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 new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.