A new enemy, scheming and evil, has arisen to threaten America's very existence.
A wealthy autocrat, two highly-placed traitors, and a madman launch a plan to destroy America.
RAGE weaves the horrifying and unthinkable into a hold-your-breath tale almost too terrifying to tell because it is a story that is a real and frightening possibility!
• A nuclear weapon is detonated near downtown Sacramento, California.
• The President initiates Operation Vigilant Strike and military orders forces to DEFCON 2.
• America's strategic, nuclear B-52 bombers are scrambled, armed with nuclear weapons.
• Navy SSBN nuclear missile submarines are steaming toward their launch zones.
In this hair-raising sequel to the pulse-pounding, thriller, EDGE OF MADNESS, Zach Templeton is plunged into yet another chilling race against the clock as the world races toward the brink of nuclear war. Maybe days or only hours remain before it will be too late. Can he stop it? Even if he does, what will it cost him?
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Prologue * * * * * * *
A steady, wind-driven rain fell from a dark overcast sky, drenching the concrete towers of New York City. Rain-soaked pedestrians dashed across busy streets, jumping over puddles, hurrying to work, meetings, or lunch dates. On the other side of the country in sunny California, beach-goers enjoyed the bright sun, families strolled through parks, while others, stalled in endless traffic jams, swore at their fellow commuters. All totally unaware of the horror that lay ahead. An atrocity so terrifying it would literally send them running for their lives.
Located a half-mile from Rockefeller Plaza, the century-old Plaza New York Hotel, frequent host to world leaders, public figures, leaders of industry, and the ultra-privileged of Broadway and Hollywood, was synonymous with luxury. Located in the heart of Manhattan and accessible to multiple subway lines within a four-block radius of the hotel, made it an ideal location for business meetings of all kinds.
A meeting of the Socialists of America filled the Plaza Hotel’s Terrace Room to capacity. Not openly publicized like most organizational meetings, the Socialists of America meeting was attended by invitation only and, to a limited extent, approved guests of noteworthy attendees. A small nondescript, black and white placard sitting on a wooden easel at the entrance of the meeting room served as the only evidence the meeting was taking place.
Stanley Mercer, a hawkish man with a thin nose, black hair, and close-set, dark eyes, stood behind a wooden lectern on a small raised platform. He skillfully presented the assumed dangers of climate change. Mr. Mercer, dressed in a dark, custom-tailored suit, expertly held the crowd’s attention. A label from one of New York’s top fashion designers sewn inside his jacket bespoke his wealth and position. The meeting room, packed to capacity, became stuffy. Some attendees resorted to fanning themselves with their paper programs, attempting to lessen their discomfort.
Most of the attendees, dressed in expensive business attire, paid close attention to the information being presented. Mr. Mercer, a well-trained and gifted speaker, captivated his audience with his expansive knowledge of climate change and its purported dangers. At exactly the right places in his presentation, Mr. Mercer banged on the lectern with his fist for added impact. Knowing exactly when to change the inflection of his voice or when to increase the volume of his voice, he deftly manipulated the audience, keeping them on the edge of their seats.
Building to the conclusion of his presentation, he stepped down off the small platform and stood directly in front of the crowd. Becoming very animated, he extolled the virtues of Socialism, his voice raising to a fevered pitch. Nearly screaming, he drove home the point of his presentation by berating Capitalism and calling anyone who believed in Capitalism simpleminded, dim-witted, and a plague upon the Earth. Finishing with a resounding flourish, he wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.
He bowed slightly as thunderous applause filled the room. Attendees all over the room rose to their feet, expressing their concurrence with his ideology. The attendees not already standing also rose to their feet, until everyone in the room was standing. He bowed deeply as the applause continued. Straightening up, he waved to the crowd. The raucous applause continued for at least three full minutes. As the applause died down, attendees made their way to the exits at the front of the room.
Standing just inside the room’s entrance, a rotund, balding man with a blotchy complexion closely watched the attendees as they exited the meeting room. He had slipped inside just as the applause ended. Obvious to anyone who might have looked his way, he was scanning the crowd for someone in particular. Upon locating the individual he sought, he waited and stepped in front of a well-dressed woman as she was about to exit the room.
“Excuse me ma’am,” he said, slipping a business card into her hand. “I believe you will want to talk further.”
“Why would I want to do that?” she sneered as she stepped sideways, attempting to avoid the man.
Again, the man stepped sideways in front of her. “I assure you we have mutual interests. I believe you have a plan to bring down our enemy. I believe you said it requires what you call a reset, yes?”
“Where did you learn of this?”
“Not here. We need somewhere private. Will you accompany me to the bar?”
“I don’t know,” the woman hesitated.
“I promise you it will be well worth your time. We will be in plain sight. You will have nothing to worry about, but much to lose if you refuse.”
