Think Differently

Fiction from a closeted writer.

Chapter 6 – QCD

The President of the United States (POTUS), Eloise Snyder, was engaged with a strategy session with her Secretary of State regarding the flare up of hostilities in Northern Iraq.  She wished this would just go away, but she was a pragmatist and knew the Middle East would probably be a continual source of anxiety for her and her successors just as it had been for her predecessors.  

The President’s Chief of Staff, a gentleman named Jones quietly entered the room and whispered something in her ear.  He advised her about an emerging event in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. The governors of both states had placed a call, which was on hold.  The SOS started to excuse himself, but POTUS told him to stay and asked Jones to send the call into the Oval Office.  

She listened to the voices of desperation and fear as Governors Russell and Nguyen described the situation.  They told her they had video footage of the event and were prepared to send it to her.  President Snyder turned to Jones and asked him to turn on the monitor in the office to view the feed.  As images from the Quad Cities appeared on the screen, it was abundantly clear everyone and everything was gone! 

Both POTUS and the SOS viewed the images with shocked expressions on their faces.  After a few seconds, President Snyder turned to Jones and directed him to get the Secretary of Defense on the phone ASAP. She then her attention back to the conference call with Governors Russell and Nguyen and asked them what steps they had taken.  The Governors told President Snyder their Emergency Response Teams at their respective state level were en-route to all known vehicle entrances into the area and were going to establish a perimeter three miles away from the edge of the crater. They also planned to evacuate all residents who were in the three-mile perimeter and relocate them to shelters for the foreseeable future.  

President Snyder asked them if they had any idea what caused this destruction. It was unlike anything any of them had ever seen. The governors told her their staffs had developed a few theories, which included the possibility of a nuclear weapon.  This was the nightmare of every American President and world leader since 1945.  President Snyder knew the technology pertaining to nuclear weapons had made huge leaps in miniaturization since 2002 and the concept of a “pocket nuke” was well within reach. 

Then she thought, but why the Quad Cities?  It had no known strategic value for any of the enemies of the USA. As she considered this scenario, Governor Russell spoke up and told President Snyder preliminary radiation levels did not point to the use of a nuclear weapon.  However, if the enemies of America wanted to strike fear into the people, attacking a target in the heartland would do just that. At that point. COS Jones stepped back into the Oval Office to let her know the Secretary of Defense had arrived.   

© REBentley PhD 2020 

Chapter 2 – QCD

Chapter 2 – QCD 

            Officer Bob Molinoski from the Eldridge Police Department (EPD) was driving down South 1st street in Eldridge toward the Davenport Municipal airport to see his girlfriend.  They had planned to go away for the weekend, but his boss Lt. Demko told him at noon today he was going to have to serve as the officer on duty for Saturday and Sunday.  Bob knew this was going to be a disappointment to Jenny so he decided to drive down to the airport to tell her in person.  He was not looking forward to the conversation. Jenny worked in the building where the Alfa Romeo dealership used to be.  For some reason, Alfa Romeo and Fiat were not popular in Iowa or the Quad cities.  As he prepared to turn into the parking lot, a bright flash of light off to his left appeared in the sky.  He quickly pulled off the road as he put his left hand up to cover his eyes.  As he came to a complete stop, the flash disappeared and a barrier of teal blue material was rapidly descending toward the ground.  Bob got out of his squad car, took out his cell phone, and started to take video of the now rapidly falling teal colored curtain.  The material looked like some sort of plastic as it shimmered in the Iowa sun.  Bob looked at his phone and took note of the time, it was 1522.  The wall finally struck the earth, which seemed to trigger a series of small tremors.  While Bob had had training on what to do in a multitude of natural disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes, he had no idea of what was happening and how he should proceed.  Knowing this, he reached for the ever-present radio on his uniform and keyed the mic to contact the Dispatch Center or DC at Headquarters.  All he got was static.  The ground continued to shake as the teal wall began to dissolve.  When the barrier was removed, Bob looked out over a scene of total destruction! It appeared to him everything he could see which comprised Davenport, Iowa was gone and left in its place was a huge crater.  As he stared out over the devastation, some of the residents of the area started to join him.  

