Agenda 21 - Prologue. Prologue
April, 2010 It was hard for Norman Cobb to keep his eyes open after such a filling dinner on Easter Sunday. Kicked back in his easy chair, watching television. His wife, Susan, was still flustering about the kitchen...attempting to get it clean. Both of their grandchildren were upstairs, sleeping peacefully. Tuckered out from an entire morning of running around and causing havoc wherever they could. Norman was thankful for the peace and quiet offered in small moments like these. Well into his 60's, he knew that keeping up with a couple of preteens wasn't going to be possible for both him and his wife combined. Not for a minute. It was best to surrender to the theory that the youngsters would tire out eventually, and the house would be a place of tranquility once again.
He used the remote to turn up the volume on the television to watch the afternoon movie, only to see it go straight to commercial. "Ahhh, dammit. Hey, Susan? Can you bring me a beer out of the fridge?"
Susan peeked around the corner with a smirk. "Norman...you're supposed to be cutting down on that. Remember?"
"Cutting down on what? I haven't even had one today."
"You had some wine. That was good enough." She smiled, drying off a plate with her dish towel.
"Wine?" He said. "That was at CHURCH this morning. That doesn't count." Norman told her, but Susan stood her ground.
"It most certainly does count. And it counts double when Ben and Katie are here. You know that. I will NOT have you beer belching around our grandchildren, mister."
"Alright, alright. Fine. Can I have a few when Clark comes to pick them up, then?"
Susan looked at him sideways. "I don't necessarily want you beer belching around ME either. I AM a lady, you know? Or have you forgotten."
"Never." Norman said with a wink. "You're still the most beautiful girl in the world. Just as young and full of spunk as you were the day we got married."
She leaned against the door frame of the kitchen. "Mmmm-hmmm...that old line didn't work back then, Norman Cobb, and it's not gonna work now."
"Not even a little bit?"
She turned to go back in the kitchen. "We'll see how I feel...AFTER Clark picks up the kids."
"Sounds 'frisky' to me." Norman laughed, and nearly got a dish towel thrown at him for the comment.
But it was then that something on the television caught his attention. The commercials had been interrupted by a local news report.
"And in our main story tonight...how the violent Spring outbreak of the H1N1 flu pandemic has been reaching devastating numbers all across the United States, and around the world, in recent weeks. The statistics are now well into the hundreds of thousands, and the virus does not seem to be slowing down."
"Government officials say that the CDC has been working feverishly to make more vaccines available to the public, despite rumors of a vaccine shortage in most major cities. However, officials have been making it very clear to the people in these areas that the pandemic will continue to spread and can rapidly climb to catastrophic levels if the public refuses to accept the immunization procedures."
Norman's wife Susan came to the door to look at the television screen beside her husband's chair. "Can you believe that? All of those poor people...dying of the flu."
"One official from the World Health Organization had this to say:"
"The general population MUST be made to understand, that the communicability level of this new mutated strain is much too dangerous to go unchecked. There can be NO further refusal of the H1N1 vaccine. In doing so, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of being a deadly carrier of this disease. Therefore, you are, for all intents and purposes, a significant 'threat' to national security."
"Norman...maybe you should go down to the pharmacy and get one of those shots. There are signs in the store windows everywhere. The kids had it done weeks ago." Susan said, her worried eyes watching the screen.
"I'm 100% healthy, what are you gabbing about? I'm strong as an ox."
"Right NOW, sure. But..this doesn't look like it's something you ought to play around with. There were already 11 people that couldn't make it to church this morning for Easter mass because they were all sick. And poor Anette Maxwell lost her baby girl just 6 weeks ago."
Norman frowned up. "Don't you see, Susan? It's a GAME! They're playing a game. The pharmaceutical companies need money, they put out some goofball flu bug, and then they send us all running to the nearest pharmacy to give 'em our hard earned cash. I'm not gonna do it. I'm fine."
"They say if you go to one of the camps, it's FREE. Marty said he was taking his family there a week ago. We could make a short trip."
"And have you heard from Marty since? That doesn't sound right to me." Norman said.
