Updated Friday, February 11, 2005 – I'm so sorry guys for taking so long but my classes are constantly keeping me busy. Don't worry, I made it up to you guys by having this chapter being over 10,000 words! LOL Thanks to everyone who reviewed: "The Next Political Dynasty", "Lein", "bughunters", "Tasha", "Lucie Brody", "nesy", "Sullen Lily", "xjoshuax89", "Ginny-Star", "natasha", "Jonathan", "slayerofdragons", "Panther28", "BIG SMOKE", "DoctorYerishi", "lilyofthevalley", "The Person", and "Myself" (Dragonmaster627)! I can't describe how much it means when I get a review from you guys! It gives me tremendous encouragement to continue up with the story. I hope the ending of the chapter doesn't damper your Valentine's Day spirit… just a forewarning…
To "lilyofthevalley": There's a character list on this fanfiction's reviews webpage, provided by "skippercollector", for all of the major and minor characters in the movie.
Chapter 10: Say Goodbye To The World and Everything That You Knew
The next morning, a meeting was held between President Becker and his cabinet about the best approach to moving the displaced population back to the United States. Approximately one-third of the surviving population was residing in Mexico (the remaining two-thirds were still living in the southern United States) and the cabinet was struggling to determine how the country could support the population with only one-quarter of the country not covered by the skyscraper heights of snow and ice.
The cabinet members were nervously talking to each other about the Joint Chief's assassination, and soon the Secretary of Homeland Security, Julia Lopez, reported to the group, but looked directly at President Becker with some apprehension, "Mr. President, I'm sorry to state that we still have not found or determined any suspects for General Coleman's murder."
The Secretary of Defense, Robert Karn, loudly complained, facing Julia, "How can you say you HAVEN'T found ANY suspects? Don't you understand how much of a security risk it is?"
Julia shouted back, and looked back at him with piercing eyes, "OF COURSE I do! Don't yell at me saying that I don't understand how serious this situation is! The FBI and CIA keep informing me that whoever this murderer is, is a professional! And with barely any clues to go on…..the murderer probably works in espionage!" The cabinet members and President Becker slightly jolted back upon hearing the word 'espionage' since it indicated that someone within the government was heavily working toward the country's further demise and that murder wasn't an exception. There was a deathly silence as they attempted not to let paranoia seep into their minds since the issue of trust dominated them; making them to wonder who exactly the spy was? Was it a governmental worker? A military solider? A healthcare worker? Or could it be someone who was just looking at them right now? Who exactly could they trust during this crucial, national reconstructing time? Julia could see and sense their worrisome responses through their panicky eye movements despite their stoic facial appearances. She regretfully did not want to inform them of this information, but Robert was known to be stubborn and hard-headed sometimes even though he had the best intentions.
The Secretary of State, Angela Linn, questioned Julia being somewhat puzzled of this new factor to their overall situation, "Are you saying that there is a spy within the government…and we don't have any security precautions against it?"
Julia shamefully responded, "Yes….I know it's unbelievable but our,…as we know…", while she irritatingly starred at Robert briefly, "…our military now is far weaker than it used to be and we're in a foreign country. We just don't have the human, weapon, and technological resources to make our country and these refugee camps as secure as we want to! These superstorms covered over 70 of all military vehicles, machinery, and equipment before we could have a chance to relocate them. Also 80 of all factories associated with military production have all been destroyed as well." She squinted harshly and ruthlessly toward Robert, sarcastically asking, "Isn't that right Robert? Didn't the Pentagon officials tell you that earlier?"
Robert implicitly understood Julia's sneering message for him to back off, and he reluctantly admitted, "Yes Julia…"
The Secretary of Health and Human Resources asked Angela hoping for any good news, "How were the meetings with the Mexican government? Were you able to form some type of long-term agreement?" He continued to look at her, longing for some alleviation in the country's dire situation since he knew that adequately providing food, supplies (such as clothes and toiletries), and medications was difficult and some camps were rationing them.
Angela Linn assured the group, but carefully forewarned, "First before I inform you of the terms of our agreement…remember that I had to do what was necessary…" The President and cabinet, all curiously looked on wondering what she was so cautious to admit. She divulged, "…I had to allow the selling of our oil and natural gas reserves to Mexico that was just below the ballooning world prices."
The Secretary of Energy stood up and shouted, "HOW in HECK COULD you have—"
Angela immediately cut of the Secretary of Energy, hurriedly explaining, "I worked and calculated the figures…and based on our and Mexico's consumption…we should have enough for about 3 years. Also by then we will have enough oil wells constructed in the southwest to support the country."
The Secretary of Energy silently sat back down, remembering that new oil wells were being built as soon as possible and that new trade agreements were also being worked out with South America, especially Venezuela since their agriculture was suffering immensely. Middle Eastern oil production could no longer be depended upon because it was severely crippled with frequently more and more near-recording breaking heat in the upper 120s (Fahrenheit.) The heat was so excruciating in addition with the highly heat conductive sand, that people had to wear protective "heat suits" if they went outside; otherwise they would be dehydrated in minutes.
The Secretary of Defense looked at President Becker in a pressing manner and almost demanded, "Mr. President we can not delay! We can not afford to!"
The Secretary of Agriculture verbally attacked Robert remarking, "How can you say that? The country can't even support its own population! We need to restart our agriculture from the widespread frost damage before we can even think of relocating back!"
Robert got up and leaned toward the Secretary of Agriculture trying to intimidate him, shouting, "You can't trust any nation during this time! You all know how 90 of the world's nations just stormed out back at the U.N. meeting!"
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, furiously pointed out in frustration to Robert's ineptness in understanding the country's fragile condition, "Are you forgetting that three-quarters of the country is covered in snow? We not only have to worry about farming, but setting up city services, housing, and employment to accommodate the new flux of people! Already all of the southern cities like Dallas, LA, Atlanta, and Jackson are struggling to maintain their infrastructure in aiding the northern refugees!"
Robert disgustingly commented, "You guys just don't get it do you? All of you-"
President Becker calmly but authoritatively requested, "Robert…calm down."
