Read an Excerpt
By David Robbins L.
Copyright © 2009
David L. Robbins
All right reserved.
Chapter One Future Tense
They were going to do it.
They were going to destroy the world. Kurt Carpenter stared at the TV screen in the back of his limousine and tried to wrap his mind around what he was seeing. Mushroom clouds. Mushroom clouds in the Middle East. A third of Israel, reduced to cinders. She had retaliated with her own nuclear arsenal, of course, and now the announcer was saying that there were five confirmed nuclear explosions in the country that had attacked. Five cities, wiped out.
Carpenter leaned back and closed his eyes. He willed himself to relax but couldn't. How could anyone relax with the end of the world about to take place? He swallowed, or tried to, but his mouth was too dry. "God in heaven." He clenched his fists so hard, his fingernails dug into his palms. "We're really going to do it."
The "we" was all-inclusive, as in "the human race." Carpenter had long believed that humankind would shoot itself in the head, but he'd also hoped, desperately hoped, that his fellow humans would prove him wrong.
"Do we turn back, sir?"
Holland was looking at him in the rearview mirror. As usual, the chauffeur could have been carved from stone for all the emotion he showed.
"Back to the airport?" Carpenter shook his head. "No. We go on to the compound. The word must go out."
"Will there be time, sir, for everyone to get there? What if the government grounds all flights?"
"We keep our fingers crossed."
Carpenter mentally crossed his own. He had planned for so long. He had worked so hard. A lot of people thought he was nuts. They sneered and snickered behind his back. A few laughed at him to his face. "What a waste of your money!" was the common sentiment.
But the way Carpenter saw it, what good was a fortune if it wasn't put to good use? And what better use than to salvage what he could so that humanity would survive to build a new world from the ruins of the old? The news channel cut to world leaders reacting to the crisis. Every last one was deeply shocked. Every last one was determined that whoever was to blame would pay. Saber rattling George Armstrong Custer would be proud of.
It was a long drive from the Twin Cities to Lake Bronson State Park. Normally, Carpenter used the time to go over scripts and note camera angles and special lighting and lens effects. Or he might do paperwork for financing an upcoming project. Or any number of things related to his work as a movie director.
But not today. All Carpenter could think of was the apocalypse and those he could save if only they were able to reach the compound before it was too late.
Soren Anderson was working on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper under construction in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. He handled the one-shot rivet gun with an ease few men could match. His size had a lot to do with it. Soren was a few inches shy of seven feet tall, with broad shoulders and arms bulging with muscle. Add to that his shoulder-length blond hair and his blond mustache and neatly trimmed beard, and it was no wonder most who saw him thought he was Scandinavian or Danish.
Soren was Norwegian. Or his great-great-great-great-great grandfather had been. Not that it mattered to Soren; he saw himself as American, born and bred. He knew as much about Norway, except in one respect, as he did about, say, Outer Mongolia.
Soren was bent over the rivet gun, checking the air regulator, when someone clapped him on the back. He turned and was surprised to find the foreman, Carl Nestor. "I'm going as fast as I can."
Nestor had a strange look about him and kept glancing at the sky.
"It's not that. We're calling it quits for the day. Get your stuff and get out of here."
Soren didn't hide his surprise. "But it's only two. Three hours yet until quitting time. Why so early?"
"You wouldn't have heard on account of this." Nestor tapped the rivet gun. "We all need to leave."
Soren noticed that nearly every other member of the crew was gone and the few still left were making for the elevator. "What in Odin's name is going on?"
"Hurry," Nestor urged. "You have a long ride to reach your family before it hits the fan."
"Before what does?"
Carl Nestor didn't answer. Instead, he did a strange thing. He held out his hand, and when Soren shook it, Nestor said, "In case this is the real deal, it's been a plea sure knowing you, you big lug. You're one of the good guys."
"What are you talking about?"
Bewildered, Soren watched the foreman join those leaving. He set the rivet gun down, took off his work gloves, and pushed his hard hat back on his tousled mane of blond hair. Only then did he hear the sirens. His bewilderment growing, he moved to the edge of the girder and stared down at the city where he'd grown up. To the northeast, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge gleamed in the sunlight. If not for the smog, he'd be able to see clear to Camden.
Something was wrong. Soren had never seen so many people on the sidewalks. The streets were bumper to bumper. Horns blared in constant cacophony, punctuated by the shrill scream of scores of sirens.
"Has everyone gone mad?" Soren wondered aloud. He thought of his wife and children, the three people he loved most in the world, and alarm spiked through him.
