Thursday, May 3, 2012

Distance, Chapter 41


10:30 a.m.
Saturday morning
April Fifteenth,
Near Mt. Sterling, Iowa

Roeland and Doug arrived at a small farmhouse, pulling into a large, well-treed area behind the house.  Two-dozen other vehicles were there, a mix of ancient cars and ancient trucks.  Roeland drove his nineteen fifty-six Chevy flatbed, which fit right in.

Doug was greeted with more than a few suspicious looks but most of the conversation was unintelligible to him---a mix of Dutch and English, as Roeland explained, and finally introduced him.  He noticed that none of them provided their names in return…security protocols, he supposed.  Doug tried to figure out if ‘Adam Krusen’ was present.  A third of the men there could’ve fit the age range that Roeland mentioned.  None was an obvious choice.

They met in a large, classic dairy barn, this one spotless and unused at present. Four large tables were set up in the middle of the main floor space, lit by antique kerosene lanterns. Doug noted that four men went into another room, also lit by kerosene, and appeared to be trying to find a radio broadcast.  

Roeland noted Doug watching.  “Antennas are hidden in the structure and around the farm. Unobtrusive that way,” he said, before moving to the end of the empty tables.  Doug tried to look like he belonged, knowing that it was hopeless.

“What do we know?” Roeland asked, the first to speak in the gathering.  Others looked to him, Doug thought, as if he were either the leader of the group or at least part of senior management.

“Navy bases in Norfolk and Newport News are gone. Groton in Connecticut and Quonset Point in Rhode Island are gone. Cape Canaveral, Vandenburg, Huntsville of course.  At least one carrier group, maybe more,” a man in his mid-twenties replied. “We’ve heard of a nuclear attack in the Middle East, but cannot confirm anything.”

“Confidence?” another man, closer to Doug’s age asked.

“Complete,” the young man replied.  Doug thought he looked ‘military’ in the way he carried himself.

“Fallout?” Roeland asked.

“Weather satellites are offline and probably permanently so,” another man answered in a deep voice. “And weather radar. Might as well toss your cell phones in a box for a few years too—the entire network in the Eastern U.S. is cooked for sure. Suspect the same thing out West, but cannot confirm.  Even if the cell towers weren’t damaged, it’ll be a long, long time before they’re back up.”

“So no idea about anything from Huntsville…” Roeland asked.

“Or any from anywhere else,” the man replied. “If you remember your nineteenth century weather signs, that’s how you’ll be telling what’s coming.”

“No tornado warnings, either,” someone in the back stated.  Tornadoes had raked Texas already; it was just a matter of time before Iowa would be visited. 

“Correct….until we get some sort of restoration.  Best watch your barometers and watch the sky,” the man replied.

“Does anyone have any way to measure radiation?” Doug asked, risking speaking out of school.

None answered.

“Not good news,” a man behind Doug observed. “We’re completely in the dark.”

“We’re hearing of some trouble on the edges,” an older man, probably Arie’s age, stated. “The Cities. They are leaving them for the country.” 

Doug didn’t have to ask who ‘they’ were.  Anyone still staying in a major city during a nuclear war just wasn’t paying attention.

“Which cities?” the man standing next to Roeland asked.

“Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis. Des Moines,” the older man said as numerous men commented.

“Impacts?” someone behind Doug to his right asked.

“They’re not ready. They shouldn’t have left,” the man said, speaking of the refugees.  ‘Fringe posts report back that there are hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles running out of gas anywhere from fifty to a hundred miles from those cities. Very few are making it past those points. Farms and towns in those areas will have serious problems. Those problems probably have already started. There is little we can do in support.”

Another batch of unintelligible conversation, more animated, from several parties.  Roeland chimed in, apparently a calming influence.  It was obvious to Doug that even though he didn’t understand the language, he understood the anxiety.  He thought it interesting that no one asked about the Federal or state leadership.

“Doug, the floor is yours. If you would, please tell these men what you told us about the food alteration.”

