Copyright © 2014 Dave Myers
All rights reserved
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is probably not coincidental. If you are (or were) a famous person, no malice or libel is intended, however, a name (or character) like yours has been used because it works well in the story. If you do not understand this is a work of fiction, sue me if you must, but please tell the media, the publicity will help sales!
For sure, if you are a dead famous person, I am looking forward to seeing you appear in court.
If you are a real person and not famous, then your name, appearing in this prose, is most definitely coincidental!
- Dave Myers
October 21, 2021.
Displaying a lifetime of gluttony, the son of a Texas oilman bellows, “Though any event might influence another, most likely, only one incident with the destructive power to kill one million or more people in the United States will occur.” Raising the volume of his voice at the end of his statement, Neely Nash suggests the others are wasting energy contemplating this particular detail. Overbearing and offensive, Mr. Nash is accustom to having his declarations taken as orders. Routinely, those around him, servants, dare not object to his commands. “As we have decided,” a bit softer, in his annoying, dismissive drawl, “The three categories will be: Act of War, Natural Disaster and Disease, simple as that, so, let us not dwell on it.”
“Oh, please, Neely, save the attitude for your underpaid servants and overpaid attorneys.” Mrs. Barran Berthog, is annoyed. An information age executive taught to believe in her own intellectual superiority, she hides doubts of confidence, doubts which invade her thoughts nearly every moment. Tall, slender and a bit restless, her trained voice conveys an attitude of determination. “My Natural Disaster might well contribute to the deaths of your Act of War, so let us decide how that eventuality will be addressed.” Barran Berthog emphasizes a disagreement which slightly disturbs Mr. Nash. Unusual, as not much disturbs Mr. Nash.
Calmly, Ian Iden adds, “And either an Act of War or Natural Disaster could contribute to the spread of a Disease.” Mr. Iden, the chief executive officer of the nation’s dominant hospital system, Medical International Incorporated, M.I.I., has placed his leopard skin hat on the table so that none could miss the view of it. He inherited ownership of M.I.I. from his father. Well-studied, he often paraphrases sections of the ancient Chinese text ‘Art Of War’. Ian Iden offers a solution, “I suggest, whichever event comes first, wins. Should an Act of War appear during a Natural Disaster, the cause will be declared a Natural Disaster as long as the Natural Disaster completes its carnage quickly, within a specific period.”
Assuming the others can follow the conversation onto another topic while considering the previous, he makes another suggestion. “Shall we say a limit of 100 years? Should there not be a winner within 100 years, the payoff will be divided and the administrators, our lawyers, may disperse as they see fit.” Mr. Iden emphasizes ‘100 years’ as if it has some underlying importance though they all believe the wager will end much sooner. He also suggests 100 years because it seems grandiose to do so. He thinks ‘100 years, is impressive.’ Mr. Iden likes to impress himself and others.
Berthog and Nash quickly agree to the 100 year term. Interested only in the challenge of creating, fulfilling and of course, winning the bet, this trio will certainly be deceased in 100 years. They have no care of the account balance should the disposition occur after they expire.
Mrs. Berthog suggests, “I favor only heirs who are registered with the administrators be eligible to receive the payoff. Attempting to advance the funds to unidentified descendants would be difficult. Do we agree?”
Both Mr. Iden and Mr. Nash nod in agreement. All three have little interest in the very small amount of money, one million dollars for each participant, one dollar per death, the ante to play. Each routinely has underlings deal with monetary denominations as trivial as one million dollars. These billionaires are usually only involved with decisions concerning much larger sums, this playful bit of sport being an exception. They see the 100 Year Wager as an intellectual challenge, a thing they think of as interesting, a way to consume idleness. The gamble has them feeling very special, almost God-like as the average person cannot engage in such extravagant activities. Mr. Nash recently commented about the wager to his senior staff, “It is for giggles.”
Less than one year has passed since Neely Nash pressured the Kingdom of the Netherlands to lease this island to Nash Industries. Multi-national politics involving oil, firearms and money, lots of money, has lead to a new location for the international headquarters of his company. Aruba not only serves a corporate interest but also provides a setting for social events. Though technically still under Netherlands control, Mr. Nash finds convenience in the arrangement as the local government exists to serve his desires.
A new facility is home to the creation of the 100 Year Wager. Designed with technology eliminating visible walls, ceilings and doors, almost all major parts of the building are transparent. The sterilized sensation is one of experiencing the beach without the sound of splashing waves or the feel of tropical breeze. Eagle Beach provides almost constant sunshine as well as a view of the local, often nude, sunbathers. “This room is very nice Neely, I must admit.” Mrs. Berthog observes, “Able to see so well and we don’t have to be in contact with those dirty beasts out there on the sand. In here, I assume, these servants of yours are clean, inspected for infections?” Nash does not bother to answer her question.
The room, as Mr. Nash has instructed, today hosts a long 1949 Carlo Mollino cocktail table. Once purchased for over five million dollars, the table is not for sale, it is used for casual affairs and serves as a refreshment counter during light conversation. The chairs are multi-adjustable. Under the right side of each seat are intuitive electronic controls. Mr. Nash has his chair elevated as sitting and standing are a challenge for his obese frame. Mrs. Berthog has increased rolling resistance of the wheels on her chair, she feels a little unsteady. Mr. Iden thinks the chairs appear plain, not in accord, out of place.
Inspired by the building and view, Ian Iden speaks concerning an unrelated matter. “I recall a place much like this, as a child. My father and I were outside on a beach, discussing the future.” Smiling, he continues, “A young Labrador retriever approached, I thought acting as if the pup wanted to play, but my father did not like dogs. He instructed our guards to keep the dog away, he feared we might be attacked.” Ian Iden’s smile dissolves. “Unable to hold the dog at bay, one of our guards used his pistol to eliminate the puppy.” Not with remorse, but rather with resolve, he provides a bit more history, “Latter, we discovered the animal had belonged to a local inn keeper who allowed the animal to run free every day, for exercise.” After a very short pause, Iden adds, “The situation could have been dangerous, with so many enemies willing to do us harm. I am grateful to my father. He taught me an important lesson.”
With a disgusted expression Barran Berthog snips, “My day was going well, but now, thanks to you, Ian, your talk of killing a Lab is depressing, I have several of that breed.” She points a sharp finger, indicating to the wait staff to refresh her cherry martini.
Sensing he is losing his imagined command of the conversation, Neely Nash blusters, “Interesting, I suppose, Ian, but my father taught me to concentrate on business, not dogs.” Mr. Nash rubs his protruding, huge belly while settled in his elevated chair. “These days, my problems are with the other side of the world. My boy in charge of production over there tells me they are making trouble about labor. Third world and all, they begged me to create those jobs! Now, ungrateful government officials are getting nasty about working conditions. If not for my money, those dirty natives would be rotting in the rice fields!” He continues, acting upset, though he really is not upset, “Gonna have to find a way to see to it those devils control their workers! Not my problem they want their children in my ‘munition factories, no, not my problem.”
Interrupting nearly before he could finish his last word, Barran Berthog, almost shouting, “Please, Neely, lets talk about something more interesting.” She is not subtle as she suggests the monologue has become boring. Her drink is rapidly disappearing as she begins to wonder why she bothers with these two men.
Mrs. Barran Berthog inherited a news, commentary and entertainment corporation, APWBC. She has maintained it as an influential political entity and powerful income producer. She is convinced the earth and solar system are underestimated in their potential for destruction. To her mind, the world’s climate appears to be changing dramatically, at an alarming rate, creating large and unpredictable storms. Also, she is impressed with the many experts who agree the earth is overdue for severe earthquakes and volcano eruptions. Her gamble in the wager is Natural Disaster.
“Quickly?” Mrs. Berthog asks a question, then answers her own question. “Within two weeks of the first death attributed to the event.” She states her suggestion, changing the topic of conversation back to the 100 Year Wager.
Ian Iden, son of the doctor who founded M.I.I., believes a deadly virus will mutate into an airborne virus and spread before an effective means of controlling the infection can be discovered. He depends on historic knowledge. The influenza pandemic of 1918 (the Spanish Flu) killed millions around the world. In 2002-2003, SARS nearly became a pandemic and may present again. His gamble in the wager is Disease.
“Seems a bit short to me, sixty days works better.” Iden knows shorter periods lessen the impact of a fatal diseases, however, he wants to complete the agreement, so offers, “Can we compromise on thirty days?”
Neely Nash ruthlessly maintains his business, the oil company known as Nash Industries, while heavily invested in the manufacture of weaponry. Confident in his understanding of human nature, he believes war will penetrate national defenses in the next few years. Explosive, biological and chemical weapons are increasingly available around the world, so, deaths of such a small number of people, one million, is easy to conceive. With motivation and ability, many enemies could deliver devastation in one or more coordinated attacks on the United States. His gamble in the wager is Act of War.
Mr. Nash states, “Thirty days, works for me.”
None consider the victims of any disaster related to the 100 Year Wager. Though unspoken, they believe common folk are expendable. If they perish it is because they are not industrious. If they are unable to position themselves in a safe & comfortable environment, they deserve what they get.
Through a door & around a corner flourishes a much different dialogue. Simple and unheard by the gambling trio, “Ya think porky ‘ll stick his stinky finger down her fancy panties like he did with Lucia?” The strong cockney accent, half whispered from waiter Liam’s sarcastic lips, “Lucia took it ‘cause she had no choice, bein’ practically his slave and all, but this one, fine dressed she is, might just snap off porky’s digit.” A rude vision Liam suggests, speaking smartly to insure rapid delivery of his nasty-minded thoughts. “You know what they say about fancy ladies, the faster they yap the trap above, the faster they snap the trap below.” He finishes with a little giggle, laughing to himself at his imagined image of such a scene.
“Cut it out Liam, you know security might be listening!” Lora, Liam’s assistant, is afraid hidden microphones might be eavesdropping on their conversation. She needs her job to pay rent for a drafty, two room apartment and does not want to risk losing it. “‘Sides, even if they aint nice, they are still people,” then whispers, “sort of.”
“I’d say a different species.” Liam retorts in a hurry. He has a soar blister, better shoes would help, but Liam will not part with the money to buy a better pair. He reasons, with this job, paycheck best spent Saturday, on the rum. “Don’t you worry little Lora, I know the duty officer and he don’t care, probably aint even awake, be my guess.” Liam assures Lora, their conversation is safe, for now.
Less worried but still nervous, in half-whisper, Lora questions, “They say he was drunked up when he went after Lucia, then tried, you known, to force himself on her.” Lora did not like the story she had heard and it was not the only story she has heard about Mr. Nash.
“That’s what they say. Porky drank half-gallon of his bourbon, then he tried, but gave up. No stick in the suet for him!” Another Liam image, crude, as usual. “Lucia not around to tell the story any more, I think I know why, nice girl she was.” Liam adds, sentimentally.
“I was there when he fired Lowell. On the other side of the room, dropped a tray. No serious damage, just a tray, but Mr. Nash was in a real bad mood.” Lora remembers that day, “Lowell was an old timer, I worked with him for a long while, though Mr. Nash never noticed Lowell. To Mr. Nash, Lowell was just another servant.” She provides details, “Looking mean, like Mr. Nash always looks, he shouted, ‘You’re fired, get out!’” Lora reflects, “It was just that fast. Four words. No more job for Lowell to feed his family, over a silly tray.” Lora clearly recalls the immediate administering of justice.
“I remember Lowell, wrinkles on his forehead, so many wrinkles...” A good moment, it seems to Liam, for another topic, “Porky goes to Chicago next week, like he does every year. I know he goes there ‘cause just by accident, met this fellow, Ramsey, must be five years ago now, in a bus station, Jacksonville Florida. Comes to pass, he works for Porky too, in Chicago, and knows all about his yearly visit.” Liam looks forward to the trip every year, like a vacation. “Gonna be heaven here for a couple days, it will.”
As sweets arrange on to-be-well-gripped serving trays and pitchers fill, Liam & Lora prepare to again perform their serving duties, as they must. “They not havin’ much fun. Not this bunch. You think, always like this?” Lora questions as the billionaires are so serious and seem to be very unhappy.
“Always.” Liam supplies an authoritative answer.
“Everybody should have some fun, sometime.” Replies innocent Lora.
In a mood to change the subject, Barran Berthog observes, after she finishes her beverage, “Having your own island in the Southern Caribbean Sea certainly allows for easy security, I would assume, Neely.” Day dreaming for just a second about the young man she had contracted for an intimate encounter the prior evening, her thoughts return rapidly to the new subject as she addresses Mr. Nash, “All the residents are approved and controlled, I would hope, and miles of clear seas expose any approaching vessels.”
Ian Iden expresses his interest, “I keep nearly two miles around my estate clear, occupied only with security personnel and equipment. Even so, too many threats breach... it makes me nervous.” Continuing his lament, “And travel, especially to public events, becomes so very tiresome as a small army is required.” Nodding his head side to side, as if to express disappointment, “Wealth has its challenges.”
Neely Nash smiles and proudly gestures through the transparent walls of the facility towards a dozen guards, just a hundred feet away. The guards are carrying automatic machine guns and are positioned near an array of anti-aircraft missiles. Nash stands and with a forceful growl in his voice instructs, “Well, okay then, all that is left is to contact our lawyers and have them write it up.” Mr. Nash likes to think himself a leader, in command of the meeting, though Berthog and Iden only think him arrogant.
Addressing Ian Iden, “I noticed your press office had to handle a nasty rumor, tricky expense transaction creating a tax credit.” Mrs. Berthog is always interested in things ‘P.R.’, it is her top priority, vital to maintaining a respectable public appearance while hiding serious investments from public view. “How’s that working out for you Ian, can you hang it on that rouge accountant?”
“Loyalty. Employees of M.M.I. are about to be reminded how important it is and how much betrayal can hurt. Never, ever harm the company is a lesson that particular accountant is about to learn in a very hard way. Break the rule and retribution will be devastating.” With anger, Iden adds, “Only loyalty, at any cost, is acceptable.” He implies, a high price to be paid, in order to make an example of the accountant. Discipline must be maintained within M.I.I.
“I see.” Mrs. Berthog detects from his snarl and gruffness, Ian Iden is not happy. One of his common, profitable schemes may have a serious problem. “An article or news report, once a month, is my goal. Tell the public about a donation or support some community project. Keep philanthropy in the public eye and away from real money.” Mrs. Berthog is happy to report, “My P.R. has been going well though it is a ceaseless effort to sustain the distraction.”
As Mr. Nash slowly stands and walks towards a small table, a few feet from his chair, he feels motivated to say something, so he brags, “I have a propaganda department to tell the world how wonderful I am, benevolent, kind, you know, all that-”
Iden interrupts, cutting of Nash in mid-sentence, “Let us please not say more, discretion is vital and there is no reason to deal with the subject any longer.” He notices Liam and Lora about to refresh drinks.
Ten inches tall in a gold frame, an old timepiece amuses Neely Nash as he carefully turns it over to begin timing another hour. He tells a short history of the hourglass, “Been in my family since the civil war. The gold frame is, of course, very soft, so always careful when I touch it.”
Barran Berthog has quickly calculated how many hours a century contains. “In no more than another eight hundred and seventy six thousand turns, give or take a thousand or so, our wager will be finished.”
Through a door & around a corner, “Did you hear what they’re doin’? Going to kill a million people, they are.” A fine, scared expression takes Liam’s face.
“No, they just be bettin’ on how those people gonna get killed, they not tryin’ to kill em’ themselves. Just plannin’ on enjoyin’ the show, sick as they be.” Lora finds defending the lot difficult, but thinks honesty important to contrast Liam fibs and Liam exaggerations, even if he says such things just to get the time by.
Ian Iden sighs, then clarifies, “After the initial agreement is established, our lawyers shall invest the payoff. As the fund grows, our attorneys will be paid a percentage of the interest generated.” Then trying, but failing to be humorous, adds, “Once established, managing the endeavor will be easy money for lazy lawyers!”
Waiting just long enough for her face to show how Iden has not been funny, Mrs. Berthog suggests, almost demanding, “Our lawyers shall register living, direct descendants, and only one of us or one of them, the oldest, may be eligible to receive the winning proceeds of the wager. In case any family no longer has qualified descendants, the wager will continue with the remaining families.”
Feeling bored, suddenly deciding he is unimpressed with his fellow gambler’s details, Mr. Nash dismisses, “Whatever, it does not matter much, our lawyers can massage it until it works”. Sipping his bourbon, he gazes at his security personnel and remembers how happy he was to secure Aruba. Now he wants something more for entertainment.
October 22, 2021. Conference call.
“A cynical person may wonder, know what I mean, Ted?” Edgar Gonha, Ed, speaks from his Manhattan office with a view of New York City. Attorney for Ian Iden, Ed is creating a written agreement for the 100 Year Wager. He finds the bet humorous, and a bit sad.
“Ed, I know what you mean. Don’t they have anything better to do than piddle? It is unusual, ‘spose that’s why the want to do it.” Theodore Wheir, Ted, speaks from his Venice, Los Angeles office with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean. Attorney for Barran Berthog, Ted finds the 100 Year Wager interesting, but believes, not very profitable. “I spoke with Joe, have you, Ed?”
Ed did have a conversation with Joseph Checha, Joe, the previous day. Joe is not available now as he is playing golf in Aruba with his client, Neely Nash. Aruba is pleasant, but Joe misses his home, Dallas, Texas. He especially misses the parties and restaurants.
“Yes, Ted, Joe and I discussed details.” Ed, informs, “Do you have any suggestions about investing the three million dollars? We are getting paid a percentage of the income, so let’s please try to make it profitable.” Working for Iden is Ed’s first job after graduating law school. Ed is newly married, his wife wants to have many children. “Let’s try to make as much as we can, I don’t care if our grandkids collect, I want money as soon as possible.”
“Hold on Ed, I’m not even married so let’s not talk about grandkids!” Ted sees three blonde Valley girls in the distance, walking on the beach, wearing matching bikinis. He wonders if they are sisters. “Long term, not much risk, easy to manage investments, at least for this fund. So, no matter what we do, not much in it for us.” Ted requests Ed to speculate, “What do you really think, might we see a winner of this bet soon?”
Ed dismisses Ted’s question, “Who knows, I quit trying to predict the future, not very good at it. In any case, let’s get to it, we both have better things to do than waste effort on this silliness. Please send me what you have, I’ll look it over quick, finish a draft and get it back to you and Joe.” Ed is in a hurry to conclude the conversation, the day is nearly finished. A joint waits in his bottom, locked, desk drawer.
Soon the lawyers create the agreement and the investment fund. The 100 Year Wager officially commences on December 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm and will continue until a winner is realized or December 31, 2121 at 11:59 pm, whichever comes first.
February 23, 2032. Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
“I have a plan.” Eldred Everstone Jr., EJ, home for lunch as a cold wind howls outside, “Pop, this land has belonged to our family since 1866. I suspect we will have it for many more generations.” 16 years old and ambitious, EJ continues, “We should build something to endure, to mark our estate, to remind future generations we were here.” On this cold, Georgia day, EJ anticipates a mild spring.
“Sure, I’ll call the bank tomorrow to get a loan. You think a million dollars be enough? Oh, why not make it really special, I’ll get us two.” Having fun with his son, the elder Eldred, Eldred Everstone Sr., proud of his boy, wishes Eldred Jr. would focus on something more important. Rough skin begins to expose signs of middle age as Eldred recalls his younger days.
“No loan Pop, we already have everything we need. Plenty of Georgia pine trees, a splendid variety of rocks and Taliaferro County dirt. With simple, basic tools we will build it all by hand.” EJ is a strong and inventive young fellow. “A very natural creation, built with our sweat & muscle.” Wearing a worn ‘Christmas in Dixie’ Crawfordville, Georgia T-shirt and tight blue jeans, EJ feels the wood stove burning hot softwood.
The family calls Eldred Sr., Eldred, and Eldred Jr., EJ. Eldred is never surprised at anything his son says, he long since has been diagnosed with a severe condition; EJ is overly creative and often, not practical. “Two words you used, son, thought I should ask about. ‘We’ and ‘our’. Who would that be? Not me, that’s for sure! I use all my sweat & muscle to make a living. Let me remind you, I have this boy who eats like a cow and it’s all I can do to keep him fed. Mooo!” Eldred grins after his barnyard imitation. Eldred considers himself a responsible father as he turns to stir the fire with an old, blackened poker.
EJ, confident his father is missing a more important point, “Okay then, I’ll build it myself.” All the young man really wants is his father’s permission to use a small section of the land. Plenty of land to use, he reasons, nobody else seems to want it. In fact, the county has the same population, or lack of it, as it did twenty years ago. He adds, to suggest permission granted, “I will start as soon as the weather improves a bit.” A large spoon makes its way to the kitchen sink after aiding consumption of watery beef soup.
As he briefly considers repairing the dining table, it stands unevenly on the clean, worn floor, Eldred orders, “Not so fast, boy.” Then he asks, “Tell me, where would you build this masterpiece?” Eldred is curious, some EJ ideas are interesting but he wants to know more before approving any request. As EJ takes a fast breath to answer this basic question, Eldred notices, EJ fits tightly in his faded jeans.
“Up on the ridge.” EJ declares as he begins to hunt the kitchen for more calories to consume after his ample lunch. “We are not using a couple of acres up there for anything. Good drainage, a fine tree line nearby, plenty of rocks too.” Expressing the results of his survey, EJ suspects his father might next ask how long and how big. “Not sure yet how big, but thought I would start with a shelter, someplace to duck into when it rains and maybe store tools. No hurry, if it takes a few months, or even a year, that’ll be fine.” EJ speaks of building the shelter. He intentionally does not mention complete details of his plan.
Eldred decides the best course of action is to let EJ learn a lesson by letting him fail. “Okay son, build your thing, whatever it is, but you get a job to pay for the tools, not wearing out ours for it.” Always practical, Eldred cannot afford any more expenses, even without a mortgage. Work, when he can find it, does not pay well this side of the Savannah River.
Water, dripping from the roof, is heard like far away call. The wood stove is functioning well in the home, supplying welcome heat.
EJ contemplates his father’s concern for a moment as fingers extend to comb short, healthy hair. Negotiating, “What if I pay to repair or replace any tools I break? Not much to go wrong with a pick, axe or shovel. We have had them for many years, but they are expensive to buy. Besides, I think I know what you are thinking, ‘Let the boy try, and when he fails he will learn a lesson.’ Am I right, Pop?”
EJ likes where he lives. All the news he sees is depressing. Too many people in the cities. He thinks ‘Atlanta is a sewer’. EJ reasons, better living in the country.
Eldred guesses he does not possess a good poker face. “That’s about it son. So, go do it, but don’t let your project get in the way of school or chores. Speaking of which, your mother wants more firewood. Today would be a fine day to use that axe.” Eldred thinks he has handled the discussion well, considering the cost of EJ’s kooky idea. “Georgia winters are short, but this one has surely been cold, well below freezing for three nights in a row.” Eldred hopes approving EJ’s project will leverage some teenage cooperation. “And I could use help with the tractor, let’s work on it this afternoon.”
Believing he has accomplished much in the compromise, EJ cheerfully expresses, “Okay, Pop, I’ll split wood now, let me know when you want help with the tractor.” He feels victorious with the blessing from his father.
Eldred places work gloves in his long, side pockets as he prepares for an afternoon of working, on the tractor, in the barn. Large and old, protected by a wooden shell, a relic from Eldred’s grandfather waits on a fading paint knick-knack shelf. “Flip that sand timer, when it’s run through come out to the barn and help me work on the beast.” Eldred knows, in about an hour, EJ will stroll out to the barn to assist.
February 25, 2032.
“Mom, she is coming over this afternoon. It is a nice day, I’m going to tell her my plan.” EJ is thankful the warmer weather means no more splitting firewood. The kindling from last Monday is enough for the remainder of the winter. Springtime soon, in less than a month, he is ready to begin his work, on the ridge. Hound, an Anatolian Shepherd, sleeps on the lawn near the rainwater barrel.
Ida Everstone, EJ’s mother, knows well which girl is coming for a visit but wants to tease her son a bit. “Which she is it today, EJ?” Though Ida suspects they are just friends, Ida does worry a little bit, a romance might be starting and they are much too young. Mother is finding fixin’s, bakeware and dishes, to create the evening dessert while recalling her early romance with Eldred.
Replying tartly, “Sally Jo, of course, Mom, who do you think? Oh yes, let me count how many girls would want to come to this glorious mansion, visit in the parlor and have tea served by our maid.” Knowing his reply sounds smart aleck, EJ makes no effort to apologize, though he does help to relocate recently dried glass plates & cups into slightly tattered cupboards.
Preparing a wild blueberry pie, Ida warns, “Watch your P’s & Q’s young man, your father is working hard to keep you fed and clothed. This spring, planting a few crops, again, to bring in a little extra cash, though I’ll guess he told you when you helped him fix the tractor.” Mother is a little annoyed, but not so much as to comment any more. Her thoughts turn to EJ’s new project. Quick to tease, in her best insincere, innocent voice, “Is she going to cut wood and haul rocks?” Ida expects an intense reaction.
EJ retorts, “Of course not mother, she’s a girl, all that is man’s work!” Inspired by his Mother’s sassiness, he suggests, “But maybe you would want to help, could use some extra muscle to get started.” Pushing his mother’s patience, EJ reconsiders his remark and retracts, “You know I’m joking, Mom.” Then, after two long breaths, he adds another saucy note, “Can’t wait to eat more grits tonight.” The conversation is fun though slightly combative. Hound rolls outside in the sun, apparently enjoying the bright day.
Ida, washing a plate, zings back, “And a side of poke salad for you, growing boy. Weed boiling soon.”
EJ moans at the menu announcement as he wipes a bit of excess water from the kitchen counter. A knock motivates the front door to quickly open. Sally Jo is wearing blue jeans and a green shirt with red polka dots. This mild afternoon, no jacket. EJ urges, “Let’s go up to the ridge.” Trying to usher her out of the house, away from his Mother and to a place they can be together, out of view.
“Hello, Sally Jo.” Ida welcomes the young girl before their hasty exit.
“Hello, Mrs. Everstone.” Sally Jo acknowledges, turning to leave as EJ leads their way.
Sally Jo lives two miles down the road with her mother and stepfather. Happy to be away from home for a while, she follows EJ at his speedy pace. “A name, something large, something special. I am thinking Legacy Summit, well, formally, Everstone Legacy Summit. What do you think Sally Jo, is that a fine name?” EJ is hoping for resounding approval. He finds Sally Jo smart, interesting and attractive. Ida and Hound watch the pair scamper away.
Sally Jo is not sure what to say, she is not even sure what EJ is doing, so she suggests, “Let’s take a look, and tell me more about what you are going to build.” As her young male friend navigates the terrain, Sally Jo intentionally pushes the top of her dress down a bit. The view of her healthy frame suggests cleavage hidden beneath the Sadie Hawkins shirt. She knows EJ is not always practical, but he is honest, strong and creative.
In less than two minutes the pair arrive. “Here is the spot I think works best for a small shelter. A natural recess in the ground, so, not much to dig out. Rock walls on three sides with mud mortar for added strength, then a roof made of pine tree trunks. But first, I will dig a couple of drainage ditches. It will be a handy place to wait out a shower or store tools.” EJ rambles his ideas, excited to begin construction, hoping to impress Sally Jo.
Feeling a slight chill, up on the hill, sheepishly she questions, “Why, exactly?” Sally Jo does not understand EJ’s motivation to build Everstone Legacy Summit, but she supposes, with such a name, he expects the creation to last.
“Mostly to have a place to use as more is built on the Summit. Eventually, build more structures, all of them natural, made from rocks and pine trees.” EJ has big plans. He expects the lonesome hill to be the scene of a sturdy tribute for decades to come.
Sally Jo clarifies her question, “Why build it at all? It’s not like you are going to live in it, or make any money.” The project, to Sally Jo’s mind, does not seem practical. A smile graces her smooth, soft face after her simple question.
A bit frustrated, EJ offers an explanation. “Show me something your great grandparents handed down to you. Bet you can’t, or if you can, at best it is a worn trinket.” EJ questions, “Why do people etch deep carvings on granite headstones? Why did the ancient Egyptians build the Pyramids?” EJ continues, “Millions of people lived long lives, and now, all memory of their lives has vanished, like they never existed. 100 Years from now, I will wager, Everstone Legacy Summit shall remain for all to see, and remember we were here.”
“Oh, EJ, you are interesting. You give me cause to think.” Sally Jo adds encouragement, “So much work, but if it is in your soul, let it out! Everstone Legacy Summit, I think, is a fine name, a perfect name.” Then Sally Jo suggests, “Maybe, do more than build it. We can keep a record, a journal with pictures for future generations, the progress of construction, starting right now. I will keep it for you.”
Happy his short explanation of motivation is enough for Sally Jo to show interest, EJ becomes even more excited, “Yes, that would be wonderful! Let’s start creating a Journal!”
“First, let’s find a warmer place, I’m a little bit chilly up here on Legacy Summit.” Sally Jo has ideas about the journal. “We can take pictures soon, before you begin, and later, as you build it.”
As the couple walks back towards the house, EJ offers more details, “Obviously, I have no money, so, Legacy Summit must be built for nothing, or nearly so. The materials are free, well, free to us, as our family already owns the land. The simple tools we already have, they are strong and require little maintenance. Everstone Legacy Summit is going to be built with human energy alone, not power tools. Rock walls, limited to about three feet, taller may become unstable over the decades in the Georgia rain.”
“I know of such creations, some are very old. Besides the shelter, what other structures are part of your plan?” Sally Jo is curious about EJ’s unique idea.
“A banner. Nine letters, E.V.E.R.S.T.O.N.E. created with foot and a half tall walls, arranged in an arc. We will use the large stepladder to photograph it. And a barbeque pit, big enough for a pig roast and tables with pine tops & rock seats. Maybe not very comfortable, but adequate for sitting a short while, for a meal.” EJ knows the ridge provides a wonderful view of Georgia sunsets. “Also, an enclosure wall around all of it and someday, a sundial at the top of the hill.”
EJ feels as though he has conquered a mountain with Pop’s approval and Sally Jo’s encouragement. Soon the hard work will begin, building.
Sally Jo hides her true feelings well, as she suspects, like Eldred, this idea, Everstone Legacy Summit, may soon pass.
“Maybe you could dig up that mysterious gold Logan is always talking about.” Sally Jo fantasizes.
