Charles M. Ryan sat stiffly in his rental car waiting beside the guardhouse. The guard collected Ryan’s I.D. and returned to the booth. Tapping the steering wheel nervously Ryan rehearsed the facts that he was to present to the Whitehouse Chief of Security and later with a meeting involving the President of the United States.
Charles had saved all his notes from the eco-terrorist investigation over the years, stashed them in boxes and over time forgot about them. Times changed. He and Netanya had married and settled into a modicum of everyday life away from terrorists and evil foundations leaving behind thoughts of saving the world.
A contested election brought a new President. One who had sworn to the American public to fight the tide of oppression by the environmental movement and return America to a state of prosperity and glory? The President’s first act of office was to reopen the investigation into the rumored conspiracy by the green factions. The POTE Foundation sat at the top of the list, thus a request from the President to the man who had investigated the foundation for years, him, Charles M. Ryan.
The guard tapped on his car window interrupting Ryan's thoughts and waved Ryan into the large parking lot. Within minutes Ryan found himself standing at the security desk. His briefcase surrendered, and pockets emptied he watched for the guard to wave him through the electronic security gate.
Once cleared an assigned escort walked him deeper into the building.
Ryan followed the guard to the second floor. The guard stopped at an enclave and pointed to a chair in the waiting area. Without a word Ryan’s escort left and took a position in the hallway.
The extra cups of coffee and the burrito he had for lunch came back to haunt him as he sat waiting for his appointment. Timidly, Ryan motioned to the man on duty.
“Hey. Is there a washroom I can use? My lunch is seeking revenge,” he said to the soldier.
The National Guardsman gave him a wilting look.
“Sorry. I can’t wait.” Ryan pleaded. The guard glanced around nervously as he weighed the request. “Around the corner to your left. But you had better hurry. The joint chiefs do not like to be kept waiting."
“Thanks,” Charles said as he jumped to his feet and took a handful of steps before turning the corner. He tried the knob on the men’s washroom. Locked. Shit he mumbled, the urgency of his upset stomach sending him rushing further down the hallway in search of an empty bathroom.
Ryan walked the corridors checking each room as he passed. The hallway split. Taking the left side he continued glancing into open doors. Second door from the end he noticed a bathroom at the back of the office. Ryan glanced up and down the hallway before he rushed across the empty room heading straight for the bathroom. Fumbling in the dim light to locate the light switch he turned and locked the door. The lunch he had eaten earlier rumbled deep in his stomach.
With a sigh of relief, he sat. Footsteps sounded on the carpet outside the room. Shit, he thought. His kind of rotten luck, the only bathroom he came across in this section of the whole damn building and someone had to walk into the outer office.
Remaining quiet he wished that whoever entered the office would leave and save him the embarrassment of being discovered, mainly since he was in an unsanctioned part of the building. Ryan waited breathlessly. The opposite happened. He heard another set of footsteps enter the office; a quiet voice accompanied the second of steps, the person speaking almost too quiet for Ryan to make out the words.
“What are you doing here? I warned you to stay away!” a male voice on the other side of the bathroom wall reprimanded, the tone a harsh whisper.
“Time is running out. Tomorrow the new bill by President Burrows to end the green energy movement will be in front of Congress. You are surely aware that if the bill passes into law, our Foundation and the whole environmental movement, will suddenly be deemed illegal, wiping out years of planning and careful preparation."
“I know, I know. Burrow's speech to the nation is in a half hour…” Ryan strained to hear more of the conversation. The male voice close to the wall was much louder, and he was certain it belonged to the Vice President of the United States. Instinctively Ryan reached into his pocket and slid his phone out. Years of formal information gathering while an FBI agent drove his movements.
Entering his password, Ryan tapped on the phone’s recording app. With a silent prayer, he hoped that the phone would be able to record the voices taking place outside the bathroom walls. With his phone pressed tight against the wall he held his breath, his rumbling guts now a lower priority.
The Vice President spoke again. Anger underlined his words. “I told you that I would deal with the man.”
“How confident are you that your idea will not fail. Remember, the Secret Service members you are counting on have all been vetted for their loyalty to the President. What makes you so sure that they will obey your orders and turn their backs on the man whom they are sworn to protect?”
“It fairly simple really. The agents won’t be killing him…. I will. I have a couple of carefully selected men assigned to his detail. My guys will intercept the President and briefly run interference on his regular detail. From there I’ve got it handled. Don’t sweat it.”
