Chapter 16: Art Bingham, April 9th, Year 1

I couldn’t believe it. The Salt Lake City Council was going to make prostitution legal. I’ve been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for as long as I have been alive. For most of my adult life, I was a family practice doctor. I’ve been the Mayor of Salt Lake City for six months. If you had asked me at any point in my life prior to this, if I could see myself voting on the side of prostitution, I would have said no. Yesterday a new business, Sadie’s, opened its doors in Sugar House. Sadie’s was a brothel, owned and operated by four women and two men.

Within minutes of Sadie’s opening, my executive secretary Emma Dietrich stormed into my office to tell me that the council had to pass a law to make this business illegal. Emma’s official job title was executive secretary but the correct title would have been chief of staff. She set my daily schedule and she controlled access to me with an iron fist. If she hadn’t been so competent, I might have resented her. I didn’t know how I coped before she took her position.

When my wife was still alive, she would periodically complain that I was too accommodating and didn’t know how to say no. I was married to my wife for decades and I’ve noticed that many of our conversations especially the ones where she told me what she wanted me to change would be repeated word for word every few months. I’ve wondered sometimes if this happened just in my marriage or in all marriages. In response to her complaint that I was too nice, I would point out that she married me because I was the opposite of her domineering father. “Honey you married a pussycat not a tiger. I can’t change my stripes. I don’t have it in me to be firm with anybody.”

I spent more years married to my wife than I did single. She had flaws. You couldn’t find a worse driver. She spent more money than I made. She wasn’t logical. She drove me to distraction; I missed her. The only time I slept soundly was when I forgot she died. It sounds crazy but I would often forget that she was no longer with me. Whenever something funny or interesting happened, I found myself looking forward to telling her about it. There were mornings when I would be half awake and roll over to kiss my lady. Once I realized she wasn’t lying next to me I felt as lost as I did on October 10th when I saw her body laying on the floor. I believe in our Heavenly Father because I need to. I’m not strong enough to live without his help. If I didn’t have faith that I would be with Stacy again in eternity, I don’t think I could go on.

I’m not a natural politician. I never had any aspirations of being one. I loved being a doctor; everyday I was at the clinic or the hospital, I felt like I was doing more good than harm. When Mark Jones asked me to run for Mayor, I was shocked. I told him that I didn’t know the first thing about being a politician. He said that was why I needed to be Mayor. Our way of life, our civilization was hanging on by a thread. We couldn’t risk being led by someone who was more concerned about popularity and getting reelected than doing the right thing. He told me that I could do more good as one of our leaders than being a doctor. I’m LDS. I believe in callings. I have faith that our Heavenly Father will not give me a challenge that I cannot handle. With trepidation I told Mark that I would run for Mayor. My fears were justified. I was overwhelmed.

It was my responsibility to vet every infrastructure project that was being considered. The city government was the lender of first and last resort. Every entrepreneur needed funding and only the city government had the resources available to fund new projects. Since we started off with no infrastructure at all, almost every proposal that came to me had some merit. The problem was prioritizing which projects should come first. I had to look at the merits of the project and also make a judgement regarding whether the entrepreneur had the ability to successfully complete the contract.

In addition to my work as mayor, I was one of the few physicians available. I was working 4 hours a day at the medical clinic. Most of my time at the clinic wasn’t spent on direct patient care but on teaching. We no longer had high schools, colleges, or graduate schools. We were back to the days of apprenticeships. There were five students at the clinic between the ages of 18 to 24 who wanted to become doctors. It was a wonderful break to spend time with young men and women who wanted to learn. They were studying hours every night on their own and spending their days helping out at our clinic. I needed to keep my hands in patient care to keep my sanity but my clinic time was yet another time drain.

I was barely getting a few hours a sleep at night between my duties as a mayor and my hours at the clinic. As mayor I sometimes had to say no. Often, I was saying no because of my perception of the entrepreneur’s competence. My tendency in these cases was to delay saying no for as long as possible. It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out which proposals should be funded and given priority. It was a constant struggle for me to figure out how to tell someone that they weren’t going to get funding. They always wanted to know why.

Right after the New Year, I came to my office and was surprised to see Emma Dietrich. I had never pictured her as someone who wanted to start her own business. She informed me that Director Jones had mentioned that I needed an executive secretary to help manage my office and schedule. She told me what hours she was going to work and what her duties were going to be.