Robert frantically looked toward President Becker and then back at the two Secretaries, in attempting to "win" his argument. Robert explained, "But sir, they- we- I mean we have to-"
President Becker glanced up at Robert as if he was an uncivilized, impatient child with a degree of disappointment. This time he firmly said, "Robert…" Robert's appearance was still tenaciously stubborn and he resentfully sat down and conceded. President Becker decided and announced to his cabinet, "I want all of you to start reconstruction immediately for our country, whether if it's agriculture or city development so we can prepare a gradual resettlement back to the U.S. We can not go back just yet because the people need to heal their emotional wounds first before they can revisit the physical ones." President Becker just self-reflected what he just ended with, and how applicable it was to him since he still had an arduous time recovering from his guilt and that revisiting the icy, desolate country would be overwhelmingly painful. If he went back now, he would only see the layers of snow and ice as a grave covering to the millions he had neglected.
It was now 11 AM and the NOAA and Meteorology Society were busy collaborating with other meteorologists from around the world; they were collecting the vast amounts of data and information from all of the weather anomalies that were occurring. Jack and his team were scurrying amid the workers, in the data center room, for about 5 hours now, attempting to organize and process the data into some simplified projection of the climate's direction. The room was filled with sounds of hurried discussions, printers working ceaselessly, the workers' hands scrambling on the computer keys, a choir of dial tones appearing and disappearing randomly through the ruckus, and the squeaks and scuffs of people almost running back and forth between computers. The two organizations had to watch every movement of the weather vigilantly because of the numerous military reconstruction operations, within the southern United States, that could possibly be threatened by it.
After Janet received a print out of the necessary information, she grabbed the printed pages and pressed her way toward Jack and Walter Booker. When she finally met up with them, after some shoving and crushed toes, Janet took a deep breath from her stress and alerted them while the two were sitting at a computer terminal. She explained while Jack and Walther scanned the pages she had given to them, "I was finally able to gather all of the previous temperatures, humidity, and wind patterns for the locations near the 27 degree North and South latitudes for the past couple of weeks." She took a pause before she announced her findings and stated as Jack and Walter looked up to her, "These particular areas are experiencing extreme fluctuations…"
Walter concluded, deriving from Janet's new information in a moment of dawning comprehension, "It explains the abnormal, violent hail storm in Las Vegas… the converging extreme warm and cold air masses… throw in sudden changes of humidity and wind gusts, because of those air masses… you've got yourself one hell of a mess."
Jack glanced over the printouts again and added, quietly being preoccupied with the data, "It appears these temperature ranges are becoming greater…" Jack was almost muttering to himself as he tried to grasp all of the weather data before him into an overall global perspective, "…one day the weather in Mexico is 60 degrees, then it becomes 90 the next day, and after that it becomes 50… One bizarre temperature after the other…" He took a few moments and blinked his eyes twice trying to decipher what was occurring atmospherically. What was really occurring? Jack prudently proposed, "These latitude areas appear to almost…. As if they were border zones between-"
Suddenly, the three of them as with any others that were nearby, heard a loud rush of papers flying around and a large thud. All of their heads whipped toward the direction of the noise and they found Jason on the floor, who had tripped on some of the office supplies that were scattered on the floor, quickly trying to put together the previously organized fifty pages of data. Some of the workers in the data center noticed while most ignored Jason and kept of continuing with their work. Janet and Jack were almost about to come over and help Jason when an infuriated Dr. Vorsteen arrived to meet Jason. He snapped, "I TOLD YOU NOT TO MESS IT UP!"
Jason stuttered, and had the apologetic behavior of a small child, "I'm sorry— I didn't mean to— I was just trying to-" He anxiously continued, in an almost panicked state, gathering each sheet of paper, desperately trying to avoid his wrath and frustration.
Dr. Vorsteen sighed bitterly, and complained loudly, "You're always such a klutz! Screwing up something or other! Whether it's the drill back at Antarctica, or the computer a year back at D.C…. DANG IT! CAN'T YOU DO ANYTHING RIGHT? I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'RE A GRAD INTERN FOR THIS PLACE!" More workers nearby just watched the scene in stunned silence with a few whispers in the background. Jason intently kept his eyes on the floor, and dared not to look into Dr. Vorsteen's burning pupils while his pulse raced on. Dr. Vorsteen had ruthlessly smashed an emotional chord in Jason since his usual clumsiness was a visible weakness that sometimes hampered the efficiency of the work being done. Jason was starting to choke up and although he tried to push himself to fight the burdening heartache, it continued to make him fluster with gathering the pages.
Janet and Jack were both outraged upon hearing Dr. Vorsteen's careless and demeaning attitude toward Jason. Janet angrily marched toward Dr. Vorsteen and was mentally preparing herself to criticize the critical Dr. Vorsteen. Jack was taken back when he noticed how determined and defiant Janet was and he fully understood the impending, immediate storm that was going to occur as he followed her. Janet, without patience, berated Dr. Vorsteen while she squinted her eyes in reciprocation to his fiery eyes, "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" Jack walked back a few steps from the confrontation, in shock, after hearing Janet's projected voice. Anyone in the data center, who had not heard or observed the scene earlier, was now definitely paying attention to the altercation that was occurring.
Dr. Vorsteen was dumbfounded hearing the usually mild-mannered Janet become so enraged toward him, but he composed himself and in a curt, insensitive attitude argued, "LOOK AT HIM! IT'S ALWAYS ONE AFTER THE OTHER!"
Jack tried to get a word in to defend Jason, but Janet sarcastically pointed out, "At least he's not whining and complaining about the work UNLIKE YOU!"
Dr. Vorsteen supplemented even more of his anger in the argument, sneering erratically, "I have a RIGHT to complain! We all know how the Pentagon will be all over us if we miscalculate or delay anything! The last thing we need is JASON HERE to mess up and screw things up!"
Janet scolded back, "WE'RE ALL TRYING TO DO WHAT WE CAN! Take a look at the mirror! You're far from perfection yourself!" Janet kept on coldly staring at Dr. Vorsteen, while he did the same; they were trying to psychologically intimidate each other by aiming their unwavering, unflinching pupils directly at each other.
