January set in cold and dark this year but the book ideas are running hot.
My next release, The Wolves Of Satan, is working its way through editing. Still more re-writing to be done and then off for proof readings.
Pending release – fall of 2018.
I am busy at the keyboard. Chapters of my latest work – Beyond The River’s Edge, a Coldstream novel in South America, is unfolding chapter by chapter.
From scenes of the tropical rainforest and fly rods bent with exotic fish on the Amazon River to Bolivian drug cartels and corrupt CIA operatives. Large dancing Peacock Bass, betrayal on the shipping docks of Belem, Brazil and the most dangerous man in South America.
When the dust settles, Latin America will never be the same.
While I’m fleshing out the story for Beyond The River’s Edge, I’ve began writing a sci-fi thriller called RESET.
A charming genius, cloud dwellers and groundliers, cities stacked one on top of the other. People born on the planet but are foreign to the surface, and – a unique video game.
I may run this one on my blog in the near future.
So with work being busy, why not write two books at once.
And this is only January.
Can’t wait to see what develops as the year moves forward.
Charles M. Ryan sat stiffly in his rental car waiting beside the guardhouse. The guard collected Ryan’s I.D. and returned to the booth. Tapping the steering wheel nervously Ryan rehearsed the facts that he was to present to the Whitehouse Chief of Security and later with a meeting involving the President of the United States.
Charles had saved all his notes from the eco-terrorist investigation over the years, stashed them in boxes and over time forgot about them. Times changed. He and Netanya had married and settled into a modicum of everyday life away from terrorists and evil foundations leaving behind thoughts of saving the world.
A contested election brought a new President. One who had sworn to the American public to fight the tide of oppression by the environmental movement and return America to a state of prosperity and glory? The President’s first act of office was to reopen the investigation into the rumored conspiracy by the green factions. The POTE Foundation sat at the top of the list, thus a request from the President to the man who had investigated the foundation for years, him, Charles M. Ryan.
The guard tapped on his car window interrupting Ryan's thoughts and waved Ryan into the large parking lot. Within minutes Ryan found himself standing at the security desk. His briefcase surrendered, and pockets emptied he watched for the guard to wave him through the electronic security gate.
Once cleared an assigned escort walked him deeper into the building.
Ryan followed the guard to the second floor. The guard stopped at an enclave and pointed to a chair in the waiting area. Without a word Ryan’s escort left and took a position in the hallway.
The extra cups of coffee and the burrito he had for lunch came back to haunt him as he sat waiting for his appointment. Timidly, Ryan motioned to the man on duty.
“Hey. Is there a washroom I can use? My lunch is seeking revenge,” he said to the soldier.
The National Guardsman gave him a wilting look.
“Sorry. I can’t wait.” Ryan pleaded. The guard glanced around nervously as he weighed the request. “Around the corner to your left. But you had better hurry. The joint chiefs do not like to be kept waiting."
“Thanks,” Charles said as he jumped to his feet and took a handful of steps before turning the corner. He tried the knob on the men’s washroom. Locked. Shit he mumbled, the urgency of his upset stomach sending him rushing further down the hallway in search of an empty bathroom.
Ryan walked the corridors checking each room as he passed. The hallway split. Taking the left side he continued glancing into open doors. Second door from the end he noticed a bathroom at the back of the office. Ryan glanced up and down the hallway before he rushed across the empty room heading straight for the bathroom. Fumbling in the dim light to locate the light switch he turned and locked the door. The lunch he had eaten earlier rumbled deep in his stomach.
With a sigh of relief, he sat. Footsteps sounded on the carpet outside the room. Shit, he thought. His kind of rotten luck, the only bathroom he came across in this section of the whole damn building and someone had to walk into the outer office.
Remaining quiet he wished that whoever entered the office would leave and save him the embarrassment of being discovered, mainly since he was in an unsanctioned part of the building. Ryan waited breathlessly. The opposite happened. He heard another set of footsteps enter the office; a quiet voice accompanied the second of steps, the person speaking almost too quiet for Ryan to make out the words.
“What are you doing here? I warned you to stay away!” a male voice on the other side of the bathroom wall reprimanded, the tone a harsh whisper.
“Time is running out. Tomorrow the new bill by President Burrows to end the green energy movement will be in front of Congress. You are surely aware that if the bill passes into law, our Foundation and the whole environmental movement, will suddenly be deemed illegal, wiping out years of planning and careful preparation."
“I know, I know. Burrow's speech to the nation is in a half hour…” Ryan strained to hear more of the conversation. The male voice close to the wall was much louder, and he was certain it belonged to the Vice President of the United States. Instinctively Ryan reached into his pocket and slid his phone out. Years of formal information gathering while an FBI agent drove his movements.
Entering his password, Ryan tapped on the phone’s recording app. With a silent prayer, he hoped that the phone would be able to record the voices taking place outside the bathroom walls. With his phone pressed tight against the wall he held his breath, his rumbling guts now a lower priority.
The Vice President spoke again. Anger underlined his words. “I told you that I would deal with the man.”
“How confident are you that your idea will not fail. Remember, the Secret Service members you are counting on have all been vetted for their loyalty to the President. What makes you so sure that they will obey your orders and turn their backs on the man whom they are sworn to protect?”
“It fairly simple really. The agents won’t be killing him…. I will. I have a couple of carefully selected men assigned to his detail. My guys will intercept the President and briefly run interference on his regular detail. From there I’ve got it handled. Don’t sweat it.”
“You, Mr. Vice President of the United States, are going to shoot the most powerful man in the country. Even if you are to succeed, you will be thrown in jail, probably given the death penalty. Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
“Yes. The groundwork has been carefully laid out. Hidden in the basement, right beneath our noses, I have a crew ready to act. They are guarding a man who will, unfortunately for him, be given full credit for the assassination of our dear President.
President Burrows is to be left unattended at a preplanned spot. The service will be distracted long enough for me to take care of business. Then our fall guy will be brought to the location, and once I've dealt with the President, I will, in turn, shoot the assailant and the American media will hail me as a hero.”
Ryan heard one of the people in the office nervously tap their fingers on a desk. The conversation halted. Both people obviously dealing with the gravity of what was about to transpire? The V.P. of the United States broke the silence.
“I suggest that you get far away from the Whitehouse. How will it look when the Secret Service announces that this lunatic has killed the President and you happen to be in the building? Not good for your Foundation I would think. Especially since President Burrows has already gone on record and announced that he is abolishing the clean energy policy. The one that your POTE Foundation helped encourage into law with Bankenridge’s administration.” The V.P. paused adding as an afterthought. “We can not allow Burrows to cancel a decade of environmental work and then try to rebuild the floundering oil and gas industry.”
“Again, when will this happen?” the other voice asked.
“President Burrows speech is slated to last until a little before five. Ten minutes after that I will be the next President of the United States of America.”
The second voice grew even fainter. “Don’t fail. We have spent a fortune getting you to this position. If the President lives to revoke the energy bill… Well, I’ll leave it at that.” The second voice raised on the last few words. The tone and pitch puzzling to Ryan but the few words uttered were impossible for him to be certain he heard it right. Still, in his mind, the voice was odd, it wasn’t the voice he would associate with the conversation, and it was different.
The voice faded along with a set of footsteps. Scared to move Ryan pressed his ear tight against the wall listening intently. The Vice President mumbled some incoherent words and then a drawer slammed and the man's footsteps exited the office.
Ryan's mind raced. He quickly replayed the recorded conversation. What the hell was he to do? Then the thought occurred. He glanced at the time on his phone. Little time remained for him to try and convince anyone in the Whitehouse of the conversation he had inadvertently overheard.
The phone, the recorded conversation, he had the proof right, but as quickly as that idea came, he brushed it aside. Who would take him seriously, a discredited FBI agent who ran around spouting conspiracy theories? It was his word against that of the Vice-President and who in their right mind would believe that a man chosen by the newly elected President would conspire to shoot the American leader and of all places right in the heart of power, the Whitehouse.
Stuck with a conundrum, he wracked his brain for a possible solution. What if he had heard the conversation wrong, after all, the second voice in the office was almost indiscernible. Close to panic the answer popped into his weary mind. It was his duty to find the Vice President and confront the man. If he was wrong, what did it matter that the VP joined the list of people who thought him crazy?
Sticking his head out of the office door, he checked the hallway to see if the guard had come searching for him. Ryan left the office turning in the opposite direction of his appointment and the National Guard escort and quickly walked farther into the large building. He wondered the hallways with a hastily thought out plan to confront the Vice President with the damning recording.
The building was a maze of corridors and dead ends. Ryan moved quickly, only slowing down whenever his path crossed other people. If he stopped to ask about the V.P.’s location he would be forced to answer questions that he knew would get him detained. So, avoiding contact with the other workers in the building he searched. Panic began building from desperation.
From a door down the hall, a pair of armed guards appeared and walked in his direction. Ryan slowed and offered a nervous smile as he passed the men then ducked around a corner. He came to an abrupt stop. The Vice President and a hooded figure blocked his way.
The V.P. raised his eyes to Ryan’s face.
“I heard you…” Ryan blurted then gained his composure. He raised the phone still in his hand. “In the room. Your plan to…”
The robed figure turned at the sound of his voice. Ryan took a step back in surprise. Lucas’ aid Alice joined the V.P. staring at his interruption. A mashing of thoughts stalled Ryan’s words. In a heartbeat clarity formed in his brain, the whole investigation played before his eyes as he realized that Lucas wasn’t the man responsible for the Foundation's underhanded dealings.
“I was in the room, I heard your conversation,” Ryan said, his fingers fumbling with the play button for the recording. At the sound of his voice, Vice President Learnerd panicked. The American Vice President retrieved a gun from his pocket.
“No. Put that away,” Alice hissed reaching for the gun.
“I won’t let this man destroy years of hard work,” Learnerd snapped angrily. Alice pushed the gun down. Ryan, seizing the interruption, rushed the Vice President. His hand clamped on the VP's arm. Alice was brushed aside as the two men struggled for control of the gun. A finger tightened. A shot reverberated down the Whitehouse corridor.
Alice screamed. Ryan turned at the sound. Alice's eyes grew large in shock. Her hands rose to her chest in an attempt to smother a growing tide of blood. She fell back against the wall.
Ryan focused back on the Vice Presidents crazed eyes. With one hand fighting for the gun and his other hand still clutching his phone, Ryan struggled to disarm the United States second in command. The gun jerked again. Another shot fired. Vice President Learnerd released his hand from the weapon and staggered back.
“DROP the gun,” a command came from behind Ryan. Dazed and confused the FBI agent spun to locate the voice. The gun held tight in one hand, his phone in the other. The guards, the same two that Ryan had passed just minutes ago fired simultaneously at the sight of the raised firearm.
Charles M. Ryan blinked. His vision blurred. With his body in shock, he took one unsteady step forward, lifted the hand gripping the phone then fell to the floor. He felt a foot knock the gun from his hand. His eyes stared aimlessly at the ceiling before his vision grew black.