Bob whipped around and said, “Y’all need to stay back, something real bad has just happened and I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”  The six people in front of him nodded in agreement.  Bob tried the mic on his uniform and got nothing but static, again. He asked, “Do anyone have a land line phone?”  

            An older woman raised her hand and choked out, “I have one officer.” This brought a smile to Bob’s face. 

            “Where do you live ma’am and may I use your phone?” Bob inquired.  He remembered from his training that a polite tone of voice and attitude went a long way when people were in a state of emotional shock.  The kind of emotion resulting from witnessing the scene behind him.  The older woman nodded yes, and Bob gently asked, “Where is your home, ma’am?” 

            The older woman pointed with a shaking hand toward the left at an older white farmhouse.  She then said in a quavering voice, “It’s in the kitchen at the back of the house Officer.  Go in and help yourself.” 

            Bob nodded while he thanked her.  Then he grabbed two men and said, “Guys, I need you to keep these good folks back for me so I can make a phone call to Headquarters for back-up.”  The stunned fellows nodded their heads and moved around behind Bob and turned to face the crowd.  

Bob told the onlookers, “Folks, I’ve asked these two fellows to keep everyone away from the scene while I call for backup.  I’ll be back as soon as possible.”  Bob then started to sprint to the farmhouse.  When he reached the house, he burst through the front door, took a moment to scan the room to locate the entrance to the kitchen as well as any potentially offended dogs or cats.  Seeing none of the animals, he spotted the swinging door the kitchen, ran to it and entered the room.  Scanning the room, he spotted the plain old telephone, which was next to a small desk.  He thought it was called a “secretary” but he wasn’t sure.  Bob picked up the handset and nodded as the familiar dial tone appeared in his ear, then he punched in the number and sat down at the “secretary”.  His heart was racing and he knew he needed to project a calm demeanor to the dispatch operator, Charlene who was going to answer the phone in three…two…one.  

            “Eldridge Police Department, how may I help you?”  said Charlene in a professional yet friendly manner.  

            Bob took a deep breath and said, “Charlene, something bad, something real bad has happened out here on South 1st street!” He went on, “It looks like the city of Davenport was nuked and there’s nothing left but a huge crater!” Despite all the training, Bob knew his voice was rising in pitch with each word.  Damnit, he was trying to remain calm, but this was unlike anything he had ever seen. He took and deep breath and told Charlene exactly where he was.  She wanted to know why he was using a landline instead of his encrypted radio and Bob told her the radio was down.  Charlene scanned the meters on her equipment and noticed the signals from the two officers currently on the southside of town were not responsive.  

            “Hold on Bob, I need to get Lt. Demko in on this,” Charlene put the line on hold and rang Demko’s office.  When he answered, she said, “Lt. Demko, I have Officer Molinoski on the land line in the DC.  Ma’am, we have a situation and I need you to hear his report.”  Demko responded affirmatively, hung up the phone, and quickly followed Charlene to the DC.  When she arrived, she heard Charlene and Officer Molinoski talking on the speaker phone.  It sounded like she was trying to talk him down as his voice was fast and high pitched.  Charlene said, “Ok, Bob, Lt. Demko is here. Tell us what happened.”  Bob provided a sitrep and requested immediate back-up.  One of his concerns was the potential level of radioactivity at the scene. While he spoke to Demko, Charlene was busy contacting the members of the Emergency Response Team or ERT in Eldridge as well as the Scott County Sheriff’s office in Davenport.  Unfortunately, the Scott County office did not respond.  

            Lt. Demko said, “Copy Bob, help is on the way.  Please return to your vehicle to prepare to serve as on-site commander until I arrive.”  Then, she turned to Charlene.  
            Charlene held up her hand and said, “Lt. Demko, I’ve already notified the Eldridge ERT and advised them of the situation.  I tried to contact the Scott County ERT, but they didn’t respond.  Is there anything else I need to do for you before you leave?”  She watched as Lt Demko broke out an infrequent smile. 