Jack cautiously glanced at both of their facial expressions from either end of his eyes, hoping not to provoke anymore hostility, and calmly requested to Dr. Vorsteen, "George, why don't you cool off for a few minutes? It'll be better…", Jack looked again at Janet's emotionless face, "…for everyone…"
Tom, unaware of the argument, walked into the data center and toward the three. He urgently interrupted them without noticing the hushed surroundings, "Jack, could I speak to you and Walter?" Janet's bitter glance of exhaustion, and Dr. Vorsteen's annoyed appearance, indicated to Tom that there was some underlying problem. Janet's and Dr. Vorsteen's body language to each other was as cold and icy as the superstorms they had escaped from. Furthermore, he finally noticed that the usually noisy data center was awkwardly silent. Tom scanned around and after taking another look, he found Jason on the floor with a stack of papers. Tom inquired, "Is something going on here?"
Jack was going to say something, but Dr. Vorsteen cut him off answering, "No… Things are fine here…there was just a small accident." Janet and Jack both gave Dr. Vorsteen a disgruntled look since his reaction earlier was far from taking Jason's fall as an innocent accident. Dr. Vorsteen quickly ended any of Tom's suspicion on the matter, by ending it saying, "Excuse me, but I have to meet a few other people." He slithered past the group and was soon out of the door.
Janet and Jack both squatted down to where Jason was and Jack offered, "Do you need any help Jason?"
Jason just nodded his head left and right while replying, "No…It's okay... I already have all of the papers together." The data center was gradually returning toward its hectic pace as the workers refocused back on their tasks.
Jack wanted to give Jason some type of encouragement or a compliment because of Dr. Vorsteen's barrage of verbal attacks, but Tom spoke out before that, "Jack, could you come with me for a minute? It's important concerning us with the Secretary of State." Jack gave a serious, genuine look of concern to both Janet and Jason since he didn't want to abandon Jason since Jason took criticism so deeply. Nevertheless, he had to follow Tom and in a few seconds the two were meeting up with Walter.
Janet understood what Jack was implying and softly asked, "Are you okay Jason?"
Jason's throat was dry from the intense emotions he had experienced, and he cleared his throat trying to answer, "Yeah…sure…." He didn't look into Janet's eyes while he was fingering through the already organized pages again and again, almost obsessively, to make sure no one would find fault in his work.
Janet moved her head to the side and tried to make her eyes meet his to determine if Jason was truly feeling well or not. He kept on avoiding her eyes since he didn't want to confront the issue. Janet then, to his surprise and as well as hers, took her hand and warmly placed it on Jason's scruffy chin (he had not shaved for a couple of days) and gently pulled his head in her direction. She looked deeply into his eyes and honestly questioned, "Jason, are you sure you're okay?" Jason was shocked seeing Janet's expression of concern and he couldn't recollect those hurtful, penetrating emotions. He just mindlessly stared at Janet, while she assured him, "Don't take George seriously… We all make mistakes…. Remember that you're always an integral part of our team!" She took a few blinks and she was feeling somewhat daunted by the rising feelings she had just discovered she had for Jason. It was starting to come together in Janet's mind on how defensive she was for Jason and how she was trying to comfort him. She momentarily froze her hand and quickly pulled it away and wryly laughed in a combination of nervousness and embarrassment. She suddenly became extremely self-conscious, because of her embarrassment, and rushed in questioning, "You have the papers then, right?"
Jason simply answered, "Yea…Thanks…" He was still lost on how Janet had touched his face so affectionately that he hardly made any facial movements and just continued to stare at Janet's behavior.
Janet gave a quick smile, and hoping to put the uncomfortable situation behind them, rushed off saying, "I'll see you a little later." As she eagerly walked off, Jason just sat there on the floor being mentally speechless while the workers were constantly walking around him.
Janet fell onto her seat, at her computer terminal space in the data center, and tried not to get a glance of Jason. She soon took a call from the Filipino government so that she could deviate her mind away from Jason and her feelings. Feelings that appeared to overpower her behavior and circumvent her consciousness… After a few deep breaths and minutes, Janet and the Filipino meteorologist were discussing and sharing information; occasionally she observed the serious discussion going on between Tom, Jack, and Walter.
After another minute, despite the busyness of the data center, she heard an unusual argument in the background from her phone call that brought back her attentiveness. She questioned the meteorologist, "What's happening? Hello?" She heard a loud metallic crash while hearing people beginning to yell and scream.
Janet cried out louder to the phone, "HELLO? Is anyone there? Mr.-" Janet then heard rapid gunfire in the background and the shots were becoming louder and louder!
She then heard the Filipino meteorologist, out of breath, panting and whispering, "Please Ms. Tokada get help! Call our defense department immediately!"
Janet stuttered on her words, from hearing the panicky man on the other end, and quietly asked, "What's happening?" In the background, an explosion of an almost deafening caliber overtook the conversation as with the simultaneous shatters of glass. Janet was mortified hearing people getting killed and shot in the background, and then she heard four rogue, rough voices in Filipino approaching the phone. They chuckled, while one commented, "Well…it looks like we missed one…" (Janet could speak and understood Filipino.)
She could hear the man's terrified, uncontrollable breathing and feel the fear pour out of the telephone from the man's voice as death was approaching him. The man was beginning to hyperventilate and Janet's heart raced along with his as if she was right there accompanying him…and in an instant…..BANG! Janet's eardrum began to ring from the shot and it intensified her threshold of pain but she still kept her ear on it to listen in on who these murderers were. There was only deathly silence… The silence and eeriness of mass murderous slaughter… After a few moments, one of the militants said, "It's only a matter of time before the government listens to our demands…"
Another militant shouted at the first saying, "What the fuck are you doing? Hang up the receiver!" Immediately they hung up the phone, and all there was left was the usual click and dial tone buzz…ending something that was anything but usual…
It was around noon, and the weather was merciful keeping the temperatures constant in the high 70s on a partly cloudy, brisk windy day. In the embassy, Elsa was navigating her way through the numerous hallways, government workers, and refugees as she attempted to collect information about the condition of Memphis. She wanted to know exactly what condition the city was in since Ashley's home was near the ice sheet's southern edge. She was referred to several different people but then she finally ended her tedious journey at a computer room on the second floor.
She tiredly took a sigh and rolled her eyes before opening the door, direly hoping that she wouldn't have to go to another room or area of the beehive-crowded embassy. She casually opened the door and gently closed it behind her. For a few seconds afterward, she was taken back by how hermetic this room appeared to be because the noisy hallway was as silent as a distant conversation, and the only things generating noise were the cooling fans of the electronic equipment and random punching of keys. The room had a capacity for about fifty people but oddly only one single person was at a computer. She glanced behind herself and saw a complex flow diagram of a computer engineering problem that she had no idea how to comprehend.
