Mon. May 20th, 2024

By: Karla Fetrow

Previously:  ( director Joshua Gotthardt of KNAK news, an affiliated station of the giant network, G-net, has just informed Beverly Strom she will no longer be working as a reporter covering social events and conventions.  He lets her know he was disturbed that she had declined an invitation to visit Alaska with Congressman, Tobias Oyagek.  Beverly’s heart sinks, but he gives her a thread of hope.  She would now become an investigative reporter.  Her new job; to win the trust of Klaus Vandweerd and report back her findings concerning the Icelandic Alliance.  In the meantime, the Oyagek brothers are going on a rampage. 


As difficult as it was piercing the Barrens on short notice, the extraction out of Reveille Peak had its own precision. It was nothing new or unanticipated.  Point of fact, Nathan had known the day would come when this transfer point could be utilized, and had made preparations. The short flight southwest to Gass Peak and the drive south into Las Vegas was uneventful, it was however the drive through Las Vegas that required the utmost caution. To be recognized this far from Burbank, at this time of night, would have caused serious inquires from most Delegates attending the Burbank Summit Meetings.

Ironically, it had been a perverse joke that Nathan reveled in while driving through Las Vegas disguised only in a drab tan coat and baseball cap. He had been completely ignored as too small, too humble this town that glorified extravagant exhibitions of wealth.  He was astounded by the sheer amount of water wasted in this desert environment; it was staggering, bordering on colossal in terms of the current global crisis. If only those fools had known it was Nathan Oyagak that was rolling through town with the entire water wealth of the Alaska Corporation in his hip pocket.

After leaving Las Vegas, and crossing the border point that had marked the once California State line, Nathan had dropped Paulson off several hours later just North of Barstow with instructions to contact the constituent partners and let them know the binder was a success, and then return to his base of operations in San Francisco and await further instructions.

After going overland on old Highway 18, Nathan arrived in Palmdale just short of 9:30 a.m. and was preparing to depart for his final drive into the Greater Burbank Consortium when his nav-sat link alerted him to an incoming coded Corporation link.

That’s odd, Nathan thought to himself. There’s no way Tobias could be that pissed at me for not attending him before his Summit Meeting this morning.

Nathan decided he didn’t want to speak to his brother and signaled the com transmission to deny call, and was promptly alerted to a re-transmission coded security level Alpha.

“What the Fuck?” Nathan said as he entered his corporate security clearance and credentials. Thinking it best not to let Tobias see his hologram in his current state of travel fatigue, he further voiced “Audio only”, and responded to the incoming transmission.

“Nathan Oyagak” he answered the incoming link, knowing full well the coy answer to his brothers’ summons would serve to infuriate his older sibling to no end.

“Nathan, where are you?” Tobias demanded of his brother, a high overture of desperation clearly detectable in his demeanor and speech pattern.

“Well that depends on the reason for your call, old man.” Nathan knew this response was a serious jab, but hey, he was on a roll, and clearly, Tobias was unbalanced, may as well keep the upper hand whilst he had it.

“This is serious, Nathan! You need to listen……..”

“Well I certainly hope so, old man.” Nathan over rode his brother in mid speech, knowing full well there would be hell to pay for his insubordinate manner towards Tobias’ obvious unstable mood. “You know it’s not cheap to bounce off 16 satellites and through 469 different land line connections in tandem. Shit man, I bet if we stretched out the land lines you are utilizing to make this call we could circle the planet at least five times and then bring oxygen to the Lunar surface.” This was too much to pass up, Nathan realized that his brother’s unsettled mannerism could be milked for some sport, and hell, he may never get another shot of having such a clear advantage over Tobias.

He was about to start another volley of snide remarks when Tobias screamed through the link; “Shareholders are dead! The Corporation is under skirmish negotiations you little piece of shit, and you need to listen!”

Nathan’s mind shot blanks; he was unaware of any further communication from his brother. He brought his vehicle to a screeching halt in the middle if I-15 and stepped out of his vehicle and enabled full holographic communication in a fluid series of movements.

Standing on the side of the road, Nathan gazed into the holographic eyes of his older sibling and said; “What are you talking about? If this is some sort of joke…..”

“This is no joke Nathan. I have just left the Summit Meetings and have received confirmation from shareholder offices. The Fairbanks repository has been opened and unidentified forces have withdrawn weapons and spilled shareholder blood. I knew this was a possibility and had shareholders posted near the repository to claim rights over response ready weapons.  Although there seems to be a discrepancy between the manifested weapons and the actual weapons in storage, we are ready to retaliate if the skirmish forces advance again.”

Nathan stood there, staring at the near perfect hologram representation of his older brother. He noticed for the first time how frail his brother appeared, how the powerful facade Tobias exerted toward Nathan every time they talked was gone.  A damaged creature now stood in his brothers place and the broken heart was written across every feature and facet of Tobias’ very being. Pity and sympathy washed over Nathan’s consciousness, and it was this momentary pity response for his older sibling that hid the truth that Nathan had prior firsthand knowledge of the condition of the repository from his older brother.

