Chapter 13: Baghdad Cleansing
The Iraqi Council of Representatives consisted of three-hundred and twenty-five members. Seventeen of those members were identified by Ambassador Lee and Colonel Murphy as supporters of Iranian involvement in Iraq. Ghost One spent the next thirty-six hours gathering intelligence on the structure and depth of penetration by Iranian hardliners in Iraqi politics.
The brush of an unseen hand was enough to gather the mental signatures needed to read the men from short distances. It also allowed the Ghost operatives to insinuate thoughts during their target's conversations, to bring the desired information to surface thoughts for reading. The results were surprising.
The seventeen members identified were not all willing participants in the Iranian manipulations. Family members of twelve representatives were being held by Iranian agents. The representatives were allowed to visit their hostage wife, son, or daughter once a week. This was to prove that the hostage was still alive and well, and as a reminder of the cost of disobedience. One Ghost fire team followed Husam al din Abadi to his weekly meeting. Gunnery-Sergeant Mark Bindle was the fire team leader, and the one to provide the key to releasing the twelve assemblymen. He nearly blew the entire undercover operation.
The location was different for each meeting. Husam was guided to the meeting by a man in nondescript linen trousers, shirt, and head-scarf. The Gunny and his team were close behind.
Following unnoticed through the streets of Baghdad was easy. The Iraqi population had long since learned that large gatherings were targets for suicide bombers. Bazaars that had been centers of commerce with teeming crowds, were now made up of furtive individuals rushing from kiosk to kiosk. Shop owners were shooing customers away, when more than four or five customers tried to buy at their booths at the same time. The streets of Baghdad were a reflection of the economic shambles of the rest of Iraq.
Husam followed his guide into the shell of a building that had been long abandoned. One corner of the building had collapsed from an explosion; the exposed, charred, timbers testifying to the fire that had rushed through the structure. Husam was led to a back room that seemed mostly untouched by the ravages of war, except for the missing roof. The room was like a furnace in the noonday sun.
Five men were in the room. One held a woman by the arm, while another held a young girl. Two others flanked the door. The last man was pacing back and forth, in front of the mother and daughter, tapping his leg impatiently with a riding quirt, when Husam entered the room. The woman's and girl's veils were in place, as prescribed by their culture.
"Abida!" Husam exclaimed, lunging towards his wife.
The two men beside the door caught his arms, preventing him from reaching his wife and daughter.
"You have failed, Husam," the man with the quirt accused. "You have been warned about what would happen if Faruq al Kassab was not elevated to power."
He nodded to the guide, and the man grabbed Abida's other arm, forcing her to remain upright. The man with the quirt grabbed Abida's veil, ripping it from her face. The shawl covering her head was next.
"No!" Husam protested, struggling against the men holding him. "I am doing everything that I can. A parliament doesn't move as fast as you want it to move. I can't make it go any faster!"
The man with the quirt ignored him, ripping Abida's robe down the front, partially exposing her wrapped breasts. Then he turned to the girl, and began the same process.
"Nooooo," Husam wailed, fighting against the men that were holding him.
The girl was exposed, too, but she wasn't developed quite enough to need the wrappings her mother used. She was also about the same age as Gunny Bindle's daughter.
"Not gonna happen," the Gunny mentally growled to his team in outrage. "Lewis, Parker, on my count, take the two holding the mother. Langley, you get the one holding the daughter. I'll take the two holding Husam. We're going to put them to sleep."
"Major," Gunny Bindle mentally called to Caleb. "We have a situation here." He flashed the events, and the current situation to Caleb, and summarized with, "I can't let this animal hurt a kid."
"I understand, Gunny. Just do it smart. You know what we're doing, and how we're doing it," Caleb replied in warning. "Think of a way to bring demons or angels into it."
"Yes, Sir," Gunny Bindle mentally growled back, his mind racing, searching for a solution.
He had formed his armor into the demon shape to scare ISIS troops, but he felt like a different solution was needed for this situation. The Gunny's first impulse had been to kill all the Iranians, freeing Husam and his family. The Major's instructions had given him pause. Rescue was the first priority, but there was no reason not to get as much mileage from the situation as possible. The Gunny's mouth twisted into a wolfish grin as he considered the properties of his armor. He changed his instructions to the rest of the team.
"I'll figure something out!" Husam screamed. "I'll kill the Parliament's President, forcing a vote," he yelled desperately.
"You should have thought of that before," retorted the man with the quirt, as he ripped Abida's bindings from her body, leaving her breasts exposed. "You were warned that your wife and daughter would be raped in front of you, if you failed. You have failed!"
"Noooo, please," Husam cried, falling to his knees, a broken man.
The man with the quirt paused, looking at the man on his knees with a sneer. Then he smiled viciously.
"Very well," the man conceded, slapping his leg with his quirt. "We will not rape both of them."
Husam looked up, hope dawning in his eyes, and the man said, "Only one will be raped, but you must choose which one."