Before she could spend more time observing that chalkboard, the solitary guy, greeted slyly, "Hello Elsa…"
Elsa whipped her head in the direction of the man's voice, in shock over how this particular man knew her name. She warily asked, as she cautiously made her way through the rows of computers while approaching him, "How do you… know me?"
The man smugly replied, "…Because I was with you a few weeks ago…"
When Elsa saw the man's face, she felt immediately sheepish and ridiculous since this man was none other than Jeremy, the strange old man who obsessively clutched onto the Guttenberg Bible back at the New York Public Library. She then confidently and annoyingly met up with him, and being curious about his presence at the embassy, she inquired, "What are you doing here?"
Jeremy, with his somewhat usual snotty attitude, pointed out, "I'm a computer and networking engineer helping the government in whatever way I can." Elsa was dumbfounded hearing that since his behavior was completely opposite to what she had witnessed back at New York and at their arrival at the embassy. She then suddenly remembered about the Guttenberg Bible, and before she could question him, he already sarcastically answered, "…And yes….I did give the Bible to the government so they could protect it… I'm not that ignorant…" He took a glance at Elsa and questioned her quickly so that she wouldn't interrupt his efficiency, "What exactly can I help you with?"
Elsa was reluctant to ask about the urban conditions to Jeremy since it had nothing to relate to computer technology, but she said under her breath as if someone in the embassy who referred her around was to blame, "Somebody told me to go here about the conditions in Memphis… I guess they were wrong."
Jeremy, sternly corrected, "On the contrary Elsa… they were absolutely correct because the group I am working for, is trying to create a communications network with all of the major cities after the superstorms destroyed much of it."
Elsa again was floored, and flustering in putting her words together while she took a seat beside him, "A…. can you look into it?"
Jeremy promptly returned, "Of course….but it will take some time to determine if we do have communications there yet."
There was an awkward, uncomfortable silence between them as Jeremy stoically continued on the computer. Elsa looking around nervously, wondering what to say to someone who appeared to be so emotionless, took a few moments and thought about the world. She dismissively reminded him with a dry smirk, "I forgot that it was Olympic year….strange that…"
He callously commented, "It's interesting that such an event claims to provide world unity but in actuality it promotes unrelenting and brutal competition." Elsa though about that for a few seconds about how that could apply in some cases, such as with the former Soviet Union or athletes taking illegal drugs. Before she could continue her train of thought, Jeremy disgusting added about his unrecognized position in comparison to the glorified athletes that received so much attention, "It's typical that people obsess and care about celebrities and athletes, but when it comes to people who actually make a difference such as emergency workers, soldiers, scientists, and inventors…. Huh, they only care about them during their times of peril. What do you think?"
Elsa was caught off-guard hearing Jeremy question her, but he pressured her adding, "I'm sure you can fully relate to what I'm stating…right Elsa?"
Elsa was not in the mood for a debate or discussion about recognition or popularity; she currently had other worries on her mind. She exhaustively replied, "I don't have time for another debate Jeremy…"
Jeremy displaced his frustrations about his life and the world through his tone of voice, and asked her about a certain scenario, "Let me give a simplified example, have you ever participated in your high school's student council?"
Elsa knew that it was going to take some time before she could get the information on Memphis and that he was the only one who could provide it to her presently. She knew she had to 'entertain' his discussion, so she admitted somewhat grudgingly, "Yeah…in fact I was the student president. I helped in lowering the cost for prom and the all-night graduation party, decorated the halls for spirit weeks… things like that."
Jeremy would look back and forth between the computer screen and Elsa, and he mischievously grinned saying, "….And I'm sure you were annoyed when few of the students were grateful for that….especially when the jocks would have a parade for their self-serving wins….right?"
Elsa tried to brush it off, attempting to remove any importance to the issue by replying, "No…not really…"
Jeremy then faced Elsa directly, and seriously gazed into her eyes to see her honesty, sternly asking, "Are you certain about that? " Elsa began to reflect about her high school years, while he continued, "Here you made unforgettable memories for your classmates, made those events affordable, and in a way made them happy…. While the jocks and popular crowd only intended to fulfill their personal ambitions and/or ego. Can you sincerely say that those times did not bother you?"
Elsa had not even thought about that since she had bigger problems occurring in her abusive past, but as she began to dive deeper into that aspect of her life she could remember far too well the cruel and hostile social environment high school could be. She was slightly downcast recollecting how athletics would receive an assembly for regional championships but when it came to other achievements or unselfish assistance such as academics or volunteerism…they were miniscule. She then thought about how idolized and glorified the popular crowd was, in a bitter remembrance since she felt that they had contributed nothing in making students' lives happier. She confessed, "…Well, it was hurtful…I guess… I don't know…"
Jeremy slowly faced back toward the monitor, and went on, "I only have respect for people who make an actual life difference than any celebrity or athlete. Who cares if the people think I'm bizarre just because I don't know the sport statistics for some guy who has contributed nothing to society!" Jeremy became even more peeved stating, "People only come or focus on us…the doctors, scientists, police, firefighters, soldiers, volunteers whenever they are in need…just as with September 11th!"
Elsa's thinking immediately was cut off hearing September 11th and she had to admit that the amount of attention Hollywood and sports received was far more than the people who scarified themselves during times of tragedy. She thought back to the present and began wondering if people like Jack Hall, who had saved them back at New York and possibly the country (she heard of Jack and Tom's discussion of mass evacuations during the helicopter flight), would be remembered when things were back to normal….or if they ever would be. She then heard a printer at the far end of the room being activated as it began to make a print out. Jeremy broke off Elsa's trance saying, "I have printed out the conditions of Memphis…I'm not completely sure though if it is precisely what you are looking for."
Elsa gradually snapped back to reality thanking him, "Thanks Jeremy…." She was about to walk toward the printer, but she was lost in her thought and in uncertainty, questioning, "Does it take disasters to make people see what's truly important? Even though they are told again and again beforehand?"
