Seeds of Chaos

Book 3 – Warriors & Watchmen Series

by: Simon Driscoll

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March 28th

Fort Eustis, Virginia

Princess Sariah Khanum stared at the drab room assigned as her temporary living quarters. They weren’t much, compared to the mansion her parents owned in Arlington, but it was better than the rooms she’d stayed in during her twenty-eight years of captivity in Pakistan.

“Your room is as lifeless as mine,” Maryam said.

Sariah jumped at her sister’s presence, and quickly turned to face her. “Don’t you ever knock?”

“Sorry,” Maryam quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. The door was open.”

Sariah’s thoughts became clouded as she tried to remember whether she’d closed the door when she came in or not. Shaking off the confusion, she refocused on her sister. “We won’t be here long,” she reassured herself.

“I certainly hope not,” Maryam said. “But do you think the house will ever be truly safe again?”

“Safe?” Sariah replied. “I’m not sure anywhere in the world is safe right now. But at least we are free.”

Maryam frowned at this. “Free? How can we ever really be free? We are royalty, defined by our birth status. It hangs on my mind like a dark cloud. It’s the reason you were kidnapped, and the reason Atusa died. It’s why those men attacked the house yesterday. I can never be truly free.”

Sariah laughed. “Everyone is defined by their birth status. I meant a more tangible form of freedom.”

Maryam nodded slightly. “Of course. Ignore my shallow musings. It’s too easy for me to forget where you were raised. It’s still weird for me to have an older sister.”

Sariah nodded. “I’ve known about you my whole life, read everything I could about you in the press. But you didn’t know I existed until six months ago.”

“Everything has been more chaotic since you returned,” Maryam said. “But you’re right, we weren’t really free before. Mother has been happier than I’ve ever seen her. It’s as if she was only pretending to be happy my whole life. But now she’s happy through and through. And Father, well, he’s been more active, giving more speeches, speaking openly for the separation of church and state in Iran.”[i]

“Do you think he’ll ever take the throne?” Sariah asked.

Maryam shook her head. “It’s been forty years since our family was deposed. I used to dream about being married off to some prince, maybe even become queen someday. But I gave up on those dreams long ago.”

Sariah sighed. “Until last year, I only wondered when Arsalan would finally marry me. Twenty years is a long betrothal, especially for a man in his forties.”

“You were betrothed to him?” Maryam asked, a look of horror on her face.

“Yes,” Sariah confirmed. “That’s the only reason I kept my virtue intact.”

Maryam gasped. “All those years surrounded by dangerous men, I just assumed . . .”

Sariah shook her head. “Praise be to Allah, no. He kept me safe in more ways than one. But safety and freedom are not the same thing.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Maryam agreed. “Americans have been exchanging one for the other for more than two decades.”

“Why would they do that?” Sariah asked with a scowl.

“Freedom has no meaning if you’re not safe enough to exercise it,” Maryam explained.

“Safety has no purpose if you’re not free,” Sariah countered.

Maryam looked stunned for a second before she replied, “I never thought of it that way before.”

“It’s why I risked everything to leave Pakistan.”

 

March 28th

Washington, D.C.

Maria Croix called every three letter agency she knew, but without success. Everyone with the power and authority to do anything about the Russian and Chinese invasion forces was either spending the day celebrating America’s false victory, or otherwise unavailable. She she spent the rest of her Saturday looking through the data Yolanda had collected, and setting search parameters in the CIA database which didn’t require human eyes to complete.

On Sunday morning, after a fitful night of very little sleep, her search requests were complete. Satellite photos of the areas in question for the last six months were looped into a time-lapse video. Shipping containers appeared a few at a time in a steady stream for six months. Then, in the last week, the contents spilled out, revealing the massive army of tanks, troop transports, and all the modern tools for an invasion force. She couldn’t tell from the photos where the troops came from, but they weren’t there a week ago, and then three days ago the place was crawling with them.

“I’ve got to warn someone,” she told her empty hotel room.

She picked up her phone and dialed the Secretary of Defense again. The parade and parties were over. Surely she could reach him now.

The phone rang and rang without connecting. After the fifteenth ring, she gave up and dialed the White House.

Again the phone rang, but no one picked up.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Something wasn’t right.

She spent three minutes packing, and calmly headed out the door.

“Something wrong?” Jerome asked. He was her personal body guard while she was in D.C.

“No,” Maria lied. “I just want to see a few of my favorite landmarks before I leave.”

He frowned for a split second before his face became impassive once more. “Of course. I’ll have them bring the car around.”

The hairs on her neck were standing up so tall, they nearly pulled themselves out by the root. “I think I’d like to walk.”

“As you wish,” Jerome said. He took her bag and rolled it down the hallway for her to the elevator.

As they walked, Maria took off her coat, pulling a knife out of a secret pocket, and hid it by draping her jacket over her arm. She could feel an attack coming. Maybe not from Jerome, but someone must have been sent to eliminate her if they had messed with her phone like that.

Jerome followed Maria into the elevator and pressed the lobby button for her.

As soon as the doors closed, Jerome pulled his gun, but Maria had her knife at his throat before he could aim it.

“Drop the gun,” Maria hissed.

He complied.

“If you even twitch, you’re a dead man,” Maria said. “Now, why are you trying to kill me?”

Jerome’s eyes narrowed and his arm moved.

The blade cut through a few layers of skin, drawing a trickle of blood.

His arm stopped.

“Let’s try this again,” Maria said. “Who ordered my death?”

“Ward,” Jerome whispered. “Not a kill order. I’m just doing my job.”

“Not a kill order?” Maria repeated. “Then what are your orders?”

“Disarm and detain.”

“Why?”

“Psych eval.”

The elevator doors opened, and four armed guards in the lobby took two seconds to size up the situation and drew their weapons.

Endnotes

[i] – March 28th – Fort Eustis, Virginia

Iranians across the political spectrum envision a secular Iran where they can live freely from religious and political persecution and enjoy equal rights under the law in adherence to the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. – Reza Pahlavi, President of the Iran National Council for Free Elections in a letter to His Excellency Ban-Ki Moon, Secretary General of United Nations, Sept. 30, 2014.