“You, Mr. Vice President of the United States, are going to shoot the most powerful man in the country. Even if you are to succeed, you will be thrown in jail, probably given the death penalty. Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
“Yes. The groundwork has been carefully laid out. Hidden in the basement, right beneath our noses, I have a crew ready to act. They are guarding a man who will, unfortunately for him, be given full credit for the assassination of our dear President.
President Burrows is to be left unattended at a preplanned spot. The service will be distracted long enough for me to take care of business. Then our fall guy will be brought to the location, and once I've dealt with the President, I will, in turn, shoot the assailant and the American media will hail me as a hero.”
Ryan heard one of the people in the office nervously tap their fingers on a desk. The conversation halted. Both people obviously dealing with the gravity of what was about to transpire? The V.P. of the United States broke the silence.
“I suggest that you get far away from the Whitehouse. How will it look when the Secret Service announces that this lunatic has killed the President and you happen to be in the building? Not good for your Foundation I would think. Especially since President Burrows has already gone on record and announced that he is abolishing the clean energy policy. The one that your POTE Foundation helped encourage into law with Bankenridge’s administration.” The V.P. paused adding as an afterthought. “We can not allow Burrows to cancel a decade of environmental work and then try to rebuild the floundering oil and gas industry.”
“Again, when will this happen?” the other voice asked.
“President Burrows speech is slated to last until a little before five. Ten minutes after that I will be the next President of the United States of America.”
The second voice grew even fainter. “Don’t fail. We have spent a fortune getting you to this position. If the President lives to revoke the energy bill… Well, I’ll leave it at that.” The second voice raised on the last few words. The tone and pitch puzzling to Ryan but the few words uttered were impossible for him to be certain he heard it right. Still, in his mind, the voice was odd, it wasn’t the voice he would associate with the conversation, and it was different.
The voice faded along with a set of footsteps. Scared to move Ryan pressed his ear tight against the wall listening intently. The Vice President mumbled some incoherent words and then a drawer slammed and the man's footsteps exited the office.
Ryan's mind raced. He quickly replayed the recorded conversation. What the hell was he to do? Then the thought occurred. He glanced at the time on his phone. Little time remained for him to try and convince anyone in the Whitehouse of the conversation he had inadvertently overheard.
The phone, the recorded conversation, he had the proof right, but as quickly as that idea came, he brushed it aside. Who would take him seriously, a discredited FBI agent who ran around spouting conspiracy theories? It was his word against that of the Vice-President and who in their right mind would believe that a man chosen by the newly elected President would conspire to shoot the American leader and of all places right in the heart of power, the Whitehouse.
Stuck with a conundrum, he wracked his brain for a possible solution. What if he had heard the conversation wrong, after all, the second voice in the office was almost indiscernible. Close to panic the answer popped into his weary mind. It was his duty to find the Vice President and confront the man. If he was wrong, what did it matter that the VP joined the list of people who thought him crazy?
Sticking his head out of the office door, he checked the hallway to see if the guard had come searching for him. Ryan left the office turning in the opposite direction of his appointment and the National Guard escort and quickly walked farther into the large building. He wondered the hallways with a hastily thought out plan to confront the Vice President with the damning recording.
The building was a maze of corridors and dead ends. Ryan moved quickly, only slowing down whenever his path crossed other people. If he stopped to ask about the V.P.’s location he would be forced to answer questions that he knew would get him detained. So, avoiding contact with the other workers in the building he searched. Panic began building from desperation.
From a door down the hall, a pair of armed guards appeared and walked in his direction. Ryan slowed and offered a nervous smile as he passed the men then ducked around a corner. He came to an abrupt stop. The Vice President and a hooded figure blocked his way.
The V.P. raised his eyes to Ryan’s face.
“I heard you…” Ryan blurted then gained his composure. He raised the phone still in his hand. “In the room. Your plan to…”
The robed figure turned at the sound of his voice. Ryan took a step back in surprise. Lucas’ aid Alice joined the V.P. staring at his interruption. A mashing of thoughts stalled Ryan’s words. In a heartbeat clarity formed in his brain, the whole investigation played before his eyes as he realized that Lucas wasn’t the man responsible for the Foundation's underhanded dealings.
“I was in the room, I heard your conversation,” Ryan said, his fingers fumbling with the play button for the recording. At the sound of his voice, Vice President Learnerd panicked. The American Vice President retrieved a gun from his pocket.
“No. Put that away,” Alice hissed reaching for the gun.
“I won’t let this man destroy years of hard work,” Learnerd snapped angrily. Alice pushed the gun down. Ryan, seizing the interruption, rushed the Vice President. His hand clamped on the VP's arm. Alice was brushed aside as the two men struggled for control of the gun. A finger tightened. A shot reverberated down the Whitehouse corridor.
Alice screamed. Ryan turned at the sound. Alice's eyes grew large in shock. Her hands rose to her chest in an attempt to smother a growing tide of blood. She fell back against the wall.
Ryan focused back on the Vice Presidents crazed eyes. With one hand fighting for the gun and his other hand still clutching his phone, Ryan struggled to disarm the United States second in command. The gun jerked again. Another shot fired. Vice President Learnerd released his hand from the weapon and staggered back.
“DROP the gun,” a command came from behind Ryan. Dazed and confused the FBI agent spun to locate the voice. The gun held tight in one hand, his phone in the other. The guards, the same two that Ryan had passed just minutes ago fired simultaneously at the sight of the raised firearm.
Charles M. Ryan blinked. His vision blurred. With his body in shock, he took one unsteady step forward, lifted the hand gripping the phone then fell to the floor. He felt a foot knock the gun from his hand. His eyes stared aimlessly at the ceiling before his vision grew black.
An image of Netanya holding their newborn son drifted into his mind. His lips lifted at the corners at the vision of the two as his eyes rolled back into his head and a final breath escaped his mouth.
Lucas leaned on his arm, his eyes directed out the window, his sight unfocused. Alice was dead. How could that be? He should have never let her go alone. But in his heart, he knew he would never have been able to stop her.
She was always the strong one. When times were not in his favour, she found a way to keep the momentum going. He flashed back to the time Professor Enders left them with an ultimatum before the man mysteriously disappeared. A puzzle Lucas had mused over until Ender's body was discovered burned in an explosion. It wasn’t until years later that he learned Alice was the one responsible for the body of the Professor to be found at the oil fire in Venezuela all the while shifting blame of the eco-terrorists away from Lucas.
She was behind the use of Russian forces to destroy the Ukrainian gas refinery and the then betrayal of the Russian operatives once the mission was complete. The consequences of the mission creating a political rift between the neighboring countries, a rouse that crippled gas supplies from that region to Europe.
The ensuing war shifted the world’s focus away from the Foundation's environmental tactics. An idea he would never have endorsed had he known.
Alice along with select members of the Foundation continuously schemed behind his back thinking that he was oblivious. After he learned the truth about the explosion in the Ukraine he decided to end the violence. Secretly he leaked files to the FBI agent Ryan, but the stupid ass ruined everything by showing up at the summit in Seattle and loudly accusing Lucas of using the terrorism for his Foundation's gain.
Once Alice got her hands on the proof delivered by the agent, she used her influence in Washington to shelve the investigation and discredit the man.
Lucas continued staring out the window blindly. Tried as he might in stopping the horror Alice unleashed on the oil industry, his efforts failed. What could he do? Report her. No. He owed her much more than even the great Climate Profit could repay. And now she was taken from him and their newborn son.
A veil of anger at the loss of his Alice settled over him. All he wanted from the beginning of this crusade was to stop the people of the world from their path of destruction to the earth’s climate. The road to salvation had started peacefully and with good intentions but yet he was fought every step of the way.
The acid of anger churned his stomach. The nightmarish visions from his youth followed him 24 hours a day now and combined with his mourning of Alice robbed him of sleep. The time for merci was over.
With the massed fortunes of the POTE Foundation and the army of faithful followers behind him, he was determined to finish that which he and Alice had started. The lives of humans mattered little compared to the well being of Earth.
Lucas angrily pushed away from the window. A meeting with the Foundation's founders was about to start. He would lead the war this time and the sword of power swung in his favour.
A little smoke now would clear the air for an eternity he philosophized determined to make the world pay for taking his Alice.
March 2030 the leaders of the free countries gathered in Havana, Cuba. The conference was a dire affair. The remaining free run nation leaders held the emergency meeting to forge an alliance capable of defeating the advancing Climate armies.
Many leaders arrived with reluctance. The forced allies in attendance submitting votes, naming one of the men at the conference to lead the newly formed World Coalition Government. Months of clandestine meetings and backroom deals led up to this moment. The individual efforts of each country in fighting the Climate armies failed to slow the defeat. The consensus was to battle from behind a united front.
The decade and a half climate wars saw each side advance and retreat repeatedly. In the Climate Prophets drive for sustainable clean energy, the surface of the earth became littered with towering turbines. From pole to pole the behemoths bloomed.
July 3, 2044
"We continued training with troops from the European Union. Our allies flew in two days ago, and we are all anticipating rigorous drills for the next three weeks in preparation for the continued war against the forces of the climate prophets.
At first, the governments of the world had not taken the prophet's threats seriously, writing them off as annoying fanatics. The climate armies now number in the millions and are proving to be a dangerous adversary with their coordinated attacks.
The prophets have been hugely successful in recruiting large numbers of volunteers with their promises of a green planet, continued opposition of fossil fuels and their dogged campaign of bombing strategic world fuel reserves. The terrorist actions by these organized groups are now having a devastating effect on the continued harvesting and transportation of necessary supplies. At the rate that the attacks are occurring most countries are now struggling to maintain day-to-day operations.
I was told yesterday of my new promotion. I am now the youngest captain in the Canadian Army at twenty years of age. Captain Jeff Ryan. Cool. Has a nice ring to it, but my celebration is short lived. Our world forces are striving to hold back the determination of the climate prophets and their growing fuel resistance army.
I received news this morning that my training here in Wainwright will be cut short; I am to report as a liaison for the Canadian army at Yakima Training Center in Washington State. There, I will join fellow officers from around the world to devise strategies for the retaking of American fuel reserves that we’ve lost to the enemy.
I hate to leave at this time. Since the rains of June have stopped, we’ve experienced nothing but blue skies and plenty of sunshine; the temperatures are climbing into the high twenties. The rain has turned everything green, and the air has a clean, fresh smell to it."
June 10, 2045
"The climate prophet’s armies are growing exponentially. The world governments are losing the battle. Climate armies are burning and destroying all our sources of fuels at an alarming rate forcing us to retreat on many fronts. The lack of fuel is slowing and in some cases stopping our progress at several strategic oil deposits across the world.
Today the European president ordered a significant number of troops back to defend the few remaining fuel reserves they control. The climate armies have invaded the Saudi Conglomerate States decimating Saudi armies and destroying Middle Eastern oil reserves.
In Canada, the Prime Minister refuses to end the civil war that has split the country. His Eastern forces continue to attack the sovereign Provinces in their fight to claim the west's energy resources. Several platoons of American soldiers have been redeployed to help the landlocked sovereign state. In exchange, we continue to send trainloads of oil across the border.
The forces of the Climate Prophet have employed the strategy of starving the world armies of all fossil fuels. Not only is this crippling the forces standing against them, but also a worldwide ration has been adopted. For the time being, the only manufacturing left untouched by the fuel ration is the munitions factories.
Americans by the millions are finding themselves without work and lack the fuel to heat their homes or provide transportation
If the war continues, everyone but the people contracted by or enlisted in the military will be left to fend for themselves. The army can’t fight off the climate forces and at the same time maintain the peace in the countries affected by the energy shortage. My fear is that anarchy will soon overtake us.”
In late 2045 scientists began recording alarming amounts of seismic activity. The earth trembled with each turn of the huge metal blades of the wind generators. Scientific studies bemoaned the constant quivering of the earth’s core. Before a plan for righting the planet could be agreed upon the march toward the inevitable began.
2047 and the threat to humanity became a reality. Earthquakes were now a regular occurrence. Then within a short 12-month span a chain of violent volcanic eruptions rocked the world. The sky became choked with the toxic dust. Venturing out of doors required careful planning and even better respiration equipment. The days that the sun failed to appear stretched into months.
With the growing pool of scientific evidence correlating the abnormal frequency of volcanic activity to the whirling blades of the wind turbines, the World Governing Party laid the blame for the planet's deterioration at the feet of the Climate Prophet and his foundation.
Lucas and his disciples went from environmental saviors to hunted fugitives. The spate of destructive volcanoes swung the balance of power in the climate wars away from the green movement. Leagues of the Prophets followers switched their allegiance and joined the World Governing Party as terror grew from the world-shaking apart. Lucas and his Foundation associates eluded capture and were never heard of again.
