Chapters 1 and 2

The Natural Energy Corporation in its annual report today announced that its wind turban and solar energy plants spread throughout the former United States, Canada, and Mexico are getting closer to matching the electrical energy production that existed prior to the nuclear power plant meltdowns of
September, 2039.
The Natural Energy CEO, speaking at the Los Angeles Energy Symposium last Monday, stated that his estimates are that availability of electricity would not only fill the gap created by the infamous terrorist attacks but is actually expected to exceed those previous levels.
This is good news for the people in many regions of the Union enduring a colder than usual Winter.
–North American Union Tribune, Post dated November 30, 2084

CHAPTER 1

Saturday, December 23, 2084

 “We’re surrounded!”

John looked at Maria. Her usually golden brown face was pale. Her lovely eyes glistened, and a tear rolled down a cheek. She was just as terrified as he was.

“Yeah, I heard. Predator drones hovering around the mountain.”

Maria forced her lips into a smile. “I know Andy and Mack have a plan, but I sure hope it’s a good one. It looks hopeless.”

John shook his head.  He felt his gut tighten.  He went to her, gave her a hug.   Minutes before in the IntelRoom he had seen holo images of the swarm of soldiers carrying automatic weapons and rocket launchers, scrambling over the mountain terrain. At least a couple hundred of them. They were preparing for attack and coming for Maria and his daughter Sammie and him. And probably everyone there.

Maria had come with him to his room after picking up her evac pack. There were there to grab a few of his things.

He didn’t want this attack, this danger, this threat to their lives. He had a new life now with Maria and his daughter Sammie. And he had the promise of a new career, a ministry really–not exactly what he was hoping for, not like before, but challenging and important and exciting. But now as the mountain shook from the thundering explosions coming closer, he knew that he and Maria and Sammie and everyone else could be dead within minutes.

He knew God put his people in places where we had no choice, places of training that they would strengthen their faith. He had been forced to learn some lessons through the terrible experiences of the past few years and the past few days. What could he do but trust God? He hadn’t given up after that terrible night. In that darkness, he stubbornly persisted, and he didn’t plan on stopping now.

A one-note chime sounded on his RC wrist unit. He looked at it. An urgent message from Mack.  He spoke to the unit. “Take it. Speaker mode.”

“John, get to Southgate. We’ve got one of them.”

“Okay, on our way.” John looked at Maria.

She clenched her jaw. “I want to come.”

“It’s probably going to be dangerous.”

“I don’t care. I want to be with you.”

He could see she was determined. No time to debate the issue anyway.

John looked at the door: “Door open.” The thick stone door slid upward and stopped at the top with a thud. Hand in hand they ran for Southgate.

So much had happened, more than he would have dared to believe. He realized it had all started just five days ago with him wandering on Fourth Street in his home down, now over 250 miles away. He hadn’t then even the slightest clue so much would happen so quickly and change his life.

John prayed: “God, I sure do hope Andy and Mack are right!”

_____

Friday,  August 25th, 2084. A devastating hurricane traveled up the coast from the waters off Southern Mexico and unleashed its furry last week upon the coastal area of San Diego, California. Its sledge-hammer winds caused damage to property estimated in excess of 800 million dollars. Over 2000  were injured, and 373 died.

The record-making hurricane reached a point much farther north than usual, further evidence for many scientists that global warming was accelerating more rapidly than previously anticipated.

–GBN Online Service

CHAPTER 2

5 days earlier, Monday, late afternoon, December 18, 2084

Reverend John Anderson was drunk.

He lumbered down the crowded Fourth Street sidewalk and over the slippery cobblestones.  The gray sky was misting with rare wet weather.  He brushed up against homeless people who didn’t get out of his way in time and kept repeating, “excuse me … pardon me…sorry!”

The scene before him was blurry. His eyes were spilling tears that ran down his cheeks.  He imagined the frowns on the faces of the men and women and children close by as he passed them.

His digital white red-tipped cane was folded up and in his suit coat pocket.  He didn’t like using it because it called attention to him. And at this moment attention was the last thing he wanted.  Besides it included both video and GPS. With it on, his daughter Sammie could pinpoint his location and see him. She was probably worried by now. He didn’t want her to see him.

The scene ahead was not clear. He had data glasses in his pocket that helped his vision, but he didn’t like wearing them. They made him look to studious, nerdy. The scene around him wasn’t clear, just light and shadow and dull colors. He could make out the forms people and buildings.

He knew much had changed.

Fourth Street had been his childhood play area.  It was cleaner then.  But now the crowded sidewalks and ornate cobblestones were host to the desperate homeless, the food lines, the unemployed, those with nothing better to do than to hang out in the area.