An image of Netanya holding their newborn son drifted into his mind. His lips lifted at the corners at the vision of the two as his eyes rolled back into his head and a final breath escaped his mouth.
Lucas leaned on his arm, his eyes directed out the window, his sight unfocused. Alice was dead. How could that be? He should have never let her go alone. But in his heart, he knew he would never have been able to stop her.
She was always the strong one. When times were not in his favour, she found a way to keep the momentum going. He flashed back to the time Professor Enders left them with an ultimatum before the man mysteriously disappeared. A puzzle Lucas had mused over until Ender's body was discovered burned in an explosion. It wasn’t until years later that he learned Alice was the one responsible for the body of the Professor to be found at the oil fire in Venezuela all the while shifting blame of the eco-terrorists away from Lucas.
She was behind the use of Russian forces to destroy the Ukrainian gas refinery and the then betrayal of the Russian operatives once the mission was complete. The consequences of the mission creating a political rift between the neighboring countries, a rouse that crippled gas supplies from that region to Europe.
The ensuing war shifted the world’s focus away from the Foundation's environmental tactics. An idea he would never have endorsed had he known.
Alice along with select members of the Foundation continuously schemed behind his back thinking that he was oblivious. After he learned the truth about the explosion in the Ukraine he decided to end the violence. Secretly he leaked files to the FBI agent Ryan, but the stupid ass ruined everything by showing up at the summit in Seattle and loudly accusing Lucas of using the terrorism for his Foundation's gain.
Once Alice got her hands on the proof delivered by the agent, she used her influence in Washington to shelve the investigation and discredit the man.
Lucas continued staring out the window blindly. Tried as he might in stopping the horror Alice unleashed on the oil industry, his efforts failed. What could he do? Report her. No. He owed her much more than even the great Climate Profit could repay. And now she was taken from him and their newborn son.
A veil of anger at the loss of his Alice settled over him. All he wanted from the beginning of this crusade was to stop the people of the world from their path of destruction to the earth’s climate. The road to salvation had started peacefully and with good intentions but yet he was fought every step of the way.
The acid of anger churned his stomach. The nightmarish visions from his youth followed him 24 hours a day now and combined with his mourning of Alice robbed him of sleep. The time for merci was over.
With the massed fortunes of the POTE Foundation and the army of faithful followers behind him, he was determined to finish that which he and Alice had started. The lives of humans mattered little compared to the well being of Earth.
Lucas angrily pushed away from the window. A meeting with the Foundation's founders was about to start. He would lead the war this time and the sword of power swung in his favour.
A little smoke now would clear the air for an eternity he philosophized determined to make the world pay for taking his Alice.
March 2030 the leaders of the free countries gathered in Havana, Cuba. The conference was a dire affair. The remaining free run nation leaders held the emergency meeting to forge an alliance capable of defeating the advancing Climate armies.
Many leaders arrived with reluctance. The forced allies in attendance submitting votes, naming one of the men at the conference to lead the newly formed World Coalition Government. Months of clandestine meetings and backroom deals led up to this moment. The individual efforts of each country in fighting the Climate armies failed to slow the defeat. The consensus was to battle from behind a united front.
The decade and a half climate wars saw each side advance and retreat repeatedly. In the Climate Prophets drive for sustainable clean energy, the surface of the earth became littered with towering turbines. From pole to pole the behemoths bloomed.
July 3, 2044
"We continued training with troops from the European Union. Our allies flew in two days ago, and we are all anticipating rigorous drills for the next three weeks in preparation for the continued war against the forces of the climate prophets.
At first, the governments of the world had not taken the prophet's threats seriously, writing them off as annoying fanatics. The climate armies now number in the millions and are proving to be a dangerous adversary with their coordinated attacks.
The prophets have been hugely successful in recruiting large numbers of volunteers with their promises of a green planet, continued opposition of fossil fuels and their dogged campaign of bombing strategic world fuel reserves. The terrorist actions by these organized groups are now having a devastating effect on the continued harvesting and transportation of necessary supplies. At the rate that the attacks are occurring most countries are now struggling to maintain day-to-day operations.
I was told yesterday of my new promotion. I am now the youngest captain in the Canadian Army at twenty years of age. Captain Jeff Ryan. Cool. Has a nice ring to it, but my celebration is short lived. Our world forces are striving to hold back the determination of the climate prophets and their growing fuel resistance army.
I received news this morning that my training here in Wainwright will be cut short; I am to report as a liaison for the Canadian army at Yakima Training Center in Washington State. There, I will join fellow officers from around the world to devise strategies for the retaking of American fuel reserves that we’ve lost to the enemy.
I hate to leave at this time. Since the rains of June have stopped, we’ve experienced nothing but blue skies and plenty of sunshine; the temperatures are climbing into the high twenties. The rain has turned everything green, and the air has a clean, fresh smell to it."
June 10, 2045
"The climate prophet’s armies are growing exponentially. The world governments are losing the battle. Climate armies are burning and destroying all our sources of fuels at an alarming rate forcing us to retreat on many fronts. The lack of fuel is slowing and in some cases stopping our progress at several strategic oil deposits across the world.
Today the European president ordered a significant number of troops back to defend the few remaining fuel reserves they control. The climate armies have invaded the Saudi Conglomerate States decimating Saudi armies and destroying Middle Eastern oil reserves.
In Canada, the Prime Minister refuses to end the civil war that has split the country. His Eastern forces continue to attack the sovereign Provinces in their fight to claim the west's energy resources. Several platoons of American soldiers have been redeployed to help the landlocked sovereign state. In exchange, we continue to send trainloads of oil across the border.
The forces of the Climate Prophet have employed the strategy of starving the world armies of all fossil fuels. Not only is this crippling the forces standing against them, but also a worldwide ration has been adopted. For the time being, the only manufacturing left untouched by the fuel ration is the munitions factories.
Americans by the millions are finding themselves without work and lack the fuel to heat their homes or provide transportation
If the war continues, everyone but the people contracted by or enlisted in the military will be left to fend for themselves. The army can’t fight off the climate forces and at the same time maintain the peace in the countries affected by the energy shortage. My fear is that anarchy will soon overtake us.”
In late 2045 scientists began recording alarming amounts of seismic activity. The earth trembled with each turn of the huge metal blades of the wind generators. Scientific studies bemoaned the constant quivering of the earth’s core. Before a plan for righting the planet could be agreed upon the march toward the inevitable began.
2047 and the threat to humanity became a reality. Earthquakes were now a regular occurrence. Then within a short 12-month span a chain of violent volcanic eruptions rocked the world. The sky became choked with the toxic dust. Venturing out of doors required careful planning and even better respiration equipment. The days that the sun failed to appear stretched into months.
With the growing pool of scientific evidence correlating the abnormal frequency of volcanic activity to the whirling blades of the wind turbines, the World Governing Party laid the blame for the planet's deterioration at the feet of the Climate Prophet and his foundation.
Lucas and his disciples went from environmental saviors to hunted fugitives. The spate of destructive volcanoes swung the balance of power in the climate wars away from the green movement. Leagues of the Prophets followers switched their allegiance and joined the World Governing Party as terror grew from the world-shaking apart. Lucas and his Foundation associates eluded capture and were never heard of again.
With an uncanny foresight at the onset of the Climate Wars, Lucas financed the building of a city at the foot of Adams Mountain in Washington State. The Foundation secretly transported materials and manpower to the site in a vast but little-known mountain valley. Over the years as the climate war raged the city of metal took shape. Lucas’ vision and desire to secure a haven for his faithful slowly became a reality.
Oil transported to the site by the Foundation's energy companies rested in giant cauldrons buried deep in the mountain behind the city. An emergency stash secreted away for the possibility that the war swung in favor his opponents.
The tread of footsteps into the room drew Lucas out of his daydream. He turned and glanced at his son. A rare smile brightened his face as he stood and studied the young man. So much like his mother, Lucas thought. The memory of his long-dead partner made the smile disappear.
All these years later and Lucas still ached at the loss of his friend, lover and the mother of his child as if she had just died yesterday. His mind roamed back to happier times. Times she was by his side as the two fought the greedy energy corporations for the liberation of the earth.
A good fight they fought too.
“Father, the news is on. You will want to see this.” Mathew said gravely. Standing just inside the room, he studied his father. The state of the old guy's mind was becoming a concern. Some days his father was the bright, intuitive man of his youth and others...Mathew waited until his father left the window and moved in his direction.
Lucas followed Mathew into a room down the hall. The room was laid out with comfortable furniture and housed the only T.V. on the compound. A grainy picture of a news anchor sat frozen on the screen. Lucas strode to his chair by the burning fire and eased his tired body slowly into the worn cushions.
“Okay son,” he said, his sad eyes focused on the screen.
“The Island of Hawaii was the latest to suffer the scourge of volcanic activities. And a warning,” the newsman warned, “ The pictures you are about to view are very disturbing. Reporter Sheila Cantor is broadcasting live from the Channel 4 News helicopter high above the scene.”
“Joe. I can’t begin to describe the devastation below us. Captain Argyll of the World Intercontinental Government has informed me that…” Cantor stopped her report. As the camera passed from her face to zoom in on the unfolding terror kilometers below the aircraft, tears rolled from her eyes.
Cantor regrouped and in a trembling voice spoke over the streaming video. “The Islands are gone. Sources close to the regional army reported that early this afternoon concurrent eruptions occurred in the chain of volcano’s the Hawaiian Islands sit upon.” The reporter’s words choked back by tears. “The Hawaii islands are no more. My God. Millions and Millions of people have perished in this cataclysmic horror.”
“Turn the damn thing off,” Lucas shouted, his head bowed, his eyes averted from the disturbing news.
“Are you alright Father?” Mathew rushed from his set.
“No son. No one is alright anymore.”
Mathews phone rang. Lucas watched as his son listened to the caller. Ending the call Mathew faced his father. “The earthquake this morning caused destruction to the cave housing our oil supplies. There are some fears that the drums may be damaged and the oil is draining,” he said as he rushed from the room. The TV that was temporarily forgotten about flashed to a different newscast, a new announcer, and another catastrophe.
Lucas leaned back in his chair. At 59 years of age, his lifelong struggle to preserve the planet ravaged his body and mind, a battle that had cost him everything. And now the world perched on the edge of destruction as volcanic activity threatened the very civilization he fought to protect, the very planet he had devoted his life.
Panic in the newscaster's voice caused Lucas to lift his eyes to the screen. Pictures streamed across the screen, rivers of lava pouring down the sides of a new volcano. The molten rock raced down the mountainside toward a shanty village. The heated lava slightly darker than the scorched desert earth it flowed across.
A reporter’s camera zoomed in on the panic faces of the villagers as they fled the path of the volcanoes destruction. Lucas sat immobile, his eyes widening as he watched the camera pan across the sea of terrified faces. Men and women scattered, their mouths opened in silent screams.
Lucas’ fragile mental state weakened further. The nightmarish visions that haunted him since his youth melded with the scenes displayed on the television screen. This time the images accompanied a sickening reality. Unable to pry his eyes from the TV screen he watched, his body paralyzed. In his unstable mind, he met head on with an overwhelming reality. The cause of the visions he had fought so hard to prevent in the first place was in fact brought on by actions he started decades ago.
