The Hurricane that Burned Down Texas
By Gene Haynes 
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31) Storm and fire
LeoJ recovered from the laughing spell over the little girl’s uncovered face.
He returned to the back room and saw the warning: Strong storm coming.

A dry hurricane hit the coast day before.
Contact was lost with many areas, but people ignored reports since there was no rain except east of New Galveston.
People wanted rain.
It was dry season and hadn’t rained for 2 months.

The hurricane’s eye spun westward overnight, and the winds were coming in from the north as it approached Red Lake.

The copper coupon bell started ringing for some reason.
Other bells and noise started up.

Bobber immediately called out to bar the door closed.
Anything could be happening. Raiders, Ootistics, Bludworthies.
He saw the monitor.  People outside were looking south toward the lake while others were looking north.
Nobody was running, so the place wasn’t amuck with meat cleaver lunatics. Which was good.
Then the ceiling lights burned brighter. The men looked up. A bulb that was previously off started to glow.
You could feel electricity in the air, which started a humming noise, and then a wheezy growl. Such a sound you never heard; like a bear and crocodile breathing in your ear.
Moments later there was a huge explosion.
People ran outside to see what happened.
The lake was on fire with flames surging skyward.

It was unbelievable. There was a huge fire on the lake and the heat was almost searing.

Suddenly a tidal wave of flaming water washed ashore.
Shocked people stood motionless watching a surge of burning water push balls of dirt and trade boats up the street.

Liam’s clan was knocked down by the concussion blast, but were up and seemed ok except holding their ears.
Flaming water ran up the arroyo behind the Trade Box.
The brush and grass caught fire and ignited pine needles which set fire to the trees.
People closer to the lake were yelling.
The retreating water pulled people into the lake.
Men were running to get ropes.
Boats were on fire in the street.
People swinging bedcovers and jackets and throwing dirt to put out fires. Fire was everywhere.
Just as suddenly, a hard gust of wind blew in from behind. The north wind arrived with a blast.
Clouds of dust faded the sun, and bullets of cold rain fell for one minute before the sun shone again before being obscured completely by the onrushing storm.
The sky was achurn with fast-moving clouds, followed by cigar clouds that started rolling past like fingers in your hair.
People were yelling again. The tidal wave was coming back.
Then a cheer went up as the people swept away moments before were heading back to shore. Survivors grabbed ropes as the new surge flooded in.
The second wave was smaller and not burning.
Bobber watched the slough of black water wash in with branches and a white shirt floated by.
The wind was blowing small people down.
At least the fires were not spreading.
So it seemed the situation would resolve quickly as soon as more rain fell.  
But the clouds gave nothing.
Just a howling dry air that blew dust and sticks and burning embers into the lake.

The dry side of the hurricane had arrived. It was sucking down air from the north with no rain to fall.
A group standing nearby were screaming and pointing.
That’s when the people in town noticed the far shoreline was on fire.
Across the entire breadth of the lake, there was fire.
Flames were bouncing up hundreds of feet high, going over the hills. Pine trees exploded when the wind hit.
The wind ripped past like the devil coming out of your pocket. There was no stopping the fire that raced southward with the hurricane.
Liam’s family was yelling. Their voices barely heard over the wind.
Their homes and families were on the other side.
They had come across on the boats that were burning in the street.

Properties fell to their knees in the dirt and mud, clasping hands in front of mouths, then reaching out as if touching lost hearts on the other side.

Paralyzed people watched the land consumed with wind-driven fires that reached every hill as wide as you could see.
Bobber suddenly remembered his own family. They lived south just 20 miles. Same direction the fire was going.
His lifelong dream that his family would be whole again was slammed into a wall. He fell against the doorway, then slumped to one knee.
It was Liam who saved Bobber at that moment.
Stand up my friend. We are strong for the others. He helped Bobber up.
Yes Liam trusted Bobber.
Maybe it was Bobber who was most in doubt, and not Liam.
They shared a bond, both living through equal hardship.

Silently now, the whole town looked across the lake, with tears that swallowed everything that came before.
We will take it.
They busied themselves saving the boats, and covering windows.

When work was done, visitor and resident found new friends and sheltered together.  Each planning later to travel across the lake, hoping for a miracle.
If only it would rain. But it never did.

After the hurricane died away hours later, the fire created its own windstorm, urged onward by a late summer jet stream that pushed into Texas the next day.