Soren picked up his tool belt on his way to the elevator. He strapped the belt around his waist as he waited. No one else was around. He was the last to go down. He listened to the whine of the cable and the grind of gears as the lift climbed to his level. The car rattled to a stop. Anxiously, he exited, muscles tensed. He was mildly shocked when he reached the parking lot to find that his half-ton pickup was the only vehicle left. He was reaching into his front pocket for his keys when his phone chirped.
Soren answered it.
"Mr. Anderson, this is Becca Levy. This isn't a test or a drill. I repeat, this isn't a test or a drill."
"All-Father, no," Soren said. So he had been right. His worst fear was about to be made real.
"What is your password, sir?"
"I am instructed to tell you that the Endworld Protocol is active."
"How much time do I have?"
"One hundred hours, remember? Can you make it to the compound in that amount of time, Mr. Anderson?"
"I'll get my family there or die trying."
"I wish you luck, Mr. Anderson. You have farther to travel than most. If at any time we can be of assistance, contact the Communications Center. We'll have people manning the phones 24-7."
"Thank you." Soren closed his phone and again reached into his pocket for his keys. Nearby, someone coughed. He turned, his eyes widening slightly. He hadn't expected anything like this so soon.
There were five of them, gangstas sporting their colors, cold arrogance stamped on their young faces. The tallest bobbed his chin at the pickup. "Hey, man. That yours?"
"Yes," Soren admitted.
"We want it. Hand over the keys and everything will be cool. Give us a hard time and we'll waste you." And with that, he flicked out a knife.
Dr. Diana Trevor was wrapping up her last class of the day at Arizona State University.
"No one knows why this should be. Yet it's been proven again and again. The Dominant Five is not just a human phenomenon. It has been documented in animals, as well." Diana regarded the notes she had made on the blackboard. "The first practical application was by the Chinese during the Korean War. They decided to separate the more aggressive American prisoners from those who never gave them any trouble. They found that the ratio was one in twenty. One dominant for every twenty passive."
A student raised his hand. "Surely there were variables."
"The Chinese thought there would be, too. But the number was precise. It was exactly one in twenty. Or 5 percent. Subsequent research has confirmed the statistic."
Another student raised her hand. "What happened when the Chinese separated them?"
"The passives gave them no trouble whatsoever. It was the dominants who always stirred the passives up."
Yet another hand. "Is there any way to tell who is dominant and who is passive?"
"Psychological profiles have been developed, but they're not infallible, as yet." Diana allowed herself a small smile. "I should know. I developed some of them."
The buzzer brought an end to her lecture. Her students began gathering up notes and backpacks.
Diana closed her book and reached under her desk for her briefcase. She went out the side door and down the hall to the teachers' lounge. The TV in the far corner was on and nearly every instructor was glued to it. "What on earth?" Diana said.
"Shhh," someone cautioned.
A newsman was intoning gravely into the camera. Beads of sweat dotted his brow and he kept licking his lips.
"This just in. The president will address the nation at the top of the hour, which is twenty-seven minutes from now. Some think he will announce a declaration of war. Others, that he will impose martial law. Stay tuned to this station for live coverage."
"What's going on?" Diana asked. No one answered.
The announcer did more lip-licking.
"To recap, war has broken out in the Middle East. The Chinese have threatened to retaliate against anyone who attacks their allies in the region. The Russians are incensed and telling the Chinese to stay out. France has called for a referendum. The United States has vowed to stand by Israel, and there is word from the Pentagon that a task force is being rushed to the region."
"It's finally happened," Diana said to herself, then backed out of the lounge. She hurried to her office. Once her door was shut, she opened her purse and took out her address book. From a plastic sleeve in the back she slid a folded piece of paper. Opening it, she dialed the number written there.
"This is Diana Trevor. My personal password is Colin. I haven't been contacted yet, but I just saw the news."
"You were right to call. We tried to reach you, Dr. Trevor. The Endworld Protocol is active."
"Do you anticipate any trouble reaching the compound?"
"No," Diana said. "I have a pilot's license and my own plane."
"We advise you to hurry. If martial law is declared, all civilian flights will be grounded. If you are still in the air, the military might shoot you down."
"I'll be there as soon as I can." Diana hung up and stepped to the window. Word was spreading. A mass exodus of the campus was underway. For the most part it was orderly, but a few people were pushing and shoving.
"And so it begins." Diana shook her head in dismay at the stupidity, then turned and snatched up her briefcase. She gave her office a last look. Her framed diplomas, her keepsakes, her files-she must leave them behind. She felt no regrets. She had known this day would come and been one of the few to plan for it. Now her foresight was paying off.
The hallway was jammed. Diana stayed close to the wall until she emerged from double doors into the bright glare of the afternoon sun. The sky was clear save for a few pillowy clouds, and birds were warbling. It was hard to believe that on the other side of the world, a holocaust raged.
Vehicles jammed the parking lot exits. Tempers were short, and curses were hurled back and forth.
