THE BEGINNING IS NEAR...
From a ruined chemical weapons bunker in Iraq to a shallow grave in California's San Andreas Fault, the lines are drawn for a shadow war that will decide who, or what, will inherit the earth and reign as the next dominant species.
The escalating conflict engulfs the lives of three born survivors: a broken veteran of the Gulf War; a fiercely independent young nurse dying of cancer; and a brilliant novice FBI agent. Plunged into an arena where the stakes are survival or extinction, each must choose a side: between a militia of rogue government scientists and an enigmatic messiah who holds the cure for death itself, and the key to a new form of life.
Trapped in a genocidal war the government will do anything to conceal, where top-secret military technologies vie with the primal power of evolution unleashed, they will struggle to understand and stay alive...and stay human.
Cody Goodfellow's debut novel showed an ambition and dramatic range that most SF, thrillers, or horror novels attempt. Goodfellow finds cosmic horror in a cancerous cell, and a radical vision in the actions of the most special of Special Forces. Think of Lovecraft by way of Thomas Pynchon and Tom Clancy in a perfect mutant mix. – Nick Mamatas
"It's like HP Lovecraft and Tom Clancy stopped by Thomas Pynchon's house, on their way to perform some ecoterrorism with Edward Abbey and the Monkey-Wrench Gang, before hooking up with Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick to do some shrooms… You've got your X-Files-worthy conspiracy theories, complete with utterly convincing military and government interaction… You've got monstrous eruptions of mutations and mayhem like the best of Clive Barker, or John Carpenter's The Thing… The thing is, reading Cody Goodfellow reminds me of all these other writers and artists, whenever I put the book down. But when I'm reading it, I'm not thinking of anyone else. Because he doesn't write like anyone else."– John Skipp, from “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em,” Cemetery Dance #51.
"I truly relished Goodfellow's pull-no-punches, descriptive writing style which I found, in places, to be a cross between a less wordy Stephen King and a more coherent William Burroughs. One character's breath is described as, "a melange of corn chips, vaginal mucus, unfiltered camels and rampant tooth decay." I winced more than once while reading Radiant Dawn (that's a good thing!) and as I pored over each page, I kept thinking that fans of The X-Files would really like this book. While considerably more violent and graphic than the TV series, it's got all the elements of skullduggery, paranoia, and the questioning of authority which us devotees of that show delight in… In sum, Radiant Dawn is an excellent novel, well-written, fast-paced and meticulously thought-out."– Staci Layne Wilson, Cinescape Magazine
"Radiant Dawn by Cody Goodfellow is a highly entertaining conspiratorial/lovecraftian novel crackling with perverse energy. The book, which is ostensibly one half of a mammoth novel (ravenous dusk being the second), whips along at a tremendous pace. There is very little that initially links it to Mythos related works but slowly, very slowly you are drip fed little morsels and hints of information that within the structure of conspiracies, secrecies and clandestine activities works an absolute treat."– George Anderson, Amazon reviewer
January 16, 1991
Somewhere in the Tigris River Valley, Southern Iraq
When it was all over, the eight of them waited in four spiderholes on the lip of the canyon, eight hundred yards away from and two hundred feet above the ruins of the objective. Chief Warrant Officer Nedick motioned to stand down, so they talked, like men in holes who have communicated only with hand gestures for fourteen sleepless, marching hours. Like men filling up smoky black air and desperate hours until a helicopter comes to exfiltrate them back to Bedrock in Riyadh, a helicopter now ninety seven minutes overdue. They didn't talk about the mission.
"–No man, you can't just use cheap American beer to marinate bratwurst, or it's just gonna taste like cheap bratwurst..."
"-and that dog, you know, that collie that's the mascot for Texas A&M? Jesus, but that's gotta be the most pampered fucking animal on the planet. Sirloin and eggs three times a day, and brushings, and even his own fucking car, for Chrissakes."