Lucas’ mouth opened and closed. His eyes glazed over. A pain emanated from the right side of his body and traveled to his heart. The horrifying shock of truth that he alone started and therefore stood responsible for this catastrophic wave of destruction to the earth died in the room with him.
“Come in she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
Thanks for coming along on this journey...Merry Christmas everyone.
FBI agent Charles M. Ryan sat in the near empty passenger car. One week before Christmas, 2024. Riding a train bound for Washington the last thing he dreamt of doing. Ryan shifted in his seat, adjusting his body to conform to the worn cushions while he settled in for the long ride east across the country.
Ryan ran his finger across the power slide on his reading paper, his eyes blurry from focusing on the text of the glowing screen. Laying the thin computer on the empty seat to the side, he turned to glance out the window at the passing landscape. Lifting an elbow to rest on the window frame his tired fingers brushed through his thinning hair. A dull sigh escaped his lips as he stared at his reflection in the window. Faded gray eyes surrounded by dark circles and sunken in a gaunt, ashen face looked back from the window.
The news stories he read to occupy his time continued to gnaw on his soul. The world seemed like it was slowly spiraling out of control. Europe was in the thralls of a revolution. The closely united countries of the Middle East engaged in a horrible war for the remaining drops of the precious black gold. Governments came under siege by a population fed up with unreal ideologies and even north of the border in Canada, a country known for its peacefulness sat on the precipice of a civil war.
The thought of leaving Netanya at this time rested heavy on his mind. She was five months pregnant with their first child, a son the doctors happily informed the couple, a situation he found that caused mixed emotions. First came unbridled happiness at the looming birth of their first child and then doubt. With the growing state of uncertainty overtaking the world was now the time to have a child?
The past months passed as a blur. The anonymous Internet group both he and Netanya partnered with by supplying damaging evidence of the Foundation's unscrupulous undertakings became compromised. The group of hackers was now hunted by U.N. Authorities and had retreated deep underground leaving the pair vulnerable to retaliation.
Netanya’s Israeli agency forced to put the Foundations investigation on hold. The small country was now fighting for their very survival. The Arab nations surrounding the lone Jewish state grew braver and more troubling as the regimes in the Middle East crumbled. Anarchists and extremists began rising like a phoenix from the war-torn rubble.
And suddenly out of nowhere a ray of light appeared behind the dark clouds of misery. Ryan shrugged. Maybe times will take a turn for the better. The American elections earlier in the year provided a sliver of hope for a brighter future. The new President promised to erase the incompetent rule of former President Sam Bankenridge’s and his cowering compliance to the Climate Prophet and the POTE foundation.
A government paid for by the Foundation’s money that promoted a flawed ideology nearly crippling the American economy and forcing countless American families to the edge of poverty and desperation. A tragedy never before witnessed in the industrialized nation. Not only the United States suffered from this predicament, Ryan mused, but the whole damn world.
His let his mind drift back to the sum of actions that intertwined to send him on this train ride. The investigation that began so many years earlier by starting as random attacks of eco-terrorists before leading to the political maneuverings of Lucas’ foundation and their bid for world cleansing. A plan calculated to reverse industrialization back to the dark ages while weaning the world from its oil dependency. The group intent on reinventing the world with their altered vision, consequences be damned.
One wrong decision, Ryan realized, the day he approached Lucas at the Seattle summit and almost spelled the end of his career. By prematurely showing his hand and bringing his findings out in the open, the worried foundation members rallied to have the investigation aborted by the politicians in Washington.
The mistake followed by years of time spent doing menial tasks in the Denver office labeled a conspiracy theorist. He reflected on the short run of anonymous reveals into the People Of The Earth Foundation's grand scheme before his mind jumped to a much happier time when Netanya reappeared in his life with her return to America; the two would take on the evil empire he remembered thinking.
And then finally the day he surrendered to a stronger cause and decided to walk away and leave all that behind. The POTE grew too powerful for his little group to battle. The Foundation and its leader, here Ryan had to snicker at the ridiculous name, the Climate Prophet, swayed the public opinion in their favor giving credence to their environmental cause.
And now after surrendering to fate and struggling to make a comfortable existence for him and his new wife a call came requesting him to meet with the President. Ryan swung his head away from the train car window, his eyes stopping at the briefcase by his side.
Inside contained years of painstaking investigations, reports, theories and irrefutable evidence, some circumstantial, others solid and damning like the thumb drive supplied by his sister’s friend, the Russian soldier, Lev Zhernakov.
Ryan’s mind strayed. His thoughts went out to the Russian. Zhernakov had left the Colorado City determined to find the head of the Foundation snake, the loss of his men still burning a hole in his soul, redemption his alone to collect. The damning evidence Zhernakov had carried across the ocean recorded on the thumb drive proved to be the missing connection exposing the Foundation’s plans for a single world order.
Boy, did he have a few things to tell the new President?
Ryan gazed back out the window as the train roared down the track. As the great Nobel Prize winner of the 2016 literary award once paraphrased. “The times, they are a-changing.”
Later in the afternoon on the second day, the train ride approached the border of the Protected States and the United States. A mounting civil war that had threatened the cohesion of the country stopped short by the election of President Borrows. A man determined to reunite the broken states and repair the rift opened by the continued ideals of the environmental stewards.
The train barreled across the contested border leaving the Protected States territory. Ryan watched as the barren fields of Kansas fell behind, and the expanses of Missouri began appearing. His breath caught in his chest. The once beautiful forests and valleys of the state were replaced by stands of thousands of towering, weathered metal behemoths. Turbines as far as his eyes could see. The ploy by the POTE to replace traditional energy sources derived from fossil fuels with renewable energy.
In the fields adjacent to the tracks Ryan’s gaze passed over large tent communities, the inhabitants living amongst the shadows of the towering, humming atrocities. Thin entrails of smoke rose into the cold winter air from the shantytown. Dotted across the expanse were spindly remnants of the once abundant tracts of trees; the forests sacrificed to provide heat for the tents.
As the train rolled through the ragtag community, Ryan observed men, women, and children roaming the frozen packed dirty snow around the large tubular bases. Now and then one of the tightly bundled figures would stop, bend toward the ground and collect small, scattered objects littering the bases of the metal towers.
At first, he was puzzled, and then he recalled articles written about the displaced and downtrodden families who wondered amongst the turbines in search of the carcasses of unsuspecting birds knocked from the air by the windblown blades stories above the earth.
Birds. That was something Ryan hadn’t thought of in a while. He couldn’t recall the last time he had seen a bird. The winged populations of the skies were nearly extinct across most of the world. As was the wildlife that once flourished in the world’s forests and grasslands. The relentless harvest of trees needed for heating and cooking had a catastrophic effect by changing the surface of the earth into a giant dustbowl unable to support any form of life. Huge expanses of desert covered a majority of the earth’s once fertile landmass.
The new president certainly had his work cut out. In Ryan's mind, he ticked off some of the items that needed to be rectified. Foremost was beating back the surging tide of Climate armies and then the healing of a crippled planet, so it was once again able to provide sustenance for its human inhabitants. Those two problems alone could prove to be enormous undertakings.
Canadian Prime Minister Carl Emery sat hunched over at his desk. “What in the world are we going to do? Without the oil supplies from the west we might as well go back to horse and carriage,” he lamented to his advisors gathered in the room.
Zack Hewitt, the Minister of Defense, thought about the Prime Ministers words before responding. “Take the bastards out.”
“How is that going to resound with the rest of the country? Sending the Canadian military to attack our countrymen?” the Prime Minister replied angrily.
“Not our countrymen, Carl. It was their decision to close their borders and hold back resources required by the rest of the country. The self-proclaimed leaders should hang for treason. Their selfish act is nothing short of extortion.”
Emery emitted a short, derisive laugh. “We don’t have enough fuel to move the damn army even if we wanted to. What. Maybe I could beg the buggers to sell us enough oil so we can go to war against them? I can’t see them having a problem with that,” the Prime Minister barked sarcastically.
“Well then. You could fall to your knees in front of your bosses at the foundation. Ask them to send a supply of oil, so we can activate the army and chase those rebels out of our borders. If we take control of the “Western Canada Region” the country will once again have enough resources to operate.”
The Canadian leader spun in his desk chair. His tired eyes looked out over the grounds of the Parliament buildings. Emery’s anger fumed as he dwelled on the wealth of resources the Western provinces possessed and the way they refused to help in Canada’s time of need.
How in the hell did the Prairie Provinces end up with all the essential goods the rest of the country lacked? Besides the obvious oil and gas products, the provinces were self-sustaining. The breadbasket of Canada lay between the Rocky Mountains and the Ontario border. Cattle, wheat, even an abundance of lumber, the one thing Eastern Canadians prized the most these days. With the shortage of natural gas to heat homes and electricity prices through the roof, the vast forests in the northern parts of the provinces were disappearing at an alarming rate.
When Emery and his cabinet came to power, the fantasy of a carbon-free country seemed feasible. Indeed, Canadians would suffer but over time people adjusted. Most just needed a push to realize the benefits of clean energy. Now damn near eight years later the promised prospect of a green future fell far short of the promised outcome.
The rural farm areas of Ontario and Quebec lost valuable cropland and became blighted with unsightly metal behemoths and a failing power grid. The solar farms produced energy in small, unstable amounts and the billions his government spent on retrofitting buildings was a joke. Even the Parliament buildings had problems keeping the lights on. The goddamn Parliament building, he swore and shook his head, the home of the countries government can’t even keep the lights on.
Prime Minister Emery swung back to look over his advisors. “I will call the foundation and demand supplies. Meanwhile, gentlemen, I want every ounce of fuel and oil available to us gathered. Shut down whatever government departments you have to and make this work.” Carl Emery skimmed from one face to the other. “Stockpile the fuel, mark it for army use only. Maybe it is the time we taught those separatists a lesson. Reunite the country and reclaim the resources we are entitled to.”
Zhernakov slowly opened his eyes. Lying still he squinted through unfocused eyes, his mind dull and confused. Blurry images slowly dissolved into hard-edged reality. A dirty ceiling greeted a mind unfamiliar with its surroundings. His hands felt without moving. Soft clothe and wrinkled blankets.
Where he was and how he came to be here he puzzled over. Then a throbbing pain in his side brought his thoughts rushing back. Moving his head, he glanced to the side. The women. Carol. Sitting a short distance from where he lay.
His eyes traveled to her face. She sat unblinking, her eyes riveted on his. Her face a mask of…. he tried to speak, his tongue thick, uncooperative in his dry mouth. Zhernakov swallowed, forced his lips to move.
“Lie still,” Carol said, her eyes unwavering as they bore into him. With a detached tone, she explained. “We are in a motel. The owner called a friend of his to remove the bullet from your side.” Zhernakov furrowed his brow. Her manner of speaking indicated that things were being left unsaid.
“How…?” he began to question. Then flashes of the darkened gas station and even darker alley swam across his fractured memories. His stumbling across the two men harassing Carol surfaced. He had woken in the car to find her gone. Crossing the mouth of the alley, he heard her voice. Scared, angry.