Feeling flushed, Doug took to the end of the tables near Roeland, the ‘head’ of the ‘boardroom’, a favorable position to make eye contact. Assuming that each of the men might be ‘Adam Krusen’, Doug made it a point to speak to each of them as if he were the man that would unveil RNEW.  He was only five minutes into his oral arguments when one of the men in the radio room interrupted.

“Got something here, friends. News report from North Carolina. President is supposed to address the nation later today,” the man said, reaching up above him to flip a switch.

“….a Department of Defense official has provided the major news outlets a printed update on the current military actions around the world, which include nuclear attacks on the continental United States and on naval vessels around the world, and the American response. An Assistant to the Secretary of Defense has provided the following information:  

“A nuclear first strike against U.S. and Israeli forces was made with a focused electro-magnetic pulse weapon centered over southern Europe and the Mediterranean, which most likely disabled the electronic warfare systems aboard the USS Nimitz and her associated Battle Group. This EMP blast was set off by a Russian satellite that was already in orbit, originally thought to be a communications satellite that never achieved proper orbit. Sources in Russia have informed us that the Russian President and a majority of the Russian government were in emergency session at that time, and were killed when a tactical nuclear device was detonated near their headquarters.”

“Regarding the Nimitz, our protective technology was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the weapon. Four minutes after the initial weapon was detonated, seven other EMP weapons around the Earth destroyed virtually all communications satellites in space, and dramatically affected power systems in North and Central America, albeit temporarily. A side effect of these detonations was the loss of the International Space Station and crew, composed of two Russians, one American, Commander Matthew Cooper, and one Japanese citizen, Mission Specialist Hiroku Watanabe. The Nimitz Battle Group was then attacked with a combination of ultra-high speed nuclear-armed torpedos and surface-to-surface missiles by both Russian and E.U. forces. D-oh-D officials at the press conference have stated that due to the nature of the attack, there will be no survivors.”

“Upon learning in near real time of the nature of the attack against USS Nimitz, Israel launched short, medium- and long-range nuclear-equipped missiles at several targets, including targets in Syria, Islamic Arabia, Iran, Russia, and several locations in France and Germany. These weapons were launched after units of the Israeli Defense Force shot down an undetermined number of inbound missiles launched from Iran and Islamic Arabia. Targeting of nations in Europe focused on centers of military activity noted to have provided ongoing support to the conventional attacks on Israel over the past several days, including submarine-port facilities and launch-points for strike aircraft. The United States, meanwhile, launched long-range nuclear missiles from ballistic missile submarines in the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the North Pacific against targets in Russia. The D-oh-D states that no land-based missiles have been fired at this time.”

“Approximately four minutes after the secondary EMP weapons were detonated, missiles were launched from Russian ballistic missile submarines in the Atlantic. These missiles targeted design, construction and maintenance facilities of the United States Navy; space-launch facilities of the United States, and the Federal leadership. The majority of these warheads were successful in their missions. One series of warheads was destroyed in flight as it approached the East Coast, its trajectory suggested that it was aimed at either Washington, D.C. or Camp David. This weapon package consisted of ten independent nuclear warheads launched from a single ship in the Atlantic. A second warhead failed to detonate over Houston, Texas and broke up on impact, creating a radiological event in that city.  The nuclear detonations in Huntsville, Alabama and near Vandenberg Air Force Base were not missiles, but appear to have been fairly large tactical nuclear weapons enhanced with significant amounts of radiological material. Earlier reports regarding in-bound warheads falling short of the San Diego-San Francisco metropolitan areas are in error, the explosions seen were in fact American nuclear weapons used against inbound Russian warheads.”

“In the Western Pacific, the Department of Defense confirms the loss of the majority of the USS John C. Stennis Battle Group, in a surprise nuclear attack by a Russian submarine, which was then destroyed by an American fast-attack submarine.   United States submarines are now pursuing several other Russian submarines and have destroyed at least six as of six a.m., Eastern Time. An undetermined number of American naval assets are engaged in hunting down the Russian submarines around the world. The U.S. has learned that each Russian submarine has been released to launch its weapons at the discretion of the captains in command.”

