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"So this guy was the spokesman for the People Of The Earth Foundation and then while attempting to bomb this refinery in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, he gets shot?”
“Close, but not exactly,” Ryan corrected the Shabak agent. “The late Professor Ender’s was the original mouthpiece for a much smaller environmental upstart. Lucas Pensworth 3rd, A.K.A. the “Climate Prophet”, the man who now runs the multi-billion-dollar P.O.T.E. foundation, replaced the unlucky professor.”
“So…the professor gets downshifted in rank and takes to traveling the world leading eco-terrorist groups?”
Ryan looked up at the pacing Israeli agent. The two had minutes earlier returned to his hotel room from a late dinner. He refused to talk business while they ate using the excuse that they had plenty of time ahead of them to worry about the tribulations of the world’s energy supplies.
“Have a seat and I will try to brief you on the complexities of this growing irritation that is slowly shutting down the world’s supply of oil.”
Shabak agent Netanya Kalb slowly turned a 360-degree circle from where she was standing. Everywhere she looked she saw piles of papers spread out. Manila folders, newspaper clippings and pages of notes filled the small hotel room.
“Where should I sit,” she asked using her hands to gesture at the stacks of clutter. “Does the bedroom resemble this room?”
“Is that an invitation?” Ryan joked. “I can check to make sure it’s clean.”
“Maybe some other time.” Netanya teased with a smile. Ryan watched the agent’s eyes. The smile on her face betrayed by the icy tone of her reply. Ryan quickly dropped the smart guy routine and grew serious.
“I don’t think the professor was here of his free will. Over the course of this investigation I have met the man several times, and unless I was reading him wrong, he was not the type to traipse across the globe blowing up pipelines and refineries.” He paused deep in thought. “No,” he said shaking his head to emphasize his convictions.
Netanya Kalb wondered from one stack of paper to another, lifting up single pages and newspaper clippings, briefly perusing them then moving on. “Are you always this fixated when you take on a case?” She paused to glance through another stack of papers. “You do know that they have this thing called a computer, right. A little portable machine that you can download all this…” she motioned around at the stacks of clutter, “all these documents.”
Ryan blushed as the Shabak agent stared at him, a couple of files in her hand. “Yeah…well, I guess I’m old fashioned,” he countered sheepishly, “besides computers crash or get hacked." Ryan produced a notebook from his inside coat pocket. "My system is more reliable.”
Netanya Kalb cleared a handful of files off a dinette chair and sat down. “So. Tell me what your gut is telling you. You said you don’t believe that Professor Enders was the type to participate in the spate of eco-terrorism that has plagued the energy industry.” Netanya drummed her fingers on the table surface. “Could the incidents not be random, a coincidental rash of flair-ups undertaken by entirely different environmental groups, each one acting separately, with one copycatting the other?”
Charles Ryan considered the question, thinking of how to prove to the fellow agent the reason for his view. “Come with me into the bedroom.” He lifted up from the couch pointing to the room at the back of the suite.
“Really!” Netanya’s voice dripped with annoyance.
“No…it’s, come on,” he urged and led the way to the back room turning on the lights as he entered. Netanya halted at the doorway and peered into the small hotel bedroom. The bed acted as a storyboard. A series of newspaper clippings were meticulously laid out. A string led from one article to the next, some crisscrossing and all leading upward to a single enlarged photo lying on the pillows. In the picture were three people. The late professor, a woman and the third person clad in a robe.
“You’re not one of those whackos who wear tinfoil hats and see conspiracies around every corner, are you?” Netanya ribbed. “Where do you sleep?”
“Where ever,” he explained walking close to the pillows and with his hand pointed to the pictures and articles to illustrate his thesis.
“Years ago all the smaller mom and pop protest groups began amalgamating under the one umbrella. What is now the People Of The Earth Foundation? Individually these groups had consistent funding and a scattering of followers while they occupied their time with nuisance shit like blocking roads or chaining themselves to equipment or oil leases.” He glanced at Netanya. “The acts of eco-terrorism were small or non-existent.”
Fast-forward a few of years and the protests had grown in both size and ferocity. Thousands of protestors were suddenly shutting down arteries into many cities and major transportation hubs, train shipments, and even airports, basically leaving governments no choice but to bargain with this mega movement.
Now we have organized sabotage occurring worldwide and whoever is running these ops is professional. Until now we have had no clues, no sightings, nothing.” Ryan was now standing close to the wall. His hand shot up and rested against the picture at the top of the pyramid, his fingers tapping the glossy photo.
“That is a whole lot of speculation. Nothing you have told me answers my question. Why can’t these groups still be unattached, moving forward with their an agenda all their own? One separate faction blows up a pipeline and then the next ups the ante and torches a refinery. Coincidences happen all the time, why not now? What makes you so convinced that all of these small assemblies have now joined forces?”
