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End of the World
The animals of myth and extinction have returned to Earth. The prophecies are coming to pass, from Revelations, to Nostradamus and Hopi.
The Earth is at war. World War III has erupted. Famine and disease is spreading. The governments are strained. Militaries are short on manpower. Resources are dwindling.
But there is hope…
Colonel Poul Flagstaad and the Phoenix have returned to Earth. The governments debrief them and separate the team. As each one returns to their nations, they are immediately sent on other missions. Immediately, they are conflicted, each one struggling with the need to follow duty or to make choices contrary to their orders that will save lives for the better.
The innocent, the poor and the displaced are stranded. Some seek protection at the spiritual monuments of the world. Beneath each monument are portals that can take them to the safety of Fifth World. But there is only one group that can successfully open the portals.
Across the Atlantic, Vice Admiral Gunner leads a ragtag fleet led by Coast Guard and supplemented with military and civilian contractors. Fighting through procedural problems and helicopter accidents, he must guide the Urda’s mothball fleet into the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, he saves many stranded civilians, collecting them under his protection.
He struggles to find a way to save the civilians while completing his mission.
Poul and his son Knud learn there are secret societies pushing them to secure portals that could reach Fifth World. These societies are controlling the war for their own means. The governments want the portals to manipulate the human race into one New World Order.
Poul needs to make a choice to follow his orders or defy them. He witnesses the suffering of the people and wonders about the morality of denying them a new life in an untouched world, or subject Fifth World to be scavenged for its resources for the benefit of the governments and corporations.
Will the human race survive the Apocalypse? Will the Phoenix rise from the ashes to do good for the meek of the world, or will they follow orders and subject the people to their doom?
This book contains violence, adult situations and adult language.
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End of the World Excerpt:
The Three Norns of Urda’s Well
Lt Ehud Shamir sat in line with five Israeli Givati privates and across from eight Navy Seals, twelve Marines and one UKSF. He was happy to see his best friend Corporal Samuel Beck as well as Sergeant John Brown and Corporal Potters Smith. The familiar faces made him feel more comfortable about being transferred so quickly after returning to Earth. Having no control over his military duties, he didn’t have time to explain the death of Yosef Barak to his family, which made him sad but grateful.
Smith seemed sad since his short debriefing. Ehud wondered if the quiet Corporal was missing the beauty and wonder of Fifth World. He supposed that Smith’s cuttlefish camouflage tricks were wasted in the real world where as Fifth World made him feel special and not so alien among the others. While there, Ehud had never thought about its beauty; he was too fixated on the loss of his two comrades. The planet had been untouched by the sins of man. With some afterthought, he had to admit that the planet had magnificence about it.
Despite their change in orders and locations, Lt. Ehud Shamir still thought of himself and the others as part of the Phoenix team. Newly promoted, the four Phoenix had been through a lot in the last four weeks. The experiences couldn’t be shared with the other soldiers; the Phoenix was ordered to keep the events secret. To Ehud, it seemed like a stupid secret. No one would believe them anyhow. He would have had better luck convincing other people that he spotted a UFO.
As soon as they arrived at Fort Powell, they were transferred to another plane. They sat in the fuselage, filling out paperwork before a Major returned to collect the documents. One by one, they walked outside and discussed their insights on Fifth World. The debriefings were short. The Major then gave them their transfer orders, allowed them to absorb it and then, without notice, the Major barked at them to keep the past events classified. His anger was evident, spitting out slang words and threatening with wild fist swings. The Major’s reactions were so over the top, sincere with intensity but exaggerated from their standpoint that they could do nothing but listen while trying to keep themselves from breaking into smiles. After the Major left, they snorted into laughter, which lasted until the Marines, Seals and Givati entered the plane.
The trip was violent. They heard the bursts of wind knocking into the hull like a Giant slapping against the doors. The Chinook v12 helicopter wagged in the heavy winds; random gusts slammed against it, pushing it one way or another. A heavy gust pushed the helicopter into a sideways slide but the pilot’s maintained control, returning the Chinook forwards.
