Roger’s hands were shaking as he fumbled with the lock, finally slipping the key in and turning, settling himself into the unrecognizable confines of his apartment. He was saddened to look at the obvious signs of the break-up; the lighter patches on the wall, witnesses of missing paintings, imprints in the rug where the table had been, square diagonals intimating the wrap around leather sofa, several of his things lying in heaps in the corners, every piece of furniture gone. And gone also was his brief moment of clarity, how he instinctively knew the two officers were on a break and that it was safe to investigate, swallowed up by the look the big officer had given him. A twinge in the beginning was a twinge raked across his conscious at that look. Was it recognition? He said he followed his stories, or was it a look like someone who was waiting around to see if the perp returned to the scene schmuck of the crime. And here was Roger, setting himself up by returning; hopefully, his living here had assuaged the officer.
He found solace in the one room that had been untouched by the move; his office in the second bedroom, all was there as it had been. He gazed across at the piles of paper listing ship-like on every available raised surface. He viewed the room in one large panorama, the eddy of tacked up snippets from the Webot papered the walls, all pinned up don’t you understand what I’m trying to say with the sharply colored tacks. A mystery he could never really put any sense to. A massive conspiracy that sat just outside of his periphery, something that ate away at him, but he had not the slightest clue as to what he was searching for, but he knew, in his heart, that it was somehow apocalyptic.
Covering the wall to his left was a collage of that fateful day 911; clockwise it showed chronologically the events that led to the destruction of the twin towers: the G8 summit July protest, which resulted in over 400 injuries, including the shooting down of a plane believed to be targeting the building where the summit was held; Haliburton attempt to pay Bin Laden protection from harming the gas pipeline in Afghanistan thinking everyone could be bought off, never understanding fanaticism and probably funding the operation in the first place; multiple allied foreign agencies, including MOSSAD, had informed the US government of a coming attack in detail, including the manner and likely targets of the attack; unknown speculators allegedly used foreknowledge of the Sept. 11th events to profiteer on many markets internationally – including but not limited to “put options” placed to short-sell the two airlines, WTC tenants, and WTC re-insurance companies in Chicago and London; Chaney taking over the Civil Air Command the week before, Bush moved to an island off the Florida coast the night before; the multiple military wargames planned long in advance and held on the morning of September 11th included scenarios of a domestic air crisis, a plane crashing into a government building, and a large-scale emergency in New York; a Joint Chief of Staff meeting at the hour the tragedy occurred with explicit orders not to be disturbed; all but three of the trade center CEO’s at a symposium in San Francisco; the Miami Herald’s final tally that gave Gore Florida relegated to page 18 of the New York Times. What still stuck in his craw was why jets were sent from Orono, Maine to intercept the jet that hit the Pentagon when Andrews Air Force Base was right next door. Did the Shanksville crash occur at 10:03 (according to a seismic report) or 10:06 (according to the 9/11 Commission)? Does the Commission wish to hide what happened in the last three minutes of the flight, and if so, why? Was Flight 93 shot down, as indicated by the scattering of debris over a trail of several miles? It appeared that the conspiracy theorists were right all along; the World Trade Center was a controlled demolition.
To his right his triumph, he lightly fingered the rustically fashioned oak desk made by the Amish that weighed a ton and took three of them to jimmy through the door the day he and Terrasea first moved in. First moved in, it seemed like only yesterday but was in fact five years ago and at the time he was the rising star of the LA Times, the newest winner of the famed SoCal President’s Award for Investigative Journalism, for his article on the 911 that Wasn’t: Terror in the Western Sky. It was largely a fluke. Hungry for a story, he’d overheard several Middle Eastern men talking in a pub. The language was garbled Arabic and the only discernable word he identified was “Trump”. They appeared to release their aggression upon one man, a boy really; so, when they left, pushing past the boy, Roger offered to buy him a drink. After several rum and cokes, the Egyptian man, Fahad, began to loosen up and between offering friendship and praising him for not being like the rest of the nadhils, let slip that something big was coming.
