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Something to Be Proud Of

by Russell Anderson 4 years ago in science fiction

Financial Collapse, Feudalism, and Monkeys

Financial Collapse, Feudalism, and Monkeys.

This story based on true events (except for the scum).

From the Desk of....

Professor Thorsten (Thor) Olafssen. Ph.D.

South Hall

U.C. Berkeley

Berkeley, CA 94720-3434-008

May 31, 2051

Dear Sirs,

As you may be aware, I have been a strong opponent of the effort to establish curriculum standards and textbooks for undergraduates. My opinions and arguments have been quoted publicly — and all too often. And for this, I apologize.

Nevertheless, since the path is chosen, I suggest a modest edit to the introduction of The Errors of Our Ways, to put these highly-selective essays in the body of the work into context (attached).

Respectfully yours,

Thorsten Olaffsen

Historical Progression in the mid-21st Century.

The crash has been anticipated by economists for years, but was furiously sudden. Greece and Italy withdrew from the Euro and inflated their currencies to pay off their debt... but there were no buyers. Bankruptcy followed. Britain had been on IMF life support for 20 years, but when the United States defaulted on its national debt, Britain shed their deliberative nature and folded in a record four days. The rest of the industrialized world followed within three months. In a mockery of American optimism, a common expression became, “If we can put a man on the moon, we can default on our debt.”

The nativists took perverted solace in knowing that most of the money was owed to the Wall Street "Fat Cats," Gulf States, or the Chinese, as if they had wronged them in some way by lending them money. Sadly, there were no "winners" here: trillions of dollars of wealth had evaporated overnight. Exporting nations were decimated, due to lack of customers. No country was in ascendancy. There was no "Revanchist Russia," no "Asian Miracle," no "Re-birth of Arab Nationalism." Two countries relatively less affected by the carnage, Pakistan and India, decided got go to war, to demolish whatever opportunity was left.

Everyone had a theory about what had gone wrong and who was responsible: unfettered capitalism, socialists, multi-national corporations, environmentalists, globalisation, protectionism, the World Bank, the IMF, central banks, investment banks, and so on and so forth. The simplest explanation, of course, was that democracy had failed exactly as Thomas Jefferson had predicted: “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

This was the dilemma: there was no acceptable substitute for democracy in the developed nations. Here, South Korea, Chile, Indonesia, and Singapore had distinct advantages over the West. Military strong men and benevolent dictators dutifully reclaimed their mantles. As in countless times in their History, the populace were relieved and celebrated their liberation from their duly-elected, populist, and corrupt leaders. So the Western nations muddled along, unreformed, unrepentant, propped up with social spending, with 20-30% unemployment for decades...

America Breaks Up

The front page of a major, right-leaning tabloid cheekily summed it up, “WELCOME TO LATIN AMERICA.” The paper appeared to imply blame for the collapse on immigrants, and the editor apologized, but the damage was done. The first half of the double-entendre was indisputable, so the expression stuck. For a while, anti-immigrant tensions arose in Border States. A few riots broke out in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and even Fresno. But, collectively, both sides realised they were going down together. Immigration slowed to a trickle, as there was no longer any reason to move.

Texas negotiated a complete buy-out and full independence, proudly raising the Lone Star flag once again. They paid three times their "share" of the national debt, but no bloodshed, this time. In part of the reconciliation of ethnic tensions, parts of Mexico joined them. Texas got Cuidad Juarez, simply by assuming responsibility for law enforcement.

Alaska and Nevada fared fairly well. Alaska agreed to an oil export tax; until its “share” of the debt was paid off, in exchange for broad autonomy in a confederation status. Nevada bargained for the same, agreeing to be the final resting place for the world’s nuclear waste. Southern Nevada was never hospitable to animal life to begin with. Dry lakebeds, surrounded by cattle skulls attest to the toxicity of its waters. Forty years of nuclear testing only added to the poisoned earth. What’s a few tons of glass encased, spent radioactive debris?

Weak, regional alliances formed between states and some Canadian provinces, the strongest of which was the Western Alliance (Washington, British Colombia, Alberta, Idaho, and Montana).