Tobias was the first to break the awkward silence. “How soon can we secure our technologies?” The older sibling’s demanding analytical persona evident.

Nathan shook himself into reality again and answered in fluid thought process; “We can have the Burbank facility secured within two hours. Illinois will take a little while longer, but the land transport technologies can be shut down within the day. All marks of credit in the New York City State can be acquired within the hour. Tobias, this action will destabilize the entire economic structure of North America.  It may start a civil war between the City States.  Is this truly the course we mean to take?”

“We have little choice Papai” Tobias’ reference to Nathan’s childhood name washed over the younger sibling and Nathan felt a cold chill sweep up his spine. “Leave the San Diego Plant be. She is the Flagship of our International Contracts Department; she brings good relations from the Mexican Consortium. Leave Illinois in temporary control of The Lake Michigan District, they are our Patrons in need and we shall not desert them. Liquefy all assets in The Federal United States immediately and see to it that all non essential shareholders are out of harm’s way.”

“I will see to it myself, Mattai” Nathan returned childhood names of innocence to his older sibling. “For security of Corporation and Shareholder, we will find their Achilles Heel.”

“And then you will return to Corporation controlled land?” Tobias near commanded.

“No, Mattai, I will not. I fear we must both walk different paths in this hunt for du tu, and I don’t know if we will ever meet again.” As an afterthought, Nathan added; “I’m sorry Mattai, I have treated you wrongly. Know this; you are my brother, and I do truly respect you.”

With those words, Nathan broke the link before Tobias could respond, turned on his heel and returned to his ground transport in no particular hurry. “No need to rush chaos.” Nathan thought as he began to formulate how to acquire the resources to topple this particular house of cards.


Klaus woke up to the persistent, silk voiced announcements of the message service, encouraging him over and over again to pick up his com link.  “You have one new message marked urgent.  Message repeated at 7:05 a.m., marked urgent.  Message resumed at 7:30 a.m., vocabulary censored.”  He held his head in his hands, groaning to himself.  It was nearly eight.  Why did the message voice always have to be that of a woman?  The feminine timbre had seeped into his dreams, mixed with a fleeting image of a girl whose brown hair turned bright red under lighting.  Women of her caliber were trouble.  All women were trouble, if the true fact of the matter was known.  There was Ting, who had struck a bargain for the Indo-Chinese Nation’s votes against federal jurisdiction, knowing damned well all along, the majority of the water hungry countries would support Stanford.  There was Queen Caridad, who wanted him to investigate the piracy ring off the Antarctic Coast, assuming piracy really was involved.  And now this girl, this mere wisp of nothing, this groomed and pampered Burbank child, stealing into his sub-conscious.

“Message acknowledged.”  He checked his data base.  It was Tobias.  “Patch through.”  A somewhat erratic and very disheveled Tobias flickered in front of him.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Sleeping.  What are you doing up so early in the morning?”

“Nathan is off his lease.  There were seventeen dead at the Fairbanks repository.  He’s retaliating.  Get out of Burbank, Klaus.  The war has started.”

“What has he done?”

“You’ll find out soon enough.  Just leave.  I’m not going to be responsible for what happens to you if you don’t.”

The image disappeared as quickly as it had loomed in front of him.  Klaus sighed and flicked on the news channel.  “I repeat,” said the announcer, “there is no cause for panic.  Our plants will be fully operational again in two weeks.  While the cause of the breakdown at the Alaskan Corporation desalination plant is not confirmed, it is suspected an engineering flaw in design has caused it to destabilize.  In the Federal United States, another AC plant has reported full engine failure.  We go to Bill Rawlings for some up to the minute reporting.”

Vandeweerd clicked off the holocast.  He had heard enough.  He packed his bags and notified management he was checking out.  He had gone only as far as the elevator when the pesky news girl slid in beside him.  “Are you leaving so promptly, Congressman?”

“I have things to attend to,” he answered, checking his watch and pretending he had pressing engagements.

“Would that attendance include visiting Alaska?”

“No.  Why should it?”

“Because your cohorts are building faulty machinery.  That seems to me a very weak way to try and establish Alaska’s authority to handle its own affairs.”

Vandeweerd looked at her in annoyance.  He didn’t dare tell her Alaska was quite capable, and in fact, handling its affairs in its own way.  It had deliberately sabotaged its own plants, withdrawing the assets of the share holders and transferring the stock to Cascadia Bio Tech; their only stable ally on the North American Continent.  “Don’t you have someplace to go beside following me around like a puppy?”

“Charming, Congressman.  Is this how you speak to all women?  No wonder you’re still single.”

Just as the elevator opened and they were about to step out the door, a bomb went off in the cafeteria attached to the Inn.  Debris flew into the lobby and the ground floor shuddered.  Customers from the diner ran screaming into the Inn, some still clutching their napkins or a bite of food, some with blood dripping down them.  The elevator jarred half closed than froze.

