Twilight's Last Gleaming: Updated Edition

Twilight's Last Gleaming: Updated Edition

by John Michael Greer


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This is a chilling high-concept geopolitical thriller where a declining United States and a resurgent China come to the brink of all out nuclear war.

The year is 2025. Oil is the black gold that controls the fortunes of all nations and the once-mighty United States is down to the dregs. A giant oil field is discovered off the Tanzanian coast and the newly elected US president finds his solution to America's ailing economy. While the United States blindly plots and plans a regime change in this hitherto insignificant African nation, Tanzania's allies--the Chinese--start their own secret machinations. The explosion that follows shatters a decades-old balance of global power and triggers a crisis on American soil that the United States may not survive.

Political conspiracies, military maneuvers, and covert activities are woven together in this fast-paced, gripping novel that paints a stark warning of an uncomfortably likely future. Originally published in 2014 by Karnac Books (9781782200352)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781911597766
Publisher: AEON Books
Publication date: 05/01/2019
Edition description: New
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 525,140
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

One of the most widely respected voices in contemporary occult studies, John Michael Greer is the award-winning author of more than fifty books, including The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, The Druidry Handbook, The Celtic Golden Dawn, and Circles of Power. An initiate in Freemasonry, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, Greer served as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America for twelve years. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old mill town in the Appalachian mountains of western Maryland, with his wife Sara

Read an Excerpt


29 August 2028: thirty kilometers off the Tanzanian coast

"Keep going," said Joseph Matenga. The driller gave him a dubious look, but turned back to his console. More than six kilometers below them, the drill bit chewed its way through rock.

Matenga turned away from the console, though there wasn't far he could go. Windows on three sides of the cramped little control room showed the girders and gear of a drilling platform and, beyond them, blue ocean out to the horizon. The fourth side looked down on the drill floor, where the roustabouts were hauling another length of riser pipe to add to the drill string — the long shaft of hollow steel connecting the drilling rig with the bottom of the ocean and the hole he'd spent years convincing the onshore execs to drill.

Down there, past a thousand meters of sea water and more rock than Matenga wanted to think about, there should be oil, plenty of it. Blurred patterns deep down in the seismic surveys, biomarkers in the scant oil from that fault zone further west: all of it spoke to him of black gold somewhere down below the Upper Cretaceous plays they'd been drilling for years, trapped under a fold of impermeable shale that might stretch for a hundred kilometers or more, a petroleum geologist's dream if it told the truth. If not — well, with drilling costs well on the upside of five million renminbi a day, and two months of that already spent, the chance that he would be given another try was really too small to worry about.

He heard the driller's breath catch, turned back. Half a dozen computer screens faced him, but the one that mattered showed data from instruments downhole, just behind the drill head. Porosity was up, electrical resistance headed the right way, hydrocarbons detected —

"There it is," Matenga said. "Now, a core sample."

"Yes, sir." That meant pulling up all six thousand meters of the drill string so a coring bit could go onto the business end, but the driller didn't argue. Back in the bustling ports of newly oil-rich Tanzania, they said that oil came to old man Matenga in his dreams and told him where it could be found. The driller knew that such things didn't happen, or so he would have said most other days. The numbers on the screen whispered otherwise.

It was noon before the first fragments of rock from the new formation had come back up with the drilling mud. By then everyone on the drilling rig, from the company men all the way down to the roughnecks who hauled trash and chipped paint down in the pontoons, knew that something was up. As he stood in the geology lab, waiting for his assistant to wash the last of the drilling mud off the rock chips and get them under a microscope, Matenga could hear muffled voices outside the door. He bent over the microscope when the assistant waved him over, saw what he'd hoped to see: porous sandstone with the sheen of oil on it.

Another three hours passed before the core sample came in, and by then the whole rig was tensed, waiting. Matenga was waiting on the drilling floor when the drill string came up. When the sample reached the geology lab minutes later, he slid it out of its tube and let out a long whistle. It was everything he'd hoped for, a good coarse sandstone full of pores, with the sweet stink of crude oil impossible to miss. As soon as he finished examining it he was on the radio with corporate headquarters back in Dar es Salaam to give them the news, and get the core flown in right away for laboratory analysis.

It would take many months and much more drilling, he knew, before anyone could be sure just how much oil was down there, but it was good to be proved right, good to know that his luck had not yet turned its back on him and that his career would end with a success and not a failure.

"God grant that there be much oil," he murmured, turning back to his work.

It would be early the next year before he found out just how abundantly that prayer had been granted.

6 February 2029: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The customs clerk finished with the papers and smiled a broad insincere smile. "Welcome to Tanzania, Mr. McGaffney. I hope you enjoy your stay."

"Thanks, mate." Tommy McGaffney nodded to the man and left the visa desk.

A few minutes later he was crossing the main concourse at Julius Nyerere Airport, shapeless leather bag swinging from his shoulder as he weaved through the crowd. After a dozen years chasing news across the hot crowded belly of the planet, it was a familiar drill: travel light, move fast, have everything settled beforehand and then don't be surprised when it all goes blue on you the moment you get off the plane.

A quick glance up at the sign showed that they'd moved the zone for the hotel shuttles since the last time he'd been through Dar es Salaam: more construction, a fourth terminal going in. He headed for the doors.

It was hot enough inside the terminal, but outside the heat came crashing down like a falling wall and then bounced back up hard from the pavement. The hotel shuttle was where it should be, thank whoever, with a gaggle of Chinese businessmen in black suits and red ties sweating bullets as they climbed aboard. McGaffney evaded a clutch of Russian tourists and made for the shuttle.

"Mr. Thomas McGaffney?" the driver asked. "Please, make yourself comfortable."

The van's feeble air conditioning tried to make good on the offer and failed. McGaffney got his bag settled on the overhead rack, plopped down on a seat, and only then noticed that one of the Chinese businessmen was looking at him.

"Mr. McGaffney," the man said. "The journalist, perhaps?"

McGaffney turned in his seat. "That's me."

"Wen Shiyang." They shook hands. "No doubt we will be at the same place tomorrow."

"Then I'll guess that you're with CNOOC," McGaffney said, as the van lumbered out onto Pugu Road and headed toward downtown. The guess was safe enough; the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation had its people all over most of the African petrostates these days, with Beijing's money and muscle to back it up.

Wen smiled. "Exactly. I hope you had a comfortable trip here?"

"Not bad, once I got out of Spain."

That got a startled look from Wen. "You flew out?"

"Not a chance, mate; the Catalans are too bloody good with rockets these days. Got a boat to Morocco and flew from there."

"Ah." Wen shook his head. "A bad situation, the Spanish war. Still, I gather you are used to that sort of travel."

"Comes with the job."

They kept up a string of small talk as the van wove through heavy traffic, while the other Chinese in the van sat and said nothing. Every few blocks they passed another construction site: here a terminal for the city's brand-new light rail system, there an apartment complex or an office park, with Chinese firms as general contractors and Chinese banks as funding sources. Closer in, office towers loomed over the street, more markers of Tanzania's new prosperity.

The hotel was a bland faceless building just south of downtown. McGaffney checked in, caught the elevator up to his room, showered, and then parked himself at the bleak little desk next to the windows and powered up his tablet. A few quick jabs at the screen brought up a page of links he'd made with all the media stories so far on the new deepwater find, a few background pieces on the Tanzanian oil industry and the latest annual report on worldwide oil production from the International Energy Agency.

The oil was what mattered, here in Tanzania and around the world: the black gold that fueled planes and ships and trucks, and kept a faltering global economy from pitching forward onto its face. Countries that produced more of it than they used got rich, countries that used more than they produced got poor, and those that couldn't produce any at all got thrown to the wolves. Tanzania had been a modest exporter of oil for years, enough to balance the budget decades earlier when oil was cheap, enough to cash in handsomely once the price of oil broke out of its last slump in 2021 and started the ragged climb that had kept economies struggling ever since. If the rumors about the new find were true, though —

McGaffney leaned forward, propped his chin on his hands. After a dozen years chasing the news, he knew a crisis in the making when he saw it. If the rumors were true, there was going to be a hell of a fight over all that oil.

7 February 2029: TPC headquarters, Dar es Salaam

The taxi rattled to a halt, and McGaffney paid the driver and got out. Reflected sunlight nearly blinded him: the building in front of him, all glass and aluminum, mirrored sun down onto the street with terrific force. Through the glare, he managed to recognize the new headquarters of the Tanzanian Petroleum Corporation.

Except for the brightly colored tingatinga paintings on the walls, the conference room on the fifth floor might have been anywhere on the planet. McGaffney took a seat toward the back, got out his tablet and waited. Around him, the room filled: reporters on the East Africa beat, diplomats, oil industry people. He knew maybe half of them, nodded greetings to those, watched newcomers find seats. One of the newcomers was Wen Shiyang, though there were plenty of other Chinese present, CNOOC officials and media people mostly. The Chinese ambassador wasn't there, though that didn't surprise McGaffney; he'd get his own briefing, no doubt.

Twenty minutes late, bustle behind McGaffney announced the beginning of the press conference. A middle-aged woman walked up to the podium and introduced herself as a TPC vice president, then introduced the country's Assistant Minister of Energy, a rotund gray-bearded man who just then looked jolly enough to be East Africa's answer to Santa Claus. The assistant minister spent five minutes saying very little in the most graceful way imaginable, then introduced the petroleum geologist they had come to hear. McGaffney sized up the man — lean as a crane with a white crest of unruly hair to match, the sort who'd clearly spent much more time handling rocks on drilling rigs than giving speeches in conference rooms — and noted the name down carefully: Dr. Joseph Matenga.

