Authors: Joe Nobody
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Post-Apocalyptic
Holding Their Own X
Copyright © 2015
Kemah Bay Marketing, LLC
All rights reserved.
E. T. Ivester
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
For nearly 30 years, I’ve been exposed to Native American cultures in North America. I’ve visited countless pueblos, dances, powwows, mesas, and celebrations.
I’ve dined, prayed, drank, laughed, sheltered, and become friends with dozens of different men and women who have opened their homes and hearts to my family. They come from a number of diverse cultures that many Americans incorrectly lump together into a single category called “American Indians.”
Overall, I’ve found very few differences between the core values of their race and mine. They love their children, want to succeed, relish humor, celebrate art in many forms, and respect honesty. Sound familiar?
To say that Native Americans are this, or that, or the other is doing a disservice to the vast majority of their ranks. That would be like saying all southern men are rednecks and love guns, or that all Texans wear boots with pointed toes. Broad based stereotypes are as inaccurate there as with any diverse culture.
Since I began the Holding Their Own series, I’ve wanted to explore how various tribes in the Southwest would handle a collapse. Would they do better? Worse? About the same as the rest of America?
From my perspective, of all the social/racial groups in our country, American Indians are the most experienced with apocalyptic events. The last 400 years of their history is ripe with upheaval, betrayal, failed leadership, forced relocation, and bad decision making by all involved.
They have been defeated militarily, abused economically, ravaged by diseases, isolated, and forced off their land numerous times. Certainly sounds like SHTF by any definition I’ve heard.
And yet they survive, sometimes even thrive.
So how did they do it? What social imprint did those historical events leave in their culture? How much of the Native society of today is influenced by those relatively recent events?
I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I find the subject a fascinating topic for fiction. I hope the reader will as well.
On a final note, the drone technology depicted in this work is real. It exists today, and even the most extreme example can be purchased for about the same price as a top-shelf hunting rifle and optic. So many of my self-reliant friends distrust drone technology, but I am actually embracing it. For preppers, there are several advantages to these gadgets, and I wanted to include a few in this work to seed thought and prime that wonderful pump of self-reliant creativity that I respect so very much.
The underground room was stale and musty, a stagnant space that hadn’t experienced sunlight or ventilation for some time.
The specialist rolled back the standard-issue office chair, taking a moment to brush away any dust that might have accumulated. With only the emergency lights illuminating the large chamber, it was difficult to tell if the seat was clean or not. Given the scarcity of water and the fact that all uniforms had to be washed by hand, he wasn’t about to take any chances.
“Three minutes!” called out a lieutenant standing by the door. “Three minutes to boot time!” he repeated, using the dim glow of the battery-powered lamps to study his watch.
The specialist glanced over his shoulder, observing a dozen other soldiers waiting for the time to pass. Most were already seated at workstations, the large room filled with several rows of monitors, computer towers, mice, and keyboards. Many of his coworkers were already covered in a glistening coat of perspiration.
“I hope the AC still works,” someone commented from two rows back. “All of these computers are going to make this place a roasting oven if it doesn’t.”
“It’s only an hour,” replied another soldier. “We can handle it for an hour.”
“Two minutes!” called out the LT. “Two minutes until power up!”
Leaning forward, the specialist blew a lungful of air across the keyboard, half expecting a cloud of dust to rise from its surface. None did.
Out of habit, he next rolled around the mouse as if exercising the unpowered device would somehow indicate whether or not it was going to function.
Realizing he was just being silly, the young soldier opened the notebook provided in their briefing a short time ago. Inside was a list of accounts and passwords that he would need once the electricity was restored.
“One minute!” came the shouted countdown. “Let’s make every second of this count, people!”
The engineers had predicted that the computers, servers, and network infrastructure would be fine, but the soldiers now seated in the data center had their doubts. The fact that their lieutenant stood brandishing a large fire extinguisher wasn’t exactly a confidence builder. The man’s refusal to wander far from the door made things all the more tense.
Outside the complex, another team was checking their watches as well. Made up of the few available survivors from the local power company and a small group from the Army Corps of Engineers, all eyes were glued to a large voltage meter connected with Fort Meade’s main cluster of transformers.
