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 22: Prelude to Ragnarök

 

 

It was an inauspicious beginning, but it was a beginning nonetheless.

The roar of the C-130’s four engines diminished as the pilot throttled back, beginning their final descent through the dark skies to the improvised base in Somalia. The improvised base consisted of just a stretch of dirt road, some fuel bladders, and a collection of tents, all under the watchful eyes and protection of a local warlord with whom The Scar had cut a deal.

In what even he considered a stunning display of unoriginality, The Scar had christened the site First Base.

General Bradson, sitting in the navigator’s station, watched as the pilot, using light-amplification goggles, guided the lumbering C-130 Hercules onto the rough strip, aided only by the feeble illumination of a few glow-sticks that had been used to mark the thresholds and centerline. General Bradson wasn’t overly worried; the Hercules – one of the most widely used cargo aircraft on the planet – had been designed for short takeoffs and landings on rough, improvised runways. It wasn’t easy to break one but he knew it could be done. With that unpleasant thought in mind, he held his breath as the pilot flared the aircraft.

In a jump seat with a view down the length of the cargo bay, Felecia focused on her men, visually reassuring herself that each and every one of her fifty-three charges were buckled in. She felt the plane tremble and drop, and then heard the thunder of the wheels as they met the road’s uneven surface. The plane lurched sickeningly to the side, swerving slightly, and the fuselage began to shake in accompaniment to the rising howl from the engines as the pilot inverted the propellers’ pitch and applied full throttle, using the resulting reverse thrust in addition to the brakes to slow the aircraft down.

After what seemed like far too long to all those aboard, the plane slowed to a near stop. Using right brakes and forward thrust on the port engines and reverse thrust on the starboard, the pilot pivoted the plane in place and then taxied back a few hundred yards, pulling off the road and coming to a halt next to a rag-tag assortment of tents.  

Felecia listened as the engines spooled down, and then headed aft to the cargo ramp. As the ramp lowered, she told Horst, “I don’t expect any trouble, but take your platoon and secure a perimeter, at least until we know for sure what the situation is.”

Two by two, Horst’s platoon descended the ramp. Watching from the top of the ramp, Felecia told Wilhelm, “Stay alert at all times. We’re supposedly among friendlies, but there are no guarantees in this business.”

Wilhelm hid a smile, knowing full well that Felecia only stated the glaringly obvious when she was under stress. It was one of the things he’d learned about her in the years they had been working together.

Yuri and The Scar remained in their jump seats, waiting until the last of the mercenaries had deplaned. General Bradson, walking aft from the cockpit, stopped to ask, “Anything I should be aware of – regarding the locals?”    

The Scar glanced out through the open cargo door before saying, “I’ve dealt with this warlord in the past. It is not he that concerns me, it is his rivals. They could launch an attack or raid at any time. That is the way of things here, and by dawn we will have three aircraft on the ground. That will spark their interest. If we can keep on schedule, we should be on our way before they can assemble a force sufficient to cause us difficulty.” 

Over the next hour, two more C-130s landed, taxiing to positions next to the first. One, a B model, was obviously old. Well past its design life and poorly maintained, its engine nacelles stained with streaks of black oil. It had been scheduled for scrapping before The Scar had acquired it for the mission. The rest of the aircraft was equally decrepit. The other C-130 landed roughly and rolled out much further; it was heavily laden with cargo, having begun its journey that day in Malta with the General’s package, and then stopping in Sudan to load up the rest of the items that The Scar had gathered in his warehouse facility and base, which he had nicknamed ‘Home Plate’. 

It had been a frantic week. The delivery from General Bradson’s friend Bill had been delayed for twenty-four hours due to a scheduling mix-up, and the intel dump had contained less information than the General had hoped. The Scar had hit a few snags acquiring the various munitions and equipment, but the last of it had finally arrived just hours before departure at the dusty airport in Sudan. 

The result of the third C-130’s rough landing under such heavy load was revealed by flashlight in a hasty inspection; the main hydraulic shock absorber of the portside main landing gear had blown its seals, rendering it useless. Worse, the gear hinge pins had bent, almost to the point of breaking. After seeing the damage for themselves, the General and The Scar walked away to talk in private. “Can you complete the mission with two aircraft?” The Scar asked.

“No,” General Bradson replied, “I need all three, unless you can find us somewhere in Oman or the Emirates to refuel.”