Jeremy wittily answered, "It appears so…. look at the country now… back then the American public didn't care to recognize the importance of the environment, now it's the only thing that seems to matter…"
Elsa thought about that statement deeply and made her way to the printer as she collected and stapled those sheets together. She was about to leave the door, when her faith kicked in, she tactfully began saying, "I know you're an atheist and I don't wish to start a philosophical debate or anything, but… you could apply this spiritually as well. It's interesting how people come to God when they need help, but whenever there's not a crisis there's a general disconcern for Him…"
Jeremy started squinting harshly at Elsa, inquiring, "Are you implying something about me?" He was about to mentally equip himself for a heated debate with her if she was going into the existence of God debate.
Elsa just took a deep breath and simply stated, as she opened the door slightly, "All I'm saying is that I saw how terrified you were during that sudden freeze in the library. I don't know exactly how you felt, but you have to admit that when fatality is staring you at the face it forces you to become spiritual and to at least question ultimately of something beyond this physical world…"
Jeremy's anger and embattlement mentality crumbled when they both shared a sincere glance at each other for a few short seconds because they both knew how serious and intense their emotions were during that indescribable, life-changing moment in time when their life's experiences were rushing past them faster than they could conceive. Elsa soon exited the room and closed the door leaving the room and Jeremy's mind far quieter than ever before.
Just a floor above them, the Defense Department was anything but calm and it was as busy as the data center back at the NOAA/Meteorology building. A worker in her twenties caught hold of a news report being aired, and quickly called to the Secretary of Defense who was nearby and conferring with others.
She called out, "Mr. Karn, there's a report that you need to see! It's very urgent sir!"
Robert Karn made his way past the tables, and soon a crowd of government workers started to gather behind him as they began to watch the breaking news report. The room gradually became quieter as more and more people listened in to the news report.
The male news reporter began, "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, our sources here at NBC news have confirmed some distressing news. The displaced refugee populations of Europe who now inhabit Northern Africa are now being forced with an ultimatum….either work or lose your provisionary aid. We tried to meet up with government officials of Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and especially Libya about this controversial issue."
The news station begins playing interview clips with the high-ranking government officials, the reporter continued, "As you can see these government spokesmen have denied the rumors of mistreating the European population, but yet they would not show us the conditions of their refugee camps. Libya is by far the most concerning since the government has declined all interviews whatsoever…there are some escapees of those camps who compare the conditions similarly to the concentration camps of World War II.
Political researchers have commented that tens of millions, possible hundreds of millions of these European refugees have burdened these North African nations beyond which their infrastructure can support and therefore have to resort to such drastic measures. The previously wealthy nations of Europe such as Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy have decided to emigrate their populations to whichever country will accept them with whatever financial resources they have left. As for the other nations of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine...they are now subjected to the whims of whichever host country they reside in… Buying the European countries' landmasses is now undesirable for the North African nations because whatever resources that are there are permanently unrecoverable because of the skyscraper-thick ice sheet and therefore deemed barren and useless in relieving their strain on resources and provisions. How could anybody predict of something so unbelievable occurring? The world of economic growth and prosperity that we had all enjoyed so immensely in the past couple of decades has now become a distant hallucinogenic dream as our denial to the environment seems to have cruelly and abruptly woke us up to the consequences of our mindless, wasteful consumption. All we have now is a world of struggle, regret, suffering, and despair… "
Robert broke away from his trance of how applicable those final words were to every nation, especially to the former superpower of the United States. He and everyone else working in the Cabinet, were learning how to handle this unprecedented catastrophe and reconstruction of not only a nation and people, but of a mentality of normalcy. He carefully looked around him and noticed the despair seeping throughout the room; he instantly turned off the television, with the remote, to end his team's emotional plunge and faced them commandingly saying, "Guys, let's get to work! Nothing is over 'til it's over!" He faced one his subordinates calling out, "Bill! Contact the State Department to update knowing our current relations with those North African nations." He faced another subordinate calling out to her, "Stephanie! Get in touch with all of our military personnel and units there about any military or diplomatic threats to those embassies." He then announced to his department, projecting his voice loudly in attempting to boost their moral, "Everyone! Remember! We still have a chance to make difference here! We CAN and WILL recover from this!"
Robert was pleased seeing his subordinates being more enthusiastic, energetic, and optimistic from his words, but he focused back on the previous Cabinet meeting, murmuring in disappointment, believing that the President had not comprehended the entire threatening situation, "Raymond…we have to leave Mexico now! Raymond…..c'mon…."
Meanwhile, back at the South China Sea approximately 150 miles east of Singapore, an Australian navy captain and his crew were supervising their country's international trading ships from a submarine 80 feet below the surface since the pirating of commercial ships were rampant throughout Southeast Asia. The crew of forty vigilantly kept in communication with the ships above, ensuring their safety and security. The warm, mystical night was partly cloudy and the winds would gust waves of about 2 to 3 feet.
One seaman commented to the other while he was monitoring communications on his computer terminal, "It's been fairly quiet today mate… We've only had 2 incidents in the past 24…"
The other seaman looked at him worried, stating, "Yeah, but I'm nackered (tired)… watching the sonar al' day."
The navy captain was heard talking on the line to another captain who was assigned in Northern Australia. This other captain was describing his journey through the Great Barrier Reef, and how the once vibrant, colorful, lush, and densely populated biodiversity of marine life was nothing but a barren, bleached, and desolate area with endless miles of the corals' skeletal remains. The increasing temperatures made the coral to give up their phytoplankton, their only source of nutrition, therefore causing a domino reaction and eventual collapse of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. This navy captain could not fathom the magnitude of the devastation despite the underwater pictures that had been electronically sent to him.
Suddenly, without warning the seaman watching the sonar screen saw thousands of "objects" traveling toward them from the east at varying speeds. He loudly called to the captain, "Sir! There are several torpedoes headed right toward us!"
The captain took his hand off of the phone receiver and charged toward the seaman to uncover more of this perilous situation. The captain shouted as he arrived, "Exactly how many?"
The seaman nervously stuttered, "Uh….thousands sir…"
The captain pushed aside the seaman slightly and looked at the sonar screen, but he was confused about what he saw. He saw thousands of "objects" were traveling to the west, but those objects had differing sizes and speeds…some were far too slow to be any military weapon, and the objects were "behaving" unusually without focusing directly onto them.
