Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
There’s an expectant pause as the screen fills with blurry grey patterns.
Martin gently places a finger on the forearm of the dishevelled man to his left. Thumbs stop flicking across the screen of a smartphone. Bleary eyes lift to briefly focus on Martin.
“Mister President. The drone is back in range. It’s sending an update.”
The President looks back to his smartphone and whispers: “Still no signal.”
Martin sees the looks from those nearby. It’s a problem, but not yet bad enough to warrant the twenty-fifth. He glances toward the Speaker, who nods. She understands.
A woman in dress blues stands up and calls across to the group gathered in front of the display.
“Confirmations of functional governance enclaves in the UK, Russia, India, and China are all verified.”
Glances are exchanged. A Representative steps back so he can catch the woman’s eye.
“Captain Everal. What about Germany, Israel, Saudi, Argentina, Australia and Japan?”
The woman glances at her notes, complexion paling.
“Federated Europe is still burning. Israel won’t be inhabitable for several thousand years, and the surrounding territories are suffering the fallout from that overkill.”
“Poetic justice.” Quips someone near the back.
Everal continues: “South America and Australia are dark. Japan doesn’t exist.”
There’s silence. The screen crackles and resolves into a black and white image of a vast field of debris with the ruins of the White House just discernible at its northern edge. The next shot is of the ocean basin where New York used to be. The slideshow continues: a monochrome catalogue of ash-covered devastation.
The president points toward the left of the display: “Cell tower’s down. Get it fixed. Can’t be out of touch.”
The Speaker walks over and touches his shoulder: “That’s in Nevada.”
He pouts: “Still needs fixing. People need to read my words.”
She glances at Martin, then looks toward Everal.
“Are there any people left?”
Her face turns even paler: “Not for much longer, ma’am.”
The Speaker looks at Martin: “When’s the rain liable to stop?”
He shrugs: “Predictions are for precipitation of various types for at least a fortnight.”
Another Representative walks over to join them: “Using the exchange as a diversion for a pocket nuke strike on Yellowstone was genius. Even if it hadn’t triggered an eruption, it was tactically brilliant. I’d bet money they were allied with the bastards who exacerbated the resource conflicts in the first place.”
Martin shakes his head as he beckons a young woman over.
“A resource war was inevitable. Agent Reeves, who hit Yellowstone?”
She looks nervous: “Last reliable information indicates an Aryan Empire suicide squad comprised of former US special forces.” Her eyes go back to the screen: “Not that it matters.”
The Speaker nods, then looks at Martin and raises an eyebrow: “Did the head of the NGA think we’re as extinct as I think we are, Mister Crane?”
Martin sighs: “Mister Sharp was of that opinion, ma’am. His exact words were ‘saved everyone except “we the people”’.”
Reeves wipes a tear from her cheek: “Can we survive by allying with the other enclaves?”
He shakes his head: “Even the most optimistic predictions place the total well below a decent gene pool. Also, the majority of those saved are of less than ideal age and condition.”
The President peers round the Speaker, leering at Agent Reeves: “Only one way to save humanity.”
Agent Reeves beats Martin’s intervening hand. Her slap echoes round the room. The President stumbles and drops his smartphone. The ‘crack’ as it lands is clearly audible.
“My phone!” The President falls to his knees.
The Speaker sighs.