Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living, dead, space aliens, goats, forum posters, editors, beta readers, musicians, or writers are purely coincidental. There may be sexual content so if this, in any form, offends you, please cease reading this lest it send you screaming from the room. If you are not of legal age to read this, please don't.

 

Chapter 20: Explanations

 

 

Gasping for breath, Jansen stared at Eric’s now-grinning face and sputtered, “Y-you know?”

Throwing his head back and laughing, Eric said, “Well, duh, of course I know! I was suspicious the first time I was at your apartment. Keith said ‘my bed’ instead of ‘our bed’ plus there were a few other clues that made me think you guys had separate rooms. Then there’s the fact that you guys look a lot alike, said you first met two years ago but later you said you grew up together and went to high school together, and Keith gets nervous whenever you’re talking about the past. Those were some damn big hints. What topped it off was that you guys act like me and Chase or me and Jon, and you don’t act like Brandon and Chase. Oh, take a wild guess why I got you guys a two-bedroom suite; it’s because I knew.

Feeling a rush of emotions: confusion, relief, and embarrassment, Jansen mumbled, “Thanks… So, you aren’t pissed?”

Shaking his head and smiling, Eric replied, “Nah, I’ve been having too much fun needling you guys about it… you know, the whole thing about kissing? I knew you’d never do it. I gotta admit though, I don’t totally get why you two pretended to be a couple, other than maybe to keep from being hit on? What’s the real story?”

Finally feeling that he had the upper hand, Jansen crossed his arms “We’ve all got secrets, like you said at the pool. Now I know what you were digging at, you jerk, but two can play that game. Tell me how you finagled a beach closing in under a fucking minute,” Jansen said with an easy smile and mirthful eyes.

“Okay, you got a deal, but on one condition; don’t tell Keith what I know about you guys. Let me get a few digs in first,” Eric said.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jansen said with a laugh. “So spill it, what’s the deal with the beach and why the secrecy?”

With an evil grin, Eric replied, “The secrecy is easy; that was just to bug you guys. As for how I did it… It’s something I’ve seen Helen do before. She calls up the local cops when she needs a favor like a street closing when we’re making an appearance, and offers some money for their police charity or whatever they want. They’re usually happy to do it, ‘cause it’s legal. So, I told the concierge to make the local authorities an offer, a few grand for the cause of their choice, in return for closing that beach for a couple of hours on the morning of the wedding. I checked when I got back to my room; it’s a done deal. Now, your turn; spill it, Mr. Stripper.”

“The term, sir, is exotic dancer,” Jansen said in his familiar mock huff, before continuing in a normal tone. “It’s pretty simple. We’re two hot guys who take their clothes off for money. Most guys in our biz get propositioned all the time, often pressured, and some sell themselves. That means some guys and some women expect us all to do sexual favors for money. Keith and I didn’t want to deal with the non-stop shit, so we decided to pretend to be a couple. I keep my mouth shut when there’s business to discuss and I use an alias for my last name so nobody’s the wiser. It’s worked great for us. We were feeling bad about not telling you but we’d lied and didn’t want to admit it. I’m glad you figured it out, even if you did sit here and make me squirm, you ass,” Jansen said with a grin and a shake of his head. Looking Eric in the eye he added, “So what’s your story? Why does a famous rock star like hanging out with a couple of gay strippers?”

“Exotic dancers,” Eric said, continuing the running riff before taking another drink. “Okay, I like you guys and you’re fun to be around. Being famous has good points and bad, and one of the bad ones is I don’t get out much. It’s worse for Brandon because he’s the singer, but I get recognized a lot and I’ve always got paparazzi breathing down my neck. It’s easier here but I still have to be real careful back in the ‘States. My brothers, Brandon, and Helen are there for me, but they’re basically my family. Aside from you guys I’ve got one friend, Jim, the biker you guys met who’s here on his honeymoon…” Eric let his voice trail off, unsure of how to put what he meant into words.

Jansen picked up on one of the underlying reasons and gave it voice, “In a nutshell, you’re lonely. I get that, and how. I guess it’s similar for Keither and me; we pretend to be a couple, and due to what we do, it’s hard sometimes. People want to be our friends for the wrong reasons.” Jansen reached out with on open hand, “We’re here for you, like you’ve been here for us. Just don’t disappear after we get back home, okay?”

