Jake Hawkins was dying of heart disease. He got along fine until Congress cut off financing for Medicare. Now, he could no longer afford $700 per month for the medicine he needed to keep him alive. Each day, he got a little weaker, and one day, his weak heart was going to give out on him.
Jake's wife, Marilyn, had already died of diabetes. The problem had been the same: they could not afford the insulin needed to keep her alive without Medicare. They had been homeless for about seven months after Jake was fired: he could no longer work a full day because of his heart. The couple had lived in their car, but they had no way to keep cool the little bit of insulin that Jake had been able to buy, so Marilyn had died and been buried in a pauper's grave because Jake had no money for anything more for his beloved wife.
They had no immediate relatives who could have helped them, even if the money had been there. The result was that Jake sat on park benches and slowly starved to death. He was eating one meal a day at a homeless shelter, but they had no room to take him in. Charity was the word for it, and charity was not very popular right now. Selfishness was the dominant mood nowadays, and very few people were willing to help those who needed a helping hand.
It all started a few years ago with the economic slump of the early 2000s. People lost jobs and ran out of unemployment insurance. The federal government tried to help, but there were so many people in need that the money started running out. A hard choice was presented: either raise taxes on those who had money to pay for the needy, or lower taxes on those who had money and let the needy starve. Well, after a few years of lying propaganda and selfish votes in Congress, the money was cut off that normally went to helping those in need.
The country was divided into three groups: children up to late teens who had no control over what was going on, adults from about 20-45 who were only interested in their own comfort and full stomachs, and adults from 45 and up who were running out of money and could no longer pay for the food, shelter, and medicine that they needed. The very rich, of course, were above all of this, and could not care less what happened to the hoi polloi.
Jake had nothing but time, so he spent the time trying to figure a way out of the economic mess. Well, Jake had a very good education through a Master's Degree, but it was in chemistry, so Jake knew little more of the fine points of economics than did the average man. However, Jake was a damned good chemist, and his heart problem did nothing to impair his mental abilities, so he looked at the question from a different point of view.
Jake decided that he could do nothing to fix the economic problems, but he sure could do something to get even with the people who caused his personal tragedy. He could blow them to Hell with what he could do with explosives! Jake came to the conclusion that the big trouble makers fell into one of three groups: the ultra rich, Congress and politicians by extension, and with the 20-45 age group that was so stupidly selfish. Therefore, he vowed to get rid of them, or as many as he could before he was caught and/or killed.
Anybody could buy gasoline, so he decided to make that the key feature of his bombs. That should mean that it would take longer to catch him. What he needed was a reliable fuse. He did not want an electronic fuse because he did not know how to build one, and he was afraid that he would be caught sooner if he tried to buy the kind of fuse he needed.
The kind of fuse that he had in mind was the sort that would not time out for several days. That way, he would have plenty of time to establish an alibi. The first thing that occurred to him was white phosphorus submerged in gasoline. White phosphorus would flame up as soon as it came into contact with the air, so it would be completely safe as long as it was submerged in gasoline. However, if the gasoline were allowed to evaporate, the white phosphorus would eventually ignite, and that would set off the residual gasoline.
There were two variables: the depth of the gasoline over the white phosphorus, and the rate of evaporation of the gasoline. Only a few simple experiments would give Jake the data he needed, so that part of the problem was easily solved. The only big problem was where to acquire the white phosphorus. Many inorganic chemistry labs, some even in high schools, had white phosphorus in stock, and all Jake had to do was to steal it.
As it happened, Jake lived in a suburb of Washington, DC, so he was close to his primary target. There were five high schools within easy reach, and, surely, one of them would have some white phosphorus on hand.
The other possibility for a fuse was sodium or potassium and water. That would be somewhat trickier to set up, but it would work if Jake could not find any white phosphorus. Jake decided to start his program of revenge that very night. He broke into the nearest high school and found everything he needed. For some reason, there was almost 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of white phosphorus and 600 g (1.3 pounds) of potassium in the store room.
Jake found two large bottles of benzene that he could use in place of gasoline. Actually, a number of fire codes were being violated by having these chemicals in a high school lab, but Jake had been confident that the chemistry teacher would not bother with the details of fire safety.
