The End of the Beginning

Author: © Zachary Eichholz
Publication Date: July 2017
Type: Fiction
Ordering: Author site
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

CHAPTER 22: Cooperation Not Annihilation

The Pentagon, Virginia

Monday, April 5, 2027

 

     “Madam. Secretary,” said Colonel Mapfeka, “thank you for allowing us the opportunity to brief you today. It is yet another symbol of the new found cooperation UNIRO wishes to instill in its member states–”

“Sovereign,” cut in Senator Matthew Barnes. “Sovereign member states is the correct term, Colonel.”

Secretary of Defense Katelyn Grant gave Barnes a quick admonishing look from the head of the conference table. Barnes pretended not to see it.

“Excuse me, Senator, sovereign member states,” Mapfeka kindly corrected himself. He cleared his throat. “We believe this meeting is a symbol of our organization’s continued cooperation with its sovereign member states that we hope to only see spread in time.”

“Thank you for those kind words, Colonel Mapfeka,” Secretary Grant said with a smile. “This meeting comes as we see new reminders around the world for the need and continued presence of UNIRO. With the death toll of Lima’s earthquake two weeks ago now topping 12,000 and the continued emergence of climate-related conflict, this country’s military and aid agencies are concerned over how best to act and prepare for a future where the norms on which we have based our entire national defense system no longer exist. That is why you and your associate are here, Colonel, need to train and inform our top military commanders and national security advisers about UNIRO, its outreach, and, as you said, cooperation with this nation.”

“Thank you Madam Secretary. I think we – ”

“We’d also like to know, Colonel, about how our annual one percent GDP payment to UNIRO is being spent,” Barnes requested patronizingly as he placed his clasped hands on the table and looked down at the colonel. “In case you weren’t aware off the top of your beret, sir, that’s almost 280 billion dollars.”

“Actually, Senator Barnes,” Mapfeka grinned through gritted teeth, “I am aware of how much the US’s payments are. I’m fully aware of all countries’ payments. They are all in my glass tablet here.” He waved his tablet.

“Senator Barnes,” Grant said, with a hint of annoyance, “is head of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It is… logical he be here for this meeting,” said Grant. “Now, please, let’s proceed with what you came here to say Colonel,” Grant said, trying to move the meeting away from the attention of Barnes.

Mapfeka motioned to the UNIRO major beside him to begin handing out their materials. He and the major were the only two members of UNIRO present. The rest were all senior military officials from all five branches, Homeland Security representatives, several senators, and, of course, the secretary of defense herself. As the major passed out the meeting notes, Colonel Mapfeka stood up and moved over to the eighty-inch touch screen behind him.

“Well,” said Mapfeka, looking over the long table of the long windowless room, “formally established in 2021, UNIRO is a UN specialized intergovernmental agency that has a current membership of 191…” Mapfeka eyed Barnes, “…sovereign member states and territories. UNIRO works under the UN Security Council, one of the six primary organs, as they are called, of the UN, with the council being in charge of maintaining world peace and dealing with security affairs.”

Everyone at the table began flipping through the bound documentation they had just been given. The major retook his seat. Grant put on her glasses.

“Base Tranquility in Florida has operational jurisdiction over central, southern, and eastern North America, including the Caribbean. Base Ethos in Vancouver, Canada presides over the western and northern reaches of the continent. On page two of your reports you can see a list of each UNIRO base location and rescue jurisdiction.”

  1. Base Ethos: Vancouver, Canada (North America)
  2. Base Tranquility: Oak Hill, United States of America (Caribbean and North America)
  3. Base Armonia: Buenaventura, Colombia (Central America and Northern South America)
  4. Base Concord: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Central and Southern South America)
  5. Base Eripio: Algeciras, Cadiz, Spain (Europe and Northern Africa)
  6. Base Adowa: Durban, South Africa (Central and Southern Africa)
  7. Base Defiant: Mumbai, India (West and Central Asia)
  8. Base Unity: Tokyo, Japan (East Asia)
  9. Base Gunyah: Melbourne, Australia (Australia, Oceania, and Antarctica)

“Normally, when a base isn’t dealing with a situation or disaster, it will remain at a status called Sequence Green that will see a base perform normal operations. Sequence Yellow will happen when a base is either in a state of standby or mobilizing to a disaster area. Sequence Red will be started when UNIRO personnel have boots on the ground and equipment in the field or when there is a security issue. Should there be a security concern, a base will inform its host nation and remain in constant contact with its host nation’s government for the duration of that concern. All three of these sequences are determined by either the base’s supercomputer or manually by the base commander’s authority.