I was bemused. I thought that it was my job to tell my secretary what she was supposed to do. I had been planning for weeks to put up an advertisement for one but never found the time. I had pictured putting up an ad, getting some resumes, and then interviewing people. I had never considered the possibility of a person showing up one day and telling me that she had decided that she was going to be my secretary.

I was thinking about saying something to that effect when she told me that I had a new office and that she had already moved my stuff into it. Unlike by previous office that had a door that opened into the hallway, my new office had a waiting room along with a desk for a secretary. Emma gave me a schedule of my appointments for the day. She gently but firmly guided me into my new office and closed the door. It was nice. My previous office had the cheap particle board furniture. My new office looked like a mayor’s office with matched cherry wood décor. My new chair was sinfully comfortable.

“Darn it!” I was not going to be seduced by a comfortable chair and a cherry wood desk. I stood up to tell Mrs. Dietrich that I would need to interview her before she could become my secretary when I heard my brother-in-law’s voice outside my office. I get along with most people including all but one of my brother-in-laws. Since my marriage, Matt O’Conner has been the recurring infected rectal cyst of my life. I had lost so many relatives; I was tempted to ask our Heavenly Father why I hadn’t lost him.

Even before the outbreak, he was always asking for money and favors. Since I became the mayor, he’s been an ever present irritation. I explained to Matt over and over again that because we were related, I had to recuse myself from any decisions regarding his proposals.

I referred him to Helen Hansen, one of our city counselors. She was in charge of looking at his proposals. Matt is actually a competent contractor and project manager but he has a soul of a con man and is constantly making grandiose promises that are too good to be true. He has a track record of being able to fulfill enough of these promises that he is still able get investors. He runs his business like a Ponzi scheme, using one account to pay another. It’s almost impossible to know how much money he has or how much he owes. I warn my friends about him but he’s been able to charm quite a few of them into investing with him.

I foisted him off on Helen Hansen because I knew she wouldn’t be taken in by him. She actually funded 3 of his proposals but had quickly determined that Matt always wanted more and that his preferred technique for getting more was to try to talk to her multiple times every day. Helen is our most successful entrepreneur and she has a couple hundred employees. For the past two months every time Matt approached her, several of her largest employees would escort him away. Helen’s allowed him to send her a one page memo once a week. Otherwise he was forbidden to contact her.

Matt was now coming to my office two to three times a week trying to convince me to fund his projects or to refer him to another councilor besides Helen.

I heard Emma, “I’m sorry Mr. O’Conner. Mayor Bingham has a completely full schedule. He won’t be able to see you today.”

I heard Matt bluster.

“Mr. O’Conner, you will need to make an appointment. I’m sorry but we won’t be able to schedule that appointment today. I’ll make sure to contact you when Mayor Bingham has time.” Emma Dietrich was an irresistible force. I could hear Matt sputter his protests as she physically escorted him out of the waiting room. I knew then that Emma would be a wonderful addition to my life.

I found out later that nothing happened in our community without Emma finding out about it. She had known for months that Matt was the bane of my existence. A vast network of women kept her informed. She seemed to know every important and unimportant detail of our citizen’s lives. She decided every day who would see me and who wouldn’t. Soon people were calling her Art’s Iron Fist. I continued to look at every proposal myself but Emma took over the responsibility of informing entrepreneurs whether their proposals were accepted or not. My ability to be an effective mayor improved immeasurably when she became my gatekeeper. I was finally able to get some rest.

It was no surprise to me that within minutes of a brothel opening in Sugar House that Emma would know about it. The council met twice a week. Mark Jones, the Federal Emergency Director for Utah, showed up to the meeting. Emma was there to keep the meeting minutes. Once all the city councilors, John Black, Helen Hanson, Sam Tucker, and Hank Miller arrived, I started the meeting. “Ok, I guess everyone knows why we’re here. So is anyone against closing down the brothel?” I figured this would be a short meeting.

Mark stood up, “Before the council votes on this, I would like to know how we would enforce a law against prostitution.”

I said, “What do you mean Mark?”

Mark replied, “Let me remind all of you that months ago we made a decision that we did not want to waste resources on prisons. We’re too small of a community to be able to feed and support prisoners who don’t do anything and we all decided that we didn’t want to be a society that had chain gangs. The only way we have to enforce our laws is to use fines, exile, or executions. We all know that anyone we exile has a high chance of dying. I hope that none of you would want to execute someone because they are either selling or buying sex for money. So if you decide to make prostitution illegal. How are we going to enforce this law?”