            Lt. Demko said, “Charlene, you are worth your weight in gold. One more thing, please contact your counterpart at the ISP (Iowa State Police) in Des Moines and advise them of the situation.” With that she left the room.  Charlene peered out the window saw the LT jump in her SUV, fire up the lights and siren, throw gravel with her wheels, and turn south as she headed out of the parking lot.  Then she tuned her radio to the ISP frequency and said, “Natasha, come in please.” 

            After Officer Molinoski hung up the phone, he sprinted out of the house and down the road toward his squad car.  He observed the crowd had grown but the fellows he assigned as temporary assistants were performing well.  When he arrived to his car, he flipped his radio to the PA option and directed the throng to clear the roadway as emergency vehicles were headed their direction.  His announcement was augmented by the blaring of sirens coming from the north.  

© REBentley PhD 2020 

Chapter 5 – QCD

After Sgt. Jones told the Cpt. Smith of the Reynolds substation what was happening, she immediately linked in the office of the Illinois Director of the State Police, Shirley Fern. Jones told Director Fern what he had observed.  Fern directed Sgt. Jones to stay on site and she would send backup ASAP.  She then directed her secretary to get Col. Belcher who was the head of the ERT in her office STAT.  She then turned to her phone and contacted the office of the Governor of Illinois, Michael Nguyen to advise him of the situation. 

Governor Nguyen was just finishing up at a speaking event when the call came from Director Fern.  The Governor’s assistant who was holding his cell phone during the speech answered. Director Fern asked to speak to the Governor and the assistant advised her of the Governor’s status. Director Fern told the assistant this was a Life Safety Event or LSE, which was code for ‘get the Governor now!’  The assistant understood and motioned for the Governor as he stepped away from the applause.  He advised Nguyen that Director Fern was on the phone with information about an LSE. 

While Director Fern was in the process of calling Governor Nguyen, her office received a call from Ed Smith, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Iowa.  Fern directed her secretary to tell Commissioner Smith she was in the process of calling the Governor to advise him.  Fern’s secretary asked Comm. Smith to hold a moment and told him Director Fern was talking with Governor Nguyen, which was stretching the truth just a bit.  Comm. Smith told the secretary a helicopter with a video crew was on the way to the site from Des Moines and he wanted to provide Director Fern with the feed when it was available.  The secretary took down the information and told Comm. Smith that Dir. Fern would call him as soon as she finished her call with the Governor.  

Director Fern was still holding for Governor Nguyen with her secretary slipped her a note with information from her conversation with Comm. Smith.  When Nguyen took the call, Dir. Fern advised him of the known situation in the Quad Cities based on a sitrep by Sgt. Jones. She also advised him about the information from the call from Comm. Smith and suggested he found a secure site to view the video feed from the ISP helicopter.  Nguyen told her he was in Springfield, which was a surprise to Fern as the Governor was most often in Chicago.  Fern suggested they gather in the Governor’s office in one hour and Nguyen agreed.  

Col. Belcher was escorted into Director Fern’s office as she was finishing the call with the Governor.  Fern motioned for him to have a seat as she said goodbye on the phone.  Director Fern advised Col. Belcher about the information known about the event in the QC and directed him to activate the ERT. Also, she told him she wanted a sitrep and a plan from him within the hour, and she could be located at the Governor’s office. She then stood up, and they left her office together. 

