Journey of Kyle Gibbs
By Wayne Marinovich
© 2014 Wayne Marinovich
published 2014 in Great Britain by Umduzu Publishing
book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
right of Wayne Marinovich to be identified as the author of this work
has been asserted in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
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thriller, Eco-thriller, Climate fiction, Cli-Fi, Climate Change,
action adventure, secret organisations, dystopian thriller, Kyle
Gibbs series, race for resources, contagion, virus, New York,
sea-level rise, SAS
soul mate, best friend, creative muse and fellow traveller
from the Author
by the Author
Glasgow area, Scotland - 2033
Woolf Egger wiped
his wet face with his left hand and looked up at the towering black
hull of the ship. He was dressed in his favourite long coat which
helped against the curtains of rain that gusted across the wide,
glistening concrete quayside.
The converted container
ship that had berthed earlier that afternoon had stood in ghostly
silence up until then. A metallic clank echoed across to him as a
heavy door opened in the hull, light streaming outwards. Woolf walked
over to the long silver gangplank that protruded from midway up the
Queen of Sheba. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he took a
long draw on the cigarette he had been shielding in his right palm.
The smoky warmth filled his lungs before he flicked the cigarette
butt against the side of the hull, watching the red embers fall into
the water and fizzle out. It was only five o'clock on a winter's
afternoon, and it was pitch dark.
Unbuttoning the front
of his long beige raincoat from the bottom up, he swept the left coat
flap to one side and reached around to retrieve the object attached
to the back of his leather belt. It came loose with a pop, and he
rubbed the straps between his fingers. Buttoning up his raincoat
again, he looked up the gangplank to the open doorway in the hull.
Looking down at him was the figure of a person in a bright red hazmat
The person raised his
hand and gave him a thumbs up. Woolf replied with a slow wave to come
down. Waddling down the slippery rubber-covered ramp, the figure in
the red suit glistened in the quayside lighting, with his bright
yellow boots squeaking as they rubbed on the walkway.
Woolf lifted his rubber
S10 respirator and looked at the weird skull-like features looking
back at him. His jaws clenched as he stretched the double straps of
the respirator mask over the back of his head, grimacing as it tugged
at his short blond hair. Slipping his finger inside the face seal, he
slid it around the entire mask, making sure the fit was snug.
Reaching around to the back of his head, he pulled the two flailing
rubber straps, and the mask sucked onto his face. He took a deep
breath and rubbed both his arms roughly, subconsciously trying to
remove any contagion.
Slipping his hand into
a coat pocket, he brought out a waterproof flashlight and turned away
from the ship towards the Styx Enterprises company trucks that were
parked between two of the deserted warehouses that flanked the quay.
Three quick flicks of the rubber power button sent eerie beams of
light through the silvery rain. The lead truck flashed once, and
after a belch of white steam from two vertical exhaust pipes behind
the cab, started to trundle towards him.
The convoy of new
nuclear fusion-powered trucks approached the ship, silent and
menacing, crawling closer until the first one parked in front of the
two men. The driver, his respirator already in place, gave them the
Woolf turned to the man
next to him. 'Are they all ready to go?' he said with a thick German
'Yes, sir, they are all
lined up,' the American said, his voice muted behind the large
Perspex square of the hazmat suit's mask.
'Make sure we have no
bloody problems this time?' Woolf said, and unbuttoned the front of
his coat. He removed a 9mm Beretta from a holster on his left side
and chambered a round. 'Load them up,' he shouted as he holstered the
pistol, and stepped away from the trucks.
The vibration of the
satellite phone in his pocket distracted him, and he looked down at
the name on the caller ID. 'Arrgh…!' he shouted into the mask. ‘Let
me just do my job.’
'Move it along,
people!’ he shouted again. 'He will kill anyone who messes this
up.' With a tightening in his neck muscles, Woolf walked away from
the hazardous environment and pulled the respirator up over his face,
leaving it perched on the top of his head. Grabbing a crumpled box of
cigarettes and Zippo lighter out of his inside pocket, he flicked the
tip of a filter-less cigarette up and out of the box, then placed it
to his lips. He loved the soothing metallic click of the Zippo as the
top opened, and he rolled his left thumb across the flint wheel. His
head arched back as he drew on the warmth and blew the smoke out with
a sigh. The rattle of the metal gangplank disrupted his peace, and he
looked across to see two men in red hazmat suits, leading a line of
people out of the bowels of the ship.
With bowed heads to
shield their faces from the rain, the row of people trudged down
towards the waiting trucks. More and more kept stepping out of the
small door, all dressed in tattered and mismatched clothing. Masked
soldiers in green army fatigues jumped down from the back of the
first truck and fanned out to create a human funnel for the
approaching mass of people.
A girl in her early
teens, long hair pasted across her face, reached the bottom of the
gangplank and tripped as she stepped off, falling forward onto her
hands and knees. A guard grabbed her under one of her arms, and
roughly dragged the sobbing teen to her feet, yelling at her as he
pushed her towards the back of the truck. She stumbled again and fell
forward into a puddle. A bulky man with a shaven head who had been
standing behind her stepped forward off the gangplank and shoved the
young soldier in the back.
'Why don't you pick a
fight with someone your own size, asshole?'
The soldier pushed back
at the chest of the tall American, who towered over him with fists
clenched. A second stocky man, in a tattered black raincoat, appeared
on the shoulder of the American. Murmurs of support filtered through
those behind them. Cold, huddled bodies pressed forward.
'Get in the truck,
scavengers,' the young soldier shouted.
‘No! We won’t take
any more of this shit. We‘re tired of being treated like animals,’
the tall American said.