They met several times in different locations after that; Fahad torn between his own experiences of prejudice in recent years at the hands of Americans and the attitude of the men Roger had seen him with originally. Roger didn’t really know why he knew perhaps the old man didn’t trigger it, perhaps I had the ability all along the young man was important. His new friend, Fahad, was torn, and between drinks and praising Allah for giving him such a friend, he explained his misgivings in that he understood that the loss of life was a terrible sin, that the Koran had been sullied. He had been contemplating and poring over the Koran for guidance and justification for the multinational bloc that his brother had become infatuated with. Roger lent a sympathetic ear and tried to ease Fahad’s concerns; until one evening, Fahad appeared unannounced at Roger’s door. He was adamant that something was brewing and that Roger should come with him right away. They arrived at a three bedroom apartment across town, which housed Fahad’s parents, he and his five siblings, and an uncle and aunt not related. Fahad’s father was educated as a physicist, but worked as a parking attendant at the garage downtown; the others did odd jobs, including a booth at the flea market, to make ends meet. Fahad claimed Roger was a school chum and they retreated back to one of the bedrooms.
Roger reflected upon that moment when he was confronted by the collection of images present on Fahad’s brother’s wall. A twinge of horror in the beginning was a twinge crept up his spine as he pieced together what he saw. A mug shot of Zacarias Moussaoui was tacked prominently in the center; The Portland Seven orbited the photo. String connected the Hollywood sign, the Hoover Dam and the 32nd Street Naval Base in San Diego; next to them the Golden Gate Bridge and NORAD in Denver with question marks beside them. Roger began to envision the architecture of the plot, a 911 scenario of hijacked planes flying into strategic icons of American innovation. Could this be the western version of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s 911 strategy? Could the arrest of Moussaoui inadvertently cut him off from giving final instructions to the Portland cell? And why does Fahad’s brother have the original plans?
One look at Roger’s face and Fahad became animated. He began questioning what Roger had seen. Roger assured him that it might not be anything; his brother’s laptop was gone. Fahad produced a junk drive and Roger, with some trepidation, plugged it into his phone. There it was the original Alqui’da 911 plan. Roger told Fahad that his brother was in some deep shit and Fahad asked how he could help, his brother was left unspoken but both men acknowledged that was what he had meant. Roger asked Fahad if he could find out when and where the next meeting might be held. He knew he might be putting Fahad in danger, but he had to see for himself what the hell was going on. His mind now occupied by airline planes crashing into the Hollywood sign.
After receiving assurances, Roger raced back to work and practically barged into his editor’s office. Dr. Raymond had hired him out of UCLA after a brief internship and, to this point, had humored him and given him some leeway. At first Raymond was skeptical, but Roger’s passion and conviction soon convinced the editor that not only a story but an actual plot might be in the making. Roger couldn’t explain what had possessed him to rush to the calendar on the wall and circle 911, but it had the effect of his editor getting in touch, not with the NSA, but with a friend who had fallen out of favor with the Trump administration over his use of biofuel and clean energy.
A meeting ensued with the instigator of the Great Green Fleet and a former FBI agent, who had arrested Moussaoui and had left her post after a scathing review of the FBI’s mishandling of 911. She had been a political activist can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today? since that time. Roger presented his suspicions and both pored over the documents Fahad had absconded from his brother’s laptop. Roger paced as they threw out questions. After an hour they went to the corner and spoke heatedly in hushed tones. Roger could make out “Couldn’t leave this in the hands of the present administration” “I still have contacts” “We’ll use my men, loyal men.” They spoke for several minutes while Roger and Dr. Raymond sat staring; Roger noticed his editor was a little grey about the gills. The man and woman returned assuring them that they would quietly look into this, asked for the documentation. Asked Roger when the next meeting was, Roger was not sure. Asked how Roger knew it would be September 11th, Roger said that’s what he would do. They slipped out as quickly as they had come in, leaving Roger and Raymond alone in the office two months from the target date.
