It took two years of getting off my duff, but it's finally finished. Final chapters were sent to the editor. Looking at an April launch. This should be the last installment in the Gateway series. Sneak preview of the first three chapters.
Charlotte, North Carolina
It was two weeks before Judith was able to walk by herself. Larry never left her side as he nursed her back to health. At times he needed to use a stern tone with Rose to back-off; he had this. At first she bristled with his obstinance, but relinquished when she understood how much he cared for her. He forced her to eat even when she didn’t want to. The only function she was allowed to perform was reminding him to take his daily medications. She’d seen once when he skipped a dose and threatened to evict him if his gentlemanly manners didn’t improve, and in a hurry. He never missed another dose. The only time he left her side was to call his parents about the upcoming appointment with the Neurologist, Doctor Roberts. They tried to convince him how difficult it was to schedule an appointment with a renowned neurologist. He didn’t care. He would come home when Judith was better.
* * *
Dean and Sam remained a few more days after the funeral, but they still had jobs to attend and excused themselves, promising to return when Judith was feeling better. Rose knew it wasn’t a polite excuse. These men were truly connected and cared for their new colleagues.
Muki and Abdul spent their time visiting the sites around Charlotte. It wasn’t Nashville, but they made the best of it, visiting the Speedway, Music Hall of Fame, Billy Graham Library, Aviation Museum, Wadsworth Estate and the Charlotte Powerhouse Museum. They asked Rose if she’d like to go, but she respectfully declined until Judith was better.
“How was your trip, sir?” Adolphus stared at Karl.
“You’ve seen the news haven’t you?”
“Concerning the Pentagon?”
“Yes you fool! What else would I be referring to?”
“I apologize, sir.”
“It was what I feared. A total failure. All the intricate plans we laid out for eighty years vanished because Gerhardt became too confident in his own abilities. Like Leonoid, he perished and took our organization, which we painstakingly built, with him. There might be a few minor agents across the United States, but our core is gone.”
“Yes sir, what? Yes sir, we’ve failed? Yes sir we’ve bungled a great opportunity? Or, yes sir, it’s time to direct my efforts elsewhere?”
“I presume the later, sir.”
“Your presumption is correct, Karl. We tried to use diplomacy. We tried to work from within and we tried to accomplish our task with civilized technology designed to reduce, what is the term?” He looked in the air for the answer. “Ah, yes, collateral damage. No more Karl. No more shall we hide in the shadows as the world disintegrates into debauchery and decadence. No more shall we remain idle as the failing powers of the U.N., China, the U.S. and NATO, dictate spineless edicts, bathing themselves in accolades and praise!” He rose from his chair. “No more Karl. No more! We shall avenge the past. We shall right the wrongs and bring order to this desolate cesspool of humanity. It is time. It is our time! Like my father, who resurrected Germany from the ashes of the Versailles Treaty, we too shall soon take our rightful place in the world and they will tremble when the Thunder of Thor ROARS out of the heavens, raining death and destruction to the unbelievers!” He fell into his chair exhausted. “Karl, call Professor Mecklenberg. Inform him it is time for Thor to fly.
“I’d like a nice glass of warm milk before I retire.”
“Yes, sir.” Karl exited the room. Adolphus rotated his chair, admiring the power of the portrait on the wall. A smile crept over his lips. “Heil, Father.”
“Welcome Nathan Francisco. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. We’ve heard many good things from Don Campesie. He spoke most highly of you.”
“Thank you, Don Tiseo. The pleasure is all mine. May I suggest, before we talk business, to pay our respects to those who fell so many years ago fighting against the Germans?” He bent over, kissing his signet.
“An excellent suggestion. First, we shall travel to my humble estate and eat. It is not wise to venture on an empty stomach.”
New London, CT
Dean was catching up on non-essential e-mails and briefs from the Navy Yard. All the reports revolved around the events at the Pentagon and the government fall-out. Politics is such a waste of time and energy. He shut down the system out of boredom, but not before a memory chip picked up an unusual vibration in the Salzburg Mountains.
“Joe, that was some of the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in my life.” It was at least the tenth time Sam told him the story.
“I know Sam. You’ve been talking about it for so long, the cows don’t wanna come home and I can’t blame ‘em.”
“Come on Joe. How can you get tired of it? I mean, seriously. The whole U.S. government could have been taken down and we’d be living under the swastika. Dammit man, everything could have changed.”
“Yeah, but it didn’t. Now, if you’d have found a way for the Astros to stop losing that would be something.” Sam knew when he was had.
“Okay Joe, I’ll see what I can do about that, but no promises” Each man shared a slight laugh.
“What is our next move, Mr. President? It’s been two weeks.” asked Vice-President Powell.
“It’s time to tell the American people exactly what happened and why.”
“But Mr. President, is that a wise move? Will the public be able to stomach the truth?”
He turned around displaying the serious glare many were now accustomed to. “John, can you stomach the truth? Have you come to terms with how close the government came to being overthrown? Do you rest peacefully at night with your wife by your side, or do you wake-up screaming every two hours knowing the horrors that were unleashed?” He didn’t give him a chance to respond. “No! I have prepared a speech for today’s press conference. The Beltway has been too secretive and closed door for too many decades. It’s time to unlock the closets and let the chips fall where they may.”
“Very well, Mr. President.”
Taylor turned the chair back to the window. “John, for once, we aren’t going to take a poll. We aren’t going to worry about fallout or political posturing. The people put us in office. It’s time we trusted those who trusted us.”
“Yes, sir. Even if it cost us our careers?”
“It works. The test produced satisfactory results. The weapon system carved out a perfect circle for two kilometers with no residue or debris. The engines were brought up to eighty percent with excellent results. We did detect some minor turbulence in the convertor cycle. The plutonium and uranium reactors showed no signs of instability. The amount of heat the plutonium generated was higher than anticipated, but with modifications I will bring all systems to one hundred percent.”
“How long will that take?”
“Two weeks, maximum. We understand most of the properties from the salvaged ship, but are still uncovering its mysteries. I do not want to damage any of the material.”
“Understood. When will it be ready for a test flight?”
“We can perform a test flight at any time, but I would feel more comfortable if both reactors are able to operate at maximum efficiency.”
“A wise choice, professor. Let me know when you’re ready.”
“Jawohl, Mein Führer!”
10 DOWNING STREET
“Prime Minister, the members of Parliament are awaiting your comments. You can delay no longer. I understand the gravity of the situation with our staunch U.S. partners, but we too have uncovered our own enemies. I’m glad Winston isn’t alive to see what he warned us would happen if we lost our way.”
“Minister, I too am pleased he’s dead. His words were true, but the country, though victorious, paid a terrible price with the victory. While other countries prospered and became gloated with the fruits of the victor, we fell deeper into economic ruin. We sold off or lost the majority of our overseas holdings. We became less than a stepchild at the table begging for scraps. Our proud nation was thrown to the cold and told to fend for ourselves. If we hadn’t thwarted the Luftwaffe in 1940, D-Day or any other combined allied offensive would have never appeared on the planning table. That aside, as the Labor Party did in 1945, it is now our time to clean house. I will address the House this afternoon. Make sure the Yard and Bobbis have been placed on notice. We don’t want any weasels sneaking off during the address.”
“Yes, Prime Minister, I’ll see to it.”
White house, press room
Interim Speaker of the House, Lori Newton stepped up to the podium. “Settle down people.” She took a shallow breath. “Settle down. All of your questions will be answered once the President finishes his address.”
Before she could say another word, the reporters crashed her with questions. “What happened to Clark?” “Who’s running the country?” “Did Taylor know of the plot?” “What are your qualifications to be Speaker?” “Is this another political ploy for a power play?” “Why are their armed guards in the room?” She never wavered with the assault. The one question she heard loud and clear was, “What are your qualifications to be Speaker of the House?” It was simple math when one broke it down. Despite being a junior representative, she was one of the few left standing. But it was more than that. She… “I’ll answer that question.” She looked to her left as the crowd calmed down. “Because I trust her. Unlike many of you in this room, she shoots from the hip and doesn’t muddy the water with the boring, lofty rhetoric we’ve become too accustomed to hearing.”
Lori didn’t think twice as he entered the room. “Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States.”
“Thank you, Speaker Newton.” He glanced about the room as reporters and cameras pointed lenses and microphones his way. It was the first press conference where he felt each device was a weapon preparing to bring him down. He approached the podium flanked by two Marines.
“I have a brief statement to make and then I’ll answer any and all questions. First, the Pentagon and Washington Monument were not struck by a meteorite. They were destroyed by a magnetic resonance weapon that was installed in the lower basements of the Pentagon. The weapon was designed by Professor’s Leonoid Skorzenzy and Gerhardt Blücher. Its sole purpose was to eliminate the current government and replace it with a Fourth Reich. The accidents in Kansas, Black Water Falls and Atlantic City were not accidents. They were targets of the rogue group. Senator Washburn did not die of a heart attack or stroke. He was summarily shot for treason against the United States.” Gasps of horror rippled through the report’s pool. “All of the missing members from Congress and the Pentagon who perished in the blast were found to be sympathizers with the coup. I have heard from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is my understanding that they too have identified a group of sympathizers. He will be addressing the issue tomorrow. I, and Vice-President Powell, are running the government to the best of our abilities. We have been in touch with all the governors of each state and are working on having new elections for the vacant seats. Any man or woman wanting to run for public office will endure a grueling interrogation before being allowed to fill out an application.
“In regards to the question concerning the current Speaker of the House, Miss Lori Newman, I appointed her because I trust her and she’s a personal friend with unquestionable qualifications and references.” He stepped back, taking a drink of water.
“Why are there armed guards in the room? Because over a dozen of you have been identified as collaborators with the defunct organization. Major McMillan, do the honors.”
“Yes, sir. When I call your name, you will stand up: McKelly, Ransford, Simmons, Daily, Wallace, Reuter, Allison, Sloan, Fernandez and Rodriguez.” No one stood up. The Major moved from behind the podium and approach the pool. “People, we know who you are. You can stand up and face your judgment peacefully, or we will use force.”
One by one the accused stood up, all but one. Consuelo Rodriguez wasn’t going to go quietly. She leaned down, rummaging in her purse; removed a .38 caliber pistol, stood up and raised the pistol towards the President. She died instantly from the bullet one of the Marines fired. It entered her skull, exploding it. Those standing near her were showered with brain, bone and blood.
Taylor never wavered. He took his place back at the podium. “You nine have been found guilty of crimes against the United States Government. You have been sentenced to death. Major, escort them out. The room exploded with cat calls and cries of injustice. Two M-16’s silenced the crowd as the soldiers fired a volley into the ceiling. “Major, escort them out, now!”
He looked back at the shaken assembly. “Are there any questions?” He paused as no hands or calls came his way. “Before you ask an irrelevant question, think real hard about the consequences. Play time is over. The days of political posturing vaporized two weeks ago at the Pentagon. It’s time to turn the country back over to the people and let them know they will no longer be the silent minority. They will be the vocal majority. The new government will work for the people and not their own self-serving interests. The days of special interests groups influencing Congress are over. No longer will Congress pass useless legislation that provides the façade they are working. It will become an honor and a job. When you come to Washington, you will roll up your sleeves and prepare to work for the common good of the country and not the individual. For too long, five-hundred and fifty-four men and women have decided the fate of over three hundred million. We are going to put the law back in the courts and eliminate judges who believe they are above the law. Supreme Court Justices will not be life-time appointments. They will be replaced at age sixty-five. No exceptions. Military contracts will no longer become a black hole. When a project is put out for bid, it will be built for the agreed amount, not a penny more. The days of wasteful spending are done. Employees of the government are no longer immune from being fired or replaced. It’s time to run the country like a business. It is time for full accountability on all fronts.”
He stepped back, watching the shocked crowd scribble frantic notes on their pads. He took another drink.
“Are there any questions of importance and relevance to what I’ve said?” A lone hand shot up.
“Don Johnson, with the Washington Post. Are we to understand the United States is now a police state?” Taylor reached into his coat pocket, removing a piece of paper. His eyes scanned the names. “No, Mr. Johnson. We are bringing law and order back to our country.”
“And how will you do that? Can we expect storm troopers to visit us in the wee hours of the morning and be whisked off to the FEMA camps?”
“Mr. Johnson, you failed to add sir, to the end of your question. Before I answer, I have a question for you. As a student at Harvard, is it not true you were a member of The Freedom Fighters for All, a group known to sympathize with Anti-Semitic activities? Is it not true you took part in rallies to evict Jews from the campus? Is it not also true that you not only attend underground KKK meetings but are a card carrying member?”
“I believe you’re avoiding my question, SIR.” Johnson fired back.
“NO, SIR! I’m addressing the question. How your name didn’t make the list I do not know. But the people who just died were ardent members of the aforementioned organizations. Would you like to join them?” Johnson sat down.
“Any other questions?”
“Mr. President, Steve Rawlings, Tulsa Tribune. When will the elections take place?”
“As I stated earlier, we are talking to the governors of each state concerning the process.”
“Mr. President, Ian McClarry, Boston Globe. What will happen to our colleagues who were just arrested?”
“They will be shot today for treason.”
“Mr. President, Ruth Truman, Connecticut Chronicle. With the demise of the majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who’s running the military?”
“Admiral Kinkaid and his staff are handling those duties. In the coming weeks, there will be more appointees after a thorough background check is performed on each candidate.”
“Mr. President, Aaron Walden, Austin News. Has the threat been completely neutralized or are there other members not accounted for?”
He took a long drink of water then bowed his head. His tone became somber.
“Mr. Walden, I wish I could answer that question. I pray to God Almighty that that is the case.” He paused. “People, it has been a trying two weeks and there is much more work to do in the coming months. I’m tired and need some rest. We will call another press conference in a week or two. Thank you for coming.”
It was the first time in the history of a Presidential Press Conferences, where, as he exited, the pool didn’t pepper him with more questions. They stood in silence as he left the room.
Professor Helmut Goebbels II watched over the crew as they extracted another piece of metal from the ship. Despite his best efforts he was never able to ascertain the origin of the foreign material. It was impervious to every test he conducted: heat, cold, explosives and lasers could not penetrate the molecular structure. What they did discover, despite its dense properties, it was the most malleable material he’d encountered. It was easily manipulated and fabricated. When welded, it only required a light touch from the technician. He was fascinated how it could adapt to the desired shape, yet when handled incorrectly it took on characteristics of intelligence by lashing out and injuring or killing the workers. He no longer cared what universe or planet the machine came from, his only concern was using its technology to build the most devastating weapon on Earth, and that, he’d achieved. The piece was successfully removed from the host.
“Take it to the plutonium reactor. We need to increase the shield depth.”
“Jawohl, Herr Professor.”
He watched the crew ascend into his masterpiece. His leader wanted a machine unlike any other. He wanted a power which would bring the world to its knees to finish the plans their forefathers started so many decades ago. Thor was the answer. The ship was three times the size of its forerunner, the GO-229. What a shame it didn’t come on line earlier. The RAF and Eight Air Force would have been cleansed from the skies, sparing many cities from all but total annihilation during the air campaigns of the 1940’s. The thought sickened him. His teachers drilled into his head the consequences of failure with the pictures and film of the Hamburg Firestorm and the desolate moonscape of Cologne. His anger boiled. Yes, they could have stopped the Americans and British, but what about the Russians? Their air force proved futile during the Red advance over his beloved Fatherland. The mass rapes and senseless killings of his countrymen fueled his fire. Striking Moscow first would be a fitting retribution. His thoughts of revenge were rudely interrupted from his comm. headset
“Professor, we have a problem with the fitting. Could you please join us?”
“Yes, I’ll be right there.” He smiled as he walked into his creation, thinking of the retributions to befall their enemies.
Judith, Sandy and Larry Sr. were milling about in the waiting room. Dr. Williams, the top neurologist in the country, had scheduled a battery of tests for Junior. He told the family the tests would last anywhere from four to twelve hours. The length would be based on his findings. He would call them as soon as he could provide them with a definite answer on the Zeta waves and how they were affecting Larry’s personality. Senior looked at the clock for the umpteenth time. 11:58pm.
“What in God’s name is going on in there? It’s been fourteen hours and we’ve been told nothing.”
“Honey, Doctor Williams said it could take all day and even then, he might not have an answer.”
Senior wasn’t convinced. “He’s been in there long enough to have transplanted his brain twice!”
“No, Mr. Kowalski, that’s not exactly true.” Doctor Williams entered the room, holding a Styrofoam cup.
At sixty-five years of age, the doctor’s body wasn’t imposing, but his tone and eyes were sharp as a tack. “I could have removed his brain, boiled it, made salad, enjoyed a fine meal, replaced it, then washed down the activity with a fine wine.”
Sandy and Judith stood up as senior was winding up. “Doctor, this is neither the time nor the place…”
“No it isn’t Mr. Kowalski. No it isn’t. Now, if you’re quite through with your tirade, I’d like to review my findings. It has been a trying day.”
“Please sit, because if you won’t, I will, and I don’t like talking up to people.” All three took a seat.
Doctor Williams stared at the floor for a minute then took a long drink of his cold coffee. “Gawd, that’s nasty. You’d think you could get a good cup in this place.” He tossed the cup into the trash can. “Your son has the most unusual patterns and activity I’ve ever seen in any patient in my forty years of practicing. I’ve consulted with ten other top experts in the field and we all agree on one thing, there’s nothing we can do to reverse his, excuse me, your son’s condition. Since I began monitoring his EEG’s this morning, the activity has increased ten percent for no apparent reason. This new thread is taking on the characteristics of a malignant cancer, but unlike a cancer it isn’t threatening at this time. Instead, it’s opening areas of the mind we’ve only dreamed of exploring. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.” He became lost in his thoughts.
Sandy heard enough. “Doctor, I don’t appreciate you referring to my son’s condition as fascinating. He is our only child and we demand to know what action we can take.”
“I apology for my transgression, not really. But if it calms you down, I’ll apology again.”
“Look, you fucking quack! It wasn’t so long ago I chewed out the President of the United States and if you think your years of education grants you immunity, you better think twice. I might not be one hundred percent, but I’m in good enough shape to kick your ass all over this floor.”
Williams rose from his chair. “Look hear young lady, if I was your father, I take a bar of soap and wash your mouth out good. No one, and I mean, no one addresses me in this manner. My standing in the community is beyond reproach. I made a very special effort to see this patient. Do you have any idea how many….” Senior had enough. He stood up and pushed the doctor back into his chair.
“Doctor Williams, my wife and I are very grateful you kept a slot open for our son, but I don’t give two shits about your accolades, your degrees or what fucking Country Club you golf at. All my wife and I are concerned with is where do we go from here?” All parties took a deep breath, except Judith. The intensity in her eyes suggested another outbreak. Williams wasn’t ready for another lashing. “My sincerest apologies. Sometime I let the clinical side outweigh the compassionate side.” Her stare didn’t diminish. He adjusted the tie around his neck before continuing. “After reading the reports from the doctors in Denver and analyzing the information you passed on, his brain is highly sensitive to magnetic waves. After performing a CAT Scan, I wanted to run an MRI. The minute the machine came on line, the Zeta activity spiked fifty percent. His vital signs reached dangerous levels. My assistants and I began manually pulling him out of the chamber. His vital signs returned to normal. I’ve never seen that reaction before. I placed him back on the EEG for a reading. As I suspected, the Zeta wave activity began diminishing. Now, how does that translate for you? He must take the prescription of ephedrine I’m giving you with great regularity.”
“And if he doesn’t?” asked Sandy.
“If he doesn’t and is the proximity of a strong magnetic field, he’ll die.”
“We’re ready for the test, professor.”
Senior contemplated Junior’s condition. “Doctor, that’s going to be a little tricky isn’t it, since most devices contain some type of magnetic field?”
“Not at all, Mr. Kowalski. He’s in no immediate danger from everyday items, such as alternators, portable generators or the everyday magnet. It’s large doses of magnetism where he’s susceptible. Example: Hydroelectric plants, nuclear power plants, or dare I say, experimental military weapons.”
“I fail to see the humor in your last response, doctor.”
“Yes, of course. Again I apologize.”
“Thank you. Sandy, Judith, I don’t see any problem with keeping him a safe distance from any of the locations, do you?”
“Not at all dear.”
“I think the doctor left out one other hazard.” They all turned, looking at Judith.
“And what’s that dear?”
“Me. I’m the strongest magnetic field he’ll ever come in contact with and I doubt any medication he takes will protect him from me if he gets a big head.” They let a relieved laugh.
* * *
Nurse Davidson watched Larry’s EKG fire off a PVC. It was nothing at first. Could have been a loose lead. And then another one five seconds later. She glanced at his other vital signs: pulse 80, BP 145/80, respiration 30. All acceptable readings for a patient who was moving about. She looked at the room camera. He was sleeping, fitfully. Three more blips on the EKG. The EEG graph was becoming a maze of lines. The needles were picking up speed as his brain impulses increased: pulse 90, BP 155/85, respiration 40.
“Doctor Williams, to room 125. Doctor Williams, to room 125.”
He rose from his chair. “If you all will excuse me, appears our patient needs some attention.”
“Can we come with you?” asked Senior.
“I see no reason why not. He’s stable and doing well. I’m sure he’s still asleep, so please, don’t wake him. He might even enjoy the company.”
Junior’s body bolted upright. “Make it stop! Make it stop!” His vital signs shot off the charts.
“Code Blue. Code Blue! Room 125! Code Blue!”
The tremor recorded in the Salzburg Mountains aroused minor interest for Dean. He’d noticed some minor activity in Southern Germany on and off for the last two years. The current tremor rated a three on the Richter Scale; definitely nothing to get excited about. Instead of checking for other occurrences, he catalogued the event and moved on to more pressing issues.