A rubber truncheon
swung across the tall man’s legs, and the young soldier raised it
again, aiming it at the man’s neck. A guttural scream pierced the
air as the American launched a tackle, picking the young soldier up
off the floor and ramming him into the metal side of the truck. 'Run
everyone, save yourselves,' he screamed as he dropped the soldier on
his back and started swinging punches at him.
The second man in the
black coat punched the nearest guard in the face before wrestling him
to the ground. Soldiers stepped forward and piled into the drenched
man with batons and rifle butts. Screams echoed up against the hull
of the ship with terrified people trying to back up the gangplank.
Three young men vaulted over the sides and landed on the quay, then
started sprinting off along the wet concrete.
Woolf slipped the mask
down over his face with one hand as he felt for the rubber grip of
his Beretta in his other. If they made it off the lit-up docks and
into the darkness beyond, he would never find them again. Three rapid
shots blasted out into the rain. The first runner went down, his face
thudding into the ground as the second slowed to avoid his fellow
fugitive. A shudder rippled through him as the bullet passed through
his back before the man following him clattered into him, spinning
around with the force of the third bullet.
A hush swept across the
quayside, as the fighting men stopped and froze. The scavengers
slowly raised their hands into the air. The squawk of fleeing gulls
finally broke the silence. Out the corner of his eye, Woolf detected
movement. One of the young men had started limping across the quay
again. A thrilling rush of adrenaline flooded through him. A smile
crept across his masked face, and he raised his Beretta. The
youngster's body arched backwards as the bullet smashed into his
spine. He slowed for a second, but the momentum took him forward as
he fell to the ground, screaming in pain.
Woolf turned to a
nearby young soldier, whose eyes were wide with shock behind the
respirator. 'Go and finish him off.'
The man turned back to
Woolf, anguish etched on his face. He shook his head.
Woolf punched the man
in the chest with a massive fist. 'Go and end his suffering! Do you
Trudging off, carrying
his SA80 across his chest, the young soldier walked off glancing back
to his colleagues.
Woolf looked at one of
the men in the red hazmat suits who stood at the bottom of the
gangplank. 'We cannot allow any of them to get into the general
public. Not until he tells us to.'
The man nodded. Woolf
walked over to the two kneeling Americans. Raising the Beretta, he
shot them both through the head. Both slumped forward onto the wet
concrete as screams from the row of people behind him resonated
outwards. He walked over to the sergeant who was staring down at the
bodies. ‘Don’t let me have to do your job again. Keep loading
them into the trucks. If they resist, shoot them.'
Woolf pulled the slide
of the Beretta backwards and removed the chambered round and then
tossed it into the darkness. The bullet following a kill had to be
thrown away. It was a stupid superstition but one that had kept him
alive. The partially full magazine was slipped out of the pistol and
placed into the right-hand leg pocket of his black commando trousers.
A well-practised hand reached for a fresh one from his left-hand
pocket. He flicked the slide back as he holstered the pistol.
Splashing sounds made him look across to a white van that was racing
towards him through the large puddles on the concrete apron.
respirator, he walked towards the driver's door of the silent
fusion-powered van. A thin man in his twenties jumped out. 'That
bloody loading is taking forever, mate,' the man said in a Scottish
accent. 'He has been calling me for updates every five minutes. You
had better return his calls or he will go postal.'
Woolf nodded. 'What are
you doing here?'
'I have a special
delivery for you. A few scavengers who will be joining you on your
return trip to the US.'
'He didn’t mention
anything about this to me.'
‘Well, if you
bothered to answer your phone, you might be better informed.'
Woolf took a step
towards the young man, towering over him. 'Have you tried to talk on
a phone with a mask on?'
'Easy, big fella. I am
just the delivery man,' said the young man, and walked to the back
door of the van with a swagger. 'Everyone out! And stop all that
bloody crying, would you. Cover yourself up too. I don’t want to
see your ugly faces.'
Woolf leant up against
the side of the van. Three human forms exited from the back doors and
were led towards the gangplank. One adult and two children. What was
his employer up to now?
Arctic Sea Ice,
South of Biddy Island, Nunavut - 2033
The black parka
hood flicked across the young man's face, and the thick grey fur trim
showered more ice particles onto his ski goggles. With a half-turn of
his head, the chasing sledge appeared to have gained on him. A knot
formed in his stomach as he looked back down the length of his slim
wooden sledge, the corner of a large plastic container packed with
lichen and plants was visible beneath the brown caribou skin. He
reached forward and pulled the skin over the valuable cargo then
gazed at the winter sky of blue and purple hues. He could feel the
presence of the sledge behind him.
It was gaining on him
with every second he spent out on the ice. Excited yelps floated back
to him on the wind from his dog team, the excitement brought on by
the fast pace that he was letting them run at. The animals lived to
run at that pace. The grating noise of the sledge's wooden runners
resonated outwards across the flat expanse of brittle sea ice and
into the dead silence.
Shewchuk shifted his weight onto his other leg as he stood on the
runners at the back of the sledge. Snow and ice particles that his
dog team flicked up as they fanned out ahead of him stung his already
frozen face. He looked ahead to Leyla, his favourite, as she yelped
and snapped at a nearby dog, her white fur blending in with the
'Haw!' Daniel screamed
out to her.
Leyla yelped again and
then started to veer left, pushing against the black-and-white dog on
her left. The bigger male yielded and changed to match her direction.
Once again, Daniel
flicked an anxious glance behind him to the small brooding figure who
was driving the catching sledge. The rushing wind dampened the sound
of his uncle's dogs as they started to move up on his right-hand
side. The sixty-year-old Inuit usually sat on the side of his sledge
and called to his dogs from there, but now he was standing at the
back looking impassively at his nephew. With a simple hand gesture,
he signalled to Daniel to keep an eye on his dogs that were now
selecting a new path across a section of melting ice, riddled with
small azure blue puddles.