California and New York were trapped, having defaulted and been bailed out by the Feds 10 years earlier. The rest of the country was in the same boat — trapped and envious of those that escaped. The special work visas and passports were required to enter Nevada and Alaska rubbed their noses in it. Yet, strangely, stubbornly, the citizens of these republics still considered themselves Americans, as if this was all a bad dream.

The government more-or-less ran all the unprofitable, “Zombie,” industries (banking, insurance, rail, mail, automobile manufacturing, even meat processing). The profitable — but ‘immoral’, industries (tobacco, oil, drugs, prostitution, investment, fast food) now financed 80% of government revenue. Zombie employees were second only to the AARP in political power. The drop-outs, druggies, separatists, and communitarians paid virtually no taxes. Most of them didn’t bother registering to vote or filing tax returns for either legal or moral reasons. Deeply suspicious of each other, attempts at third parties repeatedly failed. The political power of the gainfully employed dwindled to nothing — like the Lutherans.

Chapter 1: Unjustified War

The crawlers plodded over the Demilitarized Zone at a steady 5 miles per hour, outpacing the infantry. Giant tractors, with antennae-like probes in front and dragging agricultural rakes behind, tripped landmines. Soldiers and mechanized vehicles followed leisurely behind, enjoying the off-season fireworks.

The original invasion plan had envisioned three vanguards: one encircling the artillery North of Seoul, then on to Pyongyang, one flanking Wonsan, and one headlong North with no particular objective, other than the Chinese border, to block any reinforcements. Within hours, the North Korean air force ceased to exist, and the salient had herniated 40 miles into central Korea. The force has flowered into 7 columns of opportunity, with a full division dedicated to collecting prisoners.

Entrenched opposition was met outside Pyongyang, where the Revolutionary Elite Guard suicidally defended the ashes of the city most beloved of their “Dearest Leader.” Colonel Brunswick quipped, “Nice of them to save us the expense of re-education.” Inwardly, he felt no joy over what amounted to mass murder of 200,000 misguided youths, but when a reporter asked him accusedly of the morality of "Asymmetrical warfare," he belched back, “…as opposed to what?”

The Press was not in a forgiving mood. The complicity of the Western Powers was complete and airtight, and they missed it. The United States, Japan, The Philippines, Australia, Russia—all had been consulted in advance. No one bothered calling the New York Times, which was obsessed with bringing down the Vice President, over an elaborately faked story about ménage a trios. Oblique permission was even sought from China, which preoccupied with digesting Taiwan and fighting Muslim insurgents. The fact of the matter was that no one was strong enough to oppose South Korean aggression. Japan and the U.S. took their diplomatic threats seriously, and involved themselves with contingency plans, thereby committing themselves as allies when the pre-emptive evacuation of Seoul began.

The cover story was plausible: a terrorist nerve gas attack was imminent. Yet no one could explain why the subways were running at peak load and two dozen cruise ships were in port, bereft of tourists. Four U.S. aircraft carrier groups were "conducting joint exercises" with the Japanese navy in the Taiwan straits. Japanese school busses, Ryder-moving trucks, all hastily spray painted grey, mysteriously were available on every street corner. By the time North Korean shelling began, 90% of the city’s population had left. A few hours later, there were no guns left within 30 miles.

Though nominally a dictatorship, South Korea was aligned with The West, relatively prosperous, and domestically tranquil. North Korea under Kim Il Jong IV was as backward as ever, but was no more or less belligerent than usual. Why did South Korea suddenly feel compelled to wage war? Their answer was Zen-like—“It was time.”

#

Corporal Lance Bingham did not even have a passport before he joined the army, having spent his entire life in Tennessee. He loved hunting and fishing and the mountains. He had no wanderlust. The Army was as much a default career decision as medical school was for his Northern cousins. But he had grown to love the Koreans. He loved kimchee, pickled ligaments, and Bar-B-Que. He loved their deferential women. He loved their small hands (as they exaggerated his manhood). They found his Western views towards women (relatively) "liberated" and respectful... and he was tall, pale and had a shock of red hair, so they loved him. Having lived in Seoul for two years, he even began to understand their politics: The way they accepted the military takeover. He never wanted to leave. Who would have thought?