Taking Jansen’s proffered hand, Eric smiled, feeling at ease. “Thanks. Same goes for me.”

Reluctantly releasing Eric’s hand, Jansen settled back into his seat and took another drink before saying, “So, was Keither really on a date? We went to the disco, which is more his thing than mine, so when he started talking to the bellhop, I took off.”

With a shrug, Eric replied, “He was sitting in a booth, and the other guy’s back was to me. Keith was smiling, leaning forward, and they looked like they were on a date to me, but maybe not.”

“I’d like it if he found someone. Craig, the gymnast who pulled a no-show at the club, is Keith’s ex. They’d been kind of on the rocks for a while before that, but Keith won’t even speak to him anymore,” Jansen said.

With a wistful glance in Jansen’s direction, Eric asked, “So what about you? Are you dating anyone?”

Jansen shook his head. “Not lately. I was dating one of the guys on the water polo team, but he transferred to a college on the east coast, so we broke it off a couple of months ago. What about you?”  

After a sigh, which Jansen did not fail to notice, Eric said, “Just groupies, mainly when we’re touring. I’ve never really dated anyone, just one-nighters.”

Intrigued, Jansen smiled wryly. Gathering his courage, buoyed by the alcohol and trusting wishful thinking more than reason, Jansen tried to find a way to peruse that angle of the conversation, but the rattle of the door interrupted him, and Keith strolled into the suite. “Hey, Janse, how’s–” Keith stopped in his tracks when he saw Eric. “Hi, Eric,” he said, in a slightly strained tone of voice, before catching himself and adding in a normal tone, “What are you guys up to?”

Slurring his words, pretending to be far drunker than he was, Jansen leaned forward, tapped unsteadily at the scotch, and said, “We’re drinking.”

Rolling his eyes, hiding his concerns, Keith chuckled and sat down in a recliner before asking, “How much have you guys had?”

Taking his cue from Jansen, Eric slurred his words as he said, “This is the second bottle…”

Sitting back and laughing, Keith said, “You guys are definitely wasted. So, what have you been doing, besides drinking?”

Still slurring, Jansen said, “Not much. We… we talked about you a lot.”

Eric struggled to portray an outward air of obliviousness, but it wasn’t easy. Keith’s sudden pallor filled Eric with a need to double over laughing, which he barely managed to suppress. Fixing Keith with a drunken scowl, Eric said, with a hint of venom, “You are scum.”

Keith’s sudden intake of breath was almost too much for Eric to take. Staring at Jansen, Keith asked in a shaken tone, “What did you tell him, Janse?”

Reaching for the bottle and intentionally missing, Jansen pretended to struggle to pour himself another drink. “He stopped by. You weren’t here. We had some drinks. He asked where you were. I told him you were at the disco. He saw you there, you and your date.” Jansen said, doing his best to slur his words and act as though he was close to passing out.

Jansen leaned forward, looking downcast, and Eric placed a protective, comforting arm across his bare shoulders before glaring darkly at Keith. “You fucking scum!” Eric growled, giving Jansen a one armed hug and maintaining his best impression of a drunken scowl at Keith.

“Janse,” Keith whispered in an agitated voice, thinking that he had few options and all of them bad. “Tell him the truth, all of it!”

Shaking his head sadly, leaning into Eric’s shoulder, Jansen said in a small, sad, badly slurred voice, “Keith screws around behind my back all the time, and if I say anything, he beats me.”

The lingering smell of scotch in the room lent an air of credibility to Jansen and Eric’s routine, and that, combined with Keith’s sudden stress, was enough to sucker him in. “Janse!” Keith hissed, shocked and with no clue how his brother, no matter how drunk, could think saying that was a good idea.

Eric felt Jansen begin to tremble, and knew that the dancer was about to lose it. Knowing that he had, at best, one line left before laughter gave them both away, Eric patted Jansen on the back and then returned his arm to its place on the dancer’s shoulders. Looking towards Jansen, Eric said, “Don’t worry, Jansen. He’ll never have a chance to do it again. I told the resort to call the cops, remember? They should be here any second…”

Leaping to his feet in panic, envisioning himself rotting in a foreign jail even after his brother sobered up and tried to recant, Keith yelled, “Jansen, fucking tell him the truth for Christ’s sake!”

