World War: Campaign for Besland
Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
At 4:00am, six eighteen wheelers came to a stop with their emergency lights flashing. They parked under six different bridges along the largest highways entering the city. The bridges were for secondary highways that ran around the city in a belt.
The drivers, wearing reflective safety vests, climbed out of the trucks when there was a short break in the early morning traffic. They placed roadside flares to direct traffic away from the truck in the proper manner at 10, 100 and 200 feet behind the rear of the truck on the driver side. The bright burning flares would warn motorists of the traffic hazard ahead and provide the illusion that the flares were lined up and pointing to the left in a manner that would steer drivers away from the truck.
Four minutes after the drivers had finished setting up all of the emergency gear, a car pulled off the highway coming to a stop a hundred yards in front of a truck. Each of the truckers walked up to the car in front of his truck and got in the passenger seat. The cars drove away leaving six unattended trucks parked where they had stopped.
This early in the morning, a steady light stream of cars passed by the trucks. In a couple of hours, those highways would turn into parking lots when people headed off to work, to drop kids at school, and run errands. However, at this time the traffic was moving smoothly and the drivers didn’t seem to pay much mind to their presence. Trucks broke down of the time. It was just a fact of life.
At 4:20am, there were six massive explosions across the city. These weren’t little explosions like firecrackers going off, but bring down entire building sized explosions that broke glass on buildings several blocks away. The bridges over the trucks didn’t collapse, they were turned into rubble that flew through the air damaging anything in its way. The roads on which the trucks were parked acquired huge holes capable of swallowing entire eighteen wheelers.
Drivers, speeding down the highway, didn’t have time to react. Those under the bridge at the time of the explosion just disappeared. On the highway above, cars drove through the cloud of dust thinking the bridge was still there. Cars on the lower highway drove into the huge hole only to have cars landing on them from above.
The traffic patterns for the city just became impossible. Ten major highways, that carried millions of cars a day, had been sliced apart. Detours around the blast areas put cars which had been traveling four lanes onto small side roads with no good way to route the cross traffic. What had been a twenty minute drive from the outskirts into the downtown area had turned into an eight hour trip.
The traffic around the capital city of Franka ground to a halt.
President Jubert stared at the map being projected on the screen in the conference room. The sites of the explosions were well marked as big bright orange splotches. The parts of the highways that had to be closed down were marked in a somber black. Alternative routes were marked in green, yellow, and red representing the capacity for traffic that would be going along them. There was one green, two yellows, and the rest were red. For the next few weeks, millions of cars were going to be funneled through already crowded streets in business districts and across residential areas.
The Secretary of Transportation said, “They hit us bad. It’s going to take months to recover even a little bit. It will be years before we recover fully.”
“What are you going to do in the short term?”
“We’re going to dump the rubble into the holes created by the explosion and use steel plates laid across the fill as a road surface. That will alleviate some of the congestion, although it’s not going to be good enough. We’re talking to the military to see what they can do about temporary bridges. We might be able to restore a couple lanes of traffic. We’ll only allow commercial vehicles to travel on the temporary roads.”
“Why only commercial vehicles?”
“They are necessary. Private vehicles aren’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’re going to have to ban private cars in the city. There’s no way of moving a half a million cars in and out of the city during a day. The only way to move enough people is with buses. We still need goods to move into and out of the city. Without food coming in, we’re sunk. We have set things up to facilitate trucking.”
Thinking about how all of the political contributors to politicians and how they would react, President Jubert said, “There are an awful lot of very rich and powerful people who won’t give up their automobiles.”
“We can set it up so that there are exceptions. For example, we could create a permit that costs enough that ninety percent of the people couldn’t afford it and low enough that those who can afford it won’t complain too much.”
“I guess you’ve solved the public transportation problem,” President Jubert said although he could only imagine how people would react.
“We may have to spend five or ten billion to do it.”
“Why that much?”
“We’ve got to buy buses, hire and train drivers, and set up new routes. We’re going to have to purchase land for parking lots so that people from outside can reach bus stations. Then, there are the operational costs of fuel, maintenance, salaries, and insurance.”
“What about the subway system?”
“That’s not going to be much help. It’s already operating at maximum capacity.”
“Once we’ve committed to banning private cars we can’t really turn back. We will have forced everyone to adopt public transportation.”
