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In 1957, Ayn Rand published her breathtaking novel, Atlas Shrugged, a story of “the murder—and rebirth—of man’s spirit.” Her novel ends with the movers of the world returning from their self-imposed exile to begin the rebuilding of that world.
It is now fifty years later and we are again in the midst of a world in chaos. The victory envisioned in Atlas Shrugged was short-lived. Terrorism, tyranny, and the decline of the human spirit are facts of life recognized in every country in the world in one way or another. People no longer receive any enjoyment from working nor do they see value in it. Money and economics are no longer things that people understand or care about except as answers to questions such as “How can I get more?” Relationships between people have changed from those of courtesy and friendship to suspicion, fear and envy.
It is often said that if the people of any country would just rise up together, they could find remedies for all their own troubles. Yet, nothing comes of the talk and the people seem to continue suffering the plagues of terrorism and tyranny with only whimpers and a “Why me?” attitude.
Why? Because the majority of individuals have given themselves into the hands of othersto direct their lives and have, for all intents and purposes, abdicated from their personal responsibilities. Governments, originally dedicated to the duties of managing necessary functions for large bodies of people, are now tasked with providing almost every service for almost every individual, and have been given almost unlimited power to do so.
Why? Again, because the people have abdicated, have walked away from taking care of themselves and directing the actions of their countries or representatives, and have simply said, “Do it for me. Give me what I want, but leave me out of the equation.”
The sheep have sanctioned their own slaughter.
Sanction is a story of that world in chaos; a world that is being driven to an unknown end—with the acquiescence of the majority of the people. A small group of men from diverse backgrounds do see the essence of what is happening and have determined to fight to reclaim the spirit of the world. But, can they actually combat the powers that are trying to take over? Can people give away the control of their lives, then retake that control? What can be important enough in a world that has been given away to cause people to fight to take it back?
Sanction is an intense novel about a world on the verge of being taken over by an evil that is not understood—a force not able to be controlled. It’s a novel about today.
The chopper was almost too noisy to be heard in, so most of the soldiers just sat quietly and thought about the mission. They all knew their own parts in it; everything had been rehearsed repeatedly. They were a long way from home, wherever that was for any group of professional soldiers, and some wondered if they would see home again.
This was a volunteer mission, and they had been told that there was not likely to be much resistance, but…always surprises. And always the strings. It seemed to be the way things were now. Soldiers weren’t allowed to be soldiers anymore. They also had to be politicians, and that didn’t sit well with any of them. Their basic military training had been thorough. Training for special missions such as this was always intense and thorough. Yet they all knew that when the “Go” was given, there were always political strings holding them back. If just turned loose with the basic mission plan, they would likely do a good job. There wouldn’t likely be any major screw-ups. Just get in, do the job and get back out. But, they all knew the strings would be attached, and be pulled, and the likelihood of just doing their job as they knew how to do it probably wouldn’t be allowed. Especially working as a guest in a foreign country. Too many strings. Always too many strings.
Captain Luke Mendez, in the first of the three choppers was looking over the map again. He already had it memorized, but checking it again, in his business, was simply the way to survive. He was responsible for getting these thirty-six men in and out safely, as well as getting the job done. He knew what the men all thought. The strings—always the strings. Part of his job was to try to avoid the strings, or get around them, or cut them. But, he also knew he would have to stay attached to them, and he knew they wouldn’t make things easy. They only made the jobs more difficult—and usually more dangerous. In the past few years, life in the military had become harder and harder. You were no longer just given a mission, a simple job. Now you were always given stringsalong with the job.
“Captain, about two minutes to touchdown.” The pilot’s voice came through the earphones easily, and Mendez simply responded, “Got it.” He folded the map, put it back in his pack, stood up and shouted the word to the men. There wasn’t much movement from them. They were ready. Had been for hours. Some of their faces took on a harder look; a few eyes narrowed; a few belts and straps were tightened; hands took tight, balanced grips on weapons; they were ready. They were all seasoned professionals, well trained, and fully prepared. They just wanted to get down and get at the job, and, hopefully, leave the strings behind. The job was fairly simple. Land on a deserted air strip, destroy the drug lab, the supplies, and the growing drug crop, gather whatever paperwork and information they could find, and get back out. Leave the locals alone; no need to bother them. It was just what the locals had to do to make any kind of a living. The priority of this job was to eliminate the profit and assets of the drug lords. A few hours work. They hoped.