"Well, of COURSE they can't just fix everybody overnight. That's why they have living quarters there. Those camps are already flooded with people who are looking for free shots and flu detection. It takes time to get to them all."
"Yeah, sure. I'm sure the NAZI'S said the same thing about their little collection of honored 'guests'. Be patient. 'It takes time to get to them all.'"
"Oh, listen to you. You're so stubborn, Norman."
"Stubborn enough not to get SICK, I'll bet ya." He replied, and the news alert continued.
"Please...for your safety and the safety of everyone in your area...get yourself an H1N1 vaccination as SOON as possible. For those of you experiencing a shortage in your area, please direct yourselves to one of the many FEMA camp locations in your district. The names and numbers should be scrolling along the bottom of your screen now. Call any one of these numbers and they will tell you what to do. Again, it is of GREAT importance that you get your H1N1 vaccinations immediately...before this outbreak gets out of control. Please, allow us to do our job, and with your help and your patience, we can contain this virus and begin working on a cure."
"You see that, Susan? Killer virus. Media is telling us to remain calm. They wanna march us right into those camps two by two like Noah's Ark, just so they can put us to sleep permanently." Norman said. "They put microchips in the vaccine, ya know? Let's them track you down anywhere in the world. It never leaves your system. It's just like how I put it in my book."
Susan rolled her eyes, "Oh, AGAIN with the book. I never should have let you WRITE that blasted thing, it's all you talk about."
"You SEE? They said it was all sci fi nonsense at the publishing house when I first brought it to 'em. Conspiracy theory, is what they called it. Thought I was crazy. NOW look at 'em! All lining up to get the rights for the first printing. I tell ya, when this book comes out, it's gonna lay the whole world on it's side. They'll see that I was right."
Susan shook her head, but simply leaned over to kiss her husband on the cheek. Saying, "Not if you're sick with the flu, dear." And went back into the kitchen to dry off the rest of her cookware out of the sink.
"Ahhh, go on. I'm telling you, it's a set up. They didn't even MENTION our area this time around. That was two weeks ago that they said OUR neighborhood had to go get vaccinated, remember? Hardly ANYBODY went, and since then I haven't had so much as a sniffle."
"For all infected areas, further health measures may become necessary to protect the general population. We only want to help. We are putting additional efforts in place to assist with the swift and safe solutions to the growing problem of a possible outbreak. Including bills that would even allow local officers to go door to door in each neighborhood, where all remaining citizens can receive their immunizations at home, rather than having to go out and find the vaccine locations on their own. Plans are ready to go from neighborhood to neighborhood to load up trucks full of unvaccinated civilians personally, and take them to the FEMA camps for FREE health care treatment! These plans are already in the works, and should be put into action very soon. All of the U.S. military services in EACH area have graciously offered to assist in this massive plan of action. And the CDC believes that this new method of friendly convenience will be highly effective in combating the mutated strain of the virus, once and for all."
As Norman listened closely to the news alert, the cell phone beside him on the table began to ring. Already frustrated, he frowned at it, trying to figure out how to turn it on. "Susan? How do I work this damn thing?"
"Hit the 'pick up' button." She yelled back from the kitchen.
"What in blazes is the 'pick up' button?"
"It looks like a little telephone. There should be a picture on it."
Norman touched the button, and the small cell phone lit up in his hand. "Hello?"
"Hiya doin', Pop? I see you figured out how to answer the new cell phone I got you!" It was Clark, evidently coming back a bit earlier than expected to pick up his children. "How are the kids? Ok?"
"Oh, they're FINE. The kids are fine. Ben and Katie ran around here for a few hours after church, and the next thing I knew they were nodding off on the couch. I told 'em to go upstairs and sleep in my bed."
"Great. Beautiful. I hope they weren't too much of a handful for you today."
"A handful? Not a chance. I survived YOUR childhood, Clark, I doubt your offspring could be much worse." Norman grinned.
"Yeah yeah...well, trust me, you'd be surprised what kids can get into these days. More than I ever could growing up." Clark smiled. "Listen...I know I'm running a little bit late....but...ZZZKKKZKZK....headed your way. If you want, I can just...ZZKKKKZZSHHHHH...as soon as I...ZKKKZKZZKZKZZZ....."
