Friday, August 21, 2020

Quest: The future we fear is the reality we create

2.5 million barrel oil storage facility. The larger tanks are 200 feet in diameter and 60 feet tall. Smaller ones hold refined products.

And. Just. Like. That. Thibodeaux had a live-in girlfriend.

He hadn't had one in seven years.

His bafflement was nearly complete. There were four men for every woman. Thibodeaux was far from the youngest, or best looking or the most articulate. Thirty-two is not ancient but Thibodeaux had a lot of miles on the odometer and they weren't all easy miles.

The evening after Alexandra had coaxed Thibodeaux into the river, she brought dinner  and a bottle of wine over to the shack. She stayed for dinner and didn't leave.

'Andi, as she like to be called, was definitely a heterosexual which reminded Thibodeaux to never again judge a book by its cover.

When he asked her "Why? Why me?", her answer surprised him. "We aren't that different."

"Whaddya mean?" Thibodeaux asked. Andi radiated elegance, refinement and urban panache.

"I came from a little town in Northern Michigan by the name of Calumet. The school librarian taught the computer classes. She had gone to CMU and filled my head with dreams of getting a degree in Media-and-Video. Had me thinking I was going to Hollywood" Andi said.

"And you didn't go, to Hollywood that is" Thibodeaux deduced.

"Nope. I had a lot of fun in college. Don't get me wrong. But nobody in Hollywood ever heard of Central Michigan University. And the folks in Detroit and Chicago don't hire videographers. They just buy the best software and have Smedley in IT do the editing." Andi said, sounding slightly bitter.

"So what did you do?" Thibodeaux asked. It was some of the easiest pillow-talk he had ever engaged in. He was curious about how this divine creature came to be.

"I got a certificate in Phlebotomy, got a job poking people with needles and started working on a Master's degree" Andi said.

"In Video-whatchyamacallit?" Thibodeaux asked.

"No, stupid. A girl has to be able to pay her bills. I was working on a Masters in Accounting" she said.

"What about the tats?" Thibodeaux asked.

"I was dating a guy who owned a tattoo parlor when I was at CMU. He was a Native American and said that Dragonflies were my totem. I caught him lying, though. Chippewa Indians don't have a Dragonfly totem. When I confronted him, he laughed it off saying I shouldn't believe everything I read on the internet" Andi said. 

Then, having tired of telling Thibodeaux the intimate details of her life, she gave him a little squeeze that completely distracted him.


Andi's job in the squad was to collect the livestock at the places that were inhabited.

Andi was the one who made the observation that folks became agitated when the "visitors" started slaughtering the animals even before the owners were out of ear-shot. That is when things went "cowboy" and the hither-to-fore smooth operation became a rodeo.

Andi convinced Thibodeaux to wait an extra ten minutes before the crew went in and collected the livestock.

It worked like a champ. 

"They probably know that is what is going to happen to their hens and goats and milk cows" Andi said. "But if they don't have to hear it then they can convince themselves that maybe everything is going to be OK, that maybe we are shipping them back in a different truck or something."

That removed one of the crew's the last headaches. Nearly all of the refugees left their homes docilely. It was not as if life was a bowl of peaches before Thibodeaux showed up. They were turned out of their homes with as much dignity as practicalities allowed and they were promised a better life on the outskirts of Ann Arbor.


Mészáros had gotten into the habit of buzzing the Hard-Timer's oil tank-farm every time he was on patrol. Generally, it was the last thing he did before returning to the airport at Willow Run.

He was make a pass at high elevation to see which side of the farm was most crowded. Then he would hit the deck. Keeping the tanks between him and the crowd, he would buzz the facility at 100 feet.

Tonight, he had been given the last daylight patrol. After meticulously following the flight plan he had been given, he popped on over to the tank-farm for his daily fun.

The sun was setting and the wind had died down. Like most days, there was a line of trucks entering the facility from the south. In fact, they were lined up on the road.

Mészáros swung around until he was seven miles north of the facility and then he pushed the throttle to the stop. He had never done this in the near-dark. This was going to be good!

Three-hundred-thirty knots is half the speed of sound, which didn't give the defenders much time to hear him coming or react as he flashed over the facility.

After popping over the tanks, Peter dropped fifty feet in elevation so he was a scant fifty feet above the tanker trucks. To the northbound drivers, it must have looked as if Peter was about to land on their trucks. The forty-seven wingspan made the big plane seem even closer to the ground than it was.

And then Peter saw something he had never seen before. Blooms of light from beside the road. It took him a minute to realize what those blooms were. They were the muzzle-blasts from rifles firing at him.

Firing at HIM!

