Chapter 1

We THINK we know our history. We THINK mankind has continually advanced in thought and achievement since the dawn of time. We THINK--but we have no idea what the truth really is.

Our ancestors we're not ignorant, childish nor superstitious. The geologic record around the world proves that they were advanced in many things, some even more than we are today. They were just the unfortunate souls to live at a time when solar flares grew quiet and a medieval hell descended upon mankind, a repetiti

Senator, are you in there? Senator? Senator Guiscard, are you hurt?”

There was no response  only silence, followed by more silence no matter how hard or loud the anxious United States Capital Building Security guards yelled and pounded upon the locked doors of Senator Leroy Guiscard’s office.

“Senator, we have help coming. If you can hear us, please call out. Senator—Senator?!”

In the year 2040, Leroy Guiscard was the most senior member of the U.S. Senate—respected by some but only tolerated by most. In his seventies, he was very hardworking and yet, often publicly critical of the younger senators, accusing them of being opportunists and selfishly indolent. He was known for being very old-school and his values and agenda even older. As an immigrant from England, Leroy, or Gus as his friends called him, was committed to freedom and he correctly viewed the United States as the only light in a darkening world where global apathy and opportunistic tyrants expanded like rust on raw steel.

Lying on the floor of his office, Gus slowly opened his eyes and then struggled to focus. Looking around, he realized he had been unconscious, but for how long and why? Looking up at the ceiling, he gradually began to make out the ornate carvings that elegantly adorned his office and he tried to piece together the last few minutes of his life.

He recalled walking down the corridor to his office just minutes ago, or was it hours, or maybe even yesterday? He struggled to assign a timeline to his wandering thoughts as he next remembered being greeted by his young intern Veronica Paige as she smiled and asked him something—something. What was it? While he couldn’t remember what she asked, he did remember feeling disgusted. Straining even harder to recall, he thought to himself, Why would I ever be disgusted with Veronica?

Veronica was just out of college, and was the best aid Gus had ever had. She had beautiful, long brown hair that she wore shamelessly loose and down near her waist. She was extremely intelligent, efficient and bewitching with a near photographic memory. Nothing fell through the cracks with Veronica, except when she had over a single ounce of alcohol in her system. She did everything extremely well except hold her liquor. Gus had had many interns over the years but none that he connected with and loved so very much as Veronica. He was old enough to be her grandfather and that was the very relationship they had. In addition to being scary-smart, Veronica’s attachment to Gus was mutual and there seemed to be nothing she loved more than looking after Gus, despite his urging for her to go find a rich, young lawyer and have babies. Gus was very fond of her and he struggled to make sense of the feelings of disgust he now felt.

As he continued to retrieve broken memories from the last five minutes, he remembered leaning back in his chair and gazing out his office windows that looked out upon the Washington Monument. He remembered watching the tall structure ripple in the reflection pool as his mind wandered an ocean away to a college professor and mentor he loved, his grandfather. Gus was born in England in 1970 and attended Cambridge where his grandfather taught political science. His grandfather had inspired Gus and was largely responsible for placing his feet on a political path at a very early age. For the better part of his childhood, Gus (and his grandfather) dreamed of holding a seat in Parliament. However, two years after his grandfather passed away, Gus moved to the States with the intent of attending an American law school. Shortly after his arrival however, he became involved with American politics and found himself in the hotbed of the Western political frontier which at that time was in great upheaval due to the Non-profit Fairness Act that required all churches to pay a parishioner tax.

He put off law school so that he could focus on his newly found vocation but he quickly realized that in order to effect real change; he had to do more than lobby congressmen and manage fundraising activities. He became a naturalized citizen and after the mandatory nine year waiting period, he ran for one of the two senate seats in Wyoming and won. Now at 70, he had seen a lot of corruption in his time in the U.S. Senate and he had fought all his days to resist and prosecute it. He loved being an American and honored it more than most other people he knew. In 2040, patriotism was a lonely party.

Gus opened his eyes again and was brought back to the present crisis and shook his head slightly in an effort to focus on the moment.