"Clark? Clark, you're breaking up. Clark?" Norman asked, quietly cursing the confusing technological contraption in his hand.
"Yes, I'm here. Clark? Hello?"
There was more static. MUCH more. And suddenly the phone went dead. "Dammit! Susan...what did I do here?"
Susan came to the kitchen doorway, cleaning a pair of butcher knives to put back in the drawer. "Well, how am I supposed to know? Did you press the off button?"
"I didn't press ANY button, Susan! The damn thing just DIED on me!"
"Well don't get SNIPPY with me, I'm only trying to help." She said. "Here, just call him back on the house phone..." She said, picking up the wireless phone from the corner of the living room, clicking it on.....and getting dead silence. "Well that's odd." She said.
"All the phones in the house are dead. Must be something wrong with the service."
It was at that moment, that Norman looked back at the television. And saw the digital signal get pixilated, freeze, and jump until finally...the picture went completely blank. "What the hell is going on here?"
The sounds of what sounded like 20 eighteen wheeler trucks could be heard outside of their suburban home, along with the distant, but rapidly approaching, sound of multiple helicopters flying overhead. "Norman?" Susan said, as she slowly stepped back towards the kitchen, a look of worry on her face.
Norman struggled a bit to get out of his easy chair, his old bones snapping and popping as he headed towards one of the living room windows. "What the....what the hell...???" He said.
The sounds of a small collective of helicopters could be heard approaching overhead. And they got to be even louder, almost deafening, within just a few minutes. Both grandchildren ran halfway down the stair case, their eyes wide with excitement. Ben shouted. "GRAMPA!!!! GRAMPA!!! There's HELICOPTERS and ARMY JEEPS outside!!! COOL!!! Can we go see??? Can we??? CAN WE???"
Norman heard some shouting coming from the neighbors next door, and he turned to see the frightened look on Susan's face, dish towel dropping to the floor as it slid off of the knives she was putting away. "Norman? Norman....what's happening?"
"There are jeeps and armored vehicles lining the streets. Soldiers. LOTS of solders."
"Soldiers??? Well, what would soldiers be doing HERE?"
But before Susan could completely finish her sentence, there was a loud pounding at their door. LOUD! "MR. AND MRS. COBB...THIS IS THE U.S. MILITARY!!! PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR!!!"
"What the hell is this???" Norman said, and then he turned to look at the kids on the steps. "Go back to the bedroom and shut the door!"
"Awww, GRAMPA!!! We wanna see the..."
"You heard your grandfather! Now GO!" Susan said, and the children pouted their way back up the steps.
"What is the meaning of this?" Norman shouted from behind the door.
The military voices sounded slightly muffled, but were quick to assert their authority. "We've been appointed to take you and your family to the nearest FEMA camp for your immunization. Please come outside, or we will have to force our way in."
"Force you way in??? What in blazes are you TALKING about? I'm not taking any vaccination! Nobody in this neighborhood is even SICK!"
"We need you and your family to PLEASE step outside, sir! This will all be over in a minute!" The voice told him sternly. "If you do not comply, we are authorized to break down the door!"
"Authorized by WHO???" Norman yelled.
"We're giving you to the count of three, Mr. Cobb."
"HEY!!! You can't just barge into my damn house without a warrant! Who do you think you are? What gives you the right?"
"Unvaccinated civilians have just been declared a threat to national security, sir! The vaccinations are no longer an OPTION, they're MANDATORY! Now please open the door...we WON'T ask again!"
Susan was nearly frightened to tears. "Norman....m-m-maybe we should just open the door and let them in!"
"I KNOW MY RIGHTS AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!!! I'LL BE DAMNED IF I LET YOU BASTARDS SNATCH ME AND MY WIFE OUT OF OUR OWN HOUSE AND *FORCE* SOME NEEDLE IN MY ARM AGAINST MY WILL!!!" Norman shouted back, but the only words he heard spoken after that from behind the door were...
"We've got a hostile. Break it down."
