The police continued to investigate the terrible explosion that had killed and wounded so many workers at the Oklahoma refinery. The day was slowly marching toward evening as the police cordoned off the area. Vehicles pulled were to the side and crowded the ditches lining the only road that led to the hundred acre industrial site. Worried family members, employees who escaped the blast unharmed, local, state and federal police littered the surrounding area followed by a convoy of news vans.
The media spread out over the fields at the edge of the refinery property, reporters stood with their backs to the carnage as cameramen shot continuous video of the firefighters battling the still burning inferno and the fleet of paramedics wheeling gurneys with bodies, some covered with sheets.
FBI special agent Charles M. Ryan walked the perimeter of the blast site stopping now and then to bend close to the ground and study pieces of debris strewn about the compound. The blazing fire was keeping him from wandering too close to the remains of the acres of pipelines and damaged buildings. As he came across local or state troopers he would start conversations, quiz them on what they had witnessed while writing down the descriptions in a small pad he kept in his breast pocket.
SA Ryan ended his sojourn, positioning himself between the burning remnants of the destroyed facility and the main road leading into the parking lot. He wiped the back of his hand across his forehead removing beads of sweat that had accumulated on his brow. Whether from the scorching sun on this hot August afternoon or from the massive fire Ryan couldn’t decide. All he knew was that it was sweltering on the asphalt where he stood.
He left his hand on his forehead to shade his eyes as he gazed first at the blacktop road that merged with the lot and then the array of reporters. Squinting his eyes, he noticed the cameras on display focused on the battles waged between the burning refinery and the firefighters attempting to quell the blaze. To say he was expectant was an understatement. This tragedy was the third to touch the American Midwest in as many months, and unless he was sorely mistaken, the party had yet to arrive.
The reason for this rash of industrial accidents was now his problem to uncover. Shortly after the Missouri pipeline explosion last month that had poured millions of barrels of oil into the mighty Mississippi river he had received a call from the D.C. headquarters ordering his office to carry the investigation. The sabotage had crossed state lines at that time making it an FBI matter. Add to that the outcries from the highly organized green movement and the situation was spiraling out of control.
In the short time, SA Ryan had begun his investigation he had noticed that if the trend continued, he could be expecting a very vocal opponent of the fossil fuel industry, a man who now made it a career to slam the energy sector whenever one of these so-called accidents erupted.
As if on cue the din from the waiting onlookers quieted. The cameras trained on the facility and the firefighting efforts rotated on their tripods. Down the center of the asphalt road strode a robed figure, a hood covering the man’s head blocking his face from view. The robe flowed and fluttered in the slight breeze as the figure walked toward the police barricade that blocked the entrance to the parking lot.
Charles M. Ryan swore under his breath. An undetermined number of wounded and dead caused by the explosion and now the circus makes an appearance. As the robed figure drew closer, Ryan noticed a mid aged female and a rather rotund man keeping pace with the robed figure. Not a surprise, Charles thought but still an unwanted pain in the ass. From his vantage point, Ryan watched the reporters and their cameramen leave their stations and rush to converge on the robed figure.
Shuffling a cigarette out of his pocket and with a spin of the lighter’s wheel Ryan touched the flame to the end of his smoke. Mopping his brow a second time he slowly moved away from the fire and the horrific scene behind him and slowly strode toward the gathering media show. Curious to get a closer look at the man under the robe in person, SA Ryan stepped in behind a cluster of cameras to see the self-proclaimed savior of the environment for himself.
The man is not camera shy Ryan determined as the acid in his gut flared up. So far SA Ryan has been unable to pin any of the recent activity on the robed figure, but the screaming in his gut signaled that the man had something to do with these accidents. He conceded that this was all too much of a coincidence to be ignored.
The robed figure that slowly walked down the road toward the cameras had made a habit of appearing at the rash of similar type incidents that had begun to plague the world. The robe and his entourage parading in front of the cameras extolling the dangers of the continued use of fossil fuels to the world media and the increasing risk it presented to human lives and the environment, namely the climate.
Ryan focused his eyes on the front of the man’s hooded face willing his eyes to see the features shaded beneath the brown cloth. He tried to recall the man’s appearance from years old file pictures. From his research, Charles’ knew the man once went by the name Lucas but over time the media began referring to this clown, and this is where Ryan struggled, who in the hell wanted to be called a Climate Prophet.
Lucas walked down the center of the worn asphalt road, his hands clasped together hanging in front of his body. Moving with a slow and determined pace, he gazes straight ahead at the burning catastrophe that until recently was a very productive oil refinery. The lights from the fleet of emergency vehicles flash red and blue over the twisted and burning remains while responders tackle the blaze. The view facing him is surreal. Firefighters and paramedics methodically comb the scene searching and pulling bodies out of the area, a metal melting inferno their nemesis.
