Chapter 15: Menace Unchecked
Abdul Jamal Al-Fayed, also known as Jerome Parsons, was in a quandary. Everything had been going so well in the months since his escape from his rooftop sniping 'stand', and the Washington, D.C. dragnet that followed it. Within a week after his escape, his life changed for the better. He was offered a fulltime job with benefits. Furthermore, his military service was counted as part of his seniority, taking him to within a week of his first pay raise. He only needed to pass a security check because he would be working in people's homes. Jerome's military record solved that problem.
It was a good paying job as a driver delivering appliances and furniture for a major retail chain. The only drawback was that his delivery area was in Washington, D.C., and he lived with his family in Baltimore. He explained his problem to his friends at the Mosque. They were happy for his good fortune, and promised to help find an appropriate home that he could afford, so his family could move with him.
His new friends from the Mosque found a small, single-family home, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Silver Spring is a suburb of Washington, D.C., and very close to where he picked up his delivery truck every day. The price was amazingly low, and Jerome could easily afford it. His family loved it. It was a dream come true for his mother. His brother and sister couldn't believe the difference between life in Silver Spring, and life in the Baltimore ghetto.
Jerome's friends from his old Mosque, and from the new Mosque that he would be attending, helped them move. He never considered that everything has a cost. In his naivety, he considered the assistance from his new Islamic friends as simply what friends did for each other.
Months passed, and the Parsons family settled into their new life. Jerome's mother made friends in the neighborhood, and even got involved with the teachers at the school his brother and sister attended. Jerome made friends at work, joined a baseball team, and made more friends. They attended and hosted the American tradition of backyard barbeques. Jerome and his family were happy for the first time since his discharge from the army, and in many ways, for the first time in their lives.
The bill for the cost of their good fortune came due with a knock on the door, on a Sunday afternoon. The task Jerome was given terrified him.
Jerome's orders had come in the form of ten men. His assignment was to guide and escort a five-man team. The other five men would escort his family to safety. The men that drove away with his family didn't fill Jerome with confidence, but he wasn't given a choice.
He was to be their pathfinder, responsible for their safety ... and their success. Jerome was a sniper. He was a soldier. He would fight for what he believed, but these men planned mass murder on a scale that was unimaginable to him. The team's task was to set off a bomb: a very large bomb identified by its multi-megatons of explosive power, and its residual radiation. These men wanted to destroy Washington, DC, and most of the north-eastern seaboard of the United States at the same time. The prevailing winds forecast from a strong tropical depression would spread the radiation straight north. Baltimore would probably die in the initial blast. The radioactive dust-cloud would blanket Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, and could even reach Boston within hours. He was promised that his mother, mrother, and sister, would be saved, but he could never save all of his friends.
Jerome didn't have a choice. The five-man team was with him constantly. His mind skittered away from the thought that holding his family didn't give him many options. Richmond had been mentioned as a safe haven, but that hadn't been their promised destination. Jerome was promised that his family would safe and honored. They would live in luxury for the rest of their lives, as the family of The Martyr: the Executioner of the Great Satin.
Jerome decided that he wasn't a Muslim, when he watched his family drive away. He was still angry at the US government for abandoning him, but he couldn't support a religion that threatened his family, either. His government's abandonment didn't justify what the Islamists were planning. Jerome didn't have a clue about what to do to stop these men. His only option was to stay alert, ready to take advantage of any opportunity to stop this tragedy. Weighing the safety of his family against the millions that would be affected was equally difficult.
A man that Jerome only knew as Bashshar, the leader of the five-man team, ended his call with a smile of satisfaction. He whispered quick instructions to one of the other men, sending the man scurrying out of the apartment. Bashshar's cold, black, empty eyes settled on Jerome, and his smile grew wider before he walked towards Jerome.
It wasn't as if the leaders eyes were different from those of his subordinates. All the men's eyes seemed to have the same odd, black, emptiness about them. Jerome couldn't prevent a shiver while those eyes rested on him. That was why, when they first arrived, he had immediately taken them completely seriously. He didn't want to contemplate what the owner of eyes that empty would do to his family.
"Good news! Everything is on schedule. The package has been prepared, and is ready for delivery," Bashshar informed Jerome, his smile causing something inside Jerome to shrink away. "I know how anxious you are to get this over with."
Nothing had been said, but Bashshar knew Jerome wasn't a willing participant. That was normal. He had organized a dozen suicide bombings. Nine of them had required help to bolster their courage in the final moments. Bashshar was an expert at providing that help. A shot of heroin in the right dosage, and any man's will can be bent for a short period of time. That was all the time Bashshar usually needed. However, this was no simple suicide bombing. He needed to use the man's family to provide the extra encouragement that he needed.
Bashshar was aware that he had developed a cruel streak, since he had sworn allegiance to his Master, but he didn't care. He didn't know what the Master did to him, but it had made him a better soldier. He no longer flinched away from the violence a soldier must witness. Somehow, he could also sense when others were agitated, or afraid. Their fear felt refreshing to Bashshar, and that was what he was feeling from Jerome.
"You will report to work at midnight, as you normally do," Bashshar continued, relishing a feeling that was remarkably similar to the pleasure he felt when twisting a knife in a live enemy's wound. "The man that just left, Saud, will be assigned as your helper tonight. Your regular helper had an accident today. Saud will be close by, when you arrive at work, in case you forget where your allegiance should be. You will pick the rest of us up on the way to your delivery address. We will be finished by tomorrow."
"Where is my family?" Jerome demanded.
"They have been taken to a safe place," Bashshar replied, his sneer not completely concealed, if he even tried to hide it.
"I need to talk to them," Jerome explained, keeping his voice level. "I didn't know that I would never see them again when they left our house. I can do this job for you, but I need to speak to them one more time."
"Not on the telephone," Bashshar said flatly. "If it is really that important, I will bring them back, and they can ride with you tonight, and in the morning."
Jerome ground his teeth, fighting to maintain control, and looked away.
Bashshar waited a moment, relishing the chaotic turmoil he felt from Jerome.
"You will check in at the warehouse, the same as you normally would," Bashshar continued. "Your delivery truck will already be loaded with the appliances you are scheduled to deliver tonight. There will be delays, due to a mechanical issue, and you won't complete off-loading the delivery until nine tomorrow morning. After that, it won't matter. Do you have any questions?"
Jerome jerkily shook his head, and Bashshar softly crooned, "Good. We will leave at the normal time for you to go to work," before turning and walking away.
Jerome said a silent, deeply impassioned prayer, and he had an epiphany. He wasn't praying to the Allah of his adopted religion, nor to the God he knew while growing up. It was a prayer to the God of life. He suspected the God of life was the same for Muslims and Christians. Jerome suddenly understood how men subverted the teachings of the God of life, to lead their followers to worship the God of death. All religions, throughout history, had men whose goals were power over others, and twisted their teachings to gain more power. The Islamic religion had been hijacked by men following the God of death.
His prayer grew more fervent. He prayed for his family, and for all the families that would die because he had been fooled by followers of the God of death. And he prayed for forgiveness.
Briana woke with a scream of terror. The dream, the nightmare, hadn't been as bad as her dream of needing a teacher, but it was still terrifying. She knew that it was a dream, but it had seemed real.
She remembered standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building. She was looking across First Street at the entrance of the Supreme Court building. To its right was the stately structure of the Library of Congress. Briana turned her head to the left, and saw the oldest Senate office building, the Russell Senate Office Building, on the other side of Constitution Avenue. Traffic along Constitution Avenue was bumper-to-bumper. Suddenly, the Russell Office Building exploded into a massive ball of fire. Cars and trucks were tossed through the air like toys, losing their shape as the hellish heat melted them. Men and women were vaporized where they stood. Millions of souls were ripped from peoples' bodies in the first flash of hell, but the carnage didn't touch Briana. Millions more were burned, and she saw charred skin slide off arms like the skin off of grapes. Eyes were burned from men's heads that shouldn't be alive ... but somehow they were, and they were screaming. It wasn't the kind of dream a four-year-old should have to endure.
Her mom, Bailey, rushed into the room, in answer to her screams, but Briana had screamed with more than her mouth. She had screamed with her mind. All the other children had immediately linked with her, clamoring in her mind, wanting to know what was wrong.
Bailey hugged her little girl, rocking her soothingly, whispering, both physically and mentally, "It's okay, baby. It's okay. It's gone now. It's okay, baby." She was linked with her daughter, and was well aware of the other children's concern.
"Silence," rang in Briana's mind so loudly that even Bailey felt the impulse to obey. "Briana is deeply troubled," Syon continued in the sudden mental silence. "This is not the time to act like children. Briana, little one, what is wrong, child?"
"A bad dream, like the dream about us needing a teacher, but not as bad," Briana mentally sniffled as she began to calm, clinging to her mother.
"Do you think it was a true dream, little one?" Syon asked softly.
Briana shook her head against her momma's shoulder, but thought, "It isn't like that. It is something that can happen, that will happen, if something or someone doesn't stop it."
"Can you show me, little one? If we must stop this, then we should know what we are stopping," Syon explained gently.
She hesitated before nodding her head against Bailey's shoulder. So she let them watch the dream unfold again.
Companions store memories, even dream memories. Even though Briana didn't consider her Companion to be a separate entity from herself, all the capabilities and functions of a Companion were still present. The dream images were as clear as any of her memories while awake.
Even Bailey was crying by the time it was over.
"It is okay, little one," Syon soothed. "You were warned, and you warned the rest of us. Now we know what is planned, and where, so we can stop it. You are doing what you are supposed to do to protect all the children of man. Let your momma protect you now, and I'll go stop the bad men," Syon promised.