John Black spoke up, “What’s wrong with fining the prostitutes and their customers?”

Mark replied, “John, you’re our economist. You already know the answer to this question. If we set the fines too low, the fines will just be the cost of doing business; just another tax. If we set the fines too high, people will go out of their way to avoid the fines and then we’d be back to either exile or execution. If we are going to have something we can’t prevent, what’s the point of passing a law against it? I’ll be the first to admit that life was better before the outbreak but some things have improved. One of improvements is that we have so far avoided passing laws that everyone breaks or are almost never enforced. We haven’t had any illegal drugs since the Outbreak. You all have to admit that the sky hasn’t fallen because people can now smoke marijuana in public. Anyone with a real substance abuse problem now self-corrects. People who can’t control themselves don’t live very long. We no longer have the resources to lock up and take care of drug addicts or prostitutes.

In the old world, it seemed like every citizen broke a speeding law or a tax law or a safety law. Ninety-nine percent of the time we got away with it but we always had to be concerned about the one percent possibility that we would be caught and fined. My point is that our society is too small and too fragile to waste energy on things that will almost never be enforced. Also we shouldn’t have a government telling consenting adults how to have sex.”

Helen Hansen glared at Mark, “Are you saying that it is ok for women to sell themselves?”

“You guys know I will not tolerate women being forced into prostitution or underage girls going into this business. Helen you personally know Sadie and her partners. Her two male partners are planning on being prostitutes too. In this brothel both men and women are going to be selling themselves. We all know these people. They aren’t being coerced. What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t stand in the way of anyone doing what they want if it doesn’t hurt others. Let’s admit it; prostitution is called the oldest profession because it probably is. As long as there is a big enough population, there will always be sex for sale. I honestly don’t think prostitution is bad enough to exile or to execute anyone over it. If we fine prostitution, we will just be hypocritically taxing it.

I know I’m not part of the city council and I don’t have a vote. I’d like to convince all of you that if possible, we should have a government that least interferes with the actions of consenting adults. We need a government that stops people from hurting others but governments shouldn’t be in the business of stopping people from harming themselves.”

We knew how Mark reacted to rape. After the zombie outbreak, there was no law or order and it looked like civilization had broken down forever. In times of chaos, there is always rape. In the last 3 months, 17 men had been executed for this crime. In all these cases men had taken female survivors and had abused them. Some of the rape victims had been children.

Since all these cases happened outside our current city borders, Mark claimed Federal jurisdiction. As the only representative of the Federal government, Mark appointed himself judge in these rape cases. There was always a trial with a jury, a prosecutor, and a public defender. The evidence in these cases was overwhelming. When the men were found guilty by a jury of their peers, Mark sentenced these men to death by zombie. The men were eaten alive by zombies in front of their victims.

Many of us had voiced concern about this punishment to Mark. Rape was a heinous crime but execution by zombie seemed like overkill. Mark told all of us that a tendency to rape is a character trait that is almost impossible to change. The idea of fining rapists was ludicrous and if we exiled them, the rapists would hurt more people. I understood Mark’s reasoning but if I was in his place I don’t think I could have ordered the executions. I guess that’s why I wasn’t in his place.

Mark spoke, “Look guys, we only have about 10,000 people in our community. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone, within a few hours of a visit, will know when someone visits the brothel. We might as well keep this business above ground where we can watch it and tax it.”

Helen said, “Well what about public health? Isn’t there going to be a lot more diseases being spread with a brothel?”

I answered this question, “I don’t think any of the sexually transmitted diseases that existed before the zombie outbreak are still around.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m sure you noticed that none of the chronically ill survived the zombie outbreak. The zombie virus preferentially infected people who were unhealthy. This seems to have included everyone with AIDS, Herpes, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and every other venereal disease you can think of. The best I can tell, none of the people I’ve treated since the outbreak have had a communicable disease including the common cold. I’ve been treating injuries. With all the construction and manufacturing that has been going on, there have been quite a few injuries but no illnesses. Everyone, who survived the outbreak, is completely disease free. Whoever designed the zombie virus, designed it to get rid of human diseases.”

Emma usually didn’t speak during our council meetings. She asked, “What sort of degenerate would consort with a prostitute?”

Mark laughed, “Well, I have.”

