It had been the scene of a young Afghan woman being publicly beaten by a tribal elder for talking to a boy on her mobile phone that had done it. There had been those in the administration in DC who had already crafted plans, but the media response to the incident had finally convinced the president, a decent man and father of daughters, to support the plan.
The military had already selected the site in rural Afghanistan. Effectively a mountaintop fortress, accessible by air, but otherwise protected by sheer cliffs on nearly all sides, and with a ground access that could be transformed into a bloody killzone if needed. It had its own water source, grounds for crops and cattle, good solar power frontage and, the military reckoned, it could house up to 30,000 people if planned properly.
Its approach was constantly surveyed by drones and its own designated NSA satellite. Female NSA operatives volunteered their own free time to guard over the site.
It was called Operation Themyscira, after the fictional home of Wonder Woman. The name would become more and more appropriate as time moved on.
The US president was clear in his address. The US had left Afghanistan. But it was not abandoning the women of Afghanistan. There would be a refuge for them, defended firstly by the United States, where women could flee to, run by women, for women.
Tom put the very last box into the truck with not a little bit of relief, as it was pretty much the last bit of space in the truck. Molly and the kids were going through the house, supposedly checking to see if there was anything left, but in reality dragging out their departure. There’d been tears from the kids when they’d told them they were moving, and he hardly blamed them. This was the house they’d grown up in. The school they attended was just three blocks over, and they’d trick or treated on these doors with other kids, or attended birthday parties or barbeques in other people’s backyards so many times. This was home.
It wasn’t the first time he’d had to move house, but this had been different. Of course it had. For one, he’d had to do most of the loading himself, if only because so many of the people who might have helped were busying packing their own families’ stuff, or had already moved. Then there were those neighbours who might have helped in the past, but now just glared through a window.
As the kids made their final rounds, Tom lowered the US flag that flapped in the light breeze from the pole over the porch. A former marine, he treated it with respect, carefully folding it as per regulation and placing it snugly in the trunk of the car, between two pillows so as to not get creased. There was a lot of talk about new flags these days.
Tom looked at his watch. They were just on time.
“Ok, let’s go,” he shouted into the house, and the family appeared at the door. Molly was struggling to hold back tears.
Tom gave her a hug and closed the door behind them, and they all got into the car. He was determined not to look back as they pulled away.
Their appointment was not far away, and it wouldn’t be a disaster if they missed it, but Tom wanted to just move on and get things done. He wanted to be in the new house, and wouldn’t feel comfortable until…well…he didn’t like to think about it.
The appointment was in a Walmart car park which had been temporarily taken over by the army for the purpose. Tom joined a queue of cars waiting. He was reassured to see US Army soldiers and armoured vehicles. Overhead a helicopter patrolled noisily.
“Honey, have you got…” he said to Molly, but she was way ahead of him, and had them in her hand. A soldier with a clipboard reached the car, and Tom rolled down the window.
“Good afternoon sergeant,” Tom said.
“Good afternoon sir. Can I take your IDs please?”
Tom handed over their United States Citizen identity cards. The soldier thanked him, and scanned each into a handheld scanner, then peeked into the automobile to match faces.
“Good afternoon ladies: we’ll have you ready very quickly.”
He handed back the cards, noted the car registration, and leaned in again.
“You’re with 246. About ten minutes I’d say.”
Tom thanked him, and closed the window.
Tom looked at the cards again. He still couldn’t quite believe he had to carry mandatory identification, but he understood why. He remembered the night Molly and he had sat down and made the decision, as every American family did.
A soldier stood on the back of a jeep and spoke through a bullhorn.
“Ladies and gentlemen, could those of you in convoy 246 please follow us. You all have been issued with your emergency hotline number. If you have a problem during the convoy please call it. Do not leave the convoy without calling as we will not be stopping other than at designated break areas.”
Tom checked his gas level again: he’d filled the tank as the kids were bringing down their boxes. They had water, snacks, phones were charged, and he’d make sure everyone had used the bathroom.
The army vehicles roared into life, and pulled out, the hundred or so civilian vehicles following them, a collection of stationwagons, SUVs, rental trucks and RVs. What struck Tom was that all had that overloaded look, like each was packing a family’s whole life into them, which was often true. As they drove through the suburbs they could see state police cars with flashing lights blocking roads to let them pass the agreed route. Occasionally crowds of protestors had gathered to hurl abuse, waving flags. The soldiers on the vehicles in the convoy watched those crowds carefully as they passed.
