As Slow as Molasses in January
One star General Patrick Robertson sat across from the Bellingham city manager, John Devries, at his desk.
"Where is the mayor?" the general asked.
"Probably at his law office. That's where he usually is most days," Devries replied.
"I'll send for him," the general said as he rose, opened the door, summoned one of his officers and gave him the errand.
Settling back down, the general added, "We'll need to reset the biometrics. Between you and the mayor, that's all we'll need for full access of the city computer system, I'll bet."
"And if I don't co-operate . . . ?" Devries let it hang.
"What do you think will happen?" Robertson asked.
Devries frowned in looking at Robertson's immobile and implacable visage. He pursed his lips at the realization of the answer.
"Something very bad which I will not like at all," Devries allowed.
The general neither confirmed nor denied his speculation.
"Are you a religious man, Mr. Devries? (He'd glanced at the brass nameplate on the desk facing him.)"
"Not especially," he said wondering what Robertson was leading up to, and why he was having this conversation at all. What did he need him for? To co-operate? To inform the public? To act as a liaison of some sort? Or did the general merely want to flex his muscles? Just what the hell was going on? So he added, "Why do you ask?"
Robertson smiled slightly at Devries expression, "not especially" that meant, "not at all."
"A little faith might carry you a long way through your present difficulties and those to come," he informed him.
"Why are you here? What do you want? What did we do to you?"
"Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime or knew a loved one who'd been brutally violated by force?"
"You mean apart from what you and your men seem to be doing now?"
"You're not a victim, yet. You've only been threatened with violence."
"Uh huh, yes, you could put it that way, but no, to answer your question," Devries told him.
"My parents were the victims of horrendous crimes when I was five years old. They were murdered by MS-13 gang members in Virginia. Raped and murdered by illegal aliens. My parents were young and naive Christians who thought they were being Good Samaritans on a country highway where they saw a woman pulled over with car trouble.
It was a setup for the initiation of a gang member that usually entails finding some random, innocent gringo to kill. Here were two, and one an attractive female.
Of course, the illegals had been in the country and state for years. Often stopped by the police for traffic infractions, drunkenness, DUIs, fighting or abusing girlfriends, but neither the federal, state, or local governments cared to remove them; deport them.
When they caught them for the crimes against my parents, they avoided the death penalty because that was barbaric and a waste of time. Lawyers and judges made sure it was never enforced. In fact, those men and their woman eventually got out of jail. Laughing no doubt in the way the famous American terrorist did when a judge let him get out of being prosecuted on a technicality. He said, 'Guilty as Hell. Free as a bird. What a country!'"
Devries said nothing. Why should he feel sorry for this Nazi in front of him? Nor would he taunt him with asking, "What has all that got to do with me? With us?"
"I mention this because you want some idea of why the people of New America are being rude to our neighbors in Washington State. You're aware of the fact that Bellingham declared itself a sanctuary city decades ago, and that Seattle and Tacoma also did so."
"I'm aware of that."
"Are you also aware of the number of your fellow citizens who've been robbed, molested, raped, murdered, crashed into by the illegal aliens, Mexican and Asian, that you've harbored through the years?"
"I have no recollection of such a number."
"Would you be surprised that even in western Washington that hasn't got an especially large number of illegals, that tens of thousands have been robbed, thousands, including children, molested and raped, hundreds murdered -- often by drunk drivers, and many more crippled as a result. Are you surprised?"
Robertson smiled a little more grimly. There was that "not especially" again.
"Who do you think should be held responsible for all those crimes against citizens by people who had no business being in the country to begin with? If your neighbor kills your kid, what can you do? He lived here by natural right. But if someone who could have been prevented from ever being here kills your kid, who's to blame?"
"Things just happen. Bad things happen. Who's to say that if a drunken Mexican hadn't run someone down that his, his neighbor, as you put it, might have done the same? It's just bad luck everywhere."
"Like now?" Robertson pressed.
Devries stared blankly back at him, and then a shadow descended over his face. The irony wasn't funny at all. God, how he suddenly hated the man in front of him with a fury he'd never quite known. He wanted to scream, "Not like now, you god damned bastard from hell!"
Devries had a revelation, an immediate vision of what was to come for him and his family, one injustice piled upon another, cruelty after cruelty because this bastard was sending them God knows where and into what kind of storm? Or storm after storm. New America was going to come down hard on him and others with both feet. Exiles, refugees, driven across the world until they had nothing, were nothing, were broken and shorn of comfort and humanity. Oh, God help us! He wanted to cry, then bitterly recalled that he was not especially religious.