Emma is a 57-year-old stoutly built woman. She’s the kind of grandmother who would wash out children’s mouths with soap. She is the essence of a matriarch. I’ve never seen her blush before. Emma was a survivor of the Riverside ward that had been preyed upon by a vampire for months. She has lost her husband, son, and son-in-law at Riverside. Mark helped kill that vampire in front of her. She’s always had a sweet spot for Mark.

Mark asked, “Emma you know everything that goes on in the Fortress. Do I act like a degenerate?”

“No.”

Emma looked flustered. Helen looked like she was about to explode. Everyone in the room knew that Helen and Mark had spent one night together a couple weeks ago. Their relationship was being scrutinized with an interest that used to be focused on Hollywood celebrities and British Royalty. I knew Emma liked both Mark and Helen. She hoped that they would get married. The topic of this conversation, especially because it was in Helen’s presence was making Emma blush.

“Emma, it’s been awhile since I hired a prostitute but I have.”

Emma was beet red as she asked, “Why would you need to pay for sex?”

“It’s easier for men than it is for women to have sex without feeling an emotional connection. There have been times where I knew that if I slept with someone I would cause that person a lot of pain. With prostitutes, it’s just a physical release. There aren’t any emotions. I didn’t hire a prostitute because I couldn’t get sex. I hired one because I wanted have sex without baggage.

The Outbreak has been hard on men. Because of vampires and their preference of killing men, women now outnumber us 3:1. Relationships were hard enough when the ratio was even. It’s triply hard now. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a place where people can have meaningless sex without emotional baggage.”

Emma looked thoughtful. Helen Hansen on the other hand looked like she wanted to kill Mark. Helen has a strong personality; she was clearly not happy with Mark. If she had been staring at me like that I would have been nervous especially if I was in a relationship with her. I’ve counseled young men in the past about relationships. I tell them that every good marriage is based on fear. When it comes to women’s feelings, most men are oblivious. A healthy amount of fear helps men avoid stupid mistakes. I worried about Mark and Helen’s future. He didn’t fear her enough.

John Black and I voted to keep prostitution legal. To my surprise Helen did too. Sam Tucker and Hank Miller voted to make it illegal. Mark wasn’t part of the city counsel so he didn’t get a vote, but he got what he wanted.

Our second order of business today was to discuss how our exploration teams were doing. My son-in-law, Keith McKenzie was one of a handful of pilots that had survived the outbreak. He and the other pilots had flown over multiple nearby cities. There weren’t any signs of survival in the major cities but in some of the small towns in remote areas they had seen survivors. Some of the towns had hundreds of survivors. We only had 240 SaLTs.

We were spending a considerable portion of our resources on these missions. When we sent men out in the field they needed fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies that weren’t easily replaced. Fixing the EMP damage on a single prop plane took hundreds of hours. That’s why we only fixed one plane. Just one armored vehicle took thousands of man-hours to build. We collected separate taxes for our city and Federal governments. Our entire Federal budget was being used on these missions. We were using up so many resources that two months ago we had a referendum on whether we should send out exploratory teams to other major cities. Forty-two percent of our citizens voted against sending our men out. These citizens were legitimately concerned that we had limited resources and that we had plenty to do locally.

We got approval for the exploration/rescue missions for multiple reasons. There was a practical reason for our exploration teams. As part of their mission, our men cleared a drivable path on the roads for their armored vehicles. It took time and effort to clear even a mile of clogged road but once the road was cleared, it was easy to use. Everyone could see the benefits of clearing our highways.

It was more difficult to get support for the humanitarian aspects of these missions. Whenever our men found survivors they would radio back for transport and a bus would come to pick up the survivors. A trip that would take survivors weeks to walk could be driven in a few hours. Rescuing survivors took time, effort, and money could have been spent on our citizens.

Mark gave speeches before the referendum pointing out a ‘selfish’ reason to have these rescue missions. He explained that to have a technologically advanced society we had to have more people. He felt that our current population of 10,000 was too small to be able to rebuild a computer based society. We currently did not have the ability to make silicon chips. We had computer chip making equipment in the greater Salt Lake Region but we didn’t have the man power or expertise to use the equipment. We were using vacuum tubes to rebuild radios. Mark wanted us to have a population of close to a hundred thousand. He was convinced that once we got that kind of population density, we would be able to start making computer chips. Mark was a man in a hurry; he wanted us to regain this kind of population density in the next few years rather than in a few generations.

