Sariah Khanum was taking her nightly stroll near the perimeter of the compound where she was being held prisoner. Perhaps prisoner was too strong a word. She was given many freedoms, and denied only a few. She was permitted to travel almost anywhere within Pakistan, and had seen much of the country. She’d been permitted to attend college, and had achieved a law degree from the University of the Punjab, in Lahore. She’d founded an orphanage in Kasur, where hundreds of orphans were given food, shelter, and education.
Yet no matter how much good she did there, she knew the money came from the men who had kidnapped her as a child. Now, more than twenty years later, she still had made no attempt to contact her real family. She knew who they were, and where they lived. All that information was publicly available on the internet. They lived in the United States; in Virginia. How different their life must be. Yet she knew if she even sent them an email, it would mean risking her own life, and perhaps even the life of her entire family.
A loud noise and bright light caught her attention, and she turned in time to see an explosion in the sky. The two men guarding her turned to see the explosion as well.
Her heart raced. Could this be my chance? Sariah knew she would only get one chance to escape her betrothed, Arsalan. He was kind and protective to her, but he was also bloodthirsty and cruel to others.
As the wreckage fell to the ground, her bodyguards ran toward it. Sariah ran the other direction. Now only a few men stood in her way; the perimeter guard. As the alarm bells rang, she caught sight of the nearest guard, and he paid her no heed as she ran past him, into the night.
More explosions lit up the night, and she was knocked to the ground by the force of them. She turned back to see the camp in flames as another bomb was dropped on the underground bunker where Arsalan spent so much of his time. Her heart ached as she thought of his fiery death. She loved him the way she would a protective older brother. He had saved her from the cruel beatings she’d received as a child, and protected her virtue as she grew into a young woman. But the cost of that protection was a betrothal to Arsalan, one of the few men powerful enough in the camp to afford her such protection. She began to wonder how serious he was about his intentions toward her. After all, they’d been betrothed for more than twenty years.
Another explosion rocked the night sky, and she was jerked back to the present. Women, children, and even men were running from the compound now, and Sariah had to run too. It didn’t matter where she went, she just had to run.
Sariah did have one friend in Kasur; someone who knew Arsalan well enough to protect her from the Shadow Council, even if Arsalan could not be reached. If Arsalan was dead, perhaps his protection died with him. There were many such questions she did not know the answers to as she ran away from the camp.
When she paused to catch her breath, she realized she didn’t know which way she had run. Was she east of the camp now, or north? There was no moon in the sky to aid her, but the stars twinkled brightly. The Summer Triangle was starting to set in the west, over the glow of the burning compound. She turned north, and started running again.
Muhammad Al-Mahdi watched the screen in his underground bunker as the reconnaissance drone took its maiden flight. His mentor and best friend, known only as The Teacher, piloted the drone. The Teacher wouldn’t say how he’d obtained the stolen technology, or where he got the software to pilot it. Al-Mahdi suspected it was a gift from the Shadow Council. If that was the case, the less Al-Mahdi knew about how it was obtained, the better. The techs had spent most of the last thirty-six hours learning how it operated, and it was almost 2 a.m. before it finally took off. It gained altitude, and started sending back data.
“What did I tell you?” The Teacher was all smiles. “N-no problems.”
He’d met The Teacher immediately following Al-Mahdi’s first big success, the assassination of Pope John Paul III. [i] In the four years since that glorious day, the pair of them had planned and successfully executed the destruction of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. More than one hundred thirty years of construction, only to have the Church collapse on Pope Pius XIII, [ii] and the thousands who’d packed in to see the glorious dedication.
Al-Mahdi nodded and returned his eyes to the screen. He could see the sentries walking the perimeter. Would they need walking sentries if the drone was doing the watching? As the drone passed over the main barracks, the entire building glowed, and he could make out each individual sleeping in their bunk. One person was up pacing the room.
The Teacher set a spiral search pattern, circling the entire camp, and then beyond. It was high enough now to get half the camp in view. It circled two more times, and now cows and sheep were appearing on the screen from the surrounding farms. He could even see the neighboring farmers sleeping in their beds. One of them was clearly laying on his belly, his leg out at an odd angle.
The Teacher cursed, something very unlike him.
“W-what is it?”
