“Can you describe your experience at the Children’s Bureau?”
After rolling her eyes upwards in a thoughtful gesture, Amanda Jane Fullerton reflected upon her answer, working out the nuances she wished to convey to the three professionally-attired interviewers sitting across, consisting of two men, one woman. The interview had progressed for ten minutes so far, and Amanda was well past the introductory banter that she hoped endeared her to the decision makers. Now she was getting to the gist of why she qualified for this important position: Director, Office for Protection of Children, UNICEF. She’d already visited the vast United Nations complex twice before—once as an easily impressible girl on a seventh grade school trip, and the second as a political science major at Berkeley doing her thesis.
“I was the director of economic policy,” the twenty-six-year-old executive replied, slowing down her answer so the interviewers could take notes. “I managed an inter-disciplinary team of seven economists and three policy advisors. Our job was to research the latest statistical data and then to draw conclusions upon which policies best reduced child poverty.”
“Have you ever directed original research?” the lady in the middle, Bernice, asked.
“Yes,” Amanda replied, going on to explain about the startling results from one study she’d commissioned and brought to the attention of a legislative committee on Capitol Hill.
“Why do you want this job?” Caden, the man on her left asked, frowning.
She smoothed out her skirt. “Honestly? Our bureau is growing frustrated with the lack of direction from the Department, to whom we report. We have the proposals, but no one wants to fund them.” Her voice firmed with the passion that stirred within since her days as freshman at college. “I want to make a difference for the children. Their welfare is my life’s work.”
“Could it have something to do with the budget cuts at Health?” Lucas pointed out, rubbing his chin. “With the Great Blight still around, there are rumors… that there are more layoffs coming.”
Amanda groaned inwardly. The Great Blight, the buzz term for the latest downturn, now approaching the Great Depression in terms of devastation. Among every friend of hers, almost everyone knew of someone who had lost his or her job. The statistics didn’t lie. Twenty million jobs lost within the United States. Twenty million. She’d remembered the three homeless people on the street just down from her office back in Washington, D.C. Five years ago, there were none.
Amanda swallowed her unease. “Yes, that’s a consideration,” she said. “But my first priority is to the children. If I can help those in need at your organization, then–”
Two phone rings, nearly at the same time, interrupted Amanda’s answer. Bernice grimaced, pulled out her phone, and clicked it off. “My apologies,” she said, “my family very rarely calls me when I’m in meetings.” To her right, Caden nodded, and also switched off his phone.
Amanda glanced up even before the door opened. It was the receptionist, who’d let Amanda into the interview room with the sincere smile and pronounced dimples.
“Sorry,” he said. The look of terror on his face startled Amanda.
“Yes?” Bernice said.
The young man shook his head, his face drained of its usual ruddy glow. “India’s been bombed. With nuclear weapons.”
Amanda cupped her mouth, immobilized by the horrific news.
Amanda heard the soft click of the lock on her front door as it yielded to her key. She stifled a sob, still shaken by the devastating news that Pakistan had bombed India. Ten 15-kiloton missiles had whistled and exploded in strategic spots within the sprawling, bustling metropolis of Mumbai, reducing it to a smoldering wasteland. In the space of several seconds, fifteen and a half million souls had been banished from Earth, those who would never again gaze in wonder at a golden sunset. And, Amanda recollected with a tear trickling down her cheek, thirty percent of the victims were children, never again to clutch a threadbare teddy bear, laugh as they chased friends in a game of tag, or dare themselves to climb one branch higher on the neighborhood tree.
“Drew?” she called, looking up the narrow set of oak stairs, knowing he would still be cooped up in his office. Amanda and Drew lived in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Huntington, Virginia, which maintained a vital link to Washington, D.C. through Metro’s Yellow line. The mid-century brick duplex cost a small fortune, but it was all Amanda and her fiancé could afford while setting down roots in a rapidly gentrifying district that still allowed easy transit to the tumultuous flow and ebb of national politics in the nation’s capital.
Her fingers caressing the smooth molded railing, she climbed the stairs, her steps heavy and reluctant. She passed by the small, sparse room that Drew affectionately named the “nursery.” A fresh wave of anguish engulfed Amanda, and she broke out sobbing once more. She shuddered as she recalled the heavy rain that had followed her to LaGuardia Airport, forming ominous soot-encrusted puddles on the asphalt—“black rain” they had called it.
Nuclear winter was coming, the news warned. With the nuclear explosions of the past forty-eight hours, with more prophesized to come shortly, the planet would stagger into a new uncharted climate worldwide, with temperatures plunging.
But that was not the worst of it. India was now threatening to retaliate against Pakistan by bombing Pakistan’s largest city, Kirachi, and moreover, deploy double the nuclear destruction that had just torn apart its collective soul. China and the United States blustered everyone else with war games, readying their nuclear stockpiles for the upcoming apocalypse. In hushed tones, stone-faced anchors worldwide on electronic screens predicted World War Three, or worse, the end of the human race.
Drew wants us to get married, and have children. He’s made that clear from the first date we had, when we held hands and walked by a playground nearby the Berkeley campus. He pointed out a precocious blonde girl and said, “Can you imagine giving so much love to a child like this?” But I’ve told him I’m not ready. I’m so overwhelmed with the pressing issues of child poverty all across the country, and it sickens me. And in developing countries, the situation affecting children is even more dire. How can I even think about having my own, until I’ve accomplished more?
She walked into their bedroom, noticing his fresh-pressed suit—which he probably picked up recently at the laundromat—and flicked away a piece of lint that rested upon the shirt’s stiff collar.
She sighed, her mind overrun by the horrifying images of nuclear clouds and angry faces of world leaders on the news. I’ve put off the wedding date too many times now. I’ve dragged him away from San Francisco all the way to the East Coast, and I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. And now I’m applying for a job in New York! He’ll blow up if he learns I’m considering another move. And his job is threatened too; he just got it through connections when he had to move to D.C. so he could be with me. But the downturn’s bad everywhere, all the high-pay jobs are vanishing one by one, as our economy tanks. I may be next.
She wiped away more tears. I like Drew, I really do. But am I in love with him? He’s too…
She struggled for the right word. When I’m excited and talk about world affairs, he pretends to be interested, but I can tell his heart isn’t in it. He’d rather plop himself on a sofa and watch a crime drama—the more shooting, the better. He loves listening to classical music and he used to take me to the orchestra on the spur of the moment, but lately we haven’t been able to afford it.
Her heart leaped as she heard the door open downstairs and then Drew’s shout, “Hey, Amanda! You home?” Craving intimacy, Amanda bounded down the stairs, hugging Drew and savoring the faint scent of fresh lavender.
She gazed at his flaxen crew cut and his blue eyes as he grasped her by the shoulders. “You okay?” he asked, his voice warm.
“Yeah, I just got back. It’s so terrible out there, just awful.”
“I heard. India bombed back. They got Kirachi.”
Her mind freshly numb, Amanda felt a huge, inert stone in the pit of her stomach. Dazed, she sat back against the sofa, the color drained from her face. “My gosh,” she whispered.
“Twenty million more dead is what I heard,” he said, his voice now so quiet that she had to strain to hear.
“When does it stop?” Amanda shouted, her arms thrashing about. “When does this insanity end?” She allowed the simmering anger to wash over her, like releasing a beast within. Something she rarely ever did.
Drew embraced her and held her firm. “Come with me,” he said, “Let’s go back to San Fran. We’ll think about what to do with this house, but–”
Mortified, she pushed away from him. “What?”
“It’s our home. My mom’s worried sick about us. She says this is prime territory for a missile attack from China.”
“There’s been no declaration of war!” she shouted back.
He glared. Her heart sank as she experienced the same helpless feeling, one of starting an argument that never ended, never resolved itself.
“You think we’re in a fantasy?” he demanded, shaking her shoulders. “That everyone’s going to play nice? Besides, your job’s on the chopping block, and you know it.”
