THE DAYS AFTER THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED
(A serial book excerpt)
Previous installments – After Flight 93 crashes into the White House on 9/11/2001 killing President Bush as was originally planned, Dick Cheney, the Vice President, is made the leader of the country. He begins immediately to make changes.
– – – – – – – – – – –
It was a glorious morning to be out in the marshes. There was still a leftover crispness in the air that the mounting sun was slowly disintegrating. Canadian geese could be heard honking as they flapped overhead. The only sounds not of Nature itself were the muted sounds of autos making their way up the highway miles away.
This was his first time since 911 that he was able to get out hunting. The situations of the nation had eased enough to allow him this escape.
Cheney was hunkered down in his duck blind. He soaked in the physicality of the surroundings. This was such a different world than that of Washington. It took him back to Wyoming where his uncles had first initiated into him the rituals of manhood known as hunting. There were neighbors who had done it for the meat it provided to winter’s storage. In the Cheney family it was more for a form of western status- men had to go out and kill things to prove themselves men. Those who didn’t were considered weak and effeminate- a definite way to be a ridiculed outcast in the Wyoming of the mid 1940’s. Buried deep in his psyche were the repressed memories of the difficulty of dealing with the weapons that his family had at their disposal, their awkwardness for a boy’s hands, the strange smell of gunpowder, the deafening roar they produced and then the aftermath of their use- the grisly torn carcasses of the shooting. With time the savage joy of killing grew upon him, then became a lust. Now he found he had to go out occasionally and shoot something. It brought a balance back into his life.
A group of ducks were sitting on the small lake before the blind. The cattails blocked his view of them, but he could hear their occasional quacks. If he stood up, he risked scaring them into flight. If he shot them in the water it would make for an easier retrieval. He wanted to get as many as he could. He primed his shotgun and had a second at the ready.
There was a joy in the kill, a lust that sometimes was insatiable. He had tried his hand at deer hunting and elk; had bagged a few. There was a pleasure at bringing down the big animals, especially the elk. Of course they provided food for the family, but he did not enjoy the tedious work of preparing the meat and skinning the animal. Greater joy was found in the small animals. Ducks could be killed en mass.
He had often dreamed of going on a big hunt, but his work did not allow it. It is strange how one can be in such control of his society and have so much money and power yet still be unable to do all the things he wished to. It fed a frustration and an anger deep inside himself that he knew no one else would understand or sympathize with.
He finally opted on standing, the best choice for a man in his physical condition. Hurriedly getting up and aiming, the ducks did take to air, but he managed to get off both barrels on the first gun and one on the second before they were too far out of range. The dogs retrieved six ducks total, four dead and two still writhing that he finished off with a club.
By days end he had killed 123 ducks, He kept a couple for the cooks to prepare, gave a couple to the boys helping him and threw twenty into the pond that were too tore up to be of any use. The blood lust was satisfying to him. It gave him a sense of purpose. Darkly, he felt for a moment a pain of jealousy at those soldiers now fighting in the Mideast who would have the opportunity to shoot a human being. That must be the ultimate hunt, to kill a being as capable as oneself and win. That would have been a part of being a soldier that Cheney would have enjoyed.
The sun setting over the Iraqi desert was strangely beautiful. President Cheney had agreed to the flight to the supposed land of mankind’s birth and oil with the darkest of enthusiasm. He had little use for foreigners, much less Middle Easterners, much less any brown skinned people who might have a great desire to kill him. But after much prodding from advisers both known and unknown to the public he realized that it would be to his advantage politically. Although he had the Presidency firm in hand, it was only the 911 attack and the military response to it that gave him any public support at all. Many were against him from the get-go. Those who were already over the shock of the airliners attacks thought he was a dangerous man to have in the position of the Commander of the U.S. His advisers thought a personal visit to the war zone would help gel a new opinion of the leader as a man who really did give a damn about something other than his own power and gain.
The trip had riddled him with anxiety. Visits to other countries had done little in the past to endear him to their people. Everywhere he went he perceived a few smart people in control in varying degrees of wealth manipulating a populace better kept ignorant of as much as possible. His trips never took him outside the main cities of each region, so all he ever saw were the most urban of areas and thereby those least indicative of the true culture and heartbeat of a land.
The plane nosed down into the darkness that had already engulfed Baghdad. It was decided that, although the entire flight would be kept a secret until he had safely left Iraq, he would land at night to minimize the dangers of a rocket launcher attack hitting the descending plane. They were also landing at a military base outside of Baghdad which offered more security. Planned were the usual palm pressings with soldiers, a short visit to the war wounded in the hospital and a couple speeches before assembled military personnel; all the obligatory stuff to keep a nation believing in its leader. There would of course be a few short visits to Iraqi officials to cement their cooperation either civilly or with veiled threats and funding pullbacks. Iraq was a big prize in the world stage of oil politics. It must be delicately treated. Delicacy was not a trait that Cheney had great proficiency in.
The plane landed safely and there was the usual military hoopla that came with a visiting Leader of State. Tens of identical looking men standing still as though made of concrete, their only apparent mobility that of making a well timed salute. Before getting out of his seat, Cheney looked out over the crowd awaiting him. He looked at the robotic rows of like soldiers standing at rigid attention and thought how lucky he was not to have gone into the military. He could have ended up like one of these poor clods standing in the dark on a cold night being ordered to pay respect to someone they did not know but had control over their lives to the point of sending them to their death.
As the plane door opened the hot desert air seared his nostrils. Dusk had not yet cooled it. He exited the plane to the tune of America the Beautiful, a welcome respite from the more oft used Star Spangled Banner. General Ames was the official palm presser here. He flashed the usual military half-smile- enough to convince one of friendliness, not enough to make one think that the smile indicated weakness.
“Welcome to Iraq Sir!”
“Glad to be here!” Cheney lied. “Beautiful sunset on the way in.”
The smile came back. “Yes, it can be right nice here. Too bad we have so many beggars shooting at us to enjoy it..”
Cheney smirked at him. “Yes, they can ruin things, can’t they?”
“That they can Sir.” Then he said the words Cheney was happy to hear; “We have a special security area for you sir. We have a secured building which requires the highest authorization to enter. It has everything you should need. If it doesn’t, just call me and I will see to it that it is brought to you. There is a heavily protected bunker under it for sleeping. Meals will be cooked by an American staff only. For that matter, any staff attending to you will be American. The only time you will be close to Iraqis is at your meetings and they will be heavily protected by our forces when they occur.”
“This all sounds very good, General Ames. I appreciate your detailed concern.”
“We aim not only to win this war, sir, we aim to please. Let me lead you to the secure center. When you are ready I will brief you on the current situation. There is a lot to cover in the next few days, but we will make it easy on you.”
“Thank you General Ames. You’ll be one of the few who make this job easy on me. I’ll only need about a half hour.”
“I’ll come get you then, sir.”
“Thank you. General Ames.”
TO BE CONTINUED
– – – – – – – – – –
The complete book of 9/12/2001 is available from lulu.com under that exact title for $10.00 plus shipping. Now available as an e-book on lulu as well.