The Day After Armageddon

a New World short story
Bill K. Underwood

The most powerful thing was the silence. 

After a lifetime of background sounds – refrigerators, computer fans, distant and not-so-distant car stereos and sirens – the new silence was so heavy it had substance. Silence as profound as the peal of a bell. No planes rasping through the sky, no hum of tires on asphalt. No buzz of transformers on telephone poles or drone of air conditioning compressors on roofs.
Nothing. A completely blank slate. For a moment Ken thought he’d gone deaf. But as soon as he had that thought he heard his clothes shifting as he breathed.
He heard leaves rattle and immediately turned his head toward the sound, knowing as he did so there would be nothing to see. It was just the breeze, ruffling a too-long-neglected tree.
He stomped his feet. His ears craved noise as his eyes craved movement. The scripture about shaking the dust off his feet popped into his mind unbidden and he laughed. That metaphor is going to go into disuse, he thought, and his laughter sounded wonderful as it echoed back to him. From now on, shaking the dust off his feet would have no underlying symbolism – just a simple act of cleanliness.
Then, the corner of his eye detected a distant movement that was not from the wind, not natural, and he whirled that direction. It was a car, about a quarter of a mile away, moving slowly. He turned and sprinted toward it, waving his arms. No matter who was driving, he knew they would be friendly. In fact, they were about to become his new best friend.  

** 2 **

“Good Morning! Welcome to Day One. How did everyone sleep?”
Laughter, followed by spontaneous applause. Ken realized he wasn’t the only one who had just had the best night of sleep he’d had since he was about twelve. He’d still needed his glasses to look in the mirror when he got up, so he really hadn’t expected any miraculous changes, but he had been sort of hoping against hope for a better view than the usual one: 40 pounds overweight, too old, and balding. Nevertheless, he had headed down to breakfast with a spring in his step that had been absent for far too long.
“For now,” the circuit overseer continued, “what seems to make the most sense is to use this school as a central meeting point. It has a working generator keeping the lights on and the freezer cold, and gas for the kitchen. We decided to follow the schedule Bethel has always used, and we appreciate all of you being here bright and early at 7:00 this morning for Morning Worship. I bet you thought you’d get to sleep in once you were in the New World, didn’t you?” More laughter.
“Well, there will be lots of days for that later. But right now we just have so much to do. Would you like to express your appreciation for the brothers and sisters who were here at 5:00 making this delicious breakfast?” More loud applause.
“Please continue eating while we make a few announcements. You may have noticed as you came in the various volunteer booths spread around the walls of the gymnasium next door. After breakfast we would like to encourage all of you to go to one of the tables to sign up for a work assignment. Let me give you a quick summary of what’s needed.
“The ‘Food’ desk needs people to go to every supermarket and food warehouse you can find and quickly determine which ones still have electricity. When you find one that does not, try to determine what, if any, fresh food they may have left, and how well things have kept in their freezers. Food that is starting to thaw will be next on our menu. But we won’t be eating anything that has already thawed. We will need lots of hands to haul that out to be composted.
“The desk marked ‘Fuel’: The purpose of the Fuel team will be to go collect gas and diesel. Brothers and sisters who are truck drivers are needed, but we also need drivers for cars. Now, all you teens who’ve been waiting patiently to drive a Ferrari in the New World, you’ll just have to wait a little longer.” Good-natured groans came from all over the room. “Right now, we need your young muscles for more challenging tasks. We’ll let the older ones drive the cars.
“Another urgent need is ‘Communications’…” He went on describing some of the other tasks needed. After breakfast Ken made a circuit of the tables, picking up snatches of conversations.
“…ice makers from hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and so on, and bring them back here. Also any and all generators. Go see the brothers in Trucking…”
“…people who have experience with how the city water supply works, we need them immediately. Otherwise, our department is looking for wells; and pumps and hoses. Oh, and water filters. Fire trucks would probably come in handy…”
“…animal shelters, laboratories, farms, anyplace where animals are penned up, and let them go. Hit a hardware store for some bolt cutters…”
“…need individuals to get inside each and every house. Wear gloves. Look for good food that may go bad. If you can bring it back here, that would be great. Everything else perishable just toss it out the back door so it doesn’t smell up the house.  If you have to break a window to get in make sure you board it up afterward. We don’t know how long it will be before we get back to these houses, and we don’t want rodents or stray cats or the weather ruining them. Make sure you put the pets outside. What’s that? Yes, cats, dogs, hamsters, all of them. Jehovah will take care of them. If there are corpses inside just drag them out to the backyard, but make sure the gates to the yard are open so animals can get in and out. And put a mark – some bright, fluorescent spray paint – on the street side so we’ll know there are remains there…”
“... looking especially for sisters who know how to grow food. Eating stored food is going to get old fast, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. We need to start preparing immediately for future crops. We’re assigning each experienced sister a team of 12 people to assist her and learn from her. Once the teams are trained, each trained person will be assigned a new team. Eventually, everyone will need this skill, so...”
Ken stopped at the table marked ‘Communications” and introduced himself and explained his background.
“Ken, we need communications desperately. Land lines, as you know, have been down for months, as has most of the Internet. Eventually we’ll get to work on that. But for now, we feel it might be quicker to get cell phones working again. You agree? Good. We’d like you to take a team and see which if any cell phone services are still working, or that you might be able to get working quickly. Then find as many of that carrier’s cell phones as you can.”
“How about walkie-talkies and ham radio?” Ken asked.
“Walkie-talkies, absolutely, there’s another team collecting those but bring any you find back here. They’ll fill in until the cell phones are working.” The brother wrinkled his brow. “I don’t know that much about ham radio. Do we need that?”
“Even if we can get cell phones working, it’s unlikely any of them are going to work beyond the immediate area. But a ham radio can reach half way around the world. It might be years before we have any kind of satellite network.”
“I’ll make a note. Keep your eye peeled for ham stuff, and make a note of where it is. For now, focus on the cell phones.”

