Authors: CW Crowe
The World’s End Series
Book One: Dymond’s World
Copyright © 2016 by C.W.Crowe
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2016
Comments? Questions? Movie Deals?
Also by C.W. Crowe:
The World’s End Series
Book One: Dymond’s World
Book Two: Jill’s World
Book Three: Regina’s World
The Alien Revelation Series
Book One: The Appearing
Book Two: The Connection
Book Three: The Combining
Book Four: The Celebration
Book Five: The Invitation
who told me it wasn’t over the top.
Ellen Richardson drove slowly in the right hand lane. For the last few years, her doctor had gone out of his way to ask about her driving during her visits to his office. A few months ago, the nurse had also jumped on this bandwagon. Ellen patiently explained to both of them that she was perfectly capable of driving herself, even at eighty four.
Today her regular doctor was out of town and she got a young girl - she looked to be about twenty. This one hadn't even tried to be subtle. "Now Miss Ellen, you know you should stop driving. The senior center you go to has the info; there are all kinds of ways to get around. I can call them for you and someone will explain it. You'll be able to go even more places."
She used the word "info." Miss Ellen despised it when youngsters used their hip expressions like they were real words. Last night she had to turn off the news because the weatherman kept saying "temps" instead of temperatures.
"I can bake and do crossword puzzles and check my email - if I can do all those things, I suppose I can still drive." Her voice was full of dignity tinged with a hint of indignation.
She knew her limitations. That's why she drove slowly and never on the interstate highway. The cars there seemed to travel at an insane speed.
How could people be in such a hurry?
The surface streets were quite all right for her. A few lights and she'd be home to watch her shows. Today they were going to broadcast from Hawaii - she'd been there once as a young woman. She remembered the man who had bought her a drink, how he . . .
The car bumped and brought her back to the city streets she was driving on. "Hey Bitch! Watch what you doing!" An almost inhuman looking face, contorted in rage, bared its teeth at her. A hand rose and came down on her window. There were only two things in her world now - that hand hitting her window and the hellishly loud booming sound it made.
Instinctively, she braked, but the car let her down. Instead of slowing, it sped up. Her last thought as the car hurtled into a glass storefront was of a news story detailing how cars could sometimes disobey this way. The thought didn't last long, as she died instantly from the impact.
"Bitch tried to run me over!" cried a woman's voice. People gathered around and forced the car door open. The woman grabbed Miss Ellen's purse and pulled her body out of the car with it. She started kicking, "Let it go, bitch! Let it go!"
The car had come to rest with its long front end partially inside a neighborhood pharmacy. The door had bars on it, but now people streamed in through the opening that the car had made. A pharmacist and a helper were inside. They had no chance. The mob was in control now.
The street was suddenly filled with more and more people. They seemed to all join in, entering and leaving the pharmacy with arm loads of goods - a few even used shopping bags. "Fifth Street Pharmacy - Proudly Serving the Community for 50 Years" was printed on them.
Soon, there were too many people crowded into the store. In the distance, the sounds of sirens could be heard. Time was short.
The woman finally managed to get the handbag away from Miss Ellen. "She did it!" she screamed, pointing at Miss Ellen. "Bitch started it all."
A man carrying a brick threw it into the storefront next door. It was a grocery and would have cigarettes, Tide, and all kinds of stuff.
The crowd surged into the new honey hole. Fights broke out, neighbor against neighbor. They fought over drugs, over smokes, over toilet paper. Without any thought, they walked on Miss Ellen's body as they went in and out with their loot.
It took the cops several hours to restore order.
Fallon O'Brien sat in a booth by himself and thought of Humpty Dumpty and God.
His fries had been cold and now the check was wrong. He knew he'd have to complain to the snotty girl that had waited on him; she'd probably pull her cell out of her back pocket and try to use it as a calculator, snapping her gum the whole time. In his mind, he could see her struggle with the numbers - typing them in and waiting for the machine to provide the answer. He doubted that anyone under twenty five could add $5.99 and $1.75 without using a calculator. He didn't know exactly what they taught in school, but it sure wasn't math. Probably didn't have time after their sex-ed classes.
However, he wasn't surprised at this minor annoyance; for him it was normal, expected. And like always, God laughed at him.
Fallon imagined that God looked like Humpty Dumpty; big and round and fat with a big round fat face and big round fat eyes that glinted in glee whenever something bad happened to Fallon. He saw God with a large oval egg body; with sticks for arms and legs that flailed here and there as he sat on a ledge, overlooking the world below.
God spent a lot of time looking at Fallon and laughing. When he lost his job, God laughed. When he lost his house in the divorce, God cackled and pointed down to earth in glee. When a traffic light changed at the last instant so that Fallon had to stop instead of sailing through, God pointed down and smiled at him. When the check was wrong and he was forced to explain arithmetic to a waitress, God was hugely entertained.