“You collapsed coming to my aid. The owner of this motel stopped the men from killing you.” She paused and moved her face to the side, dried tears showed. Zhernakov followed her gaze. On a table to her side rested a black pistol. Familiar. Shit, he mumbled. The gun he had snuck into the country concealed in a leg holster. Beside it a small thin case, a computer drive loaded with files and confessions against the American Foundation interlopers who had bought the traitor, Russian Special Operations Directorate, Yuri Frolov.
“Who exactly are you, Comrade?” Carol Ryan asked in a suspicion-laden voice.
Zhernakov fought back the pain in his side. Rising he lifted his body and sat placing his feet on the floor. Before answering, he studied the woman sitting across the room. In the short time knowing her, his respect had grown. The woman had a fire in her soul. A no give up attitude. He liked that. She would make any Russian man proud to be in her presence.
“I am not Canadian. My name is Lev Zhernakov. Once of the Russian Special Forces.” He watched for a reaction. She remained quiet, her face impassive. “I have come to your country for a purpose…” Zhernakov carefully retold the tragedy of the failed mission in the Ukraine. His voice sagged when he spoke of his fallen comrades, all good men sacrificed by the Russian Directorate’s betrayal. For nothing more than some asinine causes of a warped American Foundation and their strange perverted idea of changing the world.
Carol Ryan waited long after the Russian finished his story before speaking. “Why don’t you take the evidence and give it to the authorities. What were you going to do? Kill the bastards responsible for your men’s deaths?”
Zhernakov hesitated too long.
“You were, weren’t you? Kill the Americans responsible. There has to be a better way. You could be killed or the very least hunted by the American law where you would be locked up in prison and left to rot.”
“I know no other way. I have no one left. I have not spoken to my parents ever since the explosion in the Ukraine and was proclaimed dead with my comrades. If word of my survival reached the Kremlin, my parents would certainly disappear.” He shook his head staunchly. “No. Better everyone thinks me dead then my parents living out the remainder of their days toiling in some Siberian hell hole.”
Carol Ryan crossed the room and sat on the bed. Taking the Zhernakov’s hand in hers, she lifted her tear-stained face to his.
“You have been a savior to the children and me since we’ve met, give me a chance to repay you. Come with me to Colorado. We can talk to my brother.”
October 2023. The hotly contested Presidential election stole the news headlines. Steve Borrows, a senator from the fringe state of Arkansas ran against President Bankenridge’s Foundation Party and their Presidential candidate.
The junior senator made headlines with his brash, often repeated condemnation of the state of American politics and the subservient role the serving President took in acquiescing to the climate movement while the nation suffered as a whole.
“Never before has a sitting President purposely led his people down such a black hole of despondency while ignoring public outcries and catering to a fringe ideology,” the Senator relentlessly reminded the American public. His utter disdain toward his opponent and a daring platform to revive the stumbling super power quickly resonated throughout the land.
With unemployment rates at unheard of numbers forcing millions of families to eke out pathetic existences, large industries shuttered and the countries GDP dropping steadily into double negative numbers the votes for the Arkansas Senator climbed.
Forced to battle without the immense funding of a backer like the POTE Foundation, Senator Borrows pleaded with the American people to help in a fight to return America the nation it once was, a great and powerful country and a leader for the rest of the world.
At the beginning of his campaign, the man from Arkansas faced an overwhelming mountain of resistance. Lacking the funding and experience of his opponent Borrows appealed to the average working men and women, a firm voice in a time of turmoil and depression for the United States. With words that resounded from coast to coast, the Senator used wit and empathy for the struggling population to drive his campaign.
The Presidential hopeful pledged promises of a unified country. Fueling dreams of what the average American household had taken for granted only a short 8 or 10 years earlier. A prosperous country where the working class once again were gainfully employed, living in heated homes, food for their tables and neighborhoods where the children played and laughed.
The Foundation’s candidate surged on the vote of the countries labor unions and the burgeoning environmental movement. Union leaders afraid to displease the President's bosses and lose the prospect of job security for their members stood by the Foundation. The environmental movement pleased with the current ruling party and the replacement of fossil fuels happily campaigned for the candidate.
In the months running up to the election, Steve Borrows forged an agreement with the holdout, the Protected States of America. The deal signed to reunite the wounded nation stitching America’s 51 states back together. Buoyed by the support of the protected states and the voting public opposed to the current government's energy schemes, the race for the Whitehouse had become too close to call.
While the Presidential race fueled animosity across the country, the ex-Russian soldier and Carol Ryan fought a path from the eastern seaboard toward the mountains of Colorado. The travelers zigzagged through depression filled states. Several times the pair was forced to doubled back on their route as they encountered blocked highways. The nation's network of roadways suffered from the oil shortage; some blanketed from ditch to ditch with vehicles abandoned by their owners when the gas tanks ran empty.
The second morning of the trip west the bullet buried in Zhernakov’s side infected. The Russian slipped in and out of consciousness while a fever gripped his body. Concerned for the man’s health, Carol Ryan pulled off Interstate 81 east of the town of Bristol, Tennessee.
The highway sign read 30 miles to the City of Bristol. Carol glanced down once more at the flashing light on the car's instrument panel. A red blinking light indicated the tank was near empty. Making a decision to fill the tank against the possibility of running short of fuel she steered the car into the cluster of businesses that lined the road.
Dusk settled over the area as she rolled the car off the paved Interstate and drove the car onto a graveled road leading to a gas station. The parking area ahead littered with dusty, forgotten vehicles. Across a narrow alley from the pumps sat a roadside diner. The lights in the eatery cast shadows into the falling darkness.
A mud-caked pickup truck parked out front. A little farther down the road, a rundown single story motel welcomed visitors with a flickering vacant sign.
Carol edged the car toward the lighted gas station. The lights in the building lifted her hopes that the station still carried a supply of gas. Several times today she had driven past gas stations that were boarded shut with covered and empty tanks. As she drew nearer the pumps, her hopes began to fall. The pumps dials sat in shadow.
Stopping the car alongside the pump island, she checked on her children, both fast asleep. In the front seat, the Canadian snored quietly, his face drenched from the fever.
Carol eased out of the driver’s seat gently closing the car door. Stretching the weariness out of her body, she looped around the car toward the dark pumps. A quivering light lit the inside of the glass cover.
With a faltering hope, she removed the gas nozzle and waited for the pump dial to activate. Nothing. Craning her neck, she peered toward the lit station office. No signs of movement. Reluctant to leave the car she replaced the nozzle and crossed the graveled ground. The station door was locked. Indecisively she glanced back at the car then crossed over to the roadside diner hoping to find the station owner.
A bell on the door sounded as she stepped inside. The restaurant stretched out in front of her. At the counter, two good old boys in ball caps, dirty clothes, and unruly beards turned to watch her approach. In a window table adjacent to the front counter an old couple was bent over eating. The old man raised his eyes from his supper and after a quick glance at her rested his eyes on the boys at the counter.
Swallowing her nervousness she took another step inside the diner. “Does one of you run the station next door? She asked. “I have an emergency and my car is out of gas.”
A worn waitress entered the room from a side door at the dinging of the bell. “The station is closed, sweetie,” the waitress said apologetically. “I don’t know why Ike leaves the damn lights on in the front.”
One of the men at the counter set his fork down and running his fingers through his greasy hair leered at Carol. “I got some gas I can sell you.” He said. “If you got money to pay.”
The waitress turned her attention to the man then switched them back to Carol’s face. Her eyes saddened, and her mouth twitched like she wanted to add something but reconsidered after a sideways glance from the men at the counter.
Carol waited by the doorway. The situation made her nervous, but with an empty gas tank, she was short of options. She swept from the waitress to the old couple before her gaze returned to the men at the counter.
“I’ve got money,” she answered. The man at the counter wiped his hands on his jeans and slid off the stool, his partner following.
“Right out front.” The man said. Carol glimpsed back toward the waitress and then let her eyes travel to the couple by the window. She noticed the old man’s eyes narrowed as he watched the two good old boys.
“Henry Clemson,” the closest of the men extended a dirty hand in her direction. An overpowering stench of sweat permeated from the man as he guided Carol out of the restaurant.
“Carol Ryan,” Carol introduced herself. “My husband is waiting in the car.” She quickly added wishing that her Canadian passenger were by her side.
Carol stepped off the front step and felt a shove as she moved toward the truck parked out front. “This way.” The man calling himself Henry growled.
Carol tried to turn to face the pair but was met with force as she was guided into the darkened alley separating the gas bar and the diner. Ignoring her protests, the good old boys herded her deeper into the walled tunnel using their presence to block her retreat. Near the end of the building, the two men shoved her behind a pile of stacked pallets and boxes.
“We don’t want your money for the gas,” the man called Henry sneered down at her.
“Leave me alone,” Carol shouted at the pair. “You don’t want my husband to come looking for me.” She bluffed.
“Oh. Your husband can come and watch.” The second man spoke while reaching for her. Carol stepped away from the men. Her back touched a wall. A brief flash of panic shot through her then was quickly replaced with anger. Her children were yards away sleeping in the car and damned if she was going to be a victim.
She pushed the man’s hands away, and when Henry drew closer, she drove the two-inch heel of her boot down on his foot. As he flinched, she raked her fingernails across his bearded face while twisting out of his grasp and attempted to leave the alley.
A large hand slammed into the back of her head knocking her down onto the graveled lane. “I’ll teach her a lesson,” the second man said to his pal. Carol raised her hands to protect her head against another blow. Quivering in the dust she waited, her mind racing for a way out.
“Comrade. Try picking on someone your size.” She heard a familiar voice join the fray. The smack as flesh met flesh and the man standing over her grunted then staggered backward. Carol moved forward, away from the commotion before standing up and risking a look back. The Canadian stood facing the men from the diner. Even in the dim light, his face had a pale sheen.
Zhernakov launched at the two from the diner, his fists punishing the men, his arms blocking punches and kicks. For a fast, furious couple of minutes, he held the pair off. Then in the dark alley, his strength waned, the infection and fever sapping his strength. The men from the diner began landing punishing blows to his body. Zhernakov faltered under the torrent of punishment. A rock rolled under foot sending him sprawling to the ground.
In unison, the pair from the diner closed in. Their advance halted by a loud metallic click from the mouth of the alley. In the near dark, a flash of light glinted off the business end of a double-barreled shotgun as it floated toward the melee.
“Jim. You and Henry climb in your truck and don’t ever let me catch site of the two of around here again.” The old man from the diner spoke from behind the twin barrels. The two good old boys scowled at the intruder, shot a quick glance at Carol then scurried from the alley. The old man's gun following the two until they retreated out of site.
“Even in this shitty light, your friend doesn’t look very well.” The old man commented as Carol rushed to Zhernakov’s side. “I own the motel next door. Let me give you a hand, and we can move him to a room there.”
“Try not to move,” the woman’s voice urged as he opened his eyes. Zhernakov winced. Pain wracked his body as he sat up straighter in the seat of the car. “The bullet is still inside you,” She added. “I was able to bandage the wound, but we had to get away from those men.”