** 3 **

 Ken pried the boards away from the doorway to the switch building, and tried the door. Locked, naturally. Well, over the past 3 days they had come up with a solution for that as well.
“Jerry!” He called. “This one needs your special attention.”
A tree-trunk of a man came around the back of the truck and pulled from the toolbox like he was plucking a daisy a “halligan” – sort of a combination sledge hammer and crow bar they’d acquired at a firehouse. He wedged it into the jamb next to the doorknob put his weight to it. The door resisted for a bit, then slammed inward. A rather anemic-sounding alarm began to wail from the roof.
“I got it,” said Chris, the third member of the team. He was already dragging a ladder from the truck. He flopped it against the side of the building, scrambled up the ladder, and a few seconds later the offending alarm horn fell ignominiously to earth.
Ken and his team had begun on day one by finding a truck with gas in the tank. They went first to the AT&T building at University Boulevard and Alma School Road. As Ken had once worked there, he knew there were cell towers on the roof and cell phone servers within.  He had no idea what they would do once they got there; He'd only worked in customer service. But it seemed like a good place to start.
But once they got inside, they had the strangest experience. Chris headed to the basement without being directed, and Jerry and Ken climbed to the third floor. About the time they reached there, they heard the rumble of a diesel generator Chris had started. A few seconds later lights and computers began flickering on. Jerry broke open a door to a glassed-in room without being asked, and his instinct was correct: the computers in this locked fish bowl were the important ones.
When Ken sat down at a computer monitor it demanded a user ID and password. He typed in ADMIN for a user ID and ATT123 for a password, and it let him in!
But even that wasn’t the weirdest part.
The weirdest part was that he knew what he was doing. He was looking at software he’d never seen before, yet he felt like he’d been using it all his life. He quickly located a network diagram that clearly – to his mind – showed a map of the greater Arizona area, overlaid with all the cell phone towers and switches, including the building he was in. All of them were covered by a red X. He began clicking on things, and the red X’s began changing to green circles. Then, a few minutes later, most of the green circles changed to amber and began flashing the words “Emergency: No power.” In the next minute, all of them except his current location had changed back to red.
Ken printed a copy of the map. He and Jerry grabbed all the cell phones they could carry and left the building. Chris, too, had an armload of cellphones.
 They followed the map to the nearest cell substation to see what they could do about powering it up. The stations were easy to spot as they all had cell towers above them.
The electrical grid from the power company, of course, had been down for weeks. But somehow, again, Ken knew instinctively that every cell station would have some form of backup power. If they could get the emergency power working at a substation, it should create a cell network and automatically link itself to the main building they’d just left.
 Bent, empty brackets poked up from the roof where solar collectors should have been, the wires dangling where the ‘law-abiding citizens’ had ripped them away, either to sell them for food, or in hopes of having some power. Empty, acid-stained racks inside the building showed where there had been batteries, no doubt looted by the last employee with a key. The tank connected to the generator out back smelled of diesel, but there hadn’t been any fuel in it for a long time.
After that it was easy. They scouted around until they found a diesel truck inside the chain-link fence of a nearby car dealership. They cut the lock on the fence, broke into the building and found the keys for the truck and drove it back to the cell substation. Once there, they siphoned the diesel out of its tank to fire up the generator. Then Ken went inside and rebooted the cell tower’s computer. A couple minutes later he called Jerry’s cell from his and it rang… a sound neither of them had heard in weeks.
Diesel was only a temporary solution. Ken could foresee that they would soon be spending all their time refilling generator tanks at substations. They really needed to replace those missing solar panels.  

