A COLD WAR TALE.
“Armageddon,” softly whispered a small, bald man, from the podium. Deep silence fell over the conference room. None present at the meeting dared to comment on this resounding pronouncement of impending catastrophe.
The President pushed away from the screen, taking care to move casually in order to invoke calm into the tense atmosphere. Rising from his chair, he walked towards the window where the Washington Monument caught his eye, holding him mesmerized for a few moments. How life goes on, he pondered—people scurrying about, taking little time to admire their surroundings. They had no inkling that the Red-Line Alert was on.
The governments of their enemies were about to move. At this very second, they were filling up their vast underground settlements. Those selected would survive the holocaust, emerging years later to claim the ultimate victory. Yes, they’d prepared themselves well. Those governments and some of their allies had insured that all children in primary schools could read Geiger counters. This is not to say that the United States of America was caught without an operative plan of action.
With the first dispatch declaring that an atomic blast was imminent in the United States, the hidden shelters for the elite were to be opened. The elite, those chosen to live, were of political and monetary strength. They knew of their safe refuge—the masses of ordinary citizens had no such hope.
The murmurings of the elite in this chamber brought the President out of his reverie. Turning to face his subordinates, he tried to read their reaction to the sobering news and was not surprised to see hope in their eyes. After all, these people were assured a safe refuge. The doors to the underground hideaways would soon be opened. The President glanced at his watch.
“We have exactly 24 hours to tidy things up. All of you know what your duties are. Radio and television will not receive any of this data until the selected few are safe behind sealed doors. Any questions?”
A four-star general, an octogenarian by appearance, stood and was immediately recognized by the President. “Yes, General? If you don’t mind, keep your question as explicit as possible.”
The general showed his displeasure over the President’s condescending manner. “Mr. President, as you can see, I am well past my prime. For this reason I relinquish my place in the underground facility.” He now had the full attention of all those present. “I detest the way our beloved government has dismissed the value of the common population. I’ve been told that’s quite common in this day and time. But I personally find the so-called elite distasteful and will gladly die with people more to my liking.”
“General, we have been over all of this through many meetings,” the President said, flatly. “I find your attitude typical of one your age—your love of the common man,” he sneered. “You are now officially relieved of your position and may part from our company.”
The old general bowed in a gentlemanly fashion before slowly leaving the room. After his departure the President motioned to a formidable looking man standing near the door, his dress and cocky manner identifying him to all as a special agent. With a smirk on his face, the agent approached the President.
“See that the good general has a safe trip,” the President whispered, dryly. The agent, understanding what was expected of him, nodded and quickly left. The President then addressed his audience for the last time. “Now where were we before that annoying interruption…ah, yes, let’s go over the main objectives once more.”
In a small rural area in Virginia, another private meeting was in progress, taking place in a cinder block house surrounded by pine trees, on a dirt road ending in a cul-de-sac. The house and location were so insignificant those in the neighborhood excluded from the project never became suspicious of the late night activity that had been going on for years. A substantial stand of woods behind the house with an old logging road provided private access to the site, further insuring secrecy. Four couples were seated around a kitchen table. Empty coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays went unnoticed by the host and hostess who were deeply engrossed in conversation.
“Looks like today’s the day,” declared Andrew Frye, sadly. “All of our work and planning is about to pay off. I think, once the final word comes in from Frank, we’ll move everybody in.” Frye was the main engineer and architect of the project. A quiet, intense man, well over six-feet tall with a lean physique, he was endowed by heredity with classic blonde hair, blue eyes, and an aquiline nose. Frye had been the first one in the community to protest the use of nuclear energy. “Down with the nukes!” became a favorite saying among the locals.
His wife, Debbie, was an extremely intelligent woman, petite with a cover girl face. They’d become concerned about the lack of Civil Defense shelters on hand and on further investigation, discovered the ones available were insufficient. There weren’t enough of them, and they were mostly in poor shape with the stores of food spoiled. They came to realize that the government was not overly concerned with protecting their “dispensable” citizens in the event of a nuclear holocaust, so they decided to build a complete underground complex of their own. Certain trusted friends in many specialized fields were included to help in the design and implementation of their objectives.
Working after nightfall, the men involved in the project—including engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and one doctor, began the long tedious process of digging out the basement. Once this was completed, the group expanded the facility to encompass all of the families involved—ten were associated with the project with extra allowances for more. A maze of compartments was added to the new space. Everything needed to support life for five years without rationing was added. Areas were designated for living quarters, storage, generators with fuel container space, waste disposal units, and water tanks with sufficient capacity. An intricate air system was devised. Special creature comforts were added to ease boredom. Frye provided a vast library and music collection. The complex had taken six years to complete with frequent “borrowing” from the government via the Federal black market. The market enabled some of the more zealous members to obtain special suits, decontaminates, and Geiger counters.
These enlightened citizens were not so enlightened six years before. Being a sociable lot, they set up and attended many “block” parties together. It was at one such party that Providence brought them together.
Soft music played while a slim hostess offered hors d’oeuvres to the various cliques scattered around the room. Andrew and Debbie didn’t bother to mingle. They liked to sit back, sip their drinks, and watch the parade of people coming and going. Two men conversing loudly in a far corner captured their attention. Moving closer in the hopes of getting within earshot, they discovered the topic to be of great interest.