“UNIRO was founded with five basic goals,” Mapfeka continued, pressing an icon on the screen to open a new page, “in order to make clear to the people and governments of the world its intentions. These five main goals are: environmental restoration and climate mitigation through geoengineering, global humanitarian response, international policy development, humanitarian advocacy, and dealing with complex emergencies and disasters in any country that it is called upon to help in.”

“The United States does much of this already,” interjected Barnes. “And, with great success,” he added.

“That may be so, sir,” Mapfeka said, “but future projections of even a moderate warming scenario of our climate place economic losses at 400 trillion dollars over the coming century. This far exceeds what even the US could handle economically; let alone other still developing nations. Additionally, most of these developing nations are still recuperating from a four-year loss of international aid under your previous administration’s cuts. Keep in mind though, that what the world is currently paying in the form of UNIRO through the Auxilium Protocol’s one percent rule is far, far less than projected losses.”

Barnes leaned back in his chair. “Hmm, yes. Where did those numbers come from, may I ask?”

“Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, the same business school you attended, I believe, sir, for your master’s program,” stated Mapfeka.

Barnes didn’t answer. Many in the room, including Grant, gave a slight smirk. “Continue, please, Colonel,” she said, crossing her hands in front her face.

“Now, these five basic organizational goals are to be achieved via eleven provided services, with specific task in each of them. UNIRO has based these eleven services off of those provided by the Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk, a German civil protection agency. UNIRO expanded upon these services to meet international needs. If you turn to page four, you can see a complete list of these services and their associated tasks. These associated tasks define our squadrons that our personnel are organized into.”

The sound of everyone flipping pages quickly filled the room. Secretary Grant reviewed the list.

“All of these services, found in bold,” explained Mapfeka, “are called subgroups and, as you can see, there are a total of eleven of them. However many tasks that are in each subgroup equates to the number of squadrons in that subgroup. For example, the first subgroup, Subgroup 1, has thirteen tasks in it, as you can see in your reports. That means that there are a total of thirteen different squadrons within the first subgroup. There are five squadrons for each task; this makes the first subgroup have sixty-five different squadrons. Fifteen people make up each squadron, so Subgroup 1 has 975 UNIRO personnel in it from one base alone. Each individual squadron can be called upon separately whenever the need may arise.”

  1. Subgroup 1, Threat Prevention:

Tasks (squadrons): search and rescue, air-sea rescue, air to air rescue, subsurface rescue, underwater rescue, polar rescue, vertical rescue, clearing and blasting, flood prevention and combat, firefighting, wildfire firefighting, hazardous firefighting, and lighting

  1. Subgroup 2, Infrastructure Support:

Tasks (squadrons): renewable electric supply, communications, drinking water, waste water disposal, and emergency bridge building

  1. Subgroup 3, Command and Communications Logistics:

Tasks (squadrons): temporary command center establishment, temporary personnel housing establishment, command support, creation of temporary telecommunications systems, establishment and operation of logistics bases, catering and care of operational staff, maintenance of materials and equipment, and transportation of consumer goods for mission demands

  1. Subgroup 4, Protection of the Environment:

Tasks (squadrons): oil spill damage control, water analysis, HAZMAT services, chemical spill cleanup, species protection and rehabilitation, and nuclear cleanup

  1. Subgroup 5, Provisions of the Population:

Tasks (squadrons): electricity, drinking water provisions, establishment and equipment of emergency accommodations, and collecting points for machine infrastructure

  1. Subgroup 6, Technical Support:

Tasks (squadrons): technical traffic routing, diving, snow clearing, makeshift road and runway construction, avalanche blasting, and maintenance of civil protection facilities

  1. Subgroup 7, UNIRO Engineering Corps
  2. Subgroup 8, UNIRO Medical Group
  3. Subgroup 9, UNIRO Communications
  4. Subgroup 10, UNIRO Naval Cargo Transportation Fleet
  5. Subgroup 11, UNIRO Air Cargo Transportation Fleet

 

“The final five subgroups are specific in their assigned tasks and not broad like the first six. They still have squadrons like the first six subgroups, but they are structured differently and are based around the subgroups singular overall tasks. I will explain.”