Zhernakov laid his head to the side. His eyes fell on the woman.
“Thanks,” he muttered.
“Where are you heading,” the lady asked.
“West,” Zhernakov replied. His eyes left the face of the woman. Twisting slowly in the front seat, he scanned the interior of the car. A young child leaned sideways sleeping in the backseat, the seatbelt holding the boy up. Across the backseat, a booster seat held a sleeping infant. The space between the children stacked with suitcases.
“The rest of the country lies to the west of here,” the woman pointed out. “Are you heading to the Protected States?”
“The Protected States?” Zhernakov answered with another question. “I don’t understand?”
The female driver looked at him suspiciously. “The Protected States of America,” she replied quickly explaining how the mid western states unified and announced their separation from the realm of federal laws governing the union of the United States.
Zhernakov paused absorbing the news. On his travels across Europe, he had heard such rumors and scraps of news regarding the rift between the different sovereign states in America. At the time he paid little attention. Not knowing how the country operated he gave no thoughts to such news.
“Washington. Seattle, Washington. Is this one of the protected States? He asked.
“No.” the young lady replied. “The Protected States territory ends at the Rocky Mountains.” She returned her eyes to the highway and stared over the dashboard. “You are not American are you?”
“Canadian, I am from Canada,” Zhernakov replied. A lie he had been researching and practicing long before boarding the freighter from Italy. In his mind the Russians and Americans were enemies, and he feared arrest at the discovery of his home country.
“Oh. From where about?”
“Manitoba.” A province his research found was less familiar than some other Canadian Provinces. “A small community north of Winnipeg,” he added to dissuade further inquiries.
The lie seemed to placate the nervous driver. “I can give you a ride as far as Colorado if you’d like. I have a brother living in Denver.”
Zhernakov slid his right hand toward the driver. “Mike Kulinzky. Nice to meet you.” Zhernakov rolled the name off his tongue. The pseudonym carefully chosen to fit with a Ukrainian ancestry and blend in with the fabrication of his new identity and assumed home of Manitoba, a province settled centuries ago by an influx of Ukrainian immigrants.
The woman removed her hand from the steering wheel in return. “Carol Olstiener...or it was until recently.” She hesitated, wondering how much to reveal to a man whom she knew so little about. But then he was Canadian, and he did save her and the children from the men who tried to rob her. “When my husband left I went back to using my maiden name, Ryan. My brother works in Denver. For the FBI.”
Franz Riecher led the largest of the protests that crippled the cities streets in the German capital. The unruly crowd carried banners and signs. Effigies of German Chancellor Leon Fischer swung from tall poles, the distorted mannequins covered in anti-environmental slogans. Riecher led the crowd toward the cities government buildings.
Rounding the corner the protester marched undaunted under the watchful eyes of the leagues of German police officers.
Throughout the streets, clashes began erupting between the millions of disgruntled German nationals and the thousands of military brought in to maintain law and order in the once thriving and peaceful city. Hordes of the unemployed and disfranchised joined in the rally. Each voice echoing concerns over Germany’s transformation backward from a modern industrialized civilization to the Stone Age living conditions brought about by an anti-oil government.
In a country run by a dictator, the actions of the people would be classified a coup. In a Democratic nation, the actions were unprecedented as the population raised up to overthrow a government decidedly against the voter's wishes.
“HEAR THE PEOPLE,” Riecher shouted. The masses marching with him chanted, “Take our country back.” As they waved signs of Chancellor Fischer’s picture with a line drawn across his head.
With the narrow street separating the opposing sides protesters began lobbing bottles and rocks at the police defending the German Chancellor and his ruling party.
In France, days of round-the-clock clashes between the French people and the reinforced French army ravaged the country from Paris to the smaller cities and spilled into the countryside. A harried Army General turned to the French President.
“Mr. President. The people are over running our men. I need the order to return fire, Sir.”
“General Moreau. By no such means will your men fire upon the citizens of this country.” President Devillers turned aside and focused his thoughts as he stared out the window. The streets facing the French Assembly overflowed with enraged demonstrators.
Maxime Devillers stood watching the citizens of his beloved country resort to such desperate tactics. The crowd ascending on the building dwarfed the reinforced lines of police and military. It was only a matter of time that the angry mob swarmed past his line of defenders and ransacked the government building. His term as their leader and even his life no doubt in peril.
Even as he stood looking down into the surging crowd skirmishes between groups of protestors and the police flared up. At other points along the divide, demonstrators took turns dashing toward the French police angrily shouting their distaste for the ruling President and his assembly. Masked protestors rushed to the front of the line tossing projectiles toward the grounds and taunting the men protecting the French government.
President Devillers shook his head sadly. Years of forced green ideologies on the hard working French population brought this standoff to a peak. The hardships suffered by the lower classes drove the division of his country to the breaking point. With regret, Devillers thought back on how his government stripped the people of France of their dignity and pride by forcing the change away from fossil fuel to an unreliable source of green energy. Too late his government realized the error of their judgment, but the damage already inflicted.
A loud roar rose up from the streets. President Deviller’s attention focused on the gates leading to the building's entrance. One after another the men ordered to defend the French Parliament began laying down their arms and stepping out of the way for the irate mob. The rush of angry patriots poured onto the grounds.
“President Devillers. We must leave now Sir." General Donatien Moreau pleaded with his commander. "The helicopter is waiting on the roof to transport you to safety. It won't be long before the crowd overruns the building."
In London, the scene mirrored that of Germany and France. In the flickering streetlights of yet another rolling brown out the British people roamed the streets. From every corner of the United Kingdom, the people drove or walked or rode trains. Millions upon millions showed up in London to protest the forced withdrawal from oil usage.
The hundreds of thousands of turbines installed on the Island of England failed to power a civilized existence. Banks of solar panels erected to shore up the energy shortage failed miserably with the Islands limited amount of sunshine. People shivered in their houses, ate food spoiled by intermittent power outages that cut the power to the refrigeration systems and were left struggling to exist.
The British subjects fell dejectedly by the wayside as hundreds and then hundreds of thousands watched their lives erode. Jobs became scarce; bills went unpaid, and finally families large and small, old and young found themselves living on the streets fighting their neighbors in a search for food and warmth. Hope began to diminish as prayers for life once again worth living went unanswered.
For days and weeks, the British people decided to revolt against the government’s ideals and the trek to the large city to retake the once great country began. Shouts and demands for the government to stop the trampling of its citizen's rights for a decent life turned the peaceful people of the kingdom into revolutionaries with no further to fall.
All in the name of climate change and all brought on by one man’s vision of a world ravaged by devastating climate changes.
Late 2023 the Arab oil capital had started to crumble under its enemy’s attacks. Saudi Arabia had hemorrhaged money from years of fighting a war from its borders out against other Arab states vying for a share of the minuscule oil market that remained. Along with the protection of Saudi borders, the army fought within the country against the millions of migrant workers who had moved to the Arab Kingdom during the oil-rich years to work as laborers in the vast oil fields. The migrants became the first casualties in the country because of an oil-restricted world.
The Saudi military retreated on several fronts. Ammunition and supplies became scarce as the oil money slowly ran out. Eventually, the Saudi army saw groups of soldiers, some as large as platoons, throw down their guns and desert their posts. Defeat would be imminent. The days of towering skyscrapers would soon give way to skylines of wind turbines. The Arab people forced back to Nomadic roots with the desert wind once again replacing the oil riches extracted from miles beneath the earth’s surface.
Late 2023 also saw the waning of the Ukrainian/ Russian war. Neither side admitted defeat, but the slumping market for oil and gas products bankrupted the countries and forced the conflict between the two sworn enemies to the sideline. Both governments lost their appetites for fighting each other and turned to bolster the struggling economies.
In the void left open by the ousted and failed governments, a new regime worked to control the political landscape. Leaders backed by the POTE Foundation formed pockets of power growing a formidable Climate Army. Wedges were driven deeper between governments and voters leaving Europe weak and fragmented. The time was ripe for a new world order.
From the Middle East to the tips of Russia anarchy flowed across the landscape with the power of an unstoppable tsunami. The battle between climate deniers and those on the side of a green, healthy planet fought for supremacy. Countries imploded from within their borders, governments upended and social systems destroyed. The burgeoning Climate War consuming everyone in its path and its path was headed west with little resistance to slow the tide of change.
The Italian freighter docked at the sparsely used Brooklyn Commercial Port located at the edge of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. A small maritime community perched on Upper New York Bay.
The late November sun began sinking in the western sky as the ship's first mate directed the lowering of the boats thick ropes used to moor the freighter tight to the docks anchors. Banks of lights began flickering on brightening the shipyard. Time had passed before the gang plate lowered allowing access to the newly docked ship.
Dockworkers readied equipment for the offloading of the large cargo ship. Cranes rolled into position. A line of trucks formed a queue waiting for the first container to arrive. Aboard the ship, the crew rushed about making last minute adjustments. Men moved about the gang plate. Greetings made, orders issued.
In all the activity a solitary figure left his station aboard the freighter. On his shoulder, the man carried a bundle of gear winding his way among the cargo and workers. With his wool cap pulled low he turned the collar of his jacket up leaving his face partially shadowed. With an air of purpose, the man strode down the gang plate careful not to attract undue attention from the surrounding workers.
Amid the rehearsed chaos of the docks routine movements, the lone man walked casually away from the Italian ship on a course that would carry him away from the shipping yard and into the town scant blocks away.
Passing between rows of single metal containers the man dropped the cumbersome bundle before peeling the wool cap off his head, which he tossed aside. A few steps further the crew issued raincoat fell to the ground.
Arriving at the edge of town unseen the figure stepped into an alley and threaded a straight route west from the large body of water and toward the farthest part of the city where he assumed the crew of the Italian freighter was less likely to frequent.
The damp air combined with the chilly November evening brought with it a bone-numbing chill even for a man used to harsher climates. Undeterred, the man placed foot after foot increasing the distance from the shipyard and further onto American soil.
When the man had traveled far enough to avoid the accidental meeting of his former shipmates he left the security of the darkened alleys. Standing at the edge of a shadowed building corner the man surveyed the street and businesses on the lighted sidewalks, flickering neon signs advertised shops still open at this hour.
The noise emanating from a weathered pub tucked between two dark adjoining buildings caught his attention. The man cautiously walked from the corner, eager to trade the cold night air for the heat of the bar.
Pausing briefly in the doorway, he scanned the pubs interior before weaving his way to an empty booth near the back. While waiting for the waitress, the man shivered silently welcoming the warmth of the room.
Seated facing the door, the man discreetly studied his surroundings. Instinctively noting the few means of exit, a habit that was automatic to a man of his lifestyle.
“What’ll it be,” the waitress asked as she placed a menu on the table.
“A black coffee,” Lev Zhernakov replied in an almost accent-free voice. A couple of years had passed since the ex-Russian soldier killed the traitorous Russian Directorate and fled his homeland. The two short years felt like a lifetime. Since that time Zhernakov practiced speaking English with a single goal burning in his mind. Find the American’s who backed the corrupt Frolov and in part caused the death of his team in the Ukraine and his near death.
