in the normal traffic of communications satellites belonging to, and being used by, any and all nations. This unprecedented broadcast is also being translated in near real-time by our communications specialists and broadcast in native languages world wide, to inform all people, and all governments, of the seriousness of events today.”
Doug felt the words spoken by the President, as much as heard them. A series of chills ran up his spine. Julie looked on as he listened.
“Approximately six hours ago, the United Nations, dominated by French, German and a mixture of Islamic nations and interests, attempted an attack on the sovereign nation of Israel. This attack was repelled primarily by Israel herself, but with some assistance and forewarning by the United States of America. United States forces were also attacked at Diego Garcia by conventional submarine-launched weapons; at Incirlik, Turkey by conventional weapons; and an aborted attempt at our base at Guam. This last attack was a nuclear-equipped ballistic missile launched from China. The United States Navy responded upon my orders and has destroyed any remaining space-launch capability of the Chinese. It is understood at this hour that elements of the former Communist regime attempted a coup today, the second in as many months, and gained control of that nation’s nuclear arsenal. That arsenal at this hour no longer exists, nor does the offensive capability of that nation. China is by all appearances now in a state of civil war.”
“Since this morning, our naval forces have been assisting the Israeli military in the defense of that nation. A number of attacking warships and ships that ignored repeated warnings have been destroyed. These include four submarines carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles belonging to France, recently re-named as vessels in the service of Allah. These ships were sunk off the east coast of the United States by fast-attack submarine forces of the U.S. Six German-built submarines, also similarly named, were destroyed by U.S. forces after they threatened U.S. ships and in two cases, shadowed a U.S. carrier fleet in the Mediterranean, providing assistance in the defense of Israel.”
“These ships were lost with all crew. No losses have been incurred by forces of the United States at this time.”
“The nation of Israel at this time is engaged in significant battle with forces from Iran, moving through and overflying Iraq; the Syrian Army, and elements of the Egyptian military. Israel has responded with forces appropriate to that used against her as well. European forces that participated in the attack have been repelled from their initial surprise attack, although intelligence suggests that these forces and the nations behind them are bent on continuing to fight.”
“I direct this next message to nations that are engaged against Israel and the U.S. Should offensive operations, anywhere in the world or in space, continue past midnight Universal Time, the United States will conduct offensive operations using conventional and nuclear devices against all military targets in enemy combatant nations and all capital cities of those nations.”
The broadcast paused, and Doug checked the computer briefly, before the President spoke again. Yes, you heard me correctly. That was an ultimatum, there is no negotiation. Cease your attacks or we will destroy you. For the forces of our military, the United States, the nation of Israel and the people of the world, I ask that all Americans offer their prayers for His protection and guidance. I pray for all of them. Good day.”
“That’s a Helluva thing,” Doug said. Israel. China. Europe.
None of the regular television or radio stations were broadcasting. Normally, there was ‘static’ where a carrier signal might have been, probably caused by the transmitter still broadcasting at power, even though no feed signal was reaching the transmitter. Now though, there wasn’t anything on any of the conventional bands. The satellite television feeds were also all dead, again nothing that had happened before. There was very little small talk, as Maria and daughters Molly, Catharina and Elisabeth worked on the Good Friday meal, which Julie said was baked whitefish in a horseradish sauce. Traditional fare at the Peterson household on Good Friday in his younger years had been pickled herring and plain noodles, Doug remembered.
In the living room, Roeland’s older brother Hendrik and Cath’s husband Tom were keeping the kids occupied with a card game that was all but impossible for Doug to understand. Grandfather Arie held baby Ian, who was quite enthralled with his grandfather’s white hair and piercing blue eyes.
Dinner was subdued, with Arie telling the Good Friday story to the younger children in Dutch, with Julie quietly translating for Doug, whispering in his ear. After dinner, the children were sent straight off to bed. It was nearly eight p.m. before the adults could talk in private in the large dining room. Peter still trolled for something on the shortwave.
“How is it on the outside, Douglas?” Arie asked.
“I’ve been in Des Moines for a few days, prior to that up in Wisconsin. To be honest, for average people it’s getting desperate. It won’t get better,” he said, sipping a fresh cup of Maria’s coffee. He told them of his trip to Wisconsin, and the fighting that left stitches in his head. A few meaningful looks were exchanged between husbands and wives; parents and their adult children, but few words.
“That’s not the worst of it. What I’m about to tell you could get me killed. The company I’m in, I don’t think I can leave,” Doug said, before spending a half an hour explaining what Regent, and RNEW could likely wreak on the unsuspecting public.