“Is this another one of G-Net’s staged performances?”  Vandeweerd shouted.

“I swear, I knew nothing about this.”

Another bomb went off, this one directly outside the lobby.  The windows blew in, the glass fragments slinging like machete blades through the air.  They huddled down in the elevator while Beverley frantically key punched Everest on her com link.  “Get out of here, now!  Take the stairway.  The elevators are non-operational.”

“What’s going on down there?”  Demanded Everest.  “It felt like an earthquake, but that was a helluva double whammy.”

“It was a bomb.  Two bombs.  Get down here now and bring our sling packs.”

Vandeweerd stood up to leave and the news girl clung desperately to his jacket.  “Please Congressman.  I’m terrified.  If you leave without me, I have no place to go.”

“I can’t take you with me.”

“Yes, you can.  You have to.  I can’t stay in Burbank.”  She did look terrified.  Her eyes were dilated and her lips like chalk.  “If you leave me behind, I’m dead.”

He grunted.  It was only a matter of a few minutes before her side kick appeared, his feet clattering down the stairs, a sling pack under each arm.  The footsteps slowed as Everest viewed the chaos spread out in front of him; the broken furniture, the shattered windows leeching in doses of unsavory air.  Some of the more chemical sensitive victims were already beginning to cough as they fumbled around for filters in their emergency gear.  Some of the wounded were too weak to move, and thirsters were snatching their packs and running off with jubilant cries.  He raised his camcorder, unobtrusively filming the devastation as he inched his way over to the elevators.

Vandeweerd fitted his breathe-right and waited until the pair had donned theirs.  “Wait for the police to arrive,” advised Everest, holding him back for a second time.  “If we go out into the streets now, the thirsters will eat us alive.”

The seconds ticked by in painful, dread slowness.  The thirsters were descending like locusts on the wounded, and the rest of the lobby residents crouched in helplessness, waiting for the authorities to arrive.  With the first faint whine of the sirens, the thirsters left their pillaging and disappeared into the streets.

Everest continued holding up the camcorder while Beverley switched on her scan.  “G-Net, we have live coverage of a double bombing at Cascadia Inn.  We are sending the stream in 3-2-1 seconds.”

She nodded and they slowly moved out into the streets.  The police cars had piled into a haphazard semi-circle around the ruined building, but shrugged and let them pass when they showed their credentials.  Vandeweerd had barely notified the embassy when a hydro craft appeared, skimming a couple of feet off the ground, and scattering the dust and litter from under its tail.  “We’ve been trying to page you,” said the pilot.  “The entire council has been put on the alert and all members of the alliance have been advised to flee the country.”

“I wasn’t able to hear a damned thing above the blast,” apologized Vandeweerd.  “Three coming on board.”

“We weren’t authorized to pick up two extra passengers.”

“You are now.”

He watched grimly the havoc below them as they lifted, the propeller blades casting patterns of sunlight and shadow over the damaged building, while the vandalized victims were fitted with throwaway face masks as medics measured the extent of their wounds.  In the corner where the cafeteria kitchen had been, a fire had started.  While fire fighters fought to put out the blaze, thirsters braved the infernal inside to haul out hams and baskets of fruit from  the gaping hole in the building.  Nobody stopped them.  Some came out with their clothes on fire.  They rolled on the ground, determinedly holding on to their spoils until the fire had consumed them or a companion helped them smother the flames and continue on their way into the anonymous twists and turns of the alleys.

“Where are we going?”  Asked Vandeweerd when he noticed the light weight copter had veered away from the greater Burbank transport complex and south, into the barrens.

“San Diego.  A special envoy from Mexico’s legitimate government will pick you up and carry you into Oaxaca City.  We can’t risk the metropolitan air terminals.  It’s all over the news.”

“What’s on the news?”  Muttered Beverley.  She adjusted her scan so the viewer box showed the feed from KNAK news station.  The camera shots Everest had relayed showed the carnage as they had remembered it, while a voice somberly explained, “These shots were taken just minutes ago by news team Beverley Strom and Everest Winegood at the Cascadia Inn.  The two disappeared shortly after shooting the coverage and it is not, at this time known, if they are still alive.  A group calling themselves, Free Water, have taken credit for the triple bombing, one of which occurred last night at the inn’s popular recreational park, although no arrests have yet been made.  They claim the main target for the bombing was Congressman Klaus Vandeweerd, who critics say his support of rigid water policies constitute a global health issue.    Witnesses confirm that Vandeweerd was within the close vicinity at the time of both bombings, although did not appear to be injured when last seen.”

The news cast continued with a series of repeats and embellishments, including several returns of a close up of one of the bomb victims, her face splattered with burn marks, her arm partially torn off, while a thirster made off with her sling pack.  Beverley clicked it off.  “That’s the official story?  They don’t know if we’re alive or dead?”

Vandeweerd laughed hoarsely.  “Are you still sure you want to come with me?”

She looked out over the barrens, an odd expression on her face.  “I’m sure.”

By karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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