“I guess we have to look for the silver lining where we can.”
The Secretary of Revenue spoke up, “I don’t think there is a silver lining. I was going over some of the figures with the bean counters. This is going to cost us a trillion dollars over the next ten years at the least.”
“Why so much?” President Jubert asked although he was pretty sure he knew the answer.
“No one ever makes a profit on public transportation. We’ll get hit with lost tax revenue on gasoline sales. As a result of the bad traffic situation, international companies will move their headquarters out of the city. We’ll have increased operational costs. Don’t forget that the city will be losing a ton of revenue in traffic tickets and parking fines. They’ll be coming to us to make up the shortfall.”
President Jubert said, “I guess we’ll have to accept that Jade Force managed to cripple us in terms of transportation. We’ll have to put a positive spin on it somehow.”
“That’s going to be tough.”
It seemed that politics had become nothing more than a game of putting the right spin on something, ; and getting people to accept the unacceptable because the alternatives were even worse. It was a jaded view of the world that was common among the rich and powerful. Just think, without a foot you won’t have to walk around so much. Isn’t that a good thing?
“After that last power outage and seeing what Jade Force is doing to Espa, what are we doing to protect our energy infrastructure?”
The Secretary of Defense answered, “We finally found something that all of those soldiers on parole can do. We put them guarding the power stations.”
“Will it work?”
“The terrorists will have to assault a fortified position. That should act as a deterrent.”
“I can see where that might act as a deterrent,” President Jubert said. “How about communications?”
“That’s a lot tougher of a problem. We can’t prevent an attack. There’s tens of thousands of miles of telephone lines and fiber. You just can’t guard it all.”
“You make it sound hopeless.”
“Not really. What we are doing is putting into place recovery measures ... you know ... things like what we would do to temporarily restore communications in a disaster.”
“We’re putting out a campaign to convince people to go to cell phones. There are a lot of cell towers scattered throughout the country and city. It would require a full out effort to damage enough of them to seriously compromise communications.”
“If we’re successful, we’ll be able to pull out all of that copper that’s carrying telephone traffic today, reduce our maintenance costs, and provide better service.”
“That’s even better. What else should we be worried about?”
“Ports and harbors.”
“What are we doing there?”
“We’re going to have to put up defensive structures along the coast. We’re increasing security around the ports, airports, and train stations with more of our paroled soldiers.”
“Do we have that many men available to cover both the ports and power?”
“No, but they’re going to have to do until we can hire and train more personnel.”
“What’s the cost?”
“We’re still working up the figures. It isn’t going to be pretty.”
“How are we going to pay for all of this?”
“I don’t know. We have to spend the money or there won’t be a government, tomorrow.”
“I know. Damn that Jade Empire. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’ll need some hard figures when I ask for more money,” President Jubert said.
“I’ll get them for it to you.”
“Well, putting up the defensive structures is going to take some time. You can’t just put up an anti-aircraft missile site overnight without it being a highly visible target from the land. We’ll have to secure the location, put the equipment in place, and staff it.”
“Don’t we already have some kind of defensive infrastructure in place?”
“Quite frankly, no. We have remnants of fortifications from the Second Great War, but nothing newer than that. The idea that anyone would actually invade us was inconceivable until now.”
“We’ve been fighting on other people’s turf, not ours. Who would have believed that Misera, of all countries, could actually bring the war here?”
The question was answered by uncomfortable grunts.
“What other vulnerabilities do we have?”
“Soft targets like schools, shopping malls, hotels, and hospitals.”
“What’s being done about that?”
“There’s not too much we can do at the national level except to provide some security guidelines. We’re asking local law enforcement to step up to the challenge.”
“Can they afford it?”
President Jubert swore. This was costing the country a fortune that it didn’t have. He knew that it was going to get worse. Right now, the populace was viewing the war as an expensive inconvenience. He wondered how they were going to react when people really started dying. That would have a long lasting effect on how the people of Franka viewed themselves.
Looking over at the Secretary of Defense, President Jubert asked, “How’s the special project going?”
“It’s behind schedule.”
“One of the planes carrying the portable structures crashed on the way there. Romal is trying to find some replacements for the lost items.”
“Was it an attack, mechanical problem, or just pilot error?”
“That’s hard to say. We recovered the crew. They said that the plane just quit flying.”
