[EXCERPT] Fukushima on the Hudson by LA Smith

Jane Blackwater

September 19th, 11:32 am EST
Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC

It’s happening. After all my efforts, all the work of my fellow patriots, it’s happening. Political gridlock destroyed this country. We didn’t heed the warnings. Now it’s happening. 

Blocks from the White House, in the corner office of my Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, I’m staring out the window, praying for a miracle. Alarm simmers in my scorched, black eyes. The worst-case scenario. It’s here. 

Right now, Superstorm Eve is wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard of this once-great country. Already, entire coastal communities have been swept into the Atlantic. Official death toll has climbed to ten million and will climb much higher. Much, much higher. Will there be anything left for us? Impossible to know. We could have done something to stop it. Could have acted. But our government failed us. And here we are.

In a desperate, probably futile effort to stop an even more insidious disaster, one that could definitely bring this country to her knees, every nuclear power plant from Maine to Delaware has been taken offline. Even so, grim-faced government officials warn that continuing seismic activity, combined with the impending storm surge, will likely trigger multiple, catastrophic meltdowns. Just like Fukushima. No way to stop it from happening. Could have told them that. Did tell them that. At least, I tried. The result will be damage, death and radioactive ruin on a scale never before seen and impossible to imagine. Implications for this country’s future are dire. Unless something changes, unless some sort of miracle occurs — and soon — much of the US east coast, including the city of New York, will be a radioactive wasteland. What will become of us, then? How will we go on? Increasingly, I’m convinced we won’t. 

Here in Washington, a few hundred miles from the eye of the superstorm, the sense of doom and urgency is palpable. As the President and Congress struggle — together, for a change — to deal with fallout from the cataclysmic event, a deluge of Biblical proportions is pounding downtown DC. Looks like a hurricane raging outside my office window. Trees uprooted, power lines downed, winds gusting upwards of a hundred-twenty miles an hour. For two days, I’ve been camped out in my headquarters as the electricity flickers off and on — mostly off. Although it’s late morning, I can barely see the US Capitol through the torrential downpour. Can barely make out the hazy outlines of the dome.

One way or another, I’m gonna die. We all are, but I wanted a little longer. A few more years. I’m not good with failure. Not good with defeat. 

In front of me, raindrops crash against the window like desperate points of punctuation, before sliding down the plated glass. Can’t help it. My lips tremble. I want to crumble, want to break down and cry, but I won’t. I have to be strong.

“Ms. Blackwater?”

The sound so startles me, I want to jump out of my skin.

Emanating from the speakerphone on the desk, the disembodied voice continues, “The courier’s here.”

I try to steel myself for what’s coming next. The final, devastating phase of the catastrophe. “Send her in.” Against all odds, I think I sound calm.

A heartbeat later, the door opens and a woman I know very well hurries into the office. Tall with pale blue eyes, her coat drips with rainwater, her hair’s pasted to her skull. She pulls a legal-sized, gray envelope from a waterproof pouch and without a word, she walks toward me, stops at my desk and drops the envelope on the corner. Her lips form a taut line.

“So the worst case. It’s here?” Although I’m trying my best to stay steady in the face of tragedy, I can hear the emotion-filled catch in my voice. “Despite everything?”

The courier nods and I see dread in her eyes.

Grabbing the envelope, I rip it open, removing the single sheet of yellow paper. Knew this day might come. Did everything I could to stop it. But our work, our hard work, all our warnings, they were in vain.

HOMELAND SECURITY BULLETIN

The US Geological Survey Earthquake Early Warning System (EEW) has issued an urgent new security bulletin for the city of New York and surrounding areas. Seismic activity continues along the Ramapo Fault Zone thirty miles from Wall Street as Superstorm Eve batters the east coast for a second day. At the Danger Point nuclear power plant, containment facilities are flooded. A Fukushima-scale catastrophic event is imminent.

NY Governor Cuomo has expanded the mandatory evacuation order. 

“What’s the status of the order?”

“It’s an exercise in futility.” She brushes away a drop of rain or maybe a tear from her cheek. “Most of Manhattan’s already under water. Brooklyn Battery and Holland Tunnels flooded as soon as the storm surge hit. The few streets above the waterline are jammed with abandoned cars. Staten Island’s submerged, Statue of Liberty’s nearly up to her feet in white caps. Thousands of desperate New Yorkers, maybe tens of thousands or more, have jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson, which is a raging torrent.” She bursts into tears. “Millions are dead already. Ms. Blackwater, anyone still alive has no way to leave the city!”

What can I do? What the hell should I do? “We warned them this would happen! God help us!” Frantic, I reach over the desk and pick up the phone.


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