Fahad’s attitude changed quickly after their last meeting, suspicion could be seen clearly on his face, but Roger cajoled him to meet again. He told Fahad that in order to save his brother; if the button is pushed, there’s no running away Fahad would have to find out the particulars of the next meeting. Roger smiled as he recalled his first meeting with Jose Miranda, the man who had given him a night vision camera and a Wi-Fi access, as Jose said, in case things go south of the border. All three made their arrangements with Dr. Raymond’s contacts at a dinner meeting. After further investigation, the two were taking this very seriously. Roger was sweating it out every minute, but two weeks later Fahad called and together they ventured to a warehouse in a waterfront complex of Port of Los Angeles. They crept along the loft section of the warehouse until they had a view of the participants. At this point, Roger set up the microphone and camera and listened to the plan to hijack the planes at LAX. Fahad shot the camera, being sure to keep his brother out of the pictures Roger surmised. And Roger was vindicated when he heard the date of the plot amid quiet laughter and an Arabic throat call. That was when all hell broke loose; one of the men must have noticed the laser sensor of the camera and gunfire exploded from the table.
Voices rose amid the gunfire, as Roger and Fahad slipped out of the warehouse. They ran wildly down the pier not understanding their mistake until it was too late. Roger wanted to jump and take their chances in the water, but Fahad found empty oil drums at the corner of the dock. They still had not been spotted or, in Roger’s mind, really pursued but they were taking no chances. Roger climbed in and Fahad secured the lid, and then slipped into the drum next door. There they remained, as men wandered past them, calling in Arabic. The men had spread out. Roger had picked up enough Arabic in those past few months to ascertain the extent of the torture they were conjuring up for them, if caught. He trembled a bit, recalling those harrowing hours texting back and forth, not sure how long to wait before getting out of the drums.
It took a week to match the photos with the actual terrorists, but once one was found the others were easily discerned. The ex-Commander he still never gave me his name would have his men stationed at the airport and would pick up each man as he entered. Roger’s story would appear on the website after verification from the team that the men had been arrested and Roger’s story would appear in the afternoon edition. The plan went off without a hitch; there’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave both military and FBI teams swarmed each man and quickly took them to holding areas. Within twenty minutes the threat had been averted, the airlines were thrilled, the airport was ecstatic.
At first, the Trump people attacked, claiming the story was false, then they needed to verify the story, then Trump tweeted: How did the times know who the terrorists are, must be fake news once again or could it be collusion? It’s horrible that someone would use 911 to try to make a name for themselves. Sad. But then Facebook erupted with anonymous sources giving their account of what happened on that day. Within hours, the Whitehouse did a complete turnaround, taking credit for thwarting the terrorist plot and lauding the reporter, who had broken the story. Long story short, they stopped the worst disaster since 911 and Roger was rewarded with SoCal President’s Award for Investigative Journalism and his celebrity was on the rise. Roger was the flavor of the month and Terrasea was overjoyed to be with him. They were regaled at celebrity parties that melded into new parties and the year 2017 was a banner year for the couple.
The year 2018 began as his last ended. Roger’s next big story concerned then a past governor of Florida and a former governor from New York. It appeared that in the early millennium the State of Florida sold protected areas of the Everglades to a land speculation company for a mere $3,800.00 an acre. A mining company was brought in and the land was mined for limestone and granite at a huge profit for all involved. The problem was that those are the very resources that make up a natural filter that turned salt water to fresh water and, the mining caused Lake Okeechobee to turn brackish. The lake waters provide rainwater for the entire center of the state from Kissimmee to Tallahassee, but now the rainwater was salty, crops suffered. Several years later, just before the governor left office, the State of Florida bought back the land for environmental protection at a whopping $11,500.00 an acre. Roger intimated a conflict of interest even showing proof that 4% shares were given to the ex-governor’s wife. The editors were delighted; the Trump people had a long standing hatred of the Bushes, especially Jeb. Horrible what they have done to the everglades merely for greed. Sad.