“This is hidden in food?” Cath’s husband Tom asked.
“It’s more complicated than that, but yes. Parts of it are. Parts of the formula are in other food or beverage products. Mid to longer term consumption of both creates the reaction within the body—within the mind,” Doug said. “I’ve seen first-hand results, and I don’t know if it’s reversible or what the longer-term impacts are. The short-term effects are scary enough.”
“How do we protect ourselves? Catharina asked. “You just said that all foods…”
Doug cut her off. “No, I said that foods that Regent and her subsidiaries are producing, likely contain the RNEW base line and the activator. Steer clear of them. Best advice is to steer clear of anything you don’t grow or trust with your life.”
“What about that stuff in your rig?” Roeland asked. “That had all kinds of Regent labels on it.”
“That’s the Preferred Line. Nothing in the Preferred Line has RNEW in it. The executives, and people like me, are ordered not to consume the common product lines—only Preferred, or other known and trusted foods and beverages. That stuff is for you,” Doug said, looking and Julie and the Seghers. “I trust that stuff,” he said, and then went on to tell them how to identify RNEW-charged products.
“You’ve got to get word out,” Julie said. “You’ve got to stop this!”
“I don’t know how. All of my communications, incoming and outgoing, goes through Regent, one way or another. Phone, email, messaging, internet access. My house watches me. My phone listens in—which is why I’m not carrying it right now. My car knows where I am, and Regent Intelligence knows where I’m going and where I am. A few hours back, my next-door neighbor who is an admitted Regent Intel operative, had a talk with me. He was either trying to get me to spill something I shouldn’t or was trying to solicit information from me on the Bigger Picture. I don’t know which way he was going with it, but I kept my mouth shut. He knows all about everyone in this room, including your politics, your religion, what you own, where you work,” Doug said.
“Thorough,” Arie said quietly, eyes narrowed, looking across the room.
“Write it down, longhand,” Peter said, coming up from the shortwave. “We can type it up and send it out.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Regent is scouring the Internet for fragments of information that might be related to RNEW. It’s not safe.”
“Then we mail it,” Peter replied.
“And who do you send it to?” Doug asked. “Conspiracy Central? Do you think anyone would believe it? Do you think that anyone would believe that Regent had a major deadline of today, for massive production quotas to be complete? Today, not the end of the quarter, not the end of a fiscal year, just probably the day that the Third World War starts? What do you think the odds are of that? That Regent knew that today was the day?”
“Could be coincidence,” Tom replied.
“I’ve worked in this industry for decades. Deadlines and quotas in the food production industry revolve around calendar dates: Fourth of July. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. Easter.”
“It is Easter weekend,” Tom replied.
“Which means ham, leg of lamb, things like that as the main course and all the trimmings on the side. Christmas can mean prime rib, turkey, and again, all the stuff on the side. Easter product, by the way, would have been shipped and in the stores by last Tuesday at the latest. This is something…different,” Doug said. “It is not a coincidence.”
“Got something,” Peter said from the corner of the room. “They say that there’s no communications coming from Europe…Nothing whatsoever for the past three hours.” He held a hand over the headphone in one ear, adjusting the old-fashioned dial-tuner with the other.
“What does that mean?” Doug asked.
“Nothing good,” Arie replied quietly.
“If attacks in Europe and the Middle East continue, it’d be hard to believe that we won’t be next,” Peter said.
“Thanks be to God for bringing us to this land,” Arie said. “We are safe here with His grace.”
Arie and Maria went to bed a few minutes later, knowing that another full day of labor awaited them. Doug and Julie were joined by Roeland, Peter and Molly in the living room. Tom and Cath were in the kitchen, working on a surprise Saturday breakfast.
“Are you having trouble with raiders down here?” Doug asked.
“No. North of here, though,” Roeland said. “Dusk to dawn curfews in most towns. Out of state plates get a whole lot of attention. I’m a little surprised you didn’t have trouble getting out of Des Moines.”
“I had trouble getting into it. Not out,” Doug said. “You don’t have watchmen keeping an eye on the place overnight?”
“No. Not for three weeks now. We have a better system,” Peter said. Molly went on to explain.
“Nightwatch is at the edges of our area, not within the center,” she said, taking a coffee cup and putting it in the middle of the table. “This is us,” she said, pointing at the cup, then taking a handful of the kids Lego’s from a bucket. “These are the edges. Inside, we trust everyone. The edges touch places that we either don’t trust or don’t know. Lots of the corporate farms on the edges—there’s no one there to trust.”
