The moment you've all been waiting for. This is the last instalment of The Ice Racer.
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At first my moving toward the front surprises the people close to me but then they start parting allowing me to pass. It takes a second to understand, looking down I realize I am dressed in military robes. In all the excitement I forgot.
They must think that I am going up front to assist in handling the prisoner. I stand tall, tug the fabric of the robe’s hood lower and move forward, the rifle clutched at my side. How close I can get to the steps before I am exposed as a fake remains to be seen?
Nearing the leading edge of the crowd I am confronted by guards posted between the crowds and the steps. One of the men looks me in the eye as I approach. I return his stare with a passive face, the fear I’m feeling is pushed deep inside.
I take another step. Another guard looks at me quizzically. The first guard raises a hand to halt me. I nod at him and take another step. His hand flinches for his rifle. Twisting the gun in my hand I drive the butt into his stomach.
I step around him and raise my rifle. The barrel trained on the High Prophet.
“Run.” I holler at Annaliese. She stands frozen, her eyes a mixture of astonishment and fear. “Run.” I repeat turning my attention back to the High Prophet. The barrel of the rifle unwavering as it remains locked on the leader of Adams Mountain.
In a barely audible voice I hear Annaliese. “No.” with out taking my eyes off the High Prophet I stop my advance.
“You shouldn’t have come.” Annaliese chokes out. The quiet words just leave her mouth when a new sound catches my attention. The sound of rifles being raised and bullets sliding into their chambers.
The Prophets men stand in front of me with their rifles aimed in my direction. Risking a look around I notice several other guards with their rifles raised towards me.
“Let her go and I will surrender.” I shout at Annaliese’s father. From within the shadow of his robe’s hood a sneer moves the man’s lips.
“I don’t think so.” The words boom out of his mouth while gazing down at me. “Set down your gun you fool.” He gestures with his hand toward the guards. “Your little charade is over. Take him!” He shouts at the palace guards and grabs Annaliese by the arm and turns.
Before anyone moves, two of the palace guards pull the hoods off their heads and swivel the guns they hold sideways and cover the three remaining guards. One of the disobedient guards smiles as he glances at me. It’s the same young man who had days before rushed into the hidden room to warn us.
The crowd is rendered immobile by the unexpected scene as it unfolds on the palace steps. Then some jostling and shouts come from behind me. The group of Marcus’ men who had followed me to the trial are pushing toward the steps, their own rifles raised in defiance against the Prophets.
Seeing the upheaval taking place the High Prophet screams for the city guards.
“Stop them.” He yells as he looks about him. His face contorted into a mask of rage and fury. “Stop them now!” A siren sounds from elsewhere in the city, its shrill wine echoing above the growing commotion on the street in front of the palace.
The blasts of the sirens bring more guards clad rushing in from all streets leading into the palace square. I hold my position on the palace steps mesmerized by the sudden flurry of motion.
I am afraid that the few soldiers with me will not stand a chance against the military guards as I watch their numbers multiply. Fortunately for us, the new guards will have to force their way through the crowds to reach our location. On several fronts the crowds part as the military guards rush to help their bosses.
The Prophets men stream deep into the midst of the body of onlookers before the unthinkable happens. The large mass of bodies the guards are racing amongst seal off the guards exit. The advancing troops are surrounded. On some unheard command the inhabitants of the city close ranks trapping the advancing soldiers.
Shrieks leave the High Prophets mouth as he also watches his troops being trapped by large crowd.
“Shoot! Shoot anyone and everyone in your way!” He bellows. The brash show of defiance by the very people he lords over adding a sense of panic to his high-pitched screams.
Then mass panic erupts as the trapped guards heed the Prophets words and turn their guns against the crowd. The advantage goes from the crowd to the armed soldiers. The mob of people recoils at the sound of gunfire and the screams of their neighbours.
All of us on the palace step stare dumbfounded at the scene below us. Then from out of nowhere more gun fire. My eyes travel over the chaos below. Entering from a side street into the square I see Marcus leading a large pack of soot covered men and women. His rifle barrel pointed into the air as he fires shot after shot.
He continues walking into the melee below leading the large group. Pushing their way through the bodies, the new group head right into combat against the stranded guards.
Annaliese’s scream brings my focus back to the steps. Her farther has her in his grip and is trying to force her back into the palace. The High Prophet is ranting like a lunatic; his distorted screams to the palace guards mix with Annaliese’s cries of protest.
I turn to race up the steps. A couple of colourfully robed Prophets move to stop me. Never have I felt the need to hurt another human before. An evil smile grew on my face as I continue forward to meet the challenge. I slash and hammer with my rifle cutting the false Prophets down.
My attention is diverted from Annaliese and her father. I hear her screams as I mow down the obstacles in my way. A door slams just as I’m leaving the battered bodies of the High Prophets underlings.
I lift my head searching for Annaliese. The large closed doors of the palace seal off my view. Running to the doors I pull the handles. Locked. I race to a window. The butt of the rifle smashes through the glass clearing an opening.
Broken shards of glass slice deep into my thigh as I climb thru the window. The vast entrance to the house is empty. A scream echoes down a long hallway. Clutching the rifle in one hand, I use my other hand to put pressure on the cut. I feel my warm blood seeping through my fingers.
Another scream forces thoughts of the cut in my thigh out of my mind and I push further into the palace. My adrenaline rises with every beat of my heart. The exertion from walking increases the blood flowing from my wound. I leave a trail of bloody footprints behind me down the hallway.
