Authors: Michael R. Hicks
REAPING THE HARVEST
(Harvest Trilogy, Book 3)
Michael R. Hicks
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
REAPING THE HARVEST (HARVEST TRILOGY, BOOK 3)
Copyright © 2013 by Imperial Guard Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Published by Imperial Guard Publishing
I’d like to thank the usual cast of shady characters who helped me get this book off the ground, starting with the editors who spattered the manuscript with red ink: Mindy Schwartz, Stephanie Hansen, and Frode Hauge. I have to give Frode an extra round of thanks for being especially rough on me this time and shaming me into doing more serious revisions than I would have done otherwise. The beta readers, those poor souls, also certainly deserve a round of applause, so please make some noise for Jodi, Robert, Arthur, Krissy, Jenn, and Eri.
I also want to thank to my dad, who’s always been there for me, and was a huge help in figuring out some of the things that Naomi Perrault, the main heroine of the story, had to do (no spoilers!).
To my wife, Jan, my “alpha reader,” thank you for believing in me, and for keeping me from wandering down blind alleys in the story line.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank you, dear reader, for your patronage and support. Your interest in reading my work has transformed my life.
Season Of The Harvest
, the first book of the
trilogy, as sort of a parable about the potential dangers of the proliferation of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, found in our food supply.
In late 2010, when I was writing the first draft of the book, the huge biotech companies developing and marketing GMO crops for annual multi-billion dollar profits seemed no less powerful and no more scrupulous than alien invaders bent on humanity’s destruction. The biotech lobbyists owned both the White House and Congress, the government agencies responsible for food safety rubber stamped the safety evaluations that were produced by the companies that created the products, farmers were relentlessly harassed and sued for patent infringement if any GMO seed that they hadn’t purchased sprouted in their fields, and American food labeling laws forbade manufacturers from informing consumers that the food they were eating contained GMOs.
But the times, as the old song by Bob Dylan goes, they are a-changin’. As I write this in late 2013, the tide here in the U.S., which lags behind much of the rest of the world in terms of consumer protection, is beginning to turn. Under pressure from a variety of organizations and individual citizens, a small but growing number of municipalities and states are seriously considering or have already implemented restrictions or bans on GMO crops. While the Federal Government hasn’t put forth any changes in labeling laws, more and more food products bearing the label “GMO-free” (or something similar) are appearing on stores shelves, joining their organic cousins. Best of all, a rapidly growing number of consumers are becoming more educated about their food, GMOs in particular, and making more informed choices about what they buy.
Looking beyond the United States, much of the European Union has either banned GMOs or put them under severe restrictions. Russia is considering a total GMO ban. A number of Asian countries, notably China, Japan, and Thailand, have restrictions on such foods, and GMOs are banned or restricted in a number of other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, and Brazil. Most recently, and in a huge blow to the biotech industry, Mexico has banned Monsanto’s GMO corn in the wake of a momentous court ruling.
These bans and restrictions bring me to a very important point that some readers and reviewers have pinged on in the past. I actually support
genetics research and product application. While my parable on GMOs is intended to get readers to think about the potential dangers, there are also many potential positive applications of this technology.
But the key word is
. In the United States, the government has abrogated its responsibilities to safeguard the food supply of its citizens. The biotech companies do the safety testing of their own products, then pass the positive (big surprise) results to the appropriate government agency (the Food and Drug Administration, in particular), which then approves it for sale and distribution. On top of that, a number of key officials in these agencies over the years have been former executives or employees of the biotech firms.
In short, GMO products in the United States do not receive a critical safety evaluation from an unbiased party before they appear on store shelves. This is compounded by the aforementioned labeling laws that prevent food manufacturers from telling consumers that a product contains GMOs. One of the rationales I’ve heard for this is that since nearly everything that isn’t organic or labeled GMO-free contains GMOs, there’s no point in labeling them. Tell me that’s not self-serving logic.
While much is left to be done to harness this technology in a safe and responsible manner, I think we’ve reached, or are at least close to, the tipping point. Consumer pressure is working, with people voting with their wallets in grocery stores and advocacy groups forcing legislative changes in local and even state governments, despite millions of dollars in advertising by the biotech companies to defeat these campaigns. These changes aren’t fast or easy, but they’re working, and every little step counts.
Someday I hope that even Washington, D.C. will wake up and take notice.
Jack Dawson blinked his eyes open. The world around him was white, blurry. A soft, rhythmic electronic beep kept time with his heartbeat, and there was a dull ache in his right arm, just below the crook of the elbow. He took in a ragged gasp of air, which smelled of alcohol and antiseptic, along with a sweeter smell. From the corner of his eye, he saw a bouquet of yellow and white flowers on a stand beside him.