“He’s why.” Ryan stabbed the robed figure in the picture. “From what I have learned from talking to individual and shall we say disgruntled protestors, the smaller factions were given little choice. Join with the P.O.T.E. or have the funding dry up and be, here’s the horror, declassified as a charity. The latter is the lifeline of all environmental groups. Oh, and did I mention the Professor worked for the foundation.
SA Charles Ryan left the bedroom stopping in front of a stack of files on the kitchen counter. He raised a handful of manila folders in the air. “When the seemingly random attacks started escalating I went looking for a different angle. At that time I wondered about the possibility of such an alignment of environmental foundations.”
“Here, have a look at these.” He handed the files to Netanya, walked to the room’s mini bar and removed two small bottles. “Drink?” he asked holding up the bottles.
“Oh. The good stuff, you certainly show a girl a good time, files and vodka.” She nodded and returned to reading. “What exactly am I looking for?”
“You will know when you see it,” Ryan said over his shoulder as he stood by the counter preparing the drinks.
Netanya flipped through the files, quickly at first and then she slowed down studying the pages closer. The first folder contained the lists of directors for a different number of charitable green foundations. Names highlighted in yellow appeared on every sheet she thumbed past. When she looked up SA Ryan was standing by her shoulder, her drink in his hand.
“I am going to guess that all these highlighted names are somehow connected?”
“I have tracked and backtracked most. Other names I had gotten second hands from some informants. I haven’t qualified all the names yet. Too busy flying around the world investigating acts of sabotage.” Stepping to the side he set his drink on a nearby table before lifting yet another file and passed it to Netanya. “Have a look at this file.”
Netanya thumbed the pages. “What are these?” She curiously glanced at hand written pages. Pages full of notes scrawled in pen and containing names of oil corporations. Names of companies on the list she had never heard of before.
“Someone has been busy buying out energy firms,” Ryan smiled over his glass. “And before you ask, no I don’t have any solid proof. All the corporations in that report purchased by ghost companies based outside the U.S, all the strings lead back to one offshore account.”
Ryan drained his glass. “The names of the businesses that were acquired seem to be exempt from the horrors of eco-terror. My tinfoil hat may be a little too tight but what are the odds that only select energy companies are suffering the wrath of environmentalists.”
“If this account is offshore…how did you get this information?”
Ryan shrugged. “I could tell you but…”
“This is serious shit!” Netanya exclaimed.
“Yeah. Tell me about it. If a company doesn’t want to sell, they get paid a visit. Quite the bargaining chip.”
“But to what end. Why would a foundation like the P.O.T.E. be interested in owning any oil producing industries?”
“Do you know who the biggest clean energy company in the world is these days? One guess. From what I can unravel this far, The People Of The Earth Foundation is making a vast fortune off their green energy sales, and they have the majority of the population blindly supporting them. You know, save the environment…ra…ra.”
“So you’re thinking, what…P.O.T.E. buys up and shutters energy companies that use fossil fuels and…okay, now I know you are certifiably crazy…” Netanya stared wide-eyed at Ryan.
“I told you that my hat is too tight. Yes. I think they are removing one type of energy from the market and replacing it with another.” The room fell silent.
“But, if you’re right, who is to stop them from controlling world markets.”
“It may be worse than that. I’ve got a few more folders for you to see.” Charles M. Ryan scooted across the room digging amongst the stacks spread throughout the hotel room. “What do you know about political contributors? A lot of elections have been held all over the globe recently.”
Netanya Kalb raised her head from the file she was reading and locked eyes with SA Ryan. “Have you spoken to anyone about your theories, like, maybe you’re boss for instance?”
Ryan shook his head. “Without substantial evidence, who is going to take the word of a conspiracy theorist over a powerful foundation of Earth saviors?”
“You do have a point,” the Shabak agent agreed. “You had better give me one of your spare tinfoil hats. I think you are going to need help.”
Special Agent Ryan raised his beer, the cold liquid soothing his throat and offering some relief from the humid Venezuelan heat. He set the nearly empty bottle carefully down directly onto the wet ring of condensation it had left on the bar counter and fished in his pocket for his cigarettes. Raising his head to light his smoke he glanced into the large mirror behind the rows of liquor bottles.
The front door of the pub opened. Sunshine poured into the dimly lit room silhouetting the newcomer. The framed form of a woman stood in the doorway. With his lighter frozen half way to his cigarette, Ryan watched, waiting for the female to walk deeper into the room. Lost in the moment his eyes remained locked on the reflection in the mirror as the form materialized from the blinding light, the image growing clearer as the door slowly closed.
