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 29: Ignition

 

 

 

“So, how am I doing?” Eric asked, his breath coming in short, heated gasps.

“Pretty good so far, especially for a beginner,” Jansen replied, and then added, “Thrust a bit harder, don’t hold back, work your hips.”

Eric thrust his hips forward, once, then again. “Thanks for teaching me this. It’s hot.” 

“It’s hot in a lot of ways. We’re both soaked,” Jansen replied with a smile, accompanied by an admiring glance at Eric’s sweating torso. “We’ve been working at this all morning. Let’s take a break.”

Following Jansen off the pavilion’s dance floor, Eric agreed. “Yeah, that bump-and-grind stuff is pretty strenuous.”

“That’s not bump-and-grind, and you’re only supposed to thrust your hips forward once, not dry-hump the air,” Jansen said with a laugh as he sank into a chair.

Eric sat down in the chair next to Jansen, in spite of their being four other chairs around the table. Giving Jansen’s shoulder a playful bump with his own, enjoying the sensation of their bare, sweaty skin touching, Eric said, “I had no idea that just pulling my shirt off and dancing for three seconds would be so hard to learn.”

“Keither and I spend a lot of time training. You can’t expect to get it overnight,” Jansen said.

Eric angled his head a few degrees and a quizzical look began to appear on his face. Trusting his instinct, and taking note of the fact that Jansen was not as upbeat as usual, Eric said, “Something’s still bothering you, I can tell. If it’s about what happened here last night, let’s talk about it.”  

Jansen’s eyes opened wide in surprise. He had been sure that he was concealing his regrets, and had yet to learn of Eric’s special knack. Jansen tried to find the right words to explain, without either lying or telling the whole truth. After several seconds of frantic thought, Jansen opened his mouth to say, “Uh...”

Jansen closed his mouth, and Eric snickered before saying, “Strippers aren’t exactly eloquent.”

Laughing, his stress ebbing, Jansen replied, “That’s–“

“Exotic dancers, you ass,” Eric said, completing Jansen’s sentence before placing a friendly hand on the dancer’s shoulder. “I’m just trying to help. I care about you and I don’t like to see you down.”

Jansen stared into Eric’s eyes, seeing the concern, and feeling the caring spirit within. With a sad smile, Jansen glanced down at the table before saying, “I’ll get over it. I... Basically I’m just...” Jansen paused, unsure of what to say, and then, to his own surprise, he said, “I’ve been kicking myself, wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t...”

“Look at me,” Eric said, waiting until Jansen’s eyes met his own before continuing. “Kicking yourself sucks. I know, because I’ve been doing it too, wondering if I’d said things a little differently... I didn’t mean I wanted to use you to try out sex with a guy, I meant I wanted to try... dating, I guess. I’ll be honest; the only time I’ve ever kissed a guy–”

“Keither told me about that, after you left last night,” Jansen interrupted to say, with a shy smile. “That’s why I’ve been kicking myself, wondering if...”

“Stop kicking. Nothing’s changed as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never really dated so I don’t know how, but that’s what I meant when I said I wanted to try.”

“So do you still want to?” Jansen asked in a whisper, letting himself lean closer to Eric.

Eric smiled, nodding once, angling his head and he leaned towards Jansen. “Yeah, I do,” he said, butterflies in his stomach as he unconsciously wet his lips in anticipation.

Jansen angled his head. Closing his eyes, he leaned further forward, his lips brushing Eric’s.

The click of the door opening caused them both to jump back, and Eric looked past Jansen as Jane walked in. “Helen told me I might find you here,” she said to her son, pretending to be oblivious to what she had interrupted.

 

 

The Tehran command center was the realm of chaos, though the senior commanders, roused from their sleep, strove to restore some semblance of order.