When Director Fern arrived at the Governor’s office, she realized a palpable sense of anxiety was present in the actions and voices of the staff.  As soon as she arrived, the Chief of Staff (COS) escorted her into the Governor’s office.  She told the COS that Col. Belcher was going to join them within the hour.  Nguyen was on the phone talking with Governor Russell of Iowa as Fern walked in the room.   She heard both sides of the conversation as the call was conducted via speakerphone.  She heard Governor Russell advise Nguyen a helicopter with a video crew was on the way and would be on site within the next 30 minutes.  Fortunately, the two governors had a good working relationship despite their party and philosophical differences.  Nguyen suggested they keep the line open to be able to discuss what the video images displayed.  However, neither of them was emotionally prepared for what they were about to see.  The Governors and their respective staffs turned to the monitors in their offices as the first images started to appear.  The Quad Cities were gone and all that was left was a huge crater, which was rapidly filling with water from the Mississippi River.  The gasps and other comments were heard in both offices simultaneously.  No one expected complete and total disappearance of the QC.    Governor Russell was the first to speak, “Michael, we need to contact the President now!” Nguyen agreed and directed his chief of communications to work with her counterpart in Iowa to set up a conference call with the two governors and POTUS immediately.  

© REBentley PhD 2020 

Chapter 4 – QCD

After a moment, Charlene raised Natasha, her counterpart at the Iowa State Patrol (ISP) and advised her of the ongoing event in Davenport.  

Natasha said with an air of professionalism, “Charlene, hold on a minute and let me get Lt. Williams on with us.  He needs to hear this.” Then she turned to the other dispatcher and directed him to get Lt. Williams in the DC ASAP! It took about two minutes for Lt. Williams to enter, and Natasha told him who was on the radio she then said, “Charlene, I have Lt. Williams here, please tell us what happened.”  After learning about the event, Lt. Williams told Natasha to maintain contact with Eldridge PD, left the DC and sprinted to the office of the head of the ISP, this was an emergency and Lt. Williams rationalized there was no time to lose going through bureaucratic channels.  He also realized his boss was going to be pissed. 

As Lt. Williams burst through the door of the Commander’s office, he tersely said, “Fred, I need to speak to Col. Johnson, now.  It’s an emergency!”   

Fred knew Lt. Williams and knew he was an even keeled person who did not leap to conclusions like some of the other folks in the ISP.  He went to Col. Johnson’s door, opened it and said, “Col. Johnson, Lt. Williams from the Communication Office is here.” With that brief introduction, Williams entered the room and briefed the Colonel about the known circumstances surrounding the event in Davenport.  

Johnson listened patiently and then bellowed loud enough for his secretary to hear, “Fred, get Ed Smith on the line, NOW!”  

            It took five minutes for Fred to locate the Commissioner of Public Safety Ed Smith and connect him to Col. Johnson.  By this time Lt. Williams boss was in the room and participating in the discussion.  Col. Johnson advised Commissioner Smith about the event and told him he was going to send a helicopter with a video crew to the site.  The Commissioner concurred with the Colonel and advised him to link the video feed to the Governor’s office when it became available. Commissioner Smith then hung up the line and directed his administrative assistant to find a way to get him into see Governor Russell right away. 

            It took about 2 hours for the helicopter to arrive at the western edge of the Quad Cities.  The video was linked to Governor Jenny Russell’s office and she and Commissioner Smith watched with wide eyes.  It was evident from the feed, the area known as the Quad Cities was gone and all that remained was a huge crater, which was quickly filling up with water from the Mississippi River as well as a swirling cloud of blue green dust.  Governor Russell realized this involved Iowa as well as Illinois and directed her secretary to get Illinois Governor Michael Nguyen on the line.  

© REBentley PhD 2020 

Chapter 3 – QCD

            When Mike Jones left the Marine Corps in 2008, he was a battle-hardened veteran with two tours of the Sandbox under his belt.  While he cherished his time in the Corps, he also knew his family needed him and with some regret, Mike mustered out and landed a gig with the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office (RICSO).  While he started as a guard at the county courthouse, his boss quickly realized Mike had a certain set of skills, which aligned well with forensics.  Shortly after this, Mike was promoted to SGT and assigned to the department of Forensic Investigation.  