The fire raged across Texas for 36 hours before reaching the Gulf shoreline. Traveling 14 miles per hour, wiping out New Freeport, Space City and Cristi Point and everything between. Only those who could outrun the wind, or took to the sea, or took cartage going west or east escaped out of danger.
Anyone breathing ash and smoke soon developed lung problems, some to pass quickly while others dwindled in diminished capacity to the end.
What bad luck. Red Lake belching up explosive gas the very moment the charged atmosphere of a storm arrived with high winds. Maybe it was lightning. Or short circuit in one of the buildings. Maybe it was the glowing aura of static from the lake itself. Few cared for science after it wrecked the planet.

People remembered stories about the planet covered with chemical poison. How
people were fed sugared chemicals and salt because there wasn't enough real food. How phenols and other chemicals killed people many times over, causing damage to human bodies and plants and animals and oceans.

Science was rejected, yet modern life depended on electricity invented by science. Something useful from the past always manages to creep into the future, perpetuating the cycle of mischief and wonder.

Liam's family
crowded into the Box for shelter. Wind bounced broken limbs against the building, mocking their loss. Leo J passed out blankets to hang against the wall to stop dust from blowing through the cracks.

32) GE-Nuke crystal
The rule was only LeoJ and Bobber were allowed in the back room.
The rest of the people were crowded in the front
A few lights were dimly lit using the centrifuge generator, but otherwise it was dark and desperate.
Electricity was off. Bank links were down.
Monitors might be off for weeks and a missing disc would throw blame on Bobber. Banking interests would demand reprisal. No excuses.

Bobber saw the risk, but also saw a chance to close the deal.
He invited Liam to meet privately in the back room.

Bobber spoke plain and fast; saying he knew about the hidden value. He understood Liam’s expectation of receiving the Easy Mark, and about the risk for Liam’s clan.
Before Liam could answer, Bobber said that Liam could also buy a protection claim for his value instead of selling the value outright. The item would be stored at the Trade Box, fully protected by the Solid Dollar, with price to be negotiated later. This would protect the clan since they would leave holding papers so folks could see the value was no longer available for theft.
Except, as Bobber pointed out, the monitors could not communicate with the banks until electricity was restored. There would be no guarantee except Bobber’s word.
If something happened, then no proof would exist until bank links were working again.

Liam said they found a crystal.
Small boy was called in. He pulled the crystal from his pocket. They gave him drinks to carry back out front.

LeoJ looked at it carefully.
It’s a GE-Nuke.
Yes. A full Blue. The best. Very large.
Slightly more than 1 inch wide and 5 inches long with pointed ends that spun in the reactor. The number was etched. You couldn’t counterfeit the etching.
This was extraordinary.
There were pictures with registered identification on the monitor, but Bobber never heard about people having one in their pocket to carry around.

LeoJ added. It might be illegal. Or stolen.
Liam said, we found it. The rest of the clan doesn’t know. My children know the risk. They won’t talk.
Keep it that way Bobber said.

The three men were quiet.
Liam spoke first. He said they would accept the protection claim if Bobber could find a buyer.
Bobber said it was worth more than an Easy Mark.
Liam agreed.

Liam said he wanted to stay close and not leave the area until a buyer was found.
It will take time, Bobber said.

Clear thinking was needed.
They had to forget the fire and death raging across Texas.

LeoJ and Bobber looked at each other. It was dangerous to get folks excited about something as big as a GE-Nuke crystal.
They couldn’t credit it.
The only choice was protection claim.
They were vulnerable if Liam did them dirt.

Bobber calculated the protection claim was worth the risk. LeoJ agreed.
Protection claim meant Liam was free to reclaim the crystal any time.

The fire spared Red Lake.
Bobber anticipated many people would arrive to fix electric lines, and look for help and loved ones.

Ok Bobber laid out the plan; Liam could stay, but he would stay in view.
It would appear best if he and Liam worked together.
The clan would need to hunker down without word. And they couldn’t stay with Bobber. Wherever they stayed meant words that could doubt the deal.

Act fast or act slow? Bobber didn’t know.
It would be handy having a seasoned Lithium fighter around like Liam.
But if Liam got killed by old enemies, it would sully the Box.
Bobber had to roll the wheel. Y
ou can’t lead people with a spaghetti noodle.

Liam stopped talking. He didn’t want trouble. He preferred to remain unknown. But what choice was there?
Liam demanded that his older boy be included on the contract. Smart idea.

The deal was struck. Liam would cross the lake to check the disaster, and then return. He would quietly work for Bobber, but not carry arms. Instead he would negotiate the value of peace against losing the Trade Box.

Bobber had other worries.
The fire and his family. He had to know.
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