“S-sniper.” The Teacher directed the drone to hover. He brought up a map. As feared, the sniper was aiming his gun directly at the door to the underground bunker.
Movement at the edge of the screen caught Al-Mahdi’s eye while The Teacher’s focus was elsewhere. The image was there one second, and then gone. “W-what w-was that?”
“M-movement, on the edge of the screen.” Al-Mahdi took the controls and directed the drone toward the movement. Six men were running toward the bunker at a decent clip. None of the sentries were near enough to spot them in time. Suddenly the image disappeared. “W-what happened?”
“I don’t kn-know.” The Teacher flipped some of the switches. “Either those idiots m-messed up assembling it, or . . . ”
“Or it was shot d-down.” The Teacher’s face went ashen. “We’ve got to g-get out of here.”
“No argument h-here.” Al-Mahdi began running for the underground escape tunnel. He flipped the alarm switch and didn’t look back. The alarm began blaring as the pair ran along the dimly lit corridor. Two years of digging to complete, and this was the first, and only time they would use it. Yet, it gave them a chance to escape.
The ground shook, and the tunnel caved in behind them. Al-Mahdi tripped and fell, but The Teacher yanked him back to his feet.
“We have to keep mo-ving!”
As if Al-Mahdi didn’t know that. Several more explosions caused the earth to shake again and again. Despite their increasing distance, the explosions didn’t seem to get any less intense. Most likely it meant each bomb was penetrating another layer of the bunker.
They reached the ladder and climbed to the surface, more than a kilometer from the camp. Even at this distance, they could see the light of the fire. Al-Mahdi tried to catch his breath, and he thought of all the men he’d spent the last ten years training. Most of them were in the camp, right now. Had they struck the barracks, killing the men in their sleep? Or did they concentrate first on the underground bunker, determined to kill him at all costs? There was no way to know. Tears began streaming down his cheeks.
“Al-Mahdi!” The Teacher shouted.
He turned to face his mentor. It wasn’t often The Teacher used his name.
“I care for the men too, but w-we aren’t safe yet. We have to keep moving.”
Al-Mahdi nodded, and started running again, pushing the grief down so he could see well enough to run across the potato field on a moonless night. It wasn’t easy, and it took all his concentration, leaving no room for thinking about his men. They reached a road and jogged along it. The Teacher led the way, never hesitating each time they reached a crossroad. Al-Mahdi might not know where they were going, but The Teacher clearly had a destination in mind.
Three hours of running later, The Teacher turned into an alley, and slowed to a walk. Al-Mahdi spared a thought to look around as he waited for his stomach to catch up with him. He knew this neighborhood. A few houses down was one of the three homes he’d used for meeting his parents every few months. He’d never been here with The Teacher, and wondered how his mentor even knew about this house.
When they came to the yard, The Teacher stopped and looked around. He didn’t make a sound, but held up his hand, indicating Al-Mahdi should stay there. Al-Mahdi watched as The Teacher used the cover of darkness to enter the house. There was little chance anyone would be here, but it was better to be cautious than dead.
Two long minutes went by before The Teacher gave Al-Mahdi the all clear. He crossed the yard and entered through the back door. No one was inside, and no lights were on. Al-Mahdi locked the door behind him.
The Teacher sat on the couch with a half-finished bottle of water. He tossed a full bottle to Al-Mahdi who accepted it gratefully and sank into the armchair. They’d spent the last few hours running from what used to be their training camp in the countryside. Now it was a smoking hole in the ground, and who knows how many of his men were dead. Tears began pouring down again, and this time The Teacher didn’t speak.
Catching his breath, Al-Mahdi asked, “How did they f-find us?”
“What does that matter now?” The Teacher replied.
“Have you not always told m-me to learn from my mistakes?” Four years now the two had been together. Muhammad Al-Mahdi was destined to one day unite and rule all of Islam, and by extension, the world. The Teacher had been sent by the Shadow Council to guide and instruct him, as others had done before. But The Teacher was nothing like the other tutors. His knowledge wasn’t about book learning or philosophy. He knew what it was like to plan and train to one day be the Islamic Messiah. [iii] Only fate had taken away The Teacher’s chance when he turned forty-one. Not enough of the prophecies had been fulfilled in time. Now he was helping Al-Mahdi become what The Teacher had failed to be.