Upon arriving, they’d been told of what appeared to be a dreadful accident that had resulted in the destruction of a critical refinery. The magnitude of the refinery loss could not be understated. It was devastating, but an accident nonetheless. Then, one by one, the cracks in that comfortable assumption had begun to appear. First, a colonel had wondered aloud why anyone would be flying lemons into Iraq, when that country produced and exported them. Iraq, the ostensible destination, had provided the details of the flight plan, and a cursory check had turned up a further incongruous fact; the pilot had filed the flight plan in the air, via radio. However, a phone call to the air fright company had revealed that its lone C-130 was down for repairs, and had been for weeks. That was not, in and of itself, an indicator of foul play; smuggling was rife in the region, and smugglers most often gave false identification. But smuggling lemons? That led the commanders to consider that their country might indeed have been the victim of some form of attack, one that had obliterated its most critical refinery. They were reluctant to accept that possibility; the stand-down orders, while not given by them, were their responsibility. As the senior commanders were all too well aware, the loss of the refinery would plunge Iran into a massive fuel shortage, and the government would be left trying to explain why that was possible for a country sitting atop a veritable sea of oil. Heads would roll, of that they were certain, but they preferred that their own not be amongst them.

Fearing the wrath of the Mullahs of the Guardian Council – the true rulers of Iran – the commanders continued to hope that it had indeed been an accident.

The next disquieting bit of news came from the team investigating the plane wreckage; they’d found an inexplicable nozzle bolted to a section of wing that had survived largely intact. Further reports from the area around the refinery told of multiple small explosions all around, just prior to the main blast at the refinery itself. More worrisome yet, a number of damaged grenades had been found. Over a span of minutes, dark suspicions began to grow stronger amongst the senior commanders. The first of a series of frantic phone and radio calls from their base near Kerman, over five hundred miles from Abadan, were more than enough to cement their concerns and spur them to action.

The commander of the Iranian Air Force, Arteshbod (Lieutenant General) Mohammed Shah-Safi, cut the orders himself: “Scramble, Scramble, Scramble. Enemy airborne assault force at Kerman Revolutionary Guards Center. Barrier and Interdiction.” The follow-up tasking orders sent three Mirage F-1 fighters roaring aloft from Zahedan Airbase near the Pakistan boarder, two hundred and fifty miles east of Kerman.

Arteshbod Shah-Safi cursed his luck; the airfield at Kerman, just seven miles from the Revolutionary Guards base, was home to seven Bell attack helicopters. He had ordered them into the air with all possible speed, but had immediately received unwelcome news; all seven were in various states of disassembly due to ‘temporarily’ being cannibalized for spare parts, victims of the chronic spare parts shortage that was a perennial problem in Iran. The Iranian General would have been even less pleased to learn that General Bradson had more timely information than he: via Bill’s access to reconnaissance satellite data, the General had been aware of that situation for weeks, and thus had been able to dismiss the Kerman airbase from his planning concerns.  

Iran’s available forces were slow to respond. Contrary to popular belief, fighter aircraft, with the exception of those on runway alert, take a considerable amount of time to get into the air. They must be fueled, armed, and a pilot must be found. As a result, the next sortie of Iranian fighters took a further ten minutes to get into the air, this time from Bandar Abbas, on the Straits of Hormuz. These were a flight of six MIG 29s, very fast and capable interceptors. One of their best features was their powerful air-to-air radar. They were tasked to barrier patrol over the Straits of Hormuz.

Piecemeal, other airbases sortied fighters. The majority of the aircraft, for reasons that had more to do with geographical convenience than tactics, were tasked to barrier patrol.

Within fifteen minutes of giving his orders, the Iranian commanders felt certain that they had slammed the door on any possible escape, barring inbound air support. Over the flat deserts near the Afghan and Pakistani borders, his fighter radars could pick up any aircraft, no matter how low. Over the open waters of the Straits of Hormuz, those radars would be more effective yet. A quick glance at the map indicated that those two avenues were the most likely routes of retreat for the invaders, but just to be sure, every available plane, save for those now boring in on Kerman from two directions, were ordered to patrol the skies. As an afterthought, to prevent further friendly-fire incidents, the commander made certain that Iran’s military transport aircraft were on the ground and would stay there.

