World War: Campaign for Besland
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac

Nobody wants to admit that their country has just gone from being a world power to being a third rate nation. In mid-morning, 17 million people lost access to fresh water. That night, 33 million people lost access to electricity. Suddenly there was no Internet, no television, no traffic lights, no refrigeration, no computers, or anything that required electricity. Stores which had computerized cash registers couldn’t ring up sales. Fast food places couldn’t prepare the rapidly rotting stores of food.

If Franka had been a less technically advanced nation, the loss of power would not have had such a complete and total impact. The electric power grid was fully connected. When everything was functioning correctly, this allowed better management and control over the distribution of electric power. The downside was that a major failure could take down the entire network which is exactly what had happened. The systems for rerouting the load had overloaded sections of the electric grid with the consequence that even more equipment failed.

People living in a less developed country would have had kerosene lanterns stashed away, stores that still used paper and pencil to calculate sales, bicycles galore, and ... cash. It was the absence of cash that was a real problem. The people of Franka were used to the convenience of debit and credit cards, direct deposit and online bill paying. Without electricity, digital currency becomes inaccessible. In a technologically advanced society, nobody carries cash except drug dealers, strippers, and prostitutes.

Everything came to a standstill, but not all at once. Some things did stop immediately. Without electricity the subway system came to a complete stop stranding passengers in dark underground tunnels, lit only by dim emergency lights. Businesses with backup generators lasted for three days before running out of fuel. Cell towers lasted for seven days before dying one at a time. Hospitals, police departments, and government buildings had first grabs on fuels coming into the urban areas. The real problem was getting the fuel where it was needed.

The land-line telephone system had been in a miserable state decades before and had never really been improved. When it took months to get a land-line and minutes to get a cell phone, people had transitioned over to wireless systems. Now with the cell towers down, the vast majority of the population was cut off from each other. Communication outside of military channels was almost non-existent. The exception was the amateur shortwave radio operators who, with portable power generators, managed to keep the airwaves filled with news and information.

People may want many things, but the necessities are water, food, and shelter. In one day, all three became a lot more difficult to access. Turn the water tap and nothing came out. It didn’t take long for bottled water to disappear from the shelves (either through sales or looting). Food didn’t disappear quite so quickly, but it didn’t last more than four days. Even shelter became an issue. Living on the 34th floor of a building is fine when there’s electricity to power an elevator, but climbing 34 flights of stairs becomes untenable on a daily basis.

The population of Franka expected these things to be there. It was taken for granted. Without them, people were afraid. After several days the realization that nothing was going to be the same settled in and people became very afraid. Scared people do stupid things that only make their situation worse. Light something on fire when there’s no water to put out fires and things can start to burn.

President Jubert sat at the huge conference table surrounded by his advisers. No one was smiling. It was a dour group struggling to deal with circumstances well outside their ability. He looked from one person to another observing the bags under the eyes, the dull expressions, the wrinkles that had suddenly appeared, and the unshaven faces.

“So what’s happening?”

“Nothing unless you mean riots, looting, people going crazy, and a complete breakdown of society.”

“Does anyone have any recommendations on how to deal with the current situation?”

No one even bothered to look up at him.

He looked around the room in disgust. They were living through the worst crisis in the history of the country and none of the people he relied upon had a clue what to do.

“Someone has to have some idea.”

Shifting nervously in his seat, the Secretary of War knew that what he was about to suggest was not going to be received well. “The first thing we need to do is surrender to the Jade Empire.”

“Never!”

Getting out of his chair, the Secretary of War slammed a fist on the table. “Wake up, you idiot!

“We are still at war. There are still people who are in position to wreak even greater havoc in the country. If you think things are bad now, they can only get worse. We can’t stop it.

“We’ve got some infrastructure left. The generators are still in one piece so that we can produce power. We can recover use of some of the electric power system by judicious repairs so that we can deliver power to the people. That will give back heat, light, and communications.

“There are roads. We have the railway system. The airports are in one piece. Once we have communications, we can start moving the necessities to where they are needed. That will help restore stability.

“We can do that until Jade Force destroys that capability. If we don’t surrender, they’ll hit us with a deathblow and then we’ll really have nothing.”

“We’re the great nation of Franka.”

“We’re the once great nation of Franka.”

The two men stared at each other across the table. The Secretary of War didn’t blink. President Jubert finally sagged in his chair.

“We can’t surrender.”

“Why not?”

“We have commitments to the coalition.”

“I quit. I told you what we have to do, and you won’t do it.”