Sighing, The Scar said, “I’ll tell Yuri to check our contacts, but I judge the chances of success slim. The same is true for our efforts to acquire replacement parts and get them here in time to install them. Will the aircraft suffice as is?”

Shaking his head, the General replied, “No chance. With the pins bent like that, it’s likely to fail during landing with a heavy load, especially on rough ground.” In a desire for simplicity, the General had dubbed the three C-130’s Flights One, Two, and Three. “Flight One is the old clunker; it won’t be landing anywhere but it’s not airworthy so we can’t swap it for the damaged Flight Two, which is slated to fly into Oman carrying fuel for our return leg, and that’ll be a rough-field landing at max load. Flight Three is the aircraft we’ll be taking into Iran, and that’s got to handle up to four landings: one or two in Iran, then once to refuel in Oman, and again in Sudan. Flight One’s engines and wing box are too far gone to use it to one-way the fuel into Oman, so that option won’t work. All we can do is delay the mission until the parts arrive.”

“That may prove problematic. Our host’s rival warlords will surely note the aircraft here, and assume that whatever they are carrying has value. They will come, and their first act will be to disable the aircraft to prevent them from taking off. In the past, they have done so via sniper fire with armor-piercing rounds, targeted at the engines. We cannot keep them far enough away to prevent that. We run a risk as is, but if we delay, it will be greatly magnified,” The Scar said, trying to think of an alternative.

General Bradson, staring at the decrepit Flight One, began to smile. “I think I have our solution. We can swap the parts from Flights One and Two. The bent pins will be good enough to get Flight One off the ground and it won’t matter much if the gear won’t retract. The shock absorber is mainly needed for landing, so Flight One won’t need it. That will solve our issue with Flight Two. Can any of your men handle that kind of work?”

Breathing a sigh of relief, The Scar replied, “Yes, one of my pilots used to be an aircraft mechanic. I’ll have him start at once.”

 

     

Helen still had one remaining issue; no one on La Palma was expecting Jane. Helen had no doubt that the Carlisle brothers, after the initial shock wore off, would welcome her, but Helen knew she couldn’t let them meet her unprepared. With that in mind, Helen seated Jane on one of the two mini-buses chartered to take the wedding guests to the resort, and herself and Barbra on the other. Taking her seat, Helen reached for her cell phone and called Jon.

As soon as the shock wore off, Jon replied in an uneven voice, “Let me and Eric meet with her alone when you get here. I want to be sure, damn sure, that she’s not going to hurt Chase on his wedding day. Helen… thank you. If this works, it’s the best present Chase, or any of us, could ever get.”       

The first order of business was to keep Brandon and Chase away from the arriving guests, whom they had planned to greet at the main entrance. Jon handled that by sending word that the plane had been delayed by half an hour, and then went to see Eric.

Eric and Jon were standing by the main entrance, butterflies in their stomachs, when the mini-vans arrived. Ignoring the other guests, most of whom were now aware of the situation, the two watched and waited. Jane, her face impassive, stepped out of the van and stood staring at them from just five feet away, though a gulf more palpable than the physical loomed between them.

Biting his lip, washed in a flood of conflicting emotions, Eric took a step forward. There had been so many things he’d wanted to say, but what he managed was enough. “Hi, Mom...”

Her lips quivering, tears welling up in her eyes, Jane stepped forward to meet Eric, her words failing her. Driven by instinct, she opened her arms to her sons.

Without conscious thought, Eric and Jon embraced their mother, and she pulled them into a hug. No words were said; none needed to be, for several long and poignant moments.

Watching from a discreet distance, Helen felt the tears welling up in her own eyes. Blinking them back as she turned away, she headed into the foyer with Barbra.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Jane murmured, her voice shaking as she hugged her sons tight, her chest heaving from emotions so long suppressed, and the filling of a void so oft denied.

Remembering that they had an urgent matter to attend, Jon eased out of the hug, picked up his mother’s valise, and said, “Let’s get you checked in.” The one thing that clouded his joy was the fact that his mother had not mentioned Chase.

 

 

While the designated mechanic worked on the aircraft, General Bradson supervised the final preparation of the most critical cargo.

The chlorine, in the form of Sodium hypochlorite, came first. Frantic activity surrounded the chlorine tanks, as Horst’s platoon, decked out in minimal protective gear, decanted the caustic substance into three thousand mayonnaise jars, filling each to the halfway mark. Next, two smaller glass jars, one containing anhydrous ammonia and the other sulfuric acid, were sealed with wax and placed within each of the larger chlorine-containing mayonnaise jars. Each large jar was then placed into specially constructed wooden pallets. The pallets were divided into layers, with each level containing a cardboard honeycomb – the original packing material for the jars, to prevent breakage – one loose-fitting cell for each jar. One hundred mayonnaise jars comprised each of the five layers in a pallet. After the final layer of jars had been added, the pallet was closed up and then loaded aboard Flight Three, as work began on the next pallet.