Somewhat intrigued by the man’s knowledge of her position, she agreed, “Okay, Mister Black, is it,” she said, glancing down at the business card in her hand. “I will give you fifteen minutes. No more.”
The woman followed the man as he led the way toward the hotel’s bar area. Despite knowing the name printed on the card was likely false, she needed to learn what he knew about her position and how he had learned of it.
Being early in the day, the bar’s crowd was sparse, giving Mr. Black the opportunity to select a table well away from any other patrons. He pulled out one of the elegant, over-stuffed chairs and waited for the woman to sit down. As she sat, he pushed the chair in for her. Taking a seat on the adjacent side of the table, he waved to a server circulating the area.
“What can I get you folks?” the server asked.
Mr. Black pointed toward the woman, “Whatever you would like. I’m buying.”
“I’ll have a light beer. In a glass, please.”
“I’ll be right back with your drinks,” the server said.
Mr. Black and the woman engaged in meaningless chatter, waiting for the server to return with their drinks. Several minutes later, the server returned and placed their drinks on the table. As she turned to resume her duties, Mr. Black spoke up. “Miss, we wish that no one disturbs us.”
“Absolutely. Understood, sir,” she replied as she turned and left.
Mr. Black waited until the server reached the other side of the bar. Glancing around the bar, satisfied everyone was well out of earshot, Mr. Black opened his mouth, about to continue.
Before Mr. Black could speak, the woman asked. “How did you learn of me and my position?”
“For now that is not important,” Mr. Black answered. “If what I am about to tell you, does not convince you to join me, what I know and how I know it will be irrelevant. May I continue?”
“Go ahead. You now have ten minutes, Mister Black,” the woman said, glancing at her watch.
“I’ll get right to the point. I have recently learned you detest Capitalism and believe this country should work to abolish it. Is that correct?”
“Yes. I can agree with that as do many other people,” she answered, taking a small sip of her wine.
Mr. Black slipped a sheaf of papers out of his jacket pocket and pushed them in front of the woman. “Have you seen this?”
“Yes. Not only have I seen it, I have read it.”
“What is your take on the author’s position?”
“The author develops an interesting premise, but he offers no method to accomplish it. There are far too many unanswered questions. It would require a major disruption to even get it started.”
“Do you know any of the people from the meeting?”
“Yes, a few.”
“Do they feel the same way as you?”
“Yes, I believe many do. They also have read this and believe it is mostly wild speculation, and that it is not possible to accomplish its conclusion.”
To avoid saying anything out loud, Mr. Black slipped another piece of paper from his other jacket pocket, unfolded it, smoothed out the creases, and slid it in front of the woman. “What if I told you I could create the required fear to trigger a reset?”
The woman’s eyes widened as she quickly scanned the piece of paper. She turned the paper over, shoved it under the other papers, glancing worriedly around the room. “You can’t be serious! You can’t really do that.”
Mr. Black reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved yet another piece of paper. Putting his finger to his lips, he pointed to the top of the paper as he slid it in front of her. He watched the woman’s eyes track back and forth as she took in the information in the document.
“That is where it will begin,” Mr. Black said, pointing to a red-circled area on the paper. “I assure you everything you see here is ready, except for this last item. All I need is your help obtaining the items listed at the bottom of the paper.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think I can….”
Mr. Black interrupted the woman, “I know of your recent good fortune. You will now be able to help us with this last obstacle.”
The woman just sat there staring at Mr. Black, an incredulous look on her face. Mr. Black took a sip of his beer, waiting for the woman to respond.
“You said you wanted to destroy Capitalism. Is that not true?”
“Yes, but this…. I don’t…. I can’t….”
“Come on. This is your chance to realize your goal. How successful have you been so far?”
The woman did not answer. Mr. Black leaned closer to the woman, “Answer me. What success have you and the others really had?”
“Too little,” she answered.
“Will you help us then?”
“Yes, I will consider it. When….”
“Be at this address. 7:00 p.m. sharp,” Mr. Black said, pushing a different business card over in front of the woman. He retrieved the papers, stuffed them back in his pocket, tossed a twenty dollar bill on the table, stood up, and walked away without another word. Even after the man left, the strong scent of his cologne, heavy with citrus and spice, lingered. She slowly drew in a breath and wrinkled her nose, trying to identify the mixture of underlying scents. She knew she had smelled the fragrance before, but she could not remember where.
The woman sat there for a few minutes wondering if she had made a huge mistake. Remembering her lifelong passion to see Capitalism eradicated, she persuaded herself that if there was even the most remote prospect she could help bring down Capitalism, her participation in what Mr. Black suggested would be worth the risk. She convinced herself the size of the risk simply would not matter. “Yes, I will meet with Mister Black again and I will help him anyway I can,” she thought as she rose from the chair and hurried off for an important meeting.