The room darkened and the inevitable PowerPoint image came up: a map of the Tanzanian coast and the Indian Ocean's western edge. "Gentlemen, ladies, let us go straight to the point," said Matenga. "You have no doubt heard rumors and media reports about our new deepwater drilling project. We have confirmed the presence of a very large oil deposit in Tanzanian territorial waters, far beneath our existing offshore fields. I will not trouble you with the fine details of the geology, but as you see, it underlies a great deal of sea floor." A black elongated blob appeared on the map, nearly a third the length of the Tanzanian coast and vaguely parallel to it. "The field is a little less than three hundred kilometers long and between thirty and fifty kilometers wide. Of course there is much more work to be done to find out for certain, but our initial estimate is that it will yield more than eleven billion barrels of crude oil."

7 March 2029: The Presidential Palace, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The Honorable Elijah Mkembe, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, rose from behind his desk, extended a hand. "Thank you for coming, Ambassador."

"Thank you, your excellency." Jun Yinshao was a professional, no question; his handshake and fractional bow communicated the perfect blend of friendliness and deference, a polite fiction Mkembe appreciated. The president knew all too well how completely his survival and that of his nation depended on its Asian patron. The presidential office around them was paneled and furnished in dark native wood, and the chandeliers overhead were ornamented with local gold, but all the electronics were Chinese; so was the glass case on one side of the room with a rock from the Moon, brought back after the successful Chinese lunar landing in 2025; and so was the antique scroll painting, a gift from an earlier ambassador, on the other side: a quaint fifteenth-century ink painting of an elephant, an edgy reminder of just how long China had cultivated an interest in East Africa.

"Permit me also to congratulate you on the latest oil discovery," said Jun then. "I was filled in on yesterday's briefing. Eleven billion barrels — that is astonishing."

"If the estimates are correct," Mkembe said. "We will see."

"Of course. Even a smaller find will be excellent news."


Jun considered him for a long moment. "I gather from your tone, your excellency, that you don't consider it excellent news."

Mkembe allowed a nod. "Very good. You will forgive an old man's worries, I hope. I am concerned that there may be trouble over this new find. If it had been more modest — well, that belongs to the land of might-have-beens, but I seem to recall something one of your philosophers said: 'Too much success is not an advantage.'"

"Lao Tsu," said Jun, smiling in response to the reference. "Yes."

"Thus my desire to meet with you privately, as soon as possible."

"Of course." Jun paused, then: "I'm sure you know that my government is well aware of the potential for trouble from — foreign powers."

Mkembe chuckled. "May we be frank, Ambassador, and say it out loud? The Americans."

"As you wish." Again the fractional bow, conceding. "I will be sure to communicate your concerns to my superiors, and to our intelligence agencies."

Mkembe kept his face calm with an effort. Chinese diplomats never said anything by accident; he'd learned that decades ago and used it to his advantage more than once, sensing some shift in Beijing's mood long before his political rivals got wind of it. An issue that didn't matter in Chinese eyes got referred to "my government" or "my superiors." A reference to the huge but highly secretive Chinese intelligence community was another matter. That meant — Mkembe was sure of it — that the danger he sensed was real.

7 March 2029: The Durban hotel, Dar es Salaam

"It is a delicate line that we walk here," said the Assistant Minister of Energy, and leaned back in his chair. The table between them had the remains of a very good dinner on it, and the latest of several rounds of whiskey. All of it was on McGaffney's tab, and worth it at twice the price. He'd done a standard interview at TPC headquarters earlier in the day, guessed that the man might have more to say after hours and off the record, and suggested a meal. Whether it was McGaffney's reputation or something else entirely, the assistant minister had taken the bait.

"I believe you know Africa quite well, Mr. McGaffney," said the assistant minister. "You have perhaps been to Nigeria?"

"Couple of times," McGaffney answered.

"A very sad situation. Oil companies from Europe and America moved in, developed the country's oil resources, saw to it that nearly all the profits went back home with them, and spent just enough in bribes to officials to make sure nothing would be done about it. Today the oil is gone, the country is bankrupt and falling apart, and the officials who took those bribes? Those who are still alive, and they are not many, are in hiding abroad."

"You don't want that to happen here."

"It must not happen here. So far, it has not happened here. It is a good thing, I think, that we did not make this latest find until now." The assistant minister leaned forward. "A great many of us here in Tanzania have been looking north, toward the Persian Gulf. We watch billions upon billions of renminbi flow into those nations because they have control of their own oil production. No one talks about a resource curse there. We see this and we ask ourselves, why should we not do the same thing here in Africa? Now, perhaps, we can."

"Because of China," McGaffney said.

The assistant minister said nothing for a long moment, and sipped some whiskey. Then: "Since this is off the record, I will be frank with you. The Chinese are not here out of charity. We have much that they want, though oil of course heads the list, and they have many things we need very badly. So we bargain. With the Americans — as you say, you have been to Nigeria, and perhaps other places where the oil is controlled by the Americans. How many of them have prospered? So we deal with the Chinese, we get the things we need, and perhaps one day we will be a wealthy nation and no longer a poor one.


Excerpted from "Twilight's Last Gleaming"
by .
Copyright © 2019 John Michael Greer.
Excerpted by permission of Aeon Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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