Concerned over the possibility that whoever was staging the raid would follow up with a fighter sweep to aid in their assault force’s escape, Arteshbod Shah-Safi spared no effort to get everything he could into the air, and Iran’s air defense network went to its highest state of alert.

With the immediate needs taken care of, the Arteshbod’s thoughts again turned towards the question of who. The lack, so far, of intervening enemy fighters indicated a clandestine raid, and he knew that the Kerman facility housed, amongst other things, Iran’s nuclear weapons cache and, in the Revolutionary Guards’ compound, two American prisoners slated for execution.

It was, Arteshbod Shah-Safi decided, most likely a covert raid, designed to offer plausible deniability to the perpetrator. That would explain the lack of overt enemy fighters, and that made their appearance at this stage even less likely, but it was not a possibility that he could afford to dismiss. With that in mind, he confirmed that every available fighter would be airborne as soon as possible. His foremost hope was that the raid had taken only the American prisoners. If anything had happened to the underground base, its centrifuges, or worse still the nuclear weapons, the Arteshbod had no doubt at all that his own life would be forfeit. With that unpleasant thought on his mind, he returned to his status board and watched as the blinking lights representing his fighters inched ever closer to Kerman. 

 

 

Jane had taken a seat across the table from Eric and Jansen, and after making small talk for a while, wishing that the dancer would leave. She finally looked Eric in the eye to say, “I need to talk to you alone. I managed to get a phone call through to your father this morning.”

Eric’s alarm bells went off at once, but before Eric could even turn to ask, Jansen stood up and said, “I’ll be back at my place,” and turned to leave, wishing that Jane had picked some other time to appear.

Once they were along, Eric asked softly, “How did it go, Mom?”

Jane’s brow wrinkled, and struggling to retain her composure, she said, “I told him where I was, and why I had come. He is furious, to put it mildly. Things were said... hateful things. I half expected this when I agreed to come here, but that makes it no easier. I do not think he will change his mind, nor do I think I care to take him back if he does. JT and I... all those years, wasted. That, and the pain we caused. I’m alone now, Eric. I suppose it is fair, after what I did to you and your brothers. You lost your home, now I have lost mine.”

Eric could feel that his mother was, barely, maintaining her facade of dignity by hiding the flood of emotions she was feeling. Reaching across the table, Eric took his mother’s hand in his own. “You’re wrong, Mom. You aren’t alone, you have us. Come back to Los Angeles with us. We’ll find you a house, there or anywhere you want.”

Smiling for the first time that day, Jane replied, “Don’t worry, I will be fine financially; JT and I have done well and half of that is mine. I’ll be filing for...” she paused, resisting for a moment the finality that giving voice to the word would impart, “a divorce, as soon as we are back in the United States. I just don’t want to be alone.”

“You won’t be, Mom,” Eric said, before getting up to give his mother a hug.

“You’re a sweaty mess,” Jane said, and Eric pulled away with a grin. “What were you doing?”

The reality of that casual question rocked Eric back on his heels. His first thought was a casual answer, leaving out anything personal between Jansen and himself. ‘No, no way am I hiding,’ Eric thought, and opened his mouth to tell his mother the truth, but words failed as he realized two things; that nothing had actually happened yet, and that his mother might not be in the best frame of mind to hear a new revelation regarding the sexuality of one of her sons. “Jansen is teaching me some dance moves, for a club we’re opening.”    

“What kind of a club?” Jane asked, which resulted in a long and detailed conversation as Eric explained. Jane kept her true opinions to herself, and made plans to bring the matter up with Jon and Helen.

By the time Jane left to go see Jon, it was mid afternoon. Eric glanced at a wall clock, realizing that it was too late for a trip to the airport that day. There was also the little matter of some very unfinished business which was foremost on Eric’s mind.  