“It’s not nice to yell at your brother,” Eric said in a deadpan, unslurred tone, as Jansen’s trembling became uncontrollable, and Jansen, joined by Eric, began rolling with riotous laughter.  

 

 

General Bradson and Felecia set off alone, hiking to the summit of Aardvark Hill. En route, the General said in a hushed tone, “First, some ground rules. Secrecy is paramount, so what I’m about to tell you stays between us. I realize that you’ll need to tell Horst and Wilhelm, and also your employer, but no one else, not until we’re airborne.”

Felecia gave an irritated grunt. “You’re teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, General. I’m well aware of the need for operational security and need-to-know.”

Arriving on the summit of Aardvark Hill, the General outlined his plans, using the time-honored method of drawing diagrams in the dirt. “In the center, here, are rows of square revetments, ninety feet across, consisting of embankments built up on three sides for protection against air attack. They mainly hold cargo containers and military vehicles. They are connected by long, wide, straight dirt roads, adequate for a short-field landing by a lightly laden C-130. Just to the west, here, are eight long double-story buildings in two rows. We think that’s where they keep maintenance and earthmoving gear, for this,” the General drew a meandering line to the west of the buildings, “which is a very wide dirt road, running along the foot of the mountains. There are fifty cut-and-cover munitions storage bunkers, sixty feet wide and covered with five yards of dirt and rock. Most are one hundred and twenty feet long, spaced out along this road on the west side, but a few extend into tunnels bored deep into the mountain. These facilities will likely be largely unmanned and of little concern to us. They are, however, the bunker farm that the Revolutionary Guard base is there to protect. The base is here, three quarters of a mile northeast of the eight buildings. That’s their main force, battalion strength, estimated at one thousand effective troops minimum, and that’s also where we believe my son and his squadmate are being held.”

“We?” Felecia asked, raising an eyebrow.

General Bradson nodded. “I have a few contacts back home who give me access to some intelligence data, and I’ll be getting some updates prior to the mission.”

Felecia, wondering just what else The Scar had neglected to tell her, changed the subject by staring at the familiar outlines in the dirt and asking, “Just how do you propose to defeat a battalion?”

“We don’t, because we can’t. We don’t go force-on-force. What we do is get inside their decision loop and fake ‘em out. First, we clear out that base by making them think their chemical weapons are leaking a lethal cloud. That’s what I need the chlorine, sulfur, and ammonia for. Once their monitoring equipment detects it, they’ll move fast, considering that they don’t have protective gear and will be under stand-down orders. The guardhouse where we think our prisoners are being held has a flat roof, so I’ll parachute in with five hand-picked men and land on the roof. In the dark and confusion, with blacked out gear, we should be unseen. Then we sweep downstairs, take out any stragglers, and free our people. The egress is the tricky part; we’ll be in Iranian uniform, so we’ll steal a vehicle and head south as fast as we can, to the rendezvous point between the square bunkers east of the eight buildings. You and one platoon, serving as our reserve force, will drop into the rendezvous point, secure and light a strip for the C-130, bring it in, and then deploy to the north edge of the revetments area, about one mile north of the landing zone to give us some defense in depth, and wait for us there. If the Iranians think there’s a chemical weapons leak, no way will they follow us into the bunker farm area. At least, that’s the plan.” General Bradson then added more details, including exactly how he planned, in addition to flying low, to deal with radar while getting the force in and out of Iran, and how he intended to cause the stand-down order upon which the plan depended. The one key detail that he left out was how to escape once they reached the coast during the egress, but in the rush of details, and in part due to her lack of knowledge regarding aerial combat, Felecia didn’t ask.  

Fifteen minutes later, nodding slowly, Felecia gave an exasperated sigh. “That’s fucking insane, General. Yeah, I think it’ll probably work, but it’s got to be the most screwball battle plan ever.”

