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The War – Episode 24

Part III – Aftermath


December 20, 07:02 AM Eastern
New York City

The anchor looked at the teleprompter in front of her as the producer counted down with his fingers, then pointed to her.

“Good morning, I’m Joanna Metzger, and this is your Morning News,” she said, keeping her voice even, although she could feel her pulse race from the multiple cups of coffee she had guzzled after being woken from a nap in her office an hour earlier.

“We have an update on the situation in Tucson, Arizona, this morning. The governor’s office in Phoenix has reported that all available National Guard personnel have reported to their armories, and patrols of the streets of Tucson have begun,” she said as the words scrolled up the prompter. On the monitor next to her, shots of soldiers in combat gear standing under harsh sodium lights were replaced by video of a large church with two tall bell towers.

“Officials say that the fighting in the city has ceased since the killing of several terrorists outside the Cathedral of the Ascension late last night, but urge all citizens to continue to shelter in their homes and cooperate with law enforcement and the military. Sources say federal troops from a nearby Army base also took part in the fighting, although that information has not been confirmed by the Pentagon.”

The monitor on her desk switched to a scene of a bombed out gas station with a mountain in the background. Numbers scrolled down from the top of the image as she continued to speak.

“Casualty numbers are continuing to come in, but the Department of Homeland Security reports that well over a thousand people died yesterday, with many more injured. The Department of Education has asked that all schools in the country remain closed until after the winter holidays.”

The monitor changed back to a view of her, and she turned toward the second camera.

“No further attacks occurred last night, and so far this morning, things seem to be quiet. The reason for that is a case for speculation. Are our attackers through with their campaign, or have lucrative targets become scarce in the aftermath?”

The monitor changed to a panning shot of Times Square, lit up by multiple advertising signs and animated screens, but devoid of people except for several police officers and soldiers.

“Across the country, this is the scene that is playing out. Malls, theaters, schools, and anywhere else you would expect a crowd are all deserted.”

The monitor changed to show the inside of a large shopping center.

“At the Mall of Columbia in St. Paul, many stores have closed temporarily due to a lack of customers, and sometimes even employees, willing to risk coming to the mall.”

“Not everyone is staying behind locked doors, however,” JoAnne said as she lifted her chin a fraction of an inch, “In Austin, Texas, volunteers have come out to stand watch over houses of worship.”

The monitor changed to a shot of a pretty young woman wearing an iridescent nylon ski parka and a matching stocking cap. Behind her, several other people either sat in folding chairs or stood holding printed cardboard signs that read “STOP THE HATE!” in red letters.

“We are here to guard this place of safety for our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are rightfully afraid of a backlash from the American people after the horrible events yesterday. We will stay here to safeguard their right to assemble and worship as they see fit until the uproar diminishes,” the woman on the monitor said into a microphone bearing the network’s logo.

JoAnne nodded sagely, then turned back to the first camera.

“The President has called for Congress to return to Washington, where he plans to address a joint session of Congress on Monday evening. We will, of course, carry his speech here and on all of our sister networks,” she said as she continued to read from the teleprompter.

“The President-Elect has also returned to Washington.  Our sources report that he and his advisors have been included in the decision making after yesterday’s attacks, and he has taken to social media to make a pledge to hunt down those responsible and bring them to swift justice.”

She paused for a moment as graphics of several posts flashed across her screen.  Several of them had words blurred out or removed due to the network censors.  After the image on her monitor returned to the newsroom, she looked back up at the camera.

“That’s your news update. From all of us here in New York, our thoughts go out to those impacted by these horrific acts. Stay tuned for a special episode of ‘Ricochet,’ where Morgan Brown-Trier will speak with Mohammed Aziz from the American Islamic Council and Cherise Taylor-Bernheim from the group ‘Moving People Forward’ about yesterday’s attacks and what America can learn from them.”

The last line scrolled off the teleprompter, and the light above the camera went off.



Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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