Communications Systems chapter of work in progress by Iris Carden
The tv Angela’s parents were watching displayed a test pattern. It was the first sign any communications systems were coming on-line.
A message running across the screen said: “Stay tuned for an important message at 2pm AEST.”
Angela and Jamie decided to recharge their long-flat phones, in case the mobile towers were functioning again.
Everyone was in the lounge room to see the broadcast.
On the screen, they saw a popular News Breakfast host, sitting on the News Breakfast couch. Beside her was an octopod, similar to the one Angela, Maria and Adam had seen the previous day at the shopping centre.
The human host looked scared, and was obviously reading from a teleprompter: “Australia is greatly honoured. It is chosen as an outpost colony for the glorious Zaratin Empire. This colony will allow for trade between the Empire and the nations of the Earth. In the near future, all essential and communications services will be restored. Zaratin officials will soon conduct a census of remaining humans, of habitations and of other resources. Humans must co-operate with this census, and follow directions, to ensure their on-going survival. Humans may be relocated to allow for Zaratin occupation of some habitations. Please remain where you are until you receive further instructions.”
The test pattern returned to the screen. The message written across the screen now read: “Important information will be replayed at 3pm AEST.”
Angela looked around the room. “We’re being colonised,” she said quietly.
“It’s OK,” Mary said. “If our army can’t win, the Americans will come.”
“What?” Angela asked, incredulous.
“The Americans will come. The ANZUS treaty means they have to come.”
Angela sighed. “The ANZUS treaty might have required us to follow America into a lot of ill-advised wars against weaker nations, like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq again. But they didn’t win any of those wars, and they were against opponents who had less advanced weapons. They’re not coming to save us. They know they won’t have a chance. If anyone’s saving us, it will have to be us.”
Jamie’s phone gave an alert signal.
“It’s Eric. He wants to know where I am.”
Angela gave her the address to pass on.
“He says he’s coming to get the twins and me.”
“He is? So has he left his unit, or has the army given up, or what?”
Jamie sent a text, and received one back.
“Our military has surrendered. The navy is taking whatever military and immediate family they can fit on ships, somewhere. He’s not clear on where.”
“At least there’s a hope you get to go somewhere safe.”
“Did you say our military surrendered? You tell that husband of yours he’s a coward,” Edward said. “Young people today have no gumption. The army’s job is to protect ordinary citizens and our property, not to surrender and run away.”
“I can’t leave all of you. What’s going to happen to you?” Jamie said.
“That’s not your problem,” Maria said. “Your responsibility is those babies.”
Angela said, “Jamie, you have to go. You heard the tv. They’re colonisers. You know about the Stolen Generation. That didn’t just happen here. It happened in lots of countries. Colonisers take children. You have to protect Esmerelda and Phoebus.”
Jamie was crying. “But we wouldn’t have survived without you. We can’t just leave you.”
“Yes, you can,” Martha said. “We’ve survived until now helping each other. The rest of us will keep helping each other, but right now you have to put your babies ahead of everyone else. That’s what mothers are supposed to do.”
“Utter nonsense,” Mary said.
“It’s not nonsense, young lady,” Martha answered. Angela just about choked. “Real mothers prioritise their children’s safety.”
As the television replayed the earlier announcement, Angela, Maria and Adam helped Jamie pack up the few possessions she had acquired for herself and the babies.
Later that day, Eric and some other soldiers arrived in a military transport vehicle. After a tearful good-bye, Jamie and the twins left with them.
“I really hope they make it somewhere safe,” Martha said.
Angela hugged her. “I hope we do, too.” she said.
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