Husam's eyes snapped to his wife and daughter in horror. His mouth opened, but he couldn't even scream. He shook his head in denial, and in utter defeat.
The three men holding his wife and daughter slumped to the floor with startled shouts, immediately followed by the two men holding Husam.
The man with the quirt could only gape at his fallen comrades. They were still conscious, and yelling in terror, because their bodies refused to function.
The sunlight in the room dimmed, and an angel materialized between Husam and the man with the quirt. It looked like it was three meters tall, with folded wings curving above its head. The tips of the wings were nestled behind the angel's legs. In its right hand the angel held a sword that had to be a meter and a half long. Details were hard to discern, because the entire angel glowed with a blinding light. The glow seemed to drink the light in the room. Only the sword glowed brighter than the angel. The heat radiating from the angel was nearly unbearable. Husam dropped to his knees, and his wife and daughter prostrated themselves before the apparition.
"You have forfeited your place in heaven, by defiling the innocent" the angel announced sternly, pinning the Iranian officer with a sorrowful gaze. The voice was commanding, and seemed to echo, as if coming from a far distance. "How can you hope for a place in Allah's house, a place of peace and tranquility, when all you know is murder, rape, and destruction?"
The sword swept up, its glow and heat gaining in intensity. Then it flashed down. The sword entered the top of the man's head, and unerringly continued down through his body, until it exited his body between his legs. The two halves of his body fell in opposite directions, the insides of both halves looked as if they had been seared by an intense heat. The smell of burned flesh hung in the air.
"Husam al din Abadi," the angel continued. "You know the heart of this enemy," it said gesturing towards the sundered man. "Take your family, and return to your home. Then free your country of their influence. When this cancer on humanity has left your borders, free your country of the scourge from Syria."
Husam opened his mouth, as if to speak, but the angel cut him off.
"Don't speak, Husam al din Abadi," the angel said in warning. "You are not worthy! Leave now, while you can."
Husam mouth snapped closed before he struggled to his feet, and rushed to his wife. Both Abida and their daughter, Fadila, were hurriedly wrapping their torn clothes into a semblance of modesty. He grabbed both their arms, and the three of them bowed their way to the door, away from the sun-drenched room of awe and terror.
Gunny Bindle glared at the five remaining men through the large, eye-like lenses he had fashioned with his armor. He changed the golden swirls of his eyes to make them seem to float on molten metal.
"You five are my messengers," the angel pronounced angrily, the echoes of its voice taking on a harsh tone. "You do not deserve this boon. You should die for what you were about to do. Allah has decreed your nation should have a chance to redeem itself. The burden of redemption, or destruction, of your country is yours. Your nation must cease the violence it foments in other nations, and free your people to know the peace of Allah. You will remember this charge all of your days," the angel pronounced.
The end of the sword morphed into something more akin to a branding iron. Five more times the implement flared, accompanied by a scream. Each of the men had been branded, in the center of their foreheads, with the Arabic symbol for messenger.
"Your first task will be to free the other innocents. And take this offal with you," he ordered, gesturing towards the two halves of their leader's body. "Go now! Your time is short!" the angel proclaimed angrily, before fading from sight.
Suddenly the men could feel their bodies, and struggled to their feet. Their arms and legs tingled as if the blood circulation had been restricted. The men mutely looked at each other in terror before rushing for the door. Four of them grabbed the halves of their leader's body before exiting.
"Major Connor," Gunny Bindle mentally called. "We're done here, but we know where the rest of the hostages are being held." A city map with a pointer for the target building were included in the context, and he continued with, "These guys were instructed to free them, but they may run into problems. I'm taking my guys to make sure the hostages get out okay."
"I liked the angel bit," Caleb replied. "How did you generate the heat?"
"The roof was gone, so we were in sunlight," Gunny Bindle replied. "I had a lot of light and heat to work with. It was just a matter of focusing and reflecting what I wanted."
"Hmmm. You'll need to demonstrate that later. That was pretty cool," Caleb said in appreciation. "I'll send another team to link up with you. A little insurance wouldn't hurt."
The hostages were freed with only one more appearance of the angel required. An Iranian Lieutenant tried to execute one of the hostages, the son of an assemblyman.
There were ten Iranian soldiers in the room, plus the five messengers on their knees, and the Lieutenant in charge. The officer raised his pistol, aiming at the twelve year old boy's head. As his finger tightened on the trigger, the angel appeared in front of him. The pistol discharged. The first shot was intended for the boy, but it dropped to the floor. The two additional shots were fired in panic at the angel, but they had no effect. The angel didn't flinch as the three nine millimeter bullets hit him.
This room didn't have the sunlight to work with. Only the glow of a single incandescent light-bulb illuminated the room. There was enough light available to make Gunny Bindle seem to glow, but not enough to create the heat he had used earlier. He needed another solution that would be just as dramatic, and the Gunny had a plan.
