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Globall War of Terror: Week One

The psychologist has assigned me to write a simple assignment, one she says she has given to everyone.

"Write about the first week of the Firecracker War, where you were, what you did."

But I read the fear in her eyes. She is absolutely, completely terrified of me.

It's not just what I've done. Or what I am capable of. It is what her patients have told her I have done.

They are alive to have opinions of me. That is enough.

# # #

I have written elsewhere about what I did on the first day of the Firecracker. Linked up with the sheriff's office and helped evacuate a wide swath through what used to be San Mateo.

We stopped the firestorm. We fucking stopped a nuclear firestorm. In its tracks.

We had to demo a swath a half mile wide, of what used to be homes and hopes and dreams. But we did it.

It was no preparation for what happened next.

# # #

On the second day, I woke up at the Incident Command Post in Redwood City. They kicked me awake. It was time to go. Radiation survey indicated fallout and we needed to leave. Now.

I will never know what dosage I took as I quietly slept.

We reported as ordered to Stanford Hospital.

Most people have been in an emergency room. Most people have been in a stadium.

Now imagine a God damned - and I use the word precisely - a God damned stadium full of God damned wounded.

That was Stanford on Day 2.

I was immediately assigned to Triage. Sorting the quick from the dead, the hurt from the hale, the shocked from the wounded.

That was the first time I shot and killed a man. And then immediately went back to work. He threatened a Triage Officer and her life was worth a hell of a lot more lives than his. His body was dumped in Takeaway for Morgue, and that was the end of it.

That was when I learned that I could vomit until my stomach was empty, until I tasted bile, and that I could still try to vomit and couldn't when a child was brought in with half her face burned away.

I stopped changing gloves. There was no point.

I learned to ignore the screaming as I helped play hoses on burn victims. If you leave the radiation in the burn, it won't heal and they won't survive. That doesn't mean it makes sense to a frightened child carried twenty miles by parents with bleeding feet, who has been told that the doctors will make it better, and now mean people are making it hurt more.

I saw a man walk into the side rotor of a helicopter. It was my fault. I was too tired to see what he was doing - who walks into an LZ as a helicopter is taking off, taking three more broken child bodies out via the Air Bridge to Sacramento area hospitals?

Took his head clean off. I had to help search for it. Then ... you guessed it ... Takeaway for Morgue.

As the flow of wounded slowed to a trickle, I was reassigned. To Morgue.

I walked from body to body, reading tags, documenting remains, sorting through personal effects. The pages I hand wrote on the clipboard were uploaded by a Clerk III to a Web site, to help Red Cross and other agencies give people the bad news. They were also scanned. The scanner platen was bloody and filthy and had to be cleaned constantly.

My name appears on over one hundred morgue pages. Each page had thirty information lines. You may feel free to do the math.

I will never be clean again. But we owed it to the living to know what became of their beloved dead.

# # #

I slept for three hours on Day 2, in a lull between rushes.

# # #

On day 3 they told me that they did not need me anymore. They had enough trained people to release me. I slept for another three hours... it took fourteen alarms on my otherwise useless mobile phone to wake me. (Actually, I was dragged out of the sleeping area...)

I called work from a link set up at Stanford. No answer. I called Corporate. They said, and I quote, "We have had no contact with anyone in the area. You are the first caller. Find out what you can and get back to us."

I kept my borrowed POLICE vest, stole a car, filled it up with siphoned fuel, and drove to those locations which I remembered. One was crammed with refugees. Two had been abandoned. One had burned to the ground, apparently after being looted. But it is the last site that will stick with me.

The first guard had stayed behind to try to do his job. He'd been disemboweled and defenestrated - excised bowel tied off to the first landing of a stairwell and pushed down the stairs.

The looters had scattered at my armed and quasi official approach. I still wonder which of us were luckier - me for them fleeing, or them for fleeing before I saw what I saw.

The second guard - she was still alive.

No one survives that kind of injury. So I did what was needful, after she begged. When my intention was clear, she had the presence of mind to thank me.

I still have her badge. My company gear was destroyed with my home. So I wear it.

# # #

I called Corporate again from Stanford, and gave my report. They said, "Go to [COMPANY]. Their senior people are screaming to find out what happened to them. Find out."

# # #

I did. Everything was a mess. I found our nominal client, pinned him down, made him give me authority, and used it lavishly. Six hours later we had contact with the East Coast by amateur radio. Eight hours later we had all the wounded in improvised beds. Twenty two hours later, we had 100% accountability for every person on site. Three hours after that, we restored access control, which has been maintained. Breached, yes, but each breach responded to and integrity restored.

During one of the breaches my client was killed.

Thirty two hours after that, according to the time stamp on the first E-mail message I received from Corporate, we restored the fiber optic link to the internal corporate systems.

By then I had fourteen armed guards backed by ten unarmed guards and four bystanders in training, and one subordinate who could be trusted to keep the mess going in my absence.

Then, and only then, I slept for ten hours.

On waking I pulled up the news.

That is how I learned what had happened, in the Firecracker War, which had ended three days earlier and cost us seven cities.

One small consolation for those who are into that sort of thing, and agree with Stalin about tragedies and statistics.

It cost China _every_ city.


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