(c) 2016 Thomas F. Brown, All Rights Reserved.
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In the post-apocalyptic aftermath of The Light Years War, humanity is struggling to rebuild a civilization smashed by an alien adversary. But now it faces a new and unexpected challenge: an army of religious fanatics hell-bent on completing the job the aliens started. Only one person stands in their way: an old woman with a mysterious past and an agenda of her own.
Camp Sandy Hill, Missouri
June 2, 2217
Located on the shores of Lake Jacomo, Camp Sandy Hill was originally built in the last days of the Light Years War to defend the pumps and intake pipes that supplied Kansas City with fresh water. But with that City now playing host to the Federal Government after the destruction of Washington, Camp Sandy Hill began serving as a quiet, isolated location for high-level meetings.
Seated around the glossy black meeting table were four U.S. Senators and three senior Congressmen. Vice President Michael Forman presided from the head of the table. He frowned as the text scrolled just beneath the ebony surface in front of him.
“Harry,” he said in a low raspy voice,”this can’t be right. If it were, I’d know about it.”
“Are you certain, Mr. Vice President?” Senator Harry Post replied, leaning forward in his seat.
“Yes,” Forman assured him. Looking up, he studied the seven faces arranged around the table. “I’m not sure I like what you’re implying.”
“President Holden’s kept secrets before, you know,” Senator Post pointed out. “Some of them pretty outrageous.”
“Not like this,” the Vice President declared, shaking his head. “You’re talking treason!”
“Whose? Mine or his?”
“Both. Cripes, man, your talking about War Crimes here!”
“This isn’t wartime,” Senator Larry Wilson said.
“I’m not so sure about that, either!” Senator Post replied, glaring at the man.
“Look,” Forman said, slapping the desktop with the palm of his left hand,” I know George. He’d never do anything like this.”
“And what if you’re wrong?” Post insisted. “Sir, this Army of the Cross is getting support directly from the Government. The document in front of you proves that.”
“But it doesn’t implicate the President,” Congressmen Tim Richter told them.
“Not directly,” Post agreed. “But who else could be involved? Gentlemen, this country is teetering on the brink. Electricity is unreliable, clean water’s a dodgy proposition at best, and half the City’s starving. Transportation’s virtually non-existant, as is communications. Hell, we’ve yet to hear from more than half the states. And the ones we have been able to contact are in worse shape than we are.”
“Raiding parties from this Army of the Cross isn’t helping,” Wilson reluctantly agreed.
“No, it’s not,” Post said, nodding. “Gentlemen, this isn’t a country any longer, it’s a collection of refugee camps. And according to these documents,” He stabbed an index finger at the desk top before him. “The government agencies tasked with addressing those deficiencies are complicit in making sure nothing gets done. Do you honestly think — any of you — that the President could be unaware of that?”
“What do you propose we do about it?” Richter asked.
There was silence around the table as the question sank in.
“Before we do anything,” Senator Carl Flynn pointed out in a voice barely above a whisper. He was clearly disturbed at having this discussion. “We need proof.”
“We’re not talking about impeachment here,” Congressmen Bill Anderson objected. He and Flynn exchanged a worried look.
“Not yet,” Congressman David Preston replied. He sat at the far end of the table with his chin cupped in his right hand, feigning boredom. Forman knew better than to take that expression at face value. He’d played too much poker with the man to make that mistake.
“You think it’ll come to that?” Forman asked the man.
“To be honest. Mr. Vice President, I don’t know. All I can say is that I’d need to see hard evidence before signing off on anything so … divisive. Make no mistake: even if the accusation fails to produce impeachment hearings, simply making it in public has the potential to tear what’s left of this country apart. We need to be very sure of ourselves before going down that road. As has already been pointed out, our people are starving. They’re suffering in other ways, true, but it’s the hunger that will destroy us. Rather than going after the President, I’d rather address more critical issues.”
A sharp knock on the door interrupted the discussion. The door opened a crack, and a Secret Service agent poked his head in.
“What is it, Charles?” the Vice President asked.
“Sir,” the agent said, “sorry for the interruption, but there’s been a report of a perimeter breach.”
