November 9, 2019
3 Years Since the Bombs Fell
"Some people say a man is made out of mud," the old man grumbled.
"Isn't that 'Sixteen Tons' by Ernie Ford?" Evans asked through a mouthful of salad. "You know it, don'tcha, Austin?"
Austin sighed and nodded, already remembering the words to the song. "I'm not a singer, though."
"Oh, c'mon, kiddo!” the governor said, lettuce falling from his lips.
"He ain't no kiddo," Grandpa McHale said softly.
"He ain't no adult either," the old man replied.
Austin looked between the two of them, wondering if he should say anything. "Why am I here?" he asked quietly.
“He ain’t no kiddo.”
“--we’re just gonna wait on your sister and make y’all an offer.”
A few moments later, there was a knock on the door. The golden handle turned downward, and Emma stepped inside. "Sorry I'm late," she said quietly. "Austin, when we're done doing whatever it is we're doing here, Mom and Dad need to talk to you."
He nodded and turned back to the governor and Grandpa McHale. "Why are we here?" he repeated.
Evans swallowed a mouthful of salad before standing, moving towards a map hanging on the wall. It was just like the one Grandpa McHale had shown them the previous week-- underlined cities were capitals, circles ones were destroyed-- but sharpies had been used to mark out the lands of the new nations.
"If you'll do it," the old man began, "you're going on a little trip with Ginger."
"The Congresswoman?" Emma asked.
Grandpa McHale nodded. "McCloy and I confirmed her as an Ambassador this mornin', before dawn. That idiot Smith decided she couldn't do it alone-- callin' all of us experienced folk old-- and said we needed two young'uns to go with her. Well, y'all were the youngest responsible folk I could think of."
"And if we refuse?" Austin asked.
"We don't get an Ambassador to Texas and you stay here with me. Your parents'll explain some stuff if you go see'em."
The twins exchanged a glance before looking back at the map and the governor. "What route would we take?" Emma asked reluctantly.
"Well, the fastest way would be to take th' river," Evans said. "But for safety... goin' through Mississippi and into Louisiana. We're gonna let Ginger and Smith decide for themselves. Your parents have already said you can go."
“I-- what?” Austin looked at the two old men incredulously. “Are you serious?”
“Did a bomb drop on D.C.?” Evans asked rhetorically.
The twins exchanged a second glance, as if to say to one another I will if you will.
“What happens if we succeed?” Emma asked.
“The Union survives,” Grandpa McHale answered. “We can fight against the fascist threat and start rebuilding.”
“And if we fail?” Austin asked.
“Pray that these guys aren’t as bad as Hitler.”
“Ginger, you ready?” Evans called.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, Perce!” she replied cheerfully. “And with these two young’uns to listen to my droning stories, you should finally get some silence when you go to have your scotch tonight."
The governor replied with a hearty laugh as Austin helped the older woman climb onto a modernized horse-drawn covered wagon. The blinds had been let loose to keep out any bugs, and a small supply of food and extra clothes had been shoved under a seat. Three blankets and several pillows sat beside Emma, who sat at the back of a wagon.
“Th’ guns are loaded?” Grandpa McHale asked. “Y’all have enough shells?”
“We’ll be fine, Grandpa,” Austin answered, climbing up front with Ginger after a moment or two. He turned and waved to his parents who were leaving in the wagon they’d brought to Jackson, Abby at their side. “Stay safe!” he called.
“We love you!” Emma added.
“We love you, too!” Luna and Alistair replied, Abby wildly waving beside them.
“Well, that’s all the goodbyes,” Ginger said. “Alright, now...Up now! Up!” The horses hooked to the covered wagon slowly started to move forward. “Hep now, hep!”
The horses started to switch to a steady gallop, heading westward, then southwest.
“Well,” Ginger said after a few minutes. “Ain’t this excitin’? I haven’t left the country since Bush Junior was in office, way back in the summer of ‘08.”
“Where did you go?” Emma asked.
“Canada,” Ginger replied.
“Why did you come back?” asked Austin.
“It wasn’t America. Sure, this or that was better here or there, but there’s nothing like the good ol’ red, white, and blue. Besides, I’m a Southerner. I was born in Lafayette (luh-FAY-it; yeah, we’re weirdos here), and I will die in Lafayette.”
“And if we die in Texas?”
“I’ll die in Lafayette, and no one’s changin’ my mind,” she responded. “Now, Austin, be a good young’un and take the reins. These hands are tired of driving.”