Ryan smiled to himself as he admired the advancing form. Dressed in a loose white shirt and khakis, Ryan let his eyes linger on the ladies face. Her dark hair cascaded over her shoulders framing a tanned face that he found quite beautiful. Walking into the bar with an air of confidence the woman's head swiveled in a searching movement taking in the scattering of patrons in the bar.
Ryan took one last glance then returned to lighting the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Expelling a cloud of smoke he picked up his beer, a local favorite called Zulia and drained the bottle. Not exactly Bud he contemplated then waved to the bartender for a refill. A shadow fell across the bar in front of him. Turning his head, he glanced up straight into the eyes of the woman who had recently entered the pub.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked pulling the barstool back, her accent foreign, different than the Venezuelan accented English spoken by the locals.
“N…No,” he stammered feeling his skin heat up, his face blushing red darkening his tan. Ryan cursed under his breath at his awkwardness, took a breath and spoke again. “No. Help yourself.” He regained his composure and assisted in holding the chair as she sat. His eyes remained on her face. Her skin was more olive colored then tanned, her eyes looked like pools of black in the bar’s poor lighting, almost matching the color of her flowing hair.
“Do I have something on my face?” she questioned, her mouth turned up at the corners with a mischievous smile. Ryan quickly averted his eyes, the blush on his face deeper.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan apologized turning back to look at her. “Ryan. Charles M. Ryan,” he announced extending his hand.
"Please to meet you, Mr. Ryan,” the lady lightly grasped his hand. “I am Netanya Kalb.” Pulling her hand free she waved to the bartender. “White wine, por favor.” Netanya lifted her purse onto the counter, Reached inside and shuffled through the contents then pulled a card out and passed it to Ryan before shoving her bag aside.
Ryan raises the card and read. Netanya Kalb, Shabak, Israel Security Agency, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Setting the card on the table, Ryan picked up his beer and looked quizzically at Netanya. Noticing the confusion, Netanya quickly explained. “I, like you have also been investigating the outbreak of sabotage that has befallen the energy industry, Mr. Ryan. Shabak is Israel’s version of your F.B.I.” She paused while the bartender set the glass of wine on the counter. Tasting the wine she replaced the glass and continued.
“This epidemic is now worldwide, and I have been assigned to work with you. I was watching you at the refinery fire on Lake Maracaibo. I too sent photos of the suspected terrorists. Anything you can tell me about them. My agency hasn’t replied with information on the dead men yet.”
Ryan studied the Israeli Agent. How much could he divulge, he pondered. A little put out that he hadn’t received notification from the Bureau of having to work with Agent Kalb, he played with his beer bottle deciding which path to take.
“Why don’t we meet for supper later and I can bring my files?” he delayed. The break would allow him time to contact Washington and have Agent Kalb’s credentials checked.
“Mr. Ryan. I am supposed to work with you not carry on a relationship,” she joked.
“I, well, that’s not what I meant,” he blustered. “We have to eat, and my files are back at my hotel room,” he clarified. Netanya Kalb laughed. “Supper will be suitable,” she reassured. “That will provide you with time to check my credentials if you need. I understand.” Ryan smiled at her response. Beautiful and smart, he thought. This union could work out fine. With the ice broken he ordered another round of drinks.
“One of the terrorists is well known back in the States. Not as a terrorist but as an advocate of the environment.” Stopping to test his fresh beer, he wiped his lips and continued. “The man’s name is Professor Anthony Enders. He was a full-time professor at the University of Washington State before he began crisscrossing North America speaking at environmental rallies and leading protests against oil production. The fact that he was found dead at the Lake Maracaibo refinery is out of sorts for a fellow of his background and something worth digging into once I have returned to America.”
“Wasn’t he a founder of the People Of The Earth Foundation?” Netanya asked.
“He may have been a founder, but I think he may have found himself forced to the side by the man who now leads the organization, a man known as Lucas or as the media refers to him, the Climate Prophet.”
“Yes. I am well aware of this…Climate Prophet. We have been investigating the man for some time now. Does it seem coincidental to you that as this Prophet gains popularity and his foundation grows, the attacks on fossil fuel deposits have escalated?”
“Bingo.” Ryan winked at Netanya. “That has been my working thesis for a while now. The problem I am having is I can’t find even one small crumb that leads back to the P.O.T.E. foundation. If they are behind these attacks, they are very thorough at covering their tracks.”
“Maybe the death of this professor will help us uncover…crumbs, as you say that will lead us to their door. Until then I guess we have our work cut out for us, don’t we?” Netanya ended the conversation by emptying her glass and swiping her purse off the bar counter as she stood to leave. “What time is supper and where shall we meet?”
