Tsunami Wake Excerpt

Tsunami Wake, Calm Act series book 4.

The tsunami was only the beginning.

The fledgling nation of Hudson, born in the wreckage of New York and New Jersey, is only five months old when catastrophe strikes. Hudson is better prepared than most super-states of the ex-USA. But they aren't ready for this.

Tech whisperer Dee Baker barely escapes the tsunami herself. Her media empire is in tatters over censorship fights, while her home town sinks beneath the waves. As bad news piles scandal upon disaster, Dee struggles to deliver public support. Because Hudson is going to need it. Nations will fall in the tsunami's wake. Dee needs to make sure hers isn't one of them.

Tsunami Wake is book 4 in the climate change apocalyptic series which began with End Game. If you enjoy vivid characters, compelling dystopian worlds, and page-turning action, you'll love Ginger Booth's day-after-tomorrow Calm Act series.

Chapter 1

Interesting fact: The height of a tide, from low to high, varies based on the shape of nearby underwater coastline. Open ocean tides are about 2 feet. The highest tides on Earth occur in the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, at 38 feet. Long Island Sound, between Connecticut and Long Island, featured a 6 foot tide on average. Long Island’s south shore, facing the open Atlantic, had a 3 foot tide.

“Wow, Cam, your tide goes out fast,” I commented idly, enjoying the view of the deserted ocean beach out the open passenger window of his car.

Living in the Apple these days, I was starved for open seashore and a far horizon. My friend Cam humored me today by taking a scenic detour along Jones Beach, one of the sandy barrier islands of Long Island’s south shore, on our way to a meeting. My soul yearned to be soothed by the smell of salt air, the harsh cries and soaring elegance of circling seagulls. That spoke home, to me. The feel of the stiff cold onshore breeze whipping my hair at my face. The arrhythmic crash and susurrus of slow waves lapping the sand.

There was a bug in the wave subroutine. The waves weren’t delivering. I frowned. Maybe not such an idle comment. I’d never seen a tide draw out so fast. Not even in the Bay of Fundy. I knew this coast. That tide was wrong.

A couple seconds later, in similar delayed reaction, Cam slammed on the brakes and we skidded to a stop. Stopping like this was safe enough. There was no traffic on Ocean Parkway. The barrier islands were officially evacuated for winter, Cam had told me, off limits, no food or utilities, no water. We appeared to be the only people on Jones Beach that February morning.

He stared a moment at the tide sucking away across mud flats. I gazed at him worriedly. Abruptly, he pulled a U-turn and hit the gas.

“Change of plans,” Cam said. He picked up his phone to dictate a meshnet text announcement. “To LI Rescos, LI Cocos. Execute plan ‘Higher Ground’ immediately. This is not a drill. Zero warning. No lead time. ASAP. By order, Lieutenant Colonel Cam Cameron.” He handed me the phone. “Dee, check the dictation on that?”

I stared dumbly at the phone, my heart starting to pound, my palms to sweat. “Um,” I swallowed, “want me to capitalize ‘higher ground’ and ‘asap’?”

“No, I want that sent,” he said conversationally, while he drove like a maniac. There was no one else on the road, no. But several years had passed since the last time street sweepers cleared the sand off this parkway. Between the wind and the waves, the dunes of Jones Beach inexorably crept to reclaim this alien asphalt roadway for their own. The car lurched a bit as one tire or another spun, temporarily starved for traction. Judging by his sure control of the speeding car, Cam was accustomed to compensating for that.

“Check the routing. Should be two groups on the to-list, ‘LI Resco’ and ‘LI Coco’,” Cam continued. “CC ‘Hudson Top Resco’ and ‘Hudson Lead Resco’ for me too.”

I confirmed and sent, orange-flagged for forest-fire level immediate attention.

“Thank you,” Cam said, preternaturally courteous and collected while fighting the sifting sands for speed. “Text Dwayne for me? With our GPS coords.”

“Done,” I said, this accomplished. I carbon-copied Emmett as well, with a hasty ‘love you!’ from both of us to both of them. No time to get mushy now. Besides, heart-drumming, thinly reined panic doesn’t really coexist with love. I wasn’t feeling sentimental. “Anything else? Or are you ready to tell me what’s going on?” My voice squeaked a bit on that last.

Cam considered this, as he slalomed us through a right-hand turn, sand flying from the tires. We passed through this turnoff a few minutes ago, and were now back on the island-hopping causeway we’d just crossed to reach Jones Beach. “Keep an eye on the tide for me,” he directed mildly, gunning the car up to 50 mph. Awfully fast considering our iffy state of traction.

I swallowed nervously. “Can’t see the ocean beach,” I reported. “The tide’s going out in here, too, though.” ‘In here’ being the bay and islands separating Jones Beach from central Long Island – CLI, or ‘Sea-lie’ in local parlance. A mere couple miles of island hopping on our current route. Just a few minutes at this speed, if we didn’t spin out on the sand. “Negligible tide in the bay,” Cam informed me. “Three feet on the south side of the barrier islands, almost none inside. Few inches.”

“Oh,” I said, taken aback. No, the tides would not ordinarily race out faster than they do in the Bay of Fundy, then. And the ‘negligible’ tide in the bay looked to have dropped a couple feet, very recently. Wet rock glistened above the water, on a sunny, dry, breezy day that would dry rock quickly. Today was even warm for February, almost 60 degrees. That wasn’t a new climate change thing. All my life, there’d been a clutch of weird fake-spring days in February.

“So, Cam,” I continued, struggling to be analytical to control the terror, “why do we think the tide is racing out?”

“That happens before a tidal wave,” Cam said. “Tsunami.”