He spent the last years traipsing throughout Europe working toward the day he reached American shores. Now it was the fall of 2023. His determination remained. The group that the traitor Yuri Frolov received orders from lived within these borders, and he would stop at nothing to hunt them down.
The sun was still in bed when Zhernakov left the small maritime community. A cold and misty morning found him miles from the New York port town, his feet beating a steady tempo along the wet asphalt road. With his head down and his collar up against the cold predawn, he marched toward his destination, the west coast of the continental United States.
An hour later and miles farther a slip of dawn began weakening the dark of night. Zhernakov navigated a curve in the road, his visibility a mere few yards. A woman’s scream alerted him to trouble ahead. Zhernakov debated leaving the road for the shelter of trees growing close to the highway.
Then a young boy’s cries for his mother rang from the fog. Not your trouble the ex-Russian soldier told himself. With a foot already into the tangle of trees, the woman’s pleas echoed again.
Zhernakov shook his head recriminating his action. He turned and padded back through the damp grass to the roads edge. Using the surrounding mist as cover, he warily moved closer to the voices.
“Please. I need my car. You can't leave the children and me stranded out here,” a woman’s voice begged. The request answered by a loud slap of skin against skin closely trailed by the woman crying as she fell to the ground.
“Remove the kids and the mother's things out of the car,” a man’s voice commanded. “Jerry. Where’s the hose? I’ll drain the gas out of the truck.”
“Under the toolbox,” a second voice replied. “You had better hurry. If anybody comes along and sees us, there will be hell to pay.”
“Relax. I’ve got little Bertha with me. Let some son of a bitch try!”
“Put that gun away you jackass. No need to pull that out. Hurry and siphon the gas tank.”
Zhernakov listened to the conversation as he inched closer. The limit of the fog shroud began to weaken as he drew closer. Stopping while still invisible, he strained his eyes to make out the scene.
A baby started to cry. The little boy ran to help his mother. Zhernakov found one man bent close to the open gas cap of a truck, the man’s hands busy feeding a hose down into the tank.
Zhernakov melted deeper into the fog. The long grass muffled the noise of his steps as he moved around the back of the truck. Close enough to reach out and touch the man.
The dark mass of the woman rose from the wet grass and rushed toward the truck, her hand swinging toward the distracted male. Her fist slid harmlessly off the man’s back.
“What the …” the man let go of the hose and raised his fist to strike the woman. Zhernakov’s left hand shot out of the mist and clamped onto the man, his right hand delivering a powerful blow to the side of the guy's head.
Drawn by the commotion, a second man rushed toward Zhernakov. The Russian soldier released his grip on the first man and spun to face the impending threat, the rushing force of the man’s body carrying the two men heavily into the side of the truck. Zhernakov deflected a flurry of punches aimed at his head before sweeping aside the man’s attempts and delivering a set of devastating punches of his own.
Zhernakov had hold of his attacker when the metallic click of a firing pin sounded from behind. Instinctively Zhernakov spun his body dragging the beaten man in front as a shield.
A bright flare lit the mist. The thundering boom of the exploding bullet and the smell of spent gunpowder followed closely. With all the force of his body, Zhernakov tossed his human shield in the direction of the gunshot.
The gunman hesitated as his friend hurtled through the early morning fog toward him. Zhernakov dove at the two men now lying on the ground entangled. The Russian’s fist struck the gunman’s body as his other hand grappled for the firearm.
The men wrestled on the wet ground. Zhernakov’s hand clamped tightly over the shooter’s hand, his other hand pounding into the man’s body. The gun began to turn. A second shot erupted into the morning air. The report of the weapon resonated across the forest and was quickly replaced by haggard breathing. Slowly Zhernakov began to rise from the scrum; the gun clutched in his hand.
The second man moaned as he began to stir. Zhernakov lowered the barrel of the weapon. A loud crack ensued as the metal of the handgun met the man’s head. Then quiet again. Zhernakov gulped a deep breath and straightened. His eyes left the two men on the ground as he searched for the woman.
In the lifting fog, he saw the woman clutching her children tight. The little boy’s eyes were large, tears building at the edges while he watched the Russian.
“They’ll be out for a while. You had better get moving.” Zhernakov advised the woman. Taking a step forward his head became light. He noticed the little boy pointed at his body.
“You’re bleeding.” Zhernakov heard the woman exclaim moments before he lost consciousness and slid to the ground.
Lucas regarded the American President. This impromptu meeting called by the United States President and relayed by a White House aide sent to seek Lucas out, interrupting a climate summit currently underway in the city of Boston. The aid pulled Lucas aside during a black tie affair, the summation of days of lectures presented by the scientific communities reports on climate progress. The President’s assistant insisted Lucas meets with the American commander in chief.
Sam Bankenridge paced the grand hotel suite while airing his concerns to the man many now considered the most influential in the world. Bankenridge was halfway through his second term in office as President of the United States. On being elected for the second term, the American leader had been pressured to fulfill his promise to the man responsible for bringing him to power.
Bankenridge doubled down on the removal of fossil fuels from American society. Short of outlawing the continuing use of oil derivatives, his cabinet capped exports of oil shipped to the country and inside the States borders carbon taxes rose exponentially while pouring billions of tax dollars into the renewable energy industry.
Faced with numerous studies providing evidence that the majority of the population would suffer severely with the change of direction, his cabinet explained the strain on the economy and the displacing of hundreds of millions of Americans as a learning curve. President Bankenridge and his administration maintained that the habits of the American people needed to conform to the new world conditions to save the struggling planet.
During his first term, his newly appointed government began implementing the new energy policies. Among the outcries and scare tactics, he held course. Then his administration faced the standoff from a coalition of mid western states. Governors from the Oklahoma border west to the Rockies unified to defy the ruling parties new laws. The combined states formed a new governing party and filed separation notice from the remaining states.
The election for his next term suffered from the loss of the midsection of the country. The saving grace stood with the remaining American states. In the year 2020, the majority of the American population still resided mainly on the East and West coasts. The fugitive state’s small population failed to vote Bankenridge out of power.
The next several years progressed with a fragile truce. Both sections of the divided United States bargained in good faith. The country ran, products continued moving from coast to coast, and the bad feelings between the two governments temporarily set to the side.
Now in Bankenridge’s second term the truce began falling apart. Sorties carried out by militant eco-activists continuously tested the new alliances defenses attacking oil production. Then years of civil wars and infighting among oil producing countries resulted in a near shut down of oil.
The Protected States now threatened his bid to ensure a constant fuel supply for his nation's government to operate and to maintain the countries security. The Arabic countries from which the States still imported the majority of oil to run the country were now caught up in wars in their countries. The world supply of oil became much smaller.
The refusal of the Protected States to sell sufficient amounts of the product to shore up the depleted supplies bordered on the verge of treason. Several of Bankenridge’s inside circles began talking about war with the deserting states. The President sought a more peaceful solution.
His administration appealed to the American public in a massive campaign regarding the welfare of the entire nation. The public adds backfired. The country now found itself being ripped apart by violent protests, mostly against the President's clean energy policies. People wanted the oil industry back along with the millions of jobs that disappeared with the energy sector.
The American President stopped his pacing and faced Lucas, “This is your fault. Shut down the oil industry and save the environment. People will soldier on through the bad times and emerge with a new concept of life. Or some god damn thing like that!”
Lucas sat nonplussed. He looked at Alice seated to his side. Turning his focus back to the American leader he replied, “Times are tough everywhere Sam. You needed the Foundation's support to become the President. Don’t you remember? You agreed that the habits of the world had to change. We had to eliminate the consumption of fossil fuel if there was to be a planet left for our children.
So what are you asking? Ignore the work we’ve accomplished thus far in easing the damage to the world's heating climate so you can reintroduce a glut of oil for your purposes. Is that your idea of leadership?”
“What in hell am I to do. The oil fields of Los Angeles are drying up. The few thousands of barrels they produce fall well short of keeping this nation moving. Our ports in Texas are next to silent, and the big oil companies have chosen to cut production drastically.
How am I supposed to run a country without oil? Arm the military with those useless ELECTRIC CARS!” President Bankenridge shouted.
Lucas’s eyes darkened. Cowards. He hated cowards, like the man standing in front of him now. Before he could refute the President, Alice broke her silence.
“Grow a pair, will you. Hard times call for hard measures. Give the rebels an ultimatum. They either play along or you repossess the chunk of America they are laying claims to. You are the “PRESIDENT” of the United States…now act like a damn president!”
A solitary figure crouched in an alcove on the 35th floor of the Continental Oil Tower. A gleaming skyscraper of glass and steel buried deep in the heart of the Houston business district. Counting the seconds, the expected footsteps of the night security guard grew louder as the watchman entered from the far end of the hallway. Every so many footsteps brought silence while the guard paused briefly at each office door rattling the doorknobs to ensure the doors were locked. Then the steps would start again repeating the process. The man could be heard humming as he made his rounds, the jangling of keys on his belt adding to the rhythm of another monotonous evening.
Soon the humming and the footwork stepped to the same beat while the sentry performed his hourly ritual. The level of attention paid to the tedious task by the bored security guard adequate, but routine. In his ten years on the job, not a single event had broken the time-tested pattern, so the night watchman walked his rounds with the voice of latest country artist filling his earphones, the man's mind miles away in thought.
The figure shrunk into a tighter ball hidden at the bottom of the dimly lit alcove. As the guard approached, she held her breath worried that the even the quiet exhaling of breath might alert the guard of her presence. With eyes cast down, her sightline tracked the dimly lit shadow of the guard as it slid across the carpet, moved past the corner and then was closely followed by the physical form.
The guards timing was impeccable. The strict routine of the building patrols carried out like clockwork every hour of the night. The female figure started the countdown again and at the predetermined amount of time eased from the shrunken position to cautiously peek into the hallway. She watched the back of the guard disappear down the opposite end of the corridor.
Glancing back to the direction the man had started, the figure eyed the cameras in the ceiling. Her mind studiously plotting out a course that would take her undiscovered into the office of the Continental Oil’s CEO. With the route memorized, Netanya Kalb slowly rose, checked once again on the guard's progress then on soft-soled shoes moved quickly from the alcove. Her carefully placed footsteps resembling a macabre dance as she traced a zigzagged trail to her destination. The trek to the office a time restricted game of hide and seek with the rotating cameras.
Stopping tight to the wall adjacent to the CEO’s door, Netanya waited while the ceiling camera swept passed the office door and continued on its endless circuit. A new countdown began in her head as she rushed to the door, a pair of long thin picks ready to attack the lock. She had 20 seconds before the camera finished its arc and reversed directions. Her last attempt took close to 18 seconds. A time she hoped to better this time around.
…17…18…the lock tumblers clicked. Netanya dove into the office shoving the door closed then engaging the door lock. Resting on the floor, she calmed her breathing and in her mind ran through the room's layout. Now that she was out of the camera's view, she had time to complete her task. Her last visit to this office was one month ago, and she hoped that the tiny cameras she had planted were worth the effort.