Then his side window exploded, showering him with  shards. Fortunately, he was wearing ballistic goggles and was not blinded.

Reaching the end of the line of trucks, Peter wheeled around and lined up on the trucks from their rears. He had never buzzed the facility twice-in-a-row.

The second pass was to harass the Hard-Timers. It was a strafing run. Peter flipped off the safety as he tipped nose down at the top of his turn. Then as the first of the trucks appeared in his windshield, he pressed the firing stud that had been added to his yoke and the twin M-60s started firing a combined thirty rounds a second.

Even at his reduced speed of two-hundred knots he was only on target for four seconds and half of that was sending bullets into the immense, six-story tall, oil storage tank that was immediately ahead of him. Popping over the tank, Peter immediately banked and hauled ass toward Willow Run.


Trudi Springfield* wasn't liking what she was seeing.

The refugees that were flooding Ann Arbor and came from a broad arc ranging from New Baltimore, Detroit, Down-river and Toledo were malnourished and prone to a multitude of sicknesses.

Trudi, a Nurse Practitioner, expected her case-load to go up if for no other reason than the increased number of indigent cases. She had not been prepared for the onslaught brought about by the combination of numbers, malnutrition and general hard-useage the people had seen.

Trudi expected the calls to drop as the families on her caseload got a couple weeks of good food in them. To her surprise, it did not.

Trudi was currently ministering to Ricky Adams. Ricky and his family had come to Ann Arbor three weeks ago. Ricky had been looking for work while his family "camped out" in Fuller Park. "Camping out" was a euphemism for sleeping outside using corrugated cardboard for a mattress and tarps for a roof.

Ricky had been flushed and had "da shakes" for more than a week. Ricky's girlfriend called Trudi when his symptoms took a turn for the worse four nights ago. 

Trudi didn't have much in the way of medicines or diagnostic testing but she did have a solid grounding in "austere" medicine. Trudi had been on several mission trips in Latin America, for instance.

Given that most people were either living in houses without functioning HVAC and had flooded basements or were living outdoors, typically in floodplains that had been repurposed as parks, a great many of Trudi's caseload were upper respiratory issues. 

That is what Trudi assumed was Ricky's issue and she had loaded him up with garlic-rich chicken-bone soup and had pressed multiple packages of mint-nettle tea on his girlfriend. Trudi also supplied Ricky with capisum candy, guaranteed to make your scalp sweat and to drain your sinuses.

Trudi chose mint-nettle tea for a many reasons. Both herbals were rich in vitamins and trace elements. The drink did not taste nasty. The plants were super-abundant. Perhaps the biggest reason was that it was almost impossible for the people gathered mint and nettle to misidentify them. There had been an earlier incident where poison sumac had been identified as elderberry...

Trudi had also prescribed that Ricky expose his skin to the mid-day sun to generate Vitamin D. For whatever reason, Ricky refused to do that.

Trudi considered training Ricky in biofeedback. That is where the patient held a thermometer between their thumb and forefinger and "thought it warm". It is possible to expand the capillaries in ones extremities by thinking, thereby shrinking nasal passages and helping drainage. However, Ricky seemed much to "out of it" for that to be an option and Trudi's list of patients was long and she was going to be working until eight this evening as it was.

Compared to the medicines available before Ebola, everything Trudi had to offer was weak tea, indeed. But Trudi handed it out with a warm, soothing voice that left her patients sure that they had the best possible care in the world and that they were in the care of the angels.

Given the crowded conditions at Fuller Park, Trudi had not only taken Ricky's temperature but the temps of everybody else in family group every time she visited. The first time Trudi had taken his temperature she was surprised that Ricky's temperature was not very high...only 99.6F while none of the family showed a temp.

Today, everybody in the family had a slight fever and Ricky's energy was rapidly waning.

Trudi wanted to listen to Ricky's lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by countless microbes, both bacterial and viral, and can present in a multitude of ways. Trudi asked Ricky to unbutton his shirt so she could listen for subtle sounds of rushing air.

Ricky struggled to engage the buttons with his fingers. He was clearly much, much worse than he had been the day before.

Pushing the unbuttoned flaps aside, Trudi reached in to place the cup of the stethoscope on Ricky's chest but it felt like he had one more garment on beneath his shirt. Looking, Trudi saw the deep burgundy of massive blood-blisters covering his chest.

Trudi's thoughts accelerated to a million miles an hour. Suddenly, the uptick in mild fevers, usually uncommon in late-June, seemed very, very ominous.

*This character is partially inspired by this person.


  1. I've been waiting for the bad ju-ju to start.


  2. Perfect Storm, allow me to introduce you to Ann Arbor. I just know you two will get along wonderfully.

    Stay away from crowds, indeed.