He could discern the movement of heads turning to look at him. The place and the people gave him an uneasy feeling.  Trash was everywhere.  The place smelled like rubbish. He heard the rustling of papers and cans as his shoes moved them over the cobblestones.

But why should he care with a death sentence on his head?

His  mind was preoccupied, recycling nagging questions that harassed him like a tormenting demons. Why was this happening to him? Why so many horrible things one after another?  The only rational conclusion was that God was mad at him.  Worse, had it in for him.

He wiped his eyes with his right coat sleeve. His left hand gripped the bottle inside the small brown paper sack.

I can’t quit. I’ve got to have faith. I don’t give up.  Not on God. Not on me.  But how could he keep on keeping on–when God was doing him in?

John was passing a lady seated on the pavement, and when he got close noticed her outstretched hand.

She was dressed in layers of mismatched clothing and a soiled brown nylon jacket.  Her greasy hair looked as if I hadn’t been shampooed in several weeks.  She jerked her hand up and down.

He paused.  Set his bottle down on the sidewalk, pulled out his wallet, took out a 20-dollar-bill and handed it to the woman.  Her hand snapped shut on the paper money, crumpling it.  She looked away.

John noticed to his right three large people dressed in dark clothing. He felt their eyes on him. Were they following him?  He felt uneasy. He picked up the bottle in its sack and walked on.

Something else was pulling at his memory. Sammie! He should call her, make arrangements. He fumbled for the tiny earpiece in his pants pocket and plugged it into his ear. Then he touched the pin on his suit coat lapel.

Sammie would be worried. Sammie was at Elizabeth’s. She answered immediately.

“Daddy, where are you? I’ve been sooooo worried.”

“Hi Sammie. I’m going for a walk on Fourth Street.” John spoke slowly and carefully so he wouldn’t slur his words.

“Are you all right. You sound funny.”

“I’m okay. Listen, I’ll be busy for a while. Ask Elizabeth if you can stay with her tonight in case I don’t get there this evening.”

“Hold on-she says that will be fine with her. You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,  Sam. I’ll see you soon.”

“Okay.” The uncertainty in her voice was obvious.

“Bye-bye, Sam.”

John could smell enchiladas, soy tacos, hot sauce up ahead. He noticed the familiar though vague shape of a food cart up ahead. He realized he was hungry and that he should eat something to help counteract the alcohol in his veins. Hot black coffee-that would be good.

He weaved his way forward, trying to avoid colliding with anybody.  Where have all these people come from?  Why so many?

He was almost to the cart when he felt something grab his ankles. He stumbled and plunged forward, smashing into the cart, knocking it over.

The cart hit the pavement with a thud, and John heard a loud “Dios mio!” at the same instant his right robo-leg knee slammed into the unyielding pavement like a hammer.  The pinched nerves in his thigh stabbed pain upward through the part of his right leg that was still flesh, agonizing pain all the way to his neck. He yelped and grit his teeth.

Then he felt hands under his arms, lifting him from behind.  It was the vendor…

“Here here, Señor. Are you all right? What are you doing here?”

Three large young men came close. John was legally blind, but his close vision was pretty good unenhanced. He saw their shaved heads and tattooed arms. They helped the vendor get John to his feet.

“Hey there, Reverend, we’re here to help.” The speaker was one of the youths.  John noticed a chrome chain handing from his belt.

The youth looked into John’s eyes.  “Are you okay?”

He didn’t sound like he cared.  His voice had an edge of sarcasm. And John could sense something he didn’t like about his eyes that were closer and clearer now.  Like malice?

People gathered around them, watching.  He didn’t want the attention. Especially when he remembered he had forgotten to remove his clerical collar.  His could feel his flushed face taking on a deeper hue of red. He was ashamed. Nice move defaming the clergy in public.

He was barely able to stand. His right leg throbbed with pulses of sharp pain. He placed his feet carefully to avoid soiling his shoes with tortilla scraps, soy beans, rice, and red hot sauce that now covered the cobblestones. He winced as he tried to put some weight on his right leg. He shifted his weight to his left leg. Could he walk?

The area still retained vestiges from city-sponsored facelift decades back.   This mess around him was his fault.  He hated messes.

“Here, Reverend, let us help you out.” The young man told him.

Two of the youths supported John as he took painful steps back away from the edge of the street.

Then he felt his wallet slipping out of his back pocket.  Someone was taking it!  Strong hands held his arms but he managed to twist around to look.  He saw the third youth placing his wallet into the pocket of his insulated vest.

“Hey, gimme that back!”

The young man sneered.

John looked around for help. Past a few feet everything was a blur. He had grown rather apathetic about his impending death recently, had almost reached the point of not caring. But he realized now he really didn’t want to die, and he didn’t want to be hurt.

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