And seconds later, the door was simply SHATTERED to splinters as an armada of fully armed soldiers with assault rifles charged into the once peaceful home, wearing all black gear and gas masks over their faces. "GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!!!! DON'T YOU MOVE!!! DON'T YOU *FUCKING* MOVE!!!! SECURE THE AREA!!! MOVE IT!!! MOVE IT!!!"
Norman heard his wife shriek in the kitchen as the back door was also knocked to pieces with a mini battering ram, and soldiers flooded the kitchen behind her. "SUSAN!!!!!" He yelled out, but was quickly stopped as the butt of a soldier's gun was harshly rammed into his stomach. Knocking the wind out of him, and dropping him to the floor instantly. Two more soldiers aimed their guns at the old man's head, while a third stomped down on his neck with the bottom of his heavily treaded boot.
"MA'AM...WE NEED YOU TO CALM DOWN!!!!" They yelled, but Susan was too scared to do much else than scream and cry. She flailed her arms involuntarily, not really thinking, and the soldiers reacted. "SHE'S GOT A KNIFE!!!! DROP IT!!! DROP THE WEAPON!!! FUCKING PUT IT DOWN, OR SO HELP ME *GOD*....." Every gun in the kitchen was aimed right at her face, and without warning, one of the soldiers brutally grabbed her wrists, nearly breaking them to get her to drop the knives. Then, he began to roughly ram his broad shoulder into her ribs, repeatedly smashing her against the fridge, until she was too weak to stand. The soldier practically tackled the poor old woman to the floor while the others kept her 'covered'.
"SUSAN!!!! SUSAN!!! That's my WIFE!!! What has she done??? WHAT HAVE *ANY* OF US DONE?!?!?!?!" Norman cried, fighting with everything that he had to get up. But the soldiers kept him pinned down so tightly that rug burns began to scar and irritate the side of his face. And when he had gotten close to fighting himself back to his knees, he felt a harsh kick collide with his abdomen, and he was floored once again. Only to see four soldiers hurry up the stairs to grab the children.
He heard the kids screaming frantically as they kicked open the bedroom door and took hold of them. The kids were dragged downstairs as well by the scruff of their necks...and then held still by soldiers twice their size. Norman was helpless to protect his family. HELPLESS! And tears poured out of his eyes as he saw his wife rolled over onto her sore stomach, and handcuffed behind her back...blood running out of her nose and the side of her mouth.
"The area is secure! We count FOUR!" One of the soldiers told their commander.
"Alright, get 'em out of here!"
The order was given, and both grandchildren, husband and wife, were taken out onto the front lawn, and lined up, side by side on the side of the street. Norman looked to the side, as he saw his beautiful suburban neighborhood cluttered with enough army trucks, jeeps, and heavily armed soldiers to conquer a small country, lining the streets for as far as the eye could see. The black helicopters blew up dust from overhead, and the entire block was filled with the screams and protests of his neighbors....as each and every last one of them were dragged out of their homes to their own front lawns right beside them.
Norman reached out to comfort his two small grandchildren, who wept uncontrollably in his arms, and his heart broke when Susan laid her head on his shoulder, sobbing softly from having to stand despite the injuries to her stomach and ribs. Norman offered no further resistance, if for no other reason than he didn't want his family to have to suffer any further trauma.
Someone in the distance must have tried to run from his 'captors', because the sounds of panicked soldiers ripped through the air as they attempted to chase him down and subdue him. Beating him unconscious in the street like an animal. The sound of a bullhorn could be heard coming from a passing jeep that slowly rolled up and down the streets to 'alert' us of what was to come. "PLEASE REMAIN CALM! WE ARE ONLY HERE TO HELP YOU! DO *NOT* ATTEMPT TO LEAVE THIS SECURED AREA! PLEASE, STAY IN YOUR HOMES, AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW YOU WILL BE PROCESSED! WE WILL TRY TO MAKE THIS AS QUICK AND AS PAINLESS AS WE POSSIBLY CAN! BUT WE NEED YOUR COOPERATION!"