“You call your stepfather by his first name. Maybe I’ll try that with my father”. EJ provides a formal example, “Good morning, Eldred,” then rapidly decides the elder Eldred would not want to be thought of as equal in stature, “Oh, no, that might not be such a good idea.” EJ wants to hear more from Sally Jo so he asks, “What gold?” He notices the skin below her chin, above the front of her shirt. He notices her smile.
Sally Jo reminds EJ of the story, “You know, the tale about how soldiers took gold from the Confederate treasury and hid it somewhere. The idea, they say, would be to recover it when the South would rise again.” Sally Jo has heard the narrative often, at home. “A lot of folks think the gold is hidden in this part of Georgia, possibly buried.” She notices his tight jeans, farm sculptured muscles and commitment to Legacy Summit.
EJ, remembers, “Been a long while since I thought of it. Some say the gold was never buried, those soldiers made off with it.” If Sally Jo wants a treasure hunt, EJ is happy to entertain the notion. “That’s no fun though, better to have a dream about getting rich.” Hound, sleeping again, does not notice the pair returning.
“They say, whoever finds it gets to keep it. That’s the law, or so I hear.” Sally Jo would like to have enough money to leave home. Logan Blare is not a very nice fellow, he is mean to Sally Jo’s mother and the Blare family has many fights, between themselves and with others in Taliaferro County.
EJ would be happy to discover the buried treasure, but is committed, “I seriously doubt those Confederate soldiers sought out the future home of Everstone Legacy Summit to hide the gold, but if they did, won’t change my mind a bit. Even if it is found, the construction will continue just as planned, by hand with human power and traditional tools.” EJ is resolute in his determination to build the project, on the lonely ridge.
September 21, 2036. North Atlantic Ocean, 40° N, 58° W.
“Two o’clock, sir.” Petty Officer Robert Reynolds informs Officer Of The Watch, Ensign Carry, via radiophone, the clock position, relative to the ship, of the event. On this clear, calm, bright day Reynolds is observing an orange, bubbling cloud. A few seconds later the phenomenon transforms into a horizontal black mass. Several of the sailors onboard the USS Michelle are also observing the aftermath of the explosion, the spectacle has interrupted daily maintenance duties and training exercises. This unexpected, mysterious starboard incident remains visible as a call to General Quarters is delivered via the ship’s intercom system. A swift, warm, noticeable wind engulfs, then shortly passes the vessel as all aboard report to stations and perform assigned duties. An automatic incident message is transmitted from the ship to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Joshua J. Jonah, as Ensign Carry swiftly composes a detailed report. The ship’s commander, Captain Fryer, waits on the bridge for information. He has tremendous confidence in the experienced officers he commands.
“Sir, no sector activity before the event. The event presented 12 miles east of our position at 3400 feet.” Lieutenant Beacon, sensors officer, delivers basic information to the captain. The Lieutenant concludes, “Radioactive decay monitoring, normal.”
“Sir, no sector activity before the event.” Lieutenant Spiel, communications officer, adds, “Expected transmissions on all frequencies.”
Captain Fryer, frustrated with the data, requests speculation from Lieutenant Commander Nimoy, “No Sonar, no radar, normal EM spectrum and no broadcast. What was it? Where did it come from? How was it delivered? Answers soon, Commander.”
Commander Nimoy replies, “One moment sir, accessing Incident Planning Database now.”
At battle stations sailors stand alert, ready for action. The USS Michelle has been on extended training exercises, in international waters, east of New York City, for five weeks. The ship, small by U.S. Navy standards, has a crew of 52.
“No orders yet, not S.O.P. What do you think, Cooky?” Seaman Hank Hudson, Henny, asks his friend and shipmate, Seaman Carl Cook, Cooky, to speculate. Their duty station is at a Phalanx missiles & aircraft defense system on the upper deck of the ship. Henny is concerned about the delay. All calls to GQ, in the past, have immediately been followed by situation status messages. Automated control has not moved the massive Phalanx weapon, a very large Gatling gun-like cannon, it is not aimed at any target. The seaman, Henny & Cooky, are assigned to the ordnance in order to accomplish the few manual functions not executed by the ship’s defense program.
“Wait, that’s all we can do, Henny.” Cooky is also uneasy, the circumstances are very unusual. The klaxon now silent, a light breeze cools the pair as waves caress the ship’s hull. Unobstructed sunshine and calm, serene skies provide a pleasant climate. This mild day accompanies soft chatter aboard the ship. The dedicated crew has been deployed, away from home, for a long while. Waiting at high alert does not help ease tension. Cooky begins to speculate, “If it was a bomb, something had to deliver it. Sensors must have picked up a plane, a ship, a sub... something.”
“But why here? Nothing out here except us and blue water. Maybe it was a meteorite.” Henny suggests an unlikely explanation. A native of San Francisco, California, he hopes his next duty port might be in the Pacific Ocean, closer to home. Traveling to and from the ship’s eastern homeport is an expensive challenge for the young man.
Cooky replies, “It looked like a bomb to me. A meteorite could not have produced a cloud like that and would have left a trail. I have never heard of a natural anything which could cause such an explosion over the ocean, have you?” Cooky re-enforces his reasoning with a question, confident of Henny’s answer before asking.
“No. It must have been a bomb.” Henny then suggests another possibility, “Could be a training scenario the Navy concocted, a test to see how we would react. And why not try the test on us, we are U.S. Navy’s finest.”
“No way! To elaborate for the Navy. The brass only dreams up boring, predictable schemes, nothing this interesting.” Cooky investigates Henny’s comment, “Finest in the Navy, hey? Well, mop master, where’s your commendation ribbons?”
Henny ignores Cooky’s mop joke but is becoming frustrated, waiting. “So what then? An attack from outer space? Aliens? Obviously, the bridge don’t know diddly-squat or we would have orders by now.” After exploring every possible explanation, Henny is looking forward to learning the facts.
“I don’t know, Henny. Maybe it was one of our aircraft. I hope not.” Cooky sympathizes with Henny’s frustration as he anticipates terrible news concerning the dissipating, black remnants of the explosion.
A message appears at the Phalanx operational console, ‘Situation Status: Under Evaluation’.
Cooky comments, “I do believe that is Navyspeak for ‘enjoy the sun and breeze as we figure out what to do’.” The pair stand, in their blue and gray uniforms, waiting.
On the ship’s bridge, several minutes have passed since Petty Officer Reynolds first observed the explosion. Captain Fryer does not want to wait any longer to initiate a response. As Lieutenant Commander Nimoy is completing his investigation with the Incident Planning Database, Captain Fryer commands, “We are at General Quarters, Commander Nimoy, we must issue orders now.” As the Captain speaks he is interrupted by a classified message from Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonah.
Lieutenant Commander Nimoy
For your eyes only!
Orders: Instruct all personnel, the incident is classified TOP SECRET. ALL are to remain silent concerning the event. Communication of any kind regarding the incident, including onboard, is NOT authorized. Any violation of this classified information order will initiate court martial prosecution.
Confiscate all personal recording equipment and remove all data concerning the incident from those devices.
For your information only, no other ship personnel are to be informed: We have communicated with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. A Stealth Tupolev Bomber with a FOAB thermobaric weapon malfunctioned near your position. The Ministry of Defence assures this was an unintentional action which occurred during a training exercise. FOAB is not nuclear, there will be no radioactive decay. All remaining Russian Stealth aircraft are grounded, there is no hostile threat.
- Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Joshua J. Jonah.
After reading the communication, Captain Fryer speaks on the ship’s intercom system, informing the crew of the classified, TOP SECRET status of the event. When he finishes, he orders ensign Carry, “Sound the All Clear, Stand Down From General Quarters.” Then instructs, “Commander Nimoy, in the sea cabin.”
Captain Fryer & Commander Nimoy meet in the sea cabin, a secluded room on the bridge. Captain Fryer, a pilot and senior officer, expects to retire when the current mission is completed. Imagining a small, quiet, stilt house on the Gulf of Mexico, he worries his retirement might be in jeopardy due to events beyond his control. He is also concerned for the future well being of the ship’s crew. “Commander Nimoy, we need to emphasize the very serious nature of the classified order to the crew. Arrange a series of briefings before we return to port.”
Commander Nimoy replies, “Sir, I shall organize the briefings immediately.” The Commander is next in line to command the USS Michelle and appreciates all he has learned from Captain Fryer. His uniform bears the Gold Dolphins insignia, from his submarine service tours of duty.
The Captain confides in the Commander, “As you know, Commander, FOAB, the Father Of All Bombs, is the largest conventional bomb on earth and long-range Tupolev bombers have a maximum speed of Mach 2. When they develop the capability to deliver nuclear weapons with those stealth bombers, the Russians could destroy much of our military infrastructure, knocking out command & control before we know we are being attacked.” Pausing for a moment, he concludes, “It is becoming a very, very, dangerous world.”
As the All Clear sounds, Henny & Cooky walk away from their GQ position. Henny comments, “I guess you were right, Cooky, one of ours. No reason to keep it all hush-hush otherwise.” Henny is clearly disappointed, the cause of the explosion remains a mystery.
“No idea what you are talking about, Henny. Nothing happened that I know of. Just another day on the Atlantic Ocean.” Carl is a fine sailor, he is following orders and not talking about the incident.
“Oh, yeah, that’s right. Well then, mum’s the word. Just another day in the Navy.” Henny remains frustrated and a little disappointed. He thinks Carl, his friend, is a bit too formal and takes the classified order too seriously. “I can still see a bit of the thing that never happened on the horizon.”
Cooky, not wanting to take any chances, replies, “Let’s get some chow and forget about the thing that didn’t happen.”
To: Nash Industries.
On September 21, 2036, North Atlantic Ocean, 40° N, 58° W An unfortunate incident occurred involving a Nash Industries product.
A Russian Tupolev bomber malfunctioned. FOAB, aircraft and crew were lost.
USS Michelle observed the explosion. All personnel have been restrained, by order, from communicating information concerning the event.
- Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Joshua J. Jonah.
As attorney Joseph Checha reads, he finds comfort in the memo. Joe will continue to be paid, collecting interest from the fund. The 100 Year Wager, continues.
July 23, 2046.
“Just a reminder, a pep talk if you like, no new revelations in the story, however, we have a history of coverage in detail.” Alice Berthog, Barran Berthog’s daughter and executive producer, APWBC, attempts to motivate. “As we have discussed, this particular story has become a part of our national culture. Our job is to show how the 100 Year Wager has influenced society.” She addresses the group almost as if she is asking for approval from the assembled staff of writers & technicians. APWBC is a self-admitted liberal organization.
Barbara Bradley, Director of Operations, takes command of the meeting. “Our introduction will briefly outline the beginning of the 100 Year Wager. Briefly, because likely, no person in the world is unfamiliar with the subject.” The newsroom contains several reporters, some are well-seasoned veterans. Referring to her notes, Bradley continues, “Though the original participants wished the affair to be private, as we all know, the 100 Year Wager was famously announced to the public, via this network, 13 years past.” A few of the older members of the staff cheer and stamp feet in approval. “And, as we most all know, in just a few short years the public opinion of the filthy-wealthy shifted from envy to distain, from lucky to corrupt, from reliable to irresponsible.” Bradley thinks her reflection important to mention, a few of the staff members were very young when public opinion began to change significantly.
Alice Berthog knows her limitations. She is not a leader. Alice is happy to be the figurehead of the operation as Bradley is competent, destine to insure this report and APWBC, successful. Barbara is fit, intelligent, educated and very liberal. Her humor is subtle and her dedication is obvious.
Located in Derby, Kansas, the World Information Center, WIC, resides in a sprawling building. The anchor occupant, APWBC, occupies nearly 20 acres of this massive, single story structure. Designed to withstand tornadoes and other extreme weather events, this state-of-the-art complex connects information technologies worldwide. Additionally, an array of wireless equipment allows for an efficient and effective workplace. Paper is never in use, few wires are seen. Much of the electrical power required to operate WIC is supplied by a nearby wind farm.
Bradley instructs the staff, “After introduction of the 100 Year Wager, our report shall continue discussing disposition of the original participants. Barran Berthog first, followed by a summary of JAM, then Ian Iden and Neely Nash with a dose of Death By Robin Hood. Here are the bits and pieces we have to start with, look and listen.”
Each staff member has a personal pod, a hand held communications device which allows for editing, creating and viewing of video & documents. Pods also serve other communication functions. Barbara Bradley signals a technician to transmits a digital video recording for the staff to view on their pods as a single audio source synchronizes, heard from unseen speakers, the speakers are installed in the meeting room walls.
The video presentation begins with a familiar female announcer slowly narrating while recent pictures of Barran Berthog are viewed. “Barran Berthog lives on a private estate near Phoenix Arizona. She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.” After a dramatic pause, the narration resumes, “Consideration has been given to moving her to another location due to the increasing frequency of severe haboobs, which appear to be a health concern. In her most lucid moments, Mrs. Berthog expresses how she very much enjoys viewing the desert night sky, when it is clear.” As the video progresses to show images of Barran Berthog in reverse chronology during the last twenty five years, the narration describes, “Once know as one of the most powerful and wealthiest women in the world, Mrs. Berthog has survived two assassination attempts. To this day she is heavily guarded though her wealth has, of course, diminished immensely.”
Presentation of events from past years appears as a subtle, dramatic musical score enters. “She has become an icon as so many instantly recognize her. Mrs. Berthog is know for her inherited wealth. Famous for extravagant excesses, Barran Berthog has come to symbolize how corruption, because of wealth, is inevitable. Most well-known of Berthog’s extreme, outrageous activities was her infamous wardrobe. Constructed primarily from a synthetic silk-like fabric, production was energy and labor intensive. The Fashion Industry Association of America estimates 1700 workers over a period of 12 years were required to create these garments. Each piece of the collection was volatile, the material’s integrity would degrade into useless debris within a few days of assembly. One dress, made of this fabric for a 2036 awards ceremony, was adorned with 3 pounds of gold, created from gold bars she had inherited. A few days later, after the dress disintegrated, the gold was removed and restored to its original, 24k state.”
Alice Berthog recalls how she ordered the production crew to be complete, direct and unreserved as they created this segment, however, she is clearly uneasy as this unflattering portrayal of her mother unfolds.
The video narrator comments, “Critics have often observed how Mrs. Barran Berthog has been perceived to be callous with hardly a mention from this once powerful woman concerning means to address the effects of disasters and attempts to relieve the misery they cause.” The narration shifts focus, “When the Judicious Asset Management legislation was passed into law, many public opinion polls indicated strong, negative sentiment concerning the very wealthy, no doubt, inspired at least in part, by Barran Berthog.”
The video stops. Barbara Bradley addresses the staff, “Very little video edited yet for our report concerning JAM, however, we have live, APWBC contributing editor, curmudgeon and JAM expert, the one, the only, the lovable Carl Woodward!” The staff knows Carl. As grumpy fellows go, they like him and politely applaud as he begins.
“We are all friends here, right, so I can speak freely? I do have my opinions, but hope most will not show up on the network anytime soon.” Almost a funny first line. Carl is not tall; he is stout and nearing retirement. Carl wears a bowtie during broadcasts, never smiles and always supplies deadpan delivery of wisdom. “Finally, Congress did something right! JAM, Judicious Asset Management legislation removes the extreme power of wealth from the hands of the unaccountable few.” Sniffing the air, as if detecting an unusual odor, he comments, “Smell that? The air is cleaner now. The sky is bluer and babies do not cry so much, all because of JAM”. Some of the staff chuckle a bit.
“Mostly”, Carl seriously continues, “The economy is back on track. Prices are stabilizing. No hundred-million dollar Manhattan penthouse studios that nobody should have ever paid so much to own, now we have many more comfortable homes available for many more people. No more expensive, very private yachts for old men to impress their pretty young mistresses, now we have efficient, environment friendly transportation.” Carl Woodward states positive ways JAM has contributed to society while avoiding problems with it’s implementation. “Earth friendly projects are appearing around the country and wages as well as tax revenues are up.” JAM is considered a politically liberal concept, however, approved by the majority of citizens.
Carl notices Barbara Bradley sitting quietly, listening to his informal speech. “A volunteer please, thank you Barbara.” She is a bit surprised as Bradley has not indicated any willingness to be a prop for Carl. The room is quieter than usual, she can smell an interesting aroma. The staff has instructions not to wear perfume as some are allergic. Barbara does not say anything, she believes the essence might be emanating from Alice.
“Of course, Carl, you hot stud!” A double punch, Barbara makes fun of Carl, his stature and his presumption. Carl has a tough personality, a bit of banter can not harm him. “Thank you, sir, for choosing me!” The staff, as they often do, giggle a bit.
Not off topic, Carl instructs, “Here’s a dollar.” He hands Barbara a dollar bill. “Let’s say I have a service or product you want and you give me the dollar for it.” Carl takes the dollar bill from Barbara. “Then let’s say you have a service or product I want and I give you the dollar back.” Barbara is hoping this silly exercise ends soon. “Then let’s say we keep exchanging the dollar for the same reason, to purchase goods and services.” Carl makes a dramatic point. “It is not just that this dollar exists that makes our economy work, but rather that it goes back and forth between us to provide motivation for each of us to produce services or goods for the other. If you keep the dollar, like very wealthy people keep their dollars, away from the productive economy, than neither of us, or anybody else, benefits from that dollar.”
Barbara says, “Good point Carl, but what happens if I put my dollars to work as an investment?”
Carl replies, “Your investment does not circulate dollars, it only provides credit. Though credit has a place as a means to finance, most dollars are better spent directly for goods and services, flowing through the economy. You can sit down now young lady.”
“Do I get a bonus, oh, please, Mr. Woodward, please.” Barbara, Carl’s boss, innocently asks.
“Not my department, honey, see somebody higher up the food chain.” The banter is not as funny now. Carl continues, “JAM is similar to the checks & balance system found in the Constitution. No one branch of the government has unregulated power. Now the same is true for large sums of money, no one person has unregulated control.” Wearing white shoes and a bright pink shirt he adds, “All we needed was to cut the fattest parts out of the fattest pigs so we could all eat the meat!” Woodward suggests an image which Alice Berthog does not digest very well.
Holding one finger in the air, vigorously expressing a point, Carl declares, “We now have distribution of labor that makes sense. As it should be, best used first for reasonable housing, health care and an effective social safety net. Not used to satisfy extreme, frivolous excess.” Holding two fingers in the air, expressing a second point, Carl adds, “CEO’s, If only great wealth motivates you to do your job, get out of the way, make room, many competent folks are waiting for opportunity.” Holding three fingers in the air, expressing a third point, “Technology has changed the world and our culture. Many more people are able to contribute great ideas quickly. Enormous power and control can be very effectively distributed. Royalty, like kings & queens and billionaires, are no longer required to manage anything.”
Somebody has turned the metal cased hourglass residing on a stand-alone frame by the door. An hour to complete, the upper bulb is three quarters empty. Pointing towards the unique office distraction Carl requests, “Imagine a billion dollars. If a dollar were an hour, your great, great, great grandkids would barely begin to live through the centuries, over a hundred and fourteen thousand years. If a dollar were a foot, that’s seven and a half times around the earth. Start walking!” Taking a deep breath, he asks, “Who is really so wonderful, so special, so perfect and so splendid that they should personally have possession of several billion dollars, or one billion dollars, or 100 million dollars, or half of 100 million dollars?”
Finishing, Carl informs, “Many details; financing big business, international affairs and such. I have prepared a document, a summary. Each of you now has it”. Each pod displays the document. Carl adds, “Read it if you like, or don’t, I don’t much care, but Barbara might. All who are getting paid too much are excused.” Another chuckle is heard from the staff. “Send me a message about it if you like, my contact information is in the document.” Carl Woodward concludes his presentation.
Asset Management (JAM)
Summary by Carl Woodward
Judicious Asset Management legislation, known as JAM, became U.S. Federal law in 2039.
The purpose of JAM is to limit the influence of a few individuals by spreading the control of wealth among many. JAM establishes the maximum gross assets any one individual citizen may personally control. JAM also regulates how assets of non-citizens and foreign financial entities may be utilized in the United States.
Nearly every nation in the world has reciprocal agreements with the United States to enforce JAM. When JAM was passed into United States federal law, all nations were highly motivated to enter into these agreements as their economies would be negatively impacted if they did not provide accommodations for this significant shift in the world’s financial structure. Also, many countries have created laws similar to JAM.
The Department of Treasury, Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission as well as other government agencies enforce the law in the United States. These agencies have created processes to insure the effectiveness of JAM.
The central provision of JAM is to limit the maximum gross assets of any single citizen to ten million dollars. All assets, property, financial or otherwise, controlled by any one person over the limit are taxed at a rate of 100%. The limit is increased or decreased, relative to inflation or deflation, yearly.
Another provision of JAM requires all companies to supply complete financial records to all of their employees. Also, employees are empowered to contribute to major management decisions via required, confidential review boards.
Today, large and small corporations are owned by many, not just a few. Most adults own stock in one or more corporations. Many large corporations control billions of dollars of capital. Independent studies indicate almost all business decisions now include careful attention to impacts on health and environment.
Tax rates have diminished and more revenue is available to the government via a larger and wealthier tax base. Goods production as well as services provided has shifted focus to the masses, away from frivolous extravagance. The nation’s measure of wealth, Gross Domestic Product (GPD) has increase dramatically, credited in large part to infrastructure development.
Free enterprise encourages skilled and highly motivated individuals. Very, very few individuals are taxed by JAM. New technologies continue to emerge addressing problems of population, depleting energy resources as well as diminishing supplies of clean water.
information, contact Carl Woodward:
Bradley informs, “These short video recordings feature various politicians, celebrities and other influential folks expressing their views before JAM legislation was passed. We shall decide which to use in the report.”
“Senator Millard Montana, Power & Politics”:
“As we have known for decades, one very wealthy contributor has the ability to alter the course of an election. Low information voters are easily influenced by misleading media and the wealthy know how to manipulate these voters, via the media, very well. For a billionaire, twenty million dollars to influence an election is a very small fee. The very wealthy too often buy election outcomes to meet their personal desires.”
Bradley continues, “Actor and comedian, Conny Jarson, Congress”:
“So some fat-cat ‘son of a’ gets born with a very rich daddy, makin’ his money sailin’ cruise ships. All of the sudden, Congress is all over themselves with big tax breaks to help this boy. Grease the right palms and its ships ahoy!”
Bradley continues, “Environmentalist Arnold Borne, Oil & Climate”:
“Oil companies are politically powerful due to massive profits. These corporations, owned by a very few, have no concern for the whole of society. Harvesting oil has become very difficult compared past decades. More of the nation’s labor is concentrated in the production of these dwindling supplies than ever before. Carbon emissions have dramatically altered our climate and mobility is increasingly limited. JAM provides a vehicle to direct the management focus of these companies away from excessive profit.”
Bradley continues, “Political commentator Sal Harp, Apathy”:
“Apparently, we like the beating. Throughout history we humans have allowed ourselves to be ruled by kings, dictators and now, the rich. In America, today, we could change the world, without violence, but we choose to be conquered like slaves. ‘Yes, massa’ we collectively say, to those who throw a few crumbs from the bountiful table.”
Bradley continues, “Political commentator Miller Baher, Power Corrupts”:
“People who fall prey to hubris end up failing society and often times, failing themselves; Hitler, Ponzi, Nero and of course, many more. Powerful to the point of corruption, extreme power as we see in billionaires today, leads to the destruction.”
Bradley continues, “Attorney Don Erstein, Undeserved Power”:
“At a point, wealth creates wealth, talent ceases to create wealth. At that point wealth displays extreme excess and creates increased individual power for no apparent reason. The motivation for the wealthy is to have excessive control of others.”
Bradley continues, “Philosopher Ray Nand, Perversion”:
“The super-wealthy are not alone. Decisions detrimental to the greater good are also made by those who seek to become super-wealthy. The disease begins well before the patient becomes seriously ill.”
Bradley continues, “Philosopher James Dume, Wealth and Common Sense”:
“Philanthropy of the wealthy we do not need. As common folk already know, without oppression and with common goals there will be plenty of goodwill towards all, achieved as a natural act of humanity.”
Bradley continues, “Mathematician Chester Jow, Economic Theory”:
“If one has all, that is Dictatorship. If all share all, that is Communism. Either way, the masses suffer from lack of motivation to produce. Oligarchy mixed with partial democracy, as practiced today, contains portions of the worst elements of both Dictatorship and Communism. However, there is a remedy. Have no one with excessive individual power and the problems found in Dictatorships, Communism and Oligarchy diminish greatly, perhaps even disappear.”
Bradley continues, “Business executive James Sobins, Visionaries”:
“As leader of a multi-national corporation, I can assure, there are no billionaire visionaries, there are only visionaries.”
Bradley continues, “Commentator Barbara Bradley”. A chuckle can again be heard from the assembled staff.
“Let me paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi: The earth provides enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for anyone’s greed; and Jimi Hendrix: When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
“No recorded narration for these images. Ian Iden, another original participant in the 100 Year Wager.” Bradley provides her own narrative, “These photos show his trophy room. His taxidermy collection contained over 2000 large animals. Mr. Iden once commented about his hobby with a primal, sexually excited tone in his voice. He said, ‘It’s not the hunt, it’s the dying. Most interesting are those last few seconds as an animal expels its last breath.’ Let’s try to relate a realistic image of Mr. Iden.”
Antonio Acalia, Andy, a new intern, raises her hand, she has a question. “Andy, not in class anymore, if you have to go, just go. We don’t care if it is number 1 or a number 2.” Bradley intentionally embarrasses Andy. Bradley believes professionals in this business should learn to be tough, not just smart, in order to do their jobs well. “Just spit it out, if what you want to say is so important.” Barbara is acting a little bit motherly, almost like a strict nanny.
Andy sheepishly apologizes, “I’m sorry, Ms. Bradley.”
Before Andy could ask her question, one of the veteran reports brusquely interrupts, “Ms. Bradley, so formal, must be a very special day. Should I be wearing my tuxedo ma’am?” He makes light fun of the conversation for the amusement of his audience, the staff.
Andy bravely ignores the comment, “Modern historians describe Iden as both brilliant and sadistic. Should our coverage lean one way or another? Brilliant might be interesting but maybe sadistic is more relevant.” A select few of the staff know Andy has only one complete leg, she hides her physical challenge well with a transtibial prosthesis.
Surprised by the young intern, Barbara is impressed with Andy’s reasoning. “That’s the kind of thinking we should bring.” Bradley looks directly at the comical veteran, “We might all learn something from smart interns.” Smiles disappear as Barbara Bradley shifts into a serious mood. “Andy, I want your input and your judgment to answer your question. Create a narrative for this section, we will review it later this week.”
Bradley narrates again, “These images were taken at M.I.I. hospitals. Mr. Iden became very wealthy via the health care industry. Infamous for medical staff shortages and outdated equipment, his hospitals were always well staffed with financial and legal experts. Though no direct evidence exists, many believe Iden pressured doctors who worked for M.I.I. to choose profit over health & life. In public statements Ian Iden would speak of challenges facing the medical industry, focusing on subjects other than his continually increasing, massive personal wealth. Often expressing his disappointment concerning funding for health care, other health issues on his agenda included intermittent clean drinking water in rural areas, severe climate change and dangers in the energy sector of the economy. Though these are all very real problems, in his rhetoric Mr. Iden used these as reasons for the declining quality of health care at M.I.I. hospitals, not his own personal greed.” As she finishes, Barbara observes Miss Acalia standing.
Feeling suddenly confident, Andy inquires, “Those subjects, the staff, pressuring doctors and excuses could each be involved. How much detail should we include?”
Dismissively, Bradley responds, “Andy, that’s why we are having this meeting, to decide.” Again, almost like addressing Andy as a child, “Smart young interns should quit asking questions now, while on the good side of the Director of Operations.” Barbara does not blink as she delivers advice, staring at the young lady.
Andy reacts, flustered, “Yes ma’am.” She sits in her chair.
Bradley finishes her comments concerning Ian Iden. “Ian Iden died while on a trip to Zimbabwe, South Africa. He had organized a safari, illegally hunting, poaching elephants. Because of his influence with government officials on both continents, Iden was confident he could import fresh kill ivory for his own personal use without fear of the law.” Barbara waits for the video to display a few images. “One of his guides contracted the Ebola virus in Guinea, two days later infecting Ian Iden. A shared water flask was suspected as the vehicle of transmission. 21 days after infection, days mostly spent in agony, Ian Iden died of massive blood loss. As Mr. Iden had requested, his body was buried along with his decorative gold dagger, a family heir loom from the 19th century.”
Miss Acalia rises from her chair and walks towards the door holding two fingers in the air. The staff, even after Bradley’s morbid description of death, laughs at the intern’s humor.
After Andy leaves the room Barbara comments, “Glad she went, at least we don’t have to smell it.” Though the staff realizes how inappropriate their behavior during this review might be, they continue to laugh as the meeting has become entertaining, again. Barbara instructs, “Onto another cheerful topic, Neely Nash and his fall from Grace.”
The video presentation resumes, again with the familiar, recorded, female narrator, “Neely Nash managed his oil business and heavily invested in weapons manufacturing. Mr. Nash moved most of his production facilities overseas, taking advantage of inexpensive labor.” Images of Nash Industries are underscored, “Often accused of using slave labor to produce firearms, many human rights activists believed Neely Nash was responsible for the injury and deaths of many who worked in his factories... Nash testified before a House of Representatives sub-committee investigating his activities. Accused of provoking conflicts around the world in order to increase sales of his products, weapons, an unpopular majority voted to dismiss the allegations just prior to mid-term elections. Mr. Nash’s political influence, apparently, bought an opportunity for Nash Industries to continue to promote wars.”
Bradley comments as the video continues, “Social assassins.”
“Mr. Nash was assassinated in 2033, Chicago, Illinois. The assassin, Ramsey Chavez, was interviewed in prison. The interview created a remarkable presentation. Chavez defined himself as a ‘social assassin’, a phrase that has become routine in common conversation. Here is an excerpt from that interview.”
The video shows Ramsey Chavez sitting comfortably, unrestrained as guards did not believe him to be a threat. Speaking calmly, clearly and confidently this 57 year old appears to be healthy. “It is really quite simple. The world’s economy is terribly managed. Very wealthy people, too often, are very bad at putting their money to good use and the rest of us suffer greatly because of it.” Ramsey places his hands on his chest when he uses the word ‘us’. “These individuals are seldom motivated to create reasonable investments with consideration for the many. They are separated from society, insulated from consequences and usually, secretly consumed by grotesque, sadistic desires.” Ramsey opens his hands to be inclusive when using the word ‘many’. Chavez realizes the effectiveness of body language and uses it for emphasis.
