By Karla Fetrow
Previously: On his way to the airport, Vandeweerd is abducted by his chauffeur and taken to the domicile of Queen Caridad of the Peruvian Empire. Queen Caridad also makes Vandeweerd an offer – find out who’s pirating from the Antarctic Ice Shelf, and she will support the Northern Alliance. Her offer is tempting after he sees how they are transforming one little spot in Venezuela. He has little to lose by supporting her claims of innocence before the Council; or does he?
Pirates. It was the new favorite excuse drummed up by the water monopolies to maintain their hold on the glacial assets. The accusation was brought up at every news conference, but there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support their claims.
There was plenty of water. The glaciers had shifted down, following the line of the Rockies, collecting along the Aspen belt and piling up on the Sierras. But Cascadia refused to allow them to be harvested. They claimed the only water they used was from the run off, and that the glaciers should be allowed their natural life span. Beverley Strom typed in a notation to self in her gatebook. “What is the natural life span of a glacier? One thousand years? Ten thousand? Could glaciers be called a life form?”
That was the other problem; the reformers. According to them, the desert world two thirds of the population lived in was the result of man made interventions. According to them, Earth had once been brimming with life, but modern industry had destroyed it. That was a good one. As though a few hydro-plants, transpo links and chemical converters could have triggered the earthquakes and floods that supposedly changed the world’s geographic maps. She was tired of the phrase, “the sins of the parents will be visited on the children”. Her parents hadn’t sinned. They had worked with the nuclear clean-up crew following the radiation purge. They had both died of cancer before she was seven, despite taking the longevity pill, but their jobs had paid well. She was placed in the Orphanage for Survivors of the Purge, educated and trained by the Greater City of Burbank, all thanks to the credits built up in her parents’ com base while they were alive. If not for that, she would have been just another street scrounger.
She didn’t remember a flood. Her educators had told her the flood stories were a myth. There had never been great cities like Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans or Houston. There was no Manhattan. It was all baja, something that pretended it had once existed, but could not be proved. If the reformers weren’t such an annoyance, she would pity them, but they were the ones who forced people to live in the barrens, to barely be able to scratch out an existence without conversion processes and domes. It cost Burbank a fortune to collect nuclear particles for energy that the world used for their communications, to pay for the maintenance of their desalination plants, owned and controlled by the greed of Alaska Corporation. They had shown the world what progress could do and yet they were consigned to live in domes, endlessly recycling collected water, circulating tired air, while in the distance the Sierras simmered in frozen silence, unpopulated, unaccessible, thanks to the lunatic rants of the reformers.
She waited now, packed in with six dozen other reporters, all holding their media scans, all with the same ambition to gain a top spot on Newsynch. The green “press” light flashed, the doors opened, and the news teams scrambled in.
Her cameraman nodded. “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is Beverly Strom, your up to the minute G-net reporter, giving you the latest within our united world society. Burbanks reached the very difficult decision today of releasing a number of tigers, lions and leopards from the San Diego district zoo into the Barrens. Citing humanitarian purposes, the administrators explained that the desert-like aspects of the Barrens was far more compatible to the natural life styles of these African animals than remaining locked within a zoo cage. One official reported candidly that the funds generated by the zoo simply were not adequate enough to continue supporting the costs of food and water. Several other species of animals, including elephants and giraffes, were released into the Barrens three years ago, but there has been no indication that they survived.
In related news, Gliz star, Axel Missouri is celebrating his new release, The Agri Kings, with a swimming pool party for his fellow cast members, friends and family at his ocean front mansion in Glendale. Now there’s some partying for you!
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Today, KNAK news is taking you on a very special journey; inside the legislative chambers of the Democratic Global Council. A rumor was circulated late last night that a skirmish has sprung up along the corridor of the Tangle Lakes aqueduct system, located in Federal Alaska, although the Democratic Council has not confirmed it. Communications between the Northern Alliance and the Council collapsed when four weeks into a summit meeting in San Fernando, Venezuela resulted in a filibuster. It’s been two months since the rogue countries that comprise the Alliance; Iceland, Canada, Greenland and the Alaska Republic, have spoken to other members of the cabinet. In the meantime, tensions build as citizens question the need for continued short water rations when our water tables have been re-building and evidence of spontaneous plant growth is evident in the more unpopulated areas. Could this be a conspiracy by the Alliance to shrink populations through water denial? This is Beverly Strom of KNAK, reporting the news for the Burbank, Unilateral Broadcasting System.”