“Welcome to Ontario,” Premier Joiner beamed as he met Lucas at the bottom of the plane stairs. The Ontario Premier extended his hand to Lucas then sheepishly retracted his arm, his gesture rebuffed. With a tinge of embarrassment leaking out from under his collar, Hugh Joiner quickly composed himself, and a smile returned to brighten his face once again.
Lucas hesitated at the bottom of the plane ramp. From beneath his robes hood, his shaded eyes gazed past the Premier surveying the tarmac. Lucas waited until Alice climbed down the stairs than with determined strides walked across the hot asphalt toward the Premier’s limo. Lucas climbed into the back of the air-conditioned car followed closely by Alice. Joiner’s chauffeur remained standing at the open door until his boss joined the couple inside.
The smile once again left Joiner’s face when he glanced back at his visitor. “The Prime Minister sends his apologies. A matter of urgency surfaced delaying him at his office. He asked me to bring you straight to the Parliament building for your meeting,” the Ontario Premier explained.
“You look troubled my friend?” Lucas broke his silence, his eyes searching the Premier's face.
Hugh Joiner turned and looked out the limo window, his hands clasped tightly. Swallowing, he cleared his throat, when he spoke his voice was barely a whisper. His head remained facing the window. “It’s nothing,” he said.
“What’s nothing?” Lucas demanded.
“Well, we’ve had more riots break out recently. Some people in this province are becoming very militant. Instead of just empty threats and protests they’ve escalated to acts of vandalism. Most of it aimed at the growing forests of wind turbines we’ve been installing.”
“These people, they are against the opportunity to work and make a living?” Lucas asked. How could people anywhere be against progress, he wondered. “With the ever growing addition of the turbines, I would think that everyone should be delighted to participate in the saving of our planet.” His eyes narrowed, locked straight on the Premier’s face.
Joiner swallowed again then risked a sideward glance at the Climate Prophet. “Some people are questioning the installation of these metal wonders.” Then to lighten the situation, Hugh Joiner forced a weak smile to his blood drained face. “They don’t understand the benefits of the clean environment we are striving to give them.”
“You had better shut these few dissidents down before they cause real problems.” Lucas snapped. “Explain to them the opportunity I am providing. With the construction and installation of these turbines, they rally against, comes an untold amount of jobs. I am trying to help them, Mr. Premier. DON’T let them forget that fact.”
The Ontario Premier sunk deeper into limos plush upholstery. The last man he wanted to annoy was the man sitting on the seat opposite to his. Hugh Joiner owed several debts to Lucas. His third rate political party was a mere speck on the electoral landscape before Lucas and his foundation sought him out and offered money and helped to seal an unexpected election win.
Joiner’s thoughts drifted back two years. His upstart Eco-party was last in the polls with barely a chance of winning even one seat. Then out of nowhere he was approached and offered a deal. Swear allegiance to Lucas’ People Of The Earth Foundation and an unlimited amount of funds and P.R. services would be employed to swing the Ontario election in his favor.
At the time Joiner agreed to the deal he was less worried about the consequences of the undertaking then he was about becoming Premier of Canada’s largest province. A deal he soon came to regret, but his options were now limited. Do as was asked of him or suffer far greater than just a stain on his reputation. Besides, he rationalized; his vision and the vision of the P.O.T.E. ran a parallel course. The main difference was the timeline.
Hugh Joiner was more than happy to bring changes slowly to the energy landscape of his province over his first term in office, even decades if that was what it took. Lucas and his foundation, though, had more driving ideas and wanted all sources of fossil fuel eliminated in a few short years replaced by clean wind and solar energy. The rush to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel had put his province on the road to desperate times. Companies began an exodus from the region; jobs quickly disappeared, and the rate of poverty escalated.
Now at the mercy of Lucas and his People Of The Earth Foundation for money, Joiner once again agreed to do Lucas’ bidding. Then, against protests by the majority of the population, his provincial government began importing and installing towering metal turbines. Both for job creation and secondly to make up for the shortfall of energy required to run the province's day-to-day operations.
The limo pulled out of the nearly deserted airport parking lot onto once-busy streets leading to the Parkway and on onward toward the south banks of the Ottawa River. Perched on the shores of that river sat Parliament Hill where the Canadian government conducted business.
The silence in the limo hung awkwardly in the air. The limo drove slowly through streets strewn with abandoned vehicles. Some with the hoods open, numerous others solely discarded. Alice watched the outlandish site through the tinted car windows. After several miles, she addressed the Premier.
“What happened to all the owners of these vehicles?” she asked. “I don’t understand why they would walk away from them.”
Hugh Joiner thought long about his answer. The trip through clogged streets from the airport to the Parliament building was part of a plan he had devised to shock his guests before he issued a list of demands he felt his loyalty deserved. Before Lucas arrived, he had instructed his chauffeur to take this particular route in hopes that Lucas would notice the hardships he was putting upon this province.
