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– The author of 27 books, Robert L. Wise is best known for his Mega-Millennium series, which has combined sales of over 365,000 copies. It is comparable to the bestselling Left Behind series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
– Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., is an archbishop, lecturer, and Bible teacher who has spoken throughout Europe and the Far East. He is vice president of Feed the Children and a member of the Writers Guild of New York City.
My deepest thanks to David Howlett and Dr. Fred Pike for their kind input and insights. In addition, Steve Wilburn's editorial assistance and wise insights are gratefully appreciated, as is the work of my good friend and agent Greg Johnson. Finally, my excellent secretary Rhonda Whittacre always goes the extra mile, and does all things well.
May 1, 2023
THE FOREST REMAINED QUIET except for the occasional sound of a deer breaking through the underbrush. A fresh scent of damp pine needles filled the air. In a few weeks spring would break out across the Lewis and Clark National Forest, sending new growth through the virgin landscape, but today the dead grass and dried plants still wore the look of winter. The tall pines reached toward the blue sky while their branches extended across the needle-covered sloping terrain. Not many people ventured into the back corners of the area seventy miles from Great Falls, Montana, but the beauty of the untouched land always left its mark on anyone hiking into the pristine wilderness. Because the leaves of the aspens had not yet broken out, the emptiness made it easier to see through the branches.
Two Cheyenne tribesmen had returned to the area where their people had traveled in an earlier century. Life in town had gotten crazy, and they needed a break from the strange events that seemed to pop up every day. Joe White Owl and Archie Big Bear had the eyes of ancient warriors for reading the paths and hidden trails in the backcountry. Having grown up on the edge of the national forest, they had traveled the back paths many times in search of rabbits and other game. As they grew to young adults, their climbing skills became as keen as a mountain goat's, equipping them to scramble along the treacherous edges of the bluffs.
White Owl led the way down the side of a steep cliff that dropped at least sixty feet to the floor of the canyon beneath them. Joe hesitated just as he was reaching for the next handhold. The dusty wall of rock shook slightly and unnerved him.
"What was that?" Joe grunted.
"The ground shook!" Archie Big Bear said. "It never did that before."
"In my whole lifetime!" White Owl shouted back. "I don't know what's going on. Be careful!"
The two men slowly worked their way farther down the stone wall. Halfway to the bottom the entire cliff shook once more, sending small rocks flying past the two climbers. Joe grabbed a small pine tree growing between two boulders and hung on for dear life. Although the rumbling lasted only a few seconds, it felt like an eternity.
"I've never been in an earthquake," Joe shouted. "But this feels close enough."
"You bet," Archie called back. "We've stumbled onto something. I want out of here!"
Both men hunkered down into the side of the cliff to catch their breath, hoping that whatever was shaking the earth would quickly pass. Nothing any longer felt predictable. Their hands turned clammy.
"Look!" Big Bear pointed to the normally placid terrain below. "Check that out!"
In the canyon beneath them, a small geyser abruptly spewed steaming hot water from the cracks in the rocks. They could see splotches of residue dotting the terrain, creating a yellowish tint across the top of the huge boulders. Nearby, the land dipped, and a boiling mud pool bubbled up from the depression in the earth, splashing churning black mud everywhere.
"Wow!" Joe squinted. "Strange sights down there."
"Never seen anything like it around here," Archie answered. "Not in this valley."
"Like you said back in town, the whole world's gone crazy. Attacks happen everywhere. Millions of people disappear overnight. Politicians promise answers, but we don't get any. We come out here to escape and only find more craziness."
"We ought to get out of this area. Worse may yet come."
"We're closer to the bottom," Joe reasoned. "I think it would be quicker to go on down and get off this wall."
"My hand's starting to get warm," Archie said. "Feel the sand."
White Owl sniffed the air. "Yeah. Strange smells, too." He inhaled again. "Could be sulfur. Why would there be the smell of sulfur out here in the forest?"
Abruptly the ground shook violently, nearly sending both men flying. They hung on fiercely, fearing the plunge would kill them.
"The dirt is walking!" Archie screamed. "We can't stay here."
"Listen." Joe pressed his ear even harder into the cliff where he rested his head. "Funny noises! The earth is rumbling."
"This place is turning into Mount Saint Helens," Big Bear shouted. "Remember Devils Tower in Wyoming? They say it came from hot ground."