At a safe distance, Wilhelm and a dozen of his men handled the more delicate task of removing the pins from hand grenades and placing one in each of the two thousand remaining mayonnaise jars. The glass walls of the jars prevented the grenade’s spoons from flipping up and engaging the igniter, which necessitated the caution; one dropped grenade or jar could have been catastrophic.

One by one, the grenade-bearing jars were loaded into wooden pallets identical to those used for the chemical-containing jars.  

Six pallets were loaded into the newly lubricated cargo drop-rails of Flight One. Further forward, twenty-nine standard wooden crates, containing just over three tons of fresh South African lemons, were stacked and then secured to the fuselage tie-downs of the old, barely airworthy plane that would be Flight One.

Bill’s package had contained an eclectic assortment of items, including four standard garage door openers and two laptop computers. The garage door openers ­– powered by rectifiers hooked into the plane’s main electrical system ­– had already been installed in the cargo bay of the old aircraft that comprised Flight One. A GPS-equipped laptop had been mounted in its cockpit, hardwired into both a satellite phone and the aircraft’s autopilot, which had been upgraded for the purpose the week before.  

The loading of Flight Two was a simpler matter. Its only cargo was an assortment of old fuel bladders, loaded from the slightly questionable vintage of the warlord’s own stock. Flight Two would have only two passengers; trained spotters from Wilhelm’s platoon. Their job would be to jump at the pre-selected landing area in Oman to inspect and then light the fuel-laden C-130’s landing area.

Flight Three was the insertion and extraction aircraft, containing additional gear and munitions for its mission, including what appeared to be four fat organ pipes, tapered at each end, mounted on the fuselage, under the wing, pointing aft and slightly downward. Those were the JATO packs: rockets used for takeoff with a heavy load from a very short field. In the rear of its cargo bay and secured to the drop rails were ten pallets, each containing five-hundred mayonnaise jars.

By torchlight and guesswork, working through the night and on into the next day, the planes were readied for the mission, with the work in Flight One’s cockpit being the most demanding.  

The work took two days, and General Bradson, taking a brief break, checked his e-mail via satellite phone, to find the expected encrypted e-mail from Bill, containing his final intelligence and weather update. One item caused him to raise an eyebrow, as it explained very much indeed. General Bradson mulled the development over, deciding that there was nothing he could do except proceed, though he did decide to arrange a little insurance.   

There was still one major issue remaining; the dead bodies needed for Flight One had not yet appeared. Growing concerned, General Bradson went to The Scar’s tent. Interrupting his dinner, The General asked, “Any news on the morgue delivery? I must have those cadavers.”

With a casual one-shouldered shrug, The Scar relied, “The warlord said he would have them here by now. If he does not, I’ll tell him to kill a couple of his men for the purpose. I’ll make sure they use knives so as not to leave any bullet holes. He will do so if he wants to be paid, which indeed he does.”

Shaking his head, General Bradson stood his ground. “No. I won’t be a party to slaughtering innocent men.”

Amused at what he considered a foolhardy display of scruples, The Scar asked, “That’s a rather interesting sentiment General, considering that your mission will surely result in many deaths, particularly at Abadan and at your primary target. You’re also planning on violating numerous other rules generally regarded as applying to combat.”  

“That’s part of war, even if it is unconventional. It cannot be helped, and that target must be taken all the way out, both to make our mission possible, and to prevent the conflict from spreading. Executing innocent men however is another matter entirely.”

Retuning his gaze to his dinner, suppressing a chuckle, The Scar sighed, “Very well, General. We’ll put this conversation on hold until we see whether or not the cadavers appear.” Smiling, enjoying the riposte enough to make him incautious with his words, The Scar added, “War, General? I was not aware of a declared war.”

Growing aware that he was being toyed with, General Bradson replied, “Iran has committed numerous acts of war against America. They founded, and support, the terror group Hezbollah and others. Via their proxies, they have slaughtered Americans during the Lebanon Marine Barracks attack, Kohbar towers, and in other cases too. They have also now kidnapped and are holding for ransom United States Marines, doing so without admitting they have them and thereby implying a threat to their lives, a threat I believe they intend to carry out shortly. If my government hadn’t lost its spine, I wouldn’t have to do this on my own hook. So yes, this is war and by virtue of necessity, I’m aiming to give Iran a dose of its own medicine. Surely you can appreciate the irony of that?” The General was well aware of The Scar’s abiding love of irony.