** 4 **

Jerry would never be called the strong, silent type. Quite the opposite, in fact. An old Bethel brother Ken had known a long time ago would have said of Jerry, 'I tink dat man vas vaccinated wit a phonograph needle!' In all the stories Jerry had told, Ken recalled him mentioning he was a licensed pilot. When he brought it up Jerry was happy to confirm it.
They left Chris scrounging for more batteries and diesel while they went off to find a working plane. After breaking a few padlocks they located some decent aviation fuel and took off to find some solar panels. Ken had brought along a GPS, thinking he’d write down the locations with solar panels on the roof. After the plane cruise it should be easy to navigate back to those GPS points.
It turned out to be even easier than that. Less than five minutes after they took off, less than a mile from the airstrip they flew over an industrial park. The roof of one enormous warehouse was almost completely covered in solar panels. Large letters on the roof spelled out the location: UPS.
Jerry grumbled a bit – well, a lot – about the flight being cut short, but it was good-natured grumbling. They both knew it was important to get communication re-established as quickly as possible.
After the flight (and a little breaking and entering at UPS) they fell into a routine of replacing solar panels at cell tower substations, scavenging batteries and fuel, then powering up the substations and rebooting the computers.
It had become routine. Ken, Jerry and Chris all felt confident in what they were doing. Had you asked any of them just a few weeks earlier what they knew about cell phones, cell towers and substations, Jerry and Chris would have admitted knowing nothing. And all Ken’s experience with the phone company had been taking calls from customers about their bills.
It reminded Ken of Bezalel (Exodus 31:2-4). It was as if Jehovah was taking the crumbs of knowledge he had about the phone system and multiplying them to make him an expert.
Similar reports began to drift in from across the country, passed from brother to brother. For example, one night after supper a brother read out a hand-written memo that had arrived from back east:
“A brother in Houston who had retired from an oil refinery pointed out to the brothers that there were machines and processes within the refineries that required human intervention on a regular basis to prevent the whole city from going up in smoke. As the Gulf has been creeping up into the city for the past year anyway, the first instinct was to simply evacuate everyone.
But the retired oilman pointed out that if a fire were to start at one refinery it would spread to all, and there was enough oil stored in some of them to throw a flame a mile into the air. The flame would be impossible to extinguish, and would take literally a thousand years to burn itself out!
With that, brothers started moving methodically through the refineries, and somehow they knew just what switches to throw, what valves to open and what valves to close. The retired oilman pointed out that one of the machines the brothers shut down had been less than 15 minutes from exploding.”
Over other meals and throughout other evenings there had been stories of freezers full of food being saved, of miraculous last-minute interventions that had narrowly prevented chemical spills, even of a nuclear power plant whose safety rods were inserted just minutes before the water covering the core boiled off. And that “China Syndrome” was averted by a brother who had never been inside a nuclear power plant before.