A small grey dog
pulling on the far right of the ten-dog team yelped as the ice gave
way beneath him, his hind legs falling through a patch of broken ice.
Daniel gasped and thrust his foot down on the paddle-like footbrake
that was suspended from the back of the sledge and positioned between
the two runners. It had a metal bar with downward facing spikes
bolted onto a large rectangular piece of rubber. Jumping on it with
both feet, he slowed the sledge as he reached down to grab the metal
anchor. With a well-practised, backwards throw he tossed the metal
claw out behind the moving sledge and prayed for it to grab.
'Come haw!' he screamed
at the lead dog as the sledge careered around towards the sinking
dog. More ice cracked and a second animal slipped into the freezing
water. The screech of wood on the ice as the sledge slid towards the
hole made Daniel gasp. His eyes widened.
Snapping a look behind
him, he caught a sight of the anchor that had grabbed a piece of
jagged sea ice. The limp snaking rope had not snapped taut so it
wouldn’t stop them sinking.
'Come haw, Leyla,' he
shouted again. The command for a one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn
to the left was quickly obeyed, as Leyla and the large
black-and-white furred Brutus pulled hard to the left, swivelling the
sledge with their combined weight. A loud crack beneath the runner of
the sledge made him grab the handle and lean over to the side
opposite to the dogs, then he stepped off the brake. The yelping grew
louder as the dogs all strained against the dead weight of the
The stricken dogs
paddled at the breaking ice around them but failed to get a foothold,
giving up the struggle just as the strain on their tuglines and
harnesses snapped taut, and they were dragged from the dark blue
water by the other dogs. The sledge swivelled around even more and
then started to be dragged off again under the strain.
'Whoa Leyla, whoa!'
The white dog stopped
pulling and turned back to look at Daniel. She watched his every move
as he flicked the long claw anchor line a few times then pulled it
in. Winding it around his hand and elbow, he threw it down onto the
fur that covered the sledge.
The bedraggled dogs
shook themselves, sending a spray of freezing water over the other
yelping dogs. With a few wag of their tails, they started barking,
and then the crescendo of yelping resumed once again.
'Hike!' he shouted to
Leyla, looking across ahead to his uncle who had brought his sledge
to a halt a few hundred meters ahead of him.
The dogs strained at
the tuglines, jumping up and down as they pulled forward to get the
sledge going. Daniel eased his foot off the brake and jumped back
behind the heavy sledge, pushing it as it started to creak forward,
his fur boots slipping on the ice as his legs pumped. Five seconds
later he climbed back on the sledge runners and scanned around for
his uncle whose sledge was already on its way along the coastline.
Daniel glanced backwards to the icy hole. The thought of his drowning
father filtered through his mind. Anyone out on the ice could die
that way. Tapping the sledge handle three times for luck, Daniel
'Hike,' he screamed.
The weather had
been good to them on the sea ice as the two drivers urged their dogs
down the east coast of Nunavut, from Bibby Island. Sixty-year-old
Aaju Peter glanced up at the rugged mountains that were on their
right-hand side then squinted up to the small clouds that were
forming above them. A blizzard is coming. They were still
forty kilometres from the safety of their target.
He grunted to himself
and chewed the inside of his lip with his few remaining teeth. With a
peripheral glance to the side, he caught the shape of his nephew's
sledge, and he smiled. The young man had done well.
'Gee!' he shouted to
his faithful old lead dog that veered to the right, guiding them
closer to the shoreline in a gentle arc. The blizzard would hit
during the night so they would need some proper shelter. Aaju changed
grip with his thick caribou gloves and raised his right hand to his
eyes to shield them from the sun and glare from the sea-ice. He would
buy new goggles from the money they would make with the cargo in the
The ragged coastline
was still in its winter white, and he knew from experience that there
was a nearby group of caves which they could shelter in. A few were
even large enough to haul the dogs into, although they did prefer to
stay out in the snow.
A few minutes later,
the alcove came into view.
'Come gee!' The dog
team turned sharply to the right and aimed towards the rocky
'Whoa!’ he shouted as
they passed the alcove that hid the entrance to the large cave. Aaju
jumped on the foot brake, and the dogs came to a halt. Whining and
yelping ensued as they rolled around in the loose snow to cool
themselves down from the day's heavy workload.
'Daniel, come here,'
Aaju shouted to his nephew as he walked his claw anchor out from the
sledge. The old man dropped it in the thick snow before stamping on
it with his small frame. He looked across to his taller nephew who
crunched through the snow towards him. The young man slid the black
fur-lined hood off his head and slipped the ski goggles onto the top
of his head.
'We spending the night
'Yes. The storm will be
here in a few hours, and this cave will give us good cover. Bring my
rifle and let’s make sure it’s empty.'
Daniel grabbed the
black Ruger 6908 compact rifle out of its Caribou fur-lined rifle bag
that was stuffed into the sledge. Walking over to his uncle, he
slipped the bolt to chamber a round.
'Look, Uncle,' Daniel
said, pointing to tracks in the snow at the entrance of the cave.
'Wolf,' Aaju said,
rubbing the grey stubble on his face.
'Two of them?'
'I do not think they
are inside,' Aaju said, and took a step forward to have a listen.
'Bring me Brutus.'
Daniel walked back to
his dog team that were all lying down in the snow, some of the
animals were already curled up and asleep. He uncoupled the
black-and-white form of their biggest dog. Brutus walked, nose to the
ground, as they made their way back to the cave. The big dog slowed
as the hair on his neck and back started to rise. A low growl
emanated from his broad chest, and his top lip curled back over his
white canines. Daniel patted his head.
Aaju waved them on as
he took the rifle from Daniel. 'Make sure they are not there. I will
watch the sledges.'
