Escape From New Orleans
by Edgar J. Steele
October 2, 2005
Caution: not for children - rough language and graphic scenes
"I think he must be dead, Mr. President."
Acting President Dick Chains looked up as Congo Lisa hurried into the Denver command bunker's Executive Office.
The Secretary of State continued: "It's been a full day since he was inserted and more than twelve hours since we lost his tracking signal. After all, nobody else has come back out of there alive."
"And Shrub? Any word on him yet?"
"No...that is, I don't think so. Reverend Je$$ie has requested an immediate confidential meeting with you, saying he has urgent news from New Orleans. Probably, he's just grandstanding again. On the other hand..."
"Well, if we've lost Snake Plankton, then we haven't a lot of options left to us. Where is Jackson right now?"
"Waiting in reception. I told him you were in conference with the Joint Chiefs."
"Not far from the truth. Have they all arrived yet?"
"All except General Taylor, of course, who was with the President when his party went missing. They're waiting for you now, down in the Situation Room."
"Ok. Before we resort to dropping a tactical nuke on downtown New Orleans, let's give Je$$ie five minutes, just in case he really has something. Show him in."
As it turned out, Reverend Jackson did "have something."
The White House physician reentered the Executive Office an hour later to announce that Chains was resting comfortably. "That was too close. We had to defib him six times before his heart reestablished sinus rhythm. I've got him heavily medicated for now, and I'm keeping him under for the next 48 hours. We almost lost him this time."
All eyes turned to Congo Lisa. Everybody knew that she was next in line to succeed to the office of President.
Normally, the House Leader and then the President of the Senate would have been on hand and fully briefed, as statute called for them to assume the Presidency after the Vice President. However, the leaders of both houses of Congress had perished the previous day, along with virtually every other Representative and Senator, when a small nuclear bomb exploded in Washington, DC's Capitol Mall during an emergency joint session.
The blast radius had included the Supreme Court, on the opposite side of the Capitol Building, which also was in emergency session, and the White House. Just across the Potomac, the eastern face of the Pentagon was scorched and a few windows broken, but few staffers suffered immediate injuries. The radiation sicknesses just were beginning to surface throughout the District, though. Nobody publicly had claimed responsibility for setting off the bomb. Even so, Israel immediately demanded that the United States retaliate in kind against every Arab country in the Middle East that it did not already control.
Getting an international coalition to support such a strike, particularly with no conclusive proof of the perpetrators' identity, was proving to be difficult in light of the fact that the UN building in New York City had been ground zero for a similar blast, set off within moments of the ones in Washington, DC, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Congo Lisa Rice had been shopping in Boston at the time, fortunately, and had been flown directly to Denver in a military jet to learn that she was but a heartbeat away from the Presidency - and a very shaky heartbeat it was, too, belonging as it did to Vice President Chains.
Acting President Rice summoned all high-level national leaders present to the bunker's largest meeting room. Of the half-dozen cabinet members who survived, only four had made it to Denver so far. They and their assistants filled the front row. A number of assistant Secretaries, as well as various department heads and their assistants, were present at the back of the room, while a number of flag-rank military officers and their attaches filled out the middle three rows.
Rice strode onto the small podium and wasted no time in asserting her authority: "All right, folks - listen up, because we have to move quickly, before we lose our grip on the country altogether. We have no word on President Shrub. Vice President Chains is out of commission for at least the next two days. We can't afford to wait for either to resume command. For better or worse, I'm what you've got."
The buzzing in the room took over as eyes shifted nervously from face to face. Because three Administrations running had gutted America's civil and military structure, leaving nothing but sycophants, incompetents and blowhards in charge, each person present desperately was trying to intuit what response was most likely to advance his or her own best interests. Very few actually thought about what might be best for America or, least of all, ordinary Americans. Very few. Least of all, the new Acting President.