Nodding in agreement, General Bradson replied, “That it is, that it is, and that’s precisely why it’ll work”

Shaking her head, Felecia replied, “I’m making one alternation. We’re taking my entire force, not just the five men you want and one platoon. The additional men will stay on the C-130 and they’ll be a supplemental reserve.”

General Bradson nodded once. He’d wondered how Felecia would phrase her insistence that her entire force go in.

“Lemons. Fucking lemons… I can’t wait to see Horst and Wilhelm’s faces when I tell them that part,” Felecia muttered, shaking her head but smiling. 

With a casual shrug, General Bradson replied, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” For the first time, he heard Felecia laugh. He liked the sound.

With their summit meeting over, they returned to camp. Felecia issued orders that, commencing at sunrise the following day, battle drills designed by the General would begin. While Felecia addressed her troops, General Bradson went to see The Scar, and laid out his full equipment and logistical needs. He also let The Scar and Yuri in on most of the details of his battle plan, leaving out only one critical part, exactly as he had with Felecia. 

Once the General had left, Yuri and The Scar sat quietly for a few moments. Yuri was the first to break the silence. “Lemons,” he muttered.

The Scar nodded once. “When he first uttered the word, I had wrongly assumed that he desired them for their chemical properties, but never could I have envisioned his actual intent. It is almost madness. However, his plan is just insane enough to work. I had expected him to ask for many items, but never did I imagine that they would include… three tons of lemons.”

 

 

Six miles below the island of La Palma, a string of three magma chambers underlay Cumbre Vieja and its rift system. Magma chambers exist under all active volcanoes; they are a reservoir of molten rock, often incorporating vast amounts of dissolved gasses under enormous pressure.

Reduced to its basics, the cause of a volcanic eruption is pressure. Magma – molten rock – from deep within the earth rises due to being lighter than the cooler and thus denser surrounding rock, entering the magma chamber, and thus increasing the pressure. The magma then seeks avenues of escape, and begins forcing its way upward, through conduits – often referred to as volcanic pipes – towards the surface.

The dissolved gasses are the main driving force of any eruption. As the magma gets closer to the surface, the pressure caused by the weight of overlying rock decreases. As the pressure lessens, the gasses begin to form bubbles and expand, very much like what occurs when a bottle of soda is opened for the first time; the pressure decreases and bubbles form. If the pressure is released suddenly, the bubbles carry great quantities of liquid along with them, as seen in the popping of a bottle of champagne, or the violent eruption of a volcano. 

As the rock is forced apart to make way for the rising magma, it causes many small earthquakes, of a type known as harmonic tremors. These are a precursor of volcanic activity, for they are the signature of magma forcing its way upwards. 

Under Cumbre Vieja, three cubic miles of magma, weighing billions of tons, was on the move. The harmonic tremors had begun two weeks before, and they had been detected.

Cumbre Vieja’s prior eruptive history was largely benign: mainly lava flows and not the far more dangerous explosive eruptions. As a frequently active and well-behaved volcano, its re-awakening drew little notice in professional circles; there are, on average, twenty volcanoes erupting at any given time, with an average of fifty to sixty different volcanoes erupting each year, and that only counts the ones on land. Therefore, Cumbre Vieja’s reawakening, which occurred on average once or twice a century, was a minor event, especially to the press, which as it so often did, had become myopically fixated on the latest big story; the San Jacinto quake and the theoretical danger of an imminent major quake on the San Andreas.  

What minor attention Cumbre Vieja did draw was due to the notoriety of La Palma as the world’s most-publicized potential lateral collapse. The lateral collapse was indeed imminent, but only on a geologic timescale; it might not occur for centuries or millennia. Triggering a lateral collapse was believed to require an ongoing eruption combined with a sizable earthquake. At Mount Saint Helens, it had required a massive instability caused by an enormous bulge on the north flank, combined with a magnitude five point five earthquake.

Weighing these factors, the general consensus amongst geologists was that, during any given eruption of Cumbre Vieja, the chances of a catastrophic lateral collapse were very small. However, they were also well aware that, given the notoriety, coupled with a general public nervousness caused in large part by the press hysteria regarding the situation in Los Angeles, the chances for panic far outweighed the actual risk. With that in mind, every effort was expended in order to keep the eruption coverage low-key. This was mainly accomplished by feeding the press reassurances coupled with voluminous dry, academic analyses of the miniscule risk of a lateral collapse and tsunami. With their attention focused on California, the press almost completely ignored La Palma.