Daniel smiled and
nodded. 'Is this another test, Uncle?'
'You and Brutus have
bonded well on this trip. Now is the time to reinforce that
connection. If there is a danger in there, you must face it together.
Be aware that a polar bear could have chased the wolves off. Always
be prepared for the worst.'
'Yes, Uncle.' Daniel
nodded. 'How long must I be tested before I can make these trips by
'You will be tested
until you are a very old man,' Aaju said with a blank expression on
his face and a wave of his hand.
Brutus strained on the
tugline that was clipped to his blue harness, the smell of wolf
exciting him. The long thin cave with glistening black walls was big
enough to allow daylight to filter in, and Daniel could see all the
way to the back. Apart from wolf scat, which had Brutus growling
again, there were no other signs of predators. They would be safe for
figures flickered up against the uneven interior of the black walls
of the sea-cave as Daniel moved around the small blue gas lamp. It
was placed on the floor between the two large fur skin blankets that
covered their down sleeping bags.
'Bring the containers
in from the sledges. They are too valuable to leave out there,' the
old man said. 'Have you fed the dogs?'
'Yes, Uncle Aaju. They
have eaten all the whale fat now, and we only have some caribou and
seal meat left.'
The old man nodded as
he stirred the caribou stew that was on a second gas stove, his black
and grey fringe falling forward across his wrinkled face. 'Finish up
outside and make sure the bear flares are set. They will smell the
'Yes, Uncle,' he said
and walked out again.
The ageing man stirred
the thick pieces of frozen meat in the silver tin pot and grabbed a
small pouch that contained salt, pepper and spices. He lifted it to
his nose and sniffed, before pinching some of everything into the
bubbling stew. He stirred it again.
'Uncle, what is so
special about all this moss and tundra flowers that we have
collected?' Daniel asked, carrying in two more plastic containers.
'Only caribou and musk ox eat them, so why do the American men want
them so badly?'
'I do not know, Daniel.
I only know that they are prepared to pay a year's wages for us to
spend two months collecting them on Bibby Island. Who knows what
drives men to want these crazy things. Now finish up so we can eat,'
he said, chuckling as he tasted a spoonful of stew.
pop-explosions went off in the darkness, echoing through the cave.
Daniel sat up with a start, looking up at the jagged shadows of the
'Bear!' shouted Aaju
and slipped out of his sleeping bag as fast as his young nephew.
'Bring the rifle!'
Brutus stood where he
had been tethered at the mouth of the cave, head lowered, a loud
growl rumbling through him. Daniel slipped the safety off and walked
forward to his dog that hadn’t moved. A white beam from a LED torch
pierced the darkness outside the cave as Daniel squinted to where the
moving beam was directed. A female polar bear, with a small cub, was
standing a hundred meters away from the snow-covered sledges. She
raised her nose and sniffed at the air. Some of the dogs had stood up
to the commotion and were blinking in the torchlight.
'She will not come
closer now,' Aaju said. 'She is too worried about her cub.'
'HA!' Daniel shouted.
The bear rose up onto her back feet and turned away, the cub sticking
close to her flank as she wandered off.
'Go back to sleep,
Uncle,' Daniel said. 'Brutus and I will take watch for a while. It
will be light in a few hours.'
The old man nodded and
walked off towards his sleeping bag. 'Good. And set more flares.'
The wind gusted
across Aaju's sledge as the morning sun slipped above the horizon for
the first time. 'Haw!' he called again, urging them left again.
It was easier sledging
out on the sea ice than closer to the shore, but the dogs smelled
home. The sledge launched into the air over a mound of ice and came
down on the left runner, sending Aaju off balance. Using all his core
strength, he twisted to his right and reached out with his arm to
counterbalance the sledge that lingered on one runner for a few
seconds before slowly self-righting. This type of ice was the most
dangerous because it had repeatedly been broken up and re-frozen with
jagged edges facing in all directions. A weak sledge could easily
lose a runner.
Aaju touched on the
foot brake to slow the eager dogs. He sniffed hard at the smell of
coal fires which filled him with happiness. Five minutes later he saw
black swirling plumes from several coal fires, rising against the
blue morning sky. The small hamlet of Arviat came into view, the
place of his birth.
Touching the brake
again, he slowed the dogs' run as they splashed through puddles of
melted seawater. The season was changing, and soon the sea ice would
melt and be impassable.
The two teams made
their way through the iced streets of the flooded town. The
three-metre sea-level rise, brought on by a major climate change
event, had frozen all the way into the town with only the rusting old
frames of houses and buildings visible above the ice. The villagers
had all gone back to a nomadic way of life and had relocated to above
the tidal zone to live in large communal homesteads made from local
driftwood, scavenged materials, and animal skins.
'Gee, gee!' he shouted
as they veered right up the old main road towards the large red
Pilatus Porter seaplane that was parked at the end of the makeshift
The specially converted
plane, with large skis under its wheels, brought supplies to the
village shop on a monthly basis. Aaju anchored his sledge next to the
empty plane and peeked into the sparse interior through the frosted
windows. He walked beneath the long, broad wing then looked back
towards the lone structure that had been constructed near the strip.
The shop was a temporary one and could be broken up and moved in a
single day. Shadowy movement was visible through one of the small
windows and out of the small door of the wood-panelled shop walked
stooped two men. They stood upright and walked across to the sledges.
One of them stopped walking to light up a cigarette.
Dressed in matching
black Jack Wolfskin parkas, with their fur-lined hoods flicked back,
the tall men had thick unkempt hair and long beards, as was
traditional with northern frontiersmen.
'One of you two, Aaju?'
'I am Aaju,' the old
man said to the man who towered over him.
'You are late. Where
have you been? We have been waiting here for three days.'
