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    C James
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Changing Lanes - 39. Zeus Triumphant

Chapter 39: Zeus Triumphant




The shouted questions at last subsided, and General Bradson was able to launch into his speech. He gave the reporters a slightly abbreviated but detailed account of the mission to Iran, omitting only Bill’s part, and the fact that he had acted without authorization or approval from Washington. He wrapped up the story of the mission by announcing that Earl Johnson and Brian Bradson had been rescued. The General also told of Instinct’s role as brokers to get the bombs out of the hands of the mercenaries and Felecia’s help in facilitating the deal.

Up until that point in his speech, General Bradson had kept to things he’d discussed with Helen. Reaching that critical point, General Bradson put his own plan into action, much to Helen’s surprise. “One item I have not addressed but will now. I had more than the obvious reasons for targeting Iran’s largest refineries. I wanted to make sure that what happened to my son and Private Johnson could never happen again. Iran’s regime needed to pay a heavy price. They have, but only a small taste; I targeted the refineries because I wanted to change Iran’s government.

“Iran is in a unique situation. They are one of the top oil-exporting nations, sitting atop a veritable sea of petroleum. Yet, almost incomprehensibly, they import around a quarter of their gasoline. They do so because they lack the refining capacity to meet their domestic needs. Iran’s regime is solely responsible for this situation. They will not invest in the refining capacity needed. Instead, though possessing vast petroleum reserves, they claim they need a nuclear program, ostensibly to make them self-sufficient in the production of nuclear power. This absurdity has gone largely unchallenged. People ignore the glaring fact that while Iran possesses vast reserves of oil, it has no known viable uranium deposits – They claim to have uranium mines yet they import all of the uranium for their nuclear program – thus making their claims of seeking self-sufficiency not only false but also impossible. The real reason for their nuclear program is to develop nuclear weapons and this fact has been glaringly obvious all along.

“The response of the world to this situation is and has been pathetic. U.N. resolutions are passed, and a great deal of hot air is vented, but nothing meaningful gets done. Iran breaks promise after promise – surely laughing at our fecklessness and gullibility – and receives nothing more than harshly worded memos, if that. Largely, the world turns a blind eye to the growing threat, preferring to do nothing and leave the problem to tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has come a little early. The Iranians were further along than most anyone had suspected. We have captured four operational nuclear warheads. We used one to destroy a massive underground nuclear facility northwest of Kerman. I don’t know how many Iran had, or still has.

“All along, my plan was to bring down Iran’s regime. At first, this was because of what they have done in the past. They’ve been the number one terror-supporting nation for three decades, costing countless lives. They brutally repress their own people. This may come as a surprise to many, but their domestic situation was already precarious. Several times, their people have come close to overthrowing the tyrants, each time due to massive food and fuel shortages. In that, I saw an opportunity to free Iran and its people from the tyranny of the fanatics of the Guardian Council. That’s why I took out the refineries: they now face a massive shortage, and I’d like to see them try to explain to their people why. They can’t. They squandered the money needed for the refineries on their nuclear program. Their country will now pay the price for their misdeeds, and the mullahs of the Guardian Council must now explain to their people what they have done. What I propose is simple; a gasoline embargo until their regime is overthrown. If we prevent Iran from importing gasoline, their regime will fall; it’s as simple as that. It will not be easy and it will mean temporary hardships for the innocent civilian populace, but it is necessary and we have little choice. Their facility at Kerman has been destroyed, but that was but one part of their program. Extensive nuclear facilities remain intact at Nantaz, Isfahan, Arak, Bushehr, Bonab, Ramsar, and likely in other locations as well. Removing the regime that has done this is the only way to ensure that their nuclear capability is forever defused. We simply cannot allow, and were criminally negligent in allowing in the first place, a terrorist regime to possess nuclear weaponry. I hereby call on the governments of the world, in cooperation with the United States, to blockade Iran to put this into effect.”

Helen’s jaw, which had been hanging open, snapped shut. She stifled the urge to glare at the General. Her anger was due to the fact he’d sprung a surprise of such magnitude on her. Then, she recalled the way she’d done similar to him by moving the warheads. After simmering down a bit, she decided that as long as the General’s plan didn’t hinder Instinct getting its money back, she wouldn’t oppose it.