Mark had a point, but for me and likely most of our other citizens, his idea of rescuing more people to eventually regain computer based technology was too abstract of a goal and too remote from our current day to day concerns. We were handling our rapid population growth as well as it could be expected, but there were growing pains. Humanitarian reasons and the abstract understanding that a larger population base was beneficial probably wouldn’t have been enough to win the referendum. What ultimately won the referendum was the religious makeup of our community; most of us are LDS or Latter Day Saints. We are commonly known as Mormons. Prior to the zombie outbreak, about fifty percent of the population in Salt Lake City were LDS; currently, close to ninety percent of our citizens were LDS.

Before the outbreak, most LDS had gathered in fortified buildings with stored food, water, and firearms. The most common fortified building was the local LDS church building which is called a ward or ward house. Even among the LDS, the death rate had been horrendous, but when we survived we tended to survive in fairly large groups. I had lived through the outbreak in a ward. Over 350 people from my ward were still alive. When non-LDS survived, they tended to be with small groups, usually less than ten people made up of close family or friends. This pattern led to a much higher percentage of LDS in our community.

I have been LDS all my life. I served a mission for two years in Spain. I’ve also been a citizen of the United States of America. As religious as I am, I firmly believe in our constitution. I believe in keeping church and state separate. I’m grateful that Mark Jones survived for many reasons. One of them is that he is not LDS. Mark denies that he is an atheist but he refused to join any church. He calls himself a deist. He believes in a beneficial force in the universe that could reasonably be called God but refuses to believe that any human or human organization has a true understanding of God.

By becoming our most popular and influential leader, Director Jones single handedly eliminated the possibility that we would become a theocracy. If history has taught us anything, it is that religious leaders make poor political leaders. Assuming that a successful government is one that is governed well, there hasn’t been a single successful theocracy in all of history. This doesn’t mean that in a time of crisis like ours where 90 percent of the survivors were of one faith that a charismatic religious leader couldn’t have taken over.

Mark is complex man. I have never heard him to say an outright lie but I have known him to tell the truth in misleading way. Last month I asked him if he was giving speeches in favor of the exploration/rescue missions to try to head off a political conflict between the LDS and non-LDS. I wanted to know if his somewhat abstract reason for these missions was designed to give a non-religious purpose for them. Mark didn’t answer me. He smiled.

It isn’t a major religious crisis for Protestants to lose contact with their religious hierarchy. It is a major crisis for Roman Catholics and for the LDS. Without the Pope’s approval there are no more bishops or cardinals. Without bishops and cardinals, new priests cannot be ordained. A Roman Catholic Pope is chosen by a quorum of cardinals. For the Roman Catholic faith to continue past one generation, at least one Cardinal or the Pope must survive.

The leader of the LDS is called the president. He has twelve apostles to help him and when a president dies, the apostles choose his replacement. We needed at least one apostle to get another president. Without an apostle we couldn’t have new bishops. Other Christian denominations call the leaders of their local congregations, minister or priest. We call them bishops. We, LDS, have not been able to find a single survivor of our church hierarchy that was above a bishop. The people who had been responsible for the zombie and vampire outbreak had also gone after every religious and political leader. Jerry Maple was our only surviving bishop. If we didn’t find a surviving apostle, our church’s line of authority would be over.

We had already searched every LDS temple in our area. There were no survivors in any of them. Because of this we assumed that our presidency and prophet were dead. Unlike our presidency and prophet who usually stayed in Utah our apostles were often out on assignments all over the world. We still could hope that one or more apostles were still alive. For both humanitarian and religious reasons, we needed to send exploration/rescue parties out to as many major population areas as possible.

I had selfish reasons for wanting to find an apostle. I had given up my first counselor position when I became mayor, but I was still one of the most prominent Mormons in our community. Both I and Bishop Maple were constantly being pulled aside by church members who thought that since we had more female than male survivors that we should re-institute pleural marriages. Vampires preferentially attack men over women and children. It was mostly men but occasionally even women tried to convince me that we should reinstate polygamy.

