Here is the second chapter of my novel, which you can BUY ON AMAZON. I’m only allowed to post three chapters under Amazon rules, but I do want to give prospective readers a good idea what the novel’s like before they plunk down their hard-earned cash! If you like it, you can buy the book by clicking the button below.- Gary Symons
The Secret Summit
“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin.
It took a full week to get back to Ottawa from the Alhambra survivalist camp. Simone spent a few more days with her grandfather and his motley crew of refugees, dissidents, and ex-soldiers. She resisted their entreaties to stay, and just before leaving she had taken her satellite phone and given it to the old man.
The Alhambrans had solar panels and a good ham radio, but satellite phones also required an ongoing, paid account that couldn’t be handled by people with no money and no credit. The sat phone would give them a way to reach out into the world, and even provide basic internet. More importantly, it meant she could again speak to her grandfather on a regular basis. She considered it cheap at the price.
In return the Jefe provided her with an armed escort and a solar assisted e-Jeep all the way to Jaen, where she caught a train to Madrid, and then the HyperLoop back to the seaport in Bordeaux.
Compared to her almost solo journey to Alhambra the trip was arduous, but not dangerous. The fierce looking Alhambra warriors were apparently well known in the region. No one dared send anything worse than a dirty look their way.
By the time she stepped back into her office at the CBC newsroom Simone was raring to get back to work. She’d been carrying a secret with her all the way from Europe, from before her time in Alhambra, all the way from Edinburgh where her sources had leaked information, including some internal emails, about a confidential summit scheduled for February 15th on the remote but luxurious island resort of Paloma, located on the Falkland Islands.
That in itself wasn’t completely unheard of; top diplomats did occasionally gather during a crisis to see if they could find a peaceful way out of the maze. But it was the topic of this summit that had Simone so interested. She was determined to crash the party, but that would take money; a lot more money than CBC would typically pay out for an investigation.
According to her sources, the summit would include top diplomats and ministers from most of the world’s superpowers, including the allied nations of Canada, the EU, and the Viking Alliance, but also the Brazilians, the Chinese, the Argentinians and the Russians.
The US had been invited, but the emails Simone had seen indicated the US President, a pompous windbag with a crazy Trumpian hairdo and a predilection for invoking the word of an All-American God, was resisting.
More importantly to Simone, her sources within the Scottish diplomatic corp were alleging this wasn’t just a summit to prevent the latest trade war or to discuss sanctions against one nation or another. They claimed this summit was being held to stave off the threat of a full-on nuclear conflict.
When Simone had fiercely told her grandfather she was preparing to fight for the Earth, this threat was what she was secretly referring to. The briefing was scheduled to be held as soon as she got back. Simone didn’t even stop off at home, didn’t even stop to see Jamie, who was out of town covering another random mortar attack in Quebec in any event. She just grabbed her weapons from the secure luggage racks, got into an air-taxi, and went straight to the CBC’s rooftop landing port.
Striding quickly to the editor’s office Simone shrugged off the greetings of fellow reporters and producers; she had priorities today. One month until the summit … and she planned to be there, undercover.
The national news editor, Birgitta Sidhu, saw her coming and got up to open the door and usher her in. “Hey Simone, welcome back,” she said briskly. “I’m bringing head of investigative into this, so have a seat.” Birgitta clacked off down the corridor, her heels beating a rapid-fire tattoo on the tile.
Simone did so, sitting down at Birgitta’s small conference table, and cracking open her tablet and keyboard while she waited. The thing she loved about Birgitta is she never wasted time with small talk. She was all-business and counted every second of every day as a resource that shouldn’t be squandered; a good attitude for a woman who had to provide a never-ending flow of news for one of the largest networks in the world.
By the time Birgitta returned with Antoine Shyaka, Simone had already hooked up her tablet to the room’s display screens and brought up the emails on one monitor, and a detailed visual report on the Paloma resort on the other.
Antoine, a massive man in his 50s, buried Simone’s hand in his own, gave her an equally brief greeting, and then sat and looked at the screen.
“Okay,” he said, his face shaded by the skepticism he was famous for. “Let’s see what ya got.”
“Take a deep breath, guys,” said Simone. “This is pretty wild.”
Simone began by running through the tip she got from a Scottish diplomat in a very hush-hush meeting at a pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. It wasn’t far from the Scottish parliament down the hill, and it was easy for the two of them to lose themselves among the shoppers and tourists who still made their way to the Scottish capital.
But it was the emails that immediately grabbed their interest. One of them was between the Chief of Staff for Katerin Sondstrom, the hawkish Prime Minister of the Viking Alliance, and a number of top Scottish Foreign Service officials. The Scottish Prime Minister, Robert Stuart, was cc’d on the email. After a short preamble, the email stated, “Viking intelligence confirms the lead from CSIS (Canadian Secret Intelligence Service) that the US government has entered into a military alliance with Brazilia and China. Sources deemed reliable indicate purpose of alliance is a simultaneous strike on Canada from the US, on Russia and Mongolia from China, and on Argentina by a combined Brazilia and US force. Timing unknown but may be imminent.”