Aaju shrugged his
shoulders and turned to the sledge. He unhitched some bungee cords
and flicked back the furs to reveal the large see-through plastic
'Twelve boxes. One
thousand dollars each,' the old man said, wiping away some loose snow
from his head as he pushed back the caribou hood.
'Can’t you get us
more?' the large man asked.
Aaju shrugged again and
called over to Daniel who rushed over and stuck out his hand.
'Hi, I am Daniel.'
The man shook his hand.
'I just asked the old man if this was all you could get. My employer
will pay double if you can get us more.'
Daniel looked across at
the side panel of the red plane to see a black logo with the words
Styx Enterprises on the door.
'We can only get access
to the island for two months each year, and that's the only time we
can reach the mosses, lichens and flowers you require. Next year we
will take two more teams from the village and get you double the
'I can't believe they
are not available somewhere else along the coast of Canada.'
'They are not. The
caribou or Arctic hare cannot reach the island in the summer to feed
on the plants, so they grow more abundantly,' Daniel said. 'I believe
that is twelve thousand dollars.'
The man reached into
his jacket and pulled out a large white envelope with the same logo
printed on it. 'That is six thousand old dollars cash and six
thousand New American Government vouchers. As agreed.'
Daniel opened the
envelope and pulled out a NAG voucher.
Tyne-and-Wear, England, UK - 2033
The mangy black
Labrador barked incessantly at the stranger as he walked onto the
premises of the Borough Arms public house. The waist-high sandstone
wall that ran along the side of the pub kept the aggressive mutt
safely away from him. It was one of the feral fleabags that roamed
the Floodlands. The stranger stared at the dog and stroked the
trigger of the hidden sawn-off shotgun through the custom-made hole
in the pocket of his fading black Armani overcoat.
An elderly man, dressed
in a stained white vest and tattered brown trousers, came out of the
brick house adjoining the pub. 'Sorry, mister. He gets a little
nervous around strangers, and we haven't seen you around here
before,' he said and walked towards the wall to grab the dog's
The skinny stranger
opened the right-hand side of the overcoat to reveal the sawn-off
shotgun. It was suspended on a personalised leather strap that
allowed the weapon to hang from his shoulder. Also visible was a 9mm
Beretta tucked into his belt.
'Keep that mangy mutt
quiet, or I will shoot the both of you,' he said with an Oxford
accent. 'Is that clear?'
The old man picked up
the dog and scowled. 'Just being friendly and civil here, mister. No
need for any violence.'
The stranger stared
back at him. A dark presence inside of him wanted blood and demanded
to be satisfied. His finger twitched. The urge to slip the shotgun
out from under the coat and kill the scavenger and his dog was
overwhelming. An acidic taste stung the back of his throat as he
Stepping back and
holding the barking dog, the man retreated and disappeared through
the house's front door. With the grip on the gun relaxing, the
stranger in the coat turned towards the building.
The pub was a small
brown double-storey building with six white windows in the front. Two
small white doors were at either side of the building, with old
chairs and benches strewn around the front concrete area that had
once served as the car park from a time back when people could still
afford vehicles. A small stone plaque above the door had a white,
fading badge with 1930 on it. The stranger looked at two drunken
scavengers, who were lying against one another on a bench, dirty,
soiled clothing sending a toxic stench across on the wind. Flicking
the safety on the back of the hand grip of the shotgun, he pushed the
toe of his black boot against the wooden door to force it open. With
a tightening in his chest, he clenched his teeth and walked in. A
dark smoky interior kicked his adrenaline up a notch, and he pressed
his back against the closing door, squinting to adjust to the dark
criss-crossed the length of the pub's low ceiling. Not good for a
tall person. The stranger shuffled in his stance. The once white
walls were stained yellow with years of cooking grease and cigarette
smoke. The wooden bar was straight across from him and built in the
middle of the long brick wall, allowing for dark alcoves to either
side of it. Dark places for doing deals away from prying eyes. Old
framed pictures of the Gateshead surrounds hung on all the walls and
hinted at the history from before the Second World War. A dark
carpet, that once might have been red, covered the floor with three
worn out sections in front of the bar from years of regular
patronage. Two old drinkers were seated on mismatched wooden
barstools, one of them patting the head of an Alsatian. More
bloody dogs. The man rubbed both the triggers and trigger-guard
of the hidden shotgun.
'Can I help you,
squire?' a bulbous-headed barman asked, his reddened face smiling
with signs of years of drinking with his patrons.
The stranger walked
slowly to the left-hand alcove and looked in. It was empty. 'I'll
have a bottle of whiskey, the decent stuff. None of that watered-down
shit you sell to these fools.'
The two dishevelled men
at the bar mumbled something into their pale ales, staring at the
stranger’s missing left arm. In the Floodlands, a missing limb
always meant a death sentence with the paltry medical facilities.
One of them leant
forward. 'In these lands, only a wealthy man can survive with a
missing arm, so I would expect better manners from you.'
'Mind your affairs, old
man. Don't ever address me again.'
‘Bad manners cost you
your arm did it, son?’
The stranger stared at
the man for a few seconds then smiled. ‘Make sure you are both gone
by the time I am finished drinking.’
The publican slammed
the bottle of whiskey on the dirty bar counter then reached for a
tumbler from the glass shelf behind him. 'Don't have any ice, mister.
The machine is broken.'
'I don't need ice. '
'That will be twenty
New European Government vouchers,' the man replied, wiping his hands
on the greasy front of his white shirt.
The stranger glanced
past the two regular drinkers to the alcove near the door at the far
side of the pub. Three young gang members were huddled together,
whispering among themselves. Sly glances flicked up at him from below
faded headscarves signifying allegiance to a local scavenger gang.