"We are in the midst of a severe gas shortage,” Joiner spoke to Alice. “Very few of the oil companies in this area can resupply their stations. Those that can have fallen victim to thieves and vandals and now have security guards watching the premises 24/7.”
“How are people getting around, don’t they have jobs to attend?” the scope of the crisis striking Alice as she watched out the window in disbelief. The limo rolled slowly through the next intersection. The streetlights blank, the cars driver maneuvering the long black sedan around a slow procession of crawling cross traffic.
Alice let her eyes follow the line of inching vehicles. At the end of the block, a gas station sat surrounded by all types of vehicles. Cars sat in line at the pumps. Doors flung open, drivers arguing and horns honking. Close to the pumps a fight had erupted. Men and women could be seen screaming and shoving, the shoving leading to fist fights.
“My God!” she exclaimed. “What’s going on? What’s a matter with these people.” With a gasp, she pulled her face from the car window and with an expression of fear she let her gaze fall upon the Premier. Joiner shrugged throwing his hands in the air in a silent surrender.
From under the shadow of his robe's hood, Lucas sat quietly studying the Premier. Several times he had flown into the Ottawa airport and never could he remember the driver taking this route to the Canadian Parliament. Obviously, this particular road was chosen for a purpose. The Ontario Premier wanted to make a point, and Lucas felt that the man had crossed a line and made a horrible error in subjecting Alice to the scenes outside the car. Lucas pressed a button set in the armrest. The button activated an intercom allowing him to communicate with the car's driver.
“Turn at the next set of lights!” Lucas commanded and then issued explicit instructions for the driver to follow ending the Premiers tour of the hard-luck neighborhood. Without another word, he remained stoic until satisfied that the limo driver was obeying his order. Lucas turned his hooded face in the Premier's direction.
“That was quite the...unexpected tour, Hugh,” Lucas remarked. “Next time you feel you need to pull this kind of shit to make a point with to me remember who you’re dealing with.” Some tense minutes had passed before Lucas spoke again. “What happened to all the money my foundation advanced you to assist the men and women of this province in the change from dirty oil to our clean energy program?”
Hugh Joiner wilted under Lucas’ stare. The premier’s face changed to a scarlet red. Try as he might no answer was forthcoming. What had seemed to him like a smart idea a short while ago now left the Ontario Premier with thoughts of how he underestimated the man seated across from him? Joiner involuntarily shrugged, this time with the admission of error before casting his eyes to the floor of the car.
“Where are the charging stations for the new electric cars? Hell, I have yet to notice any automobile even remotely looks like it’s gas free.” Lucas paused. The outrage he was feeling toward the politician barely contained. “We will certainly chat further about these things, and you had better have some well-thought answers!” Lucas roared.
Outside the car, the evening had arrived early hastened by the leaden sky. Streetlights sporadically lit the interstate the limo was now traveling on. The light poles standing alongside the highway flickering on and off, dark periods when the lights were off growing longer, the car speeding down the road through an ethereal tunnel of concrete and metal.
Alice gently placed her hand on Lucas’ arm to calm him down. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she searched his face, “I don’t understand?” she appealed to him. “Is this your great plan for the future of this planet. Return everyone to the dark ages.
In the pale light of the limo's backseat Lucas peered deep into Alice’s eyes, a brief smile of reassurance on his shadowed face. Very gently he patted her ever-expanding belly. “Don’t worry yourself. You don’t need the stress,” he lowered his gaze to her stomach, “it won’t do you or our son any good.”
April 20, 2019, Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, Charles M. Ryan wrote on his notepad. SA Ryan stood on the outskirts of the massive decrepit oil refinery. The eco-terrorism Ryan started investigating in the United States a scant year earlier now found him flying to neighboring oil producing countries. Refineries and oil reserves worldwide all seemed to be targeted with an escalating rash of sabotage.
Oil producing countries across the globe were panicked. Offshore oil platforms, the massive Saudi oil fields, and several OPEC country's reserves were threatened and attacked likewise. The producing governments agreed to form a task force to stop the siege on their oil production. Special Agent Charles M. Ryan acted as one of the lead field investigators appointed by this group.
The huge Venezuelan oil port, the Mene Grande field sitting on the east shores of Lake Maracaibo was the most recent to fall to the terrorists unrelenting war on oil. SA Ryan stood amongst scores of police vehicles far back from the inferno that was still raging out of control feeding off the reserves of oil contained at the Lake refinery, the largest oil containment in OPEC member country of Venezuela.