The transferred team of Marines and Special Forces were relocating to a mothball fleet of three ships; one helicopter carrier and two cruisers called the Three Norns of Urda’s Well. It was an odd name for a fleet, too wordy but it signified something mythical.
Every government had its spy satellites; it was sometimes necessary to disguise battle fleets as civilian vessels. Since the war, most civilian freighters and luxury liners had decided to converge into fleets for maximum safety. This made it easier for battle fleets to pose as civilians. The civilian changes slowed boarding processes and the delivery of goods but only heightened the anxiety among Earth’s people when they had to wait longer while staring at empty shelves.
Ehud evaluated the other soldiers, watching their faces and motions. Their uniforms were properly worn and their faces clean cut. They seemed stoic to their orders and complacent to their duties. They stared blindly across from each other. At the end of the row of Navy Seals was a familiar face, a soldier with X markings along his sleeves as if to negate his rank as private. He seemed to have been marked for some reason with disrespect. Ehud had never seen that before, downgrading a rank to something lower than a private. There was something familiar about his face though, but Ehud couldn’t recall where he had seen him. He had performed many military exercises with Navy Seals and Marines but he couldn’t remember the face.
He could understand that the Israeli military and American military working together but didn’t understand why Smith hadn’t been recalled to Britain. The world may have been at war for weeks but England was still holding their own. At least, they were not shuttled out of their country by the Arab League, considered Ehud.
Ehud also wondered where Private Miguel Gomez and Douglas were relocated. The separation seemed quite specific, to leave the two Mexican Americans on their own. Perhaps, their Superiors thought it would be best to compartmentalize them in order to restrain any chatter over classified materials. He didn’t suspect the French Lieutenants or the Jaegerkorpset would have joined them but was surprised that the two Mexican Americans were not present. He supposed Douglas’ debriefing was longer than normal. The Mexican seemed to have some insight on the Native American side of things. And Gomez seemed to have an insight into insects. The four transferring Phoenix were ill-equipped to analyze the dynamics of an alien planet. Their debriefing was relatively short and then capped with a barking Major.
Ehud felt strange recalling the last four weeks; it seemed like a dream, a break from reality. No more than a day ago, they were fighting shoulder to shoulder alongside the very enemies that warred against them; Chinese, an Iranian, a Syrian and an Egyptian. He supposed that no one would have faulted them for gathering their resources to work together to find a way home. On Fifth World, it seemed so important to return home… but now it seemed ridiculous. Ehud’s home was overrun with enemy. America was not his home; it was a halfway house. Most of his people were stretched across Europe, hoping to return to Israel. The Israeli military were housed in American Bases, and his government was housed inside an office building, pushing paperwork for a non-existent society.
The X Private realized he was being watched and looked up. The Lieutenant responded with an insincere smirk, that uncomfortable expression when someone was caught staring, embarrassed but needing a simple way to segue way into turning away.
The Chinook shuttered to a slower pace. The motors burped as the rotor blades changed speed. The helicopter hovered for a second and then took a slow descent at an angle; the back half dropping first before the vehicle leveled out. As soon as the motors hissed to a winding stop, the back hatch started to open. The soldiers immediately collected their gear, managing in less than ten seconds. Before the hatch completely opened, an Ensign entered the craft, looked for the highest rank and then approached Lt. Ehud Shamir.
“Report to Admiral Gunner in the mess,” Ensign Gary stated quickly and then exited. There wasn’t anytime to salute or greet each other. The message was conveyed and the soldiers marched down the hatchway.
Ehud realized he was the Senior Officer among the transfers to the Urda’s Well fleet. He hadn’t thought about it until that moment. As he reached the flight deck, he overheard a Marine say, “That can’t be a coincidence.” The comment seemed strange to him. As far as he knew, only the four Phoenix knew of Jeffery Gunner. Ehud had also presumed there might have been a coincidence but didn’t think anyone else knew of that possibility. The barking Major’s insistence to keep things classified was quite evident.
Ehud waited for Corporal Beck to catch up to him before asking, “Admiral Gunner? What coincidence? They couldn’t possibly know.”
Beck didn’t immediately answer; his eyes watched the Private X walk past before responding, “Remember our friend Jeffery Gunner?”
“Sure. Now the Gunner Mech.”
“He wasn’t Gunner.”
“Right. His real name was Edward Dugan. He switched places with a friend…” Ehud stopped himself short, realizing the connection and also why he recognized the Private. Edward Dugan had mentioned to the Phoenix that the close resemblance to a family member was the reason he could pose as his friend.
Beck chuckled. “Well, that private with the X markings is the real Jeffery Gunner. He was caught AWOL and then charged. But instead of being cooped up in the brig, he was released and forced to return to service. Word is that his Admiral Uncle pulled some strings.”
“Admiral Gunner.” Ehud nodded at the conclusion. “Those couldn’t have been hard strings to pull. With the govs struggling to keep boots on the ground and tapping on the decks, I am sure they were glad to issue a few extra transfers with special considerations.”
“What do you mean?” Ehud asked.
“Our situation is feeling very desperate.” Beck fluttered his eyebrows and chuckled again. It was apparent that his friend was feeling uncomfortable about the quick transfer orders and the strange coincidences.
At that last comment, they both panned their eyes across the flight deck. The floor was painted in rectangular shapes and different colors, resembling the corrugated ripples of intermodal containers. Many of the governments had spy satellites in the air, any of which could spot enemy craft, locate them and target them. To disguise the vessel from the air, any intelligence officer might presume it was a freighter when reviewing satellite pictures. The corrugated look reminded Ehud of the Blue Star space station. His feelings surfaced for his lost comrades; none of the Phoenix had enough time to mourn for the dead; they were rushed off. His cheeks quaked as he swallowed the feelings from bubbling from his throat and up his nose, glassing his eyes.
The vessel was jerry rigged from what was once a barge. The deck was elevated above the original decking on a complex set of scaffolding, trusses and I-beams. The flight deck was cluttered with helicopters, mostly Chinooks, Apache 202s and Huey Bell Iroquois.
Across the sea, they were escorted by two other vessels, unusual “Flower Ships” with additional satellite dishes, antennas and large caliber guns. One vessel had been a yacht. A 5 inch gun pointed from its bow; its weight forced the yacht’s front end to sink into the sea more than usual. The increased displacement splashed water over the yacht’s sides. The other ship resembled a tugboat. Along its sides, the vehicle was lined with dozens of .50 caliber machine guns; their noses wagged over the rails like seagull beaks searching the sea for unsuspecting fish. On the aft section, a twelve tube rocket launcher angled off the starboard.
“Lieutenant.” An airman approached Ehud. Since most of the Israeli military were collected and housed within American military encampments, the Israeli soldiers had to tolerate the translation of “Segen” into “Lieutenant”. Both the Corporal and the Lieutenant hadn’t noticed that they staggered behind the transferring soldiers and thusly late reporting to the Admiral. Ehud smiled and casually saluted the airman before tugging on Beck’s arm to follow into the carrier’s island.
Several intermodal containers welded together to create the island, to continue the illusion that the vessel was civilian operated and not military purposed. The oldest camouflage was the best in the modern world. On a mothball fleet disguised as civilian, communications had to be cleverly disguised.
The first intermodal container was the CDC, combat direction center where military operations were orchestrated. The very next room was the navigation bridge with only a long table to separate the two sections. In the corner sat a barber’s chair, literally a chair for barbers with foot rest and head rest. A civilian contractor sat in it, cross-legged and watching the sonar screens. The contractor noticed Lt. Shamir staring, and he smiled and waved in response.
They moved up a stairs into the aircraft watchtower or CATCC. All of the personnel were Coast Guard and Navy, unlike downstairs. Then they passed through the communications area, rows and rows of contractors, specialists and general civilians. Ehud overheard, “Freighter Urda approaching Bermuda. We are waiting for any updates on passenger manifest before arrival.” They passed two more intermodal containers that acted as the Officer quarters. Each bunk area was separated by office dividers and makeshift screens.