The Teacher smiled. “Then you haven’t given up?”
“I’m alive. Of course I haven’t given up!” Al-Mahdi said. “You’re the one who told me that Fate and Prophecy are tricky bedfellows. Even if it seems all is lost, it doesn’t mean destiny has passed me by. It only means a new chapter must begin.”
“Good. Because the Shadow Council doesn’t give quitters a second chance.” The Teacher smiled as the first rays of sunshine crept into the home.
Gideon Shumway knew he was on vacation from his duties at the CIA, but he could not resist listening to the President of the United States speaking about events in Pakistan. His younger brother, Benjamin Jr., was in Pakistan right now, helping the military hunt down a terrorist training camp. In a way, the two brothers had done this together; Ben as boots on the ground, and Gideon analyzing data from the safety of his cubicle in Phoenix.
Gideon’s wife, Tamara, as well as Ben’s wife, Rachel, joined him to tune in. Each woman held their first born child, coincidentally born on the same day, barely two weeks ago. It was the same day Gideon had been kidnapped by the KGB. That’s why the CIA insisted he extend his vacation from the planned three weeks to five.
The ‘twin’ cousins were as different as cousins could be. Gideon’s son, Joseph, already had a wisp of red hair, matching the ginger complexion of both his parents. Ben’s daughter, Sariah, had a promise of black hair, matching both her parents. Little Sariah was also a couple pounds lighter than Joseph, as well as several inches shorter.
The announcement from the television drew Gideon’s attention away from his wife and child when a deep male voice said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.”
President Frank Baldwin walked to the famous podium with a smile on his face. That meant this was good news. “In the wake of the terrorist bombings in Russia, our own forces have scored an enormous victory in the War on Terror. Twenty-four hours ago, a team of Special Forces operatives destroyed a terrorist training camp, where two of the ten most wanted were killed in the blast. These terrorists have been tied to the deaths of Pope John Paul III, Pope Pius XIII, as well as hundreds of Americans on the East Coast and hundreds more in Spain last Christmas. This victory was made possible by the hard work of our CIA operatives and analysts, as well as precision coordination by our armed forces. Collateral damage in this attack was kept to a minimum, while at the same time guaranteeing maximum results in eliminating the leaders of this highly active terrorist group. This success sends a clear message around the world about how we deal with terrorist organizations.”
Gideon smiled at this news. He was one of the analysts mentioned, though most of the world would never know that. What’s more, Ben Jr. was one of the operatives mentioned in this attack. A twinge of fear disturbed Gideon’s thoughts as he realized Ben Jr. should have called by now. Twenty-four hours was more than enough time for him to find a phone and let the family know he was coming home. Gideon looked over at Rachel, and wondered if she would still be smiling if she knewwhere her husband was right now. Ben Jr. hadn’t had an opportunity in months to send Rachel so much as a letter, yet she had never complained. He wished he could tell her what he knew about Ben, but the little information he had only let Gideon know Ben was still alive, as of a few weeks ago.
“It’s nice to finally have some good news,” Tamara said.
“So true,” Rachel replied. “Does this mean Ben will be coming home soon?”
Gideon’s jaw dropped. “What do you mean?”
Rachel smirked at him. “It was just a guess. I knew Ben was involved in something big, and what could be bigger than this? I’m just hoping it means he will be returning home before too long, now that the mission is over.”
Elaina De Vecchi, known as Badger to her friends in the United Christian Brotherhood, stood on the deck of the merchant vessel, Gorgon, making its way from Vladivostok, Russia on her way back to Fairbanks, Alaska. Knowing they would likely be pursued, the Captain had been pushing the engines hard. Their sister ships, the Mother’s Pearl and the Tweedle Dee, lagged behind, having smaller engines.
Two days ago, Elaina had executed her most ambitious plan ever, detonating three hundred bombs simultaneously across Russia. Three hundred Mosques destroyed in retribution for the destruction of the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. Her entire family had died in that blast, along with Pope Pius XIII, and thousands of others. It was only by a miracle she survived.
The new leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Honorius V, had personally come to her to give her comfort, and a chance at retribution. Now she’d proven she was up to the challenge. Along the way she’d made some new friends, and fallen in love. Bryan Benson stood next to her on the deck of the ship, staring into her eyes. He looked as pleased about what they’d just accomplished as she felt.