Sliding the CEO’s chair close to the desk, she climbed onto the solid top and stretching on her toes reached a hand above the twin ceiling lights, her fingers feeling for the small shape of the hidden camera. For a brief second, she felt a stir of panic before the tips of her fingers rubbed against the tiny plastic box.
Netanya spent the next few minutes gathering the rest of her concealed arsenal of electronic recorders. With all the devices accounted for, she returned to the desk digging a specialized thumb drive from the inside of her suit. The drive was a model often used by the agents at Shabak. It served a dual purpose. When first installed it transferred the computers files to a predetermined email address and once the download was complete the drive released a virus that melted the circuit board when the computers password was next entered.
The downside to the drive, it had to be simultaneously installed when the power button was activated. If her timing were off, any safeguards built into the computer would come into play rendering her task pointless and without a doubt notifying the buildings security.
Netanya breathed air deeply forcing a calm to flood her body. Slowly exhaling she gently lifted the laptops cover enough to display the power button then with steady hands she lined the drive up with the computers port while her right hand hovered over the power symbol.
Netanya let out the last of her breath, then with skilled hands moving in perfect harmony her left hand slipped the drive into the waiting slot while her other hand depressed the metal button. A flashing light indicated the laptop’s response. She stood motionless. The screen flashed to life then just as quickly returned to sleep mode.
Retracing her steps to the buildings 10th floor, the Israeli agent crept back into a supply closet, exchanged her gear for a set of street clothes. The change complete, Netanya casually walked to the stairwell and down to the lobby, straight past the front security desk, her face partially shielded from the desk attendant. She paused at the main doors, her hand resting on the handle while she waited for the guard to remotely release the door lock.
“Leaving early tonight?” the voice of the attendant questioned assuming she was part of the night cleaning staff. Netanya remained facing the door, mumbled a barely audible reply, flashing her hand in the air waving the forged security card. Her heart sped faster. A tense silence chewed up seconds before the metallic click of the lock signified her release.
In a house on the outskirts of the city, Netanya sat hunched over a kitchen table reviewing camera video from the CEO’s office. A second figure sat mesmerized by pirated files from the same office.
Charles Ryan whistled in enthusiasm at the information garnered from the hacked computer of the Continental Oil’s CEO. Damning information laying proof that Continental Oil had sold out years earlier to the People Of The Earth Foundation. Under the guise of the independent holding company, false reports were produced showing a severe shortage of oil stock while millions of barrels of black gold left the state for a facility in the western part of the country.
The video Netanya studied contained even more damaging information for the oil company and the POTE. The acting CEO discussed the illegal transactions with directors of other major oil companies. A bevy of executives who, with the help of Netanya’s colleagues in Israel were discovered to be appointed figureheads, the leaders of an oil cartel operating under the umbrella of the POTE Foundation. A disruptive collusion aimed at starving the North American free market of oil products.
FBI agent Charles Ryan hid a smile as he sat at his desk in the Colorado field office. The FBI agent sat at his desk reading stories obtained from newspapers across the country. Ryan scoured the Internet on his latest purchase, a digital reading paper.
The FBI agent marveled at the timely invention from the techs at Silicone Valley. A small square of material that was the thickness of a few sheets of paper combined with the computing power of a modern laptop. Since the start of the climate struggles the use of paper products had grown scarce. The fuel to manufacture pulp became too expensive and with the decimation of forests for heating fuel created a void for innovation to fill.
A week had passed since he had met Netanya in the house on the edge of Houston. He returned to his home state and back to work while she traveled to New York and with the assistance of an anonymous group of hackers released the damaging files and videos to the World Wide Web. Links and videos appeared on several national news outlets.
The greatest pleasure to Ryan arrived from the saturation of the nation's press with follow up stories of outrage and protests from shocked American's left without jobs and homeless due to the subterfuge of the POTE and the undermined oil industry.
Protests not unlike the ones of years past but the storyline differed. People were now marching against the lying corporations and the corruption leading to a false green future.
Karma at its best, Ryan supposed. When Netanya had reappeared into his life a scant few months ago with the suggestion that a change of tactics may be needed to halt the undermining of the world economy, he had his doubts. With the recent cyber attacks against the left, anti-oil establishment, he now found a new hope growing.
Fight the establishment with the same deviousness and false truths invented by the green movement she had said. So far her tactics were paying off. Thus began the crucial game consisting of one side moving followed by the other faction providing countermoves.
A global round of chess where the world’s well being became the end game.
The blanketed windows of the prestigious row of brick townhouses on Arbat Street hid the quick successive flashes from the silenced pistol. Three men lay dead inside the plush walls of number 513 Arbat Place. The living quarters of the Russian Special Operations Directorate, Yuri Frolov, situated slightly over a kilometer of the Kremlin.
The flashes of gunfire signaled the end of the impromptu meeting between the head of the Russian Federations Of Special Forces and the ex-Special Forces captain who had returned from the failed Ukrainian mission and presumed dead.
Lev Zhernakov stepped over the sprawled body of Frolov’s personal guard as he slipped through the door and tread lightly toward the end of the hallway on the building's fourth floor. Ignoring the metal door leading to the stairwell, Zhernakov stopped facing a window set in the end wall. Easing the window open, Zhernakov raised his leg and silently climbed onto the metal landing of the building's fire escape.
Stepping to the side of the opening, he stood with his back to the wall letting his eyes grow accustomed to the darkness on the backside of the tall brick structure. Several deep breaths calmed his adrenaline-fueled heartbeat. The chilled winter air cut through his thin black clothing as he waited, ears strained to detect signs of pursuit.
Hiding the glow from the dial of his watch, Zhernakov cursed at the time displayed. 4:a.m. The Director had proved to be a tougher subject to pry the truth of the failed mission deep in the Ukrainian country then the Russian Special Forces Captain had realized. Even with a gun pointed at his temple, the Director sneered at Zhernakov’s questions.
In the gloom of the unlit alley, Zhernakov stared blankly at the darker blots of fluid on his black leather glove. As seasoned as the old guy was, Zhernakov had extracted the information he was risking his life for by returning to Moscow. But the window for his escape was closing in on him.
With a final survey of the shadows and noises of the deserted alley, Zhernakov climbed lightly down the metal stairs into the depths of the ice-covered lane. A sliver of moonlight reflected off the frozen mounds of snow providing different degrees of shadows for Zhernakov to guide himself away from the apartment of the former Special Operations Directorate.
Using the depths of the shadows to aide his escape, Zhernakov stuck to the thick cover provided by the night and the tall buildings that crowded around as he worked east away from the center of Moscow. Walking briskly, Zhernakov passed from the revitalized quarters of Arbat Street for the poorer, less appealing streets of eastern Moscow.
By five in the morning, the Russian Captain slunk around the alleys of downtrodden tenements, kilometers east of the center of Moscow, the homes of the working poor. Smells of coffee began to mix with the coal-laden exhausts emitted by the tenements heating systems. Lev Zhernakov walked steadily, his eyes studying the curtained windows of the ground floor apartments, his body chilled but ready
Voices sounded out of the dark around the corner of the building. Gliding deeper into the shadows, Zhernakov eased his way to the corner, his back tight to the rough wall, his eyes peering into the winter night.
At the edge of the wall, he waited using his ears to probe the area 90 degrees from his sight. A loud bark of laughter broke the silence closely followed by a muffled reply. Slowly Zhernakov slid his head past the corner as his eyes searched for the source of the noise. A sight Zhernakov had been hoping to find. A small group of men stood huddled around a metal barrel, a fire burning inside warming a group of homeless people struggling to survive the brutal assault of the Russian winter.
Zhernakov studied the group before turning the corner and, with his head shadowed by his cap, approached the men huddled tight around the barrel. Within a couple of meters, he purposely ground snow under boots alerting the strangers of his presence. The men turned in his direction parting as he walked close to the roaring fire.
“A cold night my friends,” Zhernakov said inching closer to the burning barrel with his cold hands extended over the heat.
The cluster of men remained silent eyeing the intruder. “What brings you out on a night like this comrade?” a member of the group asked suspiciously.
Zhernakov lifted his head sizing up each man individually before speaking. “I need a new coat; maybe I can trade with one of you?”
A man slightly bigger then the Russian Captain snorted. “You must have frozen your brain. Who would be crazy enough to give up a warm coat for yours?”
The men looked at each other sharing in the joke. A metallic click cut off the laughter forcing the group of homeless people to reconsider the stranger.
“I have a feeling that you will,” Zhernakov, said sternly, the barrel of his gun pointed at the bigger man’s forehead.
The morning grew chillier as the clock hands rounded past another hour. Zhernakov’s feet felt like blocks of ice as he trudged closer to the Kursk train station. The closer he walked the busier the sidewalks around the terminal became. Mixing with the rush of commuters entering the station, Zhernakov warily let his eyes roam the station's floor tracking every man wearing the army fatigues of the posted guards.
Lev Zhernakov left the safety of the entering crowd and edged into one of the restrooms spread throughout the vast train terminal. Walking directly into an empty stall he latched the door and closing the lid he sat down, his cold fingers fumbling with the frozen boot laces.
Carefully and painfully he removed each boot and set them aside. Wiggling his toes to get the blood flowing he used his hands to rub warmth into his numb feet. Several people came and left the washroom before Zhernakov laced his boots.
At the ticket counter, he inquired about the next train heading east toward Siberia, smiled while he peeled rubles off a roll he removed from the dead Directorate’s pocket and paid for private sleeping quarters. Shrugging deeper into the thick wool jacket, he pulled his cap lower to cover his forehead and found a chair in a crowd of commuters waiting for the Siberian Express.
With his eyes on constant watch, the Russian Captain sat and digested the information he had risked his freedom for by returning to the city where the decision was made to have him and his crew sacrificed while involved in the Ukrainian crisis.
The answer he had dragged out of the Special Operations Directorate had left his head reeling. If he were honest with himself, the deception his crew had died because of would not have surprised him if the director had said the orders were from within the Kremlin. In Russia, one expected to be deceived and betrayed by the Politburo.
The fact that the Directorate was acting on orders from across the ocean and worst of all, from deep within the United States, had shaken him. The mission to destroy the Ukrainian Gas Coop had no benefit for the greater good of the Russian nation.
Inside Zhernakov fumed at the level of betrayal shown by the high-ranking Russian official. A ploy cooked up by an American capitalist foundation designed to pit Russia against its neighbors. The journey from the Ukrainian countryside to discover the truth had already burned up the past nine months of his life. If the rest of his life was spent entering the United States and exposing the men behind this deplorable act, he could live with that.
The train conductor’s call for the boarding of the express train to Siberia sounded throughout the terminal. Pressing his hand against the coat pocket containing the Directorate’s confession and relevant files relating to the botched Ukrainian mission, ex-Russian Captain Lev Zhernakov embarked on the next leg of his dangerous journey.
Cries of agony rose up from the tattered and tired group huddled under the rocks to avoid the scorching desert sun. A fierce wind batters the barren landscape uprooting exposed clumps of shrubs, the only vegetation left on the dying planet.