“Do we need to evacuate to the Safe Room?” Forman frowned.
“I don’t believe so, sir. A patrol’s been sent out to investigate. We’ll know more shortly. Colonel Mathers thought you should be informed.”
“Yes, of course. Thank the Colonel for me, will you?”
“Yes, sir. Of course, sir.” The agent closed the door.
“Perhaps we ought to retreat to the Safe Room anyway?” Senator Bainbridge suggested.
“Getting nervous, Phillip?” Senator Wilson replied. He made it sound like friendly teasing, but it was neither friendly nor teasing. The two men were bitter rivals, always at odds with one another. And yet, despite that fact, both were trusted friends of the Vice President.
“Let’s address that food shortage, shall we?” the Vice President “suggested” firmly, not about to let the two enter into their usual shouting match. “What do we have on the table to bring those numbers up?”
“The Springfield Recycling plant,” Richter said without hesitation.
“Tim,” Post interjected, “You’ve been trying to re-open that plant for the last five years.”
“And it remains our best shot at increasing the food supply in the Kansas City area. My people estimate that we can have it operational inside of a year.”
“It’s been abandoned since the War,” Bainbridge said.
“That’s why it may take a year to repair and replace the components,” Richter said. “I’m not saying it will be easy. In addition to getting the plant up and running, we’ll have to establish a secure perimeter to keep out the wildlife.”
“I believe we’re going to have a problem with that,” Flynn objected. “My understanding is the building was sold in a sheriff’s sale to some religious group. I’m told they plan to gut the place and turn it into a church or something.”
“What religious group?” Richter demanded to know. “How come this is the first time I’ve heard of it?”
“You’re asking the wrong people,” Flynn replied. “Try asking your own people that question.”
“I’ve heard the Governor supports them,” Senator Wilson said. “He was quoted as saying something about God being more important than sewage.”
“Then he’s an idiot,” Richter shot back. “I wonder if God’s also more important than putting food on the table? How far along are they with the demolition? Have they touched any of the equipment yet?”
“Don’t think so,” Flynn shook his head. “I believe the Permits are still being processed.”
“Good!” Richter said, slamming his fist on the table top. “Then we can still put a stop to it.”
“How?” Senator Wilson asked. “We can’t just march in there and take someone’s private property.”
“Eminent Domain,” Richter said firmly.
“Do you really want to go there?” Flynn wanted to know. “Against a religious group building a church? Congressman, in case you haven’t been paying attention, religion’s had a huge resurgence in the last decade. People need something to believe in, something to see them through this crisis. The world may have come to an end, but politics hasn’t. It’s alive and well. Anyone voting against God is committing political suicide.”
“See here,” Senator Post spoke up. “That’s all well and good, but even if we get this plant operational, transportation’s going to be a problem. How do we get the raw sewage to the plant and the raw chemicals back out again, mmm?”
“That was in my original report,” Richter growled back at Post. “Which you would know if you’d bothered to read it. There’s an underground maglev tunnel connecting KC to the plant. While the plant’s being brought back online, we clean out the tunnel and refurbish the equipment.”
“Won’t be easy,” Preston pointed out. “Or don’t you remember the hell we went through re-opening the tunnels right here at Sandy Hill? You try to kick another bunch of helpless animals out of their home and the Animal Rights people will be all over your ass.”
“You can’t be serious!” Richter said, outraged. “Have you seen these so-called ‘helpless animals’ of yours? Mutated dogs, all of them as big as a man with a nasty disposition and smart as hell.”
“The activists will see them as cute little puppies.”
“So we show them the truth.”
“They won’t pay any attention. You know how it works. Voters only listen to their own point of view. The moment you disagree with what they already ‘know’ to be true, they’ll tune you out — or worse, believe you’re part of some big conspiracy against them.
“We saw that when we built this place,” Bainbridge agreed reluctantly.
In the silence that followed the man’s remark, a low “thud” could be heard in the distance. The men seated around the table glanced at each other, concern and puzzlement written on each face.
“What the friggin’ hell was that?” Senator Post asked.
To be continued…