“Badger,” Bryan began.
“Yes, Rabbit?” Badger was the code name she’d been given for their first job together. Bryan had been known then only as Rabbit, and she’d stuck with the name. As far as she knew, Bryan didn’t know her real name.
“Will you marry me?”
Badger glared at him. He’d used that question before as a joke. The goofy smile on his face made her think he was doing so again and her face grew hot with anger. “Do not make a joke. I told you, never joke about that.”
“I’m not joking. I love you. I don’t want to lose you again.”
The seriousness with which he said it turned all the anger into passion. She stared into his eyes and found the echo of that passion looking back. “You’re serious?”
“Yes!” Badger threw her arms around him, completely indifferent to the amused glances of their comrades who seemed to be gathered around them on the deck of the ship. They respectfully walked away as she passionately kissed Rabbit. Her delight was abruptly shattered by the Captain’s voice, sweeping over the ship’s speaker system.
“The Mother’s Pearl has been boarded! And the Russian Navy has fired on the Tweedle-Dee. She’s going down.”
Bryan turned toward the approaching danger, instinctively stepping in front of her, and Badger’s mind kicked into high gear. The first lesson Rabbit had taught her was to always have a way to escape. Even on an ocean voyage, she had planned for such a possibility.
She ran as fast as her legs would carry her to a group of crates they had taken with them to Russia, but had never unloaded. “Jet skis!” she shouted to her men.
They stood staring at the approaching ship, but Badger’s command whipped them into action. Within minutes, they had six of the jet skis in the water. Her team dove in behind the jet skis, and climbed onto the sleek watercraft. Was Rabbit on one of them? She couldn’t be sure. She saw two more ships sweep over the horizon, moving fast toward the Gorgon. She dove after her men.
“Ship ahoy!” Rabbit’s voice came from on the deck just as her head broke the water.
Heart racing, she climbed onto an empty jet ski, straining to catch sight of him. “Idiot!” Badger called, angling the ski back toward the Gorgon. “Forget the Russians and get down here!” She waited for him, but he didn’t come.
“Enemy ships ahoy!” Rabbit called out again, even louder this time. He must not have heard her calling. By now there were at least eight jet skis zooming away to the north; enough to account for most of the crew.
“MV Gorgon, you are commanded to heave to and prepare to be boarded.” The thick Russian accent speaking English was barely distinguishable to Badger.
“Rabbit! Rabbit!” she called several times, but he did not respond. She couldn’t go back up there and get him! There was no time!
“Heave to and prepare to be boarded, or we will open fire,” the Russian said again.
“Ships ahoy!” Rabbit sounded so hopeful.
Badger wondered how the arrival of more ships could help. She turned, scanning the water, and saw two U.S. Navy vessels bearing down on them.
“Yes!” the Captain’s voice bellowed across the deck. “We’re in American water; they won’t dare fire on us now!”
“Too late!” another crewman’s voice, possibly first mate, cut in. “They already have! Abandon ship!”
The distinctive ripples of three torpedoes, just under the surface sped toward the Gorgon. Badger jammed the ski to top speed, giving herself as much distance as possible. Three explosions sounded as one, rocking the ship, and tossing Rabbit’s body into the air, and down into the sea.
The blast knocked Badger off her jet ski. She quickly scrambled back onto the ski, only to see the remains of the Gorgon sinking fast. She sped around the doomed ship, looking desperately at the deck fragments for any survivors. She spotted what was left of the Captain, with the First Mate nearby. Both of them were dead. Still no sign of Rabbit.
Her gaze was drawn to something in the water. As she glanced at it, a dirty-blond mop of hair sunk beneath the surface. Badger sped to it, and dove after him.
She swam downward a few feet, only to find Rabbit’s body rising again. He’s alive! she thought. But then she saw he wasn’t moving. She grabbed him around the waist anyway, and pulled him to the surface, and onto the back of the jet ski.
“This is the U.S.S. Harrington,” an American voice barked over the loud speaker from one of the U.S. Navy ships. “You have fired upon a U.S. vessel in U.S. waters. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”
Badger knew it was time to go. Russians or Americans, she couldn’t be captured. She turned her jet ski north, and pushed the accelerator to the max.
“This is your last warning. Heave to, or we will open fire.” The American voice could still be heard.