"I think we should get back to town," White Owl insisted. "We need to report what's going on to somebody." He started to hurry down the steep incline. "Everything else has gone nuts. Who can say what's going on out here."
With a terrible rumble, the ground resumed shaking. Off in the distance they heard a violent explosion, and the dirt slipped out from under both men. Dust filled their eyes and noses. Directly below, trees buckled and tumbled forward. Cracking sounds of branches breaking filled the air while the smell of smoke became more intense.
"My God!" Joe screamed. "There's an eruption over there by that waterspout! Smoke and fire are coming up! Even the trees are shaking. It's coming this way."
"I'm falling!" Archie screamed. "Everything's breaking loose!"
Joe White Owl felt the scrub pine he was holding start to break loose. "I can't hold on!" he cried. "The ground's slipping away." The agile man tumbled backward, bouncing off the wall of the cliff.
A shower of spewing, boiling water shot straight toward them. Joe futilely grabbed for a rock, a branch, anything that would stop his fall. Beneath him the earth split open, the newly formed crevice heaving clouds of black smoke through the trees.
Turbulent boiling mud splattered brown stains over the green pines. The roar became deafening, drowning out Joe White Owl's screams. With one more violent jerk, the earth hurled both men into the fiery pit, which bubbled up in a pyroclastic flow of molten magma. Rocks tumbled in behind them, and then the earth suddenly crunched back together. Steaming hot water and boiling mud calmed. The rumbling noise ceased, and silence fell over the valley. Nothing moved. Death now rested at the bottom.
The smoke and fire had stopped . . . for the moment.
June 2, 2023
GRAHAM PECK pulled back the curtain and peered out the window of his family's summer home overlooking Mohawksin Lake. Virtually no one knew about this cabin—purchased six years earlier in Wisconsin—but they couldn't take security for granted. Staring suspiciously, he studied the thick grove of trees to make sure no one was spying on them. Picking up a small pair of binoculars, he examined the forest, looking carefully for any hint of movement along the edge of the trees. Only after a couple of minutes was he satisfied.
"Anyone out there?" Jackie Peck asked cautiously. Even in jeans and a sweatshirt, her oblong, angular face and brilliant brunette hair gave the thirty-nine-year-old mother the look of a model. Her tall, poised appearance imparted an air of dignity even out in the woods of northern Wisconsin. "I trust no one's crawled in during the night."
Graham smiled. "Not yet. After six months of hiding, we're still safe. If Bridges' men knew about this cabin, they would have caught us last Christmas."
His mention of Mayor Frank Bridges flooded Graham's mind with memories of their awful escape from Illinois. Bridges had ordered his men to storm the Pecks' home after killing Graham's secretary, Sarah Cates. Graham was forced to take Adah Honi and Eldad Rafaeli, two new Jewish friends, with his family when they fled at midnight to avoid the ominous and ubiquitous electronic surveillance. At the moment when Jake Pemrose had nearly caught them, Graham pushed the red button on a small metal device Sarah Cates had lifted from Pemrose's office. Apparently the nanorobots hidden in the security implant on Pemrose's forehead were excited by the signal from Graham's device and attacked him, causing a fatal car wreck. At that moment the Pecks had fully realized how dangerous their predicament was.
"Fortunately we never let anyone know about our summer home," Jackie said. "You were too embroiled in Chicago politics. Being an assistant to Mayor Frank Bridges made you a public entity. We had to have a getaway to escape from the world and the media. I thank God we kept the hideout a family secret."
"Hideout's the right word." Graham sat down at the long, rustic breakfast table. "This log cabin's been our security blanket from capture, but I have to admit, not seeing anyone except our family is beginning to wear thin."
"We see Adah Honi and Eldad Rafaeli every day. The Israelis have certainly taught us volumes about the Bible during these days. No boredom there."
"Sure, I love and appreciate them. But I once hated being inundated by those noisy, demanding voices at work. Now, I miss them."
Jackie laughed. "Hey! We're alive, and even that wicked mayor of Chicago hasn't caught up with us. Borden Camber Carson's right-hand man can't find us, and we should thank God."
Graham grinned. "Don't think I'm not grateful. We managed to crawl out from under a surveillance system of monumental proportions. Not having those beastly security markings on our foreheads kept the police from being able to find us when we sneaked out of Arlington Heights. I thank God every day we've been able to avoid being located."