Diana went to her reserved parking space. She strapped her briefcase onto the back of her bike, donned her helmet, and straddled her rocket. The throb of power brought a grin. She didn't bother with the exits. She went up over the curb and zipped across a knoll to a side street and from there wound her way to 101. She headed west, looping around downtown Phoenix until she came to 303. Here the traffic was lighter. She pushed it, weaving in and out between the cars and trucks as if they were standing still. Horns blared and fingers were thrust at her. All she did was grin.
Presently Diana arrived at a small airfield west of Wittmann. It had an equally small clientele, which was why she had picked it. The major airfields, she imagined, would be disasters.
No one was in the front office. A cup of coffee had been spilled on the desk and several drawers were open.
Diana went to her locker. She took out the pack she always kept ready. Opening it, she rummaged inside, verifying its contents. Then she hastened to the side of the field where her Boena and several others were lined up in a row. She was about to climb up on the wing when someone said her name.
Harry Pierce came walking around the tail of the plane next to hers. He held his jacket over his shoulder, and his tie was undone. Sweat stains moistened his white shirt. "Diana! Perfect timing. You're just what I need."
"How's that, Harry?"
"I'd like to hitch a ride. I've been having engine trouble. They promised to get right on it, but now it's too late."
Diana patted her aircraft. "This isn't a car, Harry. I can't drop you off anywhere you like."
"I know, I know." Harry grinned and regarded her aircraft as if admiring it. "This little hummingbird of yours is a real beaut."
"That's not what you said the last time I ran into you. As I recall, you called it a girlie plane."
"Well, you are a girl. And the pink stripes are a bit much." Harry patted the wing. "All fueled, are you?"
"I always keep it fueled, Harry." Diana raised her leg to climb on.
"So you won't give me a lift? Say, to Kansas City? If it's out of your way, I'll gladly pay you."
"I'm sorry, Harry. I can't. I have somewhere to be."
Overhead, an Air Force jet thundered across the heavens, streaking to the east.
"What I wouldn't give to have one of those babies," Harry said with a grin, then turned serious. "Look. No more beating around the bush. War is about to break out, and we both know what that means. I need to get to Kansas City, either with your help or without it."
"You'll have to find someone else to take you."
"Or I can fly myself," Harry Pierce said, and attacked her.
New York City
Deepak Kapur stared at the image on his computer screen and blurted the first thing that came into his head: "Shiva is unleashed." He pushed his chair back and bowed his head. "So many lives," he said softly.
His cell beeped and he answered without looking at the caller's number. "Yes?"
"Mr. Kapur, this is Becca Levy, Home Communications. Your password, please."
"Those silly passwords," Deepak said.
"If you have a complaint, sir, you may take it up with Mr. Carpenter. But right now, please, I need your password."
"I've seen the news. I know I need to get there."
"Please, Mr. Kapur."
Deepak sighed. "My password is Yama. Appropriate, don't you think?"
"In my religion Yama is the lord of death. He rips souls from corpses and assigns them to what you would call hell. He will be very busy these next weeks and months and perhaps years. I hope he has some vacation time saved."
"Sir? Was that a joke?"
"Or a philosophical conundrum. Take your pick. But now that you have the password, do I win the kewpie doll?"
"Mr. Kapur, you're being morbid. Are you all right?"
"The world as we thought we knew it is coming to an end. So of course I'm all right."
"Very well, then. You're at work right now, I take it?" She rattled off the address and the floor.
"That is correct."
"Then I'm instructed to tell you to remain there. Mr. Slayne is on his way and should arrive within the next fifteen to twenty minutes."
"Patrick Slayne, sir. He's head of compound security. He also lives in New York, and Mr. Carpenter had dispatched him to personally see that you reach here safely. All those considered crucial to our end-of-the-world operation are having security sent to bring them in."
"What? Preferential treatment? Why wasn't I told about this before? I'm not sure I like being treated this way."
"You're special, sir. Your computer expertise is critical. Please be ready for Mr. Slayne. He will identify himself with his password."
Deepak laughed, then realized she wasn't joking. "Wait. You're serious? What sort of man picks that as his password?"
"It wasn't his first choice, sir. Mr. Carpenter said his first choice was too silly and asked that he change it."
"Don't keep me in suspense, Ms. Levy."
"It was Daffy Duck."
The dial tone hummed in Deepak's ear. He shook his head and slowly set down the phone. "I've signed on with lunatics."
The image on the screen had shifted. It showed a satellite view of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. A circular cloud with a long stalk was rising to the stratosphere, glowing like the phosphorescent mushroom it resembled.
Excerpted from Endworld: Doomsday by David Robbins L. Copyright © 2009 by David L. Robbins. Excerpted by permission.
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