The obese, gray-haired man was a government employee. They later learned that his name was Frank Shores. The other gentleman turned out to be an electronics engineer—Lee Bowman was to later prove invaluable to the project.
“I’m telling you; it’s the truth,” Frank stammered.
“I believe you,” Lee answered. “I just find it a wee bit obsolete. Maybe a few years ago dear old Uncle Sam let the defense shelters become inadequate, but not anymore. I saw on a special news report where the Civil Defense was in the process of making them habitable again.”
“Bull! The Pentagon and the representatives of our fair nation couldn’t care less for the civilian population. I ought to know; I work for the morons. Our whole system for protecting citizens is a shambles. Do you know what they want you to do in case of atomic war?” he asked, with a smirk. “They want the majority of the population to run to their nearest rural county and build lean-to’s. Better yet—get under the nearest object, put your head between your legs and kiss your derriere goodbye!”
Andrew laughed and walked over to join the men. “I couldn’t help listening in on your debate,” he lied. “In fact, I agree with you,” he added, turning to Frank. “I’m Andrew Frye, but most know me as Andy.”
“Frank Shores,” the obese man answered, extending his hand. He liked Andy’s firm grip and nodded at Lee before making the introduction. “Getting back to the subject at hand, I think it’s up to every individual to plan for a shelter in case of radioactive fallout—like the shelters people had in the 50’s.”
“That’s exactly how I feel,” agreed Andy. He then explained what his own investigations had turned up.
Deeply interested in the information Andy shared, Lee looked around the room. “Well, if you want to persuade these people here, you have a diverse group. There’s Miles Watts, M.D., and Tom Thornton, plumber by trade. Tim Watson, standing by the window, is an electrician; Tom Barbour, the redhead, is a carpenter, to name a few. If you’re really serious about the pickle of a spot us poor civilians are in then I suggest we do something about it right now.”
Frank flashed a quick smile. “I think we can persuade them, especially if we tell them what I know. Let’s split up and get the feel of everyone present. I don’t mind telling you that it’s risky business becoming ‘aware’ of things. We’d eventually be placed under surveillance. Our government police will prowl around trying to find out what we’re up to. You see, I’m a big risk factor. They already know my views on ‘Big Brother.’ I’m positive I’ve been analyzed and feel certain they’ve become quite familiar with my habits.”
Lee shrugged his thin shoulders. “I’m willing to do my part. So what’s the plan of action?”
“That’s where I come in,” Andy replied. “I’ve known about the situation for quite awhile and have started some embryo designs on a shelter. Putting two and two together, I feel we have less than ten years. I propose we enlist the aid of many of our talented neighbors and, with their help, build a huge underground complex, complete with everything we need to survive comfortably. All our specialties will come into play.”
“How will we shield ourselves from surveillance?” Frank interrupted. “I don’t think they want us to survive, and there’s no cavalry around to give us protection!” He glanced uneasily over his shoulder. “I feel like they know about us already, and I’ve got a wife to think of!”
“Let’s not get paranoid,” Andy whispered. “First, we’ll carefully check out our neighbors to determine who will be interested. Later, we’ll contact each other, compare notes, and set a time for a little get-together. We can then go over plans, money, and protection ideas. After things check out, we’ll have our little group, if they’re in full agreement, over my place for a barbecue.”
As it turned out, Frank was indeed under surveillance. From day one, government security was kept informed of the group’s progress. They allowed the shelter to be built with the idea that when the time came, they’d move in, dispose of its original occupants, and use it for key government personnel. They were well aware of the meeting at Frye’s home on the eve of the catastrophe.
The security chief sat at his desk like an over-stuffed doll, taking long puffs at the cigar dangling from his mouth. Shores was on his way over but not on his own volition. Leaning back, comfortably, the chief placed his hands behind his head. Corporal punishment was a pleasant way to relieve tension. He decided he’d be coy with Shores at first—play on the man’s fear that their little endeavor had not gone unnoticed. Yes, it will be a real treat telling Shores that his partners had less than a day to live.
Pushing back his chair, Andy jumped to his feet, angry at this turn of events. “Where can Frank be? Did you call his wife?”
“He knew about the communiqué,” Lee responded, nervously.
“I called her,” said Debbie. “She told me that he went to work around eight this morning. He called at noon with the code word, and that’s the last she’s heard from him.” For the first time Debbie feared that their plans could be in serious danger. “Andy, I’m worried about her. She’s over there by herself with the baby,” she added, imploringly.
“Damn,” Lee mumbled. “We’ve been here for over four hours; all the others are in. Don’t you think it’s time we got behind the doors?”
“Send the word downstairs that we’re going to seal up,” Andy replied, firmly, deciding to stick with the plan. He didn’t want to get so bogged down worrying about Frank’s disappearance that he’d end up jeopardizing everyone else’s safety.
Sadly, Debbie thought about their relationship with the Shores’. She’d developed a real liking for Ann; they’d shared many a laugh together over the past six years. She and Andy had sat with Frank the entire night Ann labored to give birth to their first child, a son.