Another vision. This one, a city in ruin with crumbling skyscrapers, and roads marked with long abandoned vehicles scattered among twisted ribbons of asphalt. Tendrils of smoke drift into the air and mix with columns of flames from ravaging fires. Small packs of humans skitter about the mangled roads scurrying to escape the devastation as the city falls into ruin.
A different vision brings a new nightmare. Global coastal regions reclaimed by the rising seawaters. A family stranded by the flooding water, the father looking on in desperation, the mother cradling her newborn tight to her chest, tears of grief dripping onto the child’s face. The baby’s eyes open and he begins to cry. The boy’s cries grow louder and louder.
Lucas’ eyes shoot open. The baby’s crying is closer now, chasing away the waking nightmares that consumed his mind. Lucas sat perfectly still while his mind wrestles between dreams and reality. Slowly his brain recognized the familiar surroundings of his cabin retreat; his chair positioned overlooking the side of Adams Mountain. Shaking off the remnants of the visions and grounding himself with a longer look at the welcome site of the mountain vista outside the window he walked from the room to check on Alice and their newborn son.
The couple had only returned to the States a few days earlier after their forced stay in the Burundi capital where Alice had undergone hours of emergency surgery to save both her life and the life of their newborn son, the result of the fall from the hilltop. The second day in the hospitable, Alice gave birth to their boy. The premature delivery proved necessary considering Alice’s condition.
Lucas grimaced at the memory of his son, Mathew. The newborn was taken from his mother and rushed from the delivery room to the hospital's prenatal wing where he remained for the following month as doctor’s fought to keep him breathing.
Lucas stayed by Alice’s side as she regained her strength at both the hospital and then as guests of President Nuru. Alice was on her feet and against his pleading divided her attention between their hospitalized baby and her work for the foundation. Several times he reprimanded her for the grueling workload she resumed while recovering. Alice shoved aside his concerns smiling and insisting that the world was still in need of guidance from its Climate Prophet.
One evening as the two sat enjoying the comfort of the President’s private mansion; Alice insisted that Lucas remind her of the events that led to her fall and endangered the life of their unborn child. With reluctance, Lucas began the story at the time of the activist’s clambering onto the small rise leading to the scuffle and her tumble over the edge.
“What will happen to the man? Rawasa. That is his name, correct?” she inquired.
“I’m not certain. I would think that President Nuru will hold the man accountable for the assault of her guards and the forced interruption leading to your hospitalization.” He answered. “I will insist she takes the attack very seriously,” Lucas added sternly, his final words ending the discussion.
A couple of days before the family left the African country; Lucas was rummaging through an English version of the countries national paper. An article buried a few pages in caught his eye.
“Burundi nationalist and tribal chief, Medard Rawasa was discovered by villagers in the early hours of the morning. His body was found dangling from a strut high on a metal tower, a cord tight around his neck. The local constabulary is classifying the death as an apparent suicide but tells reporters that a full investigation will follow …”
Lucas took the news in stride. When the mother of his child more time to recover he would let Alice know that justice had prevailed.
When the mother and newborn were pronounced fit to travel, Lucas made arrangements and returned his family to the house perched amongst the forested countryside in Washington State.
Charles Ryan sat frozen. His attention focused on the mirror and the reflection of Netanya Kalb as she paused at the pub entrance, glanced around the interior and then moved across the carpeted floor toward him.
A smile played at the corners of his mouth as he took pleasure in watching Netanya weave around the crowded bar tables moving in his direction. Ryan spun on his stool, a full smile lighting his face when she stepped past the final obstacle between the two.
“What is a lady like you doing in a rundown place like this,” he joked.
“I thought I would slum it tonight,” she replied setting her purse on the countertop and without hesitation threw her arms around him.
Ryan stood and circled Netanya with his arms. “I never thought I would ever see you again,” he mumbled in her ear, his voice choked with emotion.
“So what are your plans now that they’ve taken you out of the field?” Netanya asked seated on the couch's edge in Ryan’s living room. Ryan walked from the kitchen, a drink held in each hand. Handing one off to Netanya, he backed across the tight room settling into an armchair.
“I have no idea,” he sipped his drink then set it on the side table. “Lucas wins I suppose. If he can dictate his wishes to the head of my bureau what chance do I have at exposing the foundation's plans?”
Netanya sipped from her glass. “That’s it. I leave you alone for a few months, and you become a groveling company man. Really!” The Israeli agent left her chair and roamed the apartment. “The place looks bare,” she commented. “What happened to all your clippings?” she asked referring to the pinholes and tape marks left on the walls where Ryan’s files and investigation papers once hung. “ You gave up and took them all down?”
Charles Ryan followed Netanya’s reconnaissance of his sparsely decorated home. He lifted his glass and took a long drink from his glass.
“Part of the conditions for my dignified return to the agency. Wilkerson had fellow agents escort me home with orders to collect all my work related to the eco-terrorism and the POTE Foundation.” He emptied his glass with a tilt of his wrist. “The cupboards are bare so to speak,” he added glumly.
“I never pegged you as the type to cave into authority,” she replied.
“Yeah, well, I…why exactly are you here again?”
“Well. Firstly, to see you.” She smiled over the rim of her raised drink. “Secondly. As I told you, a decision came down from the U.N. to scrub the investigation, their idea not my superiors.”
“So you are going to dash my romantic fantasy by telling me this is business and not pleasure?”
A laugh escaped Netanya's mouth, “Let’s go outside and enjoy some fresh air,” she winked as she picked Ryan’s jacket off the back of a chair and tossed in this direction.
"Maybe it's time we attack this problem from a different angle," she said as the pair exited the apartment.
Burundi President Fabiola Nuru smiled back at her guests as she led the procession to a vantage point in the foothills of Mount Heha. The first female President of the African country swelled with pride, excited to show off the progress her countrymen had made with the American foundation's help.
She took hold of the outstretched hand of her personal guard, Tadeas Jengo; ground her foot solidly into the ground to prevent slipping then pushed off with her back foot while Tadeas held tight aiding in her climb of the rocky ledge.
While President Nuru caught her breath, the remainder of her protection detail provided assistance for the American visitors. With the aid of another man, Lucas helped Alice ascend the short rise as he carefully guided her up. With Alice now seven months pregnant he became overly cautious, the pending birth of the couple's first child providing fleeting moments of relief from his nightmarish visions.
Once the last member of the group was atop the rock ledge, Fabiola Nuru’s face lit with a broad smile before she turned and with her outstretched arm motioned across the valley below.
“Thank you again, Mr. Lucas,” she said. The sight the group gazed down upon causing the 40-year-old President to swoon like a schoolgirl.
Lucas’ face remained impassive hidden beneath the robe’s hood. Without muttering a word, he stood transfixed near the crest of the outcropping overlooking the transformation of the African countryside.
The valley in the small African country was a community of activity with clusters of people toiling among bulldozers and giant cranes. A forest of soaring wind turbines sat in different stages of completion throughout the lush valley surrounded by piles of bulldozed trees from the remaining forests and nestled among the local farmland. Off in the distance, Lucas observed a family tilling the earth in an area surrounding the wind machines from an earlier installation.
“The people of my country will be forever grateful to your foundation for providing a means of self-reliance. The opportunity for jobs and the money my people earn installing these energy towers will mean great things for the future generations of Burundi.
A scuffle broke out behind the visiting dignitaries. The crowd that followed the traveling procession on the trek to the hilltop grew as men and women gathered on the trail. The crowd began pushing against the soldiers at the bottom of the small hill. An argument grew in volume, one man’s voice rising loudly above the scrum. Lucas spun around, his eyes quickly zeroing in on a noticeably angry man leading the fray, the carcass of a dead bird held high in his outstretched hand.
The young man waved the bird clenched in his fist threateningly toward the group standing atop the hill. Soon other voices added to the commotion. Native Burundi’s strained against the small platoon of presidential guards. The leader shouted loudly in Swahili. With raised brows, Lucas glanced at the President waiting for an explanation.
President Nuru turned toward Lucas; her face was apologetic. “The young man’s name is Medard Rawasa.” The Burundi President stopped as if the name alone explained the actions lower down the hill.
Lucas shrugged indicating his failure to understand. “Rawasa is an outspoken opponent of the miracle towers your foundation is providing.”
Pausing to gather her thoughts, President Nuru further continued. “Rawasa says that your metal towers are destroying the wildlife in this area. The tall steel towers are nothing more than a blight on this land. He says you should tear the monstrosities down and leave our country.”
The young man became more animated as he pressed against the line of soldiers. Medard Rawasa glared up at Lucas, his shouts intensifying, the growing crowd becoming restless driving the President’s guards backward. A couple of the President's protection detail became tangled with the protestors leaving their station. With a break in the line, several people trickled by the remaining soldiers and scurried up the small incline. Lucas stared down the crowd while pushing Alice behind his body for protection.
Medard Rawasa and several followers gained the top of the hill crowding Lucas and the African President. Angry words spewed from the activist's mouth, his face purple with rage. Other members of the mob continued climbing onto the small rock topped knoll, the area becoming quickly overrun. Spittle flecked Lucas’ face as the man relentlessly continued to berate the visitors.
President Nuru translated from inside a protective circle of her personal guards.
“Rawasa wants to know why you have come to our country to destroy our forests and farmland and replace them with these tall metal monsters?”
Lucas tried to respond but found the angered Burundi people shouted down his words.
“When the forests are gone, and your towers built, he asks how his people will make a living. The farmland and forests that feed the local tribes are being destroyed. He wants to know who then is going to provide food for the villagers?” President Fabiola Nuru shouted the last few words of her translation over the raucous.
More villagers climbed onto the rock ledge. With the area severely overcrowded, protestors began shoving and pushing with each other. Lucas watched warily as a growing stream of people separated him and Alice from the President and her protection.
The African’s surged closer, the leader still hollering in Lucas’ face. A member of the crowd tripped, brushing against Lucas’ side sending him off balance. As he staggered for his footing, a harrowing scream from behind his back flooded into his brain.
The crushing force of the protestors stopped. As a single person, the assembly looked past him. Lucas rose unsteadily. His first thought was Alice. Glancing at the protestor’s faces, he followed their gaze to the edge of the hill. When he failed to locate Alice in the crush of bodies, his eyes traveled down the steep incline.
Lucas’ breath caught in his throat. Lying at an awkward angle several yards below the ledge, Alice lay unmoving. Leaping past the stunned Burundi crowd, Lucas grasped at clumps of shrubs and rocks as he slid down the steep incline. Digging his feet into the hillside, Lucas skidded to a stop beside Alice. In desperation, his fingers searched her throat for a pulse.
Lucas held his breath while his fingers probed Alice’s neck, her head carefully cradled in his lap. Lucas' body froze when he noticed a pool of blood seeping from beneath her body. Involuntarily, his mouth began twitching as he held the mother of his unborn child.
As if answering some unspoken prayer, Alice’s eyes flickered open. A weak smile curled up the edges of her lips before panic shook her body as she whispered. “Our baby.”
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.