Being highly desirous to avoid deterring tourists, The Canary Islands board of tourism was also quite active, putting the best spin it could on the situation and billing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a grand spectacle of nature in perfect safety.

Inside Cumbre Vieja, the magma crept ever upwards, shoving aside miles of rock. As the pressure from the rock above decreased with the lessening depth, the topmost portion of the rising column of magma released some of its pent-up gasses, which forced their own way upwards, via fissures in the volcanic pipe, to the craters above. There, it was released in occasional bursts, carrying with it ash left over from prior eruptions. This was but a precursor of what both the geologists believed and the board of tourism hoped would be a relatively benign and unremarkable eruptive cycle. Only time would tell if their predictions were correct.

They would not have long to wait.

 

 

Realizing at last that he’d been pranked, Keith snatched up the bottle of scotch and took a long swig. “Let me guess, you already told him and you guys aren’t as drunk as you were acting,” Keith said to his brother, feeling relieved that Eric seemed to be taking the uncovered lie very well indeed.

Jansen, still entangled with Eric, got himself under control just enough to gasp, between bouts of laughter, “Actually, he told me. He got me good too; almost as good as we got you.”

“Assholes,” Keith mumbled, breaking into a chagrinned smile. 

Jansen filled Keith in on the clues Eric had noticed, along with seeing Keith in the disco. Eric, with his arm still draped across Jansen, asked, “So how did the date go?”

Shaking his head, Keith replied with a sigh, “It wasn’t a date. I was just talking to the bellhop. Maybe it would have been a date, except there’s no way in hell I’d get involved with someone who lives on the opposite side of the freaking planet. We just talked for a while.” Eyeing Jansen and Eric, who were still sharing the occasional snicker, Keith looked at the ceiling and said, “Damn, now Janse has a partner in crime. That’s all I need.”

Smiling wickedly, Eric said to Keith, “I’ll be your partner in crime, too. We’ll get Jansen next time.”

“Hey, you got me once tonight already,” Jansen said, laughing again.

“Tomorrow is another day,” Eric said, and drank again.

The three guys soon found the bottom of the bottle of scotch, and Eric, feeling both buzzed and sleepy, returned to his suite.

As soon as Eric had gone, Keith said, “You guys scared the crap out of me. Remember, if he doesn’t pay us for this gig, we are well and truly fucked.”

Jansen nodded. “He’ll pay us for the gig, I know he will. I think we’ve made a new friend, a good one. He wouldn’t be funning around with us if he didn’t like us. Look at all he’s done so far, including cleaning work at the club for the opening. He didn’t do that for shits and giggles, he did it because he’s a friend. I’ll tell you something else about Eric; he’s lonely. He’s got his band and stuff, but he thinks of them as family. He’s having a blast with us, I know he is, and I know he’ll be around after the gig is done.”

“I hope so,” Keith said, deciding that he needed to add a dose of reality, “But he lives in a very different world from us. You’ve seen that. If he wants to go somewhere, he just charters a jet and goes. Do you have any freaking idea what that costs? It must be astronomical. Same with this resort. I glanced at the price list in the lobby; this suite is four hundred a night. Eric reminds me of a guy I knew in high school: rich, not stuck up about it, but defensive due to people who keep trying to play him. He has to be like that, it’s the only way he can be, given who he is. What this means is be extra careful. If you need to borrow twenty bucks, ask anyone but Eric. I like him too, and there’s also the fact that he could be damn good for us professionally by just lifting the phone and putting a good word in the right ear. That kind of stuff, we can ask, because it won’t cost Eric anything, but if we aren’t careful, we’ll drive him away. All I’m sayin’ is, we just need to be a little more cautious when it comes to financial stuff when Eric’s involved. And hell, I’ll go ahead and say it…. I know you, Janse. You like him, and I don’t mean as just a new buddy. You’re setting yourself up for one hell of a fall if you don’t snap out of it.”

Jansen cringed a little at the last remark. “I’m fine, Keith. Yeah, he’s hot, and yeah, he’s fun, but I won’t fall for him, not that way.”