Along their tour of the island, the Lieutenant noticed a great many toys stuck on the walls, dangling from wires and glued on monitors. Eccentricity was common on ships that were dispatched on long voyages and extended battle exercises. Crews would develop a united personality of their own when they were isolated on a floating city at sea.
They descended a ladder and then walked down a flight of stairs to reach the mess hall. For chowtime, the crew had to walk up a flight of stairs from the lower decks, pick up their meals through lunch lines and then descend into the lower decks to eat on the barge’s original deck that was renovated into housing for nonrates, cargo and training areas. Toys decorated the top of the nose guard of the lunch counter as well as acted as centerpieces for the few tables. The back half of the mess acted as a briefing room and lunch area for the Officers.
The CAG had just completed his roundtable with the airmen when Ehud and Beck entered. Admiral Gunner lounged against the back wall, his legs stretched across the bench. He flipped through documents on his tablet while chewing on cherry stems. He was sucking out the last of the cherry juices and shredding the stems between his teeth while scrolling through reports. The shredded stems lay on the table, collected like kindling for a small fire for grasshoppers.
The transferred soldiers were lined up on the opposite side, standing erect and motionless. Their bags lay at their feet. Corporal Beck and Lt. Shamir didn’t fall into line. They casually strolled towards the Admiral and stood opposite of the table. Beck dumped his bag on the bench before giving a groan in relief at alleviating the weight from his back. The Admiral eyed the insolent Corporal, mostly out of curiosity than irritation. A mild smirk tickled the left side of his lips.
Lt. Ehud Shamir stepped onto the bench and leaned forward. There was something different about the Admiral’s uniform. Ehud had met several Navy Officers before, including captains and an Admiral. Even in dress uniform, Admiral Gunner’s attire was blue and gold. The lining was fire-engine red. His emblem depicted two anchors. His hair was trimmed in a crew cut, blond with a few gray hairs intermingled but no one would have noticed unless looking closely. His typical features were similar to the family resemblance, except his eyes, a very light gray against the backdrop of his whites.
The Admiral slapped the tablet against the table as if swatting a fly with a newspaper. “Vice Admiral Gunner. Coast Guard.” He recognized the confusion expressed through raised eyebrows and then added, “We’ll call this a lateral move.” His lips pursed as he shifted in thought. “Budget cuts, lost resources and the like. Causing quite a ripple in this war when everyone is being pushed and pulled in uncertain and different places.”
Standing up, Admiral Gunner dressed his coat. He paced around the table twice before passing in front of the new transfers. He wiped his fingers across their uniforms as if preparing to score their appearance. As he sniffed loudly, the Coast Guard Ensign entered the room and reported to the Admiral with a salute.
“Gary, take these lovely peoples to the housing areas.” Gary nodded and beckoned the soldiers to follow.
Before Ehud and Beck could join them, the Admiral stopped them with a wave. The three of them watched the transfers exit the room before the Admiral sniffed louder. “So you met the Mech?”
Beck and Ehud exchanged glances. Ehud decided to deny the suggestion, “Sir, I don’t believe…”
“Half man; half machine.” The Admiral turned to face them and then leaned against a wall while eying them both. “Came through Gulfport. I personally never met him but had several conversations with the Detectives.” Admiral Gunner dressed the front of his coat and then added, “And my resident CMO.”
“The Detectives?” Beck asked. He wasn’t attempting to deny the knowledge but wasn’t sure of the relationship between Mech and Detectives.
“Detective Durst and Marx. My sources say that you returned Marx home. But Durst…” The Admiral fluttered his hand in the air. He chuckled at his wispy wave and then straightened his face when seeing the two pairs of confused eyes staring back at him. “The Native Americans,” he punctuated.
Ehud hesitantly nodded. “Well, we met them.”
“Before they left,” the Admiral stated as fact.