“EMP or mechanical failure?”
“We hope it was mechanical failure. If it wasn’t, then they know all about our special project.”
That last sentence made everyone in the room uneasy. Did Jade Force know about their special project? If Jade Force did, then they had sent a lot of young men to their deaths.
“Why don’t you know?”
“The plane went down in deep water. We can’t get it or the black box up, without sending specialized salvage equipment there.”
“We don’t want to attract any attention at this point and time.”
At 3:12am, a police car on routine patrol drove through the deserted streets of the business district. It was the quiet time here. The folks who worked late had gone home. The early birds hadn’t arrived yet. The cleaning crews had finished for the night. The only people left were the security guards who were seated at reception desks at the entrances of the various office buildings.
Officer Durand slowly drove past the Franka stock exchange making sure that all looked normal. The evening briefing had emphasized looking out for things that didn’t belong, like large delivery trucks parked outside buildings or security people who weren’t at their normal places. He stopped at the front door for a second. As usual, the security guard was reading a book and didn’t look up. He drove on.
The car reached the corner and Officer Durand stopped at the traffic light. There wasn’t a car moving anywhere. Since the highways had been crippled a week ago, traffic had dropped to nearly zero. There were taxis, buses, and trucks, but they didn’t fill the road like thousands of cars once did.
He was about to roll through the red light when he noticed two weird red dots in the sky. He leaned forward trying to get some of the reflections on the window out of the way so that he could see them better.
“UFOs. No way am I reporting this.”
Suddenly the dots got bigger and it looked like they were headed right for him. He ducked down. The car rocked when they flew overhead. Then, from behind, there was a huge explosion and the car really rocked. The police officer turned and looked at the stock exchange building. It was slowly crumbling in on itself. A cloud of dust swept over the car turning it concrete gray.
Numbly, he reached for the radio to report it.
At 3:40 am, President Jubert, dressed in pajamas and a robe, listened to the report from the night intelligence officer with a sick feeling in his stomach. Although the details were sketchy, it was clear that the Franka Stock Exchange Building was gone. He was having a hard time accepting it.
Turning to the staff member, he said, “Get the cabinet here.”
“Is that wise, Mr. President?”
President Jubert turned to the intelligence officer in surprise. He asked, “What do you mean?”
“My take on this event is that Jade Force is shifting from random acts of destruction by people inside the country to missiles launched from offshore. Gathering the cabinet here makes a very good target.”
“They wouldn’t dare!”
The intelligence officer wisely chose not to rebut the assertion. He knew that Jade Force would dare. While he was a patriot, the man was also a realist. He felt that too many individuals in power believed that the historical greatness and power of the country still existed. They had this sense of invincibility despite having been defeated repeatedly in the past. He had a feeling that Jade Force was going to rub their nose in Franka’s real lack of power.
“What would you do?”
“It’s not my place to say.”
“I want to hear what you think,” President Jubert said.
The man stood there for a moment debating if he should really answer the question. If so, should he say what he believed or what he thought President Jubert would want to hear. He decided to go with the blunt truth as he saw it and answered, “I would surrender.”
“Why do you say that?”
“They are playing us like a fiddle. When they finish with the final note, Franka will be a completely different country.”
In a frosty voice, President Jubert said, “Explain what you mean.”
Seeing his career going down the tubes, the man answered, “The Jade Empire is attacking our pride, not our government, not our economy, and not our power base. You see, as far as the Jade Empire is concerned, our government is just a government. Our economy is parasitic on the countries we’ve dominated in the past. Our power base is founded on our past capabilities, not our current abilities. We are not a military power.
“We’ve prided ourselves on being a nation of civilized people who follow the law. We think highly of our law enforcement people. The Jade Empire let loose a bunch of terrorists in the country. They’ve played pranks on us. They dyed the people of one our towns red. They turn off the lights for an entire night in the capital city. We’re finding that a civilized police response isn’t stopping them. They’ve been running around for weeks and we are no closer to catching them today than we were when they started.
“We were one of the greatest naval powers at one time. It had always been a great source of national pride. Even now, we think our navy is one of the greatest in the world despite the fact that it pales beside that of Amra and Chen ... and now the Jade Empire. Let’s face facts, they stole our aircraft carrier with contemptuous ease.