The stranger ran his tongue over his teeth, and a small smile
Reaching into a top
pocket of the jacket he pulled out a two-pound coin and slapped it on
the counter 'Will this cover the cost of the bottle?'
'Bloody heck, sir. That
will get you several bottles,' he said and rubbed the shiny coin
between his dirty fingers. 'I don't have any change other than NEG
vouchers, but I do have two ladies who work out of the rooms
upstairs. They could work the debt off if you fancied.'
'I don't want any
change,' he said, looking across to the gang members. 'I just ask
that I be left alone.'
Butler grabbed the half empty bottle and tipped another two fingers'
worth into the glass. Tapping his fingers on the rim, he glanced up
at the door. Clenching down on the ill-fitting dentures that he was
forced to wear, he reached into his black waistcoat and pulled out a
gold fob watch, rubbing the cover with his thumb. Clicking the watch
winder he flicked the engraved cover open and stared at the time,
willing it to slow. Grabbing the tumbler, he downed the whiskey. The
door on the other side of the pub slammed closed making Lord Butler
jump, his hand dropping to the Beretta lying on his lap.
A short man dressed in
a white work shirt looked around the pub and then tucked his hand
into the large brass belt buckle that adorned the front of his dark
blue jeans. The black-haired man strutted over, nodding to the men at
the bar as he passed.
'Good day, Francis.'
‘You are late.'
Dan Garrett wiped his
forehead, flattening back his receding black hair. 'The van I was
travelling in had fusion problems, and I think the hydrogen cell may
have been faulty, so I had to hike the last few miles. Trust it to be
a bloody warm Newcastle day too.'
'Sit the fuck down.'
Lord Butler watched the
beady eyes of the man who looked back at him, an uncomfortable smile
across his round face. Dan glanced down to the empty bench alongside
him and back across the table to the pistol on his lap.
Francis. Should I be worried?' Dan asked, wiping his brow again.
'Only friends and close
acquaintances get to call me Francis,' Lord Butler said, placing his
right hand on the table top. 'Now sit down. You are attracting
unnecessary attention. They might make a move at any minute, and you
are in my firing line.’
Dan slid onto the
bench, glancing back across the bar. 'I thought you were going to
shoot me for being late.'
'I have shot men for
being late before, but I happen to need you right now. Where are we
with my latest shipment?'
'The cargo has been
offloaded, but we lost two en route and five more in the harbour.
Your man there stopped them getting out into the general population.'
Lord Butler slammed his
hand down on the table. 'I will not tolerate the failure of this
project, Dan. These people cost a fortune to get across from the US
and even more to ship across into the continent.'
Dan fidgeted in his
seat. 'I do realise that, Lord Butler, but Woolf was just following
your orders. We cannot have them out in public, now can we?'
Lord Butler grinned.
'No. Not until I given the word.'
'Why do you hate the
Europeans so much?'
Lord Butler adjusted
the small dagger that was on his right hip. 'The New European
Government is going to pay for their previous treachery against me.
They will pay for all my pain. Thieves who stole my estate and
esteemed standing in the world. They took everything from me. And so,
they will all be made to suffer. My plan is now in motion and cannot
be stopped. Anyone getting in my way or causing its failure will be
Lord Butler poured
another whiskey and drained the glass, slamming it back down on the
table. He sneered as he caught the American staring at the stump of
his left arm, which had been amputated below the elbow.
'They are all
responsible for this,' he said, pointing to the people sitting at the
bar. 'The pain I have suffered. The seeping gangrene, the scars to my
face and body, shattered teeth from the beatings at the hands of the
NEG minions. I cannot wait until all of these scavenging bastards die
horrible deaths at the hands of Kharon. Our planet will be a better
place without them all.'
He looked at Dan who
sat, wide-eyed, his mouth open.
'Well, say something,
Dan,' Lord Butler said. 'You Americans always have so much to say.'
'Sorry, Lord Butler,'
Dan said, tugging at his tight shirt collar. 'I was going to say that
you are looking better than the last time I saw you. Dr Stubbs has
done a great job.'
'Dr Stubbs is a moron.
A butcher at best. Next, are you going to tell me that he will be
accompanying me to the US?'
Dan shook his head and
reached into his top shirt pocket for a piece of white paper. 'These
are details for Dr Michael Turner, a British surgeon, and a man of
questionable principles. For the right price, he will escort you to
the US and complete the treatment of the arm.'
Lord Butler grabbed the
paper and placed it in his top waistcoat pocket. Movement at the
furthest end of the bar caught his attention. 'Well, Dan, it's time
you were leaving. Get out of here and drive across to Glasgow
tonight. Call my man on the way and tell him to ready the ship.'
Dan frowned until he
saw Lord Butler's good hand move down to the weapon on his lap.
'Good day to you, sir,'
Dan said, slipping out off the bench. He walked past the three youths
who were now standing at the bar.
Lord Butler closed his
eyes for a few seconds enjoying long, slow breaths. The darkness
swirled around inside him like thick black molasses, permeating every
corner of his mind. Peaceful dark molasses that filled him with
strength. Floorboards creaked beneath the carpet in front of him. A
sickly smell of cheap aftershave wafted towards him. The rubber grip
of the Beretta felt warm in his grip.
'Hey, mister? Give us
your wallet, and that watch you’ve been hiding,' the young man said
as he pulled a large dagger from his belt and flipped up the red
hoodie of his tracksuit top. A new smell stung Lord Butler’s
nostrils. The smell of sweat and bad ale.
‘It’s only good
manners to say please, young man.’
‘Shut up and give me
the money, or I’ll bleed you like a pig.’
'Run along and play
with the kiddies. You are picking a fight with the wrong man.'
'What’s a fucking
cripple like you going…?'
