Chapter One CNBC Nightly News
"Tensions between the United States and the Russian Republic grew today when the U.S. State Department said that the withholding of grain shipments was directly linked to the Russian aggression in the former Republic of Georgia. This policy is a dramatic shift for the outgoing president of the United States as he strives to rein in the Russian aggression toward its breakaway former republic."
The scene shifted to a stock shot of the empty and barren wheat fields of the Ukraine.
"Since Russian crop failures of the past four years struck the former communist nation, tensions over the slowing of grain and other essential shipments from the United States have become a major roadblock in East-West relations. The inflammatory declaration from the Russian president stating that his counterpart in the U.S. was using food as a weapon against his nation was deplorable."
NEW YORK TIMES (AP)
As the newly elected president of the United States was sworn in, his dramatic statement that he would remove all barriers to shipments of grain to the Russian republic was seen as a conciliatory move to jump- start negotiations for the removal of Russian troops from the former Russian Republic of Georgia. Although the Russian president hailed the announcement as "promising," he was still adamant about his statement that "the damage has already been done."
In a related story, the three- year drought in the People’s Republic of China has again wiped out over 50 percent of that nation’s exportable rice harvest, affecting unstable North Korea. With food shortages in the United States curtailing any extra shipments to Korea, the leader of that nation, Kim Jong Il, has been quoted as saying, "This is just another example of how the United States and Japan view the relations between Korea and the West. The rhetoric could not come at a worse time for the new president as he seeks to quell a growing concern over recent allegations by Russia and China over the unfriendly way they have been treated by the U.S."
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA
The military parade was for the sake of the visiting diplomats. They had come to Pyongyang to negotiate the food shipments that had been curtailed by North Korea’s neighbor to the south. The real hope was that they could convince the northerners that the shipments had been stopped because of bad harvests. The proof they offered was that not only the two Koreas were suffering but Japan and most other Asian nations as well. Clearly, this parade was Kim Jong Il’s way of announcing that he was continuing on a warlike path. Begun three years before with a series of nuclear tests, Kim Jong Il’s animus toward South Korea and the rest of the Western world seemed as strong as ever. The German, Japanese, and American delegations had left, refusing to play North Korea’s game.
As the remaining diplomatic teams sat in the viewing stand, bored beyond mea sure, they felt the first light tremor through the soles of their feet. They assumed that it was the brigade of T-80 tanks rumbling by in the square below.
"This is the most blatant display of brutishness I have ever seen," the delegate from Great Britain declared.
He and several others was about to stand up and leave, but another light tremor coursed up through the stone balcony and made him hesitate. He looked out over the parade and saw that the T-80 tanks had passed by and there was nothing but spit-and- polish troops marching below, surely not enough to shake the very earth.
"Did you feel that?" he asked the Chinese delegate.
The first real tremor struck. The British negotiator was thrown from his feet as the crowd below screamed in fear. The marching soldiers stopped and braced themselves against the heavy shaking. Suddenly a large building façade across the square broke free and fell into the mass of onlookers, crushing at least a hundred people. The Chinese delegate managed to get the Englishman to his feet, but as he did so the stone railing that surrounded the large balcony broke away and fell to the street. The men recoiled as screams of those crushed below rose from the street. As quickly as it had started the quake ended. The diplomats were shaken but unhurt as guards rushed forward to assist those who had fallen.
The earth suddenly rolled and shook again. The balcony, with more than a hundred of the world’s representatives, cracked and broke away, sending them all a hundred feet to the street below. Several buildings swayed and then collapsed. Panic started first from the lingering crowd and then from the soldiers marching in the parade. As one, they broke ranks and ran for cover. As they did, the cobbled roadway split open beneath their feet and the gaping wound spewed high- pressure water from a hundred broken mains. Fifty or sixty of the smartly dressed soldiers fell into the widening crevasse and disappeared.
Across the city, buildings toppled and roadways collapsed. The very air around the city wavered as wave after wave pummeled the dilapidated and poorly constructed buildings. As the world cracked beneath them, the brigade of tanks vanished in a millisecond. Soldiers followed quickly afterward. At the airport, several of the MIG 29s that had taken part in the parade’s flyover crashed as they attempted to land, the runway splitting and sliding thirty feet from its original position.
Three miles offshore, the seabed flew up like a bedspread being depressed and then quickly released, and the resulting tidal wave took two warships— a British and a United States destroyer— with it. Then the tidal surge wiped out thirty small towns and villages along the coast, the ocean washing up ten miles inland. It would be discovered in the days and weeks ahead that eighty thousand people had died. The earthquake continued for an unprecedented ten full minutes, sending a half a million North Koreans to horrible deaths from being crushed, burned alive, or drowned.