“And, it’s not our week,” Julie said. “We start up again on Sunday.”
“How many people on watch?”
“Two hundred, all the way around,” Julie said.
Doug raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Impressive. But no problems coming from the south?”
“Might be that the current wave has been depleted,” Roeland said.
“What does that mean?” Doug asked.
“It means the stupid ones are probably dead, or are now part of larger, better organized groups,” Roel replied.
“That outfit that you fought in Wisconsin,” Peter asked. “Were they…”
“They could’ve been anyone. They were looking for food, medicine, fuel. They probably took the wrong kind of attitude with the locals, and it blew up from there. Maybe they got frustrated, maybe the locals told them to shove it, I don’t know,” Doug said. “Whatever they thought, they ran themselves out of options.”
Doug talked for a few minutes more about conditions ‘up north’, and found himself alone with Roeland and Julie before he was finished.
“I’ve someone for you to talk with. Tomorrow if I can arrange it,” Roel told Doug.
“Who would that be?” Doug replied.
“An old friend of mine from college. His name is Adam Krusen.”
“What’s his interest in all things Regent?”
“Adam is a spark that could set a brush fire,” Roeland explained. “His father passed away three years ago after their family fortune was stolen.”
“How did that happen?” Doug asked skeptically.
“Without prosecution. His father—and hundreds of other farmers—had their investments with Commodity Exchange. Do you remember the story?”
“Name is familiar, but no,” Doug replied.
“Commodity Exchange Brokerage was a major player in the investments of farmers throughout the Midwest. Most farmers have significant cash resources at certain times of year, after cashing in on crops or stock sales, but before incurring costs of the following year. They have a window of time where that excess cash can be put to work. The wiser investors have a portion of their funds set aside for the known following-year expenses, and invest—or risk—the rest.”
“OK, that all makes sense. But didn’t that company collapse?” Doug asked. Something else about that company bothered him; something he couldn’t remember….
“They’re the ones…” Julie said, not finishing her sentence, looking down at the table, putting it together.
“They’re the ones,” Roeland replied. “They didn’t segregate the ‘safe’ funds from the ‘investment’ funds. They co-mingled them to give themselves a bigger pot to bet on the markets with. For years it worked. Then they got more and more aggressive to make the next kill. Management invested in foreign debt. It blew up in their faces; they couldn’t cover the spread.”
“They’re the ones who lost their clients’ money,” Doug said, finally remembering. “The first ones, that is.” There was something else though…
“Correct. Adam’s family farm, that had been in the family for a century and a half, was lost. The Krusen’s lost four million dollars in cash. They lost the ability to fund operations the following year. They lost most of their thousand-acre farm. It broke Adam’s father, and destroyed the plans that Adam had for the future. Cost him his fiancé as well,” Roel said. “No one was prosecuted. The SEC didn’t do anything, Congress bitched about it and said there would be increased regulation but did nothing, and no one went to jail. Half a billion dollars is stolen, peoples’ lives were destroyed, and no one was punished. Karl Krusen died of it.”
“How can he help me? How can he possibly make a difference?” Doug asked.
“First off, I wouldn’t be telling you this if I thought you were a different kind of man, you need to understand that, OK?” Roeland replied.
“All right, I understand,” Doug said, still questioning what Roeland had said.
“The impact on a young man to watch his father die under such circumstances forever changes him,” Roeland said, sounding just like his father. “He will come to judge the intolerable injustices that have taken place, with even more dedication when there is no legal recourse. The young man is provided a reason to take the lives of the men that are responsible,” Roeland said, looking Doug straight in the eye. “From what you have told us, you have a number of men in your organization that are the same type of creature that Commodity Exchange.”
Doug nearly said, ‘But they haven’t killed anyone’, and thought better of it. “They could be cut from the same bolt of cloth, yes.”
“Then you need to consider an appropriate course of action,” Roeland said. “If you have information, Adam can find a way to get the information out, and keep the source clean. He can get it to people who matter.”
“I don’t ask, but I know you’ll be protected.”
Doug finally remembered. ‘The former CEO of Commodity Exchange had been shot to death in New York? Or D.C? Was this young man responsible?’
“Roeland, I just remembered something. The CEO of that company died, I think last year….”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” Roeland replied. “And Adam wouldn’t either, by the way,” he said, in effect stating ‘don’t ask.’
Doug remembered more, and kept it to himself. ‘The board members. The CEO was just the last of them. He was killed on a golf course….’
“Did your family lose money in that fiasco?” Doug asked.
“No. We don’t believe that farming and banking mix,” Roeland said.