By: Karla Fetrow
Editor’s Note: I was once challenged by a writing correspondent to create a modern day equivalent of “The Mouse That Roared”, a highly entertaining story about a small country that invaded the United States, not with any overly hostile concerns, but because they were positive they would lose and wanted funds for re-building their poor country. Through a series of unlikely events, the tiny kingdom actually wins. Challenges have a delicious flavor to me, and after several months of struggle, I put together the plot line. How do we make a modern day mouse that roared? By choosing a small country with a tiny population. Iceland becomes the axis for the story, set fifty years in the future, and though I idled my time working out the background, science, main characters and lead roles, I realized I’d better hurry up and finish. The future is coming faster than I had ever thought on that long ago fantasy day. I hope you enjoy the adventures of Klaus Vandeweerd as he struggles to create a powerful alliance with the Arctic Rim.
I’d also like to thank Mitchell Warren and Little Chief in helping me to create our historic background and producing the characters, Stanton, Barker and the brothers Oyagek.
The alarm voice was a strange one, high pitched and bizarre in its mechanical Spanish accent. “Good morning, Congressman Vanderweerd. The hour is sixty-thirty A.M. The temperature is twenty-nine degrees celsius.. Sunshine is forecast for most of the day with a light sprinkling of acid rain in the evening. Air quality is tolerable. Oxygen masks are advised for those with respiratory tract diseases. A public reminder to please check the filters of your collectors.”
Already he missed the cool breezes and gurgling aqueducts of Iceland. San Fernando de Azure wasn’t bad. It could have been worse. Last year, it was London. He hated London. Not the people, but the town. The huddled, shabby dreariness of it. After the Thames flooded, people began to rebuild wherever it looked habitable. The sewers had been damaged. The saline content from the swollen oceans leaching into the river, saturated the banks. The houses crowded close together, haphazardly. The streets were crowded with vendors selling everything from cherry tomatoes grown in a hydroponics bathtub to kief. Every city had its kief. The new drug of choice. Takes away your hunger. Takes away your thirst. Takes away your pain. He didn’t blame the people. They did what they could, what they had to. They conserved their precious, potable water to the maximum of their ability. It was just the city he didn’t like; noisy, dirty, crowded, the air pungent with unwashed bodies, unflushed toilets, sewage that rolled slowly and reluctantly to the recycling plants.
The big problem with London was that their ever existing society of financiers and pharmaceuticals were always and would always be best buddies with the loose collection of city states calling themselves the Real United States. They had used other titles, The Free Collective, Eastern America. He tried vainly to remember what they were calling themselves now.
San Fernando was large. It was noisy and dirty, but it had more water. It had more food. It had greenery. He could see it from the window, triumphantly sprouting here and there like broccoli. It said something about Venezuela that even after they lost Caracas and the islands to the flood, they still managed to get back to their feet and rebuild. Venezuela was a neutral zone.
Klaus went into the bathroom and placed his hands under the faucet, waiting. After a three second interval, a tiny trickle of water ran into his cupped palms. He rubbed them together quickly, spreading moisture up over his wrists and arms, and patting his face. He checked the blue meter next to the mirror. There was enough water for a little bio-soap and a rinse off. Quickly, he scrubbed around the finger nails and dampened the back of his neck, spreading the cleansing ingredients along his skin. Filling his palms once more, he thrust his face into the delicious liquid, splashing it up into his hair. He glanced at the meter and breathed with satisfaction. He had conserved enough water to take a five minute shower in the evening.
Instructing his voice messenger to call a cab, he finished his morning toiletries and slipped into his jacket, studying himself critically in the mirror. It was a little frayed at the cuffs, but it was wool, goddamn it, not a cheap spin off imitation. It would serve for several more years. All it needed was a little darning. Bonnie would do it. Bonnie was a wonderful girl, always devoted to the cause.
His shirt cuffs needed darning too, but they wouldn’t be noticed, tucked away inside the sleeves of his suit. Besides, he had his grandfather’s cuff links; real metal, real silver. They should make an impression.
“My name is Congressman Klaus Vandeweerd, of Iceland,” he practiced in front of the mirror. “A few of you already know me…” He paused, thinking about the stern countenance of Majority Leader, President Ting and her powerful Indo-Chinese Nation. He winced. Then there was that bureaucratic puppet king, Stanford. He was a smerger, one of those political players who is always rubbing away those fine lines of definition until you’re not really sure what he’s saying. Klaus knew what he was saying, alright, underneath the phrasing that spread like flower petals. All Stanford’s industry, which represented the corporate manifesto saw, was that if they seized the reserves now, they stood to make a lot of money. He was there to see that it didn’t happen. “Some of you have arrived, bringing your petitions. Some of you have tried to find a way around the quota the Northern Alliance has placed on water withdrawals. Recent sanctions placed recently against Greenland, with-holding grains, coffee and date sugar until they drop their water prices has caused Greenland to voluntarily join the Northern Alliance. As of this day, when I speak for Iceland, I also speak for the well-being of Greenland, and all those who have united under our banner; a banner of responsible care for our resources.”