** 5 **

After breakfast one morning Ken saw a face he vaguely recognized but couldn’t put a name to. He went over and introduced himself.
“I know who you are. We met at Memorial,” she said. “I’m Carol.”
He did remember meeting her at the last Memorial. He hadn’t recognized her because she had been wearing an oxygen mask over her face. She had come in late, surrounded by three or four younger adults who clearly were not thrilled to be there. Ken was ashamed to recall that he’d judged her as one of those “submarines”, inactive ones who would come out of the woodwork every Memorial and never show up for any other activities.
“I’m genuinely glad to see you, Carol! How wonderful that you made it. Have you put your name on the list?” At one end of the gymnasium there was a large information board with sign-in sheets for each congregation. Ken had been checking the list for his congregation, Orange Grove, most days. It had had about 50 names on it the last time he checked. But he had been so eager to get to work this morning he’d forgotten to check it.
“Yes, I just came from there. I added my name.”
“Great. Oh, maybe you would know: Theresa Doublin. The pioneer sister? You too were close. She hasn’t added her name yet. She must be here somewhere. She was such a go-getter. Have you seen her?”
“No, I haven’t,” Carol said, somewhat curtly.
“How odd. Please remind her to sign the board if, uh, when you see her.”
“Okay, well, I hope we see her,” she trailed off.
“You don’t sound too confident that we’ll be seeing her. Do you know something I don’t?”
“Well...” She didn’t want to gossip, but she clearly knew something he didn’t.
“If you know a reason she may not have made it,” Ken said, “it would be best to let someone know. Others might be asking.”
“Well, the reason you associated her with me was because you know she used to come to my house a lot to help me out. But mostly she just hung out. Sometimes she’d spend the whole day there. Several days a week. She helped me do phone witnessing, sometimes. But honestly, it wasn’t more than an hour or two each week. That was all I had the strength for. I appreciated her getting groceries for me, I really did. But unless she was counting all the time she spent doing errands and gabbing with me, I can’t imagine how she got her time in. Most of the time, she was just gossiping, even complaining about the elders, and wishing for a husband. I had to tell her more than once to change the subject. She talked a lot about a man she worked with. But...”
“I’ll ask around. Let’s hope she made it.”

** 6 **

The brothers who were out collecting food, gasoline, toilet paper and other needs spoke dispassionately about removing bodies from houses and automobiles. And Ken found that he could easily listen to these stories without spoiling his supper. He and Jerry and Chris had all had to move several corpses out of cars and trucks, and a few out of buildings, and they’d done so with no emotion at all.  It was as if Jehovah had deadened their senses to what should have seemed pretty gruesome.
Yet there were surprisingly few bodies to deal with. Part of that could be attributed to the world itself. Even while the various factions of mankind had been slaughtering one another, the Powers That Be – check that – The Powers That Had Been, had put great effort into maintaining an appearance of order, including disposing of the dead. Toward the end, many suspected, they had also been disposing of the not-quite-dead-yet.
Eventually, though, there were simply too many bodies, and too few of the living left willing to waste their effort on burials. So where were all the bodies? The only possible explanation was that Jehovah had taken many of them out of the way. Which was reasonable, in retrospect. Dead bodies would begin to smell in two or three days. Had Jehovah left all of them, there would have been a stinking mountain of corpses that the friends would have had to slog through at a time when they needed to focus on getting set up with the needed food, material and shelter.
Their energy was better spent responding to the needs of the living than disposing of the dead. There would be time for corpse disposal later. (Ezekiel 39:15)

** 7 **
“Sail Ho!”
“‘Sail’?” Ken replied.
“Well, okay, no sails, but it’s definitely a ship,” Jerry answered. “Looks like an oil tanker, too.” Several brothers crowded the rails near them and started aiming binoculars where Jerry pointed.
They had spent several weeks on the cell phone assignment, working their way around the state. They’d been working along the highway to Los Angeles when they had run into some brothers from Los Angeles working toward them, doing the same task.
They called back to the LDC and were informed that they had just received their first call from Los Angeles, repeated seamlessly from cell tower to cell tower. So the LDC knew their job was done even before Ken’s team did.
The department head, Roger, instructed them to go on to Los Angeles as quickly as possible. Brothers were needed there to set sail on a cruise ship.
“Why on earth,” Ken asked, “would we be going on a cruise?”
“A large ship from China ran aground near L.A. No one was alive on board. Fortunately, it was just a container ship. Mostly Walmart-type stuff. But it made the brothers think that the next one could be an oil tanker, and the mess would be enormous.”
“Oh, wow, you’re right!”
“A brother who knows the L.A. harbor found a computer list of a couple dozen ships that are expected in the next couple weeks, and worked out roughly where they should be.  So we are looking for about 300 brothers to go out and find the unmanned ships to get them ashore safely.”
“Okay. I don’t know anything about ships, but if you think I can help...”
“As I understand it, most ships nowadays only need a small crew. They’re controlled by a computer. Plan on being at it for a while. The cruise ship was selected because it has a working GPS. That will help you find ships.”
“Speaking of Walmart, I better raid one before I get on board, I don’t have a single change of clothing with me.”
There was a pause on the line. “You never went on a cruise, did you?” He went on before Ken could answer. “The ship will have everything you could possibly need onboard. Just get there quick. They sail in four hours.”  He gave directions, and Jerry and Chris and Ken were off on a new adventure.

