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