It was anticlimactic when the meter’s needles finally moved, electricity being routed from the WIG – or Washington Interagency Grid. Fort Meade, home to one of the nation’s largest collection of computing horsepower, whirred and buzzed with electricity for the first time in nearly two years.
Inside the building, the specialist watched as the fluorescent ceiling lights flickered to life. Expecting explosions, fire, or at least some sizzling smoke, most of the soldiers in the data center eyed the roof above with squinting eyes and deep suspicion.
Immediately following the light came the air. A low hum sounded throughout the complex as HVAC fans began spinning. Evidently, the base’s mechanical experts had expertly resurrected the units as cool air began circulating through the room. No one seemed to mind the odor of dust and mold.
“Go, people! Boot ’em up!” barked the LT, fire extinguisher at the ready.
The specialist held his breath and reached for the power button of the server attached to his console and flipped the powerful computer’s switch.
There was a drone and whine as the terabytes of disk storage began spinning up, and soon a blinking cursor appeared on the monitor.
Before the specialist could comment, a voice rang out from behind him, “I can’t believe it! I’m signing in, sir! It’s working.”
Soon a chorus of similar reports sounded across the data center as one by one the military computers were started for the first time since the collapse.
After running a quick set of diagnostics to verify his machine was operating within normal parameters, the specialist then flipped the page in his notebook and began typing furiously on the keyboard.
Initially, the engineers had only wanted to power the complex for 15 minutes. Any more than that, they had warned, might lead to fires, blown equipment, or damage to the base’s infrastructure. “Charge the lines for 10-15 minutes and let them heat up. Then shut it all down. We’ll perform a thorough inspection over the next few weeks, and then you can use up all those computers as long as you want,” they had recommended.
But the Pentagon had pushed back, the new president demanding answers to a host of questions. People were starving, dying of diseases, and killing each other. The recovery had faltered time and again. Scuttlebutt was that the new Commander in Chief was a hard-charging, no bullshit, ex-military officer. According to some,
didn’t take no for an answer.
Like Fort Knox held gold, Fort Meade’s massive IT capabilities were a vault as well, but of a different sort. Rather than tons of bullion, critical information was stored in the base’s massive arrays of electronic storage – knowledge that could help the country recover and ensure her safety.
Each member of the specialist’s group had a list of precise tasks to perform in the rationed hour of electricity. Some of them were to run reports, others to check connections with remote facilities. Two of the enlisted personnel were even going to attempt reestablishing satellite communications with allies overseas.
The orchestra of two dozen hands furiously banging on keyboards was soon accompanied by the purr and clack of high-speed laser printers spitting out page after page of reports.
The specialist’s job was a bit more complicated. He had been tasked with auditing America’s nuclear materials and making sure nothing had slipped through the cracks. While all weapons had been secured during the initial stages of the collapse, it seemed no one had planned for a prolonged outage of communications and electricity. The planners simply had never imagined America would fall so fast, so hard, and for so long. It was frustrating work, his stress amplified by fingers that hadn’t manipulated a keyboard in months.
Forty minutes later, he was studying a screen filled with rows and columns of information. One line was blinking red.
Peering up at the now relaxed lieutenant he called, “Sir, we have a problem.”
The officer arrived almost immediately, glancing over the operator’s shoulder at the monitor’s display. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the red row of numbers.
“Los Alamos National Laboratory, sir. They received a shipment of Cobalt-60 just a month before everything went to hell. According to this record, it was to be used in experiments for the development of a three-stage salted warhead being considered by Congress at the time.”
“No one’s been in contact with Los Alamos since the collapse, sir. Oak Ridge was occupied by the Tennessee National Guard. Savannah River and Livermore had no fission materials on site. The Air Force took over Rocky Flats in Colorado… but Alamos… no one’s heard from them for months, sir.”
“How much Cobalt-60 is there?”
“A lot, sir. The actual shipment was classified beyond what I can access on this machine, but from the authorizations on this paperwork, you can be assured it was enough that people were worried about it. The Department of Homeland Security even allocated an armed escort.”