** 8 **

During the days on the cruise ship, Ken had time to contemplate what had happened so far. Even with all the dead, and all the destruction, and the pressure to get emergencies solved, it was an entirely different kind of stress than he’d ever experienced in the old world. It was similar to the pressure he’d known a few times trying to get the sound department working in the few days before a regional convention, but even at those times he’d had to deal with pressure from his job, illness, and other stresses of the world. Now, the pressure was entirely good-natured and manageable.
They’d had one odd experience during the cell phone project. In Scottsdale they had encountered a boy about sixteen collecting batteries. When they asked him what crew he was on, he shrugged.
“I’m not on a crew, I’m just helping my dad,” he replied.
“Oh! Who’s your dad? Maybe I know him,” said Jerry. Jerry knew everybody. But the boy was reluctant to give them any information. Chris, however, spotted some movement at one of the fancy houses that clung to the side of Camelback Mountain a short distance away, and he gestured toward it.
“Is that your dad over there?” He asked. The boy just nodded. As it was nearing lunch time, they decided to go have lunch and get acquainted with his dad, so they followed the boy over to the exotic house. The dad met them in the driveway.  His arms were folded across his chest, and he wasn’t smiling.
“Can I help you… brothers?”
That pause gave Ken pause. Why would a brother hesitate about calling them ‘brothers’? Ken introduced himself, Jerry and Chris, and explained they had just stopped up to have lunch with him.
“I really don’t have anything to spare, sorry.” Despite this being Arizona, there was a definite chill in the air. Jerry quickly assured him that they had packed lunches this morning; they were only planning on sharing his company. He softened a bit, and grudgingly followed Jerry’s suggestion that he show them around. Jerry managed to get out of him that his name was Mark.
The house was beyond ‘nice.’ It was a palace.  As Mark gave them a brief guided tour he softened up. “I used to look up at this place when we were in service, but I never got up here. There was a ‘No Trespassing’ sign, and a guard in a gatehouse, and that was as far as we got. But I’d look up here and imagine what kind of view it had to have, and it sure does.”
With the smog gone from the valley, it was a gorgeous view. But Ken still didn’t get what Mark was doing up here. He asked what crew he was on, and was met with a blank look. Mark instead simply provided the name of his congregation. Ken made a note to make sure Mark’s name was on the Chaparral Park list.
 Over sandwiches Ken filled him in on how the LDC was organized out of Central High School, the meals they were all taking together there, and some of the encouraging stories they had heard.
As they were getting ready to go Ken suggested tactfully that maybe they’d be seeing him at the LDC.
“No, I think I’m good here.” Ken said nothing. But he kept looking at him, waiting for more, and Mark finally obliged. “Look, for years I denied myself and my family everything. Worked 40 to 50 hours a week just to make ends meet and still went in service every weekend, worked at assemblies, worked up parts for the meetings. I – I just lost my wife. Trying to get my head around that, although I can’t say it was a surprise. But I’m tired, okay? I’m tired of working. I appreciate what you guys are doing, but – this is supposed to be paradise, isn’t it? I’m tired of being told what to do. My son and I made it to the New World, and we’re going to enjoy it. We deserve this place.” He sounded as if he were trying to convince himself as much as Ken.
The crew was quiet as they drove away. Ken had suffered with depression in the old system, and he recognized the symptoms. But this was the first time since the New World started that he’d even remembered what depression was. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Chris flipping through a bible. He waited, hoping Chris would share what he was thinking, but that wasn’t his style. He just nodded once and closed it.
“What were you looking up?” Ken asked.
“Judges 17:6,” was his enigmatic reply.
“Oh, that, of course,” Ken replied. “C’mon, smart aleck, tell us what it says.”
“ ‘In those days there was no king in Israel. Each one did what was right in his own eyes.'"
 Ken replayed that scene in his head as the launch shuttled ten of them from the cruise ship to the tanker, and shook his head. Jerry noticed.
“Oh, just stumped. Thinking about that brother Mark. How anyone could have the right heart needed to get into the New World, and then so quickly turn...  Maybe Chris was right. Maybe that scripture has an application now in a few people like Mark.”
“I wouldn’t be hasty to judge. He’s here, he must have done something right. Give him time.”
The oil tanker, that had looked like a bathtub toy when Jerry spotted it, looked more like the Empire State building from the deck of the little power boat that had brought ten brothers from the cruise ship. It seemed a mile long. It was moving, but very slowly, maybe five miles an hour. They motored along the length looking for a way up. Finally, a brother spotted some footholds welded into the tanker’s side. They extended from below the water line and appeared to run all the way to the rail. The brothers started up. It was like climbing a mountain.  When Ken looked back down during the climb, the cruise ship’s launch was now the bathtub toy.
The ladder brought them to the rail a short distance forward of the bridge, and they headed aft. They finally came to a companionway that led up, and they started climbing the steep stairs. Quiet as the ship was, the feet of all those brothers in the confined metal staircase made a tremendous racket.
As they reached a landing of the third level above the deck Chris suddenly called, “Quiet! Everyone, hold still!” They stopped to see what had caught his attention.
“I thought I heard something,” he said. Ken was about to chide him for hearing ghosts, but then he heard it, too: a faint, irregular thumping. Someone was banging on one of the steel walls.
“That has to be a brother,” Jerry said. “Spread out, let’s find him.”

