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"Back Into Hell"

"Back Into Hell"

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Published by Polaris93
The Eris War. Volume II: The Dragon from the Isles. Book 1: Independence Day. The Two-Day War, its immediate aftermath, and its implcations for the future. Told from the point of view of Richard Ransdell, Baron of Santa Barbara Keep. Events of the first day of the Two-Day War, continued.
The Eris War. Volume II: The Dragon from the Isles. Book 1: Independence Day. The Two-Day War, its immediate aftermath, and its implcations for the future. Told from the point of view of Richard Ransdell, Baron of Santa Barbara Keep. Events of the first day of the Two-Day War, continued.

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Published by: Polaris93 on Nov 04, 2010
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11/04/2010

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Yael Dragwyla and Rich RansdellFirst North American rightsemail: polaris93@aol.com2,900 wordshttp://polaris93.livejournal.com/
The Eris War
Volume II: The Dragon from the Isles
Book 1: Independence Day
Chapter 9: Back Into Hell
Sure enough, an announcer was saying, his voice taut with barely-contained, adrenaline-chargedexcitement, “— scene at The Dalles, Oregon, on the eastern bank of the Columbia River, where a massiverescue operation is now being mounted to save hundreds of refugees there who are now attempting to crossover the Columbia to Oregon from the devastated state of Washington! Members of our news-reportingteams now in that area are now on-site to bring you the latest news from The Dalles and other cities alongthe banks of the Columbia River, as well as from Coeur d’Alene and other locations along the Washington-Idaho border, where rescue efforts by local citizens as well as United States military units – augmentednow by Canadian military and police – are working non-stop to save victims of the literally world-shakingevents in Washington State beginning early this morning. We now turn you over to Ken Hunter, chief of operations for CNN-News in The Dalles. Ken?”“ Yes, Warren! – Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ken Hunter of CNN news, now broadcasting to youlive from The Dalles, Oregon, where a tremendous rescue operation is now in place as thousands of localcitizens together with local and state police and members of the Canadian and United States military aredoing everything possible to help survivors of the catastrophic events that have taken place in neighboringWashington State early this morning make it across the Columbia River to safety in Oregon.”The POV jumped much closer to the river. In the foreground was Ken Hunter, a tall, angular black man in his mid-forties or so, dressed in a heavy leather bomber jacket, dark pants, and high-topped hiking boots, standing so that his left profile was to the camera. Rapidly shifting his gaze back and forth between
 
the camera and the chaotic scene down by the river bank, he said, “Since early this morning, right after thecatastrophic eruptions of several major volcanoes in Washington State and the subsequent disaster that hasdemolished the entire western portion of that state, in spite of the fact that since then, the citizens of thisarea have been hard-hit by several strong earthquakes themselves, nearly every able-bodied citizen of TheDalles is out here by the river, many trying to cross it by whatever means possible, in order to help bringsurvivors of the Washington State disaster back across the Columbia River to safety in The Dalles. Inaddition, countless units of the National Guard, the United States Army, the Red Cross, Canadian military personnel, and many others have arrived here over the last two hours to aid in this effort. As refugees are brought to safety on this bank of the Columbia, they are immediately evacuated by ambulance, helicopter,Army personnel carriers, airplanes, even civilian transport selflessly donated by local citizens, whatever isavailable, to refugee centers now being set up near Oregon’s borders with Idaho and California as well as places even further removed from the devastated Washington State.“And it isn’t only humans that are the objects of these rescue efforts. As you will shortly see,numerous animals, both domestic and wild, some brought by loving owners and others fleeing fromWashington State of their own initiative, are also benefiting from these efforts. Those engaged in thismassive rescue operation don’t seem to differentiate much between human and non-human refugees in their efforts to save all that they can . . .” Now the scene shifted to a POV about 100 feet from the bank of the river. Here, if anything, it waseven more chaotic than in the area where Hunter stood. The only way that one could tell rescuer fromrefugee, if any, was that in general the refugees were facing toward the near bank of the rescuers, while therescuers, moving to help the refugees across, were facing the far bank. The exceptions included weepingmen, women, and children, their faces and other visible parts of their bodies streaked with soot, ash, dirt,and blood, their clothing begrimed, often scorched, blood-streaked, or in tatters, sitting in Zodiacs and other rescue boats crewed by those involved in the rescue operation, staring back at the wild, tumbled devastationthat was all that was left of what had been their towns, their cities, their homes and livelihoods (the grimlydetermined pilots of those boats, intent solely on reaching the eastern bank of the river with themselves andtheir living cargo intact, of course faced forward, away from their passengers, toward the hope of safety).Helicopters and even light planes could be seen landing and taking off again from the western bank of theriver, airlifting refugees out as fast as possible. And, in many cases, rather than waiting for boats or aircraftto take them across, deciding to take their chances with the river, the people and animals crowding theriver’s western bank simply dove in and started swimming with all their strength toward the other shore.The vast numbers of people involved in the operation somehow managed to keep themselves in asemblance of order, leaving broad lanes of open ground over which refugees could walk, limp, or becarried from the river to the area where Red Cross, military, and medical personnel triage teams werestationed. Other sections of the riverbank seemed to be reserved as launching stages for the many boatsthat were being used in the rescue efforts. Even so, it was hard to understand how those huge, surgingthrongs of people, waving, shouting, screaming orders at one another and encouragement to the refugeeswho wailed and cried for help, did not end up crushing some of their members to death. The riverbanks on both sides of the river boiled wildly with human beings and animals of all kinds as well as various types of rescue vehicles, reminding me a little of the scenes of Hell painted by Hieronymus Bosch – a resemblancemade even stronger by the rumbling, shaking ground and enormous plumes of black smoke and belchingfire some distance to the west. Every so often the surface of the river would rise up in a vast ripple moving
up
the Columbia, a sign of yet another aftershock, frequently spilling refugees and rescuers alike out of Zodiacs into the water, or swamping a bravely swimming man or woman or dog or cat or deer, pulling himor her or it under without a trace, never to reappear save, perhaps, as a water-logged corpse on one or another bank of the river far downstream.The rescuers were as motley a crew as those they were trying to save. Throngs of yellow-gownedBuddhist monks worked side-by-side with ministers in white shirts, dark pants, and backward collars, skull-capped men who looked as if they had been preparing to go to synagogue when the disaster hit, crews of men and women wearing the uniforms of local, state, and national police, rescue, and military units,ordinary citizens in a variety of dress and undress, even several dogs and a couple of horses that had been pressed into service to help pull people out of the water and get them to safety. Now Hunter was saying, “— even several busloads of convicts who were on their way to fight brushfires in Idaho, Oregon, and Eastern Washington but were reassigned here when it became evident thattheir efforts were needed here more.
 