Unconvinced, Keith decided to leave that topic largely alone until later, but said, “Falling for a straight guy is stupid. I know because I did it with my friend Max in high school – remember? Just guard your heart, little brother, that’s all I’m saying. Anyway, enough on that… I’m gonna crash.”    

 

 

The next morning, after checking in with the concierge and finding everything going according to plan, Eric swung by to see Jim and Linda. He’d been giving them plenty of space, due to them being on their honeymoon. Linda, who had been mulling over Eric’s prior focus on the party, asked, “Ok, dude, what about the wedding? Are plans for that going okay?”

“Yeah, it’s all handled. We’ve got a beach, a minister, the license arranged, all of it,” Eric said with a self-satisfied smile. He was beginning to realize just how big a task he’d taken on, and to his own surprise, he felt he was doing well, with a little help from his friends. 

After a few minutes of friendly banter with Jim and Linda, Eric went in search of Jansen and Keith. Strolling across the pool deck, Eric enjoyed the hot sun on his bare chest and he reflected on how much the two dancers had come to mean to him. He now knew them well enough to be able to read them, and he didn’t have to guess; he knew they felt the same way about him.

Tapping on their door, Eric waited until Keith opened it. For just a moment, Eric stood in place, staring at Keith. Long blond hair, smooth swimmer’s build, a long defined torso and a golden tan glistening from suntan oil, Keith looked every bit the surfer he was, and the only incongruity at the moment was the small, tight, black g-string he was wearing. Misreading Eric’s look, Keith glanced down his almost-naked body as he said, “We were just catching some sun on the patio. Can’t have much of a tanline in our business.”

Eric strolled in, and followed Keith out to the patio to find Jansen, likewise in a g-string, oiled up and laying on a deck chair. Keith slid back into his own chair, and Eric took a moment to notice, not for the first time, how much alike the two brothers looked. It wasn’t a surprise – Eric had as much in common with Chase – but he had to admit, it made for one hell of a look when they were on stage together.

Tugging on the drawstring of his boardshorts, Eric loosened them, snapped them open, and then kicked off his shorts – he’d worn his favorite white Speedo underneath, in anticipation of some sun.

Eric slathered on some suntan oil from a bottle on the patio table as Keith grinned wickedly and chided him, “That has got to be the all-around clumsiest shorts removal I’ve ever seen. No grace, no style, and certainly no panache. I’ll give it a one out of ten. You’ve really got to work on that.”

Before Eric could reply to the humorous dig, Jansen added, “I dunno, Keith. That was at least sort of functional. I can remember seeing one worse attempt, and that was at the first night we opened the Oak Leaf. That bartender guy in the black leather shorts. Now that was clumsy, not to mention agonizing to watch. I think he needed an instruction manual for those shorts, because Velcro was just too complicated for him. I guess we’re lucky he didn’t trip and fall on his ass.”

With a shrug, Keith replied, “Maybe, but falling on his ass might have actually been an improvement, come to think of it. At least that involves a little movement.”

Shaking his head while settling into a lounger, Eric chuckled and replied, “Jeeze, you guys are ganging up on me and ripping my stripping skills.”

“What skills?” Jansen asked in an innocent voice. Shifting to his mock formal tone, he told Eric, “In your case, sir, the term is assuredly not exotic dancer.”

Raising his middle finger in the general direction of the two dancers, Eric laughed. “Tell ya what; at my next concert, you guys come onstage, play bass guitar, and see how you do in my world!”

Laughing aloud at the mental image Eric’s words evoked, Keith hopped up and headed into the suite. Neither he nor his brother had ever touched, let alone played, a bass guitar. Returning with three cans of cold soda, Keith tossed one to Eric and then another to his brother as he said, “Yeah, that would be a disaster. Okay, I’ll admit it; getting up on stage like you did, with no preparation or training – that took guts.”

“Or an utter absence of brains,” Jansen quipped.

Keith sat down and then stretched out on his stomach before saying, “Yeah, but give the devil his due; he did save our asses that day.”

“So now I’m the devil, am I?” Eric asked in mock irritation. Casting his eyes on Keith’s upturned bare cheeks, Eric grinned wickedly and added, “They’re such fine asses, somebody had to save ‘em.”