I considered the wet rocks. Still getting taller. “You don’t get tidal waves much.”

He laughed shortly. “No, Dee.”

OK, it was a dumb comment. I grew up less than 30 miles from here, as the seagull flies, mostly across salt water. That’s why reading a tide was so automatic. No, Long Island didn’t get tidal waves much. I was getting shocky.

“Are we very, very screwed?” I inquired.

“Back on LI in a couple minutes,” Cam replied. “Then we head for higher ground.”

Check. There was no high ground on Jones Beach. The barrier island was a giant sand bar. “You seem surprisingly unsurprised,” I noted. “And unworried.”

“I am doing, not worrying,” Cam returned. “Surprise is for the unprepared.”

I grinned at him. He looked like he was having a blast. I’ve always admired Cam’s grace under pressure. He seemed more himself, more alive, amused, charismatic and absolutely self-assured, when things got hairy. His enjoyment of his battle with road traction took the edge off of my panic, too. Cam must have made an awesome combat officer in the Middle East. He still was. He’d been telling me minutes ago how they’d just finished clearing the entrenched insurgents off Jones Beach before Christmas.

“Navigator, look for higher ground,” Cam prompted. “Check the meshnet. There should be a map flashing at you, ‘Seek higher ground now.’ Suggested evac target.”

Indeed, there was a map already flashing on the phone. Cam’s people executed fast, after receiving his text. Apparently the ‘Higher Ground’ protocol was prepared in advance and ready to execute at push-button speed.

Of course, on the map, we weren’t off the barrier sand bars yet. Then the highest ground wasn’t terribly high. Nor was there any obvious way to drive there. The only route by car was to overshoot going inland, and then loop around back. But if we did that, we might as well keep going further inland.

We both blew out a deep breath of relief as we escaped the last causeway and headed inland. That relief was short-lived. I checked the rear-view window. A strange engine-like growl was mounting behind us, like a freight train. Isn’t that what they say a tornado sounds like? A freight train? The horizon seemed to be getting taller. And closer.

“Cam, we’re out of time,” I said. “High ground to the right. But there’s no road! That bike path sort of–”

A deluxe paved bike path ran along the side of the parkway to our right. Deserted, like everything else. We hadn’t reached a residential area yet, hadn’t seen any people.

“Understood,” Cam said. Without further warning, he jerked the car to narrowly avert a bit of steel highway guardrail, a couple trees, and a chunk of granite the size of a riding lawn mower, to essentially leap us from the highway down onto the bike path. “Right direction?” he inquired.

“Yeah,” I squeaked. I unlocked my arms from their crash positions at dashboard and window. I dove down to fish the phone off the floor. I’d dropped it when my arms instinctively braced for impact.

New messages. I only checked one. Emmett had responded with a simple heart emoticon in response. When I uncurled from the floor, I glanced behind us through the rear window. Any illusion of a horizon was gone. A wall was coming, a greenish grey wall against the light blue sky. “Up, Cam. Now, Cam,” I breathed in terror.

He glanced in the rear-view window. “Right.”

And right it was. Cam swerved right through underbrush, a low point between the line of trees flanking the bike path. We bounded into a marshy stretch of flat grasses centered on a bit of babbling brook ditch, a typical northeastern storm sewer, created by simply shifting pre-existing brooks into a more convenient road-parallel heading.

Cam’s little electric car wasn’t a stream-hopping model. He backed up once to give it a second try, then declared time’s up. We grabbed one backpack each, abandoned the car, leapt across the narrow ditch, and started running uphill. I still can’t vouch for tornados, but an approaching tsunami does sound a bit like a freight train. Too bad its path is so much wider than train tracks.

We crashed through another hedgerow worth of winter-bare trees and briar cane, and ran across a rectangular field of winter-dead grass, rich in fragrant cow patties. Cam was a runner. Not me. Swimming’s my sport.

I half-fell, slipping on my second cow patty. Cam grabbed me, stripped me of my backpack, and hurled it away. He grabbed my hand the better to drag me by, and resumed running. “Now we run like our lives depend on it!” he called out.

Because of course our lives did depend on it. Long Island had lovely barrier islands, probably even at that moment entirely underneath the first tsunami wave. Pretty little marshy islands daisy-chained across a lagoon-like bay behind us, followed by land so low it wasn’t inhabited even before the Calm. Too exposed to storm surges. None of it was any barrier at all to this big a wave. We hadn’t made it a mile from open water before we lost the car.

Mercifully, the next band of trees we crashed through had less underbrush. But we had to dodge left, not uphill, to run around an empty municipal pool, ringed with a rusted wire link fence. I gasped for air, Cam pulling me as much as me running. I was so grateful to break out onto smooth roadway.

Cam stopped, and yelled, “Breather!” over the roar of the oncoming catastrophe. I doubled over panting. He dug a few things out of his backpack. He slung a full canteen around my neck, and stuffed a satellite phone into his army camouflage jacket, some other things into utility pockets on his pants. Then he dropped the backpack before grabbing my arm to run again. Our breather was less than half a minute, and I’d barely caught my breath at all.

I refused to be the death of us. Cam would protect me with his life, if it came to that. I could damn well protect him, too, by not slowing him down. I ran, better than before the breather, no matter how short my breath was.

Beside the road, a park complex opened up to our left, the sort with big lawns and baseball diamonds, and pretty shade trees, winter-bare against the pale blue sky. Like the last field, whatever it used to be, this was prime LI pasture land now. The land rose higher in that direction, so we set across dead grass and cow patties again.

That’s where the churning frothing maelstrom of the tsunami crashed into us like a 6 foot wall.


Tsunami Wake is available on Amazon.