The gray of dawn seeped over the country as Zhernakov and his crew turned into the yard of the abandoned farm. Weary from the long night of travel, the men entered the house. The mission complete, the men would spend the next couple of days hidden before seeking separate routes back to the more hospitable surroundings.
Zhernakov slept a few hours of troubled sleep. He joined some of the men in the kitchen and sat sullenly listening to their conversations over a cup of scolding coffee. The talk covered a range of topics, the work of the previous night not among them.
Throughout the day the men slept and ate, drank coffee and slept again. A meal of steaks, pierogies, and smuggled Russian beer rounded out the evening. As dark settled over the region, the men huddled in their sleeping bags, tired from a second restless day of boredom, the trips away from the deserted farm the only thing to occupy the Russian’s minds.
Zhernakov rolled awake, the house eerily quiet in the early morning hours. Lying motionless on his back with his eyes open he stared through the dark at the low ceiling listening to the creaking and groaning of the ancient farmhouse. He attributed his restlessness to the days of pent up tension from the planning and execution of the mission deep inside the Ukrainian country. Unable to fall back to sleep, Zhernakov slid the zipper of the bag open and fumbled in the dark for his work boots. Climbing from the warmth of his bedding he crept ghost-like across the rough floorboards and out the back door into the still night air.
Wandering away from the house, he used the dim moonlight to navigate through the trees occasional scraping against branches. A faint game trail opened. He followed it deeper into the overgrown bush. Zhernakov stopped beside a large old spruce to relieve himself before fishing out his packet of cigarettes. About to touch his lighter to the waiting cigarette his solitude was interrupted as a tsunami of super heated air tossed him face forward into a clump of smaller trees. A broken branch sliced across his chest ripping his coat and shirt exposing flesh.
The boom that accompanied the blast of air registered briefly on his traumatized brain. A minute passed. Then ten more minutes ticked by before Zhernakov raised his dazed head. Shaking away the remnants of a concussion he stood on wobbly legs and turned to face the farmhouse. Orange and yellow flames licked the sky where the house and the other men had rested only a short time earlier.
With a more violent shake of his head, the web of confusion lifted leaving his world silent but for a buzzing inside his skull. Propped against a tree, he began to push off when a silhouette appeared highlighted between the burning house and the edge of the bush. A moment passed. A second form walked into the scene. Two men stood with their backs to Zhernakov as they gazed at the flaming pile of rubble. A conversation ensued.
Zhernakov struggled to make out the words. At first, the noise in his head drowned out the voices. Then slowly words became clearer.
“Make damn certain that the trucks in the barn don’t burn completely,” the first man spoke before releasing a short, derisive laugh. “These stupid greedy Russians,” the man continued. “They are so motivated by power and money that they fail to see the strings directing them. “Call the Foundation. Tell them they can expect the war between the Ukraine and Russia move to the next stage.”
The man paused and looked around. His gaze swung past the tree where Zhernakov hid before pivoting his head back around to survey the damage. “The ensuing war should no doubt curtail the exporting of any oil and gas from these countries for a long time.” The man lightly patted the second man on the back. “Mission accomplished I’d say. Tell the men to hurry. Even in this remote area, someone is likely to have heard the explosion and see the fire.”
Zhernakov remained leaning against the tree. Not trusting his hearing he patted at his ears to rid the buzzing. Disoriented, he willed his brain to make sense of the last few minutes. What had just happened he wondered? The language the man spoke. It wasn’t Russian, or the vulgar Ukrainian…his mind stumbled…yet, he understood the words.
A bolt of understanding jarred his muddled thoughts. American. The man had spoken in American, a language every Russian Special Forces member worth his salt learned to comprehend. What the…. Rage pushed against the lingering effects of the explosion in Zhernakov’s head.
Instincts from years of training and service replaced the confusion. Zhernakov reacted like the soldier he was trained to be. His men were dead, and he wanted to find out by whose hand. Slipping behind a grove of trees, he plotted a course through the bush to the front of the property where he surmised that these men must be gathered.
Making a wide arc, he forged on. Sweat dripped down his chest. Pausing to wipe the sweat Zhernakov dried his hand in his pant leg. The sweat continued. He swiped again bringing his hand up close to his eyes. The hand was dripping red. Glancing down, he realized the moisture wasn’t from exertion but from the gaping cut that traveled diagonally across his exposed chest. Zhernakov clutched a handful of torn material and pressed the cloth tight. He staggered, his eyes rolled back into his head before he sank to the ground.