“This is the Soviet Destroyer Tempest,” the Russian voice said. “We were in pursuit of a terrorist in international waters. If you fire upon us, we will not hesitate to return fire.”
Multiple explosions echoed in the distance as Badger sped from the scene. A rescue boat arrived at the sinking remains of the Gorgon, and Badger wondered whether she’d been spotted. No one came after her, so she kept going.
Three hours later, after passing dozens of Aleutian Islands, she was running out of gas, and decided it was better to be stuck on land than on the ocean. She pulled into a natural bay, and found most of the other jet skis parked there. As she lifted Rabbit’s limp body off the jet ski, the others ran to help her. She hadn’t seen them when she first approached, but they must have seen her.
When Rabbit had been carefully carried out of sight of the beach, Badger turned her attention to her team. “Where do we stand?”
“We’ve radioed our position to our contact in this area,” Cougar said. He’d been with the team for months now, yet Badger still did not know his real name. But then, that was how she wanted it. “He’ll be here in a few hours.”
Badger smiled. Even if not everything went according to plan, at least their escape plan was working. “How is Rabbit?”
One of the men was a medic, known only as Hawk. “He’s alive, but just barely. He’ll need a hospital soon if he’s going to live.”
Badger bit her lower lip in worry. “Any chance of speeding up that fishing boat?”
Sariah Khanum woke in time for afternoon tea, more than twenty-four hours after she’d arrived at the safe house in Kasur. Abdullah and Aamina Malik were happy to give her a place to rest, and had not disturbed her much needed sleep. As Sariah sipped the tea, the phone rang.
“Salam,” Abdullah said.
Sariah watched Abdullah’s worried face finally relax, and slowly grow into a smile. “We are very glad to hear it, Arsalan. Your brother as well? That is wonderful news. Sariah is safe as well. She is here.”
Sariah’s heart did flip-flops, trying to decide if she was more relieved or frightened. Arsalan was alive, which meant his protection of her survived as well. It also meant she would soon be under his thumb again. That was a result she could not live with.
“Of course, yes, I understand,” Abdullah said. He hung up the phone and turned to Sariah. “The good news is, Arsalan and Ali are both safe. He wants you to stay here. He said it would be better if as few people as possible know you’re alive.”
Sariah nodded her understanding. “That sounds like good advice.” The men Arsalan worked for were very dangerous indeed. Surviving the attack was no guarantee he would remain so if the Shadow Council decided the failure was his to bear. If the Council knew she was alive, her fate would be tied to his.
Aamina smiled. “Then you will be our guest for as long as necessary.”
Sariah gave a weak smile at this thought. There was certainly much less security here, and she would be safe as long as she stayed. But staying would eventually mean reuniting with Arsalan. Exactly how he’d survived the bombing, she did not know. It should have been impossible. But then, a week ago she would have thought her own freedom was impossible. Now it was only a few steps away.
Peter Petranski, head of the KGB, stood just off stage as he watched Oleg Nevsky, President of Russia deliver his speech. Every news agency in Russia as well as most of the international news organizations were in attendance. If there was a soul in the world not watching, it was because they didn’t care. Nevsky had already been speaking for ten minutes about the violence around the country; the war which had developed between the Muslims and the Christians. [iv] Only now was the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth getting to the important part.
“The latest of these attacks took place only a few days ago across Russia. Three hundred Mosques destroyed in a carefully planned and executed attack by American forces, the same forces that bombed thirty Mosques near St. Petersburg earlier this month. When our service men caught those responsible, the Navy of the United States of America came to their defense and destroyed two of our ships.
“It is clear now, more than ever, that our entire civilization is on the verge of deconstruction. This amoral attack by the West shows once again how depraved they have become. Russia stands alone as the new center of consolidation for all the healthy forces resisting the sodomization of the world. [v] The level of violence on both sides this past month is further proof of the importance of preventing intercultural and interreligious conflicts, which are always fraught with the most serious upheavals. [vi]
“The retribution by these so-called Christians against people who did them no harm, was in fact in response to attacks by a small number of people who call themselves Muslim. In an effort to prevent further violence, these Mosques will not be rebuilt. I am placing a halt to all construction of any religious establishment other than those who preach Orthodoxy, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The proselytizing of any religion, other than Orthodoxy is also prohibited.