Fallon thought of himself as a failure. He knew it was mostly his fault, but part of it was Karma, God, whatever. Somewhere, he'd gotten off track and now it was too late to do anything about it. He knew he wasn't the smartest guy in the world, or the hardest working, but he also knew that he was capable of adding two numbers. For at least the thousandth time, he wished God would go away and leave him alone.
It went exactly as he expected. When he told her the check was wrong, the ditz got an annoyed look on her face. As predicted, she pulled out her phone and ran a calc app. It took her a couple of tries, but eventually she got the answer from the machine.
"Hey, you're right! Sorry about that." Her annoyance gave way to contrition - now her tip was in jeopardy. "Don't know how that happened. I guess I must have hit a wrong button or something. Anywho, how 'bout a refill?" She smiled brightly, her teeth perfect, dyed blonde hair moving on its own.
Fallon shook his head and handed her a ten. "Keep it."
"Thanks," she said as she hurried off. Tip assured, there wasn't any reason to linger and smile and flip her hair.
His car was a nice one - a BMW X3. It was brand new with less than a hundred miles on the clock, but by the time he drove it to the dealer in Philly, it would have close to triple that.
Fallon sometimes delivered cars for dealers. A buyer would fall in love with a certain color or option package and they'd find that exact car in another dealer's lot in some other city. The dealers would agree to exchange inventory and Fallon would drive both cars to their new homes.
It was cheaper to hire him to drive them than to arrange for a car carrier. He made eleven dollars an hour. It occurred to him that the waitress probably made more.
Humpty Dumpty rolled on the ledge, kicking his feet while pointing and laughing at him.
Jason McCrae studied his messages on his phone as Regina Martin drove him to the airport. The trip would take about ninety minutes. The first five had been made in silence.
"There was another riot," said McCrae. "Just this morning. Five killed including an old lady. That's what - three times this month?"
Regina didn't take her eyes off the deserted country road she was driving on. "It's just what we told you about. It's happening more and more. It'll get worse - you can take that to the bank."
The silence returned for a full minute until she said, "You weren't all that impressed with our proposal, were you?"
McCrae put the phone away and turned to her, "Impressed? At what? Impressed at your prediction that one day the shit would hit the fan? That society would basically collapse? That millionaires and billionaires would instantly go from being society's most productive citizens to being its most hunted? Regina, that's not really all that much of a revelation - all the rich people in your little meeting figured that out on their own. That's why they were there."
She stared at the windshield, "Knowing what is coming is one thing, knowing what to do about it is another."
"Yeah and your idea is great. For only twenty million dollars, you build us a super-secret, super secure little fortress somewhere up in the woods. You stock it with enough food for two years along with all the necessities like ham radios and PlayStations. You set up an electronic perimeter that constantly watches for those poor hungry souls who might want to live as much as we do.
"And I almost forgot, Regina. You stock it with guns, lots of guns. So when those poor souls show up, they can be dispatched. And if we rich people are too squeamish to pull the triggers ourselves, for only another ten million, you'll provide a "cadre" to fend off the hungry for us. I love that word - cadre - sounds so clean."
She turned to him and studied him with a stern expression on her face. Her voice was gentle, "If our solution won't work, then why is everyone else that was in our meeting signing a contract right now? Still, I can understand you not liking our plan. So tell me - what's yours?"
Jason McCrae was new to being in the one percent. In fact, until a few months ago, he'd been in a very precarious financial situation. His company's bank balance fluctuated from almost nothing to a bit more than nothing. His debts totaled over forty million dollars.
He could have had traditional investors, but he was stubborn. He decided early on that he would not give away large pieces of his company to raise money. There were many willing to fund the development of his new battery in the normal way, but he turned them all down. The technology was so promising that he was able to demand they work on his terms.
And his terms were very simple - and nonnegotiable. An investor would provide money to him in the form of a loan. If his battery was even a tenth as good as he promised, they would be repaid their loan along with interest - and they would be given one tenth of one percent of the company for every ten million they loaned.
If, for whatever reason, he couldn't pay back the loans, the investors would get all the company and its intellectual property. That was fine with him since he knew two things - his battery would do everything he promised it would, and he was in no danger of losing his company.
Three months ago he filed a patent on the technology and the world was finally able to see what an amazing thing he had done.
The JM battery - he'd named it after himself - wasn't just an improvement, it was a revolution. It could be made smaller and lighter than present battery technologies. It could hold several times more energy. It could be recharged in minutes and would last for years. And it would never catch fire the way lithium ion batteries could.
Suddenly, cell phone companies were calling from all over the world. If one company had a phone that only needed a weekly five minute charge, then they all had to have it. Similarly, over two dozen car companies had called because they realized that the day of a practical, pollution free electric vehicle had arrived. One car maker was already publicly boasting that their new electric car would have a thousand mile range.
It seemed that every day some new industry thought of an application for his battery technology. It would be used in aircraft, in rail systems, as power backups for homes, in the RV industry, in trucking - the list seemed almost endless.