“That’s why I was in New York!”
She saw the jolt of his head and the icy glare in his eyes.
“So you’re applying—again?” He stood two feet away from her, but it might as well have been a yawning mile.
“I guess,” she said, surprised how tinny and contrite her voice sounded.
He sucked in a deep breath. He never liked showing his emotions—unmanly, as it were. Crossing his arms, he said, sounding hurt, “I didn’t know that.”
“Drew…” She reached out to touch him on his sleeve.
But he had already yanked away his arm. “No, no, no. Don’t worry about me. You know I follow you everywhere you go. No, Washington wasn’t enough. You had every right to assume that I would follow you on yet another hare-brained scheme, just because…”
“There’s a nuclear war out there, and you’re saying…”
“Damn right I am!”
“Do you even hear yourself talking! I can’t believe…”
“Screw you, Amanda, royally ten times over,” he finally said, his voice soft and measured, biting off the end of every word.
Stunned, unresponsive, Amanda could only blink, her entire body stiff.
“I’m leaving, but I’ll be back,” said Drew as he turned to leave.
Amanda stood helpless against the onslaught of the past twenty-four hours. She opened her mouth, but no words came out.
Amanda Fullerton would always remember exactly where she was on April 30th, when the Liberators took control.
It was the morning after her arrival home from the U.N. job interview, the stomach-churning annihilation of Kirachi, and her fight with Drew. Not that her personal affairs mattered. What truly mattered was the ongoing worldwide devastation as the world slid toward World War III, as stock markets tumbled and deaths racketed up to the millions. But the political is the personal, she recalled, and her immediate affairs only added to her misery.
She’d called her work at 8:30 a.m. sharp, and despite her nagging conscience, she’d advised she was sick and couldn’t come in to work today. The Children’s Bureau’s sympathetic receptionist, Maude, told her that due to the ongoing worldwide crisis, half of the office staff and management had decided not to report to work, so please not to worry. Her chest tightened as she listened, knowing she was not the only one depressed today.
She glanced at the empty half of the bed, knowing that Drew was staying over at Stan’s, his colleague from work. He’d left her a text message last night. An adoring son, he was probably on the phone with his mother, trying to calm her fears of the impending apocalypse. As for her own friends and family, she had answered, returned, or initiated nineteen calls in a row, a personal record for her. She talked at length with her loved ones—first her parents, then her older brother, Adam, and then on to her favorite aunts, uncles, and cousins, following up with her best friends. Her mother had pleaded with her to visit, but after checking out all the travel options on the Internet—with many websites crashing due to the overwhelming demand---she discovered within minutes that all reservations for air, rail, and rental cars were exhausted. There was no way to escape Washington, D.C. However, her father’s cousin lived in nearby Baltimore, and despite the grinding gridlock now gripping the capital, she’d agreed to pick up Amanda in two days, and together, they would endure the four-day road trip to northern California. I’ll just take an early vacation from work, Amanda thought. Maybe by the time I return, this will all blow over—or (she gulped) this will all blow up.
In her bathrobe, she trudged down the stairs to an empty kitchen, and made herself a simple breakfast. She sat in her favorite chair and switched on the rice grain-thin hologram television image on her wall.
Every channel featured terrifying images of a world going insane. Children and parents sobbing for their lost relatives, who died because they’d lived in a city targeted for nuclear destruction. Bombast from world leaders who pointed fingers, but had no clue how to swerve their people away from the precipice. Ticker symbols that flashed on electronic boards, showing the collapse in stock prices.
Shaking her head, Amanda commanded the screen to vanish. I really, really need to get out, no matter how bad things are. I’ll just go to The Steaming Mug, my favorite café.
She texted a message to Drew:Sorry you didn’t sleep over last night. I miss you. The world’s gone to hell, huh? Please come home soon. You okay? When she showered, she shuddered for a moment. Is the water steaming out of the showerhead radioactive? Get over it, ninny! This is nothing compared to the devastation half a world away! She thought again of the millions of people dying as the nuclear inferno raged around them, snuffing out their screams.
