FBI agent Charles M. Ryan sat in the near empty passenger car. One week before Christmas, 2024. Riding a train bound for Washington the last thing he dreamt of doing. Ryan shifted in his seat, adjusting his body to conform to the worn cushions while he settled in for the long ride east across the country.
Ryan ran his finger across the power slide on his reading paper, his eyes blurry from focusing on the text of the glowing screen. Laying the thin computer on the empty seat to the side, he turned to glance out the window at the passing landscape. Lifting an elbow to rest on the window frame his tired fingers brushed through his thinning hair. A dull sigh escaped his lips as he stared at his reflection in the window. Faded gray eyes surrounded by dark circles and sunken in a gaunt, ashen face looked back from the window.
The news stories he read to occupy his time continued to gnaw on his soul. The world seemed like it was slowly spiraling out of control. Europe was in the thralls of a revolution. The closely united countries of the Middle East engaged in a horrible war for the remaining drops of the precious black gold. Governments came under siege by a population fed up with unreal ideologies and even north of the border in Canada, a country known for its peacefulness sat on the precipice of a civil war.
The thought of leaving Netanya at this time rested heavy on his mind. She was five months pregnant with their first child, a son the doctors happily informed the couple, a situation he found that caused mixed emotions. First came unbridled happiness at the looming birth of their first child and then doubt. With the growing state of uncertainty overtaking the world was now the time to have a child?
The past months passed as a blur. The anonymous Internet group both he and Netanya partnered with by supplying damaging evidence of the Foundation's unscrupulous undertakings became compromised. The group of hackers was now hunted by U.N. Authorities and had retreated deep underground leaving the pair vulnerable to retaliation.
Netanya’s Israeli agency forced to put the Foundations investigation on hold. The small country was now fighting for their very survival. The Arab nations surrounding the lone Jewish state grew braver and more troubling as the regimes in the Middle East crumbled. Anarchists and extremists began rising like a phoenix from the war-torn rubble.
And suddenly out of nowhere a ray of light appeared behind the dark clouds of misery. Ryan shrugged. Maybe times will take a turn for the better. The American elections earlier in the year provided a sliver of hope for a brighter future. The new President promised to erase the incompetent rule of former President Sam Bankenridge’s and his cowering compliance to the Climate Prophet and the POTE foundation.
A government paid for by the Foundation’s money that promoted a flawed ideology nearly crippling the American economy and forcing countless American families to the edge of poverty and desperation. A tragedy never before witnessed in the industrialized nation. Not only the United States suffered from this predicament, Ryan mused, but the whole damn world.
His let his mind drift back to the sum of actions that intertwined to send him on this train ride. The investigation that began so many years earlier by starting as random attacks of eco-terrorists before leading to the political maneuverings of Lucas’ foundation and their bid for world cleansing. A plan calculated to reverse industrialization back to the dark ages while weaning the world from its oil dependency. The group intent on reinventing the world with their altered vision, consequences be damned.
One wrong decision, Ryan realized, the day he approached Lucas at the Seattle summit and almost spelled the end of his career. By prematurely showing his hand and bringing his findings out in the open, the worried foundation members rallied to have the investigation aborted by the politicians in Washington.
The mistake followed by years of time spent doing menial tasks in the Denver office labeled a conspiracy theorist. He reflected on the short run of anonymous reveals into the People Of The Earth Foundation's grand scheme before his mind jumped to a much happier time when Netanya reappeared in his life with her return to America; the two would take on the evil empire he remembered thinking.
And then finally the day he surrendered to a stronger cause and decided to walk away and leave all that behind. The POTE grew too powerful for his little group to battle. The Foundation and its leader, here Ryan had to snicker at the ridiculous name, the Climate Prophet, swayed the public opinion in their favor giving credence to their environmental cause.
And now after surrendering to fate and struggling to make a comfortable existence for him and his new wife a call came requesting him to meet with the President. Ryan swung his head away from the train car window, his eyes stopping at the briefcase by his side.
Inside contained years of painstaking investigations, reports, theories and irrefutable evidence, some circumstantial, others solid and damning like the thumb drive supplied by his sister’s friend, the Russian soldier, Lev Zhernakov.
Ryan’s mind strayed. His thoughts went out to the Russian. Zhernakov had left the Colorado City determined to find the head of the Foundation snake, the loss of his men still burning a hole in his soul, redemption his alone to collect. The damning evidence Zhernakov had carried across the ocean recorded on the thumb drive proved to be the missing connection exposing the Foundation’s plans for a single world order.
Boy, did he have a few things to tell the new President?
Ryan gazed back out the window as the train roared down the track. As the great Nobel Prize winner of the 2016 literary award once paraphrased. “The times, they are a-changing.”
Later in the afternoon on the second day, the train ride approached the border of the Protected States and the United States. A mounting civil war that had threatened the cohesion of the country stopped short by the election of President Borrows. A man determined to reunite the broken states and repair the rift opened by the continued ideals of the environmental stewards.
The train barreled across the contested border leaving the Protected States territory. Ryan watched as the barren fields of Kansas fell behind, and the expanses of Missouri began appearing. His breath caught in his chest. The once beautiful forests and valleys of the state were replaced by stands of thousands of towering, weathered metal behemoths. Turbines as far as his eyes could see. The ploy by the POTE to replace traditional energy sources derived from fossil fuels with renewable energy.
In the fields adjacent to the tracks Ryan’s gaze passed over large tent communities, the inhabitants living amongst the shadows of the towering, humming atrocities. Thin entrails of smoke rose into the cold winter air from the shantytown. Dotted across the expanse were spindly remnants of the once abundant tracts of trees; the forests sacrificed to provide heat for the tents.
As the train rolled through the ragtag community, Ryan observed men, women, and children roaming the frozen packed dirty snow around the large tubular bases. Now and then one of the tightly bundled figures would stop, bend toward the ground and collect small, scattered objects littering the bases of the metal towers.
At first, he was puzzled, and then he recalled articles written about the displaced and downtrodden families who wondered amongst the turbines in search of the carcasses of unsuspecting birds knocked from the air by the windblown blades stories above the earth.
Birds. That was something Ryan hadn’t thought of in a while. He couldn’t recall the last time he had seen a bird. The winged populations of the skies were nearly extinct across most of the world. As was the wildlife that once flourished in the world’s forests and grasslands. The relentless harvest of trees needed for heating and cooking had a catastrophic effect by changing the surface of the earth into a giant dustbowl unable to support any form of life. Huge expanses of desert covered a majority of the earth’s once fertile landmass.
The new president certainly had his work cut out. In Ryan's mind, he ticked off some of the items that needed to be rectified. Foremost was beating back the surging tide of Climate armies and then the healing of a crippled planet, so it was once again able to provide sustenance for its human inhabitants. Those two problems alone could prove to be enormous undertakings.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.