When he arrived at HQ in the morning, he found his assignment was going to take him to a home out on Turkey Hollow Rd near Taylor Ridge.  Thanks to the discipline instilled by his time in the Corps, he knew his forensics kit was in the SUV, but he checked it nonetheless.  Then he climbed in the vehicle and started out for his destination.  One improvement in automotive technology Mike appreciated was the self-driving vehicle assigned to him.  He tapped in the address on the SUV’s computer and the vehicle headed out to the Centennial Expressway where it turned south.  

Mike used the travel time to study up on the case he was to investigate.  Apparently, an older couple had lived in the farmhouse until about a month ago when they moved into an assisted living center in Rock Island.  The family had contracted with a realtor to sell the place.  Unfortunately, someone had broken into the house a few days ago.  Mike suspected the realtor was involved as the alarm had not been armed.  

Mike figured this was going to be an easy gig. Get in, take a few prints, snap a few photos, and file his report.  Nothing remarkable here, he thought as the SUV continued south through Turkey Island.  Sometime later, the vehicle turned south off IL 92.  Mike chuckled to himself as the SUV turned on to Turkey Hollow Road as it brought back a special memory with a young lady from his high school days.  

Twenty minutes later, he reached the home and turned left into the driveway.  His first task was to ensure the residence was empty.  One of the sad facts about cases such as these is the offender or offenders will often return to the scene to exact more damage or search for more plunder. 

Mike stepped out of his SUV and took a long walk around the perimeter of the site.  Then, he walked around the farmhouse looking at both the structure and the surrounding territory.  Fully satisfied the site was undisturbed despite the torn police crime scene tape; Mike stepped up on to the well-worn porch, and went to the front door where he found a lock box with a key.  When the door was opened, he returned the key to the lockbox and entered the space.  

Gingerly he walked around the interior of the home being careful not to touch any items.  Once he was absolutely sure the house and surrounding landscape were empty, he went back to the SUV to retrieve his CSI kit.  The kit contained a number of items useful in the Art and Science of criminal investigations and included an expensive digital camera.  

Upon re-entering the home, Mike removed the camera and started to document the site.  He knew the photos would have a date and time stamp on them, which could be helpful in the future.  Mike went about the business of forensic investigation after putting on the requisite latex gloves.  Some time later, he gathered up the tools of his trade and returned them to the kit.  

It was 1515 on a Friday afternoon and Mike was ready to pack up his kit and return to the office to produce an initial report.  His practice in these events was to return the kit to the SUV minus the camera, and then take one more scene around the site documenting the disturbance, if any, of the crime scene. This final step was a before and after process done to maintain a clean chain of evidence.  

Mike stepped out of the home, locked the door, and turned to walk to his SUV when he noticed a bright flash of light out of the corner of his eye.  He turned and his Marine training kicked in as he placed his arms up to his face and ran to crouch behind the SUV.  The flash was gone in an instant, and Mike watched as a substance started to expand from the point of the flash.  A few seconds had passed until Mike realized he should capture this on film.  He did know what it was but he figured it was important so he swung up his camera, flipped the setting to video and depressed the start button.  

While the image was somewhat shaky, it displayed a teal substance spreading out over the area of Rock Island and he thought East Moline.  The barrier quickly spread out and then down blanketing the territory in a teal colored wall. When the barrier reached the ground, Mike started to feel tremors like an earthquake.  Mike continued to operate his camera and watched as the teal wall started to dissolve from the point of flash toward the ground.  

When it was gone, he got his first view of what would be later known as Quad Cities Destruction or QCD.  Mike was shaking as he carefully and expertly panned the camera from left to right capturing the image of nothing other than a huge crater in the earth.  Everything was gone!  

After he switched off the camera, Mike keyed the mic on his radio to provide a sitrep, static was all he heard when he released the handset.  Then he remembered seeing an old school landline phone in the home he had just left.  He ran to the door and opened the lockbox with shaking hands.  He almost dropped the key but eventually got it in the lock to open the front door.  