With only a small tinge of superiority, President Morales listened to the situation report concerning what had happened in Franka. So far Espa had lost its train service and an aircraft carrier. There had been a few bridges blown up, but nothing that was too crippling.

“We’re putting major forces around the power stations and at the water treatment plants. I’m not going to say that we are invulnerable, but it is going to take a lot more effort to take out our power and water.”

“Good. How about communications?”

“As long as we keep power to the cell towers, we should be okay. We have a lot of redundancy built into the network. I don’t expect any problems there.”

President Morales nodded his head happy to have received some good news. “How is our project to slap Misera?”

“It’s going well. We’ve moved the bombers up. The jet fighters should be arriving anytime now. We’ll be ready to strike any day now.”

“Good.”

“We’re worried about Franka pulling out.”

“We can provide some relief in the form of food and water.”

“I’ll make that offer.”

“Good. We don’t want them pulling out of the coalition.”

The luxury yacht slowly drifted towards the dam. There were six men with fishing poles lounging around the port side of the boat with lines in the water. One of them started reeling in what had to be a huge fish based on how much the pole bowed. He fought the fish and then suddenly the line went slack. He reeled in the line to find that it had broken.

The soldiers on the dam had watched the action. They made jokes about the unlucky fisherman. They had been watching that group for almost a week now. The fishermen had been trying to find that mystical fishing spot where the fish would jump into the boat. They had spent hours fishing in locations all around the dam area. They had a little luck every now and then; pulling up a good sized fish from the depths of the lake. The shouts of the men could be heard on the dam. It was just a bunch of good ol’ boys out having a bit of fun fishing.

It was an overly large boat to be used as a fishing platform, but no one really wondered about it. The guys on the boat were loud and noisy, obviously drinking a bit more than was judicious. Even though they were too far to make out their features, the six men were easy to spot with their extremely loud shirts.

Sword Tam, wearing a bright green shirt that was visible from half of a mile away, came out of the cabin of the yacht. After pausing and making a production of adjusting his pants, he stopped by the cooler and pulled out a green bottle. He opened it and made his way over to where Sword Kali had left his fishing pole. He picked up the pole and dropped the line into the water.

“How’s it going down there?”

“It’s cold as hell down there.”

“I know it’s cold. I’ve been down there. That’s not what I asked.”

“It’ll be another hour, maybe more. We managed to remove enough of the screen to insert the explosive package.”

“The current is pretty bad.”

“There’s a lot of water flowing into the pipe.”

“Enough to provide water for half of the country.”

“That’s true.”

Patrolman ‘Manny’ Gonzales always prided himself on being observant. He was one of those people who delighted in playing those ‘find the word,’ the ‘find the hidden item,’ and the ‘what’s different between the two pictures’ puzzles. Thus, it wasn’t surprising that while driving down the highway he noticed the open gate to the fence around a cell tower.

Thinking it deserved investigation, he got off the highway at the next exit and made his way to the cell tower. He got on his radio and reported what he was doing. The dispatcher calmly made a note of it in the log book. Patrolman Gonzales had never driven through that area before. There were several neighborhoods crowded together that had no roads connecting them. He could see the cell tower, but finding the right road took him a good five minutes.

By the time he arrived, the gate to the fence was closed. He sat in his car staring at the gate confident that it had been open when he had driven past on the highway. He got out of his car and went to investigate. He walked around the fenced perimeter looking for anything unusual. There were recent footprints through the gate.

He studied the cell tower not knowing what to look for. He had never seen a cell tower up close and didn’t know what a cell tower was supposed to look like. He had assumed that it was a just a tower with antennas on it. He had never thought to consider that those antennas had to connect to something to process the signal and relay it to the next tower. Thus he was staring at a shelter, wires, and the post. One thing did look odd to him though and that was the green plastic wrap around the base of the tower.

He returned to his patrol car and called in his observations. The dispatcher took the information down and told him to hold. A call was made to the telecommunications company to determine if there had been any work being done on the tower that day. The answer had been no.

At that point in time, the situation was escalated from routine to significant. A second car was dispatched to the site. The telecom company dispatched a repair vehicle and a supervisor to the site. Calls were made to other agencies. A large cumbersome machine was starting to stir.

Patrolman Gonzales was left sitting in his car with nothing to do. He looked around the area in a distracted absent minded way. He noticed some kids playing in the field behind the cell tower. He knew that kids often noticed things that adults missed.