“Congressman Vandeweerd, your cab is waiting,” the mechanical voice announced politely.
“I’ll be right down.” He wondered as he clattered down the steps if his own voice sounded as strange and artificial when sent through the auto-waves. The cab driver was looking at the water collector located under his exhaust. “It got broke into again,” he announced. “It doesn’t matter what kind of lock I put on it, they find their way in.” The cab driver didn’t sound angry, just resigned, even a little humorous. “I don’t mind that much,” he admitted when Klaus asked him about it. “Working for the embassy pays pretty well. I’ve even got my own little garden; hydroponics, all of it, but enough to keep us in vegetables all year. You can’t say that for some of these beggars. They are lucky to receive daily hydrate pills and a liter of fresh water. I’m not saying we should give them more, Senor, just that I understand how desperate they must feel. They are refugees, all of ‘em, and we just can’t take care of the whole population.”
Vandeweerd listened absently as the cab driver finished his task and took his place behind the wheel of the vehicle. He was old; sixty, at least; old enough to remember the catastrophe. The lines of bitterness on his face were the lines of someone who had lived history, not just someone currently at its effects with no understanding as to why. “You’ll like the State dinner. We have agricultural camps just a few miles from here, but civilians are only allowed hydroponics. You’ll get the real thing.”
Maybe that’s what he missed most. Once you began approaching the equatorial zone, nothing ever tasted like the real thing. Nothing tasted like foods grown in soil, minerals and sunshine. It was almost better to swallow one of Phillurs Whole Earth tablets. A full meal, with all your essential vitamins, proteins and electrolytes in one capsule. His stomach growled thinking about it.
He stopped at the coffee shop in the lounge before attending the assembly in the huge domed agri-theater; San Fernando’s latest triumph in technical achievement. In the middle of the dome, on the base floor, was a park, modeled after the Spanish veranda, with mango, citrus and banana trees growing, benches and small tables scattered around, and fresh air circulating through the ventilating system. The compartments circulating the bottom floor were mainly shops, restaurants and local public offices. The upper floors were accessible only through security clearance. These contained the law offices, the media headquarters, assembly rooms and in-house legislative apartments.
The coffee was real. He lingered to savor it, rolling the thick, bitter taste around on his tongue. The hard, nearly flat biscuits he ordered to go with it were grainy with sugar. He wondered idly if the Iceland budget could afford an increase in sugar and coffee imports. Both products had been abolished during the anti-drug campaign of the twenties, and had only trickled back into the global economy in recent years.
Nobody cared that much about drugs anymore. After the two great purges, governments realized the best way to keep a hungry society happy was to keep them sedated. While the official endorsement was of pharmaceutical controlled drugs, and ExxAnglo monopolized the poppy trade for their legal enterprise, cultivated varieties of other natural drug containing plants were abundant wherever they were able to flourish. South America was humming again with coffee and sugar plantations. Cocoa beans, which barely missed the last of the purges, were being ground into delicious chocolate. It was wanton. It was wasteful of the precious resources needed to supply necessary food items. It was addicting. Klaus sighed. Venezuela had everything it needed; fresh water, fish, agriculture. Could you blame them for also encouraging those luxuries that grew naturally in their soil?
There is that moment when you are aware that the whole world is watching you, judging you, not particularly impressed with what you are saying, its growling needs rising up over your own protests. Klaus Vandeweerd closed his fists, his only outward sign of tension, his sweaty palms. His announcement had taken the assembly by surprise, as he had intended, with the accompanying venomous opposition he had expected. The reporters, holding up their media scans and shouting questions, only added to the general mayhem among the speakers. President Ting brought her gavel down sharply on the podium.
“Order! May I please have order! Congressman Vandeweerd, your collaboration with Aqualung Recovery gravely jeopardizes the well being of a number of countries. They cannot afford a rate increase of two percent per barrel. I represent a population of four billion people. We have rationed our water as much as humanly possible. Your alliance is in direct violation of the global welfare act and defies the spirit of this legislation. Water should be for the people, not for profit. I ask that you take our position seriously into consideration.”
“President Ting, with all due respect, may I remind you that the Nationalized States of Indo-China promised more than ten years ago at the Crisis Committee Review to shrink their population by fourteen percent before the 2052 summit. Your Nation has not done this. Instead, the population has risen four percent in that time period. As you have violated an International Treaty, we have no choice but to penalize you; a two percent increase in cost for a four percent increase in population.”