Anyway, he poured the benzene into a bucket he found in the janitor's closet and set up his fuse in a small beaker that he floated in the bucket of benzine. As with any good chemist, Jake made sure that his experimental setup was exactly what he wanted before he set his fuse. Jake had everything ready and scooted with his white phosphorus and potassium loot in plenty of time for him to get away.
Jake made himself comfortable on a seat he found nearby and waited for his fuse to ignite the gasoline. He had about an hour of waiting, but he was very gratified when the fuse set the benzene off. What he saw was a sudden whooshing burst of flame jet out of the windows of the chemistry lab. Moments later, other flammable chemicals in the lab and storeroom went off with a series of explosions. Jake sat and watched until the FD (Fire Department) showed up. They could not do much with the original fire because they had no foam equipment, but they did manage to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding homes and businesses. Jake thought that the FD did a creditable job, everything considered, but he was quite pleased with step one of his vendetta.
Jake had no access to TV, so he did not see the fire there, but he got all of the information he needed from a discarded newspaper. The fire was classed as an accident, but it did destroy the whole high school building. The chemistry teacher was arrested for having improperly stored flammable solvents in her lab. No mention was made of white phosphorus or potassium, so she must have kept her mouth shut about them. They would only have increased the charges against her. The principal was also in trouble, but Jake was made most jubilant by the note on the estimated cost of replacing the school. Let the selfish bastards stew on that for a while!
Jake went "home," back to his car and was already planning his next attack. The school had been fun and had pinched the pocketbooks of the people he hated, but he was anxious to do something that would get him and his cause some publicity. The destruction of a full commuter train sounded like what he wanted. The train would be full of the hated 20-45 age group, so that looked like the perfect target. The problem was how to go about it.
A fuse similar to the one he had used at the school would work, except that there was a timing problem. A speeding commuter train would be long gone before the fuse could set off the gasoline, so he had to come up with a location that would give his inaccurate timer a chance to do some good. The ideal place for the bomb would be within a subway tunnel and someplace where the train would be stopped for a few minutes. That seemed to indicate one of the underground stations.
Okay, that would work, Jake thought. What he needed to do was to place his bomb during a period when traffic was slack. That would give him time to get everything in place. Jake came up with a device that would drop a piece of potassium from a closed container of gasoline into a pool of water. The gasoline would float on the surface of the water and be set off as soon as the potassium began to react with the water. That should be a maximum of about five seconds.
Jake crept into the station while it was empty. He had managed to steal a set of maintenance worker's coveralls so that he would be ignored if he were spotted. He boldly walked into the station carrying his bomb materials in a large paper bag that looked like a change of clothes. Nobody was around at 3:00 AM, so his disguise was not tested, though he might have been seen by a surveillance camera. He would just have to take that chance.
Jake walked to the stairs that led down to the track. He put his container of gasoline under the lip of the platform so that it could not be seen by anyone but the train driver, and that person would probably ignore it as just being a loose piece of junk paper. Jake carefully set his fuse and trigger mechanism so that the trigger would be tripped by a train that stopped to discharge and pickup passengers. Once everything was in place, Jake calmly walked out of the station to a public restroom where he removed his disguise. He found a bench to sit on while he waited for the first commuter train of the day.
A lot of people of the demographic Jake was interested in entered the station and went down to the platform to wait for the train. It arrived about 30 seconds late, but that made no difference to the trigger, fuse, or bomb. Approximately seven seconds after the train arrived, the fuse burst into life. By this time, there had been a large collection of gasoline fumes under the platform, and that went off first.
There was a tremendous flash of flame as the gasoline vapor burned and spread throughout the station. The station was something like a bubble of air held in place underground, and it was not going anywhere without a Hell of a lot of pressure. Therefore, most of the initial flame was confined to the station where it killed virtually all of the people waiting to board the train.
However, that was not the end of the carnage. There was a second explosion of the bulk of the gasoline as it was vaporized by the first explosion. This was not a true fuel-air thermobaric explosion because a lot of the oxygen had been used by that first explosion, but it was enough to blast the train, the station, and the entrance into rubble. There was even some tracking of the explosion down the tracks in both directions, and that caused sections of the roof to fall in.