“And good,” said Everest, lowering his camcorder. Although they were allowed to scan, all live filming of the Council room passed through censorship first. They had gotten their shots of the chamber room and the company of delegates. All other direct recording had to wait until the legislators passed into the press room. They watched from their balcony room, walled in by glass, with only the speaker phones relaying their discussion.
They had gotten a good spot. Her interview with Troyal Barker had given her a preference rating and a tempting offer from Popular News. It would mean relocating to Austin, and though she was fascinated with the Texas President, she still felt a great deal of loyalty to Burbank. Burbank had fed her, housed her, educated her. She owed it something in return.
She listened breathlessly as President Ting made her opening statement. “Representatives of the Council, we are at a critical apex within our negotiations for increased water rights for the densely urbanized populations. It has been brought to our notice that a number of countries have been making headway in their water conservation efforts and that their reserves of potable water has actually increased. The Peruvian Empire has increased its fresh water storage after a forty six kilometer Antarctic shelf caved into the ocean last week. The water recapturing was efficiently conducted with very little wasted to sea flow, but their cautions are grim. Any more tapping into this reserve before the shelf has a chance to re-stabilize itself could result in massive caving such as was evidenced by Cape Ann in 2024, when the resulting flood waters destroyed much of Malaysia and New Guinea.
We have the capacity to channel more water into the urban areas. This will gain a higher quality of life and more contentment among the populace. We all need to look critically and morally at this question and ask ourselves; are the water rich countries holding back because they wish to create a more balanced eco-system, or because they stand to make more profit by feeding us a line of continued water bankruptcy? It is the voice of the people that demands equal water rights for everyone. They want it now.”
“You tell them, President Ting,” Beverly muttered under her breath.
Everest laughed. “Do you really believe in her?”
“I don’t really believe in any of them. All any of them are trying to do is get rich at the expense of the people. They know we can’t survive in the barrens and immigration regulations are strict. We’re trapped here and we have to do whatever they say if we wish to survive.”
“That’s ingratitude, Everest.”
“I’m grateful enough. My parents hired me out to the bio-farms when I was ten. It was the only way I could finish my education, but Green Layer made good their word. I had to work hard, but now I’m a media technician. That doesn’t mean I have to believe everything a politician says. Do you believe Vanderweerd?”
Vanderweerd was murmuring something to the Alaskan Congressman by his side while the representative of the President of the Federal United States took the stand after a passionate speech from Troyal Barker.
“Well I’m not sure exactly what the southern states are saying. Even if we could afford a massive world-united, restorative water project, there’s no guarantee that the water would be safe. Or that it would make for a lasting resource. I don’t want to make it seem like we’re catering to the Northern Alliance. But we have to be realistic here. We want to reach a peaceful resolution that sees free trade of water resources, recyclable water.
What good would it be going to war and killing off a third of the population for something that could freely distributed through negotiation? The Northern Alliance must open its eyes and view the suffering its decisions are bringing to others. I have no doubt that President Vandeweerd can be reached with logic and understanding. That is the American way… it always has been.”
Folding his hands in front of him, Vanderweerd answered. “Esteemed members of the Council, President Ting, this Democracy of Nations was first brought together by a common accord; an International crisis. The Pebble Mines disaster contaminated waterways as far as the Gulf of Mexico. The massive calving of the Antarctic Ice Shelf and the glacial spills within the Arctic regions consumed coastlines on a global scale, submerging a number of islands and flooding the rivers with pollution and saline content. Around the world, overused aquifers had run dry.
We gathered together to affect solutions for a dying world. Many advancements have been made in the recovery process. We now have areas that were once stripped bare that are starting to grow greenery again. We have full reservoirs, clean rivers and lakes. But what once had been the world’s bread baskets still do not have water in their aquifers. They are barren, desolate, depleted. Until this balance is restored, we must continue to conserve.
President Stafford, you say you advocate peaceful solutions, yet I speak to you under duress. My country and members of the Alliance have been threatened with aggressive action. The blockade against Greenland continues, with pirate fleets invading its territorial waters. The Republic of Alaska is under attack.