They were among the last convoys to leave. After Sunday, it was up to people to make their own arrangements, and whilst that technically shouldn’t be an issue following the Biden-DeSantis Accord, Tom was still glad they had an army escort. There had been stories. People killed, families hounded from neighborhoods they’d lived in their whole lives, militias ordering people to leave states. Yet it was still better than the full frontal civil war that had been brewing. This was the least worst option.
The decision hadn’t been hard. They loved their home, their city, but they could see what was happening. That there was basically one way to think and if you don’t agree you’re one of them. When the website asked them to make their decision, and upload the information, they knew they hadn’t really a choice, because one thing was adamant: you had to choose one. You could not be both. It was one of the few things that even former Presidents Trump and Obama agreed on. Even when it emerged later that President Trump realised the implication for his businesses, but by then it was too late even for him. His daughter and son-in-law recognised it.
There had been quite a lot of schadenfreude particularly when older white people had made their choice, then realised what they had actually voted for, and tried to reverse their decision. No take-backs, the president said.
Molly and the kids were fast asleep by the time they had pulled away from the final scheduled breakstop, and hit the road again. The convoy slowed to a halt in dense traffic, and the army helicopters circled aggressively, as if to deter would-be attackers. This was the most dangerous part, he’d been warned. Across the freeway he could see similarly loaded cars speeding past from the other directions, full of kids and families, He could see kids cheering in some of the cars.
As the convoy got closer, the huge structure was visible, with armed soldiers patrolling on top of it, and powerful lights illuminated the whole area. There were more flags on either side of it than at a political convention.
Tom could see the lead army convoy vehicle wave at the soldier on the barrier, who opened it and waved them through.
“Hey kids, you’re going to want to see this!” Tom said, and the family awoke from their slumber just as they passed the sign announcing “You are now leaving the Constitutional States of America”, and beside it flew the South Carolina state flag, which had a symbol restored to it that would have been approved of by Jefferson Davis.
President Cruz looked out of the window of the New White House at the large crowds gathered in front of the building. The executive building, formally known as Mar a Lago had not been an ideal location for the new government of the CSA, but as with so many things, a Trump family tax shenanigan had led to it. The former president had “Gifted” it to the new nation, and the whole area had been designated a Constitutional District and so was now the capital. Somehow, of course, the Trumps had made money out of this, but not one member of the CS Senate had dared point this out. Cruz had read a piece in The Economist which had likened the Trumps to the Thai or Saudi Royal Families as the CSA’s “ruling family”. It wasn’t a million miles from the truth: the former president and now his children still had a bewitching power over voters in the Constitutional Republican primaries, and that was the only way into power in the CSA given that the more liberal urban areas were now gerrymandered and voter-harrassed into ineffectiveness.
The peaceful separation of the United States into the Federal States (mostly blue) and the Constitutional States (mostly red) had been a long and painfully negotiated process following the nightmare of the 2024 presidential election. Minnesota voted by a surprising margin to join the CSA whilst Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina all surprised pundits by voting to join the “blue US”. The United States continued to exist legally, as a common customs, currency and defence bloc, but within ten years of the “manifest divorce” clear differences were visible, and no more so than in the CSA.
The Airbus A380 started moving as soon as the door was closed, before the cars in the motorcade even had time to get fully clear of the massive thrust of the engines. The pilot, a colonel in the French air force, slammed the engines into full throttle to execute what was called a hard take-off, the plane getting into the air quickly and immediately into a sharp incline to gain as much height as possible. A number of Elysee officials who had been busy securing the president of the French Republic before getting back to their seats were knocked off their feet by the angle, both being grabbed by burly bodyguards and pulled into seats as the plane reached its cruising height.
The military cabin crew, briefed as to the situation, had immediately lowered all the blinds on the windows, so that the passengers on-board could not see the military airbase and Paris speed away into the distance.
It actually meant they would not be blinded by the detonation of a nuclear warhead over the French capital as was one possibility they were expecting at this very moment. Nor could they see the four heavily fuelled and armed Rafale fighters escorting the plane on its pre-planned flight plan, designed to avoid major urban areas and military targets (for spotting purposes and also because they were likely nuclear targets) and take the plane out over the Atlantic.
I’ve recently started writing a collection of short stories about a fictional female Taoiseach, Kate O’Hara, leader of the Centre Party and deputy for Dublin East. I’ll post them here as I complete them: