The duo of Ryan and Kalb sat at a roadside table enjoying burgers from the local burger house on the edge of Green River, Wyoming. The owner of the burger joint had the foresight to locate his business next to a 24-hour charging station. Ryan suddenly missed the old days of sticking the gas nozzle into the car's tank and minutes later resuming the trip.
The meter on the charging stand notified him that two hours would be required to reenergize the cars battery. Ten hours on the road and this was as far as they’d traveled. The new bureau car Ryan drove was part of the new fleet of electric sedans the FBI had purchased to replace the gas-powered automobiles. A popular model made by one of the big automakers from Detroit the car floated silently down the interstate with one distinct drawback Ryan decided, the short battery range. Warning bells on the cars dash lit up and flashed the last few miles as the pair coasted into the Wyoming city.
Charles Ryan swiped a napkin across his face then rubbed his hands before reaching for his cigarette pack. His displeasure growing as the couple wasted time while the car charged was given a reprieve by the ringing of Netanya Kalb’s cell phone. The call originated from the Shabak office in Tel Aviv. Malachy Abramin, the sub-director at the Israeli Security Agency personally contacted his agent with an array of information regarding the companies and directors contained in the email Netanya forwarded earlier that day.
With the company and director's names already provided, the Israeli security division had little problems surfing through the ocean of information regarding the transactions.
“I have got almost 15 gigabytes of data amassed with more downloading by the minute. So, how do you want me to send the files?” the sub-director asked.
“I don’t have any way to keep the data,” Netanya explained. “Can you send me the pertinent details first? The rest I can read off my email when I get a chance.”
“Ask him if any of the material connects the Foundation to political parties, to any of the elected country leaders?” Ryan spoke from across the table. He listened to the one sided conversation as Netanya relayed the question.
“Nothing so far,” she mouthed, the phone still held against her ear. Several more minutes passed before Agent Kalb thanked the sub-director and set her phone on the table.
“Even with this information, Lucas and his foundation are not doing anything wrong. Maybe we should postpone this trip until we have a better grasp on what they are doing?”
“This trip isn’t official FBI business,” he winked at the Shabak Agent. “I want to meet the man face to face. Make him think that we know more than we do. Rattle a few cages and see what lurks out of the shadows.” Ryan flicked his cigarette butt onto the asphalt at his feet and reached for his milkshake. “This new information now gives me a lot more credibility when I confront him and his “foundation.”
Noon the following day the two agents pulled off the once busy freeway that runs the length of Seattle. Their first stop, a charging station to replenish the cars batteries. A flourish of thoughts crossed Ryan’s mind as he searched for an electric filling station. He was saddened by the plight the once proud city of Seattle suffered. A city, which a few short years earlier boasted a population of well over four million people, had dwindled down to slightly more than a million inhabitants.
The majority of Seattle’s population left the city behind in droves, trading the concrete and glass, freeways and coffee shops for the woods and mountains in the surrounding country. With fewer jobs and scarcity of fuels for heating or driving plus the added expenses of maintaining a fragile electricity grid, the struggling lower classes jammed the few essentials they could carry and just as their ancestors did a century and a half ago, they trekked into the forests to make a living off the land.
Charles M. Ryan leaned on the hood of his electric steed and studied the skyline of the once majestic jewel of the west. Another cigarette hung from his lips as he contemplated his meeting with the Climate Prophet. On the trip to the Pacific Northwest, Ryan found plenty of time to think about how to approach the man. Plenty of time borne from sitting at charging stations as he cursed the prolonged time wasted while waiting for the cars batteries to rejuvenate like he was doing now.
“See if your phone has any reception, maybe book us a room for the night?” he asked Netanya. “I don’t think finding lodging will be too hard,” he added as he gazed around at the boarded and deserted buildings that lined the concrete freeway. “Unless all of Seattle has gone out of business.”