The navy captain knew that this supposed battle scene was far too bizarre to actually be one. He knew the behavior of these "objects" were animalistic and probably were animals, but this migration seemed inconceivable because of the varying size of these animals traveling together. The captain called out to other seaman, "Andrews, give me a visual!"
The seaman watching the sonar worriedly, cried out, "But sir!"
The navy captain shouted back to him, "Shut ya gob and sit down!" The seaman obediently obeyed his captain, but he sat down trembling in anxiety and fear.
Seaman Andrews displayed a live visual camera image on the main control system's screen (with dimensions of 4 feet by 3 feet) that was visible for all of the navy officers and seaman monitoring the controls and instruments to see what was rushing toward them from the east side. The navy captain just continued to stare infinitely on the screen overwhelmingly curious what was occurring, as with all of the other navy seamen.
The seaman watching the sonar alerted to captain, keeping on eye on the sonar and the visual screens, "Sir…50 meters and approaching…"
The entire submarine crew was silenced looking into the watery, blue abyss… a combination of intrigue and trepidation seeped into the crew's minds about what exactly was rushing toward them. Only the random sounds of computer processors and the constant, base humming of the engines filled the background, but then again the crew was oblivious to all of that.
During the middle of the navy captain's shaky deep breath, he and the rest of his crew immediately saw a multitude of underwater sea life charging right toward them! The swarms of animals were found either side for miles and they could inwardly sense the life-threatening fear these animals had. The animals of predation and prey appeared to have disowned their roles as they became more focused on fleeing for their lives.
The crew just saw them in stunned silence. The mass exodus of tens of thousands of different species of sharks, clams, whales, seals, seahorses, fish, crustaceans, squids, sea turtles, water snakes, dolphins, nautiluses, walruses, seastars, and octopi hurriedly swam past them like rush hour traffic swerving to avoid a broken down car in the middle of freeway. A giant squid of about 80 feet could not completely dodge the submarine in time and one of its massive tentacles knocked up against the exterior. The crew slightly stumbled from the blow, as they and the machinery, tried to reposition and balance themselves. They could see animals as humungous as blue whales and giant squids joining the exodus with miniscule shrimp and jellyfish, while great white sharks were peacefully accompanied with sea otters and seals by their sides.
The navy captain whispered in shock, during his trance, "Why- What the- What are they fleein' from?"
Meanwhile, back at Mexico, it was around 1 PM and Sam was making his way toward seeing Brian. He casually observed the weather while he was walking, and thankfully it was a brisk warm day. Never in his life did he ever think he would be so grateful for normal decent weather… He took another moment and realized again how much he had changed from his experience in New York City; he knew he was no longer the pessimistic, solemn teenager he once was. The mentality of himself back then seemed so distant and unfamiliar from where he was right now, and he had developed a new sense of gratitude for so much in his life. He wondered if it was his father rescuing him, seeing Laura's life at risk twice, confronting death several times, or knowing the world and his world was changed forever….. or maybe it was all of that which made him feel mentally "transformed."
Sam was lost in his thoughts, and little did he know that he was already arriving at Brian's family tent. Brian broke Sam's thoughts when he saw Sam with his head down and his arms crossed tightly toward his long sleeve red shirt, he called out somewhat humorously, "Hey Sam! Anyone there?"
Sam broke away from his deep, self-reflective thoughts and looked up toward Brian while he blinked his eyes a few times answering, "Yeah, yeah…." Sam smirked saying, "I'm here mentally now…" He looked around Brian's tent and observed how his family was packing up the last few remaining belongings quickly. Sam was flustered in asking, "What- What's happening?"
Brian didn't know how to break it to Sam, but he slowly started trying to meet up to his glance while he was packing up things around also, "Well Sam… My family and I are moving out of the refugee camp…" This would be the hardest part Brian would have to reveal, "…Today…"
Sam's eyes bulged out and he exclaimed, in utter confusion, "WHAT? Where are you guys going?"
Brian dismally replied, "We're going to another refugee camp in southern Mexico where the government needs my parents help with resettling that camp's population back to the U.S."
Sam was at a loss of words, trying to muster up something from his bewilderment, "The government is—What? How can they think about moving now? What about—"
Brian softly cut off Sam, dreading to add this information as well, "J.D. and his family from Kansas City are joining us also-"
Sam shouted out loud, "WHAT? J.D. ALSO?"
Brian did not even reveal the truly heartbreaking information that he knew would tear Sam apart. Sam continued to scramble in asking more and more questions of what was happening to his friends. Brian ignored them slightly and took a deep breath cautiously stating, "Sam…Sam!", Brian was able to get Sam's attention from Sam's torrent questioning, "….Sam…Laura and her family are also leaving….but to Panama City. You better see her now because she's leaving today also…" Brian heavily ended it feeling conflicted if he should be relieved in after telling Sam about the grim news.
Sam just stood there dumbfounded upon hearing Brian say those life-changing words. Sam never felt his heart plunge so quickly and brutally before; it was as if he was on a broken elevator that endlessly fell. His environment became surreal to him and his mind rushed on wondering if he was dreaming right now. His mind awakened his shock and he soon bolted toward Laura's family tent.
As he was sprinting, he didn't care who he ran into…even if it was a high ranking government official. He pushed, dodged, jumped over, and excused himself in hurry without taking a second glance toward the people and objects he passed though. He ran as fast as could despite his legs aching and his blood vessels throbbing against those leg muscles. He desperately hoped that he had not missed a chance to see Laura before she left.
After three-quarters of a mile of relentless running and leg pain that made him almost collapse, Sam found Laura and her family packing up their things, to his relief that they had not left yet. Sam was at the entrance of the tent, panting, "Lau- Laura— "
Laura ran up to Sam from the back of the tent while Jimmy quickly fetched a glass of water for him. Laura cried out, seeing Sam's frazzled condition, "Sam! What? Why did you run all the way here?"
Sam took a moment to clear his throat, while he heavily breathed, "I just heard from…Brian that you and your family…were leaving! Is it…true?"
Laura guiltily looked toward her family, to avoid Sam's earnest look, and moved her eyes back toward Sam in shame since she had not told him earlier about it. She caught Jimmy by the corner of her eye and graciously thanked Jimmy for providing the styrofoam cup of water. She took the cup, and took Sam away from the family tent while trying to summon the courage about her family's departure.