Ryan struggled to comprehend the fast, loud report from the Policia Nacional Captain Reinaldo Rueda Demara. Ryan’s Spanish severely lacked, so he turned to the interpreter assigned to him by the Venezuelan government and shrugged.
“I can’t understand a damn thing he is saying. Can you ask him to calm down and we can start this interview again?” Charles asked interpreter Lisander Puentes. “Ask him if they’ve identified all the bodies caught in the explosion yet. I heard that some of the bombers were involved in a shootout with the refinery guards?” Ryan pleaded with Puentes. The humidity of the country, the acrid smell of the burning bitumen and most of all the damn bugs were starting to have an ill effect on his peaceful nature.
Ryan had been awoken in the middle of the night by the bureau chief and told to catch a flight to Maracaibo, Venezuela. From there he was met by the interpreter and driven to the oil refinery. The eco-terrorists had snuck onto the grounds at Lake Maracaibo and were in the process of stringing explosives when the facility's guards came across them. A gun battle had ensued and in the thick of the fight, the planted bombs were detonated. The result was catastrophic.
SA Ryan had read the brief on the terrorist attack while in flight. In the report, he learned that the intruders that hadn’t died when the bombs exploded but were surrounded and then gunned down by the guards as they attempted to escape. Now he stood breathing in the toxic fumes and hoped that he might be able to identify at least some of the slain terrorists in what would prove to be his first prominent lead.
Lisander Puentes conversed rapidly with the Nacional Captain in a quick back and forth conversation. Lisander said a few last words to the Captain then spoke to Ryan in heavily accented English. “The good Captain asks that you follow him. He will take you to where the suspected terrorists lay.”
“Good. Tell Captain Demara to lead on.” SA Ryan acknowledged then with Lisander Puentes followed the Venezuelan Policia Nacional Captain across the weed-strewn gravel parking lot toward a line of military trucks. The Venezuelan Captain rounded the closest vehicle and with a grim look swung his arm pointing to a row of tarp-covered bodies. The Captain spoke rapidly then watched as Lisander translated.
“Captain Demara says you are free to check the men under the tarps. The three closest to us are the terrorists.”
Charles M. Ryan stuffed his notepad into the inner pocket of his suit jacket, replacing it with his cell phone. Cautiously approaching the drab tarps, he knelt by the first body and pulled back the cover. The smell of the body made Ryan gag. With a concentrated effort he started breathing through his mouth, the stench a little more tolerable. Fumbling with his phone, he focused on the dead man’s face and snapped several pictures then replaced the tarp before he proceeded to the next corpse where he repeated the process.
Ryan shuffled toward the third tarp and slowly pulled the canvas cover back. With his camera held ready, he glanced at the bloated face of the third terrorist. Ryan did a double take and felt his breath rush out. Even swollen, the face of the third man was very familiar. SA Ryan wracked his brain searching for the corpses name that temporarily evaded him. The man had at one time been well known back in the States, and the people he worked for were very vocal against the extraction and use of fossil fuels.
The burning acid in his stomach rose in into his chest. With a small consolation, Ryan snapped several photos. His instincts were proven right again. Vindicated, he squatted and thoughtfully regarded the face of the dead man. Suddenly he had a renewed hope in his investigation.
Replacing the tarp, Charles stood up and snatched his cigarettes from an inside coat pocket. Offering the pack to the Venezuelan interpreter and then the Captain he pulled a slim white cigarette out and touched a flame to the end then contemplated his next move as he sucked the smoke deep into his lungs.
Releasing the pent-up smoke Ryan thumbed through the last few pictures he had taken. The third man’s name still evaded him. Checking the phone for service, he attached the pictures of the three bombers into an email, added a short note then sent the message to FBI headquarters back in the United States. A please hurry with identification ended the message.
Captain Demara of the Policia Nacional broke through his thoughts with a quick burst of Spanish. Ryan lifted his eyes from his phone and glanced at the Captain. He watched the policeman’s mouth speak the foreign words then switched his gaze to his interpreter for a translation.
“The Captain says that you seem thoughtful. He is wondering if there is something about the corpses you took pictures of that have got you thinking?” Lisander translated then nodded toward the police Captain.
“I think we may have hit pay dirt.” SA Ryan exclaimed. Lisander Puentes shot a questioning look at him. Ryan quickly realized his answer. Tossing the remains of his cigarette onto the gravel, he ground it out under his boot before he raised his head and looked the Captain in the eyes as he spoke to Lisander.
“The third body. I know the man. I have sent his picture along with the other two to FBI headquarters for confirmation. Shortly we should have a solid lead into who is responsible for the acts of terrorism against the world's energy deposits.”