“Nuclear detonations within the continental United States included both large- and small yield weapons. The submarine construction and maintenance facilities operated by General Dynamics, known as Electric Boat, in Groton, Connecticut and Quonset Point, Rhode Island, were both hit by high-yield weapons with significant blast radii. Shipbuilding facilities at Newport News and the naval shipyard at Norfolk, Virginia were hit by relatively low-yield weapons, although this is small comfort.”

“Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral was destroyed by at least one high-yield weapon, which virtually erased the space center from the Florida landscape.  In the second leg of the attack on the United States’ space launch capabilities, an attack on launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base was carried out with what appears to have been a truck-carried tactical nuclear device that also contained significant amounts of radioactive waste products, which has spread radiological materials through both the explosion of the low-yield weapon and surface winds.  The Department of Defense believes that the actions of USS Virginia, SSN-74, and her on-board weapons systems saved military assets and millions of citizens in San Diego, as well as other military ports and facilities in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.”

“Department of Defense contacts on conditions of anonymity, and outside of this news release and the news conference, have confirmed that at least thirty nuclear weapons from the United States, and an unknown number from Israel, have been used in this battle. These sources confirm that a significant amount of the Iranian military was destroyed by Israel, and that Israeli high-yield weapons destroyed the Russian Missile Space Center at Tyuratam and the space-launch facility at Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Until this war, Israel was not known to have high-yield weapons or the means to deliver them.”

The broadcast ended abruptly with the Emergency Broadcast Signal, but no spoken warning.  The radio signal then went dead.

“Live on our end, dead on theirs,” the radioman replied before the question was asked.  

“That was coming from over in Fort Madison, by the way.  I understand that they relayed that out of Chicago on a ham frequency.”

Doug didn’t know quite what to say next.

“Continue, sir if you would,” the man with the deep voice said. 

Doug spent another half an hour laying out the RNEW products, how to identify them, and the effects that he’d seen first hand. Another fifteen minutes was spent on the distribution targets and some speculation on his part, as to what Regent was up to, including the ‘coincidental’ date of April Fifteenth. Two minutes on Regent’s apparent depth of intelligence and their perfect willingness to take out any obstacle in their way.   

“I’ve told you this because there is no way that I can do it myself. To do so would likely get me killed, and they’ll put someone else in this job. It would also likely get people around me killed, perhaps including the Seghers. If you can find a way to get this information out there—it needs to get to known and trusted people in authority.”

That met with a few chuckles. “Not too many people in authority that anybody trusts, Mister Peterson.”

“Fewer in my organization,” Doug replied. “It must be done in a manner that does not come back to Iowa. Questions?”

No one replied. Doug continued. “I’ve described what I saw first hand with light industrial employees in my own plant, but the clinical case report showed much more than my own observations. What happens when you have those same RNEW-pacified minds and bodies under the control of a sociopath? What if they’re armed?  Let me answer: They have no social limits. There is no internal check and balance.  There is no conscious decision that what they are doing is right or wrong—if they are praised they continue on that path, whichever path that might be. They can either build and be unstoppably successful or they can destroy and be unstoppably destructive.”

“Have you seen that type of behavior?” Roeland asked.

“I’ve seen the path of the behavior. I’ve read the clinical studies that showed the ‘beneficial impacts to society,’ always though the positive spin, as if the coin had a single side!   I’ve seen enough to understand that with minimal instruction one way or the other and some favorable reinforcement, these people will stay on that path until some other instruction is given and reinforced, even if the two paths are diametrically opposed. What I present here is just the logical conclusion to the path that Regent’s products are on.”

After a few minutes with an awkward silence, Roeland asked Doug to step outside.  One of the older men joined him, probably to keep an eye on him, Doug thought.

“We’ve a new world today,” the man said to Doug as he leaned on a stock fence, looking over across the pasture. The man was attired in typical farm wear, and looked to be a little shy of sixty, with the deeply lined face of many years of labor but a thick shock of white hair under his John Deere cap.

“And the rules it operated under apparently no longer apply,” Doug replied.

“So what’s your next plan?” The man asked, taking out a cigarette. “Smoke?”

