Who murdered the chief engineer of a Portland, Oregon, robotics company and stole the prototype
computer chip he designed? By 2084 atmospheric temperature is up by eight degrees and ocean
levels are up by eighteen feet. Both federal and state governments have gone broke, replaced
instead by a system of city-states. Carlton Smith, sales manager of the company and ex Navy
Seal, is assigned the task of finding out who-done-it and saving the company from bankruptcy.
Carlton (literary descendant of 1984’s Winston Smith) is a widower with an eighteen year old
daughter named Tori. The company provides Carlton with several high tech bugging devices, as
well as a custom built vehicle modeled after the old army Humvee. The investigation would lead
Carlton and Tori on a dangerous trip through the Wild West back to the ruins of Chicago, which is
a Christian Fundamentalist city-state at war with the Black Muslim city-state of Detroit. In Chicago
Carlton is kidnapped by Yakuza gangsters.
Tori takes the Humvee and follows the gangsters down the Mississippi Lakes to the Roman
Catholic city-state of San Antonio, where she rescues her father.
How does she do it?
From San Antonio, Carlton and Tori travel across the desert toward Los Angeles. But near the
ruins of Las Vegas, Tori is kidnapped from the ladies’ room of a restaurant. There are no police
between Albuquerque and Los Angeles, and Carlton thinks gangsters from Los Angeles probably
abducted her, so he continues his trip and reports the crime.
He drops into a bar, where he is picked up by a beautiful hostess named Julia O’Brian who says
she might be able to help him find his daughter. Julia works for a politically powerful New Age
preacher named the Prophet. Carlton finds out that the Church of the Prophet is supported by the
Yakuza, while the dominant American Catholic Church is supported by the Mexican Mafia. The two
churches are in a political tug-of-war over control of the city. Carlton hires a colorful Latino
detective, named Poncho, to see if Tori might have been captured by the Mexican Mafia, while he
tries to infiltrate the Yakuza through the Church of the Prophet. Carlton joins the church under an
assumed identity and is sent to a retreat in the mountains – which turns out to be similar to an Al-
Qaeda training camp. As a former military officer, Carlton is immune to their brainwashing
techniques, but he succeeds in finding out how the organization works.
The key to the Prophet’s popularity is the fact that he seems to be eternally youthful.
How does he do it?
What has happened to Tori?
Will Carlton ever find the murderer of their chief engineer?
Will he save RUR from bankruptcy?
Will civilization itself survive?
Read the book to find out.
Excerpt from Chapter One
“Destination please?” said a robotic voice.
“136 River View Drive,” said Carlton.
“136 River View Drive,” said the loudspeaker. “Is that confirmed?”
“Confirmed,” he said.
The electric motors softly whirred as the cab glided away from the curb.
“Wow! That was some house!” said Tori. “Did you walk around the atrium? Rooms rambling off in
“Yeah, it was very nice,” he said. “But I guess this is about the most expensive neighborhood in
town. All the other homes around here are just as plush.”
As the cab glided along the winding street, tracking the underground wires, the only signs of
civilization were glowing call boxes at curbside, next to pathways disappearing into the shrubbery.
“I’ve been in some of these homes,” he said. “Their atriums have swimming pools, tennis courts,
playgrounds... all sorts of things.”
“You know, it always struck me as kind of odd,” she said, “but the more expensive the house, the
less you can see of it. The houses and apartments that are above ground always seem pretty old
and shabby. Why is that?”
“Well, almost everything built in the last forty years or so has been underground, if the owners
can afford it. Construction is a bit more expensive, but it saves money in the long run.
Underground construction is more resistant to earthquakes, for one thing, and virtually fireproof.
For another, just close the shutters to the atrium and they’re completely impervious to brush fires,
hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms. They’re very energy efficient, totally soundproof, and
they don’t clutter up the landscape. Parents can let their children play in an atrium with ultraviolet
filters on the roof, so they don’t have to worry about skin cancer, as they do on the surface.
Above ground construction generally consists of cheap and flimsy buildings that aren’t expected
to last long... except for retail storefronts.”
Excerpt from Chapter Two
After several hundred miles of this monotonous vista, finally, out of their right window, they could
see that the legendary “Great Salt Lake” had now been reduced to a scummy little pond.
They came to a stop as they were approached by a parade of pathetic looking beggars wearing
rags and whipping themselves with scourges. At the head of the procession was a man dragging a
heavy wooden cross.
Carlton pulled off the road to let them pass. The penitents paid no attention to the gawking
strangers; they were lost in their own private worlds as they babbled incoherently and periodically
flung a knout over a shoulder to draw fresh blood. There must have been a hundred of them –
leaving a trail of gory footprints down the center of the highway.
Tori sat with her mouth open as she watched them shuffle by. “What in hell was that all about?”
she finally asked.
“Flagellants,” said her father. “They think that if they punish themselves for their imaginary sins,
then God will bring back the rains and banish the various plagues. I hear there are groups of them
all over North America... just like in Europe during the Middle Ages.