The walled tunnel leads toward the back of the house. I hear faint footsteps echoing ahead of me. A door slams. The hallway bends. I come face to face with a solid wooden door. I try the doorknob. Locked. Annaliese’s screams are muffled behind the locked door.
I quickly take two steps back and then charge the door, throwing the weight of my body into the door. It doesn’t budge. I try again. Nothing. The loss of blood is making my head light. I stop and take a breath grasping at any other solution to get into the room behind the door. Another scream.
With a dulled mind I use the only tool close at hand. Raising the rifle I hammer the butt into doorknob. The knob and rifle break at the same time. I push the door open and am confronted with a set of stairs leading down. The passage is very dimly lit.
My breathing is growing ragged, my head swimming. Grabbing hold of the handrail I hobble down the stairs, my wounded leg dragging.
Another startled cry from Annaliese is muffled. I quicken the pace of my descent. The light grows dimmer; a fog swims in front of my eyes. I miss judge the last step and brace my wounded leg for support. A stream of pain radiates from my wound, the shock clears the fog in my head.
In the dim light I can make out slightly more than the silhouettes of Annaliese and her father. His back is to me. Annaliese is struggling as he tries to tie her hands. I move forward.
As I close in he turns and surprises me. Without thinking I lurch at him. My wounded leg gives out. The floor rushes up to meet me. I feel a foot being driven into my side. I roll away. A couple more severe kicks find my body. Stars start to join the haze in my head.
Through misted eyes I watch the High Prophet. He stands over me. A long handled shovel raised in his hands. He prepares to end our little battle. He pauses as he babbles incoherently. The evil grin reappears on his face as he prepares to strike. I pull my arms up to protect my head.
Before the Prophet smashes the shovel down on me the features of his face change. His mouth forms an O and his eyes bulge. He staggers before falling towards me. I roll out of the way. Behind where the Prophet was standing is Annaliese. Ropes bound around her wrists, a long knife dripping blood clutched in her hands.
She bends over me. Her tears mix with the dust in the room. I whisper to her.
“I’m sorry. If it wasn’t for me this wouldn’t have happened.”
She brushes her hand across my face. A tear falls on me. She forces a sad smile onto her face.
“It was a long time coming. You being here was only the catalyst.”
It has been over a year since the Prophets have been removed from Adams City. Annaliese and Marcus were elected to run the city. The Prophets themselves were forcefully escorted from the city a few days after the events at the palace. There were no trials and no confinement for them just banishment.
A group led by Marcus walked the Prophets away from the city limits to a place no one talks about. Some speculate that the Prophets were released deep into the labyrinth of lava tunnels; others think that they were walked to a ledge high over the red river and coerced to jump. In any regards they have not been back to impose their archaic rules over the oppressed towns people.
A few months after the palace battle I convinced Annaliese and Marcus to lend me a vehicle and hard to find supplies for the people of the New Capital. Adams City had modern technology that could aid the lives of those struggling to survive deep beneath the surface in other parts of this cold miserable planet.
Together we banded together and have been sending voyages out in search and help of the less fortunate colonies. It will take years to reach a lot of them and deliver the knowledge and machinery that will help the inhabitants of this world forge their way out of the stone ages.
The oil mines are no longer a form of punishment. The life sustaining liquid buried deep inside the earth is now celebrated like I believe it once was when life on earth prospered.
We erected a monument with the names engraved upon it of all the people forced to death working in the pits. Many times I have stood in front of this wall staring at my father’s name. Paul W. Ryan – Explorer.
One cold dark day Annaliese and I stood on the surface watching another team of men leave on an expedition to find other colonies in need of our help. I had been starring at the vast tundra I had once traveled over when she let out a gasp.
Expecting trouble I first glanced at her face. A bright light shone on her visor, her eyes turned up to the dust filled sky, her outstretched arm pointing up. I spun around to see the source of her fright.
For over two centuries the skies over the earth have remained dark with volcanic dust and storm clouds. I stood along side holding her hand as the two of us stared at something I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime, a parting of the dust and clouds exposing a patch of blue sky with the sun shinning thru.
Annaliese is often busy with her duties away from the palace. She now carries our child. A boy we are told. With her insistence the child will be named after my father.
On this particular evening I venture down to the depths of the palace. A room I had desire to return to but tonight I was on another adventure. The day the palace fell those many months ago and I found Annaliese and her father in this room I had noticed a shelf in the back as I waited for help to come. I paid no attention to it that day but now as things have taken on a more mundane pattern I can’t help thinking about what I believe I spotted on that shelf.
I tread carefully down the long staircase. Lights are ablaze brightening my path. Hesitating I step into the room and wonder over to the shelf. Books. Actual paper bound books. I lean close and blow dust off some of the covers. The titles are unfamiliar. Then one catches my interest. I slip it from its shelf and read the cover.
The book is a history of one of the last wars fought on earth. THE CLIMATE WARS.
I would like to thank everyone for coming along on this journey. I certainly hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
With a touch of sadness I realize the story had to come to an end but where one ends another starts.
This was written a few weeks before this final chapter will be released. By now I am forging ahead on a precursor to the Ice Racer. The Climate Wars, the beginning of the end of modern day civilization.
I look forward to and encourage any comments you may have. Feel free to write to me.
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A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.