The roar of the reporters crying out their questions drowned out the General for over a minute. Then, he was able to answer the first question, one he’d hoped would be asked. “Yes, the U.S. Government is aware of much of this. For example, by now they know of the nuclear blast in Iran. The seismic and air sample data confirm its occurrence. They have also seen the destruction of the oil refineries. Everything I have said can easily be confirmed.” With those words, General Bradson was making a colossal mistake.

The problem was simple: Bill had kicked off a look at the seismic data. The response had been fast; the only event at Kerman showed the more gradual energy release typical of an earthquake, not the brief but intense single pulse characteristic of an underground nuclear blast. This was due to the secondary fission event in the uranium hexafluoride that generated an additional five kilotons. That secondary detonation had been enough to alter the seismic signal. Some radioactive particles had indeed escaped into the air, but they had not yet had time to drift out of Iranian airspace, and for that reason, had yet to be detected. As far as the U.S. Government knew, no nuclear detonation had occurred.

Thinking that all had gone well, Helen took the stage to say, “Instinct and I were proud to act as go-betweens. We did so in the knowledge and trust that the U.S. Government would reimburse us. We seek no profit, no gain. We did this solely to protect countless innocent lives. We will turn over the warheads immediately upon being reimbursed.” Helen was savvy enough to discern that the reporters were skeptical. She’d expected as much. “Ladies and gentlemen, if any of you have the technical knowledge to confirm that what we possess are nuclear warheads, we would be delighted to arrange an inspection, late this afternoon. I assure you, we want those bombs to be taken off our hands just as soon as it can be arranged.”

Helen saw several raise their hands, fewer than she’d hoped. She had little doubt that they were unqualified and just wanted in on the story. Still, she thought this was her best option and hoped that whatever expertise they possessed – she assumed that reporters covering a volcanic eruption would likely have a higher than average knowledge of science – along with some digital photos of a bomb’s interior, would suffice. Helen felt sure that it would, based on her belief that the U.S. Government was by now fully aware of the nuclear detonation in Iran. Smiling at the volunteers, she ushered them aside and said, “You’ll need your own vehicles, we’re a little short on transportation. We’ll be ready to leave shortly and lead you a few miles, to where you’ll be able to examine a nuclear warhead. Unless you want someone else to scoop you, keep quiet on the fact we’re letting you see the bomb early.” Helen wasn’t too concerned. By her reasoning, even if the local authorities found out and seized the bomb, that would only result in verification of her claims.



Felecia and Brian arrived in the small pickup truck minutes later, bearing the General’s satellite phone. Helen hustled Brian onto the stage, where General Bradson introduced him. Several of the gathered reporters cast sideways glances at Brian’s clothes; he was still wearing the loud boardshorts and T-shirt Keith had given him, and looked decidedly unmilitary. Most of the reporters were skeptical as to Brian’s identity and the story in general.

A fast call to Bill gave General Bradson the unwelcome news, just a little too late: there was no seismic data indicating a nuclear blast. What Bill had to say next was even more ominous. “General, you have a problem, a big one. A bunch of REMFs from foggy bottom watched your press conference.” Bill, like many of the frontline people in the intel services, had no love for the State Department, and habitually called them REMFs – Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers – and called the State Department itself ‘Foggy Bottom’, or worse. “They didn’t like what you had to say about blockading Iran. They’re part and parcel of the clique that hung their hats on so-called ‘diplomatic engagement’ and what can only be called appeasement as a way to deal with Iran. As we say, they’re invested to hell and gone in their current policies, as is the administration. These are the same people who thought it would be a great idea to leave two Marines to die in Iran. They didn’t want to offend the bastards over there, I guess, and letting our guys die was the easiest way out of a potential minor kafuffle. Anyway, here’s the situation; they’re going to call you a renegade, a criminal, every name in the book for what you did over there. Sure as hell, they’ll put a warrant out for your arrest. You’ll also see your nuclear story denounced as a lie.”

General Bradson’s blood ran cold at the news. “Oh, shit. That means the loan I arranged for the weapons–”

“You got that right,” Bill interrupted to say. “No chance in hell on that. What’s more, they see you and the band as partners, so there’ll be more adverse fallout. Another facet here is everyone is stressed out over the tsunami warning. That threat is something the government can’t do a damn thing about and they don’t like that. Makes ‘em look ineffectual and I guess the truth hurts. So, you and Instinct might have just offered yourselves up for a convenient distraction. They’ll move fast on this, they always do when covering their asses. I’m expecting to see an announcement of some kind within the hour and I doubt you’ll like it.”