The rain was pouring down as Ryan followed the I-5 to the southern edge of Seattle proper. Just south of the city a collage of 3 story buildings filled the horizon. Stainless steel structures separated the scores of large glass windows that greeted traffic from the freeway, a look that one could not help associating with the similar building styles of the numerous tech giants in the area.
A pair of towering brick columns supported a gleaming sign welcoming visitors at the entrance to the People Of The Earth Foundation. On six acres of prime real estate, the buildings sat a short distance from the open water on the lower end of Puget Sound. Sitting at the barricades blocking access to the compound, Ryan glimpsed ships cruise past the openings between buildings.
“Sir. Follow this lane to parking lot 4. The summit is taking place in Atrium B,” the guard politely pointed to the location on the colorful map of the compound before returning to the shelter of his booth.
Within seconds the barricade lifted exposing the rain soaked asphalt parking lot. Ryan steered the sedan deeper into the POTE Foundation grounds, an illuminated sign beckoning him toward the proper stalls. Rolling the car to a stop, Ryan ducked his head and stared out the rain-streaked windshield at the impressive array of metal and glass that confronted him.
“Atrium B is ahead and to our right,” Netanya pointed in the direction as she translated the map of the grounds. “I don’t imagine you have an umbrella or two stashed somewhere inside this car, do you?”
Ryan was slow to answer as he continued to peer through the front window and marvel at the buildings and compound of the foundation.
“We should apply for jobs here,” he joked before turning his attention to his passenger. Shaking his head he reached into the back seat and grabbed a coat. “This will have to do,” he said pulling the wrinkled jacket over the seat rests.
In the pouring rain, Ryan leaned inside the back car door and stuffed a sheath of papers under his suit jacket. Running around the car, he put a hand on Netanya’s arm, and together the two rushed across the lot toward the welcoming doors of the opulent atrium building. Splashing across the pooling rain that covered the asphalt parking lot, the pair raced toward the entrance, climbed the steps and waited for the main glass doors to open. The pair came to a halt out of the rain as the sliding doors hissed closed blocking out the chill, wet Seattle afternoon.
Signs announcing the day’s line-up for the summit beckoned the two down the hallway and into the packed room, the floor crowded with an eclectic gathering of journalists, politicians and environmentalists eagerly awaiting the appearance of the summit’s host.
Charles Ryan shot a handout and retrieved a glass of wine off a server’s tray and passed it to Netanya before snatching a second glass for himself; his other arm squeezed tight to his body pinning the file of papers beneath his coat. Staying close to an exterior wall he sipped the wine while letting his eyes roam the faces of guests mingling throughout the room.
“What are your plans?” Netanya spoke over the raised lip of her wine glass.
Ryan shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure,” he replied. No previous thoughts wasted on just what he planned to do once they were inside the building. A mischievous smile pulled at the edges of his mouth followed by a shrug of his shoulders. “Have to play this one by ear.” He said. A murmur passed through the audience causing him to glance toward a stage set at the front of the room. Standing on tiptoes, he looked across the sea of heads. A small group entered the auditorium from a far door, a robed figure leading the way.
Charles M. Ryan fidgeted in his chair as speaker after speaker droned on about the good deeds accomplished by Lucas and the POTE Foundation. Astounding results in regards to the forests of wind turbines and acres of solar panels the organization had installed in countries covering the planet.
Ryan’s fingers played with the edge of the folder stashed under his jacket biding time, waiting for a moment of inspiration to guide his moves. His thoughts intermittently disturbed as each speaker received an enthusiastic round of applause while standing behind the microphone and lauded the new era of clean energy, and as a result, the saving of the earth from the harmful human blight that for centuries pillaged the natural resources turning the planet's bounty into a climate catastrophe.
Several times Netanya nudged him for the offensive words he mumbled in response to the self-congratulatory cheerleading and back patting that filled the room. No thoughts to the newly impoverished masses suffering the consequences of the POTE’s actions.