“The solution is as simple as the problem. Let no one person control massive amounts of wealth. Power does indeed corrupt, so, we do not need persons who are extremely wealthy.” Chavez is absolutely convinced of his ideology. The setting seems to be supportive as the unremarkable gray room does unexpectedly provide mild contrast to his salt & pepper hair, highlighting his mild facial features.
“I eliminated one of the problems and am happy to say, as planned, only Neely Nash died. No others were injured. I know, functionally, it is a small step, though I do hope his billions of dollars, in the future, will be put to better use. More importantly, I hope my action, this social assassination, will motivate the masses. In order to maintain and improve our world, we need to limit personal fortune.” Ramsey instinctively knows the importance of this interview and it’s potential impact on those who would view it.
“Unfortunately, the progress of social justice is slow.” Regret grows on his face with these words. “I shall be spending the rest of my life in prison, a penalty I am happy to pay if it helps bring reform. Until I die, or until we are rid of the menace, I urge others to do as I have done, it is a noble cause. I hope, one day, there will be no need for social assassins.”
Looking directly into the camera he clearly states, “As you are able, become a soldier for society, dedicate your life to changing the world’s power structure.”
Andy has returned to the meeting and her seat. Barbara, setting aside fear of humor distraction, decides to test the young intern again. “Andy, please tell us details surrounding the death of Mr. Nash.”
Andy stands. She is not sure how to respond and wonders if she should now say ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘yes Barbara’, so she responds with neither. Instead, Andy, well studied, addresses the staff, “Neely Nash owned a small, older apartment building in Chicago, Illinois, inherited from his father. He visited this building in the last week of October every year, for many years. Ramsey Chavez was the building supervisor for many of those years. Satisfied with the building’s income, Mr. Nash only spent enough money to maintain the facility, not improve or renovate, as he calculated the location would increase the value of the property. Mr. Nash quietly visited a female tenant who lived in apartment 12A during each of his trips. No one has discovered details concerning the association between Mr. Nash and the tenant, Grace. Some speculate Grace was his illegitimate child, others speculate she was a specialized prostitute, still others believe Grace supplied spiritual support. Ramsey Chavez had a long and painful history with Nash Industries though he never met Neely Nash personally. Underpaid by competitive standards, Ramsey Chavez worked a second job in order to pay his bills. Mr. Chavez did know members of Nash’s security detail from previous visits, so, he was considered a trusted employee. The building had only one elevator. Ramsey Chavez spent considerable energy ingeniously creating means to simultaneously defeat the brakes while releasing the elevator’s lift pulley. Once convinced Neely Nash was alone in the elevator, Chavez executed the billionaire from a position high in the elevator shaft, watching the compartment free-fall 12 stories.” Andy completes her address and sits down.
Bradley, looking at Andy, “I like my coffee with one cream... just kidding. Very impressive, Andy, all from memory too.” Gesturing to the staff she adds, “I think we caught a keeper.”
The video resumes to show a few other social assassins. “Social assassins were most active between 2033 and 2039. They always acted alone and were older men who articulated a desire to improve society by killing extremely wealthy individuals. Social assassins saw a world deteriorating, a disintegration which could be reversed. Though extreme action and sacrifice were required, they believed future generations would benefit if their collective cause succeeded. Self-viewed as warriors, soldiers fighting for a cause, these social assassins waged their battle by physically exterminating the billionaires, one by one, while expecting the masses would be inspired to invalidate the influence of the few who possessed vast power without justification. Unlike many assassins in history, these men were not delusional or mentally unstable, they were motivated exclusively by ideological principles. Though these assassins were by law, murders, many people saw these assassins as honorable heroes, willing to sacrifice their freedom and sometimes their lives to rid society of Oligarchy. Social assassination during this period has become known as ‘Death by Robin Hood’.”
The video presentation ends.
Looking first at Andy, “I’ll not ask if there are any questions, I know many will be raised as we produce this report,” Berthog comments as she dismisses the meeting, “Do good work”.
July 27, 2046. Conference call.
“Ted, how’s the family? Ted Jr. in college this year?” Joseph Checha Sr., Joe, asks his old friend while speaking from his Dallas, Texas office with the faint, smoky smell of mesquite wood from a nearby barbecue pit invading his window. Grilling is his favorite pastime. He imagines himself flipping a large, soon-to-be delicious steak. Joe has gained 25 pounds, not muscle, over the last 25 years.
“You bet Joe, Yale. And Joe Junior? Harvard, Penn?” Theodore Wheir Sr., Ted, asks, as their sons might be classmates. Ted has a new associate, Sheri, not far away, he often visits her ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. A three-hour trip on I-15 is always rewarding as Ted enjoys the local culture. Sheri is the kind of lady he does not discuss with his wife. Confidentiality is critical, especially in this particular case.
“Harvard, so I guess they will not see each other.” Joe replies. Enjoying the chat, but more interested in lunch, he moves the conversation along, “What do you think, Ted, does the government plan to change the JAM transaction rules for the 100 Year Wager fund, or leave it alone?”
Ted delivers welcome information, “No, I don’t. I asked Ed about it last Friday. A friend of his at SEC says the Feds have had so many complications, they want to leave it and many other similar legal instruments alone until the funds are distributed to one or more individuals. So, looks like our pot remains intact.” Edgar Gonha Sr., Ed, is visiting his son’s college. Ed avoids mirrors, the process of aging has not been kind, The City That Never Sleeps and too much top-shelf have taken their toll.
“Wonderful! I think it’s been fine, glad we got in at the beginning, it has turned into a healthy fund over the years.” Joe wants the money for a small pizza parlor he has recently purchased. Joe enjoys sampling the offerings, especially Texas style, with red peppers & diced jalapeño.
“I sure do miss the old days, a couple of clients and just let the money make more money. All we had to do was handle a few technical details. It was great back then, Joe.” Ted does not like JAM, it make him work so much more and get less.
Recalling a meeting, “Last week I had a client, like so many clients, wanted to know all about environmental impacts & employee relations. In the old days we just washed over such trivia, dealing with so much money, but now it’s a long song & dance, hours of customer service and they all have so little invested.” Joe does not like working, he would rather review pizza recipes.
“It stinks, Joe.” Ted thinks they both deserve more money. “I’ll tell Ed you said hello. Enjoy that Texas feast, wish I could be in Dallas to share it with you.” Ted leans vegetarian concerning his diet, but likes Joe as an ally, so, a bit of butter on the BBQ won’t hurt.
September 11, 2051. Jackson, Tennessee. Madison County Hospital.
“My father was there, a student at Pace University. He has some very interesting stories.” Doctor Candice Carnegie, Emergency Department physician, though most call the department Emergency Room or ER, is working on this sunshiny day at Madison County Hospital, MCH. “That day, fifty years ago, he will never forget.” Candice wears sports sandals. She finds them functional and her fauxhawk hairstyle is strikingly distinctive. A light load this morning, many folks have been watching the ceremony broadcast from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City. For most, minor ailments could wait and there have been no serious conditions on this shift.
Moving a pole constructed to suspend an intravenous therapy bag, Victor Vanderbilt assists Candice, “It was a moving ceremony. The drums and 3-volley salute, the reverence. Moment of silence. Inspiring.” A bit warm, he considers removing his light weight, cable-knit, shawl cardigan sweater. Victor and Candice are very close, he thinks of her as his emotional pal. They met at a pathology seminar, UC Davis School of Medicine.
The morning distraction of dramatic, historical events passes as work resumes, taking command of their attention. Victor informs, “Patient in 2. Cold shivers, headache, pain in neck and shoulders, fatigue too.” The symptoms are not uncommon, though the patient does have very severe shivers. He adds, “An older fellow.”
Doctor Carnegie, known to the staff as Doctor C., walks a few steps to exam room 2. Just before entering she notices another patient, a bit off balance, entering exam room 3. In room 2 she begins to review the patient’s medical history. Victor’s comment was only a little funny, the patient is her age. Quickly opening the door, speaking loud enough for Victor to hear, “So, three years younger, your age, would not be older?” She closes the door, the occupant of room 2 is a bit confused by the comment.
As Doctor C. listens to heart and lungs with a wireless electronic stethoscope, nurse Vanderbilt interrupts. “Doctor, a moment, please.” His stern body language suggests urgency. Nurse Vanderbilt holds a liquid crystal thermometer designed to determine body temperature.
“I’ll be right back. Antibiotics, I think, will fix you up, but we can talk more about that, hang on while I take care of this.” Doctor C. requests her patient to be patient as she steps into the hallway, closing exam room 2 door behind her. “What’s up, Victor?” Victor does not disturb exams without a good reason, so, Candice is very interested.
“Two more in 3 & 5 with the same symptoms. I hope, just an unusual coincidence. Thought you should know.” Both Victor and Candice understand the importance of the coincidence, Candice shall examine all three cases. Hospital telephones seem to be very active, all of the sudden.
Without saying a word in the busy hallway, Doctor C. returns to exam room 2, asking, “Do you know anyone else who has the same symptoms you have?” She needs to discover if any connection between the patients exists. Within seconds, Doctor C. discovers room 2 does not know of others with a similar condition. Coincidence or otherwise, testing for contagions must be administered. As the door opens again, she informs, “Actually, nix the antibiotics for the moment. Just to be safe, I want our lab to test your blood, only take a few minutes.”
Victor again interrupts. “More.” With one word, Doctor Candice Carnegie becomes very concerned. She again instructs this fellow to wait as she exits into the hallway. The ER is very busy now, many arriving, waiting to be seen.
“Lab samples, STAT, for room 2. Also, the others, now.” Candice knows this may be a rapidly spreading infection. If so, best treatment would be swift treatment.
“We should consider implementing infection control procedures and contacting our infectious disease specialist, Doctor Walton.” Shawl cardigan sweater removed, Victor does not express his quick wit, any more. The required fast action leaves no room for even a slight bit of humor.
“After we examine, admit them for observation, on the second floor in adjacent rooms and yes, contact Doctor Walton, but wait for biosafety, see what he recommends.” As nurse Vanderbilt arranges for hospital rooms and calls Doctor Walton, three more patients are waiting in exam rooms, complaining of the same symptoms as the others. Soon, lab test results appear in exam room 2, electronic records. The tests show what is happening in the victim’s system, but do not indicate cause.
Doctor C. decides to visit the hospital lab, down one floor and a long hallway. The stairs are speedy, her red sports sandals make for a swift trip. MCH doctors rarely step into the medical laboratory as they seldom have need to do so. The results of lab tests are their concern, not how the lab achieves those results. Supervisor Rene Rockefeller, surprised by the visit, greats, “How can we help you Doctor, why are you here?”
“We have a situation in the ER. Several patients, all with the same symptoms and signs. You are working on the tests for some of them now.” Doctor C. conveys concern, in her voice. The experienced lab supervisor immediately suspects an epidemic. “At least one set of tests is finished, I would like to see slides of those samples.” Candice recalls her days, with Victor, in Sacramento, California.
Rene runs a well-organized shop and is proud of her capable, underpaid staff. “We can set them up for you to view, doctor. The microscopes shall be ready in a moment. Also, I will have our phlebotomists collect more samples, now.” Anticipation is common practice in this medical lab, doing so increases efficiency, though sometimes the lab appears chaotic because of the machinery and speed of the technicians.
“Yes, great idea, get those samples.” After Doctor C. and supervisor Rockefeller view the magnified slides, discovering no new information, she returns to the ER, nearly jogging in her red footwear. As Candice arrives a message from Rene Rockefeller informs, additional samples shall be sent immediately, via courier, to the M.I.I. research laboratory in Memphis, Tennessee.
Victor engages Candice for private consult, “While you were in the lab, two of the patients developed new symptoms. High fever, delirium and rapid pulse, one has palpitations. Both are sweating profusely. I have never seen patients pour out so much water.” He adds, “Doctor Walton is expected in ten minutes.” Some of the cases are very disturbing, but none appear to be life threatening.
Doctor C., working with the data she has managed to collect, instructs, “For the moment, all we can do is treat the symptoms and isolate the patients upstairs, after our exams here in the ER, or until Doctor Walton says otherwise.” Frustrated, she rarely sees mysterious conditions and never such a quick epidemic.
As more patients enter the ER with symptoms of the illness, Doctor Walton arrives to review patient histories, symptoms, signs and lab results. Consulting with other specialists around the country, he is unable to identify the disease. He does discover other similar cases are appearing in Kentucky, Alabama, Brazil and Bolivia. Patients continue to be admitted for observation, a few of these patients have advanced to the Hyperhidrosis stage of the illness.
Doctor C. exams more patients. One of the patients, exam room 7, is sleeping, apparently unable to remain awake. Candice interviews the friend who brought this new victim to the hospital. She learns, in the past five hours, many of the mystery ailment symptoms have afflicted room 7, possibly indicating an advanced case.
Suddenly, the patient is in cardiac arrest. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and artificial respiration are attempted.
Exam room 7 becomes the first known death of the pandemic.
North & South Americas - Pandemic Advisory
World Health Organization
12 September, 2051
URGENT. A deadly, unidentified, adult disease has suddenly appeared in North and South America. The disease is similar to (or may be) sudor anglicus, historically known as English Sweating Sickness. 8,192 deaths have been attributed to the disease in a 24 hour period: 1:30 pm EST Sept 11, 2051 to 1:30 pm EST Sept 12, 2051.
Symptoms & Signs:
Stage 1. Onset) Thermoregulation is interrupted due to sudden pyrexia (fever), resulting in cold shivers which are often intense. Other symptoms include dizziness, headache, severe body pains and exhaustion.
Stage 2. 1-3 hours) Extreme and excessive Hyperhidrosis (sweating). Body temperature of 39 °C to 42 °C. Endogenous pyrogen is produced by the victim’s immune system resulting in a sense of heat. Also, headache, delirium, rapid pulse, thirst, palpitations, heart pains and exhaustion to physical collapse.
Stage 3. Resolution) 50% mortality rate is associated with the disease within 24 hours of onset. Skin eruptions do not occur and are not observed upon expiration. Survivor symptoms resend within 24 hours.
Transmission: Unknown, though possibly airborne, waterborne or foodborne. Blood-borne and vector-borne transmission unlikely due to the sudden appearance across multiple regions in multiple continents. No evidence supports transmission associated with terrorist attack.
Identification: Unknown. Laboratories in both North and South America are working to discover the specific nature of the disease.
Early indications: The pathogen does not present as virus (flu-like) or bacterium (tuberculosis-like). The disease might be prion based.
Biological hazard (biohazard): Medical and other personnel in contact with infected individuals, living or expired, should, whenever possible, practice biocontainment precautions. HAZMAT suits with self-contained breathing apparatus recommended.
Treatment & Vaccine: Because the microbiological agent is not yet identified, health care professionals should treat symptoms & signs. No specific treatment is recommended to directly address the disease. Vaccine, not available (most vaccines require months of research to develop).
History: sudor anglicus, English Sweating Sickness, infected England and continental Europe with epidemics from 1485 to 1551.
Advisory: WHO does not advise a ban on international travel or trade. Because the method of transmission is unknown, specific recommendations to limit the pandemic are not available.
September 13, 2051. Jackson, Tennesse. Madison County Hospital.
Martin Morgan is not alone. Chairs are filled, many folks are standing, some linger outside under a large awning. All are waiting for news from the hospital observation floors. Martin has difficulty standing, an injury received at work, so he is happy to have a place to sit. Starting a conversation is not difficult and somehow seems appropriate. “My son is here with it, 35 years old, third floor.” His comments are directed towards a lady sitting to his right.
Fae Ford, answers, “My son too, he’s 37, second floor.” Pleasant, but not smiling, “If it is a terrorist attack, it has been effective.” She clutches her small handbag as slightly crinkled skin outlines her features. Mrs. Ford wishes someone else was with her, another family member, but her family members all live far away.
Martin tries to change the subject. The disease is causing enough misery, adding speculation about terrorism, especially this week, will not help. “Just three days ago we were at Casey Jones Museum, enjoying the shoppes and talking about the future. I’m Martin, my son is Mason, he’s a mechanical engineer.” Martin notices a person leaving, called by the staff for a private consultation.
“Mine is Fabian, he was at work. Plumber.” Fae does not follow Martin’s lead onto another subject. “They won’t tell us anything. They look like astronauts running around in those suits. The government should declare war on whoever is doing this. Over sixteen thousand dead.” Mrs. Ford is clearly upset by the words she speaks.
Her new acquaintance understands the frustration. “It is very difficult, not knowing more about this sweating sickness, but I think its complicated. Back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they learned very little. Now we have modern science, but very limited experience. I hope they discover a treatment soon.” Martin attempts to calm Fae as he attempts to remain positive.
Realizing her complaints are not constructive, Mrs. Ford recalls, “Three days ago we were at Pinson Mounds, wondering why they bothered to build them.”
As moments pass, people are called from the waiting room, patient by patient, to consultations. Most do not return. Those remaining hope they will be waiting a long while. After 24 hours, survival is expected.
North & South Americas - Pandemic Advisory Update
World Health Organization
14 September, 2051
The deadly, unidentified, adult disease which suddenly appeared in North and South America, similar to (or may be) sudor anglicus (historically known as English Sweating Sickness), appears to be spreading. 32,768 deaths have been attributed to the disease in a 72 hour period: 1:30 pm EST Sept 11, 2051 to 1:30 pm EST Sept 14, 2051.
Transmission: Unknown, though possibly airborne, waterborne or foodborne. Blood-borne and vector-borne transmission unlikely due to the sudden appearance across multiple continents.
Biological hazard (biohazard): WHO continues to advise - medical and other personnel in contact with infected individuals, living or expired, should, whenever possible, practice biocontainment precautions. HAZMAT suits with self-contained breathing apparatus recommended.
Advisory: WHO Now does advise banning all international travel and trade. Because the pandemic is spreading rapidly and the disease is deadly, all possible means to contain the outbreak should be taken.
See WHO Statement of 12 September, 2051 for additional information.
September 15, 2051. Jackson, Tennesse. Madison County Hospital.
Amplifier & earpiece of the two-way radio filters low frequency from Sam’s voice. Even so, his microphone clearly transmits. “At least they are asleep at this end of the hallway.” On both observation floors, newly infected and recovering patients are located to the north, critical patients are located to the south. “Gauge indicates about an hour left on my SCBA, plenty for this one.” Samael Grimm, Sam, informs his partner, Sammy. Sam is a fireman for the city of Jackson, he is a U.S. army veteran.
This afternoon the orange HAZMAT suits are remarkably comfortable, considering the hours they have been worn. “Sam, how many has it been today? 18? 19?” Samael Reaper, Sammy, understands the importance of their efforts, as grisly as the duty may be. Not waiting for an answer he instructs, “You take the head when we swing the body into the bag.” The long zipper is open on the plastic cadaver pouch. The pouch is designed to prevent body fluid leakage. Sammy is a veteran, like Sam. He was trained for this kind of work at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio Texas.
Sam ties a toe tag.
Five seconds to lift, move and place the deceased. Three sideways steps to bind the contents securely, the fastener locks swiftly at the end of it’s path. Affirmation of disaster, hidden from exposure to the outside, living world, resides inside heavy, sealed plastic.
Routine, without a word, the Samael fellows roll the gurney to just inside the door of the quiet, dark hospital room. Sam peeks into the hall, wanting it to be clear of patients before they wheel the sealed corpse to the elevator. “Clear, let’s go.” Fortunately, a refrigerated vehicle waits at the ground floor, transportation parked in a secluded area.
Both men are dedicated to their duty. Both do what they must, they are motivated to serve their community. As swiftly as they are able, with care, the body is moved into the elevator. Sam repeatedly presses ‘G’. He says, as he always says, “Hospital elevators are so slow.” The doors close, without hurry, declaring the worst over, for this one.
When the elevator stops, two floors below where it began, Sammy comments, “Well over sixty five thousand dead now.” The numbers totaled from North and South America are staggering. The modern world has never experience such a devastating pandemic. “They are talking about having the morgue recycle body bags.”
Sam replies, “I hope not, reusing bags would present a serious hygiene problem.”
Sunlight appears. Comrades maneuver the tagged, secure remains out of the open compartment.
Sammy, “Maybe, one more, before our SCBA units run out of air.”
September 16, 2051. Jackson, Tennesse. Madison County Hospital.
Outside on the large lawn of MCH, a young reporter for APWBC, Dan Walters, is broadcasting live to the world.
“The English Sweating Sickness has now claimed 131,072 deaths, worldwide, as of an hour ago. The number has been doubling daily. The World Health Organization is overwhelmed, unable to provide useful information concerning treatment and containment of the disease. Here at Madison County Hospital, where the disease was first reported, hundreds of bodies have been taken to morgues and research facilities. The macabre task of removing and transporting bodies has been assigned to the fire & police departments of this city.”
“Still, the origin of the calamity is unknown. Research labs around the world are working furiously to discover the fundamental nature of the pathogen responsible, no answers have been discovered.”
“At the nation’s capital, thousands are protesting government inaction even as every possible resource is assigned to the disaster. Many are demanding revenge though no terrorist individuals, organizations or states, have been linked to the crisis.”
“Riots have been reported in Brazil. The government of Brazil has imposed Marshall law in several cities. Violators of the country’s dusk to dawn curfew are shot on site. Much of eastern Brazil has halted all transportation.”
“The suicide rate in the United States has quad tripled in the last five days. Psychologists suspect those vulnerable, especially those diagnosed with major depressive disorders, are motivated by extreme anxiety exacerbated by the sudden onset of the pandemic. Access to healthcare, for those not afflicted, has become difficult. Most healthcare workers are occupied with caring for victims of the disease. Also, many healthcare workers have themselves contracted the sickness.”
“Several isolation facilities have been compromised. Believing modern medicine cannot provide relief from the agony, victims see no reason to remain in hospitals, like MCH. Still others suspect the cause of the pandemic is due to chemical weapons, possibly accidentally released. Activists suspect a government cover-up.”
North & South Americas - Pandemic Advisory Update
World Health Organization
17 September, 2051
The deadly, unidentified, adult disease which suddenly appeared in North and South America, similar to (or may be) sudor anglicus (historically known as English Sweating Sickness), appears to continue to spread. 262,144 deaths have been attributed to the disease in a six day period: 1:30 pm EST Sept 11, 2051 to 1:30 pm EST Sept 17, 2051.
Biological hazard (biohazard): WHO continues to advise - medical and other personnel in contact with infected individuals, living or expired, should, whenever possible, practice biocontainment precautions. HAZMAT suits with self-contained breathing apparatus recommended.
Advisory: WHO suggests all medical facilities attempt experimental treatments. Governments should not regard these experimental treatments as medical malpractice. WHO continues to advise banning all international travel and trade. Because the pandemic is spreading, and because the disease is deadly, all possible means to contain the outbreak should be taken.
See WHO Statements of 12 & 14, September, 2051 for additional information.
Dr. C., Candice Carnegie has been working long hours throughout the pandemic, examining patients. A steady stream of victims leaves no time for rest. She has finished in room 2, ready, though very tired, for another patient.
For the last few days, during this crisis, before she can finish an exam, Victor or one of the other nurses tells Dr. C. which exam room next needs her attention. Sitting for just a moment, after examining room 2 and before instructing a nurse to admit the patient, Candice realizes she has not been informed of her next expected duty.
A quick opportunity, for just a moment, to take a mental breath and a physical break. These last few days have been difficult. Her emotions are suppressed as she believes her professional position requires, Candice has often cried, alone.
Two minutes have passed, so she decides to leave exam room 2. In the hall, Dr. C. inquires about the delay. With little energy, she asks, “Victor, next room?”
Victor, himself exhausted, replies, “No more, at least for now.”
Words are not needed as both Candice and Victor realize, this is the first time since it began, they have no new cases. Candice says, “I’ll be taking a nap in 6, wake me when more arrive.”
Candice takes a very long, well deserved sleep on the exam room table.
Victor soon sits for a long while,
amazed the exam rooms are now empty.
October 21, 2051.
American Medical Association Report
For immediate release:
The recent pandemic of English Sweating Sickness, sudor anglicus, has ended. No new cases have been reported as of 18 September, 2051. The disease has disappeared, just as it did 500 years ago. Nature of the disease remains a mystery. Research laboratories around the world continue to review autopsy reports and samples collected, in order to develop a vaccine, should the disease reappear. As North & South America continue to return to a state of normalness, access to healthcare is becoming widely available. Most survivors of the pandemic do not required extended treatment.
Attorney Edgar Gonha, Ed, reviewing the report in his New York City office, is delighted to learn the pandemic has officially passed. During the week of the pandemic he was vacationing with a friend and client, the third daughter of Ian Iden and her husband, in New Zealand. She is an interior decorator. Mrs. Murie is also happy the pandemic has run its course. Though her very ill, older sister, now a citizen of Poland, would have received a small fortune if the death toll had exceeded one million people, she very much regrets so many lives were lost to the disease. Amazingly, there have been very few public reports concerning the daughters of Ian Iden and the 100 Year Wager. Mrs. Murie is happily married and ready to have a child.
The medical mystery may never be solved, but a second strong drink, Long Island Ice Tea, celebrates, as Ed finds comfort in the memo, he will continue to be paid, collecting interest from the fund. The 100 Year Wager, continues.
October 22, 2057. Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
“Of all the reasons we would have to leave, I never would have guessed this.” EJ expresses his lament, “I can remember mud puddles in the spring and flooding in the fall; wading in the creek and watching the big rain barrel overflow after thunderstorms. Now, every drop is precious.” Pinecones litter waterless waterways and thirsty grass browns around patches of dust as belongings are packed in a large, old, rusty truck. The Everstones expect to return home soon, when the climate returns to normal.
Sally Jo insists, “We must go, now that the well is contaminated, we can’t risk LE getting sick again. Just not safe to stay here without clean water.” Sally Jo and EJ have a six-year-old son, LE. LE, abbreviation for ‘Little Eldred’. She remembers, from yesterday’s late evening, preserves secured in unlocked suitcases and berries riding atop in brown paper bags; Subsistence for a few days needing only modest preparation to avoid hunger. Pots, pans, knives, forks, coffee and condiments complete the mix of supplies along with two gallons of boiled drinking water. Water, plentiful soon, in northern states.
Knowing he must find a way to support his family, EJ observes, “Might be worth the expense to buy water, but the drought has been so long, all the work I can do has dried up in Taliaferro County. With no crops, no new building and all repairs waiting until it’s over, many folks are leaving. Between now and when the rain returns, north we shall go, to survive, where I can find work in the logging camps.” A cousin, Earl, in Webster County, West Virginia has agreed to temporarily house the Taliaferro County refugees.
Thankful, Sally Jo comments, “Earl is a kind soul. He could just as well said no when we asked him about staying. He does not have much room, we should be grateful and do all we are able to be good guests.”
Reflecting on the blight, “Just last week I saw a dust devil near the Summit. It was a still day with no wind and plenty of dust to feed it; About 3 feet ‘round, it only lasted a minute. I have only seen one other, it was smaller, many years ago.” Depressingly, EJ suggests, “Maybe next year I might plant cactus as a little extra cash crop. Any market, you think, for cactus?”
Sally Jo has long since determined, one of her roles would be cheerleader, “Stop that bleak attitude now, Mister Everstone, we have better ways to use our heads. Not long from now we will be back to the usual wet, muggy, soggy, soaking, rainy Georgia we have always known. So check that dreary mood into Hotel Goodbye!” Sally Jo insists on a healthy outlook, no matter how dire the situation.
EJ knows, Sally Jo is correct. He should adjust his thinking and remain positive. EJ knows he is poor in wealth, but rich in other ways. Before locking the flimsy front door, EJ asks, “Do you remember that day at Legacy Summit, during a thunder storm, we were sitting in the Citadel waiting for the deluge to pass?” In the drought, EJ recalls a pleasant memory, much different than the disappointing memory being created now.
Sally Jo exclaims, “Indeed I do! And such an inflated name, Citadel, barely 6 feet wide and just about as tall. Not deep enough to lie down without a body part sticking out, but, I must say, it has a strong and sturdy roof built on those thick rock walls.” She was amazed then, as she is now. Citadel, built with a leakless heavy pine log top and well dug drainage, together providing a dry dirt floor.
“Not another soul around, pop at work and mother in town, we were all alone. I was thinking how happy we would be, living on this land.” EJ recalls young love and his first major accomplishment at Legacy Summit. He also recalls weeks spent hauling & stacking rocks to make the heavy, permanent walls around a natural recess base in the ground.
Sally Jo adds, “You were thinking more than that, mister, but some of those details I will not put into the official Everstone Legacy Summit public record!” She remembers her green shirt with faded red dots, dust brushed away that day at the Citadel, so many years ago, now packed above the preserves for the trip to West Virginia.
“I was also thinking how I hoped you did not like Lewis better than me, I know he liked you.” EJ, a little bit jealous then, was happy to see the end to that possible courtship.
“EJ, I would not have married Lewis Blare if he were the last man this side of the mighty Mississippi River. Logan, as nasty & rude as he can be, is the best of that awful lot. I did not want anything to do with Lewis or any of the Blare’s then, I want less to do with them now.” A severe grimace accents Sally Jo’s face. “I am surprised you thought I gave a care about Lewis, he was always so repugnant and vulgar, I never wanted to be near him.”
A smile glows on EJ’s face. Then, he predicts, “When we return, the final letters of the E.V.E.R.S.T.O.N.E. banner can be completed thanks to our abundant supply of Schists & Amphibolite rocks. Then we shall have a feast for all of our neighbors, except, of course, the Blares. I can nearly smell the swine and beef cooking on the pit, boiled potatoes & carrots with your special sauce and wild berry pie.” EJ’s appetite has not diminished over the years.
“The tables are certainly large enough for a grand celebration.” Sally Jo recalls more details, construction of Everstone Legacy Summit, “I will never forget the hours spent mixing pine resin with charcoal & crushed, dry grass to seal and preserve the Loblolly lumber. How many people know all the ways pine trees can be used? Few I’d guess, but we have surely become experts.”
Thankful for the available natural resources, EJ adds, “The soil, rich with clay along with long grass leaves let us produce durable mud mortar. It has been a challenge, with only small rocks to work with, none larger than I could move. Arranging the rocks like a puzzle, learning from our failures and finally creating sturdy structures, we have certainly become experts.”
Sally Jo considers the official record, “I can not decide, in the Journal, whether to use the formal species name for the pine, Loblolly, or my own preference, Rosemary.”
“Rosemary seems appropriate to me.” After a moment EJ considers the future, “Still to build, the enclosure wall.”
