Saturday, June 18, 2016
Darkest Before the Dawn
(Author's note: This is a prequel to the story: "The Vile Little Secrets We Keep". Both are zombie stories without the usually required undead. I did this strictly for fun because in this story I got to kill a real life, but never directly named, parasite on the butt of our nation. As you may already be accustom, excuse the typos.)
General Nathan Macey ears still rang from the sound of the pistol he had just fired. Always a man of determination and action, the crime he had just committed left him paralyzed, his mind running in circles at the implications, both the immediate and the far-reaching. A dedicated American soldier from the moment he started his career at West Point, he had long since become desensitized to all the smells and sensations of such mundane things as firearms. But the residual odor of cordite hanging in the air from firing his weapon had left him severely nauseated, like some fearful private away from the safety and familiarity of his home for the first time.
Surrounding Macey were members of his staff looking for him to offer guidance on just what in the hell they were supposed to do now. Macey knew he had only seconds to collect his wits and do something to save both the nation that he loved and human civilization itself. Despair welled up inside his soul, because on the laying on the floor just a two feet away was the body of the President of the United States.
The perfectly circular entry hole of the round Macey fired had impacted on the forehead of the narcissistic real estate developer/reality star turned politician but the exit wound had blown apart whole chunks of his skull and brains. The office Macey and his men stood in was deep inside the revamped doomsday bunker of the Mt. Weather Command Center, near Ashby Run, Virginia. Until the election of the bastard whose remains were even now dripping blood onto the expensive carpet, Mt. Weather had been deactivated and declassified at the end of the Cold War with some sections open to tourists.
After the insane, self destructive spasm of the 2016 presidential campaign was over, one of the the newly elected president's first actions was to have Mt. Weather reactivated and upgraded. The office reserved for the president, originally a spartan and cold place, had been redecorated to look like a whorish version of the now lost Oval Office. Obscenely bright 24 karat gold fixtures were everywhere along with the the trophy heads of scores of exotic animals mounted on the walls. Instead of the dignified portraits and landscape artwork that hung in the Oval Office, here in his Doomsday redoubt hung garish semi-erotic paintings.
The weirdest addition to the redecorated room were the installation of huge video screens that simulated the Oval Office's south-facing windows. The justification being that it created a sense of normalcy for the president and anyone else inside the room. It didn't take Macey long to learn that the fake windows could be changed to show a variety of scenes including tropical beaches and even the busy insides of an Atlantic City casino. The three long screens were now blank except for the dead president's blood and other bodily fluids splattered across them.
General Macey, who was the commanding officer of the facility before the start of the bizarre plague, could only look on in disgust as the progressively worse alterations continued to be made. His job had been to again prepare the facility for the unthinkable, which included living quarters for an full infantry division, including their families, along with a nearby satellite facility for two tank brigades and one combat aviation brigade, including all their families as well. The space created for supplies ranging from food to ammunition had staggered his imagination. Any semi-intelligent individual could discern many things from the facility plans that had come across his desk, and for Macey that had meant nothing but a long series of nightmares as he tried to sleep. It was almost as if the new president and his inner group of sycophants knew something quite bad was on the horizon.
“Get this bastard out of here,” Macey surprised himself by suddenly speaking out loud. “And nothing we've done leaves this section of the facility, we still have bunch of troops that don't know the extent of that bastard's treachery.” Macey said further letting the disposition of the president's family and entourage go unsaid.
Macey's staff remained in place, either still stunned at what they had been forced to do or in shock that their commanding officer had finally spoke. “I said move people!” he screamed. “We have almost no time to save something of our country and the world!” His outburst had been enough to spring them all into action leaving him alone except for a three bodyguards standing in the adjoining room.
General Macey remained in the office watching as a pair of Special Forces troopers placed the president's remains inside a body bag. “I want it dropped into the incinerator with the system flushed afterwards.” He told the men who grimly acknowledged his order.
Macey couldn't remember the last time he had slept for more than a few minutes. Feeling what remained of his energy leave his body, he dropped down on one of the leopard print couches the now dead President considered tasteful and began thinking of how the world had all went totally to shit.