Antoine and Birgitta both sat back in their seats, their foreheads creased with worry. “Fuck,” said Antoine. “Are you sure this intel is solid? Because if this is true, we could be royally screwed.”
“More like presidentially screwed,” answered Simone. “My sources believe it’s the US President who’s pushing this hardest. I have more intel in here – look, it’s the fifth email, near the bottom – where CSIS states the President actually believes Canada was stolen from the Americans in the War of 1812. All that anti-Canadian sentiment he’s whipping up … I think it’s the public relations precursor to an attack.
“In other words, we’re the ones with the targets on our backs, and the Americans are the ones with their fingers on the trigger.”
“Good God,” said Birgitta. “That lunatic would pull that trigger too. But, why would all these countries get into a war they don’t have much chance of winning? I mean, the US against Canada? Their military is pretty worn out, right? You think they’re really going to throw that ratty outfit at the second largest military in the world? They’d have to be nuts.”
“Yeah,” said Antoine, before Simone could break in. “But consider what we’re already finding out about the White House this year. I mean, the new Secretary of State is a religious fanatic who believes in the End of Times, and the President is a narcissist and probably a psychopath who can’t stand the idea America has been surpassed by other countries.
“All of his PR since he got to the White House has been a rehash of the old Trumpian “Make America Great Again” nonsense. I think he really believes he can take us out, and if he believes that, why wouldn’t he?”
Birgitta was more skeptical. “Maybe … but the US has got to know they can’t beat us on the ground. They only have two carriers left. Their airforce is antiquated, their armoured regiments are made up mainly of relics left over from their Civil War, and our drone forces outnumber theirs by at least two to one. Short of a nuclear exchange … which they would surely lose … how exactly are they thinking they can take on Canada?”
This time it was Simone who spoke up. “Good question, but maybe the wrong question,” she argued. “Maybe they have some secret weapon, or maybe they thought they would have the element of surprise … but maybe it’s simpler than that.”
“How do you mean?”, asked Antoine, steepling his long fingers in front of his dark, intelligent face.
“I mean,” said Simone, “sometimes people do things that are not sane when they are really desperate for something. Remember when the North Africans attacked Europe through Spain? Everyone knew they didn’t have a chance in hell! They’d have to defeat both the EU and the Viking Alliance, and they didn’t have close to the forces they needed to defeat either.”
The editors nodded thoughtfully. The Spanish conflict had been one of the great humanitarian disasters of the last century. The EU, overwhelmed by a flood of climate refugees, had closed its doors to the millions of desperate Africans and Arabs coming from the south, where global warming had led to long years of drought, starvation, and plague. The charismatic leader of Morocco, Abd Al-Hamid, convinced his allies they could push the Europeans back, and return Spain to Moorish rule just as the Spanish had pushed out the Moors many centuries before.
No one really believed at the time the attack would happen, but it did. Spain was hit by surprise airstrikes that initially grounded their airforce and paralyzed troop movement. Then a massive invasion force landed near the city of Cadiz and rapidly pushed inland, burning down cities and towns as they advanced.
But that had not lasted long. Aircraft and drones flew sortie after sortie against the Moorish Army, and the great navies of the Scots, the EU and the Vikings sailed into the Mediterranean bringing more aircraft, drones, missiles and armed land forces. The invasion had turned into a bloody rout. Cut off from retreat, the Moors were surrounded and massacred, and the combined forces of a vengeful Europe had turned their attention to Africa, launching thousands more sorties by bombers, missiles and drones.
Al-Hamid ended up being executed by his own people, and in the end more than half a million soldiers and civilians died with no gain for anyone.
But the Moorish Folly was instructive, Simone argued. “People now are desperate,” she pointed out. “The US was crippled by the Civil Wars, and global warming has really hit them much harder than it has Canada. Their agriculture has been declining for 40 years, their industry isn’t much better, but they still have one of the world’s largest armed forces, and worse, they still have the largest nuclear force in the world.”
“Yeah, but that nuclear force is pretty antiquated next to ours,” pointed out Antoine.
“Not my point,” replied Simone. “You’re being logical. What I’m saying is that the American president, and maybe his allies, are no longer logical. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves that God is on their side. Or maybe they don’t care if they lose. That lunatic Preacher in the White House might be just as happy if the world turns into a cinder!”
Antoine and Birgitta stayed quiet for a minute after that. “What do you think, Antoine,” asked Birgitta.
Antoine looked deeply troubled, which was rare for him. He had been a war correspondent in the past, among other things covering the bloodshed in Africa as that continent tore itself apart in the wake of the Great Famine. His own family on his mother’s side had come to Canada more than a century before while fleeing the Rwandan genocide, and while most of his family was Quebecois, Antoine was very aware of how madness could overtake an entire society.
He was also aware that American troops had fired mortar shells across the border yesterday, claiming they were retaliating for a Canadian drone strike in upper state New York.
He turned his dark, serious eyes toward the two women. “I think we need to find out what the fuck is going on before someone burns down the planet,” he said. “Now, how are we getting you into that summit?”
Simone grinned, knowing she’d won the story pitch. “That’s the best part,” she said.
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