“And after that, I think, enough rocks remain to add the pyramid you talked about.” Sally Jo knows the future of Legacy Summit may appear bleak at this moment, but she remains optimistic.
“Twenty five years and still more to build.” EJ recalls his original plan for the ridge and is reasonably happy with its slow, steady construction progress.
A dented hood waits to be transported by the motor it protects. Eldred will be staying with a friend, not traveling to West Virginia with EJ, Sally Jo and LE. Bam, the dog, name shortened from ‘Bark At the Moon’, keeping company with a neighbor until the Everstones return.
“Everstone Legacy Summit, famous someday, maybe. I have it’s history in the Journal, for future generations.” Sally Jo is proud of her work and proud of EJ. She picks up the last bag and straps it onto her strong shoulder, “We shall be back with the rain, this misery can’t last forever.” Encouragement, for EJ, and to remind herself, hope will help this ordeal considerably.
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Yokel Tavern.
Just past the Crawfordville, Georgia city limit, on Stephens Road, a lonely plot of Southern soil finds Yokel Tavern active every payday. Early for this bar, just after noon, the owner, Orville, has a customer at one of sixteen barstools. The eight tables have old, matching, wooden arm chairs on their tops, still inverted after a hasty sweeping of the peeling linoleum floor.
Logan Blare thinks of Orville as a friend and confidant, Orville thinks of Blare as just another dumb bumpkin with a drinking problem, a problem Orville is happy to exploit for profit. “One more, a little late won’t matter, the old woman gonna yell at me anyway.” Blare receives another shot of CS Whiskey. He mixes the drink and pitiful prediction with a dose of reality, “Not like it was when I met her, but she is a good cook and not too much trouble. No where else to go, so, guess I’ll keep her.”
“I would hope, by now, you would know how to control your woman.” Orville speaks with authority in tone alone as he has never been married and lives by himself. He agitates Logan, “That youngin’ o’ yours, well your former’s, is still a fine looker even though she’s what now, 40 maybe?” Orville knows Logan will hook onto his verbal bait, and he does catch the barstool sitter, like a fish, with an old memory.
Blare, defensively snorts, “I never did anything inappropriate with Sally Jo, just ask sheriff Cole, that’s what he said. Besides, was twenty five years ago, so, don’t matter much now.” Some had suspected the drinker of molesting Sally Jo when she was a girl.
Orville, a bit defensive himself, “Logan, all I said was she is fine, nothin’ else.” Thinking to make fun of Blare’s guilty reaction, labors the subject, “Your boy, from your first wife, wanted to court Sally Jo for a while as I recall. What if he had caught her? You married to the mother, and if your son married the daughter... sounds kinda close to inbreedin’.” Orville knows the idea, however wrong, would inspire another reaction from Blare.
“It ain’t like blood! Besides, decided he could do better, so he let the Everstone boy have her. Lewis never really went for Sally Jo, she was just to up-pity.” Logan expresses dismissively, “And the mother, as you call her, my second wife, as you well know, was killed in an accident, a long time ago.”
“Oh, sure, just like that.” Orville thinks his remark sarcastic but Logan heard understanding in the bar keeper’s voice.
Behind the bar, residing between bottles of gin on the right and vodka on the left, in a half-inch, 22-gauge chicken wire bundle, waits an old, homemade antique. Orville up-side-downs the sand timer. It often provides a cheap, interesting distraction, somehow better than the boring clocks advertising beer. “That old thing will tell you when it’s been an hour, Logan”. Not that an hour from now actually means anything to either of the men, but Orville hopes Logan might take it as unofficial permission to continue to drink and spend his money on watered-down liquor. “That hourglass has been here for I don’t know how long, old enough to be special.” Orville remembers his father giving him the thing many years ago.
The conversation pauses as a fellow Orville does not recognize enters the tavern. A sturdy man, looks to be under 50 years old, sits at the bar not far from Logan. He asks, “Can I get a beer?”
Never wanting to miss a sale, Orville seeks profit, “No tap yet, but we have cold imports, what would you like?” The gentleman wears casual clothes, but not as casual as most Yokel Tavern customers.
“Any cold one, I seem to like them all.” A welcome reply from the stranger. Orville has a few very expensive beers in his refrigerator.
“Let me get you a frosted mug with that, and chips.” Salty munchies help create thirst and sell more drinks. If this fellow has plenty of money, Orville wants as much as he can get of it. When he returns the barkeep decides to start a polite conversation. “I’m Orville, this is Logan, he tests that stool every day or two. What brings you here, friend?”
Logan ignores the stool testing comment, though is not very happy with Orville. Looking at the bowl of deep fried, crunchy, thin sliced delights, he wonders why only the stranger was offered the free treat.
“Just passing through. I have always wanted to see the Georgia pines. The hotel in town looked reasonable, so I stopped. My name is Carl, but my friends call me Cooky.” Carl Cook is driving to Dallas, Texas.
Even in casual clothes Orville sees tale tell signs of a military man; straight gig line, pressed shirt, short hair, “You look military to me, I’ll guess Army.”
Cooky replies, “Navy. 20 years, then got out before I got too old.” Cooky thinks he should try to start looking more like a civilian, to fit in with his new job. His drink begins to disappear in a hurry. Cooky notices the turned hour glass, “Got the clock running for something?”
“Luck, I guess.” Orville has no snappy answer for the sight of the activated sand timer.
“I had my good luck. Served a long while on a magical ship, the USS Michelle. She was always entertaining, and lucky.” Cooky remembers that unusual day, and still has hopes that no one was hurt.
Orville, remaining polite as the pale ale is vanishing, “Don’t think I know her, but I don’t know many. Carrier?”
Cooky replies, “Oh, goodness no. A little thing she was, just over 50 of us onboard, but so sweet. Still sweet to me. Interviewed for a new job last week and mentioned when I served on her. Not two minutes later, I got the job with Nash Industries and it pays pretty well.”
Orville, happy to hear his new customer has disposable assets, quests for another sale, “Well, we should drink to the lady, let me get you another.”
Cooky regrets, “So sorry, one is my limit. I have learned I drink too much when I drink more than one. Best of luck to you gentlemen, think I’ll get back to my hotel now, maybe see you again on my next trip through Georgia.” Cooky finishes his last drops of brew and leaves at tip. Not a bad tip, nothing for Orville to complain about, but of course, Orville always wants to make more money.
As the stranger exits, Logan reaches for the untouched potato chips. With two handfuls he eats most of them.
After pouring yet another drink for Logan, Orville resumes their conversation, “You coming to play tomorrow?” The drought has slowed business, hosting the poker game may help sell a few drinks. Orville expects the drought will end soon. The saloon man is happy about the slowing business, he enjoys working shorter days, for a while.
Logan Blare answers, “You clean that back room? I’m gonna guess, still smells like skunk from last week. Thirsty stinker got in when some fool did not slam the screen door shut.” Pointing a finger at Orville, he adds, “Seems management is too cheap to keep the place in good repaired.” Complaining, but really Logan is happy to have an adequate facility for weekly gambling.
With a handy retort, “You can see out the windows and know if any wives are coming to fetch a husband.” Orville, adds another sarcastic jab, “If you don’t like it, maybe you should play cards at Crawfordville Community Church on Sunday mornings.” Orville knows all the players want the weekly, low ante game, in the back room of Yokel Tavern, every Tuesday night.
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
As EJ and Sally Jo finish packing, she reflects, “Too bad you never found that Confederate gold. It would buy plenty of water and we could stay.” Sally Jo pretends there is a chance to get rich. She will be driving the truck. EJ should rest, as he is able, during the trip to West Virginia.
EJ thinks a bit smaller, “Right about now I would be happy enough to find a dollar bill in my pocket.” He guesses the story of the Confederate gold will haunt Georgia for another thousand years. “But I won’t, more likely to find a crow whistling Dixie.”
Sally Jo laughs at the thought of a musical rooster. Even in these difficult days, she finds EJ interesting. Hoping, without confidence, “Perhaps LE or his son, if he has one, will find that treasure.” Keeping the hope of wealth alive helps her cope with reality. However, the more she considers human nature the more she doubts. No Confederate soldiers would have protected the gold, more likely, they would have found a way to cleverly steal it.
EJ informs, “I hear the Blares are heading north too, like almost everybody else. They plan to wait it out at the Great Lakes. Plenty of fresh water there, enough for the bunch to make oodles of that hooch they crave so much.” Infamous stories of the Blares are told, neighbor-to-neighbor, for many miles.
“If it gets them by, fine with me, as long as they leave us alone.” Sally Jo’s history with the Blare’s has not been pleasant. “Life would be much better for everyone in Taliaferro County if they would leave permanently, preferably to someplace on the other side of the world. I would rather feel sympathy for folks in Australia than to feel sorrow for folks in Georgia.”
Very soon, the rusty transportation spurts to start, shakes and wanders away from the homestead.
January 21, 2061. Crawford, New York. Miller residence.
Brad, father and homeowner, does not stand as Ed, Brad’s son, enters the living room. “See you made it, roads will be closed soon.” Brad recalls, as a child, a hammered trash can lid, used to slide down hills with several of his friends. His childhood friends also had fun, homemade sleds. Now, nearly 40 years later, he does not find such juvenile exercise appealing, though he has stayed in contact with some of his slithering buddies.
Ed celebrated his 19th birthday last month. “Good thing we moved the firewood to the side porch, Dad. Clearing a path to the shed is becoming quite a chore after the first five storms this winter. It’s already six feet deep, more than I ever remember seeing before, and tiresome throwing every shovel full as high as I stand.” Ed removes his merino wool lined winter coat, a birthday gift from his father. Gentle illumination covers most of the room, fluorescence provided from a well-used lamp with a new bulb.
A native of Orange County, New York, Brad reflects, “I don’t recall this much snow before either, and I have seen many a nasty winter.” Soft, continuous ringing, which only he can hear, reminds Brad of a condition he has experienced for many years. Tinnitus, bothersome, but manageable. The father considers walking to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, but decides to wait. “Could find a worse time to be recovering from osteoarthritis surgery. No where to go in this weather, so, might as well stay here and rest.” Brad’s doctor has advised he should not stress the joint in his knee. “Did you get gas for your truck?”
Recalling an hour spent waiting in line at a station near Gardiner, New York, Ed answers, “Yes, yesterday.” Ed attends nearby State University of New York at New Paltz. “Expensive too, be happy to be back on my bike in the summer.” Though the 20 mile trip on rough roads is a bit far to ride to college on a regular basis, Ed’s favorite form of transportation and exercise is a used, long wheel base recumbent bicycle he purchase from a friend when he was a high school senior. “You want a cup?”
“Yes, please, and help yourself to that pie your mother made while you cut me a slice.” Brad is anticipating a treat. Ada’s homemade pie baked with locally grown Mcintosh apples and a mug of dark, rich, Brazilian coffee. The fruit, hand picked last September, had been preserved in hermetically sealed Mason jars. Now the harvest is an important ingredient along with sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and lemon juice.
After Ed prepares two plates of the pastry delicacies and two cups of coffee he returns to the living room, transporting the snack on a rectangular tray traditionally reserved for baking. “Where’s Mom?” Usually, Ed’s mother is accomplishing tasks around the house, especially after noon. The presence of the dessert accents her absence.
Brad adjusts the arm chair to a comfortable position. The chair sounds a dampened thud as it’s foot stool is lowered to the vertical position. “Taking a nap,” the senior Miller informs, “Tired from cooking. She prepared several meals for us to eat, easier now than when the power goes out.” The local electric power lines are above ground, exposed to the severe weather, so, a power outage is possible. “Your mother went to Lloyd’s grocery mid-week. Good thing she did because I hear there’s a run on food now, just like the gas.”
The younger Miller opens a collapsed, portable serving table, stored behind the arm chair, with his left hand, while holding the refreshments with his right. “And Vena?” Ed’s sister will graduate high school in the fall. An honors student, she would like to become a veterinary physician.
“In her room, studying.” Proud of his offspring, Brad is afraid the expense of college might be too much for the family. His job, managing a hardware store, pays reasonably well for the area, but tuition is stressful. His thoughts return to the storm as he confidently comments, “This home has stood for a 100 years, I’m sure it will survive another winter.”
Crawford, New York. Taylor residence.
Chuck, father and homeowner, does not stand as Sam, Chuck’s son, enters the living room. “Where have you been? I was afraid you would get stuck out there.” Chuck recalls, as a child, winters in Florida with his grandparents, swimming in the sun and enjoying the beach. Now, nearly 40 years later, he lives in New York because of his job.
Sam celebrated his 19th birthday last summer. After a year attending LIM College, New York, New York, he is spending a year, at least, away from studies. “I’m stuck here now.” Sam becomes bored easily. He is unhappy living at home and wants his father to pay for an apartment so Sam can live with his friends. Overhead lights brighten every room as the young fellow removes his heavy denim jacket. Chuck’s son is not happy to be home, but, he must be home because there is nowhere else to go in the storm.
Sam’s father attended high school in Miami, Florida. “Better here than on the roads, or worse.” Chuck considers following Sam as he walks towards the media room, but decides to wait. Recovering from a twisted ankle, Mr. Taylor’s doctor has advised he should not stress the sprain. A tingling sensation in Chuck’s hand also reminds of the recent racquetball mishap. Sam is about to disappear, to seek entertainment, “Did you get gas for your car?”
A second later, unseen, speaking from the nearby room as an eighty five inch video unit displays the manufacturer’s splash screen, Sam replies, “No, line to long, I didn’t want to wait.” Mature multiplayer video games, bright and loud, consume much of Sam’s time. His online peers include many with unique usernames. ‘Smashdash2047’, ‘Ibtheshe00001’, ‘Killnlaughing’ and ‘Mercynicht’ are not otherwise identified; Apparently, all old enough to play as credit card information is required to pay for premium content. Sam has been using his father’s credit card for many years.
Changing his mind and against his better judgment, Chuck lifts himself from the Eames Lounge Chair and slowly limps to the media room. “You could be a bit more helpful around here you know, I’m not getting around very well.” Chuck is disappointed with his son. He wishes Sam would be less egocentric and show more concern for the rest of the family members.
“Where’s Mom?” Sam asks as usually, Amy attends to his father. Chuck’s constant nagging and complaining is usually tempered by her presence.
“Taking a nap, tired from her meeting.” Amy belongs to the Orange County Modern Committee, a local political group with a catchy slogan, ‘Very old values for a brand new tomorrow’. Lately, she has been helping to plan a special fundraiser dinner party, there are many preparations to be made. Chuck thinks the group pretentious and his wife wastes too much effort on napkin colors & centerpieces.
“And Jeanette?” Careful not to say, Sam disparagingly thinks of his father as a whiny infant. To his mind, his sister, Jeanette, is the second best baby sitter for his father. Jeanette will graduate high school in the fall, maybe. Her grades have been poor this year. She wants to become a fashion designer but does not want to attend LIM College like Sam. Though LIM is a fine fashion industry institution, she believes too many girls and not enough men attend.
Chuck does not bother to reply. Sam does not really care about his sister, a reply would be wasted words. Chuck is concerned for his new house, the first and only one in a brand new, large, secluded development. Eleven months after construction, drainage is a problem. The foundation leaks water into the basement on rainy days and when snow melts.
January 24, 2061. Crawford, New York. Miller residence.
Two large candles light the kitchen table as Ada prepares breakfast. Flame flares adequately for this first meal of a new day. Quiet, but for the crackling of burning wood, the scant scent of hot, melting butter teases appetites. Brad and Ed are seated in old, classic, Shaker, walnut chairs. Vena emerges from her room, “The signal is not strong, but I’m getting some information.” The meal, cooked in two cast-iron frying pans on top of the stove is dished onto everyday, translucent, porcelain plates.
Brad hopes for good news, but does not really expect to hear a positive weather forecast from his daughter. “Please tell me it’s about to end, Vena.” Though happy all are well and enjoying each other, he does miss the convenience of constant electrical power.
Vena, in a thick, organic wool nightgown, informs, “More to it than just the weather. Do you remember how County Executive Paris Salison bragged last year about saving money by storing less road treatment and cutting back on plow trucks? Well, she saved too much it seems, there is a shortage of salt and sand. Many other Hudson Valley counties and most of the local municipalities followed her lead, so, they also have used all stored road treatment for the winter. More to be supplied after the politicians finish bickering about paying for it. The governor says it is a local issue but the counties, cities and towns are depleted of funds. This cold winter has exhausted budgets.” Vena is clearly disappointed with the local and state governments. Her charcoal black hair is secured at the back of her head with a hairclip.
Ed rolls his eyes. “So they are going to quit clearing the roads?” Ed’s university sweater is comfortable, he wears it with pride.
After a quick sip from her warm coffee cup, Vena informs, “Worse that that. Now that the snow has turned to freezing rain, get use to it, for another two days or more. If the roads are not treated before the temperature drops to twenty degrees the salt can not melt the ice. Calcium chloride will have to be added to the salt and that’s expensive, more fuel for the who-pays-for-it debate.” Vena is happy to be warm and she is grateful the power outage has not dramatically impacted the Millers.
Brad contemplates the news as Ada serves breakfast in warm, fuzzy slippers. “What’s that you said, Vena, about at least two more days? Could it last longer?” Brad asks, her comment caught his attention. As he waits for Vena to reply, Brad briefly considers borrowing against the equity of the home in order to pay for her college tuition. Interest on the loan would be a worthwhile investment.
Consuming a generous portion of hash browns, Vena, wise for a young age, interrupts her meal, “A low pressure system with plenty of moisture coming East. If the cold air remains in place, near the ground, we could get even more freezing rain and ice.” Knowing her words would not be received well, she has verbalized the concern and now hopes the conversation changes to another topic.
Brad, a cautious fellow, advises, “We have conserved reasonably well, but maybe we should conserve a little bit more. We don’t use the generator for much, but using it only twice a day would save fuel. Also, more candles and fewer flashlights. Though we had the chimney sweep clean last September, no more creosote from this old stove than necessary, a fire would not help at all. I think, bottle a few gallons of water just in case the pipes freeze. We have plenty of clothes to keep us warm, let’s keep the house cool but comfortable.” His instant checklist complete, Brad is planning for the worst.
Crawford, New York. Taylor residence.
Two large flashlights, each with 9 volt, square batteries, shoot light into the kitchen. Cold cereal and cool milk provides sustenance as Chuck and Amy discuss the storm. Seated on bar stools at the kitchen counter, Chuck informs, “The signal is not very strong, but I’m getting some information.” His pod is hastily discharging power.
Amy hopes for good news, “Please tell me it’s about to end.” Amy is sorry the stove uses electricity, a gas stove can be lit with a lighter.
Chuck, in his favorite black T-shirt and pocketless sleeping pants, “Sorry, two more days of it and they are having difficulty clearing the roads. A budget problem, I gather.” He does not mention that the storm could possibly last longer than two days.
“How am I going to get to my meeting tomorrow if they don’t clear the roads?” Amy is upset, her important schedule might be altered. The mother of two considers herself a sophisticated woman, a local socialite. She is not concerned with the budget problem. She thinks, ‘funds are always found for emergencies, that’s just how the government works’. Her blonde hair is tied away from her face, for convenience.
After sipping his orange juice, Chuck informs, “I’m sure it will be canceled along with everything else. The roads are impassable.” This long stay inside has Brad impatient, wanting to go somewhere, just about anywhere, for a break. Brad finds Amy, Sam and Jeanette, exasperating.
Jeanette joins her parents, not happy about being away from her friends, especially her male friends. She is upset, “When are we going to get the electric back, it’s so boring without it.” Her pink sweatshirt displays black print, ‘You don’t make enough money for ME!’ Speckled nail polish peeking from soft sandal slippers does not match the red lacquer flashing at the ends of her fingers. She is not sure exactly how, but she wants to be attractive to older men.
Chuck predicts more bad news will not be well received, “They say there might be a system-wide pressure shortage with the gas supply, everyone should use as little as possible in order to help maintain the system. So, we need to turn down the heat. Our furnace is designed to light the gas even without electric power, it has a battery back up for the electronic ignition. Just wear more clothes. I’m going to put on a heavy sweater and two pairs of socks.” His voice, he hopes, exudes a tone of authority as he orders the conservation of heating fuel.
A quick stumble into the kitchen announces Sam. He has secretly been monitoring the conversation from the now quite media room; partially because he is interested, partially because he has nothing else to do. With a nasty quality, he snorts, “Oh no, that’s stupid. It’s cold enough, I’m not going to bundle up in the house. Let other nitwits shiver, it’s bad enough for me the way it is!” Tired of the boring storm, Sam, with a scowl, exits as quickly as he arrived. He has, in a huff, made his demand, not to conserve, know.
Chuck addresses Amy, “I’ll turn the heat down and close off the two spare bedrooms as well as the den. Sam can put on more clothes when he gets cold.” Unlike many past episodes, Sam’s tantrum is ignored. Chuck walks to the thermostat and turns the control dial to the left.
Jeanette also displays a scowl, much like the expression on Sam’s face just a few seconds past.
Orange County Community Hospital, Newburgh, New York
Victor Vanderbilt, nurse manager at OCCH, has reviewed preparations for the expected onslaught of patients, as soon as roads are passable. His light weight, cable-knit, shawl cardigan sweater, hidden well beneath a thick, white wool uniform, helps provide warmth in the cool hospital halls.
Emergency generators are working well, communications systems are in place. The OCCH Emergency Room is equipped to treat multiple hypothermia cases. Victor also suspects many other conditions will arrive related directly or indirectly due to restricted travel including patients suffering long periods without prescribed medications, trauma, heart disease and strokes.
Stockpiled medical supplies & pharmaceuticals crowd storage rooms and the laboratory is staffed with capable technicians. Supplies of food and water, abundant.
Sleeping arrangements have been organized for the staff, the hospital has a few unoccupied rooms, so, for now, all may sleep in shifts. This new facility, near Stewart Air Force Base, is well designed with easy ambulance access from Interstate Route 84.
All that is needed are the patients.
Until the storms ends, Victor and the hospital staff will wait as they can not leave the hospital. The next few days will weigh heavily on all health care providers in the region.
Victor considers the contrast, this disaster and the pandemic of 2051. Now, they know the worst is to come. Then, they did not know when the worst would end.
He has time, a call to his old friend seems appropriate. “Candice, Victor, sorry I did not catch you. I guess this message will have to be well enough. I’m trapped here in New York by the ice, we are waiting to see many in the ER over the next few days... Reminds me of ’51... Hope you are well and warm in Sacramento.”
January 27, 2061. Crawford, New York. Miller residence.
An old fashioned game, invented by a fellow from nearby Poughkeepsie, New York, entertains as the hours pass. Scrabble is interesting and challenging, though the rules are occasionally disputed. Brad and Ed are finishing play for the morning as Vena delivers more news about the ice storm. “They estimate sixty to seventy percent of Hudson Valley homes are now without heat. Gas service has been interrupted by low pressure in the utility system, service personnel are unable to complete repairs due to the ice. Some who filled their oil tanks before the storm are running out of fuel. Emergency rooms are empty because travel is impossible, though no doubt, many folks need to seek medical attention. Another day before the freezing rain and ice stops completely, a few more days before the roads are clear for driving. Weeks, possibly, before power is restored.” No smiles appear, all feel pity for their freezing neighbors.
Brad is happy to be warm and healthy, his ability to walk has improved, his knee is recovering, “You use to be my favorite daughter.” They all laugh, Vena is Brad’s only daughter. After a quick pause, Brad adds, “And you still are.” Addressing Ed, “Have I told you in the last hour how happy I am that you stocked us with so much firewood last summer?” Clearly, the Millers were well prepared for the storm.
Ed, answers, “It was your idea, Dad.”
Outside, air is completely still. No breeze. Temperature holds, a record low for the region. Small rain drops, barely visible as they fall, continue to freeze and accumulate. Roads are covered with four inches of rock hard ice. The glaze prevents all vehicles from negotiating pathways which were filled with traffic just a few days ago. Truck operators wait to spread salt & sand when the temperature rises. Expensive chemical road treatments are not available, they were lost in the political budget battle.
Vena, frowning with sorrow, completes her delivery of information, “The ice has collapsed some structures, homes and institutions. I so wish we could do something to help those poor, desperate people.”
Ada, trying to cheer her husband, son and daughter, “We still have choices for a hot lunch, what shall we eat?”
Crawford, New York. Taylor residence.
Chuck, Amy, Jeanette and Sam quietly sit, bundled in layers of winter clothes and gloves. Sam’s car is nearly empty of fuel. No conversation is needed as their status is obvious, they are in extraordinarily, serious trouble. The furnace no longer heats the house, warmth ceased due to the lack of natural gas. Yesterday, in the garage with the garage door partially open, they sat in Chuck’s automobile, a full sized, powerful, luxury sedan, until the engine stopped. Then they sat in Amy’s sport utility vehicle. Before the gasoline was completely exhausted, they wisely rolled Amy’s SUV forward so jumper cables could be used to start Sam’s car. Though chipping ice away from the hood latch and door handles required great effort, they managed to start the machine Sam had used for transportation last Friday. Now desperate, they start and run the engine in short intervals, stopping for minutes at a time, conserving every drop they are able of combustible liquid energy. When Sam’s engine no longer runs, they will be very, very cold.
The Taylors have been without warm food for nearly a week. Now, they have no food at all.
Chuck considers walking to find help, though he does not know where aid can be found. He knows, if he were to go, his steps would be very slow, slipping on the thick ice with every movement. He also knows, if he were to become injured he could freeze, lying outside on the ground for hours, maybe days. The sprain, his twisted ankle, aches.
Alive and miserable, the Taylors wait. No one speaks the terrifying thought, but all think the terrifying thought. They could die in this horrible disaster.
Febuary 17, 2061, APWBC Report.
Attorney Theodore Wheir Sr., on a short trip away from home with a friend who is comfortable wearing only Ted’s shirt, listens as he learns over 212,000 were injured or killed by the recent, enormous, freak ice storm in the eastern United States. It was an extraordinary natural catastrophe. Deaths were due to lack of medical attention, freezing and even starvation as so many roads, especially in the Hudson Valley, were not passable for several days. He thinks it a good thing, he will continue to be paid, collecting interest from the fund. The 100 Year Wager, continues.
August 14, 2069. Bethel, New York.
“Epic.” Betty describes, in one word. “Paradise and Utopia I also hear often, it is a very pleasant habitat.” Betty has a rough, wintered face worn around a broad smile. “Elysium, name from ancient Greeks.” The VIP tour group listens as Betty suggests, “Look at Center Station. A ways away but on a clear day, like this one, you can see it from anywhere in the park. However, some of the other entrances are not visible, partly because of the slope, the slow upward grade.” A bright green, short sleeve shirt sporting the Elysium logo identifies Betty as staff. “Actually, some special bureaucrat officially named it Cynosure, but normal people call it Center Station. Some birds call it home.” Betty is lighthearted in her description of the distinguishing features of Elysium.
“Here, near North Gate, we see one of the four performance stages. As the summer sun sets, it is to the rear of the audience, thus it’s name, Eventide Stage. Sister, near the south gate, is Aurora Stage.” Betty appears happy though secretly wishes she could retire. The warm days wear hard on her thick frame. “Eventide is the largest man-made stage in the world, just inches larger than Aurora. These are the two main stages. Orient East & Occident West, are slightly smaller stages. During performances, audio is broadcast for those with suitable listening devices. The total area of Elysium’s landscape can accommodate just over one million people.”
“Now, for the obvious. Elysium is surrounded by a man-made moat, Circle River. The thick castle wall of Circle River unfurls 40 feet skyward. Outside of the wall, the water-filled bayou is 40 feet deep and 80 feet wide. It keeps the bad out, where it belongs. Peace and love inside.” The tour guide’s hands are graphic, emphasizing size and emotion. “Support services like a small hospital, electric power plant, water & sewage system, parking and such are located in Deliverance Village which surrounds Circle River.”
Bob quietly unloads a box carried to the gathering by a bright red shuttle car. “You have those maps, Bob?” Betty asks and Bob replies with a smile as he puts the thumb of his right hand up into the air. “And the propaganda material?” The assembled group laughs at the word ‘propaganda’. Again, Bob replies with a smile and puts the thumb of his right hand up into the air. Betty asks, “Lunch?” Bob replies with a frown and puts the thumb of his right hand down towards the ground. “That’s Bob, my husband, he talks too much.” The group laughs again, she is fun. “We will ride the shuttle to lunch when I’m finished boring you with more details than you want to hear. Great news for you folks, they make excellent bologna sandwiches!”
The fact spewing continues as Betty informs, “The fact spewing continues! Each of the 8 entrances shoulders a very large, ornate gate. Only support vehicles are allowed through the gates. Guests walk, or more often, ride shuttle trains to enter. These gates, as large as they be, are operated on a regular basis. It is part of the show, but I’m ‘spose to say it is for security readiness, whatever that means.”
“Express shuttle is the B Line, The local shuttle is the A Line. Kind of appropriate don’t you think? B Line as in ‘b’, ‘e’, ‘e’ line, perfect name for the express. It makes 4 stops at North, South, East and West Gates. The A Line stops at all 8 gates and Center Station. As you probably already know, both lines have their own electric rails. The park has three B line trains and four A Line trains. Also, 8 trains which cross Circle River, through the gates, to the parking lots and Deliverance Village, but who would ever want to leave?” As Betty shows enthusiasm, some in the tour wonder if it genuine. “And of course, we also have battery powered shuttle cars, like the one that did not bring us lunch.” Betty places her hands on her hips and stares for a moment at Bob, acting upset, part of her humor.
Betty resumes her information duties, “You may have noticed, not so many trees. Mostly, Elysium is one very large plain. The grass is a special type, it grows thick, quick and short, less than three inches in the spring, so, maintenance is relatively easy. Drainage is excellent throughout, rainwater and melting snow feeds water into Circle River. 1001 grounded lightning rods to help insure we don’t get zapped, even so, some events are postponed due to weather.”
Two fellows wearing Elysium Security shirts approach. The youngest security guard addresses Betty, “It’s time.”
Betty, with her best worried expression blurts, “Bob did it!” as if a criminal act had been committed and they were on a mission to take someone away. Resuming her composure, “Every twenty four hours, at noon, these two brutes turn the thing over so that we know another day has passed. Two of these monster-sized hourglasses live in the park, one here and the other at South gate. With steel bases and steel enclosures they contain two hundred pounds of sand each. Anybody want to help?” None offers to help rotate the timepiece, partially because it is so large, partially because they fear another silly Bettyism. “Sorry brutes, you get to do it all by yourselves.” The security personnel gently rock the device on its axles. In a few seconds the unit becomes upright, locked in place and resumes another day of sand dripping through it’s neck. “Well, that looked easy, maybe I have the wrong job!”