He got out of his car and headed over to them to ask if they had seen any repair trucks in the area that morning. The kids were more than happy to tell about their adventure that morning. They had noticed a white panel van parked by the cell tower earlier. There had been two men working on the pole part of the tower. Curious, they went over to watch what the men were doing. They said the men had been real nice, but talked with a funny accent. One of the men had warned them not to play around the tower since there was high voltage and someone could get hurt.

He returned to his car and called in the observations made by the kids. Once again he was told to hold. This call sparked a lot more interest. Men with funny accents had been working around a cell tower flagged some alarms. The situation was upgraded even further. Patrol cars were dispatched to check other cell towers in the area.

The second patrol car arrived on the scene. Patrolman Martinez got out of the car and went over to Manny.

“Hello, Manny.”

“Hey, Martinez.”

“What’s up?”

Manny explained what he had observed, what he had done, and his conversation with the kids. Patrolman Martinez walked over to the fenced in area and looked inside. He couldn’t see if there was anything out of place, but there just seemed to be something wrong about the setup.

“You’re right. There is something odd going on here. I’m wondering if this is connected to that terrorist group running around.”

Manny replied, “I don’t know about that. How many cell phone towers do you think are there in this country?”

“I have no idea.”

“Guess.”

“Five thousand ... maybe ten thousand.”

“That’s about what I was thinking. I don’t think it would be possible to bring down the whole cellular network. Someone would notice something.”

“You noticed something.”

“I’m serious. You can’t take out five or ten thousand cell towers. The chances of getting caught are way too high.”

“Maybe you don’t need to take out all of them. It might be that there are some critical ones.”

Manny said, “I don’t think so. There’s probably a lot of redundancy built into the network. You don’t want a whole area wiped out, because one cell tower is acting up.”

“So what do you think is going on?”

“I don’t know.”

The telecom repair truck showed up. The man got out of the truck and made his way over to the two policemen.

The man asked, “What’s up?”

“It looks like someone was messing around here this morning. No one seems to know about it.”

The man said, “Probably some teenagers wanting to check out the cell tower.”

“Some kids watched two men doing something around the pole.”

“That’s weird. Well, let me check it out.”

The man walked over to the fenced area. He looked inside while fishing through his pocket for the keys to the lock on the fence. He started backing up quickly.

“I’m not going in there,” the man said.

“Why not?” Manny asked.

“I think someone put a bomb around the base of the pole.”

“Are you sure?”

“There’s something wrapped around the base that isn’t supposed to be there. The number of possibilities is limited.”

Manny reached into his car and pulled out the radio microphone. He said, “This is car 337. We’ve got a 10-79.”

“Car 337. Resources are on their way.”

The announcement that there was a bomb created a lot of excitement. Now everyone and his dog wanted to be involved. Manny was again told to stay on the scene.

Manny glanced down at his watch. It was 12:28. He was supposed to be heading for his lunch break right about now. He became aware of a little itch at the back of his mind. He glanced down at his watch again.

“Guys. It is 12:28.”

“So?”

“That’s two minutes before 12:30.”

“I know.”

“I think we might want to back up here a bit.”

“Why?”

“If the bomb has a timer, 12:30 would be a good time for it to go off.”

The three men raced to their cars. They pulled back fifty yards and got out to watch the tower. They felt a lot safer at that distance. The three men got out of their vehicles and turned to watch the tower.

Manny glanced down at his watch. It was 12:31 and nothing had happened. Looking a little sheepish, he gestured to his watch and said, “I guess I wrong.”

“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

There was a loud ‘oof’ sound and then the pole started tilting. The three men watched the tower come down, looking as if it was moving in slow motion.

The man from the telecom company said, “Oh, damn. That’s going to be tough to repair.”

Five miles away, at approximately the same time, three telephone poles came crashing down. They were victims of explosives as well. With the telephone poles down and the cell service out it was impossible for anyone to report the explosions that took the telephone poles down. It would take someone with a two way radio driving past and noticing the damage for it to get reported. Of course, the explosion at the cell tower was reported immediately via police radio.

The Department of Transportation had a warehouse at the end of a cul-de-sac off of the road on which one of the fallen telephone poles had once stood. The warehouse was used to store replacement parts for various parts of the railway system. This included replacement seats, knobs, and other items that often broke. The warehouse was usually busier at night than during the day. It was at night when the repair crews went through the cars of the train fixing things that broke during the day. Espa was quite proud of its trains.

It was also where some of the electrical replacement parts were stored, such as transformers. Three trucks had arrived early that morning with three replacement transformers. Their cargo was large and heavy; requiring specialized trailers capable of carrying 100 tons and trucks capable of pulling them. They were scheduled to leave later that day to deliver the transformers to where they were to be installed.

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