Authors: L. K. Rigel
Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction
Samael’s Fire (Apocalypto 1)
Formerly titled: Space Junque
Published by L.K. Rigel
Copyright 2010 L.K. Rigel
Anne Frasier/Theresa Weir
Cover art by Phatpuppy
Cover design by eyemaidthis
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All Rights Are Reserved. With the exception of fair use excerpts for reviews and critical articles, no part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
The DOGs want to destroy the world. The gods want to make a new one. The trick is to survive both.
At the end of the 21st century, civilization is at the brink of collapse. When hydroponics agronomist Char Meadowlark is warned of an impending attack by the eco-terrorist group Defenders of Gaia, she flees to the airport hoping to get off planet. The DOGs strike in the midst of Char’s escape, and pilot Jake Ardri offers her only hope of survival. He takes her to the orbiting Imperial Space Station, the seat of world government.
When the conflict goes global and the planet threatens to implode, ancient gods return to take control of humanity and impose a new world order. Char and Jake are caught up in a divine plan to save the world - but first they have to get through the apocalypse alive.
Table of Contents
Ghosts would stay off the roads. Why risk an encounter with Homeland Security? But when Char Meadowlark floored the Malibu, their heads popped up all over the fields along Baseline Road.
Don’t hit anybody. Don’t hit anybody. Don’t hit anybody.
By the time any of them realized she wasn’t IHS, she’d be out of range even if one had a vehicle. She just hoped some ghost kid didn’t wander out in front of her.
She kept her eyes on the road and off the stretch of putrid fields condemned by the EPA. While the corporate owners appealed court orders to clean the site, the tainted rice and flax had become home to ghosts and vermin and great white herons. It was said the fields were so polluted that raptors wouldn’t hunt here.
Not that Char believed that stuff about raptors.
At the train tracks a heron perched on the listing stop sign. No train would come—ZoneTrak had abandoned this route years ago—but out of habit she slowed. The bird stared at her like a judge. It seemed to disapprove of her classic 2031 Chevy. Yeah, its oil-based fuel system was embarrassing, but Char had plenty of carbon credits. Since Mike had sent her the car, she never went anywhere.
Besides, she had to make the launch. She had no other way to get to the airport. She floored the gas pedal and left the bird behind. The surge from the Malibu’s engine felt good. There was a kind of primal satisfaction in driving all that power.
Smoke billowed up from downtown Sacramento, black on gray rising into the orange afternoon sky. She slid the zoom on her sunglasses’ camera and projected the image onto the windshield. 801 K Street was burning, flames shooting through smoke on the top floors.
Mike had better be right that the launch was secure.
It’s Sacramento, Char.
The DOGs have higher priority targets.
Maybe the fire at K Street was just another maintenance issue. It was highly possible. The old capital city had gone to hell since the Imperial Congress abolished California and the other state governments.
On Interzone-5 she raced past a few CitiCars in the commuter lane, twenty-miles an hour over the speed limit. She risked nothing but the psychic wrath of her eco-betters. No cops gave tickets anymore. Waste of personnel.
Get to the terminal and don’t bother parking. Just leave your car on the street. Go to the shuttle boarding gate. You’re on the list.
Mike was being overdramatic when he demanded she come up to the space station for a visit. Now. Today. He was just trying to scare her out of the cocoon she’d crawled into after what happened to Brandon. And Sky’s sacrifice.
Well, it was working.
She pulled in behind a white CitiCar full of people at the checkpoint line. The airport was guarded by Imperial Homeland Security. No enviros got past them, not even the DOGs. At the gate, two cars waited ahead of her. While a guard chatted with the first driver, more vehicles pulled up behind. Not all CitiCars, either. There were some expensive machines on the road today. Probably because the Imperial Shuttle was here today, but Mike had seemed more tense than usual. Less diplomatic.
She checked the time and chuckled at the thought. Mike’s whole existence was centered on being diplomatic. Forty minutes to launch. Cutting it close, but he’d had the ID he sent would put her in the terminal’s express queue.
The chat at the head of the line suddenly grew louder and disintegrated into an argument. The guard’s window slid down, and an alarm started blasting intermittently. IHS poured out of the guard shack and surrounded the vehicle with weapons drawn, officers screaming at the occupants to get out.