"Georgie, I do believe you want to be that dog."
Sgt. Storch liked sharing a hole with Sgt. Tuetagoloa, the SAW gunner. The Samoan's bulk would've crowded a hole twice as wide as this one and his stomach growled louder than bombs, but at least he didn't need to babble to feel safe. Still, when he looked at Storch, he seemed to be mentally covering him in a pineapple glaze and stuffing an apple in his mouth. All racial stereotypes aside, Tue's stare made Storch very uneasy.
Storch watched the guttering flames in the crater at the bottom of the canyon through the slitted screen of their hideout, licking his finger every once in a while to test the winds for a shift that would send the green-black clouds trickling out of the bunker their way.
Fourteen hours ago, they were dropped in the marshy hill-country of the Tigris river valley by an MH-60 Pave Low helicopter, and humped across twenty miles of bombed farmland to this site. From the get-go, it'd seemed like a goat-rope, a pure bullshit mission: a single bunker in the middle of nowhere nestled in an elbow of a box canyon that sacrificed all defensibility in favor of a dubious invisibility, isolated from military support where most chemical weapons compounds were right under the noses of an airfield or a Republican Guard barracks.
Arriving eight hours ago, they scouted the air defenses–two heavy recoilless guns and a SAM launcher–and took them out. Radioing in the air strike was a bust: the entire area for a two-mile radius was under an anomalous blanket of magnetic disturbance that blocked out even synthetic aperture radar, which could pick up an RC dune buggy on a bad day in Mexico City. Taking it on faith that the mission was still on, they'd painted the compound with laser pointers and waited. In less than ten minutes, they'd heard the planes, three F-111Fs diverted from a sortie on nearby Ad Diwaniyah, flying low enough they could probably hear Tue's stomach, and seen the laser-guided GBU-27 bombs gliding down the canyon to the target like they were on wires.
For his part, Storch was fucking glad they weren't going to have to get any closer. They goofed on the fireworks display and enjoyed an extra helping of their three-day rations, and some French field meals that Wachiowak traded for, and some sweet pemmican that Stauffer's wife made. At the time, they didn't think they'd be needing them. The Pave Low would be whispering in overhead any minute, and they were stoned on being alive and unharmed on the eve of the Mother of All Battles.
They were just starting to chew over the possibility that the helicopter wasn't coming when a man-mountain silhouette crested a craggy rockpile on the next hill, no more than eighty yards away. Sgt. Storch was the first to make it out against the smoky night sky.
"Chief, I make one armed man at five o'clock, about eighty yards off!" he hissed in a practiced stage-whisper. Because no one seemed to be able to pronounce Nedick's name in haste, he was always simply Chief in the field. Whatever his insecurities, his men trusted him with their lives more readily than they would their fathers or their gods. He motioned for silence, gestured for his men to be alert and to prepare to fall out if they were made.
Preston made a pile of their 200-pound Alice packs and primed a block of C4 explosive on top of them, with a one-minute fuse ready to be set if they had to move to a new defensive perimeter. The rest of the squad turned and peered at the shape of a very big man atop the rocks, making no effort to conceal himself. He held a rifle across his shoulder and carried some sort of big case on the other. "Holy shit," Stauffer breathed.
"What do you see? What?"
"I think he's one of ours."
The big shadow stooped to heft something up alongside him. A rotund silhouette easily three times his size dangled from his arm. A third clambered up onto the rocks with what looked like a 55-gallon oil drum strapped to his back. The first one looked around for a moment, as if he was hiking in the Grand Canyon and sizing up a good spot for a midnight picnic, and then they were swallowed up again by the darkness as they made their way down the canyon wall, cutting a straight path towards the bunker.