Mapfeka displayed a new page on the touch screen.

“UNIRO Engineering Corps is tasked with solving any potential major engineering challenges that may need to be addressed during a disaster and takes point with all geoengineering projects. They also deal with construction and maintenance at all UNIRO facilities. Many UNIRO personnel affectionately call people in this subgroup ‘Geo’s.”

A subtle chuckle came from some parts of the room.

“UNIRO Medical Group is to be involved with medical crises during a disaster. It will work in conjunction with the World Health Organization and other public health agencies – ”

“Like the CDC,” said a Homeland Security representative.

“Yes,” answered Mapfeka. “Like your country’s Center for Disease Control.”

“That is good,” the representative said. “We predict the reappearance of long frozen superbugs from thawing Arctic icecaps. We need to be ready as there will be no human immunity to them and no vaccines.”

“Exactly, sir,” said Mapfeka. “UNIRO Medical Group will help to study and prepare the global medical community for this. It will also coordinate efforts to prevent the outbreak of current diseases after disasters, or having disease outbreaks be disasters themselves. Global pandemics, especially as antibiotic resistance grows, is of major concern. But, again, with coordinated international efforts we can beat it. The 2014 Ebola outbreak is a perfect example.”

“That outbreak killed over 11,000 people Colonel,” said Barnes, “including one of our own citizens.”

“And it would have been much more had it not been for WHO and the development of a vaccine,” Mapfeka retorted, quickly moving on. “UNIRO Communications is involved in coordinating all rescue efforts and keeping communications up and running between all rescue squadrons, whether they be from UNIRO or local officials, such as from your FEMA, to ensure operations run smoothly and that agencies do not overlap each other.

“Next is the UNIRO Naval Cargo Transportation Fleet or UNIRONCTF. This subgroup is tasked with all personnel, equipment and vehicle transportation across the world’s oceans to and from any UNIRO facility. All shipping traffic in the port of any UNIRO base falls under this subgroup’s jurisdiction.

“Its aerial counterpart, the last subgroup, is the UNIRO Air Cargo Transportation Fleet or UNIROACTF. Both of these last two subgroups have nine different fleets, one at each of UNIRO’s nine bases.”

Mapfeka tapped the screen again. Digital diagrams of vehicles, planes, and ships appeared.

“Working within UNIRONCTF and UNIROACTF are the thirty-two Phoenixes and their auxiliary craft called Support and Assist Craft or SAAC’s for short, of which there are hundreds.”

“So SAAC’s differ from UNIRO’s main Phoenix fleet?” asked a Navy general.

“Yes sir,” Mapfeka responded. “SAACs tend to be smaller in size and cargo capability but are certainly no less important than the main Phoenix fleet. Their mission is one of support, offering a continued connection of personnel and supplies at a disaster area to their home bases. They will arrive after a base’s Phoenix fleet deploys and will usually stay in a disaster area for much longer, transporting goods and personnel around their designated region. The range of SAACs is smaller than that of their Phoenix cousins. Some of them have to be transported to a disaster area via a Phoenix aircraft or ship because the travel distance required would simply be too great, much the way your Blackhawk helicopters are transported across oceans in large cargo aircraft.”

“Tell us about the Phoenixes,” Grant said, looking down at her report. “They have become quite symbolic to the general public.”

“Yes, they have, Madam Secretary,” Mapfeka smiled. “These thirty-two machines are very specific, each having its own purpose. Phoenix craft are grouped into five categories based on their size and cargo carrying capacity. This also determines how many of each there are at each base.”

A new graphic appeared on screen.

“The categorization begins with small cargo. It continues through medium cargo, large cargo, super cargo, and finally mega cargo carriers. If a Phoenix falls into the small cargo carrier capacity then there are ten of each craft, seven for medium cargo, five for large cargo, three for super cargo and only one for mega cargo carriers, due to their immense size.