Sam and Laura had both walked toward a bus depot (about 600 feet away from Laura's family tent) in the refugee camp, and Sam was gulping down the water without hesitation. Laura took a deep breath and she knew she had to tell him what she dreaded to admit. Laura's thoughts were racing faster than she could keep track of. Her eyes would glance around her surroundings: toward the "Greyhound-sized" buses where her family and many others were taking their packed things, the early afternoon sky that seemed awkwardly peaceful but bleak, the fragile sand grains that rushed past her shoes with every breath of wind… anything that would avoid looking into Sam's eyes. Laura could feel her heart being sunk gradually lower and lower with the immense, burdening weight of her family's decision.
She waited for Sam to finish drinking his water and for him to catch his breath because he knew this emotional blow would change everything about their relationship. She weakly began, "Sam…" Sam immediately looked toward her and gave her those innocent, deep blue eyes that made her shiver and briefly lose her train of thought. After a few seconds, she forcefully composed herself and revealed, "Sam….My family and I are leaving…"
Sam's heart mercilessly fell into the pit of his stomach and he was short-breathed. His eyes kept blinking in disbelief, and his voice cracked asking, "Why to Panama City? What… happened?"
Laura's heart beseeched the same question all throughout the day when she first heard this morning that she and her family were moving today. She arduously explained, "My mother was trying to find work to get our lives back to normal…" She took a deep breath, as the first tear was beginning to form on the corner of her eye, "One of my Dad's divisions is in Panama City and both the U.S. and Panama governments are offering incentives for her to operate there…to help revive their economies…"
Sam, without thinking, began to question, "How long—" Sam realized that this move was going to be permanent with one look at Laura's lifeless, dispirited, and heavyhearted eyes. It was beginning to trickle in now….the reality that they were not going to see each other again… That life was taking them in differing directions that had viciously torn apart their loving relationship that had so much promise. Sam and Laura constantly looked up and down at each other and back toward the ground, feeling helpless to do anything to change their futures. They were silent from the emotional nadir that only became worse with each passing second. Laura's tears were slowly falling like condensation on window. All they could do was just stare at each other… stare at a love that they had never experienced before that was momentarily departing from them.
Mary and Jimmy carefully interrupted their daze with their heavy faces, with Jimmy telling Laura, "Laura…. I'm sorry but…" He was having a difficult time seeing her so distraught again from when she first heard they were moving, but pressed on, "The bus is leaving in about 15 minutes and we're all packed to go…."
Laura swallowed her emotions and feebly replied, "Okay…"
Mary quickly hugged Sam around his waist. She sadly whined and sniffled, "I wish we didn't have to go… But my Mom said it's the best way to start again… I'm sorry if I annoyed you too much."
Sam warmly smiled trying to mask his pain while he looked down at her, "You didn't annoy me Mary. In fact, you healed all of us…" Sam reflected back on the Monopoly game and at Mary's birthday party…he smiled in gratitude for her enthusiasm and optimistic, addictive energy because she had unknowingly taken them out of their misery and despair and into a level of happiness they all had once lost.
Sam knelt down on one knee and met her, sincerely thanking her, "Thank you Mary… You brought back the kid in all of us." Mary started to weep in overwhelming shock since all of her young life most teenagers and adults would disregard and ignore her. He deeply hugged to comfort her and as he did, he thought how ironic it was that small child would bring out his happiness when so many of his peers would go searching for happiness through "more adult" paths or activities.
She sweetly replied, as she let go of Sam, "Thank you Sam. I hope one day we can see each other again…" Sam smiled courteously to Mary knowing how naïve she was to the situation. She then slowly stepped aside to let Jimmy speak with Sam.
Sam was beginning to offer a handshake to Jimmy, since he physically appeared to the stereotypical cocky, macho jock that Sam and his friends would tease about back in high school, but Jimmy immediately embraced Sam. Sam was instantly taken back by his forthright emotions while Jimmy said, "Thanks Sam, for saving Laura and helping us all out. I never saw Laura so happy before…"
As Jimmy let go of Sam, Sam modestly responded, "It was nothing…" Sam was at a loss of words on what to say since he never actually thought about his heroic actions.
Jimmy teasingly questioned, but his face was still heavy though, "Nothing? After experiencing New York?" Sam was only shrugging it off in shyness.
Jimmy slowly led Mary away, and before they could leave toward the bus depot, he reminded Laura in a downcast spirit, "Laura….don't forget we have to leave in 11 minutes…." Laura only nodded and gulped at the bitter reminder.
As Jimmy and Mary left, Sam and Laura kept staring at each other. The cool wind softly passed by their eyes, noses, hair, lips, and fingertips to remind them of the seconds slipping by. Before they could have a chance to say anything…Brian, J.D. and Elsa met up with them. There was an unusual silence between all of them….they had endured and experienced so much together and now… well… they had to move on with their families when their friendships were evolving far deeper that they could ever expect.
J.D. broke the silence by admitting, "Thanks guys…for really helping me through my loss… I never had friends like you before." The other four looked deeper into his tear-glossy, bloodshot eyes in slight confusion. J.D. sighed to compose himself, and deeply apologized, "I'm sorry guys for being such an ass back at Pinehurst… it's just that with wealth, you really don't know if people really like you OR your money. I usually act mean at first to see if people are kissing up or if they have guts."
The four stood there comprehending his perspective of how difficult it was making friends for J.D. Sam was hit with another blow where he was gaining insight and developing guilt for the once rich, arrogant preppy kid that he stereotyped. Sam comforted J.D. saying, "J.D…. You weren't an ass… You invited us to stay at your penthouse and you offered Brian, Laura and me so much." J.D. smiled bashfully and looked down to hide his burdening sadness of leaving the only sincere friends he knew.
Brian added while he was choked up on his emotions, "Man, I can't believe this is happening. Thanks everyone for helping me with my sister." Brian was speechless; he didn't know what else to say because this move was too quick for him to take in. He heavily spoke and looked toward Sam and Laura, "Maybe we'll see each other again…who knew that our decathlon would take us here…" The bus leaving to southern Mexico was starting up, indicating its upcoming departure. Brian and J.D. compassionately hugged everyone in group and hurried toward the bus while the three stared on…watching another aspect of their lives leaving them.
Elsa knew that the bus leaving to Panama City would be starting in 7 minutes, and briefly hugged Laura, saying, "Take care Laura wherever life my take you. Thank you so much for helping me with my fiancée… God Bless you and your family…."
Laura responded by struggling to give a small, gentle smirk to Elsa from all of her overwhelming emotions and managed to say, "Thank you for helping me out too with my father… and also for being the only other girl to talk to." Laura implicitly referred to the discussion she had with Elsa earlier that day when she had complained about her family moving. Elsa tried to reassure her that at least this was a step toward normalcy but of course she couldn't help alleviate the conflict plaguing Laura's mind between helping the family versus being with a true loving boyfriend. This inner turmoil was what made Laura procrastinate in informing Sam about her departure…how could she leave… Someone who had healed her from broken-heartedness? …Someone who would sacrifice his life for her time and time again? …Someone who took her to a new level of romance that surpassed all of her expectations? …Someone who seemed to make her problems melt away with a simple kiss or an affectionate hug? …Someone who made her smile by simply seeing his smile? …Someone who gave her the inner strength to press on through all of life's troubles and hardships from the destruction of the northern hemisphere to the death of her father and a way of life she once knew? …Someone who gave her a reason to believe in love and romance again?
Elsa considerately walked away from the couple while they fought their emotions to say something. By now, Laura's cheeks were already wet by the several trails of tears that had lined them and she was fighting with everything she had in her to regulate her heavy breathing. Sam's eyes were glossy and bloodshot from all of the emotions he attempted to repress from outwardly showing and because of that, he resulted in having intense chest pains. They had already lost their friends…and now they would lose each other…
In a moment, their emotions triggered them to collapse into each other's arms and they deeply clutched onto each other. Laura kept on holding onto Sam tightly, stronger than any stuffed animal or teddy bear she ever had, as she released her overwhelming crying convulsions. The heartache she had felt for the entire day was surging out of her. Sam had finally burst out his emotions and he continuously just grasped onto Laura, wanting her not to leave. He didn't want to leave such a caring, affectionate, loving girl that had opened his secluded, sarcastic heart that he could have never anticipated before. A girl who had changed his perspective of life… A girl that gave him a purpose to continue on through struggles… His repressed emotions made him to have a headache and his tears were beginning to quickly form.
Sam tried to give Laura a heartfelt lasting kiss but Laura abruptly stopped him by putting her index finger to his lips whispering during her gasping, "Please don't Sam… I don't think I could handle that…." Laura knew how powerful Sam's kiss was; if he did kiss her on the lips, whatever inner strength she had left, would instantly dissipate and she would become an emotional mess on the ground. She would become so emotional frail and weak that she couldn't support herself anymore.
They continually hugged each other as if they were trying to remember each other's rhythmic heartbeat. A pessimistic thought entered into Laura's mind reminding her that this relationship was all for nothing, even if the superstorms had not occurred, since they would have graduated high school and moved onto college. Laura bitterly fought against that thought from letting it prevail in her consciousness even though her tremendous sadness tempted her to believe it. Sam kept grasping onto Laura, not wanting her to leave, because she had brought such a deep level of intimacy into his life that he couldn't truly experience from his busy parents or other family members. So many emotions, fears, and worries passed between them that all they could do was just hold onto each other for any type of comfort or assurance, but then their hearts would break again being reminded that the other wouldn't be there.
The bus to Panama City was starting up, and both of their hearts were coldly compressed and squished knowing that now was the time they had to leave each other. Their faces were clenched up, their noses were running, their minds were consumed with uncontrollable thoughts, their hearts were panicking, and their eyes were still quickly forming a pool of tears not wanting the moment to occur now. They wanted to spend another second…. and another…. with each other….but it was futile and all they could do was take in the few seconds they had left together. Eventually, both of Sam and Laura's bodies were weakened and exhausted from the emotional surges that flooded throughout their bodies and their arms slowly slipped away from each other.
They gazed at each other in quietness, letting the world slip by around them, with their faces only being a few centimeters away from each other. They could not fathom that in front of each other they were losing a love that they have never known or experienced before… Sam rubbed Laura's hands affectionately in front of him, and before she could say anything… Sam gave Laura a soft, warm resonating kiss to Laura's cheek that made her insides tremble in distress and wail out wondering again why this move to Panama City had to happen.
She painfully looked into Sam's eyes, and mustered to say in a shaky voice, "I love you Sam… I can't tell you how much you have done for me…" She wanted to say how much he made an impact in her life, but her emotions couldn't make her think clearly.
Sam sighed with a burdening weight on his chest, "I love you too… I never thought someone as kind and beautiful as you… could have loved me…" Just like Laura, Sam's mind was unfocused because of the whirlpool of emotions clouding his thinking.
Almost everyone had boarded the bus to Panama City, and Laura took the long agonizing steps toward the bus. She felt as if she was dragging her chained mind and heart brutally across the arid, rough ground toward the bus. When she arrived at the doors, she heard the clamor of people on the bus being eager and anxious about starting their new lives. Laura felt as if she was the only one alone in her thoughts and misery as she passed though the aisle, ignored her family, and mindlessly fell onto an unoccupied row of seats in the back. Jimmy, Mary, and Laura's mother wanted to talk and help her but they sensed she didn't want to be with anyone right now…
The bus closed the doors and slowly started to drive toward the camp gates. Laura was now a desensitized zombie to her surroundings. She leaned her head against the hard, icy window and caught one last glimpse of the boy who had saved and healed her beyond words…
As the buses were leaving out toward the horizon, through the maze of tents and government buildings, Sam just stood there watching…. Shocked and dazed similarly to Laura while his tears flowed ceaselessly with no one around now, except for Elsa in the background who could only cross her arms to brace herself from the loss of friends. Sam then fell onto his knees and onto the dusty, dirty, and unforgiving landscape… This was too surreal for him to accept… believing that this was a dream….it had to be…
…but then again it couldn't be… since no one could continue to sleep with dreams that are this excruciatingly heart-wrenching…
For Sam and Laura….time never stood so still… The only thing they had left of each other…. were their emotionally filled, tear-drenched shoulders that were being dried callously by the unsympathetic atmosphere…
To Be Continued…