** 9 **

The brother introduced himself as Xin Je, from Shenzhen, China. They’d found him in a storeroom with a chain padlocked around the outside handle. He hugged each brother in turn and thanked them profusely for letting him out.
“We heard on the radio,” he said, “about the nations coordinating an attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses.  My crew-mates had heard from me so many times about what was going on, that this was Jehovah’s judgment, that an attack was coming, and so on. When the attack came I read them Ezekiel 38 again, and they could see it. I told them it would be instantly answered by Jehovah. So they locked me in there. They said Jehovah couldn’t kill them if my life depended on them staying alive.” He looked back into the storeroom that had been his prison. “Thankfully, it has a sink with freshwater.” The shelves of the room were stacked with cans of fermented soybeans. Several of the cans had been gouged open with a screwdriver.
“But, why were you on the ship in the first place?” someone asked.
“I was a sailor before I was a Witness. If you know Matthew 20 verse 7, I’m one of those eleventh-hour vineyard workers. I was baptized just three weeks before the attack on Babylon began,” he said. “I got in by the skin of my teeth!”
He hadn’t known at the time, of course, how close he was cutting it. He had studied for a few months between voyages, and he loved what he was learning. But when the nations had begun crying “Peace and Security!” and the brother studying with him explained the urgency to him, he had redoubled his efforts. He had qualified for baptism shortly thereafter.
“I told the crew then that I was quitting so I could pioneer. They said I was under contract and couldn’t quit.  So I decided for the time being to let my ‘yes’ mean ‘yes.’ I sailed, but I witnessed to them practically non-stop. I thought: if they listen, great. If they hate what they’re hearing, maybe they will let me go.
“Before we even reached California on that trip, however, Babylon was attacked. My shipmates asked if I was going to give up my new religion. I told them, ‘No! This is an attack on false religion. I belong to the true religion.’”
Even as the world fell apart, the pay for the trips had continued to be deposited into each person’s account.
“As things got worse, I wanted to support my congregation, not keep shipping out. But he crew had been told by the Chinese government that if anyone didn’t show up, the rest would all have to do the extra work without any extra pay. So every time there was a trip scheduled, they came and got me and dragged me to the ship. That’s how I got stuck here.”
“How is it that you speak English so well?” Ken asked.
Xin Je frowned and cocked his head. “I don’t speak English at all. I’ve been wondering how it is that all of you speak such perfect Chinese.”  