At The Steaming Mug, she stood facing the glass enclosures displaying her favorite pastries, and spotted Rachel brewing espresso from the slick, steampunk-looking machine.
“Not many people today,” Amanda said, her words somber.
Rachel wasn’t her usual bubbly, perky self. “No. The usual?”
Amanda nodded, and walked over to the table in the corner, wanting to be alone. She draped her jacket over her favorite chair, returned to the counter to pick up her peppermint tea, and sat down, looking through the large window.
When she heard an excited buzz, she glanced at the café’s mounted television screen. It was the President. Arthur Kellogg Walker sat behind the iconic desk of the Oval Office, about to begin his monumental address to the nation. Two flags appeared in the backdrop; one displaying the Stars and Stripes, and the other bearing the Seal of the President. His face betrayed the sleepless nights and endless emergency meetings ever since the nuclear abomination struck Mumbai.
“My fellow Americans,” President Walker addressed the nation. “It was three years ago that you, united as a people, cast your ballots and placed your faith in me as your president, an honor that I deeply took to heart. When I swore my oath of office, I immediately thought of each and every one of you.”
He spoke into the camera with the same cadence and charisma that had won him the election, yet Amanda could see that his shoulders were drooping and he had dark bags under his eyes. This was a president, she thought, who never expected to govern during one of the worst crises in world history.
“…And so,” the president continued after briefly detailing the geopolitical advances of nuclear stockpiles by two other superpowers, Russia and China, “America stands strong against intimidation, against those who seek to extinguish America’s insatiable desire for freedom and democracy. After consulting with my Cabinet, the National Security Council, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we have commanded our warheads to be on full alert. I understand how frightening it is to every American family to contemplate a nuclear explosion in our towns, to think our way of life will end. Not in the distant future, not in ten years, but today.” His eyes blazing, his voice deepening, he jabbed his finger onto the polished surface of his desk. “But make no mistake, as President–”
The live feed terminated. All Amanda could see on the screen was a cloud of random pixels of grey, black, and white.
Her heart tightened as she feared that it was not a technical glitch that had interrupted the President’s address, but rather the prophetic horsemen heralding the drumbeat of war.
As Amanda placed her hand over her heart, confused murmurs rippled through the café like flames spreading across a puddle of gasoline. Conversations trailed off and people got to their feet, unthinking. A middle-aged woman standing by the milk and sugar counter dropped her coffee at her feet, her mouth wide open and her hands shaking. Every head in the small café focused on the TV. As everyone gasped, the feed of the president that had mysteriously cut out had come back on. Once again, they were looking at the familiar shot of the Oval Office and the president’s chair. But now the president was gone, replaced by four twenty-somethings in solid-colored shirts—two men, two women. But at the center of attention was the purple-shirted woman sitting upon the president’s desk out in front, the toe of her sleek leather moccasin grazing the carpet.
“Good morning, North America,” the purple-clad woman said. “My name is Indie. My friends and I would like to welcome all of you to the new world order. We will be in charge now. You may call us The Liberators.” As the camera zoomed in on Indie’s face, Amanda observed her oval face, framed by brown hair that fell just short of her shoulders. Her cheekbones were pronounced, giving prominence to her earthen eyes. Golden hoops dangled from her earlobes, and the sparkle created a halo effect around her face.
Amanda stared at the screen in awe, her hands shaking. What was going on? Who were these people—these young adults who looked like they were her age—who had somehow gotten into the West Wing and taken over the president’s broadcast?
“With the incomprehensible loss of millions of lives, and the upheaval facing your world,” Indie went on, “we understand that you, your families, your loved ones are very afraid and upset about what’s next. Let me assure you, this crisis will end, right now. Never in human history have millions died within the space of a few days, and we’re just as shocked and dismayed as you concerning the events in Mumbai and Kirachi. As you have seen from the Oval Office, millions more lives were at risk. We simply cannot allow more of you—and your children—to be at risk of total nuclear annihilation. Let me sum up this for you: the human race was facing a tipping point, one that is most unacceptable to your basic right to live. A threat to the very existence of our global village.”
