River Of Night – Snippet 08
The former head of New York Office of Emergency Management used the minute of silence to review the top points that she would bring to the others. After two months of waiting, of merely surviving, it was time to consider what their mission was to be.
And who would lead it.
Joanna had some ideas.
“Thank you,” She said briskly. “We are in a strange time. While it has been necessary to gather ourselves and process what has happened, I think that we are overdue to take stock and determine what options, if any, we have. I have asked Kendra Jones, formerly of Bank of the America’s, to prepare a high level overview of just where we stand.”
“Wait a minute!” Paul said, interrupting the city official. “What’s this ‘formerly’ business. The bank is our employer. I’m the senior representative of the organization that arranged, funded and prepared this place. There is no ‘formerly’!”
Joanna observed as Rune glared at Kendra and then back at Joanna herself.
“Paul, I think that your exclamation highlights the need to evaluate the situation realistically,” Joanna said, gesturing with one hand up at the suddenly intense security officer. “I think that if you allow Kendra to proceed you will understand my point. Kendra, please?”
Kendra stood and riffled a sheaf of handwritten notes, avoiding meeting anyone else’s eyes. Like the rest of the camp, she’d lost some weight due in part to the unavoidable food rationing. It made the angles of her face sharper.
“Alright, from the top,” Kendra said, with a look at Joanna who smiled encouragingly. “Camp population is stable at ninety-six souls and we haven’t had a walk-in in six weeks.”
Kendra referred to the dozens of people who, attracted by the helicopter activity during the final days of the evacuation, had approached the main gate on foot or in private vehicles. By the time Paul had arrived in the last helo, they were already partially integrated into the fabric of the camp. Even more frustrating, he had been compelled to use much of their vaccine to inoculate the “walk-ins”, if for no other reason than they were already inside the camp and they would be a tremendous danger should they turn. They were more than half of the camp now. Two of their leaders were present, sitting next to Kohn.
“I’ll address the easy items first,” Kendra referred to the next page. “Water is fine, between the well and the filtration system we’ve enough water for drinking, cooking and washing. The vehicles, equipment and fuel are fine since we are only running them for brief periods to keep the batteries charged. Our communications watch reports no new transmissions and the major stations remain silent.”
“Nothing at all?” asked Wilton, one of the two “walk-in” representatives.
“Nothing from any federal or state source since the start of the month,” replied Kendra. “We had contact with Site Bugle during periods of ideal radio propagation through the end of September, but we haven’t been in contact since.”
“How hard are we trying?” the refugee demanded aggressively. “How often are we transmitting?”
“We’re not transmitting,” Paul replied forcefully. “During the Fall, there were hundreds, then dozens of stations all sharing information or calling for help. We still hear some stations like that but the number is steadily dropping. They’ve nothing to offer us nor we them, so there’s no point. In order to avoid draining our batteries and to avoid getting DF’d we haven’t been transmitting, on my authority.”
“Dee-Effed?” Wilton said with a snort. “What the hell is that? And what authority do you have here, city boy?”
“He means that we could get found,” Sergeant Cameron “Gunner” Randall spoke up, glaring at the civilian loudmouth. The tall Army National Guard has begun as a Specialist, but his old patrol-mate Astroga had shot gunned some promotion paperwork when no one had been watching. Gunner had been pretty isolated since they’d landed, but nevertheless had been invaluable to Paul. Courtesy of his Army training, he was the primary radio operator. “You transmit long enough, or regularly enough, and someone else can triangulate our position and come a’calling, see?”
“Please!” Joanna said, her voice stopping the incipient argument. “Let us hear the rest of Kendra’s report and then we can prioritize what we have to discuss.”
“Umm,” Kendra said, glancing back at her notes. “Look, there’s more, but what it comes down to is food and medical. While we budgeted for more than twice our present number for a period of one year, this camp received neither the complete suite of equipment nor supplies. The initial plan included supplementing those supplies with locally sourced or internally grown crops. We aren’t going to grow any meaningful amount of food until very late next spring, at the earliest. Even with our current two meals per day schedule, we’ll reach spring with our long term, shelf stable food supplies entirely depleted.”
Kendra looked around the table but there weren’t many strong reactions. The basic math was already known to all present.
“Apart from basic first aid, a couple of trauma bags and the small, remaining supply of vaccine, which we have to keep chilled, there are no medical supplies,” Kendra said, this time looking across the table to Anderson, the OEM staffer who had begun operating an ad-hoc clinic in the mornings. “We’ve got almost no antibiotics, no birth control, nothing beyond over the counter analgesics and no specialty trauma gear if we have a serious casualty. Worse, we don’t have a qualified doctor, even though Gunner and Schweizer have some practical experience. There are currently no life threatening medical case, but it looks like we do have several pregnancies, which thank God won’t come to term till spring or later.”
“Thank you, Kendra,” Joanna said, and the bank analyst sank back into her seat as the OEM chief smoothly resumed control of the table and pivoted towards Rune. “Paul, as I noted at the start, it has been two months. We all recognize the amazing preparation and hard work that Bank of the America’s did to get us here. We owe you and your team a tremendous debt, but… there is no more OEM. And there is no more bank.”
She paused for effect and the sharply rapped the table with her knuckles.
“In fact, there may not be a government. We are on our own. We will have to rely on what we can accomplish for ourselves for the near future. No group of a hundred people can work efficiently as a committee. We need to determine our own authority and take steps to protect our little community. Does anyone disagree?”
Joanna scanned the table. She could see Rune still looking daggers at his erstwhile subordinate who seemed equally determined to not look at him.
She saw the doubt on a few new faces, but equally her private staff appeared relaxed and confident.
“I propose that we that tonight we charter a council,” Joanna declared. “Each of our little communities will need to be represented. The former bankers…” she gestured to Paul “the former city staff…” she laid a hand across her chest, “the persons from the previous local community…” she smiled at Wilton, “… and specialists as needed.”
“I’m not saying no, Joanna,” Rune said almost reluctantly as he looked around the table and then back to her. “We need something, sure.” His tone became skeptical. “What will your role be?”
“Someone has to help coordinate, to administrate the plan that we all build together,” Joanna said, successfully refraining from smiling. “I am happy to serve in an acting capacity as we shake the bugs out of our system. I would like to be able to ask for your help. Perhaps you would consent to remaining our head of security?”
She watched him think about it. He really didn’t have a choice and she knew it. He knew it too.
This was going to be fun.