Still delirious, he heard again, “Senator—Senator, are you alright?!” coming from the other side of his office doors.

Why am I lying on the floor? he wondered. He tried to respond to the voice, but as he took a breath so that he could speak, he felt a crushing pain in his chest and he coughed. Sharp pain shot thorough his abdomen as he tried to fill his lungs with air, which then radiated into his shoulders and arms leaving them searing as if a thousand nails were being pushed into them. As he began to grown, he quickly stopped himself in order to avert even more pain.

I’m having a heart attack! he thought, just as his unconscious mind presented the  correct order of events leading up to him opening his eyes on the floor of his office. He had just returned from the Senate Floor where he had given the speech of his life. It wasn’t the speech he had planned to give, but the speech his heart insisted he give.

He had spent the last 26 months of his life investigating the questionable campaign donations of a fellow senator named Abdul Faris. The Senate was reluctant to allow such an investigation to take place, mostly due to the fact that Senator Faris was a minority. In 2040, minority status meant special favors and a blind eye, no matter what level of government or position in the private sector the person held. The scuttlebutt was that Abdul had accepted money from a Belarus-based world organization called Toprak Esir Inc., believed to be the financial might and momentum behind the financial crash and subsequent political takeover of Praia, a small and rather insignificant country located in the Cape Verde islands off the western coast of Africa. Insignificant that is, to the majority of the world and the seemingly peaceful takeover went unnoticed by most Americans and other first-world citizens.

The Faris investigation was largely ignored by an uninterested public and an even less interested media. However, what started out as a somewhat benign public inquiry had turned into a crisis with global implications. Gus became interested in senator Faris after he overheard him speaking in Turkish with a Capital Building security guard that didn’t appear to be Middle Eastern, but spoke fluent Turkish. He might not have thought it too out of place had they not both stopped speaking as he approached from the stairwell. Gus was far from fluent in Turkish but as a child he had a Turkish house maid who was eager to teach him her language. Gus never mastered the tongue to any degree but he could recognize the language well enough, and pick out a few words.

As Gus came up the stairwell that evening, he heard the name Toprak and the words “asker yerleştirme” exchanged several times in an urgent conversation between the two men. At the time he wasn’t sure if he heard the word “asker” or “askeri” but it was of little importance since one meant “troops” and the other “military.” The other word he knew he heard for certain was “placement.” Abdul was not on any military committee and even if he was, what business did he have discussing military movements with this security guard. Besides, the U.S. was not anticipating any military movement at that time so it was plain they were speaking about some other country’s military movements.

Alarmed at what he heard, Gus reported the incident to major General Clancy, a longtime friend. Like Gus, Geoff Clancy was old-school though he was only 35 and one of the youngest generals in U.S. history. Clancy investigated Gus’s claim about military movements in the Middle East or anywhere in the world at the time and could not confirm any of it. The only substantial movement of any kind was what appeared to be a minor refugee movement into Van in Eastern Turkey from various places but mostly from Iraq and Iran. However, there definitely was not any military equipment involved in the migration and satellite imaging didn’t even uncover a single firearm. However, at Gus’s insistence, Clancy agreed to keep an eye on the situation.

Gus then got approval to form his committee under the guise of campaign fraud inquiry which would give Gus the license he needed to dig deeper into Abdul’s private life and his association with Toprak Esir Inc. For nearly the last 20 years, Toprak had enjoyed unprecedented business success, amassing over 800 billion GD (global dollar) in sales. Most unclear however were where the earnings actually came from and what business Toprak was actually in. It was clear they were heavily into real estate in Dubai, London, Singapore, Panama and other international financial centers, but how they were able to acquire such massive holdings without any record of investors was a mystery. At every turn, Toprak was cloaked in obscurity and wove a never-ending paper-trail of dead ends and obvious political favors from many governments, especially Russia. Toprak was a company that seemed to pull money out of the thin air like magic.

