Chapter 14: Continuity of Government

The houseboat is approaching a series of islands, a flooded city. Buildings and streets are on the islands, with the approach to any of the islands blocked by flooded buildings, which can be seen under the water. The scene looks almost magical from a distance. Some tall buildings stick up out of the water despite their foundations being flooded. In the distance are suburban islands, with only the occasional house above water. All the buildings have been damaged by earthquake and high winds, though some walls of the metal framed high rises are intact. Most of the buildings are sloping in one direction or another, the result of a collapse. There is no sign of life anywhere.

Joey is pacing back and forth on the roof of the house, pointing now and then to warn Finegan of a submerged danger. Barney is at the alert at the front of the houseboat, tail up and tense, sensing the tension in his crewmates. They hear a shotgun blast. Finegan and Joey dash into the house and peek out the doorway, Barney in hand beneath them. Finegan says,

I didn't see where it came from, did you?

Joey points and says,

Close to shore somewhere, over there.

Finegan says,

Full moon out again tonight too. . . Gonna be hard to make a getaway.

Finegan is looking concerned, frowning and blinking, processing and rejecting multiple getaway plans.

Worst case, we may have to slip into the water at night and go find whoever is doing this. . . I don't think we can go underwater and pull the boat to safety. . . Might . . But those are our two options, I think.

A rowboat is seen approaching with two men, one rowing, one with a shotgun across his knees. Neither wears a hat, but both have long sleeve shirts on with a band of red cloth tied around their upper right arms. The rowboat pulls up to the houseboat, the man rowing attempting to latch a rope around one of the posts on the houseboat corners. The sentry has his rifle pointed toward the door of the houseboat, where Finegan and Joey were last seen. But Finegan has moved behind some boxes near the front of the houseboat. Finegan has his rifle resting on a box, pointing at the guard.

You're not boarding, and you're not leaving either. Toss that rifle into the water. . . Now!

The sentry hesitates, and is fondling his gun like he is debating his options. Finegan shoots into the water near them, showing them he too is armed. The sentry says,

Look, I'll put it down. If I lose this there'll be hell to pay.

The Sentry puts his rifle down on the floor of the rowboat. Both men in the rowboat are now standing, hands up. Finegan says,

You shot at us!

The sentry replies,

Well you just shot at us!

To which Finegan asserts,

Well, you shot first!

But the sentry protests,

That was a warning shot!

But Finegan counters once again,

So was mine!

Finegan is grumbling under his breath, not wanting to create alienation but not wanting to be taken advantage of.

Arrrrhh.

Joey is positioned on the other side of the houseboat, also behind some boxes, with the pistol aimed at the pair in the rowboat. Finegan says,

OK, both you men step onto the deck but move no further.

The men finish tying the rope around the corner post and pull the rowboat close, putting one leg each onto the deck and heaving up. Finegans directs,

You, oarsman, take that tie off your arm and tie your partner's hands behind him.

Both men from the rowboat look at each other hesitantly. Then the sentry shrugs and puts his hands behind his back to be tied. Finegan says,

OK, both you men sit down on the deck and face out toward the water. And you, oarsman, put your hands behind your back. . . Joey, check the tie on the first man and tie the second. Tie 'em tight.

As Joey is coming forward with some pieces of rope in his hands, Finegan steps out from behind the boxes, to be close at hand in case a scuffle results. The sentry says,

Can we come with you? If I go back with you holding the gun, there'll be hell to pay.

Finegan asks,

From who?

And the sentry responds,

President Collins.

______________________________

Both prisoners are now seated on the floor of the house. Their feet are now tied together as well. Joey is perched on top of some boxes, his feet under him and in a crouch, holding his pistol loosely in his hand, dropped wrist, pointing the gun downward. He is at ease. Barney is tense, sensing the tension in the air, and growling now and then, circling the seated men on stiff legs, sniffing them. Finegan is seated on a stool by the table where he has rested his rifle and the rifle retrieved from the rowboat.

Now explain . . President Collins.

Both the sentry and the oarsman start talking at once. The sentry says,

Former Senator from our parts, Mississippi, but when it hit and he figured every place else was wiped out, he said he had to be the new president, considering the US government had to be represented and all . .

While the oarsman says,

The guy's nuts, I think. Holds these cabinet meetings with his family and claims he has executive authority because we must be at war or something. Commandeered all the supplies in the area too . .

They both stop and look at each other, then both start talking again, each expecting the other to shut up. The sentry says,

No radio response so everyone else must be dead.

While the oarsman says,

Now he's starting to raid the neighbors . .

They both stop and look at each other again, then at Finegan, falling silent. Finegan says,

Well, I'm taking you up along the shore a ways, if its safe, and dropping you off. I'm a trader but this is no place . . I'd be trading my freedom . .

Finegan looks at Joey.

You stand guard here so's they don't move.

Finegan motions out toward the front of the boat, pointing toward the island city.

Any more like you, snipers?

The sentry says,

This was my post. The rest are inland with President Collins on raids.

______________________________

Finegan has moored the houseboat at an open spot along the shoreline, gangplank in place. He is marching the men across the plank ahead of him. He has untied their feet but their hands are still tied. Joey is on the roof, standing guard with the pistol in one of his hands, pointing down at his side. There hear shouting and argument from over the hill. The sentry and oarsman turn and try to bolt back onto the houseboat, but Finegan, who is still carrying the rifle, blocks their way with the rifle across his chest like a board.

I have a better idea. Get up behind those bushes over there.

Finegan motions for Joey to duck into the house and follows the men into the bushes. The three men are peeking out of the bushes.

What is that, a raid?