There was more shouting about a block and a half away, and suddenly....a THUNDEROUS cluster of assault rifle fire seemed to shake the very ground beneath Norman's feet! The entire family jumped in shock, as someone....possibly someone they had seen grow up as a child in that neighborhood...was nearly torn to pieces by the hostile ammunition of the invading troops. You have never heard a gun so loud! It was a sound that rattled in the pit of your stomach, even at a distance. And in the background, they heard even more gunshots. Followed by the grieving cries of those who had to bear witness to the awful event with their own two eyes. Gunfire like that...was probably strong enough to cut a human body in HALF in a matter of seconds. Whatever this was....it was SERIOUS!
Meanwhile...the rest of the soldiers stood at attention in front of Norman and his family. Seemingly unaffected. They had done this before. And another man rode by in a jeep, also wearing a protective mask, and came down in front of Norman and the others with a small clipboard and a list. He hopped down, studied them all, and then asked, "Norman Walter Cobb, correct?" His voice was so 'sterile'. So unemotionally professional.
"Yes...." Norman answered meekly.
"Social Security number 212-70-9967? Author of the soon to be published book, "America: The Fallen Kingdom", right?" He asked, looking Norman directly in the eye.
Norman was struck silent in disbelief. "How...how did you know that? I didn't even....I haven't even accepted a publisher's...."
"This is the one. Take him." The man said. "Norman Walter Cobb...I'm afraid that you've been 'red listed' by the U.S. Government...right this way..."
"Red listed? What the hell is that? What the hell do you MEAN, red listed????" Norman asked.
"Put Mr. Cobb on Chopper 3, the others are all blue lists by association. They can be loaded directly into the convoy." The man said. And then he checked Norman's name off of the list, and turned his back to them as the soldiers moved in to carry out their orders.
"No wait! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? What does 'red listed' mean??? Where are you taking me??? Where are you taking my FAMILY???" Norman protested, but the other soldiers were already swiftly PULLING them apart! "LET GO OF ME!!!!"
"TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF OF THEM YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!!!!" He screamed until his throat burned! But it did him no good. "THEY'RE JUST....THEY'RE JUST *KIDS*!!!"
Susan was pulled away also, and when Norman attempted to pull free from the soldiers holding him back, a VICIOUS blow was delivered to the back of his head with the butt of their rifle. His face fell to the soft green grass of the lawn with a thud, and despite the unbelievable throbbing ache of the wound, he could still hear his wife and grandchildren calling out to him. Crying. Shouting. Struggling against the inevitable. And they were loaded into a truck with many other neighborhood citizens like cattle. And before Norman's eyes could stop spinning....he felt himself being lifted up...and dragged towards one of the black helicopters that had landed at a nearby intersection on their street.
There were barricades everywhere. Armed guards standing vigilant at each one. The entire suburb had been taken over in a matter of minutes....and more helicopters were still on their way.
The entire mission took all of three hours. And then....all military vehicles departed. Leaving the suburb a ghost town. Empty. Desolate. And yet...just as quiet as it was before they entered.
As the last helicopter left the immediate airspace....the communications jamming signal was cancelled. And in the broken...empty...living room of Norman and Susan Cobb...the television suddenly straightened out its picture, and went back to the news alert broadcast. Showing video of happy young soldiers elsewhere, helping a group of smiling children into the back of army trucks, and handing out lollipops while shaking hands with their parents.
"Hehehe, so what do YOU think, Cindy? I mean we've got this amazing new program to give out FREE vaccinations, we've got FEMA camp facilities already in place, we've even got the military offering their time and energy to help out with the vaccination effort...I mean, does this program have a chance of working? CAN we prevent a further outbreak?"
"Well, Chuck, I think it's just a matter of everyone getting on board and supporting what the government is trying to do here. If ever there was a time to be patriotic and support the policies that are being made to make things better for us as a whole...it's now. GO out, GET your shots, and let's bring an end to this nasty pandemic."
"I certainly hope *I* don't get it! I've gotta work tomorrow! Hehehe!"
"You and me both, Chuck! Hahaha! So let's make sure we keep ourselves healthy, shall we? And be sure to check out our local news websites for addresses and directions to a FEMA vaccination camp in your area as soon as possible."
"Thanks a lot, Cindy. And now....here's Michael Nomack with Sports...."
All stories have a beginning.
But this one is a million stories, with a million beginnings...
And only ONE...inevitable end...
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