Gesturing towards Center Station, Betty reads from a brochure, “Cynosure, also known as Center Station, is a three story structure. The lower floor has no enclosed walls and is open to the public. This lower floor contains vendors for food & souvenirs as well as the central first aid station, which supports the first aid stations located near each performance stage. The second floor is not open the public, it hosts support facilities not found in Deliverance Village.” Departing from the brochure, she half whispers, “Offices for the uppity mucky-mucks.” Resuming her reading, “The upper floor is an enclosed observation deck, also not open to the public. With the aid of telescopes, staff can view all of Elysium and many parts of Deliverance Village.” Departing from the brochure, Betty adds, “Politicians and celebrities are invited up there, if they promise to behave. President Tyler and some of his staff visited a couple of years ago, Senator Chumer took a look around last month.”
Continuing, without reading, Betty adds, “For the do’s and don’ts, don’ts first. The prohibited list is short but vigorously enforced. During events, no burning fossil fuels & no guns. Do bring in what you can manage to carry as long as what you bring is not dangerous. Exceptions to the carry-in limit are often granted. Keep your vices discreet, be nice to children and old folks, like me. A little common sense goes a long ways. Do enjoy, that is absolutely a requirement! After dark, thousands of LED lights provide illumination for walkways. Carefully placed, soft overhead lighting eliminates darkness in isolated areas.” Pointing to public bathrooms, Betty adds, “Plenty of sparkly clean outhouses, well, I won’t go into details about personal relief. Any questions?”
A curious visitor asks, “How large is Elysium?” Betty replies “Huge. Big, really big as performance venues go. Exactly how big? I don’t know, I’m only the tour guide.”
Another curious visitor asks, “Will you be here for the festival?”
“Of course!” Betty assures, “Just as a civilian though, I took leave for the event. My great, great grandmother attended The Woodstock Music & Art Fair 100 years ago and the story of her adventure has been passed down through the generations. I will be celebrating her memory, here at the west side of Eventide Stage, if you want to find me. The concerts at the other stages promise to be great too, all celebrating the original Woodstock Festival. I will suggest, bring an umbrella just in case, and come early, the concerts are anticipated to bring many, many people.”
Betty concludes, “Anybody hungry? Let’s take the A line and have lunch at Center Station!” A pleasant, sunny day covers the massive, open paradise of Elysium. “You can come too, Bob.” Betty adds while rolling her eyes. The tour group boards the A train, bound for Cynosure, Center Station.
August 17, 2069. White House.
Kay Relly, director of White House media operations, sitting behind an only camera, coordinates. Precise timing is critical as she begins, by the second, count down to queue. Clearly she speaks, “Mr. President, in 5, 4, 3,” then silently signals 2 & 1 with her left hand. President Solomon Tyler, with obvious concern cast on his face, conveys prepared text as this live broadcast transmits around the globe.
“The Oval Office has seen many serious days, none more dire than this. This morning I ordered an area in the State of New York near Bethel, located in Sullivan County, to be isolated. This area includes Elysium Park. A dangerous, deadly virus has appeared. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to discover an effective means to combat it. Of course, I very much regret leaving those who are not yet exposed in the isolation area. If you are there, please be assured, we are committing all available resources, however, no person may leave. All exits are blocked by law enforcement agencies. Food, clean water, antiviral drugs and other supplies will be delivered by the Air Force, dropped into the area with parachutes.” The President continues to express his sorrow concerning the situation and assures dedication to address the epidemic as completely as possible. The President specifically does not include important facts in his address, his advisors fear doing so may cause widespread panic in the Northeast. As the broadcast returns to individual media organizations, staff in the White House Situation Room are developing plans. The isolation area is now known as The Zone. It includes Elysium and Deliverance Village. The virus is spreading quickly, the plague is killing at an alarming rate.
Moments after the address, Doctor James L. Wilbur, Jr., leading a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, team investigating possible methods to confront the crisis, delivers information to the White House staff. “Though we call it a virus, really, we only know it as a pathogen. As best we are able to determine, this pathogen possesses the ability to exist on any surface, in the air, or of course, inside of hosts. Infection occurs with any contact. Natural immunity does not prevent the virus from reproducing and fatality rate appears to be 100%. As you know, Department of Homeland Security closed the Elysium gates when the prerequisite threshold of observed activity required those procedures to be implemented. Also, State Police blocked all exits from Deliverance Village. So, fortunately, for containment, The Zone is a relatively remote geographic area. Unfortunately, there are many people in The Zone. We are confident the pathogen has not been transported away from the isolated area. In fact, we are 99% confident the virus has not been transported outside of Elysium park, it is likely contained within the surrounding wall as there are no reports of the virus in Deliverance Village. Also, I will recommend the internal Elysium shuttles be immobilized. At least we can try to delay spreading the pathogen inside of Elysium via infected persons.”
Doctor Wilbur continues, “This is the perfect bug, a super flu, unprecedented in human history. A natural mutation as current scientific knowledge does not exist to produce any similar microorganisms. We expect a vaccine can not be developed before all in Elysium Park have become infected. We are confident the pathogen is at least as heavy as air, so, it will not likely elevate into the atmosphere and escape over the walls of Elysium without propulsion. Also, the pathogen, like all pathogens, can not survive at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit.” Doctor Wilbur finishes, “We are considering all methods to address this crisis, however, to be honest, none look even remotely promising.”
Paul Bundy, Secretary of Defense, calls the Elysium grounds to encourage the local administrator. “Elisha Cerberus, excellent work. You are a fine, dedicated member of Homeland Security. You followed procedures exactly as planned. Now, it is important that you continue to help us so that we can find a fix for this mess.” Bundy, an experienced politician instructs Elisha, “I know it looks bad there, and probably look much worse very soon, but no matter what happens, keep those gates closed! We will be able to help best if the virus is contained inside the walls of Elysium.”
“Yes, sir.” Elisha has taken charge at Elysium. He is determined to follow orders.
The 100th anniversary of Woodstock Music & Art Fair Festival, planned as a three day event, is now in it’s second day. A volunteer at the North Gate first aid station, Mrs. Blara Carton is equipped with a dust mask, hoping it might offer some protection from the virus. This brave, smart lady stands in the heart of terror, asking questions and collecting clues. The rotting smell of not yet buried dead, bleeding blisters of terminal infection and pleading of recently diseased victims combine to distract Blara Carton from her newly self-appointed duty as on-site epidemiologist. She does not know if there are others at this scene attempting to trace the origins of the disease, however, she realizes the importance of doing so.
An older gentleman states, “We both know it is too late for me, probably you too.” Arlo, dressed in 1969 period attire as he addresses the first aid worker, “We can’t even leave, they have us trapped. The president has us in a quarantine.” Coughing, with welts on his arms, the fellow sits, nearly falling, to the ground.
“Please, tell me, did you...” Blara stops in mid-thought as she sees Arlo, suddenly unconscious, lie on his left side next to another man in the same condition. Desperate, vulnerable and unequipped to help, Mrs. Carton hears shouting in the distance; cries for help and expressions of rage. Soon, another person grasps her arm, trying not to fall. The tug weighs so much, not on her arm but on her mind as Mrs. Carton realizes her life might end in the calamity very soon. She makes no more attempts to aid anyone with medical care, clearly, to late for that noble notion as there exists no means to do so. No medical supplies remain, they have all been consumed. Even a simple clean cloth cannot be found in this sea of agony. Blara removes her identification tag, no point in wearing it any longer.
Blara Carton’s dust mask is stolen, snatched by a strong, scared, foolish young man. Almost toppled, she regains her upright position to see the shirtless thief stumble away. Sores on his back, torment in his future, she realizes her spirit is breaking. She calls to him as he slips into the crowd, an instant reaction not fitting her nature, “Keep the mask, wrong color for me anyway.” As soon as the words escape her lips Blara regrets her outburst. The young fellow is afraid, surely terrified considering this awfulness. Shaming him does not help, shaming him only hurts. He shall likely die, very soon.
Elysium. Somehow the name now seems weirdly appropriate.
“I saw the beginning.” A girl comments, maybe old enough to be a college student, as she approaches the first aid station. Wearing a red bandanna on long black hair with a tie-dye shirt and brand new faded blue jeans, Blara is not sure of her condition. Maybe she is stoned on a marijuana high, considering the plight, lucky for her. Maybe the girl is sick, or, maybe both. The girl looks as though she is searching for someone to talk with.
So many dying, nothing to be done, Mrs. Carton decides to try to help this young lady enjoy a few seconds to remember the music, as they may be a few of the final seconds in her short life. Blara makes quick small talk, “The first act, great Havens, intense guitar.”
“No, not that, the sickness”. Unexpectedly, this would-be hipster in heavy brown sandals is about to offer just the information Blara has been searching to discover. “They were eating cookies. A fat, old woman with a North Dakota T-shirt was telling everyone how she made them with Ganja.” Displaying a disappointed half frown, half smirk she adds, “They were gone before I could get any.”
Blara, very interested now, quizzes, “Why do you say it was the beginning of the sickness? Those cookies are usually pretty harmless.” A warm breeze distracts the conversation for a semi-second as a new friendship is evolving. The experienced humanitarian suspects she knows the answer to her own question, but waits to hear words from her new acquaintance.
“Just the last thing I remember before all those people, the ones around the old woman, got ill.”
Her answer anticipated, an important clue to the origins of the trouble. But how? How did a northern female feeding sweets to strangers manage to acquire and transport such a deadly virus? Thinking there might be more information, Blara continues to quiz, “Do you know anything else about the fat woman with the cookies?”
“Yeah, she was old.” The girl is so very serious, almost comically so but for the nature of her information. Not understanding the potential impact of her knowledge, knowledge which might help save hundreds, thousands or even millions of lives, the mouth under the bandanna surrounded by black hair reveals, “Really old, like over 50 years old.” Then innocently, the young girl asks, “You got anything for this rash?” She questions, touching her inquisitor’s arm while showing her own, displaying a tattoo in the shape of a heart encasing the word “Bobby.”
“So sorry, no, but I hope you stay well.” A wish for luck. The older volunteer reaches for her pod to send a message. Blara Carton is confident, CDC experts will want to know about the woman and the cookies as they conduct their investigation. Knowing the source of the virus will be instrumental in discovering effective treatment. Grateful to have met the girl, Mrs. Carton understands there are more facts to discover. One of her concerns is that she has not been able to determine why some victims manifest symptoms more quickly than others. Illumination of this mystery could assist in understanding immunity, if any, to the virus. A reliable associate, who would also be very interested, is to be trusted to convey the message. As fast as she is able, Blara contacts Antonio Acalia, Andy, senior production supervisor, APWBC.
Outside of the Elysium walls, across the divide of Circle River, APWBC live reporter Dan Walters broadcasts to the world, “We are outside of Deliverance Village, in contact with Mayor Jonah Lynch. Mayor Lynch, the virus is killing inside of Elysium and this entire area is isolated. How many people have been infected outside of the gates?”
Mayor Lynch replies, “No one is infected. Not in the hospital, not anywhere outside of the Circle River wall. The virus has been effectively contained. Folks here are alarmed, but calm. We are frustrated, we can do nothing. We remain optimistic, help will arrive soon.”
Ithaca, New York.
Just 17 years of age, Carie Murie is working as an assistant with the Renewable Fuels Research and Development Team at Cornell University. They are searching for an efficient, environment friendly process to produce new biomass fuel as a clean alternative to fossil fuels. This centuries old quest, searching for a means to harness practical, powerful, portable energy, along with her academic studies, has many of Carie’s days spent hidden in a brick building at the edge of the hilly campus. A typical Ivy League student, she has few hours for extra activities, however, Carie is a member of University Chorus and especially enjoys singing ‘The Messiah’.
During this day of collecting specimen results, miss Murie returns to her modest, shared apartment for a break. A fit young brunette with a scant social life, she is attractive, enthusiastic and kind-hearted. While at her residence she views and hears the President’s unexpected address. Carie tells her close and trusted roommate, “I never expected this would happen, such a disease is difficult to imagine and even less likely to appear.” The honors student reveals a secret, “Mark, my grandfather was Ian Iden. Do you know what that means?”
Mark Bradley, son of Barbara Bradley, answers, “I know about Ian Iden! My mother told me all about him. He was one of the 100 Year Wager billionaires, he owned M.I.I., one of those who inspired JAM. I did not know you were related, why did you not tell me?”
Almost in tears, “I want my history to go away, so I keep it secret. Mark, you know I am a much different person than my grandfather, he was a terrible person, so I don’t tell anyone. Who wants to be know as the granddaughter of a monster?” The incredible events have the young lady in a frenzy now that a deadly virus might kill a million people within 30 days. “The 100 Year Wager is still active and I am certainly in a terrible bind. No matter what happens with the wager, there will be so many people who will want revenge, who will hate me, who will want me dead because of the blood money!” She speaks aloud in panic, “What can I do? Where can I hide?” Miss Murie’s pulse and blood pressure rapidly elevate to levels which would be dangerous for an older or unhealthy person. A suddenly crimson complexion and two tightly held, empty, clutched hands express very real alarm.
The sudden story combined with her panic has Mark rapidly deciding what he should do next. He is ashamed as he thinks about running away, leaving his friend alone and distancing himself from her troubles. Mark dismisses his cowardly thought and decides to comfort Carie, “Nobody can hold you responsible for your grandfather’s sins, he was dead before you were born.” Thinking the words silly as he speaks, his observation is obvious to Carie. “Calm down Carie, there is something we can do.”
A very disturbing thought, her own curse for being intelligent, “What if they think I somehow developed the virus? Of course, that is impossible, but do disturbed people know that? Does even the average person realize there is no way I or anybody else could create such a thing? How can it be proven that the disease is a natural?” Realizing how she now needs to carefully guard her words, “Oh, me claiming the disease is natural, that sounds so bad! Mark, this will ruin my life!”
Hearing this outburst, Carie Murie’s roommate, Mark, is scared, for her and even a bit, for himself. He does not say anything but is wondering if he might be thought guilty by association. As much as he would like to deny the truth, there really are many very disturbed people, too many.
“Let’s not assume the worst, after all, your relationship to your grandfather has not been made public, yet.” Mark takes a short pause, a quick thought, “Carie, you don’t care about the money from the wager, so represent yourself on a national broadcast before the press puts spin on it. Pledge to use all the money from the 100 Year Wager for the victims, if you receive it. Show the world who you are as a person.” He adds, “You are separated from your grandfather as you are third generation. Act quickly and you will be able to defy your grandfather’s legacy.”
Though afraid, Carie soon agrees. Really, there is no choice. Immediate, complete transparency, she decides, is the only way to proceed. She asks Mark, “Please, help me contact APWBC?” Carie Murie’s thoughts bounce like a ball in short spurts between concern for the victims and fear for herself.
“Of course.” Mark makes a call. “Mom, help!”
Within minutes of hearing Doctor Wilbur’s analysis, President Tyler contacts Vice President Chester Hayes. “Chester, I need you to address the United Nations and be available to the media, my presence is required here at the White House.” President Tyler has another reason to assign Vice President Hayes as the face & voice of the government during the development of this emergency, though Tyler does not explain. “You shall be updated as data becomes available.”
“Mr. President,” responds Hayes, “I think I should be in Washington, there will be so many operations to coordinate when a treatment is discovered. Delivery of medical care, emergency housing, clean water, transportation and more. Cabinet members are certainly experienced, they can do a fine job reassuring the public.” Hayes, a veteran politician, realizes this event is of sensitive political concern and he wants to appear as a leader.
“No.” The President replies in a stern voice sounding like it a direct order. “The circumstances are such that we need the highest possible authority to manage public relations. The Security Counsel is waiting for you, do a great job.” Tyler leaves no question, Hayes’s role has been cast.
President Tyler meets with Paul Bundy, Secretary of Defense. “Paul, I want to make very clear to you and all involved with this operation, this decision, how to proceed, is entirely mine. No one else has any responsibility. Authorization will be by my executive order”. Tyler, grim and resolute, “We will be conducting a covert military operation, its operational code name shall be Canaan Aid. The pathogen cannot be allowed to exit The Zone, it must be eradicated completely. Millions, even billions of lives are at risk.” Both Secretary of Defense Bundy and the President are familiar with contingency planning for hundreds of possible scenarios, including deadly, fast spreading pathogens.
Bundy understands the difficult problem, “I know. If the virus spreads to any airport, train station or even a bus station, infection will become uncontrollable, an unacceptable disaster. Not only is the United States at risk, the entire world will see the infection spread and kill. The longer we wait, the more likely the disease will escape Elysium.” Secretary Bundy confirms the President’s logic. Paul Bundy fears the worst.
“Paul, I see no other course of action.” Secretary Bundy listens carefully as the President emphasizes his next sentences. “Unless you have a better idea, at this very moment, do it. Burn all.”
“I can offer no better solution, it is the only course of action which will protect the people, sir.” Mr. Bundy, realizes he has just been ordered to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to save millions or maybe billions more. Canaan Aid will be a classified undertaking, a secret until the mission is complete. Only directly involved military personnel will be allowed to know of the campaign.
Like other powerful persons, President Tyler has long since reached his maximum asset limit as established by JAM. He knows the power of the President is the power of those who elect the President. A subject of interest for many, power of the presidency is now, due to JAM, always democratically granted and never influenced by the wealth of a few. However, President Tyler also instinctively knows what the political consequences of this event will be. The consequences will be devastating. His political base will be unforgiving. An executive order to slaughter so many people, mostly U.S. citizens, will be remembered for decades and blamed on him. A bloodbath of this magnitude will define the era.
Paul Bundy and the President leave the Oval office to finalize strategic details with The Joint Chiefs of Staff. Soon, the basement of the White House’s West Wing is in full Command & Control mode. Communications with U.S. armed forces are utilized to monitor and instruct military personnel tasked to execute this largest-ever exercise of violence in the United States. Though the virus will neutralize many, several in The Zone will not become infected for an undetermined period.
An array of weapons shall be used to execute operation Canaan Aid. The attack will begin with squadrons of bombers from nearby Stewart Air Force Base. Stewart also serves as the nation’s storage facility for incendiary weapons. Cameras will relayed images via satellite; graphic, complete, detailed observations. Super parabolic microphones will capture every nuance as the blitz unfolds. President Tyler, Paul Bundy, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and support personnel are present, at the White House, to witness the historic assault.
Empty, the shuttle trains have stopped. Though the audio broadcast system for the Park assures help arriving soon, a few thousand people realize how deadly the virus has become and decide to try to escape. Armed with improvised tools, pieces of equipment from Eventide Stage and anything else they are able to use, including bare hands, they attempt to break through North Gate. Elysium, designed to symbolically protect those inside from troubles outside is now a stockade, preventing the deadliest of troubles from passage to the world beyond Circle River. Hundreds are crushed, the stampede is powered by primal human fear. The mass instinct to survive only harms and kills other prisoners. The attempted outbreak is futile, North Gate does not compromise.
Elisha Cerberus is losing his resolve. He could open the gates and is almost ready to do so as he witnesses the carnage, when Secretary Bundy contacts him, again. “Elisha, you can probably see aircraft now. Look to the South East, I know you have a fine view from the top of Center Station.” Indeed, Elisha could see the squadrons approaching. “They are bringing help, lots of help to kill the virus, but you must keep the gates closed. We need you to do your duty. Do you understand me Elisha?”
“Yes, sir.” Elisha replies, confident in his re-found determination to follow orders, he does not open the gates of Elysium as he anxiously waits for help.
Blara tells the young lady, trying to comfort the hipster as well as herself, with a smile, almost relief, on her face, “Here they come, they will drop parachutes with antiviral drugs and other medical supplies, water too I will guess.” As the bombers approach Mrs. Carton notices, “So many of them.” A roar of engines, airplanes flying low with bay doors open, “I don’t see parachutes.” The planes directly overhead, the lead aircraft just past. “Is it some kind of, spray? A vaccine of rain?”
“Something’s not right.” The girl with a Heart & Bobby tattoo speaks as blotches hit buildings and trees.
Instantly realizing the solution includes extermination, killing everyone at the festival, Blara shouts, “They are not saving us, they are killing us!” The holocaust begins, first with screams, cries of disbelief, trees crumbling, walls cracking. As loud as she is able, Blara Carton, terrified, screams, “Run! Run!” Run, to nowhere. Her last words echo suffering across the plain of Elysium.
President Tyler clearly hears terror in the volunteer’s voice. The cameras and microphones transmit the complete scene magnificently, experienced vividly at the White House. Tyler feels the horror curse him and knows he will hear and see this scene, over and over, every minute of every day, for the rest of his life. This event, so horrible, is branded into his memory, seared into his ears and eyes.
Boiling chemicals fall as heavy rain. The bombers bring a compound developed by Nash Industries. NPLX is dropped from containers fastened into the aircraft bomber bays. NPLX scalds vegetation, hair and flesh. NPLX blisters canker blobs on buildings, vehicles and roads. Leaves rip from tree limbs, small structures collapse and skin separates from bones. Death is quick, but not painless. Blara, her young friend, Betty, Bob, Elisha, the State Police blocking exits to Deliverance Village and everyone else in The Zone dies within minutes as NPLX burns through their clothing and skin. The Zone is covered with boiling, black sludge.
Next, slow flying drones drop small, powerful explosives on targets, targets which may continue to harbor the pathogen. Buildings, possibly cool enough to provide protection for the virus, are primary targets. Center Station and Deliverance Village are annihilated.
Finally, while oxygen remains available to combust, flames from helicopters fitted with wide, long irrigators broadcast fire to every surface. Pilots smell filth and carnage through their well-sealed oxygen masks. This last, slower process insures destruction, cooking and boiling The Zone.
Vice President Chester Hayes, in New York City, addresses an emergency session of the United Nations. Armed with a talking-points memo provided by the National Security Agency he assures, “CDC has every available resource working to discover a vaccine.”
APWBC, live broadcast.
“We have with us now, Doctor James Wilbur, from CDC, who is leading a team investigating possible methods to confront this crisis. Doctor Wilbur, what can you tell us? Is it true the virus began with infected cannabis cookies supplied by a person at the festival?” The reporter asks as she was recently briefed by Andy Acalia, senior production supervisor, concerning the message from Blara Carton.
Dr. Wilbur acknowledges, “We have received a report to that effect, however, cannot confirm the origin of the pathogen. Our team is investigating.”
The reporter continues to question Dr. Wilbur. “Has the virus spread outside of The Zone, and if not, do you expect it could?”
“No.” Dr. Wilbur flatly states. “We do not expect this epidemic to spread. No cases have been reported in Deliverance Village or elsewhere, only inside of Elysium. I can also tell you we believe the virus is natural, not synthesized or manufactured, it is not part of a terrorist attack.”
The reporter, diligent, asks, “How do you know that, sir?”
Dr. Wilbur replies, “Simple really, current scientific knowledge does not exist to produce any similar microorganisms.”
The reporter moves the conversation to another subject, “Thank you Doctor Wilbur. Now, a twist to the story, someone who may gain from the epidemic, Miss Carie Murie.” Turning to address Carie, the reporter states, “Miss Murie, I understand you are a freshman student at Cornell University, 17 years of age and your Grandfather was the infamous Ian Iden, who helped create the 100 Year Wager, gambling that a disease like this would appear to kill a million people in the United States. The proceeds from that wager could make you wealthy.”
“No!” replies Carie, “I will not benefit from this event. I cannot benefit from it as I find the 100 Year Wager immoral. If the virus concludes the wager, all of the money I receive will go to support survivors and their families. All of it, every penny. I am so sorry for those poor people.”
“That is definitive, miss Murie, Thank you.” The reporter is instructed by a voice in her earpiece, “We interrupt with breaking news...”
Dr. Wilbur quickly exits the building.
At the conclusion of operation Canaan Aid, Paul Bundy reports to President Tyler, stating, “Mission Accomplished, sir.”
The President, walking, nearly limping back to the Oval Office, calls Vice President Chester Hayes for a very short conversation. “I excluded you from contributing for good reason.” President Solomon Tyler explains. “Your expertise and judgment is always valuable and I do trust you very much. I’m sure you understand, we had to move quickly.”
Hayes wonders, “Why then, Mr. President did you not ask me? You made me lie. I would have advised to wait. There must have been another way!”
Tyler assures, “There was no other choice. Being President is very hard Chester, very hard. Soon, you shall know what I mean.” Chester Hayes is a bit puzzled before he realizes what the President has implied. The President ends the call and walks on, towards the Oval office.
Within a few short hours of announcing the isolation zone news, President Tyler is about to again address the nation with more extraordinary information. Kay Relly, again, begins her count down queue. “Mr. President, in 5, 4, 3,” then signals with her hand, 2 & 1. President Solomon Tyler, now with immense sorrow, conveys prepared text as this live broadcast transmits around the world.
“The Oval Office has seen many serious days, few more important than this one. I ordered Vice President Hayes to assist with communications, to keep the public informed while intentionally leaving him out of the decision making process concerning the events in New York. Vice President Hayes, on my orders, has not been consulted or contributed to the planning or execution of events at Elysium and Deliverance Village. I provided mis-information to the Vice President in order to help secure mission secrecy.” The President dramatically pauses. “Chester Hayes will be your new President in just a few moments. When I am finished speaking, I will resign the Presidency of the United States. Please accept that I am no longer able to effectively continue. Many thanks to those who have so faithfully served our country.” Abruptly, Tyler ends the address, as he planned.
Within an hour, vice president Chester Hayes is sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Alfred Marshall. President Tyler becomes Former President as helicopter ‘Marine One’ propels to an undisclosed location.
August 21, 2069.
Carie Murie is relieved when she realizes the 100 Year Wager did not end. Even so, even after Dr. Wilbur’s interview resolving her of any possible responsibility and her proclamation to support the victims, she leaves Cornell. She is sad, so very sad, for the disease has caused the deaths of so many. She wakes every morning, cursing her billionaire grandfather.
Elysium, dark and dead.
August 27, 2069. Conference call.
“Sorry to hear about your father, Joe, he had a great legal mind.” Edgar Gonha Jr., Ed, expresses his condolences for the recent death of Joseph Checha Sr. to Joseph Checha Jr., Joe, as he adjusts the shades of his Big Apple office in the Iden building, the bright morning light bothers his bloodshot eyes.
“Thank you Ed, our dads were great friends,” Joe responds. Young and full of energy, Joe changes the subject, “Was pretty close with the incident in Bethel, New York, but the agreement is still in place, just less than one million dead, so, we will continue to collect our percentage from the 100 Year Wager fund.”
“We almost wrote a very large check to a very young lady. As I understand, Carie Murie was happy not to win, she believes it would have devastated her life. Just as well for us.” Changing the focus of the call, Ed asks, “Have you heard from Ted lately?” Theodore Wheir Jr., Ted, like his father before him, Theodore Wheir Sr., is an adventurous Californian. Ted represents many women in divorce cases, he has become close friends with several of them.
A hot summer day consumes Texas. “No, but I understand that he still represents the Berthog interests.” Joe is consuming a basket of deep fried potato bits shaped like little pistols. He remembers his father saying this odd cuisine was Neely Nash’s favorite.
Ed finishes the conversation, “I guess he is keeping busy. My best to you, Joe, and your cowboy buddies.”
September 4, 2082. Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
Sally Jo greets EJ arriving home after a trip to the County seat. She is wearing a flower patterned, stained apron over short pants and a light, white shirt. A fresh enticement, the aroma of cooked, pepper seasoned chicken, suggests a tasty meal to be served shortly. “How was your trip to Crawfordville, Mister Everstone?” The last view of a faint Dixie sun disappears as darkness covers Everstone Legacy Summit. Sally Jo is tired from a long day of chores.
EJ, teasingly, “You still get me when you do that, when you call me Mister Everstone.” He smiles and as always, replies, “Nice to meet you Mrs. Everstone, please call me Eldred the Second.”
“Dinner shall be ready soon, Mister the Second Eldred Everstone.” Biscuits and a bowl of greens wait on a worn, dark, tablecloth as Sally Jo opens the oven door with a thick towel. “Who’s that?” Sally Jo, glimpsing through the front window, does not recognize the vehicle which delivered EJ.
EJ explains, “Ed. I met him in Crawfordville today, nice fellow, new to the area.”
“Well by all means, stop that man right now and invite him in for dinner!” Sally Jo wants to meet all of EJ’s new acquaintances.
EJ leaves the house and in the driveway signals Ed to stop. Addressing the open, driver’s side window, EJ exclaims, “Sally Jo says you have to stay for dinner. I see biscuits, greens and I can smell chicken. It is nearly ready, so, come in and have a bite or my name will be Mudd.”
Ed stops the engine of his truck, “That would be wonderful EJ, I never turn down a homemade meal.”
The two fellows make their way into the house where Sally Jo is setting utensils for another guest at the table. “Sorry, my hands are busy, but nice to meet you Ed.”
“Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Everstone.” Ed wonders why they both giggle a bit but neither bothers to explain about the Second Mister Everstone banter.
“Please, call me Sally Jo.” A gracious hostess, Sally Jo invites, “Have a seat, Ed, dinner is almost ready.” Curious, she questions, “What’s your last name, Ed?”
“Miller. Ed Miller from New York. Well, upstate New York, not the city. Expensive to live there, so I decided to move south. When I discovered Taliaferro County it seemed like the right place to put down new roots, like so many other folks from up north seem to be doing. How long have you been here?”
Sally Jo replies, “My whole life, just like EJ. I don’t believe he did not tell you about Legacy Summit!”
“What’s Legacy Summit?” Ed questions.
EJ exclaims, “It is really special!”
Dinner is served and consumed along with friendly conversation. EJ and Sally Jo tell Ed about Everstone Legacy Summit. Ed recalls the ice storm of 2061 and other winter challenges, prime motivation to move to a more welcoming climate. “After that storm, one family, not a mile away from us, the name was Taylor as I recall, were found in their car. The three spent weeks recovering and the son was found a hundred feet away, frozen to death.” After dinner, Ed decides not to overstay his welcome and leaves the Everstone home, they are clearly tired from a long day of activities.