One hundred years ago, the inquiry and subsequent exposure of such a fraud would have been easy, where spies and traitors were quickly deported to unknown prisons. But in 2040, political correctness was more than just a rule of proper minority titles and acceptable subjects at dinner parties. Political correctness in 2040 effectively killed freedom of speech and the wrong use of certain words or a misinterpreted comment cost many their jobs, social standing and in at least one case their life. To attack Abdul and Toprak openly was a dangerous endeavor and one that required very careful planning and an elaborate algorithm of calculated risks. It was obvious that Toprak, Abdul and everyone involved counted on the politically correct gag-order in the U.S. to allow them walk among the population unmolested and even proud.

Gus’s investigation revealed indisputable proof that Faris was an employee of Toprak and a Turkish citizen. The fact that this was so easily discovered was proof that they didn’t care who found out and counted on the ignorant Americans to bite their tongues. What was even more arrogant was the fact that there was no record of Faris ever becoming a U.S. Citizen in the 10 years he had been in the United States. Gus and his committee had enough on Faris to convict him as a spy and land him in a prison cell at Guantanamo Bay, but the much more dangerous question was why? Why was it so important for a global real estate company to have an ear in the U.S. Senate? In the two years Faris had held his seat, he did almost next to nothing. He hadn’t sponsored a single piece of legislation or even attended a single social event in Washington. To say he was flying under the radar was an understatement;. Abdul was crawling underground. And if he was digging for information, he didn’t walk in the right circles or even know the right people.

Three months ago, desperate for answers, Gus had Abdul trailed for several weeks and what he discovered could only be described as bizarre.  Every evening, Abdul left his Senate Building office and walked round the Ellipse on the White House lawn twice; once clockwise and then counter clockwise, the whole time talking on his cell phone. He then made his way on the Metro to Wisconsin Avenue to an upstairs walk-up, next door to the Potomac Masonic Lodge. His apartment next to a Masonic Lodge could have been just a coincidence but based upon Abdul’s bizarre behavior he couldn’t be sure.

Being a Mason was not a crime in 2040, unlike some religious organizations that had been disbanded in the last 10 years, but the lodge was not well marked and he never actually saw Abdul enter the lodge. The only other regular destination Abdul frequented was Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, almost nightly. Abdul would not be the only alcoholic in the Senate and based upon the kind of life Abdul lead, anyone would have needed a stiff one every night just to remain upright.

The little Gus and his committee did discover about Abdul and Toprak in the past two years was enough to bring it to the attention of the Senate and sound the alarm that there was a potentially very dangerous threat to national security in play.

As his memory slowly to return to him, Gus could plainly see his notes on the lectern in front of him on the Senate Floor, which had been carefully selected and even more carefully worded to be as politically correct as possible. Attacking a minority was dangerous ground for anyone, but especially for an elected public official. The fear of being labeled raciest had become the Scarlet Letter of the 21st century and every so-called decent citizen subscribed to the politically correct agenda as fierce as the previous generations held to Christianity.

The agenda of the U.S. Senate this summer day was urgent and tense since Western Europe was on the brink of war with most of the Middle Eastern countries, which for the first time in history were united. The United States was trying to remain neutral as long as possible and the thought of policing the world was a very unpopular notion to the public in 2040. However, a small handful of senators felt a military engagement was probably unavoidable. Therefore, Gus’s report on a freshman senator’s campaign financing was anything but important at this urgent hour and Gus would have agreed, had the investigation not turned up matters of both national and global security, which he feared had everything to do with the threat of war on the other side of the world.

Remembering again his entrance to his outer office after verbally whipping his colleagues on the Floor for their abuses and apathy, he saw Veronica smiling at him warmly with her contagious smile and asking him how his speech went.

Gus couldn’t believe what he had just done on the Floor and how he had allowed his normally very controlled emotions get away from him. His self-disgust in that moment would not allow him to verbally respond to Veronica so he just fumed past her shaking his head. He remembered seeing a look of deep sorrow and concern come across her face as he closed his office doors and lock them behind him.

With his memory now making a complete circle, he again remembered sitting in his office chair and looking at the Washington Monument when he heard Veronica yelling and screaming. The exact words she uttered were unintelligible, at least right up until he heard the sound of gun fire and her agonizing voice scream, “NO!”