General Bradson was about to reply but fell silent as he realized he had no idea what to say or do. He realized, too late, that he’d predicated his plan on too many assumptions, and that two critical ones had proven false. Straightening his back, he told Bill, “Keep me posted. This is far from over.”

Once that call ended, the General faced the prospect of telling Helen. Seeing that she was busy with the reporters, he decided to wait until they were en route to the resort.

Helen took Brian and Felecia aside at the first opportunity and asked in a whisper, “How did things go with the third device?”

Felecia smiled as she replied, “Perfectly. The funds were confirmed so we handed it over. It’s with Jim and Linda, guarded by Private Johnson. They didn’t say where they were going – no reason for them to tell me, of course – but they left when I did. I’m sure it’s wherever you directed them to take it, by now.” Brian nodded, confirming Felecia’s words to Helen.

“Excellent,” Helen said, and then turned to the reporters who had volunteered. “Follow me. We’re going now.”

Helen drove the Jetta, heading for the gas station two miles to the south, where she’d arranged to rendezvous with Jim. Felecia and Brian followed in the pickup, which had developed an ominous rumble in its engine.

The small convoy arrived at the service station, to the puzzlement of its owner, who was packing up to move to higher ground. While everyone was clambering out of the vehicles, Helen checked her watch, thinking that Jim, driving slower than Felecia, should be arriving at any minute with the bomb.

Ambling over to the agitated group of reporters, Helen said, “The bomb should be here any minute. All I ask is that you give an honest account of what you’re about to see.” Suddenly realizing that there could be a big problem, Helen turned to General Bradson to ask, “We do have a way of opening the thing up, don’t we? They’ll need to look inside or all they’ll see is a big fat cylinder.”

General Bradson turned to yell at the reporters. “Do any of you have a tool kit?”

After a quick look in their vehicles, two of the reporters produced small emergency kits. Snatching one open, General Bradson found a selection of interchangeable heads, and found that it included a selection of hex heads. With a relieved smile – he hadn’t thought of bringing tools – he said, “The access hatch is secured by hex nuts, this will work.”

The minutes passed, and while General Bradson chatted with the reporters, Helen grew agitated, continually checking her watch. A quarter of an hour later, she asked Felecia, “You’re sure they left when you did?” Felecia’s nod did nothing to ease Helen’s mind.

With the volcanic story to cover, the reporter’s patience soon began to wear out, and several left, in spite of Helen’s repeated assurances that the bomb would be there any minute. One reporter, climbing into his car, gave Helen a disgusted look. Another haughtily demanded the return of his tool kit.

Long, awkward minutes followed. Helen stood at the road’s edge, looking south. The windswept landscape, here unmarred by ash, was spoiled only by the ominous, looming bulk of Cumbre Vieja in the far distance.

So far, only the eastern side of the island had been beset by the clogging ash. The western coast, from where Helen stood all the way to the resort, was still almost completely free of ash, having been spared by the prevailing winds.

As the last of the reporters began to leave, Helen pulled General Bradson aside and, after a moment’s hesitation before realizing she had no choice, Felecia. When they had some privacy due to distance, she said, “Something must have gone wrong. Jim would have been here by now, even if he took some wrong turns. Maybe the truck broke down and he’s stuck. Felecia, could you take the pickup and retrace your route to see if you can find them?” Helen was about to tell Felecia to call her if she found anything, when she realized that, yet again, they were hindered by the failing phone system and having only one working satellite phone. The sound of a one-sided conversation intruded on Helen’s thoughts, and without another word, she stalked off in its direction.

Helen saw the reporter, sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, notebook in his lap, and a phone held to his shoulder by his head. Due to the fact it was working, and confirmed by a quick glance at its distinctive protruding antenna, Helen knew she’d found what she needed. Reaching in the open window, she snatched the satellite phone from the reporter and said, “I need to borrow this, it’s an emergency.”

Seeing a tool of his livelihood taken away, the reporter yelled, “You can’t do that–”

“I already have. Here’s the deal; I only need it for a few hours. In return, I guarantee you an exclusive on the next big Instinct story, or whatever you want. Deal?” Helen had no qualms about simply taking the phone, but she didn’t want the reporter to cut off the account.

