Friday, February 17, 2012

Story a Week 43 - Foresight

 I know that it's been a while since I've put a story out here.  Oh well.  Gotta push forward and continue writing.  I hope that you all forgive my absence.

Here's a new story.  This might be a standalone, or not.  I'm not sure at this point.


"Who are you and why did your people attack us?"

Jack Freeman sighed.  His interrogator had been yelling the same question at him for hours.  He didn't seem to believe, or want to believe the answer.  Jack repeated himself one more time, "My name is Jack Freeman.  I am an agent of the Nuclear Facility Decommission Agency of the government of the United States.  We are acting within our agency's charter."

The man finally lost his temper.  He yelled, "The United States is dead!  We've been running things in Monticello on our own for over a year without so much a peep from Washington, much less from St. Paul."

Jack just shrugged as a reply.  That didn't seem to improve the interrogator's mood.  He grabbed Jack by the front of his uniform and picked him up out of the chair.  Jack was a little intimidated, but didn't show it.  The man growled in his face, "Let's just say that you're telling the truth.  That the US government is still operating somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.  So what?  You don't have any authority here anymore.  The President was pretty clear about that during his speech on Doomsday."

Jack found that the people scattered around the country had different names for what had happened to the world just over a year ago.  The official government name for it was Day 0.  Everything after has been a day by day struggle to contain the anarchy around the country and to keep the government functioning.  People around the country also had a strangely varying interpretation of the President's Day 0 speech.  The President said, in what Jack saw as direct and clear terms, that the US government would move the capitol to Colorado Springs, with most of the operations run out of Cheyenne Mountain.  He said that the government would suspend most civilian services for an indeterminate period, but that it was not renouncing its authority over the people of the United States.  Apparently, most people didn't see it that way.

The man dropped Jack roughly into the chair.  Jack calmly said, "The President is still alive and still the authority of the entire United States as it was on Day 0.  We have every right to come here and decommission the nuclear plant here."

The man, who had turned his back on Jack, quickly rounded and punched him squarely in the jaw.  "You can't do that!  The nuclear plant is the only thing keeping this town alive!  We sell energy to some of the surrounding communities in exchange for food.  We're one of the biggest towns left in this part of the state."

The man's reaction wasn't uncommon.  When the NFDA ran into resistance at a nuclear power plant, it was often the life blood of the community.  Jack even felt bad about that, but these people didn't have the resources to keep the plant running safely.  The agency was created, with several others, under the National Foresight Act.  The purpose of the act was to try to prevent further ecological and infrastructure harm that would be caused by misused or mistreated facilities.  Nuclear facilities were high on the list for decommissioning since they could cause widespread radiation if something went wrong.

Jack ignored his throbbing chin and said, "Listen, we know that this will be hard for you all, but it would be much, much worse if the plant had a meltdown.  The effects of a meltdown wouldn't be contained to your little town either.  The cloud of radiation would spread all over the Midwest and the jet stream would spread it all the way to the Atlantic coast.  We just can't allow that."

The man's attitude quickly turned from one of anger to desperation.  He was practically pleading when he said, "But we're taking good care of the plant!  Most of the employees that worked here before are still living in town.  We haven't had any trouble with anything at all."

Jack knew that the crisis here was coming to a resolution.  He said, "I've heard that story everywhere I've gone.  Believe me that I know that you all are taking good care of the plant right now.  However, what happens in a year or two when an essential part breaks or an essential computer fails?  You people can't manufacture those parts here locally."

The man sighed and nodded.  "I guess that you are right about that.  But what will we do?  How will our town survive?"

Jack was about to explain how the government compensates towns that cooperate when he heard a quiet, and peculiar sound outside the door.  The man didn't seem to hear it.  Since Jack recognized the sound, he said instead, "Your people will find a way.  People are resourceful.  Unfortunately for you, though, you won't live to see that."

The man didn't seem to understand.  His look of confusion was quickly replaced by fear as the door came flying into the room and three armed men rushed in.  The lead soldier shot the man once in the forehead.

Another soldier pulled out a knife and cut the bonds that were holding Jack's hands together behind his back.  Jack stood and stretched his arms and said, "It's a good thing that you guys came when you did.  I was about to have to give that fool the care package."

The four of them laughed for a moment.  The lead soldier said, "Well, we'll get this one cheap for a change."

Jack nodded and chuckled.  He asked, "Is the rest of the facility secure now?"

The others nodded.  Jack said, "In that case, let's go shutdown and disable the reactor."