Pulling up short of the police barricade, Lucas stands motionlessly, his eyes taking in the eerie scene that unfolds on the far side of the massive parking lot. Lucas studies the scene from behind the police blockade then turns, his face a mask, hidden in the shadows of the robes hood. The din of the crowd of onlookers and the scurrying of feet and equipment from the reporters growing louder as the group's attention shifts from the scene of the explosion to his robed figure.
Remaining stolid, Lucas watches through shaded eyes while the crush of the crowd tightens around him. A young reporter timidly draws closer to him, her microphone held in an outstretched hand.
“Do you have any remarks Mr. Lucas?” she asks. Lucas studies her then lets his eyes roam over the quickly gathering crowd making a point of glancing back at the out of control inferno burning in the background.
“Tragic,” he espouses, “The lives of so many hard working people put at risk. And for what.” He speaks slowly, the concern dripping from his voice. “Unfortunate that the greed of a few has to have such disastrous consequences for their fellow human beings.” Mumbling his next statement the reporters are forced to crowd closer. “A ticking time bomb,” he quietly announces. “The continued abuse of the earth and her resources has to stop before life on this planet ends for all of us.”
With the complete attention of the local media and the microphones now inches from his face Lucas launches into a diatribe aimed at denouncing the world’s use of fossil fuels. With practiced ease, Lucas carefully shows compassion for the injured and dead. At the same time, he stoutly places the blames of the grieving public on the backs of the energy giants responsible for exploiting the resources found deep in the ground. From there he smoothly transitions to the climate-denying politicians whom continually allowed such atrocities.
Lucas’ voice grows in tenor as he speaks. The anger he now carries about the pending destruction of the climate seething out. With a captivating passion, he warns once again of the world’s persistence to destroy the very earth and by association the people inhabiting it with the constant use of dirty oil. The worst evil that confronts humanity, he repeats, before making another show of pointing to the emergency workers busy retrieving the injured and dead with the inferno burning around them.
“This is what awaits us in hell!” his voice now a loud and commanding. “Are we in such a rush to get there that we have to recreate it here on earth with no regard for our fellow man.” Lucas halts and surveys the people hanging on his words before focusing back on the cameras. “I grow tired of this fight. The individuals in power continue to ignore my warnings and then make feeble attempts to excuse their actions at times like these. How many more people will die because of their ignorance and greed?"
Lucas swipes the robe’s hood off his head, his eyes a dark black as he peers straight into the camera lens. “Do we continue to let the politicians and businessmen tempt fate with their dangerous game and our lives? I SAY NO MORE!" Lucas stops and breathes deeply than in a quieter voice, "I will not give up the fight to save our planet. Every time a needless loss of innocent lives occur, every time another assault on mother earth takes place, I will be there.” Lucas hesitated, before pleading to the camera audience, ” JOIN ME NOW! I cannot win this battle alone.”
The small crowd of concerned onlookers muted murmurings grow louder signaling their approval. Several of the reporters join the chanting crowd, forgetting for a moment the professional duties expected of them. Lucas waits silently letting the crowd quiet down before dramatically raising the robe’s hood back over his head. With the cameras following his moves he takes one last look at the industrial carnage then rotating on his heels he retraces his steps away from the crowd and the police barricade leaving the smell of the burning fire behind.
Lucas stopped in front of the hotel window and stared down at the traffic 14 floors below. He looked without seeing. Since being released from the hospital two days ago, he had silently paced the spacious interior of the room. He realized that his mind had changed. He struggled to get a grasp on his thoughts. He now viewed the world differently. No longer was he some bitter, drug-addicted, entitled rich kid. He awoke in the hospital bed with a much clearer definition regarding his role in life.
Night after night in the hospital, Lucas had fought with the demons in his mind as the traces of drugs ravaged his body and soul producing nightmares that had him screaming and writhing to escape. A vision of the world appeared, a world where the oceans had once again reclaimed the coastal regions wiping out entire populations. The ice caps and glaciers were a thing of the past. The remaining population on earth living on lands scorched by the sun and then a world devoid of humans.
When Lucas finally awoke back into the real world his mind had changed. The memories of the young man who was mad at the world for not giving him everything he requested faded. He awoke with a purpose. Save the planet from the abusers who would destroy it. Now every waking and sleeping moment the dreams from the hospital haunted him pushing him forward to be the savior of the planet. How could he explain what he had seen, who would understand the perils of the planet as he had witnessed.
Barely speaking to anyone since he awoke from his drug induced nightmares he knew things would be different. Alice had sat by his side through his ranting and ravings as the drugs left his body and for that he would be eternally grateful, but he failed to find a way to explain his visions to her. How could he put into words the feeling he now felt when he didn’t understand them himself.
He peeled away from the window and continued his pacing, his eyes seeing all but noticing nothing. A sound from the couch broke through his racing mind. With a faraway look in his eyes, he turned toward the noise. Professor Ender returned his gaze; Alice also glanced up at him, sitting a cushion away.