“Touché, General. Yes, I do see the irony there. Please believe me; I have no objection to your planned actions and I aim to do everything possible to ensure the success of your mission.”    

Fifteen minutes later, the issue of the bodies was rendered moot; an old truck wheeled into the compound, carrying three cadavers that were immediately loaded into the hold of Flight One.

One more night of frantic work ensued, with the final details attended to not long before dawn. An exhausted General Bradson made his final inspections, then checked the weather one last time, and crossed off the final items on his list. Operation Pandora was ready to go.

They slept, or tried to, through the long, dusty day, and as the sun lowered towards the western horizon, it was time. The fact that the planes were getting ready to leave was not missed by the observers hiding in the nearby hills.

The Scar often used his two C-130 Hs for transporting merchandise, and had detailed his cadre of pilots to join the mission. Only two were fully rated in the C-130, while the third, a man by the claimed name of Smith, was in the process of being trained by the other two pilots. The two rated men, along with their crews, took the controls of Flights Two and Three, while Smith, who had never flown as pilot in command of anything larger than a single-engine light plane, took command of the old and decrepit Flight One. General Bradson accompanied him to the jury-rigged cockpit, and alone, they went over the controls. Satisfied that Smith could take off and follow a course, the General said with a wink, “You’ll do fine. Landing is the hard part and you won’t be doing that.”

 

 

Leaving their mother’s suite, Jon walked a few paces before asking Eric, “Can you tell if she’s on the level? I want to believe her, but…” Jon had long since grown accustomed to deferring to Eric when it came to dealing with people, due to Eric’s innate knack for reading them.

Taking a deep breath, consulting his heart, Eric replied softly, “Yeah, she is. I can feel it. She’s got her reservations but she won’t hurt Chase, and she asked to see him. She’s nervous about how he’ll react. Let’s go get him.”

“What about Brandon?” Jon asked, already guessing the answer.

“No, not yet. Chase first, then we’ll introduce Brandon later,” Eric replied, knowing that seeing the couple together would be harder for his mother and thus a greater risk that she’d react badly.

Arriving at Brandon and Chase’s suite, Jon knocked as Eric whispered, “This may not be easy, those two are joined at the hip.”

Chase opened the door. Eric reached out, grabbed him by the arm, and yanked him into the hallway. Ignoring Chase’s startled expression, Eric told Jon, “Take him there, I’ll tell Brandon what’s up.”

Chase dug in his heels and said, “Not until you tell me–”

Both seeing and feeling that Chase’s stubborn streak was in full bloom, Eric said flatly, “Mom’s here. She wants to see you but trust me, it’s best if you see her alone first. I’ll bring Brandon in a few.”

“Mom?” Chase asked, his jaw dropping open.

“Yeah, she’s here. Helen brought her,” Jon said as he tugged Chase along.

Brandon heard it all, and stared at Eric as he entered the suite. “Are you serious?”

Nodding, Eric replied, “Yeah, she’s here, in room seventeen. I thought it’d be best if she saw Chase first, before meeting you,” Eric said, concerned that Brandon wouldn’t understand, though feeling that he would.

Brandon did. Pointing at the still-open door, he said, “I’ll wait by the phone, but you should be there too. Go.” Knowing that Brandon was right, Eric dashed off at a run.

 

 

Chase froze outside the door to his mother’s suite. Understanding, but seeing need for a little humor, Eric said, “Try knocking, it’s how you get someone to answer a door.”

The tension easing a little, Chase smiled nervously and tapped on the door.

They stared at each other, mother and son, Chase not knowing what to say or do, and Jane finding herself unable to put into words the many things she wanted and needed to say. After a long silence, she pulled Chase into a hug, and gasped between sobs, “I’ve missed you so much, I’ve missed you all so much.” 

The chasm, though narrowing, remained. Sitting together, the three brothers and their mother chatted, carefully dancing around so many issues. Finally, taking a deep breath, Jane said, “Enough damn tip-toeing. Chase, I want to go to your wedding, if you’ll have me. I’m sorry for the past, I really am. I won’t lie to you; I don’t approve of what you’re doing or the life you’ve chosen, but it’s your life, I see that now, and I support your right to make decisions that I don’t agree with. I’ll never mention my objections again. We were wrong, your father and I, to do what we did. I fooled myself into thinking that it was for your own good… and I ended up hurting you all, and myself as well. Enough of that, I want to meet this Brandon Wolfe who’s taken my baby’s heart.”