He now plainly remembered jumping to his feet and rushing to his office doors just as a bullet burst through them, striking him in the chest and then another slamming into his face, knocking him to the floor. Luckily, the old and very heavy mahogany doors of his office, stripped the mortal velocity from the slugs as they sent dagger-like splinters across the room, leaving him bleeding and bruised but alive. He remembered hearing several more shots fired and he correctly assumed that they were fired by the building security guards.

The next thing he remembered was silence. It was the silence that was the most painful of all the events he could remember, even more than the crushing pains in his chest that seemed to intensify with every breath.  Every second of silence seared deeper and deeper into his soul since more than anything in that moment, even more than his own life, he plead to hear Veronica’s voice—but there was nothing.

“Stay with us Senator, help is on its way. Stay with us!” came the voice again outside his doors followed by more pounding as the Capital security guards tried to force their way into the room.

Staggering to his feet, Gus stumbled across his office to open the doors, afraid of what he would find. With every step, he pleaded to hear Veronica’s voice and his heart pounded with apprehension of seeing the unthinkable after he open the doors. With what little strength he had, he grabbed the lock firmly and turned it. It took all his strength to twist the lever but at last, he heard the deadbolt click backwards. Gus then stepped away as the security guards turned the knob and slowly opened the door telling Gus to stand back.

As one of the doors slowly opened, he saw that the outer office was still heavy with gun smoke and he coughed, cringing again in pain. He leaned against the door that was still closed and swallowed hard, gathering the strength to look down. His pulse was racing with mortal dread as he was about to confirm with his eyes what his heart already knew. He forced his head and eyes downward and there at the threshold was Veronica’s crumpled, lifeless body in a growing pool of blood—her eyes staring into nothingness.

It was obvious that she had tried to stop the gunman from entering his office and when she could not deter him, she placed herself between her boss and the gunman. The two bullets that had knocked him to the floor had first passed through her body at point-blank range, brutally ripping her tender body apart. Sobbing, Gus fell to his knees and picked up her lifeless body and cradled her in his arms. With a shaking hand, he brushed back the blood-filled hair from her youthful face and began to weep.

The light from her face was gone and though he had not yet felt for a pulse, he already knew he was holding a corpse. Hoping for some kind of miracle, he felt her neck for a pulse, and waited, tried again, and again–nothing. Her eyes were still painfully wide open and he gently placed his hand on her eyelids and held them fast until her muscles relaxed so they would remain shut. In that moment of utter despair, he felt an infinite determination sweep through him and a youthful power of heart that had long since left his tired old body. Involuntarily, but rising up from the sincere desires of his heart, he whispered to her soul like a prayer and said out loud, “Please live!”

Gus’s wounded and mentally tormented body convulsed as he sobbed out loud. For several long minutes, he held her in his arms, rocking back and forth. His heart was rent and his bitter sorrow complete. In his grief, he didn’t notice the paramedics enter the room and they apprehensively urged him to let them attend to his wounds. He was bleeding profusely as was very evident from his blood-soaked shirt and pants but he refused to release Veronica. Groaning even louder, he held her body more tightly as if to force his life into hers and he wailed, “These bullets were mine! They were meant for me!”

What little strength he possessed now entirely left him and he slumped down from a kneeling position and sat in the blood pool that surrounded them both, Veronica’s head still in his lap. Just then, he then thought he felt Veronica’s head move but he quickly determined that he was only wishing it were so—or was he.

Then unmistakably, Veronica’s head began to shake slowly from under the touch of Gus’s hand, which was still covering her closed eyes. In complete shock he quickly removed his hand as she struggled in an effort to sit up, gasping and coughing up the blood that had drained into her lungs. Life and light returned to her face and she opened her eyes. Looking up at Gus, she tried to smile in her old familiar way, the way she always did when she first greeted Gus in the mornings, but in her revived confusion and the mortal disorientation of the moment, all she could say was, “There is a man here to see you Senator.”

The End

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