“Enough of this shit already,” the professor, said. “For the last couple of days, you’ve walked around this room like a god damn zombie. What is going on in that twisted brain of yours?” Ender demanded. Lucas carried his gaze past the professor and Alice, his sight taking in two other occupants of the room, Jim Gregory of the Green Earth Foundation and Simon Hestor of the Blue Environment Project. The two men quickly averted their eyes as Lucas’ head turned in their direction.
Jim Gregory cleared his throat as he found his voice. “Professor Ender is right. We need to know what has happened to you. You’ve been acting strange ever since you left the hospital. What’ up?” Gregory asked the question as gingerly as he could. His foundation had a lot riding on Lucas. Over the past couple of years the young man in front of him had done more for the environmental left then the leagues of green foundations had made in a lifetime. The last thing Gregory wanted was for Lucas to get angry and decide to leave.
Since Lucas had signed on the rate of people joining one group or the other had skyrocketed. Donations were at an all-time high, and the green cause was at the forefront of people’s minds. The news was now filled almost daily with free green propaganda. No sir, Gregory thought, we certainly can’t afford to lose our golden goose. Not now when the whole movement had moved forward in giant leaps.
“What are your plans?” Gregory swallowed before whispering the question.
Lucas resumed his pacing. Raising a hand to his jaw, he rubbed his chin, his face now covered with a beard that had started growing in the hospital.
“Come on Lucas,” Ender cried, “talk to us. I’m tired of this silent treatment. We’ve got work to do, and I need to know if you are with us?
Lucas spun on his heals and through narrowed eyelids he calmly locked eyes with the professor. With his hand still stroking his beard, he patiently stared down the man who was responsible for dragging him into the environmental movement. Carefully considering his next words Lucas remained quiet.
“I say we get our show back on the road. We have canceled enough speaking tours waiting for our young friend to recuperate.” Ender challenged. “I for one am getting cabin fever. We need to get out there and spread the word while we still have momentum on our side.”
Lucas considered the professor’s statement. “NO,” he spoke. “No more words. For years, all we have done is spout nothing but rhetoric and hold our hands out for money.” Lucas fell silent again. “What have we accomplished…not a thing! We jet set around the world spreading nothing but false promises and living lavishly in five-star hotels.” Keeping his eyes locked on the professor he continued. “If you want me to remain, things will have to change.”
“Change how?” Simon Hestor chimed in.
“We’ve traveled the world and enticed millions to join our cause, but still the environment is under assault. The climate deniers laugh at us as we go about our dog and pony show. It’s time to make them pay!”
“Pay how?” Ender said tersely. “We have swung public opinion in our favor; we have protests knocking at several of the large polluters doors interrupting their production. I think our cause is doing great things.”
“Great things,” Lucas let out a spiteful laugh. “Great things like filling our coffers so we can live like kings. Is this all we are trying to accomplish. Soon our good professor won’t be able to buy suits big enough to cover his ever-increasing girth and…” Lucas trailed off. His mind flashed back to when he and Alice had first joined the professor. His brown eyes turned a rage filled black as he remembered the things Alice had told him of the way the professor had shoved his will upon her. Lucas held back with the recriminations. Those he decided he would keep to himself for now. He would deal with the professor’s shortcomings on his own.
“Hey. Is it wrong to enjoy ourselves? People are donating money of their own free will.” Hestor smirked at his own statement. “We are holding the energy companies to account, particularly when you are involved. The big polluters have no answer for you or your tactics. They are running scared so what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that all we’ve done is take people's money and given them nothing in return other than a little sideshow. No more!” A startling clarity entered Lucas’ mind. The trouble he had had sorting his thoughts since leaving the hospital disappeared. The answers he had been searching for on how to solve the impending threat of climate change and at the same time make the deniers pay unfolded as he stood in the middle of the hotel room.
“We have banded most of the enviro groups together, haven’t we?” he tossed the question out.
“Yes. Most of them have joined with us.” Gregory replied.
“And what kind of funds do we have to operate with?” Lucas continued.
“I’m not certain,” Hestor, answered, “ I believe it’s in the billions.”
“Jim. You and Alice work at bringing the remaining environmental foundations together under us. We can’t fight this attack on the environment separately.” Lucas said.
“Wait a minute, who made you boss,” Ender stammered.
Lucas raised his hand to silence the professor. “From now on I run this organization,” he said to Gregory and Hestor. “If you don’t agree I can certainly find others who will,” he threatened.
“Do what?” Gregory asked timidly.
“We must stop the deniers before the earth is no longer able to sustain human life.” Lucas intoned. “For too long our planet has been under attack. Gentlemen, I propose we take a more affirmative stance in protecting her. From this moment on we are at war against those who want to continue blindly destroying our planet.” Lucas withdrew into his thoughts.
When he spoke again, it was in an eerie whisper. “We will show the deniers and ravagers of earth and her climate a war they could never foresee. We will end the use of fossil fuels the only way possible. Mark today as the beginning of the most important fight for our planet. The start of the climate wars.”
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.