The appalling failure of government at every level following the devastation wrought in the Gulf region by hurricanes Katrina and Rita had exposed America's soft underbelly to full view of the world. Even so, America's leaders seemed oblivious to their own weaknesses and embarked upon a nonstop campaign of finger pointing. As usual, President Shrub had been the first and the most energetic finger pointer.
An American economy already hopelessly mired in unrepayable debt, both at the national level and at the level of most ordinary Americans, groaned under the additional weight of federal and state deficit spending following the unprecedented natural disaster in the Gulf region.
Just entries in a ledger that he totally failed to understand, to Shrub it seemed so easy to create infinite quantities of money, and with no downside either, since the dollar weakened not a bit internationally, thanks to the efforts of the elite banking cabal that ultimately called the shots in most Western nations. Of course, to somebody for whom money always had magically appeared throughout his life, the levitation of the American dollar seemed perfectly natural. Why should Shrub be expected to realize that there is no free lunch when his always had been just that - free?
Every day following the second flooding of New Orleans, it seemed, Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenbucks would appear in Shrub's office, wearing a different expensive suit but always smiling that same oily smile of his, all the while reassuring the President that it was in the nation's best interest to massively expand spending in the face of the dire need for relief and rebuilding all along the Gulf coast. Of course, a great deal of that spending was earmarked for no-bid contracts awarded to friends and acquaintances of Greenbucks and so many others with influence in Shrub's administration. Of particular note was Vice President Chains' old company, Heavyburden Corporation (that continued to pay Chains a deferred salary of a quarter-million dollars annually), that seemed to garner the lion's share of the contracts.
When Black and Jewish leaders played the race card, as they profitably had done so often in the past, they misjudged the shift in America's prevailing mood. Before long, rioting had begun in every American city with a significant Black population. "Get Whitey!" became almost an anthem, with the White response eminently predictable. Predictable, that is, provided one had paid any attention whatsoever to the pronouncements down through the years by members of what had been derisively called "the Patriot Movement." America seemed not to know it, largely due to the Herculean management of information by what was left of her mainstream media, but her second civil war had begun.
It was entirely possible that most of America might never know of the brutal war now raging in so many of her cities' streets. Quite naturally, the domestic and international reaction to the previous day's nuclear detonations throughout America had many believing that World War III had begun.
Time lost all meaning for Snake as he drifted in and out of consciousness in his buried coffin. It could have been just minutes since he last heard voices above where he lay. Or, it could have been days...weeks, even. "You're going to be joining us," Crawdaddy had said. Remembering Shrub, Snake realized that he had unearthed the President at the end of his entombment, not the beginning. Must be the same for me, thought Snake. That means I'm not dead, after all. Just have to wait it out.
Snake's many sessions in solitary confinement at the penitentiary had taught him how to detach from the world and simply go within for long stretches of time to examine past memories, lessons and experiences. Others might call what he did meditation. Regardless, his past experience now served him well.
But what about Shrub's eyes, opaque at first, then solid white? Why did he just stand there later...like a zombie! Of course! That explains the giant in the stairwell, too. The powder that witch doctor blew up my nose and into my eyes must have a paralyzing effect. That's why I can't move. More drifting as memories came and went...
Twitchy was poking needles into Snake's fingers and the bottoms of his feet, giggling hysterically all the while. With a start, Snake snapped awake, then remembered. Twitchy evaporated. How could I forget? Feeling was beginning to return to his hands and feet, which manifested at first as that pins-and-needles sensation one gets after a limb "goes to sleep." Gradually, he came to full consciousness and found that he could wiggle his fingers at first, then clumsily shift his arms from side to side. That served only to reinforce the closeness of his quarters, however, which the enveloping blackness masked.
Before long, Snake found that he could weakly kick and pound the coffin lid. No telling how much oxygen I have left, he thought. Snake shouted, but all that he heard was "Mmmmpphhh.." God, but I hope they come for me soon. I mean, they are going to come for me, aren't they?
...to be continued... Copyright ©2005, Edgar J.
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