The bullet entered
through his left eye and exploded out the side of his head. Mouth
gaping, his other eye rolled upwards. The second bullet smashed into
the centre of his forehead, snapping his head backwards before the
third ripped into his stomach, throwing his arms forwards like a
The darkness roared
within Lord Butler as he pushed up off his seat, toppling the table
forwards in the alcove and sending the bottle of whiskey crashing to
The fourth bullet took
the second teen out as he grabbed at the hole over his heart, and
sinking slowly to his knees, he rasped a breath and fell sideways.
The last boy was the youngest. Lord Butler lowered his head slightly,
as a smile appeared. The teen backed away, clutching at the knife
which was tucked into his belt. The gun roared as the boy stifled a
groan. Lord Butler walked to him as the teen held his throat, blood
bubbling between his fingers.
'I am sorry, young man.
My aim is usually much better. I may be a little drunk,' he said as
he pressed the Beretta to the kneeling teenager’s head and fired.
Turning towards the
bar, he smiled at the barman and felt a rush of adrenaline, the blood
splattered on his face felt warm and comforting. The man behind the
bar flicked longing glances at both doors of the pub. Lord Butler
wiped his mouth with his right sleeve. The two old regulars had
backtracked to the furthest door and were holding their hands out in
front of them. A growl from the black Alsatian broke the silence, and
it strained against the old hand that held him back.
A confused yelp came
from the dog as it jumped into the air, twisting backwards to try and
bite at the chest hole the bullet had left. Landing on the floor
again, its legs collapsed beneath a lifeless body. The old man
groaned and moved towards his fallen companion when the bullet
entered the top of his head and erupted in a red puff of blood as it
thudded into the door. His tall friend’s hands fell to his side as
he stared at the Beretta. A resignation washed over him before the
gun’s last retort.
The Beretta slide
stayed back after the last shell had been expelled. Lord Butler's
deft fingers dropped the empty mag to the floor, and he thrust the
Beretta up under his left armpit. He grabbed another magazine from
his jacket pocket and slipped it into the Beretta, forcing it in by
banging it against his thigh.
He walked over to the
barman. 'A glass of water please, my good man,' he said.
The man rushed over to
the small sink and filled up a tall glass, the sound of glass tapping
against the metal faucet as his hand shook. Lord Butler slipped the
pistol into his belt then grabbed his hanky from his top pocket to
wipe the blood and sweat from his face. The water was cold and offset
the bitter aftertaste of whiskey in his mouth.
'Thank you, innkeeper,'
he said, walking towards the door.
Lord Butler reached for
the low door handle, his slim hand still shaking with excitement. He
is taking you for a fool, the darkness mocked. Swinging around on
the heels of his boots, he walked back. 'Some of these ignorant oafs
might have thought the swill you sold me was real whiskey, but I
could taste that you had watered it down. Didn't I tell you not to
give me the cheap swill?'
'I am sorry, sir,' the
barman said, reaching for another bottle. 'It must have been the
'Of course it was,' he
replied and swung the shotgun out from under his jacket.
Estate, Surrey, England, UK - 2033
Kyle Gibbs fought
the old iron plough as it bucked against the dry ground and tried its
best to snap his wrists. The earthy smell of the parting soil filled
his nostrils as dark brown dust swirled around him from the horses'
hooves. With the long leather reins from the two black-and-white
workhorses draped over his shoulder, he stepped to his right to try
to look ahead past the large rumps of the side-by-side Cleveland Bay
horses. Martha and Mavis, as they were named, were usually livelier
to handle, but today they were behaving themselves.
'Whoa,' Gibbs shouted
as he slipped the reins off his shoulder and gave them a pull as he
leant back. Streams of sweat dripped from his short dark hair, down
onto his temples. As he wiped them away, the wet dust caused streaks
down his muscular arms. One of the horses reared up and tried to bite
the other. 'Stop it, Mavis,' he said, or maybe it was Martha. There
was no telling the difference.
'Want to take a break,
old man?' a person shouted as another team of horses pulled up. The
lean, shirtless Warren Smith tied the reins onto the iron plough he
was working alongside.
'Enough of that old man
crap, you little squirt, or I'll have you working until midnight.'
'I might be out here
that long anyway,' Warren said. 'It's like ploughing through metal.'
'Well at least your
horses are behaving,' Gibbs said. He grabbed a recycled plastic
bottle that was wedged into the back of the plough. The fresh
borehole water slaked his thirst, washing the dust away.
'They are like dogs and
can sense that you don't like them.'
'I'll swap you then,'
'No thanks,' Warren
said. 'They are yours to have fun with today.'
'I was told they'd made
some progress in getting the fusion engines right for tractors. I'm
sure they'll cost an absolute fortune, though.'
'Maybe we can trade
with someone who eventually gets one.'
'Well the only man
wealthy enough is the Warlord of London,' Gibbs replied.
'Luckily Tom is one of
our old friends then,' Warren said. 'He could let us have one for a
few days surely.'
'Tom might be an old
friend of ours, but he is still an old gang leader at heart. It will
still cost us a lot to rent it from him.'
'I guess we will be
doing it manually then.'
Gibbs smiled at him.
A shrill whistle
pierced the air from across the field. Martha whinnied loudly,
setting off Mavis, who tried to bite her again.
'Whoa, you two!' Gibbs
Martha shook her head,
flicking her black mane in the sun, then tried to bite Mavis on the
neck causing her to rear up to get away. The long reins pulled loose
as the plough swung to the right and was dragged along for a few
'Oh come on, Mavis!'
The plough dug deeper
into the dark soil and Gibbs stretched to reach the reins. Both the
horses reared up, and the iron coupling from the harnesses to the
plough snapped. A six-foot length of leather looped back and whipped
Gibbs around his bare torso. 'Arrgh…Bastards!' he screamed and
grabbed the straps before they slipped off him. 'Whoa!' he screamed,
leaning back to pull the horses.