“It’s nice to see you acting so brave,” Andy said, reassuringly, squeezing her hand.
“Andy, is there any chance they’ll get here before the storm troopers arrive?”
“I hope so; I’m rather fond of them myself.”
Hurriedly, Lee left the room. Time was running out—they had to get below and seal off the doors. He tried calling the Shores’ home one last time, desperately hoping Ann or Frank would answer.
Frantically, Ann Shores paced up and down the living room. She felt certain something horrid had happened to her husband. Where was Frank, she thought, desperately? They all knew what they had to do. Walking over to the window facing the road, she eased back the curtain and peered out. Seeing a dark Ford parked by the hedge, she stifled a scream, dropped the curtain, and raced to the phone. “I’ve got to warn them.” With the phone in her hand and back to the door, she didn’t hear it slowly open and someone quietly slip into the room.
Lee walked quickly into the kitchen. Andy and Debbie sat silently sat at the table, drinking coffee. “I’ve not been able to reach Ann; all I’m getting is a busy signal. Do you have any idea who she could be talking to?” he asked, hopefully, his voice betraying his anxiety.
Debbie fought to keep herself from becoming hysterical. “It’s happened,” she gasped. “They know about us! We have to go get Ann and the baby.”
“It’s going to be dangerous trying to get past the Feds,” Andy said, uneasily, uncertain over their best course of action.
“I don’t care. I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t try.”
“Lee, can you see to it that the others are taken care of if, by some chance, we aren’t back in an hour?”
“Now wait a minute! You two aren’t going to try this by yourselves!” Lee responded, wide-eyed.
“We have to. I don’t want Debbie to go, but she’s not going to sit back and let me take all the chances on my own. We’ve been married too long; I know her too well.”
“Thanks, Andy,” Debbie said, weakly.
“Okay, if that’s the way you want it,” said Lee, resignedly, realizing that he needed to stay behind for the sake of the others. “To be honest, I’m no hero, and besides, I know how to handle things here. I do have one request.”
“What’s that?” Andy asked.
“Take my pistol with you. It’s not much protection, but it’s better than nothing.” Gratefully, Andy took the revolver and stuffed it into one of his coat pockets. “Thanks.”
They thought it best to wait until after dark, which was still an hour away. While they were waiting, the others wished them well and then went underground. Lee’s instructions were to seal off the doors at the first sign of trouble. Once the doors were sealed, they could only be opened from the inside. Before Andy and Debbie departed, Lee made one more attempt to talk them out of their heroics. But they were determined to make the attempt—they couldn’t give up on Frank, Ann, and the baby just yet.
The security chief was carefully watching the tracking computers, checking each readout before balling up the thin sheets of paper and tossing them on the floor.
Shores, his hands cuffed behind his back, stepped into the room with his two escorts close by. Warily, he watched the security chief slowly walk over, with a look of satisfaction on his cruel, smug face. After instructing the agents to remove the handcuffs, the chief walked over to his desk and motioned for Shores to take the chair directly across from him.
Seeing his one chance, Shores desperately pushed the agents aside and bolted for the door. Calmly the security chief pulled the revolver from his shoulder holster and fired two bullets into the back of Shore’s head, sending blood, bone and brain matter splattering on the walls. “So much for the Omega man,” he said, sarcastically, a vicious grin on his face. “Now you two get busy and clean up this mess!”
Lee stood a few feet inside the chamber, anxiously awaiting Andy and Debbie’s return. He had a gut feeling that he should never have let the rescue attempt take place. It was a reckless attempt, he knew, and he should have stood his ground. Looking at his watch, he saw there were only forty-five minutes left until it was time to seal off the entrance to their hideaway.
Impatiently, Andy pulled Debbie along, silently cursing himself for allowing her to come. If they’d been found out, he knew the Feds would start to move in. It seemed like eons before they finally climbed over the fence into the Shores’ backyard. Light could be seen filtering through one of the back windows of the house. Standing in the shadows, they carefully listened, but heard nothing from inside. Without speaking Andy drew Debbie’s attention to the window then motioned for her to follow him. They made it to the side of the house without incident, and Andy cautiously peered through the gaps in the partially closed window curtain. He had to stifle a scream at the horrible sight before him—Ann and the baby were lying on the floor in a pool of blood, dead with their throats cut. Fearing a trap Andy grabbed Debbie by the arm and started to run, but it was too late. With itchy fingers two agents had watched Andy and Debbie approach the house, awaiting the signal to eliminate them. Once the rescuers were allowed to see the grisly scene in the house, the red dial on the agent’s wristwatches lit up, and Andy and Debbie were quickly dispatched, never knowing what hit them.
Lee glanced at the closed-circuit monitor, took one last look at his watch, and sadly closed and sealed the doors. He feared the Feds would soon be swarming all over the place and hoped the massive doors would withstand their assault. Why wouldn’t they just leave them alone? But he knew differently and realized with a sinking feeling that, despite the massive doors, their shelter could be pierced. They would be shown no mercy. Switching off the monitor, he knew that he and the group were powerless from this point on; they could only await their fate.
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