But then many events took place that were still in the process of unraveling. It began with the Constitutional Convention of States in a Phoenix meeting in September of 2017. The founding fathers wisely created Article V of the US Constitution to check the abuse of power, if a tyrant were to dupe the American people. If two thirds of the states submitted an application for such a convention, they could convene for one issue, in this case to force the federal government to balance its budget on a yearly basis. The meeting was held as a demonstration project, but constituted the first meeting of states since the Washington Peace Convention was held in 1861, as state leaders sought to head off the Civil War. Thanks to the Trump regime’s mismanagement and a suspect election in 2018, the Convention of States met in 2019, this time with the three fourths they needed to ratify the constitution and the Balanced Budget Act was passed into law, along with the creation of a national identification card.
For decades, dark money in the form of campaign contributions and gerrymandering had led to the GOP controlling 32 legislatures and 33 governships at the state level, and in 2020, the billionaire backed movement set its sights on the election. Trump, despite having a sub 20% approval rating, fought off an unprecedented cavalcade of challengers for a standing president and in within the month accept his party’s nomination once again. The summer was a series of marches, protests, and movements, but none were organized well and the democrats once again failed to present anyone who could pull the nation along as Obama had twelve years before. After four years the public learned that the safest option was to not pay any attention to the white house at all; it had been a gradual euthanasia of feeling within the nation. And even with the landslide victory in 2018 that threw both houses back to the democrats, they still found the going rough and the blame mounting. With the election approaching, there was no real hope in the air.
From the time the republicans lost the midterm election, the Koch Brothers and Mercer Family worked in collusion with the Trump administration, the effect being; most of the departments in the federal government had been gutted or disposed of completely. First HUD fell, and then Education; Health and Human Services was gutted leaving only the CDC, FDA, and the CMS. Interior was next, leaving only Land Management, Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife; Labor was reduced to OSHA and Mine Safety and Health; Energy lost the Office of Science, HSS, Renewable Energy, the CRWM and clearly stripped FERC. Agriculture was left with APHIS, ERS, and the Forest Service; Transportation, Veteran’s Affairs and the EPA simply went away. To the outside world nothing had changed take a look around you it’s bound to scare you considerably. If one had a good job with benefits, insurance, money to send the children to school, then the only thing to bicker over was what color SUV to buy, as it had always been. But rural America, urban poor and the elderly, who had relied on governmental help to get by, began to suffer horribly. I’m tired of there whining! A bunch of losers!
But by September of 2020, cracks were appearing everywhere. A Northwest Coalition had been formed by California, Oregon and Washington and a referendum to secede from the union was on the ballot in 2022; not to be outdone Texas rushed a referendum through in 2020 that barely failed to reestablish them as a nation again, Alaska was grumbling, Hawaii had it on their ballot, the original thirteen colonies thought it might be best if they go it alone, and the Confederacy was on the rise. Weather patterns were erratic and dangerous all across the country, protests and riots were the order of the day rather than the exception, looting and crime had spiked, food had become more toxic, water had become the new oil in the 21st century. Television reflected these views: sitcoms were outlawed, only fantasy and superheroes appeared on the screen, news became more graphic showing murders, reality series took over the airwaves, the difference being now it was watch the cop on his night shift, watch your neighbors, watch the new riot in Watts. And the number one show was Git’Mo as the new reality series professed, git mo torture on those terrorists packaged as entertainment, the new right. The walls of Guantanamo were swelling and not just with terrorists, after an article about military complex construction company’s conflicts of interest and you tell me over and over again a buddy of Roger’s simply disappeared; no one heard another word from him. Other friends suddenly went missing, some enemies. The company that owned the paper merged in a multinational conglomerate deal, of which no one could follow the thread, and the atmosphere of the paper changed overnight. Editors claimed to be protectors, but writers regarded them as censors, seminars appeared professing that journalists must see the broad picture and not immerse themselves in minutia. With the economic barometer rising in terms of unemployment, businesses began to constrict. Friends began hearing once again the tired old line of, be thankful you have a job or just do what you’re told. Roger was awarded some latitude to work on his next project; after all, he was their golden boy.