"YOU WOULD KILL AN INNOCENT?" the angel roared angrily. "TAKE YOUR MINION," the angel commanded, glaring at an unseen entity beside the officer. "RIP HIS SOUL FROM HIS BODY, AND TAKE IT TO THE DARKEST DEPTHS OF PERDITION!"
"We need this one to be special, Sergeant Langley," Gunny Bindle silently ordered. "This needs to really be set in the survivors' minds. We want these men to leave here as fanatics ... our fanatics. Try to be a little artistic," he ordered.
"With pleasure," Sergeant Langley silently replied with a growl.
Sergeant Dion Langley, USMC, had often used the demon image the platoon had perfected in their many ISIS engagements. That nightmare image, with the emotion of dread radiating to all in the close proximity, was extremely effective. However, the little boy this man had tried to execute was the same age as Dion's little brother. Sergeant Langley was angry. This situation required some 'inventive application' of the armor for maximum effect. He decided to embellish this encounter. That decision, combined with his anger, made his response excessive, just a bit.
Dion appeared beside the officer on Gunny Bindle's command, as ordered. The horns, coarse features, and gaping maw of needle sharp teeth, were terrifying to look at. The demon's words, coming from that gaping maw, were even more terrifying.
"Fresh soul," the demon purred in delight, sounding like two grave-stones rubbing together. "It has been millennia since I have been granted fresh soul."
The Lieutenant fired his pistol again in terror, striking the demon.
The demon laughed, sounding insanely wretched, and the hunger in the cackling laugh was palpable in the air. There were more than one pair of trousers in the room that were soiled as bladders and bowels released in terror.
"Yes. Fight back, human. It adds so much flavor to your soul," the demon chortled, reaching toward the officer.
The demon grabbed the man's head, pulling the officer's face towards the gaping maw. It was as if the demon was preparing to kiss the officer. A black tongue snaked from the demon's mouth, and caressed the officer's face before slithering into his mouth. It continued sliding past the officers painfully stretched lips for an impossibly long time. A sound was coming from the Lieutenant that resembled the gurgling scream of a damned soul.
The nanobot armor, that made up what looked like a tongue, had slid down the man's throat. The tip reached the man's stomach, and morphed into rapidly rotating blades. His body seemed to explode from the inside, showering his men with the offal.
"THIS SENSLESS VIOLENCE MUST END!," the Angel roared, as the officer's legs realized the body they had been supporting was gone, and they fell in opposite directions. "You are all children of Allah! Any man that kills in the name of Allah, is damned. Allah is life: not death! IT IS TIME TO DECIDE WHOM YOU SERVE!" the Angel commanded.
Every hostage was released unharmed, and the Iranian force disintegrated.
The Iranian Heavy Regiment assigned to Baghdad was in disarray. Their senior officers only retained control of their personal staff and however many junior officers they could pull into their orbit. Each of the senior officers, all those above company level, were distrustful of each other. They didn't understand how their masterfully choreographed take-over of Iraq could fly apart so suddenly, and with no apparent reason. Each of them believed the only way their organization could collapse so suddenly was with help from within their ranks, at a very high level. None of them could return to Tehran with tales of demons to excuse their failure.
The regiment had shattered like a dropped plate of china. The regiment had been experienced and well blooded, but their world had just been upended. The Iranian troops had broken into small groups of four to ten, and were fighting their way south and east. Officers weren't required to have the deep belief in the religion their society rested on; but the masses, the troops, must believe. One or two men per week were denounced as heretics by the Mullahs, when they broke down with night terrors. A few hallucinations while drinking, or any other sin of the flesh, could also be explained away. But an angel had appeared! Only a few had witnessed the visitation, but there was physical proof that couldn't be easily discounted. Hundreds had seen the demons, and the praise of such horrific apparitions for violent actions had gone through the regiment like a wild-fire. Their faith in their Mullahs had been shattered. They would fight Iraqi and ISIS soldiers, but they were specifically on the lookout for their own officers and Mullahs, who they believed had led them astray.
There were still five traitors in the Iraqi Parliament that were willing tools of Iran. The cadre of Iranian sympathizers was no longer powerful enough to sway key votes, but they could still be disruptive, and pass information to the Iranians. Killing them was out, but Scotty had agreed that discrediting them wouldn't hurt. ISIS sympathizers could be handled in the same way if they were found. The Parliament was scheduled for a session the following day, so Caleb decided to use the opportunity to expose the Parliament's problem.
Caleb's previous tactics had been perfected to shatter command structures, and military units, through terror. They couldn't afford to shatter the Iraqi Parliament. There wouldn't be any speeches this time, but glimpses of demonic figures with the Iraqi traitors should be enough to discredit them, if it didn't get them stoned to death.
The day dawned with Ghost already in place in the Parliament building. Ten teams were disbursed throughout the building to take advantage of any opportunities the traitors presented. They were also radiating a sense of unease throughout the building. It wasn't enough to frighten everyone away, but it was enough to keep everyone on edge. Overheard conversations and interesting surface thoughts were passed to Caleb, who was located in the Parliament chamber with a Ghost team.