Monday, February 10, 2014

I-98, The Second Episode: The Inferno

Season One, Episode 2: The Inferno 

a syndicated television series spanning one decade, 2040 - 2049
Chronicles from The Bakken
Starring Samuel "Oilman" Goshwin & Liam Nikolai Gjorkstad
with occasional appearances by Archie McCool
initial funding from Apple Prairie Broadcasting  
matching grant money from The Legacy Fund
continuing support from viewers like you.

Season One, Episode Two: The Inferno

Liam: "Don't tell me you're crying over a little bit of spilled beer?

Samuel, blowing his nose in his handkerchief, wiping the tears from his eyes, "No, it's this darn hayfever."

Samuel had run out of Allegra-X, the follow-on to Allegra-M, which, in turn, had followed Allegra-D. 

[Shares in the parent company had plunged several years earlier when investors noted that the manufacturer was getting near the end of the alphabet. Disaster was averted, however, when the President of the United States had stepped in, and by executive order, added sixteen letters to the alphabet. Like most of his cabinet, the letters were not needed; nor, like most of his cabinet were they ever used, so no one complained. In fact, had the letters been more like the president's "czars" no one would have even noticed them.]

It was easier to get refills back when ObamaCare still existed, but that was long ago. ObamaCare had been replaced by Michelle Enterprises. Michelle Enterprises went public in 2025 (NYSE ticker: ME), and despite its "heritage," was endorsed by the Tea Party, long since defunct) when Michelle agreed to tack on "Inc." at the end of ME, to make it appear "more capitalistic." The original plans were to make the enterprise an LLC but no one in the administration knew what those letters stood for, no one having been in business before. 

Michelle Care Enterprises-Medical Systems Endeavors (MCE-MSE, pronounced "mickey mouse" by Fox Business News) was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Michelle Enterprises. MCE-MSE developed the health care enrollment app. Unfortunately the Belarus engineers who wrote the code neglected to develop the "medication refill" app. [The Belarus engineers, in their defense, said it was never in the contract to develop a "refill" app.]

And without the app, Samuel was up a creek without a paddle, as they often said in Rugby.  More accurately, he was up a creek in ragweed country without his allergy medications.

Ragweed was nearly eradicated when the I-98 was being built. Ragweed to the I-98 workers was what yellow fever was to those working on the Panama Canal at the end of of the nineteenth century. Ragweed hayfever could never be compared to yellow fever, but it slowed things down. 

Dr Ole Kjorkstad (no relation to Liam, despite the similarity in surnames), was North Dakota's "Dr Gorges." He almost eradicated ragweed. Unfortunately The New York Times did a piece on the weed, and wouldn't you know it -- ragweed was declared an endangered species. Now it was back. 

Had The Dickinson Press not done a human interest story on ragweed, it's likely The New York Times would have never picked up on the story. But the video-story went viral: a Dickinson city bus driver had gone into a hayfever sneezing fit and had run his bus into a WBR&C crude oil unit train west of the Dickinson refinery. Unfortunately, the 220-car unit train had not yet unloaded its legendary flammable cargo. The ensuing inferno could be seen from outer space for days. It reminded some of the old-timers of the good old days when flaring was still allowed. Today's four-car derailment was a far cry from the "Dickinson Disaster of '27" as it came to be called.

In his haste to reach the overturned beer tank, Sam had forgotten it was late August, the 28th to be exact. Ragweed pollination season begins on August 15th, like clockwork.

The sun was low on the horizon; pollen counts increase at dawn and dusk, like that other North Dakota scourge: mosquitoes. Sam was sneezing into his handkerchief and Liam was still swatting the aforementioned pests when they reached the beer running into the drainage ditch.

By now the authorities had arrived; drones were circling overhead; two Rugby female police officers were setting up barricades; a Good Humor ice cream truck had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The ice cream truck was the one non-emergency vehicle allowed to go around the police barricades. A crowd had gathered. The crows feasting on roadkill had long scattered but were not far out of sight. 

"Get back! It's gonna blow!" cried a voice from the crowd; the shouter was never identified. The yell was said later to have come from the grassy knoll on the other side of the road.

The two oil men ran toward the drainage ditch, covering their ears. Liam jumped into the ditch, and became partially swamped by the beer, which in another setting might not have been the worst outcome. Sam didn't make it to the beer-filled ditch. One of the three derailed oil tank cars burst into flame, no explosion, just a 30-foot-flare, reminiscent of the old Bakken flares.

"Quick, this way," Liam cried.

Sam was temporarily blinded; he was lying in a swath of ragweed; his eyes were swollen shut. Instinctively he moved away from the heat of the flame. Liam tried to get to his knees, stumbled, and fell back into the ditch.

The Rugby ECNALUBMA had arrived on scene but was blocked by the Good Humor truck from getting where it needed to be. Not funny, despite the lettering on the ice cream truck. 

The paramedics rushed to Sam and Liam (they would later be honored by the Rugby Rotary Club as heroes for rushing toward the fire when everybody else, that is, Sam and Liam, were trying to flee). The crowd was not moving. The crowd sort of reminded some folks of the crowds that gathered every February at the First Lutheran Church in Williston for the annual Lutefisk and Lefse Dinner.  It would take more than a three-alarm fire to get Norwegians to leave their pews patiently waiting for lutefisk.

[Post-events, the mayor of Rugby became a national celebrity, even thinking about running for President of the United States for his actions that day, maintaining calm in Rugby. The Dickinson Press would later publish a human interest story on the derailment, focusing on the ECNALUBMA.]

"Sam, are you okay?" was all a shocked Liam could muster.

The drones continued filming.

Next week's episode: the chase.


  1. I think this is Great, Especially cause it is both commercial and a intellectually free production..
    I assume this great of a production must be going for a Kensington award from the MN film fest..

    1. I'm hoping to sell the movie rights to help cover the cost of the blog.