Taking his mother’s hand, Chase made no attempt to hide his tears. “Mom, of course I want you at my wedding.”

Grinning with relief, Eric leaned over the end of the sofa, snatched up the phone and dialed. As soon as Brandon answered, Eric smiled manically, saying, “Get your ass over here,” and then he hung up the phone.

Rolling her eyes, Jane found herself repeating a line, spoken so often by her through the years. “Eric, language!” she huffed, and then smiled, her first genuine smile in a very long time.

 

 

An hour later, feeling that all was well with the world, the four members of Instinct strolled back towards their respective accommodations, and Eric glanced up to see a lone, distinctive cloud catching the last rays of the setting sun, high above the volcano. Knowing what it was – the remains of another ash venting – and hoping that his brothers and Brandon wouldn’t, Eric quickened his pace.

Once he was alone, Eric made his way to Helen and Barbra’s suite. Taking a seat on their couch, he said, “Helen, thanks doesn’t cut it. Having our mother back, I... I just never thought it would happen. I don’t know how you did it, but–”

Helen cut Eric off to say, “I played a small role, but it was General Bradson who went out to Idaho and paid your parents a visit, trying to get them to change their minds. He told me it didn’t go well, but that there was more hope with your mother. So, I sent out a wedding invitation and followed up.”

Seeing the opening and driven by his curiosity, Eric said, “You know where General Bradson is, don’t you.”

Shaking her head, Helen decided to tell Eric what very little she knew, which was little more than he did. “I don’t know where he is. All I do know is that he’s trying to rescue his son. I haven’t heard from him since he flew out with you, and I have no way of contacting him.”

“I’d like to see if he’s okay, or if he needs anything. At least thank him for what he did… Isn’t there some way to get a message to him?” Eric asked.

“Sorry Hon,” Helen replied, shaking her had sadly, “If there is, I don’t know it. I don’t even know when we can expect to hear from him again.” 

Eric could tell that Helen was telling the truth, so he didn’t press. Instead, he kept his current plans to visit the airport to himself and said, “I talked to Jansen and Keith. They’re all fired up to try the club idea.”

Helen let out an irritated snort. “I’ll bet they are. It’s a great deal, for them. As I said before, you should have offered them a smaller cut.” Eric opened his mouth to object, but Helen cut him off. “Can it, Eric. You can give me all the reasoning you want, but I know you. You consider them friends so you’re offering far too much. However, your underlying concept appears sound and you should do well personally in spite of your offer, so this venture still has my reluctant, tentative approval. Most of your assets are in long-term investments so there would be withdrawal penalties to consider, but you have more than ample funds for a venture of this size – I estimate three million, to do it right – in your liquid accounts. That said, I want to meet Jansen and Keith. I also want to look over any paperwork you sign, in advance. Linking your name to a strip club is… risky, but it should be financially worthwhile, judging by what you have outlined. The concept is good, but now you need to work on the details. If, and only if, it looks profitable and sound, you’ll have my support.”

Eric readily agreed. Most of his financial assets required both his signature and Helen’s to access, and that would remain the case until his twenty-fifth birthday. The same stipulation applied to his brothers and Brandon; it was Helen’s way of ensuring that they didn’t squander their money, a fate all too common in their business. Smiling, he said, “Thanks, and thanks for what you did to bring our mother around and get her to come. I want you to know something though; she’s our mother, but I really do think of you as our mom.” 

Eric’s words made Helen feel warm inside. She knew that he was buttering her up, but she also knew that he meant it. However, a little matter had come to her attention, and she simply could not deny herself the pleasure, so she said in her sweetest voice – the one Eric knew to fear, “Eric, sweetie, do Brandon and Chase know that the volcano we’re all sitting on has been erupting?” Eric’s sharp intake of breath let her know that she’d scored, and that Eric was still unaware that his bandmates knew about the volcano.

“I didn’t know it was erupting when I picked this place. I only found out a couple of days ago and by then it was already too late to change everything,” Eric blurted.  