Seeing that he wasn’t going to get his phone back, and tempted by the offer of an exclusive, the reporter made a virtue of necessity and reluctantly agreed. The story he had in mind was how and why Instinct had seen fit to try a tacky PR stunt, set against what was shaping up to be the biggest natural disaster in human history.

Helen wasn’t quite done. “Write down the number and hand it to me,” she demanded.

“In for a penny, in for a pound, just be sure you keep your bargain,” the reporter said with a resigned sigh, and did as he’d been told. With her prize in her hands, Helen returned to the General and Felecia. “We now have two working phones. Felecia, you take this one. I’ve got the number. Keep me posted.”

“Brian, go with Fel,” General Bradson ordered.

As Brian and Felecia drove off in the pickup truck, Helen, the General, Brandon, and Chase piled into the Jetta. As Helen pulled out, heading for the resort, she said, “I hope Jim and Linda are okay. They’re probably just broken down somewhere due to the ash, but considering what they’re carrying, I don’t like this – not one bit. As a practical matter, their no-show also shot our credibility to hell with those reporters. I just hope the news is out regarding the nuke in Iran, that’s the only solid verification we have at the moment.”

General Bradson, sitting in the passenger seat, gazed out the window for a moment. Deciding that he might as well get it over with, he shared what Bill had told him.

Helen was furious. Her voice rising and dripping venom, she said, “General, you gave me your word. Now, my boys and I are out thirty million and stuck with three atomic bombs. There’s also the little matter of the volcano; if it wasn’t for this mess, we would probably be on safe ground by now.”

Nodding somberly, General Bradson replied, “I’ll keep my word, no matter what it takes. Worst comes to worst, we’ll grab a couple of fishing boats, one for some reporters, one for a nuke, and give a private nuclear test offshore. That’ll prove our case to everyone. There’s also the matter of air samples. My contact said that the radioactive gases from the Iranian blast should be clearing Iran’s eastern boarder any time now, and that’ll be detected, giving us proof. This’ll still work, just not as fast as we’d hoped.”

Helen was far from convinced. “General, it had better. Now, and I mean right the fuck now, I want you on your phone to Washington. Talk to your friend, talk to the government, but get to work on this. Get them moving.”

Knowing that it would likely be futile, the General did as he’d been asked. Half an hour later, he had to tell Helen, “There was a press briefing about the volcano a short while ago, and a reporter asked a question about us. It was answered. The long and the short of it is they’ve put a warrant out for my arrest for raising a mercenary army and crossing international borders with it. There’s more; the State Department has denounced our press conference as a sick publicity stunt during a national emergency, and hinted that you and Instinct may face charges for trying to extort money from the government.”

“My, that went well,” Helen said icily. “I take it the air samples haven’t come in yet?”

The General shook his head. “There was a reconnaissance flight, but it hadn’t landed yet, and samples take a while to process. My friend thinks it’ll hit sometime today, but no promises.”

“Just great. Well, that means we can’t expect the government to get us out of here, so we’ll have to go with your plan. Let’s get back to the resort and load everyone into the van. Between it and this car, we should all fit, but it’ll be tight as hell.”

That bit of news surprised the General. “How many people in your party? I thought it was just you and the band, plus two or three others?”

Helen snorted. “Not hardly. We were here for Brandon and Chase’s wedding. There are over twenty guests, mainly from the crew but including the Carlisle boys’ mother. None of them knows anything about the bombs, you, or Felecia and her troops. I guess they know by now though, if they were watching the news.” With a cold shudder, Helen realized that she was responsible for the lives of thirty people, all of whom were in imminent peril.

General Bradson considered the implications for a moment. “The C-130 will handle them, Fel’s troops, plus the bombs if need be, but I’d rather leave those wherever you have them hidden. I don’t want to tempt her men with them. There’s also the issue of takeoff weight; with those bombs on board, takeoff would require an extra couple of hundred feet, which we may not have.”

Helen found herself in a dilemma, and voiced it. “If the volcano blows like they say it will, the two bombs I have hidden are gone. That means the only chance I’ll have to recover the money, and our reputations, will be the third bomb. General, that money is critical to me. I committed almost my entire net worth, plus a few million each from the boys, to this. That’s my life savings, my retirement, everything, and the boys would be hurt as well. There’s also the issue of clearing our names, and it looks like we’ll need the bombs to do that. I will not tolerate seeing us dragged through the mud,” Helen said, assuming that evacuating their party from the resort and moving them to the relative safety of the eastern side of the island would be an easy matter.