The afternoon crawled on; speech followed speech until finally, the room quieted and then as one the audience stood in welcome as the guest speaker moved behind the microphone.
From the chair in the back, Ryan struggled to gain a look at the robed figure of Lucas Pensworth the 3rd. Lucas began talking quietly, the murmurs in the room fell hush. As minutes passed, Lucas’ tenor grew with the conviction of his speech.
By the time Lucas was well into a spiel about his cause winning out over the tried and true centuries of fossil fuel consumption, Charles Ryan stood.
Lucas’s voice echoed off the walls and the ceiling. “With the help of crusaders like us, the tide has turned. We are breaking the human addiction to fossil fuels. No longer is there a chain binding our lives to the big energy companies.” The atrium erupted in cheering. Charles Ryan remained standing as the crowd sat back down, the room growing silent while Lucas continued.
Each word, every phrase from Lucas’ mouth evoking pictures of the carnage created by the Prophet and his minions as they forged ahead with their ideology of a green planet. Each cheer brought forward a crippling memory of the destruction Ryan had visited in his investigation.
Without realizing the moment for action had arrived, Ryan started his slow walk to the front of the auditorium, the thinly veiled charade carried out by this foundation simply too much for him to sit by and listen further.
Grabbing the file from under his coat, he raised the papers above his head and as he walked forward he clapped his hands loudly together. “Well, you certainly are entertaining Lucas. What about all the people you have pushed to poverty? The families who are freezing or starving or both, is this part of your wondrous plan too?” He spoke over the Prophets words. “The men and women killed as your members torched and blasted their way through refineries and corporations. Some god damned plan or is that clearly good business practice?”
A man stood to confront him. Ryan elbowed the man aside as he continued down the aisle. Two more from the audience jumped from their seats. With his hand, he pulled the tail of his coat to the side revealing the polished badge pinned to his belt. “FBI.” Ryan snarled.
Stepping up to the dais, Ryan tossed the file in front of Lucas, pictures, and fact sheets spilling out.
“Do I know you, friend?” Lucas stared into Ryan’s eyes.
“Our paths have crossed,” Ryan replied, “and drop the friend shit.”
The two men, with the wooden table, separating them, studied each other. Lucas blinked first as he picked up the folder and began thumbing through the pages. “And this is…?” he asked.
“A little collage I have been collecting of your foundation's handy-work.”
“I am not sure that I understand?” Lucas’ face furrowed showing his bewilderment.
“Take your time. I think the story will become clear. The pictures are of terrorist acts I’ve had the displeasure of attending." Ryan's felt his rage bubble to the surface. Lucas sat calmly receiving the bombast from the FBI agent, his raised eyebrow the only revealing indication.
Ryan bent close to Lucas' face, his finger jabbing at the array of documents. "Don’t tell me you can’t recognize the good work your foundation has accomplished.” Ryan’s voice laced with sarcasm while he pushed pictures aside until finding the smoking gun. "Recognize this gentleman?" Ryan lifted the picture of the dead professor Enders.
Lucas ignored the FBI agents taunts as he studied the papers laid out on the dais surface. “And you think that I or someone from the POTE is behind these.”
“The proof is all in the file you sanctimonious son of a bitch. The foundation's fingerprints are all over these tragedies. Records of transactions, political posturing, you name it, your group of eco followers is involved.”
“Do you mind if I keep this file?” Lucas gazed up at Ryan.
“Yeah. I’ve got more copies. Knock yourself out.”
“Yes. I have no doubt you do.” Lucas replied. Glancing past Ryan, he noticed agent Kalb. “What else can I help you with?” With no answer forthcoming, Lucas rose from his chair and leaned in close to Ryan. In a quiet, non-threatening voice, he spoke. “If this is all you came for, consider your mission complete. Now either sit-down and shut up or get the hell out.” Lucas motioned toward the doors at the rear of the auditorium to stress his point.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.