Jackie reached over and took Graham's hand. "We're only a few miles from the Canadian border. Do you think we'd be safer out of America?"
"I think about that possibility a great deal of the time." Graham took a deep breath. "We could claim political asylum, but running north doesn't feel right today. I think we need to stay put. We've been able to buy groceries in the village. When we want to venture farther out, Rhinelander is close, and it's much larger. For the moment, I think we should stay where we are."
Jackie watched the early morning sunlight drift through the cracks in the curtains. She stood and opened the long white drapes. "Look! There's a deer not fifty feet away!"
The magnificent buck walked in slow steps across the slope of their property, completely unaware they were looking down on him. Graham smiled. "Wow! What a beauty."
"Boom," Jackie said quietly. "One shot from up here, and you'd have tagged a deer."
"Interesting word," Graham said. "Tagged. You know, we are like that deer. The mayor and security people from across the state of Illinois are a virtual army of hunters armed with computers, every kind of electronic surveillance equipment, nanorobots, guns. They are trying to tag our family. It's like a big children's game of 'tag and you're out.'"
Jackie abruptly hugged her husband. "You're frightening me."
"The fact that we haven't done anything doesn't make any difference. Bridges is trying to run us down, to trap us, to make us the victims, the losers—except if we get tagged, we are out forever!"
"I'm getting shivers down my back." Jackie bit her lip. "Do you think Bridges' thugs could escalate the chase? Use some sort of national police force?"
"We're peanuts to anybody but Bridges . . . and Carson. State lines make a difference, but . . ." Graham stopped. "Don't worry, Jackie." He patted her hand. "Who'd want to catch us? We can trust God for our safety."
MATTHEW PECK came up from the bottom floor of the family's summer home and found his parents still sitting at the long wooden table. Graham's striking dark eyes were as bright as ever and his brown hair had not changed, but nineteen-year-old Matt thought his six-foot-tall father looked unusually worn and tired. His normally round face seemed more narrow and pale.
"Good morning, son," Graham said. "You're up for the day?"
"Yeah," Matt said. "Mary and George haven't stirred, but little Jeff will come bounding up the steps any minute."
"Adah and Eldad awake?" Jackie asked.
"I didn't check their rooms, but I think they are both still asleep." Matt glanced out the window. "What a beautiful June day! Glorious, brilliant sunlight!"
"A big buck wandered by just a bit ago," Graham said, "but I didn't see any signs of attackers moving in on us."
Matt raised an eyebrow. "That's good news."
"Your father was telling me that he has started missing those mobs of people he used to hate," Jackie said. "Isn't that a hoot?"
"Dad missing the rabble packing the metro trains? Now that's a kicker!"
"Both of you are telling me that you're not getting a little stir-crazy sitting in this house day after day?" Graham said.
"I didn't want to mention it," Matt told his father, "but every now and then I feel like the walls are closing in on me. Sure, the cabin gets a little tight."
"I simply have no idea how difficult this struggle is going to be," Graham said. "How long are we going to sit out here camouflaged in the trees?"
"Boker tov," Adah Honi said from the basement steps. "I see the family has awakened before me this day."
"Ah, Adah," Graham said. "Good morning."
"I trust you slept well," Jackie said.
"Yes. Our discussion last night went into the wee hours of the morning. I slept soundly."
"Maybe, you can help us with a question I have," Graham said. "How long do you think this time of worldwide struggle is going to last?"
The Jewish woman pushed her thick black hair to one side and looked out the window. Her finely chiseled profile offered a majestic countenance against the beaming sunlight. She seemed lost in thought.
"Tough question?" Jackie finally said.
"No," Adah replied. "I am simply thinking about what I should say." She turned away from the window. "In some ways the matter is simple. In other ways, it is complicated."
"I don't understand," Matt said.
"There are many biblical interpreters who believe the Tribulation will last for seven years," Adah began. "Of course, the Rapture occurred on Avi 9, the date in our Jewish calendar when everything catastrophic happened to Israel. Using the prophetic insights of chapter 9 in the book of Daniel as well as chapter 13 in Revelation, we can surmise the possibility of seven years." Adah smiled. "But remember, numbers often stand for ideas in the Scripture, and seven is an extremely important number in Israel. Creation took seven days. There are seven candlesticks in a menorah in Revelation, as well as seven seals and seven trumpets. The Holy Land has seven different names. Ezekiel chapter 36 promises seven great blessings of the Lord for Israel. The Bible goes on and on. See what I mean?"