"Two M16s on one of them, another has a Barrett sniper... third one looks like a flamethrower, or somethin'..." Preston mumbled as he scanned them. "All of 'em're carrying some kinda steel drums, like oil barrels with handles... They're wearing GI boots and flak jackets, all ripped up like they've been through the shit and back... No MOPP gear, no masks... one of 'em's wearing a helmet, says... 'Spike Team TEX' on it... the other two're wearin' berets... black, maybe green..."
"Means shit," Wachowiak growled. "Saddam wears a fucking beret. Half the shit they have they bought from us. I say they're Republican Guard and we frag 'em."
"No... that's not right..." Stauffer said.
Storch tried to read details in the dwindling forms and keep his gun leveled. Tue set the SAW on its bipod pointed at the men. "This smells like bullshit," he said.
"What the fuck're they doing? That place is full of fucking gas," Stauffer said.
"They seem to know what they're doing," Chief grumbled. "Their mission is to get melted inside, that's their lookout." Resentment colored his tone, and Zane knew he was too busy wondering who'd gone over his head to even want the intruders dead just now. Wondering why anyone would knowingly walk into certain death–unless there wasn't any gas, and the reason they were here wasn't at all what they'd been told.
"They looked like mercs," Stauffer said. "We're supposed to be the only Americans this far east. If they were Special Forces, we'd have heard about it–right?"
"Maybe they're SAS, or the fuckin' Australians. Shit, maybe they're Delta," Wachowiak said. "Fuckin' spooks."
"What?" Stauffer scoffed. "Those guys looked older than our dads! And that one guy was like two Tues. They're mercs, and they're probably working for the Iranians."
"How do you figure that?"
"Who else would want to go in there? They were at war with the Iraqis for eight years, and you know Saddam gassed 'em. They want his secret recipe, or something."
"Russians," Tue growled. "Russians been supplyin' 'em for years, lot more'n us. They sold 'em something, they don't want it dug up by the UN."
Storch yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Maybe they are working for us, like Wachowiak said. Maybe it's for our own chemical warfare program."
"Then why weren't we briefed, Sergeant?" Chief barked.
"Because we're not supposed to be here, sir. Our ride's overdue. Shit, maybe they called for us to be left out here to assist and just forgot to tell us about it, but I don't think so."
"What are you suggesting, Sergeant? That they could be a threat?"
"Sir, they didn't trust us to know about it beforehand, so whatever they're here to do isn't just about cleaning up. They're here to get something. And if they didn't trust us before, d'you think they'll trust us to keep our mouths shut after we see it?"
"Zane, we're not grunts. We are Green Berets."
"And what the hell are they?"
"Spike Team Texas," Preston mused. "Didn't they call Green Beret raiding squads Spike Teams in Vietnam?"
"Do any of you still have them?" Chief snapped.
Wachowiak answered. "They're just outside the ruin now, sir. They're–oh shit, they're going inside! They don't have MOPP suits or anything! They're fucked!"
"Then they're not our problem anymore," Chief grumbled, and bit into an apple. The subject was as dead as the three men were, by now.
They waited, rediscussing the best way to grill bratwurst and overpampered college mascots for fifteen minutes, nobody mentioning the men who'd just appeared out of the desert and vanished into a ruined chemical weapons plant and certain death.
Storch was prepared not to say anything about it when he got back, and knew the others would do the same. More than anything else, the importance of image had been driven into their heads from the day they set out from Fort Campbell in Kentucky. When this war went public the following morning, it would be the most watched television event in the world, perhaps in history. Special Forces units had had to fight harder to get into this war than they ever would in it, against the prejudices of the Joint Chiefs and the CINC and Stormin' Norman himself; against the media, who wanted only things people could watch over dinner in their wars; against Pentagon spin doctors who thought elite strike teams tarnished the cherished American myth of the citizen soldier, trading his briefcase or his pitchfork for a rifle in times of trouble abroad. The Green Berets had struggled for something they hadn't been allowed to earn since they'd lost it in the unholy Brobdingnagian clusterfuck of Vietnam: the admiration of the American people. It didn't matter that this mission would, officially, never have happened. Hinky ghost stories about phantom A-teams slipping into their theater and stealing their thunder would not be welcomed, if they were taken seriously at all.