A face leaned down. He didn’t recognize her, but she had a familiar accent. “Mr. Dawson, can you hear me?”
He nodded. His tongue was a flap of dry leather that he had to pry from the roof of his mouth. “Where am I?”
She smiled. “You are in Bodø. Now hold still for a moment, please.” She shone a pen light in each of his eyes, making him blink. “Very good. You had us worried for a little while.” She looked up and said to a figure standing beside her, “He seems to be all right, but go easy. If you need me, I’ll be right outside.”
“Thank you,” the other person said.
Jack recognized the voice. The man’s face came closer, finally snapping into focus. “Terje?”
Terje Halvorsen, a
in the Norwegian Army, smiled. “So, you remember me?” His smile faded. “We were beginning to wonder about you, my friend. Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to jump from airplanes without a parachute?”
That brought on a kaleidoscopic jumble of memories that flashed through Jack’s mind. The beeping on the heart rate monitor quickened as he remembered the battle of Ulan-Erg, where Pavel Rudenko had hurled himself into a mass of battling harvesters and soldiers, a pair of white phosphorus grenades in his hands, sacrificing himself to save Jack and Sergei Mikhailov. The city of Elista, burning in the night as harvesters slaughtered the unsuspecting people there. The long journey in the old biplane across the frozen expanse of Russia, only to discover that their pilot, a young woman named Khatuna, was herself a harvester. Sergei Mikhailov, badly wounded, grappling with the Khatuna-thing, buying time for Jack to escape. Leaping from the plane without a parachute. The fire and heat, the shock wave as the plane exploded above him when it was hit by an air to air missile. The wearying trek across the snow in a hopeless attempt to reach the Norwegian border. Ghosts emerging from the trees, the men of a Norwegian Special Forces team who had come to rescue him.
“You’re all right.” Terje took Jack’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You’re safe, for the moment, at least. Here, drink this.” He held out a small plastic cup of water with a bent straw in it.
As Jack sipped the water, Terje introduced the others in the room. They came to stand beside the bed.
“This is Walter Cullen,” Terje said, “from your embassy.”
Cullen was a rail-thin African-American with close-cropped graying hair who stood half a head taller than Terje. He smiled as he extended a bony hand. Jack took it gingerly, careful not to squeeze hard. “A pleasure, Mr. Dawson. I’m Ambassador Cordwainer’s Chief of Staff.” Cullen had a high reedy voice. “The Ambassador would have come in person, but was detained by a last minute call from the Secretary of State. As you can imagine, your little adventure caused quite a stir in these parts, but that’s largely been forgotten in the light of subsequent events.”
The other visitor was a woman. In her early fifties, she had sandy blond hair that was just showing the first traces of gray. Her round face was smiling, but her makeup couldn’t disguise the exhaustion in her eyes.
“This is Inghild Morgensen,” Terje said, “our Minister of Defense.”
“Mr. Dawson,” she said in a silky voice that held an edge of steel. “Welcome to Norway, for the second time, I believe.” She cocked her head slightly. “Could you perhaps arrange for there not to be a world crisis the next time you visit? It’s becoming a bit of a bother.”
They all shared a laugh at that. Jack’s first visit to Norwegian territory had been to Spitsbergen a year before. He and a team from the Earth Defense Society had flown there to protect the Svalbard Seed Vault. They had walked right into the middle of a battle between the Russians and the Norwegians, spurred on by a group of harvesters intent on destroying the vault.
“I’ll try my best, ma’am. You have my word on that.”
,” Morgensen said to Terje, “why don’t you update him on what has happened, then we can proceed from there.” She looked up to Cullen. “Unless, of course, you have something you would like to add first?”
Cullen shook his head and gestured for Terje to begin.
“Wait,” Jack said to his friend. “There’s something I need to tell you.” Jack set the now empty cup of water on the stand beside the flowers. “Mikhailov and Rudenko are both dead. And the woman who was piloting the plane I was in turned out to be a harvester. I know she survived the crash. The Russians might have found her. They have to be warned.”
Terje glanced at Morgensen, his expression grim. “I am sorry to hear about our Russian friends, Jack. They were good men. But the harvester who was flying your plane is the least of our problems. Things are truly going to hell, and we need to get you on your feet as fast as we can.”
“How long have I been out?”
“Five days,” Terje said. “You had a serious concussion after the fall from the plane. The team that we sent to find you had to dodge Russian patrols for two days before they could get you back across the border near Melkefoss, and as soon as you were stabilized we flew you here to Bodø. By that time, you were suffering from hypothermia and exposure, in addition to the concussion.”
“We would have let you rest longer,” Morgensen added, “but things are deteriorating quickly. We need you back on your feet.”