EJ turns the old hourglass, as he does nearly every night, because he enjoys watching the sand drip from top to bottom. The slow motion of the timer reminds him of life passing. He hopes his life has meaning. Soon he comments to Sally Jo, “I saw Lewis Blare today and he was in a bad mood. Confronted me, seems he thinks I stole a little job from him. You remember, I’m sure, two weeks ago, Joe Johnson. That weekend Joe wanted help to repair his barn.” EJ knows many local folks and often rents his labor for small jobs. “Well, Lewis says I did it too cheap. I told him I charged standard rate, but I guess he thinks my standard rate is too low. I did not tell Lewis that Joe would not hire Blares as so much misery follows that clan.” In the largest of four rooms, one side dedicated to food preparation, the other side a modest parlor, EJ sits in the middle. An armless chair provides relief for soar feet.
“I’m sure he will get good and drunk, as he always does, and forget all about it.” Sally Jo is not impressed with Lewis Blare. The entire Blare gang finds trouble, often-violent trouble, regularly. Most folks try not to become involved with them because of it. “He has problems with just about everybody in the county, so, probably find somebody else to be mad at soon.” Her attitude towards the Blares reflects disgust. Sally Jo changes the subject of the conversation, “I expect LE and Dexter to be back home, tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing my son and grandson. Dexter’s third birthday next week.” As EJ nods his head positive with fading, evening energy, she asks, “You have plans to work on the Summit tomorrow?” Sally Jo has come to appreciate Legacy Summit as it means much to EJ.
EJ’s eyes brighten, “Indeed, I do. Last section of the enclosure wall is nearly finished. I am thinking, maybe someday it will become a tourist attraction.” EJ has big dreams.
Sally Jo informs, “I have the journal, complete with pictures. More people than ever live in Taliaferro County, increasing every year. Who knows, LE might see Everstone Legacy Summit become famous. He might even continue work on it. Sure would be nice if LE found that lost Confederate gold!”
“Sally Jo, you and that gold.” EJ has long since decided the gold is nowhere on the Everstone property or in the state of Georgia. He thinks it does not exist except in the old story. “You heard anything lately about the South rising again?” Mister Everstone knows Mrs. Everstone will not answer. “Those graycoats made off with it if there every was any gold. Beside, LE has no interest, he barely looks at Legacy Summit unless Bark is missing.”
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Yokel Tavern.
A larger crowd than usual at Yokel Tavern, the long Labor Day weekend motivates many to celebrate. Orville’s nephew, also named Orville, manages the business now. Older patrons who knew Orville, the Uncle, do not bother with any formal name distinction, so, this young nephew is also addressed as Orville.
Outside, with red & blue rotating beacons engaged, a Taliaferro County sheriff cruiser idles. Flashing police lights are not an uncommon site at this establishment. Orville, tending drinks to customers with a wipe cloth hanging over his left shoulder, walks to the door end of the bar as Sheriff Cole questions, “Orville, have you seen Lewis Blare?” Sheriff Cole’s son has joined the police force and this evening, is on duty.
Careful, as he considers consequences of his answer, Orville replies, “A couple of hours ago, Sheriff. Would you like a drink?” Orville offers beverage knowing his question will be ignored, it always is. He also lies about Lewis. Lewis was drunk, in the tavern, 20 minutes before the Sheriff arrived.
“Did he say where he was going?” Sheriff Cole does not expect a clear answer.
Orville replies, “Not here. That’s where I told him to go when he ran out of money, not here.” Orville, like his uncle, is a hard businessman. “No credit available from me, these old boys would drain the place dry if I tried to make loans like the First National Bank of Crawfordville.” Orville spews one of his a standard lines as he often does while considering his position during the discussion of delicate subjects.
“How much did he drink, Orville?” Sheriff Cole asks a direct question, hoping for a direct answer, but not really expecting the barkeep to fully cooperate.
“Not that much.” Orville, always careful, as he does not want to be accused of serving intoxicated patrons. Liability insurance is high enough, a lawsuit could put him out of business.
Attempting to invoke a little bit of sympathy from Orville, Sheriff Cole informs, “He beat up his wife this afternoon, hurt her bad, I have to bring him in. Can you tell me anything that might help me find Lewis Blare?” Wise and experienced, the law officer suspects Orville is able to provide useful information and will probably delivered it in a circuitous manner.
Again, careful, the bar owner informs, “He was talking about EJ Everstone and how Everstone worked some job too cheap, seemed to be very upset about it.” Adding, as if to be an important piece of information, “You know, when Lewis was a kid he had a thing for Sally Jo, EJ’s wife. I have heard, Lewis thought she was a nice looker, you know who I mean?” Orville realizes Lewis may no longer be a customer because of his violent Blare temper.
“Yes, Orville, I know LE’s mother.” The Sheriff moves the conversation along as quickly as possible. “Was he driving that old truck of his?”
“I did look outside and saw his truck, shotgun mounted as usual, in the cab. I hear Lewis carries a flask of hooch, caustic like acid they say, just in case he desperately needs a nip. Today, I’ll guess, he got into that white lightning when he left here.” Orville is happy to warn of the weapon and moonshine.
“Okay Orville, if you see him, give me a call, and thank you.” Though both men, Orville and the Sheriff, benefit from the conversation, neither respects the other. Sheriff Cole turns and walks towards the tavern door.
“Will do, Sheriff, and if you can remember, please turn off the cherry top on your next visit, makes my customers nervous. You know, you always get my cooperation.” Some customers might have committed minor crimes recently, Orville wants them to feel comfortable at Yokel Tavern.
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
As Sally Jo is finishing the job of cleaning after dinner, before EJ retires to bed, a familiar noise commands her attention, “I hear Bark barking, wonder what’s out there. Not as dark as most nights with that nearly full moon, and dry for the season, maybe he sees a skunk?” She wonders if investigation is warranted.
Suddenly, a man’s loud voice, coming from in front of the house shouts, “Get out here like a man, you dirty...” Not able to form words well, Lewis is extremely drunk. “Scum. That’s what they call thieves... like you Everstone, job stealing... scum.” Lewis, truck parked near the road at the end of the drive with headlights out, has stumbled to the house.
EJ is shocked that Lewis would come to the Everstone property as he knows he is not welcome. EJ turns off the lights in the house and gently looks through a curtain gap. The front window reveals Lewis carrying a firearm. Quietly he tells Sally Jo, “He has a shotgun and he’s drunk. It’s Lewis. Call the Sheriff.”
Sally Jo calls the Taliaferro County Sheriff’s office as fast as she is able.
A frightening blast comes from Lewis Blare’s shotgun. EJ can see by a light on the porch, the gun aimed in the air, just over the house. “He’s so drunk there will be no reasoning with him. Let’s get in the bedroom and wait, maybe he will pass out or the sheriff will arrive soon and stop him.” EJ locks the front door and together the couple retreats, in their own home.
EJ opens the lock on his gun cabinet. He retrieves his .22 caliber, 6 lbs., black hunting rifle.
Sally Jo begs, “Oh please, don’t kill him!”
EJ checks the safety and carefully loads the weapon with five rounds. “I won’t, unless there is no other choice. With that shotgun he does not have to aim very well. Pointed anywhere in our direction the shot could hurt us. If he comes in the house I can’t just wound him in the leg, a blast is just too much to risk. With this twenty two, I will have to aim at his head.” Sally Jo is weeping. “Cover the windows and get down on the floor, in the corner, behind the bed.” EJ instructs Sally Jo, “Let’s try to be very quiet, maybe he will think we left the house, out the back door.”
Lewis shouts again, “If you won’t come out, I will come in after you..., you owe me more than money for that... job!” Drunk and dangerous, Lewis stumbles to the door and kicks it. The locked door does not open so Lewis kicks it again. Mad the door still does not open, Lewis steps back and shoots a shell at the lock. Some ricochet pellets pepper the porch, some make there way into and through the fragile door. “Sally Jo, you in there? You should kick that scum, that scum.... out. He’s not man enough for you!” Though the lock is broken, the shattered door is difficult to open. However, in a moment, Lewis does manage to break through the door and force his way into the home.
EJ and Sally Jo are quiet, in the bedroom with the lights out. Lewis could not see them through the open door even if he were sober, the space is completely black, like the inside of a sealed coffin. Standing in this perfect shadow, EJ has his rifle aimed, with safety lever off, his finger on the trigger.
The intruder, upright, though not completely erect do to inebriation, is visible. Light entering through the windows of the kitchen illuminates Lewis. His crooked stance, ugly and mean, EJ can see, near the armless chair.
Staring in the direction of the bedroom, Lewis begins to raise the shotgun he first used to fire over the house, and then at the door lock.
EJ fires one .22 caliber round.
Sally Jo, faintly, hears a siren.
September 1, 2094. Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“We have finished installing the plywood boards, placed new batteries in the flashlights and stored fresh drinking water.” The fit, single 26-year-old man, Bill Hinton, informs, then asks with awkward phraseology, “Any new news about the storm?” This young engineer is concerned, the storm threateningly darkens the Louisiana sky this afternoon.
Trying to appear stoic, Mrs. Hinton, Bill’s mother replies, “No, not really... just waiting”. Mrs. Hinton has lived a quiet life. Surprising to many, she is not adventurous. Mrs. Hinton is the daughter of Alice Berthog. Alice Berthog died after squandering her inherited fortune. Alice traveled extensively and gambled. Many suspect Alice Berthog was addicted to prescription medications, which led to unwise financial decisions.
The storm, Dorothea, is enormous. Historically, by far, the largest hurricane in the nation’s history. This massive Category 4 monster, fueled by extraordinarily high water temperatures, is anticipated to move northeast from the Gulf of Mexico. Until Dorothea intruded, the reunion was a success with the entire family in attendance. They were enjoying the southern hospitality of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The clan sits in silence as Mrs. Hinton begins to sob, “I’m so very sorry we did not evacuate, it’s all my fault, I should have never asked you all to stay. I am such a fool.” Mrs. Hinton, the only child of Alice Berthog has two children, Bill and Chelsea, fathered by her deceased husband.
Attempting to comfort his mother, Bill Hinton unconvincingly replies, “Don’t worry mother, this building is a well built structure, able to withstand any hurricane. We will be fine.” He stumbles a bit as he adds not-so-well-chosen words, “We are not alone. As we saw on the broadcast just a couple of hours ago, millions of others are also riding out this storm as they did not, or were not, able to evacuate.” Continuing, unconvincingly, “Many folks have done this before, now we just need to be patient, and brave.”
Nobody had expected Dorothea to become so massive. Originally forecast as a Category 2 hurricane at landfall, many residents were comfortable staying in their homes as they have during other similar storms. Unexpectedly, Dorothea rapidly grew, tremendously. Now, with roads closed and all transportation out of the region halted, early signs of the storm are beginning. Heavy rain with increasing winds assaults the region. This two-story house, LeBleu, rented for the summer reunion, is designed with an intricate, indigenous plantation-like appearance. How well LeBleu is able to withstand such a large hurricane, the family is about to discover.
Bill Hinton is next in line, after his mother, to receive the 100 Year Wager fortune, should world events permit. Bill’s craving for the money is intense. He often fantasizes how a Natural Disaster could be created, though he knows the task is impossible. Bill’s desires are also tempered because he knows his mother will likely be an obstacle for a long time to come. Though slight in strength and stature, Mrs. Hinton’s health is fine. Little chance she will conveniently die in the near future.
LeBlue has a formal dining room with an adjoining living room, connected through an archway. In the kitchen, a room separated from the dining room by a swinging door, Monica aids in cleaning from the last and preparing for the next meal. “As a guest, not related to the family, I am very happy to help and so delighted Chelsea invited me to come along. Lake Charles is beautiful!” Monica, a classmate and friend of the youngest Hinton, is an average student and an avid husband hunter. “It is wonderful that everybody treats me, even thinks of me, as family.”
Paula, Mrs. Hinton’s cousin, replies, “Though I am family, great they treat me that way too though sometimes I wonder.” Paula is a few years older than Monica. “You married?” She questions the younger lady.
Monica playfully responds, “I wish, been looking high and low, left and right for a fellow to meet at the alter. Give me second while I look in the fridge.” Then, placing the first digit of her left hand on her forehead, “I’m thinking the Man in the Moon has potential, but does he have a job?” A raise half-lip accents her whimsical query. Returning Paula’s question as a courtesy, “How about you?” Monica has dark hair, a brunette by choice, but has often considered hair dye, to red.
“I heard the wedding bells, but not sure my husband did.” Paula hints dissatisfaction with her spouse. “He likes being with his friends more than being with me. Bowling, golf, poker, the track, then more bowling, golf, poker and the track. Did I mention, bowling, golf, poker and the track?” She is sure Monica understands, but not sure Monica cares. Paula, wearing white platform shoes with slightly raised heels, wishes she had not offered details concerning her marriage.
An attractive college freshman, Monica informs, “At least you have one to complain about. All I see at college are boys, no real men, you know what I mean?” She amends, “Well, there are a few that might due, but all the good ones are taken.” Her minidress implies a notion to attract, like bright flowers attract hummingbirds. “Any extras here?” She quizzes her older acquaintance.
Grateful the conversation did not continue concerning her marital bond, Paula is curious, a bit, as to the motivation of the minidress. “None that are not claimed, but maybe you can steal one if you try.” Paula appears young for her age. Her large hoop earrings provide a visual distraction to the slight creases in her cheeks.
“Definitely not. So many hens in the house, ‘fraid I would get pecked.” The hoops are interesting; Monica considers purchasing a silver pair. She admits, “Really, like fruit, I would rather have fresh, if at all possible.”
Sympathizing, as she knows the feeling, Paula confirms, “Best that way, for sure. Easier to train.” Both ladies, almost nervously, laugh. Noticing a slight accent, Celtic perhaps, Paula inquires, “Where are you from? Ireland I would guess.”
Replying forcefully, “No, not Ireland. Wales. Born in Cardiff but raised in New York City. Can’t you tell by my cocky attitude? Oh, my, I must be loosing my edge!” Monica considers how she would look in white platform shoes. Maybe the added height would be alluring.
“Wales, that is close to Ireland isn’t it? Somewhere near England?” Paula knows very little about international geography.
Monica replies, “Yes, but that’s not important, I’m from New York City! No man wants a girl from Wales, they all want big city excitement.” Monica is disappointed, the inflections of her voice do not reflect her urban home.
Trying to be assuring, “I think the combination is interesting, just a touch of the.. the.. European, and a dose of the Bronx, wonderful, really.” Paula tries to calm the young student a bit.
“Brooklyn, not the Bronx!” Monica’s frustration grows with Paula’s ignorance and Paula’s attempts to comfort. Monica reminds herself, she feels young and nubile when she sees the girl in her mirror. Feeling uneasy, realizing her personality does not reflect her self-image, she resorts to an old habit and subtly attacks, “What do you mean, great they treat you like family though sometimes you wonder? Is that because of your hubby?”
Paula, suddenly not happy with the conversation, changes the subject, “Let’s go see what everyone else is doing, I suspect they are finding ways to cope with the stress of this hurricane.”
Chelsea, Bill’s younger sister, is painfully interested in politics and engaged to Robert. Robert is a friendly fellow, strong and dependable. Attempting to be cheerful, Chelsea suggests, “I think we have an opportunity. As we will not be outside today, we should play a game, my favorite game!” Her enthusiastic statement inspires a collective groan, as they all know which game is her favorite game. Chelsea, over the implied objections, declares, “I’ll be IT! Grab your pods, so we can begin.”
Thinking Chelsea’s idea might divert focus for a while, away from Dorothea, everyone agrees to play. The concept is simple, one person is IT and acts much like a referee. IT asks questions, with answers deemed to be correct, found in a particular publication. Anyone with the correct answer, or closest to the correct answer, scores one point. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game, wins.
Chelsea has chosen The World Review, 2094 as authoritative text. This book contains a collection of historic facts, it is published yearly. Printed on bound paper, it is unusual, one of the few reference books available in archaic format.
Bill sets limits, “One hour, that’s all, Chelsea. I will turn the hourglass and when the last grain has fallen, we quit.” The hourglass was a former resident of the APWBC newsroom at WIC. Mrs. Hinton liked it very much, so, her mother gave it to her as a present.
The first question of the game, Chelsea asks, “What was the world’s human population growth between the years 2000 and 2075. Not percentage, actual number of people.” Each enters a number on his or her device. When all are finished, Chelsea says, “show.” All allow the others to view their answers.
Mrs. Hinton’s pod displays 2.87 billion. Mrs. Hinton is well versed concerning population of the world as it was also one of her mother’s favorite subjects.
Attempting to present a mathematical example, as math is Bill’s favorite subject, his pod displays 2500 million, expecting the fractured message would confuse some, though it is accurately descriptive. Chelsea does decipher the meaning of Bill’s answer. Rolling her eyes as if to acknowledge her brother’s attempt to show superior intellect, she sighs, “Bill means two and a half billion.” She explains, “One billion is one thousand times greater than one million, not one hundred times greater than one million.”
Bill is considered by many to be a bit arrogant, even rude. Though all agree he is a responsible adult, as a child his personality was dark and unfriendly.
The other family members present a range of answers between two and four billion.
“Score one for Mom!” Chelsea almost screams, delighted with the first results of the pastime. Her mother, Mrs. Hinton, is winning with 2.87 billion, the closest number to the correct answer. Chelsea thinks, ‘If I ever have a child, I hope that child is as intelligent as my mother.’
Sparkling with enthusiasm, Chelsea asks the next question. “The largest corporation in the world had 34 owners in 2039 when JAM became law. In 2094 the same corporation is still the largest. How many stockholders, today, own GigaShop?” Again, each records and then displays their answers on cue. Uncle Derick wins the round with 1.3 million. Uncle Derick is a GigaShop employee, so, he knows how many people own the company.
Chelsea is suddenly disappointed as the game ends abruptly. A shrill, sonic blade rises quickly before attaining a stable, calculated, sustained pitch. For nearly three minutes this very unnatural signal of danger covers LeBleu. Though clearly a human creation, the siren has a quality one might expect from a large, angry beast. The thick air, thick enough to feel coat-like, filled with gusting wind, altars the character of the blast just slightly to show it’s power. Suddenly the pitch falls through three octaves before repeating it’s warning, eventually creating a quadruple cycle lasting over 12 minutes.
The APWBC broadcast flashes:
Less than three kilometers from LeBleu, a storm within the storm, a common bi-product of hurricanes, has appeared on the outer bands of Dorothea.
Years prior, the builders determined the home, LeBleu, in its location, should not incorporate a basement. Without a basement for protection, the family gathers in the northeast corner of the ground floor, in the living room. They hear a continuous rumble, louder every second, created by the destruction of nearby trees and homes. The sustained siren mixes with the growl. Time slows as fear boldly appears in every mind. Every breath is slow and deep, held briefly, to listen for hope. The tornado is very, very near.
After an eternity of seconds, the noise of havoc recedes. The menace departs leaving a faint smell of freshly broken wood. A flicker of lights indicates power failure. LeBleu’s standby generator begins to supply limited amperage for lights and electric appliances.
Not long after the threat passes, Bill observes a small rushing river, just outside, through a crack in the plywood covering a living room window. He guesses it will continue to grow much larger, very soon. “Just to be on the extra safe side, we should move upstairs, in case this floor experiences a minor flood.” Mrs. Hinton is crying, Chelsea and the rest of the family agree with Bill. All are feeling vulnerable as they climb the central staircase, then, impatiently wait for the behemoth storm to pass.
Lake Charles, Louisiana, elevation just a few feet above sea level, is ground zero for hurricane Dorothea. Over the next hours, rain and wind relentlessly pound much of the Southern United States, especially the region between Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. Calcasieu River, Lake Charles and Prien Lake overflow several feet above flood stage. LeBleu floods, up to the second floor, as wailing winds scream through the region.
Seele Tipo, not a fan of autopilot, drives her sleek, blazing red, two-door sedan, 15 kilometers per hour below the posted speed limit on Route 66 near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other vehicles pass, but most prefer to use less fuel as fuel is precious & expensive. Miss Tipo sings along with a recording of her favorite music, “And He shall reign forever and ever, King of Kings! and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” Handel inspires as she parks her automobile in the large, flat parking lot of Jetzt Wasser.
Entering the building she finds the staff meeting while thinking sarcastically, ‘How very creative these designers, they labeled the first conference room “A” and the other two conference rooms “B” and “C”. Amazingly brilliant!’ Passing through the door a bit late she asks, nearly demands, “Who has the Louisiana figures?” before sitting in front of a very old company computer.
Her old friend, Mark Bradley, who recommended her for the job of Chief Operating Officer, COO, informs, “Seele, per unit cost rises with volume, no way around the expense. Bigger problem, no budget for drivers. We must have those extra, large transports.”
COO Tipo has a great relationship with all of her staff. Though she is clearly in charge, they are all friends. She states as a firm conviction, “There will be a way.” Then asks, “How many units to be shipped?”
Mark replies, “Virtually all of the water supply infrastructure is anticipated to be crippled partially, if not completely. Emergency storage will supply approximately twenty percent of demand for the first week. So, to answer your question, much more than ever before. We are still working on the final estimate.”
“Oh, great.” Seele facetiously remarks, “Not a tight budget, a fixed budget, and they expect us to work miracles with it!” Seele, Mark and the staff are not happy, providing clean water will be very difficult, maybe impossible. Seele Tipo, knowing she will not receive an answer, queries, “When will those fools in Congress figure out, not every disaster is equal?” Upset, but realizing a solution is required, she stalls the conversation in order to think. Seele breaks into a bluesy melody to sing, “Woke up this mornin’ with a smile on my face. Nobody killed me last night.” A chuckle erupts from her dedicated staff.
Seele reflects on her time at Cornell, at the events of that dreadful day. How she used smelly hair color to become a blond and wore sunglasses in public. How her cute, schoolgirl skirts became businesswoman pants. How she change her legal name from Curie Marie to Seele Tipo. How she enrolled at Boston University. How she studied microbiology. How every day she wakes cursing her billionaire grandfather. How so very sad, that day.
A decision. Actually, a command, demand, declaration, oath, prescription and call to duty all in one short sentence, four words, “Get ready to drive!”
After a short, confused moment, Mark asks on behalf of the staff, “What do you mean Seele, drive what?”
Seele stares with a serious look at many of the staff members, one by one, then questions, “Who here is not cashing their paychecks?” Another short pause in the conversation as nobody says a word. “Transports. We are going to drive those large, nasty transports. Because the government, in all its wisdom, will not pay to hire enough professional drivers, we are going to earn our pay, driving.” The staff looks scared because they are scared. Driving those transports is a job for professional drivers, not administrators. Shuffling figures and making decisions they do well, from the comfort of their cozy offices. Taking responsibility to physically accomplish the work they organize is a concept they have never considered, before today. “It is in our German name and I promise you, those victims will get the water they need. I absolutely demand, fresh, clean water will be delivered! The only way is for all of us to drive large, nasty beasts to the land of Creole cuisine.”
“But Seele, we can’t. Oh, we took driving classes but we never actually learned how to drive. We don’t know how. You know, our job is to coordinate things, not DO things.” Mark Bradley reminds Seele of the limitations of the staff. “Those professional drivers have extensive training and years of experience. We could never do their jobs, as they could not do ours.”
Seele Tipo replies, “We executives may be out of our comfort zones, operating those transports, but we must. We have no choice. No one will become sick or die because of our failure to supply, I don’t care what it takes, even if it makes us distressed and miserable. Mark, go get the manuals, we are going to have a crash course. And get one of our regular professional drivers here in a hurry, maybe Bella, she can be our instructor. We have plenty of room to practice in the parking lot. Just think of the great adventure you can tell your grandkids! I will be driving too, everybody will be driving, to deliver clean water.”
September 2, 2094. Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Mrs. Hinton is surprisingly calm now, Uncle Derick has supplied her with a prescription sedative. Reflexes uncertain and her speech a bit slurred, Mrs. Hinton expresses concern. “I’m so afraid, Bill, the water, the water is still rising and there is nowhere to go.” The generator has flooded, electric power has ceased. Sunshine seems a distant memory.
Bill has been considering what he might do, should the water rise into the second floor and then, possibly, into the attic. He has devised a plan. In the corner of a closet resides a small, slightly used sledgehammer. It is about to become a most important discovery.
Bill remembers when he first saw LeBleu, he viewed it closely, admiring how it fit so well with the local surroundings. The builders, he noticed, had placed all the plumbing and air and vents on one side, the backside, of the roof. The backside of the roof is divided into sections and these vents are located as not to be seen from the front of the house. He expects the vents will help navigate wet, slippery shingles, waiting above.
Safer, he reasons, for all, to create the passageway before bringing the family up to the attic from the second floor. Bill asks Robert to help. They use the sledgehammer to break through the attic ceiling. Between two rafters, alternating a few blows each, the two young men puncture an escape route. The second floor is flooding as they complete the task. Adults are knee deep in foul water and very frightened, holding small children. Older children are perched on dressers.
Robert instructs as he descends the ladder from the attic, “We will help everyone up this ladder. It is sturdy, hang on tight to the handrails.” Everyone knows they must leave the second floor. Drowning and disease are concerns for all. One by one, they climb.
Soon, the open hatch of the attic displays a frightening view, the second floor is now a basin filled with water. Most of the house is submerged. Bill notices splinters around the hole he and Robert have hacked into the ceiling as he navigates his young, strong body onto the top of the house. He takes a moment to assess the exterior surface. Shingles and vents are as he had anticipated.
As Bill returns to report the findings of his surveillance, Chelsea declares, “We must to go on the roof, we will be in big trouble if we do not.”
Bill replies, “The storm will end soon. We can wait, perhaps for quite a while, on the roof. Coast Guard helicopters will rescue us. Beware of the splinters at the opening. No great rush, be careful as we do this.” Again, one by one, they climb, through the passage Bill and Robert have created. On the roof, each maneuvers to leave room for the next to exit. The attic is beginning to fill with water. Vents do prove to be helpful as handles, steadying their progress as they find positions on the roof of LeBleu.
Soon separated into small groups, many of the family members cannot see each other because of the architecture of LeBleu. Suffering winds and pounding rain, Bill and his mother stand a few meters from Chelsea, Robert, Uncle Derick, Monica, Paula and the rest of the family. Mrs. Hinton, not a physically strong woman, slips and falls a short distance, off of the roof. She catches and is able to hang on to a gutter, her face towards the house with her feet underwater. Her shoes are touching the top of a window which protrudes from an exterior wall, a window that exists thanks to the elaborate design of the plantation-like house. Wet and very scared, she cries for help. Because of the structure’s design and location of the other family members, only Bill can see and reach his mother and only he can help her.
Bill’s thoughts turn to the 100 Year Wager as he realizes an extraordinary opportunity. He lies down with his hands extended to reach out to his mother. Instead of rescuing her, he pries his mother’s straining fingers from the gutter, breaking her fragile grip, confident she will be washed away, killed by the floodwaters below. Mrs. Hinton screams as she is carried away by the torrent. Mrs. Hinton drowns, killed by Dorothea and her only son.
Bill thinks, ‘Even if this storm does not kill one million people, I will be in position to win the 100 Year Wager for many years in the future.’
His attention changes focus, now to surviving the storm, which he has correctly calculated, is about to end. Within an hour, winds recede, rain stops and the flood crests. Glimpses of sunshine scatter the horizon. Feeling victorious in this epic struggle, Bill becomes confident of the future, only needing to wait for the Coast Guard to rescue them. Surely he will be seen as a hero, having saved the family, except his mother. Perhaps he also will be rich.
Already, helicopters are appearing in the distance.
Unexpectedly, the floodwaters quickly begin to recede several feet. All of the family, including Bill, assumed the floodwaters would remain in place for hours. In the aftermath of hurricanes, floodwaters usually recede slowly. However, they did not know of the tectonic earthquake which had erupted even before they found their way out of the attic and to the roof. The epicenter, 300 kilometers northeast of Cancun, Mexico, measured 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale. The earthquake has generated a colossal tsunami. The first huge incoming wave hits LeBleu with enormous power, killing all of the family within moments. LeBleu becomes thousands of pieces of debris as it disintegrates into the tragic aftermath of the combined disasters, along with several thousand other local structures.
September 4, 2094.
As the flooding recedes, Jetzt Wasser, under the direction of Seele Tipo, delivers millions of gallons of clean water to victims. All the executives have learned well from their crash course, they effectively and efficiently drive large transports, providing relief to survivors.
September 21, 2094. Conference call.
“Ted, I thought this was over, but a second look, maybe not.” Edgar Gonha Jr., Ed, raises a question. He hopes Theodore Wheir Jr., Ted, may have some insight as Ed wonders why they ever called his home The City of Dreams. The Manhattan skyline is stately, though not well defined. The fuzzy view cause by the smog, maybe, by last night’s party, probably. Ed’s son is about to finish High School. Next year his office is moving, out of state, to the south.
“You are correct, Ed. The combined Natural Disasters did meet the criteria to end the agreement, however, there is no one remaining alive eligible to collect the proceeds of the 100 Year Wager. Mrs. Barran Berthog insisted a clause be placed in the agreement concerning this very situation. As you know, it reads, “Living, direct descendants, and only one of us or one of them, the oldest, will be eligible to receive the winning proceeds of the wager. In case any family no longer has qualified descendants, the wager will continue with the remaining families.” Ted regularly visits colleges, his male offspring shall soon be attending.
Sniffling a bit, Ed replies, “That clearly means living, lineal descendants and there are none.” Caffeine rich coffee recently filled a large, empty cup residing on Ed’s office desk.
Ted continues, “However, the wager does remain intact, just without Berthog descendants. We still get paid a percentage until the end, so that’s not bad.” Ted provides useful information on this unusually dark, rainy Los Angeles day. He is happy to have a young, attractive secretary and is considering a raise for her.
Though Ed considers challenging payments to Ted from the fund, as the family line Ted represents is no longer eligible to win, he decides against. In the future, Ted’s support could prove useful. “That is the way I read it too. I’ll contact Joe to clarify, but I think we are all on the same page. Joe is in the hospital now, nothing serious, he found some greasy BBQ in Denton, Texas and it has given him a case of agita.” Joseph Checha Jr., Joe, remains as representative of the Nash interests in the 100 Year Wager and Joe, also, has a teenage son.
Aaron David Jernigan Arts Center
Thursday December 31, 2099 / 7pm
NEW CENTURY CELEBRATION
Wines & Spirits
(Please find seats before 8:30 pm)
- Menu -
Hors D’Oeuvres, Oysters
Consommé Olga, Cream of Barley
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers
Filet Mignons Lili
Saute of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Pea, Creamed Carrots, Boiled Rice,
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes
Roast Squab & Cress
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette
Pate de Foie Gras, Celery
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream
- Chef preference wine, served with each course -
Vicky Voltaire & Hank Herodotus
Dancing with Autumn
glasses filled 11:45pm.