 

 

The Mirage F-1 fighters roaring in from the east were less than ten minutes out, though Flight Three had no way of knowing that.

Felecia heard the shrill, ominous whistle of the first incoming howitzer round, but not in time to duck. One hundred yards to her left, the night erupted as the 105-millimeter shell slammed into the earth and the blast wave washed over her. Staggering, she glanced around one last time, making sure that her remaining men were aboard. Hearing the planes engines spool up, she ignored the incoming small arms fire as mercenaries on the cargo bay began trading small arms fire with the lead elements of the Iranian advance force closing in from the rear.

 

 

The young artillery officer listened as the sentry reported in, and then commanded; “Drop one hundred and fire for effect. Maximum fire rate!” Two seconds later, the sky lit up again as his three old howitzers sent their shells whistling downrange.

 

 

Wincing as a round grazed her shoulder, Felecia backed up the ramp, stumbling slightly as the plane began to accelerate, firing from the hip. As she entered the bay, she turned and raced for the cockpit. Over her shoulder she yelled, “Raise the door in five seconds but keep firing until then.”

General Bradson, in the pilot’s seat, eased the throttles the rest of the way forward as the C-130 picked up speed. The shattering flash of the howitzer shell detonating ahead caused him to wince, and as the plane trembled from the shockwave’s impact, he yanked the throttles back and began braking.

Dashing headlong into the cockpit, Felecia lost her footing due to the unexpected motion of the plane. Falling in a heap just behind the pilot’s seat, she yelled, “Light off the JATO’s and go or we’re dead!”

“We need the rockets for later, they’re critical. I’ve got to taxi past that shell crater; if we hit it at speed we won’t make it.”

Horst appeared in the cockpit doorway, and Felecia shouted, “Time?”

Horst glanced at his watch. “One minute, forty seconds.”   

“Walter, get us away from here fast,” Felecia said.

Assuming that she was referring to the incoming howitzer fire, he replied, “Hang on, I’ve got to swerve but then it’s clear.” 

General Bradson firewalled the engines fifty yards short of the shell crater. It was directly in his path, and he could not steer far enough to the left of it to clear it with the right main gear. That left just one option. The plane accelerated through forty miles an hour as it neared the crater and General Bradson steered as far to the left as he dared. At the last second, he snatched the nosewheel steering to the right and lightly pressed his foot on the right brake while throwing in full left aileron. 

The C-130 began to swerve, leaning over to the left, shifting the majority of its weight to its left main gear. Inertia and motion proved just barely enough, and the right main gear bounced lightly over the crater rim, sailing over the void. General Bradson struggled to re-center the careening aircraft, and a hundred yards behind them, two howitzer rounds slammed into ground, one scoring a direct hit on the old Jeep that Brian had hotwired.

“Door up,” Felecia called out over the intercom, just to be sure.

A downwind takeoff requires a higher groundspeed than an upwind takeoff, which is why it is a very rare maneuver. The General watched his indicators, feeling the heavily laden plane shudder as it roared down the rough dirt road. After what seemed like forever, the airspeed indicator reached the peg he’d set and he called out, “Rotation” as he hauled back on the yoke.

Twenty feet off the ground, he retracted the landing gear and unloaded the first notch of flaps as he began a combat turn to the right, towards the east.

“Walter, put as much distance between us and the underground complex as you can. We left the Iranians a surprise and it’s set to blow in about a minute,” Felecia said, as she looked at the gyrocompass and saw the eastbound heading.  

Concentrating on the task of keeping the accelerating C-130 less than a hundred feet off the ground, General Bradson dismissed the concern, “We’re already three miles away and I’ve got the engines redlined. Nothing that far back can touch us.”

“This just might. Prepare for one hell of a bang, and you might want to turn off every electrical system that you can.” Felecia said, and then turned to ask Horst, “Time?”