A few hours later, the trio and their horses were nearing the outskirts of Tennessee, just a few miles into what was formerly Mississippi. “We can stop here for the night,” Ginger said, taking the reins from Emma, who had hopped up front after a rest stop. “Whoa, now, Ronald. Whoa, Nancy. Whoa.”
The “First Horses,” as Austin dotingly called them, slowly came to a stop. Emma hopped off of the wagon to unhook them. Ginger and Austin followed, helping to tie the horses to a nearby tree.
“At this rate,” Ginger said, making sure the horses were secure, “we’ll be in Beaumont within a week.”
“And then?” Emma asked. “What do we do after getting to Beaumont?”
“I’ll fill you in once we’re set for the night.”
And so, part of their supplies were unpacked, and they established a small camp. Ginger would sleep sitting up in the wagon due to a back issue; Emma and Austin would sleep under the stars. All three would take turns on watch throughout the night. Ginger lit a fire, while Emma and Austin worked together to boil water and start cooking. Once their small stew was complete, they all sat side by side on three rocks.
“Now, young’uns, we’ve been given a special mission,” Ginger began. “Three years ago to the day, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. It is our duty to rebuild and reunite that America against the fascist threat that has arisen in the west. As such, we’re being sent into the strongest, most independent part of the south: the Republic of Texas.”
Austin nodded. “And? What are we doing once we get there?”
“I’m gettin’ to that if you’ll be patient,” the old woman said. “We’re going to talk to President Amy Vance herself and explain what we know. It’s a daunting task. Trust me, I know. But your grandfather and I believe that if Texas and its oil fall to the West, then democracy will die in America forever.”
Vice President Adrian Wilkes
Governor Esa Schwartz
November 12, 2019
Three Years, Three Days After the Bombs Dropped
The young black man narrowed his eyes as he listened to Godfrey Smith repeat his orders over the radio.
“Adrian, seal the deal. Get it done. I didn’t send you to Kentucky to play negotiator.”
“But, sir, if I may--”
“You may not, Adrian. Those are my orders.”
“Of course, Mr. President.”
Wilkes turned the ham radio off and sighed, straightening his tie and standing up. After a moment or two, he turned and stepped back outside, into the hall, heading into the meeting room he had left not an hour ago. Inside, a young Cherokee woman sat at the head of the table, a dozen or so others packed in around her.
“Yes?” she said, clearly expecting results.
“He won’t change the deal, Madam Governor. I tried, really, I have.”
“I want the room,” she replied. There was silence between the man and the woman for a few minutes, even with everyone gone. Then--
“I want you in the Senate as badly as you want to be there, ma’am. I don’t know why he wants you here.”
“Because he’s playing party politics,” Schwartz answered.”I was a Republican, and he’s not, and he won’t forget I was one. Even though I’m a Liberal Republican.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, I really am.”
“I know you are, Mr. Vice President. That’s why I need a favor.”
Wilkes nodded for her to continue.
“I want the Electoral College to be replaced with a county-by-county system, and I want the 28th amendment gone.”
“Kentucky will have joined by then. I’ll sign that treaty as soon as I return to my main office. But I don’t want Smith shoving us around for years to come. There’s only one man that can take the presidency in 2020, and that man is William McHale.”
Wilkes looked away. “I’ll tell Smith that you’ve accepted the invitation. When I get back to Jackson with whoever ends up in your delegation, I’ll inform the old man personally.”
“I will,” she replied. “There’s a tidbit at the end that says that this treaty requires my resignation. I can’t appoint myself to the Senate, but my Lieutenant Governor can when he rises as Acting Governor.”
“You’re a sly one, ma’am, I’ll give you that much.”
“My friends call me Esa.”
“And mine call me Wilkes.”
“Well then, Wilkes,” the governor said, raising a shot glass, “I think this is a good start to a beautiful friendship.”
I normally wouldn't compile these chapters together, but they were so darn short and un-detailed that I just didn't see the point in posting them at their lengths. There was nothing to add on from there without prematurely spoiling plot points , and I'd rather post two short chapters together than do that.
Focusing on the story thus far, hopefully some things are starting to come together. You may have noticed I included no notes at the end of Chapter Five; honestly, I wrote it but deleted the note because I did not sit right with me to have a few personal words after showing you a glimpse of the "Fourth Reich," though it's based in America rather than Germany.
The characters are, I hope, starting to become more alive for you readers. If they aren't, let me know; I'll see what I can do.