It defied all rational thinking but the world had been hit with a zombie plague that seemingly raised the newly dead to become a ravenous, mindless horde out to spread their inflection by biting normal people. In truth, elements of the plague that finally emerged had been around for decades. Various illegal narcotics were individually known to cause insane rage, increased strength, and in the case of the drug “Krokodil” cause human fresh to become gangrenous and fall off. Someone had found a way to include all those characteristics in a neatly designed virus that was easily transmittable through bodily fluids.
The first cases had appeared almost simultaneously across the planet, but were discounted by a media more preoccupied by the usual trivial stories that kept their ratings up. The fault wasn't entirely on the media talking heads, it pretty much defied sanity that a zombie plague could be real. If anything about the strange incidents were mentioned, they were immediately discounted by rightly skeptical newsreaders. This allowed the comfortable middle class to chuckle and continue on with their usual activities.
But with the homeless and the hopelessly drug addicted as fuel, the plague acted like gasoline and within weeks the situation could no longer be ignored. Isolated cases quickly spread to regional outbreaks that defied all efforts at containment. The truth of the matter was that the U.S. Public Health System had been so underfunded for decades its personnel never had a chance at even slowing the outbreak. Two months after the first cases appeared the President reluctantly declared martial law and instituted procedures that were first developed during the Cold War. But it was too little and much too late, barely a week later all local, state, and federal authority in the country had collapsed forcing the key members of the federal government to facilities like the newly revamped Mt. Weather.
Much to the chagrin of General Macey, on his first night at Mt. Weather the President threw a dinner party for his family, the few members of Congress that had accompanied him, and his civilian friends who had no apparent function. Macey, while invited to the dinner, was spending his hours trying organize all the extra troops that kept arriving on what seemed an endless series of military convoys.
As the weeks passed, General Macey learned that the president, nor his advisers, had any plan on fighting the growing chaos. When Macey confronted the chief executive he was quickly told that there were long range plans, but that he did not have clearance for what they entailed. More to the point, the President's advisers reminded Macey that he was only a high paid flunky that could easily be replaced, so it would be best if he kept his mouth shut.
Running the Mt. Weather facility took almost all of Macey's waking hours forcing him to make life or death decisions on almost an hourly basis as casually as someone orders their lunch. That didn't prevent him from see the reports, or hearing the radio broadcasts of literally billions of human being dying as a result of the plague and the chaos that followed in its wake.
General Macey played the good soldier until word got to him the vice president had died in a helicopter crash leaving his own reinforced doomsday sanctuary. What finally broke Macey was when he learned that the President was going to appoint one of his sons to fill the empty VP slot. The President himself had been a comical, narcissistic buffoon with nothing in the way of redeeming qualities or abilities with the exception of a low-grade cunning that had allowed him to fool the simpleminded hordes enough to be elected. His son though made the chief executive look like a modest but wise scholar.
After the first family's arrival at the site it hadn't take Macey long to learn the President's offspring as the worst possible form of sociopath. After returning to his office upon learning of the President's decision, he had sat at his desk unable to breathe for a couple of minutes because of the insanity. That was when Macey knew the unthinkable would have to be done, and that he would have to literally pull the trigger.
The operation to eliminate the President had amazingly gone without a hitch due to his arrogance. He had actually believed the entire nation loved him even though just a few months before the outbreak riots had broken out in many cities in the southwest as he attempted to implement his plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants. So deluded was the man that even though his own disgraced political party was writing up impeachment proceeds he seemingly ignored all the news from his advisers that it would be best for him to resign. Once inside Mt Weather and safely cocooned in his personal section of the facility which he never left, the President had continued to feel so secure that he had ordered his Secret Service detail to stay in their quarters.
Once Macey had a plan on how to act, as well as an endgame, he had kept the number of people in his conspiracy to less than thirty. With the President, his family, and his entourage disposed of everything now rested on the two interrelated elements for which luck would play the most important part. The first being timing with the second finding a workable replacement that could rally the troops on site and begin to pick up the pieces of civilization.
Macey was startled back to the present with the arrival of one of his most trusted men, Colonel Jonas Cortes. “We have him,” Colonel Cortes said visibly relieved. “He and his family were exactly where Homeland Security said we would find them, in their mountain cabin one-hundred twenty miles to the west of here.”
“What does he know about the President?” Macey asked rushing over to greet his longtime friend who was still wearing his body armor and helmet.