Graham shook his head. "No, I don't understand."
"Seven is a number for fullness, completion, wholeness," Adah said. "Like seven days completing a week, it is a symbol for the fulfillment of God's Word, of spiritual perfection." She shrugged. "Seven is used as no other number in the Scripture. It comes from the Hebrew root savah, meaning 'to be satisfied or have enough of.' Maybe it simply tells us that the Tribulation will be over when God's work is done, when His plan is fulfilled."
"Then we won't know when the end will come!" Graham complained.
Adah smiled. "Maybe not on a calendar, but we will be challenged to trust God all the more."
"You're playing a game with us," Graham argued.
"No," Adad said. "I am being very honest."
"Hey!" Matt noticed that the sunlight had started to fade. Sunlight shouldn't be diminishing at this hour of the day, he thought. "Look!" He took a couple of steps toward the window. No question about it; the sun was disappearing. "Something strange is going on."
Jackie stood up. "What's happening?"
Graham looked out the window. "Shadows are falling like nighttime." He pointed across the landscape. "How can that be happening at this hour of the morning?"
Matthew watched the shadows darken and the sunlight quickly disappear. "I've never seen such a strange sight."
"The book of Revelation says that the sun will turn black during the Great Tribulation." Adah pointed toward the disappearing sun in the sky. "We are seeing it happen."
"It's an eclipse," Jackie said. "Isn't it?" She hesitated, and the worry sounded in her voice. "I didn't know one was predicted." Jackie swallowed hard. "I—I think I'm getting frightened."
"The world is descending into the shadows," Graham mumbled. "We are living in a time of darkness. Adah is right. No one can know for certain what is ahead, but I fear it will be a day of night."
FOR SEVERAL YEARS, the U.S. government maintained a hush-hush facility for nanotechnology experimentation. South of Chicago, the University of Illinois operated the secret research facility in Urbana. Interstate highway 57 traffic zoomed past the entrance without anyone even suspecting the university's Microfabrication Research Laboratory was hidden underground. No one knew more about the cutting-edge work with nanorobots than the thirty-two-year-old scientist currently conducting an experiment.
Pulling a small laser flashlight from the pocket of his long white lab coat, the brilliant young doctor flashed the intense beam on the specimens several times. The penetrating light swept across the tabletop and reflected off a petri dish inches away from his hand. Flipping off the laser, the nanotechnologist quickly returned to the microscope. Intense silence hovered around the researcher while he stared into the microscope, studying the strange sight unfolding before his eyes.
Dr. Allen Newton mumbled and groaned while he peered through the lens for several minutes. Something was obviously wrong. At that moment, the lab's door abruptly swung open and another scientist walked in.
Because Dr. Paul Gillette was exceptionally good at obtaining funding for the expensive projects, he had been chairman of the research project and head of the lab for a number of years. Gillette had a nose for sniffing out how best to worm the required large sums out of Congress without overplaying his hand. However, Gillette remained a scientist, seldom mixing socially with more than a couple of close friends. Always keeping a sharp eye on Newton's work, he studied Allen for a second and immediately realized something was wrong.
After a quick exchange, Gillette looked into Allen's microscope and studied the strange creatures floating through the saline solution. At a length of one 100- billionth of a meter, the nanorobots were more than just extremely small mechanical creations. They were pronged living bombs. With their grotesque shapes and serrated teeth, a few of the creatures resembled repulsive monsters that might swim in the depths of the ocean. And their probing eyes left the scientific observer with the unnerving sense of possibly being observed himself. The ugly microscopic creatures wiggled and zoomed through the solution as if they were off on a thousand important missions—or on journeys directed by their own hidden inner sensors.
Gillette carefully observed the nanorobots for several moments, but he didn't like what he saw. Rather than miniature computers, they looked more like landing craft from the moon or guided missiles searching for a human heart to attack . . . maybe his! Even though these man-made creatures were important to his obtaining federal funding, they made his skin crawl.
Paul Gillette and Allen Newton were the absolute authorities on the nanorobots. Having first designed the gadgets for national security purposes, their laboratory had been chosen by the president of the United States to provide nanorobots for use in markings on people's foreheads—an instant security technique devised after terrorist attacks exploded from public concern into a national issue. Dr. Allen Newton had devised a plan that allowed, with only one brush of a cotton swab, the nanorobots to be placed on a person's forehead, putting them in instant contact with a computer in a central police observation location. When attack or death was threatened, patrol units were instantly dispatched to the individual in danger. At least the idea sounded good.
