Corporeal Passage: Chapter 14: Cosmocracy of Totum Mundi
by Jeff Rand
Gabe Church had a daunting responsibility. When Zero Node released control of the worldwide neural virtual reality network, it fell to Gabe to keep the centers working. Although he sat underground in the vast complex of Cheyenne Mountain, he had to maintain 262,144 NVR centers housing eight billion people - at least until they were extracted from the centers or had expired. And it was the latter that troubled him most, as the centers would soon run out of food. He couldn't just shut down the system and have eight billion naked people resume their lives as if nothing had happened. The reality they had experienced for the last 4 ½ years would define the end of their lives. He needed a workable strategy, and it was critical that he be joined by the folks who had departed Zero Node, if there was to be any future for his species.
He agreed that a contingent from Cheyenne Mountain would meet the folks from Zero Node in San Diego Harbor. It was believed that would be the closest deep port on the west coast to Zero Node. Initially, Gabe believed that all thirteen residents of the Node would make the trip. He was surprised when he received a communication on December 31 that only five were coming. That was the last he heard from Zero Node or the submarine.
Twenty-six members of the military, representing the United States, China, and Russia, had quarantined themselves in the Cheyenne Mountain bunker for the last four and a half years. Other than a few soldiers in North Korea, these folks constituted the entirety of the world's military. Gabe and his friend Brian Mann were the sole civilian residents of Cheyenne Mountain. Colonel "Moose" Peterson was the officer in charge of the Cheyenne Mountain garrison and the de-facto leader of the world's military.
Beyond the complex there were just 19 people known to be alive outside the NVR centers. There could be others in isolated pockets, but there was no way to identify them. And still others were presumed to have died, such as Steve's companion, Jeff, who most likely served as an entrée for the sharks after the typhoon in the North Pacific. Colonel Peterson brought the Cheyenne Mountain residents together, announcing the earth's free population was just 47 individuals of which 32 were military.
It would be simple to declare martial law and keep the military in charge, but the Moose was a man with strong values that he learned as a youth. He advanced to become an Eagle Scout in the troop sponsored by his LDS ward. Even after the Church left Scouting, he continued as a Scoutmaster during some tumultuous years, as gangs of heinous attorneys sought to destroy the organization for their own personal gains. Peterson remained steadfast to the Scout Oath and Law, recognizing the importance of proper governance.
The establishment of a single world government had been a dream of conquerors for centuries, but now became reality with the consent of the soldiers representing the three great military powers of the recent past. Moose surprised the others when he insisted that the government be civilian led in establishing a cosmocracy. With that, Gabe Church was elected to be the leader of the free world. As his first act, Gabe declared himself as Imperator of Totum Mundi. He appointed Brian Mann as his Number Two. Then Brian assumed the role of Jarl of Emerging Lands, resurrecting the title he held as the youth leader of Winter Camp XIX in 1995.
When the discussion turned to rebuilding society, there were few options. The years of NVR for the world's population had destroyed all governments, social structures, and the military establishments. Gabe's forays into the NVR universe had illustrated that the virtual world had departed from the reality on the outside and that men would be ill prepared to sustain themselves, let alone establish a working social system.
"Our best hope," declared Gabe, "lies with the Winter Campers in NVR that we had a direct link with over the past year. As you know this ultimately led to the perception of nuclear annihilation, allowing us to assume control of the entire network. We must extract these folks first if we are to save humanity. But we need our colleagues from Zero Node to help."
"I must stay here," continued Gabe. "Brian, you need to go to San Diego and get the others who left Zero Node. Hopefully, they are still alive and will make the voyage to the rendezvous point."
Each NVR center functioned as an independent unit, which was fortunate news for Gabe and the government in Cheyenne Mountain now that they had control of the Network. Gabe's best calculation indicated that there was less than a year's food supply remaining in most of the centers. Although the centers had mechanisms to synthesize food, chiefly through yeast cultures, the results would not be sufficient to feed all occupants. At best they could handle 5% of the population. Gabe was surprised when he learned that the synthetic food was supplemented through waste recycling, commonly from human excrement. Yet he was shocked when he discovered that human remains were recycled and fed to the living. The urgency of the task ahead was all too apparent.