It was as if the world stopped and the only sounds were screaming IHS and that blasted alarm.
The car in front of Char pulled out of line and drove away. Two more behind her followed. Everybody hated IHS. No one was entirely clean in their eyes, not if they wanted to see some dirt. She had the urge to leave too, despite being such an upstanding citizen. Hell, at university, she and her sister had both won Imperial internships. People called them the hydro twins. Sky was a hydropower engineer and Char a hydroponics agronomist.
IHS didn’t care about that. Everybody was a potential person of interest. The doors opened on the car they’d surrounded, and at last they shut up. i
Cripes. Ghosts got out. What possibly made them think they could pass? These must be new if they still had the will to mix in society, but even the kids were just skin and bones. Poor things.
On IHS recommendation ghosts had been declared anathema by Imperial decree. Rights advocates argued that ghosting was not a disease but a mutation, and therefore ghosts weren’t contagious. Their theory: after exposure to a critical level of toxicity, the ghosting gene switched on and a person became pathologically apathetic.
Ghosts didn’t eat, didn’t work or sing or play. Didn’t make love. No one knew why they didn’t die of starvation.
The officers took the ghosts away. One moved their car, and another motioned Char forward. The guard window slid up again, and Char showed the ID card Mike emailed half an hour ago.
“Sorry you were delayed, ma’am.” The guard smiled pleasantly and waved her through to the airport gate. As it opened, she let out her breath and cruised onto the airport loop.
Cars and buses were parked at haphazard angles all over the road, more of them the closer she got to the terminals. Two hundred yards from the buildings, she abandoned the Malibu.
She slung her backpack over one shoulder. The world might implode, but she’d have a toothbrush and fresh underwear. She zipped her ID into her flight pants.
The comfortable loose pants with multiple zippered pockets on the legs had come into fashion when Vacation Station opened to civilians. Char never thought she’d wear them on an actual flight. Too bad her top was a spandex tube with a single strap, not at all proper for the Imperial Shuttle, but Mike had said to waste no time, not even to change clothes.
A sickly blend of excitement and nausea swept over her. Of course she wouldn’t see the car again. It would be stolen as soon as things calmed down a bit, well before she got back. But she
coming back, was she?
It was the ghosts. There were so many in the fields this time. Too many. The Pacific Zone must be headed for quarantine.
That was it
, and Mike knew it. He couldn’t breach security by telling her, but he could invite her up then send her to a clean zone when she returned to the planet surface.
Despite all his pomp, he was a good guy. The best. He’d really watched out for her since Sky was lost. If only Sky had married Mike when he asked. They might have lived together. Sky would be up there above the clouds today instead of buried half a mile below ground.
Char set the Malibu’s admin program to ANY DRIVER and left the carbon credit voucher in the glove box. There was still gas in the tank. Someone who couldn’t catch a flight might use it to get somewhere safe.
. As if the word meant something.
At the terminal sidewalk the crackle of ack-ack filled the sky. Everybody looked up. A private jet without greenlights made it through the smoke of tiny explosions outside the airport’s perimeter. Enviros must have set up an anti-aircraft battery out there.
Not DOGs. Please, not DOGs.
Char passed through the sliding doors into the main terminal building where the cool air buzzed with the low hum of impending hysteria. All the television monitors showed the burning K Street building, zooming onto the flames over and over on a loop, spliced with random scenes of mayhem and
War on Terra
in the crawl.
Nothing unusual in that, but the talking heads did seem more breathless than usual, authentically excited. Something different was happening. Real news.
“The DOGs call themselves radical environmentalists,” the news anchor said to a familiar expert. “But every day they destroy another little piece of the planet. Don’t they, Don?”
“DOG stands for Defenders of Gaia, Nancy. So yes, it is an ironic name. They believe the only way to save Gaia, as they call the earth, is to wipe out the technology which they posit is destroying her.”
Right. To save the village you have to destroy the village.
The Imperial boarding gate was on the mezzanine. Char got on the escalator behind a woman with a small boy who repeatedly jumped up and down though the woman kept telling him to stop.
. Char was getting a headache, either from stress or lack of caffeine.