'Let 'em go, Gibbs,'
Gibbs's head snapped
back as the two large horses bolted across the field. Flying through
the air for a few metres, he came back down to earth on his right
side, a stinging pain spreading through his ribs. More pain pulsed
from his wrists which the leather reins had wrapped around. Bumping
along behind the two jostling horses, he groaned as patches of skin
were grazed away. A hundred metres across the field they came to a
stop in front of the waist-high wooden fence. 'Useless bloody
animals,' he shouted.
Standing behind the
fence, grinning with her hand in front of her mouth was Christina
Anderson, his common-law wife. Her long blonde hair was in a
ponytail, and she lifted their son, Stuart, up onto the short fence
to hand Mavis a handful of green grass he had picked. The
four-year-old squealed with joy as the large horse took the grass and
'Did you have to bloody
whistle like that, Christina,' Gibbs said as he stood up and looked
at the blood on his elbows and side. 'They have destroyed another
'Gibbs. Not in front of
Gibbs raised an
eyebrow. 'How many times have I said not to bring him down when they
are working? You know they are used to him feeding them.'
Gibbs walked over and
rubbed his hand through the white hair of his son.
'Oh relax, grumpy
pants,' Christina said. 'You'll make another.'
'I have a thousand
other things to finish on this commune without doing the same thing
over and over again.'
Christina turned to her
son. 'Stuart, let's leave Daddy and go and see where Buster has
'Have you lost that
'Jeez, you are full of
it today,' she said, leaning across the fence and kissing him. 'Do us
all a favour. Go and have a few drinks with your old army buddies. I
know that you miss the SAS lifestyle. All that adventure and
camaraderie. So please take the van and go and reminisce about
killing and blowing up things then come back to us when you are calm
‘It’s not that
‘Yes, it is, Gibbs!’
Christin said. ‘I have known you for a long time, and I know that
all this commune life is a big change from doing missions for the
government, but it is what it is. Go and have a drink.’
Gibbs was about to
reply when she turned away and walked off. After five years of living
together, she still looked great when she walked off. He leant on the
fence post and watched his son holding her hand and looking over her
shoulder as he walked.
'Gibbs, the fields
won't plough themselves you know,' Warren shouted.
'One woman giving me
orders is enough, thank you,' Gibbs shouted back.
Yanking hard on the
reins, he pulled Martha and Mavis away from the fence, glancing at
his wife and son as they walked up the shaded lane towards the house,
then he turned to walk the horses back across the field.
The Willow Bar,
Greenock, Scotland - 2033
ruffled his fingers through his short blond hair, shaking out the
excess moisture from the continued grey sheets of water that many
would call rain. In two weeks, he would be back in the warm and dry
weather of the USA.
The woman standing in
front of him was in her mid-fifties, her wrinkled face twitching as
she scowled up at him. 'You didn't have to lay him out like that.'
'Mind your own
business, woman,' he said, opening his raincoat to reveal the
'Guns don't scare me,
you big bully. That boy was just begging for something to eat.'
‘I told him a few
times to take that three-legged dog and get lost,' Woolf said. 'I
will only tell you once.'
The woman shook her
head and walked up the street.
'Only the strong
survive, lady,' he shouted after her.
The teen, dressed in
tattered clothes, knelt a few meters from him, holding the
cream-coloured Alsatian in one hand while he rubbed his bleeding nose
with the other. ‘I should have let Toby take a bite out of you,
‘Run along, or I will
shoot you both and laugh as the ravens pick at your carcases.’ The
teen scowled and flipped him the finger before sauntering away, the
dog hopping after him.
Scanning up and down
Inverkirk Street, Woolf fiddled with his pockets and buttoned up the
jacket again. Boarded-up stone houses and windowless shops lined the
wet street as scavengers moved about with their trolleys and barrows,
trading the goods they had found. A long way up the street which rose
up a gentle hill, a tall man stopped walking and turned to look into
a shop window. Woolf focussed on the man’s features. Had he seen
him somewhere before? NEG informants were everywhere.
Apart from two old
scavengers, who were struggling to push a wooden trailer filled with
scrap up the street, no real threat showed itself. Woolf turned to
the yellow wooden door of The Willow Pub and looked up at the windows
of the granite-stoned apartments above the doorway. Sitting inside
one of the open white-framed windows was a middle-aged woman with
peroxide blonde hair, black roots and excess makeup. She flashed a
toothless smile as she turned then grabbed her ample breasts that
were fighting to remain in the black lace bra.
Woolf shook his head
and shuddered, removing the Beretta from its shoulder holster beneath
his beige overcoat he slipped it into the side pocket. With his left
hand, he grabbed the door handle and pushed the door open.
The interior was well
lit for a small bar and directly in front of him was the wooden bar
counter. Five brass beer taps were positioned in the middle of the
counter with bottles of home-stilled spirits shelved behind the
'What can I get you,
mate?' the young man said as he threw a dirty dishtowel to the side.
'Pint of local ale,
'Sure thing. Can I
offer you anything else? Drugs, maybe a lady thrown in too?'
Woolf shook his head.
He grabbed the warm jug of beer and took a long swig. The warm,
bitter taste stung his dry mouth and throat. He did like the local
'Get me another.'
The barman nodded and
scurried to a small sink to wash another glass.
'Hello, darling?' a
gravelly voice said.
Woolf watched the
peroxide blonde approach from a side door in the bar. She had donned
a pink see-through gown to cover the black underwear she wore. She
had also placed her teeth in.
'A girl could do with a
stiff drink, you know.'
Woolf looked up and
down at her ageing body and then nodded to the barman.
'Thank you, stranger.
You're not a regular here, are you?'