Entering the room, he remembered the phone was on a desk in the small office to the right of the entry. Mike turned and went into the office and snatched up the handset on the phone.  Thankfully it had a dial tone, which was in some strange way reassuring.  He reasoned 911 was going to be overwhelmed with calls so he punched in the number to HQ in Rock Island but the line was dead.  Then he realized HQ was probably gone and remembered there was a substation in Reynolds.  He punched in the number from memory and thankfully, someone answered the call.  Mike identified who he was and then requested to speak to the head of the station. Then he heard a woman who said, “Sgt. Jones, I understand we have a situation.  How may we help?”  

© REBentley PhD 2020 

QCD – Prologue

            The ship’s officers filed into a small, well used room deep in the bowels of the craft.  The walls in this room were a flat gray color and an accompanying musty odor.  However, if the room had ears, it could reveal insights into the actions taken by the officers and crew in defense of the fleet.  This particular room was used exclusively for Action Planning Meetings and After-Action Reviews (AAR).  This specific AAR was uneventful with one small exception, which only one person in the room knew.  The Captain convened the meeting and powered through the agenda as this team was a well-honed unit and had performed this task hundreds of times in the past year.  As each officer provided their report, the Armorer sat sweating.  

            Finally, the Captain said, “Well, Armorer, it’s time for your report” 

            “Thank you, Captain,” the Armorer had reached the moment of truth and upon reaching this point, the Armorer failed. “All missiles fired are accounted for at this time.” The Armorer knew this was a lie.  

© REBentley PhD 2020 

Stay Tuned…


Chapter 1 – QCD

            The bell on the door jingled as Joe Smith walked into Floyd’s Barbershop for his bi-weekly haircut.  Joe had been coming to the shop in Davenport for quite some time.  Mike, the only barber in the place, was finishing Mayor Jones so Joe sat down in the waiting area and picked up the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.  He turned to his favorite column, Signs the Apocalypse is Upon Us.  While he was reading the third item, a bit about how much money LeBron James was going to make as a professional wrestler when the world came to an end.  

            It was a busy Friday, and Doris Johnson was in asile 3 of the Jewel-Osco Grocery store over on 1st Street in Moline. She was humming a tune she heard on the radio on her ride over from her home on 14th street when a package of pasta caught her eye.  It was a new brand and Doris, while she had not tried it yet had heard from her next-door neighbor, the pasta cooked up well. She was reading the ingredients as her mother had taught her when the world came to an end 

            The weekend was almost here and Danny Majiski, a 4th grade student at Norton Elementary School was daydreaming about Saturday.  Another part of his mind was attempting to pay attention to his teacher as she was explaining what to his 9 year old mind was a complicated math problem.  As she droned on, Danny’s mind shifted to an excursion he and his best friend Ricky Martinez had planned for this weeked.  This brought a smile to his face.  His teacher, Mrs. Warren, spotted him and as she knew he was a notorious day dreamer, called on him to come to the board to solve the problem, when the world came to an end.  

            At 102, Bernice Wallace had lived a long and full life.  Much of her time now was spent sitting in the rocking chair on the porch at her daughter’s home in Rock Island.  Bernice had been born in Springfield and had moved to the Quad Cities area when she married her now deceased husband.  She had seen many comings and goings and now wished for the sweet release death would bring.  While this was the predominant thought in her mind on most days, she kept it to herself as her daughter grew upset at the notion.  The rocking chair had a somewhat annoying squeak on the third rock toward the back and Bernice wondered why this only happened every third time.  She was humming an old hymn she had heard at church last Sunday, when the world came to an end.  

            The road crew on Highway 84 in East Moline was moving slower than molasses on a cold day in January and Johnny Fernal was doing everything he knew to motivate the crew to finish so he could knock off and head to the house.  He called his boss, Jeff Fields, and asked if he could sweeten the deal for the crew by offering the four of them $100.00 each if they could get the job done by 4PM.  Jeff agreed to this condition and Johnny happily shouted to the news to the crew.  Suddenly they started moving with a spring in their step when the world came to an end. 

© REBentley PhD 2020