“All I told him was that the Vice President was dead and POTUS was looking for a replacement. At first he told me to go to hell, that he'd never serve under such a petty asshole. It took my five soldiers and me to drag them all to the waiting helicopters.” After a moment of hesitation Cortes forced himself to speak again, “This guy better play ball General, I had to leave one of my guys behind to provide cover from a horde of ghouls advancing on our LZ.”
“Colonel,” Macey said, “this individual is apparently the only one of the potential targets left alive. All the others are dead or so lost they're effectively the same thing. If he doesn't go along with our plans we're be playing out a twenty-first century version of the fall of Rome with a dark age that will make the last one look positively enlighten.”
Macey asked his friend to bring in the last best savior of the United States before leaving the office. As he waited the general found himself wondering just what do you say to someone to get them to take a position whose predecessor died in a military coup.
Former senator from Virginia, Jonathon Webb appeared in the doorway looking at Macey as if he was completely disappointed. The last time Macey had seen Webb was years before as the two jousted at a senate hearing on the budget for military black projects. That particular day the senator had been wearing an expensive suit while sporting a clean and neat haircut that probably cost more than most people spend on such services for a year. That was a lifetime ago, before Webb had left political life in disgust and returned home to continue his career as a writer. He was now dressed in filthy and torn camping clothes and looked like he hadn't had a bath in months, which was a real possibility.
“Where is that son of a bitch, general?” Webb roared. “I'll kill him with my bare hands if he makes the mistake of coming within my reach.”
“Please sit down senator,” Macey said again taking a seat on one of the garish couches, “I personally shot the President not long before the helicopters that brought you and your family here lifted off from their pads. Both him and his entire damn entourage are now being burned in the facility incinerator.”
Webb, now totally stunned once he realized Macey wasn't playing some sick joke, walked over and sat across from the man on the opposite couch. “Senator,” Macey began, “I didn't commit this traitorous act on a whim, I watched the President let the country burn to the ground. Even worse as the situation outside the facility went totally to shit, I began to believe he was part of some horrific plan involving people and organizations outside the government.”
“What plan?” Webb asked incredulously.
“That I have no idea, whenever I demanded to know why he and his advisers weren't working to save the country all he told me that there were long range plans being implemented but I didn't have the clearance to know them. In all honesty, I should have shot the man right then but it wasn't until the death of the Vice President that I decided to act.” It was then that Macey told Webb about the President's idea to have his son become the new VP.
“So you want me to become President?” Webb asked after learning of how Macey wanted him to become the chief executive after an accident was arrange in the Presidential quarters of Mt. Weather resulting in the deaths of everyone living in that section. “What's to stop you from disposing of me General Macey once I order you to do something you don't like?”
“For decades I watched this country destroy itself, all I can say to you is that I still believe in what it means to be an American. Yes, we're often a bunch of self-centered hypocrites but unfortunately fate or simple stupid luck has given us the task of keeping Western Civilization alive and I will fight to my last breath to see it doesn't die because of fools like the one I killed today. Call me naive but I believe there is more good in this country and world than bad and I refuse to let that slip away back into darkness. So will I obey your orders as my Commander-in-Chief without hesitation? Yes, but not because I believe in you personally but for the symbol your office represents, the rule of law, liberty, and the idea that even though the people may stumble that the best government is the one where we all get a say in how it is run.”
Twelve days later...
The walls of President's living quarters deep inside Mt. Weather were charred black and in some areas had almost melted due to the intense heat of the initial explosion and the fire afterward that had consumed everything that could burn. Several platoons of soldiers searched the labyrinth-like passageways looking for the remains of the President, the first family, and everyone else associated with the executive branch. Grizzled NCO's in charge of the soldiers knew their task was hopeless, absolutely nothing recognizable remained, everything was a sickening mixture of ash and water.
On the surface in full view of most of the troops assigned to Mt. Weather, Vice President Jonathon Webb was being sworn in as the new President of the United States. Next him stood the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of what was left of the American armed forces, General Nathan Macey. For both men, the old Republic had died back in November of 2016 with the election of a man who epitomized the absolute worst not just of the dark side of democracy but humanity itself. After Webb finished reciting the oath of office both men silently made a promise they would make sure a new Republic would take its place and not make the same mistakes as the old one.