“Furthermore, I am appointing a council to review the teachings of all religions within Russia’s borders, to ensure the message of peace the Messiah delivered is not being tainted. Any church found to be preaching hatred or violence against any other group will have their permit to preach removed, and their assets seized. We must set the example for the rest of the world, which seems to have lost its perspective.”
Nevsky heaved a huge sigh before continuing. “Now, as to the actions taken in the Pacific Ocean, it is true that the Tempest and Hurricane fired on two vessels in international waters which claimed to be American. These two ships, as well as the crew of a third we seized, are directly responsible for the terrible display of violence which rocked Russia from one end to the other.
“Thus, the sinking of the Soviet destroyers Tempest and Hurricane is an insult to the Russian people. It is nothing short of an act of war. If we do not receive a formal apology and international cooperative investigation, we will strike back. The ambassador from the United States has been recalled. As such, these public appearances are the only avenue of communication we have left. I know that the Russian people have great pride in their country, as do I – which is why this insult cannot go unchallenged.”
Peter smiled. He knew he would have influence over the Religious Review Council, making them one more arm of the KGB to help hunt down and eliminate those involved in this terrible violence. If the response from the United States was anything less than a formal apology, President Nevsky would consider it an act of war. That would give Peter even greater power to hunt down the people involved, both Muslim and Christian. [vii]
Tamara Shumway retrieved the mail, and noticed a very official looking overnight letter from the Army, addressed to Rachel Shumway. Her hands started shaking, and she dropped the rest of the mail shortly after she’d gotten inside. Her keys were the next thing to go. “Rachel?”
It didn’t take long for Tamara to find her sister-in-law. She was feeding her three week old daughter, Sariah. Tamara didn’t say another word, she just handed the letter to Rachel.
“What is this?” Rachel looked up into Tamara’s eyes as if looking for answers, but Tamara had none to give.
Instead, Tamara took the baby and Rachel opened the letter.
She read it over and started shaking. “NOOOO!”
“What does it say?”
“Ben is missing in action.”
“What is it?” Gideon asked as he burst into the room. “What’s going on?” He looked like he was panicking.
Tamara knew Gideon was usually level-headed, even in crisis situations. To see him this flustered was disturbing.
“It’s Ben. The Army sent me a letter.” Rachel paused, gathering her breath. “He’s been declared missing, presumed dead.”
Gideon visibly calmed down, and the look of panic was replaced by one of concern. “That’s not good.”
“No,” Rachel said. “God promised to keep him safe.” She broke down in tears. “He promised Ben would come home to me.”
Tamara pulled Rachel into a hug, being careful not to disturb baby Sariah. “Then he will come home. He’s only been presumed dead. And I would believe the promises of God over the assumptions of the military any day.”
Rachel sniffed. “You really think so?”
“Of course,” Tamara said. “What does your heart tell you? Is Ben still alive?”
Rachel paused, then nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so.”
“Hold on to that. Ben is very resourceful. I’m sure he’ll contact you as soon as he can.”
Rachel nodded. “Okay.”
The phone rang in Gideon’s pocket, and the women gasped. He pulled it out and answered, feeling some of their hope. “Gideon speaking.”
The volume was set loud enough for Tamara to make out the conversation. “Hello, Gideon,” a woman’s voice said.
“Ms. Croix, what can I do for you?”
Rachel’s expression turned sour once more, and Tamara pulled her in for another hug.
“I need you on a plane tonight,” Ms. Croix said. “Flight details are being sent to your personal email account.”
“My personal email? Why?”
“I’d rather not say over the phone. I’ll see you at the airport.”
“You’re coming too? What’s going on?”
“Don’t ask questions, Shumway. Just meet me at the airport in two hours.”
Gideon let the phone drop to his side. “I’ve got to pack.”
Benjamin Shumway Jr. stared at the empty locker in the Kasur Railway Station. He had expected a new passport, a plane ticket, and cash for a taxi to Lahore; or if orders had changed, there would be directions, documents, or cash to get him home in some other way. He couldn’t understand why the locker was completely empty.