“What kind of plagues?”
“Oh, various types: bubonic, dengue fever, anthrax, West Nile and hanta viruses, Lyme disease.
See, most animal species died out because of acid rain, reduced habitat, pesticides, wars,
industrial pollution and ultra-violet radiation. So without birds and snakes to control them, that left
the rats and mice with no natural predators... and they proliferated, dispersing fleas and ticks
everywhere. Also with no birds or bats to combat them, or enough fish to eat their larva, flies and
mosquitoes swarm all over the tropical regions, spreading malaria and yellow fever.”
Tori shuddered. “I’m sure glad we live in Portland,” she said. “At least we have a few birds... and it’
s still fairly cool.”
Another Excerpt from Chapter Two
At Laramie, they finally saw an open hydrogen station and pulled in. After filling up and paying for
the gas and some food, Carlton was starting back to the car when four grotesquely deformed men
rode up on motorcycles. They stopped outside and dismounted with guns drawn. As soon as the
proprietor saw them, he warned his customers to run for their lives.
Carlton and Tori scrambled back into the Humvee.
“You drive!” Carlton shouted as he lunged into the passenger side and opened up the armory
As Tori spun out, the four men ran back to their bikes and started them up.
The wind had blown an inch of sand over the highway, which caused the car to fishtail whenever it
accelerated too much, and the bikers were gradually gaining.
They began firing pistols at the Humvee, but the bullets only bounced off the armor plate.
Carlton took out an assault rifle and fired back through the gun slots.
One biker pulled up on the driver’s side and took aim at Tori while she was fighting to keep the
car under control. He fired once, but the slug left only a small crater in the bulletproof glass.
Suddenly Tori swerved around a pothole, causing the biker to lose traction in the sand and tumble
end over end.
Carlton shot another one out of the saddle and the remaining two gave up the chase to go back
for their comrades.
Tori finally regained solid concrete and accelerated away at high speed. “Holy smoke!” she
sighed in relief. “That was close. Who were those guys and why did they look so weird?”
Carlton explained that they were mutants, and most cities had a bounty on them. Certain parts of
the country were so radioactive, or polluted, that a significant percentage of babies were born with
deformities. And since there were no longer any resources to take care of them, as had been the
case in the old days, they were normally aborted or killed at birth. But some mothers didn’t have
the heart to do it, so they left their babies in the wild, hoping someone would rescue them.
Occasionally someone did – most likely someone from a reservation, or another mutant. There
were gangs of them roving the countryside, making a living by robbing travelers.
Tori shook her head sadly. “I kinda feel bad about knocking over that guy on the motorcycle; I’m
rather sorry for them.”
“Yeah, I know,” Carlton said. “But it was either them or us… the law of survival.”
Excerpt from Chapter Three
The wind had been rocking the Humvee harder and harder, with hailstones smashing against the
car like sledgehammer blows. Suddenly they heard a deafening roar and through the mud-
streaked windshield they saw the roof explode off the inspection station as lumber flew in all
directions – setting off land mines as the debris fell to the ground. One of the eighteen-wheeler
trucks flipped end over end. A whole line of trucks were knocked over on their sides. The Humvee
was airborne for several feet, but landed upright.
Then the tornado was gone as quickly as it had appeared.
“You OK?” Carlton asked.
“I think so,” Tori said, swallowing hard to open her ears. “My eardrums hurt a little from that
sudden drop in air pressure. Lucky we were both wearing our seat belts. I just hope the car will still
run. I see a gap between those two overturned trucks at the gate... maybe we can squeeze
“That’s just what I was thinking,” he said, then held his breath as he turned the ignition key.
“Yes!” he whooped, as the engine roared to life. Slowly, Carlton drove along the line of
overturned trucks, zigzagging around spilled cargo, chain link fencing, and piles of broken lumber
from the building. When he reached the gate, the only soldiers visible were either dead or
staggering in a daze, trying to find shelter from the punishing hail.
Carlton carefully squeezed the Humvee between two overturned trucks at the gate and floor-
boarded the accelerator as soon as they were in the clear. “Anybody following us?” he asked.
Tori rolled down the mud-caked side window and cautiously stuck her head out. “Nope. I don’t
think they even care about us,” she said. “They’re just trying to protect themselves.”
Excerpt from Chapter Four
It was a long way from Baton Rouge to San Antonio, so Tori had plenty of time to walk around on
deck with binoculars viewing the passing scenery. She was standing at the bow when the ship
sailed between Houston and Galveston. Over to her left there was a fleet of salvage ships working
on the remains of Galveston, while to the right, another cluster of vessels hovered over what had
once been Baytown and the Port of Houston, at the mouth of the San Jacinto River. Beyond that
was downtown Houston itself, which was now what the captain had called “a Venice.” Some of the
tall buildings were leaning at dangerous angles, while others appeared to be still operational,
since she could see little motor boats carrying passengers through the streets. The binoculars
were powerful enough that among both of the salvage fleets she could make out a number of
ships flying the Pacific Robotics flag, featuring a backwards P in its distinctive PR logo.