We’ve given our time and our technology to the peaceful settlement of the global crisis. We’ve made compromise after compromise, sacrificing precious resources in the interest of the common good. We have no sacrifices left we can give without promoting our own ruin. We have no more compromises we can make without compromising our own integrity. If there are compromises to be made, then let them be made by the co-dependents of our resources. Remove your claims to federal jurisdiction in Alaska, President Stafford. President Barker, content yourself with your alliance with federal Mexico, and its affiliations to the Eastern United States. How fortunate that President Hernandez’s ships were there to harvest it in time. It seems peculiar however, that the Empire, which has practiced safe harvesting methods for twenty years did not take precautions to guarantee their extraction procedures wouldn’t result in another fracturing of the Antarctic ice field. The fracturing almost appears to be pirating.”
“I hate him,” said Beverley vehemently. “He lies. He tells nothing but lies. He’s a haboob maestro, kicking up dust just to create a scandal.”
“What if he’s right?”
A scandal was exactly what he was kicking up. The Council President remonstrated him sharply. “If you have accusations to make, state them clearly. “I think we have heard just about enough of your innuendos and dramatics.”
“I have no accusations to make. I only suggest that we make a full investigation of the extraction procedures along the Antarctic Shelf. I have information from the Peruvian Empire that the incident occurred far from their harvesters.”
“Would Queen Caridad care to speak?”
A young woman stood up. “I am the legal representative for Queen Rosas de la Caridad. “Her excellency regrets she cannot be with us, but her time is valuable and better served by attending to the needs of the Empire than in petitioning a committee that rarely reaches common agreement. Her single objective is this: She invites a full investigation into the incidences of premature calving. As a conscientious global citizen, she is concerned with the wastefulness and potential hazards presented by excessive harvesting of the ice shelf. Recent fractures of the Antarctic Shelf, located more than 139 kilometers from our plants show disturbing signs of having been artificially induced. Our harvesters did not cause this. Our policy is to look for spontaneous fracturing and capture the resulting ice bergs as they break loose. By inducing fractures, we will destabilize the ice shelf further and we could once again be inflicted with massive flooding.”
Beverley stirred restlessly and nudged her cameraman. “How easy would it be really to plant evidence of man made fracturing a hundred kilometers from the water extraction plants? All they’d have to do is send out a harvester to rake around a little, then return back to base pretending they knew nothing about it.”
“Something’s happening,” whispered back Everest.
Congressman Oyagek had taken the stand on part of the Alaskan Corporation. His speech had begun with his usual slow rumbling determination. “Many say that The Northern delegate City States are holding vital water resources as hostage; this is far from the truth! As our planet slowly recovers, a process that will take generations upon generations, we must remember that our Mother Earth needs her pure water as well. We simply cannot remove water resources from our planetary environment when she is trying to wash herself clean. To do so would arrest her ability to support all forms of life.
Due to pollution and environmental assassination, most of our oceans have lost the ability to support simple zooplankton. We all know that zooplankton and other forms of alga contribute over 80% of the free oxygen in the atmosphere. As the forests of the world decline we will find ourselves in an even greater need. When the ocean alga collapses, an eminent forecast if we continue to disrupt the healing of our planet, the little remaining forests will not be able to produce the oxygen that all need. How shall we then bicker, to whom will the last gasps of oxygen go?
Our eyes and mind set must be for the future, we must support the only environment that can and will support us. We all must make sacrifices. Even though the Alaska Corporation, as many of you claim, is water rich, we still ration our water supplies. We, by choice, take in no more water in our daily consumption than the hardest hit areas in water bankruptcy. We suffer no less than……….”
At that point, he was interrupted by an attache of his appointment. He dismissed her in one moment, than in another, studied her gatebook, his brow furrowing with anger. “The seals of the Fairbanks repository have been broken!” Congressman Oyagak screamed at everyone and no one. “Children of the Alaska Corporation have been murdered by Senate controlled weapons of death!”
His eyes rolled wildly over the cabinet. “Who authorized the use of skirmish negotiations? Was it you, President Ting, pretending to be supportive while all along you knew the majority vote was still on your side? Was it you, President Stanford, always greedy to take control of the Northwest Passage, or you, President Barker, in your dried up piece of territory, desperate for the water you failed to keep safe? It matters little. The hell with all of you. There will be consequences for spilling Alaskan blood.”