Starting with identification nanorobots, Allen had gone on to perfect the devices so they had the capacity to work inside the human body, and could send back photographs of everything from the inside of teeth and heart valves to livers. But now he had discovered something strangely different. The gizmos seemed to have developed the ability to think for themselves!
When Allen Newton studied the gadgets speeding through the saline solution, he realized they had developed the unique capacity to seek independent direction and function divergently from how they were programmed to act. Because the doors to new and unexplored areas were being pushed open, the nanorobots' independence alarmed him. Having worked in organic morphology and the molecular arrangement of nanorobots, Dr. Newton knew the potential for these creatures, but he had also discovered that light affected them strangely, creating unpredictable behavior and often making them act like infuriated attacking bees or wasps. A sudden flash of light could send them into erratic responses.
As Dr. Gillette studied the gizmos under Allen's microscope, he began to realize just how bizarre their behavior could become. Allen had found a problem . . . a big problem.
Dr. Newton picked up an intense bright light and flashed it on the nanorobots in the solution. As he did so, the beam also struck a petri dish filled with samples of the miniature robots. Reaching across the table to pick up a pipette, Allen's foot slipped, sending him sprawling across the table. His hand struck the petri dish and it shattered, spraying glass over the tabletop and shooting sharp slivers of glass into Allen's hand.
Allen Newton screamed as pain shot up his arm. Grabbing a towel, Gillette wrapped it around the slashed laceration on Newton's hand, immediately realizing how serious the injury could be.
For a moment, Allen Newton looked across the tabletop at the broken dish and the splattered mess in stunned silence. He knew his hand had been cut deeply, but Newton didn't want medical attention. Still, he realized material from the petri dish might have gotten into the wound. Allen certainly didn't want any solution filled with nanorobots floating around in his bloodstream. Reluctantly agreeing to get medical help, he prepared to leave with Dr. Gillette.
As they started toward the door, Newton began to feel dizzy, and his vision blurred. Surely the cut couldn't have affected him so dramatically? But as he tried to walk, his sense of stability started to fade. Instead of strong, steady steps, he staggered. Allen's knees buckled, and Gillette grabbed him to keep Allen from falling.
Dr. Gillette stared at the hideous transformation occurring before his eyes. Color was fading from the face of his strong, virile colleague. Newton's eyes widened and turned red. The young man gasped for air and mumbled that he feared the nanorobot-filled suspension material might have seeped into his bloodstream. The flash of light could have activated them, turning these strange machines into frenzied attackers.
Dr. Gillette tried to help Allen toward the door, but the young man found it impossible to take another step. His eyes widened farther, and a small stream of blood erupted from his right eye, making him look like he was weeping tears of blood.
Finally collapsing into Gillette's arms, Newton sank listlessly to the floor. Never closing his eyelids, the man's eyes took on a glassy, empty stare. Gillette frantically searched for his friend's pulse but found none. Staring in disbelief and shock, Paul Gillette realized Dr. Allen Newton was dead.
ON THE OTHER SIDE of the world, the sun's sudden darkening was observed at a later hour locally than in Wisconsin. The entire country of Turkey had been caught with the same unexpected blackness in the sky that fell over America. Hassan Jawhar Rashid stood at the window of his massive petroleum offices in Istanbul, looking up at the opaque sky. Darkness had settled over the ancient city, and the streets were filled with alarmed citizens screaming in the streets.
"What is it?" Rashid's assistant asked timidly.
"What?" Rashid turned around slowly and looked at his assistant with disdain. "What do you think?"
Abu Shad was not easily frightened, but today he looked anxious. "I've never seen the sun go out and the streets fall dark at midday. No one expected an eclipse. The sight frightens me."
"Expecting the world to end?"
Abu Shad shook his head but didn't speak.
"Come now. You're as bad as those morons running around in the streets in total panic. Social unrest, wars around the world, and the moon turning red, plus this current blackout, and they think it all signals the end of time." Rashid shrugged. "It's not!"
"Then what has happened?" Abu Shad pushed.
- On Sale
- Sep 3, 2007
- Page Count
- 304 pages