“Mr. President, we have to send in a team. We’ve utilized aerial assets, and that analysis has proven inconclusive. While there are some signs of life in and around Los Alamos, our attempts at contacting known individuals from the lab have not produced any results. In addition, sir, the primary research facility appears to have been damaged by fire. If there has been a breach of some sort, we need to know the extent of the damage. If any of the fission materials are missing, we need boots on the ground to ascertain the facts and interview the locals.”
The president frowned, “You don’t need my permission to send in a team, General. Why are you here?”
The staff officer didn’t answer the president’s question, at least not directly. Instead, he continued the briefing. “Yes sir, there
something else. During one of our flyovers, unusual ground activity was detected. I thought you should be aware of it.”
The president accepted a small folder of what appeared to be high-resolution photographs taken from a drone or aircraft. For a few moments, the chief executive studied what looked to be a series of symmetrical grooves cut into the earth, almost as if a giant plow had been dragged across the desert floor.
“What is this?” he asked with a frown, shuffling the images.
“We don’t know, sir. Our photo analysis experts can’t agree. And the proximity to Los Alamos is troubling. I would like to have our people investigate this area as well.”
The general cleared his throat, “Whatever is going on there, sir, it’s on a massive scale. Each image in the file covers three square kilometers of ground. We’ve compared it to older pictures of the same terrain from before the collapse. This is new activity… is apparently well led and organized. The only known entity in that area of the continent that could undertake such an endeavor is the Alliance.”
The president understood now, fully grasping why one of his senior military officers had driven all the way to Camp David for the briefing. “And this is in New Mexico?”
The general sighed in frustration, “Yes, sir. Not far from the Texas border, but definitely in our… err… territory.”
Rising from his perch, the president paced toward the fireplace, seeming to study the flames. He understood the general’s pained response; it was a typical reaction in the new Washington.
The Alliance was a large thistle in the crown of thorns he’d inherited after being appointed president. And it was easy to understand why.
After witnessing the entire country nearly tear itself to shreds over the last two years, a backlash had developed amongst the survivors. Now, all across the country, there was a strong prejudice against anyone who held the mantra of “every man for himself.” The Alliance was viewed as an entire state populated with such individuals.
While he knew that perception was inaccurate, this wasn’t the right place or time to fight that battle. A common foe was what the remaining states of the union needed - at least for the moment. If the people could offload part of their misery onto some distant entity, like the Alliance, then so be it.
The federal government was finally getting its shit in one bag, pulling the people together, inserting itself at local levels, and helping the seemingly lost citizenry find its way. The buzzwords for the new order included, “social inclusion and support.” It was a movement that was advancing the recovery from Maine to the Midwest. “We’re all in this together,” the new leaders of the United States reminded.
It was predictable
, the president thought.
Two years of famine, disease, and anarchy is enough to make any citizen reevaluate what’s truly important in life. An empty stomach and dying family can be quite enlightening.
Organized health care, co-op farming, and military policing were all in the early stages of realization. Most of these seeds were taking root after being planted by a federal presence. Sometimes it had taken extraordinary, draconian measures to pull society out of the apocalyptic mire. Often, the government “farmers” had been forced to resort to heavy-handed techniques and authoritarian practices. Violence was no stranger to the harvest of recovery.
But it was working. The causality rates from starvation, violence, and disease were all beginning to decline. Washington now had electricity for a few hours each day. Nuclear power plants in the Mississippi Delta were coming back online. A few, small sections of the Midwest were even going to have a harvest in the fall. A plant in New Jersey was going to start producing antibiotics next week. Work camps dotted the countryside, thousands of former city dwellers now relocated to tent cities where they planted fields of potatoes and cabbage using hand tools and manual labor.
The president didn’t like the socialization of his beloved democracy - not one bit. He cringed every time some report made it clear that individual freedoms were being cast aside “for the greater good of the community.” Filling stomachs was now deemed a critical issue even at the expense of liberty. Discipline and rule of law were currently a far higher priority than inalienable rights.