** 10 **

“In unity I shall set them, like a flock in the pen,” was the year text for 1961. It was the earliest one Ken remembered.   At nine years old there were large parts of the meeting that were over his head, but he read and reread that text. Unity had been a theme running throughout the organization for decades, since its inception, even. But especially during Ken’s lifetime, from the sixties on, he had seen the value of unity. Ken had a lot of time to think about what he’d witnessed as they navigated the massive oil tanker safely back to the port of Los Angeles.
Unity requires communication. And there had always been two major roadblocks to communication: Language, and distance. When Ken was a kid, the English edition of the Watchtower had been six to twelve months ahead of other languages.  By Armageddon it was being published simultaneously in hundreds of languages. Millions of man-hours and dollars had been poured into that massive translation effort. If anyone had stopped back in the sixties to contemplate the work and money that would be needed to accomplish that, they would have thrown up their hands and determined it was impossible. But the work was done, because unity was such an important goal.
Now, Jehovah had apparently removed the language barrier. That left distance.
After having gotten accustomed over the years to reading the news about the brothers in faraway places on the website, and being able to watch videos of the brothers at headquarters when major events happened, sending messages over the cell phone network felt like smoke signals.
When Ken, Jerry and Chris arrived back in Phoenix, they got another surprise.
“The satellites are working!” Several people told them. Apparently they’d already received a video from Warwick. 

** 11 **

When the world had created the Internet it had been for military communication. When they later released it to the public it became known as one of mankind's greatest achievements, an equalizer, a way to inform the uninformed.
Just as he did with all of Man's inventions, Satan quickly turned the Internet into an instrument to deluge people with useless information and hoaxes and fake news. The line between true and false became so blurred that most people didn't know what to believe anymore. It wasn’t realized at the time. But in retrospect, it was obvious that the window for people being able to recognize the truth when it was declared to them was closing.
Yet the brothers, with Jehovah's backing, had made amazing use of technology. had accomplished what no one could have imagined: getting the truth to everyone, no matter where they lived or what language they spoke.
When due to the technology gap the brothers in remote areas were having difficulty keeping up with the larger role the website and the videos were playing in the spiritual feeding program, the Society had leased satellites and deployed satellite receivers in those distant areas. It was a relatively small operation. But it had an interesting effect: it provided crucial knowledge about satellite technology. Both the ‘high-tech’ brothers at headquarters and the ‘low-tech’ brothers in the bush had learned more about satellite technology than they could ever have foreseen. As time went on satellite knowledge spread to assembly halls, and had even reached down to some key Kingdom Halls near the end. So more brothers got trained about satellite communication. And now it was proving so timely.
Those brothers who had boned up on satellites were able to re-establish long range communication. Satellites had proven they could stay in space for decades, possibly a century or longer, with no maintenance. It only made sense to use them. No doubt, Ken figured, by the time the satellites wore out they would come up with an even better way to stay connected.
For the benefit of Ken and the other brothers who had missed it they replayed at lunch the video the rest had seen at breakfast. It was wonderful to see the smiling face of Brother Lowry, a face they had all become familiar with over the past few years of broadcasts, announcing that satellite communication was up and working, and urging all to be tuned in for a special broadcast that evening.
Ken had met him once long ago, back when both had been just hard working Bethelites sweating over a magazine trimmer. Ken had lost track of him when he left Bethel. But since the broadcasts began, he had been pleased to see that Brother Lowry was now a helper to the Coordinators’ committee. In fact, since the gathering of the anointed, the helpers now were the committees. The coordinators committee had always been in charge of emergency response. In the current circumstances, that made so much sense: quick, coordinated recovery from Armageddon was the ultimate emergency response.
Seeing this sincere, hardworking brother, who wasn’t anointed, in such a leading role, Ken was reminded of an experience he’d had one of the times he’d been back to Bethel as a temporary worker.