There was a knock on the door. It opened and the mayor was delivered into the room by the general's adjutant. Robertson stood up.
"Captain, get the Signalman to reprogram access. The mayor and city manager will co-operate. I suppose we might as well set up in the mayor's office and this department. In the meantime, I'm going to check in on the mobile headquarters and catch up on reports. That's all."
The general left the office and began crossing the department to leave city hall when Dolores Harris boldly stepped across his path to confront him.
"Yes, ma'am. What is it?"
"You have no right to be here. No right for what you are doing. Who do you think you are? God?"
"Ma'am, did you really want to be the tall poppy?"
"I beg your pardon."
"Sorry, I'm in no mood to pardon anyone. Lieutenant Baxter, General Order Forty-five for this woman. At once," he told a young officer who had been following him out. The general turned his way past Dolores while Lt. Baxter informed her, "You're under arrest ma'am." He clasped her arm, exposed her wrist and snapped a single, wide, dark bracelet on her while she remained momentarily shocked.
"What are you doing?" she demanded when she gained the sense of being manhandled.
"Come with me, ma'am."
"I will not!"
"Owwww!" she cried as the bracelet delivered a powerful electric shock. Baxter released the button quickly, and gestured for her to precede him out of the room. She complied with his suggestion. Another woman came quickly forward with Dolores' purse and coat and gave it to her. The soldier did not object.
Dolores was passed on to an MP who escorted her out of city hall and into the rear of a military police van. She was driven to a large, empty warehouse near downtown that had been rapidly converted into a prison with two large areas encircled by chain link fences with areas set apart for port-a-potties, an area for changing and showering privately draped, a main area for sleeping on hard cots, and a processing point of entry.
Evidently, Dolores was the first beneficiary of the NA prison camp since there was no one else in what she assumed was the women's area, and none she could see in the other large area.
Her personal effects were examined, recorded, and stored. She was given an orange jumpsuit and told to change. She could keep her under garments for the time being, but substitutes were being arranged. Her clothes were then stored.
Transferring to the common area of the prison, the toilets and washroom were pointed out to her. She was given no shoes, handed a wool blanket and a small pillow. That was it.
Dolores attempted to get information out of the soldiers, women in her case, but they said nothing about why she was there, for how long, or what about her cats. She tried to be as tough and detached as the women processing her, but once released into the common area, she retreated to the washroom and sobbed.
Never in her life had she been treated so abominably. Like she was nothing, a mere body, an animal; like people might treat a cat if they cared nothing for them.
She looked at the wristband on her arm. It was made of Kevlar, though she didn't know that. Only that it was very tough. Teeth did nothing to it. She also knew that it was a shock device, but had no idea that it did a number of other things such as monitor her heart, pulse, respiration, blood sugar, stress chemicals, a myriad of other conditions, and relayed them all to a computer AI that kept tabs on her.
If the NA had truly wished to be cruel, they could have done away with any fences and simply painted lines where the prisoners could not cross, otherwise shock would commence. But fences gave the prisoners a sense of security. They were restrained by physical means, not mental ones. They were being held, and not teased with freedom . . . just over there . . . right across that line . . . maybe the system is down . . . should I try it and see? Ahhhhhh!
Dolores laid down on a cot with her little pillow and blanket, trying to forget where she was, not worry about her cats while hoping some neighbor would look after them.
She had nothing to do, though. No phone or tablet with their multiple uses and amusements. No book, radio, or music player. Nothing but her own thoughts, which were annoying and disturbing. Like many women, she kept herself busy all of the time.
She got up and approached a soldier on the other side of the fencing and asked, "I don't suppose you might have anything I might be able to read while I'm here, do you?"
"Yes, ma'am. There are a couple of books for prisoners if they want them."
"Could I get one?"
"Yes, ma'am. Go ahead and approach the entrance area. I'll tell them what you're wanting."
The young woman tilted her head to the side and pressed a button, telling the soldier at the processing area what was requested.
Another female soldier met Dolores at the pass through area, a place where food or other items could be transferred to prisoners without having to open gates.
"You currently have a choice of two volumes, ma'am. This one is The Holy Bible, and this one is entitled, The Proper Roles of Men and Women in a Modern Christian Society by Reverend Orem Hayes."
She involuntarily barked, "Ha!"
"I must warn you that the books are to be treated with care or there will be consequences. Do you still wish to read?"