Behind his night vision goggles, General Bradson’s eyes opened wide in shock as the comment about the electrical system led him to an obvious conclusion: a nuclear explosion. If the fireball broached the surface, he knew that there would be a radiation pulse. Frantically, as a precaution, he began powering down every subsystem that he could, starting with his modified radar detectors.

“Thirty seconds,” Horst replied. Thinking that there might not be a later, he added, “Wilhelm was hit in the stomach, badly. He believed he would not survive so he stayed with the bomb. He told me to tell you farewell, and that he would make sure.” He checked his watch again. “Twenty seconds.” 

They would not have that long.

 

 

Wilhelm, cradling his AK-47 under his arm, fought off the grayness and the pain, struggling to remain conscious. There had been no way to reseal the steel door, so he did the best he could, firing back, trying to delay the Iranians. He spared a glance at the timer Joachim had attached to the bombcase: twenty seconds remaining.

Wincing from the agony in his gut, he sent a final burst from his gun out the door. He’s heard them come, and knew there were at least five Revolutionary Guards preparing to storm his position. His one thought was to give Felecia all the time he could. It would be his last gift to her. He wished that he could somehow confirm that she had taken off, but there was no such way.

He saw it before he heard it, the grenade clattering in through the door. Had he the time, Wilhelm would have smiled; that was proof that the attacking troops had no idea what the room had contained. Lifting his blood-covered left hand, Wilhelm slammed it down on the pressure switch that Joachim had rigged.  

In that one fleeting, final moment, Wilhelm thought of Felecia, and regretted that he had never summoned the courage to tell her that he loved her.

 

 

The switch Wilhelm had pressed closed a circuit, bypassing the timer on the bombcase and applying twelve volts of power directly to the detonating cap within the small shaped charge Joachim had carefully positioned inside the bombcase.

The white-hot jet of flame from the shaped charge lanced into the pound of high explosives that served as the firing charge of the Iranian device, igniting it.

The result was not symmetrical, nor did it need to be. The expanding gases slammed into the back of the driver cylinder, ramming it, and the attached ninety-pound hemisphere of Uranium 235 towards its target. The hemisphere and its driver, encased in a thick steel tube, were essentially the bullet in a very large gun.

The driver surged towards its target, accelerating through four hundred miles an hour in the hard vacuum of the seven-foot long tube.

At the far end of the tube was the target, a nearly identical half sphere of Uranium. The only difference was that, in what would be the center of the assembled sphere, was a hollow spherule made of two nickel-coated halves, it was one centimeter in diameter. Its grooved surface contained a coating of Polonium. It was called the Urchin: the trigger, the spark that would ignite the atomic fire. 

With massive force, the two hemispheres of uranium collided, vacuum-welding themselves into a near-perfect sphere. There was no matching indentation in the other hemisphere to conform to the Urchin, and the crushing shock collapsed the tiny, hollow spherule, shattering its surface along the pre-cut grooves, exposing the beryllium in the hollow spherule to the alpha particles emerging from the polonium coating on the central spherule of the Urchin. For seven nanoseconds, this produced a small cascade of high-energy neutrons: a spark. As the Spherule collapsed, the surfaces of the grooves collided, forming what physicists have named a 'Munroe effect jet': essentially similar to a shaped explosive charge. The jet, lancing through the thin layer of polonium and nickel into the central spherule, atomized some of the remaining polonium, driving it as high velocity plasma onto the beryllium, producing an additional pulse of neutrons, which radiated out into the supercritical mass of Uranium.

Ignition.

The assembled sphere of Uranium, already nearly twice critical mass, absorbed the initiator’s neutron flux. The neutrons served their function, splitting atoms of Uranium 235, each split releasing two neutrons, and the chain reaction fed upon itself, doubling, doubling again, as the neutron flux grew geometrically.

From the pressing of the switch to the fission reaction, just enough time had passed to allow Wilhelm’s heart to beat one last and final time. The room itself began to glow an unearthly blue as the gamma rays from the fissioning core lashed out, attacking the atomic bonds of everything in their path. 