Lance ruminated over his new life, as he crawled up the ridge, and peered into a pristine valley. He took in the view: rolling hills, covered with chaparral — like golden velvet. It was so strange and beautiful to see hills with no trees, he mused. The valley floor was a patchwork of various hues of fresh green, only occasionally marred by shell holes. A half-mile away, stood a barracks-like compound.

From the ridge, the compound looked neat and freshly painted. The buildings were in orderly rows and clean and were surrounded by healthy crops, including vegetables. There were even pig sties! “All those horror stories were exaggerated by pre-war propaganda,” he thought. “These people were better fed than the civilians!” Sinister scenarios flashed across his mind. “Maybe this is some kind of bio-weapons lab...” He scanned for industrial-looking buildings, Distillery tanks, trucks, etc., but could find none, swallowed hard, and ordered an artillery strike.

Corporal Bingham led the vanguard as they stormed the compound. His heart was pounding with elation over being one of the "Good Guys," liberating a political labour camp, or some such thing.

They shelled the perimeter carefully—aiming for guard towers, fences. The guards fled, but heavy fire came from within. Fires broke out, seemingly unrelated to the shelling. They were burning the place down! A direct round hit the building with the most active fire and silenced the guns. He looked at his commander, who nodded, “Let’s not give them time to re-group. Something is going on.” Three tanks sped smashing the walls of three buildings, and the white flags went up.

Corporal Bingham crept toward the collapsed wall of what looked like the cafeteria. Craning his neck, he raised his rifle and peered through the breach. He saw hundreds of scurrying people, but their movements were in jerky, leaping motions. Then, he stared in disbelief: the waiters, the busboys, the cooks were fully dressed chimpanzees! At a double-take, he realised so were the customers. His jaw dropped, then his gun. He blurted, “What the fuck?”

At that moment, a stray shell dropped, knocking a new hole in the far wall. The chimps panicked, screeching, running and charging. One soldier had his ear bit off before he had a chance to raise his gun. A private unloaded a full clip into the crowd, killing six before Bingham forcibly grabbed and lowered the stock of his gun. Besides the senselessness of killing a bunch of monkeys, he noticed something that disturbed him deeply — a few of the chimps seemed to be waving their arms in a crude type of sign language. Gesturing for mercy! As the shooting subsided, one tentatively walked toward him, looking directly into his eyes. This did not look like the chimps in the zoo. He stepped back, stumbling over the rubble, wanting to flee. He grabbed the private by his fatigues for mutual protection or balance. Then he cried, uncontrollably.

They backed out of the hall and pulled back, confused. He met up with the commanding officer, Colonel Brunswick, “What’s the matter, son?

“They ain’t human, sir.”

“Eh?”

“They people, but they ain’t human.”

The colonel’s brow furrowed. He was prepared for the worst—emaciated bodies, mutilated and disfigured prisoners, who knows? But then he saw some of the ape-men wandering out of the building.

He mentally assessed the creatures. They were some sort of hybrid between man and ape — neither fish nor fowl. “Genetic engineering or physically bred? Which gender was used, if it were breeding?” he ventured. Unmentionable speculation raced through his head about how the guards entertained themselves.

A prisoner of evidently high rank, wearing a white lab coat was being hauled past.

“Grab that son of a bitch,” the colonel shrieked at Bingham.

“What in on God’s Green Earth have you been doing here? How many of these things are there? Under whose authority?”

The translator struggled to keep up with the barrage of questions. The prisoner was stammering, a symphony of pleas, interrupted by rationalisations.

“Tell me, damn you! Who did this?”

Another, junior prisoner started yelling and crying, pointing at his former commandant. It was incomprehensible gibberish, but one hard look from the senior prisoner said it all. Still revolted and red face with anger, Colonel Brunswick pulled out his service revolver and shot the elder scientist in the face, mid-plea.

Before he could think, Lance blurted, “You can’t do that Sir!” The Colonel just stared forward. Lance allowed, “...I mean...sure he had it comin’, but how we gonna explain it?”

Colonel Brunswick muttered to no one in particular, “He’ll live.” Then, he walked off in a daze, and wondered if he should offer himself to the MPs. No one ever came for him.

--- Full Novella is posted on Inkitt ---

science fiction

Russell Anderson

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