She grimaced. This was not a joke. Did she need to read and take her mind off her situation or didn't she? Thinking the second volume might be good for a laugh, she requested it and it was given. She retreated to her cot, opened the book to its Preface:
In the absence of holiness we muddle our way through the many stages of life. We seek guidance from The Bible, our parents, teachers, and pastors, but what often seems so easy for them to advise, we find impossible to follow in a straight and narrow manner. We pray for understanding, but it does not come until after tough events and sad facts, it seems.
I don't know if I can make the journey any easier, but perhaps I can offer signposts that help the reader better understand what he or she has been going through, and may serve them in good stead for what may come next.
What a load of crap, Dolores snorted to herself, and gave up on the book. Holiness? What crap. Who believed this sort of bull anyway?
That was as far as Dolores' thoughts would carry. In her entire life, it had never occurred to her that 1) she might be fundamentally wrong about anything, and 2) that she had never thought deeply about any particular subject. Dolores had no idea that she was all surface and no depth. Her education had consisted of merely relaying information back to a teacher or professor. As a result, she had always been a B minus student, bad at math and science, mediocre in liberal arts and humanities. Her parents had been equally vapid and shallow-minded. The kind of people who found TV episodic dramas, police procedurals, or situation comedies as engrossing and fascinating at seventy-five as they had at fifteen; people who never noticed or tired of the recurring formulae and manipulations no matter how many times they saw the exact same story with different faces.
Dolores lay on her cot trying to avoid thinking about anything, staring up at the ceiling of the warehouse, watching dust motes in various shafts of light. After a period of time passed, a flurry of new noises occurred signaling to her that company might be coming. She sat up and saw a small group of men in lavender jumpsuits enter the men's common area. There was the mayor, the city manager, a few other department heads and managers, a couple of city councilmen.
Just then, too, the gate to her area slid open and a city councilwoman, Mary Ramirez, a well kempt woman in her early forties, entered. She had the now common deer-in-the-headlights look. Why is it that so many people never expect the worst and are shocked when it happens? Lifelong insulation from personal disaster, perhaps.
Dolores was ripe for conversation and tried to get one going with Mary, but it was useless for the time being. Then more people were processed through in both the male and female sides. The noise in the warehouse grew with charged and animated conversations, expletives and outbursts. On the perimeters of the enclosed areas, robots were deployed to patrol or stand guard. Soldiers were no longer seen, making it impossible for the prisoners to abuse them as they desperately desired.
John Devries, the city manager, assessed the situation after studying the two common areas filling with people of Bellingham. All were elected officials, managers and supervisors, union leaders, the chairmen of all the major political parties, heads of city and county departments, administrators and deans from the various universities, principals from schools, numerous professors and people notorious for political activity in radical causes (but hardly controversial for Bellingham).
He thought he understood. "They're decapitating us." No leaders or organizers. No one to lead the sheep, direct, or guide them. A chill suddenly passed through his body as the thought that they might all be murdered came to mind. Like rats in trap, he thought, and shuddered. Oddly enough, pictures from the Nazi Holocaust didn't occur to him. Well, it was a historical event that hadn't gotten much play for many decades. People knew the word Nazi well enough, and Fascist, but couldn't Commie or Marxist as seriously. You could still find posters of Che on college campuses or pictured on T-shirts worn in leftist protests.
Thinking about his wife and children, he wondered how this could be happening. Would he see his family again? He heard some man singing and looked up. It was a union guy he knew, always trying to be the clown, singing, "Hail, hail, the gang's all here. What the hell do we care; what the hell do we care . . ." It petered out. No one was in the mood for gallows humor.
Having met General Robertson, a few of his officers and soldiers, he was struck by how American they were, people just like himself, but now it was beginning to seep in that maybe he had no idea who these people were. They were foreign to him. Apart from language, he supposed they might as well be Martians operating out of a different book of rules, codes, and customs.
How do you appeal to their humanity when they're bloodless?
It never occurred to him that Robertson had appealed to his humanity concerning monstrous injustices visited upon his fellow citizens by true aliens. He found nothing bloodless about his own indifference. He didn't even notice he'd always been and remained indifferent. Nor did he notice that after his initial burst of violent anger, how passive he'd become. It seemed to be the default position not only for himself, but most others.
It was something Robertson had noticed, though. It made him think about the way the Arab marauders had found the Levant and North Africa such easy pickings. Decadence, passivity, love of comfort, and lack of faith formed a royal road to slavery.
Devries heard a new sound and looked up as did all the others. Music was coming in over a speaker system. It took a moment to recognize what it might be. A man nearby said, "It's Gregorian Chant, I think."
It was. The piece was called Puer Natus Est. Many more would follow.