Flash Fiction: A Trumpet Sounds

Somebody got a nuke. 90 seconds after a pirate broadcast announcing that Heaven had withdrawn its mandate and the rest of the world was ordered to stand down, Beijing went up in a high megaton mushroom cloud.

The Chinese Communist Central Committee had been meeting in Beijing. Within minutes, conventional weapons began to strike sites around China, some obvious, some mysterious to western observers. It looked like a well planned decapitation. Not so well planned that the Middle Kingdom did not descend into chaos.

Dominos around the world began to fall. Over the course of hours, then days, then weeks, failsafes put in place by Chinese leaders and operatives released certain pieces of information to specific people and organizations most in a position to take action.

Information was distributed as the case demanded. Some figures were widely exposed, with selected watchdog and law enforcement people around the world getting it. Others found themselves confronted by individuals who they had done very wrong. Violent individuals. The Left, in particular, ate itself alive.

Shootouts broke out in the CIA and FBI, as players and agents found out exactly where they stood in the plans of their enemies and friends. Operators were given very specific information and very convincing evidence about who planned to do what to whom. The bloodbaths within the factions was worse than that between them.

Similar situations prevailed in tech, industry, and of course the political parties. Those who were not themselves killers certainly knew people who were, or quickly died. One third of the Catholic hierarchy went into hiding or otherwise disappeared. Exorcists found themselves very busy. The education leadership almost entirely vanished. College faculties whined, found that no one was listening, then found out some very unpleasant people were listening, and fell silent, but only after a few true believers were tarred and feathered.

The media spasmed, twitched, and died. At first, the major news organizations tried to spin hard, but this was so far off narrative no consistent story emerged, No one knew if the next story they ‘reported’ would get them killed and so reported nothing; a couple live on the air executions put a damper on the 4th estate’s enthusiasms, and it fell silent.

Social media suffered the same fate. Direct satellite uplinks created a new internet, outside the control of the tech oligarchs. The satellite network was too big to shut down or shoot down; anyone with a dish could get access outside the control of our betters. This favored those in the country and far from cities, who had dishes because they deplorably lacked cable. For a while, the Chinese disinformation machine tried to keep the flow going, but its operatives were coming under the same or greater pressure. Eventually, the idea of a citizen press became a reality.

The news, as reported by citizens and despite the wild rumors that inevitably got through, was more free and accurate than it had been in 200 years.

Banking, built as it is on trust and caution, effectively ceased. Those confident in their widely distributed wealth faced sudden poverty.

The assault on the White House was exciting, but ultimately brief and unsuccessful. A persistent and believable rumor arose that one heroic member of the President’s security detail discovered who the moles were in the nick of time, took direct action, and died for it – but not before the inside men’s cover was blown. Several fighter pilots, disobeying commands, shot down their peers coming in for bombing runs. Chaos broke out in the Pentagon. The ground assault was over in minutes, as the White House countermeasures worked like a charm. An eerie silence fell on Pennsylvania Avenue as properties all around burned.

And the President had a satellite uplink. The news now regularly carried his speeches and directives in full. Those outside the cities got their news and instructions unfiltered, and were the first to restore order.

All this took time, of course. The Chinese had merely installed safeguards to keep individuals in line; they had not intended it as a world-ending trip bomb. One high-level disappearance or public shooting would start to worry the next man in line; the empty offices, the rumors, the dead phonelines – eventually, Scripture was fulfilled: the guilty fled where none pursued. Even the Chinese, employing the ancient inscrutable cunning that had produced Sun Tsu, had not concerned themselves with what would happen if they all ceased to be in a flash of hydrogen fusion. The mechanisms they had laid in did not, of course, know this, and so the serpent uncoiled itself and fed for months, unsated.

It was almost a pity the Chinese Communist leadership was no longer around to enjoy it.

The rest of the world was not spared. True globalization had been achieved, where not only mammon, but guilt recognized no borders. There were a few Talleyrands, but very few. There were a few comfortable retirements in obscure third-world countries, but only financially comfortable. For months following the Chinese Event, mobs or hit men discovered a former executive in Bolivia or a political operative in New Zealand, and the results were not pleasant for them.

And that’s where we end up today. The relief efforts of flyover country and the rural areas of the other states, shipping in potatoes, flour, and beans to the smoldering cities, have kept many alive. For obvious reasons, flight from the cities to the country is heavily regulated at the point of a gun, but not out of malice. If the city populations are to be kept alive, then the country cannot be overwhelmed by people useless in the production of that food.

Leadership from Washington is, despite all history and suspicion, leading. Gradually, peace is penetrating back into the cities as looters are shot on sight, and traitors are tried and hanged. Once given a look into the bloody maw of the beast, most people are fine with this. Chicago, what’s left of it, anyway, holds out, of course. Seattle was promptly overrun by the more sane people from the suburbs. No one much knows what’s going on in L.A., as it has become in fact what it always was in its own mind – its own special universe.

No one knows how this will turn our. Taiwan and the surviving dissidents in Hong Kong have made large inroads into the coastal areas of China, but, in accordance with ancient tradition, the interior is ruled by warlords. The Catholic Church has become the main channel of order and charity over much of China. Japan, a spectator for the most part, is having a baby boom.

Europe is a mess. The Sons of the Winged Hussars have managed to restore some order in the East, and Poland, of course, rode it out all but unscathed. The operatives and traitors were exposed to few people’s surprise, and were tried and shot. Your average African and Latin American hardly noticed a difference, while those with ties to China tended to simply vanish.

We are all eagerly awaiting the election of the new pope.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: A Trumpet Sounds”

      1. Man, we were stuck with HughesNet for years. It was such a relief when we finally moved, and were able to get DSL!

        To be fair, for this scenario, existing satellite internet speeds would still work. It’s fine for text news articles, email, that sort of thing. You don’t start running into real trouble until you try for pictures, audio, video… and given what streaming-everything does to people’s brain capacity, this might even be an advantage, when it comes to organizing, planning, and disseminating critical information.

  1. …also, I think you are far from the only person thinking along these lines. I casually mentioned to my sister like, yesterday: “You know, all this crazy is coming out of the cities. We could bring it down in a week with a trucking strike.”

    1. True, to a large extent. City dwellers don’t realize how utterly dependent they (we!) are on a tiny fraction of the population that provides almost everything they need to survive.

      If I were Tom Clancy, I could turn this into quite the novel.

      But I’m not.

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