These idiots reasoned that women needed the protection of men. Since there weren’t enough men, we needed pleural marriages. They argued that if the council felt uncomfortable making this change that we should have a referendum. I had to explain over and over again that politically we were a democracy. Voting on important political matters was appropriate. In matters of faith, we weren’t a democracy. When it came to religious truth, voting isn’t an option. Doctrine comes from our Heavenly Father. A president must have a revelation. Many of the idiots who kept on wanting a vote on the issue of pleural marriages had been born to the faith. It got so that I wanted to scream, “How is it possible, after being LDS for all your life, to think that we vote matters of faith? Do you honestly believe our Heavenly Father gives a hoot about what’s popular?” So far, I hadn’t lost my temper but there were times when I got close.

Every few weeks, someone would come up to me and tell me, he had a revelation. He was the new prophet and the Heavenly Father had called him to reconstitute the Church. I would advise him this was certainly interesting but if he truly had a revelation that it would become obvious to all of us in time. I would encourage him to talk to Bishop Maple and told him that he was welcome to talk to the other church members but that it was likely that we would all have to wait awhile before we all agreed he was prophet. I tried to be as polite as possible but often these would-be prophets ended up screaming at me because “I was patronizing them.”

I was praying that our exploration/rescue teams would find an apostle. I was tired of dealing with religious questions and the idiots who brought them up. Before the outbreak, I would have felt guilty about being more concerned about dealing with idiots than our religious crisis. I was raised to always try to be a better man and to love my neighbor.

Mark Jones was rubbing off on me. He was comfortable in his own skin. He was by no means a perfect man but he was doing a considerable amount of good. One of the reasons why he was so effective was that he didn’t waste any time on things that couldn’t be changed. I didn’t have it in me to love idiots. I could attempt to be polite and that was about it. According to the self proclaimed prophets who ended up screaming at me, I wasn’t very good at being polite. Instead of feeling guilty about my inability to love an idiot, I was trying to be the best man I could be. I hoped we would find an apostle for selfish reasons. I wasn’t perfect. Overall I was confident that I was doing more good than harm. I know my wife is watching me and laughing. It took a zombie and vampire outbreak but I was finally developing the ability to say no.

Every few days, Director Jones met with us to give us an update on exploratory teams. Two days ago Hiram led a squad of men down to Southern Utah. He informed us that everything was well. As I walked back to my office from meeting, I thought back to the meeting I had with Hiram, Lieutenant Jim Wright, and the Director about this expedition. It had been a few weeks ago at Mark’s house over dinner.

The Director started the meeting, “We’re going to do something different for Southern Utah Expedition. We’re going to limit it two squads and only volunteers. All men with families and dependents are out. This means you, Jim.”

Jim asked, “What are you talking about? Why should this expedition be different?”

“We’re going to do it different because of the FLDS. Based on the pictures our planes have been taking, it looks like most of them survived the Outbreak. There are two camps of them about 16 miles apart. I’d estimate their population at close to five thousand, with two thousand of them able to fight. Right now we have 500 SaLTs. With those odds, it doesn’t matter if we send 20 SaLTs or all 500. It won’t work out very well for our men if they get into a stand up fight with the FLDS. If we’re putting men into danger, we might as well risk the lowest number possible.

We know the FLDS are going to be a problem. They’ve already taken shots at our planes. Survivors are usually ecstatic to see any signs of technology. They typically want all the help we can give them. The fact that the FLDS have been trying to shoot down planes is a good sign that they don’t play well with others.”

Hiram commented, “If we know the FLDS are going to be a problem, why don’t we just take care of them?”

Mark replied, “Hiram, then we’re talking about preemption. When we tried that in Vietnam and in the second Gulf War, our country didn’t unite behind those wars. We lost Vietnam and almost lost the second Gulf War because of that. Given two political options, one for men with balls and the other for men without, you know which option I’d prefer. This doesn’t mean however that I can’t see why other reasonable people would disagree.

Jim I know this isn’t fair but I going to ask you how you feel about these expeditions. Do you think this is a good use of our resources?”

Jim chuckled, “Mark, you’re a son-of-a-bitch. You know how I feel about the Vietnam War and the last Iraq one. I think both conflicts were major mistakes. I think you got the analogy wrong. It’s not men with and without balls; it’s men without and with brains. As for how I feel about these expeditions, I understand the humanitarian need for them. I’m an officer in our militia. I swore an oath to serve. I will follow all legitimate orders but I think it’s a bad idea to go down to Southern Utah. It could cause a war with the FLDS. In wars bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to women and children. I really don’t like the idea of getting into a war with humans. Too many people had died already.”