He heard her short, sharp intake of breath, and he tapped through his gatebook quickly before she could protest. He cleared his throat to remind her he still had the floor. “Furthermore, we caught two floating processors from the Eastern America City States siphoning glacial waters within the ten mile square boundary of our water recovery system. We will tolerate no more trespasses of National boundaries. We will allow no more thefts within the jurisdiction of our territory. Any more violations will be considered an act of war.”
President Ting gave that half bitter, half caustic smile that had made her so popular among her Constituents. “Congressman Vandeweerd, since you are so knowledgeable of out Nation’s history, I’m sure you also know that we conducted a rigorous campaign, investing countless millions into media advertising for birth control, contraceptive measures and legalized abortions. If the League of Humanitarian Rights had not stepped in when we began executing the worst of our criminal population, and sterilizing some of the troublesome elements of society, we would have reached our goal in the projected time. Our hands have been bound. Every extreme measured we’ve used has been sanctioned. We can’t go against the will of the people, which is to choose the size of their families.”
He was quite aware of her campaigns; constantly peddling the baby market to keep manufacturing demands high, and consequently energy demands, as well. In the interest of profit, the huge Mid Eastern Nation preferred to place other countries on hold in their own challenges to overcome the crisis, order death squads, and continue to have cute little babies that grew into consumer minded children and young adults. Not to mention that their immense population gave them a majority vote. He opened his mouth to speak when someone new took the floor.
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Troyal Barker and I’m President of the Confederate States of America. As I’m sure you know, my southern states have formed an alliance with the Mexican Government in operation Western World Energy Conservation. We feel it’s a positive thing, and we’ve consistently reported increases in renewable energy. We’ve actually gone down in our price since 2030 and that’s been consistent. I myself talked with the Mexican President, a Mister Hosea Guevera Hernandez. I can barely say his name but we’ve become blood brothers in the just time we’ve spent together.
Anyway I don’t mean to ramble on but sometimes I do. The point I’m making is that now here in the year 2062, we are entering a new age of what I like to call desperation. What started off as a crises of economy in just a few nations has gradually spread like the Scram virus to all the nations of the world. We are in desperate times, and it’s just sort of human nature to become defensive.
And you know I’ve been thinking about the water issue for quite a time now. It seems to me that almost every nation represented here tonight has given of themselves, their resources and their efforts. I mean we got Germany and their contributions to the automotive industry, the electric car division they opened. We got Switzerland contributing a lot in chemical research and new pharmaceuticals. We got Italy, China…we got a lot of countries that are carrying their load.
Then again, we got countries on the very bottom and they need our help. Russia’s pretty much on the verge of collapse. Africa’s been hit very badly. So what are we doing to help them? I know that Russia contributed a great deal to the oil age in the 20th century, and so did Texas. See, me, I’m a big believer in karma. What you put into things, you eventually reap the fruitage of that labor.
What I don’t understand about the Northern Alliance is why they seem to be holding the earth’s water supply hostage. Water should be a free resource, just like wind is. The Confederate States of America is the leader in renewable energy and though we charge for our technology, we would never presume to charge for the wind.
Now charging for the technology of harvesting water is one thing, but what these countries have done, this axis of greed as I like to call them, is take the world’s water supply hostage. Now I’m not an eloquent man and I certainly wouldn’t presume to tell anyone I’m smarter than they are. But what seems to be happening here is that the Northern Alliance are elevating their greed above the interests of the world community.
We all deserve water and I believe God gave us this natural resource to replenish us. To hold that hostage, and to try and punish the rest of the world community by restricting the population and forcing abortions? Well, that just doesn’t seem right to me. Is that just me? See, I hear all of this talk about how ignoring Alaska’s demands is an act of war? To me, that sounds like an act of Fascism. That’s not a pretty word, but that’s how a lot of us in the community feel right about now.
And they want to talk about war, well, denying us of a natural god-given resource sounds like an act of war in itself. I think a lot of nations and political leaders have been patient thus far, but if the Northern Alliance and Alaska want to try and starve our children, then I don’t see what’s to stop us from just taking the water ourselves.”
Despite his morning cautions to himself to keep his temper, he felt his blood pressure rising. The Confederate States! Over half their lands were barrens, the other half staggering under a water recuperation process that should have begun years ago. Where the hell did they find this guy? Nobody had told him the Confederacy was being run by the Youth Corps. “Excuse me. Excuse me! To begin with, President Ting, we, the countries of the Northern Alliance are in no way responsible for the type of birth control you use or condone. You applied for and received, monies from the Global Advancement Funds for the purposes of educating your flourishing populace on the reasons why they needed to lower their birth rates. Educate, Madame President, is the key word. I would hope that with a little education, any global citizen would realize the need to limit the number of offspring they have.”