Now the excited hush that had overtaken the coffee shop grew to a frantic eddy of panicked questions and desperate denials. “No way!” a young man called out from somewhere near the cash register. “This gotta be a hoax!”
“Shh!” said a grey-haired woman in a patterned black-and-white dress standing only five feet to the side of the screen.
Indie’s stern face conveyed both solemnity and confidence. “We regret that this had to happen, and rest assured, we did not make this decision lightly. Our fellow Liberators around the world are taking control of every country, every continent. Trust us, the world will be safer in our hands. To demonstrate what we mean, in order to destroy those agents of slaughter, we have launched every nuclear missile on the planet…”
Her remaining words were drowned out by the screams that followed, as several customers exited the café, scrambling towards the doors, so they could look outside and witness the end of the world.
Sliding off her stool and abandoning her coffee, Amanda pushed through the crowd and ran outside to look up to the sky. High up above, the criss-crossing contrails of hundreds of missiles shredded the sky.
It was true. The missiles had been launched.
All around her, she heard frantic screams as the bystanders looked to the heavens, shaking their heads at the nuclear warheads flying overhead. It was impossible to tell from this distance where any of the projectiles were targeted, but there were so many of them that it didn’t seem to matter. Dread stalked her heart as Amanda remembered where she was standing right now—Washington, D.C., Ground Zero for any nuclear attack on America.
Tears streamed down Amanda’s face as she stared up at the thatched pattern of doom. She dug into her pocket and fumbled to call her parents, certain that this would be her last chance to speak to them.
Before she could finish dialing, the image of Indie and her three partners appeared in the sky. It was projected there, as if on a giant movie screen that had somehow been plastered to the atmosphere.
“Now, watch,” Indie continued, her voice impossibly calm. “Together, let’s neutralize the threat, shall we?”
What? Amanda asked in her head. How can you neutralize the threat of nuclear winter when you just set it in motion?
As Amanda mulled over the stunning developments, Indie snapped her fingers and the four Liberators disappeared, herself included. More confusion rippled throughout the bustling street as the giant screen in the sky lingered on the shot of the empty desk. The image cut to a new place: the skies above Washington, D.C.
The four Liberators were hovering above the capital, staying afloat with the ease of lilies in a pond. Amanda watched the televised image of the flying youths nodding to one another, then splitting off in different directions. The giant screen split into four quadrants and separated, each quarter following one Liberator.
Each of them shot across the United States in seconds, flying in excess of the speed of sound from one coast to another until they were positioned over each corner of the continent. Together they formed a strategic network over not only the U.S., but Canada, Mexico and Central America as well.
“Now!” Indie called out. In unison, they lifted their arms over their heads and shut their eyes. The giant screen split yet again, showing more Liberators flying above other parts of the planet. A dark-skinned boy in a red shirt hovered over the Horn of Africa, his arms raised. An Asian girl in a purple shirt had struck the same pose over Beijing. There were twenty of them in all, and their images filled the sky. Amanda stood outside the café, staring up at the young people who were projected up against the heavens, flying like superheroes.
How are they doing this? she thought.
Then, all of a sudden, the different screens became one again, and the image changed to a live satellite feed of Earth. It was as if the Liberators had held a gigantic mirror up to the planet. Amanda and the others on the quad stared up at the overwhelming spectacle, marveling with mixed wonder and fear as the nuclear missiles reached the zenith of their arc.
But before the missiles changed direction and fell back to Earth, where they would no doubt wipe the human race off the face of whatever smoldering rock remained, something happened. Instead of surrendering to gravity and being pulled toward the planet, the missiles rocketed away from Earth, thanks to some unseen force.
The screen split up again, showing a mixture of flying Liberators with their hands in the air and close-ups of the warheads as they shot out into space. Watching in awe, Amanda thought it clever that each of the “superheroes” appeared to have an air bubble around his or her head. Finally, when the weapons of mass destruction were far above the atmosphere, the Liberators clenched their fists in unison. The nuclear payloads erupted in brilliant orbs of white light that ballooned out and then collapsed in the vacuum of space, imploding as suddenly as they had exploded. Far below the nuclear detonations, Earth remained untouched and safe.