Jake was very pleased when he felt the ground shake from the second explosion. He figured that he had done the job he was interested in, and he was ready to leave. However, there were people rushing past him and headed toward the site of the explosion. Jake figured that if he tried to walk away from the blast site, he would make himself conspicuous; therefore, he ran toward the site like everybody else. He rationalized that he was curious as to just how effective his bomb had been, and there was no better way to find out than by a personal inspection.
Naturally, there was so much smoke and destruction coming from the bombed station that it was impossible to see down the entrance ramp. Oh, well, Jake mentally shrugged his shoulders and walked away. It was going to be at least 24 hours, and maybe longer, before the police issued a public statement, and that was all he was ever going to get, anyway. Jake figured that he would get what he needed to know from a newspaper account.
He wondered how much longer it would be before various kooks started claiming responsibility for the disaster. Jake decided to wait until he had done a few more attacks before he issued a public statement. He already knew what he was going to say, it was just a matter of finding the appropriate moment to do it.
The next afternoon, Jake had his information on the subway attack. There were 394 fatalities with only four people who were injured and expected to live. The station roof had collapsed, crushing those people who had escaped the fire. At the time of printing, there was no official statement as to the cause of the disaster, though most people thought that it had to be the action of a terrorist group. If a bomb had been used, it had to be much too sophisticated for an ordinary individual to have constructed it. Jake could not help laughing at that.
The next day, Jake joined some tourists going through the capitol building. For one thing, he was not sure that there was a way to destroy both the Senate and the House of Representatives at the same time. They were at opposite ends of the building, and the building was much too large for Jake to take it down with a single bomb. Theoretically, Jake could place bombs in both chambers and have a delayed fuse set them off, but he was not sure that he could manage that at the current state of security.
It was a cinch that the two bombs would have to go off within a few seconds of each other. Whichever bomb went off first would trigger an exodus from the undestroyed chamber that would let too many of the politicians escape their just desserts. From the point of view of doing the most damage, the House of Representatives should go first simply because it had the most members. Also, by law, that was where all money bills were started, so they had to be the most to blame for the loss of Medicare and Marilyn's death. The Senate was bad enough, but certainly, the House of Representatives had to go first!
Jack was able to slip away from the tour group and go down some stairs to the first level of the basement. That was really the best place for him to put his bomb to do the most damage. That was when he found the little trolly connection that ran from one end of the building to the other. It was used for maintenance and for transporting legislators from one place to another when they wanted to avoid meeting the public. Perhaps that could be used to destroy the second chamber!
Jake walked around under the House Chamber and found several rooms that were used for document storage or other things, but were not visited very often. One of those rooms should be a good place to setup his bomb. In fact, he might be able to bring in several bombs over the course of a few weeks so that he could make one super bomb that would be sure to do the damage he wanted. Jake spent about two hours examining the basement and choosing his bomb location.
Jake didn't want to push his luck too hard, so he left for the day. He could always return tomorrow and try to get the same access to the basement under the Senate Chamber.
He was back the next day and tried to visit the Senate side of the building. Uh-oh, there was some construction going on that kept him out of the basement he wanted to visit. Okay, there was always tomorrow. This time, Jake managed to slip in with a plastic jug full of gasoline and take it to his chosen room in the basement under the House Chamber. That was so easy that Jake was astounded! Oh, well, he was not going to spit on his good fortune. Tomorrow, he would try taking down two containers of gasoline. The plastic jugs were tightly sealed, so they were not going to leak fumes of gasoline and raise suspicions. Jake now had six gallons of gasoline in the storeroom, and he thought two more trips would be plenty.
This still had not solved his problem of the Senate Chamber, but the construction crew was gone when he visited this time, so his luck was holding plenty good enough. Jake did the same kind of search that he had done under the House Chamber and found a spot that looked good. The senate was small enough that he figured he could do his job with only eight gallons of gasoline.
By the time Jake had moved as much gasoline into the two storage rooms as he thought he needed, he had worked out an adequate timing mechanism. The timing mechanism he came up with was thousands of years old: a water clock! He got two metal cans from a dumpster and punched a small hole in the bottom of each one. By careful measurement, he was able to get one of the cans to empty in two hours and the other can to empty in one hour.
The plan was to trip the two-hour trigger and rush as fast as practical to the other chamber to trip the one-hour trigger at exactly the proper time. Jake still had his watch, a Timex that no pawn shop wanted, so he could be very accurate in his timing.