Heat and pressure, rivaling that at the core of the sun, began tearing the fissioning core apart, dampening the reaction, but its job was done: it had converted just over a gram of matter into energy, equivalent to twenty thousand tons of TNT.

Wilhelm, the room, and everything in it flashed to plasma as the bomb case disintegrated, allowing light and heat to shine forth with irresistible force. 

The blast was like any other explosion, notable only for its size and power. Confined by the inertia of the surrounding rock, a fraction of its energy sought the path of least resistance, and the full fury of the nuclear blast pulsed through the tunnels and chambers, speeding out.

One chamber to the north, something stood in its way; the centrifuge array that had completed the final enrichment stage of the uranium. The centrifuges, numbering over a thousand and spinning at nearly twenty thousand rotations per minute on their magnetic bearings, held the uranium hexafluoride, and its uranium component had already been enriched to near weapons-grade.

This devil’s brew lay directly in the path of the neutron pulse from the nuclear detonation a hundred yards away. The surge of high-energy neutrons, diminished somewhat by the steel cases of the centrifuges, caused a fission reaction in the uranium hexafluoride. It was not a chain reaction; the density was insufficient. Instead, it passed in one brief pulse, releasing just over five additional kilotons of energy. It made little immediate difference; the contents of the chamber were rendered down to their constituent atoms before the first evidence of the blast had even reached the surface. 

Twenty yards past the centrifuge chamber was the ventilation shaft junction. From there, a shaft ten feet in diameter ascended skyward through five hundred feet of granite. Except for two slight doglegs designed to defeat a down-the-shaft smart bomb, the shaft had an uninterrupted run to the surface, where it emerged into the blower array disguised as a farmhouse.

The hot plasma from the core of the nuclear blaze surged up the shaft, smashing the rock around it to dust, emerging into the night sky as a column of actinic light.

Similar beams of furious light escaped from the disguised entrance tunnels for a brief moment, before the expanding fireball within the mountain collapsed them forever.

The fireball forced the creation of a massive cavity within the mountain, causing a powerful shockwave in the surrounding rock, similar to that produced by a major earthquake. The underground cavity, two hundred yards in diameter, lasted for a brief span of seconds, until the fireball that had created and supported it guttered and died. The shattered mountain collapsed in upon itself, leaving a crater over the grave of the underground facility. From the rubble, radioactive gases, including large volumes of uranium hexafluoride, belched forth. The residents of nearby Kerman were fortunate; the westerly wind would cause the radioactive cloud to pass to their north.  

The seismic shockwave would not go unnoticed. Earthquakes, when recorded on a seismograph, begin and then increase in intensity. An underground explosion on the other hand shows up as sudden shock which then trails off. It would take time, but the global nuclear detection seismograph net, consisting of over five hundred stations, would determine that something unnatural had occurred beneath the mountains northwest of Kerman. The second clue, needed for confirmation of a nuclear event, would be air samples gathered far downwind that would detect the radiation. That would come, with time.

The sudden pulse of light from the mountain shafts was enough to light up the sky, and General Bradson’s blood ran cold as he waited for the shockwave. It came, diminished by distance, as a thunderclap barely audible above the roaring engines. The radiation pulse that hit the C-130 was far too weak to do any damage. Taking a quick look at his instruments and seeing no sign of trouble, the General began to breathe again.

“Farewell, Wilhelm,” Felecia said in a soft, somber voice, as she drew her pistol and placed the barrel against the side of General Bradson’s head.

 

 

Eric crossed the resort grounds, heading for Jansen and Keith’s suite at a run, driven by the need to know.

Tapping on the door, Eric waited impatiently until Keith opened it. Eric bolted through the door, and Keith said, “I’ll see you guys later,” and closed the door on his way out. He’d heard what had happened and was eager to be elsewhere.