**12 **

Shortly after the Society had purchased a farm near Patterson, New York, Ken had been invited to come help with some construction work. The large barn on the property had been converted to an equipment maintenance shed, its hayloft turned into a small temporary dining hall.
One day at lunch, because of the cramped space, Ken had had the totally undeserved privilege of being a ‘fly on the wall’, seated at a table with some Bethel department heads and construction decision makers, none of them anointed, and hearing their conversation about the future of the Patterson facility.
 The conversation had gone something like this:
“Printing?” The site construction overseer inquired.
“No, that’s pretty well established at Wallkill,” replied the Bethel Home overseer. “We can always expand there if we need to. The town of Wallkill doesn’t mind. Who knows how the town of Patterson would feel about it? We’d have to start all over again, applying for variances and what not.”
“And it doesn’t make sense to truck signatures here from Wallkill,” added the assistant factory overseer. “So Bindery is out.”
“What about some of the non-factory departments? Writing?” asked the World Construction overseer.
“No, I talked to Writing,” another brother said. “They need to be where the Governing Body is, and for now, the Governing Body wants to stay in Brooklyn. And it makes sense for the Art department to be near the Writing department, so that’s out.”
 “I spoke to Gilead, and they said they’d be glad to move up here,” said the Home overseer.
“Well that’s a good start. That creates an incentive for some of the other schools to move here as well. We could call it the ‘Patterson Education center.’”
The Brooklyn Construction overseer said, “Once more of it gets built and the brothers can see what it’s going to look like, some of them will probably be happy if their departments move here. It’s so much more peaceful than Brooklyn.”
“I spoke with the Recording Department. They said they’d be thrilled to move here. They have to stop recording every time a jet flies over, or a noisy truck goes past on the BQE.”
“Great! You know, there may come a time as this system begins to fall apart that Brooklyn will become practically unlivable.”
“ Particularly as the Great Tribulation begins,” the Home overseer added. “Right now, we have to depend on the City for our water, sewer, power and garbage collection, not to mention streets in and out, and police protection from bad elements.”
“It seems like it would be smart,” added the World Construction overseer, “to create this complex as a place that isn’t so vulnerable, that could take over as headquarters in an emergency, maybe even replace Brooklyn entirely.”
“That’s a good point. We should plan on making this Patterson campus self-contained: our own well water, our own waste water treatment, heat and power generation...”
“Fire protection, like we have at Wallkill.”
“Exactly! So we won’t be losing those services when the government starts to fall apart.”
“And after Armageddon, Brooklyn is really going to be useless, or at least difficult to get up and running again without a major effort. It might even make sense to move the headquarters out of Brooklyn before things get bad, either here or Wallkill.”
“When you think about it, after Armageddon our mission will completely change. All the energy that now goes into writing and printing magazines will transition into, what would you call it? Disaster Recovery, maybe?”
“Emergency Response. We will definitely have to respond like it’s an emergency. The whole work flow will shift. Instead of writing-printing-preaching-teaching the focus will be cleaning-building-planting.”
“It will change the whole organizational structure. Instead of Brooklyn to the branches to the congregations to the publishers, it might be Patterson to the Design-Build department to RBCs to local construction workers.”
“And the messages, instead of how to preach the good news, overcome an objection or start a study will be guidelines for the work of accounting for the sheep, teaching them new living skills, caring for resurrected ones...”

 Ken’s memory wasn’t perfect, but that was the gist of it. In the couple dozen years since then, he hadn’t seen anything that told him those brothers were off the mark.
And now he was seeing all their planning come to fruition. 

 ** 13 **
After dinner in the school cafeteria, the monitors lit up, and a hush fell over the room. The familiar music came on, the same blue graphic with the revolving globe backdrop, the same lucite desk. And a familiar face.
“All of us Armageddon survivors worldwide have been privileged to witness the most important event in the Universe: The vindication of our Sovereign Jehovah over his foe. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the angels, Christ, and our anointed brothers shouting in applause.”
Thunderous applause broke out in the cafeteria, and went on for several minutes. The speaker, even though he couldn’t see them, knew that his audiences around the world would need the time, and he waited. Just as the applause died away, he continued.
“On tonight’s program, we’ll be sharing news from our brothers around the world. You will be so pleased at the reports from Russia, China, Africa, Europe, and the United States. We will share experiences that, if we didn’t know about Jehovah’s hand, would simply not be believable.”
More applause.
“As most of you know, our anointed brothers left final video messages before they were gathered. Those recordings have been so strengthening to all of us over these past few months. But due to the strife in the world, some of our brothers weren’t able to see those recorded messages. So we will be showing those after this broadcast.
“Lastly, we will have some timely direction for all of us to plan our lives around as we move through the coming months and years.
“And you will be especially excited to hear this: We already have some information we will need in order to begin preparing for the resurrection of our dear loved ones, soon to start.”
This time, the applause in the room lasted so long it was still going on when the brother began to speak again, and everyone quickly quieted.
“Welcome, one and all, to New World Broadcasting!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I started this story years ago, and have edited it over and over as the light becomes brighter. It is something of a prequel to Resurrection Day, one of my novels. My other novels are The Minotaur Medallion and Unbroken. 99 Ways to Fire Your Boss is not a novel; it is about ways to support yourself without working full-time.All are available at

You may copy the link to this story, or any of my columns, and send them to whomever you wish. However, it is copyrighted. Please don’t add to, remove, or alter any of it. Thank you! Bill

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