“No thanks,” Doug said. “Back home tomorrow night I suppose.  If I don’t show on Monday at the plant in Des Moines, I expect someone will come looking for me.”

“Back into the machine,” the man said, inhaling deeply. “I’ve got stage four cancer,” the man said, looking at Doug.  “So I took up smoking,” he said, staring off at the field.  “Figure I have nothing to lose. You though, you do have something to lose, don’t you? Or you wouldn’t have stuck your neck out like that.”

Doug immediately thought of Julie. “Yeah. I do.”

“You gonna let them take it from you, or are you going to do something about it?”

“I’m trying to.  That’s why I’m here,” Doug said, feeling a little defensive.

“We aren’t here forever.  Are you living the life you want to?”

“No, I’m not.  I know few people that are.”

“You need to travel in a better crowd.  Or more precisely, you need to get your act on stage and make your own future. You might want to do that sooner rather than later,” the man said as one of the big doors opened and men started filing out.  “Think that over,” he said as he shook Doug’s hand. “You’ve less time than you’d like to think you have,” he said as he headed to an ancient, rusted Dodge pickup.  Roeland walked up to him. “Ready?”

“Yeah,” he said.

A few minutes later they were on the way back to the farm. “You OK?” Roeland asked.

“Yes,” Doug said. “I’m good.  I’m setting a date with Julie today.”

“About danged time,” Roeland said. “And congratulations. What brought this on?  You didn’t seem to be in any all-fired hurry earlier.”

“Something that man said to me. Hit a a good way.”

“Artemus. Good man,” Roeland said.

They drove in silence for awhile before Doug spoke again.  “What happens next here at the farm? Are you and the family going to shelter?”

“We could pretend to hide from what we can’t see, or we can live our lives. We’ll do the latter I suspect.  Besides, we’ve got stock to feed. Fields to work, all that stuff. I assume you’re heading back to Des Moines?”

“Assuming the war is over. I should get back or they might well come looking for me. I should try to get there Monday. I suspect all Hell will have broken loose with the company, nuclear weapons aside,” Doug said.

“How so?”

“If communications are fried, and they probably are, product tracking is impossible.  Vehicle tracking. Raw materials, the same.  Just-in-time processes are destroyed. The stores are probably already stripped to the rivets of food, water, whatever.  Regent—and every other company like it—will not be able to create, let alone deliver, food products we’ve all come to know and love…and that’s just with a communications collapse.  Contracts can’t be met. Cash flow collapses. Creditors panic…”

“Got it,” Roeland said.

“Yes, but in this type if crisis, you have workers fleeing wholesale, fuel depleted, freeways filled with refugees. Everything breaks down.”

“Sounds like an ideal opportunity for a rider and white charger to come in and save the day.”

“Yeah, it does.  The problem is, I think the rider is interested in something else,” Doug said. “I think the rider is Regent.”

2:35 p.m.
April Fifteenth,
The Segher Farm

The dairy barn wasn’t the most appropriate place for the conversation, but Doug brought up the wedding date anyway, as they were resting after mucking out stalls. 

“Let’s nail down a date,” Doug said.

“Let’s,” Julie said, slipping her arms around him and kissing him.

“Before we do, we need to…”

“Tomorrow,” she said definitively, stopping Doug cold.

“There won’t be much of honeymoon,” he said, laughing despite the circumstances. “I should try to get to Des Moines on Monday. After that, I have no idea when I’ll be home again.”

“I’ll go with,” Julie said with finality before kissing him again. “Try to stop me.”

“I have a house, too you know.”

“You’d rather me be alone there? Or here?”

“Absolutely not,” Doug said softly, nuzzling her neck, just below her ear as his hands explored. “I don’t know where things are headed is all.”

“No one does,” she replied, reassuring him. “But I’m happy to go there with you.” 


  1. Long time reader, first time poster. Just wanted to tell you I love the story! Keep the chapters rolling!

  2. I'm still here! :)

    Hope the kin are well.

  3. Very nice. Looking forward to finding out what happens next.


  4. Can't wait for an update! It has been a while....


Comments are welcome!