Rolling her eyes, deciding that he’d squirmed long enough, Helen said, “Trust you to book us on an active volcano… However, according to the man at the front desk, it’s a well-behaved one usually, so we’ll just have to hope it doesn’t get too restless prior to the wedding.” Unable to resist one last little dig, Helen’s smile became evil as she said in her sweetest voice, “I’ll let you tell Brandon and Chase.”

“Just what I needed,” Eric complained, deciding to tell them when the time was right, though having no idea when that might be.

 

 

On the morning of the wedding, Eric hovered near the mini-buses, greeting each guest in turn. The dress code had been dictated by Brandon and Chase: casual. It had to be, given what they planned. 

Jansen and Keith arrived, looking a little ill at ease, wearing matching shorts and button-down short-sleeve shirts. Brandon and Chase greeted them warmly, dispelling the dancer’s feelings of being out of place at the wedding. Spotting Eric, they walked over to stand by him. “Hey Eric, looks like everything’s going great. Thanks for the invite.”

Shaking his head, Eric replied, “That’s from Brandon and Chase, too. I told ‘em how you guys had helped me with the arrangements.” Casting a nervous eye towards Cumbre Vieja’s looming bulk, Eric said, “I haven’t told Brandon and Chase about the volcano yet. I just hope it keeps quiet a little longer.” Changing subjects as he spied a new arrival heading for the bus, Eric waited until she was near and said, “Mom, this is Jansen and Keith, two good friends of mine. Guys, this is my mother, Jane Carlshitski.”

Eric’s mother greeted the two dancers warmly, and then boarded the bus. Keith raised an amused eyebrow in Eric’s direction. “So, your real last name is Carlshitski, is it?”

Envisioning the endless ribbing that Keith’s comment threatened, Eric said, “I legally changed it to Carlisle.” Deciding to turn the tables, Eric did his best impression of Helen’s sweet smile. “Oh, by the way, you’re sitting with Helen and me at the reception. She wants to meet you both and grill you about the business.” 

The truthful comment had its desired effect, and the two dancers paled slightly. “Is she really as bad as you say?” Jansen asked.

Eric smiled innocently, and said in a reassuring tone, “No, she’s worse, but don’t worry about it. There’s a good chance she didn’t mean literally grill you, like over a fire…”

 

 

The steady drumbeat of surf echoing off the cliffs tried but failed to drown out the minister’s sonorous, accented voice. Brandon and Chase, standing knee-deep in the shore breakers, stood apart but holding hands as the minister performed the service.

A gentle tang of salt, wafted on the breeze, filled the air. The sun, dancing across the sparkling waters, bathed the scene in a golden glow.

Brandon and Chase, facing one another, speaking as one, recited the vows they’d penned.

“Long ago the thought of you and I was but a dream.

Dreams, it is said, oft die the hardest deaths of all,

though because of you, I dared to dream.

Together, we have breathed life unto our dreams, and together, we shall make them endure.


All that I am and all that I shall be, I offer to you in eternal love.
I will cherish and comfort you, hold you close, prize you above all others,
and remain faithful to you all the days of our lives.

 

For all that I now am, I pledge to share with you, in good times and in bad.
For whatever lies ahead, be it joy or tribulation, we will face together.

First, last, and always, we will look unto each other and see a friend. For all the days to come, I take my place by your side as your husband, henceforth and forever.” 

 

Jon stood by Brandon’s side, and Eric stood by Chase’s, pride in his heart. The assembled guests stood in an uneven line on the beach, well back from the lapping, frothy waves. The minister began to speak, as a flock of sea birds, as if on cue, thundered into the air from their perch on an offshore rock. “By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you…” The perfect moment lasted for a heartbeat more, as the cause of the birds’ distress became apparent, and the earth itself began to roar.

Feeling the first waves of the ground shock, Brandon and Chase glanced around, following the minister’s spellbound, pallid gaze upwards and inland, to the roiling, angry column of fire and ash, shot through with flickers of lightning, that rose above the trembling cliffs from the main crater of Cumbre Vieja, less than two miles away.

Stuttering, feeling a sense of fear and dread, the minister resumed his service, reciting out of long habit and in haste. “I now pronounce you Husband and Wife…,” he said, his voice trembling, as he began to wade ashore.

From deep within the earth, a rising column of magma surged upwards, and the volcano, returning fully to life, shook off the fettering chains that had bound it during its decades-long sleep.

Transfixed by the sight of the erupting volcano, everyone on the beach was facing the wrong way to notice the hasty, almost noiseless retreat of the sea. 

And the earth, awakened, continued to dance….  

 
 

© 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.

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