Humanity had just been treated to a global fireworks display.
Sighs of relief could be heard from the spectators gathered together on the block, punctuated by eruptions of cheers. However, some bystanders stood stone-faced, dumbstruck out of disbelief, or still angry at the monumental decision the wizards had seized from their turf.
The screen switched back to the single shot of the president’s desk, and there appeared Indie and her three original cohorts. “Never again will the human race be threatened by those evil agents of death,” she said. “However, armies are amassed, and your national economies are on the verge of collapse—as are your paychecks and your investments. Therefore, it is imperative that we eliminate conventional weapons and secure the money supply, and this requires our immediate attention. We will explain everything later this evening, and we apologize in advance for the necessary wait.”
And then, as Amanda reached for her phone to call her mother right away, the giant billboard-like screen in the sky disappeared.
A deeply upset Arthur Kellogg Walker hurried into the Roosevelt Room, situated within the West Wing of the White House. After a heated exchange with the four invaders who’d stormed out of nowhere into the Oval Office, he’d found himself in a dazed state standing on a street corner in location he could only guess to be a typical American city. Now, thanks to an emergency call through his prized secure phone, he’d arranged for an immediate airlift back to the White House.
“Mr. President,” the guard saluted him. The President didn’t even glance at him.
The Secretary of Defense stood up to greet him, but was unceremoniously rebuffed. “Mr. President, are you okay?”
President Walker waved him off and snarled. “I’m fine. Let’s get on with it.”
The entire Joint Chiefs of Staff stood around the cabinet table, eyeing their leader with fearful anticipation.
Walker seated himself at the end of the table, and the others followed. He glanced around quickly, and then said, “I’ll get right to it. We’re facing a crisis. We’re being attacked by magical beings—goddamn wizards—who’ve invaded not only the United States, but all other superpowers around the world.”
He paused. “I somehow ended up in Columbus, of all places. I had to call in a helicopter to get back.” He swallowed. He had been unceremoniously deposited at the intersection of High Street and Price Avenue in the Ohio city, where dozens of citizens blinked in surprise at seeing their leader completely alone, with no security staff or entourage.
Now, everyone else stared at President Walker. The chairman raised his eyebrows and asked, “Magic?”
Walker ignored him. “We’ve no time to lose. I’ll tell you what I’ve been briefed on.” He looked around the table in a sweeping motion. “All our deployed missiles have been destroyed. I’ve been told all the missiles deployed from Russia, India, Britain, France, China, North Korea, and Pakistan have also been destroyed.” He checked his notes. “Both the sea-launched and land-based missiles.
President Walker held up his hand. “But there’s an emergency now. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing in D.C., and the Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth are under siege. All printing of our money has ceased for the time being.” He shot a concerned look at his chairman. “I’m told that you’ve mobilized troops.”
Bradley Maginnes, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, frantically input data on his remote control, opening up the sliding panels, and then fumbling with the live video feed. Some of the participants nervously stole glances at the static on the flat-panel hologram, despite the president’s commanding presence.
When the video finally started transmitting, Maginnes spoke in a deep voice. “An hour before the glass enclosure appeared—out of nowhere—we received a bomb threat at the Treasury Department, requiring us to evacuate the entire building immediately.” He glanced at his notes. “Same for the Fort Worth facility.”
He pointed at the screen, which was now showing tanks rolling down the street in front of the imposing, multi-pillar building that was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Situated several feet in front of it was a glass wall, bouncing off the sun’s rays. “The army’s now in position to take control. We’re ready to act on your orders, Mr. President.”
President Walker thoughtfully studied the images, especially the intimidating translucent barrier that had materialized out of nowhere. “Who did this? And what’s that material?”