The choppers dropped fast and touched down hard. Mendez had just thrown the door open on his ship and was starting to wave the men out when he heard the frantic scream in his earphones, “Rockets! Get back up!” Mendez actually saw the first rocket come through the skin of his chopper, and just before the ship disintegrated in a ball of flame, his last thoughts were, Oh my god, they knew we were coming.
In a quiet, sedate area of the city, John Macine sat peacefully in a large, luxurious suite in a small, but luxurious, hotel. Anyone else with money would have gone to a major name place, but Macine wasn’t anyone else. He wasn’t the least concerned with show or appearances. When he wanted to get away, he chose luxury in places throughout the world. When he wanted business, seclusion was the word. This hotel was small, quiet, and easily secured, and that served his purposes completely. Anything he wanted or needed was immediately, and without question, available. His meetings in the United States were always held here. He was a man who did not have to consider details like personal service, security, or safety. He paid people well for those things. He did know, however, everything that went on around him or that affected him in any way, and controlled those things completely. It was the only way he had survived. His working mind focused on subjects like privacy, obedience and loyalty, and, above all else, control.
Power came from control, not from money. It came from being able to control anything that came up, at any time, without having to worry about it—ever. Money could buy power. Position could cause or dispense power. And money could buy some amount of control, for some amount of time. But, ultimately, only control itself could create or preserve itself. Real control was being able to completely dominate the minds of the people around you—their spirit and their will. When you had a person’s spirit, you had complete control.
John Macine was a man of immense wealth. His grandfather had been a hard working immigrant who had been able to put aside a small inheritance for his son. John’s father and mother had worked themselves into early graves using the inheritance and amassing two small fortunes that John had inherited. Through his own hard work, and by tapping carefully, and many times secretly, into his parent’s financial and political fraternity, John had been able to grow the inheritance into wealth unheard of in normal circles. And nobody had any idea how much it really was.
His first priority in life was control; the second was secrecy. Nowhere, except in his own personal computer system, did his financial portfolio come together. Even there it was only in the sketchiest, most obscure, format. No accountant, no government agent, no competitor could have put together a complete picture of Macine’s wealth. It was all separated and compartmentalized, and all in virtually unreadable pieces. Only by tracing each individual thread of the puzzle, and then jumping gaps where there simply were no inter-locking puzzle pieces, and untangling thread knots that had no beginning and no end, could anyone have gotten close to John Macine. Most of his business relationships were completely legal, for which he filed the appropriate reports and paid his proportionate share of taxes. However, the rest of his empire was far behind the scenes and hidden from scrutiny by anyone but himself. No one but he knew it all.
The amount of his wealth didn’t interest him. He didn’t even care to know what it was. It was only there to serve a purpose, and there was more than enough to continue to serve any purpose. Each of his many accounting people only handled a part of his puzzle, and they didn’t even know who their fellow accountants throughout the world were. They just kept the funds flowing through their own limited maze, were paid well for their efforts, knew they had no way to tap into any other part of the puzzle, and so just went home and spent their personal money in luxury. Only John Macine had the codes and keys to be able to tap into the system with impunity and to get a consolidated view of the entire puzzle, and he had almost never needed to do that. It was enough that whatever he needed was always there, without hesitation and without question.
After all, the money was only a means to an end; it wasn’t the end itself. He had always quietly laughed at those for whom wealth was everything and who had to find ways to display it. For John Macine, wealth was only a means to provide a good living and to gather information, and knowledge. Knowledge was control. And control was everything. He was personally far removed from the day-to-day operations of his empire, but he always knew what was taking place in those operations. That was the essence of control, and that was how he lived.