They were still talking desperately about nothing when the entire canyon seemed to rise a few inches on a titanic bubble of force, then fall back into place. A tremendous, dull throbbing stirred the sand beneath their feet, subsided. Rockslides poured down the walls of the canyon. Fresh gouts of heavy, half-liquid smoke gushed out of the split facade of the bunker. Storch braced himself against the wall of the hole as Tue trained his SAW platoon gun on the ruin below.
"What the fuck was that?" several of them, all at once.
"Unexploded ordnance, maybe a power source of some kind," Chief offered, his voice tight. "CIA and USAMRID both said everything inside gets cooked. The air itself was on fire, in there."
"What if it's a reactor? What if there's fucking plutonium down there?" Wachowiak demanded.
"You got a better place to go?" Storch snapped. "Tie down your suit, get your atropine kit ready and shut the fuck up."
"Omigod," Stauffer gasped. "Pres, Donny, look at the front of the compound. I think I got movement."
Wachowiak tilted his goggles back down over his eyes. "What, I got movement too, Ted. It's called fire. It's whiting out your goggles."
"No, look through it, there's something-"
Storch heard the first shots, rolling over the hills at their backs on the chill wind. Three single, tentative cracks, dry and flat, like sheets of sandstone clapping together, but close enough to leave no doubt who the targets were. Storch clearly saw pebbles leap within arm's reach of his hole.
"We're compromised! Abdul's at six o'clock!" Before the words were all out of his mouth, the rest of the squad was turned to face the shots, rifles at the ready, Stauffer's sighting forgotten. Stauffer, Wachiowak and Preston cranked up the gain on their goggles, their faces cadaverous in the green witch-glow from the displays. Tue dragged the cover of their hide back and shouldered the SAW, while Gagliardo knelt down at Chief's feet to try the radio again, scanning through all bands several times a second. "St. Bernard, this is Pit Bull one-three, we're taking fire from an unknown opposing force, requesting exfil soonest-" He got only sandstorms of static.
"My ass, it's Abdul," Wachiowak grumbled. "Dunebilly dirt-farmer going after jackrabbits with a musket, maybe."
"These hills're crawling with Shiite resistance groups, shithead," Stauffer hissed back. "Kill you for your food and boots."
Chief signed for silence. The breeze dropped off, drawing a curtain of lunar quiet. Even in the dark of the new moon, the stars cast almost enough light to read by. The lone tumble of boulders where they'd seen the strangers offered the only cover within range for an antique rifle. Storch trained his gun on it, breathing shallow through his nose, ticking off each rocky silhouette and daring it to move. Hillpeople wouldn't tangle with them even if they did spot them, and Shiites hated Saddam more than they did, and would probably beg for food rather than try to take it. For a change, Wachiowak was probably right.
"Chief? Dale, man, look at this–"
Storch turned back to find that everyone was staring down at the burning bunker again, and when Storch looked with them he could understand why they had forgotten the shots.
The three strangers were walking out of the ruin, as calmly as if they were strolling back from the latrine. The ghastly particolored flames washed them in livid colors as they walked out of the most deadly place on earth.
Green smoke streamed off them like the fumes from burning plastic. Their hair and headgear was on fire, weird tongues of greenish flame dancing around their skulls like Blackbeard's pitch-soaked braids. One of them stopped and waved once, pointed something right at them.
"He's flashing us with an infrared pointer," Stauffer said. "He's saying... 'Howdy–'"
Two more shots sounded from behind them just then. One struck Preston's and Chappelle's screen; the other made the back of Chief's head into a drive-thru. Gagliardo stood up from the radio to face his hole-mate and squad leader and sat back down too hard to get up again soon. Stauffer barked "Jesusfuckinchrist!" as the ghoulish green image of Chief's brains on the half-shell swam into focus, ducked down and proceeded to empty the magazine of his MP-5 up the canyon. They all joined in, laying down a perfect 360-degree fan of automatic fire for four seconds, then ducked for incoming, straining to hear past the deafening echoes of their own shots.