It hadn’t been easy staying clear of the search parties after the light show put on by his buddies in the Navy. Taking down a terrorist compound was a thrill, but not enough of one to keep him from remembering his training in evading the enemy. They were looking for an American; right now, he looked more like a native. His full beard had grown in quite well over the past year. His skin was as dark as it ever was, thanks to his hours in the sun doing reconnaissance.
The first plan had been to hitch a ride on the helicopter with the SEALs. But he’d lost his earpiece and they didn’t have the time to hunt for a man all in black on a moonless night when terrorists were swarming the countryside after their compound had been bombed. So he’d gone to the backup plan, and made his way back to Kasur. He’d ditched his camo gear, and everything else which would have given him away. His documentation was for a cell-tower technician from Germany. Any piece of technology beyond those needs was a liability; he’d buried them all in a random field.
He couldn’t stay long in front of the locker without drawing suspicion, so Ben wrote a quick note requesting help in getting home. He didn’t sign it, and the note was written in Urdu, the native language of Pakistan. His contact here should pick it up in five days at most. It might take five more before the requested help could be supplied. Reluctantly, he closed the locker and headed out to find a hotel. He had enough money for a couple of weeks, but no more.
It took a couple hours for Ben to find a hotel he liked. He rang the bell and smiled to the concierge as he caught the man’s eye.
“Be right with you,” the young man said in Urdu. He finished typing something into his computer and then came to the desk. “Yes, how may I help you?”
Ben replied in perfect Urdu. “Yes, I need a room, please. One bed.”
The man nodded. “Of course. How long will you be staying with us?”
“One week, maybe two.” The phone rang several times, but no one answered. An idea came into Ben’s head. “Do you have any temporary positions available? I am good at washing dishes, answering phones, cleaning rooms, whatever you need.”
The young man smiled. “I’ll mention that to the hotel manager. I know we could use a little help, in these troubled times.”
Ben nodded. “Of course.” He had no idea what the young man meant. The bombing of the terrorist camp wasn’t enough to cause shortages in hotel staff.
Ben’s room was on the second floor. The room somehow looked amazing. He couldn’t tell he was in a foreign country, except everything was written in Urdu. He flicked on the television and found CNN. The commentators were talking about an attack, and the video in the corner kept switching to different angles of a burning building. At first he thought it was from the compound he’d helped destroy a couple nights ago. No, wait. Those were many different buildings on fire. Beneath the small video, it read, Moscow, Russia.
Ben’s mind raced, as he finally took in what the talking heads were saying. Three hundred Mosques destroyed in only a few minutes. Russia was revoking Visas. No wonder his contact hadn’t provided the materials. He was either busy with other things, or he’d fled the country. Ben wished he could do the same, but he didn’t have enough money to catch a flight. If he didn’t hear from his contact on the next drop day, he would have to consider finding another way home.
Both you and yours when blooms the rose. – Nostradamus Quatrain 2:97
The pope and several of his entourage will be assassinated in late spring when the roses bloom, at a European city that is at the junction of two major rivers. Interpretation by Delores Cannon in Conversations With Nostradamus: His Prophecies Explained, Vol. 1 pg 192
governed to its greatest detriment. – Nostradamus 1:4
The second-to-last pope instated after the assassination of the current one will have a short reign. Due to political blunders and mistakes he will pave the way for the final pope to be a tool of the Antichrist. His reign is an omen of the final downfall of the church. Interpretation by Delores Cannon in Conversations With Nostradamus: His Prophecies Explained, Vol. 1 pg 193
[iii] Twelve Shi’as cite various references from the Qur’an and reports, or Hadith, from Imam Mahdi and the Twelve Imams with regard to the reappearance of al-Mahdi who would, in accordance with Allah’s command, bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world.- Muhammad Al-Mahdi Wikipedia article quoted on May 29, 2013
[iv] “I saw next international war again break out with its centre upon the Pacific Ocean, but sweeping and encircling the whole globe. I saw that the opposing forces were roughly divided by the so-called Christianity on the one side, and by the so-called followers of Mohammed and Buddha upon the other.” – Mrs. Guardisto, as quoted in Inspired Prophetic Warnings by Duane S. Crowther, pg 199
[vii] “I saw a new World War break out in the Pacific, its center in the Philippines. From there, it spread out to encircle the world. I saw on one side the Christian forces, and on the other side the Buddhist and Mohammedan forces.” – D. Modin, Prophecy, 1973-2000