He paused, trying to keep a level tone to his voice. “President Barker, let me ask you this. Where were you when we first began to prepare for this crisis? Twenty years ago, we cleaned up the most massive oil spill in history off the coast of Siberia. Who cleaned it up? Not you, President Barker. Not the Eastern States of America. Not the Indo-China Nation. The Northern Alliance cleaned it up.
The water recovery process is only a small part of what we have done to conserve the world’s water supply. It’s vitally necessary to monitor the reserves and only those who are close to the source can judge how much can be expended. We have experts in all aspects of the recycling and water distribution process that can help each country learn how to use every last drop efficiently. We offer these services. We can’t force you to accept them. But we can force all those who would violate the conditions of our treaty to stay away from our boundaries. Our conditions have been clear. Only countries that show low or no population growth receive the standard rates for potable water. Countries that show more than two percent growth will be penalized with higher rates. Not fascism, President Barker, necessity. The larger the population, the larger the need for water. Shrink the need and there will be enough water to go around.
As the appointed spokesman for the alliance, I’d like to add that these are not specific demands of Alaska. I am a representative of Iceland. These are our conditions. These are the Yukon conditions. These are the conditions of the countries who rightfully own this natural resource.”
Back to the issue that had kept the legislative body tied up for months in a filibuster. President Ting looked at him smugly and folded her hands. “Congressman Vandeweerd, the Eastern States of America, as you call it, is the recognized representation of the true United States and all the powers invested in its Constitution. Just because the federal seat has been moved to New York City doesn’t mean the bureau is without council. According to the documentation of lands ceded, the Federal United States still owns fifty- five percent of the mass territory. The Democratic Council recognizes that the Federal Bureau has invested a great deal into the defense system and development process of its rightfully owned National reserve. The floating processors were within their rightful jurisdiction. These waters belong to the true United States.”
“The federal bureau illegally contracted the federal lands when Alaska became a part of the now dissolved United States of America. It has been declared its own country. Therefore, any contracts or ties with the former contract of the United States of America are also dissolved.”
The young man with the round, water-fed face and tall Stetson hat, bobbed his head. Klaus wondered if the hat was real suede leather, or if it was just a very good imitation. The technology barons maintained a rather lucrative income. It could be real. He had seen hats like these auctioned before, at astronomical prices; left-overs from an era when there were cattle and deer. “I believe President Stafford of West America might have something to say about that, as to Alaska’s illegal secession. I believe President Stafford might go into more detail about the Alaska secession, but then again, I’m not familiar with East America’s property, you understand? I am mainly concerned about The Confederate States of America and what we see as a global need to step up to the plate as it were.
We have been volunteered by many smaller nations as examples, to set the example for how countries that have broken off from the original United States are supposed to act. And we’re supposed to act in junction with the rest of the world powers. And I believe the southern states, and Texas in particular, has been very cooperative with the world scene. As a matter of fact, I think I reflect the attitude that many of our world leaders have right about now. We have legitimate doubts about the Northern Alliance, and the Alaskan people, and the Icelandic people, over-stepping their authority. They may have rights to their land, but once ice melts, it becomes water, and it ceases becoming property of an exclusive nation.
The water belongs to the global community, the people, the leaders of Earth. It’s not just a matter of Texas owning this or Alaska owning that. It’s not about you or I anymore, it’s about WE. We the people, not of the United States, but of Planet Earth. See I don’t think some people quite get where we’re at right now. It’s not a matter of coming together for the betterment of the human species. It’s about coming together for the survival of the human species.
When you’re threatening the rest of the world with starvation and with famine, which is what is seems to some of us what the Northern Alliance is doing, then it’s not just a matter of politics. This is the sort of issue that starts wars. This is the sort of issue that kills entire countries of people. I mean we all step up to the plate when the time comes. As a matter of fact, I believe Texas attempted to help Alaska clean up the oil spill when a lot of the community backed away from responsibility. And as I said, Texas has always tried to lead the Confederate States into a responsible age of energy. We’ve taken the lead in using renewable energy.
Not to get off the point though. Regardless of who Alaska belongs to, whether it’s still property of the East America or of Iceland, my point is when the glaciers melt, it ceases becoming land, it ceases becoming property. I don’t recall Iceland having property over fresh water. Least of all when the world needs it. So my question is when, does a country stop being responsible to the world community?”
Klaus took just two minutes too long to flip through his gatebook and compose his answer. Several paces to his left, a chair scraped noisily and Tobias Oyagak slammed both large, work knotted hands down on the table. “IF THE INCORPORATED RIGHTS ARE TO BE DISPUTED, IT IS BEST TO HEAR THE VOICE OF ALASKA!”
to be contd.