General Bradson understood the problem. What he couldn’t see was an easy solution. “All I can think of is we take one bomb with us when we fly out, and move the other two to a safe hiding place on the east side of the island.”

“I guess that’ll have to do, if it comes to that,” Helen said, in a far from pleasant tone.

In the back seat, Brandon and Chase had listened to the exchange in anxious silence. Brandon’s hand found Chase’s and Brandon said, “This isn’t exactly how I’d pictured our first days of married life going.”

And maybe these days are our last,’ Chase thought, but didn’t give it voice. He didn’t need to; they were all thinking the same thing.



While Jon was having breakfast with Jane at the resort, Eric, Jansen, and Keith sat in front of the TV, flipping channels. “Damn cable is out again,” Eric grumbled, frustrated that he couldn’t watch the news conference and having no way of knowing that he’d missed the news about the volcano.

“Maybe the front desk has news, a working TV, or a radio,” Keith suggested, and led the way to the front desk, where the three guys learned that the resort staff was just as much in the dark as they were. On their way back to Jansen and Keith’s suite, Eric stopped, a thoughtful look on his face. “Cars have radios and those sure as hell don’t need cable.”

“Too bad you had to give that little Mercedes back,” Jansen said.

Still smiling, Eric turned towards the restaurant and as he set off at a brisk pace said, “Follow me. Jon has the keys to the van and the van has a radio. He’s at the restaurant having breakfast with Mom.”

Wondering how Eric planned to get the keys without tipping off his volatile mother, Jansen and Keith followed, staying a few paces behind as they entered the restaurant.

Eric spotted Jon and his mother, and sauntered up, smiling. “Hi,” he said to them both in a casual tone, before shifting his attention to Jon and saying, “Let me have the keys to the van. I need to get some stuff out of it for Helen’s meeting. I won’t go anywhere but I might listen to the radio for a while. The cable is out.”

Jon hesitated for a second, until he realized that Eric was carefully referring to Helen’s press conference, which Jane knew nothing about. Suddenly it clicked that Eric wanted to listen to the conference on the van’s radio. Fishing out the keys, Jon tossed them to Eric and said in a friendly, nonchalant voice, “Just be careful you don’t flatten the battery.”

As Eric spun on his heel and left just a little too quickly, Jane arched an eyebrow at Jon and asked, “You don’t think he’ll drain the battery, do you?”



Yuri quickly surveyed the captured truck and bomb. He commended the men; they’d left the ambush area as he’d instructed and found a place to lay up: the barn of an evacuated farm. Yuri wrinkled his nose, wishing they’d found one with less manure. He dealt with the most immediate concern first. “Did you clean up the ambush site, and were there any witnesses?”

Survov, the lieutenant in command of the force, who, like Yuri, was a former Soviet officer and proud of his skills, was mildly insulted by the question, but refused to show it. “We buried the five bodies – including two of my men – in a ditch by covering them with ash. That should be sufficient for a few days. There were no witnesses, otherwise we would have assured their silence, permanently.” The fact that there had been a witness to the sound of gunfire was not known to the lieutenant.

Satisfied regarding the ambush, Yuri turned his attention to the truck. To his delight, he found that the truck, though damaged, appeared to still be drivable. He turned over the engine, and after a few coughs, it chugged to life. That happy event was clouded when Yuri noticed water dripping from the right front fender, which bore heavy damage from the collision with the rock wall during the ambush. A quick look under the hood revealed that the radiator had taken damage in the crash, and had a crack near the lower right corner. Yuri shrugged and told the lieutenant, “You did well, but the truck will not run far. However, it will run far enough, I think. It only needs to get to the airport, when the time comes. That’s only a few miles away and mostly downhill.”

What the truck could not do, Yuri was sure, was retrieve the two remaining warheads, if they were any distance away. To that end, he told the lieutenant, “This van might suffice to move the remaining devices, but it would be badly overloaded. Send out a squad of your men in search of a truck.” The lieutenant nodded, and did as he’d been commanded.