Lucas stared out the window of his private jet. He had asked the pilot to fly at a lower altitude as the plane entered Canadian airspace. The pilot lowered the plane to five thousand feet as it crossed the Michigan border into the Canadian province of Ontario. Lucas allowed himself a small smile at the sight that unfolded under the low flying aircraft.
“Alice. Look out your window,” he calmly exclaimed. Returning his eyes to the plane's small window, he gazed at the landscape of Canada’s largest province. Miles and miles of sky reaching wind turbines filled the countryside. Where once stood nothing but scores of trees around the great lakes was replaced with energy producing stalwarts of the clean energy era.
Lucas had made the trip by request of the Ontario Premier, Hugh Joiner. The province had climbed aboard the clean energy train years before other North American regions and although the push against fossil fuels was a hard vocal fight against the majority of the people of the province the Ontario premier held fast. With the assistance of the new Canadian government had set an example and led the country in its bid to be free of fossil fuel use.
The briefing Lucas held in his hands, dated two days ago on the 18th day of April 2019, went into great detail explaining how the Province fought against the outcry of its people and had forged ahead with the installation of thousands of these towering turbines. The population of the province grudgingly came on board with the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs needed to build and install the turbines and solar parks. The unemployment rate had climbed to an astonishing 40 percent so for the sakes of providing a living the working population replaced their anger with work. The green energy industry was now the largest employer in the province.
Lucas set aside the report. “What do you think?” he asked Alice. “After years of butting our heads against the wall, we finally see the rewards of our hard work.”
Alice sat looking down at the metal forest. To her the site was atrocious. The beautiful lakes now surrounded by mounds of earth and metal structures. These thoughts she kept quiet. Lucas had worked tirelessly for years to see his dream start to materialize; her thoughts were not important.
“Are the people happy now?” she questioned. She had seen news reports from this country highlighting the fight between the politicians and the residents regarding the cost of tax dollars and the exodus of jobs as energy prices soared.
“They will be soon,” Lucas reassured her, “This new industry has created many much-needed jobs, and one day the price of energy will subside as more power is produced to replace what they lost with the banning of oil and its derivatives.”
Mollified, Alice changed the subject. “Have you heard from Professor Ender yet? He has been missing for several months now. Any word?
“No. I have heard rumors that he was traveling, but I haven’t talked to him for quite some time. The last time, in fact, was when the two of us went for supper a couple of months ago. He did state that he was growing weary and wanted time to himself.”
“Oh,” Alice replied and swung her head back to the planes window. Lucas regarded his longtime companion. With her, he had always talked freely, but he still held back a lot of the details involved in freeing the world from its oil addiction. Most of the stuff he held back was for her peace of mind. Alice didn’t have the fortitude to deal with the harsh reality of what the process required. Dealing with the liability of the Professor one of those realities.
Back and away from the still riled up crowd Charles M. Ryan kicked at the pavement casually glancing at the hooded figure work the media. Reaching for a cigarette he cupped his hands to shield the lighters flame. Quite the speech he admitted to himself. The robed Lucas certainly had a way with crowds and with the destroyed refinery in the background the scene couldn’t have played out better. Makes one wonder about the timing of both the refinery explosion and the sudden appearance of the media named climate prophet.
SA Ryan leaned against a car, his thoughts bouncing between the still raging industrial fire on one side and the crowd and cameras following the retreat of the robed figure on the other end, the acid in his stomach burning. On instincts alone Ryan had no doubts that the explosion wasn’t accidental, nor were several others that had plagued the energy industry lately. Of that, he would gladly bet on.
He ran through what he had discovered about Lucas and the global green conglomerate he fronted. In the last several years Lucas' popularity had grown immensely. The environmental foundation he led had, as far as Ryan could determine, now encompassed all the smaller environmental groups into one massive, well-funded organization. The scope and money now commanded by Lucas' People Of The Environment were unfathomable. The foundation had assets exceeding the G.D.P. of numerous smaller countries and was starting to bend countries governments to their will.
A very dangerous situation indeed, Charles thought. To his way of thinking, the countries Lucas’ foundation couldn’t control yet were subjected to a form of environmental terrorism like the refinery accident he was now investigating.
SA Ryan kept his assumptions to himself. Try as he might he had yet to uncover anything even remotely to a link between Lucas, his P.O.T.E. foundation, and the industrial accidents. But that wouldn’t stop his inquiries. His instincts had proven right more often than not.
‘You do realize that the authorities will start to make a connection between our foundation and the accidents that are now regularly occurring across the globe if they haven’t already.” Professor Ender sarcastically bated Lucas. “What good is this plan of yours if we all end up in prison?”