“Before they what?” Beck asked.
At Beck’s exclamation, the Admiral chuckled loudly, almost snorting into his chest as he leaned over. After awhile, he finally composed himself. “The Native Americans escaped through the portal and then closed it.”
Ehud nodded to Beck. “They did suggest something of that sort.”
“Man, I was too tired and confused to realize what the hell was going on.” Beck wagged his head.
The Admiral nodded. “According to my friends in low places, Durst spoke to the President and his staff, told them of Mech and the story of his crossing the southwest to reach the Navajo Nation. They discovered the portal and Mech took Fiona Marx into the other world. Jenson fell in after them.” The Admiral corrected, “The Fifth World, according to the elders.”
“And according to others,” Ehud confirmed.
“Indeed.” The Admiral kicked his heels into the deck as he returned to his lounging area. “When Durst went home, the Native Americans had already sent you on your way. You were obviously returned to your employers. Then the Natives and their followers entered the portal. When they finished, the lands were barren. No one was left. They all went into the other world, including Durst.”
“And the woman?” Ehud asked.
“Don’t know. Being questioned, I presume. Heavily, I am sure. The portal is shutdown. You’ve never seen so many annoyed military and political bureaucrats. They of course, wanted to use it. For its many possibilities.”
“To do what?” Beck snorted.
“Profit,” Gunner said as if it was completely obvious. “Pure profit. With resources drying up and war in full swing, the Americans saw it as a well to dry up.”
“Not much of a well. Just interesting creatures and natives.” Ehud began dancing on his heels, feeling a little uncomfortable discussing classified information with the Admiral. The barking Major gave them explicit instructions but it was obvious that the Admiral knew more than they. His relation to Jeffery Gunner made things that much stranger.
“There were other things that intrigued them. Like the copper and the fungus. They are ingredients that lead to other things. Powerful, destructive and possibly horrible things. You can thank a couple of enterprising individuals for taking advantage of the first few batches of these ingredients to change our world with subtlety.” The Admiral pointed a thumb behind him, indicating the transfers. “Like your friend with the cuttlefish DNA. We also have a few marines with laser eyes. The Mech and his alteration with cybernetics.”
Ehud whispered to himself, “His age.”
The Admiral nodded. “His age. A young man but numerically older than you and I.” The Admiral picked up the tablet to continue working. “You can thank Banks and Jenson. They both dabbled in that crap and goop, and are now aggressive about the acquiring more of these things. So are the governments. They are all pulling at each other to find more portals.” The Admiral reread the tablet screen and then said, “We are heading for the Mediterranean. France. Fort Bugarach. The American Government hopes to secure this mountain that is supposed to be another portal route.” He sniffed twice.
“Why not send a larger fleet?” Lt. Ehud Shamir asked.
“Everybody else is busy. Besides, it would look strange if certain ships were to pull back in the middle of combat. The big guys in charge want to keep this on the hush hush. Thus the reason for you four Phoenix gentlemen. Your experience with portals.”
“I’m not exactly sure what use we would be. We didn’t understand the techno in the first place.”
“Perhaps.” The Admiral considered Ehud’s words.
Beck nodded and pursed his lips as if considering the carrier’s décor. “Interesting fleet that you have here.”
The Admiral looked up from the tablet. “Indeed.” He seemed to be excited about the interest, perked like someone enthused to explain the awesome attributes to their brand new car. “This main vessel is Urda. It was once a barge that illegally ferried drugs from Brazil into the Gulf borders. They snuck drugs through a series of stuffed animals and plastic toys. The Coast Guard repossessed her and made a few modifications. We used her for collective SARs, especially during that wave of hurricanes that battered the southeastern states two years ago. The paint job is new. When the war stewed, the government added a few more things, and personnel. And Coast Guard was forced to do more aggressive duties for the war; the before-mentioned search and rescue and we also are supposed to supplement covert operations.”
“As so.” Ehud stated.
As so.” The Admiral nodded. “Dismissed.”
By Jax E. Garson
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