The chief replied, “We believe the lady who barged into your office did it. Several eyewitnesses identified the same woman who gave that broadcast—Indie, she called herself. She was waving her arms at the building shortly before the enclosure appeared.”
He tried to recall the next question. “As for the material, we’re not sure. We’ve fired at it with assault weapons. No damage. Appears to be some type of impenetrable polymer.”
Walker’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know who—or what—is behind this, but we have to act decisively.” He pointed at Maginnes. “You take care of it. Destroy the barrier.”
“And Fort Worth too, sir?”
“Both. Do it.”
Three tanks lined up, side by side, on Fourteenth Street Southwest in Washington, D.C., a hundred feet apart. Their weapons were pointed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which printed billions of dollars in various denominations every day. Dozens of Army troops gathered in military formation behind the tanks. They faced a massive, three-foot thick, transparent barrier that surrounded the entire building. The soldiers and distant onlookers stared in wonder at the gigantic structure that had appeared out of nowhere.
Acting on General Maginnes’ order, the middle tank fired a volley directly into the barrier.
A huge blast thundered at the point of impact, emitting an enormous flash and clouds of thick, black smoke. The deafening sound of the detonation caused the troops nearby to cover their ears.
When the smoke cleared, the troops observed the shattered debris from the ammunition strewn around the area.
The effect on the transparent wall: nothing.
The soldiers heard a command from the sky, as if a goddess issued edicts from the heavens.
“Get out of the tanks now!”
They craned their heads and spotted, sixty feet up in the sky, the young woman whom they recognized from her omnipresent bulletin-board broadcast before millions—Indie. Just like she did in her first public appearance, she wore black slacks and a long-sleeved purple shirt that fit tightly to her well-toned body. They looked for any structure supporting her, but there was none.
Despite the distance, they could hear Indie clearly as though she was just an arm’s length away. She was not using a megaphone or public announcement system, but her voice resonated. Some began to wonder if she was a spiritual force commanded down from the heavens, since her voice was everywhere.
The troops saw a blur behind her. When the moving object came to a stop, they realized it was another flying woman. This one wore a long-sleeved, blue shirt, equally form-fitting. The two magical beings hovered together, a sisterhood looking down at the bewildered humans. Indie held up her finger. “I am going to destroy the tanks on the count of twenty, so I advise you all to get out and move back!” She started chanting, “One, two, three…”
In the tank on the left, three soldiers clambered out through the hatch.
“…seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty,” she finished. “My goodness. It appears that two tanks didn’t hear me.” She turned to the woman in blue. “What do you think of that, Justica?”
Justica pointed at the one empty tank and said, “This is what I think.” The formidable tank gun bent with a loud creak, until it was pointing back at the tank itself. She quickly aimed at the two remaining tanks, causing their tank guns to twist. Cre-aa-kk! Cre-aa-kk! The once-imposing tank guns crumpled as if they were made of aluminium foil.
Using assault machine guns, several soldiers fired at the two wizard women in the air. The bullets ricocheted off a force field and sped past the heads of the shooters.
“Let me finish,” said Justica, sounding like a friend wishing to pitch in a shared chore. Twisting her hand and wagging a slender finger, she pointed at the recently vacated tank. It exploded into a raging fireball. The nearby soldiers buckled down to the ground, shielding their heads from the flaming debris scattering all around them.
“Now get out!” she yelled at the two remaining tanks.
The tank operators didn’t need any more warning. Clenching the rims with white-knuckled fingers, they bolted from the hatches of the two lone holdout tanks. Taking measured steps backward, the soldiers retreated from the two tanks, their trained eyes on standby and their fingers trigger-ready.
The two remaining tanks spontaneously combusted with ear-splitting booms, sending pillars of fire and smoke into the air. Thick, noxious, black clouds swept over the army, causing fits of coughing and teary eyes.
“Bloody hell,” Vice President Moresby murmured from the Roosevelt Room as he watched the disturbing images on television.
“Sirs,” said the voice on the speaker in the Roosevelt Room, “we’ve received word that two male magicians are confronting the army in Fort Worth.”