Until that day when he found himself in a meeting with the stoic suits of the neoconservative acronym that had taken over the paper; his story Look who could be President: The Republican Conspiracy was under discussion; his arguments falling on deaf ears. The story detailed how Section 4 of the 25th Amendment could be used to depose a President without Impeachment. It was met by stony stares, a phone call, and lawyers with briefcases descending. Why don’t you do a twenty reunion special on 911, that’s more your style. Roger’s award still pulled weight in those days and he thought he had convinced them, until two days later when, washing hands in the bathroom, Dr. Raymond whispered the story had been shot down. At the same meeting, the journalist who wrote about off shore online casinos stumbled into Bannon and two of Trump’s sons, then subsequently stumbled into tables swarming with lawyers, accountants and executives all hell bent on stopping the story. The journalist stuck to his guns; his desk was cleaned out the next day. Roger tried not to laugh as the board set out the future news worthy stories: Hispanic gang problem, problems in Watts, Mexico appropriating water rights along the border, liberal gunmen, left wing Hollywood conspiratress he almost laughed. It was certainly a brave new world.
With the 911 deux story came a swelling of informants both good and bad. At the end of 2018, Roger spoke to young agent from the NSA, a man that helped stifle the 911 plot. They met in a Thai restaurant in Koreatown around the block from Roger’s apartment. At first Roger was reticent; the man had watched too many spy movies. Dressed in a non-descriptive trench coat, he had insisted on a corner booth continuously watching the door. He carried a briefcase and over Singhas produced document after document, invoices and communications. Roger grew a grudging respect for the man’s ability to make connections like a spider web that linked one conspiracy to the other. The man was paranoid, refused to give his name, but the threads evolved into a typical bumbling governmental project that would have made the Iran-Contra people blush. Drug cartels in Central America given special permission to do business in exchange for heavy artillery, funding to produce upheaval in Central America was nothing new, they’d been fucking with those people since Monroe, but supplying cartels to bring about revolution in Mexico was intriguing. The threads led to Iran, guns for drugs same ol same ol, but now moved to our enemies. The man was red faced with rage, Americans profiting, selling out South Korea, slipping nuclear technology to North Korea to roust the Chinese, money moving across the globe at a great profit for a few in power. The man disappeared into the night never to be heard of again.
The players that emerged had been unsettling; Roger’s digging had uncovered corruption leading right up to the top of the Trump regime. His exposé was so cutting that, with any luck, it would indict at least the Secretary of State, but it had gotten no further than his editor’s desk. Dr. Raymond spent a drunken night at Roger’s reading through the material, lamenting that he only had three years to retirement; thank god he had a 401K since social security had been abolished. He warned Roger that times had changed, the hope of a democracy of his youth would never be allowed; he intimated that the election was a moot point, the powers that be had the voting machines, his ramblings included what would happen to Roger if he were to pursue the story and he was right.
Within three weeks, his apartment had been ransacked; his career was cut off at the knees, he was swamped by several investigations at once into his actions: the IRS investigated his taxes, the FBI probed his neighbors, the NSA began asking for informant’s names. Prosecution was swift for protecting enemies of the state. Roger recalled how Terrasea had stood by his side, sitting behind beautiful and dignified as the prosecution asked once more for the names of the informant. He recalled how she had become the darling of the media or darkling, as several sources referred to her. Roger spent three weeks in jail for contempt of court before his attorney could get the case thrown out for first amendment infringement. Terrasea was courted by BET and became one of their spokespeople.
But the accolades Roger was expecting for his heroic fight did not bear fruit. The world had changed so much in the last five years under Trump. Walls were built not only across borders, but from within—pitting colleagues against colleagues, as each tried to position themselves in the new America. Unemployment was rampant, so new informants became a cottage industry. Divisions gaped, paranoia spread. It had taken five years for America to succumb and collapse into a depression, for Roger it had taken less than a year.
Roger was just one of the countless journalists throughout the country that had received walking papers instead of kudos for uncovering some of the nation’s more glaring secrets, for digging into the new regime’s McCarthyistic reaction to anything that resembled a news story. After his ousting, Roger was blacklisted from any serious journalistic work and found himself offering his services to online publications like Bushwatch, BartCop, My Left Nutmeg, Seeing the Forest and Democratic Underground, but no real money materialized. He even took his hand at developing a website to elucidate his point of view and philosophy So This is the End of the World?, but found he was out of his league as to how to make money running a website. The spiral downward continued until the only real recourse Roger had was to take a job at the tabloid SCAB!, a horrendous rag that took pleasure in imposing itself into the lives of the rich and famous, glamorous and not so much, movie stars, rock icons, jilted grandmother lottery winners, ripped off relatives, two headed cows, aliens meeting Putin, anything to make a buck.