Across the border, barely a whisper of the earth’s movements were felt as the South Korean military, along with the twenty- eight thousand American troops stationed at the border, went on full alert as a precaution against the North.
Across the Sea of Japan, seismographs measured tremors that went off the charts. Within minutes, word spread over the newswires that an 11.8 earthquake had rocked North Korea, the largest earth movement ever recorded. Immediately calls were sent into North Korea requesting that humanitarian forces be allowed to cross the border and land in ports for assistance to their people. However, the requests from frantic neighbors and other nations of the world went unanswered. They were informed, however, that the Communist military of Kim Jong Il had gone on full alert and division upon division had started to assemble at rallying points near the border.
The first strike of Thor’s Hammer had sounded, and the world was stunned by its power.
THE IRAQ–IRAN BORDER
THE NEXT DAY
In the haze of the evening, when the sun was at its lowest point before disappearing into the flat wastelands of his country, the Iraqi general who had supervised the rebuilding of his nation’s tank divisions after the devastating war with the UN used his binoculars to scan the miles directly to his front. The newly elected government of Iraq was using the American and British equipment that had been gifted to demonstrate a show of strength for his Iranian neighbors. Two full combat- equipped divisions were in place along a 170- mile front of the common border. It was indeed impressive, and the general knew that he could crush the Iranians in less than a day if it came to that.
"General, our radar has picked up a large aircraft in Iraqi airspace that has strayed from the designated commercial route. It is at thirty thousand feet and holding steady on a northerly heading. We have deduced it is a French- built Airbus commercial heavy."
"Very well, keep me informed. Also bring the air-defense batteries to full alert."
The Iraqi colonel nodded and moved off.
The general could not be concerned with a pi lot who did not know his own routes. His concern was the five thousand Iranian T-90 tanks that faced him less than four miles away.
His priorities would soon shift.
The ranking Iranian general was just starting his evening prayers, when a tremendous headache suddenly struck him. It seemed to resonate from his inner ear and travel to the center of his brain. He became dizzy and almost fell over on his prayer rug. He steadied himself, feeling nauseated and shaky. Then the headache passed as suddenly as it had come. He straightened, using both hands to right himself, and that was when he felt the first tremors through the palms of his hands.
Outside, a thousand tank men had experienced the same effects as the general, some worse, others less, but they all had felt it as a wave that passed through them. Then they became disoriented as the earth started to move in earnest.
A hundred miles to the west, the same devastating head aches and earth movement were felt by the Iraqi military as they, too, were preparing for evening prayers.
Suddenly and without much more warning than a slight tremor, the earth became a liquid wave. On both sides of the border, tanks and men were tossed about as if they were walking upon a liquid surface. The movement increased as the very air became a wavy, disorienting wall of displacement. The earth cracked along a line that almost mirrored the border between the two nations. On both sides, artillery batteries were knocked over and explosions were heard and felt as air-defense batteries were tipped and knocked from their launchers.
The first of the Iranian tanks disappeared into a giant void hundreds of yards across that opened up as if the very earth had disappeared. Thirty- five tanks and their crews vanished in a split second. The devastation did not stop there. The fault opened even farther, faster than any of the men or their machines could respond to. In less than a minute, 90 percent of the Iranian divisions had disappeared. It was as if they had never existed.
On the Iraqi side of the border, the ground split and rushed toward the newly installed corps commander’s HQ. The entire reinforced camp exploded upward and outward as if it had been sprayed off the desert floor by a giant fire hose. The land situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers rose to a height of 170 feet before it started its plunge back to the rivers. Then the rivers rippled violently, emptying their waters into the sky and surrounding desert. Entire villages and towns collapsed and were shaken into the desert sands. The fault ripped north into Baghdad and south into the Persian Gulf. The quake was causing the newly repaired capital city of Baghdad to moan as if it were a tired animal caught by the throat and shaken by a powerful beast. Towering buildings fell into their smaller neighbors, immediately killing hundreds of thousands.
Out at sea, three commercial oil tankers being escorted by two British destroyers through the Strait of Hormuz were suddenly pushed a mile from the shores of the United Arab Emirates as the gulf waters retreated from a conjoining undersea quake. Then the giant swell of water rushed back toward the land that it had only moments before vacated. The sea rose one hundred feet before the watery tumult crushed the two warships and capsized the three supertankers. The tsunami continued into Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, destroying the coastal cities and dragging back into the gulf more than 130,000 souls.
Finally, the earth became still.
Above, the supposed off- course commercial jetliner turned away after overflying a fifty- mile- long line of recent oil- well excavations that had gone unnoticed in the previous weeks just inside the Iraqi border.
The second strike of Thor’s Hammer was complete, and the chess game had begun in earnest.
Excerpted from Ancients by David Lynn Golemon.
Copyright © 2008 by David Lynn Golemon.
Published by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.