Lucas gazed up from behind the documents he had been reviewing. “What’s the matter, professor? I think you of all people would be ecstatic that the public opinion is swaying in our favor.” Lucas goaded, “Isn’t that why you joined the movement in the first place. All the money and fancy hotels along the way, the notoriety you’ve gained. Please don’t tell me that you are only in it for the money?” Lucas shot back. “I agree that the unfortunate problems plaguing the energy industry serve a purpose. We’ve talked about this before, and I am growing tired of repeating myself.” Lucas paused seeing the disapproval in the other man’s eyes. “Surely… you don’t think I have anything to do with these unlawful acts of sabotage?”
Ender silently studied Lucas’ face. “You do have to admit that the increase in eco-terrorism is is very fitting to your plan…and you do make a point of appearing at many of the mishaps always standing in front of the cameras reminding the world of the dangers of dirty energy.”
“The whole idea of our crusade is to convince the people who fool themselves into thinking that fossil fuels are safe and not causing harm to the earth, otherwise,” Lucas continued as if speaking to a child, his patience wearing thin. “We need to make them climb off the fence and take a stand. Those people need a shove in the right direction, and we are providing the shove.”
He leveled the pages he held in his hands on the table and meticulously set them flat on the desk before glancing back up at the professor. With a tired smile, he shrugged off Ender’s sarcasm. “Besides, I am confident that the sabotage, eco-terrorism, whatever they are calling it these days is the work of some overzealous protesters. A phase that will run its course, but it does manage to keep the world's eyes off of what we are trying to achieve.”
“Which is exactly what?” Ender questioned, “You have been very tight lipped about your ultimate plan, even with those of us who are your confidants. What exactly is our end goal.”
“All in good time my friend,” Lucas mollified. “When the time is right I guarantee that you will be one of the first to know. Now, why don't you fetch yourself a drink? I will be finished here in a minute. I have a couple of calls to make and tell you what. What say I spring for supper?” Lucas smiled again reassuring the professor. Dismissed, Ender turned to leave Lucas’ office. Lucas’ eyes remained on Ender's back as he retreated closing the office door.
Lucas spent the next few minutes staring at the wooden door. Decision time, he realized. The professor was nearing the end of his use and combined with his increasing pennant for drinking Lucas wondered how long before the Anthony Ender's love of talking would result in the wrong person finding out details of the operation. Even with the little the professor knew it certainly could do damage if he blabbed to the wrong people.
Chasing the thought from his head he resumed reading the report the professor had so rudely interrupted. A slight smile lifted the ends of his mouth. The report was from a subsidiary north of the border. An election was taking place in Canada. A candidate that he had agreed upon and backed with the foundation's money was starting to gain in the polls. The old Canadian Prime Minister was a stout denier of climate change and thus served none of Lucas’ wishes.
This new leader of the opposition's ideas aligned more closely with Lucas’ green initiatives and without a doubt would be easy to manipulate. The man was short in political experience but long in his self-serving nature. Lucas knew that once the man was elected, he would quickly fold to the loud outcry from the very vocal green movement in that country.
The millions the foundation was pouring into Canada to discredit the current government and bolster his candidate was now seeing positive returns. Canada had always been an easy country to manipulate. The scores of militant green coalitions in that country had proven this theory numerous times with their simple, law-breaking protests that had become the norm up north.
The country sat on the third largest oil reserves in the world and yet the environmental groups with the assistance of lawyers and special interest groups had all but paralyzed the oil industry rendering Canada’s energy sector useless. Lucas was aware that he still had to keep a close eye on the upcoming election but that country looked like it was well on it’s way to falling under his control.
Returning to the papers to his desk, Lucas rubbed his weary eyes. His plan was good. He could save the earth from the nightmares that haunted him and at the same time spare the lives of the billions of oblivious inhabitants. The task was daunting, but he was determined. Rather, he had no choice. The nightmares continued to fill his mind day and night, and he hoped by what he was doing to save the world would provide an escape from the tortured visions.
One last report to glance through he promised and picked up the paper from California. Another territory where he had the upper hand and actually, not just California but the whole west coast right up through Alaska. The people on the coast were more attuned to the problems affecting the environment, and he was certain that there would be no problem bringing them into the fold of his anti-fossil fuel future. Those states were already heavily invested in solar panels and wind power, pushing the boundaries on clean energy.
Funny, he thought, especially with the amount of oil the state of California produced, that they stood out as leaders in clean energy. He shrugged and set the report from the coast down. Things were slowly moving in his favor. Grabbing the reports off his desk he slid open a drawer in his desk and placed the papers inside then safely locked them away.
With elbows propped on his desk, he rested his chin on tented fingers, his thoughts returning to the professor. Now was as good as any to deal with that problem. Lucas mind trotted out options to deal with Professor Ender. Deciding on one that was appropriate for the man, he reached for the desk phone. One call and then he would take the man to dinner to thank him properly for his years of dedication.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.