Be ready for a wonderful surprise when the clock strikes 12
After Party 2100 - Promenade, Palm Court,
Fresh fruits & cheeses served with coffee, port & spirits.
Cigars available in the Smoking Room.
Aaron David Jernigan Arts Center (JAC) - Dedication, 2049
Design inspired - Ritz London Hotel, London England.
Central Chandelier - 775 lamps, weight: 4.8 tons.
Ceiling Pendentive displays squinches and lunettes,
home to contemporary frescoes by local artists.
Grand Staircase ascends to Promenade, Smoking Room & Palm Court
“Sterling. All of it. Cutlery for 10 courses including serving dishes,” Edith Evans, Eddy, asks her date, Edward Crosby, Ed, “times, how many you think are here?”
“Eight hundred plus I heard, and all to be stuffed & sloshed by next year.” The party is extravagant, first class, Ed is impressed.
“These table lamps in old Victorian style, pricey I’d guess.” William Hoyt, Bill, comments to Rosalie Strauss, Rosy, “Check out that ceiling, incredible artwork.”
“The staircase and those large archways remind me of a French Opera House.” Rosy, Bill’s date, appreciates fine architecture. “Outside, that sculpture, the big White Star, what’s that all about?”
Bill replies, “I think it has something to do with the company that owns the building.” He notices both of the ladies, very stylish & attractive this evening, especially Eddy. “You feel like a groom in that tux, Ed?”
Ed is wearing a traditional black bow tie on a white, ruffled shirt. “Don’t get me married yet, Bill, I’m much too young.”
“We just started dating, let’s not rush into anything.” Eddy is very interested in Bill, but knows romance requires a bit of cultivation. “That tie is outstanding! Did Rosy pick it for you, Bill?”
“The dress code was tuxedo, which color tie was not specified, so, I thought white would be different.” Bill is older than Rosy, by three years.
“The flowers, so bright and fresh! All these bouquets must have cost a fortune.” Rosy is very happy, celebrating with Bill, Ed and her good friend, Eddy.
Ed also notices both of the ladies, they are very stylish & attractive this evening, especially Rosy. “You let your date stay for a smoke after midnight, Rosy? I hear they have an impressive humidor on the Promenade.”
After coughing, a fake cough, Rosy quips, “If he puffs on one of those stinkers, he goes home alone!”
“Good evening and welcome to the New Century Celebration at Jernigan Arts Center! My name is Vicky Voltaire.”
“My name is Hank Herodotus and I’m stuffed!”
Vicky observes, “I can see that Hank.” Hank is a few, obvious pounds, over his ideal weight. “May need to get serious about that resolution next year?” Known for her snappy wit, Miss Voltaire is a Florida native. She graduated college with a Theatre Arts degree in 2084.
“Thank you for your very, very, very, very experienced advice, Vicky.” Mr. Herodotus, actor by profession, had his first starring role last year.
Vicky defends her image, “Enough with the ‘verys’, it’s not like I’m your mother... much too young for that.”
Hank finds Vicky’s low-cut dress impossible to ignore. “My mother would certainly never wear a dress like yours! I’m looking forward to a wardrobe malfunction.”
Vicky responses, “Stop drooling! Besides, I’m not your type. When I get married it will be to a very generous gentleman.”
Hank adds, “You said, backstage, your future husband would also be wealthy, old and very sick.”
Vicky replies, “Well, I’m open minded.”
Hank, “I have a shovel you can borrow, if you like, Vicky.”
“Can we get to business, Hank?” Vicky resumes her formal duties. “Most of us do not remember the early years of this century, but some were there. Tonight we have a very special guest, he celebrated a special birthday a few days ago. Born December 21, 1999, we have a centenarian with us to help welcome in the new century. Say hello to Adam Grey from Eden, North Carolina!”
The assembled crowd politely applauds as the back of a crinkled hand is seen waving above a wheelchair.
Hank begins to recite a quick history lesson, reading from a teleprompter, “100 years past, it was a gentler time. In this country almost everyone had comfortable homes and automobiles. There were no serious thoughts of conserving energy and health care was available for all.”
Vicky reads the next lines, “Sparsely populated with just over 300 million people, fuels were abundant and the climate was stable.”
Hank, “Sure, the world was having wars as it always has, and probably always will, but here, in this country, life was tranquil.”
Vicky, “But some things changed. Some for the better. JAM restructured the economy.”
Hank, “And some things changed for the worse. No one old enough can forget that week in September of 2051, on the 50th anniversary of 9/11, The Sleeping Sickness Pandemic.”
Vicky, “Or the freak northeast Ice Storm.”
Hank, “Where were you on August 17, 2069? That dreadful day at Elysium.”
Vicky, “And of course, the deadliest Natural Disaster in the nation’s history, just a few years ago. 2094 will never be forgotten.”
Hank, “But there have been some great times too. Like this party!”
Vicky, “We’ll be back later to bring in the new century. Right now, let’s dance with the music of ‘Autumn.’
Rosy encourages Eddy, “I think he would be a fine catch, nice guy.”
Eddy replies, “I think Ed likes you. Did you see his face while you were eating the chocolate eclair?”
“No!” Rosy retorts, “But I did see Bill staring, well below your lips. Hot number you have on tonight, they always like low-cut and off the shoulder.”
Eddy notices, “That lipstick you have on is shocking red, hard to miss the message. I should get it.”
Rosy informs Eddy, “We did it you know, but like all men, that’s not enough for a commitment. Just friends, officially.”
Eddy tells Rosy, “Maybe Ed will ask you out. He does have a bit of a reputation.”
A moment to think, changing the subject, Eddy mentions, “Dinner was unique. The Roast Duckling was exquisite.”
Rosy was also impressed with the meal, “I though the eclair dish was cute, looked like a small lifeboat.”
Ed asks Bill, “Did you see that dress? Hank was right, just about to fall off of her.”
Bill informs Ed, “Nice alright, but it would look better hanging on my bedpost.”
Ed, “Rosy lookin’ good tonight. You have some exercise planned for later?”
Bill, “With what this night cost, better be having some exercise every day for a month.”
Ed replies, “Heavy price tag on this shindig. I think it’s a bit overboard myself, but, whatever pleases the ladies.”
“Almost that time, time to countdown to a new century.” Vicky is watching a huge clock on a large video screen. “Say goodbye to 2099, sink it like the Titanic. Hello 2100.”
Hank predicts, “It will be a wonderful new year and a new decade and of course, a wonderful new century.”
Vicky asks Hank, “You ready to shout it out, or should I?”
Hank replies, “You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now.”
Together, they count, 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...
October 21, 2107. Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
“Great place you have here, very interesting.” Seele Tipo, comments. She is on a trip researching population migration and has decided to visit Everstone Legacy Summit, ELS, now a local attraction recently open to the public. Because of expense, most travelers plan their trips to be very efficient and ELS is located near one of the last remaining major Georgia routes. ELS has become know for food cooked on the pit and spectacular sunsets. “I really like the idea, all natural, no fossil fuels used to construct. The E.V.E.R.S.T.O.N.E. banner is especially unique.” Seele asks the fellow at the gift shop counter, “Are you an Everstone?”
Dexter opened the Summit as a business venture. “Yes, EJ is my 91 year old grandfather, he began construction when he was 16.” Today, Dexter is cashier at the old barn converted into ELS gift shop. More than primitive tools were used to repair and renovate the barn. The former skeleton of a livestock home now supports new walls and a shingle roof covering a smooth gravel floor. The white interior displays novelties which reflect life in rural Georgia. Locally created crafts and commercial imports, any items Dexter estimates may be profitable to resell, are offered for sale. Also on display are excerpts from Sally Jo’s Journal including many pictures. A small, attached room serves as headquarters for the new Everstone venture.
Seele makes a statement, which is almost a question. “Then you have worked on the Summit also.”
Dexter, able to touch the ceiling with long arms and long legs, replies, “No ma’am, not me, it is my grandfather’s project, though my father has contributed.” Rural Georgia cuisine has yet to weigh heavy on his belly, though he suspects, someday it might.
“I think it would be so great if you would build too, an ongoing family work of art. I see room for more construction. You look to be strong enough to haul rocks and use primitive tools.” Seele encourages young Dexter, to carry on the tradition.
Dexter, thinking it would be smart to appear positive, informs, “Maybe I will do that.” Dexter is also thinking his bit of mis-information can do no harm as he has no intention of working on the Summit, work on the business is much more important. To visually add a bit of emphasis to his statement, he turns the old, wooden shell hourglass. Engaging the sand timer seems to have some influence on Ms. Tipo.
“Please put me on your contact list, I will bring a group back for a visit.” Seele hands Dexter her card.
“Thank you ma’am” Dexter says, “Will keep you informed.” A friendly smile shows his gratitude for Seele Tipo’s interest. The smile also covers concern as his wife, Helen, stands a few feet away.
Moments later, just after Seele leaves, Dexter’s wife, Helen, asserts, “You see, I told you it would be a good idea. You don’t have to do much, just add something, maybe a bit more to the north wall. Something simple and small, just be able to say with a straight face, ‘I have worked on the Summit.’ Okay? Do it! Makes sense.”
Dexter tells Helen, “Maybe someday, I’m too busy now.”
LE walks briskly into the gift shop and interrupts the conversation, “EJ is ill, he may be having a heart attack, I’m going to take him to the hospital.”
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Yokel Tavern.
The lonely plot of southern soil on Stephens Road hears a final nail driven into a final board. Swinging sign removed, Yokel Tavern has served its final drink, windows are now covered with wood. Sheriff Cole sees Orville while on his routine patrol and stops for a conversation. Parking the Taliaferro County sheriff cruiser where it was on September 4, 2082, he steps out of the vehicle, asking, “I wonder how many drunks over the years you exploited to make your fortune? All that back room illegal gambling, even a few prostitutes when you could manage. The blight of Taliaferro County has finally seen its end!” The sheriff has unhappy memories of this old shack.
“High and mighty you are,” Orville snaps back, “You have made a living doing nothing until situations get dangerous!” Orville finds the sheriff guilty of incompetence. “I never made anyone drink or gamble and I never forced those women to charge for their talents. Where were you, hypocrite, to stop them?” This verbal exchange begins to escalate in volume.
Sheriff Cole retorts, “You were always just outside the reach of the law, a filthy plight on the county, and you are so proud.” The lawman finds Orville disgusting and does not try to hide his feelings.
Orville, indeed proud, snarls back, “Just outside the reach of the law, just like your buddy, the mayor, crooked thief that he is.” This conflict is not likely to see a friendly resolution. “I remember when you waited, piddled around to get to the Everstone place 25 years ago. Coward. Thanks to you, when EJ shot Lewis he left him a vegetable, in a wheel chair. EJ knew, I’m sure, Lewis did not have his double barrel shotgun loaded, but you hated Lewis so much you did not arrest EJ for attempted murder!”
“Better watch your mouth. Even with this pigsty closed, I see several violations that could get you a stay in jail.” Sheriff Cole instantly regrets threatening the former bar owner, there is no point to doing so and his threat only agitates this old adversary.
The former bar tender decides to challenge the officer. “Do it then, arrest me, I’ll drag you through the courts and when I get out you had better look over your shoulder, you will have me as an enemy for the rest of your life.” With a stern look and absolute determination, Orville is not willing to have the Sheriff soil his last memories of Yokel Tavern.
Tired of the decades old animosity the county law officer decides the conversation is pointless. “It is the end, so for now, a truce. You go your way and I’ll go mine, hopefully never see each other again. Okay?”
Orville does not concede defeat in the debate, but agrees to cease verbal hostilities with his rival. “Okay.” He adds, “It is certainly a different county now, and much different than when my uncle ran the place. In the last few years, with the population exploding, all those new folks bringing their own ways with them, that’s why there’s no more Yokel Tavern, no more business as it use to be.”
“Orville, I hope you find peace.” Sheriff Cole states with a pious expression.
“And when you see any of the Blares, wish them my very, very best.” Orville replies with a smirk, knowing the sheriff has had so many difficult encounters with the Blares.
Taliaferro County, Crawfordville, Georgia.
Hours later, at Taliaferro County Hospital, Doctor Stable informs, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.” A flickering florescent ceiling light accents the quite, final news. Sally Jo, unable to speak, is processing the doctor’s words as she begins to realize the most significant portion of her life has ended. Doctor Stable, as he often does, struggles for a few appropriate words. “A man of his age with so much damage, I do very much regret we could not save him. I know by his reputation, a great man, you have much to be thankful for.”
LE appreciates all the doctor has done. He remains composed for the moment as he realizes he needs to be strong, for his family. “Thank you doctor, I know you did your best. At least we have a powerful way to remember my father, Everstone Legacy Summit.”
Doctor Stable leaves for a few minutes so that they may consider the impact of EJ’s death. When the doctor returns, he rekindles conversation with LE. The doctor relates his experience of recent years. “You know, he is not the first. Many of our acute heart attack patients get here too late, especially these days.”
LE informs, “We did try to bring him to the hospital as soon as we were able. The ambulance would have taken much longer. We drove like mad. The bridge on 47 has been closed for over two years, so we went around. A very long one-lane stretch had an accident, it seemed like an eternity to pass. Many more people live in the county, so, much more traffic, even though folks travel less than in the past.” The increased population is welcome for the small ELS tourist business, but not welcome for many other reasons. “The Georgia my father knew as a young man, is not Georgia today.”
The doctor sympathizes, “I know, many of the roads are inadequate and not enough funds are available to repair them. I wish I could say your father was the last of the fatalities caused by failing infrastructure, unfortunately, I fear he is only one of many.” Doctor Stable regrets the dilemma, but is helpless to provide a cure.
“I will work almost a week to pay for this trip from our home. Pop once told me how he would drive around on a whim, fuel was so much less expensive then.” LE questions, almost not expecting an answer, “Doctor, what can we do for the future of Taliaferro County?”
Doctor Stable, regrets, “Nothing. There is nothing to be done.”
October 22, 2107. Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
Helen reminds Dexter, “Even better reason now to build another part, it is named Everstone Legacy Summit, remember? Now that EJ is no longer with us, you should carry on.” Helen is demanding, but realizes the decision is up to Dexter.
“EJ and I did agree on one thing,” Dexter explains, “The Confederate gold story is silly. However, it does help to sell trinkets in the gift shop. Fool’s gold and treasure hunting books add to the bottom line.” He thinks as a business manager, “And the journal, especially the pictures, adds to the appeal.”
Helen does remind of the remote chance, “Still, it is possible, just as possible as anywhere else, there could be a huge fortune buried at Everstone Legacy Summit.”
Dexter replies, “More likely, those soldiers took the gold and spent it, if they ever had it at all.”
May 21, 2114. Austin Texas, #1 Music Academy.
“One. That’s where we start to measure time in written music. A whole note equals one.” Music instructor Simon Schwer has a bright, young student today, he is teaching the fundamentals of reading music. “Like distance is measured in meters, each distance is a division or multiple of a meter. Millimeter, centimeter, kilometer or gigametre, which is indeed, a very long distance. It is easy to use a system based on one, I guess that’s why we do it and why the country switched to the metric system is 2067.”
Simon’s grandmother, Betty, died at Elysium. Though he never met her, his life has been inspired by her story. He has been told she was a singer and played the guitar, making music whenever possible. “The same is true with conventional time. Mostly we use year as ‘one’, though time also has many other names for divisions of a year. When we talk about more than one year it is ten years, twenty years, thirty years or one hundred years, which is a very long time.” Simon, his friends call him Si, considers himself a modern philosopher and intends to inspire his student.
William Washington, Billy, will celebrate his sixteenth birthday soon. Strong and very healthy, he enjoys music but is new to studying the art, “So why don’t we just measure time in music the way we measure time with everything else? Maybe in seconds?” A good question, he thinks.
Professor Schwer has his answer rehearsed. “Well, we humans do not have internal clocks which measure in seconds, at least not very accurately. Maybe someday technology will be able to implant a clock of some kind, so we will be able, but until then, we need a little help. Albert Einstein said, ‘put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.’ That describes what’s wrong with our internal sense of time.”
The small studio at #1 Music Academy has a view of Zilker park, when the window shades are open. No air freshener is used, essence of stuffiness is not difficult to locate.
Billy wonders, “So, Professor Schwer, how long is a whole note?”
The teacher tries to phrase his answer simply, “As long as we decide it should be. I know, that sounds strange, but really it’s pretty simple. We can easily tap a finger on a desk at a steady pace, with very close to the same interval between each tap. We can also change the time interval of our tapping. So, when we decide how fast to tap and we decide how many taps represents the amount of time of a whole note, we know how long a whole note is. In music, we call those steady taps, beats.”
The student tries to understand why reading music seems so complicated, “Well then, why not just make every beat a whole note instead of having a whole note be two or four or eight beats?” Billy maintains his concentration though it is disturbed by the anticipation of target practice, which follows this music lesson. Shooting seems more interesting.
Simon Schwer tells an old story, “It’s a matter of convention. History. There has been a standard for hundreds of years and that standard uses fractions, divisions of a whole note.”
Billy Washington continues to question, “Why do we use bar lines?”
“The bar lines help us manage many beats, they group the beats into intervals. As it turns out, doing so has influenced composers. Quite often, the first note in a bar is accented. Igor Stravinsky said, ‘The bar line is much, much more than a mere accent, and I don’t believe that it can be simulated by an accent, at least not in my music.’ Understanding these groups is an important part of reading written music.” Professor Schwer thinks his explanation is adequate, for a quick summary of the subject.
“How many beats are in a bar, between the bar lines?” Billy continues with another logical, simple question.
Professor Schwer, “As many as are written. If the music indicates four beats to a bar and a whole note is four beats long, then each bar contains the time of one whole note. If the music indicates three beats to a bar and a whole note is four beats long, then each bar contains three quarters the time of one whole note. That’s where ‘three quarter time’, comes from. It is indicated with the number three over the number four.”
Billy, “Time signatures, they have always mystified me. What are they all about?”
Simon, “Next week, we have had enough for today.”
“Okay. There are so many subjects, I should only concentrate on a few. Maybe I will make music like most everybody else, turn on a boom box and boogie.” Billy does find the art of music intriguing, but realizes priorities are important.
Professor Schwer notices, “You have studied Old American English. ‘Boom box’ and ‘boogie’ are very old terms.”
Billy, “Right-on, daddy-o.”
Billy has triggered the philosopher in Professor Simon Schwer. “Many people do sit and let the world come to them, on screens with sounds broadcast from afar. That’s not bad, but it is detached. View pictures of flowers and smell a bottle of perfume or be a gardener? Watch a ball game or play ball? Read a book or write a book? Participating has many rewards, music is no exception. It is not just about others enjoying your talents, but how it makes you feel.”
“Of course, you will need to learn about music theory and master an instrument, be it your voice or otherwise, and even when you are proficient with all the technical skills you might not achieve what great musicians achieve, but you will appreciate why music is so elegant and so interesting.”
“In larger groups, music is unification for a common cause, to create music structured by composers, intended to move and inspire. With small groups, or solo, there can be flexibility, I will use that word for lack of a better, which some musicians utilize during live performance. Jazz musicians of the 20th century were expert, they called it improvising, but it is much more than that word implies. Instantly adapting to the ambiance of the moment, effortlessly altering dynamics, form & style is part of this flexibility. Each live creation, custom structured, can only be experienced, in whole, once.”
“Making music is an affliction I enjoy very much, I would never give it up. Plus, it is inherently positive for society. Make love, not war. Make music.”
Billy, “Who is that fellow you were talking to earlier?”
Simon, “A friend of mine, he is an astronomer, Hustav Golst. He has taught me a much about the planets. Did you know Mars has one of the tallest mountains in the solar system? It would take a long time to travel that distance, you could play many whole notes on the way, all the way to Mars.”
The music lesson ends, Billy Washington leaves #1 Music Academy to participate in his favorite sport, shooting. As he exits the studio another student arrives.
A new student enters the studio, she has never met Simon Schwer. “Are you Edith?” The professor asks the very young lady.
“Indeed, I am.” Replies Edith Crosby, “Most everybody calls me Eddy.”
“An older, traditional name you have young lady.” Simon notices, he has never met a student or anyone else named Edith.
Eddy informs, “Named after my mother’s best friend. You might like my mother’s maiden name. Strauss, Rosalie Strauss.”
Simon knows his music history well, “As in the waltz? Any relation to Johann?”
Eddy replies, “Not that we know of.”
“Are you new to the Austin area?” Simon suspects she is new to the area. The information he has, on her enrollment documents, shows Eddy to be a transfer student.
“Yes. Born in Orlando, Florida. My parents met on a double date celebrating the beginning of the new century. They were not dating each other, but that obviously changed.” Very young miss Crosby relates a story that does not impress Simon.
He always asks his new students, though he really does not care very much, “What kind of music do you like, Eddy?” Simon considers this a trick question, he hopes it makes him appear modern and appreciative of new, popular artists when he actually does not like most current celebrity performers.
Eddy replies definitively, “You know the group ‘Autumn’? They are my favorite! Uncle Hoyt, well he is not really my uncle, plays their music all the time and got me hooked on the group.” Eddy suspects the professor will be critical of her tastes.
Simon is reminded of relative, “Your bubbliness reminds me of my niece, maybe you have heard of her, Vicky Voltaire?”
Eddy replies, “Nope.”
Almost startled by her abrupt answer, Simon continues, “Okay, well, what do you want or expect from the study of music?”
Sadly, Eddy replies, “Not much. My father says the future does not appear to be positive, so, I will probably just be able to tread water, if I’m lucky, with no time to do anything more than just survive.”
Simon is also sad. Eddy is correct, the future does indeed appear to be bleak for young folks like the young miss Crosby, though he and most adults do not often express their concerns.
Blue Blood Shooting Range.
“One. That’s where we start, if you want to play, pick one.” Billy and his friend, Mark Short, have nearly half of an hour to wait, before practice begins. “Heads or tails?” Billy enjoys this game very much, he understands it to be a game of social skill.
Mark, “Why not, we have plenty of time, show me your new game. I will pick heads.” Mark Short, like William Washington, is a strong young fellow, and a skilled marksman.
Billy, “And two more.”
Mark, “Heads and tails.” His T-shirt shows a bright red and white logo ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’.
Billy, “Let me think for a moment... okay, I’ll pick tails, heads and heads. Each time you toss the coin we will records the results, heads or tails, making note of the sequence. If the three you picked, in the order you picked, appears first, you win. If the three I picked, in the order I picked, appears first, I win. Start the tossing, please.”
Mark Short shoots his quarter off, it has been temporarily resting on his horizontal, slightly curved forefinger. The coin pops into the air, powered by his right thumb. As the fourth of a dollar denomination descends, he catches the piece with the same hand that supplied the propelling force. Hidden from view by his fist, the coin is inverted and placed on the back of his left hand to reveal ‘heads.’
Mark repeats this process seven times. The resulting sequence of obverse or reverse, heads or tails, is recorded; heads, tails, heads, tails, tails, heads, heads. Billy wins. The three choices Billy picked, in the order he picked, appeared first in the sequence.
Not impressed, young Mr. Short stands very erect in his boots, they have a large white star on the outside of each. “I think this is going to be silly. Obviously, even odds, tossing a coin.”
Billy, “Well, maybe not. After all, I am a winner and lucky. Also, as you well know, smart.”
Mark, “You win one round and think you are special. Let’s play a few more times, you will see how it comes out.”
Billy, “Okay, but I’m keeping a record, winner of the rounds. You zero, me one.” Young Mr. Washington is confident, “choose three more.”
Mark, “Same three, and you?” He believes, likely, the result will be different. A traditional Texas symbol, head of a cow, peeks from his folded baseball cap as it resides on a nearby seat.
Billy, “I think... yes, me too, same three.” The pause, he thinks, is good acting.
Mark executes his coin tosses again, this time, six flights into the air of the quarter until again, Billy wins. “Just dumb luck, these rounds will average out, you will see.” Mark Short is sure of his prediction, the probabilities are obvious.
Billy, “Me two, you zero. Pick three more.”
Mark, “Why am I always first?”
Billy, “I’m ahead, won more rounds, so only fair you go first. May be first pick will give you a better chance to win.”
Mark, “Okay. This time, tails, heads and tails. A sure winner, I can feel it.”
Billy, “For me, tails, tails and heads.”
The coin tossing begins again, and again, Billy wins.
Mark, “Stupid luck. let’s do it another 20 times or so, it has to average that we both win the same number of rounds, heads and tails always appear the same number of times.”
The picking and coin tossing continues. Usually Billy wins. At the end of twenty rounds, Billy says, “Me sixteen, you four. Guess I’m just lucky.”
“Bullpucky.” Mark now suspects a trick is involved. Billy is indeed smart and just the type to fool his friends. “’fess now, what’s the trick.”
Billy, “Trick?, What trick?” He wipes his forehead, it is a typical, warm, humid day in Austin, Texas.
Mark, “Don’t give me that, I know you too well. Tell me how it’s done.”
Hoping his deception would not be discovered for at least a few more games, Billy decides to confess. “It’s call Penney’s Game, named after the fellow who developed it, or maybe I should say, discovered it.”
Rolling his eyes, Mark again questions, “I don’t care who invented it, what’s the trick?”
“When I see the order you have picked, I know which order I should pick so that most of the time, I will win.” Billy is about to spill the secret of Penney’s game. “You pick heads, heads and tails, then I make the first two of your picks my last two. In this case, heads and heads. Then I pick the opposite of your middle choice and make it my first choice, so my sequence is tails, heads and heads.”
Understanding, but still not sure how it works, the young Mr. Short asks, “how much more often do you win?”
“Two wins for me to one win for you. I will win seven times to your one if you pick all heads or all tails.” Billy has explained the winning strategy very well.
Mark is still curious. “Why does that work?”
Billy says, “Well, the math is a bit involved, do you really want to know?”
“No.” Mark is happy to know the trick and does not like contemplating complicated mathematical concepts.
Billy, “Not like we are gambling, so, you are welcome, for the free education.” Young Mr. Washington grins and glows. “This game has been around for over 100 years, and I will wager, it will be around for another 100 years.”
Mark challenges, “Time for practice, let’s see how well you shoot a semi-automatic hunting rifle.”
September 21, 2121.
On the three hundred year anniversary of ‘Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire’ a conflict has erupted at the U.S. - Mexico border. A large gang of rebels who call themselves ‘Luchadores por La Libertad’, with support from U.S. sympathizers, are engaged in battle with the Mexican National Police. On this cool, dry morning in Del Rio, Texas, an evolved indigenous species of Acacia expels a welcoming, sweet cinnamon bouquet in contrast to the filthiness of hot metal & smoke generated by the invading forces. This warfare, stretching for many kilometeres along the border, has normally peaceful southern Val Verde County at the center of the violence.
Major Blaxton Jack, know to his associates as Black Jack, works at the National Military Command Center. A Military Operational Intelligence, MOI, specialist gathering information, Black Jack utilizes secure satellite communications with Colonel Sandino Acalia, newly appointed theatre commander of operations. Seated at a semi-isolated console, quite but still exposed to continuous bluster generated by the communications room, Black Jack asks, “I thought this was a simple civilian matter for the policía, Sandy, so, what happened?” Military Strategic Intelligence, MSI, had vastly underestimated the rebel forces. MSI had calculated the Mexican National Police would contain the rebels in Northern Mexico.
These two officers, Black Jack and Sandy Acalia, attended military academy together in 2099, though then, Acalia was a senior, Black Jack a plebe. Over the years Sandy accelerated in rank, Black Jack considers his rank disappointing.
The Colonel knows the Major has full knowledge of the situation. Sandy draws, then expels, tart nostril vapor from his pipe-shaped device. He enjoys non-combustible nicotine before responding with a faux innocent reply, “News to me too, Black Jack. Seems there were a bunch underground with an extra supply of firepower from South America. Really took us by surprise and the Mexican Nationals were blindsided. When we got down here from Fort Hood we were told to stay put for just a little bit, so here we are, parked like teenagers in Momma’s driveway.” Sandy is practiced at light conversation, such dialogue is common within army officer culture. He is at ease using this informal language, even with Black Jack, even concerning this entanglement. With a slightly serious tone still mixed with western drollness, the Colonel adds, “Good thing it is, you’re going to help me kick these varmints out of my Texas.” Though of Italian decent, the Colonel is Longhorn by birth.
The desert microphone bleeds nearby explosions. Though faint to his ear, this distant sound of combat creates visions of a confrontation clearly seen in Black Jack’s mind. Major Jack remembers, from training exercises, the dirty taste of spent artillery and concussions reminding of deadly, explosive power. Imagining the fear of battle, he is extremely happy to be sitting far from the action in his protected, secure console.
Black Jack is hoping to implement a deceitful, intricate plan he has developed. Changing tone, moving the conversation away from light banter to practical application, “You know, Sandy, I must make a recommendation posthaste.” Colonel Acalia’s opinion will carry considerable weight with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I expect you are going to want to engage as soon as possible, but to tell you the truth, I think you should wait until we get you better fortified.”
Black Jack lies to his comrade. Black Jack lies as he thinks it personally profitable to do so. Black Jack knows the responsible course of action for his country would be to engage the rebels as soon as possible because the rebels would immediately retreat, back to Mexico. He also knows the rebels will do anything, kill innocent civilians and damage vital assets, to distract and confuse Colonel Acalia’s troops. However, greed & lust dictate words from his mouth, so, Black Jack lies.
Intentionally taking a moment to be silent while touching a hard, cool, army issued 9mm side arm ceremoniously strapped on his waist by a thick leather belt, insulated from warfare by only a few hundred yards, Colonel Sandino Acalia carefully and deliberately contemplates conditions at Del Rio and along other sections of the border while making mental note of Black Jack’s verbal inflections. It is a pleasant surprise for the Major to hear Colonel Acalia as he breaks the silence, “Difficult to call Black Jack. We could take em’, but really, I would rather have some help from I Corps. With more resource, we might scare them back over the border, unless they have humongous grit, more grit than I expect they have, and decide to fight instead of run.” Hungry for battle, his ambition is to retire as a one star General, however, he is also clever. Colonel Acalia concludes, “I know we will have a few more local casualties, I am sorry about that, but our troops will fair better.”
Black Jack likes what he hears. By his best estimate, in less than a week, casualties will range from 2.5 to 3 million including over one million deaths. Without waiting for re-enforcements, most casualties would occur on Mexican soil. “I think it best Sandy, wait until we get you some help”. The Major is shrewd. Always appearing conformist to his superior officers, his piers consider him unreliable and dangerous. They regard him as the kind of fellow who would cheat at a poker game or not leave a tip for a meal at a diner. All of his piers believe it best to never be seen at ease with Black Jack. Ending the communication with Sandy’s own word, Major Jack assures the Colonel, “Sandy, we are already coordinating to get you that resource.”