Jansen stood up as Eric walked towards him. Eric stopped for a moment, letting his eyes trace Jansen’s chiseled chest, looking upwards until he found himself gazing into sapphire blue eyes. Opening his mouth, Eric was about to say ‘Sorry,’ but stopped as Jansen smiled and shook his head, saying without words that there was no need.

With a silence born of trust, Jansen reached out, intertwining his fingers with Eric’s.

Eric edged forward, crossing the gulf that had once stood in his way, feeling a slight shudder down his spine as their bare chests touched. With their hands at their sides, fingers intertwined, they leaned in closer, chins grazing for a moment as their lips touched, lightly, lingering for a moment.

Eric let his tongue trace Jansen’s lips, feeling the heat of the dancer’s breath. Hesitancy, sundered by desire, gave way to passionate abandon as Jansen’s lips parted, and their tongues began to dance.

Eric disentangled his hands from Jansen’s, and let them roam on the dancer’s bare back, feeling the hard muscles tense and move under his golden skin. Reaching up, Eric traced his fingers through Jansen’s blond hair.

Jansen traced his fingertips down Eric’s spine, raising goose bumps, and Eric trembled, pulling Jansen in tight as they deepened the kiss.

Feeling the blood roaring in his ears, driven by his rising passion, Eric at last knew. He never wanted it to end, but be pulled away, gasping for breath, smiling as he brushed Jansen’s hair from his eyes.

With no need to ask, well able to feel Eric’s desire, Jansen said with a gentle smile, “Did you feel what you were trying to­–”

Eric put his finger to Jansen’s lips. Angling his head, Eric said with a soft chuckle, “I think we need to try that again,” and pulled Jansen in for an even more heated kiss, igniting a depth of feeling that Eric had never before known.   

Coming up for air, he eased back and traced his fingers in slow circles on Eric’s heaving chest. Grazing Eric’s nipples with his thumbs, Jansen gave Eric a lopsided smile. “We better sit down. If Keither came back now, we’d have to walk doubled over.”

Reluctantly, Eric eased away, hooking Jansen by the arm and leading him to the couch. “You’re not getting away that easy,” Eric said with a grin.

Five minutes later, they broke their kiss and leaned back, side by side on the couch, hands in their laps, as Keith hesitantly knocked on the door on his way into the suite. He glanced at his brother and Eric, their ear-to-ear grins, disheveled hair, and instantly knew why they had their hands in their laps. “Sorry to interrupt, but the volcano is putting on one hell of a big show – it’s like fireworks. You guys should see it.” 

Jansen and Eric shared a grin, and then Jansen intertwined his fingers with Eric’s, held up their joined hands, and said, “That’s not the only fireworks that happened here today.”

“I’m happy for you guys,” Keith said with a grin of his own, hiding the few lingering reservations that he had. He then turned to walk out onto the patio.

Their hands still linked, Eric and Jansen joined him, and together, they looked up, at the column of ash, framed about its base by thousands of glowing chunks of lava sailing up and then arcing downwards, that did indeed look very much like fireworks.

“It looks different this time, angrier,” Keith said, the concern that had prompted him to return to the suite beginning to show.

“I read about its last eruption, and it did this then, too. It’s called a Strombolian eruption. What happened last time was it did this before it changed to lava flows. That would be good for us, wouldn’t be as much ash so maybe they’ll get the airport open sooner. I’ve got to get there tomorrow. After breakfast sound okay?”

The two dancers nodded, their eyes on the volcano, but Jansen’s attention was on the hand he held in his own.

Looking to his side at Jansen, Eric took in the dancer’s smile, his blue eyes, and his golden hair backlit by the last rays of the setting sun. To Eric, it just felt right, and he sensed that Jansen felt the same. Together, they watched nature’s own grand show, trying their best to forget the peril it posed.   

 
 

© 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. 

Special Credits go to our Favorite Amphibian, MikeL, for advice on artillery terminology. 

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