The Thirteenth - By L.A. Banks

Bermuda---Seventy-two hours after the battle in Washington, D.C., BBC World News has just learned that the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the United States' nine most significant supercarriers, is en route to the Atlantic Coast to take a position that will enable strategic air strikes on U.S. soil for the first time in military history.

The USS Ronald Reagan is a ninety-seven-thousand-ton, twenty-story supercarrier, with state-of-the-art hospital facilities on board. Normally stationed by Korea, and boasting a six-thousand-member crew, it mil now moor in the deep Atlantic waters just beyond the Chesapeake Bay.

Following the collapse of the Washington Monument, the still incalculable loss of human lives, the destruction of countless Washington, D. C., city streets, and a major section of the Metro subway network, the United States of America is under martial law. The decision was based on the inexplicable attack that left unfathomable structural damage to the White House as a result of the catastrophic blast that toppled the Washington Monument and sent it spiraling like a pike to pierce the iconic building from a source that has still yet to be determined.

The world is watching to understand what vast implications all of this will have on the global economic front, and non-ally countries around the world are bracing for a potential military backlash from the threatened United States. America's closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, are also reeling from the tragic events.

Both Mexico's and Canada's national leaders had entered into what was then coined the "North American Union" during a closed-door pact with the president of the United States on March 23, 2005, in Waco^Texas. Without needing to go through Congress, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was announced, inextricably linking the three nations through a proposed new currency, the amero, which- will effectively blend the struggling U.S. dollar with the peso and the Canadian dollar in the near future.

Likened to the African Union, Asian Union, and European Union, the newly formed North American Union, which seeks to evolve to one currency and to have several laws transparent to its trilateral agreement, will now also feel the violent shock waves of the recent terror attack throughout the three linked nations. World economic and military experts suggest grave consequences ahead for this pivotal collaboration.

American, Mexican, and Canadian borders have been shut down, all civilian planes grounded, and a massive military offensive is under way to sweep the area for potentially deadly bio-hazards that could have been released in the blasts. White House spokespersons have issued a short written comment: "The nation is doing everything possible to analyze and contain the pale cloud that eyewitnesses saw rising from the site--which may have merely been debris, dust, and vapor from the multiple explosions. It is too early to tell whether the United States has also been the victim of bioterrorism."

Rider got up from the bamboo-framed sofa not even looking at the team', and simply turned off the television set in the large villa living-room suite they occupied.

"Thanks," Carlos said, his tone flat and hollow. "I was sick of hearing that shit anyway."

Rider glanced around at the exhausted team and then at Carlos, who was sitting on the floor with his elbows resting on his knees, head hung low with fatigue, clearly heartsick. "Don't mention it," Rider muttered. "Face it. We ain't getting out of this bull called life alive anyway."

Yonnie pounded Rider's fist as he passed. "It's a damned shame to say it, but I know more people dead than alive--so hey."

"Please don't be so cheerful on my account, gentlemen," Marjorie snapped, losing patience. "I'd hate to have something crazy like hope ruin our morning."

"Sorry, fresh out of hope this early in the day. Will pick some up along with a carton of fairy tales when I make a supply run," Yonnie said, staring out of the wide sliding glass doors that led to the deck. He spat the toothpick out that he'd been gnawing on, watching it disappear before it hit the floor, and walked to the doors to stare out at the ocean. "Ya think they let out the old-fashioned bubonic plague or smallpox with the pale horse or some zombie-making bullshit, C?"

"Five bucks says all three," Big Mike said, shaking his head.

"I'm waiting for the locusts, myself," Rider said sarcastically while rubbing the stubble on his jaw. "I'm so disappointed in the darkside's lack of creativity this time out. Anybody got a cigarette? Rhetorical question."

"Your attitudes are pissing me off," Marj snapped, her gaze deadly before seeking Marlene's for