Enjoying the mutual teasing, Jansen changed tack, “So, Mr. Rock Star, are things going okay with the concierge who we, and not you, thought to contact?”

Cracking open his soda, Eric took a drink. “Yeah, actually, he’s doing one hell of a job,” Eric said as he set his soda can on the glass table by his side, causing the loose glass panel to clatter slightly. “Jon, Brandon, and Chase will be landing tonight. I think we’re all set, everything is going totally perfect,” Eric said, as the clatter from the table grew louder, joined by the creaking sound emanating from the structural beams in the suite. A cacophony of small noises, mostly the squeaks and groans of movement, and the clatter of vibrating objects, rose in both pitch and volume, as earth’s fury began to stir. 

The noises grew, and Keith felt a vibration through his lounger. “What the fuck,” he asked, as he rolled over and sat up.

“Quake,” Eric said as he sat up and looked around. Eric had been through a few earthquakes, and thought, ‘this one’s not so bad.’ 

Jansen, due to the angle at which he was sitting, was the first to see the rising column of gas and ash two miles away. Sitting up, raising an arm to point upwards and inland, he said, “I don’t think it’s an earthquake…”

Roaring skyward, the plume of ash grew, as the earthquake, which had barely reached four on the Richter scale, ended. Eric, Jansen, and Keith watched the rising plume of volcanic ash, almost forgetting the mild earthquake. Jumping to their feet, they looked inland, up the steep mountain slopes, as the eruption ceased and plume slowed its growth, the top bending eastward with the prevailing winds. It had been a minor eruption, consisting of ash and gas, highly typical of a volcano beginning to emerge from a period of inactivity. 

Filled with a creeping sensation of dread, Eric said, “I think that’s the volcano.”

“Volcano?” Jansen and Keith asked at the same time, turning to stare at Eric.

Nodding, Eric walked into the suite, heading for the phone. “There’s a volcano inland from here, but it’s not supposed to be erupting...”

“I guess nobody told the volcano that,” Jansen said, as he and Keith rushed to follow Eric.  

 
 

© 2008 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.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

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 for his advice. 

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

 C James' Home

Chapter 1
Wedding Bells
Chapter 2
Mission to Idaho
Chapter 3
Pursuits and Auditions
Chapter 4
Islands in the Sea
Chapter 5
Expeditions
Chapter 6
Travel Plans
Chapter 7
Laying the Groundwork
Chapter 8
Telluride
Chapter 9
Train Wreck
Chapter 1O
Dance with the Devil
Chapter 11
Morning Serenade
Chapter 12
Departures
Chapter 13
Falling to Earth
Chapter 14
Prelude to Battle
Chapter 15
Worth a Thousand Words
Chapter 16
Surfer Strip Show
Chapter 17
The Show Must Go On
Chapter 18
Errors of Omission
Chapter 19
Revelations
Chapter 2O
Explanations
Chapter 21
Surprises
Chapter 22
Prelude to Ragnarök
Chapter 23
Unseen Eyes
Chapter 24
Confrontations
Chapter 25
Satan's Own Thunder
Chapter 26
The Scorpion and the Frog
Chapter 27
Drums out of Darkness
Chapter 28
Blood and Time
Chapter 29
Ignition
Chapter 3O
Feelings
Chapter 31
Wings of Fire
 
Chapter 32
A Favor to Ask
Chapter 33
 Rendezvous'
Chapter 34
 Miscommunications
Chapter 35
 Special Delivery
Chapter 36
 Convergence
Chapter 37
 The Best Laid Plans...
Chapter 38
 Fallen
Chapter 39
 Zeus Triumphant
Chapter 4O
 Trapped
Chapter 41
 Pushing the Limits
Chapter 42
 Passion in the Dark
Chapter 43
 Nemesis
Chapter 44
 Countdown to Ragnarök  
Chapter 45
 Ragnarök  
Chapter 46
Out of the
Frying Pan...
Chapter 47
Fatal Mistakes
Chapter 48
Desperate Measures
Chapter 49
Falling
Chapter 5O
Refuge and Allies
Chapter 51
Changing the Game
Epilogue