“That’s the whole point Jim. One of the reasons why I invited you was because I know a lot of people in our community agree with you. I agree that it’s always been a really bad idea for the United States of America to ever start a war. I’m worried that if we don’t take care of the FLDS soon that they’ll become a much greater problem in the future. I worry that if we don’t go through the necessary evil of getting into a war with them now, the suffering of innocents will be much greater later. The FLDS breed like bunnies. In 10 to 20 years they could have a bigger population than us. They might actually become a threat to our very existence.

I’m worried enough about this that I going to ask 21 men to volunteer to act as bait. Their mission is to inform them of our presence and to give aid. If the FLDS accept their aid or simply leave them alone, I won’t worry so much about them. If they detain or harm them in any way, we won’t be starting a war; they will.

Jim, if we sent 21 men down to Southern Utah on a strictly humanitarian mission and they get attacked, would you have any reservations about getting into a war with the FLDS?”

“No.”

Hiram grunted, “Bait usually dies, Mark.”

“I know Hiram. That’s why the bait has to be volunteers with no dependants. Fifty-eight thousand US soldiers died uselessly in the Vietnam War because their leaders made decisions that divided Americans back home. Our leaders wasted those men’s lives. The second Iraq War almost turned out the same way. Soldiers die. It’s our responsibility as leaders to make sure that we don’t waste their lives.

Preemption is tempting because in the short term it saves soldier’s lives. To truly be American you have to believe you’re one of the good guys. Good guys don’t start wars. Good guys always let the bad guys take the first shot even if it gives the bad guys an advantage. You guys know I don’t have any false humility. I’m a smart guy. I make pretty good guesses about the future. You guys have seen me do it often enough. I get it right more often than I get it wrong.

Our people won’t support a war that is started by us, which is the way it should be. They will support a war if our men are attacked without reason. I’m worried that if we let the FLDS spread out that they will be a danger to our very existence. If war is inevitable, we need to get into one while we are strong and they are relatively weak. We need to find out sooner rather than later if I’m right. To do this we need to use our own people as bait.

The Outbreak has been hard on liberals. Utah’s always been a red state. It’s gotten even more lopsided since the zombies. At its worst liberalism as a political philosophy has been dominated by the ‘blame America first’ crowd. At its best it has been the conscience of our country. Conservatives tend to be too focused on what works to ask questions about what’s right or fair. We need liberals in our leadership which is why I think we need to listen to Jim. By the way Jim, I’m sorry about calling you ball-less. I didn’t think you were smart enough to catch the insult.”

After we stopped laughing I asked, “Mark, we’re talking about sending men out on a possible suicide mission. I don’t know how I feel about that as a private citizen or mayor.”

“Art, would you choose to sacrifice your life to save other members of your family?”

“Yes.”

“Elite troops are family. It’s not just marketing; soldiers fight for each other. Soldiers risk their lives to defend their country. Anyone that goes on this next mission will know that they’re volunteering to be bait and why.

All of you know that I intend to restore a functioning government to the United States. It truly will be the United States of America which means that our Constitution has to be the law of the land. In the long run we can’t allow separate nations to form within our borders, but I’m not going to start a war. The ends don’t justify the means. If we get into a war, it will always be started by the other side. We’re the good guys. The means matter to the good guys. I’m going to ask for volunteers who are willing to what’s necessary for their country.”

I asked, “Who’s going to lead the expedition?”

Hiram smiled, “Art there’s no one else except me. Mark, promise me, if the FLDS take my head, you’ll make them pay.”

Mark stopped smiling. His face was bleak. He understood what Hiram had just volunteered to do. His voice was ice cold. “If they harm any of mine, I will destroy them root and branch. I will burn down their homes and sow their fields with salt. Hiram I promise you, I will be the instrument of God’s wrath. I’ll make an example of them that will make every other stinking cult and tin pot dictator long and hard before they fuck with the Salt Lake Troopers.”

Every night since that meeting I have prayed for Director Jones. Every goal the Director had, I supported but his methods and his willingness to be ruthless in the service of good disturbed me. I worried about Hiram Rockwell’s life; I didn’t worry about his soul. Hiram was a rough man easily misunderstood. His connection to our Heavenly Father was as strong if not stronger than mine. Mark Jones was a complex man. He was a great leader; I worried about him as a man. I prayed nightly that our Heavenly Father would inspire him, soften his heart, and lead him away from vengeance. I prayed for Mark’s soul.

Chapter 17