With an uncanny foresight at the onset of the Climate Wars, Lucas financed the building of a city at the foot of Adams Mountain in Washington State. The Foundation secretly transported materials and manpower to the site in a vast but little-known mountain valley. Over the years as the climate war raged the city of metal took shape. Lucas’ vision and desire to secure a haven for his faithful slowly became a reality.
Oil transported to the site by the Foundation's energy companies rested in giant cauldrons buried deep in the mountain behind the city. An emergency stash secreted away for the possibility that the war swung in favor his opponents.
The tread of footsteps into the room drew Lucas out of his daydream. He turned and glanced at his son. A rare smile brightened his face as he stood and studied the young man. So much like his mother, Lucas thought. The memory of his long-dead partner made the smile disappear.
All these years later and Lucas still ached at the loss of his friend, lover and the mother of his child as if she had just died yesterday. His mind roamed back to happier times. Times she was by his side as the two fought the greedy energy corporations for the liberation of the earth.
A good fight they fought too.
“Father, the news is on. You will want to see this.” Mathew said gravely. Standing just inside the room, he studied his father. The state of the old guy's mind was becoming a concern. Some days his father was the bright, intuitive man of his youth and others...Mathew waited until his father left the window and moved in his direction.
Lucas followed Mathew into a room down the hall. The room was laid out with comfortable furniture and housed the only T.V. on the compound. A grainy picture of a news anchor sat frozen on the screen. Lucas strode to his chair by the burning fire and eased his tired body slowly into the worn cushions.
“Okay son,” he said, his sad eyes focused on the screen.
“The Island of Hawaii was the latest to suffer the scourge of volcanic activities. And a warning,” the newsman warned, “ The pictures you are about to view are very disturbing. Reporter Sheila Cantor is broadcasting live from the Channel 4 News helicopter high above the scene.”
“Joe. I can’t begin to describe the devastation below us. Captain Argyll of the World Intercontinental Government has informed me that…” Cantor stopped her report. As the camera passed from her face to zoom in on the unfolding terror kilometers below the aircraft, tears rolled from her eyes.
Cantor regrouped and in a trembling voice spoke over the streaming video. “The Islands are gone. Sources close to the regional army reported that early this afternoon concurrent eruptions occurred in the chain of volcano’s the Hawaiian Islands sit upon.” The reporter’s words choked back by tears. “The Hawaii islands are no more. My God. Millions and Millions of people have perished in this cataclysmic horror.”
“Turn the damn thing off,” Lucas shouted, his head bowed, his eyes averted from the disturbing news.
“Are you alright Father?” Mathew rushed from his set.
“No son. No one is alright anymore.”
Mathews phone rang. Lucas watched as his son listened to the caller. Ending the call Mathew faced his father. “The earthquake this morning caused destruction to the cave housing our oil supplies. There are some fears that the drums may be damaged and the oil is draining,” he said as he rushed from the room. The TV that was temporarily forgotten about flashed to a different newscast, a new announcer, and another catastrophe.
Lucas leaned back in his chair. At 59 years of age, his lifelong struggle to preserve the planet ravaged his body and mind, a battle that had cost him everything. And now the world perched on the edge of destruction as volcanic activity threatened the very civilization he fought to protect, the very planet he had devoted his life.
Panic in the newscaster's voice caused Lucas to lift his eyes to the screen. Pictures streamed across the screen, rivers of lava pouring down the sides of a new volcano. The molten rock raced down the mountainside toward a shanty village. The heated lava slightly darker than the scorched desert earth it flowed across.
A reporter’s camera zoomed in on the panic faces of the villagers as they fled the path of the volcanoes destruction. Lucas sat immobile, his eyes widening as he watched the camera pan across the sea of terrified faces. Men and women scattered, their mouths opened in silent screams.
Lucas’ fragile mental state weakened further. The nightmarish visions that haunted him since his youth melded with the scenes displayed on the television screen. This time the images accompanied a sickening reality. Unable to pry his eyes from the TV screen he watched, his body paralyzed. In his unstable mind, he met head on with an overwhelming reality. The cause of the visions he had fought so hard to prevent in the first place was in fact brought on by actions he started decades ago.
Lucas’ mouth opened and closed. His eyes glazed over. A pain emanated from the right side of his body and traveled to his heart. The horrifying shock of truth that he alone started and therefore stood responsible for this catastrophic wave of destruction to the earth died in the room with him.
“Come in she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
Thanks for coming along on this journey...Merry Christmas everyone.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.