A few hours later, they sailed past the remains of Corpus Christi, with its attendant swarm of
salvage vessels hovering over it like flies on carrion. And again, there was Pacific Robotics
hogging more than its market share of the spoils.
By late afternoon, the ship turned north and began sailing up the dredged out San Antonio River.
There had been a comfortable breeze while they were in the open Gulf of Mexico, but now that
they were inland, the eighty-eight degree heat and high humidity drove Tori back to her air
As the ship slowly made its way up the channel through a series of locks, it passed dozens of rice
farms and cornfields being cultivated by workers wearing sun-hats and water-cooled jump-suits.
Between the farms were mixtures of pine trees entangled with kudzu vines, mesquite bushes tall
enough to hide a horse and rider, as well as lots of prickly pear cactus.
Excerpt from Chapter Seven
Every Sunday, the mess hall tables were moved aside to convert the space into a chapel; but this
Sunday evening, a special Healing Service had been planned. A makeshift stage had been
mounted at one end of the hall, with rather elaborate light rigging. A number of strangers had
been bused in from the city, all of whom were ostensibly afflicted with some serious illness.
After the usual prayers and hymns, the house lights dimmed and the Holy Prophet himself made a
dramatic appearance – escorted to the stage by an entourage of bishops in gold lamé jumpsuits
and lower echelon clerics in silver ones – all accompanied by a fanfare of recorded trumpets. As
the Prophet walked onto the brightly lit stage, his white robe seemed to glow with a supernatural
Carlton had managed to acquire a front row seat, and he immediately glanced up at the spotlights
hanging above the stage. As he suspected, one of them was ultra-violet – which would cause any
specially treated cloth to luminesce in an unearthly way.
A musician with a synthesizer had been brought in to accompany the show and to improvise on
the keyboard in synchronization with the action on stage.
First, the Prophet repeated his mantra about how he lacked supernatural powers, but through the
institution of the holy church he served as a conduit to help patients avail themselves of the
healing power of God. The only requirement was absolute faith.
“Are there any supplicants here who suffer from ailments that doctors have said are incurable?”
“Yes!” said one of the strangers in back of the room.
“Then come forward my son,” intoned the Prophet.
Two men gently led the invalid to the stage, guiding his steps as he groped with his hands.
“And what is your illness?” asked the Prophet.
“I was working on a power line back in ‘62 when the magnetic pulse from the sun caused the
transformer to explode in my face and burn out my retinas. I’ve been to every specialist in the city,
but they all say it’s hopeless.”
“Do you believe that through faith, all things can be done?”
“Yes, your holiness.”
“Then come here.”
Now programmed to sound like a pipe organ, the synthesizer played suspenseful chords in a
minor key as the Prophet placed one hand on the man’s eyes and the other on top of his head.
Then, after chanting in glossolalia for a few seconds, he said, “In the name of the Lord, I
command thee to heal!” As he shouted the last word, he quickly pushed the man backwards, into
the arms of two silver-clad priests who were waiting to catch him. The organist held on a single
tremulous note – suggesting something portentous.
The man staggered to his feet and lurched around the stage with his head in his hands. Then
slowly dropping his hands, he fluttered his eyelids and looked upward. “I can see! I can see!” he
cried, dropping to his knees as the organist built to a crashing crescendo.
The audience burst into hysterical applause and shouts of “hallelujah!” as assistants whisked the
man outside the building.
Another Excerpt from Chapter Seven
For a few seconds he lay in the grass, listening. The only sound was that of his own heart beating.
He reached through the iron bars to the sidewalk and pulled through the thin aluminum case. After
detaching the grappling hook from the fence, he unpacked the ladder and carried it over to the
tree. He flung the grappling hook over a limb and climbed the rope. Positioning himself securely
on a limb, he pulled up the aluminum case with a length of nylon cord.
Slowly he climbed the tree, limb by limb, laboriously hauling his equipment behind. Then when he
reached one branch that extended over the roof, he began scooting out toward the house.
Noticing a window directly below the limb, he used the two hooks to attach the rope ladder to the
branch and prepared to climb down.
Just then, he saw a police car slowly drive down Park Avenue, shining a spotlight along the
scrubby foliage of the park and around the church compound. Carlton froze.
He could hear the police dispatcher squawking over the radio. Finally, the cruiser drove on.
Carlton executed a tricky acrobatic maneuver, climbing down the swinging rope ladder using one
hand while holding the aluminum case in the other. The window was locked. Cursing under his
breath, he swung the case, smashing the glass, and dropped the case inside. As he kicked out
the remaining glass shards to squeeze through, he heard a night watchman outside the
compound yell, “Hey! Who’s up there?”
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Note: It has been suggested by several fans that this book
contains so much important scientific information that it should
be required reading in high school and college literature classes.
If any teacher would like to adopt it for such purposes, please
contact me and I will be happy to provide a study guide.