“Many of them already existence but have undergone slight modifications to accommodate their new rescue roles and their new clean propulsion systems. In fact, many of our aircraft came from the large surplus of military aircraft your country built up after the Korean War.”

Barnes looked over at Grant. “Why was it determined these American assets be given to UNIRO, Madam Secretary?”

“Our defense budget was cut after the war and with a new administration. We would not have been able to afford maintenance and operation cost of these aircraft. It was best they be given to a cause where they could still serve.”

“Given,” huffed the senator behind his hand-covered mouth.

“Some Phoenixes however are entirely new and, thanks to massive research and development over the last six years from companies and governments all around the world, have been successfully rushed into testing and production. In fact, our first in flight test of our Phoenix 30 is happening later this week.”

“A little late don’t you think, Colonel, with just three months to spare ‘til operations?” Barnes said.

“Well, Senator Barnes, the Phoenix 30 program would have been on schedule had your government not had a shutdown last year, delaying the US’s annual one percent payment.”

“Oh, so it’s America’s fault–”

“Enough, Senator Barnes,” Grant interjected. “We came here to listen to Colonel Mapfeka, not you. Besides, you orchestrated that shutdown. UNIRO is happening, whether you like it or not. We are committed. This nation cannot face our national defense challenges alone. The last administration tried isolationism and it didn’t work. We’ve had 251 years now to get things right, and so far, we haven’t. The devastation and chaos in the response and wake of the Korean War made that painfully obvious for seven million people. A change needs to be made. It is the strategic thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Madam Secretary, I mean no disrespect,” Barnes said, raising his hands, “but forgive me if a simple change in the weather seems to be less of a threat than UNIRO. UNIRO is bringing thousands to our shores from potentially hostile foreign lands to live and work. We aren’t increasing our security, we are decreasing it by sacrificing our sovereignty for the so called greater good of building some, some fanciful global utopia.”

“Our intelligence reports indicate that reasoning to be untrue, sir,” said another Homeland Security representative. “UNIRO has one of the strictest vetting processes in the world for all its personnel that are moved across international borders and are not stationed in their home nations. All of our intelligence agencies have verified this process. The chances of a terrorist, or some other hostile individual, infiltrating this country through UNIRO has been calculated to be one in 3.64 billion. One has a much better chance of being killed by lightning.”

“Senator,” Mapfeka said, “nearly thirty-eight percent of all active UNIRO personnel stationed at Base Tranquility in Florida are United States military veterans who have served selflessly in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course Korea. Would you risk removing these men and women’s employment, their fulfillment; men and women who have sacrificed so much and are willing to continue to do so? Your own Captain William Emerson, the Hope Giver of Korea, comes to mind.”

Many in the room nodded their heads.

“Removing such a facility from your shores would not only endanger their employment but also the employment of many young and impassioned global citizens looking not just for a better life but a better future in which to live that life. UNIRO’s recruitment numbers speak for themselves, sir.”

Barnes finally gazed up at Mapfeka.

“No one believes they can create a utopia, Senator,” Mapfeka affirmed, shaking his head. “No one has even suggested it. Frankly, there will always be death; there will always be conflict. That is, unfortunately, a part of who we are as humanity. But, those who enlist with UNIRO, I think, believe they can at the least help civilization to rethink how it sees perhaps the greatest untapped resource of all, the future.”

Grant smiled.

“All we want is for people to see the future as a resource worth saving, worth conserving. UNIRO is not out to conquer America or any other nation’s sovereignty. It’s quite the opposite, in fact, sir. UNIRO looks to save nations who very well may not exist by 2100 either by sea level rise inundation, resource degradation, or even…” Mapfeka looked down at his boots. “…or even as a result of arrogant governance in the face of hard facts.”

Barnes gave Mapfeka an unappreciative grin.

“For many, UNIRO is all that is left. We have no other choice but to trust each other,” Mapfeka said, looking around the room. “So,” he said looking back to Barnes, “unless you have an idea behind your arguments of how to face what is ahead without UNIRO, I suggest you get used to these meetings because we aren’t going anywhere. Personally, having a little bit of faith in my fellow human beings pursuing mutual goals of cooperation is much better than the alternative.”

“And what alternative is that, Colonel?” Barnes asked coldly.

Colonel Mapfeka sighed heavily. “Annihilation,” he said.

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