Both the sentry and oarsman start talking at once, again. The sentry says,

Senator Collins goes out with them, 'cause they'd know his face and all . .

And the oarsman says,

They call it taxes, like money ain't no good no more so it's gotta be food.

Both men stop and look at each other again, falling silent. Finally Finegan says,

I got the picture. So you want out of this, eh? What do you propose we do with Mr. Collins?

The two prisoners look at each other, then back at Finegan.

______________________________

Finegan has untied his two prisoners and armed the sentry with his rifle, now trusting them. The oarsman holds a club. Finegan nevertheless stays behind his two prisoners, just in case they get a sudden change of heart. They are creeping along the bushes, out of sight, toward the arguments.

What they see is a confrontation between Collins and a local survival community. Collins is pot bellied and short, somewhat red in the face and balding. He is standing with two other men who have guns. All three of them have red cloth tied around their upper right arms, their insignia. Finegan asks,

You know those men?

The sentry and oarsman look at each other, not wanting to speak at the same time. The oarsman says,

You first.

The sentry says,

They only act loyal. Everyone is afraid to stand up to Mr. Collins. Everyone is afraid of being first, ya know, and thrown in the brig.

Finegans says,

Well, you're going to be first.

The sentry gulps, then takes a deep breath, cups his hands around his mouth and yells.

Collins! You're not in charge anymore! No more robbing people. You're a fraud! You're not the government, never were!

The sentry is finally venting. Finegan and the oarsman look at him, a little aghast, their mouths open.

You're not in power, ass hole! You fat pig! Who put you in charge, eh? You did. And you don't get to say, you piece of crap.

Finegan puts his hand over the man's mouth, seeing that the rant will never stop. Finegan says,

Tell him you're disarming his guards and that they should give up. They're facing an armed rebellion. Tell him that.

The sentry is breathing hard, but is trying to calm himself.

Here's the deal, you piece of shit. We're an armed rebellion. Lay down on the ground and eat dirt, you piece of shit. . . And you other guys, join us or die!

Collins can be seen facing the confrontation from the bushes, fists in a ball at his side, frowning. Finegan has his hand over his face, peeking through his fingers at the sentry. He looks over at the oarsman.

You try.

The oarsman says,

You're not in charge anymore Collins. You're disbanded. Turn over all the weapons. No more tax collections.

Collins begins striding toward the bushes. His two armed guards are smiling and bending over to put their guns on the ground. The community he was attempting to rob had been standing as a group in the background, but now scatters, fearing a shootout. Finegan says to the sentry,

You dash over and collect those guns.

And then to the oarsman,

I'm going to stand out with my rifle. You go down and make Collins drop to his knees and hands over his head. . . Whack him if you have to. . . But not too hard.

The sentry runs in a semi-circle around Collins. When he reaches the other two formerly armed men, they all do high-fives and hug each other. Collins shakes his fist at the sentry and points at him, throwing out threats.

Arrest that man!

The oarsman steps out from behind the bushes and marches toward Collins. He says,

They're not even armed! Christ sakes.

Finegan steps out from behind the bushes, his rifle resting in his arms. Collins stops his stride. The oarsman takes his club and punches Collins in his gut, so he doubles over. Then he whacks behind his knees so he falls on his butt.

Hands over your head. . . Hands over your head I said!

Collins is rolling onto his knees, putting his hands up, but only part way, sputtering objections. The oarsman whips some cord out of his pocket and starts to tie collins' hands together.

______________________________

The sentry is at the back of the houseboat, peddling. The oarsman is sitting on a box near him, as they are taking turns at the pedals. Collins and his two men are at the front, at the edge of the deck, facing the water. Collins is still bound at the wrist, hands in front of him. He is loudly protesting his arrest, citing statutes that he feels authorized his presidency. He keeps this recitation up the entire trip and can be heard in the background doing this nonstop.

. . according to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 I'm in charge! . . Continuity of government! . .

Finegan is also on the roof, his rifle resting in his arms, but he is watching the three men at the front. The flooded city islands and shoreline are seen in the distance, as the houseboat is heading out into deep water. Joey is pacing the rooftop as usual, but looking back at the bike seat, keeping an eye on the sentry and oarsman to ensure they don't leave the pedals and try to come forward.

. . I was under consideration for Secretary of Transportation, dammit. . . The office was vacant, so that puts me in . . All those other people are dead, I tell you.

Rock outcroppings can be seen, and some trees. The island they are approaching is not large, but has a long way to go before being under water. It looks deserted, long since abandoned, and has no buildings or farm animals in sight. Finegan says to Joey,

We'll let the boat come close. Stop in about . . now.

Joey hollers to the pair peddling,

Stop peddling!

The three men stationed along the front of the houseboat turn and look at Finegan expectantly.

Untie his hands . . You want to go with him, you can.

The two men are looking at Finegan and shaking their heads. Finegan says,

Then push him into the water, it's shallow here.

Collins continues to complain,

. . This is kidnapping and treason . . You'll be shot for this. . . Death penalty.

Collins, still protesting, is shoved into the water and rises up, sputtering. He can put his feet on the ground under the water, and begins wading toward the island shore, thrashing and sputtering. Collins turns to face the exiting houseboat, finally subdued, saying in a quiet voice,

. . Oh dear . .

______________________________

That evening Joey is flinging the weapons they took from the armed men overboard. The two men taking turns peddling are facing the rooftop, so can see this. The two men standing at the edge of the front deck have turned to watch this spectacle. Finegan is holding court on the rooftop, his rifle in one hand.

No more armed robbery! New rules. And leave that pompous ass out there to yell at the squirrels. Don't go rescue him nor nothing like that. . .