Gabe had spent two months developing his own avatar to become a virtual participant in NVR. In doing so, he allowed for this avatar to be controlled by his own conscious thoughts on occasion but to be a fully automated manifestation when he had to attend to living in the physical world. He had already interfaced indirectly with several occupants in NVR centers during the last year. Their perceived reality had continued by surviving nuclear annihilation. It was now time for his character to enter the scene to help prepare them for the real world. With these folks, it was hoped to start rebuilding society.
Two soldiers were selected to make the trip with Brian. Eagle Scout Lieutenant Kane Fujimoto eagerly accepted responsibility for preparing a vehicle and navigating the route through uncertain conditions. Brian requested that Captain Salam Kaboré be the other participant to be responsible for food and support logistics. Captain Kaboré had immigrated to the United States from Burkina Faso. Brian had learned of his tie to Winter Camper Robert Hartwig. Hartwig had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso and had left his mark on Kaboré when he was just a child.
Lieutenant Fujimoto had located an armored personnel transport vehicle among those being kept in the massive underground storage facility within Cheyenne Mountain. Using this vehicle, he reasoned it would have sufficient capacity to hold the folks they hoped to collect in San Diego. In addition, it could handle the uncertain road conditions and pull a tank trailer of fuel. There would be no fuel depots on the trip. The main problem was the blast door to the complex had been damaged by a nuclear missile and would not open and allow exiting the complex.
It took nearly a month to blast through 100 feet of solid rock to create a bypass around the damaged blast door. Although the complex was well stocked with military grade C-4 explosives, the project was hampered by a lack of heavy earth moving equipment to haul the rock debris.
By late February, Brian and his team were ready to journey to San Diego. Although they heard nothing from those on the submarine from Zero Node, the plan did not involve dependable communication. When either party arrived at the San Diego harbor, they would wait until the end of the year for the others, if necessary. Brian did have satellite communications to the Cheyenne Mountain complex. Captain Kaboré had outfitted the vehicle well for the trip with explosives and chainsaws for road clearing. The tanker trailer had over 2,000 gallons of fuel to assure passage back to Cheyenne Mountain or even the east coast.
Brian was discussing the route with the lieutenant when Gabe interjected. Having lived in Colorado for several years, Gabe told them that it would be months before they could cross the Rockies or Sierra Nevada range unless they had serious snow plowing equipment. With that insight, the lieutenant mapped a route going east, then south, before heading west to El Paso. From there they would head through Southern New Mexico and Arizona before arriving in California.
The damage to the roads was extensive during the early part of the trip as they were constantly travelling on damaged surfaces, cutting trees, and skirting debris. When they reached the Rio Grande River in Southeastern New Mexico, they had traveled just 1,000 miles in ten days. Since all bridges across the river had been destroyed, they had to ford through the shallow waters.
Their pace quickened through the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, taking them just three days to reach the Colorado River. Once again, all bridges had been destroyed. The river was swift and deep, nothing like the Rio Grande. When Lieutenant Fujimoto determined the best route, he measured the depth at nearly four feet. Brian suggested that Zero Node might have destroyed the Hoover Dam. However, the lieutenant indicated that the river was running its normal course due to lack of human activity. "It was generally believed that the dam was so thick that it could withstand a nuclear explosion," he said. "In fact, it might be the second longest lasting human artifact on earth."
"What is the first?" asked Captain Kaboré.
"That would be Mount Rushmore and its neighbor, The Crazy Horse Memorial."
The transport vehicle had been designed for such conditions with its extended exhaust and intake pipes. They crossed the river with their windows underwater without losing the engine. It took four more days to cross California and reach San Diego.
They arrived in the harbor in mid-March. It had been destroyed, and there was no sign of the submarine or the others. There they waited.