“Ladies and gentlemen, in spite of all the horror that this morning has brought us all, I can’t help butfind this one of the most exalting scenes I have ever seen in my life! Truly, this is America at its finest – the America of neighbors and friends, the America that has made a home for every ethnic group and culturein the world! Here on the banks of the Columbia, there are members of the congregation of one of themany Islamic mosques in this area, two Jewish synagogues, the members of the First Presbyterian Churchand those of St. Michael’s Cathedral here in The Dalles, and countless ordinary citizens, all workingtogether selflessly along with National Guard units, the Red Cross, police, fire, and rescue personnel, andmany others to help those fleeing from the terrifying events that have taken place this morning inWashington State! They are aided in this by members of Canada’s National Guard and Army units, and Iunderstand that National Guard units from many other states will soon arrive here by helicopter and airliftto help out.“Nor do those involved in this colossal rescue operation make any distinctions among those they areworking so hard and well to save. As you can see, the refugees from Washington State include not onlyhuman beings of every description, but also, in many cases, beloved household pets and even wild animalsof all kinds . . .” Now the scene shifted rapidly from section to section of the river. We watched men in skullcapsstruggling to help a group of about a dozen people, including three small children, onto the shore from theZodiac that had brought them across, then two Buddhist monks and someone who might have been aRoman Catholic priest tenderly lifting an old, old woman up out of another and, gently placing her on astretcher lying on the ground at their feet, and beginning to carry her toward a waiting ambulance. Someteenagers of both sexes were motoring up and down the river in a Zodiac, picking up the occasional dog or cat or other small animal that had begun the heart-breaking effort of trying to swim the river, carrying theanimals they had rescued to the eastern bank of the river, there turning them over to those standing by onthe shore to be cared for, then going back for more. A man of about thirty had taken yet another Zodiacand, by himself, was crossing and re-crossing the Columbia to rescue one refugee after another, regardlessof race, color, creed, gender, or species, battling the roaring surges of water thrown up by the recurringaftershocks with an élan like that of a kid on a holiday from school. As we watched, he brought over twowomen, then went back again and picked up three little boys and brought them over. Then, once moreheading for the river’s west bank, he picked up two soot-streaked cats, a mastiff with a gigantic, gapingwound on its left flank and three parallel gouges made by something sharp and jagged scoring its neck, anda weasel with its right foreleg dangling uselessly as he weaved his way back and forth over the river. Uponreaching the river’s western bank, he collected an old black man dressed in scorched, tattered clothingsoaked with blood from wounds on his torso and thighs who had somehow made his way down to the edgeof the river, where he had fallen to his knees, crying his heart out. Finally the intrepid Zodiac captain brought all of them, cats, dog, weasel, and man, safely back to the eastern bank, where Red Cross workersand a PAWS truck were waiting to collect his salvage. Throughout the trip, the four non-human beings hehad rescued lay slumped on the floor of the Zodiac, so traumatized by their terror they barely moved at all.Like animals huddled by a river where they had taken refuge from a great forest-fire, or those coming to thelast remaining waterhole in a time of all-consuming drought, they never made the slightest attempt to harmone another, nor did any of them ever try to leave the boat, their only thought to stay in what had proved to be a place of safety in the midst of something that was destroying their whole world, regardless of who or what else shared it with them.On and on and on it went, the tides of living flesh pushing ever eastward across the river, somedrowning or being pulled under by currents made treacherous due to aftershocks, but far more reaching theeastern bank and safety: men, women, children, black, white, Asian-American, Mexican-American, human beings of every age, from every walk of life; horses, dogs, and cats; a pet llama and a gigantic pet tortoisetenderly shepherded across by its owner and the men in a Zodiac who rescued them both; an iguana,numerous parrots and other pet birds, and a large boa constrictor, looped around the shoulders of a womanwearing a tattered housedress and nothing else (oh, how I’d love to know the story of 
that 
one!); and wildanimals of all kinds, including numerous deer, several dazed bears (immediately shot with tranquilizer gunsand trucked off via the US Forest Service), the occasional snake who somehow managed to make it acrossthe river by itself, weasels, pine martins, wolverines, black-footed ferrets, raccoons, badgers, wolves,coyotes, and so on and on and on, a never-ending stream of Life doggedly making for safety any way itcould. In the meantime, the skies above, already darkened with smoke both from the fires sweepingthrough much of the state and from the horror that had taken place earlier in Western Washington, becameeven darker with the endless clouds of birds of every description that filled them, flying west to east, north

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