Macine intended to expand his control over much of the world—its assets, its governments and its people. That was the goal of The Group and what his position as the leader was about. He had put together the plans and set them in motion years before and was now close to bringing them to completion. Whatever he had to have, he had bought. Whomever he had to put in place, or remove, had moved. Anything that had to be done had been done. Nothing ever stood in his way and nothing ever would. Life or death meant nothing. Control of everything that might affect him or The Group was the only thing with which to be concerned. John Macine had immense wealth, power, and control now, and he was close to having it all. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to complete The Plan. Nothing.
He was waiting for a report to be delivered by a courier. The courier had landed at Dulles moments earlier and was on the way to the hotel. The report would contain everything there was to know about the new president of a small foreign country, Corvalle. It was a country that Macine, over the years, had, for all intents and purposes, purchased. He controlled enough of the government leaders and business people to be able to do what he wanted there, and he wanted a lot. It was the base of his operation—his power center and, while he wasn’t concerned, he did need to know how the new government and the new president were going to roll. The direction of the roll could always be controlled, but only if a person knew which way it was rolling to start with. That was the root of Macine’s power—control. Control came from knowledge. Knowledge, to Macine, wasn’t partial. It was complete, total, and absolute. It was simply the only way. You knew everything, or you weren’t in control.
The new president was of no real concern. Macine had known him for years, had watched his every action, knew his every vote, heard every word of every speech. He had controlled more events in the man’s life in the last twenty-two years than the man himself would ever realize. He had been of more influence in the man being elected than anyone in the country. But, that had taken place over a three-year period, and John Macine never left anything to chance, and never let knowledge get old. Control came from knowledge, and knowledge had to be absolute. It was the only way.
His two assistants were waiting, also. Waiting for the arrival of the courier; waiting for the man to say something; waiting for any order or request. When the man spoke, they would act. Until then, their job was to wait. The computer and fax were already hooked up to secure phones; the other phone, also secure, was simply waiting. Everything simply waited for the man—John Macine. Everything always waited for John Macine. Always.
“Mr. Macine, the courier will be here in about ten minutes. He just called in from the car. Is there anything further you’ll want for the meeting?” Macine’s number-two man in this part of the world was Courtney Jeffers. He was loyal, dedicated, ruthless—and completely controlled. There was nothing he wouldn’t take care of for the man. The control held over his life, his family, his personal wealth, ensured that. He no longer even thought of being controlled. He only thought of what the man needed done next and how to get it done. He was good at getting things done.
“No, Court, we’ll just wait now. Everything’s in place, right?” He didn’t need to ask. He knew. When the courier left the room after depositing the package, no one would ever see him again. Couriers remembered things. It took time to acquire control over a person. Time was an expensive luxury. Couriers were expendable.
“Tony, why don’t you stop complaining and go do something about it? You know they can’t demand that you work those hours anymore. We voted on that, remember? We’ve got some choices we can push for now.”
“Mike, I know you’re right. I just don’t want to get involved in it anymore. I just want to go home and relax. I’m tired. Can’t you do it for me? You did last time.”
“I know, but I told you the last time that it would be the last time, remember? Listen, buddy, I have enough to do. I just can’t keep handling your stuff, too. All you have to do is go to Bob and tell him you’ve had enough and you want to go. He has to let you. He has no choice. You know that, right? C’mon, you can get it done and be out the door just in a few minutes.”
“When’s your shift over?”
“Not for another six hours yet. I’m working three tens this week, so I’ve still got until six before I can go. But you’ve already got your thirty in. You don’t have to stay. Look, they’re just a bunch of parasites. We do all the work and they collect their fat profits over our bodies. Too many times it’s over our dead bodies, too. We don’t owe them anything. They owe us—big time.”
“I know. I know. But Bob said he wanted me to stay ‘cause Jeff didn’t come in and I don’t want to have to fight with him. I just want to go.”
“Look. If you want to get out that bad, you know what happened last week. All you have to do is...”
“Whoa. Don’t say that. And keep your voice down. You want to get us fired?”