Last month, he had signed his first contracts. Two large companies in Asia had been selected to build the tiny batteries used in cell phones. The deal was a tough one, but it was non-negotiable. They would pay him ten dollars for every one they made. He demanded one billion dollars be paid on signing. That would cover about one month of production.
He was a billionaire. In five years, he planned to be the richest man in the world.
"My plan? My plan is to not let it happen. To stop it. There is simply no reason why the shit should actually have to hit the fan. None."
"You're going to use government to fix everything, right?" Now she was mocking him with her smile.
He wasn't used to being mocked. Ever since he'd made the discovery that led to his battery, people had deferred to him; they had treated him with respect - just in case. Just in case this nerd, this former class nobody, this guy who never even got a glance from the best looking girls in school - just in case Jason McCrae really was onto something big.
It had been a long haul - almost ten years of research, of development, of creation. He'd done it mostly on his own. In the last few years, he had people to do some of the actual work, but he kept the important stuff for himself. Most of the people he hired turned out to be incompetent or not really dedicated to his vision.
His employees lasted an average of about a year with him. He supposed he wasn't the greatest boss in the world, but if someone screwed up they deserved a good reaming. Doing it in public let the others know this was serious work - not grad school fun and games.
And when one of them tried to push back, Jason was quick enough to instantly turn the tables.
He studied her still smiling face. "So Major, it's okay if I call you Major isn't it? You were the youngest active duty Major in the army at one time weren't you? I had you profiled before I accepted your invitation to come up here. They must have loved you to promote you that fast - or maybe it was because your daddy was a three star General. Either way, you must have fucked up big time to get kicked out right when you were ready to really take off. How old are you?"
It was a statement meant to put her in her place. Jason sometimes marveled at how he could come up with just the right thing to say. This one poked at what he suspected was a sore spot - her obviously quick rise in the military and her early exit. It also brought up her age - something he'd learned would put any woman over thirty on the defensive. It was brilliant.
Jason saw her smile change. It was very subtle, but unmistakable. One moment it was the mocking smile that had set him off, the next it was something else - something almost like satisfaction.
He was considering this when a giant hand pushed him squarely in the back. He flew forward, held in his seat only by his seat belt. She had slammed on the brakes and the big SUV was stopping with all four tires squealing. For a moment, the car seemed to be ready to slip to the left and become airborne, but she corrected it and they slid to a stop beside the road.
The sound of the gravel being crunched faded and was replaced with silence. Jason could hear himself breathe. "Get out," she commanded as she unlatched her own seat belt.
She opened the door and disappeared outside. His mind was spinning, trying to make sense of what had just happened. He obeyed her without giving it a lot of thought.
Outside, his head began to clear. She walked around the side of the SUV towards him, that same smile on her face. She reached out to shake his hand. Instinctively, he offered his in return.
He had checked her out back at the meeting. She wasn't too bad - about average height for a woman, about his age, with a nice face. She was obviously slim, but the business suit she wore didn't reveal a lot of detail. Her light brown hair was shoulder length. She wore pearls and medium heels. She looked like most other professionals at a business meeting.
So he wasn't prepared when she took his hand and expertly spun him so that he was now facing the vehicle. He was surprised at her strength as she slammed him violently into the car, face first.
She never let go of his hand. She raised it up towards his neck, but she held it tightly against his back. It hurt.
"Damn!" he said. It wasn't aimed at her, but at the pain. It was increasing like it had a life of its own. It built and built until he felt like his shoulder was on fire. His whole world was that pain - until he heard her voice.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" she said. "I imagine you aren't all that used to pain, so I'm not pushing very hard at all. I could do quite a lot more. A little more would double or triple the pain, but you might pass out and I don't want that. Even more would dislocate your shoulder; probably require rotator cuff surgery. I've been told it's kind of amazing - you hear the popping sound and the pain stops, at least for a moment."
"Stop," he said. He was surprised to hear pleading in his voice. It hadn't been there for a long, long time.
"Say 'Please Major, stop,' then I’ll release the pressure."
He repeated, "Stop." This time the pleading sounded more like begging.
She raised his arm a fraction higher. He couldn't help himself, "Please Major, stop. Please."
She released his arm. Instantly, it fell down to his side, hanging limp like it wasn't really part of him.
She spun him around and got real close in this face, like a drill sergeant yelling at a recruit. "You think this is a game, don't you? You think you can use your money to make things better, to help the people so they won't riot and kill and steal and loot.
"Well, you're a fool. This is what is in store for you - and yes for those idiots back there signing those contracts. Soon, the shit will actually hit the fan and you will wish that you could return to this day and that all you had to deal with was a momentary sharp pain. When the eaters arrive Jason, you'll have to deal with much, much more than that.
"Now get back in the car." He watched her walk away as he heard her heels crunch on the roadside. He tried to think of what to do, but nothing came to him because his arm still hurt. He did as he was told and got into the SUV.
She closed the driver's door without slamming it, snapped her seatbelt and started the car. She looked at him again. "Oh yes, I'm thirty six," she said, "And I didn't get kicked out of the military. And I'm not done with you – you can take that to the bank."