As Tobias Oyagak turned on his heels; he grabbed the title placard on his reserved seating table and smashed it on the floor. Before exiting the from the assembly chamber, however, he turned and voiced his rage in a curse of hatred. “May you all drown in your own thirst, and may your graves be shallow and unvisited!”
“What the hell just happened?” Wondered Beverley.
Everest was already positioning his camera toward the door to catch the Congressman as he walked through. “I don’t know. Something about a skirmish in Fairbanks. The entire council is breaking up.”
The entire council was shouting back and forth at each other, banging their fists and shaking their fingers. President Ting tried in vain to bring the meeting to order with her gavel. Tobias Oyagek slammed through the press doors, his face an extremely pale color for a Native American. “Representative Oyagak!” She called after him determinedly, holding her scan as close as she could get. She waited for her cameraman to digitally correct the skewed angle of the beam, then pursued him. “A few questions, Representative Oyagak! What was the meaning of your statement today? Has a border skirmish, in fact, begun in federal Alaska? Who has provoked the attack? Were there any illegal weapons used?”
The Senor Administrator started to brush past her, then stopped. “Ms. Strom,” he told her tersely, “I will make no comments today other than a great tragedy has occurred. If you seek an interview from either myself or other representatives of Alaska Corporation, you must come to Alaska Corporation soil. Good day!”
His reply surprised her. She had expected him to ignore her as he had on previous occasions, and the brief encounter, caught on camera, left her momentarily without words. Everest signaled one minute to advertising time. She signaled back that she needed a few seconds to gain her composure, then faced the camera lens with a smile. ““Well, I don’t think I’ll be traveling to Alaska soon, but KNAK will take a look at what the other delegates have to say right after this word.” An advertisement flashed across the main holo screen for emissions water collectors. “Remember folk,” Said an invisible sponsor’s voice after displaying a dramatic image of a thirster tinkering underneath an automobile. “Hydra Glo has the best emissions collectors for fuel cell efficiency. Now, with advanced technology, you not only save a full liter more per cyclic review, you are equipped with the latest anti-theft exhaust mounts.”
“Mother of Maestra,” whistled Everest. “Your Oyagek scan just went nuclear. You’ve got ten signals coming in from G-net.”
“Get the camcorder ready,” she whispered back, her heart pounding, “President Barker is entering the press room.”
She jockeyed for position, hoping he’d recognize her and speak to her directly, but Barker didn’t seem to be in the mood for signaling out anyone in particular. “I got to say,” he drawled, “ tragedy always seems to strike after someone gets too selfish. I guess you could consider that as God’s way of humbling certain people. My granddaddy always used to tell me that selfish people always end up hurting themselves more than anyone else. You try and hold something as precious as water hostage, the resource of God, the gift of God? You better believe the Holy One is not going to let that slide. That’s not “water under the bridge”, my friends. That’s the universal lesson of sharing.
Not that I don’t feel sympathy for the Alaskan people and the Icelandic people and the Canadians and whatever other cold-blooded people there are in the northern alliance. But tragedy always befalls a major moral sin. As for Oyagak’s outburst, well, obviously he is a very desperate man. Perhaps he senses that his time is running out. When you’re talking about world peace and everlasting diplomacy there has to be some sacrifices. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s something we all have to learn eventually. If you’ll excuse me, I got to get back to the council.”
The camera lens zoomed back in on Beverley. “We have just heard a statement from President Barker, leader of the Southern Confederacy. Our correspondent, Bill Rawlings, at the outside entrance doors reports that the crowds are going wild.”
“Let’s wrap it,” advised Everest. “The boss wants to speak to you now.”
“The one and only.”
Joshua Gotthardt, senior director of KNAK news, advisory board chairman of G-net. When he wanted to speak to you, it was only for promotion or oblivion. She couldn’t think of anything she had done to get her fired, yet still she felt a hard knot of anxiety churn in her stomach. The public viewing room and lobby were packed, the crowds spilling into the streets. She wanted to stay. She wanted to feel the rush of power, the seizing grip of unity. She wanted to catch the faces; hungry, unwashed, twisted with desperation, as they rose together and shouted, “Barker! Barker! Barker!”