“They can’t fire us unless they actually see us do something wrong. You know that, so calm down. Remember that guy last week that talked about that Plan? He told us to do this kind of stuff to keep our good old management off balance. It’s the only way to get what we deserve.”
“Yeah, but they can start an investigation, and that can get us on shaky ground. I don’t want any trouble.”
“Sure, but you know they can’t figure it out. The line’s always breaking down. Something’s always getting contaminated.”
“Well—uhhh—I don’t know, okay. I’ve never shut the line down before. And, besides, what about your hours? They’d send everyone home and you’d be short hours for the week. That wouldn’t be fair.”
“Hey, I’ve already made enough this week. With the raises after the election, I don’t need this many hours anymore. If you want to pull the plug, just do it. Nobody will really care.”
“Uhhh, I don’t know, man. I mean...”
“Look. Just do it, okay. Hey, I’d rather go home early myself. Just do it. What do you owe them, eh? Nothing.”
“Well, if you think...”
“I think, okay? Just drop something in the tank and it’s done.”
With that, but still with a look of worry on his face, Tony edged over to the mix tank and slipped the cafeteria coffee cup he had been drinking from over the side and watched it disappear under the surface of the milky liquid. It hit the bottom of the tank within seconds and as soon as the mix blades came in contact with it, they ground to a stop and the warning horn sounded. The entire processing line came to a halt and they could see a couple of the supervisors hurrying over to their area to see what was wrong—again.
Within twenty minutes, it had been determined that the whole line would have to be inspected and cleaned before anything could start, so Tony, Mike and fifty-six other workers were on their way home.
In addition, 312,000 gallons of mix that would have become medicine to treat the latest outbreak of flu roaring around the world was dumped into the contamination pits.
Ronald “Sancho” Salazar was sitting quietly in Ewart Memorial Hall, waiting for the program to start. The auditorium was already almost full, as the conference lecture had stirred both general interest and a lot of animosity in the students and faculty. There were several dignitaries from various government agencies, and many people were still trying to get inside. Sancho chuckled as he thought how explosive this conference ending was going to be.
American University in Cairo enrolled students from around the world, most for just one or two semesters, as they added specialized courses from Cairo to their studies at their home universities. The campus was originally opened in 1920 in a palace built during the mid-1800s for the Egyptian minister of education. The University now covered several city blocks at Kasr El Aini Street and Shari El Tahrir in downtown Cairo, and the original palace buildings now housed several classrooms, the administrative center and Ewart Memorial Hall, one of the most culturally active auditoriums in Cairo. Sancho was finishing a graduate degree from Georgetown University, and he had thoroughly enjoyed his stay for the year and a half at AUC. This conference and lecture would be his last.
As the speakers settled on the stage and the moderator began to introduce them, Sancho retrieved the mini recording device from his bag. Checking to be sure that the recorder’s panel lights were glowing, he slipped the protective cover off and gently pressed the Onbutton. A huge explosion immediately tore through the classroom building across from the auditorium, where Sancho had left his book bag filled with explosives early that morning. No one had seen it under the lab counter in one of the science classrooms.
As screams came from many parts of the auditorium and heads turned to the front doors, Sancho calmly pushed the Recordbutton on the device. As before, another massive explosion erupted, this time in the administration building next door to the auditorium. Sancho’s second book bag, which he had pushed under his career counselor’s desk this morning during their meeting, had an equal amount of explosives as the first, and the effect of the explosion tore out walls and supports from the center of the building. Much of the building collapsed, and hundreds of the students and staff personnel were blown apart and crushed under the rubble.
It was strange, he thought, that the screams that had been rolling through the auditorium after the first explosion now ceased. He wondered what the people were thinking that had brought about the almost complete silence.
He thought for just a moment about his last few years of school and his time in Cairo. It had been a good time. He had met a lot of delightful people, many of whom would have been great friends and business associates in his later years. He thought of Nanette, sitting beside him for the lecture, who had been his dearest friend for these last semesters. They had talked a little of a future together back home. And he thought of the amount of knowledge he had amassed in the years of school and where the knowledge would have taken him in the years to come. Yes, it had been a good time. A good life. However, he had been told for a couple of years that his work within The Plan might come to something like this.