Yuri phoned The Scar to report what he’d found. After giving a status report, Yuri said, “The device is intact. I’ll rig a demolition charge to it, as you said.” Yuri hesitated for a moment, knowing that The Scar despised being argued with, but Yuri felt obliged to continue. “Sir, I wish you would join us. I heard the news about the volcano on the radio.” Upon learning that The Scar had yet to hear the news, Yuri gave his employer a brief synopsis of the volcanic alert, and then added, “I would guess that major eruptions could occur at any time and the highway tunnel I used to get here goes through the volcano’s northern slopes. Sir, if you remain there, you may be cut off, or worse.” Yuri glanced about at the men with him. He’d made sure they were aware of the comparative safety of their location, but the agitated fidgeting of several made clear that they were deeply concerned for their own safety.

The Scar considered that for a moment. Mindful of the fact that the five men with him might panic at the news, should they learn it, The Scar replied in a casual tone, “We must all take risks, Yuri. Fortune favors the bold, after all. I shall remain here until I have the other devices or they turn up elsewhere.”



With a grinning Eric in the lead, Jansen and Keith jogged into the parking lot behind him. Eric looked at the van – or rather, where the van had been parked. After staring at the empty space for a few moments, he said, “Look around, it’s got to be here somewhere. Jon would have said if he moved it and I saw it here this morning.”

Concern quickly became fear as they realized that their only means of leaving the resort was gone. They had no idea how lucky they were; had they arrived twenty minutes sooner they would have stumbled upon Yuri – who would recognize Eric on sight – and his five armed men as they were stealing the van.

Racing back into the restaurant, Eric dashed up to the table and, ignoring his mother, said to Jon, “I need to talk to you in private, it’s urgent, right now.”

The tone in Eric’s voice informed both Jon and Jane that something bad had happened. Before his mother could object, Jon said, “I’ll be right back, stay here,” and jogged out of the restaurant with Eric.

Meeting up with Jansen and Keith outside, Eric turned to tell Jon, “Unless you moved it, the van’s gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean, gone?” Jon asked, and then added, “I haven’t moved it. Come on.”

In the parking lot, Jon stared at the empty parking space. A quick glance around confirmed that the van was indeed missing. “Please tell me this is a joke,” he said, hoping that somehow it was.

Eric shook his head. “No joke, bro, I swear. I know that thing is our way out of here. I wouldn’t fuck around with it.”

Feeling as if the world was crashing down on his shoulders, Jon said, “Go tell the front desk. See if you can get us more transportation, anything. I guess I’ll go keep Mom occupied. I better think up something to tell her, because she’d flip out if she knew.”

Jon raced back to the restaurant, arriving just in time to be greeted by the rising murmur of agitated voices. Eric hadn’t been the only one to think of using a radio. One of the other guests had a portable and had tuned in to the news minutes before, and had learned of the volcanic alert and evacuation order. The news was spreading through the resort like wildfire, and Jon reached the table just as his mother found out about the volcano.

Eric, Jansen, and Keith raced down the resort’s twisting pathways, heading at full speed for the resort’s front desk.



Sitting in his suite at the resort, The Scar savored the brandy in his glass, reveling in the morning’s developments. Alone, staring out through his patio glass doors at the shimmering blue swimming pool beyond, he paid no attention to the three young men racing by in the distance: Jansen, Keith, and Eric, in their headlong rush to the resort’s main building.

Straightening his back and standing tall, raising his remaining arm like Zeus triumphant, The Scar recalled the day he’d first wielded such power. The Scar’s gravely voice, in a thespian’s measured and melodic tone, softly echoed from the walls. “I have crossed the valley of death and stand at the gateway to the garden of my reward, for a power once mine is mine again.” His mind began to wander as he relaxed, and he began to think of how to cover his exit from the island. That thought led to another, and The Scar smiled coldly as his plan took form. Picturing the scenario in his mind, The Scar raised his glass and said in his theatric tone, “Revenge, how sweet thou art, and victory yet sweeter still. For now I say, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” Smiling as he waxed poetic, The Scar settled into a plush armchair and poured himself another snifter of brandy, gloating over his success as he swirled the amber liquid, savoring its scent, and then its warming taste.


© 2009 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick and Talonrider for Beta reading and advice . Also, a special "Thank you!" to AFriendlyFace, for catching some typos.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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This is so not good. I had a feeling the US was going to think Helen was blackmailing them.


But of course, if the volcano erupts, the nukes will go off, right? And then it'll be a moot point.


Boy, CJ, you really know how to write a suspenseful tale. I'm sitting here glued to my computer screen when I should be doing other things like feeding the kids. lol So what if they starve? I have to read the next chapter! lol

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