Less than one hour later, careful to always conceal his interest concerning the 100 Year Wager, with his commander’s approval, Black Jack formally presents his plan to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Part of his presentation includes quoting Colonel Acalia.
He begins by describing Luchadores por La Libertad tactics. “Ladies & Gentlemen, as you know, terms of the North American Police Action Treaty do not restrict the Mexican National Police from pursuing the rebels, it only prevents them from physically crossing the border. The treaty permits firepower to be used, in chase, during a police action. When crossing into the United States, the rebels knew local Texas law enforcement could easily be overpowered. For now, the rebels are in a position to organize and control logistics while engaging in skirmishes with the Mexican Nationals across the border. Both combatants will likely rely heavily on mortars as their primary weapons.”
“Mexico will not violate terms of the treaty, doing so would constitute a state sanctioned invasion. Unfortunately, the Mexican Nationals are also not willing to disengage the rebels, the pursuit is politically expedient though unwise from a military perspective. The rebels obviously plan to retreat from Texas and continue the conflict in Mexico, but only after inflicting considerable damage to their enemy. Until then, the battle shall continue with rebel and civilian casualties in the United States.”
“Luchadores por La Libertad will rapidly retreat only if U.S. forces are overwhelming. Revolution in Mexico is their goal, not combat with the United States. Positioning in Texas, for now, is only a convenience. Attempting to expel the invaders with nominal forces will likely result in battles with the rebels and possibly many casualties. Waiting, approximately 18 hours, until adequate resources arrive to aid Colonel Acalia and his dedicated companies will result in fewer military casualties, though many civilians will remain in some danger.”
Cold and calculated, never breaking a sweat, acting in his role as a concerned military officer, Black Jack concludes his presentation while concealing his real motivation, “I recommend waiting until resources arrive before pursuing Luchadores por La Libertad.”
Debate and interest concerning the 100 Year Wager has faded from public memory. Today, few realize the wager is still active. Major Black Jack is thinking how extremely lucky he is, due to this opportunity, the conflict. His mistress, Elways Avil, is the last descendant of Neely Nash eligible to win the prize offered by the 100 Year Wager. Though no doubt a risk, Black Jack is gambling his secret will not be discovered, at least until after the mission has ended. He is also gambling that his military logic will be well received by the President and his advisors. With Presidential approval, no one will ever take the political risk of blaming him with the outcome produced by the operational plan he has devised. If events unfold as Black Jack expects, his mistress, Elways Avil, will receive the payoff of the 100 Year Wager after the deaths of one million or more people on U.S. soil.
Black Jack leaves to meet Elways at her nearby apartment. He knows a couple of hours will pass before the Joint Chiefs of Staff are able to complete consultations. As he travels, Black Jack dreams of how he and Elways will spend the 100 Year Wager winnings. Compared to his pension and savings, the proceeds will be very large, enough money for them to live an exquisite, luxurious lifestyle.
Arriving at her apartment the Major declares, “Pack your bags Ellya, we will be rich soon. Our ship is about to sail into paradise!” Close associates call Elways, Ellya. Usually, so does Black Jack. As the Major explains details of recent events to Elways, she fantasizes. The finest clothes, the newest shows, summers in the mountains & winters at the beach, only the best restaurants, and her own spa. Elways Avil is tall, thin, dresses well and strives to not appear intellectual, though she does often cleverly scheme to achieve her goals.
Black Jack finishes his summary of events and begins to express ideas concerning the future. He hates his wife, considers her boring and thinks of her with disgust. “Finally, I can leave that horrible witch! And no more boot-worshiping in order to suffer this dreadful job. That hag and the Army have made my life miserable.” Tired of routine, feeling cheated of adventure, dreaming of youth, Black Jack is callus with no empathy for those in the conflict. Luchadores por La Libertad, Mexican National Police, those who happen to live in the wrong place, even his fellow soldiers are numbers to process, entities to be used, heads to be counted.
“To bad we can’t send the dog to Texas right now, would be so nice to be rid of her. She is evil, always evil, she treats you so badly.” Changing focus to the future, Ellya dreams, “I think I’ll buy that little cafe’ your boss’s wife, Patsy, is always talking about. I call her Nasty when she’s not around. Now that one is a sorry case, she is so beastly”. In classic Ellya style she adds, “Had lunch with her last Tuesday, cut it short, said I had a headache before she actually gave me one.” Ellya often smirches other women. With a shy smile she steps suggestively close to the Major, “We could, you know...” pausing, then continues, “from the top of Edifício Itália, look out over the world as we will feel like we own it! São Paulo is so much fun in the summer.”
Major Black Jack responds, “Ellya...” he imitates her thoughtful pause, “In Argentina, there will be a troop of boys to fan you as waves serenade, while cherry martinis flow into your bottomless glass!”
Ellya had lived several years in Argentina. “I remember those days, the clubs, the fun, well, it would have been a lot more fun with money.” She recalls living a risky life, years ago, constantly on the edge, known well to local law enforcement. “And Europe! Paris, I can’t wait to see Paris!”
“But wait you must, for just a while longer.” With a strong and deliberate voice, “I will find ways to make this conflict work for us. A communications problem here, a miscalculation there, it will all appear like typical, military, inefficient, logistical snafus.” A broad smile decorates Black Jack’s face as he overstates his abilities.
Ellya owns a large, plastic timekeeper, made in China. It is a prize she won in a contest some years ago. The gadget represents an accomplishment she remembers with pride. Ellya turns the hourglass over as she declares, “I will wait for you, but please, Black Jack, let’s get rich soon!”
Sharing a giggle, indirectly mocking casualties of the conflict, the pair continues, for a while, to fantasized about the bounty they anticipate receiving. Even though JAM will limit the amount they can collect from the 100 Year Wager, they will live very, very well compared to their expectations without the fortune. Parting, Black Jack instructs Ellya, “Whatever happens, Ellya, don’t call me. I’m sure all of my communications will be monitored until the end of this. Okay?”
Ellya, reluctantly, agrees.
Black Jack returns to the National Military Command Center. National Security Advisor Felix Foster initiates a video conference with the Joint Chiefs. Black Jack, along with several other support officers, are in attendance. “The President has decided to act upon your recommendation. All of you know the complexity of this operation and the political consequences. As soon as additional forces from I Corp are in place, attack. Minimize collateral damage as much as possible. End the conflict on U.S. soil, but do not have U.S. forces cross the border. Homeland defense is one thing, invading a sovereign nation, especially our neighbor, is another. And of course, do it all very efficiently, save fuel whenever possible. Fiscal budget 2122 will be greatly impacted by the energy expenses of this operation. We are counting on your expertise and will be looking forward to mission updates.”
Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Seele Tipo, former COO of Jetzt Wasser and president of New Mexico State University is presenting the keynote address at the annual International Population Studies Convention. Not yet seventy, the former Cornell student, after formal introductions, speaks to the subject of the event.
“Zero global human population growth is a reality. Resources have dwindled causing the expansion of the human community to stablize. Because resources continue to deplete, in the near future, the total number of homo sapiens on earth will decrease considerably.”
“Humans have cleverly used energy sources to produce many things including food, shelter and transportation. Doing so has allowed the population to grow, worldwide, virtually unchecked. Now these energy resources are scarce, especially those from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources from sunlight, wind, & water have inefficiently contributed a very small portion towards demand. Like small drops in a large ocean, these sources, as the world is able to utilize them, are inadequate to replace the dissapearing supply of fossil fuels. Hundreds of nuclear reactors could potentially provide for the current world-wide energy demand, but they, along with disposal of radioactive waste, have proven too dangerous to employ.”
“Not so long ago, some believed technology would provide solutions, permitting energy supplies to remain constant. Obviously, this has not been the case. No signifigant development has occurred in nearly 200 years except for some relatively minor advances in energy efficiency. A few more drops in a very large ocean. High capacity batteries, efficient harnessing of solar thermal energy and effective use of kinetic energy all remain challenges to conquer.”
“As fossil fuels continue to be utilized, extracting, processing and transporting absorbs most of the labor force. Nearly 60% of all jobs are associated with fossil fuel energy production as the challenge of extracting fossil fuels, most deep under the earth’s surface, has increased while accessibility has decreased.”
“Complicating the human condition, high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide filters through the ecosystem creating climate extremes. In the last 100 years, hurricanes and tornadoes have doubled in size, large wild fires, droughts, heatwaves and floods have doubled in frequency. Also, much of the remaining energy resources are reserved for military use. War, as it always has been, remains mankind’s highest priority.”
Seele Tipo absorbs all attending the assembly as she is fascinating to hear. She continues her address, highlighting facts of history and undeniable statistics before finishing with expressions of thanks at the convention.
As she leaves the dais, the organizer of the event announces news concerning the conflict in nearby Texas. The audience is shocked. Recently quite pods appear and communications explode. Seele Tipo coordinates with her staff to be interviewed on APWBC. She will, no doubt, express how the number of casualties will be so great, at least in part, due to the increased population of the region.
Del Rio, Texas.
Colonel Sandino Acalia has ordered the troops in his command, from Fort Hood, to form a long line, north of the combat. At some locations this line is as close as 5 kilometers from the border, at other locations it is as far as 30 kilometers. The effort is assisted by local and state police. Waiting for additional resources to aid the mission, Sandy has these soldiers monitoring activities as the battle develops. Also, observer drones and satellite imagery have begun to provide useful operational data. Sandy brought to the conflict, those available to fight. He has a limited command staff, Majors North & Howe and several company commanders.
From a recently erected command and control shelter with environmental controls and communications in place, the Colonel is gathering information directly from company commanders. Major Howe monitors the conversations.
The first company commander Colonel Acalia contacts is Captain William Washington. “Talk to me Bill, what’s going on?”
Captain Washington is a recent academy graduate, young and ambitious. His hobby is playing the piano. This opportunity is bittersweet as his wife’s family lives near the border, he knows they are in danger. “Sir, I have bad news. The rebels have attacked the oil depot near Laredo, many of the tanks are on fire. I see a considerable volume of black, thick smoke.” William Washington is anxious to rid the country of the rebel invaders, however, he patiently waits for orders.
Sandy Acalia is not happy to hear of this development. The loss of precious oil represents loss of valuable energy, vital to support the army. Also, the smoke will impede observer drones and satellite imagery. “Bill, when we engage, the fire will be a problem. The atmosphere will contain soot & possibly unburned oil, together creating nasty rain downwind. Also, soot will coat the ground which could be dangerous. Stay clear of the area. We will have to maneuver around it.” Army War College graduates know weather is always an important consideration. Today a temperature inversion is forecast which will hold much of the smoke near the ground. Always aware of his mission, Colonel Acalia inquires, “From your position, Bill, can you see any of the fight?”
Captain William Washington responds, “Sir, mortar exchange to the west, the rebels are hitting the Mexican Nationals. I suspect they are winning this particular engagement.” Captain Washington awaits a reply as he recalls his graduation. Proud and qualified, he was expecting an overseas assignment, where he might continue his music studies before experiencing his first, real combat. Now, at home, war is no longer a detached, hypothetical concept.
“Hold your position, Bill,” the commander orders. “We will execute offensive measures soon. Keep your company at a safe distance, but close enough to observe activities in the area.” Colonel Acalia completes his conversation.
The second company commander Colonel Acalia contacts is Captain Jeff Jefferson, “Talk to me Jeff, what’s going on?”
“Sir, we have a situation developing now. Amistad North Dam has been compromised, flooding Bluebonnet and Wardlaw. Colonel, thousands of people live in those towns. I have already ordered rescue operations though we will only be able to help a few.” Captain Jeff Jefferson has been an army officer for six years. He is well educated and a capable leader. “The flooding is nominal, the breach is small, however, with pressure from the reservoir, it will likely expand.” A monarch butterfly briefly catches Captain Jefferson’s attention, he has seen thousands before, near his hometown.
Colonel Acalia remembers his father recalling when there were no towns of Bluebonnet or Wardlaw. “I’m surprised at your news Jeff. Breaching the dam must have been difficult for the rebels. We are sending two companies to assist. Do you see any fighting at the border?” The Colonel intends to help the flooding victims, but his highest priority is the mission.
“Yes sir” the Captain replies, “It is a mortar war. Both sides are sustaining considerable damage.” The sun has shed unnecessary garments, metal weapons remain hot to touch in the solar assault. Captain Jeff Jefferson recalls his childhood and the warm summers of Wimberley, Texas.
The Colonel instructs his executive officer, Major Howe. “We must send Captain Jefferson help now, he has a rescue mission on his hands. Dispatch two companies as soon as possible.” Sandy is acquiring an in-depth understanding of the fray, rapidly.
“Be looking for those companies, Jeff.” Colonel Acalia concludes the conversation with Captain Jeff Jefferson.
The flaming oil tanks & the dam, Military Intelligence gaps. Apparently MI did not give consideration to these possible developments. Sandy is disappointed in the progress of the conflict, he suspects Major Black Jack is incompetent.
Moments later Black Jack hears of the developments and he is not surprised. Black Jack intentionally dismissed the possibility of the oil depot and Amistad North Dam being compromised in early meetings when the conflict began, just a few hours ago. Those casualties, especially civilians at the dam, the deaths which he is confident will occur, add to the total dead he wants on U.S. soil.
Colonel Acalia contacts a third company commander, Captain Andrew Adams, “Talk to me Andy, what’s going on?”
“Sir, this is Sergeant Major Franklin, Captain Adams is being treated for a rattlesnake bite, Lieutenant Hancock and I are alternating the line,” Sergeant Major Franklin is a Non Commissioned Officer, past optional retirement age. A proven leader, he has seen battle before. Confidently, he is leading troops as his commanding officer, the young Captain Adams, receives medical attention.
“Frank, is that you? Haven’t seen you since Panama, I thought you were still there. Sorry we can’t chat now, but great to know you are with us. These nasty varmints have compromised the oil depot in Laredo and the Amistad North Dam. Please tell me you have better news.” Sandy is very happy to hear from an old, trusted friend.
Sergeant Major Franklin informs the commander, “Colonel, we have an opportunity if you want us to take it. A great view of the rebels shipping supplies across the border, just west of Big Bend. I don’t think they know we are here, we have a chance to stop them. Captain Adams orders we are to sit tight, but, sir, if I could make the call, we would attack this bunch, here and now. Simple enough to do, they are in the open and easy to hit.” The experienced NCO relays his observation, opinion and advice knowing his old comrade will now make a difficult decision. Franklin quietly admires a nearby evergreen desert spoon plant, it protrudes proudly in the arid environment.
Quickly, Acalia replies, “Yes, cut off that supply line! This mission is going the wrong way and we need to turn it around. Frank, let me know when you are finished.” Thinking this not exactly a direct violation of orders, after all, the Colonel’s first responsibility is to accomplish the mission. However, he knows when it is over, there will be intense discussions. In his head, Sandy could almost hear the Generals quizzing, ‘Colonel, was the decision made too quickly?’, ‘Colonel, why did you believe you had the authority?’, ‘Colonel, why did you not consult first?’, ‘Colonel, why did you not receive your company commander’s input?’, ‘Colonel, blah?’, ‘Colonel, babble?’, ‘Colonel, blah, blah & babble.’
Returning his thoughts to the conflict, Sandy Acalia is encouraged by the message from Sergeant Major Franklin. He expects attacking this supply line will turn the conflict in a positive direction. Moments later, Black Jack hears of the development and is not encouraged. Without those supplies, the rebel expulsion will be accelerated. Just those few more casualties, on U.S. soil, could make the difference between Elways winning the proceeds of The 100 Year Wager, or not.
The fourth company commander Colonel Acalia contacts is Captain Mike Madison. “Talk to me Mike, what’s going on?”
Captain Madison had just arrived at Fort Hood, on temporary assignment, when the conflict began. Drafted away from his primary duties with I Corps, he is unfamiliar with Texas climate and geology. “The battle is intense here, sir, a mortar war.” The junior officer, reports, “The Mexican Police are being assaulted relentlessly but maintaining their positions even though they are suffering significant casualties. The rebels are winning this confrontation, sir, their tactics are proving successful at Piedras Megras.”
“Captain Madison, I’ll get back to you.” The Colonel expects reports like this one from his company commanders, reports of a mortar war being waged across the border.
“Yes, sir.” Captain Madison confirms.
Major North interrupts the commander’s communications with a report. “Sir, I have interviewed several locals, ranchers and others, who were near the border when the rebels crossed. These civilians fled after encountering, and have provided useful information.” The Major delivers a summary, his analysis of the interviews, “Luchadores por La Libertad are using civilians as human shields. They are launching mortars from positions near buildings where they are holding many civilians against their will. Also, the rebels do have a number of U.S. sympathizers providing materiel.”
“Good work Major North. We will use bayonets for the battle.” When U.S. Army forces engage, Sandy expects this theater of war will be primarily fought in close quarters combat. Clearly, the battle is intense, with both sides, The Mexican National Police and Luchadores por La Libertad, suffering significant losses. Casualties are mounting on the U.S. side of the border.
Black Jack schedules a meeting with Army Chief of Staff General Andrew Rodierno. Major Jack is trying to convince the General to issue a clear, direct order to Colonel Sandino Acalia to not attack Luchadores por La Libertad until re-enforcements arrive. The incident at Big Bend has Black Jack concerned.
“Sir, several things to consider. First, forces are not adequate to engage, best if they support the rescue effort at Amistad North Dam, or other incidences which may occur. Part of our ability to detect enemy movement has been compromised by the oil tank fires in Laredo. Second, Colonel Acalia does not have authority to issue such orders without approval from the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. Third, our small group in the theatre is at greater risk while engaging the rebels. Fourth-”
“Stop.” General Rodierno issues a clear, direct order to Black Jack and Black Jack interrupts his points to listen. “There is no reason to question the Colonel’s ability to command. I will trust his judgment until there is a clear reason not to do so. My high priority is to review why there were no intelligence reports anticipating compromise of the oil depot and dam. Maybe you should have reviewed the rebel capabilities more closely. I have work to do, so, unless you have something significant to tell me, step out of my office, reconsider your position, and hope I do not investigate or question your abilities. Are we clear, Major Jack?”
“Yes, sir.” Black Jack quietly leaves the General’s office, realizing he may have caused himself damage by pressing his goal so dramatically. As Black Jack sees the General’s office door closing to his rear, he hears the General comment, “And do not expect a promotion in the near future.”
Ellya, in her apartment, alone, thoughts spurt through her mind.
‘Can’t call Jack, - Eat, fish, no beef, to much fat, fish will do, I have trout, - I want to call, no, no calling - too many people, so if a few die, okay, I really need the dough, - hair, oh, my hair, hate those brutes at Every Girl, they gossip, and so loud, husbands and dresses and stupid, I don’t care about your stupid!, Want, no need somewhere new, quit, should go more often, if I had time, I need more time, - maybe with almond sauce, too salty, no more salt, - I am beautiful, nails red, he likes red, my next young stud, I’ll say pour me another glass, “yes dear”, no, dear sounds old, “yes goddess”, yes, ripped and cute, no shirt, no pants, - brown rice but not too much, I deserve better, - I need the money, Jack, oh Jack, kill a million stinkin’ wetbacks, for me, just for me, dumb sap, - needs spice, pepper, no, not pepper again, I heard, what was it?, wrote it down next to the, here ‘tis, cardamom, - this wine is so good... makes me feel so good... I am good and sexy, - I need the money.’
‘Thank you great grandfather Nash, rude old man, dirty wench be his lay!, - a man like that, power, like a king, like a God, oh I wish I could own slaves, have ev-er-y-thing, kiss my feet, lick my, - I’m hungry, oven, no, skillet, - wine, more wine, - he is hot, maybe meet in the Keys, the sun, seventy eight, summer dress, I look good, in a one piece, he likes that, he will want it, men always want it, use it girl!, - die, texas fat pigs, die, - wine, my favorite, Sauvignon Blanc.... house on the beach, 18 rooms, hot tub on the deck, no, inside, oh no, both, that’s it, in an out, - oca too with lemon, a little thing like that makes it taste so good, - big bathtub, big bathroom, I deserve more, - I NEED the money, millions, money fixes everything, - sizzling, good, - where’s the glass...’
‘An inside pool for my winter house, warm, pool boy get my towel, obediant boy, - more wine, - die dirty stink, die, bleed, too many, in my way, the money, I need it, I deserve it, I want it, - Paris, my first trip will be to Paris, - flip it, a little salt, - I won’t grow old, not me, - pigs, losers, - will find a flight tomorrow, - dumb Jack go kill those scum!, get me the money, - call the lawyer, - the bottle, there, open another, I need the money! - I need a maid, clean it up and when you are done scrub the floors - rather have beef, it’s okay - wine - first class, always first class, I want that, - you can be replaced, plenty poor fools like you want to serve me, hurry it up honey, other maids knocking at my door - I deserve more, I like the money, I want the money, I, I, - clean the mess, next time eat out. Jack, kill those rebels, kill those texas pigs, fight that war, get me the money, fool, - finish the bottle, with the others, I want, I want..., - nap, six hours, couch will do, - I need the money!’
September 22, 2121. Del Rio, Texas.
The re-enforcements from ‘I Corps’ have arrived early, overnight, ready to fight. Before ‘I Corps’ engages, many of the rebels retreat to Mexico as they expect the overwhelming force impossible to combat. Whenever possible, U.S. troops conserved resources as the expense of energy is a most important consideration. Most of the rebels are allowed to return unchallenged.
East of Big Bend the rebel attack collapses as their supply line has been destroyed. Sergeant Major Franklin and Lieutenant Hancock have won an important victory. Frank Franklin contacts Sandy Acalia, “Sir, we have successfully interrupted the rebel invasion. Luchadores por La Libertad forces have evacuated the area and returned to Mexico”.
Colonel Acalia, relieved & delighted, responds, “Fine work Sergeant Major, we needed that resolution. This should end soon.”
Captain William Washington contacts the Colonel. “Sir, as I’m sure you know, the wind has shifted and is blowing towards the south. Smoke from the oil depot has forced many of the rebels back, across the border. The fire, here in Laredo, has become a military advantage. Also, when those to the West saw us coming around, they did not engage, they retreated to Mexico.”
Colonel Acalia, again relieved & delighted, responds, “Fine work Bill, we needed that bit of good fortune.”
The commander again calls Captain Jeff Jefferson, “Captain Jefferson, how are you doing with that rescue operation?”
Jeff Jefferson acknowledges, “Sir, I have good news. The flooding was slower than anticipated, the dam held better than expected. With the quick arrival of those two companies, we were able to transport many civilians to safety. Many casualties have been averted.”
The battle continues between Luchadores por La Libertad and the Mexican National Police, in Mexico. The conflict on U.S. soil ends very swiftly as Elways sleeps and Black Jack agonizes.
January 1, 2122. Conference call.
“Ed, Ted, the 100 Year Wager has ended.” Joseph Checha III, Joe, son of Joseph Checha Jr. and grandson of Joseph Checha Sr., comments to his colleagues, “We have no choice in the matter, the agreement is clear. Less than one million people were killed in the border conflict, so our job now is to disperse the fund. For your convenience I have made both of you a copy, a list of possible payoff recipients. Though Seele Tipo and Elways Avil would be eligible, the money could go to one or more well-established charities. It is up to us, at our discretion, we must decide.” Joe takes a bite of gourmet, chipotle pizza, as he waits for comments from his colleagues.
Theodore Wheir III, Ted, son of Theodore Wheir Jr. and grandson of Theodore Wheir Sr., has a liberal agenda; he wants to become a member of the California State Assembly. Ted replies, “Charities. Simple. Will make for positive P.R., that’s where it should go.” In a hurry to return to fund raising, Ted wants to finish up the matter, celebrate having benefited from the fund and get on with his campaign. His assistant, Mary, waits at his hotel. She has been inspiring during this election season.
“I have another idea,” suggests Edgar Gonha III, Ed, son if Edgar Gonha Jr. and grandson of Edgar Gonha Sr. He suggest, “Start over. Another 100 Year Wager, beginning now. Awarding the fund will wait until the wager ends with the original conditions, just to a different recipient. When a Disease, Natural Disaster or Act of War kills one million persons on U.S. soil within thirty days, we will provide the payoff to an appropriate charitable organization.” Ed, through his dress jacket, touches a half empty flask of schnapps.
The idea is interesting. After a moment of thought, Joe observes, “It does fit the spirit of the original agreement and now that the term is complete, we can do as we wish with the fund.” Texas cuisine is not cheap, with help from a new fund, he could eat very well.
Ted adds, “Legal enough, as long as the funds are not distributed to individuals, JAM will not be a issue.” He thinks about a bouquet of summer flowers for Mary, she has been so very helpful, recently.
Ed suggests, “We will appoint ourselves as administrators and be paid as before, well, maybe a bit more, from a percentage of the interest of the investment. It will be steady, long term income. I know for myself, not enough to be taxed by JAM. I have a note from my grandfather, it says Ian Iden suggested the 100 Year Wager fund would become easy money for lazy lawyers. I won’t complain about that.” The flask of sweet spirits slips out of his pocket.
Joe asks, “Do you have any suggestions about investing the money? Let’s please try to make it profitable.” A bit of heartburn reminds Joe, his bottle of antacid tablets is almost empty.
“Long term, a bit more risk than in the past, aggressive but still simple to manage.” Ted replies. “This could be profitable, if no crazy world event causes the wager to end.”
“Well that’s it then. Problem solved.” Ed finishes, “We will continue collecting a percentage of interest from the 100 Year Wager, for a while longer.”
“Elways Avil will not like it, but that’s just too bad.” Joe thinks Elways is spunky.
Taliaferro County, Georgia, Everstone Homestead.
At the edge of Legacy Summit, Helen Everstone, Dexter’s wife, instructs as she stands next to her husband, “Do it.” After several years of complaining from Helen and suggestions from others like Seele Tipo, Dexter is about to add another structure to Everstone Legacy Summit, just as his grandfather did so many years ago. He reasons, doing so makes good business sense, all part of the Summit’s allure and most importantly, will finally silence his wife’s nagging.
A clear, cool day for the work, Dexter notices the bright Georgia sunlight. Though he will use only primitive tools, his work gloves are thick and comfortable, his boots are sturdy, his attitude, unenthusiastic.
Dexter has selected a section of the summit with undisturbed earth to build a small, rough seat. Though she already knows, he tells Helen, as if he is an authority, “This should not be difficult. EL began to build a seat here about two years ago. He collected and piled rocks nearby.” Acting a bit, as if he is an experienced expert, Dexter states, “A shallow hole is required, room for a flat, recessed foundation.”
Helen dismisses his comments. “I know that. Now quit lollygagging and start digging!”
Dexter assumes a determined stance. Using a worn, old pickaxe, he soon strikes the dirt. The pickaxe almost leaves his hand, Helen notices Dexter’s grip is not tight. However, he holds onto the tool and as expected, the thud sounds the beginning of a new Everstone Legacy Summit chapter.
Helen grins and takes pictures from several angles, documenting the progress, expansion of ELS.
Dexter strikes a second blow as he starts to realize how much effort will be required for the project. He expects to spend only a short time today, just enough time to say he has begun, then stop this unwelcome exercise and return to managing the business.
On the third strike, the pickaxe hits a solid object. The blow is pitched high, distinctly different than the two previous cuts in the dirt. “I hit a rock,” Dexter tells Helen, “I’ll clear the dirt around it to see how big it is.” He uses a shovel to move the dirt from above the rock. “It looks dark, maybe granite?” Dexter continues moving the earth, “It looks like a straight edge. Maybe this is not a rock.” As the terrain is altered, bit by bit, he exclaims, “This is some kind of container.”
“What is it? Not a rock, I can see that.” Demanding her husband satisfy her looming curiosity. Helen commands, “Hurry up and dig it out!” Her picture taking resumes at a furious pace.
As Dexter clears the top and sides of the object, he sees a large case with re-enforced corners. Remembering the story of lost Confederate gold, Dexter becomes excited, “Could this be the gold? Oh, yes, that would be so wonderful, and... Oh, no, so terrible that I did not do this years ago!”
Helen readily agrees, “Yes, it is a shame you have been so lazy all of these years. Hurry up, get it out of there. Now! Come on, get to it!”
Quickly, the dark metal case is exposed to the bright Georgia sunlight as it is shuffled out of the old hiding place.
January 29, 2022.
A copy of the quickly scribbled note found in the buried case, discovered by Dexter & Helen Everstone, is displayed at the Everstone Legacy Summit gift shop next to the old, wooden shell hourglass. The large, empty case, with traces of gold dust and a broken lock is also displayed, near the message.
Composed in haste this day, April seventh, eighteen sixty five. Fellow soldiers of our great cause, we cannot endure to complete orders. Scouting routes, Union dogs foreclose all exits.
Temporarily placed, as best disguised, with our memories to locate and intent to return, collect contents, continue duty. Courage and destiny to survive capture should it be.
Captain Bradford Murie
Lieutenant Hank Cook
Lieutenant William Miller
Sergent Edgar Iden
Corporal Theodore Berthog
Corporal Joseph Nash
Lawyer surnames, Wheir, Gonha, Checha
/ we’re, gonna, cheat ya
(apologies to all honest lawyers.)
There actually exsists a legend of the Lost Confederate Gold.
At the time of publication, Russia does produce the FOAB (Father Of All Bombs). The United States started the bomb naming with MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) in 2003. (Chapter 3)
Please, do not assassinate anyone. Non-violent protest only! Death By Robin Hood or otherwise, no matter who the victims might be, murder is not acceptable.
You can send email to this author if you like: CarlWoodward@DaveMyers.com
sudor anglicus / English Sweating Sickness, for real. Google it. (Chapter 5)
Any virology expert will tell you, the Perfect Bug (Chapter 8) will probably never appear on earth, though more very nasty pathogens may appear in the future. (Chapter 8)
Happy New Century, historic reference: the Titanic. Menu, last meal served to first class passengers. Surnames of double dates, drowned first class passengers. Last words of the Captain, “You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now.” (Chapter 11)
Author has been a musician for a lifetime, so, could not resist a music lesson (Chapter 13).
Taliaferro County, Georgia (pronounced ‘Toliver’) is a wonderful place with great folks. Don’t get the wrong impression, any implication otherwise is just fiction!
Please let me know, did they find
gold in the buried case at Legacy Summit?