Then he pressed the Off button on the little recording device. The explosives in the remaining book bag under his seat in Ewart Memorial Hall erupted with the largest of the three explosions. He had put only a quarter of the explosives in each of the other bags and had brought half of it to the auditorium. The devastation was massive. The majority of the people in the auditorium were killed outright. Most of those few who survived the initial explosion were killed when the building came down.
Ronald “Sancho” Salazar’s last thought before he disintegrated was, Pity I couldn’t have finished the degree. But, it’s been a good life.
Supreme Court Justice Olive Blackburn sat relaxed in her car as it headed through the city to her home in the Chevy Chase Terrace area by Bethesda. It was an older home she had bought many years before, but she could never find a good enough reason to move anywhere else. Her driver would usually grab 2nd Street up to Massachusetts Avenue, then all the way to Wisconsin Avenue and north to her home by the Chevy Chase Club. Traffic was often slow, but this was her time to relax away from the Court, so she wasn’t in a hurry. She always brought a small snack for the drive home, and when they turned onto Wisconsin, she stopped in a strip mall to get the evening paper from old Gus at The Paper Shack. He knew her car now and would come out to her with her paper. She could have simply had it delivered to either her home or the Court, of course, but this gave her something to do that was just a little different from the rest of her day.
As the car stopped at The Paper Shack, she rolled down her window and greeted Gus. Her standard greeting was, “Hi, Gus. What good is happening in the world today?” That would inevitably bring about his synopsis of the news and a couple of opinions. And he was always right on. He had read the news, probably from a variety of sources, and his recaps and opinions were usually insightful and accurate.
His voice tonight, though, sounded as if he was depressed. “Well, Judge, I just don’t know if there isvery much good today. People killing people; governments fighting each other; seems like most every country has strikes going on; people starving. Just seems like nobody knows what to do about it all and that we’ve pretty much just sat down to let it all happen.”
“Let what happen, Gus?”
“Well, the people just seem to want to let things happen around them without caring anymore. It’s all ‘my rights’ anymore. Or ‘give me.’ But they don’t want to work for things, or work things out. It’s just ‘let it happen.’ And the leaders just keep saying ‘Okay, we’ll do it for you. Don’t worry. You go back to sleep, or go play, and we’ll take care of it for you.’ It’s getting really scary, Judge.”
“Anything else specific you see, Gus?”
“Well, you see things happening like that university that got bombed this morning. Why? Who would want to bomb a university? Just a bunch of people trying to learn stuff. Kids trying to figure out what they want to be in life. I don’t recall that that place ever got radical or anything. Not like Berkeley or some others. Just a good place to learn. And someone just bombs it and kills a bunch of kids. Why? There’s just no understanding it.”
“I hear no one has any answers on that yet. Have you heard or read anything yet?”
“No, Judge. So far, no news about what really happened. But, there’s stuff like that going on that really doesn’t seem to have any answers. They’re just happening. Almost as if someone wants to just plain old cause trouble without any real good reason. Just seems to be some real evil stuff going on today that we can’t get our minds around. And, like I said, it’s getting real scary.”
“Well, I appreciate your thoughts, Gus. Maybe more to think about tonight than usual, eh? Thanks for the paper, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here, Judge. You take care now.”
As she drove away, Justice Blackburn was thinking about the depth of Gus’ comments and how they applied to what was going on in her own life and that of the Court. There was a case before them at present—another like so many before—where the political/legal system wanted to absolve a group of corporate executives from apparently fraudulent activities because they had been upstanding members of their communities. They just had errors of judgment. Never mind there were millions of dollars that had disappeared and the company was collapsing. How in the world, she thought, had this case gotten to the Supreme Court? Wasn’t it simply people either broke laws or they didn’t? No, she supposed, it didn’t appear to be that simple anymore. Or had it ever been? Yes, she thought, it was that simple once upon a time.
As the car pulled into her driveway, she whispered to herself, “Oh, Solomon, where are you today? Are there any answers anymore?”
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