The silence dragged on, nobody acknowledging Stauffer's "Nedick's dead. Storch is the one." Storch, wanting so badly to see something, alive or dead, couldn't open his mouth to reply, wasn't asked to. That control had slipped out of their hands so fast, that they'd just seen men walk in and out of a burning chemical weapons bunker, that they'd lost Chief Warrant Officer Dale W. Nedick to fucking sheepherders, sent his brain spinning.
Storch barked out orders by rote. "Preston! Watch the canyon for those three interlopers. Shoot on sight! Wachowiak and Stauffer, watch those rocks!"
"Nothing, nothing down there," Preston whispered. Twiddling the gain knob on his goggles, he turned round and round. At Chief's feet, Gagliardo continued his unanswered prayer into the phone, "St. Bernard, this is Pit Bull One-Three, repeat, we are compromised, surrounded and squad leader is down, requesting exfil soonest, over…"
Storch was the first to notice the wind changing. "Suit up and shoot up!" he shouted, and pulled his own atropine kit out and injected the antinerve gas serum into his right thigh, watched the others do the same. He wrestled his way into his MOPP poncho, struggling against Tue to get it on without putting down his gun. The big Samoan already wore his heavy rubber chemical suit, but didn't move to put on the hood until Storch yanked on it. Steeped in the new-plastic stench of the hood, Storch couldn't imagine how gas could smell much worse.
Something deep within the chemical lab exploded again. The shockwave was almost a visible wall in the sand, cracking like a whip underneath them, shaking them to their knees in their holes.
Storch fought not to get trampled as Tuetagoloa scrambled out of the hole, held down the trigger of his gun and started spinning. He didn't see the advancing cloud of black-green vapor that oozed up the canyon walls until it was at his feet. The chemical plant was a cauldron of superheated toxic gases, and it was boiling over. The heavier than air fumes slid among the rocks like serpents–in seconds, they would fill in the holes, and in a few seconds more, eat through their suits. Tue's body jolted with three shots to his chest, but a shout from behind the boulders answered his sacrifice. A robed silhouette collapsed atop the rocks, and another went down trying to pull him back out of sight. A volley of rifle fire finally knocked down the burly SAW gunner, who dropped and was immediately swallowed by the green fog.
Stauffer climbed out of his hole next, even as the vapors poured in. The legs of his suit dripped a trail of molten plastic. The Bedouins shot him down two steps ahead of the tide. The others froze, all their training suspended for a moment as they stopped thinking how to survive and took up choosing how to die.
"Evacuate the hide! Fall out and take that fucking rock, gentlemen!" Storch did his best imitation of the Chief, punctuated it with a grenade from the M203 launcher mounted under his rifle. The grenade skipped off the top of the rock, soared up in a lazy arc and dropped on top of the remaining Bedouins just as the fuse burnt up. The dull crump, the sharp screams awakened them to who they were.
A bullet, or a piece of shrapnel from his own grenade, ripped through his right hand. He ducked down and examined it for a full second, waiting for the pain to come. He was still watching it, could still almost feel his thumb there, when the green fog spilled into his spiderhole. Hands knotted in his plastic hood and hauled him out of the hole.
They were climbing out of the holes, but too late, the fog closed over them anyway, and their suits were sloughing off of them and their skins burned, and the tendrils of gas worked their way into their sinuses, and they were holding their breath…
And the wind whipped the green gas to ribbons and scattered it away from them, scoured their wounds with pure, stinging sand. The wash of a helicopter just above their heads, voices in their ears, and sleep, and Sgt. Storch was already beginning to forget what really happened–