His journalism award hung limply at an angle to the left of the oaken shelving, obscured by the newest of his fascinations—The Web Bot Project. The last wall was still a work in progress, filled with 2012 end of the world prophecies: the Mayan Long Count calendar, galactic realignment, I Ching, Jenkin’s hypothesis, geomagnetic reversal, photon belt, digitized sky survey, and, his new lifeblood, Web Bot. In fact it had marked a steady decline that had resulted in a downward spiral, as Roger painstakingly began linking the predictions of the Web Bot with actual events: and, in the course of several months, had instituted a “Horrorscope” scenario which delighted the administration at SCAB!, as newsstand sales increased. Each of the events tacked haphazardly to the wall: the deaths of up to 5,000 birds that fell from the Arkansas sky just before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2021, the April 2019 mass suicide of dolphins in Cornwall, the flooding of the Mississippi River along the basin in 2018, Tornadoes in Atlanta in 2019, global weather shifts in the states, hurricanes in Minnesota in 2020, the 2020 eruption of Mt. St. Helen, the aligning of Mars, Venus and Jupiter that was taking place outside his window.
Looking at his office in all its glorious disarray, Roger felt now a myriad of emotions, euphoria doused with frustration, a feeling of something just out of reach, just beyond his physical grasp. Roger reminisced about how alive he had felt, as he huddled in that oil drum all those years ago; and now, an equal surge of energy what had that old man done began to take hold. Each time the depression edged, a shot of adrenalin masked the melancholy of Terrasea leaving him. Privately, Terrasea’s rise at BET brought out a more militant stance, Roger a more resentful one. He looked once again at the culmination of these many events weaving an interspersed web of information that could help predict the world we live in. He looked up at the Albert Einstein quote big as day over the closet door, “Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.” and looking at his scattered office, he began to understand the nature of Albert’s remark.
It had been a point of derision between the editors and himself, as he waded through the strings of events, the most recent a discovery that modern man may have misread the Mayan’s calendar, not taking into consideration leap years and adding another four onto the original December 21, 2020 apocalypse. It had given Roger the idea for what was now a popular page of the tabloid, his “Horrorscope”. He thought back to 2018, when his career had been destroyed by neoconservative bean counters, whose sole purpose was to cut a minute percentage of the bottom line for their livelihoods without the least consideration for the consequences of their actions. But deep down beneath it all, he understood completely that the tabloid had nothing to do with his predicament, and that all this end of the world crap had certainly ended his relationship with Terrasea. In his sober moments, he could now see why she hadn’t been able to put up with his ranting and ravings, his depressing outlook on the future and; gazing around the room, he realized that this very office was a constant reminder to her of his doom and gloom scenarios. No wonder she ended up with that muscleheaded jerk.
Roger started up the computer with the quiet resignation that his priority lay in discovering how to get into Sinai-Cedar Hospital, but try as he might he could not get himself excited about the venture. He gazed back up at the wall, looking at the connections with a new sense of purpose, tried to recall how he had seen the 911 plot, but nothing came to him and, in a fit of rage, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction Roger began tearing down the clippings, the printed sheets, the string connecting them and multicolored pins he had so painstakingly used to identify each event. His fury mounted as he swept each wall clean. But in that, the cleansing of his own private maelstrom calmed him and after a few stiff breaths, he returned to the business at hand. The new clarity that had invaded him returned and, pulling up the website, he envisioned the burn unit on the 7th floor. He closed his eyes and pictured in his mind the corridor, his breathing now calm, the clarity working. He imagined an egress, a closet next to the stairwell, perhaps it held scrubs or a fair disguise that would lead him past the guards. Now how to get to the floor and what to do when he got there, he would leave to the hands of fate.