Lucas stood overlooking the shipping docks at the San Francisco freight terminal. Large Oceangoing cargo ships from China lined the port. The ships laden with the containers of metal towers and solar panels made with the rare earth minerals found mainly in China. With the ever-growing demand for sustainable power, a subsidiary of the P.O.T.E. Foundation had approached the Chinese government and requested a substantial increase in production.
Rarely having the occasion to see just how the board members of the Foundation carried out the daily business of importing and transporting the products from China, Lucas found that a previous engagement on the west coast timed out well with the delivery of the green power stations. Out of curiosity, he begged off an appointment to wonder among the docks and get a first-hand account.
The importation and transport of the burgeoning green energy products were left up to the officers running the Foundations Sustainable Energy Division of which Lucas had little knowledge. Today, while attending a different meeting, he felt a desire to see the process in action and reveled in the chaos of the shipping terminal as he breathed in the salty sea air.
Jim Vanbaggin, the CEO of the Foundations S.E.D acted as his host and guide. While the two men stood high above the bustle of boats and trucks, Vanbaggin explained about the incoming shipment.
“This whole shipment is destined for the Midwest,” he stated. A convoy will travel the few thousand miles where we have teams actively clearing the land and reading the sites for these metal wonders.”
“What kind of timeline are we looking at?” Lucas interjected.
“From ship to standing and wired to the system is probably a solid six months,” Vanbaggin said, then as an afterthought added. “That’s thanks to you. If you hadn’t procured the diesel for the trucks, I don’t know how long the time frame would have stretched.”
Lucas nodded absentmindedly. “What happened to the supply of fuel we keep on reserve for our transportation and why are we not shipping these units by train? Explain that to me again."
The CEO turned from his guest and gazed out over the jammed port. “Rebels,” he answered in one word. “Train traffic east of the Rockies has become sporadic especially through the newly formed Protected States. The alliance ignores the feds in Washington and has begun confiscating any train or truck traffic of ours through their region. Our shipments are now routed either north of the border or through Mexico costing extra time and fuel.
Gas and diesel shipments are under constant attack these days. The Foundation’s refineries operate under heavy guard and to get the fuel to the coast we again have to run down and across Mexico and I am sure that I need not remind you that most of the refineries owned by the Foundation are now within the borders of the new Protected States. If word were to leak out about our ownership of the plants…”Vanbaggin let the sentence hang in the air before he resumed, “even our cargo ships are being attacked on the open ocean. I have requested more guards and stricter measures…” Vanbaggin locked eyes with the Climate Prophet. “People are desperate, Lucas. With the shortage of fuel of any form the average American can not afford to buy their own.”
“I don’t understand. Are we not providing ample power from our panels and turbines? Why don’t these people take advantage of the clean energy we are pouring into the systems? Why do they insist on the dirty fuel?”
“When was the last time you roamed the streets of our country?” Jim Vanbaggin retorted. “The typical working man can’t afford the luxury of driving an electric car; their homes are heated by gas furnaces and besides, the power grids that are supplying the cities are fickle at best.”
“Can China ramp up production? Speak to them. See what they can do. How about on our part, can we not speed up the time of installation once these products reach our shores?” Lucas probed. “We are giving the people of the world what they wanted, are we not. They protested and balked at the continued use of fossil fuels. Outcries about the warming of the planet echoed throughout the world had it not?” Lucas’ face reddened as his anger grew. “What the hell did they expect? Did they seriously think that the world could be weaned from the oil addiction, but nobody would have to suffer?”
Turning on his heels, Lucas walked away from his short reprieve gazing out at the ocean’s beauty. “Double, no, triple the guarding of your diesel supplies. Hire every man and women who are unemployed and speed up the installation process,” he shouted over his shoulder. “The Foundation has the money. Use it to complete our mission,” he said as he stormed out of the shipping office door.
The anger that had consumed him not fraught from the CEO’s bad news but driven by the nightmares of a world scorched to cinders by an out of control climate caused by the burning of the earth’s dirty energy. Faces and screams of the planets population clung to his mind ever since the terrible visions he had suffered all those years earlier as he lay in the hospital, thus the reason for his unbending stance on the replacement of the world’s energy supply.
Popular or not he had no inclinations of changing his path. He would save the world from a premature death whether his fellow man liked it or not.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.